Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Like it Spicy Part 1

I really don't like not blogging for long periods at a time. I always miss you guys! I am SO behind on my reader right now, but I promise I will catch up soon--after I wrap all my presents, mail all my cards, work an extra day this week, celebrate Christmas early with my in-laws on Friday and hit up my work holiday brunch Saturday a.m. Yikes. But I know you all know how it is this time of year...

Anyway, it seems the consensus from my last post is that Chex mix totally rocks and that most of you call that choco/peanut butter/chex combo "puppy chow" instead of "muddy buddies." Word up.

Well, inspired by all the holiday goodies of the last couple weekends in a row, I endeavored to take on some more baking as I was busy being a work widow on Saturday.

Luckily, on Friday, I received an awesome package from Rachel who represents some fun products like Mrs. Dash Seasonings, Ronzoni pasta and my all time favorite sweetener, Sun Crystals!

She was kind enough to send me all this cools stuff to review and I couldn't wait to try out a new product--Sun Crystals baking blend!

One of the reasons I love Sun Crystals so much is that it is all natural, with only two ingredients on the label list, as opposed to most sweeteners with chemical-laden lists a mile long. The Sun Crystals baking blend is no exception and still contains only cane sugar and stevia. The only difference is that the ratio of sugar to stevia is slightly higher to maintain the delicate balance required in baking.

Nutritionally, the Sun Crystals baking blend carries the same calorie count as sugar, but is twice as sweet, so only half as much is required. Unlike using liquid stevia or agave, this is in crystallized form, so it doesn't require any extra calculation or run the risk of a change in baking chemistry or texture.

I was so excited to try this new product with a version of an old favorite--gingerbread cookies! These have always been some of my favorite cookies around the holidays. I absolutely love to cut them out into different shapes and decorate them with all kinds of sprinkles and colored icings!

I have a recipe that I prefer to use from my parents' old battered (and I mean that literally--there are lots of dough and flour covered fingerprints on those pages!) Betty Crocker cookbook. I had to actually call my mom on Saturday and get the recipe from her. I have modified it just a little over the years to reduce the fat and arrange the spices more to my liking. Here it is!

Extra Spicy n' Sweet Sun Crystals Gingerbread Cookies
  • 1/3 c. shortening
  • 1/4 c. Sun Crystals Baking Blend
  • 1/3 c. molasses
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/ tsp. cloves
Cream shortening and Sun Crystals together in a large bowl. Stir in molasses and water. Add dry ingredients and all spices and mix until thoroughly combined. Dough will appear crumbly.

But all you have to do is get in there with your hands and smoosh everything together until you get a tidy little ball like so:

Wrap you little dough baby in plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for at least 1 hour to firm up.

After dough has chilled, roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes (or non gender specific people) using a four inch cutter.
Bake cookies at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

**Hint** If you want to remove the fat completely from these cookies and add an extra delicious element, try subbing pumpkin puree for the entire amount of shortening. You can still roll and cut out the cookies as directed, but they turn out softer. Yum!

Since I teach Sunday school for a class of 6 -7 year olds each week, I decided to make this batch especially for them (please ignore the ugly on on the bottom--he was an extra and I didn't feel like frosting his face).

And because we're all kids at heart, I made some for all Dustin's and my siblings who came over on Sunday for dinner...

The cookies turned out beautifully with the addition of the Sun Crystals baking blend. They weren't dry or crumbly like baked goods sometimes turn out with other granulated sweeteners (I'm looking at you Splenda!!!). Plus, I felt much better about feeding this healthier, chemical-free cookie to my little class and family.

In addition to my cookie baking and funny face decorating on Saturday, D finally made it out of work in time for us to take a culinary dinner adventure.

To India! There is a place I have been dying to try for a while now called the Bombay House.
I was super pumped when Dustin agreed to go there, but a little perplexed when he kept insisting that we weren't trying it for the first time--we'd actually eaten there before.

Of course I kept insisting right back that he was crazy and I'd never been there before in my life...that is, until I stepped in the door and remembered that I had. Whoops. But I also remembered that I hadn't liked my food, the service had been terribly neglectful and slow and that I'd vowed to never return.

Well, it's a good thing I'd forgotten all that junk because we had a completely pleasant experience and I loved my food. Our order still took a little longer than my hungry little belly would have liked, but I believe it's because they actually cook everything fresh and to order. My belly can definitely wait for that!

Dustin wanted naan, and I usually don't turn down any chewy, doughy goodness myself, so I was thrilled to see a caramelized onion version on the menu. Yes, please!!

For my entree, I ordered the aloo gobi with extra veggies. Apparently that is not a common request because the server looked at me very quizzically and asked "Like potatoes?" Um no. Like carrots and stuff. Sweet. That's what I got.

I also ordered mine medium spicy, which was just about perfect. I contemplated going with the medium plus, but you have to be careful with those kinds of things or else you end up with fire coming out of your ears. So yummy I'm thinking of recreating it at home this week. Given my success with the last Indian dish I cooked, I'm really becoming a big fan--plus at home I can make it my own kind of medium (plus) spicy!

How about you guys--what type of ethnic food is your favorite to prepare or eat out? Are you a mild, medium or hot kind of gal?

You'll notice that this is Part 1, so never fear my friends! There is more nice n spicy goodness coming your way later on. Love and kisses for now! xoxo


  1. Oh my gosh! Those cookies are too cute! You are some kind of icing pro...I mean writing the! So impressive!!! I'm sure they made the kids so happy! Have a fab night girlie - and don't get too stressed!!

  2. What a great job decorating, the Sunday School cookies look adorable!

  3. Awesome gingerbread! I'm WAY behind on my reader, too. It's the season! ;)

  4. oh my gosh! i love that you personalized them all for your sunday school class! i bet they were so stoked. i LOVEEEE bombay house! love love loveeee. we must get indian together sometime :)

  5. Your cookies are sooo adorable!!! :) You need to be a mom soon because you will make the perfect mom! ;)

    Mmmm, Indian food is awesome, but unfortunately, my hubby HATES it so I don't get to enjoy it too often.

    Hope you have a lovely day love! ;)

  6. Oh. My. Goodness! You are pro decorator! I can't even make a smily face on a cookie let alone write names!! I'm in love with your Indian meal! I haven't had Indian from a restaurant before (just my trusty TJs box) but that looks fantastic.

  7. Those have to be the cutest cookies ever! You've got some mad decorating skills missy!

  8. Cutest. Cookies. Ever. I'm pretty sure mine would end up looking like Tammy Fay Baker with caked on makeup, so big props for the light icing hand!

    And I love the no-salt Mrs. Dash. In fact, aside from the staples of garlic, oregano, basil, etc. they're the only spices I use. The Fiesta Lime is really good on a smashed avocado sandwich (well, cardboard would be good on a smashed avocado sandwich in my book...addicted much?)

  9. Oooh want to try those cookies ASAP! I like some real SPICE in my baked goods!

  10. Your gingerbread mean are soooo cute!!

  11. oh my gosh those are the most adorable gingerbread men ever! you are too cute!!

    thank you for your comment! i found the ostrich meat at Earthfare!! i love it now!

  12. Those cookies are TOO CUTE!! And that onion naan looks uh-mazing. A picture of perfection right there.

    I prefer making my own chinese food at home, but I love going out for greek. I'm a mild-medium spice gal. I like a touch of heat, but I still want the flavours of the actual food to come through!

  13. I LOVE your gingerbread ppl - so cute - you have talent!

    Um, YUM to that carmelized onion gingerbread Naan!

  14. Seriously, that was possibly the best batch of gingerbread you've made yet (and the bar was pretty high to start with). Super yummy! Thank you!