Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Mardi-Gras: King Cake Cinnamon Rolls

Confession time.  We don't actually celebrate or do anything for Mardi Gras round these parts.  It's a pretty Catholic holiday despite the fact that I think it's taken on a great deal of secularization in New Orleans.  

Which is really one of the things that's most attractive about it.  The whole New Orleans connection.  Because that's just one of those magical places I am dying to visit.  Not DURING Mardi Gras, because the idea of being in those crowds of people is completely and totally overwhelming to me.  Thatmom and Thatdad used to make yearly pilgrimages there, and bring us home Cafe du Monde beignets and THAT is what started the love.  The food.  I love Creole food, and New Orleans (while it has plenty of other amazing things to offer) has some fantastic food.  Which brings us right around to Mardi Gras again.

I saw a recipe for King Cake in a magazine recently and it made me realize I could probably get away with making Mardi-Gras food without actually celebrating the holiday.  And rather than make a cake, I decided that I was going to reinterpret the King Cake to something I knew my family would be all over - cinnamon rolls.   While King Cake normally has a glaze for a topping, I'm more partial to cream cheese for cinnamon rolls.  These rolls take the flavors of King Cake and puts them in a single serving (or triple serving if you're Thatboy who eats three at a time) perfect for your Mardi Gras breakfast, brunch, or anytime feast!

King Cake Cinnamon Rolls
3/4 cup warm milk
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar (divided)
3 cups flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon (divided)
1 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
1 egg
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (divided)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup light brown sugar
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  1. Combine the milk, yeast, and 1 tsp sugar and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the remaining sugar, flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In an electric mixer combine egg yolks, 1 stick of butter, lemon zest, almond extract, and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste.  
  4. Stir in yeast mixture
  5. Stir in flour mixture.  Knead with a dough hook for 5-7 minutes.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
  6. In a small bowl combine pecans, brown sugar, and remaining cinnamon.
  7. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and roll into a 10 by 15 inch rectangle.
  8. Spread dough with half of the remaining butter (half a stick).
  9. Sprinkle with pecan mixture and roll dough into a log, starting with the long side.  Pinch the seam to seal.
  10. Slice the dough into 1/2 inch pieces and place in a greased cake pan.  Cover with a towel and let rise for another hour.
  11. Heat over to 375.  Whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water.   Brush the dough with the egg wash.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the cinnamon rolls are golden brown.  Let cool.
  12. In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and remaining butter on low speed to combine.
  13. Beat in confectioners sugar until blended.
  14. Blend in remaining vanilla bean paste.  Divide into 4 bowls and color with green, purple, and yellow food coloring. Spread the white frosting on top of the cooled cinnamon rolls and then use the colored frosting to decorate.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Buffalo Everything: Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie

I know I know, I JUST posted a recipe for buffalo wings.  And here's another buffalo chicken recipe!  I can't help it you guys, the weather gets cold and I start putting buffalo chicken in just about everything.  It's such a spicy comfort food for me and the flavor works with just about all your other favorite comfort foods - chili, macaroni and cheese, and yes, even pot pie.

In fact, pot pie might just be the best use for buffalo chicken.  Think about it, buffalo wings always come with carrots and celery anyway, two ingredients of any self respecting pot pie.  So your brain already connects those flavors.  And if you've had buffalo chicken dip, then you're already familiar with a creamy version of buffalo wings.  Pot pie is a less creamy version of that dip - but the warm buttery crust is a nice substitute.

I made 2 individual pot pies with this recipe, because I like the crust to filling ratio better that way, but you could certainly make it into one large pot pie if you're serving a crowd. I ended up with extra filling (I always end up with extra filling) which I used in hand pies that I froze.  You could use the entire recipe to make handpies, they make for fabulous lunches. 

Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
3/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
1 cup blue cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent.
  2. Add the carrots and celery and continue to cook another 5 minutes, or until they are soft.
  3. In a large bowl combine the cooked veggies, chicken, wing sauce, and blue cheese.
  4. Divide the pie dough into 4 balls.  Roll out 2 of the bowls into small circles and press them into small bowls or ramekins (if you're making one large pot pie then divide the dough in half and roll one half into a larger circle and fit into pie pan).
  5. Divide filling between the two ramekin/bowls.
  6. Roll out the other 2 balls of dough (or remaining half), and place on top of each filled ramekin.  Flute the edges and cut several slits in the middle of the dough.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crusts are golden brown.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Love Sandwich: Croque Madame

You guys I am killing it this Valentine's Day.  It's February 5th and I've already got presents for all three of my guys.  I'm never usually this on top of it.

I've even got our Valentine's Day menu already planned out, important since Thatkid is off school for the day and if you have kids you know they turn into eating machines when they're home.  I honestly don't understand it.  He often comes home from school with his lunch, still untouched in his lunchbox.  I have to convince him to bring snack for snacktime.  And yet, when he's not at school, he's "hungry" every 15 minutes.

So my goal for Valentine's Day is filling meals to keep him from complaining all day.  That, and putting him in charge of making it himself.  A croque madame has different components that he's already familiar with, put together in a new way.  It's got the white sauce he uses when he makes macaroni and cheese, along with a fried egg - one of his favorite things to make for dinner.  Plus it seems extra Valentine-y to make a French sandwich, doesn't it?  As they sing in the age-old classic, Anastasia, "The French have it down to an art."

Croque Madame
2 Tbsp butter, divided
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere, divided
4 slices sourdough bread
4 slices ham
2 eggs
  1. Make the white sauce.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  
  2. Add in the flour and stir to create a paste.  Cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbling.
  3. Stir in the milk.  Continue to stir and cook until the milk is thick.
  4. Stir in Parmesan and half of the Gruyere and remove from heat.
  5. Top 2 of the slices of bread with 2 slices of ham. 
  6. Top the ham with half of the cheese sauce.
  7. Top with the remaining 2 slices of bread.
  8. Heat the remaining Tbsp of butter in a pan over medium heat.  Toast the sandwiches in the pan, about 2 minutes per side or until browned.
  9. Place the sandwiches on a baking pan and top with remaining cheese sauce and Gruyere.  Place in broiler and broil until the cheese melts.
  10. While the sandwiches are in the broiler, fry 2 eggs. 
  11. When cheese has melted and eggs are fried, top each sandwich with one of the eggs.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Superbowl Snack: Air Fryer Buffalo Wings

I got an air fryer two years ago and for the most part, I bring it out when I want to cook frozen food fast - frozen fries, corn dogs, or veggies.

But I've been trying to use it more.  It's been hit or miss.  It took several different recipes and variations before we finally found a chicken tender recipe that got them nice and crispy (hint: the secret is adding the oil to the panko before breading instead of spraying or drizzling oil on the breaded chicken.)

So far the most successful air frying has been buffalo wings.  Which is perfect, since this weekend is the Superbowl and I'm willing to bet it's the day with the highest buffalo wing consumption of the year.  (Feel free to check me on that)  I know that we always have wings on our Superbowl menu.

The thing I love about making buffalo wings in the air fryer is that you don't need any additional oil to get them nice and crispy.  Part of this is due to the fact that chicken wings are already a bit fatty because of the skin to meat ratio.  Which is the other nice thing about the air fryer - that fat, drips right off an into the bottom of the fryer, which means your wings aren't sitting in a bed of grease while they cook.  So they come out perfectly crispy and dry!

I've been playing around with the sauce on these, and finally hit upon a declared winner last night.  You are free to use whatever hot sauce you prefer, but after experimentation, we decided our favorite was the classic Franks Buffalo sauce.  You'll also notice this recipe uses ghee in place of butter, which, combined with the Frank's sauce, gives the wings a really great buttery flavor to make up for the fact they're not dripping in oil.

Air Fryer Buffalo Wings
1 lb chicken wings (separated into drums and flats if necessary)
1/8 cup ghee
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  1. Place chicken wings in air fryer.  Depending on size of your air fryer you may need to do this in 2 batches.
  2. Cook at 375 for 15 minutes.  Flip the wings over and cook for an additional 12 minutes.
  3. While the chicken is cooking combine ghee, buffalo sauce, and apple cider vinegar in a large bowl.
  4. Toss the cooked chicken wings in the sauce and serve.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Groundhog Doughnuts

It's time for my favorite regional nonsense holiday - Groundhog's Day!  Next week marks the date on which all weather persons and scientists eagerly await so they can give accurate predictions about the upcoming seasonal changes.

Look, between you and I, I'm well aware that groundhogs can't actually predict when spring will come, but when you live in a place where the weather is pretty miserable from October to April, and you're facing the post-holiday doldrums, sometimes a little nonsense holiday is exactly what you need.

So we go all out on the nonsense here - we're 3 hours behind Punxsutawney PA where the official groundhog shadow watch takes place - so I record it to watch with the boys when they get up.  ANd we have some sort of crazy groundhog breakfast while we watch - groundhogs made of chocolate bars, or pancakes, or graham crackers.  This is one of the boys' favorites because it involves doughnuts.  We're very very rarely doughnuts for breakfast in this house, so that makes the day even more special for them!

Groundhog doughnuts
2 doughnuts (I like mine "dirt" colored, so chocolate or cinnamon, or old fashioned)
3 mini brownies
1 tootsie roll
royal frosting
1 pink starburst
candy eyeballs
  1.  Take 2 of the mini brownies and roll them each into a small ball.  Shape the ball so that it is slightly narrower at top, like an egg.
  2. Place each of these brownies in the hole of the doughnut.  Crumble the third brownie and use it to simulate dirt on the plate.
  3. Cut the tootsie roll into 5 pieces.  Flatten 4 of the pieces and cut lines on one end to simulate toes and place on the doughnut.
  4. Cut the last piece of tootsie roll into 4 pieces and place them as ears on each of the brownie balls.
  5. Cut off a corner of the starbust and cut that corner into two pieces.  Roll each piece into a small ball.
  6. Use royal frosting to stick the starburst in the middle of the "face" for a nose, and then use the royal frosting to place the candy eyeballs above the nose.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sunday Runday: Jingle Bell Run

This year's Jingle Bell Run was our wettest!

It didn't start out that way.  It had been raining for days, but the morning of the run was dry.

They kept delaying the start, waiting for those who had waited on the weather to decide whether to register.  I started getting nervous because the longer we waited, the more likely it was to rain.

The usual suspects were there.  I love coming back year and year and seeing others do the same!

And of course, moments before they started the race, the skies opened up.  It wasn't pouring, but it was the consistent drip which makes you feel wet, cold and fairly miserable.  And a lot of the course was through some pretty muddy trails.  Thatkid and I decided to do a lot more walking that usual just to be safe and not slip.

The cold wet weather meant we had some really beautiful fall foliage to look at though.

When Thatkid and I finished the race, we went in search of some towels to dry ourselves off - and dry off poor, wet, Thatdog who was even wetter and more miserable than we were.

Thatboy and Thatbaby cut off part of the course because of the rain, so we didn't have to wait too long before they joined us.

And as soon as they did finish, we headed right over to the warm and dry car, and back to our warm and dry house!

Last race of 2019 in the books!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Chicken Noodle Soup

It's chicken noodle soup weather, first because it's finally cold out here after the summer that felt like it would never end.   But more importantly, is everyone you know in your life sick?  Because my life is filled with sick people!

My brother's whole family came home from their Christmas travels sick, last week our friends cancelled on us because the kids were vomiting all night, and this week another friend's son was diagnosed with the flu.

I'm sure it's a combo of changes in weather, winter germs, and immune system crashes after the holiday excitement, but it seems like the New Year always brings illness.  So what better time to enjoy a mom's penicillin?  

Like all my soup recipes, this one makes use of whatever I've got handy in the fridge and freezer, so feel free to substitute in whatever vegetables are convenient to your kitchen.

And bonus!  Because this chicken soup is made by cooking a whole chicken in water, you end up with cooked chicken to use in other dinners for the week.  

Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole chicken, giblets removed, but saved
3 qts water
1 onion, studded with 2 whole cloves
1 leek
2 carrots
10 peppercorn
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup green beans, finely chopped
1 cup peas
4 oz egg noodles
  1. Place the chicken and giblets in a large pot with water, onion, leek, 1 of the carrots, peppercorn, and salt.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Skim any scum that rises to the surface and lower the heat to a simmer.  Let simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Remove the chicken and vegetables, and skim the fat off the surface of the broth.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  4. Finely chop the remaining carrot and add it into the broth with the chopped onion and green beans.  
  5. Shred the meat from the chicken legs and thighs (reserving breasts for another use) and add to the pot.  Bring to a boil and boil for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add in peas and noodles and cook for about 7 minutes.  Serve in warm bowls.