Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Toaster Pastries

This recipe is one of my few "semi-homemade" recipes that I will share with you...pop tarts, or toaster pastries! I used ready made pie crust (I know, preservatives) for this recipe because making a pie crust or pastry crust intimidates the crap out of me.  I just recently made garlic cheddar biscuits, a copy cat of Red Lobster's, after years of using Bisquick because the thought of cutting cold butter into flour always seems complicated.  Is that weird?  I just don't think I can make a decent pie crust.  But one day, like the biscuits, I will try.  And if you were wondering, my biscuits turned out amazing...not so great the next day, but fresh out of the oven I could eat them as my meal.  I'll have to post the recipe for that in a later post.

I grew up, like probably most of you, with mornings at the toaster waiting for the pop tart to heat up and pop out before running off to school.  My favorite were the apple cinnamon without the glaze.  The glaze always seemed hard and weird and would burn in the toaster.  Just wasn't my thing. 

I think I quit eating pop tarts at some point in college and haven't had one since.  Now, sometimes I'll get a whiff of someone toasting one up in the break room and will have a fleeting moment of weakness for one of those fruit-like jam filled pastries that taste like cardboard.  Then I thought, why can't I just make these at home?  And that is what I did.  It's a simple recipe of just combining ingredients you probably already have in your fridge or pantry.  Like most all of my recipes, it's flexible and forgiving.  You can use any jam, your own pie crust or ready made, or maybe even try different fillings like bean and cheese or egg, cheese, and bacon ones for a more savory pastry.  I made strawberry pop tarts, and when I ran out of strawberry on my last two, I made one with the tiny bit of jam left and Nutella, and the last one was just plain Nutella...mmm.  

My husband and mother in law absolutely loved these the first time I made them to experiment and now they will be a weekday breakfast staple in my house.  If you have kids, I guarantee you will not go back to boxed pastries and your kids will love them!  You control what goes into them and can feel better knowing that your kid isn't eating some fake flavored/colored jam and flavor-less pastry.  And they're a cinch to make!

Please excuse my pictures because I don't have an awesome camera, cook/bake at night, so no beautiful natural light, and my pastries were in different shapes, on purpose and not....

Toaster Pastries:

1 box ready made pie crust (or your own...kudos to you)
1 jar organic jam (I used strawberry)
egg wash (1 egg beaten w/ a splash of water)
additional flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a baking pan with foil and spray with oil/butter.

Sprinkle a little flour on your working surface and roll out the pie crust.  I used a rolling pin to roll out the dough a bit to make it a little thinner.  Use a sharp, not serrated knife, to cut out a large rectangle.  A pizza cutter works awesomely for this.  Now cut small rectangles, or other shapes, making sure you have a partner for each one...don't want to combine a heart with a rectangle...

Add a tsp of jam to each cut out, spread out slightly, being careful not to go all the way to the edges.  On one of the partners, brush on the egg wash all around the edges so the partner piece will stick.  Combine the partners, patting down the edges to stick.  Take a fork and make indentions all around the toaster pastry and and a few pokes on top to let the steam through.

Place pastries on baking sheet and brush the tops with egg wash and pop in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Once they've cooled you can place them in a container and they are good for about 4-5 days and they reheat nicely in the toaster on a low setting.  

Note:  Feel free to add a drizzle of your favorite glaze...a usual glaze is powder sugar with a couple teaspoons of milk whisked together until you get desired consistency.  You can add vanilla, orange juice instead of milk, orange or lemon zest, cocoa powder mixed with powder sugar, etc. etc.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Browned Butter Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am a total cookie monster!  Especially when it comes to chocolate chip, they are my favorite.  I adapted this recipe from the ambitious kitchen and combined it with my go to, always wonderful, chocolate chip recipe.  I have run across this recipe many times on Pinterest, but the craving just hit me in such a hard way that I knew I just needed to go home and make these.  I did a quick mental check of what I have at home on my drive home and was pulling out ingredients out of the pantry before even putting my purse down.

These cookies are just sinful and beautiful. Just how chocolate chip cookies are meant to be. They're hazelnut and chocolate goodness, with a rich caramel taste because of the browned butter and brown sugar.  I mean these are over the top good!  Sea salt is ALWAYS a good idea, especially over chocolate.

When I bake chocolate chip cookies, I don't skimp on my chocolate, and you shouldn't either.  Use a good quality semi-sweet and use the bark that you must crush into chunks yourself instead of the chips.  The different size chunks and crumbs of the chocolate add to the decadence of the cookie. It just makes it so not "cookie cutter" (haha pun intended).

I hope you enjoy these as much as my hubby and I did.  They just make your day extra special and so much better.  I ate so many that I literally got a stomach ache.  Sometimes I act like my baby sister, or a child in general...but who cares.  It was worth it.

Heads up, the cookie dough needs to chill for 2 hours.  Sorry, but it's a must to get a rich, chewy cookie.

Browned Butter Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies:  makes about 20 or so cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/3 cup + 1 tbs all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-4 oz semi-sweet chocolate bar (I used Ghirardelli), chunked...I go at it with a heavy serving spoon

Preheat oven to 350.

In a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add butter, let it melt and foam up.  Begin whisking continuously until the butter takes on a dark yellow tinge and smells nutty.  Take it off of the heat and put into a bowl so that the cooking process ends.  Let it cool down (I put mine in the fridge).  It should take on a pretty brown color at the bottom of the bowl where the delicious brown flecks are.  It smells like caramel...oh my god, yum.  I would drink it if I could.

Moving on...

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk.

Combine the sugars and add the cooled down butter in your mixing bowl.  Mix the butter with the sugars at a medium speed for about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low, add the egg and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until fully combined.

Reduce speed to low and add the flour mix slowly. Stop mixer as soon as the flour has combined in with the sugar/butter mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Stick the cookie dough into the fridge for 2 hours minimum (you need patience for this part...sorry) and also just stick in your container of Nutella into the fridge as well.

Once you've endured the 2 hours, preheat oven to 350.  Get your cookie sheet ready with parchment paper or silpat.

So, this may be a little hard to explain, but I am going to try!  Take about a tablespoon of cookie dough and flatten out into a disk in the palm of your hand.  Add a dollop of nutella and fold the disk around the nutella back into a ball and slightly flatten.  There! You have a cookie ready to bake!  It's a little messy.

Bake for 8-10 min.  Check after 8 min and see if the edges have slightly browned.  If so, take them out!

Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt once they are fresh out of the oven.  Now take a big bite out of a hot, ooey gooey, chocolate-y, hazelnut-y, butter-y cookie.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Walnut-Basil Pesto and Mango Lemonade

I have had a long hiatus from the kitchen and it's been bothering me, so I strapped on my apron (not really, they hang on my pantry door because they're too pretty to dirty), and have been cooking since Sunday night at home.  The reasons for this being 1.) my husband and I have been craving home cooked food since we have been on vacation/vacation mode the last two weeks, and 2.) we need to budget and cut down our going out spending.

It's insane how much we spend on food and drinks. If you could see the pie chart Wells Fargo so helpfully provides you on their budgeting tool, you would see mine is split down the middle with concerts and entertainment and the rest eating out.  Husband has the more "adult" pie chart with bills and such.  You know, the things I refuse to dabble in.

Anyway, hopefully I'll be posting more recipes since I am on a cooking spree.  Today's pesto post is handy and quick, and is a great accompaniment to anything! 

The usual, more traditional pesto, is made with pine nuts, but because they are expensive and hard to find, walnuts are a wonderful substitution!  We had this pesto on top of sea salt and black pepper seasoned salmon and it was awesome.  You could definitely serve something like this at a dinner party.  I also have plans to mix in with fresh pasta or on top of a pizza as the base.  You could also use this pesto as marinade for grilled chicken, or use it on sandwiches or burgers as a spread instead of boring mayo or mustard.  There are many possibilities! Get creative

Walnut-Basil Pesto:

1 cup packed basil leaves
1 handful cilantro leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tbs minced garlic
1/4 cup grated parmesan
dash of sea salt
dash of fresh cracked black pepper
dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor, throw in the basil, cilantro, and walnuts and pulse a few times until the walnuts have somewhat broken apart.

Add the garlic, parmesan, and seasoning.  Pulse until it is about combined.

Slowly pour in olive oil from the top of the processor while pulsing until a thick and creamy consistency is reached.  Store in a container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Our dinner last night.  Grilled salmon, pesto, broccoli, and roasted green beans with toasted walnuts and balsamic.  YUM.

Also featured on this post is mango lemonade.  At the Coachella Music Festival, which by the way was super incredibly awesome, I literally lived off of the fresh strawberry lemonade sold there during the hot desert day.  It was seriously a life saver.  And ever since we have been back I have just been craving it!  Especially since spring has kind of arrived in Houston and summer is around the corner.  The two seasons just sort of meld into each other.  My initial thought was to make strawberry lemonade, but unfortunately the strawberries at HEB looked sketch and Kroger ran out.  So instead, when life can't hand you strawberries, make mango lemonade!

I love using mason jars as drink glasses, it just makes it so summer....

Mango (or any fruit) Lemonade:

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 mango, pureed
3 large lemons
2 cups water
Garnish (sliced lemons, cubed fruit, mint, up to you)

First you need to make a simple syrup by boiling the water and sugar.  Once the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat and let cool (or be like me and stick in the freezer until it's cooled down)

In your lemonade container, squeeze in the 3 lemons, discarding or straining the seeds, add the mango puree, the cooled simple syrup, and the 2 cups water.  You can add ice to the container or add individually to the glasses.  Garnish as you wish and enjoy!!

Next time, I'll try making a batch of strawberry and a batch of watermelon...both would be so great for the summer heat