Sunday, December 30, 2012

Finish Your Knitting

As you may have observed, I have a problem finishing my knitting projects.  I don’t lack enthusiasm or the will to execute; I lack, well, quite frankly, patience.  I get bored easily while knitting so I try to choose projects that I can finish quickly before I become disinterested.  I wish I was one of those people for whom knitting is relaxing, but I am not. Writing relaxes me and that’s why I write this blog, but if I don’t have any knitting projects for which I can write posts, then I’ve got myself quite a conundrum, don’t I?

For post material, I do a lot of cooking and baking, but knitting is so cathartic….and I yearn to proudly say “yes, I knitted this sweater!”

One day I'm browing through a magazine and I see a plain black sweater embellished with a white knitted Peter Pan collar.  So onto I go to see if there was a pattern and, sure enough, there was a cute little number, a pattern called "Sophie" by Jones Vandermeer.  This little gem will gussy up any plain sweater and to knit it, all I need is a ball of yummy white cashmere yarn, a crochet hook, some ribbon, and size 7 straight needles, but – what do you know – I don’t have size 7 straight needles. Off to the local knitting store, Finely A Knitting Party I go.  I procure the required knitting needles and the latest copy of KnitSimple and while exchanging pleasantries, Kathy, the shop’s owner, asked me how my knitting was coming.  I explained that I had more on the needles than a reasonable person should and she said “Oh, we have a class for knitters like you, it’s called ‘Finish Your Knitting’ and we are meeting Friday at 1:00.”   

This is the perfect kind of class for me…I enroll.

I arrive at the appointed time and there are several other perfectly delightful knitters joining me. 

While we knitted, Kathy made her rounds to check on our progress, right our knitting wrongs, and/or suggest fixes.  Additionally, there was a steady stream of customers including one in particular visiting her family from Kansas who knitted this lovely little frock...

The pattern is called “Daybreak” from designer Stephen West. 

Another knitter presented the West creation she knitted called “ClockWork.”

Both are absolutely stunning.

And, finally, thanks to Kathy’s gentle push, I can happily report that I finished the capelet I’ve been knitting.

I will gussy this little number up with some ribbons and other bobbles.  I wrote about the beautiful pattern here.

Now it’s on to sock class in mid-January.  The class meets every other week but the approach is brilliant….learn the skills and knit one sock in class, practice the skills learned and knit the other sock during the off week. Because, what good is one sock?  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

Every year for Christmas morning, I make a breakfast casserole.  Sometimes it’s a quiche-like casserole, but that got deep-sixed a few years ago because younger daughter apparently doesn’t like eggs.  

What, no eggs, that’s okay, I make bread. 

Forgive the movie clue….

So for the past few years, I’ve made a bread-based casserole.  It is usually something praliney,gooey and oh so good, but definitely not good for you. 

So this year, I scoured my cookbooks and internet typed “breakfast casseroles” into Google and this little ditty appeared….

And – bonus – it gave me an excuse to try yet another outstanding Stonewall Kitchens product…

This recipe is from the  My photos aren’t nearly as interesting or well-composed as hers, so I invite you to visit her blog for a complete visual and culinary experience, but, I can say confidently that my end result was surely as delicious as the inspiration.   The aromas that filled the house during baking were a treat for the senses.  The pure comfort of the bread, the crunchiness of the pecans, the gentle zip of the pumpkin pie spice and the sweetness of the syrup all blend ever so nicely to make this a perfect morning indulgence.   I served with fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

Pumpkin French Toast Bake
Serves 10 (or fewer depending on the slice size!)


3 1/2 – 4 1/2 cups 1-inch bread cubes (I used French bread)
7 large eggs (I used 5)
2 cups milk (I used skim)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup pumpkin BUTTER
3-4 tablespoons brown sugar for topping
Pecans,walnuts and/or craisins for topping


1. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and scatter into a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and pumpkin butter until well combined. Pour over bread and push down with a spoon or your hands until it’s all soaked and mostly covered. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees, uncover and top with brown sugar and nuts and/or craisins. Bake for 35-45 minutes or golden brown and no longer wet.
4. Serve immediately with maple syrup or honey.

There won’t be any leftovers but in the unlikely event there are, this recipe will keep in the refrigerator covered for a couple days.
Bonus #2, includes the nutritional content for this very recipe on their site…110 calories per slice!  Of course you will need to double (or triple) accordingly....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Cookie Exchange

A few Mondays ago, Architect and I were driving to Yoga class with the best instructor ever – Dot – and she said “Hey, I have a great blog post idea for you…the history of the cookie!”  She went on to say that unsweetened wafer versions of the cookie originated in Persia because they were easy for dessert wanderings to transport in their sacks and for centuries sailors stowed hard cracker-like discs to sustain them during long voyages at sea.  Later on, courtesy of the Spanish Conquest, trading routes opened and sugar and spices were introduced to Europe.  The Europeans brought the wafer to new heights enriching them with butter, eggs and cream to form biscuits, commonly served with tea.  The term cookie is a derivative of the Dutch word koekje that means little cake.

Although I listened very intently, I’m sure I do not record the story verbatim here, but you get the idea.  I liked her suggestion and, since we were having a Cookie Exchange Event at work, I had the perfect opportunity to write a post!

So below is the list of the delicious cookies my co-workers contributed…
I made the Mint Chocolate Chip cookies. We were instructed to  bring packages containing six cookies in each.  We were also encouraged to bring copies of our recipes and a few extras goodies for the sampling tray. All of the selections were delicious but I had a few favorites.  One was a savory/sweet confection that I’m still thinking about, Anise Seed Cookies, and below is the recipe. 
Merry Christmas, dear readers.    

Anise Seed Cookies
2 cups + 4 Tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 teaspoons of anise seed
Plastic bag with some powdered sugar, about 2 cups

Preheat oven to 375.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugars, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy.  Beat in eggs.  Gradually add hte flour mixture and incorporate well.  Stir in 3 teaspoons of anise seed.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cool on a rack.  Once the cookies are completely cooled, shake several cookies at a time in the bag of powdered sugar.  Makes 4 dozen.

The cookie exchange was a lot of fun and hopefully we can add it to some other favorite work place traditions!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

Dinner at Foodie’s house is always an adventure…she is a great cook and she frequently introduces us me to new things (compared to my dinner mates, I have a stunted food repertoire).  This week it was something familiar but still not a favorite of adults and children alike, Brussels sprouts.  Leave it Trader Joes to come up with a fancy method to make these underappreciated darlings easier to make – and camouflage – in a variety of ways.   
Shaved Brussels Sprouts, available at Trader Joes for $2.29 a bag, can be tossed raw in salads and slaws, roasted to caramelized perfection, or substituted for a vegetable in your favorite quiche.  My dad used to cut Brussels sprouts in quarters, blanch, then quickly sauté them in garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper.   

Although TJ's sprouts come in a handy-dandy bag, Brussels sprouts actually grow on stalks and, along with cabbage, broccoli, rapini, and cauliflower, are members of the cruciferous (because of their four-petal flowers that resemble a cross) family of vegetables. All are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber and, bonus, contain cancer-fighting agents.  As the name suggests, Brussels sprouts perhaps originated in Belgium and Thomas Jefferson grew the emerald gems at Monticello but California is responsible for most of the production enjoyed in the United States today.

To prepare, Foodie first sautéed mushrooms and shallots until browned and then she added the bag of Brussels sprouts.  She sautéed the mixture for a few minutes more until the sprouts were bright green and softened.  Before serving, she drizzled a little walnut oil on top to finish off. Quick, easy and definitely delicious.

She also served baked chicken thighs and baked potatoes and we noticed that the potatoes were lightly crusted with salt…Foodie explained that the salt helps to keep the moisture in the potato producing a fluffy white, evenly baked and perfect potato.

Puncture the potato a few times to let the heat escape while the potato is baking.  Rub the outside of the potato with olive oil then roll in coarse or sea salt.  Bake aS usual, about 45-60 minutes at 400°.

Image of sprouts on stalks from Google images.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rosemary Collins

There’s a new girl in town and her name is Rosemary Collins.

Every year at my annual holiday party called “The Ornament Exchange” I offer a featured drink. This year Foodie suggested a twist on the traditional Tom Collins that involves infusing the simple syrup used in the drink with rosemary, hence a Rosemary Collins.   Anything that involves Rosemary sounds satisfactory to me so Rosemary was happily invited to the bash.   

A traditional Tom Collins is a concoction of gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda garnished with a Maraschino cherry or lemon slice.  This drink replaces the straight-up simple syrup with a rosemary infused version.

To make rosemary simple syrup, combine 1 cup each of sugar and water and a few fresh sprigs of rosemary in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, about one minute. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Strain into a jar and throw away the rosemary sprigs. Place the lid on the jar and chill a few hours.

Rosemary Collins
1 ½ oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
½ oz rosemary simple syrup
Club soda or seltzer water
Pomegranate seeds and fresh rosemary for garnish

Pour the gin, lemon juice, and rosemary sugar syrup into a tall glass with ice cubes. Stir thoroughly or place a martini shaker top on the glass and give it a shake. Top with club soda, and garnish with Pomegranate seeds and fresh rosemary.   Adjust the proportions to make a pitcher…like we did!

Rosemary was the hit of the party!  A welcome guest anytime.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Christmas Mantle

I wanted to share some holiday decoration ideas that I collected and archived in my merry memory over the years.
As I was browsing the fabulous Holiday Gift Shop at the Hotel DuPont I see a string of festive embellished white lights in the display case.  Not being shy and of course wanting to take a closer look, I ask the sales clerk about the twinkling little gems.   They are simply a string of white-wired lights with tulle tied around the wire in 3-4 inch intervals.  I took the idea a step further and added wire ribbon with a sparkly trim.  The wire in the ribbon gives the strand enough flexibility to arrange the lights in a non-linear way.

Pinterest has may similar ideas posted, some of which add pieces of lace.  That's a fancy look indeed!

Now having the embellished lights as my mantle inspiration, I spot this beastly beauty….

Isn’t he just the most handsome thing ever?!  Well maybe not ever, there is still George Clooney.

I purchased the lovely trees from the gift shop several years ago.

With my creativity now in full gear, I reclaimed a trash picked window as the backdrop for a glistening wreath that I purchased from who-knows-where many, many years ago.   

The holly berry candle, glass candle stands and the NOEL stocking holders are all from Target.

The candles are from Pier 1.


And finally, the stockings are Ballard Designs.

I am so pleased with the results but I really need to polish up those letters!  Happy decorating everyone!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fettuccine with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

I’m one of those people who when I see something that looks delicious in a magazine and says “I’m totally going to make this” I actually do.

It may not be for a few months, but I tuck the recipe away in the crowded archives of my mind and pull it out when I need culinary motivation. 

So I’m flipping though the November/December edition of Fitness magazine and in addition to a mini tutorials on how to get sleek arms, abs and legs, holiday hair and makeup tips, and suggestions for fabulous “hot list” gifts, they included an article entitled “Amazing 15 Minute Meals.” 

15 minutes is right up my alley.  

The recipes all look delicious – Cheesy Chicken Meatball and Tortellini Soup, Chicken Marsala with Jasmine Rice and Peas and the one that particularly caught my eye...

...Fettuccine with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is a common ingredient in dishes made in Southern Italy.  The vegetable is quite nutty, a little bitter and looks like an elongated piece of regular broccoli, but is actually more related to turnips both in taste and derivation.

To prepare, rinse the vegetable, trim and discard the thicker stems, preserving the blossoms, leaves and thinner stalks, about 2” from the blossom, then sauté in a bit of olive oil and garlic. Some like to blanch the vegetable before sautéing.  Broccoli rabe is low in fat, and a good source of vitamins A, C, and K and potassium.

It was my turn to cook this past Wednesday so I decided to make this 377 calorie per serving recipe.

Fettuccine with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
From:  Fitness Magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound hot Italian turkey sausage, casings removed, roughly crumbled
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound broccoli rabe, tough stems trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 9 ounce package fresh fettuccine
1/4 cup plus 4 tsp freshly grated pecorino Romano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute, breaking up large chunks with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add broccoli rabe and cook, tossing with tongs, 1 minute. Add broth, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until broccoli rabe is tender, about 3 minutes.
3. Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain and add to sausage mixture; toss well with tongs. Add 1/4 cup cheese and black pepper and toss well again. Divide among four bowls and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Three words.  So. Damn. Good.

Photo of the rinsed broccoli rabe is from google images...I accidently deleted the photo I took that looked quite similar.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Baby Sweater

I have a very dear friend who just became a Grandmom for the third time…a precious and beautiful little baby girl named Eva. 

In September, I attended her daughter’s baby shower held at the Rittenhouse Tavern on South 18th Street in Philadelphia.  The restaurant is located in the historic Wetherill Mansion, one of the last surviving grand private mansions built on Rittenhouse Square, now home to the Art Alliance of Philadelphia.  It is a lovely venue with the most magnificant stained glass window at the top of a grand staircase.

The room was decorated in a very sweet yellow duck theme...

...and the cake was not only completely adorable (polka dots and bows...what could be better!?), but also completely delicious. 

The menu was extraordinary. Among other things, we enjoyed…

…Roasted Baby Beets with Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Vinegar

…Pancetta Wrapped Figs with Caramelized Honey and Blue Cheese

…Roasted Scallop Salad with Fennel, Arugula and Grapefruit

…Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Grainy Mustard Sauce

We did the typical showery things and presented the mother-to-be with gifts one of which was the gorgeous handmade baby sweater (shown above) that an aunt made from a pattern handed down from the family’s matriarch. 

The pattern is quite worn and for good reason….it has served as the guide for  many other sweaters made for other lucky babies!

Here is a more readable version on line.

Congratulations to all...she is one gorgeous baby!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pumpkin Cupcakes

So, I’m visiting my mother one day in late October and I see a magazine with a fabulous idea for a Thanksgiving dessert on the cover.  So I ask if I could “borrow” the magazine.

The spirited controversy that followed will be become, no doubt, an embellished and often told family legend.

That’s what we do in our family….we embellish snippets of harmless stories; it’s more fun and memorable that way.

Case in point, I offer an old, but unforgettable, exaggeration:  “Aunt Mary won $100 in Atlantic City.” That statement is what really happened. The next month…“Did you hear about Aunt Mary winning $1000 in Atlantic City?”  By Thanksgiving…“How about Aunt Mary winning $10,000 in Vegas!”

What the hell was Aunt Mary doing in Vegas??!!

Anyway, some might be uncomfortable with the ruckus that often takes place in our family, especially when we are all together; we call it motivational speaking.

I did manage to secure the magazine (that I will dutifully return) so that I could make these little jewels:

How adorable are they?

I used a Duncan Hines Spice Cake mix and filled the mini Bundt cake pans ½ way and baked for 17 minutes. 
Once the cupcakes are baked, let them cool on a rack.

Cut the tops off of each cupcake.

Ice the cut side of one cupcake and top it with another cupcake, cut side down to form a sphere.  

Decorate as desired.  I tinted cream cheese icing orange, placed a broken pretzel stick in the center for a stem and piped on some green vines on each "pumpkin."  The magazine included directions to drizzle icing or to roll each cupcake in orange sprinkles. My versions of these treats aren't quite as perfect as those pictured on the magazine cover, but they sure are tasty!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe


 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
 8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
 2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.  Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness and thickness. Either spread on with a blunt knife or spatula, or spoon into a piping bag to decorate your cake or cupcake.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Latte Brownies

I love coffee…it’s one of my vices, the others are wine, nice clothing and saying naughty words – a habit inherited from my feisty father that I'm trying to break.  Coffee and wine will remain on the list…a girl needs some indulgences. 

And I need to be properly attired, right?
I tell you this because it was my turn to make dessert for our little rendezvous last week and as I was trying to decide on a tasty treat, I see a recipe from for these little morsels: 

Latte brownies.....perfect! It doesn’t get much better than chocolate, coffee, butter and almonds.

I'm delighted that my photo (above left) looks just as inviting as the Kraft photo.  I gussied mine up with coffee beans.  Their version looks a little cakier than mine though...I'll investigare why.

Seattle Latte Brownies

6 squares  BAKER'S Unsweetened Chocolate
¾ cup  (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp. instant coffee
1cup granulated sugar
1cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/4 cups flour
½ cup finely chopped PLANTERS Slivered Almonds
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp.  salt
1Tbsp. powdered sugar

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Line 9-inch square baking pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Grease foil; set aside. Note:  I didn't do this...I just sprayed the pan with PAM.

MICROWAVE chocolate, butter, water and coffee granules in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Beat in granulated and brown sugars with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat 2 min. Add flour, almonds, cinnamon and salt; beat until well blended. Spread into prepared pan.

BAKE 35 to 40 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Lift brownies from pan onto cutting board, using foil handles. Again, I just cut the brownies right in the pan.  Cut into 20 brownies to serve.

Warning Will Robinson:  These brownies are amazing…so rich and moist with a hint of coffee in each bite.  I served each with scoop of mocha gelato….not that we needed more calories.  I like Kraft recipes because they include the nutrition content with each and they report that a 1x2” latte brownie is about 240 calories with 13g of fat.  But, no worries, dark chocolate and almonds are both good fats!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


It was Architect’s turn to cook and she made Puttanesca.   Loosely translated, Puttanesca means “in the style of a prostitute.” While eating it I recalled the Laverne & Shirley episode in which they played hooky from work and two plain clothes policemen mistake the duo for being “Loosey Gooseys for money.”  I laughed until I cried and I still use that phrase.

Although not to describe myself.

Putting my reminiscence aside, a few different myths explain why ladies of the evening would be associated with this recipe that has its origins in Naples…the smell would waft into the streets and lure clientele…or it is easily prepared using items commonly found in the Italian pantry…..or, perhaps the most believable story is that this is a quick and satisfying dish for those ladies who simply wanted to move on to other things.

Whatever those “things” may be.

This is a tangy recipe with plump, delicious tomatoes that are complimented by the saltiness of the olives, capers and anchovies, the spiciness of pepper and the always pleasing and oh-so-satisfying aroma of garlic. It’s traditionally served with any long pasta but Architect chose to serve it over a heartier pasta, rigatoni.  Because it takes only minutes to prepare, start the sauce while the pasta is boiling.

We felt sultry just eating it.  Settle down, boys.

From:  The Ultimate Italian Cookbook

4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Small dried chili pepper, crumbled OR 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 two oz can of anchovy filets, chopped
12 oz of tomatoes, canned or fresh, chopped
2/3 cup of pitted black olives
2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 Tablespoon of tomato paste
1 lb of pasta
2 Tablespoons of chopped parsley for garnish

Add pasta to salted boiling water and cook until al dente.  Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the garlic and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, until garlic is golden.  Add the anchovies and mash them into the garlic with a fork.  Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, and tomato paste.  Stir well and cook over moderate heat until the pasta is done, about 8 minutes.  Turn the pasta into the sauce and cook for another minute or two, turning the pasta constantly.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.  

Architect also made homemade bread out of pizza dough that was so good!
Foodie was off to San Francisco so we missed her. Singer brought a tasty salad made with pomegranate seeds and butter lettuce but it was not in the lovely traveling salad bowl because that was at Foodie’s house.  It was my turn to bring dessert…more on that later.  And, of course, there was wine.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roasted Root Vegetables and Herbed Quinoa Stuffing

One reason I love Fall is because it’s root vegetable time.  Not only are the autumnal lovlies delicious, they look so vibrant and lively when served, especially when mixed together on a plate.  You can almost hear them screaming “we are so good, really, we are, pick us!”

And pick them we did at Foodie’s house this past week.  She made Roasted Root Vegetables and Herbed Quinoa and Red Rice Stuffing.  The quinoa recipe is from Williams Sonoma and, while their recipes are usually very good, they typically require you use something available for purchase at their store.  Foodie, of course improvised.

But before I share the quinoa recipe, a word about the roasted root vegetables.  Foodie’s version included butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, and for a bright note, she threw in dried cranberries.  She drizzled them with olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper and baked them in a 375° oven for 30-40 minutes.  She quickly pan-fried the Brussels spouts first.  Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of root vegetables…don’t crowd them when roasting…they like their space.

Looks like a inviting dish of candy, doesn’t it?

This quinoa recipe is a delicious, gluten-free alternative to a traditional bread stuffing for your Thanksgiving feast.

Herbed Quinoa and Red Rice Stuffing with Kale and Pine Nuts
From: Williams Sonoma

3 cups of quinoa, prepared
3 cups of red rice, cooked , prepared
Unsalted butter for baking dish, plus 3 Tbs.
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bunch Tuscan kale, about 8 oz., stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
Various spices (Foodie used Herbs de Provence)
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup chicken stock, warmed
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving (optional)

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the 3 Tbs. butter. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes, adding the kale during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Add the oregano and spices and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the quinoa and red rice, cranberries, pine nuts, lemon zest and stock and stir until well combined.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes, then garnish with cheese and serve

Somehow after dinner and during the always enjoyable conversation phase of the evening, the bowl of quinoa found its way right next to me….I kept taking little spoonfuls of this savory little dish until finally the table was cleared.  It’s a good thing because I may have eaten the whole damn bowl!

After dinner, we had a tea from Celestial Seasonings called Roastaroma, a delightful little brew with hints of roasted chicory and barley, chocolate from roasted carob, and a touch of cinnamon and allspice.  A perfect caffeine-free alternative to coffee! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Fastest Cinnamon Rolls

So I’m raking leaves on Sunday morning and right-side neighbor says to me:

Neighbor:  “Hey, I’m making cinnamon rolls.  Would you like one when they’re done?”

Me:  Hell, Heck, yes!” (Ooops, it's Sunday). I had been raking leaves for about an hour and I was thinking a snack was in order anyway.

Neighbor:  “I'm trying a new recipe, The Fastest Cinnamon Rolls, although the process is turning out to be not so fast!”

Me:  “Will you share the recipe with me?”

Neighbor:  “Sure, if they’re good.”

So, I continue raking and clipping branches.  About an hour later, neighbor brings one over..... 

Neighbor:  “They seem to be a little overbaked.”

Me:  "Really, they look delicious to me."

A few minutes later...or however long it took to brew a cup of  coffee in my Keurig and take that photo you see....

Me sitting at my kitchen table, drinking coffee, weary from raking (even though it’s only 9:33 a.m…or is it 10:33…wait, which clock is right?), and taking a bite of the freshly-baked and perfectly cinnamonny-gooey confection: "Damn Shoot. This is good!”

After eating that tasty morsel....

Me (thinking to myself):  
I promptly trotted over to my right-side neighbor to ask for the recipe, that I now share with you.

BTW...neighbor raked later in the day to neutralize her calories too.

The Fastest Cinnamon Rolls
From:  Bread for Breakfast by Beth Hensperger

¾ cup of dried cherries, blueberries, golden raisins or cranberries (or mix them up!)
Enough boiling water to cover fruit.

¾ cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cultured buttermilk
4 tablespoons (½ stick) of butter melted PLUS 2 additional Tablespoons for brushing
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup of firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup of firmly packed dark sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Vanilla Icing
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons cold cultured buttermilk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º.  Grease a 9-inch square or round baking pan.  Set aside.  Pace the dried fruit in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over.   Cover and set aside.
  2. Place the cottage cheese, sugar, buttermilk, 4 Tablespoons melted butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth.  Add the flour,, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the workbowl and purse until the dough clumps like a biscuit dough, 8-10 pulses.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently, folding the dough over and pushing away from you 4-5 times, until the dough is smooth.  DO NOT OVER WORK THE DOUGH.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to make a 12 by 15 inch rectangle and brush the entire surface with the 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, leaving a ½-inch border all around the edges
  3. To make the filling, combine the sugars, cinnamon, allspice and cloves in a medium bowl and sprinkle over the surface of the dough.  Pat to press the sugar into the surface.  Drain the dried fruit and pat dry with a paper towel.  Distribute the fruit over the sugar mixture.
  4. Starting with a long edge, roll-up like a jelly roll.  Pinch the seams to seal, leaving the ends open.  With a sharp knife, cut into 12 equal pieces and set the rolls, cut side up, in the baking pan.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Run a spatula along the edges and remove the rolls from the pan, one at a time.  Place the rolls on a wire rack.
  6.  Make the glaze by placing the ingredients in a 2-cup measuring cup and whisk until it is a smooth and pourable consistency.  To thin a bit, add a few drops of buttermilk.  Drizzle in a zigzag pattern over each roll and let the rolls stand for 15 minutes before devouring.
  7. You know, these might have to claim the prize for being the FASTEST cinnamon rolls ever, but they're not nearly as yummy!