Sugar Rush

At the urging of several readers, I am abridging my Pilgrimages and Pumpkins post with the recipes of the mentioned goodies as well as the Molasses Cookies that got thrown in with the lot on Twitter. Since a very young age I have loved to bake. So when seasons change the traditional recipes are dragged out with gentle nudges from friends and family. Since I have a spirit of adventure, I toss in a few new ones, more often than not borne out of a desire to taste something special, like say around 3:00 pm when blood sugar is typically low and America heads to Starbucks. 

All recipes are relatively simple and are guaranteed to give you a satisfactory sugar rush upon consumption, not to mention a whole pile of new friends, if you share!

Butternut Squash Soup

This is a super simple soup and so wonderful that you may want to make extra to have for a few lunches (or share with really, really nice people)

3 Cups peeled, diced butternut squash (I use one whole)
2 cups peeled, chopped carrots (about 4 large)
1/4 cup shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons margarine (or butter)
28 oz. reduced sodium chicken broth (2 cartons)
1/4 tsp white pepper, nutmeg (each)
1/4 cup crystalized ginger, chopped (optional but incredibly zings this soup)

1.  In a large covered saucepan, heat butter on med-high till bubbly and cook shallots till tender (5 minutes). Add squash and carrot and continue cooking for 8 minutes till edges get soft, turn to coat and heat evenly. Add broth and ginger, bring to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, simmer covered for 25-35 minutes till vegetables are tender. Cool slightly.
2. Spoon mixture 1/3 at a time into blender and process till smooth. Repeat till entire mixture is blended. Return all mixture to pan. Add white pepper and nutmeg and heat through. 
3. If desired, stir in 1/4 cup half and half to each bowl before serving. Garnish with chopped walnuts or pumpkin seeds.

Cranberry Chocolate Squares

This recipe is adapted from a chocolate/raspberry bar. I really wanted something with cranberries and chocolate, hence the adaptation. It can be made either with canned whole or fresh cranberries cooked into a dense sauce.

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups cranberry sauce * see recipe below
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a heavy duty mixer (or large bowl, by hand) mix flour and sugar. Cut in margarine till crumbly. Add egg and extract and mix till combined. Mixture will resemble cookie dough. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture for the topping. Press remaining dough into the bottom baking dish. Evenly spread cranberry sauce over the dough. Place reserved dough back in the mixer, add chocolate chips and almonds and mix till combined. Evenly spoon topping over cranberry sauce pressing with a spoon or fingers till flat. (I squeezed the dough flat in patches and placed over the sauce with my fingers). Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on rack and cut into 1 1/2″ squares.

* Cranberry Sauce for cookies
1 cup apple cider or cranberry juice
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole fresh cranberries
stick cinnamon
Pour juice in a saucepan and heat on high till just before boiling. Stir in sugar and stir till dissolved. Continue stirring till boiling. Add cranberries and stick cinnamon. Bring back up to boiling and reduce heat to medium. When cranberries begin to pop, stir and reduce heat to simmer. Let cook uncovered till reduced and thick, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
Allow to cool and remove cinnamon stick. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. 

Molasses Cookies

3/4 cup shortening (do not use butter or margarine for this recipe)
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt

In heavy mixer (or in large mixing bowl by hand) cream shortening and sugar together . Heat molasses slightly in microwave to make easier to measure and add to mixture. Add egg and mix till smooth. In another bowl combine flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt and add to first mixture. Mix till smooth. Chill for at least 1/2 an hour. Form into 1″ balls and dip the top of each ball in a small bowl of granulated sugar*. Place sugar side up on ungreased baking sheets two inches apart (they will flatten considerably). Bake at 375 F. for 8-10 minutes. They will be soft in the center. Let cool slightly and remove to cooling racks. Cookies will puff during baking and deflate while cooling. This gives them the nice chewy/crispy consistency. 
*Cookies can be baked without the sugar dip and later sprinkled with powdered sugar for a more festive variation.

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