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Chewy Ginger Cookies

For many years my parents neighbor would bring these delicious cookies over for a treat.  It took me years to think to ask for the recipe.  I am so happy I finally did!  I  love these cookies because they are chewy and spicy.  So much fun.  Not to mention they are very easy to make and always a crowd pleaser.

Here is what you need:

  • 3/4 of a cup of butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 3 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 rounded teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 teaspoons crystalized

Cream together butter and sugar mixed in beaten eggs, molasses and vinegar.  Next combine flour, baking soda and spices (including crystalized ginger) 

Tip: Spray your measuring cup with cooking spray prior to measuring molasses.  This will prevent your molasses from sticking to the measuring cup and you from talking to inanimate objects!  You know you do that sometimes too!

After everything is mixed together, chill the dough for about 30 minutes.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and cover in sugar. 

Snow capped cookies!

Place on baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Allow to cool and enjoy!

Chewy goodness

Chewy goodness

 

These make excellent treats for friends and neighbors!  Or pair them with my new favorite libation—Harpoon Winter Warmer!

Cheers to winter!

Happy Holidays!

[L]

I did it. I made my sister and (now) brother in-laws wedding cake (two months ago now!). I am both pleased and surprised to say that I didn’t run into too many issues! That can probably be attributed to beginners luck, a healthy dose of research, and the fact that I kept the cake very simple. As I mentioned in the post about Catherine’s bridal shower, I made a practice cake. This helped me work out a few issues related to the frosting and give me the confidence to succeed on the wedding day! Without further ado here is some of my documentation of the process….

I under estimated how busy we would all be before the wedding–dropping wedding favors off, picking up THE wedding dress, entertaining family and just enjoying the festivities. Here is what my timeline looked like:

Thursday:

  •  Grocery shop
  • Bake cakes, two 10X2 inch and 1 8 X 3 inch
  •  Refrigerate overnight

 Friday:

  • Make Swiss butter cream frosting
  • Frost and stack cakes
  • Cover with fondant
  • Pick up flowers from florist

Saturday AM:

  • Place flowers on top of cake
  • Deliver cake to wedding reception venue
  • Get ready for the wedding!

I used this recipe to make a coconut cake. This makes a very decadent and moist cake. It was to die for, if I do say so myself. I had to double the recipe in order to make enough cake. Let me tell you, I think I ended up using almost every bowl in my parent’s kitchen—I was shocked how much batter it took!

Line your cake pan with parchment paper as well as cooking spray. This way you can be 100% sure you will have easy removal from the pan. When pouring batter into the pans I just eye balled the proportions, trying to make sure that I put even amounts of batter in each of the layers. Once you pour the batter in, give the pan a good shake to and allow the batter to settle a bit, this will reduce the dome on the top of the cake during the baking process.

Once the cake is done cooking, allow to cook in the pan for a bit and then place on a cooling rack. Once completely cool wrap each cake in wax paper as well as plastic wrap. This will ensure that as the cake rests and completely cools over night in the refrigerator it will not dry out or smell like your refrigerator! Making the cakes a day before is key. The next day the cake will be much more solid, making it easier to handle during the frosting and stacking process. You can even make it up to 2 weeks in advance and freeze it.

 Making the Frosting: I used Smitten Kitchens recipe for Swiss buttercream frosting. Originally, I wanted to steer clear of buttercream frosting because I just don’t usually like it. But from the research I did it seemed to be the best option. Let’s just say I never looked back. Once you make the frosting give it a few minutes to chill but not too long or else it gets too hard and incredibly difficult to spread. Although I was using fondant, I learned through research that it is imperative to have a layer of frosting between the cake and the fondant; it acts as a dressing for the cake. The beauty of this is you don’t have to be too concerned what the frosting layer looks like. Just make sure it is fairly smooth.

If Swiss buttercream is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Rolling the fondant:  Two pieces of cake baking equipment I purchase were a fondant roller and a fondant mat. I would not have been able to make the cake without these. The mat has both circles and graph paper design on it, allowing you ensure that you have rolled out enough fondant. The mat also helps when transferring the fondant to the cake. You can easily flip your freshly rolled out fondant on top of the cake, slowly peel back that mat and smooth the fondant over the cake. Cut off excess fondant. Repeat for each tier of your cake.

PLEASE WORK!

Proud Mama

Lookin' fine

Stacking: Break a thin wooden dowel into pieces, just as tall as the cake itself and hammer them into the center. This will prevent the top layer from caving into the bottom layer. It seemed a bit silly to me but after lifting this cake multiple times I learned just how heavy a cake can get. Once you place you layers on top of each other use your frosting to make decorative designs to cover the seam. I chose to color the frosting purple and orange-the wedding colors. I then alternated purple and orange frosting stars.

Placing wooden dowels

Structural Support

No more seams!

 Allow your cake the chill over night in the refrigerator. In the morning before delivering your cake cut and place flowers on the top of the cake. Carefully drive the cake to the ending location and refrigerator. I must say it was lots of fun to do this. A bit stressful at times but in the end seeing my sister and her husband cut into a cake that I made was  a cool experience.

Love

I also made sure to jump in for a  photo opp! (Thanks Lisa!) Congratulations Catherine and Andrew!

Just had to jump in!

[L]

RT gifted me with some delicious Fair Trade Baking Cocoa from Equal Exchange I knew I had to bake with it ASAP.  After reading Eat, Live, Run’s post on Meringue I decided I had to do something similar–but with Cocoa.  I followed the recipe exactly, except I added about 1/3 of a cup of Cocoa to the sugar before combining with the egg whites and cream of tartar. 

I left my pastry bags at my parents house after making Catherine and Andrew’s wedding cake (a post on this is coming–I promise).  I decided to just put the wet meringue mixture into a zip lock bag and cut the corner off.  It was very easy to make little “clouds” out of the meringue.  I tried experimenting with “baskets” that could then be filled with fresh berries….lets just say that is still a work in progress. 

After my patience was worn a bit thin the meringues were finally ready!  Fresh out of the oven, these were delicious, they tasted like clouds of chocolate melting in my mouth.  I tell you, this is the stuff dreams are made of.

Chocolate Dreams

[Lizzie]

I use to think I knew what a good cup of coffee tasted like–then I met Robby.   I must admit I am not the most patient person and I use to just throw a random amount of coffee in the french press, fill it with water and let it sit until I was ready.  Not anymore.  I promise if you follow the steps below you will learn the secrets to making the perfect cup of (french press) coffee! 

When Lizzie mentioned writing a post about coffee I was super excited that I not only got to talk about coffee, but also to make and drink it along the way. I am a stickler for quality and I feel as though what a lot of people consider as a great cup of coffee may not actually be as good as it can be.  One of the more interesting things I’ve heard is that you can’t make great coffee better on its way from seed to cup, but you can only make it worse. 

There are many opinions on methods, techniques, and taste….but for today I’ve chosen to focus on the French Press method. This is an inexpensive, relatively easy way to bring out more from your coffee and enjoy a different spin on your morning (or afternoon) cup. 

The coffee I am using is a personal favorite of mine: fairly traded Organic Guatemalan Medium roasted by Equal Exchange.  Typically, a lighter roasted coffee allows for you to taste more of the not-so-subtle differences in the bean instead of a more “roasty” flavor. 

 

1.)    First, bring about 4 and a half cups of water to a boil. While you’re doing this, you can grind your coffee. If your grinder does not have a designated French Press setting, you’ll want a bit coarser of a grind for a French press than you would use for a drip brew. This is best done using a burr grinder, but if you don’t have one you can make due with a mill grinder. 

 

The general standard is 1-2 tablesoons of coffee for every 6 oz of water. For this entry- I am using a 32 ounce French press (a common home-use size) and 60 grams of coffee- but at home I would use 9-10 level tablespoons/scoops depending on your preference. 

2.)    After you’ve got the ground coffee in the French press and let the boiling water cool for 3-5 minutes (coffee should be brewed at 195-205 degrees F, boiling is 212).  Start a timer and introduce the water to the coffee evenly, filling it a little under a third full. Wait one minute as the coffee absorbs the water, blooms and lets off some of the gases. 

 

3.)    At one minute, fill the French press, stir the mixture and place the top on. Press the plunger down about an inch, so that all of the coffee is now submerged. Now wait three additional minutes. 

 

4.)    At 4:00, plunge the coffee, slowly but steadily and that’s it, your coffee is all done. After serving, you may want to wait a few minutes as your coffee will still be quite hot, but otherwise ENJOY! 

Perfection!

Thanks for the post Robby! 

What is your favorite roast of coffee?  How do you like your coffee–milk, cream, sugar etc? 

[Lizzie]

This past weekend I had the pleasure of co-hosting my sisters bridal shower.  The shower was to be held at my co-hostesses’ (also known as my Aunt Linda) house, where many family functions have been held before. 
 
I knew I wanted to keep things fresh and simple because who wants to eat a heavy meal in the middle of the summer?  After hatching a few ideas out with my mother (a true party throwing inspiration of mine) we decided a “build your own salad” bar would be a great way to provide a light, fresh lunch that met everyone’s dietary needs and restrictions!    Here is what the salad included
 

  • Spring mix
  • Red Onions
  • New Jersey Tomatoes (thanks Lesley!)
  • Cucumbers
  • Marinated Artichoke hearts
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Sliced Avocado
  • Grilled Salmon
  • Roasted Turkey Breast
  • Rolls
  • Creamy Dressing
  • Balsamic vinaigrette

Since guests were expected to arrive fairly early Saturday and there was a decent amount of prep work that could only be done that morning, I wanted to make sure I got as much done as possible the night before.  Less stress=a more enjoyable party!

Here is what I did Friday Afternoon:

  • Wrap silverware in napkins and place in a basket: Guests will only have to pick up one additional item when filling their plates!
  • Wash and dry all vegetables: When it comes time to chop everything will be clean!
  • Label Service dishes and set up serving table: Knowing that everything already has a home makes set up easy.
  • Make Ice: Okay I didn’t do this but I should have!  We ended up buying a bag of ice at the store.
  • Fill balloons with helium: To be placed on the mailbox so guests will be sure to know where the party is.

Saturday Morning:

  • Fuel with a nice breakfast and a cup of coffee: You have a busy few hours ahead of you!
  • Brew tea and allow to chill for ice tea
  • Make lemonade
  • Chop vegetables/toppings: Place on the serving dishes and cover with plastic wrap
  • Fill salad bowls with spring mix: Purchasing the triple washes saves a lot of time.
  • Pick up rolls at Bakery (thanks Linda!)
  • Grill Salmon (thanks Joe!)
  • Roast Chicken breast (thanks Mom!)

Fresh Rolls

Perfectly Grilled Salmon

The Spread

When the guest arrived everyone mingled for a few minutes and snacked on a cheese and fruit plate as well as enjoyed a glass of ice tea or lemonade before we all dug in and ate! 
 
For dessert I made a slightly smaller version of the cake that I will be making for Catherine and Andrews wedding, but that is another post for another time.  Let’s just say I don’t think anyone was let down!  Modest of me, I know.
 

Sneak peak of the wedding cake

What is your favorite  bridal shower meal?

[Lizzie]

Eat it don’t move it.  A common mantra among those that will soon be packing up all their belongs from one apartment and moving them to the next.  Really—who wants to move cans of beans, soups and other pantry staples?  I will be moving come September 1st and have big plans to empty out my pantry.  Normally I would just throw some beans on top of a sweet potato with some hot sauce and call it a day.  This time I wanted to impress a boy and show him that I also have skills in the kitchen.  Two lofty goals if you ask me! After looking at what my pantry had to offer, Chipotle Black Bean Burgers were born!  Here is what you will need.  
 

  •  1 can black beans
  •   ¾ of a cup of frozen corn
  •   2 chipotle peppers    
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  •   2 tablespoons ground flax-seed
  •  3 tablespoons water
  •  ½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Things were off to a rough start seeing as I didn’t have any eggs in my refrigerator.  I racked my brain for a few minutes wondering what I could use as my binding agent. All of a sudden I remembered reading about flax-seed eggs and decided to give it a try.  All you do is combined 2 tablespoons of ground flax-seed with about 3 tablespoons of water and mix it up! Vola, you have yourself an “egg”. 
 
These burgers are pretty simple.  Combine all the ingredients above, including your flax-seed egg.  Mix until all items are equally distributed. 
 
Every time I try making a burger like this I find that I have a really hard time getting it to stick together (I thinks it is because of the “chunky” ingredients?) and when I try to flip them during the cooking process they always seem to fall apart!  I was convinced that I could find a way to fix this.  I used the blender attachment on my immersion blender and after a few “pulses” of the mixture I had created a partially blended bean burger.  As you mix the ingredients together, you will notice they start to stick together a bit more. 
 
Using your hand form into burgers, as small or large as you want.  I made mine into 5 burgers. 


Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 mins so the burgers can set a bit.  I made mine the night before so they had lots of time to gel.
 

Heat oven to 350 degrees and cook for 10 mins, flip the burgers and cook for an additional 10 mins. 


I chose to serve the burgers with a side of Cole slaw as well as tomatoes and cucumber salad. 

 I think I accomplished both my goals: The boy raved about the dinner (even days later!) and I used up lots of items in my pantry.

What is your favorite kind of burger?

[Lizzie]

I have an affinity for scones.  I love everything about them.  This past weekend I went to grab a coffee and a scone. I had my eye one a maple  scone, the last one in the case.  By the time I got to the counter and ordered it, someone in front of me had scooped it up.  Jerk.    

I used this recipe to try to make up for my lost scone.   As usual, I made a few changes:  

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour to replace white flour
  • Walnuts instead of pecans
  • Real maple syrup instead of maple extract

To start, cube  the butter   

Butter makes it better!

Then, chop the walnuts   

    

Using a pasty cutter (one of my best friends in the kitchen-just like using your hands but much less messy!) combine the dry ingredients with the butter until they form small, pea sized chunks. Then, mix in chopped walnuts. It was very hot and humid in Boston today, so I placed this mixture in the refrigerator while I worked on the wet ingredients to prevent the butter from melting.    

Oh hey best friend!

The next step is to mix the wet ingredients. Whisk together butter milk, two egg yolks and maple syrup.     

    

Combine with dry mixture    

    

Form dough into a circle and cut into six triangles.  Place each triangle onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.   Next time I think I will do eight sections because these scones ended up being about as big as my head!    

Looking Good!

I baked these in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  I think this is one area where I went wrong.  I didn’t watch these closely and I think I overcooked them by about 3 minutes.  I also think trying to makes these a bit more healthy by using 1/2 whole wheat flour was a bad idea.  They tasted fine but a little too “healthy” and dry.    

For the glaze melt butter and whisk together with brown sugar, a few tablespoons of butter milk, and maple syrup.  Allow this mixture to cool for a few minutes.  Add powdered sugar until the mixture thickens up a bit.  Once scones have cooled completely, drizzle glaze on top.  It  is important to wait for the scones to cool or else the glaze will just slide right off!  And since these tasted so healthy, I think giving them a bath in glaze is a very important step.  To finish the scones, top with a few walnut pieces and enjoy!   

   

What is your favorite breakfast treat?   

[Lizzie]