Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sugar Cookies

Recently I tried out a new sugar cookie recipe, and I was really happy with how it turned out! The cookie recipe is from OurBestBites website- they have tons of good recipes!!

As far as the frosting goes, I never measure when I'm making a cookie frosting- I basically put powdered sugar in a bowl, add milk a little bit at a time, stir, add food coloring, and sometimes I add a little (maybe 1/2 tablespoon) corn syrup to help it be a little glossy. Just stir and add things (either sugar or milk) until it gets the consistency you're looking for. After frosting, it sets up pretty quickly, so I am able to stack the cookies.

Update 12/11- I made a half batch (again), and it made 20 small/medium sized cookies. This was what we made:

Sugar Cookies (Our Best Bites)
Printable version here

1 cup butter (no substitutions), softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract (or vanilla)
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg & extract and stir until combined.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Slowly add to the butter mixture; mix until combined.

3. Divide the dough into two halves, and put each one on a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Flatten it so it's about the shape of a frisbee, then wrap it all the way. Place in the fridge for 1-2 hours (or less in the freezer). Your dough should be well-chilled so it can be rolled & cut out easier. (You can also make the dough several days in advance, and keep in the fridge.)

4. Remove from fridge, and roll out on either a pastry mat or a surface that has been lightly sprinkled with flour. Roll out to about 1/4" thick then cut. Place cookies on a cookie sheet (I always use parchment on my sheets), then bake at 350º for 8-12 minutes (I did 10). The baking time depends on the size of your cookies, plus how soft or crispy you like them. Remove onto cooling racks and let cool completely. Frost if desired.

Why I love it? The recipe is easy (I made a half batch, because I didn't need a ton of cookies), and they turn out delicious. Exactly how sugar cookies are supposed to taste!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Slice Bread

I've had people ask me how I get bread sliced so nicely, so I thought I'd try to explain it. I think it's combination of a few things- using a good recipe (this bread has a good consistency- not too dense or too soft), I wait until it's all or mostly cool before slicing it, and I use a middle-of-the-road serrated bread knife.

I had my son take this picture the other day when I was slicing bread. I hold onto the end of the loaf with a few fingers while I'm slicing that piece; I think it helps me to cut it straighter. I cut one slice at a time, then make a stack of the cut pieces. I store them in a bread container in stacks like this (with maybe 5-6 slices in each stack). That way the bread doesn't lean & fall over when it's stored- that used to bug me.

That is this whole wheat bread recipe, my favorite one!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Grandma's Spaghetti Sauce

I've been so busy lately with stocking up the freezer (for back-to-school time) and canning, that's why the blog has been a little slow. But this recipe's worth the wait, trust me!

This recipe is my Grandma's spaghetti sauce recipe. She wasn't Italian, but she was married to my Sicilian grandfather, and cooked daily for her family of 7. Some of my best memories of her are related to the kitchen. Her small kitchen (with a plaque that said "Marilyn's Kitchen"), her aprons, her cooking huge pots of spaghetti, and her kitchen being full of homemade pizza every Christmas Eve. I love her & miss her so much!

Here's the recipe in her handwriting

Yum, so meaty & thick!

This is at the end, after simmering. You can see how it has reduced quite a bit.

Grandma's Spaghetti Sauce
Printable version here

2 large cans (12 oz. each) tomato paste
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic (a few cloves)
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
Half of 1/3 cup sugar

*Make the day ahead for best flavor

In a large pot (6-8 quart), brown beef, sausage, and onion. Drain grease. Add tomato paste and 9 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 4 hours. While cooking, add salt, pepper, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Add sugar during the last hour. Taste, and add salt if it still needs something. Cool, then store. May be frozen in dinner-sized portions. Enjoy!

(Note- this is half the amount of the original recipe. If you'd like, and if you have gigantic pots, you may double the recipe.)

Why I love it? Well, it's 50/50- I love it because it's nostalgic and because it's delicious! Sauce from a jar just can't compare. It makes a lot, it's freezable, and we all love it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Beef & Bean Casserole

This is one of the simplest dinners I make, and we all enjoy it. It's not "fancy", but it's a good basic recipe! It's original name is Hungry Jack Casserole, named because of the Hungry Jack brand biscuits that were part of it. Well I'm not a fan of canned biscuits (personally), so I've swapped those out for other things. I've served this dinner with regular homemade biscuits or with cornbread- just something homey & filling. :)

I never measure the ingredients for this; it's really just a "to taste" kind of thing. You can take the basic idea and make it your own!

Beef & Bean Casserole
Printable version here

Ground beef (1/2 to 1 pound)
Diced onion (about 1/2 an onion)
Barbecue sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 can (15 oz.) Pork 'n Beans
Grated cheddar cheese
French fried onions (optional)

1. Brown the ground beef & onions; drain fat.

2. Add barbecue sauce to taste (or until the consistency seems how you want it), brown sugar, and beans. Simmer on low for a few minutes.

3. At this point, you can either top it with grated cheese & serve it, or bake it. I put it in a baking pan, top with cheese & french fried onions, and bake at 350º for 10-15 minutes or until bubbly & onions are golden brown. Serve with biscuits or cornbread.

Why I love it? It's quick to make, easy to double (I make a bigger batch now that my kids are eating more), and not too bad for you. It has a good amount of protein & fiber. Plus, it's a meal that all 3 of my kids like! There aren't too many of those! :)

(When I was searching online for this recipe, I found a You Tube video of a guy making this recipe (with the biscuits baked on top). If you're curious, here it is! YouTube)