Nutella Pillow Cookies and the 3rd Annual Cookie Swap!

Brrr…it’s cold in here…there must be some Clovers in the atmosphere (sorry, Bring It On reference). Temps are in the 40s in SF which is relatively warm considering I’m from the East coast but I must admit I’M COLD. It must be the wind or the fact that my apartment feels like a refrigerator. Regardless, I am a little nervous going home where temps are in the teens. I hope I can still face “real” winter!

On Sunday, I held my third annual cookie swap. Crazy town. Time has flown by! I made these lovely Nutella Pillow Cookies.

Its fun to host an annual event. Each year I’ve tried to do something a little different. This year I had it on a weekend instead of after work which I think worked well for most people. I also had friends vote on their favorite cookie with a prize for the cookie with the most votes!

The other cookies included: Oreo Cheesecake Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Special K Cookies, No-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies, Gingerbread Ninjas, Caramel Pecan Turtles, Cream Cheese Cookies, and Chocolate Mint Cookies.

For the first time, we also had egg nog! There was a vote for it too but the winner at the end of the day was:

Snickerdoodles! Kiley made these and they were divine. I loved how soft and light they were. I may have hoarded a few of these just for myself. And the prize for the top cookie? More cookies! Jk, the prize was legit. The Miette cookbook, which I am also a proud owner of 🙂 But truly, all the cookies were delicious! I can’t wait for next year.

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May All Your Christmases Be White

It’s snowing in NY! It’s going to be a white Christmas – squeals! I was hoping for snow. I know I must sound crazy but there’s something really nice about being bundled up with some hot chocolate and watching holiday movies by an electric fireplace (a real fireplace would be better but you work with what you have).

Kara, the Christmas Corgi.

I’m heading to Spain with Chris in a couple of days! We started the year in Harlem and will be spending the last day of 2012 in Barcelona. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 🙂

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies

 

I am officially in the holiday spirit! I know because:

1. I have watched Elf two times already (and still counting);

2. I searched for the music video “Merry Christmas, And Happy Holidays” by *NSYNC recently;

3. One night I asked Chris to stay up to cut out paper snowflakes; and

4. I am craving peppermint!

I love peppermint even though some people associate it with dental mouthwash and chewing gum, I just can’t get enough of it this time of year.

This weekend was a crazy, jam packed one. It started off with a really big lie. I told Chris we were going to a coworker’s surprise birthday party on Friday night when in reality, the party was for Chris! Talk about being blindsided. Chris had no clue and had the worst ‘surprised’ face ever – it was part shock, mostly horror, and teetering on disgust. It was bizarre and I wished I had a picture to share. Chris’ party kicked off the weekend with our friends from Monterey, Ryan and Maegan, who came up to visit. On Saturday, we explored the Haight and Hayes Valley, and ended up in Bernal Heights at Piqueos for dinner. That night we met some random people from Connecticut when we went to a party at a greenhouse in Berkeley (strange, but fun).

On Sunday, we went to the Niners/Dolphins game. It was incredibly hot outside, and not just for December, but for any day of the year. It was so hot that I could have traded my Uggs, jeans and thermal heat shirt with fleece and scarf for shorts, t-shirt and Converses’. It still blows my mind I can get a tan in December.

Which is why it’s hard to be in holiday mode sometimes since there are no seasons! It helps putting up twinkly lights in your apartment and your snowflakes cutouts on the windows:)

Baking peppermint hot cocoa cookies will also help.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cookies
Recipe adapted from The Pastry Affair via Rachael Ray
Makes about 3 dozen

Get

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces (2 cups) semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (about 2 packets) hot cocoa mix 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • About 8 ounces of mini marshmallows
  • Crushed peppermint candy canes (optional)
  • Chocolate syrup (optional)

Bake
*In a small saucepan, melt together butter and chocolate chips over low heat. Stir until smooth and set aside.
*In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar and eggs. Add vanilla and peppermint extracts. Slowly incorporate flour, hot cocoa mix, baking powder, and salt.  Mix in melted chocolate. Refrigerate cookie dough for 1 hour to solidify (otherwise it is too liquid to bake!).
*Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside.
*Use a spoon to scoop out cookie dough and spread out evenly on baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until cookie tops begin to crack.
*Pull out cookies from oven and place a 1/2 inch piece of chocolate on top of each cookie. Take 4-5 mini marshmallows and place it on top of the chocolate. (You can snip the ends of the mini marshmallows to make them adhere better to the chocolate.)
*Bake cookies for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until marshmallows have softened. Drizzle with chocolate syrup and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy canes if desired.

Enjoy!

A New Year and Butter Nut Cookies

Looking back, 2011 was a big year. I started it in Boston at a quiet corner bar, seated around my best friend Candice, her then fiancee, my friend Kat, and Chris who I was kinda dating at the time. We talked about New Year’s resolutions and I said mine would be to get a new job. Little did I know I would actually fulfill it! And that it would happen 3,000 miles away in San Francisco.

Other highlights included going snowboarding for the first time! I fell on my tailbone, hard. Like if you were there, you would have heard a crack. I also jumped on a trampoline. Luckily, I didn’t snap my ankle or bounce off and hit the ground. I witnessed two of my friends get married, at Vegas and at West Point. I won 20 cents in Vegas! I did not cash in my voucher yet. I’m waiting until I have a whole dollar.

Baller!


I ate fish stomach, pig brain, and tuna. I really didn’t enjoy any of it.

Pig roast feast.

Two family members passed away and our family was reunited twice. I traveled to Ethiopia, Germany, Thailand, Mongolia and back and forth from NY to SF five times.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Holy crap, right? I’ve reach Silver status with Delta! That means absolutely nothing. I’m still a second class citizen when I fly.

Now looking ahead to 2012, I started this year in New York City at a bar in Harlem with my cousin, her boyfriend, her roommate and Chris.

I’m a walrus. 

All I can hope for this year is that everyone remains healthy. My New Year’s resolution will be to not move and stay in the same job; basically be stagnant. And maybe lose three pounds. We’ll see how that goes.

I am getting ready to head to Boston today! I had a lot of fun at home. My mom made her Butter Nut Cookies that we all go crazy for. She got the recipe from a coworker. They’re so good right out of the oven, so buttery and crumbly with a nutty texture.

Nom nom nom.

Butter Nut Cookies

Get

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 1 6oz bag of chopped walnuts
  • powdered sugar (for rolling)

Bake

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking pans with parchment paper.
*Sift flour, sugar and salt. Work in butter and vanilla until well combined. Fold in walnuts.
*Roll dough into balls (about a tablespoon of dough) and place on baking pans.
*Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned.
*Let cool for 5 minutes or until the cookies are not hot but warm.
*Roll in powdered sugar. Place in small baking cups (1 5/8 or 41mm).

Enjoy! Happy New Year!


So Hot Right Now

Union Square, San Francisco



I was worried that it wouldn’t feel like Christmas here mainly because I have only known December to be chilly and snowy. I’m supposed to be cold in the winter gosh darn it. Why am I sweating when I walk to work? Why are people showing their bare legs? 


When I come to think about it, I shouldn’t be complaining. It’s kind of awesome not having to bundle up and break out the down jacket. And San Francisco is pretty decked out in holiday decorations so it definitely has the ambiance down. The decorated palm trees are definitely fun to look at. There are your standard evergreen trees too. Chris and I saw a great one while at a friend’s birthday dinner at Pebble Beach.


The Inn at Spanish Bay, Monterey, CA



Though it’s not quite the same without the below zero wind chills… 


I feel like I must have a distorted form of Stockholm syndrome. Yes, Boston, your coldness trembled my bones, froze my face off and sliced through me like a knife. It made me bitter and angry and I probably pushed strangers and kicked babies who were in my way…but we were in it together. Boston loved me and I loved it.


I sound like a crazy person. I’m sure I will take this all back soon when I’m home and visiting Beantown.


Well it’s time to be burdened by family for the next few weeks…heading back East for Christmas and New Year’s. Woo!  Happy holidays!

Gingerbread Cookies and Cookie Swap

Back in Boston, my job would host a cookie swap every year in December. It was awesome. You get to try out a new recipe or improve a familiar one. There would always be more cookies than anyone could ever want. And then of course, the inevitable sugar high after sampling everyone’s cookies is part of the fun.

To carry out this tradition in my new city, I invited friends over to my little shoebox of an apartment to swap some cookies and get cracked out on sugar.

I had a hard time deciding what to make – there are too many good cookies out there! I ended up making gingerbread; a Christmas classic. I used tree cookie cutters and decorated them with store bought cookie icing and mint M&M’s.

The cookie swap was a success. The full list of sweets included Chocolate Peppermint Buttons, Muddy Buddies, Chocolate Sambuca Crinkles, Black Sesame Seed Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Peanut Butter Nutella Swirl Cookies, Chocolate Covered Macaroons, Coconut Drop Cookies and Cranberry Orange Bread. People told me I had to make it an annual event.

It made me think of my coworkers in Boston.  I can’t wait to go back to Boston in January to see them! Yup, that’s right. I’m excited about freezing my face off in January. I need to embrace the cold and keep my thick skin otherwise I’ll become weak sauce living out here. Yesterday I overhead a lady saying, “It’s freeeeezing. It’s 48 degrees out!” I was thinking oh girlfriend, you don’t even know what cold is.

Anyways, hope all of you are enjoying lots of holiday treats! Make these gingerbread cookies if you are cookie-deprived 🙂

Gingerbread Cookies
Recipe from Martha Stewart

Get

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg

Bake
*In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses and egg. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients; mix just until a dough forms. Place dough on floured plastic wrap; pat into an 8-inch square. Wrap well; chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time (rewrap and refrigerate other half), place dough on floured counter; roll out 1/8 inch thick, turning, lifting, and flouring dough (and rolling pin) as needed. Freeze dough (on paper) until firm, about 20 minutes.
*Loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes, and transfer to baking sheets. Decorate with sugar or sprinkles, as desired.
*Bake until firm and edges just begin to darken, 10 to 18 minutes, depending on size. Cool completely on baking sheets.

Note: I baked mine for 10 minutes and they came out perfect. I used 3″ cookie cutters. 


Enjoy!

Not Home for the Holidays: Friendsgiving and Turducken

It’s just a meal, right? How much does it matter to be home for Thanksgiving?

I’m not quite sure.

Thanksgiving in NY, 2009. 

I didn’t even really have a nice, relaxing Thanksgiving in NY last year. I think I spent two days at home and then I had to travel to Ethiopia for work.  I know, poor me. This year, I decided to stay in San Francisco for Thanksgiving. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford to fly home. After giving it some thought, I felt there are better ways to spend my money than on a rushed four-day trip home during one of the busiest travel weekends where I‘m sure I would have ended up delayed at some point cursing out civilization. So I will be spending Thanksgiving with friends. This will be weird for sure. I know I will have fun but it will just not be the same.

I will miss seeing my cousins.

I wonder how his chokehold is doing.

I will miss dressing the dog and watching her get bored with me.

I swear Kara is a human inside a corgi’s body.

Chris and I already went to a “Friendsgiving” dinner where our pals made Turducken (a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey).  It was awesome – everyone bought dishes and we all pigged out. It was like a stretch right before a marathon where we all got to preview what’s to come this Thursday of monster pigging out. There was one mishap. We all learned never to put pyrex on a burner – it will explode and it will be scary and someone will get cut on their foot from the shards of glass that fly everywhere. If only the one-armed man could have taught us that lesson before.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt and we all happily feasted.

Lining up for the buffet. 

The best part (for me at least) was the desserts. I made sure to save room. I guess that is the one thing I am looking forward to this Thanksgiving with friends. They all love desserts. My family could care less – they are more savory people. So when I bake something or my cousin bakes something, it usually gets passed up sitting next to the fried rice and eggs rolls that get devoured. Plus I am competing with my Mom and she makes really good Vietnamese desserts.

Jackpot!

I made a trifle dessert for the Turducken party. It was pretty easy. It’s a red velvet cheesecake trifle that was inspired from Recipe Girl. I made the red velvet chocolate cake based on Martha Stewart’s recipe and for the cheesecake layer, I whipped up cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and condensed milk. I also added in layers of homemade whipped cream and added fudge and chocolate chips. It was delightful.

I sprinkled the top layer with red velvet crumbs and swirled fudge and added chocolate chips. 

But it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. It felt like a dinner party. I know come Thursday, it will also feel like a dinner party because I’ll be without my family. But again, I also know it will be lots of fun. And on the bright side, my best friend is flying up from San Clemente so I know it will be an exciting weekend. I will be extra thankful this holiday to know that I can still be with people I love in California.