RawSpiceBar Saved My Christmas Dinner

Food lovers looking for a way to spice things up in 2016 should give the subscription box service, RawSpiceBar a try.

The idea behind RawSpiceBar is to receive spices from around the world that have been toasted, ground or blended just days before being shipped. This will not only introduce the subscriber to new flavors and cooking ideas, but gives them an a chance to enjoy spices that haven’t been sitting on a grocery store shelf for several months.

This service works on the same premise of many other subscription service boxes. Each month, subscribers receive set of three one-recipe sized samples of spices representing a different region of the world, along with corresponding recipes for each sample. The recipes serve around 4 to 6 individuals, and include some history and facts about the regions of which they represent.

Past boxes have represented flavors from Istanbul, Memphis barbecue, Punjabi cuisine and New Mexican Navajo spices, among other areas.

The spice “box” is really a nice, tidy, plain brown little envelope, easy enough to fit in a regular mail slot, which is always nice when those little shoebox-sizes shipments from other services start to take of space after a few months. Continue reading RawSpiceBar Saved My Christmas Dinner

A Very Cannibal Christmas: Cookie Recipe Cards From Hannibal’s Janice Poon

How do you cook and serve a human? Hopefully, this is not a question you have ever needed to answer, but it is one that Janice Poon—food consultant and stylist for NBC’s Hannibal—has spent much of her time considering. This holiday season, Janice has teamed up with Freddie of Tattle Crime to produce a batch of cookie recipes that even the fussiest of foodies will love.

I was able to try out some of the recipes myself, and to speak with Janice about her work on Hannibal and her advice for any aspiring chefs who have been inspired by Hannibal‘s culinary command.

Continue reading A Very Cannibal Christmas: Cookie Recipe Cards From Hannibal’s Janice Poon

A No-Spread Gingerbread Cookie Recipe For All Your Favorite Cutters

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Apologies for the bonus spots of powdered sugar here… they’ve been sharing close quarters with many other types of cookie friends. Image credit: Ruth Suehle

I love making beautiful cookies—so much so that instead of a Christmas party, we host an annual cookie exchange party, for which I usually make way too many cookies. But my one shortcoming has always been in the stamped cookie area. They always puff and spread, and whatever the design was supposed to be ends up looking like it ate too many cookies itself.

However, now that I own just about every geeky cookie cutter you could want (Star Wars, more Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who—there are also these Star Wars gingerbread cutters, and I have a few 3D printed ones), I have a greater need for that sort of recipe. I also adore gingerbread, so a perfect gingerbread recipe it must be.

This week I combined a few recipes and tips online, and I think I’ve mastered the art. Or at least they came out pretty well, so close enough. This is a gingerbread with a bite, so if that’s not your preference, cut back the spices.

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I use the butter-flavored Crisco)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1 large egg

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I prefer the Penzey’s blend)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
A few grinds of pepper (I use a Penzey’s blend of Tellicherry and white peppercorns)

Start by beating the butter and shortening together, then cream in the brown sugar. If you do it on a lower speed, you’ll incorporate less air, which will help with the spreading problem when they’re baking. Add in the molasses and egg.

Now this is the part where recipes usually tell you to sift all the dry ingredients together. I’m going to be honest with you. I am lazy. I have a really great sifter that was my grandmother’s, and it’s just going to hang right there on the hook looking awesome. I dump in all the flour, then sprinkle the other things all over it, and so far this method hasn’t resulted in a giant bite of baking powder. I know it’s not the “right” way, but we’re busy people, right? I also let the paddle on my KitchenAid do all the work because, again, lazy. So lazy.

You’ve got yourself a ball of dough, so wrap it up in some plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Watch a movie. Have a drink. Whatever. Because it needs to stay there until tomorrow. Heck, you can even leave it an extra day. Let it get good and cold.

When you’re ready to roll it out, skip cleaning the counters or getting out the mat. Roll it out directly on the cookie sheet. (Side note, this is where I discovered my shiny new cookie sheets did a much better job of letting the dough and later the baked cookies go than the exact same cookie sheets that are older. They’re not even non-stick. But the newer ones clearly performed much better.) Cut the cookies on the sheet, and you won’t have to try to move them without stretching them out of shape. Peel up the extra dough and repeat.

Put the sheets with the cookies back in the fridge for at least an hour until they’re good and cold again. Then preheat the oven to 350°F and bake them for about 10 minutes. Bam. Cookies. Delicious. Eat.

8 Delicious Gingerbread-themed Recipes (Take That, PSL!)

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Gingerbred babycakes with cinnamon caramel photo by Dennis Wilkinson. Read how he made them.

Earlier this month, the GeekMoms sounded off on their feelings about the most divisive topic of the season: pumpkin spice all-the-things. I noted that for me, it just means that the much smaller slice of the world that turns to gingerbread a month later is near.

One of the things I love about gingerbread (other than it simply being delicious) is how much you can adjust it to suit your mood. More sugar for sweeter or add cracked pepper for spiciness. Dial up the ginger or the cinnamon to suit. Change cinnamons! (Side note: If your cinnamon has been in the cabinet longer than six months, it’s time to buy fresh. You’ll be amazed at the difference.) As the time when I can get gingerbread lattes draws near, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gingerbread-themed recipes:

Gingerbread Doughnut Muffins. I’m eating these as I write this. Not super sweet or spicy, just a good kickoff to Gingerbreadmania.

Gingerbread Spiced Marshmallows. I’m a huge fan of Joy the Baker. Her writing is delightful, and her recipes have never steered me wrong once. She also has two books you should check out (here and here).

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Image credit: Joy the Baker Gingerbread Spiced Marshmallows

Guinness Gingerbread. My beer tastes tend towards stouts and porters, so how better to improve on gingerbread than with Guinness? Alas, the gingerbread-themed items I can’t recommend are the gingerbread-flavored beers. I haven’t found one yet that wasn’t just awful.

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Image credit: Katiecakes Guinness Gingerbread

Gingerbread Waffles. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to do this until a local restaurant served them as a seasonal special with cream and lemon curd. You can do it with pancakes, too.

Monkey (Ginger)Bread. Like monkey bread. But better.

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Image credit: Food52 Monkey (Ginger)Bread

Gingerbread Scones. For some reason, I tend to forget how much I like scones until I go to a scone-eating country for a few days, and then I’m obsessed all over again. Making them gingerbread is just a double win.

Gingerbread Scones Recipe
Image credit: JoyofBaking.com Gingerbread Scones

Lebkuchen is the German version of gingerbread. If you’ve ever been through Bavaria, you’ve no doubt seen Lebkuchen’s cookie form, usually in the shape of hearts with messages on them. (I’d love to see your pics of some geeked-up Lebkuchen cookies!)

Finally, after all that baking, what better than a gingerbread martini? Enjoy the season!