Venice Spice

A couple years ago I went to Venice. Like, the Venice.
I always assumed Venice would be a little corny and very touristy because there’s about as much hype around this city as there is around the Magic Kingdom and – spoiler alert! – MK is not all that. When you finally make it to a place everyone talks about like the greatest place on earth, it always just seems kind of blah, you know? Your expectations are higher than heaven and when you finally see that thing for yourself, it’s usually a lot less sparkly than it was before you actually met that thing in real life.

Not in Venice. I was speechless with my jaw on the floor most of the time I was there. I was stunned at the magical, ancient, mysterious beauty that filled this place, it’s buildings and streets. It was poetic, even. It was one of those times in life you have few words to describe what you’re looking at. I felt bad for wasting adjectives like, “beautiful” on stupid things like nail polish and tea towels. Any words I could conjure to describe it just seemed inadequate.
Anyway, all this to say that I’ve basically found the kitchen’s version of Venice. I can’t believe I’ve ever written positively about any other food than what I’m about to share with you. I know you’re all like, “Erin, have we had enough of the dramatics already?” And my answer would be No! The dramatics are necessary because you need to try these today. I’m like, about to start a fundraiser to spread awareness about them…

Meet my new favorite food group, the Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll.
It doesn’t even look pretty, right? Just a sticky blob of doughy goodness, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla-creamcheesyness… oh, and warm right out of the oven? I just… I… I can’t. Despite the fact that it took me six packets of yeast before I got one that was active and would rise, and DESPITE THE FACT that all this yeast business made the process take almost 4 hours, I will definitely be making these like every day of my life. Or at least again this weekend.

Here’s a slight variation of Deb’s recipe… I always end up cutting the sugar content in desserts and I got a little butter-happy, so excuse my edits on this 😉 All credit for original recipe to Smitten Kitchen!

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Dough

6 TBSP unsalted butter + 3 TBSP more melted for brushing on rolled out dough
1/2 cup water, warmed between 100-110* F; 1/4 cup half and half, room temp (didn’t have milk)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups pumpkin puree, canned
1 large egg
Non-stick spray for coating rising bowl

Filling
3/4 cup (packed) light or dark brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons half and half (again, didn’t have any milk)
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Make your dough: Melt your butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and set aside to cool down to room temperature.

Combine your warmed water and yeast in a small bowl with a dab of honey and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy. If it’s not, you probably have some annoyingly finicky yeast and should start again with a newer packet. <– sixth time’s a charm! 

In the bottom of the bowl of an electric or hand mixer, combine flour, sugars, salt and spices. Stir lightly to combine. Add your melted butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-water mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix til combined. Switch out your hand mixer blades to the hook-looking ones (if you can’t find those, it’s no big deal – just use what you have) and run it for 5 minutes on low. It was here that I saw my dough was too dry and where I started drizzling in the 1/4 cup or so of remaning half and half to moisten it. The dough should be sticky and kind of wet feeling… do not want too many flour bits floating around in there.

Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a draft-free place until it rises to twice its size.

While it is rising, butter/spray with non-stick spray the bottom of two 8-inch square pans (any size works – I only had one so I stuck the rest of the buns in a pan way over-sized and they tasted identically delicious).

Assemble buns: Drop dough onto a very large, well floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to an approximately 16×11-inch rectangle. Brush reserved melted butter over dough. Stir together filling ingredients and sprinkle mixture evenly over dough. Press it down so it sticks to the dough just enough. Starting on a longer side, roll the dough into a tight spiral. If some of the filling stuff spills out a little, it’s no biggy and won’t affect the taste.

Per SK: “Here’s how to cut cinnamon rolls without squishing their pretty spirals: With a sharp serrated knife, using absolutely no pressure whatsoever (only the weight of the blade should land on the dough) gently saw your log with a back-forth motion into approximately 1-inch sections.” <– love this tip!

Divide buns between two prepared pans. You can sprinkle any sugar that fell off onto the counter over them. Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes.

15 minutes before you’re ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Beat your cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar (and mix while giant white clouds of it puff all over your hair, face, and kitchen – yay cooking!). Drizzle in milk until you get the consistency you’re looking for.

Finish your buns: Remove the plastic and bake buns for 18 minutes (the original recipe said 25 minutes but my oven would have turned them in to hockey pucks if I let them go that long; I stuck with 18 mins and they cooked to perfection), until puffed and golden.

I dug them right out of the pan and ate them like I was forced to at gun point.

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Cookie Monster

Hi there! How was your Saturday?

I discovered (and ordered immediately) Teecino this afternoon! Apparently it has the flavor of coffee but without the caffeine or acidity and is in a little tea bag so you can make it one cup at a time. I haven’t tried it yet but I’ll be curious to see how the flavor is. I’m a big fan of strong coffee so we’ll have to see how this holds up.
 A storm was rolling in earlier which ruled out the beach trip I was daydreaming about…
… so I took myself to Publix for a few ingredients to make a recent Pinterest find: No-Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites from right over here (egg-less, so you can eat them almost guilt-free… but there’s still a stick of butter in there so be sure to hold on to that mental image ;))!
What you need:
1/3 c low fat plain Greek yogurt
1 stick of butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 c white sugar
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 c chocolate chips (or peanut butter chips or both if you’re a bad bad girl)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda

Melt butter on the stove over low heat. Mix melted butter and both sugars in bowl. Add yogurt and vanilla and mix to combine. Separate bowl: combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to buttery goodness. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon onto a cookie sheet and freeze for about 30 minutes, then eat. Eat one at a time at a very reasonable pace 😉
G’night!

Best Burger

Ahhh, it’s Friday…

Check out this avocado! Isn’t it perfect? It was soo creamy and bright and flavorful…
This was a good idea:
Potato bread bun, 85% lean hormone-free ground beef seasoned only with salt and pepper, tomato, iceburg lettuce, caramelized vidalia onion, giant thick slices of avocado, swiss cheese, and ketchup. 

I went grocery shopping this evening and bought a bag of rolos to make a dessert because I SWEAR I saw one on Pinterest but can’t find it and haven’t found it yet. Any suggestions?

Also, my wisdom teeth look good! Barely impacted but still have to get ’em taken out. Still scared about that… I really despise medication and am especially nervous about having to take pain medicine and feeling like I’m “on something,” as ridiculous as that sounds. So I’m crossing my fingers that it’s super easy and I can sail smoothly on Advil or something lightweight 😉 Any essential tips I should know for this?

1. Last day to enter the slow cooker giveaway, too!!!  

2. Tell me about an awkward moment from the week. This week I had one while talking to someone on the phone at work and the convo went something like this because I was completely oblivious to what he was saying:

Guy: “Alright, great I’ll do that then.”
Me: “Sure, no problem.” (???)
Guy: “Anyway, thanks, see ya.”
Me: “Okay, you too!” (ok, crazy lady!)

Awkward. Story of my life.

Playing Catch-Up + a Giveaway!

Oh heyyy!! I’ve been on somewhat of an internet diet lately. Very little laptop time and clearly very little blog time. So I’m sorry I neglected you these past few weeks.

Here’s some stuff:

What is it about a tripod that just seems… inappropriate? I came home from work the other day and found this little set-up in the living room. Adrien’s been wanting me to get one for months now so I have somewhere to put the camera when I do yoga videos, plus it makes a HUGE difference for night-time shots when it’s dark. So yes, very sweet gesture, but it does look odd in the middle of the living room affixed to a video cam. Just sayin’!

In other news, my city flooded! Not the best pic since it came from my iPhone, but you get the idea. The canoe is floating down a major road in downtown Tampa. Can you imagine how much worse this could have been if it were a real hurricane? Seriously, we were SO relieved when this storm finally moved out.

Finally, I have something amazing recipes I want to share with you and since I haven’t made any of them (still haven’t pulled the trigger on my slow cooker purchase!), you’ll have to do it and tell me which is your fave 🙂

1. Crockpot Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers by No. 2 Pencil (funny name, as I’m not sure how you fit a Mexican in  bell pepper, but whatevs! 😉 Bad joke – sorry!)

2. Crockpot Chicken w/black Beans and Cream Cheese from Food.com. It looks like it would just fall apart, right?!
 3. Crockpot Chicken Taco Chili by Redsie.  I want to eat a bathtub full of this.
 4. And lastly, anything apple pie-ish like this Apple Pie Breakfast recipe from Cooking with Jax!  I mean, who needs an excuse to eat apple pie oats for breakfast?

 You kind of stopped by at the very best time because, since we’re such a fabulous group of people here, SlimKicker wants to giveaway a Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker to one of you guys! I’m kinda jealous, I can’t lie… Actually, it’s this one right here:

 So now that you have a sweet little list of recipes to use in your brand new toy, you can enter to win and immediately cross every part of your body for good luck! 😉

For a little background, SlimKicker is a site that encourages its members to create healthy living challenges to help with reaching your fitness goals. On their site you can track your calories, challenges, successes and even get recipes. So, for example, maybe your challenge is to give up soda for a week, or get at least 30 minutes of cardio in every day, take the dogs running  3x a week, etc.

Whatever your challenge idea is, post it in the comments for entry to the giveaway. SlimKicker will pick a winner and bam! New Slow Cooker!

So get on it – last time you can enter will be Saturday July 7th at midnight and I’ll let you guys know who won it.

Chocolate for Breakfast

I want to take a minute to apologize to my mother. She would be thoroughly ashamed to know that I ate chocolate for breakfast. In this case, because I’m a responsible adult, I didn’t just eat a handfull of chocolate… I made whole wheat chocolate chip scones. You know, for nutrients and fiber and stuff 😉
They were yummy right out of the oven, all warm and melty, but once they cooled the wheat flour gave them a kind of chewy texture. I’m not sure about that…
I adapted the recipe from Skinny Taste and here’s how I did it:

What you need:
1/2 c buttermilk
1/4 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar
scrape out 1 vanilla bean (or 2 t vanilla extract)
1 egg
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c all purpose flour
1T baking powder
small pinch of salt
3 T chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 c dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375* and spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. 

In a medium sized bowl, mix buttermilk, cream, sugar, vanilla and egg in bowl and whisk until combined. In a separate bowl, combine both flours, salt, baking powder and salt. Then cut in butter and mix it around until it looks course and mealy. Mix in chocolate chips. Finally, pour creamy mixture in to flour mixture and fold until moist. 

Turn out dough onto a well floured surface and fold until combined. Flatten slightly until it’s in a round disk about 9-inches across. Slice however you like. Bake for 20 minutes. 

Hope you enjoy it! I wanted to try some of them with white chocolate for something different, but I’m thinking you could use dried berries, fresh fruit, or even granola folded in.

In the meantime, we’ll be enjoying as much sunshine as the day gives us! After about 5 days of gloomy, constant rain, I’m ready for some Vitamin D.

 

 

I found a DSW coupon in my purse, so you know what that means! 😉 What are you doing today?!

Dream Me A Doughy Dream

Last night I slept a solid 8 hours and soundly and when I woke up I felt like I’d been sleeping for days. It felt great! For any one who can interpret dreams, I’d be curious to get your view on this one: 

We came across this adoption agency that looked like a cafeteria. They were cracking eggs (like chicken eggs!) in a bowl then letting them become fertilized by regular human essence. There were hundreds of people in line waiting to get babies and the couple in front of us got twins. We were next and – surprise! Twins again! We adopted these baby twins on a whim and as soon as we left the agency I started freaking out. My mind started reeling and I quickly realized how unprepared we were for this. I kept saying that we would have to “return” them because we didn’t even have a car seat to bring them home and what about a babysitter or daycare because I had to go to work the next day!… and in his true style, Adrien was totally calm and was like, “No, don’t worry about it, I know what you mean, but it’ll be ok.” Then when we got home he brought home a PUPPY! And I was like OMG NOW YOU WANT A DOG?! 

It was pretty funny when I woke up but I’ve never been more relieved, lol! We have NO plans to have kids in the near future, at least not for a few more years. What is up with this dream?! How crazy! Plus, in my dream I felt so guilty for wanting to take the babies back. I wanted to want them but just couldn’t get into the idea, as bad as that sounds.

After all that Dream Drama, today seemed like a good day to make some bread. The rain this morning was coming down in horizontal sheets! Love when that happens – the greens will be happy 🙂
But yes, back to that bread, which I wrongfully stole from this talented gal. I’ve made it before but since I was totally in the mood for it this morning, it tasted even better: Whole Wheat Honey Oatmeal Bread.
We became real good friends and when it told me to smother it in Cinnamon Raison Swirl Peanut Butter, I couldn’t really say no. This bread is very persuasive like that.
 I think I’ll top it off with a shot of my favorite espresso, too…
I get the one all the way at the bottom of that page and it’s delicious. I’ve been drinking it for about a year and it’s the only kind I buy!

What’s the most ridiculous dream you can remember? I feel like when I dream, which is often, I do so vividly! 

Deutschland

What were you craving today? I found some chicken bratwurst at Whole Foods and for some inexplicable reason these really called out to me. My German genes must be in rare form today!
All I used was carmelized Vidalia onions, a slice of cheese, and ketchup and mustard. The mustard was a WF store brand and it honestly tastes like a wet dog! I know – I hate to ruin this image for you, but that part was just… blech! I ended up just smearing it away, then it was delicious 😉

Mmmm, yah! (I said that with my best German accent, could you tell?!)…
And how cute is this onion?! It wasn’t bigger than a lemon and for some reason I was totally enamored. WF had organic Vidalias on sale for $0.99 a pound! Sweet deal! (Corny pun intended!)
It’s scorching hot outside today so I’m gonna pop open a cold one and settle on down for some MindBodyGreen article writing!