Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies (Cookie Corner)

I have be to honest, this Cookie Corner almost didn't happen.  I started out wanting to make a cookie that resembled a pecan pie.  I tried several different recipes, and none of them worked.  Most of them came out more like a candy bar (while delicious, but not a pecan pie).  So at the last minute, I tweaked a chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

The result is a cakey brownie like cookie.  I have received excellent reviews on them, so I termed the final outcome a success, despite all the issues I had.

Then I forgot to take the picture for the blog before handing out my samples.  So I have a sad little picture of three remaining cookies in my Lock & Lock container.  Please forgive me.  Oh I also included a picture of my checkerboard birthday cake from last week, just for fun :)


2 sticks of butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 box chocolate pudding mix, I used sugar-free
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. mini chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans

Cream together, butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla until well blended.  Add pudding and mix. Sift flour and baking soda, add to butter mixture slowly.  Once combined add chocolate chips and pecans, fold until well combined.

Drop cookies by teaspoons onto a lightly sprayed cookie sheet.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Allow to cool on a rack.  Store in an airtight container for several days.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cupcake Fun!

The last few days have been filled with play dates, great conversations, and lots of laughs.  While I was at a friends house yesterday, we got on the subject of cooking/baking with kids.  My friend asked for a favor, a play date at my house where we bake something with the kids.  I responded with an enthusiastic, ABSOLUTELY!!!

My friend admits she doesn't cook or bake very often, but would love to let her child experience the fun, creativity, and learning experience.  So today, I was watching our sweet neighbor for a bit, and decided to do a test run. 

My participants were a 6 year old and two 4 year olds.  We made chocolate vegan cupcakes with chocolate glaze.  The kids each had a job in the kitchen with the making of the batter.  Brandon was in charge of putting the cupcake liners in the pan, Adam was in charge of the wet ingredients, and my neighbor was in charge of the dry ingredients.  I poured the batter into the pan, and was in charge of the baking and cooling.

Then I made a quick chocolate glaze and set up the decorating stations.  I simply gave each child a cookie sheet, a bowl of glaze, some cupcakes, and different sprinkles.  I put the sprinkles in extra cupcake liners (this made for easy clean up).  Then they dipped and decorated.

It's a great way to use up holiday sprinkles too.  After the cupcakes were dry from the glaze, everyone got to enjoy one for a snack, and the rest went home.  It was a fun rainy day activity, and the kids really love being creative.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini (with homemade focaccia)

Back into the swing of things....well sort of.  We are back from our much needed trip home, school is back in session, and our list of extra curricular activities seems to be growing.  Busy schedules require easy meals.

I really love sandwiches, especially paninis.  They are quick, satisfying, and can be extremely simple or super gourmet.  Last night I made focaccia bread knowing I would use for paninis this week, but not knowing exactly what kind.  Then in the middle of the night, I woke up thinking chicken cordon bleu!   Yes, sometimes I get my best ideas in the middle of the night. 

So today's scrumptious sandwich is derived from a middle of the night craving.  Now I am going to give a recipe for homemade fococcia, but by all means, use a store bought one if it is easier for you. 

recipe for fococcia  (adapted from food network)

2 tsp. dry yeast
1 c. warm water
2 tbsp. sugar
3 to 3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

In a bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast and sugar with warm water.  Allow to foam, about five minutes.  Then add the flour, and turn mixer onto low speed, fitted with a dough hook.  After about a minute, add salt and olive oil.  Allow the mixer to knead the dough for about ten minutes.   Once the dough is elastic, turn out onto the counter and knead it onto itself a couple of times.  Place in a greased bowl, turning the dough so all sides are coated, cover with a towel, and let rise about 45 minutes.

Once the dough has doubled in size, roll and stretch the dough to fit onto a standard baking sheet that is lightly sprayed.  Cover and allow to rest for 15 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  With your fingers, dimple the dough (this is great for the kids to help with).  Brush the top with olive oil (about 3 tbsp.) and sprinkle with rosemary and cheese.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

You can stop there, start eating, don't worry I won't judge you ;)  If you wish to make it spectacular, cut a square the size desired for a sandwich.  Slice the fococcia horizontally to give you a top and bottom for a sandwich. (Use a serrated bread knife to make your life easier.)

recipe for chicken cordon bleu panini

focaccia bread
sliced deli ham
thinly sliced chicken breast, grilled
Gruyere or Munster cheese
Dijon mustard

Simply assemble the sandwich with the above listed ingredients.  Either using a panini press (I use my George Foreman grill), or a skillet weighting the sandwich with a brick or heavy pan, toast the sandwich. Mine took about 5 to 6 minutes before all the ingredients are warm and melted.  Enjoy.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lemon Sugar Cookies (cookie corner)

April is a special month for me.  Not only is it my birth month, but it conjures up real signs of spring.  When I think of spring, I'm reminded of rain showers, warmer temperatures and fresh flavors.  One of my most favorite flavors is lemon. 

This month's cookie is a simple lemon sugar cookie with lemon butter cream frosting.  I gave samples of these cookies out, and the response was so positive.  I packaged them up in a fun spring treat bag, and was like the cookie fairy of Oneonta.  It was fun and very satisfying, the bonus was the recipients really really liked them :)

cookie dough (yields about 3 dozen)

2 Sticks of butter
1 C. Sugar
2 Eggs

3 Egg Yolks
1 Tbsp. Vanilla

zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 1/2 C. Flour

Cream butter & sugar until fluffy, then add eggs. Blend well, add vanilla, lemon zest, and dry ingredients. Divide dough into two discs, wrap in plastic & refrigerate at least 2 hours. On a well floured counter, roll out dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut desired shape and place on greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. The cookie will be pale (do not overcook), let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

butter cream frosting

1 stick butter, softened
3 c. powder sugar
juice of 1 lemon, plus the zest
1 tsp. vanilla
water to thin if necessary

In a large bowl, cream butter with sugar until smooth.  Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and zest.  Continue to mix until smooth.  If necessary, thin the frosting with water, one teaspoon at a time.  Frost the cooled cookies, and store in an airtight container.