Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Zappos Gingerbread Man

When Zappos asked me if I would like to welcome the Zappos Gingerbread Man to Austin with a gingerbread cookie recipe I said yes! I've always wanted to make gingerbread and I've never had a good reason!

Before I tell you about my first attempt at the cookies, let me tell you a little about what is happening with the #ZapposGingerbreadMan here in Austin today Saturday December 14 and Sunday, December 15 to spread a little holiday cheer!


"The Zappos Gingerbread Man, rumored to be running all over the city, will be bringing fun and a little weirdness to Austin. He was last seen leaving Las Vegas with gifts so he’ll most likely be leaving a trail of surprise and delight in his wake.  Keep your eyes open all over town and if you see him, snap a pic and post your photos of the Gingerbread Man running amuck to Twitter, tagging Zappos and using #ZapposGingerbreadMan, and you just might be rewarded-aka free stuff! :) 

Follow Zappos on Twitter for updates and clues on his whereabouts. It’s up to the folks of Austin to find him. There just might be goodies from Zappos.com for the good people of Austin who help capture this cookie culprit."
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First of all, I had no idea what actually made "gingerbread" gingerbread. Turns out the main ingredients that differ from traditional cookies are: ginger, molasses and dark brown sugar. 

My husband and I made these together (a rarity) and we had a blast. He ended up doing most of the rolling and cutting after I showed him how :) Then I took to decorating! 




 My little cookie decorating station! It was harder than it looked to decorate dozens of these! 



  
 


Gingerbread Cookies
recipe slightly adapted from Food.com

Makes around 3-4 dozen depending on gingerbread cookie cutter size 

Ingredients 
3 cups all purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (very important!)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup Molasses
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
 

Directions

Whisk together dry ingredients in medium bowl. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat together dark brown sugar with butter and egg until smooth. Add vanilla and molasses and beat until smooth. 

Slowly add in dry mixture until dough forms. (eventually I had to finish stirring with a wooden spoon as it gets thick and my mixer was angry!) 

Cook's note: Original recipe says to let dough now stand at room temperature for 2-8 hours to make easier for rolling. My note is that if your butter was truly softened and room temperature it should be the perfect temperature for rolling and cutting as you don't want it too soft or it's impossible to get to the cookie sheet. If your dough is too cold, let come to room temperature at your discretion. Since you will only roll small amounts out at a time, I found the rest of the dough to be the perfect temperature whenever I rolled it out.

Roll dough out onto a floured surface until 1/4 inch thick. Cut shapes using cookie cutters before placing on parchment paper or a Silpat. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and then bake smaller cookies around 6-7 minutes and larger ones around 8-9 minutes (don't overbake or they will be too crunchy and break easily).

Let cool at least 10 minutes on cookie sheet before removing to wire rack and cooling another 10 minutes before frosting and decorating as desired.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas! 

Disclaimer: Zappos asked me to participate and sent me some some goodies to help me bake but I mainly wanted to make gingerbread and all opinions are my own!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Gift Giving Guide for Foodies

Have I ever expressed my distrust of the word foodie? I use it casually to describe myself or others to simply mean we love food. Although I know many people use it to describe those that proclaim themselves as food experts or snobs. I consider myself neither. I just really love food. And cooking. And baking. And eating. 

So if you know someone who falls in one of those categories, consider getting them one of these gifts for Christmas! It took me forever to only pick 20 of my favorites! Enjoy!

I divided them by a few of my favorite stores (although many of these items are available at many places):

 


World Market 
I love how many cute gadgets and serving dishes they have, and so affordable! 
1. Mini Measuring Spoons- only $8.00 for 3 sets- you can buy just one set for $2.99 in store. These are great because they are small and snap together so you don't loose any. 
2. Mini Whisk- $.99, I use these tiny whisks for glasses of hot chocolate, or to mix up single serving dressings or toppings. It's especially cute to tie onto a larger gift.
3. Reversible Cookie Cutters- $2.99, Such a misleading name since you can use these for cookies, treats, biscuits, plating food, etc. I wish I had this set since it has the cute scalloped option AND the regular straight option.
4. Adorable Hand Towels. $9.99, Can't explain my obsession for cute hand towels but if you have to have one out, it should be cute! I look for cute ones at Ross, Marshall's, Target etc.

5. Beverage Dispenser, $19.99. My mom bought me one of these (similar) from Costco and I use it for literally every gathering at my house. If a friend has a matching one, we will do 2 drinks-water and a lemonade. Worth every penny for the entertainer. 


Pier 1

One of my favorite places to look for inspiration but I mainly shop sales since it's more expensive.

6. Buffet or Placecard Holders, $23.16, these are awesome and I don't actually have them! My stepmom does and I love them! Perfect for labeling food and easier to work with than chalkboard ones. 
7. Scalloped Cake Plate, $9.99, no woman can ever have enough cake plates in my opinion. They add height to tables for entertaining and I rarely use them for cake! I stack cookies, cupcakes, any thing I can think of.
8. Scoop Cutting Board, $9.99, I wish I didn't favor my scoop cutting board as you can certainly "scoop" with any cutting board. But I do like the handle for shoveling vegetables into a skillet or fruit into a bowl. It's handy, what can I say?


Target
What's not to love? I also have a RedCard so I can get free shipping and 5% off which never hurts! 
 
9. Stainless Steel Scoops- $38.99, I've yet to ever find a bargain on these but everyone should own all 3 sizes. I use these for cookies, but also filling muffin tins. You can use them for scooping chicken salad onto sandwiches, or scooping soft ice cream (don't use them for hard ice cream or they will likely break). I guess since I'm lazy, I find uses for these all the time since they are so handy and portioned controlled.
10. Quirky Measuring Spoon, $7.99, this is new to me but looks so fun! you can actually measure liquid ingredients directly into the spoon's handle or dry ones in the spoon part. I think I need this for Christmas-hint hint Santa.
11. Cake Pop Pan, $14.99, this is my favorite way to make cake pops. I'm far too lazy to roll them and what not. I use the lighter recipe from Skinny Taste and bake them directly in these containers. My only caveat to this is that I would get 2-3 pans (I buy mine in a holiday color after the holiday when they go on sale) since they need to cool before taking them out each time if you want to make bigger batches. I've been impressed overall with the pan though!



Sur La Table
One of my favorite splurge stores! They do have high quality products and I love to search for bargains too! 
 
12. Microplane Zester- $14.95, If you don't have 1 or even 2 of these by now, you must! I use them to zest citrus, chocolate shavings, you can even use it for garlic or Parmesan! Strongly recommend and they even have cute colors. 
13. iPad Disposable Sleeves- $9.95, I think my husband would thank me for buying these as he is always worried about my floured hands touching my iPad in the kitchen. If you only used them for those super messy days they would last quite awhile.
14. Cutest Christmas Ornaments- $2.99-$29.99, Sur la Table has the best food ornaments of any place I have ever seen. This one is the PB& J ornament but they tuna cans, artchioke hearts, seriously all kinds of foods and kitchen things. They make me smile every time I see them on my tree. One day I'd like to have a small tree in teh kitchen with just kitchen themed ornaments. 

Anthropologie
I mainly shop for inspiration here but they have quite a few fun things for entertaining! 

15. Arrondi Pitcher- $28.00, This pitcher is perfect since it has a little detail and is sturdy so it won't break easily during serving. 
16. Farmer's Market Basket- $20.00, These are so cute for photos or just for serving fruit or treats in. Totally unnecessary? Of course! Doesn't stop them from being adorable. 
17. Green Glass Milk Bottles- $22.00,  These would be so cute on a table during a luncheon or brunch with milk in one and orange juice in the other. Or any other cute variation. Such a simple way to dress up a table in a rustic way. 


Bed Bath and Beyond
I tend to shop in person here with my 20% off coupons. They aren't bing on sales and never seem to have free shipping!
18.  Ice Cream Scoop with Antifreeze- $4.99, I hope this is the real copycat of the one I always wanted from Pampered Chef and they have since discontinued. If it is, the antifreeze inside quickly lets you scoop through ice cream. Don't put it in the dishwasher though or you will ruin it! 
19.  Colorful Mixing Bowls- $19.99, Just another thing I feel strongly about needing tons of. On those days when you can't wash every mixing bowl-it just means you should own a couple of sets. I have several sets and I use all of them and love all of them. These are so colorful and fun you can use them for serving too. Win Win.

20. Slate Serving Platter- $14.99, I have a rectangular version of this that I love but I like the handle on this one that makes it more portable during parties. Serve with cheeses or small desserts it could be used year round, no matter the occasion.

Hope these help you find some good gifts for the foodies in your lives! I know I hope Santa brings me the final items on my list! 

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