Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!!!

                    I wanted to take a moment to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I know I have been quiet this year but I guess I needed it.

See you all in 2016!!! 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Pumpkin Maple Cinnamon Rolls

                 This year I embraced all things Fall. I headed into the stores with a gusto. I bought up every variety of squash I could get my hands on. I picked up bags of brussel sprouts and stopped for a moment to see if the world did in fact stop spinning. I hated brussel sprouts as a kid. They were bitter and horrible and gag worthy. However, I decided to pull my big girl panties up and give them another go after seeing the roasted brussel sprouts posts all over my news feed on Facebook. I paid attention and gave in. I am so glad I did because I absolutely love them. I'd say over the course of the last few months I have eaten them 1-2 times a week.

My freezer is full of pureed squashes which makes me happy since I have plenty of time to play around with new bread this one! My favorite cinnamon roll recipe at the moment. Their soft and huge and fluffy and HUGE. These suckers grow like crazy in the oven so be prepared!

Pumpkin Maple Cinnamon Rolls

1/2 cup Warm Milk
2-1/2 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
1 cup Pumpkin Puree..or Squash of choice
4-3/4 cups All-purpose more as needed
1/3 cup (75 grams) Unsalted Butter,softened
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1-3/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon

1/2 cup (113 grams) Unsalted Butter,softened
1 cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
1-1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Maple Glaze:
1-1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
2 TBS Milk
1 tsp. Maple Extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook,add the warm milk and yeast. Add in remaining ingredients and mix on speed 2, for 8-9 mins or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic..Don't panic if you need more flour..puree from different squashes can have a larger water content so it's not abnormal if you need to add more..I did! Place your dough ball into a greased bowl,turning once to coat. Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in sie, about 1 hour or so.

In a small bowl,combine the brown sugar filling with the cinnamon.

Sprinkle your counter top with flour. Deflate the dough and knead it a few times in the bowl before turning it out onto the floured surface. Roll the dough out into a 15x9 inch rectangle. Spread the butter evenly across the dough and then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture all over the butter. Starting with the long end begin rolling up the dough tightly and then pinch the dough across to seal the seam. Roll it over so that the seam is facing down.

Spray two 9 inch cake pans and set aside. Using either a knife or better wire! slice into 12 rolls. Place cut side down into prepared pans. Cover and allow to rise until puffy, 30mins to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375/90. Uncover the rolls and bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

In a bowl,combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle onto cooled rolls. Devour. Right away.

Yield: 12 Cinnamon Rolls
Source: Plain Noodles 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: The Arrival of Fall


                   Fall has been kind to us so far and you will hear no complaints from me. I've lived here 8 years now and it's the first time I've been able to keep heat off and have the windows wide open. It's changing though and the cold is on its way.

I am busy in the kitchen this week preparing for our Thanksgiving. We are having it this weekend since that fits our schedule the best. There will be turkey and stuffing and gravy and pie and rolls and everything else you would expect to see on the table during this time. I am missing home and my family terribly. It's just not the same over here.

Still. I am grateful for what I do have and never lose sight of that. Winter is on the way and that brings many exciting things along with it. I look forward to sharing it with you!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: Shaping and Bun Baking Class

      A few weeks ago I attended my third bread baking class! This time we decided to tackle shapes and various bun and roll techniques.

As always,there was a ton of laughter,learning,and of course..eating. I've learned a ton when it comes to kneading and shaping and can't wait to see what we tackle in 2016! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Orange Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

                I can not believe it's November 2nd! This is the last month I can officially say that I am 40..Dec 1st and I will be the big 4-1. So many mixed emotions come to mind as I think about being one year older. I am not settled..that much I know. I wake up in the middle of the night now and can't fall back asleep. My brain refuses to shut off with its alarm bells and I've had far to many foggy mornings with bags under my eyes and clutching my coffee like my life depends on it. Gotta love the 40's.

Waking up early anyway because of my husbands work schedule leaves me loads of time to play in the kitchen. It's my favorite place to be during these darker days of fall and winter. I've got Thanksgiving on my mind and of course,Christmas..because if I am honest, I think about that most of all. I think about my cookie platter and which new cookie will be added. I can tell you right's this one! I am such a fan of the orange chocolate combination and this hits all the right spots. The orange flavor is spot on and upfront with its orang-ie self..ok I know that's not a word but we'll ignore that. The chocolate is delicious, the oats are perfect. It's an all around perfect cookie in my opinion. I took it along with me when I had my recent bread class and came home with an empty bag.

I love cookies.

Orange Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup Unsalted Butter,softened
1 cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Sugar
2 Large Eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 tsp. Orange Extract
Zest of 2 Large Oranges
1-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
3 cups Old-fashioned Oats
150 grams Orange Dark Chocolate,roughly chopped..Splurge on the best bar you can makes all the difference!
1/2 cup Toasted Walnuts,coarsely chopped,optional

Preheat oven to 350/180. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl,or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment,cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one a time,beating well after each addition. Add extracts and orange zest and mix until combined.

In another bowl,combine flour,baking soda,salt and oats; slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until well combined. Add the chocolate and walnuts (if using) and mix until combined.

Drop tablespoons worth of dough 2 inches apart onto prepared pan.

Bale 10-12 minutes,until lightly browned around the edges. The cookies are going to look slightly undone and that is ok because it's going to result in a deliciously chewy cookie. Cool on pan 3-5 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Yield: 30 Cookies
Source:Port and Fin 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: Muiderslot

            Last week during fall vacation we got up at 5:15 am and a boarded a train to Amsterdam,then a tram and then a boat so we could visit,Muiderslot. A beautiful castle just outside of Amsterdam.

        It was overcast out and there was a slight drizzle on and off the entire day which only added to the experience in my opinion..Who wants to visit a sunny castle?

         After walking around the inside and exploring all the rooms we headed out to visit the castle gardens.
           The herb garden..
                  The veggie garden..
                 And a pic of the boat we took to reach the castle..

          I can sometimes forget how much fun it can be to play tourist..All in all it was a wonderful day. I can tell you without a doubt, I am not a train traveler. It's just not me. There are people who love zooming all over the place but I am not one of them.'s worth it when you get to see beautiful things like this.

What have you been up to lately?


Monday, October 26, 2015

No-knead Cheddar and Chive Rolls

                Here is a super easy recipe that requires zero kneading! You can add in whatever type of cheese you want,leave out the dried chives if you don't want them..maybe you want crumbled up cooked bacon with mozzarella? Actually that sounds really good and I think I will be making that version next time with pizza seasonings tossed into the mix.

The rolls freeze well so bake up a batch of these babies and be a hero at dinner time!

No-knead Cheddar and Chive Rolls

4-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 TBS Sugar
1 TBS Salt..or less if you want
2 TBS Dried Chives;optional
2-1/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
2 cups Milk..low fat,full make the call
1 TBS Butter
2 cups (8 ounces) Shredded Cheddar Cheese

In a large bowl,combine 2 cups of flour,sugar,salt,chives,and yeast. In a saucepan,heat milk and butter to 115-120F. Pour over dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in cheese and enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 mins-1 hour. Dough will soft and that is ok!

Grease either 2 or 3 9 inch round cake pans with non stick spray and set aside. Gently deflate the dough and divide into 2 or 3 portions and shape each portion into 12 balls. Place into prepared pans. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise until nearly doubled,about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350/180. Brush the tops with milk or an egg wash if you prefer and bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

** I only have two,9 inch round cake pans so I divided the dough to fit into those. You can make smaller rolls and pop them into 3 if you prefer. It's up to you**

Yield: 26-36 rolls
Source: Taste of Home 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: The Last of Summer


                 A little over a month ago we headed out for a final walk through of our favorite can walk through it all year long but I like it best in summer..It's Fall and Winter pics from here on out!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Orange Walnut Snowballs

                 Our alarm clock goes off at 4:15 am.. 5 days a week. I head downstairs with my husband and get the coffee on and work on breakfast and packing his lunch. He's out the door by 6:20 and I won't see him again until 7:30 at night..and that's only if there are no problems with the trains..and there are always problems. Now that we're pushing 41 we are slightly more tired these days and often times our smiles don't quite reach our eyes and the need to give each other that hug or encouraging word is very real. We're living in stressful times and the weight on the shoulders can be extremely heavy at times and the desire to carry more so the other can have a break is constant.
        When I see that a boost is needed..either by my side or his, I usually head into the kitchen. There is something honestly comforting to me about being in there and knowing that with just a few ingredients I hand over a plate of sunshine when my husband or two sons walk through the door. I can extend a plate over the fence to my neighbor and pass along the smile and encouragement I think we all need from time to time.

So go make someones day with cookies. Make your own day with cookies. Curl up with a good book or watch your favorite movie that you know by heart or if you are anything like me, you are smiling to yourself as you mentally prepare for the holidays that are arriving quicker than your realize!

Orange Walnut Snowballs

1 cup Butter,softened
3/4 cup Powdered Sugar
Zest of one Orange..Any size will do
1/2 tsp. Orange Extract
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 cups All-purpose Flour
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 cup Finely chopped Walnuts
Additional powdered sugar for coating

Preheat oven to 350/180. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment..or in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the orange zest and extracts. Combine the flour and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in nuts.

Shape into 3/4 inch balls and place onto prepared cookie sheet 1 inch apart.

Bake 7-12 minutes or until bottom of cookies are lightly browned ( in my oven that took 7 minutes but it can take up to 12 but start checking right before the 10 minute mark). Remove cookies to wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Pour additional powdered sugar into a bowl and place each cookie into bowl,turning over and over until completely coated.

Store in airtight container

Yield: 36 cookies
Source: Taste of Home             

Monday, October 5, 2015

Chocolate Orange Challah

                    Do you have a bucket list? I've got one. It's filled with breads I want to bake before my hands give out and I can't knead or braid or twist or fold again without being in pain. I'm probably strange for having a bread bucket list but I'm feeling pretty ok about it these days.
          A few days ago I tackled Challah. I actually had nightmares about this braid. I thought about it for days and days before I started. I watched THIS video on how to do the braid correctly and turned the volume down since I learn better with just the visual and replayed it over and over. I was pumped and ready to go. I doubted myself during the entire process and vowed to never do it again..because there was no way it was going to work.

But oh did it! If I had been by myself I can assure you I would have shed a tear or two because it blew me away. The author describes the bread as a twist on challah and babka and I would say that is indeed the case. It's one heck of a beautiful loaf of bread. The flavor is incredible and if you are a fan of all things,orange and chocolate then you must give this bread a try.

I decided to not post the recipe for this but instead encourage you to head over to Yin and Yolk and get it straight from the source. The tips and directions are spot on and honestly better than anything I could do here myself. I am not set up to take photos as I am doing something and she provides plenty of visuals as well as directions. It seems like there are a lot of steps, but honestly it's mostly waiting for the dough to rise in between each step. You can do this.

The only change I made was to use milk chocolate simply because that's what I have in my cupboard. My kitchen is cooler these days so my dough needed slightly more time to warm up when I took it out of the fridge. I was blessed with a beautiful sunny window which allowed my bread to rise comfortably for a few hours and was rewarded with a huge loaf of bread that left my family oohing and aahing and with me beaming from ear to ear.

I will be baking this again. Head over to Yin and Yolk for the recipe and click HERE for the video on how to form this beautiful shape! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Take A Peek Wednesday: The Last of The Sunflowers



                 Growing sunflowers turned out to be a huge success! I am still getting new blooms everyday but my favorites are fading away. I will be growing them again next year for sure!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sweet Potato Focaccia

               Time is flying by! I can not believe we are almost towards the end of September! I am getting the non stop warnings on my Facebook about how many days are left until Christmas..94 in case you are wondering. I already feel behind!!! I had hopes of posting more on a regular basis but it's just not happening yet and I need to get back into the swing of things a bit more. I blame it on almost being 41 and going through some weird sort of brain fog.

So lets talk sweet potatoes. I love them. They are easier to find over here and I replace all my pumpkin recipes with sweet potatoes. The problem I have though is that I associate all sweet potatoes as being in the sweet category. I blame it on the fact that I bake muffins and cookies and bundt cakes and pies with them. So when I come across a bread recipe that uses them in a more savory brain doesn't translate the message very well and I end up sitting there wishing I had made it more sweet.

So that's the problem I had with this recipe. I kept wanting to taste to cinnamon in there somewhere. Needless to say, I will be baking these again and turning them more into a sweet potato focaccia with a cinnamon sugar topping.

I needed way more flour than the recipe stated so no worries if you need a cup or 3 to bring it all together. Cut these into whatever shape you want and in whatever size you like. You could split though in half and make to large focaccia's if you like.

Sweet Potato Focaccia

4-4-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
2-1/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast
1-1/4 cups Warm Water ( 110-115 degrees)
1-1/4 tsp. Salt
3 TBS Olive Oil
1-1/3 cups Cooked Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 TBS Olive Oil
1 tsp. Rosemary,chopped
3/4-1 tsp. Coarse Sea Salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook,add in your flour. Make a well in the center and sprinkle in the yeast. Pour the water on top and allow it to sit for about 5 mins or so. Add in your remaining ingredients and knead the dough on speed 2 for 10 minutes, adding in additional flour, one tablespoon at a time until a smooth and satiny dough is achieved. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl,turning once to coat. Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and gently press the dough out into a little over an inch thick with your hands. Cut the dough into 12 or more 3x3 inch squares or in into whatever shape you like. Place onto prepared pan,cover and allow to rise until doubled in size..30 mins to 1 hour..depends on the warmth of your kitchen.

Preheat oven to 375 or 190. Gently poke holes into the tops of the dough with a wooden handle. In a small bowl,combine the olive oil and rosemary. Brush the mixture onto the tops of the mini focaccia breads and then sprinkle the sea salt on top evenly.

Bake in the oven for 18-20 mins or until lightly browned. Cool slightly on wire racks. Eat.

Yield: 12 or more depending on the size you cut them
Source: Recipe,Food and Cooking            

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Take a Peek Wednesday: Sunflowers and Rainbow Carrots

                 My sunflowers are super late with their blooming..I still have around 25 that need to show their beautiful faces and this is our last week with warmish weather. I've got a few that have reached over 6 feet tall and the last few days they have slowly started to open :)

My small bounty of rainbow carrots finally came in. I could have left them in longer but I was to impatient and in need of a veggie for dinner..They were sweet and delicious!