Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Search is Over for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip recipes are not hard to come across, but finding a good one is one of the hardest things ever. Since I was given this recipe 4 years ago I haven't found one to replace it. I've tried maybe two or three others and nothing compares. I guess the saying is true: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

These cookies come out chewy, big, chocolatey... the list could go on. I urge you to try it next time you want to wow people with one of the most common desserts ever. I usually use normal size chocolate chips, but I had mini ones on hand and I actually thing they look adorable. Chocolate chip size is totally up to you and what your personal preference is.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips (I usually end up adding more)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper/silicone baking mats.

Sift together dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, cream melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until blended completely. I use my KitchenAid fitted with the paddle for this. 

Beat the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into creamed mixture until completely combined, light, and creamy. 

Mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. 

Using a Vollrath Company size 30 cookie scoop (about 1/4 cup), drop dough onto cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. 

Bake 15-17 minutes, until edges are lightly brown/golden.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. 

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Impressive & Easy Spring Dessert: A Win Win

Sometimes I get ambitious and pin these gorgeous looking things on Pinterest that I know I probably won't ever have the patience to make. I saw a strawberry tart that looked so pretty and when I saw it was essentially no-bake (aside from the crust) I knew I had to make it. The pin directed me to Closet Cooking, which I will definitely be frequenting now. It turned out to be a lot simpler to put together than I thought! I was quite pleased with myself.

This tart was not too sweet or lemony by any means. The crust tasted like shortbread with a hint of lemon and the cheesecake filling had a lemony hint as well that was actually refreshing. The strawberries on top were just the icing on the cake (yeah.. pun intended). The crowd was pretty large on Easter and there weren't too many desserts (a couple of pies, cupcakes, and something else); the other pies only had one slice missing and only 2 cupcakes were eaten, but this pie only had a tiny slice left in the dish by the end of the night.

No-bake Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake with Lemon Poppyseed Crust and an Abundance of Strawberries
Lemon poppy seed shortbread crust
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Lemon ricotta no-bake cheesecake filling
1 cup ricotta cheese
4 oz cream cheese, softened (I recommend using Philadelphia brand)
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest

Pie topping
About 2 lbs strawberries (try to find ones that are average sized, not too small or humongous) 

Lemon poppy seed shortbread crust
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

With a hand mixer or in a stand mixer cream the softened butter. Once butter is completely creamy mix in sugar, lemon zest, poppy seeds and salt until incorporated.

Add flour and mix until crumbs form.

Press the crust mixture into a 9-inch pie dish or tart dish (ungreased). 

Bake for 12 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely before adding in the filling (about an hour and a half).

Lemon ricotta no-bake cheesecake filling
Mix together ricotta, cream cheese, honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest until completely smooth (don't over mix though!).

Putting the pie together
Spread the cheesecake mixture in the cooled crust.

Slice strawberries into thirds lengthwise and arrange on top to form the pictured design.

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M&M Cookies for Every Occasion

Easter weekend came and went so quickly. I can't believe it's almost May already! Being home from school for 4 days for the holiday was great and I'm so happy I got to spend so much time with family. I also had a decent amount of time to spend in the kitchen. I got on a baking kick (my whole life is spent on a baking/cooking kick, but we can pretend it's sporadic) and since it was a holiday I used it as an excuse to bake more than usual because I could pawn treats off on neighbors, family, friends, etc. Not like you really need an excuse to do that though..

Every year I make M&M cookies for Christmas and Easter using the holiday edition M&Ms so the cookies look festive! I think Easter is my favorite because the pastel colors are too pretty. Occasionally I'll make them with the normal colored ones, too, since they're requested quite frequently. I've been using the same recipe for years and it never fails me, so I'll share it with all of you.

M&M Cookies
1 cup of backed light brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of M&Ms (I usually just eyeball it and add as much as I think will look the best)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix sugar, eggs, shortening, and vanilla until completely combined in a large mixing bowl. I use my KitchenAid with the paddle to do this.

Add flour, salt, and baking soda into the creamed mixture and blend well.

Add M&Ms and mix by hand with a wooden spoon just long enough so the candy is evenly dispersed throughout the dough. 

Use a Vallroth Company scoop in size 50 to drop dough onto a cookie sheet that's lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Place the cookies about 2 inches away from each other. If you don't have a cookie scoop you can drop the dough by the teaspoon.

Slightly push a few (4-5) candies on top of each dough ball with the remaining M&Ms you have.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until edges are just starting to become golden.

Note: This makes about 36 cookies

Happy baking! More recipes will be coming your way soon!

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's A Wrap!

I went to a party with my boyfriend last night for his biology friends to celebrate their accomplishments. The hostess said she was eating a wrap a couple of weeks ago and someone asked about it and what was in it and all she could think to say was "it's a wrap." This led to the party theme "it's a wrap" with all wrap themed foods, decorations, and of course, rap music.

Theme parties are so fun to make a casual get together more interesting. It's always exciting to see what different dishes people come up with, too! I spent quite a bit of time on Pinterest (what else is new?) and just went with my original dish idea anyway. I asked for recipes so I could share the theme with you guys and save you hours on Pinterest!

The theme is perfect for something like last night where you're celebrating people getting scholarships, wrapping up PhD projects, getting awards, etc. It's also almost summer, so plenty of people are graduating, which is a huge reason to celebrate wrapping up! The theme could also be applicable to someone retiring, going to a new job, etc. and a bunch of these dishes are easy to bring to an office setting because they can just be warmed in a kitchen quickly or can be served room temp.

I brought my infamous bacon wrapped dates. Easiest dish ever and people actually request them!

Bacon Wrapped Dates
One piece of bacon for every date you have

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut dates lengthwise, but not all the way through so you end up with two halves. You just want to get the pit out.
3. After you pit all of the dates, wrap each in a piece of bacon and stick a toothpick in it to keep them from unrolling.
4. Place all wrapped pieces on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes (make sure the bacon is cooked!).
5. Serve right out of the oven or you can warm them in the microwave or an oven when you get where you're going! Warm is preferred, but people eat them cold and still love them!
Note: Before wrapping the date in bacon you can put some goat cheese with an almond, walnut, or pecan inside where the pit was! They're to die for. 

Another extremely simple, yet delicious app was cream cheese rollups. 

Medium sized tortillas
Vegetable cream cheese

1. Spread cream cheese onto flat tortilla so it's evenly distributed and completely covering the tortilla
2. Roll tortilla into a log
3. Cut into 1 inch pieces

This was considered to be "wrapped in cornbread." It just has a layer on top, but regardless of how much of a stretch that is, it was delicious. And vegan! You would never know it when you ate it though!

Vegan Jamaican-Style Black Bean and Coconut-Cornbread
Serves 6
2 15 oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained (or soak you're own beans if you prefer.. I'm not big on canned anything, but it's the easier option!)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chilled (include he juices- don't drain them)
1 1/2 cups frozen yellow corn, thawed
1 white onion, chopped
A couple of handfuls of string beans (boil so that they're edible, but not mushy, and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces)
1/2 tsp jerk seasoning (you can add more to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (add more or less to taste)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cups light coconut milk
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Lightly oil an 8-inch baking dish and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl combine beans, tomatoes (including juices), corn, onion, string beans, jerk seasoning, and pepper. Stir until everything is mixed evenly.
4. Pour bean mixture into the bottom of the baking dish and spread evenly.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and 1/4 tsp of salt.
6. Add coconut milk and oil into the flour mixture and stir well to combine completely, but don't over-mix!
7. Spread the cornbread mixture evenly over the bean mixture in the pan.
8. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes (the top should be lightly browned and when you insert a toothpick into the center it should come out clean.)
9. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving!

The next two recipes are extremely easy and both are delish. I made the Elvis bites, which were inspired by Elvis quesadillas I made a while back. Someone else made the s'mores puffs and people were raving about them.

Elvis Bites
Medium tortillas
Peanut Butter
Mini semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1. Lay a tortilla flat and spread a few tablespoons of peanut butter to cover the whole thing.
2. Lay a banana along one edge, leaving less than a quarter of an inch border showing.
3. Sprinkle a few handfuls of chocolate chips over the peanut butter.

4. Roll the tortilla to form a log. The banana will straighten out and lose it's curve when you roll it.

5. If the end of the tortilla doesn't stay shut just spread some extra peanut butter to act as glue!
6. Cut the log into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces, depending on your preference.
7. Insert a toothpick into any pieces that don't stay shut.

Elvis Quesadillas
Medium tortillas
Peanut Butter
Bananas, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
Mini semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1. Lay a tortilla flat and spread a few tablespoons of peanut butter to cover the whole thing.
2. Sprinkle a few handfuls of chocolate chips over the half of the peanut butter.
3. On the other half lay banana rounds to cover most of that side.
4. Fold the tortilla in half and press in a panini press for a few minutes, warm in the microwave, or warm in the over so that the chocolate is melted.
5. Cut into thirds and enjoy!

S'mores Puffs
Serves 8
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
8 large marshmallows
1 or 2 (1.2 oz) milk chocolate candy bars, broken into squares

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Roll a chocolate square and marshmallow in a crescent roll and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and chocolate is melted.
4. Serve warm.

Some other things that people brought to fit the theme were spinach and feta stuffed puffed pastries, avocado rolls, turkey wraps, and apple pie (it's wrapped in pie crust!). The theme was fun and super creative.
Spinach and Feta Phyllo Triangles
Avocado Rolls (since they're veggie they're a cheap store-bought dish to bring!)
Turkey Wraps (another easy thing to pick up at the supermarket)

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