Sixteenth new recipe

I felt like a kid a Christmas when I first saw this recipe. Not only do I have an insatiable sweet tooth, but snickerdoodles scream, “It’s the holidays!” to me, which is perfect because I’m a Christmas fanatic. I’ve attempted to make blondies twice, a brown sugar variety and a pumpkin variety, but the results haven’t been great. They were disappointing because I expected them them to have the same consistency as brownies, but without the chocolate. No luck with that, so far. But since bar cookies are ideal for the Christmas care packages I send to my family and friends each year, I’ve been gathering all sorts of blondie recipes on my Delicious account with the hope that at least a few of them will turn out well. And since I wanted to know if these fabulous-sounding treats were worthy of my Christmas care packages before the holidays rolled around, I figured I needed to try them and find out. You see, I don’t like experimenting with new recipes too close to my deadline for mailing the care packages because I’m ashamed to send mediocre cookies to my loved ones. The holidays are stressful enough without worrying about how your cookies are going to taste! No, it’s much better to use tried-and-true recipes and be absolutely sure that the outcome will be delicious. So even though the holidays are eight months away, I used some of my free time while Dan was at the Laker game on Thursday night to make my first batch of snickerdoodle blondies. And I’m glad I did. Simply put, these squares are a little piece of heaven. They are moist, fragrant, and buttery beyond your wildest imagination. Best of all, they have that brownie-without-the-chocolate texture that I was craving. I only made a half batch of the original recipe (but I kept the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg the same to amp up the spices, which I think turned out great) and in two days they were gone. As Dan and I gobbled up the blondies on Friday night he declared them to be “insane,” which is the highest praise he’s ever given any of my cooking. All I can say is, yes, these snickerdoodle blondies are indeed worthy of my Christmas 2011 care packages. I will most definitely be making these again!

1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c butter, softened
1 egg
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Combine the flour, baking powder,1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar for 3 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread the batter evenly in a greased 8×8″ pan (the mixture will be somewhat cookiebatter-ish, so it’s best to spread it out with a greased spatula or your hands). Combine the granulated sugar, remaining 1 tsp cinnamon, and remaining 1/4 tsp nutmeg in a little bowl and evenly sprinkle the mixture over the top of the batter. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before cutting. Enjoy!

Based on My Baking Addiction’s Snickerdoodle Blondies.

Favorite recipes #17 – Potluck chili

Last December Dan and I were invitied to a holiday party at one of his co-worker’s houses where several different kinds of chili were served. All of the varieties were delicious so I asked the hostess her secret. She laughed and told me it was Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Chili Kit. I was always apprehensive about using a recipe to make chili because I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but getting a tried and true seasoning mix at the grocery store sounded like a great idea. So in February when Dan and I went to a Super Bowl party at Mike and Lisa’s house we decided to bring chili. We deviated from the directions on the back of the chili kit box (mostly because I don’t believe in using water in a tomato-based dish when you can use a tomato product instead), and Dan being the amazing chef that he is added some unexpected ingredients. The chili – both spicy and mild varieties – turned out delicious. I documented the recipe below as I was making a batch for a holiday potluck at work. I received a lot of compliments at that potluck and this whole story came full circle when I divulged the secret of my chili – Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Chili Kit.

1 lb lean ground beef (I use 8% fat)
1 lb lean ground turkey (I use 7% fat)
1/2 large sweet onion, diced (about 1 heaping cup)
1 large red bell pepper, diced (about 1 heaping cup)
1 package Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Chili Kit, spice packets separated
2 cans tomato sauce (8 oz each – I use the variety with basil, garlic, and oregano)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz – I use the variety with roasted garlic)
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 c lime juice
1/2 to 1 habanero pepper, minced (depending on how spicy you want your chili – wear gloves when cutting!)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you prefer)

In a large stockpot (mine is 8 qt), cook ground beef and ground turkey along with the diced onion and diced bell pepper. When the meat is cooked, add the Carroll Shelby’s chili seasoning packet (the biggest one in the kit) and salt packet, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, and lime juice. Stir well. This is your basic mild chili, so if that was your goal simply let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes and you’re done! But since Dan likes his chili spicy, at this point I transfer half of the chili base into another pan (a large sauce pan works), add the contents of the cayenne pepper packet from the chili kit, minced habanero pepper, and extra 1/2 tsp (or more) cayenne pepper. Simmer both pots of chili for about 15 minutes, turn off the heat, and let them cool for as long as possible before refrigerating to let the spices mingle. Refrigerating overnight before serving will help the flavor too, making this the perfect weeknight leftover meal. Enjoy!

Based on the recipe on the back of the Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Chili Kit box.

Favorite recipes #16 – Pumpkin dip

When October rolled around I had big plans to post a few of my favorite pumpkin recipes over Halloween weekend, but the month flew by in the blink of an eye and I never got around to it. I did, however, make time to whip up a batch of pumpkin dip for our Hallowen party on November 6th. Pumpkin dip sounds healthy, right? Unfortunately, it’s pretty much just cream cheese frosting with pumpkin mixed in, but it’s absolutely delicious. Plus, it’s the perfect addition to a table of party food when paired with fruit or cookies. There’s probably a can of pumpkin in your cupboard so go make some right now!

8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 c powdered sugar
1 can (15 oz) canned pumpkin
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Apple slices, pear slices, cinnamon and sugar pita chips, or cookies for dipping

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until creamy. (Add the vanilla extract during this step if it makes mixing the two together easier.) Gradually add the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla (if not added earlier), and ginger, and beat until smooth. Serve with fruit, pita chips, and/or cookies.

Based on Taste of Home’s Harvest Pumpkin Dip.

Food blogging – Vinaigrette vegetable salad

Dan and I went to Illinois for the Fourth of July last year to spend some time with his family in that part of the country. I had never meat most of these folks and Dan hadn’t been to his parents’ hometown in years, so we figured it was time to make the trip. The first group that we visited was Dan’s cousin Jaymi and her immediate family, some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and we had our first Fourth of July cookout meal at their house (even though it was only July 3rd). The standout dish at that buffet was a vegetable salad with a vinaigrette dressing that Dan’s Aunt Shell made. It had cucumber slices, chunks of bell pepper and red onion, and halved cherry tomatoes in a simple, tangy dressing and I couldn’t get enough of it. After raving about how wonderful it was, Dan’s aunt was kind enough to give me the recipe for the vinaigrette, and I’ve made this delicious salad as a side dish many times since then for Dan and me. It really couldn’t be easier to make. The first step is prepping the vegetables – peeling and slicing the cucumber (the slices should be pretty thin or else they’re cumbersome to eat), dicing the bell pepper and red onion (larger chunks of these make them easier to spear with your fork), and halving the cherry tomatoes. As a personal preference, I leave out the tomatoes when I made this at home, but if you like raw tomatoes I expect they would be great in this recipe. When making this for just Dan and me I make a much smaller amount than Dan’s Aunt did for the Fourth of July – usually slicing half a cucumber, dicing half a red bell pepper, and adding just enough red onion to balance out the other two vegetables. As you can see in the photo below, this makes for a very colorful salad.

For the amount of vegetables in this batch I mixed a minimal amount of dressing to marinate them in. Take a look at the list of ingredients below and tell me, who doesn’t have these ingredients in their pantry on any given day? As far as the vinegar goes, I’ve tried red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar, but you can’t go wrong with apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar either. (I’ve made this same dressing with balsamic for broccoli salad and it’s incredible.) For this batch (made with red wine vinegar), I put the three dressing ingredients in a small ramekin and stirred with a fork to combine. When Dan’s aunt made this for the Fourth of July she put quite a lot of dressing on the vegetables so that they would marinate properly before serving, which is something to keep in mind if you’re making this dish a ways ahead of time. But for me, dinner was only a few hours away so I made much less dressing and just stirred the salad contents a few times while it was marinating in the refrigerator.

Dump the prepared dressing on the vegetables and stir, stir, stir! You want to make sure that all of the veggies are coated in the vinaigrette. This is very important. So is the marinating. This last batch I made didn’t have enough time to marinate in the fridge before I served it, so the longer you let the vegetables sit in the dressing, the better. I suppose there’s a point where “the longer the better” could become “too long,” but who makes things that far ahead anyway? So when dinner time rolls around, simply gave the salad a final stir and enjoy! This is an incredibly easy and delicious way to serve vegetables with any meal, and it’s ideal for me since Dan doesn’t like cooked vegetables. It doesn’t quite rank up there with our favorite broccoli salad recipe (I’ll have to repost that one again soon), but it’s a tasty way to mix up our side dishes at dinner.

1/2 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 large red bel pepper, diced (large chunks)
1/4 red onion, diced (large chunks)
2 Tbsp vinegar (red wine, white wine, apple cider, or balsalmic)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Combine sliced and diced recipes in a medium bowl. Combine vinegar, sugar, and oil in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk or fork to combine as much as possible. Pour vinegar mixture over the vegetables and stir to coat. Let the salad marinate the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Favorite Recipes #15 – Twenty Clove Garlic Chicken

I’ve been obsessed with my Crockpot lately, mostly because of this fantastic website – A Year of Slow Cooking. Dan and I got our Crockpot as a wedding present, and as great an appliance as it is, I haven’t made nearly enough use of it over the past three years. This is mostly because I don’t have many slow cooker recipes – that is, until I discovered A Year of Slow Cooking. Over the past week or so I’ve made three recipes from this amazing site – Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Barbeque Sauce, Mulligatawny Soup, and 20 to 40 Clove Garlic Chicken Recipe. And the garlic chicken was such a hit that when I made it the first time, Dan requested it again just a couple of days later. That’s when I know I’ve found a winner. So here is that amazing recipe for all to enjoy.

1 1/2 to 2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (pretty much any cut of chicken will work here, though)
1/2 large onion, sliced
20 (or more) cloves of garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp white or black pepper (I use a little of each)

As with all my Crockpot recipes, first insert a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner. Place sliced onions at the bottom of the slow cooker. Put chicken and garlic cloves in a large bowl, add olive oil and spices, and mix together until evenly coated. Pour contents of the bowl into the slow cooker, making sure that some of the garlic cloves are under the chicken and the rest are on top. Cook on either high or low until the chicken is fully cooked – I used thin-sliced chicken breasts so they were done after 3 hours on high. Using two forks, shred the chicken and return to the slow cooker. Stir gently to mix the chicken, garlic cloves, and onions, but be careful not to smash the garlic because it will be soft. Spreading one of those delicious cloves on a cracker is almost the best part of this meal so make sure they stay intact as long as possible. I would suggest serving the chicken with rice and our favorite broccoli salad, but Dan and I have also used it in quesadillas and enchiladas with great results. I don’t think you can go wrong no matter how you serve it.

Pretty much duplicated from A Year of Slow Cooking’s 20 to 40 Clove Garlic Chicken Recipe.

Favorite Recipes #3 – World’s Best Lasagna

Until I can get my act together and write a decent post, I offer my outrageously delicious (if I do say so myself) lasagna recipe as a placeholder. I originally published this on my Livejournal back in 2008, but it’s definitely good enough to deserve a re-post. Enjoy!

If my name is ever tied to a particular recipe, I hope it’s this one. I don’t have the nerve to call it “Lauren’s Lasagna” or “Mrs. Feller’s Lasagna” just yet, though. Maybe one day. Soon after Dan and I moved into our house I was ecstatic to find a lasagna recipe without ricotta cheese. I really don’t like that stuff. The recipe was great as printed, but I’ve made a few critical improvements and now it’s amazing.

1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb ground sausage
1 cup diced green pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
1 cup diced sweet onion (about 1/2 large onion)
3 cans tomato paste (6 oz each)
2 cans tomato sauce (8 oz each)
1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp cider vinegar
12 no boil lasagna noodles (or equivalent for 4 layers)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
8 oz sliced provolone cheese (12 slices)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, cook beef and sausage until meat is no longer pink. Add green pepper and onion when the meat is about halfway done. Remove from heat and stir in tomato paste, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, brown sugar, oregano, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and cider vinegar.

In a large casserole dish (13x9x2 inches or larger), spread 1/4 of the meat sauce, layer with 4 lasagna noodles, and cover with another 1/4 of the sauce. Finish off the layers as follows: mozzarella cheese, 4 noodles, 1/4 of the meat sauce, Monterey Jack cheese, 4 noodles, last 1/4 of the meat sauce, and Provolone cheese (slices layered to cover everything). Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on the top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degF for 45 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

To save time, the lasagna can be assembled a day early and refrigerated uncooked overnight. Just follow directions to prepare lasagna, cover with aluminum foil, and place in refrigerator until ready to bake.

Based on Taste of Home’s Cheesy Lasagna.

Edited on 12/28/12 to add a can of diced tomatoes. There’s no such thing as too much sauce in lasagna!

Favorite Recipes #14 – Tzatziki Sauce

I’m leaving for San Francisco in half an hour so in lieu of a real post, here is another one of my favorite recipes. I promise to post something more substantial when I get back from my trip. Maybe I’ll even finish that third anniversary post, part two that I’ve talked about so much!

No list of sauce recipes would be complete without an entry for the delicious Greek condiment, tzatziki. I got my first taste of this pungent yogurt-based sauce at the Mad Greek restaurant in Baker, CA.  Having lunch there either on the way to or the way home from Las Vegas is one of my favorite parts of the trip. When I make tzatziki at home I usually serve it with Greek-type meatballs, but it’s traditional on gyros, which I haven’t attempted to make yet.

8 oz Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dill
1/2 tsp salt

Once again, brace yourself for some complicated preparation…or not. Seriously, just mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Then put the finished product in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let the flavors mingle. This recipe is easy to half if you’re making it for just two people.

Based on the sauce component of Taste of Home’s Mini Greek Burgers Recipe.

Favorite Recipes #13 – Delicious Peanut Sauce

One of my favorite meals at a restaurant is a Thai chicken pizza from California Pizza Kitchen – I’m a sucker for the peanut sauce. So when I stumbled across a Thai chicken pizza recipe in one of my Taste of Home magazines one day I was ecstatic. Could peanut sauce really be this simple? Turns out that it is! Just four ingredients to peanuty deliciousness. Last night I made this sauce (thinned out with a little water) to compliment our dinner of teriyaki chicken lettuce wraps. A leaf of butter lettuce stuffed with teriyaki chicken, diced cucumber, shredded carrots, and topped with peanut sauce? Yum. I’ve also used this sauce on pasta (thinned out, once again), and of course on some homemade Thai chicken pizza (no thinning required). Just spread undiluted peanut sauce over the crust and top with cheese (I prefer a combination of mozzarella and Monterey Jack), diced chicken, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, green onions, and peanuts. Yum!

1/4 c creamy peanut butter
3 Tsbp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp vinegar (I’ve tried white vinegar and white wine vinegar)
Water, if necessary

This is a bit complicated so get ready. Put peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, and vinegar in a bowl. Got that? Now mix all ingredients together until combined. Ready for the next step? Well, there’s not one because you’re done! It’s just that simple. Granted, mixing the liquid ingredients into the viscous peanut butter and honey takes a bit of elbow grease, but the end result is a delicious creamy peanut sauce that can be used in all sorts of dishes. If necessary, add some water to the sauce to thin it out for your purposes. It’s always delicious!

Based on the sauce component of Taste of Home’s Thai Chicken Pizzas Recipe.

Favorite Recipes #12 – Garlic and Basil Pasta

This is an extremely simple and delicious pasta side dish that uses ingredients you probably already have in your cupboard and refrigerator. I’ve made it several times, tweaking an ingredient here or there, and Dan always loves it. It’s a surefire hit for garlic lovers, which is why I used 8 cloves in my last batch (it was strong, but tasty), but the amount can be varied depending on your taste.

8 oz uncooked pasta (I’ve used orzo and forfalla, but any type will work)
4-8 cloves garlic, minced (depending on your taste)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted
4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c frech basil, coarsely chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and return to pot. Microwave minced garlic for 15-20 seconds until fragrant. Add garlic, olive oil, butter, and Parmesan cheese to pasta and stir until evenly coated. Add basil and stie until combined. Serve immediately.

Based on All Recipes’ Spaghetti with Garlic and Basil.

Favorite Recipe #11 – Slow Cooker Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches

Favorite Recipes #11 – Slow Cooker Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches
This is the perfect recipe when you have a little extra time, but no energy to prepare a meal. This is when your slow cooker comes in handy – just throw in a few ingredients and the main component of a delicious meal is ready in a few hours.

1 lb chicken (I used thin-sliced breasts because they cook quickly)
1/2 large onion (or equivalent), sliced
6 cloves garlic (or less if you wish), chopped
18 oz barbeque sauce (minimum)

As I mentioned in my Adobo Chicken recipe, I highly recommend using a Reynold’s Slow Cooker Liner any time you use your Crockpot. I love the easy clean up. So after you put in the liner, layer onions and garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker and pour a little of the barbeque sauce over the vegetables. You can use your favorite barbeque sauce with this recipe, it doesn’t matter what kind, but make sure you have at least an 18 oz bottle or there might not be enough. Put chicken on top of the vegetables and pour the rest of the barbeque sauce over the top, making sure the chicken is covered as much as possible. Cook chicken on low heat until tender enough to shred easily (I cooked mine for about 3 hours before shredding). Remove slow cooker cover, shred chicken, stir, and replace lid. Cook on low for another hour or so to allow the chicken to completely marinate in the barbeque sauce. Pile on top of a roll, maybe with some slices of fresh onion or some cheese, and enjoy!

P.S. For a complete listing of my favorite recipes to date, check out the favorite_recipes subset of my Livejournal posts.