Monday, March 29, 2010

Coleen's Decadent Maple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

If you ever want to celebrate a morning  you must make these maple glazed cinnamon rolls.

Sweet, fluffy, cinnamon-y, pecan-y, maple-y goodness, delectable rolls just for you.  All warm and fragrant and waiting...

You know you want it.   Just a nibble. A tiny corner where all the maple glaze just spills so sweetly over the edge.  Couldn't hurt.  Right?

My beautiful friend and cook extraordinaire, Coleen of Coleen's Recipes, bubbled with enthusiasm and compliments for these, and, no surprise, here,  she was so right. So when Coleen mentioned that I should make these, well, I knew that I just had to.  Coleen has many loyal followers and fans of her terrific cooking, but if haven't had the pleasure of meeting her, I encourage you to skip on over and visit.  Believe me, you won't want to leave, and if you're like me, you'll be bookmarking everything she makes.

Coleen's Pecan Maple Cinnamon Rolls

For the rolls:
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar

One package dry active yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons if using bulk)**
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the filling:
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons softened butter (for spreading on rolled dough)

Maple Glaze
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon maple flavor extract (such as Mapleine)
2-3 tablespoons milk or enough to make a nice smooth glaze

Mix the buttermilk, vegetable oil and sugar in a saucepan and warm the mixture to about 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit, just below the boiling point.  (Alternatively you could use your microwave, which is what Coleen and I did.)  Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool down and then stir in the dry yeast.  Allow the mixture to sit for five to ten minutes, allowing time for the yeast to "bloom."

Add 4 cups (from the 4/1 2 cups required) to the liquid ingredients and stir well; no kneading is required.  The batter is heavy and sticky, but that's okay; it's supposed to be.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place for an hour.

In a small, separate bowl, mix the final 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir down the rested dough and add dry ingredients.  Mix until well incorporated. The dough will still be quite sticky.

Turn the batter out onto a well-floured work surface and roll the dough around a few times, coating the outside so that it is not quite so sticky.  Roll or pat the dough into a rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick.  Spread the dough surface with the 2 tablespoons of butter and then add evenly spread on the filling ingredients and top with the nuts, patting the nuts into the sugar.

Roll the dough up jelly roll style, keeping it as tight as you can.  Inch the seam shut.  Cut 1 1/2 inch slices and lay them cut side dwn, in a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake in preheated 375*F oven for about 20 minutes or until golden and then sound hollow when you tap on them.  Drizzle with glaze while the rolls are still hot.

To make the glaze, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, using only 2 tablespoons of milk to start.  If the glaze is too thick, add additional milk in drops, stirring well in between, until the desired spreading consistency is achieved.

**A packet of yeast contains 2 1/4 teaspoons.  In Coleen's notes, she indicated she used an entire tablespoon, which is what I did (I am such a follower, grins).  The additional yeast gives it a little additional loft, I buy yeast in bulk,  but if you only have the packets of yeast, I'd used the suggested amount.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pork Chops with Pineapple & BBQ Baked Beans

Dinner started out to be a new roast chicken recipe I saw.  I had my face all fixed for it, just imagining the wonderful honey and herb glaze....ymmmm....  And then, when I went to add the broth to the (hot) glass roasting dish, the glass shattered.  Right there, right in front of me, all over the oven, broth and fat dripping and sizzling and dancing down the sides of the oven and into the drawer below.  We won't talk about the little bits of purple Pyrex glass that went everywhere.Or the five cats who suddenly appeared and wanted to be a part of the excitement.

Ole Sweetie-Pi came to the rescue.  He sopped up the oven, vacuumed up all the glass he could find, and the next day took the oven apart  (after everything and everyone had cooled down) and cleaned it and the drawer and all the cookie sheets and trays stored below.  Nary a negative word was spoken.  That's how he got his name, Ole Sweetie-Pi.

Sigh..... Dinner Plan B went into effect.  Pizza. Out.

Refusing to be undone, the next night I decided to try baked pork chops.   This was a last minute decision as I had planned on leftover chicken, searched the internet for an easy pork chop recipe and found this delightful recipe using ingredients I had on hand. 

The verdict?  I think this has Mom's easy weeknight family  meal written all over it. This is hearty, slightly sweet from the pineapple, slightly spicy from the barbecue sauce and onion. The pork chops, while tender, did not absorb the flavors of the other ingredients, so perhaps baking them with the gussied up beans is more for a sense of dressing them up than for flavor.

We liked this.  I'll make it again.  After all, who am I to disagree with Mom.

Pork Chops with Pineapple and BBQ Baked Beans

1 onion, chopped1 tablespoon oil or butter or combination of the two
1 can baked beans (21-22 oz.)

4 to 6 pork chops

Good shake of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 375*F. Have ready a 12" x 8" pan or size appropriate to hold the number of chops you are baking.

In a frying pan (that will eventually be used to brown the pork chops) add the oil and saute the onions until they are a nice golden brown. Remove from pan and add to the mix into the beans. Spread the beans in the bottom of the baking dish.

Salt and pepper the chops and sprinkle with garlic. Add the pork chops in a single layer in the frying pan and brown chops on both sides but do not cook through. Layer chops in single layer on top of beans.

In a small bowl combine the drained, crushed pineapple and the barbecue sauce. Pour over pork chops and bean layers. 

Bake for 45 minutes until bubbly and brown.  Serves 4-6.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Oatmeal Struesel Date Bars

I am rediscovering the date ~ no not the one where Ole Sweetie-Pi and I go out to a restaurant and make goo-goo eyes at each, though that's nice too.  I am talking about that Middle Eastern fruit the Medjool date that is grown on palm trees and eaten whole or dried.  I am talking about that plump, sweet, chewy  little jewel that that can be eaten out of hand or used in cooking. The date is nature's own candy.

My grandmother always often had a package stashed in her tiny white pantry.  At the end of the school day when I'd go and visit her, she'd take the rectangular package from its place, and she'd take out two dates, one for each of us, and we  would savor just the one and she'd put the package away again. She could make a package last a long time, smiles.

So, here's a simple little bar cookie.  And like the dates I used to share with my sainted Grandmother, you can only eat one very sweet little square at a time, preferably with a large cup of tea or coffee.

Date Bars

3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, chopped **
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 cup old fashioned oats **
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks)  butter, diced, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 9x9-inch baking pan with foil, first in one direction, and then crossing over in the opposite direction with a section piece.  Butter sides and bottom of tin foil..

Bring 3/4 cup water to simmer in medium saucepan. Add dates; simmer until very soft and thick, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla.baking pan

Combine flour, sugar, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in large bowl; stir to blend. Add butter using fingertips or a pastry cutter, and rub in until moist clumps form. Press half of oat mixture evenly over bottom of baking dish. Spread date mixture over. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture; press gently to adhere.

Bake until golden brown and set in center, about 20 minutes, taking care not to overbake. Cool completely in pan on rack.

Using the edges of the foil, lift out the cookies. Peel down the foil from the edges and cut into bars and serve.

**Buy the whole dates, not the kind that are prechopped and presweetened.
**I used One Minute oatmeal, and it worked just fine.

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Apple Turnovers

    Ever have a fear that was seemingly so overwhelming that you thought you'd never be able to face it down and when you finally do, you have to wonder what all the confounded flap was about?  That was me and frozen puff pastry.  For years I was afraid of trying it. They said that puff pastry was difficult to work with.  Now, I don't recall exactly who they are but they are grossly overstating puff pastry finickiness.  This was no more difficult than working with frozen pie crust.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  I'm going to go out and buy a carton of this stuff. 

    Vrinda, my friend on Sankeerthanam, made these the other day and after seeing how golden and flaky they were, I could not resist.  I love turnovers and up until now have only made them at home using pie crust.  After this, it's puff pastry every time!

    This is an Ina Garten recipe, and is very very good.  Personally, the next time I make these I'm going to omit the dried cherries (although they do add a nice burst of flavor and color; it's just I'm more of a purist) and add a nice drizzle of glaze.

    These work up quickly, if you remember to take the puff pastry out to defrost ~ memo to self ~ before you need it.

    Apple Turnovers
    (Ina Garten of the Food Network)

    1 package (17.3 ounces, 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted.  Preheat oven to 400*F. 

    1 teaspoon grated orange zest
    3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
    1 1/4 pounds tart apples, such as Empire or Granny Smith ( about 3 smallish apples)
    3 tablespoons dried cherries
    3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on top
    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour **
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon **
    1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg **
    Pinch kosher salt

    1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

    Follow the directions on the back of the box to defrost the puff pastry, planning on a good 40 to 60 minutes for the pastry to defrost.

    Wash and dry the outside of the orange and then zest the orange part of the peel into a medium bowl.  Add the orange juice and then add the dried cherries to rehydrate them.

    Peel and core the apples and then cut them in 3/4-inch dice. Immediately toss the apples with the zest and juice to prevent them from turning brown. Add the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

    Flour a board and lightly roll each sheet of puff pastry to a 12 by 12-inch square. Cut each sheet into 4 smaller squares and keep chilled until ready to use

    Brush the edges of each square with the egg wash and neatly place about 1/3 cup of the apple mixture on half of the square.

    Fold the pastry diagonally over the apple mixture  to make a tricorner and seal by pressing the edges with a fork. Trim any uneven edges with a sharp knife. 

    Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

    Brush the top with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, make 2 small slits to allow steam to escape.

    Bake for 20 minutes, until browned and puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    **My apples looked a little juicy and upped the flour to 2 tablespoons.  Worked perfectly.
    **C'mon 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon?  I added 1/2 teaspoon!
    **I use freshly grated nutmeg, which tends to be stronger and more vibrant in flavor than the the pre-grated spice, but even eyeballing it, I probably had a good 1/4 teaspoon.  Go easy on this one though this is a spice that can easily become overpowering. 

    Now to make puff pastry from scratch.  Someday....right now that's a bugaboo...

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Fresh Clams Steamed in Wine

    Got wine?

    Now here's an easy and  simple recipe that takes  steamers (steamed clams) to a whole new level by replacing the water  that is ordinarily used to steam the clams with a bottle of dry white wine.  I used an entire bottle of Riesling I had on hand, and the steamers became a food of elegance. What could be nicer than seafood and wine.

    But I still have to chuckle, because there's no way to eat these elegantly as there is still some picking about with the fingers, the discarding of shells, and the dripping  of butter as one attempts  to pop these wonderful mollusks into the mouth.  I think no matter how much you dress these up, it is still a food that is best eaten at home with family and friends.

    Clams Steamed in White Wine

    There's really no recipe, just a method. I made these for me, but the recipe can be scaled up if you are serving more people.  There's no right or wrong, just personal preference.

    Start out with a couple pounds of fresh clams (discarding any clams that are open).  Rinse and drain the clams in salted water a couple of times to remove any sand that might be remain in the shells).

    In a lobster pot (if you have one, otherwise, a stew pot or dutch oven, depending on how much you're making), add a  liter of wine, a whole peeled onion, three or four cloves of garlic, some peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves.  Add the clams, cover and bring to a boil.  Steam for about 10 minutes and then lift the lid to take a little look-see.  If the clams have all opened, the clams are done.  If the shells remain closed, boil a little longer.  If only a few remain closed, remove them from the pot, discard, and serve the rest.

    If you're of a mind to, strain the broth (because there will be sand) and serve alongside in small bowls; dip the steamers into the broth to rinse off any objectionable remnants of sand and sea and then remove the grey-black rubbery tissue that covers the neck (you'll likely need your fingers for this).  Dunk into hot melted butter (perhaps with a little lemon added) and pop into your eager mouth.  Enjoy!

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Chicken Papaya

    I'm sampling new-to-me foods and recipes in an effort to broaden my culinary horizons so I'll occasionally purchase a fruit or vegetable that is not typically found in my kitchen and find a recipe to go with it.  This week I purchased a papaya.  I like papaya, eating it as I would any melon, but I've never cooked with it, so when I spotted this recipe on Recipezaar with the high ratings I knew immediately what I was going to do.

    Hmm....I  have an admitted fondness for fruits and meats cooked together yet  the jury is still out on this recipe.  I liked this, but I didn't really, really  like it, and I certainly didn't love it.. I found the sauce a little too sweet, but I think it's partly because I used dark brown sugar and the light brown would have been a better choice.  I think the breast should have been cut into bite sized chunks and instead of baking, probably just cooked on the stovetop.  I doubled the sauce because the recipe suggested it, if using over rice. It's a  good idea, but I would not double the amount of papaya.  I loved the addition of orange juice to this; it's perfect company for the papaya, enhancing the delicate flavor.  

    And one last thing, I wish I knew more about spices as I think this could have used something to give it a little more oomph.  Maybe a couple of dried chilis or pepper flakes?    

    Would I eat this again?  Yes, but I'm going to be a bit bolder and try some spices.  Would I order it in a restaurant, as written, probably not.  

    (Recipezaar #187171)

    1 whole roasting chicken, cut up, or 4 chicken breasts, halved, skinless and boneless
    1/4 cup flour

    Salt and pepper
    1/4-1/2 cup butter, melted

    1 cup orange juice
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/2 cup brown sugar (I suggest light brown)
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    2 cups papaya, peeled, seeded, sliced

    Preheat oven to 350* Fahrenheit.  In the roasting pan or baking dish, melt the butter in the oven.

    In a small bowl, combine the  flour and salt and pepper.  Dredge chicken in the flour mixture, or alternatively combine the ingredients in a plastic bag and shake until well combined, and add chicken to coat.

    Remove dish from oven and dip the chicken in the melted butter, with the buttered side up.

    Bake for about one hour or until chicken is tender when pierced with a fork and juices are clear.

    When done, drain fat, reserving chicken, and place chicken back back into the baking dish.

    While the chicken is baking, prepare the sauce.  Combine all ingredients, except papaya, in a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring.  The sauce was thicken and become clear.

    Add the papaya to the chicken, pour the sauce over all, and bake an additional five minutes to heat the papaya through.

    Serve over rice.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Ginger Scallops in Cream Sauce

    Gosh this was good.  Seafood is a real departure from what we normally eat as neither one of us particularly cares for fish, and the only seafood we agree on is scallops, so finding a recipe we both enjoy is a kitchen coup.  Okay, so this wasn't a coup; Ole Sweetie-Pi thought it lacked flavor; the only thing he could taste was carrots. However,  I thought it was full of flavor from the ginger and wine.  I'm making this again, if only for me!

    Ginger Scallops in Cream Sauce

    5 tablespoons butter, divided
    1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (also known as green onions)
    1 1/2 cups carrots, julienned (cut into matchsticks)
    1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc)
    1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot
    3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
    1/4 teaspoon salt (taste before seasoning, may not need it)
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    1 pound bay or sea scallops (sea scallops cut in half if they are very large)

    In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and add the scallions.  Cook and stir for about one minute.

    Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes.

    Stir in the wine and gingerroot.  When the mixture is thoroughly heated, add the cream, and salt and pepper.
    Cook and stir the sauce over medium-high heat about five minutes or until it is reduced by half.

    Add the scallops to the sauce, cooking for one minute if they are bay scallops, or two minutes if using sea scallops.

    Stir in remaining butter and serve.

    Just amazing over rice!!

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Laura's Spinach, Pear, Gorgonzola, Cranberry, Pecan Salad

    I know I've mentioned that my beautiful and intelligent (am I gushing too much in Aunty pride) niece Laura is a foodie.  She's taken it one step further and has earned a Bachelors in Health and Nutrition, so you know she's serious about good food and food that's good for you.  What I didn't know that she has this flair for presenting good food beautifully, and she sent me an email with the above photograph suggesting that perhaps I'd like to share this with all of you.  Would I?  Absolutely!

    There's no recipe, just some ingredients she threw together. She says... "Today I made spinach, pear, gorgonzola salad with glazed pecans and dried cranberries.  Really delicious!!" 

    No recipe.  Just kitchen courageous. (Hey, that would be a great name for a new Food Network TV show.  I always said she'd be a star!)