Monday, June 29, 2009

Garlic Bubble Loaves

I've been on a bit of a bread baking kick lately. For so many years, I was too intimidated to really play with any recipes for homemade breads-- the closest I got to homemade was to use my bread machine. I think this is the third bread recipe I have tried from Amber's Delectable Delights in the last month, and each one has been better than the last. This is a fun twist on a traditional garlic bread. My son had so much fun breaking off the pieces and before I knew it I had a bowl full of 'rolls' instead of a loaf. I didn't have the heart to stop him! :) The best part of this bread is that the edges where the butter pooled during baking turned into the best crust you can imagine... I would highly recommend grabbing one of the edge pieces before they are gone! The recipe does yield two loaves, but the leftovers are really very good with just a little time in the oven to reheat.

Garlic Bubble Loaves
2 packages of active dry yeast
1/4 warm water (heated to 110-115 degrees)
2 cups warm milk (heated to 110-115 degrees)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
2 teaspoons salt
6 1/4-6 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons garlic powder

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the warm milk, sugar, shortening, salt and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. (I did this part in my mixer using a dough hook.) Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and divide into fourths. Divide each portion into 12 pieces. In a shallow bowl, combine the butter (melted), parsley and garlic powder. Shape each piece of dough into a ball; dip into butter mixture. Place in two greased 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pans. Pour any remaining butter mixture over dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. (Don't crowd them into the pan. put about 12 (24 total) spaced out in two irregular layers per pan.) Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 min or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes. remove from pans to wire racks.

Source: Amber's Delectable Delights

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chicken Bruschetta

My mom was just telling me about a really good bruschetta chicken dish that she and my sister had shared while out to dinner recently. Within that same week, I found this recipe on the Pillsbury Bake Off site and I knew I'd have to try it! I'm anxious for them to make it to see how it compares, but I was really happy with it! The method of broiling the chicken kept it very moist and the topping was the perfect accompaniment. The original recipe does call for canned mushrooms, but I did leave them out to stick with more of an 'authentic' bruschetta recipe. The only other tip is that the recipe calls for either fresh or dried basil. As basil has been fairly expensive lately, and my garden basil isn't quite ready yet, I went ahead and used the dried. It still tasted great, but I do think that this is one dish that does need the fresh. I think it would make a big difference and would make a good dish great!

Chicken Bruschetta
To make the chicken:
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

To make the topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
3 medium Italian plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil sprigs, if desired

Spray broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; place on sprayed broiler pan. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat for 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until fork-tender and juices run clear. Meanwhile, heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until garlic is tender, stirring occasionally. Add onion, chopped basil, tomatoes, vinegar and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook about a minute or until thoroughly heated.
To serve, arrange chicken on individual plates. Sprinkle with half of cheese. Top each serving with bruschetta mixture; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Garnish with basil sprigs.

Source: Adapted from Pillsbury Bake-Off

Friday, June 26, 2009

Italian Antipasto Squares

I was led to the Pillbsubry Bake-Off site through The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch and it has since become one of my favorite resources. The recipe states that it can be used as either an appetizer or a main course, and I can truly see it in either format. I made mine as a main course, cut it into larger squares, and served it with a salad. My only recommendation would be to make sure you allow a full 20 minutes after removing it from the oven before cutting and serving it. Like a lasagna, it needs to set up fully in order to keep its form. Otherwise, the recipe was perfect and I wouldn't change a thing about it. Even my 2 year old loved it-- telling me he wanted more 'pizza'!

Italian Antipasto Squares
2 cans refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 2 cans refrigerated flaky dough sheet
4 ounces thinly sliced salami
4 ounces thinly sliced Swiss cheese
4 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni
4 ounces thinly sliced American cheese
4 ounces thinly sliced capocollo (cured Italian ham) or cooked ham
4 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 jar (12 ounces) sliced roasted red bell peppers, drained
1 can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
1 egg yolk, beaten

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 13x9-inch pan or spray with cooking spray. Unroll 1 can of dough into 1 large rectangle and place in pan. Press in bottom and 3/4 inch up sides of pan to form crust, firmly pressing perforations to seal. Layer all meats and cheeses in order listed over dough. In small bowl, beat 2 eggs, the garlic powder and pepper with wire whisk until well blended. Pour over meat and cheese layers. Layer roasted peppers and olives over top. Unroll second can of dough into 1 large rectangle; press into 13x9-inch rectangle, firmly pressing perforations to seal. Place over top of layered ingredients. Pinch edges to seal. Brush beaten egg yolk over dough and cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until deep golden brown. Cool 20 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Serve warm.

Source: Pillsbury Bake-Off

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

My two-year-old has officially inherited his parents' love for ice cream! :) It has been so warm out the last few weeks that he has been asking for it fairly regularly. I decided that I needed to come up with something at least a little healthier as an option. I've made many different varieties of ice cream and sorbet in my ice cream maker, but this was my first experiment with frozen yogurt and I was really pleased with the results. I looked at a few different recipes that came with the Cuisinart machine, then played with the ingredients to get a flavor and texture that I liked. This was nice and creamy and was certainly refreshing on a hot afternoon.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
2 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
12 ounces fresh strawberries
1-2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, sugar, and milk until the sugar is fully dissolved. In the meantime, remove the stems from the strawberries and place them in a food processor. Puree depending on how you prefer your yogurt. (I like mine with some chunks of fresh berries in it. If you prefer a smooth yogurt, puree until completely broken down. You can also strain the seeds at this point if you do not want them in your yogurt.) Add the strawberry puree and vanilla to your yogurt mixture. Mix well. Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to directions.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Chocolate Glazed Cherry Turnovers

My little ones and I made a special Father's Day breakfast for my husband this morning, and I wanted to make some sort of pastry to go along with his meal. When we had our girls' baking day a while back, I left some of my apple turnovers at my friend Christy's house. Her husband commented on how good he thought they would be with cherry filling also. . . so I really need to say, "Thanks, Marty!" for this idea. I kept the crust as is because it had such a nice, flakey texture the first time through and I was really happy with the final product. I used a can of cherry pie filling for these and decided that instead of using the traditional sugar glaze on top, I would play with a chocolate ganache-- using some of the pie filling glaze to give it a hint of cherry flavor. My husband and I both really loved these (my son did, too, though he really only ate the chocolate off the top)!

Chocolate Glazed Cherry Turnovers
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 large can cherry pie filling
1 large egg

For chocolate glaze:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cherry glaze (from pie filling-- do not add the actual cherries)

Prepare pastry dough: In medium bowl, with fork, stir flour and salt. With pastry blender, cut 1/2 cup butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cold water, a tablespoon at a time, into the mixture, mixing lightly with a fork after each addition until the dough is just moist enough to hold together. With hands, shape dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into an 18" by 8" rectangle. Cut 4 tablespoons of butter into thin slices. Starting at one of the 8" sides, place butter slices over two-thirds of the rectangle to about 1/2 inch from the edge of the dough. Fold the unbuttered third of the dough over the middle third. Fold the opposite end of the dough over to make a 8" by 6" rectangle. Roll out the dough again into an 18" by 8" rectangle. Slice the remaining butter; place slices on dough and fold as before. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll out the folded dough into an 18" by 8" rectangle. Fold rectangle lengthwise then crosswise; wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut dough crosswise in half. On a lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll out half into a 12 inch square. Keep the remaining dough refrigerated. Cut the square into 6 inch squares. In cup, with fork, beat egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg mixture over the dough squares. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of cherry pie filling in the center of each square. Fold diagonally in half and press edges to seal. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Refrigerate. Repeat with remaining dough and cherry pie filling. Brush the turnovers with the egg mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Cool on wire rack.

To prepare the chocolate, heat the semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream in a double boiler over medium heat. Once melted, add the butter and cherry glaze, stirring until shiny and smooth. Let cool slightly before drizzling on top of the cooled turnovers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Garlic 'Knots'

I'm really looking for some feedback here! I received these rolls as part of a dinner brought to us after my little girl was born. I took one bite of them (okay-- maybe it was one look at them) and knew that I had to make them. They were incredible! I've already talked about my love for freshly baked bread, so the addition of fresh garlic to these rolls threw them far above and beyond anything else! Here's my problem. . . they are great looking 'rolls', but they are supposed to be knots! When they went into the oven, they looked like knots, but when they came out, they had completely spread into simple rolls. I am the first to admit that I am a novice bread baker. Can anyone help me out with a theory on what went wrong here? Again, the taste was still wonderful, but I was frustrated that my cute little knots melted away. Whether you decide to make these as knots, or rolls, just definitely make them! They are a wonderful addition to any meal!

Garlic Knots
For the dough:
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup milk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water

For the glaze:
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons melted butter
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, milk and water. Mix until ingredients have formed a dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough into equal pieces (Amber says on her site that she got 8-9, Annie says 10). Roll each piece into a 10 inch long rope and tie into a knot. Take the end lying underneath the knot and bring it over the top, tucking it into the center. Take the end lying over the knot and tuck it underneath and into the center. (Amber has some really good pictures of these steps on her website.) Transfer shaped rolls to a baking stone, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes, until puffy.

To make the glaze, finely mince the garlic. Mix with the melted butter and Italian seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Brush the glaze onto the shaped rolls. Bake until set and lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes (mine took closer to 20).

Source: Annie's Eats, originally posted on Amber's Delectable Delights

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crab and Spinach Casserole and Awards

I've had my eye on this recipe for a while and am so glad that I finally tried it. I'm a fan of everything spinach, and the crab thrown into this casserole makes it a definite winner. The recipe calls for imitation crabmeat, but I imagine it would be superb with fresh crabmeat if you can find it on sale. I was a little worried that the imitation crab would ruin the dish, but it really had a nice flavor when mixed with the leek soup mix. I would recommend cutting it into smaller pieces before adding it to the casserole, however. As usual, I added more than the recommended amount of cheese to the top of the dish before baking. I wanted a nice thick crust on top. The only other change I would suggest would be to add some salt to the dish before baking. I did salt the water before cooking the pasta, but I felt that the sauce needed a little salt as well. I added some into the recipe listed below. Since I served mine with homemade garlic knots (recipe coming soon), I chose to use garlic salt. If you aren't a fan, regular salt would work fine.
Crab and Spinach Casserole
2 cups uncooked gemelli pasta
1 package (1.8 ounces) leek soup mix
2 cups milk
1 package (8 ounces) refrigerated imitation crabmeat chunks (cut into smaller pieces)
2 cups baby spinach leaves, stems removed
1/2 - 1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Garlic or regular salt to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 1.5 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Cook and drain pasta as directed on the package. While pasta is cooking, mix soup mixx and milk in a 1 quart saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Mix pasta, cut crabmeat, and spinach in the casserole. Pour soup mixture evenly over the pasta mixture, stirring gently to mix. Spread evenly. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake uncovered about 20 minutes or until bubbly and light golden brown.
Source: Betty Crocker's Quick and Easy

Finally, a sincere 'Thank You' to my sister, Rachel and the girls at Three on Food for the awesome awards pictured above. It has been a rough few weeks with my grandfather being ill and my son dealing with some health issues. These awards totally made my day and I truly appreciate them! I'm going to have to brainstorm and pass these on very soon! There is such a large list of deserving bloggers who I so love visiting every day! Check back soon and I promise that I'll get these handed out! :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homemade Amish White Bread

I'm not sure that there are many smells better than that of freshly baked bread. I'm still waiting for Yankee Candles to come out with that one! :) In a time when money is tight for everyone, I was thrilled to find this recipe for a basic white bread. All of the ingredients were things that I typically have on hand. It was fairly inexpensive to make, came together more quickly than I had ever imagined, and yielded two really nice sized loaves. The first day, we ate the bread fresh (seriously had to muster up some self control not to finish off the loaf!), the next day we made garlic grilled cheese sandwiches, and tomorrow I plan to make some french toast with it. I highly recommend this recipe, and plan to make it on a regular basis.
Homemade Amish White Bread
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
6 cups bread flour
In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam. Stir the 1 cup of warm milk in now. Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Using the dough hook on a mixer or with a wooden spoon by hand, mix in flour, one cup at a time. Knead until smooth.
Place dough in well oiled bowl; turn to coat top. Let rise about 1 hour.
Punch dough down, knead a few times. Divide dough in half. Shape into loaves and place into 2 greased 9x5-inch loaf pans. Allow to rise 30 minutes or until dough has risen about 1" above pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from pans immediately. Brush the top of the loaves with a little melted butter right after you take them out of the pans so that the crust stays nice and soft.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cookbook Review - Paula Deen Celebrates and Teriyaki/Buffalo Chicken Wings

The most common complaint I hear about Paula Deen is the amount of butter she uses in her cooking and baking. I recently watched an episode of her show where she was even eating butter by the handful. Eww. I do find, though, that if you can get past the idea of everything being soaked in her favorite ingredient, you will find that there are a lot of dishes that aren't overly unhealthy-- at least as far as Southern Cuisine is concerned. At first glance, she does appear to use a lot of butter... but when compared to other baking cookbooks, the amount isn't that much more (sometimes it is even less) than comparable recipes. I even found some recipes with no butter at all. . . Gasp!
One of my favorite things about this cookbook is that it is divided up by holiday. Unlike most cookbooks which go through the traditional format of appetizers, soups/salads, main courses, dessert, etc., Paula Deen Celebrates starts with New Year's Eve brunch and works through Christmas dinner. There are even some non-traditional 'holidays' thrown in the mix, including: Elvis's Birthday (featuring her famous fried peanut butter and banana sandwich), Sunday Afternoon Football Party, her Anniversary, etc. By going this route, you can get a better idea of what a sample menu might look like. You also get some really nice family anecdotes mixed throughout, giving you a better glimpse into their lives and what is important to them.
So far, in this book, I have made brussel srouts with onion and bacon, Cheeseburger Pies (which I posted earlier in the year... I've never received so many comments about a meal 'not looking good' yet I promise it was REALLY good!!), Teriyaki and Buffalo Chicken Wings (pictured above, recipe below), spinach salad, goulash, and many others. I haven't been disappointed yet! This is definitely a cookbook I'll use time and time again!
Teriyaki and Buffalo Chicken Wings
36 fresh, or frozen, chicken wings, tips trimmed
salt and pepper
vegetable oil, for frying
Teriyaki Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Buffalo Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Thaw the frozen wings under running water until the glaze has melted. Dry the wings thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. In a dutch oven, pour in 3 inches of oil and heat to 360 degrees. Using tongs, lower each wing individually into the oil. Fry until the wings are crisp and brown, about 12-14 minutes. Drain on paper towels. You will have to cook the wings in several batches. You can do this part of the recipe several hours before your party. Leave them at room temperature, covered loosely with foil, after they have cooled completely.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the teriyaki sauce ingredients in a small measuring cup. Combine the buffalo sauce ingrediens in another small measuring cup. Place 18 wings in one baking dish and the remaining 18 wings in another baking dish. Pour the teriyaki sauce over the wings in the first dish and toss to coat. Repeat in the other dish with the buffalo sauce. Place in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the sauces have glazed the wings and the wings are heated through.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fish Tacos

This dish, for some reason, was incredibly hard to photograph. I kept going back and trying again and again-- even more once I tasted how delicious they were. I really wanted my picture to convince people to try them because they truly were great! Kathy had more luck on her blog-- so feel free to check hers out if you need some motivation! :)

I made these exactly as Kathy suggested, with the exception of the tortillas. My husband and I both prefer flour to corn tortillas, so we went that route instead. (Maybe I can blame my cruddy picture on that!) The only thing I will warn about is that I somehow bought the hottest green onions that I have ever tasted. I am a huge onion fan but this was too much even for me. It just overpowered the sauce a bit. I would adjust the number of onions used depending on the batch you find! It's always easier to add more than it is to take it away!

Fish Tacos
To make the sauce:
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions (adjust depending on onion strength)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 of a jalapeno, seeded and minced

To make the tacos:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 pounds Tilapia fillets
Cooking spray
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas (I used flour)
2 cups shredded cabbage

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. To prepare the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and put in fridge to meld flavors. To prepare tacos, combine dry seasonings in a small bowl; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over both sides of fish. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Place fish in a bowl; break into pieces with a fork. While fish is cooking, heat tortillas. Divide fish evenly among tortillas; top each with 1/4 cup cabbage and 1 tablespoon sauce.

Source: Three on Food

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sausage with Peppers and Pasta

As I look at this picture, I feel like I have posted a similar dish (or two) in the past. This tends to be one of my husband's favorite types of meals, though, so I suppose I gravitate towards the general type of recipe. Now that my son is all into 'noodles', it was sure to be a hit all the way around! This is another meal that came together really quickly, making it a winner for weeknights. The flavors were simple and really complemented each other. In order to save a little bit of money, I only used green peppers for the pasta. Tri-colored peppers have been so high lately and I really didn't think that the extra color was needed thanks to the diced tomatoes already included. I really didn't miss the other peppers, though I will be anxious to try it in the original format down the line. I did also change the proportions a bit for two reasons. First of all, we tend to like our pasta dishes more on the saucy side. Secondly, I knew this would be a great dish to reheat for lunches, so I wanted to make a little bit extra. (I have reflected my changes below.) I do like that most of the ingredients are things that we already had on hand. It's one that I will likely keep as a great last minute backup meal. The melted cheese was my favorite part and it gave the dish more of a baked ziti feel.

Sausage with Peppers and Pasta
1 box (16 ounces) rigatoni, uncooked
1.5 pounds Italian sausage, sliced
2-3 large green peppers
2 cans (14.5 ounce) Italian Style diced tomatoes (I used the kind with garlic and basil)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)

Cook the pasta as directed on the package. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the sliced Italian sausage on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning or sticking. Add the peppers and cook for another 7 minutes or until the peppers are crisp tender and the sausage is cooked through. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes, or until heated through. Stir occasionally. Drain the pasta and mix with the peppers/sausage mixture. Stir in the shredded mozzarella and parmesan. Serve topped with additional parmesan cheese.

Source: Adapted from Kraft Food and Family

Friday, June 12, 2009

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary yesterday. He earned major points by deciding that as an anniversary gift to each other, we would refinish the trellis we were married under and would secure it on the side of the house, surrounded by climbing rose bushes. His one other request for our celebration was for a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. (I might have accidentally planted this idea by stocking up on chocolate chips I recently found on sale... he just found the stash in the pantry!) I have to admit that I am normally the one reading the Toll House recipe off of the back of the bag of chips whenever making a traditional chocolate chip cookie. Don't get me wrong-- the reason I do this is because those cookies never fail! They are always delicious! For this occasion, however, I decided to try the recipe out of Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours cookbook. She completely converted me over! Dorie calls these cookies her 'best' and it is easy to see why. These were easy to throw together, as most chocolate chip cookies are, and they baked up within 10 minutes. I was a little cautious when I saw how much they spread in the oven. Be sure to leave plenty of room between your cookies when baking! By spreading so much, they got very thin and delicate and provided the perfect combination of chewy center with a crisp, crunchy shell. Each batch makes about 45 cookies... they are disappearing so quickly that I will probably have to double it next time! :)

(Another nice element of Dorie's recipe is that she gives tips for freezing dough balls for quick use later on. Really good information!)

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips* (I used semi-sweet)
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (I omitted)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Working with a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about a minute (or until smooth). Add the sguars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for about a minute after adding each. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three stages, mixing each stage only until incorporated. On low speed, or by hand, mix in the chocolate chips and nuts. Spoon dough by slightly rounded tablespoons onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, and rotating the sheet midway through the baking time. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center. They might be a little soft in the center, and that is okay. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for about a minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling baking sheets between batches.

*Dorie recommends buying a better quality chocolate and creating your own chips if your time permits.

Source: Baking From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

This recipe is unlike any other pepper steak I have ever tried. Normally, pepper steak (at least the recipes I have made in the past) has a bit of a kick to it. This one really had a sweeter taste to it, making it much more kid friendly for my house. There really wasn't any heat to it at all, so if that is something you prefer, I would maybe add some pepper flakes to the meat while browning it. My husband and I both really enjoyed this meal, and I like it even more that it can sit in the crock pot for the day. This certainly makes it a quick and easy meal for once school is back in session this fall. I love coming home from work to a house filled with the smell of our dinner cooking.

One change I would make would be to add some different colored peppers instead of all green peppers. Peppers have been so expensive, lately, that I didn't go that route this time through! I served ours over rice and it was definitely a hit!

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak
2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 2 inch strips
garlic powder to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cube beef bouillon
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large green bell peppers, roughly chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle strips of sirloin with garlic powder to taste. (If you want yours to be more like a traditional pepper steak, add red pepper flakes at this point.) In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned beef strips. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Mix bouillon cube with hot water until dissolved, then mix in cornstarch until dissolved. Pour into the slow cooker with meat. Stir in onion, green peppers, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and salt. Cover, and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours, or on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve over rice.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Grilled Chicken Roller

This is another one of those quick BBQ recipes that makes summer official! The prep on this chicken literally takes all of about 5 minutes, and as you can see by the ingredient list-- is not at all complicated. They are simple flavors that create an unforgettable dish. The recipe comes from the latest Kraft, Food and Family magazine so they are all about using Kraft Singles as their cheese. While this worked perfectly well for my American Cheese addict of a husband, I'd like to play more with different cheeses the next time we make this. The American Cheese was very good, but I am thinking that there are many great variations that woud give it a completely different taste. It might be fun to experiment with! I did also add an extra piece of bacon to each roller to help hold the cheese in. I wrapped one piece going horizontally and one going vertically. Can you ever really have too much bacon?

The only problem we had when cooking this chicken was that the fat content of the bacon caused the bacon to cook MUCH more quickly than the chicken. This isn't a dish that you can simply throw on the grill and ignore. It does require some attention to make sure that your bacon doesn't burn while waiting for the chicken to cook through. While parts of our bacon did burn a bit, the chicken stayed moist and really had a great bacon flavor throughout.
Grilled Chicken Roller
3-4 small, boneless chicken breasts
3-4 slices American Cheese (or substitute cheese of your choice)
6-8 slices center cut bacon
3-4 tablespoons Balsamic Vinaigrette salad dressing
Garlic salt to taste
Heat your grill to medium heat. Place your chicken breasts onto plastic wrap and cover with another piece of wrap. Pound each breast to about 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle garlic salt to taste on each piece. Top each pounded piece of chicken with cheese and roll up tightly. Wrap one piece of bacon around the long sides of the roll to cover any exposed cheese. Stretch the bacon as necessary. Take a second piece of bacon and wrap the chicken roller across the short side of the roller. Secure carefully with toothpicks.
Grill for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees and no longer pink. Turn the chicken frequently to prevent the bacon from burning. For the last 5 minutes of grill time, brush each roller with the vinaigrette. Carefully remove all toothpicks before serving.
Source: Adapted from Kraft Food and Family (Summer '09)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Skillet Chicken Pasta with Broccoli

When I looked over the list of ingredients in this dish, there was absolutely NO doubt that this would quickly become a favorite. The sauce is nice and delicate, yet there is a little bit of an after-bite thanks to the red pepper flakes. . . completely unexpected but the perfect complement to the dish. It came together quickly, so it is definitely one for the weeknight rotation once school starts up again in the fall. The other nice element is that it does reheat well. My only recommendation would be to have a little extra cream and broth left in order to moisten it up while heating. So good!

Skillet Chicken Pasta with Broccoli
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch squares
Salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced (I used 2 small/medium onions)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
12 ounces ziti (Like Christy, I went ahead and used the full 16 ounces-- it reheats well!)
4 1/4 cups water
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
4-5 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped coarse
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook for 1 minute without stirring. Stir the chicken and continue to cook until most, but not all, of the pink color has disappeared and the chicken is lightly browned around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, about 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pasta, 3 cups of the water, and the broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is very thick and syrupy and almost completely absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and the remaining 1 1/4 cups water. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the broccoli turns bright green and is almost tender, 2-3 minutes. Uncover and return the heat to medium-high. Stir in the cream, parmesan, and reserved chicken with any accumulated juices and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Source: Christy's Kitchen Creations, originally posted at My Kitchen Cafe

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cookie Winner!

The ultimate highlight of my little boy's day was getting to pick one of your names out of his White Sox baseball hat! (These cookies are obviously not the Father's Day cookies you've won-- but this post was way too boring without a picture in it! This bouquet was made as an end of year gift for my nephew's preschool teacher.)
Congratulations to. . .
Lisa (from Cheerios Underfoot)
Lisa-- I will email you to get a shipping address and specific personalization information for your bouquet!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies

I knew once I saw these cookies on Donna's blog, they would be a popular item in my home. Oreos tend to be my husband's favorite cookie and he is quickly turning my son into an addict as well. I am sure that as soon as my daughter is allowed solid foods, he'll have her jump on the bandwagon. This was a bit of an experiment for me. . . traditionally I can have a big plate of warm, freshly baked cookies sitting on the counter and he will still go into the pantry for the Oreos. How conflicted he must have been once seeing these! :)

(One note is that Donna's recipe says this will make 50 cookies. I don't know if I made mine too big or not, but I only got 36 cookies. If you want more, which you will once tasting them, I'd go ahead and double it.)

Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies
1 stick softened butter
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
8 oreo cookies, broken into pieces
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together the butter and sugars until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla until mixed well. Place flour, baking soda, and salt in large bowl and stir to combine. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix. Add your oreos and chocolate chips, stirring just until combined. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto parchment or silpat lined cooie sheet. Bake for 7–9 minutes, or until cooked, but still soft. (My cookies took more like 12 minutes to get nice and brown.) Let cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a cookie rack.

Source: My Tasty Treasures

Monday, June 1, 2009

Father's Day Cookie Giveaway!

You may have read in earlier posts about the cookies that my friend Christy and I have been making lately. . . we've been creating hand painted sugar cookies for all different holidays and events. Our Mother's Day cookies (pictured above) were a hit and we decided that it would be fun to do a Father's Day Blog Giveaway!

We are giving away a box of 9 hand painted, personalized "Father's Day Theme" sugar cookies-- to be shipped anywhere in the continental U.S. One box will be given away to a random winner on this blog and another will be given away to a random winner on Christy's blog.

Here's how you can win:
* 1 entry for leaving a comment on this post
* 1 additional entry for signing up to follow this blog
* 1 additional entry for linking back to this post from your blog (be sure to leave me a note letting me know that you have done this!)

As an added bonus, you can go to Christy's blog to have added entries on her giveaway! This contest will run through June 6th, at midnight EST. That way we can be sure to have these shipped out in plenty of time for Father's Day.

Good Luck!