cookbook, life, and mini muffin update!

Hi guys!

Things have been crazy this month!!

Let’s see:

– We had to pay in taxes this year (boo). That was unexpected and not fun.

– Little mini muffin baby is due in just a few days!

– I got an awesome surprise card and gift from some incredible blogger friends last week that completely made my day.

– I submitted the draft for my cookbook in mid-April, and am SO excited to start seeing everything come together.

mousse pie

Plus, I can’t wait to share all these recipes with you!

There’s a good mix of sweet and savory recipes, all using coffee as an ingredient – in every. single. recipe. So, get ready to be caffeinated this fall! I’ll keep you guys updated as I get news along the way.

Life has been good lately! Busy, but good.

This little mini muffin baby will be here THIS WEEK, which just sounds crazy to me. I don’t feel like it’s already time – everything has flown by! Everyone told me that the last month or so would seem like it was going by really slowly, but I haven’t felt that way at all. This entire time, everything has seemed to moved at warp speed. I’ve been trying my best to really enjoy every minute of it and soak it in – not letting myself get stressed out or too worried about anything.

I think having the cookbook deadline just a few weeks before this baby is coming was a good thing for me because it kept me busy and kept me from getting too worked up about all things baby.

So now, we’re just waiting! My feet had turned into Shrek feet (seriously), thanks to some super fun swelling, so I’m officially done at my full time job as of this past week until near the end of summer.

I’ve got some great recipes coming up soon, and can’t wait to update you guys on things as everything changes for us in the next week or so!

 

cooking 101: biscuits

It’s time for round 2 of Cooking 101! First, we covered pizza – a life necessity, I think.

For round 2, I couldn’t think of anything better than homemade biscuits!

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I want these Cooking 101 posts to be helpful (for you and for me!). When I first stepped into the kitchen, there was SO much I didn’t know. And I am still a complete novice some days, but I’ve definitely learned some things over the years.

But I don’t want to just be giving out tips and tricks – I want you to share yours, too! Maybe your approach for a certain dish or food is the complete opposite of how I work. Tell me about it! Anything that helps in the kitchen is always good to know, especially if it saves time and the amount of dirty dishes.
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So, let’s talk biscuits.
Biscuits are a way of life in this family. I’m not joking.
Once I felt comfortable in the kitchen, I started getting up early any time we were at Nick’s parents so I could be in the kitchen when my father in law, Bob, was making breakfast. Most of the time, it rotates between biscuits (with jam or gravy), pancakes, dutch baby pancakes, or omelets. And Bob doesn’t measure anything – for any of these breakfast foods. I still can’t do that with pancakes, but I’m finally to the point where I can make biscuits by feel and each batch gets better and better!
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The most important things when making biscuits:
  • Don’t overwork the dough. Mix everything just enough that it all comes together, pat or roll it out, and cut. No kneading, no crushing the dough together – this will make them tough and heavy. We want light and fluffy!
  • When cutting out your biscuits, if you’re using a biscuit/cookie cutter, do NOT twist it in the dough. Just drop it straight down and bring it straight back up. You want your biscuits to bake up tall, and twisting the cutter can sometimes seal the edges, meaning they won’t rise as much.
  • Cold butter, if using butter. Cold buttermilk or cream, depending on what you’re using. Cold eggs, if using eggs. Always, always, always cold.

The hardest thing for me to get used to is how sticky and un-ready biscuit dough looks before patting it out to cut. It really does seem like you need to add more flour or knead it quite a bit, but the less you mess with the dough, the better they’ll be.

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This is how dough should look when you’re ready to pat/roll it out and cut into biscuits. I always use a pastry cloth, but you can do this on any floured surface (counter, cutting board, etc).

If you make your own homemade biscuits, what’s your favorite recipe? If you haven’t tried making biscuits from scratch yet….what are you waiting for?!

Here’s some of our favorite biscuit recipes:

Let’s talk smoothies.

To be honest, I didn’t used to drink them very often. I had a hard time finding combinations that I liked, and I almost always want a hot breakfast, not cold.

But a few years ago, I finally started figuring out mixes that we really liked, and now we make smoothies year round – even in the winter! On cold mornings, I just pair a smoothie with something else hot like eggs or toast or oatmeal.

green smoothie

One of our all time favorite smoothie mixes? It’s a little sweet, a little tropical, and pretty green. Also a great way to get in some fruits + veggies with breakfast!

There’s a frozen fruit mix we’ve found that we LOVE – it’s a mix of frozen peaches, pineapple, mango, and strawberries, and that’s what we use in our smoothies almost 100% of the time.

But the other secret? I buy a big bag of spinach + baby kale mix and throw it in the freezer, too. Once the greens have frozen, I crush them up in the freezer bag and then we’ve got greens ready to go. So easy! And this is one way that Nick is okay with some kale in the smoothies. Whenever I’ve tried using kale (even baby kale) raw/straight from the fridge, the flavor is MUCH stronger than when we freeze it beforehand.

Plus, once the greens are frozen, I don’t have to worry about them going bad before we have the chance to use them, so it’s saving us money and waste, too!

green smoothie

Stonyfield and Hamilton Beach recently paired up together for bloggers to test out this little single serve blender, and I had the chance to try it out.

I normally make smoothies in a much larger blender, so this one was nice because it helped me keep my portions just right. I could have this on my own in the morning, or Nick and I can easily share a smoothie from this little blender, too.

I really like that it takes up so little space on the counter AND that the blender container also serves as a to-go container for busy mornings. I’ve only used it a few times so far, but I’m really liking it!

green smoothie

And Hamilton Beach and Stonyfield want to share this little blender with one of you, too!

Want to win your own single serve blender and some Stonyfield coupons to try out your favorite smoothie recipe?

To enter:

– Tell me your favorite smoothie mix

Want extra entries?

– Tweet about the giveaway and tag @HamiltonBeach @Stonyfield and @branappetit

– Tell me the first smoothie you would whip up if you win!

Good luck!!*

My favorite green smoothie

Still on the fence about adding greens to your smoothie? This is the perfect mix to start out with. There's enough fruit to cover up any flavor from the greens, but enough greens that you get a good mix of fruit AND veggies in your morning drink!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Stonyfield Plain Whole Milk Yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen spinach/baby kale mix
  • heaping 1/2 cup frozen fruit mix (pineapple, peach, mango, strawberry)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

Directions:

  1. Pour the water into the blender. Add in the yogurt, frozen greens, frozen fruit, and orange juice.
  2. Pulse the mixture a few times until the fruit starts to break up. Blend until all the greens and fruit are broken down and the mixture is smooth, adding a little more water or juice if needed.

*Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. Prize is provided by Stonyfield and Hamilton Beach. As part of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club, I had the opportunity to try out and review this blender from Hamilton Beach and received yogurt coupons, as well. All opinions and recipes are my own, as always. Thank you for supporting brands that support us!

cherry and apricot hot cross buns

I can see the ground again! Hallelujah.

Finally, the snow and ice has melted and the grass is slowly turning green.

This means that spring is coming! Nice weather is on the way! I can stop wearing socks for a while – which would be really nice considering that, at 32 weeks pregnant, it’s a bit of a struggle to get them on before running out of breath.

cherry apricot hot cross buns

And with spring on its way, that means one thing: Easter.

Is Easter a big deal for you, too? My family has always celebrated Easter together, not only as part of our faith, but also as a time to soak in the changing seasons and start enjoying time together outside.

As kids, we always had egg hunts before church and treats, but I never remember having or making hot cross buns. In fact, for years I didn’t even know what they were! Turns out, hot cross buns are spiced, sweet rolls – usually with currants or raisins – and marked with a cross on top that are typically eaten on Good Friday.

cherry apricot hot cross buns

As usual when starting to work on a new recipe, I looked up tons and tons of classic, traditional recipes and then figured out how I wanted mine to turn out. Lucky for me, Bob’s Red Mill had recently sent me some of their all purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour, so I did a mix of those in these buns PLUS traded in the traditional currants for diced, dried apricots and chewy dried cherries.

For an extra kick of flavor, I soaked the dried fruits in orange juice before adding them to the dough and used orange juice in the frosting. That little bit of citrus made such a difference! When spring finally hits, having that little punch of citrus – in these or any dish – automatically makes it feel lighter and brighter and perfect for this time of year.

cherry apricot hot cross buns

Cherry and Apricot Hot Cross Buns

A fun twist on a traditional Good Friday treat, these hot cross buns are punched up with sweet orange juice and perfectly chewy dried cherries and apricots instead of the normal currants.

Ingredients:

Rolls:

  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 and 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, 1 separated
  • 7 Tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 2 and 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 3 cups Bob's Red Mill all purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour

Icing:

  • 1 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1-2 tsp milk, as needed

Directions:

  1. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan.

  2. Mix the orange juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave about 30 seconds - 1 minute, just until the fruit and liquid are very warm. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

  3. When the fruit is cool, mix together all of the dough ingredients (minus one egg white from the separate egg) except the fruit, and knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, until the dough is soft and elastic. Mix in the fruit and orange juice mixture.

  4. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy and rise, but it may not completely double - that's okay!

  5. Divide the dough into tennis ball-sized pieces (a heaping 1/3 cup scoop makes about the right portion). Shape them into balls and place them seam side down in the prepared pan.

  6. Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they've puffed up. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  7. Beat the reserved egg white with a splash of milk and brush over the tops of the buns.

  8. Bake the buns until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

  9. Once the buns are completely cool, mix the icing together and top each bun with icing in the shape of a cross.

Thanks to Bob’s Red Mill for sponsoring this post – and thank you guys for supporting brands that support us! For more delicious recipes and a coupon for $1.00 off any product, please visit BobsRedMill.com!