Holiday Recipe: Gingerbread

Gingerbread in pan fresh from the oven.

If you know me in person and see me around the holidays, you’ve probably had my homemade gingerbread.

This past week, a recent work project ended. I baked a couple of loaves and brought it in to thank the firm for the warm welcome.

This morning, I baked another loaf to bring for Thanksgiving dinner later today. Gingerbread has been my signature holiday dessert for over 20 years. At this point, it’s part of my identity. I bake gingerbread.

I first found the recipe in a magazine that my maternal grandmother gave me. It’s called Mother’s Gingerbread and is from the book  Cleora’s Kitchen. Over the years, I’ve adapted it. So it is somewhat different from the original.

It’s one of my favorite things to eat and most other people love it too. So I often give it as a gift. It’s easy to make and maybe you might like to bake it too. Here’s the recipe below.

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Gingerbread (makes 1 loaf)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup hot/boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS:
Place parchment paper in loaf pan or grease pan with butter, then shake flour in pan until the pan is covered with flour. Dump out excess flour. Set oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Stir in molasses and eggs. Stir in cinnamon and ginger. Stir in baking powder and baking soda. Stir in flour. Stir in water. This should be a very liquid mixture.

Pour mixture into loaf pan. Depending upon your oven, and maybe the pan that you use, bake for 60 – 75 minutes. When the gingerbread is almost done, you should smell it. The scent is amazing! Sometimes I’ll bake it at night, so I can fall asleep to the wonderful aroma in the house.

Use a toothpick or fork, etc., to test it before removing from the oven. It should come out clean. If there is some liquid on it, then put back in the oven.

When it’s finally done, let cool for a few minutes. I usually wrap it in foil and store it in the fridge if I am keeping it. It’s great served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

It can be frozen as well. Usually I make gingerbread to give away or bring someplace else, so I don’t refrigerate it. Just keep in foil and bring with you or package it well in order to mail. It will remain fresh and moist even in the mail for  2- 3 days. So choose your postage accordingly!

Happy Thanksgiving and all the best to you for this holiday season!

Recipe: Brown Sugar-Almond Shortbread Cookies

There hasn’t been a lot of baking on this blog. Not like I used to. But I like to document when I try something new, so I can look back and remember, “Yeah! I baked that!”

I baked these shortbread cookies as a gift, because I wanted something simple, but special. A dessert, but not too sweet.

The recipe is from the cookbook, Baking, by Dorie Greenspan. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks ever. I’ve had the book for years and have a few tried and true recipes. I’ve decided to venture out a bit more and bake some of the other recipes in the book. There are so many to choose from!

For this recipe, I didn’t have pecans, so I used almonds. I cut the recipe in half, and used ground cardamom instead of cloves.

While my cookies aren’t as pretty as the ones in the book, I think they’re still pretty cute! And the taste is wonderful! I highly recommend trying them. They’re great as a gift. To bring to a brunch or an afternoon tea. Or just for yourself. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think!

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Brown Sugar-Almond Shortbread Cookies (Makes about a dozen cookies)
(Adapted version of Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies, from Baking, by Dorie Greenspan)

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 cup flour
2 T cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
pinch of ground cardamom
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds

Optional for dusting
2 T powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. crushed edible lavender

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place the butter in a medium sized bowl and microwave, just until it gets a little soft. Then add the rest of the ingredients (except the ones for dusting) and combine.

Use a rubber spatula to put the mixture in a gallon size resealable zipper storage plastic bag. Don’t seal it yet. Use your hands to shape the dough into a log, by pressing and rolling. When it seems to be the right shape, so it will slice into nice sized cookies, press the air out of the bag, seal it and put into freezer for about 45 minutes or so, until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet or two with parchment paper. Remove dough from the freezer and take out of the plastic bag. I wash plastic bags and reuse them until they break. It is Earth Day after all! Reuse and recycle!

Place the dough on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to slice into pieces. Put the pieces on the cookie sheets, then take a fork and prick each cookie twice.

Bake cookies for about 20 minutes. They should not brown.

In a small bowl, combine lavender and powdered sugar.  When you remove the cookies, sprinkle the powdered sugar lavender mixture on top while they are still hot. Let cool a bit and they’re ready to eat!

Recipe: Single Serving Parisian Style Hot Chocolate

hot chocolate topped with whipped cream

Full disclosure! The picture that I took of the hot chocolate that I made for this post did not do it justice.

And this hot chocolate recipe is outstanding! It’s thick, rich and super chocolaty.

I don’t want the picture to keep you from trying it, so this is a stock photo. It’s as easy to make this recipe as using an instant mix. And you will elevate your hot chocolate experience to another level. At home! Without paying a ton of money! Yes, I’m screaming!

Today is one of the coldest days in New England this winter. And on a similarly super cold day five years ago, I blogged a recipe for Single Serving Parisian Style Hot Chocolate.

Back then, I adapted the recipe and I’ve adapted it again. It’s a little “healthier” with less sugar and cream. Today is National Hot Chocolate Day, so it’s the perfect day to try this recipe.

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Single Serving Parisian Style Hot Chocolate

Ingredients + Instructions

1 cup vanilla almond milk
4 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

Place ingredients in a microwave safe mug. Whisk until well combined. Microwave for two and a half minutes. Top with whipped cream. Enjoy!

Homemade Harvest Bowl

This was my lunch today — leftovers from my lunches during the week. It’s healthy, filling and tastes good. I have become obsessed with these harvest bowls.

I’ve been making a concentrated effort to eat more greens and to getting my protein without soy.

Over the course of my blogging, I’ve gone back and forth between eating and drinking soy products and not. I’m back to not and don’t think I will be going back.

A favorite lunch is the Power Bowl from B.Good. I’ve never forgotten the Squash and Farro Salad that I helped make at a food blogging event a few years ago. I loved the taste and texture of the farro. I also started buying the Harvest Bowl at Sweetgreen.

These three favorite dishes are variations of the same thing. Lots of greens, sweet potato or squash, nuts, fruit, a protein like chicken or egg, cheese, a grain and other vegetables with a dressing.

I’ve been experimenting with making my own version and loving it. I make my own salad dressing and keep it on hand.

The ingredients in the salad pictured above are: baby spinach and kale, boiled egg, farro, sweet potato, trail mix, feta cheese.

Though I love this meal, I’ve been having it virtually everyday for two weeks. This coming week, I’ll be giving it a break. Variety is the spice of life after all.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend! Not a football fan, but I’m in New England, so Go Patriots!

Holiday Baking Recipe: Swedish Spritz Cookies


It’s December, so holiday baking season is in full swing! This was the first Thanksgiving in decades that I didn’t cook or bake anything. And I was perfectly fine with it. But I had a few good reasons to bake these Swedish Spritz cookies today.

One of my brother’s housemates lost his mom a few years ago and she left him her cookbook. Out of the blue one day, he shared one of her recipes with me. I was so touched. A family recipe is a treasure.

He gave me the recipe this past summer, but I hadn’t had a chance to bake them.  Well, time just kept passing, as it’s known to do. He asked me a few times if I had tried them yet and I promised myself that I would make them soon. My family has Sunday dinners each week and I thought these would make a festive dessert. Plus, I was in a baking mood today!

As I was looking at the recipe and comparing it to other similar recipes, I realized that I didn’t have a cookie press. His family is Swedish, so his mom’s recipe didn’t have the part about needing the cookie press, because it was probably pretty obvious to her.

Luckily I have no problem improvising when I bake, so I used a cookie stamp to get a similar effect.

There were some cookies leftover from our family dinner, so I gave them to my brother’s house for everyone to share. His housemate had such a smile when I told him that I finally made the cookies and he gave me the biggest hug. Which he has never done before. Ever.

My mom said that baking these cookies was a way to keep memories of his mother alive. I have to agree. So much about food, especially around the holidays, is about family, memories and love.

These cookies are very good and I will definitely bake them again. Simple, tasty and not too sweet. They are practically as quick as using ready made cookie dough. Perfect for this time of year.

Here’s the adapted recipe below if you’d like to try it. I received permission to blog it.

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Swedish Spritz Cookies (makes a dozen and a half cookies)

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick butter (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup plus 2T flour
pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Set aside an ungreased cookie sheet or place parchment paper on sheet. Set oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together butter, sugar and egg yolk. Add extract, salt and flour. Stir until combined. Batter comes together nicely and will be a dough that is easy to handle. If you have a cookie press, use as instructed.

I rolled the dough into small balls, then baked for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from the oven and use cookie stamp to press design onto the top of each ball. Bake for another 5 minutes for total baking time of 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cook, then serve or store in a container. Enjoy!