Archive | January, 2014

Brownie Roll-out Cookies

26 Jan

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So being home for the weekend means more often than not, when bored and not sure what to do with myself…I end up in the kitchen trying something new. I wanted to do some true baking this weekend, as in recent weeks it’s been more about cooking than baking. What to try…what to try…

I opened up my Smitten Kitchen cookbook for inspiration, as I remembered many a glossy page with cookies and breads on them. I wasn’t disappointed when I turned to this page with these little guys.

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Brownie roll-out cookies is what she called them (here’s her original blog post with the recipe), but essentially they’re chewy chocolate sugar cookies.

I accept! Nothing about that description sounds bad to me! Bonus, I had everything needed in my kitchen. That’s usually what sells me on a recipe that I begin to tackle after 9:30 at night. Call me lazy but it’s crazy cold outside and I didn’t feel like a late night trip to Lunds.

So, this whole recipe is incredibly simple and doesn’t take a lot of time for mixing/cooking. However, do note that this requires the dough to chill for an hour before baking, so factor that into your baking plan of attack. I also didn’t switch up the recipe at all, loved it just the way she wrote it! However, I did add my own finishing touch at the end, which you’ll just have to read about to find out what that was…

Ready to make some VERY tasty and VERY pretty little cookies? I sure hope you said yes, because I’m planning to tell you anyway.

Ingredients (makes approximately 24 cookies):

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • powdered sugar for dusting the tops

How to Make:

Nothing to this recipe! First things first (after pre-heating the oven to 350), mix up the flour…

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…cocoa…

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…salt…

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…and baking powder.

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Whisk all of these items together and then set aside.

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Now, soften the butter (if you haven’t had it set out to soften in advance, which I never do) for a bit in the microwave and then mix the butter and sugar together using your mixer of choice.

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You’ll want it to be light yellow and fluffy. That’s the green light that you’re ready to add the eggs, one at a time.

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Mix that all in and then add in the vanilla. Use a spatula to scrap down the sides if the liquid starts to creep up the sides at all.

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Last, gradually add in the dry ingredients, a bit at a time. I was a bit aggressive and ended up breathing in puffs of chocolate flour dust quite a bit. I do not recommend that situation so be gentle when adding your dry ingredients. Trust me. And also…the dough will get very thick, forewarning.

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Grab some plastic wrap and lay the batter on the plastic wrap and then wrap up all of the dough, nice and tight. Then set that in the fridge for an hour to chill. Turn on some tunes, do the dishes…or turn on some Netflix, don’t the dishes..regardless do something to pass the hour!

Then, time to roll out the dough. This works best on a floured surface and with a floured-up rolling-pin. I use a cutting board for rolling out dough and as it’s small, I did this in batches. You’ll have to modify your method based on what amount of counter space/cutting board space you have. And no fear with the white flour speckles being on the dough, you can rub them off with your fingers and any smudges that remain should bake off in the oven.

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These cookies are best with some thickness – aim for between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Use whatever fun cookie cutter you’d like! I thought it’d be fun to make these look like wafer cookies, so I used a cookie cutter with a flowing edge. I loved the way they turned out! Reminded me of the cookies that are on either side of an ice cream sandwich (which then had me thinking THAT would be a good experiment. I shall report back on how that experiment goes!).


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But back to cookies. Place parchment paper on cookies sheets and give them a good spray with Pam. Then set your cut-out cookies on the parchment paper, nicely spaced out. These get baked for 8-11 minutes, the thinner cookies will be closer to 8 minutes and the thicker ones closer to 11 minutes.

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When they’re done you’ll have firm edges and a softer center. Perfect cookie!

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Set them out to cool, though you must sneak one just to be sure they’re done. It’s the job of the baker!

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Now, my addition to this original recipe of Smitten Kitchen’s is to dust the tops with powdered sugar. It gives the perfect amount of sweetness as I thought the cookies themselves needed just a little something extra. Powdered sugar does the trick!

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You’ll love these, chewy, delicious chocolate and the sweetness of the powdered sugar make these a cookie I’m definitely going to make them again.

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Hope you all enjoy these as much as I did! I’m bringing most of the batch down to the team in Texas this week, I hope you share your batch with a good group of folks too!

Rainbow Chicken Salad

24 Jan

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OH baby. I can’t begin to tell you how delectable this salad is. I literally am so excited about this salad that I made it a few hours ago and am writing the blog post now. And yes, that means I’m enjoying a wonderful Friday night in. Judge away, I’m fairly pleased about the situation.

But back to salad, delicious, wonderfully delicious salad.

So, what’s all in this salad, you may ask? You’ve got a mix of juicy fruits, tangy dressing, crunchy almonds, and a delicious feta cheese that cuts through it all. Oh yes, and the chicken! Juicy chicken to absorb all of the flavors.

If you can’t tell, I’m having a slight relationship with my chicken salad. Sigh.

Moving on!

I found this amazing little gem on Pinch of Yum, a great blog with so many recipes that I want to take a whack at. This will not be the last recipe of theirs that I try, I just know it. I’ve made a few tweaks to their original recipe in my list of ingredients below, but didn’t have to make too many changes. Love this recipe!

Prepare yourself….here we go…

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cups purple grapes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2-3 big handfuls of lettuce, chopped (I used a spring mix but you can do what you wish!)
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
Dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon stoneground mustard
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic

How to Make:

First up, season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and the chili powder. Get both sides nice and covered with seasoning. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat, and sizzle up. Get the chicken nice and brown on the sides, flipping as needed to ensure the chicken is fully cooked.

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Once it’s done, remove to cool, then cut it up into chewable sized pieces. Yes, also known as bite-size pieces. But you knew what I meant.

Now, to prep the rest of the salad!

Slice the grapes in half…

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Measure the cup of blueberries…

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Measure the 1/2 cup of slivered almonds…

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Measure the 1/2 cup of feta…

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Wash, rinse and pat dry a few good hearty handfuls of lettuce…

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Then arrange as you desire in a large bowl. I went with the pretty route, taking a leaf out of the Pinch of Yum‘s book. Their picture on the blog looked similar which is what inspired me in the first place. This is also where the ‘rainbow’ in the title of the recipe comes from.

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Now as you make the dressing, you can refrigerate this beautiful bowl of salad. For the dressing, you’ll want to use a food processor to get things all creamy. You’ll add all of the dressing ingredients to the food processor and give a few seconds on full blast. I loved the taste as I stuck my finger into the bowl of the food processor (cord unplugged mind you) and basically swooned.

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Ok, ok, that’s dramatic. No swooning but i do believe there was a “yummmmmmmmm” noise that escaped. You will understand when you make this dressing.

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Now, all that’s left to do is grab the bowl of salad and drizzle on your dressing. Use a spatula to mix everything all up, get the dressing all coated over the chicken, the lettuce, all the other salad pieces.

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Then, serve up!

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Dig your fork in…and…

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Yes, you will see why I love this salad. You will love this salad too, friend. You will too.

Fruity Dark Chocolate Bark

19 Jan

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Happy Sunday! Although Sundays may not be my absolute favorite day of the week, there is usually an opportunity to do some baking/cooking to end the weekend. Hard to complain about that!

I was in the mood to try something new and different today, something not too dramatically unhealthy but yet, still sweet enough to satisfy a mini dessert craving.

I opened up my Pinterest board of Treats to see what leaped out at me. The cakes and pies I’ve posted in recent months were drool-worthy but not quite what I was looking for. Cookies weren’t really grabbing me. Then I saw this pin from “Love & Olive Oil” and was SOLD for the following reasons:

1) Dark chocolate gets an A+++ in my world (don’t A triple +’s exist in your world?!?!) and is by FAR my favorite type of chocolate.

2) Freeze dried fruit isn’t something I normally bake with so it would be a fun, new adventure.

3) The result wouldn’t be outrageous in unhealthiness.

4) This is VERY easy to make and doesn’t require a long list of ingredients.

Convinced this is a perfect Sunday night treat?! Good!

Thanks to Love & Olive Oil for the wonderful recipe! Looking forward to trying more on that blog…

Ingredients:

  • 8 – 11 oz of dark chocolate, using a good brand if you can (aim for 70-80%)
  • 1 cup of your choice of freeze-dried fruit (you can also do a mix like I did – raspberries, blueberries and cranberries)

*Note: I was completely unaware of where freeze-dried fruit would be in a grocery store. I asked a few perplexed folks at my local grocery store and was unsuccessful at that spot. However, I Googled and Trader Joe’s has LOTS of freeze-dried fruit! I recommend looking there if your usual grocery store doesn’t carry any freeze-dried fruit.

How to Make:

To get things started, you’ll need to melt down the chocolate. I went with Ghirardelli’s ‘Intense Dark’ chocolate bars for my bark. As they came in bars of 3.5 oz bars, I rounded up to get 3 bars for a total of 10.5 oz. The original recipe only calls for 8 oz, but I figured having more chocolate was the way to go. Obviously.

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You can finely chop this before melting if you so choose. I went with the broken chunks method over a double boiler. But mircowaving works just as well if you’re in a hurry. Regardless of method, be sure to stop regularly and stir.

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This also gives an excellent excuse to lick your spoon/spatula when it’s all said and done.

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Once all melted, pour the chocolate out on to parchment paper that’s been laid in a 9×13 pan. It will dry quicker if you evenly spread the chocolate out. I didn’t execute this as well as I hoped, but perhaps you’ll do better than I.

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Now, measure out your freeze-dried fruit. I bought 3 varieties so did 1/3 cup of each freeze-dried raspberries, blueberries and cranberries. But any freeze-dried fruit will work!

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Sprinkle your freeze-dried fruit of choice all over the chocolate. If you’re feeling extra bold, you could also try almonds or other nuts and perhaps sea salt? I may give both of those ingredients a go in my next batch of this!

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Gorgeous looking, right?!

Now, this needs 1-2 hours to dry at room temperature. However, I recommend popping the pan into the freezer if you’re noticing the bark is taking a bit long to dry. My apartment tends to be a little on the warm side so after 2 hours and still no hardened bark…into the freezer the pan went. 20 minutes later, it was all hardened up!

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Break into pieces and put out for consumption! I bet these will disappear quickly so perhaps make a double or triple batch if feeding a party of people. Or watch them fight it out…could be entertaining…

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I recommend keeping this stored in the fridge just so it doesn’t start to melt down. It’s supposed to last only about a week, but I truly doubt it will even last that long as it’s just so very tasty.

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Breakfast Casserole

12 Jan

Happy 2014! With the New Year starting, felt it would be a great time to get back into the blog. There hasn’t been a shortage of cooking/baking/crafting…there has only been a shortage of gumption to write another post. Shameful, I realize. But here I am, giving this a go with the full intention of keeping post-writing gumption intact. If I don’t post again until 2015, please don’t be furious. But feel free to give me the crap I deserve (a LOT).

So, the blog resurrection of 2014 is starting off with one of my new favorite breakfast recipes. The need for discovering a new breakfast recipe came about as Luke and I were hosting some good friends overnight at the end of December. Ideally we wanted to make a breakfast that we could prep the day before (so we could be sleepy and lazy in the morning with our friends and not have to be up at the crack of dawn) AND that would be fairly easy. We were making quite a bit of food for the weekend (including this Steakhouse Pizza and TBM Salad) and easy to make / prep in advance were our two key factors.

Luke and I are both big bagel fans, Everything bagels to be exact. How can you not love the flavorful goodness of an Everything bagel?! And Luke is a BIG breakfast person to begin with…so we were trying to think of something epic to make for breakfast and when we found this recipe in my Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, well, we were smitten. Breakfast casserole with Everything bagels?!? Done!

We prepped it the night before, baked it in the morning,and four of us just about devoured the whole pan in one sitting. Luke and I were so excited about this recipe that we made it AGAIN only a few days later, for Luke’s family. It’s been getting rave reviews from all who’ve eaten it so I thought it was the perfect thing to blog about for you all.

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We added some of our own twists to the recipe to make this our own, but I can’t take credit for the original wonderful creation that Deb over on the Smitten Kitchen blog and author of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook crafted up. I highly encourage you to give this a whirl!

Ingredients (Serves 8-10…OR…4-5 very hungry people):

  • 8 cups (or so) of Everything or Sesame bagels, chopped into bite-size chunks (you can do a bit more than 8 cups if you’re using dense bagels…you just want enough to fill a 9×13 pan)
  • 8 oz. of cream cheese (you could go with a light cream cheese here if you want to make this a bit healthier)
  • 1/4 medium red onion, sliced in a half-moon shape
  •  1 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 1/3 cups of milk (healthier version) or half and half (the not so healthy but delectable version)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic (we used a jar of pre-chopped garlic but about 2-3 cloves would work too)
  • 4-6 slices of bacon, torn into bite-size chunks
  • Ground pepper to taste

How to Make:

This recipe is really very easy to make and definitely goes fast with a co-chef in the kitchen or even a little helper if you have any of those at home who’d like to help!

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First, you’ll need to prep all of the ingredients: chop/tear your bagels…

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…halve your tomatoes…

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…slice your red onion…

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…measure out your garlic (which you can see we did after our other prep…but you should just do it now to save time)…

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…and fry up/microwave your bacon. We went the microwave route to save some time and grease splatter and DEFINITELY went with the 6 pieces of bacon. We are bacon-loving people. However…if you’re not into bacon you could always leave this out. This was one of our additions to the recipe that wasn’t in the original.

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Also, bring your cream cheese out of the fridge for it to soften as working with it later will be a bit easier. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees if you plan to make this right away.

Now it’s time to start to layer your casserole.

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You’re going to be creating three layers, so will need to divide your ingredients into approximate thirds. Lay about 1/3 of your bagel chunks in a large 9×13 pan. Scatter 1/3 of the halved tomatoes and sliced red onions on top. Sprinkle about 1/3 of your chopped garlic all over. Then, tear 1/3 of the cream cheese off and break it into small dollops. Place said dollops throughout the pan, doting the bagels evenly. Finally, throw 1-2 slices of bacon (which is torn into bite size pieces) on top, scattered evenly throughout the pan. When you’ve finished this part, you’re going to start back at the beginning with the bagel pieces and complete the layering two more times. Not too tough, right?

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Once your 3 layers are complete, whisk together in a medium-sized bowl the 8 eggs…

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…the milk or half and half…

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…and the salt and pepper. You’ll want to add as much pepper as you think needed to give your full casserole enough taste. As the Everything bagels are already seasoned, we didn’t go too crazy. But if you’re into lots of pepper, then pepper away. It is YOUR casserole after all!

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Once your egg mixture is all whisked, pour it over the entire casserole ensuring you get the egg in all of the crevices.

Done pouring? Excellent. Getting excited to bite into this later?! We sure were.

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Pop this guy in the fridge overnight if you’re prepping in advance (we covered it with aluminum foil overnight). If not, then pop this guy into your 350 degree oven for an hour to hour and 15 minutes. Ours was always done at the hour mark but your oven may take a bit longer. No need to cover this while baking.

You’ll know it’s ready when the top of the bagels starts to turn a little brown. And be prepared for a VERY pretty casserole. It’s definitely one of those times you’ll take a picture and want to share because it just looks so darn amazing. Those tomatoes and onions just add the right pop of color, I think. To double-check it’s ready to come out, insert a knife it the middle and check to see that if the knife is rotated a bit, no liquid comes out…meaning eggs are set).

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Now, this will smell so good that a bit of drool may start to go down you chin. But WAIT! Let the casserole set for about 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven. That will ensure ALL of the egg is fully set.

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Use a big spatula to slice this up – big squares work well. You will be amazed at how delicious this is, I promise.

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Dang, I sure wish I had some of this right now. My stomach has started to growl remembering how GOOD this was. The cream cheese and the egg, mixed with the warm pop of tomatoes and the chewy, flavorful bagels…wow. Um, I’m hungry.

I hope you and whomever you serve this to find it as delectable as we did and mark it as a favorite to make for many breakfasts to come!

Enjoy!

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