2/23/14

Blueberry Cream Cheese Rolls

This morning I read an interesting article in my local newspaper about a lady and her collection of pigs. There were whimsical cookie jars, some of which were quite rare, many unique salt and pepper sets, and even clocks fashioned into pigs. Her collection was amazing, but none of the pigs were quite as handsome as Earl, Lynn's adorable pig at Happier Than a Pig in Mud.

None of my collections can rival delightful pink cookie jars or charming pigs, but I have gathered a number of quite awesome crescent roll recipes. This recipe for Blueberry Cream Cheese Rolls is a new one that I adapted from Kraft Foods, and it definitely goes into the keeper stack.






Blueberry Cream Cheese Rolls

1 (8 oz.) package crescent roll dough
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
Generous 1/2 cup blueberries
Powdered sugar for sprinkling (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a sheet pan by lining with parchment paper. Unroll crescent roll dough into 4 rectangles, firmly pressing the perforations together to seal the seams. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar; mix until well blended. Spread the cream cheese mixture on the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Top the cream cheese evenly with the blueberries. Bring the opposite corners of the rectangles together; press together to seal. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Sift powdered sugar over top of rolls before serving, if desired.




I have only tried making these rolls with blueberries, but I'm guessing that raspberries or other fruit would be equally delicious. 


Most of us know someone who would love to be surprised with some of these Blueberry Cream Cheese Rolls for breakfast, and I'll keep looking for more great crescent roll recipes to add to my collection.

2/13/14

Sweet Potato Chipotle Gratin

Sweet potatoes are a healthy, inflammation-fighting super food that are not only good for us, they are delicious too. Most home cooks always remember to serve sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, but we should not miss an opportunity to dish up some vitamin A packed sweet potatoes for our families during the rest of the year. This recipe for Sweet Potato Chipotle Gratin is easy to prepare and has the heat of chipotle peppers to add some zing to the potatoes. Those picky family members who sometimes say 'no' to sweet potatoes may come back for seconds when they try this flavorsome dish.





Recipe adapted from Food Network

Sweet Potato Chipotle Gratin

2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons pureed chipotle peppers
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the heavy cream and the chipotle puree. Place a fourth of the sweet potato slices in the prepared baking dish. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour a fourth of the cream mixture over the sweet potato slices. Repeat the layers with the remaining sweet potatoes and cream mixture, forming four layers. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until potatoes are browned and cream has been absorbed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes after removing from oven before serving.




With the richness of the cream and the heat of the chipotles, this sweet potato side dish is one that is sure to be a favorite.

2/10/14

Versatile Crescent Roll Dough

Cooking and baking from scratch is a wonderful way to prepare family meals, but most moms don't have the time or the stamina to make every meal that way. I'm no stranger to short-cuts, and crescent roll dough is one of my favorite convenience items for so many different recipes. If you meet yourself coming and going, as I sometimes do, here are some quick and delicious recipes for a variety of foods your family is sure to love. Some of these recipes are fun for kids to help prepare, too.





1. Easy Cinnamon Rolls




2. Pepperoni & Cheese Crescents





3. Apple Dumplings





4. Cream Cheese JalapeƱo Sausage Pinwheels





5. Apricot Breakfast Crescents





6. Peanut Butter Chocolate Filled Crescent Rolls






2/7/14

Focaccia

Focaccia can be made with a variety of added herbs and different ingredients, but this recipe is just a plain, simple version of an Italian cornbread. Focaccia is great served hot with soups, and it is a versatile bread that can also be split for sandwiches or the dough can be rolled out thin for a super pizza crust.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food. I have adapted the recipe and instructions to reflect my own cooking style.






Focaccia

3 1/3 cups water, divided
1/2 cup cornmeal
4 tablespoons olive oil + additional for greasing bowl and drizzling
6 1/2 cups bread flour
1 package yeast
4 teaspoons salt
Kosher salt for sprinkling

In a small saucepan, whisk 1 cup water and cornmeal together, whisking constantly while cooking over medium-high heat about one minute or until mixture thickens. Add remaining water and olive oil to the mixture, stir to combine and heat until the mixture reaches a temperature of 110 - 115 degrees F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cornmeal mixture, half the flour, and the yeast. Mix together with a dough hook until combined, then let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Gradually add the remaining flour and the salt to the dough and mix at low speed until dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough in the mixer with the dough hook for 5 - 7 minutes.

Place the dough on a floured surface and fold over several times, then place in a large oiled bowl. Cover and set aside to rise for 1 hour.

Spread the dough out flat on an oiled sheet pan, cover and set aside to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Ten minutes prior to baking, use fingertips to press shallow depressions, or dimples, in the dough being careful not to make holes. Generously drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cut into serving-size squares, serve warm.




This Focaccia was the perfect accompaniment for steaming bowls of Tuscan Verde Soup when friends visited.

2/6/14

Keeping It Simple on Valentine's Day

Young or old, many are making plans to honor a sweetie on Valentine's Day this year. According to the U.S. Greeting Card Association, about 190 million Valentine cards will be sent out this year in the U.S. alone, and if the ones exchanged in school are included that number goes up to 1 billion cards. Should you happen to have a child in school who will be receiving a stack of those cards, you know it's time to get the Valentine's box ready. Maybe your young one would like a shark box or a Lego box to collect those cards in this year.



Many sweethearts will be receiving flowers, jewelry, or candy from a significant other on Valentine's Day. A more home-baked way to show your love might be with a Chocolate Cherry Torte. A batch of pretty cookies could also show someone how much you care, so how about baking up some Butter Cookies, Decorated Sugar Cookies, or Dipped Chocolate Chip Heart Cookies for that someone special. 

I think everyone enjoys being remembered on holidays like Valentine's Day. Perhaps one of these simple projects will help you express your love in a personal and memorable way.

2/4/14

Frost Flower on a Mulberry Tree

Frost flowers are typically a phenomenon of delicate ice crystals that occur on certain plants when moisture inside the plant expands because of freezing temperatures, which in turn causes the plant stem to crack. Because of the capillary action of the plant, moisture continues to seep out and freeze, forming the intricate patterns that make up the these lovely "flowers." The exquisite white frost flowers that occur on plants near the ground may be formed in delicate strands or shaped like ribbons. Frost flowers actually have nothing to do with frost, but are made entirely of ice.

It appears that this mulberry tree has formed a lovely yellow frost flower, likely because of coloring from the sap inside the branch. This tree is located in the back yard at my son's house in Nashville, and I noticed this lovely ice formation early one morning from the kitchen window. At first glance it looked like a small furry animal resting atop the tree branch.





To find frost flowers be sure to look for them in the early morning hours, but if you find one don't pick it up. These intricate flowers are so fragile they will shatter on touch, so just take some pictures.



My lovely frost flower was so delicate the afternoon warmth melted it away. By mid-afternoon this photo shows all that was left of mother nature's work.

2/3/14

Whole Wheat Blueberry Scones

For those who have tried to prepare food in another cook's kitchen, it can sometimes feel like trying to drive down the interstate blindfolded. While I have been away from home for about 2 1/2 weeks now helping out with the new grandson, I have been cooking in my son and DIL's kitchen. Fortunately the blindfold now has come off, and I am quite comfortable in their kitchen. The adjustment actually came without a hitch because of the logical arrangement of their kitchen tools and the well-stocked pantry.

The weather looked so wet and dreary this morning when I got out of bed I decided something was needed to lift those gray clouds. These rustic Whole Wheat Blueberry Scones put some light in our kitchen and got the day off to a great start with fresh fruit in our breakfast.










Whole Wheat Blueberry Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Optional - Substitute dried fruit for the blueberries by folding fruit in after buttermilk has been added.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk, stir just until moistened. Place dough on a floured surface, knead several times until dough comes together. Pat dough out into a 12-inch circle. Sprinkle blueberries on dough and press gently into the dough. Carefully fold the dough over and reshape into an 8-inch circle. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut the dough into 8 wedges for large scones or 12 wedges for smaller scones. Do not separate the wedges. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.




Scones are delicious for breakfast, but they are also perfect for afternoon tea. I'll look forward to enjoying these scones today with my tea. I don't think I've mentioned that my son and DIL not only have a new baby, they also have a pleasant and well-behaved Corgi named Raz. We certainly have a lot in common with the Royal Family, don't we - scones for tea, a new baby, and a Corgi.

Bet you couldn't guess who the Queen is in this kingdom.