Apple Chai-Spiced French Toast

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One of my all-time favorite seasonings for fall is chai spice – similar to the flavorings used in apple or pumpkin pie, it is a rich mix of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, with the added zing of allspice and cardamom. A spiced chai latte or iced chai with milk are perfect companions to a crisp fall day spent amongst the colorful leaves.

This weekend, however, I decided to use some chai spice in a more creative way: to jazz up my typical Sunday morning french toast! This recipe also makes use of all those fall apples you might have lying around, and will fill your kitchen with a phenomenal combination of autumn aromas.

Apple Chai-Spiced French Toast

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs Chai Spice
  • 1/2 tsp + a pinch ground cinnamon
  • 6 thick slices French bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for serving
  • 3 apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • whipped cream and powdered sugar for topping

Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, chai spice and a pinch of ground cinnamon in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the bread in a single layer, turning until all the egg is absorbed.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter, and add apples and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, stirring to coat until starting to caramelize. Add the water, cooking until water has evaporated and apples are tender, about 4 minutes. Pour in the maple syrup; simmer for a minute to combine.

In a large, heated nonstick skillet or griddle (I like to spray mine with cooking spray to further prevent sticking), saute the soaked bread until golden brown on each side, about 4 minutes. Place French toast on a plate and top with apple-maple mixture, plus whipped cream and/or powdered sugar if you’d like!

Namas-tasty!

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Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Kiss Cookies

photo 3Despite this lovely warm weather we’ve been having, I have been deep in fall baking mode. While visiting Chicago last weekend I simply had to do some apple picking; one of the few shortcomings of beautiful Colorado is its lack of apple orchards.  I came home with several humongous honeycrisp apples to make good use of, so of course I had to make one of my Famous Apple Pies.

I also found these delicious Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses while at the grocery store a few days ago. I was momentarily distracted by the shock that Hershey’s actually made a flavor of chocolate treat that I had yet to try… but within moments I had a great idea for a new autumn recipe.

photo 4These adorable Kiss Cookies are tasty and festive – call them “Wicked Witches Hats” and they are perfect themed treats for a Halloween party. The deep chocolate flavor of the cookies pairs perfectly with the rich and sinful sweetness of the spicey Kisses. They are delicious straight from the oven when the Kiss is slightly melty, but can be stored for up to two weeks in an airtight container. This recipe makes about three dozen cookies and can easily be doubled – or even tripled – for a big event!

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Kiss Cookies

  • ⅓ cup butter, softened (5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ⅔ cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 36 Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses

photo 1Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the Greek yogurt and egg and beat until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture until just incorporated.

Using tablespoonfuls of dough, gently roll cookies into balls. Place 2 inches apart onto a non-stick (dark) baking sheet. If your baking sheet is not non-stick, line to sheet with parchment paper.

photo 2Bake cookies for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 1-2 minutes. During this time, unwrap the Hershey’s Kisses. Place one Hershey’s Kiss on top of each cookie, pressing down gently. Do not move the cookies until they are completely cool and the kiss has a chance to set.

Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Namas-tasty!

Densely Delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

photo 4Yesterday was a dreary, drizzly, chilly day in Denver — aka the PERFECT opportunity for some more fall baking! I decided to make some chocolately pumpkin bars to curl up by the fire with. These dense treats are rich, moist, and full of pumpkin spice flavor and chocolate in every bite, almost like nibbling on a hunk of fudge! They are easy to make in mere minutes and can be enjoyed solo or with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Densely Delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

adapted from Avery Cooks

  • photo 1-11/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus more for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter. Let cool for one minute. Add the egg, pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and whisk until smooth.

photo 2Add the flour and stir until just combined, don’t overmix! Stir in chocolate chips.

Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Evenly sprinkle with chocolate chips, as few or as many as you would like 🙂

photo 3-1Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow bars to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. I found that the flavor was intensified after sitting in the pan overnight, and I did not cut them into bars right away. Bars continue to get softer and moister for about 3 days after baking. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Namas-tasty!

Gameday Gourmet Butternut Squash Pizza

2013-10-20 19.12.26-2As promised, here is this week’s gameday recipe for an exciting weekend of games. I love this recipe because it’s a great way to use a healthy fall gourd that is abundant this time of year; we all know how much I love fall ingredients! Also, goat cheese of boring old mozzarella. So feel free to impress all of your football fanatic friends with this gourmet ‘za, or, if you’re like me and hate to share something so delicious, keep it all to yourself.

Gameday Gourmet Butternut Squash Pizza

  • basic pizza dough
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss squash with 1 teaspoon oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. On a baking sheet, cook squash until soft and lightly browned, 25 minutes, stirring halfway through; set aside.

2013-10-20 18.27.51Turn out prepared pizza dough onto lightly floured baking sheet or pizza pan and mold into desired shape. Let rest for 10 minutes. While dough is resting, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cook onion (season with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper), stirring, until light brown, 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water; cook, stirring, until brown, 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

2013-10-20 18.57.39Sprinkle pizza dough with squash, onion, and cheese. Place baking sheet or pizza pan into the oven and bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is slightly golden brown in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, slice (carefully!) and serve.

Namas-tasty!

Easy-as-Pie Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal

photo 1Happy first day of fall, readers!! Today is officially the autumnal equinox, and thus begins my absolute favorite season of the year.

Though we slowly lose our precious sunlight as the end of Daylight Savings Times approaches in November, the crisp, cool, “just-right” air still makes autumn a comforting time for many. And did you know that without the increasing darkness in the Northern Hemisphere during this time of the year, we wouldn’t be able to witness the beautiful golds, yellows, reds and oranges that are the defining features of fall foliage?!

photo 3According to National Geographic, plants can sense the waning daylight and deduce that winter is coming, so they begin to retrieve materials from their leaves before they drop off. Evergreen trees have ways to protect their needles from freezing, but leafy plants do not; therefore, they shed their leaves, typically after the first frost. Beforehand, trees such as the gorgeous Aspen that are characteristic of my beloved Colorado attempt to store up nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, much like bears packing in food before they hibernate for the winter. This natural process is what causes the springy green leaves to transform into dazzling displays of autumn color.

2014-03-02 10.43.28Enough of my rambling about changing leaves (although I do enjoy them so!). As many of you may have read last year around this time, I also absolutely adore fall because of the unique and comforting ingredients: pumpkin, apples, cranberries, I love it all! So I wanted to start the season right with a hearty recipe that is sure to keep you warm on the chilly fall days to come: pumpkin oatmeal! Simply throw a handful of ingredients into your slow cooker and let it whip up overnight. In the morning you’ll wake up to a thick, creamy and deliciously flavorful dish to rev you up for the day to come.

Easy-as-Pie Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal

Adapted from Around My Family Table

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 4 1/2 cups water (you can adjust this depending on if you like thicker or thinner oatmeal)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (about half a can)
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup brown sugar

2014-03-02 10.33.18Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stirring occasionally if you can.

Season to taste with brown sugar and top with a few dried cranberries for an extra pop of fall color!

Namas-tasty!

Gameday Pesto Portabello Pizza

2013-12-01 17.47.17Football season is upon us once again!! One of my very favorite times of the year, there are few things I find more comforting than posting up on the couch to watch my favorite players in pads tossing that pigskin. Several components are required for the optimal football viewing experience, including friends, good beers, and of course, lots of delicious food. Thus, every Thursday for the rest of the season I will be posting a new gameday recipe in anticipation of the exciting weekend of football ahead!

I may be partially biased because of my own personal passion for it, but I think most people would agree pizza and football are the perfect match. Anything you can eat with your hands ensures maximum viewing time, and pizza is less messy than most finger foods (as long as it has a good, sturdy crust). Plus, load it up with veggies (or even fruits) and you’ve got all the major food groups in one neat three-sided package!

My Gameday Pesto Portabello Pizza is less of a traditional style pizza (no tomato sauce, gasp!), but it is loaded with some awesome and complex flavors. When paired with a nice Belgian Strong Ale from Three Floyds Brewing Co., one of my favorite brews from a popular midwest pub, this pie sure didn’t last long 🙂

Pesto Portabello Pizza

Adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker

  • 2013-12-01 17.22.40basic pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pesto (homemade or store-bought)
  • 8 ounces provolone cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

Turn out prepared pizza dough onto lightly floured baking sheet or pizza pan and mold into desired shape. Let rest for 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, prepare the mushrooms and onions. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the sliced mushrooms and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the mushrooms have released all of their liquid and both the mushrooms and onions are soft and browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

S2013-12-01 17.27.27pread the pesto over the pizza dough, just as you would pizza sauce, leaving a ½-inch border uncovered. Spread the mushroom and onion mixture evenly over the pesto, and then top with the provolone and Parmesan cheeses.

Place baking sheet or pizza pan into the oven and bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, slice (carefully!) and serve.

Namas-tasty!

White Chocolate Cranberry Holiday Blondies

2013-11-26 23.12.59I mentioned in my last post that I really get a kick out of making treats for friends and family around the holiday season. These little gift-wrapped packages were part of my contribution to the three (I repeat, THREE) Thanksgiving meals I enjoyed with loved ones this year. I included some yummy gingerdoodle cookies, stacked alongside these white chocolate cranberry blondies. I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, and got some great feedback on the goodies!

The blondies have just enough spice and color to make them the perfect addition to any holiday meal or get-together. The texture of the bars is fantastic, with plenty of dried cranberries and white chocolate mixed in, and I personally love the thick cream cheese frosting slathered on top. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Cranberry Holiday Blondies

Adapted from Taste of Home

  • 3/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips

Frosting:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

2013-11-26 23.13.42Preheat oven to 350°. In a microwaveable bowl, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar. Transfer to a large bowl; cool to room temperature. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; gradually add to butter mixture. Stir in cranberries and chopped chocolate (batter will be thick).

Spread into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Bake at 350° for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool on a wire rack.

For frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and orange peel if desired until blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator to preserve moisture.

Namas-tasty!