The Great Cookie Experiment Pinterest Edition – Bakery Style Thick Sugar Cookies

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Bakery Style Thick Sugar Cookies

For me, the perfect restaurant is one that combines yummy food, delicious desserts, and lovely crafts, décor, and gift ideas. This stems from years and years ago when I worked at a bank, and would slip away to a little café called Abercrombie and Maynard. I would eat sandwiches and gelato in the view of gorgeously decorated teddy bears. It’s a girly thing.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who desires these things, considering the popularity of Kneaders bakeries here in Utah. Fresh bread, beautiful salads, thick soups, drool-worthy desserts- it’s a great lunch. THEN they have all the fixings for gift baskets, including seasonal crafts, unique food gifts like syrups and jams. It makes me happy. I once performed as a storyteller there when they unveiled their Christmas goodies, so the chain is even more special because of it.

When I saw this pin of Kneaders sugar cookie recipe-something they apparently shared on a local television show, I was eager to make the cookie! I LOVE those thick fluffy cookies! So yummy!

Was the recipe good? Yes! I was very happy with the results! They were thick and fluffy just as promised! I did an almond glaze instead of lemon, and decorated them pretty for spring. I DID find them to be a little on the dry side- waiting too long to eat them could lead to some crumbling. This is fixable by adding a Tablespoon of Ultra Gel to the mix to keep them a bit more moist.

This is not going to replace my traditional valentine recipe, but I’d add it to the list for other possible sugar cookie events!

sugar cookies

The original pin can be found here: http://www.tipsfromatypicalmomblog.com/2014/03/bakery-style-thick-sugar-cookies-with.html

Chocolate Chip Orange Cookies

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Chocolate Chip Orange Cookies

A few weeks ago I ended up with an orange that needed something done with it. Now I could have gone for the healthy options…like just eating it, but I was really jonesing for a good cookie.  So I went to one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes and made a few adjustments until I had a really nice chocolate chip orange cookie.  Unlike the pineapple orange with chocolate chip is really yummy!

chocolate chip orange cookies

Chocolate Chip Orange Cookies

2 cups unsalted butter

2 cups brown sugar

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

2 Tbl Ultra Gel

1 Tbl good vanilla

2 tsp orange zest

2 Tbl Orange juice

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups wheat flour

4 cups ap flour

12 oz milk chocolate

12 oz semi sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add Ultra Gel, orange zest, and juice and vanilla and mix well. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture a third at a time until incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips. Place by tablespoonsful on a cookie sheet and bake for 9-12 minutes. I like to do these in 3 ounce size cookies and bake for 15 minutes as well. These freeze wonderfully, if they last that long.

Jana

Strawberry Salad

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Strawberry Salad

Springtime means strawberries! There are multiple recipes for strawberry salad out there, and I love them! Most of them!

I have a rule about salads, I’ve decided: only one or two “goodies” per recipe. By “goodie” I mean the bad for you things that take the salad to an extra level of yummy. Things like bacon, candied nuts, fried won tons, chow mein noodles, cheese, chips, you get the idea. I’ve had strawberry salads that were more “goodie” than salad! Cutting back and focusing on the vegetable fruit combination brings the flavors back, and the “goodies” do just what they were meant to do- enhance the flavor and add texture. In this case, there are two goodies- bacon and feta cheese. I would cut it down to just the bacon, but the taste combination of these two really works with the strawberries. You don’t want to cut too many goodies either!

I’m also trying to get rid of so much sugar in salad dressings.   I have some salad dressing recipes that have over a cup of sugar! That’s too much, and could probably be done away with completely. Because this is a sweeter salad, I did find that a little bit of sweetener is nice, so I added honey instead- but just a little!

strawberry salad

Strawberry Salad

Chopped lettuce

Baby Spinach

1-2 cups strawberries

8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

½ red onion, chopped

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing

1 tsp minced garlic

1 teaspoon diced red onion

2 Tbl honey

⅓ cup white vinegar

¼ cup strawberries, chopped

½ cup olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoons poppyseeds

Combine lettuce, spinach, strawberries, bacon, red onion, and cheese.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in the blender, and blend until smooth. Pour over salad, and enjoy! Serves about 4

Crock Pot Italian Beef

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Crock Pot Italian Beef

This year is the Year of the Crock Pot. No, it’s not on any official calendar anywhere, it’s just what we call the year when our congregation meets from 1:00-4:00. We share the building with two other congregations or Wards, and trade off times every year so nobody is stuck with a difficult time every single year. Whenever church is from 1-4 it means there’s no time to cook a REALLY good Sunday dinner, unless you do it in the crock pot. So that’s just what we do! I start it in the morning, and by the time we’re home from church, it’s simple to get dinner on the table! My very favorite crock pot recipe has been one I’ve used for a lot of years. It’s spicy and unique, and I love it on rolls with melted provolone cheese on it. I always keep Italian Dressing mix in my pantry so I’m ready to make a batch when I need to.

crock pot Italian beef

Crock Pot Italian Beef

4-5 lb beef roast

½ cup water

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp onion salt

1 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp basil

1 envelope Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing Mix (I don’t substitute here. I’ve tried other Italian dressing mixes, and they aren’t as spicy as Good Seasons)

Put roast in the crock pot. Pour all other ingredients over the beef and cook n low all day. Shred beef and return to broth for 15 minutes to thicken. You can add Ultra Gel to thicken it more if needed. Serve on buns or over French Bread and/or a slice of provolone cheese.

The Great Cookie Experiment- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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The Great Cookie Experiment- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Ah! I love a good oatmeal cookie! Yes, I know it’s made with butter and sugar, but there’s something about adding wholesome ingredients like oats and raisins and nuts that make me FEEL like I might be eating something healthier.   Either way, it’s yummy, and that’s really what matters.

This is the second HUGE batch of cookies that I referred to a few recipes ago. This recipe is designed to make twelve dozen cookies. That is a LOT of cookies. When half of my friends hate walnuts or raisins or coconut that’s a LOT of cookies they won’t touch. Unless you are making cookies for a horde of oatmeal cookie lovers, I recommend you halve the recipe. I’m keeping the recipe amounts as written so that one day you CAN make these for a horde of oatmeal cookie lovers. It could happen!

I wanted to say a word about coconut. I am tired of the sweetened coconut flakes in the store. Don’t get me wrong, they have their place, but I don’t feel like these cookies need added sugar, and I want to find coconut that isn’t coated with extra sugar. I found some packaged by Bob’s Red Mill in the health food section of a store, but I had to look hard for it. I think that’s silly. I think more people would like coconut if they would get rid of the sugar coating on all of it.

Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

2 cups butter, softened

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup water

6 cups oats

2 ½ cups flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

2 ½ cups raisins

2 cups chocolate chips

1 ½ cups walnuts

1 cup flaked coconut

In a REALLY BIG BOWL, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, mixing well. Beat in water and vanilla. Combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in raisins, chocolate chips, walnuts, and coconut. Drop by tablespoon on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 12-14 minutes. Makes about 12 ½ dozen.

Fettuccine Alfredo

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Fettuccine Alfredo

I’m still playing with my pasta maker, and I have learned a few things! First, I have learned to stop trying to incorporate ALL of the flour into the pasta dough. I figured that if it calls for a cup of flour, I should use the whole cup of flour. Not so! You really do want a dough that isn’t so hard it breaks when you try to knead it. Go for a softer dough, and surprise! You get better results. Okay, maybe all of you knew that, but I didn’t. Cooking is a learning process sometimes!

Using a softer dough, I was so pleased with the results for making fettuccine! This was my first time actually cutting the pasta into noodles, and it was beautiful! Because I know the calorie count of Alfredo sauce, I only make this recipe once or twice a year for special occasions- usually Valentine’s Day, but sometimes it’s requested for a birthday dinner. I’ve always purchased fresh pasta from the grocery store- the kind in the sealed pouches in the refrigerator section. Homemade was SO MUCH BETTER. It was worth the work! I love to top it with cooked shrimp to make it extra special

Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo

12 oz fettuccine noodles (fresh is best!)

¼ cup butter

1 pint cream

1 cup grated parmesan cheese (freshly grated is a bonus!)

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the noodles, drain, and return to the pan. Add butter, cream, cheese, salt and pepper and stir, cooking on medium heat, until the ingredients are melted and blended in with the noodles. Heat through and serve immediately. Top with extra parmesan, and any meat if desired.

Tater Tot Casserole

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There are some foods in this world that fit in the very special category of comfort foods. Tater Tot casserole is one of these foods for me. This is a recipe that my mom taught me when I was very little. It’s warm and comforting and I always loved the process of lining up all the tater tots to make a big grid on the top of the casserole. I also loved snitching one of the tater tots from the edge to test and see if they were done, a habit I’m still amused by.

So here you go, a glimpse into my childhood. Yum!

tater tot casserole

Tater Tot Casserole

1 pound ground beef, thawed

1 bottle green beans (home canned is best, but two cans of canned beans will do)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup milk

1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel

salt and pepper to taste

1 medium bag frozen tater tots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press ground beef into the bottom of a 9×13″ pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove grease. In a medium bowl combine soup, sour cream, milk, Ultra Gel, green beans, salt and pepper to taste. Pour over baked beef. Arrange tater tots on top of the casserole and bake for 30-35 minutes until warmed through.

The Great Cookie Experiment – Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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The Great Cookie Experiment – Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This cookie is delicious, but it does something REALLY different with the dough. This is a white chocolate cookie dough. The recipe has you melt white chocolate and stir it in with the butter and the flour and the regular ingredients. Very unique- and really unnecessary.   The truth is, white chocolate isn’t chocolate. It’s mostly butter and cream and sugar, so when you add it to the cookie dough, it doesn’t suddenly taste like white chocolate. It tastes more like you made the cookie dough extra rich. You need to drizzle white chocolate on top to even TASTE the white chocolate. Now, I’m not going to complain about extra rich cookie dough. It made a yummy cookie. It just didn’t make it particularly TASTE different from a regular chocolate chip cookie.

I AM going to complain about buying my chocolate! First, the recipe calls for 6 1-oz squares of white baking chocolate. No problem. I bought a bar of white chocolate in the baking aisle. As I’m making the recipe, I discover that this bar doesn’t HAVE one ounce squares. It had 8 half ounce squares. That’s four ounces. I would have to use a bar and a half to make six ounces. That’s just silly. I used some leftover white almond bark I had in the pantry to drizzle on the cookies. The other problem was buying chocolate chunks. My grocery store doesn’t carry them anymore. Apparently they didn’t sell well enough to keep stocked in stores, so I can’t seem to purchase premade chocolate chunks locally. Yes, I can take a candy bar and chop it into chunks, but I am fundamentally lazy, and chose to just use chocolate chips instead. So understand that there are no actually chocolate chunks in my version of the cookie. It’s regular chocolate chips. And they made it taste just as good, I’m pretty sure.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

6 squares (1 oz each) white baking chocolate, divided (this product doesn’t exist in my stores out here. Hopefully you can do better)

1 cup butter, softened

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 ½ cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 package semisweet chocolate chunks (this product also doesn’t exist in my stores. I used chocolate chips, as mentioned above)

In a microwave melt 3 squares (that’s 3 ounces for those of us who can’t get white chocolate in 1 oz squares) of white chocolate at 70% power for 1 minute. Microwave at 10-20 second intervals as needed to get the white chocolate melted and smooth. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs. Beat in melted chocolate and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chunks. Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Melt remaining white chocolate. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Makes about 3 dozen.

Easy Baked Eggs

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As we just had Easter we’ve been doing a lot with eggs around our house.  Then again we always do a lot with eggs as they’re a beautifully easy protein and one of baby girl’s most favorite things.  Combining that with the holiday there was a need to hard cook a lot of eggs.  In the past we’ve done this the traditional way of filling a pan with water, adding eggs and boiling them until the timer goes off. This isn’t a bad way to do things, but does pose certain risks as far as cracked shells, over cooking, under cooking, etc. So we were searching for an easy way to cook a lot of eggs which would peel easily and not make such a mess.

Alton Brown to the rescue.

It’s no surprise my husband, Bunneh, is an Alton fan and we both love the show Good Eats, though it’s been discontinued much to our chagrin. However, Mr. Brown has started doing little youtube video clips, which included a method for baking several dozen eggs at once. We tried it and it was brilliant and worked like a charm.

Here’s how it works:

Wet and wring out one tea towel. Choose one that you don’t mind if it gets a little brown and crusty.

Lay wet tea towel over the upper rack in your oven.

Place eggs on the tea towel, spaced out as evenly as possible along the rack. I can fit 3 dozen this way, meself.

Close and heat oven to 325.  Bake for 20-30 minutes. Test an egg at 20 and add time as needed.

When completed remove from heat and cool. If you are going to peel all your eggs at that point, for deviled eggs or such, place in a large pan, add some cold water and ice and swish around letting the eggs smack against each other to create microcracks and cool faster. This will make them peel more easily. If you want to keep the eggs whole, quickly move to cartons and refrigerate.

Eggs cooked this way are easy, peel fantastically and were perfectly done through.

Baked eggs

Give it a try!

Jana

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Party

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I just threw my last birthday party. Okay, I’m certain there will be other birthday parties and other events, but my youngest just had her sweet 16th birthday party, and while I have loved planning themed parties for her, it must someday come to an end. We have determined that the sweet 16th is the last one. Because of that, we tried to make it extra special. For years, she has wanted a fairy themed party, but she also wanted to invite boys. That may have worked when the boys were five or six and we could have gnomes and fairies together, but there was no way I could figure out how to do all of the fairy things with teenage boys. We morphed it over the years into Dungeons and Dragons parties, and Medieval feast parties, and Lord of the Rings parties, but never an out and out fairy party. This year, my youngest decided that she would be willing to invite just girls to get the fairy party she always wanted.

We chose to make it A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We hit the Pinterest boards for inspiration, and we ran with it. Having a family that loves fantasy and sci fi things, means we have quite a collection of magical things. We pulled them all out for the décor, making sure that shelves and cabinets were decorated with combinations of flowers, greenery, fairy figurines, glass bottles and other knick knacks. The table was a combination of greenery and baskets combined with crystal and silver for a lovely blend of fancy and earthy.

We served spinach wrap rollups with cream cheese and lunch meat or vegetables, pretzels, vegetables with dip, strawberries, and various candies that fit the theme. The centerpiece to all of it was the cake. I found a cake similar to this on Pinterest, but it was an angel food cake with lemon filling. My daughter wanted chocolate with raspberry. I made a basic Duncan Hines Triple Chocolate Cake mix, which is, in my opinion, one of the best cake mixes on the market. I filled the layers with a milk chocolate truffle mousse, and raspberry jam. I topped the cake with a dark chocolate ganache. Using melted chocolate, I then covered the cake with spearmint leaves, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, pansies (which ARE edible), and an awesome little cookie called Chocorooms. They look like mushrooms, but are a biscuit cookie shaped like a mushroom and dipped in chocolate. I covered the top and sides with random groupings of the toppings, and used a few decorative butterflies flying over the top.

As the guests arrived and we led them into the dining room to get something to eat, they all stopped when they got to the table and just stood there. I told them that they could get plates and start eating, and they still hesitated. One of them said, “It’s so pretty…” They had to get pictures of the table and the cake before they could start eating. One girl asked for the recipe, or if I could maybe make her a cake for HER birthday. It was the response I was hoping for! It was the last party, after all, and I was glad that I could make it special.

I might have to rethink my policy for next year.

Julie

Milk Chocolate Truffle Filling

4 oz milk chocolate- I used the leftover dipping chocolate from Christmas

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate in the microwave, or in the oven, or whatever your preferred method might be. Set aside. Scald cream. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add vanilla. Beat chocolate with an electric mixer. Add the cream all at once, and mix until smooth.   Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Beat again with electric mixer until fluffy.

Semi Sweet Chocolate Ganache

4 oz semi sweet chocolate

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

Follow the same method as above. Chill for only five or ten minutes. When the ganache has thickened slightly, but can still be poured, pour over cake, spreading as needed. Chill cake until ganache has set.