Quick Cinnamon Rolls

Very few things will get me out of bed at 7 am on a Sunday. (I don’t even get up this early for church.) One of those things is the World Cup… mostly because M and our friend B are crazy about this tournament and will wake up really early just to watch. If we didn’t live in a 700+ sq ft apartment with our bedroom open to the living room, I may have been able to sleep through it (thought it would not have been easy). I am a sucker for making breakfast though, and forcing those two to attempt to be quiet during any sports game is like trying to hide a triceratops in your bathroom. Not possible.  

If I had prepared in advance, I would have tried Alton’s overnight Cinnamon Roll recipe, but dinner and a movie last night nixed that opportunity. So, I searched for a while to try and find a dough recipe I could make and then proof in the fridge overnight. I found a few recipes for this, but didn’t have the desire to get up an extra hour early just to let the dough come to room temperature – then wait even longer for them to rise before baking. On with the search. I ended my search after I found a few recipes for quick cinnamon roll like biscuits. There were good reviews, so I thought I’d give it a try. 

I combined various ingredients from three different recipes to make the one below. I think they turned out well for quick cinnamon rolls. They are no match to the overly fatty cinnamon rolls sold in malls across the us, but I felt better eating more knowing that there is hardly any fat in the dough. 4 tablespoons of butter is nothing compared to the 2 sticks that some other recipes called for! They remind me a little of pillsbury rolls from the tube, but less greasy. I’d definitely make these again. I usually have all of the ingredients on hand anyways, and if I didn’t have buttermilk, I would use milk and vinegar instead. A great treat for overnight guests. This would have been a good Father’s Day treat too! Too bad we don’t live closer. Happy Fathers Day Dads! 

Cinnamon Roll “Biscuits” 

For the dough: 
3/4 C thick non fat yogurt (I used Mountain High)
1/3 C buttermilk
1/4 C sugar
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1 t vanilla extract
2 C unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
1 T baking powder
1/2 t table salt
1/4 t baking soda

For the filling:
2 T unsalted butter, melted
2/3 C packed light brown sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 C chopped pecans (optional)

For the glaze:
2-1/2 oz cream cheese
2 to 3 T milk or buttermilk
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1/2 t pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Make the dough:

In a food processor, combine the yogurt, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and pulse in short bursts just until the dough clumps together (don’t overprocess). The dough will be soft and moist.
Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and dust it with flour. Knead it 4 or 5 times until smooth. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12×15 inch rectangle. If the dough springs back and will not stay in a nice rectangle give it a few minutes to rest and try again. 

Make the filling:

Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border unbuttered around the edges. In another bowl, whisk the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle the mixture over the buttered area of the dough and pat gently into the surface. Sprinkle the nuts over the sugar mixture if you are using them. Starting at a long edge, roll up the dough jelly-roll style. Pinch the seam to seal, and leave the ends open.

Using a 12 inch length of waxed dental floss, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces. (Slide the floss under the log, bring the ends up on top, cross and twist the floss to cut the dough). Set the pieces, cut side up, in the prepared pan; they should fill the pan and touch slightly, but don’t worry if there are small gaps.

Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 25-28 minutes. Let the rolls sit in the pan for a few minutes before removing the side. Transfer the rolls to a serving plate. You can also use a round cake pan, or an 8 inch square pan. 

Make the glaze:

In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, 2 Tbs. milk, and vanilla to make a smooth glaze. It should have a thick but pourable consistency, so add up to 1 Tbs. more milk if necessary. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

Easy Bake cOven – Maple Oatmeal Bread

Fresh baked bread is always present at the Townsend dinner table (my in-laws that is). Without question, the bread machine gets a workout when company is present, and that magical aroma fills the house.

I don’t use my bread machine enough. I was doing really well for a while, and I can’t say exactly why we stopped feeding it all the ingredients to make a nice loaf in the morning. Yes, we used to load it up at night and have fresh bread for sandwiches I made before work. I must be getting lazy. While bread machine bread is good and requires almost no work at all, fresh baked, handmade bread is irresistible. I’ve posted about bread before, and am always looking for new recipes to try. Thankfully, Dana chose the recipes this month for the Easy Bake cOven. She chose two recipes, one Dilly bread – a dill and onion flavored, savory loaf – and Maple Oat Bread – a typical loaf good for sandwiches or for toast.

I chose to make only the Maple Oat bread for now, because Dana (my mom in law) made it for us when they visited M and I earlier this month. It was moist and delicious and would be a great accompaniment to any soup or simple pasta. The bread turned out well. The oats and whole wheat give it a dense and chewy texture (perfect for a giant slice of toast), and while it is light in color, it isn’t lacking in flavor. It’s plain and simple – good bread.

Maple Oatmeal Bread

one 1.5 lb loaf

Sprinkle 2 tsp. yeast (bread machine or regular) over 1 c. lukewarm (105-115 degrees) water—let stand while combining

¼ c. oil

¼ c. real maple syrup (not pancake syrup)—can substitute honey

1 ¾ tsp. salt

add yeast mixture

Stir in 1 c. rolled oats

Stir in enough of the 3 cups bread flour (opt. substitute 1 c. whole wheat flour and 2 c. bread flour) until a stiff dough

Kneed in the rest of the flour, and more if necessary, until the dough can be kneeded for 5-10 min.

The ball should spring back into shape when indented and be smooth and not sticky.

Roll in a greased bowl and leave to rise in a warm place with a damp towel over the top until double (1.5-2 hours)

Punch down and shape loaf

Let rise uncovered up to 1 hour or until less than double in bulk (don’t let it over rise)

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, 30 to 40 minutes.

For a Printable version of both recipes, click here.

Easy Bake cOven – Bob’s Croissant

For the month of February, one of our members chose to make Croissants from scratch. I was kind of disappointed – mostly because I made puff pastry once before and it was so so. The vous al vents turned out well, but spending the entire day in the kitchen was not my idea of fun (unless it involved cakes). I like to say that puff pastry is something everyone should try at least once (maybe to gain a higher appreciation of the product) and once is definitely enough.

Instead of making the croissants again, I decided to do a little write up about my favorite croissant in the city. Thanks to a friend and her love for anything french – I tried a croissant from Bob’s Donuts. This is not your typical donut shop – they are open most of the 24 hour day, tempting you with their giant window display of fresh baked delicacies. They don’t stop making donuts after 8am, they keep on going into the night to catch the tipsy folks traveling down Polk after the bars close. It is quite heavenly.
I’m not partial to any specific donut. I don’t eat them often (more a guilty pleasure) but understand why some people can’t resist. It’s good we don’t live closer. The croissant they sell is super cheap, as big as half your face, and more flakey and buttery than I can ever imagine perfecting myself. M said they taste heavenly. I agree. What can be better (but not better for you?) to indulge in once every few months.
I don’t feel so bad that I didn’t make them – and am very proud of those who did. Next time I need a croissant fix, I’ll make my way up 6 blocks to Bob’s. Just look at those flakey layers….

My Top Ten of 2009

Today is the first day of 2010, so Happy New Year to you all. I thought today would be a good day to reflect on the past year of my blog and I have decided to recount my top ten recipes. Before we reflect, I’m going to tell you all about my baking plans for this year, resolution style. I don’t typically make resolutions because they tend to get shoved aside or are so unrealistic that they are on the skirts of achievability. Food related resolutions are new for me and definitely attainable. Do you all have resolutions for the new year?

I’m going to attempt to use more whole wheat flour. Not so much for health reasons, mostly because I tend to run out of all purpose flour all of the time and the whole wheat bag sits in the cupboard feeling unwanted and depressed. If I had a repertoire of more whole wheat recipes I would definitely cook with it more often.

I’m going to try hard and not skip the Daring Bakers Challenges for the whole year. This will require me to plan ahead, not procrastinate, and make some items I don’t like. It is difficult when you know the recipe at the beginning of the month and don’t have to post something until the very end. I might have to make up more reasons to celebrate with baked goods during the month.

I am going to make more bread. Plain and simple. I can’t really say quantity-wise what “more” is equal to, I’m just going to make more of it. I have a lot of great cookbooks at my fingertips and I enjoy bread a lot. (I believe I’ve mentioned before bread is one of my favorite smells). It would also be nice to have more home made bread with dinners or lunches. I’m not limiting myself to just hand made either, I’ll bring my bread machine to this challenge too. 

I am going to post at least one non baking item each month. M and I cook a lot and I think some of these meals you might enjoy too. We have a plethora of food delivered to us twice a month from our local CSA and we cook with it each week, so why not share it too? After all, people who read this might not have the itch to bake quite as often as I do.

I would like to celebrate food more. This means all of you in San Fran might gain a few pounds with me. In an effort to appreciate the Slow Food Movement, and because M and I like to host dinners, I want to have people over more often for food. Cooking and eating together, good wine, what more could you ask for? (I haven’t discussed this one with M yet, but I’m pretty sure he will be ok with it).

I think this is enough resolutions for now, I’ll let you know if I come up with more later. Now, on with this recap of my favorites from ’09. (What do we call 10 by the way? It seems so awkward without the “O” in front of it). Here they are in random order.

Savory Puff Pastry

I enjoyed this Challenge for Daring Bakers. We made puff pastry from scratch (which I may never do again) and I came up with this savory topping. I absolutely loved them. You can make it store bought pastry but I definitely recommend trying the filling. 

Wedding Cake

Making a wedding cake is one of the highlights of my year. The challenge of it was unreal. I would love to make another if the opportunity presents itself. 

Four Cheesecakes

I like cheesecake. I don’t make it often because it is so terrible for you (though most of the desserts I make are not “good” for you) so I made the most of it using 4″ mini spring-form pans. They were so cute and tasty. I’d definitely make some of them again. 

Cookie Cake Tower

Who would not like a three layer cookie cake for their birthday? I chose this one because I felt it was creative and good. Not to forget it traveled from California to Virginia in one piece! 

French Style Bread

Bread, one of the techniques I attempted to master this year. I can’t say I am a master yet (hence the resolution to continue making more of it this year) but one day I might make bread like my dad numero dos. This french loaf was one of M’s favorites his dad made growing up, and I wanted to continue the traditions. It makes two loaves so you can save one for later or feed a lot of people. 

Carrot Muffins

Are you wondering why there is a picture of carrots here? It is because carrot muffins come from my early days of the blog when I was not obsessed with taking photos of food (or they were so good we ate them all before I could snap a shot). I didn’t post the recipe in my original post so you are welcome to view it here

Frozen Lime Pie

Not only was this a wonderful dessert, it brings back lovely memories of the Grenadines. After a week of sailing we relaxed at one of the most beautiful houses on St Lucia. Check out these amazing pictures by M. Then be sure to check out the website for the house if you feel like taking an extravagant vacation (pictures on the website do not do it justice). The house comes with the chef and two other house staff (one of which created this recipe). She also makes amazing curry chicken and mahi mahi. I’d like to be there right now. 

Walnut Ice Cream with Tomato Caramel Sauce

This recipe was inspired by my desire to make our plethora of tomatoes into a dessert. It worked, it just was not as literal as eating a tomato for dessert. Hidden in a caramel sauce the tomato gave a new depth of flavor to this amazingly creamy ice cream. If you have the supplies I recommend trying it. 

Mini Fruit Pizzas

I used to make this dessert a lot. I changed the recipe a little bit most recently and enjoyed it more than usual, especially served cold. A crowd pleaser when fresh berries are in season. 


One of M’s favorites. It accompanies soups, jambalaya, gumbo, fish, and whatever else we can create to go with it. I think it would go wonderful with a new recipe I came across Pumpkin Turkey Chili. Give it a try, you won’t even know the pumpkin is in there. We like it so much I sometimes think we choose recipes just so we have an excuse to make it. A good reason to keep buttermilk on hand at all times. 

Pumpkin Extravaganza Continued

I know it has been a while since I posted about pumpkin or posted anything for that matter, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been using it (it just means I’m really busy). I still need to use up the rest of my pumpkin but it may have to wait until after the holidays.

I have a recipe for pumpkin cookies that I really like a lot. They are easy to make (I haven’t tried it with fresh pumpkin yet) and taste like little pumpkin cakes. Amazingly, they get better over time. I wanted to pack some up and send them far across the sea to my brother in law for Christmas but I didn’t know if they would make it a week in the mail. (I sent fudge and candied pecans instead!) The original recipe came from Allrecipes and I have managed to edit it to my liking. They were originally supposed to be glazed, but this reminds me of the pumpkin scone at Starbucks – drenched in frosting and sickeningly sweet, eew. I like sweet but sweet overload in a two bite cookie is a little much. Anyways, these are always favorites among friends so I invite you to try them! And apparently I’ve never taken a photo of these so try and picture the the cutest little puff of pumpkin cookie you can imagine….

The other pumpkin journey I traveled on was Pumpkin Butter – think Apple Butter – not creamy butter spread. It is a very simple combination of ingredients you probably have on hand (and you can use canned or fresh pumpkin) and stores for about a week. This would make a lovely present for holiday hosts, or you can keep it for yourself in a pretty little jar. I’ve been secretly dreaming of owning some canning jars by WECK for a while now. I want to try canning sometime and I’d like to as who wouldn’t with these pretty little products.

I made some bread too. I meant to make some Italian Feather Bread (Beard’s bread book) but ran out of time. Instead, I tried it on some nice white bread-machine bread. A huge slice perfect for toasting. I coated it generously with butter, and topped with a thick layer of Pumpkin Butter. This would make a nice light breakfast, or a great snack with coffee or tea (or hot cocoa). I will admit I tried it while waiting for M to get home from work. I was hungry, what can I say. If only there was a toaster at work, I think my co-workers would enjoy this treat.

Pumpkin Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350˚. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt. 

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet with a cookie scoop or tablespoon. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool on parchment or waxed paper and store in an airtight container. 

Pumpkin Butter
adapted from Pioneer Woman

1 C fresh pumpkin puree (or canned)
1 C plain yogurt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 heaping C powdered sugar (more to taste)

Mix ingredients together and add more sugar to taste. Let sit for at least 3 hours or overnight in an air-tight container. Use liberally! Stores for about a week in the fridge.

Thanksgiving Goodness

Thanksgiving this year was small (I mean people definitely not food). We shared it with 3 other close friends and our host’s 17 lb turkey was definitely big enough to fill us. M and one of our hosts had their annual Thanksgiving “Turkey Trot”, a 3.7 mile run in the city so they were prepared to feast. This turkey was a champion too, it decided to cook itself two hours faster than it should have and somehow remain moist and tasty. Does diligent baking and dishwashing count as exercise too?

Dessert and Rolls are what M and I claimed for Thanksgiving this year. We also threw together a cranberry relish, because what is Thanksgiving without cranberries? Last year I made two different types of cranberry dishes because we received so many cranberries in our CSA box (I had never made them from scratch before). This year we managed to make the favorite of the two and somehow it seemed better than last. We did reminisce about the cranberry sauce that comes in a can and kind of slurps out. I used to love the stuff when I was a kid… oh how things have changed. The relish was probably the easiest and least time consuming of the recipes we made – 5 minutes tops. The Creme Brulee wasn’t too difficult to prepare, it required 2 hours chilling time, and the rolls needed ample time to rise in our freezing apartment (thank you gas stove for staying warm while you weren’t baking to help out the process).

Rolls, rolls, giant rolls. They were so good (and we have some leftover… yeah!) M managed to recreate his mom’s roll recipe from scratch very well this year. I’d say he is a pro after only one year of practice. He decided it would be best to make them really big. I’m pretty sure he was really hungry while making them and may have altered his reasoning for size of roll discernment. I asked M to say a little something about his bread making…

“I love these rolls. I grew up with them at Thanksgiving and Christmas and it’s the one food item I refuse to go through the holidays without. They take a good amount of love to make, with excessive amounts of kneading and careful oven monitoring and can easily go south quickly. Too little or too much kneading, cheap yeast, too little butter spread, too much poppy seed, a minute overcooked, a minute undercooked, a burnt tip… It’s an investment in time and patience and will leave your muscles sore from stirring and kneading dough. This year I’m happy to say they were perfect and I was like a giddy little kid stealing a fresh-out-of-the-oven roll to enjoy, plus it gave me an excuse to wear an apron.”

needs more flour

kneading – I think he was getting tired

expert slicing with the handy pizza cutter

8 rolls per third of dough – this is what made them the size of your face

perfect rolls

M devouring fresh from the oven rolls
M may have eaten the whole basket if I hadn’t been watching

Look at that buttery goodness!

I’m pretty sure this is going to be his traditional dish for Thanksgivings to come. And whether they show up next year the size of your face I guess we’ll wait and see.

I was flipping through a cookbook and stumbled upon some interesting pumpkin recipes like Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse and Pumpkin Creme Brulee, and after a vote the Brulee won. I haven’t ever made any type of Creme Brulee and I was excited to try it. Thanks Em for letting me borrow ramekins so I didn’t have to clutter the tiny kitchen with dishes that are very seldom used.

I actually made my own pumpkin puree from my cute little sugar pumpkin from our Farm Fresh box. Making your own puree is time consuming but very easy. I used the wise words of The Pioneer Woman to make mine, and I definitely had to add water to make the right consistency. I was very proud to say the least. My little pumpkin made about 2 1/2 cups so I’ll be making something else to contribute the the pumpkin extravaganza. I have my eyes on Pumpkin Butter and possibly a pumpkin cheesecake just for fun.

I only had one judgement issue for the creme brulee and that was “the brulee will be done when they give a uniform jiggle” and it was hard to discern when the jiggle was “uniform” or if it was too jiggly. Needless to say, I may have overcooked them just a hair. After the cooking they needed to cool for a couple of hours. Before serving all you have to do is torch them. You can also use your broiler if you don’t have a torch. I would have used the broiler had our hosts not had a torch. It worked well, and it was fun to watch the sugar liquify. The only thing more satisfying was breaking through the sugar into the pumpkin creme below. They were tasty little pots of goodness.

In addition to our contributions, we had a deliciously moist turkey with sausage stuffing, mashed sweet and russet potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole with mushrooms and onion, and fruity jello pudding salad (one of those midwestern roots dishes). Our meal was great and our company was too. All of our suffering was worth it though. Thanks everyone for sharing a great holiday with us.

Cranberry Relish
makes about 3 cups

1 small navel orange (or 2 clementines – which is what we had on hand)
1 pear
1 12-oz bag cranberries
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste
3 T chopped toasted pecans

Slice the orange and pear into segments and toss into the food processor (keep the rind on both). Add the sugar and cranberries and salt and pulse a few times. Process until you get a coarse chop for all of the fruits, stopping to stir if necessary. We processed ours a little smaller this year which may have made it a little juicier than typical. Cover tightly and refrigerate for two hours. Sprinkle the nuts on top just before serving.

The relish is also delicious as a topping for waffles or pancakes! I hope this comes in handy for the Christmas season.

Monkey Bread

I love monkey bread. It never occurred to me that people did not know what this delicious bread was until I was making it for brunch. My friend told me she never heard of it until college and she was on the phone with another friend who had never heard of it either. So, for those of you in the same boat I welcome you to the land of deliciousness… Monkey Bread is a sweet pull-apart bread made of mini rolls dipped in a sugar/butter mix and baked into a sticky gooey mess. It is great for brunch or even dessert and unfortunately has nothing to do with real Monkeys.

I like my monkey bread gooey. If it isn’t gooey it just isn’t as good. I haven’t made this since high school probably when I used my best friends’ mom’s recipe. She used frozen dinner rolls and some butterscotch pudding packets and some other things I can’t remember. It sounds weird but tastes delicious. It is also super easy to make since you let the rolls rise overnight. The one I made for brunch I made from scratch. It also had currants which I have never seen before, but my cookbook says this is the original way to make it (and I happen to keep them in the pantry). The taste was great but my yeast was almost dead. The bread didn’t rise as much as planned so it was pretty dense.
Making these the morning of your breakfast is a little difficult since the bread requires a lot of rising time. Not so terrible if you are a morning person and you are having a brunch or late breakfast. I think I was a morning person once…. Making this from complete scratch is a toss up for me. Had the bread turned out light and fluffy as it should have I might have loved it enough to make it from scratch again. I should go ahead and try since the yeast was a major factor in taste and texture. Only then will I be able to fully decide whether or not this bread should be a scratch dough or not. Maybe I’ll do a side by side taste test of both. Hmmm, maybe the perfect addition to Christmas breakfast….
I have attached the recipe for all of you curious bread makers (who either love Monkey bread or are interested in giving it a try). Good luck, and buy new yeast!
Monkey Bread
2 packages yeast
1 C sugar
1/2 C warm water (110˚-115˚)
2 sticks butter divided
1 1/2 T salt
1 C warm milk
3 eggs + 2 yolks
6-7 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C currants plumped
Proof yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl. Stir 1 stick butter into the warm milk. Add to the yeast mixture and stir in eggs. Beat until combined. Add the flour one cup at a time until you get to 5 cups. Then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead in as much of the 2 C as you need to make a silky dough. Knead 10 minutes. Shape into a ball and put it in a buttered dish, cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place until it doubles.
Punch down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead a few turns with 1 T flour and rest for another 5-10 minutes (I told you it would take a while). Butter a 10 inch tube pan. In a saucepan melt 1 stick butter and the brown sugar in a saucepan. Add in the currants and remove from heat. Pinch off dough in golfball size amounts, roll into balls and then into the butter mixture. Layer into the bottom of the pan. Once all are in, pour remaining butter mix over the top, tent loosely with foil and let the dough rise to the top of the pan. Bake in a 375˚ oven for about an hour. It will be done with the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Invert onto a serving dish and serve warm to pull apart.

Pumpkin Extravaganza

Have I mentioned before that I adore pumpkin. Really anything from the squash family I will eat without question. I’m looking forward to fall and all of the interesting winter squash our Farm Fresh produce will bring. If anyone has any great recipes to share, I’d love to cook something new.

For now (whilst my dear pumpkins are decorating the house for the season) I have been busy with the canned version. Over the next few posts I hope to share some of my favorite pumpkin recipes including this first post about a very versatile bread base. I found a recipe a few years back on the AllRecipes.com website that I have altered many times to cut the fat. It can be turned into loaves of bread or muffins, or a combination if you use the whole recipe. It tastes great with nuts or chocolate chips, and this time I made a loaf with green pumpkin seeds. All delicious.

Pumpkin is something I never grow tired of, and one of the first pies I made from scratch. It is so simple to use from a can, especially since the canned pumpkin folks haven’t added strange life extending chemicals to the mix. I am happy to say that my can of pumpkin contains solely “pumpkin”. Pumpkin from scratch is good as well but a lot more work. First you have to cut it in pieces which may be a challenge if you don’t have a super sharp chef’s knife. Then you wait around while it roasts, then you scoop out the contents, then you blend it up and hope your pumpkin was big enough to yield more than enough for you recipe. I enjoy cooking it from scratch every now and then, but typically I am using a butternut squash and making an amazing soup. Maybe this year I’ll try and recreate one of my favorite dishes, pumpkin curry with chicken….

I used the entire recipe below and made muffins – half with chocolate chips and half with a crumb topping. I had the crumb topping left over from the apple crisp and will say that it was not the most interesting addition to the muffin. Chocolate chips on the other hand are amazing. Pumpkin and chocolate go together well. I was mildly depressed that I hadn’t just made the whole batch with chocolate chips (I think M was too). The other half of the batter I dumped into my loaf pan and topped it generously with green pumpkin seeds. These are really tasty seeds and when added to the top of the bread toast very well. I don’t much like my muffins to taste like they should be a dessert so I steer clear of the cream cheese filling. A dear woman who my sister and I call “grandma Blanch” makes a very heavy pie with cream cheese and lots of whipped topping. I can only eat a sliver of it. I can however eat a decent slice of pumpkin cheesecake (which I should make for this Extravaganza). I hope you find some canned pumpkin to try out the upcoming recipes with. If you have any great ideas let me know!

Pumpkin Bread Base

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

4 eggs

1/2 C vegetable oil

1/2 C plain yogurt

2/3 C water

2 C white sugar

3 1/2 C all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

and a splash of vanilla if you feel like it

1/2 C chocolate chips, 1/4 C pumpkin seeds, 1/4 C walnuts or almonds chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour one 9×4 inch loaf pan and line 12 muffin cups. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, yogurt, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Fill the muffins 2/3 full and pour the rest into the loaf pan. Bake muffins for 25 minutes and the loaf for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Easy Bake cOven – Soft Pretzels

This months recipe was Soft Pretzels. I have had two recipes I wanted to try for quite some time now and decided to make them the September challenge. I have a recipe for a copycat Auntie Annie Pretzel and a recipe from Alton Brown. I chose the Auntie Annie recipe – mostly to see how close it taste to the real thing. I’ll leave Alton’s for another day….
Pretzel making was very simple. Starts like any basic bread dough and the only difference is in the shaping. I always envied the little workers behind the glass at Auntie Annie’s at the mall and finally tried my hand at pretzel twisting. Let me tell you it is much harder than it looks. You have to get the right amount of velocity for a full twist before the dough falls to the counter (very difficult) and then pinch it together and hope the lopsided pretzel will taste just as good as the perfectly shaped factory style pretzels do. I had grand intentions of making some interesting flavors but I had a slight bit of food poisoning which left me feeling like the original pretzel was just fine. (I also made ice cream and dinner this day too so there was a lot going on in the kitchen).
The Annie pretzel has no fat in the dough – you are supposed to brush them with butter after taking them out of the oven, then apply toppings as liberally as you wish. I decided to make some with salt and some with cinnamon and sugar. The latter was my favorite at the mall when I was little. This method turns out a deliciously greasy pretzel.
The finished product taste a lot like the real deal pretzel – and much better than one from a street vendor (though that strange cheese dip is hard to beat). I’d like to make these again, maybe minis with different toppings. Fun food.

Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Auntie Annie’s Pretzel Recipe
1 1/2 C warm water
1 1/8 tsp yeast
1 1/8 tsp salt
2 T brown sugar
1 C bread flour
3 C all purpose flour (plus more for kneading)
2 C warm water
3 T baking soda
Dissolve yeast in water in a large bowl. Let proof 5 minutes (water will get foamy as yeast activates). Stir in sugar salt and flour with a fork until well combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic – 5-10 minutes. Oil a large bowl, add dough – coating the surface with oil, cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm area until doubled in size (about 45 minutes). Prepare the dipping water by whisking 2 C water with baking soda until dissolved – a shallow pan works best. Lightly oil a work-surface and cut off little chunks of dough. Roll dough into a 1/2 rope about 24″ long. Shape into a pretzel and dip into the baking soda water. Place on a greased baking sheet. Once you have formed all the dough, let the pretzels rise again for 20 minutes or so. Bake for 10 minutes in a 450˚ oven or until they are golden brown. Brush with melted butter (2-4 T) and sprinkle with pretzel salt (or kosher salt) or dip in butter and dip in a cinnamon and sugar mixture.
Thanks to all who participated – be sure to check out the links below or go straight to the Easy Bake cOven to see the rest.

Tea & Books, what more can you ask for?

Maybe some delicious finger foods, a small room full of girls, old friends, new friends, and lots of great conversation. I think we had it covered. A couple of weeks ago my good friend Joey and I hosted what we called the Tea & Book exchange. Our intention was to get a bunch of girls together to exchange books. Yes, that simple. Joey and I have been exchanging books back and forth for a while now and we decided it was time to branch out. We had a lot of girls show up (just over 20) and they brought the expected chick lit, some books stolen from husbands, and a few serious books. It was a hit. We requested each lovely lady bring one book but most people brought a lot more.

Joey and I concocted a menu that may have been a little over zealous but we pulled it off just in the nick of time. Here is what we had:
Cilantro Mint Chutney and Cucumber Sandwiches
Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Brie with Apples and Crackers
Asiago and Parmesan Cheese Crisps
Chocolate Strawberries
Green Tea Shortbread Cookies
Blueberry Crumble
We also had an assortment of treats brought to us by friends for the event which were delicious (Thanks Girls!). Joey cracks me up – she doesn’t really bake or cook much – and to this she states, “If you don’t cook, you have to be a really good shopper – and I’m a really good shopper.” So I coached her through her green tea cookies (the hard way since my mixer died) and they turned out perfect! She also had a lot of great ideas up her sleeve, like the Chutney (which she used to make in Boston and says is good on fish too).
I think we had a great assortment of sweet and salty with some of my favorites. In order to keep my rambling short I am going to give you some of the recipes we used and invented. We plan on doing this again in a couple of months to switch books again. If you really liked this idea, I think you could turn it into something that suits your style: Children’s Book Exchange – for Mom and Dad, or older kids who enjoy reading, a magazine exchange, recipe exchange, whatever you choose I assure you it will be great fun! Joey also found this great little site that is still beta testing for online invitations, they are beautiful (more fun than Evite) and you can personalize them to suit your party, I hope you check them out.

Cilantro Chutney

1 cup packed cilantro ( leaves and stems)

1 cup packed mint (leaves only)

1/4 small red onion coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Up to 2 tablespoons water

Blend it all in a blender until you get a smooth paste. Add water if

needed to aid on the blending. Refrigerated chutney will keep for 4

day. Smear on bread with cucumber for a tea sandwich or add to fish too.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
super simple – no real recipe here

1 baguette sliced and lightly toasted
5 oz goat cheese
2 large tomatoes diced
handful of fresh basil leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

add garlic, basil, and some olive oil to a food processor and blend until pieces are small but not pesto! salt and pepper to taste. toss with tomatoes and set aside. Spread a little goat cheese on the toasts and top with a little of the tomato mix.

Green Tea Shortbread Cookie

2 cups flour

1-2 tblspns green tea powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

sift the flour, powdered tea and salt into a bowl. In a mixer bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar until fluffy. Add flour mixture to mixer bowl and mix slowly until dough just comes together.

Pull dough into a log aprox. 2″ in diameter. Wrap dough log and place in freezer for 30 minutes until dough has firmed to the touch. Slice dough into 1/4″ rounds and place on silpat lined cookie sheet, aprox 1″ apart.

bake on preheated oven at 325 for 16 to 18 minutes or until cookies

start to turn golden

Blueberry Crumble
1 1/2 C quick oats
1 C flour
3/4 C brown sugar
3/4 C butter, cut into small pieces

1 C blueberries, frozen
1/2 C raspberry jam
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla

Line a 8x8x2″ pan with foil and preheat oven to 350*. In a small bowl combine oats, flour, sugar, and butter. Using your fingertips cut in butter until it resembles peas and flakes. Reserve 1 C of the mix. Press the mix into the bottom of the pan. Bake 25 minutes.

In another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Gently pour onto half baked crust and top with the reserved crumble. Return to oven for 30 minutes or until the top is golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack and cut into bars.

I like to make this one in individual cups (muffin tins work well) when I am not making them for a large crowd. Use foil for the lining. Bake as directed above separating the mix equally between the 12 muffin tins. Unmold and serve with a small scoop of great vanilla ice cream or raspberry gelato – or both!
click here to see all of the pictures from Tea & Tales