Archive for August, 2011

August 28, 2011

Ginger Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

I love homemade cookies, it is definitely a weakness. There is something about them that can’t be substituted. I don’t care how good your mass produced cookies are, they can’t beat a homemade one. Ever. They can transform your kitchen just with the smell. Plus, there is something about taking the time to make cookies for someone that shows them some love. Now, this is not something you can make every day if you strive to be healthy, but a treat every once in a while is just fine. My standard cookie is chocolate chip; classic goodness. However, I decided to mix it up a bit with ginger cookies which are a favorite of my dad’s. These are hands down the best ginger cookies I have ever had. They are not overwhelming and are just the right texture. They are awesome right out of the oven, a day or two later, and a huge hit stuffed with ice cream! Seriously, your guests will love this sweet treat to end a meal.

Kelly

Ginger Cookies

Courtesy of ‘The SONO Baking Company Cookbook’ by John Barricelli

**Makes about 60 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 t. baking soda

¼ t. coarse salt

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. ground cloves

1 t. ground ginger

1 cup sugar, plus ¾ cup for rolling

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature

¼ cup unsulfured molasses

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through. Beat in the egg and molasses until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture beating until combined. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled, about an hour (and up to 24 hours).
  3. Arrange the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick silicone baking mats; set aside. Place the extra sugar for rolling on a plate; set aside.
  4. Use a 1 ½-inch ice cream scoop to scoop out the dough, and roll balls in the sugar to coat, and place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

  5. Bake one sheet at a time, rotating the sheet two-thirds of the way through the baking time, until the cookies are deep golden brown and the centers are firm, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack and let cool completely. Continue to roll and bake the remaining cookies in the same way.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Now comes the fun part of assembling the ice cream sandwiches! Yummy!

To make the sandwiches, get some good ice cream to complement the flavor in the cookies. I used vanilla and coffee and made half of each. Allow the ice cream to soften for a few minutes. Lay your cookies out on a baking sheet, face down. Place one standard sized scoop of ice cream (or three small scoops) in the center of each cookie. Carefully place a cookie on top of each scoop, gently pressing down until you just see the ice cream around the edges of the cookie. You can use the back of a spoon to even the edges if you like. Work quickly so they don’t melt too much. Cover and place in the freezer until ready to serve. Remove from freezer and place on a plate. Serve immediately!

I didn’t even manage to get a final picture before these were gone! Enjoy!!

August 26, 2011

Friday Cookies

Hooray! We are at the beginning of another fabulous weekend. I am making cookies for my friend’s mom who just had surgery. Homemade cookies seem to make everything better. I will share the recipe with you later this weekend. If you are like many of my friends on the East Coast, you are probably battening down the hatches and settling in. Stay safe everyone!

Kelly

August 25, 2011

Baked Crispy Chicken Fingers with Orange Sweet and Sour Sauce

There are few better crowd pleasers than chicken fingers; especially for children. The problem is they are usually fried (read: high cal) and if they aren’t, they are often bland or soggy. This recipe is the remedy for both of these problems. I swear these are some of the best baked chicken fingers I have ever made. The original recipe has layers of flavors which is what caught my attention, but they were supposed to be fried, so I took a page out of my mom’s book and baked them like she did when we were kids. The addition of the orange makes these a bit more appealing to grownups than the generic versions that kids love. Not to mention the sauce was amazing! Of course, the original recipe called for blood orange, but I couldn’t find any so I substituted regular orange. I do think the blood orange would add really beautiful color. This one is definitely worth the effort! You could even make them as an appetizer.

Kelly

Baked Crispy Chicken Fingers with Orange Sweet and Sour Sauce

Inspired by Everday Exotic: Blood Orange chef Roger Mooking

Blood Orange Rub:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each), cut into strips

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

*Zest* of 1 blood orange, chopped

 

Crispy Chicken Fingers:

Vegetable oil spray

1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 eggs, whisked

2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (use good fresh bread)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Sweet and Sour Blood Orange Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

1 cup honey

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

*Zest* of 2 oranges

4 blood oranges, peeled and roughly chopped

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

8 fresh basil leaves, julienned

 

For the blood orange rub: Place chicken pieces in a large dish and add the garlic powder, pepper, ground fennel, olive oil and orange *zest*. Coat the chicken with the rub and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

For the crispy chicken fingers: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking tray with foil and spray lightly with vegetable oil spray. Place the flour, whisked eggs and breadcrumbs into individual dishes.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour, followed by the eggs and then the breadcrumbs. Place the breaded chicken on the prepared baking tray leaving a little space between each piece.

Spray the tops of the chicken fingers with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through rotating the tray halfway through.

For the sweet and sour blood orange sauce: Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the red onions and sweat until tender and translucent. Mix the honey, red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a bowl. Add to the saute pan and stir.

Add the orange *zest*, blood orange pieces and cinnamon stick.

Season with salt and pepper, stir and cook until the mixture has reduced by half. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a new pot over medium heat making sure to get as much liquid through as possible.

Bring to a simmer and then remove from the heat. Continue to cook over very low heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Place the pot back over medium heat, add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a simmer to cook the cornstarch out, 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.

Serve alongside the chicken fingers and enjoy!!

August 20, 2011

Grilled Pizza

Pizza is one of those foods that everyone loves. You can top it with anything you like and let your imagination run wild, but again, it is just too hot to cook with a 500 degree oven during the summer! But sometimes you get a hankering for good pizza. We have become bona fide pizza snobs. This has been something we have worked on for a long time and have pretty much perfected our pizza technique, but everything changes when you take it outdoors. Grilled pizza has its benefits, starting with keeping your kitchen cool, but you also get that lovely charred flavor that you just can’t get in the oven. And if you have some dough hanging out in the freezer, it saves on the mess! There are several ways that you can go about grilling pizza. You can use a gas or charcoal grill, but the real key is having different heat zones. By giving yourself the flexibility of having different temperatures to work with, you can better control the final product. If you are using charcoal, you can mound it up on one side of the grill. You could also multi-task by using both a charcoal and a gas grill. Start on the higher heat of the charcoal and then move to a low gas grill to melt the cheese and cook the toppings. We are still working on perfecting this technique, but we have had success with both methods. This time we let our multi-tasking get the better of us (by cooking Beer Can Chicken on the gas grill at the same time) and didn’t end up with a cool enough part of the grill for melting. The next day, I was feeling a bit impatient and just fired up the gas grill and probably could have let it go a little longer. Alas, practice makes perfect! Oh, one other tip: try to use toppings that are on the lighter side (by weight) so as not to weigh down the dough. Toppings that are already cooked are also a good way to go. I tend to like fresh toppings on our regular pizza, but they get cooked better while in the oven. This technique is absolutely worth a try!

Mary & Kelly

Grilled Pizza Dough

Courtesy of ‘American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza’ by Peter Reinhart

5 c Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 T Sugar

2 t Table Salt

1 t Instant Yeast

3 ½ T Olive Oil

1 ¾ c Room Temperature Water

  1. Combine together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, 1 ½ T olive oil, and the water in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and fit it with the dough hook and mix on low speed for about four minutes, or until the dough forms a coarse ball and clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add more flour or water by the tablespoonful as needed. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, then mix again on medium low speed for an additional 2-4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, supple and tacky but not sticky. The dough should pass the windowpane test.
  2. Immediately divide the dough into six equal pieces. Gently round each piece into a ball and brush or rub each ball with olive oil. Place each ball inside its own zippered freezer bag. Using the remaining 2 T of olive oil, drizzle 1 t of olive oil over each ball and seal the bags closed. Let the balls sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate the balls for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.
  3. Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator two hours before you plan to roll them out to take off the chill and to relax the gluten. At this point you can place any balls you don’t plan to use back in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze for up to three months.

**This is only the machine version of the recipe, if you want the full version with manual instructions, buy the (Awesome) book! In fact, if you plan to make homemade pizza, it is a must read. The following is our own technique for grilling pizza, again if you want more detailed instructions, the book is an amazing resource.

Grilled Pizza

Heat your grill (or grills) for about 30 minutes allowing for a hot and a cool side.

Lay out all of your toppings and dough close at hand.

Oil the grill well (we use an onion cut in half, speared with a BBQ fork and dipped in vegetable oil).

Stretch your dough to the desired size and shape and gently place on the hot part of the grill.

Allow too cook until you see bubbles and you have good color on the bottom, about 2 minutes.

Flip the dough onto the cool side and top with desired toppings, being careful not to overload the dough.

Close the grill and allow to cook another 2-4 minutes depending on the heat of your grill. Once the cheese is melted, check the bottom of the pizza and return to the hot side to crisp if necessary. Allow to rest a few minutes. Cut and serve immediately.

August 19, 2011

TGIF!

I hope everyone is having a beautiful Friday and has fabulous weekend plans! Here is a little something pretty to brighten up your day. These are our lilies that have taken over our front garden. I wish you could smell them! Amazing.

Kelly

August 16, 2011

Weekend Project: Painting

I have mentioned this once or twice before, but I am not exactly an experienced do-it-yourselfer. I did lots of crafty things in college (as a sorority girl it was required). In general though, if I know someone else can do it better than me, I might just enlist my “get a guy” strategy. This summer however, I have tried to take on a few small projects to hone new skills. (Remember my garden??) Anyway, this time I decided to take on a small painting project. We have some “art niches” in our entry and they really needed some contrast.

So, we decided on going with a dark contrast color in the back with a slight metallic sheen. The Ralph Lauren paint we chose had a textured roller to create the lovely finish. They had instructions on how to best apply the paint as well.

I did not use a primer in this case because it was a small space and the existing paint was a creamy color and not bright white.

By using a ‘W’ pattern, I got good coverage, then I went back over the paint with the textured roller from top to bottom to create the final effect.

My attempt at removing the tape did not go perfectly, so I took a small brush to cut in.

Overall, I think it came out looking great! Think it’s an improvement??

Kelly

August 12, 2011

BBQ Chicken Wontons

When we were kids, my mom, Mary, always had us involved in the kitchen. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t help my mom or my grandma cook. It is such a good way to teach kids to be independent and creative in the kitchen. Although, I have to stay I still often call my mom for help reminding me how to do things. This is one of the first things Ali and I learned to cook together. I am not exactly sure how it came about, but I mom probably looked in the fridge and thought, “We have nothing to eat except some smoked chicken…oh, and these wonton skins.” So this lovely little creation was born. It is a little tedious to assemble, but that is the fun part of doing it with kids. We always made these pretty plain as kids, but I decided to kick this up a little bit with bell peppers and jalapeños. We eat these as an entrée with some sort of salad or veggie as a side. In this case, we made jicama slaw. It would have been delicious had I not mistaken cayenne for chili powder…oops. See, I still do need my mom! These would also be great as an appetizer or tapas for a party not to mention it would be a great way to use up your extra Beer Can Chicken. Try it out and let us know what you think!!

Kelly

(With lot of help from
Ali)

BBQ Chicken Wontons

1 Pound Chicken, Cooked and Finely Chopped (I use smoked, but roasted, grilled, etc. will work)

½ C. BBQ Sauce

1 Package Wonton Wrappers

½ Yellow Bell Pepper, Finely Chopped

¼ C. Pickled Jalapeños, Finely Chopped

1 Beer

1 C. Water

1 Egg White

Combine the peppers and jalapeños in a bowl. Set up the BBQ sauce, veggies, chicken, wonton skins, and egg wash as an assembly line. Line a baking sheet with parchment or waked paper. Take one wonton skin add a teaspoon of BBQ sauce to the center.

Add about one teaspoon of chicken and veggies.

Brush two sides of the wonton with egg wash and fold over into a triangle, making sure to press out as much air as you can and tightly seal the edges.

Repeat until all the ingredients are gone, laying each wonton out on the baking sheet and adding a new layer of parchment between each layer of wontons so they don’t stick together. Mix water and beer in equal parts and set aside. Heat a non stick skillet over medium high heat and spray with cooking oil. Add wontons to the pan so they are not touching.

Allow to brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side.

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the beer/water mixture so it covers the bottom of the pan and cover for about 3 minutes until the wontons are steamed.

We don’t actually have a lid to fit this pan, so here is my solution:

Remove from the pan to a warm plate and cover with foil (use the parchment to separate again).

Repeat with subsequent batches of wontons wiping out the pan in between if need be. (We used extra cabbage to separate the layers here.)

Tip: if the wontons stick after steaming, add a little more liquid to loosen. Enjoy as soon as the last batch is done! Using remaining BBQ sauce mixed with some teriyaki sauce sprinkled with some chopped green onions to dip.

August 10, 2011

Beer Can Chicken

During the winter we regularly roast chicken so that we have a healthy supply of homemade chicken stock and high-quality chicken to use during the week. Not to mention, it smells so good and homey with a chicken roasting. In the summertime, we can’t even think about heating up the kitchen like that. So what to do? Beer can chicken, of course! This is something new for us, but it will definitely become part of the repertoire. We did this on our gas grill, but I am looking forward to trying it over charcoal as well. Our grill doesn’t have a working temperature gauge so we just went with high heat since we were cooking two chickens at once. Another big bonus of cooking these outside is that the mess stays (mostly) outside. That means no cleaning of the oven. There are so many things you can do with this once it is cooked. The meat came out super flavorful, tender and moist. You can really put it in almost anything: salads, quesadillas, rice, pasta… By imparting the flavor through the steam from the beer, you get a ton of moisture! Plus, you can use whatever kind of beer you like. We used something we happened to have around, but there are so many good beers that would be great. Just like cooking with wine; use something you don’t mind drinking. I highly recommend trying this super easy technique!

Beer Can Chicken

1 Good Sized Chicken (Preferably a Roaster)

1 Can of Good Beer

2 Cloves of Garlic, Peeled

2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

3-5 Fresh Sage Leaves

1 t. Paprika

A Few Shakes of Hot Sauce

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Pre-heat your grill for about 30 minutes. Remove the giblets and neck from the chicken (if necessary) and rinse inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels then rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. (We made some hot spicy olive oil that we will tell you about later!)

Pour about 1/3 of the can of beer into a glass for the chef.

Add garlic cloves, hot sauce, paprika, and herbs to the beer can (leaving the herbs sticking out of the top of the can.)

Gently place the chicken onto the can so the can is resting in the cavity and supporting the chicken.

Tuck the wings back toward the back bone so the chicken is sitting nice and pretty. Make sure to adjust the seasonings on the skin if necessary.

Place on a broiler pan then place on the grill. You can place directly on the grill, but I think the pan helped prevent flare-ups.

Close the lid and cook for 1 hour- 1 hour 30 minutes checking partway through.

The chicken is cooked when golden brown and the temperature reaches 165° in the thigh.

Turn off the grill and allow to rest. Carefully remove the chicken from the can when cool enough. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later!

Kelly & Mary

P.S. These guys produced more smoke than expected, so keep that in mind if you are planning to enjoy your outdoor space while cooking.

P.P.S. Yes, that is a garlic roaster in the background. Roasted garlic is one of the best things ever!

August 8, 2011

Basics: Peeling Tomatoes

Every once in a while we want to include some basic cooking skills; just in case you don’t already know. Some recent recipe recently called for peeled tomatoes and I thought I would share the technique. Why bother? Well sometimes you don’t want to chomp on the skin; like in a delicate salad, a refined bruschetta or silky tomato sauce. The technique: bring a pot of water to a boil. I like to take the core out first using a strawberry huller. I think it makes it easier to peel. Drop the hulled tomatoes in the boiling water for 10-30 seconds, depending on how thick the skin is.

You will see the skin begin to split. Pull out with a slotted spoon and immediately put in ice water or under cold dripping faucet.

The skin should easily come off in your hands.

Then you need to decide if you need the seeds or don’t want them. If you don’t want them, cut the tomatoes in half and slip your fingers under the seed packet and pull it out. If there is a pale vein in the middle take that out too. So you should be left with a filet of tomato. Then chop coarsely or proceed with whatever your purpose is. Bruschetta with basil, garlic and olive oil is hard to beat! This is also great on grilled pizza; look out for that later this week!!

Mary

August 6, 2011

Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette

You will probably see a theme in our food habits in the later part of summer: anything grilled. We grill chicken every week and keep it around to be used in other recipes. It is a great way to keep the kitchen cool and the cooking times down. This recipe was inspired by the ladies at Big Girls Small Kitchen. I was running out of ideas of things to make (not to mention I had limited resources to work with) when I came across their Barley Salad post. Of course, I had no barley, but I did have chipotle and salad stuff; success! This turned out great and I used the dressing on a more basic side salad later in the week and it was still awesome. You could even use it as a marinade…something to try later! In this case, we had some grilled chicken already prepared and mixed some of the salad dressing with some Greek yogurt and tossed the chicken in it. If you are grilling the chicken fresh, you can use any marinade you like and just chop it as is. Let me know what you think!!

Kelly

Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette
Adapted from
Big Girls Small Kitchen
Serves 4-6

Dressing Ingredients
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-2 teaspoons adobo from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, plus a little chopped chipotle
2 teaspoons honey
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin

Salad Ingredients

2 chicken breasts

4-6 cups washed salad greens

1 tomato, diced
1 zucchini

1 cup corn kernels, cut from the cob or defrosted frozen

3 small carrots, sliced in rounds

½ avocado, diced
¼ cup shredded radishes
¼ cup fresh Basil and Mint leaves

Prepare the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and some of your favorite marinade (we usually use BBQ or teriyaki sauce). Slice the zucchini and sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Husk the corn. Grill the corn, chicken and zucchini and set aside to cool while the preparing the salad. The corn will take the longest, followed by the chicken and the zucchini will go quickly. When the corn is cool enough, cut the kernels off the cob of 2 ears of corn.

In a bowl, whisk together the shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, and adobo. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking as you go, until the dressing is emulsified. Stir in the cumin and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt.

Combine the salad greens, zucchini, corn, tomato, avocado, radishes, and herbs in a salad bowl and toss with the dressing to combine (you may have some leftover).

Chop the chicken and top each salad with a good amount.

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