Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Decorating sugar cookies is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the holidays. For a long time I was on the search for a good icing that would dry hard, but also taste good. What I love about these cookies is they are cute but, more importantly, they taste amazing and are easy to transport. I included that recipe below, but the real fun of these cookies is how festive they are!!

For the pumpkins, a little orange cake sparkle on the wet icing really made them POP! They went from ok to fantastic in one simple step!

These spider webs were really fun because I was trying out a new flooding technique. My husband even asked if it was a sticker that I bought and put on the cookies - silly man! They are really much easier than they look. Next time, I think I will add a little green spider.

These were the first Halloween cookies that I made and I still love them. I think that next time I will make some "girl" skeletons by adding a bow - how cute would that be?!

Finally, these were the "leftover" cookies. I was really just using them to practice writing with icing and I wanted to use the orange sparkle again!

So....what fun things are you making for Halloween??

Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. flavored extract (I used Almond this time but lemon, orange, almond, etc. would be great to use!)

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating. Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick. Add a little more liquid and try again.) Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.

Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.

Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired. Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. Liquid food coloring can be used as well – add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.

Recipe from Annie's Eats - originally from Good Things Catered

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpkin Blondies with a Candied Ginger Topping

These little squares are like a mouthful of Fall!! But in a good way...not a mouthful of leaves kind of way. In other words, I loooove them. I came across them the other day and they immediately jumped to the top of my "Desserts To Try" list (by the way, that list is never-ending...)

I am so glad that I made it because I will now be making it all Fall. These blondies are sweet and chewy with just the right amount of pumpkin. Also, the candied ginger is a MUST! I'd never cooked with it, but here is makes a chewy/sugary topping that is amazing with the pumpkin and spices. Make these for your next Halloween party or keep them all to yourself!!

Pumpkin Blondies with a Candied Ginger Topping

1/4 Cup butter
1 3/4 Cup white chocolate chips, divided (this was one bag for me)
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1 Cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1/2 Cup pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 Cup chopped crystallized/candied ginger

For the glaze:
1/2 Cup powdered sugar
4-5 Tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a double boiler (small pot over another small pot with simmering water), melt butter and 3/4 C white chocolate chips. Stir until melted. Set aside.

In a large bowl add sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and 1 C white chocolate chips (this should be about the rest of the bag). Stir in melted chocolate/butter mixture. In a small bowl, beat eggs and sour cream. Add to the large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until just combined.

Pour into a foil lined 8×8 inch baking pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray. Top with 1/4 Cup chopped candied ginger. Bake for 28-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center. Let cool completely, cut into squares then chill in the refrigerator (it makes them dense and chewy!)

Meanwhile, mix heavy cream and powdered sugar in small bowl until smooth, drizzle over blondies just before serving.

Makes 9 blondies
adapted slightly from Picky Palate

Saturday, October 9, 2010

(Accidental) Chicken Chili

Yesterday I had decided that it's getting cool enough and "Fall" enough to have some chili. I LOVE my dad's chili recipe and was really excited to have some chili and cornbread. Let's fast-forward to my poorly planned attempt at dinner...

The baby's asleep so I think "Perfect! I'll whip up some chili and let it cook while we play a little bit." Problem ground beef, no turkey. This isn't too much of a problem because I had some ground chicken. I've never had chicken chili but have at least heard it's good, so let's give that a try.

Starting to get things rolling, everything's smelling great then - BAM! It hits me....I have no beans. Normally in dad's chili there's red kidney beans and some Brooks' Chili Hot Beans. I have neither...this is where the poorly-planned part becomes clear. I have dinner started and almost none of the main ingredients. Ooops....

But, rest assured, I got creative, found some great things that were hiding in the pantry and made an incredible dinner. No one was the wiser. Except my husband, who when I told the story to, laughed and said "Yeah, I'm not surprised..." Thanks a lot buddy! :) But my poor planning was everyone's reward because this chicken chili is a new family favorite. It's full of flavor, easy to pull together, and a uniquely different take on traditional chili.

So, as the weather's getting cooler, think about making this one-pot-wonder, cozy up on the sofa, and enjoy!

(Accidental) Chicken Chili

1 lb. ground chicken (I'm sure shredded chicken would be good too, so use that if you have it left over!)
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 package Chili-O seasoning mix
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can garbanzo beans
1 chipotle in adobo, diced
1/4 C. brown sugar
garlic salt

Brown the meat with onion and peppers. Add remaining ingredients and enough water to desired thickness (be careful not to make it too soupy. I usually only add about 1/2 - 1 can if it seems really thick or if it will be on the stove a long time). Simmer for at least 30 minutes so all flavors can come together. Serve with corn bread or over elbow noodles for chili-mac!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am ridiculously excited to share this recipe with everyone. I have been looking for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie for years....literally years. Sad? Yes. Pathetic? Probably. But, alas, it is also true. You wouldn't think that the recipes are that different...same basic ingredients thrown together in a pretty typical fashion. But, for some reason every chocolate chip cookie recipe I have come across has either turned out too thin and crispy (too much butter?), too cakey/ puffy (too much baking soda?), or just...gross. I have been in search of the PERFECT chocolate chip cookie, and I have finally found it.

I truly think that everyone should have a "go to" cookie recipe. This has definitely become mine. To me, these cookies just say HOME. They have crispy edges, a soft center, and just enough chocolate chips. Also in this recipe, you do not use the entire bag of chocolate chips - weird, right?! That's what I thought....but the balance between all of the ingredients come together perfectly to make one irresistible treat and there's the perfect amount of chips, I promise!

The shaping method here is definitely different, but I think that it's worth the one extra step. Plus, it's pretty fun too!

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined. Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves. Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball.

Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (about 13 minutes - cookies will settle a bit while cooling).

Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Recipe found on Annie's Eats (thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!)