Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Miracles happen.

I’m back to blogging, and you’re going to hate me.  I made cupcakes.

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I know cupcakes are so 2008.

Since I’ve been wedding planning, (Side note: we’re 4 months away. Where did time go? We have a wedding website.  This means it’s happening) I’ve become acutely aware of wedding trends.  Cupcakes are no longer cool.  Layer cakes are in (which I’ve loved probably since 2008).

BUT cupcakes are so handy for outdoor events.  The weather up here in the Bay Area has been hit or miss recently, but today we’re heading outdoors for a bubble soccer birthday celebration.  I’m always the person who volunteers to bring a cake, but sometimes don’t you just want a dang cupcake?

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They’re cute. They’re simple. They’re delicious.

Eat a cupcake.  Feel free to listen to the Buena Vista Social Club station on Pandora while you make and eat them.  That’s what I’m doing and it’s amazing.

These cupcakes have become by go to recipe. They’re a crowdpleaser and the frosting isn’t sickeningly sweet.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

cupcakes from Hershey’s, Buttercream from Me?

For cupcakes:

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup  Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used almond milk and it was a-okay!)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For Vanilla Buttercream:

3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks of butter (I know… seriously 3), softened
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Make your cupcakes.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Lastly beat in boiling water.  The batter is really runny but trust me, it’s delicious.

Line cupcake pan with liners of choice (the cuter the better).  Fill each liner with 1/4 cup of batter.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test (note: 15 minutes is the perfect amount for me).  Repeat until all batter is gone.  I usually get 24-26 cupcakes out of this recipe.

Allow to cool completely.  Then make frosting.

Whisk together egg whites and sugar in your stand mixer bowl.  Place over a pot of boiling water (make sure water isn’t touching the bowl), stir it every so often until the egg whites become hot and you can no longer feel the sugar granules.  There’s probably an appropriate temperature that it needs to reach but I have no idea what that is.  I just touch it.

Transfer to the mixer and whip using the whisk attachment until they’ve formed stiff peaks.

Remove the whisk attachment and change to the paddle attachment for your mixer.  Add vanilla. Then start to beat in butter until the butter is incorporated and it’s smooth.  If you want here you can add any flavoring.

I’ve done peanut butter, dulce de leche, caramel, strawberry  jam.  They’re all magic.  Or you can just stick with vanilla and be a happy camper.

I like to chill my frosting a little bit before frosting because I find it easier to work with. Just about 10 minutes.  Give it a try.

Frost your cupcakes and decorate as you like. Sprinkles are encouraged.

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Take them to a party and feed them to your friends.

Happy Sunday! Hope you’re enjoying the day Game of Thrones returns! (<—- ok read

Healthy and Easy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

I love blogs with beautiful photos of ridiculous things I might not ever make.  But truth be told, sometimes I want to see recipes I’ll actually make.

So recently, while I was brainstorming ideas for Peanut Butter & Co.’s Peanut Butter/Oat extravaganza, I decided to share a recipe I make all the time.

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I have an enormous sweet tooth.  I want to eat cake every single day.

No really.  Every. Single. Day.

But I also want to be healthy.  So sometimes I make compromises and find ways to tone down my sweet tooth and still be satisfied.

Peanut Butter + Oats + Banana is the perfect way to do it.  They’re not terribly sweet, but they do the job when I want a big fat cookie without all the extra fat and sugar.

Peanut Butter and Co. teamed up with Bob’s Red Mill to do what they are calling #Oatober.  I love both oats and peanut butter, so I couldn’t help but participate.

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I seriously made these cookies every other week in some variation or another.  Today I’m sharing an oatmeal, raisin, date inspired cookie, but I’m thinking I’ll try a pumpkin version later this month.

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Healthy and Easy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter
2 cups of oats, blended in a food processor
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips
5 dates, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  You’ll get a thick dough.  Form dough into balls and flatten slightly to form a cookie shape.

Lay cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes or until golden on the bottoms.  Allow to cool and serve!

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That’s it.  They’re super easy and perfect with a cup of tea.  I really do make them all the time.  Sometimes I omit the chocolate chips.  Sometimes I do raisins.  I also tried making this with Peanut Butter and Co’s new Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter and they were all sorts of awesome!

What’s your favorite Peanut Butter/Oat Combo?

 

Confession: I Don’t Love Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I’m making my friends wedding cake(s) for her September wedding, and I’m incredibly excited.  I love weddings and I love cakes.  Combining the two is pretty much almost as exciting as pies in jars.

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I’m also extremely concerned that I’ll somehow mess it up.  I want her cakes to be tasty and beautiful, because it’s her special day.  That means I’m practicing like it’s nobody’s business.

In my cake making craze, I wanted to try out a new frosting.  I had read that Swiss Meringue Buttercream is great for getting smooth edges, so yesterday, I decided to give it a try.

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Everyone talks about swiss meringue buttercream with descriptors like: luxurious, satiny, rich, decadent.

To me, it tasted like straight up butter with some sugar in it.

I added some strawberry jam to mine to try to add some flavor to it, which improved it, but I’m still not a fan.  I might try it again with other flavorings but plain… never again.

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Now that I’ve trash talked it, in case you want to try, here’s the recipe I used.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup white sugar
2 egg whites
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup strawberry jam (optional)

Whisk together egg whites and sugar in your stand mixer bowl.  Place over a pot of boiling water (make sure water isn’t touching the bowl), stir it every so often until the egg whites become hot and you can no longer feel the sugar granules.

Transfer to the mixer and whip until they’ve formed peaks.

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Add vanilla. Then start to beat in butter.  At this point, it might look curdled, don’t worry.  Keep whipping.  It can take up to 10 minutes to get fluffy.   Once it’s the right consistency (pretty silky, I must say), you can feel free to beat in jam or just smooth it on a cake.

**This recipe makes enough to frost a 6 inch cake (and probably enough to fill as well).  For a 9 inch (3-4 layer cake, I would probably double this recipe).

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The one benefit is that it gets very solid (like a stick of butter almost… hmm wonder why?) when cold, which means you get beautiful slices.  That’s definitely the redeeming quality of this buttercream.

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For my friend’s wedding, I’m sticking to traditional American buttercream (not just because I like it better but that’s what the bride and groom tried and liked).

In case you (like me) are not a fan of Swiss Meringue Buttercream, here are some alternative to frost your cakes/cupcakes with:

  • Traditional American Buttercream: This is what we’re used to. Butter. Powdered Sugar.  Vanilla and a touch of milk.  Sickeningly sweet goodness.  Make it vanilla, make it lemon, make it almond. It’s all great.  (Example: Fall Cake)
  • Whipped Cream: Simple and delicious, not too sweet, not too heavy.  Literally just heavy whipping cream and a bit of sugar and vanilla. Probably my favorite, but doesn’t hold up well it hot weather.   (Try it on rum cake)
  • Marshmallow Frosting: Sooo tasty! Not buttery at all.  Sadly, also doesn’t hold up well while sitting out. (Example: The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: I’m not the biggest fan, but I know people love it.  So why not? (Example: Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Filling, Cream Cheese Frosting and Sea Salt Candied Walnuts <– can totally be made into a layer cake)

What’s your favorite way to frost a cake?  or are you that person who leaves all the frosting behind?

 

Macaron Making: I Promise It’s Not Scary

I’ve started wedding planning and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if the word wedding is attached, it’s automatically expensive.

Cakes. Flowers. Dessert tables. Photographers. Dresses. Shoes. Invitations.

All of it = $$$$

So with dollar signs looming over my head, I’m going through a phase where anything I buy seems outrageously expensive, and I want to make everything myself.  While I don’t plan on having french macarons at my wedding, they’ve always been something I thought was ridiculously expensive.macarons1

$2+ a pop is too much for el cheap-o over here.

I was determined to make them myself but never got around to it.  I had tried a few times before and failed.  One time they turned out like meringues (with a little peak).  Another time, they just crumbled and fell flat.  After some research and reading, they turned out great.

These cookies are delicate and delicious.  I can see why they’re so pricey, but honestly, you can make them at home on your own.  They take some time, because they require a lot of sitting, but the active amount of work is actually minimal.

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Basic French Macarons

from All Recipes

100g egg whites
50g white granulated sugar
100g powdered sugar
110g almond flour, finely ground
Food coloring of choice (optional)
Filling of choice*

Weigh out your egg whites and allow your eggs to get to room temperature.  100g of eggs was a tiny bit less than 3 egg whites.  Yes, I was neurotic and weighed out exactly 100g.  I think this was part of my success.

While your egg whites get to room temperature, weigh out your remaining ingredients and set aside.  Sift together the powdered sugar and almond flour, set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites.  Once they start to foam, slowly stream in the granulated.  Continue to beat until they reach soft peaks.  Try not to over mix and get firm peaks.  Soft peaks are good! They tip of the peak will fall over to the side a bit.

Fold the almond flour and powdered sugar into the egg whites, along with a few drops of any food coloring you’d like (I used a few drops of red to get a bright pink).  Keep turning/folding until it’s all incorporated, but you don’t want to overmix it.  Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a round tip, then get your baking sheets ready.

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  If you want you can draw circles using a bottle cap so that your cookies are all the same size, I did that at first, then I just eyeballed it and it turned out fine.   You want the parchment paper to be fitted exactly to the baking sheet so it can be completely flat.

Then start piping.  Pipe some frosting onto the baking sheet.  They’ll spread a bit so leave an inch or two between each one.  Once you’ve piped enough to fill your sheet, lift the baking sheet and lightly slam it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.  Then continue piping onto another baking sheet until you run out of batter (this recipe makes about 24 macarons, so for me that was 3 baking sheets full of cookies).  Let the unbaked cookies sit out on the counter for an hour.

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Then preheat the oven to 275F.  Bake 10-14 minutes.  This is where it might get tricky.  My first batch was underbaked and completely stuck to the parchment paper.  The second batch, I baked a few minutes longer (13 minutes) and they turned out great.

Once you take the macarons out of the oven, transfer the parchment paper with all the macarons on to a cooling rack so they can cool completely (you can put them in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up the process).  After the cookies have cooled completely you can assemble them!

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*For my filling, I used a simple chocolate frosting recipe, because I wanted to get the basics and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.  Later I’ll try experimenting with different fillings, but I wanted something quick and easy.  And so, I used the Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting Recipe.

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Chocolate Buttercream Filling

adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/6 cup coffee (or milk)
Melt butter and mix with cocoa powder.  Using a mixer, beat in powdered sugar, a bit at a time, alternating with coffee until all ingredients are incorporated.  Beat a few more minutes until fluffy, then set aside.

Now assemble the macarons by spreading some frosting (or other filling of choice) on one cookie then putting together like a sandwich.

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Then ta-da! You have 24 beautiful macarons!  That wasn’t too scary, right?

Overall, in the macaron-making process, I learned a few key things…

Tips for Making Macarons:
  1. Sift the ingredients (and make sure you buy extra fine almond flour).  I hate sifting ingredients but these cookies are so light that it’s a must.  If you buy the almond flour at Sprouts in the bulk food section, it’s not fine enough.  I’ve tried.  Get the Bob’s Red Mill one.
  2.  Let the batter sit a bit before piping it.  I found that my last batch turned out the best, so I’m chalking that up to the fact that it sat the longest in the piping bag (a few hours really) and sat for about an hour and a half on the counter before baking (because I was working and forgot about them).
  3. You need to let them rest for 1 hour after you pipe them onto the baking sheet.  When they sit, they smooth out and develop that nice coat.  Let them chill.
  4. If you underbake your macarons, they’ll stick to the parchment paper.   It depends on your oven and the size of your cookies. Figuring out when the macarons were ready to come out of the over took some guess work.  They have to look set, but not browned.  If this is your first time, I recommending each baking sheet separately in case one gets messed up, there are still two others for you to try with.  I ended up baking mine for 13 minutes, and that was the magic number.  But remember, every oven is different and your macarons might be bigger than mine.

I’m excited to try to make different flavors now.  I’m a big believer in mastering the basics before moving on to more extravagant things or tweaking recipes.  I had a lemon macaron from Lette Macarons that basically changed my view of macarons.  I must try to recreate it!

Have you tried making macarons? or are you just an eater? What’s your favorite macaron flavor?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Goji Berry Pie

Before I went to Thailand, I got an email from Peanut Butter & Co. about a Mystery Ingredient Challenge they were doing this month.  The deal was: they send me peanut butter and a mystery ingredient, then I make something tasty with it.

Of course, I was excited about it because…

1. I love peanut butter.

2. I love making things with peanut butter.

After a few weeks my mystery ingredient arrived: Goji Berries.

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I have to tell you.  I had never tried goji berries.  I imagined sweet little dried fruits, but actually they’re pretty tart!  I was excited to see what I could pair with goji berries other than peanut butter.  Then conveniently, pie day happened…

So of course, I had to make a pie.  Then the idea came: rich chocolate ganache with peanut butter and goji berries.

Chocolate PB Goji Pie

It really was as awesome as it sounds (and looks?).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Goji Berry Pie

1 Graham Cracker Crust (store bought or homemade)
1 cup heavy cream
9 ounces dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup Smooth Operator Peanut Butter
1/4 dried goji berries (plus extra for garnish)
1/4 tsp coarse seal salt (optional)

Heat heavy cream in a saucepan with goji berries.  This way they’ll soften and plump up.  Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine chocolate chips and peanut butter.

Pass cream through a strainer and pour hot cream on chocolate and peanut butter.  Let it sit a few minutes and stir to combine.

Take the rehydrated goji berries and place in the bottom of the graham cracker crust.

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Pour chocolate mixture on top.  Garnish with goji berries and coarse sea salt (optional).  Chill for 4 hours and serve with whipped cream.

This turned out great! It was dense, not too sweet and a great balance of flavors.  It’s got sweet, sour (from the goji berries), bitter from the dark chocolate and a touch of sea salt on top really balances it all out.

Also, can we talk about how easy it is?

I didn’t have time to get photos of the slices, because I took it to a Pi(e) Day party, because I wanted to be sure to get this up in time for a giveaway!

Peanut Butter & Co. is giving one Foodologie reader a free Peanut Butter & Co. Prize Pack!

To Enter: Leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favorite way to enjoy Goji Berries OR if you’ve never tried them… what would you like to eat them with?

The giveaway ends Monday March 23rd! So be sure to enter and tell your friends about it too!

WINNER: Mary W! Winner has been emailed 😀  Thanks for entering!

P.S. I have a few more Peanut Butter/Goji recipes up my sleeve.  Stay tuned!

Culinary Bucket List: Monkey Bread

I’ve been excited about the concept of my culinary bucket list ever since blogging about it last month.  I guess I should have set some ground rules… or really one important ground rule… the rule of perfection (or lack of).

Whatever I make on my culinary bucketlist might not be perfect, but I’ll try anyway.

With that said…

The first item to check off the list: Monkey Bread.

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Oh monkey bread.  I had no idea what to expect, because I had never eaten it (or made it).  It’s like a giant cinnamon roll stuffed into a bundt pan and covered in butter.

You really can’t lose.

I did learn, however, that monkey bread (like cinnamon rolls) gets hard and dry after sitting out.  This is best devoured hot.  Straight out of the oven is best.

Mine wasn’t perfect.  In fact, when I turned it over, it got a little stuck.

Ok honestly, it was a bit of a mess…

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I used a recipe I found online and make some changes (as usual). I added pecans because that sounded great.

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I skipped the glaze and that was a mistake.  I should have made the glaze, but it looked so intense on it’s own that I thought it wasn’t necessary.

Lesson learned.

I won’t share the recipe I used, but feel free to check out this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction that I based mine on.

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Overall, monkey bread was tasty, but I don’t think I need to make it again.  It was intense, but maybe I’m just not a big fan of cinnamon rolls in general?

Next time, I’ll know not to skip the glaze.

Next on the Culinary Bucketlist/Foodologie is Thai food!  I’m off to Thailand for 2 weeks.  I’ll be back with updates, photos and tasty recipes… then when I return there will be some peanut buttery goodness too.

Lots to look forward to!

Are you a fan of Monkey Bread? or just cinnamon rolls? or neither? 

 

Lemon Ricotta Cake

I feel like Allison and I have been talking about lemon far too much lately. We’re obsessed ladies.

So I finally broke down and made a lemon cake.  I’m continually on the search for a lemon cake, and this is finally THE ONE.

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It’s amazing. Simple. Moist. Light. Delicious. I really couldn’t ask for more.  This is my new go-to lemon cake recipe.  Because let’s be honest, we all need a few go-to cake recipes.  My go to Chocolate Cake recipe is the Hershey’s chocolate cake.  My go to Banana Cake recipe is my Little Banana Cake. This recipe will make 1 (9-inch) round cake.  So if you were looking to do a lemon layer cake, I would suggest doubling (or even tripling if you’re doing a 3 layer cake) then spreading each layer with lemon curd and frosting with a simple whipped cream icing or a cream cheese frosting. Those would be delightful.  Don’t be surprised if you see the cake I just described on Foodologie soon. LemonRicottaCake4

Lemon Ricotta Cake

For Cake:

1/2 cup Canola Oil
3/4 cup Sugar
2 Lemons, zested
2 eggs
1/2 cup Ricotta
1 cup Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt

For Glaze:

2 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 9 inch round baking pan and line with parchment paper.

In a mixer, combine oil, sugar and lemon zest.  Beat until well combined.  Beat in one egg at a time.  Beating each a few minutes until fluffy.  Beat in ricotta and juice of one lemon (reserve the other lemon for the glaze).  Add flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat until combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Allow to cool.

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Make glaze by heating butter, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Allow to cool a bit.  Then turn cake over onto serving dish.  Pour glaze over cake.  Garnish with lemon slices, slice and serve. LemonRicottaCake2

I’m biased because I love lemon, but this was seriously good.  Perfect for a simple afternoon treat with tea, but also good for a simple dessert for your summer dinner party.

Do you love lemon desserts? What’s your favorite?

I love lemon tarts, like this one.  But this lemon cake is giving lemon tarts a run for their money.

Delicious Snickerdoodles

A few weeks ago, I realized I eat salads pretty much every day for lunch and for a minute that depressed me.  When you work in an office full of people who buy delicious smelling take-out everyday, eating a salad with some sort of protein, olive oil and lemon daily gets a bit depressing.  Really it’s all a question of comparison.

But then I remember all the reasons I eat salads: health, tastiness, cost-effectiveness and of course, vanity– salads keep me in shape.

But that got me thinking: if I were a “naturally thin” person would I eat out all the time? Would I still go to crossfit?

I posed this question to my friend and her response was “But you love salads! You ate them every single day in school.”

Umm yeah, no.  I’ve deluded myself (and led others) to believe that I love salad.  I like salads just fine, but I don’t love salad.  I love cookies. And pie.

But I make myself eat salad.  Because being an adult means doing things you don’t love in the name of health.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  So I eat a ton of vegetables and I go to crossfit.  I genuinely enjoy crossfit but I also genuinely enjoy my bed at 5:20am when my alarm goes off.

Vegetables and exercise are important.  But let’s also remember that women cannot live on vegetables alone (although I know many try).  Sometimes we just need a dang cookie.  So I have one for you today.

This isn’t my recipe, but it’s a recipe that is awesome so I have to share it with you. If you’re looking for an awesome snickerdoodle recipe, look no further.  I’ve got you covered.

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Delicious Snickerdoodles

adapted from All Recipes

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 400F. Cream together butter, shortening and 3/4 cup sugar.  Beat until fluffy.   Add egg and vanilla and beat another minute.  Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and beat until just combined.  

On a plate, combine 2 tbsp sugar with cinnamon.  Roll dough into walnut sized balls and roll into cinnamon/sugar mixture. Repeat until you get 24 dough balls delicioussnickerdoodles2

Lay dough balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet a few inches apart.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Remove from baking sheets and allow to cool.  Serve and enjoy!  This will make about 2 dozen cookies.

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Remember that vegetables are healthy eats are super important in life, but there’s also room for cookies.  So don’t forget to have one of those occasionally too.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie?  I recently discovered this Molasses cookie with Apricot Chunks from Blackmarket Bakery that I’m in looooove with. I must try to recreate it soon.

Salted Almond Joy Bark

With Christmas and the New Year on the horizon, I have two goals for today:

1. Clean out my closet/dresser of unwanted garments

I have too much stuff.  I have clothing I don’t wear and even more that doesn’t fit.  One of the fantastic things about lifting weights is that my body shrank.  It’s great! But it means that I don’t own any pants that fit me.  So I want to clear out the stuff that doesn’t fit me any more, because there’s no room in my shoebox of an apartment for clothing that is too big or old.
2. Bake Christmas Cookies for gifts

I love baking and Christmas is the perfect time to bake treats and give them away.  So today and tomorrow will consist of Christmas baking.  I had my recipes all planned out, but then yesterday when I arrived to Crossfit, Allison told me she had something for me.  She handed me a lovely tin filled with homemade salted chocolate coconut almond bark.

At this point it was nearly 6am and not an appropriate time to eat chocolate.  So I put it in my car, got my butt kicked during the WOD and went to work.  I have this rule during the holidays (since there are so many treats floating around) that I’m allowed to have a sweet treat AFTER lunch.

This means waiting til I have a nutritious (or semi-nutritious because yesterday my boss took us to Umami Burger for lunch and that’s clearly NOT nutritious) before enjoying goodies and also cutting down on how much I eat.  I have a hard time stopping once I start, so I found it’s better for me to just start later.  But anyway…

So I waited until after lunch and had a piece of Allison’s delicious bark.

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It was awesome.  Let me just tell you, I gave some to co-workers and to Jesse, but the reality is I ate it mostly myself.  Today, as of 2pm… the bark is gone.  As in, I finished it all after lunch today.

Because this bark was so amazing I wanted to try to make it on my own and give it to my loved ones.  I’ve decided to rename it Salted Almond Joy Bark, because that’s sort of what it reminded me of.

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Salted Almond Joy Bark

from Sweet Potato Bites

10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips  (or chocolate chunks)
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup Roasted Coconut Chips*
Coarse Sea Salt

First, prepare your pan by lining a cookie sheet with parchment.  Set aside.

Next, pour chocolate into a microwave safe bowl.

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Microwave 30 seconds then stir.  Microwave another 30 seconds and stir, repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. You can also do this in a pan or double boiler, but I’ll be honest, the microwave is a million times easier.  It’s also idiot-proof.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my chocolate seize when using a double boiler, because water in chocolate (steam included!) might cause it to seize.

Because of this, I take the easy route and use the microwave.  Once your chocolate is melted and smooth, pour about 3/4 of the chocolate into the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Using a spatula, smooth until it’s a tiny bit thick (if you like your bark thicker, leave it thicker, if you want it thinner, spread it more).  It doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to cover it with stuff anyway…

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Sprinkle chocolate with coconut and almonds.  Take the remaining chocolate and drizzle it overs the coconut and almonds.

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Sprinkle with sea salt (be generous! That’s seriously the best part!) and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

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Once the chocolate is completely hardened (it took about an hour for me, if not it’ll start to melt when you touch it), break the bark into pieces.

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Store in an air tight container in a cool spot for up to a week.

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*I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Coconut Chips, but if there’s no Trader Joe’s near you, you can just use toasted coconut.

This stuff was seriously amazing.  The salt really takes this from normal tasty chocolate bark to something out of this world.  Everyone that tried it loved it.  I’m really excited to share this with others along with Orange-Pistachio Biscotti, Molasses Cookies, Chocolate Mint Cookies and maybe another cookie or two.  Any suggestions?

Are you giving Christmas Cookies this season?  If so, what are your top cookies or treats to gift?

Molasses Cranberry Cookies

Christmas season is in full swing!  Normally, I’m not that into holidays. But I’m not sure what’s wrong with me this year, all I want is a living room with a Christmas tree.   If you remember back when I told you about where Foodologie happens, you’ll remember that I live in a studio that is teeny-tiny.  That means I have zero room for a Christmas tree.   So because I can’t be festive in my living space, I have to find other ways to make the most of the holiday season.

First, I bought a Christmas dress. A new dress for Christmas is a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.     Anyone else do that?

I’m thoroughly excited about it.  I also bought myself another dress, because… well…

dress

Christmas present to myself?  (P.S. When will I get over sending my friends pics of outfits I’m thinking of buying?)

In addition to my Christmas dress, I’ve also been thoroughly excited about cookies.  So cookie making has been happening, starting with these:

Molasses Cranberry Cookies4

I don’t know about you, but I love chewy molasses cookies with lots of ginger.  They’re pretty much the best, as are these cookies.

Molasses Cranberry Cookies2

Molasses Cranberry Cookies

adapted from Blue Ribbon Cookies

1 stick of butter + 2 tbsp (10 tbsp total)1 cup sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1 cup dried cranberries

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in molasses and egg until fluffy.  In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Just before ingredients are combine, fold in cranberries.

Chill dough for a few hours.

Once you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool  and serve!  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Molasses Cranberry Cookies1

I took these to work, shared with friends and a boyfriend. They were gone pretty quickly.  I’ll definitely be including these in my Christmas Cookie Gift Tins.   I have a few other awesome cookie recipes coming up, because seriously… I’m obsessed with cookies right now.

What about you?  How are you preparing for Christmas?  Do you have a Christmas dress yet?