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12 posts from October 2020

10/31/2020

~Stirring the Pot: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~

IMG_6608In my kitchen, cold weather is soup and stew weather, and, once the frost is on the pumpkin I like to make my soups and stews in slow-simmered big batches.  After we've enjoyed one hearty warm-us-up meal, I freeze the rest in two-quart containers, so we can slurp soups and stews several more times until Spring comes.  Chicken vegetable soup, beef stew, and, ham and bean soup are my on my family's short-list of favorites.  For the most part, when making soup or stew, "chicken is chicken" and "beef is beef", meaning:  they're almost self-explanatory.  That said, when making soups or stews that requires ham, I'll choose to use the boney, more-flavorful smoked shanks or hocks over a meatier chunk or a few slices of smoked ham every time.   

Time to define & discuss smoked ham shanks & ham hocks.

6a0120a8551282970b01a5117ecf09970cA bit about ham shanks and ham hocks:  Bony cuts of fatty meat taken from the legs and near the feet of the pig, with the shanks being the meatier of the two.

- Ham Shank

- Ham Hock

Smoked ham shanks & ham hocks can be used interchangeably.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c873a443970bThe shank refers to a fairly meaty part just below the pork shoulder (if it is the front of the hog) or the hip (if it's from the back of the hog).  The hock refers to a much bonier cut taken from just above the feet.  Both have a thick, tough skin (which is left on) and contain a lot of tendons, ligaments and fat.  They contain a lot of collagen too, which adds silkiness to whatever they are cooked in.  All of this means they require a long, slow, moist-heat 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1fd6cd2970cmethod of cooking, like stewing or braising, to make them edible.  They are primarily added to dishes to impart smoky flavor, not substance.

Unlike ham, neither contain enough meat to be the focal point of dinner. Instead, after cooking, the skin is discarded, the meat is removed from the bone and is added to hearty dishes like soups and stews containing beans or peas, greens, 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091713b3970dand/or potatoes or rice.  

Hocks and shanks sold in American markets are almost always cured and smoked in the same manner as ham, but, the degree to which they are smoked does vary.  I've never encountered any that have been over-smoked, but, if you do, soak them in cold water for an hour or two to leach out some of the overly-smokey intensity. They're both relatively cheap, but, I prefer the slightly more expensive, meatier ham shank to the bonier ham hock.  When I find them on sale, I always buy several because:  they freeze great.

While this post is about smoked ham shanks and hocks, if you do come across unsmoked ones, pick up a few of those too.  While smoked ham shanks and hocks are preferred when preparing soups and stews, unsmoked ham shanks and hocks are perfect for stovetop, or stovetop/oven braising.  Cook the unsmoked ones in the same manner you'd cook beef, lamb or veal shanks. Served atop a bed of creamy, roasted-garlic mashed potatoes alongside a scoop of buttery green beans, fork-tender unsmoked shanks or hocks make for a luscious Wintertime dinner.

IMG_6525"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/28/2020

~ Defining the Differences between Soups and Stews ~

IMG_6458When I pull out my big, 20-24-quart stockpots, it's officially Fall.  Why?  When it's chilly outside, it's time to cook up a storm inside.  Why?  When one lives in the Northeast, it's a wise cook who has a freezer containing some thaw-heat-and-eat meals for those snowy days when a quick trip to the grocery store is not in the forecast.  Yes indeed, when the frost is on the pumpkin, I don't mind spending an afternoon at the stovetop preparing one of the two favorite things I cook in big batches (for "freezer meals"): a stockpot full of luscious, heartwarming, soup or stew.

What exactly is the difference between a soup or a stew?

Soup:  If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, or, if you've thickened it in some manner after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, used a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch, flour or eggs), thick, meaning: having a stew-like consistency.  Soups in general (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency.  In many cases they can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes.  Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish, main course or dessert, but, are always, without exception, served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.  

Stew:  If you've cooked/sautéed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors.  Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course.  Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.  Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, egg noodles, etc.) and turned into a knife and fork meal.

IMG_6525"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/25/2020

~ Tips for Big Batch Eat-Some Freeze-Some Cooking ~

IMG_6458If you've ever envisioned yourself being a restaurant chef, be careful what you wish for:  the pots are big, the load is heavy.  There's more.  As a home cook, in terms of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing, you won't have any line cooks to perform those menial tasks for you.  Don't get me wrong (I'm not trying to talk you out of this), big batch cooking isn't necessarily hard, but, more-often than not, it is time consuming -- in many instances, it's prudent to do the majority of the prep work on one day and the actual cooking the next, so, be sure to schedule enough time.  Past that, it's also necessary to invest in some big-batch restaurant-sized equipment.  When armed with the right recipe, the right mindset, and the right equipment, the big batch reward is great.  That said, preparing a big batch of almost anything is different from regular cooking.  Read on:  

Doubling or tripling solid or liquid ingredients measured in weight or volume is the easy part -- simply get out your calculator and "do the math".  Fats used to coat the bottom of a pot or pan will increase just enough to coat the bottom of a bigger pot or pan.  Wine or alcohol used to deglaze a pot or a pan, will increase slightly, by about one-quarter, meaning:  1 cup wine is now 1 1/4 cups wine.  All that said, more-often-than-not, when converting a regular recipe to a big batch, adjustments to the seasonings need to be made, meaning: unless you are following a recipe that is specifically written for a big batch (like my recipes are), start by adding slightly less than the math calculations suggest (example: if doubling a recipe, instead of jumping from the called for 1 teaspoon salt directly to 2 teaspoons salt, start by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and, if tripling a recipe, instead of jumping from the called for 1 teaspoon salt to 3 teaspoons salt, add 2 teaspoons -- it's a not-overly-seasoned, but, adequately-seasoned starting point).  After that, taste, as soon as you can and as often as you can along the way.  You can always add more spices, you can't remove them.  In terms of time and temperature when doubling or tripling a recipe, while the temperature will remain the same, the timing will not -- more food will take slightly longer to cook (up to one-third longer, meaning: expect 3-6 minutes to turn into 4-8 minutes, etc.).  Record ALL of your results and you'll never have to do it again.

To cut down on mishaps that can cause a voluminous, sometimes expensive, list of ingredients from going to waste, as mentioned above, it's super-important to invest in the proper large-capacity equipment.  Why?  A pot or pan that is even slightly too small will cause a boil over, a spoon or spatula without a long enough handle can cause a serious burn to the skin, and, while your trying to clean up the hot mess or dress the wound, the food can overcook, scorch or burn. In all seriousness, if you don't have access to the equipment, don't undertake the task.  

IMG_6525"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copywright 2020) 

10/23/2020

~A Big Batch of Beef Stew -- Eat Some, Freeze Some~

IMG_4541When I pull out my big, 20-24-quart stockpots, it's officially Fall.  Why?  When it's chilly outside, it's time to cook up a storm inside.  Why?  When one lives in the Northeast, it's a wise cook who has a freezer containing some thaw-heat-and-eat meals for those snowy days when a quick trip to the grocery store is not in the forecast.  Yes indeed, when the frost is on the pumpkin, I don't mind spending an afternoon at the stovetop preparing one of the three carnivorous things I cook in big batches (for "freezer meals"): red-meat-based red pasta sauce, chili con carne, and, beef stew.

To sorta quote Mark Bittman (author of How to Cook Everything) "the appliance that can best save money, reduce food waste, and, get home-cooked meals on the table faster, is the freezer". 

IMG_6458Let's begin by discussing the difference between soup & stew:

Soup:  If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, or, if you've thickened it in some manner after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, used a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch, flour or eggs), thick, meaning: having a stew-like consistency.  Soups in general (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency.  In many cases they can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes.  Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish, main course or dessert, but, are always, without exception, served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.  

Stew:  If you've cooked/sautéed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors.  Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course.  Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.  Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, egg noodles, etc.) and turned into a knife and fork meal.

IMG_6525What to consider before beginning to cook in big batches:

If you've ever envisioned yourself being a restaurant chef, be careful what you wish for:  the pots are big, the load is heavy.  There's more.  As a home cook, in terms of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing, you won't have any line cooks to perform those menial tasks for you.  Don't get me wrong (I'm not trying to talk you out of this), big batch cooking isn't necessarily hard, but, more-often than not, it is time consuming -- in many instances, it's prudent to do the majority of the prep work on one day and the actual cooking the next, so, be sure to schedule enough time.  Past that, it's also necessary to invest in some big-batch restaurant-sized equipment.  When armed with the right recipe, the right mindset, and the right equipment, the big batch reward is great. That said, preparing a big batch of almost anything is different from regular cooking.  Read on:  

Doubling or tripling solid or liquid ingredients measured in weight or volume is the easy part -- simply get out your calculator and "do the math".  Fats used to coat the bottom of a pot or pan will increase just enough to coat the bottom of a bigger pot or pan.  Wine or alcohol used to deglaze a pot or a pan, will increase slightly, by about one-quarter, meaning:  1 cup wine is now 1 1/4 cups wine.  All that said, more-often-than-not, when converting a regular recipe to a big batch, adjustments to the seasonings need to be made, meaning: unless you are following a recipe that is specifically written for a big batch (like my recipes are), start by adding slightly less than the math calculations suggest (example: if doubling a recipe, instead of jumping from the called for 1 teaspoon salt directly to 2 teaspoons salt, start by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and, if tripling a recipe, instead of jumping from the called for 1 teaspoon salt to 3 teaspoons salt, add 2 teaspoons -- it's a not-overly-seasoned, but, adequately-seasoned starting point).  After that, taste, as soon as you can and as often as you can along the way.  You can always add more spices, you can't remove them.  In terms of time and temperature when doubling or tripling a recipe, while the temperature will remain the same, the timing will not -- more food will take slightly longer to cook (up to one-third longer, meaning: expect 3-6 minutes to

To cut down on mishaps that can cause a voluminous, sometimes expensive, list of ingredients from going to waste, as mentioned above, it's super-important to invest in the proper large-capacity equipment.  Why?  A pot or pan that is even slightly too small will cause a boil over, a spoon or spatula without a long enough handle can cause a serious burn to the skin, and, while your trying to clean up the hot mess or dress the wound, the food can overcook, scorch or burn. In all seriousness, if you don't have access to the equipment, don't undertake the task.

To make a big batch of my old-fashioned beef stew:

IMG_6462For prepping, dredging & lightly-browning the beef:

7 1/2-8  pounds 3/4"-1"-cubed beef chuck roast or chuck steak, from 1, 9-10 pound chuck roast or 3-4 large chuck steaks

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper

1  cup Wondra quick-mixing flour for sauces and gravy

8  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_6492For preparing the stew base:

2-2 1/2  pounds 3/4"-1" chopped yellow or sweet onion

2-2 1/2 pounds 3/4"-1" chopped white button mushroom caps

1  cup port wine

5  quarts beef stock, homemade or unsalted store-bought stock

2  12-ounce cans tomato paste

6  packets Herb-Ox granulated beef bouillon

"the seasonings", aka, 1 tablespoon each:  garlic powder, dried parsley flakes, rosemary leaves and thyme leaves, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper, and, 6 whole bay leaves

IMG_6540For the add-in vegetables:

3-3 1/2  pounds peeled and 3/4"-1" coined carrots

1 1/2-2  pounds 1/2" sliced celery 

2  10-ounce bags finely-shredded green cabbage

6  pounds peeled and 3/4"-1" cubed gold potatoes

1/2-3/4  cup minced fresh parsley, for garnishing soup

6a0120a8551282970b0240a487968f200c 6a0120a8551282970b0240a487968f200c 6a0120a8551282970b0240a487968f200c~Step 1.  Using a large chef's knife, cube the beef as directed, discarding any large fat pockets you will find along the way.  To dredge the beef, place the flour, salt and coarse-grind black pepper in a 2-gallon food storage bag.  Toss to incorporate the salt and pepper throughout the flour.  In three batches, add the beef cubes to the seasoned flour, tossing to coat the beef cubes on all sides after each addition.

IMG_6475 IMG_6475 IMG_6475 IMG_6475 IMG_6475~Step 2.  In a 20-24-quart stockpot, over low heat, melt the butter into the oil.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add all the dredged beef cubes. Using a long-handled slotted spatula, to keep the meat moving around, sauté until ever-so-slightly-browned and swimming in a flavorful gravy, about 12-15 minutes.  Use the slotted spatula to transfer the beef to a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole, leaving most of the flavorful brown fond in the bottom of pot.  Set beef aside.

IMG_6487 IMG_6487 IMG_6487 IMG_6487~Step 3.  Add the chopped onions and chopped mushroom caps to the stockpot.   Give them a thorough stir and continue to sauté, over medium- medium-high until onion is soft and translucent but not browned or browning, and mushrooms have lost about three-quarters of their volume and exuded almost all of their earthy flavor into the mixture, 12-15 minutes -- oh yum.

IMG_6508 IMG_6508 IMG_6508 IMG_6515 IMG_6515 IMG_6515 IMG_6515 IMG_6535~Step 4.  Add the port wine.  Using the spatula, continue to sauté, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot with spatula until all of the luscious brown fond has released itself into the mixture, 1-2 minutes. Continue to simmer another 1-2 minutes, perhaps 3.  Don't rush it. Return the beef to the pot. Add and stir in the beef stock, tomato paste, granulated bouillon and seasonings. Reduce heat to a gentle, steady simmer, and continue to simmer, uncovered, 1 hour.

IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543 IMG_6543~Step 5.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Add and stir in the coined carrots, sliced celery and shredded cabbage.  When the mixture returns to a simmer, reduce heat to a gentle steady simmer and continue to simmer, uncovered, 12-15 minutes.  Use this time to peel and chop the potatoes.  Add and stir in the potatoes.  Return to a gentle-steady simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, an additional for 45-60 minutes, until carrots, celery and potatoes are all perfectly-cooked through.  Remove from heat, cover pot and allow to steep for 1-2 hours prior to serving, or, portioning into freezer-and-microwave-safe food storage containers.  Refrigerate containers of soup prior to freezing.

A perfect stew in every way -- 18 quarts of future meal goodness: 

IMG_4560A Big Batch of Beef Stew -- Eat Some, Freeze Some:  Recipe yields 18 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 2-gallon food storage bag; 20-24 quart stockpot, preferably stainless steel; long-handled slotted spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 1-cup measuring container; vegetable peeler; long-handled slotted spoon; soup ladle 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4b106d2200d-800wiCook's Note:  If you take the time to compare today's recipe for big batch beef stew with my regular recipe for ~ Old-Fashioned Beef Stew with Carrots & Potatoes ~, you will notice the adjustments I made to volumes, seasonings, and, cooking times.  Experts will tell you baking is a science and cooking is not.  While true for weeknight cooking -- not true for big batches.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/20/2020

~ RedHot Buffalo-Style Bread-Machine Pizza Dough ~

IMG_6581Seriously?  Yes, seriously.  Thanks to two great store-bought dry seasoning blends, Frank's RedHot Original Seasoning and Frank's RedHot Ranch Seasoning, you really can season your pizza dough in true Buffalo wing style, AND, trust me when I tell you, it makes one (actually two) awesome crusts for any Buffalo-style chicken pizza, or my recipe for Buffalo-Style chicken pizza.  Who wouldn't want to add authentic, full-throttle Buffalo-flavor to the pizza dough too!

IMG_63261 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

2  tablespoons Frank's RedHotRanch seasoning blend

2  tablespoons Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend

1  packet granulated dry yeast

IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329~Step 1.  To make the Buffalo-seasoned bread-machine bread loaf, in the following order, in the pan of the breach machine, place the warm water and olive oil.  Add the flour, salt and sugar, followed by the RedHot Ranch seasoning and RedHot original seasoning.  Do not stir.  Using your index finger, make a small, semi-shallow indentation on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep as to reach the liquid below.  Add the yeast to the indentation.

IMG_6341 IMG_6341 IMG_6341 IMG_6341~Step 2.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine.  Plug the machine in, select the "pizza dough" cycle.  Push start.  Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the kneading, rising or baking process.  Don't do it.  Fifty-five minutes later, hen machine signals it's done, open the lid.  You will have 2 pounds, 4-ounces of ready-to-use Buffalo-seasoned pizza dough.

IMG_6593 IMG_6593~ Step 3. To form the pizza dough into pizza crusts, using a paper towel, oil 2, 12" round pizza pans or 2, 12" x 9" rectangular pans with about 2 tablespoons olive oil on each pan. Place one ball of dough (1 pound each) on each pan and allow to rest, about 10-15 minutes -- to give the gluten time to relax.  Thirty minutes is ok too. Pat and press dough evenly across bottoms and evenly up sides of pans. I do this in 3 parts taking 15-20 minutes, allowing dough to rest 5 minutes each time before patting and pressing.

Proceed w/any recipe for Buffalo-Style Chicken Pizza

IMG_5966RedHot Buffalo-Style Bread-Machine Pizza Dough:  Recipe yields 2 1/4 pounds pizza dough/enough for 2, 12" round pizzas/6-8 slices each pizza.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container; bread machine; 2, 12"-round pizza pans.

IMG_6454Cook's Note:  To take this bread-machine pizza dough recipe one step further, and bake it into a loaf, choose the "white bread" (instead of "pizza dough") and let the machine bake it.  It makes great RedHot-Ranch Croutons for my RedHot Buffalo Chicken Chef Salad.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/18/2020

~Buffalo-Chicken Chef w/RedHot-Ranch & Croutons~

IMG_6447I fell in love with the chef salad in September of 1974.  I had just moved to Happy Valley in August, and, my first friend, a gal I worked with, invited me to lunch, at the now defunct Autoport on South Atherton Street.  "Try their turkey chef salad", Sally said.  A short few minutes later, two big rimmed-bowls arrived, and, atop the requisite lettuce, they were full of goodies: strips of turkey breast and Swiss cheese, hard-cooked egg wedges, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, and, diced onions.  There's more.  Every salad came with a warm, mini-loaf of house-baked bread and a crock of honey butter.  For decades, every time I invited a friend to lunch, I took him or her there.

Girly pub grub?  You bet.  Meet my Buffalo-chicken chef salad:

IMG_6454In my food world, if I could conjure up the ideal, somewhat-healthy, girly pub-grub menu item, it would be a chef's-type Buffalo-style-chicken salad.  It would be served to me while sitting in my favorite sportsbar, in front of a straight-out-of-the-tap frosty brew with a college football game on the flatscreen.  Nothing fancy, just a bowl full of crisp lettuce, diced carrots and sliced celery tossed with salty blue cheese crumbles and topped with strips of thin-sliced Boar's Head, Blazing Buffalo-style chicken, plus, crunchy, Buffalo-spiced croutons.  There's more.  When it comes to dressing my salad, it's got to be full of RedHot Buffalo wing-sauce flavor blended with the creamy-dreamy coolness that only Hidden Valley Ranch dressing can offer -- the best of both worlds.

If you're willing to go the extra mile to make the croutons:

6a0120a8551282970b026be41c06e9200dOne could call me obsessed for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  In my defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't?  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned croutons scattered atop an ingredient-specific salad or soup that speaks volumes about the cook, and, Buffalo-style is a prime example.

... don't drop the ball when it comes to the dressing:

IMG_6405My RedHot-Ranch dressing, perfect for this ingredient-specific salad, takes less than five minutes mix together.  It's a simple concoction of 3/4 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing, 1/4 cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic, and, 1 1/2 teaspoons dehydrated minced onion.  I like the ratio of 3/4 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing to 1/4 cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce. That said, if you want the dressing spicier, feel free to adjust it to suit your palate.  Example: 1/2 cup dressing to 1/2 cup wing sauce.

It's time to make my Blazing-Buffalo chef-style salad!

IMG_6418For each main-dish Buffalo-chicken chef's-style salad:

3  cups torn iceberg lettuce leaves, tossed with (see next line item):

1/4  cup each:  thin-sliced carrots, thin-sliced celery, thin-sliced red onion

4  ounces thin-sliced Boar's Head blazing-Buffalo chicken breast

4  tablespoons Boar's Head blue cheese crumbles

a generous drizzle RedHot-Ranch dressing

a generous scattering Buffalo-Ranch-seasoned croutons

IMG_6423 IMG_6423 IMG_6423 IMG_6423 IMG_6423~Step 1.  To assemble each salad, toss together the lettuce, carrots, celery and onion and place in a large, shallow salad bowl.  Scatter the blue cheese crumbles atop the lettuce mix.  Arrange the Buffalo-chicken breast over the surface of the salad.  Drizzle generously with the RedHot-Ranch dressing, then garnish with a scattering of croutons.  Serve ASAP. 

Stick a fork in the girly chef salad that her guy loves her for:

IMG_6446Buffalo-Chicken Chef w/RedHot-Ranch & Croutons:  Recipe yields 1 cup dressing/6 cups croutons/4 main-dish salad servings.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container, bread machine, serrated bread knife, 12" nonstick skille and 2 large nonstick spoons (for making croutons); 1-cup measuring container and spoon (for making dressing); cutting board and chef's knife (for making salad) 

6a0120a8551282970b0263e96fd01a200bCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/15/2020

~Creamy RedHot-Ranch Buffalo-Style Salad Dressing~

IMG_6410In my food world, if I could conjure up the ideal, somewhat-healthy pub-grub menu item, it would be a chef's-type Buffalo-style-chicken salad.  It would be served to me while I was sitting in my favorite sportsbar, in front of a straight-out-of-the-tap frosty brew with a college football game on the flatscreen.  Nothing fancy, just a bowl full of crisp lettuce, diced carrots and sliced celery tossed with salty blue cheese crumbles and topped with strips of thin-sliced Boar's Head, Blazing Buffalo-style chicken, plus, crunchy,  Buffalo-spiced croutons.  There's more.  When it comes to dressing my salad, it's got to be full of RedHot Buffalo wing-sauce flavor blended with the creamy-dreamy coolness that only Hidden Valley Ranch dressing can offer -- the best of both worlds.

If you're willing to go the extra mile to make croutons...

IMG_6394One could call me obsessed for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  In my defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't?  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned croutons scattered atop an ingredient-specific salad or soup that speaks volumes about the cook, and, Buffalo-style is a prime example.

... don't drop the ball when it comes to the dressing!

IMG_5692For my RedHot Ranch salad dressing (yield: 1 generous cup):

*3/4  cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing

*1/4  cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce

2  tablespoons honey

1  teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1 1/2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

* Note:  When preparing the 1 cup of dressing, I like the ratio of 3/4 cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing to 1/4 cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce.  That said, if you want your dressing hotter (as in spicier), feel free to adjust it to suit your palate.  Example: 1/2 cup dressing to 1/2 cup wing sauce.

IMG_5693 IMG_5693 IMG_5693~ Step 1. To prepare the dressing, in a 1-cup measuring container, thoroughly stir all ingredients together.  Set aside, at room temperature, while prepping all ingredients for the croutons and the salad.

RedHot-Ranch Salad Dressing -- The best of both worlds: 

IMG_6417Creamy RedHot-Ranch Bufalo-Style Salad Dressing:  Recipe yields 1 generous cup dressing.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; spoon

6a0120a8551282970b026bde967366200cCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/13/2020

~ RedHot-Ranch Croutons for Buffalo Chicken Salad ~

IMG_6403One could call me obsessed, or perhaps off-my-rocker, for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  That said, in my own defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't I go the extra mile to make a great sandwich or salad even greater.  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned homemade bread or croutons used in an ingredient-specific sandwich or on an ingredient-specific salad that speaks volumes about the cook.

IMG_6390A bit about croutons in general: "Crouton" is our English word for any small piece of plain or seasoned, sliced or cubed, toasted or fried bread used to accompany or garnish soups, salads and other dishes.  It is derived from the French word "crouton" (kroo-tawn) which the French define as a small piece of bread or snack bread that is usually served with drinks.  "Croute" (kroot) is the French word for crust and "en croute" refers to food wrapped in or topped with a pastry crust then baked. Croutons are super-easy to make, plus they are the perfect use for almost any leftover bread (the exception being soft, cottony, white, sandwich-type bread).  My quick skillet method for preparing them produces a crispy, butter-flavored crouton on the outside with a slightly softer "chewy/al dente" center.  This differs from the lengthier oven method for preparing croutons (a low temperature for a longer period of time), which produces a crispy crouton throughout. 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4e0e80e200dA bit about bread-machine bread in general.  Bread baked in a bread machine is rectangular in shape.  No matter what size loaf you elect to bake (most machines give you 3 options: 1-pound loaf; 1 1/2-pound loaf; 2- pound loaf), they will all get baked in the shape of the standard-size pan that comes with that machine.  What is wrong with that?  Nothing.  Even though bread machine bread rises nicely and browns beautifully (all thanks to the many options the bread machine makes available to you), it "plainly" is not going to win any "bread beauty contests".  This is a give-and-take you will realize is well worth the sacrifice the moment you slice and taste the bread.  This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the machine-kneading) has been inserted into it. When making bread in a bread machine, the protocol for adding ingredients to the bread pan is: wet ingredients first, dry ingredients second (on top of wet ingredients), granulated yeast last.

IMG_63261 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

2  tablespoons Frank's RedHot Ranch seasoning blend

2  tablespoons Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend

1  packet granulated dry yeast

IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329~Step 1.  To make the Buffalo-seasoned bread-machine bread loaf, in the following order, in the pan of the breach machine, place the warm water and olive oil.  Add the flour, salt and sugar, followed by the RedHot Ranch seasoning and RedHot original seasoning.  Do not stir.  Using your index finger, make a small, semi-shallow indentation on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep as to reach the liquid below.  Add the yeast to the indentation.

IMG_6341 IMG_6341 IMG_6351 IMG_6351~Step 2.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine.  Plug the machine in, select the "white bread" cycle, followed by se the "light crust" option.  Push start.  Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the kneading, rising or baking process.  Don't do it.  When  machine signals bread is done, carefully open the lid.  Using a pot holder, remove the bread pan from machine by using the handle to lift it up and out.  Turn bread pan at a 30-45º angle and gently shake/slide the loaf out onto its side.  Turn loaf upright and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  In approximately three hours, you will have a two-pound loaf of somewhat spicy Buffalo-seasoned bread.

IMG_6359 IMG_6359 IMG_6359 IMG_6370 IMG_6370~Step 3.  To prepare the croutons, using a serrated bread knife, cut 1-pound of the bread (half of the bread loaf) into 3/4"-1" cubes. In a 12" skillet (preferably nonstick), melt 2 sticks salted butter over low heat. Stir 2 teaspoons each of Frank's RedHot Ranch seasoning blend and Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend into the melted butter.

IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376~Step 4.  Add all of the bread cubes to the pan.  Increase heat to medium.  Using two large nonstick spoons, gently stir and toss the bread cubes constantly, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  No melted butter will remain in the bottom of the pan, just a golden brown residue. Remove from heat and allow croutons to cool slightly in the pan, 10-15 minutes, to allow carryover heat to continue to crisp them.  Line a baking pan with 3-4 layers of paper towels, transfer croutons to pan and spread them in a single layer.  Set aside to cool completely. 

Store, uncovered, 1-2 days, while using in salads or soups:  

IMG_6394RedHot-Ranch Croutons for Buffalo Chicken Salad: Recipe yields 6 cups of cubed croutons.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; bread machine; serrated bread knife; 12" nonstick skillet; 2 large nonstick spoons

6a0120a8551282970b026bde967366200cCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/10/2020

~Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt, Caramel, Pecan Cookies~

IMG_6304When it comes to Toll House cookies, aka, chocolate chip cookies in general, there are two kinds of people:  those who add nuts (usually pecans or walnuts), and, those who do not.  I'm a nutty kinda gal.  My husband is not a nutty kinda guy.  There's more.  Our grandson is allergic to nuts, so, nuts of any kind are not in the cards when I'm baking cookies for him.  So, while today's cookies are chocked full of lightly-toasted crunchy pecans, it is not unusual to find my cookie jars (four, small apothecary-type jars at our coffee bar) full of nut-free Toll House cookies either.

What the heck is a baking truffle?  Had I been asked this question a few short weeks ago, I'd have been at a loss for an answer.  That said, it's one of the best new-to-me inventions in quite some time. I don't refer to myself as a consummate baker, but, I do keep my cookie jars (four, small apothecary-type jars at our coffee bar) full of homemade cookies at all times.  For the most part, it does take Joe and I a bit of time, a two-to-three weeks, to eat them all, but, when the jars are empty, I bake cookies again, and, I'm always in search of a new recipe or twist on an old one.

IMG_6184 2Hello Nestlē sea salt and caramel baking truffles.  Just reading the label made my mouth start to water. I've always loved milk-chocolate-covered soft-caramels, and, when sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, all the better.  Nestlē's baking truffles, which resemble tiny candies rather than teardrop-shaped chocolate chips, are:  soft caramels enrobed in Nestlē's signature semi-sweet chocolate.  I bought eighteen nine-ounce bags.  I've got plans for these, starting with cookies.

Nestlē Toll House Cookies made w/Nestlē sea salt caramel baking truffles + pecans.  Need I say any more than that?

2 1/4  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  baking powder, baking soda and salt

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  teaspoons each: pure chocolate extract and pure vanilla extract

2  large eggs, preferably at room temperature

18  ounces Nestlē sea salt & caramel baking truffles (2, 9-ounce bags)

6  ounces rough-chopped and very light-toasted pecans

IMG_6265 IMG_6265 IMG_6265~ Step 1.  Using a chef's knife, rough chop the pecans and place them on a small (toaster-oven-sized) baking pan.  Roasted on center rack of 325º oven until fragrant and barely browned and very lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely, about 10-15 minutes.

IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234~Step 2.  In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and, salt.  In a large bowl place the butter, both sugars, and both extracts.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the two eggs, about 1 minute.  Lower mixer speed, add the flour and gradually incorporate it into the mixture, until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_6275 IMG_6277 IMG_6283~Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the baking truffles and pecans. Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, well-apart, onto each of 4, parchment-lined, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans (15 per pan).

IMG_6287 IMG_6287~ Step 4.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 325° oven, 13-14 minutes, until light-golden. Remove from oven and use a small spatula to transfer to a wire cooling rack, to cool completely, prior to storing in an air-tight container.

Patience people.  Cool cookies.  Then, ready your glass of milk:

IMG_6315Crispy, chewy, thin, delicate, &, full of oozy-gooey semi-sweet chocolate & caramel flavor + crunchy pecans too:

IMG_6298Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt, Caramel, Pecan Cookies:  Recipe yields 5 dozen 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small baking pan; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; small spatula

6a0120a8551282970b026be4192589200dCook's Note: The Nestlē Crunch Bar -- creamy milk chocolate chocked full of crunchy-crisped rice.  It, along with the Reese's peanut butter cup (milk chocolate and peanut butter) is at the top of my "favorite candy bars list".  As with several other favorites, for an adult activity, I prefer to chop up said candy bars and bake cookies with their bits and pieces -- I prefer a cookie to a candy bar and I adore a candy bar in a cookie. Try my ~ Milk-Chocolate-Lovers Nestlē-Crunch-Bar Cookies ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/07/2020

~ My Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt & Caramel Cookies ~

IMG_6257What the heck is a baking truffle?  Had I been asked this question a few short weeks ago, I'd have been at a loss for an answer.  That said, it's one of the best new-to-me inventions in quite some time. I don't refer to myself as a consummate baker, but, I do keep my cookie jars (four, small apothecary-type jars at our coffee bar) full of homemade cookies at all times.  For the most part, it does take Joe and I a bit of time, a two-to-three weeks, to eat them all, but, when the jars are empty, I bake cookies again, and, I'm always in search of a new recipe or twist on an old one.

IMG_6184 2Hello Nestlē sea salt and caramel baking truffles.  Just reading the label made my mouth start to water. I've always loved milk-chocolate-covered soft-caramels, and, when sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, all the better.  Nestlē's baking truffles, which resemble tiny candies rather than teardrop-shaped chocolate chips, are:  soft caramels enrobed in Nestlē's signature semi-sweet chocolate.  I bought eighteen nine-ounce bags.  I've got plans for these, starting with cookies.

When it comes to Toll House cookies, aka, chocolate chip cookies in general, there are two kinds of people:  those who add nuts (usually pecans or walnuts), and, those who do not.  I'm a nutty kinda gal.  My husband is not a nutty kinda guy.  There's more.  Our grandson is allergic to nuts, so, nuts of any kind are not in the cards when I'm baking cookies for him.  So, while today's cookies are nut-free, it is not unusual to find my cookie jars full of nutty chocolate chip cookies, chocked full of coarse-chopped, lightly-toasted crunchy pecans or walnuts.

Nestlē Toll House cookies made w/Nestlē sea salt caramel baking truffles.  Need I say any more than that?

IMG_61812 1/4  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  baking powder, baking soda and salt

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  teaspoons each: pure chocolate extract and pure vanilla extract

2  large eggs, preferably at room temperature

18  ounces Nestlē sea salt & caramel baking truffles

IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6234 IMG_6209 IMG_6209~Step 1.  In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and, salt.  In a large bowl place the butter, both sugars, and both extracts.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the two eggs, about 1 minute.  Lower mixer speed, add the flour and gradually incorporate it into the mixture, until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_6219 IMG_6219 IMG_6219~ Step 2.  Using a large rubber spatula, add and fold in the baking truffles. Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, well-apart, onto each of 4, parchment-lined, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans (15 per pan).

IMG_6229 IMG_6229~ Step 3.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 325° oven, 13-14 minutes, until light-golden. Remove from oven and use a small spatula to transfer to a wire cooling rack, to cool completely, prior to storing in an air-tight container.

Patience people.  Cool cookies.  Then, ready your glass of milk:

IMG_6251Crispy, chewy, thin, delicate, &, full of chocolate-caramel flavor:

IMG_6236My Nestlē Toll House Sea Salt & Caramel Cookies:  Recipe yields 5 dozen 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List: hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; small spatula

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3e36e00200bCook's Note: The Nestlē Crunch Bar -- creamy milk chocolate chocked full of crunchy-crisped rice.  It, along with the Reese's peanut butter cup (milk chocolate and peanut butter) is at the top of my "favorite candy bars list".  As with several other favorites, for an adult activity, I prefer to chop up said candy bars and bake cookies with their bits and pieces -- I prefer a cookie to a candy bar and I adore a candy bar in a cookie. Try my ~ Milk-Chocolate-Lovers Nestlē-Crunch-Bar Cookies ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/05/2020

~Grand's Pie-Filled Cinnamon- or Pumpkin-Roll Cups~

IMG_6163When it comes to breakfast or bunch, I am always looking for the easiest way to serve good food. Mornings in the average family tend to have lots happening at once.  I love my family and I enjoy my guests, but, back in the days when I was trying to get three kids off to meet the school bus and my husband out the door to the office, or, fast forward to when I happen to be organizing breakfast for a few overnight guests, no one appreciates having a few time-saving recipes that taste as good as they look as much as I do, and these recipes, thanks to Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls and Pumpkin-Spice Rolls, are worth their weight in easy-to-make gold.

Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie, who's afraid to holler I?

440px-Pillsbury_logo.svgPillsbury and their adorable dough boy have been a part of my life over fifty years (and they've been around a lot longer than that).  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, when mom made their crescent rolls, we paced around in front of the oven until they came out.  During the years when they televised the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I always watched, and, learned something creative. When Pillsbury came out with cinnamon rolls, my kids knew I would be an easy sell on this product, and, truth told, they earned a place in my refrigerator. Then, when they came along with Grand's cinnamon rolls, complete with cream cheese icing, I didn't hesitate to pick up a few canisters.

There came a time when I did what I often do with a product I like. I went to their website (Quick & Easy Recipes by Pillsbury) and searched by ingredient (cinnamon rolls). Amongst several creative ways to to use them, I came across Two-Ingredient Peach Pie Cups, which used smaller-sized canisters of cinnamon rolls + peach pie filling, baked in standard-sized muffin tins. For my own "bigger- has-got-to-be-better" take, I used Grand's cinnamon rolls + a can of cherry, peach or apple pie filling, and, baked them in jumbo-sized muffin tins.  They're like a giant, fruit-pie-filled cinnamon-doughnuts or cinnamon-Danish stuffed with your favorite fruit pie filling.  Then, when Grands introduced pumpkin-spice rolls, I started filling them with Libby's pumpkin pie mix, which are perfect for the Fall.  My family simply adores them all and yours will too.

IMG_4126
IMG_4126 IMG_4126 IMG_4126 IMG_4126 IMG_4126Forming the muffin cups is the same for all recipes. Simply spray the inside cups of two jumbo-sized muffin tins (12 total cups) with no-stick cooking spray. Remove 2, 17.5-ounce canisters of Grands cinnamon rolls or pumpkin-spice rolls from the refrigerator.  Peel back the wrapping and give them a whack on the side of the countertop to open the package.  Remove and set aside the icing.  One-at-a-time, remove the cinnamon or pumpkin-spice rolls, placing them in each of ten muffin cups.  Using a tart tamper placed in the center of each roll, press down on the center to fit each cinnamon roll flatly into the bottom of its cup.  Using your fingertips, press the sides of each roll into the sides of each cup, to form a cup about 3/4 up the sides of each cup.  Proceed with recipes as directed below:

Peachy-Keen Pie-Filling-Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:

IMG_6020Oh My Cherry-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:

6a0120a8551282970b0263e96b70eb200bGrands Apple-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2eb19f4200dGrand's Pumpkin-Pie-Filled Pumpkin-Spice Roll Cups:

IMG_6127

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

10/03/2020

~ Pumpkin-Pie Pumpkin-Spiced Cinnamon-Roll Cups ~

IMG_6127Pumpkin spice.  Some like it, some do not, but, kinda like the elf-on-the-shelf, at this time of year, it can be found, in various forms, almost everywhere.  Truth told, I do like a few forkable pumpkin-spiced things -- cake, cheesecake, cookies, quick-bread, pancakes, an occasional muffin, and, these super-easy-to-make pumpkin-pie filling filled cinnamon-roll cups.  As for pumpkin-spiced beverages (lattes, milkshakes, cocktails, etc.), no thank-you, I'll pass, they're not my cup of tea.

When it comes to breakfast or bunch, I am always looking for the easiest way to serve good food. Mornings in the average family tend to have lots happening at once.  I love my family and I enjoy my guests, but, back in the days when I was trying to get three kids off to meet the school bus and my husband out the door to the office, or, fast forward to when I happen to be organizing breakfast for a few overnight guests, no one appreciates having a few time-saving recipes that taste as good as they look as much as I do, and this Fall recipe is worth its weight in gold.

440px-Pillsbury_logo.svgPillsbury and their adorable dough boy have been a part of my life over fifty years (and they've been around a lot longer than that).  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, when mom made their crescent rolls, we paced around in front of the oven until they came out.  During the years when they televised the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I always watched, and, learned something creative. When Pillsbury came out with cinnamon rolls, my kids knew I would be an easy sell on this product, and, truth told, they earned a place in my refrigerator. Then, when they came along with Grand's cinnamon rolls, complete with cream cheese icing, I didn't hesitate to pick up a few canisters.

There came a time when I did what I often do with a product I like. I went to their website (Quick & Easy Recipes by Pillsbury) and searched by ingredient (cinnamon rolls). Amongst several creative ways to to use them, I came across Two-Ingredient Peach Pie Cups, which used smaller-sized canisters of cinnamon rolls + peach pie filling, baked in standard-sized muffin tins.  For my own "bigger has got to be better", seasonal, perfect-for-the-Fall take, I used Grand's pumpkin-spice rolls + Libby's pumpkin pie mix, and, baked them in jumbo-sized muffin tins.  They're like pumpkin pie filled doughnuts.  My family simply adores them and yours will too.

Grands pumpkin-spice rolls & pumpkin pie filling is grand.

IMG_6139Topped w/pumpkin-spice icing too?  You betcha.

IMG_60962  17.5-ounce canisters Pillsbury Grands pumpkin-spice rolls w/pumpkin-pie-spice icing

1  15-ounce can pumpkin pie mix, your favorite brand, prepared as directed on can

no-stick cooking spray

~ Step 1.  Spray the inside cups of two jumbo-sized muffin tins (12 cups) with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094 IMG_6094~Step 2.  Remove both canisters of Grands pumpkin-spice rolls from the refrigerator.  Peel back the wrapping and give them a whack on the side of the countertop to open the package.  Remove and set aside the pumpkin-spice icing.  One-at-a-time, remove the pumpkin-spice rolls, placing them in each of ten of the muffin cups.  Using a tart tamper placed in the center of each cinnamon roll, press down on the center to fit each cinnamon roll flatly into the bottom of its cup.  Using your fingertips, press the sides of each roll into the sides of each cup, to form a cup about 3/4 up the sides of each cup.

IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100 IMG_6100~Step 3.  Open the can of pie mix.  As per the directions on the can, in a small bowl, whisk the pie mix together with 1 lightly-beaten egg and 4 tablespoons milk.   Using an ordinary tablespoon, distribute pie filling to the top of each cinnamon-roll cup (there's enough filling to fill each one to the top), doing your best not to drip any filling on the edges of the pumpkin-spice roll cups or sides of pan.  Bake both pans, at once, on center rack of preheated 325° oven for 21-24 minutes, or until pumpkin-spice rolls are golden around sides and filling is puffed through to center.  Remove from oven and cool in pan 1-2 minutes.  Using a paring and your fingertips, gently lift each pumpkin-pie-filling filled pumpkin-spice roll cup onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature, 30-45 minutes.

IMG_4163 IMG_4163 IMG_4163~ Step 4.  While the pumpkin-spice roll cups are baking, stir about 1/2 teaspoon of water into both containers of the reserved pumpkin-spice icing, to thin it down to a drizzly, rather than a spreadable consistency.  For a prettier presentation, transfer the icing to a small squirt-type condiment container.  When pumpkin-spice cups are cooled, slowly drizzle icing over top of each one.  Plate and serve.

Store-bought seriously "CAN" be simply delicious!

IMG_6137Two canisters pumpkin-spice rolls + one can pumpkin pie mix?

IMG_6153One taste & you'll be completely convinced.

IMG_6154Pumpkin-Pie Pumpkin-Spiced Cinnamon-Roll Cups: Recipe yields Recipe yields 10 individual (jumbo-sized muffin-sized) pumpkin-pie-filling filled pumpkin-spice-roll cups.

Special Equipment List: 1, 12-cup jumbo-size muffing tin; tart tamper; spoon; paring knife; wire cooling rack; small squirt-type condiment bottle (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b019b01684075970dCook's Note:  When it comes to our Annual Thanksgiving feast, it is always a very traditional one.  I like to tell the story about my serving cranberry-lacquered cornish game hens -- once.  It was back in the early '90's and I found the recipe featured on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine.  I made 24 of them, one for each person.  They looked as magnificent as the magazine cover and they tasted as good as they looked, but, I wasn't feeling anything but polite indignation in my turkey-day dining room that evening.  My efforts were less appreciated the next day because there were no leftovers for sandwiches.  It was then I decreed Thanksgiving to be a stick-with-tradition meal.  This pie, my pie, is made from homegrown, roasted pumpkin puree.  This year, be sure to try my ~ Traditional Thanksgiving Preschutti Pumpkin Pie ~.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)