Archive for June, 2010

Summer Sugar Cookies

Summer Sugar Cookies

The Summer season officially started last week.  Here are a few photos of the cookies I made for a Summer BBQ.  Happy Summer!

The beach balls and watermelons were both made with round cookie cutters.   To make watermelon cookies, use a round cookie cutter and then slice each circle of dough in half before baking.

Source: Watermelon cookies inspirationBeach ball cookie inspiration

My Cookie Cutter Collection

My Cookie Cutter Collection

I’ve mentioned before that I really like to bake and decorate sugar cookies.  It’s so fun to create different designs, and since the cookie is the canvas, you can eat the “mistakes”… or as I call them, the ugly cookies.  :)  I’ve been collecting cookie cutters for years, and I now have a pretty large collection.  Some of the cookie cutters were gifts and many came in sets.  They are from a lot of different stores, including Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, Michaels, Crate and Barrel, etc.  I like making sugar cookies for all occasions, especially holidays and parties.

I keep all of my cookie cutters in a large plastic box, and while it’s not the most organized system (they are all just randomly thrown in there), it works for me.  I don’t mind digging through the box to find what I’m looking for.  The problem is, sometimes I forget which ones I have or what they look like.  And when I want to make cookies for a certain occasion, I need to know which shapes I have to work with (ie.- which ones to look for when I am digging around in the box!)  To fix this problem, I decided to create a photo inventory of all my cookie cutters.  (Note- I did this quickly, so some of the photos are a little blurry or dark).  Here are the photos!

Insects: Butterflies, dragonfly, frog, snail, caterpillar, ladybug

Baby: bear, onesie, rocking horse, carriage, rattle

Baptism or other church event

Flowers

Easter: Eggs, basket, sheep, bunnies, carrot, duck

Fruits: Apples, strawberry, peach, pear, banana

ABC's

Numbers

More Numbers

Birthday: balloon, icecream cone, cupcake

St. Patrick's Day shamrocks

Circles

Crinkle Cut Squares

Holiday: Lots of Christmas trees, candy canes, holly, snowmen, gingerbread boys, reindeer, Santa, stocking, ornament, Holiday light, snow hat, mini bell & angel

Fall Leaves

Halloween: pumpkins, ghosts, bat, witch hat, haunted house, BOO

Shapes: circles, pentagon, triangle, diamond

Transportation: rocket & car

Wedding: diamond ring, wedding bells, cakes, wedding or bridesmaid dresses

Sports: jersey, footballs, bat, hockey stick, helmet

Snowflakes

Stars

New Year's/Celebrations: champagne flute

Valentine's Day: Lots of hearts, XO, cupid, dove, lips

The entire collection

This is where I store all of them.

Shrimp Fried Rice

Shrimp Fried Rice


I love ordering fried rice at Chinese restaurants, but until last weekend, I hadn’t made it since my senior year of college (5 years ago)!  I have no idea why I waited so long to make it again.  This recipe was delicious.  The soy sauce, garlic, ginger, rice wine vinegar, and peanut oil made the dish really flavorful.

What’s nice about fried rice is that it’s a very versatile dish.  You can add whatever vegetables and meat you like to it, or you can just keep it vegetarian.  You can use white rice, or brown rice.  It can be a main course or a side dish, and the best part is that it’s super easy to make.

I cooked this in a wok, but if you don’t have one you can just use a frying pan.  If you like to cook Chinese food, I highly recommend getting a wok for your kitchen.  It’s great for cooking stir fried dishes, and the deep rounded sides hold a lot more ingredients than a regular frying pan.  Enjoy!

Shrimp Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 teaspoons canola oil
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 lb asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into ½ -inch pieces
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in the pan over medium-high.  Add shrimp and cook until done, a couple minutes.  Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.  Chop each shrimp in half, and then season the shrimp with salt & pepper.
  2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons canola oil to the pan.  Then add the mushrooms and cook for two minutes.  Add asparagus, bell pepper, and carrots, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just tender, approximately 2 minutes.  Then add the scallions, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Scoot all the veggies to one side of your pan and add the eggs.  Cook and scramble for about 1 minute.  Then mix into the vegetables.
  4. Add the cooked rice, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar snap peas, and frozen peas to the pan.  Cook until the liquid is absorbed, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat.  Stir in the cooked shrimp and sesame oil, and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

Serves: 6

Source: Adapted from Meet Me in the Kitchen Blog; Originally from Eating Well

Pizza with Pesto, Sausage, & Tomatoes

Pizza with Pesto, Sausage, & Tomatoes


Pesto on pizza is a great alternative to pizza sauce.  I love making homemade pizza dough, and it’s fun to experiment with different toppings.  Usually I just use whatever I have on hand, and this time I happened to have a package of artichoke and garlic sausages (Aidells brand), mozzarella cheese, and cherry tomatoes.  I decided to make pesto to go with it, and it turned out to be a great combination.  I used my favorite pizza crust recipe, as well as my sister’s recipe for pesto.  The pesto was delicious!  Enjoy!

Pizza with Pesto, Sausage, & Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 ball of pizza dough, rolled out on parchment paper (pizza dough recipe here)
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 pre-cooked sausage link, sliced thin (I like Aidells brand… there are lots of different flavors.  Artichoke and garlic is a good choice.)
  • Pesto Sauce (recipe below)

Directions

  1. Place a pizza stone on rack in lower third of oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees for 30 minutes.
  2. Spread pesto sauce onto rolled out pizza dough.  Top with desired amount of cheese, tomatoes, and sausage.  (I like to put half of the cheese on now, and then the other half of the cheese on a couple minutes before the pizza is finished baking.  This prevents the cheese from browning too much).
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.  Lift the parchment and pizza onto the heated pizza stone.  Bake the pizza about 8-12 minutes, until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots.

Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup (2 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. With food processor running, drop garlic through the feed tube to chop.  Then add pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and basil; pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Add olive oil in a steady stream while the processor is running and blend until incorporated.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: approx. 1 1/3 cups (recipe can be halved)

As you can see in this photo, I went a little light on the cheese because I don’t like my pizza too cheesy. Half of the pizza had less cheese (my half) and Eric’s half had extra cheese- just the way we both like it :)

Source: Pizza Dough recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, ‘Italian Classics’ Cookbook;  Pesto recipe from Kristine’s Kitchen

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus


A great way to cook asparagus is to roast it.  I often steam vegetables, but sometimes I get bored of using my steamer basket day after day, and this is another one of my favorite ways to cook asparagus.  It’s really easy to do, and roasting imparts such great flavor.  After the asparagus is done roasting, drizzle it with a little lemon juice and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and you have a delicious and healthy side dish that’s ready in less than 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Roasted Asparagus

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus spears (thick spears are best for roasting)
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • Lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Wash the asparagus.  Break the tough ends off of the asparagus and discard.
  2. Lay the asparagus spears out in a single layer in a baking dish or a foil-covered cookie sheet.  Drizzle olive oil over the spears and roll the asparagus back and forth until they are all covered with a thin layer of olive oil.  Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt, and pepper.  Rub over the asparagus so that they are evenly distributed.
  3. Place pan in oven and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, depending on how thick your asparagus spears are, until lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork.
  4. Drizzle with a little fresh lemon juice before serving, and add a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese for an extra touch.

Serves: 4

Recipe adapted from: Simply Recipes

For more information on roasting vegetables, click here.

Lemony Couscous with Peas and Chicken

Lemony Couscous with Peas and Chicken


Last night I was looking through my recipes and trying to find something that would be easy and quick to make, inexpensive, and healthy.  I chose this recipe for Lemony Couscous with Chicken and Peas, and it turned out to be the perfect weeknight meal.   One thing I like about this recipe is that it incorporates vegetables (peas), protein (chicken) and grains (couscous) all in the same pot (and one pot = less dishes! :) ).  The lemon and parsley add freshness to the dish, and the garlic and onions give it lots of flavor.  Enjoy!

Lemony Couscous with Peas and Chicken

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • ½ rotisserie chicken
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup white or yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ¼ cups chicken broth
  • 2 wide strips of lemon peel, plus additional zest for garnish (I used lemon zest instead of strips)
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous (my grocery store didn’t have whole wheat couscous so I just used regular)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Skin and debone ½ a rotisserie chicken.  Shred meat and set aside.  Reserve any drippings from the carton.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until softened.  Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add broth and drippings to pan and bring to boil.  Stir in lemon peel and peas and return to a boil.  Stir in couscous and stir and add chicken.  Cover and turn off heat.  Let sit for 7 minutes.
  3. Add lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste.  Fluff with a fork.  Divide into bowls and serve garnished with parsley and additional lemon zest.

Serves: 4
Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride Blog; Originally adapted from Everyday Food, May 2010

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes


I first came across this cupcake recipe a few months ago on Beantown Baker’s blog, and have wanted to make them ever since.  The idea to put an Oreo cookie on the bottom of the cupcake was so creative that it caught my attention, and they just looked so cute!  Then I saw this same recipe again on the blog Annie’s Eats last week, and it reminded me that I needed to find time to make them soon!

Last weekend we had friends over for dinner, so it was the perfect opportunity to make these cupcakes for dessert.  The Oreo flavor really came through in both the cupcakes and the frosting.  Not only is there an Oreo cookie half on the bottom of the cupcake, there are chunks of Oreo throughout the cupcake and Oreo crumbs in the frosting.  If you like Oreo cookies, you will love these cupcakes!  Enjoy!

A few notes:

  • The cupcake recipe I used has a cream cheese frosting recipe with it, but I don’t like cream cheese so I made whipped cream frosting instead.  The whipped cream was super easy to make.  Just pour all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and the let the mixer do all the work.  One tip I’ve learned when making whipped cream is to chill the mixer bowl in the freezer for 20-30 minutes before making the whipped cream.  This keeps the whipped cream cold while you are mixing it, which is helpful.  The whipped cream went really well with these cupcakes!  The cupcakes can be frosted ahead of time, just make sure to store them in the refrigerator.
  • The recipe makes 24 cupcakes, but that was way more than I needed so I halved it to make 12.  It was a little challenging to get ½ an egg white, but here’s what I did: Separate the yolk from the white.  Place the egg white into a ¼ cup measuring cup.  Then pour out half of it.  I think that is a pretty good estimate.  Also note that 1/8 cup = 2 tablespoons.  The rest of the measurements are easy to halve.
  • I found that it was much easier to work with the Oreos if they were cold, so I just stuck them in the freezer for a few minutes before chopping them and halving them.  This prevented the filling from being to melty or sticky.

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes

(print recipe)

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped  or quartered

For the frosting:

  • 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tbsp. whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp. Oreo cookie crumbs

For garnish:

  • Oreo cookie crumbs
  • 24 Oreo cookie halves

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork to blend and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.
  4. Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. To prepare the frosting, in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.  Beat on medium-high speed until the whipped cream holds stiff peaks.  Gently fold in the cookie crumbs with a spatula.
  6. Scoop the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe frosting decoratively on top of the cupcakes.  Garnish with Oreo cookie halves.

Yield: 24 cupcakes (recipe can be halved to yield 12 cupcakes)

Source: Cupcake recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats; Originally from Beantown Baker and Frosting recipe from Annie’s Eats

Other cupcake recipes:


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