I have a confession to make on Alex's behalf, his obsession with Cinnabon cinnamon buns, and even Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for that matter. It drives me crazy. There are a few pre-made items that I'll make an exception for, like frozen puff pastry and Cape Cod kettle chips, but otherwise I have a strong preference for making everything myself. This is where my determination to create a cinnamon bun better than Cinnabon's began.
I didn't have any puff pastry on hand when this mission began, but it would be a perfectly acceptable substitute for what I ended up using, pre-made pizza dough. I rolled out the dough into a big rectangle, then sprinkled it with brown sugar and cinnamon and rolled it up. Then I cut the roll into 8 slices and tucked each of them into a muffin tin, which I filled with a pecan-cinnamon butter mixture. This created a gooey, delicious exterior (better than Alex's coveted Cinnabon bun!)
Pecan Sticky Buns
Yield: 8 Perfect Buns
1 premade pizza dough (Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
4 tbsp butter (room temperature)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Start by rolling out the pizza dough into a rectangle (about 10" x 14") use a little bit of flour if its sticky. Then sprinkle the dough evenly with 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Now, roll the dough up the long way, the side should look like a pinwheel. Slice the roll into 8 pieces.
In a small bowl, combine the last 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of chopped pecans, and 4 tbsp of butter. Mix them together with a fork until they're well combined. Evenly distribute this mixture into the bottom of 8 of the sections of a muffin pan. Now put the 8 sliced pieces of the roll on top of the pecan mixture. Place the muffin pan into the oven for 20 minutes. When it's done, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes before inverting it onto a plate. Enjoy!
Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching and since I won't be cooking the bird myself, I think that few fun side dishes are in order. I usually try to start with an interesting, but light soup or salad. Last year I made butternut squash & pear soup with rosemary croutons, it was the perfect start to the meal. This year I was thinking that I would start with a bountiful salad with Gala apples, crunchy candied pecans, creamy Gorgonzola, and tender mâche (lamb's ear lettuce). To dress it, I used a simple honey dijon vinaigrette. The best part is that it can all be made a day in advance, and dressed right before serving.
Yield: 8 Servings
1 container mâche (lamb's ear lettuce)
1 Gala apple (thinly sliced)
4 oz Gorgonzola
1 cup pecans
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
ground black pepper
In a small pan on your stovetop over low heat, melt the tablespoon of butter. Toss the pecans into it until they're coated in butter, then sprinkle them evenly with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Allow them to cook for 2-3 minutes while tossing, then turn off the heat and allow them to cool completely.
In a large serving bowl, place your container of mâche. In a small bowl off to the side, place the sliced apple and toss them with the juice of the half of a lemon. Now, add the citrus coated apples to the large bowl with the mâche. Next, crumble the Gorgonzola into the salad, and add the cooled candied pecans as well.
To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, white wine vinegar, the juice of half of a lemon, one tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon of dijon mustard, as well as a bit of salt and pepper. Add this to the salad immediately before serving.
It's become a nice little tradition that every week, Alex's dad comes over and they enjoy watching football as I prepare a delicious Sunday supper. This particular Sunday was especially enjoyable for everyone, I made meatballs and they were spectacular. Granted, I also made homemade red sauce and pasta, but the meatballs were the star of the meal. I pulled them out of the oven and let them each try a bite and they were chomping at the bit for more.
These weren't just your run-of-the-mill meatballs, they were full of my favorite things: sweet shallots, aromatic basil, fresh bread crumbs, salty parmesan cheese, and ground turkey. I also brushed them with garlic oil before they went into the oven, to ensure a perfectly crispy exterior.
Yield: 15 perfect meatballs
1/3 baguette, cut into cubes
1 lb ground turkey
1 shallot, minced
10 basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
In your food processor, add the cubed baguette and pulse it until it's the size of bread crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, just use a cup of panko bread crumbs.
In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, the fresh bread crumbs, the minced shallot, the chopped basil leaves, the grated parmesan, as well as the salt and pepper. Combine them with a fork. Next, in the same bowl, add in the heavy cream, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and the egg. Continue to mix the ingredients until they look the same throughout.
Next, roll the mixture into meatballs with your hands, each meatball should be about 2" in diameter. Place the meatballs onto a sheet pan (preferably lined with parchment paper, it will make cleanup a cinch).
Next, in a small bowl combine the minced garlic and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Brush the top of each meatball with the garlic-oil mixture.
Finally, place the meatballs into the oven for 40 minutes.
It's always an unexpected surprise when a side dish becomes the star of a meal. These brussels sprouts are just that. Honestly, I could make a meal of them alone because they're so utterly delicious.
Roasted brussels sprouts have always been a favorite of mine, but I always end up wanting more of the crispy little leaves that fall off. Then I thought, why not just make a pan full of the leaves, so that it's nothing but crispy sprouts?!
I added maple syrup for a hint of sweetness, and pancetta and freshly grated parmesan for the perfect punch of saltiness.
I thought that adding the roasted sprouts to a simply cooked steak and smooth mashed potatoes would be perfect, and it certainly was. Alex was overjoyed to come home to this meal after a long night at the office. I also made my Warm Apple Pie that night, talk about a perfect meal!
Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb brussels sprouts
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 slices pancetta, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated
Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, trim off the very end of each sprout, then pull the outer leaves off. You'll have to keep trimming further up the stem of the sprout to make pulling the leaves off easier. When all of the big green leaves have been pulled, you'll be left with the light green interior which you'll discard (see the photo below).
On a baking sheet, toss the leaves with the maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper. Finally, sprinkle them with the chopped pancetta and toss the baking sheet into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the leaves are all golden brown. When they come out of the oven, sprinkle them with the grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
What is more quintessentially "fall" than warm apple pie? Beside a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, of course.
You may be wondering why I've photographed a lemon and an orange. Well... they went into the pie! I always add orange and lemon to my apple crisp, so naturally this translated into pie filling ingredients. First, the citrus keeps the fruit from oxidizing while it's macerating in sugar, and it also adds great depth of flavor.
I made sure to add big chunks of apples, rather than thin slices because I hate apple pie filling that's the consistency of apple sauce.
For the pie crust, I took the crust recipe that I typically use for quiche and added a bit more sugar and a little less salt. Don't even get me started on how delicious it was, the big chunks of apples propped the top crust up so it was extra flaky.
The pie is spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, they smell incredible while baking. Warm Apple Pie was the first of many pies to come this year, but it was certainly a good start! What are your favorite pies to bake in the fall?
Spiced Apple Pie
Yield: 8 Servings
3 Gala apples, cut into sixths
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into sixths
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/2 orange, zest and juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp kosher salt
Pie Crust (recipe follows)
1 egg, beaten
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and lightly butter the inside of your pie plate.
First, place the sliced apples into a large bowl, along with the lemon and orange juice and zest, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and kosher salt. Stir them all together until they're well combined.
On a floured board (or your countertop) lay out the dough that's been chilling in the refrigerator. Sprinkle the dough with a bit of flour, so that it doesn't stick to your rolling pin. Roll out each dough until it's slightly larger than your pie plate. Drape the first dough over the pie plate, then carefully tuck it into the edges. In a small bowl, add the egg as well as a bit of water and beat it with a fork. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the dough. Next, add the apple filling. Finally, place the second dough over the top of the apples. Pinch the edges of the two doughs together (the egg wash on the edges should help you do this). Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash, and sprinkle it with a bit of cinnamon and sugar. Finally, add six slits to the top of the pie (this will allow the steam to escape the interior of the pie).
Place the pie into the oven for 1 hour, then remove it and allow it to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks cold butter
6 tbsp iced water
In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse it a few times to make sure that the dry ingredients are well mixed. Cube the cold butter, and add the cubes to the food processor along with the dry ingredients. Pulse the food processor eight times. Then one tablespoon at a time, add in the iced water, pulsing the food processor once between each addition.
Take the dough out of the food processor, quickly form it into two balls (you don't want your hands to melt the cold butter). Wrap the two balls in plastic wrap and place them into the refrigerator for at least an hour (and up to a week, if you're making it well in advance).
Sometimes when I'm deciding what to make for dinner, I throw together some of my favorite ingredients hoping that they'll taste good together. This pizzette is one of those creations, however it currently stands as one of Alex's favorite meals on the planet. I took a sheet of frozen puff pastry, topped it with some grated parmesan cheese and baked it off. Meanwhile, I also put a few pieces of bacon drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkled with brown sugar into the oven. While they were baking, I also caramelized half of a spanish onion. Putting these components together creates an incredible dish: flaky puff pastry crust, crumbled maple bacon, sweet caramelized onions, as well as a drizzle of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives- yum!!! This pizzette is perfect as an appetizer for a crowd, or dinner for two.
Maple Bacon Pizzette
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator over night
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
4 slices bacon
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
1/2 spanish onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp chives, chopped
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place your puff pastry onto a baking sheet, sprinkle it with the parmesan cheese, and place it into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until it's puffy and golden. Next, on another baking sheet lay out the bacon slices and drizzle them with the maple syrup and sprinkle them with the brown sugar. Place the bacon into the oven for 15 minutes.
On your stove top, place a small pan over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt, once it's bubbling add the sliced onion and kosher salt. Allow them to cook for about eight minutes, turning the onions every couple of minutes to ensure a nice even caramelization. Once they're caramelized, turn off the heat and set them aside.
Take the puff pastry and the bacon out of the oven and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
Move the puff pastry to a cutting board, crumble the bacon over it, add the caramelized onions, and finish the pizzette by drizzling it with sour cream and sprinkling it with chives. Enjoy!