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Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Famous New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

My sister Jane headed off to college as a freshman last month to study Spanish and Marketing. Before her departure, she went on a bit of a "farewell tour" and came to spend a few days with me and the kids. I was so grateful for her visit because Paul was out of town on business and it was just going to be all by myself for the week and usually when that happens I lose my mind from the lack of adult conversation. There are only so many questions about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that a Mom can field in a day. At any rate, we enjoyed a fun week visiting with Jane and completely exhausting her before she began a new chapter in her life.

Jane loves to cook and is an aspiring baker so she arrived with a whole list of things she wanted to make with me. I had my work cut out for me! Unfortunately for Jane, I got sick while she was here and she was an absolute Godsend to me. She helped with the kids, allowed me to rest, and even cleaned my bathrooms, which is not a fun task considering how often my little boy tends to "miss the mark" when using the toilet. How great of a sister IS she!?

One of the recipes Jane wanted to make during our time together was the recipe for chocolate chip cookies that the New York Times hailed as absolute perfection. I had seen this recipe made and shared many, many times on various cooking blogs throughout the years and they had always garnered rave reviews. However, I had never really had the impetus to make them since I was perfectly happy with my current favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Jane was curious to find out if the recipe was worth the extra steps, ingredients, and general fussiness. She already has a pretty amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe in her arsenal and was curious if these few extra steps would really make a big difference in the quality of the final product. She found it amusing that a lot of the comments on the recipe complained that the method was overly complicating what should be quite an easy little treat to prepare. For example, the recipe requires an equal weight of two flours, both bread and cake. Jane's question was why not use all-purpose flour with a gluten content in between that of cake and bread flour? Her point was valid, but I told her to proceed with the recipe as written first. Jane was also shocked by the amount of chocolate called for in the recipe - over double of that called for in her go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. I did not find this troublesome at all since I'm of the mindset that you can never have too much chocolate, especially dark chocolate in this case.

Jane made the cookies almost entirely by herself while I lazed on the couch and complained about nausea. I did have to go rescue her at some points because she was being outsmarted by my stand mixer. It can be a bit finicky at times, but not for the reasons she was complaining about (how to remove the bowl from the base). But soon enough, the dough was made and the children were excited to ball it up and stick it in the oven. To their chagrin, Jane had to break the news that it required a 24 hour refrigeration period before the cookies could be baked. Matthew declared that any cookie recipe that made him wait that long to eat was "a bad recipe." He's a born cynic.

About 24 hours later, Jane sent Paul and me out on a date and baked the cookies while we were gone. When we arrive, we were greeted with the glorious smells of butter and chocolate and a mountain of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I asked Jane if she had tried one and if so how did she think they turned out. She confessed that she had and was completely underwhelmed by them. I was disappointed for her and then decided to try one for myself. After one bite, I determined that Jane has no taste buds. Those cookies were magnificent. Magnificent, I tell you. Crispy on the outside, chewy and soft in the middle, loaded with chocolate flavor, and finished with just a hint of salt, I was in love immediately. I found them to be a much more sophisticated tasting chocolate chip cookies - there was more depth of flavor, aided in no small part by all that dark chocolate. Paul was in complete agreement with me. These are the cookies of which dreams are made.

The more Jane ate her creations, the more she liked them. By the next day, she thought they tasted even better. When it was time to go home, she asked if she could take some back with her. They didn't even survive the trip back.

Thank you, Jane, for suggesting that we make this recipe! I absolutely loved them and the rest of you will too. Especially all melty in the sun while picnicking in the park. Heavenly!

The Famous New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
from the New York Times

Note: Weighing the ingredients is a must of this recipe.

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8½ ounces) cake flour
1 & 2/3 cups (8½ ounces) bread flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1¼ cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 & 1/3 cups (20 ounces) dark chocolate chips, at least 60% cacao content
Sea salt or fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Sift together the cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until very light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Scoop 3 1/2-ounces of dough, roll into a rough ball (it should be the size of a large golf ball) and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have six mounds of dough on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the parchment or silicone sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto another cooling rack to cool a bit more, until just warm or at room temperature. Repeat with remaining dough (or keep some of the dough refrigerated for up to 3 days, and bake cookies at a later time). Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Quick and Easy New York Style Bagels

It's no secret that my kids love bagels. They inherited their carbohydrate-loving nature from their Mother and will gladly enjoy a lunch consisting of just bread and water and think it's the greatest thing in the world. They would probably enjoy prison food. One of their favorite "quick lunches" when we are in a rush is to go through the Panera drive-through and grab a bag of Asiago Cheese Bagels. The kids will just chow down on those bagels - no slicing, toasting, buttering necessary.

I'm also a huge lover of bagels, especially if they come with lox and cream cheese. Oh my word! One of the things I looked forward to the most when we planned our trip to New York City was grabbing an authentic New York Bagel with fresh lox from a Jewish deli. Thankfully, the experience totally lived up to my expectations and I have been craving another one like mad ever since!

I have made bagels many, many times before and the recipe I use is absolute perfection, albeit a bit complicated and time-consuming. The ingredients are precisely weighed and measured and then go through several risings, including an overnight rise after forming into the familiar bagel shape, before being boiled, topped, and baked. The result is a deliciously chewy, incredibly flavorful bagel that rivals the best bagels in NYC. And I say that only after trying the best bagels in NYC and my husband said he actually liked mine better. What a compliment. That recipe can be found here, deep in the archives of the blog when I only had one child, a cheap point-and-shoot camera, and a bit more time.

Nowadays, it really isn't always feasible to start a multi-day baking project because my days are filled with activity that often leaves me spinning. I wouldn't change our busy days for the world as I enjoy being on the move and having a slew of activity. But, I really want to be able to linger with my kids a bit longer at the library, at the park, or while out with friends and not be needing to keep a constant eye on my watch because I need to get home before my dough over-rises!

So, I decided to test a few bagel recipes that require less proofing and may be made start to finish in an afternoon while my youngest takes her nap. I tried a couple recipes and found one that made not only an acceptable bagel, but a very, very good bagel! In two hours flat, my kids were enjoying warm, freshly baked cheese bagels that were chewy with a well formed crust on the outside and a moist, soft interior. I also made a batch of plain, cinnamon sugar, and poppy seed bagels but of course the cheese ones were the hit.

This is a great first-time recipe if you have never made bagels at home before. They are so, so much better than anything you can buy in the store. They are not as heavy and taste completely different. Toasted, they are heavenly, but they are also great enjoyed just the way my kids prefer them - plain!

The only difficult part of this recipe is getting the dough to the right consistency. You add the water gradually because you want a dough that is moist but stiff. It is not going to be super soft and pillowy like a cinnamon roll dough, yet you want it to be completely hydrated or else you will have difficulty forming the bagels later in the process. If you have to much liquid in the dough, they might misshapen a bit during the boiling process. If you have ever made a good, homemade pizza dough, you want the dough to feel about as stiff as that, if not a little bit more stiff (if that makes any sense!). But do not fret! Whatever the results, the taste will be spot-on. The more you make bagels, the more familiar you will become with the consistency you want.

Now that I've completely freaked you out, here is the recipe. I promise you it is easy! Give them a try and I promise you will love the results. If you want a more complicated but even tastier recipe, check out my first post on bagels. That recipe still has my heart.

Quick and Easy New York Style Bagels
as seen on The Sophisticated Gourmet

Notes: You can use this base recipe and make a number of variations from it. After the boiling step, the bagels may be topped with anything you desire - dried onion, poppyseed, garlic, and salt for the "everything bagel" topping, cinnamon sugar, sesame seeds, swiss cheese and banana peppers, or jalapenos and cheddar. You can also add small, cubed pieces of cheese to the dough during the kneading step to make a more indulgent cheese bagel and then simply top the bagel with the cheese of your choice before baking. The rising times are all approximate and will vary depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen. For the final, quick rise after shaping, just make sure that your bagels appear "puffy" before you boil. This will ensure that they are ready for the final steps where they will hopefully bloom and rise even more in the water bath and the oven.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons (4 ½ teaspoons) granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups / 300ml warm water (you may need up to 1/4 cup more - I definitely did)
3 ½ cups (500g) bread flour or high gluten flour (bread flour is important for this recipe!)
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Without stirring, let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then gently whisk to dissolve in the water.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour and salt together. Add the yeast mixture and, using the dough hook attachment on the mixer, begin to knead together until a very scraggly dough appears. Pour in an additional 1/3 cup of warm water into the dough and continue to knead, adding additional water about a tablespoon at a time until the dough is moist, yet still firm. There should be no dry pockets of flour and the dough should be in a cohesive mass that feels moist but not at all sticky when squeezed with your hand.

Continue to the knead the dough in the mixer for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Remove from the mixing bowl, and knead it by hand on the countertop a few times. Form into a tight ball.

Lightly coat a large bowl with oil. Add the dough ball to the bowl and gently turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about one hour.

After one hour, gently punch the dough down and let it sit for about 10 minutes. While the dough rests, get a large stockpot of water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat once boiling vigorously to a gently boil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Carefully divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round. Now, take a dough ball, and press it gently against the countertop moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms. Repeat with 7 other dough rounds.

Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.

After shaping the dough rounds, cover them with a damp kitchen towel and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to puff in shape. This might take a bit longer - so be patient and give it a little extra time if need be.

Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water - you may do multiple bagels at a time depending on the size of your pot. Let them boil on one side for 1 minute, and them flip them over to boil for another minute. Extend the boiling times to 2 minutes per side if you prefer a chewier bagel. Remove the boiled bagels from the water with a slotted spoon and place them back on the baking sheet. Top with any desired toppings. Repeat with all your bagels.

Once all the bagels have boiled and topped, bake them in the 425 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. They should sound hollow when lightly tapped with your finger.

Remove them from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a wire rack or eat them warm.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quinoa Salad with Parsley, Almonds, and Lemon

I have been enjoying listening to various podcasts while out on a long walk with Peyton. One of the stations I have been particularly enjoying as of late is Alec Baldwin's NPR podcast Here's the Thing. The other night, he had Michael Pollan, one of my favorite food authors, in the spotlight. I loved his books In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma so I was really looking forward to the podcast. To my surprise, Pollan was one of the more entertaining persons Baldwin has hosted on his show thus far. He was extremely articulate, engaging, and funny; the conversation flowed quite easily as a result. I became even more endeared to him after hearing him describe his battle with a pesty woodchuck who would not stop attacking his backyard garden. Pollan describes how at one point he had been so fed up with the disastrous results of the woodchuck's activity that he decided to pour gasoline down the entrance of its burrow followed shortly by a match. I couldn't help laugh out loud when he described how the exercise backfired and he narrowly escaped torching his entire backyard. It reminded me of Paul's current battle with the moles who love to dig their tunnels in our backyard.

At one point during the show, Pollan touched on picky eating in young children and drew on his own experience raising a very sensitive, ridiculously selective son. Pollan stressed that the key to getting children to overcome their aversion towards a particular food is to invite that child into the kitchen to help with the food preparation. He said that oftentimes when the child participates in the slicing, dicing, sauteeing, and searing of a particular dish, the object of their suspicion will quickly turn into one of acceptance. Apparently he had incredible success with this method in his own son and now the two of them enjoy cooking, preparing, and eating just about everything together - as long at it is minimally processed, fresh, and seasonal!

This notion is not a new concept and I have heard it many, many times before from everyone from Rachel Ray to my own mother. But for some reason, I decided to test the theory on an ingredient that has been freaking my kids out a lot lately: quinoa. I have been on a quinoa kick as of late because I have been craving it. When prepared correctly, this plant-based protein is incredibly satisfying, fresh, and nourishing. I love how I feel after eating a quinoa salad and enjoy the energy it gives me for hours after mealtime. I made a quinoa side dish for our Labor Day meal and all the children freaked at the creepy little squiggly, beads piled high on their plates. Emma thought they looked like "little eggs" and refused to try them. Matthew held out for a bit, and then finally succumbed to trying a bite and then ended up finishing his whole plate. I think he still struggled with the texture a bit, but agreed that the flavor was acceptable.

So, I decided to try out Michael Pollan's theory on picky eaters using Emma and the dreaded quinoa as my test subjects. I announced to Emma that she was going to help me prepare a Parsley and Quinoa Salad with Almonds. She balked at the idea initially, claiming that she was too tired to cook. Baloney. After about five minutes of coaxing, she finally climbed up to the counter to help. I'll have to admit that I did threaten her with no television for a week. That seemed to do the trick.

I showed her the quinoa in its uncooked form and explained to her what it is. I let her touch, feel, and play with it for a bit before we rinsed it thoroughly and set it on the stove top to cook. As the quinoa simmered away, I walked Emma through the process of making the dressing. She very much enjoyed zesting the lemons and crushing the garlic. I explained the process of emulsification to her and taught her how to vigorously whisk while adding oil to the acid in order to get the two of them to "get along" and blend properly. She seemed to be enjoying herself so far.

Then, we chopped the sweet onion, the almonds, and parsley. She snacked on all three of these while I took the quinoa off the stove. We added the hot quinoa to the dressing and tossed everything together. I could tell I was losing her interest, so I tried to wrap up the little experiment quickly so we could get to the tasting.

The quinoa was piled high in a serving dish and then offered to Emma.

"No thank you, I don't want it," was the response of my unenthusiastic sous chef.
"But Emma, don't you want to try what we made together?"
"No I don't. You can eat it. I don't like the king-a-wa stuff. I have a hard even remembering its name!" she said, walking away.

I asked her (sternly!) to at least try one bite and she actually obliged. Here it was - the moment of truth. Will she or will she not, out of pride for having just made this dish from start to finish, suddenly cast off any prior disdain for the main ingredient?

As you can see from her face, she wasn't thrilled with the taste - "It tastes a little bit spicy for me. I don't want any more! You eat it, Mom."

I asked if perhaps our experiment made her more likely to try quinoa again in the future, to which she replied with a sing-songy voice: "No."

Well, that experiment was an epic fail. I couldn't convince my child to climb on board the quinoa train despite having helped prepare a pretty tasty dish thus rendering the Pollan theory for picky eaters round one was a bust. BUT for those of you who are quinoa lovers, the recipe we made is posted below. And it's awesome. But I guess you have to like quinoa to think so.

At least I have a pretty delicious lunch to look forward to in the coming days!

Quinoa Salad with Parsley, Almonds, and Lemon
adapted from Food Network

Note: If you like a salad that is heavier on the dressing, cook up only 1 cup of dry quinoa. If you prefer more quinoa, less dressing, cook 2 cups of dry quinoa. Either way is delicious! If I use the lesser amount of quinoa, I like to also amp up the content of this salad with some feta cheese and a can of drained, rinsed garbanzo beans. Delicious!

1-2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups roughly chopped Italian parsley, with tender stems
1 cup whole almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup finely diced sweet onion, such as Vidalia (I sometimes use more because I LOVE them)

Before cooking the quinoa, rinse very well in a fine-mesh colander for at least 30 seconds. Place in a pot using a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to water. If you are cooking 1 cup of dry quinoa, then add 2 cups of water. If you are cooking 2 cups of dry quinoa, add 4 cups of water. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt for every cup of quinoa. Set the pot, uncovered, over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, checking frequently, for about 10-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. The time will vary depending on your cooking equipment. When the water is all absorbed, remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam while you prepare the dressing.

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, honey, pepper, salt, and garlic. Gradually add the olive oil while whisking vigorously until the dressing has thickened and all oil is incorporated.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork and add to the dressing. Add the chopped onions, almonds, and parsley. Toss well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Serve immediately or allow to chill! It's delicious either way as long as you're not 4-years-old and picky.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Buttery Brioche Cinnamon Rolls

Today, the inevitable happened. Peyton decided to make a chew toy out of Emma's beloved baby doll Jellybell. Unfortunately, the pooch had mangled the poor baby's foot before Emma realized he had her. I heard her wails from upstairs where I was putting Lucy down for her nap. Emma was inconsolable as she cradled her doll and the tiny bits and pieces that remained of her half-eaten toes. Peyton cowered behind the couch, knowing that something very bad had just gone down.

I scolded the dog and then assured Emma that I would try to fix the doll as I carried the pieces into the office in search of the superglue. I tried to figure out how to reconstruct the foot, but it was pretty badly chewed up and practically a lost cause. A quick internet search proved that the doll was no longer available from Target, so replacing her was not an option. So, I played the part of plastic surgeon with my super glue as I tried to piece together Jellybell. Thirty minutes later, I was actually quite pleased with the progress. Her foot definitely looks amorphous but it is so much better than a giant gaping hole at her ankle. I called Emma in, excited to show her how I had "fixed" here doll. She walked in solemnly.

"What do you think of how I fixed Jellybell's foot?" I asked her.

She looked at the aberrant foot, wrinkled her nose, and declared: "It looks bad. Let's just keep socks on her feet."

So, I guess I glued the fingers of my right hand together for nothing.

I didn't think it looked too terrible after I was finished
considering how bad it looked before!

Unlike my daughter, I always try to be grateful when others show me kindness or assist me in some way. In fact, I often like to repay their kindness with baked goods. To me, there is no greater way of showing someone love and appreciation than a freshly baked meal or treat. I am always so grateful when someone does that for me, so I naturally try to reciprocate that feeling in others. Recently, one of my friends did a huge favor for me as part of a project I was conducting for our diocese. I promised her when she agreed to help that I would pay her in cinnamon rolls. She laughed it off, but I was being completely serious. Of course, life got in the way and it took me way too long to actually get those rolls to her, but I finally did, much to the envy of my own children who did not understand why I was giving away such tasty treats instead of letting them eat some! Luckily for them, I made an extra large batch so they could try them.

I have made cinnamon rolls a million times. I've done cinnabon copycats, the pioneer woman's recipe, and a half dozen others throughout the years and while they all have been really, really delicious, I never hesitate to try a new cinnamon roll recipe should I come across one. When I spied this recipe on Elise's blog Simply Recipes, I was immediately enticed to try them based on the fact that the dough is prepared brioche-style, meaning the softened butter is gradually kneaded into the dough after the flour. The entire dough is then beaten to submission and given an overnight chill to ensure a soft, smooth, buttery dough. I was intrigued that the dough, while firm, was quite easy to roll out, fill, and cut into the traditional cinnamon rolls shape straight from a long overnight chill. The whole process was seamless and rather effortless. The rolls then rise for an additional 90 minutes before being baked. While baking, a cream cheese and butter spread is whipped up to slather on the warm rolls before serving.

Oh my, these were wonderful! I'm so glad I made an extra batch other wise these might have never made it to my friend's home! You will love this gooey, sticky, buttery treat for breakfast or really any time of day. My girls could not stop sampling from the pan since I made the mistake of letting them try a bit as soon as they were cool enough to eat. Can't say I blame them.

Out of all the cinnamon roll recipes I have tried, I have to say I probably prefer this one. Try it and let me know if you love it!

Brioche Cinnamon Rolls
from Simply Recipes

For the dough:
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter, very soft

For the filling:
1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or slightly less table salt)

For the frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 to 4 tablespoons milk, whole or 2%
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt

Warm the milk for 15 to 30 seconds in the microwave, until it's slightly warm to the touch but not steaming. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the warm milk, yeast, and sugar. Let the mixture stand until foamy, about five minutes.

Add the eggs, flour, and salt to the bowl and mix on medium speed until a sticky dough is formed. Beat in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, waiting until the butter is incorporated before adding the next batch. The butter needs to be very soft for this to work; if the butter isn't incorporating, knead each piece in your fingers until soft before adding it to the dough.

Once all the butter is incorporated, knead the dough for 10 minutes on medium speed (or knead by hand).

Shape the dough into a ball, place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight, at least 8 hours. It will slowly double in size.

Cut and shape the rolls: In the morning, remove the dough from the refrigerator. The dough will be quite stiff and firm, but should roll easily. Dust your work surface and a rolling pin lightly with flour, and roll the dough out into a rectangle approximately 12x16 inches in size.

Spread the dough with butter, leaving a 1-inch border on one of the shorter edges. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the butter in an even layer.
Starting from the short edge (the one with butter all the way to the edge), roll the dough into a tight spiral. Pinch the spiral closed (the unbuttered edge should stick to the log of dough). Trim the ends if they are shaggy.

Cut the roll in half crosswise to make 2 pieces. Cut each piece in half again to make 4, and each piece again to make a total of 8 rolls. Place the rolls in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.

Cover the rolls with plastic wrap, and let them rise in a warm place for 30 to 90 minutes. Rising time will depend on the temperature in your kitchen. When ready, the rolls should be puffed and pillowy. They should be touching each other with very little space between each roll.

While the rolls look half-risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes until they are golden on top and puffy. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 5 minutes before frosting.

While the rolls bake, use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the cream cheese and butter together until creamy. Add half of the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. Beat for 1 minute. Add the remaining sugar and vanilla, and beat for 1 additional minute. Add additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is as spreadable as you like.

Frost the cinnamon rolls generously while they're still a bit warm. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Morning Glory Overnight Oats

Overnight oats have been a popular breakfast preparation among food bloggers for quite a few years now. I first tried a strawberry and coconut version about seven years ago while up at night with a very fussy Matthew. I loved how creamy and refreshing each bite was and how wonderfully convenient it was to have my breakfast all prepared in a mason jar - all I had to do was grab a spoon and munch! For whatever reason though, I fell out of a routine of making a healthy oats-centered breakfast and turned instead to the convenience of boxed cereal. Cereal just doesn't have the staying power of a good bowls of oatmeal but I don't always have time to make oatmeal in the morning - even the thought of nuking a bowl of quick oats is just one extra step that I don't need in the morning while trying to get the kids fed, dressed, and ready. Not to mention walking the dog and making sure he is fed and watered for the morning.

The Ghost of Breakfasts Past visited me when I received an email recipe from The Kitchin. In the email was a recipe for Morning Glory Overnight Oats and I was immediately enticed to make it, remembering fondly how much I loved a good overnight oats recipe and this version sounded irresistible. If you've ever tasted a Morning Glory Muffin, which happens to be one of my favorite treats, you already know that it is packed with the flavors of carrots, raisins, walnuts, coconut, and spice. Just take those same ingredients, add it to a maple-sweetened recipe for overnight oats, and you have Morning Glory Oats! The recipe makes a lot, so I just divided the oats among several mason jars and had my breakfast ready for the week! Bonus, it's portable so you can totally eat this while in line at school drop-off like I did this morning.

Morning Glory Overnight Oats
from kitchin

For the Oats:
3 cups milk
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 red apple, cored and diced (sometimes I add two because apples are amazing)
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

For serving:
1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Place all the oat ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Cover the bowl or divide the oat mixture between Mason jars or resealable containers. Refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, stir the oats again. Top with the walnuts and coconut flakes before serving.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Baked Spaghetti Alfredo

Do you remember that video that went viral of the BBC correspondent in South Korea whose toddler daughter and infant son interrupted his live interview from his home office? Well, Paul had a similar scenario unfold during a very important video conference he was holding one evening at home.

The conference was scheduled ahead of time and the plan was that I would keep the children corralled upstairs and get them to bed while Paul worked in his office downstairs. I got their pajamas on and teeth brushed then read them some stories and tucked the eldest two into their beds. Then, I headed into Lucy's room where I usually spend about 10 minutes rocking her to calm her down before placing her in her crib. So, there I was, chained to the rocking chair because Lucy was precariously hovering between wakeful restlessness and dreamy sleep, when Emma's door slowly creaked open. Soon, her mischievous face appeared between the crack of the door and the frame.

"Go to bed Emma!" I hissed as quietly yet firmly as I could, trying not to wake Lucy.

Emma, being the manipulative child she is, told me she just needed a drink of water. I gave her the okay and she headed downstairs in search of drink. At least that was what she told me.

Instead of helping herself to a glass of water, Emma instead walked down the hallway and burst into Paul's office, completely disrupting the conference call. "Daddy, what are you doing?" she asked.
"Daddy's working right now, Emma, go upstairs."
"Daddy, I want some candy. Or marshmallows."
"You're not having any candy. Go to bed."
"Why? We bought some marshmallows at the store!"
"But Daddy, can I sit on your lap?"

Just wanting her to be quiet so he could continue the conversation, Paul had a temporary moment of insanity and agreed to let Emma sit on his lap as long as she promised to be quiet. I almost laugh just thinking about how he actually thought that promise meant anything to her. As soon as she was on his lap, Emma kept trying to shove her face into the webcam and running a commentary on what was being said. The last straw came when she interrupted Paul's thought process by asking, "Daddy, can you read me a story?"

Not wanting to be caught on camera angrily chastising his child but needing a way to get rid of her completely, he told his coworkers to wait a moment and then took Emma into the kitchen where he threw a bag of candy and a bag of marshmallows into the middle of the kitchen island with the blessing, "Have at it, Emma, but DO NOT COME BACK INTO MY OFFICE!"

He then went back to finish his call.

And that's when I came on the scene.

I walked into the kitchen in search of the naughty girl who was out of bed only to find her climbing onto the kitchen island and trying to undo the bag of marshmallows. "WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING? YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN BED! I TOLD YOU TO GET A DRINK OF WATER AND THAT'S IT! NOW I FIND YOU STEALING CANDY?!?! GET UP TO BED YOUNG LADY!!"

"BUT MOM!" Emma protested, "Daddy said I could have these!"


Unbeknownst to me, the entire racket was heard by Paul and his coworkers and they were cracking up the whole time because Paul had indeed bribed her with candy to keep her out of the office.

Ironically, the next day, Emma "wrote" a short story called "The Cat Who Always Interrupts." It's about a cat that nobody wants to talk to because she keeps interrupting. Funny that the moral of her own story has not quite sunk in with Emma.

The recipe I'm sharing today is a great one for busy school nights where you need something filling, hearty, and relatively quick. Additional plus if it's a meal that the children will not whine and complain about. Who doesn't like Alfredo Sauce? This baked version utilizes an easy and quick homemade sauce to coat your favorite noodles. The noodles are then sprinkled with cheese and baked for a short period of time at a high temperature to produce a gooey, crispy, melty top. Infinitely adaptable, you can definitely amp up this bare-bones recipe by adding cookied chicken, sausage, shrimp, or roasted vegetables to the pasta mixture before baking. We liked it meatless with a side of roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

Baked Spaghetti Alfredo
Adapted from Let's Dish

16 ounces spaghetti
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence or Italian Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking dish. Set aside.

Cook the spaghetti al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Return the pot you cooked the pasta in to the stove and set over medium heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about another minute. Whisk in the flour until smooth and golden in color. This may take 3-4 minutes. Never stop whisking!

Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and milk, stirring until smooth. Cook and whisk continuously for about 5 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat and add half of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Season with herbs de Provence, nutmeg, salt and pepper, to taste. I added about a teaspoon of salt, but taste and match your preference!
Add the cooked spaghetti to the pot with the sauce and toss to coat well. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with roasted vegetables and a side salad.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Egg & Cheese Hash Brown Waffles

Matthew started the second grade this week and while I will miss having him around the house, it was definitely time for him to begin. I really like the routine that comes with the school day. Our family is forced to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and leave the house at an early hour. I like the sense of accomplishment that comes with having run all my errands, performed my morning chores and finished my workout routine all before 10:30 AM! While I do not especially enjoy getting up super early - even earlier this year since school stars quite a bit earlier than before - I appreciate the benefits of a structured life, especially after living such an unstructured one this summer! The girls miss their brother, but the house has been remarkably more quiet without the constant bickering between Matthew and Emma. I've also enjoyed being able to go about my chores without hearing a never-ending string of animal facts and trivia from my little chatterbox. He seems to be having a good year so far and has some great kids in his class. He has enthusiastically headed to school each morning. Let's hope that enthusiasm continues!

Having some extra time in my morning means I've had a bit more time to test recipes and I've got a simple and delicious one for you today!

I had heard of making perfectly crispy hash browns using a waffle iron before and had bookmarked several recipes for it but the moment to make them never seemed right; my laziness always got in the way. When you're too lazy to make hash browns, especially when they involve pre-shredded potatoes, you have a problem. Then, I stumbled across a recipe for these Egg & Cheese Hash Brown Waffles and the pictures made me want to jump through my computer screen and eat one immediately. The time had arrived!

The recipe is stupid simple to prepare. Whisk, add, mix, and your potatoes are ready to be cooked. Now, cooking them was a little bit more tricky. My first "waffle"was a complete failure. The stupid thing wouldn't come out of my waffle maker until I took a fork and practically dug out each piece, leaving a heap of super-appetizing broken up potatoes on the serving plate. I began to despair that perhaps I had spent too much time away from the kitchen. I couldn't even make some stupid hash browns with my waffle iron! However, the subsequent batches of waffles turned out much, much better - they held their shape, were easy to remove, and were deliciously crispy.

A couple tips I learned:

1) Every waffle iron is different, so the setting that worked for me (medium-high) might not work for you with the make and model of iron you own. Do not be afraid to play with the settings as you cook these!

2) Liberally oil your iron with vegetable or canola oil. I kept a little ramekin of oil nearby and brushed a new coat on between batches. The oil is essential to ensure that these do not stick and turn out crispy!

3) I found that I had to leave these in my waffle iron long past when the sensor claimed they were done. This ensured optimal crispiness and ease of removal.

4) To ensure that all diners be served at once, keep the finished batches of waffles in a 200-degree oven until you have used up all your potato batter.

Do give these a try! My kids loved them, but really they love any meal centered around eggs. I don't know any kids who eat more eggs than mine. Breakfast for dinner is a major hit around here. I enjoyed these hash brown waffles for both lunch and dinner in one day, which shows how much I like them!

Egg & Cheese Hash Brown Waffles
from Yellow Bliss Road

1 20-ounce package Shredded Hash Browns (I weighed mine out of a 32 ounce bag)
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup fresh chopped chives, plus some for garnishing
Salt & pepper
Fried eggs, for serving

Heat waffle iron on the medium-high setting. Coat each side liberally with canola or vegetable oil.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Stir in potatoes, cheese, chives, salt, and pepper.

Depending on the size of your waffle iron, scoop a layer of the potato mixture onto the surface (for the round waffle maker, I used about 1 cup of the mixture). Spread to about 1/2 inch from the edges and close the waffle iron. Cook for about 5 minutes, checking every few minutes to avoid burning. I found that mine took much longer to get brown and crispy. When the entire waffle is golden brown in color, carefully remove from the waffle iron with a fork. Transfer to a warm (200 degree) oven while you make the remaining waffles.

Serve with some fried eggs over top and a sprinkling of extra chopped chives.