Category Archives: Baking

Soft Ginger Cookies

ginger cookies

I need to be straight with you guys. I was off my kitchen game last week, hence my absence from the blogosphere. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Oh no, I thought my persistence would pay off eventually, but sometimes a girl doesn’t know when to quit.

It all started on Saturday when I went to Joann Fabrics to look for feathers for my Halloween costume. I left without feathers, but with a donut pan (cause that’s the same). Sunday morning I woke up and was all, “I’m going to make pumpkin chocolate donuts with orange sprinkles in my new donut pan! Yay Halloween!” I then proceeded to make two batches of “donuts,” which looked awfully nice, but the texture was like bread and the flavor was like…well nothing. To the trash they went.

ginger cookies stack

Then I decided to make pizza dough so I could have it ready for baking throughout the week, and maybe sneak in some cooking photos before the early sunset (shorter days make life hard for the food photography perfectionist). I bought some pizza ingredients on Monday after work, then came home to find that the boy surprised me by coming back from “Deer Camp” early. Whatta guy. Instead of a new experimental dish, I used my pizza dough for our tried-and-true calzones, and decided to jazz things up by making a balsamic glaze for drizzling. Do you know what happens to balsamic glaze if you bring it to a boil and then forget about it? It turns to a solid…a solid that looks like a lava rock, and sticks to the pan like one too.

ginger cookies molasses

On Tuesday the boy’s mom brought us a Halloween treat basket with Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix. “Perfect,” I thought, “I’ll make some pumpkin chocolate brownies to bring into work on Halloween! How festive!” I baked them, tried a corner, and thought they tasted great. Fast forward 13 hours, when I grabbed one after lunch on Halloween and I realized the bars were under-baked, under-sweetened and…wet. Yes, wet. Embarrassed, I removed them from the communal kitchen and hung my head in shame.

ginger cookies sugar ball

It may have taken three failures to make me see the light, but I finally realized that it was just not my week in the kitchen, and certainly not my week to try to guide others on how to succeed in the kitchen. Rejection and defeat finally set in. As a golfer might say, I had a case of the shanks.

I was trying to figure out how to rebound from my week of failures when I received my first daily holiday cookie email of the season. I decided the best way to recover would be with an old favorite: soft ginger cookies that I make year-round, but more often around the holidays. I know it’s the first week of November, and that may seem a tad early to bring up “holiday” talk, but in my book it’s never too early for festive treats or feeling jolly. As a side note, I’m also a person who has already checked if my local Christmas music station has started up the seasonal tunes, so take my “too early” radar with a grain of salt.

ginger cookies stack halved

My college cafeteria had the most amazing ginger cookies, but you could never count on them being in the dessert aisle when you needed them. My friend Emma introduced me to them, and once I got my hands on one I was hooked. I don’t know if they didn’t make them everyday, or if they just didn’t make enough of them to keep up with the demand, but Emma and I would often be disappointed when we scoped out the ginger cookie situation. The recipe below is as close as I’ve come to replicating those evasive cafeteria cookies. They’re fluffy, soft, and full of warm spices.

soft mini ginger cookies

Since I made these baby-sized, they’re the perfect amount of sugar for a little bite of after-meal sweetness. However, if we’re being honest, I really wanted to make these baby-sized because mini foods are just so darn cute. I’m such a girl.

ginger cookies candles 2

And yes, those are Christmas candles in the images above. Yes, I just bought those this weekend. Yes, it’s just the beginning.
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Chewy Cherry Coconut Granola Bars

chewy cherry coconut granola bars

Let’s talk about weaknesses. Not to sound like a job interview, but I think it’s important to own up to what we struggle with. I’ll go first.

Hi, I’m Katie, and I’m bad with measurements, math, and grey areas.

Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest. Let’s dig deeper, shall we?

cherry coconut granola bar cut

Measurements: I cannot eyeball anything to save my life. I boil water for pasta and it takes 20 minutes because I completely fill the pot just to make SURE I have enough water. If I don’t do this, I never have enough water. Girl can’t win.

Math: I hesitate to even share this, but when I go to a restaurant, I take a long pause before filling out tip and calculating the total on my dinner tab. Sometimes I pretend I’m just having trouble deciding what percentage to tip. I’ll ask my dining mate, “How much are you tipping? 15%? 20%? I guess the server was pretty nice…” just to buy myself a bit more precious time. Once it’s all said and done, I sometimes need to cross things out and start again. As a reminder, I’m almost 27.

Grey Areas: Herein lies the heart of my personality. When I like things, I LOVE them, and when I dislike things, I despise them. For instance, it’s well known among my friends that purple is my favorite color. This is general knowledge not because I talk about it regularly, but because all the accessories I own are purple. In college I would literally walk down the hallway with a purple shirt, purple scarf, and purple backpack, holding my purple phone, without even realizing/caring how ridiculous I looked. Another recent lack of grey area can be seen in my newfound love for Revenge. Once I started watching it, I pretty much only stopped for sleep and work. I even watched it at the gym on my phone. This is my life.

cherry coconut granola bar stack single

As I’ve hinted before, my food phases echo this black and white thinking as well. For instance, I’ve made a variation of this granola every week since I posted that recipe. I eat it for breakfast, I eat it for a snack, I think about it when it’s not around. This past Sunday, things got real when I found myself making both granola and granola bars within the span of four hours.

cherry coconut granola bar sauce

I argue that I had a completely legit excuse, of course. The boy’s weakness is remembering to eat food, which is pretty ironic since he’s with me, and I eat all the time. I’ll come home and ask what he’s feeling like for dinner, and his response will be, “Oh yeah, I am kind of hungry. I haven’t eaten anything today.” What? How? Why?

cherry coconut granola bar before baking

I figured I’d make eating as easy as possible by providing a quick snack option. With these granola bars, he needs to only see the tupperware (which I’ve placed in the middle of the kitchen counter for easy access), open the lid, lift the bar to his mouth, and eat it. He may call me a hippie for my granola obsession, but at least I’m a persistent one.

cherry coconut granola bars

Aaaand fine maybe I wanted a new afternoon snack for this week. These granola bars combine all of my current obsessions: oats, almonds, almond butter, coconut, and dried cherries. It took all my strength and self-discipline to leave out the white chocolate chips I had just purchased, but I did it, and it turns out they weren’t even necessary. These are sweet, chewy, and have a bit of a tart punch from the cherries. I also love the THICKNESS of these bars. None of those willy nilly itty bitty bars for me. No thanks. If it’s 3pm snack time, or if I just have a hankering for oats, which has happened a lot lately, this right here is exactly what I want.

cherry coconut granola bar stack vert

I ate one while I took pictures, I ate one yesterday a half hour before lunch to avoid the angry hunger effect, and I ate one for dessert last night after an absurdly huge falafel sandwich. I also have one sitting in my desk drawer just in case the craving hits. Always prepared.

Now the real question: Has the boy embraced granola bars as a potential daytime snack? Like, before we eat dinner at 8pm? Yes! He even said I should make more (MORE) for his next deer camp trip because he needs quick food for when he’s up in a deer stand all day. Look at him planning ahead with food. I’m so proud.
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Double Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

double chocolate macadamia nut cookies 2

After college I used to go to my parent’s house every Sunday to do my laundry. It wasn’t that I didn’t have laundry at my apartment, I was just terrified beyond belief of the laundry room beneath my apartment. When my roommate and I moved in, we looked at the dark dungeon of a laundry room and both gave it a definitive “no thanks.” I only used it a few times, and always in the middle of the day, and on my final trip I had a perfectly pleasant conversation with a man who had just moved in…which seems harmless enough looking back, but at the time I was convinced he was going to kidnap me. Yes, my mind is a weird place.

Anyway, my laundry room fear led to several cozy Sundays at my parent’s place. My sister would usually come over too, and we’d fight, as sisters do, over who got to put the first load in. While waiting for our laundry, we’d sometimes watch Grey’s Anatomy on the DVR, but usually we’d make cookies for my dad. Sure, my mom enjoys cookies (as long as they have “nothing weird” in them like peanut butter…crazy lady), but my dad is the one who really treasures baked goods. Now that my sister and I both live in places with in-unit laundry, our weekend baking adventures happen less often than my dad would like. When we do go to my parents place, my dad will inevitably come upstairs and say, “Are my girls baking me cookies? I haven’t had fresh cookies in so long…” Guilt.

A few weeks ago, this same scenario played out, but then my dad reached for a package of store-bought cookies. STORE BOUGHT! That’s what he’s succumbed to? I felt ashamed. It only got worse when he said, “Katie, give these a try. They’re really good.” Oh ARE they…We’ll see about that.

They were good. I hated them for it, but they were really good…disturbingly good, and of course full of the scary ingredients that come in store-bought cookies.

With my dad’s birthday coming up this Thursday, I decided to make him a batch of cookies that would at least keep him away from the store-bought variety for a few days. For this birthday treat, I put my own spin on those boxed white chocolate macadamia cookies he talked up so much. I wish I could say this “spin” was purely out of artistic inspiration, but in the same fashion that my sister and I usually make cookies at my parent’s place, I just went with what I had in my cupboards and made it work.
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Apple Banana Muffins with Brown Butter Cider Glaze

banana apple cider spice muffins

I’m not proud of what happened last week. Just a few short years ago, I was a poor post-college student with a TV that basically had no purpose. My roommate and I sometimes watched movies, but network television didn’t come in, and we were against (/couldn’t afford) getting cable or a new TV. Now that I’m in my mid twenties and [slightly] less poor, I’ve upgraded to fully-functioning TV with both cable AND Netflix (fancy, I know). After finishing up How I Met Your Mother (six seasons) and Keeping Up With The Kardashians (sorry, I know), I decided to give Revenge a try this past Tuesday. By Friday, I had surged through 13 episodes, by Saturday afternoon I had finished all 22 episodes of season 1. When 6:00 on Saturday night came around, I had my credit card out, ready to subscribe to Hulu so I could watch the first two episodes of the new season. I couldn’t stop.

In my defense, the boy and I had our first “hibernation day” of the season on Saturday. Even though it’s sad to watch the warmth drain away from Minnesota, the colder weather makes way for these perfectly lazy days: a Saturday or a Sunday where you do not leave the house, and instead stay holed up and hibernating. For instance, Saturday we slept until noon, and then I watched episode after episode of Revenge while he worked on the headboard for the bed he’s building us…we had different levels of productivity needs that day.

Although I’m in deep with my Revenge obsession, I realize it may have been a bad idea to start watching Revenge the same week that I finished reading Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I now look at everything with a suspicious eye, finding conspiracy everywhere. After a few hours of straight TV on Saturday, I decided I needed an activity to keep my hands busy while my mind was taking in all the murder and mayhem. The boy requested I bake “something fall-ish” for our first hibernation day. I grabbed the leftover apple cider from our fridge, a honeycrisp apple, and got baking…with the TV still on in the background, obviously.
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No-Knead Whole Wheat Pretzel Rolls

whole wheat pretzel rolls

I have a bit of an obsession with pretzel rolls. As in, it’s borderline embarrassing. One summer when I lived with my parents, we used to frequent a restaurant that had a different type of bread basket every day of the week. Each time I set foot in those doors I wished and hoped and dreamed that it would be pretzel roll day. In fact, as soon as we sat down my dad would immediately say to the server, “Well, we know what Katie’s thinking…do you have pretzel rolls today?”

This conversation would be fine if I was referring to me at the age of 10 or younger, but nope, I was 18 when this started happening. Yes, I was a college student, home for the summer, so obsessed with pretzel rolls that her dad asked if they were available as soon as we were seated.

My fascination with the salty, airy rolls has only grown since then. I see pretzel rolls on a menu, I do an internal victory dance. I see pretzel rolls at the grocery store, and they’re immediately in my cart, without any memory of me even placing them there. Sadly, the grocery-store variety has failed to meet my high pretzel roll standards. After two recent disappointing purchases of spongey white bread with a misleadingly darker crust yet NO actual pretzel flavor, I decided to make my own pretzel roll dreams come true. Sure, I saw the danger in this choice, since I lack self control where pretzel rolls are concerned. For this reason, I chose to make them with whole wheat flour. Balance, baby. Salty, yeasty, chewy balance.
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Apple Cider Snickerdoodles

apple cider snickerdoodles

Let’s be real about our fall flavor preferences. You may have realized I’m partial to pumpkin, but while that’s something I love year-round, I’m a bit more subtle about it until fall comes around and it’s acceptable to scream it from the rooftops. Apples, on the other hand, really only get my attention in the Fall. Outside of autumn, if the apples aren’t honeycrisps and/or baked and covered with sugar, I’m not really interested.

My apple affection surfaces the most when it’s apple orchard time. This weekend, for example, I went with my family, including my socuteicouldjustdie little nephews, to an orchard where we ate apple cinnamon donuts, got lost in a corn maze, picked pumpkins, rode on a wagon around the rows of fruit, and then browsed for apple goodies in the store. After I picked up my honeycrisps, I walked by a table marked “Ciderdoodles” and covered in containers of fluffy, spiced cookies. Fall-spiced snickerdoodles?! Inspiration led me to buy apple cider for some ciderdoodle experimentation.

Why didn’t I just buy the pre-made ciderdoodles, you ask? First, that’s for quitters. Second, pre-packaged cookies are usually full of hydrogenated oils and preservatives. I’ll take my cookies natural, thanks. Full fat, buttery, covered in sugar, but natural gosh darn it.
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Spicy Tortilla Soup and Cheddar Biscuits

Tortilla Soup Cheddar Biscuits

Since the boy and I were having a full-out Fall weekend at “Deer Camp” last week, I felt the compulsive foodie need to make things that were cabin and cold-weather appropriate. The first morning started off with pumpkin brown butter waffles, but for dinner my mind went directly to soup and bread.

Soup, because it warms me from the inside out and makes me feel cozy. Bread because, well, I’m pretty obsessed with bread in all forms: sliced bread, flatbread, bagels pizza dough, naan, english muffins…you name a bread, and I probably love it. Especially biscuits, which hold a special place in my heart. Buttery, flaky, sky-high biscuits. I went through a phase in high school where I would eat a biscuit every single morning. I’d eat it alongside my cereal, of course, because carbs power you through the day (this is my logic and I’m sticking to it).

For this Deer Camp soul-food occasion, I decided that the soup would be a spicy tortilla variety with black beans and crispy fried tortilla strips. And as you may have guessed, the bread wouldn’t be your average sliced bread (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but buttery biscuits filled with shredded sharp cheddar and black pepper. Both of these things are perfect on their own, but together? They’re a Fall soul-food force to be reckoned with.

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