Friday, January 28, 2011

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies rimmed with nonpareils 

Sugar cookies frosted for Valentine's Day 

I got this recipe from who knows how long ago. I felt like making some sugar cookies today, and so I pulled this one out. The two most noteworthy things about this cookie, besides its tastiness, is the fact that it are not very sweet, and it does not spread very much when baked. There is only one and a quarter cups of sugar for three cups of flour, and if you bake cookies regularly, you know that's a pretty low sugar to flour ratio. I used some cream cheese instead of butter/Crisco because I've tried that with some other cookies, and I found that it helped curb the spreading and it made the cookies taste a little bit more like the Pillsbury cookies you make from the tube o' dough.
The first day I baked these, I used the nonpareils. Then I baked some more (I had frozen the dough) and frosted them cute for Valentine's Day. If you're interested in frosting like this, here's a link to some detailed instructions:

Sugar Cookies
--adapted from What the Fruitcake

  • 3 cups KAF unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup white sugar 
  • 1 stick butter 
  • 1/4 cup Crisco 
  • 2 oz. cream cheese 
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten 
  • 3 tablespoons half & half or cream 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Rainbow Nonpareils 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. (I do this by putting them all in a large bowl and stirring with a whisk.) Cut in butter, Crisco, & cream cheese and blend with a pastry blender until mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir in lightly beaten egg, half & half and vanilla. Blend well.
  • Take half the dough and form into a log on a piece of wax paper or freezer paper. Roll into a 1 1/2 inch diameter log and roll in wax paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Repeat with the other half of the dough. (You can also just roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, to 1/8 inch thickness, at this point and cut with cookie cutters, but I did not do that.)
  • Cut refrigerated log into 1/4 inch slices. Roll each cookie edge in nonpareils. Place 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 6-8minutes, or until delicately browned on the edges and bottoms.

After blending in the butter, Crisco, & cream cheese, this is what you get. 

I used a sheet pan to help even out the log. It was too hard to explain how I did it, though. 

The nonpareils are a little out of control on the cookie sheet. 

Just having some more fun with frosting. These are by 8-year-old Ezra. 

More fun with sugar cookies & frosting. 

Monday, January 10, 2011


Chilaquiles with Chicken
Chilaquiles. I grew up in Southern California eating some of the very best Mexican food there is, but in all my 30-something years I had not heard of chilaquiles. It wasn't until I moved to Iowa and started teaching English as a Second Language that I first heard of this dish. Diana Sanchez told me that it was her favorite food. She described it to me and said her mom made it for breakfast. Breakfast? It sounded like a lunch or dinner thing, which intrigued me even further, as I eat leftover dinner for breakfast more often than most people, I'm sure.
The next time I was at El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant, I thought I'd try the chicken chilaquiles I saw on the menu, since, to be honest, I really don't much like Iowa's Mexican food. The chilaquiles were interesting, but not quite yummy. I could tell it was the cook's choice of ingredients, and kept the idea of trying them again (either at home or a restaurant) in the back of my mind.
Tonight was the night I tried making them, and I have to say, I think they turned out pretty darned tasty. They're something like enchiladas, but also like lasagna. The tortillas are a little soggy, and a little crisp, coated in the slightly spicy, very salty sauce. The meaty chicken and melted cheese round out the textures and flavors.  I can see why so many websites called it "comfort food." I'm feeling really comfortable and cozy right now.
Interestingly, several websites said chilaquiles are what to eat to cure a hangover, but I think those recipes usually include eggs. If that sounds more up your alley, you'll have to google a different recipe.
If you've ever eaten chilaquiles, and you try this recipe, please let me know what you think. I'm curious.


12 corn tortillas, cut into fourths or sixths
1/3 cup vegetable oil for frying
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled & minced
¼ cup diced onion
1 small (20 oz.) enchilada sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 chicken bouillon cube
1-2 cups shredded chicken (depending on how meaty you want your chilaquiles)
8 oz. shredded cheese (I prefer jack or a jack/cheddar blend.  If I had the time and energy, I might have gone to the store for queso fresco.)

In a large, high-rimmed frying pan, heat oil and fry tortillas in batches until crisp, but not totally brown.  Drain and lightly salt on paper towels and set aside.
Use the same frying pan to prepare the sauce, but use paper towels to soak up most of the excess oil, leaving about a tablespoon of hot oil in the pan.  (Use tongs to introduce the paper towel to the hot oil, soak up the oil, and throw away the paper towel.)
Put diced onions in pan and sauté until clear.  Add minced garlic and sauté another minute. 
Add enchilada sauce, tomatoes, and bouillon.  Stir and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  Turn heat to low.
Carefully fold fried tortillas into sauce. 
You can either top the saucy tortillas with the chicken, or you can stir the chicken in. 
Spread the top with the shredded cheese.  Leave burner on low, and cover the pan with a lid for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
Makes about 4 servings.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bob's Chili

Now, I didn't make this chili myself, which is probably obvious by the box in the background.  Bob's Big Boy chili straight (no beans) with a side of fries was exactly what I ordered growing up every time we got to dine at Bob's fine establishment.  I have such fond memories of Bob's.  From the Big Boy himself proudly welcoming us in with his picked nose, to the fancy club sandwich toothpick someone must have shot through a straw into the cork ceiling, that place is full of sensory memories for me.  The best sensory memory, though, is their chili, in which I dipped my fries.  A mellow, greasy chili with NO BEANS, coating the fat french fry skewered onto my fork.  I can't even describe the flavor, but I know it when I taste it.

The last time I had that delicious flavor was about five years ago in Diamond Bar, at the Bob's Big boy there.  Recently, though, I took a road trip to Michigan with my friend Karla, and I discovered that they have Bob's Big Boy up there!  I was thrilled to go there for dinner on our way home, but my thrill ended in disappointment when my chili arrived at the table, looking like a chunky home-made chili, not the brown-orange and bumpy stuff of my memories.  So, so sad.

In my never-ending search for Bob's Big Boy chili, I have tried lots & lots of chili and chili fries--mostly at restaurants.  Sometimes I'll try a store brand.  I found this Four Star Beef Chili last night at HyVee in the meat department.  This is the closest I've tasted to Bob's and you can bet I will be purchasing this again.

The picture includes my home-made french fries, which I won't include a recipe for because it involves cutting potatoes and frying them.  Not much of a recipe, as far as I'm concerned.  This post is really just to commemorate Bob's and to celebrate my recent find.
01 09