Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant Rolls

Chocolate that you’re supposed to spread as freely and as frequently as you would peanut butter and jam! Does it get any better? Uh, yes, when you make it a spreadable chocolate-hazelnut spread called Nocciolata!

nocciolata-toastMy daughter and I sampled Nocciolata from Rigoni di Asiago, a family-owned and operated business based in the Altopiano di Asiago, a mountain plateau in Northern Italy. Using certified organic ingredients free of GMO’s, preservatives, colors, additives, or artificial sweeteners, Nocciolata combines hazelnuts, cocoa and cocoa butter, natural vanilla extract and raw cane sugar. They also have a certified vegan, dairy free version, Nocciolata Dairy Free.

To give the spread an earnest try, we started and ended the day with Nocciolata because, well, any day is better that starts and ends with chocolate. In the morning, we spread it over whole grain toast. It went so well with a cup of coffee! Then, for dessert that night, my daughter asked if she could make her own creation, a take on a chocolate croissant. This is what she came up with:
Nocciolata Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant Rolls
Serves 8-10

1 can croissant/crescent rolls
Approximately ¼ cup Nocciolata chocolate hazelnut spread (Don’t use too much or it will be a gooey, yet delicious, mess.)

  1. Preheat the oven per the directions on the can. Spread the dough out on a cutting board. You won’t be cutting the dough along the pre-cut lines so press along those lines to smoosh them together a bit.
  2. Spread the Nocciolata evenly over the dough leaving about ½ an inch uncovered around all edges.
  3. Roll up the dough, tucking in the sides as you go and sealing the ends.
  4. Pick up the roll and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.
  5. Bake according to croissant directions.
  6. Cut the rolls into slices and serve on their own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
    nocciolata-rolling-new
    nocciolata-baked-roll-newnocciolata-finished-new
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Going Free-Form with a Fruit Galette

I don’t do double crust pies well. I just can’t get them to look nice around the edges, despite trying all the tricks. Then I thought of doing a Galette, a more free-form pie that has a “rustic” look. (I love the word “rustic” because it’s my excuse to be really imperfect and still sound like it was on purpose!) Pies, galettes and cobblers are a great way to use up fruit that has seen better days. When I made this galette, I had some rhubarb, blueberries and peaches. But you can use any fruit that you think would go well together including frozen fruit that has been defrosted and drained of extra liquid.

Ingredients:

Galette

Mix all of the ingredients of your filling together in a large bowl.

1 thawed pie crust

2 cups worth of diced fruit of choice

1 TBS Brown sugar (can add more)

1 TBS corn starch

Pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk

1 TBS sanding or turbinado sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to temperature recommended on pie crust packaging.

Lay out the pie crust on a non-stick (like Silpat) liner on a baking sheet.

Mix the fruit, sugar, corn starch and salt together in a large bowl.

Spoon fruit mixture in the center, leaving about an inch and a half all around the edge.

Fold in sections of the outer edge of the crust you just left exposed, turning the galette as you go. There will be a large section of fruit filling showing.

Brush the crust you have now folded up with the egg wash.

Sprinkle the crust with the sanding or turbinado sugar. This isn’t just to sweeten it a bit, it’s to leave a crystalline effect that is very pretty.

Bake according to instructions.

Allow to cool 15 minutes or more. Cut into wedges, like a pie, to serve. It would be good served a la mode or with a dollop of whipped cream.

Galette

Leave a generous edge all around to fold in.

I’d love to show you a picture of the finished product, fresh out of the oven. It was lovely and golden brown. However we had company over and they all descended and topped their slices with vanilla ice cream before I could get a shot. I guess I’ll consider that a compliment!

galette-with-sugar-sprinkle

Pretty, huh? You should have seen it baked! Without letting it cool a bit, and while my back was turned, the family descended. The aftermath was a plate of crumbs and some happy tummies. 

4-Ingredient Mexican-Style Corn

A couple of years ago, I visited Santa Fe and had corn on the cob prepared in the Mexican tradition, coated with mayonnaise, seasonings and cheese. It was delicious but really messy to eat (or maybe it was just me). Luckily, it’s easier to make (and less messy to eat) with corn that’s already off the cob. Here’s my variation which is super-fast and easy to make. It’s a great side-dish that goes with any protein and is also delicious mixed into a salad. 

Here’s all you need to make this corn: 1. Frozen corn off the cob 2. Chili powder 3. Mayonnaise 4. Lime zest. That’s it! Adjust the amounts to your taste. 

mexican-corn-with-chili-prep

Prepare frozen corn according to instructions, being sure to drain off all liquid. Sprinkle on some chili powder, starting with 1 teaspoon at a time. You can always add more of all ingredients by tasting it at the end. Stir the corn and chili to mix it well.

 

mexican-corn-done-in-bowl

Add a rounded tablespoon of your favorite mayonnaise and stir. Again, you can always add more but the idea is just to add a creamy coating to the corn without making it gloppy. Add a pinch of lime zest for color and brightness of flavor. 

When I get some great limes, I wash them thoroughly and zest them all. I freeze the zest in a zipper bag to use throughout the year – works great! I prefer lime zest over lemon here both for the flavor and the pop of color.
mexican-corn-done-in-bowl

Mix everything together and serve immediately. As it sits, moisture from inside the corn starts to mix with the mayonnaise and things start to get watery. You don’t want that! 

Birch Benders Pancakes & Waffles

I have wonderful memories of my dad making pancakes on Sunday mornings. I wouldBirch Benders Pancakes .jpg wake up to the smell of butter melting in the pan. He made perfect pancakes. True, they weren’t from scratch but he did add butter, eggs and milk. I loved the flavor of those pancakes and, even though I’ve bought that particular mix as an adult, the taste is not the same. But recently, ironically on my dad’s birthday, I made a batch of pancakes from a mix by Denver’s own Birch Benders. Guess what? I was taken right back to those Sunday mornings with pancakes full of great flavor, a hint of vanilla, crispy edges and a fluffy center. It made me happy.

Using all-natural ingredients, Birch Benders’ mixes take only water. That means that even birch-benders-pancake-packageson a school day, I can make them for my family and still have everyone get out of the house on time. You can make waffles with the mix too. Besides the ease and the flavor, what really drew me to want to try Birch Benders was that they account for modern dietary needs and culinary wishes. Varieties include Paleo, Gluten Free, and Protein, and the brand offers an all-natural twist on traditional favorites such as Classic, Chocolate Chip, Six Grain Cinnamon, and more. For the holiday season, Birch Benders created Sweet Potato, Pumpkin Spice, Gingerbread Spice, and Double Chocolate Peppermint flavors that make every morning feel festive.

What’s behind the name, Birch Benders? It’s an American tradition of climbing slender, supple birch trees that bend down and return you to the ground when you climb them. The founder, Matt, grew up in Maine and recalls happy times birch bending.

You can buy Birch Benders at Sprout’s, Natural Grocers, and People’s Market. Check out their recipes on their charming website too – they even have savory things to make like Paleo Pizza! 

 

Easy Pot Roast Stroganoff

Let me say, right up front, I don’t typically cook with cans of soup. Usually the sodium levels are really high and it just seems like a bit of a cheat to take advantage of all of the ingredients the soup companies have included. But once in a while, I give it a go and darn it if the meal doesn’t turn out really good. Curse you, convenient cans of soup! 

Recently my local grocery store had a big sale on Boneless Beef Chuck Pot Roast, my favorite cut. It’s large, thick, well-marbled and lends itself beautifully to slow cooker cooking. With a can of Cream of Mushroom soup lurking in my pantry, I decided to throw it over the top and see what happens. Turns out, some magic happened in that Crock Pot, creating an easy version of the Beef Stroganoff I usually make (that takes a very long time). This dish was a big hit with my family. 

eat-beef-stroganoff-roast

My daughter loves the Stroganoff meat and sauce part so much, she doesn’t want mashed potatoes to get in her way, as pictured above. But I love having the taters underneath the meat and sauce to absorb every drop so I don’t miss any of that yummy flavor! 

Ingredients:

Note, you can double this recipe with two roasts, layering all crock pot ingredients and cooking 8-10 hours on “low.”

1 Beef Chuck Pot Roast Boneless, 2-4 pounds (or larger or smaller depending on the size of your crockpot)
1 onion, sliced
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup plus one can of water
1 teaspoon of Tone’s Beef Base paste
A handful of mushrooms of your choice, sliced

2-3 TBS sour cream 

Potatoes for mashed potatoes

Directions: 

1. Place the onion slices on the bottom of the crock pot and place the roast on top of it. 

eat-beef-stroganoff-roast-start

It’s not pretty – yet. This is the soup spread over the meat.

2. Open the can of soup and pour it over the top of the roast, spreading it across the top. Fill the empty soup can with water and pour that around the edges of the roast – not over the condensed soup. Make sure there is enough liquid to go about half way up the side of the crock pot. 

3. Put the teaspoon of Beef Base paste somewhere on the side too. It will dissolve and spread around in the liquid. 

4. IF you are doubling the recipe, place more onion slices on top of the soup-covered first roast and repeat the process. 

5. Cover the crock pot and cook on low around 8 hours or on high for 5 (but it works best

eat-beef-stroganoff-roast-meat

Thank you, Crock Pot, for making such tender beef! 

slow and low).

6. You’ll know the meat is almost ready when you stick a fork down into it and it doesn’t resist at all. It should be incredibly tender. If it’s approaching dinner time and you feel resistance, turn up the Crock Pot to “high.”

7. Closer to dinner time, make the mashed potatoes the way you like (I use the shortcut of pre-cooking cubed potatoes in the microwave just to soften them a bit.)

8. Remove the roast from the Crock Pot and put it in a large bowl. Let it sit a bit. Pour the

easy-pot-roast-beef-stroganoff-crock-pot-sauce

Yum! Delicious sauce for your stroganoff.

liquid into a pot over medium-high heat to reduce down and thicken slightly. Leave the onions in or strain them out – they will have flavored the broth. Add the sour cream at this point.

9. In a small skillet, add the mushroom slices with NO oil or butter. They will release their own moisture and will brown beautifully. Saute only until the edges start to brown then add them to the sauce. 

10. Using two forks, shred the beef in the bowl. 

11. To serve the meal, place a bed of mashed potatoes down first, then beef shreds, then a generous ladle or two of the mushroom sauce. 

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Deconstructed Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

A grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup in which to dip that sandwich is a classic combination. I love this combo but, one day, while trying to make something different for Sunday breakfast, I came up with this dish, a deconstructed recipe that combines tomatoes, toasted bread and melted cheese with the addition of an over-easy egg! It was delicious. The yolk combines with the tomatoes, cheese and bread into something creamy and full of flavor.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-3

A hearty, healthy breakfast I call a Deconstructed Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup (with Egg).

Ingredients:
Per person –
1/2 tomato, chopped or cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 slice bread of choice (I used a sprouted grain bread)
1 slice cheese of choice (I used sharp cheddar)
1 egg

Method: 
1. In a toaster oven or regular toaster, lightly toast bread of choice.
2. In a skillet, melt butter and then place lightly-toasted bread in the pan and top with cheese. You will not be turning this over in the skillet, obviously, because of the cheese. Place a cover over the skillet to help the cheese melt. When done, put it on a plate to make room for the tomato and egg. Don’t cover the toast to keep it warm because it will steam and the toast will soften. The heat from the tomato and egg will create the overall heat for the meal.
3.  Drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
4. Saute the tomatoes on one side of the pan, turning frequently. On the other side, crack an egg. Cover and let the egg cook for sunnyside up, or turn over for over-easy. Just make sure the yolk remains runny.
5. To serve, place the egg on top of the toast and then the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-2

You could make this cheese toast in a skillet with butter for a more traditional flavor, or you can do it in a toaster oven without butter.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-1

Saute tomato in the same skillet as the egg you are frying.

Autumn Muffins

One of our most popular recipes in this blog, and in my house, is for Harvest Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins.  We make them every year around this time. And, when my kids were little, I’d stock up on cans of pumpkin in the fall so that I could make these muffins when it was my turn to bring snack to school or for a soccer game. This year, I’m proud to say one of my daughters came up with a variation on my muffins that is delicious and very pretty! They’d be wonderful to make for holiday brunches or to give as gifts.

My daughter used my recipe but instead of putting the full 1 cup of chocolate chips, she used 1/2 cup chips and 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cranberries. She also recommended throwing in 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

You could also experiment with an orange glaze on top, made of powdered sugar with some orange juice. If you do this, apply it immediately after taking the muffins out of the oven, while they are still in the muffin tin so that the glaze melts and seeps into the fresh muffins.Orange goes great with both chocolate and cranberries but if you prefer one over the other with an orange glaze, just stick to 1 cup of either chocolate chips or cranberries. Mmmm, that would smell so good!

autumn-muffins