Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sinful "Sin"namon Rolls. Dare to take a bite?

Okay. If you are going to eat something like this sinful "Sin"namon roll everyday, you would be 400lbs. Let's have this tasty treat on a special occasion. I made these yesterday when it was cold and rainy outside. It was too cold to go on a hike and too muddy to play in my garden. These are the days I'm inspired to bake.
 Luckily I had already gotten in my hike for the week. I met my friend Donna last Friday and we explored a fun park nearby that lead us to open space. It was a beautiful clear day and I felt lucky to have found a new trail just a few blocks away from my home.

 Donna and I have been friends since our kids were in the same preschool. I don’t dare to say how many years that have gone by since then, but our friendship has stayed strong and grown over the years. I am so fortunate to have her in my life.
I also found time this week to plant some herb seeds before the rains came in. I planted lettuce, basil, parsley next to the already thriving lemon thyme, oregano, chives, arugula and mint. I love herbs planted near my kitchen so I can run out and cut a handful of them for soups, salads and especially fish recipes. If you ask me, fresh herbs play a big role in providing that extra wow factor in flavor and presentation.
I was inspired by taking a class on “Celebrating Fresh Sustainable Local Foods” last month in Brentwood. It was a fabulous class that discussed the history behind Brentwood corn, conserving farmland, composting, olive oil production, and container gardening. I learned a lot and have become more passionate about growing my own herbs, vegies and fruits in my own backyard.

Today, I’m celebrating "Sin"namon rolls. Cause, let's face it. There is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked right from the oven pastries. These tasty morsels are full of plump raisins, toasted pecans, brown sugar and butter. The layers of pastry allow one to peel off the sugary and crispy goodness bite after bite. I’ve doused them in cinnamon cardamom sugar after removing them from the oven just to be sure they are sweet enough. Want to be "sinful " too?  Dare to make this recipe.
Sinful "Sin" namon Rolls

1 sheet of frozen French puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm sold at most grocery stores)

1 whole egg beaten

¼ C. unsalted butter

½ C dark brown sugar

¾ C. chopped pecans (toast in 325 degree oven on sheet tray for 8 min)

¾ C raisins (I buy Trader Joe’s Jumbo Raisin Medley)

½ t cinnamon

½ t cardamom

Optional (½ C granulated sugar, ¼ t cinnamon, ¼ t cardamom) toss the rolls when hot from oven

Take the puff pastry out of freezer night before and place in fridge to defrost overnight. Or place on counter and wait until it is soft enough to work with. Do not microwave.
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Mix toasted nuts, butte, brown sugar and spices in Cuisinart until blended, or cut butter into mixture with a pastry cutter. Add raisins.  Brush entire pastry with beaten egg. Spread sugar nut mixture onto edge of puff pastry and roll it up keeping the mixture from coming out on the sides.
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Cut into 12 equal portions and place into greased muffin tins. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for @ 15-18 min or until browned on edges. Bake a little longer to be double sure they are cooked through. There is nothing worse than eating raw dough!
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Remove rolls with a tablespoon and drop into cinnamon, cardamom sugar. Roll around until coated.

Enjoy with your favorite cup of coffee. This "Sin"namon roll is the perfect ending to my perfect week.

How about you? Ready to sweeten up your day? I dare you to take a bite.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Get Well Soup and Brownies w Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting is on the Menu Today

Sometimes I cook and bake for the ones I love. This week has been a particularly busy one bringing dinners to my mother and her new husband, my son and his girlfriend and my high school friend Christy and her family.

There has been a terrible flu going around that makes you feel miserable for about three weeks. I know, because I had it too. My favourite way to comfort people is by bringing them something warm and flavourful like my “Get Well Soup.”  And of course anyone who knows me would expect that I would also be bringing them a yummy treat as well like my brownies w coconut cream cheese frosting.

When my kids were young, I read to them a lot. One of their favourite books was “Get Well Soup.” Sorry, I’m not remembering the author at the moment and I’m NOT climbing into the rafters to find our selection of baby books that I have stored away for future grandchildren. This book was about a mother rabbit and her 12 bunnies that were sick. There was a blizzard and the store was closed so mother rabbit had to ask her neighbours if she could borrow some ingredients. Mother rabbit gathered her ingredients from various animals in her neighbourhood and invited them all over for “Get Well Soup.” It made my boys feel better hearing about the characters in the story and I always enjoyed reading it too.

Wednesday, I brought dinner to my girlfriend and her family who had suffered a great deal, but at last was in heaven at peace. You can imagine my shock to find out that she had passed away just before I arrived with my healthy dinner. I felt honoured that Christy gave me the privilege of providing a nourishing meal to her husband, three children and her parents that night. As much as my heart aches because I lost a friend, I know she will always be in my heart.

Here is my recipe.

 Get Well Soup

2 or 3 whole chicken carcasses (All chicken removed and saved for future meals)
Roasted chicken recipe on one of my prior blogs

Roasted Lemons, roasted onions with skin on (for darker broth) , garlic left over from roasted chicken

1 Carrot, 1 celery stalk, ½ C. fennel, 2 Tbsp sliced raw ginger

2 Bay leaves, a few black peppercorns, 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, parsley stems. I admit I also threw in the bones from the veal and lamb shank for the osso bucco recipe.


Fill a large stock pot with cold water and add all ingredients. Cook uncovered on a low boil for 2 ½ hours. You can use the crock pot if that is easier and let it cook all day.

Cool. Put covered soup in fridge and let sit overnight so it has the most flavor. In the morning, remove pot from fridge, and warm up the broth just until the fat is melted. You can skim off the fat with a spoon if you want to be healthier, but that is where all of the flavor is according to my mom.

Strain the soup in a large china cap or sieve. Keep chicken broth stored in freezer in canning jars or save in zip lock bags for future use. I will use the frozen broth instead of buying canned broth in many recipes.

Chocolate Coconut Cream Cheese Brownies

Follow the directions on two boxes of your favourite brownie mix and bake in a Pampered Chef 13X9 bar pan lined with parchment paper for @ 25 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean in a preheated 350 degree oven. Cool.

I know it seems crazy to use a store bought box of brownies, but trust me. They are delicious. When I worked at a French Patisserie, the pastry chef and owner also used a box mix for her brownies!

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

While brownies are baking, take 8 oz cream cheese and 1 stick (1/2 C) of unsalted butter and bring to room temperature. Mix ingredients in a stand mixer until blended. Add ¾ C confectioners’ sugar (or more if you like it sweeter), ½ teas vanilla paste and 1 Tbsp of coconut extract.

Bake 1 C of sweetened flaked coconut on a sheet pan in a preheated 250 degree oven for @ 8 minutes. Watch it so it doesn’t burn. Cool.

Flip fully cooled brownies onto a cutting board that is sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.  Cut off dry edges on each side of slab. Frost evenly. I dropped @ ½ C. ganache  (left over from another recipe. Recipe found on my blog for truffles) in splotches on top of brownies and sprinkled the brownies with toasted coconut.