The official start of winter has not yet arrived, but we are here in snowy New England on our 4th snow day from school already. Kids have been dragging their feet completing their "blizzard bags" all.day.long. For those of you who do not live in a beautiful snow globe, "blizzard bags" are school work and assignments for the kiddos to complete on days when school is canceled due to weather emergencies. It would seem reasonable to think that we could complete this task by the time school would be over at 2:45 PM, but that's not how it works out in my experience. They are obviously much more focused at school or listen to their teachers more than their mother.
I don't know...I went to elementary school in Alberta, Canada and we never had school canceled for snow. There would be no school November through April if we did. Maybe that's changed now, but I still remember the first time we had a snow storm after we moved to New England when I was in the 8th grade. My brother and I patiently waited at the bus stop...and waited...and waited. No bus. A woman pulled over and told us there was no school because of the snow. We laughed our cold little butts off and went back up the hill to tell my mother...who thought we weren't telling the truth. We were. No school.
This recipe is very suitable for a snow day because chai tea, brownies and pie are three very cozy things...this recipe brings them all together in these little individual, cookie size brownie pies with just a hint of that chai spice that says "hey, there's something different about these...in a good way." And how can you be in a bad mood if you're holding your own little pie? Seriously.
I'm not going to reinvent the wheel and give you a pie crust recipe because it's a classic that's out there by all the baking greats. I use a Betty Crocker recipe from an old cookbook that I found at a flea market. Use your go-to, favorite two layer 9 inch pie crust. You can use a store bought and save some time too. You'll start this recipe by preparing your pie crust and getting it set up into muffin tins and then making the brownie batter that will gloriously bake and slightly spill over the edge of the flaky pie crust. Ok, here we go...
-2 layer 9 inch pie crust. Here is a similar to what I use
-1/2 cup melted butter
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup flour
-1/2 tsp espresso powder
-3 TBS chai tea (approximately 3 tea bags cut open if you don't have loose tea)
-1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 cup chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a muffin tin generously with non-stick cooking spray. Prepare your pie crust, roll out one layer and use a glass or cookie cutter to make the first 8-10 mini pies. I used a round, 1 cup measuring cup to cut the circles. Carefully insert each circle of pie dough into a muffin tin and press down and around the sides. Combine the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, chai tea, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter and cream it with the sugar in a stand mixer or in a separate large bowl with a hand mixer. Add in the eggs one at a time and add the vanilla. Stir until combined. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients and gently stir until all mixed together. Don't over mix but make sure that you do not have any dry ingredients not mixed into the wet ingredients. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Using a small cookie scooper or spoon, fill each mini-pie approximately 2/3 full with the brownie batter. It's ok if you over fill a bit...the brownies will just rise a little more over the top of the pie crust. This happened to some of mine but they still taste de-lish. This batch will use approximately 1/2 of your brownie batter. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 26-28 minutes. Keep an eye on them towards the end as you want the brownies to have a little fudgy-ness but you also want the pie crust to be done so it's golden and flaky. I start checking mine at 25 minutes. Check the brownies with a toothpick and remove from the oven when it comes out clean or with a crumb or two. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and then transfer to a wire baking rack to finish cooling. Repeat the process with the second pie crust layer and second half of the brownie dough. This recipe makes 18-20 little pies.
I recommend topping with fresh whipped cream! Enjoy and stay warm!
Let's chat about cozy, warm beverages and reading because those two go hand in hand for me. If I think back to my younger days, I never wanted to stay in....ever. I remember my now husband suggesting to me in my early twenties when he was visiting me in Boston that we stay in on a weekend night. I didn't get it. It was like he was speaking in a foreign language to me. What do you mean don't go out on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night? Didn't he know there was an entire city out there just waiting for us all to join in the fun? Staying in on a Tuesday night was one thing, but the weekend? Not a chance. Well, time changes everything and I haven't gone out regularly in a loong time and if given the choice, I'd stay in with a good book, warm socks and a hot cup of tea or coffee over an 11PM pint or cocktail at any hot spot. My twenty something year old self would not recognize my forty something year old self.
With 2020 approaching, I feel like I'm continuously running into online reminders about the new decade being on the horizon. Many personal development voices are posing thought provoking questions for reflection and intention setting as we move into this new decade. The gist of the message I'm getting from these diverse voices is simple: "Did you see how fast this past decade went? You've got one life here on Earth. Are you doing what you want to be doing? Are you living like you want to be living? If yes, what do you need to do to continue on that path? If no, let's do the work to get clarity around what's working, what's missing and what you need to do to bridge the gap."
One of the biggest pieces of living with intention is what you fill your mind with...what you read, what you listen to etc. I find reading and podcasts to be a big part of my regular life these days so I thought this week's cozy latte recipe was a nice time to reflect on books that had an impact on me this past year and what I'm planning for reading going into 2020. More on the podcasts later.
Here are some of my favorite reads from 2019:
The Mindful Catholic by Dr. Gregory Bottaro- I stumbled across Dr. Bottaro's books via podcast interviews and it instantly grabbed my interest. Remaining in the present moment is one of my daily struggles. My mind historically wanders to the to-do list, the what I haven't got done yet list, the grocery list, the budget list, the what could go wrong at work list and the what my kids need list. This is all surrounded by thoughts of " I need to be more this" lists, am I giving my family as a whole, each child as an individual, my husband, my job and my home enough attention in all those different needed ways? Is everyone eating nutritiously? Does someone need a dental appointment? When did I work out last? You get it. Monkey brain. I've used prayer, exercise and the physical practice of breath, movement and yoga to settle this frenzy down and I found that Dr. Bottaro's book bridges gaps between wellness terms we hear such as "mindfulness" and "remain in the present moment" and my Catholic faith. The subtitle of "finding God one moment at a time" seriously summarizes my spiritual goals.
Pope John Paul II's Love and Responsibility. This is a book I wish I had known about twenty years ago, but maybe I wasn't ready for it twenty years ago. I didn't find it to be a fast read as Pope John Paul's theological and philosophical intellect is robust to say the least. I knew he was a very smart man before I read it but this book blew me away as to just how smart and compassionate he truly is. In a world plagued by a lack of respect within relationships, scandal and abuse, Pope JP's work feeds a lot of truth and goodness that I think the world needs more of.
The Gift of Tears by Keith Nano. This one has a personal connection for me as I worked with Keith and know him personally. His book is the true and heartfelt story about the miraculous healing from a sudden and terrible illness of his son Jacob. It's a story that reminds me that life can change on a dime and that prayer, community and purpose are pillars of life. It has a happy ending but tissues were needed throughout this beautifully written book.
Going into 2020, I'm planning to read the following...
Harry Potter- I just started the first book in this series. I know, I'm like 22 years late and this isn't the usual personal or spiritual development book that I gravitate towards. I've never watched one of the movies from start to finish but the clips I've seen peaked my interest and I'm reading it because it's exactly the type of reading I don't usually do. I'm amazed and baffled as to how an author creates this type of story, the world the characters live in and the details that go along with it. It's the opposite of the type of writing I can do well. Call on me if you need a policy, procedure, grant proposal or executive summary. Maybe that's why I like developing recipes...step by step...do this, then that...Need a creative short story that will keep readers turning pages? I'm not your girl. In fact, this blog post is likely too long to hold anyone's attention at this point. So, I'm diving into this impressively creative book series in awe of JK Rowling's creative mind and I would love to learn more about how she developed the series.
Made for This: The Catholic Woman's Guide to Childbirth by Mary Haseltine. Ok, I've actually read this one before. I found it about 3 weeks before the birth of my third child in 2018 and I was feeling all the anxious feelings as labor and delivery approached so I read it quickly...like I was cramming for a final exam or something. I loved it. The book brings to life the beauty of all those really hard parts of labor and delivery. I'm due with #4 this Spring so I'm breaking out this book again. This time, I plan to really give it time and space over the course of a few months to mentally and spiritually prepare for what I pray will be the delivery of a healthy new baby boy.
All this talk about books finally brings me to our latte recipe. This latte can be made at home without a frothing or latte machine. It's a healthier version of a Gingerbread Latte and it packs in those festive flavors without refined sugars, syrups or artificial ingredients. All you need for equipment is a fresh cup of coffee and a blender!
- 1 1/2 cups fresh, hot coffee
-1 tsp molasses
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp ground cloves
-1/2 tsp ground ginger
-1-2 tsp sweetener of your choice (I've used Swerve, maple syrup, coconut sugar)
-2 TBS unsweetened vanilla almond milk
-1/2 tsp ghee or grass fed butter
Pour the coffee into a blender and add all of the other ingredients. Secure the top of the blender...double check to make sure it is on tight. As a precaution, I also hold a dish towel over the top of the blender before I turn it on in case anything should steam out. Turn the blender on low, then move up to high and blend for 20-30 seconds. Pour into your favorite mug and sprinkle some more cinnamon on top. Ta-da for a healthy, frothy latte to pair with your warm socks and reading! Have any reading suggestions for me?
And in case you're interested in some of the reflection questions I've come across as we roll into the new decade, check out Marie Forleo and her decade in review post!
This cookie is my Ode to the Tangy Orange Creme Cadbury Irish Rose. Have you ever had a Cadbury Rose? Have you ever been blessed by a gift of a box or tin of Cadbury Roses? If not, I highly suggest that you get on this little adventure. Cadbury Roses have been the pinnacle of chocolate indulgences my entire life. I was born in Ireland but my parents emigrated to Canada when I was 3 and we later moved to the U.S. Every few years, we would head back over to the Emerald Isle to visit family and we would have a few family members visiting us in between. Each trip across the Atlantic, regardless of which way the traveler was going, resulted in some gifting of Irish chocolate. I remember rummaging through the box of roses while carefully reading the flavor menu either on the back of the container or via the little card in the tin. There also may have been some competing with my brother to be the first to get certain flavors, such as the Tangy Orange Creme (although I recall that the flavor name didn't always have the word "Tangy" in it. I may have to check my Cadbury history). In my world, Tangy Orange Creme was followed by Strawberry Creme, the Caramel Barrel and then we moved on to the more truffle like textures with the hard caramel and more solid, nutty chocolates at the end of the box. All of the roses are delicious but the Tangy Orange Creme ranks No. 1.
While the flavors of this cookie are based on my favorite Cadbury Rose, the cookie itself is also inspired by those beautiful American Hershey Kiss Peanut Butter Blossoms that dazzle Christmas cookie tables and swaps at this time of year. The cookie is a soft, buttery texture with chocolate and orange flavors, instead of peanut butter, and a beautiful square of Cadbury Dairy Milk or Royal Dark is smushed right into the middle of it when the cookie comes out of the oven all warm and begging to be eaten. The orange adds a rich and festive flavor twist that makes these great Christmas cookies.
- 3/4 cup of butter at room temperature
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp orange extract
-zest of 1/2 large orange
- 1 1/2 cups flour
-1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 cup white sugar for coating
-Approximately 3 bars of Cadbury Dairy Milk or Royal Dark (more if you plan to eat while baking!)
Cream together the butter and sugars in a stand mixer. Add in the egg, extracts and orange zest while stirring on low and increasing to medium. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and stir until completely mixed together. The batter will be thick. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
Remove from the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper. Using a cookie scooper, scoop out the cookies and roll in your clean hands into approximately 1 inch balls. Roll the uncooked cookie into the 1/4 cup of sugar until coated and place on the tray. Repeat until the cookie tray has approximately 9-12 cookies on it spaced apart. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately top with a square of Cadbury chocolate in the middle of the cookie. Allow to cool on the tray for approximately 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire baking rack to cool completely. Repeat the process until the entire batter is used up. The recipe will make 30-36 cookies depending on size of the cookies. Enjoy!
New England wife, mom & home baker. Faith, food, fitness, baking, cooking and constantly cleaning my kitchen.