Cheese & Herb Monkey Bread

Growing up, when we were having a special treat or the whole extended family was together, my grandmother would make us her ‘sticky buns.’ Now that she has passed away, my mom thankfully has taken on the responsibility of the sticky bun making! It was only after I was probably in my mid-20s that I realized what we called Grandmom’s sticky buns was what most people call monkey bread. You know what I’m talking about… those sweet, sugary, pull-apart balls of doughy deliciousness that taste of cinnamon and frequently have chopped nuts attached! (This is a point of contention in my family – nuts or no nuts?! The two parties are bitterly divided and therefore Grandmom and Mom make one dish with and one dish without the nuts. I’m on Team Nuts, for the record.) As I was writing this post, I decided to look up the history of monkey bread. Fun facts for your bank of useless knowledge: 

  • Monkey bread was termed such because we eat it using our fingers, pulling apart each chunk, which was thought to mimic the way monkeys eat. 
  • Alternative names include: monkey puzzle bread, sticky bread (I guess this is where we got our sticky buns moniker!), pinch-me cake, bubble bread, and Hungarian coffee cake.
  • The origin of this treat is probably the Hungarian-Jewish arany galuska, brought to this country by Eastern European immigrants in the late 1800s. 
  • American monkey bread differs from arany galuska as each dough ball is dipped in butter, which was not part of the original recipe. 

So there you have it – more knowledge than you ever knew you needed about monkey bread! Now this version is a savory adaptation of the sweet breakfast tradition. The base concept is the same; dough balls, dipped in the butter, stacked haphazardly prior to baking, and eaten pulled apart with fingers. While I love the original, this cheesy, herby version is amazing! It’s an amazing alternative to regular bread to accompany dinner, but it definitely would still work as a breakfast dish. 

Cheese & Herb Monkey Bread

(Adapted from Home Skillet, by Robin Donovan)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted & divided
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups Asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, combine 2 tbsp of melted butter, milk, and water. Stir in the sugar and yeast. Let the mixture sit for ~10 minutes, until frothy. 
  2. Stir in the flour and salt. As it comes together, switch to kneading the dough with your hands. Once you have a dough ball, place it in a clean bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise for 90 minutes. 
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  4. Mix together the two cheese in another bowl. Remove 1/2 cup to another small bowl.
  5. Add the garlic and herbs to the main bowl and toss together. 
  6. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until roughly 1/8th inch thick. Spread the cheese mixture onto half of the dough and then fold the other half over top. 
  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into small squares. Roll each square into a ball. 
  8. Using the remaining melted butter, brush butter on all surfaces of your cast iron skillet. Then dunk each ball into the butter prior to placing in the skillet. Layer the balls across the bottom of the skillet and then stack into further layers as needed. 
  9. Sprinkle the dough balls with the reserved cheese.
  10. Bake for 40 minutes in the oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes prior to eating. Run a knife around the edges and then flip the skillet over onto your serving platter. 

Serves 4-6

Beef Barley Soup

A lot of our family and friends think because we have this food blog and enjoy ‘fancy’ dinner date nights, that we only eat complex, homemade dishes for every single meal. Hate to burst the bubble, but that is far from the truth. We obviously do love experimenting with new recipes and tend to take a little longer to prepare some complicated dishes than others might… but this is not every single day for us. We have a deep love for boxed Kraft mac & cheese, get giddy about our occasional trips to Taco Bell, and eat Trader Joe’s frozen pizza roughly once a week. And I (Ally) love Campbell’s canned soups. Go ahead, judge me, I don’t care. One of my all time favorite Campbell’s soups is Beef Barley. Since it’s getting to be quite chilly around here – it’s been below freezing a few mornings this past week! – I decided we definitely needed soup for dinner tonight. Beef barley just sounds so hearty, warm, and filling to combat the chill today!

Beef Barley Soup

(Adapted from several sources: Campbell’s, this blog, & this one)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 1/2 lb stew beef, cubed
  • Salt & pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 large carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large potato, shredded
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp Worce
  • stershire sauce
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup quick pearl barley
Instructions: 
  1. Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot to a bit above medium. Once hot, sear the beef cubes, in batches if needed. Remove the beef to the side once seared on all sides.
  3. Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes, until fragrant and softened a bit.
  4. Shred the potato into the pot, followed by all of the remaining ingredients, except the barley, and including the set-aside beef. Bring to a boil and then lower to a light simmer.
  5. Cook for ~ 2 hours. Then add the barley and increase to a slightly more vigorous simmer for ~20-30 minutes until the barley is cooked.

Serves 6-8 as a main dish; more as a side

Weekend in Cleveland

October has been kind of a low volume blogging month for us. Honestly, we haven’t made a whole lot worth remembering. This is a little sad because there are so many good food holidays we should have been celebrating in October. (We’ve missed Noodle Day AND Pasta Day – though why those are two separate holidays is beyond me! We also bailed on Dessert Day, Gumbo Day, Pumpkin Pie Day, Taco Day, Red Wine Day, and Chocolate Cupcake Day ☹️ So many missed opportunities! We were also at an event on World Food Day, which I was hoping to make a yearly celebration after discovering what it was all about last year (see: Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha)).)

Enough about what we haven’t done this month. One thing we did this month was visit Selim’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. We love our visits to Cleveland for many reasons (family and friends chief among them 🖤), but we also always have excellent food! Cleveland is by far one of the most underrated food cities. Cleveland is definitely a city of immigrants, from the Central & Eastern Europeans of the 1900s to the Hispanic and Middle Eastern newer arrivers. And luckily, that creates a delicious melting pot of foods of all ethnicities.

We tried Brazilian food for the first time outside of those yummy, but kitchsy Brazilian steakhouses. Batuqui was delicious and definitely not kitschy, though Selim did have an amazing garlic-rubbed steak! We also stopped at Selim’s favorite Italian bakery, Presti’s, in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood. And to round out the culinary highlights of the trip, Selim took me on my first milkshake date to Tommy’s. The milkshakes definitely live up to their reputation 😍

So, in conclusion, no recipe today, but some pictures of Selim with his favorite Cleveland treats!

Dinner Salad with a Poached Egg

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In my mid-to-late 20s, there was this salad I used to make myself all the time. I’m talking maybe two or three times a week for months to years. (Katie & Terry probably remember this phase of my life well 😂🤣). I saw it originally in a magazine somewhere I think, though I can’t remember where. I got away from making it when Selim and I started dating, probably for two reasons. One, I stopped cooking for just one person and this is the perfect dinner for one. And two, Selim is morally opposed to anything trendy, and for awhile there everyone was putting an egg on top of everything! Happily, the thought popped into my head to make it for my dinner tonight, and now we have the recipe to share here. It’s really easy to throw together, easily modified, and simultaneously healthy and filling. The salad portion itself can be whatever you want it to be – I generally use mixed greens as the base, with carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers for additional veggies. The consistent components are a poached egg, balsamic vinegar, and lots of fresh pepper. When you break the poached egg open, the runny yolk combines with the balsamic vinegar to essentially create an eggy vinaigrette. The thick fat of the egg yolk replaces the oil of a normal vinaigrette.

As I was writing this post, I figured out that the original recipe inspiration for this salad is likely the Salade Lyonnaise – which is a classic French bistro salad with a bed of frisée, bacon, a poached egg, and a vinaigrette. Sounds familiar… I like my salad just how it is, though I’m sure many people would happily take the additional bacon.

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Dinner Salad with a Poached Egg 

Ingredients: 
  • ~3 cups mixed greens
  • Assorted raw crunchy vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, peppers, celery, broccoli, radishes, whatever!), chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 egg
  • ~2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Poach the egg. [Many people have different tips and tricks on how this can best be accomplished. This is what I do: bring a small saucepan of water to a light simmer, not a boil; crack the egg into a small ramekin; swirl the water with a spoon to create a vortex in the center of the water; gently pour the egg into the vortex and immediately stop stirring; watch the pot to make sure it doesn’t start simmering and let the egg bathe in the water for about 4 minutes. I do not use vinegar or salt or anything else in the water, but you do you.]
  2. Assemble the salad – greens spread out on the plate, topped with the chopped veggies.
  3. Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to dry briefly. Then place it on top of the salad.
  4. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over top. Crack a lot of fresh black pepper over that. Then break open the egg and toss the salad together!
Serves 1

 

Apple Cinnamon Galette

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It’s well documented on this blog (and if you know me in real life…) that I don’t like/am mildly terrified of baking. But every fall, like clockwork, I feel the need to bake something with apples in it. It’s a personal rite of fall passage, along with my need to decorate with tiny gourds, take pictures of leaves changing, carve a pumpkin, and cook a batch of chili (see: Finally Fall Chili). Around here we’re a little desperate for fall’s arrival. We’ve had a few glorious days here and there, including a gorgeous weekend when we were in Charlottesville, but the days keep reverting back to a hot, humid, sunny, and mid-80s. So instead of being inspired by the fall weather for this dessert today, I’m hoping by making it, I’ll convince the fall gods to stick around for good here soon! And furthermore, October is not only National Apple Month, it’s National Dessert Month! So it’s only right that we celebrate, even though it doesn’t quite feel like fall yet.

The even better news about this baking attempt is that on the scale of baking things, galettes are definitely closer to a zero than a ten. So even I can’t screw it up! They’re not even supposed to look neat or perfect! Imperfection is perfection 🙂 Which is why I’m not sure why I’ve never made one before. Imperfection is my kind of baking.

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Apple Cinnamon Galette

(Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)
Ingredients:
  • Crust
    • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
    • 1 tbsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Filling
    • 3 Granny Smith apples, sliced
    • 2 tbsp white wine
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp flour
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Instructions:
  1. Put the stick of butter in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the dough. Meanwhile, mix all of the dry dough ingredients together. When the butter is cold, use a grater to cut the butter into the mix. Add the vanilla and then stir the water in slowly until a dough forms. Knead a few times and form into ball. Then flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Slice the apples and place in a large bowl with all of the other filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until time to assemble the galette.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a silicone mat (or parchment paper) on a large cookie sheet.
  4. Roll out the dough into a large circle on a floured surface. Arrange the apples in the center, keeping them as flat as possible and leaving a 2-3 inch border. Fold the edges over, pressing them down.
  5. Bake for ~30 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

French Onion Meatballs

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Ever eat a delicious bowl of french onion soup and think, ‘wow, this is really good, but I wish I had some meat!’ Yea, me neither, because a bowl of french onion soup is a treasure just how it is. BUT, if you were thinking that, you could turn to this handy recipe for French Onion Meatballs, that combine the flavors of french onion soup with some juicy meatballs. These meatballs are smothered in a savory gravy – the definition of comfort food!

I came across the inspiration for this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks back (see: Cupcakes & Kale Chips) and have been thinking about it ever since! An NFL Sunday afternoon, with weather that finally feels like fall, turned out to be the perfect day to try it. It does take a fair amount of active time to make this, which is why I did it on a weekend afternoon, where I could half watch/listen to the football games (and chat with Selim!) at the same time.

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We ate our meatballs on top of some toasted baguette slices, smothered in the gravy, which I cannot recommend more highly. I also ate some plain in a bowl – that’s excellent too. I’m thinking it would be amazing over top of rice or some egg noodles, OR as a seriously messy appetizer with some toothpicks. The onion flavor is the star here, as in traditional french onion soup. But I think the thyme comes through really nicely, giving it an herbaceous quality as well. Simmering your meatballs in the gravy keeps them nice and juicy. And speaking of the gravy… I was eating it with a spoon. Caramelized onions, beef broth, red wine… if you’re not licking the spoon, then I’m worried about your taste buds.

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French Onion Meatballs

(Adapted from this blog post, via Pinterest)
Ingredients: 
  • 1+ tbsp neutral oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved & sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef (85/15)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 heaping tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp plain bread crumbs
  • ~4 oz Gruyere cheese
    • ~2oz , cut into small bite-sized cubes
    • ~2oz, shredded (or more! 🙂 )
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup unsalted beef broth
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Begin by caramelizing the onions. Heat the oil in a medium pan over just under medium heat. Once the oil is hot, toss in the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper.
  2. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized, at least 30-40 minutes, perhaps as long as an hour!
  3. While the onions are cooking, prepare the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the beef, eggs, fresh herbs, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp salt, and 10 more turns of fresh black pepper.
  4. Form the meatballs by wrapping meat mixture around the small cubes of cheese and forming medium-sized meatballs.
  5. Once the onions are done, deglaze the pan with the red wine, making sure to scrape up all the delicious, browned, stuck-on bits.
  6. Bring the wine to a simmer and add in the meatballs. Continue simmering, with the lid off, for 5-6 minutes, browning the meatballs on both sides.
  7. Now add the beef broth and bay leaf to the pan. Cover and lower heat slightly if needed, so liquid is still simmering. Cook another 15 minutes.
  8. While that is cooking, prepare a beurre manié by kneading together the butter and flour and forming a little ball. (I do this in a ramekin with my fingers.)
  9. Remove the lid from the pan and add the beurre manié. Adjust the heat so the liquid is still simmering (if need be) and stir occasionally until the sauce has thickened. This may take another 10+ more minutes.
  10. Discard the bay leaf and serve topped with the additional shredded cheese. Spoon over a crusty baguette or on top of any type of starch. Garnish with additional parsley if desired.
Serves 4 as an entree; more as an appetizer

Mojo Verde

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What to do when you bought a whole bunch of cilantro, planning to make guacamole for National Guacamole Day yesterday, but get home only to discover that your avocados are all bad? We were way too lazy to go back out for avocados, so decided to save our bunch of cilantro for tonight and our steak dinner! We’re having our favorite cut of flank steak, which is a great vessel for this mojo verde. As we’ve been writing this blog, we’ve done bits of research here and there, learning a lot along the way. The Canary Islands, despite the fact that they’re a small group of islands, occupy an important place in culinary history. Canarian cuisine is especially known for mojos (sauces); the red and spicy mojo picón might be the most famous. Though perhaps not as famous, the mojo verde is a quick and easy and delicious sauce to add to our repertoire! Steak may not be the most traditional pairing (that award would go to Canarian wrinkled potatoes or maybe a white fish), but we enjoyed it! This green version isn’t the “spicy” mojo, but it actually has quite a bite from the garlic. Next time we’re going to try papas arrugadas, those wrinkled potatoes!

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Mojo Verde

(Adapted from Bon Appetit & Jose Andres)
Ingredients:
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch cilantro (~2 cups), de-stemmed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
Instructions: 
  1. Place the garlic, cilantro, cumin, and salt in a food processor and blitz. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil.
  2. Finish with the vinegar (and water if needed to thin to your desired consistency).
  3. Store in the refrigerator if not using immediately.