Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

Most of the time, I try to cook fairly healthy food. But friends, there is nothing healthy about this recipe. Nothing. I didn’t look up the nutrition stats, because why would we want to know? If we’re going to indulge, let’s do it right—and part of doing it right means living in ignorant, syrupy bliss about the calories, sat fat, and sugar. Right? Right.

This monkey bread adventure began with my friend Lauren sharing with me a recipe she found for Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread. I drooled, thanked her profusely, and immediately put it on my “must make” list. Now, recipes sometimes sit on said list for quite some time, because I read way too many food blogs and food magazines, and add recipes to this list much more quickly than I can actually make them. Several weeks later my friend Jordan showed up to work one day with leftovers from her weekend of baking, and one of them was this same recipe! Then I posted on my blog that I might make this bread during Thanksgiving week. My friend Megan saw my link on Facebook, commented that she thought she’d make it, then several hours later followed up with, “Make it. MAKE IT! You will not regret it!” She was right.

I bought this mug for 49 cents at Goodwill. I chose this
particular one because it's the color of pumpkins.

Based on feedback from both Megan and Jordan that the rolling-out-slicing-stacking-slicing-more-and-arranging-in-the-pan method in the original recipe was really complicated and made for a big cinnamon-and-sugar mess all over the kitchen, I decided to make mine more like a monkey bread. Also, the shape of the bread pieces in the original recipe kinda weirds me out a little. I’m not sure why. Don’t judge me.

I used my bread machine to make the dough; but if you don’t have a bread machine, you can follow the dough-making steps on the original recipe. I also wanted a more syrupy, less glazey sauce to pour on top, so I made it more like the buttered rum sauce from my Pumpkin French Toast Casserole. Oh, and since my house was cold because I’m too cheap to turn on the furnace, I used this tip when it was time for the dough to rise a second time:
“Searching for a warm draft-free place to allow yeasted bread to rise? Preheat oven to 350° for about 2 minutes. Turn off and place covered bowl in warm oven.”
Now, there are a lot of steps here, but none of them are hard. This bread will take a lot of time from start to finish, but a lot of that time is spent waiting. So this is a great recipe to make when you have a long, leisurely morning (or afternoon), with plenty of time between each step to clean the kitchen, do laundry, watch TV, listen to the movie your neighbors are watching next-door, write, process food photos, or do whatever else strikes your fancy.

Pumpkin Monkey Bread

Adapted from Willow Bird Baking, as seen on Sunny Side Up
Yield: 1 loaf pan

Bread Ingredients
2 Tbsp. browned butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2-1/2 to 3 cups flour
2-1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast – or 1 generous tsp. rapid rise/bread machine yeast

Coating Ingredients
2 Tbsp. browned butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Sauce Ingredients
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. rum (or appropriate amount of rum extract or vanilla extract)

To brown the butter: Heat butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook until the butter turns medium-dark golden brown and smells irresistible. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan. The butter will continue to cook a bit in the pan, so take that into account when you decide how dark to let the butter get before removing it from the heat.

To make the dough: In a bread machine pan, combine the bread ingredients in the order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer. Select the dough cycle and let it do its thing. For the flour measurement, start with 2-1/2 cups, and when you machine gives you the, “Hey! Check on the dough and see how it’s doing!” beep, add more flour if needed. Mine definitely needed it. My machine’s dough cycle includes an hour for the first rise. If yours doesn’t, be sure to let your dough rise in a warm place for about an hour before continuing.

To prepare the coating: Brown some more butter; set aside. In a large, wide bowl, combine the sugars and spices for the coating. Grease a loaf pan.

To assemble the monkey bread: When dough has risen, punch it down and turn out onto a clean, floured surface. Knead a few times with your hands. You can work in a bit of flour here, but not too much, because you’ll want the dough to be sticky. Pinch (or cut) off small amounts of dough and roll into balls about an inch in diameter. Roll in the sugar mixture and arrange in the prepared loaf pan. Be sure to get them good and heavily coated with the sugar mixture. About halfway through, drizzle a bit less than half of the browned butter over the sugared dough balls. When all the dough balls are in the pan, drizzle the rest of the browned butter over the top. Cover pan with a clean, damp towel and allow dough to rise for 30-45 minutes.

Note: You should have quite a bit of sugar mixture left over at the end of my assembly process, and it may be tempting to sprinkle it into the pan. Don’t. I was tempted, too, and I’m really glad I didn't  This bread is going to be insanely sweet and rich as-is, and I think that if ALL that sugary goodness was mixed in, it’d be too much. So, either discard the excess sugar mixture, or save it for some future use. You could even use some of it for the sauce.

To bake the deliciousness: Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top is deep, golden brown. It helps to tent the pan with foil for the first 20 minutes of baking time, and remove the foil for the remaining 10-20 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan on a wire cooling rack for 20 minutes. Go a little crazy with anticipation.

To make the sauce: Heat your skillet once more over medium heat and whisk together butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup until sugar is dissolved and butter is browned. Remove from heat; whisk in the rum.

To serve: Use a plastic knife to loosen the sides of the bread from the pan, and carefully turn it out onto a plate. Place another plate on top, and flip it so it’s now right-side-up on the second plate. Pour butter rum sauce over top, and serve.

I've always kind of hated my blue counters, but they sure do provide
nice, photogenic contrast to orange, pumpkin-based dishes.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blue Cheese Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Pecans

For dinner my first night off of work, and to officially kick off my Thanksgiving Week of Deliciousness, I made these roasted Brussels sprouts. They were good--a little salty, but a small drizzle of honey helped with that.

Then I figured up the nutrition stats, and found myself liking the dish less and wishing that I'd eaten only one serving instead of two. Since when does a veggie side dish cost you more than 500 calories per serving? The pecans and olive oil were definitely the culprits (each one adding about 200 calories per serving!), but at least they bring some nice monounsaturated fats to the party.

If I make these again (which I probably will since there's still a half-pound of Brussels sprouts in my fridge), I'll make some pretty substantial adjustments for both health and flavor reasons: 1) use a bit less blue cheese; 2) halve pretty much all the remaining ingredients other than the Brussels sprouts and cranberries; 3) add a bit of orange zest to the cranberries before roasting (or maybe halfway through when I pull them out to stir them).

Blue Cheese Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Pecans

Pulled elements from Prevention RD and Two Peas and Their Pod
Yield: 2 servings

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, washed and chopped/halved *
1/2 to 1 tsp. sugar
Drizzle of olive oil

1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, rinsed, with bad/loose leaves removed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup blue cheese
Drizzle of honey (optional)

Line two 8 x 8-inch pans with foil.** Preheat oven to 400.

Combine cranberries, sugar, and olive oil in a small bowl. Pour into one of the foil-lined pans.

Cut the base off each Brussels sprout and halve each bulb. Put the sprouts into the pan in a single layer. Using your hands, toss the sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Roast the cranberries and sprouts for 20-25 minutes, stirring the cranberries and rotating the pans halfway through. After 20 minutes my cranberries were almost as shriveled as craisins. If you want them less shriveled, take them out 5-10 minutes earlier.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Toast the pecans for about 5 minutes, until pecans just start to brown and smell toasty. Remove from heat. In a small jar, combine remaining 2 Tbsp. oil, vinegar, and mustard. Put lid on and shake vigorously.

Stir together the cranberries, Brussels sprouts, dressing, pecans, and blue cheese. Return to the oven for an additional 3-4 minutes. Toss and serve. If desired, drizzle with the slightest bit of honey.

* You could use craisins instead of roasting fresh cranberries. I simply had cranberries in my freezer that needed to be used. Just skip the whole roasting process for the cranberries, and add the craisins at the end when you stir in the pecans, blue cheese, and dressing.

** If using fresh cranberries, I'm sure it would work just fine to roast the cranberries and Brussels sprouts in the same pan. I only kept mine separate in case one roasted much more quickly than the other.

from MyFitnessPal iPhone app

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Week Menu

Last year I was by myself on Thanksgiving day, which sounds quite a bit more pathetic than it was. I did celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends . . . just not until a day or two after Thanksgiving. To keep myself from feeling pathetic last year, I made myself a stuffed Cornish hen. It was like a cute little, single-serving-size turkey, and gave me something exciting and food-related to look forward to on Thanksgiving day.

This year, our Thanksgiving plans are again on Saturday instead of Thursday, so I've decided to do a whole week of fun cooking. I kind of intended to do a deconstructed Thanksgiving dinner spread out . . . but I didn't want to limit myself to traditional Thanksgiving dishes, especially since I'll be eating all of those on Saturday.

I'm going to share my menu with you--more because I'm excited about it, and less because I think you will be excited about it.

How about you? What are you eating for Thanksgiving this year?

Thanksgiving Week Menu 2012


Main Dishes and Sides:
  • Thai Peanut Pumpkin Hummus from Prevention RD - a recipe I discovered last year. It's pretty quick and easy, so I threw it together Sunday night as a warm-up and to get me through two work days with less time to cook.
  • Pumpkin Apple Harvest Rice from Healthy Happy Life - with the addition of turkey and cranberries, this could almost be Thanksgiving in a bowl.
  • Roasted Cauliflower with Apple and Dill from A Couple Cooks - this looks like such an interesting combination of flavors! 
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bleu Cheese and Cranberries - combining recipes from Prevention RD and Two Peas & Their Pod
  • Stuffed Carnival Squash - inspired by at least a couple recipes. I think it will have quinoa, turkey sausage, pear, and I haven't yet decided what else.
  • Roasted Cauliflower Risotto from A Couple Cooks - this will be my first attempt at risotto!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Butternut Squash and Apple Calzones

Last fall (or maybe even the fall before) I discovered this recipe and bookmarked it as one I wanted to try. Then I promptly forgot about it, because it wasn't on my Google Docs spreadsheet where I keep my official list of recipes to try. A couple months ago I saw it linked from one of the food blogs I read and thought, "That sounds good! I need to make that!" Only to discover a few days later that I still had it bookmarked from the previous year.

I must say, that when these babies came out of the oven, they were worth the yearlong wait. They were crispy on the outside, and steamy, herby, and just the right amount of gooey on the inside. Sadly, they didn't reheat well; so if you live alone, I'd recommend holding off on these until a day you have friends over.

For this recipe, I cheated and bought pre-cubed butternut squash in a bag in the produce section, rather than peeling, seeding, and cubing my own. I also used store-bought pizza dough, but you could certainly do homemade dough if you'd like. Fun fact: the day after I did my shopping for this recipe, I saw the very pizza dough I'd just bought featured in a Rachael Ray magazine.

I made a half batch (4 calzones) of the Happyolks recipe and wound up with far more filling than would fit in the amount of dough I had. So I've adjusted amounts below to produce what I think will be the right ratio of filling to dough. The filling is good by itself, though, so having extra of that is not necessarily a bad thing!

Butternut Squash and Apple Calzones

Yield: 8 calzones; 4-8 servings, depending on how hungry you are and what else you might be serving with these
Adapted slightly from Happyolks
Printer-friendly version

2 (13.8-oz.) tubes of refrigerated pizza dough (I used Pillsbury artisan pizza crust with whole grains)
1 Tbsp. butter
3-4 cups cubed butternut squash
1-1/2 small sweet onions, chopped
3 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried sage
2 apples, cubed (I used gala)
1 clove garlic, minced
Pepper and coarse salt (such as kosher or sea salt)
Zest of one lemon
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Olive oil

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash, onions, rosemary, and sage; sauté until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add apples, garlic, and a dash of salt; sauté 2 more minutes. Remove from heat. Add lemon zest and stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 500. Prepare a 9 x 13 cookie sheet with parchment paper.

On a floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 4 rectangles. Scoop about 1/2 cup of butternut squash mixture onto each rectangle. Add pepper and a bit of mozzarella. Fold over the other half of the dough and pinch around the edges to seal tightly. Transfer calzones to cookie sheet. Using your hand or a pastry brush, spread olive oil on each calzone and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 5-15 minutes, until calzone is browned and warmed through. The recipe I followed said to bake for 12-15 minutes; mine took 6.

Nutritional Information Per Calzone (compliments of My Fitness Pal)
372 calories; 11.3 g total fat; 57 g total carbs (6.1 g dietary fiber; 9.3 g sugars); 11.5 g protein

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole with Buttered Rum Sauce

This is my new favorite breakfast. It’s cozy. It’s sweet and spiced. It’s got crunchy pieces and gooey pieces. It’s perfect for a 46-degree Saturday morning when you’re still trying to make it another month before firing up the furnace.

For the French toast casserole part, I pretty much followed a halved version of a recipe on Buns in My Oven. Though honey oat bread is my favorite French toast base, so I used that instead of French bread. I also decided to cube my bread instead of slicing it and doing two layers in the pan. Mostly because I didn’t start the bread soon enough the night before and wanted desperately to go to bed. So cutting the fresh hot bread into cubes was how I could make it cool more quickly so I could assemble the casserole. I’m pretty happy with my decision, though I suppose maybe this should be called bread pudding since the bread is cubed. (?) In fact, if you need a good dessert idea, call this bread pudding and—voila!—you’ll have a dessert instead of a breakfast.

For the sauce, I combined elements of Paula Deen’s praline topping recipe as seen on Buns in My Oven, with elements of the buttered rum sauce from this Pull-Apart Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread recipe that a friend shared with me (yes, I will be making that recipe soon).

Part way through baking, I was worried that the cubes on top would turn into croutons and be unpleasant. But the texture was great! Pouring the buttered rum sauce on top part way through baking helped moisten the top layer. Parts of the top layer were definitely more crispy (though not quite crouton consistently, thankfully), which provided a nice contrast to the gooeier layer below.

This casserole reheated really well, though the texture was not quite as nice and varied when reheated.

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole with Buttered Rum Sauce

Adapted from Buns in My Oven
Yield: 4 servings (one 11 x 7 dish)

About 8 oz. bread, cubed (I used honey oat bread)
1 Tbsp. melted butter
3/4 cup milk
2-1/2 eggs (2 eggs + 1 egg white)
3/8 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ginger
Pinch of cloves

For the sauce
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. rum (or substitute vanilla extract; or substitute 1/4-1/2 tsp. rum extract)

The night before: Spray an 11 x 7 inch glass pan and arrange bread cubes in the bottom. Whisk together remaining ingredients (through cloves). I find that the whisk attachment on my immersion blender is great for whisking eggs and leaving no globs behind. Pour over the bread cubes; cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

The morning of: Remove casserole from fridge. Preheat oven to 350. Bake, uncovered, for 40-60 minutes, until casserole is browned and heated through. Mine took 40 minutes, but the recipe I was following said 50-60 minutes.

For the buttered rum sauce: About 20-30 minutes into the casserole’s bake time, put butter into a microwave-safe dish. Microwave in 20-second intervals until melted. Stir in brown sugar and stir until mostly dissolved. It may require a couple more 20-second trips to the microwave. Stir in pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg, and rum/vanilla/extract. Remove casserole from oven and drizzle with sauce. Return to the oven for the remainder of the baking time.

When it’s finished baking, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before digging in. You can eat it as-is, or add a drizzle of honey or syrup and/or a dusting of powdered sugar.

Ideas for next time
  • For extra rich and gooey, I might make twice as much buttered rum sauce—half of it for pouring on top of the casserole for the last 10-20 minutes of baking time, and half saved to drizzle on right before eating. Especially if serving as a dessert rather than as breakfast. 
  • I wonder what this would be like with light coconut milk instead of regular milk. And/or coconut oil instead of butter in the sauce.