Thursday, October 13, 2016

Caramel Monkey Bread

I combined two recipes already on here (in a real cooking funk lately, obviously.... I don't even have new recipes anymore!) to make this delicious caramel cinnamon monkey bread.  Our family loves this caramel frosting.  It made a little too much for the rolls, but we just dipped them in it.  Sugar for days.

Caramel Monkey Bread
rolls from here, icing from here

3 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
1 cup milk, warm (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface (I used one cup whole wheat pastry)
2 teaspoons salt

Brown Sugar Coating:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), melted

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (try reducing to 2/3 or 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar

1. Butter a Bundt pan (a non-stick pan works best) with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Use a pastry brush to really help get inside all of those nooks and crannies. Set aside.

2. In a large liquid measuring cup, mix together the milk, water, 2 Tbs. melted butter, sugar, and yeast. Mix the flour and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the milk mixture. After the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. If you think the dough is too wet (i.e. having a hard time forming a cohesive mass), add 2 tablespoons flour at a time and mix until the dough comes together (it should still be on the sticky side, just not overly wet). I had to add about an extra 2/3 cup flour because of my humid climate. Coat a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat lightly with the cooking spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, 1-2 hours (alternately, you can preheat the oven to 200 degrees, turning it off once it reaches 200 degrees and place the covered bowl in the oven to speed up the rising time).

3. For the sugar coating, while the dough is rising, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Place the melted butter in a second bowl or shallow pie plate. Set aside.

4. To form the bread, gently remove the dough from the bowl and press it into a rough 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut the dough into 64 pieces. I found it easiest to divide the huge mass into 4 pieces, and then make 16 out of each 4th. See, you DO use math in the real world!!! I just got a bench scraper, BTW, and LOVE it!

5. Roll each dough piece into a ball (it doesn’t have to be perfect, just get it into a rough ball-shape). Working one at a time, dip the balls in melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into the bowl or pie plate. Roll the dipped dough ball in the brown sugar mixture, then layer the balls in the Bundt pan, staggering the seams where the dough balls meet as you build layers. You may need a little extra sugar/cinnamon mixture.

6. Cover the Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and let the monkey bread rise until puffy and they have risen 1-2 inches from the top of the pan, 1-2 hours (again, you can use the warm oven approach to speed this up).

7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (remove the pan from the oven if you placed it there to rise). Unwrap the pan and bake until the top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cover with foil at the end if browning too quickly. Cool the monkey bread in the pan for 5 minutes (any longer and the bread will be too sticky and hard to remove!), then turn out on a platter or large plate and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

8. While rolls are cooling, prepare the caramel icing: Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and salt and stir until combined. Continue cooking over low heat for another 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly. Add the heavy whipping cream and stir to combine. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Whisk in the powdered sugar until nice and smooth. Pour most of the icing over the monkey bread.  Reserve some for dipping, if desired.

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Early Autumn Roast Veggies

I've been super busy lately, and also not cooking anything new.  So I haven't been around.  But I'm back today with this post that isn't even really a "recipe".  I saw it on The Kitchn's Facebook page. They posted a little how-to video on roasting any veggie.  I picked the same veggies they used and added a red onion.  I loved the red onion; it was my favorite part of this dish.  I think everyone knows how to roast veggies, but maybe this will inspire someone.  Go to The Kitchn to see the video (and read the helpful article, especially if it's your first time).  Next time, I'll just do sweet potatoes and red onion, because those were really good together.

Early Autumn Roast Veggies
from The Kitchn

1 to 2 pounds any vegetable (I used sweet potato, zucchini, yellow summer squash, and red onion)
1 tablespoon olive oil (more if needed)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mixing bowl
Measuring spoons
Baking sheet, oven-safe skillet, or baking dish

1.  Heat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the middle position.

2.  Chop up the vegetables: Cut the vegetables into uniform pieces so they cook evenly. Smaller pieces will cook more quickly; larger pieces will take a bit longer to cook. If your vegetables still have some moisture after washing, be sure to pat them as dry as possible; the more dry the vegetable, the better it will roast.

3.  Toss the vegetables with olive oil and salt: Transfer the vegetables to a mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add more olive oil if the vegetables still look dry or don't seem evenly coated.

4.  Spread onto a baking sheet: Spread the vegetables out onto a baking sheet, into an oven-proof skillet, or into a baking dish. Make sure they are in a single layer with a little space in between; if they are too crowded, your vegetables will steam instead of roast.

5.  Estimate your cooking time: In general, softer vegetables, like green beans and cauliflower, will cook in 10 to 20 minutes, and tough, hard vegetables, like squash and potatoes, will take 30 minutes or longer. Large pieces will also take longer to cook than smaller pieces.

6.  Roast the vegetables until tender: Place the vegetables in the oven and begin roasting. Check and stir the vegetables every 10 to 15 minutes. Continue roasting until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork or knife and they are showing crispy, charred bits at the tips and edges.

7.  Serve immediately: Transfer the vegetables to a serving dish and taste; sprinkle with additional salt or pepper if needed. Serve while still hot.
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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Rice Krispie Brownies

I made and enjoyed Mel's Kitchen Cafe Killer Crunch Brownies recently.  A fudge brownie layer is topped with marshmallow creme, then topped with a mixture of melted chocolate, peanut butter, and Rice Krispies.

Rice Krispie Brownies
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 (12 oz) bag chocolate chips
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

7 oz jar marshmallow crème
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 cups rice krispie cereal

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. (I skipped lining it with anything; just sprayed non-stick spray.)

2. To make the brownies, in a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate chips, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when the chocolate chips are completely melted. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each one. Add flour, salt and mix until well-combined. Pour batter into your prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

3. To make the topping, dollop the marshmallow crème on top of the brownies and smooth into an even layer. Then in a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips, stirring constantly. When completely smooth and melted, remove from the heat and stir in rice krispies. Carefully spread over the marshmallow layer and gently spread into an even layer. Let brownies cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until the topping is set, at least1-2 hours. Serve cold or at room temp.  I enjoyed the flavor more at room temp, but they are more solid in the fridge.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Indonesian Chicken Soup- Soto Ayam

 I love chicken soups from around the world.  I need to try more, but one favorite is Portuguese Canja. My Thai friend also made some really good soups for me when she lived here.  This soup, Soto Ayam, is simmered with kaffir lime leaves, fresh lemongrass, ginger and other herbs.  The flavor of this soup is awesome.  You can enhance it with garnishes like fried shallots, hard-boiled eggs, chopped cilantro, mint, and basil, and Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce.

Indonesian Chicken Soup- Soto Ayam
adapted from NY Times

1 free-range chicken, about 3 pounds, quartered (or buy pre-cut chicken pieces)
2 stalks fresh lemon grass, bruised with the handle of a heavy knife and tied in a knot
6 kaffir lime leaves, fresh, frozen or dried (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 ½ tablespoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
5 shallots, peeled and halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh turmeric, or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric**
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
3 tablespoons oil
4 ounces glass noodles or thin dried rice noodles, called vermicelli, bihun or bun (Filipino rice pancit noodles work well)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves, mint, Thai (or regular) basil or cilantro leaves
2 shallots, thinly sliced and fried in vegetable oil until brown (optional)
Quartered limes
chili paste (such as sambal) for serving (or Sriracha)
Cooked white rice (optional)
Hard-boiled eggs, sliced, for serving

1.  Place chicken in a medium pot with lemon grass, lime leaves (if using), salt and 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes, skimming as needed to make a clear broth. Remove chicken pieces from broth and set aside. Remove and discard lemon grass and lime leaves; reserve stock in pot. When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and shred meat into bite-size pieces.

2.  Meanwhile, combine peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a small food processor. Pulse until ground. Add halved shallots, garlic, turmeric and ginger and pulse to a thick paste. Add a little water if needed. (My paste was always kind of chunky, but it was ok- you cook it so it does break down a little.)

3.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. When very hot, add spice paste and cook, stirring until paste is cooked and beginning to separate from the oil, about 5 minutes.  Add cooked spice paste and chicken meat to stock. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

4.  Cook noodles according to package directions. Turn off heat under soup and stir in lime juice. Taste for salt.

5.  To serve, divide noodles in large soup bowls. Ladle chicken pieces and soup on top and sprinkle with celery leaves or herbs, and fried shallots, if using. Pass lime and sambal at the table.
Eat from soup bowl, or serve a scoop of rice on a side plate, sprinkled with more shallots, and put a mouthful of noodles and chicken on rice. Combine on a spoon, dab with sambal, and eat.
*I tried this both with noodles and jasmine rice, and found the rice easier to eat.  It was very tasty both ways.  
**I found the turmeric at my local international foods store.  It was SUPER cheap- a bag for only 1 Euro.  I also found the rice noodles there.  Some may also have the Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass.
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Monday, August 15, 2016

Grilled Balsamic Zucchini

When we grill lately, we've been grilling this zucchini to go with whatever we're grilling, and it's almost always my favorite part of the meal.  It's so flavorful, plus super easy and healthy.  We had these when we grilled the Serbian Sausages recently.

Grilled Balsamic Zucchini
by What a Dish!

olive oil
balsamic vinegar (I've used both thin regular and thicker aged)
freshly ground pepper

1.  Rinse zucchini and trim off ends.  Slice lengthwise, not too thick and not too thin.  Lay on a platter and drizzle with oil and vinegar.  Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill on a hot grill, turning once, until they get dark and a little crispy on the edges.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rainbow Birthday Cake

My little boy just turned 5 years old (yesterday) and really wanted a rainbow cake for his birthday.  I found a great design and some helpful tips from Bakerlady.  For the inside, I just used a homemade yellow cake (instead of making colorful layers from boxes mix like she did.)  I actually used my new favorite recipe for yellow cake, and it comes from Joy the Baker. It's super easy and uses buttermilk. This is the third time I've made it in about six months. I made a 9x13 with it back in February.

To make this, you frost the cake white (you can do a crumb layer first- pic above is frosted with crumb layer).  Use skittles for all the colors, except for blue- use M&M's.  Take a few minutes to separate everything into little bowls. Print out this rainbow coloring page and outline it with white icing (in a plastic baggie with the corner cut off). Turn it upside down onto your cake so the icing sticks onto your blank cake, and you can use the candy to form an even rainbow this way.  Use white frosting to stick on mini marshmallows for clouds.
Buttermilk Yellow Cake
adapted from Joy the Baker

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1.  To make the cake, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2, 8 or 9-inch round cake pans.* Set aside. (Place a round of wax paper inside the pans before flouring.  You can also grease the wax paper.)

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (you can also use a large bowl and electric hand beaters) cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Stop the mixer and and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.

3.  In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients all at once to the butter and egg mixture and beat on low until just combined. Add the buttermilk and beat on low for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds more.
Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cooked through and the top springs back lightly when touch. Test the cake by inserted a skewer into the center of the cake. Cake is done when just a few crumbs are left on the skewer.

4.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.  Remove the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Let cool completely before frosting.
*You can also make this cake in a greased 9x13 pan.

White Frosting

1 cup butter, softened (use salted)
1.5 pounds powdered sugar (may need more)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
milk, a few tablespoons

1.  In a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream butter.  Add sugar, vanilla extract, and milk, whipping until smooth.  Beat for a few minutes.  You can add more powdered sugar if needed.  I actually used 2 lbs so I'd have enough frosting, but it was really sweet.

Rainbow Cake
adapted from Baker Lady

1 layer cake (above)
white frosting (above)
blue sugar (or blue frosting if desired, or that blue frosting spray paint)
1 bag Skittles
1 bag regular M&M's
mini marshmallows

1.  Frost cake white, with frosting in between layers.  Sprinkle blue sugar on the top.  (Or frost it blue, or use that spray paint frosting stuff.)  Separate Skittles into bowls by color, and separate out all the blue M&M's.  Using this coloring page, outline (with white icing or gel) the rainbow.  Turn it upside down onto the smooth surface on top of your cake.  Use this as a guide to form your rainbow.  Starting with red, then orange, then yellow, then green, then blue, then purple. Then, pile up mini marshmallows on the bottom of it for clouds.  Use white frosting to help them stick.  With the leftover candies, make a border around the top and bottom of the cake.  You can do the same color pattern- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Cevapcici (Serbian Grilled Sausages)

We had a Slovenia adventure a few weeks ago.  I never posted about it, but maybe I will later.  (I only have phone pics.)  We ended up needing to be towed back to Italy because our car died, and we had a barbecue with our tow truck driver the night before we left.  His friends came (all Slovenians seem to speak English) and we ate delicious food, including Grilled Serbian Sausages.  I wanted to re-create them at home.

I would say these are more like Cevapcici-inspired, since I couldn't even find lamb to use.  (I only tried one butcher, but the Italian gentleman told me "It's too hot for lamb right now!"  That's why they didn't have it.  I never buy lamb, so I know nothing.)  Anyway, I used a mix of equal parts pork and beef.  The flavor of these was very good, but not quite the same as what we had in Slovenia.
Cevapcici (Serbian Grilled Sausages)
adapted from Allrecipes

1 kilo mixed ground pork/beef (roughly 1 lb. beef, 1 lb. gound pork, can also use lamb)
1 egg white
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1.  Preheat a grill for medium-low heat.  In a large bowl, combine the ground meat and egg white. Add the garlic, salt, baking soda, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika. Mix well using your hands, and form into finger length sausages about 3/4 inch thick. (Can form these ahead of time and store in fridge, covered, until ready to grill.)

2. Lightly oil the grilling surface. Grill sausages until cooked through, turning as needed.  
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