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!

So…..it’s still freezing here.

I wish I was exaggerating, but our entire yard (and driveway) is a huge slab of ice. All the nice snow we got last week was covered with more snow/sleet/freezing rain this past Saturday, and then completely froze overnight, leaving us with an ice block outside.

You know it’s bad when your dog is sliding around and can’t find a place to go to the bathroom.

I was hoping the worst of winter would be behind us, but it doesn’t seem like it. I think there’s more snow in the forecast for this week, and the ice layer on our driveway is so thick that it’ll probably be there until April.

And that means it’s the perfect time for soup!

brown butter potato soup

I am really, really tired of this weather, so getting excited about food is one of the few things getting me through right now.

It was so cold last week that my office at work never got about 55/60 degrees WITH the heat on AND two space heaters going! When it’s too cold to do anything outside, a great pot of potato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich can easily be one of the best parts of the day.

brown butter potato soup

The best way to make a creamy potato soup even better? Start it with some brown butter. And then top it with spicy candied bacon.

The veggies are cooked in a mix of brown butter and olive oil, adding a touch of toasty/toffee-like flavor to the soup, and the cayenne + brown sugar on the bacon is just the right amount of sweet and spicy for the savory soup.

If you’re like us right now – stuck inside because it’s cold and dark and icy – this soup is the perfect meal to have simmering on the stove. I was really sad when we finished this off. I think it’s going on the menu again later this week!

brown butter potato soup

Brown Butter Potato Soup with Spicy Candied Bacon

Not all potato soups are created equal. I love a big pot of creamy potato soup, and this batch takes it to the next level. The added depth from the brown butter in the soup base and the sweet & spicy bacon on top are just what you need for a little twist on your typical potato soup.

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups broth
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Lay the bacon on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the bacon with the brown sugar and cayenne pepper.
  3. Bake the bacon for 12-15 minutes until crisp. Remove from oven and let cool while the soup cooks.
  4. While the bacon is cooking, heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Let the butter melt and continue to cook until the butter starts to brown.
  5. Once the butter is golden and smells toasty, add in the olive oil, onion, carrots, and celery. Cook 3-4 minutes, then add the diced potatoes. Cook another 5 minutes.
  6. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Cook 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are starting to get tender.
  7. Mix the flour and milk together until smooth and pour into the soup. Cook another 7-10 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the soup is starting to thicken.
  8. Either pour most of the soup into a blender or use an immersion blender to puree the majority of the soup.
  9. Pour in the cream, salt, pepper, and fresh parsley and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add more salt + pepper, if needed, to taste.
  10. Serve with the crumbled candied bacon.

strawberry yogurt bites

This will definitely go into the bucket of “basically so easy that you don’t really need a recipe” BUT these little bites turned out SO delicious that I couldn’t wait to share!

strawberry yogurt bites

I love making dessert. I love having dessert. I love having other people make me dessert. And some times, I love digging into a really time consuming dish and lengthy recipe that takes work because you not only end up with something to eat, you have a sense of accomplishment.

But other times, you need something quick. Easy. Something you could probably do in your sleep. And those desserts need to be just as tasty! Not everything needs to take as long to make as croissants, but you should always – always – be happy when eating dessert, no matter how much work it takes.

strawberry yogurt bites

These little strawberry bites are right up my alley for busy weeknights or an impromptu get together or for a romantic night in.

petite creme

My newest favorite yogurt is Stonyfield Petite Crème – have you tried it? It’s almost like a cross between greek yogurt and crème fraiche. Super silky, hardly tangy, and not completely fat free (thank goodness – I’m also on a whole milk yogurt kick right now, and I have no plans of getting off that train). You can tell that it’s still yogurt, but it’s not so tart that it makes you pucker, which makes it perfect for using in desserts!

You don’t have to sweeten it as much (or at all) to get a good balance in the dish, and the tiny bit of tartness is perfect with sweet strawberries and semi-sweet chocolate.

strawberry yogurt bites

Strawberry Yogurt Bites

These little bites are the perfect end to a meal - or great as an afternoon snack! They're not too sweet, and they're still good for you, but it's always nice to have a little chocolate.

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 strawberries
  • 1 container Stonyfield Vive La Vanilla Petite Creme yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Cut the tops and greens off each strawberry, then carefully cut out the majority of the core. Also, slice the bottom of the strawberry off so it can stand up on a plate.
  2. Scoop spoonfuls of the vanilla petite creme into half of the strawberries.
  3. Stir the cocoa powder into the rest of the petite creme and stir together.
  4. Fill the rest of the strawberries with the cocoa-mixed yogurt.
  5. Top with chocolate chips and serve.

I am part of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club and love to spread the word about their products! This post is not sponsored, although I did receive yogurt to try/use. All opinions/recipes are my own, as always. Thanks for supporting brands that support us!

pepperoni stromboli

Now that we’ve talked about making pizza at home, it’s time to roll it up and make a stromboli.

My first experiences with stromboli all happened at a family friend’s house when I was in high school. A typical dinner at their place – for all us youth group kids – was some of Mr. Willwerth’s stromboli and Mrs. Willwerth’s homemade ice cream. Her cinnamon was my all time favorite, but really – stromboli and homemade ice cream? It’s the perfect meal.

pepperoni stromboli

Mr. Willwerth let us help out with the stromboli if we were there in time, so I had a few chances to layer everything and roll up the dough before popping it in the oven.

But it was years before I ever tried making one on my own, as an adult. It took me a while to feel like I had the dough-making down before I wanted to try anything other than just a regular pizza. But I am so glad I finally started making these.

red star platinum yeast

If you love pizza, you’ll love stromboli. And vice versa. It’s the same concept, just folder together and baked instead of having everything on TOP of the dough. Stromboli is also a little easier to eat (smaller pieces) and makes for great party food! It’s easy to prep and doesn’t take long to bake, either, making it perfect for busy weeknights.

I use the same dough recipe that I use for my pizza, which makes it even easier! I don’t have to keep track of fourteen different pizza dough-ish recipes – this one is basically all purpose. And I pretty much only use Red Star Platinum Yeast now. It has taken over my pantry – I don’t want anything else! It’s the most reliable yeast I’ve tried in years, so it’s all I use.

pepperoni stromboli

I’m pretty sure my stromboli isn’t totally traditional because I usually put a little bit of sauce IN the stromboli, but you can make it however you want!

We like ours with a smear of sauce on the entire piece of dough, topped with shredded mozzarella and pepperoni, rolled up, and topped with some egg wash and Italian herbs. Plus more sauce for dipping when it’s done.

pepperoni stromboli

Again – same with the homemade pizza tips – the most important things for an awesome stromboli?

  • Homemade dough
  • Freshly shredded cheese (no pre-shredded!)
  • Higher baking temperature for the first part of baking, to help get the golden crust
  • Patience before slicing it up. It stays hot for a long time – no need to ruin it by slicing it too quickly OR burning your mouth!

pepperoni stromboli

Happy baking!

Pepperoni Stromboli

Scared of baking? Start with this stromboli! The dough does most of the work for you during the day, so all you have to do is roll it out, top it, fold it back up, and bake!

Ingredients:

Dough:

Stromboli:

  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 10 large sandwich slices or 20 small pizza slices of pepperoni
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the water, salt, and yeast. Stir in the flour until everything is incorporated. Knead a few times in the bowl with your hands, to make sure most of the flour is mixed in. Cover the bowl and let the dough sit 1-2 hours (or longer!) until doubled.*I often mix this up before work and let it sit on the counter all day.
  2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Roll out your dough into a large rectangle, about the length of your baking sheet.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix the tomatoes with the tablespoon of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
  5. Spread about 1/4 cup of the sauce on the dough.
  6. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the sauce, then top with the pepperoni.
  7. Fold the edges of the dough over, toward the center. Folding lengthwise, take the top 1/3 of the dough and bring it over to cover the center of the dough. Repeat with the other side, almost like you're folding a letter.
  8. Place the stromboli seam side down on the parchment paper.
  9. Using a sharp knife, slice slits in the dough, about every 1-2 inches. Brush the dough with the beaten egg and then sprinkle with the teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
  10. Bake at 475 for 10 minutes.
  11. Lower the heat to 375 and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the dough is set and golden.
  12. Let the stromboli sit for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

This post is sponsored by Red Star Yeast – all opinions and recipes are my own, as always. Thank you for supporting brands that support us! Follow them on Facebook or Instagram for more great recipes!