Fruit and Nut Buns

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These buns are stuffed with dried fruits, nuts, and/or chocolate chips.  Part of their beauty is how customizable they are!

 

Fruit and Nut Buns
Inspired by Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar

Yield: 8-12 buns

  • 1 recipe of bun dough
  • 2 cups of walnuts, pecans, dried fruit (such as cranberries or raisins), and/or chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

 

  1. Prepare the bun dough.
  2. While dough is rising in a warm spot, toast the nuts at 350ºF for 8-10 minutes.  Let them cool.
  3. Poke at the dough to deflate it.  (Mine is always very sticky and gooey, so I just poke it a few times with my fingertips.)
  4. Cover a work surface very liberally with flour.  Liberally flour your hands and rolling pin too.  I keep a little mound of extra flour on the side.
  5. Scrape dough onto the floured surface and sprinkle it with flour.
  6. Roll out the dough into a 12″ x 12″ square about 1/4 inch thick.  The dough will be a bit stretchy and may spring back, but keep rolling gently until it holds its shape.  You may have to pause to re-flour your rolling pin.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, nuts/fruit/chips, and cinnamon (if using).
  8. Spread mixture over the dough square, leaving a strip about an inch wide clear at the top.
  9. Flour your hands and begin rolling the square from the bottom up.  This will be difficult because of how sticky the dough is, but don’t worry.  Just get it into a log shape.
  10. Using a bench scraper or chef’s knife, cut the log into 8 or 12 equal pieces, depending on how large you want your buns.  (At this point, you can wrap the unbaked buns in plastic wrap, either individually or as a stack, and freeze them for up to 1 week.  To use, leave them wrapped and thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or at room temperature for 2-3 hours.)
  11. Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan and arrange buns in it, spacing them evenly (2 rows of 4 buns each, or 3 rows of 4 buns each).  If some are weirdly shaped, you can rearrange them in the pan into round buns.
  12. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap and let buns proof for 1-2 hours at warm room temperature or in the oven with the pilot light on.  The dough will be puffy and soft, and the buns will expand until they touch.
  13. About 15 minutes before the buns are ready, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400ºF.  (Remove pan first if you’ve been proofing the buns there!)
  14. Bake for 40-50 minutes.  The buns will be light golden brown.
  15. Let pan cool on wire rack for 10-20 minutes
  16. Serve buns within 4 hours of baking for best results.  If you’re eating them the next day, warm them in a 300ºF oven for 6-8 minutes.
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Garlic Parsley Chicken

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Since I happened to have a bunch of fresh parsley, I decided to pair it with chicken, drawing inspiration from this recipe.  You can marinate it overnight and then bake it, or you can store the chicken and marinade in zipper-lock bags in the freezer for later.

 

Garlic Parsley Chicken
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 8 chicken thighs or 10 drumsticks

  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley OR 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 chicken thighs or 10 drumsticks, bone in and skin on

 

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a container.  Cover tightly and put in the fridge to marinate overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  3. Arrange chicken and marinade on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is done.

Lasagna

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On allrecipes.com, this recipe is called “World’s Best Lasagna,” and I’m inclined to agree.  It does take a bit of time to make (I recommend preparing the meat sauce the night before you plan to eat the lasagna), but it’s definitely worth it!

Cooking Notes:

  • The exact amounts of the ingredients aren’t that important.  Depending on what I find at the grocery store, I usually throw in 1 full pound of beef, 1 entire onion, extra parsley, and 1 full pound of mozzarella cheese.
  • If the lasagna ends up being too tall for your baking dish, just put it on a foil-lined cookie sheet to catch the overflow as it bakes.

Original Recipe

Lasagna
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 9″ x 13″  dish of lasagna (about 12 servings)

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (6-oz) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (6.5-oz) cans canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves OR 1/2-2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Prepare the meat sauce (can be made the day before):

  1. In a large pot, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned.
  2. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.
  3. Season with sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley.
  4. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Assemble the lasagna:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, 2 tablespoons parsley, and a dash of nutmeg.
  5. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  6. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
  7. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce.
  8. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture.
  9. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices.
  10. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  11. Repeat layers (I often get confused over the exact order of layers, but it doesn’t really matter as long as everything ends up in the dish).
  12. Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  13. Sprinkle parsley over the cheese.
  14. Cover with foil.  To prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
  15. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes.
  16. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I first made these chocolate chip cookies with a very close friend who loved to cook and bake.  It was at his suggestion that we tweaked the recipe until it was exactly the way we wanted it.  He has since passed away, but I still think of him every time I bake these cookies.  It seems fitting to share our recipe on what would have been his 30th birthday.

Original Recipe

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 72 cookies

  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 (3.4- or 4.6-oz) packages instant vanilla pudding mix (the exact amount is not important)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.
  3. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended.
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  5. Beat in baking soda and salt (if using).
  6. Beat in as much flour as you can, and stir in the rest.
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts (if using).
  8. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Edges should be golden brown.