Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese and Caramel Frosting

There is this recipe... Because who doesn't need pumpkin and cinnamon rolls and cream cheese frosting and caramel frosting all wrapped into one breakfast?  These were a tasty alternative to the traditional cinnamon roll.  I love those, too!  However, I had to make about 15 dozen of them for a fun raiser over the summer, and I could barely muster up the motivation to make some again.  :)  I'm traumatized!  These were well worth the time though.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese and Caramel Frosting

Yield: 12 rolls

1/3 c milk
2 T butter
1/2 c canned pumpkin
2 T sugar
1/4 t nutmeg
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t salt
1 egg, beaten
1 package dry yeast (or 2 1/2 T)
2 c flour (bread flour is best, but regular flour is fine)
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
2 t cinnamon
2 T melted butter

Caramel Frosting
2 T butter
1/4 c brown sugar, packed
1 drop vanilla
1/8 t pumpkin pie spice
1 dash salt
1/3 c powdered sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 T milk
3/4 c powdered sugar
One drop vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, heat milk an 2 T butter just until the milk starts to boil and the butter is melted, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  In your mixer bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, sugar, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Stir with your paddle attachment until it's combined.   Add the milk/butter mixture. Beat with an electric mixer until well-mixed.  Beat in the egg and yeast.

Add half (1 cup) of the flour to the pumpkin mixture.  Turn the mixer on low and beat for five minutes.  Add the other 1 c of flour and mix thoroughly.  Lightly grease a large bowl, and put the dough in the bowl.

Cover the bowl and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.  Punch the dough down to roll into a 12x10 rectangle.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Brush the softened/melted butter onto the surface of the dough.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Start rolling it up from the long side.  Pinch end seams to seal.

Use dental floss to slice the dough. Slide it under the dough, cross the threads, and pull.  It'll slice up perfectly!  Cut into 12 1-inch slices.

Place the rolls into a greased 9x13 pan.  Cover and allow to rise until doubled- 30-45 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool for 10-15 minutes.

For the Caramel Frosting:
While they are baking, prepare the caramel frosting.  In a saucepan, heat the butter until melted.  Stir in the brown sugar and milk.  Cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute.

Remove from heat.  Stir in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and powdered sugar.  Stir until well blended.  Turn heat as low as you can, and keep it there until the cinnamon rolls are done.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
Beat the cream cheese until it's light and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Beat in milk.  Stir until smooth.

After the cinnamon rolls have cooled for 5-10 minutes, spread the cream cheese frosting on top.  Drizzle the caramel frosting on top of that.

Chocolate Truffle Pie

In case you were so excited by the picture that you didn't read the title of this pie, let me write it out one more time:  Chocolate Truffle Pie.  Hello?!  Talk about three of the most delicious words in our language, and they are all in one dessert.  And let me tell you something else.  People think I am crazy when I say that I don't like pumpkin pie.  Why, you ask?  Because there are desserts like this out there!  Tradition or not, why would I eat a vegetable pureed into a pie when there are desserts like this?  This pie has got to be one of the best pies I have ever eaten.  It was unbelievable!  I don't have step-by-step pictures though.  I think a part of my brother died when we went to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving because he wanted to try the pie.  I promised him that I would make it again soon, so I'll take pictures next time. 
Sweet & Salty Truffle Pie Recipe

 Chocolate Truffle Pie
recipe and photo source: Taste of Home November 2011 pg 51 or

pie crust (I used a pre-made frozen one and baked it)

2 c dark chocolate chips, divided
1/3 c heavy whipping cream
1 T shortening
2 t coarse sugar
1/2 t coarse salt

1 1/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/4 c heavy whipping cream, divided
1/4 c sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 c butter, softened
2 T vanilla

1 c heavy whipping cream
3 T powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Bake the frozen crust according to package directions.  Get a deep-dish one if you can.

For the truffles, melt 1 c dark chocolate in microwave.  Start with 1 minute.  Stir.  Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir in the cream until incorporated.  Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until firm.  Once the mixture is firm, scoop out about 2 t of the mixture.  Roll into 24 1-inch balls.

Place in the fridge until you're ready to do the next part.  By the way- if making truffles puts this recipe way over the top, you can skip the truffles or plop some store-bought ones on top to save time.

In a bowl, melt the remaining dark chocolate and the shortening.  Stir until smooth. Combine the course sugar and salt.  You can omit this part or use regular suagr and salt, if you'd like.  Stick the truffles on a toothpick and dip them in the metled chocolate mixture.  Let the excess chocolate drip off.  Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle the truffle with the sugar and salt.  Place it on waxed paper to set completly.  Repeat with the remaining truffles.

For the filling, put 1/3 c semi-sweet chocolate in a small bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 c of cream just to a boil.  Pour it over the chocolate chips and whisk until smooth.  Once it's smooth, pour it into the bottom of the baked crust.  Place it in the fridge to set- about 15 minutes.

In a small, heavy saucepan, cook and stir the sugar, remaining semi-sweet chocolate chips and remaining cream over medium heat.  Once it is smooth, reduce the heat slightly.  Put the two egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk.  Add a small amount of the chocolate mixture into the eggs.  Stir it together.  Add it back into the chocolate mixture in the saucepan, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir until it reaches 160 degrees- It took me about ten minutes.

Pour this mixture into a large bowl.  Pour in the butter and vanilla.  Stir.  Place this bowl in an ice water bath.  Leave it there, stirring often, until the mixture has cooled.  The cooler it is, the easier it will be to whip it into shape for the next step.  Don't rush this step.  Once it's at room temperature, you could probably even put it into the fridge to speed it up a bit.  Once it is nice and cool, beat it with a mixer until stiff peaks form.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the pie crust.

Just before serving, prepare the topping.  In a bowl, beat the cream until it starts to thicken.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Spoon the topping onto the pie.  Top with some truffles.

Oh, how I wish I knew the secret to slicing a pie without making it look like a toddler was digging through it to find a Hot Wheel car. Look past the messiness and try to imagine the taste.  It is out of sight!  I'm not even going to tell you the fat content because I think you will hunt me down and slap me in the face for even tempting you with such an amazing concoction.  On that note, happy pie eating!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Me: I would take this sweet potato casserole over pumpkin pie any day of week!
My brother, with a lip smack and dirty look: You kiss your mother with that mouth!?  How dare you?!

Seriously though, I would!  This was, by far, my favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table.  The mashed sweet potatoes, the crunchy pecan-Corn Flake topping, and roasted marshmallows blew my mind!  Why did I not eat this stuff as a kid?!  I find no need to hunt for a different sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving.  This is the best one I've ever tasted.  Thanks blogger at  These sweet potatoes, were, indeed, that.  

Sweet Potato Casserole - Made with mashed roasted sweet potatoes and a crunchy pecan topping with an ooey gooey melted marshmallow center!
Sweet Potato Casserole
photo and recipe source:

serves 6

3 pounds sweet potatoes
1/4 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c milk
1 large egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt

For the topping:
1 1/4 c cornflakes, crushed
1/3 c pecans, chopped
1 T brown sugar
1 T unsalted butter, melted
1 c mini marshmallows

Preheat over to 400 degrees.  Bake sweet potatoes for 1 hour, or until tender.  Let cool before peeling.

Reduce temperature to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 inch pie plate.

Make the topping.  Combine cornflakes, pecans, and brown sugar.  Stir in butter until well-combined; set aside.

In your mixer bowl, use the paddle attachment to beat the sweet potatoes, butter, sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt on medium-high heat until well-combined, about 1-2 minutes.

Pour the mixture into your prepared dish.  Sprinkle the cornflake mixture around the edges, leaving the center open.

Bake for twenty minutes.  Remove from oven and add the marshmallows in the center.  Bake an additional 5 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden.

Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

I honestly think that my husband has threatened to divorce me over my dislike of pumpkin pie.  It's his absolute favorite, and it has to be made just like it says on the can with his mom's crust recipe.  He could eat it ever day!  When I told him that I was going to try this pumpkin chiffon pie, he was skeptical.  I was a bit nervous since all of my family that came couldn't believe the blasphemous act of not making a traditional pumpkin pie.  Well, I served everyone a piece and just waited for the criticism.  It didn't come.  My husband said that he liked this better than his favorite pumpkin pie.  My brother was inspecting the crust trying to figure out what that deliciousness was.  Everyone loved it, and I think that traditional pumpkin pie is dead to us all!  The texture of this pie is far less dense, and the Nilla wafer crust is to die for.  I'm so glad that I found this recipe because it is a new family must-have for Thanksgiving or whenever my husband craves it.  

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Makes 2 pies

For the crust:
4 c crushed Nilla wafer cookies (a rough texture is fine)
10 T butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
1/4 t salt

For the pie filling:
3 t unflavored gelatin
1/4 c Cointreau (I used water)
1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c sugar and 1/3 c sugar, divided
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t salt
4 egg whites

fresh whipped cream, to serve

Prepare the crust:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt.  Stir well to combine.  Press the mixture firmly into two 9-inch pie plates.  There may be some extra.  If you want, you can save it and sprinkle it in top of the whipped cream.

Bake for ten minutes.  Cool.

For the filling:
In a small bowl, sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over 1/4 c Cointreau (or water) to soften for five minutes.  Get a bowl that's bigger, put about a 1/4 c of water in the bowl, and heat it up.  Place the gelatin bowl into this warm water to get it to dissolve.

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the pumpkin puree, heavy cream, 1/2 c sugar, 3 egg yolks, the cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring for 10 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl.  Stir in the dissolved gelatin, an let the mixture cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until the hold soft peaks.  Beat in the remaining 1/3 c sugar, 2 T at a time, beating the meringue until it holds stuff peaks, and fold this meringue into the partially cooled pumpkin mixture.

Pour the filling into the baked shells and chill the pie, lightly covered, overnight.

Garnish with plenty of whipped cream and sprinkle with reserved crust crumbles, if desired.

Fresh Cranberry Chutney

There is a girl that blogs recipes at, and I take her word like gospel.  Every recipe of hers that I have tried is amazing.  In fact, if Mel and Martha Stewart were standing in front of me trying to offer cooking advice, I'd tell Martha to take a hike!  Get your orange jumpsuit, Martha!  You're dead to me! 

I was hunting for a cranberry sauce last year, and it was my first time ever making it!  Of course I went to by default, and I found this gem of a recipe.  It has raisins, apples, celery, and onion in it which is a little different, but sweet mercy it is delicious!  My dad walked in and saw me carrying cranberries.  I didn't get a "Hello! How are you?"  I got, "Is that regular cranberries or cranberry chutney?"  I don't even think he smiled at me!  He is serious about his love for this cranberry chutney!  I see no reason to ever make another type of cranberries, and for the love of all that is holy, do not use the canned stuff!!  
Fresh Cranberry Chutney

Fresh Cranberry Chutney

makes about 4 cups

4 c fresh cranberries
1 c dried raisins or craisins
1/2 c white sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1 c water
1/2 finely minced onion
1/2 c chopped granny Smith apple, peeled an cored
1/2 finely chopped celery

In a medium saucepan, combine the first eight ingredients.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the berries start to pop, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the onion, apple, and celery.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to thicken, 5-10 more minutes.  

Transfer to a container, cool slightly, an refrigerate overnight.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tortellini With Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms

It's election day!  Two stories:
1. When I checked in to vote, the cute little old man was finding my name.  After looking at my ballot, he said, "So, your first name is Frank" and looked up.  I smiled at him as he quickly realized that my first name is not Frank, clearly.  Although, I could be the girl named Frank like the boy named Sue.  The two of us would be unstoppable.  Too bad dear ol' Johnny Cash has passed on.  He'd be behind me 100% for a new song about a girl named Frank.

2.  I'm not too big into politics, but luckily, my husband is, so he filled out my ballot.  However, when I was on my way to vote, I saw a candidate's sign on the side of the road with some brightly-colored helium balloons flying around in the wind.  I read whose sign it was and made up my mind that I'm voting for that person.  Balloons are fun, so clearly, so is the politician that put up those balloons.  Don't you think that politics needs a little more fun?!  I'd like to see this taken to the next level.  Freshly baked brownies next to campaign signs.  Massage therapists willing to work their magic while spewing a candidates views on political issues.  Heck, if one of them offered a plate of this tasty pasta for a vote, I'd give my vote in a heartbeat!  This stuff is amazing.  The sausage gives it a little heat, the cream gives you the advantage of gaining some winter padding, the fennel adds a delicious new taste, and the spinach provides some nutrition.  And the cheese... well, it's cheese!  My husband and I loved this meal so... very... much.

Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms photo

Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms

1 T olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, halved through the core, thinly sliced lengthwise, about 3 cups
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed, sausage coarsely crumbled
1 8 oz. package of mushrooms
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T fennel seeds
1/2 c heavy cream
1 c. low sodium chicken broth
16 oz. tortellini
5 oz. package of fresh baby spinach
1/2 c Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced fennel, sausage, and mushrooms.  Cook until the sausage is cooked through- 12 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and fennel seeds; stir 1 minute.  Stir in the cream and chicken broth. Boil until the liquid is reduced and very slightly thickened- 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the tortellini according to package directions for al dente.  Drain.  Return the tortellini to the same pot.

Add the sausage mixture to the pot with the tortellini.  Toss over medium heat until blended.  Add spinach and toss for a couple minutes until the spinach is slightly wilted.  Stir in 1/2 c Parmesan cheese.  Add 1/4 c mozzarella if you love extra cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Roasted Tomato Salsa

My kids found this "Mommy Journal" that I had written in when my first two kids were 4 and 2.  They were reading the entries tonight, and one of them read:

Owen (he was about 2 1/2) opened the pantry door, sighed, and said, "Oh, great.  No more Cheetos."  He then slammed the pantry door and walked off.  

Ha!  That's my boy!  I always loved Cheetos.  He also loves and chips and salsa, and he gave this salsa the stamp of approval.  It is seriously so good.  It tastes similar to Chevy's salsa, and I love that stuff.  It takes some time to prepare and roast the vegetables, but after that, it's so simple!  I liked this better than my Sweet Heat Salsa that was always my go-to recipe.  Shoot... I'd drink this stuff for breakfast.  Add some guacamole, enchiladas, and beans, and you've got one amazing meal!
Roasted Tomato Salsa

7 Roma tomatoes
2 Anaheim peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 medium onion, cut into 6ths
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c cilantro
1 t. dried oregano
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/4 c. lime juice
1 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the top of the Roma tomatoes and half them.  Place them on a cookie sheet.  Put the whole peppers, the cut onion, and garlic cloves on the cookie sheet as well.

Roast for 30 minutes.  Oh, man.  Your house is going to smell delicious!

Once the thirty minutes is up, remove the cookie sheet and place another cookie sheet, inverted, on top the hot one.  This will allow the vegetables to get steamed.  Leave it be for ten minutes.  After ten minutes, remove the top cookie sheet (it'll be hot!).  Peel off the skins of the peppers and tomatoes. They should come right off.  Discard the skins.

Remove the veins and seeds from the inside of the peppers- unless you want to breath fire after eating the salsa.  In that case, leave them in.

Place all the roasted ingredients in a food processor, add the remaining ingredients, and pulse until it reached your desired consistency.

Place it in the fridge for four hours or overnight.  The flavors will blend wonderfully with the extra sitting time.

Hooray for delicious salsa.