Cinnamon Roll Grilled Cheese Sandwich

In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, I’m posting a different grilled cheese sandwich every single day through the month of April. You’re welcome.

One day I dreamed that I could bring together a cinnamon roll and a grilled cheese sandwich. The resulting Frankenbreakfast was everything I dreamed it would be, and more.

Dense, eggy challah bread was an excellent choice to duplicate the sweetness and pillowy texture of a cinnamon roll. And oh, the filling! Warm, sweet, gooey cinnamon perfection. The Neufchatel gave it a lovely tang, like cream cheese frosting. And the brown sugar melted right into the cheese for a silky smooth consistency.

Is it breakfast? Is it dessert? Does it matter? Make. This. Sandwich.

For general grilled cheese tips, visit the inaugural grilled cheese sandwich post.

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Toffee Cashew Cookies

Cookies and Milk

Every year for as long as I can remember, Mom and I make a trip out to Shakopee to get our nerd on at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. No, we don’t dress up in corsets and snoods, but we thoroughly enjoy the brave souls who do.

As soon as we arrive, we make a careful plan for the day. We see all our favorite acts – the Elizabethan Syngers (yes, with a Y), the Fandazzi Fire-Eaters, and the dulcimer player Mom has a crush on – and in between performances we admire the lovingly-crafted artisan wares. Then we eat tempura veggies and sip cheap red wine from ye olde plastic cups.

At the end of the day, when we’re full and tired and covered in dust, we make a final stop to buy a treat for the road at my very favorite booth, The King’s Nuts (ba-dum ching). As much as I enjoy Pearson’s classic salted nut roll, the pre-made treat languishing in a vending machine for who-knows-how-long simply can’t compete with the King’s fresh, handmade confection – tender nougat dipped in soft caramel and rolled in salty-sweet cashews.

One recent snowy afternoon, I was dreaming of sunny days at Ren Fest, when I was overwhelmed by a craving for the King’s sweet, tender, salty nuts. Why are you snickering?

Cashews

I was considering a run to the gas station for a candy bar, when I remembered the toffee chips and cashews in the pantry. An hour later, I was pulling crispy-chewy cookies from the oven. I folded a warm cookie in half in my hands, and it broke along the  curvy salted borders of the cashews. The sticky toffee bits fought to keep the two halves together.

Craving satisfied; crisis averted.

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Sweet and Spicy Almonds and Pecans

I’m a big fan of consumable gifts – they feel special, personal. Particularly this Christmas, as I enter my sixth month of unemployment, my gift list features treats like homemade baked goods, evenings out, dinners in – pleasures that can be used up or eaten. (Except for Mom and Handsome Greg, who will each receive a Lexus with a big, red bow. Shh! Don’t tell!)

Tied with a considerably smaller red bow, a jar of sweet and spicy nuts makes a lovely holiday gift. Or bake up a batch to start off a Christmas party, and your guests will be greeted at the door with a sweet, warm, cinnamon-y aroma sure to make their hearts grow three sizes that day.

I first spotted this recipe on my very favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, and I made a couple of teensy changes from her preparation. They are positively addictive, with a flawless balance of sweetness, salt, and heat. I’ve made them for countless occasions and they’re devoured in no time. They also add a flavorful crunch atop salads.

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Banana Walnut Muffins

I despise banana-flavored candy. Laffy Taffy, Runts, popsicles, Lifesavers, Now and Laters, jelly beans, Dum Dums, Pez, Dubble Bubble, Starburst – I will ALWAYS toss out the banana flavored ones.

When I was a kid, my banana-flavor loathing prejudiced me to all things banana. I thought I hated bananas, and by extension, any foods baked with bananas. And so I turned up my nose at banana bread, banana cream pie, banana pudding, and sadly, banana muffins.

Thankfully, I came around to baked banana goodness on a family vacation to Toledo when my great grandma tricked me into eating zucchini bread. “Here, have a piece,” she said, with a sly smile. Wildly suspicious, my sister and I asked what was in it. “Oh, just try it. I promise you’ll like it.” And she was right – it was delicious.

Banana Muffin Batter in Tin

That zucchini was my gateway bread. The next morning when she offered me a piece of her freshly baked banana bread, I tried it without first scrutinizing the list of ingredients, and I finally realized what I’d been missing.

While I can’t imagine duplicating my great grandma’s magical banana bread, I think I’ve found a pretty darn good banana muffin recipe. I tried to make them a little more heart-healthy than your average muffin, subbing a bit of wheat flour for some of the AP, and a bit of heart-healthy spread for some of the butter. They came out delicious – sweet and moist and buttery – and they didn’t taste like health food at all.

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Blue Umbrella Bake Sale!

Blue Umbrella Productions is hosting an ongoing bake sale to help raise money for our summer musical, Those Were the Days: A Tribute to Television Themes. I’ll be taking and fulfilling orders Girl-Scout style, plus filling any special requests (like scones for Mother’s Day!) until rehearsals begin in June.

I’ve got a menu of both sweet and savory treats to choose from posted below. Email info@blueumbrellaproductions.com to place an order for pick up or delivery. (Twin Cities only. $10 minimum on orders outside of the Banks Building.)

Menu

Popcorn with Truffle Salt
Fresh, fluffy popcorn is tossed with aromatic, savory truffle salt for a luxurious movie-night upgrade.

3 cups: $1.75
6 cups: $3

Lemon Meltaways
These bite-size, buttery lemon shortbread cookies will melt in your mouth.

Half dozen for $2.75
Dozen for $5

Coconut Macaroons
Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, light as a cloud, with coconutty goodness all the way through.

Half dozen for $4.25
Dozen for $8

Snickerdoodles with Cinnamon Chips
Classic snickerdoodles (sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar) get an extra boost of flavor with creamy cinnamon chips.

Half dozen for $5.50
Dozen for $10

Homemade “Oreos”
They’re bigger, they’re better, and they’re baked fresh with no mystery ingredients.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Oatmeal Cream Pies
A grown-up version of the classic treat – the cookies are rich and spiced, and the creamy filling is not overly sweet.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Mini Strawberry Hand Pies
Light, flaky butter crust filled with sweet strawberry jam.

Half dozen for $8
Dozen for $15

Sweet and Spicy Candied Nuts
Crunchy almonds and pecans baked in a party-perfect blend of cinnamon, sugar, and a pinch of cayenne.

4 oz. for $4
8 oz. for $7.50
12 oz. for $11
1 lb. for $14.50

Stuffed Mushrooms

When I make dinner for my mom, the first menu option we discuss is mushrooms. How can we use mushrooms? Mushroom risotto, mushroom quiche, mushroom lasagna, cream of mushroom soup… the options are overwhelming, and sadly, the opportunities fleeting.

I don’t often have occasion to entertain with mushrooms, because entertaining usually means feeding Handsome Greg, and Handsome Greg is afraid of mushrooms. He doesn’t just dislike them, he fears them.

Christmas lasagna, green bean casserole on Thanksgiving, date night, Friday night supper – no mushrooms allowed. Because they’re TERRIFYING.

Ooogity Boogity!

So when it was time to plan the menu for Mom’s birthday dinner, she made a special mushroom request: Stuffed Mushrooms from the Pillsbury Cookbook she received as a wedding gift from her parents in the 60s.

They are delightfully old school – tasty, tender, crunchy, gooey.

Recipe below the fold

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