Monday, January 25, 2016

Soft Ginger Cookies

As part of my bridal shower gift people gave me one of their favorite recipes! This is my Auntie Janet's cookie recipe. I made them bite sized but they are great as large cookies too! I would describe them as a soft ginger snap. They are easy to make ahead and travel easily.

These are perfect with a nice cup of tea!


Soft Ginger Cookies
makes 24

2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350F
Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.
In large mixing bowl beat butter on low until softened. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy.
Add egg and molasses, beat well.
Stir dry ingredients into beaten mixture.
Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls.
Roll in the 2 tbsp sugar and place on a cookie sheet.
Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown and puffed.
Let stand for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

BBQ Chicken

Catching up on some posts with this snowy snowy weather!!

BBQ  was a crowd pleasing surprise! I baked the chicken in the oven as we are having a big snow storm but the kids asked for me to make it again! Yay! I couldn't find my brine recipe I used over the summer so I made this one up. When you brine chicken it will keep it more moist especially when it needs to cook for a while, this made such a difference!

Normally I'm all about my silpat mat, but for this it didn't work as planned and I'd recommend using tin foil to line your cookie sheet instead.

I served this with our other family favorites: White Rice and Oven Roasted Broccoli!

BBQ Chicken
Brine
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup apple juice
1 cup warm water
2 tsp salt
2 tsp soy sauce

4 Chicken breasts, cleaned and butterflied
BBQ Sauce

Combine all the ingredients for the brine. Soak the chicken for 2-4 hours. I let the chicken defrost while it soaked in the brine.

Grill Directions
Preheat grill on high
Remove chicken from brine and shake to remove some of the water.

Oven Directions
Preheat oven 400F.
Remove chicken from brine and shake to remove some of the water.
Place chicken on foil lined cookie sheet.
Bake 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, cover in bbq sauce, bake 7 more minutes.
Remove from oven, flip, cover in bbq sauce, bake 7 more minutes
Continue until chicken is cooked thru
When chicken is cooked, one file time... flip, cover in bbq sauce, broil on high for about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Butter Spritz Cookies

Catching up from my holiday baking... My brother and his girlfriend got me a cookie press a couple years ago and I've been wanting to try it but it seems so intimidating!! These cookies were tedious but very pretty! I'll make these again but they are special occasion cookies and not ones I'd want to make every day.

Don't bother using your nice silpats or new nonstick pans. Our old burnt cookie sheets worked best for this! It took some practice but by the end the dough was the right temperature and the cookies were coming out smoothly.

These were dainty and light cookies that can be changed for the holiday based on the sprinkles you use!

Pressed Sugar Cookies
adapted from Williams - Sonoma
makes 100ish cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Colored sugars or icings for decorating

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

Using a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, vanilla and salt and continue beating until well mixed. Using a spoon, stir in the flour until blended. Let chill about 30 minutes.

Pack the cookie dough into a cookie press according to the manufacturer's instructions. Fit with the desired-shaped cookie plate and press the dough out onto ungreased baking sheets (count to 5 and pick straight up), spacing the cookies 1 inch apart. Cover with sprinkles.

Bake until the cookies are light golden, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool. Decorate with icings as desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Scallion Pancakes

I love scallion pancakes. It is an unhealthy relationship and NONE of the Chinese restaurants by me make them!! It is quite the tragedy. So, I decided that for New Years I wanted to make Wonton Soup and Scallion Pies! 

These are very few and simple ingredients, but I won't lie, these are a labor of love here and did take about an hour and a half to make, rest, and cook. But it was worth it!! 

Light, not greasy, scallion-y, and probably $2 to make eight good sized pancakes! One of these babies would run you at least $4.95 in the restaurant!! 

I was making breakfast pancakes in the oven and doing dishes while the dough was resting, so it was very productive!

A similar recipe are my Mexican tortillas!

Happy New Year!!!!!

Scallion Pancakes
Adapted from The Kitchn (check out the site for pictures for each step!)
makes 8 pancakes, serves 12 once you cut into wedges?

2 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup boiling water)
Oil such as vegetable, sesame, or shortening
Coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup, about 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped (scallions = green onions)
High smoke point oil for the pan, such as vegetable, canola, or peanut oil

Mix and knead the flour and water until it forms a smooth dough. This will take about 5 minutes by hand (or less by mixer). Coat this ball of dough lightly in sesame oil and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.

Split the dough into 4 equal parts. **Don't skip this step** Lightly oil your rolling surface (I used olive oil) and roll out one part of the dough. Roll until it is a thin rectangle at least 12 x 9 inches. (think thin enough to see the grain of your counter tops)

Lightly brush the top of the dough with more sesame oil (if you think its needed), then sprinkle it evenly with chopped scallions and kosher salt (about 1/2 to 1 tsp per rectangle).

Starting from the long end, roll the dough up tightly - jelly roll style, creating one long snake of rolled-up dough. Cut in half.

Take one of these halves and coil into a round dough bundle (like kindergarten arts and crafts pottery). Let it rest while you repeat this process with the rest of the dough.

Roll a coiled dough bundle into a flat, smooth, round pancake. Stack between layers of saran wrap.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat, and oil it with a drizzle of canola, vegetable, or peanut oil (I used olive oil since that is what I have in my house). When the pan is hot, add one pancake. It should sizzle, but not burn. Cook for 2 minutes on one side or until golden brown. Flip and cook another 2 minutes. Repeat for remaining dough coils.

Cut the pancake into wedges with a pair of kitchen scissors, and serve immediately with soy sauce or another dipping sauce.
Make-Ahead Tip: If you would like to make a few pancakes but save the rest for later, you can save the dough in the fridge for up to 5 days. Just make sure the dough is oiled and well-covered. You can also roll out individual pancakes and stack them between well-oiled layers of wax paper.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Stove Top Beef Stew

Brrrr it was cold today! I really was craving some beef stew! In our house the beef stew is very basic and heavy on the meat, potatoes, and carrots.

I had planned on making it in the slow cooker but errands (including the grocery store where I was getting dinner ingredients) took longer than expected. So I cobbled together several recipes to make some beef stew on the stove!

I wish I had grabbed some bread for this because then the meal would have been perfect!

Do I prefer my stove top beef stew or my slow cooker beef stew? The stove top beef stew was very rich because it had added butter and the potatoes/carrots were on the crunchier side - but that could have been because I was rushing to get dinner on the table! The easier version is easily the slow cooker but if you have the time then making it on the stove is a great option!

Stove Top Beef Stew
adapted from Food NetworkOnce Upon a Chef, and Delish
serves 6-8

Olive oil for searing
1/2 cup flour
2-3 lbs beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 small onions, cut into sixths (or blitzed in the food processor)
3 tsp garlic powder
1 can tomato sauce
2 cups cold water
2 cups chicken or beef broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 lbs medium red potatoes, quartered
4 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 bag frozen peas
salt & pepper

Heat a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/4-inch deep. Spread flour out on a plate. Season half the beef generously with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour. Shake off the excess flour, and add to the pan. Saute the meat, uncovered, stirring only occasionally, until well-browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted wooden spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef.

In the same pot with the beef grease and such, add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute more. Return the beef to the pot and add the red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, water and broth, and bring to a boil. Cover and set to low. Stew the meat until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. I stirred mine about every 15 minutes to keep it from sticking but I also struggle with the temperature of my stove.

Add the potatoes and carrots and bring back to a simmer. Stew, uncovered, on top of the stove, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened and the beef and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Copy Cat Chex Mix

I love salty savory snacks and chex mix always hits the spot!! But... I don't want all the funky ingredients and lets be real, I pick around the stuff I want to eat. So here is a recipe that you can make with ONLY the tasty bits you want to eat! 

To sum it up, 16(ish) cups of stuff (cereals, pretzels, chips, cheerios, cheese its, bagel crisps, nuts, etc) and then coat it all in the seasoned butter mixture. Bake for 1 hour and stir every 15 minutes!

The only changes I'd make next time? I'd add a little more seasoning and make sure you mix it all up well so the things are coated nicely!! I've updated the amounts below! Enjoy!!

Copy Cat Chex Mix
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

5 cups corn chex
4 cups wheat chex
2 cups pretzels
1 cup honey-nut cheerios
2 cups cheese its
1 cup almonds
1 1/2 cups peanuts

¾ cup butter, melted
5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, a little goes a long way!)

1. Preheat oven  275F
2. In a large roasting pan, stir together the cereals, pretzels and nuts.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Drizzle evenly over the cereal mixture and, using clean hands, toss to combine, making sure that the mixture is evenly moistened.
4. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, November 27, 2015

White Bean Dip

What an easy make ahead dip for parties and a nice change from the sour cream dips! The recipe is adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.

I adapted the recipe with beans seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and sage (Wegman's Tuscan Cannellini Beans). Because the beans were flavored I changed the recipe to only combine the beans (not rinsed, slightly drained), lemon juice, and 1/4 cup olive oil. I used a box of wheat crackers instead of making my pita chips as well.

This recipe can be easily adapted! Alternate flavors to use with the beans include roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, extra garlic, basil, thyme, and more!

White Bean Dip and Pita Chips
Serves: 6 servings (or more depending on how polite everyone is!)

Ingredients
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt & Black Pepper
Pita Chips/Crackers

Directions
Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pan Fried Noodles with Chicken (Gai See Chow Mein)


This is delish! My mom makes this with some sliced roast pork and those crunchy skinny yellow noodles... This is a rough adaptation because I have neither the roast pork or the right noodles. 

Don't let the long list of ingredients or steps deter you! This meal is worth it and can actually be prepared in 30 minutes with no additional prep time!! I have adjusted the steps below with the order that I 

Some changes....
I didn't use a wok - I used my largest pot. 
I used noodles from Wegman's (Assi Pasta, Oriental Style Noodle), but egg noodles or even spaghetti would work. 
I used petite baby bok choy but the Shanghai bok choy, American broccoli or Chinese broccoli (gai lan) would be tasty. Just go with whatever veg looks better at the store that day!
I didn't use the oyster sauce because I didn't have any. 
I didn't use the sugar because I didn't think my dinner needed sugar. 
I added carrots and bean sprouts because...why not!?

Now that I've made this meal a couple times I've tried to be more efficient with NOT using all the dishes, pots, and pans in the kitchen. Here are the tips...
Cut the veggies before the chicken (this reduces a cutting board AND a knife!)
Use the same large pot for everything (cooking the noodles, frying the noodles, cooking the chicken, and making the sauce)
Share the serving plate with someone you love and no extra plate dishes!
Measure all the dry things before the wet things (aka corn starch before sesame oil and soy sauce) 

Pan Fried Noodles with Chicken (Gai See Chow Mein)
Adapted from The Woks of Life
serves 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts 
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 bundles of dried Hong Kong style egg noodles or 10 oz. fresh HK Style noodles (OR any noodles)
1 small bunch of choy sum or baby bok choy (about 2-3 cups), washed and cut into strips
1-2 handfuls of baby carrots cut into match sticks
1 cup chicken stock 
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Pinch of sugar (optional)
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground white pepper
2 cloves garlic powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water 
3 tablespoons oil 
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (any Chinese cooking wine)
1 - 2 handfuls Bean Sprouts
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you wait...
    • Wash and slice your veggies.
    • Slice your chicken into thin strips. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, oil, cornstarch with the sliced chicken. Set aside.
    • In a small pot on the stove, combine the oyster sauce, garlic powder, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt, white pepper, and chicken stock. Leave it alone while it comes to a simmer.
    • In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water into a slurry and set aside.
  • Once water is boiling, add the noodles. (For fresh noodles, boil for 30 seconds to a minute. For dried noodles, boil for 4-6 minutes). Do not overcook them! Drain, rinse with cold water, set aside. 
  • Heat your large pot over high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil, making sure to swirl it around to coat the sides. Spread out your noodles in an even layer and fry for about 3 minutes, or until golden and crisp. 
  • Flip the noodles over and fry the other side (you can add a bit more oil if necessary).
    • Theoretically the noodles should not stick, I have yet to have success and end up scraping it off the bottom. It is still crispy and good, just not as pretty! When the noodles are golden on both sides, transfer the noodles to a large round plate. 
  • In the same large pot, add another tablespoon of oil. Sear the chicken breast and carrot sticks.
  • Once browned, add the shaoxing wine to deglaze the pan. Pour in your sauce.
  • Let the liquid come to a boil and add your green vegetables. 
  • Stir and cook for about a minute. 
  • Stir up your slurry mixture again, since the cornstarch probably settled to the bottom of the bowl. 
  • Once the liquid is boiling, add about 2/3 of the cornstarch and stir the mixture to thicken. Add more slurry until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon. How thick you like your sauce it is also about personal preference. Allow to bubble up for another 30 seconds or so. 
  • Pour the entire mixture over the noodles and serve immediately. Serve with hot chili oil or Sriracha on the side if you like!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Great Wolf Lodge, Poconos, Pennsylvania

Great Wolf Lodge, Poconos, Pennsylvania


What a trip!! We spent one night at Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos Mountains and it was an adventure! The kids had a half day from school so we grabbed them up and drove right to the park! When you book your night you can use the park starting at 1 pm your check in day, so we were sure to take advantage of that!

Everything was decorated for Halloween and they had some cute interactive programs (scavenger hunts, read out loud, etc) that were available for all the guests.

To save some money because this place is insanely expensive...we picked a slower time (Sept and Oct are less busy times and Mon-Thurs are cheapest), we brought snacks, breakfast, and lunch (fridge and microwave is in the room), and we decided against doing Magic Quest. Oh, and we purchased wolf stuffed animals on Amazon ahead of time rather than having the kids want one of the Wolf Lodge stuffed animals.

When we were discussing doing Magic Quest I had looked online and you can get the wands on eBay and local swap sites, that can save you some money too! I was really hesitant with Magic Quest because I didn't really want to do it and reviews said that the kids would need a lot of help.

If we went back we would try and go with friends and we would potentially do Magic Quest since the kids would be older. We would also bring walkie talkies so the kids can go off on their own.

The lines in the water park were ok. There were still lines but it was manageable. I'm not a fan of crowds so I felt it was busy but not overwhelming. It is nice that the only people allowed in the park are guests at the resort so that helps keep the lines shorter. Saturday was a lot busier than Friday afternoon. I had a blast on the water slides!!

If you stay for only one night you really don't need the Magic Quest or other packages, we spent all of our time in the water park! If we had stayed for 2 nights I think we would have wanted something else to do so the kids didn't get too exhausted swimming that much!

We did venture out for dinner Friday night at The Barley Creek Brewing Company. The lovely place is only 10 minutes from the resort but the food was great and the beers were amazing!! We highly recommend going here if you can make it! We ordered the Garlic Edamame, split a pizza, ordered a sandwich, and a burger. We were stuffed to the gills!!


Have you been before?? What did you think??

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Pancakes

Pancakes are a weekend breakfast staple in our household. However, I really dislike that they take a long time to make and the chef doesn't get to eat with the rest of us. We also would prefer the kids to eat homemade pancakes with minimal ingredients vs Eggo Waffles - so I was looking for a way to mass produce pancakes in a quick efficient manner. 

We found this recipe because it is specific to almond milk and we normally don't have regular milk at home. The almond milk keeps the pancakes softer and the edges won't crisp up as much. 

I have a whoopie pie pan that I have never used and thought this would be the perfect excuse for it! When I make whoopie pies I use a small cookie scoop to ensure the sizes are the same. I purchased the pan when I was on a breakfast sandwich kick and thought this would be perfect to create sandwich sized egg patties. 

If you don't have one of these pans you can also use muffin tins and put enough batter in them to cover the bottom. I think they would poof up to become mini pancakes.

If the kids were willing to eat square pancakes then I would try making them in a 9x13 pan and cutting them. That would probably be the easiest way...but a girl can dream right?

I tripled the pancake batter below and created 40 silver dollar size pancakes in about 40 minutes (includes getting out the ingredients, making the batter, doing dishes, and cooling time). This did take a while but while the pancakes were baking I was able to do other things around the kitchen (like the dishes!). We stored some in the fridge and others go into the freezer. To warm we microwave them for 20-30 seconds (if not frozen) and about 45 seconds if frozen.

From a visual these are very pale pancakes but the kids liked them better that way, if you want them to be darker/more golden you can add a little butter in each hole before adding the batter. Also use the melted butter in the batter instead of the oil. 

These pancakes are pale, soft and fluffy and cakey! Enjoy!

Slightly lumpy pancake batter

2 tablespoons of batter for each hole

Let cool 3 minutes before removing from the pan

Pile of warm fluffy pancakes!

The perfect size for  mini sausage sandwiches!
Pancakes
Adapted from Silk Almond Milk
makes about 13 mini pancakes

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1-2 tablespoon sugar or honey
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Almond milk, any flavor but Chocolate (or regular milk)
2 tablespoon oil or melted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together Silk, oil and egg.
Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir just to moisten—a few lumps are fine.
Griddle: 
Cook pancakes on a griddle over medium heat. 
Pour 1/4 cup of batter on the pre-heated pan. 
When larger bubbles start to form and the edges are turning slightly cooked, flip the pancake. It takes about 1:30-2:00 per side.  
Serve immediately or let cool and store in airtight container in the fridge.

Whoopie Pie Pan:
Pour 2 tablespoons of batter into each hole. 
Bake at 375F for 9-12 minutes. If too pale you can toss under the broiler for a 30 seconds. 
Serve immediately or let cool and store in airtight container in the fridge.