Posts Tagged 'Freezer Friendly'

Cinnamon Rolls

Are you interested in a trip to food heaven?  Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls can take you there.

I’ve had some highs and lows when trying PW’s recipes, but these Cinnamon Rolls are the best of the best.  In her cookbook, she mentions that the recipe has been passed down through the family, and I can see why it’s still in use.  The rolls are sweet, gooey, and incredibly moist; it’s practically impossible to eat just one.  I brought them to my brunch-themed gourmet club meeting as the dessert course, and the recipe was branded a “keeper.”

Between dough making, rising, rolling, filling, cutting, rising again, and baking, the rolls require some effort.  I think they were delicious enough to be worth it, though, and even a half recipe will leave you with plenty of rolls to store or share.

As usual with PW’s recipes, I’ll let her show you how to make them.  Here are my notes from the experience, though:

  • I cut the recipe in half and ended up with around 23 rolls.  (My dough rolling wasn’t perfect, so I lost a few on the ends.)
  • After I scalded the milk, oil, and sugar, I let it drop to around 120°F before I proceeded with the dough making.  (This took about 45 minutes.)  I used an instant-read thermometer to measure the temperature.
  • After I added the first quantity of flour, my dough seemed a bit loose and I was worried.  Everything worked out fine with the rising and rolling.
  • I refrigerated my dough overnight before using it.  I just punched it down before I rolled it the next morning.
  • Rolling the dough (both into a rectangle and into a roll) was a bit challenging. Hopefully, I’ll improve with practice!
  • I used butter-flavored cooking spray to coat my baking pans instead of butter.
  • My rolls didn’t rise much during the 20 – 30 minute pre-baking rise period, but it didn’t seem to matter.
  • I used those 8 1/2-inch round aluminum foil cake pans that you can buy at the grocery store.  I was afraid they would be too shallow (they’re about 1 1/2 inches high), but I didn’t have any trouble.
  • I did a lot of needless worrying while trying this recipe.  Have you noticed? 🙂
  • I think the ideal number of rolls per pan is 7 or 8.  I did as few as 6 in one pan and as many as 9.  The more space you give them, the more they expand.
  • I baked two pans right away and froze one (tightly wrapped in foil).  I let the frozen one thaw on the counter for an hour and then factored in 20 minutes of rise time before baking.  I baked each pan of rolls (fresh and previously frozen) for 17 minutes at 375°F.
  • A half-recipe of icing makes approximately 1 3/4 cups.  Divide it among your pans accordingly.
  • When I say the rolls are sweet, I mean sweet.  I’m a bit of a sugar addict and I definitely enjoyed them, but they may be too sweet for some.  I think you could successfully cut the amount of sugar in the rolls in half; I was shocked when I had sprinkled the entire surface of the dough with sugar and still had half of it left in the measuring cup.
  • I think the rolls are best when they’re warm, but they really were delicious the entire day they were baked.  (I know because I couldn’t stop nibbling on them.)  They did start to take on a “day-old pastry” taste the next day.
Cinnamon Rolls

Baked cinnamon rolls before the icing

Cinnamon Rolls

Ooey-gooey iced deliciousness!

I can’t wait to make these again!

Recipe link: Cinnamon Rolls

Holiday Oreo Balls

Normally, I’m not a fan of foods made entirely from other processed foods.  However, for Oreo Balls, I make an exception.  I first tasted them last year when my friend Christopher made them.  Since Oreo cookies are one of my vices, I deemed them nothing short of heavenly.

I wanted to make my own this year, but I decided to use the classic recipe with only three ingredients: Oreos, cream cheese, and bark coating.  (Christopher’s recipe had butter in it as well, which made a firmer candy.)  To put a holiday twist on my Oreo Balls, I decided to use Oreos with mint creme filling and to sprinkle the candies with peppermint powder.  Here’s how I made them.

First, I piled an entire package of mint creme Oreos (17 ounces) and an 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese into the largest bowl of my food processor.  I pulsed the cookies and the cream cheese until they were completely blended.  (The mixture resembled a thick brownie batter.)  On a baking sheet lined with wax paper, I spooned out 1/2-tablespoon scoops of the mixture, repeating the process with an additional baking sheet to accommodate all of the candies.  I transferred the baking sheets to the refrigerator and chilled the candies for 1 hour.

While the candies chilled, I put Dr. O to work on the peppermint powder.  He put four candy canes inside a freezer bag and then put that bag inside another freezer bag.  He placed the bag of candy canes on a cutting board (to absorb the impact) and then pounded them with the flat side of our meat mallet.  When he had them pretty well pulverized, he placed a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl, dumped the crushed candies into the sieve, and then sifted out the powder.

Once the candies had chilled for an hour, I took them out of the refrigerator, used my clean hands to roll them into balls, and then tucked them back into the refrigerator.  Next, I melted a package of white bark coating (24 ounces) in the microwave according to package instructions.  I took the candies back out of the refrigerator, dipped one in the melted bark, spooned the bark over the top, and then lifted the coated candy out with a fork.  I let the excess bark run through the fork tines for a few seconds and then transferred the candy to a sheet of wax paper.  I immediately sprinkled the candy with a bit of the peppermint dust and then repeated the process for the remaining candies.  Once the bark had set (about 15 minutes), I trimmed any excess bark from the base of the candies with a paring knife.  (Feel free to skip this step – I’m a lunatic!)  I should have counted them before we started eating them, but the recipe yields around 5 dozen with 1/2-tablespoon scoops.

Holiday Oreo Balls

If you like Oreos, you’ll find these irresistible.  The chocolate center is soft like a truffle (even when chilled) and it most definitely tastes like Oreos.  One thing it doesn’t taste like is cream cheese…  I was surprised, but you can hardly taste the cream cheese at all.  I think it functions more as a textural element to create the creamy center than it does to flavor the candy.  Besides the creamy center, you get a bit of a crisp snap from the bark, and the peppermint dust on top is crunchy like sanding sugar.  So. So. Yummy.

TIPS:  I chose to use peppermint powder instead of peppermint candy bits because the Oreo Balls need to be stored in the refrigerator.  When you put hard candy in the refrigerator, the moisture from the refrigerator causes it to soften, ruining its texture.  (It’s fine to leave the Oreo Balls out for a few hours, of course, but I think the cream cheese necessitates refrigerator storage for longer periods.  You can freeze them as well.)

Also, and this is kind of a biggie, I would strongly recommend putting the uncoated candy in the freezer for 15 minutes or so after you roll them into balls.  That way, it’s less likely that you’ll have many cookie crumbs end up in your bark and the candy will be less likely to stick to your dipping fork.  These problems weren’t major, but I’ll definitely incorporate freezer time for best results the next time I make this candy.

Recipe link: Oreo Balls


If you’re originally from Nebraska and you don’t live there anymore, you probably miss eating at Runza. For those of you who aren’t from Nebraska (or who haven’t had the good fortune of eating a Runza while visiting Nebraska), you’re probably wondering what in the world a Runza is. Some might call it a meat pie, though I can’t say I find that phrase very appetizing. Another friend basically suggested that I was making glorified Hot Pockets. (In a way, Josh, you’re right.) I would describe an original Runza as a small loaf of bread stuffed with seasoned ground beef, onions, and cabbage. I always get mine with cheese, but they get way more dressed up than that. (Swiss cheese mushroom Runza, anyone? How about a BLT Runza?)

Runza is a Nebraska original (started in Lincoln in 1949), and while we do have two franchises in Colorado, it’s pretty unlikely that I’m going to drive all the way to Ft. Collins or Loveland to have one. Therefore, I make my own. Until recently, it had been years since the last time I made Runzas. There’s been something about this Husker football season (maybe related to the fact that we have a game-worthy TV and more kitchen space now?), though, that has been stirring the craving.

I found a recipe on that (with a few minor tweaks) perfectly replicates that unmistakable Runza flavor. Making them is a bit time-consuming (and messy), I’ll admit, but it’s totally worth it. Plus, any extras freeze beautifully.

Here’s the recipe with my modifications:

Serves 10

Dough Ingredients:
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar (modified from 1/2 cup)
2 (0.25-ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup milk (I use 1%, but I’m sure 2% or whole would be fine)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup shortening (I use butter-flavor Crisco)
2 eggs

Filling Ingredients:
1 pound lean ground beef (I use 93/7 or 95/5 so I don’t have to drain it)
2 small onions, chopped
4 cups chopped cabbage
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 1/4 cups of shredded mild cheddar (or any cheese of your choosing)

In a large mixing bowl, place 1 3/4 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Heat milk, water, and shortening to 120F – 130F. (I heated the mixture in a saucepan on the stove and used a candy thermometer to check the temperature.) Pour over flour mixture; add the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer on low until blended. Beat an additional 3 minutes on high. Stir in the remaining flour (2 3/4 cups); knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 6 – 8 minutes). Place dough in a greased bowl; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour.)

Dough Before Rise

Dough Before Rise

Dough After Rise

Dough After Rise

Meanwhile, brown beef and onions in skillet. Add cabbage, salt, and pepper; cook until cabbage is wilted and starting to become translucent. Continue seasoning filling with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Punch dough down. Divide into 10 equal pieces and roll each piece into a square on a lightly floured surface. Top each square with 1/3 cup meat mixture and 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Fold dough over the filling, crimp edges tightly to seal, and place on greased baking sheets. (I used a pizza stone; you could also line your baking sheets with parchment [but NOT wax paper].) Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.


Perhaps this is blasphemy, but I think this recipe actually produces better sandwiches than Runza does itself. The filling taste is spot on, and the bread is absolutely incredible. The first time I tried this particular recipe, I didn’t roll the dough quite thin enough, so the bread was a bit overwhelming. This time, the Runzas were perfect. Perfect! Plus, I have six left in the freezer for later (to be baked for 25 minutes – rather than 20 minutes – at 350F, straight from the freezer). The bread is fractionally more heavenly fresh than it is frozen, but we’ll still have incredibly delicious Runzas without the mess. Runza lovers, you have to try this one… It won’t disappoint!

A few additional notes: Since I am absolutely crazy, I weighed the dough on my kitchen scale and portioned the pieces out by weight. I started with 34 ounces of dough, so each piece was just under 3 1/2 ounces. I did the same thing for the filling. I started with 31 ounces of filling, so each Runza got right around 3 ounces. Feel free to eyeball it, seriously; I just wanted my portions to be about equal.

TIPS:  If you really don’t want to deal with making bread dough, you could probably use frozen dough. I really feel that this dough recipe makes the sandwich, though, so I’d strongly encourage you to at least give it a shot.

Also, if you’re going to freeze your Runzas, first put them on baking sheet and then place them on a freezer shelf for about an hour. Once they’ve started to firm up, transfer them to freezer bags.

Update 1/29/10: I’ve started preheating my pizza stone before I bake the Runzas whether they’re fresh or frozen. Dr. O and I were disappointed to discover that the bottom of our Runzas hadn’t cooked through on one occasion, and this solves the problem. If you’re baking them on a baking sheet rather than a pizza stone, I’d still recommend preheating it. With the preheated cooking surface, fresh Runzas are ready in 20 minutes and frozen ones are ready in 23 minutes (at my house, at least!). Also, I’ve discovered that you can “hold” fresh Runzas in the refrigerator for an hour or two before baking. Just give them 21 or 22 minutes in the oven. I feel ready to serve these for a game day party now that I know I’ll have time to clean up the mess before everyone arrives!

Original recipe link (without modifications): Runzas

Tortilla Soup with Black Beans

Is it just me, or is January official “sick time” for a significant percentage of the population?  Dr. O was sick over New Year’s, I’ve had a cold that just won’t let go (officially since the day *after* Dr. O recovered – nice, huh?), and it seems like most of our friends have had some sort of ailment in recent weeks.  Blah.

On those crappy “sick” days, soup just really seems to do the trick.  Chicken noodle is the classic, of course, but I thought it might be fun to try the Tortilla Soup with Black Beans recipe from the January 2009 issue of Everyday Food.  With only 15 minutes of effort required from start to finish, it’s the kind of meal I can handle whether I feel on top of my game or not.

First, I heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  I added 4 minced garlic cloves and and 1 teaspoon of chili powder, cooking and stirring the mixture until it was fragrant (1 minute).  Next, I added 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) of diced tomatoes (juice included), 2 cans (15 ounces each) of black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 can (14.5 ounces) of reduced-sodium chicken broth, 1 package (10 ounces) of frozen corn kernels, and 1 cup of water.

I seasoned the soup with salt and pepper, brought it to a boil, and then reduced it to a simmer.  I added 1 cup of crushed tortilla chips and cooked until they were softened (2 minutes).  Finally, I removed the soup from the heat, stirred in 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice, and seasoned again with salt and pepper to taste.  I served the soup with extra crushed chips and lime wedges.

Tortilla Soup with Black Beans

(I really hate this picture.  I seem to be in a bit of a slump with the camera lately, which is why I hope to pick up some photo tips from a friend’s new photography blog.)

We really enjoyed this soup.  It isn’t zippy at all – how can it be in the absence of zippy ingredients? – but it *is* flavorful.  I especially enjoyed the hint of lime, plus you can really taste the “tortilla” flavor from the cooked chips.  Mmm.

This makes a TON of soup.  Dr. O and I had it for dinner one night, we had a friend over and served it with nachos the next day (football day!), and we *still* had soup leftover.  Leftovers sure make life easier, though, so I’m going to count quantity as a “pro” here.

Recipe link: Tortilla Soup with Black Beans

Update: Lemon-Horseradish Fish Cakes

We are absolutely CRAZY this week – work is winding down and we only have a few days left before the big trip. These days are what “cook half, freeze half” meals are made for, so I decided to dig the other half of the Lemon-Horseradish Fish Cakes out of the freezer.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised! Unfortunately, most dishes that are tossed in the freezer end up as mere shadows of the original preparation. The cracker crust was slightly less crisp (fresh crackers vs. frozen, I’m sure) and the horseradish flavor had a bit less zing. The fish cakes still had great texture and flavor, though, and they beat any other frozen fish recipe I’ve tasted by a mile.

In my original post, I mentioned that I would set my burner temperature squarely between medium and medium-high the next time I made these fish cakes. I did, and they were browned and cooked through perfectly with 5 minutes on each side.

I was able to put together an absolutely delicious meal of fish cakes, steamed peas (Birds Eye steamer bags are the best!), and take-and-bake bread in about 15 minutes. In a crunch, it doesn’t get any better than that!

p.s. We move into the full-fledged crazy phase of our fall transition this weekend. Over the next several weeks, I plan to post some recipes that I’ve cooked recently, along with an Australia update here and there. (Bill Granger has a restaurant in Sydney I want to try, and haven’t you always wondered what kangaroo steak tastes like? 🙂 ) I’ll be in my new kitchen in late September, ready to whip up all kinds of Halloween goodies. Please stay tuned!

Sweet Sundays: Raspberry-Yogurt Ice Pops

Last summer, I was a popsicle-making fool. I found a cute set of popsicle molds at Crate & Barrel and basically went crazy. Strawberry pops, pineapple pops, watermelon pops… You name it, I froze it. This summer has been considerably more chaotic, so my popsicle molds sat empty – until a few days ago. I wanted to make myself a cool, creamy treat when Dr. O was out of town, so I decided to give Raspberry-Yogurt Ice Pops from the September 2007 issue of Everyday Food a try.

This one isn’t online, so here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup frozen raspberries (about 3 ounces)

In a medium bowl, I whisked together the yogurt and sugar. I put 1 cup of the yogurt-sugar mixture in my blender, added the frozen raspberries, and pureed until the ingredients were well blended. (I set the rest of the yogurt-sugar mixture aside.) I pressed the raspberry mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a separate medium bowl.

Dividing evenly, I layered the yogurt-sugar mixture and the raspberry mixture in six 3-ounce popsicle molds. I inserted the mold sticks and froze the popsicles until they were solid (5 hours). To unmold them, I ran warm water around the outside of the molds for about 15 seconds and wiggled the sticks until the popsicles released.

Strawberry pops are still my favorite, but these were delish *and* cute. They’re definitely for yogurt lovers… The pops are tangy, slightly tart, and very creamy. Next time, I may use low-fat vanilla yogurt or add 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the yogurt-sugar mixture. A hint of vanilla would take these to the next level!

TIPS: The layering part of the recipe is much easier if you can put the two mixtures into liquid measuring cups or other containers with spouts.

Lemon-Horseradish Fish Cakes

There’s no better word than “infuriating” to describe my attempt to make Lemon-Horseradish Fish Cakes from the October 2006 issue of Everyday Food. Thankfully, the results were worth writing about! This is one of those recipes I’ve been meaning to make for months – and almost have made several times – but it just never seemed to happen. I’ve had crab cakes on the brain, though, and I had a box of saltines in the pantry I needed to use, so I thought now would be the perfect time.

First, I roasted the tilapia I would use to make the cakes. I brushed a rimmed baking sheet with 1/2 tablespoon of oil and placed 2 pounds (6 fillets) of tilapia on it. (The recipe suggested splitting the fish up between two baking sheets, but I was able to fit my fish on one – in a single layer, of course.) I roasted the fish until it was cooked through (about 12 minutes). I let it cool completely, patted it dry with paper towels, and then used a fork to flake the fish into small pieces.

While the fish cooked, I made cracker crumbs by grinding saltines in the food processor. The recipe said that 36 crackers should make 1 1/2 cups of crumbs, but I ended up having to use about 48 to yield 1 1/2 cups.

After I had my fish and cracker crumbs ready to go, I combined 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley, 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons of bottled white horseradish in a large bowl. I folded in the fish and 1/2 cup of cracker crumbs and then seasoned with salt and pepper. I put the rest of my cracker crumbs on a plate to dredge the fish cakes.

Here’s where things went terribly wrong.

I used a 1/4-cup measuring cup to portion out the fish mixture for the cakes. The mixture would kind of hold its shape on a plate, but it my hands, it was as good as liquid. I might as well have been trying to form and dredge cakes made of oatmeal. I figured the only way to make this work was to firm up the cakes somehow, so I portioned 16 mounds of mixture onto two plates and put the plates in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Thankfully, that did the trick! The cakes still weren’t “firm,” but they were in much better shape. They held up even better once I got a layer of cracker crumbs around the outside; I think it was almost like adding flour to a dough that was too moist or sticky. I managed to get all the cakes coated in cracker crumbs, and then half of them went onto a baking sheet and into the freezer.

I was ready to cook the other 8 cakes, so I heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I placed all of the cakes in the skillet and cooked them until they were golden brown (about 5 minutes per side).

I was so frustrated by the time I finished cooking this meal that it was hard to imagine the taste could measure up to the effort I had made. I was wrong! The cracker crumbs formed this perfect, light, crunchy crust on the outside of the cakes and the fish inside was flavorful and moist. (I think the horseradish really kicked things up in the flavor department.) It was just the result I had hoped for. Even better, I have 8 of these babies waiting in the freezer for a quick and easy meal sometime in the next few weeks. This is definitely a case of recipe redemption!

TIPS: My cakes browned pretty quickly on the first side, so I ended up having to reduce the heat to halfway between medium and medium-high. Next time, I’ll probably just start cooking at that level of heat instead of at medium-high.

If you decide to freeze any of the cakes, place them on a baking sheet (after they’ve been coated in cracker crumbs) and freeze them until they’re firm. Wrap each one in plastic (this will ensure they don’t stick to each other when they thaw) and place them in freezer bags. Freeze them up to 3 months, and thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before cooking.

Recipe link: Lemon-Horseradish Fish Cakes

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