RECIPE: Cheater Cinnamon Chip Cookies

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Sometimes we domestic divas need some shortcuts. We do a lot, and when we add kids to our daily mix of doing, there are always curve ball requests that show up at...oh...say...1 hour before bedtime? You know, the "Mom, by the way, I volunteered you for cookies for the bake sale tomorrow, because you are such a good baker" request?

Yeah. That.

So. For that. I made up this.
You're welcome, fellow moms.

Cheater Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

1 package Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix, snack size
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temp.
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup cinnamon chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375˚ (if you are using dark or nonstick sheets, preheat oven to 350˚) In a large bowl, whip your softened butter with a fork. Add the cookie mix and cinnamon, and mix and mash the butter with the fork until the texture of cornmeal. Add the vanilla extract and water, and mash with the fork until a batter forms.

Gently add the cinnamon chips, until evenly combined. Drop the batter by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for about 7-10 minutes, or until edges become golden and cookies are set. Let the cookies cool on the sheets or about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

RECIPE: Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Caramelized Shallots and Forked-Over Herb Potatoes

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This is the perfect Sunday meal, or, well, any night meal if you brine your chicken the day before and get home at a decent hour. You can also pre-boil the potatoes the night before, and fork them over right after. Then all you need to do is roast them with the chicken after getting home the next night.

I guess what I am saying is that you can have a lovely warm meal any time you want, but you may need some preplanning. The rosemary and lemon makes the whole house smell like a garden. Who wouldn't want that after a long day at work?

This dish is savory and moist. The olive oil makes the potatoes crispy. The chicken is infused with lemon and rosemary. The chicken is brined, and that keeps things really juicy and tender.

Give this baby a whirl. We are making it again for dinner guests Saturday...and yes, we will be doubling the recipe.

Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Caramelized Shallots and Forked-Over Herb Potatoes
Ingredients:
Chicken
Brining solution of cold water and 1/2 cup salt, dissolved
1 bone in chicken with skin, cut into parts
1 lemon (Meyer lemons preferred) sliced into eight 1/4-inch rounds
1/2 pound shallots, peeled, cut into halves and quarters, depending on sizes
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces rosemary sprigs (about 2 large or 4 small bunches), divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Marinade
1 Tbsp. parsley
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I like using Meyer lemons with the regular ones if in season)
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
Potatoes
3 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes (1 1/2'–2'-diameter), peeled (cut large ones in half or quarters)
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt plus more
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. ground garlic
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Directions:

Chicken: 
The night before-or morning of-soak the chicken pieces in a vat full of cold water and 1/2 cup salt dissolved. Prick the chicken with fork tines before submerging. Store in the refrigerator until ready to prep. Rinse well and pat dry, and loosen skin before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a large roasting pan with 8 or so of rosemary sprigs, lining the bottom well. Place chicken pieces on top.

Whisk 1/2 cup oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper and honey in a small bowl to blend. Using a basting brush, brush the marinade under skin of each chicken. 


Place shallots around and under chickens; sprinkle the chopped garlic over and around as well. Drizzle remaining lemon mixture all over outside of chickens, shallots and garlic. Arrange lemon rounds on top of each chicken. Arrange a handful more of rosemary sprigs along the top of the chicken. Drizzle rosemary and lemon rounds with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil.

Roast chickens, basting frequently with pan juices, for 45 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425° and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165° and skin is deep golden and crispy, about 10 minutes longer

Spoon pan juices over chickens, shallots, and lemon slices and serve in roasting pan.

Potatoes:

Preheat oven to 425°. 


Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a rimmed baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, firmly scrape the tines of a fork up and down potatoes, creating a rough, grooved surface.


Pour oil onto another rimmed baking sheet or rectangular Pyrex pan; bake (to heat oil) for 5 minutes. Add potatoes; turn to coat. Season with 1 tablespoon salt, fresh ground pepper, parsley, garlic powder and thyme. Toss to coat again. Roast, turning 3 times during cooking and occasionally basting with oil, until browned and tender, 60–70 minutes.


If roasting the two dishes together in oven, which I did, I had the oven temp at 375˚ for the 45 minutes for the chicken, then moving the temp up at 425˚, which is what the potatoes need. I put the oven on convection to move the air around for even cooking. The chicken will get done a little ahead of your potatoes. But that will allow you to keep the potatoes in the oven at the temperature of 425˚ for final browning while the chicken is resting.

adapted from http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/forked-oven-roasted-potatoes and 

COOKING and LIFESTYLE: My Favorite Things at the International Housewares Show 2014

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I was so fortunate this year to be able to walk the housewares show in Chicago. Needless to say, if you have ever have been to McCormick Place for a trade show, you will empathize with my poor aching feet and back by the end of my visit. It was a really fun show, with dizzying arrays of new culinary wonders and gadgets that promise home and hearth bliss. 

I could have spent another day there, truthfully. But from what I did see, a handful of things stood out for me as "Shut up and take my money now!" cool. Here are my top faves. Some of these are still hitting the market. Some you may have seen here or there.




This company has some really cool brands within it's company. But this display stopped me dead in my tracks. I love gardening, and I have seen a lot of vertical gardening on Pinterest. This kit seems to make it really turnkey-no hammers, nails and wood. This is really easy, and probably could work outside or in. If you have a bright kitchen or bath, imagine a whole wall with plants? The moisture in your bathroom would keep things really green. And because the kit is all plastic, it can hold up to all that moisture. It looks really easy to install, too. The draw back, I don't think it's in stores yet, or even on their site. But follow them on FB and email them to find out more info if you are interested!


Bakelicious looks like such an adorable brand. I truthfully have never seen it in stores. But I hope I do soon. They had so many fun gadgets to make food and lifestyle bloggers like me able to make all those amazing creative treats you see on Pinterest SO much easier. My favorite of what I saw in their booth? This cake pop stand. It makes decorating super easy, and you can use it to serve them, too. Check out all the fun baking stuff they have at http://itsbakelicious.com/116478/products


If you have a ton of people over for the holidays, and you have only one oven, this "nifty oven companion" is a MUST HAVE. You can fit three pans right next to your turkey or ham. They have some other tiers and sizes, but this one for me was the winner. We had my husband's family over on Thanksgiving (10 adults, 13 kids) in my small vintage house. I wish I had this to help with getting food out! (Just remembering that day gives me shivers. Stress.) Buy it at Bed Bath and Beyond, or go to their site to see where else you can buy it!


OK. Admit it. You want 10 of these, every saying and every pattern and color? Right? These are just super fun. Period. Throw away that old, cracked, white spatula and get a spatula that is as fabulous as you are in the kitchen! Here's the bad news, I cannot find the notes I took about which booth these lovelies belonged to! I know, I know! I am harassing my colleague who walked the show with me, to see if he remembers! I will update this if we figure it out. I think it might be KitchenAid. But these are so new (if that's the case) that they are not on their website yet-so stay tuned. I'll get to the bottom of it, because I want to buy some, too!



This booth caught my eye because it was so shabby chic cute, and...well, the gorgeous truffles all over the place wasn't  too bad, either. This is a soup-to-nuts Charmeur chocolate truffle making kit. It comes with different flavored oils, extracts, sprinkles, tools, and cocoa. These kits are a big hit for parties, and kids get into the fun too! I sampled a mint truffle, and it was delicious. You can get this kit at http://charmeur.com/.


Anupy Singla from Indian As Apple Pie has launched her own line of Indian sundries, spices and this wonderful (patent pending) spice tiffin. This is Anupy's version of a traditional Indian masala dabba. The half moon design on each spice container makes measuring super easy. And the tiffin keeps all your Indian spices stored in one happy place instead of a cacophony of bottles, jars and bags taking over your spice cabinet. Find out more about Anupy's Indian cooking magic at http://www.indianasapplepie.com and you can get the spice tiffin with spice levelers here.


 First and foremost, Takeya drew my eye from the really hot packaging design, then the flavor profiles kept me there. They have a really nice line of teas. But my favorite thing they had is the iced tea beverage system. You can infuse herbs, spices and other fruits in the center core of their carafe as you brew your tea. I tried their rosemary lemon iced tea and it was to die for. The picture above is pretty dark, but the carafe to the right has the center filter jammed packed with fresh rosemary sprigs. They have a recipe book I REALLY wanted, too. The ladies were super friendly and we shared our love of botanical drinks and baking (I plugged my own ebook, Savoring Sweet-of course!) They have great recipes on their site, as well as being able to purchase product on there, too. There are other retailers that carry the beverage system, too.




Wilton, a legacy brand, has done some serious innovating over the years. Their booth was really large, with a flurry of decorating sprinkles, walls of Candymelts, and stacks of bakeware. My two favorite things are above. The ombre cakes all over Pinterest are a mystery NO MORE with the "Easy Layers" cake kit. And having different cake middles, with different shapes, is easy with the "Tasty-Fill" cake kit. Many retailers carry Wilton products. These two products can be purchased here and here.







This may be one of my FAVORITES. It's called a pinata cake kit from NordicWare. I have really been enjoying some of their new products lately, like their doughnut bake-pan I bought at Target. This cake kit allows you to assemble a cake with a hole in the middle. And as you can see, the possibilities are endless. You can do something gooey and gross in the middle for Halloween. Baby shower surprises can be hidden in the middle of a cake. How about...an engagement ring hidden in the middle? Yup. this one is a winner. Keep your eyes open for when this hits stores. The product reps at the booth said they were finalizing packaging and coming to stores really soon. I suggest following their social assets. I am sure they will announce the hard launch there.


This was such a cute booth, and such a great line of new products. It is called "Curious Chef" and you can get your little one engaged in cooking at a very young age with these cooking tool kits. They are perfect for little hands, but durable enough to do some really serious cooking with mom and dad! They have really great branding and packaging. The tools look to be really high quality. They are not in retailers yet, but they received some really good buzz at the show. You can purchase these adorable kits on their website at http://curiouschef.com/ and on Amazon.



There was much, much more. But hopefully this gives you some inspiration to check out and support some of these great brands and products-new and old. One thing is for sure, the next show, I am wearing gym shoes!

COOKING TIPS: 3 Cake Pop Hacks

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3 Cake Pop Hacks

I love making cake pops..REAL cake pops. They are great for parties, fundraisers and bake sales. And through the years, I have been able to find some tips and tricks to make cake pop making easier (and without having to buy an extra gadget.) 

Here are my top three favorites:



1: Do you have excess batter when doing some baking? My "go-to" chocolate cake batter makes a ridiculous amount of batter. So when I make what I need, I pour the rest in a bread pan, or a square brownie pan. I go ahead and bake it with everything else. Then I wrap it up once it is cooled down in plastic wrap and then with tin foil. I label it and freeze it. Then when I need to make a batch of cake pops, I pull it out, defrost it, crumble it all up and continue on my cake pop way!





2: When cutting or coring baked goods for complex or decorative recipes, such as my pistachio cream filled cake pops, or squaring off a birthday cake, freeze the excess cake in a zip-lock bag labeled with a date. When you need cake for cake pops, just pull it out, defrost it, and crumble it up for your cake pop batter. Be sure to label flavors, because you may need to combine left over cake to make one recipe, and you don't want to mix vanilla with other flavors (if you don't want to.)



3:  A great trick for drying cake pops once they have been covered is to use a colander. Turn a larger hole colander upside down on a towel. Thread a cake pop through the colander, straight down, nestling the bottom of the stick in the towel to hold it securely. Once completely decorated and dried, the cake pops can be ready for serving.

RECIPE: Pistachio Cream Filled Vanilla Cupcakes Topped with Pistachio Brittle

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Pistachio Cream Filled Vanilla Cupcakes Topped with Pistachio Brittle  

Ingredients:

Cupcake
(adapted from my previous post, http://www.urbandomesticdiva.com/2011/06/recipe-billys-vanilla-vanilla-cupcakes.html)
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups Baker's or regular sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, softened
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean,  split in half and seeds scraped out

Pistachio Cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup Baker's or regular sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup salted and roasted shelled pistachios, chopped finely in a food processor

Frosting
2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon Caster or Baker's sugar
3 tablespoons water
generous pinch of cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Pistachio Brittle
1/3 cup salted and roasted shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
½ cup Caster or Baker's sugar
¼ cup water
Directions:

Make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine flours, sugar, baking powder with a fork. Add butter, and using a paddle attachment, mix and mush until butter is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles cornmeal.

In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds from the vanilla bean. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 


 With a small paring knife, core a hole in each middle of the cupcakes, careful to not go all the way to the bottom. Set the cupcakes aside until filling is ready. I save discarded cake cores in a zip-lock bag, and freeze it to use in future cake pop batter (more on this in my "3 cake pop hacks" post)

Make the filling:





In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla extract just until small bubbles appear around the edge. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the granulated sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the warm milk. Transfer the mixture to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking vigorously, until very thick, smooth and shiny, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground pistachios, and mix. Scrape into a bowl and let cool slightly. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.


In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream until firm peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream. Transfer half to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Pipe the cream into each hole of each cupcake. 




Make the brittle: 
Line a baking sheet with a piece of foil,  butter it and place the pistachio nuts on top. Set aside. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to the boil, brushing the sugar crystals from the inside of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until dark golden. Remove from the heat and pour toffee over the nuts. Allow to cool completely.
Break up the pistachio praline into large pieces (you may need to use a rolling pin or mallet to smash up the brittle in a plastic baggie for pieces suitable for cupcake topping.) Set aside.

















Make the frosting:
Place the sugar, water, vanilla extract and cream of tartar in a small saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. Then, let the syrup cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. While the motor is still running, gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until thick and glossy.

Assembly:
Spread the icing over the cream filled cupcakes with a palette knife and top with the pistachio praline. Store at room temperature covered with plastic wrap. This kind of frosting does not do well refrigerated.

(adapted by a few recipes, http://technicolorkitcheninenglish.blogspot.com/2009/09/vanilla-cupcakes-with-pistachio-praline.html, and http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/pistachio-cream-filled-eclairs-and-cream-puffs

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