Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

8 Dec

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese FrostingWouldn’t it have been nice to wake up this morning to warm, sweet, soft cinnamon rolls, straight out of the oven?

I agree, especially poring over these pictures on this snowy morning!

These Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting are perfect to serve when you are hosting a crowd; or make them a tradition to serve your family on a birthday or holiday morning.  Along with the Bagel Bake, they are on any brunch menu I have a hand in (given that I have time to prepare the dough the night before). They are perfect to bring to a friend who has just had a baby, or someone who is recovering from surgery. And I have never heard anyone object to keeping the leftovers!

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-3I love seeing the cinnamon and sugar bursting at the seams. It’s all I can do to not take a bite of the dough … the only thing stopping me is knowing how much better the finished product will be.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-4

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-5This batch is ready to go into the oven, in a disposable or reusable dish, destined for a colleague who recently had a baby. Note there are only 9 here – I saved 3 for myself, to experiment in a muffin pan. It didn’t go well. Stick with the larger pan.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls - SquareThe below picture is the same batch, baked, pre-frosting.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-6And therrrre’s the frosting.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-9

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-7

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-8

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-11… I baked and saved the uneven ends for myself.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-12

Ingredients:

For the dough:
– 4 egg yolks, room temperature
– 1 whole egg, room temperature
– 1/4 c sugar
– 6 T unsalted butter, melted
– 3/4 c buttermilk, room temperature*
– approximately 4 c flour, plus additional for dusting
– 1 package instant dry yeast
– 1 1/4 t kosher salt

For the filling:
– 1 c brown sugar, packed
– 1 T ground cinnamon
– pinch of salt
– 1.5T unsalted butter

For the frosting:
– 1/4 c cream cheese, softened (low-fat will work)
– 3 T milk
– 1.5 c powdered sugar

How do I make it?

  • For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or, by hand), whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk.
  • Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined.
  • Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook.
  • Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed until the dough is soft and moist but not sticky, adding more flour if necessary. Knead on low speed a few minutes more, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. It’s ok if it doesn’t completely double in volume.
  • While the dough is rising, make the filling: Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated, and set aside until ready to use.
  • Butter a baking dish (either 9″ x 9″, or 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish).
  • When the dough is done rising, turn it onto a lightly floured work surface (I just use a clean granite countertop, but you can use a smooth cutting board or a special mat made for this purpose. Using a floured rolling pin (or a floured wine bottle, I don’t judge), shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Continue to roll it, pretty much as large as you can get it, or 12″ x 18″.
  • Brush the rectangle of dough with the 1.5 T of melted butter. Leave a small border at the top. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving the same border along the top edge.
  • Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight tube. Roll it so the seam side is down. Using a bench scraper or a serrated knife, slice off the little ends. Then slice into half. Slice each of those halves into half, so you have four equal portions. Then slice each of the four portions into three pieces, so you have 12 rolls.
  • Arrange rolls in the baking dish with the cut sides up (and down). Try to arrange them with the seam facing another roll, so those ends don’t get too crunchy when they bake.
  • Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.
  • The next day: Microwave a large Pyrex filled with water until the water boils, and then move it your oven, which should be off, on a law rack. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap, and place in the oven above the water. With the oven door closed, let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy, approximately 30 minutes, then remove the rolls and the water from the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 350. When preheated, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove the rolls from the oven to cool.
  • While they are cooling, make the frosting: Whisk the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or whisk by hand) until smooth and creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the cooled rolls and serve immediately.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls - bite

More info please?

I never buy a carton of buttermilk; instead, use skim milk and a fresh lemon. I use a Pyrex measuring glass, and place 1 to 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice in the glass, and then fill it up to 3/4 c with milk.  Let it sit until it curdles and comes to room temperature, about 5-10 minutes.

Original link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/overnight-cinnamon-rolls-recipe/index.html

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Hosting: Our Growing Edge … Round-up! Part II

5 Dec

our-growing-edge-badgeThis is the second post of two, reviewing the submissions for Our Growing Edge, an online “linkup party” that encourages food bloggers to go beyond their comfort zones and try new things.  Check out the first post here, and read on below for the second half!

 

 

13. Prawn Paste, from Sharing the Food We Love. The monster tiger prawns look beautiful!

14. I may put these chicken Japanese Meatballs on my list of things to make – I have never made anything where you combine cooked meat with raw meat, and cook it again – looking forward to experimenting. Thanks, Bashful Bao!

15. The Italian Kiwi brings us an old family recipe for Insalata Russa. The dish is very special to her, and the the tribute to her husband’s grandmother is worth the read.

16. Genie from Bunny. Eats. Design. brings us Duck Fat Two Ways: Duck Fat & Sage Roast Potatoes, and Duck Fat Croutons with Salami & Sage (pictured below). I have to say, I am not sure that a duck fat craze has hit the U.S. quite yet, but when it does, I am ready!

17. Nom Nom Cat tried tsukemen ramen for the first time at Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle in Los Angeles. Here is the report!

18. An eggplant extravaganza from Food, Mostly. If you haven’t tried cooking with eggplant, or are looking for some new recipes, check hers out!

19. Caramel Pears, from Amanda at Oven & Apron. How pretty are her pictures?

20. Stefan gives us a step-by-step-by-step tutorial on Chili con Carne, complete with a wine pairing! Thanks Stefan!

21. Sean makes Carrot Cake for his mom, and catches us up on his life recently. Happy Birthday, Sean!

22. This one was my own – I tried my hand at Challah, braided with four strands. Trust me, it was worth the effort!

23. And last but not least, Nom Nom Panda checks out Fresh Tomatillos, and makes some amazing-looking salsa!

Hosting: Our Growing Edge … Round-up!

3 Dec

our-growing-edge-badge And just like that, November was over. The Our Growing Edge crew made the most of the month though – it looks like everyone was busy in the kitchen! It’s possible that this is the highest number of entries that OGE has seen – it’s sure close, if not!

The thing that strikes me the most about OGE is the international nature of the bloggers and posts every month – New Zealand, United States (from California, South Dakota, to Boston, and more!), Australia, India, Argentina, Singapore, France, the Netherlands, and more. I have never heard of many of the dishes and ingredients used – it is a fun learning experience!

Let’s get to the round-up! You can see all of the entries on this page. There are sooo many that I am going to break the round-up into two posts. The second will be posted later this week. Enjoy!

1. The first entry came in from Dearest Sultana, who shared with us a Homemade Gumbo, and a discussion about making roux, which can be tricky business! I am starting my own “to-make” list NOW!

2. Have you heard of Salted Kouign Amann? I had not, but The Pig & Quill gives us a very detailed tutorial about this crispy sweet treat on her blog. Thanks, Em!

3. Hello, Autumn Cheese Beer Soup. I can’t wait to meet you. In my kitchen. With standard ingredients, this looks like a great recipe to whip up on a cold weekend, or snow day, without having to run out for a specialty item. YUM, Food on Demant!

4. Peppery Lacto Fermented Radishes: Totally new to me. Thanks for expanding our horizons, Om Nom Ally!

5., 6., 7., 8. Vessy’s Day was SUPER-prolific this month, with FOUR entries! Steamed Clams with White Wine, Hot Creamy Tomato Soup, Banana Peanut Butter Cookies, and Chicken Empanadas. They are eating well at Vessy’s house! Thanks for the delicious – looking contributions, Vessy.

9. Trampling Rose, THANK YOU for spending the time to make the gorgeous Rosettes and Krumkake for us to covet. And congratulations on your feature in South Dakota Magazine’s “Sweets for the Holidays” feature! That’s awesome – quite an accomplishment to be published in print!

10. Pumpkin Pie Mousse, and a ton of unique and creative photography, from Passionate about Baking. Read on!

11. Beef and Onion Stuffed Bell Peppers, exploring Paleo-friendly dishes and concepts, from Dish by Dish. Happy birthday, Felicia!

12. Urban Food Lover talks us through the journey of making Healthy Hassle-Free Home-made Granola for the first time. No matter what your tastes, you probably love some variation of granola. Try it out for yourself if you haven’t yet!

Check out the second half of the round-up here!

Challah {Four-Strand Braid}

29 Nov

Four Braid ChallahThanksgiving snuck up on me this year – does everyone feel that way every year? I had suggested to my parents that we embrace “Thanksgivukkah” and serve a Jewish-themed appetizer course, followed by the traditional Thanksgiving meal. They did not require much convincing. Any excuse to eat latkes, lox, and pastrami is welcomed around these parts.

I was not able to attend October’s Cooking Club (Hostess: SLSC; Theme: Thanksgiving Inspiration; Date: 10.27.13), but the menu included Pumpkin Challah expertly baked by EDL, which received rave reviews from the attendees, so I decided to include it in my family’s celebration.

However, I have a very traditional family, and as I braided the pumpkin challah, I could tell my dad would have preferred a regular old challah.  The pumpkin-flavored bread ended up being delicious and appreciated, but my dad was right. If you were expecting challah, it wasn’t “challah.”

I have made challah before, but looking through my recipe files, it may have been over 8 years ago – and I have never made a braid with more than 3 strands. The pumpkin challah turned out perfect, so I went back to the same source for her traditional challah recipe. Another winner! I particularly appreciated the tutorial on how to braid challah, and I decided on the four-strand braid. I wanted to use half the batch of dough to make dinner rolls, and didn’t think I would have enough dough to attempt anything more complex that would still have a wow-factor. I literally got “oohs” and “ahhs.” It is hard to deny that braided challah is indeed gorgeous.

Ingredients:
– 1 packet active dry yeast
– 1/4 c water (100-110 degrees)
– 1 t sugar
– 1 egg (whole)
– 3 egg yolks {save the whites for breakfast tomorrow!}
– 1/3 cup honey
– 2 T canola oil
– 1 t salt
– 1 1/4 c water (100-110 degrees)
– 6 c flour {you probably won’t use it all, but should have it available}
– 1 egg yolk
– 2 t water

How do I make it?

  • Pour the yeast into a large mixing bowl. Add the 1/4  c water and 1 t sugar. Stir to combine and dissolve, and let it sit until it gets foamy (about 5 minutes).
  • While the yeast is doing its thing, in a medium bowl, whisk together the whole egg, 3 egg yolks, honey, canola oil and salt.
  • When the yeast in the large bowl is foamy and fragrant, add the remaining 1 1/4 c water and pour in the egg mixture you just whisked. Whisk it all together.
  • Add flour to the mixture, one half cup at a time. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead. Continue to add flour until the dough is smooth and pliable. {You can use a stand mixer with the dough hook, but it doesn’t take that long or use too much energy to do it with your hands. When you use your hands, you are very aware of whether it is too sticky. When the dough is ready, it should be slightly tacky on your fingers, but not stick in clumps.}
  • Place the kneaded dough in a large bowl that you have sprayed with cooking oil (if you want to use the same bowl, be sure to wash it out first). Spray the top of the dough with oil too.
  • Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel, and place in your oven (that is OFF) to rise. In a large microwave-safe container (like a 12-cup Pyrex), microwave water until it boils, and place that into the oven with the dough.
  • Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
  • Take the dough bowl out and punch it down to remove air bubbles. Re-microwave the water and place it back in the oven.
  • Cover the dough bowl again with the towel and place it back inside the oven and let it rise for another hour. At this point, it should have approximately doubled.
  • Take the dough out of the oven and punch it down a few times. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board (or a clean granite countertop). Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling too sticky on your fingers.
  • I used half of the recipe to make small dinner rolls*, and the other half for a braided loaf.
  • Separate the dough you will braid into 4 equal portions. I found it easiest to use a bench scraper to cut the dough into long pieces, rather than balls. You will be rolling the dough into rectangles (rather than a circle), so this served as a little shortcut for me.
  • With a floured rolling pin (or a floured wine bottle – whatever you have – but make sure it is well-floured and stays that way), roll one portion of dough into a rectangle. Now take that rectangle and, using your hands, roll it into a long strand (like a play-doh snake). Roll the strand around and try to work out the seam, and squeeze out any air bubbles. If you can, try to taper the ends a bit by squeezing them and then rolling to smooth them out.
  • Repeat this process with the other three portions.
  • Lay the strands out parallel to each other, with the tapered ends farthest from you.
  • Loosely pinch the strands together at the top. You are now ready to braid.
  • Starting all the way at the right, weave the strand OVER-UNDER-OVER. That is, OVER the first strand to the left of it, then UNDER the next strand, then OVER the final strand. Leave that strand all the way at the left, and repeat with the next strand. Continue this process until you are at the end of the strands.

Four Braid Challah

  • Pinch together and tuck under both ends.

Four Braid Challah-2

  • Step back and admire.
  • Place the braid on a rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
  • Whisk the egg yolk and water together in a small bowl until smooth and uniform.
  • * To make dinner rolls, make more strands, and tie them each in a knot, pinching the ends together and placing that pinched seam down on the parchment-covered baking sheet.
  • Brush the dough (the large braid or the dinner rolls) with the egg wash.

Four Braid Challah-3

  • Let the dough rise, uncovered, for 30-45 more minutes.
  • Place a rack in the middle of your oven, and preheat to 350. You will be baking for 40 minutes total, in two shifts.
    • After the first 20 minutes, pull the challah out of the oven and re-brush it with the remaining egg wash, making sure to get in the little crevasses. {One of my favorite things about challah is that little part that gets exposed during baking – but you need to take this time to brush it with egg wash!}
    • Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. If the crust is getting too brown, place a piece of tin foil over it (the dough will still bake, but the crust will not get more brown under the foil).
  • The dough is done when it sounds hollow when you tap on it (easier to hear when you tap on the bottom).
  • Serve with pretty much anything – breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Four Braid Challah-5Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Original link: http://theshiksa.com/2010/08/25/challah-bread-part-1-the-blessing-and-the-dough/comment-page-2/#comments

our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly “link up party” called Our Growing Edge, which is an online way to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. Our Growing Edge is the brain child of Genie from Bunny Eats Design, and I am the hostess this month. The posts for November’s link up can be found here. New for me with this post: A four-strand braid for challah!

Roasted Potatoes

28 Nov

Roasted Potatoes-7

I am often asked what my favorite dish to cook is, but today I was asked what my favorite food is. Not something that I have been asked in a long time,  and it took me a minute to answer as the kid in the candy store that was my head ran around in circles.

“French fries.”

But as the words came out of my mouth, I found myself running through different cuts of french fries. If I went to a restaurant that offered thin cut, thick cut, steak cut, waffle cut … what would I choose? And what about thin and crisp potato skins? What about fully loaded potato skins? Twice-baked? So many options. My mind raced. And then it hit me …

I love potatoes.

“I take it back. Potatoes.” ZA and I shared a moment when she revealed that she, too, loved potatoes and thinking about it, would probably answer her own question the same way. So simple, so versatile, such a staple.

I used to get frustrated that I couldn’t get the texture I wanted from roasted potatoes – well-done inside, and crisp outside – until I realized two tricks: 1) You need to start with potatoes that are baked, rather than raw; and 2) The less you mess with them while they are cooking, the better!

Ingredients:- 6 medium russet potatoes, baked (can be altered, but I recommend using smaller potatoes, and budgeting more than one per person)
– 6 cloves garlic, peeled (smashed if you would like!)
– 2 T extra virgin olive oil
– 1 t dried oregano, or 1 T fresh oregano
– 1/4 – 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes

How do I make it?

  • {To bake potatoes, either toss a few in the oven while you are cooking something else (prick them with a fork first) – 45 to 60 minutes at any temperature between 350 and 400 should do it. Or, prick with a fork and wrap in paper towel, and microwave one at a time for 6 minutes. Cook before handling!}
  • Preheat the oven to 400 and, if you have a heating element on the top of the oven, set a rack in the top 1/3. If your heating element is only on the bottom, set the rack in the middle of the oven. You will want your pan to be close to the heating element, but you don’t want to over-brown on the bottom of the pan.
  • Cut the potatoes into 1″ cubes. This is why I like to use medium potatoes – you can cut them in half once the long way, then in half again the long way, and then easily chop into cubes that will cook at a good rate (and most importantly, all of the pieces will have skin on them!).Roasted Potatoes
  • Transfer the potatoes to a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Make sure they all fit in a single layer.
  • Add the garlic cloves to the pan.
  • Drizzle the oil over the potatoes and garlic. Add the oregano and red pepper flakes. Top with freshly ground pepper, if you would like.
  • Using your hands, toss the potatoes, garlic, oil, and spices together in the pan, making sure to coat the potatoes with the mixture as much as possible.
  • Roasted Potatoes-2Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, without stirring the potatoes around. After this time, give them a good flip. You should start to get a nice golden crisp on the potatoes.
  • Return the potatoes to the oven and roast for another 20 minutes.

Roasted Potatoes-5

 

If you like this, you may also like:

Food_013_

Quinoa Breakfast Cakes-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Raw Kale Salad with Garlicky Dressing

24 Nov

Easy Kale Salad with Lemon-Garlic Dressing

Work last week was one of those where meetings, projects, and emails were unrelenting – and then I had work-related social events after work every night, to boot. While looking back, such a week can be satisfying because of what was accomplished, what was not satisfying was the food I ate. Rushed mornings getting out the door, “working lunches,” and bar food for dinner is not my preference; but unfortunately, it is sometimes a reality.

But it is a new week! So I am starting it off with a clean slate: a simple kale salad, with an easy fresh dressing. I know some people are skeptical of eating raw kale; they think kale is so tough that it needs to be braised or sauteed to break it down. But give this salad a try. Massaging in the lemon juice and oil will wilt the kale just enough to take the edge off.

I sometimes struggle to think of toppings for salads, but this one requires no such contemplation. I first made this recipe for Cooking Club (Hostess: MD; Theme: Meatless Monday; Date: 09.30.12) and it has become one of my staples. The recipe calls for freshly-made breadcrumbs to be sprinkled for crunch – I love this concept. The crunch is evenly distributed, and the carbs are kept to a minimum. When I do not have fresh breadcrumbs, small homemade croutons from a hearty whole grain wheat loaf fit the bill. {I think that store-bought breadcrumbs would be too fine to add the crunch – if you can’t do homemade, I recommend the croutons.}

Easy Kale Salad

Ingredients:
– 1 bunch lacinato kale, sliced into very thin strips {I can’t vouch for any other variety of kale in this recipe – but lacinato is awesome!}
– juice from 1 lemon
– 2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, smashed
– hot red pepper flakes, to taste
– 1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
– fresh croutons or bread crumbs

How do I make it?

  • Place the sliced kale in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Place the smashed garlic in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice, a few tablespoons of olive oil, and pinch of red pepper flakes, and whisk. Add salt and pepper if you would like, but try it on its own first – you can always add salt and pepper later.
  • Pour the dressing over the kale and toss well. Massage the dressing into the kale – squeeze the kale and make sure the dressing is evenly distributed.
  • Add half of the cheese and toss again.
  • Let the kale sit for a few minutes. Add the bread crumbs or croutons, toss again, and top with remaining cheese.

If you like this, you may also like:

Warm Kale, Sweet Potato, & Quinoa Salad  Southwest Quinoa Bowl

Serve with:

Roasted Chicken with Lemon-5Chicken Burgers 4

Focaccia with Rosemary, Tomato, and Caramelized Onions

23 Nov

Rosemary Focaccia-5Focaccia is as thick as dough can be while still remaining a flatbread. It can be topped with nearly anything, but traditional toppings include herbs, onion and other vegetables, cheese, and meat. Focaccia also has a high olive oil content, which keeps it moist and adds flavor – and sets it apart from pizza dough. A sprinkle of salt tops it off! I love having focaccia available for snacking – I think the small amount of salt is satisfying. And when you slice off small pieces, the calories don’t count, right?

Ingredients:
– 1 package dry yeast
– 1 cup warm water, 100-110 degrees
– 1 tsp honey
– 3.5 c all-purpose flour
– 1/2 c (plus a little more) extra virgin olive oil (divided – you will use it at a few different times)
– kosher salt
– 1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
– 2 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4″ slices
– 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed from stem
– 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

How do I make it?

  • In a medium bowl, stir together yeast, warm water, and honey. Let rest until bubbles form on top and you can smell the yeast, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in 3 c flour, 1/4 c olive oil and 1 t kosher salt.
  • Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until dough is smooth (see photo below), 5 to 10 minutes. Add flour if the dough gets sticky {it’s ok if you don’t use the full 3.5 c!}.
  • Rosemary FocacciaPlace dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour. Don’t worry if it doesn’t completely double! Not a big deal.
  • While the dough is rising, Heat a large heavy skillet or pan over medium heat. When warm, add 1 T olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion slices, separating as you drop them into the skillet, and cover. Cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. The longer the onion cooks, the sweeter it will get!
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and lightly oil a 9″ x 13″ rimmed baking sheet, or metal baking pan.
  • Remove dough from bowl and press it into the pan until it touches the edges. Using your fingers, make dimples all over the dough (see photo below).
    Rosemary Focaccia-2
  • Drizzle the dough with 1 – 2 T olive oil and spread it around using your fingers or a pastry brush.
  • Let the dough rest 20-30 minutes, until it becomes a little puffy.
  • Top the dough with tomato slices, caramelized onions, rosemary, Parmesan cheese, and a bit more salt, to your tastes. Drizzle with 1 T olive oil.Rosemary Focaccia-3
  • Bake until the focaccia is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cool before cutting into pieces and serving!

Rosemary FocacciaMore info please?

If you plan to serve as finger food for a party, try smaller tomatoes, and line them up in rows and columns so that when you slice with a serrated knife, the tomatoes stay pretty and intact.

Original link: http://www.cookincanuck.com/2011/02/focaccia-with-caramelized-onion-tomato/

Beef and Onion Ragu with Spaghetti Squash

16 Nov

ImageI had the opportunity to get out of the city over the long Veterans Day weekend, and I spent a few days in one of my favorite places: Charlottesville, Virginia. My memories from Charlottesville are warm and inspiring, and I think the air is different there – the breaths I take are clean and crisp, and reinvigorating. I try to escape to Charlottesville now and again to recharge. And, of late, to cook!

I convinced my friend NB to join me for the weekend, and as we paged through magazines looking for something for me to make for dinner, we both simultaneously pointed to the same picture: Cooks Illustrated’s Rigatoni with Beef and Onion Ragu. The temperatures had dipped into the 30’s overnight, and we were craving some serious comfort food. As we read through the recipe, NB asked if I could “healthify it,” and I accepted her challenge.

Chopped Ingredients for Beef RaguHealthification #1: Instead of 2 oz of pancetta and 2 oz of salami, I opted to use instead 3 oz of pancetta (aka “italian bacon”), and no salami. As we perused the available pancetta, we were shocked at how much the nutrition information varied from brand to brand. We ended up with Wellshire Farms which, in addition to having a low number of ingredients, has no antibiotics, nitrates, or nitrites – and only 2g fat in a 2 oz serving, with 350mg sodium. Other pancettas available had almost 10 times the amount of fat, and very high sodium. It’s always worth a look, even when buying bacon! We felt very good about using this product in our meal.

Shoulder ChuckHeathification #2: A shoulder roast of steak, rather than the suggested chuck eye roast. When you are braising meat for hours and hours, you do need a meat with some fat in it, but I asked the butcher what he would recommend for a leaner cut than chuck eye. He said that if the recipe used chuck eye, that I should not go any leaner than shoulder. I looked through the shoulder cuts available and selected the leanest I saw.

Using Spaghetti Squash for the BaseHealthification #3: Spaghetti Squash instead of rigatoni or other pasta. NB and I had discussed whole wheat pasta, but in this recipe, you mix the squash completely in to the ragu. It’s a great way to hide a healthy ingredient (much like hiding quinoa in this Marinara Quinoa with Chicken), so even if you are not totally jazzed about spaghetti squash, I have a feeling this will work for you. Note that I just added a bit more squash for the base, and color in the pictures. Two bites in, NB confirmed that we had made an excellent choice, and that the spaghetti squash provided just the right bite of texture. I agreed.

The process to make this Beef and Onion Ragu with Spaghetti Squash is not difficult, but is a bit lengthy, and I recommend making this recipe when you will be home on a chilly day and don’t mind the oven being on for a few hours.

Ingredients:
– 1 to 1.5 lb beef shoulder roast, cut into 4 to 5 pieces and trimmed of major pieces of fat
– S + P
– 3 oz pancetta, chopped roughly into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 carrot, peeled and chopped roughly into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 celery stalk, chopped roughly into 1/2″ pieces
– 2.5 lbs onions (about 7 medium), peeled and cut into 1″ pieces {You read that right. If you like onions, this recipe is for you! Try a mix of yellow and sweet onions.}
– 2 T tomato paste
– 2 c water
– 1 c Sauvignon Blanc, or other dry white wine
– 2 T minced fresh oregano
– 1 spaghetti squash, roasted and processed
– 1/4 c Pecorino Romano, grated {and extra for serving}

How do I make it?

  • Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300.
  • Sprinkle beef with 1/2 t kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and set aside.
  • Process pancetta in a food processor (a smaller processor may work better with the small amount of food you will be using in these first steps) until ground to a paste, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  • Transfer paste to an oven-safe dutch oven or soup pot and set aside.
  • Do not bother cleaning out the processor bowl. Pulse onions in processor in batches (it may take 3-4 batches), until the pieces are 1/8 to 1/4 inch pieces, about 8 to 10 pulses per batch. Transfer the onions to a medium or large bowl and keep them at the ready – you will need them in a moment.

Let’s pause for a photo break.

Onions in the Food Processor

I was interested to read in Cook’s Illustrated that using a food processor to chop the onions will result in more surface area being exposed on the onion pieces, in short (and skipping a bit of the science here), leading to a release of chemicals that gives a meatier flavor. Who. Knew.

  • Cook pancetta paste mixture (with the carrot and celery) over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the fat is rendered (= you can’t see it any more on the meat) and fond begins to form on bottom of pot, about 5 minutes.

What is fond? This is fond. You may think it’s food sticking and burning to the bottom of the pot. But no, if you manage to keep it a light brown, it is actually a very shmancy thing called “fond.” Below is an illustration – check the bottom right quadrant of this picture for the heaviest fond concentration.

  • What does fond look like?Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, about 90 seconds.
  • Stir in 2 cups of water a little bit at a time, scraping up the fond. This works best if you add just a little water, and scrape up the fond as the water is boiling (it doesn’t work as well if you add all of the water at once).
  • Stir in onions and bring to a boil. {Note that I wasn’t sure how this was going to happen – but the onion cooks down and there will be enough liquid to boil, I promise!}
  • Stir in 1/2 c of wine and 1 T minced oregano.
  • Add beef and push it into the onion mixture, to ensure that it is submerged. Transfer the pot to the oven, on that low rack, and cook uncovered until beef is fully tender, about 3 hours.
    • {This may be a great time to roast your spaghetti squash. While I recommend 400 degrees, it will be fine at 300. Just leave it in until it starts to brown on the outside and collapse – should be under an hour, but you should have some time on your hands during the 3-hour beef braise!}
  • Transfer beef to carving or cutting board. Place pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is almost completely dry. This may take a half hour to 45 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 c wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • While the liquid is cooking out, using 2 forks, shred beef into bite-size pieces. Comme ca:

Shredded Beef

  • Return shredded beef, and the remaining oregano, to the sauce, and stir it in. Add the spaghetti squash, separating the strands with forks as you mix it in. Finally, add the cheese, and stir one last time!

Ragu + Salad = Dinner

Original link: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/7484-rigatoni-with-beef-and-onion-ragu# ; also available at http://www.kcet.org/living/food/the-public-kitchen/rigatoni-with-beef-and-onion-ragu.html

Product Review: COCOZIA Organic Coconut Water

11 Nov

COCOZIA Review-4Coconut water is “in.”

I was a bit behind the curve on this one and had not tried it until I was contacted by the marketing department from COCOZIA, who offered to send me an Amazon gift card, with which I was to purchase a 12-package case of their product. In return, all they asked was that I review the product on Amazon and on my blog. This is my first product review where I was contacted by the product’s representatives, and I am looking forward to more!

This post is 100% my own words and thoughts; the only compensation I received was the gift card I was sent, the full amount of which was spent on the product.

We eat (and drink) with our eyes first, so let’s discuss packaging briefly. In short: Clean and cute. No pictures of palm trees or coconuts, just stylized font and a focus on the certified organic nature of the product. And who doesn’t love a good “USDA Organic” stamp? I don’t know the technical term for the packaging, but it feels like a thicker, almost cylindrical juice box – complete with an expandable straw on the back. There is also an option to peel back a silver tab for a wider-mouth opening, to drink or pour directly from the package.

Now, coconut water is completely distinct from coconut milk. This NPR blog post offers that coconut water “contains two minerals that help balance fluids in the body, sodium and potassium.” As a coconut ages from a young green coconut to a mature brown coconut that you probably are picturing, the coconut water “morphs into the white coconut meat that’s often pressed to produce coconut milk or oil.”

To show you the difference between coconut water and milk, in an 11.1 oz package, COCOZIA coconut water has 70 calories, 0g fat, 65mg of sodium, 730 mg of potassium, and 14g of sugar. But an average (full-fat) coconut milk  has – in one cup, which is 3.1 oz less than the above stats – 557 calories, 57g of fat (51 g saturated), 36g of sodium, 631g potassium, and 8g of sugar.

They are just not the same product.

Now how about taste? Well, the taste is a bit unexpected. I would describe it as a watered-down juice of some fruit I have never had before (and that I would not particularly seek out again). It leaves a slight aftertaste, too. I have not tried other coconut waters, so I am not comparing them, but I don’t think that I would purchase coconut water to drink in the future, based on this experience.

NOW, let’s talk cooking. When I was researching the product before I agreed to test the product, I saw enough articles and blog posts about cooking with coconut water – in smoothies, using instead of coconut milk in recipes, and as a substitute for water as well – that I definitely wanted to try it out.

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: I decided to try substituting COCOZIA coconut water for tap water to make brown rice. It was great, and I recommend it! The coconut water gave the rice a really subtle coconut flavor that pairs well with stir-fry and curries. Just substitute it cup for cup, ounce for ounce. Coconut water is expensive – each package costs a bit over $2 on Amazon – but it is worth picking up a smaller quantity and trying out a basic rice recipe. I used regular (non-microwave) brown long-grain rice, and just followed the directions on the package.

COCOZIA Review-3It doesn’t look different from other rice, but the taste is there. This picture features brown rice cooked in COCOZIA coconut water, with a simple stir-fry of chicken, broccoli, garlic, shallots, ginger, and soy sauce – quantities are totally variable according to your tastes!

COCOZIA Review-2

Butterscotch Granola Blondies

8 Nov

Butterscotch Granola Blondies-4Do you go through food phases, like me? For weeks or months at a time, I can’t get enough of smoothies, or egg white and cheese sandwiches, or green tea. For a period during law school, granola was my jam. One day I reached for one of the specialty brands that are sold on the highest shelf in the cereal aisle, and a love connection was made.

Heartland Granola is not sold everywhere, but I buy it locally at Harris Teeter. I hope, for your sake, that you can find it locally (or online). If not, any granola that isn’t too cluster-y would work. But because I found this recipe on the side of the Heartland Granola box, I am partial to that brand. I recently found that they post a whole list of recipes using their granola – I can’t wait to try them out!*

I have said it before and will continue to repeat it – recipes “on the side of the box” showcase the product you are buying, and can be some of the best you will find. Not every recipe will suit you of course (and sometimes the cross-branding with other products is irking), but I assure you I have put many of these recipes into my rotation.Butterscotch Granola Blondies

I brought a batch of these blondies in to work this week, and although many people seemed to be initially skeptical of butterscotch, you should have seen how eyes lit up at Bite #1! My colleagues commented on the doughy center, and the almost oatmeal cookie taste (“but different”). The granola bakes in, and loses its crunchy texture, but still lends the blondies some structure. I would not generally say that I like butterscotch, but try butterscotch baking chips. They mostly just taste like sugar, and a bit like white chocolate (which is mostly just sugar). If you are looking for something just a little different to bring to a party or to work, or to have around the kitchen for the weekend to snack on, and don’t have a ton of time, may I recommend this recipe. I can assure you that you – and anyone who takes a bite – will not be disappointed.

And, if I do say so myself, they are quite photogenic.

Butterscotch Granola Blondies-3

Ingredients:
– 1/2 c butterscotch chips
– 3 T butter
– 1 c brown sugar, packed
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 t vanilla
– 1.75 c Heartland Granola Cereal (original variety)
1 c flour
– 1 t baking powder
– 1/2 t kosher salt

How do I make it?

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a heat-proof medium or large bowl {be sure to check your bowl for its intended usage!}, melt butterscotch chips and butter together. You can do this in the oven as it’s warming, in the microwave, or on the stove top. Cool a bit.
  • Stir in the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and granola.
  • Then stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Spread batter in 8″ x 8″ pan.
  • Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Set the timer for 25 minutes, and take a look. When it’s done, the edges will get a bit firmer than the middle and will seem to swell up a bit.
  • Cool before cutting.

Butterscotch Granola Blondies-5

 

Butterscotch Granola Blondies-2

Original link: http://heartlandbrands.com/page/recipes/granola-recipes/

*Although, as with all printed recipes, it’s important to read them carefully. This recipe online states that an 8″ x 8″ pan of blondies, cut in to 2″ squares, will make … 36 bars? I am NOT a math person, but cutting an 8″ square pan in to 2″ squares should make 16 blondies. The cardboard remnant I have from the side of a box from over a decade ago does not have such measurements on it!