Monday, December 31, 2012

Recipe Highlights of 2012

Pretzel Buns...the first (and most popular) post of the year.

I don't usually do a recipe roundup, or a review of my year of blogging, but this year has a different feel for me. On a personal level, it has been a year of loss, yet as difficult as that has been for both my husband and me, we've come to realize how lucky we are in many ways. One of the many things that I am grateful for is you--my reader. My hobby, my blog, is so very cathartic for me. From the creating of the recipes, to the process of baking or cooking, to the taking of the pictures, to the posting of the final product, it is a labor of love. To know that there are people that actually get some value from my work is, pardon the pun, icing on the cake.

I hope that you will enjoy reminiscing with me over the past year...maybe you'll even find something new.

Thank you, dear readers. May you have a Prosperous, Healthy and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Savory Sausage Sandwich...a Red Gold Recipe

Now that the holidays are coming to a close, it is time to start thinking of some regular food. So, while I could probably live on chocolate cinnamon rolls, I thought it best to start adding some quick meals back into my life.

Recently, my favorite canned tomato company, Red Gold Tomatoes, sent me a couple of cans of their crushed tomatoes, along with a recipe for a Savory Sausage Sandwich. I actually made this to bring to my dinner club, for our Christmas was so easy to prepare ahead of time!

Savory Sausage Sandwich
Printable Recipe

1 pound Italian Sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 (15 oz) cans Red Gold Crushed Tomatoes
1 (4 oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 loaf Italian bread, unsliced, cut horizontally
1 (7.25 oz) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and cut into 1/2" pieces
8 oz sliced Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet, cook sausage, onion, and garlic until browned; drain well. Add the Red Gold and mushrooms. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Hollow out the bottom half of bread loaf. Spoon meat mixture into hollowed out bread. Arrange cheese over meat and top with red peppers. Replace top of loaf and wrap tightly with foil.

Place on baking sheet and heat for 15 minutes, or until heated through. Cut into 2" slices.

If you make this up ahead of time, warm up the sausage mixture in the microwave before you scoop it onto the bread, or it will take longer than 15 minutes to heat in the oven.

Of course, I took a few liberties--I left out the mushrooms, knowing that some of my friends didn't care for them. I also used some frozen chopped onions, to save time. I imagine some chopped green peppers would make a nice addition, as well.

Oops, my red peppers went on before the cheese. It worked. :)

I used smoked Provolone slices instead of Mozzarella.

Don't you just love the melty cheese?

I actually had enough filling left over to make another sandwich at home, for which my husband was grateful. We ended up taking leftovers to work with us. Rather than making a second sandwich, perhaps next time I'll use the leftover filling to put over pasta. Good idea, no?

Did you know that Tuttorosso Tomatoes are a division of Red Gold? We don't have them yet, in Minnesota, but I did get a sample pack to try. Stay tuned for soup recipe featuring the Tuttorosso brand. There will even be a giveaway! :)

Disclaimer: I was given some Red Gold product to try, along with the recipe. All opinions remain my own.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hot Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls with Marshmallow Glaze

"Everything in moderation...including moderation. "---Julia Child

Welcome to the December edition of the Monthly Improv Challenge, hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. This month our theme is Chocolate and Marshmallows. Yes. You heard right. Chocolate and Marshmallows. Now, for those of you who think (like I did) that Chocolate and Marshmallows was a thing all by itself, well you've got another think coming. As I write this, I can only begin to imagine all of the different ways Chocolate and Marshmallows are going to be transformed into deliciousness. Let's start with the deliciousness I made.

Hot Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls with Marshmallow Glaze


1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
3-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup dark cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (2.5 oz) package instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 egg, room temperature, slightly beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into 4-5 pieces
1 cup mini-chocolate chips
1/2 cup marshmallow creme
2-3 tablespoons half/half, divided
1/2 cup chocolate chips

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).

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, salt, and cocoa.

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk mixture with yeast, egg, and 2 cups of the flour mixture; 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)

I always let the dough hook do the work for me.

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 mean time, process the brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon in a food processor until the mixture is well blended and the walnuts are chopped. Add the cold butter and pulse until incorporated.

Roll out the dough into a 12X9 inch rectangle (I like to do this on my Silpat). Sprinkle the walnut mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch edge. Roll up the dough from the long side 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 (or refrigerate overnight).

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

For the glaze, warm 1-2 tablespoons half/half and whisk into ½ cup marshmallow crème.  Drizzle over the warm rolls. If desired, whisk some heated half/half into ½ cup chocolate chips and drizzle the chocolate over the marshmallow topping.

Wow...this marshmallow creme is tasty...I imagine it would be a good sauce for pancakes. :)

I knew these were successful when my husband wouldn't let me take them to work with me.....

Now check out what everyone else is making:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Panera Soups and Bread

It's been another crazy holiday season, hasn't it? Lately, I've been cramming holiday get-togethers, shopping, work, baking, and more get-togethers all into some seemingly short days. It's not easy packing it all in and still making sure my husband and I get to share a meal together, so I was pretty excited when Daily Buzz Food offered to send me a giftcard in order to try out some of the amazing soups at Panera Bakery-Cafe.

I'm actually no stranger to Panera. It's my restaurant of choice when it comes to grabbing some food on the go. There's nothing fried about the's all freshly made. And the choices! Sandwiches filled with fresh meats and veggies, amazing salads full of crunchy goodness , and soups made just like I would make them at home.

A few weeks ago, Pete and I met up with my daughter and her boyfriend to go see a movie. We all ducked into Panera for a quick bite first. Three of us ordered the Tomato Soup and the "Big Kid" grilled cheese sandwich. First, the soup comes topped with some awesome Asiago cheese croutons floating on the top, but the kicker was the melty grilled cheese sandwich that we all dipped into the soup.

There's bacon in there, too!

Now, with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I decided I wanted to try some soup in a bread bowl. It wasn't too hard to convince Pete to make a stop after work---with the weather finally turning blustery, soup sounded like a great idea to him, too. Before I left work, though, I took a look at Panera's website to see what kind of choices they had on the menu that day. Well, not only is there a daily menu, listing all of the soup choices, but there are Soup Stories! One of Panera's chefs gives us insight into the inspiration that goes into the different soups. 

I had a mind-set, however. It was going to be the French Onion soup, and I wanted it in a bread bowl. My choice (and Pete's too) did not disappoint.

Seriously? All of the soup goodness soaks into the bread bowl...

We both chose the Barbecue Chicken Salad to go with the soup. Very tasty.

Of course, we couldn't pass up the bakery goods. I chose a beautiful slice of Cinnamon Coffee Cake, that I was too full to eat right away. I'm always bringing the extras home with me. :)

The coffee cake was a nice treat for me at work the next day....

Visit Panera's website to learn more about how Panera sources their food and works with your community to support hunger relief.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Eggnog and Cranberry Christmas Braid

Welcome to day #5 of Christmas Week, a multi-blogger event co-hosted by Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic and Jen of Juanita’s Cocina. Today’s theme for Christmas Week is “Christmas Pies and Pastries”. Make sure you visit all the participating bloggers today to see what special dish they whipped up for you.

For the grand finale of our Christmas week, I thought it was fitting that I make a braid for you. Not just any kind of braid---a Christmas Braid! This one is made out of Eggnog and Cranberries. It's a theme with me, I know, yet so perfect for Christmas, methinks. But wait!! There is more! We have a giveaway for you, too! I will explain more about that after I post the recipe. You are going to be so excited (I think I've used more exclamation points in this paragraph than in all of my posts combined...)!!  Let's get on with it, shall we?

Eggnog and Cranberry Christmas Braid
Printable Recipe

3/4 eggnog, warmed to 110-115 degrees (bathwater warm)
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup all purpose flour

all of the sponge
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 1/2 – 5 cups Flour
egg wash for brushing braid*

Cream cheese filling
2/3 cup cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup eggnog
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup prepared cranberry relish

For such a rich dough we need lots of yeast power...that's why we use a tablespoon (or 2 packets).

For the sponge, combine the eggnog and yeast in a medium bowl. Stir in the flour. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and 4 1/2 cups of the flour. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat the mixture until the dough is rough and shaggy. Switch the paddle for the dough hook and knead the dough at medium speed for about 6 minutes, or until smooth, adding additional flour if needed.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area for 60 to 90 minutes or until about double in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the cream cheese filling. In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, eggnog, and flour. Set aside.

Gently deflate the dough and divide in two. Cover one of the halves with plastic wrap and set aside. Roll the remaining dough into a 10"X15" rectangle (do this over parchment paper or a silpat for easy transfer on to the baking sheet).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture down the center third of the dough. Top with 1/2 cup of the cranberry sauce.

Cut 1" crosswise strips down the sides of the rectangle. Starting from one end, bring one of the dough strips across the filling diagonally. Repeat on the other side, crisscrossing the dough strips. Continue down the rest of the braid, alternating strips to form the loaf. Repeat the rolling, filling and braiding with the second braid. Set both braids aside, cover lightly, and allow to rise for 45 to 60 minutes. Brush each loaf gently with an egg wash (one egg beaten with a pinch of salt). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on wire racks. Drizzle with Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting, if desired.

For frosting, combine 2 tablespoons softened butter, 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, and 2-3 tablespoons eggnog. Beat until smooth, adding additional eggnog if needed.

Simply Scrumptious.

And now for the giveaway news that I'm sure you have been anxiously awaiting!

Freund Container & Supply has generously donated $100 gift certificates for each #ChristmasWeek blogger to give away! Freund Container & Supply is the largest distributor of glass bottles, containers and wholesale packaging supplies online. Freund offers over 5000 items in stock every day, 98% same day shipping and low-price guarantees. Take a look at Freund’s wide selection of jars, tins, bottles and vials for all your crafting and food related needs!

This giveaway is for one $100 gift certificate to Freund Container & Supply. Gift certificate will expire on March 31, 2013. Gift certificate is a one-time use certificate and must be used in its entirety; any leftover monies on the gift certificate will be forfeited. This giveaway is open to both US and Canadian residents. However, it should be noted that due to current International shipping rates, any Canadian winners will pay higher shipping costs for orders. The giveaway will run from today, December 7th, 2012, through Wednesday, December 12th, 2012.

Please visit Fruend Container & Supply for inspiration!  Then, click on the Rafflecopter login to add your information privately. :)

Freund Container & Supply is also offering all #ChristmasWeek blog readers 10% off purchases from now through March 31, 2013. Simply enter code JINGLEME10 to receive your discount!

***Disclaimer: This giveaway is being provided by Freund Container & Supply. #ChristmasWeek bloggers have not been compensated as part of this giveaway.***

If you'd like more chances to win a $100 gift certificate from Freund, please make sure you visit today's blog posts from each of the other #ChristmasWeek bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check 'em all out!

Christmas Apple Pie from Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic
Pumpkin Cheesecake Fried Pies from Jen of Juanita's Cocina
Chocolate Angel Pie from Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Nutella Swirled Pumpkin Pie from Anuradha of Baker Street
Cheese Danish Pie from Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker
Bakewell Tarts from Isabelle of Crumb
Grasshopper Pie from Erin of Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
Cranberry Fritters from Erin of The Spiffy Cookie
Cinnamon Pecan Crescent Rolls from Ramona of Curry and Comfort
Banketstaaf (Dutch Christmas Log) from Heather of Girlichef
Eggnog and Cranberry Christmas Braid from Cathy of The Dutch Baker's Daughter
Raspberry Galette from Chung-Ah of Damn Delicious

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls

Welcome to day #4 of Christmas Week, a multi-blogger event co-hosted by Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic and Jen of Juanita’s Cocina. Today’s theme for Christmas Week is “Gingerbread Surprise”. Make sure you visit all the participating bloggers today to see what special dish they whipped up for you.

This time I thought I was being really unique. Certainly, no one has done a Gingerbread Cinnamon Roll...right? Wrong. Better Homes and Gardens beat me to it....but they didn't put Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting on theirs. So there.

The Eggnog Frosting sets these rolls apart, but I did use BHG's idea of garnishing with sugared cranberries...I can't get enough of those things.

Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls with Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup light molasses
2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 eggs, slightly beaten (room temperature)
3 ½ to 4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice

6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger

Heat the milk, butter, sugar, and molasses over medium/low heat until the butter begins to melt and the temperature is about 115 degrees F. (bathwater warm). Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk the yeast into the milk mixture and let it stand for 5-10 minutes, or until it starts to foam.

It's important not to overheat the milk mixture...if it gets too hot, let it cool to "bathwater" warm.

In the mean time, whisk together 3 ½ cups of the flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in a large bowl.  Add the eggs and the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and, using the paddle attachment, beat for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is shaggy. Switch the paddle out for the dough hook and continue to knead the dough, adding additional flour as needed, for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

When the dough is a bit shaggy, it's time to switch to the dough hook.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it into a greased bowl, turning it over once. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about an hour or until double in size.

Yum...look at that molasses-y dough...

Gently deflate the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, grease a 13X9 inch baking pan. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter with the brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger.

Roll the dough into a 12X8 inch rectangle. Spread the filling evenly over the dough to within an inch of the edges. From the long side, roll up the dough jelly roll style. Cut into 12 even slices and arrange into prepared pan. Allow the rolls to rise for about 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly before frosting. Garnish with sugared cranberries, if desired.

Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons eggnog
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add enough eggnog until the desired consistency is reached. Stir in the nutmeg.

I just knew I wasn't done with the sugared cranberries.....

Don't forget to check out all of the other awesome recipes and stay tuned for the grand finale---tomorrow we are having a giveaway!

Ginger Horse Cookies from Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic
Mini Gingerbread Donuts from Jen of Juanita's Cocina
Gingerbread Biscotti from Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Chocolate Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Bourbon Cream Cheese Drizzle from Anuradha of Baker Street
Gingerbread Donuts with Lemon Glaze from Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker
Mini Holiday Gingerbread Loaves from Isabelle of Crumb
Gingerbread Biscoff Truffles from Erin of Dinners, Dishes and Desserts
Gingerbread Dip from Erin of The Spiffy Cookie
Gingerbread Milkshake from Ramona of Curry and Comfort
Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars from Heather of Girlichef
Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls from Cathy of The Dutch Baker's Daughter
Gingerbread Whoopie Pies with Lemon Cream Cheese Filling from Chung-Ah of Damn Delicious