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).


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Blog Update - Vacation Time

I hope you've been checking out my companion YouTube Channel CJ's-Kitchen and enjoying the videos there.  I have lots of ideas and projects in the works, but before I kick those off, I'm taking off with my husband and my Dad to the beach to enjoy the annual Kite Festival and some much needed downtime.

There's a possibility that I might decide to vlog from the beach - maybe just beach musings, maybe actual food or cooking related content so I wanted to be sure to ask you to keep an eye on my channels.  Yes channels.  I may have neglected to tell you that, in addition to CJ's-Kitchen, I also have a secondary channel, CJ Vlogs.  I haven't done any actual vlogging yet, but I knew when I created the CJ's-Kitchen channel that I'd have some off-topic videos sooner or later and, in fact, I purposely shot some video and posted it there first, just so I'd know what I was doing once I had my first food video ready to roll.  So you'll find a random collection of videos of  my cat being cute and playful, and also some video my brother in law shot using a Go Pro camera and a quad-copter - pretty neat aerial footage of our house, yard and environs.  If I do some vlogging from the beach and it's not food related, that's where you'll find it.  If it's food related, it'll be on CJ's-Kitchen, right where you expect it.

I hope you'll check in.  In the meantime, have fun, stay cool and I'll see you in my kitchen when I get back - Ciao!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Perfect Summer Meals

How has your summer been so far?  Has it been treating you well?  Ours has not been as warm as I would like, but it's still been pleasant.  I always love being able to leave the doors and windows open at night, listen to the crickets and go barefoot.

Along with summer comes a preference for lighter, cooler and less intensive meals.  We tend to eat a lot more salads, sandwiches and simple dinners of fruits, cheeses and charcuterie - like this simple meal I posted recently. Ice cream becomes the King of desserts and we really enjoy small, home-assembled Ice Cream Sandwiches.

I wish I could say that we spend our time outdoors, swimming (which we do love), gardening, hiking and camping, but to be perfectly honest, I spend most of my spare time working indoors on recipes, blog posts and videos or gaming with my friends.  Aside from the occasional trip (by occasional, I mean yearly or maybe every other year) to the ocean to hang out on the beach flying kites, we tend to be real homebodies.

With summer already starting to wind down here (it's only 9:00 pm right now, and it's already been dark for about an hour!), I thought this would be a good time to share with you some of our favorite meals for hot weather - some might even say perfect summer meals.
Nacho salads are a quick, refreshing meal for warmer temperatures.  Simply layer your favorite filling onto a bed of tortilla chips...

...and pile on a bunch of crunchy, iceberg lettuce, olives, green onions, tomatoes, cheese and sour cream.

Sandwiches are a great choice for hot weather and if you are among the many who rely on their grills in summer, you can grill up a variety of great sandwich fixins from steak, to chicken, to seafood or veggies - the choices are truly endless.  This one is a Bolillo roll filled with steak, sauteed mushrooms, onions and bell peppers and sprinkled with Feta:

...and this sandwich built on a Pretzel Bun with lemon-garlic mayo, turkey, provolone and spinach - YUM!

This Asian Noodle Salad is perfect for a potluck or pool party - or add some grilled chicken to it and enjoy it as a refreshing meal.

I've made this Orzo Salad with either chicken or shrimp, it's always a winner for BBQ's...

...and you certainly can't go wrong with a simple, green salad topped with grilled shrimp or Spaghetti with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp which cooks up in minutes.

What are your strategies for beating the heat?  We're off to the ocean next week, so no posts for a bit, but I'll be sure to return rested, relaxed and ready to bring you more recipes and cooking tips.  Until next time - stay cool!

Friday, August 5, 2016

CJ's-Kitchen YouTube Channel Trailer

I finally managed to shoot and post a trailer for the YouTube Channel.  Let me know what you think!