Monday, July 29, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite desserts/ breakfasts! Every time I go on a trip I cross my fingers that the airport will have a Cinnabon.

Growing up, my older brother took a homec class and one of the things they made was homemade cinnamon rolls. He liked them so much that he decided to try to make them at home and then for the rest of his life he has been asked to make his cinnamon rolls, which he doesn't really do anymore because he has an awesome wife that just does it for him. Our family still uses the original recipe that he got in Jr High though. It is the best homemade cinnamon roll I have ever had. My recipe is now almost yellow looking it's getting so old. Today I'm going to share the recipe with you. Now the recipe is broken into three days, because it took the students three one hour periods to make the cinnamon rolls. For your sake, I will break it down into three big steps if you would like to make them over a period of days or you can just go on to the next step if you want to finish them in one day.

Ingredients for the dough:
1 TBS active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)
1/3 cup margarine- softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 TSP salt
4 cups flour
2 eggs

Directions: Heat milk for 1 minute in the microwave. (This will depend on your microwave. You want the water warm but not too hot. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast if its too cold, it won't activate the yeast. I test the milk temperature with my finger and make sure it is warm. Pour yeast into milk and stir to dissolve.

Add the margarine and half of the flour mixture (sugar, salt and flour) and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment if using a kitchen aid mixer. Add the eggs and the remaining flour mixture. Continue to mix until all flour is incorporated and dough ball starts to form.

Form dough into ball with floured hands and place in a plastic bag if continuing the rest of the process the next day. If continuing on, place dough in a large greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until dough is double in size. (I usually give it about 2 to 3 hours to double in size but each climate will be a little bit different.)

This is my doubled in size dough- say that 10 times fast

Forming the rolls

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 TBSP cinnamon

1/3 cup softened margarine

Directions: Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough flat until it is approximately 21 inches long and 16 inches wide. ( a large rectangle) The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.

For the filling, spread the softened margarine evenly over the surface of the dough, and then sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture evenly over the surface.

Working carefully from the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough into a long roll.

Cut the rolled dough with thread into 2 inch slices and place evenly spaced in a lightly greased baking pan. If continuing on the next day, cover and refrigerate over night. If continuing on, place in a warm place for at least 30  minutes to allow rolls to rise. (I usually give this rising process about an hour.)

This is what your rolls should look like once they have risen. They should be about the height of the pan and they should all be touching.

Onto baking the rolls!
Directions: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the rolls for about 15 to 20 minutes or until light brown. While the rolls bake, combine the icing ingredients. Beat well until fluffy. When rolls come out of the oven coat generously with icing.

4 TBSP (1/2 stick) margarine, softened
1/2 TSP vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) cream cheese, softened

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Tyrone and I took a trip to New York in January and while we were there we ate at this delicious restaurant in China town. I can't even tell you the name of it because it was in Chinese. Some friends of ours took us there and told us that the potstickers were the best. They told us what to order because again, nothing was really in English. I was shocked with how yummy they were. Ever since then, I have been craving them. 
Recently, we went out to lunch with some friends to a Japanese restaurant and they had gyoza, which I found out is basically the same thing as a potsticker. Then there are dumplings, which are yummy as well, dumplings are made the same way as a potstickers but they are steamed or boiled rather than fried.  I prefer the fried because I like the crunchy outside. Both are very delicious though, it just depends on preference. 

I decided to try and master potstickers yesterday afternoon. I knew it was going to be a lot of work so I was hoping that they would turn out yummy. They did! Sometimes I'll try really complicated recipes that take all day only to have it flop in the end. Those are disappointing days because I have nothing to show for and nothing to serve for dinner. These potstickers take a lot of work but they are not too difficult. If I can do it I think almost anyone can. 

I decided to make the potstickers homemade, from the filling to the wraps. The wraps do take a lot of time, but they really aren't that difficult. I learned how to make the potstickers from Use Real Butter

She has great pictures and descriptions. I would check out her page if you get a chance. She goes into much greater detail than I'm going to. I'm just going to go over the main parts. 

On Use Real Butter she has a recipe for a shrimp filling as well if you would rather do that instead. I used the pork filling so that's the only one I've posted on here.

Pork filling: 
1 lb ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp corn starch

The most time consuming thing of this entire process is chopping up all of these ingredients. Everything needs to be really small.

For the dough: 
4 cups flour
1 cup water
This will be enough for the filling recipe made with 1 lb of pork meat.
Mix the dough until it is smooth but firm. I had to add a little bit more water at a time until the dough stayed together. Depending on the climate you are cooking this in, the water amount could change as well. 
 Form the dough into a ball. Cut the ball into 4 even pieces. Take those 4 pieces and roll them out length wise into 1 1/4 in diameter. Then cut the rolls into 3/4 in pieces. Below are my 3/4 in pieces smashed into round balls. Now, I am no expert in rolling out dough. My round pieces are not perfectly round, as you can see, but they worked. They also recommended to roll the edges thinner and leave the middle thicker but I skipped that. I just rolled them out and they worked fine. I didn't have any problems with them tearing.

I was surprised with how good the wrapping turned out. If mine can look like this I'm sure yours will be much better.
Make sure you go to Use Real Butter to find out how to pleat the edges of your potstickers. She does a great job of explaining how to do it with pictures.

Now that you've made the delicious potstickers, lets cook them.
If making potstickers, heat up about 2-3 tbsp of oil in the bottom of a large, deep non-stick frying pan on medium- high heat. Cook the potstickers until the bottom of them turn a golden brown. Once the bottom is a golden brown, quickly pour 1/2 cup of water into the pan all at once. Make sure to stand back as you do this, the oil will want to pop everywhere. Then, immediately put on the lid and keep covered until all the water has cooked out. When the water has cooked out, take off the lid and turn the temperature to low-medium heat and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

If making dumplings instead of potstickers, bring a large pot of water to a boil, place dumplings into the pot. When the dumplings float, they are done. Simple enough, right?

Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
a few drops of sesame oil
1 tsp minced garlic

This is what I used for the dipping sauce. There are a lot of varieties you could use.

some optional additions for the dipping sauce would be:
minced green onions
chili garlic paste
minced ginger

Here is the guinea pig enjoying his potstickers

Monday, July 22, 2013

Grilled mushrooms

By the way, aren't these BBQ skewers awesome! We got them as a wedding gift and we love them. Don't mind the zebra platter I used.

I bought a bunch of mushrooms at the store because they were on sale but I didn't really know what I was going to use them for. I decided that since my husband had already agreed to grill for dinner, I would make some marinated mushrooms to throw on the grill. I'm not a huge mushroom fan, but I'm liking them more and more. These mushrooms were really yummy. They were also really simple. When I was looking for recipes I was trying to find one that I had all the ingredients for so that I didn't have to run to the grocery store. This recipe is one of those great finds. The recipe is from Natasha's Kitchen

16oz mushrooms. (I used white. Crimini, portabello, or button would work too)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used slightly less than 1/4 cup and the lemon was still too strong so I had to add a little bit more balsamic vinegar to even it out)
small handful of parsley  (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions: Wash mushrooms and slice in half through the stem. place all ingredients in either a bowl with a lid or a zip lock bag. I used a bowl and then I shook up the mushrooms in the marinade. It would be the same if you used a zip lock bag. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes. I marinated them for about 4 hours and they had a lot of flavor.

I used metal skewers but if you choose to use wooden ones, just make sure to soak them in water for about 10 minutes first so they don't catch on fire.

Heat grill to 400 degrees. Place mushrooms on skewers. Cook the mushrooms on each side for about 5 minutes.

That's all there is to it. After the mushrooms went on the grill, I ran upstairs to try and get the salad and everything else prepared but the mushrooms were done before I could finish. They are really quick and most importantly delicious!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Three Ingredient Fruit Dip

 I've made this fruit dip a few times now and it is absolutely amazing. Every time I have made it, it's gone in an instant. I'm not a huge fan of fruit dip to be honest but after eating this one, I have definitely changed my mind. The best part about it is that it is so easy and there are only 3 ingredients all of which I usually have on hand. 

I bought 5 cartons of strawberries at the store this week in anticipation to dip every single one of them into this mouth watering dip. Well maybe not all of them, but a lot of them. Tyrone came home one day and looked in the fridge and asked, why do we have so many strawberries. My response was, "to eat them, duh!" But in reality they were on sale for 88 cents so I figured I would stock up and whatever we didn't eat I would freeze and make yummy smoothies with. 

1-8oz package of cream cheese
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract 

That's it. I put all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mixed it with beaters until the dip was smooth. You don't want the sugar to be grainy. I tried originally to mix it with a fork and that didn't go so well. As long as you use a mixer, the cream cheese will mix right in with everything else and then it tastes great cold. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stuffed Shells

I have had ricotta cheese in my fridge for a while now with intentions of making stuffed shells but I kept on forgetting to get big shells at the grocery store.I finally added it to my list this week so that I wouldn't forget. This is my first time making them and I was surprised with how easy it was. I used jarred pasta sauce just because I was short on time. But this could also be made with a homemade tomato pasta sauce. This is an easy meal that you can make ahead of time and place it in the fridge and cook it when ready, or you can whip it up fairly quickly.
1-15oz. container ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese 
25-30 dried pasta shells

1 bunch of chives, minced
fresh parsley, chopped 

Cook pasta according to directions until al-dente. Don't over cook them or they will fall apart when trying to fill them. Drain and let cool long enough to handle in your hands. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

To make the filling mix the ricotta cheese with the egg and salt in a small bowl. Once combined add the mozzarella cheese.  

Get out a 9x13" casserole dish. place 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the dish. Fill the shells with the ricotta mixture and place in the casserole dish with the seam up as shown below. Once you have filled the bottom of the pan with stuffed shells, pour the rest of the pasta sauce on the top of the shells and cover with tin foil. Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 30 mins. Optional: If you would like some melted cheese on top, add mozzarella cheese at this point and cook for about another 5 minutes with the tin foil off.

Serves: 4-6

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fish Tacos

Since I live by the beach, there are many places to get great fish tacos within walking distance of our home. But, since it's me, I decided to try and see if I could make some pretty good ones myself. I was very surprised with how good they turned out and how easy they were. This will become a new go to meal when I'm in a crunch for time, or when my husband gets home from work and I still don't have anything in mind. This probably happens more than he'd like.... I'm afraid to admit. Now I don't have to suggest boxed mac n cheese. Joking... But somewhat serious.

 Ingredients for fish tacos with sauce:

4 tilapia filets (or fish of your choice)
corn tortillas
olive oil
sour cream
garlic cloves
cayenne pepper
2 limes
smoked paprika
garlic powder

red onion

I first started looking for a sauce recipe that looked really yummy. I found a really delicious one at The Hungry Apple


1/2 cup olive oil mayo (I used regular)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
the juice of one lime  

I halved this recipe since it's just me and my husband. We each had two tacos for dinner and two for lunch the next day being very generous on the remoulade and there is still plenty left over.

For the fish, I would suggest a white flaky fish. I used tilapia. You will want about 4 filets. 

Here is the rub from The Hungry Apple to season the fish filets.

2 teaspoons salt
20 grinds of fresh pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

cook each side for about 3 or 4 minutes. The fish should be white all the way through, not clear but should still be very flaky. 

Lastly for the taco shells, some people like plain flour tortillas for their shells, but I like to use corn tortillas that I fry in the pan for a second and shape into a hard shell taco. They give that perfect crunch and they only take a few seconds to cook on each side. Lay the corn tortilla flat in a non stick pan with a little bit of oil, after the bottom starts to turn slightly brown, turn onto the other side for just a few seconds and then fold it in half and let each side turn a darker brown in the oil while being held in the taco shape. When the taco is done, place on a paper towel lined plate to let the oil drain off. 

For toppings we used avocados, cabbage, some fresh lime juice and our remoulade.

Sorry this one is a little blurry but you get the idea. This is what happens when I tried to fry the taco with my right hand and take a picture with my left. My left hand isn't all that coordinated.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

4th of July American flag cake

Our friends invited us over for dinner last night and they asked if I would bring a dessert. Since the 4th is right around the corner I thought I would try to make something patriotic. So, of course I turned to pinterest to get some ideas of what to make. I came across this American flag cake and thought it would be really cute. I opened the link assuming it would be way too much for me to do but it's actually not too bad. When we got to our friends house they asked me what I had made for dessert and I told them "white cake." You never really know if the inside turned out the way you wanted it to until you cut into it. It was a surprise for all! I was very happy with it. The cake was from a box but it was so delicious and moist. And the frosting was so yummy. The link came from Glorious treats

I got the frosting recipe from  Glorious treats I used 2 tablespoons of milk in the frosting but it was probably just a bit too runny. I had to add more powdered sugar and cream cheese to thicken it up. I think one tablespoon of milk would be better for next time.

Here is the first slice of the cake. Hurray! It looks like an American Flag.

Monday, July 1, 2013

4th of July table runner

Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. We always get up early, ride our bikes around town, watch the parade, BBQ and top it off at the end of the night with fireworks on the beach (while eating warm kettle corn.) I don't ever want to spend another 4th of July anywhere but here. This will be my 4th year spending it here and it never gets old.

As I was getting ready for the fourth, my sister in law had a birthday. She has spent the last few fourth of July's here with us and this year she is having her own fourth of July get together. So, I decided to make her something that she could use to celebrate with.

This was my first time making a table runner. I have been wanting to make one for a while but never really found a reason to, especially since I have a round kitchen table. I was very excited to find a good reason to attempt it. I used the tutorial from Count-on-me to figure out how to sew it all together.

I cut my strips 4in wide and I believe I made the table runner 15in in length when it was finished. This table runner is meant for a longer rectangle table. For the bias tape I used the tutorial from Smashed peas and carrots.I think she does an amazing job of teaching how to sew bias tape. It made it very easy to understand. I had to use two packages of Extra Wide Double Fold bias tape. I used red bias tape but depending on the color you want to stand out you could use dark blue or white as well.

Here is a picture of the finished product that I got from my sister in law. I was trying to get it finished and sent off so I forgot to take a final picture of it myself. This is the back side of the table runner. I put a patriotic print on it so that both sides could be used.

Here are some of the pre-cut pieces lying out.