Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Fall weekends just beg for cozy food.  On those mornings when it starts to get cool and all I want to do is stay in pajamas and socks, cinnamon rolls are pretty  perfect.  And since it’s October, what do I feel like adding to pretty much everything?  Ah yes, pumpkin.  The two together? Brilliant.  They make for a fun fall weekend breakfast.

These take a bit of time, since they are made with a yeast dough and have to rise twice.  If you feel like actually eating them in the morning without waking up super early to do so, I’d make them the night before, and then just bake them in the morning.  Commence the pumpkin binge…

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls  (inspired by and adapted from the recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction, a fabulous blog full of the sweetest treats)

  • Rolls
  • 1/3 c whole milk
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 c pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 1/4 t active dry yeast (or one standard-sized package)
  • 2 1/2 flour
  • Filling
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/2 nutmeg
  • 1/4 t cloves
  • 6 T butter, softened
  • Glaze
  • 1/3 c butter, melted
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Hot water

Make the dough:  Gently warm the butter and milk together, just until the butter is melted (if it’s too hot, it will kill the yeast).  Set it aside.  Mix the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl.  Add the warm milk/butter mixture and beat it all together until combined.  Add the egg then add the yeast, and beat it all together.  Add the flour in three batches, beating slowly after each addition, and then beat the whole mixture until combined.

Place the  dough in a bowl (I like to coat the inside of the bowl with a very thin layer of olive oil or cooking spray to make sure the dough doesn’t stick).  Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise, until it doubles in size (about an hour).  (I usually let my doughs rise in the oven.  If you have a gas oven, there is usually a bit of residual heat that makes it slightly warm.  If not, you can preheat your oven to 200 or so, then turn it off before you put the dough in.)

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and place it onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough a little bit, adding flour as needed to make the dough easier to knead (I probably added about 1/3 cup of additional flour).  Roll or press the dough out into a rectangle (I am bad at estimating size but I’d say mine was probably 18×10 inches or so.)

Make the filling:  Combine the softened butter, brown sugar, and spices in a small bowl.  Spread the mixture all over the dough.

Assemble:  Roll the dough into a log.  (Start rolling from the shorter/narrower end of the rectangle–that way, you’ll have more spirals of filling.)  Use a sharp knife to cut the log into rolls (mine were probably 1 1/2 or 2 in thick).

Coat the inside of a pan (I used a ceramic pie dish, mostly because it had a ruffled edge, and was green and pretty) with a thin layer of olive oil or cooking spray.  Arrange rolls in the pan.  Again, let the rolls rise until they double in size (about an hour).  (This is when you can stop the night before, and let them rise overnight to be baked in the morning.)

Bake the rolls:  Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake rolls for approximately 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on them for browning, and cover loosely with aluminum foil if they are browning too much (I covered mine after about 18-20 mins).

Make the glaze:  While the rolls are baking, mix the melted butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla.  Add 1 T of hot water at a time until glaze reaches desired consistency.

Let the rolls cool a little bit after they come out of the oven (I feel your pain–this is difficult).  Spread or drizzle the glaze over the rolls, and enjoy one (or three) with a cup of coffee.  Yay weekends!

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roasted veggie gazpacho

For me, chilled soups can be hit or miss. I’ve had wonderful ones–one in particular I remember was a strawberry basil soup that I ate on a summer afternoon on the patio of one of my favorite (unfortunately, now closed) Chicago restaurants, Bistro 110.

But, I’ll admit, sometimes cold soup can be a little weird. One that is almost always delicious, though, is gazpacho. On a warm day, it’s the perfect lunch. And it makes a filling dinner when paired with some grilled bread or, like we had, sautéed shrimp.

This soup is a creamier gazpacho. I certainly love chunky, almost salsa-like versions, too, but this one isn’t really like that. It has a nice, smoother texture, while not being completely pureed or watery. I think this gets better the longer it sits, so making it the night before and chilling overnight would be the best, but not necessary.

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Roasted Tomato Gazpacho

  • 1.5 pounds roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into large wedges
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 anaheim pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 thick slice sourdough bread, toasted (or staled)
  • Optional toppings: cilantro, crushed red pepper, chopped tomatoes, and green onions (these are what we used, but anything that sounds good works, too)

Toast the almonds: put them in a pan over medium high heat. Heat until fragrant and a bit golden, stirring or shaking the pan while the almonds toast, to make sure they don’t burn. Keep an eye on them–they can burn in a blink. When they smell “nutty” and start to change color a bit, they’re done.

Make the gazpacho: heat a grill pan or cast iron pan over high heat. Place the whole tomatoes, onion wedges, whole peppers, and whole garlic cloves in the pan. (This is dry roasting, so you don’t need any oil or anything in the pan.) Dry roast the vegetables until black char marks appear on the sides. Things may finish roasting at different times, so remove them as they get enough char.

Core the tomatoes and peppers (removing the seeds and ribs). Remove the paper from the garlic cloves.

In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, onion, peppers, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and salt/pepper. Blend until pureed.

Add toasted almonds and bread. Adjust seasoning if needed. Chill.

Serve with anything that sounds good–two of my favorite things are thick slices of grilled or toasted focaccia bread and shrimp. The shrimp in the photo above were tossed in salt, pepper, garlic, creole seasoning, chili powder, and olive oil; then sautéed in a skillet over medium-high heat until they just turned pink. Easy, healthy, and yummy!

chicken dumpling soup

I think Fall may have officially arrived! (See? I said I’d embrace it eventually.)  When we had that first officially brisk day, I could only think of one thing: soup. Nothing better in cool weather.  As if by magic, I caught a rerun of one my most favorite little cooking shows, and on it was this chicken dumpling soup.  As an aside, that show is Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen on BBC (Cooking Channel shows it here in the US, too)–it’s fabulous, she’s fabulous, and I think the whole thing is just charming and great.  The food is simple and yummy, and I want her cookbook quite badly.  Pretty much, I want to be her.

Anyway, girl crush aside: this soup.  It’s super basic, but what makes it really yummy are the dumplings.  I’d never made anything quite like them before.  (Actually, I don’t really think I’d ever put chicken breasts into a blender before…) But, they come together quickly and are so light and delicious.  Plus they make the soup kind of special!  And they’re easy to do ahead of time–I made the dumplings the night before so I could just put together the rest of the soup easily the next evening after work.  This is a slight variation on the original recipe–she also adds mushrooms so feel free if you’re a fan.

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Starts with a mirepoix–chopped celery, carrots, and onion, sautéing in a bit of olive oil and butter

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The dumplings–they might look a bit strange at first but they’re delicious

Chicken broth and the dumplings are added to the sautéed veggies

Chicken broth and the dumplings are added to the sautéed veggies

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Served with chopped parsley or cilantro

And eaten on the porch with white wine

And eaten in the cool outside air with white wine

And perhaps the evening will turn into a lovely one with candles, wine, and a long talk on the porch

And perhaps the evening will turn into a lovely one with candles, wine, and a long talk on the porch

chicken dumpling soup (boillon de poulet avec des quenelles de volailles)

dumplings (quenelles)

  • 8oz chicken breast
  • 4-5 slice of white bread, crusts removed and torn
  • 6 1/2 T heavy cream
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 t salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

Place all the above ingredients into a food processor or blender.  Blend until they form a paste.  Shape the dumplings into a medium-sized, football-like shape using two spoons.  This video (also above) shows the easiest way to do this, but you basically just enough to fit in the spoon, and then pass the mixture back and forth between the two spoons until you have a dumpling shape that looks like the photo above.  This is the easiest way to shape these, since they are much too sticky to use your hands.

soup

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 6 c chicken stock
  • Parsley or cilantro, chopped (or another herb that sounds good to you)

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat (I used a large cast iron dutch oven).  Add the chopped carrots, celery, and onion, and sauté until the onion begins to soften (5-10min).  Pour the chicken broth into the bot, and bring to a boil.  Gently add the dumplings to the pot, and simmer until they are cooked through (3-5min).  The dumplings will float to the top when they are done, and you can also cut one in half to check it.  If all the dumplings are approximately the same size, they should cook evenly.

Serve with chopped parsley or cilantro on top. Be cozy!

guacamole salad

I could (and have) made an entire batch of guacamole and eaten it myself as a meal. I love it, in a way that’s problematic because I never get sick of it. Anyway, my husband isn’t quite as into eating a dip or condiment for dinner, so I came up with this salad. It’s got all the goodies of guacamole–plus chicken and chickpeas for some protein and texture–but is a bit more substantial (and meal-like).

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Chopped tomatoes, green onion, and cilantro

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Sauteed chicken, diced

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Tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, chicken, and chickpeas

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Added avocado, corn, and extra cilantro

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Finished with feta cheese and lime juice

Guacamole Salad

  • 2 avocados, diced into bite size cubes
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, seeded, diced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • Cilantro, to taste
  • 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ear of corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • Lime juice (I used the juice from 1/2 of a lime; if you’re not afraid of a little extra tartness, use a whole lime)
  • 2 chicken breasts (seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
  • Feta or cotija cheese, to taste (I love cotija but don’t always have it on hand; feta is a good, easier to find substitute since it’s dry and salty, and crumbles well like cotija)

Sauté the chicken: heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. If the chicken breasts are thick, pound them to about 1/2-inch thin. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels, and season them on both sides with salt (I like to use Lawry’s Seasoned Salt sometimes, too, for extra flavor), pepper, and garlic powder. Once the the skillet is hot, place the chicken breasts in the pan, and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. This should only take a few minutes on each side. Once the chicken looks good and golden on each side, I usually take one piece off the heat and cut into it to see if it’s done (when the juices are clear and it’s whiter, not light pink, inside). Let the chicken cool before dicing it (it’ll stay juicier that way).

While the chicken is cooling, prep and mix the remaining ingredients. I usually cut and add the avocado last, right before serving, so that it doesn’t start to get brown. Chop the tomatoes, onion, and cilantro and mix together in a large bowl. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to the bowl. Cut the corn kernels off the cob and add them, too. Chop the avocado into cubes (here is the perfect way to do that) and add to the bowl. Add the lime juice and toss everything together.

Once the chicken has cooled, cut it into bite size cubes and add it to the bowl. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Give everything one last toss, being careful not to overmix so that the avocados don’t get all smushed.

Serve, with cheese, lime juice, and cilantro on the side for topping.

Enjoy a non-embarassing, grown-up way to eat guacamole for dinner!

summer fruit, yogurt, and granola

Happy weekend!

This isn’t as much of a recipe as just a celebration of summer fruit. A yogurt parfait is the perfect way to highlight that deliciousness, particularly I think, if the yogurt is fruity, too. For these, we used peaches and strawberries–I could smell them just by walking by the farmer’s market stands and they tasted as good as they smelled.

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Here in the Indy area, we have a great place to get local dairy: Traders Point Creamery. It’s a family owned, organic dairy farm and their products are sold in a lot of local markets around town. Their yogurts are particularly good–they’re the type that are quite liquidy, almost the consistency of very thick cream, which makes them great for pouring over things like fruit or cereal. (They also freeze really well into popsicles.) Traders Point describes the yogurts as European-style and drinkable–whatever they are, they’re yummy! We used raspberry for these, but my other favorite is the banana mango.

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Topped with some extra crunchy granola, these make the perfect light weekend breakfast. I like the warm flavor of vanilla with fruit, so we used french vanilla almond granola from The Fresh Market for these. And I put them in my favorite glasses from Crate & Barrel (“happy” morning!).

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ratatouille

“Anyone can cook!”

–Remy

While I love Fall and the crisp air, bright leaves, and football that come with it, the end of summer is still a little sad. No more outdoor farmer’s market and fewer bright colored fruits and veggies is a bummer! My solution to this problem? Buy all the fresh bright produce in sight. This dish arose partly from that sentiment–I wanted to make something for dinner that used as many pretty, colorful vegetables as possible.  (The other part is that my husband and I love the movie Ratatouille… :)) This dish isn’t tricky, and it’s delicious! The essential ingredients are below:

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All the pretty colors?! Couldn’t resist them. The first step of this recipe involves slicing the veggies very thinly. This is easiest with a mandoline, but can also be done (carefully) with a good sharp knife. I used the mandoline on all these vegetables, and still have all my digits–success!

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One of the parts that makes this so yummy is that the sliced veggies take a tomato/garlic/onion/olive oil bath (but not like this) while they bake. The tomato and flavorings are in the bottom of the baking dish, so when the veggies are layered on top, they soak in all that flavor while all the ingredients cook together. Being Italian, pretty much anything in tomato/garlic/onion/olive oil is a win in my book, particularly when fresh herbs are involved.

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Part of what makes ratatouille so fun is the pretty way it’s arranged. While mine is nowhere near perfect, I find that it works well to sort of spiral in from the outside, layering the slices in a pattern with each one overlapping the one below. I stuck the bell pepper in around the edges, and then put some small pieces in the center–that seemed kind of fun and added some more color. Anything works though!

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The veggies are topped with herbs and a bit of olive oil, and into the oven it goes. Once everything is bubbling together and smelling amazing, it’s all set!

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Since it was dinnertime (and I have a husband who eats like it’s his job, which is super fun for someone who loves to cook) for a little more substance, I served this over Israeli couscous, which is a toasted pasta that looks like tiny little balls or beads and is cooked much like regular couscous or quinoa. It’s so delicious, and has a great chewy texture. If you toast it in a bit of olive oil so it gets slightly golden brown before cooking it in liquid, it has a super yummy nutty taste that really makes it best. I also like to top this dish with some herbed goat cheese or feta. Both are quite good with it, especially if added when the veggies are hot so that the cheese gets all melty and fabulous. And lastly, because I couldn’t resist it at the farmer’s market, I added a side of a piece of Italian herb focaccia bread. Slightly toasted, this sops up any extra tomato-y juices at the end. Perfect.

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Ratatouille

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 eggplant (I used a Japanese eggplant, which is longer and skinner; this worked great because it was similar in circumference to the zucchini and squash)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 bell pepper
  • Fresh herbs (I used basil, oregano, and rosemary, but whatever you like along those lines would good)
  • Israeli couscous for serving, optional (a small pasta would also probably work well)
  • Feta or herbed goat cheese for serving, optional
  • Toasted focaccia or other flavorful bread for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour tomato puree into bottom of a medium, shallow baking dish (oval suits the “spiral” design well, but any type will work; mine was about 12 inches across, and I had extra veggies). Stir in the minced garlic, chopped onion, 1 T olive oil, and salt/pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and bell pepper. Remove the core and seeds from the bell pepper.

Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and squash into very thin (1/16 – 1/8 in.) slices using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Slice/dice the bell pepper into some thin slices and some small pieces.

In the baking dish and on top of the tomato sauce, arrange the veggies in a spiral pattern, starting from the outside. Overlap the slices and alternate the veggies, adding the slices of bell pepper at intervals and the diced pepper into the center.

Drizzle 1 T olive oil and sprinkle the fresh herbs over the veggies. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Cover the dish very loosely with a piece of foil or parchment paper (really, just lay it on top).

Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until veggies are cooked but not looking too limp or soggy. They won’t be brown, and the tomato sauce should be bubbly.

Optional couscous: If you want to serve this with the Israeli couscous, I’d recommend toasting it first. Heat some olive oil (approximately 1 T for a standard 15oz box of couscous) over medium heat in a wide pan. Add the couscous to the pan and toast, tossing or stirring the couscous every once in a while. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and it’s done when it gets a bit golden and smells nutty. (It usually takes about 10 minutes for me.) Then just cook the couscous according to the package directions.

Serve the ratatouille over the couscous, with the cheese on top (added while the veggies are nice and hot) and the toasted bread on the side.

Enjoy, then watch Ratatouille 🙂