Friday, November 18, 2016

Overnight Pumpkin Caramel Monkey Bread

This monkey bread is the perfect, delicious breakfast or brunch item to serve during the holiday season.  The dough takes about 10 minutes to prepare and then you can let all the rising happen overnight in the refrigerator.  A few more minutes of assembly in the morning and you have an  amazing pumpkin bread covered in gooey, sweet caramel that will impress everyone!

Overnight bread recipes are my absolute favorite.  The long, slow rise process gives the bread wonderful, fluffy texture and this dough is extra special with the pumpkin puree and seasonal spices blended in.  Of course, you could make this all in one morning, using a traditional room temperature rise but that process doesn't develop the flavor or texture of the dough as well and it makes your morning prep time longer.  This recipe is super easy for entertaining guests during the holidays or even just for a family weekend brunch.  With my two little ones running around all over the place and/or needing to be held 24/7 I just love a good recipe like this one.  Little K (age 2.5) really loved helping assemble the dough in the morning. He was great at rolling the dough into balls and he had a blast coating them (and my entire kitchen) in cinnamon/sugar. Feel free to add-in an additional ingredients like raisins or pecans to kick the flavors up even more.  Please let me know if you give this recipe a try and how you like it!

Pumpkin Caramel Monkey Bread

Pumpkin Bread
1/4 cup salted butter (if using unsalted, add a pinch of salt)
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) quick rise yeast
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 egg yolk
5 cups all-purpose flour, approximately

Heat the milk and butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat to the temperature recommended on your yeast.  This was 120F to 130F for me. If you don't have a thermometer the mixture should feel very warm to the touch (be careful)! Add the butter, milk, sugars, spices, and yeast to a stand mixer bowl or other large bowl. Give everything a stir and let the yeast activate for about 5 minutes, it should get foamy or bubbly. Add the pumpkin, egg, and egg yolk and mix until well combined. Mix in the flour, one cup at a time, until just combined. The dough will be sticky to the touch.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl covered with plastic wrap to rise. If making the monkey bread right away, let the dough rise at room temperature for one to two hours or until doubled in size.  If making the the monkey bread in the morning, place in the refrigerator overnight to rise.  Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before assembling. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and get ready to assemble.

1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a bundt pan. Combine the white sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, Pinch off one inch size pieces of dough, roll into balls, and then roll into the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Continue this process until you have rolled the entire batch of dough into balls and placed them evenly around the bundt pan.

Heat the brown sugar and butter in a small pot over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sugar crystals are dissolved (about 5 minutes).  Pour the butter mixture evenly over the top of the dough and place in the center of the oven to bake for about 40 minutes.  You may want to put the bundt pan on a baking tray to avoid any potential bubble overs into your oven.

When you remove the bread from the oven, let it rest for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate or serving tray.  The bread is VERY hot and sticky so be sure to let it cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Chicken Orzo Soup

Why, yes I did take a photo of my leftover soup that I ate at work with a plastic spoon, under florescent light and you know what, I'm not even worried about it because this soup is that comforting. I usually fuss and stress about not having the time to photograph food the way I want to for the blog but I have decided today that it's more important to share the recipe than have a great picture. This time of year, whether you have the sniffles, daylight savings blues, or are just in need of comfort after the latest election results, this is the soup for you. There is nothing quite like a big bowl of steaming hot, delicious soup to make you feel better, in body and soul.  I hope you give this recipe a try and that it brightens your day a little or makes you feel warm and comfortable!

Chicken Orzo Soup

1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup leek, diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
2 cups cooked, cubed chicken (recipe below)
6 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Orzo pasta, cooked separately

Step 1: In a large heavy bottom pot melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and sautee for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the flour, cook for about one minute and then add the chicken broth and soy sauce.
Step 2: Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, add the cooked chicken,  and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Step 3: While the soup simmers, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the Orzo pasta according to your package directions to al dente. Drain the Orzo and add it to the soup immediately before serving. Don't cook the Orzo in the chicken broth because your soup will be very starchy.
Step 4: Check the soup's seasoning, serve in warm bowls and enjoy!

Chicken recipe (optional, can use any leftover or rotisserie chicken):
Place 4 to 5 boneless chicken breast tenders in an oven safe dish and season to your liking (salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, etc). Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400F for 20 minutes or to until an internal temp of 165F.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Caramel Apple Crisp

Yum! I love apple crisp, it is definitely one of my absolute favorite desserts.  Next to strawberry shortcake, and chocolate chip cookies, and carrot cake, and chocolate cream pie, and....sorry you get the picture, I really like dessert. The best part about this crisp is the addition of the caramel sauce.
 It's so rich, over the top, delicious. The tender and sweet apples paired with the crunchy, crisp topping is the perfect balance.  Don't forget the ice cream, of course! 

Caramel Apple Crisp

Caramel Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter (4 tbsp)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly and bring the mixture to a slow bubble, reduce the heat, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool while you prepare the apples.

Apple Crisp
6 to 8 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the apples in a 9x13 pan and toss with the flour, cinnamon, and caramel sauce.

1 stick butter, cold and cubed
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the flour, oats, sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.  Add the cubed butter and use your fingers or a pastry cutter to combine with the dry ingredients. Top the apples evenly with the crisp. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Kettle Corn

I wish I had known that homemade kettle corn was so simple. I knew it was just a few basic ingredients but I thought the process was more difficult than it really turned out to be.  K bought one of those Whirly Pop stove top poppers a few years ago because we read an article about all the bad stuff in microwave popcorn. However when I was pregnant with our daughter I had a craving for kettle corn for several weeks so I bought a box of the microwave stuff. I should have looked up a recipe for the homemade version sooner because it was 1000 times better, tasted just like the extraordinarly overpriced yummy bags of kettle corn you can buy at the local fairs.  Speaking of pregnancy cravings, I haven't had time to blog for awhile  (again) because we recently welcomed our second baby into our family.  Aurora was born September 1 weighing 7lbs 10 oz. We absolutely love her and little K is doing a great job adjusting to being a big brother.  Popcorn is one of little K's favorite snacks so I decided to make us a special treat today while Aurora napped. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took about 3 minutes to pop the corn, just as long as it takes to microwave a bag. The kettle corn was so delicious, sweet and crunchy but also salty and buttery just like kettle corn should be. You could probably make this recipe in a regular nonstick pot, just be sure to shake it around the whole time so the popcorn pops evenly.  I hope you give this recipe a try soon!

Homemade Kettle Corn
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 tsp oil
3 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Salt to taste

Place corn and oil into the pot or Whirly Pop and cook over medium heat.  When the oil starts to sizzle add the sugar and mix well.  Stir or shake the corn constantly until you hear the corn stop popping.  Immediately pour the popcorn into a bowl and toss with butter, vanilla and salt. Best if served immediately, while warm.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Sweet & Sour Dill Refrigerator Pickles

Hey friends, I am back! Although it probably won't last very long since baby girl is due to be here later this month and I am sure my cooking, photographing, and blogging time will be scarce once again.  We have been having an incredibly busy summer squeezing in lots of fun activities with little K, family visits and adventures, a quick getaway to Maine, and prepping for our baby's arrival soon!

We also grew our first successful veggie garden this summer.  Our yard has very sandy soil and gets full sunshine for at least 10 hours a day so our previous attempts went poorly.  For the past several years we have done a few potted plants on the deck just to have some fresh vegetables but this year big K suggested building a raised bed garden out of a large pallet.  He stapled fabric paper to the bottom, attached some support boards around the four sides and filled the whole pallet with great quality dirt/compost mix.  We planted cucumbers, scallions, lettuce, a selection of herbs, and lots of green beans.  A few weeks ago we made 10 pints of my delicious dilly beans with our very own beans and dill!

Last weekend the stack of fresh cucumbers was starting to pile up in the fridge and so I decided to try refrigerator pickles. When I was a kid my parents made and canned a big batch of amazing bread and butter pickles every summer.  I didn't think I would have enough cucumbers to bother with the whole canning process so I decided to give a new recipe a try.  I will have to track down that bread and butter pickle recipe for another year!  These pickles came out great.  The cucumbers stay super crunchy and have wonderful elements of both sweet and sour.  They are definitely more on the dill/sour side of pickles and less reminiscent of bread and butter but they do have a nice sweetness about them.  The combination of adding the onions, garlic, and various spices add nice complexity as well.  This recipe is so tasty and very easily scaled up or down, so whether you have a garden exploding with cucumbers or you would have a pick some up from the market, I really hope you give these pickles a try!

Sweet & Sour Dill Refrigerator Pickles

3 cups sliced pickling cucumbers, approx 1/8" thick
1 small onion, thinly sliced
small bunch of dill
3 small cloves garlic
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 cups cider or rice wine vinegar (good quality)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp pickling or sea salt

In a medium saucepan, stir the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt together and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium heat.  Once the sugar and salt are dissolved, remove from the heat, add the turmeric, and let the mixture cool while you prep the other ingredients.  Evenly distribute the garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns, celery seed and a few sprigs of dill between approximately 3 pint size (16oz) mason jars.  Layer the slices of cucumbers and onion into each jar and then pour over the pickling solution, filling to about 1/2" from the top of the jars.  Place lids and rings on the jars and refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating.  The pickles should keep fresh in the refrigerator for approximately 2 months or longer.