Monday, August 13, 2018

Rainbow Unicorn Cake

Made this for my daughter's 5th Birthday. Made the cakes in round pans and then trimmed off brown crust with a sharp knife. Horn is a sugar cone and ears are cut from graham crackers. Dipped both in a sugar water glaze and coated in chunky gold sprinkles from Hobby Lobby. 
Party ideas below. Rainbow twizzlers and bugles for horns. Made headbands as party favor. 





Sunday, July 8, 2018

Chicken Pillows - Chicken Stuffed Crescent Rolls

Rich puffy crescent rolls with a chicken and cream cheese filling, breaded in savory stuffing bread crumbs. Tasty comfort food that's perfect for a Sunday night dinner. Can also use leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. Makes 16 stuffed rolls. Serves 5-8 people.


2-8 ct. cans of refrigerated crescent rolls (16 total)
8-9 oz cooked, shredded chicken*
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
cracked pepper to taste


6 oz box of stuffing (like Stove Top), will only use 3 oz
4 tablespoons of melted butter

1 can jellied cranberry sauce, for serving


Preheat oven to 350 and move oven rack to the middle of the oven. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Crush stuffing in blender, food processor, or with a rolling pin in a zip top bag. Weigh out 3 oz and reserve other 3 ounces in the freezer for the next time you make this recipe.

Using an electric hand mixer, combine chicken, cream cheese, and spices in small bowl. Divide chicken filling among the 16 rolls (approximately 1-2 tablespoons each). You may need to flatten/stretch out the dough a little bit first so that the filling will fit. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the seams together to seal.

Dip each roll in melted butter and then roll in stuffing mix crumbs. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with cranberry jelly.


*Can use fresh chicken from split chicken breast or boneless skinless chicken breast, or 1 can of Sam’s Club canned shredded chicken, drained.

Adapted from a recipe I got from my mother-in-law ;)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Chocolate Chip Muffins


A decadent variation of my fresh blueberry muffin recipe. Like a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate chip pancake ;)  The course sugar sprinkled on the top is the secret to sparkly, sweet, crunch muffin tops! Also a great base muffin recipe for other add ins.


1.5 cups white flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil (or grapeseed)
1 large egg
milk (up to 1 cup volume with egg and oil)  
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips, regular size
coarse sugar (for topping muffins)


Preheat oven to 400. Whisk dry ingredients in mixing bowl. In a large measuring glass add oil, egg, and milk up to one cup total volume, add vanilla. Stir with fork to break up and mix in the egg. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with fork until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips with a spatula. Spoon into approximately 8-10 muffins cups. Sprinkle tops with coarse sugar. Bake at 400 for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.

Tips:
The secret to large muffin crowns is to measure the batter in to the muffin tins and let sit at room temperature for 10-25 minutes. Then sprinkle with course sugar just prior to putting them in the oven. The longer they sit, the larger they will rise and crown!

Adapted from my Fresh Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Friday, March 9, 2018

Kristi's Pretty Dang Good Chocolate Chip Cookies


Rarely do I include a long introduction to my recipes … but this one deserves an exception, as I believe there are many of you out there that will relate! For over eight years, I've been longing to conquer a good chocolate chip cookie recipe, and in those eight years I haven’t made ANY progress. Why is the most classic and simple American cookie recipe so complicated to make?!?!? About once a year I decide I’m going to try again and I try a new recipe which is perfect pictures online and then every time it fails and they get worse and worse. They usually turn out flat, with greasy burned edges … and then I get mad and swear off trying again. Every time I come to the conclusion it’s a mystic voodo art that I will never achieve success at.

Well, a few weeks ago I got the urge again. While buying chocolate chips at Aldi, I ran into my friend Alice, dumped my cookie making woes on her, and she told me it took her about 18 years! She gave me some tips and encouraged me to keep trying. So at that moment I was fully motivated and decided the biggest problem with every recipe I’ve tried is that they never call for enough flour, but I didn't know what that magic amount of flour was.

Also, I am very picky. The perfect chocolate chip cookie will not only taste perfect, but look perfect, and it has to adhere to my standards for ingredients. It must be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, no flat edges, and uniformly thick with lots of nooks and crannies It must be made with butter (absolutely no shortening or Crisco sticks), the dough should not require refrigeration before baking, not make a huge batch, and not have weird numbers of measurements for the ingredients.

I started with the "Joy of Cooking" cookbook’s recipe, and after it turned out to make the worst, flattest, most greasy cookies ever, I literally had to double the amount of flour. I have no earthly idea how everybody (including every recipe I've tried from the internet with decent pictures) is making chocolate chip cookies with so little flour!!!

It took me about two weeks and over a dozen batches. I also gained 5 pounds in the process ... so you are welcome for that! Besides the flour, I tweaked the ratio of sugars, the amount of salt, and added a touch of cornstarch to stabilize the cookie and give it a little lift without adding too much flour. I feel that I have now achieved the best possible cookie that my hands and my kitchen can make, using unsalted butter as the only fat. I sure hope this recipe works for others too, because it is quite simple and easy to memorize.

If you can, please try this recipe out in your kitchen! Please follow it "to the T" the first time you make it (including ingredients, directions, and equipment), send me pictures, and let know how they turned out. If you have to make any changes, including type of pan or oven, higher altitude, etc., let me know those details too! I really want to know if this recipe is repeatable in other kitchens and altitudes. Please carefully read the entire recipe including all the instructions, notes, and thoughts. Chocolate chip cookie baking really is a science and there are so many variables, so I am trying to control for as many as possible with my instructions. Let the great chocolate chip cookie making challenge begin! 




Kristi's Pretty Dang Good Chocolate Chip Cookies  

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, naturally softened to room temperature
⅔ cup light brown sugar, packed
⅓ cup white sugar

1 large egg
½ tablespoon salt (1.5 teaspoons)
½ tablespoon vanilla (1.5 teaspoons)

2 cups unbleached flour (presifted is preferable)***
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup regular size semi-sweet chocolate chips, chilled or frozen

Directions
Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl use hand mixer to combine butter and sugars on low speed until well creamed together, 1-1.5 minutes.

Add egg, salt, and vanilla. Mix with hand mixer on low for 20-30 seconds or until well combined. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until all flour is incorporated and dough starts to pull together, about 20-30 seconds. Stir in chocolate chips by hand with a wooden spoon. Dough should not stick to your hands at all.

Measure 1.5 tablespoons of dough for each cookie (I have a small springed cookie scoop that measures 1 tablespoon, so I just overfill it a bit). Shape into rounded ball between hands, and place area with most chocolate chips clustered together on top. If there isn't an area with at least 3-4 chocolate chips clustered together, pull some chocolate chip from bottom, stick them next to some other ones, and reform the rounded ball.

Place on parchment paper lined aluminum baking sheets and bake one sheet at a time at 375 for 8-10 minutes, until tops just barely start showing blushing spots of golden brown. My oven take 9-9.5 minutes. Remove from oven and they will still be a little puffy. Let cookies sit on the tray for 3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack, and they will flatten out with some nice nooks and crannies.


MUST DO’s
  • ***When you measure the flour be sure to stir the flour container well, spoon it into your measuring cup with a dinner or soup spoon, then level off the top with the handle of the spoon. This will ensure that your flour is measured correctly and you aren’t adding too much. 
  • Let butter sit out on counter until room temp, soft. Place out night before or morning of if needed. Do not try to gently microwave it, just be patient and let it slowly soften itself on the counter. 
  • Use chilled or frozen chocolate chips 

TIPS
  • Refrigerate dough balls at cookie sheets for at least 10 minutes if kitchen is warm. (Since it is Spring right now, I have not made this recipe during the summer months yet). 
  • If you want to make the cookies larger, use approximately 2 tablespoons of dough, roll into rounded ball, and flatten slightly after putting on baking sheet. 
  • I have read that different flours may vary in their protein content, and that it could affect the outcome of your cookies, so that is something to keep in mind. I have read that King Arthur flour is very consistent, though I have not tried it yet. I used Walmart brand all purpose unbleached, presifted flour for these cookies. 
  • These taste best about 15-20 minutes after coming out of the oven :)
  • Try baking 1 or 2 cookies first, let them cool completely, evaluate, and then add more flour if needed. If they are too dry or thick, or don't flatten properly after cooling, try making them again and omit the cornstarch or reduce the flour by 1/4 cup. 

EQUIPMENT
  • 2 beater hand mixer 
  • Electric oven (no convection capabilities). 
  • Pans I used, so if you use a different type of pan they may turn out vastly different: Large jelly roll style aluminum cookie sheets (13x18 - 18 gauge aluminum). 
  • Cookie sheets were lined with good quality parchment paper (Sam’s club brand). 

KITCHEN CONDITIONS
  • Kitchen temperature was around 71 degrees. 
  • I have a regular electric oven (no convection capabilities). 
  • Elevation approximately 700 feet 
  • Cookies were cooked one sheet at a time with the rack set in the middle of the oven. 

OPTIONAL VARIATIONS
  • Sub semi-sweet chocolate chips for butterscotch, white, etc. 
  • Add ½-¾ cup chopped pecans 
  • For large bakery style cookies, measure out 3 tablespoons of dough. Roll it into a ball and flatten it into a hockey puck shaped disc. Bake for 9-11 minutes.

Acknowledgements
My lab mate Melissa in grad school who got me started on this quest! My husband, kids, school teachers, bus drivers, neighbors, and friends that were "forced" to eat the test batches. My friend Alice who gave me tips and encouraged me on that fateful day in the baking aisle of Aldi. And my friend Apple, who ate the very cookies that are featured in these pictures ;) 


Inspired by Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition, Chocolate Chip Cookies, page 766.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sugar Cookies (Perfect Cutout Sugar Cookies)
























This is the perfect dough, not sticky at all, doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and the cookies hold their shape when baked. They bake perfectly without browning. See notes below for extra tips. Also, one batch of my cream cheese buttercream frosting is just the right amount to frost this recipe.


1 cup butter, softened to room temp
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour


Combine butter and sugar with paddle in stand mixer or with hand mixer until smooth. Add egg, vanilla, baking powder, and salt and mix until combined. Add flour and mix until dough starts coming together and forming a ball.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on lightly floured parchment paper. Thinner cookies will be on the crunchier side, thicker on the softer side. Cut out and transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes at 350. Cool on cookie sheet or transfer to a cooling rack.


Makes 24-32 cookies (approximately 2.5 inches in diameter). Once cooled, frost with one batch of my cream cheese buttercream frosting

Notes:
- Be sure the butter is at room temp, set out the morning or night before to ensure it softens sufficiently.

- When measuring the flour be sure to stir the flour, spoon it into the measuring cup, and level it off to make sure you are adding the correct amount of flour.

- The final dough should not be sticky at all and should roll out easily on parchment paper with only a small amount of flour on the paper and rolling pin. If your dough turns out too sticky, something went wrong and if you have to add a lot more flour the cookies may turn out brittle.

- To keep cookies soft, store frosted or unfrosted in an airtight container. To make them crunchy leave them open on the counter for a day or so (that's how I like them ;))


Slightly adapted from CreatedBy-Diane.com Sugar Cookie Recipe.
https://www.createdby-diane.com/2011/07/sugar-cookie-recipe.html

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes

Tender, tasty, and filling. My favorite pancake recipe yet!


1 cup whole white wheat flour


1.5 cups all-purpose white flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ tablespoon salt


1 cup milk minus 2T, plus 2T vinegar (let sit 5 minutes)
1 cup plain yogurt (Greek or regular, whole fat works best)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water* (or more if needed)


Directions
In a quart measuring glass add 2 T white vinegar, add milk up to 1 cup total volume, add rest of wet ingredients and combine with a fork or whisk. Let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour wet ingredients into the well. Stir with a fork until just combined. *Depending on the consistency of the yogurt you are using, you may need to add some additional water if the batter is too dry or thick. Use a spring handled scoop to measure out batter onto griddle.  Makes 12-18 pancakes.

Inspired by: http://alexandracooks.com/2015/08/18/one-bowl-buttermilk-pancakes-baking-steel-griddle-giveaway/ and http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/greek-yogurt-pancakes/