Monday, April 9, 2018

Easy Cinnamon Rolls

There are a ton of recipes for cinnamon rolls.  My biggest problem with most of them is that I have to get up early in the morning to cook them.  Not cool.  I am not a morning person.  I don't make breakfast for breakfast, I make it for dinner.  MUCH easier for me to manage.  THIS, however, works for breakfast time.

It's a mixture of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Alton Brown.  This dough takes several hours to get ready, but there's minimal hands-on time.

First, make a batch of Challah dough -

1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (NOT airtight) food container.  Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon.  You might have to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

Cover (NOT airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.  You can use this dough immediately, but it's easier to handle if you chill for a couple of hours.  Refrigerate in lidded (NOT airtight) container.  You can use it anytime over the next five days.

When you're ready to make cinnamon rolls (the night before you want to eat them), sprinkle the counter with flour.  Spray a 9" x 13" pan with non-stick spray.  Dump out the dough and divide in half.   Roll one half of the dough into an 18" x 12" rectangle (with the long side facing you).

Mix together:

8 ounces brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk

Brush the dough with milk, leaving a one-inch border at the top of the dough.  Sprinkle the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the milk.  Gently press the mixture down to make sure it sticks.  Start rolling the dough away from you into a tight cylinder.  Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder so the seam side is down.  Squeeze the cylinder gently to make it an even thickness.  Cut into 16 pieces - I usually cut in half, then each half in half, and so on until there are 16 pieces.  Set into the pan.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge overnight.  Repeat with the second half.

Next morning, pull out the pan, and heat the oven to 350F.  Let the oven heat while you get out the ingredients for the frosting!

5 ounces cream cheese (let this sit out and get to room temperature before you try mixing it!)
6 tablespoons milk
11 ounces confectioners' sugar

Once the cream cheese is room temperature, beat the cream cheese until smooth in a mixer.  Slowly add the milk while beating.  Sift in the confectioners' sugar....slowly....unless you'd like to be covered in sugar!!!

Now that the oven is warmed and the cinnamon rolls have warmed up a bit, bake the cinnamon rolls for about 30 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 190F.

Go ahead and spread the icing over the top of the rolls and serve immediately.  These are delicious and hardly ever last more than that morning, but IF you happen to have leftovers, wrap them up tightly and store for up to three days.  Reheat in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

"BBQ" Chicken

I know there's a whole lot of debate as to the "best" BBQ.  What is not up for debate is HOW barbecue should be cooked.  If you are looking for a recipe that is low and slow in a smoker, this is not it.  If, however, you are looking for delicious and easy, I am here to help!

I served this recently for a group of 40 teens and adults and there was about a cup of it leftover (I also served pork and there was none of that left).  It's delicious.  Serve with Beautiful Burger Buns, and if you really want an awesome meal, coleslaw and cowboy beans.  Enjoy!

This recipe is tweaked a bit from Cooks Illustrated - my very favorite cooking website/magazine!  Every recipe is right on.

2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
Barbecue sauce

Mix spices together and toss over chicken.  I just tossed all my chicken in a big bowl, sprinkled, tossed, repeated, until it looked pretty well covered.  Add about 1/2 cup barbecue sauce and toss to coat.  Put into slow cooker and cook until tender, about 4-6 hours on low.  I usually do the first hour on high, then turn it down to low - then I never worry about it not being done on time!

When done cooking, remove everything from the slow cooker, shred the meat, return to cooker, and add a little (about 1 cup) of the liquid (de-fatted, of course!) to the mixture to keep it moist.  Keep on warm while serving, but serve pretty quickly.  Serve barbecue sauce on the side for those who like it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Nana's Irish soda bread

All right, so it's a little early for St. Patrick's Day, but I have a friend who asked for this recipe.  Friend...ha....I used to babysit for her!!!  Crazy!!!  Anyhow...

My great-grandparents came over from "the old country" back in the early 20th century.  I don't know when; I haven't been able to figure it out on various genealogy sites (after all, it's not like there aren't a ton of Michael McCarthys or Mary Evans!).

I don't remember much about them....I remember their brogue, what they look like, that they had plastic on their couch, and a candy dish on their coffee table.  I don't remember this bread at all, but since I've had my own family and tried to incorporate our heritage into their lives, I make this bread once a year.  Okay, sometimes more, because it's delicious toasted for breakfast!!!

Enjoy the recipe, even if you aren't Irish!  Also notice that you say a blessing before you bake's from the old country...what do you want?!?!

Irish Soda Bread

Preheat oven to 375F.

4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup raisins
2 cups buttermilk

Grease cookie sheet, but do NOT use an air bake sheet!!  In a large bowl, toss flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.  Stir in raisins.  Add buttermilk  and stir with a fork until JUST mixed (holds together).

Put out onto floured surface,  knead 10-15 times and pat into an 8" round on greased cookie sheet.  Cut a cross into the top of bread, say a blessing, and bake 40-45 minutes, or until lovely golden brown.

Monday, January 18, 2016

....and what to put on them

My last post concerned the yummy rolls we make at our house.  We love to use them for burgers....we all have our favorite combinations.  My hubby's is a bacon cheeseburger with freshly-made onion rings and barbecue sauce.  It's truly delicious, but my favorite is a bacon cheeseburger with smoked Gouda and sauteed mushrooms and onions.  Yumm-o, as Rachael Ray says.

They are also fantastic the next morning sliced with butter and jam, or with a fried egg, cheese, and a sausage patty.  So much better than anything you can get at a familiar fast-food restaurant.

A family favorite is to make Sloppy Joes.  Not the kind from the can (which is perfectly acceptable in a pinch!), but homemade.  It's very simple, so don't worry.  This recipe comes from Cook's Country.

Sloppy Joes

1 onion, minced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced or put through a garlic press
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 lb 85% ground beef
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup tomato sauce (you could use puree, or paste that you've watered down a bit)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onion and salt and stir until covered with oil.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 10 minutes.  If onion begins to burn after 5 minutes, reduce heat to low.

Add garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring constantly, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add beef and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until just pink, about 3 minutes.  Don't cook too long, or the meat will be dry and crumbly later on.

Add black pepper, brown sugar, tomato sauce, ketchup, water, and hot sauce.  Simmer until the Sloppy Joe sauce is slightly thicker than ketchup, about 8-10 minutes.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.  Serve with the buns.  We usually slice them in half, and kind of scoop out some of the middle so they're less "sloppy".

We serve these with raw veggies and dip, so we can use our fingers for everything!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Beautiful Burger Buns....

These are the best rolls we've ever made.  I "discovered" these on the King Arthur Flour website a few years ago.  I made the mistake of making them once and I have sunk myself because of it!  We simply do not buy rolls from the store anymore.  I have a mutiny on my hands if I even try.  We use them for buns for hamburgers, sloppy Joes, breaded chicken cutlets, and they are fantastic when toasted and spread with butter and jam for breakfast.  They are so good and so famous on our street, that one young man, when asked to stay for dinner, asked, "is your mom making those rolls?"  Kids come in and grab them and run out to play.

I make a double batch every time, because otherwise they barely last until dinner.  I have two breadmakers, so it's pretty easy, but it's a pretty easy recipe anyway.

I intend to use the dough to make pepperoni rolls (a West Virginia favorite!) for our youth group tonight.  You just make a batch and see if you aren't convinced to avoid store-bought rolls forever!

makes 8-12, depending on size.  I make 10 per batch because I still have some young kids.

3/4-1 cup lukewarm water (watch your dough!)
2 Tbsp butter
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp instant  yeast

Mix and knead all the ingredients to make a soft, smooth dough.  Cover and let rise in warm spot until nearly double, about 1-2 hours.  When I make it in the breadmaker, I set it on dough, which is about 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Heat oven to 375F.  Gently deflate dough and divide into pieces.  Form into balls, and slightly smush.  I do not usually use flour when doing this.  I dip my hands into water.  It seems to make the buns a better shape.  They're delicious either way, but for burgers, it works better if they stay a little flatter.  You'll get the hang of it as you make these again and again.  And you will!

Set buns on a greased sheet, cover with a clean, lint-free towel, and let rise for about an hour, until visibly puffy.  I usually smush them a little more right before I put them in the oven.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  LET COOL on a wire rack before you cut them.  That's an important piece of the bread baking process, you know.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Mexican night

Every Wednesday at our house is Mexican night.  Hmmm...maybe I should say Tex-Mex night.  I'm pretty much as "gringo" as you can get (Irish/northern European), but lived in Texas for a couple of years.

When hubby and I were first married, we didn't have a lot of money, so we'd have Margarita night every Friday.  We'd pull out the couch, get a movie, have homemade margaritas, and some sort of Tex-Mex.  It was like a little trip away every Friday!

Once we had children, it continued to be popular for several reasons - no babysitter needed, and then when the kids were old enough to eat, they got to dip pretty much everything.  If you don't have kids, they love to dip things.  Heck, I love to dip things!  Salsa, sour cream, queso...yumm-o!

Usually we keep it pretty simple, using store-bought soft tortillas, seasoned ground beef, and queso in the teeny slow-cooker I have.  Yes, I use Velveeta, and no, I don't feel bad about it.  It's delicious and so creamy!!  However, every once in a while, I get inspired and fry my own corn chips and taco shells.  It has ruined us forever for store-bought taco shells!

It's very simple to do, but takes a bit of effort and care.  Just buy the best, thinnest corn tortillas you can find (we have a Global Food store near us, with plenty of ethnic food).  To make tortilla chips, just cut a stack of tortillas into six or eight pieces, depending on the size you want.  Set up a draining station - several layers of paper towels on top of a few layers of newspaper is what I usually use.  Make sure your salt shaker is also right there.

Heat a shallow pot with a few inches of cooking oil (I've used vegetable oil, coconut oil, and shortening.  All are fine) to 350F.  Watch your pan.  Heating oil past 400F is extremely dangerous.  DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE AT ANY POINT!!!!  You also want to fill it no more than half-way.  When the oil is hot, carefully place 8-12 chips in.  Let cook for a few seconds, then flip.  Watch your temperature.  You want it to stay right around 350F.  Turn down the burner if you must.

Scoop out with a "spider" or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Shake salt on immediately and let cool before you eat.  Place some more chips in and continue until you have enough.  Keep your friends and family out of the kitchen or you'll have to make lots more!

For taco shells, it's about the same.  You just need two sets of tongs.  Heat oil as before, set up draining station as before, and here we go.  It's a little hard to explain, but basically, you gently bend a corn tortilla in half (a curvy half - like a taco shell!).  Set one half into the oil and hold it down with one set of tongs, keeping the non-cooking part of the shell up with the other set of tongs.  Let cook only until the bottom is just set, then flip and hold open again until that side is completely cooked - just look at it - it will become a great golden brown color.  Then flip again and finish cooking the other side.  You do it this way so that you don't overcook the first side and end up burning the "bottom" of the taco.  Keeps you on your toes.

Pull out to drain upside-down on the paper towels, and sprinkle with salt.  Enjoy.  And you will never enjoy store-bought shells ever again.  So sorry.

We will continue to revisit Mexican night....I mean, don't you want hubby's margarita recipe?  It's delicious....

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Curse-Free Salmon

This past week was my mother-in-law's 80th birthday, and we wanted to make a special meal for her.  She mentioned a few weeks ago that salmon was her favorite.  Great!  We planned to have salmon, fettuccine Alfredo, and a lovely Caesar salad.

Now for the tough part - we were going to have fourteen people for dinner.  A few filets or steaks are easy to cook in a pan, but we needed a lot of fish.  Grilling - that's never worked out for us.  Usually a few curses are spoken...or yelled.  I need a way to cook a lot of fish with a minimum of crankiness.  According to several sources, you should plan on about six ounces per person.  That's about five and a half pounds.  I bought two big sides of salmon, and then started to stress about how to cook them.

After searching through my cookbooks and several internet recipe sites, I came up with what I hoped would work.  There was no time to practice (and who wants to practice with $40 of fish?!?).  So I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Last night was the dinner.  It was delicious!  And SOOOOO easy!!!!  I hope you enjoy the salmon!

This recipe will be easier with a thermometer, but you can do it without.
Lemons, sliced
Shallots, sliced
Side of salmon (mine were about 3 lbs each)
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 425F.  Lay out two really big pieces of foil long enough to wrap around the fish and crimp tightly.  Butter the bottom of the foil and lay out the salmon.  You can tuck under the end of the filet (you know - that skinny part that will probably overcook otherwise).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and lay out some slices of lemon and shallots, along with a few sprigs of parsley.  Crimp the foil closed, and then wrap it up with the other piece of foil - just to be sure nothing leaks out.  Carefully slide the packets into the oven (you do NOT want to rip the bottoms!!).

Cook for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the fish and your oven.  Poke through the foil into the fish with your thermometer.  You're looking for about 135F.  If you don't have a thermometer, you can check to see if it's done by seeing if it flakes with a fork.  Don't unwrap it yet!!  Keep it closed up for about five minutes just to let the fish come up to its proper temp (which ends up being around 140F-145F) and to let the juices redistribute (like you would a steak or a turkey).

Open and serve to many "oohs" and "aahs".