September GNCO – Apple Pie Cookies

For the month of September our game night cook off “special ingredient” was crust – anything you considered crust. The winner of the night was a beautiful chicken pot pie. I followed in second and third with Chicken, Bacon Broccoli Quiche and Apple Pie Cookies.

With two little munchkins to attend to the Apple Pie Cookies initially felt like a big hassle but in the end they were so worth it! It is definitely the season for baking apple things!

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Apple Pie Cookies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Crust Recipe
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surfaces, dipping fork
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold
1/2 cup water, very cold (I pour 1 cup and add ice while I work, then measure 1/2 cup from it when I need it)

Filling
2 medium apples, I used Granny Smith
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg and/or any other spices you like with your apples

To finish
1 large egg
Coarse or granulated sugar for garnish

Additional stuff
2 baking sheets covered with parchment paper
Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)
A cookie cutter about 2-1/2 inch in size.

Make your pie dough first: Mix together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large bowl. Using a pastry blender work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas. Stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Knead it two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days.

On a well-floured counter or pastry cloth, roll out your pie dough thin, a little less than 1/8-inch thick. Lift and rotate your dough as you roll it, to ensure that it rolls out evenly and so you can be sure it’s not sticking in any place. Use your cookie cutter to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them. Once you’ve finished the first packet, repeat the process with the second packet of dough

Prepare your apples: Peel your apples. Cut thin (1/8-inch thick) slices from each side of the whole apple until the core is all thats left. Cut the apple slices into small cube-like pieces. Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice to keep them from browning. Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and add to the apples. Mix together until all apples are coated with the sugar mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Assembly:
Grab your first disc of chilled dough and lightly dampen it on one side with the water. This is to help it seal. Place about 1 tbsp. (as much as you can fit without the dough tearing and still be able to crimp the edges) in the center of the dough. Lightly flatten. Place a second disc of dough on top; I found it easiest to seal it by picking the whole thing up (this is when you’ll be glad that your dough is cold and semi-firm; if it’s soft and getting sticky, chill it until it’s easy to pick up) and press the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers. Hold the pies at an angle and place one edge of pie on floured surface. Rotate pie as you crimp around the edges with a floured fork. Place on cookie sheet. Use a sharp knife to cut decorative slits in your “pies”. Brush your cookie with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like. (If this is your first batch, peer in at them at 20 minutes, to make sure your oven doesn’t run hot.) Let cool if you have enough patience!

Do ahead: These will keep for a few days at room temperature. You can freeze them by doing everything but brushing on the egg wash and sugar. Keep them frozen until needed. Bake them directly from the freezer just adding on a few minutes to the bake time.

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Lemon Chicken Pasta Alfredo – GNCO August Winner

My family and I have restarted a Game Night Cook Off that we used to do when I was in high school. Each person brings a dish that must include the “special ingredient” of the night. The winner of each cook off gets to choose the following “special ingredient” which so happened to be lemon for the month of August. Each dish is judged by everyone in 5 categories: Taste, Texture, Aroma, Presentation and Use of Ingredient. The winner takes home the Cooking Champion Trophy until the next cook off. I just so happened to win this week so it gets to chill here at my place… hopefully forever if I can keep on winning!

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And this is how one looks when they lose…image_2

This is my brother, he won the previous months’ competition with Chicken Alfredo Garlic Bread Pizza (it was amazing!). He actually made a delicious Lemon Coconut Cake but scored low in presentation or he possibly could have won the lemon round as well.

I will be sharing some awesome recipes but sadly some of pictures got deleted so you will just have to trust me until I remake these and get some visually appealing pictures up to win you over!

Lemon Chicken Pasta Alfredo

Part 1: Lemon Chicken Breasts

(Lemon Chicken Recipe From Ina Garten on the Food Network)

*If you are only cooking for 2-4 people then I would cut the lemon chicken part of the recipe in half. If you are cooking for more than that I would double the Alfredo Pasta part. The Lemon Chicken is excellent in quesadillas and Caesar salad so making a little extra will give you more yummy meal options!

Ingredients 

1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6 boneless chicken breasts
1 lemon

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish.

Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Part 2: Lemon Pasta Alfredo

Adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen

  • 1 lb fettuccine or penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ⅓ cup white wine
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. lemon zest (depending on how lemony you like it)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Rosemary for garnish, optional
Instructions
  1. Cook ¾ lb noodles in salted water according to package instructions and drain. Don’t rinse (this helps the sauce stick to the noodles better)
  2. In large sauce pan, over medium/high heat, add 2 Tbsp butter and onion and sauté onion till golden. Stir in garlic and sauté another minute. Stir in ⅓ cup white wine and reduce to about 25%.
  3. Stir in Cream and simmer until it starts to thicken. Add ⅓ cup parmesan (or add to taste) and stir until creamy and smooth. Add paprika and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Turn off heat and stir in drained, un-rinsed pasta, and lemon chicken. Garnish with rosemary, extra parmesan and freshly cracked pepper if desired.

The 2nd place dish, which followed very close to 1st, was Oven-Roasted Cauliflower.

Oven-Roasted Cauliflower – GNCO

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed cauliflower this much! 

This was the 2nd place winner for our August Game Night Cook Off (GNCO). I have never enjoyed cauliflower so much. And yes it lacks a picture – I will promptly cook this myself so I can post the yumminess! 

Oven-Roasted Cauliflower

From Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network

5 to 6 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (from 1 medium cauliflower)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Chopped chives, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan,  roasting pan or cast iron skillet. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately while still warm.

Lemon Chicken Breasts

This chicken recipe is included with the Lemon Chicken Alfredo Pasta. This chicken is great to use in quesadillas, over rice or in Caesar salad. It adds so much flavor! 

Lemon Chicken Breasts

1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 lemon

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish.

Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. 

Coconut-Lemon Cake

This cake was made by my brother for our Game Night Cook Off. He very likely could have beat me if his presentation had turned out better (some cakes have a mind of their own). It’s soooo good though so I had to share!

Coconut-Lemon Cake

Recipe from MyRecipes.com

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Lemon Filling (recipe below)
  • Fluffy White Frosting (recipe below)
  • 1 cup flaked coconut

Cake Preparation

  1.  Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition.
  2. Combine flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla.
  3. Beat egg whites and salt at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Stir about one-third of egg whites into batter; fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
  4. Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Lemon Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan; stir in 1 cup boiling water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar and cornstarch dissolve (about 3 minutes). Gradually stir about one-fourth of hot mixture into yolks; add to remaining hot mixture, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Stir in lemon juice.
  2. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in butter. Cool, stirring occasionally.

Fluffy White Frosting

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small heavy saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until clear. Cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches soft-ball stage or candy thermometer registers 240°. This can potentially take up to 20 minutes. You are waiting for the water to evaporate until you hit the soft-ball stage (no pun intended).
  2. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form; slowly add syrup, beating constantly. Beat until stiff peaks form and frosting is desired consistency.

Cake Time

  1. Once cakes have cooled spread Lemon Filling between layers. Spread Fluffy White Frosting on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle top and sides with coconut; garnish, if desired.
  2. Savor every bite!