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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

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Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

5 Dec

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I hope that all of you had a blessed Thanksgiving last week!

Here’s a recipe that’ll make you some fast friends if you bake some and share. The bright citrus mixed with tart cranberries and some home picked pecans are the epitome of holiday flavors and will make your house smell great!

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Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

Ingredients:
1/2 cup pecans, chopped coarse
1 Tbsp grated zest (from 1 large orange)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2/3 cup buttermilk
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups cranberries (6 ounces), chopped coarse

Yield: 1 loaf

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease bottom and sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out excess.

In a small bowl, stir together orange juice, zest, buttermilk, butter, and egg; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir liquid ingredients into the dry until just moistened. Gently stir in cranberries and pecans. Do not overmix.

Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees; continue to bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 45 minutes longer. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely before serving, at least 1 hour.

Source: Sweet Pea’s Kitchen, originally from Baking Illustrated

Strawberry Dream Cake

6 Jun

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I made this cake a while back for my boss’ birthday. The request was for a super strawberry cake, so that’s what they got! The awesome part is… my boss is a guy so he was amused when I arrived with this girly looking cake. Tickled pink, if you will. 😉

This two layer cake is moist and flavorful, then topped with a creamy strawberry frosting and some fresh berries for garnish. Plus, I got to finally test out the petal frosting technique I’d been dying to try.

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Speaking of the petal frosting style, I recently made a huge cake (the biggest I’ve ever made) and decorated it the same way! My friend and coworker asked me to make the cake for her mother’s 80th birthday bash. I made a simple white cake with a yummy vanilla cream cheese frosting and colored it in an ombre style. She loves the color orange, if you couldn’t tell! This three tiered, six layer cake was a beast, but I’m super proud of how it turned out and it tasted great! Baking and decorating large cakes is definitely a big undertaking, but once you learn the ropes and get that first experience under your belt, it isn’t too terribly intimidating. Pretty fun and rewarding actually!

Strawberry Dream Cake

Ingredients:
For the cake:
1 (18.25 oz) white boxed cake mix
1 (3 oz) box strawberry instant gelatin mix
1 (15 oz) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

For the frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10 oz) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
7 cups confectioners sugar
Fresh strawberries for garnish, optional

Yield: 8 servings

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 9 inch round cake pans and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix and gelatin powder. Add the pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree. (The rest of the puree is leftover but can be used in smoothies or on ice cream for a delicious treat.) Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.

Spread frosting in between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with fresh strawberries, if desired.

Source: Slightly adapted from Paula Deen

Blackberry Mojito

5 Jan

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Not sure when I became such a mojito person, but now it’s totally my go-to drink at home when I’m craving a little something. Maybe it’s because my mint plant is still booming, or maybe it’s just because I like mashing things together in a glass. Regardless, when I saw blackberries for next to nothing at the grocery store, I bought a few packs with smoothies and mojitos in mind.

While you can definitely use some simple syrup, one random thing I like to use when making mojitos is raw cane sugar instead. The tart blackberries and lime with the sharp mint and a touch of sugar makes for a beautiful and delicious drink. This definitely won’t be the last mojito you see around here!

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Blackberry Mojito

Ingredients:
4 blackberries
4 mint leaves
1 tsp raw cane sugar (like Sugar in the Raw – I just use a 5 gram packet)
1/2 lime, juiced
1 1/2 oz white rum
Soda water

Yield: 1 drink

Directions:
Muddle the blackberries, mint, sugar, and lime juice in the bottom of your glass. Add the rum and stir. Top it off with some soda water and garnish as desired.

Source: Slightly adapted from One Martini at a Time

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

22 Jun

This recipe is a nice twist on your standard blueberry muffin – the lemon gives it a brighter flavor and the addition of cornmeal adds a different (but nice) texture. Using your own hand picked blueberries makes it a little more special too! 🙂

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup blueberries
1 cup milk
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Juice and zest of 1 medium lemon
Cooking spray
1 Tbsp sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the blueberries and lightly stir to incorporate. Combine the milk, butter, lemon juice and zest, and egg in a bowl. Lightly whisk together. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and stir together until just moist. (try not to over mix!)

Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray, or line with paper liners. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops of each with a pinch of sugar. Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the tin immediately and cool on a wire rack. Serve while warm (ideally) and enjoy!

Source: Slightly adapted from myrecipes.com

Blueberry Picking

14 Jun

One perk of living in a small country town is that there are neat places nearby to do food related activities like…blueberry picking!

About 5 minutes away from our home, there’s a farm where you can go pick your own blueberries, so hubby and I went for a fun outing. It’s a huge property with endless rows of plants – the employees were so nice and led us to the most fruitful spots.

After only 45 minutes, we’d picked 3 pounds and decided that was plenty for our first trip. Let me tell you, these berries are plump and SO fresh! A few berries may or may not have been eaten in the picking process…

There will be some mighty tasty blueberry recipes to follow – stay tuned!

PS: If you live in the North Texas area and want to join in the blueberry picking fun, let me know and I can point you in the right direction 🙂

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

1 Jun

I’ve officially fallen in love with strawberry spinach salads. They make a mighty tasty one at the place I work, which sparked my current obsession and forced me to try making my own at home. Packed full of flavor and easily customized, it’s such a simple, healthy, and delicious lunch choice or light dinner option. You can add grilled chicken, cheese, or whatever your heart desires. Try it for yourselves – but don’t blame me if you fall in love too. 🙂

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
For dressing:
2-3 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed and halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
Dash of pepper

For salad:
Baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried if needed
Sliced strawberries, for topping
Sliced almonds, for topping (optional)

Directions:
To make the dressing, simply combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. (add a little more berries or sugar to taste if you think it needs more sweetness)

Arrange spinach on a plate and sprinkle with sliced almonds and some strawberry slices. Drizzle the vinaigrette on top and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Source: Inspired by several things, including Annie’s Eats, dressing slightly adapted from Vegetarian Perspective