Reindeer Cookies

This year at my church we had a live Christmas pageant for the first time in at least 20 years.  My mom is always in charge of the Christmas program and so she’s usually kept it to other things like art crafts or pictures of the nativity story, but this year she decided it was time for a live production.  It was a cute play set in modern times with the stable being an old garage, the shepherds were snowplow drivers, and the wisemen were astronomers.  The kids did a great job and everyone really enjoyed the production.  So I wanted to do something a little extra kid-friendly for everyone to snack on after the service on Sunday.  These adorable reindeer cookies were something I’d seen on Pinterest a year ago and knew they’d be a fun and delicious holiday treat.

These were a huge hit (it’s peanut butter and chocolate, how could you possibly go wrong?!), and would be a fun project to do with kids, although it does require some patience.

Peanut Butter Reindeer CookiesPeanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies

Idea from Baker Girl,  Cookie recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookie Book (an real live cookbook!) Double Peanut Cookies

  • 3 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • mini M&Ms, pick out the brown ones for eyes (mini chocolate chips would probably also work)
  • holiday M&Ms, then you just have to pick out the red from the green for the Rudolph noses
  • chocolate covered pretzels (mini if you can find them, or cut regular size ones in half), regular pretzels can also be used

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together peanut butter, sugars, butter and eggs with an electric mixer.  Sift in the flour and baking soda and mix with a spatula until just combined.

Scoop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until set and just beginning to turn golden.Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookie

As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, gently but firmly press the chocolate covered pretzels into the top, press a red M&M in the lower middle for the nose, and put two brown mini M&Ms for the eyes.  Repeat.  As the cookies cool the melted chocolate with harden and the cookies won’t be as fragile, but until then be careful with moving them.  It’s probably best to let them set on the pan, or to very gently slide the cookies on their parchment paper onto a cooling rack altogether.

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Roasted Carrot Soup

This is a wonderfully simple soup.  The flavors are delicate and warm.  I think it would be a great soup for when you’re feeling a little under the weather, or when you just need a light but delicious soup.  Roasting the carrots brings out their sweetness, and the ginger and thyme infused vegetable stock adds a nice warmth and earthiness in the background.  I think you could make this even easier by roasting the onions with the carrots.  This was very popular at the last School of Christian Living class of the term.  I served it with Black Bean, Quinoa and Citrus Salad and a Dark Chocolate Cardamom Mousse, but this would also be sublime with a sandwich, or a simple green salad.

Roasted Carrot SoupRoasted Carrot Soup

Serves 12-14

Adapted from Food 52

  • 5 lbs carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2″ rounds
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (more to taste)
  • 3 1/2 (32oz) boxes good quality vegetable stock
  • 3 one-inch pieces of ginger, peeled
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 large sweet onions, chopped
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the chopped carrots with half the olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt.  Set oven rack 6-8 inches from the broiler and turn the broiler on.  Broil for about 10-15 minutes, rotating the carrots every 4-5 minutes until they’ve got some color and are tender.

Meanwhile, bring stock to a boil in a large pot with the ginger and thyme in it, simmer for 15 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and sauté for a couple of minutes, then add garlic and sauté until fragrant and onions begin to brown.

Remove ginger and thyme from the stock pot and then carefully add onion/garlic, the roasted carrots, and ground ginger.  Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes until carrots are soft enough to puree.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sesame Kale

I’ve been craving kale lately.  Definitely an odd craving, but at least it’s healthy!  With all the great nutrients found in kale (vitamins K and C, calcium, iron…) it’s a great winter vegetable.  This is one of my favorite ways to eat kale.  The dressing is salty, sweet, and nutty from the toasted sesame oil.

Sesame KaleSesame Kale

Serves 4-6

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mirin (rice wine)
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp honey
  • sesame seeds

In a large pot, fill the bottom of your pot with enough water to cover the bottom with 1/2″ water.  Place your steamer in the pot and fill with bite size pieces of kale, removing the stems as you go.  Cover the pot with a lid and turn heat on high.  Steam for about 8-10 minutes, until kale is bright green and tender.  While the kale cooks, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  When the kale is finished, run cold water over it and put in a bowl.  Drizzle with dressing and then sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.  Delicious room temperature or cold.

Chai-Spiced Snickerdoodles

I hope you all have a wonderful and magical Christmas, if you celebrate, or a wonderful and magical Tuesday if you don’t.

This holiday season I made some cookies to give as gifts.  I quadrupled the recipe below so that I’d have a lot of dough and what I didn’t end up baking off I’ve stored (already scooped) in the freezer.  (I only doubled the spice mix and made sure to pour out a little at a time into a separate bowl for rolling the dough in the spice mix so I wouldn’t contaminate it all with raw egg, I’d recommend doing this even if you’re just making the single recipe so that you can save the spice mix for something else since you won’t use it all for one batch of cookies.)  At this time of year when plans are in flux it’s nice to have some cookies that you can just bake when company arrives and serve hot cookies to friends, neighbors, or even Santa.

These Chai-Spiced Snickerdoodles are a great remix of the traditional cinnamon-sugar snickerdoodles.  And they have the stamp of approval from traditionalist Dad.  Despite major skepticism the first time I made this (and some grumblings about why I can’t leave well enough alone), he deemed these better than traditional snickerdoodles.  I consider that a success!  I hope you all enjoy them just as much.

Chai-Spiced SnickerdoodlesChai-Spiced Snickerdoodles

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen

Adapted from Bake Me Away

  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • couple grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (divided)
  • 2 large eggs

Combine spices in a small bowl and set aside.

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and 1 tsp from the spice mix.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and 1 1/4 cup of sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Slowly add in the dry ingredients mixing with a spatula until just incorporated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop dough onto parchment (you can go ahead and space them really close together to fit as many as possible on one pan).  Refrigerate cookie dough for about an hour, or stick in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to firm up.

Mix in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar into the spice mix.Chai-Spiced Snickerdoodle

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Remove cookie dough from the fridge/freezer.  Roll balls to make them smooth and then roll them in the sugar-spice mixture (I recommend just pouring a little of the spice mixture at a time into a separate bowl so you don’t contaminate all the mix just in case you don’t need it all).  Place coated cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes (you may need to rotate halfway through depending on your oven).  The tops will crack a little and will just begin to get some color on the edges.  Remove from oven and slide cookies on their parchment paper onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for several days (if they last that long).

Pumpkin Walnut Bread (vegan)

Do vegan baked goods kind of make you cringe?  I’m always hesitant to label things vegan because I think mainstream society thinks of vegan food as extreme and unappealing, but I promise, this vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread is yummy!  I got the recipe from Joy the Baker, who I definitely trust to make a delicious anything, so despite my skepticism about vegan baked goods I gave it a try, and per usual she did not lead me astray.

Now it’s confession time….sometimes I make really big mistakes in the kitchen…mistakes like leaving out half of the flour in this bread.  I realized as I was cleaning up, once the bread had been in the oven for about 7 minutes…too long to do anything about it.  But sometimes mistakes workout, and in this case, I had a dense, super moist almost brownie-like “bread,” and it was still delicious.  This also is about as close to gingerbread as I’m going to get.  It has those great fall flavors, but is definitely not overwhelmingly spicy as gingerbread can be.  So if you have vegan guests coming for the holidays, give this bread a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much non-vegans enjoy it as well!

Pumpkin Walnut Bread (vegan)Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Adapted from Joy the Baker

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (optional?  this is what I forgot…if you do too, it’s still yummy, but it will be fluffier if you add this)
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (or another 1/2 cup oil)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 heaping cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease two loaf pans (8x4x2) and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.  In a large measuring cup, whisk together oil, applesauce, syrup, water and pumpkin puree.  Add wet ingredients to the dry and use a spatula to fold together until just combined, making sure to get all the dry ingredient at the bottom.Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread loaf

Fold in the walnuts, reserving some to sprinkle on top.  Divide the dough between the prepared baking pans and sprinkle with walnuts.  Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let rest for 20 minutes before turning out to a cooling rack.

Roasted Cabbage with Toasted Hazelnuts

This salad is a bit different, it doesn’t have a whole lot going on, but it plays well with other dishes.  I served it for a Tuesday night dinner with the most amazing Spiced Stuffed Acorn Squash, which needed a nice supporting character and I thought this Roasted Cabbage fit the bill nicely.  This comes together quickly and can easily be scaled down if you’re not feeding a crowd.  Also, the color is just lovely, who doesn’t like eating purple vegetables?  I’ve also had leftovers with salted pistachios on top, which is also delicious!

Roasted Cabbage with Toasted HazelnutsRoasted Cabbage with Hazelnuts

Serves 12-14

Adapted from The Kitchn

  • 1 small head red cabbage, chopped
  • 1 head savoy cabbage, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1-2 tsp agave or honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Set oven to broil.  Spread chopped cabbage in a large jelly roll pan, drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for about 5 minutes, until edges brown.  Remove from oven and carefully mix.  Return to oven and roast for another 5 minutes, being carefully not to let it get too dark.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp olive oil with Stuffed Squash and Roasted Cabbagelemon juice, agave, salt and pepper.  Move cabbage to serving dish and drizzle lightly with dressing.  Serve with toasted hazelnuts.

Cowboy Cookies

In my dad’s opinion, there is nothing better than a chocolate chip cookie.  Unfortunately for him, I’ve been making a different Christmas cookie each week this month and plain chocolate chip cookies haven’t made the cut.  On the upside, apparently my dad’s qualifications for a chocolate chip cookie is just a cookie that contains chocolate chips, so this recipe ended up being right up his alley.

So whether you like chocolate chip cookies, or are looking for a recipe to feed an army, these cookies are delicious and a little something special.  I particularly liked the cinnamon in these and the oats bring a delicious chewiness without turning these into oatmeal cookies.  These are super yummy and are great for a party, or you can scoop all the cookie dough and freeze them until you’re ready to bake them.

Cowboy CookiesCowboy Cookie half

Makes about 6 dozen

Adapted from Laura Bush

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 scant cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut, toasted
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Cowboy Cookies

In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth, gradually add sugar, beat for about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla beating well after each addition.  Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and oats.  Fold in the toasted coconut and pecans.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets spacing them about one inch apart.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.  Move cookies on the parchment paper onto wire racks to cool.

Spiced Stuffed Acorn Squash

This stuffed squash was DELICIOUS!  This will definitely be a regular recipe for me.  It took quite a bit of searching to find an acorn squash recipe I liked the sound of.  So many vegetarian squash recipes out there don’t sound like a main dish (in that they don’t have a lot of protein), so I was really intrigued by the chickpeas.  I also liked the inclusion of some extra veggies that I don’t normally think of in a stuffing but worked out really well.

I’m not sure this is the right name for this since it’s pretty hard to describe in a word or two, the main seasoning is garam masala.  Garam masala is a warm spice blend typically used in Northern Indian/South Asian cuisine.  It has a lot of those warm baking spices like cinnamon and cardamom, so it works really well with this slightly sweet, but savory dish.  I’m not normally a fan of celery or raisins, but in this dish they work wonderfully.  Although if you can’t get your mind wrapped around celery you might be able to use frozen peas instead, and if you don’t want to give golden raisins a chance then you can use dried cranberries instead.  But really I think it was absolutely perfect as is.  Definitely make extra because the leftovers are just as delicious.

Spiced Stuffed Acorn SquashSpiced Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 14

Adapted from Mountain Mama Cooks

  • 7 acorn squashes, cut in half and scoop insides out
  • olive oil, kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 head of celery, about 10 stalks, chopped
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked buckwheat (or barley, couscous, etc)
  • 4 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups golden raisins
  • 3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a large baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Drizzle olive oil on the insides of your prepared acorn squash, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and stab the insides repeatedly with a fork.  Place squash cut side down on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until just fork tender (the fork should be able to pierce the skin pretty easily.  In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1/2 tsp (table) salt.  In the last five minutes of baking, carefully flip the squash over and sprinkle with brown sugar mixture.  Return to oven to finish baking until fork tender and brown sugar has melted, about 5 minutes.Stuffed Squash and Roasted Cabbage

While squash bakes, prepare the filling.  In a large sauté pan or wok, heat a little olive oil over medium heat.  Add celery, scallions, and garlic, cooking until tender.  Stir in kale.  As kale begins to soften, add in the cooked buckwheat and the garam masala, cumin, and salt.  Mix well.  Just before flipping the squash, add in the raisins and chickpeas, mix to warm through.

When the squash is done, carefully transfer to your serving dish and then scoop filling into the center of the squash.  Serve and enjoy!

Veggie Greek Yogurt Dip

In this season of lots of holiday parties, and lots of desserts and cookies, it’s the perfect time for a veggie dip.  This dip is a great healthy way to sneak some more vegetables into your diet and makes a great addition to any holiday party.  This has tons of flavor and is great with Pretzel Crisps, chips, crackers (I recommend Dill Triscuits), or extra vegetables.  Using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream adds extra protein.

Veggie Greek Yogurt DipVeggie Greek Yogurt Dip

Makes about 3 cups, about 10 servings

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

  • 2 heaping cups of plain Greek yogurt (I used 0% Chobani, but whatever your favorite is)
  • 3 Tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 cups finely chopped kale
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 2-3 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well.  You want the vegetables to be as small as possible to mix in well with the dip.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Cranberry Snacking Cake

This snacking cake is delicious.  It’s easy, and casual enough to be served for an afternoon snack.  It’s not too sweet, so it’s perfect for tea time (because obviously you take a break for tea time, right?).  But it’s also great to add a little contrast to all the sweet cookies and treats that are served this time of year.  The cranberries add a bright punch of color and flavor, paired with a sweet crumb topping, and a delicate cake bottom.  This is basically the same recipe as the Rhubarb Snacking Cake, with a few minor adjustments to let the cranberries shine.  This will definitely be a new go-to fall/winter recipes!

Cranberry Snacking Cake

Cranberry Snacking Cake

Serves 12-16

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Cake:

  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
Crumb:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, meltedCranberry Snacking Cake in pan

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Spray your 9″x13″ pan with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper leavingenough paper hanging over the edges so you can use that to pull the cake out of the pan when it’s done.

Stir together cranberries, 2/3 cup sugar, lemon juice, and orange zest; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, the remaining 2/3 sugar, and the lemon zest until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and ginger in a small bowl.  Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stir until just combined.  Add half the Greek yogurt, stirring until just combined.  Alternate with the remaining flour and yogurt, ending with the flour and making sure to stir until just combined.

Spread the batter into your prepared baking dish in an even layer.  Pour the cranberry mixture over the top of the cake, spreading into an even layer.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Use a fork to stir in the melted butter until a crumb forms.  Spread the crumb evenly over the top of the cranberries.

Cranberry Snacking Cake

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.