Big Soft Ginger Cookies

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This week, I resorted to a tried-and-true method of teaching that for two months I had successfully avoided – bribery.  Some teachers give candy as rewards for different things, but being a science teacher, that had been impossible since we obviously can’t have food in laboratory classrooms.  I even had to take candy away from my students on Halloween (I know, I felt like a Halloween Scrooge) because they didn’t believe me about not eating in class.

But this week, one of my classes was particularly on top of their game.  They were getting work done, answering questions, and in general being awesome.  So when I remembered that The Game (Harvard vs. Yale – the only important football game) was this weekend and I would have to bake in advance, I decided to reward them.  Now, I had to do so sneakily because it was just the one class (though I am planning on giving out Christmas Cookie Gift Bags before Christmas Break, so no one else can complain), and I had to make something that would not set off any allergies and could be easily packaged so that they didn’t eat them in my classroom.  Thus, I ended up making ginger cookies.

First, combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium bowl, stirring with a fork until you have a spice-colored flour.

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In a separate (bigger) bowl, beat the shortening with an electric mixer on low speed until soft – about 30 seconds.  You could also use butter or margarine or butter flavored shortening, I just had shortening on hand.

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Add the sugar gradually, beating as you go.  For me, gradually was 3 batches.  If you’re more patient, you can make that take longer.  By the end, it should be fluffy, or at least not grainy.

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Add the egg and molasses and beat well.  Growing up, I never understood why my mom always had like 3 different jars of molasses open and half empty.  Why couldn’t she just use up a full jar?  Well I now have two half empty jars in my cabinet.  I even checked before going to the store to see if I had any already and didn’t see it.  I think molasses jars are just impossible to see when you scan a cabinet, so you end up buying and opening another one every time you need it.  Mildly frustrating.

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Stir in the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon.  You could use the electric mixer still if you wanted to, but the way the dough is makes it better to stir.  It ends up being pretty dry, so with a mixer the consistency isn’t quite right.  Also, with a spoon, there’s no need to gradually add the flour since unless you are mixing furiously, the flour isn’t going to spray everywhere.

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You’ll end up with a dry, almost play-doh consistency batter that is easily molded with your hands.  take bunches of it and roll it with your hands into balls.  The bigger the ball, the bigger the cookie, obviously, and I think these work best as pretty big cookies.  I made them on the small side to stretch the batch for each student to get one, but normally I would make about 2 inch balls instead of 1 inch.

Roll them in sugar and place them about 2 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

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If you are feeling fancy, you can use a fork to criss cross the top like this:

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Which will give you cookies that look like this:

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But I thought they looked a little too much like peanut butter cookies like that, so for the rest of them I just left them as balls on the cookie sheet.  When they were cooling on a cooling rack (let them cool in the sheet for a couple minutes first to crisp up), they looked way better, like this:

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Store the cookies at room temperature in an airtight container.  I put mine in baggies and gave them to my students, who didn’t believe I made them myself.  They were convinced I just bought cookies and put them in bags.  Oh well, you guys have the proof.

Enjoy!

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Big Soft Ginger Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup shortening or butter
  •  1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves in a medium bowl with a fork and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening with electric mixer on low until soft, about 30 seconds.
  3. Gradually beat in sugar until fluffy and combined.
  4. Add egg and molasses and beat well.
  5. Stir in dry ingredients.
  6. Roll 2 inch balls of dough in sugar and place 2 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
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Haystacks

 

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This is probably the most satisfying thing you can make with only three ingredients.  And there is no baking involved.  They are crunchy, they are peanut buttery, and they are sweet.  The first time I had them was when my aunt made them (shout out to Anne!) for a family party, and I probably ate between 5 and 25 before my mom had to cut me off.  So when I wasn’t totally sure what to make this weekend, I was digging through recipes that people have emailed me and found it, as well as multiple variations that may make later appearances.

All you need is peanut butter, butterscotch chips, and corn flakes.

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Yupp, that’s it.  Also, don’t get me started on how ridiculous it is that one little tiny thing of peanut butter costs $3.49 while I could get 3 cans of tomato sauce for my chili tonight for $1.  That’s criminal.

Anyways, melt the peanut butter and butterscotch chips in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.  This is what it looks like at first:

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After a minute or two:

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And once it’s all done and smooth:

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Take the mixture off the heat and add the corn flakes.  As you stir, you’ll crunch them up, which is totally fine.  Don’t feel like you need to carefully fold them in – it will drive you crazy and is impossible.

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Once combined, drop by rounded tablespoon onto a cookie sheet.  No need to grease it – the peanut butter does that for you.  If you are a real neat freak, you can put wax paper down, but I didn’t have any.  Also, no need to worry about spreading – you aren’t baking them, so you can put them as close as you want as long as they aren’t touching.

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I got 22 out of the recipe with enough left over to lick the spoon.  Put them in the refrigerator and let set until hardened.  Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  They are like crack, so you might want to keep them out of sight if that’s an option.

Yes, they really are that easy.  And there really isn’t much else to say about them.  Other than if something only takes 3 ingredients and 10 minutes to prepare, you literally have no excuse not to give these a try.

Enjoy!

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Haystacks

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 11 oz package butterscotch chips
  • 3 cups corn flakes

Directions:

  1. Melt peanut butter and butterscotch chips over low heat in a large saucepan until smooth, stirring regularly.
  2. Remove from heat and mix in corn flakes until combined.
  3. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until set.

 

Chocolate Swirl Blondies

 

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November really is an awesome month to be a teacher.  I’m currently enjoying a long weekend due to the Teacher’s Convention, which I am spending in Philadelphia with my boyfriend.  However, I did bake before I left for Philly, mostly so that I could use lots of butter that said boyfriend wouldn’t want in treats baked for him.  I’ve also been on a huge blondie kick recently, which is strange because I love chocolate and they are basically brownies without chocolate, but I decided to go with it.  And thus I bring you: Chocolate Swirl Blondies.

First up, grease a 9×13 pan with lots of butter.  Make sure you get the corners.  I don’t think they would stick without the butter, but better safe than sorry.

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Then, put the brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  As soon as the butter is melted, take it off the heat.  Otherwise the horrible smell of burnt sugar will fill your kitchen and you’ll have to start over.

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Next, let the mixture cool for a little bit.  I was impatient and decided cooling was a one minute process, but that is false.  You are about to add an egg, and you really don’t want that to cook in the heat.  Recommendation: pour the batter into a bowl and let it cool there instead.  Then it won’t be in the hot saucepan anymore.

Once you feel it is adequately cooled, probably 5 to 7 minutes (wash the saucepan in the meantime, it will make the clock go faster!), add the eggs one at a time, stirring constantly.

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Then, stir in the vanilla.

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Finally, stir in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda until there are no more dry ingredient streaks.  A common theme with my recipes: the batter is delicious.  Definitely a clean-the-bowl-with-a-spatula-before-you-wash-it kind of recipe.

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Finally, stir in the chocolate chunks.  Now, I actually originally intended these to be chocolate chip blondies, not chocolate swirl blondies.  However, I forgot to take into account the fact that the batter was prepared over heat, and was warm.  And would melt the chocolate.  So if you want the chunks to hold their shape, make sure your batter has at least come to room temperature before stirring them in.  Otherwise, let them melt and make cool swirly patterns.

Spread the batter into the greased pan and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting.  This will prevent them from completely just sticking to the knife.  Which is fine if you also want to lick the knife, but not if you want to serve them in any sort of shape that resembles a bar cookie.

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Once you do cut them, and if you did take the chocolate swirl route, the blondies are more like blondies with a chocolate center.  Delicious, even if not true blondies.  They will fix a craving for both chocolate and cookies though.  Kind of like a bar form of a chocolate chip cookie when the chips melted. I think that’s actually why I like bar desserts: more sweets per serving without the hassle of the fork you’d need for cake.

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Anyways, though they didn’t turn out exactly as intended (I really wanted the added crunch of chocolate chips interspersed), they were still good enough for an entire tray to disappear during the course of a one hour class.  Next time, I would be a little more patient with allowing the batter to cool, but the mistake was by no means detrimental to the final product.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Swirl Blondies

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 oz package chocolate chunks

Directions:

  1. Grease 9×13 pan with butter and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth.  Allow to cool and transfer to large mixing bowl.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring to incorporate.  Add vanilla extract and stir.
  4. Add dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda) and mix until no dry streaks remain.  Fold in chocolate chunks.  Spread into greased baking dish.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool on wire rack before cutting.

 

Healthy Pumpkin Pie

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Happy Diwali!  Sorry for the Monday morning rather than Sunday afternoon post – but I don’t have school today so for me its like a Sunday.  And I don’t have school Thursday.  And I don’t have school Friday.  And I don’t have school next Monday.  Life of a school teacher in November.

But anyways, that means good things for the blog, because I’ll have lots of time to experiment!  And this week was definitely an experiment.  My boyfriend, who we already know has much healthier tendencies than I do, came to me with the request of trying to make a pumpkin pie that was healthy.  Now, I’ve never actually made pumpkin pie before, or pie crust from scratch, but I did go to that technique class last week so I pretended to be an authority on the subject.  Also, I probably should make healthy recipes on occasion because either way I will end up eating too much of what I make.

So he found a recipe for nonfat (as in no fat at all – amazing, right?) whole wheat pie crust and low calorie pumpkin pie filling, and we gave it a shot.

First, use a food processor to pulse together the banana and whole wheat flour until there are no chunks of banana left and it feels a little like Floam.  I only have a mini chopper (looking at you, Santa), so I did it in two batches.  The banana should be cold before you do this (it’s replacing your cold butter), and be careful not to over process.  This crust does have a tendency to get tough, and I probably got a little carried away with my pulsing.

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Once combined, turn out onto a clean surface (I use my handy-dandy pastry mat) and add the truvia and cinnamon.

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Add warm water by the teaspoon and pull it together into a ball.  I added about 4 teaspoons, but it will depend on your flour.  Whole wheat flour soaks up liquid like nothing else you’ve worked with, so it usually needs more than a recipe calls for.  Again, the texture you are going for is simply not crumbling into pieces.

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Once combined, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer while you prepare the filling.  Side note – this dough is delicious.  It tastes like cinnamon banana goodness.  Entirely possible that you might want to just eat it at this stage and say screw the pie.  But for the sake of baking, we continued.

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For the filling, combine the pumpkin, milk, eggs, stevia, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Whisk together until smooth.  This is where the I’ve-never-made-pumpkin-pie uncertainty came in for me.  I knew the final product was not a liquid pie, but I had a liquid filling.  Don’t worry, it does set in the oven while baking.  You have not ruined it already.

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Back to that no fat pie crust.  Take it out of the freezer and put it on your pastry mat.  You actually probably won’t need any additional flour to prevent sticking – the only problem I had with mine was that I let it get a little too cold, as I got a legitimate arm workout trying to roll it out.  Anyways, roll it to the 9″ pie markings on your mat, or, if you don’t have a pastry mat, roll it so that it’s big enough to drape over your pie pan.

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Feel free to cut the edges to make them clean and just eat them.  Or, if you’re a perfectionist, you can play Frankenstein and push them into the crevices that don’t quite reach the 9″ mark.

Now, for those of you who think I’ve lost my affinity for butter, turning to healthy recipes and such, do not despair – I did have one non-negotiable step in here.  I refuse to use cooking spray when making a pie crust.  It doesn’t work the same way.  So make sure you grease your pie plate liberally with real, old fashioned butter.

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Drape the pie crust over your pie plate and push it into the corners.  Cover with aluminum foil and put some kind of weight (pie weights, beans, rice…) in the middle to hold its shape.  Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes.

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Remove from oven and remove tin foil.  Bake again for about 5 more minutes.  You want the crust to be mostly baked, but not completely, so that the pumpkin filling doesn’t just turn it all into a pumpkin soup.  However, don’t bake it too much because then you’ll have a rock pie.

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Add the filling to the pie and bake for an additional 45 minutes at 350°F, or until the middle doesn’t jiggle when you move the pan.  If you are worried about the edges of the crust, you can make a tin foil ring to put around the outside, which I didn’t do, but I probably should have.  Take it out and let it cool on a wire rack to room temperature.   Trust me on this one, warm pumpkin pie tastes funky.  You actually should let it cool and that maybe even chill it more in the fridge before serving.

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Now, this experiment was definitely not a bust in the sense of the chocolate biscuits.  The pie, for what it was (a healthy recipe with a nonfat crust) satisfied that pumpkin flavor you might be craving.  However, unless your family REALLY is committed to having a healthy Thanksgiving, I probably wouldn’t serve it for the main dessert.  The crust is not flaky, due to the lack of butter, and the sweet factor isn’t totally there.  For me, a buttery, flaky crust is super essential to the pie experience.

But, if you are looking for a healthy pumpkin pie as a casual treat to have around or as an alternative to your main dessert course for those guests who insist they are on a diet but need pie, this would work.  I know my attitude after Thanksgiving dinner is “I’ve already eaten 3 days worth of calories, may as well keep it going”, but there may be people out there who can get to the dessert table and would appreciate the healthier choice.  This pie will satisfy those people.

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If you have any recommendations to improve the crust, PLEASE share them in the comments.  The filling was pretty good as is, but regular sugar instead of stevia would also work well I think.  Next week, expect something back on that full fat kick (and probably getting away from pumpkin), but for those of you trying to stay healthy through the holiday season, this one was for you.

Enjoy!

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Healthy Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 banana, cold
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 packages (1 tablespoon) truvia
  • 1-4 teaspoons of warm water

Filling

  • 1 can pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon stevia

Directions:

  1. Prepare the crust: Pulse together banana and whole wheat flour in food processor until no chunks of banana remain.  Turn onto pastry mat and add truvia and cinnamon.  Add warm water by the teaspoon (about 4) until dough is no longer crumbly.  Wrap and chill.
  2. Add all of the filling ingredients to a bowl and whisk until smooth.
  3. Remove pie crust from freezer and roll out thin to fit over 9″ pie plate.  Drape over greased pie plate and push into corners.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and pie weights.  Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove aluminum foil and weights and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Add filling to crust and bake for 45 minutes or until center is set.  Remove and allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
  7. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.