The Best Gingerbread Cookies

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking Gingerbread cookies a few days before Thanksgiving.  I can’t remember the exact year this tradition began, only because I can’t remember a holiday season without it.  However, judging from the home videos that show my little sister standing on a kitchen chair, her belly hanging over her thermal-underwear pajamas as she helped to roll out the dough, I’d say that it has been a long time.  Maybe since I was as young as seven…

It’s a tradition that my sister and I have kept alive, even now that we’re adults.  So even if the environment may have changed (now that we’ve set up our cinnamon and flour camp in my own, personal kitchen), it’s something that we continue to embrace every year.  And to be completely honest, it just doesn’t feel (or smell) like Thanksgiving until we’ve baked up a batch of Gingerbread cookies just a few days before the holiday!

We’ve tried several recipes over the years, but this Pillsbury recipe (located in a holiday booklet that I purchased back in 2000) has always been our favorite.  So we always go back to it, and we’ve stopped trying other recipes.  We’re always left disappointed…  This recipe just has that perfect crunch, and it has the most delicious balance of sweetness and holiday spices.  So for 14 years, this has been it.

This recipe is our favorite!

I even used it for a cookie swap one year, and I was nearly overwhelmed by the amount of women who wanted a copy of the recipe afterward.

In years past, we’ve been rather creative (if ‘creative’ is an appropriate word for our creations) with our frosting décor.  There was even that one year during which I had a case of Hawaii fever, and many of my gingerbread cookies were left with swimming trunks and bikinis.  My sister even decorated a pirate.

But at the end of the day, the best way to eat these cookies is with a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar.  (A few mini, chocolate chips as buttons never hurts anything, trust me on that).  But keeping the cookies simple –  so that you can really taste the molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves – is the best way to enjoy them.

Seriously, trust me!  You won’t be at all disappointed!!  🙂

Gingerbread Cookies (Recipe from Pillsbury)

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

3 tablespoons molasses

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mini chocolate chips, if desired

1/2 cup powdered sugar

 

DIRECTIONS:

In large bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, the butter and molasses until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and milk. Stir in flour and all remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and 1/2 cup powdered sugar to form a smooth dough. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1/2 hour for easier handling.

Heat oven to 350°F. On floured surface, roll out portions of dough at a time.  (The thinner the dough is rolled out, the crunchier the cookies will be).  Cut with floured 2 1/2-inch gingerbread boy or girl cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. If desired, decorate cookie cutouts with chocolate chips for buttons.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Sprinkle powdered sugar over each cookie after cooled.

Enjoy!!

Freezer Meal Reviews – Chicken Cordon Bleu

Since I have a itty-bitty baby arriving in 4 weeks (or less if my mom is right and baby decides to arrive early), I’ve decided to tackle as many freezer meals over the next two weeks as I possibly can.  The goal is to not have to cook much at all during the month of December, so that I can focus on quality time with my newborn… and rest.  My mom has already assured me that she’ll be making us some fresh meals, and a couple of friends have also offered to cook us a meal.  So if I can supplement that with several freezer meals, we’ll be good to go!

Or, I guess more accurately, we’ll be good to stay all snuggled up at home.  🙂

I’ve actually never made freezer meals before, so I’m quite new at this.  Therefore, I can’t guarantee you that any of the freezer meal recipes I post will be worth eating once they have been thawed and heated.  😉  So, that being said, once the hubby and I have actually tasted the freezer meals and can accurately review them, I’ll add a review section at the bottom of the recipe to let you all know how it was!


Generally, I try to avoid canned soups such as Campbell’s at all costs; because – let’s face it – they’re not exactly made of ingredients that you can find in your pantry, refrigerator, or garden.  But I do make an exception every once in awhile for convenience sake.  I figured that eating it a few times a year won’t hurt us, especially if I’m cooking from scratch the rest of the time.

So I was really excited when I came across this Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe from Freezer Meals for Us.  I mean, you can’t get any easier than this recipe, especially since it doesn’t have to be baked in advance.  There’s no chopping… no stirring… no measuring.

Just layer, pour, wrap, and toss into the freezer.

Is this recipe too good to be true?  I’ll find out in December.  But for now, I’m pretty excited that I was able to get a freezer meal into the freezer in less than 15 minutes!

The only thing I changed was that I actually used 8 slices of Swiss cheese and 8 slices of ham.  (The chicken breasts I bought were fairly large, and I wanted to make sure that they were covered well).   Then, since I only needed each meal to serve 2, I divided the chicken into two 8×8 foil pans and just topped the chicken with the soup, cheese, ham, and then bread crumbs.  This way, Nate and I can get two separate meals out of this one recipe.  🙂

Score!

 


 

Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 Chicken breast
1 can Cream of chicken soup (I used a 30z can)
4 slices Swiss cheese
4 slices Ham
3 oz Bread crumps

Lay chicken breast (uncooked) in pan. Pour cream of chicken soup on top. Layer ham and swiss cheese. Top with bread crumbs.  Cover with foil (shiny side down) and back at 400 for 1 1/2 hours or until no longer pink inside.  I like to take lid off foil the last 8 minutes of baking.


Recipe Review:  Coming Soon!

 

 

Souper Sunday – Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

This soup is simple but delicious.  I don’t know that I’d say it’s my favorite butternut squash soup ever…  But it’s probably the easiest to make, thanks to the slow cooker doing most of the work.  It has a nice touch of sweetness from the maple syrup and fall spices.  Although it’s not rich, it is very healthy.  I think that maybe it was a little sweet for my preference, as I was looking for a squash soup that was a little more savory with just a touch of sweetness.  But I enjoyed it and would make it again when I needed an easy, crockpot soup recipe.

(I mention that my parents and sister absolutely LOVE this recipe!!!  I gave them some leftovers in cute mason jars, and my mom called me immediately after trying it and gushed that it tasted as though it were from a restaurant).  So it comes down to personal preference and is definitely worth trying!

This soup is best served with a hearty sandwich on a chilly day.  🙂  And it makes for yummy leftovers!!


 

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup  (from Two Peas and Their Pod)

For the Butternut Squash Soup:
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
1 large apple, peeled and chopped (I used Granny Smith)
2 (14 oz) cans low sodium vegetable broth  (I actually used chicken broth instead)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add the onion, carrots, butternut squash, and apple to the slow cooker. Pour the vegetable broth over all of the ingredients. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

2. Once vegetables are cooked and soft, puree the soup using an immersion blender. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup to a blender (in batches) and puree until smooth. Pour the soup back into the slow cooker and season with spices and maple syrup.

Enjoy!

Souper Sunday – Corn Chowder

I decided to start up my Souper Sunday challenge again, during which I make a different soup recipe every Sunday.  Both my husband and I adore a steaming bowl of soup for dinner, especially in the fall and winter.  And this challenge, which I usually begin every September through late spring, encourages me to make a wide assortment of them.

Corn chowder was the first on my must-make list, because – to be honest – I’ve yet to find the perfect corn chowder recipe.  So I wanted to tackle a tough, but potentially delicious, recipe first!  🙂

Paula Deen has yet to let me down, so I decided to give her Chef Jack’s corn chowder recipe a try.  And honestly, it was the BEST corn chowder recipe I’ve made yet.  It was creamy, thick, and chockful of corn flavor.  Every bit the comfort food it should be.

I made a few variations to the original by substituting whole milk for the cream and cutting the butter in half.  (Oh, and I added a few pieces of bacon for good measure).  🙂  Sooooo delicious!

Paula Deen’s corn chowder (with a few modifications.  Find the original recipe here)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 small onion, diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups white corn kernels, fresh
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt  butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook until the roux is lightly browned; set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, combine the corn, bacon, and chicken stock in another saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the boiling stock with the corn (a little at a time) into the saucepan with the roux, whisking briskly so it doesn’t lump. Return the skillet to the heat and bring to a boil. The mixture should become very thick.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the whole milk; stir it into the thick corn mixture. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper, to taste.  Enjoy!!!

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes

When asked to bake Oreo cupcakes for a friend, I decided to doctor up a boxed, yellow cake mix and to add some cookie crumbs to a homemade vanilla buttercream frosting.  The end result was a delicious, cookies-and-cream inspired cupcake!  Mini oreo’s added the perfect (and easy) decorating touch to finish them off.

If you like Oreo’s, you’ll love these cupcakes!!  🙂


 

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes (Inspired by The First Year Blog)

Oreo’s

Box yellow cake mix (and all ingredients required)

1.  Mix together yellow cake mix and all the ingredients called for on the back of the box (eggs, water, and oil).  Crush 15 oreo’s and mix into cake mix.

2.  Split 24 oreo’s and place half (the frosting half… and frosting side up) in cupcake tins, topping with the cake mix.  (Save the top portion of the cookies for the frosting).  Bake cupcakes according to box directions.  Let cool before frosting.


 

 

Cookies and Cream Buttercream Frosting (Inspired by Williams Sonoma)

  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 1/2 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Crushed Oreo cookies (crush about 15 cookie halves… and use the half pieces without frosting)

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners¿ sugar, butter, the 4 1/2 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks.  Stir in cookie crumbs.

 

 

Homemade Chocolate Cupcakes – From Scratch

Over the years, I’ve been on the search for delicious, no-fail cake recipes to replace the boxed versions I used to habitually reach for.  Let’s face it, most pre-packaged desserts are teeming with ingredients not meant for human consumption.  But, on the other hand, they taste oh-so-good!   😉

I’ve made several cake and cupcake recipes from scratch now, and I’ve been disappointed with most.  They’re too dry…  Too crumbly…  Too different (and not in a good way) than the familiar taste of cake I was craving.  And so, my search has continued.

And then I tried this chocolate cake and frosting recipe from Hershey’s.

The mix is quick to put together and no-fail.  The cupcakes come out moist and rich with chocolate flavor.  And the frosting is fudgy and easy to work with.

Although I still have a ways to go before I can swear off boxed cake mixes, I can assure you that I won’t be buying one of the chocolate variety any longer.  These are just SO delicious!!!


 

Hershey’s Chocolate Cupcakes and Frosting

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).

3.  Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

 

PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa

3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.

Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Cupcake Frosting

If someone asked me to choose my absolute-favorite, dessert flavor, I’d have a very difficult time doing so.  But I do know, without a doubt, that lemon would make the list for top contenders.  That tart blend of sweet and sour just hits the spot every time.

It’s confection perfection!  🙂

My lemon cupcakes were begging for that extra lemony-touch, so I decided to double-the-lemon-flavor.  Lemon frosting on lemon cupcakes.  Be still my heart!

My final pick for the frosting recipe was from Crazy for Crust’s Perfect Triple Lemon Cupcakes.  It was as delicious as
I had hoped it would be.  Tart… sweet… smooth… rich… creamy…  And the perfect topping for lemon cupcakes.

When life gives you lemons, I think that you should definitely try this recipe out!  🙂

 

 

Lemon Buttercream Frosting (by Crazy for Crust)

 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (1 large lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, for desired consistency

 

  • Beat butter until creamy. Beat in salt and 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time until it’s all added. Beat in lemon juice and zest. Add 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream and mix until smooth. Add more cream as needed for desired consistency. Frosting can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Make sure to let it come to room temperature before using.
  • Frost cupcakes by placing frosting in a pastry bag.