Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ina's Easy Sticky Buns

While I have been off work, I have been reading many books and watching a lot of Food Network and Cooking Channel. Many I have seen before, but some I have not. I love Ina. I want her house in the worst way. Especially that kitchen with two cook tops and two ovens, that big fridge and the walk-in pantry. Sigh. It is the stuff dreams are made of.

Last week she made Easy Sticky Buns and my mouth fell open at how delish they looked. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I made them the next morning.

I will write the recipe as she wrote; however, I didn't use raisins as I hate them, and the butter amount for the 'sticky' is too much-in my opinion. I did check out the recipe on Food Network since I was too busy vegging while watching to write it down. People who commented said it was too much butter, but I made it as written-too much butter. Next time I make them I will cut it down to maybe 8 tablespoons.

Easy Sticky Buns (by Ina Garten)

12 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp

1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 pecans, chopped (I toasted mine)

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a standard 12-cup muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (very important). In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons of butter and the 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Place one rounded tablespoon of butter mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 cups. Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll up the dough snugly in a jelly roll fashion around the filling, ending with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the dough about 1/2 inch on each end to give it a clean edge. Cut dough in 6 equal pieces, about 1-1/2 inches wide each. Place rolls cut side down in prepared muffin tin. Repeat with second piece of puff pastry. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes only. Invert the rolls onto the parchment paper. Ease filling left in the pan onto the buns with a spoon and press slightly into roll.

I cannot even aptly describe how wonderful these, especially hot out of the oven. They lasted 2 days here and warmed up nicely in the microwave.

I might have to bake a batch on Saturday because my college baby will be home for the weekend-I'm only a little excited!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chicken and Stuffing Hotdish

The days here in Minnesota are turning fall-like. Slightly cooler temps. The skies are flipping back and forth from brilliant blue and cloudless to grey and ominous looking. Most of the trees in the yard are bare. Piles of orange, yellow and red leaves are scattered across the lawn. That smell-the smell of turning leaves and crisp air hang all around me. Taking deep breaths, I fill my lungs with that wonderful smell of autumn. It is absolutely my favorite time of the year. We are very fortunate to live someplace that experiences all four seasons of Mother Nature's calendar. But I love fall most of all. The clean air, the changing color of the sky, the crunching leaves underfoot.


My parent's families are very different. My Mom had a larger family-all girls. She had four sisters. There are 21 grandchildren, 50 something great-grandchildren and numerous great-great grandchildren (although now all four of my grandparents have passed away). My Dad has two brothers. It is hard to explain, but I have two sisters and a brother, but I am my Dad's only biological child. Because of this, there are 5 grandchildren to my paternal side. I am the only girl. I have several girl cousins on my Mom's side, but I wasn't close to them as most of them were 4 to 18 years older than I. I am pretty close to my cousins on my Dad's side, but I longed for girl cousins there. My prayers were answered over the course of 10 years when each of my cousins married wonderful women. 1990 had a busy summer as three of us got married. I cherish all four of the beautiful women my cousins brought to my life. I waited a long time for them to get here!
All of us know our way around a kitchen. Maybe not fancy-schmancy food, but we can all put a satisfying, hot meal in the bellies of our men and children.

My cousin (in-law) Geri brought this hotdish (in Minnesota it is a hotdish, not a casserole!) to one of our Cousin Christmas parties and holy moly, it is good. I do not like stuffing at all (please don't eyeball me like that). I prefer straight up turkey, mashed potatoes with butter, corn, rolls, jellied cranberries (again with the eyeballing me?) and my aunt's lime Jell-o with applesauce and 7 Up. However, when you bake stuffing on top of this hotdish, and it gets all crunchy? Oh my word, it is heavenly.

Diane's Chicken Hotdish (Geri's co-worker)

3 to 4 pounds chicken

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup (left this out, I hate mushrooms)

1 cup milk

1 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup butter

2 stalks celery, a fine dice

1 small onion, a fine dice

8 ounce bag of chicken stuffing mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Boil chicken and cut up into small pieces. Put chicken pieces into a greased 9x13 inch pan. Mix soups and milk and pour over chicken. Melt butter in saucepan. Saute veggies for a few minutes then add chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in stuffing mix and turn off heat. Stir to moisten all the stuffing. Let sit for a couple of minutes so all liquid is absorbed. Pour over the top of the soup layer. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes.

I picked all the crispy bits off the side of the pan before putting it into the sink to wash. It was heaven.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quick Dinner for Dude

Sometimes you just need to fill the belly of your hubby fast. I had met my BFF for a matinee movie and an early dinner one afternoon this week. Drama Queen said she was going to a friend's house after work to eat and Dude said he would pick up a burger in town since I wouldn't be home to cook (do you see how spoiled they have become in just 10 days of me being home!?). I got home around 8:30 as Dude was coming in from the shop and asked what I could make him fast since he was starving. Ummm, didn't you tell me you were stopping for a burger? Guess that didn't happen. While perusing the fridge he found some spuds and some smoked sausage and eggs.

"Here" he goes and puts all the stuff on the cutting board. The spuds had seen better days, so I found my mandolin and thinly sliced up a new potato, browned them in some oil and butter, tossed in the sausage all sliced up in small rounds to get all nice and crusty. He took a shower then came and scrambled up the eggs for me and poured them in. I stirred until barely set and then he threw in a handful of cheese, slid it out of the pan and onto his plate.

I walk back into my scrapbook room to see what I had missed on Facebook and he walks in with my camera. I raise the eyebrow at him and he said "well, you might want to blog this" and walks out.

And all that time in the past he gave me crap for taking photos-he secretly likes it. He doesn't fool me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

You make my heart flutter...

Thank you! Everyone, thank you for your kind comments. I feel like it has been bad news after bad news here lately. I do have a couple posts in the works-some things I was able to do within my restraints. Please know I appreciate each and every one of you that take time in your busy day to stop by and say hi. Makes me all gooey inside :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oooey, Gooey, Hot and Chewy

As a child, I was a very picky eater. Years later, well, little has changed. All those foods my friends ate? Not happening on my plate. Mac and cheese? Oh Puh-leeze. Pizza? I think not (I do however really like pizza now). Grilled cheese with a bowl of soup? Send me to my room hungry Mommy. My Mother likes to a story about my eating habits-well, she loves to tell many, but this one she tells often. I was a tall, gangly child with super long legs and big buck teeth (Thank you Dr. Bacalars!!) and she was constantly fretting at the doctor about my eating habits and how skinny I was and she was sure I was malnourished. He patted her arm and told her I would eat when I was hungry. She couldn't leave well enough alone and tried many tricks to try to get me to eat. One of her least effective tricks was to blend my dinner up and try to have me drink it, since I have some issues with textures. It did not go as well as she hoped. Not more than 2 seconds after it landed in my stomach, it took a detour and headed North again, all over her. She pretty much gave up hope after that and just let me eat the parts of dinner I liked. I survived.

To this day I still don't do mac and cheese-odd, since I love pasta and I love cheese, but apparently not together. And I don't like grilled cheese. I do however fancy a grilled ham and cheese. Oh, so melty. So warm. So good.

I blogged a few weeks ago about the Frappe Vino. The frozen wine slush? I had it at a baby shower for a girl I worked with at the bank. It was like a reunion. 20 women who had spent a great deal of time together over the years. We had seen marriages, divorces, babies and death. And we waited many years to celebrate with our dear friend R. Her son is gorgeous and probably the most wanted and waited for baby ever.

I loved these sandwiches so much, I think I had three that night. The girls hosting the party made a smaller version of these but I was feeding several men at our party two weeks ago, so I used bigger rolls. Feast your eyes on these beauties......

Sweet and Savory Baked Ham Sandwiches

2 pounds good deli ham (no water added junk-go for the good stuff)
1 pound baby Swiss, very thinly sliced (from the deli too)
36 buns-I used a sandwich bun from the bakery
3 sticks of unsalted butter
6 TBSP brown sugar
4 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
4 TBSP Dijon mustard
2 tsp onion powder

In a 2 quart saucepan, bring to a gentle boil the butter, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon and onion powder. Stir until it is all melted and combined. Remove from heat and let cool.
Make the sandwiches. I used two pieces of ham and two slices of cheese-but I had it sliced about half the thickness that they normally slice it; you could see through it, and not just because of the holes. Place the made sandwiches in 9x13 cake pans. You need the cake pans or another tall sided pan since you will covering with foil. I used 3 pans because of the size of the buns. When the butter mixture has cooled, pour it evenly over the three pans. Cover the pans with tinfoil and place in the refrigerator overnight. Remove them from fridge a half an hour before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes covered. After the 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake an additional 5 to 8 minutes.

Good gravy, you need to make these. These were DEVOURED and I was told by several of the guys that they were sending their wives over to learn how to cook. While that touched the cockles of my heart, I just sent the recipe home with them. Next time I make them, I'm not sharing. Well, okay, I did share with Dude and Drama Queen when I made them a few days later.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Souper Duper

I'll admit it. I love Olive Garden. I love the salad. I love the bread sticks. I love the Limoncello Lemonade. We all know by now that I'm a fussy eater. Not very adventurous. I like what I like and that's all that I like (am I channeling Popeye?). Before Hermit Crab went back to college, we spent a day together making some purchases for school and just hanging before she left me again. Going to Olive Garden was an easy decision as it is right next to the mall.

She had taken her sister there earlier in the summer (and they didn't kill each other!) HC isn't a big fan of the salad, so she tried the Chicken Gnocchi soup and loved it. She ordered it again this time and I tried a bite....and then another. It was so good. I wish I had ordered it instead of the salad.

I had an idea of how to put it together at home. Then I Googled it. Turns out I was wrong on most parts. Well, some parts. I'm going to try it the way I originally thought, but this is probably closer to how they make it at the restaurant.

Olive Garden's Chicken Gnocchi Soup
1/3 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound chicken, cubed
1/3 cup flour
1/2 a carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, shredded
1/4 cup onion, shredded
1/2 cup spinach leaves, torn (I totally forgot to buy!)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3 chicken bouillon cubes

Melt butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add garlic and onion and saute. Add chicken and cook through. Add flour and stir in well to cook out raw flour taste. Add milk and cream and stir well. Add carrots and celery and the bouillon cubes. Cook and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes; add gnocchi the last 5 minutes. Serve with bread of your choice (I made a no-knead loaf-yum!)

I'll admit that I'm not a HUGE soup fan-a small bowl every now and then is fine with me. However, if we ever move to Iceland, soup will be in our future-it is like the national dish there!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tart and Tangy Meatballs

It was a beautiful fall weekend here in Minnesota the past couple of days. We had planned a party at our house with some of our work friends. I made a few dishes, salads and a dessert and asked everyone to bring something to pass. The crowd enjoyed all the food and it tasted even better sitting outside next to a fire.
I was introduced to these meatballs by my Mother-in-law. I was pretty skeptical as I'm not a fan of sauerkraut. The first time I made sauerkraut and sausage for Dude, I had to leave the room and let him eat alone. Because I trust her, and truthfully still think I need to impress her after 22 years, I tried them. They are the bomb. A little sweet, a little tangy and a little tart.
Mom Lee's Meatballs
2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 package onion soup mix
1 cup cracker crumbs
3 eggs
1 can whole cranberries
1 small can sauerkraut, drained
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup barbeque sauce, your favorite
Mix the ground chuck, onion soup mis, cracker crumbs and eggs gently with hands until incorporated. Form into small balls and lay them in a 9x13 baking dish. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Mix together rest of ingredients to form sauce. Pour over meatballs, making sure to get sauce on all of them. Bake at 325 for 1 hour.
I cheated and used some store bought meatballs only because I was making 2 salads, deviled eggs, a hot sandwich (which will be on here soon) and some bars. I needed a shortcut and I like a certain brand which were a BOGO sale item about 2 weeks ago. Tasted good but the homemade ones taste even better.
Fall is here. I'm loving it. I didn't love getting out of bed at 2:00 AM because I was so cold from being out by the fire until midnight. I went and soaked in the tub for about half an hour, until my feet and hands were no longer ice cubes. 8 hours later I woke up.....with freezing feet again! I think I caught poor blood circulation from my honey....he blames me for his allergies he never had before we met, so I think it is only fair that he be blamed for my foot-pops. Just sayin'

Another sad note, great to leave you with I know. Our friends who are going through the divorce-I wrote about that a couple months ago. Her nephew died in his sleep on Thursday night. He was only 32 and the autopsy showed nothing conclusive so it may take up to a month to find out what happened. I just don't know how much more this poor woman can take. And since we all know the "death happens in 3's" I'm seriously willing the phone not to ring. I'm sure it works, right?