Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sausage, Potato & Kale Soup

Soup season is officially here and I am so excited to try out a few new recipes and make some of my delicious old stand by's.  Apparently I was a little bit over excited for soup season because I made this soup weeks ago in the middle of a heat wave, like a crazy person.  I had a bunch of kale leftover from making this delicious noodle salad and decided this soup was how I needed to use it up. I could have done a billion other things like make kale chips or add it to salad or just saute it, but no, I decided to make soup. Although the soup was fantastic, I really wouldn't suggest it for a hot day.  The beautiful crisp fall weather that is rolling in will be much better suited for enjoying this recipe!     

This soup is very rich and super creamy; definitely a treat meal. The sausage and potatoes add a wonderful heartiness while the kale does help give the soup a bit of freshness and lightens it up slightly.  Not to mention, kale is full of nutritional health benefits so this recipe is a great way to sneak in a vegetable that might not go over so well with picky eaters if it was served all on its own.  Feel free to substitute the heavy cream in the recipe for regular milk.  The substitution will make the soup a little less rich, which I actually think would be a welcome change.  This recipe is very simple, has a short list of ingredients and can be made pretty quickly, but the flavors all come together beautifully and it just tastes amazing.  I am so looking forward to enjoying more recipes like this one over the next few months.  It is a good thing that the cool fall weather is here and we can all pile on the warm, comfy, (read - baggy) clothes again! Let me know if you give this recipe a try and how you like it!  P.S. - sorry for the picture quality this time around - sometimes 16 months old have an intense need to stir and you literally only have 3 seconds to snap a picture :)

Sausage, Potato, & Kale Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb Italian Sausage, sweet or hot
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
6 cups chicken stock
2 medium russet potatoes, thinly sliced and quartered
2 cups kale, stems removed and chopped
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large heavy bottom pot, over medium high heat, add the olive oil and sausage.  Break up the sausage into small bits and cook until beginning to brown.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and the garlic and continue to cook until soft and translucent.  Add the chicken stock, potatoes, and kale and return the heat to high.  Bring the soup to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat, stir in the heavy cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.  

Inspired by Alaska from Scratch

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Soft, fluffy, golden cinnamon rolls loaded with gooey cinnamon sugar filling and topped with a generous smear of delicious cream cheese frosting.  These cinnamon rolls are to die for; absolutely the best cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted.  I have been waiting for an occasion to make this recipe for awhile because, as much as I would love to make these all the time, I really can't justify a huge pan of cinnamon rolls just for the three of us.  So when one of my oldest friends asked to have a pot luck 'bridesmaid brunch' at my house, I knew it would be the perfect time to make these.  We had such a good time at brunch talking about wedding details, DIYs, and just catching up with old friends. Of course the food was amazing as well: mini quiche, fruit salad, pastries, zucchini bread, french toast casserole, roasted root vegetables, and these cinnamon rolls.    

I really can't say it enough, yum, yum, and yum. I wish I was eating one of these right now! Brunch is my favorite meal time because you are pairing two meals together and get to be a total piggy. Delicious sweet pastries and breads combined with lovely savory egg dishes and salads.  I love the combo of eating sweet and savory foods together. The overnight option on these cinnamon rolls is great for planning ahead of time and making your morning easier.  This recipe isn't just for brunch though, it would also be perfect for Christmas morning or any other special occasion. Just whip up the rolls the night before when you are probably doing other cooking anyways and you have the perfect no fuss breakfast the next day.  The rolls are so fluffy and the cinnamon sugar filling melts through the rolls caramelizing beautifully on the bottom.  The cream cheese frosting spreads right down into the swirls of the roll. Just delicious.

Cinnamon Rolls

4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup white sugar
1 1/4 oz packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste, optional

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

To make the dough, add four cups of flour, the sugar, yeast and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Briefly mix the dry ingredients together.  Heat the milk in the microwave for about 45 second to warm it slightly.  Add the melted butter, eggs, and milk to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed until combined.

Remove the paddle attachment and scrap as much of the sticky dough off, back into the bowl, as you can.  Put the dough hook onto the mixer and knead on a medium-low speed for about 10 minutes.  After about five minutes of kneading, if the dough is still really sticky add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, a little at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but still is sticking to the bottom.  The dough should be on the sticky/moist side because this makes for super fluffy rolls, so don't add too much flour.  You know the dough has been kneaded enough when it is smooth and elastic, but it should still be a bit sticky.  Note that you can prepare the dough by hand with a wooden spoon and then knead on a floured surface probably for 15+ minutes, if you don't have a stand mixer

Grease another large bowl with oil or cooking spray and transfer the dough into this bowl.  Turn the dough ball around to coat it in the oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Set the dough aside in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours or doubled in size.  My kitchen is very cold, so what I usually do is turn my oven on when I start making the dough and let it preheat for about two minutes. I then turn it off and put the dough in there to rise.  I try to check the dough every half hour or so and if its cold again, I will turn the oven on again to preheat for about one minute and then turn it off.  This helps create a nice warm environment for the dough to rise.  The time that you allow your oven to preheat will depend on the specifications and type of oven you have. You only want the temperature in the oven to be about 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on to a floured surface and punch the air out of it.  Knead the dough lightly for a minute or two.  Grease a 9x13 dish or 11x17 jelly roll pan.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large rectangle, approximately 16x12 inches.  Spread the softened butter all over the surface of the dough and then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon all over evenly. Drizzle the vanilla bean paste all over, if using.  Leave about a 1/2 inch border empty around the edges

Starting on the long side of the dough that is farthest away from you, roll the dough towards you tightly, forming a log shape.  Pinch the edge of the dough together to form a seam and then place the log seam side down.  Lightly stretch the log out to about 18 inches.  Cut off the two ends of the log that do not have much filling.  Use a very sharp knife or a string of unflavored dental floss to cut the log into 12 even sized rolls. Start by cutting the log in half at the middle and then each half, cut in half again.  Then cut each of the four sections into three rolls.  Place the rolls into the greased pan.

If you want to bake the rolls the same day, cover them and let the rolls rise again for about an hour, until doubled in size.  If you want to bake the rolls the next day, cover the rolls and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Take the rolls out of the fridge an hour before you want to bake them and let them rise.  In either case, bake the rolls at 350°F for 22 to 25 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the frosting.  Cream together the softened butter and cream cheese using an electric mixer or a whisk, until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar.  Frost the rolls about five minutes after they are removed from the oven for best results.  Serve the rolls warm.  The rolls are best eaten immediately but if you have leftovers they can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator.  You can microwave them for 20 to 30 seconds before eating to take the chill off.


Inspired by Averie Cooks

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dulce De Leche Revel Bars

Gooey, chewy amazing oatmeal revel bars stuffed with dulce de leche and chocolate chips.  Revel bars are my favorite cookie that I always forget about. I know that sounds weird but for some reason I never think about making these bars even though they are the most delicious cookie that I have ever eaten. One of the very first recipes that I ever remember trying to bake all by myself was regular chocolate revel bars. The memory is really foggy now but I do remember reading through a cook book and deciding to make revel bars once upon a time, way back in the day.  They are so so so delicious. This version of the revel bars, sandwiches creamy, caramel-y dulce de leche between crunchy, yet chewy oatmeal cookie layers.  The traditional recipe for revel bars has a layer of chocolate combined with sweetened condensed milk to make almost a chocolate fudge center.  This recipe substitutes a can of dulce de leche for the middle layer.  I added chocolate chips in there too for a little chocolate twist.

Have you ever had dulce de leche? It is a relatively new ingredient to me.  Awhile back I tried baking brownies swirled with it but they were kind of a flop. Plus I have never been able to find the premade stuff in the grocery stores around here.  I stumbled upon a super easy recipe to make it homemade in the slow cooker and decided to give it another try.  I am super glad that I did because, oh man, this stuff will have your taste buds doing a happy dance.  It is so creamy and sweet with a lovely rich caramel flavor.  I made these cookie bars to share at a get together but little K ended up being under the weather so we couldn't attend.  I sent the bars off to work with big K the next day because otherwise I would have eaten the whole pan myself.  I hope you give this recipe a try and you enjoy them as much as I did!

Dulce De Leche Revel Bars

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 can (approx 14 oz) dulce de leche (or homemade*)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a 8x8 or 9x9 square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  If you use the foil, make sure to grease it as well; the caramel center is sticky!

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a whisk or electric mixer.  Add in the egg and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir in the baking soda, salt, and flour and then finally stir in the oats.

Spread half of the cookie dough in the bottom of the prepared pan and press it down into an even, flat layer.  Microwave the dulce de leche in a small bowl for about 30 seconds so that it is easier to spread.  Spoon the dulce de leche over the bottom crust and spread it out evenly as well.  Add the chocolate chips.

Drop small dollops of the remaining cookie dough all over the dulce de leche layer.  Note that the top layer will not cover the caramel and chocolate completely.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and then cool completely.

Lift the bars out of the pan with the help of the foil or parchment and cut into small bars.  I cut the bars pictured in half for serving and they were still more than enough!


*Homemade slow cooker dulce de leche - Remove the paper label from several cans of sweetened condensed milk and place them in your crock pot.  Add enough water to the slow cooker to cover the cans by about an inch.  Place the lid on and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.  I cooked them overnight.  Use tongs to carefully remove the cans from the slow cooker and allow to cool for several hours. I removed mine from the cans and stored in air tight containers in the refrigerator for several months.  I did read some people find this method to give the dulce de leche a hint of metallic taste.  I did not have this experience but you can transfer the sweetened condensed milk to small mason jars with tight fitting lids and cook the same way.

Inspired by Crazy for Crust

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cookies & Cream Chocolate Blackout Cake {{Worms & Dirt}}

Four layers of rich chocolate cake, filled with delicious chocolate pastry cream and Oreo cookie chunks, frosted with creamy, silky chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream and decorated with more Oreo crumbs and chocolate ganache.  I added the gummy worms on top for decoration and a little whimsy but you could absolutely leave them off.  A few weeks ago my sister returned from an entire year living abroad as a Watson Fellow; traveling, researching, and being super amazing.  She documented her journey through Dominica, Botswana, Australia, Tuvalu, and China on her travel blog Wanderlusting.  Head on over there if you are interested in reading some of her incredible stories and more about what her Watson project to pursue the relationship between nature and writing is all about.  

The weekend after she arrived home, we had a big family homecoming celebration. I told her that I would make her anything that she wanted for dessert; to which she responded "hmm, maybe the one with the pudding and the cookie crumbs."  My sister-in-law asked her, "you mean like worms and dirt?" She said sure and I kind of went overboard with that idea. I decided that I wanted to do a fancier version of the classic pudding cups with chocolate cookie crumbs and gummy worms and so this cake was born.  This does take a bit of time to make and has more steps than an average cake, but this recipe is great for a special occasion or if you are trying to impress your guests. 

I love all of the different components and textures this cake has. The cake is moist and fluffy, yet it holds up really well against the creamy, sweet chocolate pastry cream.  The cookie crumbs both inside and out keep their crunchy texture and give that familiar "worms and dirt" cookies and cream flavor profile to the cake.  If you have never had Swiss meringue buttercream, it is the perfect frosting for this cake because it is not overly sweet and its silkiness is just wonderful amoungst all of the other textures.  I added the chocolate ganache right on top for a beautiful smooth finish and a final punch of chocolate.  The gummy worms, of course, are mostly just for show, but really who can resist a gummy worm once in awhile!  Overall this cake is a beautiful array of chocolate flavors that is deliciously rich with just the right amount of sweetness.

Cookies & Cream Chocolate Blackout Cake

Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup canola (or other flavorless) oil
2 cups white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain or vanilla greek yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp espresso powder (optional)
1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease two 9" cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment paper circle.  In a large bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract together.  Then add the water, espresso powder, and cocoa powder and whisk until nice and smooth. Note that the espresso powder will not make the cake taste like coffee, rather it will just increase the depth of flavor of the cocoa powder and make the cake taste more chocolaty.  You could also substitute brewed black coffee for the water and espresso powder or leave it out and just use water. Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until just barely combined.  Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool completely on wire racks.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
3 egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cubed
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz melted, cooled semisweet chocolate

Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Place the bowl over a pot with about 1 inch of simmering water (like a double boiler set up) and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot (about 140°F if you have a candy thermometer.)  Place the bowl back on the base of your stand mixer and beat the egg whites on medium-high speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is glossy, thick, and the outside of the bowl has cooled to room temperature.  This will likely take at least 10 minutes.  Switch to the paddle attachment, turn the mixer on to low speed, and begin adding small cubes of the butter, one at a time, until each is incorporated.  I waited between about 10 seconds between adding each cube of butter.  Don't worry if the mixture curdles or starts to look a little soupy, just keep mixing until it comes together into a smooth, silky consistency.  Stop and refrigerate the buttercream for about 15 minutes if it really starts looking soupy and then continue to beat. Keep beating until all of the butter is incorporated and the frosting is smooth and glossy.  You may have to beat for several minutes after adding all of the butter.  Add the vanilla and melted chocolate and mix to incorporate.

Chocolate Pastry Cream 
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups whole milk
6 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and one half cup of the milk together until no lumps remain. Whisk in the remaining milk slowly and turn the heat on to medium.  Stir the milk mixture pretty continuously, making sure to scrap the sides and bottom of the pan to keep lumps from forming.  Bring the liquid to a slow bubble and it will thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Stir in the chocolate and continue to cook until the chocolate is melted and the pudding is very thick.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract.  Transfer the pudding to a bowl (you can pass the pudding through a sieve if you have any lumps) and cover the pudding directly with plastic wrap to avoid a skin from forming.  Chill the pudding completely in the refrigerator.  Make the pudding into pastry cream by folding in heavy cream that has been whipped to soft peaks.  

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped

Heat the heavy cream in a 2 cup glass measuring cup in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds.  Add the chocolate and let it sit for about 2 minutes and then stir until well combined.  Let the ganache set to room temperature.  

1 14 oz package Oreo cookies
Gummy Worms

Place the Oreos into a large plastic bag.  Use a mallet or rolling pin to smash the cookies into large chunks.  Remove half of the Oreos from the bag and set aside in a bowl.  Crush the remaining Oreos until they are very fine crumbs and set aside.  You could also use a food processor for these steps.  

Remove the cakes from the pans and use a large serrated knife to cut each cake in half horizontally, creating four layers of cake.  If your cakes have rounded tops, be sure to level those off as well. You want nice flat layers. Put half of your buttercream in a pastry bag (or zipper topped bag) fitted with a large star tip.  

Place a small dollop of frosting onto your cake plate to keep the cake in place. Put the first layer of cake down and pipe a border of frosting around the outside edge of the cake.  Fill the center of the layer with the chocolate pastry cream and one third of the large Oreo chunks.  Place the second cake layer on top, repeat this process and then do it again once more with the third layer.  Put the final layer of cake on top and press down lightly to even all of the layers out.  Run a knife or offset spatula around the outside of the cake to clean up any of the buttercream that squished out the sides during assembly.  Put the cake in the fridge for about 15 minutes to set up.  

Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining buttercream. You don't have to be too neat or worry too much about crumbs because next you press the fine Oreo crumbs all over the sides of the cake.  Pipe a border of stars around the top edge of the cake and then pour the chocolate ganache over the center top of the cake.  Use a spoon to lightly spread the ganache out evenly.  Place gummy worms on top of the cake for decoration.  The cake is best eaten the day it is assembled.  The components can all be made one to two days before and stored in the refrigerator until ready to assembly.  Store the finished cake in the refrigerator until about 1 hour before serving.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Ranch Burritos

Cheesy, creamy ranch seasoned chicken, broccoli, and rice all wrapped up together into a crunchy burrito. I feel like a broken record right now because I am pretty sure I say the same thing on every recipe, but you guys, this burrito is sooooo good.  I always associate burritos with more traditional Mexican spices and flavors but you could put anything you want in a soft tortilla, wrap it up like a burrito and toast the outside. This recipe comes together in about 20 minutes, which is absolutely perfect for a busy weeknight.  You could make it even easier by using up leftovers or even rotisserie chicken.  Just make sure you warm everything up together before assembling the burritos; you want the filling to be warm and melty.

I am not a huge ranch lover, but the seasoning is pretty mild and goes really well with all of the other flavors.  The amount in this recipe is just enough to make it really flavorful and interesting but not purely ranch.  If you are big into ranch, you could probably increase the amount of seasoning you use, or give the mixture a squirt of ranch dressing.  Be careful though because that will change the texture of your filling.  As always, make sure you make this recipe to your tastes. The written recipe is just a guide to help you get started and you can adjust to your tastes from there.  I almost never measure my ingredients when I cook, but I do try to keep track of amounts so that I can give you some kind of recipe on here.  Anyways, my point is, you should modify recipes to your own liking even if that takes some experimenting to figure it out.  Try a different cheese, use whole wheat tortillas, change out the broccoli for another vegetable, etc.  However you make it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  It is a wonderful, delicious, quick meal.

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Ranch Burritos

1 lb chicken breast, diced
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 packet ranch seasoning mix
2 cups white or brown rice, cooked
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 to 6 large tortillas

Preheat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot add the diced chicken pieces and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broccoli and continue to cook until the broccoli is tender and the chicken is cooked through completely.  Turn off the heat and add the cooked rice while it is still hot, the ranch seasoning, and the cheese. Stir everything together until combined and let the cheese melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You may not need any extra seasoning, depending how much salt is in the ranch packet you use. Place some filling in the middle of each tortilla, kind of forming a log shape.  The number of tortillas you use will depend on how full you stuff each burrito.  Fold one of the long sides of the tortilla over the filling, then fold in each short side and continue rolling the rest of the way closed.  Set each burrito down so the seam is the bottom side.  I grilled my burritos on a grill pan, over medium heat, for 2 to 3 minutes per side. You could also do this in a regular nonstick saute pan. Just make sure you get the outside of the burrito nice and toasty, crunchy.


Inspired by The Cookie Rookie