SOFT + CHEWY GINGER MOLASSES COOKIES

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Today we’re focusing on yet another cookie recipe that is a Christmas staple when it comes to treats: ginger molasses cookies. Unlike gingerbread cookies that are molded into little gingerbread men, these are shaped into a classic cookie form that yields an unbelievably soft and chewy texture as well as the signature “cracks” on top. Furthermore, the cookies are rolled in crunchy turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar if that’s all you have) before going in the oven, which leaves the cookies with a beautiful, glittery finish. All of this is ideal if you plan on having cookies on display at your holiday party or if you’re gifting cookies to friends and family this year.

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The name for these cookies are simply called “molasses cookies” but I upped the ginger component by adding two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger, in addition to a tablespoon of ground ginger. I really wanted to have the ginger stand out in these cookies especially since molasses is such an overpowering flavor, and so I believe the fresh ginger really adds a nice spice-y aspect. Other warm and cozy spices that are popular during this season are added as well: cinnamon, cloves, and a bit of fresh ground black pepper.

Tip: The easiest way to peel a piece of ginger root is with a spoon! I learned this trick recently and wanted to pass on the knowledge.

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For this recipe you can use either light, dark or even blackstrap molasses, but any one you choose needs to at least be unsulphured. Blackstrap molasses is usually not suggested for desserts due to its intense and bitter flavor and thick consistency, but if that’s all you have, simply leave the salt out of the dry ingredients and it will work just like the other two. And just so you know, I used blackstrap because that’s all they had at Trader Joe’s and they came out perfectly. So just remember: if you’re using blackstrap molasses, remove the salt; otherwise, keep the salt in!

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I splurged on Valrhona white chocolate fèves (aka chocolate discs) from Whole Foods the other week and decided to “fancy” up these cookies by melting the chocolate and drizzling it over the cookies. I LOVE the look of it, and if you’re worried that the white chocolate would make the cookies overly sweet, it really didn’t and actually works really well with the molasses and spices! Furthermore, it makes the cookies look prettier and more Christmas-like with the beautiful white color against the shiny turbinado sugar. It’s an optional step but worth it if you’re planning on gifting these babies or showing them off. If you don’t want to spend $$$ on the Valrhona fèves like I did, simply purchase white chocolate bars, like Ghiradelli.

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Soft and Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Yields about 28-30 cookies

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients

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  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 large egg, room temperature

  • 1/4 cup molasses (read above for my notes on this)

  • 2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger

  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger

  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves

  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • Turbinado or granulated sugar, for rolling

  • Melted white chocolate, either bar or discs, to finish (optional)

Directions

  1. Using a hand mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, molasses, and fresh ginger. Mix until incorporated.

  2. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Slowly add this to the wet ingredients while the mixer is on low, and mix until just combined. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, so it’ll be easier to roll the dough.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out about 1 tbsp. of cookie dough and using your hands, roll into balls. Roll each cookie ball through turbinado or granulated sugar and place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden and crackled. If for whatever reason your cookies did not crackle, give the pan a bang on the counter when you take them out of the oven. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Drizzle with melted white chocolate if desired and enjoy!

CLASSIC HOT TODDY

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Happy December, everyone! I know I’m not alone in saying that this is my favorite month of the year, because who doesn’t love the holidays, but I think I have a bit more to celebrate than the average person. On top of all the Christmas celebrations and whatnot, my birthday is the day after Christmas AND my anniversary with Alex is on the 22nd. So pretty much for a week straight there’s something to celebrate every single night. Do I sometimes wish that Alex and I met in June or that I was born in August? You bet I do. But in all actuality, it’s kind of fun to be in party overload and I really try to compartmentalize each event and not lump it all together. For example, when Alex and I are celebrating our anniversary, I try not to even think about what I have to bake for the Christmas Eve dinner or, how many presents I have left to wrap.

But before we get to the end of the month, I have some fun Christmas events coming up that I look forward to every year. One of those events is Hospitality Night: when the streets in downtown Laguna Beach are closed off and it’s one big Christmas party including live music, fake snow, and tons of shopping at all the local shops…and FREE wine and desserts! It takes place every year on the first Friday of December, aka tomorrow! When I was going to high school in Laguna, I NEVER wanted to go because I was a typical teen and thought it was lame but now that I’m older, I find myself collecting ornaments and genuinely getting excited over Christmas lights. I love it.

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Lately, it’s been pretty cold - for Southern California standards at least - and we’ve been having a ton of rain. With that, I’ve been craving colder weather-appropriate drinks like wines and today’s recipe: a Hot Toddy. I’ve never been one to enjoy whiskey drinks and although I’ve tried just about every whiskey cocktail that Alex has ever ordered or made at home, I haven’t been able to enjoy it. But when I tried a Hot Toddy for the first time a few year ago at Hospitality Night, I loved it because it was so comforting and cozy that I didn’t even notice the flavor of whiskey. To this day, it continues to be the only whiskey drink that I order.

When we were visiting Maine this last time, we went to a bar called The Snug (featured here in my Portland, Maine City Guide), on a very, very cold night. When I got to the bar and saw someone else drinking a Hot Toddy, I knew I needed to order one for myself. That experience became one of my favorite moments of the trip - warming up with a Hot Toddy while sitting in a private dark booth with friends, on a cold night in Maine. Perfect.

The recipe for a Hot Toddy is extremely easy and requires no skill, unless boiling water is not your thing. Along with your whiskey of choice (whether you prefer blended or bourbon), you’ll add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a bit of honey. To that, you’ll top off the drink with hot water, add a dash of ground nutmeg or cinnamon, and it’s good to go. Also, if you’d like to replace the water with your favorite brewed tea of choice, that is completely allowed. It’ll give the Toddy a bit more flavor and also allows you to mix up the drink based on what tea you use. And a bonus is that Hot Toddies are great for drinking when you have cold or flu symptoms!

P.S. My adorable mugs are from Cost Plus World Market, and I love them. They’re also perfect for hot tea and coffee.

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Classic Hot Toddy

Makes 1 drink

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz whiskey (blended or bourbon)

  • 1 tbsp. honey

  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

  • 6-8 oz. boiling water

  • Pinch of nutmeg, fresh or ground, or ground cinnamon

  • Cinnamon stick, lemon slice, star anise, whole cloves, to rganish (optional)

Directions

  1. To a mug or heatproof glass, add the whiskey, honey and fresh lemon juice.

  2. Carefully add the boiling water to the glass and stir the drink with a spoon. Add a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon.

  3. Garnish with your choice of a cinnamon stick, lemon slice, star anise, or whole cloves. Enjoy while it’s warm.

SALTED OATMEAL, CHOCOLATE CHUNK + CRANBERRY COOKIES

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Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, I am very happy to move on from the typical desserts that reign supreme for that holiday. After making pumpkin cheesecake a total of 5 times over 2 weeks, it’s safe to say that I am bidding adieu to anything pumpkin and now embracing Christmas desserts like cookies and chocolate. Even though I’m over making pumpkin cheesecakes, there’s just something so irresistible about having a chocolate cheesecake for Christmas dessert, which I’ve done for the past two years. I might give you the recipe in a few weeks if you guys want it! Let me know.

To me, Christmas time is all about the cookies and every year I try to make as many varieties as I can. Plain chocolate chip, peppermint bark, rosemary shortbread, cashew butter balls… I love ‘em all. One of my favorite things to do as a gift for friends and family is to make about 4 types of cookies and stuff these cute little bags with them. It’s a great idea since it’s such an easy gift but much more personal than a gift card or bottle of wine. I totally recommend doing it, even if you just fill them with seasonal store-bought cookies.

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Today’s cookie recipe, Salted Oatmeal, Chocolate Chunk and Cranberry Cookies (a mouthful, I know), are sometimes part of the mix that I give out. I like that they’re a step up from a standard chocolate chip cookie because of the addition of oatmeal and cranberries, which gives them an amazing chewy texture. Furthermore, the cranberries add a nice Christmas touch with the bright red color, and you could even step it up a bit further by adding pistachios.

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You’re going to look at the ingredients and be like “oh dear lord… 2 sticks of butter… so much sugar… 3/4 a lb. of chocolate??!”. But don’t fret. Each batch makes A LOT of cookies - roughly 30-32, and this is all fine and well because these will all be gifted/given away or made for Christmas parties. Right?? But if that’s not the case, you can easily cut the recipe in half. There are some tricky measurements to divide by two (3/4 cup would be 6 tablespoons, for example), so here’s a nice guide to follow if you get stuck.

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I want to give you some advice on these cookies because something odd happened to me earlier this week when I was making them for the blog. For the first time ever, I decided that I was going to make the cookie dough ahead of time (the night before), so I could get a jumpstart on baking them the next day. When I went to bake them, they all came out of the oven burnt on the sides/bottom, yet still not baked on top. It was so weird/upsetting, and I had to throw them all away which I hate doing. After some research and double checking that my oven temperature was correct, my baking soda was fresh, and that I didn’t screw up the ingredients, I came to the conclusion that it is definitely not necessary or required to chill the dough. So, all I can suggest is either baking off the cookies immediately, OR, if you need to chill it, flatten the cookie dough mounds after you have scooped them out onto the baking sheet. This may cause the cookies to spread more, but at least it will bake evenly.

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk and Cranberry Cookies

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Yields about 30 cookies

Recipe adapted slightly from Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

  • 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1 1/4 cup old-fashioned/rolled oats

  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

  • 1 cup dried cranberries

  • Flaky sea salt, to finish (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Using a hand mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, turn the mixer on low, and add the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time . Mix until combined and scrape the bowl again.

  3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Mix in the oats. Add this mixture to the other bowl (creamed butter and sugar bowl), and mix on low until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks and cranberries.

  4. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie and drop them onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are set and the cookies are nicely browned. Allow to cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Enjoy!