Who says you need a cookie cutter?


Cookie cutters aren’t needed to create the perfect cookie.  All you need is your hands to make a perfect cookie.

Sugar cookies are something I just recently decided to tackle.  I was at home on a Wednesday night doing laundry before I went back up to school and I really wanted to bake.  I walked into the kitchen and found out that we had no chocolate chips to make chocolate chip cookies!  So, I was set on baking something so I thought to myself “what needs the least amount of ingredients?”  Sugar cookies came to my mind.  I’ve never really liked sugar cookies, but my boyfriend will eat anything sweet, so I decided to make them.  These sugar cookies ended up turning out amazingly.  They are perfect with a cold glass of milk.  (Santa knew what he was thinking when he paired cookies with milk!)

Tip:  Don’t think you are too good to follow some instructions of a recipe.  In other words, don’t oil the pan when making cookies.

Many times I will tweak my recipes to cook them however I want to, and I thought that I was good enough to know that everything you bake needs oil underneath it.  So, every single cookie recipe that strictly said DO NOT OIL THE PAN, I did.  The one time I didn’t, my cookies came out perfectly.  Learn when to follow the recipe and when to venture away from it.

Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and baking powder). Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Cucumber Salsa makes the storms go away.


As the day rolled on, all I could think about was the horrible storms that hit the night before and the line of them that were coming straight towards our state again tonight.  I arrived home, and decided that I needed to do something to get my mind off of the storms that I’m deathly afraid of.  So, I cooked a meal that took a bit longer than 30 minutes; while I diced away at the vegetables the sound on the television telling people in the surrounding areas to take cover and the loud thunder outside slowly faded away.

Tip for the day:  Read a recipe all the way through before cooking it.

I made this mistake today while cooking Lemon Chicken.  The recipe called for a marinade and part of the marinade would be used for the chicken and part of it was to be reserved to use later on in the recipe.  I didn’t realize that I was supposed to save part of it until I had already poured all of it into the bag with the chicken.  I’ve done this many times before, so it is a tip that needs to be practiced – not just stored in your brain.

Today’s meal came out of The Pampered Chef’s Casual Cooking book and it was entitled “Lemon Chicken with Cucumber Salsa.”

Chicken and Marinade

4 pounds chicken
2 lemons
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cucumber Salsa

1/2 medium unpeeled cucumber (diced)
Half a red onion (diced)
Green olives (a handful)
1 red bell pepper (diced)

1.  Allow chicken to defrost and rinse off.  Prepare the marinade in a small bowl.  Add lemon zest of two lemons, juice of two lemons, garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Throw the chicken into a large ziplock bag and toss the marinade with the chicken, BUT SAVE a fourth of the marinade for the salsa.  Place on a plate (to prohibit drippings in the fridge) and allow to sit in fridge for two-four hours.  Or even over night if you can remember that far ahead.
2.  Make cucumber salsa.  Chop up the cucumber, onion, olives, and bell pepper and add in a bowl with the leftover marinade.  Place in the refrigerator until time to eat.
3.  Cook chicken on grill.  Do not cook directly over the flame, and allow 45-50 minutes cooking time.  Use a meat thermometer to determine when the chicken is ready.  When the thickest part of the chicken reaches 180 degrees F it is ready.  Serve with salsa.

Along with this my father grilled some tomatoes (he is a tomato-holic).  I also prepared my favorite noodles to go along with this.

Vinegar and herb noodles

1/4 package of your choice of favorite long noodles
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red peppers
1/2 cup of fresh parsley (or a few dashes of dried herb)
1/2 tomato, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 tablespoons of melted butter

1.  Cook noodles as directed on package.
2.  Finely chop garlic and add it to a small bowl with the parsley, crushed red peppers, vinegar, and melted butter.
3.  When noodles are done cooking, drain and return to bowl.  Mix together the vinegar mixture, tomatoes, and noodles.

Don’t be skeered


Tip:  Don’t be scared to add and replace in a recipe.  And, please don’t be scared to try something new.

Many times, when looking for a new recipe to use, I will find an ingredient somewhere on the list that makes me think “what in the world?”  I know a lot of these ingredients are probably basic ingredients that I should know, but I can assure you, my local Wally world doesn’t carry the most exotic vegetable section.  So, don’t shut a recipe out just because you can’t find one ingredient.  Some of the best meals come from those that you add your own flavor in.

ALSO, do not shut a recipe out just because there is an ingredient that you don’t like.  So many times I strayed away from a meal because I didn’t like one of the ingredients, but after finally making it, you realize that a lot of times you don’t even realize that ingredient is in there.

Just for an example, the meal that I cooked tonight called for a vegetable called escarole.  You might know what this is, but I had absolutely no idea.  So I did a little research on the internet and added that vegetable to my knowledge book and realized that I probably won’t ever find it.  So, I replaced it with spinach.  Now, my father and I normally completely rule out the use of spinach, but I gave it a try and was very glad I did.

Tonight’s meal ended up so good, that I want to share it with you all.  And, I’ll post the link to the original recipe so you can see what I changed.

Baked Farfalle with Spinach and Zucchini

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound farfalle
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virigin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 large sprigs basil, plus 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach, sauteed
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini, sauteed
  • 1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of red onion
  • Polska kielbasa
  • Chicken

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the farfalle un

til very al dente, 2 to 3 minutes less than the label directs; drain.  While pasta is cooking, cook your chicken.  Use whatever kind of spices that you would like.  Have fun with it.  I used some crushed red pepper flakes and salt.  I kept it simple because there are so many fresh herbs in this dish.  Remove chicken and put aside in a large bowl.  Cut up the Polska kielbasa and put it aside in the same bowl.  Afterwards, put some oil in the pan and add your zucchini and spinach.  Saute it for a couple of minut

es and add it to the bowl.

Then, make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, red onion, and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is golden.  Add in the crushed and diced tomatoes.  Add the basil sprigs; simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, 15 minutes. Discard the basil; season the sauce with salt.  (Do not skimp and buy a premade sauce, this sauce is worth it…promise).

Stir the chopped basil and parsley into the sauce, then add the spinach, zucchini, chicken and polska kielbasa.

Brush a 3-to-4-quart baking dish with olive oil. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and half of each cheese. Spread in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pasta. Bake, uncovered, until browned, about 15 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Note:  Polska Kielbasa is something you don’t want to miss out on.  It is a type of sausage and is sold by the lunch meat.  Best meat ever.

Last Tip:  Don’t use dried herbs, go fresh.  It is worth the extra cash.

Original Recipe

And it starts.


Hello friends and fellow cooks. 🙂

For many years (of course it feels like many for me, as I am still young) I have had a huge passion for cooking.  After long discussions and a lot of thinking, I decided that cooking as a career wasn’t for me, but cooking as a hobby is my destiny.

I spend my days reading cookbooks, cooking magazines, trying new recipes, and watching FoodNetwork.  I am always learning something new that helps me in my everyday cooking.  I’ve decided that maybe I should share these tips and tricks and magnificent recipes with you, and hopefully I can help you with your cooking skills.

Cooking for me is a release after a good day, and my creative outlet.  Never get frustrated when something doesn’t go right, and never be afraid to take chances.

I’d like to start this first post with something I would like to think that I’m very good at:  Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I had never ventured into the sweets area because I always had a weird problem that I couldn’t eat what I baked but I could eat what I cooked.  As soon as I begun college, I learned that cooking wouldn’t come as easy as it once did.  Kitchens weren’t readily available and neither were ingredients, so when I came home I would want to make something, anything!  I begun to invest my time into baking.  And when I did this I found an amazing recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

Tip:  When making cookies, they stay the softest when cooled, if you remove them from the pan as soon as they are hard enough to move.  This usually means that they are still quite soft on the top.  But if they are hard enough to move with a spatula, get them off that pan and onto a cooling rack (and DO NOT skip the cooling rack, it makes a large difference with the outcome of your cookie.  AKA the bottom won’t harden).

My preferred Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.
Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour and chocolate chips. Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased pans.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.