Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Homemade Lemonade

I've been ready for spring the first time it hit -32819302 degrees over here. The cold temperatures was too much even for my little car battery! It's okay now but that was the first time I've had that happen to me and it was a little stressful. Nothing like a sudden car service to break the bank. Even though it's cold outside, I'm drinking homemade ice cold lemonade. It's putting me in spring mode because I am so ready for it!

Homemade pink lemonade

I even was a little adventurous and made myself pink lemonade! I googled the other day how it was even made and apparently it's either cranberry juice or food coloring. I'm not a fan of cranberry juice and I have an excess supply of food coloring for some reason so I just squeezed a tiny bit in my glass and mixed it around. It really looks like store bought and tastes better!

Hey over-21's, try putting gin in your lemonade with some mint leaves. So good.

Homemade Lemonade
From Real Simple

1/2 cup sugar
Water
1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

In a pitcher, combine the syrup with the lemon juice and 2 1/2 to 3 cups water. Serve over ice.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cut Out Sugar Cookies with Icing

Theatre has taken over my life, but I don't mind it one bit. The theatre department at my school is working on You're A Good Man Charlie Brown, the first musical production that this school has put on in about a decade. With the show dates coming up at the end of March, there have been rehearsals four or five times a week. I've been at almost every rehearsal to help with the music as accompanist and as moral support for the director ;). Despite some rehearsals running late which result in my coming home basically at bed time since my commute is about an hour, I enjoy it. I've always thought that taking part in theatre in college was the best decision I ever made because it really opened me up and made me a better person. I look forward to going to rehearsals because it's become a stress reliever for me! I laugh so much and I get to play piano, one of my favorite hobbies. I wish I could that every day.

We had rehearsal this past Saturday on Valentine's Day and I wanted to bake something for the cast and crew. I thought about making Charlie Brown themed cookies and then I found a t-shirt shaped cookie cutter on Etsy! I immediately bought one and knew I had to make yellow t-shirt cookies with black zigzags. The recipe I used from Sally's Baking Addiction really hold up their shape and do not expand at all.

Charlie Brown themed sugar cookies

I only got to frost half the cookies this way because I ran out of frosting and time due to poor time management on my part but it actually ended up being enough for the whole cast and crew since it's a small group anyway. This would be a great activity to do with your friends or with your kids if you have different cookie cutters and are stuck inside thanks to the several snowstorms we have had this week alone! It was nice to have a week off from school and get a second winter vacation but I'm starting to get cabin fever now. I hope everyone has been staying warm! I shared both the sugar cookie and icing recipes below.

Sugar Cut Out Cookies
From Sally's Baking Addiction

3/4 cup butter, slightly softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The amount of batches will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing. Make the icing and decorate the cooled cookies however you'd like. I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature.

FREEZING: unfrosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Frosted cookies do not freeze well at all. You can freeze the unbaked cookie dough before rolling for up to 3 months. Then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then allow to come to room temperature for about 1 hour. Then roll and continue with the recipe as directed.

Sugar Cookie Icing
Adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 to 4 tsp milk
1/4 tsp almond (or vanilla) extract
1 tbsp light corn syrup

I found it best to use the mixer for this recipe instead of just a spatula and my hand. In a small bowl, stir together confectioner's sugar and milk until smooth. Stir in almond extract and corn syrup until glossy and smooth. Add food coloring and stir well. You can dip the cookies or use OXO Good Grips 8 Piece Baker's Silicone Decorating Bottle Kit! I got my set from the Food Blogger's Cookie Exchange last year and it does work really great and is super easy to clean in the dishwasher! That's what helped me make the zigzag lines on Charlie Brown's t-shirts.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tiramisu

Despite having made Tiramisu Cake a bunch of times, I've never had real Tiramisu until now. I can't believe it took me this long.

Tiramisu

I took a risk and went for the recipe that uses raw eggs. That is how authentic Tiramisu is made so if I'm going to make it, I'm going to make it right. My body's used to that anyway. I've been eating homemade ice cream recently that I made with raw eggs as well and I love super runny sunny side up eggs. Everything about this dessert is so fluffy, it's like you're eating a cloud with the perfect amount of sweetness. My ladyfingers did not turn soggy at all and soaked up the perfect amount of coffee. I halved this recipe to fit into a 9-by-9 pan and it still turned out great.

Tiramisu

The only change I made in this recipe is substituting Marsala with rum. I didn't have Marsala on hand and some other recipes I had Googled used rum or brandy or Kahlua instead. I liked the idea of rum so I went with that. I went picture crazy for this post. It was a nice day with lots of sun and I had time. It felt nice to relax for once. This is the best dessert to relax with.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu
From Kitchen Joy Blog

6 egg yolks, at room temperature
4 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups (16-ounces) mascarpone
36-48 Savoiardi ladyfingers
1 1/2 cups Italian coffee made in Moka pot, cooled
2 tablespoons Marsala
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, shaved

Brew coffee and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar until pale, doubled in volume, and "ribbons" remain for a few seconds when spoon is lifted from the mixture, about 3-4 minutes.

Tiramisu

Whisk in marscarpone a little bit at a time. In another large bowl, beat egg whites and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Tiramisu

Fold egg whites into mascarpone mixture.

Tiramisu

Add 2 tablespoons Marsala to the coffee. Dip Savoiardi ladyfingers quickly into the coffee and arrange in a layer in the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Do not "soak" the ladyfingers in the coffee or your Tiramisu will turn out soggy.

Tiramisu

Spread half of the mascarpone mixture on top of the ladyfingers. Top with another layer of dipped ladyfingers. Spread remaining mascarpone mixture evenly on top of ladyfingers. Refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. (Overnight works well too.) This allows the filling to set and the ladyfingers to soften and absorb the coffee. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and chocolate shavings immediately before serving.

Tiramisu

Monday, January 19, 2015

Crispy Honey Lemon Chicken

For Christmas this year, I was spoiled and received many kitchen gadgets. One of them is an all-purpose kitchen kettle. I have actually thought about getting a deep-fryer and was pleasantly surprised by this multi-use appliance. It can steam vegetables, it can make rice, and you even make soups with it. I might stick to using it just as a deep-fryer though.

Crispy Honey Lemon Chicken

But with this appliance, I don't have to pan fry every little piece of chicken and wait five hours for all of it to finish cooking. I might be exaggerating a bit but when you're the one standing at the stove cooking all of the little pieces, it sure can feel that long. Plus, my stove gets super greasy with all the oil splattering everywhere and deep-frying the chicken makes it that much easier and cleaner for me. I have been avoiding this recipe for a while just because of the fact that I'd have to pan-fry the chicken, but last night I was able to make this with ease.

Crispy Honey Lemon Chicken

The juice of two lemons seemed like quite a bit to me when I was making the marinade but it was the perfect amount. The chicken had just the right amount of lemon-y tang to it. I didn't dip the chicken pieces into the honey and lemon zest dip that the original recipe provides. I just drizzled a little honey on top along with Sriracha hot sauce and ate it like that! It tasted great.

Crispy Honey Lemon Chicken

Deep frying has a bad reputation that it doesn't really deserve. Yes, all that oil is definitely not good for you, but it's all about moderation. Have some deep fried food once in a while -- it won't hurt. Pan-frying can be just as bad if you don't do it the right way. Both the deep fryer and the pan must be hot and ready to go before adding any food. Otherwise, the food will just absorb the cold oil, excess oil that you don't need. I know my impatience has gotten the best of me sometimes and I have added stuff to a pan filled with cold or lukewarm oil plenty of times. With a deep fryer, for some reason, I always make sure the big ol' pot of oil is ready to go before adding anything. Plus, anything made at home has better taste and ingredients than what you might find eating out. You know where your oil's been too!

Crispy Honey Lemon Chicken
Adapted from How Sweet Eats

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp fresh lemon zest
2 large lemons, juiced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch

In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tbsp honey, all the lemon juice, 1 tbsp lemon zest, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Whisk ingredients together, then add chicken pieces to a Ziploc bag and pour marinade over top. Let sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

When ready to make, add flour, cornstarch, 1 tsp lemon zest and the remaining salt and pepper to a large bowl. Mix well.

Heat your deep fryer to 350F. Wait until it is very hot and ready to go (you do not want the chicken to absorb more oil than necessary). Fill your deep fry basket with a single layer of chicken and place into the oil when ready. Let it fry for 5 to 6 minutes. When ready, take the basket out of the oil and let it drain for a bit, then place on a plate covered with paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken in batches.

If you would like to pan-fry your chicken, heat a large skillet on medium-high heat, and once it is very hot, add 1 tbsp olive oil. Coat chicken pieces in the flour mixture, then add to the skillet and cook until each side is golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove and set chicken on a paper-towel covered plate. Cook remaining batches, adding more/less oil if needed.

Serve with rice and a few tablespoons of honey mixed with lemon zest for dipping or drizzling.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cream Cheese Braid Pastry

For the last post of the year 2014, I share an easy pastry recipe. If you're thinking of serving a New Year's Day brunch with your family or friends, consider serving this! I stumbled upon a cream cheese braid pastry recipe by Sally's Baking Addiction a while ago and it's finally time I share it. I immediately wanted to make some because the blueberries looked so delicious in her pictures! My mom likes to pick blueberries, a lot, so there's always some for us to eat all year round. Blueberries in baked goods are always delicious. I've made this with peaches too and it was also delicious! Any fruit will work in this recipe or you can even leave them out altogether.

Cream Cheese Braid Pastry

I should note that I altered Sally's recipe by a lot. Sometimes I get lazy even when it comes to baking so I didn't want to deal with all the original ingredients. I searched for similar recipes and saw that some used only cream cheese and sugar. I don't even have to make my own dough. I have used pie crusts and puff pastries and both have turned out great. The pastry has turned out great every single time so change it up! It's really a great spontaneous recipe as there are only 4 ingredients, all of which should already be in stock. No need to make a grocery run.

image

Happy New Year! I look forward to more wonderful recipes I will share with you in 2015!

Cream Cheese Braid Pastry

1 puff pastry, pie crust, or homemade dough

8 oz cream cheese or Neufchâtel, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fruit of your choice, diced

1 egg

Cream together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. No need for an electric mixer, the cream cheese should be soft enough for you to mix by hand. Set aside.

Roll out your pastry dough on a surface and cut out as pictured below:

image

Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly throughout the center of the dough. Sprinkle blueberries or your fruit of choice on top. Then braid the pastry. Brush the top with whisked egg.

image

Bake at 400F for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!