Recipe: Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Cookies.

Sometimes I blog about a recipe I've attempted and then I try it again at a later date and end up doing a much better job. So then I blog about it again and pretend like the first time never happened.

This is one of those times.

According to VeryBestBaking.com

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup pure pumpkin
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp melter butter
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F (176 C). Grease baking sheets.

1. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until thoroughly combined.

3. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes.

Remove from sheets and place cookies on wire racks to cool completely.

5. Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and beat until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cookies.

Instead of greasing my baking sheets, I just lined them with parchment paper. Baked goods always seem to cook more evenly (I.e. not burning the bottoms) with parchment paper.

I added white chocolate chips to my recipe. I don't remember how much though, so just eyeball it. This recipe yields a cake-like cookie, so the white chocolate chips were the perfect addition to break up the chewiness. If you don't like white chocolate (which is a shame, because really, the white chocolate chips were perfect in these cookies), I'd suggest butterscotch chips.

I made these for a Thanksgiving dinner my family decided to have before Halloween. They were a hit. Not to mention, super easy to make. This is a great recipe for cooking with kids.


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My Post-Thanksgiving Bod.

I gained four pounds between Thanksgiving and Sunday.

For all you non-mathletes out there, I reckon that's one pound per day.

Showcasing all my hard eating work is the laparoscopy aftermath strewn about my midriff. The combination of five tightly cinched scars on the overextended potbellyness of my new physique is something akin to high-quality, Baroque furniture.

For a nominal fee, I'm available to sit in your tea rooms/salons/ parlours and look fancy.

Basically me.

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Thanksgiving: The Holiday Where I Eat Too Much for Two Months Straight.

Since I'm sure everyone is over and done with the whole "I'm thankful for blah-blah-blah" posts, I'll spare you the thankfulness act. Instead, I'll just overload you with a photo dump from the holiday weekend.

We spent Thanksgiving day with Eric's family. His parents recently bought a new house and this was my first time seeing it. I loved it. I also loved the new furniture. And I especially loved the endless supply of holiday food. In fact, when we first arrived I put away nearly a whole dish of French onion dip/ Fritos all by myself. The pilgrims would have been proud.

Pearl and her cousin working on an archeological dig project that we bought at the Gem and Mineral Show.

Eric's parents, who graciously hosted the delicious meal.

Eric's sister and brother-in-law, Vicki and Tate.

The table setting I fell in love with.

Still in love with it.

Eric and his brother Todd.

Pearl and her cousin modeling holiday attire 2012.

Nephew Mark playing the guitar.

Eric and I doing our best "teenager" impression.

Two days after Thanksgiving, we hosted our own get-together for my family at our house. Since everyone was all turkey'd out, we switched up the menu and went with Mexican. Eric and I slaved away over enchiladas, Mom made Mexican rice, and my sister Tanya made the refried beans. My brother Chris brought beer and margaritas. I'm not exaggerating when I say EVERY item on the menu was mouthwatering. Eric and I even ate it again the next night as leftovers and it was even better the second time around.

The kids acting like they have deep thoughts.

Sister-in-law Joy chatting with the girls.

Sister Tanya and niece Annalise.

Mom, probably telling the story about how she swears the movie Losing Isaiah is a real story that she heard about on the news.

Nephew M, his flared nostrils, and Biscuit.

The enchiladas from Heaven.

The enchiladas from Heaven (continued).

The younger kids played Tennis on the original Nintendo, while the older ones played Halo.

All of the kids made their own sundaes for dessert.

My sister, the Unoriginal Thinker. We all acknowledged that this was the best picture taken of her the whole night, so I agreed to actually making it available to her.

Pearl and her new BFF. At one point, I actually saw Pearl run up behind Annalise and casually put her arm around her. You know, like on an awkward date.

Nephew L lounging around while watching TV.

My brother Chris. In our family, it's not a party unless at least one person ends up like this.

That's it for my Thanksgiving round-up. Both celebrations were a success and lots of fun. How did it compare to yours? Pretty standard, I'm guessing. Except fort he enchiladas. Unless you're Mexican. In which case, it was still pretty standard.


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Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole.

Growing up, I never liked sweet potatoes. It was really only something we had on Thanksgiving, and even then I wasn't sold. Every year my mom would cook up these candied yam things and I'd be like "No, thanks. Pass anything except those slimy-looking orange blocks." So imagine my surprise when I discovered a version of sweet potatoes that I was not only willing to try, but that I actually love.

It was a lot of surprise.

This recipe comes from Eric's sister, Vicki. She makes these for Thanksgiving and you better believe I'm looking forward to doing some damage. T minus three days...


2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 cups mini marshmallows
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

1. Place sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.

2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla. Mash well with a potato masher (or use an electric mixer) until smooth. Fold in 1/4 cup pecans.

3. Pour mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Top with marshmallows. Bake until golden, approximately 25 minutes.

This recipe involves a buttery, rich, sweet, crunchy version of sweet potatoes. Not unlike pumpkin pie. While I can't guarantee everyone will love them, I can guarantee that I will. And that's just as good, if you ask me.


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Recipe: Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Continuing on with the "seasonal" baking, I thought this recipe would make a great addition to my holiday themed pig-out fest. I came across this recipe not too long ago and immediately thought to myself "That looks good. I will make it under the guise that it is for someone else and then I will eat the shit out of it."

From Epicurious.com

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup walnuts

5 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F (176 C) with rack in the middle. Butter an 8- or 9- inch square pan.

1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

2. Beat butter, brown sugar, vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well with each addition. Add applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in walnuts.

3. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. (When you poke a toothpick down through the center of the cake and it comes out clean, it's ready.) Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen, invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake to a rack to cool completely.

4. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy.

 Sift confectioner's sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated. Spread frosting over cooled cake.


The original recipe called for unsalted butter. I only use salted butter because that's what I like.

When it came time to flip the cake out of the pan, of course, it broke and a quarter of it remained firmly stuck. I just pushed them back together and smothered in frosting. Either this cake calls for a thick layer of butter on the pan or it may need the butter/ flour one-two combo.

This cake is pretty dense. My mom suggested it's possible that I overmixed once the flour was added. For future reference, less mixing.

The frosting isn't very sweet and tasted a tad too much like it's original cream cheese state, in my opinion. Try bumping the confectioner's sugar up to 1 1/4 cups.

The walnuts added a nice crunch to the cake and I think I next time I will add more.

I'm also toying with the idea of adding real apple bits to the batter. Eric's coworker made an apple cake recently that had apple chunks and a caramel topping and it was really good. It was actually my inspiration for finally trying this recipe.


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Coffee with Mark.

It's always sad when someone you know passes away. Especially when it happens out of the blue and there's been no time to warm up to the idea of saying goodbye.

This past weekend I went to a funeral service for a friend I met while in college. His name was Mark and he was a goofy, awkward guy who always had a sneaky smile on his face, like he'd just played a practical joke on you, but didn't want you to find out. Kind of the way you'd picture your best friend's pesky little brother. There was more than one occasion when I found myself huffing and puffing for him to leave me alone while I attempted to finish my homework. He was funny as shit- always reliable to say something awfully inappropriate- and I remember having lots of laughs with him.

We worked together in the campus admissions office for two years. Over that period of time I got to see what a sensitive, caring, thoughtful, sincere person he was. And I don't mean that in a blinded, superficial way- like when a girl is talking about her boyfriend who's clearly a jerk, but she insists that he's really a "sweetheart." I mean it, genuinely. Mark was THE "nice guy" and everyone who met him could see it plain as day.

He was always doing really thoughtful things, like coming into work with baked goods that his mom had made. I remember one time in particular, he brought in two loaves of banana bread. One, he gave to the emplyees in our department. The other, he gave me personally, so my roommates and I could have plenty for ourselves.

And when it came to working, Mark gave it his all. Even though we were student employees, he took his responsibilities seriously. My friend Melissa worked down the hall in a different department, and she even admitted to bringing the "difficult" parents to Mark because he had a calming and reassuring way about him. There was one dad in particular who was a real asshole... Mark never even batted an eyelash at him.

After I graduated, I didn't see Mark anymore. We never ran into each other around town and it had literally been years since we'd been in contact. Randomly, two months ago, Melissa ran into him at Target. They caught each other up on stories related to people they both knew, myself included. That same day, I found a message in my Facebook inbox. The message said "Ahhhhhhhh-HAAAAAA! Found you." Of course. It was Mark. We messaged a few times back back and forth. And although my initial reaction to seeing the message was "Pesky Mark again..." it was actually a really nice surprise to hear from him. I had always remembered him as being a funny, sweet guy, so it was nice to hear the same goofiness come across in his emails. Upon finding out that I was unemployed, he quickly sent me advice on how to find paying blog gigs. He had also caught himself up on my personal blogging efforts and said that he was happy to hear about my "new butt."

In one of those messages, he mentioned the possibility of meeting with him and his girlfriend to catch up over coffee.  I dismissed it, thinking it was just polite smalltalk. Looking back, I wish I would have taken him up on his offer.

His service this weekend was a somber event and any attempts I would have made to hide my sadness would have been pointless. I imagine that after crying for the past hour, my puffy face and melted makeup looked like a cross between Jocelyn Wildenstein and Joker Cat. Soon enough, the time had come for guests to give their condolences to his family. I didn't really know what to say, as I was sure that pretty much every other person there meant more to his family than I did. When it got to my turn, I gave my condolences, introduced myself, and told them how I knew Mark. His parents seemed genuinely happy and even said "Oh! I know you!" when they learned who I was. They said that Mark would have been very happy to have me there. I don't know if that was just the polite thing to say in a situation like that, but it made me feel good. I was glad that I was able to go to this event for Mark and I was glad that I had the chance to meet his family.


I'm sharing this story not to get sympathy, but as a reminder of how fragile, and sometimes unfair, life is. And knowing that Mark was a fan of writing and storytelling, I think he would truly appreciate this post.

I know he is in a better place and I look forward to the day when we'll get another chance to catch up over coffee.

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Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake Pasties.

If you've never lived in the U.K., or been to the U.K., or had friends from the U.K., or spent any time getting tanked in a British pub, you've probably never heard of a pasty.

Basically, a pasty (pronounced pass-tee) is a pocket of dough filled with meat, vegetables, or sweets. Kind of like an empanada. In case you're wondering, this is what they typically look like. In the good, old fashioned England times, worker men would take pasties in their lunches because they were essentially fully-contained party bags for your stomach.

I don't know how pasty'ish this recipe is because they actually look and taste nothing like any pasties I've ever had. (My qualifications? I did spend a short amount of time living in London, I was married to a Brit, and I eat a lot of food.) They seem more like rugelach, if you ask me. But they're still really, really delicious and definitely worth your while. Especially because people like to maximize their pumpkin intake during the month of November. That's a thing, right? I mean, I know I do.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pasties
(Recipe from Bakingdom.com)

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
8 oz cream cheese
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
3 to 4 sheets of frozen puff pastry

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

For the egg wash:
Whisk one egg with two teaspoons of water until frothy


Thaw puff pastry before you start baking. To thaw, I usually wrap each roll of pastry (typically, two come in a pack) with a clean tea towel and let it sit for 30-60 minutes in the refrigerator. I saw on a cooking show one time that the towel prevents the dough from getting soggy as it thaws. So far, it's worked great for me. If you've never used puff pastry before, it's surprisingly foolproof and usually results in something very impressive looking.

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.

Using a mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar mixture until light and fluffy, about one minute. Add egg and stir until combined. Make sure to scrape down the walls of the bowl every so often. Stir in pumpkin puree until throughly combined. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice. This is your filling.

Roll out the puff pastry until it's roughly 12x12. To avoid the dough sticking and/or ripping, make sure to flour both side of your dough. Liberally. Trust me on this.

Move your dough to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Use a pizza slicer to cut 16 even squares.

Spoon a generous helping of the filling into the center of each square.

Brush all four edges with the egg wash.

Fold two opposite corners up, so they just overlap on top.

Do this until all of your dough or mixture is used. Chill for 30 minutes.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to FULLY COOL before glazing.

To make the glaze, whisk sugar and milk until thoroughly combined. Stir in vanilla. Drizzle glaze over pasties. To get an even "drizzle" effect, I used a piping bag. If you don't have piping bags, just load your icing into a Ziplock baggie and cut off one of the bottom corner tips. Finish with a dusting of confectioners' sugar.


I've only made these once, but they turned out surprisingly well. Not one slip-up or mistake. I took them to Eric's office as a nice midday snack. I hadn't even been back on the road for five minutes when I got the text that they were all gone. I also found out the next day that one of his coworkers took one for her daughter, a notoriously picky eater. Apparently, she ate it right up. My voodoo priestess magic is working afterall!

With that said, these ended up causing quite a scene in our kitchen by the time I was done baking. And by "quite a scene", I mean it could have easily been mistaken for one of Def Leppard's 1985 hotel rooms. It was a disaster. Baking sheets and cooling racks: everywhere. Mixing bowls: everywhere. Powdered sugar: everywhere. Glue-like icing: everywhere. I think you get the idea. Don't make these if you're going to be pressed for time with guests coming over. Unless you have a housekeeper. In which case, why aren't you hosting more events for me to come to?

Try these out and let me know what you think! Maybe serve pasties instead of the usual pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Even with all the effort and cleaning involved, the presentation and taste are totally worth it.


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