Saturday, January 23, 2016

Best Dang Cinnamon Rolls.

The search is over. After several years and innumerable recipes, I have come up with the best dang cinnamon rolls, EV'AH. Hands down. I have searched Pinterest, recipe magazines and websites, popular blog sites, and scoured old recipes. I have baked multiple batches of a wide assortment of rolls and every time walked away disappointed in some aspect. Vowing to return to the kitchen for another round in a few weeks. Until today! We had a "snow day"...which around these parts means a few flakes were noticed and it was really cold, thus everyone should shutter themselves inside like they live in one of those REAL winter locales like DC or NYC.
The laundry was up-to-date, grocery shopping had been completed yesterday (in anticipation of snowmageddon, of course), the house was clean (thanks to the potential of putting it on the market recently), and dinners have even been made and put away for the next week. There truly was NOTHING for me to do but enjoy the day! So, I decided to tackle the subject of cinnamon rolls...AGAIN.
Boy I am glad I did! I had gone in search of Cooks Illustrated recipes a few weeks ago and come across The Way the Cookie Crumbles take on CI's recipe. I made a batch one afternoon and they were good, but I knew they could be slightly tweaked and be off the charts. I liked her version because it wasn't tooth-killing sweet and wasn't ridiculously fat-laden or gooey. I am not a huge fan of super ooey gooey, ridiculously sweet, over-the-top cinnamon rolls. I like them soft, fluffy, balance of sugar and cinnamon, with a hint of cream cheese and a nice thick icing.
Today, in my quest, I decided to search (AGAIN) and came across Oh Sweet Basil's self-proclaimed "world's best cinnamon rolls".
I sat down and wrote both recipes side by side to compare ingredients and ratios. I was immediately struck by how much butter and sugar were in Oh Sweet Basil's...I mean seriously. THREE cups of sugar just for the filling??? No thanks. I knew her recipe might not be entirely for me, but I did like a few aspects and decided to try and incorporate them into TWTCC's version to create a new hybrid recipe I could call my own. They were AMAZING. Perfect. Well, my cinnamon roll perfect.
If you like super sweet, over-the-top gooey rolls, these ain't yo thang. If you enjoy a fluffy, soft, sweet/cinnamon, nicely balanced roll...give them a go. You won't be sorry!

This version makes 24-36 rolls (Depending on how thick you cut them. I cut mine approx. 1in thick and had almost 36)

Total time: roughly 5 hours

1 c warm water
5 tsp active dry yeast (I really like Fleischman's)
1/4 c whole milk
1/4 c heavy cream (if you don't have this on hand, sub whole you'd have a total of 1/2 c)
1/2 c buttermilk (again...if you don't have it, use whole milk + 1 Tbsp lemon juice--let it sit for a min and thicken)
14 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 c (3.5 oz)  + 2 tsp sugar, divided
2 whole eggs + 4 yolks (freeze those egg whites for another recipe!)
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp salt
6 c APF
2 c bread flour
1/4 c corn starch

1. Melt butter and set aside to cool. in a separate large bowl mix salt, flours, corn starch and set aside.
2. heat milk (just the whole milk + cream) in microwave until warm, stir in buttermilk.. Should be slightly warm to touch
3. In large mixer bowl combine water, yeast and 2 tsp sugar. Allow to sit and proof 3-5 min until frothy.
5. While waiting, mix together remaining 1/2 c sugar, eggs, yolks, vanilla and butter; set aside
6. Add milk mixture to yeast mixture, stir.
7. Add egg/butter/sugar mixture to yeast + millk mixture. Stir on med low using dough hook for a minute or two until mixed.
8. Add 3 c flour mixture to yeast mixture and stir on low (2 ish on the kitchen aid) until mostly incorporated. Add flour 1/2-1 c increments (keeping speed low to prevent flour splattering everywhere!) until dough ball forms cohesive dough, clearing sides of bowl and is smooth, elastic ball.
9. Dump dough into a well greased large bowl, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise 1-2 hrs. until doubled in size

While you wait...Mix up filling:
1 c brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened so you can easily smear it

Combine sugars, cinnamon, salt and cornstarch in a bowl. set aside.

...DING! Dough has risen nicely, now onto the next step!
1. Dump it onto the counter and split it into 2 equal dough balls. Roll each out into approx. 16 in x 12 in rectangles.
2. Schmear 4 Tbsp softened butter (from filling recipe) onto each rectangle, covering each entirely.
3. Divide the cinnamon/sugar mixture equally onto each rectangle. spread it all over, leaving approx. 1/4" border along one long edge of each rectangle.
4. Starting on the opposite long edge as your empty border, begin rolling the rectangle into a long log (approx. 16 in), aiming to keep your edges all lined up at the top and bottom of the log. Gently pinch the seam closed when it's completely rolled. Mark 1 in or 1.5 inch increments along the rolled log.
5. lightly grease a 9x13 pan
6. Using dental floss, slice your rolls off at the measured markings and arrange cut-side up in your 9x13 pan, allowing a little space between each (12 should fit nicely); if you have me, feel free to use an 8" round pan (I had 18 rolls total from each rectangle)
7. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise another 1-2 hours until doubled in size again (Mine seem to be perfectly ready around the 1.25-1.5 hr mark)

Pre heat oven to 350F.
Remove plastic wrap and bake 20-28 min until lightly (VERY lightly) browned (or temp registers 185-188 degrees F internally--this is definitely my preferred gauge)

Remove and allow to cool 10 min. While you wait and resist picking a bite...Mix the ICING!
6-8 oz softened cream cheese (depending on how cream cheesy you like your frosting)
4 Tbsp softened, unsalted butter
2-3 c powdered sugar (sifted) amount depends on your sweetness preference
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-8 Tbsp millk (or cream if you have it!)

1. Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add powdered sugar. Mix together until well mixed, add in vanilla and 4 Tbsp milk. Adjust consistency to your liking with adding more milk.
SCHMEAR it all over those rolls and sit yo'self down for a well-deserved snack break!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Weekly Menu Jan 22-Jan 29, 2016

Hamburger Stew (I use a hybrid of PW's recipe and my momma's) with these corn muffins

Spaghetti (one day I'll get around to posting my recipe for that) + spinach salad

Philly Dip Sandwiches, fruit, broccoli

Taco Salad

Real exciting, I know. Contain yourself.

So I went grocery shopping today and came home did the following to ease my week:

1. Made spaghetti sauce and froze it in 2 freezer bags
2. While that was cooking, I sautéed onions and peppers, then made Philly Dips and rolled them up in foil and froze them
3. When I was done with the Philly's, waiting for the spaghetti sauce to cool I made the taco meat and froze it.

then for our actual dinner I made hamburger stew and corn muffins--enough for us for 2 nights!

Hooray! Dinners should be easy and relatively stress-free this week!!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Weekly Menu January 4-Jan 10, 2015

So, obviously I'm not a devout blogger. Hope everyone had a lovely holiday. It feels like since around mid-November, we've had non-stop illness, visits, social obligations, etc. I am very much looking forward to some "routine, normal life"...whatever that is!

So, I decided to start the new year off and try REALLY hard to keep up with our weekly menus, if not for anyone but myself. I'm hoping it might make it easier down the line, as I can look back and just pull from my archives sometimes.

Breakfast: Muffins + fruit + eggs (ok, so this actually didn't happen. I was in major need of a huge grocery shopping haul so I threw the kids in the car early this AM, threw some Honey Nut Cheerios at them, some bananas and some milk. That was breakfast...there's transparency for you!)

Lunch--I knew we'd be out and about so I didn't plan anything. They ended up having cheese sticks, dried fruits (apricots and prunes), some cashews, a cookie from Publix, and maybe a piece of bread??

Quick Lemon Chicken with tomatoes (it was pretty easy to throw together and I liked the taste--I would strongly recommend using chicken breasts with bone + skin...I only had boneless/skinless on hand and I think it was slightly lacking some flavor); I also skipped the crusty bread. I also made 6 breasts and tripled the recipe, except I stuck with the 2 pints of was fine.
Served with--
Garlic Mushroom Risotto-This one is a bit time consuming, but if you throw your chicken in the oven and start this, you'll be done with both at about the same time. I used a bag of frozen chopped broccoli (thawed) in the place of the spinach and it was still yummy and slightly more kid friendly. I made 1.5 times this recipe and it was about the right amount for 2 nights.

and fresh fruit salad (make ahead of time and pop it in the fridge til dinner time)

Breakfast: Yogurt Parfaits with fruit and granola, toast

Lunch: Pasta, peppers, apples, maybe some cheese

Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Waffles, fruit, milk

Lunch: Snack Pack (cheese, peppers, tomatoes, applesauce, granola bar)

this will be my backup for peanut sauce, if the recipe above is a bust

(I plan to add some carrots and sugar snap peas to the mix)

Breakfast: Oatmeal, fruit, egg/milk

Lunch: Veggie wrap sandwiches with deli meat, cream cheese and shredded carrots + greens, ranch dressing for dip (think Chick fil A grilled Chicken wrap), fruit, tostado chips

Perfect Pot Roast + spinach salad + fruit smoothies
( I always add more carrots, mushrooms and celery to the pot roast...and it is truly THE BEST pot roast on the planet. It's also super easy. PW nailed it).
Spinach Salad is composed of fresh baby spinach, dried craisins, pecan chip salad topper stuff (check the salad dressing aisle), goat cheese and this dressing

Breakfast: Banana Bread, nuts, fruit, maybe eggs/milk

Lunch: Mini English muffin pizzas, fruit

Dinner: Left over Stir Fry

Breakfast: Breakfast Sandwiches or Bird in the Hole, fruit

Lunch:'s kinda a free-for-all

Dinner: Left over Pot Roast

Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls, fruit, eggs

Lunch/Dinner: (since we don't get out of church until 2:30 or so, we've just been having a little snack and then eating a slightly earlier dinner)
Crock Pot Beans n Rice + green beans + green salad + mango

We will have leftovers of the beans n rice on Monday night, which will help greatly with the hassle of grocery shopping, hauling it all home, putting it away and then STILL having to make dinner. I much prefer to have leftover night on just wasn't possible today.

So there's our menu for the next week. Good luck! Plan well, cook lots and enjoy good food.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Menu Plan

School is back in session and although I did a mediocre job of meal planning over the summer, it's time to kick it back into high gear.

So here is our breakfast, lunch and dinner plan for the next 10 days or so...

Banana Muffins (extras stashed in the freezer from a few weeks back) with cream cheese "frosting" it wrong that I tell my kids they're cupcakes and frosting??
plain yogurt with fruit

Sandwich kebabs (dice bread, ham and cheese and skewer them up), mini pepper slices, green peas, grapes, with mayo for dipping

Thai Basil Turkey Lettuce Wraps which is perfect since our basil plant is crazy big. Will serve it with black rice and some assortment of fruit + fresh crudites

Oatmeal (have lots in the freezer from a triple batch I made last week)

Bagel Pack--mini bagel, cream cheese (dang it all, "Nut-free classrooms"), fruit and veggies


Waffles, fruit, eggs

Sandwich Sushi (basically a wrap cut to look like "sushi"), fruit/+ veggie "butterfly pack" (pack into one bag, pinch off in the middle with a clothes pin to look like 2 wings and a body)

Chili con carne with salad, tostidos

Pancake Tacos (schmear down the middle with cream cheese, yogurt, PB, whatever you like, top with fresh fruit...berries, bananas, etc) My kids love these and they really enjoy making their own "tacos"
Alternative: Banana Sushi (tortilla, nutella or cream cheese and banana, all rolled up and cut to look like sushi

Taco Pack OR mini pizzas 
Taco pack consists of chips, cheese, sour cream, salsa/tomatoes, kidney beans and lettuce/avocado, and olives if it's for my middle kid
Mini Pizza would be plain english muffin toasted with marinara and cheese, side of peppers and fruit

Left overs

Cereal + fruit

Tortellini Pack (cheese tortellini, fruit + Veggies)

Pot Roast with carrots and mushrooms, green beans

**This will be in MY lunch rotation this week

Here is my confession...I don't schedule out our weekend breakfasts and lunches. I probably should, but I just don't. Senor often makes breakfast so it's sort of whatever he feels like making, or if I feel industrious and make something special like cinnamon rolls or breakfast strata. 

Dinner: leftovers (Saturday)

Sunday--Broccoli + Cauliflower + cheese stuffed chicken, salad, fruit

These are dinners in the works for next week since I found a few good prices on chicken and beef today.
 --Korean Lettuce Wraps
--Orange Chicken (only I won't bother breading and frying the was a hassle. I'll just grill it and throw the sauce on top, we'll see how it goes)
--BBQ--throw a Boston Butt into the crock pot with a little vinegar, BBQ sauce. Cook on low for hours. Remove, shred and return to the crock pot with more sauce + vinegar to your liking.
--Parm-style sliders (we tried these a week or so ago and everyone liked them alot! I made a double batch and froze the second half of the patties for later.)

And for those of you who are near and dear, you may be asking, "Wasn't she doing the 21 day Beach body stuff? Her diet doesn't match that!"
Well, so this is all what the rest of the family is eating. For me it looks much more like this:

Breakfast: 1 "muffin" (1 yellow) of oatmeal, 1/2 banana or other fruit (1 purple) and 2 scrambled eggs or yogurt (1 red); OR I'll make an extra frittata, bake it, slice it and freeze it. Reheat 1 slice as needed in the oven. OR I'll make a mini fritatta in a skillet by sauteing some onions (you could add peppers) in a skillet til they're brown, throw on 2 eggs, stir it all up and cook til eggs are done. Toss on a little feta and fresh sliced tomatoes. You could of course do the same with leftover broccoli or asparagus or whatever veggies you have on hand. It's a quick, easy way to get a protein and a veggie in before noon.

Lunch: some deli meat (1 red), veggie (1 green)

Snack: cottage cheese or yogurt (1 red)

Dinner: lean protein (whatever that is from the above menu items)--(1 red), 2 veggies (2 green)

Snack: fruit (1 yellow) and 1 grain (1 yellow) thrown in somewhere during the day or for "dessert" if I need them (I have been quite fond of roasted peaches lately!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What's cooking? Here's what new on our plates

So, yeah, it's been a little bit. BUT, I have been trying to find new things that aren't major productions, but that don't sacrifice quality and nutrition. I actually have a few recipes to share with ya'll...those 1.3 of you still reading this.
What's on our current 10-day menu?
1. Swiss Chard and onion Frittata! This has very simple ingredients and comes together rather quickly. The bonus, it mixes in some greens. Add a side of fresh fruit, some pan-seared tomatoes with feta on top and you have yourself a perfect meal. We've had this one twice now, both times husband commented on how flavorful it is and the major win...all 3 kids gobbled it all up! I did toss in bit of deli ham both times, literally 1 slice last time. It's just enough to add a little more flavor.

2. Basil Pesto Chicken Bake. 3 ingredients. 45 min. Dinner is done. And it's like the comfort food you crave. I'd say throw on some pasta and a side're done. I used jarred pesto. This is actually a Pinterest find and I could not believe I'd never thought to do this!! It's so easy, obvious and delicious. It takes about 5 minutes to put it together, throw it in the oven and go deal with something else for 30 min or so. It was another hit with the kids.

3. Teriyaki Glazed Baked Chicken. Another Pinterest find. Guaranteed, you have all the ingredients necessary for this one right now. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare the glaze, then you douse the chicken in it, toss it into the oven and carry on with your life. I served ours with black rice, steamed broccoli and oven-roasted carrots and cauliflower. Fresh mango on the side. Husband rated it 4/5, kids rated it 3/5, I would give it 4.5/5. It wasn't like the most amazing asian dish ever, BUT it was very simple and had plenty of flavor. I liked the sauce with my veggies and rice, too.

4. Fig-glazed chicken panini with pear and brie. K, so this one is a little more time consuming and requires some odd ingredients, might want to use rotisserie chicken. I found fig preserves at Walmart. Pulled the kale from our garden (we have lacinato growing out back, I rarely can find it in the grocery store and I do think it tastes better than regular kale--but regular certainly would still work) . Used sourdough loaf from Publix. Didn't panini them, just put them all assembled on a cookie sheet into the oven long enough to warm the cheese. They tasted super! Everyone ate it well. Served it with peas, fresh strawberries and pineapple, oven-roasted sweet potato wedges.

We will be trying these out over the next week...
5. Pineapple pork tenderloin I couldn't find the right carribean seasoning, so I will probably mix my own.

6. Crispy Chicken Cutlets with butter and chive noodles

7. Sausage, Cannellini and tomato ragout  I bought regular italian sausage not kids don't do spicy at all

8. Thai Cashew Chicken Salad...another pinterest find. We'll see how it goes. reminds me some of my Thai spaghetti salad.

And I might try this one out for myself...

And this weekend...these will be happening up in this kitchen!!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Weekly Menu Jan 18-Jan 25

This week Senor and I kick off our 12-week health challenge. I might share more on that later. I might not. I got other things to do that sort of take priority.

Here's our menu for this week (week 1)
Sunday-Parmesan-crusted Salmon, Red quinoa, broccoli and roasted carrots, baby kale/spinach & berry salad with pecans and goat cheese...verdict: delicious and señor and I had leftovers for lunch.

Monday/Tuesday-Grilled Rosemary Chicken with Farro Risotto, roasted sweet potato wedges, peas, and cauliflower. Verdict: this was so, so, so yummy. Had a hearty, yet light, earthy, amazing savory thing going on. The farro risotto was just, oh my, I could probably have eaten the entire pan by myself. But I didn't, because, I'm trying to do that whole eating and exercising thing. Yeah. So, my only negative complaint about this is the time factor. This is not your weeknight, quick draw meal. Definitely a keeper, but more likely for Saturday or Sunday evenings when I have more time. But still, definitely worth it. And just in case you want to make this, I found the dried porcini mushrooms at walmart, in the produce section right next to the regular mushrooms. The farro was a bit trickier. I'm sure places like whole foods and fresh market would have it, but they aren't around these parts. Publix had it in their rice section, but it was down on the very bottom and only one variety so it was a little hard to spot. I used fresh herbs, although I'm sure dried would suffice. And I used grated, canned Parmesan since it's what I had on hand; although, fresh would probably make it even more awesome.

Wednesday/Thursday-Taco Salad, mexican rice, black beans, corn. Avocado, etc

Friday/Saturday-Weeknight Lemon Chicken Skillet, doubling up the potatoes and green beans. Roasted carrots, lima beans & salad


Senor is trying the Bony to Beastly regime and I'll be trying out the Kayla Itsines workouts. I'll let you know how it's going when I get a chance.

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Recipes

So I am slowly getting back to the land of the meal-planning. It's about time, right?! Baby is just over 12 months so life is finally beginning to tilt back to normal. A few weeks ago, I opened my mailbox to find the latest copy of Cooking Light. I have to be honest, often, this magazine is major hit and miss for me. Well, this hit. I have marked over 20 recipes for us to try this month and we've already tried 5 of them.

Here's the take-away:
1. Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps --Total hit. Totally keep. The only modification I'd make is to make more of the marinade (to put aside for dressing later) and to make it into more of a salad vs wraps. My kids liked it, husband liked it, I thought it was delish. Couldn't keep my hands off the chicken. And it was so, so, so quick and easy. Seriously. Plop the chicken and marinade stuff into a bag in the AM. (or toss it into the freezer for a quick meal later), cooked it on my cast iron skillet. Made my rice while the chicken was cooking. Chopped up veggies. Dinner is done.  5/5 stars
If you wanted to add a little more "oomph" I think you could add in some mandarin oranges, fried wontons on top and it would be delicious.

2. Chicken and Dumplings Soup--This was not like the best-ever dumplings (but I LOVED that they don't use Bisquick!), but for the amount of time and effort that was put into it, the soup was really, really good. I loved that I didn't have to pre-cook the chicken. The flavor of the broth was light, but strong enough to please me. I doubled up the veggies and increased the amount of dumpling mix by 50%. It barely made enough for our family for 2 nights. We added salad and hearty multigrain bread and fruit. I'd give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

3. Grilled Onion Cheeseburgers--To be honest, I am not sure how they were considered any more fancy or warranted a recipe than your usual burger. They were fine, they were burgers, but nothing about them was, "wow" or "why am I just now eating these!?"...They also required more time than a burger should! Can't say the few shaved-off calories were worth the trouble. We served it with roasted sweet potato wedges (I'll tell you about these below) and roasted carrots. Fresh fruit and added avocado wedges to the burgers. I'd give the burger recipe 1.5/5 stars.  Just toss on some grilled onions and fry sauce to your next burger and call it good.

4. Whole-grain Spaghetti with veggi-filled meatsauce--I guess I shouldn't claim that we tried this recipe. It's so similar to my own spaghetti sauce I make, only mine has more veggies. Maybe I'll post it sometime. I add zuch, shrooms, onion, tomatoes and carrots to mine. A mix of italian sausage and beef. Some seasonings. Anyways. I did switch out our usual spaghetti noodles for a mix of the veggie kind and the whole wheat kind. No one seemed to notice or care. I won't rate this recipe since I didn't actually follow it. :)

5. Broiled Grapefruit with Ginger and Maple--I did make this one and it was odd. I LOVE grapefruit. My kids LOVE grapefruit. The whipped topping on this was so light and yummy, I'm considering using it as a filling on cakes, BUT warmed grapefruit was just kind of weird. The flavors were all good, nothing tasted bad, per was just odd to eat hot grapefruit with cold cream. It didn't jive for me. I'd say 2/5

I have plans to try some of the oatmeal recipes (look under the GRAINS section in the first link above) and we have more dinner recipes we will be trying out.

I'll also try to post my weekly or monthly menus as I create them.

As for the Roasted Sweet Potatoes I mentioned above...they're addictive. I would eat them every night if I could. And easy. So easy.
Pre-heat your oven to 425F
You cut your sweet potatoes into quarters length-wise (to create wedges)
Toss them in some melted butter (I use 3Tbsp butter/about 6-8 potatoes)
Lay them out on a lined cookie sheet, in a single layer
Sprinkle them with sea salt, black pepper, and crushed rosemary to your liking.
Bake for 8-10 min, swirl them around, rotate them, flip them, etc to get them roasting evenly, bake for another 8-10 min.
you can eat the skins even. I'm not into that, though, so they peel off so easily.