Hot Cocoa Cookie Cups

This is what winning looks like:

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Well, not that.

That looks like third place.

And only if I was registered as a walker instead of a runner.

This is what winning really looks like:

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Those are hot cocoa cookie cups.

And they are the best.

I have evidence.

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Hot Cocoa Cookie Cups are everything you love about Christmas sweets all wrapped up into one little chocolate package.

Hot chocolate cookies.

Vanilla Whipped Buttercream Frosting.

Rich, chocolate ganache.

I shouldn’t even share this recipe because it’s the best damn thing to come out of my kitchen since, well, the last winning recipe.

Peppermint whoopie pies

But in the spirit of the season, I will share the recipe with you because you simply must make them.

Oh, by the way, set aside about, oh,  six hours or so,  because these babies are a little labor intensive.

I started by organizing everything I would need for all three cookie components.

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The cookie recipe I used, Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, was lightly adapted from my all-time favorite cookie book.

Vegan cookies invade your cookie jar

To make the

Hot Cocoa Cookies:

1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons non-dairy milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetend cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, mix the oil, sugar, syrup, milk, and extracts.

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Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

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Mix until a pliable dough forms (add additional flour by the tablespoon, if needed).

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Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let chill while you prepare the frosting.

I used a basic buttercream recipe directly from my second favorite book:

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

For the

Vanilla Whipped Buttercream Frosting:

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine

3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup non-dairy milk

Beat the shortening and margarine together until creamy and fluffily. Add in the powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, alternating with a small amount of milk. Add the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

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Now, put the frosting in the fridge until ready to use.

Remove the cookie dough from the fridge.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll tablespoon amount into balls and place in mini-muffin pan.

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Press down with your thumb to create the cookie cup.

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Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

They will puff up when they bake, but I pressed them back down at about 8 minutes and finished cooking for an additional two minutes.

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*Tidbit: It’s better for them to be a touch underdone so the sides do not get too hard. Check them at 8 and 10 minutes.*

Remove from pan and allow to cool.

While they are cooling, prepare your ganache, also taken directly from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

To make the

Chocolate Ganache:

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used dark chocolate almond)

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a small saucepan, bring almond milk to a gentle boil. Remove from the heat and add the semi-sweet chocolate and maple syrup. Stir until completely smooth.

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To assemble the cookie cups:

Add a small spoonful of the ganache to each cookie up.

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Pipe or spoon in buttercream frosting.

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Drizzle with additional ganache.

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I added a small peppermint stick to half.

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I added these cupcake toppers to the other half for the peppermint haters.

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Here they are before the competition:

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These cookie cups are definitely winners.

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I hope you decide to devour some!

In case you’re wondering why I walked my 5k, it’s because there are two people in this photo!

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You can learn all about the Peanut Baby I’ve been cooking up at

www.pbjandshay.com

Happy Cooking!

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The Cookie Police

I don’t have a lot of personal experience with the police.

Except for that time I was questioned about credit card theft.

(It wasn’t me)

And the time I was caught underage drinking in college.

(Honesty is NOT the best policy)

((Run like hell is))

And the time I got into a car accident….with a bus.

(I didn’t see it?)

The woman on the bus that sued me might have needed a police officer.

To stop me from punching her in her “whiplashed” face.

Just so you know ma’am, suing three people in the same year seems slightly suspicious.

I suggest you take your 100 grand and get right with God.

But I digress.

When the police aren’t chasing around drunken college idiots and writing up accidents involving  major city transportation systems, they are doing very important things.

Like capturing the true credit card thieves.

(I told you it wasn’t me)

They also pretty much save the world on a pretty regular basis.

The nature of my job actually does require a fair amount of police interaction, and I thought it would be nice if I could find a way to say thank you for all of their hard work and dedication.

And for not making spend a night in the drunk tank.

The agency I work for was kind enough to let me hold a cookie drive (RAK!) so that I could deliver batches of homemade cookies to each of the state police troops in the county.

Now this is a big, fat cliche, but when I think of cops, I think of coffee.

I mean, they need a good cup of joe to carry them through exhausting shifts of busting bad guys.

Espresso is nice, but I have a feeling police try to avoid things that come in shots.

Like espresso.

And bullets.

The solution?

A cookie with two kinds of chocolate, coffee, and freshly chopped coffee beans mixed right into the batter.

It is the perfect balance of  bitter coffee and sweet cookie.

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MOCHA JAVA COOKIES

½ cup non-dairy butter

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon chia seeds + ¼ cup brewed coffee

2 squares (2 oz) semi-sweet chocolate, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼  cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼-1/2 cup chopped coffee beans

Chia seeds are much cooler than chia pets. The seeds offer fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, and heart healthy omega -3's. Chia pets just die because no one EVER remembers to water the chia pet.

Combine chia seeds and coffee and set aside for five minutes to gel.

When combined with liquid, chia seeds make an excellent replacement for eggs in vegan baking.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

For a chewy, brownie-like cookie, reduce flour by 1/4 cup.

In a large bowl, cream the non-dairy butter and sugar.

Add chia mixture, melted chocolate and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.

Add dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Fold in chopped coffee beans.

Since the coffee flavor is prominent in this cookie, make sure to use a high quality bean. If you have extra because you don't regularly use whole beans, you can put the leftovers in glass vases and have a great smelling centerpiece.

Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on a cookie sheet.

Tidbit: These look much better if you take the time to roll them into balls instead of just dropping the dough on the cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

The cookies will be very soft when they come out of the oven. Let them cool completely before shoving them in your face.

Bag the evidence.

Don’t forget the K-9 unit.

Thank you to all of the men and women who work hard to keep our community safe.

We appreciate all that you do!

You have the right to remain RAK’D!

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Dreaming of a White Christmas

One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies is White Christmas.

I tear up every time I see Bing Crosby in the battle field serenading his entire division with memories of the glistening white stuff while bombs are exploding just beyond their camp.

In real life, the war in Iraq might be over but that doesn’t necessarily mean that troops will make it home in time to see their families for the holidays.

Even stateside, there are thousands of soldiers that will only get to dream of a white Christmas.

Dover Air Force Base hosts Operation Cookie Drop every year so that the young Airman that can’t make it home for the holidays can enjoy some homemade treats.

 I wanted to bring them something they don’t get to see in Delaware very often.

Snow.

The classic sugar cookie gets revamped with coconut extract and flaked coconut so that you can stop dreaming about a white Christmas and start eating it.

Snowflake Cookies

(Vegan)

½ cup vegan margarine (I used Smartbalance Organic)

1 ½ cup confectioners sugar

¼ cup coconut milk + 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

½ teaspoon coconut extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Mix coconut milk and cider vinegar. Set aside. Beat margarine and confectioners sugar together for 3-4 minutes. Add coconut milk and extract. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir to combine.

If dough is too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for one hour or overnight.

Roll to 1/4″ thickness onto surface dusted with confectioners sugar.

Dusting your surface with confectioners sugar instead of flour ensures that you will get a sweet cookie that's not too dry.

Cut with snowflake shaped cookie cutter.

I wanted to make gingerbread men holding M-16's but I couldn't find a semi-automatic cookie cutter.

Repeat until dough is gone.

Place two inches apart on cookie sheet.

Tidbit: These cookies only need to bake for a short time otherwise you will end up with a crispy cookie. If the bottoms are brown, you've cooked them too long. They should look doughy and under-baked when they come out of the oven.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 6 minutes.

Let cool for five minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Coconut Icing:

2 cups confectioners sugar

3-4 tablespoons coconut milk

¼ teaspoon coconut extract

1 cup flaked coconut (for garnish)

Mix sugar, coconut milk, and extract. Add additional milk if necessary.

Spread each cookie with icing and top with flaked coconut.

Snowflake Cookies

Full Recipe

½ cup vegan margarine (I used Smartbalance Organic)

1 ½ cup confectioners sugar

¼ cup coconut milk + 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

½ teaspoon coconut extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Mix coconut milk and cider vinegar. Set aside. Beat margarine and confectioners sugar together for 3-4 minutes. Add coconut milk and extract. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir to combine.

If dough is too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for one hour or overnight.

Roll to 1/4″ thickness onto surface dusted with confectioners sugar.

Cut with snowflake shaped cookie cutter. Repeat until dough is gone.

Place two inches apart on cookie sheet.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 6 minutes.

Let cool for five minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

 Coconut Icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

3-4 tablespoons coconut milk

¼ teaspoon coconut extract

1 cup flaked coconut (for garnish)

Spread each cookie with icing and top with flaked coconut.

Thank you to all those who serve.

May God Bless you and keep you safe this holiday season.

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Orange Crush

Me: Knock knock

You: Who’s there?

Me: Banana

You: Banana who?

Me: Knock knock

You: Who’s there?

Me: Banana

You: Banana who?

Me: Knock knock

You: Shut the eff up.

No!

Wait!

I was going to say something clever like ‘orange you glad its fall?’

I have an affinity for orange foods.

At one point during my last grocery adventure, I peered down into the cart and it was filled almost entirely with orange items:

Cantelope

Papaya

Oranges

Carrots

Peaches

Pumpkin

Squash (butternut, acorn and spaghetti)

Sweet Potatoes

I had to buy some parsley just to balance out the color a little bit.

I hope you like orange as much as I do because it’s going to be a regular in the fall line-up.

I welcomed September with my all-time favorite soup recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is a little labor intensive, but the extra time and effort results in a velvety smooth and flavorful soup. The tartness from the apples and cider balance out the butternut squash nicely.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple

(Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten)

2 large butternut squash

2 Honey Crisp apples, peeled and sliced (or Granny Smith)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, sliced

2 cups vegetable stock

1-2 cups apple cider

2 teaspoons curry powder

salt and pepper to taste

To prepare squash:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half length-wise and remove seeds. Place flesh side down on a baking sheet. Pour 1-2 cups of water on baking sheet (make sure it has a raised lip), being careful not to spill when placing in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing skin.

Tidbit: Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out.

While squash is cooking:

Saute onion and apple in a large stock pot with oil until translucent, using a little vegetable stock if necessary. Add butternut squash and 1-2 cups vegetable stock, stirring to combine. Blend mixture using immersion blender or blender (will need to be done in batches) and return to stove to simmer. Add curry and 1-2 cups apple cider until desired consistency.  Serves 8-10.

I took a break from soup making to indulge in a pumpkin pie smoothie.

1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1/2 cup pumpkin puree + 1 tsp molasses + sprinkle pumpkin pie spice. Blend. Feel free to up the sweet factor by using sweetened vanilla yogurt and extra molasses.

Later,  I tried my hand at creating my own recipe for pumpkin cookies.

I envisioned some sort of crazy pumpkin coconut concoction with a “pumped up frosting.”

I couldn’t decide which version I liked the best so I present you with

Pumpkin Cookies 3 Ways

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (ya, know, like  the good ol’ Libby’s kind)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut or canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine sugars, oil, pumpkin and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Roll about a tablespoon sized amount of dough into a ball and place on greased cookie sheet. Use hand to flatten slightly. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Makes 32 cookies.

The cinnamon scented cookies are sweet enough on their own but here’s 2 fun frosting additions.

Pumpkin Glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Mix thoroughly and spread on cooled cookies.

Pumpkin Coconut Frosting:

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon coconut  or canola oil

Mix thoroughly and spread on cooled cookies. Top with additional coconut if desired.

*Note: I did not frost all of the cookies because I wanted the variety. You may need to double glaze or frosting recipes.

Clockwise from left: Pumpkin cookie with coconut frosting, pumpkin cookie with pumpkin glaze, plain pumpkin cookie.

Tidbits: If you can not find whole wheat pastry flour, go ahead and use all-purpose flour.

Coconut oil has a very distinct flavor and contains a higher percentage of saturated fat. Use canola oil for a more neutral taste and a dose of heart healthy fat.

Now excuse me while I go light the 9 pumpkin scented candles strategically placed around the house and gorge myself on orange hued food.