Monday, June 15, 2015

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know there are a million recipes for chocolate chip cookies in existence, ranging from the Nestle standard to the Neiman Marcus million-dollar recipe. I found my personal favorite...on the back of Aldi brand chocolate chips. Apparently the magic comes from the hot water, as I've never seen that in any other recipe. Who would have guessed? Also, it only uses one bowl, it comes together quickly,  it's always produced the same great results for me, and it's super easy to cut in half or double. In other words: it's a winner.
I'm writing it down here so that I never lose it, even if Aldi changes its recipe. I do add vanilla, which wasn't in the original recipe.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

2/3 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp hot water
2 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375º. Melt butter (until very soft or even until completely melted), then stir in brown sugar. Add eggs, hot water, and vanilla and stir to combine. Add in flour, then baking powder, soda, and salt on top of the flour. Stir the dry ingredients together gently to make sure there aren't any big pockets of baking powder or baking soda (a fork is good for this). Then, stir the wet and dry ingredients together. Fold in chocolate chips.

Form dough into balls (about 1 tbsp each) and place on cookie tray. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are slightly golden brown on top.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pumpkin streusel muffins

These muffins taste just like eating pumpkin pie! I like the strong pumpkin flavor.

Pumpkin streusel muffins
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp apple pie spice mix (or 1/2 tsp each cloves and nutmeg)
1/2 tsp ginger
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla

Streusel topping:
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine dry ingredients, then add in wet ingredients. Stir until mixed. Scoop mixture into greased muffin tin.
For streusel, mix together flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut the butter into small pieces with a knife or fork, then use your fingers to rub the mixture together until butter is evenly distributed and mixture looks like wet sand.
Sprinkle streusel over muffin batter in tins, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until streusel is light brown and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pumpkin crumble bars

Tis the season for all things pumpkin spice, right? Although I guess I'm a little late, seeing as it's November already.

These bars were inspired by the fact that the only cans of pumpkin puree at the grocery store were those ginormous ones. 28 oz maybe? Definitely at least 4 cups of pumpkin. Anyway, I had opened the can for another recipe and wanted the use the rest of the pumpkin for something else. I brought these to a friend's house for a football gamewatch, and they got rave reviews. They're not too sweet -- you could easily eat them for breakfast. (In fact, I'm about to do just that!)

Pumpkin Crumble Bars
3/4 cup butter
2 cups flour (could make gluten-free by substituting oat flour)
2 cups slow-cooking oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vanilla

6 oz. softened neufchâtel cheese
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp apple pie spice mix (pumpkin pie spice mix would probably be better, but this is what I had!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 X 13 pan with parchment paper or tin foil.
Place the butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl and head it for about 45 seconds, until softened but not completely melted. Add all other crust ingredients. Mix the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or your fingers until butter is evenly distributed and mixture looks like wet sand. Reserve one cup of the crust mixture and pour the remaining crust mixture into the prepared pan. Press down hard to make sure the crust sticks together. Back for 12 minutes (try not to over bake).

Meanwhile, blend filling ingredients together. (Make sure your neufchâtel cheese is softened so your filling doesn't get lumpy.) Remove crust from oven and pour filling mixture over it. Top with the remaining cup of crust mixture. There should be enough to cover the filling with a single layer of crust, without any gaps.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the top crust is light golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature before eating.

Adapted from Joy the Baker, Ambitious Kitchen, and Kraft recipes.

Slow cooker barbecue chicken

I've made this recipe twice now, once just for LC and me, and once for company -- when a priest came over for dinner and to bless our house. :) It's deliciously sweet and just a little spicy. The leftovers are great too!

The steps are pretty simple. Just dump everything in a crock pot! My only advice for prep is to measure all of the spices (salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, chili powder, and cinnamon) into a large liquid measuring cup, like so:

Then pour in a bottle of beer, and 2 tbsp honey and stir with the spices. That way you can make sure the spices are evenly distributed around the chicken.

Serve with some hamburger buns and some type of creamy salad (caesar, cole slaw...). You'll definitely want something to cut the rich tangy sweetness of the chicken!

Crockpot Barbecue Beer Chicken

2 pounds chicken breasts (could use thighs)
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder 
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes 
1 bottle of beer (around 1 1/2 cups)
3 cups of bbq sauce (OR one 28-oz bottle of bbq sauce, for example, Sweet Baby Ray's)

Place chicken in crock pot. Mix honey, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and beer together, then pour over chicken. Add the bbq sauce.
Cook for 5-6 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. 
Before serving, remove chicken from crock pot and shred it with two forks. Return the chicken to the sauce in the crock pot, and stir.

Adapted from Halfbaked Harvest.  (My biggest change was upping the amount of garlic powder, and lowering the amount of chili powder, and I'm very glad I did -- there's a definite kick to this version of the bbq sauce, and I think more chili powder would've made it too spicy for me and LC. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Orange Cranberry Zucchini Muffins

They say necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well, these muffins were invented when I realized that we were out of chocolate chips. And applesauce...two of the ingredients in Chocolate Covered Katie's chocolate chip zucchini muffins.  By the time I was done adapting this recipe to food we actually had in the house, I had added three different types of fruit to replace the chocolate, making these muffins even more legit breakfast food. Of course, then I topped them with an orange-flavored glaze, so I guess these can count for dessert too.

By the way, when I said "the house" in the above paragraph, I meant my parents' house. It's time for the MN part of the MN-NJ cooks blog, as I'm back in Minnesota for four more weeks...until my wedding!! LC, however, is still in NJ, and holding down the cooking for the East Coast part of this blog. Check out the message on his omelette! :)


Alright, onto the recipe! Flour, sugar, oil, one banana, one zucchini (maybe not quite as big as this one!), baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Not pictured: apple cider vinegar, cranberries, and orange zest. Hey, these things happen when you're adapting a recipe on the fly. 

Grate zucchini, mash a banana, add some oil, mix it all together together, and trust that it will taste better than it looks right now. 

Mix the dry ingredients together, fold in the cranberries and orange zest, then immediately scoop into muffin tins. 

I dunked these ones in the glaze and sprinkled some chopped cranberries on top. You can also drizzle the glaze over the top. Perfect for brunch! Enjoy.

Cranberry Orange Zucchini Muffins
Makes 24

3 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1 mashed banana
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup dried cranberries.

Glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar 
2 tbsp orange juice

Preheat oven to 375. Grease or line muffin tins. 

Mix together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon), then in a separate bowl stir together zucchini, banana, vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring well, and then fold in the cranberries and orange zest. Immediately portion into muffin tins (because these muffins are vegan and don't contain any eggs, the reaction between the vinegar and baking soda is what makes them rise, so if you wait too long to bake them, the reaction will have faded away).

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Measure 1 cup powdered sugar into a bowl. Add orange juice - try starting with just 1 1/2 tablespoons, stirring well, and then adding more liquid if needed. This method helps you avoid watery glaze!

Top the muffins with the glaze and garnish with chopped dried cranberries, if desired. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Famous chili

This is one of our favorite recipes for game days. It's easy to make, stays warm for a long time, and is great for a crowd. LC came up with some creative serving ideas too! For a World Cup party, he filled some Scoops tortilla chips with the chili! Usually we just serve it with Fritos. However you make it, I can promise that it will disappear fast! I don't think anybody would come over to my house for the Super Bowl if I didn't make my famous chili. :)

Super Bowl Chili

1 lb ground beef or beef subsitute
1 can black beans (not drained)
1 can white beans (not drained)
1 can pinto beans (not drained)
2 cans (or 1 big jumbo can) of diced tomatoes (not drained)
2 cans corn (drained)
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 packet taco seasoning mix (the spiciness of the taco mix has a big impact on the final flavor) 

Brown the beef if necessary. Vegetarian beef substitute works great for this recipe, because you don't have to cook it at all (just heat it up with the other ingredients) and the other flavors are strong enough that you don't notice the lack of beef.
 Anyway, combine the ground beef with all the other ingredients. Stir and heat -- can be done in a slow cooker if you like. Serve with Fritos.
 I usually double this recipe for a crowd of 8-10. Once I messed up and bought 3 taco seasoning packets and only 1 ranch packet for a doubled recipe. I got a lot of people telling me that they loved it that way, but I personally found it too spicy. 

The new kitchen!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chłodnik (Cold Polish beet soup)

Summer is definitely here! I love eating all the fresh fruit and veggies that are finally in season. I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I saw this recipe, but I like gazpacho and figured that this would probably be pretty similar. It doesn't tasted anything like gazpacho, but does sort of serve the same purpose - savory, creamy, vegetable-y, and most importantly, cold!

By the way, this soup is very filling, but the entire recipe is under 400 calories, at least according to my calculations. Winner!

No process photos this time, just the recipe.

Chlodnik (Cold Polish beet soup)
Adopted from Seraphic Singles
Makes three-four servings

4 cooked beets
1 cube beef bullion dissolved in one cup water (or one cup veggie broth)
Juice of half a lemon
Half a cucumber, finely chopped
2 radishes (three if you like the taste of radishes), finely chopped
1 ounce fresh dill (one package)
1 Tbsp chopped chives
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Salt to taste

Shred the cooked beets into a bowl using a cheese grater. Add the broth and lemon juice and stir.
Combine the cucumber, radish, dill, and chives in a separate bowl, mixing well, and then add to the beet mixture. Stir in the Greek yogurt. Cover the mixing bowl with a lid or with plastic wrap, and chill for 4-5 hours to let the flavors mix. Ladle the soup into a blender or Magic Bullet and blend for 30 seconds, or until smooth. (If you like, you can eat the soup without blending it, but I found the texture of the shredded beets to be kind of weird.) Garnish with chives and serve cold. (I sprinkled some feta cheese on top as well for the picture, but found that it actually didn't taste very good with the soup!) I've eaten this for lunch twice this week, once with a toasted English muffin on the side and once with chips. Some carbs are definitely a good match! :)