“Best Cinnamon Rolls” for Living Your Best Life

“Best Cinnamon Rolls” for Living Your Best Life

While the world can be rough, there is always something to be grateful for, take comfort in and feel good about. 2020 is moving right along. The groundhog predicted an early spring, and colorful Mardi Gras parades are planned as we usher in a new season of Lent.

I tell you what this Catholic will not be giving up: cinnamon rolls! The last Jorj.com recipe this February, a leap year, is one of the oldest one’s in my repertoire. I actually make them so routinely, I didn’t have to dig far into my archives to share these cinnamon-ny, heavenly wonders with you.

Best Cinnamon rolls are from At Home in the Kitchen and seemed fitting as I explore a food trend of living in the moment. In Denmark and Norway, they call taking pleasure in the simple things, Hygge.

Pronounced “Hue-Gah”, it’s the Danish ritual of graciousness, of enjoying and appreciating life’s simplest pleasures, family and friends.

Where, I live hygge is just something I’ve done my entire life: Appreciating a warm blanket and good book to read on a gloomy day, wild flowers that grabbed my attention on a long walk home, and wound up in a vase in my kitchen, cozy meals shared with my hubby, children and grandchildren….

These are hygge moments; these are my moments, and my loved one’s moments when we’re all together, or enjoying our solitude apart.

Certainly, the world presents its challenges, but great food, friends, art and music are always around to lift our spirits.

BUT BACK TO THESE CINNAMON ROLLS! While they take a little bit of time, I assure you they are WORTH IT! I did some checking, and saw that you can order a loved one a hygge box of candles, scents, chocolates and warm socks, but I think you’d be doing that friend a bigger favor buying them a stand mixer with a trusty dough hook.

They will never tire of baking and breaking bread. One of life’s simplest pleasures is of fresh baking bread, after all….and these melted cinnamon and brown sugar treats, just begging to be glazed, ratchet up the hygge factor a million degrees!

Enjoy them with a hot cuppa and my latest pick for Super Supper Book Club!

Best Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 12 to 14 rolls

45 minute cuisine, plus rising and baking time

For the rolls

1 cup whole milk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces

3 large eggs

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons yeast

For the filling

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled, cut into small pieces

For brushing over rolls

1 tablespoon half and half

For the glaze

1 ¼ cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons half and half

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the milk, sugar, softened butter, salt and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix (in a stand mixer or by hand) until smooth.

Add the yeast. Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for up to 10 minutes. Place in bowl coated with vegetable oil spray, cover and let double in size for 40 minutes to 1 hour.

Roll out the dough to a 10 X 14 inch rectangle.

Place the brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the chilled butter pieces and pulse briefly until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Spread the filling over the dough. Roll up jelly roll style, starting at the narrow end. Pinch the open ends underneath the roll.

Slice the roll into 1-inch pieces. Arrange the slices, cut side up, into a 13 X 9 X 2 inch baking dish, coated in vegetable oil spray.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and allow to rise for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.

Brush the rolls with half and half. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. If the rolls brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Brush the rolls again with half and half after they are removed from the oven.

Make a glaze for the rolls by combining the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and half and half in a small bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the top and serve warm.

 

Halloween Treats for the Big Night

Halloween Treats for the Big Night

Tomorrow, I’ll share advice on a death by chocolate adult party plan — BUT THIS BLOG goes out to the parents who stay home on Halloween night to dole out the candy. Having been that parent many moons ago, I remember what made the night special and delicious. Buckle up, these recipes come with a story!

For twenty-five years, we lived in a small neighborhood across from the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was filled with families and over-run with children. I dare say that the biggest community event held each year was the Halloween party. We gathered together in costumes, dispatching pizza and Gatorade into tiny mouths so that candy would be absorbed before bedtime.

We trudged through the neighborhood, hauling kids in wagons and greeting neighbors. It didn’t take me too long to figure out why I chose to be the designated stay-at-home parent on October 31. Well, someone has to hand out the candy! But no judgment, I refined my Halloween style in those years, and came up with these two tasty standbys – the ultimate in Halloween treats!

The process:

I filled a large tub with ice and submerged bottles of water to hand out to tired parents. Trick-or-treating is hard work! Then I started adding warm soup to the mix.

I kept the soup warm in my slow cooker, placed on a table by the front door. I ladled the soup into disposable coffee cups, and my fellow parents sipped and smiled. But it’s these sweet treats that really got the kiddos smiling!

Pumpkin brownies with cream cheese frosting are the bomb! The recipe is in my first book At Home in the Kitchen. You can still find a copy or two on-line or you can just email me for the recipe! This year I elevated those brownies to a whole new level by using Hocus Pocus sugar by Fancy Sprinkles. If you love to bake, check out these fancier than fancy sprinkles for your next holiday treat.

The combination of warm soup and sweet (and fancy) brownies lives on! Now I prepare them for my grandchildren and their parents (not yet for the whole neighborhood!). Here is my recipe for a tummy-warming, simple soup that will put a smile on your family faces – if you can see them from underneath their masks!

Butternut Squash Bisque

serves 6 to 8

40 minute cuisine

¼ cup olive oil

4 tablespoons butter, ½ stick

1 leek, tender part sliced

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

4 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 (2 pound) butternut squash, peeled and chopped, about 5 to 6 cups

1 tablespoon Autumn Harvest spice blend (substitute with pumpkin pie spice)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

⅓ cup sherry

1 quart homemade chicken stock, or prepared low sodium broth

¾ cup heavy whipping cream

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the leek, onion and garlic to the pan and cook until the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the butternut squash. Season with spice blend, chili powder, some of the salt and pepper. Pour in the sherry and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed into the veggies. Pour in the stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until all of the veggies are very soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot form the heat. Use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to emulsify the soup. If you are using a blender or food processor, allow the soup to cool before pulsing… just to be safe! Return the pureed soup to the pot over low heat. Stir in the cream. Taste and season salt and pepper if needed.

 

 

 

At Home In the Kitchen with Italian Gravy!

At Home In the Kitchen with Italian Gravy!

I’m not sure if this is an authentic Italian recipe or a Northeast American Italian recipe. I do know this, though: there are as many traditional family variations of this pasta sauce as there are Italian Nonnas. What is common is the freshness of the ingredients. Freshly diced onion, minced garlic cloves and fresh basil leaves are used in place of dried herbs and spices. I use Italian canned tomatoes, but if you’re being totally authentic, you can peel and hand-mash sweet plum tomatoes into the sauce.

Where the difference lies is in the meat. If you add meat to the sauce, it’s called gravy. And get a load of this gravy — it’s not finalized yet, but the aroma filling your kitchen is going to make you wish it were!

I like mine with beefy short rib, Italian sausage and of course, meatballs like these!

 

Others prefer to slow cook braciola in the sauce. Both Sunday sauce and Sunday gravy benefit from slowly simmering all-day long. This can be accomplished in a large pot on the stovetop, in a slow cooker or my preference, in a Dutch oven, cooked in my oven, set on low heat. Regardless of which you use, the pot does matter. You need a heavy pot to handle the day-long cooking.

Browning the meat is essential to get those yummy flavors into the pot, as well as searing the tenderness into the beef and sausage. In contrast, when you add the onions and garlic to the pot, you want softness, not too much color. Make sure to turn down the heat so you don’t burn the veggies. Deglazing the pot with a bit (or a lot) of wine, gathers all those tasty brown bits for the start of the sauce.

Whichever sauce you choose, make a big batch. Leftover gravy not only freezes well, but you can use the sausage and meatballs in hoagies; the short rib meat is an excellent filling for ravioli. Making Sunday Gravy on Sunday is freeing! The recipe allows you to prepare it in the morning and walk away for hours. When it’s time to call the family to the table (and they will be pestering you all day from the aroma wafting around the house), drop the pasta into boiling, salted water and take the top off that simmering pot. The rich sauce is done and ready to ladle. If you’re more of a visual learner check out my #AtHomeIntheKitchen segment below…

Making Italian style gravy: a short video

And here’s the recipe for nonnas, nanas or just about anyone who loves a good pasta!! A disclaimer, though: a starving grandchild ate every last meatball from my plate before I took this shot…

Sunday Gravy
Serves 6 or more
All Day Cuisine

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 meaty beef short ribs
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
4 links Italian sausage
2 large white onions, peeled and diced, about 2 cups
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons
2 cups red wine
2 (28-ounce cans) crushed tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 quart homemade beef stock, or prepared low sodium broth
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
12 (2-inch) meatballs (see Cook’s Tip for recipe)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 pound dried fettucine pasta
Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large pot) over medium high heat. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown the short ribs on all sides until they are well browned. This should take you about 10 minutes. Transfer the short ribs to a platter.

Cut the sausage links in half creating two smaller links. Cook the sausage in the oil until well browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the same platter as the short ribs.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions to the oil, and cook until softened and beginning to turn golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Pour in the wine. Simmer until the wine almost completely disappears. Pour in the crushed tomatoes. Stir in the tomato paste. Pour in three cups of the beef stock. Stir in the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Add the short ribs and sausage back to the sauce. Cover and simmer on very low heat until the rib meat is falling off the bone, 4 hours or more on the stove top, 8 hours on low in a slow cooker, or 6 hours in a 250°oven.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the meatballs onto the baking sheet and gently roll them in the oil. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and the outside are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Gently place the meatballs into the sauce. Add the fresh basil. Simmer for at least another 30 minutes. If your sauce is too thick, you can add more beef stock. If your sauce is too thin, you can stir in more tomato paste. Taste and add more salt if you like.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta and pour into a large bowl. Ladle some of the Sunday Gravy over the pasta and toss to coat the noodles. Ladle more sauce over the pasta and include the short rib meat, sausage and meatballs. Sprinkle with additional fresh basil. Serve family style with grated Parmesan cheese on the side.

Cook’s Tip
You can purchase prepared meatballs in the butcher department of the grocery store. But, if you would like to make your own, it’s easy to do. Soak 2 to 3 slices of bread with about ¼ cup milk for 10 minutes. Place ¾ pound of lean ground beef with ¾ pound ground pork in a small bowl. Season with ½ teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add the bread and any excess milk to the meat. Use your hands to gently combine all the ingredients and form into 2-inch balls. The gentler your hands, the fluffier the meatball.