Friday, May 29, 2009

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday I showed my Cookie Tips that helped me start to enjoy cookie baking. I should add to my Honorable Mentions for Cookie Secrets that I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer, which definitely helps the recipe come together quickly. Today, here is a new cookie recipe that I loved!

I found this at Eli's Lids and was drawn to the cute photo title, but the cookies are darn good, too!

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 egg
1 1/2 sticks of butter softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 cup of chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, white, peanut butter, whatever you please) (I use 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips sometimes)

Stir softened butter, egg, sugars, and vanilla together. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. Blend the flour mixture into the sugar mixture and add chocolate chips. Form balls. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cookie Secrets..well maybe they're not so secret

I have gotten into a bit of a cookie baking phase, although for many years, I called my kitchen the "Cookie Bermuda Triangle." I could not produce a single batch of cookies that was edible. My mom came down to visit, swore that it must just be me, and produced a horrible batch of cookies herself. I thought it was my destiny to only bake chocolate chip cookie bars and brownies, or only creations in bar form.

Until......I learned a few things.....and tried a few new things. These are my tips that made successful cookies, at least for the cookie-challenged few like myself.

Cookie Secret #1: Real butter
I had been trying to bake cookies made out of weird margarines, trans fat free sticks or margarines made of supposedly things better for you. Oh, did you notice a lot of those margarines say "Not suitable for baking"? I just realized this last year! :) I figure now, if I make cookies, I don't have to tell myself they are better for me. They are cookies...they're not vitamins! Although I do think many bad moods are cured by cookies, but that's for another post!

Cookie Secret #2: Parchment Paper
This is cookie insurance. Nothing sticks to this stuff! Since I had been using the aforementioned weird margarine, I would literally have to chip the cookies off the baking sheet. It didn't matter how good the cookies looked coming out of the oven, if you can't get them off the the baking sheet, who cares? I am starting to add a Slipat Baking Mat to my kitchen wish list so that I don't have to keep throwing all the paper away.

Cookie Secret #3: Cookie scoops
These keep my cookies consistently the same size, which makes sure all the cookies are done baking at the same time. My mom has acquired the old school skill that most experienced cookie bakers have in that they can use two regular teaspoons to create exactly the same size dough balls over and over. But back in the day, I would slop chunks of dough all over my cookie sheet, then one ginormous cookie would still be raw and the other mini-bites were dark brown. These scoops keep me honest.

Honorable Mentions
My cookie cooling racks, throwing the cookie dough into the frig between baking sheet refills (especially down in humid hot FL), and someone to appreciate the glorious cookies and all the work that it entailed. My son first spoke the words "Thank you" after I had given him a yummy Molasses Cookie. That is the best!

Come back tomorrow to see the great cookies I made last night using these tips. The cookies have already been inhaled, but photos last forever!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jello Layer Salad - It's Retro AND Festive!

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day! We had a great weekend with family and the beach! It was hard to get moving on Tuesday. I even said out loud that I was glad I didn't have to rush out of the house to get to my "job," even though my husband was not too thrilled to hear it.

I made this Jello salad for our festivities with Red, White (ish) and Blue layers! It was easy, and the kids liked it, even the picky ones. My mom used to make the 7-Layer Jello salad when I was growing up, and as I got older, it became my job to make this salad since it's relatively easy. My son loved it, so I'm sure I'll be making more fun crazy colored Jello salads in the future. My husband was a little hesitant when I said I was making Jello, but he ate a serving with no complaining. Here is the Jell-o site for some other fun recipes!
I am also sharing this recipe at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap. Go check out all the neat recipes there!

Jello Layer Salad
3 - 3 oz boxes Jello mix
1 can evaporated milk

Spray container with non-stick cooking spray. 3 boxes made enough for a 8 x 8 pan, usually it's 6-7 boxes for a 9 x 13.
Layer 1: Mix 1 box of blue Jello with 3/4 cup hot water, then 3/4 cup of cold water. Pour into container and let set. Each layer takes between 2 to 4 hours to set.

Layer 2: Mix 1 box of pineapple Jello with 1/2 cup hot water, then 1/2 cup evaporated milk, 1/2 cup cold water. Let set.
Layer 3: Mix 1 box of red Jello with 3/4 cup hot water, then 3/4 cup of cold water. Pour into container and let set.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Freezing Tomatoes

I got a big bag of Roma tomatoes from my neighbor, and wanted to freeze them. This is the method my mom taught me, and doing this process on a Saturday afternoon really reminded me of working with my mom in the kitchen. I have no idea if this is the "right" way to do it, but this is how I did it!

I blanched the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin spilt....

then put them in a bowl of ice water.

Then I peeled off the skin. If the skin wasn't coming off easily, I threw the tomato back into the boiling water for a few minutes. Here are the skinned tomatoes:

Then I put them whole into freezer bags in 14 oz portions. They break down a little after freezing and thawing, so they'll be more like crushed tomatoes. Perfect for chili, casseroles and GOULASH!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Monday, May 18, 2009

Thai-ish Sesame Noodles

I whipped up these noodles as a side dish for dinner last night. I had been buying the Lipton side version of Teriyaki Noodles, and I thought I could give a Thai/Chinese-ish noodle recipe a try. I had everything on hand, so it didn't take anything special to make something different than our usual dishes.

The verdict?
My husband loved this, my son wasn't impressed, but he would have loved plain noodles. Oh well! I thought the noodles were great, and I'm excited that I get to eat them as leftovers today! These were great with fish and edename.

Thai-ish Seasame Noodles

8 oz thin spaghetti
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/8 tsp garlic powder (or 1 minced garlic clove)
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Boil spaghetti according to package directions.
In a big bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce and garlic. Whisk together until it combines. When noodles are done, put into big bowl with the sauce, and add green onions and sesame seeds. Stir to combine.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No Bake Cookies: Saving my Oatmeal Whoops!

I bought the wrong oatmeal at the store. Big whoops. I bought a HUGE container of Quick Oats instead of our typical Old Fashioned. We eat oatmeal for breakfast almost everyday, and we ate my accidental oatmeal in a pinch, but I just didn't like the texture. So I remembered a cookie recipe my mom used to make with quick oats when I was growing up.

I also got the the opportunity to use a hand-me-down bowl from my Grandma. She downsized last year from a house to an apartment, and my mom snagged this bowl for me when they were divving up the things she didn't need anymore. The bowl was the perfect cookie bowl, heavy enough to stay put, not TOO heavy or large that it's awkward to wash or carry (I have lost a few good bowls due to my butterfingers)

Also above in the photo is the handwritten recipe that my mom gave me over the phone, lucky for you folks I typed it up so you can actually read it! :)

No Bake Cookies
made about 3 dozen cookies

Combine in a large saucepan:
4 tablespoons baking cocoa
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
dash salt

Boil for 1 minute
Take from stove, add:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups quick oatmeal

Mix well, and drop by spoonful on waxed or parchment paper. Let set 2 hours or so until hard. Can put in the frig to speed up the hardening.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NYC Trip: Crumbs Cupcakes

Ok, last post about our New York City trip. Crumbs is a NYC institution, with tons of locations that we kept walking past day after day. We had to stop and get an afternoon snack! My husband is also a Sirius Howard Stern fan, and they talk about Crumbs alot, and also have a Artie Lange cupcake named for him. So that made the cupcakes cool enough for him to eat! :)

Their display of cupcakes was overwhelming, but I got a Brownie cupcake, and my husband got a Hostess. Sorry for the lack of photos of the baked goods, but I think my husband was about to beat me WITH my camera if I didn't stop arranging the pictures and let him into his cupcake! They are huge!

I love their branding and is the graphic design geek coming out in me:

Here is their menu with my iced tea and my husband's green tea.

Our environment was great for snacking: Here is our view of Bryant Park while we ate and chilled in our sugar coma!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NYC Trip: Chelsea Market

On our trip to NYC, one of the stops I had on our list was a wander through Chelsea Market, the ground flour of the old Nabisco plant. Oh yeah, and it's the first floor of the building that houses a little place called The Food Network. Oh, you've heard of it? It's like walking in mecca for us foodies.

Here is an inside shot of the hallway. The market itself was a little different than I envisioned, whereas there was individual shops OFF the main hallway and not a large room.

Here is a shop with imported food stuffs from Italy - here is all the olive oil and vinegars stacked on the floor:

Cute tomato paste! This shop had imported pastas, fresh pasta, imported cheese, desserts, and ingredients that would become stars in any dish.

Here is another shop of fresh fruits and veggies where everything was displayed so artfully, that I swear I wandered around oogling and giggling to myself. By this time, my husband had left me to wander by myself and was holding down a bench in the hallway.

Monday, May 11, 2009

NYC Trip: Pizza!

We made it back from our anniversary trip to New York City! We had a great time, and our son had a great time with his grandparents while we were gone, so everyone was happy! But onto one of our favorite activities when we travel: food! The next few days I'll show some of our highlights!

As I have mentioned before, my husband loves pizza, and no trip is complete without sampling the local fares...and in NYC, it is a highlight! On the last night of our trip, we ate such great pizza and pasta at a mom & pop Italian place that we almost made ourselves sick! We walked all the way back to our hotel to "work it off."

Here is one of our lunches: a slice of mushroom for me, and slices of cheese and margherita for my husband.

What makes New York pizza good? Without getting into a technical or heated fight, some say it's the water that makes the crust, the thinness while still being crispy, while some say it's the LARGE slices - it's all up to interpretation, but it was a great lunch!

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spray Painting Baskets: Makeover!

Happy Mother's Day to all you mom's, grandma's, expecting mom's and anyone with that maternal instinct! I'll be back on Monday!

I've had these baskets for many many years, and they needed a little makeover. My bathroom needed more color and contrast, so out came the black spray paint!

Here are the baskets outside after one coat - I think I used a whole can on just the two baskets!

And here are the baskets on the shelf in our bathroom. The next step is some new basket liners, but that would involve a run to the fabric store and getting out my sewing machine, so maybe next week...or month! But it added some great contrast to our bathroom! What a great way to get a new look!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thift Store Makeover - Butterfly Shelf*

Right now my husband and I are meandering around the streets of NYC...and today is our 5 year anniversary! Hope the rest of you are enjoying my home projects!

I found this shelf on a swing through Goodwill. I almost decided against it has butterflies on it. And I am not a butterfly kind of gal. I was 2 aisles away, and went back for it because I knew I could make it into something cool. And mostly because it was this price!

I've been busy re-decorating our bathrooms, and updating some 3+ years decorations on our walls, and thought this was just funky enough to work in our house!

Then here it is all black. There are lots of cracks to get all that paint into! At this point, I'm starting to think this is maybe a little too "dark." So it sat there, black, in my closet for 3 months. I still couldn't decide if I wanted to distress it, or paint colors onto the butterfly, or start over and paint the whole thing white!!! So like most art projects that I'm not sold sat there and sat there.

Finally, I had to get it cleaned out of my closet. It was taking too much room away from my shoes. So, I bit my tongue and hung it up on the wall in our guest bath:

It works, adds some contrast to the room, although I'm still not sold on the items ON the shelf. The painting in the frame is from my Watercolor Class. Yeah, that's the best thing from was a growing experience! So I'm thinking get something silver to put up there, or maybe a new picture!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

$1 Garage Sale Canvas Makeover!

Over the next few days, I'll be showing off a few home decorating projects I've been working on and FINALLY got up on the walls....Enjoy!

Since we bought our new bed over a year ago, I've been waiting to find something to hang over the bed. Well, I just haven't found anything I liked so it's been pretty empty for way too long! I found this $1 canvas at our Neighborhood Garage Sale. It's a big canvas, and the perfect size for over our bed.

I tried to get some of the colors that are in our bedroom onto the canvas, and tried to keep it abstract. I like how it turned out, although I don't know if I'm totally IN LOVE with it. We'll keep it up there for a while, and if I feel like painting over it and giving it another try, I'll see!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Picnic Pasta Salad

Sorry for the spaces between posting, looks like I'm on a every-other-day schedule. My husband and I are getting ready for our 5 year anniversary trip to New York City, so looks like my posting will even further slow down. I am really looking forward to the hustle and constant activity of NYC, although we were planning on going to Cancun for a relaxing, tropical drink filled beach vacation. It's a different vibe but who cares as long as it's kid-free?

Any whoooooo, this is a great pasta salad for picnics or warm weather gatherings (hence the name!) because it doesn't have any mayo in it. It reminds me of my hometown grocery store deli pasta salad, and it's almost as easy as ordering at the counter. Here is the link to Betty Crocker, it looks like I didn't tweak it too much!

Picnic Pasta Salad
Makes 12 servings

1 pound uncooked rotini pasta
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 cup fat-free Italian salad dressing
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 ounces sliced mushrooms
5 Roma tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 large cucumber coarsely chopped
1 medium red onion chopped
2 1/4 oz can sliced ripe olives drained

Cook and drain pasta as directed on package. Rinse with cold water; drain. Mix tomato sauce, dressing, basil and oregano in large bowl. Add pasta and remaining ingredients; toss. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and sliced tomatoes.

Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking