Friday, December 30, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls


This year, Andrew and I decided that we would start a new tradition of making cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. After all, we love cinnamon rolls. And when I say love, I am not kidding around. The first time I made these, Andrew ate six of them immediately. I don't often claim that something is the best, but  darnit, these are irresistible!

The recipe for the dough comes from good ole Pioneer Woman, and further confirms her as an iconic home cook. The recipes yields about 40 rolls, so I suggest halving it...unless of course you have a small army to feed or a husband who can eat six in one sitting.


I have posted this recipe before, but I chose to update it since I took lots of step-by-step pictures on Christmas morning. Plus I made the dough 2 days prior to use and can say for certain that it worked perhaps even better after a couple days of refrigeration.

Ingredients for the Dough:
4 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Sugar
2 Packs Active Dry Yeast (equivalent to 4 & 1/2 tsp)
8 Cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-Purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder, Heaping
1 Tsp Baking Soda, Scant
1 Tblsp (heaping) Salt
 

Ingredients for the Roll Filling:
Plenty Of Melted Unsalted Butter (approx. 2 sticks)
2 Cups Sugar

1&1/2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Tblsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp Salt

For The Maple Frosting:
1 2-lb Bag Powdered Sugar
2 Tsp Maple Flavoring*

1/2 Cup Milk 
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
1/4 Cup Brewed Coffee, cooled
1/2 Tsp Salt


* If you don't have maple flavoring, you can use maple syrup or if you prefer vanilla frosting instead of maple, omit the maple flavoring all together and substitute for vanilla extract.


Directions:




Whisk together the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a large pot.


Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point), whisking occasionally. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for approx. 45 minutes.


When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour.


Stir mixture together.


Cover and let rise for at least an hour. 


After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt.


Stir into the dough.


Check out this dough! Isn't it beautiful! It will pull always perfectly from the sides of the pot. Make rolls immediately or refrigerate until the next day.


When you are ready to make your rolls, gather your filling ingredients.


Combine all of the dry filling ingredients (sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt) in a bowl and whisk together.


Divide the dough in half (unless you halved the recipe of course). Sprinkle some flour on the counter top and roll out dough until it is approx. 30"x10".


Drizzle half of the melted butter on the dough. Use your hands or a brush to coat the dough. (Get your really cute husband to help.)


Now sprinkle half of the sugar mixture over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of extra cinnamon.


Preheat your oven to 375 and butter the pans that you intend to use for baking the rolls.

Starting at one end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line away from you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the seam of the roll to seal it. Use a knife to cut the rolls, approx. 1" thick.


Lay your rolls in the buttered baking pans. Let rise for 20 minutes. Then bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes (until the rolls start to turn golden brown).


Viola! We've got cinnamon rolls! Your house should be smelling amazing right about now. All that's left to do is frost them.


For the frosting: using a stand mixer, mix together all ingredients listed until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously pour over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.



Ingredients for the Dough:
4 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Sugar
2 Packs Active Dry Yeast
(equivalent to 4 & 1/2 tsp)
8 Cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-Purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder, Heaping
1 Tsp Baking Soda, Scant
1 Tblsp (heaping) Salt
 

Ingredients for the Roll Filling:
Plenty Of Melted Unsalted Butter (approx. 2 sticks)
2 Cups Sugar

1&1/2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Tblsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp Salt

For The Maple Frosting:
1 2-lb Bag Powdered Sugar
2 Tsp Maple Flavoring*

1/2 Cup Milk 
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
1/4 Cup Brewed Coffee, cooled
1/2 Tsp Salt


* If you don't have maple flavoring, you can use maple syrup or if you prefer vanilla frosting instead of maple, omit the maple flavoring all together and substitute for vanilla extract.


Directions:

1. Mix the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a large pot. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool approx 45 minutes. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

2. After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. Make rolls immediately or refrigerate until the next day.

3. Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Roll the dough thin until it is 30"x10". Spread half of the melted butter over the dough. Then sprinkle half of the sugar mixture over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of extra cinnamon.

4. Starting at one end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line away from you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

5. Butter the pans that you intend to use for baking the rolls. Then cut the rolls approx. 1" thick and lay them in the buttered pans. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 minutes. Then bake at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.

6. For the frosting: using a stand mixer, mix together all ingredients listed until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously pour over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cranberry Bliss Bars


Yes, as in just like from Starbucks! I have always-always-always loved these delectable bars available only in the wintertime at the well-known coffee house. They are the perfect mix of a blonde brownie, white chocolate, and dried cranberries. They are utterly declious. If you haven't tried them, go now.

The taste brings me back to my young days in Cleveland. Living in Lakewood on Edgewater Drive. On a perfectly cold, crisp, snowy day, I would pull on my imposter UGGs and walk the half mile to the Starbuck's on Clifton. I'd order a White Chocolate Mocha and a Cranberry Bliss Bar. To me, nothing brings back the feeling of winter like the thought of those two confections.

Needless to say, when I spotted this recipe I had to give it a whirl. The end result was delicious! Maybe even better than those served at Sbux. My mother-in-law, Karla, also loved them. Between her and I, we killed half the pan right off the bat. These bars will definitely be a fixture on my Christmas cookie tray – their glossy white frosting & red accents are perfect for the holidays.

Blondie Ingredients:
3/4 cup (1&1/2 sticks) Salted Butter, cubed
1&1/2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
3/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
2&1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1&1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries, heaping
6 oz White Baking Chocolate, coarsely chopped

Frosting:
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries + extra for decorating
1 Package (8 oz) Cream Cheese, softened
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
6 oz White Baking Chocolate, melted (add in 1/2 tsp of veg. oil to make smooth)



Gather your ingredients. Preheat your oven to 350. Grab a 13"x9" pan and spray it with PAM.


In a medium bowl, melt the butter in the microwave and then stir in brown sugar. Scrape the butter & sugar into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Once cool, use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs and vanilla.


In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.


Using the 'stir' speed on your mixer, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Scrape down between additions as needed.


Then stir in by hand the white chocolate chunks and cranberries. Your batter is done, it will be rather thick and chunky.


Pour into your prepared 13"x9" baking dish. Bake at 350 for 18-21 minutes. Do not over bake.

Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting (sorry, I forgot that photo).


When the blondies are completely cooled, prepare your frosting. Using a stand mixer, cream together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and melted white chocolate. Then stir-in the dried cranberries by hand.


Frost your blondies and you are all set. Don't forget to sprinkle some cranberries on the top for extra festiveness.


Cut apart and devour! If you want to be just like Sbux, cut into wedges. I was too lazy for that.



Adapted from Recipe Girl

Blondie Ingredients:
3/4 cup (1&1/2 sticks) Salted Butter, cubed
1&1/2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
3/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
2&1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1&1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries, heaping
6 oz White Baking Chocolate, coarsely chopped

Frosting:
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries + extra for decorating
1 Package (8 oz) Cream Cheese, softened
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
6 oz White Baking Chocolate, melted (add in 1/2 tsp of veg. oil to make smooth)

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13"x9" baking dish with PAM.

2.  In a medium bowl, melt butter in the microwave and then stir in brown sugar. Scrape the butter & sugar into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs and vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Using the 'stir' speed on your mixer, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Then stir in by hand the white chocolate chunks and cranberries.

4. Pour into your prepared 13"x9" baking dish. Bake at 350 for 18-21 minutes. Do not over bake. Cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Prepare the frosting: cream together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and melted white chocolate. Then stir in by hand the dried cranberries. Once the blondies are completely cooled, go ahead and frost them. Be sure to sprinkle extra cranberries on the top.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna


I am so mad at myself for the complete lack of photography on this. I'm sad to report that the only photos of this pure and utter masterpiece are two pieces of leftovers hot out of the microwave. Regardless of my crappy photos, I am none-the-less posting my Butternut Squash Lasagna recipe. Why? Plain and simple: THIS IS THE BEST THING I'VE EVER EATEN. It was like heaven in my mouth. I wanted to savor every single bite. Even when I ate the leftovers today, I felt like the heavens were upon me. I can be a drama queen, but it is truly that good. All of this said, I'm posting the recipe for mostly my own benefit. As tired as I am after doing 25 loads of dishes, there's no way I'm going to risk forgetting how I created something so incredible.

Please, please try this recipe – it is life altering. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions, as it will probably be another year (when squash is affordable) before I make it again and take photos. I can with total certainty say that this dish will be a staple on my holiday table for the next 30 years.

Noodles
1 Recipe Pasta Dough, rolled into strips

Butternut Squash Puree Filling
1 Huge Squash or 3 Medium Sized
1-2 Tblsp Syrup
4-5 Tblsp Butter, cut in cubes
Sea Salt, to taste, approx. 1 tsp or more

Bechamel Filling
4 Tblsp Unsalted Butter
6 Fresh Sage Leaves, finely chopped
4 Tblsp Flour
2 Cups Milk
1 Cup Half & Half
1/4 Tsp Ground Sage, heaping
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg, more if needed
1/3 Cup Parmesan-Reggiano, finely grated
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
Sea Salt, to taste
Fresh Mozzarella for the top of the lasagna

Directions:

1. Prepare one recipe of pasta dough. Using a pasta press or rolling by hand, roll out strips of pasta to fit a 13"x9" casserole dish. I rolled mine to fit 2 strips per lasagna layer - so each piece of pasta was just short of 13" long by 4.5" wide. Leave them uncooked, they will cook perfectly in the lasagna.

2. To make the Butternut Squash Puree Filling, start by roasting the squash. If you've never done it, The Pioneer Woman does a great job of explaining the method on her blog. Cut the squash in half vertically. Place the squash halves cut side down on a rimmed cookie sheet. Pour in a few cups of water. Roast at 350 for about 1 hour, longer if needed.

3. When the squash is done roasting, puree the squash, syrup, butter, and salt in a food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. It's going to be delicious, try to save some for the lasagna.

4. To make the Bechamel Filling, start by melting the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the sage leaves, and cook in the butter for a few minutes until the sage starts to crisp. Whisk in the flour for a few minutes until it is smooth and starts to thicken. Gradually whisk in the milk and Half & Half. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the ground sage, nutmeg and lastly the Parmesan-Reggiano. Allow filling to cook until it has a nice and creamy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

5. All that's left to do is to layer the lasagna. This recipe should yield 4 layers of pasta, and thus 6 layers for filling and topping. Start by putting a layer of the butternut squash puree in the bottom of the casserole dish, then a layer of the uncooked noodles, then a layer of Bechamel sauce, and so on until you are all our of ingredients. Top with some slices of fresh Mozzarella.

6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approx. 45 minutes. Remove the foil about 10 minutes before the cooktime is complete and return to oven. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Dinner Menu


Yesterday was Christmas, a day full of gift opening, cookie decorating, overall gluttony, drinking, laughing, and enjoying time with family. Andrew and I hosted for the very first time. It was so much fun – better than I could have imagined! A lot more work than I anticipated too, but worth every single second. Smiles were abound. We literally ate and drank our way through three days with last night's Christmas dinner being the pinnacle of our efforts.

Since we didn't have any kids for dinner, I wanted to serve a more 'mature' dinner. I'm always interested in other peoples' menus for gatherings are, so I thought I'd share mine. Here it is...

Starters
(not many, we were grazing all day)
Shrimp Cocktail
Blue Cheese Bacon Dip with Apples and Garlic Crisps

Main Course
Black Pepper Encrusted Beef Tenderloin
with Garlic Horseradish Sauce
Butternut Squash Lasagna
White Wine & Parmesan-Reggiano Risotto
Roasted Asparagus

Dessert
Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Cake
Red Velvet Cake
Assorted Christmas Cookies

I hope your holiday was just as great as mine!
~ Katie


Check out what happened to the tree! And we wondered why the dogs went berzerk in the middle of the night!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cover It In Chocolate


I love to cover food in chocolate. I've done it all - marshmallows, graham crackers, oreos, popcorn, and even potato chips. Today I did tons of tiny pretzels to put in candy dishes around the house. It's so easy to do, relatively inexpensive, and there's always at least one person in the crowd who loves them.


Check out this chocolate that I bought in Ohio's Amish Country after Thanksgiving. I seriously don't know how they afford to sell ingredients so cheaply. I officially have enough bay leaves to last me three years at the total price of 76 cents. We spend about $100 on spices last time we were there, grocery store pricing would have probably been about $600.


Chop up your chocolate (or use chocolate chips) and melt carefully while stirring frequently, you don't want it to burn - whatever kind you want in either the microwave (my preferred way for this) or in a double-boiler.


Dunk your chosen food in the melted chocolate. Leftover wooden skewers from summer barbecues make the perfect helper.


Lay out some wax paper and let everything dry. Sprinkle with decorations if you like. I made a few chocolate covered Oreos for Andrew - they're his favorite. As I've said before, chocolate is his thing.


For me, I went ahead and swirled a few graham crackers in the hot chocolate. Yum!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pasta Dough and Homemade Ravioli


I'm so excited to finally say that I've done this! I've been wanting to make ravioli by hand for quite some time...some of you may know that I am obsessed with making homemade pasta! A pasta maker is on my Christmas list and I have my fingers crossed that someone got it for me. Rolling the dough out by hand isn't that bad. It surely gives my arms a much needed toning exercise. But I feel that I'd make it a heck of a lot more if I had a machine to do the heavy lifting.

Believe it or not, ravioli isn't that hard to make. I made a simple Ricotta, Parmasen-Reggiano mixture for this first attempt, but I plan on stepping up my game soon. Next week, oh jeeze, I mean, this week for Christmas I plan on doing some sort of butternut squash ravioli with a white sauce and surely I'll need to experiment with sausage at some point.

For pasta dough, I use Chef Anne Burrell's recipe. I saw her make it on the Food Network and she made it look so easy and fun. Here's the link to her recipe if you feel like checking it out. Last week my dept at work took a cooking class and we used white wine. The pasta was fantastic! You can swap white wine for the water in this recipe if you choose.

Here goes! I hope that I inspire you to try it! With pasta in general, once you've had homemade, you never go back to the box.

Ingredients for the Pasta Dough:
1 lb All-Purpose Flour a.k.a. 3&3/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
4 Large Eggs, Plus 1 Egg Yolk
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dash Salt
1 to 2 Tablespoons Water, more if needed
- If using this recipe to make ravioli, you'll need a sealing tool

Ingredients for the Filling - This can be anything you want:
Tub Ricotta Cheese
Parmesan-Reggiano, freshly grated - approx. 1/3 Cup
Italian Seasoning - approx. 1 tsp
1 Egg
Salt & Pepper

Directions for the Pasta:


Gather your ingredients. You probably have all of this stuff already.


Sprinkle the flour on a clean counter top.


Make a big well in the center.


Put your eggs, olive oil, salt and water into the well.


Use a fork to beat the eggs and incorporate the flour.


Keep going until the flour and egg are one.


It will start looking like dough. I promise.


Once you get it to this point, it's time to start gathering the dough using your hands. We're going to knead this puppy.


Knead like you mean it. This is only step one of our arm workout. Use the palms of your hands. You want a very smooth, supple dough. This usually takes me close to 10 minutes.


In the end, you should have a beautiful ball of pasta dough.


Use the dough or refrigerate wrapped in plastic until you are ready to roll-out.


To roll out the dough by hand, sprinkle some flour on the counter and use a rolling pin to get it super thin. I break the dough into 2 pieces (I find it easier to work with).

You can stop at this point and use the dough for whatever you want. Cut it in strips for linguine or bigger strips for lasagna, whatever you want. 


Gather the ingredients for your filling.


Stir them together.


Cut your pasta into strips that are little wider than the ravioli sealer you are using. Spoon some filling onto the strip.


Overlay another strip of pasta and seal with the ravioli sealer. (After I did one, I realized that I could lay out multiple on one strip.)


Once they are sealed, simply cut them apart.


Viola! We've got ravioli! Isn't it beautiful!!?


Cook them in rapidly boiling salted water for about 5 minutes. They will start floating to the top when they are done.


Serve immediately. Pasta gets cold fast. See below for my basic red wine marinara sauce.



Ingredients for the Pasta Dough:
1 lb All-Purpose Flour a.k.a. 3&3/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
4 Large Eggs, Plus 1 Egg Yolk
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dash Salt
1 to 2 Tablespoons Water, more if needed
- If using this recipe to make ravioli, you'll need a sealing tool

Ingredients for the Filling - This can be anything you want:
Small Tub Ricotta Cheese
Parmesan-Reggiano, freshly grated - approx. 1/3 Cup
Italian Seasoning - approx. 1 tsp
1 Egg
Salt & Pepper

Directions:

1. Combine all filling ingredients and mix well. Set aside.

2. To make the pasta dough: sprinkle the flour on the counter top. Make a big well in the center and add the eggs, olive oil, salt and water. Use a fork to beat the eggs and incorporate the flour. Keep going with the fork until all is combined. Gather dough and knead for approx. 10 minutes until dough is soft and supple. (Refrigerate or use dough immediately to create any type of pasta you desire.)

3. For ravioli, roll dough into thin strips that are slightly wider than your ravioli sealer. Place filling mixture on strips, leaving room to seal the dough. Seal using a ravioli sealer. Cut ravioli apart with a sharp knife.

4. Cook ravioli in a large pot of salt water that is at a rolling boil for about 5 minutes. Ravioli will start to float to the top when they are done.