Cake mix cookies

These cookies are so good I am almost sad to have discovered them. Now I have to try to stop myself from running out and buying a cake mix to bake them!

Apparently I am the last person on earth to have heard of these. I don’t know how I could have missed such a perfect combination of cookie and brownie. And I’m sure with a different flavor of mix you’d get something completely different (in a good way). Red velvet, perhaps?

Cake mix cookies
makes about 20 cookies

1 box chocolate cake mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the dough (a cookie scoop would be helpful here), leaving at least an inch of space between cookies.

Bake for 8 minutes or until the cookies have completely flattened.

Sprinkle on a little powdered sugar before serving.

And if you want to be truly evil, you can spread some vanilla bean ice cream between two cookies and have an ice cream sandwich. I highly recommend this.

Holiday baking

It’s that time of year again…

Christmastime always makes me think of rolling out sugar cookie dough and pressing Hershey Kisses into the tops of peanut blossoms. Of course the eating part is fun, but it’s really all about doing something fun with your family.

Our number-one tradition, of course, is gooey bubble bread on Christmas morning.

Then there are the sugar cookies, with colored icing and sprinkles.

If you’re feeling like a baking superstar, you can attempt Candy Striped Cookie Sticks.

Personally, I think you can’t go wrong with a classic chocolate-chip cookie dough recipe, which you can adapt to make:

• red velvet sandwiches
• chocolate cookies with mint chips (just add cocoa powder)
• cranberry walnut cookies (swap dried berries for the chocolate chips)
• spirals (leave out chips entirely and roll half chocolate-half regular dough together and slice)
chocolate Suzies

Peanut butter lovers, you must make those peanut blossoms,

and stuffed peanut butter ball cookies.

This year I might be sticking to the much less guilt-inducing Pepparkakor in various shapes.

What are you baking this year?

Loving: fall edition

Rae Dunn salt and pepper cellars from Terrain. I can’t tell you how much I adore these.

Pork chops with apples and onions — serve over polenta. Thank you, Real Simple. (Erin, have you made these yet?)

Hy-Vee Seasons magazine. My first time writing for them.

Pine cones I picked up in the yard. They make such an easy and perfect centerpiece.

A wreath project I’m working on for Fresh Home.

And pumpkin-pecan muffins. I wasn’t so jazzed by these at first, but they’re growing on me. My mom and I agreed that we can’t have our traditional sugary pumpkin bread around if we plan to stay in shape, so these are a nice seasonal alternative.

Pumpkin-pecan muffins
adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe in Runners World
makes 12-15 muffins

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk or kefir
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. These are kind of sticky muffins, so it’s probably not worth trying to scrape them directly out of the pan.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl. Whisk the butter, oil, pumpkin, egg, and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Fold the wet mixture into the dry, and then fold in the pecans.

Fill the muffin cups almost all the way to the top. Bake 25 minutes or until they are done in the center.

Potato-leek soup with homemade croutons

Yesterday was kind of an epic day in the kitchen. I started off making Heidi Swanson’s recipe for oatcakes from Super Natural Every Day.

I’ve been getting a little bored with flapjacks, but wanted something similar to eat for snacks or breakfasts. The oatcakes turned out to be perfect. They’re somewhere in between a granola bar, a muffin, and a cookie — a little bit wholesome and a little bit sweet. All I can say is you must buy this cookbook!

I had some extra batter, so I made minis, too.

But onto the subject of this post — potato-leek soup. We got some leeks at the farmers market over the weekend, and I thought I would try making the classic soup combination. I cracked open “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” and sure enough there was a recipe. It’s unbelievably simple, actually.

I added cream and a few toppings, but you don’t have to. With veggie stock or water it’s a great vegan soup. I had about 2 cups of stock in the freezer, so I used that plus water for the rest.

Potato-leek soup
adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 medium (or 6 small) golden potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 big leeks, sliced into half moons
6 cups water, stock, or combination
8 ounces heavy cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: 4 slices bacon, crumbled, croutons, chopped chives

Heat the butter or oil in a big soup pot over medium and start cooking the potatoes and leeks with some salt and pepper.

Add the stock, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. I usually have to turn my heat down to low to keep it lightly bubbling.

At this point, you can leave the soup as-is, or make it creamier. I took about 2 cups of the soup and blended it up with my immersion blender, then added it back into the pot. You can do this with as much soup as you like, depending on how many potato chunks you want to keep.

Finally, add the cream, and let it cook for a few more minutes. Serve with yummy toppings.

I was thinking this soup might be good with some crispy homemade croutons, so I looked up a recipe for that, too. I was surprised to see that Bittman recommends cooking them on the stovetop rather than the oven. I’d never heard of that, but it totally works!

I used half of this lovely Italian batard from Acme Bread.

adapted from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 3/4-inch slices good bread, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and garlic in a big skillet, and just when the garlic starts to sizzle, drop in the bread cubes. Toss them around and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Keep tossing the cubes until they soak up the oil and start to brown. Turn off the heat before the garlic gets too burnt.

These were so good in the soup. Part of them stayed crunchy and part of them soaked up the broth.

Next time I might use butter instead of olive oil for better flavor, or maybe a combination of both. I will definitely be making these again.

Huckleberry oatmeal

Mike got me the best anniversary gift — Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook. As soon as I started flipping through the pages I knew it was going to be awesome, and I wanted to bookmark just about everything.

First up, I tried the baked oatmeal. The photo shows it with huckleberries on top, so I thought I would at least try to find some. I was sure I’d strike out, but there they were at the Berkeley Bowl in little plastic containers. Sweet!

I decided to skip the bananas in the recipe because I really don’t like the taste of baked bananas. But otherwise the recipe was spot-on, and by far the best baked oatmeal I’ve ever had. It’s a little bit sweet, with a little crunch from the browned top, and lovely purple streaks from the berries, which taste a lot like blueberries.

Huckleberry oatmeal
adapted from Super Natural Every Day

2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup-ish huckleberries or blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and butter a 9-inch square baking dish. In one bowl, mix up the dry ingredients (oats, walnuts, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt). In a separate bowl, whisk up the milk, egg, half of the butter, and vanilla.

Pour the dry ingredients into the baking dish, and then pour the liquid ingredients over the top. Once that’s spread evenly, sprinkle the huckleberries over the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is starting to turn golden brown. After you take it out of the oven, pour on the rest of the melted butter.

Vegan chocolate cupcakes with cocoa ganache

After this tumultuous week of eating, I decided I wanted a baked good that would satisfy my sweet tooth without sending me into a sugar coma. I wanted to use the oat flour I bought a while back — while it’s not labeled gluten-free, it’s whole grain and would at least reduce the load on my gluten-heavy diet.

I googled around to find a vegan chocolate cake recipe that sounded like it would make a good cupcake, and then adjusted it a bit and came up with this:

Vegan chocolate cupcakes
makes 10 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups oat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 cup water

Cocoa ganache frosting

1/2 cup cocoa powder (use raw cacao powder for an ultra-rich frosting)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt

Preheat your oven to 350. Mix up the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined. The batter will be very thin. Fill your paper cups more carefully than I did!

Bake for 45 minutes. While the cupcakes are baking, mix up the ingredients for the frosting. Though the ganache is pretty soft, you want to leave it at room temperature until the cupcakes are cool and ready to frost. It becomes so thick it’s unspreadable when refrigerated.

The cupcakes are definitely more crumbly than a typical cupcake, but I thought they came out pretty well overall. Certainly the closest you’ll come to a healthy cupcake!

Strawberry-rhubarb crumble

I wasn’t planning on making anything with rhubarb this week, but when I saw those bright red stalks at the grocery store, I just had to get some.

I realized, though, that most of my rhubarb recipes are the kind of giant pans of sugary goodness that kept me from losing weight for a long time. So I wanted to make something sweet, but slightly less indulgent. Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry-Rhubarb crumble is about half the size, with only one layer of crumble, as my rhubarb crisp, so I thought it would be a good substitute.

I left out the lemon zest, but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. It’s super simple.

You chop up your fruits, then start mixing the crumble in a separate bowl. It comes together in about 10 seconds.

Then you add a few ingredients to your fruits and mix them up until they’re good and saucy.

Sprinkle the crumble on top, and bake.

We just ate ours plain, but it would be great with a dollop of whipped cream or a little vanilla ice cream.

Or you could substitute other fruits, like berries or peaches. I just love that bright red color of the strawberry/rhubarb combination.


No, not the pancake kind. The British, oaty, chewy bar kind that Mike and I first sampled when we were in Spain.

I’ve been wanting to make them since I got back, but didn’t get around to it until now.

Actually, the problem was that I couldn’t find a key ingredient, golden syrup. I kept looking for it in grocery stores, but no luck. Then one Sunday at the Berkeley Bowl I realized that (of course) they had a British foods section, and there it was.

Golden syrup is a lot like corn syrup, but really thick and gooey.

So once I had that I cobbled together some different recipes I found online and came up with this one. Next time I make them I’ll use a little smaller pan for thicker bars (maybe 8-inch square), and put down some parchment paper so that I can remove them easily. I had a heck of a time getting them out of the pan.

You can also add just about any kind of dried fruit or nuts to change up the taste, or try substituting honey or agave nectar. Though these are definitely buttery and sweet, they are more like a granola bar than anything, and they are great fuel for site-seeing, shopping, or workout days.

Cranberry flapjacks

1/2 cup butter (or sub margarine for vegan flapjacks)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup
2 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat up a saucepan to low heat, then add the butter, brown sugar, and syrup. Stir until all the butter is melted.

Next add the oats, cranberries, coconut, and ground flax seeds and stir to combine. Stir quickly so that the syrup doesn’t harden. (Reminds me of making Rice Krispie Treats!).

Press the mixture into a greased or parchment papered 8-inch square oven-safe dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Resist the urge to mess with these until they are cooled. They will just fall apart. If you wait too long, though, they will be really hard to cut. So when they’re just cool, loosen the edges, flip over the pan to remove the whole thing, and then cut the block into 9 squares.

I personally love just about anything oaty or granola-like, so I’m crazy for these. I am going to work on some other adaptations!

Bubble bread!

Remember when I said we had our bubble bread over Thanksgiving since we wouldn’t be home for Christmas? Well, I decided I couldn’t live without it on Christmas day, so I asked my mom for the recipe and we’re going to make it.

Tradition calls for making it in a bundt pan so you can turn it over and have a perfectly shaped round of goodness. I don’t think we’ve ever even used our bundt pan, so we’re going to try it this time. Add veggie sausage and mimosas — perfect Christmas morning!

Christmas Morning Bubble Bread

from the depths of the Mason family recipe box

1 package frozen dinner rolls (24 Parker House style rolls)
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 cup pecan pieces

Melt 1 stick of butter and mix it with the brown sugar. Pour into an ungreased bundt pan (or 2 smaller baking pans). Sprinkle nuts over the brown sugar mixture.

Melt the other stick of butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Dip each frozen roll in butter, then roll in sugar mixture and arrange in pan.

Mix leftover butter and sugar mixture and drizzle over top.

Cover and let rise overnight (we usually just set it inside the oven so it’s ready to go). It will probably get huge. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to.

For this one we added some extra rolls and baked them in a huge rectangular pan.

In the morning, bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert rolls onto a serving plate.

*Edited to add some new photos, using the bundt pan.

Rolls, after they have risen overnight.

Bundt pan, fresh out of the oven after baking.

Inverting the pan onto a plate. It takes a few shakes to get it loose.

Mmmmm, the finished product.

Christmas cookies!

I took two kinds of cookies to Mike’s work holiday party in an attempt to make friends, and it totally worked.

If you haven’t started your holiday baking yet, might I make a few suggestions?

Chocolate Suzies
Because if love isn’t a Reese’s peanut butter cup nestled inside a chocolate chip cookie, I don’t know what is.

Glammed up peanut blossoms
A traditional cookie made special with dark chocolate kisses and raw sugar crystals.

• Candy stripe cookie sticks
Make Martha proud this year.

Sugar cookies
If you opt for frosting out of a can, I won’t tell.

• Pepparkakor
I saw these in the IKEA cookbook so they must be legit!

• Red velvet sandwiches
Everyone else is doing red velvet cupcakes. Be different.

Peanut butter ball cookies
I am thinking about making these “million dollar cookies” right now.

Chocolate crinkles
Yum, yum, yum, and yum. ‘Nuff said.

I could keep going, but if you want more recipes just head over to my recipe archive.

Also, I would love to see some of your holiday cookie recipes, so please share in the comments!