Monthly Archives: November 2013

Christmas Cookies

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Last Saturday a very good friend of mine came over and we made cookies ALL day.  We both wanted to get a jump on the holiday baking by making cookies and dough for the freezer.  Both forms will last roughly 3-4 weeks in the freezer as long as you double wrap them they will taste just like you made them fresh that day.

We made 5 different kinds and a double batch of each.  Some may not be “holiday” cookies per say but they will definitely help with having a quick dessert when friends and family stop over.

We made Chocolate Chip, Snicker Doodles, Peanut Butter, Sugar and Gingerbread men.  We made all the gingerbread men so we will just need to take them out of the freezer and decorate with frosting or leave as is, they are delicious.  The peanut butter dough will be made into thumbprints with kisses in the middle – I can’t wait for that I LOVE peanut butter. The sugar cookie dough we can thaw a little roll out and cut to whatever shapes we want.  I love decorating sugar cookies, I love making different colored frosting for them.  I am not a great cookie decorator but they’re yummy.

Sugar Cookie Dough Recipe – 350’ approximately 12-15 minutes

2 Cups all-purpose flour

½ Teaspoon Baking Powder

¼ Teaspoon salt

2 Sticks unsalted butter softened but still cool

1 Cup sugar

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 Large egg

1 ½ Teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl set aside.

Using a mixer (or by hand) cream the butter, with both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides, add egg and vanilla, beat till combined.  Immediate use, take dough and split it in half, make into a disc shape and wrap in plastic; place in the fridge for about 30 minutes at the very least.  If you are rolling and cutting, work with 1 disc at a time, roll onto a lightly floured surface; roll to about ¼ inch thickness and choose your cutting tool(s) bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes (every oven is different) you want them done through but not too browned. Let them set on the sheet for 3 minutes than transfer to a wire rack.  Once cooled you can decorate as you wish

Who doesn’t love fresh out of the oven cookies? We are kind of cookie snobs in a way that we like fresh that day cookies, so I would cook a batch and roll up the remainder of the batter into a log, double wrap it and place it in the freezer for a later date.  I don’t know about your families but my guys have a hard time keeping their paws off both, cookies and dough.  When said later date came, no dough AUGH!!!!

I have always made chocolate chip cookies but was always searching for an amazing tasting and looking cookie.  My husband and I challenged each other to a chocolate chip cookie bakeoff.  I think we made 3 or 4 batches of cookies before I was named champion!!!!  It amazes me how different memories are for people.  He swears he was the winner.  Too bad for him that when we did this I posted it on FB so I could SHOW him who truly won!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe – 325’ approximately 15-18 minutes

2 Cups all-purpose flour + 2 Tablespoons

½ Teaspoon Baking Soda

½ Teaspoon Salt

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 Tablespoons Margarine (both melted together and cooled until warm)

1 Cup packed Brown Sugar

½ Cup sugar

1 Large Egg plus 1 Large Egg Yolk

2 Teaspoons Vanilla

2 Handfuls of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (more or less – whatever you like)

Whisk together Flour, Baking Soda, and Salt in a medium bowl and set aside

Using a mixer (or by hand) cream the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended, add egg, yolk and vanilla until combined.  Add dry ingredients and beat on low just to combine.  Stir in chips to taste.

Make about 18 large cookies or you can make them into smaller size

For the large cookies there is a cool trick to make them look like the ones you can buy in certain shops. Take about a ¼ cup of dough and roll into a ball. Take the ball and break it in half, rotate the halves 90 degrees, put the dough back together with the jagged edges facing up and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake in a 325’ oven for 15-18 minutes. Bake until they are light golden brown. For chewy cookies, do not over bake. Cool the cookies on the sheet and remove once cooled.

App’s Class quote “My apron strings fell into the toilet”

Thursday night I had an appetizer class; I had 3 people sign up; I generally do 4 people and sometimes more.  I believe I couldn’t fill the class for a couple of reasons; I really only use Face Book to promote and word of mouth; and I am just not that great at self-promotion also I believe it has a lot to do with this time of the year; everyone is SO busy.  The reason I say that is I just returned from the grocery store and a former participant asked me when the appetizer class will be. She said she really wanted to go but had been away and busy and hadn’t checked when it was.  So I explained it already happened she asked if I would please do it again.

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Well she missed a good one; we had SO much fun; laughter was definitely part of the menu; someone came out of the bathroom and exclaimed “My apron strings fell into the toilet; I got them out before I peed on them; but you’re going to want to wash this apron”. I swear I can’t even make this shit up. Thankfully I do wash everything after a class. But we had a nice long laugh at that exclamation.

If you read my last post, I mentioned a very good friend of mine doing the worm; well she came to her first class this week; which is probably another reason why we laughed so much.  She is one of the funniest and most fun people I know.  Most are had to be there moments; so I can’t come up with one particular story as they are all just ongoing I swear.  She did pay me some very nice compliments that I want to share.  She was torn between telling everyone what fun we had or just keeping it to herself; just so she always had a spot; she didn’t want to come to a class and have it full and not get in.  Yeah like that would happen; she will always have a spot full or not.  She has also proclaimed to be my marketing director and has some great ideas for me.  Can’t wait to discuss; she is too damn cute!

Part of class is I send everyone home with whatever is left over.  She was planning on hosting Happy Hour Saturday night at her place; she ended up serving all the appetizers I sent her home with plus her yummy slow cooked wings off the grill.  I can tell you right now; if; I mean when she comes to her next class; you might want to sign up as well.  I can promise yummy food and a few short cuts and cooking tips; just how funny she is would be the worth the price of admission.

2 of everyone’s favorite- they actually voted– it was quite comical

Yummy Bacon Dip

1 8 ounce package Cream Cheese

3 Tablespoons horseradish (squeezed dry)

1 Medium seeded chopped tomato

6 Slices cooked bacon crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon until crispy, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and let them meld for about 30 minutes. This can be served at room temperature

Tomato & Whipped Feta Crostini

6 ounces crumbled feta

2 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)

2/3 cup olive oil – divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon

2 tablespoons minced shallots (approx.. 2)

2 teaspoons minced garlic (approx.. 2 cloves)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2-3 different type/color pints of cherry tomatoes (sliced in half or quartered)

3 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves, plus extra for serving

2 tablespoons pine nuts

French baguette (sliced and baked till lightly browned)

Add feta and cream cheese in bowl of a food processor, pulse until they are mixed. Add 1/3 cup olive oil, the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and process until smooth.

Combine shallots, garlic, and vinegar in a medium bowl, set aside for 5 minutes.  Whisk in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the tomatoes, stir gently, set aside for 10 minutes. Stir in the basil and taste for seasoning.

To assemble the crostini, spread each slice of toast with a generous amount of whipped feta. With a slotted spoon, place the tomatoes on top.  Top with pine nuts and extra basil.

Midnight McDonald’s Run & The Worm

The title may have grabbed your attention; but I promise they have nothing to do with each other.

So last night we went to surprise a very good friend at a pub about an hour and half away.  You know how you get there kind of early; around 9pm and no one is really taking advantage of the DJ playing songs. There was a guy dancing all by himself having a ball; I know this because I read his lips when he looked over at his friends and said; “I just can’t stop” He was definitely worth watching. Think Elaine from Seinfeld Hilarious!!!!

The night goes and people (including our party) start getting their groove on; I am guessing in part because of liquid courage (not me I was DD); if you know what I mean. We have one person in our party is ALWAYS the life of the party and she decided to do “the worm” not once but several times. Majority of our party are in their 50’s or getting close too (I have a few more years). One notable comment was; I haven’t been to a bar that plays music for years; “is this the crap they play now” Yeah he was older than 50.

We left very close to midnight; I could’t believe we stopped at McDonld’s for a midnight snack. I can’t even remember the last time that happened. It was pretty disapointing; but it filled the void.

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Today was pretty productive: I made homemade waffles – YUM! got some Christmas shopping done; got my CC shutoff; seems they thought there was some fraud going on; I didnt buy that much and nothing odd I swear; they did call to double check so we are good to go! Went grocery shopping; made Corned Beef and Cabbage, a couple of Lasagna’s I always more than one; you make that much of a mess; you need to make it worth your while.  It freezes well and I love having a yummy homemade dinner without ANY effort on busy week nights.  I even made brownies.  I am about to start gathering some recipes for an Appetizer class I am going to have later this week.  Need to mention that I will need to wash my floors before class; I will just say that my buddy who likes to do the “worm” wants to take one of my classes and is signed up for this one coming up.  Going to be a good one I think!

Waffles

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Egg yolks

1/2 cup canola oil (or like)

2 egg whites

In a small bowl combine flour, salt, powder.  In another bowl slightly beat the egg yolks, beat in the milk and oil. add the egg yolk mixture to the flour and stir just till incorporated; lumpy is OK. I use my mixer to beat the egg whites till frothy. Gently fold into the batter. Do not over mix and OK to leave some egg whites unmixed.  Use your waffle make according to it;’s direction.  My batter this morning made 8 waffles.

Pantry Staples

I have been asked several times to make listing of pantry staples.  There are definite items that if on hand; you can create an meal and app or a yummy snack.

I am going to show you a picture of 1 of my shelves in my pantry – If it was organized better I might share the whole thing with you but – it is not at the moment so trust me you don’t want to see it. – Don’t judge me!

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I have a favorite grocery store that I do look at their flyer when it comes and if the staples I use are on sale; I tend to buy several to keep on hand.  We always have a wide variety of cheeses; Hard, Soft, Sharp, Mild, Stinky – we will try anything once, we did find a yummy soft cheese called Port Salut if you see it, buy it! It is mild in flavor but really yummy!

Pasta: Spaghetti, Elbow, Lasagna, Fettuchini, Orzo and Egg Noodles or your favorite shape-You can make just about anything with pasta.

Rice: several kinds of rice are great to have on hand, My favorites are Arborio, Jasmine and a brown rice.  I also keep boxes of rice pilaf just in case. Instead of water use stock to cook the rice – it adds SO much flavor!

Canned Goods: Beans, Refried Beans, Pinto, Black Beans, Cannellini, Kidney, Rotel, Spaghetti Sauce, Tomato Sauce, San Marzano seeded Plum Tomatoes, Tomato Paste in a tube – Best invention ever!!!  Trying to use up a whole small can of tomato paste before it went bad was a pain.  You can make an awesome chili (see below)

Stocks: Chicken, Beef and Veggie stock are always in my pantry, even though I do make and freeze homemade stock; I go through SO much of it I have to keep it on hand.

Oils & Vinegars: Canola Oil, Extra Virigin Olive Oil (find one you like the taste of and stick to it) Soy Sauce, Vinegars there are so many and I swear if you have space for them, buy several different kinds to have on hand, Apple Cider, Red Wine, White, Rice Wine are used in so many recipes.  I also love having Capers on hand; all you need a a couple of lemons and some boneless chicken and voila chicken picata YUM!

Spices & Herbs: Kosher Salt, Black Pepper Corns, you also need table salt and pepper, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes. My all time favorite go to seasoning is Adobo – I use it on Steak, Chicken, Eggs, Fish, Tuna just about anything I can. It’s pretty funny that we discovered it when vacationing on St Lucia many years ago. My favorite herbs are Basil, Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and Chives I prefer fresh but I use dried as well and always have them on hand.  I also use Parsley and Oregano For tomato based sauces.

There are staples everyone uses, Mayo’s Ketchups, Pickles, several kinds of mustards; spicey brown, grainy, dijon I use them all, they make amazing sauces for chicken and pork.

The list is endless but if you can keep a few of the above on hand, you will have a great start to any meal!

4 Bean Chili

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground turkey

1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage

1 Green Bell Pepper diced

1 Large Onion diced

3 ribs Celery chopped

2 28 oz cans san marzano plum tomatoes seeded

2 cans Rotel

Ground Cumin

Chili Powder

1 can Pinto Beans drained and rinsed

1 can Black Beans drained and rinsed

1 can Kidney Beans drained and rinsed

1 large can of your favorite beans – mine is Bush’s original

1 package chili seasoning mix

In a skillet brown all meats and set aside

add some olive oil to a large pot; heat over medium heat; add onion, green pepper and celery; saute briefly. Stir in tomatoes (I tend to crush the tomatoes or cook them well enough to breakdown) and rotel, Add cumin and chili powder to taste and cook for about 6-10 minutes or until veggies are tender.  Add the Beans, browned meat and chili seasoning.  Partially cover and let simmer for 4 hours.  Serve with Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream and Chives or Green Onions.

My family love this chili so much they actually eat it along side cheese omelets in the morning!  It also freezes well!!!

Enjoy!!!