Fall is Here, Pumpkin is the new Black

Factually, September 22nd really is the first day of Fall; however, let us Floridians be honest with ourselves and sadly accept that seasons aren’t really part of our lives down here.  I think I have slowly come to accept that our hot weather permeates throughout every season of the year, but oh well, that’s not going to stop this cook from making tons of pumpkin recipes!  My hiatus from blogging has been two months too long!  With my switching of jobs, I had gotten distracted from what I love to do…cook and tell people about it 🙂  Here’s a mouth watering pumpkin cookie recipe that is great for family holiday parties, pot lucks and work parties!

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The original recipe can be found here , but I switched it up a bit!

Now, get ready for your mouth to water:

Ingredients (makes about 30 cookies):

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla – I always add a splash more than what the recipe calls for
  • 7.5 oz of Pumpkin Puree (the cans are usually 15 oz, so half of the can)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 tsp for tossing chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the 1 cup of butter with an electric mixer (I use my Kitchenaid with the paddle attachment) on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar and beat for another 30 seconds or until combined thoroughly.

Beat in the 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until combined. Then, beat in the 7.5 oz of pumpkin until combined.

In a large separate bowl, take a fine mesh strainer and strain the 2 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pumpkin spice together.  This will allow for all of the dry ingredients to have the same smooth consistency.

Make sure your mixer is on low speed and slowly add all of the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides if necessary to incorporate all of the ingredients.  You don’t want to over mix.

Take your chocolate chips and lightly toss in the 1 tsp of flour to evenly coat.  This will ensure your chips do not sink to the bottom of your cookie when baking.  My biggest pet peeve is baking cookies and having those burnt chips on the bottoms! Incorporate the chocolate chips into your batter with a wooden spoon (do not use your mixer to incorporate).

Using a small melon ball scooper or spoon (whichever you have on hand),  place the dough about 1.5 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set (each batch of mine was done in exactly 11 minutes).

Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Wait until your cookies are completely cooled to add the frosting.

Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/2 stick of butter, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (the cream cheese usually comes in 8 oz packs in grocery store)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract – I always use a splash more than the recipe calls for
  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger (skin cut off)
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or your Kitchenaid with whisk attachment, on low speed, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Slowly add the 1.5 cups of powdered sugar, mixing until smooth, about 1 minute.  Then, add the cinnamon, pumpkin spice and fresh ginger and beat on medium speed for 1-2 until your frosting is light and fluffy.

Using a plastic zip lock bag if you do not have a pastry bag, spoon the frosting into the bottom of one side of the bag.  Push down all of the frosting to the one corner and using a scissor, cut the tip off of the bag.  Viola, now you have your very own pastry bag to pipe the frosting onto your cookies.

Lastly, sprinkle the slightest amount of pumpkin spice seasoning on top of your cookies to add that extra BAM.  This not only makes your cookies look amazing, extra pumpkin spice flavor never hurt any recipe 🙂

The frosting will harden after a few hours on the cookies.

Fall is here people, we might as well embrace it and live up the pumpkin craze…it sure is something to be crazy about.

Enjoy 🙂

Tea Time!

If you are anything like me, you may be a wee bit obsessed with tea. My Teavana ventures in Boca Mall cost me $200.00 a pop and I feel like I get an aluminum can with 8 inches of air and 1 tiny bit of tea. If you’re understanding what I’m talking about, then you’re probably just as in love with tea as I am!

Please don’t go on those rampages anymore unless its a dire need because I’ve concocted a tea that tastes amazing and costs hardly anything.

Here’s what you need: ps – this is so simple to make, there’s no excuse 🙂

-1 lemon, skin peeled and then cut in half (you will need juice of one half later)
-about 1.5 inches of fresh ginger root, chopped
-1 cup sugar (feel free to substitute low cal sweetener if you choose – if using, I’d say about half cup)
-4 cups water
-6 tea bags (Rec: Tazo Green ginger)
-sparkling water (optional)
-mint for garnish, lemon for garnish (optional)

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Over medium-high heat, combine the water and sugar.

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Peel the lemon skin with a peeler. Peel about 1.5 inches of your fresh ginger and chop into fine pieces. If you’ve never worked with fresh ginger, OH EM GEE, you are missing out. The smell is fab, the flavor is fab…basically, everything about it is FAB. You will be a believer once you try it.

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Put the lemon peels and ginger into the water with sugar and stir. Let this come to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the paper tags from the tea bags so you just have the tea packet.

Turn off the heat on your pot and place the 6 tea bags in. Stir them into the liquid and let steep for about 20 minutes.

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After your tea has steeped for about 20 minutes, squeeze one half of the lemon’s juice in. Stir.

Using a fine strainer, empty the liquid into a medium sized container. The tea will be cool by then.

I like to pour the tea over ice and top it with about half an inch of sparkling water. It gives it that extra BOOM.

Then, I garnish with a lemon slice and fresh mint.

VIOLA, you have this amazing looking and tasting tea, less than 30 minutes, and costs nearly nothing.

Let me know how yours comes out and if you try any variations, please let me know! 🙂

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Peanut Butter to My Jam Cookies

It’s summertime and everyone’s working on their beach bods, I know, but seriously sometimes you just have to live a little! I would honestly give these cookies an 11/10 if that made any sense. My fiance’ ended up making two other batches of these the day after the first batch was gone (which was in less than an hour by the way). His barber saw the picture on Instagram and instantly called to request a cookie delivery to the shop. This recipe comes from my fave, of course, Giada, and it was listed in her top 25 recipes by fans, so if you don’t want to take my word, take theirs.

Original recipe here.

Here is what you need:

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (recommended: Hershey’s)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
1/2 packed cup light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup blackberry jam

Directions:

I didn’t have two baking sheets exactly the same size, but it was perfectly fine; these cookies are big, so I would suggest a larger one if you have so they don’t spread together when cooking. Move one of your oven racks to the center and preheat at 375 degrees.

Line your two baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.

In a medium bowl, sieve together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt (I use a small strainer). This part is extremely important as it keeps the consistency smooth.

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In a stand mixer (I used my Kitchenaid), fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, peanut butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and light brown sugar together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until blended.

With the machine running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until incorporated. *Okay, this part, make sure you do this slowly or else you will have a facial mask of flour mixture…my fiance’ did not follow my instructions one time and ended up looking like he had been through a white dust storm.

Put the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl. Form the dough into 1/4 cup-size balls and roll in the sugar. These come out big, but we liked it this way. If you feel like you don’t like big cookies, feel free to make them a bit smaller.

Arrange 5 balls of dough, evenly apart, on each baking sheet. Using a round 1/4 teaspoon measure, or the thin end of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the center of each ball of dough, about 1/2 to 3/4-inch deep. Spoon 1 teaspoon of jam into each hole (we spooned about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon). Bake for 11 to 14 minutes until the dough has spread and the surface of the cookies are crackled. Cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Arrange the cookies on a serving dish and serve.

This cookie recipe is a definite crowd pleaser; it looks fancy on a serving dish and are perfect for both casual and more formal events. Best of all, these are super simple…my fiance’ made these himself not once, but TWICE…so boys, get your Kitchenaids out and start whipping them up 🙂

Let me know how yours comes out – tag #prettylittlepretzel with your PB&Jam cookies.

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Key Lime for Any Time

I have been to so many restaurants and ordered scrumptious desserts time after time, but for some reason, key lime pie was just never on my list of desires. My fiance’ decided he wanted to make it last night for dessert, so I went with it and ‘oh-em-gee,” pardon my slang, but this was AMAZING. I had a piece for breakfast this morning; don’t judge me! It really was good though and I would suggest it for any party or pot luck dessert event. It’s not that difficult to make and will definitely satisfy your guests sweet tooth. You must like lime to enjoy this recipe, since it’s a bit tart from the lime juice and zest.

PS – if you are confused in the supermarket about “key limes,” it is not a regular lime. It’s the tiny limes in the bag next to the regular limes and have a different flavor than the limes you are used to!

This recipe of course came from my favorite foodie, Giada and you can find the original recipe HERE

Ingredients

Graham Cracker Crust:

1/3 of a 1-pound box graham crackers
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

Filling:

3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice, or store bought

Topping:

1 cup heavy or whipping cream chilled
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

We placed the graham crackers in a plastic zip lock bag. Use a rolling pin to press down back and forth over the bag until the crackers are crushed into fine pieces. You can use a food processor if you have one, which we do, but my fiance’ insisted on doing this way; oh well!

Add the 5 tablespoons of melted butter and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar to the crushed graham crackers and stir or pulse until combined.

We used a round cake pan because I could not locate my pie pan (my kitchen is a disaster area right now).

I sprayed a quick spray of PAM in the pan just to make sure nothing would stick after baking.

Press the crust down into the pan and up a bit onto the sides neatly. Bake this for about 8 minutes until set and golden brown in color and then set aside on wire rack to cool.

In the meantime, whip out your electric mixer with a whisk attachment and beat 3 egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of lime zest on high speed until fluffy (recipe says about 5 minutes, but I did about 3). Slowly add the 1 can of sweetened condensed milk until combined. Turn your mixer to low and slowly add in the key lime juice.

Once combined, pour on top of the cooled crust and bake for 10 minutes until set.

Make sure it has cooled down and then place it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to eat, place it in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes prior to serving. It will make it a lot easier to cut!

For the whipped cream, homemade is always more delicious than store bought and it’s so simple that you just can’t do without it – that is me telling you to not be lazy with the whipped cream 🙂

Place 1 cup of heavy whipping cream in a mixer with a whisk attachment and 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar and beat on medium-high until peaks form (don’t over beat).

We served this on our Villeroy and Boch dishes, just because the Expresso cup spot on the plate seemed like the perfect place for a dollop of whipped cream.

Let me know how yours comes out! Tag me on Instagram #prettylittlepretzel

Bon Appetit!

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When Two Become One

Lets face it, all of us girls dream about finding our one true love, someone we can spend the rest of our lives with. We dream of this person from the day we are old enough to realize love means something and its hard to come by. Some people find true love and some don’t, but I truly believe in the saying that “there is someone for everyone” out there. We always say there are plenty of fish in the sea, but we don’t realize how many girls go through life not finding Mr Right. Hopefully you have and this brightens your day – Newly engaged, I thought I’d share my experience and special day!

I’m still not used to the whole “fiancé” thing, so if I slip and write boyfriend anywhere, my apologies.

So it was July 4th and my boyfriend (at the time) and I had just woken up from a relaxing night’s sleep in the W Hotel’s 22nd floor spectacular room. Waking up to the sun gazing in your eyes isn’t exactly wonderful, but having a balcony the size of half of my house and hearing the ocean waves break right beneath us is definitely something I could get used to.

I get up and get ready to head to the pool bright and early – I was so excited to wear my new Vic Secret American flag colored bikini…haha I know, so lame.

Anyways, my boyfriend asked me to go down and reserve chairs at the pool since it was packed for the holiday.

I went down and of course, my luck, have no idea where the pool even is so he tells me to come back up the room and we would go together. I make my way back up and notice two maids staring at something on the door of my hotel room – I shoo them away and realize its a note:

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Don’t mind the spelling of Baby Girl, it’s an inside thing we’ve had since we met each other at 18 years old.

So I slowly open the door and find roses covering the entire hotel room tiled floor, leading out to the balcony.

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As I make my way to our overly large balcony overlooking the ocean on this gorgeous day, there he is, down on one knee…I think I was in shock a little bit, but I continued outside and he grabbed my hand. From there, it went something like he wants to spend the rest of his life with me and asked me to marry him. I was so in shock with the moment and I think he was too. He actually told me after that he had a 5 minute speech prepared but forgot everything in the moment! Oh we’ll, it was totally romantic and everything I had hoped for.

Here are some pictures just to get a visual idea:

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Oh yes, and the rock…I must say he did great considering I never ONCE, I repeat, never went with him ring shopping! I gave a few hints here and there but never anything solid.  The W’s hospitality deserves a huge thank you also – endless champagne delivered to the room, cards and chocolate covered strawberries!

Girls, don’t give up on love just because you’ve been hurt once or twice…your Prince Charming is out there and true love does still exist. You may be polar opposites like myself and my fiancé, but who cares! That just makes for a more interesting life and crazier experiences with one another. Everything happens for a reason, just follow your heart and everything will fall into place.

For those of you already engaged, how did your man/woman propose to you? Let me know in the comments below!

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Who Said Gourmet Was Only for Dinner?

Nowadays, most of us women work just as hard as the men in our lives; FACT.  Luckily, I work from home most of the time, but that doesn’t ease the work load one bit. I actually find myself working longer hours then when I had a 9-5 office job. I sometimes even forget to eat lunch, which isn’t something to be proud of.

Today just wasn’t one of those days.  I definitely didn’t forget about lunch.  For some reason, I was starving by 11:55am, my stomach rumbling and screaming for me to put something in it.

So, I made this scrumptious recipe, credit to Giada De Laurentiis, but I tweaked a few things. Find the original recipe HERE

Ingredients:

1/2 pound (8 ounces) pastina or other small-shaped pasta, such as farfallini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

I found these little guys in my fridge, which I was about to throw away yesterday!  Good thing I didn’t.

I chopped up 2 large carrots into 1/2 inch-ish pieces and about an inch slice of my onion since it was so large.  The recipe calls for finely chopped onion, but I was being adventurous and didn’t really have time to be precise – don’t worry, it comes out great, I promise.

The recipe calls for Farfalle or small pasta, but I didn’t have any and these are just so fun to look at.  You can use whatever you like or if you want the original, stick to Farfelle.

Sauté your onion first in olive oil in a medium non stick skillet for about 7 minutes until its soft. Then add the carrot and 1/2 cup of low sodium chicken stock. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a summer for about 5 minutes. Start to boil your pasta in another large pot of salted boiling water at this point.

So your pasta is cooking, your carrots and onions are simmering in the chicken stock…now time to add 1/2 cup if frozen peas that were thawed.

Cook with the peas for two minutes to warm them through.

Your pasta is done, so add it directly into your pan with the onions, carrots and peas and stir it so pasta is coated with all of the yumminess from the pot.  Remove pan from the heat.  Don’t throw away the pasta water – trust me, you’ll want it.

My favorite part…cheese obviously!

These need to be at room temperate before you add them. I used half of the packet of cream cheese, 4 oz and half the container of Mascarpone. Mix it in with the pasta until the cheese melts and a creamy sauce forms.

And here is your finished product! Top with a bit of chopped basil and a leaf for garnish and you’re done. When I say this is amazing, I am not exaggerating – I went back for seconds. This recipe is super easy, fool proof and who said you can’t have gourmet lunches during your work lunch break?  Sure beats fast food! :)

If you have leftovers, add some of the pasta water to your container so when you heat it up next time, it’s not dry and ready for the garbage.

Let me know how yours comes out :)

Easy Breezy 4th of July Dessert

Happy 4th of July!

Hosting the party this year but don’t know an easy dessert to make for your guests? This is super simple and takes only a few minutes; it looks elegant and your guests will be wowed.

Don’t want to use real martini glasses? No worries, you can cheaply purchase the plastic martini glasses at craft stores like Party City.

I used 6 medium strawberries and 10 blueberries per martini glass.

Whipped cream:

This will make about 2 full martini glasses, so alter depending on how many guests.

1 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp powdered sugar

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract or whatever extract you want

Place cream and sugar in a mixing bowl on high for 1-2 minutes, don’t over mix. Add the vanilla and mix for another 1-2 minutes until you have peaks.

Take a plastic bag and empty the whipped cream into one corner of the bag. Take a scissor and cut a small slit in one corner to allow the whipped cream to flow out when you apply pressure to the bag.

Creating the martini: Bottom of the glass – I put 3 blueberries at the very bottom and then began layering the whipped cream in a circle and alternating with the sliced strawberries. Do this until the glass is almost full. For the very top layer, lay the strawberries in a flower like arrangement and create a peak with the whipped cream in the very center. Arrange the blueberries around the peak.

Stay safe and Happy 4th!

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