Thursday, September 8, 2016

cinnamon sugar cookies . . . and apples, apples, apples for Teacher!



I'm re-sharing this post from last year's back-to-school week.

Our 6 and 7-year-old will be attending a new school this year, and it starts a few weeks after the rest of the school district, so we're enjoying these last few days of Summer break . . . and prepping for back-to-school!

I hope you enjoy this first tribute to apple season!

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .


WARNING . . . There are a lot of photos of apples!

I like to send a "Welcome back!" gift with my kids on their first day of school to give to their teachers.

Last year, I sent a big bag of home-made chewy chocolate chip and toffee cookies.

And this year, we baked cinnamon sugar cookies in the shape of apples!







I bought several varieties of apples at the Farmer's Market earlier in the week . . . Gala, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious.








The kids had no idea that there are so many varieties. We even had an apple taste-testing!

Pink Lady and Granny Smith were our favorite!

We decorated our cookies based on the apples we brought home from the Market.

And these were the home-made APPLES our 5- and-6-year old brought their teachers on the first day of school . . .








I packaged them in clear cellophane bags and then tied them with rustic rope. We carefully placed them in a simple brown gift bag cushioned with brown shredded paper.  They were darling!

Here are the kids' interpretations of the apples. They did a great job!


Braeburn 


Golden Delicious & Granny Smith 


Gala


Pink Lady
Did you notice the pink sanding sugar?
This was the girls' favorite apple!



I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe, and added cinnamon and a little nutmeg to give the dough warm hints of Fall. These spices were a great addition!



cinnamon sugar cookies
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .   
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1 ½  sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
 powder sugar (instead of flour) for rolling out dough
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .    

Preparation
To make the cookies, in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt . . . set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and egg. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix until just combined.

Form the dough into a flattened ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or as long as overnight.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

On a lightly floured powder sugar surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart, and bake until just golden around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove the cookies from the pans and let cool completely.

Makes 10 to 20 cookies, depending on cutter size.






Sugar Cookie GLAZE
2 ¼  cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Combine ingredients and mix until smooth
Using a small paint brush (or the tip of your finger), spread on top of cookies
Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of GLAZE when it's wet

The secret to a 'clean' sugar edge is not letting the glaze drip down the sides of the cookie.
A thick glaze is also key.
After the glaze has been mixed, add 1 Tablespoon of confectioners' sugar at a time, 
until you get the desired consistency.
Have fun!








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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

slow cooker bbq chicken and roasted potatoes & beets . . . another simple Summer dinner



This simple and delicious dinner was on the heels of our potato harvest adventure last weekend.




I plan our Saturdays so that they're full of new adventures. We explore the country, visit pick-your-own farms where we harvest fruits and vegetables, visit local farms and Farmers Markets, hike trails, and visit as many Smithsonians as we can. 

We spent last Saturday harvesting potatoes and peaches. 

By the time we wrapped up at the farm, the Littles knew that potatoes grow in dirt. It was just a few days before our adventure that they told me that they were pretty sure that potatoes grew "in bushes" and "on trees." 






We were so blessed to have another cool and rainy Sunday, so I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than with another cozy slow cooker meal. 

I'm a big fan of  Jack Daniel's barbecue sauces, and found a complete collection of them at our local market. I bought Honey Smokehouse with thoughts of using it to make another scrumptious slow cooker meal to enjoy with our potato harvest.




I paired our sweet and smokey shredded bbq chicken with fresh, creamy mozzarella and warm, tender, and slightly sweet rolls . . . a scrumptious combination! 

I love serving Sunday suppers like this atop a breadboard so that everyone can make their own sliders and dinner plate. I enjoy watching our Little ones pick and choose . . . and customize their own dinner. Everyone is most happy that way!

our simple, family-style Summer dinner
.     .     .     .     .     .
slow cooker shredded bbq chicken
with  fresh creamy mozarella
warm, tender sweet rolls
roasted potatoes, gold beets, and sweet onions
with fresh parsley and cilantro
juicy, sweet watermelon
.     .     .     .     .     .





Look at the gorgeous,rich color of that bbq sauce! And let me tell you . . . it did not disappoint! The sauce was sweet and smokey . . . and the chicken, tender.  We paired the chicken with fresh mozzarella and tender sweet rolls. So good!




slow cooker shredded bbq chicken 
.     .     .     .     .     .
Season 2-3 chicken breasts with salt and pepper, both sides.
Pour a bottle of your favorite bbq sauce into a crock pot.
Add chicken breasts, and cook on High for 3 hours. 
Using two forks, shred the chicken in the sauce.
Turn crock pot onto 'keep warm.'
ENJOY!
.     .     .     .     .     .




I was so excited to roast the potatoes that we had picked just the day before!

We were told that fresh picked potatoes taste better than the ones found in the market; and it's true!

Because roasting enhances the natural flavors found in food - I was quick to chop our potatoes, gold beets, and sweet onions for quick roast to enjoy with our meal. Again, so good!






oven-roasted
 potatoes, gold beets, and sweet onions
.     .     .     .     .     .
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the potatoes, beets, and onions in half or quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper;
 toss until well coated.
 Transfer to a sheet pan and spread out into 1 layer.
 Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking in order to ensure even browning. 
Remove from the oven, toss with parsley and cilantro, 
season to taste, and serve hot.
.     .     .     .     .     .




Dinner just can't get more simple than this . . . crock pot chicken and roasted vegetables.

With extra time on your hands, you'll have more to spend relaxing and enjoying your family!

I hope I inspired you to find your favorite bbq sauce, dust off your crock pot . . . and slow cook your way to a simple and delicious dinner!

For more great Slow Cooker recipes, visit me on Pinterest!





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Friday, August 19, 2016

chicken chili verde . . . and our simple, family-style Summer dinner



Our afternoon skies are dark and rumbling as I write this post . . . and I love it!

This kind of weather is exciting . . . and brings back so many happy childhood memories of spending our Summers in Kansas with my dad's family. There was nothing like the excitement of afternoon thunderstorms to cool everything off . . . and the lightning shows were pretty incredible, too!

Although it's been hot and humid lately, I still crave cozy crock pot meals . . . especially on Sundays and stormy days. 




It just so happens that we were blessed enough to find an amazing Farmer's Market on Saturday, where we bought handfuls of sweet white corn, a few watermelons, juicy peaches, and fresh herbs.
With thunderstorms in the forecast for Sunday, I couldn't think of a better way to spend our Sunday than with a cozy crock pot dinner and Summer Farmer's Market fare. 

our simple, family-style Summer menu
.     .     .     .     .     .
slow cooker chicken chili verde
with creamy shredded monterrey jack cheese and fresh cut cilantro
warm stoneground white corn tortillas
grilled sweet white corn
juicy, sweet watermelon
.     .     .     .     .     .







I saved this jar of Chili Verde Starter to enjoy for a special occasion . . . our first Sunday family meal since moving here.





Doesn't the description on the jar sound amazing? I had visions of using this Starter as a great base for a chicken crock pot meal . . . and I did. It was so delicious!

It's preparation is beyond simple! Are you ready?

slow cooker chicken chili verde
.     .     .     .     .     .
Season 2-3 chicken breasts with salt and pepper, both sides.
Pour jar of Chili Verde Starter into crock pot. 
Add chicken breasts, and cook on High for 3 hours. 
Using two forks, shred the chicken in the Chili Verde sauce.
Turn crock pot onto 'keep warm.'
ENJOY!
.     .     .     .     .     .

I served it with shredded Monterrey Jack and lots of fresh cilantro. The creamy cheese was a cool compliment to the chili verde, and the cilantro added an incredible freshness to the dish.  Warm white corn tortillas and grilled, sweet white corn also made delicious compliments to the chili verde. 

It's almost embarrassing how easy this meal was to prepare! I absolutely LOVE it when I can prepare a delicious (and beautiful) meal with little preparation and just a few ingredients! 






On a side note, I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts on eating family style. I love serving this way, as often as possible. 

To me, this means casual dining . . . our table filled with the main dish, sides, and all the fixings. Sometimes I fill bowls and platters, but I try to use my breadboards as often as possible. For instance, I'll have our Littles grate cheese right on top of a bread board on the table; or, when we're eating chili or taco salad, I love to pile chips high in a basket or right on a piece of parchment, amidst all the food; and if we're having BLTA's for dinner . . . everything gets displayed on a breadboard, and placed right in the middle of the table.

I think food is extra beautiful this way . . . raw . . . organic . . . and welcoming! It's as though you're inviting your guests and family to create their own masterpiece on their plate.

~ BLTA's at our house ~

~our simple, family style chicken chili verde dinner ~ 


I hope I inspired you to pull out your crock pot, and make a few cozy (and simple) dishes this Summer. Be sure and add some of this Summer's Farmers Market fare to your table, too! You'll be so happy you did!





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I love reading your comments and appreciate them so much!











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