Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Popcorn

I’m really not a fan of single-use kitchen items, but one appliance I adore is my air popper. I made popcorn on the stove for years, and despite gaining nicely toned arms (ha!), I hated the time and energy required to cook the popcorn and then clean up a greasy pot afterward.

Luckily my little sis rescued my aching arms by getting me an air popper for Christmas, along with adorable popcorn boxes. That’s the way we roll.

Besides the ease with which this baby pumps out popcorn (scaring the cat in the process), my favorite thing about owning a popcorn maker is that I can use the time previously spent slaving over the stove dreaming up popcorn toppings instead. (Poppings, if you will.)

And then within minutes I have a bowl full of sweet ‘n’ spicy popcorn, a perfect way to kick back after a hard day of work.

Sweet 'n' spicy popcorn

Sweet 'n' spicy popcorn

Sweet 'n' spicy popcorn

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Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Popcorn

  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne (or just a pinch, if you like things with less of a kick)
  • 8-10 cups popped popcorn

Preheat oven to 200° F. In a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, melt butter. Stir in sugar, chili powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne until well-combined. Pour butter mixture over popcorn in a large bowl, and toss to combine. Spread onto a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.

Source: Adapted from Flo Burtnett at allrecipes.com.

Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

You say “crispy,” I say “soft-baked.” Crispy. Soft-baked. Crispy. Soft-baked.

When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, everybody’s got an opinion. And now that this little chant is stuck in your head, I’m going to share mine. Soft and chewy all the way, baby.

While I’ll always be a fan of the world famous Nestle Tollhouse recipe (or perhaps I meant to say Nestlé Toulouse), this one is my new favorite. An extra egg yolk and a bit of cornstarch keep these cookies nice and chewy, and slightly under-baking them doesn’t hurt either. Shaping the cookies into ovals that stand up taller than they are wide helps the centers remain soft.

Soft-baked chocolate chip cookies

All in all, it’s a winning combination. Which deserves a chant. “Soft-baked, soft-baked, soooooooooft-baked!”

Soft-baked chocolate chip cookies

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Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Using a hand or stand mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Cover dough and chill in refrigerator for at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 325° F. Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Scoop dough into egg shapes about 1.5 inches by 1 inch, and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets so they stand up tall.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges just start to turn golden brown. (It’s okay if they look underbaked!) Cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Source: Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Zebra Cookies

Last weekend a dear cousin (more like a big sister) gave birth to her first baby. As this sweet little girl entered the world and officially made Amy a mother, I waxed nostalgic about my own childhood. I’ve shared recipes from the Alpha-Bakery Cookbook before, but there’s something about the next generation arriving that makes me want to pore over the memories of my own.

And so I made zebra cookies.

These whimsical treats live up to their name when cut out with a horse-shaped cookie cutter, but I don’t own one and probably won’t buy one. (I don’t really like horses… shhhhh!) So they’re rectangular zebras. As seen here.

The assembly process for these cookies isn’t too difficult, but I like to visualize things, so here you go:

1) Form each section of dough into a ball.

Make two balls of dough

2) Roll each ball on a floured surface into a 9-inch by 9-inch square.

Shape each into a square

3) Cut each square into three strips and cut the strips in half so you end up with six rectangles.

Slice into six rectangles

4) Carefully stack each rectangle, alternating in color, until you have a tall brick. Press down firmly as you stack so all the layers adhere. Wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

Stack the rectangles (alternating colors)

5) Slice the brick into 18 slices, each one about 1/4 inch thick.

Slice!

6) Cut each slice in half, transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake.

And bake!

7) Enjoy!

Zebra cookies

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Zebra Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa

Cream together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. Stir in powdered sugar, flour, and salt just until dough comes together. Remove half of dough and set aside. Stir cocoa into the remaining half of dough until well combined.

Form each flavor of dough into a ball, and then roll each ball on a floured surface into a 9-inch by 9-inch square. Cut each square into three strips and cut the strips in half so you end up with six rectangles.

Carefully stack each rectangle, alternating in color, until you have a tall brick. Press down firmly as you stack so all the layers adhere. Wrap the block of dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut block of dough crosswise into eighteen slices, each one about 1/4 inch thick. Either cut out a zebra shape using a cookie cutter, or cut each slice in half and transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges just start to brown. Cool on rack.

Makes 36 cookies.

Source: The Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook.

Cherry-Basil Soda

For a long time, I hated cherries. Perhaps it was due to an unfortunate maraschino ruining a perfectly good ice cream sundae, or just one lick of a dreaded cherry lollipop when I was expecting strawberry, but as a young girl I detested the things. Of course, I hadn’t tasted real cherries.

A few years ago I finally tasted sweet cherries for the first time, and it was love at first bite. They remind me of tiny little plums, bursting with juice that’s a perfect balance of sweet and tart.

Yesterday I learned a neat trick for pitting cherries, and I just have to share it with you. After removing the stem, I used a closed star frosting tip (Wilton 27 to be exact) to push the pit out the bottom of the cherry. So much easier than trying to use a knife!

Using a frosting tip to pit cherries

Using a frosting tip to pit cherries

Using a frosting tip to pit cherries

Armed with an abundance of cherries and a quick and easy way to remove their pits, I set out to make something light and refreshing: cherry-basil soda. It’s the perfect way to welcome summer!

Fresh cherries!

Cherry-basil soda

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Cherry-Basil Soda

  • 2 cups fresh cherries, rinsed and pitted
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 8 basil leaves, chopped
  • sparkling water or club soda

Combine the cherries, sugar, and basil in a bowl and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Using a blender or food processor, blend the cherry mixture (including the syrup at the bottom of the bowl) until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh sieve and discard the remaining pulp.

Mix cherry syrup with sparkling water to taste. (I like to use 1 oz. syrup for every 5 oz. sparkling water.)

Makes approximately 12-16 oz. syrup.

Source: Slightly adapted from Gluten-Free Girl.