Monday, December 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies




I am FINALLY on vacation!  I had a total of 10 gigs throughout the month and literally NO free time this month of December....kind of put a strain on my fairly sane life.  ....okay, so my life isn't that sane.  Kinda crazy, actually.  But my theory is that December just really sucks.

However busy I was, the week before I left for Austin was SO much easier on my schedule.  One of my favorite jobs is to manage the East Central Illinois Youth Orchestra, so I decided to bake them peanut butter cookies and peanut butter blossoms.   They loved them, and ate most of them!  And to my surprise, they ended up giving ME a gift at the end of the rehearsal!  A scented candle and an $85 gift card to Espresso Royale....best gift I could've ever asked for :)

These cookies are....heavenly, to say the least.  Oh yeah, and they're SUPER addicting.  I could probably eat close to 10 in one setting, not even kidding.  

If you like your cookies super chewy, I'd recommend baking them for 12 minutes.  I ended up baking them for 13.5 minutes, and they were perfectly crispy and delicious!  (I personally prefer cookies chewy, so I'd bake them a little less next time)

I hope you guys decide to bake these---trust me, you will not be sorry!


PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

INGREDIENTS 
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups flour
 
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375º F.  In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter together. Beat in egg to mixture. Mix in peanut butter and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Stir in salt, baking soda and flour until well combined. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in extra sugar. Place on baking sheet and flatten with fork to make a crisscross design. Bake for 12-15 minutes, and let cool.
 
Hope y'all enjoy!
 
xoxo, Sara 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Strawberry Shortbread Cookies



Hey everyone!  Sorry it's been SUCH a long time since I posted anything....like around 2 months from now, hah.  My computer was out of commission for quite a while (there were about 5 or 6 keys that weren't working), so obviously I couldn't post the delicious things I was making!

While I've been away, I celebrated my 23rd birthday with my friends, and it was completely lovely!  We all went out to dinner at Escobar's restuarant in Champaign, and then went drinking with my friends.  Just reminded me how many lovely friends I have, and what a beautiful place C-U is!


The day after my birthday was probably the most exciting....I went out on a date with someone I met through a dating website.  Ironically, I actually met him a long time ago, as his sister was my babysitter!  I know, crazy and seemingly awkward....but we got along so well on our first date, and we have been dating ever since!  He's the most amazing man, and does EVERYTHING right: he cleans up when I'm away at work, makes me a bath when I'm feeling sick, and every now and then gets me flowers:


Yeah, I know.  He's perfect.  Thinking I'll keep this one for a while :)  Oh yeah, and he's adorable:






So, I decided to make Strawberry Shortcake cookies.  These cookies are simply AMAZING, and probably are my favorite cookies to eat.  And what better time than the Christmas season to be making cookies?


Anyway, I hope y'all enjoy the cookies, and I promise I'll post more diligently!!  :P




STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS 
12 oz strawberries, hulled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1-2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
extra sugar, for sprinkling
DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 375º F, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.  Whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix in the butter with your hands until coarse crumbs form.  Stir in the heavy cream until the dough starts to come together, then gently fold in strawberries.

Drop dough onto cookie sheets with your fingers, evenly spaced apart.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar, and bake for about 15-17 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Serve with a cold glass of milk.


Hope y'all enjoy!


xoxo, Sara

Apple Pie



This pie turned out AMAZINGLY.  I didn't let it cool long enough, so it kinda fell apart on me....so make sure to let it cool for a good hour or two if you'll be serving it for the holidays.

Trust me---if you make this, your guests will be happy.  Even my boyfriend, who is one of the pickiest eaters I have come across in a long time, said it was the best apple pie he's ever had in his life.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.  :P

 
APPLE PIE

INGREDIENTS
3 cups flour
1 stick of cold butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 tsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp cold water, if needed
3 lbs Granny Smith apples
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1-½ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
zest from 1 lemon
3 Tbsp corn starch
¼ cup apple cider


DIRECTIONS 
Preheat oven to 400º F, and blend butter, shortening, sugar, salt, and flour together until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.  Add vinegar to the mixture and gradually add cold water to the pie crust mixture.  Once the dough is workable, form into a ball and separate into two equal balls.  Take one ball and press with your fingers into a pie plate until it covers the entire plate.  Roll out the other ball into a giant ball, and slice 8 long strips to eventually form a lattice crust.

For the filling, peel, core and cut apples.  Place in a pot and add the light brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, lemon zest and nutmeg to the apples. Stir the mixture, and dissolve the corn starch into the apple cider in a measuring cup. Mix this into the apple mixture and turn the heat onto medium to cook the apples for 10-15 minutes until the apples have softened and the sauce has thickened. Place the mixture in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until it is cool. Once the apple filling is cool, scoop it into the prepared pie plate.  Take the strips of remaining pie crust dough and form a lattice crust, using an egg wash to keep the strips intact.  Sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar and cinnamon, and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350º F and continue baking for another 40 to 50 minutes, until the filling bubbles and the crust looks golden.  Serve warm with ice cream.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Szechuan Green Beans and Pork




SZECHUAN GREEN BEANS AND PORK

INGREDIENTS
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1" ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 lb green beans
1 lb pork loin, sliced in bite-size pieces
2 Tbsp garlic chili paste (less if you want it less spicy)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
DIRECTIONS
Make the Szechuan sauce by combining the garlic chili paste, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar and sesame oil in a bowl, and set aside for later use.

Wash the green beans and snap the stem end off of each. Peel and mince the fresh ginger and garlic. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat, and toss in the chopped garlic and ginger for about one minute. Add the pork slices and stir fry until they are cooked through, for 5 minutes.

Remove the pork to a plate and add the green beans. Stir fry the green beans for 5 minutes. The fat and juices from the pork will begin to brown on the bottom of the pan during this step. When the sauce is added next, it will deglaze the pan and bring up all of the flavor from the caramelized juices on the bottom of the pan.  Return the pork strips to the pan with the green beans and add the Szechuan sauce. Continue to stir and cook for about 1-2 minutes. 

Serve warm over a bed of hot rice.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Cookies and Cream (Oreo) Cupcakes



 COOKIES AND CREAM (OREO) CUPCAKES

INGREDIENTS
12 Oreos, twisted apart with cream filling attached
1 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup sugar

2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
10 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped
 

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp heavy cream
 

Oreo cookie crumbs 
6 Oreo cookie tops, halved 


DIRECTIONS 
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake tins with 12 paper liners, and place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cream 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. Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, and bake for 14-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in the vanilla extract. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the heavy cream to the bowl just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes, and sprinkle with Oreo crumbs; garnish with Oreo halves, if desired.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Chicken Piccata



CHICKEN PICCATA
INGREDIENTS
2 tsp butter
3 Tbsp + 2 tsp flour, divided
2 chicken breast cutlets
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed and drained to remove excess salt
1 lemon (half juiced, to yield about 1 Tbsp; half sliced into thin circles)
Salt and pepper
4 oz spaghetti, or any shape of pasta you like (for serving)

DIRECTIONS
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions.  In a small bowl, use your fingers to combine 2 tsp butter with 2 tsp flour; set aside for now.

Season chicken cutlets on both sides with salt and pepper; dredge in remaining 3 Tbsp flour and shake off excess.  Add olive oil to a medium skillet over medium-high heat; once oil starts to ripple, add chicken and cook until fully cooked and golden on both sides (about 3 minutes per side), flipping once.  Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
 
With heat off, add wine to the skillet you cooked the chicken in; turn heat on to high and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom.  Cook for a few minutes, until the wine is reduced by about 2/3 or more.  Add chicken stock, turn heat down to medium, and whisk in flour mixture; cook until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.  Turn off heat, and add parsley, capers, lemon juice, and sliced lemon circles.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.  Serve chicken cutlets with pasta, with the sauce drizzled on top of everything.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Green Bean Casserole



GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS
1 lb green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced
1-1/4 tsp salt, divided
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup whole milk (you can use half and half if you want the dish to be extra rich and creamy)
melted butter

DIRECTIONS
Place the green beans over boiling water and cook for 8 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400º F.  In a large sauce pot melt 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the chopped onion and 1/4 tsp of salt for 4 minutes.  Remove the onions and set aside in a separate bowl with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Toss to evenly combine.

In the same large sauce pot, melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, add the mushrooms and remaining 1 tsp of salt and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute.  Sprinkle 2 tbsp of flour over the mushrooms and stir for 30 seconds until evenly coated.  Add the chicken broth and milk, bring to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until thickened.  Add the beans to the sauce and then pour into a greased 8 x 8 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with onion/bread crumb mixture on top, lightly pour melted butter on top, and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden.  Serve warm.


Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara