Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Getting dumped for the great outdoors...

If there is one thing I know for certain about my girl is that she loves to bake. It’s kind of our thing. So when we decided to make Amish Sugar Cookies – it was a no brainer that she would help. As we put all the ingredients in the bowl, she noticed Andy was outside. Then she noticed Nicholas was outside… then as she scooped out the dough and saw even Rusty was outside – she then decided the outdoors was calling and she must answer. So I lost my helper.
I’m so thankful my kids love being outside so much. Sure makes things interesting when it rains endlessly for days upon days upon days. Also winter – winter mostly sucks in that regard. Anyway.
These cookies are pretty good little nuggets. I’m not sure what exactly makes them Amish or even sugar cookies – don’t most cookies have sugar in them? Regardless of their name – they taste pretty good. They aren’t overly sweet, almost like a scoopable shortbread. Might be why Andy ate so many – the kids too!

Amish Sugar Cookies Recipe
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. In a large bowl, beat the butter, oil, and sugars. Beat in eggs until well blended. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to creamed mixture.
2. Drop by small teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: about 5 dozen.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Internet Recipes for the win! (just don't tell my dad...)

“Is that an internet recipe?” says my dad.
“Nope! See? It’s on paper – it’s a paper recipe!” – he’s not fooled.
Pot Stickers are a weakness of ours – we love them – but wow are they work. I found a recipe that was a deconstructed pot sticker with rice noodles and coleslaw mix to make things easier. My folks were coming for dinner to hang our new house number sign my dad made – he really is the jack of ALL trades – so I decided to make this recipe. They like Asian food – so I figured it was mostly safe.
Of course, now we all know he’s not a fan of internet recipes. Perhaps he’s unaware that’s where you go for recipes these days. But I printed it – so that made it all better! Maybe I should have snuck it into an actual recipe book. Too bad most of my recipe books are baking – again, probably wouldn’t have fooled him.
To be honest – I ran out of soy sauce – so let’s say I had the right amount? This recipe would have been better. Other than needing more soy sauce and ginger – it was very good. Certainly something we will do again. Our kids even ate it. Hey, it had noodles – they are noodle kids.
Even my dad liked it – I think. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. He ate it – does that count? I’ll count it as a win.

Potsticker Noodles Bowls
8oz rice noodles
1/2 cup + 3 Tablespoons soy sauce divided
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
pinch red chili pepper flakes
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon high heat cooking oil (canola, vegetable, avocado, etc)
1lb ground pork
white pepper
14oz bag coleslaw mix
7 green onions, green parts chopped into 2" pieces, white and light green parts into 1/2" pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
Soak rice noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons soy sauce, chicken broth, rice vinegar, ginger, and red chili pepper flakes in a small bowl then set aside. Whisk together eggs in a small dish then set aside. Mix pork with remaining 1 Tablespoon soy sauce in a bowl then set aside.
When noodles have 5 minutes left to soak, heat oil in a large, nonstick wok or 12"+ skillet over high heat. Add pork then season with white pepper and stir fry until cooked through, breaking it up as it cooks. Add coleslaw mix and green onions then stir fry until coleslaw is just beginning to wilt, 1 minute. Add garlic then stir fry for 30 seconds.
Make a well in the center of the wok or skillet then add eggs and scramble, and then toss stir fry together to combine.
Drain noodles then add to the wok and stir fry for 1 minute. Add sauce then stir fry until noodles are tender, 3-4 minutes, turning heat down slightly if sauce begins to evaporate before the noodles soften. Taste then add a splash of water or broth if noodles are too salty. Scoop into bowls or plates then serve.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Swimming with the chicken breasts

Meat – I do not like cooking it.
I either…
  burn it
  dry it out
  undercook it
  kill it
  turn it into rubber
I rarely cook it correctly. Even if I have a thermometer – it’s just not my thing.
I knew we were having potato wedges and the oven would be at 450 – seemed too high to cook chicken – but to google I went to see if baking the chicken was a possibility. Shockingly the answer was yes! The sites actually suggested that was a great idea! Cook it fast and hot – keep the juices in. The key to this method was to brine the chicken for 15 minutes – well dang that’s easy enough. I stuck a thermometer in and hoped for the best. Amazingly the chicken was done at the same time as the wedges, it was juicy and done. Yes, it was cooked! Not burnt or dry or rubbery even!
I feel like the moment I knew I won over the chicken was Nicholas asking for more and more and more meat. Yes, he’s a good eater – but he doesn’t like yuck food… he’s smart that way. So thankful I finally found a method for cooking chicken, kind of sad it’s taken me this many years to figure it out.

Baked Chicken Breasts
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, that have been pounded to even thickness and brined in saltwater (*see easy instructions below)
1 Tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
*To brine your chicken breasts, simply fill a large bowl with 1 quart of warm water and 1/4 cup kosher salt. Stir to combine until most of the salt is absorbed. Add the chicken breasts and let them sit in the mixture to brine for 15 minutes. Or you can also also cover the bowl and refrigerate for up to 6 hours. Remove the chicken breasts from the brine, rinse them with cold water, then pat them dry with some paper towels. (Again, though, if your chicken breasts are sold pre-brined in a sodium solution, skip this step.)
Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts in a single layer in a large baking dish. Brush on both sides (turning once) evenly with the melted butter or olive oil.
In a separate small bowl, whisk the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika until combined. Then sprinkle the mixture evenly over the chicken on both sides.
Bake for 15-18* minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. If you use a cooking thermometer to measure the temperature thickest part of the breast, it should be between 160-170 degrees F. (The FDA recommends 170 degrees F.)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2 kids, dog, white picket fence... even an apple pie in the window (oops closed window)

My family is as American as Apple Pie. We have 2 kids and a dog, the old house with character and a white picket fence, even a swingset in the back yard. What’s more American than Apple Pie? Dutch Apple Pie. Why? We are Dutch of course! Ok… a smidge (tiny itty bit) Irish – but we won’t talk about that.
Apple Pie was always a mainstay in my home growing up. Where did the recipe come from? The holy grail of cookbooks – the Orange Betty Crocker Cookbook, of course. I now own two of these old relics of ‘modern’ cooking. I’m blessed to have both of my grandmas’ Betty Crocker Cookbooks, from very different eras but that makes them so fun to have.
Andy was having his last mentor meeting with his guys from church and I thought it was time for some really special dessert – this time – apple pie. Sometimes when you have double crusts the bottom gets all sorts of gross, so I decided to go Dutch Apple. The filling was my standby from good ol’ Betty, but the top crumbly crust – the good ol’ internet.
I was a little worried that I wouldn’t get the pie made but strep throat hit our house and well… I had two days at home with a sick kiddo so plenty of time for pie baking. The guys said lots of nice things about the pie – I even snuck a piece and can vouch that it was good. The pie plate quickly emptied in the days after the meeting – so that shows you Andy liked it. Hey, it’s fruit and pastry – seems like a good balanced breakfast.

Betty Crocker’s Old-Fashioned Apple Pie with a Dutch Crust
What you need!
Pastry for 9-inch One crust Pie
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
Dash of salt
8 tart apples – cut into small pieces

1 cup Four
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/2 cup White sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter

Make it!
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Rolled out dough into a pie crust.
Stir together dry ingredients and mix with apples. Spoon into prepared pastry.
In a separate mixing bowl use a fork to combine all topping ingredients until the mixture is well combined and crumbly. Pour this onto your apple pie.
Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The mighty potato wedge!

It is a rare event that I make a simple dinner and my family cannot get enough of it. They wolf it down, ask for seconds and thirds, clean up the pans – nothing left.
I had planned baked chicken and potato wedges as a Monday dinner – but strep throat came to visit our house. Quite the unwelcome visitor - I might add. All plans for dinner were canceled. A few days of antibiotics – everyone back to some sort of normal – let’s bake some chicken and spuds!
These red potato wedges are amazing. They don’t have as much oil as some recipes I’ve seen and they have flour. Huh? Yes!! Coating the foil with oil and shaking the potatoes in the flour and spice mix makes for an amazing lightly coated potato. They take a while to bake – 40 minutes, but if you are baking the chicken too, it’s pretty much a hands-off meal. Next time I should make twice as many! We have a local grocery store (Berkot's) that is known for their fried chicken and potato wedges – Andy even said these wedges beat Berkot’s, that my friends is HIGH praise. For someone whose appetite was “off”, he sure ate a lot of wedges.

Baked Red Potato Wedges
6-8 red potatoes, cut into lengthwise quarters (each potato cut into 8 wedges)
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grab a large baking sheet with edges (I just used a 15x10x1" cookie sheet) and line with aluminum foil. Pour olive oil on top of the aluminum foil and spread around the foil.
Combine all dry ingredients into a bag–either gallon-sized resealable plastic bag or paper bag - and add a few potatoes at a time. Shake to coat well. Place the potatoes coated side down into the oil in the pan.

Continue doing this until all the potatoes have been coated and placed in the oil. Bake for about 20 minutes and then pull out and flip over on the other side. Bake for an extra 20 minutes. Pull wedges out of the oven and, if desired, sprinkle with salt. Serve hot.
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