Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze

Who doesn’t need cinnamon rolls on a Monday?

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

I know I sure do! Especially when they’re loaded with banana, chocolate and walnuts like these Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze. I don’t even think that these need further discussion, but a discussion we will have.


As I mentioned in my post for these Pumpkin Praline Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting, I owe my deep love for all flavors of homemade cinnamon rolls to my Dad. Over the past couple of years, good ol’ Dad has been dreaming up different combos like Caramel Apple, Blueberry, Chocolate Chip, you name it, and if we’re lucky he’ll have some baking away in the oven for breakfast whenever we go up home to visit.

Two weekends ago, we were up there helping my sister move into her new house, and my parents decided to throw a little brunch to celebrate my birthday the next morning. Sure enough, Dad was in the kitchen the night before the brunch whipping up the above-mentioned Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls, and I decided it was high time for me to feature another cinnamon roll flavor on this here blog using his trusty recipe.

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

On this same trip, Dad and I were chatting over our coffee one early morning (as we usually do since we’re the only early-risers in the family) and he brought up the fact that it had been a while since he made his banana chocolate chip pancakes – another breakfast specialty of his. It got the gears turning in my mind and I figured, why not combine the two? Cinnamon rolls, banana, chocolate chip….all in buttery, flaky bread form? Yes, please!

Of course I couldn’t stop there, and I decided to go ahead and add toasted walnuts to the mix. I mean, who doesn’t want their breakfast to taste like the best Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor around? Oh, and the glaze….yes, I trashed that up too and made it a rich, ganache-like chocolate…

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

I’m proud to say that these Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze turned into not one, but two pans of delicious, indulgent, chocolate-y breakfast pastries, half of which are living in our freezer right now so we don’t eat them all in one sitting. Plus, I love having a freezer full of baked goods for any last minute house guests or mornings where we just don’t feel like cooking!

You’ll notice that the base for these Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls is very similar to my Pumpkin Praline Cinnamon Roll recipe. That’s the beauty of cinnamon rolls! Once you get the basic formula down, you can swap different ingredients in and out to make alllll of the flavors.

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

You’ll also notice that there is (once again) a very long prep time. Don’t be discouraged by this! The hands-on time is really quite minimal, the dough just requires an overnight rise in the refrigerator. All the better if you want an easy breakfast that’s ready to just pop in the oven in the morning (and fill your house with the most heavenly aroma at the same time!)

The dough for our Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze is brought together using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, and is then rolled out into a rectangle over a large floured surface.  This is where our banana will live, mixed into the buttery dough just like you would when making banana bread.

The next step is the delicious, ooey gooey filling. The rolled out dough gets a light brushing of butter, and then a heavy dusting of ground cinnamon. We sprinkle our mini chocolate chips and toasted walnuts over that, and then we’re ready to rock-and-roll!

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

That’s right, time to roll up the dough into a long, tight log. I failed a bit at the “tight” part, but was able to make it work by using a rubber spatula to scrape the dough off of my marble slab (it can get a bit sticky) and guide it onto the rest of the roll.

The rolling is literally the hardest part (besides waiting for the cinnamon rolls to rise!) and once you’re done with that just slice it up and tuck the spirals into a couple of baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Wrap them up and stick ‘em in the fridge overnight, and in the morning you’re just 45 minutes away from incredibly mouth-watering Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze!

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

I like to let the cinnamon rolls have a little bit of a warm rise in the morning, and to do this I just turn the oven on to 250 degrees for about 5 minutes, then turn it off and put the rolls in for 10-15 minutes. After they’ve had some time to rise, I take the rolls out to, set them on top of the oven, and preheat the oven to the baking temp of 350 degrees. Once the oven is preheated, stick in the cinnamon rolls and in 30 minutes your house will smell like your favorite bakery – promise.

You can mix up the chocolate glaze while the cinnamon rolls are cooling, and either pour the glaze all over the cinnamon rolls in the pan, or leave the glaze in a bowl on the side and spoon it over each of the cinnamon rolls as they’re being served. (Although, if you wait to scoop the glaze on after you take the rolls out of the pan, you’ll have a lot more surface area for it too ooze all over…just sayin’.)

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

And that’s it! Really, as long as you’re cool with popping the rolls in the refrigerator overnight to rise, this recipe comes together in a snap and with very minimal effort. I mean, we’re talking weekday breakfast status right here. So what are you waiting for?

Chunky Monkey Cinamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze

These are not your average cinnamon rolls with flavors of banana, chocolate and walnuts. Just like your favorite ice cream flavor! 

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 18 cinnamon rolls
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the dough:
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 large, ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
For the glaze:
  • 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
Instructions
  1. First, make the dough. Combine yeast and lukewarm water in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Add butter, sugars, salt, eggs and banana and stir (using the dough hook) to combine. Gradually begin adding in the flour, one cup at a time, stirring well after each addition, but not over-stirring (you just barely want all the flour incorporated in the dough before adding more.)

  2. Keep adding the flour until the dough can be removed from the mixer without sticking too much. It will be a little sticky, but feel free to put more flour on your hands to help you get it out of the mixer and onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough lightly on the floured surface, adding light dustings of flour as needed, until you feel you can roll the dough out into a large rectangle.

  3. Using a rolling pin (or pizza roller), roll the dough into a rectangle that’s large enough for the dough to be about ¾ of an inch to an inch thick. You’ll want one of the long sides of the rectangle closest to where you are standing.

  4. Using a pastry brush, brush the melted butter over the dough, then sprinkle on the cinnamon, followed by the walnuts and chocolate chips. 

  5. Starting at the long side of the rectangle that’s closest to you, begin rolling up the dough into one long log. Do this slowly and carefully, using a rubber spatula and more flour to guide the dough as needed. Pinch the ends into the dough to prevent the log from falling apart.

  6. Using a sharp knife, slice the log of dough into 1 ½ - 2-inch pieces. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and place each roll snugly side-by-side. If you have extra rolls that you can’t fit in the pan, place them in another, smaller baking dish coated with cooking spray, such as a loaf pan.

  7. Cover rolls with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.

  8. In the morning, take the cinnamon rolls out of the refrigerator and uncover. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit for just 5 minutes, then turn it off. Add the cinnamon rolls to the warm oven for about 15 minutes to go through a second rise, then remove the rolls and turn the oven heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

  9. Return the cinnamon rolls to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and let cool slightly while you make the glaze. 

  10. In a medium bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add the melted butter and milk and whisk until a thick glaze forms. Spoon the glaze over the cinnamon rolls before serving.

Chunky Monkey Cinnamon Rolls with Chocolate Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

 

Breakfast Panzanella + a Spring Fling Brunch!

**Author’s Note: You may notice that this girl-powered post is coming to you a day later than my usual weekly posting schedule. We had originally planned to post our Spring Fling Brunch on Wednesday, March 8, but then discovered that many of the ladies in our lives (coworkers, friends, family, etc.) were participating in A Day Without a Woman. After some deliberation, we decided to postpone our posts until Thursday to show our support for all females and gender-oppressed individuals. As always, I so appreciate your support for me and so many of my fellow bloggers and lady entrepreneurs. I hope you enjoy reading about our brunch just as much as we enjoyed throwing it!

I told you this was going to be a fun week!

Breakfast Panzanella + a Spring Fling Brunch! | CaliGirlCooking.com


I am so excited for today’s post because it has been a long time coming. I’ve mentioned it before, but I truly feel so fortunate to have met so many amazing lady entrepreneurs IRL in my small little community of Santa Barbara. I’ve met fellow bloggers, freelancers, small-business owners, you name it. I’ve enjoyed interacting with every single person I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with, and have learned so much by having this diverse sounding board to bounce ideas off of, ask for advice, etc.

Way back in November, my fellow blogging babes, Hana-Lee from Wander and Wine and Becky from Baking the Goods, and I started throwing around the idea of a collaboration brunch. We all have such unique niches when it comes to our blogs (Hana-Lee focuses on wine and travel, while Becky’s the baker and I’m the cook with a side of mixology) that we thought it would be a great opportunity to play off of each other’s strengths and introduce our readers to all of the fantastic things everyone is doing in their own little corner of the Interwebs.

Well, after much rescheduling and the craziness of the holidays, we were finally able to pull it off. The result was a super fun and festive Spring Fling Brunch we held on a beautifully sunny day last week. I whipped up this hearty Breakfast Panzanella, while Becky brought a stunning Ricotta, Potato & Spring Pea Galette and, of course, Hana-Lee brought the wine. We were also able to get some of our other local lady entrepreneurs involved – Vanessa from Garibaldi Goods provided her over-the-top delicious homemade bread (and some jam, of course!), Amy from Bright Inc. provided the beautiful flower arrangements, and Alison from Sugar Cat Studio whipped up some brunch-themed cupcakes. Be sure to check out all of their blogs/websites/businesses because they are all amazing and work their little tushes off to turn out some amazing products. So fun!

Breakfast Panzanella + a Spring Fling Brunch! | CaliGirlCooking.com

Let me just tell you, starting the photo shoot for this brunch at 12pm was pure torture. We did so in order to capture the best lighting, but by the end of our almost two-hour shoot, all of our stomachs were audibly growling because all of the food looked (and smelled) so good! Don’t worry, we were sure to taste everything afterwards because, you know, quality control.

When we decided to give our brunch a spring theme, my mind immediately turned to creating a dish that was full of incredibly fresh ingredients (hello, warmer weather) yet hearty enough to not shock our systems too much after a season of all of those comforting winter foods. I knew a Breakfast Panzanella would go perfectly with the Spring Fling theme and set about making a version loaded with two of my favorite breakfast items – bacon and eggs, of course!

Breakfast Panzanella + a Spring Fling Brunch! | CaliGirlCooking.com

I’m sure you’ve had (or at least heard of) the classic version of panzanella before, which generally consists of cubes of crusty bread, fresh basil and tomatoes, and some sort of dressing involving olive oil, vinegar, shallots and capers. For my Breakfast Panzanella, I omitted the capers in the dressing (I’m not the hugest fan) and of course added bacon and eggs, plus some fresh mozzarella, because CHEESE.

What resulted was a perfectly balanced salad – the basil and tomatoes are a reminder that warmer weather is just around the corner, while the crusty bread gives the dish that hominess we still crave during this transition between the seasons. This Breakfast Panzanella is also loaded with protein from the eggs, bacon and mozzarella, so it will fill you up and give you a nice solid base for all of that wine you’ll be drinking.

Breakfast Panzanella + a Spring Fling Brunch! | CaliGirlCooking.com

This salad also comes together in almost no time at all. You can toast the bread cubes and cook the bacon the night before, which means you’ll be able to sleep in approximately 15 minutes more before you have to roll out of bed to scramble up some eggs and whisk together the dressing. What’s left after that is simply tossing everything together in one big bowl and garnishing with some fresh basil! If this Breakfast Panzanella isn’t the perfect brunch dish, I don’t know what is.

Breakfast Panzanella + a Spring Fling Brunch! | CaliGirlCooking.com

My recommendation to you? Call up some of your girlfriends STAT and set a date for a Spring Fling Brunch of your own. Then head on over to my gal pals’ blog posts for all of the other deets you’ll need to make it a smashing success.

For the recipe for Becky’s Ricotta, Potato & Spring Pea Galette, head on over to Baking the Goods.

For all of Hana-Lee’s wine recommendations and pairing notes, head on over to Wander and Wine.

And be sure to check out all of the other ladies’ sites as well for further inspiration!

Bright Inc. for all of your floral inspiration,

Sugar Cat Studio to grab some tasty cupcake mixes,

and Garibaldi Goods for small-batch artisan foods from local California producers.

Breakfast Panzanella + a Spring Fling Brunch! | CaliGirlCooking.com

Breakfast Panzanella + a Spring Fling Brunch! | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Breakfast Panzanella
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

The classic Italian bread salad gets a morning makeover with the addition of bacon and eggs. The perfect dish for a spring-themed brunch!

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 4 people
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the salad:
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 6-8 basil leaves, plus 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 5 cups cubed crusty sourdough (about 1/2 of a large loaf)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 8 ounces ciliegine (baby mozzarella balls)
  • 3 eggs, scrambled
For the vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat. Once bacon is cooked, remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Do not dispose of the bacon grease in the pan!

  2. Add 6-8 basil leaves to the saute pan with the bacon grease in it (still on medium heat) and then add the bread cubes. Toast, tossing to coat, until all of the cubes are golden brown. If the cubes seem dry, drizzle on a little olive oil as they continue to toast. You may notice that the basil gets crispy and crumbly as it cooks along with the bread, this is okay! The little bits of basil will add some additional flavor to the salad once it’s done. Once the bread cubes are nice and toasted, spread out on some parchment paper to dry out and cool completely.

  3. Next, mix up the vinaigrette. Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients by shaking in a Mason jar or whisking vigorously in a small bowl. Set aside.

  4. Place the cooled bread cubes in a large bowl. Chop up the now cooled bacon and add it to the bowl as well, along with the ½ cup of chopped fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, ciliegine and scrambled eggs. 

  5. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Garnish with additional chopped basil, if desired. 

 

Loaded Crab Scramble

I told you it was going to be a breakfast week, didn’t I?

Loaded Crab Scramble | CaliGirlCooking.com

If you’re looking for an easy yet delicious/indulgent breakfast to whip up this weekend, look no further. This Loaded Crab Scramble is here to save the day!


This was actually an accidental recipe that I came up with while trying to use up some leftover fresh crab we had on hand (and various other random refrigerator ingredients,) but sometimes those are the best recipes, the ones we don’t really plan, right?

So a little backstory on why we had a ton of leftover crab on hand. In my husband’s family, it was always tradition to have crab for Christmas Eve dinner. But ever since we’ve been together, we’ve done Christmas Eve at my parents’ house, and hence have missed out on all of the delicious crab.

This past year, with the way the holidays fell, we were able to head home on Christmas Eve Eve, so of course we decided to pop into his parents’ house that night for a very decadent fresh crab feast! And ever since we did so, Chris’ dad has been regularly buying it as a light, easy dinner for him and his mom, and every time we heard that’s what they’re having for dinner, we’ve been extremely jealous.

So, last weekend, after an incredibly emotional Saturday, my honey knew exactly what would make me feel better and suggested we go out and buy some fresh crab for dinner that night. Well, we went a little overboard and ended up with wayyyy more crab than we could eat in one sitting. Because fresh crab doesn’t last too long as a leftover, I decided to throw it into an easy scramble with other leftover odds and ends we had on hand.

Loaded Crab Scramble | CaliGirlCooking.com

I ended up adding some sautéed shallots, a dollop of crème fraiche, fresh spinach, tomatoes and fresh chives. Let’s just say I wish it was financially practical to make Loaded Crab Scrambles for breakfast every morning.

Quick tip: When we realized we weren’t going to be able to eat all of the crab that first night, we still powered through and cracked it all, getting out all of the meat. We figured since our hands were already a mess, we might as well just get it done. That way, when you’re ready to use the leftovers, you can just throw them into a dish at a moment’s notice and not have to worry about going through that whole process again. I’m all about the shortcuts!

After you have all of your ingredients on hand, this Loaded Crab Scramble comes together super quickly. It’s literally just as easy as regular scrambled eggs, with just a little bit of time sautéing the shallots beforehand. It’s the perfect breakfast if you have lots of fun things other than eating planned for your weekend, or if you slept in a little too late and find it’s already almost lunchtime once you get around to making breakfast 😉

Loaded Crab Scramble | CaliGirlCooking.com

The final touches that I would HIGHLY recommend for this Loaded Crab Scramble are a perfectly ripe sliced avocado and a slice or two of crusty toast. Oh, and of course some coffee, orange juice, or mimosas if you’re so inclined.

If you like seafood (specifically shellfish) you have GOT to give this breakfast a try. We’re still in the height of crab season, so get it now while the crabbing’s good!

Loaded Crab Scramble | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Loaded Crab Scramble
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

The perfect, easy breakfast upgrade - classic scrambled eggs jazzed up with the addition of fresh crab, spinach, tomatoes and creme fraiche!

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 2 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup creme fraiche
  • 2/3 cup crabmeat
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 sliced avocado
  • Toast
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium low heat. Once butter is melted, add the shallot and saute for 3-5 minutes, until shallots start to become fragrant. 

  2. While shallots are sautéing, combine eggs, crème fraiche and crabmeat in a mixing bowl. Whisk to scramble the eggs and make the mixture come together. 

  3. Turn the heat under the saute pan up to medium high and add the spinach, stirring until slightly wilted. Next, add the egg mixture to the pan and stir gently. 

  4. Add the tomatoes, chives, salt and pepper and continue to gently stir and break up the eggs, as you would any scrambled egg dish. Once eggs are no longer runny and cooked through, transfer to two plates. 

  5. Garnish with fresh avocado and slices of toast.

Loaded Crab Scramble | CaliGirlCooking.com

Whisky Gravlax (Cold Cured Salmon)

Say what???

Whisky Gravlax | CaliGirl Cooking

You heard me right. Whisky. Gravlax.


So here’s the deal. I LOVE smoked salmon, and it has been on my “To Do” list to make for quite some time now. Now that we’re back from our honeymoon and I’m settling a bit more into being self-employed and working from home, I figured it was finally time to man up and try my hand at making the darn thing!

Small side note: Does anyone else find themselves with grand ambitions to try their hand at something new and somewhat challenging “someday”? I have to admit I’m so guilty of this, so I try to make a conscious effort to actually TRY these new things at some point because, you know what? Usually they’re wayyyyy easier to make than I ever imagined! So, do yourself a favor and make yourself a “Cooking Projects for a Rainy Day” Pinterest board (yep, I have one, and you can follow it here) and start checking some things off your list. If I can do it, so can you. We’re going to conquer our kitchen fears and hesitations together!

Whisky Gravlax | CaliGirl Cooking

But back to my mission to make homemade smoked salmon and my final decision to make Whisky Gravlax instead. There was one small hiccup in my grand smoked salmon plans: This gal doesn’t own a smoker. Nope, CaliGirl Cooking has not ventured into that world yet (although my husband would probably love me even more if I did 😉 But was I going to let that stop me? No way, Jose. After further researching my non-smoker options on the web, I realized that what I really needed to be making in my particular situation was gravlax. It turns out, “gravlax” was traditionally buried (“grav” as in grave in the ground) under a bed of salt, sugar and herbs. While I wouldn’t be burying my salmon in the ground, I could definitely handle packing it under layers and layers of a sugary-salty-herb mixture.

I also wanted to make a fairly quick version of the dish (at least in smoked or “cured” salmon terms), which meant 24-36 hours MAX. Luckily, I came across this recipe for gravlax that The Minimalist wrote for The New York Times way back in 1998 that I largely based the recipe you’ll find here off of (after my first failed attempt, that is…I think I had about two days’ worth of my sodium intake in my one-ounce taste of that first batch….ick…you live, you learn!)

So, I had the base to my gravlax recipe, but I was still anxious for at least a little bit of that “smoky” taste you get from real smoked salmon. I noticed that a lot of the classic gravlax recipes use a tiny amount of vodka, so in order to get my smoke on, I decided to snag some of the hubby’s super-smoky whisky (in this case I used Ardbeg 10-Year) and use that instead of the vodka. I can’t drink the darn stuff (it feels too much like I’ve just smoked an entire cigar) but I could certainly use it to flavor up my gravlax a little bit…Whisky Gravlax was born!

Whisky Gravlax | CaliGirl Cooking

Onwards I went. I got a lovely two-pound piece of salmon filet (the guy at the seafood counter only looked at me slightly funny when I came in for a two-pound filet two days in a row) and drizzled on a couple of tablespoons of the smoky whisky. I then proceeded to pack the filet in a heavy coating of sugar, salt and dried dill and wrap it up as tightly as I could in saran wrap to sit overnight in the refrigerator. It still leaked all over the place and I was faced with massive cleanup the next morning. (This was after I found maggots in our trash can…..GROSS! And had already spent a good half hour cleaning those up and hosing the entire can down…Yes, it was one of those mornings…And I hadn’t even had my coffee yet!)

Note to those of you out there anxious to try this recipe: Just put your saran-wrapped salmon filet in a shallow baking dish when you put it in the refrigerator and you’ll be golden. No messy whisky-smelling fish juice for you to clean up the next day. You’re welcome.

Whisky Gravlax | CaliGirl Cooking

I’m happy to report that my second attempt at homemade Whisky Gravlax was a success! And really not hard at all. Seriously. We’re talking less than 15 minutes of prep, set it and forget it overnight in the refrigerator, and the next morning you better run out and get fresh bagels and cream cheese because you’re GOING to want to dig into this Whisky Gravlax as soon as you pull it out and rinse off its sugar-salt-dill coating.

Now what are you waiting for? You only have one more day to go out and buy your salmon before you can have this deliciousness ready to go for an easy, lazy Saturday morning breakfast! Oh, and don’t forget the mimosas 🙂

Whisky Gravlax | CaliGirl Cooking

Whisky Gravlax (Cold Cured Salmon)

15 minutes

Cook Time: 24 hours

Total Time: 24 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: Makes 8-10 servings

3-4 ounces per person

An easy recipe for cold cured salmon using the classic salt, sugar and herb mixture and smoky whisky as the secret ingredient.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds salmon filet
  • 2 tablespoons whisky (as smoky as you can find, I used Ardbeg 10-Year)
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill (or one bunch of fresh dill)

Instructions

  1. Place salmon filet skin side down on a large piece of plastic wrap. Drizzle whisky evenly over salmon filet.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine salt, sugar and dill. Pour over salmon filet and pack it on as much as you can (there will be A LOT of this mixture, and you’ll want to be sure to use it all!)
  3. Wrap filet in plastic wrap and place in a shallow baking dish in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours.
  4. Remove filet from the refrigerator and rinse off the excess sugar-salt-dill mixture. Slice thinly to serve.

Notes

Wine Pairing Note: This Whisky Gravlax would pair perfectly with a lightly oaked chardonnay. The smoky flavor from the whisky will balance nicely with the soft buttery-ness of the oak, and salmon is a natural pairing for all chardonnay. BUT, if you’re serving the smoked salmon for breakfast, there’s no better way to pair this dish than with a mimosa!

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Whisky Gravlax (Cold Cured Salmon) | CaliGirlCooking.com

Oh heyyyyyyy…

Lobster and Cheesy Grits

Confession. Before this weekend, I had never made grits nor had I cooked lobster.

Lobster and Cheesy Grits | CaliGirl Cooking

Yes, true story. I know, for the few of you who do religiously follow this blog (thank you for that, it truly does mean the world to me), I probably just lost all credibility. But this truly is one of my main missions with CaliGirl Cooking. I want to show you that you CAN conquer the world (well, definitely the kitchen) and it’s never too late to just get in there and try something new. Who would we be if we were perpetually afraid of the unknown, afraid to step out of our comfort zone?


We’re so lucky to literally have the world at our fingertips these days. Google and the rest of the Interwebs have made it next to impossible NOT to know how to do something. YouTube stars are making millions, and a quick search will give you so many choices of who to listen to, you really can be quite selective. So what did I do when I decided I wanted to one-up the classic Shrimp ‘n’ Grits and make my own hoity-toity version with lobster? I went to my trusty laptop and read what the likes of Paula Deen and Alton Brown and Southern Living had to say about how to make THE best grits, and I read what all of the seafood markets in the world recommend as the best way to cook lobster. I then proceeded to mish-mash all of those recipes together into my very own “balanced” version of Lobster & Grits. The grits have just enough richness from the cheese but aren’t too over-the-top, sit-in-the-gut heavy since I skipped the milk or heavy cream in favor of chicken broth. The lobster is steamed to beautiful perfection in a combination of butter, lemon juice and Old Bay Seasoning and then served atop these cheesy grits.

Lobster and Cheesy Grits | CaliGirl Cooking

Quick side note (in case you didn’t know, because I sure didn’t): Grits are basically polenta. So, if you can’t find a package in your grain/baking aisle labeled “Southern Style Grits,” you’ll do just fine if you can find a bag of uncooked polenta. Or, you could plan a leeeetle bit in advance and order Bob’s Red Mill Southern Style Grits off of Amazon and have a year’s supply of them sitting at your doorstep in two days. That thing I mentioned above about technology putting the world at our fingertips? Now, with the invention of things like Amazon Prime, we have absolutely no excuse not to step out of our comfort zone and try something new. Guys, being adventurous is way too easy!

Lobster and Cheesy Grits | CaliGirl Cooking

So, let me tell you a little bit more about my Lobster & Cheesy Grits. The first step is to get your grits going on the stove. We’re making these from scratch (no quick-cooking versions here) so they’ll take a little while to become all creamy and porridge-like (and by “a little while” I mean all of 30 minutes.) Once we have the grits bubbling away, we can work on the lobster, which really takes no time at all. I think the most complicated step I faced in prepping the lobster tails was getting the meat popped out of the shell “just so” for that beautiful presentation you see there 😛 As we’re prepping the lobster tails, we also need to have a pot of water (laced with garlic and salt, of course) coming to a boil on the stove. We’re going to steam our tails over this, but not before dousing them in a sauce of butter, lemon, paprika and Old Bay Seasoning. We’re not messing around here.

Lobster and Cheesy Grits | CaliGirl Cooking

Lobster and Cheesy Grits | CaliGirl Cooking

Lobster and Cheesy Grits | CaliGirl Cooking

Once the lobsters’ steaming sauna is ready for them, it’s literally less than 10 minutes before they’re done and ready to serve. See, so easy! We just grace our delightfully cheesy grits with our beautiful, fragrant, buttery lobster tails, serve up a glass of delicious oaked Chardonnay and we are well on our way to a delightful weekend brunch. (Or we could whip up a suitable brunch cocktail such as this, this or this.)

Now, what are you waiting for? Are you ready to jump right into this cooking challenge? I for one am feeling inspired to go check even more “Kitchen To-Do’s” off of my list. What are some cooking projects you’ve been dying to tackle? Let me know and we can conquer them together! XO

Lobster and Cheesy Grits | CaliGirl Cooking

Lobster and Cheesy Grits

Yield: Serves 2 (you'll have leftover grits!)

A delicious twist on the classic Shrimp 'n' Grits using fresh lobster tails steamed in a bath of tasty spices and creamy grits laced with nutty aged Gouda.

Ingredients

    For the cheesy grits:
  • 1 cup Southern-Style Grits (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
  • 1 cup shredded aged Gouda cheese
    For the lobster:
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 4-6 ounce lobster tails
  • 2 wooden skewers
  • 2 tablespoons butter (again, I prefer Kerrygold)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

Instructions

  1. Before getting started with the recipe, we’ll need to prep the lobster tails. As I found out in my Internet research, lobster tails tend to curl up on themselves when they’re cooked. To avoid this, many recipes recommended spearing a wooden skewer through the center of the lobster meat. I tried this and it worked out perfectly! But first, we need to pop the tail meat out of the shells for easy access. To do this, cut a long slit along the middle top of the lobster’s shell, much like you would to peel a shrimp. Stop the slit just short of the end of the tail so it stays intact. Next, run your fingers along the sides, between the shell and the meat, to get the meat loosened up and ready to pop on top of the shell itself. You may need to be a little rough with the shell…Don’t be afraid if you hear it cracking! Once the meat is loosened, pull it up through the slit you cut and simply lay it on top of the shell. This makes it sooo much easier to eat! This is the point where you want to run the wooden skewer through the meat. Simply thread it through the middle and then trim the skewer so that the lobster tail still fits in the steamer insert.
  2. Now that we have the lobster ready to go, let’s make the grits. Combine grits, chicken broth, water, salt and pepper in a large saucepan on the stovetop over medium-high heat, using a whisk. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down heat slightly and cover saucepan. Let grits cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Grits will take on a porridge-like consistency once they are done.
  3. Once grits are cooked, stir in butter and cheese. You still want the saucepan on under medium-low heat, in order to avoid having the grits get “gummy.” Keep grits over low heat until lobster is ready.
  4. While the grits are cooking, prep the steaming pot for the lobster tails. I used my saucepan/steamer like this. Add salt and garlic cloves to the saucepan and cover with enough water that it hits about two inches below the bottom of the steamer basket when inserted. Bring to a boil.
  5. Once mixture is boiling, turn heat down slightly and place steamer insert over saucepan. Place lobster tails in steamer insert and then pour Old Bay-butter mixture over the tops of the tails. The extra sauce will trickle into the boiling water/garlic/salt mixture and make it even better! Cover the pan and steamer insert with a tight-fitting lid, and let cook for 5-10 minutes, or until shells become pink and tails are white and opaque.
  6. To serve, scoop grits into shallow, individual bowls, then top each bowl with a lobster tail. Garnish with an extra pat of butter or more cheese, if desired.

Notes

Wine Pairing Note: I know I mentioned that this dish would be perfect for brunch (and the cocktails that go with it), but if you’re more feeling this for dinner, I’d highly recommend pairing it with the classic, oaked Chardonnay (Alpha Omega’s Chardonnay being one of my absolute favorites, but you could also get by with a more cost-effective version such as this Lucas & Lewellen Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County or this Alta Napa Valley Chardonnay.

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Lobster and Cheesy Grits | CaliGirl Cooking

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