Gingerbread Men Cookies

I love Christmas cookies, especially gingerbread cookies. But being Jewish, I’ve never had to do one of those marathon baking sessions…until now. This year, I decided to bake and ship cookies as gifts, and gingerbread men were on the list.

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This recipe is wonderful–it’s easy, the dough rolled out well, and the taste and texture are both fantastic! I’ll be the first to admit that my decorating skills leave a lot to be desired (and may cause nightmares), but that’s part of their charm, right?

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Ingredients
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation
Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla; mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into a thick flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface. Cut into gingerbread men shapes with 5-inch cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Decorate cooled cookies as desired. Store cookies in airtight container up to 5 days.

Recipe from McCormick.

Status Kuo–New Rotisserie Restaurant in Mar Vista

Earlier this week, I attended a tasting event at Status Kuo, a new rotisserie restaurant in Mar Vista by chef David Kuo, specializing in roasted meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetarian and vegan options as well. Check out their menu.

We enjoyed three main dishes, as well as dessert, and everything was amazing!

House-made hibiscus and blood orange soda with ginger and agave syrup
House-made hibiscus and blood orange soda with ginger and agave syrup

Rotiesserie chicken with lemon and herbs with a cilantro, queso fresco, and paste of yellow pepper sauce with salad.
Rotiesserie chicken with lemon and herbs with a cilantro, queso fresco, and paste of yellow pepper sauce with salad

Asian style Sunday gravy: rotelle with braised pork, bacon, and pickled mustard greens.
Asian style Sunday gravy: rotelle with braised pork, bacon, and pickled mustard greens

Whole grilled branzino with rayu, crispy capers, and lemon sections.
Whole grilled branzino with rayu, crispy capers, and lemon sections

Fried pink lady apple hand pie with vanilla custard
Fried pink lady apple hand pie with vanilla custard

Status Kuo is now open, so make sure to stop by and try other items on their menu!

Disclosure: I enjoyed a comped meal at Status Kuo, and it was delicious. They even made me a branzino fan!

Sea Salt Caramel Stuffed Snickerdoodles

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Sea salt + Rolos + snickerdoodle cookies = deliciousness! And when you think about it, how can it possibly not be good? I have to admit, these cookies grew on me–when I tried them right after they cooled, I wasn’t a fan. But the next day, I was all over them!

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They are a bit time consuming because you have to roll the dough into a ball around the Rolo, but if you’re a chocolate and caramel fan, it’s worth the work!

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Ingredients
1/4 cup granulated sugar, for cinnamon-sugar topping
1 tablespoon McCormick Ground Cinnamon
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 packages of Rolo chocolate-caramel candies (about 35)
Coarse sea salt

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. For the cinnamon-sugar mixture, combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups sugar and butter at medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Sift flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt into mixing bowl. With mixer on low, mix until thoroughly combined. Working 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll dough into balls, placing a single Rolo inside each ball of dough. Roll dough balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 7-8 minutes. The cookies should look raw between the cracks and seem underdone. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from The Comfort of Cooking.

Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake

I’ve made this cake twice in the last week, it’s that good and tastes like a really soft snickerdoodle cookie. The outside has a slightly crunchy texture from the cinnamon and sugar, and the inside is super moist and crumbly. To make it even better, it doesn’t require much prep and is simple to make. And, it tasted even better then next day!

Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake

Ingredients
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon + 1 cup white sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature

Preparation
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Mix together and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter a 9″ bundt pan. Gently dust the entire inside of the pan using 1/4 to 1/2 of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Save the remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Beat the butter on medium speed for one minute. Add the white sugar and mix for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and blade and add the brown sugar then mix for 2 minutes until the mixture looks light brown and uniform in color. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each for 1 minute. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream; beat well.

Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of the cinnamon sugar mixture over top the cake. Spread the rest of the batter into the pan and sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Dozen Flours.

Santa Barbara Vino Train

Over Labor Day weekend, two high school friends and I boarded the Vino Train to Santa Barbara to celebrate each of entering a new decade (eeks!) this year. I hadn’t been to Santa Barbara since college, and was excited for our daycation in such a beautiful town. The Vino Train, while attached to the Amtrak Surfliner, is no regular train car–we rode in a 1949 Pullman car complete with a bar and barber shop, and the experience was like none other.

The Vino Train is a family business–Conductor Bill owns the train cars, and he employs family and friends on the train. Everyone was incredibly nice and made the ride a lot of fun, and they definitely welcomed us into their family!

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All aboard the Vino Train!

We arrived at Los Angeles Union Station at 7:30 a.m. and made new friends while receiving our lanyards and waiting to board. Once seated, Conductor Bill welcomed everyone and we were immediately served mimosas and a fresh breakfast consisting of homemade waffles, fritata, chicken sausage, fruit, and more. The train even has cool tables that cups fit into so you don’t spill your drink. The day of our ride, the volunteer wine guide wasn’t working, so we were on our own when it came to finding tasting rooms. We immediately took to Yelp (and of course noted the free pours with check-in), and planned our first tasting room visit.

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The awesome Conductor Bill!

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No spilled mimosas here.

With our new friends, we got to Corks n Crowns right when they opened, so we practically had Ben all to ourselves. Not yet knowing better, we all ordered different flights (and had free check-in pours), and tasted each others as well. (Fast forward a few hours, and we realized three girls + three flights = too much wine.)

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Ben at Corks n Crowns.

Ben was kind enough to suggest we head to Drake and Chatter next, and Brett, although camera shy and working his last day at that location, was awesome as well. Drake had a specific tasting flight as they are known for their pinot noir, so we all tasted the same wines. After an hour tasting and chatting with Brett, we were all a bit toasted and beyond ready for lunch.

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Fun decor at Drake and Chatter.

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The group, definitely ready for lunch!

We split from our new friends and headed to Lucky Penny (suggested by both Ben and Brett) for lunch, and had amazing pizzas and sandwiches out on the patio. When we arrived in Santa Barbara, the coastal fog hadn’t yet worn off, so it was pretty cool, but by lunchtime the weather was beautiful.

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Delicious pizza!

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Get the pesto sandwich with extra pesto.

After getting some much needed food in our bellies, we headed to Deep Sea Tasting Room out on the pier, and met up with our new friends again. At this point we thought we had smartened up, and ordered two flights for the three of us, but somehow still ended up with 12 glasses. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn anything at this tasting room since it was incredibly crowded and we were sitting outside on the pier rather than inside at the counter. Side note: Get in as many tastings before noon because after that, the rooms get super crowded.

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Not a bad view from our third tasting room.

Since it was in the 80s and we had been sitting in the sun, we decided ice cream was in order! We made a quick stop at the ice cream shop just downstairs from the tasting, and walked to our final tasting at Kunin.

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At Kunin, our final tasting.

Kunin was also incredibly crowded, so we enjoyed our tasting at the communal table. By this point, I was pretty much done so I just took a sip of each of the wines in our (I think two) flights. We didn’t have much time left; it’s pretty amazing how quickly five hours of tasting wine just flies by!

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Can you tell we had fun?

We walked back to the train station to meet up with the rest of the Vino Train riders, and took some pictures before boarding. Once seated, we were offered dinner and yes, MORE WINE. This may be the first time in my adult life I actually passed on wine and opted for soda instead.

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Yep, even more wine on the train!

A couple hours later, we returned to Union Station, hopped on the subway, and were back in Hollywood before we knew it. We decided this was our new annual girls’ trip, so we’ll be on board the Vino Train again Labor Day weekend. See you next year Conductor Bill!

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