Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best Toll House Cookies

I write "Best" on all of my favorite recipes so I know which of the five cookie recipes I like... well... BEST. :)  The 1/4-cup cookies are on the left and my "regular-size" cookies are on the right.

Preheat: 375*
Group: Desserts

2/3 Cup Shortening
2/3 Cup Softened Butter
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla
3 Cups Flour
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Nuts, chopped (optional)
12 oz. Chocolate Chips

1. Cream shortening, butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Lots of times, I'll skip the shortening and just use butter. If my pockets are running on empty, I'll use margarine for the whole thing. When the recipe says, "cream," in this case it means get that fat and sugar into the mixer and beat the holy heck out of it. As my mom would say, "You can't beat it enough!"

The other thing to consider, instead of using the microwave or letting the butter soften on the counter, you might consider putting the butter into a saucepan and melting it.  Remove the pan from the heat when the butter is all melted, and then (and make SURE the pan's off the heating element!!) add the two sugars.  There is something about the heat of the saucepan-melted butter that really makes the sugars dissolve that makes the cookies chewier and more... melded.  That's the word that comes to mind.  The cookies are truly a unit after baking.  After the mixture has cooled off (and it doesn't take all that long), THEN add it to the mixing bowl and beat the heck out of it.

Here is a super-model we hired to do our butter melting.

We added the sugars--our model was sure to stir carefully, so as not to splash and make a mess! 

 Meanwhile, our second (very goofy!) model was beating the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl.
 Ahhh, the butter and sugars have done their magic.  Time to beat!
Now we add the eggs and vanilla to the cooled butter/sugars mixture.

 2. Add baking soda, salt and flour. I like to sprinkle in the baking soda and salt. The flour? Make sure all of the flour is in the dough after adding each cup.  Here are the kids adding the pre-measured dry ingredients. 

As it is with baked goods, just following the recipe doesn't always work.  Our first attempt didn't have enough flour.  Behold:

I had made a double batch, so I ended up having to add an extra four cups.  If this is your first time making cookie dough, add 1/2 cup of flour at a time and mix it in well.  If you live in a humid climate (like, we live in Snellville, Georgia, which is outside of Atlanta, so YES, humid!), then you're probably going to have this issue.

Here is what the cookie dough SHOULD look like.  Notice that I pinched the dough.  If your dough mostly keeps its shape (instead of flowing down like the above picture), then you're probably okay to go.  If you add too much flour, your cookies will be awful, so too little is better than too much.

Ahhh, that's more like it.

3. Spoon onto cookie sheet. I make smaller cookies, Scott makes them the size of his fist. Sometimes we never even make it to this step. (Although I should warn you that raw eggs... salmonella... and toilets... all go together. Never say I recommended eating raw stuff that should be cooked. Even if it is delicious.)

Notice the spacing.  I am picky about my cookies and don't like them touching when they've baked.  If you don't have this weird glitch to your central nervous system, please, go ahead and put your cookies closer to one another.

For larger cookies, you can level off a 1/4-cup measuring cup.  Bake for about 11-13 minutes.

4. Bake at 375* for 8-10 minutes. DO NOT overbake! The cookies should have lost the sheen of rawness at the top and should be barely tanned. They're cookies, so they're good no matter what, but they might be a little crunchier if you don't take them out early.  Also, let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet (that, if you have it, has been placed on a cooling rack).  When they're mostly cool, they'll scoop right off of the cookie sheet and YUM, they're ready to eat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Best Ever Tacos

Our family LOVES, LOVES, LOVES these tacos.  We eat them AT LEAST once per week.  Get ready to have a very inexpensive meal, and a very happy, satisfied family!

Preheat: --
Categories: Mexican, tacos, ground beef

6" Corn tortillas (The adults eat 2-4, and the little kids eat 2-3; also I can buy a large pack of these, enough for three weeks, from Sam's Club for minimal prices and they make fantastic baked chips)

1 pound Ground beef
1 packet Taco seasoning
Water (see packet for quantity)

3/4 Cup Grated cheese (we strongly prefer extra-sharp)
1 to 1 1/2 Cup Finely sliced fresh Spinach leaves
3/4 cup Chopped tomatoes

Optional Toppings:
1/2 Cup Chopped olives (I buy the cheaper large olives in a can and chop them myself)
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 Cup Fresh salsa
Tobasco Sauce
Lime wedges

1.  Brown ground beef, add taco seasoning and water, then keep warm.  I use my covered baker for this.

2.  Set out cheese, ground beef, spinach, tomatoes, olives, sour cream, salsa, tobasco sauce, lime wedges... or whatever combination you like.  Usually we put out cheese, beef, spinach, tomatoes, olives, and sour cream.  But it's yummy whatever you have.

3.  Pull out large frying pan and wipe down a super-thin amount of oil.  We use olive oil, and really it's to condition the pan.

4.  Set heat to medium-high and place four tortillas on pan.  When tortillas have heated through, they will have shrunk a little.  I like my shells a little crunchier, but still flexible.  You're not going to get a hard taco shell without using frying oil, but you can do slightly crunchy. 

5.  Serve tortillas while hot, scooping in fresh ingredients, customized for each person

Chicken Tacos

This Food Nanny (BYU television) recipe was AMAZING.  We have since come up with a modified recipe that we eat at least once a week (beef tacos).

Preheat: 200*F
Categories: Mexican, Chicken, Tacos, Food Nanny

2 Tablespoons Butter
Canola oil - for frying
2 pounds Chicken breast, cut up into bite-size pieces
3 Tablespoons chopped Onion
2-3 Garlic cloves, minced
2 Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 Cup chopped fresh Cilantro
12 Corn tortillas
Salt, ground pepper, garlic salt

Shredded cheddar, pepper jack or combination
Sour cream
Fresh spinach, thinly sliced
Fresh salsa or Tobasco sauce
Lime wedges

1.  Put butter and oil into a skillet on medium-high heat. 

2.  Add chicken, onions.  Cook until onions are soft and chicken is tender and cooked.

3.  Add garlic and cook for one minute.  Decrease heat and add cilantro and tomato.  Add chicken broth and water if mixture is too dry.

4.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic salt.  Cook for two minutes, cover, and turn off the heat.

5.  Heat oven to 200*F. 

6.  Use 3/4 Cup of Canola oil to fry tortilla on both sides.  Fold half-way to make a taco.  Place in oven on cookie sheet to keep warm.

7.  Serve mixture in shell, adding chosen toppings.

New York Steak Salad with Gorgonzola

This is a Food Nanny recipe.  She's on BYU television, and she is super-chipper, and dedicated to saving family mealtimes.  I did a review of her cookbook (super rocking awesome!!!) a while back and it seems that people are coming looking NOT for a cookbook review, but for her RECIPES.  Well, duh!  :)  Here is one of my favorites.

Preheat: low broil
Categories: Steak, salad, fancy cheese, Food Nanny BYUTV

10 Cups Romaine lettuce pieces
2 Cups Croutons
2 medium Tomatoes, in wedges
1/2 Cup Thinly sliced Red onion
1 Cup Unpeeled sliced Cucumbers
1 pound Boneless New York steak (We used KC Strip steak)
Olive oil
Seasoned salt, pepper
1/2 Cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
Honey mustard dressing

1.  Preheat oven to low broil.

2.  Mix lettuce, croutons, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers.

3.  Lightly brush stake on both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.

4.  Broil 6-11 minutes per side for medium doneness, depending on thickness.  At the last minute, sprinkle cheese and continue to broil.

5.  Transfer steak to cutting board and let sit for five minutes.  Slice into 1/4-inch strips.  It is VERY important to leave the steak sit.  If you didn't already know, the steak finishes cooking OUTSIDE of the oven.  If you cut the meat too soon, it will not finish cooking properly.

6.  Add honey mustard dressing to moisten and toss the salad.

7.  Place tossed salad onto plates and arrange steak on top of salad.  Drizzle dressing and serve.

I can't believe it, I can't believe it!!!

I'm recipe blog #5320 on verygoodrecipes.com!!!!!  I know that being five thousand, three hundred nineteen would be better, but I can't believe I'm even recognized on another site!  *doing a little happy dance*  The way they calculate your blog's popularity or rating is based on how many times your food blog is on somebody else's blog roll.  If YOU have a food blog, please add my blog to your list (if you like it, of course!)

Since I'm doing a non-food post, I'll give you some interesting statistics about this site.

I'm feeling pretty fantastic!  Keeping stopping in and picking up yummy recipes!

Rockin' Moroccan Chicken

We've been eating this dish for over a year, and we all love it.  It is served over rice (check out my favorite recipe for rice here).  I like spooning extra liquid over my rice, yum, and my not-very-saucy husband likes to eat it as dry as possible.   I love the simplicity of this recipe--it tastes like I worked a lot harder than I did! 

Preheat: 400*
Category: Chicken, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, raisins, main dish

2 Chicken breast halves, cut into 1" pieces
1 Sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" pieces  (I LOVE sweet potato with this dish, but don't always have them on hand.  I like to add to and/or replace the sweet potato with regular potato chunks)
1/4 Cup Raisins (I HATE raisins in baked goods.  But raisins in this dish is surprisingly spectacular!)
1 Cup Vegetable stock (It's all about what you have and don't have.  The vegetable stock is good, flavorful and full of vitamins.  But today, I used chicken broth instead, and it's a delicious substitute.)
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Ginger
1 teaspoon Tumeric
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1 teaspoon Salt

1.  Place chicken pieces into baking dish.  I use my wonderful covered baker from Pampered Chef, but a 9x13 pan and foil will do just fine.

2.  Measure out and stir in all spices.  It is VERY important that you stir in spices before adding in the sweet potatoes or raisins.

3.  Measure out, then stir in the raisins, sweet potato chunks and vegetable stock.

4.  Cover dish and bake at 400* for one hour.  Stir at 20 and 40 minutes.  The second you put your baking dish into the oven is a great time to hurry and measure out and steam your rice!  Your rice will cook in about 15 minutes or so (depending on your method) and then the remaining time, it will cool very slightly, absorbing any remaining moisture, making it perfect and read at the same time as your chicken!