So, now that I’m finally settled in the apartment where I am for realsies living now that I am down in Chicago, I figure it’s time to break in the kitchen. And let me tell you, it’s an amazing kitchen. Big fridge, gas range and oven and microwave, undermounted sink, lots of cabinets, a pantry, it’s everything I’ve wanted in a kitchen, ever. 

It’s been a damn long week, and these were already on the docket for me to make in the near future. But last night, I decided to move it up because it’s been a REAL shitty week at work, and I wanted something nice for me and the boyfriend to wake up to. This recipe is going to need some tweaking for the future (imagine this with brown butter!), but for a first try, this was a real good thing to have for breakfast while cuddling and playing Borderlands 2. 

Lemon Sticky Buns with Lemon Glaze
Makes appx 10 – 12 buns, depending on how you cut them

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 package active dry yeast (appx 2.5 t)
  • .75 c milk, warmed
  • .5 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • .25 c white sugar
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4.5 c flour
  • .5 t salt
  • .25 t nutmeg

Sticky Lemon Filling

  • 1 c sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 T (half stick) unsalted butter, very softened, but not fully melted
  • .25 t ground ginger
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • .25 c fresh lemon juice

Glaze

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • .25 c fresh lemon juice
  • 1 c powdered sugar

Take your milk and microwave it for about 45 seconds, so that it’s warm, but not scalding hot. Mix it together with the packet of yeast, and let stand for a few minutes, until it’s nice and foamy. Then, in a large bowl, mix together your softened butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and 1 c of the flour, until you have a nice, sticky dough base. Then, add the salt and nutmeg, and slowly, the rest of the flour, until you have a good sized sticky dough ball.

Then, take your dough ball, lightly flour the surface you’ll be working on, and knead the dough for five minutes, until you have smooth, stretchy ball of dough. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a towel, and let sit for about an hour, until the dough doubles in size. 

While the dough rises, make your lemon filling! For this, be sure that your butter is very, very soft, but not to the point of melting; my butter was partway melting, which is probably why my filling didn’t quite turn out perfectly, I think. Anyways, start out by rubbing the lemon zest and sugar together, until well combined. Then, slowly mix the butter in, until the mixture is thick and creamy. Then, add your nutmeg and ginger in, followed, slowly, by the lemon juice. The lemon juice will thin out the mixture, but it should still be creamy. (As you can see in pic 4, this didn’t happen for me, but it still worked.) Toss the filling in the fridge, and be sure it chills for at least a half hour; ideally, you work on the filling immediately after you start the dough rising, and let it chill for that full time. 

After your dough has doubled, take it and use a rolling pin to roll it out to roughly a 10 x 15 rectangle on a lightly floured surface (see pic 5). Take your lemon filling, and spread it evenly over the dough. Start rolling from the top long edge of the dough, and work your way down, rolling it as tight as possible and pulling the dough taut to keep the filling in. If your filling is too thin, it’ll leak out the ends, like mine did (see pic 6). Then, take a pan (I used a round cake pan), and cut your roll into twelve even pieces (I only got ten out of mine), and put your rolls into them, nestling them together (see pic 7). If you end up having the mixture leak out the ends, just brush it over the tops of the buns. 

At this point, if you’re me, you cover the pan with a towel, and throw it in the fridge over night. The next morning (or right away, if you decide to make it all at once), let the buns rise for at least an hour, until they’re puffy and doubled in size (see pic 8). While the buns finish rising, preheat your oven to 350. Then, put the buns in the oven for 35 minutes, until they’re golden brown (see pic 9), and a toothpick inserted into the doughy parts comes out clean. 

While the buns bake and cool, combine the lemon juice and cream cheese until light and fluffy, and then slowly whisk in the powdered sugar, until you have a nice smooth glaze.

Once the buns have cooled a bit, but are still warm, spread the glaze over the buns, cut into them, and enjoy the glorious lemon goodness!

Looking for a new way to try your vegetables? Just add beer and bacon!  Seriously. I found the green beans for a buck a pound on special last week, and it turns out Ale Asylum (a local brewer) just put out a new stout, so this was perfect timing in several senses. 

Stout Glazed Green Beans and Bacon

Ingredients

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 lbs green beans (note to self: reduce to 1 lb for the future, 2 lb was way too much)
  • .5 c stout (I used Ale Asylum’s Big Slick stout)
  • pinch smoked paprika, salt, and pepper

Cook your bacon in a pan to desired doneness. Remove, let cool, and chop. 

Add your green beans to the pan, and sear until slightly browned. Then, pour your stout in, drink the rest of the bottle, and cook until the beer reduces into a glaze (about ten minutes or so). Sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and chopped bacon, and toss in a serving dish to combine!

Some days, all you need is some comfort food. And man, do these meatballs ever count. Cheese stuffed anything is a good route to go, especially in winter. These were originally a slow cooker recipe, but I used the alternative baked method as I just didn’t have the time to throw these all in and leave them yesterday. Still turned out pretty good.

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
Makes appx 10 to 18 meatballs, depending on the size you make them

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 c panko
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 T Italian seasoning
  • 1 t sea salt
  • .5 t black pepper
  • 1 small ball fresh mozzarella, cubed

Cube your mozzarella, and freeze for a half hour minimum on a small plate.  Preheat your oven to 400.  While the mozzarella chills, combine all other ingredients in a bowl with your hands until you have a single mass of meat. Remove the mozzarella from the freezer, and taking chunks of meat, place the cheese in the middle of the meat chunk and roll the meat around it (see pic 2 for an example of what putting the cheese in looks like, and what the final meatball looks like. 

Bake for 20 minutes. There will likely be cheese oozing out of the meatballs at the end of the bake time; this is normal, and a sign you did it right. 😛 

And then, dip in some marinara, and enjoy!

This recipe is a bit involved for all the stuff that needs to be done to make it, but honestly, the resulting porridge is pretty fantastic. I’ve heard a lot about congee and how awesome it is, but didn’t really feel the urge to go out of my way to make it until I found this recipe.

And honestly? This might go into my regular breakfasts rotation. Garlic plus beef plus soy plus rice = very very good combination, in my book. And this makes enough that this should keep me in breakfasts for most of the week. 

Congee with Beef, Garlic Chips, and Shiitake
Lasts 4 breakfasts

Ingredients

Garlic Chips

  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and sliced
  • .5 c olive oil
  • pinch sea salt

Beef

  • .5 lb ground beef
  • 2 t soy sauce
  • 3 t vegetable oil
  • dash sugar
  • pinch sea salt

Congee

  • 1 c rice
  • 5 c water
  • shiitake mushrooms, sliced (amount variable; original recipe suggests 6, I did an entire package)
  • 2 t soy sauce
  • pinch pepper and salt

To make your garlic chips, take your garlic slices, put them in a small pan with the olive oil, and cook over medium high heat until they are golden brown. Drain the chips with a mesh strainer, and reserve the garlic oil that results. Sprinkle the chips with salt. 

Combine the beef, soy, sugar,vegetable oil, and salt in a small bowl while the chips fry, and chill in the fridge. 

For the congee, combine your rice in water in a medium sized pot, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot, and cook for 30 minutes, checking at least twice (I ended up checking every ten minutes or so) to stir and ensure that rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. Picture 6 is what the rice will look like after the 15 minute mark. After the half hour, add the shiitakes in, and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

After 20 minutes, take your ground beef and add in in teaspoon sized chunks, stirring it into the congee. Cover the pot again and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, until the beef has cooked through. Add in the soy, salt, and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, scoop into bowls, sprinkle with garlic chips, and pour a small amount of the garlic oil over the congee. Serve hot, and enjoy!

Looking for a nice quick meal that blends a pretty simple, traditional meal item (mashed potatoes) with something a bit savory and unusual? Then I recommend these miso mashed potatoes – the miso and potatoes combine perfectly, and the miso adds something new to the dish without being overwhelming. I used up a bunch of leftover potatoes I had in my veggie drawer with this, so I tripled the existing recipe – the tripled version will be in parentheses in the ingredients.

Miso Mashed Potatoes
Lasts 5 to 6 meals as a side

Ingredients

  • 1 lb potatoes (I used closer to 3, and reds), peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 T butter (used closer to 3)
  • 1 T white miso paste (used closer to 3)
  • 2 T milk (used closer to 6)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (optional: green onions, didn’t use them here)

Take your peeled and chopped potatoes, and put them in a pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and boil until your potatoes are fork tender (usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes). 

Drain the potatoes completely, add in the butter and miso, and then mash (with a spoon, masher, or whatever have you) together. Add the milk, salt, and pepper, and stir in, until you have nice fluffy potatoes a la the final picture. Taste, and add whatever you may feel you need more of (salt, miso, milk, etc). 

(For a fun variant, put them in a dish in an oven at 400 and toast until the top browns slightly, appx 20 mins.)

Shakshuka is something I never thought would go well in sandwich form. Yet, here we are, and Ive got enough for breakfast for at least a week or so.

Adding bell peppers heartens up the shakshuka even more, and it turns out that the pita is really good at holding the shakshuka and not making it too messy. I didn’t have za’atar on me, so I ended up mixing ground oregano, marjoram, sumac, and cumin (didn’t have any toasted sesame seeds, just raw); I should probably either buy or make it soon, because I definitely liked the flavor. 

Three Pepper Shakshuka Pitas With Feta and Za’atar

Ingredients

  • 3 T olive oil
  • half a small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, then minced
  • 2 to 3 bell peppers, cored and sliced thin (use any colors you like)
  • jalapeño, cored and sliced thin
  • .5 t cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika (I used Spanish)
  • .25 t salt
  • 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes (recipe recommends fire roasted if you can find them, I went with plain as they’re pretty expensive around here)
  • 6 eggs
  • .5 c crumbled feta
  • za’atar to taste (if you don’t have it, mix oregano, marjoram, sumac, cumin, and toasted sesame seeds)
  • pitas

Heat your olive oil in a large pan over medium high. Once warmed, add your onion and cook until it softens, about five minutes, followed by the crushed, minced garlic, and cook for another minute. Add your bell peppers and jalapeño and saute until they soften, about another five minutes, followed by the cumin, paprika, and salt, cooking for an additional minute.  Then, pour in your can of crushed tomatoes, along with half a can or so of water, and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust the seasonings.

After fifteen minutes, make six shallow indentations in the sauce and crack your eggs into them. Cover and simmer for between 3 to 6 minutes depending on how you want your eggs; 3 to 4 minutes gets set whites and loose yolks, 5 to 6 for firmer yolks. Remove the cover and sprinkle with feta and za’atar.

If you’re going to eat these right away, warm your pitas, open them up, and scoop an egg and the surrounding sauce into the pita. If you want more garnish, add more feta and za’atar. 

If, however, you’re like me and you’re taking these to work, put the sauce into a container.  The morning that you’re going to eat them, put an egg and sauce in the pita, and reheat (either by warming up the sauce and pitas separately, or doing what I do and just tossing the thing in a microwave). 

The Atlantic salmon that I like at the grocery store I typically shop at only goes on sale a few times a year. Recently was one of those times, and this recipe came my way just as it did, so really, this was one of those absolutely perfectly timed discoveries. This was also the final recipe I used my old oven on (I roasted the salmon significantly ahead of my using it so that it didn’t go bad and put it in the fridge until I finally made the honeyed cherries.)  Farewell, old oven and your fire setting tendencies; you will not be missed.

Balsamic and salmon, and honey and cherries seem like pretty natural pairings, but combine all of it in one dish, and the flavor combination is absolutely amazing. 

Balsamic Roasted Salmon with Honeyed Cherries
Lasts approximately 3 to 4 lunches

Ingredients

  • minimum 1 lb salmon
  • salt
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar

Honeyed Cherries

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 T honey
  • 2 c cherries, pitted (see cherry almond dutch baby recipe for pitting tips)
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  If your cherries are not already depitted, do so now while your oven is heating up. Take your salmon, place it skin side down a baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with salt, drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick the salmon is.

Meanwhile, on your stovetop, combine the honey and olive oil, and bring to a light simmer. Add the cherries, and simmer again, adding the balsamic vinegar not long after. Once the balsamic vinegar has been simmered in, remove from heat.

And then, combine it all onto a plate or whatever you’re storing it in. Layer the salmon over the cherries for maximum pretty.

Door County cherries have just come into full force at the farmer’s market, and this recipe showed up on Deb’s blog right as they did, so the timing on this could not have been better. 

This is probably the last recipe I will ever make with the current oven, except for maybe some roasted salmon tomorrow (trying to gauge if it’ll go bad before the new oven is in on Weds). And admittedly, I will not miss checking the oven every five minutes to see whether or not it’s started on fire because it’s above 400. 

Cast iron skillets are awesome things, but occasionally, cleaning them can be a bitch.  Gonna give you some tips, as you may have stuff sticking to it after this recipe. What you want to do is as soon as you’re done using it and it’s cooled off, run hot water over it and scrub it down with a sponge to get any food that’s sticking to it off.  If the food is still sticking, rub it down with salt. Once you’ve got it cleaned off, then pat dry with a towel, wet a paper towel with vegetable oil, and then apply a light coat onto the skillet to protect the seasoning.

Cherry Almond Dutch Baby
Makes one large pancake

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 T sugar
  • .75 c flour
  • .75 c milk
  • almond extract to taste (I also added a bit of vanilla)
  • pinch salt
  • 4 T butter
  • 2 c pitted Door County cherries (tips to follow)

Preheat your oven to 425 (mine was at 400 and anxiously watched throughout the baking process). Whisk or blend together all ingredients except the butter and cherries, until you have a smooth, uniform batter.

In your cast iron skillet, melt your butter over medium high.

If you have not already pitted your cherries, do so now!  The easiest way to do this is to stick a chopstick in towards the center, wait until you feel the pit, and then push it out of the bottom. Do this over a baggie or empty beer bottle to make the mess minimal and easy to clean up.

Once your cherries are pitted, add them to the skillet, cooking for about two minutes, until warmed. Then, remove from heat, pour the batter over the cherries and butter, and put it in the oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. The baby will be golden brown and slightly rumpled on/riding up the sides (see final pic), moreso the longer you have it in the oven.

And then, enjoy warm, possibly with vanilla ice cream.

Ovenmageddon round two brings us another potato recipe, but an awesome one, especially if you like salt and vinegar Pringles, but want to save money on them.  The broiling on this will take guesswork – I’ve made this quite a few times, and I still don’t have it down to an exact science.  But, the end result is so awesome that it’s worth the fumes and the guesswork you need to do.  Be warned, though – the boiling and broiling of the vinegar soaked potatoes WILL cause fumes.

Salt and Vinegar Broiled Potatoes
Makes 2 lbs chips, lasts 5+ meals as side when stored in fridge, bring to room temp/hot to serve

  • 2 lbs fingerling potatoes, sliced thin
  • 4 c white vinegar
  • olive oil and salt to drizzle

Take your potatoes and put them in the pot with your vinegar.  Bring the pot to a boil and lower to a simmer for about 12 mins, until they’re fork tender.  Remove from heat, and let soak 30 mins, before putting on paper towels to drain and be patted dry.  Put your slices on a baking sheet, and turn your oven to broil.  Sprinkle with olive oil and salt, toss, and make a single layer of potatoes before putting it under the broiler.  Put in the oven, about six inches under the broiler, and broil appx 7 mins, until lightly brownedish as you can get (don’t worry, you will overcook them a bit).  Then, flip your potatoes over and broil again, another 5 mins, until lightly browned.

Let them cool down a bit, and then enjoy!