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Stepping Out of My Element

I’m pretty selective when it comes to recipe sources. I have my top tier sources (primarily Smitten Kitchen and America’s Test Kitchen / Cook’s Illustrated / Cook’s Country), and my line of solid back-ups (headlined by Elly Says Opa!, The Brewer and the Baker, Annie’s Eats and Farm Fresh Feasts), but, aside from a few other blogs and magazines, I generally don’t stray too far.

After all, a pretty Pinterest picture doesn’t mean the recipe will actually be successful. (Yes, I’m the only woman in the western hemisphere who hasn’t fallen down the Pinterest recipe rabbit hole, and I’m OK with that.) And even though I love spending time in the kitchen, I don’t want to waste my time there. If I’m cooking something, I want it to be worth the time and ingredients.

That’s why this recipe surprised me. Someone (my Grandma, maybe?) shared a link to it on Facebook, and since I was knee-deep in rhubarb at the time, I thought it was worth investigating.

These make a very soft, cakey cookie. They’re best in the first day or so, as the moisture causes the cookies to stick together in the container. The flavor is great, and they mixed up in no time – chopping the rhubarb took the most time! I found a science experiment growing in the sour cream tub when I opened it, so I subbed Greek yogurt for the sour cream with no ill effects.

I realized afterwards, though, that my cookie scoop is about twice the size of the scoop called for in the recipe. Which explains why I got about two dozen cookies when the recipe yield said 40. I liked the size of the cookies from my 2-tablespoon scoop, so I’ll probably keep making them that way. No one ever complained about a bigger cookie, right?

I’m not sure if the recipe would work with frozen rhubarb, unless it was really, really well-drained. So, I might just save these for spring baking. It never hurts to have another seasonal dessert. And maybe I’ll try recipes from new places more often!

RhubarbCookies

Rhubarb Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely diced rhubarb

Preheat the oven to 350°  and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the first four dry ingredients together in a small bowl and set them aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well-combined. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until well-combined.

Add about one-half of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until almost combined. Stir in the rhubarb and mix until the rhubarb is evenly distributed throughout the batter and no pockets of flour remain.

Use a cookie scoop to drop tablespoon-ish sized scoops of the batter on the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies 2″ apart.

Bake until the cookies start to brown along the edges and just a little on the top, about 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies from the oven and let cool on pan for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

From the Today Show

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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Cookies, Dessert

 

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Easy Dessert

Some desserts have a reputation for being difficult to make. No one bats an eye if you show up with a plate of chocolate chip cookies, but if you bring cheesecake to the office, people are wowed.

“I could never make cheesecake,” they say. “It’s so hard!”

I’m here to bust that myth. Cheesecake is waaaay easier than you may think. Cream the cream cheese with some sugar, beat in a few eggs and pour it over a graham cracker crust. Bake for an hour or so, and let it cool. So much less involved than scooping individual individual cookies onto tray after tray.

And that’s why I whipped up a pan of these Oreo cheesecake bars for dessert with friends a few weeks ago. They’re easy to put together, and cheesecake is always a hit with everyone in our social circle. Plus, I almost always have cream cheese in the fridge.

The recipe calls for Oreos, but I can confirm that they work just as well with the off-brand / Aldi version of everyone’s favorite sandwich cookie. And since the off-brand package apparently has fewer cookies, I can also confirm that the filling is just as good with 10 Oreos instead of 12.

The four of us managed to not eat the entire pan that night, so I told Andy to leave the leftovers alone until I could photograph them. And he did, mostly. I mean, there are still three squares on that plate. 🙂

OreoCheesecakeSquares

Oreo Cheesecake Squares 

For the crust: 
23 Oreo cookies, crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling: 
12 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
12 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 325° and line a 8″ x 8″ baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on each end of the pan to use as a sling.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and the melted butter. Stir until the mixture is evenly combined. Spread the cookie crumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and maintain the oven temperature.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until it is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar to the cream cheese and beat until well-combined. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Beat in the egg and egg yolk until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chopped Oreo cookies. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake until the cheesecake is set around the edges but slightly jiggly in the center, about 40 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover the pan and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least three hours. (I left mine in the fridge overnight.) 

To cut the bars, use the foil as a sling and remove them from the pan. Place the bars on a cutting board and remove the foil. Use a large chef’s knife to slice the bars into equal-sized squares. Refrigerate cut bars until serving.

From Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from The Recipe Girl, originally from You Made That Dessert? by Beth Lipton

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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Cheesecake, Dessert

 

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Flamingo Fun

Last week, we celebrated a very special birthday. My awesome friend Karen turned 30, and we took it upon ourselves to surprise her with a “flamingle” get-together. We kept things fairly low-key (although we did get party hats and a giant flamingo balloon), but as we started planning the party, I knew one thing had to happen: an awesome cake.

FlamingoCake2

As you can see, we also had an inflatable flamingo because why not? 🙂

Making the cake without talking to Karen about it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my kitchen. She’s number one on my speed dial whenever I’m baking a cake, and we talk about cake designs whenever one of us is baking. But I knew that she’d get suspicious if I told her about a giant cake covered in flamingos. (Plus, Karen kept the birthday cake AND party a secret when I turned 30, so she deserved it.) 😉

I think three-layer cakes look more festive, so I made a batch and a half of the chocolate cake that I tested last April. Karen told me that she’s been really into all things cookie dough lately, so when this recipe for cookie dough frosting came through my Facebook feed, I knew that would be the perfect filling for the flamingo cake. I covered the rest of the cake with my regular go-to buttercream and decked it out with hot pink sprinkles and plastic flamingos.

Happy birthday, Karen! I’m so glad you’re part of my life!

FlamingoCake

Cookie Dough Frosting

1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (1 cup) milk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, flour and salt, and mix until well-combined.

Slowly add the milk to the mixture until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. (I am Baker suggests adding it a tablespoon at a time.) 

Add the chocolate chips to the frosting and stir until well combined. Spread between cake layers or on top of cupcakes.

From I am Baker, who adapted it from AllRecipes.com

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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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My Kind of Salad

I don’t know if this is a regional dish, or if they appear at holiday dinners everywhere, but I grew up with what my family calls “24-hour salad” at almost every holiday meal.

You mix canned fruit and mini marshmallows in a bowl, then sprinkle instant pudding mix over the entire thing. Stir in a container of Cool Whip, and then stick it in the fridge overnight. Bam! Holiday side complete. And since it’s a salad, you can eat it alongside your ham AND have seconds before dessert even appears. What’s not to love?

Oh, right. Things like instant pudding and Cool Whip. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy a generous serving of 24-hour salad at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But if a more “homemade” option exists, I’ll try that too. 🙂

I stumbled on this recipe last fall when Karen, Janelle and I were planning our Friendsgiving 2.0 menu. I was immediately intrigued. It looked like a cranberry version of the traditional 24-hour salad, and it used real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip. I had a stockpile of cranberries in the freezer, and I almost always have whipping cream in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the salad got scratched from the Friendsgiving menu because we had SO MUCH FOOD.

I didn’t forget about the recipe though. As I started planning our Easter menu, I knew I wanted to try the cranberry salad. And since we were having people over for dinner, I knew we wouldn’t have to eat the entire bowl ourselves.

I used my food processor to chop the cranberries and walnuts (not together though). After that, I simply mixed everything together and put it in the fridge. Right before dinner, I whipped the cream and folded it into the cranberries. It was probably the easiest part of the meal. It was one of the tastiest parts too. I definitely went back for seconds and thirds on salad.

One of the downsides to this recipe, if there is one, is that it doesn’t keep nearly as well. The whipped cream starts to separate and get soggy after a day in the fridge, so you should plan on eating it all in one sitting. Good thing it’s always OK to have more salad.

CreamyCranberrySalad

Creamy Cranberry Salad

3 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups of mini marshmallows
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups of heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cranberries, pineapple, apple, sugar, salt and marshmallows. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream and walnuts into the cranberry mixture. Serve immediately.

From Taste of Home

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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Side Dishes

 

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Quick & Easy Shrimp Dinner!

Things have been pretty quiet around here (again). Whoops. Let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about fast, easy dinners instead.

Thanks to Zaycon, I have a stockpile of shrimp in the freezer. And since shrimp thaws and cooks quickly, it’s perfect for nights when I really don’t have much of a game plan for dinner. (Which, if I’m being honest, are happening more often than I’d like to admit lately. I need to get back on the meal-planning wagon.)  Anyway…

I found this recipe in an old issue of Everyday Food, and it met all of my criteria for the evening:

  1. Cooks in less than 30 minutes.
  2. Dirties minimal dishes.
  3. Uses everyday pantry items.

Win-win-win. Oh, and it tasted good! That should go without saying though. I’m not going to share something that doesn’t taste good. 😉

Potatoes are one of my favorite things, but I would have never thought to pair them with shrimp (or curry powder) before. The potatoes get extra crispy, which is my favorite part, and the curry adds the right amount of spice and flavor. Since I don’t own a nonstick skillet, I used my cast iron skillet with no problems, which shouldn’t surprise anyone by now.

CrispyPotato&Shrimp

Shrimp with Scallions and Crispy Potatoes

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 baking potatoes, approximately 1 pound, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons curry powder
coarse salt and pepper

In a large skillet (nonstick or cast iron), heat two tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and crispy, which should take about 12-15 minutes. Add the scallion whites to the pan and cook for one minute more. Scoop the scallion-potato mixture out of the pan and onto a plate. Set aside.

Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan, and then add the shrimp and curry powder to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about two or three minutes. Slide the potato-scallion mixture back into the skillet and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and then top with the scallion greens. Serve immediately.

From Everyday Food, November 2008

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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Main Dishes, Seafood

 

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Another Sourdough Win!

I’m now two months into this sourdough adventure, and life with Fester is going fairly smoothly. I haven’t forgotten to feed him (yet), although I do have him down to just one meal every week. Three cheers for low-maintenance “pets.” (And this why we don’t have a dog. Or houseplants.) 

So far, I haven’t had to actually “discard” any of the starter when it’s time to feed Fester. Most of it has wound up in cinnamon raisin bread and pizza dough. Last weekend, however, I didn’t have time to make anything with the discard. I couldn’t bring myself to toss out the half cup or so of starter though, so I put it in a container and stuffed it back in the refrigerator. I figured I’d find something to do with it after the weekend, even if that meant eating pizza again. (Not that anyone here complains about pizza.) 

I remembered that Karen had sent me a link for sourdough biscuits with cheese and chives in them, so I went looking for that recipe. While I didn’t find her original link, I stumbled on a recipe for caramelized onion sourdough biscuits from King Arthur Flour. I didn’t have chives on hand, but I figured a scallion would be an acceptable substitute.

The biscuits were pretty easy to put together. I started caramelizing the onions as soon as I got home from work, and while those were hanging out on the stove, I chopped the scallion and mixed up the rest of the ingredients. The recipe said to let the caramelized onions chill for three hours, but that meant we’d be eating biscuits at 9 p.m. So, I did what any short-on-time cook would do: I put them in the freezer for 15 minutes instead.

When I added the starter to the dry ingredients, it didn’t seem to have enough moisture to hold the dough together. So, I added a splash (probably less than a tablespoon) of half-and-half to the dough to bring everything together. If my sourdough starter was thinner, I probably wouldn’t have needed it, but my starter seems to be on the thicker side.

These smelled incredible while they were baking, and they were easily our favorite part of dinner. At the rate I’m going, I’ll have more uses for discarded starter than for “fed” starter!

SourdoughOnionBiscuits

Caramelized Onion Sourdough Biscuits

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 1/4 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
1 scallion, finely chopped
9 ounces (1 cup) unfed sourdough starter
half-and-half, optional

Heat a large skillet (I love my cast iron for this!) over medium-low heat. Place the onion, brown sugar and one tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and caramelized, which should take about 30 minutes. Remove the onions from the skillet and place them in a small bowl. Allow the bowl to cool in the refrigerator or freezer until the onions are thoroughly chilled. (This took about 15 minutes in my freezer.) 

Preheat the oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

While the onions are cooking / chilling, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly. Stir the chopped scallions into the mixture, and then add the chilled onions.

Stir the sourdough starter into the bowl and use a rubber spatula to gently work the starter into the flour-butter-onion mixture. (If the mixture is too dry after the starter is fully incorporated, add a tiny splash of half-and-half to help things come together.) Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently pat into a 1″ thick disc.

Use a 2-1/2″ or 3″ biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds. Pat any leftover scraps together to cut out additional biscuits. Place the rounds about 2″ apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Yield: I got nine 3″ biscuits out of the recipe; King Arthur Flour says eight. No one’s complaining about an extra biscuit here.

Note: I haven’t tried this, but I think these would freeze well before baking. I’d make the dough and cut out the biscuits, and then put them in the freezer on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. When they’re frozen solid, transfer them to a Ziploc bag. Then you should be able to just bake them straight from the freezer whenever you need biscuits.  

From King Arthur Flour

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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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Balancing Out the Cookies

Raise your hand if your calendar is often crammed with activities. I don’t know about you, but our social calendar seems to revolve around food. In December, for example, I had three separate events centered around cookies. From cookie exchanges to cookie Fridays at the office, I was slightly overloaded on the sugar. Earlier this month, we hosted the dessert portion of a progressive dinner, and then, I decided to bake some cupcakes for our small group just because it had been a while since I’d made some.

I firmly believe that life (as far as food goes, anyway) is all about balance, so when our social life became all about dessert, I started looking for something to offset all the sweetness.

I wanted something that would be easy to put together. Bonus points if I can make it with whatever was in my pantry / fridge. I remembered Annie’s white bean dip, and I thought it’d be perfect for the occasion. Plus, it’s healthy, and it takes all of 5 minutes to make. Cutting the veggies for serving takes longer than making the dip!

And, even better, it’s a dip that Andy truly enjoyed, which is saying something.

garlicwhitebeandip

Garlic Rosemary White Bean Dip

2 15 oz. cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely minced. Add the beans, salt and water to the bowl and process until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the food processor running, pour the olive oil into the bean mixture and process until it is fully combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then process another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Taste the dip and season with pepper and salt if needed.

Serve with sliced vegetables and crackers. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

From Annie’s Eats, originally from A Couple Cooks

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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