Monday, October 31, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

I've posted Cinnamon Rolls before--Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls. And Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. I've done Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding and I've contemplated PB&J Cinnamon Rolls, Red Velvet Cinnamon Rolls and even Avocado Cinnamon Rolls. Well, maybe not Avocado Cinnamon Rolls. The point is, I've thought of several different versions of Cinnamon Rolls, but I have yet to show you my basic, everyday, out of this world, Cinnamon Roll recipe.

Now, if you have navigated to this page in the hopes of finding a lo-cal version of Cinnamon Roll, you are wasting your time. I use butter. Copious amounts of butter. And I don't skimp on the sugar, either. Seriously, we are talking about Cinnamon Rolls. It is a once in a while treat, not the mainstay of anyone's diet. So let us begin.

Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature, slightly beaten
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup pecans (optional)
 Heat the milk, 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Let cool until temperature is about 110 degrees F (like bathwater warm).

I almost always heat it too much at first. Be sure to let it cool down so you don't kill the yeast. The butter will finish melting, trust me.

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk mixture with yeast, egg, and 2 cups of the flour and the salt; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has just pulled together, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. (Alternately, just use the dough hook on your mixer and let the mixer knead the dough for about five minutes)

The egg, butter, and sugar will give you a nice rich dough...the perfect vehicle for even more butter.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a clean damp towel. Allow dough to rise until double, about 1 hour. In the meantime, in a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll out the dough into a 12X9 inch rectangle (I like to do this on my Silpat). Spread the dough with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Sprinkle with pecans if desired. Roll up the dough and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal sized pieces and place into a greased 9X13 inch pan. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Add some pecans, if you like. Or some raisins or chopped apple. This batch is going to be plain.

Be sure to use a sharp knife when don't want all of the filling to squish out.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and frost while warm.

You are not required to frost these, but I think it adds a little je ne sais quoi.

I personally like my Cinnamon Rolls frosted with a nice Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, but a simple drizzle of glaze will suffice. If you're interested, here's my recipe...I just used it on my Red Velvet Brownies. :)

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 cups powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese and the butter in a medium bowl. Add the orange peel, vanilla, and the orange juice, blending until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat to desired consistency.

Soft, warm, gooey, cinnamon-y and good.

 I find that these rolls will last for a day or two before getting stale. While it is rare that there will be any left, keep in mind that they will make a superb Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding. 
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Red Velvet Brownies with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Red Velvet Brownies with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

I've been messing around with a red velvet brownie recipe for awhile. My daughter and I put our heads together and came up with one using a brownie mix quite some time ago, and I really liked it. In fact, I had to stop making it because I was eating it all by myself. Not a good situation. Actually, I was going to make them for work tomorrow (Halloween potluck), and then I got to thinking that maybe I should be making my brownies from scratch.

Let me just say that I'm not opposed to using cake and/or brownie mixes. I've won recipe contests using refrigerated cookie dough and dry cookie mix. I'm thinking that most people use them. They are convenient and sometimes cheaper (who hasn't stocked up on brownie mixes when they are on sale for $1?). Many times, I just can't seem to get the same consistency in a cake or a brownie than I can get from a mix. That said, most of the time I prefer the made-from-scratch versions. Today, I will give you both versions of my recipe. I will let you decide.

Red Velvet Brownies with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

1¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup buttermilk
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon red food coloring


4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 ° F.; line a 9X13 inch pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on each side of the pan.

I found the coolest parchment paper--on one side non-stick foil and on the other side, parchment. It fits into the pan much easier...

Place the flour, baking soda, sugar, cocoa and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until well-combined; set aside.

In a separate, medium sized bowl, beat together the melted butter, buttermilk, and eggs until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and the food coloring.

Quickly bring eggs to room temperature by placing them in hot water for a few minutes.

Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top of the brownies are dry to the touch. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before carefully removing the brownies using the paper overhang. Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and the butter in a medium bowl. Add the orange peel, vanilla, and the orange juice, blending until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat to desired consistency. Frost cooled brownies; sprinkle walnuts evenly over the top, if desired. 

Be careful not to over bake your brownies...better to under bake. Dry brownie = yucky.

They turned out pretty good. I'll bet adding some mini-chocolate chips would make them better, though. In the mean time, if you would rather have the convenience of a mix, here is the other recipe:

Red Velvet Brownies with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (from a mix)

1 box (18.4-19.5 oz) milk chocolate brownie mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; line a 9"X13" pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on each side of the pan.

Place the contents of the brownie mix in a large mixing bowl. in a separate, medium bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, vinegar and food coloring until combined. Add the liquid mixture to the brownie mix and beat with a wooden spoon until combined.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the brownies using the parchment paper overhang. Cool completely before frosting.

Which do you prefer--from a mix or from scratch?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quinoa Salsa Salad....three ingredients.

I love Trader Joe's. Yesterday, Pete and I made our weekly grocery store rounds and just had to stop in to get some of their tortillas. Have you seen them? They are called "hand made" tortillas and I'm guessing they are as close to homemade as you can get from store bought. Just a guess, though, since I've never made them.

My new favorite tortillas....

 At any rate, the first thing we usually do when we get to Trader Joe's is to hustle on to the back of the store where they are giving out product samples. Yesterday's sample was a quinoa salad. I was disappointed, at first--healthy food? I did have a box of it at home that I had been reluctant to try. You know what? It's really good! They had it prepared with black beans, roasted corn and sun dried tomatoes. I was shoveling it in my mouth when another customer asked if they used a recipe or if it came made that way. It was a recipe, and a pretty darn easy one.

Ok--here it is: Prepare 1/2 package quinoa (about 1 cup) per package directions, stir in one package of Trader Joe's sun dried tomatoes and one container of Trader Joe's Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salsa. Finished. Period. The End. Oh--I did squeeze a little orange juice in it, just because I never leave well enough alone.

The quinoa only took about 15 minutes to cook

Quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein, cooks up fast, and doesn't have a heavy flavor so it pairs well with almost anything.

My sister and my niece were on their way over...I simply threw some biscuits in the oven and whipped up the quinoa. Lunch was ready when they got here.

The quinoa went over well. I served it warm for my sister (who even heats up her ice cream--she needs everything warm), but you can eat this cold or at room temperature, too. There weren't too many leftovers...for dinner I made myself a quinoa burrito with one of those handmade tortillas. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stuffed Winter Squash

Aaack! Only six weeks until Thanksgiving! Normally, this is not a big deal for me, but this year I am faced with not one, but two, vegetarians. Plus, I'm not a big fan of turkey. It's time to start thinking of alternative foods...

While I may not be a fan of turkey, I do like the usual components of a Thanksgiving meal. Potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes (yes, we do both) and, of course, pie. The stuffing that I usually make will be a little problematic, since it is full of ground beef. I know my daughter likes a stuffing, and so does the hubby--I'm thinking maybe a stuffed squash might just kill two birds (lol) with one stone!

Several years ago, I found a recipe for a Stuffed Winter Squash in Midwest Living Magazine. I think it's time to revisit. This is an easy recipe to modify. We like the filling just by itself, so feel free to leave out the squash.

Stuffed Winter Squash 

4 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
¼ cup olive oil
3 cups cooked rice
2 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn
½ cup sliced black olives
½ cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Bake squash, cut side down for 45 minutes.

Sauté the onions, garlic, celery, mushrooms, red pepper, and jalapeño until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add rice, corn, olives, parsley, sage and salt. Turn over squash, heap with stuffing and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

It couldn't be easier to bake. Just be careful when cutting them in half...I almost took off a finger.

I found these at Walmart...sweet, colorful peppers. They looked a little long in the tooth, but they worked out nicely. 

Trader Joe's has packages of microwavable brown rice in the freezer section. One package was more than enough to fill two halves of squash.

Just pile it in the squash...

Hmmm...probably no reason to wait until Thanksgiving....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pumpkin-Orange Pound Cake

Pumpkin-Orange Pound Cake...the Midwest meets the Tropics.

Writing a food blog has its perks. Why just a couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the coconut coordinator for Kelapo Coconut (wouldn't you love that job title?), asking if I would like to review some coconut oil. To be honest, I've never cooked or baked with coconut oil, so I wasn't sure what to expect. This much I do know--coconut oil has been used in many cultures for generations as a primary source of fat. Back in the 1970's and 80's coconut oil got kind of a bad rap for being high in saturated fats, so most food manufacturers replaced it with hydrogenated oils--aka trans fats. Of course we all know what kind of decision that was, so now coconut oil is back and it's touted as a healthier fat. Confused? I was. At any rate, if you want the nitty-gritty on coconut oil, you can find it on Wikipedia and on the Kelapo website.

So now that I have my sample, what should I make with it?

I posed the question of what I should make with my coconut oil to my Facebook and Twitter friends and they came back with all sorts of good stuff. People use it in cooking and baking, of course, but they also use it to condition their hair and they put it into facial scrubs. Pretty versatile stuff. I am first a baker, however, so in the end I came up with a way to use some pumpkin and some coconut oil all in one recipe.

Pumpkin-Orange Pound Cake

2 ½ cups cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon ginger
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup coconut oil
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
¾ cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; Grease two 8-inch loaf pans.

Sift or whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom and ginger into a large bowl; set aside.

Cream the butter and the coconut oil in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually add the sugar, beating at low speed, then increase the mixer speed to high and beat until pale and fluffy.

I opened the jar of coconut oil and got a wonderful coconut smell.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl sides after each addition. After all the eggs are in, beat several minutes at high speed until the mixture is smooth and very pale. Beat in the pumpkin, orange juice, orange peel, and vanilla.

It didn't look much different than my best buttercream. 

Beating at low speed, add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the milk.

Check out the beautiful orange color.

Pour the batter into the two greased loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack before removing from pans to slice.

 I like to use the foil loaf pans so that I can easily give them away.

Take that Sara Lee...

In conclusion, I really liked working with the coconut oil. It gave the pound cake a subtle coconut taste that worked well with the other flavors. I can't wait to try it in another recipe!

For more recipes using coconut oil, you can visit the Kelapo Coconut blog at  or visit them on Facebook at

Disclosure: I was given a sample of Kelapo Coconut Oil to review, however all opinions and the recipe are my own.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

PinkTogether 2011...Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month...A a giveaway!

Ooey Gooey Chewy Cookies...Totally Good!

By now, you must know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I actually saw pink waste receptacles as I was driving down the street the other day! Truth be told, I'm kind of a skeptic when it comes to some of these causes...who's sponsoring them? Where does the money go? So when General Mills contacted me to see if I was interested in promoting this program, I had to do a little research. First, I asked some friends who have been touched by breast cancer what their thoughts were, and then I checked out the Pink Together website. All of the friends who I asked were very supportive of the pink theme in general--they felt that it was a good support mechanism for people undergoing breast cancer treatment. As for the Pink Together program, it is actually pretty impressive. Here is the deal:

  • Visit to share your personal story and messages of hope and read about others’ personal journeys. To encourage personal connections, General Mills will donate $1 to the Komen organization for each Message of Hope that is sent to someone who has shared their story on (up to $25,000) during October. This is in addition to a $2 million donation General Mills is making to the Komen organization.

  • This year, for the first time in its five-year history, at consumers can choose how $1 million of this donation will be shared between two important Komen programs: the Treatment and Assistance Program, which assists women in securing care they otherwise may not be able to afford, and Prevention Research, which helps unlock the keys to preventing breast cancer. Visit from September 19, 2011 through April 14, 2012 to make your choice. Results will be announced on Mother’s Day 2012 – Sunday, May 13.

  • General Mills will also be turning the packaging of participating products pink in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October.

My story is this: My MIL was diagnosed with breast cancer over 11 years ago at the age of 78. She had a recurrence 3 years ago. Now, thanks in part to medical research funded by organizations such as this, she is an 89 year old breast cancer survivor. Her mother had breast cancer and her daughter has breast cancer. With that family history, I am afraid for my own daughter.

To give us a little incentive, General Mills has offered a prize package giveaway for one of my readers. This prize package will consist of :

  • A 16 oz. box of Total cereal
  • VIP coupons valid for one box of Cheerios and Multigrain Cheerios cereal and one cup of Yoplait yogurt
  • Betty Crocker Living with Cancer Cookbook Pink Together Edition, which includes a collection of more than 150 delicious recipes with complete nutrition information and a 32-page Pink Together Survivor Ambassador bonus section that shares inspirational personal stories of survival as well as recipes
  • Water bottle and removable silicone awareness bracelet
  • Drawstring sport backpack
  • Rhinestone ear buds

My MIL is enjoying the cookbook immensely. She has earmarked several of the recipes for me to make and talked it up so much that my sister-in-law ordered one for herself.

Before we get started on the giveaway specifics, I did promise a cookie. These delectable bites were made with the box of Total cereal that came in my prize box.

Health food? Probably not. A little healthier? Absolutely.

Ooey Gooey Chewy Cookies

And now for the giveaway, just leave a comment telling us how breast cancer has affected you or someone you know, or just share what your thoughts are about the Pink Together campaign ( I, for one, like how you can vote on how the money is going to be used). Be sure to leave the comment on this blog post, not on the Pink Together page. For an additional entry, go ahead and "like" the Pink Together page...or just go check it out.  

Disclosure: The Pink Together prize pack, information and coupons have been provided free of charge by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

Btw--I'm totally trying out this Rafflecopter app. as a way of keeping track. Let's see how it works....the contest will run until 12:00 AM EST on Oct. 16th. If I can't figure out the Rafflecopter, I'll use

Just leave your comments the normal way and then click on the check marks to indicate that you did the two  things. :) Leave me some info, too, so I can find you if you win.