Posts Tagged 'ginger'

Gingerbread

Merry Christmas and happy holidays…

Santa Claus is coming to town…

Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow…

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Etc, etc, etc…

I HEART THE HOLIDAYS!

This really truly is my favorite time of year.  Something about the cheesy joyful Christmas music and festive decorations and anticipation in the air makes me warm and fuzzy and happy inside.  I am proudly a total sucker for it and feel all cozy everyday and everywhere I go.  Even the chilly weather is tolerable!  Ehh…sort of.  I don’t do well with cold.  Unless it’s snowing!  Sigh.  Contentment.

That said, the older I get, the more the season sneaks up on me.  It seems that Thanksgiving dinner dishes are barely washed when I blink and it’s Christmas.  All before I can even get a chance wear my favorite holiday sweater!

Well, this year, I said no more!  I made a vow to go immediately into holiday mode the second Thanksgiving weekend was over.  So my mini-Christmas tree quickly found its way out of the box under my bed and onto the dining table.  Little Santa and Mrs. Claus figurines stand by its side.  A scented candle is lit every night – smelling of cinnamon snap then spiced pear then Christmas cookie as the wick burns down.  Holiday tunes are loaded onto my iPod and played on the daily.  Both work and personal computer background images are now illustrations of Christmas trees.  My Google homepage displays the Winter Village theme – super cute btw! – right above a red and white Christmas countdown.  I even manually changed my Gmail colors to be red and green!

With all of these steps taken to be Miss Holiday Spirit 2009, all that was left to do was bake up a season-inspired treat.  So I decided to try my hand at Gingerbread!  I’ve always been curious about Gingerbread – because it is quite possibly the epitome of holiday baked goods – but have never actually eaten it.  I know, weird, right?  I guess I was always too busy filling up on peanut butter kiss cookies and Grandma’s pumpkin cake roll to bother looking its way.  It was about time.

Here’s my recipe for Gingerbread, adapted from this recipe:

1/2 cup Sucanat

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

3/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix Sucanat, vegetable oil, egg and molasses until well combined.  In a separate bowl, mix whole wheat pastry flour, brown rice flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just blended.  Stir in hot water.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.

Now I know I don’t have anything to compare this to, but I thought the Gingerbread tasted delicious!  The spice combination worked wonderfully together and completely captured the flavor of the holidays.  And the brown rice flour gave the bread a bit of texture – sort of like cornbread!  I was a fan.

Is there a holiday treat you’ve always wanted to try, but never have?

Pumpkin Brownies

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I found myself with a whole lot of of pumpkin to use up the other day – remains from the giant-sized can I was forced to buy when my grocery store ran out of cans for normal-sized people.  What else is a girl to do but purchase enough squash for a small army when pumpkin pancakes are on the mind?  I promised myself I’d bake something with the leftovers.  And so here I am!

There’s obviously LOADS you can do with pumpkin, but I wanted to get creative.  Actually, what I really wanted was a brownie.  But I couldn’t forgo the pumpkin mountain in my fridge to fulfill my chocolate-y desires.  How utterly wasteful that would be.

Then it hit me. Pumpkin. Brownies. Half fudgy brownie.  Half dense, pumpkin-y delight.  I was so very excited about my highly original, super fun, and simply ingenious idea. Then I found out Martha Stewart had already done it.   Of course she had.

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Not to be outdone by the diva homemaker, I set out to put my own twist on the pumpkin brownie idea.  And twist it I did!  Along with performing my standard Sweet + Natural adaptations to Martha’s recipe – whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, Sucanat for sugar, etc. – I made a bunch of other changes to ensure I got exactly what I was looking for.  Added some extra spice to the pumpkin…used a bigger pan…but most importantly, eliminated the baking powder.  Martha’s brownie pics look too much like cake, right?  Now, I have nothing against cake.  Unless it’s trying to pose for a brownie.  In that case, believe you me, I will not be fooled.  I want fudge, not fluff.  No baking powder = lower rise = density-dense flavor-packed yumminess.  Yes.

Here’s my take on Pumpkin Brownies:

Base mixture:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup Sucanat

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Chocolate mixture:

6 ounces grain sweetened chocolate chips

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Pumpkin mixture:

1 1/4 cup pumpkin

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Spray an 11×7-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.  For the base mixture, mix together whole wheat pastry flour and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together Sucanat, eggs and vanilla until well-combined.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until blended.  Divide this mixture into two bowls.  For chocolate mixture, melt chocolate chips and oil in a bowl.  Stir into one half of the base mixture.  (Note: If batter feels dry, just steal some base mixture from the remaining half and add it in.  I found the chocolate batter to be drier than the pumpkin batter, so this is totally cool to do.  The pumpkin batter is very generous and will not hold it against you.)  For pumpkin mixture, combine pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a bowl.  Stir into other half of base mixture.  Spread chocolate batter evenly into prepared pan.  Top with pumpkin batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 24 brownies.

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Success!  The no baking soda idea did the trick in making these Pumpkin Brownies brownies and not cakey, chocolate-and-pumpkin flavored squares.  They were indeed the fudgy, dense, pumpkin-y delights I set out to achieve.  They also just so happen to be orange and black – quite fitting for the upcoming Halloween holiday, wouldn’t you say?

What’s the most interesting brownie you’ve ever eaten?

P.S. After mentioning it in my last post, I’ve had a request to share my European vacation with you all. Now I know such a trip is totally unrelated to Sweet + Natural baking, but I’m highly tempted to oblige – mostly because I love reliving it! Would you guys be interested?

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Crystallized Ginger Cookies

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Christmas tiiiime is heeeeeere.

A little Charlie Brown Christmas anyone?  I totally grew up on that movie.  My parents still have the VHS – yup, you heard me, VHS – in their film collection.  And my mom gets super excited when it’s on TV each year.  It’s like network television’s sign that Christmas has arrived.  And we all know that network television is the calendar of the modern age.

Anyway, I LOVE Christmas and was really excited to start getting some Christmas baking business up on the blog.  Since Andrea over at bella eats [and runs] chose ginger as this week’s BSI, what better way to welcome the holiday cheer than to spice up a traditional Christmas ginger cookie!  I adapted this recipe and doubled the ginger fun by adding crystallized ginger to the mix.  And there you have it!  Crystallized Ginger Cookies.

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Here’s the recipe:

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons skim milk

2 tablespoons molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped*

* I used crystallized ginger that was made with raw unrefined sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  In a large bowl, cream together sugar and oil.  Add skim milk, molasses and vanilla and blend.  In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and blend.  Stir in crystallized ginger.  Dough will be sticky, so you can refrigerate for 15 minutes or so to make it easier to work with.  Roll heaping tablespoons into balls, flatten to about 1/3 of an inch and place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let stand two minutes and remove to cool.  Makes 14 cookies.

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These cookies are super soft and super SPICY.  The crystallized ginger really gives them an extra kick!  If you’re a ginger fan, you’d love them.  I do think next time I’ll throw an egg into the batter though – I’d like a little more crispy action around the edges!

Do you have a fun ginger cookie recipe?

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Spiced Pumpkin Honey Muffins

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The second November hits, I’m counting down to Thanksgiving. Literally – I have a T-giving countdown calendar on my Google homepage. It has a very festive orange and yellow and green leaf motif. And right now, it’s telling me there are 21 days, 1 hour, 53 minutes, and 48…47…46… seconds til the big day. I love Google homepage. And countdown calendars.

In my mind, Thanksgiving marks the official kick-off to the holiday season – my favorite time of year. It evokes thoughts of fallen leaves crunching beneath my shoes, comfy scarves, spending time with family and big dinners with all the fixin’s. I’m smiling just thinking about it!

To get myself in the spirit this year, I set out my honeycomb turkey decoration. Because that’s classy. And then I baked some pumpkin muffins!

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These Spiced Pumpkin Honey Muffins are one of my favorite things to bake and one of my family and friends’ favorite things to eat! I adapted this recipe, and now they’re whole grain and practically fat free. Major swaps include using white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, applesauce instead of oil and egg whites instead of whole eggs. And I upped the spices, because I’m a spicy gal.

The best change though is replacing the white sugar with honey. Not only does honey keep this a whole-foods-only muffin, but it adds a depth of flavor and keeps the muffins extra, extra moist – even without any oil. And guess what I recently learned? Honey bees pollinate pumpkins! Pumpkin farmers actually keep honey bee hives nearby to make sure they’re always around to help their crop grow. So obviously, pumpkin and honey are a match made in the pumpkin patch.

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Here’s my recipe:

1/2 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

3 egg whites

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup honey

1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Spray muffin pans with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, egg whites, applesauce and honey until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix white whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

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I just ate that one. It was even yummier than I remember.

What’s your favorite thing to make to feel all Thanksgiving-y inside?

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