Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Life has taught me a lot in the thirty-one plus years I've been here.  It still feels weird saying that... in my mind, I still wonder why I'm not twenty-five anymore.

Life has taught me there are seasons of joy, seasons of struggle, seasons of pain, and seasons of growth.

Life has taught me that there will always be people that are rooting for you to fail... and believe me, when you're down, they'll take their foot (that is clearly covered with leftover dirt from other people they've knocked down) and kick you even farther into the pit you've been trying your hardest to climb out of... so far that you can barely see the light.  Remember... the light is there, even if you can't see it.    You know who I'm talking about.  These are the people that are so miserable, they just can't shake the notion that they must try to drag you down into the misery that they experience on a daily basis.  You know, the people that never have anything positive to say about anything.  We don't even have to talk about when these people try to hold every little thing they've EVER done for you over your head.  They will... for sure!  And trust me, they won't be letting you forget about that time they gave up everything (all of their hopes and dreams combined) to stop and buy you a six pack of Krispy Kreme Donuts when you were having a bad day twenty years ago.  Let's make a rule:  Don't let them get inside your head.  Just don't.  Trust me on this one.

Life has also taught me about compassion...  You know what I'm talking about... giving without the expectation of receiving.  Seeing someone in need, and openly, willingly offering a hand when they need it more than ever before with no intentions of receiving any benefit from it whatsoever.  These types of people don't show up often, but when they do, you can't miss it.

Whatever season you're going through, this Cinnamon Swirl Bread can only do great things for you.  Think cinnamon roll, but on steroids.  This recipe is adapted from Joy the Baker.  You can find the original recipe here, as well as how to actually roll the bread, and place it in the skillet.

This bread is great for breakfast, a midnight snack, or even as a gift.  The awesome thing about this bread is no stand mixer is required.  It's all done by hand.  Please don't let this bread intimidate you... because it's worth it.  You won't regret this.  Let's get to it.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Adapted from Joy The Baker

For the Dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk, lukewarm
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
a bit of olive oil for greasing the bowl
For the Filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*Powdered Sugar (for topping)
In a medium bowl stir yeast with sugar. Stir in  the lukewarm milk and then add the egg yolk and melted butter.  Whisk together until thoroughly combined.  Allow mixture to rest for 5 minutes.  It should foam and froth.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and start kneading it until it pulls away from the edges of the bowl. Place dough on a lightly floured counter and knead by hand for about 10 minutes more.  Dough ball should be smooth and damp, without being too sticky.  Shape dough into a ball.
Grease a large bowl with olive oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover.  Allow to rest at warm room temperature for about 1 hours, or until doubled in size.
While the dough rises, whisk together the butter with sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375degrees F. Grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet.  Set aside.
After the dough has doubled in size, place it on a lightly floured counter and knead twice.  Using a rolling pin to roll the dough to a rectangle of about 18×12 inches.
Spoon the cinnamon filling over top, spreading evenly, leaving a clean 1-inch border around the edges. Start by rolling the longest side of the dough.  The roll will be a bit lumpy because of all the berries. Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half length-wise leaving 1-inch of the edge uncut.
Start braiding the two pieces, by carefully lifting the left strand over the right strand.  Repeat this motion until you reach the bottom of the dough.  Press together to seal.  Join the two ends, creating a circle with the dough and press together.
Using two swift hands, transfer the dough ring to the prepared cast iron skillet. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.  Top with powdered sugar.  Allow to cool for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Peaches and Cream Oatmeal

We celebrated my Mom's 51st birthday last week. I can't believe she is 51. I can't believe, even more, that I'm 30!

I remember when 30 year olds were... old! But, as I grown older and wiser, I've learned we 30 year-olds are one step ahead of the game.

Anyway... Mom's birthday. We had cake. We had Chocolate Chess Pie. We had more cake.

So, naturally, I was craving something light, something to get me back on track. This healthy version of Peaches and Cream will do just that.

I like my oatmeal soupy. If you like yours a little thicker, like my wife, just omit some of the liquid.

Peaches and Cream Oatmeal

1/2 cup of Quick Oats (Steel Cut Oats are perfect for this as well)
1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, divided
1/4 cup water
4 packets Truvia (you can use more or less... I like mine sweet)
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
handful of sliced fresh peaches

Bring 2/3 cup milk and 1/4 cup water to boil, and stir in oats and peaches, and let boil for a couple of minutes until you reach desired consistency. Add truvia and top with an additional 1/4 cup milk and brown sugar.

200 calories (excluding peaches)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Biggest Loser Run/Walk

How's it going guys? We have an announcement to make! Ashlynn and I will be running in the Biggest Loser Run/Walk in Jackson, Mississippi on April 6! A lot of our readers probably don't know this, but Jackson is our old stomping ground. Ashlynn and I both grew up around Jackson, and we're excited to be going back for the Biggest Loser Run/Walk! We chose the 5k race instead of the half-marathon. Let's be real. We have two weeks to really train and prepare, and although I have no trouble walking 13.1 miles, I'm not sure we could handle running it!

Ashlynn actually just found out about the race last night, and asked for me to do it with her. We're extremely excited about it, and can't wait! We'd like to thank everyone for their support. It'll be really interesting down their in the Mississippi humidity. Anyone who runs knows exactly what I mean!

Anyone who is interested can go here to find out more information and see other cities they are having races as well. It is a run/walk, so I would encourage anyone that wants to get in shape or simply wants to be more active to join us. It's so easy to be discouraged and intimidated, but don't let that deter you from doing this. It'll be a great experience that, I believe, will leave a lasting impression on you.

Here is a map of the 5k portion of the race. Also, if you'd like a training schedule to learn how to build up to running a 5k, here is what Ashlynn and I have used in the past. It's an eight week program, but it's for people that never run, which was Ashlynn and I a couple of years ago. It's tough, but totally doable.

Thank you guys for your support!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cades Cove... by Foot.

For anyone that follows our blog, you know that we love the Smoky Mountains. Especially in Spring. Things are FINALLY beginning to bloom, and Winter seems to be drifting away. I've been to Cades Cove (by car) more times than I can count, but I've never actually hiked it on foot, until now.

I suggest to anyone that is able, hike Cades Cove! I noticed things and saw things I never have seen before. It was a completely different perspective! On Wednesday mornings during the summer months, they close the scenic loop to vehicles and only allow hikers and bikers in.

We needed nourishment. So first thing, we headed to Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (my favorite place to get pancakes on the face of the Earth), and fueled up for our hike.

Nourishment for me was waffles covered in butter. LOOK AT THAT BUTTER. It was whipped, and took up more room... right? That's my excuse. Ashlynn has the more practical meal (not pictured)... Pancakes, eggs, and sausage.

When we first got to Cades Cove, it was a cool 36 degrees outside... and by cool, we mean COLD!

...but we were ready!

We saw a TON of deer grazing. Unfortunately, no bears. I love Cades Cove because the animals aren't afraid of humans. Not that I go right up to them, but you can tell they don't seem bothered by you at all. They know they're not in any danger.

The first obstacle we came across was crossing a flooded creek on the main loop. We ran right through it, and kept going... but it was cold!

Cades Cove is filled with old cabins, and churches. This is one of many, but if you're a history buff, you'll love it!

One of the great things about hiking it on foot was really getting to see all the different aspects of the cove.

We made it! We were very proud of ourselves. This was the longest hike we've ever completed, next to the Central Park loop which was nearly half of this.

We wrapped up our hike with a picnic compliments of Subway. Like I said, we had a great time, and highly recommend it to anyone wanting a scenic hike!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Four Year Anniversary

On February 13, we celebrated our four year wedding anniversary by touring the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. We had a blast!

The whole thing was a surprise for Ashlynn. She never knew where we were going until we were on our way that morning.

It was an amazing day that we'll never forget. Cameras weren't allowed inside, but it was unbelievable! The home was built in 1890 (I think) by the Vanderbilts as a small get-away home in the Carolina Mountains. Needless to say, this small retreat turned into the biggest home they had at the time.

This is an exterior view of the grand staircase. No one was allowed to go up or down the staircase unless they were in formal attire.

This was a side patio facing the courtyard, with the gardens on the left, and the mountains on your right.

Here's a view of the patio from the garden below.

We're planning on going back in the Spring to get a full view of the gardens, and walkways. One of the most interesting things about the house was the modern day furnishings. Electricity, automatic lights, and a heated indoor swimming pool!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

You may remember my first post here on Dudes Cook Too. It involved Cinnamon, and Sugar... none other than Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread. This recipe resembles that delicious bread on the exterior, but this is a completely new recipe. One that involves yeast, and not just self-rising flour and butter.

This bread is amazing. Repeat after me: Life is too short to not eat good bread. There's nothing better on a cold night than a warm, buttered slice of this bread, preferably by a fire, with a cup of soup as well.

This recipe starts out like another other recipe. Yeast. Sugar. Flour. BUTTER. ...and Garlic Powder. I used my kitchen aid hook attachment, but this can be done by hand as well. Don't let my True Blue mixer fool you. You can totally handle this... with a little elbow grease of course.

We knead, we roll, we cut, we stack, and we place in a bread pan, and let rise. This bread is a little time consuming, but the finished product makes every second worth it. Trust me.

Whatever you do, don't forget the butter on top. I hope you like it!

Garlic Pull-Apart Bread
inspired from Joy the Baker

*makes one loaf
time: 2.5 hours

3-4 cups flour
1 tablespoon, plus one teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 package of yeast
1 stick butter
1/4 cup milk
3/4-1 cup water

In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup water with yeast, and stir. Let sit for 5 minutes until yeast is bubbly. If it doesn't bubble, start over. This means the yeast isn't active.

In a small sauce pan, combine remaining water, milk and 1/2 stick of butter over low heat, and allow to melt and incorporate.

Combine 3 cups flour, sugar, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, liquid mixture, and yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer with a hook attachment, and blend on low until all the ingredients are incorporated. At this point, you will need to test the dough. You may have to add more flour or water accordingly. The dough should be smooth, and clean the sides of the bowl. Allow dough to knead for 5 minutes in stand mixer. (If you don't have a stand mixer, simply combine ingredients in a bowl, and knead on a floured surface for 7 minutes).

Form dough into a smooth ball, and place in a greased bowl to rise for one hour.

After dough has doubled in size, roll out onto a floured surface, and knead for 2 minutes by hand. Then roll dough out into a rectangle until dough is about 1/4 inch thick. It usually rolls out into 20 x 8 inches. If you can't get it to roll out this far, don't worry. Just roll it out as far as you can.

In a small sauce pan over low heat, melt the other 1/2 stick of butter and teaspoon of garlic powder. Stir, and spread across dough.

Next, cut dough equally horizontally into four strips. Stack, and then cut into four vertical strips. You should have 4 squares stacked on top of one another. Fold each stack in half, and place in a greased bread pan, with the tips of the stacks facing upwards. Cover, and let rise for an additional hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Let's Be Real.

I know... I know...

It's been since October 26, 2012 since we've had even a remotely "real" post. You're right.

Please note: We are sorry. Very. Extremely. Over-apologetic. Whew... now that we've got that off our chests, let's move on.

I wish I could give you every detail about the past four months right now. I won't do that. Trust me. It's not that interesting, and way too long to discuss. It did snow last weekend though... on the way to our class... on Saturday. Something just seemed wrong about that, but nonetheless, it turned out to be a great day, and the snow had melted by noon in time for lunch.

Here's the deal... We live in one city. We attend graduate school in another city three hours away. And... we have family in another state eight hours away. So, just picture us going back and forth between these three places continuously for the past four months. There ya go. That's what happened.

Today's itinerary involves an amazing brunch at a local restaurant, a meeting, and a three hour drive back home. Our lives are probably the most chaotic they've ever been, but honestly... I love it. I think it's really important to enjoy the phase of life you're in, instead of wishing it away for the next.

As we sit here in our hotel room, we have big plans for the blog. A kitchen table re-do, Garlic Pull-Apart Bread... just to name a couple.

Please forgive us for lack of posts. Life is simply chaotic, and because of this, the blog has suffered a little. But do know, we love the blog, and we love the opportunity to share our lives with you.