30 Before 30, Cookies, Desserts, Recipes

Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

Guys, I gotta get going on my 30 before 30 list! My 20s are creeping away and this list isn’t getting any shorter. Yikes! But I must admit that it makes me feel pretty good when people who don’t know me at my university think I’m a student even though I’m a faculty librarian, and that one of my coworkers thought I was about 25 until I told her I was 29. Woohoo! But anyways. 30 before 30. Cookies. Let’s get to the point here. 🙂

Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | thepajamachef.com

I put sandwich cookies as one of my 30 before 30 goals because I can sometimes be a lazy baker. I love baking, don’t get me wrong. But it’s the extra steps in recipes that I often avoid. [The steps sometimes and the entire recipe itself at other times. Just depends!] Chilling the dough, making a glaze, making brown butter, etc. Sometimes those steps just seem a bit nonsensical especially when they’re coming from food bloggers who come across as a little too authoritative and bossy. [Yup, I said it. I hope I don’t sound that way to any of you!] There’s nothing that irks me more than extra steps that aren’t always necessary. I know that sometimes they are, but do you know what I mean? Let’s discuss, and I’ll try not to rant. I often skip glazes for muffins/quick breads because they really aren’t necessary and because we can’t eat the recipe fast enough so the glaze gets a bit yucky. And it seems like every single cookie recipe nowadays in the blog world asks you to chill the dough for 2 hours or overnight. Who has time for that? Not me! A quick 30 minute trip to the fridge works, but if you aren’t at home baking all day most people don’t have time for that on a weeknight when you just want some cookies!! And brown butter. Don’t get me started. Like salted desserts, it’s just a trend. A trend that I hate. Ehhh, maybe it takes the taste of butter up a notch but I’m not a big fan. For me, in the blog world, these steps amplify my annoyance when bloggers rail against the lazy [hello!] who want to skip the steps and thus [to the blogger] will ruin the recipe. Not true, my friends! The cookies may not be as soft, the bread may not be as sweet, the butter flavor may not be as nutty. But what you make will still be good. </endrant>

Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | thepajamachef.com

But whatev. People are entitled to their passions. Some things about the “professional” food bloggers just tick me off! [And I can go on, but I’ll stop now. I’m sure they’re nice people in real life!] Sandwich cookies. I’m getting a bit ADD today, obviously. Sandwich cookies sound good in theory but I’m often too lazy to make them. When I put them on my list, I envisioned making homemade Oreos or some kind of chocolate peanut butter goodness. When I saw these Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies, I knew I had to try them. And I’m so glad I did, even if they were a ton of work.

Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | thepajamachef.com

Go back and reread that paragraph about my complaints against baking and bloggers who say you have to do xyz or your recipe will be ruined!!! Oh so dramatic. This recipe, ironically, is finicky. The peanut butter cookies aren’t your traditional easy recipe. They’re crumbly and have almost a shortbread texture. But they are super peanut buttery which totally makes up for the crumbly mess of dough you’ll have, and the fact that you have to bake them one sheet at a time because putting them on the bottom rack of the oven will burn them faster than you can say peanut butter. Ha. It’s true! If you want, you can skip this peanut butter cookie recipe and use your favorite. Just make them smaller than usual because mini sandwich cookies are so cute and pop-able.

Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | thepajamachef.com

Those shortbread-y peanut butter cookies are filled with a divine homemade dulce de leche!! Alas, it is a bit finicky too, but just time-wise. All you have to do is cook sweetened condensed milk in a double boiler [mine is homemade], stirring occasionally for an hour to two hours. It’s easy enough to do when you’re home reading or watching tv or doing whatever else, so long as you can head to the kitchen every 15 minutes or so to stir it up. I know there are lots of ways to make dulce de leche [here’s a summary] but this is the only one I’ve tried. Making it in the can scares me. No matter how you make it, the resulting sweet, syrupy, caramely filling is the perfect center for crunchy peanut butter cookies. They look impressive and taste amazing. I’m sure they’ll be a bit at your next party!

three years ago: Chorizo and Potato Tacos
four years ago: Mango Chicken Curry

Dulce de Leche Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

  • Servings: 30 cookie sandwiches
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from Jun-blog

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk [14 ounce can]

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together with a wooden spoon. A mixer can also be used. Then add egg, peanut butter, and vanilla and vigorously mix together until well combined. Add the flour mixture in 1/4 cup increments until combined. Dough will be crumbly and should just hold together.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on a ungreased and cool cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with a fork: first in one direction, then the perpendicular direction to form a crisscross pattern.

Bake one cookie sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes or until just golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool. Allow the cookie sheet to cool to the touch before adding more cookie dough to it. Keep dough refrigerated between batches. Dough should yield approximately 60 small one inch cookies.

While cookies are baking, prepare dulce de leche. Pour sweetened condensed milk into the bowl of a double boiler. I used a homemade one. Basically, you’ll need a large metal or glass bowl that can sit on top of a pot of simmering water without touching the water. This bowl should seal the pot so no steam escapes, because the steam is what causes the cooking effect. For more details, see this tutorial. After sweetened condensed milk is in the bowl, heat double boiler to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The longer the milk cooks, the thicker it gets as it caramelizes. The milk turns to dulce de leche as it gets to be a darker, golden brown color. The original recipe says to only cook for an hour but mine was nowhere near done by then. It took a good two hours. Cover and refrigerate dulce de leche until completely cooled–I just refrigerated this overnight. A good test for telling when dulce de leche is done is to stick a small plate in the freezer after about an hour of cooking. Remove plate from freezer. Carefully spoon a teaspoon of dulce de leche onto the cold plate and then return to freezer. In five minutes, check the consistency of the dulce de leche. If it’s what you like, great! If not, keep cookin’.

When cookies and dulce de leche are completely cooled, match cookies up by size. Spoon just under a tablespoon of dulce de leche on the flat part of one cookie, then cover with another cookie. Place on a single layer on a serving plate or cookie sheet and refrigerate until set. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

30 Before 30, Main Dishes, Pizza, Recipes

Best Ever Homemade Pizza

This homemade pizza dough bakes up golden brown, soft, and chewy, and is the perfect base for your favorite pizza toppings!

Best Ever Homemade Pizza | thepajamachef.com

I used to think homemade pizza was lame. When I made it, it just never seemed as good as delivery or pizza shop pizza. Even though I shared recipes for pizza here on my blog I kinda thought homemade pizza was a frugal substitute for the real deal. But then I had GOOD homemade pizza, made by several different friends, and realized I was just doing it wrong. C’est la vie, right?

Best Ever Homemade Pizza | thepajamachef.com

That’s what prompted me to do something about it and put “homemade pizza dough” on my 30 before 30 list. I was determined to find the BEST homemade pizza dough. I tried several recipes… and you guys… I think this it it! [And not because of those delicious brown cheese bubbles there. :)]

Best Ever Homemade Pizza | thepajamachef.com

This dough is chewy, flavorful, and the perfect palate for any pizza topping. I haven’t added any seasoning to the dough because I don’t think it needs it, but feel free to doctor it up if it’s your thing… especially if that helps your pizza toppings succeed. Prefer something traditional? Great. Perfect a taco pizza? Awesome. Anything goes–really! This is dough bakes into a beautiful golden brown crust reminiscent of Pizza Hut pan pizza–not too thick or too thin, just right.

Best Ever Homemade Pizza | thepajamachef.com

Though this recipe is yeast based, it’s really easy. Seriously–it’s hard to mess up since it just has one rise. The dough is so soft and smooth after it rises that you can easily press or roll  it into the pizza pan. Some doughs are sticky–this isn’t one of them! Definitely try it and see what you think. I’m going to use it for calzones next! YUM!

Best Ever Homemade Pizza4

P.S. I did some work on my blog this week–what do you think? Let me know if anything looks funky and I’ll check it out. Thanks!

one year ago: Mango Quick Cake Squares
two years ago: Cookie Dough Dip
three years ago: Rhubarb Muffins

Best Ever Homemade Pizza

  • Servings: 4
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from Creative Savings
Ingredients:

for pizza dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 package [2 1/4 teaspoons] active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

for rest of pizza

  • cornmeal for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce – I like this recipe from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures and usually add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • toppings as desired – pepperoni, diced peppers, sliced mushrooms, spinach, chopped tomatoes, etc.

Directions:

In a large bowl [I usually use my stand mixer but you don’t have to], whisk together warm water and yeast to dissolve. I heat the water about 15-20 seconds in the microwave so it feels like bathwater–too hot will kill the yeast. Then add warm milk, olive oil, salt, and sugar. Whisk or blend on low to combine. Add in 2 cups flour and stir or blend to incorporate. Gradually add in another cup to 1 1/4 cups of flour in 1/4 cup increments to form a soft dough.

Knead [either in mixer or on a clean, flour-dusted surface] for 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Grease a large bowl and place pizza dough in it, turning once to coat. Cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Partway through the dough rising process, preheat oven to 400 degrees so it’s nice and hot when it’s time to bake.

When dough is ready, punch down and press or roll onto a pizza pan that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Top with sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Bake for 18-20 minutes, broiling the last minute or so to brown the cheese. Let cool for 5-8 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

We even made a his and hers version of this pizza this weekend… SO GOOD! Make it now! Please. 🙂

http://instagram.com/p/phz8IusCLu/

30 Before 30, Beans, Chicken, Main Dishes, Other, Recipes, Salads, Sides

Mystery Dish: BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing

Today I have the BEST SALAD EVER to share with you!! I am so psyched, I can hardly wait to tell you about it [even though it is not original at all. But that’s okay.] But first, this recipe qualifies for not just one, but two challenges. Woohoo! First of all, I created this recipe for Mystery Dish. But since it includes a fantastic homemade ranch dressing, it also helps fulfill one of my 30 before 30 goals. Score!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

This month for Mystery Dish, Chez Catey Lou is our host. Cate is so sweet and gave us such a creative list to work with! We had to use at least two ingredients from this list: raspberries, peanut butter chips, edamame, lemon, yeast, whole wheat pastry flour, bacon, buttermilk, basil, and zucchini. There were a thousand ways I thought about going [I probably say that every month…sorry] but my craving for a salad won out in the end. I used a few of Cate’s ingredients [lemon, buttermilk, and basil] to make an awesome Jalapeno Ranch Dressing to dress up a BBQ Chicken Salad.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

I have long searched for a good homemade ranch dressing. I’ve made this recipe once before and let me tell you..it’s a keeper! It’s creamy, spicy, and best of all… clean! No weird mystery ingredients in the powder, thankyouverymuch. The key to this recipe is the jalapeno. It just elevates this creamy, herby dressing with a bit of spice. Oh so good!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

You know what else is good? This salad! I know a zillion restaurants have variations of BBQ Chicken Salad and this was mine. I just used seven ingredients so it’s pretty basic: lettuce, chicken, BBQ sauce, corn, tomatoes, black beans, and ranch dressing. You could also add avocados, onions, bacon, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

I kept it simple though so the flavors could really shine. You will really want to make it again and again. One bite of this and Ben was swooning. Seriously! This is a man’s salad, and definitely fancy enough for a restaurant. Hope you enjoy it as much we do!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

one year ago: Strawberry Muffins
two years ago: Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad
three years ago: BAST sandwich

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing

  • Servings: 4 meal-size salads or 8 side salads; 2 cups dressing
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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chicken [leftovers from a roasted chicken work great]
  • 1 cup bbq sauce [I used Sweet Baby Ray’s]
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups fresh corn, cut from 3 ears of corn
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • Jalapeno Ranch Dressing, recipe below

Directions:

Stir together chicken and bbq sauce in a skillet set over medium-low heat. Heat for 5-7 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, toss together romaine lettuce and Jalapeno Ranch Dressing in desired amounts. Divide lettuce between four plates, then top each with a quarter of all ingredients: chicken, tomato, black beans, and corn. Toss together and enjoy!

Jalapeno Ranch Dressing [slightly adapted from The Lively Kitchen]

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk [for this I use real buttermilk, a substitute could be kinda weird]
  • 4 green onions, chopped, with white bottoms removed
  • 1/2 of a chopped, deseeded jalapeno [~2 tablespoons]
  • 3 tablespoons  fresh parsley, chopped [or 1 teaspoon dried parsley]
  • 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped [or cilantro, basil, etc.]
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIrections:

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. An immersion blender works great!

Dressing thickens in the fridge so add some extra buttermilk before serving leftovers as desired.

Please check out the other awesome recipes from this month’s Mystery Dish!

May Mystery Dish Collage

1. Raspberry Lemon Sweet Roll Cake with Buttermilk Glaze – Baking a Moment
2. Twice Baked Zucchini Boat – Chelsea’s Messy Apron
3. Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Raspberry Mint Compote – Blahnik Baker
4. Lemon-Raspberry Bundt Cake – I Dig Pinterest
5. Peanut Butter Chip Cookies – The Dessert Chronicles
6. Mini Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting – I Want Crazy
7. Zucchini Noodles with Meat Mushroom Tomato Sauce – Joyfully Healthy Eats
8. Baked Wonton Cups Filled with Edamame Corn Salad – The Well Floured Kitchen
9. Easy 30 Minute Orange Rolls – Yummy Healthy Easy
10. BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing – The Pajama Chef
11. Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cupcakes – Culinary Couture
12. Zucchini Muffins with Lemon Glaze – The Weary Chef
13. Lemon Bundt Cake – Chez CateyLou

30 Before 30, Breads, Recipes

Easy Homemade New York Bagels

I’ve never been to New York City, but I have a certain fondness for the city for two reasons… BAGELS BEN BAGELS BEN BAGELS BEN BAGELS, in no particular order, ha ha ha. Number one, Ben was born there, on Long Island. He lived there for a year, but hey! It’s his birthplace, and therefore, it is special to me. Number two, bagels. I know bagels probably originally do not hail from NYC, but the American bagel certainly does. So, NYC is the birthplace of two of my loves. Hence my love for the city, even though I’ve never been. 🙂

Easy Homemade Bagels | thepajamachef.com

I have bagels on my 30 Before 30 bucket list, and they have been on my culinary bucket list for quite some time but it wasn’t until a recent episode of Mad Men that REALLY got me in the mood for them. Sure, we eat bagels occasionally–from Panera or another bagel shop, or even [gasp] from the grocery store. But now that I’ve made bagels from scratch I’m not sure I can go back. Since my 29th birthday was yesterday, the clock was a-ticking to get my 30 before 30 list dunzo!

Easy Homemade Bagels | thepajamachef.com

I’ve actually made these bagels twice in the past week–last weekend, and then again yesterday with Ben. Who makes bagels on their birthday? I do apparently, but in my defense, it was a cloudy dreary day. It was sunny before church and then clouded over and rained later in the day… perfect baking weather if you ask me! These bagels are absolutely amazing and are a cinch to put together. They are so chewy and thick that you’d swear they came from a bagel shop instead of your kitchen. I never knew plain bagels could be so flavorful… they’re great toasted with butter, jam, or cream cheese. This is a great recipe to try if you’re new to baking with yeast because it’s SO simple. You don’t need a mixer and there are only five ingredients. Give ’em a try. What do you have to lose?! 🙂

Easy Homemade Bagels | thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Bean and Cheese Enchiladas 
two years ago: Ham and Cheese Baked Pasta
three years ago: Mexican Pizza

New York Bagels

  • Servings: 8
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from Rachel Schultz

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast [1 package]
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cinnamon sugar, etc. – for topping, optional

Directions:

Combine water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl or measuring cup. I don’t have an exact temperature for you, just that it should be like bathwater–warm enough you can comfortably put your fingers in but not too hot. Stir and let rest for 5 minutes. At the end of this time, water should be somewhat bubbly.

In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with a fork until a shaggy dough is formed. Remove to a flour-dusted countertop and knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn once to coat. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour.

After an hour, punch dough down and let rest for 10 minutes. Then divide dough into eight pieces [if you are obsessive and weigh them like me, mine were approximately 110 grams each]. Shape into a ball and with a flour-covered finger, punch a hole through the center [there’s a lot of punching in bagel making, obviously]. The hole should be about 1 inch in diameter. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat, and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 10 minutes.

During this time, preheat oven to 425 degrees and bring a large pot of water to a boil. When water is boiling, place bagels in boiling water, two or three at a time. Poach for 2 minutes per side, then remove to baking sheet with a slotted spoon to drain excess water.

If desired, top–while still wet from the poaching process–with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cinnamon sugar, or whatever topping your little heart desires. I want to try an everything bagel seasoning blend sometime!

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Broil for 1-2 minutes at the end if desired for extra texture/chewiness [I skipped this step].

Store in an airtight container or ziptop bag after cooling completely.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

30 Before 30, Main Dishes, Recipes, Soups

Lindsay’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Let the week of LOVE continue! You guys [y’all?] I am in LOVE with this chicken noodle soup. It all started with a recipe I saw on Facebook, posted in the comment of a photo. My friend from Bloomington made this soup for her family and a bunch of people were asking for the recipe cause it looked awesome. Lindsay posted the recipe and I made it. And we loved it. And I may never make another chicken noodle soup as long as I live.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Noodles | thepajamachef.com #bestever

Though these photos hardly do the soup justice, you must promise me that you’ll make it! Promise? Good.

This soup undoubtedly is so good because of two things: white meat. Dark meat. Homemade noodles. Wait–that was three things. Oh well. You basically cook the chicken low and slow on the stove with some buttery vegetables, shred the meat, add some broth, add the noodles, and devour. While the chicken is a-going, you make some noodles. No big deal, right? The noodles are actually pretty simple to throw together. Mine were a little thicker than I’d like–they were almost like dumplings–but they were still delicious.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Noodles | thepajamachef.com #bestever

And you know what the best part of making my own egg noodles was? [Besides how good they taste???] They’re the first recipe I’ve tried as part of my 30 before 30 project! I should really make more of an effort to get on that. The months are tickin’ away. I think I may have a problem making some of the other items on my list because I’m just going to want to make these noodles all the time though! Thanks Lindsay for the great recipe. 🙂

one year ago: 60 Minute Sandwich Buns
two years ago: Loaded Sweet Potato Fries
three years ago: Tomato Tortellini Soup

Lindsay's Chicken Noodle Soup

  • Servings: 16
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from my friend Lindsay

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken [4-6 pounds]
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, diced
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 4-8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 recipe egg noodles [see below]

Directions:

Place one whole chicken and bay leaves in a large stockpot, then cover completely with water [just barely covered]. Salt water, then bring to a boil.

In a skillet, melt butter then sauté celery, carrot, and onion until crisp-tender. Season with pepper as desired. Add to pot with chicken, then cook until chicken is fully cooked with an internal temperature of 170 degrees.

Remove chicken from pot, then remove meat from bones, shred, and return to pot. Add 4 cups of chicken broth, then egg noodles–recipe below–and boil until al dente. If necessary, add up to 4 additional cups of chicken broth to thin out soup.

 

Homemade Egg Noodles 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water

Directions:

On the countertop or in a large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Next, add egg yolks and whole egg. Mix thoroughly. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until dough comes together.

Knead dough for 10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 4 parts, then roll out each part 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Gently cut into noodle strips, then place on a kitchen towel. Repeat until all dough has been cut, then let noodles dry for 2-3 hours.

Use in any recipe calling for egg noodles, boiling to al dente as usual.

Note: Noodles can be made in advance, storing in an air-tight container at room temperature [NOT refrigerated] for up to a month.