Cinnamon Twist Bread

You guys!!

Cinnamon Twist Bread

I did it!!

Cinnamon Twist Bread

I made pretty bread!

Actually, I’m going to say that this bread is beautiful.

Not even sorry about bragging here, because if you guys know me, you know how much I struggle with bread. I have cried, laughed, given up, and tried again when it comes to making bread look pretty. I’ve gotten so upset over pie crusts that my husband has to take over. I have pretended that “it’s supposed to look rustic” so many times that it’s shameful.

But I did this all by myself! (Cue the squealing and jumping around.)

Cinnamon Twist Bread

You’ve got to try this too! Because, really and truly, if I can do this, a nine year old can probably do this.

For real.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

It starts out with flour, sugar and salt.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Water and yeast.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Which combine into dough.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

And then rest.

Up until that point, I can manage without any problems. Here is where things usually get tricky for me.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Cinnamon Twist Bread

The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle. (And yes, this is really my attempt at a rectangle shape. I swear I did not fail kindergarten.)

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Then you just spread on some butter, and sprinkle it with a heavy layer of cinnamon and sugar. (Don’t be like me. Use more butter and make sure your cinnamon sugar goes much closer to the edges.)

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Cinnamon Twist Bread

And then you roll it up as tightly as you can. With practice, I’ll get a tighter roll. This was ok, but not great. (I was already freaking out by this point, but trying to keep it together.)

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Then transfer the roll to parchment paper, and cut it down the middle with a sharp knife. Make sure you leave about an inch at the top uncut.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

I couldn’t get pictures of me twisting the bread, because I was afraid that if I paused to take a picture it would be ruined and I’d cry again. So! All you have to do is twist each side a little so that the layers are facing the ceiling, and then cross the strands over each other all the way to the bottom. Then just tuck the ends under the loaf.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Like so. And then let it rest. Then all you have to do is brush the outside with an egg wash and bake.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Voila!

This is best served warm, and on the day you make it. We ate it plain, but my son suggested that this bread should be frosted like a cinnamon roll. Do what makes you happy.

Cinnamon Twist Bread
Makes one loaf

3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
3-4 tbsp butter, at room temperature and very soft
cinnamon sugar
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

  • Combine the yeast and warm water, and allow it to activate for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Turn the mixer on for about a minute to mix the dry ingredients.
  • Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients with the mixer on low, and turn the mixer up to medium speed for about 5 to 7 minutes. You might have to use a scraper to get the dough off of the dough hook during mixing.
  • Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about an hour in a warm spot. It should double in size.
  • Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface. You’re going for a nice big rectangle, about 12 inches by 15 inches.
  • Spread the butter onto the dough, going almost all the way to the edges. Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar.
  • Start at one short edge and tightly roll the dough to the other short edge. Transfer the roll to a sheet of parchment with the seam on bottom.
  • Cut the roll in half, starting about an inch from the top, all the way to the bottom.
  • Turn the cut side up towards the ceiling, and tightly cross the strands over each other until you get to the bottom. Tuck the ends under the loaf.
  • Let the bread complete a second rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Brush the bread with the egg wash, and then transfer the bread and parchment paper to a baking stone or sheet.
  • Bake the bread for about 20 minutes, and then turn the heat up to 425F. Bake until the top turns a nice golden brown.

Dreamboat

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you My KitchenAid Stand Mixer:
Homemade Raviolis
(The folks at KitchenAid have no idea I exist, and I’m not getting paid or perked in any way. I’m just seriously in love with my mixer, and my amazing husband who gave it to me. This is a total gush post.)

Remember last Christmas when I yelled at family? This year was stunned silence. Speechless awe.

Yeah, Nick gets me. He knows what’s what.

And this mixer is what, let me tell you!

‘Cause it has attachments, you see.
Homemade Raviolis
Like pasta rollers.

And my talented husband knows how to work that roller.

Sure, the filling tasted amazing. And balsamic brown butter sauce is epic. But paper thin pasta rolled to perfection just can’t be beaten. Or competed with, really.

And making cookies with this mixer? No sweat.

Literally! I don’t have to mix the chocolate chips in by hand anymore!

You know how some people choose a certain car or shoe designer to fall head over heels for?

For me, it’s this mixer. And I anticipate we’ll spend many happy years together.

Now it just needs a name…

When the holidays are over

Pork Roast
You put away the decorations. Take down the lights.

Pork Roast
Pack up the tree shaped cookie cutters,

Pork Roast
and tuck away the red sprinkles.

Pork Roast
It’s kind of sad.
More than kind of.

Pork Roast
Just taking down all the Christmas lights leaves me feeling a bit dim.

Pork Roast
It’s important to find something warm and comforting to look forward to.

Pork Roast
Something to make your spirits bright, even as you stack the last of the storage boxes in the garage.

Pork Roast
Knowing that dinner’s waiting in the crock pot when you get home is pretty darn comforting.

I know, I know. “Pork roast? Come on, Jo; two weeks ago I was gorging myself on honey glazed ham and pierogies.
Roast is so…not festive.”

I hear ya! I do. But I think what I need now is comfort food. And the added luxury of not having to come up with a full dinner menu is so nice. It makes the transition out of the holiday mindset just a little easier.

So. Merry…happy…Thursday.

Pork Roast in the Crockpot
Serves 4 with leftovers

I have to admit, I did not use a recipe or write down what I was throwing into the crockpot, so this is an estimation to the best of my memory. Feel free to add or subtract whatever spices you prefer.

2 pound pork shoulder (or other cut of meat suitable for roast)
1 quart beef or vegetable stock (enough to cover the meat in the crockpot)
1 medium onion, sliced into big chunks
1 or 2 large turnips, sliced into half-rounds
6-8 red potatoes, cut into evenly sized chunks
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
Rosemary, basil, salt, pepper, oregeno and thyme to taste

Pour the stock into your crockpot and add all the seasonings. Stir gently to combine. (If you like a thicker, more gravy-like sauce at the end, add 2-3 tbsp of cornstarch to the stock with the rest of the seasonings.)
Cut the pork in half, or smaller, to ensure that it’s covered almost completely in the stock. Then add the vegetables on top of the roast.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours. You just need to make sure the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160F.

Be a Good Cookie — Winner!

OXO Spatula

And the winner is…

Random number generator

Susan Scalise!! Her favorite kind of cookie is homemade peanut butter cookies.

Congratulations Susan! Please email me your address at mommajo28 {at} gmail {dot} com

Thank you to everyone who entered, and Happy New Year everyone!

Merry Christmas!

It’s been pretty quiet around here lately.  Let me explain.

My laptop died.  You know, the one I’ve had since 2007?  My beloved, solid as a rock, ancient-but-still-totally-usable 2007 Mac Book?

One day it was totally fine, and the next, gone.  Just gone!  It was seriously upsetting, and I may have cried big crocodile tears every day for a week.

So, there I was with pictures in my camera, an exciting blog post to write, and no computer.  In a stroke of pure generosity, my husband wiped his iPad and handed it over to me so that I could at least feed my Pinterest addiction and upload photos.  Unfortunately, writing an entire blog post with photos on an iPad is a little bit more than difficult.  Probably doable, but more time consuming than I could manage.

Oh, did I mention that this was just before Nutcracker?

Yeah, I had a few things going on to distract me from my laptop woes.

So after the Nutcracker, when visions of Sugar Plums had cleared from my head, I started to really think about how I was going to make this work.  Sure, I could find a cheaper laptop than a Mac, but that’s what I wanted, and really, if I’m going to drop hundreds of dollars on something, it darn well better be exactly what I want.  Why spend $600 on a laptop if I’m going to have to do it again in a year or two?  I might as well make an extra investment and not have to do it again for a long, hopefully really long time. (By the way, I’m not trying to advertise for anyone here, I’m just a huge Apple fan-girl and can’t help but gush.  I’m certainly not getting paid or perked in any way.)

I did the calculations.  Even if I saved up $100 every month (ha!), it was still going to take me at least 10 months before I got a new laptop.  I’m no stranger to sacrifice and saving, but almost a year of borrowing someone’s computer to write blog posts was a bit daunting.

But on Christmas morning, Santa totally came through for me.
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I think I scared my in-laws when I made that first tear in the wrapping paper. I may have screamed something like “SHUT UP!!”  Sorry GG, I was more than a little surprised.

I don’t know how those elves managed, or how Santa pulled this off without even giving off the slightest hint! My Christmas spirit was strong to begin with, but this just put it over the top.

It was absolutely perfect timing, because tomorrow I have a giveaway to announce.  It’s not a laptop, but it will definitely make a difference for someone.  Let’s keep this spirit of giving alive, shall we?

By the way, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah.  Any other “SHUT UP” inducing gifts out there? Did you get to spend time with your loved ones?

See you tomorrow!

Pumpkin Pie

How do you know when something’s deliciously awesome?

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When there are no leftovers.

Remember the homemade pumpkin puree?
I mixed it with this stuff
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Then added more stuff
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And then poured it into a pie crust.
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It became something serious.
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Something warm and seasonal.
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Just in time for Thanksgiving!
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Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Eating Well

1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
14 oz can low fat sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 unbaked pie crust

First prepare your pie crust. Did you know: If you roll out your pie crust between two sheets of plastic wrap, you don’t have to flour your rolling surface and rolling pin? It also sticks together and won’t crack!! Why didn’t I know this?!

Preheat your oven to 425F.
Mix the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and salt together in a bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk and eggs, mix until smooth. It will be pretty runny, but that’s perfect. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.
After the 15 minutes, lower the temperature of your oven to to 350F and bake until set, 35-45 more minutes (my oven gets tired partway through and stops baking. It might only take your pie another 30 minutes to set, so just keep an eye on it).
I had to cover the crust with foil pretty early on to keep it from burning, but after that it was just a matter of letting the center bake completely. You’ll know it’s done when the entire top of the pie has darkened and the center isn’t very jiggly. You can also do the knife/skewer test, but I didn’t want to put a hole in the top of my pie.

Serve this still slightly warm, or chilled if you’re baking this ahead of time. Make sure to whip some cream to go along with your pie!

P.S. What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Do you go totally classical and have turkey, mashed potatoes, etc? Or are you a rebel and do something like lamb-stuffed squash? How about the vegetarians–any mint quinoa or paella? Help me plan my Thanksgiving!

Say you have a pumpkin…

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A cute one, much like this 6ish pound sugar pumpkin.

What would you do with it?

Carve it?

Roast the seeds?
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You could do that, but here’s something else you could do…

Cut off the top
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Cut it in half
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Scoop out the seeds and the stringy bits
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Place the pumpkin cut-side down on a greased baking sheet
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Roast it for about an hour and twenty minutes (less, for a smaller pumpkin) at 350F
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Make sure it’s incredibly tender
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Scrape out the mushy flesh
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Maniacally play with the roasted skin.

Ok, that was just me.

And, ewww.

Transfer the pumpkin to a food processor
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And create homemade, fresh pumpkin puree.
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Hmmmm, now what do you think I can do with this?
😉