Fluffy Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Let’s talk cookies.

I live, eat and breath cookies. I run on the treadmill dreaming of cookies. I like all cookies; both big and small. I make the boyfriend cookies probably once every week – mostly because I can get my cookie dough fix. It’s an added bonus, I guess, that he gets sent to work with a container bursting with sweet cookie goodness.

These cookies are almost my favorite. I would say they are my favorite, but let’s be honest, all cookies are my favorite. However, these cookies are so good, the boyfriend has learned to bake them for his friends at work. By the way, “the boyfriend” likes being referred to in this manner because “it makes him sound like a super villain”. Yes, he actually sad that and yes, he actually baked cookies. I don’t know what’s more surprising.

What I really love about these cookies is that they are fairly easy to make and you can make the batter a day ahead of time. There have been so many times when I’ve made the cookie dough for these at like eleven at night, put the bowl in the fridge and baked the batch the next day. I like things that sit overnight because the next day it feels almost like hassle-free baking; no assembly required and not many messes to be made.

Except, of course, when it comes to photographing; this is secretly where all the biggest messes are made. It’s when I’m allowed to take bites out of five cookies because it looks cool in the picture (and then after I’m done photographing, I get to eat those) and it’s also when I dirty about seventy percent of my dishes trying to find the right one. It’s also when I get lazy and sometimes leave my cookie/food photo shoot set up in my living room until after I get back from class. These cookies, however, could not be left out in fear that I would surely eat the whole batch. They disappeared quiet fast, though, as I was generous enough to share.

Fluffy Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
(Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies)

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar, plus more for rolling
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 c. pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

In a bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until creamy and smooth. Add pumpkin, egg, maple syrup and vanilla; mix well. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mix well. Chill the dough for at least an hour.

After the dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using your hands, rolls balls of dough and then dip the tops in a bowl of sugar. Place on baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cookies are puffed up and golden around the edges.

It’s rainy and cloudy today, which means its the perfect day for more cookie making.

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Southwestern Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

I can’t wait for summer.

I’m tired of all this rainy, cold weather. I just can’t wait to be wearing flip flops everyday; I love being barefoot and I’m so over this whole shoes and sock thing. It seriously only makes for more laundry.

My skin is so dry and pale. In a few months, I’ll be so excited to soak up all the warm sun on a beach or by a pool. The only thing I’ll have to worry about is getting a serious sun burn or sand in my bathing suit. I’m definitely a warm weather person and with March just a day away…it just means that spring is that much closer. Well, hopefully.

Nothing feels more like summer than enjoying some fresh seafood while sitting outside at a picnic table. These “crab” cakes gave me a feeling of summer this weekend when I was locked up in my apartment avoiding the wind and cold. These are very refreshing and would taste great on a nice, hot summer day; or you know, a cold day that you’re trying to make warmer.

Please make these. Maybe spring will come here faster and I can break out my hundred pairs of flip-flops from the closet. Although, hopefully not too fast, my toes haven’t seen the light of day in a long time. I’ll have to treat myself to a pedicure, then break out the flippy-floppys or buy some new ones.

Southwestern Zucchini “Crab” Cakes
(Makes about 16 small cakes or 8 big ones)

1 1/2 c. shredded zucchini, squeezed dry (as best you can)
1 c. panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 tbsp. onion, grated
1 tsp. old bay seasoning
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. plain greek yogurt
6 tbsp. Southwestern flavored Egg Beaters (or 2 eggs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the zucchini, bread crumbs, onion, old bay, flour and yogurt. Mix in the egg substitute or real eggs. Mix well. Using your hands, shape the mixture into small cakes (or large if desired), place on lightly greased baking pan. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden brown on both sides. Serve with cocktail sauce, ketchup, etc.

The best part? These are also incredibly healthy and I can eat them because they do not have crab in them. If you make the small cakes, they’re just about 25 calories each. A great little appetizer idea :)

The Best Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie & A Birthday

It’s Monday again. We all know I hate Mondays. You want to know something that can make any day just a little bit better? A giant cookie.

Too bad I already ate this one, otherwise I would have something right now to help solve my Monday morning afternoon blues. But it’s okay, because I know you’re going to make one and you’re going to eat it and it’s going to make your Monday or Wednesday just a little bit brighter, sweeter and just totally delicious. Trust me, cookies and milk solve all problems. Except perhaps the not being able to fit into pants problems.

I’d like you to meet the boyfriend’s Valentine’s present. You can’t beat edible presents of Valentines day, especially when they’re homemade. Everyone gets a box of chocolates or a dozen chocolate roses but how many people received giant, homemade, love-filled chocolate chip cookies? Yeah, I didn’t think there were many.

And okay, maybe a giant cookie was the lazy way out of making an entire batch of cookies but you what? It was freaking delicious and with all the cookie dough in the oven at one time, I was less tempted to eat massive amounts of cookie dough while waiting for a batch to bake; so I’d say this is a win-win situation. This is the perfect dessert for birthdays and any other celebrations; plus it’s so incredibly easy.

On a side note, yesterday was my wonderful Mom’s birthday. Unfortunately, I was unable to see her on her special day. If I had, I definitely would have made her a special birthday treat; maybe not a giant cookie…but there definitely would have been a cake to sing and blow out candles with.

Mom, this is for you; a virtual birthday cake of some sort. I love you so much and I miss you and everyone at home more everyday. I hope you know that every time I’m baking or cooking in my kitchen that I’m always thinking of you or Dad, trying to remember how you made things, what your cookies tasted like and if mine match up to yours. I’m sorry I was not there for your special day but I just wanted to thank you for all that you have taught me both in life and in the kitchen because certainly I would not be able to do any of this without you. Happy Birthday!

The Best Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie
(Makes one really big cookie)

3/4 stick of butter, softened
1 c. light brown sugar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. chocolate chips (any kind)
Wax or parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the butter and sugars until creamy. Beat or mix in the egg and vanilla. Sift together all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and baking soda) and gradually add them to the butter mixture. The mixture will be sort of dry and crumbly, add the applesauce a tablespoon at a time and using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix the cookie dough together until combined. Add chocolate chips.

Cut out a round circle of either parchment or wax paper and place at the bottom of a round cake pan to stop the cookie from sticking. Spoon the cookie dough into the pan and gently press down to spread it out. Bake for about 25-35 minutes until cooked through and the edges are golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes in the cake pan before removing it. To remove, place a plate upside down on the cake pan and flip over, then repeat with another plate to get the cookie face up. Serve with ice cream.

Feel free to just take bites out of the cookie, only weirdos cut it into slices and eat them with forks. Cookies are meant to be eaten with hands.

Apple Turnovers

I remember eating so many of these as a kid.

Before I discovered the deliciousness that was the cheese danish, turnovers were what I loved to get at the bakery. It’s literally been years since I’ve had either a danish or a turnover and I thought that that was something that needed to be changed.

I made these on a whim and the result was astounding; I had no short of a dozen and a half apple turnovers all to myself. Talk about a dream come true! Not just any apple turnover, though, these were delicious and flaky and I could hardly contain myself from eating more than just one or five. I mean, it was obvious that I had to make up some lost time between myself and the turnover.

However, no one girl needs to eat an entire recipe worth of apple turnovers. Luckily for me, I have a few friends who are happy to be fed and I was able to share these treats with them. If there was ever any doubt about my belonging to my family, it would be totally washed out with my innate desire to feed other people; just like my Mother and her mother and pretty much every other woman in our family.

In fact, the women in our family make it their mission to feed every mouth and stomach that walks through the front door. If you do not leave stuffed, then we are not satisfied and have not done our job or at least that’s how most of my family views things. I guess the apple never falls far from the tree.

Apple Turnovers
(Adapted from Epicurious Recipe)

3 – 4 medium apples, peeled and diced
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For the filling, peel and cut the apples. In a sauce pan, put water, sugars and apples over medium heat. Bring to a boil stirring throughout. Cover the pot and reduce the heat; let the apples cook until very tender, stirring occasionally, about ten minutes. Using a fork, gently mash the apples into a chunky applesauce like texture. You can let the apple filling cool completely or not, I have no patience and left it warm; I didn’t notice any difference.

Once the pastry dough is thaw, roll it out on a floured surface to a 15-inch square. Using a knife, cut the puff pastry into nine equal sized squares. Spoon about a tablespoon of filling into the center of each square and brush the edges with the beaten egg. Fold the square in half, either pinching the edges with your fingers or with a fork to seal the turnover closed. Once all pastries have been folded, lightly brush the tops with egg and make three small slits in the tops with a sharp knife. Place pastries on a baking sheet and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Bake turnovers for about 25 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Serve warm and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

I could really go for one of these for breakfast right about now. Mental note: do not write blog posts on a empty stomach.

Baked Carrot Fries

Happy day after Fat Tuesday!

Instead of sharing with you one of the million dessert recipes that I have stacked up, I decided that I would be nice and I’d share something a little healthier. I love carrots; it’s probably the only vegetable, besides the potato, that I’ve liked throughout my entire life.

These “fries” are better, at least to me, than any of its potato counterparts. I’ve recently become a huge fan of sweet potato fries and these blow them out of the water. They’re similar enough to sweet potato fries that you could probably serve them to your family without telling them that they’re actually carrots and I bet they wouldn’t know much of a difference.

The carrots are slightly sweet after baked and they’re practically an open canvas to any spices or seasoning that you want. I could (and totally did) eat the entire pan; don’t let the carrot part fool you because these taste exactly like fries. I kept sneaking little bites in between photographs, hehe.

The best part is, if you have a bag of carrots sitting in your fridge then there is a 99.9% chance that you have all the ingredients on hand to make these babies. Plus, the recipe could not be any easier. So, what’re you waiting for? I know you’re going to make these for dinner…or at least you should be!

Baked Carrot Fries

1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Pinch of garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange carrots on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Using your hands, roll the carrots around to evenly spread the oil throughout. Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper and a little bit of garlic powder if desired. Bake for about 35 minutes, flipping the carrots over halfway through, until slightly crispy. Serve warm.

It’s almost like Fat Tuesday never happened, right?

Poor Man’s “Shrimp” Cocktail

I know I’ve complained before about not being able to eat any seafood and how much it angers me because I love both shrimp and crab.

Well, I’m delighted to say that I found quite a good substitute for the time being. I was reading an issue of Bon Appetit magazine and they shared this recipe for shrimp cocktail. Instead of using shrimp, however, they used cauliflower. I was perplexed to say the least.

I have to be honest and say that I’ve never liked cauliflower. But desperate times call for desperate measures and I was willing to try anything that would pass for shrimp cocktail. So, I figured why not give it a shot. The ingredients were cheap, great for a my empty wallet, and it was a relatively simple recipe.

I was very hesitant in trying the first bite; it smelled delicious but I’m obviously still a baby when it comes to eating certain vegetables. But I ate it and it was so good, I just had to share it. If I had eaten this with my eyes closed, I would have been 100% convinced that I was eating shrimp. Not only did it have the same taste as shrimp cocktail; the cauliflower had the same texture of it as well.

This is a great appetizer idea for anyone with allergies or a low budget. It’s super easy and tastes delicious. I do have to warn you, though. While steaming the cauliflower, no matter how good the ‘broth’ that it’s in smells, do not try to taste it. My boyfriend learned this the hard way and he spent a good five minutes spitting into the sink. The broth is meant to provide loads of flavor to the cauliflower, not to be eaten or drank in any way.

Poor Man’s “Shrimp” Cocktail
(Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine)

1/2 c. old bay seasoning*
1 onion, quartered
6 garlic cloves
2 lemons, cut in half
1 lb. cauliflower, cut in florets
(Cocktail sauce for dipping)

*Bon Appetit’s recipe called for crab boil seasoning. I could not find this anywhere and decided to try my luck with just old bay seasoning. It turned out well for me.

Combine old bay, onions and garlic in a large pot with 12 cups water. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the pot and add the halves as well. Put the pot on high heat and boil; cook for about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic, onions and lemons from the pot and bring the liquid to a boil once more. Taking the pot off heat, add the cauliflower and cover. Let stand until the cauliflower is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and lay out on a sheet; let cool completely before serving. Best served chilled and with cocktail sauce.

Also, I halved the recipe in the magazine and didn’t add any salt; I thought the old bay seasoning would be enough and it was, at least, for me.

I think I’m finally starting to like cauliflower.

Tapioca Pudding

I have a funny story to tell you about this tapioca.

I’ve made tapioca hundreds of times before and by made, I mean I sat in the kitchen and stirred it for my mom for hours. This is the first time I’ve truly made it by myself from start to finish. I guess I was feeling quite ambitious and decided that I would also make rice pudding at the same time (a recipe that I will be sharing with you later, not to worry).

Before you start imagining some sort of kitchen disaster where everything blows up and my poor mother comes home to find our kitchen covered into partially cooked puddings, I’m happy to say that both turned out splendidly. Albeit, I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying it out for themselves; the kitchen became incredibly hot from having both puddings on the stove (it also didn’t help that I was also roasting a spaghetti squash in the oven).

Anyway, back to the funny story about this tapioca. I had went out running early in the morning and decided that I would make the tapioca and rice pudding before showering. I put on my little sisters extremely vibrant and ruffled apron and started cooking away. I had music blaring, the back door was open letting in the lovely sunlight and I was standing at the stove, two spoons in each hand, stirring the pots simultaneously.

Honestly, I probably could not have looked more of a mess if I tried. I was singing along to something embarrassing, probably the Spice Girls Pandora station, when I turned my head towards the back door, still stirring both pots, only to make eye contact with our mailman. I’m not lying when both of us just stared at each other for a good five seconds in complete disbelief; I was in disbelief as to why he was still there and well, I think we all know why he was confused. Luckily, he awkwardly stumbled away to the next house soon after and I continued to stir away as if I wasn’t just completely embarrassed.

Tapioca Pudding

1/3 c. tapioca balls
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 egg yolks (save the egg whites and put to the side)
Quart of milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir ingredients in a double boiler, over heat until thick and tapioca balls are translucent for least 30 minutes stirring constantly. When thick, transfer to large bowl. Take the egg whites and beat them until white and fluffy; fold into pudding. Let cool.

It was worth the embarrassment, though.