Monday, January 28, 2013

Quick & Easy Cinnamon Rolls

Tried a new recipe today...

I needed to do a practice run for the 2 upcoming bake sales I need to contribute goodies to.   As I am terrible at kneading and letting dough rise, and managing the time - I will more than likely walk away and forget about the poor lump of dough - I tried a recipe where I could do the dough in the bread machine, and get around all of that.   Last time I made them the traditional way, I ended up being up way, way too late at night so they would be ready for the morning, and it was not fun.  They were AWESOME, but stressful. This method worked out well - I'd make them again - it was ridiculously easy. (See that little crazy one in the top of the picture, by the way?   That was an end piece I squeezed in there, and it was just like a built-in sample piece, so I went ahead and grabbed it as soon as they came out of the oven.)  I made 2 9" rounds, and squeezed 8-9 rolls in each one, and then I baked one pan, and stuck the other one in the freezer to see how they do frozen.  I'll report back.

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

2 tsp. yeast
2 1/3 c. all-purpose white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour*
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
3 tbsp. water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

*I've done all AP flour before when I was out of WW, and they're lovely

3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. cinnamon
1/4 c. butter, softened (1/2 stick)
a little splash of vanilla extract

Put yeast in bread machine first on bottom, then flour, sugar and salt.  In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, melt butter, and add milk, water and beaten egg.  Remove from heat.  Pour onto dry ingredients in bread machine.  Put machine on dough cycle (takes about 90 minutes).

On a lightly floured surface, knead gently with a dusting of flour to make it easy to handle.  If it's too springy when you try to roll it out, cover and let it sit about 10 minutes.  I find it to be the most ridiculously easy dough to roll out ever.  With a floured rolling pin, roll out into a rectangle (about 1/4 thick), approximately 12 x 16 or so.  Spread the filling over the entire surface of the dough.

Roll up dough, and slice into about 1" thick rounds.  Place rolls in a greased 9" x 13" pan, or two 9" rounds.  Cover with a towel and let rise about 30 minutes, until doubled in size.  Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes, until the rolls are golden on top.  Let cool, and spread icing on if desired.  I used the recipe below - YUM.

Cream Cheese Icing

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I used Neufchatel)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (or 1/4 tsp. vanilla & 1/4 tsp. almond - I prefer that combo)
1 c. powdered sugar

Mix to combine - tastes even better when you make it in advance and let it chill.  Can be frozen - makes a large batch.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


We had the BEST stromboli for lunch today!

I made the dough yesterday, and stuck it in the fridge, and then quick threw the stromboli together and baked it for lunch today.  It took about 40 minutes to prep and bake.  We had a bunch of random deli meats and cheeses that needed to be used up, so this was the perfect way to do it.  I've approximated the quantities below - you can use what you have on hand, or buy what you need using the quantities below for a guide.


  • 1 recipe pizza Bread Machine Pizza Dough (below)
  • your favorite meats & cheeses - here's approximately what I used, and all were Boar's Head brand if it matters:
  • 12 slices hard salami, thinly sliced
  • 6-12 slices deli pepperoni, thinly sliced
  • 6 slices deli ham, thinly sliced
  • 6 slices deli turkey, thinly sliced
  • 6 slices picante provolone, thinly sliced
  • 1 c. or so of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 c. or so of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • garlic powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • thinly sliced onions, green peppers, etc. optional (my kids don't do veggies)
  • 1 egg 
  • marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Stretch out your dough - I made 2 smaller strombolis, since we added a few veggies to one, and left one more plain for the kids.  Shape it into a rough rectangle, about the size of a baking sheet.  You'll be putting your filling on the middle 1/3 of your dough.  I sprinkled some garlic power and Italian seasoning (I had a leftover mix I had made for another recipe with dried oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme) - you can do this or skip it if you like.  Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese, and layer the meats.  Top with the provolone slices (only since we had them - go as cheesy or not cheesy as you like).  Grind a little fresh black pepper on top if you feel like it.

Then, pull the sides over to cover the toppings, and seal the ends (put the seam side down on your pan), or get fancy like I did - take a kitchen shears, and snip strips in the 1/3 of the dough on either side of your topping (don't go too far in) about every inch or so.  Then alternate the strips and cross them over, and tuck the ends under.  Use the egg to make an egg wash, and brush over the top of the dough.  I sprinkled a little more garlic powder and seasoning on top, and then sprinkled the grated Parmesan cheese on top.  

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until your stromboli is golden and awesome-looking.  Take it out, and rest for a few minutes before you slice into it, so all the goods don't go sliding out all over the place.  Serve with warmed marinara sauce on the side.  Enjoy!

Bread Machine Pizza Dough

2 tsp. active dry yeast
3 c. bread flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1-2 tbsp. honey (I just drizzled in without measuring - I'm guessing I used about 1.5 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. water

In the order listed above, add ingredients to your bread machine.  Select Dough cycle, and walk away (usually takes about 90 minutes).  When the dough is finished, you can freeze it, refrigerate it for later, or let it rest in a bowl spritzed with EVOO for about 30 minutes (cover with some plastic wrap spritzed with oil so it doesn't stick), and then start shaping the dough.  Place on well-greased baking sheet (or you can use a baking stone - just start pre-heating it while you're working with the dough).  I actually used a baking sheet with parchment paper - super easy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Beef & Broccoli with Rice

Yes!  A dinner everyone LIKED!

We all love Chinese food, and any take on it, so tonight we tried a recipe for beef & broccoli, and everyone ATE IT.  And LIKED IT.  Whoo-hoo!  Here's my take on the original recipe, found here. Sorry for the less than attractive photo - the family was ready to pounce and I hurried it. 

Beef & Broccoli with Rice

Add the following ingredients into a gallon-size freezer bag, and then "knead" to coat (or mix it up in a bowl).  Marinate in the fridge for at least a hour (I cheated, and only did it for about 30 minutes, and it still worked out, but longer is better).  You could also toss in the freezer at this point for a freezer meal, so why not make 2 meals - one for tonight, and one for another night or to share? 

  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar (I've also used honey instead)
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb. round steak (or flank steak, or strip steak, or whatever), sliced thin against the grain 

In a small bowl, combine the following, and set aside (for a freezer meal, I'd put this is a quart-sized freezer bag, and stick it inside the bag of veggies):

  • 1/2 c. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar (I have also used honey instead)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. rice (wine) vinegar (I didn't have sherry like the original recipe called for, so I used rice wine vinegar, and we liked it.  If you DO use sherry, I would not use "cooking sherry" - it's super salty and kind of gross, in my opinion.  Go buy a bottle in the wine/liquor department of a decent (or cheap but drinkable, whatever!) sherry, and use that instead.  The general rule with alcohol and cooking is, "if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it." I'm not a sherry drinker, but the cooking sherry is not awesome.)

Prep your veggies (you could throw these into a freezer bag, and freeze separately from marinating meat for a freezer meal):

  • 2 broccoli crowns, rinsed and cut into florets (or use pea pods instead - yum!!)
  • 1/2 white onion, diced or sliced super thin (optional - I  just tend to add onion to everything)
  • 1-2 carrots, sliced julienne-style (optional - I didn't have any tonight, but I'd throw them in next time)

Start cooking your rice.  Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Add broccoli, onions and carrots, and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Transfer veggies to a plate.  Then heat 1 more tbsp. oil to the pan, and add half of the the marinated meat, browning each side.  Remove to a plate, and then brown the rest of the meat.  When cooked to your liking, reduce heat, add back meat, juices, and veggies to pan.  Mix in the sauce, and cook until heated through.  Serve over rice. 

Note: my husband grabbed the crushed red pepper flakes, and sprinkled on a healthy dose, so feel free to do that if that's your kind of thing. Feel free to bring out the Sriracha, too.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Meal Planning with Picky Kids

Ugh.  The kids are super picky still...

That, paired with some illness and a ridiculous weeknight schedule with basketball and other activities has made meal planning a huge challenge.  I winged it last week, trying to use up things we had in the freezer and pantry.  Here's what we ended up with:

  • Monday: spaghetti with this sauce - every kid likes that - I just kept the beef out during cooking, and then used my immersion blender to blend the MANY veggies I threw in so the kids didn't freak out, then stirred in the browned and drained meat.
  • Tuesday: chicken fajita bowls - rice, seasoned chicken, peppers/onions, various toppings
  • Wednesday: beef tacos - holy spicy taco mix, Trader Joe - whew!  we all were surprised...
  • Thursday: baked chicken (mystery freezer meal discovered in the freezer) with brown rice and steamed veggies
  • Friday: ordered pizza - mom got sick, what can I say? 
  • Saturday: leftovers, and some egg/Canadian bacon/cheese English muffin sandwiches (yep, still sick)

For this week, when asked, the kids said they wanted steak with blue cheese and Chinese food for dinner.  And chicken.  Really?  No help there... So here's the rough plan:

  • Beef with broccoli - trying a Pinned recipe
  • Homemade baked chicken tenders with various dipping sauces
  • Steak sandwiches with Cambozola and caramelized onions, some homemade fries maybe
  • Chicken/Broccoli/Asiago/Penne Skillet
  • Back-ups/options in the freezer for quick meals: chili, chicken noodle soup, browned ground beef, cooked, ready to throw into anything (tacos, sloppy joes, etc.), shredded chicken, some Ney's burger patties for quick burgers, a # of bacon, and a host of veggies

We'll see what happens...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Baked French Toast

I don't love French Toast.

It's true.  But the rest of the family does, so I made this easy baked French toast recipe a few weeks ago, and it turned out pretty well.  I made it in the morning, and baked it for dinner - we do breakfast for dinner almost every week.  You could also do this in the evening and let it sit in the fridge overnight, and then bake it in the morning.  It's great when you have guests, or want a nice lazy morning Brunch dish.

That isn't the most attractive photo, but it tasted great, and smelled fantastic as it was baking!

Easy Baked French Toast

1 loaf of Challah bread, sliced about 1" thick, slightly stale (you could also use a hearty French bread)
6 eggs
4 c. milk (I used 3 c. skim milk and 1 c. half & half since I needed to use it up)
1 tbsp. granulated sugar  (depending on what you're serving with it, you could do a little more)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (I'm wondering if I made it with cinnamon raisin bread next time, what would happen?)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Optional: add in 2 tbsp. or so maple syrup (the real stuff, please) for a little extra flavor, and/or some frozen berries (you could use dried fruit, too)

Add eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a bowl, and whisk to combine.  Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish, and then layer half of the slices of bread in the bottom of the dish.  Pour half of the egg mixture over top.

I added in a handful of frozen blueberries, since I had them on hand (I had frozen a bunch of leftover berries before they disappeared into obscurity in the fridge  and happened to find the little container in the freezer - score!).  Since I was testing out the recipe, I only added them to half of the pan, in case the kiddos didn't want/like them, between the layers of bread.  (They went over well, and and I would definitely add them in again).   You could also sprinkle some nuts in there, or over top if you like them kind of crunchy.

Cover with the remaining slice of bread, and then pour the rest of the egg mixture over the top, as evenly as possibly.  Press the bread down a bit, to really soak in the liquid.   Top with a little sprinkle of cinnamon, some nuts or a few more berries if you like, then cover with plastic wrap tightly. Refrigerate overnight or at least for 6-8 hours (I rushed it a little  by doing it in the late morning, so I needed to cook it a little longer - I'd do it the night before next time).

Baked in a preheated oven at 425 degrees, uncovered, until it is golden and puffy-looking (seriously, that's the best way to describe it).  This should take 30-45 minutes. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before you slice into it, and then serve with your favorite toppings - fresh berries, warmed maple syrup, or whatever your family likes.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

I love soup when it's cold!

I've made Chicken Tortilla Soup many times, but for some reason, never in the slow cooker.  I came across a recipe for a slow cooker version the other day, so I decided to make my own version and see how it stacks up next to the traditional method.  I LOVE the idea of using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to shred the chicken - genius!  Usually I'm all about old school fork shredded and doing work and all that, but this way is easy, fast, and awesome.  I'm a convert.  Here's the recipe:

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 49 oz. can of chicken broth (Swanson Natural Goodness) or the equivalent of homemade stock, etc.
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or use a rotisserie chicken, or a whole chicken you've cooked, etc.)
  • 1 medium onion (white, yellow, sweet - whatever you have on hand), diced
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced (you can also use a fresh jalapeno, or leave them out, but it's REALLY NOT THAT HOT with just one!)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes (the whole can, baby)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (have you ever heard of the garlic rocker? awesome!)
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • salt to taste, maybe (be careful - broth and canned tomatoes can have a lot of sodium)

  • 1 c. or so frozen corn, or a can of corn, drained, or leave it out (if canned, I prefer to add later)
  • 1 14.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed (I prefer to add them later so they don't get too mushy)

For garnish:

  • tortillas, cut into strips, seasoned & toasted for some crunch
  • shredded monterey jack or cheddar cheese, or cotija or queso fresco, crumbled
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • sour cream
  • avocado, sliced
  • fresh diced tomatoes
  • get the idea!

First, cook up your chicken  - either roast a whole chicken and then use that meat, buy a rotisserie chicken at the store, or if you have some chicken breasts on hand, season with a little salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning blend and brown them in a skillet with a little oil.

Then add everything to the slow cooker, and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 4 hours.  I personally like adding in some black beans, but I do it toward the end of the cooking time - same with corn, unless it' frozen.  Do whatever floats your boat.

Before you eat, prep your garnishes, and get them ready.  Slice up a few tortillas very thin, and then spritz with a little olive oil, season with chili powder, and then bake in a 350 oven for a few minutes, turning once, until they're crisped.  You can burn them if you forget, so stay close.  

You can freeze this, too - it makes a pretty large batch!