Welcome to my breakfast routine.  Fast, predictable, and the same thing every.single.day.

I started the granola bar thing in junior high prompted by my perpetual lateness to school and 12 (seriously twelve?!) years later it is still going strong.

Oh…and coffee.  There must be coffee.

I needed a change, an upgrade, if you will.  Enter these beauties.  Breakfast just got a whole lot more interesting.

To better your own breakfast, start by browning some butter.  Begin this process by melting butter as you normally would, on the stove over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, take it to the next deliciously “browned” phase by allowing it to continue cooking while not stirring, but rather swirling the pan without a utensil.  {the butter will foam and hiss a bit during this stage!}  Stay with the butter at the stove because browned butter can go to burnt butter very quickly.

This process will take just a few minutes; you’ll know the butter is “done” when you start to smell a nutty aroma and see brown deposits in the bottom of your pan.  The browned bits are actually the solids in the butter, and cooking them this way enhances the flavor so much.

{here is a great tutorial for more tips on browning butter}

Let the butter cool while you prepare the fruit.  Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the fruit from the outer rind then cut between the individual segments.

Combine the butter with some cinnamon and brown sugar, making a thick “paste” of sweetness.

Place the fruit in a foil-lined baking dish, cutting a slice off the bottom of the grapefruit if it you’re having trouble getting it to stay upright.

Divide the sugary cinnamony loveliness between the fruit and place under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar has caramelized and resembles the topping on crème brûlée… DO NOT walk away from the oven during this part, I beg of you… charred grapefruit really doesn’t carry the same allure.

Try this out and see how you like it!  I actually preferred the grapefruit without the crisp sugary coating {which I totally ate on its own after eating the fruit}… I found that the warm juicy sweetness that drenches the fruit under the melting sugar was a perfect match for my taste buds.  Anyway you, eh, slice it- this is addicting.

Good morning to YOU!

Brown Butter Broiled Grapefruit

- 1 large Ruby Red grapefruit, chilled
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
– 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– ½ teaspoon cinnamon

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted, allow the butter to continue cooking for a few minutes, swirling the pan periodically.  The butter will foam and hiss, indicating that the browning process is occurring.  Once you see the solids beginning to brown, pay close attention to avoid overcooking.  Continue swirling the pan until the butter has a fragrant and nutty aroma and the browned bits cover the bottom of the pan.  Set aside to cool.

To prepare the fruit, slice the grapefruit in half and use a sharp paring knife to separate the fruit from the outer rind and also separate the individual segments.  Place the grapefruit halves in a foil lined baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the browned butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Mound this mixture on each grapefruit half and place under a pre-heated broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sugar is bubbly.  Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes before enjoying!

{serves 2}

I, like the seeming rest of the internet, have been pulled into the fall pumpkin baking craze.  As I was baking these, my sister starting naming off the pumpkin-based concoctions I’ve made since the weather cooled off and the results laughingly could not be counted on two hands… in the case of extremes, this has been a very tasty one to endure.

While some of the results were good enough to keep in my repertoire for future fall seasons, this recipe will become a year-round staple.  I seriously have never tasted a cinnamon roll I loved more (including these) and although I can’t wait to experiment with other seasonal flavors, I genuinely would eat these all.year.long.  Pumpkin in June? One bite and you will agree… you bet.

Start with a package of instant or rapid rise yeast {may also be called bread machine yeast}…

… and some bread flour.  Bread flour has more gluten (which gives elasticity to dough) than all-purpose, therefore helping your baked goods rise better and retain the desired shape and structure.  All you need to know is more “structure” = prettier cinnamon rolls.

Start your dough by heating some milk and butter over medium heat until the butter has just melted. {the milk will be warm to the touch, but not hot}… Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the pumpkin, sugar, and salt.  Mix for a few seconds to combine, then add the melted butter/milk mixture to the bowl and blend until just combined.  Next add the egg and yeast to the bowl, beating after each addition.

Stir together both your flours in a separate bowl.  Add half the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat {still using the paddle attachment} for 5 minutes, stopping the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides.  Next add the remaining flour and beat for 2 more minutes {dough will be super soft and sticky!}

Dump the dough into a lightly greased bowl {grease the top of the dough, too} and cover with a layer of plastic wrap directly touching the dough then a clean kitchen towel covering the whole bowl.

Leave the covered dough in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

While the dough rises, make your filling: stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Yes, that’s all there is to it… you could also add some chopped pecans in this little combo if your heart desires, but seriously, why mess with perfection?

Now it’s time for the “fun” part… Punch down your dough inside the bowl.  It will still be very soft and sticky… to combat this, use a wooden spoon to stir in all-purpose flour a bit at a time until the dough becomes cohesive and workable.

This took me about 1/3 cup of additional flour, but don’t be afraid to add as much as you need!  This is a problem I’ve had with making cinnamon rolls in the past- I was always afraid to add any drop of flour over what the recipe called for and usually ended up with a sticky mess… this dough is much less finicky and fragile than others, so don’t worry about babying it! Bottom line: if you can roll it into a rectangle, your flour ratio = perfecto.

In effort to keep the wreckage of my kitchen to a minimum, I floured a silpat on top of a cookie sheet and used that to roll out the dough… and it actually worked great and was a perfect guideline for how big to make the dough.  #ingenuity

After you’ve rolled the dough, slather on some melted butter… {and although I hate to keep harping on this flour thing, check for sticky edges now, too  If the edge is sticky, add flour…. you will thank me once you start the next step.}

Sprinkle the cinnamon/brown sugar filling evenly over the dough, leaving atleast a 1″ margin on each of the long sides.

Also waxing wise from previous cinnamon roll attempts, this margin is important for several reasons: aesthetics {the uniform spiral shape} and functionality {if you don’t leave an empty edge, the filling will come sloshing out the edges and infuriate even the most placid of bakers}

Roll the dough tightly and evenly into a long tube, starting with the long side of the rectangle.

I like the score my dough with the knife before cutting it into rolls… Since I have a tendency to get overzealous during this process, this helps eliminate the huge to tiny size gradient that I am prone to create.

After placing the rolls in your greased dish, cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise again, this time around 30 to 45 minutes.  After the rolls are doubled, bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown and cooked through.  {I also suggest covering the entire dish with tin foil after the first 10 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning}

While the rolls are doing their thing, make the obvious best part of this dish: the warm caramel frosting.  Start by melting some butter over medium heat.  Once the butter has fully melted, whisk in the brown sugar and milk, cooking over medium heat for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt.

Pour the warm mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and allow to cool briefly.  After 10 minutes, pour in the powdered sugar and blend until homogenous.

After the rolls are out of the oven, let them cool for 5 minutes, then drench them in the frosting… seriously, drench them.  There is no technique here, just pour all the frosting over the rolls and swirl the pan ensuring no nook or cranny goes un-sugared. Let the rolls rest for 5 excruciating more minutes.

The moment of truth: the baking is over, the waiting is over….. finally time to eat some dang cinnamon rolls.

Seriously, one bite and all the effort you put into making these will be eliminated from view… If I were making these to serve for breakfast, I would make the dough and do every step except baking the night before- that way these can go from oven to mouth in well under an hour.

With Thanksgiving coming up, what a perfect time to try these, especially if you’ve never made cinnamon rolls from scratch.  Pour yourself a giant mug of coffee, recruit a partner, and make a fun morning out of it… all while being thankful Holland didn’t have these, otherwise the Pilgrim’s would never have left.  Bon appetit!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Warm Caramel Frosting

for dough
– 1/3 cup milk
– 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– ½ cup canned pumpkin
– 2 Tablespoons sugar
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 egg
– 1 package instant (rapid rise) yeast
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup bread flour

for filling
– ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
– 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
– 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

for frosting
– 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
– 2 Tablespoons milk
– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
– dash salt
– ½ cup powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, heat butter and milk over medium heat until just warm and the butter is just melted.  Remove from heat and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine pumpkin, sugar and salt.  Add in the milk mixture and beat with the paddle attachment until just combined.  Next add the egg and yeast, beating after each addition.

In a separate bowl, stir together the two flours.  Add half the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture.  Beat the mixture on low (still using the paddle attachment) for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add the remaining flour and beat for 2 more minutes (dough will be very soft and sticky).  Turn the dough into a lightly greased bowl, then also grease the surface of the dough lightly {I used cooking spray for this}.  Cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the dough then a clean kitchen towel over the entire bowl.  Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Once doubled, punch the dough down inside the bowl.  Dough will still be very sticky.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in additional all-purpose flour (approximately one-third cup) gradually until a soft, workable dough forms.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle another dusting of flour on top.  Roll dough into a large rectangle, about 12-by-10 inches, touching up any “sticky” areas on the top or sides with a little flour.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Pour the melted butter on top of the rolled dough, leaving a 1″ margin on each of the long sides.  Next sprinkle on the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, also adhering to the 1″ margins.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes before rolling.

Roll the mixture up jelly roll style, beginning with the long side of dough.  With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 12 slices. {Be sure to slice in a smooth, unidirectional way- avoid cutting or chopping at the dough!}  Place the rolls in a greased 9×13 dish.  Cover with a dish towel and let the dough rise again, this time about 45 minutes.  Bake rolls at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes until the top is golden, covering with tin foil after the first 10 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.

While the rolls are baking, make the frosting.  In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted.  Stir in milk and brown sugar and cook over medium heat for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer to cool.  After about 10 minutes, stir in the powdered sugar and beat with the mixer until well blended.

Remove rolls from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  While still in the pan, pour the frosting over the warm rolls, letting the frosting set for 5 minutes before serving.

{makes 12 cinnamon rolls}

Ah, Spring Break. So glad we could meet again. It has been too long since I have experienced the rest and relaxation you bring. Thank you for giving me plenty of excuses to cook, paint, and read exorbitant novels. I needed it.

I think it goes without saying that Spring Break is one of the most looked-forward-too “holidays” in the life of a student.  Since this was my last spring break practically ever {do you hear me sobbing?} I decided to take full advantage and fill my ten lovely days with the things and people I love the most.  I painted and re-finished an ancient dresser {can’t wait to share that soon!}, went to Houston for a few days with my mom and Laura, and messed up my mother’s kitchen on a daily basis.  I had fun.

When I got home Friday afternoon, I was so excited to see these little cuties sitting in my mom’s kitchen.

Lucy, Caroline {the “baby” McCormick sister}, and Virginia made a detour by our house on the way to their pledge class beach trip. Always looking for an excuse ransack the kitchen, I decided to whip up a healthy snack for them to take on their trip. I was pretty sure they could use some oats and fruit in their Spring Break food pyramid of Skittles and Swedish Fish.

Caroline was super appreciative of my edible contribution. After all, sailing all week and covering yourself in bronze-inducing baby oil is hard work. They needed energy.

Homemade granola bars are one of my favorite things to make. I love the freshness of seeing it all come together and knowing my food didn’t sit on a shelf for months before becoming my breakfast. I also love that this is one of those “throw in anything in the pantry that looks good recipes”: you can make it as healthy or as decadent {butterscotch chips, anyone?} as you’re in the mood for.

The ingredient line-up for this recipe is short and sweet.  Perfect for hypothetical {or not so hypothetical} situations where you find yourself itching to do a little midnight baking in a tiny town with no grocery stores open past 9 p.m. {trust me, Walmart is a luxury, people}

Measure your almonds, coconut, and oats onto a baking sheet.  {no need to grease!}  Stir everything together and pop the pan in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

While things are getting toasty in the oven, keep your wooden spoon handy to stir the granola every few minutes or so.  After the granola is nice and brown, let it cool for a few minutes on the pan then pour it into your mother’s favorite mixing monstrosity acquired during the Tupperwear party craze of 1995 {or just a nice plain mixing bowl if you don’t have a 3 gallon miniature swimming pool hidden in your cabinet}

While the granola cools, make the sweet “glue” that holds these bars together.  Mix the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt together in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture is boiling.  Stir the bubbling mixture constantly for 1 minute then remove from the heat.

Pour the mixture over the granola and stir.  If that little honey river smells a little too, well honey-ish, for your liking right now, don’t fret!  I am not a big fan of a straight honey taste either, and was relieved that the potency I tasted here really dissipated in the “finished product”.

Add some cranberries.  Add some apricots.

Yummy.  Makes me want to go hiking… or not. {Just ask Bryan about the granola-laced Appalachian Trail trip of 2008}

Grab your parchment lined pan.

Pour the whole nutty fruity delicious mess into your prepared pan and press it flat with wet fingers.

Ready for the oven.  Bake at 300 for about 50 minutes.  Now quickly wash your mother’s “That’s a Bowl” {yes, that monstrosity has on official name, straight from the catalog} before she realizes you have “borrowed it” {if this thing ends up at my apartment, I have no idea by what means it arrived}

Cool for a few hours to let the conglomeration finish “firming up” and then cut into bars!  {if you get a little over-zealous and try to get this out of the pan before it is is completely cool, there is a great likelihood your bars will crumble back into their original “granola, sans bars” state…. after a few shrieks, crumble the rest of it, fill a ziploc, and eat with vanilla yogurt! Mmm}

Hoping you all had a lovely spring break- here’s to starting a warmer, slower, and healthier new season!

Homemade Granola Bars

- 2½ cups old-fashioned oats
– 1 cup sliced almonds
– 1 cup shredded coconut
– 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– 2/3 cup honey
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar
– 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 3/4 cup dried cranberries
– 3/4 cup dried apricots

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray an 8×12 baking dish liberally with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.  Combine the oats, almonds, and coconut and spread evenly on a large sheet pan.  Bake the mixture for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  When the mixture is lightly brown, remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer everything to a large mixing bowl.  Once this step is completed, turn the oven temperature down to 300°.

To make the “glue” that holds these bars together, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture starts to boil {be patient- this takes a little while!}.  Continue to cook the boiling mixture for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove the hot liquid from the stove and pour over the oatmeal mixture.  Add the cranberries and apricots and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  With wet fingers, press the mixture into an even layer.  Bake for 50 minutes until the bars are a lovely golden color.  Cool the bars in the pan for 4 to 5 hours until completely cooled.  Before serving, use the parchment to lift the bars from the pan and cut into squares.

{makes 12 to 16 granola bars}

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