Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Peppermint

Celebrations require happy sweet desserts, and this is a perfect winter celebration treat. One of my favorite activities before returning home after visiting the family is planning what food we will eat, particularly what dessert I want to make. I forget when it started, but at some point I stopped buying desserts and just started making almost all of the ones we eat. Occasionally K wants a certain ice cream or maybe we are out at a nice bakery and pick up a few treats. In general, though, we have gotten used to homemade treats. I think he is okay with it, and I like it. It does mean that I am a BAR (Baking Aisle Regular) which makes me a bit cranky around the holidays. All of the “tourists” come to the aisle and hog prime locations near chocolate chips or confectioner’s sugar. Then, they refuse to budge or make room so that I can pick up one of my basic pantry needs. Ugh! Well, unless your pantry needs some stocking, you should be able to make these without buying anything fancy. The peppermint is super refreshing and perfect for winter, but you can also opt to leave it out. As in, leave out the chocolate entirely, or even just use regular chocolate.

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Apple Turnovers

During my Thanksgiving visit, I made an apple crumb pie for my dad, a second pie crust from the same dough, and I still had dough left! K had the brilliant idea for me to try and make apple turnovers. I had never made them before, but decided that it would not require much waste if they did not turn out. They ended up being amazing. I loved how puffy the dough got when baked.

This is a loose recipe because you may have more or less dough than I did. I ended up having too much filling, so I scaled it down a bit for you. We ate the remaining filling on the side with our turnovers because it was still tasty, even without the crust. You could also reserve the filling for the next day and make some more dough. If you want to go all out and make a bunch of turnovers, just scale accordingly.

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Topic-Changing-Thursdays: Happy Holidays!

In between two apple posts, here is a topic changer! I wanted to post about my trip back home and holiday activities to date. How is your holiday season going? After arriving back in Maryland just over a week ago, I am finally adjusted to the time zone. It was time to get ready for traditions, family, and food!

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Apple Crumb Pie

Apparently I’ve been making a bunch of food recently, so this is actually the dessert I made for my dad for my Thanksgiving visit. I am visiting my family again for Christmas, which means any Christmas baking will have to be posted after the fact. Particularly because some of their gifts are food, and I don’t want to ruin the surprises. For instance, my dad is getting another “dessert” (I already told him it’s more savory than sweet this month) that needs to be made in person. Supposedly it is best when made fresh, so we’ll see how it goes! It will be my first time making it, so hopefully it goes ok. For November’s dessert, I had to schedule the Apple Crumb Pie for a visit because there was no way that was going to ship properly. I was a little concerned about making the pie crust at my dad’s, but it ended up working out fine. Using my mom’s marble slab was nice since his counters aren’t granite like mine.

 

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Frying Donuts

What better way to celebrate Christmas Eve than by frying up some donuts? You could even work it into the Hanukkah traditions with the oil, too!

Hopefully it’s okay to admit in a public blog that this was the first time I ever deep fried anything. The following will not be a recipe for donuts because I was fortunate and did not have to make the donut batter from scratch, too, besides having to fry them. My friend Lisa visited Hawaii and brought back a mix from one of her favorite bakeries. You could either make bread with it (tempting) or malasadas (yeasted donuts popular in Hawaii, but apparently Portugese in origin). The safe part of me wanted to make the bread, but the more adventurous side of me wanted to take this chance to make donuts without as much fear of wasting everything. I figured, if it did not work, it would be a problem of frying and not the recipe. I decided to make a half batch so that if I messed up, I could still try again with another batch. And, if they turned out, bonus donuts! So, it was time to fry.

One of the main reasons I haven’t fried before is I needed a wire strainer/wok strainer. But, we were not able to find one that was up to my husband’s Asian standards for quality. Finally, while at a local restaurant supply store, we managed to find one like this here for just $3.00! The handle was a bit long, so it’s a little tricky to use, but for three bucks, I was willing to give it a try. Be sure to get all of your supplies ready.

If you keep reading, you can find out how I made vanilla sugar…

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Sometimes baking seems like such magic and it transforms something so plain into something really cool and yummy. That is how I feel about crinkle cookies, in particular. I have had many bad crinkles that are dried out and lacking chocolate flavor. After I had some in Maui at our hotel, I was able to rediscover them. When I came across this recipe I was excited to see how gooey the cookies looked. I wanted soft crinkles that were fudgy, and these taste just like brownies. I love how these cookies start as simple balls that turn into beautiful flat cookies with ridges. Each time I get excited about it.

 

They also strike me as such holiday cookies. You always see them around December, and it seemed right to make them. We were enjoying our Seattle winter and are now back across the country visiting family. Here are a couple pictures from our last weekend of the year in Seattle.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

 

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A Buche de Noel I did not make, but it was delicious!

A Buche de Noel I did not make, but it was delicious!

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Slow Cooker Moroccan Style Chicken and Vegetables with Quinoa Risotto

I have been making a version of this dish for a few years now. It makes a bunch of food, so as a single girl I had lots of leftovers. Now, it does not extend quite so far, but you can easily add more meat to make up for all of the sides in this. Because, oh yes, this is a one-dish wonder. You could leave off the quinoa risotto entirely, or use couscous, OR you could go nuts and add some starchy food into the slow cooker, like potatoes. I think sweet potatoes would go really nicely in it.

 

Originally, this dish was modified from a Good Housekeeping issue (September 2007), but my husband decided recently that he is not a big fan of butternut squash (the main star of the dish before). So, I opted to turn it into a carrot dish. There is a bit more liquid, so you could either use less chicken broth or use a butternut squash (about 1.5 pounds) instead of the carrots.

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