Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls are a favorite in our house. It is our tradition to eat them early on Christmas morning with Cocoa while we open our gifts before we head to my parents' house. I also like to bring them as a snack for thekids in our Sunday School class. Since I've been married, I have tried several different recipes. For this recipe, I have combined things I like from several different recipes to develop my own. Typically, I like a thick cream cheese frosting on my cinnamon rolls, but lately I've been making a glaze. To my surprise, I like it just as well as with the frosting. I will include recipes for both, since I would never dream of serving a cinnamon roll to my Daddy without a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on top.

2 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (1 envelope)
¾ cup of Whole Milk
¼ cup of Granulated Sugar
¼ cup of War Water
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
1 tsp of Salt
¼ cup of Unsalted Butter, melted
3 3/4 cups of All Purpose Flour

1/4 cup Cornstarch
¼ cup of Melted Butte

***If you don't have cornstarch, omit it and bump the flour up to an even 4 cups. The cornstarch helps produce a sofer dough***

1/3 cup of Butter, softened
¾ cup of Brown Sugar
¼ cup of White Sugar

1 TBS of Flour
2 Tbsp of Ground Cinnamon

1 cup of Powdered Sugar
1/4 of Heavy Cream
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
1-2 TBS of Milk to thin to runny consistency

1/4 cup of Butter, softened
4oz of Cream Cheese, softened
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
1 1/4 cups of Powdered Sugar
2 TBS of Milk, warmed

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and 1 tsp of the granulated sugar, sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

2) In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the egg, milk, salt, sugar and melted butter. Sift the flour and cornstarch together. Add 2 cups of the flour mixture, water and yeast mixture, and vanilla, mix until its all incorporated and slowly add the remaining flour. Turn the speed up to medium and let it knead for about 7 minutes or until you have a smooth dough.

3) Oil a large bowl and set aside. Take the dough out of the mixer and form a ball. Place it in the oiled bowl and oil the top of the dough with a little more oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size. ***I like to preheat my oven to the lowest setting when I first sart the dough, then I turn it off as soon as it is heated. Then I let the dough rise in the oven. It usually takes about an hour with this method.***

4) In a small bowl, mix together the sugars, flour and cinnamon for the filling, set aside.

5) When doubled in size, punch the dough down and roll it out onto a floured surface into a 15x9” rectangle. Spread the soft butter over the top and sprinkle evenly over the sugar and cinnamon mixture.Staring from one of the long ends, tightly roll the dough jelly roll style. Cut into 16 even slices and place them cut side down in a well buttered 9x13 baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let put them back into a warm spot to rise for another hour. ***Since it is important that the rolls be of even size, so they all bake evenly, I cut the rolled dough in half, then those sections in half, and so on until I have 16 pieces.

6) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

7) Brush the rolls with melted butter, and bake for 25-30 minutes.

8) Allow the rolls to cool while you mix up the glaze (or frosting). For the glaze, just whisk everything together and pour it over the rolls. When I make the frosting, I use a handmixer to cream the buttr and cream cheese, then slowly add the powdered sugar.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Deep Dish Pizza

Of everything I make, this is probably my husband's favorite meal. He is a pizza lover, and though he likes the thinner, more modestly dressed Italian-style pizzas, he much prefers the more Americanized, topping overload pizzas.

When I was a kid, we had family friends from Illinois, somewhere just outside of Chicago. The wife was a fabulous cook, and I use some of her recipes to this day. The husband's specialty was his Deep Dish Pizza. He was VERY particular about it. It was soooo good. He doesn't share his recipe, but this is pretty close. I've never been to Chicago, so I have no idea how it compares to pizza you would get there, but it's really good, and always a hit.


1 ball of Pizza Dough. (This recipe makes 2 balls)
1 lb Italian Sausage
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 8oz package of mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
8 oz mozzarella, sliced
Fresh basil - optional

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Remove sausage casings if present. Brown and crumble in a large skillet. Remove to a plate. Saute onions and bell pepper in sausage drippings until softened but not mushy. Remove to plate with sausage. Saute mushrooms and red pepper flakes until liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Remove to plate. Add garlic, saute 1 minute, then add tomato sauce, oregano, and fennel. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Press pizza dough into bottom and halfway up the sides of the casserole dish. Layer toppings onto the dough, pour the sauce over them, top with the cheese and optional basil. Bake until crust is golden and cheese is bubble, about 20-25 minutes. Enjoy. This never lasts very long in our house.

I've been told that traditional deep dish pizza has the cheese on the bottom. Which is fine and dandy, I just like to put it on top so it helps hold the toppings toghether. But, to each his own.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pizza Dough

Before I got married, I always bought pizza dough in the tube from the grocery store. While my husband certainly loved the pizzas and calzones I made with it while we were dating, I felt the dough was lacking. I always wanted to try making my own, but I was nervous to fail. Shortly after we were married, my Hubbie surprised me with a pizza stone, which gave me just the right push to try my hand at making my own dough. I've tried probably 20 recipes, and after 4 years, I think I have learned and tweaked recipes enough that I have created a darned good pizza dough. I use it for so many things. Pizza, obviously, but also my Focaccia Rolls, bread sticks, garlic knots, calzones. It is very versatile.

3.5 - 4 cups  All Purpose Flour
2.5 tsp Salt
2 tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/3 cups of Warm Water, 110 degrees
1 Envelope of Yeast

 Add the yeast to warm water and let it sit about 3 minutes, until it looks nice and creamy.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a dough attachment, mix together the flour, salt, sugar and olive oil. Stir the yeast in the water to make sure its all dissolved and add it to the flour mixture.

With the speed on medium, mix until everything is combined. Reduce the speed to low and mix for 10 minutes.
Oil 2 bowls and set aside. Divide the dough in two pieces and roll into a ball. Place each ball of dough into the oiled bowls, seam side down and brush the tops of the dough with a little oil to keep them from drying out. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to rise. You want it to double in size, which usually takes about an hour. Then, use it to create a delicious meal.

I'm sharing at Tasteful Tuesday @ Nap-Time Creations.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Swedish Meatballs

I adore Swedish Meatballs, I remember a friend of my Mom's who made them when I was a child and I loved them. They are classic and comforting, yet delicious enough to serve to guests. This recipe was developed through trial and error. I think it is delicious and my husband adores it. The only Swedish Meatballs he had eaten prior to mine were from the frozen foods aisle. So, these really impressed him.


3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 medium onion, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 pounds ground beef

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2-3/4 cups milk
3 cups beef broth or beef consome
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

1 package (16 ounces) egg noodles
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Add beef; mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape into 1-1/2-in. meatballs. I like to make them fairly small like cocktail size, so I use my 1/2 Tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop the meat up. I don't bother rolling them, I just scoop and put them in the oil.   In a large skillet, brown meatballs in batches. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain, reserving drippings in pan.

Heat the milk in the microwave for 1 minute to take the chill off, this help keep it from gtting lumpy. For gravy, stir flour into drippings; cook and stir until light brown. . Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Stir in the broth, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

   Return meatballs to pan. Cook, uncovered, 15-20 minutes longer or until meatballs are cooked through, stirring occasionally.

   Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain; toss with butter. Serve with meatball mixture; sprinkle with parsley.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cake Flour Substitute

For years, if I saw a recipe that called for cake flour, I just used all-purpose. Most of these recipes tasted fine, but I wondered what I was missing. Cakes that claimed to have a ligh texture and crumb didn't seem any differnet to me. Finally, the curiosity got the best of me and I tried actually using the cake flour called for in a recipe. I had made the recipe before using AP flour, and I was amazed at how different it came out. I read up on cake flour and started finding new ways to use it. Once I discovered what a difference cake flour makes to pancakes, I was hooked. Then a few weeks ago my husband wanted pancakes for Saturday morning breakfast. I didn't have any cake flour but I remembered seeing a substitution for it in the "Tips" section of a cookbook the women's group at my church had done when I was a child. I looked it up and tried it.

1 cup AP flour
2 TBS cornstarch

Measure out the flour, then remove 2 TBS of it back to the flour bin. The cornstarch replaces the removed flour. Sift it well.

Now, it doesn't give the exact same results as cake flour, but it does replicate the results pretty closely, at least in the pancake recipe. I sifted 3 times.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Animal Fries - Smothered Cheese Fries

Growing up in Southern Califonia; I was spoiled to be able to go to In-N-Out whnever I wanted. Oh, how I miss it. When we go home to visit my husband's parents; we always stop there on the way home from the airport. The menu is simple and delicious; my favorite thing has always been Animal Style Fries. They aren't officially on the menu, but everyone knows about them.

I craved them like crazy during my pregnancy. So I made some. Man oh man were they good. I ate nearly the entire plate by myself. Hey, pregnant women need extra calories, right? These days, it's not so easy to justify making them. I only have them a couple times each year. They are worth every calorie though.


1 (26 oz)  bag of frozen french fries (you can also make your own, but I used frozen this time)
1/2 an onion, diced
2 TBS butter
3 American Cheese Slices
1/8 - 1/4 cup of my Comeback Sauce, or Thousand Island Dressing.

Bake (or fry) french fries according to package directions. While they are baking, melt butter in a medium sized skillet, add onions and cook until softened and browned. You can go for full caramelization if you want; but I'm usually not patient enough. Remove fries from oven and put on serving plate, cover with cheese slices and dressing. I never measure the dressing; but I would guess I use around 1/4 cup. Top with onions and enjoy.

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Favorite Potato Salad

This is my take on my Mom's potato salad. I fully intended to make it her way but I forgot to buy celery and green onions at the store. I also had a ton of fresh dill from my garden waiting to be used. My husband loved it.

Russet potatoes - 12 large
Bacon - 7 slices
Black Olives - 1 can
Mayo - 1 cup
Dill -  a few handfulls, discard stems
Red Onion - 1/4 cup, chopped

Peel the potatoes then chop into large chunks. Place in a large pot and cover with water, bring to a boil. The potatoes usually take 10-15 minutes. Check the often by piercing with a knife, since over cooked potatoes do not make for good potato salad. Once they are done, drain them and allow them to cool. Cook the bacon until crisp but not overly crunchy, cool and crumble. Slice olives in half lengthwise or into rounds. Pull dill from stems, place in a bowl and use kitchen shears to chop. I just go all at it for about 30 seconds. Stir together mayo, dill, salt and pepper, add onions and olives. Place potatoes in a large bowl and pour the mayo mixture over, stir to combine. Sprinkle crumbled bacon over the top.

Friday, July 12, 2013

French Toast

I am not big on sweet breakfast foods like pancakes or french toast. So if I an going to eat them; they had better be good. I am super picky about both of them, but especially french toast. You won't catch me eating Wonder bread quickly dipped in egg and falling apart. No no. I always thought I didn't like french toast, until I saw Alton Brown make it. I have come up with my own recipe which I like a little better; but I use his method.

The 3 things I learned that I think make all the differnce:

  1. The bread needs to be hearty, I haven't found a sandwich bread that works, so I use a loaf of French bread or challah. It also needs to be a little dried out. I slice it the night before and sit it in the oven overnight. This helps it soak up all of the redge and become nice and custard-like without falling apart. This is the most important step, don't skip it. 
  2. Mix the egg dredge the night before. It speeds things up in the morning, but it also allows it to come together and blend the flavors.
  3. Don't just dip and go straight o the pan. Let it soak up the egg mixture for at least 30 seconds per side. It needs to soak all the way trough to become super yummy and delicius. Otherwise you just have bread covered in fried egg.

8 thick (1/2 inch) slices of hearty bread such as French, Brioche, or Challah
4 eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 TBS warmed honey (or 2 TBS sugar), both taste great but I like the consistency of the honey better
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
butter for cooking

The Night Before: Slice the bread and lay on the oven racks to dry out over night. Mix the eggs, milk, honey (or sugar), vanilla, and salt in a container. Whish it really well. Place in the fridge overnight.

The Morning Of:

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt 1 TBS of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Pour the egg mixture into a pie pan or other shallow, wide bowl. Place 2 slices of bread in the egg mixture for 45 seconds per side, make sure it soaks all the way through the bread. Cook for 3 minutes on each side. Place in oven while you repeat these steps on the remaining bread. Serve with syrup and powdered sugar or top with my Apple Cinnamon Compote.

This makes for a scrumptious freach toast; once you try it this way; you won't go back.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bundt Pan Chicken

Just when I thought I couldn't love my Bundt pans anymore; I learn they can be used to make a chicken.
This isn't so much a recipe as it is a how-to. Roasting the chicken vertically is supposed to help replicate rotisserie chicken in the oven. Using the Bundt pan (or other tube pan) means not having to buy an extra piece of equipment to do so. That is always a plus when you have limited kitchen space. I love finding new uses for things I already have.

So basically all you do is preheat the oven to 400 F. Place your Bundt pan on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan. This is to catch any drips that might come through the hole in the Bundt; though all of mine ended up in the bundt pan itself. Then you place your prepared chicken over the Bundt so the middle of the pan is in the chicken's cavity. If you want, you can scatter vegetables in the bottom of the bundt or in the roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour.

Verdict: Really, really good. Not quite on the level of Costco's rotisserie chicken, but better than what my local grocery stores sell. I only brined for 4 hours; so it would probably be better if I did the full 8 or more like I normally do. I think next time I will put some some potatoes in the Bundt pan under the chicken, since my husband loves the potatoes that cook with the chicken. This might also help the bottom brown more. I really liked how brown the skin at the top got. The finished chicken isn't as presentable as a conventionally roasted chicken would be; but we make food because it tastes good. Also, my chicken isn't mutated; I've just been removing the wings before baking to make Buffalo Wings every few weeks.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Crock Pot: Porcupine Meatballs

This super-simple, but fabulous recipe came from the mother of a friend of my Mom's. My Mom first had it at their house nearly 40 years ago; but the lady has been making it for longer than that. Her children made it for their kids growing up; and I know a few of her grandchildren make it for their kids. My Mom made this every few months and it was one of the few recipes every one of us loved. (My sisters can be picky eaters). It is so simple; it's really a last minute "throw together" type of meal. I think it was usually made on nights when we all had soccer practice or other things going on. My Mom usually made double this amount for the 6 of us to make sure there was enough for whoever we might bring home with us or leftovers.


1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
1 cup instant rice (instant brown rice works too)
1 tsp black pepper
a few dashes of salt
Condensed tomato soup - 3 of the regular sized cans, undiluted.

Combine the meat, rice, and spices; roll into golf ball sized meat balls. I get a dozen meatballs per pound of meat. Place in crock pot, pour undiluted tomato soup over them. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours. If you're home, gently stir them every so often.

Serve with a vegetable, my 1 Hour Dinner Rolls, and a side salad and you've got a delicious plate of comfort food.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Compote

This was so yummy over oatmeal. I seriously don't like oatmeal; so if I'm going to eat it, I have to doctor it up. This is also amazing over Vanilla Ice Cream or  Pancakes. It is so simple to make and it is so impressive.

4 apples - I use Gala or Granny Smith
1/2 cup fresh orange juice - it usually takes 1.5 - 2 large oranges
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
salt - a little dash
1/2 tsp vanilla

Chop apples. Combine chopped apples, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a sauce pan. Cover and cook over medium heat until the juices have become like a thin syrup, about 15 minutes; stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July

I hope everyone is enjoying this Independence Day! It is stormy here in Alabama; so it is going to be a pretty low-key day for us. Since my Hubbie is off we are just spending the day with our son. We had a leisurely morning and enjoyed a delicious brunch of fried potatoes, bacon, and scrambled eggs. We've just been snacking until we have our 4th of July dinner of Roast Chicken, Potato Salad, Corn on the Cobb, and homemade Rocky Road Ice cream. We attended a fireworks show last Saturday; so we will probably skip the huge one downtown since our dogs are terrified. People have been setting them off in our neighborhood for the past few days; I probably should have contacted our vet for a tranquilizer for my boy dog, Redd. The poor baby shakes and gets so terrified, his heart races and it's pitiful. I'll be a little sad when the flags are no longer lining the main street of town; I think it looks so beautiful.

We went to Lowe's to price lumber for a project we want to do later this year. They had a really good selection of marked-down plants, so we bought a hanging plant that matches one my parents got me for Mother's Day; so now my porch looks symmetrical again; it was only $2.50. They also had day lillies for $2, so we got two of them to plant in front of a small patch of fence at the top of our driveway. I think $2 is a great deal for perennials; I'm trying to purchase mostly perennials if I can. It makes for a lower maintenance landscape and I don't have to worry about replanting or digging them up every year.
 If you've never checked it out; Lowe's always has a marked down plant rack in the outside garden department; usually hidden in a corner. They are usually 50% off, but I've seen them marked down more. Every single one out there today was as healthy and vibrant looking as the full priced ones. I  February I bought some violets for $1 per 1 gallon container; they looked rough but I figured it was only $1, so I'd try it. They came right back after a few days of good watering and sunshine. I forgot to water them for a few days in this heat wave; so they're dead now; but they did pretty well.

The dill I planted in my yard this year is producing ABUNDANTLY so we harvested a whole bunch of it to give some away and I'm going to try drying it for use throughout the winter. There is still so much more out there, it's incredible. The tags on the dill at nurseries always say it pairs well with eggs, but I hadn't tried it before. It is phenomenal in scrambled eggs.