Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Fun

There's a chill in the air, the leaves are changing and my skin is drying out - yep Fall has officially arrived to TX (Finally!).  After a long, hot summer, we are enjoying cool evenings and beautiful days.  We've even had some much needed rain! 

This is one of my favorite times of the year: football, gorgeous weather, honey crisp apples, pumpkin everything, soups and stews and I get to pull the sweaters, scarves and boots out of the closet.  Not to mention fall signals the start of holiday season.  We've been out and about enjoying all that Texas has to offer this month.

It goes without saying that we've been enjoying TCU football games - both home and away. 

Enjoying TCU football in San Diego
Our tailgating setup

Trying to stay warm while tailgating

The State Fair of Texas makes its yearly appearance in October as well.  We enjoyed fried food, the petting zoo and just taking in the sights and sounds.

Fried PB & J sandwich

I even convinced my other half to carve pumpkins this year.  We had a great time doing it and plan to make it a tradition.

He took it very seriously

Our handiwork decorating the front steps
We made it through Halloween but ran out of candy early - oops!  Didn't realize 6 bags wouldn't make it through the night.  Next year we'll stock up at Costco, I suppose.

Here's to hot apple cider, pumpkin pie, soups of all kinds, crisp mornings, leaves ablaze with color and the impending arrival of Thanksgiving (oh and more football!).   I hope you're enjoying Fall!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gooey goodness

Two Fridays ago I was sitting around bored to tears and decided to bake up something delicious.  I'm not sure why or how, but I decided to make cinnamon rolls for the next day's breakfast.  And who better to get a fantastic recipe from than the Good Eats man himself, Alton Brown.  (If you've never watched Good Eats, I'm sorry for you). 

Midway through the process (on the first rise) I was convinced they were going to flop.  They weren't rising much at all and I scoured the internet to find any possible way to save my lump of not-rising dough.  After some TLC I was able to get them rolled out, dusted with cinnamon and brown sugar, then cut into individual rolls.  They went into the fridge overnight for a restful sleep.  The next morning I was again sure that they weren't going to be the fluffy, gooey, cinnamon bun goodness I was hoping for.  But after some cajoling and a steam bath (and a hungry, grumpy husband), I pulled out some beautiful cinnamon rolls from the oven.  Topped with cream cheese glaze, they turned into a decadent and delicious Saturday morning breakfast.

My tip to avoid my rising problems?  Proof the yeast by heating up the buttermilk to 110 degrees and letting the yeast take a bath for 5 minutes (or until foamy) before adding to the eggs, sugar and butter.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
by Alton Brown (thanks to

4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 whole egg, room temperature
2 oz sugar (approx 1/4 cup)
3 oz unsalted butter, melted (approx 6 TBS)
6 oz buttermilk, room temperature
20 oz all-purpose flour (approx 4 cups), plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast (approx 2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

8 oz light brown sugar (approx 1 cup packed)
1 TBS ground cinnamon
3/4 oz unsalted butter (approx 1 1/2 TBS)

2 1/2 oz cream cheese, softened (approx 1/4 cup) [I used neufchatel]
3 TBS milk [I used skim]
5 1/2 oz powdered sugar (approx 1 1/2 cups)
For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.
While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.  [Perfect with a tall glass of milk or cup of coffee]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The one year itch

No, I'm not talking about relationships, I'm thinking about travel!  For some reason I decided to read my old posts on our trip to Europe.  I can't believe that was just one year ago!  First Zurich, so beautiful and so much money!  Then Munich for Oktoberfest - no description needed.  After that onto the regal city of Vienna.  Finally finishing up with London.  Reading through those posts made me smile thinking back on our wonderful 2 week trip.  But it made my itch to cross the Atlantic that much worse!  We're in the early planning stages for our another European trip this coming Spring and it can't get here fast enough.

In the meantime we'll be traveling to CA this weekend, then a tropical cruise with friends next month and hopefully another tropical vacation after the first of the year.  And maybe a NYC trip to visit friends sometime in the near future?

I consider myself amazingly blessed to be able to afford the time and cost for all these trips.  Also I'm pretty lucky that my husband is willing to help plan, fund and join in the fun of traveling. 

Here's to exploring this beautiful planet we inhabit!