Sunday, April 28, 2013

Homemade slice and bake sugar cookies

Sugar cookies!  Who doesn't love them?  The simple sweet-buttery-vanilla taste will delight almost anyone.  Chances are, you have picked up some store- bought slice and bake dough at some point.  However, with a few simple ingredients, you can make your own slice and bake dough, which has no preservatives and tastes much better.  This dough can also be used to roll out and cut with cookie cutters, if desired.  Makes about 18 large cookies. 

1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
Sparkling sugar sprinkles (optional)


Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla together in a larger mixing bowl, until mixture becomes fluffy.

Add egg, and mix until the mixture is almost glossy in texture.  Add dry mixture, and mix in, 1/4 cup at a time, until thoroughly combined.  Shape dough into a roll, about two inches in diameter, and refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat over to 375.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet.  cut dough into slices, abut 1/4 inch thick.  If using sprinkles, take a pinch of sprinkles and press them lightly into each dough slice with your fingers.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from pan, and cool for about 10 minutes before eating.  Cookies will be crisp around the edges, but chewy in the middle. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MJ's Shortcut Guacamole

God is great, God is good, let us thank him for avocados!  Having spent my formative years in San Antonio, Texas, I am a huge fan of guacamole.  When people are coming over and I need something fresh and simple to serve before the main event in the warm-weather months, there is never a question in my mind what to serve.  This recipe is for a mild guacamole.   Feel free to add some chopped seeded tomato, jalapeno pepper, or cilantro if it suits you.  Just in time for Cinco de Mayo! Makes about 2 cups. 


4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 lime, cut into quarters
3 ripe Haas avocodos
Salt to taste


Put the minced garlic in a small bowl or ramekin.  Microwave on High for 30 seconds.  This roasts the garlic slightly.

Put the chopped onion on top of the garlic.  Squeeze two of the lime quarters on top of the onion.  Microwave on high for another 30 seconds.  This does two things - it takes the bite out of the onion, while the lime juice extracts some of the garlic and onion flavor to spread into the avocado later.

Peel and halve or slice the avocados, and place them in a medium bowl.  Add onion mixture.

Mash avocodos with a fork.  Add as much salt as you would like, and squeeze the remaining two lime quarters into the guacamole.  Serve with chips and/or vegetable sticks. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fruit Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing

I have found another use for the lovely meyer lemon!  I love fruit salad, but I have a major hangup about it:  a lot of the fruits I like to use, such as apples, pears, and bananas, turn an unsightly brown when left out for too long.  There are dressings you can use, but I often find them to be too sweet or too acidic.  Not this one!  The meyer lemon is just acidic enough to keep fruits from turning brown, and it adds a subtle orange taste to the salad, which helps the different fruit flavors blend together nicely.  I made this salad with green apples, nectarines, strawberries, and blackberries, but obviously it will work with any combination.  However, I do think a nice variety of colors and flavors of fruits make it come together nicely.  Serves 6 to 8.

Juice of 1 meyer lemon
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 large Granny Smith apples
2 large nectarines
1 lb. strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1/2 pint fresh blackberries, washed


Whisk together meyer lemon juice, sugar, and vegetable oil in a medium serving bowl.  Cut apples and nectarines into large chunks.  Put the chunks into the dressing and stir to coat. 

Add strawberries and blackberries, and stir salad to mix.  Serve or refrigerate.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Floating Raspberries

I have always loved raspberries and cream.  This dessert is a thick, creamy vanilla custard with raspberries floating on the top.  Vanilla extract works fine to flavor this, but I love the specks of the vanilla seeds. This dessert is simple enough for every day, yet elegant enough to serve to company. Makes 6 servings.

1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 envelope unflavored gelatin


Oil the inside of a 9-inch pie plate.  Pour the gelatin into a small bowl or ramekin, and add 3 Tbs. cold water.  Set the milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla seeds over medium heat in a medium-sized pot.  Bring to a boil, and allow to boil for 3 minutes.  Add gelatin and boil for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently until dissolved. 

Pour entire mixture into the pie plate.  Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.  One by one, put raspberries into the pie plate, with the tops facing up.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Meyer Lemon Chicken with Pasta

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare chicken in the warm weather months.  It utilizes the Meyer lemon, which is not as exotic as it used to be.  I love the sweet and sour taste of the Meyer lemon, and the pesto adds basil flavor and a greenish color to the sauce.  It's pretty easy to bake the chicken and cook the pasta while you are preparing the sauce.  Serves 2.


2 chicken breast cutlets (about 6 oz. each), baked
1 Tbs. olive oil
Juice of1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. basil pesto
3 oz. small pasta, such as macaroni, cooked
Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a small metal pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add cream in 2 batches, cooking for about 3 minutes after each batch.  Add pesto, and stir to combine.  Add Meyer lemon juice, and and cook for about 4 more minutes.  Salt to taste. 

Arrange chicken over pasta on plates, and spoon the sauce over the top.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve.  Shown here with baby bow tie pasta.  Hint:  Tastes great with a green vegetable and a glass of white wine. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Arugula and Nectarine Salad with Pistachios

Since I can remember, I have loved the taste of nectarines.  Their smooth, brightly freckled skins encase succulent fruit that tastes like summer melting in your mouth.  As soon as the weather turns warm, my husband and I look forward to making this simple salad.  We made it for first time this year for Easter.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

1.5 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1.5 Tbs. canola or grapeseed oil
3 cups baby arugula
2 medium nectarined, chopped
1/4 cup shelled pistachios


Mix together vinegar and oil in the bottom of a large bowl.  Add chopped nectarines, and stir to coat.

Add baby arugula and toss.  Sprinkle pistachios over the top, and serve.