Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Honey Mustard Chicken Strips

I have to say, this idea for honey mustard chicken strips was kind of born out of laziness and my desire for cleanliness at the dinner table.  Have you ever watched a toddler dip chicken strips into sauce?  Seriously messy.  So, I thought, why don't I marinate the chicken strips before I bake them in honey mustard, and eliminate the need for dunking?  It was either going to be an epic failure, or a true success.

Mark this one in the success column.

I'm sure I'm not the first mom to think of this, but boy, was I pleased with myself over how well these came out.  I baked them, so they're less fatty and fried than the ones you'll find in a restaurant, but they still have a good crunch to them, thanks to the breadcrumbs and panko, which are a winning combination for baked chicken strips of any kind, in my book.  Not only that, but my husband and I enjoyed these just as much as my son did.

Add these to your menu next week.  Trust me, you will thank me.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sweet Soy Glazed Chicken and Onions

I've put this item on my menu for several weeks now and honestly, my menu planning has gone to pot lately.  We've done a lot of eating out lately, but darn it, the buck stops here.  Literally.  I'm the one usually who wants to go out to eat, mainly because I don't want to cook or because I'd rather relax in a restaurant with my family than stress in my kitchen about whether or not my kid is going to eat what I so lovingly prepare for him.  So, anyway, I'm getting back on the wagon.  I make dinner.  And I'm coming to grips with how a toddler behaves at mealtime...slowly...and as long as what he winds up eating is healthy (and yes, I consider a bowl of Life cereal with milk healthy enough for me), I'm okay with it.  At least I'm trying to be!

Anyway, I have to say, this recipe smelled so good when I made it that all thoughts of picture-taking went out the window when it came out of the oven.  Not only did it smell awesome, I was thrilled with how easily it came together.  I served the chicken and onions on top of some egg noodles, with some steamed broccoli, and it was a delicious dinner.  Even the Picky Toddler (my son's new nickname, fully unoriginal but also fully accurate) tried some of it, which I really was impressed with.  I will definitely be making this one again.

Sweet Soy Glazed Chicken and Onions
from Crepes of Wrath

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 an onion, sliced thinly
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line and/or grease a 13x9 baking pan and add the cut-up chicken and sliced onions. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch and water until completely smooth. Add in the rest of the ingredients and whisk until combined, bring to a simmer and allow to cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Make sure you keep stirring everything so it doesn't burn while it cooks.
3. Pour the sauce over the chicken and stir to make sure everything is well coated. Bake for 25-30 minutes until everything is cooked through. Serve or rice or noodles or with steamed vegetables.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Grilled Maple Barbecue Chicken

This was a recipe I found at another blog that I really enjoy, The Local Cook.  She's a lot more adventurous in her cooking than I am, so I've only tried a few of her recipes.  This recipe for Grilled Maple Barbecue Chicken appealed to me for several reasons - I could cut it into chicken strip shapes to appease Toddler, I had all the recipe ingredients on hand, and it sounded ridiculously easy.

The recipe has instructions for baking, grilling and pan-frying, and I did a bit of a hybrid between grilling and pan-frying.  I have a Calphalon grill pan that I love, and I used that, which created those beautiful grill marks.  I also did a lot of basting, just as I would have if I had tried to grill outside (which I've never done, my husband does the grilling in our family).  I thought about having my husband grill this outside, but our grilling experiences are really hit or miss.  This could be because I rarely let my husband grill, so he doesn't get much practice...  Anyway, this is quite possibly one of my new favorite chicken recipes.  I will definitely be making it again.  It was easy, cheap and flavorful.  Try it for dinner tonight, you probably have all of the fixings on hand!

 And yes, it was as good as it looks!

Grilled Maple Barbecue Chicken

3/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 tsp onion powder or 1 tbsp minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
6 chicken breasts (I used 3 and it worked out just fine)

1. Combine all the ingredients except the chicken in a tight fitting container.  Shake the container to mix well.  Add chicken.  Refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight.
2. Microwave everything together for 5 minutes and remove chicken. 
3. Boil remaining marinade in a small saucepan for 3-5 minutes.  
4. TO GRILL: Grill chicken, turning and brushing with marinade.
    TO BAKE: Pour marinade on top and bake at 350, basting every 15-20 minutes, until done (around 30-40 minutes, depending on thickness of chicken).
    TO PAN FRY: Cook chicken in fry pan.  When it's nearly cooked through, add the marinade, which will carmelize.  Add 3 tbsp of water to the pan, and stir to deglaze.  Serve over the meat.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World Peace Cookies

When I first saw this recipe making the rounds with the Tuesdays with Dorie folks, I wasn't sure I would really be interested in it.  Sure, it's got chocolate in it and it's a cookie, so it sounds good, but in the photos, it looked like a very sandy, shortbread-y kind of cookie. Not my cup of tea.  One night, though, I was truly craving a chocolate cookie, and I came across this recipe printout again.  I thought to myself, Dorie Greenspan has never let me down, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  I'm darn glad I did.  These cookies were awesome.  I can see why she called them World Peace Cookies - they truly could cause world peace, they make you so happy.  Especially if you eat them when they're fresh and warm from the oven, oh yum.  I got in the habit of just baking up a couple at a time so that I could have them nice and warm.  They are still tasty when they're not fresh out of the oven, and I'm sure I would still be raving about them if I hadn't eaten any of them all warm and gooey.  Really, though, if you bake these, do yourself a favor and eat one hot out of the oven!

World Peace Cookies
by Dorie Greenspan
Printer-friendly recipe

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tbsp (total of 11 tbsp) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sguar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp fleur de sel of 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips (or chopped Valrhona feves)

1. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda and set aside.
2. Cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the salt and vanilla and mix to combine.  Add the flour mixture to the batter and pulse a few times to combine, covering the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel to prevent flyaway.  Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Gather the dough and divide into two.  Roll each half out into a smooth log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days (you can shorten the cooling time by stickign it into the freezer for 20 minutes immediately after wrapping and then moving it to the fridge for 30-40 minutes).
4. Preheat the oven to 325.  Slice the cookies into 1/2 inch slices and bake for 12 minutes.  Dough will still be soft.  Serve warm or at room temperature with milk.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Banana Crumb Muffins

I am still in awe of my SITS day last week.  If you haven't joined SITS yet, please take a few minutes and join these special ladies.  The amount of support I got from my fellow SITSas on my SITS day was just...mind-boggling.  It was truly awesome.  I'm still reading all the comments and trying to say thank you to all of you who were kind enough to visit and comment.  And thank you to all of my new followers, it's great to have you with me!

In the process of having my SITS day, I found a new blog, Irresistible Icing, and I managed to win a giveaway Mimi hosted there, so I've got an awesome new cookbook coming my way.  Make sure to visit Mimi, she's got a beautiful blog full of fashion, trying to watch her weight, and good old fashioned girlie fun!  I was so excited to hear I won her cookbook giveaway!  Talk about a jackpot - a new cookbook and a SITS day?  Wow, it doesn't get much better than this for me!

When I started thinking about what to post next, I was honestly shocked that I hadn't already posted this particular recipe, since it's been around my kitchen for quite a long time - before I even started this blog!  It was actually one of Toddler's very first favorite foods, back when he was not even 1 yet.  I was obsessed with trying to make healthy "treats" for him, and fiddled with my mother's old banana muffin recipe to make it a little more healthy, little being the operative word.  I've never been a huge fan of banana bread of banana muffins, even I like these...especially if you heat them up in the microwave for 10 seconds.  These muffins also freeze beautifully.  To defrost, just stick them in the microwave for about 10 seconds at a time until thawed nicely.  This recipe makes 24 muffins, but you certainly can half the recipe and make just 12 if you like.

He's convinced they're blueberry muffins.  He's also convinced that he can open the clubhouse door on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so much so that he tries to reach through the TV to open it.  Oh well.  At least he loves eating the muffins!

Banana Crumb Muffins
Printer-friendly recipe

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil

Topping (optional):
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, softened

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place muffin papers into 2 muffin tins, or thoroughly grease all 24 muffin cups.  
2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients - flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In another bowl, mash your bananas with a fork, and then use a mixer (hand or stand) to beat the bananas with the sugar, oil, and eggs.  Stir the banana/sugar mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened - do not overbeat!
3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. 
4. In a smaller bowl, mix together softened butter with brown sugar, then flour and cinnamon.  Mixture will be crumbly, don't worry, this is a good thing.  Sprinkle generously over muffins.
5. Bake muffins at 375 for 18-20 minutes, until tops spring back after a quick tap.  Muffins will still be a bit moist.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blueberry Buckle

Did you know that blueberries are grown in Florida?  More specifically, they're grown awfully close to where I live?  I've lived in the Tampa Bay area for over ten years, and I had no idea, until I Google-searched for some strawberry picking and found out I was way late on that.  I did, however, find blueberry farms.  I completely made my son's day the first time we went blueberry picking.  We've been several times, most recently on the last weekend of blueberry season at a local blueberry and blackberry farm, and came away with 5 pounds of blueberries.  My mother had told me that when she was little, her mother used to make something called blueberry buckle when they went blueberry picking up north, so I thought I'd do the same.

I did my homework and found several different recipes - some more cake-like, and some more biscuit-like.  I erred on the cake side of things, because doesn't cake just make everything better?  It does in my world.  So, I fiddled around and compiled a couple of different recipes, and wound up with this recipe.  It's got a wonderful streusel topping, and it can be used with fresh or frozen blueberries.  Best part of this recipe?  It's so easy, and blueberries are so wonderful for you, health-wise, that the fact that they're in a cake is perfectly okay!

My husband likes to eat his blueberry buckle warmed up with some half and half on the bottom

Blueberry Buckle
Printer-friendly recipe
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups fresh blueberries

Streusel topping
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease an 8x8 or 9x9 square pan.
2. Cream together the softened butter and white sugar until well mixed.  Add egg and mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients well.  Add to butter/sugar/egg mixture, 1/3 at a time, alternating with your 1/2 cup of milk.  Gently fold in blueberries, then transfer batter to your greased square pan.
4. To make the streusel topping: Mix brown sugar, white sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter well.  This mixture will be a little bit crumbly.  Sprinkle mixture over the top of your batter.
5. Bake at 375 for 28-30 minutes.  Let cool before serving.  My husband prefers it served warm, so he puts in the microwave for a few minutes after he cuts a slice.

P.S. - Stay tuned for my next recipe next week, a marinara spaghetti sauce that reminds me of Maggiano's!  :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oh my goodness, it's my SITS day!!

I truly thought I was being punk'd when I spotted an email from Heather last weekend saying that my SITS day had come at long last!  Especially since I'm in the process of doing a market research study right now that requires me having a Flip Cam by my computer at the moment...a small part of me fully expected to have a bunch of cameras and lights pop out of nowhere and perhaps Ashton Kutcher would start laughing at me maniacally.  But, no, it truly is my SITS day.  And phew, I sure could use it right now.  I've been awfully depressed as of late, and as such have been neglecting my blog.  This email from Heather couldn't have come at a better time, it truly put a smile on my face when I really needed one. Best of all, it re-inspired me to work on my blog!

Here are the three blog posts you're definitely going to want to check out while you're visiting:

Brown Beauty Cake - the most famous cake in my family, though not the prettiest...

Double Fudge Cookies - big, chocolatey, and yummy!

Tiramisu Cake - the most wonderful thing I make, according to my husband

And if you're not into baking or desserts...
Beef Teriyaki - one of my favorite dinner recipes

Thank you so much for coming by!  If you like what you see, follow me, I've got some great recipes planned for June, including the second best thing I've ever baked for my husband, Blueberry Buckle.  I've truly enjoyed getting to know many of you through SITS, and look forward to getting to know more of you :)

For those of my loyal followers who aren't familiar with SITS, it's a fantastic blogging sisterhood that is a fantastic place not only to network but to find new blogs to love.  If you are a blogger or if you love to read blogs, you simply must check it out!

P.S. - Have you read a good book lately?  Tell me about it!  I absolutely love to read, and I'm running out of books to read on my To Be Read pile!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love Brown Eyed Baker.  She has some fantastic baking recipes, that's for sure.  Her Better Than Brownies Cookies are filled with intense chocolate flavor and seriously, it's quite possible that they're just as the title says: better than brownies.  I especially love her Top 100 list of things she wants to make, and I fully want to make a list like that for myself.  I always come across recipes I want to try, and then I forget about them, so beware - there's a list a-coming around here!

When I came across this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, I knew that I had to try it.  Immediately.  It has all of Husband's favorite elements: oatmeal, peanut butter, sugar...and chocolate chips are okay with him in moderation too.  These cookies got a resounding A+ from him, and I enjoyed them a bunch too, especially fresh from the oven and still warm.  Even Toddler is a big fan, and he hasn't yet decided if he really likes peanut butter yet.  I can see myself making these cookies as an awesome after school snack when Toddler gets bigger.

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Brown Eyed Baker
Printer-friendly recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. On medium speed, cream together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour until just combined. Stir in the oats, and then the chocolate chips.
4. Use a large cookie scoop (3 tablespoons) and drop dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Signature Pizza Crust from All Recipes

I like - I find good things there sometimes.  This is an instance where I found something awesome on  I am always on the hunt for an awesome pizza dough recipe.  I love the recipes I make, but I always love to try new ones.  It's just like how I love to go to different pizza restaurants to try different pizzas.

My first hint that this was going to make for some awesome pizza was that over 2000 people rated this recipe.  Seriously.  That's a lot in my book.  Over 37,000 people favorited this recipe.  That's pretty awe-inspiring.  Given that I have a stand mixer, this recipe was very easy to put together, but even if you don't have a stand mixer, you should be able to accomplish this recipe using a big bowl and a strong wooden spoon (and the necessary elbow grease to go with it).

My second hint was how amazing the house smelled while the dough rose.  I love the smell of yeasty bread doughs.  There's something so homey about that smell.  It just makes you feel good.  This dough was no exception - the only problem was that it smelled even better while it was baking.  So good that when it came out and I put it on the table, I burned my mouth a little, so excited to try it.  It was worth the pain.  Really.  I will definitely make this pizza crust again.  Soon.

Signature Pizza Crust from All Recipes
Printer-friendly recipe

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (~110 degrees)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a large bowl (preferably your mixing bowl for your stand mixer), dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the warm water, and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Stir the salt and oil into the yeast solution. Mix in the flour using the dough hook attachment for your stand mixer.
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour (if needed) until the dough is no longer sticky.  Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth.  Let the dough rise until doubled - this will take at least one hour, sometimes more depending on how humid and warm your kitchen is.  Punch down the dough, and form a tight ball with the dough.  Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling out.  Use for your favorite pizza recipe.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may place your toppings on the dough, and bake immediately.  If you are baking your pizza in a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise for 15 or 20 minutes before topping and baking it.  Personally, I split my pizza dough in half and rolled it out, then gently placed it into two 9-inch cake pans that I doused with olive oil.  Make sure to place your baking pans on the lowest shelf in your oven to ensure that the crust fully bakes.  This recipe makes an awesome pan pizza crust.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust and cheese are fully browned.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oreo Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I love Oreos.  So much so that I've even baked my own home-baked version of Oreos, which are mighty good. These cookies, though, are a good marriage of a chocolate shortbread kind of cookie with creamy white chocolate chunks throughout, heralding back to the creamy white center of an Oreo.  Yum.  My mouth practically waters at the thought of them, they're so good.  There is very little that a good chocolate cookie can't make better.  Like when your husband is going away for a week, and you feel like your To Do list grows exponentially every day.  Like now.  So I'm going to curl up with some nice warm cookies and a nice big glass of milk and it will all be better in the morning.  Phew. 

Oreo Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Printer-friendly recipe

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chunks or chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 and prepare a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment or Silpat.
2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa together, and set aside.
3. Beat butter on medium-high speed until light, then add sugars, creaming well.  Add the vanilla and beat until smooth.
4. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternately with the milk, mixing well.  Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes.
5. I used a smaller cookie scoop with these cookies, about a heaping tablespoon per cookie.  Scoop the dough your prepared cookie sheet and bake.  For smaller cookies like what I made, bake for approximately 10-14 minutes.  If you prefer a larger, bakery-style cookie, go for about 3 tbsp per scoop, and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until just set.  Cookies will look underdone - don't be alarmed!  Allow cookies to cool fully on the cookie sheet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mrs. Field's Snickerdoodles

I didn't grow up with snickerdoodles.  I had my first snickerdoodle as an adult at a cookie exchange, and it was awesome, and I was mildly horrified that I'd lived my life for so long without snickerdoodles.  I vowed that they would be something my kids would grow up with.

Toddler had his first snickerdoodle at Fresh Market not too long after he turned one.  He devoured it.  Just loved the darn thing.  Since then, I've been trying to find the most awesome snickerdoodle recipe, one that's big and chewy, soft in the middle, with awesome cinnamon flavor.  I've found it!  This recipe is nice and small, though easy to double, and makes about 15-18 cookies, depending on the size of your scooper.  These cookies come highly recommended from my whole family.

Mrs. Fields's Snickerdoodles
Printer-friendly recipe

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on high speed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

2. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.

3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.

4. Preheat oven to 300 degrees while you let the dough rest for 30 to 60 minutes in the refrigerator.

5. In a small bowl, combine the sugar with the cinnamon for the topping.

6. Take about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the dough and roll it into a ball. Roll this dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Take a drinking glass, grease it with a little bit of Crisco and press down on cookie to flatten.  Repeat for the remaining cookies.

7. Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes and no more. The cookies may seem undercooked, but will continue to develop after they are removed from the oven. When the cookies have cooled they should be soft and chewy in the middle.

Makes 15 to 18 cookies.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Super Yummy Vanilla Waffles

Okay, okay, I admit it.  I don't use pure maple syrup on my pancakes and waffles.  Oh, the sacrilege!  I know, I know, pure maple syrup is supposed to be like the nectar of gods...but I grew up on Karo Pancake syrup.  Green label Karo, which is becoming harder and harder to find where I live.  It doesn't even call itself maple syrup.  That's how far removed it is from maple syrup.  But darn it, it tastes like home.

Growing up, my mom and I had waffles for dinner when my dad worked nights sometimes, when she had a long day or when she just didn't feel like cooking anything complicated.  She always used Jiffy Biscuit Mix for the waffles and we doused them in Karo.  I still sometimes make my waffles with Jiffy, and every bite makes me feel like a kid again.  Most often, though, I try to make my waffles from scratch.  In part, because cooking from scratch is important to me and also because I love trying new recipes and experimenting.  This recipe is an amalgam of three or four different ones, and it came out super yummy.  Nice and light, with a nice vanilla flavor to them, which of course complimented the Karo syrup just right.  This recipe doubles nicely, and freezes beautifully - just lay your cooked waffles out on cooling racks until fully cooled, and then pack up into large freezer bags.  Pop them in the toaster to reheat, and voila, it's like fresh waffles all over again!

Yummy Vanilla Waffles 
Printer-friendly recipe

2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat your waffle iron.  Beat eggs in a large bowl until fluffy, then add the remaining ingredients and beat until just smooth.  Do not overmix!
2. Cook according to your waffle iron's instructions.  Beware, this batter does spread well when you close your waffle iron!

Friday, March 19, 2010

BBQ Chicken Bacon Wraps

Bacon really does make just about anything better, doesn't it?  It sure does, in my book.  Apparently, not so much to Toddler, though.  He was not a fan of this dish.  In the interests of full disclosure, though, he's not particularly interested in any food that's not yogurt, applesauce, fruit, pancakes, waffles, or cheese at the moment.  I try not to take it personally.

Sometimes my creativity in the kitchen pays off.  Not so much when I was a kid and attempting to create things that logically seemed like a good idea (hello, chocolate water, anyone?), but this time, creativity paid off in a big way.  I had some chicken breasts lying around, a bottle of barbecue sauce and some bacon, and I needed to come up with an idea for dinner, as it was already 5 o'clock.  I thought quickly, and tossed this dish together.

This a great dish to make on a night where time isn't on your side, or as an appetizer for your next party.  Stick some toothpicks in your chicken bacon wraps, and voila, an easy appetizer!  I served these for dinner, alongside some garlic roasted potato wedges and broccoli.  The dish took no more than 5 minutes to prepare and toss in the oven, another 25 to cook, and then dinner was ready.  It was awesome!  I will definitely be making these again.

BBQ Chicken Bacon Wraps
Printer-friendly recipe

1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (or make your own!)
20-30 strips of bacon

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Find a 13x9 baking pan and set out on counter.
2. Cut chicken into strips.  Not too thin, you don't want the chicken to dry out.  But not too thick either, because you want to make sure the bacon and chicken cook at the same speed.  Aim for whatever length you like, but no more than 1/2" thick.
3. Wrap one slice of bacon around each chicken strip, and lay in your baking pan.  Do this to each chicken strip, and don't worry if they're all touching, it's okay.
4. Brush each wrap well with BBQ sauce.  Put pan in the oven, and bake for 13-15 minutes.
5. Take pan out of oven and flip each wrap over.  Brush each wrap again with BBQ sauce, then return to the oven for another 13-15 minutes.
6. Remove pan from the oven and immediately move wraps to a serving plate or platter.  You can brush again with BBQ sauce, or serve sauce on the side with your wraps.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Warning: Before you read any further, make sure you've got a gallon of milk on hand.

I love chocolate.  This is no secret.  I would wager to guess that at least 75% of the dessert recipes I've posted here have chocolate as a key ingredient.  These cookies are the perfect thing to have after a long day, especially with a glass of ice cold milk.  These cookies are wonderfully chewy, bursting with chocolate flavor, but very different from the brownie cookies I've seen floating around on the web lately.  Those are mostly brownie, just shaped like a cookie.  These are mostly cookie, with the flavors of a brownie.

These cookies are the kind of recipe my dad would have made - he was always the cookie baker when I was growing up, thanks to his arm of steel.  His beating arm made a stand mixer totally unnecessary.  This recipe is really just a good chocolate chip cookie recipe with some cocoa powder thrown in and the quantity of flour reduced as a result.  The only challenge with this recipe is letting the cookies cool - because they will be somewhat fragile until you have let them sit on the cookie sheet for at least five minutes after baking.  Just go do something else, preferably in another room of your home, where the lovely smell of the cookies doesn't force you to eat a cookie before it's fully set.  It will crumble all over you.  I promise.  It will taste wonderful, but it will make a huge mess.  Trust me.  I speak from experience.

Triple Chocolate Cookies
Printer-friendly recipe

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or dark chocolate cocoa powder)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (I recommend Hershey's Special Dark!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until set. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

MSC: Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Megan from My Baking Adventures, one of my personal favorite bloggers, selected the cupcake recipe for the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club this month, Martha's Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.  As you may recall, we present our cupcakes on the 15th of each month and swap notes on what we thought of the cupcakes and the process of making them, and somehow, this month, the 15th appeared out of nowhere.  Maybe it was that darn Daylight Savings Time garbage this weekend that threw me off...

Husband was positively stoked when I told him about this recipe a while back.  Unfortunately for him, this spring forward weekend has been a bit of a mess, so I had to resort to a few shortcuts to manage to get these cupcakes made.  I have promised him an I.O.U. for a future making of these cupcakes, complete with seven-minute frosting and lemon curd. These cupcakes are really lemon meringue imposters.  I did manage to make the lemon cupcakes...but time was working against me when it came to making the lemon curd.  And well, I was already cutting corners, so I decided to make a simple vanilla buttercream frosting for the cupcakes rather than the seven-minute frosting.

What's cooking in Toddler's kitchen?  Could it be?  Has he mastered Martha's cupcakes?

These were a great treat for Husband.  We had a rough weekend, between having some serious computer challenges and Toddler becoming the pickiest eater on the planet, throwing tantrums left and right at the dinner table.  I think he really enjoyed sitting down to watch "The Amazing Race" with a yummy lemon cupcake.  And these sure were yummy.  They might not be beautiful, but they did taste good.

They may not appear on Tastespotting, but they were still tasty in their own right.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Drizzle Topped Brownies

I'm pulling out an oldie but a goodie this morning, from the depths of my worn and tattered cookbook, and I'll tell you why.  My household has been fighting off an evil stomach bug which seems to now be morphing into a dreadful cold and/or ear infection, depending on which household member we're talking about.  Food has been the farthest thing from my mind for the last several days, and my kitchen has collected a good bit of dust as a result.

However, I know that you people are still hungry out there!  I certainly don't want your sweet tooth to go unsatisfied!  And trust me, if I could manage to, I would positively make some of these brownies right now and scarf them down.

Mmm, drizzle topped brownies.  I can't quite recall what magazine my mother cut this recipe out of when I was a child, but my mother wasn't much for baking adventures.  Where I try 15 different chocolate chip cookie recipes, she has only ever baked one, so the fact that she even cut the recipe out at all was kind of a big deal.  She put it at the back of the little green metal box that she used to hold her recipe cards, and promptly forgot about it.

My dad was the first one to make these brownies, actually.  He skipped the glaze, because my dad was the kind of baker improvised in the kitchen rather than baking a recipe as written, and added more chocolate chips than were called for, because you just can't go wrong with chocolate chips.  They were delicious, and best of all, they were quick and easy to make.  Enjoy, just make sure you've got a tall glass of milk handy!

Drizzle Topped Brownies
Printer-friendly recipe

1 1/4 cup buttermilk baking mix (I've always used Jiffy Baking Mix)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder (natural works too, just not quite as rich)
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips of your choosing - white, milk, semisweet, dark, whatever you like

1/2 cup 10x sugar
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 or 9x9 pan, or make a foil sling, if you want to cut and wrap your brownies individually, and grease it well.
2. In a medium bowl, mix baking mix, sugar, and cocoa well. Add melted butter, eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in chocolate chips gently.
3. Spread batter in pan. Bake 22-28 minutes, checking with a toothpick inserted in the center to make sure they are done. Toothpick should come out mostly clean with a moist crumb two attached. Cool brownies completely.
4. Mix glaze ingredients and pour into a Ziploc baggie. Cut small (and I do mean small) hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle the glaze over the cooled brownies. Cut into bars and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce

I like balsamic vinegar. I didn't always know this about myself, but since I've been cooking more in the last two years, I've learned that I really do like the tangy flavor that balsamic vinegar tastes (though I can't stand the way it smells). It was just the right ingredient to make some boring old chicken breasts taste a heck of a lot more exciting.

Picture it: I was in my kitchen, staring at a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trying to figure out what to do with them. I drew a blank.  I went to Food Network's website, and searched through over 20 packages of chicken recipes before I came across something that sounded good that I had all the ingredients for...until I found this recipe from Giada de Laurentiis. All the while, Toddler was tugging on my leg, begging for dinner, so I was super relieved when I found this recipe. I am happy to report that even Toddler ate a good portion of this chicken, even though he's barely touched meat of any kind lately. Thank you, Giada!!

Pardon the total lack of artistic merit in this photo - it was one of those moments where the kid's screaming for dinner and you're rushing to get everything on the table, so I'm lucky to have gotten a picture at all!

Giada's Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce
adapted from

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and ground pepper
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

1. Combine vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, Worcestershire, Dijon, salt, and ground pepper in a small saucepan and stir until all ingredients are well blended and the mixture is smooth. Simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until reduced by about 1/3.
2. Place a grill pan over medium heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Season the meat with salt and pepper and brush lightly with BBQ sauce with a pastry brush. Place the meat on the grill. Place remaining BBQ sauce, still in the saucepan, over low heat to warm.
3. Cook the chicken for 6-8 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Continually brush the meat with BBQ sauce during cooking. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.
4. Alternately, you can cook the chicken in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375, and place the chicken in a baking dish, spoon some barbecue sauce over them and cook for 25 minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven and spoon some more barbecue sauce on them and put them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until the chicken is 180 degrees.

Birthday Appetizers: Cheesy Italian Pinwheels

I probably went overboard with Toddler's party.  I tend to do that.  For his first birthday, I used an Elmo mold and made an Elmo cake, when he was barely even familiar with the red, furry guy.  This year was a bit different, though.  The area where I went overboard was on appetizers.  This, from a person who never makes appetizers.  I guess it was time to branch out.

Here's another super easy appetizer to put together, and these were also quite a crowd pleaser, especially amongst the kids at Toddler's party. They were a super cute version of a garlic cheese bread. I used Muir Glen tomato sauce and added some Italian seasoning and garlic powder, which gave it some great flavor (not to mention made it easy!).  I love the Muir Glen tomato products, they are so much more flavorful than some others I've tried.

Every last one of these were scarfed down, so I'd have to say that they were good, though I didn't manage to get a hold of one myself. I doubled the recipe, in fact, and they still vanished pretty quickly! I will definitely be making these little guys for my next party!  They were so quick and easy!  

Cheesy Italian Pinwheels
adapted from Pillsbury
Printer-friendly recipe

1 can Crescent rolls
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup tomato sauce (for dipping)

1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Unroll dough, separate into 2 long rectangles. Press perforations together to seal.
3. Sprinkle garlic powder and cheese over rectangles; gently press into dough.
4. Starting with 1 short side, roll up each triangle and press ends to seal. Cut into 8 pieces with a serrated knife. Place cut sides down on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush tops with beaten egg, then sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Heat up tomato sauce, either in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Serve warm.

Wonton Churros

For Toddler's birthday party last weekend, there was one heck of a spread. I had hot food, I had cold food, I had a ton of cupcakes, and I had these churro wontons. Churros are totally on my list of things to bake (and this alternate version does not exempt me from trying them!).

Never heard of churros?  Oh, I'm so sorry.  Churros are a delicious Spanish-style donut that is tossed in cinnamon sugar after frying.  Best of all, they're usually served with a delicious chocolate dipping sauce...unless your only source of churros is your local skating rink or county fair, like me, in which case, you just get the yummy, fried goodness of a churro.  Ah, memories.  Just the thought of churros makes me think of the skating rink where I grew up and spent so much time as a kid.  Fall down out on the rink?  A churro will make it better.  The boy you like didn't ask you to do the couples skate?  A churro won't let you down like that!

I spotted these on Tastespotting just before Valentine's Day and knew I wanted to try These were a challenge to twist and turn, but the step-by-step pictures posted on La Fuji Mama really help out a lot. These were light and tasty, and darn near addictive! Also, if you visit La Fuji Mama, she also has a recipe for some awesome salted caramel dipping sauce!

Churro Wontons
Makes 45 pieces
Printer-friendly recipe
30 wonton wrappers
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Oil for deep frying

1. Cut the wonton wrappers into thirds. Stack 2 pieces on top of each other and cut a slit (about 1-inch in length) down the center of the pieces. Pull one end through the slit in the pieces to make a bow shape. Repeat the process with the rest of the wrappers.
2. Mix the granulated sugar and ground cinnamon together and put in a sifter.
3. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until it registers 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add six to eight wontons at a time; cook until golden and crisp on one side, and then flip them over and cook them until they are golden and crisp on the other side. Carefully remove them from the oil (take care not to splatter hot oil on yourself!) and set them on paper towels to drain. Give them a shower of cinnamon and sugar. Repeat with the remaining wontons.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Yo Gabba Gabba Cupcakes

When you're obsessed with Yo Gabba Gabba, it's a good thing that your mom is pretty handy with piping frosting, so she can create these little precious babies!

For the record, Toddler's name is not Yan. Or Nay. Or Ayn.

Never heard of Yo Gabba Gabba? I wish I were still in that boat sometimes. It's a kids' show on Nick Jr., featuring five different characters, Muno, Plex, Brobee, Toodee, and Foofa. They play in a place called Gabbaland and learn lots of different lessons, as well as activities. The one thing I like is that it encourages the kids to get up and move, to dance around. Toddler loves it. He calls it "Yo Bagga" at the moment, which is really cute. His whole party was "Yo Bagga" themed, so he was just in hog heaven.

I did find the perfect yellow cupcake recipe for these, at the last moment, and I was super thrilled with how they turned out. They were a big hit at Toddler's party. Come next year, no recipe hunting necessary! Unless, that is, he develops the deep love and appreciation for chocolate that his mommy has. This year, he was really just interested in the frosting, with a few nibbles of cupcake. He chose to eat Toodee, the blue character, so he got the whole messy cake experience under his belt - last year, he barely wanted to touch his cake, he didn't want to get dirty! So without any further adieu, here's the recipe:

Perfect Yellow Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart and America's Test Kitchen

3 2/3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
24 tbsp (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
8 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups whole milk, room temperature
3 cups of your favorite frosting

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla, until combined, about 30 seconds.
3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, and the remaining milk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated.
4. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined.
5. Line three 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners and use a greased 1/4 cup measure to portion the batter into each cup. Bake the cupcakes on the upper-middle and lower-middle racks in a 350 degree oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 15-20 minutes through baking. Let the cupcakes cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Spread the frosting evenly over the cupcakes and serve, or decorate to your heart's delight and serve.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Birthday Appetizers: Easy Mini Soft Pretzels with Sweet Spicy Dip

I've never really made appetizers before - last year for Toddler's first birthday, I think I cut up some crackers and cheese, bought a fruit salad, and made cupcakes. Oh, and I think I put out some chips and dip. While this year was infinitely more stressful, I still enjoyed the process, and enjoyed trying out several new recipes at the party.

These mini pretzels were ridiculously easy to put together for Toddler's party last weekend, which was a good thing, given that I was trying to do way too many things on the day of his party. They were a total hit - I doubled the recipe, and every last pretzel got devoured. I only managed to get one bite, but it was a good one. Nice and soft, with a bit of chew, and some nice buttery, salty flavor. Yum. I didn't taste the dip myself - I'm not a fan of spicy mustard - but some of my trusted personal taste testers did, and said it was wonderful, so you'll have to take their word for it!!

Mini Soft Pretzels with Sweet Spicy Dip
adapted from Pillsbury

1 can refrigerated Crescent rolls, or Crescent Recipe Creations sheet
2 tbsp melted butter
Kosher salt
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup apricot preserves

1. Unroll Crescent rolls, into two long rectangle sheets. Press seams together to seal into two big pieces. Take a pizza cutter and cut each rectangle into 4 long strips - yielding 8 total pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then into a long rope. Roll the rope into the pretzel shape, overlapping the dough about 2 inches from each end, leaving the ends free. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
2. Melt butter. Brush each pretzel with melted butter then sprinkle with kosher salt.
3. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, mix spicy brown mustard and apricot preserves together, to taste - too spicy? Add more apricot. I ultimately did about 1/3 cup of apricot preserves to cut down on the spiciness.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights

I must thank Blue Cotton Mom of Blue Cotton Memory for this super easy, ridiculously addictive recipe. She even featured my slowly-becoming-infamous Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe in conjunction with these babies!

I whipped these up for my husband and his best friend, who's in town to celebrate Toddler (formerly known as Baby)'s birthday. They proceeded to eat every last one of them. Seriously. I'm lucky I managed to get a picture of these darn things! I highly recommend you make them. Today. There is no excuse.

And stay tuned later this week for some of the recipes I used at Toddler's second birthday party this weekend!

Chocolate Chip Brownie Delights

1 package Nestle Toll House cookie dough (or one recipe homemade chocolate chip cookie dough - I was lazy, I used the Toll House dough)
1 package brownie bites (or one recipe homemade brownies - again, I was lazy and used the storebought kind)

1. Take your cookie dough log and cut into 1/2" inch pieces, then cut those each in half and roll into balls. Dig out a mini-muffin tin and place a ball in each hole.
2. Bake according to package, at 375 for 8 minutes. While they're baking, cut brownie bites into thirds, and when you take the cookies out, place a brownie bite piece in the middle of each one, and press down a little bit.
3. Let them cool fully - really. They will fall apart if you take them out too soon. Yes, they taste yummy when they're oogey gooey. But not when half of the cookie sticks in the mini-muffin pan.
4. Devour with a big glass of milk. Super yum!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Doughnuts

Valentine's Day this year in our household was pretty low-key - we'd decided to upgrade our cell phones for Valentine's Day, so I already knew what my gift for the day was, but I wanted to do something special. Naturally, I turned to my apron and trusty oven, and made some homemade baked doughnuts. My absolute favorite doughnut is a chocolate cake donuts drizzled with yummy glaze. I love Dunkin Donuts for doughnuts. They're certainly not as good as they used to be, but they're still pretty darn good.

These doughnuts were pretty good, although given that they're baked rather than fried, they're not quite as awesome as a good old fashioned fried doughnut. But you can comfort yourself that they are (mildly) more healthful this way. Not to mention less messy in the kitchen. I always make the biggest mess when I fry things. These are definitely a solid doughnut for a special breakfast, and perfect for a nice chocolate treat. These are best when they're warm, though they will keep for about a day. You must use a doughnut pan, but you can find these pretty cheaply on Amazon

Baked Chocolate Doughnuts

1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp melted butter

1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp - 6 tbsp HOT water (depending on if you want icing or a glaze)

1. Preheat oven to 325.
2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick.
3. Combine milk and butter in another bowl.
4. Alternately, combine egg mixture and milk mixture with flour mixture and mix until smooth and soft.
5. Spray doughnut pan lightly with cooking oil. Fill with batter 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool (mostly). Carefully remove doughnuts from pan. Repeat with rest of batter.
7. Frost or glaze.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Husband insists this is the the thirtieth recipe for chocolate chip cookies I've tried. I'm pretty sure it's not, and that the number is more like the low teens. In any case, it's immaterial, because these really are the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

As you may know, I religiously follow Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen, and recently there was an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they attempted to outdo the NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that's been making it's way around various food blogs for the last year or so. I think they succeeded. This is the most delicious cookie I've ever tasted, and I've tasted quite a few.

Oh - and I may not be blogging much this week, I've got massive preparing to do this week for Baby's second birthday party this Saturday. I have a ridiculously long to do list, so I'm going to be MIA probably for a little while, so bear with me, and have a cookie!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 oz)
1/2 tsp baking soda
14 tbsp unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 c granulated sugar (3 1/2 oz)
3/4 c packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 oz)
1 tsp table salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 c Hershey Special Dark chocolate chips
3/4 c chopped pecan or toasted walnuts (totally optional - I skipped this!)

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 375. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set asidde.
2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, using a heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
3. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), given dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tbsp (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 balls per sheet.
5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and allow cookies to cool completely before serving.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chocolate Chip Marble Bundt Cake

I made a cake recently for my husband's boss's wife's birthday (wow, say that one ten times fast), and it was quite a hit. I was looking for something relatively easy to make, as I'd just made Coca-Cola Cake, which isn't exactly rocket science, but it sure does make a lot of dirty dishes. I came across this recipe through Tastespotting (a.k.a. crack for food bloggers, like me), and I knew it was perfect for this.

This cake came together quite easily, and was darn tasty. Or so I've heard. Husband forgot to bring home my piece, or perhaps he ate it and didn't want to cop to it, I'm not sure. Either way, someone picked up a camera, fortunately, and took a snap of the cake before devouring it. I will definitely make this again, it makes for a very pretty cake.

Chocolate Chip Marble Bundt Cake
Adapted from Buttercake Bakery and the Los Angeles Times
Printer-friendly recipe

Use the butter wrappers to grease the pan before dusting it with flour. And as much as you'll want to devour this cake ASAP after baking, give it a couple hours to really cool and rest out of the pan before serving--the flavor and texture is well worth the wait. This cake stays extraordinarily moist for days on end kept in a cake dome at room temperature.

Serves 12 to 16

2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Valrhona)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli)

In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sugar, the cocoa powder and corn syrup with 1/2 cup hot water. Bring just to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Set aside.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the remaining sugar until light in color and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Beat in the remaining vanilla.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and beat in a third of the flour mixture just until the flour begins to disappear into the batter. Beat in half the milk. Beat in another third of the flour, then the rest of the milk, and finish with the remaining flour until the batter is smooth. Stop the mixer and gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop out a third of the batter into a medium bowl, whisk in the chocolate syrup and set aside. Pour another third of the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth it with a spatula. Pour the chocolate batter into the pan evenly over the first layer. Finish by pouring the last third of the vanilla batter over the top. Lightly swirl the batters with a wooden skewer or knife to give a "marble" effect--a continuous figure-8 motion while going around the pan works well.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back lightly when touched, about 60-70 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the cooled cake onto a serving platter and dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving if desired. Store any leftovers in a cake dome at room temperature for 4-5 days, maybe more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mom's Pork Chops

I like pork chops. They're usually pretty easy, and tasty, and I like a lot of the pork chop recipes I have. This one I grew up with - I can remember my mom pan frying the chops, and then serving all the onions to my dad, who didn't really love onions in the first place, but he liked them more than the rest of us. I remember when I found out there were onions in the pan, and I was horrified - I think I was 8 or 9, and I told my mom I didn't like her pork chops anymore. She tried to explain that the onion was just for flavor, but it took a while for me to eat her pork chops again. I was so picky back then!

This is a super easy weeknight dinner and goes great with some mashed potatoes to soak up that yummy onion gravy!

Mom's Pork Chops

1 onion
3-4 tbsp margarine, not butter! (important!)

4 pork chops - rib chops are best!



1. Slice up one onion. Start to sauté one onion in margarine. Get brown and make some brown stuff in pan. Saute over 7-8 Heat. Once browned, move to side of pan, place chops in pan. Start boiling potatoes. Sprinkle chops with salt and Accent. Turn over when browned nicely. Once turned, when they begin to gather juice, they are nearing a done point, to where you can relocate the chop on top of another to fit more in the pan (if necessary). The brown stuff in the fry pan is what makes the gravy taste good.

2. Once all chops are gathering juice, place on an oven-safe platter and place in warm oven (around 300 degrees). Fish the onions out of the fry pan and place on the chop platter in oven. Using the same method as turkey gravy, add 2 tbsp flour for every 2 tbsp fat left in the pan. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup broth for every 2 tbsp flour you added to pan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fudge Coca Cola Cake

Have you ever had Coca Cola Cake? If you haven't, boy are you in for a treat. Coca Cola Cake is a traditional Southern dessert that is all about decadence. This is a super rich, fudgy cake that you won't soon forget. I had my first slice of Coca Cola at a Cracker Barrel when I was pregnant with my son a few years ago, and I positively had a hankering for it throughout the rest of my pregnancy! I would go out of my way to stop by Cracker Barrel, which only has the cake seasonally. I had my employees pick up a slice if they had lunch at Cracker Barrel. I had quite an addiction.

I first came across a copycat recipe while still pregnant, but it wasn't quite right. It took a lot of tinkering to get to this point - I think this cake is almost as good, if not as good or possibly a tiny bit better, than Cracker Barrel's. I promise you, this cake will satisfy your sweet tooth like no other!

Fudge Coca Cola Cake (like Cracker Barrel)
Printer-friendly recipe

1 cup coca cola
1/2 cup butter
1 square semi sweet baking chocolate
3/4 cup miniature marshmallows
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1. Place in a saucepan, the cola, butter, and chocolate baking square; bring to a boil.
2. Remove from heat and add marshmallows, stirring until all is blended and the marshmallows disappear. Set aside to cool enough or to room temperature.
3. In a mixing bowl blend the sugar, shortening, oil, and vanilla until fluffy.
4. Add buttermilk and eggs; beat until smooth.
5. Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the shortening and egg mixture and beat scraping bowl time to time.
6. Add cooled cola mixture and beat.
7. Add remainder of the flour mixture and beat until completely smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Batter will be thick. Place batter in a 9x13-inch oiled and floured baking pan.
8. Set pan on top shelf in a preheated 350: oven for 35-45 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Make sure to frost cake while still warm - but NOT hot! Wait about 20-30 minutes after the cake is taken out of the oven to frost.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup Coca Cola (plus 2-3 Tbsp if needed)
1/4 cup Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

1. After cake comes out of the oven, cream together butter and cocoa.
2. Add the cola, chocolate syrup, and vanilla; beat until smooth.
3. Add sugar a little at a time and beat constantly. Scrape the side of the bowl down from time to time to get all of the ingredients into the frosting. If the frosting seems a little dry, add a little more cola and beat well.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Best Ever Hot Cocoa

It's been cold lately, hasn't it? We had another cold front sweep through last weekend, and I am officially out of my favorite hot cocoa mix - Ghirardelli's Premium Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa mix. The only place I can ever find it is Bed Bath and Beyond during the holidays, and I totally forgot to buy some this year. I looked online, and it seems the only way to buy it is either really expensive or by the case, which is just intimidating. So, instead, I decided to make my own cocoa mix.

It was ridiculously easy, and darn, it tastes good. Does it taste better than the Ghirardelli? It just might! So if you need a quick warm-up, make up a batch. It makes a great gift, and it also makes a great treat for yourself!

Best-Ever Hot Cocoa Mix

3 cups nonfat dry milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/4 tsp salt

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Working in two batches, pulse ingredients in food processor until chocolate is finely ground. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. To make the hot cocoa, stir 1/3 cup of this mix into 1 cup of hot milk. Top with whipped cream or mini marshmellows.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

I enjoy books set in China and Japan. Not entirely sure why - perhaps because they're so different and exotic to me. I read Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club when I was 12 or 13 and just devoured it in a few days. I then read everything else I could find by her. I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arnold Golden several years ago, and then proceeded to read everything I could find about geishas. I tend to get involved in these kinds of books as a phase of sorts. This book has been no different.

Honestly, I was attracted to the pretty cover of this book. It was propped up on the New Releases bookshelf, and I picked it up to look at it. I'd never read a book by Lisa See before I happened to pick this one up at the library. I've since picked up two more of her books at the library. I immensely enjoyed this book, though it is quite different from her previous novels, so if you're already a Lisa See fan, be prepared for a serious change in time period.

The book begins in Shanghai, shortly before WWII, and takes the reader on a journey through parts of China all the way to the U.S. during wartime and afterward. It's an incredible story. It was compelling, and gripping, and I certainly was anxious to finish it to find out what happened. Admittedly, there was a lot going on - lots of historical facts and a lot of plot points to keep straight - but I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't wait to read it every night. I definitely give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Now, I'm reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and then I'm reading Peony in Love, I think. I'll probably even look for Lisa See's nonfiction work, On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family, at the library, too, as I'm sure it's also quite interesting.
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