Monday, June 30, 2008

Cinnamon and Caramel Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
25-30 caramel candies

Preheat oven to 375 F
Beat sugar and butter in mixer on low speed until combined. Add egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat well.
Sift together the flour, cinnamon, allspice, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
Scoop up tablespoons of the mixture, shape into balls, and put on cookie sheets spaced well apart.
Bake for 8 minutes. Place a caramel candy on top of each cookies, return to oven and bake for 6-7 more minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheets for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chocolate Cookies

This recipe is for a basic chocolate cookie that you can add whatever kind of add-in that you want. I used M&Ms this time but I've also used Reese's Pieces, white chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips before. The possibilities are pretty endless. One of these days I am going to try mint chips. MMM!

8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12 oz package of your add-in of choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt chopped chocolate and butter in microwave-safe bowl in 20 second increments, stirring between each one, until almost melted; do not overheat. Remove; stir until melted and smooth.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
With electric mixer, beat eggs, brown sugar and vanilla on high until light in color and smooth. Reduce speed to low; beat in chocolate mixture. Mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in your add-in.
Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto baking sheet, 2 to 3 inches apart. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly, yet still soft in center, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheet 10 minutes. With a thin metal spatula, transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spaghetti Sauce

I am on a quest to find the best and easiest homemade spaghetti sauce. This recipe is currently holding the #1 spot.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Cook the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste.
This makes about 4 cups which is more than my small family needs for one meal so I freeze whatever we don't use into smaller portions to be used later.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cheese Straws

1 (9x91/2 inch) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 ounces Parmesan and Asiago cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Adjust the oven racks to middle positions and heat oven to 425 degrees.
Lay the puff pastry on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with the cheese, salt and pepper. Top with another sheet of parchment, and using a rolling pin, press the cheese in to the dough, rolling to shape the dough into a 10-inch square.
Remove the top layer of parchment and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 10-13 strips.
Holding 1 strip of dough at each end, gently twist the dough in opposite directions. Place the twisted strip of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Place the sheet on one of the oven racks and bake for 5 minutes and then switch to the other rack and bake for another 5 minutes or until fully puffed and golden brown.
We scarfed these down before I remembered to take a picture so I only have pre-baked pictures of them. Next time I make them I will try to remember to take pictures before we eat them all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's Grilling Season

Expert and I are pretty much novices when it comes to grilling. We bought our first grill last year shortly after we bought our house. We did not have a lot of money so we got the second most cheap one we could find. (The cheaper one did not have a warming rack so we decided to splurge and get the $35 grill that had the warming rack). We were very excited to start grilling but really had no idea what we were doing. We bought some grilling cookbooks and started figuring out some of the tricks to making good food on the grill. My apologies to anyone who came over last summer and was fed food from our grill. I promise it will be better if you come back. We have learned at lot. In fact, the other day we made the best tasting, juiciest chicken ever!
Here is what we have learned about grilling bone-in, skin-on chicken. (We use a charcoal grill so if you have a gas one, you are on your own.)
First, heat up a big pile of charcoal until they are red hot and all white. Then spread them out to the sides of the grill, what they call a double banked fire.
Place the chicken, skin side down in the middle of the grill. This will allow the chicken to cook with indirect heat. This is good for two reasons. One being that it prevents flare ups from the fat hitting the coals and second, it traps the juices in the chicken better.
Let the chicken cook there in the middle for 20 minutes and then flip them and move them over to the coals. Here is a picture after they have been flipped and moved over to direct heat.
The packet in the middle is corn. I'll get to that in a minute.
Once the chicken is cooking over direct heat you leave them there until they are done, about 10-20 minutes. The chicken is done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reaches 160.
One important thing to remember is not to keep flipping the chicken! (Expert has a hard time with this one.) I only flipped my chicken once. That is all it needs! Keep flipping it and it will stick to the grill, take longer to cook and not be as juicy.
Once the chicken was done, I moved it up to the warming rack and spread some BBQ sauce on. I closed the lid and let it cook for a few more minutes then flipped the chicken over and coated the other side with sauce and then let it cook for a few more minutes.It pretty much just cooks itself.
But doesn't it end up looking so yummy?You are just going to have to trust me when I say this was the juiciest chicken ever!

Barbecue Sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup ketchup
5 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Tabasco

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This makes about 1 1/2 cups but can easily be doubled or tripled. You can also make it ahead of time and store in the fridge for about a week or the freezer for 2 months. So you can make a big batch all at once and freeze it into small portions and pull them out as needed.

Grilling Corn on the Cob
There are a few different ways we grill corn. This time we did the foil packet way, which is simple.
Lay the corn out on a large piece of foil. Season however you like. Mexican seasoning, salt and pepper, garlic, lemon, whatever strikes your fancy. Then put some cut up butter pieces on top of the corn and cover with another piece of foil. Seal the foil up real good and place on the grill. Over direct heat, the corn should take about 10 minutes to cook.