Spiced Chocolate and Cacao Cookies

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Happy December! It’s hard to believe that autumn is passing as quickly as it came. It’s my favorite season for many reasons, but with its passing comes the promise of so much joy and time spent with those I’m closest with. Not to mention, the promise of endless cookies and overindulgence! What I look forward to most is preparing to host old friends in my very small apartment, cozy and just the right size to make memories and toast to lasting friendships.

For the holidays, I’ve partnered with Simply Organic to help you celebrate Thursdays! We’d love to inspire you to share with us the simple joys of this holiday season with good food + togetherness by tagging your recipes with #ThursdayMoments. Set aside a quiet moment from the bustle of the season to capture how you’re practicing hospitality with friends and family. Simply Organic and I share this same value: there is nothing more fulfilling than setting the table for others.

We’re so excited to share this recipe with you! This season I often find myself in the mood for chocolate, and lots of it. We wanted to bring you a holiday cookie, egg-less and creatively spiced. Spiced Chocolate and Cacao Cookies take front and center stage! They’re loaded with chocolate chunks, cacao nibs and spiced with rich cinnamon and a dash of smoked paprika. My favorite company to chocolate is a little espresso, which really enhances the chocolate flavor. A little flaky sea salt balances out the sweet. With crispy edges and a soft center, the brownie-like texture of these cookies totally hits the holiday spot! Not pictured: all the eggnog and hot cocoa I’ll have alongside these. Even Santa will approve (can’t help you out with the naughty or nice list, you’re on your own there).

Help set the table for #OrganicMoments by sharing your seasonal memories with us. Click here to enter the Ultimate #ThursdayMoments giveaway! They’re giving away an AMAZING grand prize!! Gotta be in it to win it, I always say.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Xo, Ashley

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Spiced Chocolate and Cacao Cookies

Yields: 18 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp Simply Organic Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Simply Organic Smoked Paprika
  • 1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks)
  • 2 Tbsp brewed espresso
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds soaked in 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup organic cacao nibs
  • 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chunks
  • Flaky sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and paprika in a large bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Mix in hot espresso.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl add the chia seeds and 2 Tbsp water. Let sit for 2 minutes until the water is absorbed. Add the hydrated chia to the sugar mixture.
  4. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in three installments, mixing well between each addition. The batter will be thick and brownie-like.
  5. With a spatula, gently fold in the cacao nibs and the chocolate chunks.
  6. Using a Tablespoon cookie scoop, portion dough into balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 2-1/2 inches apart. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  7. Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The edges should be slightly crisp while the center will remain soft. Transfer to wire racks and cool.

This post is sponsored by Simply Organic Foods.

Maple Sugar Cookies

3Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Sugar cookies! Sweet and chewy. Throw in a little maple and you’ve got a twist on a true Christmas classic. My little brother raved about these over the weekend. I don’t think anyone loves sugar more than he does. Sweet tooth people unite!! My favorite part about this recipe is the maple glaze on top. It adds a little something extra and looks gorgeous on a Christmas table. Who’s getting ready to bake up a storm? Merry Christmas, everyone!

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All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco


Yield: 20 cookies — Prep time: 20-30 minutes — Cook time: 12-14 minutes

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    1/2 cup shortening
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1/4 cup pure maple syrup
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/8 tsp. salt
    3 egg yolks
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

Maple Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    3 tbs. pure maple syrup
    2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening in a stand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the granulated sugars, maple syrup, baking soda and salt. Beat on medium for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Beat in flour.
  3. Shape dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. This is important as you don’t want your cookies to spread and touch each other! Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. The tops will look soft.
  4. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Remove and finish cooling on a wire rack. The centers of cookies will dip as they cool. Drizzle with maple icing.

To make maple glaze: Stir together 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk with 1/4 cup melted butter and 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup. Whisk in 2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar to make icing drizzling consistency. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

Pecan Snowball Cookies

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Holiday baking is in full swing!! These pecan snowball cookies are one of my favorites. Sweet and nutty, melt-in-you-mouth goodness. My grandmother makes these every year in smaller, bite sized balls. They dissolve instantly in your mouth. The great thing about this recipe is that it will yield about 48 cookies, making it great for large gatherings or cookie exchanges with friends and family. Set these on your Christmas table and watch them disappear! Happy Christmas baking, everyone!

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All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco


Prep time: 15 minutes — Cook time: 15 minutes — Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (plus more for coating)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups finely chopped pecans
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer, cream your butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and salt and mix well. Gradually add the flour, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Your dough will become thick.
  3. Add the chopped pecans and mix well. I found incorporating the chopped pecans to be easier to do by hand rather than in the stand mixer, as the dough is so thick. Once combined, scoop 1 tablespoon of the dough out and roll it into a ball and place it on the cookie sheet. For consistency, use a 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop out balls. Place them on the cookie sheet about 1 inch part. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.
  4. Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes then gently roll them in powdered sugar while still warm. Allow them to cool completely and then coat them in powdered sugar again. The first coat will be sticky– the second coat will allow the sugar to stick better. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Southern Bite.

Almond Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Let’s face it: It’s already the middle of November. Needless to say, Christmas cookie season is soon upon us. Don’t get me wrong– I am in no way trying to glance over Thanksgiving! In fact, Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. BUT, with your turkey and stuffing in mind, you may want to consider testing out some new Christmas cookies. I’ve considered freezing a batch or two at a time. You can freeze cookies easily for 1-2 months and they’ll come out just the same as they went in. I call this a “super” cookie. I say super because… well, look at these healthy ingredients!! Almond flour (gluten free!), flaxseed (awesome source of good fatty-acids and fiber), egg whites (no yolks, and no butter), coconut oil, and last by not least: dark chocolate. Heart healthy and as far as I’m concerned, part of a balanced diet! Not to mention, you’re done in 20 minutes from start to finish. Don’t be fooled: the texture here is not what you’d expect from a typical cookie creamed with an obscene about of butter and sugar. But, for the gluten-free, health-conscious and those who want that guilty pleasure without the guilt, this one’s for you. Just be sure you glob on a nice portion of dark chocolate. T-9 days to Thanksgiving Day, folks!


Yield: 12 large cookies — Prep Time: 10 mins — Bake Time: 12 mins — Total Time: 22 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed (ground is preferred, but whole will also work)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon melted coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, flax seed, salt, baking soda and brown sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites, extracts and 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until combined.
  3. With wet hands, roll about 1 tablespoon of the dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet. Wet the back of a ½ teaspoon and gently press down in the center of each dough ball to create an indent. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and using the ½ teaspoon, press down again in the indent just to make it a bit deeper as it probably puffed up a bit while baking. Let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips and the ½ teaspoon coconut oil either in the microwave or on the stove top.
  6. Once cookies are cooled, spoon the chocolate into the indent. Let them sit for about 10 minutes until set. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Running To The Kitchen, www.runningtothekitchen.com

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Biscotti: traditional Italian cookies (also known as cantuccini) are twice-baked, oblong-shaped, dry, crunchy, and typically dipped in a something like coffee. The name comes from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, which means “twice-cooked.” Baking twice ensured they were very dry and could be stored for long periods of time. You learn something new every day! These were fun to make. And the aroma while doing so is wonderful. My mom and I spent the day testing out some new cookie recipes. While this is not as simple or as quick to make as your typical chocolate chip cookie, it is absolutely feasible for all levels of comfort in the kitchen. Just takes a little extra time and TLC. The very first step is to candy orange zest– while a little time consuming, it makes all the difference in the end result. That chocolate flavor, a bite of pistachio and the hint of orange zest in the background…it’s divine! My dad and my husband said so. I think they ate half the tray between them. Word to the wise: freeze these for up to two months and save them for Christmas. Put on a pot of your favorite brew and get dipping! In the company of friends and family, this is my idea of hosting beautifully.


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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Yield: 25-30 biscotti — Prep: 25 minutes — Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 navel oranges
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
  • ¾ cup shelled pistachios
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • Fleur de sel (or sea salt)
  1. Cut long, thin strips of zest (avoid white pith) from oranges. Place zest in a small saucepan, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then drain off water. Repeat boiling and draining process 2 more times. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water and 1 cup sugar to a boil. Add zest and simmer for 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Place chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to break up. Add pistachios and pulse 2 or 3 times.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together butter and remaining sugar on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and beat on medium speed until incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Reduce mixer speed to low; using a slotted spoon, add candied orange zest to butter-sugar mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Gradually add three-fourths flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add chocolate-pistachio mixture and remaining flour mixture, mixing until dough just comes together. Do not over mix.
  7. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using damp hands, shape each piece into a 12-inch-long log, 1/2 inch high.
  8. Bake logs until firm, about 24 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F. Cool logs on baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes.
  9. Transfer logs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each into 24 half-inch-thick biscotti. Place biscotti on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle with sea salt if desired. Here comes the second baking phase! Bake biscotti until slightly crisp, about 10-15 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Country Living, www.countryliving.com