Christmas is officially one week away and my mind is abuzz with all the wonderful things that the holiday brings. Back when I was little, the week before Christmas brought thoughts of Santa Claus and the gifts I might find under our tree Christmas morning. My cousins, brother and I would go back and forth all week discussing the gifts we hoped Santa would bring us on December 25th. And finally, after weeks of anticipation, Christmas morning would arrive and my brother, Sean and I would rush down the stairs consumed with excitement. Nowadays, the excitement revolving around Christmas has nothing to do with gifts. Night after night of family parties and extended time with the people I love is what makes me look forward to this time of year so much. Just like every year before, the next few days will be filled with laughter, family, and of course, food.
As I mentioned before, the Christmas season often means a few days of baking dozens of cookies to give to family and friends. And each year I like to try a few new flavors and varieties. Sometimes I’m drawn to more unique flavor combinations or crazy ingredients. But this year, I decided to try a few classic Christmas cookie flavors. And nothing is more classic than a soft gingersnap cookie subtly spiced and sprinkled with granulated sugar. I found this recipe over at Two Peas and their Pod and was delighted with the result. The recipe yields three dozen soft gingersnap cookies, perfect for the most wonderful time of the year.
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.
2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
3. Add in the egg and vanilla extra. Mix until well combined.
4. Add in the molasses. Mix until the molasses is combined with the other ingredients.
5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture.
6. Form the dough into Tablespoon sized balls. Roll the dough in white sugar.
7. Place each dough ball on a greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly
9. Bake for 8 minutes at 375
This weekend was filled with butter, sugar and buttercream frosting. Because this was the weekend that my mom and I made dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies to share with our family and friends. Every December we spend an entire Saturday dusting the kitchen with flour and sugar while watching White Christmas. And though I have quite a few new Christmas cookie recipes to share, I thought I would share one last healthy recipe before the December sugar coma ensues. This recipe for Classic Banana Bread comes from Cooking Light. It is low in calories and fat and is a perfect use for those few browned bananas you have lying around. I did jazz the original recipe up a bit by adding a brown sugar topping. The topping forms a sweet crust to the soft bread and adds an extra little punch of sweetness. This bread is great with a smear of peanut butter but is perfectly sweet just on its own.
Now let the holidays begin!
Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf, adapted slightly from Cooking Light
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping:
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients until just combined (flour through cinnamon)
In a large bowl, beat sugar & butter together until creamy
Beat in eggs, one at a time
Add bananas, yogurt & vanilla to butter mixture and beat until well blended
Add flour mixture slowly and mix until just combined
Pour banana bread batter into a greased loaf pan
For the topping, mix butter, flour & sugar together until crumbled and sprinkle over banana bread batter
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Lately I’ve been digging the taste and texture of baking with whole wheat flour. It’s nutty, and slightly sweet and it reminds me of my first business venture. That’s right. I once owned a small business. Impressed? You shouldn’t be. I was 9 and after reading an inspiring issue of American Girl magazine I decided it was about time I started making my own money. To buy important things like Lisa Frank stickers. And candy. Lots of candy. And seeing as my Train sisters were also very pro-candy…I enlisted them in the start up of my brilliant business idea. And what was my incredibly innovative and well thought out small business? Selling homemade dog treats. We made tiny whole wheat dog snacks and named ourselves “The Barkery.” Cute name, right? Yeah well…I stole it from a tv show. And I also stole the recipes from that American Girl magazine. So maybe innovation and creativity were not yet the name of my game. The Train sisters and I went door to door toting our bags of homemade dog treats offering them to our dog loving neighbors, and then set up Lemonade stand style on the corner of our street. We made a grand total of $0 on our first day of business. The next day we gave up and went back to playing dress-up and religiously reading Little House on the Prairie. But even though my first bout with entrepreneurship wasn’t exactly a success, I still love baking with whole wheat flour. And this recipe is far superior to any of those pathetic little dog treats. These muffins are lightly spiced and incredibly moist and tender. I used some healthy baking substitutes like mashed banana and egg whites to cut back on fat, so these muffins would be a great healthy breakfast to start the day. And the juicy pieces of fresh nectarine lend an unexpected sweetness to the batter. I wonder if we would yield some better business results if I grabbed the girls and went door to door with these muffins. On second thought….I think I’ll just enjoy them myself.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 tablespoon light agave nectar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg white
1 nectarine, chopped into bite sized pieces
In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger & brown sugar together
In a separate bowl, mash banana, and stir in agave nectar, vanilla, oil & egg white
Add wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined
Stir in chopped nectarine
Divide batter into 8 muffin cups and bake at 350 for 15 minutes
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