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Sugar Cookie Hearts

Heart Shaped Cookies2Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and you might be on the search for a treat to bring to work, school, church, the neighbors, etc.  If you’re looking to impress, these are the choice for you!  Would you believe me if I told you that these cookies are extremely easy to decorate?  It only takes 3 colors of royal icing (red, white and pink) in 3 squeeze bottles and a handful of toothpicks.  An off-set spatula to spread the icing is also helpful.

Royal Icing Squeeze Bottles

I saw these cute hearts originally on Karen’s Cookie blog.  Karen’s Cookies is my latest favorite discovery.  I’ve bought a few baking items from her store and plan to purchase more in the future.  She recently started a blog to share photos of her delicious creations, including these cookies.

To create the marble hearts, you simply flood the cookie with the royal icing and then quickly dot the background with another color.  While it’s still wet, run a toothpick through the dots and they magically become hearts!  Below is a quick photo tutorial on how to create the marble hearts on the cookies…

Heart Cookies Steps

…and then a few photos on how to create the tie-dyed look.

Heart Cookie Swirl

Again, just make sure you are working one or two cookies at a time so that the icing is still wet.  This causes the different colors to set into each other for flat results.  A few more helpful hints?  It helps to keep the bottles tipped upside down in glasses so they are ready to go.  Additionally, keep paper towels nearby to wipe your toothpick(s) after each use. For more detailed instructions, visit Karen’s Cookie blog.

Heart Shaped Cookies3I am now a fan of the royal icing recipe provided by Karen’s Cookies and her sugar cookie recipe.  Although, I do still like the original royal icing I used and will continue to use both.  You’ll be very proud of yourself after making these cookies.  And, you’ll have a hard time eating them since they’re so pretty!

Sugar Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar (or granulated sugar processed in food processor for 30 seconds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg yolk and beat until fully incorporated.  Mix in the whole egg, vanilla and optional almond extract.  Beat until full mixed.  Add the flour, then beat at low speed just until combined.  Be careful to not over-mix.  Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap.  Store in fridge until firm, at least one hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375˚F.  On a floured work surface, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thick, sprinkling with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking.  Use cookies cutters to cut into shapes and place on parchment or silicone-lined pans.  Bake until cookies appear dry on the surface and are light golden brown on the edges, about 10 minutes (or a few more for larger cookies).   Let sit for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets.  Allow to cool completely on cooling racks before decorating.

Source:  Karen’s Cookies

Royal Icing 2

Printable Recipe

3 tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar
6+ tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional

Beat all ingredients together until stiff peaks form (about 10 minutes).  Divide into separate containers, depending on how many colors you plan to use.  Mix in food coloring.  Add water to thin each color out so that when it runs off the spoon it quickly dissolves back into the remaining icing within 10 seconds.  Add powdered sugar if need to thicken.  Pour into squeeze bottles and decorate cookies.

Source:  Karen’s Cookies

You Have Ooey Gooey Hearts. Thank you!

DSC_9309Well, everyone, the month of January has come and gone.  You clicked and you clicked and you clicked in order to support Veronica King and her precious children.  Now I have the results you’ve been waiting for…the total you managed to raise just by visiting Pennies on a Platter.  I was going to remind you of some Superbowl recipe ideas today, but I’ll post links for you on the Facebook page instead.

Let me first share with you some statistics.  If any of you are very familiar with how advertisements work on blogs, you will know that usually the payment amount is very minimal unless you’re some sort of high-end (famous) blogger.  Typically, there is an arrangement of x-cents or dollars per x-thousand hits.  Not much.  You definitely now know I do not blog for the money.  But, of course, every little bit helps.  🙂

Despite this, you managed to beat my monthly average by 441%!  Outstanding!  The fact that the hits increased that much was so encouraging to me, telling me that there are many of you out there that have ooey gooey hearts and care, even for someone you may not know.

So, without any more delay, the total we raised for Vee (both by donations via PayPal and your clicks on the blog):

$1,577.29 !!

And, over $430 of this amount was simply you sitting at your computer and pressing with your wee little finger on that mouse of yours.  Fantastic!  The other $1,000+ comes from generous donations via the PayPal button displayed on the blog during the month.

vee bellyThis is a picture of Veronica’s belly with Carter inside (scheduled to join our world via c-section next week) and Jeremy’s ring.  What a bittersweet photo.  If you’d like to see more of these beautiful belly shots, photographed by my bestie, Vicki, click over to Veronica’s blog.  Your click will also contribute to a continuation of raising money for Vee as she now has an advertisement that pays her for you just visiting and reading, just like you did here last month.   Use this opportunity to leave her encouraging notes and to remember to pray for her often.  She updates occasionally with her honest and raw emotions, so please grab a tissue first.  Her writing is heartfelt, genuine and nothing like I’ve ever read before.   By God’s grace alone she is amazingly staying strong for her children, but she needs your loving words and prayers to help her sustain this strength.

Next week I will share with you the recipe and a quick tutorial for the heart shaped cookies above.  You can quickly make these (yes, I said quickly) for Valentine’s Day.  Until then, hug and kiss the ones you love even when it’s not Valentine’s Day, because last month I think we learned you do not know when you’ll no longer have that opportunity.

Thanks, again, everyone!  I’m so very humbled.

Baby Hummus Sandwiches for a Virtual Baby Shower

Baby Hummus SandwichesThis invitation to a virtual party really excited me.  Why?  Because it’s for Annie’s baby shower!  Annie is a food blogging friend at Annie’s Eats who is pregnant with her second child.  It’s a girl!!  Annie and I started blogging around the same time and she’s been an inspiration to me since day one.

I remember when Annie was expecting her first baby a few years ago, a precious baby boy.  It’s actually a vivid memory, and I distinctly recall thinking how cool she was because she decorated super cute sugar cookies to announce her pregnancy on her blog.  At that moment I thought, “wouldn’t it be fun to somehow throw her a virtual baby shower?”  But, I quickly dumped that thought for two reasons:  1) I hardly knew her at the time and figured she’d think I’m a freak for offering to do so <smile>…and 2) Being new to the blogging world, I had no idea how a virtual party would work, or what that would look like.  In fact, I don’t think there were any previously thrown virtual parties at that time.  Now, here we are doing it!  🙂  Thanks to Courtney, another friend who blogs at Cook Like a Champion, for hosting!

I chose to serve these Baby Hummus Sandwiches at the party in order to offer a vegetarian option.  They are filled with layers of hummus and veggies, and a sprinkle of feta cheese.  Having small sandwiches like these at a party makes it easy for your guests to pick them up and eat them, even if they don’t choose to grab a plate!   Don’t just save these for a shower, serve them this Sunday at your Super Bowl party!

Annie and Courtney both posted a round up of all the food the other guests brought to the party.  Check out their posts to see the gorgeous photos and snatch the links to the other recipes.  These bloggers are some of my favorites where I have found many delicious recipes.  I’m sure you’ll find yourself drooling!

Congratulations, Annie!  Super excited for your sweet baby girl to arrive so we can all give her a big virtual hug!  🙂

Baby Hummus Sandwiches

Printable Recipe

Yield: 16 baby sandwiches

8 slices bread
hummus (homemade or store-bought)
spinach leaves
thinly sliced tomato
1/4 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper, to taste

Lay out the bread slices on a cutting board.  Spread a thin layer of hummus on each slice of bread.  On half of the slices, place a thin layer of spinach, tomato and peppers.  Sprinkle with a small amount of feta cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Top with the other half of the slices of bread.  Use a serrated knife to carefully cut each sandwich into quarters, lengthwise.  Serve immediately.

Source: Inspired Taste

Guacamole

GuacamoleAre you ready for the Super Bowl?  I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but it’s only been in the last year that I started to like guacamole.  Ben has loved it since he was a young boy, and every time he ate it I could not understand why he liked it so much.  Again, maybe I just never tried good guacamole, or maybe I wasn’t open enough to the taste, but now I love it.  Lately, it seems we’ve been making it once a week around here.  That might have something to do with it being football season…

GuacamoleThis guacamole recipe can work as a base for you.  The other day I asked a friend of mine, who grew up in Mexico, how he likes his guacamole.  He said they just mash up the avocados and eat it plain or throw in whatever they have on hand.  The Pioneer Woman would tell you to make her favorite Pico de Gallo, which includes jalapenos, and then throw that into some mashed up avocados.  It really is as simple as that.  And, it’s good.

What do you put in your guacamole?

Guacamole

Printable Recipe

Yield: 4-6 servings

3 avocados, peeled and pitted
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon salt
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
ground cayenne pepper, to taste (about a pinch)

In a medium bowl, mash the avocados, lime juice and salt together with a potato masher or a fork. Stir in the tomatoes, onion, garlic and cilantro.  Season with red pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or serve immediately.

Source: AllRecipes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice CupcakeLast month, I made these pumpkin spice cupcakes for Judah’s first birthday party.  Somehow, I forgot to share the recipe with you.  Because I also made vanilla cupcakes, I wanted to make an easy icing that went along with both, so I used just a basic buttercream frosting.  But, don’t let the word “basic” fool you.  The frosting was marvelous, super quick to whip up, and a perfect compliment to both cupcakes.  It’s now my go-to frosting when I need something fast.  (I’ll share this recipe sometime later.)

The cupcakes were delicious as well.  I can’t wait until I have a reason to make them again, but I fear it won’t be until this fall when all things are pumpkin.

Before giving you the recipe, let me thank you for all of the great pizza ideas you shared with me the other day for the giveaway!  I saved a lot of them to try in our own house on pizza day.   Now, let me finally announce the winner of the pizza peel.   The winner, randomly selected, is Rachael who said “I have a BLT pizza recipe that is wonderful! Take the bacon, tomato, shredded lettuce, a homemade pizza crust, and a cream cheese spread (with Italian seasoning mixed in)… delish!”  Rachael, check your inbox for an email from me! 🙂  Congratulations!

On to the pumpkin spice cupcakes…

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup buttermilk

Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Mix in the vanilla until fully incorporated.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  In another small mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin and buttermilk until smooth.

Turn the stand mixer on to the lowest setting and alternately add the dry ingredients and the pumpkin mixtures to the creamed butter.  Start and end with the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the pans, filling about 1/2 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until passes the toothpick test.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Once completely cooled, top with desired frosting.

Source:  My Kitchen Addiction

Spicy Chili

Spicy ChiliI’m a new fan of chili and this recipe is responsible for my change of heart.  In the past, I would shy away from chili because it just wasn’t appealing to me.  Although I would eat beans in other similar dishes (think Taco Soup) I would always use my dislike for them as my excuse for not eating chili.  Weird, I know.

The real reason probably lies within the fact that I just never tried good chili.  Now that I’ve had this dish, I can honestly say I love chili.  Love is a strong word, so that should tell you a lot about this recipe.  I first had it over Thanksgiving vacation after my friend picked me up from the airport and made it for dinner.  Before we arrived to her home, she explained it was our mutual guy friend’s recipe, which immediately piqued my curiosity.  I’m always intrigued when a male shares a recipe! 😉

Spicy Chili

Later that night, I called Ben to tell him how much I like chili now, knowing he’ll be pleased that I’ll finally start making it at home.  I was super excited to also reveal that it was our friend’s recipe, but when I did he wasn’t surprised at all.  In fact, he went on to tell ME that he had our friend’s chili already during guy’s poker night a while back and loved it!  To me, that was further inspiration to start making this pot of yummy goodness at home.

The great thing about chili is that anything goes!  (Which is ironic for me to say, because I’m pretty sure that might be the other real reason I didn’t like chili in the first place.  Anything goes?? Yikes!)  What I mean is, you can alter it to your tastes, including the flavor, meatiness, heat, etc.  For example, our friend who shared the recipe said that he will sometimes dice up some jalapeno’s or shake in an extra dash of red pepper for a little more spice.

Ranch Style BeansThis recipe calls for Ranch Style Beans that are very popular in Texas, where our friend is originally from.  Apparently these are not easily available in some places, but they are plentiful here in SoCal.  I took a photo of them so you know what to look for.  If you can’t find them on your shelf, any chili beans will do.  However, it was recommended to use Bush’s medium heat chili beans for the most flavor IF the Ranch Style Beans are not available.

Although I’m enjoying sunny and 70 degree weather right now, I know there are many of you ready to escape the cold blistery winter by indulging in a nice hot cup of this chili.  I’ve been there and done that for 20+ years.  Just don’t have to do it anymore! 🙂  Enjoy!

Spicy Chili

Printable Recipe

Yield:  6-8 servings

2 lb ground beef
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 can Ranch Style Beans, undrained
2 cups water
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne red pepper

Saute’ the ground beef, garlic and onion in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.  Cook until beef is browned, then drain extra grease.  Mix in the beans and remaining ingredients.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 1 hour.

Make-Ahead (Crock Pot):  You can also cook this in a crock pot for 6 to 8 hours.  I prefer the crock pot method by browning the meat and dicing the onions ahead of time then storing in the freezer.  When the day comes that I’m ready to make chili, I throw the meat and onions into the pot with the rest of the ingredients then forget about it until dinner.

Source: Brian Wiese, friend of Pennies on a Platter

(This month we are giving back to the King family.  Visit Pennies on a Platter from January 1st to 31st to increase the blog hits which will in turn raise more money for Veronica and her children.  Please read this post for more information. You may also make a monetary donation by clicking on the PayPal button in the left hand column above.)

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago-Style Deep Dish PizzaSix months ago we listened to God’s calling for a ministry position and moved across the country, far away from our beloved city of Chicago.  Since then, we have missed many friends, family, landmarks and (more or less importantly) certain foods!  Chicago-style pizza is on the top of this list.

Yesterday, we were excited to root our Chicago Bears on to victory in the NFC conference championship, hoping to see them again in two weeks at the Super Bowl.  Unfortunately, the big V fell in the laps of a certain Wisconsin cheese-head team, but this didn’t change the fact that there was a big win in my kitchen with homemade Chicago-style pizza!

Chicago-Style Deep Dish PizzaIn Chicago, you primarily find two kinds of pie battling to be THE “Chicago-style” pizza.  Talk to a person who grew up in one side of Chicago and they will tell you that “Chicago-style” pizza is stuffed pizza, which has two layers of crust.  The popular chains Giordano’s and Nancy’s are known for this type of pizza.  Talk to another Chicagoan who is from the opposite end of town and they beg to differ, claiming deep dish is the authentic Chicago-style pizza, such as what is served at Pizzeria Uno and Lou Malnati’s.  I love both equally, but this weekend I made deep dish for my first attempt at homemade Chicago-style pizza.  Plus, I’ve been told Pizzeria Uno is the original by more than one person, so I’m leaning towards deep dish claiming the title.

This pizza was spot-on, delicious!  The crust was even better than at the restaurants, and the sauce was so perfectly reminiscent of the chunky tangy tomato sauces we enjoyed back in the Midwest.  Don’t even get me started on the ooey gooey yummy cheese!  Just after my first bite, I knew I would be making this even more often than we ever ordered it as take-out back home.

Chicago-Style Deep Dish PizzaThe dough recipe uses a method called “laminate”, which means pressing together alternating layers of butter and dough.  Typically, you roll out the dough, spread butter on top, then fold the dough on top of each other and repeat.  This method is found in many pastry recipes, giving the dough a flaky/puffy, yet crispy texture.  For this pizza dough, the steps were a little different than I’m used to when laminating for pastries, but it turned out a wonderfully flaky crust.  Do not let the laminating step shy you away!  It is much more simple than it sounds.

Originally, I was not going to share this recipe with you today.  But, after multiple requests from many of my Facebook friends, I decided to move it up in the schedule so you can soon make this at home and taste a piece of heaven.  🙂

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

Printable Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch deep dish pizza (3-4 servings)

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grated onion
Pinch of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 (14.5 oz) can petite-diced tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

For assembling and topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces Mozzarella, shredded (about 2 cups)
1/4 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 tablespoons)

To make the dough:
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, until well blended.  Attach the dough hook and mix in the water and melted butter on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is glossy and smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Coat a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil.  Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat with oil.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Once dough is risen, turn it out onto a dry work surface and roll into an 8- x 6-inch rectangle.  To laminate the dough, spread the softened butter over the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge.  Starting at the short end, roll the dough into a tight cylinder.  With the seam side down, flatten the cylinder into a 9- x 2-inch rectangle, then fold into thirds like a business letter.  Pinch the seams to form a ball, and return to the oiled bowl.  Cover tightly again with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator for 40 to 50 minutes.  (Mine did not double in size, but it rose to about size and a half.)

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the onion, oregano and salt.  Saute until the liquid has nearly evaporated and the onion is golden brown, stirring often, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes and sugar, then increase the heat to medium-high.  Bring the mixture just to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the basil and oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble and top the pizza:
Preheat oven to 425˚F.  Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with olive oil.  Move the dough to a dry work surface and roll out into a 13-inch disk about 1/4-inch thick.  Carefully transfer the dough to the pan and lightly press to line the bottom of the pan and 1 inch up the sides.  If the dough resists stretching, wait 5 minutes before trying again.

Sprinkle the shredded Mozzarella over the surface of the dough, then layer the sauce over the cheese.  Top with Parmesan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is golden brown.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Recipe Note: This recipe is for one 9-inch deep dish pizza, whereas the original is for two.  I altered some of the steps as I found I didn’t need as much time for kneading the dough, cooking the sauce, or baking the pizza.  These changes are reflected in my version above.  If you double this recipe, your times may increase significantly for cooking the sauce, and slightly for kneading and baking.

To Make Ahead: Prepare the dough up until the time of baking.  Store in fridge overnight, or freeze and thaw in fridge.  When ready to bake, place pan in oven while preheating so that it warms up slowly.  Once oven is preheated to 425˚F, bake for 20 more minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2010

(This month we are giving back to the King family.  Visit Pennies on a Platter from January 1st to 31st to increase the blog hits which will in turn raise more money for Veronica and her children.  Please read this post for more information. You may also make a monetary donation by clicking on the PayPal button in the left hand column above.)