Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Banana-oatmeal breakfast cookies

More road trip food! These cookies were a delicious way to use up old bananas despite the fact that I didn't have any flour. Gluten and dairy free (depending on your chocolate chips), but still delicious!

Start with bananas.

Mash 'em. Just in case you didn't know what mashed bananas looked like:

Add the oatmeal, peanut butter, vanilla extract, salt, sugar, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

I tried an experiment of baking these in muffin tins. It kept the cookies nice and round but created a weird edge to them so...not really worth it?

Banana-oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
Adopted from Chocolate Covered Katie

1 ripe banana
1 cup quick-cooking plain oatmeal, divided (gluten-free if desired)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
dash cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mash the banana in a large bowl. Place 1/2 cup of oatmeal in a magic bullet or other blender/food processor and blend for approximately 30 seconds, or until the oatmeal looks like coarse flour. Add the oatmeal flour and the rest of the oatmeal, along with the peanut butter, vanilla extract, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir to combine and then fold in the walnuts and the chocolate chips.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are light golden brown.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Homemade hot pockets!

The fiancé, also known as LC, was born and raised in a South American country where savory foods for breakfast was the norm. He's adapted to granola bars and cereal here in the US, but I know he'd prefer a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast most any day. Since we were preparing for a loooong road trip from NJ to MN (just like the name of the blog! what a coincidence), I figured some homemade ham and cheese hot pockets would be the perfect on-the-go breakfast.

I've made these "hot pockets" for him several times this year, with lots of different fillings: sausage, spinach, mushrooms, bacon...this really isn't a recipe so much as a technique. Be creative and enjoy! :)

Each hot pocket uses a lump of dough just a little smaller than a tennis ball. I usually just stretch and pull them by hand rather than rolling them out...this isn't a beauty contest.

Pile on the toppings: shredded cheddar cheese and deli ham, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Fold and tuck until all the toppings are encased by dough.

The tray ready to go into the oven! I cut some vents into the top of each hot pocket. When I've made a couple of different types of fillings in the same batch, I cut different types of vents for each type of filling -- X for vegetarian, horizontal vents for bacon, vertical vents for sausage, something like that. Or the filling can just be a surprise! 

Of course, I failed to get a picture of the finished product -- next time!

Homemade hot pockets

Bread dough (1/4 of my favorite bread dough recipe made 5 hot pockets)
Fillings (cheese, spinach, mushrooms, bacon, chicken, sausage, ham...the sky is the limit! All meat fillings should be fully cooked, and all fillings should be cut/shredded into small pieces).

Pinch off a ball of dough, a little smaller than a tennis ball. Stretch and shape it into a rectangle. Place fillings on one half of the rectangle., and then fold the other half of the dough over the top. Pinch the ends together to create a tight seam.

Repeat until dough is all used up.

Cut slits in the top of each hot pocket for a vent.

Allow hot pockets to rest for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Frozen spinach smoothies

I know I'm not the first to jump on the "green smoothie" train, by a long shot. I love 'em. But I have to admit that often I end up not making enough in a week and throwing away the slimy spinach from the bottom of the bag.

The solution? Use frozen spinach!

The first time I made this smoothie, I defrosted the spinach in the microwave right before I made the smoothie. It definitely smelled very spinach-y, but I threw it in the blender anyway, and my first sip of smoothie was...pretty disgusting. The spinach was still a little warm, and gave the smoothie a really strong spinach taste. Luckily there was a quick fix: I added in a couple of ice cubes and blended it again. Then it was back to tasting like my yummy banana/vanilla green smoothie again! The texture, however, never got to be quite as smooth as when I made it with fresh spinach. So, I would say you should only try this recipe if you already have tried and like green smoothies. And make sure to keep the spinach cold!

Zee ingrediënten:
(blogger apparently thought I was changing to German, and spell-checked my "ingredients" as "ingrediënten" so I just went with it)

Almond milk, plain greek yogurt, frozen spinach, one banana, and honey. Give it a whirl in a blender and you end up with this:

Frozen Spinach Smoothie

Add the following ingredients, in order, to a magic bullet or other individual-sized blender cup:

1 ripe banana, broken into chunks
2-3 oz. frozen spinach (1/4 of a box), defrosted
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp honey
almond milk

The purpose of adding the ingredients in this order is to ensure best blending -- the bananas are the heaviest ingredient and will push everything down toward the blades. If you're making this in a "normal" blender, start with the yogurt, then the honey and the spinach, then the bananas, and finally the milk.
Blend until smooth. Makes one smoothie.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Roasted brussels sprouts

Turns out I like brussels sprouts! I have distinct memories of trying them once as a kid and claiming to hate them -- although I may have been influenced by their bad reputation. Aren't all kids supposed to hate brussels sprouts? Turns out they're actually pretty yummy when roasted with a little bit of olive oil and...maple syrup. Yup, maple syrup! I was skeptical too, but the little bit of sweetness caramelizes while the sprouts roast and makes this a totally crave-able dish.

I've made these both with frozen brussels sprouts and fresh. The fresh ones definitely have a better texture, but the frozen ones weren't bad. You can also use either real maple syrup or the fake stuff - I know I probably should be able to taste the difference, but...I can't.

Start with some olive oil and maple syrup. Tip: measure 1/3 cup of olive oil first and then pour the maple syrup into the same measuring cup up to the 2/3 mark. This way you don't get any of your measuring cups sticky!

Pour the mix over brussels sprouts cut in half and spread out over a foil-lined pan. Toss and sprinkle with salt and pepper. And lemon pepper, because lemon pepper makes everything better.

A quick trip in the oven and voila - a yummy side dish!!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Trader Joe's 

1 pound brussels sprouts
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
salt, pepper, and lemon pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Defrost brussels sprouts if frozen; wash and remove from the stalk if using fresh. Remove any icky-looking outer leaves and cut sprouts in half. Place on a baking pan lined with foil.
Whisk olive oil and maple syrup together and pour over sprouts. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and lemon pepper to taste.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until fork-tender and caramelized and delicious.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pesto Bread Braid

The next part of this bread dough I turned into pesto bread! This is an impressive-looking recipe that's actually not all that hard to make.

Start with bread dough - about 1/3 of the "basic bread dough" recipe. (If you're keeping track, I've now used 1/2 plus 1/3 of the dough...so yes, there is one sandwich-baggy-full of bread dough still in my fridge!)

Roll it out just like you would for cinnamon rolls. Spread with pesto sauce -- I used the jarred stuff but maybe someday I'll be brave enough to make it on my own! Go pretty light on the pesto...once you start to roll it up it will feel like the pesto has suddenly tripled in volume and is getting everywhere.

Sprinkle with cheese. Cheese makes everything better. I once was at a gym class and the teacher was talking about nutrition, and how she only eats things that contribute to her health. She said that cheese really wasn't good for anything...but I strongly disagree. :)

Roll it up, again just like a cinnamon roll. Here comes the scary part -- slice it down the middle!

You will have two, slightly-messy, slightly-falling-apart strands. Place one on top of the other in a slight X shape, so they cross right at the middle. Then lift the bottom strand over the top one, and keep going until you reach the end. Start at the middle again and lift the bottom strand over the top one, etc. (By the way, starting in the middle helps keep the loaf somewhat evenly shaped. The middle usually still usually winds up fatter than the ends, but at least its symmetrical.)

Gently place your twisted dough rope into a greased baking dish (a cookie sheet works here too). Shape the dough into a loaf by curving it into an "S" shape.

Sprinkle a little more cheese on top, pop it into the oven, and this deliciousness is yours in less than 30 minutes!

Here's what it looks like on the inside:

Seriously, so delicious. A little bit of the olive oil from the pesto leaks out during the baking and gives the crust a wonderful texture. Plus the pesto and the cheese and the bread...YUM.

Pesto Braid Bread
Adapted from Confessions of a Foodie Bride

Bread dough
1/3 cup pesto
2 tbsp parmesan cheese + more for the top of loaf.

Roll out the dough to a rectangle, approximately 14" by 10". Spread with pesto and sprinkle with 2 tbsp parmesan cheese. Roll up the dough to form one long long. Using a serrated knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise. Cross the two strands in the middle and then twist them around each other, lifting each strand over and around the other and trying to keep the pesto part mostly facing up. Place on a greased baking sheet and shape into an S.

Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425.

Sprinkle with a little more parmesan cheese and bake for 25 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cinnamon rolls

Last Sunday we had our Young Adults meeting at church. We meet after the 11 am Mass, so everyone's usually pretty hungry! I figured I'd make cinnamon rolls as a special Easter treat using my basic bread dough. 

After punching down the dough, roll it out into a large rectangle. A squarer rectangle will create fatter rolls, but less of them, where as a very wide but short rectangle will make more rolls but they'll be a little thinner. In this case, I figured it'd be better to make smaller rolls so that everyone could have one, so I tried to make my dough as wide as possible. The dough should be pretty thin, about 1/4 of an inch. 

Top with melted butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar, then roll it up! It will be messy, especially if the plumber stops by right during this step and needs to get access to the kitchen sink, which is about 6 inches away from where you're rolling out the dough. Be grateful you at least got a picture first. 

I think cinnamon rolls taste best when they're all squished together as they bake. But putting alll the rolls in there would've been a little bit too squishy, so I also experimented with baking individual rolls in a muffin pan. The verdict? Squishy is indeed better. (Although I probably overbaked the ones in the muffin tin.)

Frost with a nice thick glaze of powdered sugar and milk, with some extra special flavorings recommended by the Pioneer Woman: coffee, vanilla, and maple. Dooooo it. 
I brought 20 rolls to the young adult meeting and they were all gobbled up by the time the talk started, so I think that counts as a success!

Jessica's Cinnamon Rolls
1/2 recipe Basic Bread Dough or any white bread dough

1/3 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425.
Roll out bread dough into a rectangle, approximately 18" by 12".  Spread melted butter on the dough, being careful to get all the way to the edges on each side. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the dough, again being careful to get it all the way to the sides. (Otherwise the rolls on the end won't have much flavor!) Roll the dough up, starting in the middle and working out to the ends with each revolution.

Use a serrated knife to cut the dough log into rolls about 1inch tall (I think mine were a little less). Place into a greased pan or muffin tin.

Bake for about 25 minutes (20 minutes or less for rolls in muffin pans) or until light golden brown.

Maple-Coffee Glaze
Adopted from The Pioneer Woman
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup strong coffee
2 tbsp maple syrup

Mix together and drizzle over rolls. This works best when the rolls are warm!

Favorite bread dough

The start of finals week also usually means a return to baking for me...at least it's a productive way to avoid schoolwork! This is a simple, versatile dough that I've returned to again and again.

Like I said, it's a simple ingredient list: flour, water, yeast, salt, oil.

I've used whey instead of water when I've had it, which produced a slightly sweeter bread. For this batch, I used 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup Vanilla Breeze Almond Milk. 

This recipe makes a lot of dough! I divided it into three parts, to use in cinnamon rolls, pesto bread, and homemade hot pockets. Recipes coming soon!

It was a beautiful day, so I went for a run while the dough was rising! Taking an acceptable selfie was the hardest part! It was the first day of the year that I ran in shorts, rather than pants or leggings. Let's call this summer, shall we?

Basic Bread Dough 
2 cups water
1/2 cup almond milk (or 2 1/2 cups liquid)
1 1/2 tbsp yeast (2 packets)
7 cups flour, divided
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil

Heat the water and milk together in the microwave for about 45 seconds, until warm but not hot to the touch. Add the yeast and let it sit for about 10 minutes. You should see a little bit of foaming and some bubbles -- if not, your yeast was too old and you should start over.
Mix the salt into the 6 1/2 cups flour, then add the yeast/water mixture and the olive oil. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes. This dough is pretty wet/sticky, so I usually end up adding about another 1/2 cup of flour as I'm kneading it.
Once the dough is smooth and elastic, grease a bowl (usually I use the same mixing bowl) and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for about an hour or until it doubles in size.
Take the dough out and knead it a few times to punch it down.
At this point, you can use the dough for several different recipes. If you just wanted to bake normal loaves of bread, follow the instructions below.

Preheat oven to 425. Divide into four sections and shape each section into a loaf. Place on a greased cookie sheet (you should be able to fit two loaves per cookie sheet). Allow to rise for another 30 minutes, then bake for about 25 minutes, until lightly brown.