Double Chocolate Spice Muffins

Double Chocolate Spice Muffins

Smells Like Brownies is turning 3! I can hardly believe it.

So I thought I should share a bit of a throwback recipe with you. In fact, this is the first recipe that I ever altered on my own for any reason. It was the beginning of my culinary journey. All in the humble wrapper of a morning muffin.

When I was a freshman in college, I suddenly realized that I didn’t know how to cook. I think, up ’til that point, I had assumed that I would just wake up one day and know the tricks of the trade, maybe learning it through osmosis or something, simply because my mom was a good cook.

But…I wasn’t even sure how to read a recipe unless it came on the side of a mac ‘n cheese box or would result in chocolate chip cookies. So I set about learning to make something easy. Something I craved on Sunday mornings. Muffins.

I made muffins like three times a week. I invited friends over to make muffins. It was a muffin party (complete with a muffin top I hadn’t anticipated…). And so my mom bought me my first cookbook ever, Muffins. It didn’t turn out to be a great cookbook, in case you were wondering, but it did make me realize I could, say, add spices to a vanilla muffin and make spice muffins. Use honey instead of sugar and make honey muffins. Add cocoa powder and make chocolate muffins. The possibilities were endless!

This chocolate spice combo turned out to be one of my favorites. I tweaked the spices ’til I liked them, and I had never felt so proud of my budding kitchen prowess.

So now, on my third blog-birthday, I will share them with you!


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Mrs. Smith’s Pumpkin Yeast Rolls

Pumpkin Yeast Rolls

One of my college friends has a terrific mom. She is such an excellent hostess—she remembers every conversation we’ve ever had, no matter how long ago; she works hard to make sure everyone who comes to her house has something delicious to eat that suits their dietary restrictions; she has a warm, welcoming spirit; and best of all…she makes amAZING rolls. I have literally eaten meals almost entirely composed of her rolls.

A few years ago, she was gracious enough to share the recipe with me.

This pumpkin version has become a staple at my house, and I know you will love them, too! Happy pumpkin season!

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Chai Spiced Pancakes

Chai Spiced Pancakes

It’s gloomy. And cold.

What you need is for your kitchen to smell warm, and your stomach to be filled with sweet spices to keep you cozy from the inside out.

So let’s break open our spice cabinets and make chai pancakes! We could maybe even pretend that all those healthy anti-inflammatory and blood sugar–lowering spices make these pancakes somewhat healthy.

But however you choose to rationalize making pancakes and whipped cream in the middle of January (hey, we can’t restrict ourselves too much based on all those healthy eating resolutions!…otherwise we will crash and burn), you should definitely add these pancakes into your weekend breakfast rotation.

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Vegetable Khorma

This month for the Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Samayalarai: Cooking is Divine.

What an interesting blog—and something of a challenge for me, an Indian food rookie! Looking through the pages and pages of recipes, mostly for things I had never previously heard of, was a real education for me. I mean, my Indian food experience is fairly limited to the most common of dishes: naan, various kinds of masala, jalfrezi…

Let’s just say I spent a lot of time looking up Indian food terms on Google as I browsed the blog.

I landed on a dish called Dhingri Mutter, which means mushrooms and peas. One of the things that drew me to this dish is that it seemed like something I could easily make at home without buying too many exotic ingredients that would later go to waste. It also looked really healthy, and reminded me of a favorite Indian dish that I’ve been meaning to make for a while, Navrattan Khorma. Both are made with a fresh tomato-onion paste and yogurt sauce; the main difference is in the vegetables included. Since I’m not a huge fan of peas, I decided to expand this dish to include a few other vegetables as well, making it even more similar to the khorma I enjoy so much. I hope I didn’t compromise the integrity of the meal too much by tinkering with the ingredients! All I know is that I sure enjoyed it.

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Moroccan-Spiced Spaghetti Squash

Okay. I am a squash junkie.

Am I alone in this?

I mean, squash is great in all its forms. I could eat it for every meal.

Luckily for me, there are about a bazillion winter squashes, so I am unlikely to get bored, no matter how much squash I eat!

Let’s try out this great spaghetti squash. It’s a little sweet and also garlicky, earthy, and warm. Yum. It only takes about 15 minutes to make this side dish, leaving you plenty of time to focus on your main course (maybe a spicy rice dish or some chermoula-marinated fish…mmm).

Plus, does anything smell better than garlic in butter?

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Mexican Hot Chocolate Crackle Cookies

The first time I ever tried a crackle cookie was seriously disappointing. It was kind of flavorless and much too stiff, and every time I tried to take a bite my face and lungs got covered in a fine layer of confectioner’s sugar. After that experience, I basically decided I didn’t like crackle cookies at all, and vowed not to be tempted by them in the future. And hey, I like enough sweets that when I find one to exclude from my plate, that’s almost always a good thing.

But thank God I changed my mind.

I was pouring through one of the cookbooks I got for Christmas, looking for something more exciting than chocolate chip cookies to entertain me on a Saturday evening, and I came across this recipe for a Mexican hot chocolate version of crackle cookies. Mexican hot chocolate is a perfect winter flavor combination: rich, chocolatey, and spicy. I basically leaped up from the couch and ran to the kitchen to start making these, prior completely prejudice forgotten.

Though I still recommend not breathing in while taking a bite of these cookies, I definitely think you should try them out. They are moist and tender with a lightly crunchy crust, sweet and just a little spicy, and full of amazing dark chocolate. Yum!

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Cardamom Tea Cakes

I have told you before of my love affair with cardamom. It is by far the most interesting spice I have tasted to date. But I will admit that the first time I smelled it and tasted it, I was not so sure I wanted to do it again.

I found this recipe for tea cakes a while back, when I was trying to find a cookie I could make for my grandfather, who is diabetic but loves the classics (a.k.a., cookies with lunch). Ultimately, I doubt this itty-bitty spiced cookie would be up his alley, but I’m so glad I tried it! These are basically sugar cookies in ball form (not what you’d immediately think of when trying to find diabetic-friendly desserts…but hey, they are tiny so each one is low in carbs). The cardamom will kick you right in the taste buds, but let me tell you, as soon as I eat one of these cookies, it’s all I can do not to gobble up ten more of them!

Don’t worry, if you are afraid of cardamom, you can substitute ginger…or even cinnamon. But I recommend you be daring!

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