Patriotic Pinwheel Cookies

Just your standard sugar cookies with a heaping load of FREEDOM.

Shooter Sandwich

Put on the pressure with this compressed recipe.

Bison is Better

Try it with a classic (and spicy) cowboy dry rub.

It's Sweet Corn Season

Just because it's supposed to be sweet doesn't mean you can't turn up the heat.

Chicken Spinach Strata

Here's a recipe to use up an leftover bread!

Jun 28, 2015

Patriotic Pinwheel Cookies


That's about all you need to say about these patriotic cookies. As we Americans get ready to celebrate our country's Independence Day, the streets are being turned red, white, and blue and just about everyone has an extra pep in their step. And how could you not be excited to be living in the greatest country on Earth?

So I'm celebrating my freedom the best way I know how - baking! Wanting to create something red, white, and blue themed, sugar cookies seemed to be the best candidate when it came to coloring. Now if only the real candidates would start handing these out during the election season...guaranteed presidency assured.

Perfect sugar cookies rely heavily on the butter being sufficiently whipped before adding the sugar and flour.

Mix in the sugar and eggs, one at a time, before slowly adding the flour in half cup amounts.

Once the dough is ready, split it into 3 even balls. Be sure to keep the ones you aren't going to be coloring right away in an air tight container or wrapped in plastic until ready to dye.

I also use gel food coloring, which gives a much richer color than it's dropper counterparts. I used about 1 teaspoon of red and blue gel coloring for the respective balls.

Just blend it in well and make sure to wash the mixing bowl between colors. America's colors are red, white, and blue, not purple and white!

When the colors are ready, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When the dough has firmed up a bit, split each dough ball into two smaller pieces for easier rolling and layering.

Round out each ball before flattening with a rolling pin. I found it was easier to keep the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap when it came to rolling it out so it didn't stick to the rolling pin!

Then just layer the dough into whatever order you see fit! Personally, I prefer keeping the colored dough on the outside.

Then just gently roll each layer up together to form a cylindrical roll. Tuck in the ends to make an even roll, then wrap in plastic wrap.

Next just pop the rolls into the freezer! I made sure to rotate mine every few minutes for the first hour to make sure there weren't any overly flat edges. You can fit yours into a paper towel tube to help keep it round if you don't think you can remember to rotate it.

Mine still ended up with a slightly flatter side - but I wasn't too worried about it since I knew the cookies would bake into (mostly) circular shape.

Once frozen through, cut the dough into 1/4 inch slices with a sharp knife.

Then arrange the cookies onto a lined baking sheet and pop into the oven at 350°F for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.

When finished cooking, let the cookies cool for a few more minutes on the pan before carefully transferring to a wire wrack to cool completely.

The cookies with the white on the outside didn't roll very well for me, unfortunately, but they taste the same, so I suppose that's all that matters. Plus any 'ugly' ones can be iced!

I just whipped up a batch of white icing to cover up any mistakes, which is arguably the most delicious way to fix a mess up.

(A recipe within another recipe)

White Sugar Cookie Icing:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-5 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half and half (I used a Caramel Vanilla flavored one)
Here's How:
  1. Slowly begin adding the cream to the powdered sugar and use a hand mixer to blend the two ingredients together. Whip on high speed.
  2. If the icing is too thick, add more cream. If it's too runny, add more powdered sugar, until the icing reaches the desired consistency. It should be about the thickness of toothpaste and should not drip off a spoon.
  3. Use a piping bag to decorate the completely cooled cookies, and enjoy!

Recipe TL;DR:

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 15 minutes

Makes ~ 24 cookies

  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring gel
  • 1 teaspoon blue food coloring gel
  • pinch salt
Here's How:
  1. Begin by creaming the butter until light and fluffy in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the sugar and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Slowly add the flour, baking soda, and salt, 1/2 cup at a time, until incorporated into the dough. The dough should be soft, but not sticky.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and separate into 3 equal sized balls. Clean the stand bowl and mixing attachment throughly before adding the individual balls and colors to blend. Clean between each color to not mix any.
  4. Wrap each color in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Once the dough has firmed up a bit, split each ball in half and roll out between two pieces of plastic wrap until about 1/8 inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough balls - this will be enough to create TWO rolls of dough.
  5. Layer each flattened dough ball one on top of the other and then gently roll up. Tuck in the ends and roll up in plastic wrap. Place into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour, taking care to rotate every few minutes for the first 15 minutes so no sides are flattened.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Once the dough is frozen through, unwrap the dough and use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange on a lined baking sheet and place into the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the tops are puffed and beginning to brown.
  7. Remove the cookies from the oven and let rest on the baking sheet for another 5 minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool completely. 
  8. Use icing to cover any rolling mistakes, serve and enjoy FREEDOM!
Having a Patriotic Picnic?

Try a shooter sandwich as a main course!


Oven Baked Corn on the Cob

Here's a recipe so simple, I only needed to take 4 pictures.

Forget boiling hot water on the stove for overcooked corn on the cob. Preheat the oven to 400°F and set the corn, still in its husk, directly on the rack, and cook for 20-30 minutes.

Season with paprika, coriander, garlic powder, thyme, and a dash of salt and pepper. And that's it - seriously! I served mine alongside a nice slab of bison steak with cowboy seasoning and some mini crab cakes for a twist on land and sea!

Recipe TL;DR:

Prep time: 1 minute
Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves ~1-20+ ears of corn
Adjust ingredient amount per ear of corn

  • corn still in husk
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Here's How:
  1. Preheat the the oven to 400°F Remove the brown hairs and loose leaves from the corn cob, leaving at least 1 layer of leaves intact. 
  2. Place corn into the oven for 20-30 minutes and cook until outside leaves appear dried.
  3. Remove from the oven and carefully strip the cob of leaves and hairs - the hairs should pull away with the husks easily.
  4. Butter and sprinkle on the spices and herbs, serve immediately and enjoy!
Need a main course?

Why not try some bison steak or mini crab cakes?


Spicy Cowboy Bison Steaks

If you've been following my blog, you'll know I have a thing for bison. It's leaner, more tender, and healthier than it's beefy counter part, and if that's not enough to convince you to make the switch in red meats, just check out all of the different benefits of bison!

This recipe calls for a ton of spices - so stock up when you get the chance! My local grocery stores now offer bulk spices, so I can buy as much (or as little) as I want, whenever I want. Feel free to adjust the level of spiciness, I for one like it HOT.

Just look at these beautiful slices of meat I picked up on a recent trip to the West Side Market in Cleveland. You can tell just from appearances how much leaner bison is than beef steak, just by the lack of marbling of fat. I'm a sucker for a good lookin' slice of meat, what can I say.

Combine the spices and rub into the steaks with some olive oil. Set aside and bring to just under room temperature.

Using a cast iron grill pan (or a real grill if you have one), grill the steaks for 2-3 minutes per side or until the steak reaches an internal temperature of 120°F.

Get some gorgeous grill lines on those suckers too, or some extra amazingness. The center of your steak should be a nice reddish pink for medium rare to rare - which is how bison should be enjoyed!

Recipe TL;DR:

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Makes 2 steaks

  • 2 bison steaks
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 dried chile pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Here's How:
  1. Combine the herbs and spices in a small bowl. Spread oil on each side of the steak. Then use your hands to rub the seasoning into the steaks and drizzle over more oil. Let rest until nearly room temperature.
  2. Heat a grill pan or grill over medium high heat. Sear both sides of the steak for 2-4 minutes to achieve grill lines. Steaks are ready when the internal temperature reaches 120°F.
  3. Serve alongside some oven baked corn and mini crab cakes. Enjoy!
Need some sides?


Grilled Peanut Butter & Jelly

Had I known about grilled PB&Js growing up, my mother would have heard nothing but requests for it - especially since she wasn't a great cook so PB&Js and grilled cheeses were already a staple in our diets. Sorry mom, but you know it's true.

It doesn't even matter what kind of jelly you prefer (how I ended up with a boyfriend who prefers strawberry jelly over grape, I'll never know), as long as you know how to make a grilled cheese, you'll know how to make a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Just whip up your sandwiches to your liking.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat before adding the sandwich.

Here's a protip: right before you flip the sandwich, add another tablespoon of butter to the pan to ensure each side is equally crispy! Grill until golden brown and serve immediately - but be careful if handing over to a child, the insides will be hot!

Recipe TL;DR:

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

Makes 2 sandwiches

  • 4 slices white or wheat bread
  • jelly of choice
  • peanut butter of choice
  • 4 tablespoons butter
Here's How:
  1. Prepare each sandwich with peanut butter and jelly. Place the slices together to make a sandwich.
  2. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Place one sandwich into the melted butter, and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
  3. Serve immediately and enjoy!


Picnic Foods - Shooter Sandwich

Have you ever seen a sandwich so flat? Where a normal sandwich would be piled high with toppings, this sandwich happens to contain them all in one deliciously sized sandwich that is friendly on your jaw muscles.

While the weather wasn't picnic permitting this past weekend, I made the best of it and picnic'd front of my TV on National Geographic. That counts, right?

Shooter sandwiches were originally came about as a way to send a hearty, filling meal on British hunting parties, because a compressed sandwich traveled much better than two slices of bread and some meat. The sandwich didn't gain popularity in the United States until the early 1990s and is traditionally served with beef - but in true Starving Chef fashion, I've decided to do away with tradition and make it however I want! Chicken and spinach (and a medley of other delicious vegetables) happened to be to my liking, and so in they went.

You'll need to prepare your garlic first, since the roasting process will take about 30 minutes. Just cut off the top of the head of garlic, wrap in foil, drizzle on some olive oil, and cook at 400 for 25-30 minutes, or until the garlic has softened and started browning.

While your garlic roasts, filling your home with a beautiful aromatic scent, grill up your chicken. I used thin tenders to ensure they would be cooked all the way through.

Time for a


Tzatziki sauce is traditionally served on lamb or beef gyros and is a staple in Greek cuisine. The night before I made this sandwich, I whipped up a super simple tzatziki recipe for some gyros, and decided to use the leftovers for the shooter!

Easy Tzatziki:
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons dill, fresh or dried
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
Here's How:
  1. Open and stir the Greek yogurt before adding the lemon juice as to not curdle the yogurt.
  2. Stir in the dill and garlic powder
  3. Refrigerate in an air tight container until ready to use - at least 1 hour.

Once your tzatziki sauce is chilling, start sautéing the onions until they are tender.

Add in the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have begun to release their moisture. 

Next you'll need to remove the side of your loaf of bread. I found it easiest to cut straight down and lift up to remove the insides than cutting at an angle. You'll need about 1 inch of breading/crust to contain your toppings and not get terribly soggy. Cut the excess off the 'lid' so it is about 1 inch thick.

I spent a lot of time worry about what I could do with the leftover bread, not wanting to waste it since it was so fresh. I ended up making a simple chicken spinach strata with the remaining ingredients!

Time to begin the layering process!

Start by using half of the tzatziki sauce in the bottom/sides of the hallowed bread.

Next add in the fresh veggies - peppers and tomatoes!

Let your sautéed veggies cool for a few minutes before piling them into the bread capsule. 

Then stuff in the chicken, as much as you can fit! Out of the ten tenders I cooked, I was able to fit in 7 and had a few left over that I tossed into the strata.

Next top with the cheeses.

Followed by the spinach.

Oops! Almost forgot about the roasted garlic! I had left it in the oven while I was cooking and meant to add it in with the sautéed veggies - luckily I hadn't wrapped the sandwich for pressing! 

Finally use the rest of the tzatziki sauce on the lid of the bread and press down to get it as close to the cut lines as possible.

Then wrap the loaded loaf with parchment paper.

And tightly wrap the whole thing in a few layers of tin foil.

Since I happen to be a weakling, the heaviest things I could find around my house to press the sandwich were a few comic books, my thickest Harry Potter books, and my boyfriend's engineering book.

He later took pity on my weakness and carried up some 50lb weights he had sitting around in the garage, which definitely seemed to help more so than my 30-odd-pound book weight.

The sandwich will need to be pressed for at least 4-6 hours to achieve maximum flatness. I removed the weight after about 5 hours because I was starving.

The sandwich can be served hot or cold - but if you decided to heat it up prior to serving, be sure to keep it wrapped tightly in the parchment and foil. I heated mine up at 375*F for 25 minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve alongside some baked corn on the cob, garlic asparagus, and a nice big ol' glass of American lemonade.

I wish I would have been able to take this meal outside and enjoy it properly, on a picnic blanket, in true 4th of July fashion. But even if it hadn't been pouring all weekend, the temperature has barely made it about 60 degrees and the ground is so wet the mosquitos have been having a wild time procreating in the drain pipe behind our apartment. But if none of those things prevent you from having a picnic, then by all means, this sandwich is best enjoyed outside!

Recipe TL;DR:

Prep time: 40 minutes
Press time: 4-6 hours
(Optional cook time: 25 minutes)

Serves ~3-4

Required Tools:
  • 40-50 lbs in stackable items (heavy weights, books, etc.)
  • aluminum foil
  • parchment paper
  • 1 large loaf sourdough bread
  • 7-10 grilled chicken tenders
  • 1/2 cup tzatziki sauce
  • 1/2 cup yellow peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 pint cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 large white onion, sliced
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • pinch fresh parsley, optional
  • salt & pepper, to taste
Here's How:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400*F. Cut off the top of the head of garlic and wrap in foil. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle a pinch of salt, pepper and fresh parsley. Roast in the heated oven for 20-30 minutes, or as you prepare the remaining ingredients. 
  2. Prepare the tzatziki sauce and refrigerate. Grill the chicken tenders and set aside to cool.
  3. Chop the onions and mushrooms. Sauté the onions the 3 tablespoons of butter until tender. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until the moisture is released from the mushrooms and the onions are browning. Remove from heat.
  4. Cut open the sourdough loaf and remove the breading inside, leaving about 1 inch of crust/bread around the sides. Remove excess breading from the 'lid' and set aside.
  5. In the bottom of the bread bowl, spread half of the tzatziki sauce, followed by the yellow peppers and tomatoes.
  6. Next add the sautéed onions and mushrooms, roasted garlic, and chicken. Top with spinach. Spread the remaining tzatziki sauce on the lid and press down as close to the cut as possible.
  7. Wrap the loaf in parchment paper and then tightly wrap in foil. Place in a location where weight can be added on top. Add 40-60lbs of pressure for 4-6 hours. The longer, the better.
  8. (Optional) After the 4-6 hour period, place the still wrapped sandwich in the oven at 375*F for 25-30 minutes to melt the cheeses.
  9. When ready, remove the wrapping from the loaf and cut into individual slices. Serve alongside some oven baked corn on the cob and enjoy (outside!)  
Need a Red, White & Blue Dessert?

How about some Patriotic Pinwheel Cookies to sing your freedom!



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