Pharm Fresh

The foodie alter-ego of a pharmacy student

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Icing November 19, 2009

Filed under: bread,breakfast — pharmfresh @ 10:38 pm
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Wow, I’m already up to four posts so far this month!  I’m pretty proud of myself.  I think it’s because these last few weeks have been really stressful, and when I get stressed I cook.  Usually something involving chocolate.  This time I was working on studying for a pharmacokinetics exam, but was having trouble sitting still and concentrating for any great length of time.  This recipe actually worked out perfectly for that, because it has lots of wait time.  So I could work on it for a few minutes, then study while the dough rose, take a break and do the next step, and then study while I was waiting through the next rise period and baking.  Not only did I get some super cinnamon rolls out of it, but I think I did pretty well on the exam, too!

These turned out really well.  I don’t usually make cinnamon rolls because they’re pretty labor-intensive, but this recipe wasn’t actually too bad.  Like I mentioned before, there’s definitely a bit of wait time involved, but if you’ve got a whole afternoon to yourself and something to occupy you while you’re waiting, it works out perfectly.  I really like the caramel icing on these.  Usually I go for a cream cheese icing for my cinnamon rolls, but this was surprisingly different and delicious and went really well with the pumpkin flavor.  These would be perfect for breakfast on Thanksgiving or Christmas day!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Icing

Adapted from: Recipe Girl

Makes: 12 rolls

For the rolls:

1/3 c. milk

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 c. canned pumpkin

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

1 package rapid rise yeast

2 c. all-purpose flour

Pinch of cinnamon and cloves (optional)

For the filling:

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tbsp. melted butter

For the caramel icing:

1/4 c. (4 tbsp.) butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Pinch of salt

1/2 – 3/4 c. powdered sugar

1) In a small saucepan, heat butter and milk until warm, but not boiling, stirring constantly.  Set aside.

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar and salt.  Add milk mixture and stir until smooth and well-mixed.  Beat in the egg and yeast.

3) Add 1 cup of flour to the pumpkin mixture.  Beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes on low speed.  Add the remaining flour and optional spices and mix well.  The dough should be very soft.

4) Transfer the dough into a greased bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

5)  After dough has risen, punch the dough down and turn out onto a floured surface.  Knead 4-5 times to form a smooth dough, adding only enough extra flour to make the dough manageable.

6) On a well floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12×10 inch rectangle.

7) In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling.  Brush the dough rectangle with the melted butter and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over it.

8) Beginning with one of the long sides of the dough, roll up jelly-roll style and pinch the seam to seal.  With a sharp knife, cut the roll into twelve 1-inch slices.  Place rolls cut side up in a greased 9 inch square baking pan.

9) Bake rolls at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

10)  For the icing, melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add the brown sugar and milk and mix until smooth.  Cook over medium-low heat for one minute, then take off the heat and stir in vanilla, salt and powdered sugar.  If necessary, add more powdered sugar to reach the desired consistency.

11) Drizzle icing over rolls.


Baklava Bites February 17, 2009

Filed under: dessert — pharmfresh @ 9:10 pm
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It wasn’t too long ago that I had my first experience with baklava.  My mom’s boss has a big Lebanese family, and one Christmas he sent her home with some of his sister’s home-made baklava.  I only got a small piece of it, as the rest was demolished by the rest of my family, but I was hooked.  I’ve never tried making the real thing myself, but when I saw this less messy and more travel-appropriate version, I just had to try it.  I made these for a new years party, (where I also brought the cheesecake filled chocolate covered strawberries) and they went over quite well with the non-chocolate lovers of the group.  I really love the combination of cinnamon, honey and walnuts in these — it makes the filling chewy, spicy and warm, which is a nice contrast to the crispy puff pastry.

These do take a little bit of time to assemble, but I found that it’s a lot easier when you’ve got everything assembled and ready to go.  I didn’t have to roll out my puff pastry at all, because the sheets were already the size that the recipe called for. The only thing I would do differently is add some kind of glaze.  They looked a little plain on the outside, and I think an extra bit of sugar on the outside would have worked really well.  An easy way to do this would be to combine some powdered sugar, a little bit of vanilla and honey, a dash of vanilla, and enough water or milk to form a very thin glaze to drizzle on top.  Also, unless you’re super confident in your pastry-closing skills, I would recommend lining your cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.  My pockets tended to leak a bit as the puff pastry expanded, and let me tell you, burnt-on caramel is not an easy thing to get off a cookie sheet!

You can find puff pastry at just about any grocery store.  Look in the frozen section, near the pie crusts and ready-made desserts.


Baklava Bites

Adapted from: Baking Bites

Makes: 20

1 box (16 oz.) puff pastry, at room temperature

1 c. walnuts, finely chopped

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/4 c. honey

2 tbsp. butter, melted

1) In a small bowl, mix together the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and salt.

2) Add the honey and melted butter, mixing until well combined.

3) On a lightly floured surface, lay out the puff pastry.  You should have two 8×10 inch sheets.  Gently roll out to reach that size, if needed.

4) Cut each sheet into 2×4 inch strips.  You should get 10 strips from each sheet, for a total of 20.

5) Place 1/2 tbsp. of the filling on one side of each strip, folding over the other side to form a pocket.  Pinch the edges together very tightly.

6) Place pockets on a greased (preferably foil or parchment lined) cookie sheet.

7) Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown.


Cinnamon Roasted Almonds January 7, 2009

Filed under: snacks — pharmfresh @ 6:35 pm
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I’ve had an incredibly lazy week so far.  Mostly I’ve laid around the house, watching reruns of NCIS and Unsolved Mysteries and hung out with my parents.  I think it’s a good way to get a final little bit of rest in before next week, when I plunge headfirst into a whole new semester of pharmacy school.  I’m going back to Big Rapids on Friday, so I’m trying to soak up as much family and boyfriend time as possible.

To break up my incredibly busy schedule for the day (ha!), I decided to try my hand at cinnamon roasted almonds.  My dad loves the kind you can buy at the mall during the holidays, and I’ve always wanted to try to replicate them.  This is the first of two recipes that I found for these.  This one is egg white based, and you bake the entire combination, while with the other you make a cinnamon flavored syrup on the stovetop, and simply coat the almonds and let it harden.

The verdict?  These taste almost exactly like the nuts from the mall, but the nuts themselves are softer.  The coating has more of a grainy texture, and the mall nuts had more of a hard candy-esque coating.  It’s definitely not bad, though.  I quite like them.  Definitely a passable first attempt, and seeing as I’m eating some right now, I’m pretty happy with it!

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

Adapted from various recipes on


1 egg white

2 c. whole almonds

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. cinnamon


Separate the egg white into a medium bowl.


Whip egg whites to stiff peaks.  See how the peak on the edge of the beater stands straight up?  That’s what you want.

img_2918 img_2921 img_2923

Add in the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.  Mix gently, until everything is incorporated.


Mix in almonds until completely coated.


Spread almonds onto a greased cookie sheet (I use foil for easy cleanup).  Make sure the almonds are in a single layer.

Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.


Remove from oven and stir the almonds, breaking up the larger clusters as you go.  Put back into the oven and bake for 10 more minutes.  Once cooled, break the almonds up into single pieces and store in an airtight container.


The leftover crispy bits make great dog treats!  (By the way, meet my adorable chihuahua, Ella)


Nana Dee’s Coffee Cake November 2, 2008

Filed under: cake — pharmfresh @ 9:27 pm
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I’ve actually been cooking quite a bit lately, and even better, I’ve remembered to take pictures!

This past weekend I decided to skip my class on Friday and head into Grand Rapids.  I needed to pick some stuff up from a friend who is in her third year of pharmacy school here at Ferris.  She offered me this huge box of old notes and exams and books, and how could I say no?  It was like winning the lottery!  Then I had lunch with my best friend Beth and her girlfriend Angela, which was a lot of fun.  I don’t get to see those two nearly enough anymore, and I got my Qdoba fix for a while, as well!

After lunch, I went in to Allendale to visit the place on campus at Grand Valley where I used to work.  My entire four years at GVSU I worked as a student assistant at the SMART Center (Science & Math Advising, Resource and Transition Center), and it was by and far the best job I’ve ever had.  The work was easy and enjoyable, I got to meet, work with, and make friends with a bunch of other students, and the advisors I worked for were awesome.  The best part of the job was that once they found out how much I liked to cook, they let me designate one day a week as “baking day” where I would bring in food to share!  So not only did I get to try baking something new every week, I didn’t have to eat it all, either! This coffee cake was by and far the office favorite (out of everything I made for four years!), so it was only fitting that I bring some with me when I came to visit.  And, true to form, I was greeted with “Hey, it’s Katie!  AND SHE BROUGHT CAKE!”

This coffee cake is probably one of my top favorite foods of all time.  It was one that my grandma would make every once in a while when I was little, and one that I rediscovered again during high school.  She passed away two years ago, so it’s something that I make every once in a while as a way to remember her.

It is very similar in it’s make-up to the crumb cake that I posted previously, but about 100 times better tasting, and much more moist.  The difference in taste comes from the graham cracker crumbs that are used in the streusel layer, which give it a sweet, nutty flavor that just can’t be obtained using flour alone.  The original recipe didn’t call for a glaze, but I’ve tried it both ways, and the coffee cake with the glaze is definitely much better, and tends to make the cake a little bit more moist.  But really, when is glaze ever a bad thing?

I managed to convince some of the people at work to pose with the coffee cake.  Joanie is on the left — she was pretty much the office mom, and makes the best banana bread I’ve ever had, which will definitely be making an appearance on here at some point.  Brianna is in the middle, and Rachel, my protege (and favorite coworker!) is on the right.  I trained Rachel when she was just a wee freshman, and we always had WAY too much fun working together.

Nana Dee’s Coffee Cake

2 c. graham cracker crumbs

1 c. butter, melted

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 box french vanilla cake mix (if you can’t find french vanilla, you can use yellow or white cake mix)

Oil, water, and eggs as called for on the cake mix box

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

2-3 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 inch pan.

2) Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Add melted butter and mix to combine (the mixture should be relatively wet — about the consistency of wet sand)

3) Prepare cake mix as instructed on the box.

4) Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan.

5) Sprinkle half of the graham cracker crumb mixture evenly over the cake batter.

6) Pour the remaining cake batter into the pan, and sprinkle with remaining graham cracker crumb mixture.

7) Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is browned and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

8) During the last few minutes of baking time, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to make a thin glaze (it may take more or less milk than called for in the recipe).  Drizzle glaze over the cake while it is still hot, right after it comes out of the oven.


Crumb Cake October 22, 2008

Filed under: cake — pharmfresh @ 5:39 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve been finding that during most normal weeks, studying definitely trumps cooking for the use of my spare time.  However, after taking a horrific biochemistry exam on Monday, I decided to give myself a little “me” time, and cook this cake.  I happened to find it while I was perusing the Livejournal food community that I’ve mentioned before, Food Porn, and I noticed that I had everything in the house to make it.

This is a pretty basic crumb cake.  Actually, there’s no “pretty” about it, it is a basic crumb cake.  I like that it has less cake, and more crumb to it.  The cake layer turned out very moist, and the crumb layer is very buttery and rich.  The only complaint I have about this cake is that it’s not quite spicy enough for me — next time, I will probably double the amount of cinnamon in the crumb layer, and add some to the cake layer as well.  It has a very light cinnamon taste, which is nice if you plan on eating this for breakfast, but I like my crumb cake to be more of a dessert.  A nice basic powdered sugar glaze would be nice on this, as well.

Crumb Cake

Makes: one 9×13 inch pan (approx. 24 pieces)

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

4 c. all-purpose flour, divided

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

2 tsp. vanilla

1 c. light brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. butter, melted

1) Grease a 9×13 inch pan and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

2) In a medium bowl, mix together 1 1/2 c. flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt.

3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla.

4) Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until well blended.

5) Spread the mixture evenly into the 9×13 inch pan.

6) Mix together remaining 2 1/2 c. flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Melt butter and add to brown sugar mixture, mixing until it forms large coarse crumbs.

7) Sprinkle the crumbs evenly on top of the cake mixture in the pan.

8) Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cake layer is done and the crumb layer is lightly browned.