Blissfully Delicious

dinner rollsHappy Monday everyone, I hope you had a nice weekend and are ready for the week. I’m counting down to the number of working days that I have left for the year :) And pssst… I also already started thinking about what I’ll be cooking for Christmas dinner. So let’s start with these really yummy dinner rolls. I don’t really consider myself a food snob;  although I pretty much noticed that people don’t bake or cook for me anymore ;-) They bring me gifts after I had both of my babies, but nobody brought me dinners. A few of them sheepishly told me that they were too intimidated to bring me anything homemade. While I’m not as picky as most of my friends think that I am, I am pretty much picky when it comes to my dinner rolls, and I really try not to make a big deal out of this when I go out to restaurants. I absolutely adore homemade rolls, breads and its kind. Nothing makes me happier than homemade breads. I appreciate the good ingredients that go into homemade breads, the time it takes for the yeast to rise, and works its magic into homemade breads.

dinner rolls dough

I basically stopped buying refrigerated dough rolls  even if I don’t have enough time into planning  homemade bread or rolls for my holiday dinner. Sometimes I would go to my locally-owned bakery and buy their beautiful crusty loaf, either a French baguette or a sourdough. But other than that, I’d rather have my dinner without rolls. In my mind, dinner rolls need to be simple: a little crispy skin, but not too crispy, just crispy enough that you know it’s the skin of the bread, but moist enough that you know it’s dinner rolls. The interior needs to be a little bready, but not too coarse, just enough moistness, and have the beautiful buttery fragrant. It tastes great fresh out of the oven, with salted butter, but also tastes buttery and still perfect at room temperature.

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And my friend, I have to say that these rolls, are my new best friends. They’re pretty simple to make, although it takes time to prepare, and to rise etc.They can be prepared up to four days ahead, which is fantastic news if you let’s say have weekends’ guests. You can whip a batch of these on a Friday night, and have two trays of them that you can pop into the oven for both Saturday and Sunday brunch or dinners. They’re wonderful for your bread basket in the morning for breakfast: I think they’ll be fantastic with just a simple butter and marmalade jam, or homemade berry jam if you have them. Give these a try!

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I haven’t made a lot of cupcakes in a while. I used to bring in fancy cupcakes like these to work all the time; for my team’s anniversaries and birthdays. Our team decided to have a little potluck before Thanksgiving, but there were only six of us, so it’s a little tough to come up with a good menu. I volunteered to make these cupcakes since I thought they would be fun to make, and who could resist homemade chocolate cupcakes with homemade salted caramel buttercream frosting and Snickers? We still have some leftover from Halloween that I thought they would do very nicely on top of these cupcakes. I had made several versions of chocolate cupcakes, with my favorite being these Hershey’s Chocolate Cupcakes; they’re light, chocolaty and pretty much what I think chocolate cupcakes should be. I was in the mood of looking for a new cupcake recipe though, so I thought that I would try the Triple Chocolate Cupcakes, after I reviewed Bridgette’s review.

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After having a blog for going on seven years now, I’m now just nit-picking different recipes to find the ones that I like, and then continue on to find a new recipe that can be my next best one :) Thankfully, I had a food blog, so I can talk about how I can tell how the different version of chocolate cupcakes are in the blog, and how I think there is an occasion for each. If I were to try to explain this thought process to random people at work, I’m pretty sure that I would be faced with blank stare. I had considered having my cupcakes filled like Annie did here, and if that’s the case – you really should not use Hershey’s Chocolate Cupcakes, because I don’t know how well they would be with filling inside. I decided the version I have below would have been a better cupcake base  to be used with a filling. However, after all of that thought, I still decided to just leave it alone, without the filling, and just add the Snicker bits on top. I ended up really liking this new cupcake; it uses sour cream which gives it a very moist texture – and even my daughter and hubby went crazy for it. They were super moist the first two days, and then of course it got a little drier after that. But I had one leftover that I ate four days later that was still good! The fact that my family gobbled up these cupcakes was a surprise for me, our household prefers white cupcakes instead. I’ve made many versions of that cake for birthdays and just celebrations.

snickers cupcakes

I’m still pretty much obsessed with my Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce, so I decided to make that again to mix into the frosting. If you have a little time, I would highly recommend that you give the homemade caramel sauce a try, it makes such a huge difference in the flavors!  I mixed that yummy sauce into a regular buttercream frosting, and drizzle some on the top. Then of course, chopped Snickers on the top. My friends were ogling these cupcakes on Facebook, then a few of them made sure that they stopped my office to grab these. Thankfully, I had a small team, so I had enough for everyone in the office. I don’t normally eat a lot of sweets, but I probably ate three of these at home :)

nutella hot chocolate 2
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a restful long holiday weekend with your loved ones. As cliché as it sounds, holidays have a completely different meaning now that we have kids. I used to dread the holidays, especially during my single days, it seemed like it just intensified the need to “couple-up”. I used to joke with my mom that even my younger cousin, who was 7 years younger than me, always had a boyfriend during our family dinner, and I was always single ;-) I’m now more focused on making sure that the kids get to have fun and have memories of these fun holiday times; especially now that my daughter is older, she really gets all of the holidays since she learns all about them at her pre-school as well.

nutella hot chocolate
We spent this past weekend at home, just the four of us, and it was probably the best Thanksgiving that I’ve ever had. We didn’t get to finish our “official” Thanksgiving turkey dinner until around 5 in the afternoon, but we just took our time in getting all of our dishes ready. We didn’t have any guests to entertain, and we just took turns cooking, baking, and prepping for stuff.  I did dishes throughout the day, so the sinks were not over-flown with dirty pots, pans, or dishes. When my daughter called out and asked us to play, we stopped and played with her instead of just worrying about getting things done for our guests. I figured, that’s what holidays are meant to be.  Since Thanksgiving was over with, I finally put up our Christmas tree as well. I wanted to at least have a good month to enjoy the tree and the Christmas decoration. I made this incredibly decadent hot chocolate for us to enjoy as we were trimming the tree. One of my co-workers had brought in a hot chocolate in a slow-cooker for one of our potlucks and she mentioned that it was a Nutella based hot-chocolate. She couldn’t remember the exact recipe, but  I was adamant about making a similar hot chocolate. I thought about making this in a slow-cooker, but this is so quick to whip up, you don’t need  a slow cooker, unless you want to keep it warm all day. This is a great drink to have around when you make your holiday cookies, or wrap presents, or trim your tree.  Please note that my hubby thought that the final result of this Hot Chocolate is too rich, so he mixed it with some skim milk. It is so decadent that I think it’s perfect as an after dinner dessert and drink. Have a great Monday everyone!

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I hope you haven’t finalized your Thanksgiving menu yet. Because if you still need ONE special dessert recipe, I’d love for you to give this recipe a try. As much as I love pumpkin, and ice cream – I have never had a pumpkin ice-cream until about a month or so ago. A local dairy farm where I get our milk and cream hold sample Sundays, which is basically a small event that they host where customers like me get to sample everything that they sell: whether it’s something that they make themselves, or something that local producers make. Their chocolate milk is a favorite at our house: it’s smooth, creamy, chocolaty and light. Not that thicky sugary kind loaded with all the stuff that’s not good for you. They usually have background music or even small band playing, some vendors, kids activities, and some of their farm animals out wandering around for the kids to check out. During our recent outing, they had pumpkin ice-cream. I really wasn’t sure how the kids would enjoy them, but I tried them anyways, and loved it.

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The kids ended up liking it too, so I thought why not that I try making my own at home. Their version, I believe, isn’t custard-based. So they must have used only milk, which makes it a little bit less creamy than any custard-based ice-cream. This version below uses eggs, whole milk and cream – so it’s smooth, silky and creamy. I think they’re fantastic to serve for Thanksgiving, it tastes like a frozen pumpkin pie. Have a great Thanksgiving weekend everyone! I hope you get to enjoy delicious food in good company of both your family and members and have a restful weekend. See you next week!

I’m thrilled to welcome Katie Olthoff as a guest blogger today! She’s married to a third-generation turkey farmer, so with Thanksgiving around the corner,  I thought that this would be  such a perfect time for her to come and share with us all about her tricks in cooking turkey! So here you go!!

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Katie Olthoff is a former teacher and farm wife in Central Iowa. She blogs about her life On the Banks of Squaw Creek and shares DIY decorating projects, trials and tribulations of parenting two little boys, and daily life on her family’s turkey farm. Katie has also written a non-fiction children’s book about turkey farms for teachers to use this November. Today, Katie’s sharing several tips on cooking turkey.

On Saturday mornings during our first year of marriage, Bart woke early and headed a half hour north to his grandparents’ farm. There, he worked side by side with his dad, helping with projects that took more than one set of hands. It was good for him. After working in the USDA National Animal Disease Center lab all week, he was able to get outside, do some manual labor, and soak up farm life.

While he was gone, I bustled around our little house, cleaning. Every Saturday morning, I swept, vacuumed and dusted the whole house. I deep cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen. My new (old) house has never been as clean as that first house was every single week.

When the house was spotless, I ran my errands for the week. Grocery store trips were simple when it was just the two of us. I picked up our usual staples and ingredients for our Sunday evening tradition: New Recipe Night.

As newlyweds, we liked cooking together. Neither of us were particularly skilled in the kitchen, but it was fun. We tried recipes we’d seen Rachael Ray make on 30 Minute Meals, something new from the internet (back before Pinterest it was so hard to sort through good recipes online!) or recipes I’d torn out of a magazine.

One Saturday evening, Bart brought home a new ingredient for me to try: fresh turkey. Fresh, never frozen, killed-that-day turkey.

I refused to cook it.

<Olthoff family FB photo

First, I had never had meat so fresh. The idea that the bird had been alive just a couple of hours earlier was just too much for me. Although I grew up in rural Iowa, I did not grow up on a farm. And, like many Americans, “animal” and “meat” were too different categories for me. This fresh turkey was dangerously in a gray area between the two.

Second, I didn’t know what to do with it. He just brought the turkey breasts (not the whole bird, thank goodness) but at that point, I had never cooked turkey breast before.

We froze that first turkey, and a few weeks later, I cooked turkey for the first time. I’m sure I used a recipe that called for chicken, and I’m sure it turned out okay. But it was a long time before I learned to cook turkey in a way that was ALWAYS delicious and something my family would love.

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Now, 7 years later, Bart farms full time and I cook turkey almost 7 days a week. Last night, we had turkey fajitas, and the night before, lemon pepper turkey breast with rotini. My recipes are generally very simple and easy for me to get on the table quickly, but over the years, I’ve learned a few tips that take our turkey from ordinary to outstanding.

  1. Set the crockpot to LOW. I like to stick a frozen turkey breast in the crockpot. Usually I do it in the morning and let it cook all day. The few times I’ve started it at noon and cooked on high instead of low, it was a lot less tender and juicy.
  2. Grease your grill with oil. Because turkey has so little fat, it can be sticky on the grill. Greasing the grill first helps. (I pour olive oil on a paper towel and hold it with my tongs to grease a hot grill.)
  3. Do not overcook your turkey. 165 degrees is perfect.
  4. Soy sauce and citrus are perfect compliments to turkey’s natural flavor.
  5. When subbing ground turkey for ground beef or ground pork, you may need to add back in fat of some sort. When I use ground turkey in something like meatloaf or burgers, I often use a mixture of ground turkey and ground beef.
  6. Roasting a turkey is NOT hard! Most turkeys are pre-basted, which means that you don’t have to do a lot to flavor them. Just stick it in the oven and forget about it! (Check out the Iowa Turkey Federation’s free e-cookbook on whole turkey for more info.)
  7. Pound it out! When I cook a turkey breast steak (turkey breast cut flat) I like to pound it out a bit. It tenderizes the meat and helps it cook quickly, preventing it from drying out.
  8. Let it rest. It’s always important to let meat rest, but even more so with poultry. It helps redistribute the natural juices for the best flavor and tenderness.
  9. Chill your turkey burgers before grilling. Turkey burgers commonly crumble apart, but sticking them in the freezer for a few minutes helps prevent this.

Take it from an expert, turkey can be amazing any day of the year. I know, at first it’s a little intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. After some practice (and amazing recipes from the Iowa Turkey Federation) your family will be gobbling up any meal you make with turkey.