What's Baking: Peeta's Cheesy Buns

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You know, I really loved the Hunger Games trilogies in book format, but I kinda hate going to see the movies. I already know what is going to happen and the anticipation of seeing unhappy scenes on screen kills me.

I had to really convince myself to go see Catching Fire in the theaters because there were so many scenes I wasn't prepared to see in any format other that the images created in my mind from reading the words.

What does that have to do with What's Baking? Well, the theme of 'baking with bread' was decided back in January (when Mockingjay was still in theaters and Tom and I were finally getting around to going) and I found that I had pinned this recipe forever and ever ago. In tribute to Peeta and the terrible stuff he endures in Mockingjay, I bring you Peeta's Cheesy Buns.


Peeta's Cheesy Buns
Source: Yammie's Noshery
Servings: 20 buns
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Ingredients:
    • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
    • 1 packet dry active yeast
    • 2 tbsp. sugar
    • 2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 6 tbsp. butter, divided
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cubed
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tbsp. water
    • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar
    • grated Parmesan cheese
    • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
    • dried parsley
Directions:
1. Pour the water and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
2. Melt 4 tbsp. of the butter.Then add the garlic powder, melted butter and olive oil.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour 1/2 to 1 cup at a time. Then add the salt. Increase the speed slightly and allow the dough to come together, allowing the machine to knead it for 10 minutes. 4. Lightly grease a large bowl. Turn out the dough into the bowl, turning over once to coat. Cover with damp paper towels and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
6. Lightly flour a surface and turn out the the dough. Divide into 20 equal sized portions.
7. Place a cube of the mozzarella cheese in the center of the dough and pull the dough around it to cover it completely, pinching the ends to seal. Place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
8. Whisk together one egg with the water and brush over the dough. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar and Parmesan over the dough.
9. Bake for 11-15 minutes or until golden brown.
10. Sprinkle with dried parsley and serve warm.



Melty cheese inside of a soft warm bun. How in the world could you possibly go wrong? You can't. So there you have the ultimate comfort food - cheese and bread all warmed and melty together.



Make these. You'll thank me. And don't forget to go check out our host Heather's blog - Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks

Paleo Chocolate Pot de Creme

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After making quite a few dessert recipes for Valentine's Day that I couldn't eat, I was more than pleased to find one that I could! This uses very few ingredients and comes together very quickly.

The longest part of the recipe is allowing the mixture to chill in the refrigerator.



Paleo Chocolate Pot de Creme
Source: Primal Palate
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 6 oz, 70% dark chocolate, chopped 
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • extra chocolate for garnish
    • raspberries or strawberries for garnish 
Directions:
1. Combine the chocolate, eggs and vanilla together in a high-speed blender until smooth.
2. In a medium saucepan, heat the coconut milk over medium high heat until you see steam rising from it. (This is scalding the milk.)
3. Carefully pour the scalded coconut milk into the blender and blend until smooth. (The blender will cause the mixture to thicken up.)
4. Pour the cream mixture into 4 8 oz. souffle dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
5. Garnish with shaved chocolate and fresh berries.



Once again, you'd have no idea that this recipe doesn't call for sugar-laden milk chocolate or calorific heavy cream. If you are still looking for a dessert to make for tomorrow, I highly, highly suggest this one! Even if you aren't following a Paleo lifestyle.



Seriously, Tom ate two and had no idea they were "healthy". 

Heart Shaped Rice Krispie Treats

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I've had a box of rice krispie cereal in the pantry for quite some time now. I'm sure I bought them to make some type of rice krispie treat, but luckily that never happened.

Right after my hunt to find Valentine's Day recipes, I was cleaning out the pantry and found the box of cereal. How could I not make rice krispie treats for Valentine' s Day?



Heart-Shaped Rice Krispie Treats
Source: Kellogg's Rice Krispies
Servings: 20
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Ingredients:
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 10 oz. bag mini marshmallows
    • 6 cups Rice Krispie Cereal
    • seasonal sprinkles
    • *heart shaped cookie cutter
Directions:
1. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir with a silicone spatula until melted.
2. Slowly add in the cereal, about 2 cups at a time and stir until fully combined. Repeat until fully mixed.
3. Spray the spatula with non-stick spray and then transfer the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Use the spatula to press the mixture flat. Sprinkle immediately with seasonal sprinkles.
4. Allow to set for 1 hour before turning out onto a wax papered surface and using the cookie cutter to cut out heart shaped treats. The treats will still be slightly pliable enough if you need to better mold them into heart shapes with your fingers.



Aren't these adorable? They're perfect to have the kids take into school or to bring to your coworkers!


Chicken Bacon Ranch Tater Tot Casserole

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Would you believe me if I told you that 2014 was the first time I ever had a tater tot casserole? I have no idea why my mother never made anything like this, it was easy and included ingredients I would eat.

When I saw Ashley share this recipe on the cooking board, my first thought was, "That. That is going to be my last non Whole 30 meal that I eat." Why? Because it includes three of the most wonderful things you can pair together; chicken, bacon and ranch. It's kind of like eggs, bacon and toast. Or fruit, sugar and whipped cream. You just can't ever go wrong with that combination of items. (Well, you probably can, but I'm not going to find out.)


I emailed Tom the recipe and asked him if he would eat it. (He's not a fan of ranch, the weird man.) He said yes so I scribbled down all of the ingredients on a post-it note and stuck it in my wallet to remind me when making the grocery list.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Tater Tot Casserole
Source: Cheese Curd in Paradise
Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded 
    • 1 1/2 cans cream of chicken soup 
    • 1 packet ranch dressing mix 
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled 
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded/grated cheddar cheese
    • 32 oz. bag tater tots 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.
2. Stir together the cream of chicken soup, ranch dressing packet and sour cream until combined in a large bowl, then stir in the shredded chicken.
3. Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish and top with a layer of the cheddar cheese. Add a layer of the crumbled bacon on top of that and then layer the tater tots on top.
4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly, then place in the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the tops of the tater tots are crispy.

Ashley has a recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup that I would have made if I had the extra time. I opted to use two cans of the soup, and as you can see from the picture, its oozing over the top a bit, which is why I listed 1 1/2 cans above. I couldn't pass up having extra crispy tater tots so I popped this in the broiler for just a minute or two to get them a little more golden.


I only had a general idea of what this dish was going to taste like and it more than met my expectations. It's hearty, warm and comforting food at its best.

Secret Recipe Club: Cranberry Beef Sliders

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Way, way back in 2011 I joined the Secret Recipe Club on only it's second month of existence. When the club broke into 4 groups to handle the enormous response to bloggers wanting to be a part of it, I was assigned to Group A where I happily remained for over 3 years. Before the holidays a request went out seeing if anyone wanted to switch groups. After 3+ years I decided it was finally time to take the plunge and try out a new group.

I was switched to Group B and this is my first time ever posting with them. Hi Group B!

This month I was assigned to Miz Helen's Country Cottage. After retiring from being a cookbook author, a business owner and a Bible teacher, she and her husband retired to a small cottage and rescued Max, a Bichon Frise poodle mix. She has a ton of recipes on her blog, ranging from cakes and candies to beef and poultry. She even has a section for canning foods, which I need to go back and check out in depth soon.

It took me a while to finally decide on a recipe from her extensive collection. I could not get the cranberry beef sliders out of my head so I figured it meant they were the recipe I needed to make and share with you.



Cranberry Beef Sliders
Source: Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 2 tsp. pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 3 lb. chuck roast
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 4 large onions, sliced 
    • 2 cups whole cranberry sauce
    • 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
    • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
    • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 2 cups beef broth 
    • 6-8 slider buns
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Combine the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes together into a rub and coat the roast.
3. Add the olive oil to a Dutch Oven over medium high heat. Add the roast and brown on all sides.
4. Place the onions, garlic, cranberry sauce and herbs around the roast. Pour the beef broth around the roast as well.
5. Place the lid on the Dutch Oven and put the in preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 325 and bake for 2 hours.
6. Allow the meat to rest before slicing.
7. Create sliders by topping slices of beef and the onions on top of slider buns.



We both really like the flavor of this roast, but the cut of beef I bought was really tough. I didn't have time to make this recipe against using another cut in time for the reveal, but I definitely plan to make it again in the future.

This is easily adaptable to a Paleo recipe as well, using homemade cranberry sauce made with honey or natural fruit juices instead of sugar and Paleo approved beef broth!


Fontina, Mushroom and Prosciutto Macaroni

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Before starting the Whole30 I knew I wanted one last comforting dish. It's almost funny to me in a way that I chose a mac and cheese dish, since as a kid I never really cared for it.

That's probably because I never was nor have I ever been a fan of the blue box variety. But once I learned how easy it is to make macaroni and cheese from scratch, my feelings on the cheese coated pasta dish changed. Adding mushrooms and prosciutto and using fontina cheese was a no brainer.


Fontina, Mushroom, Prosciutto Macaroni
Source: Pink Parsley
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 12 oz. mushrooms, sliced
    • 4 oz. prosciutto, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 3 tbsp. fresh basil
    • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley
    • 1 tsp. thyme
    • 1 tsp. rosemary
    • 1 lb. pasta shapes
    for the breadcrumb topping:
    • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
    • 1 cup breadcrumbs
    • 2 tbsp. Parmesan, shredded
    • salt and pepper
    for the bechamel sauce:
    • 6 tbsp. butter
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup chicken broth
    • 2 1/2 cups milk
    • 1/3 cup marsala wine
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • salt and pepper
    • 1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded
    • 2 cups Fontina, shredded
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Heat the olive oil a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the prosciutto and cook until crispy, 1-2 minutes. Then add in the garlic, basil, parsley, thyme and rosemary. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and set aside.
4. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and breadcrumbs. Spread out evenly over a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Set aside until cooled, then toss with the Parmesan, salt and pepper.
5. Wipe out the skillet used to cook the mushroom mixture and melt the butter to start the Bechamel sauce. Add the flour and whisk for about 3 minutes, or until flour is combined and not lumpy. Slowly pour in the milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, while whisking until it is fully incorporated before adding more. Then add the marsala wine, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir until combined.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and Fontina until melted.
7. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.
8. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and stir until combined. Stir in the mushroom mixture then pour into the prepared baking dish.
9. Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.


This would be as a cheesy and delicious as it looks. Just in case you weren't sure.



Red Velvet Truffles

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I'm trying really hard to be proactive this year, especially when it comes to blogging so when it was nearing the end of January and I was looking around on Pinterest, a few Valentine's Day recipes caught my eye. It was immediately decided that I was going to make multiple recipes before Valentine's day and share them with you.



If you're familiar with my track record of sharing holiday recipes after the actual holiday, you should know how impressive this is for me.

This truffle recipes is also really easy to make so if you're looking for something you can easily pull together for the holiday, I would highly suggest taking a look at these.



Red Velvet Truffles
Source: various Pinterest images 
Servings: 36 truffles 
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Ingredients:
    • 1 box red velvet cake mix 
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 8 oz. white almond bark
    • assorted festive sprinkles 
Directions:
1. Prepare cake according to package directions. Bake in a 9x13 baking dish and let cool. 
2. Add the cream cheese to the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attached affixed and beat for 1 minute or until smooth. 
3. Crumble up the cooled cake and add to the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat on low speed until all of the cream cheese is incorporated into the cake. 
4. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Scoop out tablespoon sized balls of the mixture and roll into a ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all of the cake mixture. 
5. Refrigerate for 1 hour. 
6. Place the white almond bark in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time until it's melted and smooth. 
7. Use two forks to drop the chilled ball into the chocolate and turn to coat. Allow any excess chocolate coating to drip off, then place back onto the wax lined baking sheet. Top with various festive sprinkles. 
8. If not serving immediately, return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure the almond bark has cooled before transferring the truffles into a container. Truffles can be placed on top of each other if there is a wax lining between each layer of truffles. 


I had Tom take these into work and he said that his coworkers pretty much inhaled them within a few hours. I think that says more than enough about these tasty little treats, huh?

Review: Juice in the Raw

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One of my most popular posts is a review I did on a juice cleanse by Ouri's Fruit. They have recently changed their juices to appear under the name Juice from the Raw, and seeing as most people want to try juicing for the first time in the new year (to go along with all those weight loss resolutions) they had a pretty good coupon deal going on that I just couldn't pass up.

Then something really funny happened. Tom, the resident hater of all things vegetable and healthy, told me that he wanted to do a cleanse too. I told him there was no way he was going to be able to do it. He doesn't like raw vegetables and would not be able to stand the taste of the juices. "I'm going to do it just to prove you wrong." was his response.

Juice from the Raw/Ouri's Fruit is a small family owned company located in New York. They have been in the fruit and vegetable business since the seventies and started offering juices about 10 years ago. Their juices are organic and cold-pressed which is really the way you want to go if you're committing yourself to juicing. Cold-pressed is a way of extract juice that leaves the most amount of nutrients and enzymes in the juice. Considering you're going to be relying on these juices to fuel your body for a few days, you obviously want to go with something that is going to give you the most for your money right?

I opted to do another Believer Cleanse which consists of the following 6 juices:

Sweet Greens: apple, cucumber, celery, green kale, swiss chard, romaine, spinach, lemon, ginger. 

Pineapple Apple Mint: pineapple, apple, mint

Detox Greens: apple, cucumber, celery, wheat-grass, dandelion, watercress, wild arugula, lemon, ginger 

Spicy Lemonade: lemons, cayenne pepper, organic agave nectar

Sweet Greens: (see above)

Almond Milk: spring water, almonds, dates, vanilla, cinnamon 


I started the juices on a Monday and had my first one around 8:30 am. I spaced each juice to be 2.5 - 3 hours apart. I had headaches on and off throughout the first two days which could be related to not eating healthy before the juice or due to the fact that it was really stressful at work those days. The third day I felt great.

Seeing as this was now my third juice, I didn't experience anything like I had on the first one with the overwhelming desire to chew something. Overall I'd say it went pretty well. I lost about 4 pounds and gained 1 back after starting to eat real food again.

I will say there was a huge difference between doing a juice after completing a Whole30 and after eating unhealthier foods. I felt great the entire time after the Whole30 and I definitely didn't with the unhealthier foods. It really make me stop and think about what foods I'm putting into my body.

And because I'm sure you're dying to know how the resident vegetable hater fared on this, he made it through 3 juices on the first day before giving up and putting them all back in the freezer. So at least I have another 2.5 days worth of juice that I can use later on! 

Weekly Menu 2/1 - 2/5

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Wow, February already. The month of flowers, chocolate, cards and if you live in a colder climate, snow.

Every couple of days I get the red exclamation mark on the weather app on my phone warning me of some pending weather event. To be honest, I'm over it. Every couple of days for the past few weeks we've either had snow, sleet, freezing rain or ice. I'm ready for spring. Unfortunately, that is still more than an month away.

But the good news is, we're finally in the month that I go on vacation. The last week of this month I'll be in sunny, warm Florida! At least it better be sunny and warm. I'm already having a hard time imagining going to theme parks wearing jeans, but I'll do my best.

Week One of the Whole 30 has gone well. As usual cheese is what I miss the most. I may or may not have opened the bag of shredded cheddar cheese just to smell it. I also drove past a McDonald's and the smell of the fries was so intense, my brain paused for a minute to debate on stopping and getting the fries. But then I reminded myself of how much better I feel when I'm doing a Whole30 as opposed to not doing one.

Speaking of which, lets move onto the menu.

Sunday: roasted poblano beef stew

Monday: bacon wrapped scallops with chile butter, baked potatoes, roasted asparagus

Tuesday: apple bacon chicken burgers with fries and asparagus

Wednesday: taco shepherd's pie 

Thursday: sausage and peppers 

For breakfast this week I'm having sweet potato turkey hash and lunch will be buffalo ranch stuffed peppers.

I'm also going to torture myself by making Valentine's Day desserts that I cannot eat for Tom to bring into his coworkers. I do have a Paleo dessert for Valentine's day planned for next week.

I'm hoping that as we get closer to Chinese New Year, it slows down at work. Most of the factories we work with are closing in the next week or two, so I'm hoping the lack of communication with them will allow to me to catch up on some other things.


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