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Pick of the Week

December 9th, 2012 by Susan


Cinnamon Rolls

December 7th, 2012 by Susan

Welcome to this week’s edition of good idea/bad idea.  Good idea:  Cinnamon rolls.  Making them on a Thursday night:  not so much.  Yeasted bread after getting home from work around 7?  Sure, why not?  While the results were definitely worth the extra effort, as the rolls were appreciated by a horde of hungry co-workers, if I had it to do over again, I would probably wait to make these on a weekend.

I think my favorite part of these cinnamon rolls is the cream cheese glaze.  I mixed things up from the original recipe, and I was extremely happy with the results.

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

For the dough:

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 envelope Rapid-Rise yeast

1 teaspoon salt

Non-stick cooking spray

For the filling:

3/4 cup golden brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup unsalted butter

For the glaze:

4 ounces cream cheese

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the milk and butter in a pan and heat over medium heat until the butter is mostly melted and the milk is between 115 and 120 degrees.  Pour the milk mixture into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add 1 cup of flour, the yeast, sugar, egg and salt to the stand mixture and mix on low for three minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally.  Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour and mix until the dough forms a ball.

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough until the dough is smooth, about 10 minutes.  Coat a large bowl with the cooking spray, and place the dough in the bowl.  Turn the dough to coat it with the spray.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a towel, and leave the dough in a warm place to rise.  The dough will take about two hours to double in size.  (My kitchen is inexplicably drafty, so I’ve found it helps to preheat the oven when the dough is rising to keep the temperature in the kitchen constant.)

Once the dough has doubled, punch down the dough and roll it out into a rectangle that measures 11 inches by 15 inches. I took a cutting board and used that to roll the dough to the appropriate size.  Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Spread the butter over the dough and sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture.  Starting on the long end, slowly roll the dough into a log.  Cut the log into discs that are 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.  I got 18 discs out of the log.

Coat a square pan with cooking spray and place the discs in the pan.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and rest for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake the rolls until golden brown, about 22 minutes.  Cool the rolls.  (I cooled mine in the pan since I was planning on taking the rolls to work.)

While the rolls are cooling, make the glaze.  Using a hand mixer, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Add the milk to thin the glaze out a little bit and add the vanilla.  Glaze the rolls and enjoy!


White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

December 5th, 2012 by Susan


Oatmeal cookies.  What can I say about oatmeal cookies?  When I was younger, my mom, sister and I would make oatmeal cookies for my dad because he doesn’t eat chocolate.  My parents were coming here for Thanksgiving this year, so when I found this recipe, I decided these would be a nice holiday treat for my dad.

These were a big hit.  First of all, my husband was just excited that I was finally making him cookies.  Then, both my parents emailed me after they left, saying how much my dad was kicking himself for not sneaking a couple of cookies into a ziploc to take home with him.  I think the white chocolate chips and the cranberries added some new flavors to my dad’s oatmeal cookies!

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from Serious Eats)

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/4 cup water

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup white chocolate chips

Combine the oats and water in a small bowl, and set the mixture aside.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.  Set the flour mixture aside.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, remove it from the heat and mix in the two sugars.  (The original recipe called for golden brown sugar, but I used dark brown sugar.  I prefer the taste of  dark brown sugar.)  Add in the egg and mix quickly to incorporate the egg into the sugar mixture.  Add the flour to the mixture and combine well.  Stir in the oats and the cranberries.  Cover the mixture and cool.

After the dough mixture has been in the fridge for about an hour, stir in the white chocolate chips.  Let the dough cool for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the dough in rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet.  Bake the cookies for 13 minutes.  Cool on the cookie sheet and transfer to a wire rack.


On the Docket– Week of December 3rd

December 3rd, 2012 by Susan

We’re still working through Thanksgiving leftovers.  That’s what I get for making a 19 pound turkey for four people.  I’m really glad I turned the leftovers into some casseroles, but boy will I be happy when we’re finished with these leftovers!

While I probably won’t be cooking too much this week, I’ve been clipping all sorts of recipes in anticipation of finishing these casseroles.  Here are a few of the recipes I’m looking forward to making soon!

Beef Stew:  I made black bean and chicken soup a few weeks ago.  It was such a satisfying lunch that now I’m on a soup kick.  Though it hasn’t been too cold yet, I’m hoping that if I continue cooking as if it’s cold, the weather will eventually catch up.

White Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Blondies:  Ok, I’m cheating a little bit here.  My boss was looking for some cookie recipes to bring to a friend, and I passed this one on to her.  She made the blondies this week, using peppermint kisses rather than the peppermint bark.  She brought me one as a sample on Friday.  They were delicious- buttery, pepperminty, and Christmasy.

Roast Shrimp with Carrot Couscous:  Though I’m really happy with how I dealt with the leftover turkey, having three casseroles at the same time is a little heavy.  The thought of a lighter meal like this is simply irresistible right now.

So many recipes to try!


Pick of the Week

December 2nd, 2012 by Susan


Let’s Talk Turkey

November 27th, 2012 by Susan

Let’s consider this my Thanksgiving post mortem.  While I wholeheartedly admit that this information would have been far more useful a week or more ago, I was not sure how well my first attempt at cooking the Thanksgiving meal would go, well, until it was done.  Although I spent hours pouring over recipes in order to pick the perfect menu, I had my doubts on how I would be able to pull this off.

The Good:  From my limited number of diners (thanks mom, dad, and husband), the consensus was that everything was great.  Highlights were:  the apple tart (“best tart crust I’ve ever tasted”), the stuffing (“sausage and caramelized leeks?  Delicious!”), the gravy (“the color, taste, and texture are perfect”), and the cranberry sauce (the next day, my mom ate a heaping spoonful of cranberry on its own).

The Bad: While my parents didn’t have any criticism, my husband and I agreed that the turkey was dry.  Though the meat was very flavorful, I think the white meat was overcooked and that I should have pulled the turkey from the oven sooner.  That and I burned my arm.  Oh right, the bottom of the tart pan moves!

Lessons Learned:  Given that this was the first Thanksgiving I’ve prepared on my own, to say it was a learning experience is an understatement!  Here are my thoughts:

  • Prepare in advance:  I recognize this is a luxury.  I had time off to burn, so I took the week off.  If you can get the time off of work, take it in order to get a few things ready before company arrives.  On Tuesday, I made cranberry sauce, turkey stock, pie crust, mashed potatoes, citrus glazed carrots, and port glazed pearl onions.  Having a few items that just needed to be heated made all the difference.
  • Be prepared for a frozen/partially frozen turkey:  I was not prepared for this.  In fact, I hadn’t even considered it as a possibility.  When I picked up my turkey, that per the Whole Foods website should have been fresh, it was frozen solid.  Thinking nothing of it, I just put it in the fridge and assumed that I would be able to salt the turkey as planned the next morning.  Knowing what I know now, I would have done a few things differently.  First, I would have confirmed with the store that the turkey had not been frozen.  Second, I would have picked the turkey up on Monday, instead of Tuesday, in order to allow more time for the turkey to defrost in the refrigerator.  Finally, I would have done a bit more research on defrosting and cooking a turkey, which leads me to my next point.
  • Trust your instincts:  I put my 19 pound unstuffed turkey in the oven around 9 am.  After 4 and a half hours, the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh was about 166 degrees.  I should have pulled the turkey out of the oven at that point.  Instead, I kept the turkey in the oven based upon the cooking time I had discussed with several other people, drawing on years of experience cooking this type of meal.  I should have trusted my instincts; I think the turkey would have been that much better if I had.

All in all, the meal turned out very, very well, and I’m pleased with the results.  Sure, there are a few things I would have done differently, but even though hindsight is 20/20, I was very happy with the praise I received for a meal well cooked!


On The Docket– Week of November 26th

November 26th, 2012 by Susan

The name of the game this week: how to clear out the leftovers from a 19 pound turkey and all the trimmings.  Why I made that much food for four people is beyond me.  Go big or go home, I guess.

Turkey Cranberry Walnut Salad:  I love chicken salad.  So, considering I have an obscene amount of leftover turkey, some leftover dried cranberries, and a stash of walnuts in the pantry, I think this will be a fantastic lunch option for the coming week.

Turkey Tetrazzini:  Please see above regarding the amount of turkey left over from Thanksgiving.  I’ve always liked turkey tetrazzini but I’ve never attempted to make it.  Here goes nothing.

Turkey Shepard’s Pie:  Let’s see:  I’ve got turkey, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and roasted pearl onions.  I think I can make a lovely shepard’s pie with these ingredients.

That should get me through the week without having turkey and all the trimmings every night until all the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone.


Pick of the Week

November 25th, 2012 by Susan


The Last Month

November 24th, 2012 by Susan

Where has the last month gone?

To tortellini and meatballs, oatmeal-cranberry-white chocolate chip cookies, Thanksgiving, and so much more.


Recipes and lessons to follow!


Pick of the Week

November 11th, 2012 by Susan