30 June 2010

Grab a fork, it's gonna get messy

Over the weekend when I thought for a moment I was feeling well again, I got a craving for these delicious rolls I had a few weeks ago. I had them at a friend's potluck dinner on a warm, sunny afternoon with kids buzzing everywhere. A neighbor, Heather, walked through the front door, apron still on, oven mits on her hands and set down a fresh-from-the-oven casserole dish of the most beautiful rolls I'd ever seen.

I asked if they were cinnamon roles, and she laughed saying that cinnamon was just too overdone. These rolls, she said, were lemon ginger.

This is the point where I really shouldn't have to write anything else. Sticky Lemon Ginger Rolls, as she called them, were enough to draw you in, just by name alone. I asked for the recipe multiple times, wanting to make clear it wasn't a polite, "Oh, I'd love this recipe," but a sincere, "Give me this recipe. NOW!"

I have to admit I was slightly intimidated by the recipe at first. It seemed so lengthy that it must be complicated. I was pleasantly surprised: No bit of it was too difficult. There were three major steps involved and some time to kill, but I somehow managed to squeeze it in between episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" via Netflix, so, it's doable. I made the rolls the night before and let them hang out in the refrigerator until morning. I highly recommend this because not only will it yield you a fantastic breakfast with little work the morning of, but breaking up the work made it seem less intimidating.

This recipe does call for making your own candied ginger. It isn't hard, just combining water, sugar and sliced ginger over a little heat. I found this recipe was a reliable one. I did this several days in advance, popped the ginger (not coated in sugar) and its juice in a jar and kept it in the fridge. It's not bad to have on hand and can be added to a number of recipes such as muffins and pancakes.

My crack at this recipe yielded 20 rolls that were roughly three inches wide. I froze a few immediately after they cooled, and after a quick defrost in the microwave, they were equally delicious.

This recipe is without a doubt a keeper. Write it down, print it out, whatever you've got to do. And the dough for these rolls would work for any number of recipes -- cinnamon, if it's not too overdone for you, berries, cherries, dried fruits, nuts, whatever you can think of. Heather said she was thinking of a lime cherry combination. Let me just say, I hope I'm nearby again when those come out of her kitchen!

Sticky Lemon Ginger Rolls
By Heather Lehman


2 1/2 tsp yeast

3/4 cup milk (warmed to 100 degrees or so, but not too hot)
1 stick butter - very soft (microwave if you have to, but left out to soften is better)
1/4 heaping cup white sugar

1 1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 to 1 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg

2 eggs

zest of 2 large lemons

4 1/2 cups flour at the ready (you may or may not use all of it)

sticky filling

2 cups white sugar
juice of 2 large lemons and zest of 2 more large lemons
1 1/2 cups candied ginger (see recipe link below)

½ packet, or 4 ounces, cream cheese

4 tbsp soft butter

1packet cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 large lemon and zest of 1 large lemon – or more

1 to 2 cups powdered sugar


Put yeast in a large bowl and stir in warmed milk. Let rest for a little while. Stir in soft butter, sugar, vanilla and one cup of flour. Mix in salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Mix in eggs and second cup of flour until all flour is combined into sticky, soft dough. Add 2 cups of flour and knead dough until pliable and stretchy – if dough remains too tacky, add remainder ½ cup of flour. Kneading should take 5 to 7 minutes – don't overwork this dough!

Rub down bowl with vegetable oil and lightly coat the dough ball with oil. Cover bowl with plastic bag and towel and let rise until doubled (roughly 1 hour). This dough is fairly forgiving and you can start in on the rolling after 40 minutes but don't let it sit longer than 1 ½ hours.

While dough is rising make the filling. Mix sugar, nutmeg, ginger in a bowl or food processor. Mix in juice of one lemon until mixture is like wet sand. Add cream cheese until mixture is uniform but still grainy. If you don't use a processor, really make sure your ginger is fairly finely chopped.
Lightly butter baking dishes. Two mid-size baking dishes would work or one standard sheet tray or cookie sheet with a rim.

Lightly knead the risen dough and divide into two equal pieces. Turn out one piece on a floured surface and lightly roll out into a rectangle of about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Rub down the dough with ½ of the softened butter (2 tbsp) and then rub the dough with ½ of the sticky filling. Starting at the long side, tightly roll up the dough into a tube. Cut tube into slices - no more than 2 inches per slice - and set them on buttered baking dish or tray so that they are close but not touching one another. Repeat with second half of dough and butter and filling.

At this point you can refrigerate the rolls for later use by covering tightly with wrap. They will stay good for at least 24 hours. Otherwise, lightly cover and let rise for at least an hour – they will double in size which is why you don't want to pack them in too tight after slicing.
While rising, heat oven to 350 degrees and place risen rolls on mid rack for 30 to 35 minutes. It is very useful to have a thermometer read on these rolls – when they hit a center temperature of 190 degrees they are good to pull out of oven.

Mix all glaze ingredients together – should be pourable mixture but not too thin. I prefer a lot of glaze, but you may not. For less glaze, use the 1 cup powdered sugar and juice of 1 lemon. For more, use more lemon juice and powdered sugar but not more cream cheese.

Candied ginger recipe by David Lebovitz.

23 June 2010

Patience, please

Toward the end of last week my little guy got really sick, and, just as he began to get his color and energy back, I caught it.

So, between wiping his nose and mine, I haven't had much time to spend in the kitchen. OK, I take that back, I've still been cooking for the family, but let's just say I don't have the time, energy or sense of taste to make anything worth repeating.

I hope to be back in the kitchen soon, and plan to have a post ready early next week. Thanks for your patience, and just be glad you're reading this in the privacy of your own home or cubicle, far, far away from my germ-infested little house.

16 June 2010

This, that and a side of slaw

Before I forget, I wanted to pass along a couple of tips I've been meaning to share with you. As I'm sure many of you do, when I find a dish I like, I tend to make it a few times. And when I find one I love, I make it a lot!

I just love those Banana Chocolate Chip muffins, and last Saturday seemed like the perfect morning for them. We were all headed out of the house early to get to the biggest parade in Portland, The Grand Floral Parade. Seth rode on a bike-powered float, and the Jasper and I joined a few friends to watch the marching bands, horses and floats rolls by. It was fun, surprisingly sunny and warm, and an overall good time. But what I want to tell you was this:
  • I replaced one cup of all-purpose flour in this recipe with whole wheat pastry flour. I actually liked the texture a little better than the two cups of all purpose. I should also mention that I added two ripe bananas that were pulled from the freezer and thawed. That meant they were very juicy. I absolutely think the added moisture helped.
The second thing I wanted to tell you has to do with Dina's delicious beer bread, another recipe I've played with a lot in the past few months.
  • Again, I have substituted half of the all-purpose flour, but in this recipe, I used regular whole wheat flour. The results seemed equally tasty.
  • Also, I usually bake this in one large loaf pan. I tried dividing it up into two smaller loaf pans and freezing one after it cooled. This worked just fine. I do have to say that I like the larger slices, but that, of course, has nothing to do with taste. If you want quick, handy slices, slice after cooled and freeze sliced loaf. Then, pull one out at a time, and pop it in the toaster. Yum.
  • I cubed some of this yummy bread and made croutons with them. These were so good floating in a tomato-based soup. Needless to say, don't throw out the stale beer bread. Here's a crouton how-to.
As for a new recipe, I'll share one that was just a little something I pulled together on a whim to take to a neighborhood potluck. I called it Strawberry Coleslaw. It, like any good salad, made the best of limited quantities of a lot of ingredients. Coleslaw is very simple, and cheap for the budget-weary, to prepare, even for a crowd.

Here's how it was prepared. Get creative with your own version and add whatever fruits or veggies you have on hand.

I tossed together:
One head of green cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
A couple of carrots, grated
An apple, grated
A mango, grated
A handful of strawberries, sliced

Then I mixed in a small bowl:
About 1/4 cup mayo
About 1/4 apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
About a cup of strawberries, pureed (I just plopped the whole berries in my dressing and used the immersion blender)
Enough sugar to balance out the sweetness (add by the teaspoon and taste)

Then combine the cabbage mixture with the dressing and allow to sit at least an hour before serving. Top with a few additional sliced strawberries.

* Many coleslaw recipes call for the cabbage to be soaked in salt water and thoroughly drained before preparing. This step helps keep the cabbage crisp if it will be held for a long period of time. I usually skip this step because I can't plan far enough ahead to do it.

09 June 2010

Snack a no-go, dinner a go-go

I wanted to tell you all about this wonderful little cracker that I'd made in fun animal shapes for Jasper. I wanted to tell you they were made with whole wheat flour and freshly grated cheddar cheese. I thought they were tasty, but when offered to Jasper, he asked for "fishies." It seems that damn Goldfish Cracker won't be leaving my pantry too soon.

Aren't they cute? But, since they aren't kid-tested, I'll have to look for another recipe before I pass one along. So now I'm going to to tell you a couple of dinner stories in pictures this week.

The first is an entree salad, a term that elicits a perplexed look on Seth's face, not out of disgust but sheer confusion. "It means we're having salad for dinner," I'll say. On a rare late spring Saturday, we had some sunshine around here, so we headed to the farmer's market for some goodies, which inspired the salad. I topped it with some broiled fish, which, in my book, elevates it from a first course to a main. A simple dressing of oil and vinegar did the job.

1) Tore lettuce greens and sliced radishes, carrots and kolrabi on the mandolin slicer

2) Sauteed canned chick peas (rinsed and drained) in olive oil until they turn a deeper, golden color. Add a liberal dose of salt.

3) Broil fish (no, that's not fish in the picture) with just a little drizzle of oil and well-seasoned with salt and pepper. Remove fish when done and turn the oven off. Then toss pita in the oven to warm (mine was actually frozen, and this thawed and lightly toasted it, yum).

4) Combine the veggies, chick peas and dressing, top with fish and serve with bread.

This second meal was also inspired by the farmer's market and a huge bundle of fresh asparagus. I'd wanted to make pesto with it for a while and have just been waiting for the season. I thought Jasper might go for it since I paired it with his favorite meal of pasta. He still wasn't overcome with excitement, but it may be the only bite of asparagus I'll get in the little guy this year. I really liked this pesto, and although pesto is hardly a new dish, I hadn't had asparagus pesto before.

1) Trim asparagus by grabbing each end with one hand and forcing it to break where it may. This is the best way to get rid of all of the tough end, which could ruin this dish. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 375 degree oven until very tender and slightly paler in color. Cool completely. Combine asparagus, a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan, a couple of tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, an herb if you'd like and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Whiz. Add more oil as needed to achieve a spreadable paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2) Toss with pasta of your choice. Mine was frozen cheese tortellini. I used the leftover pesto on a pizza the next day. Yum, too.