Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas means cookies!

While these aren't necessary holiday cookie recipes, Christmas always puts me in the mood for baking and I thought I'd share two recipes with you: My creation of Alex in Wonderland cookies, as well as Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup cookies. The Alex in Wonderland cookies are a little different in their ingredients than most cookies and have a very rich texture to them, and the different types of chips can be easily substituted with whatever you desire!

1 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/2 Cup Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1-14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 Cup Softened Butter
1 Cup Nestle Chocolate Chunks
1 Cup Nestle Butterscotch Chips
1 Cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes

1. Mix Graham Cracker Crumbs, Flour, and Baking Powder in bowl.
2. In Separate bowl, mix condensed milk and softened butter.
3. Combine two bowls and mix together.
4. Add remaining ingredients and mix with wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.

Spoon onto cookie sheet in about a 1 tablespoon portion. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Depending on size of cookies, they may require a longer baking time. I tend to make cookies a little larger than most recipes call for, usually requiring a baking time of about 12 minutes. You just want to make sure they're just starting to get golden on the top.

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/2 Stick (or 1/2 Cup) Butter Flavor CRISCO stick (or all vegetable-shortening)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup finely chopped peanuts (in separate bowl for rolling)
1 bag miniature peanut butter cups, unwrapped.

(Optional Drizzle: 1 cup peanut butter chips)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F, place sheets of foil or wax paper on countertop for cooling cookies.
2. For cookies, combine chocolate chips and chocolate squares in microwave safe container. Microwave at 50% (medium) for 2 minutes and stir until smooth. Full power (Most microwaves typical setting) can be used by microwaving chips 1 minute at a time and stirring in between. Cool slightly.
2. Combine sugar and shortening in large bowl. beat at medium speed of electric mixer until blended and crumbly. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add salt and vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add chocolate mixture slowly. Mix until well blended. Stir in flour and baking soda until well blended.
3. Shape doug into 1 1/4 inch balls and roll in peanut mixture. I really just rolled the top half of the balls and then placed that half facing up, 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
4. Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Press peanut butter cup into center of each cookie immediately when removed from the oven, and remove cookies to foil/wax paper to cool.

5. For the optional drizzle, place peanut butter cheaps in heavy resealable sandwich bag. Seal and microwave at 50% (medium) power for 1 minute, then knead bag. Repeat until smooth, or melth by placing bag in hot water. Cut tiny top off corner of bag and squeeze out drizzle across cookies.

(I didn't do step 5, as I did not have any HEAVY bags and the seams kept popping when I tried to drizzle the peanut butter on the cookies!)


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Straight from the Store

I think I'm going to add on a little "Straight from the Store" segment with recommendations of delicious STORE BOUGHT things that require no cooking at all!!!

We'll start with Edy's Peppermint Ice Cream. I almost always forget about this outside of the holiday season, but saw it on a little trip to the grocery with my mom and had to pick it up. If you're a fan of Peppermint, it is truly the best ice cream ever! REALLY light and fluffy, you almost feel like you're eating a creamy, minty flavored, cotton candy!

Another little something we picked up was this $5.99 bottle of The Little Penguin Chardonnay. I was just looking for a cheap white to try out, and my mom actually spotted this. Given my complete obsession with Penguins I had to try it. It wasn't the BEST Chardonnay I've ever had, but it was still pretty good, and definitely worth the 6 dollars. (By the way- a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking expensive wines are better, and that's not always the case!!! Mirassou is one of my favorite whites and not very expensive at all!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Challah French Toast

This particular little creation was inspired by a recent trip to visit my dad in Chicago, during which we went to the Eleven City Diner.

This place was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS- and they serve breakfast all day! I personally stuck with a Cheeseburger (I'd been craving one all weekend and finally gave in) since my roommate decided to get the Challah French Toast and I knew I could sneak a few bites.

(Eleven's Challah French Toast and Bacon Cheeseburger)

The best part about this is that you can ultimately use any french toast recipe, whether from a website or one you already use, but you just replace the bread you normally use with Challah bread and make as directed. Not all grocery stores carry this, but we were able to get it at our Marsh. I sliced the bread diagonally to make the slices a little bigger, but that part's up to you depending on how big the loaf is.

Aside from using Challah, I also topped the finished toast with sliced strawberries and toasted coconut. At Eleven, they also used bananas, but I've never been a big fan so I left them off.

To toast the coconut, I just bought sweetened coconut flakes (you can get this in the baking aisle of any grocery store) and spread them across a cookie sheet. I then threw them in the oven at 300 degrees for about four minutes, took them out and gave them a little stir, and then threw them back in for a few more minutes. You really only want to leave them until they start turning a golden brown color.
Then serve it up!!! This is a great breakfast idea (or breakfast for dinner!) I will DEFINITELY be using and reusing as long as I live. Thanks Eleven City Diner! Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kung Pao Shrimp Variation!

I set off yesterday looking through Kung Pao Shrimp recipes to find a sort of variation for it. I'm still going to try out a few different things, like adding cornstarch, but this recipe turned out to be a pretty good Kung Pao inspired stir fry. Most of these ingredients can be varied according to your taste- and the amount I made was about 2 servings worth.


Approx. 1 Tbs Chilli Paste (Garlic Chilli Paste in this case)
Approx 3/4 cup Chicken Broth (I used low sodium)
1 1/2 cups broccoli
1/2 cup diced onions
1/4 lb shrimp
1/3 cup water chestnuts, sliced
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
1 Tbs Minced Garlic
Ginger, Chilli Powder, Cumin, Garlic Salt, Soy sauce (To taste)

Brown or White Rice- I made about 1 cup of brown rice (dry) in a rice cooker.
I first put the chilli paste, chicken broth, and garlic in a nonstick frying pan on Medium heat, and let the garlic cook a little bit. I then mixed in the broccoli to let that cook for a while before adding the other ingredients (Approx 3 minutes). I then put the shrimp on on one side of the pan, and sprinkled them with a little bit of ginger, chilli powder, and cumin. I added the water chestnuts and onions to the broccoli and gave it a little stir.

Once the shrimp turn pink on one side, flip them, and then once they appear pink on the other side, you can go ahead and stir all the ingredients together and let them cook a few more minutes. At this point, throw in as many peanuts as you want and give it a stir. You really just want to cook it until the broccoli is tender to your preferences- as once the shrimp become firm and pink they should be done.

Once the broccoli was cooked to my liking, I mixed in the cooked rice in the pan, and drizzled some soy sauce over the top before giving it another stir. And we're done! Like I said- this really can be varied in SO many ways based on your preferences. You could even add other vegetables or try it with chicken instead of shrimp. I'll keep you updated on future attempts at a more genuine Kung Pao recipe!

One of my Specialties- Mashed Potatoes!

All in all, definitely not a hard recipe to make. I know most people understand the basic ideas behind this- and every recipe is different! I also must apologize for the fact that when I go rogue from recipes to try to make my own stuff up, I too frequently don't keep track of the amounts I'm putting in- so I'll try to make a better effort with that in the future!

I always start by taking whatever amount of potatoes I want to use (generally 1 potato or a little less per person is a good rule of thumb), and washing them off, then peeling about 2/3 of them, leaving some parts of the skins on. Cut these up into pieces (smaller will boil faster) and throw them in a pot of water that just covers the potatoes with a little bit of salt. Turn on high and let it boil, then leave the potatoes in the boiling water until tender (when a fork can easily cut through them). Leaving them in longer will make them easier to mash!

While the potatoes boiling, I put butter (stick form), heavy cream, parsley, and minced garlic in a bowl to microwave for about a minute in inrements of 30 seconds to melt the butter and warm up the cream. Heavy cream serves the same purpose and milk and can be used instead, but is a little thicker and creamier. The amount of these vary depending on how many potatoes you use... but it's better to start with less and add more once the potatoes are in if you need it so as to not make them too runny. You can buy minced garlic in jars from most grocery stores. We personally have the economy sized jar and still go through it like wildfire!

Once the potatoes are boiled and drained, place them into the bowl with the melted butter and cream. We use a potato masher, but you can also use a hand mixed to make them more smooth or even just a spoon for a chunkier mash. Salt and pepper to taste, and add more heavy cream or butter a little at a time if necessary. In this batch I also threw in a little bit of shredded mozarella cheese. Sharp cheddar also works wonderfully if you've got it laying around. Voila!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We'll Start It Off Simple: Taco Salad!

Granted this isn't any WILD recipe, and overall you really just follow the directions on any packet of Taco Mix, but this one is a weeknight staple at our apartment, and SO easy to make.

I usually throw a few twists onto the basic recipe to spice it up/make it a little healthier. It's really quick and easy to dice up some onions to throw in, which also adds a little more flavor. I usually do about a half a cup, or a little less, depending on how much meat you plan on making. I also usually cut up some carrots by slicing baby carrots into half and then quartering those halves (One baby carrot should yield 8 cut pieces of carrot).

I add both the onion and the carrots AFTER I've browned the meat, when you add the water and seasoning, and let it cook for a little longer than the packet says. If you cut the carrots thin enough they shouldn't have any problem cooking through and often even blending right in with the meat.

If we're making 2 pounds of meat to have leftovers (GREAT food for leftovers- easy to store/reheat and doesn't taste any different the next day!) we usually do one packet of Original Taco Mix and one packet of Hot and Spicy, but I've found that if just using the one packet of Hot and Spicy it can get a little TOO hot. If I'm just doing a pound, I'll usually use Original and throw some red pepper flakes into it to kick it up a little.

One other spin we usually put on the typical Taco Salad at our house is using Spinach instead of lettuce. More nutrients, and I personally am a huge fan of Spinach!!!!

We usually keep it pretty simple beyond that and just throw corn chips (the $1 brand from Kroger, usually), a little bit of shredded Mexican cheese, and then ranch and taco sauce. Obviously you can put whatever you want on top, but all in all it's a pretty cheap and easy thing to make and really doesn't take very long!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Start up!

So I've decided to do a side project from my usual blog, Alex's Wonderland, to document all the cooking and recipes I find and/or come up with. At this point, despite being a sometimes all too busy college student, cooking has definitely become my number one hobby, and what better place to share all the recipes I find? Most of them are pretty easy (And have to be, with my schedule), and some get a little more in depth, but they'll be up for the taking for your use or inspiration!