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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

heavenly cinnamon rolls with caramel icing



You may or may not remember this post, when I expressed my slight frustration with the fact that Luke rather have Pillsbury cinnamon rolls than mine.  And here I shared that I finally found a version he would approve.  I am excited to say, the recipe below is another tally mark for me, and it came from a rainy Saturday night stuck in the house trying to scrounge up ideas for Sunday breakfast.  Because who in the world wants to go to the grocery store for a can of Pillsbury in the rain on a Saturday night, right?

I have used this yeast roll recipe time and time again, with no trouble.  In fact, I recently found out it goes above and beyond in the "can't mess this one up" category.  Those of you who can struggle with successful yeasted breads, prepare to be amazed!

A couple of  weeks ago, I had put the dough in the fridge over night so I could make fresh rolls for a meal I was taking to friends the next day.  To my frustration that morning, I found the lid had come off, leaving the dough deflated and even dried out on the top.  I figured I had nothing to lose, removed the dried layer, re-kneaded the dough slightly, then let it rise in a warm oven.  Before we left for church that morning, I had plenty of warm, soft rolls that tasted as good as if nothing had gone awry. 

I love recipes like that.

So back to the rainy Saturday night.  I thought about the yeast roll recipe and figured I could try adding more sugar to the dough, find a delicious icing, and maybe - just maybe - I'd have a couple of happy boys the next morning.  To my delight, and theirs, my trial baked up beautifully and my wish came to be.  Luke gobbled them up, and my heart was warmed.  

So here's to the third cinnamon roll recipe on the blog.  Can there really be too many?!? 

Heavenly Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Icing     

For the rolls:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 4 cups bread flour
For the filling:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
For the icing:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp caramel sauce
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
~ Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water.  Let sit until foamy; about 5 minutes.

~ With dough hook, mix in salt, butter, and flour until fully incorporated.  Continue to mix 
    about 10 minutes (or you can remove the flour and knead by hand a fully twenty minutes;
    MAJOR triceps workout!)

~ Remove dough and place on lightly floured surface, kneading 10 more minutes (if you
    kneaded the first 10 with the hook) until smooth and elastic.

~ Place dough in large, lightly greased bowl, turning once to cover the top.  Cover and let
    rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

~ Uncover dough and punch down. 

~ Roll dough into rectangle, approximately 1/4 inch thick.   

~ With a pastry brush, cover dough with butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border around edge.

~ Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon, reserving 1 tbsp of mixture.  Sprinkle dough 
   liberally with remaining sugar/cinnamon.

~ Roll dough, starting with long side, and evenly slice.

~ Heat oven to 375 degrees.

~  Place cut rolls into greased pans and let rise about 30 minutes.

~ Cook rolls about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.

~ While rolls cook, whip together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add caramel and 
    blend.

~ Mix in milk and vanilla until incorporated.  Gradually add in sugar and mix well.

~ Top warm rolls with caramel icing.  Sprinkle tops with reserved sugar and cinnamon.


Caramel icing recipe from Annies Eats.

Friday, September 26, 2014

white chocolate snickerdoodle blondies (and a working mom's lament)




No one ever told me it would be this hard... the balancing act, that is.  I feel like my mind is racing with idea after idea after idea of what I would love to do to be a better Christian, a better daughter, a better wife, a better employee, a better... well... mom.  When things settle at the end of a day, the boys are in bed, and the house is perfectly still, the question hits me from all sides.  

What kind of mom was I today?

I was so very blessed to be home for the first years with my boys.  Well, actually, I had a small music business that served nearly 100 children and families, but it allowed me unbelievable flexibility and it was the next best thing to being home.  When the boys were three and five and I had the opportunity to go back to work full-time, there was a fire inside of me that was lit immediately, and the excitement of becoming another version of myself was fascinating.  I was in grad school at the time, I was craving more and more knowledge, and I was ready to do it all.  

Then I did.  

And the big burning fire was quickly squelched by that big, fat, ugly monster with whom all of us moms have become dear, dear friends.

GUILT.

Flash forward seven years, and I still question myself on the worst of days.  But rather than being swallowed up by it, I'm trying to remind myself of what I am providing my children.  Along with those stressed, short-tempered, call-it-like-you-see-it kind of mom moments from time to time, I'm allowing myself to recognize I am showing my boys how to work hard, how to apologize when you've directed your stress towards others needlessly, how to calm down when anger gets the best of you, and how to follow a life's calling within a career path that allows you to get outside of your own self - and them -  and influence others, learn from others, share gifts with others, and be blessed by seeing others do the same.

I admit I've longed, more times than not, to be the mom with the warm, homemade treats (like the ones below) to greet my children after a long day at school and practice.  Or to be the mom who can have the laundry washed and stacked and ready to be put away all while a full, rounded out meal is spread on the table when the family walks in the door.  But I have learned that the quick drive-thrus, or the package of Oreos are just as wonderful - and appreciated.  

So I implore moms everywhere… especially those who are working tirelessly outside of the home…  As Satan comes prowling about, clothed in the "guilt attire," tell him to get behind you! Rest in the peace God calls us to have in Him.  He is proud of you, and so are your children. And honestly, in the end, isn't that all that really matters anyway?

White Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodle Blondies
makes one 9x13 pan
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
~ Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

~ In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

~ In a large bowl, beat butter on high until light and creamy.  Add sugars.  

~ Gradually add in eggs and vanilla.  

~ Slowly add in dry ingredients, on low, a little at a time,  just until combined.  Stir in 
   chips.

~ Spread into pan.

~ Bake 22-26 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool.

~  While cooling, mix powdered sugar, milk, and 1/4 tsp vanilla in bowl until smooth.  
     Drizzle over cooled bars and cut into 24 squares.  




Recipe adapted from Sallys Baking Addiction.




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

fall harvest salad with maple vinaigrette and honey-glazed pecans



The time is here.  It's Fall, ya'll, and I love it, love it, love it!  This season is rejuvenating, exhilarating, and worth celebrating with all things food.

Before I get to the fantastic salad I threw together to honor the ushering in of this grand (and my favorite) season, I need to apologize for being absent for a while.  Quite honestly, I've been cooking up a storm and even taking pictures of the finished results, but I've also been brainstorming about how to update the site and make it easier to navigate - doing a remodel, if you will - and through my research have found that it's going to take quite a bit of work and time.  Foolishly, I'd hoped I could do it quickly and come back with all of these new recipes and a new look, but I haven't figured out a way to do so, so I'll continue as usual for now.  The food's the best part anyway, right?

This past weekend was a busy one.  Between my husband and two boys, there were four football games, a 9-2 Saturday event I worked for school, church services and loads of laundry.  I did get our front porch semi-decorated for the season, just so I'd have a little "happy" to enjoy each time we pull into the drive, and our back patio also received the last of the mum and pansy planting.  I was so hoping I could finish a wreath I'm working on for the front door, along with the ottoman I decided to start recovering (20 days ago, but who's counting?!?), but as Scarlett said in her sweetest southern way, "Tomorrow is anotha' day…"



And so I did manage to get this salad put on a plate as a part of our Sunday lunch and fell in love.  In love, I tell ya.  Honey-glazed pecans, cranberries, goat cheese and a homemade maple vinaigrette drizzled over a smattering of chopped apples caused this beautiful mixture to scream, "fall!"  The combination is nothing new, except in the Green household.  I'm sure you've had similar salads just as I have.  But now that it's made its way onto our table, it'll be a regular.

Stay tuned for the return of SOUPer Saturdays, beginning this weekend.  I'm having a hard time deciding which soup to post, as I've accidentally come up with two we've really enjoyed.  Do I go with creamy and cheesy or southwestern-y and tomato-y?  Ahh... so many decisions; so little time.  

one year ago: maple-cornmeal drop biscuits
two years ago: orange-cinnamon french toast

Fall Harvest Salad
serves 2-4
For the salad:
  • 10 ounce'ish mixed baby or field greens
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions (white parts only)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 5.5 ounce small log goat cheese, crumbled (I used herb goat cheese)
  • 1 apple (Honeycrisp or Gala are wonderful for this), cored and chopped
For the pecans:
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Kosher salt
For the dressing:
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped, fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 "swirls" of maple syrup 
~ Heat oven to 350 degrees.

~ Place all salad ingredients in a bowl.


~ Spread pecan halves in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until 

    fragrant.

~ Put honey in small saucepan and add roasted pecans.  Heat and stir until mixture is 

    foamy.  Remove from heat.

~ Spread pecans on parchment-lined baking pan to cool, separating with a fork.  Sprinkle 

    with salt.

~ For the dressing, put all ingredients in a glass jar with lid and shake.  Obviously, you can 

    use a bowl, but I love doing it this way, because it's a cute serving option and leftover can 
    be easily stored.  You'll have more than you need for this salad.  

FYI's -

  • The pecans are super-sticky but SO worth it.  Just have a couple of utensils at the ready; one to pick up with and the other to get the pecan onto the salad.
  • I find it's better to "dress" the salad before serving.  Place all ingredients in the bowl, pouring the desired dressing over the top and gently "turning" the ingredients with tongs.  


 

Monday, August 25, 2014

nutty "raw" chocolate chip cookie dough (the healthy kind)



I, undoubtedly, have a sweet tooth.  In fact (truth be told), I have a mouth full of them!  That is why this recipe caught my eye quickly.  And I just so happened to have all the ingredients on hand, so it was a quick trip to the end of the experiment and, most definitely, worth it!

I won't get too much into my recent attempt to lower my carb intake.  I think I'll save that for later.  But for a variety of reasons, namely joint pain, I have drastically cut back on them the last two weeks.  I would dare say I'm a sugar "addict," so cutting everything out is not an option… nor do I think it's healthy or necessary.  So, I'm constantly keeping an eye open for just this kind of recipe.  It makes my attempt to reduce inflammation, by reducing sugar and flour, a little more palatable, and… well… it's just really, really good.

I recently saw this recipe on a newer Food Network show, The Kitchen.  There was a segment regarding quick and healthy snacks for kids, and the words "raw cookie dough" caught my attention.

Can't imagine why.

I went and searched online to find the recipe and was able to watch the rest of the episode and taste-test  these goodies before I could turn around.  I now keep them in the freezer at the ready, and if I can keep Daniel out of them, I usually enjoy a couple a day.  He thinks they favor Samoas.  I think they favor the perfect balance of sweet and healthy.

Another score in my book!

one year ago: snickerdoodlesapple cider pork tenderloin
two years ago: peanut butter bacon butterscotch cookieschocolate waffleslemon herb rice salad

Nutty "Raw" Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
makes approx. 20 balls
  • 3 dates, pitted
  • 3/4 cup raw almonds, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I use dark or bittersweet)
~ Soak the dates in 1/4 cup of hot water for 5 minutes, reserving water.

~ In a food processor, combine the nuts, coconut, oats and salt.  Pulse until a fine meal forms.  

~  Add the peanut butter, dates, 3 tbsp of the reserved water and vanilla.  Process until the mixture is cookie dough consistency.  

~ Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add chips.  I just mixed in with my hands.  

~ Line a pan with parchment paper and refrigerate 15-20 minutes until set, or place the pan in the freezer and allow to freeze.  Place in freezer bag and store in freezer or store in airtight container in the fridge.








Tuesday, August 19, 2014

jen's cucumber salad



I am desperately trying to hang on to the last days of Summer, folks.  It actually used to not be one of my favorites, but after having children and realizing the quality time I get with them during that season - especially after going back to work full-time - it's so incredibly hard to let go.  

When I do get some days off in the summer, I love the care-free nature of them.  I adore the dirty feet of my boys from being outside all day long and having to scrub their knees extra hard to get a full day's play off of 'em.  I love the freeze pops by the dozen and the feel of the air conditioner after getting a shower following a sticky, balmy afternoon.  And I would be remiss if I didn't mention how very much I love the bounty of veggies and fruit that seemingly make their way into our kitchen, whether we planted them or not.  

This year, one of John's students brought us an abundance of small cucumbers.  They were fantastic and not at all bitter.  We both really love keeping a huge Mason jar stocked with them in sugary vinegar brine, sliced onions, and some seasonings.  They are crisp, crunchy, cool, and a perfect side or condiment to so many different things.  They will last forever, unless - of course - you're like us.  Then the jar is empty more than it's full, and we're a little sad until another generous soul passes on their harvest.  

A quick tip:  these can be added to the brine as you get them, but they flavor up much more quickly if you pour boiling brine over them.  I don't know… the slices are infused from the inside-out, and once cooled, they're absolutely perfect!

Enjoy!

Cucumber Salad
makes 2 quarts
  • 8 small cucumbers
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tbsp celery seed
~ Mix vinegar, sugar, water and seasonings in saucepan and bring to a boil.

~ While mixture is heating, slice cucumbers about a 1/4 inch thick.

~ Pour mixture over cucumbers, cover tightly, and let cool on counter.  Place in 
    refrigerator until fully chilled.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

plain ol' vanilla ice cream



It wasn't too long after we started visiting our current church congregation that we took part in their "Ice Cream Supper."  With my love of ice cream and all, you can imagine the points they scored with me when I read that in the "upcoming events" section of the bulletin.

It was everything I imagined it would be.  Old-fashioned.  Homey.  Delicious.  Everyone who brought a freezer full walked in the door a little taller, a little more confident, a little more eager, as if to say, 


"You think hers is good… wait'll you try this!"  

We've continued to have the suppers over the years, and it's a hit without fail.  The event is no respecter of age or level of expertise, and we all know some good milk, sugar… maybe a little fruit here, or a bit of chocolate there... is a winner every time.

At our last get-together a few weeks ago, I didn't take the preparation on as some big challenge out to win a blue ribbon.  I didn't pour through cookbooks or websites to try to find some obscure concoction.  I actually just considered the basics and came up with what I ended up calling, Plain Ol' Vanilla.  I didn't really mean to call it exactly that, but when my freezer was placed amid flavors like Peppermint Cream and Sunshine Berry, I found myself referring to it as Plain Ol' Vanilla with every patron that passed.

I was pleased that many came back and asked for seconds, and when one suggested it was the best vanilla ice cream they'd ever had, I knew I needed to share it with you, because listen to me, friends - it is SO. SO. EASY.  And after it has cured a while in the freezer, it scoops out beautifully.  

I'm milking the last of  the summer days for all their worth.  We're bound to have a few more in the 90's with high humidity, especially in these parts.  If you're needing a cool-down, gather just a few staples you probably already have in your pantry and whip up a batch of this.  I'm tellin' ya.  Plain never tasted so good!  

Plain Ol' Vanilla Ice Cream
makes 1.5 quarts
  • one 8 oz carton whipped topping
  • 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 tbsp vanilla 
  • 5 tbsp confectioner's sugar
  • enough milk to make 2 quarts
~  After whipped topping has thawed completely, in large measuring bowl, mix together 
    topping, condensed milk, vanilla and confectioner's sugar with whisk until fully blended.

~ Add enough milk to make 2 quarts.  

~ Pour mixture into ice cream stand and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Recipe from The Lazy Daisy Kitchen


Friday, June 27, 2014

pineberry sorbet





I was going for a quick refresher after a long walk in some pretty good heat - think smoothie - but I ended up with this.  Closer to a sorbet (which is even closer to ice cream than a smoothie is, and you know what I've told you before about me and ice cream!), it scooped out in beautiful rounds as soon as it came out of my Ninja.  

This pic is actually the second batch I made and refroze within hours of the first, because as I shared with you here, John and I nearly came to blows on the front porch when I first arrived with the treat.

By the way, that would not have been a good move if wanting to win over new neighbors and influence people.

We both begrudgingly took turns scraping the bottom of the bowl, and then I went back inside to begin mixing again.  

This is not rocket science or even unique, I'm sure.  But the consistency and ease was so unexpected, I wanted to share.  Though, one word of advice.  If there are two of you and only one bowlful of the dessert, make sure you have a pair of gloves and bell in tow; a knock-down, drag-out is a given.

Pineberry Sorbet
  • 14 one-inch pineapple chunks, frozen
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (I used strawberry, raspberry, blackberry blend)
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk
~ Pour all ingredients in device (blender, Ninja, etc) and blend until smooth.  

~ Serve immediately, or pour into airtight container and store in freezer. 

Recipe from The Lazy Daisy Kitchen.