30 by 30: making cinnamon buns

My 30th birthday is a little over 4 months away and there are quite a few items left on my 30 by 30 list, yup – quite a few. So when my sister asked me to make something a little special (read: indulgent) for brunch this past Sunday (I’m staying with her while in NY), I decided it was time to cross one thing off the list – cinnamon buns (or cinnamon rolls – is there a difference??)

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Now before you remind me about my goals of losing a few pounds this year, let me assure you – I’m well aware of this goal. And in case I somehow forgot, my jeans very clearly (although passive aggressively) set the record straight by bursting at the seems. No, I’m not using this expression metaphorically. Literally, I looked down at my jeans yesterday while my sister was in a dressing room trying on wedding dress #3785643, and along both sides of the pant legs, I saw seems. Holding on for their dear life. No bueno.

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Needless to say I went with a lighter recipe for brunch (from Cook’s Illustrated The Best Light Recipecookbook). These guys normally know their stuff. They test dozens for recipes before publishing their own. They tell you what went wrong and what went right. I trust them.

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Yet somehow this recipe was a fail.

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The dough was crazy sticky (I added a lot of flour in an attempt to remedy that); the technique of patting it down (instead of rolling it out) into a rectangle was quite strange (they said it’d be easier but nope, quite awkward in fact) and then finally when I started forming the cinnamon roll, the dough started ripping in so many places – spewing out cinnamon sugar like crazy (you may notice patches in the below picture).

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I was not a happy camper. Not at all. But at the end, decided to just plop a bunch of dough and cinnamon sugar blobs into the pan and see what happens.

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Cinnamon bun dough blobs Winking smile

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This is what happened ~25 minutes later. Hey, not bad!

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Getting these babies out of the pan was no easy task (since I basically poured sugar over the dough, it stuck to the bottom of the pan once melted)… but I persevered.

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These were “quick” cinnamon buns, meaning the dough was not yeasted. Instead they were biscuit-like buns with a sweet cinnamon filling and a cream cheese/buttermilk glaze. I won’t be making this recipe again but they were quite tasty at the end.

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Have you ever made cinnamon buns (or rolls)? Do you have a favorite lighter recipe? And just for fun… what’s your favorite brunch food? Mine is French toast and this crème brulee baked French toast (which incidentally I made last time I was staying at my sister’s in NY) is my favorite recipe of all times!

30 by 30: making spaetzle

Hi friends! How were your Christmas/Hanukkah holidays? I’m half Jewish so I get to celebrate both which is really fun! On Friday, I picked up my parents from the airport (they were coming back from Barcelona… are they lucky or what?!) and treated them to a home cooked Hanukkah dinner complete with latkes and sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts) which were my first recipe from the pastry book. Everything came out really delicious! On Saturday we headed to West Newbury to spend Christmas with Adam’s family. I took 151 pictures of the nephews opening gifts… and then it was time to open my own. I got so many awesome foodie gifts, including chocolate (duh), somenewcookbooksand even a cute blog shirt (you’ll see what I mean when I take a photo of myself Smile ).

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Christmas day was definitely lazy (the kids got up at 5am so once the Christmas morning excitement wore off, we were pretty much like zombies for the rest of the day). And I even took Monday “off” together with Adam (aka my computer was pretty much closed all day and my kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it so there was no cleaning). I did find a few peppers and carrots in the fridge, a few sausages in the freezer and decided to make spaetzle for dinner (it was time to get another thing crossed off my 30 by 30 list!).

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Have you ever had spaetzle? In case you haven’t, spaetzle is basically little German egg noodles which are boiled then pan fried in butter (mmm). I’ve only had them once before last night but recall my first time vividly. It was from a restaurant in New York called Little Giant. It was served as a side to a dish that intrigued me and I was so surprised to bite into these buttery plump little noodles. They totally stole the show! Of course I assumed they would be a huge challenge so I added to them to my list. Little did I know they were a cinch to make! A spaetzle makerwill come in very handy here but it’s less than $10 on Amazon.

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I started with this recipe for spaetzle but decided to use half whole wheat flour/half all purpose. Making the dough was pretty much like making pancakes but with less ingredients! Mix the dry ingredients, then combine with wet. And you’re done!

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The dough was so much runnier than I was expecting. I added another 1/2 cup of flour to it hoping it would firm up (I think I had pasta dough in mind)… and then decided to just try it out as is. See how it’s pourable? If pourable is a word… Winking smile

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While this was happening I brought salted water to a simmer… and we were off! The dough drips through the spaetzle maker holes and forms little noodles that set in the water.

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OMG, it’s working!

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We’ve got spaetzle!

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A quick stir-fry of peppers, carrots and sausage in a bit of EVOO, then the spaetzle in 1 tablespoon of butter (which was plenty!), parsley and garlic…

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… and we have one fantastic meal! [serves 4]

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This was so incredibly satisfying. The spaetzle was seriously SO EASY to make and Adam and I loved the buttery noodles with lots of veggies and sausage (I was going for a German theme here). Now that I know how fast the whole thing comes together, I will definitely be adding spaetzle to our usual rotation of carbs.

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Have you made anything fun lately? Do share! Open-mouthed smile

30 by 30: dinner at Canary Square in JP

I never realized how negatively the winter weather affects my mood until the spring and then finally summer (!!!) are upon us and I can’t get enough of the sunshine and the heat. Yes, even the heat. I’ll take it! It means I can relax with a glass of (cold) Riesling or my latest favorite – Fisherman’s Bavarian wheat beer – out on the patio at night with Adam or enjoy a night out with friends, dining al fresco. Beats shivering with AC blasting inside any day!

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I’m slowly but surely going through the restaurants on my 30 by 30 list. This time was extra fun because Adam and I were joined by our friends Kyle, Tiffany, Jim and Liz. We’re trying to have a monthly dinner going and this was our second outing (the first one was at Bistro du Midi… yeah, I’ve put myself in charge of organizing future dinners so we don’t actually have 11 months passing between each “monthly” dinner again). We even left the comfort of the Back Bay/South End area and traveled to Jamaica Plain. I know… so ambitious! Winking smile

Canary Square is bar and restaurant specializing in American comfort foods with a twist. Local ingredients are often used in many dishes, which is always a welcome sign for me because aside from the sustainability side of it (which is complicated in my opinion), I think it forces creativity in the kitchen and as well as makes the menu more seasonally appropriate.

The décor is modern meets warm with exposed brick walls and ceiling beams with funky lights. I was actually imagining a tiny spot similar to Coda in Boston and was very surprised to walk into a large space filled with dozens of tables. It was already buzzing with excitement (around 7pm) but I wanted to take advantage of the warm weather and asked to be seated on their patio instead!

A hot day calls for a cold drink! I went back and forth between the basil grape or spicy watermelon mojito (don’t they both sound amazing?!!) but at the end was told that they ran out of mint. Yikes! Instead the sangarita (lunazul silver, red wine, lime, triple sec, sour mix and lime) quenched my thirst just fine! [It was stronger than I anticipated but after a few sips I was really into it.)

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Lebanese hummus and pita chips was a lovely starter for the table! I loved the rustic preparation of the hummus (slightly chunky) and the super thick and crispy chips.

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Adam also ordered the The Salty Pig – chef’s choice of salty pig parts, house made mustard, pickled vegetables, baguette. The “salty pig parts” that night were represented by a deliciously garlicky pate. I would order this again in a heartbeat!

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Most of the entrees were surprisingly heavy (think mac & cheese, pasta carbonara <—with fresh local peas, nice addition! and roasted chicken with mashed potatoes). Comfort food for sure!

I found the lightest thing there and ordered the wood grilled skirt steak with truffled blue cheese tater tots, local zucchini and radish salad

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That’s a perfect summer item if you ask me!

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The steak was tender and very well cooked but I wasn’t crazy about the spice rub (I think they went a little heavy on the rosemary… I felt like I was eating pine trees) but the zucchini salad was super refreshing and perfectly balanced by the bites of creamy tater tots. I am not a fan of blue cheese but these were really divine!

A few bites of Adam’s wood roasted half chicken with local summer beans, bacon and mashed potatoes…

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… and Jim’s baked mac and cheese with grafton cheddar and north country ham…

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…made me want to come back to this place in the middle of winter and stuff myself silly with fantastic comfort food. Or maybe I’ll just eat inside with AC blasting (I guess it does have its benefits!).

Red sangria

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We were all very happy campers but dessert was yet to be consumed… for completeness of this review of course! Winking smile

Butterscotch bread pudding with vanilla ice cream

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Incredibly rich and remarkably reminiscent of pancakes doused with maple syrup.

Chocolate cheesecake with cranberry jam

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This was not your typical chocolate cheesecake! Tiffany was not a fan because “it wasn’t chocolaty enough” and I agree – this had much stronger caramel undertones than chocolate and the cranberry jam added additional quirky bitterness -  but I loved it for it! It was unique and delicious in its own right. Comfort food with a twist.

The check came with a little book for comments, notes, songs, whatever.

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Haha, courtesy of Tiffany. My kind of challenge Winking smile

Canary Square is a fantastic place for good drinks and great food with friends. We’ll be back for sure!

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For other restaurant reviews, please check out my restaurant reviews page!

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