Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stout Gingerbread Cake with Citrus Sauce

I've been meaning to write this post all week but just haven't had the chance to get around to it until now! Aren't things supposed to be less busy after Christmas?? :)

As you may be able to tell from the picture above with the Christmas plate, this Stout Gingerbread Cake with Citrus Sauce is the dessert I made for our family's Christmas dinner (which we enjoyed on Christmas Eve). It was definitely a winner! The recipe comes from Cooking Light, and I found it online at My Recipes. If you click on that link, it'll bring you to the original recipe. And in the reviews, you might just see a review by someone you know. ;) My family and I liked this recipe so much that I thought it deserved a rating from me online!

Although the recipe calls for a stout beer, such as Guinness, I used the beer pictured here, Hibernator by Long Trail, that I picked up right at the awesome Long Trail Brewery in Vermont on my drive home to New York for the holiday. This beer is a Scottish ale, which is a style that's on the darker, maltier side. I figured this would work just fine in place of a stout. Basically, what I needed was a beer that wasn't overly hoppy and/or bitter. A Scottish ale fit the bill perfectly! And coincidentally, if you're a craft beer enthusiast, I'd recommend trying Hibernator if you haven't yet. It's quite a delicious beer and gets great ratings on It's so delicious, in fact, that I had no problem drinking the beer that was remaining (around 10:30 AM on Christmas Eve morning) after I had added one cup of beer to the recipe. My sis took a picture of me to show I had finished the beer. Can't let a good beer go to waste now, can we? :)

Okay, back to the recipe at hand. Do forgive me for getting off tangent there. But when you're marrying a homebrewer and craft beer lover, and are a craft beer lover yourself, it's really hard not to discuss good beer. :)

Ingredients for Gingerbread:

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 tsp. ground ginger
-1 and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
-1/4 tsp. ground cloves
-3/4 cup sugar
-1/2 cup butter, unsalted and softened
-1 large egg
-1/4 cup molasses
-1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger (I did not add this; instead, I added another 1/4 tsp. of ground ginger)
-1 cup stout beer (or a dark, malty - non bitter or hoppy - beer)

Ingredients for Citrus Sauce:

-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup water
-1 Tbsp. cornstarch
-1 Tbsp. butter
-1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
-1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
-1/4 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with flour. Or, coat it with cooking spray, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and coat paper with cooking spray. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through cloves) in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine the sugar and butter in a large bowl, beating with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat until blended. Beat in the molasses and fresh ginger, if using. Add the flour mixture and beer alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing from pan and cooling completely on wire rack.

To prepare the citrus sauce, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter, stirring until smooth. Stir in rind, juice, and vanilla. Cool to room temperature and serve with gingerbread. 

As you can see, I didn't use a 9-inch round cake pan. Instead, I used my awesome Wilton mini snowflake pan. Isn't it so cute? It gets even cuter once you see the cakes themselves...

Love the four differently shaped snowflakes! The white spots you see on a few of the cakes is just flour from when I sprinkled the pan with flour before filling it with the cake batter.

I sprinkled the cakes with powdered sugar using my mom's sifter... It worked pretty well! I was going for the effect of'd I do?? I had intended to bring home a little shaker that I have with powdered sugar in it that makes sprinkling powdered sugar very easy but I forgot it. The sifter worked great though instead.

To serve the cakes, I cut them in both halves and thirds, to serve people both bigger and smaller pieces. I poured a generous spoonful of the citrus sauce over the cake, and then topped it off with a dollop of cool whip too. Delicious!

The flavors of the cake itself were wonderful, and the lemon sauce was an excellent compliment to the gingerbread. I highly recommend this combination. It was a perfect Christmas dessert, but I also think it would be awesome at Thanksgiving or throughout the colder weather months. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Friday Favorites for the Holidays (4th Edition)

Hello hello, and welcome to my last Friday Favorites before Christmas! And yes, I realize it's Wednesday, not Friday... I wrote this post last night and since it was all ready to go, I thought I'd share it sooner than later in case you want to use any of the ideas I have for you here.

Since Christmas is only a few days away at this point, I was debating what to include in this edition since hopefully you've got most of your homemade treats made and all your gifts purchased and wrapped... What could be left? Hmmm.

Maybe you need a few ideas for simple, tasty appetizers? How about an easy item to include in your Christmas morning breakfast or brunch? I've gathered a few such ideas for you and have shared them below. Oh, and at the very end of this post I have shared a few holiday cocktails that look miiiighty tasty so be sure to read all the way to the bottom. ;)

Appetizer Ideas!

Beer Cheese Dip from TidyMom

(photo source)

I actually shared this recipe a while back in an older edition of my Friday Favorites. I still haven't made it but I still want to! It only requires four simple ingredients: cream cheese, beer, shredded cheddar cheese, and ranch dressing mix. It's not really on the healthy side but it sure does look delicious!!

Mini Apps on a Stick from Pillsbury

(photo source)

These are adorable! Pillsbury has tons of great ideas for different flavor combinations to make with these "apps on a stick" - smoked salmon with dill, caprese, turkey club, and dried fig and mascarpone to name a few. And each one contains only four ingredients!

Crescent Wrapped Brie

(photo source)

This is definitely one of my all-time favorite appetizer recipes. Love this!

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

(photo source)

Another favorite appetizer of mine! Simple and soooo yummy.

Breakfast/Brunch Ideas!

Well, for a little shameless self promotion, I suggest you check out my very own Barbershop Recipe Index and scroll to the breads/muffins/scones section. You may find a few tasty ideas there. ;) Another non-bread idea would be my overnight egg casserole. Judging by the name, you can probably tell that this recipe is able to be made ahead the night before. Anything that means less fuss and time on Christmas morning is always a plus!

I came upon this fabulous looking recipe for banana and candied walnut muffins from Kitchen Confidante on Pinterest this week. YUM!

(photo source)

Or maybe a baked oatmeal? This recipe from Our Best Bites looks awesome!

(photo source)

It calls for very simple ingredients that you'll likely already have on hand. Minimizing last minute trips to the grocery store means a lot this time of year!

Now, if you're looking for a more decadent brunch recipe, maybe you could try this baked french toast casserole with maple syrup from Paula Deen. This gets an average of 5 stars after close to 2000 ratings online - crazy! Something tells me this recipe is tasty. ;)

(photo source)

And lastly...

Holiday Beverage Ideas!

I recently re-discovered that I actually like eggnog, so I was looking up eggnog "adult" beverage recipes. I came across this yummy looking eggnog martini and really want to try it! I actually have the liqueurs on hand that it calls for (vanilla vodka and amaretto) so I am pretty sure I have no excuse not to make this!

(photo source)

Or how about this spiked apple pie? It's apple juice or apple cider with rum and cinnamon. Sounds deelicious to me! And it's served warm too. Perfect for the winter!

(photo source)

If you're a fan of the bubbly, this cocktail looks delightful! It's simply cranberries and champagne.

(photo source)

And finally, it wouldn't be the holiday season in my book without a peppermint-flavored cocktail. This peppermint patty cocktail looks perfect! It's milk, hot chocolate mix, peppermint schnapps, and whipped cream. Helloooo YUM!

(photo source)

And on a completely different note, my recipe for pretzel M & M cake mix cookies was featured on's virtual cookie swap this week! Check out cookie #14 there and you may recognize the recipe. ;)

If you're celebrating Christmas, good luck with your final preparations these last few days! And if you're celebrating Hanukkah, Happy Hanukkah!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spaghetti Squash with Sauteed Vegetables and Kielbasa

I eat a lot of veggies. I loooove them. When Mike and I cook together, we tend to cook a lot of veggies, and I feel really lucky to be marrying someone who enjoys healthy, nutrient-rich foods like veggies! Sometimes we get in a rut though with our veggies... We most often roast veggies, and we also eat many of the same types of veggies over and over. Now, don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining! We still incorporate a large variety of veggies in our diet (and we especially did this with our awesome CSA this summer/fall!), but every now and then I realize our meals have become a bit redundant, and that's when it's time for a change. This time, spaghetti squash was that change! I've read other bloggers' recipes using spaghetti squash, but can you believe that I've never actually cooked it myself? Uh oh! So when I saw spaghetti squash on sale at Whole Foods last week, I figured it was about time that I gave it a shot. :)

The method I used to cook the squash was from Emeril on the Food Network. It's so simple (I didn't follow his entire recipe though - just the part for cooking the squash)! All I did was cut the squash in half lengthwise and put both halves, cut side down, in a baking dish with some water (about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan). Then I covered it in aluminum foil and roasted it at 400 degrees (although Emeril says 375) for about 45 minutes. When there was about 15 minutes left in the roasting, I flipped each half over so that the cut side was up, returned it to the oven covered with foil, and continued to roast it for the last 15 minutes. After the full 45 minutes, when I took the squash out of the oven and tested for doneness, it was perfectly tender and ready to go!

Here's the squash, straight out of the oven.

Make sure to discard the seeds!

To remove the squash from the peel, simply take a fork and pull the strands of squash (you know, the "spaghetti") away from the skin. It pulls away so easily! It was really fun to remove the squash. It was like popping bubble wrap or something. There was something really satisfying about it for some reason.

I peeled both halves all the way down to the squash's skin. I got every last strand of spaghetti, let me tell you!! I should have taken a picture of the empty skins. :)

To keep the meal super simple, we decided to just saute some other veggies and kielbasa (with olive oil and spices - herbs de provence, s & p) and put everything over top of the spaghetti squash.

Then we mixed it all together...

Added some cheese...

And voila, we have an easy, healthy dinner!!

 I like how you can see the strands of "spaghetti" here. :)

I loved my first experience of cooking spaghetti squash! If you're a spaghetti squash novice like I was until last week, I'd highly recommend it. If you're a fan of squash in general, you'll love it. It's so easy to cook and it tastes delicious too!! And if you're a pasta person but you're trying to cut back on carbs, this squash is the perfect substitute for actually spaghetti or any other pasta really!

I found a few other spaghetti squash recipes that look really healthy and tasty and have posted them below for you. YUM!!

I'll be back in a couple more days with my last Holiday Edition of Friday Favorites before Christmas! Be on the lookout early though; it may be appearing on Thursday. ;)

Hope you're all having a great week!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins

Gingerbread! It's such a great winter flavor. I've actually been hoping to make a gingerbread flavored treat for a while now, so I'm glad I finally had an occasion to incorporate the flavor into a baked good. These muffins would be a great addition to have on your Christmas morning breakfast table. :) The pumpkin and molasses combination was very yummy.

The recipe is from King Arthur Flour. It gets great ratings online, so I figured it was worth trying!


-3/4 cup butter or vegetable shortening (I used unsalted butter)
-1 and 1/4 cup brown sugar
-2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-3/4 tsp. salt
-2 tsp. cinnamon
-1/4 tsp. allspice
-1/2 tsp. nutmeg
-3 large eggs
-2 Tbsp. molasses
-1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Or, if you'd like to make this recipe into bread, grease two 8 x 4 or 9 x 5 loaf pans. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, and mix well; the mixture will be crumbly. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the molasses and pumpkin until well incorporated. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups or loaf pans. If using muffin cups, fill 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake the muffins for 15 - 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Bake the loaves for 50 - 55 minutes.

For me, this recipe made 18 large muffins and 12 mini muffins. Now, you should know that I didn't follow the KAF recipe exactly with regard to the ingredients. The recipe calls for allspice, but I don't have allspice so I just added some ginger (maybe 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.) and cloves (1/8 to 1/4 tsp.). Also, the original recipe actually includes an orange glaze, which I bet would be quite yummy on these muffins. However, I honestly didn't have the time to add one more step to these muffins when I was making them! Also, the recipe has optional additions of pecans, chocolate chips, and/or chopped crystalized ginger. So, as you can see, I really kept this recipe as minimal as it could be. If you make these though, definitely refer to the original recipe to see if you might like to make some of the additions I didn't make!

I was very satisfied with this recipe overall. The muffins were flavorful and moist (a must, in my opinion, when it comes to homemade muffins!). The only thing I would wish for is a stronger gingerbread flavor. The recipe only calls for two tablespoons of molasses. I'm not sure if just adding more molasses would be an okay thing to do, as it might change the proportions of the ingredients in the wrong way... However, if I were to give my amateur guess, I would think that another tablespoon or two of molasses would actually be okay to add. It definitely wouldn't make the batter too liquid-y judging by the consistency of the batter when I made these, so actually, the more I think about it, the more I think that adding more like four tablespoons of molasses to the batter would be just fine. I think I'll do that the next time I make these, as there will be a next time! :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Favorites for the Holidays (3rd Edition)

 Happy Friday! Love love love Fridays... Today is especially exciting because I am leaving work early to go home and BAKE! I was "hired" to make a couple desserts for a neighbor's dinner party, and although I did some of the baking/preparation last night, I have a bit more to do after work today. So I'm really looking forward to getting out of the office early and getting into my other "office," the kitchen. :)

(photo source)

And no, that's not my kitchen. :(  I would love all that natural light though!!

But before I do that, I must share some more fun and simple holiday treats and ideas! The countdown until Christmas is just over a week now...can you believe it?! I can't. If you're like me, you have a lot more to do. Hopefully you don't though! Maybe you're way ahead of the game. If so, good for you! No matter what stage you are in your holiday preparations though, chances are you could use a couple recipes that are super easy and quick. I'm all about efficiency, especially when I'm extra busy like I am during the holidays! Below are a couple easy sweet treats, followed by some gift wrapping ideas. Enjoy!

These are AWESOME. I've made them before, and my cousin used to make them all the time (she was the one who gave me the idea originally!). Seriously. These are great. Simple, fast, and deeelicious.

(photo from Glorious Treats)

I made these a couple years ago for the goodie bags I gave to my coworkers, and they were a huge hit. Love these! They're simply ritz crackers dipped in melted chocolate that's flavored with peppermint extract. If you need a last minute holiday treat to bring to a party or give as a gift, I highly recommend these!

(photo from Kraft Foods)

And I'm also going to put a plug in for a yummy goodie I made for coworkers last year, chocolate graham toffee treats. These involve a few more steps than the two treats mentioned above, but they are still very easy, let me tell you. And the combination of flavors in these? Divine. It's tough to eat only one of these!!

Recycled Gift Wrap

How fun is this? This is old wrapping paper or tissue paper, run through a paper shredder. This would be a great filler to use in a gift bag in place of traditional tissue paper. Or, you could use it to fill space in a gift box, as pictured below. Neat! Great way to reuse material... So save that leftover wrapping paper and put it to good use!

(photo from Martha Stewart)

(photo from Real Simple)

Lastly, if you have outdoor space, I love the decorations below in plant pots. Simple and really pretty! These could easily stay outside throughout the winter too, not only during the Christmas season.

(photo source)

Have a great weekend - last one 'til Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Maple Date Bars

There are certain recipes that I look at and immediately know that I have to make them. This recipe for maple date bars was one of those. I first saw this recipe about a month ago in an e-newsletter I receive from My Recipes. I saved it on one of my Pinterest boards so I could easily locate it whenever I decided to make it. This past weekend was that time...and it was a happy time. :) Boy are these bars tasty! I love dates (I talked about my love of dates back when I made these layered oatmeal date bars. That was this past January and I hadn't baked with dates since then! Not good. It was about time they were incorporated into a delicious creation again...welcome, maple date bars! These are a Cooking Light recipe too (so less guilt!!).


-1 and 3/4 cup finely chopped pitted dates
-3/4 cup water
-1/3 cup pure maple syrup
-1 tsp. grated lemon rind (I actually omitted this because I didn't realize I didn't have lemon on hand)
-2/3 cup sugar
-1/2 cup butter, softened
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup regular oats
-1/4 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp. salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine dates, water, and maple syrup in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; cook for 12 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in rind; cool completely.

Beat butter and sugar together in mixing bowl on medium speed. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture (mixture will be crumbly). Firmly press two cups of the flour mixture into the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 baking pan. Spread the cooled date mixture evenly over the bottom layer, and then sprinkle the remaining flour mixture on top. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown. Cool completely in pan before cutting. Store bars wrapped individually in an airtight container or place between layers of wax or parchment paper in an airtight container.

Overall these bars were suuuper simple to make. The most time consuming part was cooking the dates on the stove, but that definitely wasn't difficult. Truly, these were very easy to make, and they got rave reviews! I made them for a beer tasting event Mike was hosting. Friends who come to his beer tastings have quite the refined palates, so if they liked them, they've got to be good, right?! ;)