Okonomiyaki

Ten years ago my husband and I took a trip to Japan, and it was there that we discovered okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake made of shredded cabbage and meat in a flour-egg batter, and often contains additional ingredients for extra flavors and textures. The restaurant we went to was in a tiny little town and was listed as a “hidden gem” in our travel guide, and it definitely spoiled us for all other iterations of okonomiyaki on our trip (because of course, having had it once we were dying to have it again!). The ingredients came in separate bowls that you combined to your own taste, and there were personal grills right at the table to cook the pancakes, which were served with pickled ginger, bonito flakes, and okonomiyaki sauce for garnish.

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Oddly, despite searching for similar restaurants here in the States, we never thought of trying to recreate the recipe at home. However, I was in a local Asian market recently when I spied a bottle of okonomiyaki sauce (a tangy, savory sauce that’s kind of like a mixture of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce), and was inspired to try my own version of these!

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Pumpkin Pancakes

pumpkin-pancakes

I recently had half a can of pumpkin left over from making a batch of my favorite pumpkin chip muffins, so I mixed up a batch of seasonally-appropriate pumpkin pancakes over the weekend. They’re easy to make and smell amazing as they cook, and the spice and sweetness level is perfect when paired with maple syrup. I added a sprinkling of toasted, salted pecans for extra crunch and it was a great addition.

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Ginger Molasses Cookies

ginger-cookies

This past holiday season I found myself in need of a treat to make for our neighbors, who were doing us the favor of cat-sitting while we were away in California. The only problem was that I’d already denuded my refrigerator of standard ingredients for baked goods– no butter, no eggs, and I didn’t even have much chocolate in the house! What to do?

Enter the molasses cookie. Spicy and subtly sweet, it sounded like a perfect holiday-themed treat. I found a recipe that eschewed eggs and used oil instead of butter, which also kept the cookies moist and chewy rather than cakey. (seriously, they stayed moist for over a week!) A hefty dose of ginger, both powdered and crystallized, paired with the dark molasses to keep the flavor profile interesting.

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Autumn Cupcakes

autumn-cupcake

Okay, so first things first– I’ve got to admit that these are a shameless cheat. They’re technically my Pumpkin Pecan Chip muffins with frosting, not cupcakes. But really, once you’ve added white chocolate chips to muffins, they basically become cupcakes by another name anyway, right? And the topping makes all the difference, I promise you!

To take these muffins over the top into cupcake territory, slather them with a brown sugar/cream cheese frosting, then top them with candied ginger and toasted pecans. The combination is amazing– creamy, crunchy, spicy, and everything you’d want in an autumn dessert!

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Pumpkin Pecan Chip Muffins

pumpkin-muffins

I’ve been making these muffins for years now, and they are invariably hailed by my friends as “the best muffins ever.” They’re moist, tender, with plenty of flavor from the pumpkin and spices, and studded with white chocolate chips and pecans as nice surprises in the middle. I tend to make them in fall (our freezer always has a batch ready to defrost for snacks at this time of year) but have been known to make them on a whim out-of-season– they’re that good! Make them yourself if you don’t believe me, and you will be converted!

I will note that the recipe below makes 12 muffins, but if you don’t want to find yourself with half a can of leftover pumpkin and half a bag of leftover chocolate chips, you may as well make a double-batch. You won’t regret it!

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Mini Oatmeal-Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

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These started off as a whim while I was trying to figure out what to do with the pint of ginger ice cream in my freezer. I first considered sauteéing some apples to go over it, but I knew I’d need some sort of crumble topping for texture– and once I had the idea of a baked oatmeal topping it was just a short step to thinking of oatmeal cookies. After those got into my head the apples just sort of fell to the side as unnecessary, as I envisioned adorably tiny bite-sized ice cream sandwiches, made with homemade oatmeal cookies. Who could resist?

Unfortunately, the road to oatmeal-ginger perfection was fraught with hazards, or at least it was by the time I was done with it.

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Orange Spice Palmiers

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So I was looking for something simple to make for a thank-you gift for some friends who did us a favor– I always promise baked goods for things like this. Since our friends had little kids I wanted to make sure that whatever I made was relatively mess-free, as well as being easy to eat and not too outrageously sugary. When I thought of palmiers I knew I’d hit on the right idea. But you know me, I never let well enough alone– I wasn’t going to go to the trouble of making my own puff pastry (it never turns out well for me) so I had to doctor them up somehow.

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