Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

How many of you love baking?  Well, I sure do.  I like anything from scones and quick breads, cakes and pies to focaccia and whole wheat bread.  If I have the time, my favorite is to do a yeast bread.  Working with individual ingredients, seeing them come together, and then having a finished product – or the feel of the dough as you reach the perfect consistency from kneading and finally the smell of bread in the oven.  Well, that is just about the best thing ever. . . well, almost!!

But every now and then a person has to take a short cut.  I don’t mean the variety of purchasing some ready made dough in the freezer section or something from a can that “pops” open when hit on the side of the counter, I mean a short cut to a real yeast dough.

A friend brought some cinnamon rolls to a meeting a few months back, and they were sure a hit.  In commenting on how good they were she shared with me the dough was made partially in the blender.  Really!!!
I was intrigued.  Maybe you have all heard of this before but I sure hadn’t.  She was happy to share the recipe. 

But, it wasn’t until this busy holiday season that I pulled the recipe out and tried some.  Well, let me tell you – if you have a blender in the kitchen, you have no excuse for not having fresh cinnamon rolls on your counter.  Or for that matter, just make them into dinner rolls.

Give them a try some Saturday or Sunday or actually any day of the week.  They are just as I said – quick!!

Hope you enjoy them as much as my family has.  Ring in the New Year with some homemade cinnamon rolls . . . enjoy!

 Easy Cinnamon Rolls 

Place in blender:
    1 cup luke warm water
    1 pkg. yeast
    2 T. sugar
Let stand for 2 minutes and then blend for 20-30 seconds.

Add to blender mixture:
    1/2 cup oil
    1 egg
    1/4 cup sugar
Blend until foamy and set aside.

Place in a large bowl the following:
    3 cups flour
    1 t. salt

Make a well in the middle of the flour:
    Add contents of blender mixture to the flour and mix with spoon.
    Set aside to rise (double in volume) about 1 to 1  1/2 hours.

After rising, place 1/2 cup flour on the dough and knead  while in the bowl.  The dough is very soft so don’t worry.  Take out and knead just 6 or 7 times with another 1/4 cup of flour.
Roll out into a 10 X 15 rectangle and spread 1/2 cup softened butter on dough.  Then sprinkle with a mixture of 1 cup white sugar mixed with 1 Tblsp. cinnamon.  Add on top of that 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1-2 Tblsp. cinnamon depending on how much you like cinnamon.

Roll the dough into a log from the long end and cut into 1 1/4   inch pieces.  Place in greased 9 X 13  pan and bake at 350 for 22-27 minutes.

Let set a few minutes and then remove from pan to platter. 

Happy Baking!


We linked up this recipe with Sweet as Sugar Cookies and her sweets link party.  Check it out for lots of yummy recipes!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cranberry Salsa

A great friend of ours came over after Thanksgiving and brought this tasty salsa he had made.  Now, I was a bit skeptical when he was telling me about it, because it uses fresh cranberries.  I have never used fresh cranberries for anything other than cranberry sauce at the holidays.  I believe he needed a dish to take to a potluck at work and a co-worker had told him the recipe. He, being a bachelor who doesn't cook much just kinda threw stuff together, another reason I was skeptical. He told me the basic ingredients in the dip and I did some research and this is what I came up with.  I think I've mentioned that I love sweet and sour foods so this dip was right up my alley!  We just used it as a dip with white corn chips. It would also be fabulous to spread softened cream cheese on a plate, top it with the salsa and garnish with cilantro sprigs.  So festive!
Cranberry Salsa
1  (12 ounce) bag fresh cranberries
2/3  cup white sugar
6 - 8  green onions
2  tablespoons pickled jalapenos (we like heat, use less if you don't)
1  lime, juiced
1/4  cup chopped cilantro 
1/4  teaspoon salt

Wash fresh cranberries.  Pick through and discard any soft cranberries.  In the bowl of a food processor combine the cranberries, sugar, green onion, jalapenos, lime juice, cilantro and salt.  Pulse several times until a coarse consistency is reached, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl so the ingredients are evenly chopped.  Put in a bowl and cover, put in the fridge for several hours to allow the flavors to blend. 

Cooks Notes: If the dip is still too tart for you, add more sugar.  I saw some recipes with up to a cup of sugar.  I like tart and this was enough sugar for me, but you might need to add more to suit your taste.  Also, feel free to add more cilantro if desired.  I don't care for a lot of cilantro, too much and it tastes soapy to me.  As far as the jalapenos go, you could also use fresh.  The more seeds you leave in the hotter it will be.  I have found Bread & Butter Jalapenos in the jar and I like the flavor they bring to all my dips that use Jalapenos and I think they are easier to work with.  Just take what you need out the jar, give them a rough chop and your ready to go.



Linked to these great parties:
Everyday Mom's Meals Church Supper
Addicted to Recipes Scrumptious Sunday Link Party
Inside BruCrew Life Trick or Treat Tuesday
Mandy's Recipe Box Totally Tasty Tuesdays
Chocolate, Chocolate and More Chocolate Thursdays Treasures
Six Sisters' Stuff Strut Your Stuff

Monday, December 19, 2011

Updated Green Bean Casserole

Last night my family attended one of my favorite events of the Christmas season, actually the entire year.  Our church held it's Round The Table Carol Sing.  Every year the church has a potluck dinner and then we sing carols while enjoying cookies and wassail. The youth of the church also display their talents through telling the Christmas story, maybe a skit or two and various musical performances.  Everyone brings candles to sit on their tables and it is a really nice evening of fellowship.  

It brings me back to the potluck dinners of my youth. We had a lot more than our church has.  Of course I was a child and it seemed like we had them once a month, but I think it was more like 3 or 4 times a year.  I loved to peruse the table and see the variety of dishes.  It always amazed me how the church ladies could make so many different kinds of Jello molds!  My kids don't really care too much for Jello, but as kids my brother and I loved it.  I am always pleasantly surprised at the good mix of different foods. It just seems to perfectly work out. 

Every time we attend a potluck event and I need to bring a side dish, I always seem take my creamy corn casserole.  It is popular with kids, and easy to make.  My family loves to make fun of me that this is the dish I always take when I make so many different things.  Hey, I like to do what works.  Can you blame me?  This time I thought I would change it up and share my version of an updated Green Bean Casserole.  I thought it would be the perfect time to share it with Christmas now less than a week away!  I have been perfecting this to my family's taste for several years, and we really enjoy it.  Even the mushroom haters in my family can deal with it.

I never really gave much thought to the traditional Green Bean Casserole that was popular when I was growing up.  I remember it to be bland and mushy and not really worth eating.  The onions on top were definitely the best part.  Also, as I have said before, I'm not really big on canned soups.  Julie and I rarely use a canned soup.  It really doesn't take much longer to make your own white sauce to use in your recipe and it just has a fresher taste.
Updated Green Bean Casserole

2 pounds whole green beans, ends trimmed if using fresh
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 onion, diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ cup flour
3 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded (8 ounces)
Large can French’s fried onions

Cook beans in large pot of salted boiling water.  Cook 4 to 5 minutes until fork tender.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain well and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat, add chopped onion and mushrooms.  Season mushrooms and onion with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and 2 teaspoons dried thyme.  Cook over medium heat until mushrooms release their liquid and there is only about 2 tablespoons liquid left in the skillet.  Add the teaspoon of minced garlic and cook about 1 minute until fragrant.  Transfer to the large mixing bowl and mix with the cooked beans.

In the same skillet melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, add flour.  Stir constantly and cook for about 1 minute.  Slowly pour in milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Let simmer about 5 minutes until thickened, whisk frequently to keep from scorching.  Add ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg and season to taste with salt & pepper.  I used ¾ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.  Remove from heat and let cool. 

Pour cooled sauce over bean mixture and stir to coat.  Add 2 cups Swiss cheese and stir to blend.  Spoon into a greased 3 quart baking dish. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until sauce is bubbly.  Top with French’s Onions and cook about 5-10 more minutes.  

Cooks Note:  If the fresh green beans don't look that fresh I have had great results with frozen.  Dillon's Private Selection has a petite frozen whole green bean.  Sam's Club also had a really nice frozen bean.  The Private Selection beans you can steam in the bag.  I just put them in for a little less time than the package direction because they will continue cooking in the oven and you don't want mushy beans.  I wouldn't recommend getting the thick cut green beans.



Linked to following parties:
Our very own Weekend Potluck
Walking on Sunshine Foodie Friends Friday
Gooseberry Patch Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup
White Lights on Wednesdays Wednesday Whatsits
Everyday Mom's Meals Church Supper
Addicted to Recipes Scrumptious Sunday Link Party

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chicken & Black Bean Bake

This is a really really busy cooking week for Julie and I so I'm sorry that I'm not going to have much time to chit chat today.  We hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.  Holiday parties are in full swing and Christmas day will be here before we know it.  I hate that one of my favorite times of the year always seems to go so fast.  I'm going to slow down and enjoy it, but I think that will have to be next week!  
Here is an easy recipe that is oh so yummy.  It is on the stove for a little while, but it comes together easy.  You can make the chicken mixture early in the day and then throw it all together in the afternoon and pop it in the oven. 

Chicken & Black Bean Bake
2  tablespoon vegetable oil
1  medium onion, finely chopped
2  cloves garlic, minced
1  1/2  teaspoons chili powder
1/2  teaspoon cumin
1/2  teaspoon oregano
4  tablespoons cornmeal
2  1/2  cups chicken broth
1  cup tomato sauce
1  (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
4  cups chicken, cooked and shredded
2  cups fresh or frozen corn, thawed if using frozen
1  (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2  teaspoon black pepper
1  (10 ounce) bag tortilla chips
2  cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

In a Dutch oven heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin and oregano and saute for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the corn meal and mix well.  Continue cooking for about 2 more minutes.  Slowly add the broth, tomato sauce and drained tomatoes.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  

Add the shredded chicken, corn, black beans and pepper.  Simmer for about 30 minutes until thickened, stirring frequently.

Grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.  Line the baking dish with 1/2 the bag of the tortilla chips.  Make sure they cover the bottom. Lightly press down on them to crush lightly. Spoon the chicken mixture over the tortilla chips. Lightly crush the remaining tortilla chips and place on top of the casserole. Top with cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees covered for 25 minutes, uncover and bake about 15 more minutes until bubbly. Top with sour cream if desired.



Monday, December 5, 2011

Chicken Artichoke Florentine Penne Pasta Bake

We love Spinach Artichoke Dip at our house, so much that we can easily make it a meal.  Actually there are a lot of dips that we can make a meal of, but that is probably not something I should brag about.  I had a package of spinach that I needed to use and I didn't think I should serve my family a dip for dinner this evening, nor did I feel like having another spinach salad. Here is the pasta dish I made for dinner this evening that uses the same ingredients as that Spinach Artichoke dip that is so popular.  I added chicken, but my daughter Ashton thought the chicken could be left out and it would be great as a side dish as well.  I think it can be used for a family dinner, but you could also serve it if you were entertaining.  It has a creamy Swiss cheese sauce and uses plenty of butter and cream, which makes it pretty decadent. It is the holidays after all!  I added the red pepper because I thought it would be pretty with the green spinach and so festive during this Christmas season! Give it a try I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Chicken Artichoke Florentine Penne Pasta Bake

8  tablespoons butter, divided
1  medium onion, diced (1 cup)
1  red pepper, diced
3  cloves garlic, minced
6  ounces fresh Baby Spinach
1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4  cup flour
2  1/2 cups chicken broth
1  cup heavy cream
2  tablespoons white wine or sherry
1  cup shredded swiss cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
1  pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
2  (14 ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and rough chopped
4  cups cooked chicken

3/4  cup Panko or fresh bread crumbs
1  cup grated Parmesean cheese
3  tablespoons butter, melted

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper and garlic and cook 2 to 3 more minutes until garlic is fragrant.  Add the spinach and nutmeg, cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl to cool.

In the same skillet melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook for about 2 minutes until bubbly.  Gradually add the chicken broth, heavy cream and the white wine.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until sauce thickens.  Remove pan from the heat and whisk in the Swiss cheese until melted.  Season to taste with salt & pepper. 

In the bowl with the spinach mixture, add the cooked pasta, cooked chicken, artichoke hearts, and cream sauce.  Mix until well blended and pour into a greased 9 X 13 casserole dish.

In a small bowl, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in the panko or fresh bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of casserole.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and topping is beginning to brown.



Shared at these fabulous link parties:
Everyday Mom's Meals Church Supper
Addicted to Recipes Scrumptious Sunday Link Party