Friday, December 8, 2017

Gingerbread cookies

I don't recall having much (if any) gingerbread growing up, but over the past few years, I have developed a reverence for the stuff. I was fortunate enough to find this recipe, titled "The Most Wonderful Gingerbread Cookies," on my first attempt at making gingerbread. It always turns out beautifully for me.

I like my gingerbread cookies nice and soft. I also like to use my special Williams Sonoma Message In A Cookie Cutters to stamp Christmas messages into them. They make the perfect neighbor gifts. I make several batches of this each December.

Gingerbread Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients until well blended. 
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and egg together until blended. Add molasses and vanilla; mix until well blended. 
  3. Gradually add dry mixture to wet ingredients; mix until smooth. 
  4. Divide dough in half and wrap in Saran wrap. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
  6. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Roll out one portion of dough to about 1/4" thick. It helps to also sprinkle a bit of flour on the dough. 
  7. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes, and place them on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.
  8. Bake 7-8 minutes for soft gingerbread.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Chicken Bake

Costco chicken bakes, the ones from the cafe (or also available to purchase frozen), are a yummy treat my parents used to buy me. Since we don't live near a Costco, I decided to try to make my own. These are a bit more bready (not necessarily a bad thing!) than I remember the Costco ones being, but the flavor is about right. I originally followed this recipe on Redefined Mom but the most recent time I made them, I changed a few things and liked the result a lot better. I used the amounts below and ended up with 4 enormous chicken bakes (one is sufficient to feed my family as a meal with a side of vegetables). I froze the extras to eat later!

Chicken Bake

one batch pizza dough
2-3 chicken breasts, baked ahead of time and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 large onion, diced
6-8 strips of bacon, cooked and cut into small pieces
a few artichoke hearts, diced
2-3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 bottle caesar dressing

  1. (Prep work: bake frozen chicken breasts, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, at 375°F for 35-40 minutes, until done. Allow to cool, then chop into bite-sized pieces. While baking, you can fry up your bacon & drain on paper towels, and make a batch of pizza dough.)
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Dice onion and cut bacon into small pieces. In a large bowl, combine onion, bacon, artichoke hearts, and chicken.
  4. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup caesar dressing and mix until everything is well-coated.
  5. Divide dough into 4 even balls (or more if you'd like smaller chicken bakes). Roll each section into a large rectangle, with dough as thin as possible. 
  6. Generously brush a few tablespoonfuls of caesar dressing onto each dough rectangle. Don't skimp!
  7. Scoop 1/2 cup or so of the chicken-bacon-onion-artichoke hearts mixture unto each dough rectangle and spread out into a single layer, leaving a couple of inches of space at one end.
  8. Generously sprinkle cheese over the chicken mixture.
  9. Roll up dough rectangle, ending at the side with a couple inches of space. Use the extra dough to seal it up. Place seam-side down onto a baking sheet. Brush with caesar dressing and sprinkle with more mozzarella cheese.
  10. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the outside. Serve hot; can be eaten like a sandwich or cut into rounds and eaten with a fork.

Pizza dough

We eat pizza on about a weekly rotation. We all love bread and cheese and tomato sauce, so it definitely gets a presence in our diet. Our daughter even requested to eat pizza for her 2nd birthday!

This is my go-to pizza dough recipe over the last year or so (found originally at Chef In Training). It's pretty straightforward and works well for me. If I find a better recipe I'm not opposed to updating, but I'm not actively searching for one. When I make pizza, I often make a couple batches of dough so I can make pizzas to freeze as well. Here's where I originally learned the process for freezing pizzas.

Pizza Dough
yield: dough for 2 pizzas

2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp salt
1/4 cup oil
5 cups flour
  1. Proof yeast in warm water for a few minutes. Add salt and oil; stir to mix.
  2. Add flour and stir well to combine. When it begins to form a sticky dough, pour out onto well-floured surface and knead until smooth, adding flour as needed to keep it more toward smooth than sticky.
  3. Return to bowl; cover and let sit for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Divide in two. Roll out each ball into a flat circle to fit your pizza pan. If rolled very thin it is possible to make a stuffed crust by placing cheese near the edges and folding in on itself (highly recommended!).
  5. Place rolled-out dough onto baking pan (either directly or you can sprinkle some cornmeal onto the pan and place the dough on top).
  6. If making to freeze, follow instructions below*
  7. If making pizza to eat, generously apply preferred sauce (I just use jarred pasta sauce... easy!) and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle favorite toppings and bake about 10 minutes at 500°F, or until toppings are bubbly and crust is beginning to brown.
*To prepare pizzas to freeze and cook at a later date:
  1. After rolling out the dough and placing it on pizza pan (and stuffing crust, if desired), bake for about 6 minutes at 500°F.
  2. Let cool, and if needed, transfer to a surface suitable for freezing. Then generously apply preferred sauce and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle favorite toppings now or before cooking at a later date.
  3. Place in freezer and allow to freeze solid, at least several hours. Transfer to a large ziplock bag or other (preferably air-tight) packaging. 
  4. To cook from frozen, simply remove pizza from packaging, place on pizza pan, and bake at 500°F for 12-18 minutes, or until toppings are bubbly and crust is beginning to brown.
Ideas for pizza toppings
mozzarella cheese
canadian bacon
bell peppers
artichoke hearts
alfredo sauce

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies

These are the easiest and yummiest peanut butter cookies! A friend recently gave me this recipe. I was extremely skeptical at first, based on the simplicity of the ingredients, but it worked, AND they were delicious!

Amazing Peanut Butter Cookies
(yield 2 dozen)

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix peanut butter, sugar, and egg together until well-combined.
  2. Scoop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  3. Bake 18-20 minutes.
  4. Resist eating them all yourself :)

Sunday, July 23, 2017


I've really come to love popovers lately. They are relatively fast, super easy, and lend a bready, eggy, goodness to a meal without the effort required for homemade rolls. They are kind of magical, the way they change from a runny batter to a puffy but substantive morsel. To me, they're guiltless, too: in my book they are fairly low-calorie (~70 kcal per popover).

It recently came to my knowledge that popovers are basically the same as Yorkshire puddings. I have British ancestry, but I guess my view of pudding has been 100% American (as in, banana pudding, chocolate pudding, tapioca pudding, butterscotch pudding) up until a few months ago. Anyway, these cute little "puddings" do indeed go marvelously with a beef roast... and basically any other meal! I like them alongside my fauxtisserie chicken (we even substituted chicken and popovers for turkey and rolls last Thanksgiving).

(yields 12)

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
shortening to grease muffin tin
  1. Lightly grease muffin tin wells.
  2. Mix all ingredients together with a whisk or fork. 
  3. Fill each well of the muffin tin 1/3 to 1/2 full. 
  4. Place in cold oven. Turn to 450°F. 
  5. Bake 16-18 minutes, or until popovers "pop over" well edges and turn a golden brown.
  6. Remove from pan with a fork and serve hot. Can be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave (as if you'll have leftovers!).

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies (seriously... this is the 4th or so variation we've posted). These oatmeal chocolate cookies are scrumptiously soft, and the oats give a great texture.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Yield: 4 dozen)

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. In large bowl, use a hand mixer to mix brown sugar and butter until blended. Add vanilla, egg, baking soda, and salt, mixing until light and fluffy. 
  3. Stir in oats and flour until uniformly mixed; stir in chocolate chips. 
  4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. 
  5. Bake about 8 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. 
  6. Share with your loved ones!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I love granola, but simply cannot justify paying the high prices for pre-made stuff at the store. I admit: we used to occasionally buy some from the bulk section at WinCo, but now we live 3 states away from the nearest one, so that's out.

Finding a reliable recipe for basic granola was challenging! A lot of recipes include stuff I don't always have on hand. Beyond the ingredients quandary, I won't tell you how many batches I burned because the recipe temperatures (which I naively trusted) were too high. Even crockpot granola was a big flop -- my slow cooker apparently cooks too hot. Disappointing!

Enter Chowhound's Basic Granola recipe. Even this, as written, had a too-long ingredients list, but I've tweaked it to my liking and will forever stand by the recipe as follows. I found the cinnamon gave the granola a burned taste, so I omit it.

Thomas loves this so much, he wishes I would quadruple it more often; but I find doubling it usually gets us by at this stage. Plus, it really isn't exactly "healthy" -- it's a lot of oil and sugar to work off if you eat it in the quantities I'd like to.


3 cups rolled oats
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Mix oats, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. 
  3. Mix everything else in a separate bowl. Microwave briefly (20-40 seconds) to make it runnier. 
  4. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix well until everything is moistened. 
  5. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour and spread mixture over parchment paper.
  6. Bake 20 minutes at 250°F; remove from oven. Use a metal spatula to turn areas of granola over on baking sheet little by little. This will ensure you get some big chunks or bunches of granola (rather than just the teeny tiny pieces resulting from stirring).
  7. Bake another 15-20 minutes at 250°F. Remove from oven.
  8. Let cool on baking sheet (unless it’s starting to burn; if so, pour into a bowl). 
  9. Once room temperature, pour into a ziploc bag to keep crunchy.

We eat this most often as a cold cereal, drenched in milk; we also like it on yogurt/parfaits or, honestly, just as crispy handfuls out of the bag :)