Monkeying Around

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined.”
 —Henry David Thoreau

Today is the first Monday of my new adventure as a stay-at-home copyeditor/writer (Friday was actually my first day “on the job”). My favorite part so far — not having to get up at 6:30 with the alarm. I can sleep until I’m ready to wake up, which so far has been around 8:30. Such a wonderful perk!

Other benefits? I get to spread my work out over the day — working a couple hours at a time and then “breaking” to go wash some dishes or throw a load of laundry in the washer or dryer or run up to the store. It’s a pace much more conducive to creativity, and it allows me to make sure that I am at my best when focus and diligence are required (which is all the time with editing).

Working from home will also allow me to be more flexible about fitting in a daily devotional time, exercise, craft time, and time off with my husband, and it gives me more time to monkey around in the kitchen trying new recipes that I can then share with you!

In honor of this sweet benefit, the recipe I decided to try this past weekend was Healthified Monkey Bread from EatBetterAmerica.com. It was so easy to make and soooo delicious! I will definitely be making this again.

The ingredients: sugar/cinnamon, refrigerated biscuits, chopped pecans or walnuts, caramel topping, and vanilla. That’s it. You can click on the blue link above for the recipe specifics, but I think once you make it one time, you won’t even need to measure the ingredients; you’ll be able to simply throw it all together and still create a masterpiece. Notice that I used a pre-mixed cinnamon sugar combo, and I didn’t use fat-free ingredients as listed in the recipe. I will probably try the fat-free next time; I simply used what I already had on hand. You can decide for yourself which you prefer.

Preparation: Pour the cinnamon and sugar into a 1-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag. Open up the cans of dough and separate the biscuits. Cut each biscuit into quarters. (I placed about eight quarters at a time into the sugar mixture, held the bag closed and shook the bag to coat the biscuit pieces.)

Once biscuit pieces are coated, begin to layer them with pecan (or walnut) pieces in a bundt or fluted tube cake pan. I used a stone Pampered Chef pan.

When layering is complete, mix caramel topping with vanilla. Since my caramel sauce had been in the fridge, I took the lid off and microwaved it for about 20 seconds first. Then, I poured it into a small bowl with the vanilla. After mixing, I drizzled it over the biscuit pieces.

With this pan, and my oven, it only took about 30 minutes rather than the 40 – 45 suggested in the recipe. I recommend checking it early.

Now you just have to have the patience to let it cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before you invert it onto a serving plate. Since it is best served warm, dig in and enjoy immediately. (It does warm up well in the microwave if you have any left over the next day.)

We took this over to my sister-in-law’s house to share and it was a hit. To those of you whom I used to work with — I’m thinking about making this for you when I come to visit sometime. Meanwhile, don’t be afraid to try the recipe yourself. Even if you are not a regular baker, you CAN do this. 

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Experiments in Baking

Almond Flour Cinnamon Roll

This past weekend, I had some extra time on my hands and some recipes I’d been wanting to try, so I have a few treats to share with you. The first delicious dish (that I’m proudest of) is my Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls. I told you about them in my Sharing It Forward post. I had never used almond flour before, so I want to say thank you to my friend Ben Hulet for bringing me the flour and to his wife Jenni for her awesome recipe.

Ingredients for Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

If you’re new to baking, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe, as the consistency of the almond flour dough requires a bit of a gentle touch. And you need to be careful to use room temperature eggs with the coconut oil or the oil will harden. But if you’ve baked a thing or two in the past and are open to trying something new (as well as following directions), these rolls are the bomb!

Actually, they taste more like a light, sweet biscuit stuffed with pecans and cinnamon. Mmmm mmmm.

Baked Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

We tried one topped with vanilla glaze and one drizzled with honey; both were good. But when I took the leftovers in to work, some people ate them with no added topping at all. And they loved them. (Part of me wanted to keep them all to myself, but not the part that wants to get/stay in shape.) It was definitely a great treat to share. And a successful experiment for sure.

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Ingredients for Apple Pecan Crescent RollsNow, if you’re looking for a simple but tasty dessert to bake, I’ve got just the thing for you. I found it on Taste of Home’s website.  It’s an Apple Walnut Crescent Roll. I didn’t have walnuts, but I had pecans, so I substituted. You can use either one. Your other ingredients are apples, refrigerated crescent rolls, cinnamon, sugar, and butter (raisins are optional). That’s it. (Although the picture shows raisins, I didn’t end up adding them to my recipe.)

You basically peel and core a few apples. Cut them into chunks. Separate the crescent dough. Sprinkle it with cinnamon/sugar. Roll up the apples in the crescent dough (starting at the small end). Drizzle them with just a little butter and top with nuts. You could also add a little more cinnamon/sugar if you want. Then bake. See … simple. (For the complete recipe/instructions, click on the link above.)

Apple Pecan Crescent Rolls

We shared these with Bart’s sister’s family, and I still had some left to bring in to work. I ate one at room temperature and it was good, but they really are best when served warm. And don’t they sound like they’d be great with a side of vanilla ice cream? Yum!

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Ingredients for Cheesy Quinoa BitesFor my last baking experiment, I tried quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) for the the first time, as part of my quest to try new, healthier foods. I found an image on Pinterest for Cheesy Quinoa Bites several weeks ago that sounded interesting (hey, anything with cheese in it has got to be good). I clicked on the photo to find the source (SoVeryBlessed.com), and I saved the recipe to try when I had time.

That turned out to be this past Thursday. To tell you how it went, I’m going to fess up, and share my ditzy moment with you. The recipe called for 2 cups of cooked quinoa. I had never made it before, so I read the package to see how to cook it. It said to mix 1 cup of quinoa with 1-1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Well, I needed 2 cups, right? So, I doubled it. Can you see where this is going?

If you are familiar with quinoa, then you know it is like rice in that it bulks up quite a bit in cooking. So, I now have several cups of cooked quinoa to work with. Turns out it makes a pretty good hot breakfast (especially mixed with a little sweet cream), and I’ve also mixed some up with black beans, corn, and a little lime juice, which I’ll be trying tomorrow.

Anyway, back to the bites … I thought they were okay, but I wasn’t totally impressed. However, my co-workers (who  get to try out my crazy kitchen experiments) seemed to like them. I think I will try making them again, but next time, I’ll use fresh grated Parmesan cheese or maybe even some cheddar – I think it needs something with a little more bite. I’ve still got half a bag of quinoa left. (I thought it was kind of expensive when I first bought it, but turns out – a little goes a long way.)

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This week, I wanted to provide some inexpensive dinner ideas for one of my nieces.  There were some listed in the June issue of Good Housekeeping (is it just me or is it crazy that they come out so early), but they’re not available online yet, so I’ll share them later. For now, I found some Budget Dinner Recipes from Kraft Foods that I thought I’d post a link to. I haven’t tried any of them yet, so can’t recommend them specifically, but if you make any, let me know.

I also found my next “have to try” recipe. It’s called Queso Taco Pasta Bake from Picky-Palate.com. It sounds delicious. So far, I have pinned the photo to my Food Favorites board. I need to go back later and copy/print the recipe. Of course, I will let you know how it turns out when I make it. If you make it before me, please come back and share how it worked for you.

Well, I think that’s it for today. I apologize for not getting this posted this  morning. We’re temporarily down to one computer, and Bart had to get some work done last night. Hope I’m leaving you with some good food for thought and you have a wonderfully simple yet full week.