April 12, 2015

Cinnamon-Currant Rolls

I keep multiple lists of recipes I want to make. Cinnamon rolls, all kinds of cinnamon rolls--traditional, bacon-caramel, lemon-blueberry, raspberry-almond--appear on those lists. I've never made them before because they've always seemed so...daunting. It's that dough phobia of mine again.

Last Friday, when I felt like spending a few hours in the kitchen, I finally made one of those cinnamon roll recipes.

When I approach a new dish, I usually follow the recipe verbatim. I usually tweak the ingredients or amounts the second time around. This recipe was much easier than I expected, but I would play around with it next time. It was way too sweet and rich. I'd cut back the amount of sugar in the filling and not use as much butter in the icing. 

Still, they were pretty delicious...decadently so. 

Cinnamon-Currant Rolls
adapted from Lauren's Latest

For the dough:
1 cup warm buttermilk
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) Rapid Rise instant yeast
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4+ cups bread flour

For the filling:
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried currants (or raisins)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch cake pan.
  • To make the dough: In small saucepan, heat the buttermilk over low heat just until warm. Stir in the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let proof for 5 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients. Start to stir on low. Add in the egg and the oil. Scrape edges of bowl to stir flour in evenly. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes on low, until it pulls away from the bowl and is smooth. If the dough isn't coming together, add a couple tablespoons of milk. 
  • Rest the dough for 5 minutes while you prepare the filling.
  • To make the filling: Melt the butter & let it cool. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon.
  • Sprinkle a silicone pastry mat (or a clean counter) with flour and roll dough to be about 18x24.
  • Brush with the melted butter, leaving just a bit for the tops. Spread the sugar-cinnamon mixture all over the dough and spread with your hands, creating an even layer. Sprinkle the currants over the sugar. *
  • Roll the dough into a tight log. Cut off the uneven ends to even out the log. Slice your rolls into 12 even pieces and place in the prepared pan. 
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the tops start to brown lightly. Pour the icing over the rolls while they are still warm. 

For the icing:
1 stick unsalted utter, melted
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
2-3 tablespoons milk (if needed)
  • Melt the butter over low heat.
  • Add the sugar to a mixing bowl, stir in the melted butter and vanilla. If the icing is too thick, stir in a couple tablespoons of milk.
* Confession: I was so excited about making these, that I forgot to sprinkle the currants inside the rolls. Instead, I sprinkled them on top. It worked just as well.

April 5, 2015

Shepherd's Pie

Why have I never made Shepherd's Pie before? I wonder because I made it for dinner on Friday--a cold, rainy Spring evening--and now I want to eat it every day. 

Disclaimer: I actually only made this to impress my dead sexy Scottish boyfriend. I think it worked. *fingers crossed*

According to Cook's Info, "Shepherd's Pie probably originated in Scotland and in the north of England. Originally, it was made from chunks of meat, probably leftover from a roast. [...] The dish as we know it, though, couldn't have originated before potatoes became generally accepted in the UK, which wasn't until the end of the 1700s. Before that, the dish--or a very similar one--was made in Scotland but topped with a pastry crust instead of mashed potato. The name [Shepherd's Pie] appeared in the 1870s." 

This dish is called Shepherd's Pie when it's made with lamb, Cottage Pie when it's made with beef. But with ground lamb readily available in most major supermarkets and farmers markets these days, why wouldn't you use lamb? 

Besides, it's just so Eastery and Springy. A perfect dinner for those chilly April nights. 

Shepherd's Pie
slightly adapted from Alton Brown

March 30, 2015

Labneh with Olives, Hazelnuts, and Mint

Spring is finally here. My daffodils are blooming. The trees and bushes are budding. Green grass is poking through the lawn. I feel like spring is the time the entire planet exhales after a long winter, releasing all the pent up tension of the past three months. Usually, I hold my breath all winter long....waiting for the next bout of depression, the next panic attack.


This winter has been much different. Thankfully. Since December, there hasn't been as much sadness or anxiety. I've taken deeper breaths of life. So, this spring has a different feel as well. Instead of relief that another cold, dark winter has passed, I feel energized by the longer days and warmer sunshine.

Just as the earth renews itself in spring, I feel renewed every time I cook. It's the creating something that is so worthwhile for me. (That's also why I've been so into knitting lately...the creation of something new.)

So, when I needed to do some creating in the kitchen, I decided to make cheese.

Labneh is a Middle Eastern cheese made by straining yogurt. Draining out the whey results in creamy, soft curds that retain the tanginess of the yogurt. Labneh is typically drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with mint, and served with pita seasoned with za'atar (a blend of oregano, thyme, marjoram, and savory, sesame seeds, and sumac).

I topped my homemade cheese with a salty, sour, crunchy, fragrant mixture of olives, lemon, hazelnuts, and mint. Easy and impressive.

Labneh with Olives, Hazelnuts, and Mint
slightly adapted from The Design Files

February 12, 2015

Farro Risotto with Butternut & Kale

This is a photo of Sean Brock's Farrotto with Acorn Squash and Red Russian Kale from his new cookbook Heritage. I've had my eye on this recipe since I got the book in October. And last night, I finally made it.

Farrotto is essentially farro, an ancient wheat variety, cooked slowly with stock like risotto. It gets creamy with a nutty, chewy texture. It's a pretty hearty dish, but better for you than arborio rice. Apparently, "it’s rich in the cyanogenic glucosides that stimulate the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol."

I didn't follow Brock's recipe exactly--because I am so horrible about following recipes & it was a week night--but my slightly altered version was quite delicious. Brock calls for toasting the farro in the oven and roasting the squash then pureeing it. I toasted the farro on the stovetop and just sautéed the squash in some olive oil with the onions & garlic. I didn't mind the chunkier texture. I seasoned the cooked farro with Herbs de Provence and added a little sour cream to finish the dish.

I served the farrotto with a piece of simply seared cod on top (seasoned with salt & pepper and finished with lemon juice & butter).

I don't have any pictures of my dish because I was too busy being smitten and googly-eyed over my new guy (together 10 weeks tomorrow, y'all), who came over for dinner. 

February 9, 2015

Spring 2015 Cooking Class Schedule

My upcoming classes include a few new menus: a Mother's Day brunch on May 10 (two words: doughnut muffins), a sushi class on May 16, and a Girls' Night Out class featuring dessert and cocktail pairings (two words: jello shots) on June 26 (two more words: butterscotch cupcakes).

I have several Date Night for Couples classes, including a beer pairing class (March 29), a steak class (April 12), a comfort foods menu with rosemary fried chicken & caramel apple pie (June 7), and a summer supper featuring grilled chicken with bourbon bbq sauce (June 12).

I'm also teaching my popular Harry Potter kids' class (which is sold out for the next 3 classes scheduled this spring) again on June 28.

Below is my schedule through June. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEERS - Sunday, March 29 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands on)
  • We'll prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and Mexican corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake & vanilla ice cream.
TOOL TIME: VITAMIX - THE REAL POWER TOOL -  Saturday, April 11 @ 12:00-2:30 (hands-on)
  • Whether you own a Vitamix or are thinking about adding this powerful tool to your kitchen, this hands-on class is designed to optimize its strength, from piping hot soups to refreshing smoothies. We'll make blueberry-banana oatmeal smoothies, vanilla coffee frappé, horseradish cheese dip with baked pita chips, antipasto salad with Italian dressing, bread with freshly-made butter, avocado-tortilla soup, pasta with basil pesto and sun-dried tomato sauce, plus almond-peach sorbet.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: HIGH STEAKS - Sunday, April 12 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Bruschetta with seasonal fruit, brie and fennel-infused honey, smoked lentil salad with creamy sriracha dressing, cedar-grilled flat iron steaks with cayenne-coffee rub, sweet potato and goat cheese "tater tots", bacon-wrapped green beans with brown sugar and garlic butter, plus salted caramel pots de crème.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: LIFE IS A CABERNET - Sunday, April 26 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Learn to cook with the wonderful flavors of wine in this class where you'll prepare mushroom-red pepper salad with red wine-herb vinaigrette, oven-roasted beef tenderloin with roasted red grape wine sauce, homemade black pepper fettuccine with chardonnay cream sauce, plus fabulous flourless chocolate-red wine cake with rosemary ganache -- all enjoyed with a glass of cabernet wine.
MOM'S THE WORD - Sunday, May 10 @ 1:00-3:30 (hands-on)
  • Surprise Mom with a unique celebration of her day, as this class creates a tasty brunch of bacon waffle Benedict Florentine with hollandaise sauce, maple-glazed pork and apple meatballs, goat cheese Monte Cristo sandwiches, crispy herbed potato cakes, cinnamon-sugar doughnut muffins with espresso gelato, plus a grapefruit-mint mimosa.
MISO HUNGRY FOR SUSHI - Saturday, May 16 @ 11:00-1:30 (hands-on)
  • Tempura vegetables, miso soup, edamame salad with ginger-soy dressing, crab and mango inside-out rolls with teriyaki glaze, spicy tuna hand rolls, crunchy shrimp rolls with avocado-chile cream, & sweet plum ice cream.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: AN A-FARE TO REMEMBER - Sunday, June 7 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Discover the fun of cooking together, as this hands-on class prepares grilled panzanella salad, rosemary fried chicken, mac-and-cheese with peas and bacon, ratatouille, plus caramel apple galette, with two remarkable beer pairings ideal for dinner and dessert.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SUMMER LOVIN' - Friday, June 12 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on)
  • Grab your partner and fall in love with the smells and flavors of summertime. This class will create "BLT" bruschetta with pepper-jelly bacon and tomato jam, classic Caesar salad with smoky shrimp and zucchini, grilled spatchcock chicken with bourbon barbecue sauce, crispy and cheesy hasselback roasted potatoes, plus blueberry pound cake with lemon glaze and limoncello gelato.
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BUTTER + SCOTCH - Friday, June 26 @ 6:00-8:30 (demonstration)
  • Inspired by a trendy New York retro-style cafe and bar that serves cupcakes and cocktails, I'll serve up an outstanding selection of sips and sweets. Enjoy butterscotch cupcakes with scotch-lemonade punch, raspberry-bourbon gelatin shooters (because Jello shots are the original dessert and booze pairing), "Dark & Stormy" popcorn flavored with ginger, lime, & rum served with its namesake cocktail, s'mores pie with vanilla-orange prosecco cocktail, plus honey-nut shortbread with an espresso martini.