Wednesday, December 21, 2011

RECIPE: Perfect Peppermint Cookies

So, a weird thing happened this week. My husband's company is having a holiday party today, and one of his coworkers asked, "Will your wife be baking?" -- like, in a hopeful manner. I have a reputation as a good baker somewhere! I'm awesome!

Out of sheer gratitude, I made two batches of my peppermint sugar cookies. These cookies have become my calling card at Christmas time -- they're like sweet little buttons of deliciousness. I can't take too much credit -- the key is my Nanny's sugar cookie recipe, which isn't sickeningly sweet or overly buttery or too doughy. Then I add Andes peppermint chips, which are seriously one of the best inventions of the century.

You'll need:
  • 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Andes peppermint chips (these are melty like NOT use candy canes!)

1. Soften (but don't melt) the butter in the microwave. Times vary depending on your microwave, but in my nuclear-meltdown microwave, the magic number is 20% cook power for 2 minutes.

2. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and egg. Add in baking powder and vanilla.

3. Mix in the flour. You can slowly sift it in, or you can just dump the whole cup in and deal with the consequences. I usually choose the later method and end up antiquing myself and most of the kitchen, but I'm impatient. At this point, your "batter" should like granules of sand and you'll think, "I screwed up. This will never become a cookie." That means you did it right. (You can skip the next step if you just want sugar cookies.)

4. Add in the peppermint chips. I use about 1/4 bag for each batch.

5. Wash your hands. Then roll the cookies into 1-1/2 inch balls. Because of the sandy batter, you'll have to really smush them together like you're kneading Play-Doh.

6. Cook at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. When you take them out, the bottoms should be just barely golden, and they should fall apart when you pick them up:

7. Move them to a cooling rack and hang in there, because once they cool, they'll stay together like a normal, well-behaved cookie. Cookies always keep baking for a minute or two while they're on the cooling rack. Keep the faith. If you cook them "to perfection" in the oven, you'll wind up with crispy cookies. 

These are relatively easy and so, so good. Enjoy. I just did. For breakfast.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

RECIPE: Baked Broccoli. It's nothing short of magical.

I saw a recipe for oven-baked broccoli, and my first thought was, "Wow. That sounds like a way to make raw broccoli even more dry and bland." But then I kept seeing more and more recipes for it, so I finally decided there must be some truth to it. (Not that trendy foods can't be gross -- I'm talking to you, alfafa sprouts/foie gras/wheatgrass shakes.)

So this weekend, we tried it. And it...was....AMAZING! Okay, that's a strong word. Usually, the biggest compliment I can muster up for a vegetable recipe is "edible" or "tolerable." But these were straight-up delicious.

You'll need:

  • raw broccoli
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt, pepper, and garlic to taste*
  • lemon juice (or a lemon if you're feelin' fancy)
  • parmesan

Chop the broccoli into bite-size florets. Toss them with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Lay them on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees until the tips of the "trees" start turning golden-brown. For us, that was 10 minutes, but our oven cooks with the power of 1,000 suns. Then take it out, squeeze some lemon juice over it, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

How delicious is it? Um, my hubby walked out of the room and I snuck a few florets while he wasn't looking. Yeah -- I STOLE BROCCOLI. Usually (much like a 3-year-old), I save my veggies for last, eat five bites, announce that I'm full, and scrape the leftovers onto his plate. So for me to sneak broccoli because I didn't want to share -- that's huge. I want to make this every night. And maybe for breakfast too.

Sorry, buffalo chicken -- you're only the second-tastiest thing on my plate tonight.

* Just shake it until it looks about right. As usual, I subbed Papa Joe's salt for all three.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

EASY PEASY PIE: Swedish Apple Pie Recipe

Yikes, I haven't posted in a week -- my mashed potato coma was followed by Black Friday madness, Cyber Monday impulse shopping, and then a day or two of sheer laziness. But, I'm back. And I have a pie recipe as a sort of peace offering for being a bad, bad blogger.

We went to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving, and they asked if I'd bring a cherry pie. I don't know how to make one of those, so I offered to make an apple pie instead. But if you want to get technical, I don't know how to make that either, so I decided to make a Swedish apple pie.

I don't think it's actually Swedish, but that's not important.

It's super-easy, and that is important.

You'll need:

  • 5-6 medium-sized apples (I like Rome apples)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (melted)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease the bottom of a pie plate.  Chop the apples into thin slices and fill the pie dish until it's about level with the top. (Nope, there's no crust on the bottom. Have faith!)
Mix 1/4 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp. of cinnamon in a bowl, then pour evenly over the apples. Then mix the egg, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and the melted butter in a bowl and pour the mixture evenly over the apples. Some will fill in the cracks, the rest will sit on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top turns light golden and a little bit crispy to the touch.

Everyone polished it off and my brother-in-law nominated it as my new signature dish. Woohoo! Win.

Plus it's apples. So don't feel like you have to wait until the holidays. It's practically health food!