Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas

Don’t you just love delish treats that are quick and easy? And when they can be served at a holiday or themed party, it’s even better!

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas

With Independence Day quickly approaching, I whipped up a few batches of these beloved Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas to cool down the hot summer days with. I went with some festive sprinkles for a patriotic touch but hey–anything goes!

Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July!

ps. I plan on throwing down some baby back ribs that day. What are y’all planning on putting on the grill? :)

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Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas
Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 Bananas, cut in half
8 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
1 Teaspoon Vegetable Oil
6 Popsicle Sticks
Toppings (sprinkles, nuts, chopped candies, etc.)

Slide a popsicle stick in each of the banana halves. Place the bananas in the freezer and allow to chill for 2-3 hours. Combine the chocolate with the teaspoon of oil and microwave in 20 second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the bananas from the freezer. Dip each of the bananas into the chocolate and gently roll/shake the excess chocolate off. Sprinkle each banana with your choice of topping and rest on a wax paper lined tray. Repeat with the remaining bananas. Once complete, place the tray of bananas in the freezer for approximately one hour until hardened. ENJOY!


Holiday Recap and Best Hits of 2010

Overview of 2010 Holiday Eats


December was a crazy month. Over 31 days, there was tons of cooking, baking, candy making, and cocktail shaking.

We ate….we drank…we laughed…and then we ate some more. Such little fatties we were. :) But isn’t that what the holidays and celebrations are all about?

And I’ll tell ya friends….as I was compiling the mosaic above, I became “re-exhausted” just thinking about it! From left to right, some of my December kitchen adventures included:

  1. Vietnamese inspired Banana Blossom Salad
  2. Cutie-Pom Cocktails
  3. Short Rib Ragu with Pappardelle
  4. Lychee Panna Cotta with Guava Coulis
  5. Lemongrass Mojito
  6. Cook’s Illustrated Paella
  7. Peppermint Crisps
  8. 40 Garlic Cloves Chicken
  9. Candy Cane “Kissed” Nutella Cookies
  10. Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
  11. Doughnut Muffins
  12. Pomegranate Margaritas
  13. Raspberry Almond Linzer Cookies
  14. Rosemary Garlic Hasselback Potatoes
  15. Cosmopolitan Martinis
  16. Peppermint Kissed Brownies
  17. Green Appletinis
  18. Shrimp Scampi
  19. Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Frosting
  20. White Chocolate Peppermint Bark
  21. Chocolate Raspberry Tart
  22. Vietnamese inspired Shrimp Po’ Boys
  23. Chocolate Lollipops
  24. Porcini Mushroom Turkey

Yummy, yummy, yummy. And yes, because of it all, my relationship with “GYM” is scheduled to grow. I’m hoping to see “GYM” on a daily basis for the new few weeks. :)

And while we’re walking down memory lane, allow me to share our Top 10 Most Popular Posts of 2010…….

Best Hits of 2010

Drumroll please….

10. Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
9. Chocolate Toffee Cookies
8. Fresh Apple Cake
7. Peppermint Crisps = Confidence Boost
6. French Macarons…..The Holy Grail of Pastries
5. “Chocolate Malt” Cupcakes
4. Bún Thịt Nướng (Vietnamese Grilled Pork over Vermicelli Noodles)
3.  Alton Brown’s “Overnight Cinnamon Rolls”
2. Vanilla Bean Cupcakes filled with Dulce de Leche
1. Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies

Though I think my personal favorite posts were:

I know…kind of random. But I had a TON of fun in the kitchen when making those dishes :)

We’ve had a great year of Foodventures. It’s been humbling (and funny) reviewing some of our kitchen disasters and very exciting to revisit our successes. My goals for 2011 include:

  • Publishing more posts on Vietnamese cuisine,
  • Improving on my photography,
  • and Tweeking our page to be more user friendly.

Simple goals really but I hope you’ll stick with me in 2011 to see them actualized. And with that Dear Friends….Here’s to 2011!

New Year’s Toast with a Cutie-Pom Cocktail

Cutie Pom Cocktail


2010 is quickly coming to a close…….and 2011 is quickly approaching.

Endings and New Beginnings.

And whether you’re giving immense thanks for 2010 or cannot wait for 2011 to start, I have a great cocktail for you to toast in the New Year with.

In California, you can’t really pass a market these days that aren’t stocked with “Cuties”. Cuties are a hybrid citrus–mixed between two types of mandarins. And with tons of little munchkins around in our family, Cuties are the perfect way to get their vitamins in during the chillier months. So when I began rummaging around the kitchen to concoct a New Year’s Cocktail, I found an abundance of Cuties and some leftover Pomegranate seeds.

Add some sugar, lime juice, and a few other kitchen staples—and BADA BING, BADA BOOM! Cocktail Time! Want to make a version for the kiddies or those who want to pass on the alcohol? Simply omit the vodka. These Cutie-Pom Cocktails are just as delish and refreshing without the “added kick”.

And with that Dear Friends…..Here’s to You and the Wonderful Foodventures that await in 2011!

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Cutie-Pom Cocktail

Ingredients:

2 Ounces Fresh Cuties Juice (or other Mandarins/Clementines)
1 Ounce Premium Vodka
1 Tablespoon Fresh Pomegranate Seeds
1/2 Ounce Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 Tablespoon Sugar (or Simple Syrup)
2-3 Ounces Lemon Lime Soda
Crushed Ice

In a glass, muddle the pomegranate seeds with sugar. Add Cuties Juice, Lime Juice, Vodka and stir until all the liquids are incorporated. Fill the glass with crushed ice and top off with lemon lime soda. Garnish and enjoy!

Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

 

My siblings and I live all over the country so when we come home for Christmas, we try and squeeze in as much time with each other as possible. And of course when we’re together, there is always some type of cooking, eating, laughing….and sometimes even a little bickering. Hey—just because we’re older, we’re still siblings after all :)

Before joining our extending family for dinner and presents on Christmas Eve, the siblings (sibs-in-laws, kids, and 4-legged furry kids) gathered for lunch. The menu included Peach Bellini Cocktails, Cosmopolitan Martinis, Lemon Bars, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Rosemary Bread, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad, and a decadent Seafood Cioppino in honor of our Mom.

I thought this Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad would be a nice compliment to our lunch spread—-plus the green and red colors added a lovely festive touch. When I initially thought of making it, I had intended to use Bosc or Bartlett Pears. But when we had some juicy Asian Pears on hand, my sister suggested that they would be a nice alternative. You’ll also find that most pear salads will have walnuts in them. But since walnuts are my least favorite nuts, I swapped them out for one of my favorites—pistachios. Yum.

I think the end results was a bright dish that had great texture balance from the crunch of the pomegranates and pistachios to the creamy and slightly piquant flavor from the gorgonzola to the verdant essence from the greens.  As for the Pomegranate Vinaigrette, it brought together all of the components without overpowering them.

Would our Mom have enjoyed the meal? I have no doubt she would have loved it.

And I think she would be extra proud of us for eating our veggies. :)

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Asian Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

8 Cups Mixed Greens (ie. Arugula, Baby Spinach, Mâche, etc.)
2 Small Asian Pears, sliced paper thin
1/3 Cup Fresh Pomegranate Seeds
½ Cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
1/3 Cup Pistachio Nuts, roughly chopped

Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
2 Tablespoons Fresh Pomegranate Seeds
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
½ Teaspoon Sugar
2 Shallots, thinly sliced
½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste

Prepare Vinaigrette. In a small sauce pan or skillet, heat olive oil on low. Add shallots and cook until softened—about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Place pomegranate seeds in a small bowl. Using a fork, crush the seeds to allow the juices to come out. Add shallots, sugar, and red wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil from the shallots until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the greens onto a large platter. Place the pears over the greens and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and gorgonzola on top. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve immediately.

Chocolate Lollipops–A Trifecta of Holiday Goodness!

Chocolate Lollipops

Hello Dear Friends!

First and foremost, I would like to wish you all a very Happy Holiday Season! Thus far, mine has been chopped full of quality family time, good eats—and plenty of vino! And let’s be honest…what more could a gal ask for? :)

Well, perhaps the gift of “saving time”. And wouldn’t you know it? These “Chocolate Lollipops” are just the trick!

Inspired by the most recent special of the Barefoot Contessa in London, I whipped up (with the wonderful help of my fab nieces) these quick and easy Chocolate Lollipops. The whole process took us less than 15 minutes. True Story.

And the end result?

A Trifecta of Holiday Goodness!

Planning a little soiree? These Chocolate Lollipops will serve as:

  1. A lovely decor/centerpiece when packaged with ribbons and bundled in a vase,
  2. A deluxe party favor for your guests when they leave,
  3. and Of course, a DELISH Treat!

Another NGUYEN-WIN SITUATION! :)

Happy Holidays Friends!

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Chocolate Lollipops
Makes Approximately 2 Dozen Pops

Ingredients:

6 Ounces Quality Chocolate (either white, milk, dark, or mixed–your preference)
1/2 Cup Dried Fruits or Chopped Nuts (completely your preference)
2 Dozen Lollipop Sticks

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a double boiler method, melt the chocolate stirring slowly until smooth. Remove from heat. Spoon one tablespoon of the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper. Try to do this evenly to form a round circle. Lay the lollipop stick 1/3-1/2 inch into the chocolate circle. Sprinkle with your choice of chopped nuts and/or dried fruit. Repeat process until all your chocolate is used. Set aside the cookie sheets in a cool area and allow 2-3 hours to harden. Once firm, carefully peel the lollipops from the parchment paper. The pops can be packaged with cellophane and tied with a decorative bow.

**The photo shown above features both white chocolate and 60% chocolate with dried cranberries and crushed pistachio nuts.

Enjoy!

Candy Cane “Kissed” Nutella Cookies

Candy Cane "Kissed" Nutella Cookies

Ever since I stumbled across a bag of Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, I’ve been fixated on making holiday cookies with them.

Lucky for me, I had a Cookie Connoisseur at my disposal. That’s right friends, my 5 year old niece Maya. I asked Maya what kind of cookie she liked. Sugar cookie? Peanut Butter? Chocolate? Nutella? “NUTELLA!”, she exclaimed! I think it may be a result of her morning Nutella Sandwiches for breakfast.

As fate would have it, Giada De Laurentiis had a recipe that I could work with. With her “Chocolate-Hazelnut Smooches”…..Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom! I had my Candy Cane “Kissed” Nutella Cookies. True Story.

These cookies were simple to make and had that wonderful crispy exterior, chewy interior, and minty finish to it. WINNER! And you know what “up’ed” the ante on this cookie? I actually made the dough a few days in advance, rolled it, and froze it. When it was time for me to use it, I added 3 minutes to the baking time and it was F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!

So MOVE OVER prepackaged-store bought cookie dough….these gems are SO much better  and are just as quick!! But of course, they would be just as amazing if you made the cookies right away.

Oh that Maya…. she knew what she was talking about :)

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Candy Cane “Kissed” Nutella Cookies
Adapted From Giada De Laurentiis

1¾ Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Cup Nutella
½ Cup Butter, softened
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla extract
½ Cup Sugar (to roll cookies in)
24 Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses (approximately)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, place the nutella, butter, and both sugars. Using a hand mixer, cream the ingredients together, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and blend until incorporated. Stir in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated.

Shape the cookie dough into walnut-sized balls. Rolls the balls in the sugar pressing to adhere. Place the cookies on a heavy cookie sheet about 4 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven. Quickly place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for another 3 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

**If you would like to freeze the dough to bake at a later time, place the sugar coated cookie dough balls in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Move the cookie sheet to the freezer and allow the dough to harden for at least 30-45 minutes. The dough balls can then be transferred to a gallon sized freezer bag and kept up to 2 weeks in the freezer. When it’s time to bake, place dough balls directly from freezer to cookie sheet. Add an additional 3-4 minutes baking time.

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

 

Need an easy and delicious treat for the holidays? This is it—seriously.

Every Holiday season I make batches of this White Chocolate Peppermint Bark–not only because how quick it comes together but it’s darn delicious! Creamy, minty and lightly crunchy from the peppermint bits. Package them in festive holiday tins with colorful ribbons and BADA-BING, BADA-BOOM….Fabulously Yummy Gifts.

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White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

12 Ounces Quality White Chocolate, chopped
½ Cup Peppermint Candy, crushed
½ Teaspoon Peppermint Extract

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a silicon mat. Place peppermint candy in a plastic bag. With a kitchen mallet, break up the candy into small pieces.

Using a double boiler method, melt the white chocolate stirring slowly until smooth. Remove from heat and quickly mix in the candy and extract. Pour melted chocolate onto the cookie sheet. Using a rubber spatula, spread out the chocolate evenly across the parchment paper until it is approximately ¼ inch thick. Holding each side of the cookie sheet, lightly rap on the counter to remove any possible air bubbles. Set aside the cookie sheet in a cool area and allow 2-3 hours to harden. Once firm, break the bark into large pieces and serve. Bark should be stored in airtight containers to maintain freshness.

 


Raspberry Almond Linzer Cookies

Raspberry Almond Linzer Cookies

 

I have a very specific picture in my head when I think of a Holiday Cookie Platter. Gingerbreads, a smattering of butter cookies, an array of sugar cookies, perhaps a few “American” macaroons…..and of course, Linzer Cookies.

These buttery cookies first originated in Austria and were derived from the Linzertorte—which is essentially a tart filled with preserves. How did these buttery delights converge as a holiday cookie staple? The world may never know. But I was inspired by the recent wave of Linzer Cookies postings in the blogosphere and decided to try my hand at the wonderful Dorie Greenspan’s take on these delectable bites.

The ending results yielded a rich and buttery cookie that had a lovely “nutty” flavor profile due to the almond meal I used. The richness from the cookies were “cut” by the tart raspberry jam I used to sandwich these goodies. A rad balance indeed.

What could have I done better? Well, I won’t lie. The recipe called for me to roll the dough to a ¼ inch thickness and I may have gone a smidge thicker.

Just a “smidge” mind you. :)

But still, the cookie sammy was too thick once all was said and done. My suggestion, if you’re going to deviate from the recipe—-go a smidge thinner and reduce the baking time.

Did I care much? Nah…when a cookie is this tasty, very little matters.

And as I wipe the cookie crumbs away from my mouth, I wonder….How many other Holiday treats can this gal cram in before the holidays end????

 

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Raspberry Almond Linzer Cookies
From Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

1½  Cups Finely Ground Almonds
1½  Cups Flour
1½  Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
¼  Teaspoon Salt
¼  Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Large Egg
2 Teaspoon Water
½  Cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
½  Cup Sugar
½  Cup Raspberry Jam plus 1 Teaspoon Water
Confectioner’s Sugar, for dusting

In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. In a small bowl, lightly beat together the egg and water.

In an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture and beat until combined. On low speed, add the nut and flour mixture and beat only until just combined.

Divide the dough into two halves, and shape each half into a disk. Place each disk between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap, and with a rolling pin roll out until the dough is 1/4 inch thick. Place both pieces of wrapped dough on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for about 2 hours, or freeze for about 45 minutes, or until firm. If you don’t want to bake right away, you can keep the dough refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.

After dough is firm, preheat oven to 375ºF and place rack in center of oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Using a 2-inch round (or scalloped) cookie cutter, cut out, cut out as many cookies as possible. If you want a hole in the top cookie so you can see the jam inside, use a small cookie cutter to cut a small shape out of the center of half of the cookies.
Set the scraps aside, you can combine them with the scraps from the second sheet of dough.

Place cutout cookies on the cookie sheet, leaving space in between cookies. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Repeat with the second sheet of dough, and also roll the scraps out between two sheets of wax paper and repeat.

While cookies are cooling, combine the jam and teaspoon of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat. Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread half of the cookies with about 1/2 tsp of jam and sandwich together with another cookie. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Makes about 25 sandwich cookies.

Peppermint Crisps = Confidence Boost

Peppermint Crisps

 

Today was one of those days in the kitchen. You know what I’m talking about….those days where everything you attempt seems to go to heck in a handbag. It started at about 7:30am and after 4 failed desserts/pastries, I finally had to throw in the towel at about 1:00pm. I won’t get into the details of every misadventure but it was bad. Really bad.

Yes, I was the epitome of a Hot Mess.

But then I took a look at my nieces who I had promised a full day of baking to and decided to put on my big girl panties and get back into the kitchen. Their Cô Nam (auntie) is no quitter!

Since I was nursing a little bruised spirit, I opted for a sweet treat that required no “baking” and few ingredients. Hey—I was trying to increase my odds for success to end the day off in a good note. :)

Luckily, The Galley Gourmet recently posted a recipe for “Peppermint Crisps” and they looked delectable. A few hours later and HALLELUJAH–we did it! A bright treat after a tumultuous morning.

These little guys are perfect for a “late afternoon pick-me-up” or as a small goodie to end off a meal. Wonderfully minty with the delicious finish of chocolate. Pair it with a hot cup of tea or glass of dry red wine and you’ll be a happy camper.

PHEW!!! Victory at last!

Life lesson of the day….Humility is best served alongside a piece of chocolate :)

Note: A tin full of these minty bites would make a wonderful gift for the holidays!

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Peppermint Crisps
From The Galley Gourmet
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch crisps

Ingredients:

½ Cup Granulated Sugar
½ Cup Water
1½ Teaspoons Peppermint Extract, divided
4 Ounces Dark Chocolate, chopped
4 Ounces Milk Chocolate, chopped
¼ Cup Shredded Unsweetened Coconut

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

Place sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir to combine.  Over medium heat dissolve the sugar.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring until the mixture turns a light caramel color, about 7-9 minutes.  Halfway through wipe the sides of the pan down with a damp pastry brush to remove and crystallization.  Remove from the heat and add 1 teaspoon of the peppermint extract.  Swirl the pan to distribute the extract.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and set aside for 15 minutes or until completely hardened and cooled.  Break the hardened peppermint sugar into shards and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse to break up the large pieces, then process until it resembles fine sand.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the chocolates in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Remove from the microwave and stir.  If not melted, return to the microwave and cook for an additional 30 seconds.  Stir and repeat if necessary until the chocolate is completely melted.  Once melted, stir in the coconut, remaining peppermint extract and the processed peppermint sugar.  Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.  Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate into a 10×8-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.  Holding the parchment to the baking sheet, gently rap the baking sheet on the counter to even the surface.  Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to harden the chocolate, about 1 hour.

Remove from the refrigerator and let rest for 5 minutes.  Gently transfer the parchment to a cutting surface. Using a 1 1/2-inch circle cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can.  Reserve the scraps for nibbling or fold into your favorite ice cream.  Store in an airtight container in a cool location or in the refrigerator for a cool peppermint taste.  Enjoy!

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Frosting

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Frosting

I think one of my biggest challenges if I ever became a professional cook would be consistency. One day I’ll make something and it’ll turn out quite yummy. But to my disappointment, the next time I make the exact same thing, it’s a flop. Same conditions, no additions, no edits……just different results. Bummer, right?

Unfortunately that was the case when I made these Gingerbread Cupcakes. Last year I made them for the holidays and I was smitten! They had a wonderful flavor and were super fluffy—-I just couldn’t wait to whip some out for this winter season.

I happily volunteered to make these cupcakes for a holiday party my sister recently hosted. I was true to the cupcake recipe and didn’t change a thing. But I did however take some liberties and switched the Cardamom Frosting for my take on a Spiced Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting.

As they were baking, the cuppies emitted a spicy, rich aroma and I just knew the frosting would be a wonderful match for them. Needless to say, expectations were high. But alas, this batch just fell short. The cake did have a great flavor–just as I remembered it but the texture was quite dry and dense. Yeah….I was bummed. The good news is the saving grace was the new frosting—slightly tangy from the cream cheese and deeply fragrant from the spices and molasses.

Golden cuppies before getting their frosting swirls…

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses FrostingDid you happen to catch the cute little gingerbread men sprinkles on top?? Courtesy of Barbara of Pauline’s Cake Decorating Supplies in San Jose, CA

This rendition of Gingerbread Cupcakes is definitely worth a “Do-Over“—especially since I know that they can be deliciously moist. But if for some strange reason I get the same “dry” results, I’ll just turn them into Gingerbread Cake Pops. Shhh! It’ll be our little secret. :)

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Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Molasses Frosting
Makes 12 Cupcakes

Gingerbread Cupcakes (from The Spice Kitchen: Everyday Cooking with Organic Spices)
8 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
½ Cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
½ Cup Molasses
1 Egg
½ Teaspoon Vanilla
½ Cup Boiling Water
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1½ Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Teaspoon Dried Lemon Zest
¼ Teaspoon Salt

Spiced Molasses Frosting
10 Ounces Cream Cheese, at room temperature
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
¼ Cup Molasses
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
3-4 Cups Confectioner Sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin with paper cups.

Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses, egg, and vanilla. In a small bowl, stir together the boiling water and baking soda until dissolved. Stir the baking soda water into the molasses mixture.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, lemon zest, and salt into a small bowl. Whisk the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until the batter is combined.

Spoon the gingerbread batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of one or two of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Place the gingerbread cupcakes on a rack to cool for 30 minutes.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare frosting. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Mix in molasses, cinnamon, and cloves. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, ½ cup at a time. Continue adding sugar to desire consistency. Fill a piping bag with the frosting and pipe large swirls on top of the cupcakes.