Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread

Once again, a recipe from Annie's Eats makes its way on to my blog. And this one is delicious. I've had this recipe starred in my Google reader for about a month, and I have come to it weekend after weekend debating whether I should make it or not. Well, I'm so glad I finally made it.

Do you know that moist, tender interior of a cinnamon roll? The part with just a little bit of a crunchy edge, but mostly it's just soft cinnamon-ey bread? Well, this bread loaf is MOSTLY that. You've got this great crusty edge, but on the inside, throughout the length of the entire loaf, you've got that soft, yummy interior. The whole idea about this loaf are the layers, which you're supposed to peel layer by layer. Well, Chris and I just used our fingers and tore off big chunks and shoved rapidly into our watering mouths once this thing cooled down just enough not to burn our fingers on the caramelized sugar on the bottom. So worth it.

Here's the recipe as it appears on Annie's Eats, minus the great step-by-step photos. Make sure to visit her site for detailed how-to photos.

Ingredients:
For the dough:

  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2¼ tsp. instant yeast
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

For the filling:

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  1. To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan and heat just until the butter is melted. Set aside and let cool briefly, until the mixture registers 115-125˚ F on an instant-read thermometer. Add the milk mixture, water, vanilla and eggs to the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until a cohesive dough forms. Continue to knead until smooth and elastic, adding additional flour as needed 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky. Knead about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat, and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (After the dough has doubled, it can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before proceeding.)
  2. While the dough rises, add the butter to a small saucepan and melt until browned. Set aside. Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and mix well.
  3. Once dough has risen, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate. Roll into a ball, cover with a clean towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough out into an approximately 12 x 20-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the browned butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough in an even layer. (Yes, really, use all of it.)
  4. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Slice the dough vertically into 6 even strips. Stack the strips on top of each other and again cut again into 6 equal slices. Stack all the squares on top of each other and set into the prepared loaf pan. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place, 30-45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Transfer the loaf to the oven and bake 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. (If the top seems to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil at the end of baking.) Remove from the oven and let rest in the pan 20-30 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen and carefully turn the loaf out, transferring to a serving plate. Serve warm.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Raspberry Banana Smoothie

I've recently started making smoothies as an answer to my nightly sweet tooth. I've always got bananas around and frozen fruit, so when a craving for ice cream hits, I've started blending these up instead.

The beauty of the smoothie is that it's packed full of fruit, so it's super healthy, and it's so easy to pull together with whatever fruits you've got around. And, use whatever liquid you have on hand, whether it's yogurt, milk, orange juice, pineapple juice, or even a splash of half and half (if you have nothing else around!). I haven't gotten to the point of adding flax into this yet, but I know lots of other smoothie people do. I almost bought some at the Willy Street Co-op last weekend, but wasn't sure I wanted to spend $10 on a gigantic bag.

Some combinations I've tried (or want to try):
Blueberry/Raspberry/Banana/OJ/Pineapple Juice/Yogurt
Banana/Peanut Butter/Yogurt
Banana/Chocolate/Yogurt
Blueberry/OJ/Yogurt
Strawberry/Banana/Pineapple Juice/Yogurt

So give this a try, but change it up with what ever floats your boat. The key is to taste as you go and adjust as necessary!

Ingredients (for two small smoothies):
  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tbsp of orange juice
  • 8-10 ice cubes

Directions:
  1. Toss all ingredients into a blender. Pulse until blended. Taste and adjust ingredient levels as needed.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thin Crust Cheese Pizza



There are some times in life where you just need a crusty, cheesy pizza. I've been having those moments recently, and now I'm armed with a phenomenal crust and sauce recipe that comes together in minutes.
The recipe for the dough and sauce is originally from Cooks Illustrated, but I found it on Annie's Eats.

The best way to make the dough is in a food processor. But, I don't have a processor large enough. So, I worked quickly in my mixer and handled the dough as little as possible. The recipe itself really requires a minimum of effort. Throw a few ingredients into your food processor (or mixer), combine, let it sit, knead for a minute and stow in the fridge. Doesn't really get much simpler than that (unless you're making No Knead bread, which no one can top it's simplicity). The dough recipe makes enough for two 8-slice pizzas. Freeze half after letting set in the fridge for 24-72 hours.
To yield the perfectly crispy crust, you MUST bake this on a pizza stone. Pretty inexpensive investment ($20) that's totally worth it.

The sauce can be made in a blender, and makes enough for 3-4 pizzas, depending on how saucy you like yours. And the vinegar adds a nice flavor to the sauce. Don't skip that.

Here's the recipe as it appears on Annie's Eats

Ingredients:
For the crust:
  • 3 cups (16½ oz.) bread flour
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups ice water
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1½ tsp. salt
For the sauce:
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
For topping:
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • ½ cup (1 oz.) finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded whole-milk mozzarella
Directions:
  1. To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade. Pulse just to combine. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and process just until the dough is combined and all dry ingredients are incorporated, about 10 seconds. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the oil and salt to the dough. Process until the dough forms a smooth, tacky ball that clears the sides of the bowl, about 30-60 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead briefly on a lightly oiled work surface, about 1 minute. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days. (After the period of refrigeration, the dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for later use.)
  3. To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. One hour before baking the pizza, adjust an oven rack to the second highest position and place a baking stone on the rack to preheat. Preheat the oven to 500˚ F. Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. (If you plan to freeze a portion of the dough, this is the time to wrap in plastic, place in a freezer bag and freeze for later use.) Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Spray the dough balls lightly with cookies spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  5. To assemble the pizza, transfer a dough ball to a well floured work surface. Flatten into an 8-inch disk, leaving a slightly thicker edge around the rim. Using your hands, gently stretch the dough to a 12-inch circle. (If you're having trouble getting the dough to stretch, let it set for a few minutes.) Transfer the dough to a well floured pizza peel (you can use cornmeal in place of the flour) and stretch to a 13-inch circle. Lightly brush the thicker edge of the disk with olive oil. Spread ½ cup of the pizza sauce over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with the grated Parmesan and the shredded mozzarella. Carefully transfer the pizza to the preheated baking stone. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
*This dough can also be made in a stand mixer or by hand. Keep in mind, the idea is to avoid warming the dough, so a food processor or mixer is optimal.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Parmesan Baked Chicken Fingers

Wow! My 100th post! It's only taken me a couple of years to get here. Had I realized this would be my 100th, then maybe I would have chosen something more glamorous to share with you! Maybe for my 150th, I'll do something fancier.

On to the recipe...You can never have too many ways to cook chicken breasts. This is one I'll add to my "make frequently" recipe box, because it comes together so easily and the results are great! I found this recipe browsing a favorite food site, SeriousEats.com. Usually I browse that site for finding a great burger or slice of pizza wherever it is I'm travelling to. But, this recipe popped up in my google reader last week, I had all the ingredients on hand, and only a short amount of time to make dinner, so this was perfect.

The key here is Panko crumbs. These extra crispy breadcrumbs allow you to get a crispy exterior by baking, and not frying. The night I made these, I served alongside spaghetti and marinara. But these would also be great with a green salad and ranch dressing to dip the chicken fingers in.

The original recipe on seriouseats.com was prepared with roasted brussel sprouts and mushrooms, which I obviously replaced with delicious carbs. It also makes a LOT of chicken fingers (roughly 20 4-inch fingers), so I threw half of them in the freezer for another day. Don't feel limited by the thyme in the recipe. Italian seasoning works great as well.

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup panko or plain dried breadcrumbs (USE PANKO!)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (2/3 ounce)
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh chicken tenders, or boneless, skinless breast cut into strips
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or whatever herbs you have on hand. I used italian seasoning)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then toss in a bowl with one tablespoon of the oil and thyme. Allow to sit while preparing other ingredients.
  2. In another small bowl, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan with a pinch of salt.
  3. Toss chicken in the breadcrumbs and transfer to a baking sheet. Roast until cooked through, 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spicy Penne a la Vodka with Spinach & Mushrooms



My second blog post ever was a haphazard photo of my spicy penne a la vodka. Just a random photo I took of my pasta in a serving dish on the counter of the kitchen in my & Chris' very first home. No commentary. Recipe only. Barely formatted. Well, I've been making Spicy Pasta (as it's become dubbed in my house) for probably 10 years now and it never fails to satisfy. This recipe is the sole reason that I always have vodka on hand in my freezer. So, I thought I'd give it the justice it deserves and do a proper entry for this recipe.

I like this recipe because you can throw in whatever ingredients you've got on hand in terms of chicken, veggies, and noodle type. My favorite combination is spinach and mushroom with penne. But I've also done sauteed chicken, or no add-ins at all. I think that Penne noodles or farfalle work best because they hold the sauce in their nooks and crannies.

This recipe makes about 3 servings. Perfect for a household of two, with enough for some leftovers the next day. Since I don't need much spinach for this recipe, and we don't eat spinach in much else, I like to source my spinach from the salad bar. That way I don't waste so much food and money by buying the bags or big bunches of spinach. Add this one to your repertoire. You won't be disappointed!

Ingredients:
1/2 lbs penne noodles
.5 Tbs olive oil
.5 Tbs butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
1/8 - 1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs Parmesan Cheese, plus more for topping the pasta
Handful of spinach (optional)
10 Button or baby bella mushrooms, quartered, sauteed (optional)

Directions:
  1. Boil noodles in a pot of salted water until al dente.
  2. In large saute pan heated to medium, heat olive oil and butter. Add shallot and saute until softened - about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until fragrant.
  3. Add vodka and chicken stock to pan, and cook 5 minutes, or until reduced by 50%. Add crushed tomatoes and simmer until noodles are cooked. Add cream, parmesan cheese to tomato sauce and stir to combine.
  4. Add noodles to the pan with the sauce, turn up the heat and stir to combine. Once the sauce has thickened a bit, toss in the mushrooms and spinach just before serving. The heat from the sauce will wilt the spinach perfectly. Serve with additional parmesan on top!

Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins



I've been in a bit of a lull with the blog posts recently. Between cooking my quick, easy meals for convenience, traveling for work or vacation, or just not finding any recipes that spark my interest, I've been slacking. BUT, while browsing Cooking Light's top rated recipe section, these muffins sounded like a sure-fire winner. Trust me, the lame photo above does NOT do these muffins justice. Check out the link for a much better representation of how delicious these are: Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins on Cooking Light

The moistness and richness of these muffins make me second guess that these are a Cooking Light recipe. According to Cooking Light's website (which uses walnuts in the recipe, which I omitted), 1 full-size muffin is 142 calories.

The recipe calls for fresh or frozen raspberries - I used frozen but you could easily substitute blackberries, blueberries or your other favorite fruit. It also calls for walnuts, which I omitted. This recipe makes 24 regular sized muffins, or 48 mini-muffins.

Here's the recipe from Cooking Light

Ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup (5 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add vanilla, egg whites, and egg; beat well.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk to cream cheese mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Gently fold in raspberries and walnuts.
  5. Place 24 foil cup liners in muffin cups. Spoon batter evenly into liners.
  6. Bake at 350° 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans; cool on a wire rack.