Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cut-Out Ginger Cookies

There are a lot of future tiny humans in my office. Lots and lots of pregnant women or pregnant wives of men who work here (really had to reword that sentence so it didn't read "lots of pregnant women and men"). As a result, we've had baby showers! Always a fun time and an excuse for cake. Or in this case, cookies.

My former manager is among the pregnant tribe and she's also a red-head so my immediate thought when she shared her happy news was "Ginger baby!!". So for her shower, I made ginger-baby cookies aka: ginger cookies cut out in the shapes of baby things like onesies and strollers.

These fun shapes are available on Amazon but read carefully, I definitely ordered a mini-cookie cutter which is animal cracker sized. This is one of those recipes where I felt compelled to make excellent cookies but allowed minimal room for error.

There's sugar melting involved. There are always so many moment of panic when we put fire to sugar and cook it. Remember the marshmallows? No? Oh right, because I burned the sugar syrup and there were no marshmallows. I'm down to the bottom of the barrels of my baking supplies so only had enough molasses to have one shot at this melting sugar and molasses thing. You really don't need a huge pot when melting sugar, in fact, it makes it harder because the mixture is spread out so thinly that it will burn very quickly.

As a result of this high-pressure situation, I don't have any photos of this process. But I will say, once you add the baking soda to the sugar and it puffs up, it's glorious. I halved this recipe due to my molasses limitations but ended up using less flour than the half-recipe called for. Really, you want the dough to be a cohesive and not crumbly like sugar cookie dough but not so sticky that you can't roll it out.

All in all, a successful cookie endeavor! And these don't expand as much as sugar cookies do which was super good to figure out.

Recipe (for a full batch)
  • 2/3 cup dark or light molasses
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 Tablespoons baking soda (I definitely did teaspoons when I made this...things I'm realizing riiiight now)
  • 10 2/3 Tablespoons of butter (just under 1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 egg
  • 5 cups of flour 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine the molasses, sugar and spices in a small saucepan and stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved. 
  3. Add the baking soda to the still hot mixture. Everything will puff up. Remove from heat once the dough stops expanding.
  4. Pour the sugar mixture into a bowl containing your cubed butter. Stir to melt the butter.
  5. As the mixture cools, add the egg and flour. I recommend adding the flour a cup at a time, you don't want the dough to get too dry.
  6. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface, just like you would do with sugar cookies.
  7. Punch out your shapes and bake on the parchment-lined sheets until firm.
  8. You can ice these if you'd like but they also taste good plain.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Asian Cucumber Salad

Summer has finally hit full speed, complete with the warmth and humidity of July on the east coast. For you west coasters (for one, thanks for reading!), you're lucking out with your dry heat. But there is good news! This is prime picnic and barbecue time. Every been asked to bring a side dish? Tired of having a thousand plates of brownies or those mini cupcakes with blue frosting? Well, let's try a side dish that isn't a pasta salad.

 This cucumber salad is great for outdoor events because it won't melt in the sun and the crisp and cool properties of the cucumber are spot-on. Plus, I'm a fan of sesame oil so what could go wrong? Get ready to chop.

 Cucumbers are halved and quartered and then eigthed (is that a thing?). Basically, make some bite sized pieces. For good measure, I also added some chopped up red bell pepper. Next, we mix the oils and seasoning together to make a nice dressing. This is then poured over the vegetables and tossed to combine.

 It's that simple. And now you can have a break from pasta salad!

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 sliced scallions
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
  1.  In a medium bowl, add the chopped cucumber and pepper. Sprinkle with salt and allow to sit.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Whisk together until combined.
  3. If water has gathered in the bowl with the vegetables, drain before pouring the dressing over the cucumber and pepper. Toss to combine.
  4. Serve chilled and topped with cilantro.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Peanut Butter Granola

Not too long ago, I tried to make my own granola bars and it kinda sorta maybe worked. I mean, they required a fork and some wax paper to eat but they were chocolatey and delicious. Maybe I should have taken a step back and started with plain old granola. Yup, let's start there.

Granola is a remarkably easy thing to make and I can't believe it's taken me this long to try it out. As far as I can tell, you can add whatever dried fruits or nuts you want to this and toast it to crunchy perfection. Pinterest is getting alarmingly good at suggesting pins for me so along came this granola.

I'll admit, in the spirit of honesty and amateur cooking, that even with only 3 ingredients, I had to throw out the first batch because I messed it up. Just like when I try to melt chocolate in the microwave, I burned the peanut butter during the melting process. I had more peanut butter but no more honey so off went the oven, back in the container went the oats, back on the couch with Netflix I went in my despair.

 Fast forward a couple of hours and I had purchased new honey and melted it with the peanut butter in a saucepan instead. A hair dryer probably would have worked too. Once this is all melty, it gets poured over the raw oats and stirred. I think this is also how little protein bites are made, according to the other suggested pins on my Pinterest feed. The peanut butter coated oats are spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment and baked for around 30 minutes or until darkened and dry.

I think what spawned the decision to make this was wanting to combine peanut butter and bananas, something I have honestly never done before. But my best friend in high school had half a peanut butter and banana sandwich for lunch every day (all 4 years) so it couldn't be toooo bad. Great success! Crunchy granola with some milk and banana made my morning all week long.

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, measure out the oats and set aside.
  3. In a small sauce pan, combine the peanut butter and honey. Heat over medium heat until smooth and combined.
  4. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the oats. Stir until all pieces are coated.
  5. Spread the coated oats out on the baking sheet so it's evenly distributed.
  6. Bake the oats for about 30 minutes or until no longer soft. Allow to cool completely before storing (or eating) to get the extra crunch.