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Super Easy Cinnamon Rolls

July 21, 2015 2:16 pm · Posted by Lauren G

I haven't forgotten about you!! I don't know where the time went, but it looks like I almost took an entire year off! I'm hoping to get back in to the swing of things starting with this cinnamon roll recipe. My boyfriend always loved his Grandmother's cinnamon rolls, but it's a secret family recipe. I'm sure they'd give it to me if I asked extra nice, but what's the fun in that? Instead, get ready for a range of cinnamon roll attempts until we get it right. I started with this super easy 7 ingredient recipe.

Yum! These were so gooey and warm when I tried taking pictures that they were fogging up my lens!

Start by scalding milk and butter. I used almond milk because I didn't have any regular. You could also substitute butter for a vegan substitute to make these entirely vegan. After the milk cools, add your yeast.

Here's my rolled out dough after letting it rise for a few hours. Sorry I'm low on the picture evidence this time. Also, yes, that's a Halloween placemat that I use for all my dough rolling purposes.

All rolled up and coated with more butter. Aren't they cute?

And then top it all off with buttercream frosting. I don't know why my rolls cracked on the outside. Maybe I overbaked them or didn't measure my flour correctly.

Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 1 cup milk (I used vanilla almond)
  • 1/2 cup butter, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar, divided

  1. In a large sauce pan (or in a bowl in the microwave at 30 sec increments), heat the almond milk and 3 Tbsp Earth Balance until warm and melted, never reaching boiling. Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees, or the temperature of bath water. It should be warm but not too hot or it will kill the yeast.
  2. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on yeast. Let activate for 10 minutes, then add 1 Tbsp sugar and the salt and stir.
  3. Next add in flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring as you go. The dough will be sticky. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball. Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat it with canola or grapeseed oil, and add your dough ball back in. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. Brush with 3 Tbsp melted Earth Balance and top with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 - 1Tbsp cinnamon.
  5. Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough and situate seam side down. Then with a serrated knife or a string of floss, cut the dough into 1.5 - 2 inch sections and position in a well-buttered 8x8 square or comparable sized round pan (you should have about 10 rolls). Brush with remaining 2 Tbsp Earth Balance (melted) and cover with plastic wrap. Set on top of the oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Once the oven is hot, bake rolls for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve immediately.

(Inspired by Minimalist Baker)

Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

  1. In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

(Inspired by Food Network)

The Verdict:
The rolls were too dense. Derek's Grandmother let them rise overnight which would give them a lighter texture. Also, she used glaze, not frosting. Next...

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Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

September 23, 2014 12:21 pm · Posted by Lauren G

Mmmmm more chocolate chip cookies because you could you go wrong with such a classic. I love trying new versions of the old favorite like last week's mock DoubleTree cookies and this week's salted concoction. These were actually inspired by a restaurant in Santa Monica called The Misfit Bar. After your meal, they give you these amazing cookies, and while you're there, I highly recommend the crispy lobster nik niks. I'm still trying to figure out the exact cookie recipe, but these are pretty darn good in the meantime. 

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons sea salt + more for sprinkling on top of each cookie dough ball
  • 2 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and dark brown sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy in texture, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg is added. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.
  3. Next, add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt and mix just until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Do not over-mix.
  4. Add in the chocolate chips and mix them in by hand using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Transfer the cookie dough to a bowl and cover tightly.
  5. Refrigerate the cookie dough overnight. Do not skip this step! If you're dough is room temperature, it will spread too thin in the oven and end up looking like this...

6. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
7. Use a cookie scoop to portion out the cookie dough onto the baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie dough ball with a small amount of sea salt.
8. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning.
9. Remove the cookies from the oven when they are a light golden brown around the edges and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 2 minutes before transferring them to a baking rack to cool completely. Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

(Inspired by Mom It Forward)

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DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookies

September 16, 2014 12:53 pm · Posted by Lauren G

I can't believe I haven't posted anything for two months! Where have I been? I've been so busy with life that I haven't even had time to bake anything! Back in June, my family and I traveled to Chicago for my brother's graduation from business school. It was such a happy occasion and a wonderful time spent with family and friends, but the crazy baker in me couldn't stop thinking about the amazing cookies at the Double Tree Hotel. They keep them warm behind the counter and hand them to you when you check in, but if you're nice, they'll give you extra. This recipe is from the DoubleTree website, so you know they're authentic!

Makes Approximately 20 Cookies

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups semi-sweet, chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts

  1. Grind oats in a food processor or blender until fine. Combine the ground oats with the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  2. Cream together the butter, sugars, vanilla, and lemon juice in another medium bowl with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and mix until smooth. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture and blend well. Add the chocolate chips and nuts to the dough and mix by hand until ingredients are well blended.
  3. For the best results, chill the dough overnight in the refrigerator before baking the cookies.
  4. Spoon rounded 1/4 cup portions onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Place the scoops about 2 inches apart. Bake in a 350°F oven for 16-18 minutes or until cookies are light brown and soft in the middle. Store in a sealed container when cool to keep soft.

(Inspired by DoubleTree Modesto)

Filed under: Yum, dessert, recipe Tagged with: doubletree, chocolate chip, cookies
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Lemon Crinkle Cookies

June 24, 2014 1:59 pm · Posted by Lauren G

It's summer and my lemon tree is going crazy! I'm not a huge fan of lemonade so let's bake something. I've already done two versions of lemon cupcakes so I thought I'd try a cookie this time. I love these, but I wish they had a stronger lemon flavor. It's very subtle. If you're really looking for lemon flavor, try some lemon extract. 

I used a very small dish and made a mess. A larger dish would have been a better idea.

  • ½ cups Butter, Softened
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
  • ½ cups Powdered Sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non stick cooking spray or prepare with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest and juice. Scrape sides and mix again.
  3. Whisk together all dry ingredients except the powdered sugar, and stir in slowly until just combined.
  4. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.

(Inspired by Lauren's Latest)

Filed under: Yum, recipe Tagged with: lemon crinkle, dessert, lemon, cookies
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Donut Cookies

June 17, 2014 12:21 pm · Posted by Lauren G

National Donut Day was a couple of weeks ago! If you went to Krispy Kreme, you could have gotten a tasty one for free. (I most definitely went). I've tried making donuts once before it and was a complete disaster, but I was crusing Ralph's and I found this adorable Betty Crocker Donut Cookie mix. Seriously...adorable. You can ask my roommate how many times I looked at these cookies and commented on how cute they were. I don't think they actually tasted like donuts, but I rolled them out and used my donut cutter (be sure to add a little extra flour to the mix). The instructions on the back of the bag said you could also roll the dough into a rope and form a donut shape. I tried that and it didn't turn out that well. If you don't have a donut cutter you could use two different sized round cutters or even get resourceful with a cup and bottle cap! If you don't want to use the pre-packaged mix, you can use the sugar cookie and buttercream frosting recipes I included below.

Little donuts!
Time for frosting and sprinkles...
Delicious with a little coffee in my Krispy Kreme mug.

Perfect Sugar Cookies

  • 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium; add eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture gradually, beating until incorporated. Shape dough into 2 disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Let 1 disk of dough stand at room temperature until just soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Instead of rolling dough on a floured surface, I like to use plastic wrap to keep the dough from drying out. Cut out desired shapes. Transfer to baking sheets. Roll out scraps once, and repeat. Repeat with remaining disk of dough. Freeze until cookies are firm, 15 minutes.
  3. Bake in batches, switching and rotating sheets halfway through, until edges of cookies turn golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.
  4. Spoon royal icing into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip, and decorate cookies. Let stand overnight or until icing dries completely.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (Ideal texture should be like ice cream)
  • 3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • up to 4 tablespoons milk of heavy cream
  • Red food coloring

  1. Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.
  2. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn't blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.
  3. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract and salt and beat for 3 minutes. Add one drop of food coloring at a time until desired color is achieved.
  4. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining cream 1 tablespoon at a time.
Filed under: dessert, recipe, Food Tagged with: national donut day, sugar cookie, Donut, cookie
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Oil Cleansing Method Review: Good in theory

June 10, 2014 12:25 pm · Posted by Lauren G

I so so so wanted this to work. An all-natural and inexpensive beauty routine?! Unfortunately for me, trying the OCM was the WIE (worst idea ever). I've always had problem skin, and a ton of people online said that it helped with their breakouts and their skin never looked better. The first few days using this method, my skin did look awesome. It was moisturized and almost glowing, but as time went on, I started breaking out more. Huge, cystic pimples starting forming around my jawline and small bumps on my temples. There are also a lot of reports that your skin has to go through a "purging" period, so I decided to power through. It's only supposed to last for a week or two. Instead of getting better, my skin kept getting worse. After a month, the small bumps on my temples weren't going away and they were also appearing every where else, especially around my mouth and jawline. I decided to give up after two months. My skin was out of control, and even after going back to a regular skin routine, it kept getting worse. All those small bumps on my temples exploded in to full blown zits. Finally, almost three months and many trips to the dermatologist later, my skin is getting back to normal. I'm still stuck with disgusting red marks and acne scars that I can only hope will fade with time.

I did take pictures to track my progress, but after scrolling through them again, I just can't bear to post them. I honestly think this is the worst my skin has ever looked. If this is something you're thinking of trying, I hope with every single one of my clogged pores that this works for you, but if your current skin routine is working, I'd stick with it.

Filed under: Review Tagged with: oil cleansing method, OCM, Acne, skincare
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What the heck is the oil cleansing method?

June 3, 2014 12:22 pm · Posted by Lauren G

Just like oil pulling, the oil cleansing method is a natural way to cleanse your skin. People all over the internet are raving about their glowing skin thanks to the OCM and how much money their saving by getting rid of all their fancy and expensive face products. Theoretically, a mixture of oils is the only face product you will ever need.

What is it?

Basically you rub oil on your face and wipe it off with a hot washcloth. Sounds crazy right? Well, the basic concept is that the oil used to massage your skin will dissolve the oil and other impurities stuck in your pores. The steam from the washcloth will open your pores, allowing the oil to be easily removed. When you're done, you can also use a small drop of the same oil formula patted over the skin to moisturize.

How do you do it?

First, you start with castor oil. It's a natural astringent and helps pull impurities out of the skin. You then mix it with a combination of other natural, non-comedogenic oils like jojoba, sunflower, or hazelnut. Some people have reported bad results with olive coconut oil. You'll have to find the right blend for you, but typically the more oily your skin is, the more castor oil you should use. My skin is oily/combination so I used 1/3 castor, 1/3 jojoba, and 1/3 grapeseed oil. 

  1. Pour about a quarter size amount of the oil blend into your hand and massage onto dry skin. Use smooth circular strokes and let this also be a gentle facial massage. Massage for at least a minute or until you are sure that the oil has saturated your skin. This will also remove make-up very effectively, so there is no need to remove make-up first. You can even leave the oil on the skin for up to 10 minutes to really deep clean pores. 
  2. Place a clean washcloth under very hot tap water (I used my electric kettle) until it is completely soaked and quickly wring it out. Open it and place over your face. This will create steam against the skin to remove the oils and any impurities in the skin. Leave the wash cloth on until it cools then gently use the cloth to wipe the oil off your face. Repeat if needed with the other side of the washcloth. There will still be a thin layer of oil on the skin and this is meant to moisturize the skin.
  3. If your skin feels dry, pat a small amount of your oil blend into your skin. You can also try to reduce the amount of castor oil.

Does it work? 

Well, you'll have to stay tuned to hear about my results. I even took pictures to track my progress. I'm still trying to decide if I want to post my makeup-free pics online for all the world to see. Let's just say that after my experience, I'm not a fan...

(Inspired by The Oil Cleansing Method and Wellness Mama)

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Oil Pulling Review: It's a load of crap

May 29, 2014 12:56 pm · Posted by Lauren G

I've been oil pulling for a week now, and here's what I've come up with...I think it's a load of crap. After a couple days, I got used to swishing coconut oil in my mouth and could easily distract myself doing other things like checking emails. It still isn't the best experience, but I could tolerate it. The results? My teeth don't look any whiter or my skin any clearer. Sure it's only been a week, but the only up-side I can think of is that I brushed my teeth every single morning after the oil pulling. I hate to admit it, but sometimes in the mornings I'm too lazy to brush my teeth. Some people swear by it and claim that it's a miracle cure, but I feel like the internet is pranking me. There is no concrete scientific evidence supporting any benefits to oil pulling except that coconut oil can be a good organic substitute for mouth wash. It's known for its anti-bacterial properties and I have no doubt that it's killing bacteria in my mouth. I'm pretty sure that's as far as it goes. Since both my parents are dentist, I already had pretty good oral hygiene, so I don't think the extra swishing was really making that much of a difference.

Am I ever going to do it again? Maybe if it strikes my fancy and I'm staring at my jar of coconut oil while making coffee, but I'm definitely not a convert.

Filed under: oil pulling, Review
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What the heck is oil pulling?

May 20, 2014 12:12 pm · Posted by Lauren G

I've been hearing a lot of about oil pulling lately. It's an ancient Ayurvedic remedy that uses pur oils to pull harmful bacteria, fungus, and other organisms out of the mouth, teeth, gums and even throat for oral health and detoxification. It's also supposed to whiten your teeth and improve acne. Sounds like a little voodoo magic, huh? There are hundreds of testimonials online from people who experienced benefits from oil pulling, including help with skin conditions, arthritis, asthma, headaches, hormone imbalances, infections, liver problems and more. Well the people don't lie, right? Might as well give it a try, right?

You basically swish oil around in your mouth for 5-20 minutes (20 is ideal). I used coconut, but you could also use sesame or olive. Supposedly the lipids in the oils pull out toxins from your saliva so it's best to do it first thing in the morning before you eat anything. Try to let the oil reach all parts of your mouth equally. Once your done, be sure to spit it in the trash can so the oil doesn't clog your drains. Rinse with water and then brush your teeth.

My thoughts...
For my first time, I only lasted 5 minutes. It's gross. It's exactly what you imagine it would be like but then maybe a little bit grosser. I tried to check my email at the same time to distract myself. All in all, my first impression isn't a great one, but I'm going to try it for a week and let you know how it goes. 

(Inspired by Food Matters and Wellness Mama)

Tagged with: oil pulling
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Bread Pudding

May 6, 2014 10:55 am · Posted by Lauren G

I can't believe I've never made bread pudding before! It's one of the easiest things I've ever made, and it's so gooey and yummy. I added raisins, but left out the nuts since I made this for a party and nut allergies always make me nervous.

I used two kinds of bread because I thought it would add more flavors. I really couldn't taste the difference, but wont of them is whole wheat so at least I can pretend it's healthy.

3 cups cubed bread, allow to stale overnight in a bowl
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
2 cups milk
2 cups granulated sugar

5 large beaten eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spread cubed bread in an 13x9 baking pan. If desired, sprinkle with raisins and pecans.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
  4. In another bowl, mix and crumble together brown sugar, and butter.
  5. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over the top.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

(Inspired by Food Network and Allrecipes)

Filed under: noms, recipe, Food Tagged with: Bread Pudding, dessert

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