August 30, 2012

Homemade Sugar Cookies - Cookie cutters in the shapes of mustaches, high heels and more

Homemade Sugar Cookies

I've been making cut out cookies for years than I can count, and I have a handful of sugar cookie recipes that are 'keepers'.  Sometimes I want a sturdy shortbread based if they are going to be shipped or travel.  Other times I need them to be non-spreading if the cookie cutter I'm using is detailed with sharp edges.  Still other times I crave the flavor of the Christmas cookie my friends Mom would make every December.

This recipe is a good one because it incorporates so many good things.  It holds it's shape, yet puffs just enough to not look like a shortbread.  It is flavorful and delicious and goes well 'naked' with just a sprinkling of sugar or is the perfect blend of flavors when topped with your favorite icing or frosting.  It's just an all around good cookie.  The only thing I would caution is that it's a soft dough that needs to be chilled overnight (or all day if you make the dough in the morning and bake them that night).  If you don't have time to chill the dough, then simply make them into drop cookies by dropping them on the baking sheet and pressing with a fork or bottom of a sugared glass.

Homemade Sugar Cookies

1 c powdered sugar
1 c sugar
1 c oil
1 c butter
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 t salt
1 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
4 1/2 c flour (plus more for rolling)

Cream butter and oil with the sugars.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix well.  Chill at least 4 hours.  You can roll into small balls or drop on a cookie sheet and press with a fork or bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.  If you want to cut out shapes, heavily flour your surface.  Flip dough, re-flour the surface and roll as thick as you want your cookies (thin or thick).  Place on parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle with sugars if you want and bake at 350 for about 12 minutes until the edges are golden brown.  Remove, let sit on the sheet for about 1-2 minutes and then move to a rack to cool completely before icing as you wish.

A soft dough that needs chilling and lots of flour when rolling

Decorate as you wish!

Cutest ever... little bow tie and mustache cookie cutter set - made in America

Ann Clark Little Man Cookie Cutter Set - 2 Piece - Bow Tie and Mustache - Tin Plated Steel 

You might also be interested in:
Mustache cookie cutters... butterflies... flowers and fashionista; high heels, purse and ring bling cookie cutters!


Fox Run Flower and Butterfly 11 Piece Cookie Cutter Set

Wilton 2304-1050 101-Piece Cookie Cutter Set

Fashionista Cookie Cutter Set

Wilton 2308-0900 3-Piece Cookie Cutters, Tie/Mustache/Lips

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August 29, 2012

Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup

Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup

Like many kids, I grew up eating tomato soup that came from a can.  However, ours was not made with water and heated and served, but was made with milk, a pat of butter added and seasoned with salt and pepper.  When friends would have tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches at our home, they always raved about how good it was and wondered why theirs never tasted like that.  The secret of course was the creamy milk, the pat of butter and seasoning.

Now that I'm an adult with my own family I rarely purchase canned tomato soup, but we still love a simple meal of soup and sandwiches.  Yesterday we had another crop of tomatoes ready in the garden so I decided it was the perfect day to whip up a batch of homemade tomato soup!  Creamy and fresh tasting with homemade tomatoes;  don't hesitate to make it even if you don't have fresh on hand!  This is easily made with canned tomato puree' or even canned diced tomatoes that you can run through the blender.  Any way you 'play with your food' you'll get a version of tomato soup that is fit for an adult but kids still love it too!

Homemade Tomato Soup

1/2 stick of butter (about 4 tablespoons)
1 T oil
3/4 c sweet onion, diced

5-6 cups worth of tomato puree (approximately)
1-2 basil leaves, ripped or diced
1/3 c flour
1 3/4 - 2 cups chicken broth (bouillon, homemade or canned)
2 T sugar
1 1/2 c milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the butter and vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and basil. Simmer about 10 minutes. 

Combine the flour into the broth and whisk or beat with a fork until smooth.  Add to the soup, stirring constantly. Simmer on low 10-15 minutes.  Add the sugar, milk and salt and pepper.  Heat through and serve.

*Note:  If you are using fresh tomatoes, plunge them into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then into cold water and slip the skin off before chopping up and adding them to your blender to puree.  If you are using canned, diced tomatoes you have the choice of blending them smoother OR leave them chunky for a soup with body.  If you are using puree from a can, no need to use a blender at all.

After plunging the tomatoes in boiling water and cold, the skin will slip right off!

Fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden

You might be interested in:

Oster 5-Cup Glass Jar - 2-Speed Beehive Blender

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August 26, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are so classic!  I like to surprise my husband (and kids) with these cookies and often times use M&M candies instead of chocolate chips - or use Toffee Chips or a mixture of white chocolate and chocolate...  use your imagination and have fun!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c butter, soft
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 package (about 2 cups)  chocolate chips

Beat butter and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough in walnut sized portions, 2 inches apart, onto greased baking sheets.

Bake at 400° oven until cookies are lightly browned, about 7-8 minutes. Let set on the baking sheet for about 2-3 minutes before transferring to a cookie rack to cool. If you over bake them, they will be crisp - but not chewy.Print Friendly and PDF

August 25, 2012

Personalizing Homemade Pizza

You can tell my portion! Peppers, olives, mushrooms....

Since this website started back in 2006, pizza has been a recurring theme.  Why?  Because I've been making homemade pizza for my family since... well, it seems like forever!  Starting as a family movie night treat, by the time they were starting to be teens, it was a standard 'every Saturday night' fare and everyone and anyone could be sure to stop into our home and know they were welcome to join us for any variety of the 3 large pizza's I would make.

On a whim I snapped this picture of one of the last pizza's I made.  As you can see, it's primarily a nice thick double cheese and pepperoni pizza.  This makes my husband happy.  But I'm a veggie kind of girl.  So I sometimes top a small portion of one of the pizza's with items from the refrigerator and pantry I am craving!  A great reminder to everyone to personalize YOUR pizzas!  No need to make a whole separate pie.  Just personalize your little corner;  green peppers, olives, mushrooms, onions... it's all good!

Some other pizza posts on my site:

Greek Feta and Spinach Pizza
Homemade Taco Pizza
Homemade Pizza Dough

You might be interested in:

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August 24, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Penuche Frosting

This morning I enjoyed a cup of coffee outside on the deck.  All summer long it's been too hot and humid to truly enjoy the morning this way, but this morning it was just nice and cool enough to hint at Autumn and what is to come.  One of the cooking joys of the season is that my body starts to crave things made with pumpkin and Autumn squash.  Pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are a 'must' but also a nice cookie with penuche frosting. 

As I sat down to update the website this morning I grabbed one of my "grandmother" recipes and have spent about 15 minutes going through my photos to find the one of this cookie.  I know it's there, but it's being elusive and frankly, I just can't spend anymore time searching for it.  So without further adieu, I give you a nice Fall cookie... sans photo.  Sorry bout that.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Penuche Frosting

1 c shortening
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1 c pumpkin puree (use your favorite squash or pumpkin)
1 egg
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 c quick oats style oatmeal or oat/bran flakes
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/8 t ginger, ground
1/2 t salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c milk
2 c powdered sugar

In a large bowl, cream together shortening, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and white sugar.  Mix in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; mix into the creamed mixture. Stir in walnuts. Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees on greased baking sheets. Cool on wire racks while you make the frosting.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the 3 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute, or until slightly thickened. Cool slightly, then stir in the milk, and beat until smooth. Gradually stir in 2 cups confectioners' sugar until frosting has reached desired consistency. Spread on cooled cookies.

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August 23, 2012

Broccoli Salad with Craisins or Cranberries

A salad you know so well you don't really use a recipe for, but just throw together on a whim.  That is what this salad is in our house. The only down side to it is that you don't want to whip it up just minutes before serving.  You need to let this one sit at least an hour - 2-3 is better.  This allows the flavors of the dressing to mix together, the sugar to melt into the mayonnaise and vinegar and the flavors to blend.  Play with the amounts - and use craisins, raisins, dried cranberries... whatever you feel like.  You can also add toasted sesame seeds, toasted almonds and even a little cooked pasta!  So many possibilities!

Broccoli Salad

1 head fresh broccoli, cut in bite sized pieces
2-3 T sweet onion or red onion, chopped
1/4 c craisins or dried cranberries
2 T real cooked, crumbled bacon
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 T vinegar - apple cider or balsamic
1 t sugar or Splenda or other sweetener

Mix the broccoli, onion, craisins and bacon in a bowl.  Mix the mayonnaise, vinegar and sweetener, add to the salad and chill for 2 hours before serving.   If you are adding almonds, sesame seeds or other nuts, add them just before serving to keep them from getting soggy in the salad. 

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August 21, 2012

Finally Posted! Almond Vanilla Pie - (Similar to Pecan Pie)

Almond Vanilla Pie

Although I'm a big fan of a slice of pecan pie and a hot cup of coffee, I'm also a big fan of English Toffee and Almonds.  I started to think;  pecan pie isn't too far from the flavor of toffee and almonds so... why not?

I threw this together from a mixture of a couple different recipes for pecan pie coupled with my own brain.  I also baked mine in a solar oven since it is still about 95 degree's outside here and I didn't want to use my oven today.  Most people do indeed cook theirs in a regular oven.  Enjoy.

Homemade Almond Vanilla Pie (similar to pecan)

1 2/3 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 c cold butter, grated or diced
2 egg yolks
1/3 sweetened condensed milk

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter until crumbly.  Mix the egg yolks with the sweetened condensed milk and add to the flour.  Stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together to form a ball.  Press into a 9" deep dish pie pan.  If you only have regular pans, you'll need two.  Refrigerate while you make the filling.

1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c (1 stick) butter plus 2 Tablespoons more
1/3 c white Karo syrup minus 1 Tablespoon
1 T pancake syrup or maple syrup
3 eggs plus
3 egg whites
1 t vanilla
2 cups ground raw almonds

In a saucepan, place the sugar, butter and syrups.  Cook over medium high, stirring, until it comes to a full boil.  Remove from heat.  Let set while you mix the beats and egg whites with the vanilla.  When frothy, keep the mixer running while you drizzle in the syrup.  Don't pour it all at once or you will cook your eggs and make them scrambled!  When all combined, stir in the almonds.  Pour into the pie pan and bake at 350 about 40 minutes (or a solar oven about 1 1/2 hours) until dark golden brown.   The edges will be completely set although the center might still be a bit jiggly.  Let it set at room temperature and completely cool to room temperature.  It will thicken as it cools.  You can refrigerate the leftovers.  *Note I use a metal pan.  If you use ceramic your cook time might be longer. 


Ready to go into the oven

Just out of the oven.  Time to let it set and cool completely

Almond Vanilla Pie - when you want something besides Pecan Pie


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Mushroom and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Breasts

All amounts are approximate;  play with your food!
Mushroom and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Breasts

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts  (buy thin sliced or pound flat)
1/3 c crumbled, cooked bacon (I used Hormel Real Bacon Crumbles)
1 T diced onion
2 T butter
salt and pepper
1 can or fresh mushrooms:  about 1/2 cup or 4-5 oz.
3 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup shredded cheddar jack or other fav cheese
Breading:  optional  - bread crumbs, Panko, etc. (I used crushed croutons)

In a saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter.  Add the mushrooms and onions.  Saute until tender and golden.  Add the cooked bacon crumbles and cream cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat, stir in the shredded cheese.  On each flat chicken breasts, place 1/4 of the mixture.  Roll up and secure with toothpicks or a skewer.  Roll or sprinkle with breading if you wish.  Bake in a greased baking pan about 35 minutes until done and no longer pink. 

You can season your chicken breasts if you like or just use plain

Saute' the mushrooms and onions, adding the bacon and then the cheeses

I skewered mine and cupped crushed croutons to bread

You might be interested in:

Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue Signature Stainless Steel Grilling Kabob Skewers, Set of 6 (3/8-inch Wide)

NEW, 10-Inch Long Stainless Steel Skewers, Barbecue Skewers, BBQ Skewers, Shish Kebab Kabob Skewers, Ring-Tip Handle, 1-Dozen

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August 18, 2012

M&M Bars - Except for the 1/4 of the pan I put Walnuts in!

This side is for my family... with M&M's

Sometimes you feel like a nut..... sometimes you don't. 

Yes, I have that old Almond Joy/Mounds Bar jingle going through my head as I upload these two pictures I quick ran into the kitchen to take a picture of.

Yeah, I know a lot of food bloggers spend an hour getting 'just the right photo' for their foods.  Eh, I'm busy.  If I remember to take a picture with my cheap little Sony CyberShot, we're doing good... and to upload it and resize it?  Even better!  I spend about 11 seconds taking my food photos... and sometimes they even turn out looking pretty good!  Ha.

This side is for me... no chocolate for this 'nut' (pun intended)

For this recipe most people will probably use a 9X9" pan - which is perfect.  But I didn't want to.

Yesterday when I thought about what I wanted to bake, I realized I was pulling a memory out of my brain from when I was about 9 years old.  Our small, Catholic elementary school would hold "juice and cookie" time after all our school concerts in the gym.  Everyone would bring cookies or bars to share and it was the highlight of my week.  My month. This is where I tasted most of the cookies and bars I ever had in my childhood and where I came to love things like spice bars, pumpkin bars and more.

A cookie bar from my childhood memory:  A chocolate chip bar that was soft and chewy and sweet like a chocolate chip cookie but... yet, not.  It was very thin and while the outside had a thin crust, the inside was a darker shade of chewy goodness.

So that's what I set out to make.  And since my family loves chocolate and I love nuts...  3/4 of the pan was M&M's and the other part was mine... all mine... and full of walnut pieces.  You make them how YOU like them.  Heck, go crazy and put raisins in them if that's what your heart desires.

M&M COOKIE BARS  (or chocolate chips, toffee chips, raisins, nuts or even candy bars...)

1 1/4 sticks of butter (about 1/2 cup plus 2 T)
1 1/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 - 1 1/2 c M&M's, walnuts, chocolate chunks, chopped candy, raisins, etc.

Grease or butter a 9X9" pan or for thin bars like I made, use a large sized pan.  Cream butter and sugar smooth.  Add eggs, beat, add vanilla and beat.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended.  Fold in the candy or nuts.  Spread in your pan evenly.  Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes for the 9" pan and less for a larger, thinner bar - until dark, golden brown.  Let cool.  Cut.

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