Friday, November 21, 2014

Cinnabun Bites with Vanilla glaze

Does anyone else feel like Thanksgiving shouldn't just be a lunch or dinner affair? By the time I eat, I am so starved that I eat way too much and feel sick by the end! I think since Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks and eating a lot of food, we should start with breakfast...can I get an amen here! But seriously, how much better the day would be if started out right. So that is why I am sharing these lovely little morsels of goodness. I mean just look at those babies...deliciousness...oh and they smell heavenly as well!
I know we all have a lot of food to prepare so why am I telling you to add more to your plate (pun intended:)) Well because these can be prepped the night before and then thrown into the oven the morning of. How easy does that get?  If your family is anything like ours, your kids will be satisfied and keep their cute little grubby hands out of the big feast until it is finally ready!  Now that is worth it to me.  So if you need something super simple to throw together and fill some tummies before the meal, this would be a good option. 

Awhile ago before we started un-packing and doing the whole new house thing, I had some ladies over for lunch and this was our dessert.  I had never made them before, which can go either way when you make them for other people, but one thing is for sure....Martha Stewart got these right! WOW is all I can say.  They taste just like a cinnamon roll from cinnabun.  They are pure sweet pleasure for your mouth.  Dare I say there wasn't any left by the time everyone went home.  I didn't have my right pan to bake these in, but as you can see, they still worked in an 8x8 pan.  The only thing I noticed was that the middle ones were a little more doughy, but you can experiment with pans and sizes.
Cinnamon Bun Bites
Printable Recipe
Ingredients for dough:
½ cup warm water
1 TBSP active dry yeast
4 ½ cups all purpose flour, more if needed
4 large eggs
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp course salt (kosher salt works) (use 2 if using unsalted butter)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened, salted
plus ½ cup melted butter for pan

Vanilla Glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons whole milk (I sucessfully used 1% milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pour water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast evenly over water with a little sugar and slightly mix, and let stand until foamy, 5 to 7 minutes. Whisk until smooth, then whisk in 1/2 cup flour to form a loose paste. Let rise in a warm place until yeast mixture has risen and fallen, about 30 minutes.

Add eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and remaining flour to yeast mixture. Knead dough, using dough hook attachment on mixer, until smooth, 4 to 5 minutes

Add softened ½ cup of butter, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky). Turn out dough onto an unfloured work surface, and knead by hand until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Transfer dough to another bowl, and let rise in a warm place, covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down dough; press out air bubbles.

Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate or 9-inch square glass baking dish. Place melted butter in a bowl. Stir together remaining 1 cup sugar and the cinnamon in another bowl.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls (you should have about 40-45). Working with 1 at a time, dip balls into melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar and place in pie plate. Stack balls to form a dome. Sprinkle with any remaining cinnamon sugar, and drizzle with any leftover butter. Cover with plastic wrap, and let balls rise by half, about 1 hour. If you are going to cook this the next day, you don’t need to let them rise, just make sure your plastic wrap firmly covers the dough and place in refrigerator.  The morning of, take rolls out of the refrigerator, let warm for a few minutes while the oven pre-heats, then remove saran wrap.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, watching the edges so they don’t burn.  If you need to, put tin foil around the edges if they are getting too dark.

If you are making this the same day:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap balls, and place pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and firm, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let bites cool in dish 15 minutes, then drizzle with glaze.

Stir together sugar and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together butter, milk, and vanilla, and stir into sugar until mixture forms a smooth paste. Keep glaze at room temperature until ready to drizzle over cinnamon-bun bites. Before using, whisk until smooth.

Recipe from Martha Stewart and William Sonoma

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bites

 I'm getting a teeeeny bit excited for the holidays!  This year is so full of family, good food and fun that I am just giddy inside.  We were talking with our kids about the next month or two and how much we get to spend with family and I could see it in their eyes too.  Though moving has been a tough transition, times like this make it all worth it. We all feel that way. 

We are enjoying Thanksgiving with my parents in law, so they will do most of the cooking, but I offered to bring Mashed potatotes and coconut cream pie...MMMM!!  And I have all ready been planning and scheming what kind of appetizers, dips, treats, sides and food we will have during the Christmas season too.  Each time I go to the grocery store, I try and pick up an item or two in preparation for all the yumminess.  It's hard not to with all the markdown on baking and cooking items they are having right now.  If you have been to the store in the last few weeks you know what I am talking about!

And best of all, my parents are coming to stay with us and I am beyond excited.  I don't think they have ever stayed at our house on Christmas!!!  I'm excited to share in all the fun and excitment with them! 

And in loo of the upcoming  baking season I am going to share with you a new treat that I will most definietely be making, Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bites. 

This fall a family offered me pounds and pounds of apples, so I have been finding a lot of great ways to use them up.  I canned super easy and healthy applesauce (which I will post about another time soon!) that my kids love, I made freezer apple pie filling (and I can post this if anyone wants it!), apple crisp, these slow cooker glazed cinnamon apples which are good with fat boy ice cream sandwiches and over oatmeal if you were wondering :), and made a variation of one of my all time favorite dessert bars, caramel apple cheesecake bars, into mini cups.  And oh were they good! 

Let me tell you how good my house has smelled over the last few months.  The smell of apples cooking with cinnamon is euphoric. And I love it.

Okay, sorry, back to these babies. They are delightfully sinful and I feel like having 2 or 3 isn't so bad (would an entire pan be a bad thing??) They are perfect treats to take to parties, or give as part of a Christmas cookie exchange and to give to neighbors.  Plus they taste best when they have had time to sit in the refrigerator for about a day, which means you can make them ahead of time!

They are slighly different than the bars, but just as delicious. The bottom is a graham cracker crust, which forms nicely in the baking cups. Other than that, these are just a slightly varied form of the bars. You can use whichever you like best. I like using a combination of the two. So that is the recipe I have below. Enjoy my friends!

And before you look at the ingredient list and run the other way, I promise it looks like a lot of work, but it really comes together quicker than you think.  Most times I will make caramel sauce in advance so that step is all ready finished, but even if you don't, it will be well worth it!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bites
Yield: 18  Prep Time: 30 min  Cook time: 25 minutes

10 graham crackers sheets, finely crushed (1 1/3 cups)
2 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup quick oats
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

2 (8 oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

3-4 small tart apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped..really small so they cook through (like granny smith)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Caramel Sauce (or use 12 oz store bought)
1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup salted butter
½ cup heavy whipping cream

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor or blender, crush graham cracker squares. Add in sugar and cinnamon. Mix for 30 seconds or until well combined.  Put crumb mixture into a separate mixing bowl and pour in butter and using a fork, stir until evenly moistened. Divide mixture among 18 paper lined muffin cups. If you like more crust, just make 12.  Press into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven 5 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool.

For the streusel:
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, quick oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add cold butter and using fingertips, rub butter into dry mixture until it comes together it small crumbles and pieces of butter are no longer visible. Transfer to refrigerator while preparing apples and filling.

For the Apples:
In a bowl, toss chopped apples with lemon juice. In a separate small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and evenly coat apples. Set aside.

For the filling:
In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed, cream together cream cheese with sugar just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, then blend in sour cream and vanilla.

For the caramel sauce :
Whisk sugar and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat until it melts. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Set aside. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, until ready to use.

To assemble cheesecakes:
Divide cheesecake batter evenly among 18 muffin cups pouring filing over crust (I used a 1/4 cup and filled it about 3/4 full). Divide apples evenly over cheesecake layer, then finish by sprinkling a heaping tablespoon of the streusel over tops. Bake in preheated oven 23 - 25 minutes. Cool at room temperature 30 minutes, then transfer to fridge and chill 3 hours. Serve with caramel sauce.

Recipe adapted from this blog

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Flavorful Pot Roast

the only problem with this baby is that it doesn't photograph well, no matter what you do :)
 Hello again.  It seems like forever since I have really posted.  The Halloween posts were just fun little ones I had written, but now I am hoping to get back into the swing of things.  Why is it that when you move, you feel a little over your head with things to do?  And you can't get on top of it for a few months?  Finally we are starting to settle into a routine, getting used to how things work and am able to breath again.  Though I haven't posted for awhile, I have still be cooking.  Most of my meals lately have been my quick and easy weeknight meals that take little time to prepare.  I have several more installments of the quick weeknight meals to add to the previous ones.  They are all ones that we use frequently and all are kid approved.  Pinky swear. 
 This one today is one of the easiest, tastiest crockpot beefs stews you could imagine.  My mom (of course!) made this all the time when I still lived at home.  I adopted it into my family now.  We don't make it often so that we don't grow tired of it.  It isn't one I want to give up on easily.  But every time I do, everyone gobbles it up.  I think out of the entire meal, the potatoes and carrots are my favorite, which I think the rest of my family would agree with as well.  I place a smaller roast in the bottom, then dump as many carrots and potatoes as my crock pot can handle over the top.  What can be better than that!  Normally my kids don't care for cooked carrots, but in this, they devour them.  I'll take that any day! 

You really should give this a try.  Extremely tasty and equally as easy.  Now that the weather has turned colder and you need a good comfort meal to keep you warm without a lot of fuss, this is perfect.  Let your crockpot do all the work and take the night off and enjoy every minute of it!   We usually pair it with these freezer rolls, which can be made ahead of time, frozen, then on the day you want to eat them, let them rise for about 3-4 hours depending on the temperature in your house, cook for 15 minutes and relish in the home made meal you just enjoyed with little work on your part. Happy Thursday everyone!
Note: This can also be made in a cast iron pot, like a lodge or le cruset, but for less time, around 3 hours.  You will just need to add more water than in the crockpot.  You will also need to stir it every so often, so it doesn't burn or get stuck to the bottomThe meat will be slightly more tough, but still yummy!

Flavorful Pot Roast
Printable Recipe
1 boneless beef chuck roast, (good quality)

2-3 cups potatoes, thinly sliced or diced

2-3 cups baby carrots

1 envelop ranch salad dressing mix

1 envelop Italian salad dressing mix

1 envelope brown gravy mix

½-1 cup water

Place roast, carrots and potatoes in a 5 qt slow cooker.  In a small bowl, combine the salad dressings and gravy mixes; stir in water.  Pour over meat.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until tender. 
Recipe from my mom 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Halloween Monster Teeth {kids style}

If I could pick a holiday to skip, Halloween might be it.  I do not enjoy all the freaky masks, horror movies (who even likes those!) and fighting my kids about not eating the 100 piece of candy they just got in one sitting.  But what I do like is the fun, kiddish part of Halloween and all the creative ideas for food. 

My mother-in-law's favorite holiday happens to be Halloween and she does a party every year full of games, music, fun food and prizes.  The kids love it and have been asking every day when her party is.  And this is the part of Halloween I do like...the fun food! 

Every halloween eve, we make a feast of fun and interesting foods that we give different names bones, dipped in blood (breadsticks and marinara), Monster salad or graveyard jello, monster eyes (meatballs), spiderweb munch, Chocolate mousse in witch hats, and then the yummy desserts like chocolate pretzel rings, candy corn almond bark, and candy corn cupcakes, homemade oreos with orange frosting or Halloween sprinkles. 

Though I love the desserts, it seems to be a bit much sometimes, so when I found these I knew they would be a good balance with all the treats we make.  They are super simple to throw together and taste yummy too.  My kids gave this two thumbs up!  Happy Halloween Baking!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monster Eye Salad

My friend from Klamath Falls said they do this every year on Halloween and so we did a smaller version and my kids loved it! There isn't much of a recipe, just hard boil an egg slice in half, slice some olives and add to any salad.  Healthy and Halloweeny! 

Here is a list of other yummy Halloween treats we usually make this time of year: Halloween Line-up

Recipe idea from my friend Jaime Olsen....thanks friend!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

frosting for sugar cookies

You know how you have some recipes that are your go-to-never-fail kind of recipes...well I have posted my favorite sugar cookie recipe that I use every holiday, but I haven't ever posted my favorite frosting recipe!  So finally, here is our favorite frosting recipe to go with the best sugar cookies ever..  They make a good pair, seriously, these won't disappoint, they'll disappear. 

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes about 4 cups of frosting
*1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and powdered sugar. Make sure the cream cheese and powdered sugar are mixed very well, without lumps, before adding all the other ingredients. Now add salt and vanilla. Mix until very smooth and light and no lumps remain. In a separate bowl, beat the cream to stiff peaks. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture. Mix until well combined and smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Recipe source:slightly adapted from this recipe on allrecipies

Friday, August 29, 2014

Banana Peanut Butter Sundae {Healthy}

After a hard workout, I was needing something to refuel me a little bit. I didn't want to indulge, but I needed a quick pick me up. Then I decided to add a little of this and a little of that, and voila, Banana and Peanut Butter Sundaes were born. Then they turned into not only an after workout pick me up, but into a special treat when I wanted to have something sweet, yet not ruin all my hard work for the day. This is a great go to and perfect in small portions.  This isn't rocket science, but if you need a new idea for a healthy treat or a good after workout food, here you go!  Add and replace as you please. 

Banana Peanut Butter Sundae
Printable Recipe
1 small banana
1 TBSP peanut butter
1 TBSP chocolate chips
strawberries, cut up (optional)

Warm peanut butter in the microwave and drizzle over banana.  Add chocolate chips and chopped strawberries.  Enjoy!

Okay and just for fun, I am going to include a work out that I have been doing once or twice a week after I run and am loving it.  You can do all the exercises without any equpiment. Oh and as far as where I got it, I have no idea.  When we moved I found this paper I had written an entire exercise on, but had never tried, until just recently.  It is a fast moving circuit type routine, meaning it targets mostly your legs, but also works all other parts of your body (core and abs) as well. And if you don't know what an exercise looks like, just google it...Good luck!

50 jumping jacks

30 second jump rope (just mimics the movement if you don’t have a jump rope (I did!))

20 alternating lunges

30 second jump rope

10 tuck jumps

30 second jump rope

20 squats

20 seconds jump rope

60 second high knees

30 second jump rope

10 jump squats

30 second jump rope

10 burpees

30 second jump rope

60 jumping jacks

30 second jump rope

20 mountain climbers

30 second jump rope

25 push ups (can do modified)

30 second jump rope

60 second plank

Do this twice.  For a beginner, you can start doing this only once, then work up to doing the entire set a second time.  To keep your heart rate up, move quickly through each exercise without many breaks between if you can.  If you do this twice, it will take you about 30 minutes to complete.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Taco Salad with Catalina Dressing

We still have a few more weeks of summer here, so I wanted to share one of my all time favorite salads with you.  You can always adjust the amounts too for a larger crew. 

I grew up on Taco Salad.  My mom always made a giant bowl of it and we would devour it.  We used to put nacho cheese doritos and dorothy lynch dressing on it.  MMM.  But when we moved to Oregon, I searched every grocery store, but they didn't have Dorothy Lynch!  So, I never made taco salad anymore.  I know, just use another dressing, but I couldn't!  It wasn't the same (weird, you don't have the same issues) But then I found a dressing that was comparable and made me love on taco salad once again.  I changed the dressing slightly to our liking and now this has again become a staple at our house.  The main ingredients are the same as growing up, but the dressing, made ahead of time, is delicious and worth the extra time and works just as well as my beloved Dorothy Lynch.

2.5 Taco Salad with homemade Catalina dressing
Printable recipe
Yield: 6-8
1/2-1 pound ground beef, or turkey
1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup cubed cheese, of both sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
1 6-ounce can olives, chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 roma or plum tomatoes, chopped
Crushed nacho cheese Doritos/or Tortilla chips

1/4 cup ketchup (see note)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup onion finely chopped (start with this and add more to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large, nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef with salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon of each) until cooked through, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces as it cooks. Drain excess grease if needed. Scrape the meat onto a paper towel-lined plate and set aside to cool a bit.
Combine all the dressing ingredients together in a blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This tastes best if it has time to chill in the refrigerator.  It can be made up 3-4 days in advance.
To serve:
In a large bowl, toss all the salad ingredients together (including the cooled meat) except the crushed tortilla tips. Serve the salad with the dressing and crushed Doritos
2. from Mel\'s Kitchen Cafe (www.melskitc from Mel\'s Kitchen Cafe (

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

School lunches

Our oldest used to eat school lunches, but to keep it a little healthier, we decided to let her pick her favorite hot lunch for the week and the rest of the days we would make her lunch.  My middle son always eats cold lunch, and only on rare occassion does he want to have hot lunch, so we have had to get a little creative to make their lunches not be the exact.same every day.  We don't get all crazy, but here are a few ideas my kids really enjoy and thought we would pass it on to you in case you need a little inspiration.

Main course:
granola bar bites
smoothies, frozen in small containers (they thaw by the time lunch hits)
cheese and crackers (cube cheese and eat with ritz or club crackers)
yogurt with granola (or use the granola bar bites)
tortilla with cheese (cut up cheese rolled up in a tortilla)
triscuit pizzas (cold and assmbled at school)
the typical meat and cheese sandwiches or Peanut Butter and Jelly on leftover rolls or sandwich bread
bagel sandwich (my kids preference if we have them)
leftover pizza (warmed and wrapped in tin foil to keep slightly warm)
cottage cheese with pretzels to dip in it
leftover stromboli (warmed and wrapped in tin foil to keep slightly warm)

frozen blueberries, thawed by the time lunch comes
string cheese
danimal smoothies
strawberries cut up
apples cut up (with lemon juice to keep from browning)
oranges slices
carrots with ranch (a little ranch at the bottom of a container with the carrot tips in it)
cashews and dried cranberries
trail mix
granola bars (any of these choices are good options)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Potato and Hamburger Lumberjack Breakfast

Since camping season is upon us, I thought I would share our all time favorite breakfast!  Without fail, we always have it while we camp or when we cook at the coast.

This concoction is from my dad.  When he made dinner, he usually just threw in whatever we had on hand and sometimes it was a little interesting.  You never knew if you were going to get elk meat or pheasant, but that wasn't often, since he worked odd hours.   

When he made breakfast, he did something similar, except you could count on it being a little less adventurous :)  That's where this came from.  He would use the baked potatoes from the previous nights dinner, without skins and then add cooked hamburger we had leftover.  I loved it as a kid!  It was hearty and a special treat for us. 

Just a few years ago when we moved to Oregon and started camping a lot more often with our kids, I started making this for breakfast on our camp stove.  It has now turned into a staple when we go to the coast and cook by the ocean as well.

 It is really simple to prepare in advance.  I throw a few potatoes in the oven and bake them until they are done, and while the potatoes are baking, I cook hamburger.  When it has finished cooking, I put it in a large resealable bag and freeze it until we are ready to eat it. 

The proportions don't need to be exact, just peel the skins of the baked potato away (they should be pretty easy to pull off by this point) and add hamburger.  This is a great breakfast dish or we even have this when we make breakfast for dinner.  Either way, it is a pleaser for all ages and genders.  Love it!

Potato and Hambuger Breakfast
Season salt
Ketchup or honey mustard

Clean the skin of the potato with water and scrub with your fingers, poke with a fork and place in the oven.  Cook at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until the potato is easy to pierce with a fork.  Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Cook the hamburger with onion and season with salt and pepper until cooked through. Store in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

When ready to use peel away skins from potato and add to skillet.  Add hamburger. Break potato into smaller pieces.  Season with season salt to your liking (we use quite a bit).  Stir. Let cook until the potatoes become a little crisp and hamburger is warmed. Serve with ketchup or honey mustard.
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