Recipe: Warm Cinnamon Rolls

MF Cinnamon RollsIn my vast scientific experience, three words can warm people up from the inside out more than any others. If you’re thinking the words are, “I love you,” you are wrong. They are, in fact, “warm cinnamon rolls.” (See? You just got all warm inside, didn’t you?) Warm cinnamon rolls are the perfect weekend breakfast, late-night snack, or after-school treat. Whip up a batch and prove my scientific theory for yourself. They will make you, your winter, and your loved ones a little warmer.

Warm Cinnamon Rolls

Dough
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons dry active yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup instant dry milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
5 1/2 – 6 cups flour

Filling
3 cups brown sugar
5 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup butter, melted

Frosting
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

Directions
Dough: In a large mixing bowl, stir the warm water and yeast together and allow it to sit for several minutes until it’s frothy on top. Stir in the dry milk, sugar, salt, and softened butter. (Don’t worry if it’s a little lumpy.) Slowly add flour until dough is soft, but not too sticky. Using your hands or a dough hook, knead the dough for another minute or two, until it has an elastic quality. Transfer dough to a greased mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm spot for 60-75 minutes while you make the filling and frosting.

Filling: While the dough is rising, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter together to form a thick paste.

Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and maple syrup. Slowly drizzle in cream until frosting has reached your desired consistency. (Remember, frosting will soften and melt a bit on the warm rolls, so make it slightly thicker than you enjoy.)

Dough: After the dough has had a chance to rise and double in size, divide it into three parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll one section of dough into a large rectangle, about 1/4 thick. Spread 1/3 of the filling on the rectangle, then roll the dough tightly, one long side toward the other. Slice 2-inch pieces and transfer them to a greased cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and allow rolls to rise at least 20 minutes before baking in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Repeat until all the dough and filling has been used. Immediately frost the rolls as they come out of the oven and serve warm.

HINT: For more of a crust on your rolls, space them at least two inches apart on the cookie sheet. For softer rolls, place them closer together.

HINT: For orange rolls, substitute the filling with 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, 1/2 cup melted butter, and the zest of 3 oranges.

You know what? Now that I think of it, “I love you” and warm cinnamon rolls are pretty much the same thing. Don’t you think?

Recipe: My Favorite Chicken Salad

MF Chicken Salad

It’s the last (unofficial) week of summer, which means I’m doing my best to cram in all of my favorite summer activities just one more time before the school bells ring and the leaves start falling. One of my favorite summer activities is a picnic, and there’s no better picnic fare than chicken salad. You can make it ahead of time, transport it easily, and serve it on fresh rolls or even crackers under the shade of a tree. Mmmm.

In my opinion, the best chicken salads are bursting with a variety of flavors and textures, with a modest amount of sauce to join them all together. Since I have an obvious sweet tooth, I load my chicken salad with sweet fruit and offset it with savory herbs, salt, and nuts. Feel free to play with the ingredients in my recipe to add your own favorite flavors!

My Favorite Chicken Salad

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 cup mayonaise
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons dill (use less if using fresh dill)
1 cup red grapes, halved
1 medium apple, cored and diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 stalk celery, diced
3/4 cup cashews, chopped

Directions
Prepare all ingredients and then combine them together in a mixing bowl with a large spoon. Chill for about an hour before serving to set flavors. Serve on fresh croissants or simple crackers. Keeps in refrigerator 2-3 days.

This chicken salad tastes like summer to me. I hope you’ll try it and savor the last few days of August with me. (Why does summer have to end?! Waaaaaaaaaaaa!)

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