Monday, December 30, 2013

Cookie Monday: Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookies

I actually wasn't planning on making these this week. I planned to make oatmeal butterscotch cookies. I had printed this out as a consideration but ended up deciding on the oatmeal. So I had the following in my mixer: butter, sugar, brown sugar. I had the following in a bowl: flour, baking soda, salt. And then I went to add the oats and discovered I have no oats. None. In the entire house. Why did I think I could make oatmeal cookies? Panic set in.

So I grabbed this one as my backup, trying to figure out what I could salvage. Then I realized that the amounts of butter and sugars were exactly the same in the two recipes. I tossed in a brick of cream cheese and suddenly my mixer was making this recipe. I added an extra cup of flour and an extra 1/2 teaspoon of salt and suddenly my dry ingredients were the correct amounts as well. WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF THIS?!

These cookies don't have a cheesecake consistency but they are very soft and springy. They have a little tang like a cheesecake. I used dark chocolate chips but you could definitely use pretty much any kind of baking chip. These were really good!

cookie

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookies
Something Swanky via Pinterest

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups dark chocolate chips

1. Beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and Philadelphia cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer.

2. Add the egg and vanilla, mix well.

3. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add gradually to the stand mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl as it mixed.

4. Mix in the Hershey's baking melts with a wooden spoon.

5. Scoop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment or silicon lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes, until the edges look set.

6. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before moving to wire rack.

Yield: 3-4 dozen

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Honey Chili Beer Chicken

YES CHICKEN.

I have come to the realization that I really can cook anything as long as I have a recipe. I've never been the kind of person who can make things up on the fly, but I can always do it with a recipe. It turns out that this extends to meat, which I don't even eat. I've recently fallen in love with The Beeroness, so as soon as she posted this recipe for beer chicken, I decided I MUST make it for my gentleman and a friend who came over to watch football.

Gentleman purchased some chicken thighs, and our friend prepped them for me while I made the sauce. I used Goose Island Nut Brown Ale, which I didn't love straight from the bottle but was wonderful for cooking. I used a Le Creuset braiser instead of my cast iron skillet because I thought it would cook nicely in it, and it did. I made a little extra sauce and poured it over some crispy tofu I'd made for myself, which was surprisingly excellent. The chicken was cooked perfectly, the sauce was delicious, and we ate our food with some rice and some roasted vegetables.

I actually will save this recipe and make it again sometime. It was really easy and successful.

Sorry the chicken is a mess on the plate. I did not feel like prettying it up for photos.

chicken

Honey Chili Beer Chicken
The Beeroness

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced sweet white onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brown ale, divided in half
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
6 boneless skinless chicken thigh filets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon (or more) flour

1. In a cast iron skillet over medium heat add the olive oil. Add the onions and caramelize over medium heat until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Stir in the garlic then add 1/2 cup brown ale, balsamic vinegar, honey and chili sauce. Simmer until reduced and thickened, remove sauce from pan and set aside.

3. Sprinkle the chicken thighs on all sides with salt, pepper and flour.

4. Increase heat to medium-high, cook the chicken thighs until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.

5. Pour the sauce back into the pan along with the remaining 1/2 cup brown ale.

6. Cover loosely with a lid, lower heat to maintain a simmer and allow to cook until chicken is cooked through, about an additional 10 minutes. Turning once during cooking.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pudding Cookies

I've posted the recipes for many, many pudding cookies as I've made them for Mondays (and I'm sure there will be many, many more), but for some reason I can't find a basic Pudding Cookie Recipe. Did I ever post it? I don't think I did. It isn't Oreo, it isn't peanut butter, it's just a basic vanilla pudding cookie base. I'm going to share it with you now because it's the most versatile thing ever.

I have made basic chocolate chip cookies with this recipe. I made some this week with Christmas chips (dyed red & green). I have added chopped up Butterfingers. I have used mini M&Ms. How did I never post this? I am clearly disorganized.

So here is the basic pudding cookie recipe. I usually make a half-batch and get about 4 dozen. I'll be making them again next week for my gentleman's holiday party at work. It's great. Make them. Be creative. Enjoy!

Pudding Cookies
Sunday Baker

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 (3.4 oz) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups add-ins (chocolate/butterscotch/peanut butter/white chocolate chips, candy bars, m&m's, nuts, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together flour and baking soda in seperate bowl and set aside; in a large bowl, cream butter, brown and white sugar. Beat in pudding mix until well blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. When smooth, slowly add in the flour mixture. This can take a little while, but make sure it's well incorporated into mix.

Finally, add the "fillers".

You can use a small melon ball scoop to make 1 " balls so the cookies are all uniform in size and bake evenly. When using candy like snickers, make sure you smooth the balls or the snickers part will ooze all over your pan.

Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper and bake for 8-12 minutes or until golden.

Yield: 8 dozen

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cookie Monday: Giant Molasses Cookies

I was drawn to this recipe because of all of the reviews claiming that they are soft and chewy. I wanted a soft gingerbread cookie for Cookie Monday. Not a gingersnap. Not a hard cookie. Something soft and reminiscent of Pepperidge Farm.

My mistake may have been that I smallened the cookies. Instead of making them gigantic (3" diameter, claim the reviews), I made 1" balls and got about 4 1/2 dozen cookies. I adjusted the cooking time to 11 minutes so that they would be slightly underdone when they came out of the oven, enhancing the softness. So I am unsure how much of this really is my mistake, because when I took it out of the oven, I discovered we had gingersnaps. The opposite of what I wanted.

It has been pointed out to me by several people that I am overly critical of my cookies that even when they're subpar, the fact that I bring in cookies at all is appreciated. But I want to make sure people are getting the best and I didn't feel these were the best. They're absolutely delicious. But they're kind of hard. One person at work described them as "a good dipping cookie." I bet they would be really good with some pumpkin ice cream in between two of them, though. For real. I will continue my quest for a nice, soft ginger cookie.

gingersnaps

Giant Molasses Cookies
Taste of Home, November 2011

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup coarse sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in pecans.

Shape into 2-in. balls and roll in coarse sugar. Place 2-1/2-in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 13-15 minutes or until tops are cracked. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 2 dozen.

Servings: 24

Monday, December 09, 2013

Cookie Monday: Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)

Oops! I was about to post about today's Cookie Monday cookie and realized I'd never published this one from last week.

OK, so the Kourabiedes. I found this recipe in a Penzeys catalog. It uses a ton of butter, but it made more than enough cookies so I didn't even have to double the batch. I had shied away from cookies covered in powdered sugar (like almond crescents or Mexican wedding cookies) because I give them out at a hospital and I didn't want doctors walking into rooms looking like they'd just done coke in the bathroom. Thankfully, I underestimated the eating habits of my coworkers and no one looked overly powdery.

They were very yummy. Very simple. Definitely buttery. They were kind of dry in that the whole cookie just explodes and melts in your mouth. Several people compared it (favorably, I swear) to the Cinnamon Challenge (google it). I suggested everyone follow it up with coffee or milk due to that. A few people deemed this their favorite so far. I agree. They were very good!

cookies

Kourabiedes - Greek Butter Cookies
Penzeys

1 pound sweet butter, unsalted (4 sticks)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
3 cups cake flour (fine flour that produced more tender, fine textured baked goods)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups powdered sugar for dusting the cookies, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. soften butter at room temperature. Beat butter with an electrix mixer for 1/2 hour at medium high speed (don't skimp, the long beating time is crucial). Add the 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, followed by the egg yolk and continue beating so the sugar and egg yolk mix in well. Add cake flour a little at a time, then the regular flour and baking powder. The dough should be soft but not sticky to the hand. Make sure you mix the dough well. Roll the dough into 3/4 inch balls and make a small indentation on top to hold the powdered sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. sprinkle with 1 cup of powdered sugar. Remove from pan and place cookies on a board or rack to cool and sprinkle with remaining powdered sugar. Let them cool overnight.

Yield: 60 cookies

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Turkey Noodle Soup

As you may recall, I made an entire 10 lb turkey for my gentleman (and one of our friends, who ate some leftovers). He could only eat so many turkey sandwiches and eventually asked if I could make it into soup.

Not knowing what exactly he wanted, I decided to go with my gut and find a homey, noodly soup using leftover turkey. And I found that with Ms Martha. Turkey stock was on sale because Thanksgiving is over, so that was cool. And then since we live in Pennsylvania, I found these Pennsylvania Dutch "pot pie" noodles - square-shaped egg noodles. Perfect.

So I whipped this soup up and it was definitely a winner. My gentleman loved it, our friend loved it, and now I have a go-to use for turkey in future years. I highly recommend this if you have leftover turkey!

soup

Turkey Noodle Soup
Everyday Food, November 2009

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 celery stalks, diced medium
3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 medium white onion, diced medium
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 cups turkey stock (storebought or homemade)
2 cups wide egg noodles
1 sprig rosemary, about 2 inches long
3/4 pound shredded cooked turkey

In a 6-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-high. Add celery, carrots, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion softens, about 3 minutes.

Add stock and bring to a rapid simmer. Add noodles, rosemary, 2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and simmer until noodles are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add turkey and heat through.

Servings: 6

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Lauren Roasts a Turkey: Thanksgiving 2013

That's right. As I mentioned, we went to Connecticut for early-Thanksgiving this year and then decided to have our own Thanksgiving at home.

{Side note: We get free turkeys from a local turkey farm through work, so I combined both of our regular-turkey vouchers in exchange for one 10-pound organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, free-range turkey. It was $17 more expensive than a 15-pound non-organic one there. Don't get me started on how appalling it was to go to the turkey farm and see factory farming at its finest. Appalling.}

Anyway. So. My gentleman assisted me with removing the neck and giblets, and with thawing out the turkey. But I took the initiative for cooking it (albeit whilst wearing surgical gloves from work). I borrowed a countertop electric roaster from a friend so that it wouldn't take up the oven all day. Then I timed everything to be done at the same time and life was awesome.

Let's discuss this turkey.

turkey
Here is a photo of the turkey in the roaster. I used the following tutorial to learn how to roast the turkey: Perfect Whole Turkey In An Electric Roaster Oven. In addition to the olive oil, salt, and pepper, I made my own poultry rub, using the following recipe, and used another pair of surgical gloves to massage it into the turkey carcass.

Poultry Seasoning
From AllRecipes

Combine the following:
2 teaspoons ground dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground dried marjoram
3/4 teaspoon ground dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

turkey
After a few hours of roasting, the turkey (Sir Theodore the Turkey) was ready! He didn't have the same golden brown that you'll get by frying the turkey or roasting it in the oven, because that isn't how the electric roaster works. But what it DID do was create a turkey that was moist and flavorful - no easy feat, as this brand of turkeys is known for being dry and tough.

What else did we have?

table
Here is our table, set with all the food.

plate
And here is my plate. Yum!

We had:
Turkey
Beer-Cheese Skillet Potatoes
Pepperidge Farm Stuffing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Canned cranberry sauce
Salted Caramel Pear Tarts

It was lovely.

It was the first Thanksgiving meal I have ever created by myself. (I mean, with my gentleman's help for the turkey, but you know what I mean.) No catastrophes, just love and food.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Salted Caramel Pear Tarts

When we were in CT with my parents, we had the traditional pecan and pumpkin pies. I didn't feel like repeating these at home, so I found a unique little pastry for us for dessert. I already had all the ingredients, so it seemed like it would be super-simple. And it is! You just cut the pear halves into fancy little fans, put them on a frame of puff pastry, and pour the caramel ingredients on top. While it bakes, the caramel forms itself without you even having to do anything.

This is what it looked like when I had them all set to go into the oven. So pretty!
pears

BUT THEN...

As it turns out, my oven is tilted ever-so-slightly forward. So what ended up so subtly occurring was that as the caramel (successfully) formed, it started oozing out of the tart shell.
pears

What this tells me is that the method for making these does work. You might think pouring the ingredients over top a pear would not yield caramel, but this shows that you'd be wrong. Caramel does form. And I'm sure if it had stayed in the tart, it would have been amazing. I served them as they were and we still really liked them. I would try this again and try not to screw it up, because I think these would be great if they had the caramel still in them.
pears

Salted Caramel Pear Tarts
Anna Olson via someone else's blog via Pinterest

1 sheet all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
4 small pears
8 teaspoons Demerara or turbinado sugar
8 teaspoons whipping cream
Pinch coarse sea salt

1. Preheat your oven to 375F/190C. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Roll out your puff pastry. If you are using a block dust your work surface with some flour and roll out a rectangle 1/4? thick. Divide your rectangular shaped puff pastry into 8 squares. With a sharp knife, cut an “L” into 2 opposing corners, don’t cut all the way but leave a ½-inch in two corners. Brush with the beaten egg . Pick up the cut corners of the pastry, cross them over each other (one over, one under) and lay them flat (now on opposite sides).

3. Brush the tops of the pastry with the eggwash and put the tray in the refrigerator to chill.

4. Now prepare the pear filling. Peel the pears and split them in half lengthwise, core them, and slice in 1/4? slices. Take the pastry shells out of the fridge and set it on your work surface, place one pear half in the center of each tart. Then sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of double cream per tart, then add a pinch sea salt on top. Brown sugar, cream and sea salt turn into salted caramel in the oven without you doing a thing!

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until pears are soft and pastry is golden.

6. Top with either powdered sugar or a sprinkle of demerara sugar.

Yield: 8 tarts

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Beer-Cheese Skillet Potatoes

I will post about our Thanksgiving in a little while, but for now I will tell you about the potatoes.

Because we had already eaten the standard food at my parents' house, I decided to try some new things for our side dishes for our own Thanksgiving. I discovered this recipe on The Beeroness not too long ago. Her blog is great. She cooks delicious foods using beer. This sounded wonderful so I decided to try it.

It calls for a hoppy beer, so I used The Brew Works' Hop'solutely - a locally-made beer that is SUPER SUPER hoppy to the point where I can't drink it. But it worked very well in this recipe!!! It would be fun to try this with different types of beer, as well. I really liked that the cheese sauce is blended before you throw it on top of the potatoes, and cooking it in a skillet added a little extra magic. I made the sauce ahead of time, which really helped with keeping things low-key on Thanksgiving. It re-heats beautifully, too. I loved this and would definitely make it again.

potatoes

Beer Cheese Skillet Potatoes
The Beeroness

2/3 cup beer (IPA, hoppy pale ale, or black IPA)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar, plus ¼ cup divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, sliced
1 cup panko bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a food processor add the beer, 2 cups cheese, milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cornstarch. Process until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the potato slices and cook until browned. Spread the potatoes out until fairly evenly distributed around the pan.

4. Pour cheese sauce over the potatoes and allow to simmer for ten minutes.

5. Add the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and panko bread crumbs to the top. Transfer to the oven and allow to cook until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.