Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spritz Cookies

Time for a Holiday Classic - Spritz Cookies. Spritz cookies are your classic cookie press cookie. I love a good Spritz Cookie, the soft, buttery vanilla crunch. I love them! Plain or decked out to the nines, Spritz Cookies are simple delicious and fun to make. From picking out which shapes and colors to whether to deck them out with colored sugar, sprinkles, nonpareils or leaving them as is, these cookies are just fun! On with the cookies!

The Deets
1 Cup Butter (2 Sticks)
1 1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Pure Almond Extract
2 1/2 Cups Sifted Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
Food Coloring
Sprinkles for Decorating
The How To
Whip Butter, Sugar, Egg, Vanilla and Almond Extract
Add Flour and Salt and Mix until Smooth
Divide Dough into as many colors you wish
Add Food Coloring until you get your desired color
Roll the dough into a roll that will fit into the cookie press
Pick your shape disc & press away (follow the instructions on your cookie press - mine is a Kuhn Rikon and it takes about 1 &1/2 trigger pulls for the perfect cookie)
Once cookies are pressed decorate away!
Bake at 375 for 7-8 Minutes.

Enjoy your perfect crispy spritz cookies & have a very Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

100th Post! I'm Never Making These Cookies Again Cookies a.k.a. Cream Wafer Cookies a.k.a. Dream Wafer Cookies

Before I share one of my favorite cookie recipes I want to recognize that this is the 100th Post! It only took 5 years but here we are at 100 posts! I can't think of a better recipe for the 100th Post! It's one of my favorite recipes, its a bit challenging but worth every frustration.
My love of cooking and baking started before I can even remember. One of the things I loved was making cookies with my dad and even better the grand bake-off for Christmas with my mom. It seemed that "we" would spend a whole weekend baking all sorts of great treats. Once I was older I started trying recipes on my own.
My first nemesis in the kitchen were the Cream Wafer Cookies from the old Orange Betty Crocker Cookbook - I renamed them {in ink, in my mother's cookbook} "I'm never making these cookies again cookies". I have fought with this recipe since I was 12 years old. Finally, Finally after all these years (well, not THAT many years) I made a perfect batch! Not a single broken cookie in sight. So here it is, my improved and perfect version of the cream wafer cookie.
The Deets on the Cookie
1 Cup Soft Butter (Not Melted just soft to the touch)
1/3 Cup Whipping Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste or Pure Vanilla Extract
2 1/4 Cup Sifted Flour
Sugar for Dipping
The Cookie How To
Whip Butter, Whipping Cream, and Vanilla
Slowly add Flour
The dough will be quite sticky, but that's how it's supposed to be
Sprinkle Flour and Sugar on rolling space (I like to use the counter - liberally use flour & sugar - dough is sticky)
Roll Dough to approximately 1/6 inch thin
Cut into little circles (I've tried other shapes, but it's harder to match the pieces perfectly)
Carefully move cookies - the dough is soft so use extra caution when moving
Dip both cookies in Sugar - evenly coat both sides
*Put on Silpat or parchment paper - I did one batch straight on my gold touch & it worked like a charm - but I still recommend you use a Silpat*
Use a Fork to poke holes in cookies
Bake at 365 degrees for 8 minutes
Let cookies cool prior to filling

The Deets on the Cream Filling
1/2 Cup Soft Butter (1 Stick)
1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Whipping Cream
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste or Pure Vanilla Extract
Food Coloring to desired color

The Filling How To
Whip all ingredients to a Fluffy Cream
Once cookies are cooled, add a nice heap about 1 - 1/2 TBS of Filling
Top with a second cookie
Enjoy your perfect cream wafer cookies

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mint Meltaway Cookies - 2 Ways

Merry Christmas Season! Let the Holiday Baking Begin! Today's Christmas Cookie Delight is a new recipe I tried based on a recipe I saw on pintrest {did I mention I love pintrest?}. The original recipe is found here. As you know, or should know by now, I have a hard time leaving things alone... this recipe was no different. Here's my take on Mint Meltaway Cookies
The Deets
1 Cup Butter (2 sticks)
1 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
3 tsp Pure Mint Extract or Oil
3 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 Cups Flour
Food Coloring
Hershey's Kisses (Plain or Mint Truffle)
Powdered Sugar

The How To
Preheat Oven to 375
Cream Butter, Sugar, Mint and Vanilla
Add Flour and Food Coloring
Mix Until Smooth

Option 1
Roll Dough into small balls and place on cookie sheet
Dust with Powdered Sugar once they come out of the oven

Option 2
Roll Dough into small balls and push a Kiss into the Center
Either way Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes
My favorites are the ones with the Mint Truffle Kisses!
Enjoy your minty deliciousness!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Forgotten Favorites: Baked Potatoes

Sometimes I spend so much time trying to come up with creative meals that I forget about some classic (& quick) meals. Recently I rediscovered Baked Potatoes, how did I forget about these delicious spuds?
Another great thing about baked potatoes is they are quick!

The Deets
2 Baked Potatoes
4 Strips cooked Bacon Crumbled
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream

The How To
Pierce Potatoes and rub with Butter
Microwave for 6-7 minutes (most microwaves have a potato button that works perfectly)
Potatoes will be hot hot hot - cut with care
Top with your favorite toppings
Whether you like a little or a lot of toppings is up to you
Add a nice Salad and Dinner is served!

Plate, Pray & Enjoy!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Carmel Corn

I don't know what it is about fall, but fall brings out the snacker in me...puppy chow, carmel corn, cookies, chocolate covered pretzels...yummy! Today's Snackable is Carmel Corn.

The Deets
5-6 Cups of popped popcorn unsalted
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter (1 Stick)
4 Cups Mini Marshmallows

The How To
Melt Butter over medium heat
Add Brown Sugar and Marshmallows
Stir until evenly melted (Don't Overcook or it will be hard)
Pour over popcorn toss until evenly coated
Enjoy the gooey deliciousness
Happy Snacking!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey the secret's in the Brine!

The first time I ever hosted Thanksgiving was during law school, a bunch of us got together and had a nice little eclectic meal; I made my first turkey, was introduced to hashbrown casserole and as always ate too much dessert. My first turkey was ok, but I knew I could do better. The next time I hosted Thanksgiving, I got ambitious and tried brining. I was hooked at first bite. Brining makes the turkey flavorful, juicy and amazingly delicious.

My recipe is based on an Emeril Lagasse recipe, but even though he's the king of "Bam" I of course had to put my own spin on it. So before I share the recipe for a perfect turkey, here are a few tips about brining:
1. Plan Ahead, the turkey should be brined for 12 - 24 hours prior to cooking
2. Make sure you have a big enough pot or other container for the brine and turkey
3. Feel free to spice it up

Ok, On with the Brine!
The Brine Deets
2 Gallons Water
1 Cup Salt
1 Cup Sugar
2 Oranges Quartered
2 Lemons Quartered
1 Onion Quartered
5 Bay Leaves
5 Basil Leaves
1 TBS Rosemary

The How to on the Brine
Remove innereds (giblets, liver, neck...) from Turkey
Rinse the Turkey
Dissolve Salt and Sugar in Water
Squeeze Oranges and Lemons into Water (then toss in the fruit)
Add Onions and spices
Slowly and Carefully add Turkey
Cover and let sit for 12 - 24 hours
Once the Turkey has had a nice briny bath it's time to get cooking. Remove the Turkey from the Brine and rinse. Loosen the Turkey's skin and place turkey in roasting pan.

The Deets for the Turkey
1 Turkey large enough to feed your group (I usually cook a 12ish pound bird)
Butter - Grab a stick and use as much as you think you'll need (I usually use about 1/2 stick)
1 Onion Quartered
2 Oranges Quartered
2 Carrots Quartered
2 Sticks of Celery Quartered
3 Bay Leaves
1 tsp Seasoning Salt
1 Cup Broth for Basting (premade or homemade your choice)

The How To Turkey
Preheat the Oven 325
Slip your hand under the turkey skin and slip in a few tablespoons of butter and massage onto Turkey
Stuff 1/2 Onion, 1/2 Carrots, 1/2 Celery, 1/2 Orange, and Bay Leaves in Turkey
Put remaining 1/2 Onion, 1/2 Carrots, 1/2 Celery, 1/2 Orange around Turkey
Flip the Turkey over, Breast Side Down and cook for one hour
Flip Turkey Breast Side up
Butter the top of the Turkey, sprinkle with Seasoning Salt and put back in the oven
Basting every 30-45 Minutes
Roast according to Turkey Weight
The Turkey is considered done when the internal temp is 165 (stick thermometer in inner thigh to get the best reading)
Let the Turkey Rest for 15-20 Minutes prior to carving.
Plate, Pray & Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Puppy Chow

One of my favorite fall treats is puppy chow, otherwise known as muddy buddies. Simply put, it's chex cereal with chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar. Correctly put, it is a delicious and under appreciated treat!

The Deets
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Almond Butter
6-7 Cups of Chex Cereal
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
The How To
Melt Chocolate (microwave in plastic bowl on 50% heat for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds)
Add Almond Butter to Chocolate and mix until smooth
Pour over Chex Cereal (or add Chex to chocolate mix) and mix until cereal is covered
Once cereal is well coated, dump into paper bag
Add powdered sugar
Shake until covered with powdered sugar
It's so easy my baby sister can do it (& eat 1/2 the bowl in one evening!)
Enjoy your quick and easy sweet treat!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Perfect Italian Salad

Every now and then you need a good crisp, classic Italian salad. This is a great classic salad that's sure to be a crowd pleaser. You can mix up the dressing and keep it on hand for a weeks worth of salads or make a big salad for a crowd, either way you'll have happy salad fans.

The Dressing Deets
1/2 Cup Low Fat Plain Yogurt
1/4 Cup White Vinegar
1 TBS Lemon Juice
2 TBS Olive Oil
1 TBS Sugar
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp Basil Flakes
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 Cup Finely Shredded Parmesan Cheese

The How To
Add all ingredients and mix until smooth
Let Dressing set for 30 - 45 minutes prior to use so flavors can meld.

The Salad Deets
1 Head Romaine Heart Lettuce - Roughly Chopped (about 4 Cups)
4 Cups Spinach - Roughly Chopped
2 Tomatoes - Diced or Sliced - your preference
1 Cucumber - Peeled and Sliced
1/3 Small Red Onion Thinly Sliced
1/2 Cup (about 6-8) Pepperoncini Peppers
1/2 Bag of Croutons (About 1 1/2 - 2 Cups)
1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Toss Salad ingredients into a large bowl and add dressing.

Plate, Pray & Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Perfect Pizza from Crust to Toppings

I should issue a word of caution to those who love deep dish, thick crust, manly man pizza - this recipe is not for you. This pizza is for all the real pizza lovers, those who prefer Italian style thin crust with fresh toppings. If that sounds like your kind of pizza you are in luck, this recipe is pizza perfection {in my clearly not so humble opinion}. It's taken me a long time to perfect the crust and I finally feel confident that this is the crust. A crust I am willing to share and hope you enjoy.
But we all know that the crust is only half of the symphony that is a slice of pizza. The toppings are also crucial - now I won't pretend to know what you like, but I will give you a few suggestions for great pizza combos. Hopefully you will create your own perfect pizza. And when you do, please share it. I'd love to hear what you come up with. Now on with the food!

The Pizza Crust Deets
1 1/2 Cup All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
1 packet Yeast
1 Cup Warm Water
1 1/2 TBS Olive Oil
Corn Meal for bottom of Crust
*For a twist you can add 1 tsp Rosemary and 1 tsp Crushed Basil

The Pizza Crust How To
You can Mix by Hand or in a Mixer with a Dough Hook - I use the mixer.
Add 1/2 of the Flour to mixing bowl (I like to mix my flour and add 1/2 of the mixture to start)
Add Salt, Sugar and Yeast
Mix Dry Ingredients
Add Warm Water and Olive Oil
Mix on low until dough is "wet"
Mix on medium for 1-2 minutes
Add remaining Flour
Mix until Dough until it holds together
Knead Dough on floured surface until elastic and smooth (Dough will feel smooth and the consistency will be medium-firm - don't kneed until hard or your crust will be tough. Kneading takes about 2-3 minutes.
Knead Dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let rest for 20-30 minutes while dough rises - it should double in size.
Once Dough has risen, divide in two.
Pull Dough into Flat disk.
Sprinkle Corn Meal on Counter and Rollout the Dough nice and thin (about 1/4 inch thick or less if you like super crisp crust)
Place Crust on greased baking sheet, brush with olive oil
Bake @ 425 for 7-10 minutes depending on your oven
Take crust out of oven and add toppings
Return to Oven and Bake another 7-10 minutes until done.

Topping Suggestions

Classic Margarita 
Brush Crust with Olive Oil and add the following:
5-6 Slices of Fresh Mozzarella
1 Tomato thinly sliced (I prefer Roma Tomatoes)
1 Bunch Fresh Basil Leaves Finely Ribboned (Make a stack of basil leaves, roll them and thinly slice the roll - this will create ribbons)
Bake @425 for 7-10 minutes on 1/2 baked crust
Prosciutto Fig
Brush Crust with Olive Oil and add the following:
4-5 Slices of Fresh Mozzarella
4-5 Dried Figs thinly sliced
Bake @425 for 7-10 minutes on 1/2 baked crust
Add 6-8 slices of Prosciutto
Add a handful of Arugula
Artichoke Parmesan
Brush Crust with Artichoke Paste
8-10 Artichoke Hearts (I buy the quartered hearts and cut them in 1/2)
1 Roma Tomato thinly sliced
1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
Bake @425 for 7-10 minutes on 1/2 baked crust
Classic Prosciutto
Brush Crust with Olive Oil and add the following:
5-6 Slices of Fresh Mozzarella
1 Tomato thinly sliced (I prefer Roma Tomatoes)
1 Bunch Fresh Basil Leaves Finely Ribboned (Make a stack of basil leaves, roll them and thinly slice the roll - this will create ribbons)
Bake @425 for 7-10 minutes on 1/2 baked crust
Add 6-8 slices of Prosciutto

I have a lot more topping ideas, but I think 4 is plenty to get you started!

Plate, Pray & Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall into Fall: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Fall = Pumpkin. I'm a big fan of pumpkin in the fall, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin seeds. There are only two ways (I know of) that I don't like pumpkin: pumpkin pie (I know, I know, it's a classic - but I can't do it - in fact, I don't like pie at all) and pumpkin soup (sorry mom). Anyway back to the good pumpkin! Today we are whipping up some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies! This recipe is quick easy and yields about 5 dozen fluffy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Yummy.

The Deets
1 Cup Butter (2 sticks) 
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Can Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
3 Cups Flour (I use 2 Cups Regular, 1 Cup Wheat)
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon 
1 tsp Nutmeg 
1 Bag Chocolate Chips (Milk)

The How To
Cream Butter, Sugars and Eggs
Add Vanilla and Pumpkin
Add Flour, Baking Soda, Salt, Cinnamon and Nutmeg
Beat until Smooth
Add Chocolate Chips
Scoop onto cookie sheets (spray sheets with Pam first)
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes (may take 20 minutes depending on oven)
Enjoy a cookie or two along with your beautiful fall weather!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

German Pancakes

Looking for a new twist for your Sunday Brunch? German Pancakes {also known as German Babies, Dutch Babies or Dutch Pancakes} are a simple, delicious and much overlooked breakfast pastry. German Pancakes are quick and simple to make and are always a hit. Here's the simple deets on this delicious Brunch Item.

The Deets
6 Eggs
4 TBS Melted Butter
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Milk
1 1/4 Cup Sifted Flour
1 TBS Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
Lemon Juice
Powdered Sugar

The How To
Whip Eggs until Frothy Mellow Yellow
Add Butter, Vanilla, Milk, Flour, Sugar and Salt
Whip until ingredients are fully incorporated and smooth
PreHeat Oven to 425
Place a 9x13 Pan into the Oven for 5 Minutes to Warm
Spray Pan with nonstick spray (aka Pam)
Pour mixture into Pan
Bake at 425 for 20-25 Minutes
Remove from Oven sprinkle with lemon juice and Powdered Sugar

Plate, Pray and Enjoy!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Caprese Salad

One of my all time favorite foods is Caprese Salad. It's simple, fresh and to the point. Caprese Salad is simply sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a dash of sea salt. So Simple, but complete culinary magic. I'm pretty sure I ate Caprese Salad about 100 times this summer - that's how much I love it! And with all the basil growing in my garden, how could I not use it up. Here's the simple steps to a perfect Caprese Salad.

The Deets
1 Ripe Tomato - if you can grow them yourself even better
6 Slices Fresh Mozzarella - if you have a market near by that makes it fresh - buy it - so much better!
6 Leaves of Fresh Basil - again if you grow your own it's even tastier
1 TBS aged Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 TBS Olive Oil (I always use extra virgin)
Salt & Pepper to Taste

The How To
Layer Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil
Drizzle with Balsamic and Olive Oil
Add Salt and Pepper to Taste
Plate, Pray & Enjoy

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Acorn Squash with Bulgur Wheat Pilaf

Fall is in the Air! I love the comfort foods of Autumn, Squash, Pumpkin, Rich comforting, delicious and nutritious! Today's recipe combines my love of squash with my love of hearty whole grains. A beautiful hearty Bulgar Wheat Pilaf nestled into a beautiful rich and buttery acorn squash. This dish is hearty enough to be the main course or it makes a great side if you need a little more protein. Here are the Deets on this full on Fall Flavor.

The Deets
1 Cup Bulgur Wheat
1 1/2 Cup Water
1 TBS Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Mushrooms
1 Tomato Roughly Chopped
1/2 Shallot
4 Basil Leaves Finely Chopped
1 Acorn Squash
Salt & Pepper

The How To on the Pilaf
Add Olive Oil to 4 qt Sauce Pan over Medium Heat
Add Bulgur Wheat and brown until you hear crackling
Add 1 Cup Water
Cook over MediumLow for 20 Minutes
In a Fry Pan Add Shallots and Mushrooms and 1 tsp Olive Oil
Cook until brown
Add Tomatoes and continue cooking for about 5 minutes
Mix into Cooked Bulgur Wheat Pilaf
The How To on the Squash
PreHeat Oven at 400 degrees
Cut Squash in Half
Lightly Rub with Olive Oil
Lightly Season with Salt and Pepper
Place flesh side down on a baking sheet
Cook for 20 Minutes
Carefully flip right side up and cook for another 15-20 minutes

Fill Squash with Bulgur Pilaf

Plate, Pray & Enjoy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pineapple Lemonade

I know Summer is technically over, but the temps are still warm and Lemonade is always a good treat. Today's version is sweeter than the normal tart lemonade and has a touch of the tropics with fresh pineapple. It's a big hit in our house.

The Deets
5 Lemons
1 Cup Fresh Pineapple (about 1/4 of a fresh pineapple)
3 Cups Water
1 Cup Ice
{I do not add sugar - but I like my lemonade on the tart side - if you want to sweeten it up a 1/4 Cup of Sugar should do the trick}

The How To
Peel the Lemons prior to juicing or the juice will be bitter
Cut the pineapple into large chunks - feel free to use the usually discarded core - it will juice nicely
Toss it into the Juicer & Juice Away
Pour into the pitcher of your choice
Add water and mix well
Add Ice
You Can Add A few slices of Lemon and Pineapple for decoration if you'd like
Nothing like a refreshing glass of lemonade on a warm fall evening!
Enjoy & Happy Fall!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bacon & Mushroom Barley

It's time for a little super grain! Are you ready for some Barley? When I was a kid my mom used to make a barley casserole - I remember it being good, but after getting the recipe (which included can of mushroom soup) I decided to try my own version.  Today I present my first attempt - Mushroom & Bacon Barley. 
The Deets
1 Cup Barley
2 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
7 Mushrooms finely chopped (your choice - I used baby portabellas)
1/2 Shallot
2 Strips of Bacon
The How To
Bring Vegetable Broth to Boil
Add Barley and reduce to a Simmer
Cook for 40 - 45 minutes or until chewy
In a pan cook Bacon (slightly undercooked)
Remove Bacon and let cool
Add Shallots and Mushrooms to the pan and cook until caramelized
Remove fat from Bacon and roughly chop and return to pan with Mushrooms and Shallots
Once Barley is cooked add to Pan and Mix Well
I served it as a side with Grilled Halibut and a salad
Plate, Pray & Enjoy!