Friday, July 23, 2021

Mini Yeasted Streusel Coffee Cakes

Mini Yeasted Coffee Cakes

This coffee cake is a family favorite. My grandma would always have at least one in the freezer to feed us when we went to visit her. Today I decided to make a small, muffin sized version just for fun. They are cute and tasty. Not very sweet, but they taste just like I remember: yeasty, a little buttery, with just enough sweet cinnamony crispness on top. 

I plan to freeze most of these and enjoy them gradually over the next few weeks.

Mini Yeasted Streusel Coffee Cakes


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (If using regular dry yeast, reduce milk to 3/4 cup and proof yeast in 1/4 cup barely warm water before adding to the cooled milk & butter.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Streusel Topping
1. Scald the milk in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat (scalding means to bring to a boil), and then remove from heat immediately.  Place 1/4 cup butter in a large heat-proof bowl and pour scalded milk over it.  Stir to melt butter and then let mixture cool to lukewarm or a little cooler. While milk/butter cools, mix the flour and instant yeast in a medium sized bowl.

2.  Once milk/butter has cooled somewhat, add the sugar, salt, eggs, lemon zest, and flour/yeast mixture.  Stir with a sturdy spoon until completely mixed.  Dough will be the consistency of a thick batter, more than a dough.  Transfer dough to a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm place to rise until double in bulk. 

Note: For this batch, I allowed the dough to rise for about 30 minutes, and then I placed it to finish rising over night in the refrigerator. In the morning, I set it on the counter to come to room temperature while I prepared the muffin pans.

3.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare streusel topping by mixing the sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Add butter chunks and mix with your fingers until all the butter is incorporated into the dry ingredients.  Squeeze and crumble so you have a nice semi-chunky consistency.

4.  Butter 24 muffin cups (2 12-cup pans). Once dough has risen, punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut rectangle into 24 somewhat evenly sized squares. If some are larger and some are smaller, trim off some of the large ones and add it to the smaller ones.

5. Place one dough square in each of the buttered muffin cups. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of streusel on top of each dough square. Cover with plastic wrap.

6. Bake at 400° for about 15-18 minutes, or until you see some of the dough starting to brown. Set muffin pans on wire racks to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing the mini coffee cakes with an offset spatula or dull knife. Set unpanned mini coffee cakes on a wire rack to cool further. Freeze leftovers by wrapping individual coffee cakes in plastic wrap and then placing in a large zip top freezer bag. Defrost by microwaving at 20 second intervals until desired heat level is reached.

Makes 24 mini coffee cakes

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Potato & Beef Burritos

Potato and Beef Burritos
I like to eat mine with a fork.

If you live in Southern California and have access to a Smart and Final store, you are able to purchase Ramona's Potato and Beef burritos, $19.99/dozen, any time you want. Since I no longer live in SoCal, but really really wanted to eat a delicious potato and beef burrito, I took to the internet and found this fantastic recipe from 
Pina en la Cocina

These burritos don't taste exactly like Ramona's but they're pretty darned close and pretty darned satisfying.

I still need to find a better, more consistent way to introduce heat. I have yet to actually try the Anaheim chiles called for in the recipe at Pina en la Cocina. So far Trader Joe's jalapeno sauce has been sufficient and easy.

So there you go. Potato and beef burritos. Try them.

Potato and Beef Burritos
     --Adapted from Pina en la Cocina

  • 2 pounds cooked, simply seasoned beef (Click here for a good recipe.)
  • 4 - 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3-4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock (I use as much of the liquid from the roast recipe linked above as I can)
  • 4 cans (4 oz. each) fire roasted diced green chiles
  • Jalapeno hot sauce to taste (I use 3-4 tablespoons Trader Joe's Jalapeno Sauce.)
  • 12-16 large flour tortillas

  • In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat up 2-3 tablespoons of oil. add the cubed potatoes. Salt and pepper the potatoes to taste. Stir potatoes occasionally until they start to brown and begin to soften.
  • Add the garlic, onion, and cumin to the potatoes. Stir and cook until potatoes are cooked through.
  • Add the cooked beef, green chiles, jalapeno sauce, and beef stock. Stir to combine and heat through.
  • Scoop about a cup or so of the mixture into the middle of a tortilla and roll up into a burrito. (Click here for a video that shows the best way to fold/roll a burrito.)
  • For real Ramona's authenticity, wrap each rolled burrito in plastic wrap. When you do this, the tortilla becomes soft, steamed, and even moist from the filling juices.
  • Any burritos you do not eat the day you make them can (and should be) frozen (in their plastic wrap) and placed in a zip top freezer bag for later enjoyment.
  • When ready to reheat from frozen, place wrapped burrito on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 2 minutes*. Turn burrito over and heat for another 30-60 seconds. Allow to sit for at least 3 minutes to allow heat to evenly disperse throughout the burrito. Unwrap and enjoy.

*You may need to adjust this time depending on which size tortilla you used and how big your burritos end up.

Makes 12-16 burritos

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Simple Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets

This chicken nugget recipe actually started with a recipe for fried pork tenderloin--a super popular dish here in Iowa. It was such a simple and delicious dish, that I decided to try the treatment on chicken. It immediately became my older son's absolute favorite dish. 

The recipe involves pounding the chicken with a meat tenderizer, which really tender chicken doesn't really need, but it does make the nuggets extra delicate and tasty. You may need to just try it and get a feel for what works for you.

This was actually the first time I made nuggets from this recipe. Usually, I fry up the fillets and we eat them on buns. We were having a Hot Ones party with friends (for those unfamiliar, you can click on the link, or just know it's a sort of challenge to eat 10 increasingly hot sauces while answering thoughtful questions), so I needed a lightly breaded chicken in relatively small pieces. These nuggets fit the bill perfectly. They're savory without being overly-seasoned OR overly breaded which is what generally occurs with store-bought nuggets.

At any rate, these are a delicious homemade chicken nugget. Give 'em a go.

Simple Chicken Nuggets

  • 2 pounds chicken breast meat
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base (or chicken bouillon)
  • 2 sleeves of saltine crackers
  • vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • Mix the hot water and the chicken base/bouillon and pour into a large bowl.
  • Slice each chicken breast horizontally into two or three pieces/fillets.
  • Place slices between two layers of plastic wrap, and then with a meat tenderizer pound the chicken, only hitting each spot once on each. Take care to not tenderize too much. Turn the chicken over and do the same on the other side.
  • If a slice of chicken is already pretty thin, skip the pounding step.
  • Cut the thin/thinned chicken into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces. Place cut pieces into the bouillon liquid.
  • Working with about half a sleeve of crackers at a time, put the crackers into a gallon size zip top bag and roll with a rolling pin until the crackers are a relatively fine powder.
  • Pour the cracker powder (or some of it) into a bowl or dish where you can coat the chicken.
  • Set a wire cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet or line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  • Heat about an inch to inch and half of oil in shallow frying pan or cast iron skillet set over medium high heat. (Alternately, you can use a wok or other deep frying apparatus.)
  • While oil heats, start to coat the chicken pieces with the cracker dust. Set coated pieces on a plate until the oil is heated.
  • When oil is heated, fry as many pieces of chicken that will fit in the pan, leaving at least a quarter inch between pieces.
  • Fry until light golden brown and then using tongs or a fork, turn over to fry another minute or two until browned on the other side.
  • Remove cooked chicken pieces to the prepared wire rack or paper towel lined baking sheet.
  • Continue frying until all chicken has been fried. When finished, turn off the heat and  set oil aside to cool and then discard.

Makes about 2 dozen chicken nuggets.

This chicken breast is pretty thick, so I filleted it into 3 pieces.
Chicken should be about this thick.
Today I doubled the recipe for a Hot Ones party.
Pound chicken lightly with a meat tenderizer. 
It's easy to shred the chicken, so be cafeful.
Cut each pounded fillet into smaller pieces
Chicken pieces soaking in the chicken broth.
Crackers should be pulverized almost into a powder.
Toss the chicken in a bowl.
Breaded pieces can be set aside until all are breaded before frying.
I liked frying in this wok today.
This is the best way to drain the oil--a wire rack over a pan.
Tender, delicious chicken nuggets.

Copycat Luxardo Maraschino Cherries & Syrup

Homemade Maraschino Cherries and Cherry Jam

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries are something special. They're a deep purple color, and the syrup they come in is way more flavorful than any other Maraschino cherry syrup I've ever tried. I don't really like EATING Maraschino cherries, so I don't exactly know if I LIKE eating the Luxardo cherries, but everyone else who's ever tried them swears they're like candy.

I tasted these ones you see pictured here. They are sour and boozy, and have the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors in them. I need to give some to others to try and tell me if they're really good.
All I know is that although the syrup is much lighter in color than the original Luxardo cherries, it tastes just as delicious in the Cherry Limeade beverage I usually enjoy it in.

If you enjoy reading details and variations on the recipe, please go to A Nerd Cooks where I found this recipe. The article is fascinating and informative.

Copycat Luxardo Maraschino Cherries and Syrup
  --Adapted from A Nerd Cooks

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds sour cherries, pits and stems removed
  • Have about 5 8-ounce mason jars cleaned and sterilized ready.
  • In a large saucepan, add 1/2 cup sugar, water, salt, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg. Place saucepan over medium high heat and swirl or stir until sugar is melted.
  • Add the cherries and liqueur. Stir. Bring mixture to a simmer.
  • Ladle the cherries out of the syrup and into the waiting mason jars. Try not to include too much of the syrup at this point.
  • Remove the cinnamon sticks. Add 1/2 cup sugar to the syrup, stir, and continue to cook to reduce the liquid to almost half.
  • Pour syrup over cherries until syrup and cherries reach about 1/4 in from the rim of the jar.
  • Screw the lids onto the jars, not super tight, but securely. Process the jars in boiling water for 3 minutes. Then carefully remove to a place to cool completely.

These cherries are actually from a cherry tree in my yard.

I bought fresh spices for the occasion from our local All Spice in Des Moines, Iowa.

Sugar is all dissolved. Time for the cherries and liqueur.

Cherries swimming in Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

I thought they looks an awful lot like grape tomatoes.

I'm mostly after the syrup here, so there's extra.

Cherry Vodka Limeade

Cherry Vodka Limeade

Cherry Vodka Limeade

This became a favorite beverage to drink at my brother's house after taking care of our parents and their affairs all day when visited all of them in Georgia. It's light, refreshing, and super tasty. I even like to make it without the vodka sometimes. It's a little bit of work, but definitely worth the effort.

If you can get a hold of them and afford to buy them, I highly recommend using Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. They really are something special. Today I used a copycat version of those cherries, and it tastes fantastic. I'll get around to posting that recipe later.

Cherry Vodka Limeade
Adapted from

  • ice
  • 1-2 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice (depending on how tart you like it)
  • 2 ounces cherry Vodka (Smirnoff is my fav)
  • 4-5 ounces lemon-lime soda (Sprite, 7-Up, etc.)
  • 1/2 ounce Maraschino cherry syrup (Luxardo is the best, Reese's Maraschino Syrup is what I can afford)
  • 1-2 Maraschino cherries
  • Fill a 16 ounce glass with ice.
  • Add in the lime juice, vodka, and soda.
  • Add cherry syrup and cherries and stir gently.
  • Enjoy.

Butterscotch Pots de Creme

Butterscotch Pots de Creme

The first time I had these pots de creme was at my brother and sister-in-law's house. It was a few days after Christmas, and I was only there because our father had fallen ill, and I had to make an emergency trip. Heidi had made the pots de creme for dessert for their Christmas dinner, but they hadn't turned out. Being the culinary perfectionist she is, Heidi needed a do-over, and I'm so glad she did. This dessert can only be described as sweet, creamy, salty heaven on a spoon. It's smooth and intensely flavorful. Just amazing. 

It's not something one would make regularly because it's so very rich. But today, I'm making it because I'm on summer break, and it's been a ridiculously hard year (that I won't go into). Suffice it to say, my soul needs to make these, so that's what I'm doing. 

The original recipe calls for a scant tablespoon of fine sea salt, but that's just a little too much salt for my taste. If you like more salt, go for the whole scant tablespoon. 

Butterscotch Pots de Crème with Salted Caramel Sauce
    --Adapted from who got it from Food and Wine Magazine

Pots de Crème 
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 5 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Boiling water
  • Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below)
  • Whipped cream for serving
  • finishing salt, if desired (I used Balinese Pyramid Sea Salt from All Spice in Des Moines)
For the Pots de Crème:
  • Preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit. 
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar and cook over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until smooth and bubbling, about 5 minutes. 
  • Gradually whisk in the cream. Return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. 
  • Add the salt and vanilla seeds.
  • In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Whisk in a few tablespoons of the hot cream mixture, and then gradually pour and whisk in the remaining hot cream. 
  • Strain the custard into a measuring cup with a spout, and then pour into eight 6-ounce ramekins. 
  • Set the ramekins in a small roasting pan and place it in the middle of the oven. Fill the roasting pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, until the custards are set but still slightly wobbly in the center. Transfer the ramekins to a baking sheet and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.
  • Once cold, top each custard cup of creme with 2-3 teaspoons of the cooled caramel sauce (or more, if you'd like). Sprinkle with some finishing salt, if desired. 
  • When ready to serve, top with a dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream.

Salted Caramel Sauce 
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp heavy cream
Instructions for Caramel Sauce:
  • In a large size sauce pan over medium heat, mix the sugar, water, and salt. Stir the mixture until nearly all of the sugar has dissolved into the water. 
  • Turn the heat up to medium high. Cover the pan until you hear it start to bubble and boil, and then uncover it so you can watch the color. Do not stir.
  • Boil the sugar and water mixture over medium high heat until it reaches a clear amber brown color. Do not stir the mixture while it’s boiling. Wash down the sides with pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming.  This will take about 10-15 minutes, but be sure to watch the pan closely so it does not burn.
  • Once the deep amber color has been achieved remove the pan immediately from the heat and turn off the burner. Carefully add the heavy cream to the pan. Cream will bubble up immediately and then settle down. Stir continuously with either a whisk or silicone spatula until all of the caramel has dissolved into the cream.
  • Allow the caramel to cool for at least 30 minutes before eating/using on the pots de creme.

Today I used 4 oz canning jars, not ramekins.
I made 2/3 recipe today, so there are fewer jars here than normal.

I had to taste the pan leavings. Just as tasty warm and liquidy.

I almost forgot to take a pic before they baked.

Beautiful. I think these were in the full hour and they are perfect.

I had more custard than I'd planned for, so I threw in a Pampered Chef glass bowl.

Refrigerated and ready for the caramel sauce.

This is the color you want before you add the cream for the cream sauce.
Notice how it's more golden and the pic below is brown.

This sugar has gone too far and tastes burned in the resulting sauce. :(

You can see the difference in color between
the perfect sauce on the left and the burned sauce on the right.

Just about 2-3 teaspoons of caramel sauce on top.

Jars can be lidded and refrigerated until ready to serve or share.

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