Category Archives: holiday food

Ginger Spice Pumpkin Thumbprint Cookies & The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

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box of cookiesDesserts pretty much make the holidays for me. I know that sounds lame, but as a Jew and a foodie, there isn’t a ton to look forward to. We don’t have a big Christmas dinner or cookies for Santa, and there is no sipping eggnog by the tree. For me, the reason I love the holidays is the food. Eating lakes with friends, Chinese food with family and baking an insane amount of dessert for my coworkers.

So this year, I decided to get in on the holiday spirit on my own, and when I came across The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I knew I had to participate. Here’s the fun part: each food blogger participant bakes 3 dozen cookies and ships them to 3 other bloggers they are paired with, also receiving 3 dozen different cookies back. Here’s the amazing part: each blogger donates $4 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and OXO matches the donation dollar for dollar. As it turns out, getting 3 dozen cookies in adorable Christmas boxes in the mail is also pretty amazing.

The easy part was done. Next came the real decision: what type of cookies to make. It’s pretty apparent from my blog that I’m not one to do anything traditional when it comes to food. I needed something seasonal and not too complicated. I also needed a cookie that could hold up for a few days in the mail. As much as I love to fill things with cream cheese frosting, that was out.

Then it came to me. Gingersnaps! I am a ginger myself, and I love all things flavored with ginger. My fantasy football team even goes by the same name. Somehow, I had never made  a single gingersnap cookie. You can only imagine how much that has changed since I got my hands on some molasses a few weeks ago – the single ingredient standing between me and a lifetime full of gingersnaps.

The recipe I ended up developing wasn’t technically a gingersnap because they really have no snap like the traditional cookie. They turned out with a deliciously chewy interior. And even though they turned out much flatter than a traditional thumbprint cookie, I think they still held the pumpkin filling pretty well. If you want to leave out the filling, I’m sure they would still be (almost) just as delicious.

ginger spice cookiesGinger Spice Pumpkin Thumbprint Cookies
Makes 3 dozen (exactly!)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 stick butter
  • Turbinado sugar (for rolling the cookies in)

Pumpkin Filling:

  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  1. Cream together butter for dough and sugars in a stand mixer or with your hand mixer.
  2. Then, add in your molasses and egg.
  3. In a separate bowl combine your flour, spices, salt and baking soda.
  4. Gradually add in wet ingredients to dry until well-incorporated.
  5. Refrigerate dough for at least an hour.
  6. Meanwhile, make your filling. Mix together the pumpkin and powdered sugar.
  7. Cream in your butter to the mixture, and then add in your spice.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Roll out dough into small, evenly sized balls.
  10. Then, roll each in turbinado sugar until covered all around.
  11. Push down in the top of the ball with your thumb, creating a small well for the filling. Carefully fill the hole with the pumpkin mixture.
  12. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned and thoroughly cooked in the center.

Cool, and then enjoy!

boxesThe three lucky bloggers who received my cookies were Leila of Belly., Rachel of La Pêche Fraîche and Hannah of FleurDeLicious. I mean, I hope they thought they were lucky. I packed a dozen into each of these adorable boxes, and then in a sugar-induced haze attempted to mail them via USPS priority mail. Like many twenty-somethings, I become very frazzled when I step inside a post office and didn’t know how to handle the flat-rate box/bubble wrap/packing tape situation. So I really just threw them in there and hoped for the best.

I spent all of my money, integrity and patience at the post office, and I wasn’t so sure if the experience would be worth it in the end. But once I saw that first box at my doorstep, I realized how wrong I had been. Getting a package in the mail is one of the greatest feelings. It’s like the feeling you have when you get junk email in your inbox, but the complete opposite. Check out what I got in the mail.

ginger bread man

 

 

 

Chai-Spice Gingerbread Men from Rachel of Passing Daisies

These were actually addicting. Soft on the inside and a great crunch on the outside from the sugar. I ate six basically in one sitting and then I had to remove them from my apartment. It was a dangerous business.

 

 

chocolate cherry cookies

 

 

Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies from Emilie of Scarborough Food Fair

I was absolutely obsessed with the box that these cookies came in. Like so adorable I almost didn’t want to open it. But then I did. I also loved doing this swap because I found some amazing new blogs to read! I loved the mac ‘n cheese bites she made recently.

 

 

 

crinkle cookies

 

 

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from Courtney Fos

Last but not least were these chocolate crinkle cookies. They looked just like Christmas! They were also in an adorable looking box that I completely tore open. Courtney shares such inspiring stories on her blog about her family, and I loved reading her weekly menus.

 

 

 

 

 

I loved participating in this cookie swap, and not only for the cookies I received. It was great hearing from the bloggers around the country who got boxes of my cookies. And most of all, it’s going to be great finding out how much money OXO is donating this year. I think I have a few weeks off before my holiday baking starts, and my biggest goal is to not eat 3 dozen cookies by then. Is that called a diet?

On Thanksgiving

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I had quite a bit of writer’s block while trying to start this post. It isn’t because I don’t have anything to say about Thanksgiving. And it isn’t because I have a different favorite holiday. It’s because this one day means so much to me that it’s hard to put it into words.

Growing up, I always looked forward to Thanksgiving because in my family it was a holiday of such tradition. Both sides of my family got together at my parents’ house for one very long meal filled with what felt like unlimited appetizers, an impressive spread for the meal and then a dessert course to make any restaurant menu shudder with jealousy. My mom would fold the napkins at each place setting accordion style  (see picture) weeks before the big day. We generally used plastic plates and got our food buffet style, but the fancy napkins were always key. She wouldn’t fold them that way for any other holiday because – for whatever reason – that specific folding style was special for Thanksgiving.

My grandma would carefully carve the turkey before guests arrived so it was easier for serving. Aunt Sheryl would make her famous stuffing (and slip me an extra-large piece wrapped in foil to save since she knew I loved it so much). Aunt Caryn made her classic green bean casserole. And my other grandma, mentioned in #2 of this post, would bring a giant fruit tray.

I have memories of cutting off hunks of warm brie in puff pastry, oozing out of the shell with jam, and devouring it with greasy fingers. My cousins and I were drunk on sparkling apple cider – or maybe it was the excessive food that made us a little loopy. We’d pile our plates high, eat as much as possible and then retire to my room for our traditional Thanksgiving showing of the movie we watched every year (I will not name it since I’m embarrassed it received a 31% on Rotten Tomatoes). Swearing we would never eat again, we’d laugh at the terrible movie, which has some really famous actors in it by the way. And then we’d hear a call for dessert and go running downstairs as fast as our turkey-laden bodies could carry us.

Today, it isn’t so different. But then again, it really is. I can expect the baked brie, among other appetizers. Sheryl still makes her stuffing, and Caryn does the green bean casserole. Of course my grandma brings the fruit tray, and we still watch that terrible movie (on VHS, no less). And the fancy folded napkins will forever be a staple – that picture was taken just last weekend. But my other grandma passed away a few months ago, so there isn’t anyone to carve the turkey. Or tell me that something I made is too spicy. Or ask for a “tiny piece of everything” from our giant dessert table.

It isn’t going to be the same this year. And part of me feels like she would’ve been okay with that. I’ve sort of started to take over Thanksgiving as my holiday. Each year, I’ve taken on more and more dishes, and my family has given me more freedom to make what I want. At first, my mom was nervous to try anything non-traditional because she thought the picky eaters wouldn’t eat anything. As it turns out, my family is more adventurous than we give them credit for. The spinach artichoke dip will forever be a staple appetizer now, and the brussel sprouts I made last year are being repeated this year. I’m also contributing mushroom and caramelized onion appetizer bites, orange cranberry sauce, creamed spinach and parsnips, a vegetarian mediterranean salad, a raspberry & lemon curd tart and a dark chocolate & salted caramel pie.

As I was chopping onions, roasting vegetables and stirring my lemon curd, I couldn’t help but think what my grandma would’ve thought of everything I was cooking. She was definitely a traditional woman, yet she always told stories of creating new recipes (mock cheese cake…still not sure what that one is) and being adventurous in the kitchen. I know that I get that trait from her. Most of the recipes I’m making this year are new, and I love trying out different dishes on my family each year. I thought Beverly would have particularly liked the salted caramel pie. She was pretty salty herself, although she did have a soft spot for sweets. I haven’t bit into the pie yet, and I’m already getting the feeling I’ll need to share this recipe.

Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel Pie with Graham Cracker Crust
Adapted from Food & Wine

  • About 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (should be 1 1/2 sleeves of crackers)
  • 8 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • Two 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate
  • Kosher salt or fleur de sel
  • Optional: 2 cups heavy cream and 2 tbsp confectioners sugar

**Note: This makes one deep dish 9 1/2″ pie. For a regular crust, just decrease the amount of crust you’re making.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Pour your sweetened condensed milk into a 8×8 baking dish and sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of the salt. Cover tightly with foil.
  2. Put that baking dish into a 9×13, and fill about 1/2 full with warm water, or until it is as high as your milk goes. FYI, there are other ways to make dulce de leche. Check them out here > 
  3. Bake until the milk has thickened, which will take 2-2 1/2 hours. Every 20 minutes, stir and carefully add more water to the bath. It might get a little lumpy, but that’s okay.
  4. When it is done – and it will thicken more upon standing – remove from oven and turn oven down to 350 degrees.
  5. Crush your graham crackers in a food processor for a uniform consistency. Add in your sugar and vanilla. Press down onto pie pan so that crust is evenly distributed.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  7. In a double boiler, melt your chocolate until smooth. Pour evenly onto the pie crust. Let sit, and then refrigerate to cool.
  8. If you want to top with whipped cream, just whip together your cream and sugar until light and fluffy.
  9. Once your pie has cooled, pour in your caramel. Note that if you refrigerate it, it will set. You can microwave for a few minutes to make it more fluid.
  10. Top with a bit of the salt, and spread with whipped cream if you want. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

This Thanksgiving, we’re drinking wine instead of cider, enjoying my aunt’s homemade bread and skipping the store-bought appetizers at my request. I don’t know who will be carving the turkey; I know there will be one. And I don’t know about you, but I’ll be camped out at the dessert table waiting for some salted caramel pie.

Why My Family’s Hanukkah Recipes Are Better Than Yours

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I really don’t mean to start some type of confrontation – especially after I’ve neglected my blog for so long – but the title of this post is true. My family really only makes two traditional Hanukkah dishes. We don’t enjoy fried sufganiyot (I’m not sure why…because who doesn’t like fried doughnuts?), and we haven’t munched on latkes since I was little. But my favorite two dishes we do exceptionally well.

For years my aunt made some truly remarkable rugelach cookies. They are crescent-shaped buttery cookies filled with, in this case, a cinnamon sugar mixture. It sounds pretty basic, yet they are anything but. Most rugelach I have tasted can be dry and not very flavorful. These are sweet with a rich and comforting flavor from the cinnamon. And I actually think I’m addicted. When I visited her recently, she baked me about 4 dozen of them even though (gasp!) it was not yet Hanukkah, and I housed at least a dozen as soon as I spotted them. They are small…and I think that’s my rationale for eating so many.

I decided to make them this year myself, and it was a major struggle. The recipe isn’t quite as easy as I thought considering I don’t own a stand mixer. I promised my aunt I wouldn’t share her recipe with anyone. So I’ll just shove this picture in your face. Anyways, I don’t think you want the recipe. There’s a lot of butter in these. And I don’t want anyone else commercializing on her baking success other than myself.

This year I also made my mom’s famous noodle kugel. It’s mostly just famous in my family because it is ridiculously good. It is sweet and almost cheesecake-like since there is so much cheese filling in the noodles.The graham cracker crumb and brown sugar topping adds that perfect crunch to the soft noodles.

Making my kugel and the cookies made me really realize that no matter how good someone else’s recipe is, you always think your family’s recipes are the best. Sweet or salty kugel, plain or filled rugelach. It depends on what you grew up eating. These holiday foods can’t be enjoyed just any time of year, so they are coveted even more than your favorite food truck that only comes once a month. I mean, isn’t eating what (America) holidays are all about?

Mom’s Noodle Kugel 

Bake in 8X8 pan (or double recipe for 9X13 inch pan)

8 oz. no yolk extra broad noodles
8 oz. cottage cheese
4 oz.  cream cheese
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk (skim is fine)
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Topping:
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp brown sugar (the original recipe calls for 3 tbsp so the topping has more of a crunch)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp melted butter

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Put the stick of butter in the 8X8 pan. Put the pan in your preheated oven until butter melts.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar with  a hand mixer.
  3. Then, add in eggs, vanilla, cottage cheese and salt.
  4. Finally mix in the milk. Make sure there are no chunks of cream cheese.
  5. When the butter has melted, remove from the oven and put noodles straight i
    nto the pan raw. Pour cheese mixture over the top, and bake for about one hour. Don’t worry all that much about the noodles being coated completely evenly.
    **To ensure that all noodles are cooked and coated properly: after 30 minutes in the oven, remove kugel and press down until the cheese mixture goes over the top of the noodles.
  6. Combine all topping ingredients when kugel is almost done. Sprinkle them over the top, and bake for an additional 35 mintes.

Take this dish to your holiday party and you’ll definitely upstage the Christmas cookies – maybe even the latkes, too.

It Isn’t a Holiday Without Funfetti

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As holidays go, the 4th of July is pretty great. It’s all about eating, drinking, hanging out outside and getting a day off of work. My favorite combination. My other favorite thing? Potlucks. You get a little bit of everything, including things you never would’ve thought to make otherwise…like trifle (we’ll get to that later).

I decided to have a mini-potluck/party at my apartment on July 3rd. And the best part was that my favorite GingerFoodie assistant, Joanna, was in town for a visit. We went to the grocery store to “get inspired,” and here’s what we came up with.

I made mini Oreo cheesecakes. There is my trusty helper topping each one with some whipped cream. She also contributed a delicious corn and black bean salad. I also made some serious bruschetta.

Here’s a basic recipe for beautiful bruschetta. Good luck finding tomatoes this blindingly red. I can’t exactly give a more accurate recipe since I never use one – and I made enough bruschetta for an army.

  • fresh tomatoes, diced
  • fresh basil
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A fresh baguette
  1. Combine tomatoes, basil, garlic, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Let sit for a bit to marinate.
  2. Slice bread thin and lay on a cookie sheet. Brush with a mixture of olive oil and garlic. Broil until just toasted for a few minutes.
  3. Allow the bread to cool, then top with tomato mixture.
Abby contributed a wonderful patriotic trifle. I know, I know. You’ve probably seen the recipe of Friends where Rachel makes her trifle with ground beef and peas. If you haven’t seen it, watch this right now. Well, Abby’s version was a bit more traditional than that – whipped cream, homemade brownies and strawberries! Some people thought she was trying to show me up…but she wouldn’t do that, right?
Also enough for 100 people. But this time I’m not exaggerating.
And you just can’t celebrate any kind of holiday without an appropriately themed Funfetti cake. It’s really a crowd favorite because…well, it’s amazing. I’m convinced the batter is laced with something because this cake is strangely addictive. Joanna and Sarah took this one on and really made me proud.
The largest fireworks we saw all night.

There were all kinds of other goodies contributed. Here, take a look…
The real star of the night was the drink of summer I introduced. The problem is, I just can’t reveal my recipe. Partly because I don’t want you to steal it, and partly because it sounds way to disgusting in writing. But I’m pretty sure someone told me I should be a bartender. Here’s an action shot for you:
Look away from the sword I’m using to stir it with. It’s no big deal.
Not your typical 4th of July? Well it was a pretty good one, and it was hard to compete with last year. I’m pretty sure a deep dish pie was involved. That reminds me…

Mardi Gras King Cake Isn’t That Easy

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Most people don’t look at Mardi Gras as a big food holiday. But then again, I am not most people. My office was planning a big Mardi Gras party this week and, of course, my office manager, Kim, asked if I’d be interested in baking a few King cakes to help us celebrate. I said of course, but that my family didn’t have any of the traditional baby jesuses to put in the cake – we are Jews after all.

I looked up the recipe online and noticed it contained yeast. A bit more work than I was used to for a dessert, but I knew I could handle it. I got to work at 7 pm right when I got home from work. It was the beginning and ending of my night.

I decided to increase the recipe to feed the office. Don’t do that unless you are crazy or own a professional bakery. I let the dough rise for two hours and this was the result:

I know. It’s huge. I had to tackle that dough into 3 separate ring shaped cakes. Each was filled with a pecan, raisin and brown sugar mixture- with a little butter for good measure. The result?

At this point it was nearing 11 pm. I had an unbaked King cake on my hands. And I was tired. I had to let the formed cake sit for 45 minutes before baking. Waiting is super fun.

Words cannot begin to explain what this thing looked like when it emerged from the oven. It was actually 3 loaves. Enough to feed a small army, or some really hungry Mardi Gras celebrators. But it looked and smelled incredible. See for yourself.


I don’t even need to share the recipe because let’s be honest – you’re never gonna make it.

It was good. Really good. And it was way too much for my office. Did we finish it a mere two days later for a sizeable snack? Of course. They say whoever finds the baby Jesus has to bring the next king cake. I decided to put a plastic coin in my cake as a sub.

I’ll bet you can guess who found it.

It’s Never Too Late for Easy Dark Chocolate Shortbread

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Some things in life are just too easy. Peanut butter and chocolate covered pretzels. Getting your mom to help you late-night bake. Baking delicious holiday-themed shortbread. Making your co-workers happy with food. Okay, some things are just too easy for me, I guess. Things that are not too easy? Writing on your blog. But even though I haven’t written in awhile, this recipe is definitely not outdated. Do you like delicious things? I thought so. Keep reading.

During holiday time I needed the perfect present for my co-workers, and it only took me seconds to decide on a mini bag of treats for each of them. I was a little over-ambitious at first, hoping to include homemade truffles, fudge and caramel popcorn. Maybe next year, guys. I ended up making chocolate bark with an Oreo topping, peanut butter and chocolate covered pretzels and, of course, peppermint dark chocolate shortbread. No, I am not a Keebler Elf as my boss hypothesized. But it did take awhile to make all of this. The easiest part? The shortbread of course.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread
Adapted from Tea and Limpets

2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
About 3 crushed peppermint candy canes
2 cups dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate **

**The key to this shortbread is using really good quality chocolate. I recommend buying the large bars from Trader Joe’s or investing in some Ghirardelli chips.

1. Cream together butter and sugar

2. Add in vanilla and egg until fully mixed.

3. Mix in flour until incorporated.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread cookie dough onto baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

5. Leave the oven on and immediately spread the chocolate chunks on top. Put back in the oven until a few minutes until just melted.

6. Remove from oven and spread chocolate with spatula. Top right away with broken candy cane pieces.

7. Allow to thoroughly cool. Then, use a pizza cutter to break into pieces. Note: this delicious shortbread tastes better refrigerated.

You can top them with sea salt, nuts, other candy…just about anything. Needless to say it was a huge success. So much so that I made them again as a holiday gift for a friend (hey, hungry, hungry hipster). I also had to prepare an item for our potluck at work. And I tried my very best to outdo everyone else. It ended up pretty well I think from the responses I got.

Pumpkin and chocolate swirl cheesecake bars with Oreo crust. Really, really good. Really good. Thanks Martha.

And so, I dedicate this post to the one and only Charlene Schuman, the real Keebler Elf, without whom I probably would have been able to make all this but wouldn’t have had a kitchen to bake it in. Or ingredients. Or baking tools. It’s a long list – basically she’s pretty cool.

Top Secret Spinach-Artichoke Dip Recipe

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I’ve been getting a little behind on my blog updates – considering it’s now Christmas and I’m updating for Thanksgiving. Don’t judge. I have a life. I mean…I’m too busy baking to write on my blog. Honest truth. I did promise a Thanksgiving recap, and it was a really memorable Thanksgiving. Everyone stepped up their game, and I mean aside from myself. We started off with…

this Raspberry Coffee Cake for breakfast – it’s even more incredible than it looks.

I may have woken up extremely early to sneak into the kitchen to make it. Mission accomplished. Check out the super-easy recipe from Buns in My Oven – and if you don’t have cream cheese like me, you can substitute with something like sour cream.

Then, just a few hours later, we moved on to the appetizers. If I do say so myself, my baked spinach artichoke dip was the hit of the evening. I doubled the recipe for my 9 x 13 inch pan since we had almost 30 hungry guests, but here’s the basic recipe:

 

Marly’s Spinach-Artichoke Dip
1 8 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach
1 can of quartered artichoke hearts
1/4 of a yellow onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of cream cheese
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan
1/2 cup of cubed pepper jack
1. Saute chopped onion in olive oil until browned.
2. Saute spinach in a separate pan.
3. In large bowl, mix can of artichokes (drain first), onions, spinach, mayonnaise, cream cheese, garlic, 3/4 of parmesan and pepper jack cheeses. Add salt & pepper to taste.
5. Cover mixture in pan with more parmesan and pepper jack cheese
6. Cook at 350 degrees F for 25 min. For 2-3 minutes, or until browned, put dip under the broiler. Be careful not to burn.
This is also a great recipe to make in mini ramekins, especially since the crunchy top is the best part. This dip is seriously good.

The spread. Check out my corn souffle, recipe courtesy of Chef Jamie Rotter, in the front. So good.

The Savory Acorn Squash and Ricotta Tart was delicious…but a lot of work.Thanks Food & Wine Mag.

The piece de resistance was supposed to be my apple tart from my fave blog, Smitten Kitchen. But, unfortunately, my practice you saw on my Thanksgiving preview was just way better. Proof that using farm-fresh apples and making crust the day-of really is worth it. It still was pretty good, though. And it looked delicious enough that one unassuming guest broke off a chunk before dessert was served.

 

There’s still a lot to catch up on. Because apparently all I’ve done this past month is bake and cook. More to come soon!