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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cookie of the Month: Chocolate Monster Cookies

How cute are these Chocolate Monster Cookies?  It's cookie of the month time again and I just couldn't resist making these when I found them on Pinterest!

I started with the concept from these halloween double chocolate monster cookies that I found on Pinterest.  I wasn't wild about the recipe - I really wanted something closer to my tried and true Chocolate Chip recipe, but I didn't have time for experimentation, so I searched recipes for something I felt confident would work, so I used this Chocolate Chocolate Chip recipe I found on All Recipes and tweaked it to match the image.

As per my usual m.o., I switched up the order and method used too.  Melting the butter (as is almost always my custom these days), stirring in the cocoa powder after incorporating the sugar and adding the baking soda, salt and vanilla before adding the flower.  I used dark chocolate cocoa powder and skipped the chocolate chips altogether, using just Reese's Pieces and candy eyes instead.

The end result was a lovely, dark chocolate cookie with the chocolate chip cookie texture I love.  Chewey on the inside, slightly crisp on the outside.  My husband and I really wished I had included nuts too, but I wanted to be sure to make cookies that would appeal to a wide range of tastes - but nuts would add a nice crunch, balance the sweetness and, I'm sure, do nothing but add to the monster appearance of the finished product.  Why not whip up a batch with your little monsters this Halloween season?

Chocolate Monster Cookies

1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
2 eggs
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 cups Reese's Pieces
1 pkg candy eyes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Stir sugar into melted butter and mix until completely emulsified.  Add cocoa powder, stirring in to mix well.  Allow mixture to cool.  Add eggs and mix well.  Stir in baking soda, salt and vanilla.  Add powder to mixture and top with Reese's Pieces, stir in until just incorporated.  Chill dough for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  While oven is preheating, scoop cookies onto silicone or parchment lined baking sheets (or sheets sprayed with non-stick coating).  Add 2 candy eyes to each ball of dough, pressing down lightly.

Bake 8-10 minutes, or until set.  Allow to cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes, remove to wire rack to finish cooling.  Makes 3 dozen plus.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Quick Fix: White Chicken Chili

I can't believe I didn't post this recipe years ago, it's one of our absolute favorite, go-to soups.  I've made it twice this week alone.  It's ideal for a quick dinner one a week night and it's equally great for casual entertaining.

This White Chicken Chili has a slight kick to it and is full of the flavors I love - I include plenty of smokey cumin, coriander, chili powder and lime - just to name a few.

The thing about soups that make them perfect for week night meals is that you can make almost any type of soup in about 30 minutes (French Onion soup and Baked Potato soup are the two exceptions that spring to mind at the moment).  You just throw your base ingredients into the pot and you slice, dice or chop them up, saute them and add stock.  You can easily scale a recipe up or down - have a couple extra guest for dinner? Just add a couple more cups of stock.  Dinner for 2 tonight, use only 4 cups stock.  Voila - what could be easier?  Or more satisfying?

I made a video of this recipe too, here it is:

...and here's the recipe.

White Chicken Chili

1 lb chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 onion, chopped (or 1 tbls minced onion)
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 can green chiles, drained
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
6-8 Cups chicken stock
Juice of 1 lime (add the zest too, if you like)
1 tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or one small clove garlic, minced)
1/4 tsp coriander, ground
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat olive oil in a large soup pot or 3 qt dutch oven.  Add chicken and top chicken with the spices. Stir to coat chicken, then let chicken cook until lightly browned on one side.  Add onions (if you decide to use fresh garlic, add it now too), stir and cook until chicken is lightly browned on 2nd side and onions are translucent.  Add peppers and green chiles, stir in and cook for a couple more minutes. Stir in beans and stock.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Top soup with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream and green onions and enjoy.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cookie of the Month: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

I just shipped another dozen plus cookies out for the Cookie of the Month winner.  Since it's officially Fall now and since school just started, Peanut Butter Cookies of some variety seemed appropriate. When it comes to cookies, my husband always wants chocolate involved and these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies really fit the bill.  I used milk chocolate chips to give them that classic peanut butter cup flavor and I added my own twist by throwing broken up pretzels in too - it all ends up being a lovely balance of gooey, melted chocolate, chewy peanut butter cookie with a hint of salty crunch.  Da bomb with milk!

Wouldn't your family be thrilled to come home to a plate of these after a long day of work, or school?

Give them a try and let me know how they turn out!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 Cup butter, melted
1/2 Cup creamy peanut butter (you can use chunky too, but you might want to increase the milk a tad as I find they turn out drier)
1/2 Cup packed brown suger
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 TBLS milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Cup unsifted flour
1 Cup chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate for these, but semi sweet or dark are lovely too)
3/4 Cup broken pretzels (or dry roasted, unsalted peanuts)

Melt butter in microwave in a large mixing bowl.  Cream butter, peanut butter and sugar together until melted butter no longer separates from the batter. Allow to cool until you can comfortably rest your hands on the bottom of the mixing bowl.  Add egg, milk & vanilla and mix well.  Stir in baking powder and salt.  Add flour and top with chocolate chips and pretzels - stir them all in together until combined.

Chill dough for 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Scoop dough onto cookies sheets that have been lightly sprayed with non-stick coating or lined with silicone mats or parchment. Bake 10-14 minutes until edges are golden brown.  Allow to cool on baking sheets for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooking.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen (plus).


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cookie of the Month: Lemon Crisps

Have I told you that I work for a non-profit?  Well, I do and, like a lot of non-profits, one of the things we do a lot of is fundraising. Just since April, we have already put on one luncheon, two bike rides and two walks - and we have 8 walks to go before our event season will be over.  For this year's bike ride in my neck of the woods, my coworkers approached me about offering cookies as an auction item.  We had someone donate a sweet of the month package - pies, brownies, cookies, cakes - all kinds of sweets and since they know how much I like to bake cookies, they suggested I offer the same thing with cookies.  So I did it - and the package was auctioned off for $100!  Pretty cool.

I knew right away which cookie I would make for August.  I love, love, love these Lemon Crisp cookies for summer entertaining.  There is something so summery about lemons for me and these cookies don't disappoint - slightly crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside (so much so that I was surprised they are called "crisps"), with just the right balance between sweet and tart.  I can't remember if I found this recipe online and Pinned it, or if I found it directly on Pinterest, but either way, I Pinned it and have been making them pretty regularly ever since.

I'm not going to share the recipe here, since it's well covered on it's original bloggers' page (and there was no need to change it in any way) but I will share pictures of the process...

Cream the butter and sugar together...

... add the wet ingredients and lemon zest...

... add the dry ingredients...

... mix until it just comes together...

... and it's ready to scoop.

Once they are baked, they will look like this:

While they're cooling you can whip together the icing - I used only 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and drizzled in some lemon juice...

...this is the consistency I went for - just thin enough to drizzle, but not so thin it would run everywhere...

... then I drizzled it onto the finished cookies.  Mine aren't as pretty as the original bloggers' are, but they sure are tasty and I'm sure my Cookie of the Month auction package winner will really enjoy them!

I'll be posting the cookies I send out each month - some of them may be throwbacks to older posts (so keep an eye out for the odd Thursday post instead of the usual Wednesday post) and some will be recipes I've yet to share with you.  I hope you will make them all and share your results!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cheers: Cherry Limeade

Today, I'm introducing a new series for this blog and the CJ's-Kitchen YouTube channel I'm calling "Cheers".  Ever since I first signed up on Pinterest, I've had a "Cheers" board and it's filled with recipes and images of beverages so I thought it was about time I started sharing some of my personal favorite beverages with you!

Cherry Limeade is a recent addition to my list of refreshing summer favorites and I decided I wanted to make it myself, from scratch.  It has the lovely tartness you'd expect from a limeade with a nice hit of cherry sweetness to balance it all out.

I started by finding a recipe for a Cherry Simple Syrup, just to have a starting point for the measurements and tweaked it to my liking from there.  Next, I found a limeade recipe that sounded about right for my taste, reduced the recipe down to a single serving quantity and subbed in the Cherry Simple Syrup for regular Simple Syrup.  The full recipe would make enough for 4 servings.

To make the Cherry Simple Syrup you can use either fresh or frozen cherries.  The first batch I made was from fresh cherries, but they are now officially out of season, so when I made it today for the post, I used frozen.

Simply stir together some water, sugar and cherries over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and it all comes to a boil.

Mash the cherries with a potato masher or ricer - just so they are broken up enough to release their lovely juices and flavor.

Let it boil for about a minute, then turn off the heat, let it cool and strain it into a jar or pitcher for easy pouring when you use it.

Then juice some limes - enough for 1/4 cup of lime juice.  I mixed my limeade in a single-serving quantity using a gravy shaker.  Just mix the lime juice, cherry simple syrup and some water together and shake it up.  Pour it over ice, garnish with a slice of lime and you're all set to kick back and relax with this lovely, refreshing drink.  Cheers!

Cherry Simple Syrup

1 Cup pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
1/2 Cup sugar
1 Cup water

Place cherries, sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Mash cherries with a potato masher, just enough to break them up. Lower the heat to medium and continue to boil mixture for 1 minute.  Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool.  Strain mixture into a jar or pitcher.

Cherry Limeade
Full Recipe,  4 servings

1 Cup Lime Juice, fresh or bottled
1 1/2 C Cherry Simple Syrup
4 Cups Water

Single Serving Recipe

1/4 Cup lime juice
1/4 Cup, plus 2 TBLS Cherry Simple Syrup
1 Cup Water

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher, glass or cocktail shaker.  Pour over ice.  Serve cold (with a lime slice garnish, if you like).