Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cinnamon Roll Biscuits

I've been wanting to make cinnamon rolls for several months now.  Not sure why I got such a random urge -- probably that it seemed like a fun, festive treat for the holidays.  However, the problem with the holidays is that there already seems to be enough sweet stuff that I never really found a good time to make them.  Also, as delicious as they are, they seemed like a lot of work (even the overnight ones we love that require yeast).

So finally last weekend, I looked up the idea of cinnamon roll biscuits.  I think I had seen a recipe several years ago and the idea stuck with me.  And what do you know, Cook's Illustrated had come up with a version! It has no yeast and is super easy and fast to make. I just got up one morning, found a recipe, and got to work. My guess is that it took about 20 minutes for everything to come together and then 20 minutes to bake the biscuits.  In 40 minutes, we had a wonderful cinnamon roll breakfast!

The texture of the dough isn't the same as yeast-based cinnamon rolls -- it creates more of a flaky biscuit than a smooth dough.  But the flaky biscuit texture was delicious and the flavor was exactly right.  Also, I love that it created the same soft, cinnamon-sugar center just like the traditional roll. (Isn't that the best part?) 

Actually, looking at these pictures makes me want them again. And with them being so easy to make, we could easily have them again sometime soon!

Cinnamon Roll Biscuits
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated via Brown Eyed Baker
Makes 8-9 biscuits -- serves about 4

For the Biscuits:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (I think next time I will increase this to 1-2 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream (I ran out of heavy cream so I probably did 3/4 cup cream and 1/2 cup whole milk)
For the Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Icing (we don't like much icing so I drastically reduced this)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar (I used 1/8 cup instead)
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk or cream
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the upper third of the oven.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cream and stir with a wooden spoon until a rough dough comes together. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly-floured surface. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. If the dough seems dry, add more cream 1 tablespoon at a time.
3. Roll the dough into a 9x12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the surface of the dough. Starting at one of the long sides, roll the dough into a cylinder. Cut the cylinder into 8 equal pieces. Press down on one side of each piece to flatten slightly, then transfer to a pie plate. Repeat with all the pieces.
4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk (and vanilla and cinnamon, if using) and drizzle the icing over the biscuits. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 10 Recipes of 2014

Honey & Sea Salt Almonds: This is an incredibly easy, incredibly tasty recipe.  The salty-sweet combination is great and it only needs 4 ingredients.  These almonds also go well in salads or on their own as a snack or appetizer.

Cocoa-Cherry Smoothie: I don't love smoothies for breakfast, but this made the perfect afternoon or post-workout snack.  My husband and I love it but my toddler especially can't get enough (as you can see from the picture).

 Grilled Garlic Flatbread: I was looking for an alternate to pita (as delicious as pita is, I wanted to change it up), and the result was this soft, flavorful bread.  I love the texture and taste!

Seafood Chowder: Stealing a tradition from my cousin Dan, we're planning to make this our annual Christmas Eve dinner.  Too bad it only happens once a year, because this version includes clams, scallops and salmon.  So good!

Black Bean Soup: For a much healthier soup, it's hard to beat this one.  Plus, we top it with many of my favorite things: Greek yogurt, avocado, cheddar cheese and cilantro.  After reviewing the list of 2014 recipes, I immediately added this one to my weekly menu since it was too good not to make again (and again and again).

Aussie Chicken: This combination is as good as it sounds: chicken, cheddar, bacon and mushrooms.  I consider this an excellent meal for a nice at-home date.

Refried Beans: I've made this recipe too many times not to include it!  It's now my go-to Mexican side dish.  It also freezes really well, so pretty much every time I make it, I regret not doubling the recipe.

Fig, Feta & Pecan Salad: Now that we have a fig tree in our yard, we ate this salad multiple times over the summer and never tired of it!  It's a wonderful combination.

Cauliflower Tots: This made a great side dish that my husband and I loved...almost as much as our toddler.  I found a recipe that seems like it held together well, and I love that you can sneak in a vegetable while still making dinner fun.

 Tiramisu: There's a reason why we saved this one for last.  It was not only our favorite dessert of 2014 but our favorite overall recipe.  I was originally too intimidated to make tiramisu (it just sounds hard), but it wasn't as bad as I imagined, and it came out so amazing that it's worth any amount of effort.  I'm just sorry that I have to wait for the next birthday to come around to make it again!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cauliflower Tots

Have you seen cauliflower being used in all kinds of ways? Cauliflower mashed "potatoes," cauliflower "rice," it seems that this vegetable can take quite a few forms.  I was intrigued when I found a recipe for cauliflower tater tots and had to try it.  However,  the first time I tried making them (with a different recipe), I finely chopped the cooked cauliflower with a knife as per the directions.  While I liked the taste, they did not hold together at all - they just fell apart.  However, when I tried this recipe and used a food processor to chop the cooked cauliflower instead, they stayed together much better! So I highly recommend using a food processor although you can use a knife if you prefer.

I really like the flavor and I think they make a great side dish (the added benefit of getting a small serving of vegetables is great, too!). I believe we served these with the easy banh mi sandwiches and a salad. Our toddler (and I) think these are particularly great with ketchup although my husband preferred his plain.

Cauliflower Tots
Taken from: Brunch Time Baker
Makes about 30
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup onion, minced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, minced (optional)
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (I omitted, although I added an extra tablespoon of bread crumbs)
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. minced cilantro or parsley (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking spray or oil

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a nonstick cookie sheet with cooking spray or lightly grease with oil. Set aside.
  2. Steam cauliflower in hot water for 3-5 minutes or until nice and soft, and drain. Add cauliflower in the food processor for a few seconds until finely chopped (I highly recommend the food processor but you can finely chop with a knife, too).
  3. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of mixture in your hands and roll into small oval shaped tots. Spray tops with cooking spray.
  5. Place on the cookie sheet ½ inch apart and bake for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through cooking until golden.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cranberry Bliss Bars

I actually meant to share this recipe around last Christmas. When my husband had to work last Christmas Eve and he wanted to bring in something for his office, this seemed like a perfect, festive thing to make.  I baked them up, sent him off with (most of) them, and he came back with an empty plate.  A success!  However, I never got around to photographing them so this year, my husband requested them to bring for a coworker's birthday and as a Christmastime treat.  A perfect excuse to finally make, photograph, (and eat) them!

These bars are rich so a little goes a long way.  However, I kept finding myself coming back for more! This was especially surprising because neither my husband nor I are big fans of cream cheese frosting OR white chocolate but we both loved this recipe.  Somehow, it all just works together -- I especially like the dried cranberries in both the frosting and the blondies.

While these were great for holiday baking, I think the colors would be perfect for Valentine's Day.  Maybe that's another excuse for him to bring them in again!

Cranberry Bliss Bars
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Makes 24-30 bars

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (can add up to 2 tablespoons extra if needed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (this helps distribute them more evenly throughout the batter)
  • 2 oz. white chocolate chips or white baking chocolate bar, chopped
    Frosting and Topping:
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
  • 1/3-1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a microwave-safe dish, melt the butter. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, stirring until well-combined. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well-combined then fold in the cranberries and white chocolate.
  4. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan (I used a spatula to smooth the batter evenly in the pan). Bake for 18-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist (not gooey) crumbs. Don't overbake (I checked mine at 17 minutes and then every 2 minutes after that until done). Let the bars cool completely in the pan (place pan on a wire rack to help cool).
  5. For the frosting, using an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer), beat the softened cream cheese and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. 
  6. Spread the frosting onto the cooled bars. Sprinkle with cranberries and drizzle the melted white chocolate over the top. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set - these taste best chilled. Cut into triangles or squares to serve.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Homemade Cranberry Juice

It's that time of year...the time where I get a little overenthusiastic about buying cranberries.  They're hard to find the rest of the year and they freeze so well that I can't stop myself from buying at least a few bags each year. 

I've bought only 2 bags so far: this first was promptly used for cranberry relish (a favorite on the Thanksgiving table) and the second bag I decided to try to make some homemade cranberry juice.  We rarely have juice in the house but I thought it would work very well in cocktails or mocktails for the Christmas season. 

This juice was surprisingly easy to make - basically, you just simmer the cranberries in water, add some sugar and freshly squeezed orange, and then press the whole thing through a fine mesh sieve.  It is much more refreshing than the store bought (with probably a lot less sugar...and other miscellaneous ingredients) and it makes a beautiful, deep red color.  While we haven't tried any cocktails yet, I especially like it mixed with sparkling water.

Homemade Cranberry Juice
Taken from: Farmgirl Gourmet
Makes about 3 cups
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries (equivalent to one 12-ounce bag)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup honey or sugar (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  1. Rinse the cranberries and remove all the mushy or moldy ones.
  2. Add the cranberries and water to a medium pot. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Add honey or sugar to your taste - I started with 1/4 cup and only added a little bit at a time. Add the orange juice to the pot and stir to combine.
  4. Set a fine meshed sieve over a large bowl, pass the cranberry mixture through the sieve.  If you do not like a thicker juice, trying to not press the solids too much (this didn't bother me so I tried to extract all the goodness). Refrigerate juice and serve. Should keep about a week.
  5. You can discard the solids or use them in another way - I used them in homemade jam by this recipe and adding a few frozen cherries to try to make about 12 ounces of leftover cranberries plus cherries. Delicious and I even made the jam in the same pot!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lighter Chicken and Biscuits

Although this recipe isn't for the Thanksgiving table, it might be more related to the post-Thanksgiving leftovers. Personally, I've never had too much of a problem with leftovers.  I love them, but if you're wondering how to use up any extra turkey, this seems like it would be an excellent way to do so.  Simply substitute the cooked turkey for the chicken (and skip the steps related to cooking the chicken -- always a bonus to shorten the steps!) and you'd have a great turkey and biscuits recipe.  However, this recipe is great as it is (you know, for the 364 days when you're NOT looking for ways to use up turkey leftovers).  I've made this twice in the last few weeks and was scraping the bottom of the dish at the end of dinner.

I actually don't love pie crust (even though I'm not one to turn down pie), so chicken and biscuits is so much better than chicken pot pie in my book.  And this one is full of vegetables so it makes an excellent one-dish meal, although we've served it with a green salad on the side, too.

Lighter Chicken and Biscuits
Taken from: Ellie Krieger
Serves 4-5
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-1 cup milk (I used whole milk; I prefer 1/2 cup but use 1 cup if you would like a creamier dish)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (or use 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • For the biscuit crust:
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I add a generous squeeze of lemon to 1/2 cup whole milk and let it sit for a few minutes to make a good buttermilk substitute)
  1. To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 5 minutes per side, stirring occasionally. Transfer the chicken with its juices to a bowl.When cool enough to handle, shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Deglaze the skillet by adding 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth to it and scraping the bottom browned bits (they add lots of flavor).  Pour chicken broth into a second bowl.  Add the flour to the bowl with the chicken broth and stir until combined
  4. Add 2 more teaspoons of oil to the same pan and heat it over a medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and remaining salt and pepper and cook for 1 more minute. Stir the broth-flour mixture into the pan.  Add the milk and let the mixture come to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes more. Return the chicken with its juices back to the pan. Add the peas and thyme and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. (If not using an oven-proof skillet, you'll need to spoon the mixture into a large baking dish).
  5. To make the crust: Whisk together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the butter and cut with 2 knives or a pastry knife until the mixture feels like sand. pulse about 12 times. Add the buttermilk and stir until just moistened. Do not over mix. Drop the batter in 6 mounds on top of the chicken mixturespreading the batter out slightly. 
  6. Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuit topping is golden brown, about 20-23 minutes.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Slow Cooker Stuffing

Yikes, long time, no post.  It's not that I'm totally out of probably has a little more to do with the fact that I'm too lazy to take pictures of our food.  But despite my long hiatus from blogging, I'm actually on time/early with a Thanksgiving post!

I love pretty much all the food at Thanksgiving and this year, it'll be all the favorites on our table - turkey breast, mashed potatoes (I'm trying roasted garlic ones this year), a roasted vegetable (probably Brussels sprouts), cranberry relish and pecan pie bars.  And, of course, stuffing, which is probably at the top of my favorite T-day foods list. 

My mom always has a classic celery and mushroom stuffing at Thanksgiving and this is exactly what that is.  But it's made in the slow cooker which is definitely a bonus!  It's easy to do and it doesn't require precious oven or stovetop space.  I made this last year for myself and my husband and we loved it so much that it'll definitely be mainstay each year for us.  This year, I made it for my husband's Thanksgiving potluck at work last week.  So I've already eaten a fair share of stuffing but I have to admit, I'm still looking forward to having it on Thursday. 

This recipe does require a bit of tweaking to adjust to your needs.  The amount of liquid needed depends on the dryness of your bread, so you'll have to taste and adjust as it cooks.  I recommend starting with 2 cups of chicken broth and adding extra only if your stuffing is dry.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Slow Cooker Celery & Mushroom Stuffing
Taken from: AllRecipes
Serves 12

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional; I omitted)
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 12 cups dry bread cubes (you can use fresh instead -- just use a little less chicken broth)
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
  • 2 eggs, beaten

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, mushroom, and parsley in butter, stirring frequently.
  2. In the slow cooker, add bread cubes.  Spoon cooked vegetables over bread cubes. Season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, and stir gently to combine. 
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine 2 cups broth and 2 beaten eggs.  Pour the broth mixture over the bread cube mixture and stir gently to moisten. 
  4. Cook on low for 3 hours.  At this point, check your stuffing (you can also check before this point, too) to see if you need to add more chicken broth (if you do, add 1/2 cup at a time).  Continue cooking for an additional 1-2 hours, checking again if necessary.