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!

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.

The Simplest Most Delicious Cherry Cheesecake Recipe I’ve Ever Made

The Simplest Most Delicious Cherry Cheesecake Recipe I’ve Ever Made

I briefly touched upon this cheery cheesecake recipe in an earlier post highlighting my favorite Thanksgiving desserts, but thought if was worthy of its own mention since I recently made one for a friend. This no-bake version is my aunt’s recipe and it is always devoured. Friends cannot believe how easy it is to make considering how delicious it is. It is perfect for dinner parties since you quite literally whip it up the night before.

No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake

Ingredients
24 graham cracker squares
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 T sugar

8 ounces softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 pint heavy cream (also called whipping cream)
1 can cherry pie filling, chilled

Directions

graham cracker crust
Graham cracker crust (Combine 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers, 1/3 cup melted butter, 3 T sugar and press into pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool.)

whipped cheesecake filling

Beat softened cream cheese until smooth.
Add sugar and vanilla and beat some more.
Slowly pour in heavy heavy cream and beat until the mixture is thick and fluffy.

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Pour/scrape into cooled pie crust.

Chill 24 hours.

Brad Nierenberg's Cheesecake

Top with canned cherries.

This is a regular request for birthdays and special occasions. I know you are thinking that it can’t possibly be that good if it is so simple to make…but it is!

Buon appetito!
Brad

Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Fluff

Angel Food Cake with Strawberries and Fluff

Have you ever been pressed for time to throw together a dish to pass and panicked? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t think of anything to bring! I was worrying about a get together I was attending a couple of weeks ago, and this cake popped into my brain. I used my favorite fruit dip as a frosting rather than a dip. The outcome was delicious!

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Esmé, over at The Recipe Hunter, was gracious enough to include my cake recipe on her food blog. I hope you’ll visit her blog and give it a try!

 

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

Roasted Tomato and Bacon Pasta

I learned a few things about pasta when in Italy. First, the pasta is the star so don’t drown it. Second, never overcook it. Third, salt the water well. Fourth, finish it off in the pan with your toppings. Fifth, you can make a pasta dish out of just about anything. I even had penne tossed with fresh strawberries, olive oil, and parmesan cheese served to me once. For the record, it was delicious!

When faced with a crap load of fresh tomatoes, I’ve had to find multiple ways to use them up. One can only slice and eat so many tomato sandwiches! Since I love BLTs, I decided to try something similar as a pasta dish. Like I said, you can mix just about anything with pasta! Sorry there are no measurements. This is one of those thrown together deals!

Ingredients
Fresh tomatoes, sliced
Garlic cloves, sliced
Olive oil
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil, chiffonade cut
Pasta, I used cavatappi, but any shape would work. FYI: My favorite brand of pasta is DeCecco!
Bacon

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees

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Layer sliced tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast to desired doneness. I roasted this batch for about an hour. The longer they roast, the sweeter they get.

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Cook bacon until crispy and drain well. Crumble.

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Prepare your pasta. Cut the fresh basil into thin slices (chiffonade).
Toss hot pasta, more olive oil, salt, pepper, roasted tomatoes, and bacon together. Serve warm with parmesan cheese. And of course, hot pasta is always delicious with warm home baked bread!

Buon appetito!

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

I happened upon this video from Epicurious last week and then gave it a try using items already in my fridge and pantry. It’s brilliant…simple, delicious, and looks like I spent hours. I’ll be trying more combinations over the coming weeks. This will be the best 2 1/2 minutes you’ve ever spent! Watch it!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs with White Beans

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Ingredients
8-12 chicken thighs
1 fresh lemon, thinly sliced
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, slivered
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
Salt, pepper
2 cans white beans or 2-3 cups dried beans you’ve soaked and cooked

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Directions
Please rack in top third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Arrange in 9×13 baking dish. Brush top of each piece with a small amount of olive oil.

Spoon beans around chicken. Space out the slivered garlic. Tuck in the lemon slices. Pour liquid so that it comes about halfway up the chicken. Leave tops exposed. Lay rosemary sprigs around dish.

Bake in top half of oven until chicken browns, about 30-45 minutes.

It was really that simple!

For a more exotic way to prepare chicken, try spicing things up with chipotle and ancho chili!

10 Apps No Cook Can Live Without

I know this is a dramatic title. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Huff Post lately! But seriously, these are the apps I rely heavily on while in my kitchen. And as always, feel free to chime in and share what apps you find indispensable to cooking.

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iPhone camera
What would I do without my smartphone camera? I use it to take pictures while I’m cooking which is handy. But more importantly, I take photos of recipes in magazines whenever I am in a waiting room! Remember the days when you were in the doctor’s office and found a recipe you wanted to try, so you had to either write it down on a scrap of paper or secretly tear it out of the magazine? (OK, I never did that!) Now I snap a photo and refer back to it when shopping or ready to cook.

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Epicurious
This was the first cooking app I ever used and it continues to be a mainstay. I’ve compiled many of my favorites in the recipe box feature. I like the categories such as “picnic ideas,” “main course salads,” or “Mexican tonight.” Photos, reviews, ratings, and step by step instructions make this a user-friendly resource that is loaded with recipes. Epicurious features a suite of mobile applications, including one for your smart Samsung fridge!

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Grocery Store
I’m not going to recommend any specific grocery store since I have no idea what’s available in your area. I will tell you however, that if your favorite store has a useful app, download it! I really like the Wegmen’s app. I can add all my ingredients to the list and it will organize them by aisle for faster shopping. It gives me a total of what I’m about to spend. Other cool features include tons of recipes and even a prescription refill option.

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Coupons
You might already have a favorite coupon app since there are a few out there. This one from coupons.com allows you to register your loyalty card, add applicable coupons to your account, and redeem them right at checkout. It takes some time to scroll through the available coupons whenever you go shopping, but saves you the trouble of clipping and storing paper coupons. Since I love to cook, it helps keep costs down on my grocery bills.

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Grill
If you like grilling, then the Weber’s Grill app is one to consider. Besides a slew of grilling recipes, it serves up grilling techniques and a handy timer. It has a grocery list feature, but since I use my grocery store app, I haven’t really taken advantage of that section.

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Thermometer
This is more of a product than an app, but it’s the app that makes it so cool. Weber’s iGrill products mean you are no longer tethered to the grill or oven when cooking. The app on your phone keeps you updated on internal temps. If like me you start talking to your guests in the kitchen while your meat is cooking out on the grill, then this is a lifesaver.

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Converter/Calculator
If you’re a baker, this app is for you. Scale recipes up or down like a pro. Convert between metric and non metric measurement.

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Substitutions
Have you ever been up to your elbows in a recipe only to find you are missing a critical ingredient? I sure have! Substitutions is a handy app to have when you need to find a way to make a recipe work when running to the grocery store that minute is not an option. Even better, the app helps you find substitutions for ingredients that cause allergic reactions. Brilliant!

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Pairing
If you are an average Joe (or in my case, Brad) like me, your knowledge of beer, wine, and cheese is limited to what you like. But that’s not always helpful when it comes to entertaining. That’s why it’s important to have a couple of useful apps for wine, beer, and cheese pairing suggestions. Unfortunately, I have not come across one app that does it all, but I have a couple that I rely upon. Here they are:

Pocket Wine Pairing
PairWise

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Plus one bonus!
Cheese & Wine

What’s on your smartphone that makes home cooking easier? I’d love to know!