Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns

20 Apr

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Happy Easter to all of you – I hope that yall are having a beautiful day! Hot cross buns are traditional to eat on Good Friday, so I’d made a batch to munch on during Holy Week. I’ve made a similar version before but they were pretty plain without any dried fruit. So naturally I wanted to jazz them up this time with the cranberry and orange flavor combo which is one of my favorites! Especially since I don’t like raisins, which is the usual dried fruit that’s added. Sorry to all you raisin lovers out there, but you can sub any kind of dried fruit that your heart desires.

So whether you make these for the holidays or just because, I hope you enjoy! And because I’m reminiscing about spending last Easter in Rome, “Buona Pasqua” to you all!

Cranberry Orange Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (also equals 2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp granulated white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Plus 1 egg and 1 Tbsp milk or water for an egg wash before baking

Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk
A few drops of orange extract (optional)

Yield: 1 dozen

Directions:
To make the buns: In a small saucepan or in the microwave, heat the milk until lukewarm (about 100 degrees F). Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

Meanwhile in the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Once the yeast is foamy, gradually add to the flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the melted butter, egg, and orange zest and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on medium low speed, with the dough hook, gradually add the cranberries and continue to knead the dough until it is silky smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough once, so the top is lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap  and place in a warm spot to rise until it has almost doubled in size (about 1 1/2 – 2 hours).

When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down to release the air, and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a small round ball and place on a lined baking sheet. (lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat) Place three buns to a row, four rows altogether. They should be spaced so they have enough room to double in size.) Cover the buns with a tea towel or lightly spray a piece of plastic wrap with a nonstick cooking spray and place lightly over the buns. Place in a warm spot until almost doubled in size (about 60 minutes).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the tops of the buns with an egg wash (one beaten egg mixed with 1 Tablespoon milk or water) and brush the tops of the buns with the wash. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for about15 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, milk, and orange extract if using and mix until smooth. Add a little extra powdered sugar if it’s too runny, till you get the consistency you want. Place the glaze in a paper cone or small plastic bag. Cut the end of the cone or bag and pipe a cross on the top of each bun.

Source: Slightly adapted from Joy of Baking

Garlic Bread Pizza Crust

10 Apr

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I’m certain I’ve said it before, but Friday pizza night is a huge staple in our home. Our family did it growing up, I’ve continued it in my marriage, and now I can’t wait to share the tradition with our little one who will be here in THREE WEEKS! Pardon me while this blows my mind…still can’t believe we’ll be meeting our baby so soon!

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I’ve used the same homemade pizza crust recipe for the past 3+ years and have been totally happy with it, so you know it’d take an awesome new recipe to make me change my ways. I saw this recipe for garlic bread pizza crust and my eyes were sold by the delicious photos alone. It’s a pretty straightforward recipe, but is smothered in extra butter, garlic, and parmesan at the end. Ya know, if that’s your thing. I followed the full garlic extreme recipe the first time I made it and was in heaven, and then tried it again without the extra additions. (photo at the top is the toned down version, photo below is the full blown garlic bread type) The simple version was of course a bit healthier but still full of flavor and has a perfect texture. And as you can see below, the full recipe has the extra buttery, cheesy, garlic blasted goodness around the edges which is decadent and a nice indulgence once in a while. The recipe is meant to make one pizza – we don’t like crazy thick crust so I actually divide it in two get double the pizza out of one batch of dough. And as you can see, it’s still not super thin!

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In fact, this two for one has been a big time saver! On one of my days off, when I have the time to make a full batch of dough, I’ll divide it in two and then freeze them for the next two Fridays. SO easy! To do this, after letting the dough rise for the 1 1/2 hours, take two plastic zipper bags (quart size works for me) and spray the inside of the bag with olive oil or non-stick spray. Divide the dough into two, put one half into each bag, and pop them in the freezer. Then, just put the dough into the fridge for about a day before you’re going to use (I transfer mine on Thursday nights) to defrost. Then while you’re prepping your pizza ingredients on the day of, take the defrosted dough out of the fridge to come to room temp, roll, top, bake, and enjoy!

Garlic Bread Pizza Crust

Ingredients:
1 1/8 cups warm water (100-105 degrees)
3 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 Tbso honey
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
Whatever pizza sauce and toppings you want!

Optional – for extra garlic bread flavor:
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, pressed or very finely minced
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese

Yield: 2 pizza crusts

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, honey, and olive oil. Mix with a spoon, then let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add in 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, garlic powder, and dried basil, stirring with a spoon or mixing with a dough hook until the dough comes together but it still sticky. Work the additional 1/2 cup flour (you don’t need to use all if it is not needed) in to the dough, kneading it with the dough hook or using your hands on a floured surface for a few minutes. Rub the same bowl with olive oil then place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover bowl with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

After the dough has risen, punch it down and place it back on the floured surface. Using a rolling pin or your hands, form it into your desired shape on a pizza/baking pan. Place the towel back over the dough and let sit in the warm place for 10 minutes.

Continue to make your pizza with your desired toppings. Bake the pizza for 23-25 minutes (or longer if needed, depending on your toppings), or until crust and cheese are both golden. Let the pizza set for a minute, then slice and serve!

If going all out with the garlic bread flavors:
While the dough is rising again, melt 3 Tbsp of butter. Mix it with the garlic and 1 Tbsp of parmesan cheese. Before adding your pizza toppings, using a spoon or pastry brush, douse the outside edges with the butter and garlic mixture. You can spread the butter all over, just make sure to focus on the edges. Use it all up! While the pizza is baking, melt remaining butter and combine with the last Tbsp of parmesan. Remove the pizza from the oven and immediately brush the outside edges with parmesan butter, using it all up. Sprinkle a bit of parmesan over the top and serve!

Source: How Sweet Eats

Marble Pound Cake

27 Mar

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Did you know that March 4th was National Pound Cake Day? There’s actually a fun food holiday for every day of the year! I celebrate when I can, even if I don’t post the recipe till weeks later, oops! This year I had a hankering for marble pound cake, one of my favorite flavors, because you don’t have to choose between vanilla or chocolate. Best of both worlds!

This was really easy to make and turned out great! The only thing I’d change is the fact that apparently I went a little swirl crazy, because my chocolate and vanilla swirls are really small instead of being thicker and more defined. So just go easy on the swirling, even though it’s fun and easy to get carried away!

Marble Pound Cake

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
Butter or cooking spray for pan

Yield: 1 loaf

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter or spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour.

Scoop 1/3 of the batter into another bowl and set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix the cocoa powder and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of boiling water until smooth. Add the cocoa mixture to the small bowl of cake batter; and stir it well.

To assemble the cake, start by creating a checkerboard pattern in the bottom of the pan by spooning dollops of each batter on opposite sides of the pan. (see pictures in the original recipe, link below) For the second layer, alternate the pattern, spooning vanilla batter over the chocolate and vice versa. Finish with a final layer of batter, again alternating it from the pattern of the 2nd layer.

Use a knife or skewer to swirl all the batters together. Make a couple figure 8s and run it back and forth so it is swirled and pretty.
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 40 to 60 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake from pan and cool completely on the rack. Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Source: The Baker Chick

Spicy Sausage Pasta

15 Mar

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This week, I was craving some sort of a zesty pasta dish with sausage. After a few searches, I ran across this recipe and knew they were the flavors I was looking for. The smoky turkey sausage with the tomatoes, green chiles, pepper jack cheese, and creamy sauce made for a delicious dinner. And the pasta of course hit the spot – I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like! It was exactly what this pregnant lady was wanting.

What’s even better is, if you have an oven safe pan, you can make the whole meal in one dish! Gotta love less dishes to do after a great simple meal. Also, the original recipe has Weight Watchers info and tips to make this a lower calorie meal. (see the link below) Enjoy!

Spicy Sausage Pasta

Ingredients:
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 of an onion, chopped
13 oz smoked turkey sausage, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
10 oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes & green chiles
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
10-12 oz uncooked bowtie pasta
4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
2 medium green onions, diced

Yield: 6 servings

Directions:
In a large skillet or sauté pan (oven-safe if you have it), add the olive oil and bring over medium heat. Add the onions and sausage to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes until sausage is browned and onions are tender. Add the garlic and stir. Continue to cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add the broth, Ro-Tel, half and half, salt, and pepper and mix together. Add the uncooked pasta and stir together until the liquid covers the pasta. Cover the skillet and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and keep covered. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.

Set your oven to broil and make sure one of your oven racks is in the top 1/3 of the oven. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in half of the shredded cheese. If your skillet is oven-safe, you may continue to use it in the following steps. If it isn’t or you aren’t sure, transfer the pasta into a baking dish. (either a 7×11 or 9×13 dish would work)

Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese over the top of the pasta. Place the dish in the top 1/3 of the oven and broil for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown (keep checking because broiling can happen really fast!). Remove from oven and sprinkle the green onions on top. Serve while hot and enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Emily Bites

Turtle Cookies

10 Mar

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I made these cookies as a special treat for some folks who went above and beyond in their recent generosity and kindness. And…maybe I kept a few for myself. Trust me, you would have too! These cookies are out of this world delicious. The base is a rich chocolate cookie dough that is rolled in finely chopped pecans. Once baked, you make a caramel topping to fill in the little cookie crater on top. Then you can drizzle some melted chocolate on top – totally optional, but it serves as a nice finishing touch. You can use the famous turtle flavors of chocolate, caramel, and pecans in so many tasty ways but this is my current favorite!

Turtle Cookies

Ingredients:
For the cookie:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated, plus 1 additional egg white
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pecans, finely chopped

For the caramel topping:
14 soft caramel candies (I used Kraft Traditional Caramels)
3 Tbsp heavy cream
For the chocolate drizzle (optional):
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp shortening

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Directions:
To prepare the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt; set aside. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla; mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour. Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy. Place chopped pecans in another bowl. Roll chilled dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, and then roll in pecans.  Place balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Using a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in the center of each dough ball. Bake until set, about 12 minutes.

To prepare the caramel filling: Microwave caramels and cream together in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Once cookies are removed from the oven, gently re-press the indentations.  Fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon of the caramel mixture. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare the chocolate drizzle (optional): Place chocolate and shortening in a small zip-top plastic bag. Set bag in a bowl of warm water to soften. Gently knead the chocolate with your fingers until melted and smooth, placing back in the warm water for a minute or two as needed. (or you can microwave the chocolate and shortening in the bag, a little at a time, until it’s soft and combined) Snip a very small hole in the corner of the plastic bag. Drizzle chocolate over the cooled cookies.

Source: The Kitchen Is My Playground

Brownie Walnut Pie

27 Feb

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I saw the lovely Giada De Laurentiis make this pie on her chocolate themed episode on Food Network a while back and have wanted to make it ever since. So when my coworker’s Birthday approached and I found out he prefers pie over cakes and likes chocolate and nuts, this dessert immediately came to mind.

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You can follow the original recipe and make a tasty biscotti cookie crust, but I went with a simple homemade graham cracker crust instead. But, I decided to use dark brown sugar to give it a richer and deeper flavor that really worked with the chocolate and walnut combo. (the crust recipe will be posted soon too!) The consistency of the pie is like a fudgy brownie and is super rich. So just a warning that a small slice will go a long way! You can get creative with the nutty decoration on the top of the pie. Plus if you want to sub another type of nut (pecans would be awesome too) it would be just as delicious!

Brownie Walnut Pie

Ingredients:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup walnut pieces
Graham cracker crust (pre-made or homemade)
Walnut halves, optional

Yield: 8-10 servings

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the butter and the chocolate over low heat in a medium saucepan until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour and salt with a spatula. Stir in the nut pieces. Scrape the batter into the prepared crust. Press a ring of walnut halves, if using, into the batter around the top edge.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake until the outer 2 to 3 inches are slightly puffed and dry looking and the center is set, 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserted into the center should come out with some moist batter still attached. Cool the pie completely on a rack.

Cut the pie into wedges and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if wanted. Enjoy!

Source: Food Network – Giada De Laurentiis

Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

24 Feb

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Apparently I really stocked up on canned pumpkin last fall – I found a few cans in the cabinet recently and suddenly craved a pumpkin spice treat. I found this cookie recipe that sounded amazing and it didn’t disappoint! The cookies are soft and chewy, just the way I like them. The glaze is originally made with maple syrup but I happened to have some gingerbread syrup (like the kind you put in coffee) and gave that a try instead. Delicious!

I could eat pumpkin flavored things all year round, no hesitations. Go ahead and use up that extra can of pumpkin or if it’s too soon in your book, squirrel this recipe away for the fall!

Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

For the glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp gingerbread syrup (or maple syrup)

Yield: 2 dozen

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium blow, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Slowly add in the flour mixture until just combined. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Drop or roll the dough by the Tablespoonful onto the pan, leaving 1 inch apart. Flatten the dough a little with your hand. Bake for 12-15 minutes and allow to cool on a rack.

For the glaze, whisk together all of the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Once the cookies are completely cool, dip the tops into the glaze and allow to set on a rack. Enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from Real House Moms

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