Orange Cinnamon Bread from Heaven

I took a little liberty with the title of this post, but man, oh, man this Orange Cinnamon Bread really is heavenly!

I’m lucky to have a knack at making yeast breads – they always turn out unless my yeast is way out of date.  I end up with flour from head to toe, but homemade bread – especially this one – is really worth the time.   Your family will love that orangey-cinnamony yeast bread aroma coming from the oven.

This bread is light and airy with a swirl of cinnamon-sugar through it along with bits of orange zest sprinkled here and there.  While taking photos, I had to (had to) eat the end piece so no one would have to eat that.  It’s not nice to give people the end piece of bread.  Then I needed to test the texture of a regular piece, so I warmed it up for a few seconds with butter slathered on it.  Oh, my, my, my, as Mr. McConaughey would say.  It’s fantastic!

Do take the time and make this bread.  It makes two loaves, so you can give the second one to someone you love.  They’ll definitely appreciate it.  Now, what did I do with that bread knife?

Orange Cinnamon Bread
**** Outstanding homemade bread.  Original recipe from Taste of Home’s Complete Guide to Baking.   Best when sliced, dotted with butter and toasted under a toaster oven or broiler for 2-3 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.

2 pkgs. (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast
1/4 C. warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1 C milk
3/4 C. orange juice
1 C. sugar, divided
1 tbsp. grated orange peel.
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
6 1/2 to 7 C. all-purpose flour
Additional water
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 C. confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. orange juice
1/8 tsp. vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a saucepan, heat milk and orange juice until warm (110 degrees); add to yeast mixture. Stir in 1/2 C. sugar, orange peel, salt, egg and 3 C. flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (I used a total of 6 1/2 cups.)

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 6-8 minutes). Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly flour surface; divide in half. With a rolling pin, roll each portion into a 15″x 7″ rectangle. Brush lightly with water. Combine cinnamon and remaining half-cup of sugar and sprinkle over the dough up to 1″ from edges.

Tightly roll up jelly-roll style, starting at the short end and pinch bottom and side seams to seal. Place bottom seam down in two greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool (run butter knife around edges if slightly stuck). Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over completely cooled bread.

Tips and Stuff
I used my Kitchen Aide to mix the ingredients together, changed to the dough hook on low for 3-4 minutes, then turned out the dough on the floured counter and kneaded for 3-4 more minutes until smooth and elastic (hold up a little piece and stretch – should be see-through).
My bread was perfectly browned and done in 30 minutes. Ovens may vary – just keep a watch. You don’t want the top too brown.
Store the bread loosely in a sack, bread box, or I used a plastic grocery bag tied loosely at the end (with aluminum foil wrapped on the cut end to keep it from drying out).

Light Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

I recently finished a Cooking for Two series and found a few more recipes for two to try later on. This light Linguine with Red Clam Sauce caught my eye because a good clam sauce is hard to come by and it’s one of my favorite pasta sauces. This one is a thick, light and simple sauce full of minced clams and has a little kick (you can leave out the pepper flakes if you’re not into spicy).

I prefer a more saucy than chunky sauce, so I added a little more liquid than the recipe called for (see Tips and Stuff below recipe). It was easy to throw together for a weekday lunch and I liked not having a bunch of leftovers. I’m not sure clams would refrigerate and heat back up that well anyway. If you’re brave and want to use fresh clams in their shell, be my guest. I’m not that adventurous.

This will be a go-to pasta sauce, even without the clams, for a dinner on a night we’re both tired and wanting something tasty. You can double this easily to serve 4.

Light Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
***1/2 good and spicy red clam sauce over linguine; quick to make. Makes 2 servings.

Cooking Spray
1/8 C. (2 tbsp.) chopped onion
1/2 clove garlic, minced
7 oz. no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
4 oz. Italian tomato sauce
2 tbsp. white wine
1/2 tsp. dried basil (or 1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped)
1/8 tsp. oregano
pinch of dried crushed red pepper
1 (6 oz.) can minced clams, drained
4 oz. linguine
2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat, while preparing sauce. Keep out 1/4 of pasta water.

For sauce: coat a medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, white wine, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 8 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup pasta water and simmer for 2 more minutes. Add clams and simmer for 2 minutes.

Divide pasta between 2 bowls and top with clam mixture. Sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Calories:  400; Fiber 2.6g; Fat 4.2g; Carbs 58.5g; Protein 28.7 g.; Cholesterol 49 mg.

Tips and Stuff
I wanted my sauce a little thinner so added even more pasta water – about another 1/4 cup.
If you don’t have white wine, just add a little water instead. I’m not sure it added that much to the flavor.

Ligita’s Quick Apple Cake

I don’t know who Ligita is, but I want to thank her from the bottom of my hungry little heart for this Quick Apple Cake recipe. When I read through it, I was a little puzzled because it’s made in a pie plate and the apple mixture is topped with a thick cake crust. So it’s a cake, baked in a pie plate that ends up rather like a cobbler!

The apples are thinly sliced and tossed in a lemon, sugar, cinnamon mixture, then topped with a lightly sweet cake batter. It ends up with a luscious apple filling and a tender cake layer, along with a slightly crunchy top. We had it warm with a scoop of Blue Bell Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and it was oh, so tasty.

This cake (pie, cobbler) has a familiar warm apple cake flavor with a different twist. The browned butter really adds a different dimension to the cake layer, so make sure and don’t skip that step. It was easy to throw together and, besides having to wait impatiently for it to cool, it was a quick dessert. Delicious.

Ligita’s Quick Apple Cake
****Slightly adapted from Richard Sax – Classic Home Desserts

3 C. tart apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 C. plus 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
3/4 C. butter, cut into pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C. sifted all-purposed flour
Vanilla Ice Cream (optional, but highly recommended!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie plate.

Toss the sliced apples in a bowl with the cinnamon, lemon juice and 2 tbsp. of the sugar. Spread the apples evenly in the pie plate.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until the foam is lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove immediately from the stove top and pour into a bowl, leaving any sediment and as much foam as possible in the pan.*

Stir the 3/4 cup of sugar into the butter. Slowly stream the egg into the bowl while stirring. Gently stir in the flour until blended. Spoon the batter evenly over the apples and spread into a layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tbsp. sugar.

Bake until lightly golden and crusty, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve from the pan warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream.

Tips and Stuff
I used Fuji apples. Granny Smith would be another good apple – make sure it’s a firm cooking apple. (Takes 3 medium or 2 large)
*When pouring the browned butter into the bowl, pour through a sieve or use a pan lid to get just the liquid out. Some of the foam will come with it – that’s OK, but make sure the sediment from the browning remains in the pan so it won’t be bitter.
Cool at least 30 minutes to let the apple mixture firm up.

Beef Burgundy for Two

This Beef Burgundy tastes so good that it’s hard to believe it’s a light recipe! It’s full of herbs and has a deep, earthy flavor along with tender beef strips. Since this is simmered for quite awhile, you can use a cheaper cut of meat and it will still come out great.

We had Parmesan garlic bread on the side to make the meal complete. Although the wine I used wasn’t technically burgundy, any dry red wine will do. If you’d rather not use wine, just substitute some more of the beef broth. It won’t have quite the depth of flavor, but will still be quite good.

Beef Burgundy for Two
**** I really liked the deep, herby flavor of the sauce and the nice tender beef strips. Makes 2 fairly big servings.

1/2 lb to 3/4 lb. lean boneless top round or tip steak
1 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Vegetable cooking spray
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 clove or garlic, minced
1 C. beef broth
1/4 C. dry red wine
1 C. sliced fresh mushrooms
2 C. hot cooked noodles (about 3 oz. dry)

Trim fat from the steak; slice diagonally across grain in 1.5″x3″ or so strips. Combine the flour and pepper in a plastic freezer bag and add the steak. Seal the bag securely and shake until steak is well coated.

Coat a Dutch oven with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add steak and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in onion powder, salt and pepper, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, beef broth and wine, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to very low, simmering for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (if you need more liquid, add 1/4 C. warm water and stir). Add the mushrooms and cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes, until fairly thickened. Remove bay leaf. Divide cooked noodles into two bowls and ladle steak mixture evenly over noodles.

Calories: 400; Carbs: 40 g.; Fiber 4.0 g.; Fat 6.7 g.; Protein 33.3 g

Tips and Stuff
Original recipe had 1/2 C. finely chopped onions added along with the herbs and sauteed. Use what you have.
Test beef for tenderness after 30 minutes of simmering – simmer a little longer if not tender to your liking.
I used a real Dutch oven for this.  If you’re using stainless steel watch the mixture carefully so it doesn’t burn.
I used fettuccine for this, but will use a wider noodle (like tagliatelle) next time.

Blueberry Muffins (Cooking for Two)

One of my favorite breakfasts is Blueberry Muffins. When I was in high school, my Mom worked, took care of us, got up early to get my Dad off to the early shift, then would make me breakfast before I went to school. One day I told her to go back to bed and not worry about my breakfast – Carnation Instant Breakfast (remember that?) was good enough for me.

Every once in awhile, though, Mom would make blueberry muffins from scratch and leave them in a warm oven for my breakfast. That was a real treat and every morning I checked the oven just in case! I’ve never found a blueberry muffin I like as well as that one until these came along.

These Blueberry Muffins are light and barely sweet and the lemon zest adds a freshness along with the burst of fresh blueberry. There’s a little crunch from the lemon sugar sprinkled on top that really completes the muffin. They’re terrific.
I made them twice because the first time I forgot to put my memory desk in the camera and didn’t realize it until I’d shot about fifteen pictures! Not to worry – I was ready and willing to make them again because they’re wonderful. They’re as close to the perfect Blueberry Muffin as I’ve found in a long time. And, oh that lemon zest. I just might have to make them again tomorrow.

Blueberry Muffins
****Outstanding muffins. So easy to make and the lemon zest takes them over the top. Recipe slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. Makes 4 to 5 muffins.

1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 C. 2% milk
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3 tbsp. butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 C. fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare 4 to 5 cups in a muffin tin by spraying with Pam and then a light coating of flour. Stir the sugar and lemon zest together in a small cup and set aside.

For the muffins, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, egg, and lemon zest together until smooth. Gently fold wet mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined (about 6 folding strokes). Fold in the melted butter and blueberries, gently.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle each with the lemon sugar. Bake until muffins are lightly browned or until a toothpick comes out clean, about 22-24 minutes, rotating the muffin tin halfway through baking.

Let muffins cool in the tin on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin and let cool for another 5 minutes.

Tips and Stuff
The original recipe called for either 1/4 C. whole milk or 1/4 C. low-fat plain yogurt. It worked perfectly with the 2% milk I had on hand, but use what you have.
When folding the butter and blueberries in, be very gentle for more tender muffins.
I made 4 muffins the first time and they were really big, so the second time I made 5 muffins and they came out more normally sized. If you make 4 muffins, put an empty cup between the filled ones so they won’t merge while baking!