Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cinnamon Chai Shortbread with Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Glaze #Creative Cookie Exchange

This is my first post for The Creative Cookie Exchange group I just recently joined and I'm really excited about it. First of all, I LOVE cookies. Cookies are my favorite snack, dessert, comfort food et al... I eat them when I'm happy, I eat them when I'm sad, I'm eat them when I'm mad. Seriously, shouldn't there be a Dr. Seuss book about cookies already? I could totally write it...
But back to these cookies. The theme for this month's Creative Cookie Exchange was cinnamon. I happen to think cinnamon and chai pair perfectly together, maybe that's a bit redundant because cinnamon is an ingredient in chai, but oh well..
While searching for cinnamon inspiration, I found fell in love with this blog called i bake he shoots. Amazing photography and great recipes. I was captivated by Mondo's Chai Shortbread and knew I wanted to make these for the cookie exchange with a few modifications. I decreased the orange zest, omitted the anise (didn't have it) and added vanilla bean paste to the glaze. Can I just tell you how amazingly delicious these cookies are? The flavor of the warm spices complimented by the zing from the orange zest make you want to slap your mama cuddle up in your favorite armchair with a cup of tea, a fuzzy throw and a good book. 
Make them for the holidays. Everyone will love you.
Cinnamon Chai Shortbread with Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Glaze
Makes 18 2" cookies
Cookie Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
dash of cinnamon
splash of vanilla bean paste
3-4 teaspoons of milk or cream
Whisk together the flour, spices and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the sugar and orange zest in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and using your finger tips squeeze the orange zest into the sugar to release the oils and create orange "scented" sugar. The sugar should smell really fragrant.
Add the softened butter and mix at medium speed until fluffy (approx. 2 minutes), scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
Place the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and place another piece of parchment on top. Roll into a disk about 1/4" and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Remove dough from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350f.
Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a cookie cutter (mine was a 2" square cutter with scalloped edges) cut about 18 cookies.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets (they don't spread) and bake for approx. 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and carefully place on a wire cooking rack to cool completely.
While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisking with a fork or whisk until smooth. Start with only 3 teaspoons of milk/cream and mix well to check the consistency. Gradually add more milk/cream little by little (stirring well after each addition) until you reach desired consistency.
Drizzle or dip your cookies into the glaze as desired.
Leftover cookies (if any!) can be stored in an air tight container for 2 days.
Are we the only ones who start craving cinnamon when the weather gets colder? We can't be! And we are talking anything sold under the word cinnamon--cassia, "true cinnamon", Ceylon cinnamon, Vietnamese Cinnamon--if it is sold as cinnamon, it is what we want! Check out all of our cinnamon cookies below! Hint: A lot of them could be used for your holiday cookie table!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Maple Bacon Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars with Pecan Shortbread Crust

While I have always been more of a cookie or cake person, I recently discovered, after making 15 pies for a former co-worker's wedding, that I love to bake pie.

There's something homey and comforting about pie. The process of making the dough and prepping the fillings is actually pretty relaxing. It's amazing how a few simple ingredients can be transformed into something beautiful and delicious.
To support my new-found love for pie baking, I recently joined a Pie Baking Group on Facebook (thanks Karen!). For the month of November, Karen challenged us to bake a Pecan Pie. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of pecan pie, there's something about the gooey texture (and corn syrup) that doesn't appeal to me, but I found a way to put my personal spin on the challenge and that involved 2 of my favorite baking ingredients....bacon and bourbon! Hence these Maple Bacon Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars with Pecan Shortbread Crust were born!
If you love pie, want to learn more about pie or just want to look at drool-worthy pie photos, I encourage you to join the group. I guarantee you'll be ins-pie-erd.
Maple Bacon Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars with Pecan Shortbread Crust
Makes 9-12 bars depending upon size
Crust Ingredients:
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
Filling Ingredients:

2 slices thick cut bacon cooked and chopped (I baked my bacon at 375 for approx. 20 min. Baking the bacon renders the fat more evenly)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temp
1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a rectangular tart pan with removable bottom with non-stick cooking spay or line a 9"x9" baking pan with non-stick foil (or spray regular foil) leaving a slight overhang to use as handles to easily remove the bars from the pan.

Place the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar and pecans in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until combined and the pecans and small. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like course crumbs (a few small chunks of butter remaining is ok).

For the tart pan: press the dough mixture into an even layer over the bottom and all the way up the sides of the pan. Place on a baking sheet.

For the 9x9 baking pan: press the dough evenly over the bottom and a little way up the sides (approx. 1").

Bake at 350 for approx. 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven. If the crust has puffed up a little, press it down with a spoon.

Make the filling:

Combine the melted butter, maple syrup, bourbon, vanilla, salt, brown sugar and egg in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the baked crust.

Sprinkle the pecans, chocolate chips and bacon evenly over the filling.

Bake at 350 for approx. 20-25 minutes or until set.

Remove from oven.

If using the tart pan - allow to cool for approx. 1 hour before releasing the tart from the pan. Keep the bottom of the pan on until completely cooled. Then remove the bottom of the pan and cut into bars.

If using the 9x9 baking pan - allow to cool for approx. 30 minutes then remove the bars from the pan using the foil overhang. When completely cool, cut into bars.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Perfect Fall Treat !!! Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Tarts!

Need a quick & delicious dessert for your upcoming Fall parties? Well, these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse tarts are perfect! There is very little baking involved and they can be made the day ahead!  
I was attending the annual birthday party for my boyfriend and his friends, and I needed a quick and tasty dessert recipe. I used the base of my usual party favorite (Cheesecake Cups)and added pumpkin and a few other fall flavors and boom....... these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse tarts were born!
 As usual, after testing a recipe, I posted a picture on Instagram saying the recipe would be coming soon. Then I planned a second round of recipe testing before sharing the recipe with you all on the blog.
For the second round of testing, just to make sure the recipe was absolutely perfect,  I baked the tarts for a double celebration - happy hour to congratulate a co-worker who had recently been promoted  (Congrats Brie!) and a friend's birthday (Happy Birthday Amber!).  I followed the same basic recipe as the first test round, but made a few changes which elevated the tarts to the next level and made them blog worthy!
The flavors are the essence of the holidays all rolled into one; pumpkin, cinnamon, crisp-buttery crust and light & fluffy cheesecake. Honestly what could be more perfect? The birthday girl said she needed of bathtub full of the stuff and another co-worker called them PUMPKINLICIOUS!.   
I hope you give this sweet treat a try for your holiday parties!
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Tarts
Makes 24-36 minis (or 12-16 regular size)

1 box premade pie crust (if you want to make homemade, here is the link)
1 1/3 cups heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup powder sugar
8oz cream cheese, soften
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon maple extract (optional)
3/4 cup Solid Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat oven to 350
Lightly spray the back side of a mini cupcake pan lightly with cooking spray.

Roll pie crust out on a floured surface. Use rolling pin to straighten edges but do not over roll.  Cut into 2 1/2" circles.  Place circles on a flipped over mini pie tray.  Make two indention's into each cup

Bake for 11-13 minute till light brown.. Remove from oven and place on cooling tray. They should slide right off.

As crust is cooling, whip cream until it forms soft peals (approx 2-3 minutes)

Add 1/4 cup of  powdered sugar. Mix until peaks are stiff.  Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.

Place the cream cheese, vanilla and maple extracts in the same bowl (no need to clean out) that was used to whip the cream and mix until creamy.

Add remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

Filling will be nice and smooth. (I know you'll want to eat with a spoon right there and then!)

Fold in Whipped cream.

Add mixture to piping bag and fill each of the individual tarts.

Refrigerate for 1 hour.


Fun stuff!
1. I took the leftover pie crust and made little cookie hearts. Just cut pie dough into shapes, brush with butter and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon. bake at 350f or 10 minutes

2. You will have some leftover mousse. I just made little mousse cups. Just as good without the calories of the crust :-)!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

White Chocolate Dipped Pumpkin Spice Latte Boo-scotti for The Leftovers Club

Do you ever feel like somebody's watching you? It just might be my White Chocolate Dipped Pumpkin Spice Latte Boo-scotti! Cute name for some adorable cookies, right?

The theme for this month's Leftovers Club was Halloween (duh!) which is always fun because you get to be playful with food. For my partner, Kathia, from Basic n Delicious, I wanted to embrace the spirit of Halloween but still make an "adult" treat that wasn't overly sweet or contrived. I knew right away that Biscotti would be perfect, plus I secretly  wanted an excuse to be able to use the word "boo-scotti" haha!
I hope Kathia enjoys my Boo-scotti as much as I enjoyed making them!
If you would like to join in on all of the fun, why not sign up to join the Leftovers Club over at Food Ramblings?

White Chocolate Dipped Pumpkin Spice Latte Booscotti
Makes about 20 cookies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temp
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups white chocolate chips
Small edible eyeballs for decoration
Preheat oven to 350

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper

Place the butter, sugar, spices, baking powder and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream at medium speed until smooth and creamy (approx. 2 minutes).

Add the egg and pumpkin puree and mix at medium speed until combined.

Add the flour and mix on low speed just until combined.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and divide in half.

Shape each half of dough into a log approx. 10" long by 2" wide by 1/2" tall. You might need to wet your hands slightly or spray your hands with nonstick spray as the dough is a bit wet.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 325.

Place the cookie logs on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut each log diagonally into 10-12 slices (for a total of 20-24 cookies).

Stand the sliced cookies back onto the cookie sheet with the bottom of the cookie facing down.

Return to the oven (which should now be set at 325) and bake for an additional 25 minutes. The cookies should be golden and crispy but the interior should still be just a little soft. Turn the oven off and crack open the door. Allow the cookies to cool in the oven until they are completely cool.

Remove from oven and place on a wire cooling rack.

Melt the white chocolate chips in a metal bowl over a pot of barely simmering water stirring often. White chocolate needs to be melted low and slow otherwise it will seize up and become grainy.

When the white chocolate is melted, transfer to a small, deep bowl (like a deep ramekin).

Dip each biscotti into the chocolate, turning it if needed then place on parchment or wax paper. Add the eyes and allow to dry.

Biscotti usually last for several days.




Monday, September 21, 2015

Super Easy Pumpkin Filled Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls in 30 minutes? Yep, it's totally possible thanks to this convenient short cut - Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough Sheets!

While I'm a firm believer in baking from scratch, there are times when you just don't have the time or energy. It's times like that when it's totally fine to take a short-cut now and then.
These crescent sheets are perfect for making regular cinnamon rolls, but this weekend, I decided to give them a Fall flavor makeover by adding pumpkin puree to the filling! This simple addition gave the cinnamon rolls a subtle pumpkin flavor without being too overwhelming.

Super Easy Pumpkin Filled Cinnamon Rolls w/Maple Cinnamon Glaze
Serves 3-4
Makes 8 small size rolls
Recipe adapted from Diethood

Roll Ingredients:
1 tube of Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tablespoon milk
2 1/2 tablespoons golden or light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
dash of vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon real maple syrup
a few tablespoons of milk or half & half

Preheat oven to 375f

Line an 8" baking pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray

Combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl

Unroll the crescent sheets onto a cutting board.

Spread the softened butter into an even layer leaving a small 1/2" border on the long/wide end that is farthest from you. Spread the pumpkin mixture over the butter in an even layer leaving the same 1/2" border.

Starting with the long end that is closest to you, roll the dough towards the other end rolling as tight as possible without causing the filling to ooze out of the ends.

Using your hands, shape the log so that it is smooth and evenly shaped, gently pressing in the ends if needed.

Cut into 8 rolls. Note: you'll have a blank spot in your baking pan which is totally fine.

Place the rolls in the baking pan (I had 2 rows of 3 and 1 row of 2) and bake at 375f for approximately 18 minutes or until lightly golden brown and done.

Remove from oven and place the pan on a wire cooling rack to cool for a few minutes.

While the rolls are cooling, make the glaze - place the powdered sugar in a med size bowl, add the cinnamon, vanilla, salt and maple syrup. Stir to combine. Add a tablespoon of the milk/half & half and stir well to combine. Add additional milk a little at a time, stirring after each addition, until you reach your desired consistency. The glaze should be thick but should be able to drizzle with a fork or spoon.

Drizzle over the slightly warm rolls. Note: you want the rolls to be warm when you apply the glaze but not too hot or your glaze will melt into the rolls

Serve warm or room temp & enjoy!

Store leftovers - what leftovers? I guarantee there won't be any! But if there are, store at room temp in an air tight container for one day.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Monster Trail Mix Granola Bars for The Leftovers Club

The beginning of September means Labor Day and back to school! This month's Leftover's Club swap had a back to school theme. My partner for this month, Francesca from My Pixie Steps, has a new blog and is also new to The Leftovers Club. Welcome Francesca! Francesca's blog is all about her journey towards eating healthy and she has shared several great looking healthy recipes on her blog so far. You should go check it out!

On her blog, Francesca mentions she has kids so I wanted to make a healthy, back to school treat that her whole family could enjoy. Homemade trail mix is healthy and can be easily customized to suit your tastes. I used homemade trail mix to make these Monster Cookie Granola Bars using a variety of dried fruits and nuts (almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, blueberries and dark chocolate) sweetened with honey and peanut butter. I meant to throw some flax seed in there, but forgot! At the last minute I decided to decorate the top with a few mini M&M's. I know, not very healthy, but hey you have to indulge a little bit sometime, right?
This recipe is super fast and easy to make (no bake), even the kids can make it on their own. I hope you give it a try!
If you'd like to join the The Leftovers Club, like Francesca did, and swap yummy goodies with fellow bloggers, please sign up over at Food Ramblings. Elizabeth does a great job of organizing the swap every month. I guarantee you'll have a lot of fun!

Monster Trail Mix Granola Bars
Makes 10 bars

1/2 cup unsalted, roasted cashews
2/3 cup whole, raw almonds
1 1/2 cups organic old fashioned oats
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate chunks
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
1/4 cup mini M&M's for garnish (optional)


Line an 8x8 baking pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper. Set aside.

Coarsely chop the cashews, almonds and cranberries. Place them in a large bowl with the oats, dried blueberries and chopped dark chocolate chunks.

Place the peanut butter in a small microwaveable bowl. Heat for 35-40 seconds or until melted. Remove from the microwave and add the honey and sea salt. Stir well to combine. Allow to cool for a bit until room temp but still loose. If the peanut butter is too hot, it will melt the chocolate.

Pour the peanut butter/honey mixture over the granola mixture and stir well to combine.

Dump the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer. I wet my hands a little bit to make this part easier. Press well to  compact the bars then sprinkle the mini M&M's on top and gently press those into the top to help them adhere. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight to harden.

Remove from the baking pan using the foil and cut into bars. Enjoy!

Store tightly covered at room temp for up to 5 days or store in the refrigerator (preferred).

Sunday, August 23, 2015



It's HOT!!!! I know we Californians complaining about the heat is funny to you guys in the Midwest or East coast, but really... its HOT!  We haven't had a summer like this in years.  It's humid and a hot 90 degrees in Southern California. We are used to our nice, warm 75 degree perfect beach weather.  Well, apparently mother nature had another plan for us this summer. So what are we to do? Well, make popsicles to cool us down of course!  Faye gave me a great gift this year for my birthday, an old fashioned, but updated, popsicle making kit!  Well let's just say that with this unbearable heat, that popsicle kit and I have become good friends this summer.  
My mom always made us homemade popsicles growing up so I'm just going back to my roots. The recipe possibilities are endless! But I am going to start you off with a simple and delicious one!  Cantaloupe is really cheap right now at the stores. I picked up this one for $.50 the other day and with those .50,  I made 12 delicious popsicles.  A cool treat for under $1.00, honestly who can beat that?  
Ok... back to the Cantaloupe and Lime Popsicles.. these are so good. They are sweet and tangy,  a perfect combination of summer flavors. They have the perfect consistency when you remove them from the Popsicle mold. Nice and solid, so very easy to eat.  I really hope you give these popsicles a try and cool down your summer a bit.
Fresh Cantaloupe and Lime Popsicles
Makes 12 regular size popsicles

1 large cantaloupe
1 lime
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water + an additional 1/4 cup
12 Popsicle sticks
1 Popsicle mold
** See note below if you do not have a mold

Combine 2/3 sugar and 2/3 water in a small sauce pan.  Add the juice of 1 lime and then 1/2 of the juiced lime. Cook at medium-high heat, stirring so that the sugar doesn't stick to the bottom. About 5 minutes until sugar has dissolved.  Cool until warm to touch. 

Cut and seed the cantaloupe.  Put the chopped cantaloupe into a blender and discard the rind.

Add the cooled lime sugar into the blender along with 1/4 cup of water.

Blend on high for about 2 minutes until smooth.

Pour cantaloupe mixture into Popsicle mold.  Add popsicle stick and freeze for about 5 hours. Overnight is the best.


NOTE: If you do not have a popsicle mold, you can still enjoy this delicious summer treat! Check out these instructions for making popsicles without a mold on Modern Parents Messy Kids