Diet Detox – Cinnamon Rolls and Cupcakes

Diet Detox – Cinnamon Rolls and Cupcakes

I’ve had to dial back my love of home cooking for a couple of months. I need to take off about 10 pounds and so am avoiding time in the kitchen until mission accomplished. I’m trying to cook and eat healthy options, but so far am uninspired to share anything of note. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for some great looking and tasting dinners and hope to be back to my culinary roots soon!

But, as you can see by the title, I took a vacay from dieting yesterday to celebrate a friend’s birthday and thought I would share some pics and tips. After all, if you are going to fall of the dieter’s wagon, you may as well fall hard!

The morning started out with some cinnamon rolls. I confess I kind of cheated. They were a last minute idea and I used what I had in the freezer, frozen bread dough, which had been tucked away as forbidden food for the past few weeks.

I thawed two loaves overnight in the refrigerator, then got to work in the morning. No recipe is required. This is one of those “wing it” recipes!

Ingredients
2 loaves frozen bread dough
4 ish tablespoons softened butter
Cinnamon
Brown sugar

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Directions

Roll out softened bread dough into two rectangles. Spread with softened butter, leaving about 1/2-1/4″ border all around edges. Spring liberally with brown sugar and cinnamon while retaining the same clean border. Roll and seal the ends. Slice and place in a buttered baking dish.

Cover with a clean dish towel and set in a warm place to rise for 30 minute. Please in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until done. (I use the “touch with finger for doneness” test).

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Eat while warm. That’s it!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

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There is no hidden secret to these delicious cupcakes. I just wanted to share a couple of photos. I used a boxed chocolate cake mix and Ina Garten’s peanut butter frosting. Her frosting recipe is one of my favorites. It is so creamy and delicious and always gets loads of  compliments.

All 24 cupcakes were eaten in a flash. Thank goodness, because today I am back on the bandwagon.

Bon appetito!

Pork Chop Casserole – A Comfort Food Favorite

Pork Chop Casserole – A Comfort Food Favorite

I love pork chops. They are inexpensive and delicious as long as you don’t cook the dickens out of them.

We grew up eating pork chops fairly often because of the low cost. My favorite way was with stuffing and applesauce on the side. I stumbled across a recipe from one of my most tattered cookbooks the other day that put the stuffing, apples, and pork chops all together for a very easy to prepare (and tasty) casserole of sorts.

I made a few alterations of my own which I explain below. For the original Betty Crocker recipe (which is hard to improve upon) you can visit their website which is probably a bit easier than borrowing my cookbook!

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Ingredients
1 Tbs butter
3 Granny Smith apples, sliced
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
salt, pepper, garlic, sage, paprika, thyme, all spice
4-6 pork chops

Your own recipe for stuffing or use mine: 
4-6 cups cubed stale bread (I prefer sour dough)
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage with sage browned and drained
celery and onion diced and sautéed in 3-4 Tbs. butter until soft
1-3 cups chicken stock (enough to moisten)
1/4-1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten
salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, fresh parsley

Mix these ingredients together until moist (not mushy) and keep tasting for right amount of seasoning.

Directions

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Brush 1/2 teaspoon butter in bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Spread apple slices in dish. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over apples.

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Season the pork chops with whatever spices you prefer and lay on top of apples. I used a combination of salt, pepper, garlic, sage, paprika, thyme, and all spice.

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Cover pork shops with stuffing.

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Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes longer until you get a nice browning on the stuffing.

See how easy that is! Enjoy!

Spicy Chicken A La Diable Is A La Delicious

Spicy Chicken A La Diable Is A La Delicious

Le French Oven cookbook cover

Many thanks to a good friend who gifted me Hillary Davis’s “Le French Oven” cookbook for Christmas this year. The photos are gorgeous and I could not wait to dive in and try one of the recipes right away.

All I needed was a French oven (which I do) and a sous chef (that would be me). Most of the ingredients for this divine dish were already in my pantry and refrigerator.

Full disclosure: I know Hillary Davis’s version would be much better looking. But I intend to get better with practice!

Let me first say this chicken dish is divine. The flavors were so good I wanted to lick my plate. My dinner companions called it the most delicious chicken and biscuits they’d ever had.

Hillary Davis gets full credit for the recipe and the instructions. The photos are all mine!

Spicy Chicken A La Diable

Ingredients
1 whole chicken (organic preferred)
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-4 potatoes peeled and sliced into matchsticks (1/4 inch)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp stone ground mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I only used 1/8 tsp.)
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (I wish I had made my own rather than using store bought)
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Riesling)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used homemade)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 medium tomato diced (I used 2 Romas)

Directions

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Pour 2 Tbsp olive oil into French oven. Toss in potatoes with salt and pepper. Place cleaned chicken onto potatoes. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake at 400 degrees 15 minutes per pound.

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While the chicken is cooking whisk together sone ground mustard, cayenne, honey, and thyme. (I misread the instructions and also whisked in the tarragon. It still turned out great.) Set mixture aside.

When chicken is ready, remove it from the oven and spread the mustard mixture all over it. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the mustard paste and pat them down.

Return the chicken to the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes longer. The thermometer should read 165 degrees F. My breadcrumbs were starting to get too brown, so I put the lid on for the last 5 minutes.

Move the chicken and potatoes to a large platter.

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Place the French oven on the stovetop. Add the shallot, vinegar, wine, half the tarragon and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the stock, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, Dijon mustard, 1/8 tsp. cayenne, and heavy cream. Simmer 10-15 minutes longer.

Just before serving stir in the remaining tarragon and the tomato (seeds and juices as well). Cook 2 minutes longer.

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To serve, ladle sauce on a plate and top with chicken and potatoes. I served it with roasted brussels sprouts and biscuits.

I hope to try many more of the great-tasting recipes in this new cookbook. I’ll keep you posted!

Celebrate New Year’s Eve on the Cheap

Celebrate New Year’s Eve on the Cheap

Everyone loves a good New Year’s Eve celebration. But playing host on New Year’s can put a real dent in your wallet.

I recently spoke with Leanne Italie and shared a tip or two on how to keep your budget in check on New Year’s. She shared my tip along with those of a few other folks. You can read the article here.

Hope you find few ideas you can apply to your own celebration!

New Year's Eve decorations

Create your own decorations. As you can see here, I collected some empty wine bottles and spray painted them for center pieces. I added some tree branches from my back yard and ornaments from The Dollar Store.

Skip the champagne. Use ginger ale! You can enjoy a festive glass of sparkling ginger ale at the stroke of midnight. That way everyone can drive home safely. As long as small children are not present, add a small handful of fresh cranberries to each glass before adding the beverage for some holiday color.

Make it a potluck. There’s no reason why the host must do all the cooking. Ask everyone to bring a dish to pass. And if you don’t want to end up with 20 crockpots filled with meatballs, assign people to food categories. That way they can make what they want within the category.

I only mention meatballs because the first time I hosted a New Year’s Eve party many years ago, as a joke, everyone brought meatballs. At least we did not go hungry!

Have fun planning all of your holiday get togethers! If you have any creative ideas for planning a low budget celebration, share your thoughts below!

 

If You Amore S’mores – Try Peanut Butter S’more Bar Cookies

If You Amore S’mores – Try Peanut Butter S’more Bar Cookies

Sorry for the horrible twist on words in this title. I couldn’t help myself! But seriously, these cookies are outrageous. You may not want to tell your dentist or dietician you’ve eaten Peanut Butter S’more Bars because the sugar content is off the charts. Just sayin’!

I want to give credit to the bloggers who led me to these wonderful cookies.

I follow Six Sisters’ Stuff. Their roundup posts on baked goods always include some keepers. I’ve struck gold many times and last week was no exception. They linked to a recipe by Melanie who writes The Sweet Life. Her recipe is wonderful just as it and I encourage you to visit her site and try the original recipe. I made a few small tweaks to Melanie’s recipe and this was my end result.

Buon appetito!

Peanut Butter S’more Bars

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (about 1 1/2 packs)
2 large bars Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup bars
1 small jar marshmallow fluff

Directions

s'more cookie dough

Using paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and continue beating until incorporated. Add salt, baking powder, flour, and graham crackers crumbs. Mix until incorporated.

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Press 1/2 of dough into the bottom of a buttered 8×8 baking dish. Lay individual squares, evenly placed in four rows on top of dough. Press in slightly to keep them from shifting.

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Spread a layer of marshmallow fluff over the peanut butter squares.

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Scoop remaining dough onto the top of the fluff layer and carefully spread out to cover entire layer. Tip: An offset knife works great for spreading!

Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees or until the center of the top layer is cooked. Cool and cut into squares.

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I have no clue on the calorie content for these bad boys. Make sure you have a glass of milk handy! If these are too sweet for your liking, try my Chocolate Pillows which use a spritz dough and are not quite as sweet!

Chocolate Pillows – The Best Cookies You Will Ever Eat

Chocolate Pillows – The Best Cookies You Will Ever Eat

It is not Christmas if there is not a batch of Chocolate Pillows on the cookie plate in my family. It has been a family favorite since my grandmother tore the recipe out of her Pillsbury’s 15th Bake-Off in 1964. Second Grand Prize Winner Gemma Jane of Olympia, wherever you are – God Bless You!

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The Chocolate Pillow is brilliant in its simplicity. It is never the prettiest cookie on the platter, but is always the first one gone. It was my father’s favorite, my favorite, and now the favorite of countless friends who put in their orders every year!

You will need a cookie press to make these. Buy one today.

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Chocolate Pillows

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 full size Hershey bars, broken into sections

Directions

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Cream softened butter with sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix until dough comes together.

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Using cookie press with sawtooth disk, lay long, straight strips of dough (ridge side facing up) onto cookie sheet. Place chocolate sections end to end along each strip of dough. Press a second strip of dough over each row, covering the chocolate pieces.

Using your finger to find the space between each chocolate bar, make a slice with a sharp floured knife.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until some of the edges start to brown. Cool slightly before breaking apart. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

I would love to hear whether any other families out there have been baking these cookies since the ’60s! Buon appetito!

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

Roasted Squash and Pancetta Risotto Perfect Combination of Sweet and Salty

I’ve shared my method for making risotto in an earlier post. I love that risotto is a blank canvas for whatever flavors you want to add. All you need is time, patience, and arborio rice!

This time I decided to pair two of my favorite flavors, squash and pancetta. Butternut, acorn, delicata, or whatever variety you prefer will work just fine in risotto. I chose butternut this time.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash
Nutmeg
1 package diced pancetta
Fresh sage, chopped
Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Directions

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Peel and cube squash into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg on a baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven until golden, or to desired doneness. This takes about 20-30 minutes.

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While squash is roasting, render out the diced pancetta on the stovetop until crispy. I tossed in a small handful of fresh chopped sage too. Drain off fat and save for later.

Pour stock into pan and warm it up.

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In a separate pan sauté diced shallot or onion in some olive oil and butter. Add rice and toast slightly.

Slowly add stock one ladle at a time, stirring often and allowing each ladle to absorb before adding the next.

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After the rice starts to puff up and look creamy, taste a few kernels for doneness. It should have a slight bite in the center. If it is still too raw, keep adding stock until it reaches desired doneness. Do not overcook it, unless of course you prefer mushy risotto!

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Once the rice is done, fold in the roasted squash, pancetta, a splash of heavy cream (this is optional), and a tablespoon of butter (also optional). Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and serve immediately.