Sunday, September 17, 2023

I don't know about your house, but at my place, the Pumpkin pie and pecan pie are always the top picks for dessert at the Thanksgiving table. What if those pies' flavors could be captured in a fantastic swirl of spiced flavor-like frenzy embodied in a fluffy roll for your dining enjoyment? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, snack options, and a dessert buffet would be fair game for these babies!

Behold, these glory rolls are about to become your family’s most requested “yummy thing” that must always be made for Thanksgiving and every holiday close to it. 

This recipe features a method of yeast bread called Tangzhong.

Tangzhong is a yeast bread technique with origins in Japan and Asia. It involves cooking some of a bread recipe’s flour in liquid before adding it to the remaining dough ingredients. Milk is the most popular liquid used in this method. Bringing the temperature of the flour and liquid temperature to 65°C (149°F) pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, making them more able to retain liquid, thus enhancing the resulting bread’s softness and shelf life.

When used for sweet rolls, the result is a soft, pillowy texture and velvety crumb. You need this method in your life. Please don’t skip it. Please don’t change the recipe. Just accept that this is part of the magic.

Best Easy Pumpkin Pie Spice Pecan Sticky Buns


  • 1/2 cup (113g) whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp. (23g) Bread Flour


  • 2/3 cup (151g) organic hazelnut creamer (or whole milk)
  • 2 1/2 cups (300g) Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp. (6g) salt
  • ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. Red Star instant yeast
  • ¼ cup (57g) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup wheat germ


  • ½ cup (107g) dark brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup (113g) Libby’s solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp. (8g to 10g) pumpkin pie spice

Caramel Nut Topping

  • 1 jar, 11.5 oz. Smucker’s Simple Delight® Salted Caramel Topping OR caramel-flavored Spoon-able ice cream topping. Up to 12.5 oz.
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, toasted and chopped


To make the tangzhong:

  • Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk until no lumps remain.
  • Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook the mixture, stirring regularly, until thickened, paste-like, and the spoon or spatula leaves lines on the bottom of the pan. This step should take 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.

To make the dough:

  • Weigh your flour or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup and sweeping off any excess. Add the creamer, the flour, and the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl in the order listed; the heat from the tangzhong will help warm the creamer.
  • Mix on low speed of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Increase the speed by 8-10 minutes.
  • Shape the dough into a ball in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable cover.
  • Let the dough rise until about doubled in size, about 60 to 90 minutes in a warm kitchen.

To make the filling:

  • Combine all ingredients for the filling in a small bowl until smooth.

To assemble the rolls:

  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface and roll the dough into a 10″ x 12″ rectangle about 1/2″ thick.
  • Spread the filling over the dough, covering all but a 1/2″ strip along one long side.
  • Starting with the filling-covered long side, roll the dough into a log.
  • Score the dough lightly into eight equal 1 1/2″ to 2″ pieces, making large, saucer-sized cinnamon rolls. Cut the dough at the score marks. We use unflavored dental floss for the cleanest cut: pull off a long piece of floss, loop it underneath the log at the score mark, and pull the ends in opposite directions to cut the dough. Repeat until you’ve cut all of the rolls. Note a bench knife or sharp knife will work; be sure it is sharp and serrated is preferred.
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
  • Place the rolls onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing at least 2″ apart and 2″ away from the edges of the pan. Tuck the ends of the spiral underneath the rolls to prevent unraveling during the rise and bake.
  • Lightly coat the top of the rolls with melted butter or oil, cover them with plastic wrap or a reusable cover, and let them rise for 45-60 minutes (depending on the warmth of your kitchen). They should be very puffy.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F 20 minutes before you bake, and position a rack in the top third of the oven.
  • Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of one roll reads 190°F. Bake for less time for extra-soft rolls and extended time for rolls with a bit more color and slightly firmer texture.
  • Remove the rolls from the oven, place the pan on a rack, and brush the hot rolls with 1 ½ Tbsp. (21g) of the melted butter.

To make the caramel topping:

  • Combine the sauce with the toasted chopped pecans.
  • Scoop several Tbsp. Of the nut mixture over each roll, allow the caramel to drizzle down the sides. Serve warm.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Easy Homemade Banana Bread Granola


Hello, my darlings! Welcome back to my homemade everything series. I swear I've made everything from Homemade cottage cheese to homemade veggie dogs. Those who have been on this journey with me for the past 15 years of blogging saw a ton of the homemade stuff when I started. Back then, I was a full-time stay-at-home mom with two small children. They are both fully grown adults, and I am happy that we often still make homemade Breakfast cereal.
 My two sons are now full-time missionaries (for missionary and college student cooking; see  posts). It has been one of my favorite experiences in my life having this happen! 

Back to breakfast cereal. It's a food group among college kids...well, any kids. My guys will eat a couple batches a month. I like mixing it with cornflakes or bran flakes for added staying power.

If you’ve been paying attention to baking trends, you might have noticed the advent in popularity of the spice blend known as Speculaas. Speculaas Spice Mix is often used in the Netherlands and Dutch cuisine during Autumn and Winter. Holiday baking and cold weather bring a full spectrum of delicious recipes calling for Speculaas spice blend. Though most often associated with the Netherlands, it is also a blend of spices used throughout Europe, though known by other names in different countries. In Germany and Austria it’s called Spekulatius, and in Belgium and France, it’s called Speculoos. It is similar to the American Pumpkin Pie Spice mix but is a lot more complex in flavor. Generally, all Speculaas include cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, aniseed, white pepper, and coriander. Next to that, people add ginger, cardamom, and sometimes mace. I have included the recipe for speculaas below, in case you'd like to try to make it from scratch. 

In its origin, Speculoos spiced baked goods in the shapes of animals were offered to the gods as a supplication for good harvests. As Christianity rose in popularity, the cookies and baked goods took on the shape of beloved patron saints like the bishop of Myra AKA Saint Nicholas. This tradition continues even in our age as Speculaas spiced goods are still served on Saint Nicholas Day. Traditionally, every baker had their own unique blend of Speculaas. At one point, there was even a custom of giving a male or female-shaped baked good to a suitor or lover as a token of your affection. We love it in our baked goods no matter what they are intended to represent, as long as they are delicious!

This whole-grain granola is just such a treat. Adding this complex spice gives it a unique and divine flavor, and will surely become one of your favorites.

Banana Bread Speculaas Granola


¼ cup Coconut Oil or olive oil
½ cup Coconut Sugar or Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp. Vanilla, pure extract
2 Medium ripe Bananas, mashed
4 cups  Rolled Oats
¾ cup Whole Almonds, raw, chopped
¼ cup Teff, Chia Seeds, or Flax seeds
1 Tbsp. Dutch Speculaas spice or Cinnamon
½ tsp salt


    • Wash and sanitize all work surfaces and tools.
    • Preheat the oven to 325°F.
    • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
    • Combine coconut oil, sugar, vanilla, and mashed bananas in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
    • Bake the granola by dividing it between the two baking sheets. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring halfway through baking. Remove from oven and cool completely. Yield 20 1/4 cup servings.

Estimated Nutritional Information: 144 cal, 7 g fat, 18 carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein.

Speculaas Spice blend

3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. white pepper
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cardamom
Directions: Combine all the spices well. Transfer to an airtight spice jar. Yield approx 1/4 cup.
There you go, darlings! Make some homemade granola!

Always My Very Best,
Chef Tess

Saturday, September 2, 2023

6 Grain Red Bean Pilaf with Grilled Garlic Jalapeño Chicken

 Healthy, whole-grain, budget-friendly meals are one of my specialties! This recipe uses Triticale, Red Wheat, White Wheat, Barley, Oat Groats, or Rye interchangeably. If you use all of the grains, it is very colorful and has a more significant nutrition range, but there's no wrong way to make this! I know it will surely be a hit at your dinner.

6 Grain Red Bean Pilaf

1 1/2 cups Whole hard red wheat, white wheat, oat groats, barley, rye, or triticale
3 cups Organic Red Beans, canned, drained
2 Tbsp. Montreal-style Steak Seasoning
3 Tbsp. Garlic, minced


  • Add 6 cups water to the grain in a 4-quart slow cooker on high for 1 ½ hours to cook the grain. Drain the grain well.
  • It should make about 5 cups. After the grain is tender, add the remaining ingredients and cook for 30 minutes more on high.

You can use any combination of those whole unrolled grains or one grain by itself, as long as it equals 1 1/2 cups of uncooked grain. The cooked amount of grain will be 5 cups.

Grilled Garlic Jalapeño Chicken


4 Jalapeño, seeded and chopped fine
3 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Olive or Avocado Oil
1/2 cup Lime Juice
2 tsp Sea salt
1 Tbsp. Black Pepper

8 Chicken and leg thighs


  • Combine the first six ingredients and whisk well.
  • Retain 1/2 cup of the marinade for drizzling over the chicken after cooking. In a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, combine the chicken with the remaining marinade and place in the fridge overnight (up to 3 days).
  • When ready to eat, bake in a covered cast iron dish for 20-25 minutes until the internal temperature is over 165 degrees.
  • Finish cooking on a BBQ grill or a stove-top grill pan. Serve over the 6 Grain Red Bean Pilaf.

There you go! Make a delicious and healthy whole-grain meal today!

Always My Very Best,
Chef Tess 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Grandma's Classic Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies


Looking for a soft, spiced molasses cookie with flavors to instantly transport you back to Grandma's kitchen? This is it. I bake them most often during the holidays, but I love them all year round!

I used freshly grated ginger for the most distinct flavor in this recipe, but you may use dry ginger if you'd like. We favor adding a little vanilla to the dough, as it mellows the flavors and marries them. We also love them with a good coating of Raw sugar. Raw sugar is the residue left after sugarcane has been processed to remove molasses and refine the sugar crystals. With a flavor similar to brown sugar, it should not be confused with brown sugar. We coat these cookies in Demerara sugar, a coarse-textured, dry, raw sugar from the Demerara area of Guyana, just before baking. It gives them a crispy, sugary coating that remarkably compliments the soft ginger cookies.

Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies

¾ cup butter softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup blackstrap molasses
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ cups All-purpose Flour
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger root (or 1 tsp dry ground)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. Ground Saigon cinnamon
½ tsp. Ground cloves
½ tsp. salt
1/2 cup Raw Demerara Sugar for Garnish


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in egg, molasses, and vanilla.
  • Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  • Roll into 1-1/2-in. balls, then roll in Raw sugar.
  • Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350°F until puffy and lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Best Money-Saving Homemade Baking and Mix Ideas for the Holidays


It's that time of year. We all know the crunch as the season of giving stresses our budgets to the limit and sometimes makes us wish that the whole process of gifting didn't have to be so materialistic. I've long been a person who considers gift-giving as my love language. I listen intently all year long when friends and family talk about their secret wishes or favorite flavors. I mentally store away that magical information to find or make that perfect present. When someone else does the same for me, my heart will almost skip a beat. I feel it on a deeply personal level. Yet, that warm need to share never goes away. 

I've also been known for many years for my Meal in a Jar mixes and baking mixes. I love to make jar mixes because they can be kept on hand and used conveniently. As a result, there's less temptation to eat all the treats at once. 

So without further blah, blah, blah. Here are some of the best Money-Saving Homemade Baking and Mix Ideas for the Holidays. They're not in any particular order. 

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Sticky Bun Baking Kit

I build the kit in a large #10 can and wrap the can with a holiday apron when I give it away.

Evil Genius 4 Holiday Cookie Mixes in One

Probably one of the most popular posts of all time! Holiday Cookie Mix! 

Neighbor Gift Ideas for Christmas!

Okay, it's not actually baking, but we use this vinegar in many of our baking recipes. 

Fruit Crisp Mix

There you go! Make some great and extremely cool personal gifts this year! I know we're doing the same. After issues with my personal health and some setbacks, it's time to save money. 

Always My Very Best,

Chef Tess

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Missionary Cookbook Chapter 4: Pasta Profiles 4 amazing Pasta Salads from one basic recipe


It's time for a little update on the mission of my amazing son Elder Luke Petersen. For those who have been following his adventures with us. We've had a change in location happen recently that was unexpected but necessary for his health. We are excited to share that Luke was transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah to finish his missionary service staying with his grandparents (my parents). He is still away from home and still a full-time missionary. He is what is called a Service Missionary.

He is now working with the horticultural department and plants that will help make beautiful church Temple grounds, at our church headquarters, conference center, and visitor center. The grounds are extensive and full of gorgeous areas that need a huge amount of work. This is an amazing opportunity for someone who loves plants like Luke does! People come here from all over the world to feel the love of God and learn about Jesus Christ. It's Luke's way of spreading the seeds of the gospel. I ❤️ him for being willing to serve in this way. I am also so excited to see his love of God's creations in action.

He has also been working with my parents fulfilling humanitarian efforts at Welfare Square to feed the hungry worldwide. My parents have been full-time service missionaries at the Bishop's Storehouse at welfare Square for the last year. Welfare Square is a landmark location for The Church of Jesus Christ in its efforts to care for those in need. The square hosts various employment services, food production, and storage facilities, distribution centers, and training facilities. The services housed here are provided free of charge.

We believe in following the example of Jesus Christ to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and lift up the downtrodden. In the 1930s, many people in the Salt Lake City area were struggling as a result of the Great Depression. In 1936, the Church formalized a welfare program to provide for basic needs and give opportunities for employment. Two years later, in 1938, Welfare Square was created.

Welfare Square resides on its own campus and includes a 178-foot grain silo, a milk and cheese processing plant, a cannery, a bakery, a market-style grocery, a clothing collection warehouse, and employment assistance offices. Services on the square are operated by volunteers and employees of the Church.

I love that God knows our hearts. He knows how much Elder Petersen has always loved working with plants and the peace that he feels when he is surrounded by God's creations. I know that the Lord's creations testify in their own way that God is real and so does my sweet son. I don't doubt that he is working with these plants because he is learning some lifelong lessons to lead people to Jesus Christ. 

It is a wonderful experience so far and one that he is growing from immensely. No pun intended. Okay. Maybe a little pun intended. 
Look how awesome he looks in his official uniform. My heart. Xoxo! I'm just a little bit bursting with momma pride. Only because I saw my own father wear this same uniform for forty-five years of my life. I know what kind of a dedicated Christ-like man my dad has always been, and it takes a giant to fill these threads. Luke's calling is for the next eighteen months. Time is going to fly! 
So, I know that even though my son is staying with his grandparents and serving a service mission now, he is still making meals and taking his own lunches to the temple grounds in Salt Lake City. 

So here's the premise. One salad to rule them all. 

The original post for this was called the profile of a Killer Salad on this blog and something I taught my kiddos early on was how to step into the kitchen and know what flavors worked together. So this is something I wanted to share today with this chapter of The Missionary Cookbook for those who are looking for beginner simple recipes to make life easier for those first starting lives away from home. 

Herb Alchemy 101 Cooking Without a Recipe

How many just read the words "herbs and spices without a recipe" and panic set in? I can hear you saying, "I don't cook like that! I need a recipe.” If that is you, then this post is for you. I want you to try to let go of your cooking inhibitions and think with your heart. If my 5-year-olds could do this, you most definitely can do it now! I believe in you!

So to begin with a basic explanation, herbs are the aromatic leaves, flowers, and stems of plants and spices are seeds and the bark of aromatic edible plants. Fresh or dry herbs and spices will work in cooking applications, but make sure you smell them inside the jar. If it smells like a spice or herb, then the stuff inside is still full of flavor. Most spices will need to be in an in-ground or grated form for cooking or baking. If you don't have a spice mill (not many people do), then just buy them pre-ground. 

Below is the basic outline of some flavors that work together well. Follow the steps and you will find success.   

Step 1: Begin with the pasta salad base.

Chef Tess’ Pasta Salad 101

Basic Pasta Salad

1 lb. pasta of your choice, cooked al dente according to package directions and seasoned well with salt and pepper
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup carrots, shredded or chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced thin
½ medium red onion, sliced thin or chopped fine

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. 

Step 2: Make one batch of basic vinaigrette.

Basic Vinaigrette for Pennies a Jar! 

¾ cup olive or vegetable oil (flavored oils are great)
¼ cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tsp. fresh pressed garlic
Herbs and spices (see below for variations)
Salt and pepper

  • Whisk oil and vinegar with other ingredients in a bowl. 
  • Start with a half teaspoon at a time of the herb or spice you want to add and then sample. 
  • Adjust flavors according to your taste. 
  • For one batch of salad, you will need one batch of salad dressing. 

Step 3: Add flavor profile to dressing & mix salad. 

Dressing Variations 

These herb and spice suggestions are to be used in the basic vinaigrette recipe to customize the recipe to fit your need. Add the flavor combinations directly to the basic pasta salad recipe. Come up with your own and try mixing and matching fresh veggies as they are in season. You can even add seasonal fruit you like. For hearty dinners, add some roasted chicken, beef, fish, or tofu. Try marinating your meat in the vinaigrette to save a lot of money instead of buying those fancy bottles of pre-made stuff. You can do this! It can be very liberating, but for you folks who just want a grab-and-go dressing fix, just use the pre-made spice blends.

These are lists of flavors that work together for the cuisine you want to create they are not a complete list. They are intended to get you started

Herbs: Basil, rosemary, thyme, flat-leaf parsley, marjoram
Spices: Fennel, caraway, crushed red pepper, celery seed
Flavoring: Hard cheeses like parmesan, asiago, olives, roasted peppers, citrus zest, capers

Herbs: Dill, oregano, rosemary, mint, parsley,
Spices: Fennel, anise, black pepper, dill seed
Flavoring: Feta cheese, olives, pickled peppers

Herbs: Cilantro, oregano, thyme
Spice: Cumin, coriander, chile pods, black pepper, allspice
Flavoring: Lime zest, roasted corn, green onions, radish, black olives

Herbs: Cilantro, mint, lemon grass, sesame oil (use 2 tsp. in place of some of the oil)
Spices: Cumin, chile paste, curry paste, fennel, ginger
Flavoring: Lime zest, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, citrus zest, peanuts or cashews

©Chef Stephanie Petersen. 2011. All rights reserved. Copies are NOT permitted without written consent from the author even for personal or church use! Chef Stephanie Petersen can be contacted at and is Chef Tess on Facebook and Twitter. 

There you go darlings. Begin learning some flavor profiles. I'll be posting more in the future! I promise.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess