The Perfect Sugar Cookie

The Perfect Sugar Cookie

Sugar cookies are the quintessential kid snack. They’re fun to make, they’re fun to decorate and they’re fun to eat…That is if they aren’t hard as a rock and taste like cardboard! We’ve all had that sugar cookie that looks perfect, but then you bite into it and you break a tooth because you could hammer a nail with that sucker! This recipe ends up anything but a hard, projectile like lump of flour and sugar! Time and time again this cookie turns out sweet and tender and that is exactly what a sugar cookie should be!

On a side note I haven’t lost track of time. The afternoon before Easter Alexis and I set out to make some cookies for the Easter Bunny. As you can see the shapes are springy and Easter themed I just haven’t gotten around to posting them until now. These sugar cookies are perfect for any season though, I mean who doesn’t like sugar cookies (other than Jamison of course! ;oP) Next week I’ve got a recipe coming up that uses that left over Easter ham, which again I made a while back, but I’ve got a ton of recipes in the back log so stay tuned!

The Perfect Sugar Cookie: Sprinkled and Ready to Go

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of organic cane sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt

Cream butter until it turns pale yellow. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry mixture to butter mixture and mix until dough forms. Chill dough for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

The Perfect Sugar Cookie: Cookie Cutters

Roll out dough 1/8″ thick on a well floured surface. Use cookie cutters and cut out cookies.

The Perfect Sugar Cookie: Cut Out

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet (I always do this on a sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet.) Bake for 5-8 minutes until edges are golden. Cool on a rack.

The Perfect Sugar Cookie: Alexis Adds Sprinkles

Notes: You can ice these cookies with royal icing, use sprinkles or decorate them any way you see fit. You could also add in a few tablespoons of lemon juice and/or zest to make a lemon sugar cookies. The possibilities are endless.

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup

I had never had Matzo Ball Soup, but I was curious. It looked like such a hearty, comforting soup and those I know who had tried it were big fans, so I decided about a year ago to make some. Of course somehow I always got sidetracked and never got around to making it, but that all changed last week and I must admit I was highly impressed! I’ll most definitely make this again and I may try one of the other variations I’ve seen as well.

Overall this is a simple, basic, hearty soup that really hits the spot. It’s exactly what you’re looking for when you think of comfort food, with the added bonus of a hearty broth and nice chunks of chicken and vegetables. What’s better than that?

What You’ll Need:
1 whole chicken, rinsed
Sea salt
Black pepper
2 cups of matzo meal
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of chicken broth
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 leek, chopped

Place your chicken (and any gizzards and such) in a large stock pot and cover with water. Add a generous pinch of sea salt and some black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes to an hour, until chicken is done through and the water has formed a broth. (Note: This is just a very basic chicken stock. You can add in other veggies or herbs and such if you want, but for this soup simple is best.)

While the broth is making mix together matzo meal, olive oil, eggs, salt and broth in a medium sized bowl until a sticky dough forms. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

Once the chicken is done and the broth has formed remove the chicken and place it in a glass or stainless steel bowl to cool so you can remove the chicken from the bone. Strain broth through a sieve into a large glass or stainless steel bowl and set side.

Return the empty stock pot to the stove over medium heat and sauté onion, celery, carrots and leeks until the onions are tender. Return the broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for at least 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Taste the broth and if more salt or pepper are needed add accordingly.

Once the chicken is cooled enough to handle remove the skin and discard. Next tear off chicken until all of the edible meat is off of the bone. Once the carrots are tender add the chicken pieces back to the pot. Bring the mixture back to a boil and take the chilled matzo mixture and roll it into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball. Once all the matzo balls are added cook the soup for an additional 10 minutes to cook the matzo balls and then serve the soup warm.

Notes: One of the recipes I read a few years ago for this soup called for putting dried dill into the matzo balls. I must admit that intrigues me and I may try it next time, but this time I wanted to leave the soup as basic as possible.

Double Onion Dip

Double Onion Dip

For a while now I’ve been wanting to try and make some onion dip from scratch and the other night when we had some friends over for dinner I decided to test my theory. Most of us have had the onion dip that you make with onion soup mix and sour cream, but I thought about it for a while and wondered if you couldn’t make a good dip without having to use the over processed soup mix and this is what resulted. It’s creamy and has the illusion of being rich, all while packed with fresh onion and garlic. I actually ended up liking it better than the soup mix equivalent!

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
1/2 a large sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
A generous addition of freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of sea salt
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 16 ounce container of light sour cream (Note: As always you can use fat free, light or regular sour cream, though fat free would make this sickeningly sweet as the onions themselves give the dip a natural sweetness.)

Saute onion with thyme, rosemary, pepper and salt until onions are tender and slightly caramelized:

Double Onion Dip: Onions, Garlic and Thyme

Add minced garlic and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes until garlic is done.

Remove onions from the stove and pour into sour cream. Stir to mix. Store dip in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving and stir before putting out to eat. Serve with vegetables and/or bagel or pita chips.

Notes: You could use any type of onion that you like. You could also switch up the herbs if thyme and rosemary aren’t your thing.

Steak Fajita Nachos

Steak Fajita Nachos: The Inside

Back in 1993 I returned home for a year to attend a local community college and a friend of mine and I used to eat a local Mexican restaurant that was there at the time. They had a dish on the menu that was called Chicken or Beef Fajita Nachos that was to die for! The restaurant went out of business and I had never seen a similar dish at other restaurants so I decided it was high time that I try to recreate it and I did just that!

This dish can be as hot (and I made it pretty hot!) or as mild as you like. You can also use the cheese of your choice or a mix of several cheeses. It comes together easily and it really took me back! If you like Mexican than this is the dish for you!

Steak Fajita Nachos

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into strips
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
1 pounds of steak, cut into thin strips
A pinch of sea salt
A pinch of black pepper
A generous pinch of cayenne pepper
1 – 8 ounce bar of Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (Note: You could also use white cheddar or any other mild white cheese.)
Corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Saute onion and pepper in a bit of extra virgin olive oil, along with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, until slightly tender. Add steak and cook until the steak is just browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spray a pie dish with non-stick spray and place a layer of tortillas to completely cover the bottom of the dish and then cover the tortillas with a layer of cheese:

Steak Fajita Nachos: Corn tortillas and Monterrey Jack Cheese

Next add half of the beef/pepper onion mixture on top of the cheese:

Steak Fajita Nachos: Peppers, Onions and Steak, Oh My!

Repeat this procedure one more time (a layer of tortillas, a layer of cheese and a layer of meat/onion/peppers) and then top the beef/onion/pepper layer with more cheese. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Steak Fajita Nachos: Baking

Notes: You could use chicken or shrimp in place of the steak. Serve with a little sour cream and/or salsa.

Honey Cashew Brittle

Honey Cashew Brittle

Sometimes you set out to make one thing (in this case honey roasted cashews) and you end up with something totally different. In this case what I ended up with was not a mistake as such, but a pleasant discovery instead!

The honey gives the brittle such a lovely undertone and Alexis and I both really liked the “mistake”. You can’t win them all, but it’s always nice when you stumble onto something you hadn’t expected. I’ll get back to the honey roasting another day!

What You’ll Need:

1/3 cup of honey
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Roughly 1/2 pound of cashews

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a medium sized pot heat honey over medium until it is thin (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in sugar and salt. Next add cashews and stir to coat. Pour cashew/sugar/honey mixture onto a sheet pan that is lined with a silicone baking sheet and spread the nuts out. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden browned.

Stir the mixture occasionally as the edges will brown earlier than the middle and you don’t want the edges to burn. Be VERY careful because the hot sugar will burn your skin very badly if it touches you!! (I know of which I speak! ;o)) Remove pan from the oven and let it sit so the mixture can harden and then break into pieces.

Honey Cashew Brittle

Notes: You could do this with any nuts that you like. Peanuts or almonds in particular would make a nice addition or you could do a mix of nuts.

Improvised Miso soup

Improvised Miso Soup

I’m a huge fan of Miso Soup, I mean big time! I’ve always wanted to try and make it at home, but it was just one of those things I just never got around to. Plus when I’ve read about it in the past it’s a bit intimidating, mainly in that you can not let the soup boil once the miso is added. Talk about pressure! ;o)

Last week I decided I finally wanted to try my hand at making Miso Soup. I got some brown rice miso and some tofu and thought I’d be good to go. I didn’t however get any dashi stock. I did some reading and found that one version of dashi stock was made with dried mushrooms. The only problem with that was I didn’t have any dried mushrooms on hand. I did however have some baby portabella mushrooms so I decided to make some mushroom broth from that and go from there. In other words I improvised! The end result turned out great and was an almost dead ringer for the Miso Soup I order when Jamison picks up sushi for me.

What You’ll Need:
1 package of mushrooms (Note: As I mentioned above I used baby portabellas.)
Enough water to cover the mushrooms in a 2 1/2 quart pot
1 package of firm tofu, cut into small squares
1-2 tablespoons of miso
2 cups of spinach, chopped into strips

In a 2 1/2 quart pot cook mushrooms in water until mushrooms are tender. Remove mushrooms and reserve broth. (Note: You do not want to add salt to this as the miso is salty enough to flavor the whole soup. Also you can eat the mushrooms as is or use them in something like Mushroom Stroganoff or Mushroom Spread.)

Once the mushrooms are removed add in the tofu and let it cook for 5 or 6 minutes. (Note: Tofu absorbs flavor from the components of the soup. On it’s own it doesn’t taste like much.) After the tofu has been in for a few minutes lower the heat and make sure the soup is NOT boiling! Stir in miso until dissolved and make sure the soup does NOT go to a boil after the miso is added. (Note: I don’t know why you’re not supposed to boil it, but I kept reading that over and over in terms of miso and it’s even printed on the side of my miso container. If anyone out there knows why drop me a comment! ;o))

Once the miso is added add the spinach and cook until spinach is just wilted. Serve immediately. (Note: I used the bagged baby spinach and I know it says it’s “triple washed” or some such who hah, but wash it! They put some kind of stabilizer or preservative on it, even on the organic versions, and when I don’t wash it it makes my tongue numb. That tells you it’s something you don’t want to be eating! Wash, wash, wash! ;o) Plus you don’t know who has handled it after it was “triple washed” so don’t take any chances!)

Notes: Using the mushroom broth makes this vegan, just so you know. I even ended up freezing part of the batch for use later. You can also top this soup with chopped green onion. The place I order mine from does both spinach and green onion, but I didn’t have any green onion on hand.

Funnel Cakes

Funnel Cakes with Dulce de Leche (aka Caramel)

When Katherine and I were children my mom used to make us funnel cakes from time to time and it was always a treat we relished. I’ve made them once or twice since I’ve left home and it always brings back a nostalgic wave of memories. I couldn’t find my recipe on Saturday morning so I called my mom and she read it off to me from her recipe box. It was almost as if she was here with us on Saturday after all! ;o)

We ended up topping the funnel cakes with powdered sugar and some of the Dulce de Leche I made for this week’s Tuesday with Dorie…We used the soup out of that stuff on Saturday! It’s good! ;o) But overall this dish was most definitely a blast from the past!

What You’ll Need:
1/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3-4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups of buttermilk
3 eggs
Powdered sugar for dusting

Place enough oil in a deep sided skillet to go up the side of the pan at least 1/2 inch. Heat over medium heat until you can drop a drop of batter in the oil and it immediately starts to fry.

While oil is heating mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix. Add buttermilk and eggs and stir until batter forms. Place some batter in a narrow neck funnel or a measuring cup with a pour spout and swirl the batter into the hot oil. Fry until one side turns golden brown and then flip. Cook for 1-2 minutes more until the other side is browned and remove from oil. Drain on a paper towel and then top with powdered sugar.

Funnel Cakes

Notes: You could add in some cocoa powder for Chocolate Funnel Cakes. You could also top the funnel cakes with sugar and cinnamon for a different twist. Whipped cream would also be good, or even a chocolate drizzle. Use your imagination! 😉

Pineapple Cheesecake Eggrolls

Pineapple Eggroll

When Jamison and I first got married we lived in Huntsville, Alabama and we used to love to go to a Chinese restaurant there called Formosa (Sorry, but I can’t find a webpage for them!) and they had the best pineapple dessert type eggrolls. For years I’ve wanted to try to make them, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. I’ve made blueberry eggrolls and regular eggrolls, but I never got around to the pineapple version until this past Saturday and we all thought they turned out great! Ben even tried some topped with some of the Dulce de Leche I made for this week’s Tuesday with Dorie. Pineapple and caramel…What’s not to like?

What You’ll Need:
1 package of egg rolls wrappers
2 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 large can of crushed pineapple, drained well
1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Organic cane sugar

Preheat oil to 350 F.

Cream together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir in pineapple until well mixed.

Take an eggroll wrapper and lay it flat. Place a spoonful of the pineapple mixture in the center of the wrapper. Fold the sides to cover the filling. and then fold one end up and then the other. If it is having problems sticking run some water along the seam and then stick it back together and it will seal perfectly. Place in the oil and turn it several times to ensure that it browns on all sides. Once it is golden brown remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with organic cane sugar to coat. Serve warm or cooled.

Pineapple Eggroll: The Inside Goodness

Notes: You could really do this method with any type of fruit. Peaches would be really good, as would strawberries. Or another option would be to add chocolate chips to the cream cheese/sugar mixture instead of fruit. It’s really just up to you and your imagination.

Veggie Corn Dogs

Veggie Corn Dogs

Corn dogs are definitely a fair food type of deal. As I’ve grown older I’ve also sort of grown away from your traditional hot dog and when I have a craving for something of that sort I usually go for a veggie dog. So when we decided to try corn dogs I immediately went for the veggie dogs and they turned out great! It was a blast from the past, all with a new spun twist.

What You’ll Need:
1 package of Jumbo Smart Dogs or some other soy/veggie dog equivalent
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
1/2-1 cup of buttermilk
1 egg
Corn starch
10 wooden sticks

Preheat oil to 340-350 F.

Cut hot dogs in half. (You’ll have to do this for most fryers in order for the corn dog to fit inside.) Place a stick in the end of each hot dog. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl mix together flour, sea salt, baking powder and sugar and stir until incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of buttermilk and 1 egg and stir to mix batter. The batter should be thick, but not gloppy. If it is too thick then add a bit more milk. Place mixed batter into a tall glass and set aside.

Place some corn starch on a plate and roll each hot dog in the corn starch to coat. After they are coated dip each hot dog down into the glass of batter and fry immediately, turning several times to ensure that it browns evenly. When they are golden brown they are done. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain. Serve with mustard and/or ketchup.

Veggie Corn Dogs

Notes: This would work with conventional hot dogs as well.

Corn Fritters

Corn Fritters

I have to admit I had never tried corn fritters before Saturday on our “fry” day, but I was sold after one bite! This recipe is adapted from one from Paula Deen and I have to give Miss Paula props because she is most definitely the Queen of all things fried!

We ended up making some Ranch Dressing to dip them in and the combination was just wonderful together! If you’ve never had a corn fritter before they are similar to hush puppies, but they have corn kernels incorporated in the batter. The combination just goes so well together. I’ll definitely be making these again in the future!

What You’ll Need:
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 package of frozen corn

Preheat oil to 325 F.

In a large bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar and salt until well mixed. In a separate bowl beat together milk and eggs. Next add the egg mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir to incorporate. Stir butter and corn into the batter and mix well.

Drop batter by the spoonful into the preheated oil. Cook the fritters until golden, turning once or twice to make sure it browns on all sides. Drain the fritters on paper towels and serve alone or with Ranch Dressing.

Corn Fritters

Notes: Leann and I talked about it and we think it might be nice to add some chopped onion into the mix as well. I think buttermilk would be a good addition in place of regular milk as well.