Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sugar Cookies

Jen recently posted something about secret recipes and it got me thinking. I would consider my sugar cookies my secret recipe, but after thinking about it I don't like the idea of the a secret recipe. The idea of cooking is to share so here is my secret recipe.

Sugar Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. powered sugar
2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine both sugars and butter. Beat until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time then add vanilla extract. Slowly add the salt, flour, and baking soda, stirring until just combined. Cover the bowl and chill the dough for 30 minutes. Spoon the chilled dough in tablespoon sized balls onto a dark cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. (I've found that the cookies spread out less on a darker cookie sheets.) Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the sheet and cool on a rack. Cookies will be soft but will harden as they cool. When fully cooled, the edges will be crunchy but the centers will be soft.

Note: this recipe does not work well if you want to roll the cookies out and cut them into shapes. It also would not work well in a cookies press.

Individual Apple Crumbles

I am aware that it is the middle of the summer fruit season. I know that apricots, peaches, cherries, plums, etc are all beautiful right now. I also know that Matt greatly prefers apple desserts. I'm not about to make something sweet if I'm the only person in the house who will eat it. My waistline would not appreciate that. So apple crumbles it is. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, so I combined a couple of recipes and ended up with the dessert I'm making next time Matt's mom and dad come to town.

Individual Apple Crumbles
Makes 2 apple crumbles

For the filling
4 small gala apples, peeled and diced into large chunks
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 TB all purpose flour
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt

For the topping
1/2 c all purpose flour
2 TB granulated sugar
2 TB light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of slat
1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the filling ingredients and mix well. Spoon into ramekins (the ones that I used were from Crate and Barrel, hold about 10 oz, and are like slightly taller creme brulee dishes). In a food processor or stand mixer (I used my mini food processor and it just barely fit) combine all of the topping ingredients. Pulse or mix until the butter is the size of peas. Loosely top the ramekins with the topping. Place ramekins on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream on top. Note: the filling will overflow a little, so you really want to put the parchment paper down, otherwise cleaning the baking sheet will be a huge pain. I learned this one the hard way.

You can make the crumbles earlier and keep them in the fridge until ready to bake. Bring them to room temperature before putting in the oven.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Has potential to be the best thing ever

Last night I found myself home with no hubby to feed, so I was on my own for dinner. I usually try to take advantage of nights like these to make something that he would never eat but that I have been craving recently. Last night was no exception so black olives and goat cheese needed to be involved. I give you my dinner that has the potential to be the greatest summertime dinner, once I play around with it a little more.

You will need
3 oz. goat cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp olive oil
splash of heavy cream
1 TB chopped basil
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 black olives, pitted and chopped fine
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into slices
2 thick cut slices of toast

Combine everything but the tomatoes and toast in a small bowl and stir until well blended. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust according to taste. Spread cheese mixture thickly on each piece of toast. Top with sliced tomatoes and eat immediately.

It was so good that I almost made another two slices for myself, but actually showed some restraint. The next time I make it I will probably add a touch more cream (increase to 2 tsp), more basil (another 1/2 TB), nix the olive oil (the cream made the cheese smoother than the olive oil), and add a tsp of chopped fresh thyme. If we hadn't broken our toaster, this would be a perfect dinner because I wouldn't have to turn the oven on.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

I've seen the recipe a number of times, with minor variations, and I've always been intrigued. Yesterday I finally took to chance and attempted a meal with 3 whole heads of garlic.

Overall I was satisfied with the outcome, but it took way longer than the recipe said, and for some reason nothing in my pot last night decided to brown. Even after I turned the heat up higher and had oil spitting out (note - hot oil in your eye hurts) the chicken just refused to brown. Also, once the chicken was put back in to finish cooking, it took almost twice as long as the recipe stated. Even without these issues, I think it could have used double the amount of thyme, and probably an onion or two. But it did go really well with Pinot Noir.

In addition, I made tomato salad with some of the 85 tomatoes we had. Just sliced some tomatoes, sprinkled fresh basil, salt, and pepper, then drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. Very summery. The other side was red potatoes sauteed in olive oil, butter, and scallions. I wanted it to stay simple with the slightly heavy and complicated chicken. While not my greatest meal ever, I would certainly do it again, but with a few changes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer sandwiches

This morning Matt and I went to the local farmers market. I got melons, corn, peaches, peppers, apricots, tomatoes, potatoes, romaine lettuce, salad mix, and bread. We also stopped by Cheesetique for fresh mozzarella and goat cheese. With the basil, onions, beans, tomatoes, and squash we got this week I'm going to try and cook more than the last few weeks.

The beautiful tomatoes. It may look like a bunch, but they'll all be eaten this week. The red and brown are from Graceland Farms CSA and the yellow are from the farmer's market.
For lunch today I made chicken sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and homemade honey mustard. After cooking chicken that's been sprinkled with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried thyme I cut up a tomato and ripped up two pieces of romaine. I also toasted four pieces of bread in the oven and melted a little cheese. Mix equal parts honey from the CSA and Dijon mustard, and slather it on the toast. Assemble and you've got a great lunch.
On a different note, Matt's refusing to watch Everyday Italian because the host isn't making something he would eat, and she's not wearing a low cut top. That's unacceptable in his world.

Pictures to help

The only tomatoes that I was able to save from the squirrels. The rest were eaten or ruined by the bugs. I've already gotten tips for next year to make it more successful.
One of the last times I made Bread Salad I took a couple of pictures for reference. This is what it looks like fully dressed and ready to eat.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bulgarian feta makes all the difference

When I used to work in the kitchen one of my co-workers taught me this summertime favorite. It also requires zero cooking if you happen to have leftover grilled corn on the cob.

1/2 c. Bulgarian feta, cut into small chunks (Bulgarian feta is much less salty than Greek. The guy I worked with also had a long story about how the Greeks stole feta. I told a Greek friend that one time and she got a little defensive.)
1/2 c. chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumbers
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
2/3 c. cooked corn, cut off the cob
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, pine nuts, and corn in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine oil and vinegar. Drizzle vinaigrette over other ingredients and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It's really super simple. You can also add a lettuce leaf and stuff it inside a pits for a quick sandwich. I like to grill the pita first so there's a little more crunch to the sandwich.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mental Note

Do not leave your box of Splenda packets under a box of dryer sheets for five days. Your coffee will taste like clothes line clean.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Spinach Salad

This is one of my favorites in the summertime. My aunt gave it to me with a beautiful salad bowl for my bridal shower. It's apparently very popular in their neighborhood. It sounds like a strange combination of ingredients, but it works.

1 bag of prewashed baby spinach (After spending a couple months of my life cleaning lettuce, chard, and spinach for a restaurant I almost always buy prewashed.)
1/4 c. toasted pecans
1 c. sliced strawberries
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. honey
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar
1 c. vegetable oil

Combine Dijon mustard, honey, vinegar, and vegetable oil in a bowl and mix well. The dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance. In a large bowl, place spinach, pecans, strawberries, and red onion. Toss slightly, being careful not to bruise the spinach. Somehow I always manage to overdress this salad, so use the vinaigrette sparingly at first.

Depending on how strong your mustard and vinegar are, you may adjust the amounts to taste. I find that this is one of the few recipes that doesn't benefit from salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fact of the day

How can you tell if a hen will lay a white egg or a brown egg?

White egg layers have white ear lobes. Brown egg layers have red ear lobes.

This seems more believable than my uncle telling me that white milk came from white cows and chocolate milk came from brown cows. What can I say, I was really little and totally believed it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bread Salad, take 2

I was hoping to be able to make this a little later with some glorious tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers from my own garden, but I have been thwarted. The peppers are still flowers, the cucumbers are about the size of a toothpick with a flower on the end, and half the tomatoes have been eaten by some sort of insect. Damn the garden gods! Next year I will actually read about this before randomly sticking plants in pots and hoping for the best.

More than anything I have ever made, this is the recipe that people ask about the most. Here is my best shot of writing it down, but please note, that this is one of those things that you can change based on what you like and what you have around with no problems at all. It's really more of a guideline than a rule.

1 loaf sourdough bread cut into 1 inch cubes (I also use French or Italian based on what's available. I would not recommend using a baguette if for no other reason that it would be a huge pain to cut into pieces. You also want something with a little more middle of the loaf than a baguette would have.)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved and salted (Just put the cut tomatoes in a bowl with a pinch of salt, stir well, and let sit for about 15 minutes. This helps bring out the tomato flavor and gets some of the water pulled out. Any type of tomato would work and using different colored tomatoes just adds to the beauty of the salad.)
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces
1/2 red onion, finely diced
8-12 0z of mozzarella, cut into cubes (You can also use the mini mozzarella balls whose name is escaping me.)
1/3 c. basil, cut into thin strips
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 c. + 1 Tb. olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tb. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Place bread cubes and all crumbs from cutting them, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the cubes with 1 Tb. olive oil. Sprinkle dried herbs and garlic powder evenly over the bread with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Toss together until cubes are well coated. You want to make sure to use the garlic powder and dried herbs instead of fresh because the fresh will burn while baking. Bake the cubes for 7 - 15 minutes until crisp, but not rock hard. Shake the tray occasionally to ensure none burn. When fully cooked, let them cool completely.
In a small bowl, combine remainder of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and fresh garlic. Stir until well combined and set aside.
In a large bowl place (in this order) red onion, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella. The salad can sit for about an hour in the fridge until the cubes cool. Add the bread cubes, drizzle with dressing, and toss well. Add basil and toss again. Taste the bread cubes and adjust seasoning as necessary. Depending on the bread, you may need additional dressing. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

You can also add capers or black olives, if desired. I generally stay away from this, but it's a personal choice. You can also add pieces of cooked chicken if you'd like a bit heavier salad. This holds up really well for about two days in the fridge, but Matt will never eat it the day after. He thinks it tastes funny, but I think he's crazy.