A Twist on Cinnamon Rolls

I rarely make dessert.  I have no resistance to temptation.  The office bought a Costco box of Cheez-its and I swear I alone have eaten half of it.  (Allison and I share the Cheez-it addiction, a bond from our days as college roommates.)     But I am also a believer in new experiences, and I recently discovered to my dismay that in all my 23 years I have never once enjoyed fall.  I was too busy with assignments, papers, and exams to notice the weather change or to take advantage of the many fall activities which smack of Norman Rockwell and Americana at its best.  This realization of my own drab existence led to several trips to a corn maze, a wine-tasting, and–last but not least–an apple orchard, all of which were extraordinary except for one thing.

Apples.   Fourteen pounds of them. One can only have so many apple crisps (the extent of my apple recipe knowledge).  And one can only have so many desserts.  Thus, the last two weeks have been an exploration of the many facets of the apple, and I have so far cooked apples with 3 different cuts of meat, in 2 desserts, in 2 sides, and 1 soup.  The Hubbymine has yet to cry uncle.

Here is dessert #2 (because, yes, #1 was an apple crisp):

Thanks go to http://canyoustayfordinner.com/2010/10/21/apple-walnut-cinnamon-roll-cupcakes/

Heat 2 cups of milk in the microwave until it is lukewarm.  Add 1 tablespoon of yeast and 1/3 cup of sugar.  Make sure the milk is not too hot or you will kill the yeast!  Stir the concoction and let it sit for a few minutes for the yeast to prep.

Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 cups of flour.  Beat it well.  Add 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of butter, melted.  Once these ingredients are combined, slowly add the rest of the flour, beating the batter the whole time.


Now you have a sticky dough.  Put a lot of flour on your counter and roll the dough out.  I probably added at least another half cup of flour to the dough while I was kneading it, maybe more.  Don’t spare the dough.  It will become soft and super elastic – the more you knead, the softer it becomes.  I probably spent 5-8 minutes on this step.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it rise for 40 minutes.  Remember to keep it warm!


After it has risen, flour your counter again, then roll out the dough into a large rectangle.  It will be wonderfully elasticy, almost like a pizza dough.

Brush it with 1/4 cup melted butter.

In a separate bowl mix 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and 2 cups chopped apples.  Spread the apple mixture onto the dough.

Now roll the dough up!

Cut the dough into 2” blocks and stuff them into muffin tins.  Don’t forget liners!

Let the dough rise another 40 minutes.

Brush the tops of the cupcakes with melted butter and bake them at 350 degrees for 18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

After the cupcakes have cooled, drizzle them with a glaze made of 1 cup powdered sugar and about 2 tablespoons of apple cider.  Add the cider slowly, as you may need less liquid.  Do not forget to sift the sugar before adding it to the cider.  I did, and it took forever to get the lumps out! Also, cold cider maker glaze thicken faster.  My warm cider glaze dripped everywhere.

But that just meant I ate more of it.

Temptation:

Here’s the summary:

 
Dough –
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 ½ cups  flour
2 eggs
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

 
Filling –
½ cup  butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup loosely chopped walnuts, toasted
2 cups finely chopped apples

 
Apple Cider Glaze –
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider

 
1. Heat the milk in a the microwave until lukewarm.  Dissolve yeast and sugar.
2. Mix in two cups of flour and the salt and beat until well-mixed.  Add the softened butter and eggs.  Once these ingredients are incorporated, slowly mix in the rest of the flour, adding a little bit at a time.
3. Knead dough on a well-floured surface for 5-8 minutes then let rise under a towel in a warm place for 40 minutes.
4. Roll dough into a rectangle and brush with melted butter.
5. Mix filling ingredients and spread them on dough, leaving a border.

6. Roll the dough into a log.  Cut it into 2″ wide pieces and place them in lined muffin tins.
7. Let dough rise for another 40 minutes before brushing muffin tops with more melted butter and baking them at 350 degrees for 18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
8. Mix glaze and drizzle over cooled cupcakes.

-Carmen

Posted in Carmen, Dessert, Recipes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

My attempt to be Italian . . .

I have a confession to make.  I never cooked before my 22nd birthday.  Sure, I could blend smoothies.  I had a mean salsa recipe.  But I had never touched raw meat . . . or potatoes . . . .  or eggs.  After my sophomore year of college I lived on my own for the first time in my life, and I subsisted on oatmeal, bagels, and spaghetti.  (Cooking pasta doesn’t count as a skill if the sauce comes from a jar – just sayin’.)  So such basic home-cooked staples as lasagna were quite beyond me and to be honest are rather intimidating to this day.  I mean, if every other housewife in America can make decent pot roast, fried chicken, and lasagna, why am I so dysfunctional?

So I decided to be brave and try a recipe where the Hubbymine actually knows what it should taste like (+1 wifeypoints).  And then I decided to be suicidal and actually prepare it for company. (-1 wifeypoints . . . maybe).

Best Lasagna Ever
Start by browning 3 links of Italian sausage.  The Hubbymine likes things spicy, so I chose the hot version but later experimentation proved that it’s delicious with sweet sausage as well.

As the sausage is browning, add 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves of garlic, minced.

On a side note, I used to be addicted to minced garlic bought in a jar.  I really thought raw garlic was demonic, intent on crushing my soul with its stubborn resistance to peeling–and also, by the way, making those 30-minute recipes something like 45, which was just as devastating to the minute-by-minute schedule I had envisioned for myself all day at work. . . you think I’m joking.  Then I watched Food Network.  Just smash the garlic clove with the side of your giant-I-am-the-next-Iron-Chef knife, and the peel comes right off.  Thank you Giada De Laurentiis.

Back to lasagna.  After the sausage is browned, drain the fat.  Add a tablespoon of fresh chopped basil, a teaspoon of dried oregano, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (a MUST), 1.5 teaspoons salt, a 29 oz can of diced tomatoes (do not drain), and 12 oz of tomato paste.

Mix it all together and let it simmer for 45 minutes.


After half an hour has gone by, put some salted water on to boil and cook 9 lasagna noodles.  They’ll be done around the same time the sauce is.

Meanwhile, in a bowl mix 2 eggs, 1 pint ricotta (low fat is just fine), 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons dried parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt.


When the lasagna noodles are done, remove them from the water and lay them flat, patting them dry with paper towels.

Butter a 9 by 13 pan and begin layering.  Start with 3 lasagna noodles.  Top with half of the cheese mixture, then half of the sauce.  Add 3 more lasagna noodles and top with the remaining cheese and sauce.  Place the final 3 lasagna noodles on top and sprinkle with 2 cups mozzarella cheese.

At this point, you can stick the lasagna in the fridge to cook the next day (as I did), or cook it immediately.  Bake the lasagna, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes – 1 hour.  Uncover it for the last 10 minutes, so the cheese can brown.  It will be saucey, but if you let it sit for 10 minutes before serving, the pieces will come out clean.

I, being not so patient, decided my guests – whom I love – could eat it a little messier:

It was pronounced a success (+10 wifeypoints!).

Here’s the summary:
3 links Italian sausage, hot or mild
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes
12 ounces tomato paste
9 dry lasagna noodles
2 eggs, beaten
1 pint ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

  1. Brown sausage links, onion and garlic; drain fat. Mix in basil, oregano, brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Boil a large pot of salted water. Add lasagna noodles, and cook until al dente; drain. Lay noodles flat on papers towels and blot dry.
  3. In separate bowl, mix eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, parsley and 1 teaspoon salt.
  4. Layer 3 lasagna noodles in the bottom of a 9×13 inch buttered baking dish. Cover noodles with 1/2 cheese mixture and 1/2 of the sauce. Add 3 more lasagna noodles, then the remaining cheese mixture, then the remaining sauce.  Top with the last 3 noodles and sprinkle 2 cups shredded mozzarella.  At this point the lasagna can be refrigerated for later.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour.  Allow a refrigerated lasagna to come to room temperature before placing it in the oven.  Let finished lasagna stand 10 minutes before serving.

- Carmen

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Crock Pot Part 2 – Pot Roast!

I left work early yesterday, since my head was spinning and my limbs were achy. The only bright side to feeling sick is being home to cook! I firmly believe that food has healing properties when you are sick, even if they are purely mental. My sickness is definitely still progressed, so apologies for all the inevitable disjointedness of my post.

I was in the mood for chicken soup, but once I got to Safeway I completely forgot what ingredients I needed for soup! Then I saw that Chuck Steak was on sale for $1.99 a pound, and three pounds later, pot roast was on the menu.

And this pot roast. Wow. We ate every last bite and sipped every last drop of the delicious broth. Here’s what I did:

Pot Roast!

Ingredients:

  • 1ish pounds of chuck steak
  • 1 onion
  • Carrots (I used 1/2 a big bag of baby carrots, but you can chop or peel some big ones if you feel so inclined)
  • 2 Cups of water + 1 beef bullion cube
  • 1/2 ish cups of red wine
  • Thyme, salt and pepper
  • Potatoes

(A note on wines – I’ve heard a lot of people say that you should only cook with wines you would drink. This may be true, however, I’ve been cooking consistently with $2-4 wines and I don’t think it’s affected the taste at all. Plus, I would feel very sad pouring $15-20 wine into broth for a pot roast. I feel anything that’s $20 a bottle should be enjoyed sip by sip, not mixed with other flavors. But do whatever floats your boat. I may be missing out on the culinary breakthrough I’ve been dreaming of. But I don’t think so.)

Instructions:

  1. In a separate pan, sear the chuck steak in a little olive oil until it’s lightly golden brown.
  2. While the meat is searing, pour the broth into the crock pot (if you’re not lazy like me, you mixed your bullion in with the water ahead of time instead of just crumbling the cube into the water and hoping for the best). Add the wine.
  3. Plop the steak into the crock pot. Make sure it’s covered by the broth/wine mixture.
  4. Add the onion (I cut my onion in half, then cooked it for a few minutes in the oil/beef drippings before adding it to the crock pot. It smelled heavenly, I couldn’t tell a difference in the pot roast later, so do as you will.) Add carrots. Cover.

I wanted to eat before 10pm, so I turned the crock pot on high and hoped for the best. The pot roast cooked from 3:30-8 pm and turned out great. I’m assuming this would also work if you cooked it on low for an 8 hour period.

In theory, one hour or so before serving you should add potatoes. This is an excellent idea, and one I completely forgot about until I tripped over the bag of potatoes while cleaning up. Oh well.

I didn’t take any pictures, but here is a picture of how you will feel after eating this pot roast:

Happy full pot roast person

Yay pot roast!

-Allison

*Image from growyourselves.com.

Posted in Allison, Beef, Crock Pot, Recipes | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Crock pot = win!

I’ve always been a little scared of crock pots. I can’t recall using them much growing up, since our California winters never left us shivering and longing for crock pot goodness. Crock pots always made me think of potlucks and being forced to taste stranger’s weird soups and dips

The sudden drop in temperature to the 50’s last weekend made me crave pot roast suddenly and desperately. So I did what I always do when I crave childhood food – called my mom and beg for a recipe.

Two hours later, my pot roast was bubbling on the stove (improvising!) and I went on the hunt for a crock pot. I bought this little beauty:

And set it out on its (and my!) maiden voyage Monday morning. It was 6:45 AM, so I didn’t take any pictures, but the ingredients were:

  • 1 pound or so of pork tenderloin
  • 2 (then three, since I was nervous about it getting dry) cups of water.
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ¾ bag of baby carrots
  • ¾ of a chopped onion
  • Salt, pepper, thyme and Marjoram.

I set it on low and left for work. When I came home 9 hours later, it had filled the apartment with its delightful smell. It was a bit on the soupy side (lesson – crock pot water lasts longer than stove water). I served it with corn and instant mashed potatoes.

“It’s like Thanksgiving dinner!” said my friend Kaitlyn, who stopped by on her way home from work and sampled some.

That, plus the discovery that I can make macaroni and cheese in the crock pot, has made it my new best friend.

Conclusion: 15 minutes for a meal that looked like you slaved for hours. Win!

-Allison

Posted in Allison, Crock Pot, Pork, Recipes | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Rosemary Peasant Bread

The amount of wifey points gained by any one recipe is dependent on many factors – the amount of time spent in the kitchen, whether any acts of valor were involved (for example,  if dinner catches on fire you get extra points by putting out the flames yourself rather than screaming for your cute neighbor–ladies, you LOSE points if you call him, k?), and, of course, its taste.  But don’t start drenching your ho-hum recipes in lighter fluid just yet–wifeypoints rarely require the application of explosive compounds.  [Well . . . . oh nevermind.]

May I introduce Rosemary Peasant Bread?  I got this recipe from my dear friend Sarah and have been loving it ever since.  It requires minimal kneading, the ingredients are always on hand, and it tastes divine, whether dipped in olive oil with dinner or as sandwich bread.

First, proof your yeast.  Pour one packet of yeast into 2 cups of warm water.

Add a tablespoon of sugar and let your concoction sit for 10 minutes or until air bubbles start rising to the surface.

Fold in 4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary.

Don’t worry about kneading it at this point.  Just combine all of the ingredients and place the bowl in a warm place.  I put my oven on and place the bowl on top of the stove (provided I’m not cooking anything stove-top).  Cover with a warm, damp cloth and let it sit for an hour and in that time something magical will happen.  This:

Will become this:

Now we knead!

Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface and knead it for 5-8 minutes.  This is not a particularly picky bread.  Slap it around a bit and take your frustration out on it, and it will be happy.  [Wifeypoints are very therapeutic.]

This makes enough dough for two loaves.  Divide the dough in half and place each half on a well-oiled cookie sheet.  Top the pan with some cornmeal before placing the dough on it.  It will give the bread some nice texture!

It’s a bit deflated at this point (it really did like the beating you gave it, I promise), but cover it with a warm, damp towel and let it rest for an hour. 

Give your bread round some love and brush melted butter all over it.  Top with some more rosemary and a sprinkling of salt, then pop it into a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 375-degrees and let it sit for another 15 minutes.

What will emerge is beyond words:

Sliced down the middle, this bread is wonderful for paninis.  I make mine with grilled chicken, sauteed mushrooms, provolone cheese and roasted red peppers.   [Yes, you do get extra wifey poinrs for making a sandwich with bread you baked yourself; I think that’s like landing on a triple-point-square or something awesome like that.] Or just reward yourself with a glass of wine and a large chunk of this stuff right out of the oven.

I am fully convinced that Heaven will have lots of carbs.  Wonderful rosemary-infused carbs with no penalties.

- Carmen

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Me + Grocery Shopping = Magic Cheez-its.

I’m really not sure I should be allowed to go grocery shopping.

Take last week, for example. I forgot to pack a lunch. After spending all day lusting after all my co-workers’ Weight-Watchers-frozen-delights, my shaking hands made me decide I couldn’t survive a thirty minute commute without food.

I drove straight to the closest Wegmans. My memory is a bit foggy after I left the car, but somehow my Food-Raging brain decided that all the pre-made sandwiches, salads and meals were a bad idea. Instead, it chose the much healthier and well-rounded meal of:

1. Goldfish crackers.
2. UTZ extra dark pretzels.
3. Diet Coke.
4. Wine.
5. Gummy Bears.

My brain also decided I didn’t need to be encumbered by helpful items like a basket or shopping cart, so I wandered through the store trying to juggle all of this in my hands. The next thing I recall is sitting in the car and inhaling the food like it might disappear if I didn’t eat it ALL in the next five minutes.

I’m not really sure how to explain to my husband why there are goldfish crackers strewn throughout the car. “They came to life and escaped from their packaging! I knew their creepy smiles meant they were sentient! Think of all the goldfish you’ve murdered!!!”

You home wrecker.

Today, I tried again. I spent half my time standing in the aisles going “Wait. What am I getting? I’m sick. Soup! Yes! I need soup! No…I should MAKE soup. Beef! Beef soup!”

So, six cans of soup and 3 packages of chuck steak later, I made it home. I’m not sure how. As I unpacked, I notice there were a few surprises in my shopping bags:

Where did you come from, cutie?

Half the soup I bought. And...Cheez-its?

I don’t remember picking up the Cheez-its. I don’t remember putting them in my basket. I don’t remember paying for them. I’ve decided the Cheez-it gods have decided to bless me for my faithful love and devotion by having them spontaneously generate in my car.

At least it will save me from starving to death at work.

-Allison

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