Category Archives: Recipes and Such

Sensational Summer Salads

 

summer saladsSummers here are H.O.T. and any recipe that doesn’t require the use of an oven has my vote!  This past week we had 3 delicious cold salads that were just as satisfying as they were refreshing.  Even better, they don’t really require a recipe, and you can tweak the ingredients according to your likes and what you have on hand!

Watermelon, Mint & Feta 

(introduced to me by Arre Fuller)

I am actually laughing to myself as I type this because this isn’t really a recipe, I’m just giving you the ingredients!

Watermelon, diced into bite size pieces

Feta cheese, crumbled finely

Fresh Mint, torn or Chiffonade (French term literally meaning “made of rags”.  To achieve this, stack and roll a small pile of leaves and then slice (or snip) them into thin ribbons.)

Toss all ingredients and enjoy.  Keep refrigerated.

Orzo, Chick Pea, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad

adapted from Good Housekeeping

  • 1 cup whole wheat or regular orzo
  • 1 can (15-ounce) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained- helps to get rid of the “canned” flavor
  • 1 container(s) (5 to 6 ounces) baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup(s) crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice, (or 1 lemon, because I like lemon)
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1 small seedless English cucumber, chopped (or a regular cucumber, seeded and chopped)
  • 1 small vine-ripe tomato, chopped
Prepare Orzo as directed, drain well.  Mix with beans, spinach, tomato and cucumber. Drizzle with lemon and olive oil and top with crumbled feta.  Refrigerate.
Fresh Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad

a summer staple in our house, we also serve it with tortilla or pita chips and use as a “dip.”

4-5 Fresh ears of yellow or white corn, cut from the cob (save yourself a mess by placing the corncob in a large bowl before cutting)

1 ripe Avocado, diced

2 vine-ripe tomato, chopped

1 lime, juiced

Salt, Pepper

Cut the corn from the cob and toss with avocado and tomato.  Squeeze lime juice over salad.  Salt and pepper, as needed.  Serve as a side salad or with chips.

Told you those weren’t really recipes!

 

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Lemon Shortbread Cookies with Almond Glaze

 

It’s no secret that I love to bake, and I jump at the opportunity to make cookies, practically for every occasion.  I am always eager to try new recipes for cookies and icings, but always end up falling back on my go-to sugar cookie recipe and royal icing.  Until now.  I may have found a new recipe folks, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

One of the downfalls to sugar cookies is they aren’t the easiest dough to work with.  Sticky, constantly having to add more flour, and often losing their shape in the oven, I have stuck with this recipe for one reason:  the flavor, well that, and the fact that I hadn’t found anything better.  The other day I made some Rosemary Shortbread cookies ( I will share this recipe later) and was amazed at how easy the dough was to work with.  I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be lovely if every cookie was this easy!  I set out to look for the perfect shortbread cookie that would fulfill this longing…I didn’t exactly find it, but I found a few that I tweaked into exactly what I wanted!  Here it is!  A luxurious dough that rolls out, cuts, and bakes beautifully!  And we are just getting started…I found an equally impressive icing to accompany my new pal!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

(Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Shortbread Cookie Recipe)

2 sticks of butter

1 c powdered sugar

2 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4c flour

1/2 tsp salt

Beat butter, lemon zest, sugar and vanilla until fluffy.  Combine flour and salt in a small bowl and slowly add to butter mixture.  Mix until combined and remove from bowl. Roll mixture into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 smaller balls.  Roll each ball out onto floured surface about 1/4″ thick and cut shapes.  Re-roll scraps as needed.  After cutting cookies, chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours.  Bake in 300 degree preheated oven for 16-18 minutes or until barely golden on the edges, rotating pan(s) halfway through.

 

Okay, now lets talk icing.  For as long as I’ve been decorating cookies, royal icing has been my tool of choice.  It is wonderful to decorate with and dries to a hard shell, perfect for stacking and packaging cookies.  On the downside, it is practically flavorless, other than the vanilla sweetness, and is pretty “crunchy” when it dries.  But, what’s a girl to do when you want to decorate cookies with detail and then stack them to store, give as gifts, etc.  Maybe I’ve been living under a rock, but until a few weeks ago, I thought royal icing was the only solution.  OH was I wrong!  I stumbled upon a recipe for a cookie “glaze” that promised to dry hard with a shiny finish.  How wonderful. Would it really work?  YES!  This icing glaze is not only delicious, but most certainly lives up to it’s promises of drying hard, perfect for stacking!

Here it is!

Cookie Glaze- dries to a hard, shiny finish

2 c powdered sugar

4-7 tsp. mik, depending on desired thickness

1/2 tsp almond OR vanilla extract

3-4 tsp light corn syrup, again, depending on thickness

Mix powdered sugar, milk and extract together, add corn syrup and mix until smooth.  Divide and add food coloring, if desired.  Now, if you mixed your ingredients together on the lower end of the spectrum, you should have a good consistency for piping the edges of the design you want for your cookies.  The larger end of the spectrum results in a better consistency for flooding, or filling your cookies.  Alternately, if you desire a less polished, but equally delicious result, you can simply spread the glaze with a spoon or even dip your cookie tops directly in the glaze.

Enjoy!  I would love to hear, or even better see your results!

 

 

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Move over, Little Debbie

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We sure did!  We all have so much to be thankful for, and with our dear Olive being born just a month ago, this is such a sweet season for us.  A few days before Thanksgiving, I happened upon a recipe on Pinterest that had me racing to the grocery store with our 3 year old and 4 week old quicker than a pregnant woman to the ladies’ room (sorry, pregnancy is still fresh on my mind)!

I still feel like a little kid when I walk down the Little Debbie isle.  My favorites are the little Christmas trees and the Oatmeal Cream Pies.  Amazingly though, as much as I love sweets, and as much as I love to bake, I have to tell you that it never crossed my mind to make Oatmeal Cream Pies.  I guess I thought only Little Debbie could do that.  Like she had a patent on the recipe (she might..).  Well folks, I was wrong.  This recipe is pretty darn wonderful.  Soft, chewy oatmeal cookies sandwiched around a creamy marshmallow filling are nostalgic and simply delicious!

Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies (from Baked Perfection via Pinterest)

recipe makes 24 sandwich cookies
Cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups quick oats
Cream Filling
2 teaspoons hot water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow cream
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees FahrenheitCombine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a bowl.  In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add in eggs, beating after each. Finally beat in molasses and vanilla.  Add to the flour mixture to creamed mixture and beat until just blended; mix in the oats with a wooden spoon.  Drop dough by tablespoons on parchment lined sheets, with plenty of space in between (I used a small ice cream scoop to make uniform sized cookies). Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until just starting to brown around the edges.  Let sit on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
While the cookies bake prepare the filling. In small bowl, dissolve the salt in the hot water. Set aside and allow this to cool.  Combine marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl; mix on high until fluffy (3-4 minutes).  Add the cooled salt water and mix well.  Spread filling on flat side of one cookie, press 2nd cookie on top. I put the filling in a zip top bag and snipped on the corner.  This made for easy assembly.

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Something Sweet…

GOP Cookies decorated with Royal Icing

So, anyone who knows me well knows that I love to bake.  Bake and decorate, as the case may be.  A few years ago, before George W’s re-election, I ordered some GOP elephant cookie cutters and decided to spread the Republican love via cookies!  I made some again this election season, and they were a hit!

I always use the same Sugar Cookie recipe.  It is one that my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Sommers used when we made cookies one Christmas in class.  I actually still have the recipe on notebook paper that I hand wrote as a 2nd grader.  For decorating, I use either a classic buttercream or royal icing.  Buttercream tastes infinitely better, but doesn’t lend itself as easily  to the details of decorating.  Below are the recipes for both the cookies and the two icings.  Enjoy!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk or cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract

3  1/2 cups plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and blend until smooth and fluffy.  Stir in milk and flavorings.  Sift dry ingredients together and blend in.  Chill dough, roll out thin, cut cookies.  (I am always sure to use plenty of flour when rolling out my cookies)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.  Underbake by a few minutes for a softer cookie.

 

Royal Icing (Decorating Icing)

3 cups powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons meringue powder

1/4 cup cold water

Food coloring gel or paste  (optional)

Beat first 3 ingredients at high speed in an electric mixer, using whisk attachment, until glossy, stiff peaks form.  Tint icing with coloring and beat until well blended.  Place a damp cloth or paper towel directly on the surface of the icing to prevent crust from forming.

To decorate, I use a plastic zip top bag fitted with a #3 icing tip.  I first outline the design of the cookie with the above recipe, then add water to thin out the icing and “flood” the inside of the lines.

Sugar Cookies decorated with Buttercream Icing

Buttercream Icing (delicious on cookies, cakes, cupcakes, or by itself!)

1 lb powdered sugar (approximately 3  3/4 cups)

1/2 cup  butter, room temperature

3-4 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine in large bowl and mix at low speed, increasing to medium speed until smooth and creamy.  If desired add more milk until frosting is at spreading consistency.  ( I like to beat mine for a few minutes at high speed to whip air into it to make it light and fluffy).

 

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