Friday, November 11, 2011

Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls

If you add vanilla pudding to cinnamon roll dough, it makes the dough really soft. This cinnamon roll is chewy and soft and lovely. I can't wait to make these for my family on Christmas morning. (Except I'll do all the prep work the night before, of course.)

Yield: About 24 cinnamon rolls
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Rising Time: About 2 hours
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours


{for the dough}

1/2 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons active-dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
3.5 oz. package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
6+ cups flour*

{for the filling}

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon

{for the frosting}

8 oz. cream cheese**
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups confectioner's sugar
2-3 Tablespoons milk

*If you'd like to increase the amount of fiber in your diet, use half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. 
**For a healthier option, use neufchatel cheese.


In a small bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar. Stir until dissolved and set aside. 

In a large bowl, take vanilla pudding mix and prepare according to package directions. Add butter, eggs, and salt. Mix well. Then add yeast mixture. Blend. Gradually add flour and knead until smooth, being careful not to overflour the dough. It should be very soft but not sticky. Place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. 

Once dough has doubled in size, divide into two equal parts. Roll dough onto a floured surface 17 x 21 inches in size. Take a half cup of softened butter and spread it over the dough. In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups brown sugar and 4 teaspoons cinnamon. Sprinkle half the mixture over the top. Roll up very tightly. With a knife, put a notch every 1 1/2 inches. Cut with thread or serrated knife. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet about about 1 inch apart. Repeat this process with the remaining dough. Cover rolls and let rise until doubled in size again.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Remove when they start to turn golden. (Do not overbake.) 

To make the frosting, combine butter and cream cheese and mix well, then add vanilla and sugar and mix again. Then add milk for desired consistency.

Frost warm rolls with cream cheese frosting. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

I love the smell of Italian food in my kitchen. It warms up the house and the aroma just feels like family. This pasta is a dish I'm sure I will be coming back to again and again. It's one of those "grub" meals that just tastes good and fills your belly. It also uses ingredients that I usually always have on hand. Double-score!

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 45 min
Total Time: 1 hour


2 cups pastina pasta (or any small pasta - I used whole wheat shells)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (may substitute with 1/4 cup dried parsley or other Italian herbs)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook just until tender, stirring occasionally, about  5 minutes. Drain pasta and place in a large mixing bowl. 

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes more. 

Add the chicken mixture to the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered baking dish. (9" x 13" or similar in size will do.) 

In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden-brown, about 30 minutes.

Buona Vita!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Whole Wheat Waffles

My favorite breakfast items are those that require syrup to eat them. This can be a problem as those are often the least healthy. Well, let me present you with a gorgeous, healthy, and delicious way to eat waffles. 

Start with whole wheat waffles (recipe below), top with 3 large dollops of yogurt (I used peach), add fresh berries, then drizzle with maple syrup. Good morning to you!

Yield: 6 Belgian-style waffles
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: About 5 minutes per waffle


3 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups lukewarm milk
2/3 cup melted butter or vegetable oil


Preheat waffle iron while you make the batter. Whisk together the egg, milk, and butter. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir until just combined. Pour 1 cup of batter onto a greased waffle iron and cook as directed by the instructions for your waffle iron. 

If you have leftovers, wrap each waffle individually with saran wrap and place in a large ziploc bag. Keep in the freezer. When ready to eat, unwrap waffle and heat in the microwave for 90 seconds.

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake

Bradford and I traveled to New York about a month ago. While we were there, we ate some delicious food. One such treat was a toasted marshmallow milkshake at Stand Burger. I was definitely skeptical at first. Marshmallows and milkshakes was not a combination I had considered before. As soon as I took my first sip out of the giant red straw, I entered my happy place and did not want to leave it. It was one of the best milkshakes I had tasted. (Click here to read Gourmet Magazine's Francis Lam's description of the heavenly treat.)

Of course I immediately thought, how can I re-create this at home, when I'm 2500 miles away from the nearest Stand Burger? Luckily, Gourmet magazine did the dirty work for me.

Serves 1
Prep Time: 5 min


3 large scoops vanilla ice cream*
1 Tablespoon whole milk**
1 large dollop plain yogurt***
5 Kraft Jumbo Jet-puffed marshmallows
Whipped Cream

**I used 1% milk, because that's what I keep in my fridge
***Stand uses Woodstock Water Buffalo Milk yogurt, but Gourmet says it doesn't make much difference what type of yogurt you use. I used Greek yogurt.


Toast marshmallows under a broiler. (Note: For the first time in my cooking career, I set a fire in my kitchen trying to do this. Ha! To avoid this, put your broiler on LOW, place marshmallows in the CENTER of the oven, and do not broil for longer than 2 minutes MAX. To be sure you don't overtoast, check the marshmallows at 1 minute, then keep a close eye on them until they're done. It's a quick process.)

Put the milk, ice cream, and yogurt in a blender then blend until you get a "donut". Add three of the toasted marshmallows to the blender, and whirl it just until they're all broken up and distributed evenly. Be careful not to overblend, making it too melty. 

Pour shake into a glass, top with a dollop of whipped cream, add the last two marshmallows on top, and serve with an extra-wide straw. 

Repeat if necessary. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creamy White Bean Chili

Fall. is. here. And along with it, pumpkin flavors, hearty soups, and warm drinks. The Manhattan Beach Holiday Pier Lighting is in 2 weeks and daylight savings time ends this weekend (tear). 

To counter my sadness that the long summer days are over, I've been making lots of warm, delicious treats, including this Creamy White Bean Chili. Since I was young, I've always enjoyed "white" versions of food: white chocolate, white cheddar, white pizza. I can now add white chili to that list. This soup rocks my socks off. It blew Bradford's socks off too. A big holiday cheer for that! 

Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder or 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cans (15.5 oz. each) Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper*
1 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt**
1/2 cup whipping cream
Fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

*If you have a mild palette, you may omit or decrease the amount of cayenne pepper
**I recommend using the Greek yogurt if you have it. It is a much healthier option that does not decrease from the taste or flavor of this dish at all. :)


In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in a large pan until onions are translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add shredded chicken, beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in whipping cream and sour cream or greek yogurt. Garnish with fresh cilantro if desired and serve immediately.

{Slow Cooker Option}

In a slow cooker, place 1 pound full chicken breast (fresh or frozen). Add chopped onion, garlic, beans, green chilies, and all of the spices. Do not add sour cream/greek yogurt or whipping cream yet! Reduce chicken broth amount to 12 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) and pour in over the other ingredients. Stir the mixture to incorporate dry spices and cook on low for 5-7 hours (fresh chicken cooks in less time while frozen chicken takes longer to cook). 

Remove chicken and shred it into bite size pieces. Return to slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together cream and sour cream or greek yogurt until smooth. Add the cream mixture to the crock pot and stir to incorporate. Let soup cook just until heated through. Enjoy!