Oct 29, 2013

Smooth Sugar Cookie Icing


I'm not going to be too chatty about these cutie cookies because I want to post this recipe quickly so you all have time to make them before Halloween! We made these last night for our Family Home Evening, so I had to wait until the sun came up this morning to get better pictures. Unfortunately, the cookies lost their shine overnight so they aren't as pretty. I did snap a pic last night - which is at the bottom of the post - so you can see how pretty they were.



The recipe is below, but here is a pretty thorough explanation of icing technique. Basically all I used from that was the idea to pipe the frosting around the edges and then fill it in. But I didn't use anything fancy like Sugarbell does. I just stuck the piping icing in sandwich bags and used a butter knife to spread the filler icing. You can use my sugar cookie recipe, or if you're like my husband and like to try new things, you can use this recipe that he used last night (they were delicious!)


Sugar Cookie Icing
makes enough frosting for about 4 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup-1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon coconut extract - the original recipe was for almond, but we didn't have any so we used coconut. It was AMAZING. You could also use almond, but if you like coconut, go with it.
assorted gel food coloring

DIRECTIONS:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer or a spoon), combine powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in 1/4 cup corn syrup and coconut extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup a tablespoon at a time. You want it a little thicker than shampoo consistency.
2. Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each until desired intensity. Scoop 1/4 of each color into separate Ziploc sandwich bags. Seal and cut a small bit off the bottom corner of the bag. You want the amount of icing coming out to be about the size of a Twizzler Pull 'n Peel licorice, a piece of yarn, or a cell phone charger cord. I know, but those are the best comparisons I could come up with! This is your "piping" icing. Cover the icing left over so it doesn't dry out while you're piping the cookies.
3. Squeeze piping around the outside edges of your cookies. Be sure to match the ends of the piping so that the filler icing doesn't spill over the edge of your cookie. Let dry about 30 minutes. 
4. Uncover filler icing. Using a spoon or a butter knife, scoop some of the icing into the center of your piped cookies. Spread it to the edges, but not over the edges. Smooth and let dry.
4. At this point, you can decorate with sprinkles or add details with your piping icing. Let dry and eat!! So yummy! Store in a single layer in an airtight container.





Oct 24, 2013

Reeses Mini Cheesecakes



I CANNOT EVEN. Oreos. Reeses. Cheesecake. Can food be divine? This is like the food trifecta. Honestly, these had so much potential for awesome-ness, that I was sure I was going to ruin them. But they ended up being much easier than I had anticipated. They are a bit time consuming, and they are cheesecakes, so they need to be made a day ahead, or the morning of, so they have time to set and cool. But holy moly. SO worth every single minute. 


I posted these to my Pinterest board, and my aunt who was to be visiting a few weeks later said "I'll take two, please." I decided that her visit would be the perfect time to make them. She loved them so much that she took two with her on her trip to the airport to return home. Much better than any airport food. 

The recipe does make about 24 cupcake-size cheesecakes, so they're great for Superbowl parties, family gatherings, potlucks, and any other activity where there are plenty of people to impress with your amazing baking skills (except you don't have to tell them how easy these were!).



INGREDIENTS:

Cheesecake:
2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs (either pulse them in a food processer or put them in a Ziploc and smash out your frustrations with a rolling pin)
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening

Peanut Butter Mousse:
1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)
1 container Cool Whip (8 oz.)
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (they chop nicely when refrigerated)

DIRECTIONS:

Cheesecake:
1. Place 24 paper cupcake liners in 2 cupcake pans (12 each). In a small bowl, combine the Oreo cookie crumbs and melted butter. Evenly distribute mixture into cupcake liners. Press down firmly. Set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add the eggs, sour cream, and flour and beat again.
In a small microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips and shortening. Heat for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until melted. Let cool slightly. Pour into cream cheese mixture and beat until creamy. Spoon into prepared cupcake liners. 

3. Bake at 350ยบ for 22 minutes. Cheesecakes should be puffed, dry to the touch, and just beginning to crack. Let cool in pan for 3-4 minutes, then carefully remove to wire rack to cool completely (at least 1-2 hours). Once cooled, chill for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator. Cheesecake centers will dip and form a perfect little bowl for the peanut butter mousse.

4. Peanut Butter Mousse:
 In a medium mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until creamy. Add the cool whip and beat until creamy. Place spoonfuls on top of cooled cheesecake and spread out. I used my medium cookie scoop and it worked beautifully. Top with chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. 

Makes 24 cupcake cheesecakes. Store in refrigerator in a sealed container.


recipe adapted from inside brucrew life.

Oct 22, 2013

Cranberry Onion Chicken


This is one of the most delicious, easy, and quick meals you will ever make. It uses only 4 ingredients, can be prepared ahead of time and frozen or refrigerated until ready to use, can be cooked in the oven (my preference) or the crock pot, and is loved by kids and adults. Another reason I love it is because it's easy to keep the ingredients in the pantry and freezer and make on those busy days when I hardly have any time to spend in the kitchen. One time a friend told me that she had nothing in her kitchen to make for dinner. I lent her a can cranberry sauce and she used the other ingredients from her pantry to whip this up quickly. 

I got the recipe at my wedding shower and stored it away for years before trying it. The title said "Barbecue Chicken," and I was never too interested in a complicated barbecue chicken recipe, since you can just slather a bottle of barbecue sauce on chicken and call it good. But, I decided to try it out and am SO happy I did. It is definitely not barbecue chicken. I like it better!



INGREDIENTS:

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (16 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 (1 oz.) envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1 cup Russian, French, or Catalina salad dressing

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Place chicken breasts in a single layer in the baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, combine cranberry sauce, soup mix, and salad dressing. Pour over chicken.*
3. Bake, uncovered, in oven for approximately 50 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice (brown is our favorite!)

*At this point, you can put all of the ingredients in a freezer bag and freeze for another day. Just be sure to thaw before cooking. To cook in your crock pot, place ingredients in the crockpot and cook on low for 4-6 hours. To prepare the day before cooking, or the morning before, just cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. 

Oct 3, 2013

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles



Before talking about how amazing these cookies are, can we just spend a little time talking about how silly they are? I mean, who thought of the name Snickerdoodle anyway? A quick Google search reveals that no one really knows the origin. Some say the name is from the German word schneckennudeln, which is a sweet roll with cinnamon and sugar. Makes sense. Still silly. And maybe not even correct since no one really knows. Regardless, they are one of my all time favorite cookies. 

They are crunchy, chewy, sweet, and covered in cinnamon. And these are made with brown butter, which gives them just a little extra warmth and rich flavor. I don't think I've ever had a better Snickerdoodle before I made these. They are so perfect!

If you are one of those people who doesn't read the recipe through before beginning (raises hand!), you should know that they need to chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours, but if you can chill them over night, they'll be amazing!





INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

For rolling mixture:
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon



DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, mixing constantly. The butter will begin to bubble. Make sure you stir consistently during this process, because butter can go from browning to burning in just a few seconds. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a medium bowl with an electric mixer), mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and mix on low-speed just until combined.

Chill your dough for 3 hours or as long as possible in the refrigerator. They are best (and make a more puffy cookie) if you place them in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled, measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball (I use my medium Pampered Chef scoop). Meanwhile mix 1/4 cup sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a bowl. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies 8-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Then: Devour!


Recipe adapted from ambitious kitchen.

Oct 1, 2013

Pesto and Balsamic Glaze Pizza



You guys. I know I said I'd perfected pizza making before. Actually I said it twice. But this time I have really done it. I've been making this dough for months now and it is amazing every time. I'm still using the same technique as before, but now I have a new recipe. And it is heaven.

We have pizza and a movie every Friday night, so I make a lot of pizza. And on the days that my kids are crazy, the laundry is taking over my life, or my husband is out of town, we order delivery. And every time we order delivery, we vow to never do it again. This homemade pizza is just that good. It puts all of those chain pizzas to shame.

As much as I love my Margherita Pizza, sometimes change is good (this coming from the girl who always orders the exact. same. thing. every time I go out to eat). I love balsamic on basically everything, and really wanted to try it on pizza. Tomato sauce didn't seem like a good match, but pesto was perfect! This is definitely the very best pizza I have made to date, but I've now learned that I can't say it's the best pizza ever... because I just may top it someday!


Ingredients:

Dough - Yields one 15 inch pizza (12 slices)
1 1/8 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups flour (I usually do 1/2 wheat and 1/2 white, but all white is delicious, too!)
1 teaspoon salt

Topping:
3/4 cups Basil Pesto
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2-4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese - depends on how cheesy you like your pizza
1/4 balsamic glaze

Directions:

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil. Mix on low speed until combined, then let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add in 2 1/2 cups flour and salt, mixing on low for 5 minutes. Check the dough consistency. If it is still sticky, add about 1/2 cup more flour and mix again until the dough is tacky, but doesn't completely stick to your fingers. You don't want a completely dry dough, but you still want to be able to remove it from the bowl without making a big, sticky mess. Rub a large bowl with olive oil then place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about 1-1 1/2 hours.

While the dough is rising, preheat your oven with a pizza stone in it to 465 degrees. (If you don't have a pizza stone, you can save the preheating until the dough is done rising, but I highly recommend the use of a pizza stone!) Allowing the pizza stone to heat for the full hour will ensure your pizza cooks just right!

After the dough has risen, lay a piece of parchment paper (about the size of your pizza stone) on your work space. Punch the dough down and place it in the center of the parchment paper. Using your hands or a rolling pin, spread the dough into a 15" circle. Place the towel back over the dough and let sit in the warm place for 10 minutes.

Spread the pesto on the dough, all the way to the edges. Top with tomatoes and cheese.

Open the oven and carefully transfer the dough and parchment from the counter to the pizza stone. Usually my husband and I each grab a corner of the paper and put it on the stone together, but you could also remove the stone from the oven, place it next to the pizza and slide the pizza off the counter and on to the stone.

Cook pizza for 10 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Remove from pizza stone (and turn oven off, letting the pizza stone cool in the oven), and drizzle balsamic glaze on pizza. Slice and serve hot!



pizza crust adapted from how sweet it is.

Balsamic Glaze



1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Add vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until liquid reduces by about half and is slightly syrupy. Remove from heat, pour vinegar in a bowl or glass to pour, and set aside to cool and thicken. 

Be careful to not let it boil and burn. It is very easy to burn the vinegar, so just keep it at a very low simmer the whole time and be patient.

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