Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quick and Dirty (but guilt-free) Cinnamon Buns

I call these quick and dirty because the first time I tried to make this recipe I made a hurricane of a disaster in the kitchen. The mess was legendary and took weeks to fully recover from (hardened sugar everywhere, pieces of dough, etc.) I've perfected the recipe and it's much more delicious and less dirty now, but the name lives on.

Cinnamon Buns

Makes 9 buns

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp melted butter (divided into 2 and 1 tbsp)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix all the filling ingredients together and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients in the dough together (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk the butter milk and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter together. Gently mix the flour mixture into the liquid until just combined.

Using a floured work surface, roll the dough out to be 9 by 12 inches (about an inch longer and wider than a sheet of computer paper.) Brush the dough with the remaining tablespoon of butter and then sprinkle and pat down the filling onto the dough. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll by its long side. Cut the dough into thirds and then thirds again (nine rolls total.)

Spray an 8 inch square pan with cooking spray and place the rolls inside, it should be a tight squeeze (a bigger pan would make the edges too crispy.) Flatten the rolls a bit with your hand so that they take up the full pan. Pinch the open flap on each bun to close the roll.

Cover the pan snugly with aluminum foil and bake for twenty minutes. Uncover and cook for 5 more minutes. I like mine still doughy in the middle, but check the middle and cook for more or less time depending on your preference. To easily transfer them flip over onto a large plate, and the flip the plate onto a wire rack.

I personally like to top then with just a dab of cream cheese, but you can eat them plain or even put frosting on them for a luxury.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Simple Orange Chicken

There's only a few ingredients here but the final dish is quite flavourful and yummy. Each flavour is distinctive but melds well with the others. Kind of like a good dinner party guest list.

Simple Orange Chicken

Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 can (10 ounces) mandarin oranges in light syrup
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp grated ginger root
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder

Spray large skillet with cooking spray and add chicken, cooking over medium heat until no longer pink (flip at least once.) Remove from skillet and set aside.

Give mandarin oranges one pulse in the food processor or with an immersion blender (they should still be chunky. Whisk in brown sugar, cornstarch, Chinese five powder spice and ginger root. Heat in skillet until thickened (1-2 minutes) and then return chicken to skillet. Simmer chicken covered until tender and no longer pink inside, 5-7 minutes. Serve with sauce spooned on top.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Simple but Classy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

I wanted to put together a pasta sauce that wasn't the usual tomato from a can (which most definitely has its place in the world and my cupboard, don't get me wrong.) Something a bit more interesting and complex that could be served to guests.

However, I also wanted to make it from things that you always seem to have hanging around in the kitchen AND can be whipped up in about the time it takes the pasta to boil. What can I say, I'm an idealist. I'm pretty pleased with what I came up with because for once I followed my own rules.

Simple but Classy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Serves 4

1 large Spanish onion, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups canned pumpkin broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pasta (I used rotini)

Put pasta on to boil.

Spray a large deep pan with cooking spray and brown onion. It should take around 5-7 minutes. When the onions are about half done, through in the garlic and brown it too.

When the onions are translucent (be sure they're done to your taste as as they won't cook much more when you add the other ingredients) add in the pumpkin and then stir in the chicken broth. Add more or less broth depending on how thick you want the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes and then serve over the pasta. Goes great with a side salad.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Light Oatmeal Cookie Deliciousness

It might be my Scottish heritage, but I have a tiny obsession with oatmeal cookies. Since by 'tiny obsession' I mean 'can eat them by the plateful' I went on a quest to create a less calorie-laden version. My husband ate many batches. Some he devoured, some he suffered through (the man won't throw out a cookie.) But I learned and have created my own love letter to oatmeal cookies.

There's tons of recipes out there for healthy oatmeal cookie recipes, but it wasn't until I tried them that I realized what makes a proper oatmeal cookie:

1. The taste and texture base should be chewy oats. That seems incredibly obvious, but many recipes take out most of the fat and cholesterol (eggs) and therefore need to add more flour make the batter stay in a cohesive cookie shape. This makes the cookie thick and cake-like, but in a very dense way.

2. The base holding the oats together should have a quality like caramelized sugar - thick, rich, sweet and chewy. When an oatmeal cookie bends, it shouldn't snap or crumble into many pieces (too dry) - it should gently bend.

3. The aftertaste of my ideal oatmeal cookie is a slightly sweet, buttery taste.

So, with all this in mind, the traditional light cookie replacing the butter and egg with fruit purees like applesauce or banana didn't work. The buttery taste wasn't there, replaced by one that didn't belong. Too much flour was required. I found the perfect recipe (with a few tweaks of my own added) in The Best Light Recipe from the editors of Cook's Illustrated.

What makes it work:
Real butter, for the taste and texture, but less of it. The use of a leavening agent and a small amount of flour kept the cookie from getting too dense and cakey. Brown sugar kept the cookie moist and one egg meant that the additional flour wasn't needed to bind. Baking on parchment lined paper and letting the cookies firm up out of the oven helped the moist factor as well.

The recipe (tweaked from Cook's Illustrated The Best Light Recipe)

Perfect Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 12 cookies

1 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup packed brown sugar

Bake on middle rack at 325 degrees.

Whisk oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl whisk together butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in brown sugar. Stir in oatmeal mixture until no flour pockets remain- don't overmix.

On a parchment lined baking tray, bake cookies for 13 minutes. They're ready to come out of the oven when they've spread and puffed and have browned very slightly on top. If you try to lift up the cookie it should start to break into about three large pieces. Let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking tray. They'll have melded into oatmeal heaven.