Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sugar Cookie Bars

I've recently become a big fan of bar cookies. There's really no food I enjoy more than a good cookie, but I find that I rarely have the patience for pulling out the cookie sheets, scooping out the dough, cooling the cookies on racks, etc. But with a bar cookie, the steps are simple - mix the dough, press it into a pan, bake. Viola - cookies!

Sugar cookies are not typically my cookie of choice, but I had been looking into getting some decorated sugar cookies for Charlie and Lily's upcoming birthday party so they were on my mind. Then the other night I came across this recipe for Sugar Cookie Bars on Annie's blog and couldn't resist whipping them up.

First, let me say that this recipe makes a LOT of bars. I think I got almost 40 good-sized bars, so this recipe would be perfect for a summer barbecue or party. The bars came out tender and just slightly sweet. Annie suggested using vanilla bean and lemon zest in addition to the vanilla extract. I did not, since I had neither on hand (and I hate lemon) and I thought they were very good as they were - just like a normal sugar cookie. Instead of using the buttercream frosting that went along with this cookie recipe (I didn't have any powdered sugar), I cheated and used a can of Funfetti frosting from my pantry. The bars taste great this way, but I would like to try the frosting recipe next time, especially since I love buttercream. (And I'm including the buttercream recipe below in case you'd like to make it!)

These bars are tasty, simple and fun! I may become a sugar cookie convert after all.

Sugar Cookie Bars

For the cookie bars:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda

For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
5 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional)

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease a 13 x 18″ rimmed baking sheet. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir together with a fork to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed just until incorporated.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer. Bake 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in the vanilla, salt, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Mix in the milk. Tint as desired with food coloring. Spread over the cookie in the pan, cut into bars and serve.

Crockpot Roasted Chicken

It's no secret that I adore my crockpot, so I was incredibly excited when I found this recipe for roasted chicken in the crockpot on my brilliant friend Lauren's blog. We love roast chicken, but I've never actually made one myself. For some reason cooking a whole bird in the oven for hours is intimidating to me, but this recipe sounded so easy there was no way I could resist. This is just a fantastic idea! It takes all of two minutes to prepare, and it smells amazing as it cooks. The result is a juicy, tender chicken with meat that just falls off the bone. We ate some of the chicken with mashed potatoes, veggies and rolls, then I used the leftovers in a pasta dish later in the week. You will definitely get more than one meal out of this! Feel free to get creative with the seasonings - I used a lemon pepper seasoning that was great, but I'd also like to try a more garlicky seasoning, or maybe a barbecue rub.

Crockpot Roasted Chicken

Whole chicken (4-5 pounds)
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil
Seasonings of choice

Prep the chicken- remove the bag from the inside, thoroughly washing out the cavity and outside of the chicken. Pat dry.

Roll 3 pieces of tin foil into balls, about 2 inches in diameter. Place them in a triangle shape on the bottom of the crockpot.

Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the crockpot. Toss the garlic cloves, whole, into the broth.

Place the chicken on top of the tin foil. Rub a small amount of olive oil over the skin (about 1-2 teaspoons).

Season heavily with the seasonings of your choice, gently rubbing them into the skin.

Cook on low 8 hours.

Applesauce Bread

Every Sunday, I make a loaf of quick bread for Joe to eat during the week for breakfast. I usually just use a Pillsbury mix, because Joe really likes them, but every once in awhile I'll make something from scratch. This Applesauce Bread is one of my favorite loaves to whip up. It's easy and fast, and doesn't require any special ingredients. It's dense and soft and sweet. I always make two loaves and either freeze the second for a later date or serve it to guests (or eat it myself!). Definitely give this one a try! (The below recipe is for two loaves. The only thing I suggest is keeping an eye on the cooking time - the recipe says to bake for 80 minutes, but mine were done in 60.)

Applesauce Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups applesauce
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Beat together eggs, sugar, and oil. Blend in applesauce, and then sour cream or buttermilk. Mix in flour, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon. Stir in raisins. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 80 minutes. Cool on wire racks.