The Quotable Kitchen

Valentine’s Day Hearts (Soft Sugar Cookie Tutorial)

“Cookies are made of butter and love.”  -Norwegian Proverb

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There are some recipes that I try once and instantly know that they will be in my “go-to” recipe book for quite some time. This was definitely the case with this sugar cookie recipe. I made it once and fell in love with it! I remember when I first baked these cookies I was so happy to find such a great recipe that produces soft and buttery sugar cookies. When I shared the cookies with my family, they all felt the same way and I knew I’d be making these more than once.

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I’ve made this sugar cookie recipe enough times that I thought it would be appropriate (and fun!) to do a quick tutorial on my method for making perfect soft sugar cookies. For starters – it’s always a good idea to line up the ingredients ahead of time. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in the middle of preparing a recipe only to discover that I’m completely out of eggs, vanilla, sugar etc…so it’s just a quick tip to make the process as simple as possible.

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To start: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until combined, then set aside. Next, with a hand mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter, powdered sugar and granulated sugar for about 30 seconds until mixture is light and fluffy. The powdered sugar is the secret to making these cookies so soft – probably my favorite kitchen trick I’ve learned so far.

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Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Then slowly add the flour mixture, and beat just until the dough comes together – it will be sticky.

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Divide the cookie dough in half, and shape/pat the dough down into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

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Preheat oven to 325°F and once the dough is firm, remove from the refrigerator. Prepare a flat surface for rolling out the dough and cutting with cookie cutters. Sprinkle flour over a clean work surface (I’m obsessed with my new rolling mat from KAF!) Alternatively, I’ve also used silicone baking mats.

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Roll dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes with cutters. You want to work quickly enough so the dough remains chilled. If the dough gets too soft you can put it back into the refrigerator to firm up but this usually isn’t necessary.

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There’s a few different ways to ensure perfectly shaped cookies. I don’t necessarily use the same method each time – it just depends on what I’m working with on that particular day.

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The method I use most often is to cut the dough into shapes, and then lift the dough away from the cut out cookies. This dough is thick enough so that you can pull it up after cutting shapes with the cookies.

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I recently started using silicone baking mats (again, obsessed!) and it makes this process easier. All you have to do is place a silicone mat on a baking sheet, then you can roll out & cut cookies on the mat, lift up the excess dough, and pop the cookies in the oven right then & there.

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  The last step is to bake the cookies in a preheated oven for about 12 minutes. You want to bake the cookies only just until they begin to brown on the bottom. I never bake the cookies for more than 12 minutes and if I’m using a smaller cookie cutter the baking time is usually 8-10 minutes, depending on size. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely, then decorate! I always use this royal icing recipe for my cookies.

Note: Whenever I use a medium sized cookie cutter (like one of the hearts pictured above) I’m usually able to bake about 50 cookies, but it all depends on the size and shape of the cookie cutter being used.

Valentine’s Day Hearts (Soft Sugar Cookie Tutorial)

By Chef Kel, February 13, 2014

Valentine’s Day Hearts (Soft Sugar Cookie Tutorial)

Adapted from, The Food Network

Ingredients::

Instructions:

  • Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Beat butter and both sugars in another medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 30 seconds. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture, and beat just until dough comes together. Divide dough in half, pat into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).
  • Preheat oven to 325°F and sprinkle flour over a clean work surface. Roll dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with cutters, working quickly enough so dough remains chilled. If the dough gets too soft you can put it back into the refrigerator.
  • Bake cookies in oven until bottoms are golden, approximately 12 to 14 minutes depending on the shape of cookies. Cool until firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Decorate as desired!

Personalized Baked Oatmeal Cups

“Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first.” – Josh Billings

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I’m not the type of person to skip breakfast – ever. Regardless of the occasion, if I’m late or just in a hurry I always make sure to grab something before heading out the door. Part of the reason I don’t skip breakfast is habit and also because  I know myself well enough to recognize that I am not at my best when I haven’t eaten, especially in the morning.

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I’m definitely a creature of habit when it comes to what I eat for breakfast, but once in a while I get tired of eating the same things, especially during the week when more often than not I grab a piece of fruit and granola bar and head out the door. That being said – I’m always on the lookout for new breakfast recipes to try that are fast, filling, and easy to take with me to work.

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When I saw this recipe I was instantly drawn to it for a number of reasons. Oatmeal is a great healthy option for breakfast. It fills you up and keeps you full because it contains a high fiber content. That being said – I don’t eat it as often as I want to because I never thought of it as a quick breakfast option. I have purchased oatmeal to-go cups from the grocery store but I tried them once and they just didn’t do it for me.

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This recipe is completely customizable and you can change around the toppings to please all members of your family. I created four flavors: blueberry coconut, dark chocolate & walnut, apricot cashew and maple raisin. There’s something for everyone and you can really get creative thinking up new flavors.

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I’m a fan of any recipe that contains dark chocolate. Let’s be honest – that was really the selling point for me. Dark chocolate for breakfast? Sold.

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This recipe comes together so quickly. It requires minimal effort and it’s ideal to make Sunday night so that you can have a healthy breakfast option to eat throughout the week. Another great aspect of this recipe is that you can freeze these ahead of time to eat later. To reheat: either thaw in the refrigerator overnight or pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds in the morning.

Personalized Baked Oatmeal Cups

By Chef Kel, February 4, 2014

Personalized Baked Oatmeal Cups

Adapted from, Cooking With Trader Joe's

Ingredients::

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350° and line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Spray the liners with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the mashed banana, applesauce, egg, honey, milk and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the baking powder, cinnamon, flaxseed, salt, and rolled oats.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared muffin cups and top with desired toppings (the batter will be thin but you can fill to the top of each muffin cup). Top with 1 teaspoon chopped walnuts and 1 teaspoon dark chocolate chunks. One teaspoon each of unsweetened shredded coconut and blueberries (fresh or frozen). One tablespoon of chopped dried apricots and 1 teaspoon chopped cashews. Or 1 teaspoon maple syrup and one teaspoon dried raisins.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let rest for five minutes before removing from pan. Cool on wire rack and enjoy hot or cold.
NUTRITION FACTS:
  1. Plain baked oatmeal cups: CALORIES 110, FAT 2.2g (SAT 0.7g, POLY 0.3g, MONO 0.1g), PROTEIN 4.1g, CARBOHYDRATES 19.8g, FIBER 2.1g, SUGARS 9g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 239.7mg.
  2. Dark Chocolate & Walnut: CALORIES 150, FAT 5.9g (SAT 2.2g, POLY 0.3, MONO o.3), PROTEIN 4.8g, CARBOHYDRATES 22.8g, FIBER 2.9g, SUGARS 10.7g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 239.7 mg.
  3. Blueberry Coconut: CALORIES 123, FAT 3.3g (SAT 1.7g, POLY 0.3g, MONO 0.1g), PROTEIN 4.2g, CARBOHYDRATES 20.7g, FIBER 2.4g, SUGARS 9.4g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 240.3mg.
  4. Apricot Cashew: CALORIES 141, FAT 3.4g (SAT 1g, POLY 0.3g, MONO 0.1g), PROTEIN 4.8g, CARBOHYDRATES 24.8g, FIBER 2.7g, SUGARS 12.8g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 246.4mg.
  5. Maple Raisin: CALORIES 136, FAT 2.2g (SAT 0.7, POLY 0.3, MONO 0.1), PROTEIN 4.2g, CARBOHYDRATES 26.8g, FIBER 2.2g, SUGARS 15.4g, CHOLESTEROL 21mg, SODIUM 239.7mg.

Peanut Butter Pupcakes

“The journey of life is sweeter when traveled with a dog.” – Author Unknown

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There are many things I do for my dog Marley that may seem out of the ordinary or a little silly…but being a dog owner I think it comes with the territory. I’ve always treated my pets as though they were part of the family, because they are. With a dog like Marley, who has his own unique personality, who has been with me through good times and bad, I think it’s only expected that he become part of our family traditions – including the celebrating of birthdays!

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I enjoy spending time in the kitchen baking Marley homemade dog treats, so naturally for his birthday I wanted to bake him something extra special. It wasn’t challenging to find some flavors he would like. As my mom so blatantly pointed out he occasionally eats from the trash so he’s clearly not a picky eater. Nonetheless…I wanted to bake something with his favorite flavors and peanut butter was at the top of the list. These peanut butter & banana pupcakes fit the bill. I  decorated them with peanut butter for the frosting and placed a homemade beef-flavored dog treat on top.

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I didn’t make much of an attempt to take a picture of him enjoying his pupcake. I know Marley well enough to know that he would gobble his treat down in less than 5 seconds, which is exactly what he did. That being the case – I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed it.    

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After polishing off a second pupcake, Marley finished the night by opening presents. This was probably my favorite part of the evening because he actually opens them with his paws – it’s hilarious!

Peanut Butter Pupcakes

By Chef Kel, January 24, 2014

Peanut Butter Pupcakes

Adapted from, Pet Coupon Savings

Ingredients::

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350° and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • Combine all the ingredients and mix together with a hand mixer until smooth.
  • Scoop the batter into the prepared liners and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Frost cupcakes with peanut butter (if desired).

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

 “We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” -Ellen Goodman

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I’ve never been extremely excited about the idea of making New Years Resolutions…until I actually started following through on them. Last year on New Years Eve, while out to dinner with my family, we all discussed our resolutions. We wrote them down and vowed to make progress. I committed to running a consistent 10 minute mile, which I completed by February.

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I remember feeling surprised and confused. I remember saying to myself “it’s only February…now what?” So with that resolution reached, I decided it was on to the next -  because there is no rule that states you can only make resolutions on December 31st.  In April I came up with another goal for my boyfriend I to run five 5k races before the year was up (and we crossed our last finish line, sweating and smiling, in October). I think it’s just as important to set year-round goals as it is to set goals on New Year’s Eve. Writing down goals and sharing them with others is another way to be held accountable.

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This year I have a few ideas in mind, but overall I want to focus on improving a few aspects of my blog, de-cluttering my life in general, and running a faster mile time. But I’ll save the details for another post. Now it’s time to celebrate the last day of 2013, and in my opinion, there’s no better way to celebrate than with some delicious cupcakes.

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I’ve definitely had my fill of Christmas cookies and homemade apple pie slices the past week or so. However, I’m not entirely ready to say goodbye to desserts, thus the idea to bake cupcakes came to mind. Since it’s New Years Eve, instead of relying on my classic yellow cupcake recipe I wanted to break out the fancy vanilla bean flavor.

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It actually took me a little while to find a vanilla bean cupcake recipe that I was happy with. Some were too dry, too crumbly, not even flavorful….I was surprised it took me this long to find a perfect one that resulted in moist crumbs and a light and airy texture. These cupcakes taste delicious and have the added visual delight of vanilla beans swirled in both the cupcake and the frosting. Perfect for celebrating any occasion!

 

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

By Chef Kel, December 31, 2013

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Adapted from, Buttercream Bakehouse. Original Source: Glorious Treats

Ingredients::

Instructions:

FOR THE CUPCAKES:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with liners.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the eggs for 10-20 seconds. Add the sugar and continue to beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
  • Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise into two halves and scrape the pod halves to get the seeds. Add the seeds and oil to the bowl and mix until smooth.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the flour mixture. Once combined, add the buttermilk and then the remaining half of the flour mixture. Scrap down sides of bowl as needed but do not overbeat, just mix until flour is combined. The batter will be thin.
  • Pour batter in muffin liners, filling each about 1/2 of the way full.
  • Bake cupcakes at 350°F  for 12-14 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cupcakes are golden.
  • Cool in pan for 1 minutes, then remove cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.
FOR THE FROSTING:
  • Beat the butter with a hand mixer on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise into two halves and scrape the pod halves to get the seeds. Add the seeds and mix until smooth. Add the half and half, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached, adding more confectioners' sugar if necessary.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

“I am still convinced that a good, simple, homemade cookie is preferable to all the store-bought cookies one can find.” – James Beard

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Merry Christmas! Today is the day for being surrounded by family & friends, reciting prayers of joy and love, giving gifts and, for my family, enjoying some freshly baked Christmas cookies! Baking cookies is definitely one of my favorite things to do during the holiday season. Sugar cookies are always my go-to because I can decorate them in festive holiday sprinkles, but I also like to bake a few other kinds of cookies to round out cookie bags I give to friends as gifts.

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I know I’ve already demonstrated my love of chocolate & peanut butter, by baking cupcakescookies and a cake with this delicious combo. Clearly – that combination in a soft and chewy cookie would be equally as satisfying and it is definitely a must on my holiday-baking list.

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I made these cookies last year for Christmas and I was instantly won over. I made sure to make a few batches this year as well. One of my co-workers described them as the perfect cookie because they’re slightly crispy on the outside but have a nice chewy texture on the inside. Plus, they’re rolled in sugar. What could be better?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

By Chef Kel, December 25, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from, Smitten Kitchen. Original Source: The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients::

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350° degrees.
  • In a large bowl, combined the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the butter and peanut butter until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  • Add in the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips.
  • Place two tablespoons of granulated sugar on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto an ungreased cookie sheet (leaving several inches between for expansion).
  • Using the back of a small spatula, lightly flatten the cookies. Alternatively, you can use a fork to flatten and do a criss-cross pattern. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes.  Do not overbake, cookies may appear to be underdone but don't worry they aren't!
  • Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Yield: this recipe will yield 30-40 cookies depending on size. I like my cookies to be a little bigger so I was able to make 30 from this recipe. Last year I made them smaller and I know I had more than 30.

Santa’s Favorite Brownies

“Make a list of important things to do today. At the top of your list, put ‘eat chocolate.’ Now, you’ll get at least one thing done today.” – Gina Hayes

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Well I can definitely say without a doubt that I am in full-on holiday baking mode. It’s about time too – there’s exactly one week until Christmas! I have my to-do list, my to-wrap list, my to-buy list….clearly I’m a list maker. Thankfully, I completed my to-bake list already and it was a success.

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First I baked my favorite sugar cookie recipe decorated with royal icing. I cut out Christmas tree shapes, mittens, ornaments, and gift tags. I shipped some out to family and friends and shared the rest with my co-workers. I also baked some of my favorite peanut butter & chocolate chip cookies (recipe to come soon!) and some classic chewy M&M cookies. With all these cookies around my house you’d think I’d have had my fill of desserts….but no. I also needed to makes some brownies to get my chocolate fix.

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These brownies are delicious! They have a milk chocolate fudgy layer, and then are topped with a classic vanilla buttercream frosting. I actually prefer brownies without any icing but I just couldn’t resist how festive these looked with holiday sprinkles atop a white, creamy frosting.

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Cookies…brownies…what else can I bake? After all, it’s the holiday season. Too many desserts? No such thing.

Santa’s Favorite Brownies

By Chef Kel, December 18, 2013

Santa’s Favorite Brownies

Adapted from, 100 Best Holiday Cookies

Ingredients::

Instructions:

FOR THE BROWNIES:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  • Melt milk chocolate chips and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Pour in the granulated sugar and continue stirring until combined. Pour into a large bowl.
  • Add in the eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Stir in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt; blend well. Spread in prepared pan.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Place pan on wire rack; cool completely.
  • Frost with buttercream frosting. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
  • Yield: 16 brownies.
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:
  • Combine powdered sugar, butter, two tablespoons milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at low speed until blended. Beat at high speed until light and fluffy, adding more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, as needed to reach spreading consistency.
  • Yield: 1 & 1/2 cups frosting

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