Tip of the Day

I don't know about you, but every once in a while, something goes wrong, and I end up with a giant mess on my pans that refuse to come clean! Today's mess is sponsored by a great family make-your-own-pizza night. While we were having fun stuffing ourselves and creating masterpieces, my poor pizza pan was crying out. It just couldn't take all the cheese and sauce and pizza dough times 12.

Now, some people like to call this wonderful black stuff 'seasoning" on their pans. But I think its just an excuse because they have no idea how to get it off. I know what seasoning is. Seasoning is that beautiful black glossy finish on my cast iron. This, this is not seasoning.

The trick to getting this stuff off is simple. In fact, you need three things: baking soda, water, and elbow grease. Lots and lots of elbow grease.

The steps are easy. Make a paste with the baking soda and a tiny bit of water. Spread the paste over the areas on the pan that need to be cleaned and let the pan sit for a few minutes. When you finally remember to come back to the pan, use your fingers, a towel, a scrub brush, or any combination of these, to scrub off the black stuff. And here is where the elbow grease comes in! (And as far as I am concerned, this totally counts as your work out for the day!!!)

When you are all done, just wash your pan off with some soap and water!

This method, however, is far from perfect. Your pan will not look new at the end. It will never look new again, so just accept that fact and be happy with as much as you can off.

AND, your hands will be so nice and soft when you are done!

The Daring Bakers Make Homemade Puff Pastry and Vols-au-Vents

It's my favorite time of month again - time for me to reveal the Daring Bakers Challenge for September 2009! The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I don't think I will ever buy store bought puff pastry every again. This recipe is just that amazing. While I did end up with a giant flour-ey mess all over my kitchen, and me, and the dogs, it wasn't all that hard to make. Time consuming, but not hard. And the puff baked up perfectly - golden delicious, buttery, flakey, yummy! I had a great time making these, and with picking the fillings (we were allowed to do anything we wanted and I felt like since last month's challenge didn't go so well that I needed to step up my game a little). The only problem I had with this recipe was when I was beating the butter into the dough, my rolling pin definitely died. As in cracked in half. Boy did that make rolling the turns so much fun! I had to be careful not to create giant creases into the dough. But its all ok, since I've been wanting to get one of those french rolling pins anyway. Now I have a good excuse to buy one!

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan                                                                      
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
4 sticks (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

**Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

Making the Turns:
**Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly.

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich.

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn. Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

**-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

Chilling the Dough:

wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.
The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.
Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent
Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.
(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)
Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.
Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork and lightly brush them with egg wash. When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides. If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.
Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)
Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)
Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.
Fill and serve.
*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.
*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).


Brie, Bacon and Apples

2-3 Green apples, peeled, sliced, and cubed
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brandy
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Brie Cheese

1/2 pound bacon, cooked and chopped

Saute apples in butter, sugar, cinnamon and brandy until the apples are soft.
Place a round of brie cheese in the bottom of the puff pastry and top with the apple mixture.
Warm in oven until cheese melts.
Sprinkle bacon on top.

Champagne Chicken
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons thinly sliced tarragon leaves
1 lemon, zest and juice
250 ml champagne
1/2 small leek, white part only, thinly sliced
chicken breast
Combine champagne, leek, lemon rind, tarragon and 125 ml of water in a saucepan small enough to fit chicken snugly.
Bring to a boil, add chicken, return to boil, cover, and cook until chicken is done cooking,.
Remove chicken, finely shred with fingers and refrigerate until later.
Bring the liquid back to a boil over medium heat and cook until reduced (15-20 minutes).
Add the cream to the liquid, and return chicken to the saucepan.
Season with salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste.
When thickened enough (can add some corn starch if needed) fill the puffs.

Blackberry Compote
1 pound blackberries
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups water
Combine all in a saucepan over medium heat.
Simmer for 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the berries have broken down and its thickened.

Lavender Whipped Cream
1.5 cups whipping cream
1 tsp dried lavender
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
In a small saucepan combine the whipping cream and lavender.
Bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat.
Strain mixture and discard lavender.
Cover and chill 2 hours.
Take the chilled metal mixing bowl and beat whipping cream, vanilla and  sugar until soft.
**You may feel like 1 tsp of lavender barely simmering in the cream won't really lend enough lavender flavoring to the whipped cream. But trust me, it does. Any more lavender for any longer will be way to much. Unless you like eating something that tastes like a spoonful of potporri, then feel free to add more! :)

Chocolate with Earl Grey Custard

1 box brownie mix, cooked
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon earl grey tea leaves (from 3 tea bags)
Whisk egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl.
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, tea leaves, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar.
Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture.
Return to same saucepan.
Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens, about 8 minutes. DO NOT BOIL!
Immediately strain sauce into small bowl.
Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 4 hours.
This can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Cheddar Beer Bread

There is nothing better than pulling some hearty bread out of the oven, cutting a thick slice, slathering it liberally with real butter and then savoring every bite. I found this recipe for beer bread at the same time that I found the recipe for Hearty Lentil Stew with Smoked Sausage.

This is a great quick bread to make - there aren't many ingredients to it, its really simple to put together, and  it bakes pretty much to perfection in just about 45 minutes.

I was kind of nervous as I was making this. The dough turns out THICK! I could not get all the ingredients to come together with a spoon. I had to get my hands involved to get everything mixed in. I checked it at 45 minutes, and it was golden perfectly. However, when I tried to insert my toothpick I got worried. This bread has a crispy crunchy crust! But never fear, this bread turned out perfectly!

Basic Beer Bread
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
12 ounces beer
herbs of choice (see below)
1 egg
2 teaspoons water

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, herbs and cheddar in a bowl.
Slowly stir in beer and mix until just combined.

Spread into a greased 8 inch loaf pan.

Whisk egg and 2 teaspoons water together in small bowl.
Brush egg mixture over dough (you won't use all of it - just enough to glaze the top).
Bake until golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Cool in pan 10 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temp.

Flavor Variations:

Garlic and Herb - 1 tsp dried rosemary, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp garlic powder.
Dill and Chive - 2 tsp dried dill, 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Italian - 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

You can add pretty much any combination of herbs and cheese that you would like! Just use your imagination!!

This recipe comes from Farm Girl Fare.

Hearty Lentil Stew with Smoked Sausage

Well, I think fall is officially here. The days are starting to turn crispy and cool. Last night we slept with our windows open. The cool breeze, the crickets chirping, the dogs curled up under the blankets with us - it was like we were camping. Only when I finally peeled myself out of my warm caccoon, I didn't have to squat behind a bush to go to the bathroom. While I was contemplating pulling my fleece and flannel out of the back of the closet today, I decided the perfect thing to celebrate the incoming of fall would be a nice hearty stew for dinner.

This stew takes about an hour to make, but I was still definitely able to have it for dinner on a weeknight. There is enough simmer time involved to give you time for other things, so as long as you don't dawdle around when you get home for work, you can still have time for this delicious hearty stew!

I found this recipe at a wonderful blog called Farm Girl Fare.

Hearty Lentil Soup with Smoked Sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound (8 ounces) sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
1 cup lentils, rinsed
28 ounces canned tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot.
Cook the sausage until nicely browned. Remove from pot and set aside.
Add onion and carrots to the pot.
Cook 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring so that the veggies are coated with the carmalized bits left from cooking the sausage.
Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.
Add the water, lentils, and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer with lid cracked for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in parsley, cumin, paprika, salt and red pepper flakes.
Simmer with lid cracked an addition al 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Carefully puree about half of the soup with a blender until slightly chunky. Return to pot.
If desired, use an immersion blender to puree the soup to desired consistency. S
Stir in sausage.
Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes,
Serve hot, garnished with chopped fresh parsley.

Chicken A La Orange

Well, Melissa D'Arrabian struck again. I am really enjoying her $10 Dinners show - how can you not love something that not only tastes good, is easy to make, but can feed your family for $10?!?! Even though the recipe calls for bone in chicken breasts, I used skinless boneless breasts because, well, that's what I had on hand and I really didn't feel like going to the grocery store. So there you go. Since I didn't use chicken with the skin, I turned the chicken breasts over halfway through baking them. This caramalized the glaze, which ruined the pretty bright orange color. It still tasted wonderful, but I think next time I will just stick to the instructions.

Chicken A La Orange
 salt and pepper
3 skin-on bone-in chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
4 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Liberally salt and pepper the chicken.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat and sear the chicken, skin side only, until brown and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, heat the orange juice concentrate, honey, salt and pepper (to taste) over medium heat.
Boil for 3 minutes,
Remove from heat.

Turn the chicken over and brush each side with the glaze.
Turn the chicken skin side up and transfer the pan to the oven.
Bake for 7 minutes.
Brush on more glaze.
Bake for an additional 7 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer reads 160-170 degrees.
Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board.

Peanut Butter Cookies

One of my favorite childhood memories involves my mom and I making Peanut Butter Cookies. We'd haul out her giant 500 pound stand mixer and measure and mix away. My job was always to help roll the balls in dough in a bowl of sugar. I loved eating those warm chewy cookies. And sneaking little bites of uncooked dough (sorry Mom, I couldn't help myself, it was too good...)

But I always hated having to wait an hour while the dough chilled in the fridge. And, as fate would have it, I married a guy who adores peanut butter cookies. They are his absolute favorite. And he hates waiting for the dough to chill worse than I do. That's why I was so excited when I found this recipe in the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. It doesn't need to chill - you can bake them the second you are done mixing them! Score!

These cookies also have a hidden secret in them. Not only was using extra crunchy peanut butter not enough for America's Test Kitchen, but they had to add chopped dry roasted peanuts in, too! They give the cookies an extra punch of peanuty-ness. The cookies turn out tender and cakey, with a nice caramely peanut buttery flavor. But you might want to make a double batch, because these sure don't last long! In fact, dear husband calls them his "crack".

Peanut Butter Cookies

2.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, ground fine

Preheat the oven to 350.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed for 3-6 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Beat in the peanut butter until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds.
Beat in the vanilla, and then the eggs, one at a time, with 30 seconds in between each.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined.
Mix in the ground peanuts.
Roll the dough into balls and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart.

Using a fork that has been dipped in cold water, make the crosshatch pattern on the top of the cookie.
Bake until the edges are golden, abut 10-12 minutes.
Let the cookies cool on the sheets about 10 minutes.

Baked Beans with Amber Ale and Polish Sausage

I wanted to make some homemade baked beans for a potluck at work. I really wanted to make an Aunt's homemade baked beans, cuz she can really cook some beans! However, she was out of town and no where near her recipe index, so I was on my own. After a little online searching, I found a few that kinda sorta went in the direction that I wanted, so I decided to combine them, fiddle with it a bit, and make my own recipe.

I am happy with the way these turned out. They had great flavor, weren't overly juicy (I really hate runny beans....) and were just pretty much great. I cooked it in a stockpot and then transfered it all to a glass 9x13 to bake, but I think it would be even better in a dutch oven or covered ceramic casserole pots (like a Le Cruset or enameled Lodge).

Baked Beans with Amber Ale and Polish Sausage

3 strips bacon, raw
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp pepper
4 ounces chorizo sausage, thiny sliced
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons worchester sauce
1 can chicken broth
12 ounces amber ale
1 can each of pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, and butter beans, drained and rinsed (4 cans in total)

Saute bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan. When cool, finely chop.

Saute onion in the bacon drippings for 10 minutes, or until carmalized.

Add garlic, chili powder, pepper and chorizo - saute until chorizo browns.
Add ketchup, brown sugar, worchester sauce, ale, chicken broth, and bay leaves.
Boil until reduced by half.
Remove bay leaves.
Add the beans and the bacon.
Simmer 10 minutes.
If you cooked this in a saute pan, transfer to a baking dish. If you cooked this in a casserole or dutch oven, place the pot in a preheated oven at 300 degrees and bake for 1.5- 2 hours.

The Daring Cooks Make Vegan Indian Dosas

This month's Daring Cook's Challenge was hosted by Debyi from Healthy Vegan Kitchen. Debyi decided on Indian Dosas from the cookbook "Refresh" by Ruth Tal.

Being born and raised in Iowa definitely shaped me into a meat and potatoes girl. I was raised on corn fed slabs of beef, grilled to perfection on a charcoal grill, seasoned only with the perfect amount of salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Freshly shucked corn on the cob slathered in dripping melted butter was a staple. Venison steaks and creamy mashed potatoes was my favorite meal.

I guess that's why I just can't wrap my brain around the concept of being vegetarian or vegan. Oh, the reasons have been explained to me. I've seen the videos of animal abuse and I don't agree with it, either. But that won't stop me from eating that beautiful farm raised steak that God so thoughtfully placed on my plate. But, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and no one should have to force someone to eat something they don't feel comfortable with.

Unfortunately for him, my cousin-in-law's boyfriend Nik is vegan. I say unfortunately because I always feel like he gets left out at family gatherings. while we are stuffing down ribs and bratwursts and all manner of other amazing food, poor Nik has been shoved into the back corner eating his carrot sticks because everything not meat has been slathered with butter or cheese, or dripping with some other illicit animal produced yumminess.

I decided that this situation needed to be rectified and started sorting through recipes to find something worthy of a dinner date. I didn't want just any recipe. It needed to be something special - something that would say "Nik, I like you, and I think you deserve a good meal, too!". Luckily, the Daring Cooks came to my rescue, because honestly I was lost on my own.

While cooking this meal wasn't difficult, I was skeptical about how it was going to turn out during the cooking process. Nothing really went wrong - in fact, it all came together perfectly. I just wasn't sure if I was going to like it. But after that first bite hit my tongue and all the flavors burst forth, I was smitten. THIS STUFF IS GOOD!
Indian Dosas
Coconut Curry Sauce:
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp course sea salt
3 tbsp curry powder
3 tbsp spelt flour
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups coconut milk
3 large tomatoes, diced
Saute the onions and garlic for five minutes, or until soft.
Add the spices and cook for 1 minute.
Add the flour and cook for 1 minute.
Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps.
Add the coconut milk and tomatoes.
Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Curried Garbanzo Filling:
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
2 medium hot banana chilies, minced
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp course sea salt
1 tbsp tumeric 
4 cups canned chick peas (about 2 cans)
1/2 cup tomato paste
Heat a large skillet over medium to low heat.
Add garlic, veggies, spices and cook until veggies are soft, stirring occasionally.
Mash the chickpeas by hand or in a food processor.
Add the chickpeas and tomato paste  to the saucepan, stirring until heated through. 
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 cup almond or soy milk
3/4 cup water
cooking spray
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Slowly add the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. 
Spray pan with thin layer of cooking spray.
Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter directly into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin round pancake. 
When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds.
Remove from heat and repeat with additional batter.
Fill the pancake with a small amount of the curried garbanzo filling. 
Top with a ladel full of the coconut curry sauce. 
Sprinkle shredded coconut on top. Enjoy!!

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Warning! I am about to make a shocking statement!!!! Ready?

Ok, here goes:

I love mornings!!!!

Let me clarify: As much as I would like to say that I enjoy getting up early and running 5 miles followed by lots of activities, my body was not made for that. Every cell in my body resists it. No, what I mean by "I love mornings" is I love waking up with the sun shining in my room, finding the dogs curled up next to me, spending the first part of my day talking and laughing with my husband. Then moving to the couch, still in my pajamas, with a nice comfy blanket and a cup of coffee and a good book and lounging for a while. And breakfast. Breakfast has to be my absolute favorite meal of the day. There are just so many good options! Pancakes, Waffles, Muffins, Eggs, Bacon, and.....Cinnamon Rolls!!!

Now, since waking up at the crack of dawn to make homemade cinnamon rolls is definitely NOT on my weekend agenda, and I have just recently discovered the concept of a slow rise, I decided to try and find a recipe where the cinnamon rolls rise overnight. A quick Google shows that there is one clear winner. All I could find was Alton Brown, Alton Brown, Alton Brown! The man knows his stuff, and for all the gushing and drooling over his cinnamon roll recipe, I just had to try it and see what all the fuss was about!

Well, apparently, all the fuss is right. These cinnamon rolls are amazing. They taste exactly like the giant cinnamon rolls you can get at bakeries. Only these are better. Why? Because you made them.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4 cups flour
1 package instant dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
cooking spray

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk.
Add 2 cups of flour, 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 for 5 minutes.
Check the consistency of the dough, which should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Add more flour if necessary.
Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 30 seconds.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume for 2 to 2.5 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated and set aside.

Butter a 9x13 glass baking dish.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the longest side toward you.

Roll into an 18x12 inch rectangle.
Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border along the top edge.
Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4 inch border along the top edge.

Gently press filling into the dough.
Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder.

Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down.
Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness.
Using a serrated knife, score the cylinder into 1 1/2 rolls (create 12 rolls). Use dental floss to cut all the way through.
Arrange the rolls cut side up in the baking dish.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove rolls from the fridge and place in an oven that is turned off.
Fill a shadow pan 2/3 full of boiling water and let set on a rack below the rolls.
Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.
Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350.
When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in a bowl until creamy.
Add the milk and whisk until combined.
Sift in the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.
Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Homemade Pizza

One of the things on my “To-Make List” is homemade pizza. Quite often I make slightly homemade pizza – with the pizza dough mix where you just add water, bottled sauce and prepackaged toppings. But that’s not really homemade, is it? No, I want to make 100% homemade pizza. The dough. The sauce.
I found a basic pizza dough recipe that I have been meaning to try for a while. Instead of letting the dough rise for 2 hours, and then punching it down, it states that you can place the dough in the fridge for 8-10 hours and it will slowly rise. That would be perfect for a weeknight! So I got up early this morning to mix the dough. Shouldn’t be too hard - flour, water, yeast, olive oil. I should be able to handle that at 6 in the morning, right? Wrong. The dough was a complete sticky disaster, there was no kneading going on, merely smearing dough all over the kitchen, my hands, flour flying everywhere. Somehow the dogs ended up with more flour on them than on the table. Still not sure how that one worked out. I’m not sure if it was because of my early-morning-no-coffee state, bad directions, or just poor dough making skills. I never did get my dough into a nice ball. I ended up just shoving as much dough as I could scrape off everything else back into the bowl and placing it in the fridge. Eight to ten hours later, I came home from work expecting to find a mess in my fridge and the necessity of finding a plan B. But Lo! It was great! A little flour on my table, and it rolled up perfectly! Viola! I was impressed. And excited. I hadn't failed after all! 
Ok, so on to the sauce! After much online research, I found that homemade sauce comes in all shapes and sizes. I decided to just wing it and come up with my own. I know, I had so much luck this morning with the dough I thought I would just push the envelope and try and make up for it. It turned out so well, after one bite my husband declared that we will never ever buy pre-bottled or canned pizza sauce ever again! And I will have to agree with him. It was very flavorful, but not overpowering. And it is so cheap and easy to make! 

Homemade Pizza Dough
1.5 cups Flour
3/4 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Stir dry ingredients, including the yeast, in a large bowl. Add the water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close as a ball as you can. Dump all the contents and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogenous ball (as much as you can). If this is going difficult, piut the empty bowl on top of the dough, leave it for 5 minutes and come back. You will both be much happier. 
Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly spray the inside of the bowl with cooking spray.  Return the dough back to the ball and roll it to coat it with the cooking spray. Cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two. Or, if you are making this in the morning, place the plastic wrapped bowl in the fridge for 8-10 hours. 
Dump the dough back onto the floured surface and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hand. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape. Replace the plastic wrap back over the dough and let it sit for 20 minutes. 
Sprinkle a pizza stone with cornmeal (or flour) and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, ladle some sauce on and throw on whatever toppings you want. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until its slightly blistered and just turning golden brown. If you want to turn these into calzones, spray the top of the calzone with cooking spray before baking. 

Homemade Pizza Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
32 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
salt and pepper to taste
1 small can tomato paste

Saute garlic in olive oil.
Add tomatoes and spices.
Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove bay leaves.
Add tomato paste. 
Return to simmer.
If you want a smoother sauce, pour into a food processor or a blender and blend until smooth.
Ladle onto pizza crust.

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