Vanilla Sugar Shortbread Wedges

Last year, I took part in the LA Food Bloggers Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry!  I met so many wonderful bloggers and had a great time.  Plus, I had BLD‘s life-changing Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes.  So really, it was a win-win day!

This year, my wonderful husband spotted a newspaper article asking for volunteer bakers for a No Kid Hungry Bake Sale closer to home!  The Redlands Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry sponsored by a Team called the IE Cookie Monsters.  It had to be fate!  You know how I feel about cookies!!

After sending an Email to Team IE Cookie Monsters, I started planning what I wanted to bake. Of course, I had to make brownies. That seems to be a tradition now.  I knew I wanted to do something different, but what?   After a bit of recipe searching, I settled on these easy and delicious Vanilla Sugar Shortbread Wedges.  They are thick, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth, have with a cup of tea on a rainy day, cookies.
Scored Shortbread Wedges

I’m planning on making these again for Mothers Day.  That is, if I can wait that long for another batch.

Vanilla Sugar Shortbread

Vanilla Sugar Shortbread

Ingredients:

2 Sticks Unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup Vanilla Sugar (or regular sugar, with one tsp vanilla bean paste), plus extra for dusting

1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

2 cups Flour

1 tsp salt

Directions:

In a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until it turns a pale yellow.  On a sheet of parchment paper, sift sugars together using a fine mesh sieve. Pick up the parchment paper and use it to gently add sugar mix to the butter. Continue to beat until thick and creamy (about 5 minutes).  If you are using regular sugar, add the vanilla paste after you’ve creamed the sugar and butter together.

Sift flour and salt together over the same sheet of parchment paper.  Add to butter/sugar mix, mix until just incorporated.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

After dough has chilled, press gently in an 8″ round cake pan.  No need to grease the pan, there is plenty of butter in the dough!  Score the dough into wedges, so it will be easier to cut when it’s done baking.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the top of the shortbread has barely browned.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Cut the shortbread along the score marks, forming eight large wedges.  Dust lightly with 1 tsp granulated sugar.

Share these with a friend and a cup of hot tea or coffee.

Vanilla Shortbread Wedges

NOTE:  These make very thick cookies.  You can split the dough in half and use two cake pans.  Shorten your cooking time to 35-40 minutes (watch carefully).  You can also roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and use cookie cutters.  If you use cookie cutters, place the dough back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking.  Baking cold cookies will help them maintain their shape.

ENJOY!!

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Baked Potato Soup

This delicious soup came from a combination of a late dinner with my husband, a visit to Costco and a brainstorming session during our last camping trip!

Baked Potato Soup

On our way home from Disneyland last month, we were hungry, it was late, and there wasn’t much open in the area but a little steakhouse. We stopped for dinner and my husband ordered soup. A little while later, this delightful baked potato soup arrived at our table. One taste and it was decided we had to learn to make this ourselves.

During our pre-camping Costco visit, one of the ladies had a sample tray with cubes of aged sharp white cheddar. Now, I admit, I am cheese tramp. Good cheese (in jokes and on my plate) makes me happy, That little bite, or maybe three or four, I don’t remember, was delicious! Needless to say, we bought a block and a salami tray to take camping.

Fast forward to that camping trip! Freezing on the beach in our little tent trailer, snacking on salami, aged cheddar cheese and crackers, we started brain storming how to use the rest of the gigantic cheese block! It’s COSTCO people! It’s a two-pound block of cheese!

This is one of several recipes we came up with that day. The cheese is just a garnish, but it TOTALLY makes the soup!

Baked Potato Soup

8 TBLS (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)
2 medium size baking potatoes
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
4 pieces of bacon, folded in half and cut into strips
chives, to taste
1 cup aged sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F..

Scrub your potatoes, then dry thoroughly. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Using your hands, lightly coat the potatoes with 1/2 tsp vegetable oil. Sprinkle each potato with Kosher salt. Place the potatoes directly on a rack in the oven. Don’t wrap them in foil! You want the crispy skin with great baked flavor! Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

When the potatoes are nearly done baking, start your soup base. Do this all in one pot, it makes clean-up much easier!

At the bottom of a medium stock pot, fry your bacon strips in 1 TBLS butter. When the bacon pieces are crisp, remove them from the pan and let them drain on a paper towel lined plate. Without removing any of the bacon fat, add the rest of the butter and the diced onion. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the onion is soft, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. The roux will get very thick. Be careful not to let it get brown.

Slowly pour in two cups of the chicken broth. Use a spatula to scrape up all the little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the broth and bring the mix to a boil, stirring often.

Chop the baked potatoes (with the skins still on!) into bite-sized pieces and add them to the soup. Let the soup simmer gently for 8-10 minutes.

Add the pepper and red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Slowly add the heavy cream. I think the soup is better without it, but by all means, use it if you want your soup to be extra creamy! Either way, it’s going to be thick, delicious and wonderful!

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with bacon, chives and cheese. Serve immediately!

Baked Potato Soup

If you’re wondering about the other recipes we came up with, stay tuned! Next month could be very cheesy! 😉

Seared Scallops with Chives and Lemon Buttered Orzo!

We’ve been focused on eating better. After my recent hospital stay, it’s even more important to eat well and take care of myself. We’re adding healthy options to our regular repertoire of meals and trying to stay away from red meat! I say “trying” because I will never be able to give up a gooey cheeseburger or a fabulously grilled steak! However, those dinners will be farther apart now!

This week, we had one of our favorite seafood treats – scallops! Do I get bonus points for NOT wrapping them in bacon? I know, I know! I say “healthy” and then go right into bacon. What can I say? I’m doing my best to make Paula and Emeril proud! 🙂 It’s a pork fat thing.

I was looking for a way to use the lemon oil from my foodie pen-pal and this was a perfect (and healthy!) opportunity!

Don’t let this meal intimidate you. It is easy to make perfect pan-seared scallops. They are a quick, simple mid-week meal, or you can save them for something special.

Ingredients

For Scallops:

12-16 Sea Scallops (about 1 lb)
1 TBLS Vegetable Oil (I used a lovely Lemon flavored oil for mine, but I don’t know how easy that is to find. Using vegetable oil works beautifully too!)
1 TBLS Unsalted Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

For Lemon Buttered Orzo

1 1/2 cups cooked Orzo Pasta
2 TBLS Chives, snipped
1 TBLS Unsalted Butter
1-2 tsps Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed
Lemon Zest to garnish

Cook the Orzo first, according to your package directions until just al dente. Drain and immediately toss with butter, lemon juice and chives. Keep warm while you are cooking the scallops.

Check your scallops carefully and if necessary, remove the small side muscle on the scallops. Rinse scallops with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. It’s important the scallops are completely dry so they develop a beautiful crust.

Heat a 12-inch non-stick sauté pan over a high heat. Add a tablespoon of unsalted butter and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. The oil/butter mixture needs to be very hot before you add the scallops! Lightly salt and pepper the scallops. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the scallops to the pan. Make sure there is plenty of space between each one. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on each side. The scallops should have a light brown crust on each side while still being somewhat white in the center.

Serve seared scallops immediately on a bed of lemon buttered Orzo. Garnish with a few more chives and a bit of lemon zest!

Enjoy!!

Iced Lemonade Sugar Cookies

Summer is in full-swing! The bees are buzzing. Our tomato plants are bursting with ripe, juicy vegetables. It’s time for vacations, BBQ’s, beach parties and plenty of iced tea and lemonade!

A fun twist on lemonade for your next summer picnic are these Lemonade Sugar Cookies with a sweet lemon glaze!

This is actually a failed attempt at something soft and pillowy. Flat and crisp is just as good, right? Thank goodness mistakes can be delicious too! Especially in My Imperfect Kitchen!

Iced Lemonade Sugar Cookies

Ingredients
2/3 cup of frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed and divided
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups powdered sugar

Directions

In a large bowl, cream butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift flour with baking soda, and add to the creamed mixture, along with 1/3 cup of the lemonade concentrate.

Set the rest of the concentrate aside to use later as a glaze!

Drop batter by rounded tablespoons on ungreased baking sheets. Make sure to put them about 2 inches apart, because they will spread a bit.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Don’t over cook them!

Take the cookies from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze! Mix two tablespoons of the remaining lemonade concentrate with the powdered sugar. If the glaze is too thick, continue to add concentrate until the glaze is a consistency that you like!

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cookies and store in an air-tight container.

I love the glaze for these cookies! The lemonade concentrate makes it tart and the powdered sugar gives a nice contrast of sweet. I’ve used this same glaze over warm lemon bundt cake and it’s fantastic! You could also use it in a poke cake. It’s very versatile! 🙂

Enjoy!

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

We’ve loved these Buffalo Turkey Burgers since we first saw them in Rachel Ray’s 365 Days No Repeats Cookbook. Over time, we’ve modified them to fit our tastes, but they’re still our hands-down favorite way to make turkey burgers!

Simple ingredients make the taste of the turkey shine through. It’s like Buffalo Wings on a bun! One taste and you’ll be hooked too!

Start with a pound of ground turkey meat, some diced shallots, finely diced celery and a little ground nutmeg. Shhhhh, it’s the secret ingredient! It adds that “this is good, but I can’t quite place the flavor” element.

Yep, that’s it. Just four ingredients for these fabulous burgers! Shape them into patties. A pound will make four nice patties. We only made three this time. I won’t do that again, they were just too big!

We season them with McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning and grill five minutes per side.

Now, the not-so-healthy part of this equation. Melt equal parts butter and Franks Buffalo Wing sauce in a small pan over low heat. Once everything is melted, take the cooked burgers and coat them in the hot sauce mixture. Alternately, you could grill the burgers and simple top them with Franks Hot Sauce, leaving out the butter, but really… why would you do that? Butter makes the world better.

The toppings are simple too! A bit of blue cheese dressing on the bun, lettuce and red onion. It’s a Buffalo Turkey Burger after all. I think blue cheese dressing is a requirement!

Serve them with a side salad or cut up carrots and celery! Perfect for a summer night when you’re craving something spicy and a plate of hot wings just won’t do it.

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

1 lb. ground Turkey (I used Jenni-O)
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 stalk of celery – with the leafy tops – finely diced
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 tsp McCormick Montreal Grill Seasoning
4 TBLS butter
4 TBLS Franks Red Hot (or Buffalo Wing) Sauce

Mix the first four ingredients together in a bowl and shape into patties.

Sprinkle seasoning mix over the burgers and grill over medium heat for five minutes per side.

While the burgers are cooking, melt the butter and hot sauce together in a pan. When the burgers are finished, coat them in the hot sauce mixture.

Serve on whole wheat buns with blue cheese dressing, lettuce and red onion slices.

Enjoy!

Basic Buttermilk Biscuits

If you’ve never made biscuits before, I have to tell you, there is something very satisfying about digging your hands into dough and creating flaky goodness in just a few minutes.

This is a very basic buttermilk recipe and there are many ways to play with it. You can make herb biscuits – stir minced fresh herbs or a pinch of dried herbs into the flour before you add the butter. After you add the butter you can add small dices of your favorite cheese or add ham chunks, minced green chiles, orange zest – whatever you want! Let your imagination run free! Doesn’t get any better than that, does it? 🙂

Basic Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 TBS baking powder
6 TBS unsalted butter, very cold *
1 cup buttermilk

* One very important tip: the butter for your biscuits should be cold! Very, very cold. Cut the butter into small pieces, put them on a small plate or in a small bowl and put it in the freezer while you prepare the rest of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Mix together the flour, baking soda and baking powder in a food processor. Add your ice-cold butter and pulse a few times. You want some pieces to be reduced to flakes and others to be pebbly and about the size of peas. Don’t over work the dough at this step. The water in the butter turns to steam in the oven and puffs the biscuits to give you those light flaky layers! YUMM!

Mix the cold buttermilk into the dough with a fork. If it seems dry, add a bit more buttermilk. It should be a fairly wet dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and pat it into a circle about 1/2-inch thick. Do NOT roll the dough. This will over work the gluten in the biscuit and make it tough. Fold the dough over several times, gently pressing down to about 1 inch thickness.

Cut the dough into rounds with a biscuit cutter. If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you can always use a knife and cut the biscuits into squares. You could get really crazy and use different shape cut outs too!

For soft-sided biscuits, place the biscuits with their edges together on the baking sheet. These biscuits tend to rise more (plus I like them better!) For crusty biscuits, put them about an inch apart, so the heat can circulate around them.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are light golden brown. Don’t overbake!

And you can freeze the biscuits before they’re baked! After you cut them, put the circles (or squares) on a baking sheet and pop them in the freezer. As soon as the dough is frozen, pack them in an airtight container or a freezer bag. Then, when you’re ready for hot, flakey buttermilk biscuits, pull out what you need and bake them! Put them frozen straight onto a baking sheet and bake about 18-20 minutes at 450 degrees.

See, great bread doesn’t have to be hard! Besides, if you make sausage gravy to go with these biscuits, you have an amazing Sunday breakfast!

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