Best Christmas Cookies 2016

Best Christmas Cookies 2016

We are only a few days away from Christmas and that can only mean one thing.  Christmas Cookies!!!  I love all types of cookies but for some reason, all cookies taste better at Christmas!  This list includes everything from Cut out cookies to fudge crinkles.  Lots of sugar, lots of chocolate and a ton of Christmas Fun!  Check out our best Christmas Cookies for 2016!

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Apple Cider Mimosa – Thanksgiving Cocktail

Apple Cider Mimosa – Thanksgiving Cocktail

The Apple Cider Mimosa is our new Thanksgiving cocktail!  This year’s cocktail will satisfy most of your guests and allow you to get through this stressful time.  The Apple Cider mimosa is not only delicious, it also uses fresh apple cider.  I love a good seasonal cocktail.  I hope you do too!

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Inside and Out Grilled Cheese

Inside and Out Grilled Cheese

I love a good ole American Cheese Grilled cheese sandwich.  However, I have been introduced to various other methods of cooking and found the best grilled cheese ever!  This involves using a lot of butter, white bread and shredded cheese.  Yep, no more american cheese.  Ok, you really can’t call it cheese, but it is tasty!  This sandwich is loaded with cheese and is even topped with cheese.  The cheese is fried right into the bread giving it a crusty, cheesy awesomeness!

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Ultimate Pizza Dough

Ultimate Pizza Dough

Ultimate Pizza Dough

I love pizza.  However, I have never been able to recreate pizzeria style pizzas.  Then I stumbled upon High Gluten Flour.  I know what you are thinking, Rex is bucking the trend of gluten free. It is true, gluten can be your friend.  Especially when you are making pizza dough.  I am not talking about bread flour, I am talking about super flour with a gluten content of 12% or more.  I picked up this super flour at Restaurant Depot.  You can buy similar stuff online at Amazon and other retailers.

I used to think that my old dough was good, but this new dough is amazing.  The only real difference was the flour.  High gluten flour allows you to have perfect dough that forms into perfect pizzas without ripping or tearing.  Plus, it gives you the most amazing bite ever.  I love this stuff.  Dana actually said that we are no longer allowed to order pizza.  Now that is quite the endorsement from the former New Yorker!

The recipe is simple.  Basic ingredients, but with the higher gluten content you get 100 times better pizza.

I then made a simple blender pizza sauce and it was on.

Ultimate Pizza Dough

You can make this recipe by hand, but it is easier with a stand mixer with a dough hook.

Making dough

Add all of the pizza ingredients minus the olive oil to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until ingredients come together.

Add the olive oil and continue mixing for a few seconds longer.

Once the dough starts to form a ball, turn the mixer to medium and knead the dough for a full 15 minutes.

Dough Balls

Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place dough in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours and up to 5 days.

Cold Dough

I then baked the pizzas using the kettle pizza attachment for my Weber charcoal kettle.  You can cook them in the oven at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until the edges and cheese are browned.

The kettle pizza allows you to make coal/wood fired pizzas on you basic Weber kettle.  Quite possibly one of the best attachments for Weber out there.

Kettle Pizza

I would totally recommend one, as it makes one of the best pizzas out there.   I have been using the kettle pizza for a year now and I have totally got the pizza making process down.  The only modification that I have made is adding a charcoal basket full of coal and wood to the pizza stone level of the kettle pizza.

Charcoal Basket

This adds more heat to the pizza level allowing the cheese to cook as fast as the crust.  With this one modification I have perfected my pizzas and can cook a pizza every 3-4 minutes.

Perfect Pizza

Check out this thing in action.  http://www.kettlepizza.com

Ultimate Pizza Dough
Author: 
Recipe type: Pizza
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
The ultimate Pizza dough
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups (16 ounces) high-gluten flour
  • 9 ounces warm water
  • 1 tablespoon classico olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. You can make this recipe by hand, but it is easier with a stand mixer with a dough hook.
  2. Add all of the pizza ingredients minus the olive oil to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until ingredients come together.
  3. Add the olive oil and continue mixing for a few seconds longer.
  4. Once the dough starts to form a ball, turn the mixer to medium and knead the dough for a full 15 minutes.
  5. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place dough in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours and up to 5 days.
  6. I then baked the pizzas using the kettle pizza attachment for my Weber charcoal kettle. You can cook them in the oven at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until the edges and cheese are browned.

 

New Pizza Crust

New Pizza Crust

Pizza Dough

I just picked up a new pizza stone and have been making pizza a lot.  I have been using my basic pizza dough recipe, but the other day I decided to mess around with the preparation and ingredients to see if I could improve upon it.  I did.  My new dough recipe is crazy good.

In a medium bowl combine the yeast, warm water (100-105 degrees) and sugar.  If you have a mixer add this to the bowl of your mixer and let it sit for 5 minutes or until it is nice and bubbly.

Bubbly yeast

Add the salt and oil and then mix.  Then slowly add the flour to the mixture 1 cup at a time. Mix by hand or on low speed in your mixer for a minute or until the flour is incorporated.

Add flour

Once you have a good dough ball, place it on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  If you have a mixer with a dough hook place it on medium speed for 10 minutes.

The Dough

Place the dough on a clean surface and leave it covered with a damp cotton towel or a tea towel for an hour or so.  Basically until the dough doubled in size.

Let it rise

Divide the dough into four separate dough balls.  If you only wish to make one pizza place the extra dough balls in the refrigerator.

Split into four equal portions

To form the pizzas, place the dough on a well floured surface and slowly work the dough into a flat disk.

The dough will make four 12-inch pizzas, or you can use it to make two 18in pizzas.

Pizza Dough

To cook the pizza preheat the oven to 550 degrees and place the pizza on a pizza pan or on a preheated pizza stone for 10-12 minutes.

When fully cooked, the crust should be slightly golden the the cheese should be melted.

New Pizza Crust
Author: 
Recipe type: Pizza Dough
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
My new recipe for pizza dough. The best I have ever made.
Ingredients
  • 2¼ tsp yeast
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 cup warm water (100-105 degrees)
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl combine the yeast, warm water (100-105 degrees) and sugar. If you have a mixer add this to the bowl of your mixer and let it sit for 5 minutes or until it is nice and bubbly.
  2. Add the salt and oil and then mix. Then slowly add the flour to the mixture 1 cup at a time. Mix by hand or on low speed in your mixer for a minute or until the flour is incorporated.
  3. Once you have a good dough ball, place it on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. If you have a mixer with a dough hook place it on medium speed for 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough on a clean surface and leave it covered with a damp cotton towel or a tea towel for an hour or so. Basically until the dough doubled in size.
  5. Divide the dough into four separate dough balls. If you only wish to make one pizza place the extra dough balls in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap.
  6. To form the pizzas, place the dough on a well floured surface and slowly work the dough into a flat disk.
  7. The dough will make four 12-inch pizzas, or you can use it to make two 18in pizzas.
  8. To cook the pizza preheat the oven to 550 degrees and place the pizza on a pizza pan or on a preheated pizza stone for 10-12 minutes.
  9. When fully cooked, the crust should be slightly golden the the cheese should be melted.

This pizza was amazing.

Soft Sugar Cookies With Light and Fluffy Frosting

Soft Sugar Cookies With Light and Fluffy Frosting

I was trolling around the internet looking for some inspiration and discovered these tasty cookies over at SavorySights.com.  They were posted by Fake Ginger and they reminded me of the super soft and delicious sugar cookies that the local Ukrop’s Bakery inside of Martin’s makes.  They were perfect.  Light and fluffy and exactly what I expected.  These cookies are almost like eating sugary air.  They are a must try.

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Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

I was watching TV the other day and saw and episode of Top Secret Recipe featuring cinnamon rolls.  They looked delicious, so I had to make some for myself.  I checked the Top Secret Recipe website, but the recipe was not included on it.  So I looked around and found a couple of recipes floating on the internet. None of them looked like what I saw on the show, so I experimented and combined a couple of them to form the perfect recipe.  Then I used a couple of tricks that I saw in the show to spice up the other recipes. One trick was to chill the dough and let it rise, the second was to use xantham gum in the filling and finally the third was to use Makara cinnamon for a nice cinnamon punch. Makara cinnamon is a fancy label for Indonesian Korintje cinnamon.  I picked up some on Amazon.com and I was off and running.

Cinnamon Roll Dough

  • 2.5-3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tbs sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup water (100-102 degrees)
  • 5 tbs margarine (room temp)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 9×13 pan or 1 9 in round

Cinnamon Roll Filling

Awesome Frosting

  • 6 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (10x confectioner’s sugar)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp lemon extract

The Dough

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the 2.5 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

The dry ingredients

Add the 2 eggs and water, stir to combine. Add the cold margarine and beat it into the dough. If the dough is a little loose add a tad bit more flour, it could take up to another 1/2 cup.  Add flour 1/2 tbs at a time.  The amount will vary based on the size of eggs and humidity.   Once combined, knead using a dough hook for 10-12 minutes.  Below is a pic of the perfect dough.  It is soft and pulls cleanly from the sides of the bowl.

The dough

Once the dough has been kneaded, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator over night, or until it doubles.  Make sure to leave a little room in the plastic wrap for the dough to expand.

Wrap it up

After the dough has risen, remove it from the plastic wrap and place on a floured surface.  Roll the dough out so that it is roughly the size of a sheet pan.  About 18×22.  I just rolled it into a rectangle that was about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.

The Filling

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and xantham gum.  Mix to combine.

The Filling

Be careful with the xantham gum.  I broke the bag open and it formed a dust cloud in my kitchen.  Then every speck of the powder that touched water turned into slime.  It was quite the cleanup.  Dana thought I had a runny nose, but nope, I inhaled a bit of xantham gum and it looked like I had been slimed.  I know what you are thinking, do I need the xantham gum. However, xantham gum is necessary since it keeps the filling inside of the rolls instead of running out the bottom.

Making the Rolls

Once the dough is rolled out, spread the margarine over the top of the dough.  Keep a little edge butter free.  This will allow you to make a seal and keep the dough from unwinding once you make the roll.  I found that a cake icing spatula worked great for applying the margarine.

The Margarine Layer

Once the butter is spread out, add the cinnamon sugar mixture to the dough.

The Filling

Starting at the end away from the butter free end, roll the dough as tightly as possible.  The tighter the roll, the more layers the cinnamon roll will have.  When you reach the butter free end, brush a little egg yolk on it to form a seal.

The roll

Then divide the dough into 6 large rolls in a rectangular pan or you can do 8 smaller rolls and use a round pan.  The ends of mine were not uniform so I cut them off before measuring out my rolls.

The perfect roll

Spray the pan with vegetable spray and then place a piece of parchment into the pan.  Then spray the parchment with vegetable spray.  I would not attempt to make these without parchment.  The filling is quite sticky.  Evenly space the dough out on the pan and then allow the dough to rise in a warm place for an hour or two. Until the rolls plump up in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit and bake for 18-22 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown.  Depending on your oven you might have to rotate the pan to make them brown evenly.

The Perfect Rolls

Remove from the oven to let cool. While the rolls are hot add the frosting so that the heat allows the frosting to ooze all over the rolls.

Oozy Cinnamon Roll

The Frosting

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the butter, cream cheese, salt, vanilla and lemon extracts.  Beat on high until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Take approximately 5 minutes.  Then slowly add the powdered sugar in small increments. Beat the mixture to fully incorporate each little increment of powdered sugar.  Once all of the sugar has been added beat on high for a minute to make the frosting light and fluffy.

The Frosting

The Result

These were mighty fine rolls.

The Cinnamon Roll

I made 6 huge rolls but you could roll the dough the short way instead of the long way and make 12 smaller rolls.  1 roll was way too much for Dana.  However, I managed to eat the whole thing.

Solo Cinnamon Roll

I would definitely make these again.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I hate to say it but I love sweets. I guess that is how I keep my amazing figure. Haha. Anyways, I am a huge fan of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I like my cookies semi-dense with a little bite but not too chewy. Along the same path I like my cookies to be thick and not too thin. I have experimented with all different ratios of butter, shortening and sugar. In the end I believe that I have discovered the ultimate recipe. The cookies come out thick but not too dense. You will have to try them for yourself.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 stick butter
  • 6 tbs shortening
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat together the butter, shortening and sugars until creamy.  This will take a couple of minutes.  Make sure the mixture is light and fluffy before you proceed.

Cream the sugar and butter together

Slowly add the eggs one at a time.  Make sure to beat the first one in before adding the second one.  Once the eggs are fully incorporated add the vanilla.

Add flour, baking soda and salt.  I used to sift the flour and other dry ingredients together, but come on, who has time for that.  I have made this recipe both ways and it comes out great both ways.  Actually the cookies have a better texture when you do not sift the flour.  So just slowly add the flour to the mixer.

Add the Oats

Once the flour is incorporated add the oats.   Then incorporate the chocolate chips by hand.  You can use the mixer, but it will break them up and you might end up with pieces instead of chips.

The Dough

Form the dough into 1 to 1.5 tbs sized portions and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  I have found that a cookie scoop is a good investment.  They sell them in various sizes at bed bath and beyond.  Amazon also has them Cookie Scoops.  They have them in all sizes and shapes.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remember that if the top is browned the bottom will be really browned. So check the edges of the cookies to see if the cookies are done.

Cool the Cookies

Cool for 1 minutes on cookie sheets then remove to a wire rack to cool.

The Ultimate Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can also change this up and make them cinnamon raisin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with addition of 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 1/2 cups of raisins instead of chocolate chips.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Grilled Meatballs

Grilled Meatballs

I know it is hard to believe but sometimes I get cook’s block.  It is like writer’s block except I can not think of a single thing to make for dinner.  So earlier this week Dana requested something from chicken and something from ground beef.  I went to the store  and picked up the basic ingredients.  With the chicken I ended up making Bourbon Chicken.  However, the beef was harder for me. I scoured my cabinets and found the stuff to make pasta, but I have done meatballs many times before. I had no idea what to do.  Then I happened to stumble across Grilled meatballs over at NibbleMeThis.  It was a great idea, it would add a nice smokey flavor to the meatballs. I thought, what the heck, why not make meatballs and cook them on the grill.  So I went to my basic meatball recipe and took out a tad bit of liquid in order to make sure that they did not fall apart on the grill.  Then it was on.

Grilled Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 4 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • pinch kosher salt

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients minus the bread crumbs and meat.  Mix together.

Add the ingredients to a bowl

Then add the ground beef and the bread crumbs.

Add the meat and bread crumbs

Next mix everything together.  Your hands are the best tool for this.  I have found that picking up some rubber gloves from the pharmacy helps out a ton.  That way you are not picking out bits of meat from under your finger nails for the next week.

Perfect little meatballs

Once mixed, form the mixture into meatballs.  I would use about 1-2 tbs of meat to form each ball.  A cookie scoop is a great way to portion the meat so that all of your meatballs are the same size.  Using your hand roll each one into a perfectly formed ball and set aside.

Preheat your grill to medium/high.

Place the meatballs directly over the heat on the grill.

Grill the meatballs

Rotate the meatballs every 3-4 minutes so that they get browned on all sides.

Rotate and continue cooking

Rotate so that all of the edges of the meatballs are browned.  This will take about 16-18 minutes in total.  Cook till the centers of the meatballs are 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fully cooked Meatballs

Remove the meatballs from the grill and place them in a simmering pan of your favorite sauce.

Sauce them up

Simmer the meatballs for 10-15 minutes.

During this time cook your favorite pasta.  Dana loves angel hair pasta.  So it is our staple.

Plate the pasta and top with the meatballs and sauce.

Angel Hair with Meatballs

I added a tad bit of fresh parmigiana and dinner was ready.

Pasta with Grilled Meatballs

Not a bad meal for only having ground beef to work with.

The meatballs were moist and delicious! The added hint of smokey flavor from grilling really complemented the hearty red sauce.  It was a great meal.

The Ultimate Burger

The Ultimate Burger

With the 4th of July right around the corner, I wanted to share my perfect burger recipe.  It is a simple recipe, but takes a little time to make.  Grinding your own meat allows you to get more flavorful cuts.  That way you do not have to add a ton of seasoning to the burger, to make it taste good.  This burger only requires a bit of salt and you are good to go. Add your favorite cheese and you have the ultimate burger.

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