Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Try a delicious and very simple scratch made cookie even toddlers can help make

I love to bake during the holidays.  Some of my favorite cookies are more difficult to make.  But what if I want to bake with kids....small kids?  I have the perfect recipe for that. 

Kids always seem to love making cutout cookies, but with all the fabulous cookies I make, I do not enjoy making cutouts.  So in my hunt to find something that tasted like a sugar cookie but did not require that I spend hours rolling, cutting and worst off, decorating them, I found a recipe for No Roll Sugar Cookies.  The original recipe was different and still required a little patience to complete.  I do not remember the original source of the recipe, but we made several changes to it anyway.

The recipe is simple and uses ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.  You can use sprinkles, colored sugar or leave them plain.  You can also color the dough with food coloring if you like. 

To show you how easy these are to make, my friend Tram Mai who is on Channel 12 in Phoenix prepared these cookies with her twins. 

There are a few hints that will make these cookies successful.  First, you can use the heel of your hand to press the cookies from a ball into a disc.  Be sure to press hard enough so they are about 1/4 to 1/2" thick.  Not pressing them hard enough will make the cookies very thick and may not bake as nicely.  If 'little hands' are doing this, you may want to assist with the pressing to make sure they are not too thick.  Second, and I learned this from my friend, Tram, it works really well to use sprinkles that are in a shaker top.  It certainly creates less mess.

This picture was taken for a TV segment with Tram and her adorable twins Zak and Zoey actually making the cookies.  They are about 2 1/2.  I told you they are easy...and tasty too.
Here's the recipe.  They are delicious and will be wonderful on your cookie platter.  One other plus; we are at 5700 feet altitude and no adjustments are needed for these.

No Roll Sugar Cookies 

Prep time 30 minutes;
Bake time 10 minutes
Makes 42 cookies 

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup powdered 10x sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sprinkles (jimmies) or colored sugar 

Heat oven to 375°. 

Beat butter, margarine and both sugars in a large bowl until fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla until well blended.  Beat remaining ingredients in with mixer on low until just blended.  Do not overmix. 

Roll tablespoons of dough into 1 inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.   

The easiest way I found to shape these is to press the balls with the palm of your hand, then put sprinkles on the cookies, lightly pressing sprinkles into the dough.   

 You can also put plastic on the cookie ball and press with a glass, then spread sprinkles on top. 

Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The best and easiest blueberry lemon Danish recipe

When we go to LA, we love to go to the farmers market.  Besides all the great veggies and fruit, they always have food vendors where we can get things that are delicious.  One of our favorites is the blueberry lemon Danish.   
I decided to try making them at home so we did not have to travel to LA so often.  This was my take.  I was not planning on writing this up except maybe for me and my nephew, but lots of people asked for the recipe, so here it is.  I did not measure as I made this, so amounts are approximate.  If you need a recipe with exact measurements, then this might not be for you. 

To make this recipe easy, I chose to use puff pastry rather than homemade Danish dough.  It was still fabulous.  Here's what I did.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
First, I made the lemon filling.  I mixed together cream cheese and lemon curd. I used homemade lemon curd, but you can easily buy it from the grocery store. 
I was cooking some frozen blueberries anyway, so I just took some from the pan before they broke down too much.  In the blueberries I added some brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon.  You can easily use fresh blueberries or even canned blueberry pie filling.  I drained the liquid from the blueberries before I used them on the Danish.

I rolled out one sheet of puff pastry into a 12" square.  I tried to keep the borders straight but if yours rolls out with a less than perfect border, cut the extra parts off.  Try not to roll the puff pastry too hard or it will impact how much your pastry puffs.  Cut the puff pastry into four equal pieces.
The next part is a little tricky.  Each square will need to be cut so that you can make the design.  Use a sharp, pointed knife.  Cut along the top and sides of each strip at about 1/4 inch.  You will cut from the edge to almost the center for each corner.  Look closely at the photo to get a better idea of what this should look like.  While this does not have to be perfect, cutting it properly is important.

Now for the fun part.  Take some of the lemon curd/cream cheese mixture and place it in the center of each piece of puff pastry.  Use a spoon to spread it out just a little.  A few tablespoons should do it and this photo shows about 1 tablespoon.
 
 
Put a tablespoon or two of the blueberries on top of the filling.
 
 
  
  
To form the Danish, carefully take one outer corner of the puff pastry and pull it to the center.  Repeat the same with each corner, gently pressing the center pastry together.  If you want, lightly fold the outer points of puff pastry up a little, but you do not have to do that if you do not want.  Put a little blueberry over the center where the puff pastry folds meet.  I used several berries to cover the center.
  
Put the pastry on a sheet of parchment paper.  Do not use a silpat as is shown in the photo or your puff pastry will be soggy. Here's the recipe.  I hope you enjoy as much as we did.
 
Blueberry Danish
Makes 4
 
Ingredients
  •   1 sheet puff pastry thawed
  •     6 oz cream cheese, softened
  •   2 tbsp lemon curd (or to taste…may use more; maybe less)
  •     ½ - 1 cup blueberries (I cooked them a little, added a little sugar and lemon, but left them whole. You probably could use raw ones…or even canned blueberry pie filling if you must)
  •   Powdered sugar
Instructions
 
Mix together cream cheese and lemon curd until smooth.  It should not be too lemony, but you can make it to taste.  Set aside.
 
Prepare blueberries by either cooking them slightly with some added sugar and lemon or using them uncooked…or just using blueberry pie filling (as a last resort).  See the texture of the blueberries on the photo below.
 
Roll out puff pastry to 12”, being careful not to press too hard or it will impact the puff you get from the pastry
 
If the pastry is uneven, cut off extra bits to make pastry square.  Cut the pastry into 4 squares.  Separate carefully.
To make the shape use a sharp, pointed knife.  Cut along the top and sides of each strip about ¼” in.  You will cut from the edge to almost the center for each corner.  Look closely at the photo to get a better idea of what this should look like.
 
Place a few tablespoons of lemon crème on the center of the puff pastry.  Slightly spread out.
 
Place blueberries on top of cream.  I ended up using more than this…maybe about 1 ½ times as much.
 
Fold each of the pre-cut edges into the center to make a shape like this.  (that’s why you don’t cut the dough all the way through and stop cutting  at the middle.  Add more blueberries on top of the center of the crust.  I added a lot more on the final product than I did on the first ones.
 
Place on parchment paper (DO NOT USE A SILPAT LIKE I DID IN THIS PHOTO.  THE BOTTOMS WILL NOT BAKE NICELY)  Bake in preheated 400° oven for about 15 minutes or until crusts turn brown.  This is how they will look directly from the oven.  Move to a wire rack and let cool.
 
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 
 
 
 
 
 



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Make peach pit liqueur for an unforgettably easy and delicious recipe

Its that time of year where peaches are readily available.  I love to make peach preserves but when I'm done, I have a million peach pits.  Rather than throw them out, I wanted to find a way to use them.  A friend of mine said she likes to make peach pit preserves.  I got her recipe and with a few modifications, got to this fabulous liqueur.

Do not let the appearance of this liqueur scare you.  This is what it looks like when it's in the jar 'becoming liqueur'.  Once it's strained, it is beautiful.  I gave it as a gift one Christmas.  It's nice over ice cream or mixed into a drink.

One other thing...you may have some peachy sugar left in the jar when you are ready to bottle this.  DO NOT DISCARD.  I kept it in the fridge and used it to make a delicious syrup for waffles and drizzled some over sautéed fruit (such as peaches, apples and pears).  

 

Peach Pit Liqueur

1/2 quart peach pits
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground or whole coriander seed
3 cups 80 proof vodka
1 cup water

Pour vodka and water over peach pits and infuse in the sun for 6 weeks.  I used a large mason jar for this.


Take 1 cup pits crush (hammer works well) and return to jar and infused for another 2 weeks. (I was unable to break my peach pits no matter how hard I tried, so I omitted this step)

Strain and add sugar and spices.  Leave in a cool dark place for another several weeks  This is a slow to meld liqueur, but worth the wait.

You can store this in a mason jar or decant into beautiful decanters.  I store this in the fridge but that is just me.  You may be able to keep it in your liqueur cabinet, but I cannot guarantee that.

I hope you enjoy making and sharing this fabulous liqueur.

 What a nice gift to give.  I found this beautiful food safe decanter and filled it with delicious peach pit liqueur.



 

I used the 'leftover' flavored sugar on the bottom of the jar to start this syrup, but you can also make a syrup with the liqueur alone.  This was so good.  Keep in mind, this is NOT FOR KIDS!!!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Waterbath canning made easy video

A while back I did an educational video for the Valley Dish TV program in Phoenix.  This video dealt with waterbath canning.  In the video, I gave you step by step methods for waterbath canning.  While there are many safety rules you must follow, this will give you an idea of how waterbath canning is done.  See Waterbath Canning by Judy Toth

For those of you who are new to canning, there are a few canning methods you can use.  Waterbath canning is done for high acid foods like pickles, tomatoes, jams, etc.  There is another method that is used for low acid foods like green beans, meat, etc.  That is called pressure canning.  This video DOES NOT deal with pressure canning and canning low acid foods using the waterbath method can make you sick or even kill you.

Comparison of easy ways to remove skins from tomatoes for canning

In the past I have used several different methods for removing skin from tomatoes with varying degrees of success.  This time I decided to get ideas from fellow canners.  They gave me a few great ideas to try.   

I purchased 50 lbs of tomatoes and wanted to can them. I didn’t want a hassle or mess, so I decided to try a few different methods.  To be clear, these are MY experiences.  Your experiences may be different. 

Blanch/ice bath -- .  In the past, I’ve cored the tomatoes, cut an X in the bottom and blanched them in boiling water.  After a minute or so, I removed them and put the tomatoes in ice water.  The skins are supposed to come right off, but sometimes they do not.  While this is considered the standard, for me, this method is messy and time consuming.  I rate it ‘average’. 
 
Messermeister
Thin skin peeler

Peeler – if I just have a few tomatoes to peel, I just use a thin skin peeler.  It’s quick, not messy, and very easy to do.  I’ve done this method with 20 or 30 tomatoes and can peel them quicker than I can bring the water to a boil.  I rate it ‘excellent’ for small amounts of tomatoes.

 




Food mill – the last time I bought a case of tomatoes, I decided to use the food mill.  No peeling, seeding or anything.  I just blanched and rough chopped them and used the food mill to remove all the ‘stuff’.  While the end result was wonderful, it was time consuming and my arm just about fell off before I was done.  I rate it ‘below average’ because it is difficult.  Now, I understand there are many electric powered food mills.  If I was using an electric one, I would have to rate it ‘excellent’.

 

Roasting – Someone suggested that she roasts the tomatoes at 425° for about 30-40 minutes.  I never thought to do that.  I washed, cored and cut the tomatoes in half and placed on a rimmed baking sheet.  In about 35 minutes, the peels just about removed themselves.  I rate this ‘so much better than excellent’.  Actually, after I was done with all the other methods, this is the one I went back to. 

 



 

Freezing – in the past I froze peaches and their skins fell right off when defrosted, so I assumed that this method would be the best.  I washed, cored, cut an X in the bottom and froze the tomatoes.  I placed one batch on a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer and the other in a ziploc bag.  I left them in the deep freezer overnight.  When I removed them and allowed them to thaw, I was very disappointed.  With some, their peels came off easily; but with most of them, the peels were very difficult to remove.  I gave up and decided to cook them and remove the peels after they were cooked.  I rate this ‘below average; however it is possible that they would have worked better if I left them in the freezer for another day or two.
 
Food processor/blender – last time I made crushed tomatoes, I blanched them whole then threw them in my vitamix.  I whirled it a few times and the tomatoes had the perfect consistency.  There were not hunks of peel or core for that matter.  I rate this as ‘superior’, but only for crushed tomatoes. 

So as you can see, there are many ways to prepare tomatoes for canning and depending upon what you are trying to achieve, there is no one right way.  You pick your favorite.  I have picked mine.

 

 

Pringles new cheesy quesadilla flavor chips review


I received a can of Pringles new cheesy quesadilla flavored chips to try out.  Since my husband never met a Pringle he didn't like, we were excited to try these chips.  The first can was mailed to me and arrived pretty broken up so I needed to receive a new package.  While I thought the broken chips may be destined for the trash, the can was quickly emptied.  Broken Pringles taste pretty good.

The next can arrived in much better shape.  With the name cheesy quesadilla, I expected corn chips.  I don't know why, but I did.  But these are regular potato chips with cheesy quesadilla flavoring.  I do have to say, they're pretty good.  After eating a few, my lips had just a hint of a burning sensation.  There's something just a little spicy in them.  I really like that. 

My first inclination was to dip them in either salsa or some kind of Mexican dip.  While that would have tasted good, as with any Pringle, they are thin and delicate.  I guess I didn't miss the dip, though, because I really liked the flavor.

These chips are perfect out of the can, but I could imagine using these as a coating for chicken.  In fact, I was disappointed that the broken chips were eaten because I was going to make crumbs for sautéed chicken.



I would definitely buy these again.  In my mind, they are not a replacement for corn chips, but a nice change from them.

Sign your kids up for the Kids Baking Championship


Parents, do you have kids that love to bake?  Food Network is seeking talented kids ages 8-13 (particularly boys and diverse children) with the ability to bake a variety of different dishes, from scratch. Contestants will be selected to appear on the show to participate in a series of baking challenges. Ultimately, one winner will be awarded a cash prize!  
 
The flyer with more information is below. 



 
To apply, parents can visit: www.bakingchampionship.com   Make sure to enter today.
 

 





About Me

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I am a former information technology girl who left the business and opened up a cooking school. Cooking and entertaining are my passions and I love to share this passion with others. I am currently on hiatus from teaching classes, but hope to begin offering them soon. In the meantime, enjoy the tips. Students always told me how much they loved the tips and now you can, too. I'll put out a new tip each day.