Friday, January 28, 2011

Soft Sugar Cookies Recipe

soft sugar cookie sprinkles

Soft, frosted supermarket sugar cookies, or Lofthouse style cookies, are always a treat, but I think this recipe for soft, cake cookies is even better! In fact, the homemade versions are fluffy clouds of sugary bliss. Sweet, addictive, habit-forming, cookie clouds. They are so good, that I have started calling them crackies, and have found that an entire batch can easily be consumed in a day or two… by one person.

SOFT CAKE SUGAR COOKIES RECIPE

(Makes around 40 cookies)

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coconut extract

FROSTING RECIPE

3.75 cups of powdered sugar

¼ cup butter - melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup evaporated milk

¼ teaspoon salt

METHOD

Make the cookies

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt – set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using a stand or hand mixer for around 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and coconut extract, and beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix until you have smooth dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for one hour.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. And line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.

When the dough has chilled, remove it from the bowl, coat it in flour, and roll it out on a lightly floured counter until it is ¼ inch thick.

Using your cookie cutter of choice (I’m partial to round), cut out as many cookies as will fit on your sheets, allowing ½ inch of space between each.

unbaked sugar cookies

Bake the cookies for 6-10 minutes (depending on your oven), until they are just beginning to brown on the edges. Remove and allow them to cool.soft sugar cookies baked

Make the Frosting

While the cookies cool, sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl; add the melted butter, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, and salt and beat together with a stand or hand mixture until smooth.

Using a butter knife apply a liberal coating of frosting to each cookie. frosted sugar cookie

Apply sprinkles if you so choose.

soft sugar cookie

Consume ravenously!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cold Italian Pasta Salad and Dressing Recipe

cold Italian pasta salad

There is something comforting and addictive about vinegary pasta salads, and I find myself eating them at least once a week. Cold Italian-style pasta salad is my favorite, and if I see it on a menu, I order it; if I have the ingredients on hand, I make it; if it’s left out unattended on your dining table, I steal it.

Cold Italian pasta salad is an easy and refreshing dish at any time of the year, and it’s also a great recipe for entertaining friends. My version of Italian Pasta Salad can be prepared in advance, and transported and assembled on-site, making it a perfect choice for picnics or potlucks.

ITALIAN PASTA SALAD RECIPE

The Basics: These are the ingredients I always include in my Italian Pasta Salad recipe

1 cup of grape or cherry tomatoes – halved across the poles

1 hot-house (English) cucumber – halved, seeded and cut into ¼ inch half-moons

1 large red bell pepper – diced into ¼ inch cubes

1 head of romain lettuce – cut into ½ inch squares

1 can of black olives – rinsed, and halved across the poles

2 cups of dried fussili, macaroni, penne, or farfalle pasta – cooked al-dente, according to the package instructions

The Extras: These ingredients are also great as additions or substitutions to the above list

1 cup mozzarella or provolone cheese - diced into 1/4 inch cubes

1 cup sweet potato – boiled until soft, peeled, and diced into ½ inch cubes

1 cup broccoli flourettes

1 cup asparagus – blanched for 2 minutes in boiling water, and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup fresh corn

1 cup sweet onion – diced into 1/8 inch cubes

1 cup celery – diced into 1/8 inch cubes

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes – diced into ¼ inch cubes

HOMEMADE ITALIAN SALAD DRESSING RECIPE

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup apple cider vinegar (red wine vinegar is also good)

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion power

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

METHOD – Make the Salad Dressing

Pretty much just combine all of the ingredients in large measuring cup, and whisk or stir with a fork until they have emulsified.

METHOD – Assemble the Salad

After prepping all of the ingredients as indicated above, either combine them all into a large bowl if you are eating the salad immediately, or store individually in plastic bags for later use.

salad to go

Storing all of the ingredients in individual plastic bags or containers prior to assembly ensure the maximum freshness of the salad. If you are transporting the salad to a picnic or potluck, leave the ingredients in their separate containers and assemble at the event.

When you are ready to eat the salad, toss all of the ingredients together and pour the salad dressing on top.

italian salad

Finish by fixing yo’self a big bowl of magic!

italian salad to go

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Slow Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

tomatillo

Slow roasted tomatillos provide a tasty variation to my standard salsa verde recipe. This tomatillo salsa has a deep, rich flavor, a creamy texture and a tangy bite that makes it perfect for dipping salty chips and smothering your favorite burro.

ROASTED TOMATILLO SALSA RECIPE

6 Tomatillos – split in half across the poles

1 Poblano chile – seeded and split in half

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic

1 tablespoon of dried oregano

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of black pepper

1 cup vegetable stock

METHOD

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place the tomatillos and poblano on the sheet. Carefully drizzle or brush the olive oil over the surface of the tomatillos and chile. Sprinkle the garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper over the tomatillos and chile, and place them in the oven.

tomatillo salsa ingredients

Bake them for two to three hours until they have dried up a bit.roasted tomatillo

Combine all of the tomatillos, chile, and vegetable stock in the bowl of a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth.

Eat your roasted tomatillo salsa with a chip!tomatillo salsa

The slow roasted tomatillos also make great pizza toppings along with slow roasted tomatoes! roasted tomato pizza unbaked

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Big Ass Sandwich

big ass sandwich
Smoked turkey. Candied bacon. Steak. Caramelized onions. Fried eggs.
Every great sandwich has a great filling. Only one sandwich has them all!

I don’t mess around when it comes to making sandwiches, and a great sandwich recipe is useful to have in your arsenal if you need to bribe friends for a favor:

“If you come help me, I will make sandwiches!”

“Big ass sandwiches?”

“I only know how to make one size!”

“Done!”

After all, what could be better than having an assortment of your favorite things, snuggled neatly together, between two slices of crispy baguette? Nothing, amigos. And if you think of something, just add it to the sandwich.

In fact, this post is more of a guideline for sandwich making. Sure, if you copy this recipe exactly you will undoubtedly delight your mouth with a glorious explosion of flavor. But don’t limit yourself to the ingredients I’ve listed. Find your own Way of the sandwich with the flavors you crave.

BIG ASS SANDWICH RECIPE

2 eight-inch slices of toasted baguette

¼ pound ounces of sliced smoked turkey

¼ pound of sliced steak

2 slices of candied bacon

2 ounces of caramelized onions

2 fried eggs - salted and peppered

2 ounces of Colby-jack cheese

METHOD

1. Add the turkey to the baguette.smoked turkey sandwich

2. Layer the steak on the turkey.steak sandwich

3. Layer the bacon on the steak.bacon sandwich

4. Place the eggs on the bacon.egg on sandwich

6. Sprinkle the cheese on the eggs.cheese on sandwich

7. Top with the caramelized onions.big ass sandwich toppings

8. Slice in half and admire its majesty.the big sandwich

9. Take a big ol' bite!
bite of big ass sandwich

Friday, January 14, 2011

Candied Bacon - Three Ways

candied bacon slices

What’s better than crispy, salty, bacon? SUGAR COATED, crispy, salty bacon! OMG! Candied bacon is the perfect way to remind your tongue that you guys are still best buds! I can pretty much eat this stuff all day long, which is why I make it rarely and sparingly. In my most recent bacon candying exploit, I experimented with three kinds of coating: white sugar, brown sugar, and teriyaki sauce. Although the white sugar yielded the best results, with the crispest texture, brown sugar had a deeper candy flavor, and the teriyaki sauce was also excellent. Try them all and decide which version you prefer!

CANDIED BACON RECIPE

10 strips of thick-cut bacon

1 tablespoon of sugar, brown sugar, or homemade teriyaki sauce (recipe found here).

METHOD

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lining a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Then, put two metal drying racks on cookie sheet, and place the bacon on the racks.

Sprinkle half of the sugar of your choice or the teriyaki sauce on the bacon, ensuring that each piece is evenly coated.

bacon sliced

Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven, flip the bacon, and using the remaining sugar or sauce, coat the other side of each piece of bacon. Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes – keeping an eye on it to make sure the bacon does not burn.

sliced candied bacon

Consume with gusto!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dad’s Pancakes

Tofu pancakes

When I moved to Tucson, AZ in 2000 for my first round of college, I asked my dad to provide me with a collection of my favorite recipes of his. He jotted a few of his classics down on a notepad, which I keep to this day. Among these gems is my dad’s recipe for the best pancakes!

This is, by far, my favorite recipe for pancakes. They have a chewy texture with a crispy exterior that, in my opinion, cannot be beat! And do you know what the secret to this magic is? Tofu! This is one instance where vegetarianizing up a standard recipe really results in a superior product. Try it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed! And if you are disappointed, well, I’m afraid that’s just a YOU problem.

TOFU PANCAKES RECIPE

2 ¼ cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ cup sugar

4 ounces of soft/silken tofu

5 tablespoons of melted butter (can substitute olive oil for vegan recipe)

2 cups of milk (can substitute water for vegan recipe)

½ to ¾ cup water

Special Equipment: Blender/food processor, griddle or pancake pan

METHOD

Preheat your griddle over a medium-high heat burner.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer.

Place the tofu, butter, and milk into a blender and blend until smooth.

Add the blended ingredients and additional water to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

batter

PANCAKE MAKING SECRETS

Now, spoon the mixture, 1/3 cup per pancake, onto your hot griddle. Here is the trick to perfect pancakes: wait until the top of the pancake has started to dry and has become porous. When the cakes look like this:

tofu pancakes on the hot griddle

tofu pancakes

Flip them. Wait 2 minutes, and remove them from the griddle.

Eat them while they’re hot!

pancake

Now that you have the basic batter and technique down, you can make pancake variations by either folding additional ingredients into the batter or by sprinkling them on individual cakes while they are on the griddle. Popular options include blueberries or chocolate chips, but I’m also a big fan of bacon and chocolate chip:

bacon chocolate chip pancake

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Kung Pao Walnuts

The New Snacking Craze!
kungpao walnuts

I stumbled upon this technique while making a classic gongbao chicken. I was frying my ingredients separately and decided to deglaze the pan of nuts with a teriyaki sauce; the sauce vaporized as it hit the pan, the nuts were almost instantly glazed, and they went on to become the highlight of the meal. Afterwards, I decided that these nuts were actually one heck of a snack, and now I make them fairly regularly. So should you!

KUNG PAO WALNUTS RECIPE
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup arbol chiles
2 TBS veg oil

Sauce:
2 TBS brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon corn starch (optional)
3 tbs soy
1 tbs sesame (optional)
1 tbs rice vinegar (optional)
1 clove grated garlic

METHOD
Preheat the oil in a pan at medium high heat and then add the chiles. Fry the chiles until they become aromatic and toasted. Add the walnuts and fry them until they, too, have become aromatic and toasted.

Kung Pao walnuts

Turn the heat up to high and add the sauce; it should immediately caramelize and vaporize, and so, stirring quickly, make sure that all of the nuts and chiles get evenly coated. Then, remove the nuts and chiles to aluminum foil lined cookie sheet or bowl.

Allow to cool and eat them in one sitting! Or store in the fridge for optimum yumminess!

caramel noodles

They are also quite tasty sprinkled over noodles or rice!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tamale Time

tamales

Tamales are popular holiday treat for many families in the Southwest. In our house, we have had the off-and-on tradition of preparing a wide variety these steamed delights for our Christmas Eve dinners for several years, and they are always a crowd pleaser. Our green corn tamales are typically the most popular and that’s the recipe I am going to share with you today! Plus, I’ve halved the fat content of our traditional recipe and have found that they are just as satisfying and delicious!

GREEN CORN TAMALES RECIPE

(Makes around 2 dozen tamales)

½ Lb. Whole-grain medium-grind corn meal (I like Bob’s Red Mill)

32 oz. frozen corn defrosted room temp (fresh corn is also good)

1 tbsp sugar

½ stick of butter at room temp (can be doubled for a richer flavor)

½ cup of shortening (can be doubled for more shorteningy)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

4 roasted, pealed, and seeded green chiles (hatch or poblano), cut into thin strips

½ pound shredded colby jack cheese and ½ pound shredded aged cheddar cheese - mixed

1 package of dried cornhusks

Parchment paper cut into squares or precut parchment for tamales

(Special Equipment: food processor, tamalera or steaming wrack for a large pot)

METHOD

Although there are a lot of steps to the recipe, it is my opinion that tamale making has been hyped up to be a little more challenging and time consuming than the reality of the process. Just make sure to have all of your equipment and ingredients ready in advance, and you will be eating tamales within a couple of hours.

Begin by soaking your cornhusks in a large pot of hot water for an hour prior to the tamale making. Next, place a steam wrack in the bottom of your pot or tamalera, add two cups of water, and bring to a boil over medium heat.

tamale pot

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until it is a fine powder. Next, add the shortening and butter and process till combined. Then, add the corn and process into a paste.

masa

Spread 1/4cup of the masa onto an open corn husk leaving about an inch of husk above and below the filling. Add a tablespoon of cheese, a chili strip, and another spoonful of masa over the filling.

tamale filling

Fold the bottom flap of the husk over the filling, fold a side flap over the filling and roll to seal.

tamale husk1

husk wrapped tamale

Next, place the husked tamale on a square piece of parchment paper on a bias. Fold over the top and bottom flaps, fold over the side flap pointing towards you, and then roll the tamale to seal (like wrapping egg rolls). Repeat until done.

tamale wrap 1

Line your steam wrack, and the sides of the pot with leftover cornhusks. Place the tamales in the pot horizontally so that the filling does not run out.

tamales in pot

Steam for an hour and pig out!

sweet potato salsa on tamale

green corn tamale