Spooky Hot Cross Buns

I love Halloween season. Full stop. There’s candy galore, horror films on TV every night, and it’s the only time of year when it’s socially acceptable — encouraged even — to dress in all black. What’s not to love? These spiderweb buns are a fun twist on a traditional hot cross bun recipe. Who says spooky season can’t start in July?

I love a good hot cross bun as much as the next person, but I’m just going to come right out and say it – they always look so boring. Don’t get me wrong, there’s beauty in simplicity; however, sometimes it’s okay to go over the top and let those creative juices run wild. These spiderweb buns add that little pizzazz to your life that you’ve been needing.

I know you’re saying to yourself, “Really, a recipe that use the oven in the midst of this end of July heat?” What can I say, we just got a new oven in our house (the old one was from the 50/60’s) and I just couldn’t help myself.

I found this recipe in Helena Garcia’s spooky book, The Wicked Baker. It can also easily be made vegan; I’ll put the vegan substitutes in parentheses.

I hope you enjoy and embrace your very own Halloween in July as much as I am! 🙂

Chocolate Chip Spiderweb Hot Cross Buns:

Makes: 8 buns

Ingredients:

  • For the dough:
    • 220ml (1 cup) whole milk (or non-dairy milk of choice), warmed
    • 1 tsp instant yeast
    • 110g (1/2 cup) sugar
    • 320g (2 1/4 cups) white bread flour
    • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    • 25g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
    • 40g (3 TBS) unsalted butter (or vegan butter/refined coconut oil), melted
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 egg (or mix 1TBS flax seeds with 3 TBS water and let sit for 5 minutes)
    • 75g (1/2 cup) dark chocolate chips
  • For the piping mixture:
    • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 2 TBS ground cinnamon
    • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
    • Pinch of sea salt (or regular, your choice)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened (or vegan butter/refined coconut oil)
  • For the frosting:
    • 6 TBS unsalted butter, (3/4 stick) (or vegan butter/refined coconut oil)
    • 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature (or vegan cream cheese – I like daiya)
    • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Step 1: First, make the dough. Add all of the ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, to an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment – keeping the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on low-medium speed for about five minutes until a smooth dough forms – it will be sticky. Transfer the dough into a large well-oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size – about 1 1½ hours.
  • Step 2: On a lightly floured surface, knock back the dough and then knead in the chocolate chips. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Place them on a grease or parchment paper-lined baking sheet – spaced apart so they have room to grow. Cover this with plastic wrap or place the baking sheet in an oven bag, and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in size – about 45 minutes.
  • Step 3: While the dough balls rise, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • Step 4: Prepare the piping mixture by combining all of the ingredients into a large bowl. Mix well with a whisk or fork, then pour the mixture into a piping bag.
  • Step 5: Once the buns have doubled in size, pipe a spiderweb on the top of each one and bake for 10 minutes at 400°F. Then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
  • Step 6: To make the glaze, combine all of the ingredients in a small pan over low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Brush the glaze onto the warm buns and enjoy! 🙂

Happy Baking!:)

Brioche Cinnamon Rolls

When Pillsbury makes cinnamon rolls so easy –just pop open the tube, place, and bake–why would you go to the trouble of making your own from scratch?” You ask skeptically. I just have one answer to that very valid question, can the Pillsbury tube make cinnamon rolls that are so pillowy, cinnamon-filled, and topped with the most addictive browned butter cream cheese frosting that you think you’ve died and gone to a cinnamon roll version of heaven? I didn’t think so.

I’ve always been a cinnamon roll tube kind of girl, but these cinnamon rolls worth the extra effort. I swear. These cinnamon rolls are made with a brioche dough, which means that the final product is softer (some might say more pillowy) than you though was possible for a cinnamon roll. Not only is the texture better, but the cheese cheese frosting is jut what you need. It uses browned butter, giving the frosting a nutty note that compliments the cinnamon filling in the best way possible. It’s the equivalent of, say, being able to use a coupon to buy a book when it’s already half price. It’s adding greatness to something that’s already beautiful on it’s own.

That said, there’s another reason why using brioche dough for these bad boys is the way to go. Because there’s so much butter in brioche dough, once it’s all been incorporated, the butter in the dough needs time to harden back up and solidify before it’s ready to use. For this to happen, brioche dough needs to take a long nap in the fridge, usually overnight or for about 7-8 hours. This dough is great because it can stay in the fridge for up to 24 hours. After it’s chill time, the dough only needs a short time to rise and then it’s into the oven to bake.

I love this recipe for cinnamon rolls, because I like to eat breakfast within an hour or two of waking up in the morning. Breakfast is important folks. With this recipe, all of the work is done the night before and in the morning you just have to pull them out of the fridge, let them rise at room temperature for 30 minutes and then pop then in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Easy-peasy! I’m going to be honest, I even make the frosting the day before and just pull it out of the fridge along with the cinnamon rolls to let it soften up a bit.

I hope I’ve done enough to convince you to try these bad boys, but if not, hey cinnamon rolls from a tube are still pretty darn good!

Oh, I almost forgot! I found this recipe in Tieghan Gerard’s cookbook, Half Baked Harvest, only making a slight adjustment. Enjoy!:)

Brioche Cinnamon Rolls:

Makes: 12-15 buns

Ingredients:

  • For the dough:
    • 1/4 cup warm water
    • 1 TBS instant yeast
    • 3 TBS sugar
    • 1/2 cup whole milk, warmed
    • 3 large eggs
    • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (about 1 1/2 sticks)
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • For the filling:
    • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 2 TBS ground cinnamon
    • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
    • Pinch of sea salt (or regular, your choice)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • For the frosting:
    • 6 TBS unsalted butter, (3/4 stick)
    • 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Step 1: Make the dough. First, brown the butter by taking 1 1/2 sticks of butter and melting it in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it starts bubbling, cook it, stirring constantly, for about 5-7 minutes, until it starts to take on a golden-brown color and starts to give off a nutty aroma. Transfer the butter to a bowl and set aside to allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
  • Step 2: Once the butter has cooled, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together the warm water, yeast and sugar. Then add in the warm milk, eggs, brown butter, and salt and mix on medium speed until combined. Gradually add in 3 1/2 cups of flour and mix until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough feels sticky, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour.
  • Step 3: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it into a smooth ball (it should take about 10 minutes of kneading to reach this point). Grease the bowl lightly with butter and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl and let rise for 1-2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Step 4: Make the filling. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt into a small bowl and mix well.
  • Step 5: Once the dough has risen, lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and turn out the dough onto it. Then punch down the dough and roll it into a rectangle that’s about 10 x 16 inches. Position the dough so that way the long side is facing you and spread the 1/2 cup of soften butter evenly over the dough (you’ll need to use your fingers for this, so don’t be afraid to get messy). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter and press the filling into the dough/butter.
  • Step 6: Starting with the long end, pull the edge up and over the filling and roll the dough tightly into a log. Pinch the edges to seal.
  • Step 7: If you want to make sure that the rolls remain very cylindrical, use a piece of dental floss, and slide it under the log. Wrap the floss across and around the roll and keeping one end of the floss in each hand, tighten the floss so that it cuts through the roll. Alternatively, you can just use a sharp knife to cut 12 to 15 rolls, each about 3/4 to 1 inch wide, from the roll.
  • Step 8: Place the rolls cut side up in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that has been well greased with butter. Then cover and let rise until the rolls have doubled in size, about 30 minutes. At this point, place in the fridge overnight or for up to 24 hours to allow the dough time to develop more flavor.
  • Step 9: Preheat the oven to 350ºF and take the rolls out of the fridge and allow them to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Step 10: Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Step 11: Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it starts bubbling, cook it, stirring constantly, for about 5-7 minutes, until it starts to take on a golden-brown color and starts to give off a nutty aroma. Transfer the butter to a bowl and set aside to allow to cool.
  • Step 12: In a medium bowl, beat together the cooled browned butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  • Step 13: Spread the frosting over the warm rolls and serve.

Happy Baking!:)

Za’atar Flatbread

This flatbread is of ninja caliber; it just comes out of nowhere and smacks you in the face with flavor. The mix of a soft texture and herby top make this bread a slam dunk. You’ll definitely be glad you tried it.

I love flatbread as much as the next girl, but I’m telling you, this is leagues above your standard flatbread. The za’atar adds such a great flavor to the bread that even if you’re eating this with sub-par hummus or baba ganoush, it’ll still soar way beyond your expectations.

I found this recipe for Man’oushe za’atar (za’atar flatbread) in the cookbook, Sumac, by Anas Atassi and it’s definitely a winner. I did make a slight adjustment by rolling out my bread a little thicker than the recipe called for, so that way I was left with a softer bread. The original recipe made more cracker-like, crispy bread. It’s not mandatory, but I’d strongly suggest –hint, hint. Nudge, nudge–to make this bread alongside Ottolenghi’s garlic hummus from the cookbook, Flavor. They’re made for each other.

I hope you dunk this bread in an obscene amount of garlic hummus and reek of garlic for days on end (it’ll definitely keep the vampires away). That is all.

Enjoy!:)

Za’atar Flatbread:

Makes 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of instant yeast (7g)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 – 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 TBS za’atar
  • 4 TBS extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix the yeast with the sugar and whisk in the warm water. Let this mixture sit for about 5 minutes, until it is foamy on top. Slowly add in 1 cup of flour and mix until it is completely incorporated. Make sure there are no visible lumps of flour. Cover the bowl and let rise for 15 minutes.

Step 2: Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix together the za’atar and olive oil. Set aside for later.

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 480ºF and lightly flour a baking sheet.

Step 4: Once the 15 minutes are up, add in the yogurt, vegetable oil, and salt to the dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth, soft and elastic, about 7-10 minutes. If the dough is sticky and too difficult to work with, add the extra 1/4 cup of flour to the dough.

Step 5: Divide the dough into four balls and place them on the floured baking sheet and cover them to keep the dough from drying out.

Step 6: Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Take one of the balls and flatten it with the palm of your hand into the floured work surface. Then with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an oval that’s a little over a 1/4 inch thick (I like my bread thicker, so go as thick or as thin as you want, just adjust the cooking time accordingly). Repeat this process with the other dough balls.

Step 7: Once all of the balls have been rolled out, mix the za’atar toping and spread a thin layer over each piece of rolled out dough. Then line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the flatbread on top, and bake them in the oven for about 5 minutes (adjust time based on if you like your bread on the softer or crispier side).

Serve warm (MAYBE with some garlic hummus?!?) and enjoy!

Happy Baking!:)

Garlic Lover’s Hummus

Shout out to all those people out there who opt for more garlic (always more garlic), knowing full well that their breath will reek for the rest of the night (and possibly the next morning). I am one of you. This hummus is for you.

I found this recipe in Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage, and immediately fell in love with it. I made a few adjustments, but besides that, it pretty much holds true to the original. Now, this recipe uses chickpeas that you soak overnight and then cook yourself. It is definitely a time commitment, so I totally get it if you absolutely have no desire to do this (truth be told, sometimes I’d much rather just opt for the easy route). If that’s the case, simply use drained canned chickpeas instead, no biggie (I swear, I won’t tell a soul)!

This hummus goes really well with plain pita bread (I love Paul Hollywood’s recipe from How to Bake). It is also amazing with Man’oushe za’atar (za’atar flatbread); Sumac by Anas Atassi has a fantastic recipe for this that will, quite frankly, blow your socks off. I’d strongly recommend–no, I’m TELLING you to make this flatbread. It’s one of those game-changers that you had no idea was missing from your life until you try it out for the first time; then there’s no going back.

SO…basically, if you plan on making this hummus, PLEASE, I beg of you, make the za’atar flatbread to go with it. Or don’t. Your loss.

Garlic Hummus Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 125g dried chickpeas (or 300g canned chickpeas, drained. If using canned, skip the next two ingredients)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 bulb of garlic, with the very top cut off to expose the cloves
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 3 TBS Tahini
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 3 TBS water, ice-cold
  • 3/4 tsp flaked salt, plus more to taste
  • Black pepper and chili powder, to taste

Directions:

Step 1: The day before you want to serve the hummus, soak the chickpeas in cold water (enough to cover the top of the chickpeas and then about an inch more) and mix 1/2 tsp of baking soda.

Step 2: The next day, start by preheating the oven to 400ºF. Then drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them into a large pot with 4 cups of water and 1/4 tsp of baking soda. Bring this to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it has reached a boil, lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 35 minutes.

Step 3: After this, remove the lid, add a 1/2 tsp of salt and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. At this point, the chickpeas should be very soft and squish between your fingers; if they don’t, you’ll need to cook them for a little longer. Drain.

Step 4: While cooking the chickpeas, drizzle bulb of garlic with 1 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper. Wrap the bulb up tightly in aluminum foil and place in the oven until the garlic has softened and is golden brown on top, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and foil and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze out the cloves and discard the outer layer (the papery skin).

Step 5: Add this garlic, 3/4 tsp salt, and all of the remaining ingredients to a food processor. Blend this until smooth (this could take a couple of minutes).

Step 6: Scoop the hummus into a bowl and top with olive oil, chili powder, salt, pepper, and whatever fixings you like. Serve along with lots of za’atar flatbread or pita bread. Enjoy!

Happy Cooking!:)

Saag Paneer

So many Indian food recipes, yet so little time. Here is one of the greats. One who needs no introduction. My favorite, saag paneer. Mic drop.

This one is for all of those kale skeptics out there whose hearts and minds (and stomachs) I couldn’t change with my last post for kale and saag paneer. And hey, I get it. Kale is a hard sell.

I don’t have to tell you how much I love saag paneer. Literally, if I could marry it, I would. No question. Hard stop. But, alas, I cannot. So here I am sulking and instead divulging to you this fantastic saag paneer recipe that will get your taste buds grooving.

I’ve always been a frozen spinach kind of gal. It’s SO much easier storage-wise, but I’ve made this dish a lot and I just made it for the first time with fresh spinach and my mind was BLOWN. I don’t want to be dramatic here, but the flavor and texture of the spinach was so much brighter and better with the fresh spinach than with frozen. Don’t get me wrong, I still love frozen spinach. I’m just saying, if spinach is going to be the star of the show in the dish you’re making, opt for the fresh spinach. I’m a fresh spinach convert and I don’t know how I feel about it at the moment. Someone should probably check in with me in a couple of days to make sure I’m okay.

ANYWAY, if you don’t have any paneer, don’t fret! You can always sub in some sautéed mushrooms for a saag mushroom twist, or if you’re not a shroom fan, you can sub in a firm cheese (like halloumi) or some tofu and treat it just like the paneer (fry it up and all).

Hopefully you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and if not…your loss!

This is best served over rice and alongside fluffy naan or chapatis.

Saag Paneer:

Ingredients:

  • 1lb fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 tsp. dried fenugreek (kasuri methi) (optional)
  • 4 TBS ghee (butter can also be substituted in)
  • 10 oz paneer, cut into cubes
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder (1/4 tsp if not a spicy food person)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 can coconut milk

Directions:

Step 1: Add the chopped spinach and dried fenugreek to a pot of boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Once cooked, drain the spinach and squeeze out all of the liquid very well. I mean VERY well. Set aside.

Step 2: Add the ghee to a pan and set the heat to medium. Once the ghee is hot, add in the cubed paneer and fry on all sides until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Step 3: To that same pan, add in the onions and cook on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until the onions have softened and turned translucent. Then add in the garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Step 4: Add the spinach, all of the spices, salt, coconut milk, and browned paneer to the onion mixture. Stir and cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes (until the coconut milk has cooked down into a thick sauce).

Step 5: Serve over rice and alongside fluffy naan or chapatis. Enjoy!

Happy Cooking!:)

Kale and Paneer Saag

By a show of hands, who here is a kale skeptic? For the longest time, I would have joined you in your kale skepticism. While I used to be one of those kale disbelievers, I’m telling you this kale & paneer saag might just turn you.

Saag (specifically mushroom saag…if you haven’t had it before, PLEASE give it a go…for me) is one of my five major food groups; I simply cannot get enough of it. That creamy, spicy, and spinach-y goodness is the best comfort food and can brighten up a really crappy day. Every. Single. Time. If you can just picture in your head for me, Buddy the Elf chowing down on his spaghetti with maple syrup, Pop-Tarts, and mini marshmallows in Elf. Well, that’s me every time I sit down and eat mushroom saag. No joke. I love it that much.

With this in mind, one might say that I am a spinach fiend. It will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’ve never been a big kale lover. Honestly, with the big kale, green healthy smoothie trend, I never really wanted to be associated with it (that sounds bad, I know, but come on, a KALE SMOOTHIE?? That just sounds gross). Recently though, I went out on a limb and tried Alison Roman’s Raw and Roasted Kale With Pistachios and Pecorino from her book, Dining In, and I began to realize that my initial distrust and hate of kale may have been unfounded.

For mother’s day we made THE Alison Roman salad (okay, FINE. no one really calls it that except for me), but WAY over-bought on the kale, so I was left with this big bunch of kale just sitting there in the fridge, lonely and calling out for me and pleading, “Please, please use me.”

I just bought a fantastic new cookbook called, East, by Meera Sodha (she also has an amazing cookbook called, Fresh India, that you should definitely try out too). It is full of vegan and vegetarian recipes from eastern countries and saying that I love it would be an understatement. I’ll just leave it at that.

So kale was on the forefront of my brain as I was looking through East one night, when I came across this recipe for kale and paneer saag (psst! it can be vegan if you use oil for the frying of the onions and swap out the paneer for tofu). It was like it was meant to be, I had everything to make it already in my pantry and fridge, so I set out on a kale saag making journey.

I will say, while this saag tasted amazing, I did need to add a little more salt and chili powder to it than the recipe calls for and it needed more time to cook out (I like my saag a little thicker). That said, served over rice it was fantastic and the ingredients are ones that you either have on hand already or that are easy to find at your local grocery store.

Now for what you’ve all been waiting for, the recipe!

Enjoy!:)

Kale & Paneer Saag

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. curly kale, with stems removed
  • 10 oz. paneer, cut into 3/4 in. cubes
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 serrano peppers, finely chopped
  • 3/4 inch. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt
  • Chili powder, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • 1 – 14 oz. can petite, diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 14 oz. can coconut milk
  • 4 TBS oil or ghee
  • Cooked rice or chapattis/naan, for serving

Directions:

Step 1: After the kale has been rinsed and the stems removed, working in batches place the kale in a food processor and blitz it into tiny pieces. Once all the kale has gone through the food processor, place it in a bowl and set it aside for later.

Step 2: Heat up 2 TBS of oil (for vegan version) or ghee in a large, deep skillet with a lid. Once the oil is hot, working in batches add in the paneer. Fry it for a few minutes on each side, until the paneer is nice and golden brown all over. Place the golden paneer on a plate and set it aside for later.

Step 3: In the same skillet, add two more tablespoons of either oil or ghee and turn the heat to medium. Once hot, add the onions to the skillet and let cook for about 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Then add in the garlic, peppers, and ginger and cook for another 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add in the can of tomatoes and cook for around 8-10 minutes, until the mixture resembles a paste. At this stage, add in the spices, salt, and agave. Mix well.

Step 4: Next, stir in the kale and the coconut milk to the mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet with a lid. Let cook for about 15 minutes.

Step 5: Take off the lid and add in the paneer. Cook for another 15-20 minutes, adding a teaspoon of water at a time if it starts to look too dry.

Step 6: Serve over rice or with either chapattis or fluffy naan. Enjoy!

Happy cooking!:)

“Chicken” Pot Pie

A chicken pot pie is one of those universally loved dish. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s creamy, hot, and delicious! This is a vegetarian version of a chicken pot pie, but it can just as easily be converted back into a regular chicken pot pie – simply sub out the veggie sausage for chicken and you’re good to go. Even without the meat, this pie stays true to the comforting classic.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with those pre-made, frozen chicken pot pies that you just throw in the microwave and voila! Dinner done. I would have them at least once a week for dinner after a sports practice and literally inhale it as soon as it came out of the microwave. I thought it was the best thing ever. No joke. It still baffles me why I loved these so much, but I think it has to do with the fact that chicken pot pies have always been looked at as the quintessential comfort food.

I love the taste of creamy gravy mixed with peas, green beans and carrots. Add a little pepper and chili powder and I’m in heaven.

What I love about this recipe is that besides the veggie sausage (or potatoes are good too!) and carrots, everything else for the filling comes from a can. Just dump and go, easy peasy!

“Chicken Pot Pie”

Servings: 4-5 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBS unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
  • Salt & pepper and Cajun seasoning (optional), to taste
  • 1/4 All-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 can peas, drained
  • 1 can green beans, drained
  • Veggie sausage, boiled, chopped potatoes, or cooked, shredded chicken
  • A pinch of cornstarch (may not need)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 egg, for egg wash

Directions:

  • Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Step 2: Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Throw the chopped onion into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Sauté this for about 5 minutes, until the onions have had a chance to soften a little.
  • Step 3: Add in the chopped carrots, minced garlic, thyme, basil, oregano, some chili powder (if you’re feeling frisky), and some more salt and pepper to the onion. Cook this mixture for an additional 7-8 minutes, until the onions are nice and translucent and the carrots have softened. At this stage, you could also add in a dash of Cajun seasoning if you like things smoky and spicy.
  • Step 4: Whisk in the flour until fully combined. Then alternate between stirring in the vegetable (or chicken) stock and the milk. Bring this mixture to a boil.
  • Step 5: Once the mixture has reached a boil, added in the peas, green beans, and whatever other vegetables you thing should be included in your pie. Cook this for about 10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened.
  • Step 6: At this point add in either the veggie sausage/balls (the Ikea veggie balls are amazing!), the boiled potatoes, or the cooked, shredded chicken. Cook this for about 5 minutes.
  • Step 7: Take off the heat. If your pie needs any more seasoning, this would be the point at which to add it. If it looks very runny, add in the cornstarch to thicken it up a little bit.
  • Step 8: Pour the mixture into a pie pan and leave to cool until it reaches room temperature.
  • Step 9: Once cooled, place a circle of puff pastry on top, brush with the egg wash, and using a knife, add a few steam holes on top.
  • Step 10: Bake for about 45-55 minutes, or until the top is nice and golden. Enjoy!

Happy Cooking!:)

Pesto Tear-and-Share Bread

This is my go-to recipe when going to a potluck. It’s quick, easy and an impressive-looking centerpiece that’s perfect for any party.

I think everyone knows this already, but I LOVE bread, absolutely obsessed. Stuff that bread and I’m dropping everything to run over to eat a piece of that bread. Not exaggerating.

This bread is perfect for if you have a potluck to go to and want to impress your friends, while simultaneously putting in minimal effort. I found this recipe on the PBS website (Pesto Pinwheel Bread), but only kept the dough the same. I didn’t have any of the stuff for the filling that the original recipe called for, so I improvised and it turned out like a fancy version of a pesto pizza.

A couple of notes, don’t bother making homemade pesto, store-bought tastes just as nice (gasp! I know, but it’s true). Also, I just eyeballed the cheese amounts, so add the cheese according to your own tastes and preferences (a little creative interpretation for you all). Lastly, I turned this bread into a flower by putting a little circle of walnuts in the middle of the bread before baking, but you 100% don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, I was just feeling a little extra when I was making this.

Enjoy!:)

Pesto and Cheese Tear-and-Share Bread Recipe:

Makes 1 large loaf

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 500g white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g salt
  • 25g sugar
  • 10g fast-action yeast
  • 30g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 50ml milk
  • olive oil, for greasing

For the filling:

  • 4 TBS pesto
  • 5-10 sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • Goats cheese, crumbled
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Pecorino cheese, grated

For the topping:

  • 1 large egg, beaten, to glaze
  • A handful of walnut pieces

Directions:

Step 1: To make the dough, in a large bowl, pour in the bread flour. Add in the salt on one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other side, followed by the sugar, softened butter, beaten eggs, milk and about 25ml of warm water. Mix together until everything is combined. Add up to another 100ml warm water, mixing between additions until a soft dough forms.

Step 2: Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic. Then lightly oil a large bowl and add the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Step 3: When the bread has finished rising, knock back the dough by kneading it for 20 seconds and cut the dough into two.

Step 4: On a lightly floured work surface, roll the remaining half of dough into a circle that’s about 12in. in diameter. Let the dough rest for about five minutes – it will shrink back. Roll it out again to about a 13in. in diameter and place on a large baking tray.

Step 5: Spread four tablespoons of pesto over the dough and sprinkle on the tomatoes and cheese (the amount of cheese is up to you), making the layers slightly deeper in the center. This will form the base of the bread.

Step 6: Roll out the remaining dough as in step 5. This will make the top layer.

Step 7: Brush the edges of the base with a little water and carefully lift the top layer onto the base.

Step 8: Using a sharp knife, trim the dough into a neat circle (about 12in. in diameter). Place a small bowl over the filling. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 equally-sized strips radiating from the bowl. Carefully twist each strip and press the end of each strip onto the baking sheet to stop them unravelling while they prove. Set aside to prove for about 30 minutes.

Step 9: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. After the loaf has proved, brush the top of the dough with the beaten egg and arrange the walnuts in a circle in the center of the loaf to create the middle part of the flower (the stigma). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden-brown in color. Check after 15 minutes and cover the twists with aluminum foil if they are browning too quickly. Allow to cool before digging in.

Happy baking! 🙂

Flaky Biscuits

What’s better than a nice and flaky, buttery biscuit on a Sunday morning that’s unctuously lathered in butter and maybe a little jam or topped with a ladleful of thick gravy? Yeah, I couldn’t think of anything better either. I’ve tried my fair share of biscuits and let me tell you, these are by far the best and butteriest out there.

There are two types of people out there, the biscuit people and the monsters who don’t like biscuits (just kidding, not monsters, just different). My response to those biscuit-haters out there is you just haven’t had a good biscuit. Plain and simple. Sometimes, I’ll admit it, I’ve sat down at a nice breakfast joint and ordered a biscuit or an order of biscuits and gravy, only to be severely disappointed when my order comes out and the biscuits are bland, dry and not living up to their biscuit potential that I know is inside of them.

Here’s the solution, LOTS and LOTS of butter (not rubbed into the flour too much, leaving a few larger smudges of butter in there to create the flaky biscuit layers), buttermilk, a healthy dose of salt and not overworking the biscuit dough. That’s it. Pretty easy, right? Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “If it’s as easy as you say, why are there still people out there making sub-par biscuits?” I wish I had an answer for this head-scratching quandary, but, alas, I’m still as confused as the lot of you.

American Biscuit Pageant 2020 winner.

I found this recipe in Alison Roman’s book, Dining In, and no joke, it’s like the book knows that this recipe is my favorite, because it opens right to it every time. I think I’ve somehow conditioned (Pavloved) the book spine to open up to the biscuit page like you train a dog to sit or lay down when you hold up a treat (excuse the weird analogies, I’m still waking up this morning). I take it as a sign from a greater force that I need to make the biscuits when the page opens to directly to them. I could have been planning on making something else entirely, but after I’ve caught a glimpse of the biscuit page, it’s as if I HAVE to make biscuits or else I won’t be able to function. There’s no way to explain why this happens to me, but it does and I don’t question it.

Okay, before I divulge this amazing recipe, let me just drop in this Ode to a Biscuit, because you needed a poem about biscuits in your life. You’re welcome.

Flaky Biscuit Recipe:

Makes 6-8 biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or 2% milk with 1TBS white vinegar that’s sat for 5 minutes)
  • Flaky salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425ºF and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and baking soda. Dump the cubed butter into the bowl and rub it into the dry mixture with your fingers. Once there are no more large pieces of butter and just small little butter bits, you’re good to go.

Step 3: Drizzle the buttermilk all over the dry mixture and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, mix everything together until a ball forms. Knead the mixture together a few times in the bowl just to make sure there are no dry bits left.

Step 4: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough 2-3 more times.

Step 5: Pat the dough into 1 1/2-inch-thick circle and using a circular cutter (about 2-3 inches in diameter), cut out 6-8 biscuits. It helps to flour the cutter before trying to cut out the dough.

Step 6: Place the biscuits onto the prepared cookie sheet and brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk (be generous here). If you want, you can sprinkle the tops with flaky salt.

Step 7: Bake, rotating once halfway through, until the biscuits are golden brown and have puffed up like accordions, about 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before enjoying with loads of butter and jam or slathered with a healthy dose of gravy.

Happy baking!:)

Shakshuka

If I could only have one final breakfast, I’d want that breakfast to be this shakshuka with some pita or crusty sourdough bread. Hands down, no question. I mean what could be better than a tomato and spinach stew with runny eggs and cheese on top? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Shakshuka is a spicy tomato and egg dish that has it’s origins in North Africa, and today is a very popular Israeli / Mediterranean breakfast. You’re meant to dig into it with lots of pita or challah bread (I like to eat it with sourdough). If the idea of a tomato stew for breakfast doesn’t really spark you’re fire, no worries, that’s completely understandable. Shakshuka can easily transition into the lunch/dinner category without even batting an eye.

This isn’t what you would call a traditional shakshuka. I’ve taken inspiration from different recipes and have made my own shakshuka masterpiece. It combines tomatoes, chili, spinach, mushrooms, eggs and LOTS of different cheeses into one beautiful concoction.

While I love my creation, if you’re looking for something without spinach (this is for all you spinach haters out there – no judgement), check out the NYTimes’ Shakshuka with Feta recipe; you’ll love it.

On the completely opposite side of the spectrum, if you love, love, LOVE spinach, can’t get enough of the guy, I’d recommend Leah Koenig’s Spinach Shakshuka recipe from her book, Modern Jewish Cooking. It’s another banging version of shakshuka minus the tomatoes.

Tomato, Spinach and Mushroom Shakshuka

Servings: About 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 mushrooms, sliced into chunks (I used white, but use whatever kind you like)
  • 1 hot pepper, minced (whatever kind you like best: a chili, Serrano pepper, literally anything will work)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6-7 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and with excess water wrung out (I used half a bag of frozen spinach)
  • 1.5 or 2 (14 oz.) can(s) of diced tomatoes (depends on how thick or thin you want it to be) OR about 3 large fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Chili powder or red pepper flakes to taste (depending on how hot the pepper you add in is)
  • Crumbled feta, shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
  • 4-6 eggs
  • Chopped cilantro, for sprinkling on top
  • Pita, challah or sourdough bread, on the side for serving

Directions:

Step 1:  If you have a cast iron skilled, preheat the oven to 375°F. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, no worries, just use a large skillet with a lid, but you won’t be using the oven. Over medium heat, heat up 3 TBS olive oil in the skillet. Add the diced onion and pepper to the skillet, season a little with salt and pepper and cook for 12-15 minutes, until softened. Stir occasionally.

Step 2: While the onion and pepper are cooking, in a separate skillet over medium heat, heat up 1 TBS of olive oil. Then add in the mushrooms, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have worked through their wet stage and are finally starting to dry out again. Stir occasionally. After 5 minutes, add in the spinach and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Step 3: Once both the onion and pepper mixture and the mushrooms/spinach are cooked, transfer the mushrooms and spinach into the skillet with the onion and pepper. Add in the garlic, cumin, cinnamon and paprika, stir and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

Step 4: Pour in the tomatoes and sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Bring this to a simmer and leave for 10 minutes to let it do it’s thing and thicken. Taste and add more salt and pepper and the chili powder or red pepper flakes if you feel like you need it. Stir in the mozzarella.

Step 5: Make 4 to 6 little divots in the tomato mixture for the eggs to have a place to sit and then crack the eggs gently into those divots. Season the eggs with salt and pepper. If you’re using a cask iron skillet or an oven-proof skillet, place the skillet to oven and bake until eggs are just set, 6 to 8 minutes. Keep an eye on it, the eggs tend to not be cooked one minute and then overcooked the next. If you you’re using a skillet with a lid, instead of using the oven, place a lid on top of the skillet and cook over medium heat until the whites are set but the yolks are still a bit runny. About 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan​ from the heat or oven. Sprinkle with the feta, Parmesan and cilantro. Serve hot with lots and lots of bread! Oh, and maybe some Cajun seasoning and hot sauce too!

Happy cooking!:)