Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012 and Ginger Molasses Cookies

As you may or may not know, during The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, you send cookies to three random food bloggers, and receive cookies from three random food bloggers. Fun, right?

I didn’t think that this year’s cookie swap could top last year’s, and I hate to make it seem like I’m playing favorites, but I am. This year’s batch was both creative and delicious, and appealed to two of my addictions: chipotle and toffee. How can you top that? I’m sorry, you can’t.

My cookies, packed and ready to go

My cookies, packed and ready to go

I sent Ginger Molasses Cookies to Madeline of Munching in the Mitten, Kasha of The FarmGirl Cooks, and Alissa of Sweet Tea and Sunshine. I hope you ladies enjoyed!

Ginger Molasses Cookies
Adapted from AllRecipes

  • 2.25 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp white sugar, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (if possible), cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, then stir in water and molasses.
  3. Slowly begin to add the dry ingredients. Continue to add and mix a little at a time until all the dry mixture has been added into the wet mixture.
  4. Optional: Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. I found this made it easier to handle and shape.
  5. Shape dough into heaping tablespoon sized balls. Roll them so the edges are neat. Roll each ball around in the extra sugar to coat. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, and lightly flatten.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to cool for a few minutes extra on the cookie sheet before moving to wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Now onto the cookies I received…

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Vanilla-Scented Quince and Pear Pie

If you’re looking to mix it up in the dessert department this holiday season, this is the pie to do it with. The quince, pear, rosé wine all give this pie a very distinct, yet homey flavor. This pie is a labor of love, but it’s mainly wait time, and it’s definitely worth the wait.

photo 1 (1)Vanilla-Scented Quince and Pear Pie
Adapted from Saveur

  • 2 pie crusts
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, separated into seeds and husk
  • 2.5 lb quince, peeled, cored, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup rosé wine
  • 1.5-2 lb firm, tart pears (such as Bosc or Russet), cored, diced into 1/8 inch cubes
  • 1 cup unbleached cane sugar
  • Egg wash: egg yolks and splash of cream
  • Tools: 9-inch pie tin, cheesecloth
  1. Tie lemon zest, anise, cinnamon, and vanilla husk into cheesecloth to make a spice satchel.
  2. In heavy pot, over medium-low, combine quince, sugar, vanilla seeds, lemon juice, and wine. Stir until most of the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Submerge spice satchel into the quince mixture.
  4. Bring to a hard simmer, then bring down to a bare simmer. Let simmer for 10 min uncovered, then cover and cook for 2-3 hours (I let mine go closer to 3 hours), until the quince is rosy, the consistency is jammy, and most of the moisture is absorbed (if you have excess liquid, just strain out). Don’t rush this process!!
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool
  6. Roll out pie crusts to 1/4 inch. Cut fun shapes out of 1 of the pie crusts if you want.
  7. Place uncut crust into bottom of 9-inch pie pan and fit snugly. Let the edges drape over the sides of the pan.
  8. Spoon a thin layer of the cooled quince mixture on the bottom of the pie tin, then cover with a thin layer of pears. Repeat these layers until the pan is close to full. You will likely have some leftover filling (put it on ice cream!).
  9. Place the second crust over the top of the mixture. Seal the edges and trim them back. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. If you have cutouts, attached them to the pie with the egg wash.
  10. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 min, then for 40-45 min at 350 degrees (until crust is brown and the filling is bubbly). Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Eggplant

I spent my day working out of The Butcher Shop in the South End today. We had a big photo shoot in the morning of some giant cuts of meat (i.e. ribeye, 2-inch thick filet mignon, rack of lamb) for a brochure for Savenor’s market. I love days like today where I get work done but don’t have to sit in an office.

While sitting at the window at TBS, I looked outside and saw all sorts of beautiful, fresh produce at Siena Farms, which is just next door. There was a big box of acorn squash out there just starting me in the face. I had to buy some. And I did. What resulted was an easy dinner that looks way fancier than it actually is. Perfect for impressing that special person in your life. Or yourself. You’re special too.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Eggplant

Serves 2

  • 2 acorn squash, about 1 lb each
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1/2 eggplant, small dice
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, small dice
  • Salt, pepper, herbs de provence
  • 3 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut top off each squash. The top should only be about an inch down from the top of the squash. You want the top to look like a little hat.
  3. Scoop out all of the seeds and threads and throw away.
  4. Place squash opening down on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes. Having the squash opening down will allow it to steam itself.
  5. Melt butter and oil together. Saute onions over medium heat until translucent. Even longer if you want them to be more tender.
  6. Add eggplant to onions. Saute until eggplant is cooked through.
  7. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence. I found this mix to be the best when a bit on the peppery side. It offsets the sweetness of the squash perfectly.
  8. In a medium sized bowl, mix cooked quinoa and eggplant/onion mixture.
  9. Take squash out of the oven, place on a place. Fill each squash with quinoa/eggplant/onion mixture.
  10. Serve with top of squash for effect (If that’s your kind of thing. It was mine. Squash Hat.)

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

I recently saw a recipe in Saveur for banana oatmeal muffins and felt inspired to do a more Fall-flavored take on the recipe. I also tried to make the recipe healthier and bump up the protein – so these may not be the most moist (hate that word) or intensely flavorful muffins you’ve ever had, but I still like them and I hope you do too EDIT: they are moist and flavorful if you don’t overbake them like I overbaked the first batch! When they look done, poke them a bit and if they’re spongy but firm take them out! Don’t let them overbake! The picture below is how they should look – if they are darker they are probs over done.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

*Note – this recipe made 45 mini muffins. This cook time is based on using a mini muffin tin. Sorry…

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder (each scoop roughly 3 tbsp)
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease up a (mini) muffin tin.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together (all ingredients through sugar)
  3. Mix all the wet ingredients together (everything after sugar – even the oats yes)
  4. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Plop spoonful of mixture into muffin tin. Bake for around 16 minutes (or until the tops are a bit browned.


Chile Relleno with Zucchini and Mexican Rice

In the Mexico edition of Saveur, Diana Kennedy was described as being the “Julia Child of Mexico.” I received two of her cookbooks from my dad last Christmas, and finally decided to open them.

First I felt the need to make chiles rellenos (literally “stuffed chiles”). I decided to make a vegetarian chile relleno because I had zucchini and squash leftover in my fridge. They were delicious – spicy chiles filled with tender squash, salty cheese, and tangy onions.

And after reading Diana’s recipe for Mexican rice, I realized I was wrong on my previous Mexican rice blog post. While my made up version of Mexican rice is delicious, it’s not the traditional Mexican rice (which I have since realized is made with tomatoes). I must say, though, I am quite happy that I’ve realized the error of my ways. This rice is WAY better.

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Mexican Rice

I’ve really had a desire to cook more authentic Mexican food lately. I don’t know if I’m longing for my days in Southern California, or if it’s just one-quarter of my heritage calling (I’m one-quarter Mexican), but I’ve really been wanting to cook Mexican food and to cook it right. I did some research on Mexican herbs and spices so I could put together dishes with more authentic flavor profiles. I bought Mexican oregano (surprisingly different from Italian oregano), epazote, achiote/annatto seeds, among others. I’m ashamed to say that they’ve just been sitting sadly in my pantry – until tonight.

I decided I wanted to put my new spices to use tonight no matter how long it took, so I poked around for some Mexican rice recipes. I know many recipes say that Mexican rice is red because of a tomato base, but I also know that achiote/annatto seeds are used for both flavoring and coloring food. I decided to go with the achiote/annatto seeds over the tomatoes.  Some recipes were complicated with lots of ingredients that I didn’t have and didn’t feel like buying tonight, so I winged it. The only change I’d make moving forward is using more annatto seeds (which I reflected in the recipe below). This rice tasted great as the annatto seeds really brought a lightly nutty, lightly peppery taste to the rice. The flavor is really quite difficult to describe, other than saying it tastes like the flavor infused into the oil by the annatto seeds. You’ll have to just make it and see for yourself.

Mexican Rice

  • 2 cups long grain white rice, uncooked
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1.5 tbsp annatto/achiote seeds
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • kosher salt
  1. Heat oil in bottom of large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Once hot, add whole annatto seeds.
  3. Allow annatto seeds to cook in oil for 2-3 minutes, swirling the pan constantly to keep the seeds moving. You should see your oil turning a very dark red.
  4. After 2-3 minutes, strain by pouring oil through a strainer into a small bowl, with the strainer catching the annatto seeds. You don’t want the seeds in your rice.
  5. Put oil back into the saucepan and heat again over medium-high heat.
  6. Add onions to the oil. Cook until they just begin to get soft, around 2 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and dry rice to the oil/onions in the pan. Mix until everything is bright red.
  8. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add vegetable broth.
  9. Turn heat up to high. Bring to a rapid, rolling boil.
  10. Once boiling, cover pan and turn heat down to medium-low (closer to the low side)
  11. Cook, covered, for about 15 or 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through when you taste it. If the rice is cooked but there is extra liquid, cook with lid off for a few minutes until the extra liquid has evaporated. Taste, and add salt as needed.
  12. Serve piping hot with ground beef, chorizo, tacos, fajitas, anything you want!

onions, after being mixed into annatto oil

rice, onions, and garlic after being mixed into annatto oil

final product, half eaten. i couldn’t help myself.

Mother’s Day Quiches

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and although I couldn’t spend it with my own Mom (sad), I was able to spend it with Andrew’s Mom and family. One of our Mother’s Day gifts to Andrew’s Mom was making her brunch. Andrew offered for us to make half the brunch, which basically meant that I was making half of the brunch by myself (which I was more than happy to do). I ended up making two different types of quiche as my contribution. Dare I call them, a Duet of Quiche? I made up these recipes on a whim and they turned out great.

Each quiche requires the same basic steps: cook up the ingredients you want in them, add them to a base of eggs and cream, pour into a pie crust, and bake.

Asparagus, Shallot, and Shiitake Mushroom Quiche

asparagus, shallot, mushroom quiche

  • 1 small bunch asparagus, chopped into medium-sized pieces
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 package shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 4 oz shredded Jarlsberg cheese
  • 3 oz shredded Mozzarella
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 frozen pie crust in tin, defrosted
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, shallots, and mushrooms. Saute until shallots are translucent and asparagus is a deep green. Turn off heat. Pour mixture onto plate and spread into a thin layer to allow to cool. This step is VERY important. If you add the mixture to the eggs and it’s too hot, it will start to cook the eggs. Not good.
  3. Scramble eggs in a bowl. Add cream. Add cheese. Add COOLED mixture from saucepan.
  4. Pour everything into pie crust.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until eggs are set. Cover the crust alone with tin foil if it begins to burn during cooking.

Bacon, Cheddar, and Spinach Quiche

bacon, cheddar, spinach quiche

  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 6 oz cheddar cheese (whatever kind you like)
  • 1 package baby spinach
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 frozen pie crust in tin, defrosted
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Heat saucepan on medium-high heat. Cook bacon in saucepan until crispy. Remove from pan, dry off, chop, set aside.
  3. Melt butter in saucepan over medium high heat. Add spinach. Cook spinach down until very dark green and wilty. It won’t look like much, but it’ll be enough. Lay out spinach in thin layer on a plate, and cool thoroughly. Same as above quiche.
  4. Scramble eggs in a bowl. Add cream. Add cheese. Add COOLED mixture from saucepan.
  5. Pour everything into pie crust.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until eggs are set. Cover the crust alone with tin foil if it begins to burn during cooking.