Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chocolate Malt Cookies

Remember the good old days of going to the local diner and ordering a large chocolate malt, while the waiters skated by?  Well unfortunately I don't, but I did always enjoy whenever I could find a delicious chocolate malt somewhere.  To me, there was just something about that malty goodness, topped with whipped cream, that could always leave me satisfied. 

I am sad to say that it has been awhile since I have enjoyed a good malt.  Not too long ago though, while I was walking through my local grocery store, I happened to stumble upon the malted milk powder.  Suddenly, it was like I was a kid again who had found a rare treasure, because immediately all those wonderful childhood memories came flooding back to me and I knew right away that I needed to buy it.  At the time I wasn't exactly sure how I would use the powder, but luckily I came across this recipe!  Tara was right when she said that the cookies wouldn't last long.  They turned out fantastic!!!  So grab yourself a tall glass of milk, or make yourself a malt and enjoy! 

Chocolate Malt Cookies
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For the Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plain malted milk powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons hot water

For the Filling
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup plain malted milk powder
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To Make Cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Then, beat in the egg, sour cream and hot water.  Reduce the mixer’s speed to low and gently mix in the flour until just combined.

Scoop out tablespoon size balls of dough and place on prepared baking sheets, about 3 inches apart.  Bake until the cookies flatten and start to become firm, about 10-12 minutes.  Cool in pan for about 3-5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

To Make Filling:
Begin by melting the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure to stir often until the chocolate is evenly melted.  Set aside to let cool.  *Best to complete this step while the cookies are baking*.  With a hand held mixer, beat the malted milk powder and the cream cheese on a medium speed until smooth.  Gradually mix in half-n-half, chocolate mixture, and vanilla until well combined.  Now, cover and refrigerate until the filling becomes thick.  This will take about 30 minutes.  Once chilled, take the filling out of the refrigerator and beat on high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  When the filling is taken from the fridge it will look thick and dark, but once you start beating the mixture the color will begin to lighten and the filling will become fluffy.

To Assemble:
First, match up the cookies based on size.  Then, using a tablespoon size cookie scoop, scoop a hefty tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of one cookie.  Sandwich with another cookie until the filling pushes to the edges of both cookies.  Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Source: Slightly adapted from Smells Like Home

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summertime Cookies with Royal Icing

Within the past couple of months my housing development has unfortunately lost quite a few houses to an arson.  We, as a community, have been working closely with the local police and fire department and this Wednesday the community is holding a "crime watch" cookout and needed volunteers to make dessert.  I of course volunteered and thought that it would be fun to make and decorate cookies! 

Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was the community watch logo, but I thought that it would be more fun, and colorful, to go with a summer theme.  Therefore, I decided that I would make lemons, oranges, watermelons and beachballs.  The watermelons are definitely my favorite! 

Typically, people use a traditional sugar cookie when flooding with royal icing, but instead I decided to use my grandmother's sour cream cookie recipe.  For these cookies I used the following royal icing recipe and then just thinned it out with water in order to flood the insides.  Enjoy!

Royal Icing
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4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp. meringue powder
½ tsp. vanilla extract
5-8 Tbsp. water (more if needed, but add a little at a time) 

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on low-medium for 7-10 minutes, or until icing reaches desired consistency.  *Icing should be a little hard, but still soft enough to pipe through a pastry bag.  Make sure to cover any unused icing with a damp towel so that it doesn’t harden as you are working.*

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sweet Italian Sausage Puff Bites

As soon as I saw this appetizer, I knew that I needed to give it a try.  Not only did they sound delicious, but they looked super easy to make and not very time consuming.  These actually worked out perfectly because they were another dish that I made for my birthday celebration and I didn't have a lot of time.  I had no idea what a BIG hit they would be!  These tasty little treats were gone before I even had a chance to grab one for myself.  Next time I will definitely have to double the recipe.

I also like the idea that you can change it up by using beer battered sausage, hot sausage, etc.  So many possibilities!

Sweet Italian Sausage Puff Bites
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1 package Sweet Italian Sausage Links (Johnsonville)
1 Sheet Puff Pastry (thawed)
1 Egg
2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Apricot Jelly

Gently remove the sausage from its casing.  Cut the sausage links into 36 slices (½ inch wide).  In a large skillet lightly brown the sausage slices, on both sides, over a medium-high heat.  At this point, don’t worry about fully cooking the sausage slices; you just want to make sure the sides are lightly brown and crispy.  Set the sausage aside on a plate while you prepare the egg wash and puff pastry.  Break the egg in a small dish and whisk.  Lay the pastry out on a flat working surface and lightly brush the egg over the top of the pastry.  Proceed by cutting out 36 shapes from the pastry, using a mini cookie cutter.  Place the sausage onto a baking sheet and cover each one with a piece of puff pastry.  Insert a toothpick to help hold it all together.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

In a small bowl, while the sausage puff bites are baking, mix together the jelly, mayo and mustard.  This little treat can be served hot, warm, or room-temperature.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Un-traditional Cuban Sliders

One of my favorite sandwiches of all time is the Cuban.  I just love the blend of flavors, in addition to the fact that it comes with a pickle slice.  Score!  So it was only natural that this sandwich came to mind as I was sitting there, on my couch, trying to think of things that I could serve for my birthday celebration.  The only problem that I could foresee at the time was the fact that this sandwich could be quite large and I wanted something small.  This way it would be able to fit on people’s plates along with other things.  That’s when I had an idea….sliders, the perfect party food!

The reason that I am calling this recipe the “Un-traditional” Cuban Slider is because a traditional Cuban sandwich is made with roasted pork, but unfortunately I could not find precooked pork anywhere.  I know that I always could have roasted my own, but with everything else that I had to make for the party I knew that I would not have time.  That’s why you will notice that I opted to substitute Genoa salami.  I know that this doesn’t sound like the best choice to replace pork (2 very different types of meat), but it’s what I read that people add to their Cuban sandwiches sometimes, so I just went with it.  I am glad I did too, because I thought the sliders turned out great!  These will definitely be made again.

Un-traditional Cuban Sliders

24 slider buns
18 oz. black forest ham
24 slices Genoa salami cut in ¼ sections
24 slices Swiss cheese cut in ¼ sections
Dill pickle chips
1 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
5 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

For Dijon-Mayonnaise- In a small bowl beat together the mayonnaise, mustard, and garlic.  Season with a dash of salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so that the flavors have a chance to blend.

To assemble the sliders:  First, open a slider roll.  Place two squares of Swiss cheese on the bottom.  Top the cheese with two slices of black forest ham.  Next, add 4 small pieces of salami (equals 1 piece).  Top the salami with 2 more pieces of Swiss cheese, add a pickle chip, and spread on a thin layer of the Dijon-Mayonnaise sauce.  Repeat the process with the remaining slider buns.

Preheat a griddler or panini press.  Once ready, place a few of the Cuban sliders onto the press and cook until the device beeps, or until the cheese is melted and the tops of the sliders are a little crispy.  If you don’t have a griddler, that is ok, you can always cook the sliders in a large skillet over medium-high heat, flipping once so that each side turns a little brown and becomes crispy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Southwest Summer Chicken

When I hear the word "summertime" I immediately visualize fireflies, bonfires, s'mores, fireworks, friends, and barbecues.  I just love the smell of tasty food cooking on the grill, even if it is not neccessarily for me.  Unfortunately, every so often, the weather chooses to get in the way, which just so happened to be the case last night.  However, I was not going to let that ruin the wonderful dinner I had planned. 

To be honest, I was a little nervous about this particular recipe.  Not because I couldn't grill it like the recipe originally called for, (I'll get back to that) but because I have NEVER been a fan of barbecue sauce.  My husband however, loves barbecue sauce and seeing that I have made him try out LOTS of new foods lately, I decided that it was only fair that I try this recipe, which I knew he would love.  To my surprise, I loved it too!  The chicken was quick and easy to make, and instead of grilling it (due to the rain), I just stuck it in the broiler.  I will most likely broil it next time as well, due to how juicy the chicken turned out.  If you want to though, you may always choose to cook this chicken on the grill.  Either way, I am sure it will turn out fantastic!

 Southwest Summer Chicken
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4 tsp. dried minced onion
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried or fresh minced garlic
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 chicken breasts, butterfly to create 4 pieces
¼ cup barbecue sauce
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

In a small bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.  Rub the mixture over both sides of the chicken breasts.  Now, combine the barbecue sauce and lemon juice in a large resealable bag and add the chicken, turning to coat.  Let marinate in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

Turn oven on broil.  Discard marinade.  Place the chicken pieces on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and broil for 12-15 minutes, making sure to turn the chicken pieces over once about halfway through.  If you choose to grill the chicken, make sure to cook the pieces over medium heat until the thermometer reads 160 degrees.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chicken with a Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce

Chicken with a Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce
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I LOVE chicken!  It is definitely my favorite meat, and I could easily eat it every night.  I also like variation though, so I’m always on the look out for new chicken recipes.  I was extremely excited when I discovered this particular recipe, because I was short on time and I already had all the ingredients I would need. 

Due to the fact that the last Dijon chicken I made was such a big hit, (even though my husband hates mustard) I decided to give this recipe a try.  Once again, it was a HUGE success.  The chicken not only came out of the skillet tender and juicy, but the creamy mustard sauce added a very nice flavor.  The other great thing about this recipe is that you can choose to serve it with any side dish that appeals to you.  For example, I served mine with broccoli and string beans, while my husband had his over a pile of brown rice.  Both ways were delicious! 

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons
Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Place olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  While the oil is warming, season the chicken with a little salt and pepper.  Next, add the chicken to the skillet and sautĂ© until it is cooked through (about 10-15 minutes, flipping once).  Once cooked, transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with tin foil to keep warm.  Slowly pour the chicken broth into the hot skillet.  Gently whisk in the cream, mustard and oregano.  Turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 2 minutes while constantly stirring.  Now, pour the sauce over chicken and serve.  Enjoy!

Source: From Let's Dish

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Large Soft Pretzels

Besides shopping, one of the best things at the mall is walking past Auntie Anne's Pretzels.  I can always tell when I am getting close too, because the aroma of hot, buttery pretzels just lingers about in the air.  Sometimes I have to give into my cravings and stop to pick one up, but it is always difficult to just walk by. 

Not too long ago though, I was having a serious craving for a soft pretzel and didn't want to drive all the way down to the mall.  Instead I decided to try to make my own.  So I immediately got online, looked around and found a recipe.  With so many different recipes out there, I was a little nervous which one to try.  I ended up settling on this one and am glad that I did!  The pretzels turned out great!  I do not even need to look for a different recipe, because this is the one!  I will definitely be making these again.  Although next time, I might try to make little soft pretzel sticks, so be on the look out for another post. 

Large Soft Pretzels
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For the dough:
1 ½ cups warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast
about 4 ½ cups all purpose flour
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl

For Finishing:
Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water
Pretzel or kosher salt

In order to make the dough you will need to combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the yeast is dissolved.  Let sit for 1 minute.  Now, gently pour in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough begins to come together.  Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl (this should take about 5 minutes).  Transfer the dough to a bowl that has been lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

To Bake:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper, spraying them with cooking spray and then placing aside for later use.  Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot.  While you are waiting for the water to boil, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll it out into a 24-inch long rope.  Now, make a U-shape with the rope and while you are holding the ends of the rope cross them over each other twice and onto the bottom of the U-shape, thus providing the pretzel shape.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Gently set the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.  Remove pretzels from the water with a slotted skimmer and place on prepared baking sheets.  Once all the pretzels had been removed from the water, lightly brush the tops of them with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in preheated oven until the turn a nice golden brown.  This should take about 12-14 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack for cooling and then enjoy!

Sources: Annie's Eats; originally from Alton Brown at Food Network

Friday, July 1, 2011

Extreme Peanut Butter Chip Cookie

WARNING!!  Beware of this cookie, because it is beyond delicious! 

I feel that I should post this warning because it’s like I said the other day, peanut butter and chocolate are just meant to go hand in hand!  If you consider yourself a true peanut butter lover, then this cookie is definitely for you!  If you are someone who is allergic to peanut butter though, I’m sorry.  At least you don’t know what you are missing out on. 

Now, let me direct my attention back to the peanut butter lovers out there.  Some important information for you to know, regarding this cookie, is that it contains everything you can imagine that has peanut butter in it, from Reese’s Pieces, to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, to peanut butter chips, and of course, peanut butter.  Can you say “Yum”!  Enough rambling though, let me just provide you the recipe so that you may enjoy a batch!

Extreme Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Cookies

(Makes about 36 cookies)
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup Reese’s Pieces
1 package mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, cut into halves and frozen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone mat.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter, white sugar, and brown sugar, until smooth.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Stir in the vanilla.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.  Beat the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture until just combined.  Using a large wooden spoon stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and Reese’s Pieces (This is best when done by hand so that the shells of the Reese’s Pieces do not break.  If you don’t care about that though, you can blend together using your electric mixer)

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet about an inch or so apart.  Push one frozen peanut butter cup half into the center of each ball of dough.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  It is very important that you let cool in pan for 1-2 minutes; otherwise the cookie will fall apart when you try to transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.