Toast – The Tastiest Bite

I’m a sucker for personality tests. I find it comforting that seemingly personal quirks and internal motivations can be sorted and classified. When my husband sent me the 16 Personality test, I took the free test almost immediately. The results showed my personality type as more extroverted and organized than I often feel. Wanting to learn more, I signed up for the weekly e-newsletter which discusses challenges and opportunities for growth. Today’s topic was organization. I thought about this as I opened the fridge and pulled out the soft, white sandwich bread.

Consuls (my type from the test) are highly organized. I put the thick slice of bread into the toaster and grabbed the cold jar of natural, no stir creamy peanut butter. The toast was dark brown and smelled as toast should; nutty and reminiscent of the lazy mornings of childhood. I spread the peanut butter on thick. This can be helpful but also leads to a hard time just “being”. It’s challenging for me to slow down long enough to enjoy the very act of living. Next, I slipped the speckled skin off the ripe banana and sliced it into coins. After nestling the slices into neat rows, I grabbed the jar of honey and roughly squeezed the little bear so that honey lay in thick puddles on top of the bananas. Lastly, I sprinkled coarse salt lovingly over top and grabbed a fork.

It’s a good reminder that checking off a to-do list is not what makes for a happy life. I cut a small square of toast and speared it with my fork. The toast shattered happily in my mouth and I tasted the perfect balance of my simple breakfast. The checklist can wait until later.

Did you take the personality test? Do you have a trait that can be both challenging and helpful?

The Tastiest Bite

I don’t think of myself as a writer. Growing up, my twin sister was the writer. I wrote in a journal nightly and spent just as much time devouring books as she did; but I always saw it as her thing. She seemed better at it and more determined. Rebekah knew it was what she wanted. Maybe I didn’t want to be a copy cat or was tired of the twin cliche but I never thought writing would be my line of work. Finding myself at a food writing workshop was as surprising to me as discovering I like to cook, especially after all those years telling myself I didn’t.

For me, food writing is a form of self reflection (something I clearly need more of). It’s about slowing down and focusing on what was just in my mouth. Remembering the textures, colors and feelings that the food elicits. In an attempt to improve this skill, Naomi Tomky suggests this exercise: write 200 words on the best food eaten that day.

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Day 1

The Tastiest Bite(s) on Valentine’s Day

I had many memorable bites yesterday, much more than a normal Wednesday. An ethereal, creamy vegetable soup topped with crisp speck and cold goat cheese was generously handed to me for lunch by a thoughtful friend at The Shop. Before leaving, I was given a decadent piece of chocolate cake layered with blood orange Italian buttercream. Both warmed my heart and made my taste buds dance in delight.

I was also surprised with chocolate covered strawberries by another friend yesterday afternoon. In all honesty, chocolate and fruit aren’t my favorite combination but these strawberries changed my opinion. They looked so inviting on the tray with the thick coat of dark chocolate enveloping the juicy strawberry.  I picked a strawberry up by its green top and took a bite. The thick chocolate shell shattered to reveal the ruby strawberry inside. My mouth was filled with both flavors simultaneously. Soft, sweet and juicy strawberry with bitter, crunchy chocolate.

My Valentine and I drank a special brut rosé that I had saved since receiving it at Christmas from my brother and sister-in-law and it did not disappoint. After dinner was done and the kids were almost tucked into bed, I heard the familiar whirl of our popcorn maker. This was definitely not our normal Wednesday. Warm and kissed with butter and salt, we cuddled on the couch munching popcorn as we watched our Olympians fly down the mountain. Love came in many forms on Valentine’s Day but most memorably was the sharing of food and drink together.

What was your tastiest bite yesterday?

 

Quick Cinnamon Orange Rolls

fullsizeoutput_17aThe count down to Christmas is in full swing and it has me thinking about the act of gift giving. As a child our family of six would pile into the car and drive two hours to the nearest mall on Black Friday. It was especially magical when the year’s first snow would coincide with this family outing. I would have my allowance in my hand and head out to find the perfect gift for each family member. I doubt I had more than ten dollars to spend but that didn’t bother me. One year I found the perfect snow globe for my twin sister. I was mesmerized by the snow floating and swirling around the little figurine. Waiting a whole month to give it to my sister felt like an eternity. It was one of my earliest memories of the anticipation of giving and not just receiving on Christmas day.

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Though I love finding gifts for others, it can also be a source of stress, especially this time of year. I want each and every gift to reflect thought and care. I want each gift to be perfect. But let’s be honest – this is a tall order for any package. It’s good to keep it in perspective. The true gift is the time and thought goes into each oen. This in and of itself is an act of love. I think of the gifts I’ve received over the years and the time and effort required and feel so much gratitude.

To me the gift of time and attention is one of the most thoughtful and lasting presents we can give each other. There are a multitude of ways to show our affection and love this season and they don’t all have to be wrapped in bows.

But I really would like a snow globe of my own.

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Quick Orange Cinnamon Rolls

Baking breakfast is an especially kind act of love and these orange cinnamon rolls are just the trick. They come together quickly and require no wait time or frosting. Cinnamon rolls are always a favorite in our family but I find the timing for breakfast challenging. Normally, this means that breakfast is ready closer to lunch. So when I saw this recipe in Cooks Illustrated, I had to give it a try. The technique is similar to making biscuits. I added orange zest and nutmeg to punch up the holiday cheer.

Tip: Altogether you will need about 8 tablespoons of melted butter. Three tablespoons are used in the filling and dough and are best measured precisely. The other 4-5 tablespoons are used to grease the pan, brush the dough before adding the filling and brush on the rolls before baking. I melted it all at once and then measured it out as needed.

Ingredients:

Filling:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon melted butter

Dough:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (I prefer aluminum free)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 – 1 teaspoon orange zest (I used a mandarin orange)

1 1/4 cup buttermilk, warmed (butter will stay in liquid form when added together)

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use some melted butter to grease an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add 1 tablespoon of melted butter and mix. The mixture will stick together slightly when pressed. Set filling aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest and salt. Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter to the warmed buttermilk. Pour into the flour mixture. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will be shaggy.

Dump onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times so that dough becomes smooth. Roll out the dough to a 12 x 9 inch rectangle. Brush with a couple tablespoons of melted butter, leaving an inch or two around the border. Spread filling evenly on top and press it down gently.

Start with your hands on the long edge nearest you. Begin to roll the dough away from you. Once your dough all rolled up, use a bench scraper to cut the dough into 8 even pieces.

To transfer the buns to the pan, pick them up one at a time and gently pinch the under side of the bun to help keep the filling in place. Put 7 rolls around the edges and 1 in the center of the pan. Brush with the rest of the butter.

Bake on the center rack for 23-25 minutes. The buns will be dark golden brown and the filling will be bubbling beautifully all over. Err on the side of over baked if not sure.

Let cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Serve directly out of the pan.

Like most baked goods, these are best eaten right out of the oven, but I found them completely acceptable 1 – 2 days later. Store in a air tight container. I wouldn’t feel bad at all about baking them the night before and then warming them back up in the oven (or microwave) in the morning. I would suggest transferring the buns to an air tight container though so that they don’t stick to the pan. Enjoy!