Friday, July 31, 2009

Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls

Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls

Have you ever thought about a recipe and couldn't rest until you tried it for yourself? I've been dreaming (I mean literally having dreams in my sleep!) about these Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls ever since Susan from Food Blogga posted about them last month. If you've been following my blog for a while, you know how much I love a good cinnamon sticky bun, but I never thought of putting fresh blueberries in a cinnamon roll. As Ina would say, "Butter, cinnamon, and blueberries baked in sweet dough, and topped with icing - how bad could that be??"
The dough is easy to make, especially if you have a food processor or heavy duty mixer - just put all the ingredients in and give them a whirr.

Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls
For the icing, I used some leftover cream cheese frosting which I had frozen from a batch of carrot cupcakes I made. I heated a little icing in the microwave just until it was "drizzle-able" and spread it on top of the warm roll (you must eat these warm!) They were heavenly with cream cheese icing and got all thumbs ups from the judging panel (the kids and I). Annie asked if we could make these AND sticky buns for Christmas morning next year. I suppose I will - and a new tradition is born! Thanks to Susan and her mom for sharing the recipe!

Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from recipe for Mom's Blueberry Sweet Rolls from Susan at Food Blogga
Makes 12 rolls

2 packets of yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus enough to form a workable dough
3 tablespoons melted butter for brushing over dough

Blueberry Filling:
1 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1. Mix all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl, and knead lightly by hand until the dough comes together. (I mixed the dough in a food processor with 4 1/2 cups flour and then worked more flour in by hand until a ball formed. I'm sure you could also use a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook.) Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it rest on the counter until it's just cool or at room temperature.
3. Butter a 9x13 pan or coat with cooking spray.
4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 12 x 18 inches. Brush with 3 tablespoons melted butter.
5. In a medium bowl, mix the blueberries, granulated sugar, flour, and cinnamon, until well coated, and spread evenly over the dough. Lightly press the berries with your hand so they stick into the dough. Starting with the long side closest to you, begin rolling the dough as tightly as you can, tucking in any stray blueberries as you go. Place the end seam side down, and tuck the ends of the roll under so the berries don't escape. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces.
6. Place the rolls, cut side up, in the prepared pan. Cover with a clean dish towel, and allow to rest on the counter top for 45-60 minutes, until risen and puffy.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F about 15 minutes before ready to bake. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the dough comes out clean. Place pan on a rack and cool slightly.
6. Place all icing ingredients in a bowl and beat until well combined. Add milk one teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Drizzle icing over rolls and serve warm.
7. Be prepared to receive the "Best Mom of the Year" Award.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I'm Now The Parent of a Teenager and Frozen Mocha Toffee Crunch Terrine

Yes, she's 13! Our firstborn is now a teenager! Another milestone has been reached and, as usual, I have mixed emotions. I'm so proud that she's becoming a compassionate and responsible young lady, but at the same time I don't want her to grow up. And just being honest here, I'm scared of what these teenage years will bring. Everyone always says how hard it is. But every day I look at her and can't believe that she's as tall as I am and now owns her own cell phone! Yes, she is now one of those "texting teens".

I will never forget the day our baby Ellen Rose was born. We tried for 3 weeks to keep her from being born so early, but she just couldn't wait. The doctors gave me every nasty drug possible to keep her inside, but alas, I was only 6 months pregnant and she was only 2 pounds 15 ounces when she arrived in this world. She spent almost 9 weeks in the hospital, growing and becoming stronger each day. She was barely 5 pounds when we brought her home, heart monitor and all. So where did the past 13 years go? It all seems a blur now...

So fast forward 13 years and let's talk about food! Ellen saw this frozen dessert on the cover of an old Everyday Food magazine I picked up from a yard sale. She loves mocha and she loves chocolate and she loves toffee, so what could be better to make for her birthday celebration? I didn't even have to turn the oven or the stove on to make this one (Bonus!). So while Ellen was at the Jonas Brothers concert, I was at home making her birthday dessert. By the way, in case you didn't know, Ellen LOVES Nick! He was born in New Jersey, he lives in Dallas, and his birthday is September 16. If you need to know more Nick Jonas trivia, my daughter is the one to call -I mean text.

Frozen Mocha Toffee-Crunch Terrine

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine

19 chocolate wafer cookies (I used Oreo Cookies with filling removed)
11 ounces mascarpone or cream cheese, or a combination
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup toffee bits (I used 2-3 chopped Heath bars)
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp espresso powder

Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with 2 sheets of plastic wrap, with long sides overhanging by about 3 inches. (I would probably try waxed or parchment paper cut to size to avoid the wrinkles in the final product that the plastic caused.) Arrange 3 wafers, flat side up, in a row in the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, beat mascarpone and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla. In another bowl, beat cream until it holds soft peaks. In three additions, fold the whipped cream into the sweetened mascarpone with a rubber spatula.
In a bowl, mix 1 1/3 cups mascarpone mixture with toffee bits. In a separate bowl, mix another 1 1/3 cups mascarpone mixture with chocolate and cocoa powder. Dissolve the coffee in 1 teaspoon hot water; stir into the remaining mascarpone mixture.
Spread coffee mixture in prepared pan. Cover with 8 wafers, overlapping if necessary. Spoon chocolate mixture into pan; cover with 8 wafers. Spoon toffee mixture into pan.
Wrap pan with overhanging plastic; freeze at least 4 hours and up to 2 weeks. To serve, invert onto a serving platter. Remove plastic. Let terrine sit 5 minutes, then cut into slices.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Corn Chowder

Aaaah...the first corn of sweet and crisp! I really think the best way to eat it is simply steamed with butter and salt, but why not mix things up a little and make some chowder? This meal came together in a flash. All of the ingredients were in season and I happened to have them on hand, which is necessary for the way I plan meals (I don't).

Most of the time I cook on the fly with what I've got in the pantry and fridge/freezer. Sometimes I think I'd love to change that habit and actually plan a week of meals, shop for that menu, and know exactly what to cook on which days. But that can be tough when you have an ever-changing schedule and kids going every which way. There is not always time to cook the meal you have planned. Belonging to a CSA also complicates a planned menu, because you don't know what you'll be getting from week to week. And so I'll continue as I have huge arsenal of recipes comes in handy!

Removing corn from the cob can be tricky. I picked up this method somewhere along the way of teaching myself how to cook. No special gadgets needed (my drawer is way too full of gadgets!) First, you need a sharp knife. Then place a small bowl upside down into a large bowl and rest the bottom of the cob on the small bowl as in the photo above. This allows the corn kernels to be caught in the larger bowl without the bowl getting in the way of your knife. If you know of a better way to remove corn from the cob, I'd love to hear about it!

Summer Corn Chowder with Bacon
From Bon Apetit June 2004
Serves 6

6 slices bacon, chopped
6 cups fresh corn kernels(cut from 6 to 8 ears)
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh fennel bulb (can omit if desired)
1 cup diced yellow or green zucchini or crookneck squash (about 2)
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes peeled russet potatoes or unpeeled red potatoes
3 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1/4 to 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Sauté bacon in large pot over medium-high heat until crisp and brown. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add corn, fennel, zucchini, and potatoes to drippings in pot; sauté 5 minutes. Add 3 cups broth and simmer uncovered over medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer 3 cups soup to blender. Holding blender top firmly, puree until smooth. Return puree to soup in pot. Stir in cream and cayenne. Bring chowder to simmer, thinning with more broth if too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chowder into bowls and sprinkle with bacon and chives.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Letterboxing, a Bike Ride, and Tomato Salsa

We've had the most unusual July so far this year. Temps in the 70's, low humidity, sunny days one right after the other. We took advantage of one of these days and rode out in our new digs (goodbye minivan!) to Franklin, PA where there are several nice rails-to-trails bike paths. Here we are before the ride, grabbing a snack and donning helmets.

We'd taken this trail several times before, but we never knew that letterboxes existed along the trail. What is letterboxing you ask? Joybeadworks introduced us to this fun hobby. I'll try to explain it. Letterboxing is a treasure hunt of sorts. You go to or and search for letterboxes in your town or in a town you might be visiting. The person who has hidden the letterbox gives directions and clues for finding the box. Some are easy, and some require some sleuth. Most are located in public places such as parks, or lookouts, or historical places. Inside the box, there is a rubber stamp (many are handmade by the owner) and a notebook.

The Finders bring with them a rubber stamp, a stamp pad and a notebook. When the letterbox is found, you stamp your notebook with the owner's stamp and then stamp the owner's notebook with your stamp. Bring a pen to write where you're from and your code name and the date you found the letterbox. The kids have had so much fun finding these hidden treasures. It's also fun to see where other finders are from and when the box was last found by paging through the notebook. I like that it makes you go off the beaten path and see things you might not otherwise see. We would never have seen this old stone foundation which lies less than 50 feet off the main bike trail. We found one in our local library and we found a few while we were on vacation in Florida. These things are everywhere and we never knew! I especially like the ones that give a little history about the place you are visiting. Fun and education!

So we continue on our ride. This is the first year that Annie has been able to ride on her own. She learned to ride her bike without training wheels this Spring and she can really move!

She didn't care much for the tunnel, but she made it through. It gets pitch black at the tunnel's center but I remembered the flashlight this time. Ellen and Ben rode back and forth through the tunnel a few times. 

We rode over several wooden bridges and enjoyed the scenery.

We got back to the car and munched on tortilla chips and homemade salsa. It was a perfect day!

Fresh Tomato Salsa
from The Best International Recipe by Cook's Illustrated
Makes about 3 cups.
This salsa is best served on the day it's made.
1 1/2 pounds firm, ripe tomatoes , cut into 3/8-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 large jalapeño chile seeded (seeds reserved and minced; see note), flesh minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 small clove garlic , minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
pinch ground black pepper
2 - 6 teaspoons lime juice from 1 to 2 limes
Granulated sugar to taste (up to 1 teaspoon)
1. Set large colander in large bowl. Place tomatoes in colander and let drain 30 minutes. As tomatoes drain, layer jalapeño, onion, garlic, and cilantro on top. Shake colander to drain off excess tomato juice. Discard juice; wipe out bowl.
2. Transfer contents of colander to now-empty bowl. Add salt, pepper, and 2 teaspoons lime juice; toss to combine. Taste and add minced jalapeño seeds, sugar, and additional lime juice to taste.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Favorite Summertime Breakfast

The recipe:
Autumn Wheat cereal by Kashi
mixed backyard berries picked by Hubby
fresh local milk
a sprinkling of sugar

Place all ingredients in a bowl in the order given and eat. No cooking, very little clean-up, and healthy to boot!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Barbequed Baby Back Ribs

Our Fourth of July menu included these scrumptious ribs. I used the recipes from The New Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated and the cooking method described by Hope Studios in her post here. I'm not sure why ribs intimidate me, but this method is so easy that I'll never hesitate to make them again. The rub and sauce recipes make enough for lots of ribs, so I'll be cooking these again before the summer is through. Perfect sides to serve with this are corn-on-the-cob and coleslaw - and maybe some Rosemary Oven-Roasted Potatoes. Happy Grilling!

Dry Rub for Barbeque
from The Best New Recipe by Cook's Illustrated
Makes 1 cup

Mix all of the following ingredients in a small bowl.
1/4 cup sweet paprika
2 T chili powder
2 T ground cumin
2 T dark brown sugar
2 T salt
1 T dried oregano
1 T granulated sugar
1 T ground black pepper
1 T ground white pepper
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Quick Barbeque Sauce
from The Best New Recipe by Cook's Illustrated
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup water
1 cup ketchup
2 T cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T Dijon mustard
5 T molasses
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke, optional (I omitted)
2 T vegetable oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Process the onion with the water in a food processor until pureed and the mixture resembles slush, about 30 seconds. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula to obtain 1/2 cup juice. Discard the solids.
2. Whisk the onion juice, ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, liquid smoke (if using), hot pepper sauce, and black pepper together in a medium bowl.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the ketchup mixture and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until the flavors meld and the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes. Cool the sauce to room temperature before using. (The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)

The Cooking Method
adapted from Jennifer at Hope Studios

Place about 1 T of dry rub on each side of the baby back ribs and rub it in with your fingertips. Wrap the ribs tightly in heavy duty foil and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight. Bake the ribs in foil in the oven set at 325 degrees F for 2 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and place on your grill set at medium heat for 20 minutes. Brush with barbeque sauce and cook another 5 minutes on each side. Serve with extra BBQ sauce.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fresh Herbs and an Alfresco Summer Meal

Herb Identification from top left to right:
Dill, Oregano, St. John's Wort, Lemon Bergamot
Rosemary, Parsley, Sage, Tarragon
Thyme, Lemon Basil, Pineapple Sage, Sweet Basil
Cilantro, Lavender, Mint, Lemon Basil

One of my favorite things about summer is my herb garden and being able to pick fresh herbs whenever they're needed for a tasty summer meal. When Aunt Lisa came to our house a few nights ago, I grabbed some herbs and it all came together. We ate outside on the back patio, surrounded by the gardens that provided the delicious flavors for the menu: Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Marinade , Zucchini and Herb Saute, Oven Roasted Rosemary Potatoes. Bon Appetit!

Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Marinade
1/2 cup fresh lemon-basil, finely chopped (or substitute your favorite herb)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 scallions, white part only, thinly sliced
1 cup olive oil
6-8 chicken cutlets

Whisk together the basil, lemon juice, wine, mustard, salt, pepper, and scallions. Continue to whisk while adding the oil in a slow, steady stream. Place marinade in a large zip top bag and add the chicken cutlets. Seal the bag and place it in a bowl (in case the bag leaks) and refrigerate
for at least 3 hours or overnight. Grill over hot coals until cooked through and serve.

Oven-Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
2 pounds small red potatoes, cut in half or quartered if larger
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped

Place the potatoes in a bowl and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the rosemary on top and stir to combine. Transfer potatoes to an oiled or foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees F until tender and browned, about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Herbed Zucchini
3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced thickly
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 T each olive oil and butter
2 thyme springs, or substitute oregano or basil
A handful of parsley, finely chopped

Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini and thyme sprigs, season with salt and pepper and saute until desired tenderness is achieved, about 10 minutes. Add parsley and serve.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lemon Pound Cake

Ultimate Lemon Pound Cake
from Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham and Alison Miksch

3 ½ cups sifted cake flour (not self-raising)
½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ¼ cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract (I omitted this)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup fresh lemon juice.

Position a rack in middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F.
Butter and flour a 10-inch (12-cup) Bundt pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together twice.
Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in 1 ¾ cups of the sugar, about 3 tablespoons at a time, and continue beating until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the zest, the lemon zest, the lemon extract, and vanilla.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the remaining ½ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons zest, and the lemon juice to boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Turn the cake out onto the rack and immediately brush the hot syrup over the hot cake. Let cool to room temperature. Serve the cake cut into wedges

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Favorite - My SIGG Water Bottle

It's summer, it's hot and we're thirsty! And fortunately, as a country, we are becoming more aware of our choices and how they affect our environment. Jane Goodall, in a recent speaking engagement in Pittsburgh, noted that one of the easiest things we could do to help the environment right now is to stop buying our water in plastic containers and refill your own bottle instead. (Read her great book Harvest for Hope and it just might change that way you look at food forever!) I stopped buying bottled water a few years ago when we installed a reverse-osmosis water filter in our kitchen. The initial investment was a few hundred dollars, but the water tastes great and is about the most pure as you can get. It's one of the best investments we've ever made.  But even if you do not have a water filtering system, it has been shown that most people's tap water in this country is just as pure as bottled water. Use a carbon filter system to remove off flavors very inexpensively.

I love my Sigg stainless steel water bottle for several reasons:
1. It's beautiful
2. The water doesn't get an "off" taste after sitting for a while
3. There are no chemicals leaching into your water as they can with plastic, especially when plastic sits in a hot car
4. There's no waste
5. It fits in the holder on my bicycle :)
Read more about the benefits of Sigg water bottles here and then go get one for yourself!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Lemon Bars

I made these lemon bars for the faculty appreciation luncheon at school this year. A good lemon bar is hard to resist. There's the sweet shortbread crust that snaps when you bite into it, and the creamy lemony topping which is quite generous in this recipe from Ina Garten. If you have time, let the bars cool for several hours before cutting them into squares, and wipe the knife clean between cuts to get a nice smooth edge. I made these at the last minute and couldn't wait to cut them so it was hard to get a straight edge on these - but they were delicious nonetheless.

Lemon Bars
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Remove crust from the oven and leave the oven on.
For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into squares and dust with confectioners' sugar.


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