Chocolate chip shortbread cookies

I couldn’t wait for Friday to share this amazing recipe. I’ve been tinkering with this chocolate chip shortbread for a long time now and it is finally perfect. I first tried my hand at shortbread for Thanksgiving 2013 and I was encouraged by the initial results. Since then I’ve made some tweaks here and there to come up with a recipe that I absolutely love. The biggest change was using powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar. I shared my first attempt (Chocolate Chip Cookies #41) back with that ingredient swap back in February when I baked desserts for a Super Bowl party. The powdered sugar gave the shortbread cookies an amazing crumbly texture, but I didn’t think they were quite sweet enough with only 3/4 cup. Luckily folks still seemed to like them. However, I thought there was room for improvement. After doing some research about substituting different kinds of sugars in recipes I decided to double the amount of powdered sugar (1 1/2 cups) and see how that worked. Well, the flavor of the resulting cookies was incredible! They were buttery and just as sweet as I wanted them to be, but unfortunately the lovely shortbread texture was missing. So today made another batch with 1 1/4 cups of powered sugar and it’s perfect! I’m so glad I stuck with this recipe until I got it right. Go and make a batch and see for yourself how great these cookies are!

INGREDIENTS:
1 c butter, softened
1 1/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 c flour
1/2 c mini chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. (Measure the powdered sugar like flour, loosely spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling the top with a knife.) Since powdered sugar has a tendency to clump (and I don’t own a sifter), I usually use an electric mixer for this recipe. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Add the flour and beat until almost completed incorporated, scraping down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Spread the dough into an 11×7″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 deg F for about 25 min (check after 20 min just in case), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is starting to turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 min and then lift the cookies out of the pan with the sides of the aluminum foil. Slice into squares before the they cool (it’s easier while the cookies are warm). Cool completely before eating. Enjoy!

Based on Kirbie’s Cravings’ Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies and Add A Pinch’s Shortbread Cookies.

Foodie Friday – Buttermilk banana bread

In case you happen to be looking for the absolute best banana bread recipe, your search is over. This is the best banana bread in the world! And to think I only discovered it because I had some buttermilk leftover from making a birthday cake for a co-worker! Banana bread doesn’t usually have any dairy products in it, unlike most loaf cake recipes, but adding buttermilk was a stroke of genius. It made the bread incredibly moist, rich, and more cake-like than regular banana bread. I couldn’t get enough of it! And all of my co-workers raved about how delicious it was.

I actually doubled this recipe and made two loaves – one with chocolate chips (mini semisweet chips) and one without – to use up as much of the leftover buttermilk as possible. For a double batch I used 5 large bananas and it worked out great. However, I learned something about optimal pan sizes. Since I only own one 9×5″ loaf pan I baked the second loaf in an 8×4″ pan instead. Unfortunately the loaf in the smaller pan took longer to cook and was actually still a little underdone in the middle (but overdone on the edges) when I finally retrieved it from the oven. The loaf in the 9×5″ pan turned out perfectly so definitely one of those for this recipe. I’m going to buy another large pan so I can whip up two more loaves soon!

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 medium sized ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c buttermilk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
Chocolate chips, optional

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. (I usually just mix ingredients by hand when I bake, but I made an exception this time.) Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla and beat to combine. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and beat until the flour is incorporated. Fold in some chocolate chips, if desired. Spoon the batter into a large loaf pan (preferably 9×5″) coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg F for 50-60 min (mine took closer to 60 min) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 min before turning out of the pan. Cool completely before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Edited on 9/20/15: When I made this again yesterday I doubled the recipe and used three 8×4″ pans to make slightly smaller loaves. However, in this configuration the edges browned too quickly and I had to turn down the temperature halfway through. Next time I’ll try 325 deg F and see if that works better.

Based on Two Peas and Their Pod’s Buttermilk Banana Bread.

Foodie Friday – Curried chicken tenders

Chicken curry is my culinary nemesis. Back in 2012 I even wrote a whole post about it! After trying so many different curry recipes I’d pretty much given up on producing a good result myself, but then I ran across this Martha Stewart recipe. It’s not a classic chicken curry dish since the sauce is more like honey mustard, but it’s simple and really delicious. The curry flavor definitely comes through. I deviated from the original recipe because for simplicity (and laziness) I used canola oil rather than butter. That’s not exactly Paleo, but I tried to make up for it by using raw honey. I probably could have used olive oil or melted coconut oil too. I’ll have to try one of those next time. I also used chicken tenders instead of breasts because it’s easier to split up into lunch portions. I love this dish. The flavor is amazing and the chicken stays tender. I need to remember to make it for my lunches more often!

INGREDIENTS:
1 to 1 1/2 lb chicken tenders
1/2 c honey
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, canola oil, Dijon mustard, curry powder, and salt. Place the chicken tenders into an 11×7″ or 13×9″ pan coated with cooking spray (I use either Trader Joe’s olive oil spray or coconut oil spray). Pour the honey mustard mixture over the chicken and turn each tender a couple of time to coat. Cook at 375 deg F about 30 minutes, turning the tenders once, or until the chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

Based on Martha Stewart’s Curried Chicken Breasts.

Foodie Friday – Ranch turkey tacos

This dish was inspired by a recipe for ranch chicken tacos that I made a while back. The chicken was just OK (it might have potential with some tweaks), but adapting the recipe for ground turkey yielded much tastier results. I kept the spices the same (what’s easier than a couple of seasoning packets?), added a can of tomato sauce in place of the chicken broth, and cooked it in the skillet rather than the Crockpot. It’s incredibly flavorful and a cinch to make. It would be the perfect weeknight meal. The ranch turkey takes about 15 minutes, and then throw a spoonful into a tortilla with whatever fixings you want. You can’t miss! I must confess that since I’m avoiding grains in my diet I don’t actually make tacos with the turkey, but it’s delicious by itself so I make it quite often for my lunches. It’s a little like chili that way.

As a side note, I’ve tagged this recipe as “grain-free,” but I know the McCormick taco seasoning packet actually contains wheat in some form. They do have a gluten free variety, but it’s not the mild version so I haven’t tried it. I’m worried about it being too spicy! The obvious solution is to mix up some homemade taco seasoning, but my first attempt last year was really disappointing. I’ll have to try to again so perhaps I can make this a true grain-free dish. Healthy as well as tasty!

INGREDIENTS:
20 oz ground turkey (not extra lean)
1 packet taco seasoning (I use McCormick’s mild version)
1 packet ranch dressing and seasoning mix (I use Hidden Valley)
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce

DIRECTIONS:
Brown the meat in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until the turkey is no longer pink. Add the taco seasoning and ranch dressing seasoning and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn the heat down to low. Add the tomato sauce, stir to combine, and cook for 5-10 minutes. There’s not much liquid so it won’t really simmer, but you want the whole mixture to heat through. Enjoy!

Based on Family Fresh Meals’ Cool Ranch Crockpot Chicken Tacos.

Foodie Friday – Homemade cranberry sauce

I’m working on a couple of posts about Christmas and New Year’s, but I’ve been busy this week so they aren’t ready for publishing yet. I’ll finish them this weekend. For now you’ll have to be content with this recipe for delicious homemade cranberry sauce!

On Christmas Eve I cobbled together a batch of cranberry sauce from a couple of basic recipes I found on Pinterest – one from Cooking Light and one from McCormick’s. I used elements of each one, but pretty much just threw a little bit of this and a little bit of that (including some ingredients that nether recipe called for) into the pot and hoped for the best. Fortunately it turned out great! It was the perfect complement to the smoked turkey we had for Christmas dinner, and the leftovers refrigerated really well for leftovers a couple of days later. I liked it so much that I made another batch of cranberry sauce on New Year’s Eve after I got back to California. Hey, the holidays aren’t over until I have to go back to work! (Which was actually today, but that’s another story.) I’m going to enjoy this cranberry sauce over some baked chicken this weekend. So if you have a hankering for cranberry sauce even though Christmas 2014 is over, try this recipe! Otherwise, save it until Thanksgiving 2015 and try it then!

INGREDIENTS:
12 oz fresh cranberries
1/2 apple, diced (or more, if desired)
1/2 pear, diced (or more, if desired)
1 c orange juice
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

DIRECTIONS:
In a small or medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and cool completely. The sauce will thicken more as it stands. Serve over turkey or chicken, or as a stand alone side dish. Enjoy!

Based on Cooking Light’s Basic Cranberry Sauce and McCormick’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce.

Foodie Friday – Korean ground beef

I bet you thought December was just going to be a bunch of wordless posts, right? Well, as much as I’d like to keep that up (less stress and all), the pure laziness has to stop now. I can’t spend the whole of December this way! So be on the lookout for some more substantial posts in the days ahead. But for now, on to the recipe.

This Korean ground beef one of my favorite grain-free recipes to make and divide up for weekday lunches along with some roasted vegetables (broccoli and carrots are my favorite). It’s simple, doesn’t require any unusual ingredients, and tastes great. What more could you ask for? Brown the meat, add the sauce, simmer a bit, and you’re done. Delicious! Next time I make a batch of this Korean ground beef I’m going to add some diced vegetables (whatever I have on hand, really) and see how that turns out.

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 c + 2 Tbsp honey (I used raw honey)
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used gluten free)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef with the garlic until the meat is no longer pink. At this point you can drain the fat if you want to, but I use such lean ground beef (7% fat) that it doesn’t seem necessary. In a small bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients (honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and pepper). At first the honey will seem like it doesn’t want to combine with the other ingredients, but keep whisking and everything will come together. Pour the sauce into the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes to blend the flavors. The sauce will thicken a bit too. Serve with vegetables (roasted broccoli is my favorite) or over rice (if grains are in your diet). Enjoy!

Based on Six Sister’s Stuff’s Korean Beef and Rice.

Foodie Friday – Apple butter cookie bars

I made these apple butter cookie bars almost a year ago and I can’t believe I haven’t written about them until now! The good thing is that it’s fall again and apple-flavored desserts are completely relevant again! These cookies were one of a few different kinds I sent to my co-workers in DC last December. Here’s what I wrote about them at the time.

“Apparently the apple butter cookies were the clear favorites. One of the girls out there said they were being hoarded by one of the guys and he got irritated when anyone else took one. She was worried he was going to find a sharp object to defend them!”
12/10/13 post

They sound pretty good, huh? I remember having one or two myself and really liking them. The apple butter flavor made them really unique. Calling them “cookies” might be a bit of a stretch, though, because the apple butter makes the texture more like a cake than a cookie. Kinda like when you add pumpkin to a cookie recipe. You get something much softer and chewier than a traditional crispy cookie. That doesn’t undermine their deliciousness, though. If you have a jar of apple butter hiding in your cupboard, make these cookie bars!

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c apple butter
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Cinnamon sugar

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 1/4 c sugar until light and fluffy. You can use an electric mixer, but I usually just use a wooden spoon and some elbow grease. Add the eggs, vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and apple butter, and mix until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until just combined. Spread the dough into an 11×7″ or 13×9″ pan (I can’t remember which one I used) lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Liberally sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top of the batter. (I usually mix my own cinnamon sugar when I need it, but I have no idea what the best ratio of cinnamon to sugar should be!) Bake at 350 deg F for 25-30 min or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Crazy for Crust’s Apple Butter Snickerdoodles.

Foodie Friday – Roasted potatoes

I’ve shared quite a few really simple recipes on my webpage, but this one rivals them all for ease of execution. It’s almost a no brainer! But believe it or not, before I tried this recipe I had never cooked potatoes in my life. Is that weird? But when I gave up grains I had to find something to replace the carbs in my diet, especially before long runs. Potatoes seemed to fit the bill. Too bad I didn’t know how to cook them! Fortunately this method couldn’t be easier. I even found a recipe that left the skins, which was great because I dreaded the idea of peeling potatoes! Pretty much all you have to do is dice them and roast them. So simple and so delicious!

INGREDIENTS:
1 large white potato
1 large sweet potato
~2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt
Pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Clean the potatoes (I had to buy a vegetable brush for this) and then dice them into approximately 1/2″ to 3/4″ pieces. You don’t even have to peel them! Put the diced potatoes into a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Don’t be stingy with it. My first batch stuck to the pan because I didn’t use enough oil. Stir the potatoes (a spatula seems to work best) to make sure all of the chunks are coated. Then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Stir the potatoes again and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Spread the diced potatoes in a single layer onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray (another nonstick line of defense). I like the olive oil spray from Trader Joe’s. Bake the diced potatoes at 400 deg F for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice. When they’re done the potatoes will be slightly crispy on the outside. Enjoy!

Based on The Cookin’ Chicks’ Parmesan Roasted Potatoes.

Foodie Friday – Dark chocolate brownies

I made these absolutely scrumptious dark chocolate brownies to take to a party on July 4th. I needed something quick and easy to make after I got home from the Huntington Beach 5K that morning. When I saw how few ingredients were in this recipe I was skeptical, but the brownies turned out so great that I ate quite a few before leaving for the party. The chocolate flavor is out of this world! My only complaint is that the brownies were slightly too cake-y for me. I would have preferred for them to be a bit denser, but maybe I’ll try this recipe again with just 1 or 2 eggs. Also, I used softened butter rather than completely melt it. That might have made a difference too. But even though I’d like to tweak a couple of things, this recipe is awesome as is! I’ll definitely be revisiting it again soon!

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 eggs
3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c dark Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1 c chocolate chips (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. You can use an electric mixer, but I usually just use a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and beat/stir until combined. Add the flour and cocoa powder and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, if desired (I left them out). Spread the dough into a 9×9″ or 11×7″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. This makes for easy removal from the pan when the brownies are cool and less dishes to wash later. Bake at 350 deg F for about 25 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Don’t overbake! Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Shugary Sweets’ Perfect Dark Chocolate Brownies.

Foodie Friday – Crockpot hot chocolate

This recipe is long overdue since I made this Crockpot hot chocolate for the annual holiday potluck at work last December, but it’s worth waiting for! I made the hot chocolate as my contribution to the potluck breakfast buffet. It was fantastic for something that I just dumped into the slow cooker and let heat up for a few hours. The only downside was that the chocolate chips didn’t melt completely so it wasn’t as smooth as I was hoping. Either I didn’t let the mixture cook long enough or the chocolate I used wasn’t the best quality (how does Nestle rank on that scale anyway?). An immersion blender might have helped if I’d had one handy. But the hot chocolate was still really rich and everyone at the holiday potluck loved it, even with little bits of unmelted chocolate in their glasses. I’d like to try a slightly different version that uses cocoa powder and sugar instead of chocolate chips to see if that fixes the problem. Maybe for this year’s holiday potluck!

INGREDIENTS:
1.5 c whipping cream
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
6 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 c (11-12 oz) chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semi-sweet)

DIRECTIONS:
Get ready for some complicated instructions. Ready? Stir together the whipping cream, condensed milk, milk, vanilla, and chocolate chips in your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is hot and the chocolate chips are melted. Make sure to stir well before serving. That’s it! Enjoy!

Based on Mrs. Happy Homemaker’s Creamy Crockpot Hot Cocoa.