Recipe – Festive Fall Mini Cookie Cupcakes


It has happened to all of us.   Your child comes home from school with a note that says that you need to send in some baked goods for the next day.   You think about what to make …and start searching  your pantry to see what you have to work with… 

After all, who wants to run out to the grocery store?  ….Especially after a busy day!

With all the Fall Parties at school this time a year, I developed the recipe just in case this happens…  My son and I were brainstorming some ideas.   They love helping with this blog project.  (Probably because they like eating the goodies..LOL)   Anyway, he asked if I could make a make a cookie that was crispy and chewy at the same time…  In my pantry I had a box of purchased cookie mix….  We were good to go…. The recipe we created resulted in mini-cupcakes that had a cookie top and a cupcake bottom.    He loved them and took them for snack every day last week. 




Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Festive Fall Mini Cookie Cupcakes

Yields:  About 24 Mini Cookie Cupcakes

1 box Snickerdoodle Cookie Mix

1 large Egg

1 stick Butter, softened

2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder

3 teaspoons Cinnamon, divided

2 tablespoons Water

1/2 container Chocolate Fudge Frosting

1/4 teaspoon Vanilla

Festive Fall Sprinkles (optional)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a mini muffin pan with liners.  
  3. Open the cookie mix up and set aside (or toss) the spice packet that came with the cookie mix.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the cookie mix, egg, butter, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon , cocoa powder and water until well blended.
  5. Fill muffin liners about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.  They will be dimpled on top.
  7. Let the mini cupcakes cool on a wire rack.
  8. Meanwhile, use a spatula to scoop out 1/2 container of pre-made chocolate fudge frosting into a small bowl.
  9. Stir in vanilla and remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
  10. When cookie cupcakes are cool, top with frosting and sprinkles.

Celebrate Cinnamon!

As we approach the holiday season, I thought this would be the perfect time to blog about the spice Cinnamon.   It is a popular ingredient in traditional recipes for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas…  We sprinkle Cinnamon  on our oatmeal or applesauce and often use it as a staple ingredient for making pies, cookies and cakes.  There is a lot more that Cinnamon brings to the table…

How is Cinnamon Harvested?

Cinnamon is harvested from inner bark of Cinnamon trees which are native to South East Asia.  The inner bark is stripped of the wood portion.  Then during the drying process, the remaining portion of the inner bark strip curls into rolls, called “quills” (or “sticks”).   

What is the Difference Between Cinnamon and Cassia?

Cinnamon and Cassia are harvested from two different trees.  These two spices are similar in smell (Cassia is more aromatic than Cinnamon).  However, they are very different in both appearance and taste. The thickness of the Cassia quills are much thicker than that of the Cinnamon quills (which are paper-thin).  They are sometimes sold interchangeably, so, some countries even have laws to prevent Cassia from being sold labeled as Cinnamon.  

How should Cinnamon be Stored?

Cinnamon (ground and quills) need to be stored in an airtight container and placed in a dark location.   Buy Cinnamon in small quantities because it quickly will lose its flavor and aroma.  So, if you have had that container of Cinnamon in your spice cabinet for more than a few months — it is time to replace it.  

Cooking with Cinnamon

Cinnamon can be described as sweet, fragrant and aromatic.  It is often stereotyped as being only used in sweet recipes.  Most people  do not realize just how savvy Cinnamon can be.   It can be used for savory as well as sweet recipes.  Be sure to check out the savory recipe that I posted on 09/16/2010 for Moroccan Inspired Slow Cooked Chicken & Chick Pea Stew which uses a Spice Blend of mine that features the spice Cinnamon  (

  • Cinnamon quills (sticks) should be used when you want to infuse liquid with Cinnamon flavor.
  • Cinnamon powder is used with other ingredients to flavor baked goods, spice blends, and beverages.

Here are some ways you can easily add Cinnamon to your everyday cooking:

  • Add to hot oatmeal or cold cereal
  • Mix with peanut butter
  • Add to warm milk with honey.
  • Stir into plain yogurt.
  • Sprinkle over sweet potatoes.
  • Add to your post-workout shake.
  • Add to coffee grinds before brewing

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Recently, cinnamon has had more attention due to all the health benefits that can be gained by incorporating Cinnamon into your diet.   Below I’ve listed some topics that I read about.   There is a lot of great information and articles out there…if you want to google and read more about them.

  • Aid in Digestion
  • Treat toothaches
  • Fight Common Cold and Sore Throat
  • Fight Bad Breath
  • Antioxidant & Antimicrobial properties
  • Increase Alertness.


Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Spiced Pumpkin Soup

15 oz can Pumpkin Puree
14 oz can Chicken Stock
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Corsican Herb Blend
1/8-1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Sumac Pepper
Splenda (or Sugar) to taste
Salt to taste

  1. In a large saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil.   Simmer for 5 minutes.  
  2. Serve in mugs warm or chilled garnished with chopped chives.

 Blogger’s Comments:   

This is a really healthy and easy recipe to pull together to serve as a starter or at lunch with grilled sandwiches.  The Cinnamon and Cayenne combination is really scrumptious.  Each serving is about 50 calories, so it is a great snack too!

Corsican Herb Blend is a mixture of herbs frequently used in Corsican cooking.  You can substitute Thyme.  Sumac Pepper is a blend of Sumac and ground black pepper.  You can substitute black pepper or lemon pepper.


Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Cinnamon Sangria Hot Toddy

4 Apple Cider Tea Bag
4 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
4 oz red wine
apple slices
ground cinnamon (to garnish)

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  2. Add Apple Cider Tea Bags and Cinnamon sticks to the boiling water.
  3. Steep for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove Tea Bags and Cinnamon sticks.  
  5. Add wine to the brewed tea.
  6. Pour into 4 mugs.  Garnish with apple slices and sprinkle with ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick if want.

Blogger’s Comments:   

I could not decide on whether to post a recipe on Mulled Wine or Mulled Apple Cider.  This recipe is a result of the decision to combine what I liked about both.   It is good warm or chilled.  

Another variation would be to use 3 ounces of wine and 1 ounce or orange flavored vodka (to get some citrus flavor into the mix).  There are plenty of combinations to try by switching out the type of tea, vodka or wine. 

Have fun with it!


Cookbook Recipe – Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (minus 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine flour, nutmeg, baking powder, cocoa and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter with 1/3 cup of sugar until pale in color.
  4. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  5. Stir in dry ingredients until you have a smooth mixture.
  6. On a plate, mix together the cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  7. Roll dough to balls that are about the size of walnuts.  
  8. Roll each dough ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place onto greased baking pan.
  9. Bake for about 15 minutes.  Rest on baking sheet for 1 minute then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Source:  How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson  

Blogger’s Comments:   

First and foremost, if you do not have this cookbook, it is one you should have. The recipes are great.  However, I do have to say that I almost chose to not include this recipe with this blog article.   Snickerdoodle cookies tend to be a dry cookie and this cookie is not very sweet. Typically, if I am going to indulge in a cookie, it has to be worth the calories.   At the urging of my taster’s I decided to include the recipe because they really liked it.  They also tend to like the butter cookies that are dry (like Snowballs).  So, if you like that sort of cookie, you will like this one too.

Also, want to note here that I decided to flatten each cookie with a glass before baking.

Taster’s Comments:    They tasted even better the next day.  

Look out for mini-articles which will be posted over the next few weeks featuring Cinnamon.

Hope you try some of these recipes and enjoy them as much as we did.


Provocative Peppercorns!


 As we continue on though the Back the Basic series, this article will focus on Peppercorns.  

 Why use an adjective like provocative to describe Peppercorns?

Well, provocative is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “tending to provoke, excite, or stimulate” (listing synonyms as “charged… edgy…exciting…inciting…stimulating”).  Peppercorns, either ground or whole, add that background heat to a dish that leaves the palate with that tingly sensation…and has health benefits (listed below) that charge the body!

 The recipes at the end of the article are recipes that I have either chosen or created to demonstrate that you can use Peppercorns in non-traditional ways to enhance your culinary experience.


History of Peppercorns

Peppercorns have been used for over 4000 years.  It quickly gained popularity and value.  This was because Peppercorns easily enhanced food to make it seem fresher than it actually was as well as added zing and heat to otherwise bland food.   Peppercorns were often used as a commodity which is why the spice trade grew and many explorers were tasked with finding more sources for Peppercorns.  Due to the unstable currency systems, landlords often requested to be paid their rent with Peppercorns in place of currency.


Peppercorn Harvesting

Peppercorns are typically grown in India.  However, Peppercorns are imported from India as well as Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and China.   The pepper plant grows small flowers which become green berries that turn pink when ripe.   These berries are typically harvested when they are green.  The green peppercorns are dried and result in a black color.  White peppercorns are actually created by removing the outer skin of the peppercorn.  

Flavor Breakdown

  • Green Peppercorn -> Flavor is Hot ( However More Subtle than Black, White, or Pink)
  • Black Peppercorn -> Flavor is Warm &  Full-Bodied
  • Pink Peppercorn   -> Flavor is Sweet, Berry, Fruity with Delayed Heat
  • White Peppercorn -> Flavor is Hotter, Sharper then Green, Black or Pink


Health Benefits to Peppercorns

  • Powerful anti-oxidant.
  • Promotes mental clarity
  • Combats fatigue and tiredness
  • Increases metabolism
  • Promotes Digestion & calms stomach
  • Essential oil of black pepper added into oils used to treat aching, painful joints
  • Used in teas with mint to combat colds, viral infections and flu.
  • Added to mouthwashes to treat sore throats.



Snack Recipe – Peppered Caramel Corn

  • 1  (12-oz.) package Buttery Toffee Popcorn with Peanuts
  • 1/4  teaspoon  coarse Black Pepper

  1. Microwave popcorn with peanuts in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 2 minutes, stirring at 30-second intervals.
  2. Stir in Black Pepper.
  3. Spread mixture in an even layer in a lightly greased jelly roll pan.
  4. Let cool 10 minutes; break into pieces.
  5. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Source -> Southern Living, OCTOBER 2007


Blogger’s Comments:  

I actually cut this recipe out several years ago and was excited to finally make this.   Microwave time is dependent on your microwave.  You will know it is ready to be peppered when it gets gooey and sticky.  I increased the amount of pepper to 1 teaspoon.   This is a great recipe and the variations are endless.  I think this would be great with a cinnamon based spice or with cayenne pepper….

Taster’s Comments: 

My tasters really liked this and snacked on it all weekend…



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Corsican Herbed and Peppered Goat Cheese

  • 4-oz log of Goat Cheese
  • 1  tablespoon coarse Black Pepper
  • 1-1/2  teaspoons Corsican Herb Blend

  1. Mix together the Black Pepper and Corsican Herb Blend
  2. Pour the Pepper/Herb mixture onto a flat surface (wax paper, plate, etc)
  3. Roll the Goat Cheese log on the mixture to cover
  4. Serve with water crackers (or cracker of your choice)


Blogger’s Comments:  

I like to use goat cheese for appetizers and have to definitely say that the flavor combination of the Goat Cheese, with the Herbs and Black Pepper was awesome.   Corsican Herb Blend is a unique blend of herbs commonly called for in Corsican recipes.

Taster’s Comments: 

This was a big hit with the tasters.   One taster commented that it was “addictive”…


Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup

This recipe is a nice thing to have in the refrigerator.  It has many uses.  The recipes that follow this all call for Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar/Splenda Blend
  • 1 tablespoon Peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coarse Black Pepper
  1. Put all ingredients into a heavy saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain into  an airtight container and keep refrigerated.




Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe – Spiced Espresso Brownie Cupcake

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 box Brownie Mix
  • 1/3 cup strongly brewed Coffee, chilled
  • 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tablespoon coarse Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Gypsy Sweet Spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Ganache Ingredients

  • 1 12 oz bag Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 3 tablespoons Half & Half
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon Gypsy Sweet Spice Blend
  • 1 tablespoon strongly brewed Coffee, chilled 
  1.  Mix the cupcake ingredients with a spatula until well blended.
  2. Pour batter into cupcake liners until 2/3 full.
  3. Bake 25-30 minutes until set.  Cool on wire rack.
  4. Melt chocolate chips with half & half in the microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate chips soften.
  5. Add Peppercorn Syrup, Gypsy Sweet Spice Blend, Coffee.  Whisk until creamy.
  6. When cupcakes have cooled completely, cover tops of cupcakes with about 1-1/2 tablespoons of chocolate ganache.  Top with chocolate covered espresso beans.
  7. Chill until set.   Save remaining ganache for other recipes.


Blogger’s Comments:  

Have fun when making cupcakes.   The craft stores all have great cupcake liners.  I chose a cheetah print for my cupcakes.  

Taster’s Comments: 

My taster had one when first frosted and another after it had been chilled.  They said the flavor was better when it was chilled.



Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Spicy Pepper Martini

  • 1/2 teaspoon Zest of a Lemon, divided
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1-oz Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup
  • 4-oz Vodka
  • 2-oz Vermouth
  1. Put the ingredients (except zest) in a shaker with some ice.
  2. Give a good shake.
  3. Strain into two martini glasses and garnish with reserved zest.


Blogger’s Comments:  

I thought this was a little bit too spicy for my palate (and I love black pepper).   Next time, I may add a splash of diet cola.

Taster’s Comments: 

My taster thought it was great and finished mine!    I guess this time, the drink was not too girly.





Gypsy World Spice Cafe – Peppered Strawberry Orange Martini

  • 1-oz Brown Sugar Peppercorn Syrup
  • 4-oz Vodka
  • 2-oz Orange flavored Vodka
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar-Free Strawberry Preserves
  • Slices of Lime
  1. Put the ingredients (except lime) in a shaker with some ice.
  2. Give a good shake.
  3. Strain into two martini glasses and garnish with reserved lime slices.


Blogger’s Comments:  

I loved this one!  Strawberries and Peppercorns are a classic combination…  So, thought this might be the drink for me since the other one was too spicy.


I hope you try some of these recipes…

If you haven’t already, please take the time to subscribe to this blog.

Seeking Sumac…

Welcome to the debut article on the Gyspy World Spice Cafe blog. 
Be sure to check out the “About” section to learn more about the author,
the reason for the blog and what this blog will be all about… 

Why choose Sumac for the debut article?  
I love to cook! I am always searching out new recipes and ingredients to try. Recently, I’ve read and viewed recipes that have the spice ingredient called Sumac. In fact, on one show recently, a contestant on a “cook off” pulled Sumac out and called it their secret ingredient. That was enough to spark my interest enough to try this spice. First I checked out my local grocery store and upscale markets. No luck there. It was time to take the research online…  
What did I learn?  


First and foremost, be very careful when buying the spice Sumac. Always buy the spice Sumac from a reputable source. You do not want to have it confused with an the ornamental Sumac shrub grown in America that has inedible poisonous white berries (aka Poison Oak).      

The spice Sumac is grown in the Middle East and in parts of Italy. It has dark red berries that are sold as whole berries or as dried coarsley ground. It has a tart, fruity taste and the the smell is only slightly aromatic. This spice has been used for over 2,000 years ( mainly in Arabic cuisine as well in Turkey, Greece and Lebanon). North American Indians were known to use the spice Sumac to make a beer-like beverage.  Typically the spice Sumac is used as a souring agent. It is often used as a substitute for lemons. It pairs well with grilled meats & fish, rice, beans, vegetables, marinades and salad dressings. It is especially well known for being excellent with tomatoes. Hummus is often served with a dusting of Sumac…. Hmmm. I thought it was Paprika…  

I was very surprised to read about the spice Sumac’s medicinal uses and health benefits. It is known to have the affect to calm your stomach, promote digestion and reduce fever. I also read that some believe it to contain antioxidants and possess antimicrobial properties.  

Finally Finding Sumac… 

Empowered with all this information, I continued my search for the spice Sumac. While out and about with the family, we found that a new Mid-Eastern store had recently opened at a local shopping center. We all went inside to check it out and asked about Sumac — THEY HAD IT! After leaving the store, I carried my my purchase like I scored a treasure. Before we even got to the car, I had already opened the container to smell and taste the Sumac. It was pleasant and slightly tart. It was definitely not overpowering or dominant in either flavor or taste.
Cooking with Sumac

The next day, I hit the cookbooks and brainstormed ways to thread this new spice into my family meals over the next few weeks. I’ve incorporated the spice Sumac in breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer and even dessert dishes. I tried it on eggs, added it to both Pizza Sauce and Marinara Sauce, used it in hummus (adding a dusting on the top too), and on vegetables. It is very flexible and I think the best way to describe the spice Sumac is that is in my opinion it is a “flavor enhancer”. It takes food to the next level without you realizing it. It is a background flavor that leaves you wondering hmmmm this is good and I’m not sure why… At this point, I cannot imagine my spice cabinet without the spice Sumac.  

Traditional Recipe # 1 – Za’atar 
This traditional spice blend is used on vegetables and flatbread. You can mix it with olive oil or yogurt to make a very good dip.        

2 tablespoons dried thyme   

1 tablespoon sumac     

2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted     

1/2 teaspoon table salt       

Mix all ingredients in a small container with a lid. Give it a good shake. 


Traditional Recipe #2 – Warm Chickpea and Swiss Chard Salad with Sumac      

9 oz. dried chickpeas      

1/2 cup olive oil      

1 onion, cut into thin wedges      

2 tomatoes      

1 teaspoon sugar      

2 garlic cloves, chopped      

3 lbs swiss chard      

3 tablespoons fresh mint      

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice   

1-1/2 tablespoons ground sumac       

  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and place in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 3/4 hours, or until tender. Drain.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes, or until soft and just starting to turn brown. Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and dice the flesh. Add to the pan with the sugar, cinnamon and garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until softened.
  3. Wash the swiss chard and dry with paper towel. Add to the tomato mix with the chickpeas; cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the swiss chard wilts. Add the mint, lemon juice and sumac; season and cook for 1 minute. Serve at once. 

   Blogger’s Comment: I chose to use only 1/4 cup of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper…   

Taster Comments:   One taster commented “This stuff is great!”.  Another taster commented “Love It!” and ate two servings.     

Source:  Taste of the Mediterranean Step-By-Step by Bay Books            



Gypsy World Spice Cafe Recipe –  Sumac Scented Cherry Almond Chocolate Bark


12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips   

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon      

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped      

1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped finely      

1-1/2 teaspoons sumac, divided       

  1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Place the chocolate chips into a medium sized bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the chips have softened up. Stir until smooth.Stir in cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of sumac.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate mixture onto the wax paper. Using a spatula, evenly spread the chocolateSprinkle the cherries and almonds on top. Using an off-set spatula, gently press into the chocolate.
  4. Dust the chocolate with the remaing 1/2 teaspoon of sumac. 
  5. Chill until set. Break into smaller pieces and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Variation: If you like a creamier texture, add 1-2 oz of half/half to the chocolate chips (before melting). Then add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract too if you like. It will take longer to set…         

 Taster Comments: One taster asked if I had added Cherry Juice as they had picked up on the fruity flavor of the Sumac. My younger tasters, got caught eating too much of the chocolate… they had it on their faces when I caught them …     

Upcoming Articles       

Working on developing my own spice blends. The next few articles will continue with the Sumac theme and be about the Sumac Spice blends.     You will also see mini-articles to give some other tips and facts about the Spice Scene…