Today’s Holiday Recipe: Homemade Crescent Rolls

Baking fresh bread has been one of my food resolutions for the past several years, but up until last week I was too intimidated by the process to even know where to begin. Fortunately, my mother started a tradition of making homemade crescent rolls nearly 40 years ago with a recipe that is perfect for the novice bread baker.

She found a recipe for “Rich Hot Rolls” from a Farm Journal cookbook called “Homemade Bread,” and they’ve been a perennial favorite at our Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts ever since. There’s even a cinnamon roll variation. When asked why she chose these rolls, she said that she loved Farm Journal recipes and wanted one that looked easy enough to make with kids.

Over the years, my four siblings and I have all enjoyed making these rolls with my mom, and our son, Giovanni, began the tradition eight years ago when he was just two. “I love that this is my special time with Grandma,” he said.

Last week was the first time I’d helped make a batch in over 30 years, and I was delighted by the wonderful results I received from this simple recipe. With just eight basic ingredients, the only challenge in making these rolls is in finding time to do it.

The recipe begins with directions to scald ¾ cup of milk, and we found that 2 minutes in a microwave set on high worked well. Shortening is then added to the milk and stirred in with a bit of sugar and salt. The shortening will not dissolve completely, so expect it to be clumpy at this stage.

The recipe calls for 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ cups of sifted flour, but my mom recommends using just four cups in our dry climate this time of year, with another ¼ to ½ cup used to dust the work surface when kneading. We used Dakota Maid all-purpose flour which was light enough to skip the sifting altogether.

We mixed the flour in by hand using a wooden spoon, first adding 1 ½ cups and then beating in two eggs and a yeast/water mixture. We added the remaining flour in stages starting with one cup, followed by a half-cup and then the final cup.

Next, we turned the dough out onto a floured work surface and Gio kneaded it for about eight minutes until it transformed from a sticky clump into a soft and satiny ball of dough. “My favorite part is kneading the dough,” he told me, “because it feels so soft and comfy. My hands are made for forming the dough.”

The dough is then placed in a bowl, covered and left in a warm place to rise for about 1 ½ hours until doubled in size. Gio then punched his fist into the center of the dough, divided it in half and rolled out each half into (rough) circles approximately 16 inches around.

He cut each round into quarters and then cut each quarter into four triangles. We brushed each strip of dough with melted butter, and rolled them into crescent shapes, starting at the widest end, then set them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brushed the top of each roll with more melted butter and then covered them to rise for another 45 minutes before baking.  We found that a 350-degree oven provided more even baking than the recommended 375 degrees.

“I love these rolls because they are so delicious and easy to make,” my mom said. “And I have always loved making them with kids.”

Marilyn’s Crescent Rolls
(called Rich Hot Rolls in Farm Journal’s Homemade Bread Cookbook)

¾ cup milk
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
4 ¼ to 4 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs

- Scald milk; add shortening, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.

- Sprinkle yeast on warm water; stir to dissolve.

- Add 1 ½ cups flour to milk mixture; beat well by hand or electric mixer at low speed 1 minute. Beat in eggs and yeast.

- Gradually stir in enough remaining flour, a little at a time, to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of bowl. Turn onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth, satiny and no longer sticky, 5 to 8 minutes.

- Place in lightly greased bowl; invert to grease to top. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Punch down and turn onto board. Divide in half and shape as desired.

- Brush tops lightly with melted butter; let rise until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.

- Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes about 30 rolls, exact number depending on shape and size.

Cinnamon Roll Variation: Roll each half of divided dough into 16×8 inch rectangle. Combine 1 cup sugar, ½ cup melted butter and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Spread half of mixture on each rectangle. Roll lengthwise for jelly roll; seal edges. Cut in 1-inch slices. Place, cut side down, in 2 well-greased 9x9x2” pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, 30 to 40 minutes. Bake in moderate oven (350-375 degrees) 20 to 25 minutes. Remove to wire racks. Makes 32 rolls. Frost as desired.

Marilyn’s Tips:

  • Four cups of flour is recommended for drier climates.
  • To scald the milk, heat in microwave on high for 2 minutes.
  • For crescent-shaped rolls, roll out each half of the divided dough into 16-inch circles, cut into quarters, and then cut each quarter into triangles. Brush each strip with melted butter and, starting at the widest end, roll upwards to make crescent.
  • Excellent for freezing up to at least 2 months.



Today’s Holiday Recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini

Sun-Dried Tomatoes are a great way to enjoy the flavor or tomatoes during the winter months, and this appetizer is one of our favorites to feature during the Christmas season.

Not only are these crostini big on flavor, combining sun-dried tomato pesto, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella, but these red, white and green ingredients also mirror the colors of the season. The pesto is super easy to make and can be done several days in advance of serving. How’s that for merry and bright?

Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini

Serves: 4 to 6

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto:
2 cups dehydrated, or oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt

If you are using dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes to rehydrate them before using. Strain and use.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except the olive oil, and mix until well blended. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until a smooth consistency is achieved. Add the salt and adjust as desired.

To store the pesto, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to two months.

To assemble the Crostini:
12 Crostini
12 slices fresh mozzarella
12 large basil leaves
Sun-dried tomato pesto

Place a slice of fresh mozzarella on each crostini, top it with a leaf of basil and finish with a heaping dollop of the sun-dried tomato pesto.

Today’s Holiday Recipe: Gio & Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs

When you’re married to one Sicilian, and mother to another, it’s easy to become infected by their passion for all things Italian. In fact, I often refer to myself as an I.B.M. – Italian by Marriage. But my grandfather, Don Mathison, was 100% Norwegian and proud of it, and every now and then we find a way to honor my heritage, too.

Earlier this fall, Tony and Giovanni were invited to present three food demonstrations in the Nordic Kitchen at the annual Norsk Hostfest celebration in Minot. Tony’s initial reaction amused me. “Do they know I’m Italian?” he asked. “What am I supposed to prepare?”

Norsk Hostfest is North America’s largest Scandinavian festival, and some of Scandinavia’s most popular chefs were scheduled to appear in the Nordic Kitchen. I’ve been hearing about this festival since I was a little girl, but I’ve never had the opportunity to go. The prospect of watching my son prepare Norwegian food with his Italian dad was just too good to pass up.

“You have to do it,” I said. “We already have some great Norwegian recipes to share – just focus on what you know.” I pointed out that he could use his heritage to his advantage, and play upon the similarities between food across cultures.

Smoked or cured salmon is almost as popular in Italy as it is in Norway, so our recipe for Norwegian gravlax was a natural fit. And krumkake, when filled with whipping cream, is very similar to the classic Sicilian cannoli. For this occasion, Tony featured my krumkake recipe with a twist – instead of using whipped cream, he would use the sweetened ricotta filling of a cannoli.

For the third presentation, I suggested that he create his own version of a Norwegian meatball, an idea which Gio just loved. Last year Gio and I created our own Italian meatball recipe, Gio’s Meatballs, which has since become a family favorite, and I’m not even Italian. “Dad,” he said, “We can do this!”

Tony researched extensively to learn the secret to making authentic Norwegian meatballs, and discovered what many of us who were born and raised here already know: Norwegians are heavy users of exotic spices, particularly nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. These spices are the key to making Gio and Tony’s Authentic Norwegian meatballs.

Contrary to popular belief, allspice (also known as Jamaican pepper), is not a blend of various spices but is, instead, a legitimate spice. Allspice comes from the berries of a tropical evergreen tree, and was brought back to Europe by Christopher Columbus. It has aromatic properties of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and thus received its name, allspice.

Meatballs are popular in many cultures, and Tony was surprised to discover that they are a common food in the Norwegian diet. The more he researched, the more determined he was to get the recipe right. And, if the reactions from the mostly-Scandinavian crowd at Norsk Hostfest were any indication, they succeeded.

The meatballs alone were delicious, but it’s the sauce, or gravy, that really makes them special. Tony knew this as he was crafting his recipe, and he spent a good deal of time working on the balance of ingredients and perfecting the texture. I loved the final version: Immensely comforting, this gravy is silky smooth, not too thick, with a lovely light brown color and savory aroma.

Gio and Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs are easy to make, utterly delicious, and authentically Norwegian. They will make their family debut on our Christmas Eve buffet this year, and I know that my proud Norwegian Grandpa Don would definitely approve. Vær så god!

Gio and Tony’s Norwegian Meatballs

Ingredients – Meatball Mix:
1 lb. ground beef, 85% lean

1 egg
½ cup whole milk
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to  400 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and milk together until combined. Add the ground beef, egg, onions and spices and use your hands to mix them together. Season with salt and pepper and mix again until ingredients are incorporated.

Shape the meatballs to desired size (we recommend making balls 1-inch in diameter, which makes about 30 meatballs). Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat and cook the meatballs until browned on all sides.

Place the meatballs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake in a 400-degree oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.

Ingredients – Meatball Sauce:
2 cups beef broth

¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons roux
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper

Place beef broth in a sauce pot and cook over medium-high heat. Once the broth starts to boil add the roux and whisk until broth thickens to a sauce consistency. Finish by adding cream and season with salt and pepper. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Tony’s Tips:

  • Mix the meatball mixture by hand for at least five minutes to enhance the texture and bind the ingredients together.
  • For a gluten-free version, use a slurry of 2 tablespoons corn starch and 2 tablespoons water instead of the roux to thicken the gravy. Omit the breadcrumbs in the meatball mixture and mix the meat for a few more minutes.


Today’s Holiday Recipe: Cranberries Gone Wild Dip!

Today’s featured holiday recipe is Jean Eppler’s now-famous Cranberries Gone Wild party dip. Jean took top honors in our contest last year In Search of the Perfect Party Dip, and her wonderfully-named party dip quickly became a holiday hit among our readers, many of whom wrote to let us know that they were serving it at their holiday parties.

Jean’s dip is easy to make, full of great flavor (most people just can’t believe they’re eating fresh cranberries!), and with its gorgeous red and green colors makes the perfect addition to a Christmas buffet. Jean recommends serving this dip with Tostito’s Lime Tortilla Chips and a Lime Margarita, and we agree – they are the perfect complement to Cranberries Gone Wild. Thank you, Jean!

Congratulations to Jean Eppler and her Cranberries Gone Wild Dip!



Time: 15 minutes prep + 4 hours refrigeration

12 oz.  package fresh cranberries
1 bunch  green onion, chopped
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper
1  1/4 C sugar
1/4 heaping tsp. cumin
2 T fresh lime juice
dash kosher salt
2  8 oz packages whipped cream cheese

1. Chop cranberries in a food processor.

2. Chop up your green onion, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper into small pieces.

3. Add all ingredients (but the cream cheese and lime chips) into a bowl. Mix them all
together, cover and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours. The sugar needs some time to soak into the cranberries and break up their bitter taste.

4. When you are ready to serve, spread your cream cheese on a platter.

5.  Pour your cranberry mixture over the cream cheese.

6.  Spread it all around.

7.  Serve  with lime chips

A lime margarita tastes great with this dip!

Submitted by Jean Eppler of Fargo, ND