11 December 2012

My Soup Story with Panera Bread

I was excited when Daily Buzz Food gave me the the opportunity to review one of the many delicious soups from Panera Bread because I order soup most often when dining at Panera. Black bean soup, French onion, tomato? They're all delicious, but French soup is my favorite.
Panera Bread Soup Review
There are a few foods I associate with a memory, and French onion soup is one of them. It reminds me of the time my mom and I would see The Nutcracker when I lived in Michigan. After watching the ballet and taking a picture with the Nutcracker and the mice, we'd walk over to the Amway Grand Plaza for soup at one of the restaurants. I remember that it was very fancy and had a dress code. We always ordered the French onion soup since it's not a soup Mom made often.

Panera Bread Soup Review
Although I wasn't able to see The Nutcracker this year, I relived that special moment over a bowl of soup with my mom, and while Panera's soup isn't quite like the soup from that restaurant, it is warm and comforting and still evokes those memories. I like the large flakes of cheese that melt and blend with the spongy croutons and onions in the beef broth. For me, a bowl of soup with the accompanying piece of baguette is perfect for a light lunch, and the price is right.

Panera Bread Soup Review

Disclosure: I was compensated by Daily Buzz Food and Panera for this post. All opinions are my own.

21 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Hey guys! I'm sure you're all busy baking right now. I'm working on an apple pie and a fresh fruit tart. The pie gets a lattice crust like last time, and the pastry cream for the tart is chilling in the fridge. I hope it sets up properly! I also hope the tart crust bakes up and the sides don't collapse!

That's all I'm making this time. I'll be posting picture updates to my Facebook page if you want to see a "live" stream of baking progress.

What are you guys making? In case you need some inspiration, I'll post the links to Thanksgiving recipes I've blogged about in the past. Hope you are having a fun time baking!


Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Quick Banana Bread from Joy of Cooking
Whole Wheat Banana Bread


$15 Apple Pie
Apple Custard Crumb Pie
Key Lime Pie
Tigger-Proof Pumpkin Pie


Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake


Caprese Bruschetta with Spinach Pesto and Bacon
Mushroom-Walnut Spread


Candied Sweet Potato Casserole
Sage Stuffing


Prune-Stuffed Pork Loin with Roasted Lentil Gravy

12 November 2012

Thanksgiving Made Healthy with Unilever Spreads

Thanksgiving Made Healthy with Promise Margarine
We're well into November! If you haven't started already, it's time to start preparing for your big Thanksgiving feast. You probably have a favorite recipe that you make every year, and chances are it's kind of rich. I know many of mine contain quite a bit of butter. Although they're full of flavor there is no denying that it's not the healthiest of meals.

If you're not into all that richness and want to make your dinner healthier without sacrificing flavor, Unilever spreads are here to help. For this campaign, I was asked to replace the butter in two of my Thanksgiving recipes with one of Unilever's spreads, so I picked two recipes that used the most butter for this experiment. I chose Promise spread sticks because I saw that it contains omega 3s.

According to Unilever's site, It Is Good To Know, their spreads contain 0% trans fat, has less cholesterol than butter, and no saturated fat. As for taste, Promise spread is pretty good as far as spreads go. It has a pleasant, sweet buttery flavor and doesn't taste like it's trying to be something it is not. A tablespoon of Promise is 80 calories, whereas butter is 100. It's not a significant difference, but it adds up.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Promise Margarine
What is Thanksgiving without sweet potato casserole, am I right? It's practically a staple for many a Thanksgiving dinner. This particular recipe uses half a stick of butter which I replaced with a Promise spread stick. The cubed potatoes are cooked in a syrup consisting primarily of the spread and brown sugar. When tender, the potatoes are removed and the syrup is boiled until thickened. I wasn't sure if the additional water from the spread would affect this part of the recipe, but it didn't. It tasted just like usual, too.

Sage Stufing with Promise Spread
For my second recipe, I chose stuffing. I remember watching a chef on the CBS Early Show say that in order to make great stuffing, you need really good bread and a ton of butter. I got the good bread, and I got the Promise spread. The onions and celery are sauteed in a stick of Promise, then added to the dried bread cubes and cornbread crumbles. The stuffing (or did I really make 'dressing'?) was moist and flavorful. Another success!

Overall, I didn't notice a significant difference in taste when using Promise. Although I don't shy away from butter by any means, it's nice to make at least a few dishes that aren't entirely unhealthy. If you'd like to try these recipes, click through to view and print.

Promise spread sticks can be found in grocery stores and retails at $3.29 for a pound.

Thank you to Good to Know & Unilever Spreads for being a sponsor. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Print this recipe

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Serves 4-5

Ingredients -

1/2 stick Promise margarine
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1 bag jumbo marshmallows

Directions -
  1. Melt Promise margarine in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and water; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring often, until the sweet potatoes are tender (a fork should pierce a cube with very little resistance), 45 to 60 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. When the sweet potatoes are tender, use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes a greased 9-inch baking dish. Bring the sauce in the pot to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Continue simmering until sauce has reduced to a glaze, 7-10 minutes. Pour over sweet potatoes in baking dish and top with marshmallows. Bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Turn broiler to high and continue baking until tops of marshmallows have browned and puffed. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Print this recipe

Sage Stuffing
Recipe adapted from Gourmet

Serves 4-5

Ingredients -

4 cups good quality white bread (such as an Italian loaf), cubed into small pieces
2 cups crumbled cornbread
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
3 ounces finely chopped calf's liver
1 stick Promise margarine
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
black pepper
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Spread bread cubes and crumbled cornbread onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheet, then transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Melt Promise spread in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and liver. Stir in salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sage and parsley. Transfer to bowl with crumbs and toss well. Stir in eggs and 2 cups broth, stirring until crumbs are evenly moistened. Add additional 1/2 cup liquid if necessary to achieve proper texture.
  3. Raise oven to 350°. Transfer stuffing to a buttered 9-inch baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes.

31 October 2012

IZZE Giveaway Winner!

Hello guys. The power was knocked out here for a little bit due to the wind, but nothing like what happened on the East Coast. I hope those of you who live there are doing alright.

The winner for the IZZE prize pack is:

Toystory28 October, 2012 21:15

Sparkling Apple would be a favorite in this house.

Sparkling apple happens to be my favorite, as well. Congratulations! I will be contacting you, so keep an eye out for an email.

26 October 2012

Hello Good - IZZE Contest and Giveaway

**Giveaway is closed**

IZZE Pound Cake and Giveaway
Hello friends, and happy Friday! I was given a head's up from IZZE Sparkling Juice yesterday about their ongoing contest, Hello Good, celebrating the good moments in life.

To enter, simply snap a picture of yourself enjoying your favorite IZZE beverage and submit it to the IZZE Facebook page. Upon submission, you'll receive a $1 off IZZE coupon, and you'll be entered to win free year's supply of IZZE! The contest runs through Sunday, with a winner picked everyday. You can enter everyday if you choose.

I'm also hosting a giveaway right here. One winner will receive a prize pack that includes -

IZZE Pound Cake and Giveaway
2 10 Year Anniversary IZZE T-shirts
2 Royal Blue IZZE T-Shirts
1 4-Pack of IZZE Sparkling Juice

Pretty nifty! Simply leave a comment and tell me what which IZZE flavor is your favorite. If you've never tried it before, tell me which you'd like to try. Winner will be chosen at noon on Tuesday. Open to U.S. residents only.

IZZE Pound Cake and Giveaway
Since I was in the mood for IZZE, I went to the store to pick up a pack (using my own money) to guzzle and to bake. That's right, I baked a sparkling cake. Unlike the last cake I made with IZZE, this one is much more simple. This hearty pound cake is perfectly snackable and doesn't have to be saved for dessert. I changed up the original recipe a bit, adjusting the sugar and leavening amounts as well as method of preparation, but it's mostly the same. Honestly, the apple IZZE isn't very pronounce. The cake does taste incredibly good, though. Recipe is after the jump.

(Full disclosure: I received a prize pack from IZZE in exchange for this post, but I was not otherwise compensated. Opinions are my own.)

Print this recipe

IZZE Sparkling Pound Cake
Recipe adapted from Ostblog's Seltzer Cake

Ingredients -

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup IZZE Apple Sparkling Juice

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan well; set aside. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  2. Add eggs and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Using a mixer, beat on medium-high until mixture is pale and thickened, 2 minutes. Mix in vanilla extract. With mixer running, stream in vegetable oil until blended. Fold in dry ingredients, mixing just until a trace of flour remains. Pour in IZZE and fold into batter just until smooth.
  3. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour; cover top of cake with a piece of foil and continue cooking for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edges, then remove from pan. Let cool for another 10 minutes before slicing.

24 October 2012

Green Mountain Coffee - Good Coffee, Good Vibes

October is Fair Trade Month and Green Mountain Coffee is spreading the word. Fair Trade coffee helps farmers get paid what they deserve, improves working conditions, assists in protecting the environment, and supports community development. In countries that aren't as developed as ours, this aid goes a long way to improve the lives of the citizens. If you're interested in learning more about Green Mountain's involvement with Fair Trade, peruse their Facebook page to view videos with musicians Grace Potter and Michael Franti, who have teamed
up with Green Mountain on trips to Fair Trade farming communities. You'll be able to see behind-the-scenes videos of the trips and learn about the impact Fair Trade has on the communities. By watching the videos and participating in Fair Trade Month, you'll have the opportunity to unlock Fair Trade Certified Green Mountain samples and coupons and be able to enter to win a trip to a Fair Trade source country.

Green Mountain Coffee boasts one of the largest selections of Fair Trade Certified coffees in the U.S in both k-cups and bagged form, in a variety of roasts, regions, and flavors. I was lucky enough to be able to try their organic house blend for free thanks to the BzzAgent campaign. (Opinions are my own.)

Green Mountain Coffee
Besides familiarizing myself with the Fair Trade coffee, I learned that 1.75 ounces of ground coffee makes an eight-cup pot. A little extra perk.

I've never tried Green Mountain before, and I always thought that they exclusively sold k-cups. The brewed coffee smelled like stepping in to a coffee shop, though I wasn't able to drink it black. Green Mountain's 'house blend' is a blend of medium and dark roasts, according to their website, and to me had a rather bitter taste. However, it was excellent with cream and sugar. Sometimes coffees become weaker when you add extras, but that wasn't the case here. Since I'm always looking for new coffees to try, I might try out another roast, or maybe their seasonal pumpkin spice flavor!

Green Mountain Coffee is available in most grocery stores, stores like Target and Wal-Mart, and online at GreenMountainCoffees.com and Keurig. If you'd like a coupon for $1 off one 12-count box of Fair Trad Certified Green Mountain Coffee k-cup packs, or any 12 ounce bag of Fair Trade Certified Green Mountain Coffee, send me an email at christinaATrunningfoodieDOTcom, or message me on the Facebook page and I'll mail it out to you.

Green Mountain Coffee

22 October 2012

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake
Sometimes you make a recipe just once, either because it's elaborate and time-consuming, or because it simply wasn't very good. Other recipes are made repeatedly because the results are too fantastic not to make again. The latter category is where this cake falls. I first made it one evening after dinner when Alex requested a post-dinner snack. (A long run will do that to a person.) I immediately thought about a "French apple cake" because it's very quick and the kitchen was already clean. My search led me to this recipe from America's Test Kitchen. The only elaborate part is the apple topping (to which I added pears), but the batter comes together quickly.

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake
I used pears the first time I made it. They were there and turning brown, and for whatever reason I hadn't gotten around to poaching them like I had initially planned. While I can't pick out the pears in the topping, I want to believe that it adds more flavor than just apples alone.

Most recipes I found, including this one, slices the apples, but after trying it that way once and trying it again with cubed fruit, I prefer the cubes. Besides being easier to slice, the cubes caramelized more evenly than the slices.

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake
Half of the chopped fruit gets caramelized briefly in butter. I tend to add the apples first as they are firmer than the pears.

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake
Finally, the remaining fruit, along with brown sugar and lemon juice, are added and cooked until the topping gurgles and thickens slightly.

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake
Springform pans scare me. Why, you ask? Because it's not a solid pan, there's always a chance that liquid will seep out no matter how tight the two pieces are latched together. That is you see happened here. I quickly took a similar sized cake pan out from under the cupboard, buttered the inside, and poured in the apple-pear topping, noting that it came about halfway up the sides.

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake
The topping is tasty, but it's the cake that really does it for me. This quick cake is easy to prepare, adding to the simplicity of this recipe. But for being so quick to put together, the taste is incredible. There is brown sugar, butter, and sour cream. Although the sour cream doesn't taste noticeably tangy, it gives the cake a moist, velvety texture that's incredibly good. The caramel notes from the brown sugar ties into the apple topping and gives it even more flavor.

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake
Back to the pan... There is a reason why the recipe calls for a 2-inch deep cake pan. There was no going back, so I placed the cake pan on a baking sheet and hoped for the best. Fortunately, it didn't spill over at all!

Apple and Pear Upside Down Cake
This is fall in all of it's glory, people. If you can get in-season apples, please do so. I suggest making this cake anytime you find yourself craving a dessert without all the hullabaloo of a regular cake. Perfect for lazy weekends or time-crunched evenings. Perfectly tasty.

Print this recipe

Apple Pear Upside Down Cake
Recipe from America's Test Kitchen

Serves 8

Ingredients -

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
2 Granny Smith apples (about 1 pound), peeled and cored
2 firm pears, peeled an cored
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions -
  1. FOR THE TOPPING: Butter bottom and sides of 9-inch round, 2-inch-deep nonstick cake pan; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut apples into 1/2-inch cubes; set aside. Cut the pears into 1/2-inch cubes; keep separate from apples. Heat butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add apple cubes and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times, until apples begin to caramelize, 4 to 6 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Add pear, brown sugar, and lemon juice; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and apples are coated, about 1 minute longer. Transfer apple mixture to prepared pan and lightly press into even layer. Set aside while preparing cake.
  3. FOR THE CAKE: Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar, and eggs together in large bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla; whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly over fruit. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Cool pan on wire rack 20 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Place wire rack over cake pan. Holding rack tightly, invert cake pan and wire rack together; lift off cake pan. Place wire rack over baking sheet or large plate to catch any drips. If any fruit sticks to pan bottom, remove and position it on top of cake. Let cake cool 20 minutes (or longer to cool it completely), then transfer to serving platter, cut into pieces, and serve.

11 October 2012

$15 Apple Pie

Apple Pie
Probably one of my best pies of all time. The crust cooperated, the filling set up nicely, and the bottom crust was fully cooked! I don't know what my problem is, but I have great difficulty getting the bottom to brown. More on that later.

My pie baking adventure began with a trip to Chef Central for supplies. Chef Central is a wonderful store filled with everything a baking and cooking enthusiast could need! I splurged on a really nice rolling pin, though I kept on budget for the rest of the items on my list - 9-inch glass pie dish, pastry cutter, stainless steel bowl (for the pie dough), measuring cup, and fruit peeler. I could have spent all day in there if not for my bank account.

Apple Pie
I followed Cassie's recipe for spicy cinnamon apple pie. However, I've always had problems with the crust spreading out of shape no matter how long it was chilled, so I decided to leave out the baking powder in her recipe. It worked!

Apple Pie
Apple Pie
Another issue I have when it comes to apple pies is that the apples aren't always tender after baking and the filling is usually runny. This recipe precooks the apples on the stove just until the slices begin to soften. Because the apples are precooked, I sliced them into 1/4-inch thick slices so that the individual slices would be retained after baking.

Since I forgot to buy corn starch, I replaced it with 1/2 cup flour, and I increased the cinnamon to a tablespoon. I brushed the top with a beaten egg and didn't sprinkle any sugar on top, which isn't noteworthy for any reason other than to remember exactly what I did.

Apple Pie
Pro tip to self: Lattice strips need to be longer in order to cover all the apples in this pie.

Apple Pie
After about an hour of baking, the pie looked wonderful, albeit a bit browned around the edges (I forgot foil). It smelled so apple pie-like that I wanted to slice it up right away; I resisted, and let it cool or a few hours. When it came time for dessert, I sliced into the best pie I've ever made. The bottom crust had fully browned, the filling was set, and the apples were tart with just enough sweetness. The crust was crispy and buttery.

There are two differences that I feel contributed to the success of this pie. 1. It was baked in a gas oven. I'm not sure if this really makes a difference, but I've baked many a pie in an electric oven, pumpkin, cherry, plum, blind crust, etc., and the bottom never really browns. I've used this same exact pie dough, too. 2. The filling, which was cooked for just a little bit, kept the bottom crust from getting soggy. 3. The gaps in the lattice crust allowed moisture to evaporate. I don't really know.

This pie received the highest praise from everyone who ate a slice, especially Alex, who said the pie was worth at least $15. So, I highly suggest this recipe to you; you will not be disappointed.


05 October 2012

Progresso Soup Giveaway Winner

Hey everyone! Thanks for entering the giveaway. Today's winner is:
Leanne02 October, 2012 13:36

Butternut squash soup - although it's hard to find in single serving containers. I usually buy the big carton and then pour it into a jar for work lunches.

Congrats, Leanne! Please email me at christinaATrunningfoodieDOTcom with your shipping info. Have a great weekend, guys.

02 October 2012

Progresso Light Creamy Soup Giveaway

Progresso Light Creme Prize Pack Photo
A while back I received this pack from MyBlogPark and Progresso to review Progresso's new Light Creamy Soup. I wasn't too impressed by the soups, honestly, as I need a little more substance in my meals. The consistency was good, but the flavor was lacking. It wasn't bad for a pre-meal snack, or maybe alongside a more substantial entree.

In any case, if you guys want to try it out, you can win a prize pack of your very own that includes 2 cans of soup, a lunch pack, a soup mug with spoon, and a water bottle.

All you have to do to win is leave a comment with your favorite soup. Please include your email address if it's hidden.

Giveaway ends Friday, October 5, and is open to US residents only. Good luck!

19 September 2012

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

Sometimes I make what I consider to be incredible meals. I don't follow any specific recipe, I use ingredients that I have available, and I'm more likely to experiment. That's how this dinner came to be. After making it a few times, I knew I needed to write it down so it would be forever preserved.

I've made Swedish meatballs a few times in the past (once after a trip to Ikea gave me a craving), recreating them from memory and enhancing the flavor of what can be a bland dish. I kept the spices in the meatballs because that's what makes Swedish meatballs unique, though instead of using three different types of ground meat I just used ground turkey. Then, I complicated matters by caramelizing onions. Doing so added an extra half hour to the recipe, and although it really enhances the flavor you could just saute them to shorten the recipe.

bag of onions

So, start with a lot of onions.

Swedish Meatballs
Swedish Meatballs

Just kidding, you don't need that many. Just a few cups of finely chopped onions. They'll reduce quite a bit as they caramelize so you need more than you would otherwise.

Swedish Meatballs
Swedish Meatballs

As the onions caramelize, I prepared the meatball mixture ahead of time so the spices could meld. I like using breadcrumbs in meatballs to create a spongier texture. I didn't have any when I first made them, so I used quick oats. It worked just fine! After softening the oats in a little milk, I mixed in the spices - freshly grated nutmeg and allspice, garlic, parsley, and an egg before gently folding in the ground turkey just to combine. A portion of the caramelized onions are added when they're ready.

Swedish Meatballs

Always sear your meatballs. I don't care if it's going in a sauce or you're eating them solo, sear them. It gives them a great texture and you'll get a nice fond for the pan sauce. I feel like the meatballs are less likely to crumble when seared, too.

Swedish Meatballs
Swedish Meatballs
Swedish Meatballs

The remainder of the recipe comes together quickly. Stir in flour, whisk in chicken broth and sour cream, then add the meatballs back in the skillet to finish cooking while you boil pasta. (I suggest egg pasta. If you live nearby an Aldi, see if you can find their spaetzle egg pasta.)

Swedish Meatballs

In about an hour, you'll have a dinner that will please everyone and hopefully something a little different than what you usually make.

Have you tried Swedish meatballs before?

Print this recipe

Swedish Meatballs
Recipe by Christina Provo

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients -

3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, plus extra for garnishing
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground is preferable)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 pound ground turkey
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
12 ounces dry egg noodles

Directions -
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it foams and sizzles, add the onions. Cook for 30 minutes until caramelized, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat if the onions are charring. Remove from pan, making sure to remove every bit of onion.
  2. While the onions cook, prepare the ground turkey. In a large bowl, add the oats, chopped parsley, and garlic. Stir in the egg, salt, spices, and pepper, then gently mix in the turkey, being careful not to overmix. Set aside; stir in 1/3 cup caramelized onions when they have finished cooking.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the same skillet the onions were cooked in, heat 2 tablespoons oil until hot. Working in two batches, form half the turkey mixture into balls a little smaller than a golf ball. Sear meatballs for 4 minutes on both sides. Remove to a platter. Repeat with remaining turkey mixture and oil.
  4. If skillet is dry, add another 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. Otherwise, whisk flour into remaining oil and stir for 30 seconds. Slowly pour in chicken broth and whisk until smooth, followed by sour cream. Season with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Add meatballs back to skillet; cover, reducing heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from sauce.
  5. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain. Add noodles to sauce and toss to coat. Divide between plates and serve with meatballs.


17 September 2012

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I have officially welcomed autumn with my first pumpkin baked good. Pumpkin cinnamon rolls have always sounded tasty to me, but most of the recipes I saw only had pumpkin in the bread. I wanted the taste of warm pumpkin pie filling between layers of pastry.

Pastry. Not bready dough. My favorite cinnamon rolls of all time are from Victorian Pantry. Unlike your run-of-the-mill Cinnabons, Steve's cinnamon rolls are made from a laminate dough, which I've always been hesitant to make because of how complicated I thought they were. Then I made croissants a few months ago and even though the results were far from perfect, it got me over my fear.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I searched online for a recipe the fit my description and ended up finding this one from one of my favorite cookbooks, Baking with Julia. Not only does this recipe take two days to make, it's more complicated than standard cinnamon rolls.

The brioche dough is enriched with eggs and butter and requires a long mixing in a stand mixer that I don't have, so I alternated between using a large, sturdy wooden spoon, my hands, and a pastry scraper. After finishing the dough, I watched a video of Julia Child and Nancy Silverton making these rolls together. I panicked for a moment because my dough didn't look anything like theirs did. I hoped it would be transformed overnight.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Day two: laminate the dough with more butter. Simply put, the dough is rolled out, dotted with butter, folded, and rolled and folded again. Thankfully, the dough was manageable and easy to work with.

As the dough rested in the fridge, I mixed together the pumpkin filling, using fancy Vietnamese ground cinnamon that my friend sent me. (It's stronger than regular ground cinnamon and smells like all the cinnamon sticks in one room.) The filling consisted of a cup of pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, three tablespoons granulated sugar, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (1 1/4 regular cinnamon), and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. It was good enough to eat on its own and didn't taste like raw pumpkin.

After the dough is filled, the logs are chilled in the freezer so that they're easier to slice. That they were, and I didn't even need dental floss. This extra step is worth the hassle because the layers don't smoosh together when sliced. Finally, they're left to rise one last time before being baked.

It wasn't a particularly cold day yesterday. However, the rolls were taking forever to rise, so I stuck them in the oven with a bowl of boiling water underneath. Pro tip: Why haven't I done this before? Do it.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I brushed the rolls with a simple confectioners' sugar glaze immediately after taking them out from the oven. I like the look of rolls with a clear coating instead of a thick white icing that hides the beautiful layers.

The pumpkin filling was incredible and tasted just like pie, especially the centers that had the most filling. It almost reminded me of a McDonald's pumpkin pie. (I shouldn't be admitting that, should I?)

My biggest question was if this recipe was worth the extra effort. I'd say it was, but I'd only make them for special occasions. The rolls were lighter and flakier than regular rolls and came pretty close to the VP rolls I crave.

I'm submitting these rolls to Yeastspotting.

Click here for dough recipe and instructions

13 September 2012

Lentil Shepherd's Pie Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Shepherd's Pie Stuffed Peppers

Public service announcement to spammers: Your comments aren't going through. Blogger's spam filters work wonders. They're still sent to my inbox, though, and I chuckle over the vague, nonsensical comments complete with links to sites I'm too afraid to ever click.

In August, I developed a recipe for BeeWell For Life's blog, Bee Nutritious. Why did I create a winter-appropriate comfort dish in the middle of hell? I must have been in need of comfort, and once I came up with the idea I couldn't get it out of my mind. I was also wishing for fall, which is also why I had a pumpkin spice latte the first week of September when it was still 80°. Now that it's fall-ish, or now that I'm blogging again, it's appropriate to talk about this recipe.

Shepherd's pie is is traditionally made with ground lamb, though I have only ever used either beef or turkey. This time, I used lentils and portobello mushrooms. While the lentils cooked, I blanched the peppers and prepared the gravy, which is a mixture of onions, garlic, mushrooms, seasonings, and beef broth.

To vegetarianize the recipe, you'll need to sub the beef broth with another liquid - I think mushroom broth would work well. I also used Worcestershire sauce, so you'll have to find a substitute, such as Annie's Naturals, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and the like. Don't forget the butter and milk in the recipe, too.

Lentil Shepherd's Pie Stuffed Peppers

What I like the most is the presentation. Instead of a blob of deliciousness on a plate, which isn't very photogenic, you can present your guests with their very own stuffed pepper festooned with pillowy mounds of mashed potatoes. But if you don't want to bother with the peppers, just layer it in a baking dish and cook until the potatoes are golden. I was happy with the heartiness and flavor of the filling and would have eaten it alone had it just been for myself. That good.

I would like to give a quick shout-out to BeeWell for the awesome hat they sent me as a thank you gift that I've been wearing when I run.

Print this recipe

Lentil Shepherd's Pie Stuffed Bell Peppers
Recipe by Christina Provo

Serves 4

Ingredients -

4 green bell peppers
1 pound mini red potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup 1% milk, warmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 3/4 cup cooked lentils

Directions -
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; fill a large mixing bowl with very cold water and set aside. While water boils, prepare bell peppers by slicing off the tops and scooping out the seeds and veins with your hands. Level the bottoms if necessary so the peppers stand upright. Once water has come to a boil, place as many peppers as will fit in the pot and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove the peppers to the bowl of cold water. Repeat with remaining peppers if needed.
  2. Place the potatoes in another pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain, then add back to the pot to allow excess moisture to evaporate. Mash in a large bowl. Stir in warmed milk, melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper until smooth. Cover and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. When warm, saute carrot, onion, and garlic for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and saute to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour on top of vegetables and cook for 3 minutes. Carefully pour in beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a bubbling simmer and stir in lentils. Cook for 10-15 minutes until mixture thickens.
  4. Spray a 10-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Remove peppers from water and pat dry; place in dish. Divide lentil mixture evenly between peppers. Top with mashed potatoes, smoothing the sides. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 25 minutes or until tops are a light golden brown and peppers are tender.

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