Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

This year I had intended to make chai-spiced sugar cookies for my friends' annual holiday cookie swap. Then I changed my mind when I got to the grocery store and realized that the spices I needed were going to cost me $20. We've been trying to stick to a grocery budget since we bought our house, and somehow it didn't seem fair to purchase expensive spices when I won't let John buy his $4-per-can San Marzano tomatoes anymore (o, the sacrifices we've made). Luckily, I had just about everything I needed for these cookies already in my pantry.

Mexican hot chocolate has cinnamon in it, and often some chile pepper to add an extra kick. The chile powder is optional in this recipe, but if you do want to add some heat, make sure you're using chile (with an "e") and not chili (with an "i") powder. It's an important distinction. I omitted the chile powder, but I thought the cinnamon added nice warmth to these cookies without being overpowering. They're basically chocolate snickerdoodles.

Give these a try--they'll make a nice addition to your holiday cookie plate. If you're looking for other cookie recipes, check out last year's Christmas cookie posts:

Holiday Cookie Madness
Cookie Dough Truffles

English Cottage Pie

We're back! We're no longer above the little Italian restaurant, but I can't say that we miss it. It's been quite a busy month, but we're (mostly) unpacked and loving our new house. After about a week of eating take out, we graduated to familiar, low-effort dinners. Now I'm finally getting my groove back in the kitchen and trying out some new recipes.

This cottage pie recipe from Cooking Light seemed like the perfect dinner for a chilly night. I made a shepherd's pie last winter, but we much preferred this one-it was easier to make and the flavors were a little more traditional (I say that like I have some authority on traditional English cuisine. Just play along. Jolly good then.).

I only made minor changes to the original recipe. Cooking Light often instructs you to saute your veggies in cooking spray. I think this is stupid, so I ignore them and use vegetable oil instead. I also used 1 teaspoon of dried thyme in place of a tablespoon of fresh. For the low-fat cheese called for, I really like Cabot 50% reduced fat cheddar. If there's anything I like more than a mashed potato crust, it's a cheesy mashed potato crust. Yum.