Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mint Chocolate 2 Bite Brownies

And so the holiday season is upon us full swing. Starbucks has red cups, Christmas decorations have decked every conceivable hall, and delicious treats, homemade or otherwise, are everywhere. Not only did we just finish thoroughly stuffing ourselves with turkey and mashed potatoes but now we trudge head long into another month of holly and jolly that threatens to expand your belt by two notches. You may wish to rationalize your indulgence with the premise that the goodies of the season are only around for a short 31 days so why not enjoy them all. But that only leads to guilt and a broken New Year’s resolution 32 days later. So how do you stay sane when you are bombarded with twinkling lights and crooning carolers while visions of chocolate covered everything dances in your head?

With will power.

Yeah who am I kidding? Nobody has will power in December. More realistically you do it by indulging on those morsels that have the most meaning to you: a special cookie or cake that your grandma always made, eggnog by a roaring fire with your honey, or these little mint chocolate 2 bite brownies.  They taste decadent, they look like you spent hours crafting them, but they are quick and healthy and your mind will never know the difference.

Mint Chocolate 2 Bite Brownies
Adapted from:

1 C walnuts
1 1/3 C pitted dates
1 tsp vanilla
5 T. cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark and they were intensely chocolateJ)
½ - 1 tsp peppermint extract (depending on how minty you want them)
Pinch of salt (about 1/8th of a tsp) 

Put everything in a food processor and blend a way until it resembles fine crumbs. Pour into a pan, bowl, or mini muffin tins, which is what I did. Press the mix together with your hands really well before you press them into the pan. This helps everything mingle together really well and hold its shape. 

You could easily scoop these into balls with your cookie scoop and then roll them in cocoa powder for mock truffles. What a way to unwind after a day of Christmas shopping at overcrowded stores; at least your waistline with thank you even if your checking account won’t.
Enjoy the holidays homemade!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Scones

       My sister just posted a recipe for some really tasty Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts, and here I am again with another  pumpkin recipe. Though I've heard that some people get irritated by the abundance of pumpkin-related-everything during the fall season, deep down I'm sure they secretly love everyone else's obsession. So here I am to indulge said obsession and offer a recipe for Pumpkin Scones! Scones actually originated in Scotland in the early sixteenth century, but now have become most associated with England--where they are pronounced "scawns" as in "gone." According to, the ritual of having scones during afternoon tea began when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861), had servants bring her various teas and sweet breads, among which included scones. She loved them so much that she ordered them every afternoon, thus influencing the afternoon tea tradition as well as a new harboring for the love of scones.
       What makes scones different from other biscuits or quick breads is that the leavening comes from baking powder and not yeast. (Originally they were not made with baking powder because it wasn't widely available, and scones were flat. Once baking powder was widespread, it quickly became a key ingredient in scones.) The love for scones has now spread globally and each country imparts its own special variations--sweet and savory. Today, I offer you a sweet version. But do not be deceived, these are not sweet as a cookie would be. Instead, think of a biscuit which has a slight sweetness to it--that is what these particular scones are like--perfect for accompanying a cuppa. I should also note that the pumpkin flavor in this recipe is not overwhelming; rather, I would describe it more so as a slight aftertaste, noticeable after the initial wave of spices retreat. At least that is how they are when fresh. Afer sitting for a while, the pumpkin flavor seems to settle in more.


Pumpkin Scones
recipe from

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin (about a 1/3 of a can, if you were wondering)
  • 2 large eggs
  • milk (for brushing)
  • extra sugar and cinnamon (for sprinkling)

--In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.

*May I just note that even though I harped on the historical importance of baking powder in scones I still forgot to use it! So your scones may turn out a little fluffier than what I have pictured. Just know that they still taste good without it.* =)

--In a different, smaller bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and eggs until smooth.

--Cut up the cold butter into cubes and cut them into the dry ingredients (your large bowl) with a pastry cutter until all the butter pieces are approximately pea sized or so.

--Add the wet ingredients (small bowl) to the dry ingredients (large bowl) and stir them together as best you can. Everything should be moistened and able to hold together; I used my hands towards the end.

--Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Separate the dough into two parts, round them into flat disks (about 5 inches diameter, 3/4 inches thick), and place them on sheet.

--Brush each disk with milk and then sprinkle some sugar (coarse is best if you have any; I didn't) and some cinnamon (not too much otherwise it will easily burn).

--With a cold knife, slice each disk as you would a pizza, and then pull out the wedges from each other, about 1/2 inch apart on each side.

--Now transfer the scones to the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up the butter. This allows for the best texture and highest rise from the scones. (A fridge works fine as well, just let them chill longer.)

--Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.

--After chilling, bake the scones for 22 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. An inserted toothpick should come out completely clean. The edges of the scones shouldn't look doughy.
--Preferably serve scones warm as this is when they taste the best, but they taste good cooled as well. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Happy Baking!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

It seems every year the holiday season starts in September and runs together in a blur of candy, pumpkin flavored everything, deep fried turkeys, and financially crippling gift giving. I happen to love the holidays, but more importantly I love them separately. This seems to be a left wing mindset anymore. Department and craft stores would have you believe that it is absolutely necessary to decorate your homes to the gills with tinsel and lights and shiny ornaments the day after Halloween! They seem to have forgotten that there is another holiday between Christmas and the end of October. You know that little holiday that used to be about giving THANKS for what abundance you currently have and the struggles you have come through in the past year. Rather it seems that we should continue on from our greedy candy comas straight on to Christmas without so much as slowing to appreciate a fallen leaf or a slice of pie. Well I refuse. I'm going to enjoy my holiday season with my family like it was meant to be, without succumbing to the pressures of hyper consumerism. I'm going to enjoy pumpkin-y things, leave my squash and acorn decorations strewn about for another 20 or so days, and prepare to fix the best Thanksgiving dinner I've made yet. No Christmas tunes, twinkly lights, or candy canes until after that epic meal. Doesn't that sound wonderfully calm and delightful? I agree. So enjoy your coffee, slowly, this weekend and savor these moist (nearly healthy) doughnuts without guilt! Christmas will be here soon enough for you to drown yourself in eggnog, cookie platters, and mountains of presents...
Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts
adapted from:
1/2 c. cocunut oil (or canola and in theory butter would work also)
3 large eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
1 can pumpking puree
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, or 3/4 tsp cinnamon plus heaping 1/4 tsp each groundginger and nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c. plus 2 T. all purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour (if your not using, just use regualr flour for both amounts)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a doughnut pan, or 2 if you have them. If you don't you can use muffin tins and just bake them longer.
Beat together everything but the flour until smooth. Then stir in the flour until just combined. Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full.
Bake for 15-18 minutes. I pulled mine at 15 because whole wheat flour can be a little drying so I wanted to make sure they would be moist. Let them cool in the pan for 1-2 mintues and then carefully transfer them to a wire rack and let them cool another minute.
While they are still quite warm, shake them around in some cinanmon and sugar, or use more of the pumpkin pie spice and sugar. Serve with coffee, hot apple cider, or milk.
So much better than Dunkin Doughnuts and cheaper too! Gotta love that!
Enjoy life homemade!