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, May 26, 2014


You know what I love? Besides butter, football, and the outdoors? Reunions. You know, the kind of reunion where it's all about who's coming to the party. The kind of reunion that you actually look forward to attending. Like a Full House reunion on Good Morning America... now that's a reunion.

The bad part is when reunions end. You've got that whole, awkward goodbye phase... that's intense. You've got the clean up, the left-overs (that's not bad), and the empty nest. I got to thinking, what if reunions didn't have to end? What if we had a never-ending reunion?

A little over a year ago, I started pulling away from Dudes Cook Too. I felt as though I was entering a new phase of my life, and it was time to move on. I had graduated college, started a new job, and felt as though it was time to say goodbye to Dudes Cook Too. What I really didn't expect was how much I would miss it. I found myself cooking something, and thinking, "Man, this would be great for the blog." I also found myself missing the blog more and more. To be completely honest, the life of this blog was during a very exciting time in my life. We all love excitement, so I'll stop rambling now, and announce that Dudes Cook Too is back in business! I really missed the community here and it's time to get it back. Nothing brings people together like warm biscuits out of the oven. I have a lot of new ideas for the blog, and they'll begin to evolve slowly over the summer. What always amazed me about Dudes Cook Too was how many incredible people I got to meet. People that had never cooked were using my recipes. People that wanted to surprise their boyfriend or girlfriend with a home cooked meal came here first. That's surreal y'all! It really is! I've said it before, but it's really a blessing in my life to be able to share all of these awesome moments with you guys.

So to get this party started, here's a list. My wife has wore off on me. She loves lists, and now, I only feel like my productivity levels are high enough when I'm marking off a to-do list. Dudes don't normally like lists, or at least I didn't.  Maybe it's my old age and I just can't remember anything off the top of my head anymore... whatever it is, here's a list of what we've been cooking up in our kitchen over the past few months.

Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie (From Joy The Baker).  This right here may just change your life.  It's rich, filling, and even though this is normally a fall or winter dish, it will definitely be enjoyed no matter what the season.

Lemon Pound Cake (From Joy the Baker).  With this cake, I omitted the lemon and poppy seed and just made a simple buttercream pound cake.  Either way you choose to make it, it is amazing.  It's also the picture from above on this post.

The BEST Pizza Dough (From Eat Live Run).  This is my go-to pizza dough.  I've been using it for years, and just last night, we made a traditional pepperoni pizza, and I promise, it never disappoints.  This dough is perfect for any kind of pizza.  It's also great for grilled pizza as well.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (From Eat Live Run).  I've blogged about these before, but these are our FAVORITE chocolate chip cookie recipe.  No matter what the occasion, these are great!  They travel well and make perfect gifts.

Homemade Flour Tortillas (From The Pioneer Woman).  We had tacos the other night, and I made homemade tortillas.  I've actually been making these for a while now.  They are, hands down, the best tortilla I've ever had.  They take a little extra time, but guys... it's worth it.  And they last for several days too.  When it's just me and my wife, I'll cut the recipe in half, but when we have guests, I use the whole recipe.

Lighter Homemade Biscuits (From Schruff Shenanigans).  For those of you that don't know, we started a more family oriented blog since Dudes Cook Too closed it's doors.  This is a recipe I developed because I'm a southern boy who likes his biscuits.  It drastically cuts down on the calorie intake, and doesn't leave you feeling weighed down.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Best Dishes...From Our Kitchen to Yours!

This blog has always been a place of refuge... a place where people can come and learn about new recipes, and see what my wife and I are up to. Today, I have decided to voice my opinion on a very important issue. Many people want to know why everyone is worried about Paula Deen? They say there are more issues that need our attention, and I agree, in a way. There are issues like world hunger, and wars being fought... innocent people being killed, but this is ridiculous, and no one deserves to be treated the way that Paula has been. Anyone that would put as much energy into solving world hunger as the media has with this controversy, would do an amazing amount of good for the world!

I'm blogging today to announce my support for Paula Deen. A proud supporter at that! Let me say that I'm not racist. I grew up in Mississippi and have witnessed first hand what racism can do. I believe that all people are created equally, and should be treated equally which includes any gender, race, or sexual orientation. I serve a God that created the heavens and the earth, and he created every ounce of life on this planet. I believe we are all children of God, and God sees no color, so we shouldn't either. Paula said in her interview on the Today Show, "anyone that has never said anything they wish they could take back, pick up a stone and hit me as hard as you can." No one has ever said anything they didn't regret. It's that simple, and after everything that she has done over the years for others, she doesn't deserve this scrutiny.

I'm not going to get into details here. You can watch the interviews, read the articles, and decide for yourself. I fully, 100 percent support Paula Deen, and would like to encourage you to as well. I also would like to encourage you to not only read this articles, but also read her biography, and where she came from. You will be incredibly surprised! I have had the pleasure of meeting her personally, and wish her the absolute best, and am praying for her during this horrific time in her life. My wife and I have also eaten at two of her restaurants, and I must say that the staff went above and beyond to accommodate, and I'm very proud to have had the privilege to visit her restaurants.

I began cooking because of Paula Deen. I began watching Food Network because of Paula Deen. The very first recipe I cooked from her was Peanut Butter Pie, and it's still one of my favorites. I don't condone hatred towards others, and this is obviously 100 percent character assassination.

Paula, without you Dudes Cook Too would never exist, and my wife and I are praying for you and your family, and wishing you "Best Dishes, from our kitchen, to yours!"

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!