Friday Dessert Inspiration

I know it’s late in the day, but I have a suggestion for your weekend:

Ice cream sandwich, Propane Kitchen

Miniature homemade chocolate chip cookies, sandwiched together with Straus vanilla bean ice cream, covered with bittersweet chocolate.

Ice cream sandwich, Propane Kitchen

Just smash a few spoonfuls of ice cream between two of your favorite cookies. Freeze for ten minutes while you melt some chocolate chips. Quickly dip your cookie sandwich in chocolate and pop it back in the freezer.

My oh my aren’t weekends divine?

Ice cream sandwich, Propane KitchenI think I am a Sweet Genius. (Has anyone else seen that show? I am so enthralled/weirded out.)

Raspberry Rolls with Limoncello Glaze

Along with things like regular haircuts and lengthy hot showers, while on our trip I missed my KitchenAid mixer. Is it possible to make scrumptious things without one? Of course, but for banging out sticky doughs, the KitchenAid is tops.

KitchenAid, Raspberry Rolls, Propane Kitchen I named my trusty mixer Janet. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous to name your appliances. It started as a joke and just stuck. In any case, before our trip she got a pretty regular workout with butter and flour. Janet is still in storage, so I was fortunate to put my mom’s mixer to good use when I visited.

These luscious, sticky rolls elicited a lot of ooohs and ahhhs and yums on Father’s Day. The dough is slightly sweet, balanced with a tangy raspberry filling. For an extra festive kick, I topped them with a glaze made with limoncello. I found this through the excellent Joy the Baker, who posts seasonal recipes and cooking tips paired with beautifully styled photos. Her blog always makes me hungry.

Don’t let the length of the recipe discourage you; these actually came together quite easily. Let your mixer – whatever it’s called – do the hard kneading work.

Raspberry Rolls with Limoncello Glaze, Propane Kitchen

Raspberry Rolls with Limoncello Glaze

makes 12 rolls

adapted from Joy the Baker

For the Dough:

1 C milk (I used 2 percent)

2/3 C sugar

1 1/2 Tbs active dry yeast

1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted buttered, softened to room temperature

2 large eggs

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp salt

4 1/4 C all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 C for kneading, plus more for sprinkling the counter

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cardamom

For the Filling:

1 1/2 C  fresh raspberries (if using frozen, do not thaw)

1/3 C sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp cornstarch

1/4 C (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, browned and slightly cooled

For the Glaze:

1 C powdered sugar

1 Tbs lemon juice

2 Tbs limoncello

To make the dough:

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk to about 95 degrees. Pour the warm milk into the bow of an electric stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm milk and let sit for 5 to 7 minutes. The yeast will foam and bubble. That’s how you know it’s alive. After frothy, add the butter, eggs, lemon zest, and sea salt to the yeast mixture.  Whisk together flour and spices. Add to liquids. Beat on low speed with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and replace the paddle with a dough hook. Beat dough with the dough hook on medium speed for about 10 minutes.

Dust a clean counter with flour. Scrape the dough out onto the work surface. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of flour and knead for about 2 minutes. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and place in a slightly warm place to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. [Alternate: let dough rise overnight in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before proceeding in the morning.]

While dough rises, grease a 9×13-inch pan with butter. Set aside.

To make the filling:

In a medium bowl toss together raspberries, sugar, lemon zest, and cornstarch. Crush the raspberries just slightly as you stir. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter until it is browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool slightly.

To assemble the rolls:

When the dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a floured work surface and gently knead for 1 minute. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a roughly 10×20-inch rectangle.

Spread the butter over the dough. Spread the filling over the dough. Raspberries will be scattered across the dough.

Working quickly, tightly roll up the dough into a 20-inch long log.  Cut the log into quarters, then cut each quarter into 3 pieces. (This part will make a huge mess; my kitchen counter looked like a crime scene. A DELICIOUS crime scene.) Carefully and quickly lift the rolls into the prepared pan. The rolls will release juice into the bottom if the pan. That’s fine! Cover pan with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rest in a warm place for 1 hour, until puffed.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

To make the glaze:

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice, and limoncello. Drizzle glaze over cooled rolls and serve. Rolls are best served the day they are made but will last up to 3 days well wrapped at room temperature.

Zucchini & Parmesan Salad

Snow blanked the shady path on the way to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our boots were sturdy, but still we could’ve used the extra security of hiking poles. Later, we stopped at the Continental Divide, and hiked through ear-numbing wind to 12, 875 feet. Snow-capped peaks stretched in every direction. I gasped, equal parts awe and elevation, I’m sure. We spent a few nights near Leadville, CO, at 10,152 the highest incorporated town in the US.

Colorado Rockies, Rocky Mountains, Continental Divide

Coming down out of the mountains we shed coats and sweaters when the warm air of the arid high plains came blowing through the windows. In Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, reached the bumpy way via Hwy 318, a tiny road that switches without warning from pavement to dirt at the CO/UT border, the sun bakes the sagebrush and the rocks are bright red as if collecting colors of the sunset. Damming the Green River formed the long lake there. From our site we watched boats zip around the expanse of water and smelled smoke from campfires made with fallen juniper branches. For the first time in weeks it was warm enough to eat outside.

zucchini parmesan salad

Zucchini & Parmesan Salad

1 small, thin zucchini (about 1 ½” in diameter)

Parmesan cheese

½ lemon

Olive Oil

Flat leaf parsley

Salt & Pepper

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini lengthwise into long, thin ribbons. Shave thin pieces of parmesan, to taste. Aim for about ¼ the volume of the zucchini. Pile zucchini and parmesan in a bowl. Squeeze over lemon juice and drizzle olive oil. Toss. Add a handful of parsley, salt & pepper and toss again. Serve immediately. Serves two. Tastes better when prepared & eaten outdoors.

zucchini and parmesan salad

Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches

We’ve been on a sandwich kick. A gooey, oozy sandwich kick. A piled-high-and-hearty kick. In Philadelphia we tried two different cheese steaks, one at Sonny’s Famous Steaks and another at Dalessandro’s. Then in Chicago we stopped by Portillo’s and, on the advice of a trusted friend, ordered the Italian Beef, with, hot, add mozz, dipped. What we received was perfectly seasoned sliced beef topped with spicy-hot pickled peppers and melted cheese, all nestled in a crusty roll, then dipped – the whole thing dipped – into au jus. It was a succulent seven-napkin meal.

Out on our own, we found ourselves craving these hulking sandwiches. For an impromptu Minneapolis backyard get-together we made them with thick New York steaks from the butcher shop down the street. In our most recent version, we used London Broil. These are not traditional Philly or Chicago ‘wiches, so we named them Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches after the view from our window.

Devil's Tower, WY

steak sandwich, philly cheese steak

Devil’s Tower Steak Sandwiches

1 lb London Broil or steak of your choice, seasoned with salt & pepper

4 shallots, sliced

2 C sliced mushrooms

1 Tbs olive oil

1 green pepper, sliced

½ lb provolone or mozzarella

1 baguette or 4 hoagie rolls

Pepperoncini, to taste, if desired

Iceberg lettuce, shredded

1. Cook steak over grill or in a cast iron pan until rare. Thinly slice and set aside.

2. Slowly caramelize shallots over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are rich and brown, about 15 minutes. Add mushrooms to the pan and heat until they release their moisture. If they get a little brown, all the better. Add olive oil and peppers and cook until everything is tender. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Remove veggies from pan and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat bread. Cut baguette into 4 equal pieces and split.

3. Add meat to pan and divide into four separate piles.  Place slices of cheese on top of each pile. Add 2-3 Tbs of water to pan and cover, letting the cheese get gooey and melty.

4. Scoop the cheesy steak into each baguette or roll. Top with onion, pepper and mushroom mixture.  Add iceberg lettuce or pepperoncini, if desired. If there are any pan juices, pour them over the top of each sandwich. Devour.

London Broil, steak sandwich

steak sandwich

Penne with Kale, Walnuts, Chicken and Pesto

The houses here are hunched down in gullies or stand weather-beaten in brown fields, all with steeply pitched roofs that speak of long, harsh winters. We drove through our second snowstorm of the week – the spring I gushed about has not made it to New England. Icicles still adorn the roadways. State parks and campgrounds are closed, and finding campsites will be a challenge the next few days as we pass through the Adirondack Mountains. Last night we parked just off Vermont Hwy 125, with a view of the bridge that will take us across the southern end of Lake Champlain into New York State.

White Mountains, NH

Kale and walnuts are a new favorite combination. I recently made an easy side dish of steamed kale quickly sautéed with chopped walnuts, olive oil and garlic. This is another take on that idea. And, yes, adding more nuts and cheese to a pesto dish may sound like too much of a good thing…but it works.

Toasting Walnuts

Penne with Kale, Walnuts, Chicken and Pesto

½ lb dry penne pasta

1 large bunch kale, stemmed, chopped

½ C walnuts, chopped

1 Tbs olive oil

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 C chicken broth

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 big spoonfuls prepared pesto, to taste

½ C Parmesan or manchego, shredded

Cook pasta according to package directions. Stir in kale and let cook for the last 5 minutes. (Use more kale than you think you need! A big bunch cooks down to nothing.) Drain.

Meanwhile, heat walnuts, olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes until fragrant.  Set aside. Add chicken breasts, broth, lemon juice and garlic to pan. Cover and steam until cooked through. Shred chicken.

Toss together pasta, chicken and pesto. Top with walnuts and cheese.

Penne Kale Walnuts Chicken Pesto

Cabbage and Mushroom Galette

Does the word “cabbage” inspire thoughts of culinary greatness? No? I didn’t think so. This galette will change how you think of cabbage. Tangy, hearty and yet almost silky in texture, a cabbage and mushroom filling gets wrapped in an amazingly flaky pastry crust for a meal that’s much more impressive than the title implies.

cabbage and mushroom galette

This is the second Smitten Kitchen vegetarian recipe I’ve adulterated with bacon. (The first was this soup.) Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against vegetarian recipes, but we had a lot of bacon. The original recipe also called for a chopped hard-boiled egg in the filling, which I skipped because we were out of eggs. Next time, I think I’ll crack an egg onto the center of the galette during the last 5 minutes of baking.

cabbage and mushroom galette

cabbage and mushroom filling

I see myself making this crust often in the future – in addition to savory dinners, I think it will be delicious for a peach or apricot galette. Maybe with some sweetened ricotta, too? I’d already started making this recipe when I realized I didn’t bring a rolling pin with me in the Minnie; luckily my Klean Kanteen water bottle did the trick!

galette crust

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Baking Powder Drop Biscuits

Cooking in an RV leads to shortcuts. The counter is only 12”x12” so there’s not a lot of room to spread out, while a limited water supply means clean up needs to be simple. Drop biscuits are exactly the kind of short cut I like to make. Rolling out dough is  too messy for me these days; drop biscuits are quicker and just as delicious as the more proper rolled-and-cut kind.

Biscuit dough, Bacon Cheddar Biscuits

Tender buttery crisp biscuits are such a comforting food, and perfect in every situation.

Spilled soup? Sop it up with a biscuit.

Leftover ham? Put it on a biscuit.

Tired of cereal? Dollop some jelly on a biscuit & call it breakfast.

I can never decide whether I prefer them hot from the oven with a pat of butter, or cold and slathered with strawberry jam. Today, we had these for breakfast – Bacon Cheddar Biscuits with Scrambled Eggs, Swiss and Arugula. And they were goooood. What are your favorite biscuit toppings?

Bacon Cheddar Biscuit, breakfast, Biscuit Sandwich

Baking Powder Drop Biscuits

2 C flour

1 Tbs baking powder

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

½ C (1 stick) cold butter

1 cup milk

Heat oven to 425°

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and mix with a fork just until moistened. The dough should be sticky – add a few more drops of milk if needed.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.


Bacon Cheddar Biscuits – Add 1 C grated sharp cheddar cheese, ½ C crumbled bacon and 1 Tsp thyme in with the flour.

Buttermilk Herb Biscuits – Add 1 Tsp thyme, ½ Tsp chives with the flour. Use Buttermilk instead of regular milk.

Walnut Biscuits – Increase sugar to 2 tsp. Add ¾ C chopped walnuts with the flour.

Drop biscuits

Arroz con Pollo

Aaaaaaand we’re back. Tanned, relaxed and missing the monkeys. Here’s a recipe to whet your appetite; more to come about our full adventure!

white faced monkey, montezuma, costa rica, capuchin

Even though the beaches and tropical forests feel very far away on this cold rainy day, we can still eat as though we’re in Costa Rica. Costa Rican cuisine is simple, with beans and rice at the heart of every meal. One of our favorite dishes was Arroz con Pollo, which we often ordered at the sodas, or causal diners, that are common in every city. This was from Soda Naranjo, one of our favorite eateries in Montezuma. My recipe, below, is inspired by this dish, but isn’t necessarily authentic.

arroz con pollo, costa rica, montezuma, chicken and rice

Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken) 

2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs

3 Tbs vegetable oil

2 C long-grain white rice

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1 small carrot, shredded

1 tsp dried oregano

1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes

3 C chicken broth

1. Add oil to a large, deep frying pan that has a lid. Heat over medium-high. Add chicken pieces and brown on both sides. Remove chicken and set aside.

2. Add rice to pan and cook for a few minutes until lightly browned, stirring regularly. You can add another 1 tsp of oil if it seems too dry. Add onion, cook until translucent. Add garlic, bell pepper and carrots. Cook until softened. Add oregano.

3. Stir in tomatoes (and their juice). Return chicken thighs to pan, placing them skin-side up on top of the rice. Pour in chicken broth.

4. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook over medium-low until rice and chicken are cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can either chop the chicken and mix it back in, or serve a chicken thigh on top of each serving of rice.

Suggested side dishes: fried plantains, avocados, cabbage salad and cucumber slices. Or, pile on french fries for a true Costa Rican experience!

Classic Toffee

I don’t know about you, but the holidays just aren’t the holidays unless until I’m messing around with pounds of butter and sugar. Cooking a batch of this rich toffee makes me feel like one of Santa’s jolly elves.

Classic Toffee

1 C butter

1 C sugar

¼ C water

1 C chocolate chips

½ C chopped pecans

Sea Salt

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine butter, sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat and stir stir stir until it reaches hard-crack stage (300°). This will take about 15 minutes.

Pour toffee onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Let set for a minute. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the warm toffee. Allow the chips to soften, then use an offset spatula (or the back of a large spoon) to spread the chocolate into an even layer. Sprinkle nuts over the chocolate. Add a dusting of sea salt.

Allow the toffee to cool completely. Break into pieces. Store in a hard-to-open container on a high shelf so you can’t mindlessly eat it all in a single sitting. Or, package and give away immediately. Don’t even bother trying some toffee with your morning coffee; I already tested that and it’s a terrible combination.

toffee recipe

Toffee Recipe

toffee recipe

Toffee recipe

Oven Puffed Pancake

If I’ve ever made you breakfast, chances are you’ve eaten Oven Puffed Pancake. It’s been my signature morning dish for, oh, the past two decades or so. It’s from James McNair’s Breakfast, first published in 1987. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I believe my dad and I bought this, along with a blue teapot, for my mom’s birthday. Family? Is that correct?

I loved this book.

James McNair Breakfasts

All the recipes seemed sophisticated and refined, inspired by far-away places like France or New Orleans. Continue reading