Red Velvet Cookie Cake

I’ve never really thought about it before, but cookie cakes have played kind of a major role in my life.

It started in high school. Junior year when my husband and I were dating, there was a Sadie Hawkins’-style dance called MORP (backwards prom). Everything about it was supposed to be the opposite of the regular protocol for school dances. Instead of dressing up in our fancy best, couples were supposed to dress exactly alike. (This was much trickier in the ’90s, before the age of gender neutralized clothing.) The dance was casual instead of formal; even the photo backdrop was a departure from the usual Grecian columns and silky fabrics:

Ah yes, here we are, dressed alike and casually hanging out on our garland-draped ATV. (Who comes up with this stuff?)

The final detail of MORP was that the girl was supposed to ask the guy to the dance in some clever way. I guess food has always been my love language, because I decided to present my then-boyfriend-now-husband with a cookie cake popping the question in frosting. Unfortunately, “Will you go to MORP with me?” was too long to fit on the cookie I ended up ordering, and instead, I remember it just had the word MORP with a giant question mark.

MORP?

Good thing he knew what I was talking about, or he probably would have thought I was suffering from some sort of delicious aphasic episode.

Fast forward several years. When we found out I was pregnant with our first child, we figured we’d break out the old cookie cake communication trick to inform my husband’s parents of their new grandparent status. We had been tasked to bring dessert to Sunday dinner. Imagine my in-laws’ surprise when they read the happy news in frosted lettering. Good memories.

With this history, cookie cakes have always held a place in my heart as special occasion desserts. So the other night when a friend and her daughter joined us for dinner, I decided a red velvet cookie cake sounded like just the delectable treat to serve after dinner.

When our visiting friend and I took our first bites, we looked at each other and went, “Oh. WOW.” The subtly flavored chocolate cookie dotted with white chocolate chips and covered with smooth cream cheese frosting made for an amazing finish to dinner. Cookie cakes for the win once again!

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, or for any special occasion, consider this decadent dessert. You don’t even have to spell out any messages on it. It’s special enough all by itself.


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Red Velvet Cookie Cake
Perfect for Valentine's Day, this frosted red velvet cookie cake is a decadent treat!
Servings
small slices
Ingredients
Servings
small slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch tart pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar and mix to combine.
  2. Add flour, cocoa powder, corn starch, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan, smoothing the top of the batter until even. Bake 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, then vanilla and milk, until smooth and spreadable.
  4. When cookie cake has completely cooled, spread frosting in a smooth layer on top. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles, if using. Keep refrigerated.
Recipe Notes

Cookie cake adapted from Just So Tasty. Frosting from Betty Crocker.

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Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken

Sometimes I think it’s a scandal that sun dried tomatoes don’t cost more. I’ve never made them myself (though, living in the Phoenix area, we’re certainly not short on sun…or dryness…or tomatoes), but I do have a dim sense of how much time and effort go into the end product of these shrivelly red strips. The process goes something like this: 1. Pick tomatoes 2. Wash tomatoes 3. Cut tomatoes 4. Season tomatoes 5. Dry tomatoes in the sun for days on end 6. Package tomatoes. Seems like an awful lot of work–and an awful lot of tomatoes, seeing as how they lose around 90% of their original weight and shrink down to less than half their original size upon drying.

Yet there they are, a whole bag of them for only $3.00 at Trader Joe’s. Isn’t our food system strange?

Despite the seemingly inverse relationship between cost and effort in sun dried tomatoes, I for one am quite thankful for their relative inexpensiveness, because I adoooooore them. Chewy, brightly colored, and tangy-sweet, I happen to think they bring their A-game to any dish they grace.

And wouldn’t you know it, they make a pretty spectacular main ingredient in pesto.

This Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken took its place on our family’s weeknight dinner plan last week, and it’s definitely an entree I’ll be making again. Whole grain spaghetti, olive oil, tomatoes, and almonds place it squarely in the Mediterranean Diet category–a category I’ve been known to harp on relentlessly for its many health benefits. (By the way, didja see the new U.S. News and World Report ranking of diets for 2017? The Mediterranean Diet comes in at the top of nearly every category they analyzed.)

Health benefits aside, this chicken pasta boasts excellent taste and can be whipped up in about 30 minutes. Add it to your meal plan this week!


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Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken
A Mediterranean chicken dish packed with the healthy goodness of tomatoes, olive oil, and almonds.
Course Main Dish, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Course Main Dish, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Instructions
Make the pesto:
  1. Add tomatoes, almonds, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Process until nearly smooth, then taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Set pesto aside.
Make the pasta and chicken:
  1. Make the spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, season chicken on both sides with basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook about 4 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  4. Serve immediately: assemble entree with any combination of spaghetti, pesto, and chicken you like!
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins

I’ll be honest and say I had pretty low expectations when I decided to make sweet potato muffins. In terms of baking, sweet potatoes have always seemed to me like pumpkin’s stringy-haired, less charming step-sister. I have no evidence to back up this notion. Maybe it’s just that in this country, in all the months that end in -ber, pumpkin gets all the glory in baked goods, while sweet potatoes dutifully play side dish. Probably there’s a Pumpkin Baking Lobby at work beneath this phenomenon.

At any rate, sometimes it’s good to get out of a rut, even if it’s just a pumpkin baking rut. So when I realized I had a heaping helping of leftover cooked sweet potatoes nobody in my family was chomping at the bit to consume, I went hunting for a recipe to repurpose them as breakfast. Am I glad I did? Well, I’ll just say, Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins, that…

These muffins come out with flavor as bright as their color. A hint of orange zest in the recipe adds just the right counterpoint to the heartier tubers’ taste. And despite the heft of sweet potatoes’ texture, these are light, moist, and even–dare I say–fluffy? With a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top, I’m kind of sad I only made about a dozen.

So there you have it. I’m a sweet potato baking convert. Are you? Next time you have extra cooked sweet potatoes leftover, remember to try out this recipe, and I think you will be in no time!

 


Print Recipe
Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins
These Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins will make you a sweet potato baking convert! They're surprisingly light, not too sweet, and only 150 calories each.
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 14 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  3. In a small bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.
  4. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, orange extract or zest, oil, and milk. Add the sweet potatoes and mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Williams Sonoma.

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Pumpkin Hummus + Fall Tortilla Chips

I realize Halloween is over, but can you handle one more pumpkin recipe? I know I can, but then again, I could eat pumpkin pie every day whole year round. For others less out of their gourd for gourds, now that it’s November, pumpkin fatigue may have set in. Understandable. But I hope you’ll make an exception for this Pumpkin Hummus recipe, because not only is it easy, unique, and tasty, it’s also super fun to make with DIY fall-shard tortilla chips.

Aren’t they cute?

When it comes to making hummus, the main thing that usually stands in my way is that I suffer from what I think of as Tahini Block. As in, I really, really don’t want to spend eleven bucks on a jar of ground sesame seeds  when all I’ll use is a couple of tablespoons at the most. Therefore, I generally refrain from homemade hummus unless I can use a tahini-free recipe. This one fits that description! Though tahini adds a signature flavor, as a general rule hummus is extremely adaptable. As long as it starts with beans and ends up with a nice consistency, I say you’re safe to call it authentic even if no tahini is involved.

Now let’s talk tortilla. DIY fall shaped tortilla chips, to be exact. Of course you could buy tortilla chips at the store–I mean, who really needs to make their own chips?–but once you’ve cut your own shapes with delightful fall-themed cookie cutters, there’s no going back. Pumpkin and leaf-shaped dippers add a whole extra layer of seasonal character alongside this pumpkin hummus.

So for your next play date, Thanksgiving potluck, or Tahini Avoiders Anonymous meeting, give this fun combination a try!


Print Recipe
Pumpkin Hummus + Fall Tortilla Chips
A savory, tahini-free pumpkin hummus paired with fun DIY tortilla chips!
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
Instructions
To make the hummus:
  1. Place garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor and run on low briefly to mince. Add all remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Serve garnished with pepitas, if desired.
To make the chips:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Using fall-themed cookie cutters, cut shapes out of tortillas. (You can either discard the remaining tortilla scraps or include them for other, funky-shaped chips.) Spray both sides of cutouts lightly with olive oil cooking spray, then sprinkle to taste with herbs and spices. (Or for sweet chips, try sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar.)
  3. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake 7 minutes, then flip chips and bake another 7 minutes. Serve with pumpkin hummus.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe

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Pumpkin Butter Muffins

Fall may not technically start until tomorrow, but I’m calling it. My fall decorations are going up and I am ready to go Full Throttle Pumpkin. Are you?

I must say, however, that this year I am learning from previous pumpkin mistakes. Last fall, I made numerous batches of pumpkin butter and sold it to friends, family, and my husband’s co-workers. Major pumpkin love! When I circled back to see if anyone wanted to purchase a second round, though, the response was almost always the same: “We love it, but we haven’t used it up yet.”

That’s where these Pumpkin Butter Muffins come in. As far as I know, pumpkin butter is a beloved seasonal treat, but most people don’t eat enough toast to use up a whole jar of it as a spread. That means it’s time to get a little creative, because the last thing you want is for this pumpkin-y deliciousness to go to waste.

Swirling creamy pumpkin butter into tender muffins is a great way to use that extra bit of it hanging around in your fridge–and makes for a colorful breakfast that screams autumnal goodness. And hey, who’s to stop you from slathering more pumpkin butter on top of these after they come out of the oven? Not I!

 


Print Recipe
Pumpkin Butter Muffins
Who's ready for fall? These pumpkin butter muffins are a great way to use everyone's favorite seasonal spread!
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In a smaller bowl or large measuring cup, combine egg, milk, and vegetable oil. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.
  4. Divide batter evenly between muffin cups. Dollop a bit of pumpkin butter into each and swirl into batter using a knife or toothpick.
  5. Bake 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of muffins comes out clean. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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