Sweet Dinner Rolls

Where do your thoughts wander when they get a chance to get and let loose? Positively speaking, I mean. Negativity is a journey in and of itself that I don’t want to focus on for this post. Instead, why not tell some of the things you actually *like* to daydream about? Things that will put you in a good mood by just thinking about them.

Personally, I can name about three main subjects my own mind gravitates towards that put me in my happy place.

The people that I love are right at the top, for obvious reasons. The next two are my creative outlets: writing and cooking. I’m kinda shy about talking my writing and since this is after all a food blog, let’s just focus on that.

It’s hard for me to try and estimate how many times a day my thoughts will go to cooking or baking. Too hard to even really try, so I won’t. But it’s a lot. I think about what I’ve already cooked or baked. I think about what I want to cook or bake. Then, I think about how I want to cook or bake it. I start planning the things I need to get from the grocery store, timing out when I’m going to cook or bake throughout the day. I have to decide if it’s something I want to blog about it. If it is and it’s winter, I also need to factor in time enough to take pictures before it gets dark.

Quite a bit of thought goes into every post I share here, and this one was no different.

Alright, so boom: I was sitting in a hard, wooden, and very uncomfortable chair waiting for my niece’s preschool to get out so I could pick her up. My mind wandered to bread baking–a very common place it likes to visit. I started thinking about types of shapes that I could mold it into that would both photograph well and be different than what I’d done before on the blog.

I’ve done scrolls. I’ve done knots. I’ve done flowers.  Crescents, wreaths, scrolls, skulls, sticks. I’ve made twisty, elaborate, shaped loaves. I’ve made tear and share batches, as well as plain, round rolls.  I’m not trying to blow my own horn, I’m just saying all this to emphasize that it takes some imagination for me to come up with something new for me to do so far as bread shaping is concerned.

I’m not exactly an amateur baker, but I’m not sure I’d call myself an expert either. So when I’m planning out my next baking projects, I try and make sure that my plans don’t get too ‘lofty’ to the point where it’s something I’m not able to execute. There are some bread bakes I’ve seen that are far and beyond anything I’m currently capable of–they’re made by truly spectacular, talented bakers that are goals for me. The things I do are relatively simple to do, but I aim to still make them pretty.

Hand to God, that’s literally how I came up with these. The dough is simple to put together and the rolls themselves are easy to assemble. And yet,(if I may say so myself) they still look pretty good.

I’ve actually been making these rolls for years, except I’d just been shaping them into simple balls and letting them be dinner rolls in the cast iron skillet. I’d like to emphasize that if you want to try this recipe, but the shaping intimidates you, it’s ABSOLUTELY fine to forgo the shaping altogether. After the first rise, just portion the dough into regular balls, arrange them in a cast iron skillet/cake pan/or 13×9 baking dish and bake them that way. They’ll still be fantastic.

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The shape of the rolls is really just two pieces of dough that I rolled into scrolls. I then laid one of the scrolls on top of the other and nudged the coils close to each other into a ‘square’ shape. By the time they proofed and baked, it looks like they’re intricately woven and what not. These bake up puffy and fluffy on the inside and as the title suggests, they are on the sweeter side. They’re a huge favorite here in our spot, and if you decide to try them I have a feeling they’ll become one in yours too.

Linking up this post to Fiesta Friday #197, co-hosted by  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Trupti @ My Culinary Saga.

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Sweet Dinner Rolls

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

 

 

Directions

Pour the water and milk together in a small saucepan and bring to a warm temperature (think baby bottle warm). Remove from heat. Sprinkle the yeast on top, then the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow yeast to bloom, about 10 minutes until frothy.Beat 1 of the eggs in a small bowl. Set aside.

Attach the paddle attachment to the bowl of a standing mixer Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl with the beaten egg, the butter, 1/3 cup of sugar and the salt. Mix together until combined. Switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, to the mixture, until a dough begins to form. Allow to knead for about 8-10 minutes until dough is smooth and pliable.

Spray the inside of the bowl with cooking spray, place dough inside and cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Allow to rest in a warm place until dough is double in size, about 1 hour.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Punch down dough onto surface, divide in half. Place one half back inside the bowl and keep covered. Divide the other piece into a half, then divide each of those halves into thirds. (So, you should have six pieces at this point.)

Take one of the six pieces and divide it in half. Roll each half into a long rope, about 6-7 inches. Roll the ends of each rope into spirals, going in opposite directions of each other.  Place one of the spirals on top of the other and pinch together so that the spirals form a roll with four ‘corners’. Place on a sheet pan you line with parchment paper. Repeat this process until you’ve used all of the dough. Cover rolls with plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl. Remove plastic wrap and brush rolls with the beaten egg. Bake rolls in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top and bottoms, covering with foil if browning too quickly on top. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Pumpkin Crunch Tart

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For the second day of our Christmas series, I thought I’d start out this post with a small confession: I had never once tried a pumpkin pie until one year ago, at Thanksgiving.

I dunno why exactly. It could be because our family has ALWAYS been sweet potato pie eaters and although the two aren’t the same, it is typically a kind of  thing that most between choose between rather than having both. Most pumpkin pie also has a different flavor profile than sweet potato pie;  not only does it have a different texture, the spices also tend to pack more of a punch.

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For a while, the latter was the reason that I never really tried or thought it was even worth my while to try pumpkin pie. For most of my life, I was used to the sweeter, less spicy flavor of my grandmother’s sweet potato pie. Although I’d been using pumpkin spice in other baked goods,  pumpkin pie remained the final frontier that I hadn’t tried. It’s not like I thought I would HATE it, I just had the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset and stuck to my tried and true sweet potato pie.

This year however, I was feeling a bit more adventurous.

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If I had to give one qualm I have with not only pumpkin pie, but (yes) even sweet potato pie and smooth custard/cream pies in general, it’s that they often lack a textural component to break up that ‘smoothness’ and not have it be so one note. I don’t really go for those super thick and high cream pies that make you bite through two inches of cream and still you’re not really end up ‘chewing’ anything. I could go for something crunchy or a least with a small amount of texture to contrast it. It’s really that idea of wanting to try pumpkin pie with texture that inspired this recipe. I found and used a pumpkin pie recipe that I trusted (Bobby Flay has never let me down yet) and modified it to suit my purposes.

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Altogether this a SOLID dessert guys. The crust is an easy and far less labor intensive one than typical homemade pie crust and it will taste much better than a pre-made one you bought at a store. Use a good gingersnap though; one you would want to eat all on it’s own. If gingersnaps aren’t your thing, you can definitely use graham crackers too though. The filling is what I think a good pumpkin pie should be; there’s a good balance of deep caramel flavor from the molasses and brown sugar and spiciness of the seasoning. What’s more, letting it chill in the fridge overnight gives the spices enough time to really soak into the pumpkin puree so that the flavor is as pronounced as possible. I think the thing that makes this pie really special is the addition of the cinnamon crunch topping that gets sprinkled on top just before eating. It reminds me of a crunchy, spicy oatmeal cookie and it provides the perfect textural contrast that I think these kind of pies so desperately need so that you’re not eating soft and mushy on soft and mushy.

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Another thing, I said this in the recipe itself, but I’ll go ahead and say it again here. I know that most people don’t have rectangle tart pans (or any tart pans at all) just sitting around their kitchen–not unless you’re a baking fiend with an addiction to bakeware (like someone I know). That’s fine. This recipe will absolutely work in a 9 or 10 inch pie dish, you’ll probably just have an excess of crust that you don’t have to use, and you’ll need to increase your baking time in the oven.

Look y’all, when I took my first bite of this pie warmed up with a smattering of whipped cream, I just had to sigh and give The Head Shake. You know which one I mean. The one you give when what you’re eating is almost TOO delicious. It was absurdly good.

(And yes, in case you were wondering). Just as good as sweet potato pie.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Recipe Adapted from Bobby Flay

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Ingredients

For Cinnamon Crunch

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, cold

For Crust

  • 3 cups ginger snap crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s gingersnaps)
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For Pie Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (NOT the mix)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for the top
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Whipped cream, for serving

Directions

For Cinnamon Crunch: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor, and process a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until combined. Pat the mixture evenly into a 4-inch square on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Set aside.

For Filling: Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, both sugars, and molasses together in a medium bowl. Mix in pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Whisk in the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla extract. Either strain the mixture through a coarse strainer into a bowl, or give it a good blending in your blender, about 7-5 seconds. Whisk in the butter. Chill overnight in the refrigerator to allow flavors and spices to properly meld.

For Crust: Grease an 8 x 11 1/2 rectangular  tart pan*. combine the ginger snap crumbs, butter, and cinnamon in a bowl and mix until combined. Press evenly onto the bottom and sides of tart pan. Brush with the beaten egg. Bake until light golden brown and firm, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

For Assembly: Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, pour the pumpkin mixture into the shell, (don’t overfill, it’s ok if you have some leftover) and sprinkle additional cinnamon over the top. Bake until the filling is set around edges but the center still jiggles slightly when shaken, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Cut tart into slices and top with cinnamon crunch and whipped cream. Refrigerate leftover slices.

(*This recipe can also be made in a 9 inch and 10 inch pie dish. The tart pan was just my preference. Also, using a tart pan will almost definitely guarantee you’ll have leftover filling.)

 

Stuffing Bread

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Goodness. Has it been a year already since we did this? Time flies.

If you’re a new follower and are wondering what ‘this’ is, then allow me to fill you in. ‘This’ is the day that we’ll be starting the annual 12 Days of Christmas series on Cooking is My Sport: a series of 12 days of 12 recipes of Christmas themed goodies that I dump on you guys in rapid succession that are specifically designed to make you hungry for carbs/sugar/Christmas cheer. Because I find that is in one of my especially strong skill sets.

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There will (of course) be plenty of cookies and other sweets to come in the following days, but I also wanted to try and incorporate some other types of baked goods into the series as well. Yummy Christmas food comes in sweet AND savory packages. Case in point,  today’s recipe.

We’re coming right off the heels of Thanksgiving where a lot of people cook/eat abundant amounts of stuffing and/or dressing. Our family makes dressing (the stuff you cook all on its own in a separate baking dish, a very safe distance away from the raw, uncooked bird), and we like to eat it at both Thanksgiving AND Christmas. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without it.

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Whether you’re on Team Dressing or Team Stuffing, chances are you’re fond of at least a core set of flavors and ingredients that can be found in both (if they’re any go0d anyway). A lot of times, bread is crumbled and these ingredients and flavors are added TO it along with some egg and chicken broth to moisten it before it gets baked into a kind of casserole.

But what would happen if those flavors and ingredients were mixed together to MAKE a scratch made yeast bread?

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This. This is what would happen. And now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll elaborate. What you’re looking at is a whole wheat loaf of bread that I flavored with poultry seasoning, then rolled up with ingredients meant to remind you of the taste of stuffing and/or dressing: sage, celery, onion, browned sausage and cranberries.

I initially saw this bread on King Arthur Flour as a pull apart bread, similar to Monkey Bread where people can tear off chunks. However, in my rendition, I decided to go a little bit of a different route as I thought there could be some problems with the overall construction of the dough and keeping the filling from just collecting in pools between balls of dough–which could get particularly icky when it comes to baking sausage that will probably leak excess grease (even after you drain it)

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So, my idea of ensuring that I had a loaf that would still rise and bake without falling apart was to see if I could take a similar shaping method that was done for the Pane Bianco I did a while ago and apply it here. The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle, the filling is spread out, then the dough is tightly rolled up into a log. That log is split open, then turned inside out to reveal the layers created by the rolling–which, creates a very pretty presentation if I may say so myself. You’ll get huge kudos and props for a process that is actually fairly simple.

Oh, and I mentioned how delicious this stuff is, didn’t I? No? Oh, well yeah: it’s amazing. Using whole wheat flour as the base creates a nutty flavor of the dough that’s nicely complimented by the herbs from the sage, the savory meaty flavor of the sausage and the sweetness of the cranberries. They all balance one another so well. We ate this loaf both for Thanksgiving and warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave for breakfast in the days that followed and were VERY happy campers. I think that you and your wolfpack will be too should you choose to bake them a loaf.

Linking up this recipe to Fiesta Friday #148, cohosted this week by  Linda @ La Petite Paniere and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Stay tuned for more recipes to come in the 12 Days of Christmas; we’re just getting started!

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Stuffing Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour 

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For Filling

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 3/4 cup cooked pork breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle the instant yeast on top of the milk. Sprinkle sugar on top of yeast and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion powder, dried thyme, poultry seasoning, salt and flour. Set aside.

Using the dough hook attachment, add the flour mixture alternately with the butter in the standing mixer. Knead for about 8-10 minutes until you have a smooth dough that no longer sticks to sides of bowl.

Grease bowl with cooking spray or oil, place dough back inside, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise until doubled in size about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, make filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onions, and cook until the vegetables are softened. Remove from the heat and add the sausage, chopped sage, poultry seasoning, and cranberries. Cool to lukewarm, then stir in the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble: Gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into an about 22 x 8 1/2 rectangle.  Sprinkle sausage/cranberry filling over dough, leaving about 1 inch of a border clear the top.

Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way, away from you. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Using kitchen shears, start 1/2 inch from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1 inch deep, to within 1/2 inch of the other end. Keeping the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the bread, and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.

Honey Spice Roasted Potatoes

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Wasting food.

I hate doing it. I can and will eat leftovers for days until the food is gone before I’ll toss it in the trash or garbage disposal out of ‘boredom’. And even when/if it does spoil and I HAVE to throw it out, I still cringe from irritation and guilt.

It could be because I love food. It could also be because I’m cheap/low in $ funds 98% of the time, and don’t want to see what my money paid for being wasted.

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The “inspiration” for this dish was really nothing more than the fact that we had a big bag of russet potatoes in the kitchen that we’d bought as apart of a discount, telling ourselves we’d make baked potatoes.

Naturally, that didn’t happen. They just sat there for a good long while and it finally got to the point where I was concerned that they were going to spoil and go to waste. You guys know how anal retentive I am when it comes to wasting food. I wasn’t throwing out a whole bag of still-usable potatoes. Nuh-uh. So, I decided to just go ahead and use them for something that would cook them all in one go–my taste buds had a craving for wedges, so that’s what I went with.

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My process for coming up with this went as follows: I washed and cut the potatoes, opened my spice cabinet and literally just started taking bottles out and shaking the contents together into a bowl if I thought it sounded like they’d taste good when combined. The ‘wild card’ in the bunch was the turmeric. Turmeric’s got a pungent, gingery, almost spicy orange aftertaste to it. It’s used a lot in curry dishes in Asian and Indian dishes and is actually a pretty healthy spice for your as well.

Its bright yellow and can also stain your counter tops and hands yellow for a few days if you’re not careful, but moving on.

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After cutting them up, I combined the turmeric with some oil and other spices into a paste, then tossed that together with the potatoes. After cranking up the oven I spread them out on a pair of sheet pans and roasted them until they were tender on the inside and the oil on the pans made them crispy on the outside edges.

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The cumin gives the potatoes a smoky earthy flavor while the turmeric and honey provides a spicy sweetness that marries the flavors together very nicely. If Russet potatoes aren’t really your thing, then that’s fine: I can see this working VERY well with Yukon Gold or sweet potatoes too. If wedges aren’t your thing then you can also just cut them into large or smaller chunks and adjust your roasting time to be longer or shorter as needed.

There’s a certain occasion coming up on Thursday where a lot of Americans get together and do a lot of eating. If you still need an easy and delicious side dish for that occasion that will still feed a lot of people, then I’d offer up this one for consideration.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #146 co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Honey Spice Roasted Potatoes

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. russet/baking potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed
  • About 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil, plus extra if necessary
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half into thirds/wedges, making sure they are more or less the same size and width to make sure they cook evenly.

Place the potatoes in a  plastic re-sealable gallon size bag.

In a small bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients together and mix together with a fork or whisk. It should resemble a loose kind of paste but still be fluid enough to coat the potatoes. If it’s still to thick, drizzle in additional oil into the dressing by tablespoons until it’s liquid-y enough.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes, seal the bag and toss around for two to three turns until the dressing has evenly coated the potatoes.

Spray two half sheet pans well with non-stick cooking spray. Divide the potatoes between the pans and spread out in one even layer.

Roast for 35-40 minutes, mixing the potatoes and switching the pans around half-way through until they are fork-tender in the middle and crisp at the edges.

Deep Dish Apple Pie

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A few weeks ago I drove out to an Apple orchard with my family on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon much like this one. My two year old niece had never been before and it’s actually been several years since I visited one myself. They’re really nice places to go to in the fall, especially if they’re the ones that let you pick your own apples for a small fee. This orchard was huge; it had varieties/flavors of apples that I had never even heard of before. And considering I once had an apple obsession (eating two a day, practically religiously) I found that pleasantly surprising.

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The usual suspects that I personally love were present: Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, Macintosh, Jonagold, Ida Red, Jazz, Cortlands. They also had varieties that I steadfastly avoid at all times, like Golden Delicious and Red Delicious. Then there were ones like Empire (GINORMOUS apples btw), Spy, and Mutsu that I wouldn’t know from Adam or Eve.

Pun kinda intended.

Long story short, we came outta there with a crap load of apples. Before we even got home, I knew what I wanted to do with them (I mean, besides just eat them raw. I’ve definitely been doing that too.)

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I was definitely gonna make an apple pie. There was just no way around it.

You’d think that because this was my first time making an apple pie, I’d try to play it safe and go with something…normal.

But I didn’t want to make one that was ‘ordinary’. I had too many apples for that. Plus, I had just bought myself a deep dish pie plate on clearance that I really wanted a chance to break in.

So, this happened.

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I’ll tell you guys. The smell of apple pie….a fresh, packed-to-the-brim, good, old fashioned deep dish, lattice crust apple pie really is one of the THE best aromas that could ever be in your house. Believe me when I say that.

The smell that filled not only my place, but the lobby and hallways of my apartment building are what I’m preeeeetty sure Heaven smells like.

Actually, I’m more than pretty sure. I’m positive. Heaven smells like a deep dish lattice crust apple pie.

Remember, you heard it first from here.

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Do I honestly need to continue?

Is it really necessary for me to extol and sing the praises of this pie to convince you guys how friggin marvelous it tastes? Should I tell you how flaky and buttery the crust is and describe the slightly sweet crunch that the sprinkling of sugar on top just before baking gives to it? Should I describe the way the apples form a soft, tender, slightly gooey filling, and the small hint of cinnamon your taste buds get just after the tang of that initial tartness?

Or should I REALLY drop the bomb on you and try to give an accurate description of how this baby tastes piping hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle of caramel syrup on top?

I think not. That would just be cruel.

You’ve all got eyes. And kitchens. So, I suggest you get in em and crank this pie out for you and your loved ones. I guarantee it would make the top of someone’s list of Things to be Thankful for come Thanksgiving 😉

(I’m linking this post to this week’s Fiesta Friday #94, co-hosted by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Stef @ The Kiwi Fruit.)

Deep Dish Apple Pie


Recipe Courtesy of The Complete America’ Test Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients

For Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or butter flavored shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 6-8 tablespoons ice water

special equipment (HIGHLY recommended): a box grater

For Filling:

  • Unbleached, all purpose flour, for the work surface
  • 2 1/2 pounds firm tart apples (about 5 large), peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 1/2 pounds firm sweet apples (about 5 large), peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) plus 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest plus 1 tbsp. juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg white, beaten

Directions

For Pie Crust: In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt with a fork and set aside.  Rub the pieces of shortening into the flour mixture either with your hands or a fork, mixing just until it looks like coarse bread crumbs. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the flour mixture. Stir a few times with a fork , then make a well in the center of the mixture. Pour in the ice water, using a stiff rubber spatula/fork to make the dough come together. If it’s still too dry, you may add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time until it holds together. Divide the dough in half, then wrap each half in plastic wrap. Allow it to rest in the fridge for at least one hour, but preferably overnight.

Roll one disk of dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface, then fit into a 9-inch pie plate, letting excess dough hang over the edge; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll the other disk of dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface, then transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap ans refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Toss apples, 1/2 cup of granulates sugar, the brown sugar, zest, salt and cinnamon together in a Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until apples are tender when pierced with a fork but still hold their shape. Transfer apples and juices to a rimmed baking sheet and cool to room temp, about 30 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain cooled apples thoroughly through colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice. Stir lemon juice into the reserved cup of apple juice.

Spread apples into the dough lined pie plate, and pour the lemon juice mixture over them. Loosely roll out 2nd piece of dough onto a floured surface, and cut into strips. Arrange the strips over the top of pie in a criss-cross lattice design. Trim, fold and crimp the edges. Brush the dough with the egg white and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tbsp of sugar.

Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, rotate baking sheet and continue to bake until the juices in pie are bubbling and crust is a deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes linger. Cool the pie on a wire rack until the filling has set, about two hours. (I let my pies sit overnight then serve them at room temp, or microwaved, just to make sure the filling isn’t runny, but that’s just my personal preference)

Pot Roast-Style Meatballs

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Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving Everyone!

Did you all have a great holiday with their families? Cook a lot? Eat too much? Watch lots of TV?

Was anyone brave enough to venture out this morning for Black Friday- I hope not. Honestly I just don’t think it’s worth the effort anymore. The Internet and online shopping has (I think) done a good job of making it so that there doesn’t necessarily have to be such a rush or panic for good deals. Granted, there are some things that you have to go and stand in line to get, but c’mon, honestly: are they REALLY worth it?

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Alright, alright. I confess: I have participated in Black Friday a handful of times before. But it was mostly during the 90’s, when online shopping was just getting started and stores were only making their deals available in-house. It does give you a weird kind of adrenaline rush, but not a particularly enjoyable one. Me, I’m a worrier: so naturally, the build up to Black Friday for someone like me would be the fear that I’m getting up early in the morning, risking my safety and raising my stress level for something I’m not even 100% guaranteed to get. What if I can’t run fast enough when they open the doors? What if I’m next to some psycho crazy woman who elbows me in the face as we’re reaching for the same thing? What if someone literally tries to take it out of my cart or hands even if I do get it?

Not that any of that has actually happened to me before (in fact, on the few occasions I did go out for Black Friday, I got what I wanted), but I say all of that just to emphasize that my personality is just not suited for all that craziness. I don’t like conflict, chaos or mean people…and that’s basically what Black Friday is ALL about. So I just stay out of it now.

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So, this is Pot Roast weather. You have to make pot roast during the winter. It’s pure comfort food that sticks to your ribs and just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Problem  is, depending on the size of the meat, it can be a little time consuming. I encountered this problem a little while ago when I wanted some pot roast, but #1, didn’t have enough time to make it, and #2, didn’t really want to pay full price on a piece of good beef that wasn’t on sale at the grocery store. What was on sale though, was the ground turkey, which gave me the idea of trying to replicate the flavors typically found in pot roast, in a meatball. It worked out very well with my Pizza Meatballs, so I didn’t see why it would be so bad to try it out here.

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This may not be true pot roast, but I am still really happy with how it turned out. The flavors still REALLY do come out in the meatballs, and because they’re ground turkey, you can feel a little bit better about having them versus red meat (if you care about watching your red meat intake anyway). If you read the recipe, you will see that I did cut some corners and used one of those Liptons packets to make my gravy. If you’re a purist who believes in only flour-roux based gravy, then that’s fine. Make it that way. I was just in a hurry and needed some gravy for my pot roast meatballs, and this does the job in a pinch. All in all, this is dish turned out really good. It’s not pot roast, but it definitely still has that comforting, stick to your ribs quality that’s really good for this time of year.

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I was very glad that Angie@TheNoviceGardener asked me back to co-host this weeks Fiesta Friday #44 with my good friend Prudy@ButterBasilandBreadcrumbs. It’s a real treat, and I hope all of you can join us, as we always have a lot of fun. If you’re interested in swinging by to contribute, or even just to see what the rest of us are bringing to the party this week, then just click the icon link below. Hope to see you there!

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Pot Roast-Style Meatballs

Recipe by Jess

Print

Ingredients

For Meatballs

  • 3 lbs. ground turkey
  • 1 lb. Turkey sausage
  • 1 packet (.87 oz) of onion (or brown) gravy mix (Like Liptons)
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. ground thyme
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (and 1/2 cup more, if needed)
  • 1 egg, beaten

For Gravy

  • 1 packet of Brown gravy mix (Like Liptons)
  • 1-2 tbsp. flour

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place a wire rack over a half sheet pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside

2. Combine all ingredients for meatballs together in a large bowl. If mixture feels too wet to shape, then add remaining half cup of breadcrumbs.

3. Shape meat into golf-ball sized meatballs and place onto wire rack. Bake in oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until meatballs reach an inner temperature of 165° F.

4. Follow package instructions for gravy, adding additional flour to thicken, if desired. Drizzle on top of the meatballs and serve with white rice or egg noodles.

Spiced Turkey Breast

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The president came to town two days ago, guys.

My town, that is. If any of you out there follow news from The White House, then you may have read or seen that President Barack Obama was in East Lansing, MI on Friday afternoon for a few hours to sign a new agricultural bill at Michigan State University (which also happens to be my alma mater). It’s not everyday that the President comes to town- especially this lame town- so, it created somewhat of a stir in the media in the days leading up to his visit. I’ve been a fan/admirer/supporter/whatever you wanna call it of Barack Obama since before he was even elected into office, so I was happy that he was stopping by my hometown and my school…partly.

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The actual signing and remarks that he gave were closed to the general public (meaning you either had to be a government official, related to one, or somebody with a lot of money & connections- of which I am neither), so I couldn’t be there in person to see him and was relegated to watching the whole she-bang at home on television. It all felt kinda bittersweet.

See, this isn’t the first time that Barack Obama’s been to East Lansing. He also came to Michigan State University all the way back in 2008 when he was still campaigning in his first bid for the presidency. I was just a sophomore back then, so I still lived on campus at the time. It was a Thursday that he came back then. I think that presidential elections usually bring about a general kind of high charged atmosphere, particularly in the fall when it gets close to Election Day.  But that first time that then-Senator Obama came to MSU…the atmosphere was positively electric on campus. Special police forces were called in for security and crowd control. Roads were blocked off. It was pretty much a given to most students on campus that if you didn’t have a test or quiz (or weren’t exactly…fans of the presidential candidate) then you were going to skip class to try and get a spot on the field where the rally was being set up. Heck, I even knew people that planned on voting Republican that year that were still planning on going to hear Barack Obama speak, if nothing else for the historical implications of the event. It was one of those things where “everyone” was going to go and be apart of.

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October 2nd, 2008-The day we made Obama an Honorary “Spartan for Life”

Which was why it sucked so badly that yours truly was not at the rally with everyone else seeing the man who would become the first African American man elected President of the United States speak, but instead at her job in the dorm cafeteria. Yours truly was a broke college student that couldn’t afford to take off work from either one of her three jobs at the time. So she missed her chance to see the future-President when he came to town for the first time, just like I was denied my chance to see him two days ago when he came again for the second time.

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February 7th, 2014- I’m not a member of, or family member of a member of Congress. I’m also not rich or ‘well connected’, so this is the day that I’m yet again denied the chance to see President Obama speak in person. Just saying.

It’s all good though, guys. I’m not bitter about it. Good things come in threes, so the way I figure it: the President will somehow, for some reason come back to Lansing for a third time within the next couple of years and the stars will somehow align so that I’ll be able to go and see him in person without any hindrances or obstacles- right? Of course right.

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I kinda liken this recipe to  this story in that they both feel like things that are definitely right place, but wrong time kind of things. For a long time now, I’ve had a crazy craving to have turkey and gravy with stuffing and homemade cranberry sauce. My American friends will know that these are typically foods that aren’t eaten at this type of year, but instead around November for Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas.  But yeeeeeah: my tastebuds weren’t gonna wait that long to kill that craving again, so I just finally decided to roast a bird and throw the other stuff together anyway, and to heck with holiday traditions. To make things easier on myself, I did decide to just cook a turkey breast (which is my favorite part of poultry anyway). I went with the same recipe for homemade cranberry sauce that I used for Thanksgiving, and also found a very quick and easy recipe for stuffing muffins using only Stovetop mix (I’ll post it later this week) that took me literally less then five minutes to put together. It all hit the spot…then made bomb.com leftovers when I smashed them all together between two pieces of toast.

Sometimes it’s about right place, wrong time- then sometimes it’s about right place and making your own time.

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Spiced Turkey Breast

Recipe Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 (4 1/2 to 5-pound) turkey breast, on the bone, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
  • 10 cipollini onions
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°

2. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, garlic, cumin, oregano, allspice, chili powder, brown sugar and oil.

3. Place the turkey breast in a nine by thirteen-inch roasting pan. Spread the softened butter over the top and side of the turkey, then spread the mustard mixture over the top and sides of the turkey to form a crust.

4. Add the onions, carrots, and chicken stock to the pan. Roast for 45 minutes.

5. Cover the pan loosely with foil and continue to bake for another 45 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 175 degrees F. Allow the turkey to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

6. Remove the vegetables and arrange on a serving platter. Remove the turkey and place on a cutting board.

7. Pour about 1/2 cup of the pan juices into a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Whisk in the remaining pan juices. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Season the pan juices with salt and pepper and pour into a serving pitcher.

To serve, slice the turkey into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the turkey slices on the serving platter with the roasted vegetables and serve with the pan juices.

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