Recipe roundup: Valentine’s Day

I loved Valentine’s Day as a kid. It was an excuse to eat lots of candy, wear lots of pink and tell people nice things. What’s not to like?

I wish we did Valentine’s Day mailboxes at work, like we did as kids. Maybe I should make that happen next year. But in the meantime, I’m sitting here daydreaming about pink cupcakes and heart-shaped cookies and all the other lip-smacking Valentine’s Day desserts.

Here’s a roundup of the Valentine’s Day recipes I’m most excited about this year, plus some recipes from my blog that just might do the trick for your V-day needs.

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From Jo Cooks

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Scones: Start your day with a dash of red and a bit of sugar. These scones from Jo Cooks sure look scrumptious.

Olive Oil Cupcakes with Berry Buttercream: The base cupcake is an intriguing mix of almond, orange and olive oil. Top that with a mixed berry buttercream, and you have yourself a Valentine’s Day winner. These come from Molly Yeh, so you know they’re good!

Blackberry Lemon Cake: This cake from Natasha’s Kitchen gets its flavor from blackberry frosting and lemon simple syrup. It’s simple, sounds delicious and the blackberries make it a lovely shade of purply pink.

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From Bakers Royale

Watercolor Heart Cookies: I saw these gorgeous cookies from Bakers Royale in my Pinterest feed yesterday and can’t stop thinking about them!

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting: I love frosted brownies, and this recipe from The Recipe Critic looks delightfully rich.

M&M Cookie Bars: A simple cookie bar recipe, jazzed up with seasonal pink and red M&Ms by No.2 Pencil.

Strawberry Thyme Cake: One last cake option for you, because I can never resist a bit of herbs with my dessert. This combo from The Cake Blog sounds delicious and looks great!

Conversation Heart Cookies: These cookies are so fun, especially because I Am A Food Blog strayed away from traditional V-day colors. As much as I love red and pink, it’s nice to have some other colors in the mix, too!

Recipes on this blog:

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Craving more ideas? Check out my Valentine’s Day Pinterest board.

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Wassail Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Orange Glaze

I really hate wasting specialty ingredients. Whenever I buy something special for one recipe, I try to find other recipes that’ll use it up. Sometimes that’s easy: leftover rosemary goes into cookies, or leftover molasses becomes Gingerbread Waffles.

But sometimes…it’s a little trickier. Enter wassail. Wassail is a mulling spice blend that’s most commonly used for mulled cider, spiced wines and other wintry drinks. It makes drinks seem extra cozy and special in colder months, and it’s probably responsible for your favorite winter drink.

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Once you’re done making drinks, though, it’s not really clear how to use up the rest of your mulling spices. I spent a good amount of time looking for a recipe that used wassail as an ingredient. I literally only found this one recipe, for the cookies you see here today.  I didn’t know what to expect…but man, are these good cookies! Melanie of Melanie Makes definitely cracked the wassail baking situation. She figured out that wassail would be a great flavor complement to orange, chocolate and even Blue Moon beer. These cookies may sound complicated, but the final flavor profile is pretty incredible. The cookies have a slightly malted taste, generous bites of chocolate, and a fruity, fresh finish from the glaze.

So after you go caroling this year and sip up your cider…why not use leftover wassail for some cookies? I promise you’ll be glad you tried it. I left some cookies unglazed out of curiosity, but definitely recommend adding the glaze if you can snag some oranges. It adds a nice layer of flavor!

Wassail Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Orange Glaze

Original recipe: Melanie Makes. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~36 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~1.5 hours

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 12 oz Blue Moon beer
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp wassail (I used this blend from Rodelle but you can sub in another brand)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

For the glaze 

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons orange juice

Instructions

Make your cookies

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375F
  2. Put your beer in a small saucepan, and turn it up to medium-high heat. Cook the beer until it’s reduced–you want 1/4 of a cup left. It might be sort of hard to tell the quantities, so you can always pour in more beer than the recipe calls for and just measure out 1/4 cup when it’s reduced a bit
  3. Use your mixer to cream the shortening, brown sugar and granulated sugar
  4. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until fluffy
  5. Pour in the beer, and mix until the ingredients are combined
  6. Add your wassail, flour, salt and baking soda. Mix to combine, but don’t overmix
  7. Stir in your chocolate
  8. Scoop balls of dough onto lined baking sheets
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They should start to firm up a bit, but still be a bit soft in the centers
  10.  Let the cookies cool on the sheets for a few minutes, then move them to a rack to finish cooling

Glaze your cookies 

  1. Once the cookies are totally cool, whip up your glaze!
  2. Whisk your powdered sugar and orange juice until they’re combined and smooth. The glaze will be white and a bit sticky looking when it’s ready
  3. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cookies. Let the glaze set before you package up or transport the cookies

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Last weekend I co-hosted my annual cookie swap with my friend Mimi. I always go a bit overboard. I know the whole point is to share and trade cookies. And yet…I inevitably make way more cookies than I should. This year, I made four different kinds. Necessary? No way. But satisfying? Heck yes.

These Lemon Crinkle Cookies made it onto my baking list because they’re dairy free.  I have a couple friends who can’t eat dairy, so I always try to include a dairy free recipe at my parties. I liked that these cookies used olive oil instead of butter, and expected that the lemon-olive oil combo would be a great flavor profile.

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Honestly, these cookies were even better than I expected. They’re slightly tart, slightly sweet, and have a soft, pillowy texture. You roll them in both granulated sugar and powdered sugar for that crinkle top. They’re a truly great cookie–and they went real fast at the swap. I wish I’d made a double batch! The original recipe comes from an olive oil brand and calls for flavored oil, but I swapped in a standard light olive oil instead.

IMG_6817Make sure to allow a couple hours for the dough to chill. Mine was pretty easy to deal with until the final few cookies, because the dough started to hit room temp again and got a little messier to work with. You could always split the dough in two, and keep half in the fridge until you’re really ready for it.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Original recipe: Colavita. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: ~24 cookies

Total Time: ~2.5 hours

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

For the dough 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (you can use regular salt too)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping 

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

Make your dough 

  1. Whisk your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs, 1 cup of granulated sugar, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla
  3. Add the flour mixture in spurts, mixing the dough with a spatula until it’s fully combined
  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least a couple hours

Bake your cookies

  1. Heat your oven to 350F and line cookie trays with parchment paper
  2. Put granulated sugar in one bowl, and powdered sugar in another
  3. Roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls. Dip each ball in the granulated sugar, pressing to coat. Then roll the ball in the powdered sugar
  4. Place your dough balls on the cookie tray, leaving space between the balls so the cookies can spread as they bake
  5. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Mine took 10 minutes to bake through
  6. Cookies are done when they’re cracked on top and a nice puffy shape
  7. Let cookies cool on the tray for a few minutes, then move them to a rack to finish cooling

Lavender White Chocolate Chip Cookies

When you think about New Mexican cuisine, lavender probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. The state is better known for its chile laden cuisine.

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And yet, on my recent trip to New Mexico, lavender played a crucial supporting role. Our whole trip was fabulous, from the art galleries of Santa Fe to the beautiful vistas of Taos and gypsum sand dunes down south. But one of my most treasured memories comes from our very first night of vacation, which we spent at a lavender farm called Los Poblanos.

Los Poblanos is on 25 acres of land just outside Albuquerque. It’s surrounded by gorgeous lavender fields, vegetable gardens and tons of beautiful foliage. Our room in the “Field” section looked out to growing lavender, fall leaves and beautiful mountains in the distance.

We were lucky to stumble on this place. Fittingly, I found it because of its reputation for amazing cuisine. I stumbled on their restaurant’s page first, then decided to book the night at their hotel, too. It was completely, totally worth it. Both our dinner and breakfast were fresh, flavorful, memorable meals. And of course, they make sure to work lavender into their menu. At dinner alone, I had a lavender margarita and lavender peach gelato!

IMG_4453My mind has been on lavender since that stay and I’ve been dreaming of these Lavender White Chocolate Chip Cookies. This is definitely one of my favorite recipes I’ve made in 2017. Lavender adds a floral hint to the dough, subtle but distinct. It pairs really well with white chocolate, and the sea salt on top is the perfect finishing touch.

Someday, I hope to make it back to Los Poblanos. Until then, I’ll just have to content myself with a plate of these cookies, and beautiful memories.

Lavender White Chocolate Cookies

Original recipe: Spache the Spatula. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: ~24 cookies

Suggested equipment: Food processor

Total Time: ~45 min

Cook Time: ~12 min

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp culinary lavender (I bought mine at World Market)
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 6 tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 1 large egg at room temp
  • 1 extra large egg yolk, at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips or chunks
  • Sea salt to sprinkle on top

Instructions

  1. Grab a small bowl, then combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Set that bowl aside
  2. Throw your sugar and lavender in your food processor. Process the mix for about 10-20 seconds to chop the lavender into really small pieces. Sugary “smoke” will start coming up out of the top of your processor as you grind the mixture together—totally normal!
  3. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, shortening and sugar-lavender mix on medium-high for about 3 minutes
  4. Add the egg and egg yolk, then beat for another 3 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy
  5. Add your flour mixture, and beat on low until it’s all combined
  6. Stir in your chocolate by hand
  7. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper
  8. Scoop dough onto the sheets, about an inch apart
  9. Preheat your oven to 375F. While it’s preheating, throw your cookie sheets in the freezer so the dough can firm up a bit
  10. Once the oven is ready, start baking sheets of cookies! Bake about 11-13 minutes (mine took 12). They’ll look a little undone, but will set as they cool
  11. Throw the cookie sheets on a cooling rack, and immediately sprinkle them with sea salt
  12. Cool the cookies on their sheets for about 10 minutes, then move the cookies straight to a rack to finish cooling

 

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

I’ve been waxing poetic about the merits of gooey butter cake for years. It’s not something you see on many menus or at many bakeries…and I can’t understand why. I started experimenting with gooey butter cake recipes back in 2010, and I’ve tried many different takes over the years. Earlier this year I made this Biscoff Gooey Butter Cake, declaring it my favorite version yet.

IMG_5984But now…there’s a new contender for that title. This Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake is truly something else. The top is similar to pumpkin pie: soft, perfectly spiced, comforting. The bottom is cakey, with a slight layer of goo between the cake and pumpkin layers. It all adds up to an awesome flavor combo, and textural mix.

This recipe was inspired by a couple of recipes I kept seeing in my Pinterest feed. I loved the idea of pumpkin gooey butter cake—but didn’t want to follow those actual recipes. They used cake mix for the bottom layer, and I prefer to make my own cake instead.

So: I combined bits and pieces from a couple recipes. The bottom layer comes from the same Butter Baking recipe I used for my Biscoff-flavored version, and the top pumpkin layer came from Averie Cooks. If you want to use a cake mix on the bottom, just follow Averie’s original recipe and use spiced cake mix. If you want to make your own plain cake layer—keep reading below!

Note that the bottom layer bakes faster than the top pumpkin layer, so make sure to keep an eye on your oven. And allow time to let this chill for a few hours before you cut in.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Source: Bottom layer came from Butter Baking, and the top layer came from Averie Cooks. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: 36 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 1.5 hours, but I recommend tacking a few more hours on to let the bars cool completely before you cut them.

Cook Time: ~45 minutes

Ingredients

Cake layer 

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pumpkin layer 

  • 8 oz of cream cheese, softened
  • 15 oz of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I used this recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Make your cake layer 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F
  2. Mix your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  3. Add your egg, butter, milk and vanilla, then stir until it’s just combined
  4. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper, leaving a little extra hanging on the sides so it’s easy to pull out your cake later
  5. Pour your cake layer into the prepared pan, making sure it’s evenly distributed

Make your pumpkin layer 

  1. Use your mixer to beat your cream cheese and pumpkin until it’s smooth. This can get pretty messy, so I suggest using your mixer cover if you have one!
  2. Add the eggs, vanilla and butter, then beat until it’s all smooth again
  3. Add your powdered sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Beat until ingredients are totally incorporated. You’ll need to scrape down the bowl a few times to get there
  4. Pour the pumpkin mixture on top of your cake layer
  5. Bake for 43-48 minutes (mine took 45). When it’s done, the edges will be set—but your center will look a bit jiggly. Resist the urge to bake longer, because you’ll start to burn your cake! Rest assured that the cake will set up more as it cools
  6. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for a bit. Then cover it, and move it into the fridge to cool completely. It’ll be much easier to cut chilled
  7. After a few hours, cut your cake into bars

These bars kept nicely in a covered container for a few days. You could also store them in a fridge for up to 5 days.

 

Caramel Apple Butter Snickerdoodles

I first made apple butter snickerdoodles in the fall of 2014. I liked them so much, I made them again a couple weeks later for a fall-themed potluck. And then…they fell victim to my tendency to try new recipes. I thought about them every fall, but always ended up making something new instead.

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This year, I decided it was time to change that. But I also had a new idea: what if I mixed caramel bits into the batter? Caramel apple is such a classic flavor, after all. I’d never mixed caramel and apple butter together before, but I had a feeling it’d be great.

It turns out caramel bits were a really good idea. They add another layer of flavor to an already great cookie, taking it up just one more notch. The base of this apple butter snickerdoodle is pure delight. It’s a cakey cookie, with a subtle apple flavor. You mix apple butter right into the dough, then mix in the caramel bits, and roll the cookies in a cinnamon sugar mix before you bake them. That adds up to a delicious pillows of apple butter goodness, with a hint of cinnamon and a bit of chewy caramel.

Make sure to allow time to chill this dough so it doesn’t spread during baking. These cookies stay fresh for a few days in an airtight container, and freeze nicely too.

Caramel Apple Butter Snickerdoodles

Original recipe: Crazy for Crust. I modified it and rewrote things a bit. 

Yield: 36 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~4.5 hours (including chill time)

Cook Time: 14 minutes

Ingredients

For your dough 

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup apple butter (any brand will do!)

For your cinnamon sugar

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Make your dough 

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl
  2. Using your mixer, cream butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until fluffy
  3. Mix in your eggs, vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and the apple butter. Beat until it’s just mixed
  4. Add in your flour mixture, and mix the whole thing until it’s blended together
  5. Throw your dough in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours. This keeps your cookies from spreading, so you don’t want to skip this step!

Bake your cookies 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and line cookie sheets
  2. Mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl so it’s fully combined
  3. Scoop a ball of dough, roll it in the cinnamon sugar and place it on your baking sheet. Repeat until you’re out of dough!
  4. Bake your cookies 12-14 minutes. Mine were perfect at 14 minutes, but make a call depending on how you like your cookies
  5. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely
  6. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temp, or freeze for later

 

 

10 Pumpkin Recipes for Fall

Growing up in southern California, I was a bit disconnected from this whole “pumpkin season” thing. Fall certainly brought pumpkin carving, and a trip to the local “pumpkin patch.” But…our pumpkin patch was just a straw-covered section of a mall parking lot. It wasn’t exactly the experience you get at an actual pumpkin farm.

My pumpkin patch experience got a serious upgrade in college. I started going to the Fall Harvest at the Kirkwood Farmer’s Market. Kirkwood is a small-ish suburb that’s part of St. Louis County. It was only a 20-minute drive from my college dorm, but felt like worlds away. It was always a nice reprieve from college life….small town vibes, fresh food, friendly vendors. I often invited friends, but sometimes I’d just go alone and unwind.

The market is great year-round, but fall is especially fun. I’d walk around sampling all the ciders and pumpkin treats and apple pies…and I got totally hooked on fall flavors. So thanks, Kirkwood, for helping me discover my love of all things fall. This list of pumpkin recipes is dedicated to you.

Here are the pumpkin recipes I’m most excited to try this year, and some old favorites:

 

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Nutella Bread from A Treats Affair

 Pull Apart Nutella Filled Pumpkin Bread: Just reading this recipe name makes me hungry. I love surprise pockets of Nutella, so there’s no doubt I’d devour this bread.

 

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake: This recipe is especially appropriate given my ode to St. Louis. Gooey butter cake is a St. Louis gem. I’ve made it with Biscoff…now it’s pumpkin’s turn!

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Snickerdoodles from Half Baked Harvest

Pumpkin Gingerbread Coffee Cake: I’ve made pumpkin gingerbread before, and the flavor combo turned out great. This kicks it up a notch with the streusel topping.

Pumpkin Chai Snickerdoodles: I had planned to make this recipe last year, but never got around to it. Hope to make it happen this year!

Soft Batched Frosted Pumpkin Cookies: These are pretty simple compared to some of my other picks, but sound incredibly satisfying. Cakey pumpkin cookies are my favorite, and I bet they’re awesome frosted.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice: Did you know it’s super easy to make your own pumpkin pie spice? I make a batch every year  instead of buying it. I like controlling the spice levels, and this is my go-to!

Pumpkin recipes already on this blog:  

Craving more fall flavors? Check out last year’s pumpkin roundup, or my fall recipes Pinterest board.