Friday, July 24, 2015

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Mint Chips

Are you ready for a cookie that's the perfect combination of chocolate goodness with a hit of mint in each bite?

Here you go.


Each year before Christmas we have a little family party to make and decorate sugar cookies. The kids love it, and so do I! This past year, I let my older son pick out a few toppings to decorate his cookies. His pick was Andes peppermint crunch mint chips, festively colored in red and white. While pretty, and tasty, they didn't quite jive with the sugar cookies. Just so you know...

Fast forward through the months, and I find myself dipping into the leftovers. They are so good! Finally, I decided we needed to get them out of there for good. I figured they would be best mixed in with chocolate, because... obviously.

This recipe is slightly different than your typical chocolate chip cookie recipe, as it uses melted butter. The addition of the cocoa powder gives it a nice brown color and rich chocolate taste throughout.

I love the mix of color in there, though I'm not sure they sell the red/white ones throughout the year. Regular Andes mint pieces would work just fine, though slightly different "mint" flavor. Still tasty!

My secret to perfectly round cookies is to use a mini ice cream scoop, which I believe may have actually been intended for cookie baking (I can't remember). It makes 2 in round balls that bake into perfectly round perfection.

It's absolutely critical these are not over baked. I'm at about 5,000ft altitude and 10 min was perfect. Let them sit for a few minutes to hold together, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Or your mouth, if you must. They will be nice and chewy on the inside, and stay that way for a few days.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Mint Chips

8 TBLS salted butter
3/4 C. sugar
1 TBLS molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2-3 TBLS cocoa powder
1.5 C. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C. Andes peppermint crunch mint pieces

1. Get the oven going - 350 degrees
2. Melt the butter in the microwave until just liquid, but not hot.
3. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the molasses, egg and vanilla. Beat on low until it all comes together, 15-20 seconds.
4.  Add the cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt and mix until it holds together in a dough. Pour in the mint pieces and incorporate gently by hand.
5. Drop onto cookie sheet in 2 in round balls. I ended up with about 25.
6. Bake 9-11 minutes. They may not spread right away, but have patience. Not too much though, you don't want to over-bake them, you'll lose the chewiness.

* If you prefer, you can substitute 1/4 C. sugar and molasses for 1/4 C. brown sugar. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Simple Facial Toner with Essential Oils

Running in the summer heat is brutal. I don't know how the south does it. Early mornings? Late nights? Treadmills? (yikes)

Outside of making a run feel tougher than it already is, it's hard on my skin. The excess sweat and heat has wreaked havoc on my face, especially since I don't always have a chance to shower immediately after a workout. So far I've been using straight Witch Hazel, but I wanted to take it up a notch.

After some poking around, I came up with a recipe I like using easy to find ingredients. While I generally use this more at night, I also use it post run. I'll splash my face with cold water, dry, and swipe with this toner.

Next up will be a moisturizer to replace my overpriced Philosophy stuff...

So, it's super easy, with a bunch of options for adding essential oils. I rounded up the different oils for various skin care needs. As you see, there are several that work across the board. You could even leave out the oils if you don't have any. The ACV and Witch Hazel are amazing on their own!

If you're not already familiar with these powerhouses, here is a bit more info...

Apple Cider Vinegar - the list is extensive, but this is a great explanation (more info here)

"There are several key attributes to ACV for maintaining beautiful skin, and exfoliation is one of them. Exfoliating is a key element for keeping youthful healthy skin. There are several ways to exfoliate, and one of them is by “digesting” dead skin cells, which the acids in ACV do. This mild cell turnover is widely used as a skin treatment to improve, soften, and smooth skin texture. The new skin layer, once revealed, is more vibrant, youthful, and healthy.

With a pH similar to skin, AVC helps restore and balance your skin’s pH and acid mantle. This too is key to healthy, beautiful skin. The acid mantle is the combination of sebum (oil) and perspiration on the skin’s surface. This barrier protects the skin and makes it less vulnerable to environmental damage (smog, sun and wind), less prone to dehydration, and also inhibits the growth of foreign bacteria and fungi (enabling skin to be healthier and have fewer breakout and blemishes. Acne, allergies and other skin problems become more severe as the skin becomes more alkaline).”Mild” soaps are often alkaline (pH 9.5-11), and remove the natural acid protection as well as extract protective lipids (fats) from the skin. Washing with soap can increase this alkaline state and make the skin even more vulnerable to irritation and infection. Most people are cleansing with products that are breaking down their acid mantle and causing increased skin issues. Balancing your pH is an imperative part of maintaining healthy skin."

Witch Hazel

So good, even the FDA approved it as a non-prescription drug ingredient. It has significant antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, it's a great natural remedy for various infliction's, including:

  • Acne/Skin disorders by cleansing and protecting the skin
  • Bruise and wound healing, due to it's ability to constrict blood vessels
  • Soothe's itchy skin as an anti-inflammatory (bug bites, diaper rash and even irritated scalp)
  • Refresh healthy skin by sealing in moisture and refining pores

What you'll need:

2 parts water (distilled/purified is best)
1 part Witch Hazel
1 part Apple Cider Vinegar
Essential Oils of choice
Glass spray bottle

The quantities are a rough estimate. In my 2 oz spray bottle, I used 2 tbls water, 1 witch hazel and 1 ACV. Feel free to adjust a bit if desired.

The batch I made had about 7 drops Lemongrass, 5 drops Frankincense and 5 drops Tea Tree. It smells mainly of Lemongrass, and any hint of vinegar/witch hazel dissipates almost immediately.

So far, I'm really enjoying it! My skin is clearing up, feels tighter (but not dry) and is super soft.

Also, if you'd like to use the same label, download the graphic below, print and adhere to bottle. Fits my 2oz bottle. Who doesn't love a free printable label!