Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies: Comfort Food Calling

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Life in Dubai means traveling a lot, exploring as much as possible within a direct flight radius. I started 2017 in California, and since then visited the Taj Mahal in India and went skiing in Kazakhstan. It’s only February. I love our adventures and trying local specialties wherever we go. I can’t say I loved the fermented horse milk in Kazakhstan, but hey, I tried it. Whenever I come home, I unavoidably go through a powerful comfort food craving phase. Usually that means allll the pasta, and a lot of baked goods.

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Which brings me to these cookies! Soft, chewy, sweet, pumpkin spicy cookies. This recipe is based on a good friend’s famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. She makes them every time my college girlfriends get together, or we make them together. They’re always amazing, and I can only speculate that they’re the magic glue of our long term friendships!  So she gets all the credit for introducing me to this magic formula. Also she’s a doctor so she knows what’s good for you. I just made a few tweaks to put pumpkin and spices in the mix. I was skeptical at first about keeping the chocolate chips in with the pumpkin, but you’ll just have to trust me that pumpkin apparently goes with everything.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 48 Cookies

1 cup Butter
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 cup Canned Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Cloves
2 cups Whole Oats (not steel cut or quick cooking)
12 oz (1 bag) Chocolate Chips
Sea Salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Allow the butter and egg to come to room temperature. Cream the butter and combine with the sugar, egg, pumpkin and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices, and oats. Add dry ingredients gradually to the butter mixture, mixing well to combine. Finally add in the chocolate chips and mix together.

Usually by this point I’m nearly full because I’ve tasted so much dough…but I shouldn’t recommend that because of raw eggs being bad or some such nonsense…

Spoon the dough into evenly sized balls on a cookie sheet, pressing them slightly flat into, you know, cookie shape. If desired, sprinkle the dough with a bit of sea salt before putting in the oven. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes. If I’ve learned anything by moving so much lately, it’s that ovens vary wildly. Start low on the timer and check for doneness.

Let cool and enjoy with milk (of the non-horse variety)!

©Cook it Pretty 2017

Boozy Irish Cupcakes

THIS IS IT! The best cupcake recipe on earth, and the only one you really need. I suppose they would be inappropriate for a child’s birthday. But otherwise, I have every cake-baking occasion covered for you with this single recipe.

Boozy Irish Cupcakes | Cook it Pretty
One of those occasions is of course St. Patrick’s Day. Oh, you don’t usually make cupcakes for this holiday? Well, you should. Because THESE cupcakes are made with the same ingredients as an Irish Car Bomb shot, which I know you have consumed on at least one March 17th in your life. That means Irish whiskey, Guinness, and Bailey’s. Mixing these things with chocolate is a good idea.

Boozy Irish Cupcakes | Cook it Pretty
It will result in a beautiful, boozy, chocolaty mess as pictured above. First you incorporate the Guinness into the chocolate cake batter. Then you fill the cupcakes with whiskey ganache, and top them with Bailey’s buttercream frosting. Bailey’s. Buttercream. I’m always trying to think of more things to frost with this, because it is downright incredible.

Boozy Irish Cupcakes | Cook it Pretty
It would be a shame to only use this recipe once a year, which is why I have also used it for loved ones’ birthdays along the way. No one turns down booze and chocolate. No one you want to be friends with, anyway. So yes, the cupcakes are sitting on a decidedly wintry, holiday-ish plate because I last made them for my husband’s December birthday. But you should definitely make them for St. Patrick’s Day, or Equinox, or your friend’s bridal shower, or to celebrate your half birthday.

Boozy Irish Cupcakes | Cook it Pretty
I tell people that if I have made them these cupcakes, I definitely love them. Not only because of the gift of deliciousness that they are, but also because they’re a little extra time consuming with the whole ganache filling step. But definitely, definitely worth it.

The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, with a couple Cook it Pretty tips:

  • The amount of whiskey in the ganache is totally dependent on your taste. I always add a bunch more than the recipe calls for. If I’m making a boozy cupcake, I want to be able to taste it. Since most of the beer cooks out in the cake part, this is the place where you’ll really taste a little alcohol. Taste as you go!
  • This also applies to the Bailey’s frosting, which is my favorite part. Start with the recommended amount, then add a little more to your taste. The flavor is awesome.
  • The trickiest part of this recipe is the coring and filling of the cupcakes. I actually own a coring tool for this sole purpose, which is made for apples but works perfectly for cupcakes too. You’ll need something like this to make the recipe work. Mine looks like this:

Cupcake Corer | Cook it Pretty

  • I use the ziplock bag with the corner cut off trick instead of a piping bag to get the ganache into the cupcakes.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Put the “cores” you remove from the cupcakes into a bowl, drizzle with leftover ganache, and dollop some frosting on top for a super delicious reward for all your hard work.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

All the Pumpkin Pie Things

Pumpkin Pie Filling | Cook it Pretty
I made a big batch of pumpkin pie filling at Thanksgiving time and froze the leftovers. I knew I could use it for something delicious when the craving struck. So recently I opened my freezer to discover a small pack of puff pastry squares. Light bulb moment: Heyyyyy that sounds like instant pumpkin pie to me! I decided to cut the squares down to fit a mini muffin pan. Bite sized instant pumpkin pie…even better.

Mini Punkin Pies | Cook it Pretty
I didn’t waste time trying to make the crust pretty, I just kind of threw them in the tin, filled with the excess pie filling, and started baking. While I am the biggest fan of home made pie crust you know, especially my Mom’s, this was just. so. fast. Which makes it kind of irresistible, doesn’t it? Filling I already made and dough I don’t have to fret over? Pretty close to instant gratification for all your pumpkin pie craving needs.

Even after that mini pie feast, I still had more filling left. Also in my freezer, old-ass bananas saved for just such an occasion. Substitute a cup of pumpkin pie filling for one of the two eggs in my go-to banana bread recipe, reduce the sugar a tad to balance the already sweetened filling, and BAM – Pumpkin Spice Banana Bread.

Pumpkin Spice Banana Bread | Cook it Pretty
That’s two pretty major leftovers baking success stories in a row. Both delicious, quick, and easy. What’s your latest brilliant use of leftovers?

#TBT: Remember When Thanksgiving Happened?

It’s 2015! While most people have already received that memo, I need to do a throwback to reflect on Thanksgiving 2014. It was a unique holiday – our first time celebrating in our new Dubai home, our first time hosting as a couple, and our first International Friendsgiving. It was so memorable to share an American holiday with friends from all over the world. For me it was the perfect mix of old traditions and new twists.

International Friendsgiving | Cook it PrettyI focused on the mains like turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pie and we went potluck style for the rest, menu as follows:

Roast Turkey with Herb Butter rub
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Classic Herb Stuffing
Gravy 2 ways
Mama’s Pumpkin Pie
Spiced Fig Sangria
Aussie Green Bean Casserole with Bacon
Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
Southern Mac n Cheese
Belgian Truffle Mashed Potatoes
Belgian Potatoes au Gratin
New Zealand Glazed Fruit Cake

Highlights: (1) Our turkey was beautiful. Juicy and delicious! Watch this 5 minute video next time you roast a turkey. Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. (1a) One of the best things I learned while hosting this year is that my soon-to-be-husband is a turkey breakdown master. (Look at those butchering skills in the first photo!)

Roast it Pretty(2) This cranberry sauce from The Kitchn is a winner. I was worried about straying from my Mom’s classic cranberry relish, but I opted for a cooked version because I don’t have a food processor here. I doubled the recipe and added a granny smith apple. Bomb. Also, great to make a day or two ahead.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce(3) I officially love stuffing, and while I will still call it stuffing, Paula Deen tells me it’s actually dressing since I don’t cook it inside the bird. My European friend called it a savory bread pudding, which I may also start using because it sounds so much fancier. I combined tips from two recipes which were both of the traditional onion/celery/sage variety. Made it mostly ahead and did a final bake the day-of.

Planning and Stuffing | Cook it Pretty(4) Pie. Our Moms are amazing. This being in charge and cooking all week thing isn’t easy (you can do it, but it’s work). The man learned a few things about making a smooth gravy, number one being it wasn’t as easy as his Mom makes it look. Same goes for me with the pie crust. I’ve made pie alongside my Mom countless times, but the magic of her ease with it just isn’t there when I do it on my own! There were nearly tears, and many texts and emails were exchanged with Mom along the way, but two pumpkin pies happened. The crusts didn’t look perfectly manicured by a longshot, but they were GOOD. Some of our guests said they’ve always heard so much about pumpkin pie but had never actually tasted it. How fun that their idea of pumpkin pie will be shaped by my Mom’s family recipe.

Mama's Pumpkin Pie | Cook it Pretty

I loved tasting what everyone else made and sharing some American traditions with them. I was thankful for the day, for our friends, and for the leftovers for many days to follow. Shame we only have one day a year dedicated to gratitude, I’m ready for another feast with loved ones already!

All Rhubarb Everything

A special treat on my recent US vacation was baking with my Mom. We knew we wanted to make something together, and for some reason I had rhubarb on the brain. I realized I had never worked with rhubarb myself, as much as I have always loved my Mom’s tart and sweet rhubarb crisps. I didn’t even know how to shop for it. Time for some lessons with Mom, which turned into TWO amazing rhubarb recipes: Rhubarb Crisp & Rhubarb Mojitos.

5 large stalks weighed about 2lbs

Pink celery.

We were a little late in the standard season, which is usually May. Apparently the Pacific Northwest has a second summer season, and we were lucky enough to find some healthy looking stalks in Northern California. Make sure the stalks don’t seem rubbery or dried out – they should be heavy and taut. I love that something that looks like magenta celery turns into such delicious sweets.

Stewing the rhubarb with sugar and water

Stewing the rhubarb with sugar and water

We chose a method that requires simmering the rhubarb in sugar and water to soften and sweeten it up before adding the crisp topping and baking. The topping we ended up with tasted like a big oatmeal cookie on top of the tart rhubarb filling, and the combination was perfectly satisfying.

The fantastic bonus of this stewing method is that you’re essentially making rhubarb simple syrup. We wound up with about 1 1/2 cups of gorgeous, hot pink sweetness once we strained out the rhubarb filling. We couldn’t let it go to waste, so we decided to turn it into Rhubarb Mojitos!

Baking, making cocktails, and toasting to sweet kitchen success with Mom made for a wonderful summer afternoon. Today I’m thinking of her on her birthday and looking forward to our next kitchen collaboration!

Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb Crisp

Filling:
4 cups chopped rhubarb (about 5 large stalks or 2lbs)
1 1/2 – 2 cups granulated sugar (1 1/2 for tarter, 2 for sweeter)
Water (just enough to cover the rhubarb in the pot)

Topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large pot, simmer the rhubarb, water, and sugar over low-med heat until soft (about 7 mins). Strain the rhubarb and add filling to glass or ceramic baking dish. Retain the liquid for later use.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, butter, and spices in a bowl. Spread the mixture over the top of the rhubarb filling.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes (until the top is golden). Top with vanilla ice cream or enjoy straight up.

Rhubarb Mojitos

Rhubarb Mojitos!

Rhubarb simple syrup (leftover from rhubarb filling above)
Ice
Rum
Mint leaves
Club soda
Lime wedges

Simmer the liquid from stewing the rhubarb for an additional 15 minutes if needed (do a taste test to see if the rhubarb flavor is strong enough for you, or if it needs to cook down/concentrate a little more). Let cool and refrigerate.

Muddle a few mint leaves and lime wedges in the bottom of a glass. Add ice and pour over 1-2 oz of rum. Add rhubarb syrup, to taste. Top with club soda and squeeze in more lime if desired. Garnish with more mint, lime, or raspberries.

Toast to your genius & enjoy!