One of the most enjoyable parts of the holidays for me is gift-giving. I like to think of myself as a little elf distributing packages of holiday cheer 😉 Just kidding. But I really do love spreading joy and love this time of year.
Since baking is my happy place (and also more personal – and less expensive – than more other gifts), I usually like to make festive treats, wrap them up in sweet little packages, and deliver them to friends and family in the area. (I had planned on sending these out to loved ones in other states, as well, until I got to the post office and realized how much it was going to cost to ship all the packages… YIKES! It’s the thought that counts, right?!)
These were my Thanksgiving gifts this year. Last week I baked up some goodies, downloaded these cute (and free!) printable gift tags from She Wears Many Hats, and dug out my rolls of raffia (perfect for a harvest theme), to assemble little gift bags.
I got some really great feedback on these “gingerdoodles.” I admit, I even tried a few myself. They are pretty awesome! Definitely more festive and flavorful than your typical boring snickerdoodle cookie, these soft, gooey treats are filled with that wholesome molasses flavor. Try making the for a holiday crowd, or just for yourself!
Adapted from Lauren’s Latest
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Stir in egg, vanilla and molasses. Whip 1-2 minutes or until it turns a light brown color. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are just combined.
Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball and coat in granulated sugar. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until outside looks cooked but inside is still soft and gooey. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Since you guys seemed to really enjoy my last post of my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (made even healthier!), I thought I’d continue the baking trend and share with you this unbelievably tasty cupcake recipe, again made with applesauce instead of oil.
This past week was the last in the most recent term of my Master’s degree program, and thus it was my final week of student teaching. I had an awesome experience in my classroom of 14 super cool fourth graders, and I wanted to give the lead teacher a gift for putting up with all of my annoying questions about lesson planning, classroom management and organization. I like to believe that baked goods add a really personal touch to any gift, so of course I settled on this pumpkin-inspired fall dessert. Another of my great Pinterest finds, I can honestly say I was a bit glad that I had to give away half of these bad boys, otherwise I would have eaten them all in one sitting! The cupcakes themselves are incredibly moist but dense at the same time, and the frosting is truly decadent. I have yet to get a review from her, but I give these two thumbs up!
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Dolce Delicious
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup homemade applesauce
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup fat free milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 (8 oz.) package reduced fat cream cheese
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, add butter, applesauce, sugars, and eggs and beat over medium speed until combined. Add in pumpkin and continuing beating until thoroughly incorporated. In a liquid measuring cup, combine milk and lemon juice and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients. Slowly, over medium speed, add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, alternating with the milk mixture, beating well after each addition. Line cupcakes trays with paper liners. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 24 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
To make frosting, combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and beat over medium speed until ingredients begin to combine, slowly increase speed and continue beating until a frosting is formed. Once cupcakes cool completely, frost as desired and enjoy!
HELLO readers! Oh, how I’ve missed you so. I sincerely apologize for my brief absence; this week was the last of the current term in my Master’s program, and, needless to say, I spent the majority of it frantically finishing up final projects, presentations and classroom observations. Of course, I did what I do best to manage the stress: cooked through the crazy! There was, however, not a single spare moment to write to y’all about my triumphs in the kitchen.
BUT, that’s all changed now. I’ve got a nice long break from classes ahead of me, so I’m back and ready to share with you some truly awesome recipes! I mean really, I have outdone myself. But, first, I want to share the health(ier) baking recipe I promised a while back. There are the moistest and cakiest cookies I have produced in quite some time, AND I made them without butter and using homemade applesauce instead of oil! Needless to say, they were a huge hit. And so, ladies and gentlemen, I present:
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup homemade applesauce
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp milk
- 1 TB vanilla
- 1 11oz bag chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine pumpkin, sugar, applesauce, and egg in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir into the wet ingredients. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Stir for about one minute. Add vanilla and chocolate chips and stir until combined.
Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with cooking spray. Drop cookies on by the spoonful. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
One of my (many) favorite things about fall, besides the apples, of course, is pumpkins! Pumpkin patches, pumpkin pie; I am beyond excited when Starbucks rolls out their pumpkin-flavored menu on October 1st.
I also love pumpkin carving. I didn’t partake in the activity often as a child, but I have a few fond memories from my elementary school days of carving out silly/spooky faces and displaying them proudly while modeling my Halloween costume (I’m pretty sure I was a witch for 10 straight years). This year, on our apple-picking adventure, I came across the perfect pumpkin and decided to bring back a little piece of my childhood. Of course, my pattern of choice was sports-related: a Denver Bronco! I had a great time scooping out the pumpkin goop, poking a pattern into the thick pumpkin rind and chiseling out the design (although, as it turned out, it was quite intricate for my minimal level of expertise).
Once I had an awesome pumpkin to decorate my apartment, I decided I was going to resurrect another fall tradition and roast the leftover pumpkin seeds! From what I can remember, my mom used to spread the seeds out on a baking sheet, season them with a savory blend, and throw them in the oven to bake. This year, however, I decided I wanted my pumpkin seeds sweet; so I picked out this recipe for caramelized pumpkin seeds that you can cook up fast right on the stove! They were a delicious fall treat, just like candy; I’ll definitely be adding these bad boys to the fall favorite repertoire!
Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds
Adapted from Cooking with My Kid
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds (cleaned and patted dry)
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of kosher salt
- cooking spray
Place pumpkin seeds in a dry non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Toast them in the pan, constantly stirring so that they roast evenly and don’t stick to the pan. When they start to pop and peel, take one out and taste it (make sure it’s cool enough first). If it’s crunchy it’s done. Turn the heat down to low and spray the seeds with cooking spray. Spoon sugar into pan and stir seeds as the sugar melts and sticks to them. Add the cinnamon and continue to stir until all seeds are coated. Turn heat off and sprinkle with salt. Let cool and serve!
As much as I love apples, just like any other fresh fruit or vegetable they tend to lose their quality pretty quickly if you don’t eat them right away. A couple of weeks after picking them, I found that the few remaining apples that I hadn’t been able to bake into a scrumptious dessert or meal were starting to get mushy and mealy. Enter: this fabulous applesauce recipe! Instead of letting the rest of my precious apples go to waste and simply throwing them away, I decided to boil those suckers down to (delicious) mush.
Since posting a plea to my readers for advice, a friend of mine from class has been helping me experiment with healthy cooking and baking (thanks Elizabeth!). This was the perfect starter recipe because I added absolutely no additional sweetener or flavoring. I got to witness just how far natural ingredients can go; the goodness comes exclusively from the apples 🙂 I was also able to use this applesauce to replace the vegetable oil recipe for my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to make these treats even healthier!
Super Easy Homemade Applesauce from Elizabeth
- 12-24 apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (or 1 or 2 packages frozen apples to save time)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp. cinnamon (add/subtract to taste; fresh cinnamon sticks are recommended!)
- 1 package driscolls (or other brand) fresh strawberries, cut into halves
- or 1 package frozen peaches
For plain applesauce:
Put chopped apples, water and cinnamon into pot. Bring to boil, and let cook on medium heat until apples start to soften. Turn heat to low and let simmer (with lid on) until apples completely break apart, about 20-30 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate.
For strawberry applesauce:
Add apples and cinnamon and let them cook and soften until they are 75% to your desired texture (some people like chunky). Then add strawberries, stir occasionally and let simmer until desired texture is achieved.
For peaches applesauce:
Add peaches to cinnamon sticks first (they take the longest to soften). After about 10-15, minutes add apples and continue to cook until desired texture is achieved.
Although they are not the stars of this dish, I wanted to try out another savory recipe
to use up the rest of the apples from our adventure to Wisconsin
. Roasted apples are super delicious, especially when paired with sweet potatoes (one of my absolute favorites) and topped with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh rosemary sprigs. I also love roasted parsnips (this is basically the only way I care to eat them) because they develop a really great texture in the oven and are also a little sweet. However, feel free to omit them from this recipe if parsnips are not your thing! Pork chops go great
with tarter fruit sauces, so I also thought they would be a great protein addition to this meal; the apple cider-dijon glaze is like fall in your mouth. When it all came together, this apple-inspired dinner turned out to be a big hit!
Cider-Dijon Pork Chops with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples
- 4 boneless pork loin chops (each about 7 ounces and 1 inch thick)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
Vegetables and Apples
- 1 pound red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
- 2 tart apples, cored and cut lengthwise into eighths (I chose to peel mine, but this is a personal preference; feel free to do you!)
- 2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while the oven preheats. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven and heat until very hot.
To cook the vegetables and apples: In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes, apples, parsnips, and rosemary with the olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and spread the vegetables and apples on it. Roast, turning the ingredients over halfway through, for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are nicely browned and tender.
Meanwhile, cook the pork: Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then add the chops to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and barely pink when pierced in the center with the tip of a small sharp knife. Transfer to a platter (reserving the oil in the skillet) and let stand for 5 minutes.
Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of the oil from the skillet, leaving the brown bits in the pan. Return the pan to medium-low heat, add the apple cider, and bring to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Whisk in the mustard and simmer for about 2 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter to lightly thicken the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the sweet potato mixture among four dinner plates. Place a pork chop alongside the vegetables on each plate. Drizzle with the pan sauce and serve.
I’m sure by now you’ve had about enough of the apple recipes… but GUESS WHAT? I’ve got some more comin’ to ya! Getting rid of 30 apples is no small task, let me tell you, and I am proud to say that I found some pretty creative ways to do it.
This recipe, thankfully, is not another dessert, but a deliciously savory breakfast dish! I got the idea of an apple-sausage quiche from an Instagram post of a friend of mine, and immediately went to work to find a recipe that I could replicate. For me, cheese is a vital quiche ingredient. I decided on cheddar because the sharpness pairs so nicely with the tartness of the apples and the sweet italian sausage. Of course I piled on the veggies, in this case plenty of chopped onion and green pepper, and added a little fresh basil from my herb garden to a prepared pie crust before pouring the egg/milk mixture over the top. Just bake and voila! A tasty, nutritious and out of the ordinary meal that is easy as pie to make – no pun intended. The best part? The numerous compliments I received from my taste-testers, and the leftovers lasted for days 🙂
Apple Sausage Cheddar Quiche
Adapted from Sweet Luvin in the Kitchen
- 1 9-inch pie crust (store bought or homemade)
- 1/2-1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
- 1 1/2 cups (6-oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup fresh apple, peeled and chopped (I used a Johnathan apple picked from the orchard, but Granny Smith or any other tart cooking apple would work, as well)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
- 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup milk
With your pie crust fitted in a pie plate, prick bottoms and sides of pie crust with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes. Brown sausage in a large skilled, stirring until it crumbles. Drain and cool. Combine sausage, cheese and next 5 ingredients; spoon into prepared crust. Beat eggs. Pour over sausage mixture, along with milk to cover. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake at 325 for 50 minutes OR until set. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. For even more hearty goodness in the morning, add some southwestern skillet potatoes on the side.