Google+

October 30, 2019

Halloween Thumbprint Cookies

I know Halloween is the one time a year when most people are drowning in candy. Working at a candy company is like that year-round, which is why I'm so excited to finally share a recipe to help use it all up. There's only so much you can eat straight from the wrapper (or sneak from your kids' baskets), so recipes that upcycle candy and can be shared with even more people are so useful, especially this time of year. Pretty much everyone has had a Hershey Kiss cookie, but why not extend that to all chocolatey treats? I'm not just saying that because I work for Mars... there's just something magical about buttery cookies topped with oozy melting caramel and salty peanuts from a Snickers bar or gooey nougat in a Milky Way. Whatever your favorite candy is, I'm sure it will be even better on top of a warm, delicious cookie. That is assuming your favorite candy is something puckeringly sour or gum or something, in which case I'm not sure we can be friends since chocolate is clearly superior.


I clearly love thumbprint cookies since they translate so well to any occasion, even for passover. There's a little more leeway with recipes when you can actually eat gluten, but I still go for a basic buttery sugar cookie dough here to let the candies stand out. It's a pretty stiff dough with not as much sugar as you'd expect, which allows the thumbprints to maintain their shape and not be sickeningly sweet when topped with lots of candy. I do use a mix of regular white sugar and light brown sugar for just a hint of molasses-y flavor that makes chocolate chip cookies so good. The trick is to roll the balls and make the indents before chilling the dough, so they're easy to pop in the oven and don't spread too much. You may still need to re-indent the cookies after baking, but these should keep their shape better than most other doughs.


The hardest part of this recipe is deciding when to add the candy on top. In many thumbprint cookie recipes, you can add the filling before baking, since jams tend to hold up pretty well. However, candy would melt past the point of recognition and ooze everywhere. It's a delicate balance between waiting until the cookies are cool enough to avoid melting the candy too much but are still warm enough to let the chocolate melt a bit and stick to the cookie. I find that letting the cookies cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet and another 2-3 minutes on a wire rack leaves them just warm enough for the candy toppings.


Now for the candy itself. The original purpose of this recipe is to use up whatever Halloween candy you have lying around, so really any chocolate candy will do. I'd avoid very sour things as well as very chewy things (you wouldn't swallow gum plain, so why would you swallow it with a cookie?), but if you really like fruity flavors with your sugar cookies it could be worth a shot. I'll also advise against using M&Ms since the candy coating prevents the chocolate from melting and adhering to the cookie. Some of my favorites to use were all sorts of Snickers bars, Milky Way, Twix (gotta have that double cookie action), and, of course, Dove Promises, especially the filled ones. Hershey Kisses and Reeses would also be great, but I'm not looking to be a traitor if I bring these to my office. I always have candy filling up my entire apartment since it's basically part of my job description, but use whatever you have or whatever you can snatch up in the Great Annual November 1 Candy Sale, one of my favorite days of the year.


2 Sticks Butter, Softened
⅓ Cup Sugar
⅓ Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups + 2 T Flour
1 T Cornstarch
½ tsp Salt
Candy

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar together on medium speed for 2 minutes or until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, and salt, then stir into the dough.

Scoop the dough into 1T balls. Roll firmly, then press an indent into the center of each cookie. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 375F and line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Transfer the dough to the prepared sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until just golden around the edges. Press the centers down as necessary. When cooled slightly but still warm, press the candy into the center of each cookie. Set aside to cool completely.

Makes 24
Recipe Adapted from Sugar Spun Run

October 11, 2019

Sweet Potato Lentil Chili

I'm about to turn on the heat in my apartment, and I'm thinking of doing my big seasonal clothing swap in my closet this weekend. It may not be as bad as Denver's 60 degree drop in 24 hours, but October finally hit and it's definitely chilly outside. That means I'm ready for cozy soups and hearty chilis, and I will eat them bundled up in my cute sweaters and fuzzy blankets with my cat as sunset creeps earlier and earlier.


Matzo Ball Soup is my go to and Southwest Chicken Chili is a family favorite, but I'm always looking for more recipes to add to my files. This chili is plenty filling and warms you right up, plus it's accidentally vegan, not that anyone would know unless they asked. Yes, this is one of those unicorn recipes that tastes delicious, suits all sorts of dietary restrictions, and is ready in under an hour. I'll wait while you grab your grocery list.


A lot of times I have multiple steps in my soup recipes to sear of the meat and saute the veggies just so to build the proper layers of flavor. This recipe is basically an exception, since you only saute off one batch of veggies (specifically the onions) then add everything else right in. You don't even have to cook the onions first if you're pressed for time. If you do want to do the onions separately and maybe add a little more flavor with another step, you can cook off some bacon or ham at the very beginning, plus it makes a great snack if you can't wait for the chili to finish.


The onions, garlic, and jalapeno are cooked first until fragrant. Another way to jazz it up (besides the bacon or ham, of course) is to add some bell peppers here too. After that, you add in the tomato paste and all the spices. There's nothing crazy, just some chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder. You should already have them all in your pantry, and if not I highly recommend buying them since you'll use them in plenty of other recipes too.


As with pretty much all my recipes, you can adjust the jalapeno and spice levels to suit your taste or even sub in a spicier pepper if you're feeling bold. I let those spices toast for just a minute until they become fragrant to boost the flavors even more. After that, you just stir in the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, and veggie broth and let it all simmer together until tender. The keys here are to use petite diced tomatoes with green chiles for bite sized tomato pieces with some extra kick and dice the sweet potatoes fairly small so that they're also bite sized and cook quickly and evenly. If you can't find any petite diced tomatoes with green chiles, just use two cans of petite diced tomatoes and a small can of diced green chiles. You can also swap in your favorite bean (or add in a few kinds) and add in any other miscellaneous cans you have rolling around in your pantry that could go well. This recipe is extremely fast and flexible, so go forth and retreat into hibernation this fall.

1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Jalapeno, Minced
2T Tomato Paste
1 T Chili Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cayenne
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
2 10oz Cans Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
1 14.5oz Can Kidney Beans, Drained
2 lbs Sweet Potatoes, Peeled & Diced
1 1/2 Cups Lentils
4 Cups Vegetable Stock

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes or until tender and fragrant. Add the garlic, jalapeƱo, and salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, lentils, and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender and the lentils are al dente.

Serves 6-8
Recipe Adapted from Brewing Happiness

September 15, 2019

Maple Brown Sugar Cookies

We're only halfway through September, and everyone is already obsessed with pumpkin everything, Halloween costumes, and the 3 crunchy leaves on the sidewalk. I do love fall, but I don't think I'm quite ready to fully immerse myself in the pumpkin-spiced, dark-at-4pm cold. It's still 80 degrees outside! I need to ease myself into fall, which is why these maple brown sugar cookies are perfect. Maple is great all year round, but it reminds me of fall in particular. It pairs really well with all sorts of other fall flavors (apples, pumpkin, pears, and spices, just to name a few). Here, I'm keeping it simple with just maple and caramel-y brown sugar so the maple flavor really shines through. It's a great first hint of fall flavor without fully committing, and it's the perfect treat for kids, coworkers, or just yourself for surviving the awkward summer-to-fall transition.


Cookies are generally pretty easy to make, and this recipe is no exception. You don't even have to soften butter since you have to melt it all anyway, which gives you the perfect excuse to brown the butter for that extra caramelized, nutty flavor. The melted butter gets mixed with the brown sugar, then you add the maple syrup, egg, and vanilla followed by the dry ingredients.


Since one of the main flavors is brown sugar, I only use brown sugar here, no white sugar since the maple syrup also adds some sweetness. The brown sugar helps keep the cookies soft and chewy, too. What gets tricky is that the maple syrup is some extra liquid that you usually don't have to account for in cookies. I compensate by adding some extra flour, chilling the dough, and also knowing the limits of just how much maple syrup you can cram into the cookie itself. About a third of a cup is good to balance flavor and texture.


However, you can still get more maple into these maple cookies. One option is to use maple sugar, but that's expensive and would take away from the chewy brown sugar. My preference is to make a maple glaze, which is only two ingredients and can be slathered on to your maple-obsessed heart's content. It makes transport a bit difficult, so I'd either frost them just before serving or far enough in advance that they have time to set and dry in the open air a bit before storing. These cookies are soft and chewy but also cakey, so you could also sandwich them with some of that frosting for the extra maple flavor but easier packing.


1 Stick Butter, Melted & Browned (Browning Optional)
1 1/4 Cups Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Cups Flour
2 T Cornstarch
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

Glaze:
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 - 1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together. Add the maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then add to the dough.

Scoop the dough into balls and chill for at least 1 hour or until firm.

Heat oven to 375F and line cookie trays with parchment. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until just set.

For the glaze, whisk the maple syrup and powdered sugar together. Drizzle on the cooled cookies.

Makes 32
Recipe Adapted from Sugar Spun Run