Tag Archives: holiday

Kale and Butternut Pasta Bake

Christmas is coming. I hope you don’t feel like you are getting as fat as the proverbial goose. Treats and snacks and parties abound this time of year, which often leads to weight gain. While I don’t think you should go on a “diet” right now or work hard to lose eight, avoiding weight gain is a great goal. Trying to stay balanced is important. I posted last year about some great tips for eating at parties.

The holidays are full of family and friends being together. Food is usually an important part of these get togethers. I remember my mom always trying to avoid meals that required her to spend excessive time in the kitchen for cooking and for clean-up. This dish does require a bit of prep, but it can all be done well ahead of time. It isn’t difficult and will fill up any cold, hungry crowd. Enjoy!

Kale and Butternut Pasta Bake (Serves 6-8)

Kale and Butternut Pasta Bake

5 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash (about 1 small squash)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces uncooked whole wheat short pasta (penne or ziti work well)
4 cups chopped kale
2 bacon slices
2 cups thinly sliced onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 ounces fat free cream cheese
½ cup shredded smoked Gruyere cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine squash, oil, and black pepper in a large bowl; toss well. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 20-30 minutes or until squash is tender.

3. Cook pasta one minute short of al dente directions on package. Add kale during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture.

4. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble.

5. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

6. Bring 1¾ cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine remaining ¼ cup broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture and red pepper to broth. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in cream cheese and ¼ cup Gruyere until melted and sauce is well combined.

7. Combine squash, pasta mixture, bacon, onion mixture, and sauce in a large bowl; toss gently. Place pasta mixture in a 13×9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with remaining Gruyere cheese. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 311
Protein: 14 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 14 mg
Carbohydrates: 49 g
Fiber: 7 g
Sodium: 222 mg

Recipe Notes: You can use any pasta shape or dark leafy green you want. Regular Gruyere works, but I like how the smoky Gruyere accents the flavor of the bacon. If you can’t find Gruyere, you could substitute another type of Swiss cheese.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Cranberry Orange Pancakes and Cinnamon Rolls

Thanksgiving is one week away! Holy cow, November seems to have flown by. I have two last ideas for your Thanksgiving weekend. Both are great ways to use up any extra fresh cranberries you may have around and solve breakfast dilemmas. However, I’m not posting full recipes. Sorry. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel with these, though.

Cranberry Orange Pancakes (Serves about 4)

Cranberry Orange Pancakes

Make up your favorite pancake recipe or a box mix. Add 1 cup of fresh cranberries and the zest and juice of one orange before adding the liquid in the recipe. Cook as normal.

Cranberry Orange Cinnamon Rolls (Makes a dozen rolls)

Cranberry Orange Rolls

Make a small batch of your favorite cinnamon roll dough, adding ⅔ of the zest of 1 orange to the dough. Once you roll it out, spread 1 ½ tablespoons melted butter over the dough. Then sprinkle evenly over the dough: ½ cup brown sugar, 1 cup fresh cranberries chopped finely, and the remaining orange zest. After baking, drizzle with an icing made of 1 cup powdered sugar and about 2 tablespoons orange juice.

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Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

I have several more recipes to post over the next few days that I hope you find worthy of your Thanksgiving weekend. However, here is a quick round-up of recipes for your feast on Thursday.

Meat
Citrus and Sage Roasted Turkey Breast (I’m sure this general idea would work for a whole turkey. You would need a bit more of the oil/herb/citrus mixture and definitely need to cook it longer.
Citrus and Sage Roasted Turkey Breast

Sides
Fall Vegetable Bake
Fall Vegetable Bake

Roasted Butternut Squash
Roasted Butternut Squash

Sweet Potato Casserole
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Roasted Green Beans
Roasted Green Beans

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
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Bread
Honey Wheat Rolls
Honey Whole Wheat Rolls

Pretzel Rolls (obviously without the Halloween designs)
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Dessert
Apple Cake
Apple Cake

Apple or Pear Crisp
Apple or Pear Crisp

White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake
White Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints
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Breakfast
Pumpkin French Toast
Pumpkin French Toast

Apple Pancakes
Apple Pancakes

Breakfast Rolls
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Whole Wheat Apple Muffins
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Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes

Other

Tangy Cranberry Sauce
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Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza
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Citrus and Sage Roasted Turkey Breast

I usually post a nutrition article on Mondays, but I have several Thanksgiving recipes I want to make sure I share in time for you to add them to your menu. While all holidays have come to center around food in my world, Thanksgiving especially is important. If there is high pressure meal for most cooks, it is Thanksgiving.

I feel like turkey is the most stressful of all the items on a Thanksgiving menu for most of us. Roasting meat in general is incredibly easy: season, put in oven, leave it alone. But, turkey provides some higher stakes. It is a big bird, which most of us buy frozen. It is hard to thaw, which can lead to long cooking times. And undercooked turkey is bad news.

One solution: go for a turkey breast instead. Since it is much smaller, it thaws and cooks faster. The other tricky part of cooking a traditional turkey is getting the dark meat done without drying out the white meat. Since a turkey breast is just the white meat, you avoid that problem too. It is a win al around. And this recipe adds a lot of really delicious seasonings to make your turkey breast extra special.

Enjoy!

Citrus and Sage Roasted Turkey Breast (Serves about 6 plus some leftovers)

Citrus and Sage Roasted Turkey Breast

1 whole bone-in turkey breast (about 5-6 pounds)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons orange zest
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Juice of 1 orange
1 onion, quartered

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Pat turkey dry. Run hands between skin and meat to loosen, being gentle to not tear the skin.

3. Stir oil, sage, orange zest, salt, pepper, and juice together. Gently spread this mixture between the skin and meat with your fingers. Distribute it evenly throughout. Stuff Orange halves and onion pieces inside the cavity.

4. Place turkey breast in roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees. Rotate turkey breast 180 degrees and roast for 30 more minutes. Rotate again and then tent loosely with foil. Connie to cook until turkey breast reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees (about 25-40 more minutes). Remove onion and oranges pieces from cavity; discard. Let turkey rest for 25 minutes, uncovered, before slicing.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 229
Protein: 34 g
Fat: 10 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 76 mg
Carbohydrates: 1 g
Fiber: 0 g
Sodium: 179 mg

Recipe Notes: Make sure you get the turkey breast that looks kind of like a whole turkey. They sell smaller, skinless turkey breasts. That isn’t what you want. For the nutrient analysis, I’m assuming you do not eat the skin.

Source: slightly adapted from epicurious.com

Low Iodine adjustment: Use non-iodized salt.

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Pumpkin White Chocolate Cheesecake

This recipe isn’t healthy. Thank you for indulging me. I find myself missing my mother a lot this Christmas, and she instilled a love of cheesecake in me. I have a lot of fond memories of eating little wedges of half frozen Sarah Lee cheesecake with her while watching a cheesy chick flick.

I haven’t even attempted to make this more healthy than the original. Cheesecake is one of those foods I don’t mess with. The good news is that this is pretty rich, so it is slightly easier to eat in moderation.

Happy Holidays!

Pumpkin White Chocolate Cheesecake

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Crust:
1 ¾ cup gingersnap crumbs (about 30 small cookies)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup pecans or walnuts

Filling:
3 (8 ounce) blocks cream cheese
¾ cup pumpkin puree
6 ounces melted white chocolate (1 cup chips)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon ginger

Mousse:
1 cup whipping cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces white chocolate, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350. Using 2 large pieces of foil, securely wrap the bottom and outside of your cheesecake pan.

2. Use a food processor to crush gingersnaps. Then crush pecans. Combine gingersnaps, pecans, brown sugar, and butter and stir well to combine. Press into a 9″ spring form pan. Evenly spread across the bottom of pan and up the sides about 1 inch.

3. To melt chocolate, place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth. Set aside.

4. With an electric mixer beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Add pumpkin, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. With the mixer running, slowly add in white chocolate in a steady stream (or steady blobs). Pour mixture on top of the crust.

5. Place cheesecake pan in pre-heated oven. With a kettle or pitcher filled with hot water, pour water into cake pan on the lower shelf until you have about 1-2 inches of water. Shut oven door.

6. Bake for 60-75 minutes or until set. The center should be just a tad bit jiggly still. Let cool for approximately 30 minutes in oven with oven off. Remove from oven and place on a rack until completely cool. Place in the fridge for at least 12 hours. This is a soft cheesecake, so don’t be alarmed.

7. Once cheesecake is cooled, in a medium bowl, beat the cream and vanilla with an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer) until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix until combined and the peaks are slightly stiffer. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the white chocolate and mix until smooth and creamy. Fold in the whipped cream, taking care not to deflate the whipped cream, and mix gently with a rubber spatula, lifting and turning the cream, until the mousse is combined and creamy.

8. Spread the white chocolate topping on top of the cooled cheesecake. Cool with topping for at least an additional 1-2 hours.

Recipe Notes: None of us want to know the nutrition on this bad boy. It’s Christmas.

Source: Our Best Bites for cheesecake and Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for mousse, no adaptation

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Chocolate Banana Bread

I was invited to participate in an online cookie/holiday treat exchange by Patience Brewster. If
you’re not familiar with Patience, she is an artist that is on a personal mission to bring you joy through the unexpected in her handmade gifts, holiday ornaments and home decor.

I am very excited to participate and share this fun, tasty, and healthy treat with you that is perfect for gifting.  I’m also supposed to tag friends to participate, so Anna Costa, show us what you’ve got!

Everyone gets a ton of cookies, fudge, and homemade candies around Christmas.  Try doing something a little different – give a dessert bread that is rich but still healthy.  Your friends and neighbors will appreciate the variety and your consideration of their waistlines!

Chocolate Banana Bread (Makes 1 large loaf or 2-3 mini loaves, depending on pan size)

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4 very ripe bananas
¼ cup melted butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup cocoa powder
⅓ cup chopped walnuts, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly coat loaf pan(s) with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mash bananas. Whisk in butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla.

3. Combine baking soda, salt, flour, and cocoa powder in another bowl. Sift or whisk to remove any lumps. Add to wet mixture. Stir until just combined with a spoon. Gently stir in chopped nuts, if using.

4. Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 55-65 minutes (large loaf) or 35-45 minutes (smaller loaves) or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes. Then loosen from pan with knife and remove to a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature before wrapping.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving with 10 slices per large loaf)

Calories: 209
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 3.7 g
Cholesterol: 21 mg
Carbohydrates: 33 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 196 mg

Recipe Notes: If you are eating this yourself, it is really delicious when it is still a bit warm from the oven.

Source: slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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Thanksgiving Leftovers

Does anyone else enjoy the leftovers almost better than the actual Thanksgiving meal? It just isn’t Thanksgiving without the leftovers. That being said, I’m over it within 3 turkey sandwiches. Here a couple other ideas to spice up your leftover routine.

Thanksgiving Pizza

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This is more of a general outline than an actual recipe. Start with pizza dough, parbaking per the instructions. After parbaking, spread on a thin layer of cranberry sauce. Top with leftover mashed potatoes, leaving a few mounded areas. Add shredded turkey, scoops of stuffing if desired, and any remaining vegetables. Lightly cover with shredded cheddar or colby cheese. Drizzle gravy over the top. Bake until heated through and crust is browned.

Turkey Noodle Soup

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Don’t throw out your turkey bones! You can freeze them if you want to make soup later. But cooked down, they will give up plenty of meat and tons of flavor to make the best batch of soup ever. This is the only way my mom made “chicken” noodle soup when I was a kid.

Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie

I don’t have a picture of this one. But my sister-in-law does it every year. Place shredded turkey in the bottom of a casserole dish with corn, peas, carrots, or whatever vegetable you have handy. Pour on gravy to moisten. Top with a layer of stuffing, then a layer of mashed potatoes. Bake until heated through. It’s amazing.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving! See you next week when the mayhem is over!

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Sweet Potato Casserole

My husband and I have made a somewhat radical decision for our Thanksgiving feast this year. We are only having sweet potatoes. No regular mashed potatoes. Part of me feels sad to miss out on mashed potatoes with gravy. But then I remember we will be enjoying this sweet potato casserole without feeling guilty for doubling down on spuds and my sadness floats away.

Don’t crinkle your eyebrows at me when you see the nutrition for this and mockingly say, “This is healthy?” I cut down on a lot of sugar and butter. Compared to traditional sweet potato casseroles covered in streusel or marshmallows, this is healthier.

Sweet Potato Casserole (Serves 6 or more)

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4 cups cubed sweet potatoes (about 5 sweet potatoes)
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
⅓ cup evaporated nonfat milk

Topping:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Mash. Let cool just slightly.

3. Mix sugar, 3 tablespoons butter, eggs, and milk into potatoes when they are cool enough to not scramble the eggs. Mix until smooth. Put into a lightly greased 2 quart casserole dish.

4. To prepare topping, combine topping ingredients in a quart size or larger plastic bag. Mix until combined. Sprinkle over sweet potatoes.

5. Bake for 1 hour, or until center of casserole is set (a knife inserted in the center doesn’t come out goopy).

Nutritional Information (Amount per Serving):

Calories: 445
Protein: 9 g
Fat: 26 g
Saturated Fat: 9 g
Cholesterol: 93 mg
Carbohydrates: 47 g
Fiber: 5 g
Sodium: 94 mg

Recipe Notes: I have cooled the sweet potatoes completely in the fridge before adding any of the remaining ingredients. It does work if you are wanting to prep ahead, but you will need to melt the butter before adding it. I tried avoiding manual labor and making the topping in the food processor. It makes the nuts a little too chopped for my preference. If you don’t mind super chopped nuts or if you have your butter very soft so it comes together in a couple pulses, be my guest. The bag is one less dish to wash on a day full of dishes. I would recommend doubling or tripling this recipe. Trust me, it goes fast.

Recipe Source: adapted from a family recipe

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Breakfast Rolls

I suggested pumpkin pancakes as a Thanksgiving breakfast earlier this week.  For some of us, that may be hitting the pumpkin note too much in one day.  Especially since Thanksgiving is almost the end of the pumpkin craze season for desserts.  Or maybe that seems like too much work on a day that will be full of cooking.  I hear you.

These breakfast rolls do require a fair amount of effort. BUT…that effort can be expended days ahead of time.  You could make this right now if you wanted them for Thanksgiving.  These rolls freeze beautifully and are all the deliciousness of biscuits and gravy plus an omelet all combined into one.  This is a a good recipe for feeding a crowd.  Plus it is a substantial breakfast, which should keep your crowd full until your turkey “dinner”, which I find for most people is consumed somewhere between 2-4 pm.

Enjoy!

Breakfast Rolls (Makes 18-24 rolls)

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⅓ cup sugar
3 tablespoons instant yeast
¼ cup canola oil
1 ¼ cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
8 eggs
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup skim milk
4 ounces breakfast sausage
½ medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, diced
1 cup cubed sweet potato (or white potato), boiled until just fork tender
½ cup shredded colby jack cheese

1. In a large bowl, mix sugar, yeast, oil, and water until dissolved. Cover and let stand in warm place for 15 minutes.

2. Blend eggs and salt into yeast mixture. Gradually add flour, mixing well to form a dough. Knead for 5 minutes in stand mixer.

3. Lightly grease bowl, and let dough rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes.

4. While dough is rising, whisk together egg, black pepper, and milk. Scramble until fairly dry, but do not overcook. Set aside.

5. Brown sausage in skillet. Add onion and pepper. Saute 3-5 minutes, until softened. Add tomato; cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Set aside.

6. Roll out risen dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangular shape until it is about ¼ inch thick. Evenly sprinkle eggs, sausage mixture, potatoes, and cheese over the top. (See picture below.) Roll up tightly, beginning on long side. Roll gently so the dough doesn’t rip. Pinch to seal. Cut into 1 inch slices.

7. Place rolls in lightly greased pans, slightly apart. They should touch each other as they raise. Let rolls rest in warm place until about double in size, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400.

8. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, until tops of rolls are browned. Serve warm. Can serve plain or with milk gravy on top.

Nutritional Information (Amount per Roll):

Calories: 251
Protein: 11 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 106 mg
Carbohydrates: 34 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 131 mg

Recipe Notes: You can adjust the vegetables and meat to whatever your preference. If you use tomatoes, it is important to cook out most of the liquid. Otherwise you’ll have soggy rolls, which is gross. Frozen hashbrown potatoes would work well, but you’d want to cook them with the other veggies to get out any water. You could use all whole wheat flour, but it makes for a heavier feeling roll. I don’t usually include any process photos, but I’m including one below of just before rolling the dough. If you’ve made cinnamon rolls, this is not covered as completely as cinnamon rolls are. But it works fine. This filling is more substantial. Also, don’t roll your dough as thin as I did in the picture. It was hard to keep it from breaking from the weight of the filling.

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Tips on freezing: Freeze rolls in pans before second raise. When ready to eat, place in fridge overnight to thaw. In the morning, let sit uncovered on counter for about 30 minutes. Bake in 400 oven for 20-25 minutes.

Recipe Source: roll dough adapted from a cooking class I took in college; filling ideas and freezing adapted from here

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Pretzel Rolls (plus a Halloween twist)

When I was a teenager, I liked to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen. One day, I decided I wanted pretzels, so I made some. While a bit of work, they were very tasty. My mom also loved pretzels, so she would have me make them for her occasionally.

These rolls are all the deliciousness of a pretzel with slightly less work. No forming ropes and twisting and shaping. Somehow a roll shape also makes this pretzel feel more like it is dinner worthy and not so much a snack.

The Halloween twist is super easy and takes an already special roll up another notch. In all pretzel rolls, you cut slashes for them to expand. To make them festive, cut jack-o-latern faces or spiders or whatever your heart desires. It makes rolls more fun for the kids on a special night.

Enjoy!

Pretzel Rolls (Makes 16 rolls)

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1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups warm skim milk (about 110 degrees)
1 ½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups white whole wheat flour
3-5 cups all-purpose flour

Water bath:
3 quarts water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup baking soda

1. In a large bowl, stir together yeast, oil, milk, and water. Add salt and 2 cups of flour. Mix. Gradually add the remaining flour while mixing until dough clears the sides of the bowl and is stiff but still soft. Knead for 4-5 minutes.

2. Let dough rise in a lightly greased bowl, covered, until double in size (about 1 hour).

3. Portion dough into 16 equal pieces, rolling each into a round ball. Lay out on lightly greased parchment or a floured counter. Let dough rest for 15-20 minutes.

4. Bring water bath ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan. Taking one roll at a time, pinch the bottom of the roll to form a pucker and place into boiling water bath. Boil 3-4 rolls at a time. Boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Remove from boiling water, letting the excess water drip back into the pan. Place rolls onto baking sheets lined with lightly greased parchment paper.

5. Preheat oven to 425.

6. Use a sharp knife to cut slits (or a holiday design) in the top of each roll about ¼ inch deep.

7. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until deep golden brown.

Nutritional Information (Amount per roll):

Calories: 218
Protein: 7 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: less than 1 mg
Carbohydrates: 42 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 306 mg

Recipe notes: I boiled these rolls for at least 1 minute per side. I find you have to boil for a while to get a dark, chewy outside. Don’t be afraid to cut a little deep in step 6. I didn’t go quite deep enough, which is why my design is kind of faint. But be gentle so you don’t deflate the dough. I omitted sprinkling the rolls with salt. I don’t care for it, and it makes the sodium ridiculous. The nutrients on this seem high, I know. They are a large, fairly dense roll. One per person is plenty. Trust me.

Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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