Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More butter please...

It's strange to think that a year ago I could NOT make a batch of cookies from scratch without seriously screwing them up, getting frustrated, and pitching them into the trash can. I have learned several tricks of the trade and feel much more confident now. By the holidays I will have many cookie recipes under my belt (and uh..literally as well I suppose, heh). I'm working my way up to Tyler's favorite cookie recipe, to be revealed at a later date (probably in December). These cookies don't look like Amber's, but they taste great. This was a "recipe of the week" ages ago, but I bookmarked them from Amber's blog because I loved her presentation. A word to the wise, although the cookies taste great the dough basically just tastes like butter, not so good for snacking on!

Buttery Pecan Cookies
(Source: www.williams-sonoma.com)

These buttery cookies are very easy to make. Just roll the dough into a log, slice and bake.

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture on medium speed until it is smooth. Turn off the mixer a few times so you can scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and nuts. Continue mixing until the dough looks like moist pebbles, then turn off the mixer. (Note, I think I overmixed the dough until it was creamy, which may explain why my cookies came out so thin and crispy, not thick like Amber's).

Gently squeeze the dough together with your hands. When the dough comes together in a mass, place it on a large piece of plastic wrap. Using your hands, shape it into a log 10 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Unwrap the dough and place it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into slices 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the slices about 1 inch apart on the foil-lined baking sheets.

Place 1 baking sheet in the oven and bake the cookies until their edges are golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes. Using oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the second and then the third baking sheets.

Lift the cooled cookies off the baking sheets with your fingers. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Makes about 40 cookies.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Kid's Cookbook, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Time-Life Books, 2000).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Indoor grilling

I have to be careful not to go overboard on new kitchen tools and gadgets since our kitchen has such limited space. We were disappointed when we moved into our new apartment earlier this summer and discovered that grills are not allowed. Our George Foreman grill is limited in its abilities, plus it's a pain to clean, so we decided a couple of weeks ago to get a good ol fashioned grill pan and use that on the stovetop. I got some steaks on sale last week and Tyler cooked them up tonight while I whipped up some green beans and mashed potatoes. Very delicious meal!

Steak marinade (from allrecipes.com)


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/4 pounds beef rib eye steaks


  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, onions, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and pepper. Add the steaks. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain and discard marinade. Grill steaks, uncovered, over medium-hot heat for 8-10 minutes or until the meat reaches desired doneness (for medium-rare, a meat thermometer should read 145 degrees F; medium, 160 degrees F; well-done, 170 degrees F).

Loaded mashed potatoes (by Julia)

4 large russet potatoes, washed, peeled, cut up, boiled, then drained.
2 T butter
1/3 cup warm milk
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup diced green onions
salt and pepper to taste

Combine cooked potatoes with other ingredients in mixer, mix to desired consistency.

Better than a trip to the food court

Well I'll be darned, these really do taste just like the soft pretzels you'd buy at the mall! Don't know what I was expecting, but these are darn good! Check out Amber's blog for the original recipe as well as some ideas on variations. I'm still getting the hang of the oven in our new apartment, next time I will turn the heat down so they don't get so dark (and black on the bottom).

Soft Pretzels
(Source: Amber's Delectable Delights)

1/8 cup hot water
1 package active dry yeast

1 1/3 warm water
1/3 cup brown sugar
4+ cups flour
Coarse kosher salt
Baking soda
Butter or shortening (to generously grease cookie sheets)

In a large bowl mix together hot water and yeast until the yeast dissolves. Stir in the warm water and brown sugar and stir until the brown sugar dissolves.

Slowly add 4 cups of flour, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and does not stick to the sides of the bowl.

Lightly flour counter. Dip your hands into extra flour. Knead the dough until it is stretchy and smooth. (Push it down and away from you with the palms of your hands, turning the dough as you work)

Grease cookie sheets generously with butter or shortening. Sprinkle greased cookie sheet(s) with kosher salt. Preheat oven to 475. (It is very important that you grease the cookie sheets very well)

Using liquid measuring cup fill a large saucepan at least 1/2 full of water. For each 1 cup of water, add 1 tbls baking soda.

Divide the dough into equal sized pieces.

Using the following 4 steps shape each dough ball into a pretzel shape (obviously I opted to make pretzel sticks instead, I was in a hurry)...

1). Roll the dough into a rope 14" long and as thick as your thumb. Bend the dough into a U shape. (if you have trouble rolling the dough into a rope slightly wet your hands and try again).

2). Cross one end of the rope over the other one. The ropes should cross about three inches from the tips.

3). Twist the crossed ends, making a full turn. Fold the ends back, towards the middle of the U.

4). Open the ends slightly to form a pretzel shape. Press the ends into the dough firmly.

Bring water into saucepan to a gentle boil (not to many bubbles) Use pancake turner to lower each pretzel into the saucepan. Count slowly to 30. Then lift the pretzel onto the greased and salted cookie sheet (shaking off excess water back into the saucepan). Repeat until all the pretzels are done.

Sprinkle some kosher salt on top of the pretzels and put them in preheated oven. Bake for 8 minutes or until the pretzels are golden.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A no shop dinner

Well it's almost the end of the month and I'm pushing it as far as keeping within our grocery budget (but we were still restocking our pantry from our move...at least that's one excuse!) So I'm trying to cook with what we have and do minimal grocery shopping. I will of course go get more milk and fruit and Dr. Pepper as needed, but otherwise I'm going to try not to buy a lot of new food items. I'm glad I chose a simple meal for dinner tonight because somehow I managed to get lost on my way home from work tonight. I thought I was taking a shortcut but it took me twice as long to get home, ugh. I should just stick with what I know! I swear Kansas drivers are so much worse than D.C. drivers though, I have seen some manuevers on the highway this week that literally made my jaw drop. But anyways, you're here to see what I made for dinner, so back to that :)

French Toast, originally from allrecipes.com


  • 6 thick slices bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • salt to taste


  1. Beat together egg, milk, salt, desired spices and vanilla.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle of skillet over medium-high flame.
  3. Dunk each slice of bread in egg mixture, soaking both sides. Place in pan, and cook on both sides until golden. Serve hot.
  4. I like to sprinkle mine with powered sugar and drizzle with syrup.

Scrambled Eggs for Two (how I throw them together, by no means an exact science)

3-4 eggs
some salt
some pepper
a little bit of milk (maybe a 1/4 cup? I just eyeball it)
some cheese, usually I have Mexican blend on hand.

Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, and milk. Pour into skillet over medium heat, stir constantly until eggs cook up and are the texture you desire. Sprinkle with cheese, allow it to melt over eggs and then serve. Eat promptly unless you like cold eggs!

A classic

I accidentally bought sausage links (dogs?) the other day thinking they were brats. Whoops. So I decided to make meatballs for the first time, and they turned out great! I actually bought the "hot" Johnsonville sausage that has red pepper flakes in it, delicious! We love spicy food and with sausage that flavorful I didn't have to add much seasoning to the mix. Tyler and I really loved these meatballs! They had a lot of zip to them, next time I might try mixing in some ground beef if we had it on hand, my father in law does the beef/sausage mix and it's very tasty! So without further adieu, I give you spaghetti and meatballs...err rotini and meatballs actually since I ran out of spaghetti!

Pasta with Italian Meatballs, another experiment brought to you by Julia

1 lb sausage (I used Johnsonville hot sausage)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup white onion chopped finely
1 egg

Mix sausage, breadcrumbs, parm cheese, onion, and egg in a bowl (I use my hands). Form into small round meatballs, I made about 25 if I remember correctly. Saute in a large skillet with a little bit of oil, when browned drain the grease from the pan and then add a jar of spaghetti sauce, I used Spicy Tomato and Basil by Classico. Allow meatballs to finish cooking through as they simmer in the sauce, about 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil water and cook whatever pasta you prefer, we used rotini since we were low on spaghetti. Serve sauce and meatballs over pasta, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (and seriously buy a block and grate it yourself, it tastes so much better than the canned Kraft stuff!)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Yum, cobbler!

So I'm about to commit a big sin in the sphere of food blogging, I am not posting a picture with my recipe! The recipe is just too good not to share and I may not make it again until next summer, so I don't want to deprive you until then! I took this peach-raspberry cobbler to dinner at my in-laws this evening and forgot my camera and then we gobbled the whole thing up! Check out the original recipe here, it's from Cooking Light. I made some changes, the big one was adding raspberries, my favorite fruit! When I make it again I will probably use a little less milk (maybe 3/4 cup) since the cobbler came out pretty juicy and it was hard to tell when it was done cooking.

Peach-Raspberry Cobbler


3 cups sliced peeled ripe peaches (about 2 pounds)
1 cup raspberries
tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground cinnamon
1 cup milk (I prefer skim)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white or turbinado sugar for topping.


Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare filling, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.

To prepare batter, place butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Place dish in oven 5 minutes or until butter melts. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through dash of cinnamon) in a medium bowl. Combine milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter over butter, spreading evenly (do not stir with the butter at the bottom of dish). Spoon fruit mixture over batter, gently pressing the fruit into the batter. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar (or white if you don't have turbinado on hand), and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until crust is golden.

yields: 8 small servings or 6 good size servings!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A lazy day?

So I attempted to make this several weeks ago only to discover one of my ingredients had gone bad (now I make sure to check all my dairy products before I purchase them, the expiration date is not always a good indicator, check cheese for green stuff!) I was able to successfully pull this recipe off the other night with some non-moldy ricotta. I really liked it, but Tyler was kind of ambivalent. Maybe he doesn't like ricotta? I think he was not impressed with the semi-homemadeness of this meal. I'm not really up for making ravioli and tortellini from scratch just yet. I foresee a week of him cooking every night in the very near future, then we'll talk about taking shortcuts when cooking! ;)

Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce (original recipe from Giada's Family Dinners)

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds tortellini or ravioli
3 cups marinara sauce (I used one jar of Classico spicy tomato sauce)
1.5 cups ricotta cheese (I used part skim, and next time I will use less ricotta, I tripled the original recipe but it was too cheesy for Tyler)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add about 1/4 cup olive oil to the water to help prevent pasta from sticking. Add the tortellini and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain the tortellini, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Toss the tortellini with the remaining oil to coat.

Meanwhile, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking often. Whisk in the ricotta and enough reserved cooking water to thin the sauce to desired consistency. For a thicker sauce, use less pasta water; for a thinner sauce, add more water. Return the sauce to a simmer. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon 1/2 cup sauce on plate. Arrange the tortellini over the sauce. Drizzle another 1/2 cup sauce over the tortellini. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and the basil, and serve.

Garlicky Green Beans (experiment by Julia, and a tasty one at that!)

2-3 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed, washed thoroughly.
2 gloves minced garlic (I'm lazy so I put them through my garlic press instead of chopping them with a knife myself)
1-2 tablespoons butter.
Dash of salt and pepper

Saute green beans with butter and garlic in a large skillet until tender crisp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, serve hot.

Olive Oil Dipping Sauce (another Julia experiment)

On a small plate mix together some salt, pepper, basil, oregano, Parmesan cheese, and thyme. Add extra-virgin olive oil and serve with your favorite bread!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Update #3

Here's the last update for today! I'm giving you lots of reading material :) Last night we had a delicious dinner at a friend's house and I told her I'd bring something chocolate for dessert. I wanted to try something new and wanted something that had chocolate and raspberry, one of my favorite flavor combos. I wanted something quick and easy so I found this brownie recipe that fit the bill. Very tasty but VERY rich, do not attempt to eat without a glass of milk!

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies (source: Cooking at a Glance - Cookies, recipe as posted on cooking.com)

For Brownies-
1/2 cup butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

For Frosting-
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons boiling water

For Brownies-
In a medium saucepan melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, lightly beat in flour until just combined.

Spread batter into a greased 8x8 baking pan, Spoon raspberry jam in dollops over batter, run a knife through batter several times to achieve a marbled effect. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 35 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on a rack.

For Frosting-
In a medium mixing bowl stir together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, melted butter, and vanilla. Stir in enough boiling water to make a frosting of spreading consistency (add it in one tablespoon at a time so you don't put in too much!) Spread over cooled brownies. Cut and serve.

Update #2

I'm gonna keep going with the updates today! Here is my second ode to Amber and her delicious recipes! I know this has been getting raves from many food bloggers. It is absolutely rave worthy! Check out the original recipe here, I'm posting it with my changes.

Spicy Garlic Lime Pasta (Source: Amber's Delectable Delights)

1 cup chicken broth
1.5 tbls lime juice
1 tbls corn starch
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried parsley
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite size pieces)
1 tbls butter
Few drizzles of olive oil
8 oz pasta (I used Barilla Plus penne)
1-2 cups broccoli florets (I used frozen broccoli florets, thawed them before cooking them)
Parmesan cheese for topping

1) Bring pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. During the last 5 minutes of pasta cook time add the broccoli into the boiling water. Drain.
2) Mix together all the sauce ingredients (chicken broth through parsley) and set aside.
3) Meanwhile, heat butter and olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add bite size chicken pieces into heated pan. Cook chicken until no longer pink. Pour the sauce ingredients into the pan with the chicken and bring to a simmer. Let simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened.
4) Toss cooked broccoli and pasta with the chicken and sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Update #1

Time for some updates! I have been cooking and baking the last week but just haven't been updating much. I tried a couple of recipes from a fellow food blogger that I want to rave about! Amber has so many creative and "down-to-earth" recipes. I'm going to try her homemade pretzel recipe this week, can't wait!

I was out of brown sugar but craving cookies with oatmeal in them and found this recipe for no-bake cookies on Amber's blog. So easy to make but beware, they are SERIOUSLY addictive. We got about 3 dozen cookies out of this recipe and they were gone faster than any cookies I've ever made before. I've posted the recipe here with the changes I made, I used chunky peanut butter and added some coconut, delish! Check out Amber's original recipe for other recommendations on add ins.

No Bake Cookies (from Amber's Delectable Delights)

2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
3 cups quick cooking oats
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup flaked coconut

  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with wax paper, parchment paper, or alum. foil and set aside.
  2. Combine sugar, butter, milk, and cocoa in large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cool 1 minute.
  3. Add peanut butter and stir until melted. Add oats, vanilla, peanuts and coconut (if desired) and mix well.
  4. Quickly drop mixture by heaping tablespoons onto lined cookie sheets.
  5. Place in refrigerator until set. Once set remove cookies from sheet and place in air tight container in a cool, dry place.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Versatile black bean dip

So unemployment does not sit well with me, I have basically been glued to the couch all week (for the 4th week in a row now), occasionally getting up for a Dr. Pepper or to go to a job interview. Hopefully I will be hired soon and out of my funk! Funk=no cooking (except for sugary treats) so I really don't know what we've done for dinner this week...chik fil a, frozen pizza, chicken salad. Tonight I finally snapped out of it and whipped up a real dinner, it felt good to be back in the kitchen chopping and stirring and making a mess (Tyler gets to clean up, hehe).

Tex Mex Black Bean Dip from allrecipes.com (can be eaten w/chips or used as enchilada filling)

  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup mild picante sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

  1. Place black beans in a medium size mixing bowl, partially mash beans -- beans should remain a little chunky.
  2. In a medium size frying pan, heat oil over a medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic and saute for 4 minutes.
  3. Mix beans, corn, tomato, picante sauce, cumin, and chili powder into the frying pan; cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, mix in cheese, cilantro and lime juice; stir until cheese is melted.

Black Bean Enchiladas

3 cups Tex Mex Black Bean Dip
5-8 large flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
1 can enchilada sauce

Spoon a rounded 1/2 cup of the black bean mixture down the center of each tortilla, top with some cheese. Fold sides over filling and roll up. Place in a 13x9 baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with enchilada sauce. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese and cilantro (optional). Bake 2-3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Chocolate fix

This week definitely called for chocolate, thanks to Peabody for discovering and sharing this fantastic recipe from recipezar! I think I prefer them over the mint brownies I usually make, not quite so rich, just the right balance of chocolate and mint!

Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
Andes mints candies, broken in half

Heat oven to 350°F.
Over low heat, combine butter, sugar and water.
Heat until melted and add chocolate chips until partly melted.
Remove from heat and stir.
Pour into large mixing bowl.
Let stand 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Beat in eggs one at a time on high speed.
Reduce mixer to low speed and add flour, salt and baking soda.
Beat until well-blended.
Chill one hour (dough is almost liquid before chilling but hardens and is easy to shape after chilling).
Roll into balls, place two inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Place an Andes Mint half on top.
Allow to melt slightly and spread with a spoon.