Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

1/2 c shortening
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
3 mashed bananas
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 c flour
1/2 bag (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs one at a time. Add mashed bananas and mix until smooth.

Add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Add chocolate chips and mix just until blended.

Pour mixture into muffin tins (greased if not using papers).

Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.

Comments from the cook: Somehow in college, the page from my Betty Crocker cookbook that had banana bread on it disappeared. When Brian and I got married, a banana bread recipe was (fantastically enough) actually part of his dowry. (Do men have a dowry?) This is his mom's recipe, and it's a go-to one for us. Could be because we seem to be a dead-banana harvesting FACTORY around here. We just never get to the last one before it dies a terrible death and moves to the freezer. But, not all death is dead bananas make the best muffins!

I generally don't like to add an entire bag of chocolate chips to any recipe. I use half a bag for these, and they're fantastic.

Best when served warm...and perfect defrosted after a bout in the freezer. (Would you expect anything less from a recipe made from dead bananas that live in the freezer for AGES before they become muffins??)

Originally shared by Debby Mathias (by way of Brian Mathias' dowry).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Orange Chicken

(Made with fresh chicken breast chunks)

(Made with frozen tenderloin chunks)

Chicken and breading:

1 TBSP oil
1 egg
1/4 c flour
1/4 c cornstarch
salt and pepper, to taste
2 large fresh chicken breasts, cut into large chunks (Tenderloins will also work, but pieces will obviously not be as thick. Same goes for frozen chicken.)

Combine egg, oil, and salt and pepper in medium mixing bowl.

Add chicken chunks to mixture and stir together, making sure that all pieces are coated.

Add flour and cornstarch to mixture.

(Don't be fooled. These steps must happen in this order. And the mixture may not look right to you, but it works. Promise!)

Heat oil on stove. You'll need it to be medium high to high, but not the highest heat. It needs to be hot enough to crisp the outside, but not so hot that the outside gets charred and inside isn't thoroughly cooked. (Remember my outrageous paranoia about meat not being thoroughly cooked?!)

Cook thoroughly and set chunks on plate covered with paper towel (to allow excess oil to drain).

Sauce: (**Makes enough for 2 cut ingredient amounts in half, or go with these quantities and freeze the rest. Freezes like a dream!**)

1 1/2 cups water
4 TBSP orange juice
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 TBSP soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1 rounded tsp chopped green onion
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 TBSP plus 1 tsp cornstarch
4 1/2 TBSP water

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all of the sauce ingredients, except the cornstarch and 4 1/2 Tbsp water. Stir often while bringing mixture to a boil. When sauce reaches a boil, remove it from heat.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 4 1/2 TBSP of cool water. Stir until cornstarch has dissolved. Pour this mixture into the sauce and set the pan over high heat. When sauce begins to bubble and thicken, remove it from heat.

Toss chicken chunks with half of the sauce (freeze the rest!) and serve over sticky rice.

Comments from the cook: Hello, and welcome to orange chicken heaven. Since we moved to Kansas, we haven't have access to Panda Express or the fab Chinese that we loved at Smith's in Utah. I stumbled upon this recipe, and my new-recipe-trying husband dove right in one night when I was under the weather. He touches the meat in this family (he really loves me), so he's technically the expert on this one. I've made the sauce, so I can take a LITTLE bit of ownership...

We use more orange juice than the original recipe calls for (quantities already adjusted above), and use all cornstarch instead of arrowroot. If you have it around, click on the links below to fancy up the recipe (then email me and explain to me what-in-the-world you're doing with arrowroot in your cupboards).

We have been searching for an easy orange chicken recipe for a while. Well, guess what? If you want good orange chicken, it takes a little work! Love, love, love this recipe. Am SURE you will too...

Endorsed by so-incredible photographer, Tara Whitney, on here (and she found it here). Some text taken from these websites.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 TBSP cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt (I used the grinder attached to my sea salt spice container to grind salt to the perfect texture)
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 c) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 TBSP granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 bags (18 oz) semisweet chocolate chunks
sea salt

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours. (I didn't have the patience to cool the dough overnight and it was still AMAZING!)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Scoop generous-sized mounds of dough (about the size of golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie.

Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (I used the remaining coarse salt that I used in the dough itself) and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Comments from the cook: My mission in life has been to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Just a tiny bit of crisp, and a LOT of chewiness. I've tried quite a few, but they never seem to quite do it for me. And then these cookies came along! I'm not kidding you, folks. They are phenomenal. For some reason, I thought that $2 or $3 worth of ingredients would magically transform into the perfect cookie. Well, it turns out that a few dollars more may be required.

This recipe calls for cake flour AND bread flour...neither of which I had on hand. I'm the stingy type with grocery money, but these are worth every penny. I also used Nestle Chocolate Chunks instead of chips. I like the size and shape of them a little better. The next time I make these, I will likely add a little less chocolate (maybe just one bag). I also had sea salt on hand (weird, I know) and the grinder on top was perfect for the texture called for in this recipe. Check out the link below to find other alternatives if you don't have sea salt.

My first batch was slightly overcooked, and my 2nd attempt (after the dough had cooled overnight) was perfect. A friend told me once that you should cook cookies until the shiny dough in the center goes away. Well, my take-away is that you should take these out right before that shininess disappears completely.

Originally found here (and attributed to Jacques Torres)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Almost Betty's Chili

1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lg can (28oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (16oz) chili beans in sauce, undrained
1 can (15oz) tomato sauce
2 TBSP chili powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Brown beef in medium sauce pan with onions.

Combine all other ingredients, and cook in Crock Pot for 6-8 hours on Low.

Comments from the cook: I'll admit it. I've always been afraid to make homemade chili! Brian doesn't care for beans, but likes chili...when it's just right. I've been afraid to try my hand at it for that reason. I found this recipe on the Betty Crocker website, and thought I'd dive right in.

Betty's recipe calls for twice as much beef and onion. I thought such a large helping of beef might grow hair on a person's chest(!), so I opted out. And, as some of you know, I HATE onions. Love the flavor, but I hate when a dish is full of the soggy little devils.

We ate this with saltines and a bit of cheese on top. A new favorite!

Originally found here on the Betty Crocker website. Adapted to fit our tastes...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 medium potatoes
2 TBSP margarine (we use Brummel & Brown butter substitute)
6 TBSP sour cream (we use low-fat)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup milk

Peel and boil potatoes. Mash with margarine, sour cream, and milk. (We use a hand mixer to mash...)

Mix in garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Comments from the cook: I've been wanting to try mashed potatoes with a new spin. The sour cream and garlic take these babies up a notch, and we LOVED them.

Maybe you've noticed that 75% of my recipes have potatoes as a main ingredient. Did I mention that my parents are both from Idaho, and that my dad grew potatoes for 10 years? That's enough to convert a girl for life!

A CookieSheets&CakePans original!

Homemade Toffee Popcorn

1 stick butter or margarine
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup Karo syrup
popcorn kernels, unpopped

Pop about 3/4 cup popcorn using air popper (or microwavable is fine too!).

Combine sugar, butter, and Karo in medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook until soft ball stage.

Pour over popcorn and stir immediately until all popcorn is evenly coated.

Comments from the cook: More of my Kryptonite! My mom made this for us on Sunday nights when we were kids, and we gobbled it up. It's excellent when served warm, and is even really good the next day (if it lasts that long!). Original recipe is twice this much, and makes 2 large bowls full.

Originally shared by my mom, the popcorn queen.

Brian's Homemade Pizza

1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic
1 1/2 TBSP fresh basil, minced (or the equivalent of dried basil)
1 TBSP fresh oregano, minced (or the equivalent of dried oregano)

Simmer for 30 min, stirring occasionally.

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 TBSP yeast
2 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water.

Add sugar, salt, and 2 1/2 cups flour. Mix to form dough.

Add more flour (up to a 1/2 cup) if needed to pull together. Mix about 3 minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes in bowl.

Flour your pizza peel and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Work the dough with your hands to stretch it before laying on your pizza peel. Roll it out a bit more if needed. Let it rest for another 10 minutes on the peel after you've rolled it out.

Add all toppings BEFORE transferring dough from pizza peel to hot pizza stone (heated to 450° in oven).

Cook for 12-15 minutes.

Comments from the cook:
I married a man who CANNOT get enough pizza! The only thing he loves more than making it? Eating it! He has been adding recipes to his quiver for a while now. This crust is one we tried just over a week ago. We are in love with the taste, and it's a quick one!

Brian got this sauce recipe from a man that visited the bell-tower at BYU a few years ago. The man owned the first pizza delivery restaurant in SLC. While this was not the recipe he used in his restaurant (too time-consuming, says he!), it was his personal favorite. Brian and I have yet to find a sauce recipe that matches it.

Also, we use dried spices in the winter time. Fresh ingredients are best, but one must find alternatives in winter!

Originally shared by Erica and the unnamed bell-tower pizza man.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lit'l Smokies

1 pkg Lil' Smokies
1 lb bacon
1/4 c (or less) brown sugar

Cut bacon strips in half.

Wrap bacon around smokies and pierce with toothpick (to hold them together).

Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake at 375° until brown sugar starts to brown. Broil for extra firmness.

Comments from the cook: These are HARDLY a January food! They're great for parties and are super easy. We used pre-cooked bacon for ours and the cook time was much shorter.

A Mathias-family favorite...
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