Broccoli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pasta

Some nights I like to try new, exotic, fancy dinners with a million ingredients. Recipes that require me to watch a YouTube video or two, mess up every dish in the kitchen, and listen to pronunciations to make myself sound legitimate. I love to cook and I thrive on new challenges and techniques.

That said, sometimes at 6:30 it is just not possible.

Sometimes at 6:30 I’ve been up for too many hours with hyper, obnoxious children and am only running on leftover coffee fumes. Sometimes I come in from yard work or playing with kids in the yard and barely have time to wash my hands before jumping into cooking because all of my grannies come over for dinner on Tuesday. Sometimes I’ve been breaking up sibling fights and getting whacked with cars and have dried cheerios stuck to my pants and just need to make something so easy that I can do it AND send kids to the naughty chair at the same time. Sometimes the kitchen is already a disaster and I have a sink full of dirt, a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, and a barbie convention taking place on the counter. Tonight ALL of those things happened, and I made this pasta.

Also, it has 5 ingredients and they’re mostly in the title, so you can remember them even when a 4-year-old uses your grocery list to spit something gross into and you’re racing through the store with a screaming toddler who stuck his complimentary magic pop (sucker) in his hair and thus can’t lick it and you have to pee so bad because you quit drinking diet coke and replaced it with iced tea, which causes you to always need to pee.

So basically this dinner is cheap, easy, fast, requires only a few dishes and ingredients, and has vegetables in it so you can just serve it without any pesky sides or anything. It’s also vegetarian and grandma/kid friendly.

Broccoli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pasta

Serves about 6

6ish cups of fresh broccoli (about 3 heads)

3-4 large cloves of garlic

1 lb dried orecchiette pasta (you could easily use bowties, too)

8 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes (TJs makes an 8.5oz jar, I just use that)

6 oz goat cheese

Salt, pepper, olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, and bring a large, salted pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Chop the broccoli into bite-sized florets and peel the garlic cloves. Toss the broccoli and whole garlic cloves with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, arrange onto a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Cook the orecchiette according to package directions (10 minutes or so). When you drain the pasta, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. Chop up the sun-dried tomatoes if they are whole, if they come julienned just grab a glass of wine and pretend to be busy.
  4. When the broccoli and garlic are done, roughly chop the roasted garlic. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and pour in about a tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil. Cook the garlic in the oil for 30 seconds or so, then stir in the broccoli and the sun-dried tomatoes cooking it all together for about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir the cooked pasta and the broccoli mixture together in a large bowl. Crumble the goat cheese on top and stir to melt the cheese in. If the mixture is too dry, add in some of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up (I typically add in 1/4 to 1/2 a cup). Season with S&P to taste.

Chocolate Strawberry Dipcakes

When I was little, driving through Dairy Queen on a road trip was one of the finest pleasures known to me. A blizzard lover myself, I long lamented the lack of DQs near my home, but was able to satisfy cravings frequently on weekend trips to our lake house. When my youngest brother was about 2 years old he fell in love with Dip (or is it dipped?  I live in Texas, here it’s just dip) Cones. He would savor it slowly, letting all of the melted chocolate and ice cream cover the entirety of his body, hair, and overalls. It was always a look of pure bliss.

I didn’t know you could apply the dip cone process to cupcakes until a few years ago.  It’s called a “hi hat”and it’s much easier than it looks. It is a 3-step process – baking the cupcakes, making the frosting and piping, then dipping, but it’s worth the process. You could do this with any flavor of cupcake and buttercream, too, but Valentine’s Day kind of lends itself to chocolate covered strawberries. I call them “dipcakes”. When I last made these, I did make the mistake of making mini-cupcakes. You get about 4 mini cupcakes for every 1 regular cupcake, so it sounds awesome in theory, but baking, frosting, and dipping 100+ cupcakes was super annoying.  Half the recipe if you want minis.

Also, let it be known that I finally figured out how to make a degree symbol in wordpress.
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Chocolate Cupcakes

yield 24 regular cupcakes or a million little cupcakes (90+)

1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee

3/4 cup cocoa powder

12 T (1.5 sticks) butter, softened

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 T vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups AP flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder into the coffee until it is all dissolved and set aside.
  2. In a bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time until incorporated, then the vanilla and beat it all together for a minute or two.
  3. Stir the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Add the flour mixture and the coffee mixture to the butter mixture about a cup at a time, alternating the two and making sure each addition is fully incorporated and scraped down before adding more.
  4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for about 20 minutes (12-14 if you’re making minis), until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to completely cool.

 

Strawberry Buttercream

yields approximately 8 cups of frosting – plenty to frost 24 cupcakes.

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened

1 cup crisco (I buy the foil wrapped packs, it’s one stick)

7-8 cups powdered sugar

1 T vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk or cream (up to a 1/2 cup)

1 cup finely diced fresh strawberries

  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – at least 5 minutes. Add in 7 cups of powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate between additions.  Beat the mixture for another few minutes to fluff it up.
  2. Add in the vanilla and cream and beat the whole mixture for an additional 3-4 minutes until the whole mixture becomes light and fluffy. If the mixture seems too dense, add in a bit more cream, a tablespoon or two at a time, if it seems too runny, add in powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  3. Pour in the strawberries and beat on high until the strawberries are beaten in, this takes a few minutes on high. Stir to make sure no big strawberry chunks remain and check consistency again.
  4. Frost cupcakes using a wide tip (because the strawberry bits tend to get stuck – I use my biggest round tip). Be generous with frosting and remember that the chocolate hides a lot of imperfections.

 

Chocolate Dip

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I use the ghirardelli in the brown bag)

1-2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

  1. Stick the frosted cupcakes in the freezer for about 10 minutes, heat the chocolate while they cool.
  2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments (it will burn if you go any longer). I use a pyrex glass 2-cup measuring cup for this. Between each microwave, stir the mixture completely and allow to cool. The chocolate will melt as it sits, so be patient. Stir in 1 T of oil after the first microwaving and add more if the chocolate doesn’t easily ribbon off of the back of a spoon. Once your chocolate is smooth and luscious, get the cupcakes out of the freezer.
  3. One at a time, dip the cupcakes into the chocolate, making sure to twist them a bit on the way out to let the excess chocolate drip off.  I use a toothpick to make sure all areas are covered.  After letting the chocolate run off for a few seconds, let the chocolate cool and harden – this can take about an hour, especially if it’s warm in your kitchen. If you’d like to add sprinkles or gold dust, add that about 5 minutes after you’ve dipped.
  4. Once completely cool and hardened, store the cupcakes at coolish room temperature (the refrigerator does weird things to them, but heat will melt them).

Prosciutto Asparagus Hash with a fried egg

Lately, making a pan full of rich goodness and then frying an egg on top of it is kind of my thing. I love fried eggs – the runny yolk, the temperament, the way it oozes into everything – it’s perfection. This hash also contains only items I love. It takes about an hour, but the hour is really easy and cleanup is minor.

This meal does NOT serve more than 4. It is, in fact, ideal for 3.

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Prosciutto Asparagus Hash

4 ounces prosciutto

1.5lbs potatoes (I used yukon gold, but red would be fine here, too)

1 onion

1 bundle of asparagus (no idea how big these are, but they always come in a rubber band)

4 eggs

3-4 ounces goat cheese

3 green onions

S&P, olive oil

  1. Slice the prosciutto into small pieces and fry them in a large skillet over medium/high heat for a few minutes until crispy. Pull them out with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Hide the prosciutto somewhere so you don’t eat it all while cooking. Dice your potatoes into 1-inch pieces. I chose not to peel mine, because I like things rustic and lazy.
  2. In that same pan, add a little olive oil if needed, and toss in the potatoes.  Season them with salt and pepper and let them start to brown. Chop the onion while you’re waiting. After about 10 minutes, add the onion in and continue to brown until they’re not quite done, but close, about 15 minutes more. Keep turning them every few minutes so they don’t burn or stick.
  3. While you’re waiting on potatoes to brown, because it takes forever, cut off the woody ends of the asparagus and chop them up into 1-inch pieces. Crumble up the goat cheese and finely chop up the green onion.
  4. Toss the asparagus in and let it cook in for another 5 minutes with the lid on, then add the prosciutto back on and let it all get nice and hot.
  5. Crack the eggs on top and let them cook on top of the hash. It takes about 5 minutes, but I gauge doneness by when the egg whites are opaque.
  6. Serve with crumbled goat cheese and green onion. Make sure everyone gets an egg.

 

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Pizza Dough

Making dough is definitely in my top 3 favorite cooking tasks (the bottom 3 tasks include cutting raw meat, cutting up whole pineapples, and slicing watermelon).  The rising, punching, and kneading process is so very manual – a job where you really have to just dig in and get your hands dirty.  Some doughs are easier to work with than others and pizza dough is one of the easiest to work with and handle.  It’s easy, there are only 5 ingredients, and it always, always turns out great.

This dough is suitable for calzones, pizza baked in the oven, and, my favorite, grilled pizza.  It’s a relatively small recipe – it would comfortably feed a family of four, but usually for my crew of 6-8 I double it.  You really only need 2 hours start to finish, but if you happen to make it 4 hours ahead of time, that’s fine too (just add another raise).  If you make too much, it’s easy to freeze – just roll it into a ball, coat with a thin layer of olive oil, wrap in plastic wrap, and stick it in a ziploc bag.

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Pizza Dough

1 TBSP yeast

1 TBSP sugar

1.5 cups warm water

1/2 tsp salt

3.5 to 4.5 cups flour

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the water, yeast and sugar together and let sit for about 10 minutes.  When the yeast is bubbly and foamy, stir in the salt and begin adding flour, 1 cup at a time, until combined.  I typically use about 4.5 cups, but depending on humidity you may need less or more.  Once the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, I add about a half cup more and then let the mixer knead the dough at medium speed for a few minutes, just to make sure all of the flour is incorporated.

2.  Manually form the dough into a ball – if you find it sticking to your hands excessively, consider adding a bit more flour.  Transfer the dough into a greased bowl, cover it, and move it into a warm spot to rise (in the wintertime I turn my oven to warm and then turn it off and allow my dough to proof in there).

3. After 45 minutes to an hour, when the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down, reform into a ball and allow to rise again.

4. 45 minutes to an hour after the second rise, when the dough has doubled to tripled again, punch it down and roll out to your desired size.  I find that this dough requires ample flouring to avoid sticking to your rolling pin and surface.  You could also freeze the dough at this point.

If you plan to grill your crusts, spray each side with olive oil and place the crust directly on the grill.  Once the first side is done, flip the crust and quickly arrange the sauce, cheese, and toppings to your liking.  Remember that grilled pizza is highly artisanal and traditional aesthetics do not apply.

Reese’s Pieces Cookies on Steroids

Do people in your life refer to items that are excessively good or over-the-top as “on steroids”?  You know, like when you make homemade ice cream with booze in it, it would be “ice cream on steroids” or seeing Dave Matthews at Red Rocks would be a “concert on steroids”.  Given this information, you’d think that we call these cookies “cookies on steroids” because of excessive deliciousness or the myriad of add-ins, but that’s actually not the case.

See, my poor husband came down with pneumonia last month and, as a result, was prescribed steroids to help him recover.  They worked really well, but a side effect of prednisone is that it makes you want to eat everything in sight.  He requested these cookies 36 hours after his diagnosis was confirmed and I’m pretty sure I saw him stack 8 of them on a plate as his “dessert”.

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These are sort of a riff on a double chocolate cookie and a peanut butter cookie.  My husband and I don’t typically keep candy in the house (a combination of not loving it and admitting to a lack of willpower), but Reese’s Pieces tend to be our downfall. The only thing challenging about chocolate cookies is that it’s hard to tell when they’re done.  I’d recommend baking only a half dozen on your first cookie sheet to pinpoint your level of doneness – you want chewy for these, not crispy.

Reese’s Chocolate Cookies

yield: 24-36 cookies depending on how large you make them.

1 stick butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Reese’s peanut butter chips (they look like tan chocolate chips and can be found in the same spot)

1 cup Reese’s pieces candy

1. Preheat your oven to 350. Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Mix in the egg and vanilla until combined.  Stir the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt together and add slowly to the butter and sugar until it forms a nice dough.

2. Stir the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt together and add slowly to the butter and sugar until it forms a nice dough.

3. Fold in the peanut butter chips and most of candy until well-distributed (save a tablespoon or two of candy).  Note that if you’re using a stand mixer and add the candies into the mixer, the paddle will crush some of the candy.  This doesn’t bother me, but if it bothers you, then stir in the candy by hand.

4. Scoop tablespoon sized mounds onto a cookie sheet and, if you’d like, stud the tops with the extra candies (this isn’t necessary, but it makes your cookies look prettier).  Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to set for a few minutes before you remove them from the pan.

Note:

1. I do not condone the use of performance enhancing drugs.

2. I made homemade ice cream with booze this weekend.  It was life-changing.

Muffaletta Pasta Salad

After we got married, my husband and I lived in Galveston, TX for a few years. It was a bizarre time for us – we had neither one ever lived far from our families, we were just getting used to being married, we were totally poor, I was a rookie teacher, my husband was in medical school, and we lived in this strange, small beach community that seemed to be set back in time approximately 30 years.  Though some of our Island experiences were less than ideal (excessive commutes across the ocean, hurricanes), we have always looked back on our Galveston days with complete fondness.

One of the major perks we experienced was living within walking distance of tons of small businesses and restaurants. Being that we were local, we were able to make friends with lots of the local business owners in our community. One of our favorite neighbors was Maceo. Maceo Spice was about two blocks from our building in the Strand. He makes his own spice blends, which are fantastic, he taught us about fancy olive oils, and mostly he made the best muffaletta’s I’ve ever had. We picked up muffalettas at least once a week for the entirety of our time on the Island. This pasta salad totally reminds me of Maceo and the weird years we spent in Galveston.  If you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely worth a stop.

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Muffaletta Pasta Salad

1lb. pasta shells

1/2 of a red onion

1 clove garlic

1 can black olives

1 cup green olives

4 stalks celery

2 cooked chicken breasts (I just use whatever I have leftover)

6oz. mozzarella cheese

1/4 to 1/2lb. dry salami – if you’re getting it from the deli counter ask them to slice it as thick as possible.

1T dried oregano

Parmesan cheese for topping

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil (Maceo would suggest Paseano unfiltered)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp sriracha

1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Boil the pasta according to package directions.  When cooked al dente, drain and rinse the pasta with cold water.

2. Meanwhile, finely chop the olives, onion, garlic, and celery.  Cut the cheese and meats into small cubes.  Toss all of the chopped ingredients in a large bowl with the cooked and cooled pasta.

3. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a jar or blender until combined.  Pour over the salad and toss. Serve chilled with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Imagine you’re at the beach.

Serves approximately 6.  Adapted from Joy the Baker.

Monday Salad

Have you ever sat down to relax on Sunday evening and had the realization that the only vegetable you’d consumed in the entire day was an onion ring?  Weekends in our home are notorious for eating food that has more taste value than nutritional value.  We get out of our normal schedule and sometimes end up drinking coffee for a few hours in the morning and then going out for a few thousand calories worth of Tex Mex and calling it a day.  Often weekends are when I have time to get serious baking done.  Sometimes we spend an afternoon at the food truck park.  Regardless of how our weekend goes, by Monday I’m yearning for healthy food.  During the colder months I make soup and during the warmer months we have salad.  While we don’t specifically focus on “Meatless Monday”, we only eat meat a few times a week and usually not on Mondays unless I happen to have a few extra grilled chicken breasts in the fridge.

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I also grocery shop and meal plan on Mondays and a big salad or soup is a great chance to clear out the previous week’s uneaten produce.  This particular salad evolves every single week in our house based on grocery sales and the contents of my fridge.  I’ve included a few variations, but unlike baking a cake, a salad is very imprecise.  Use what you have and what you like.  This version of the salad feeds conservatively 8 people.  It’s huge.  We have a big family and I like leftovers, but consider halving if you don’t want salad for days.  Grab your cutting board and your best knife – let’s go!

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Monday Salad

1 head lettuce (I prefer romaine, but iceberg or spinach will work, too)

1/2 head of purple cabbage

1 head broccoli

3-6 carrots or a large handful of baby carrots

1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes

3 green onions

1 package ramen noodles

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 Tbsp butter

1 can chickpeas OR 2 grilled chicken breasts

 

Dressing:

1/2 cup oil (coconut, canola, vegetable, whatever.  I use Mediterranean blend, which is a grapeseed/olive mix).

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp sriracha or tabasco

1. Finely chop the lettuce and cabbage to make the base of the salad, arrange in a large, shallow bowl or platter.  Dice the broccoli, discarding the stems, and green onions and arrange on top.  Peel and dice the carrots, scatter on top.  Half the cherry tomatoes and finely chop any other vegetables you have (radishes, celery, cucumber).

2. In a small frying pan, melt the butter and with the ramen noodle package still sealed, use a mallet or meat tenderizer (or your hand, whatever) to crush the noodles up.  You CAN open the bag and chop it up, but it creates a mega mess.  Discard the “flavor” pouch.  Pour the crushed, uncooked noodles and the sunflower seeds into the pan and toast for a few minutes until golden brown and fragrant.

3.  Either drain and rinse your chickpeas or finely dice or shred your chicken breasts and add to your salad.

4. In a small jar, combine all salad dressing ingredients and shake until combined.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.  I layer my salad on a platter so I don’t need to toss it – we just scoop straight down to get everything.  If you’re using a bowl, definitely toss your salad.  If you’d like to add any sliced avocado or cheese, I recommend adding it to bowls individually – the dressed salad will save just fine for about 48 hours without those ingredients.

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Elotes – Mexican Street Corn

I find myself so fascinated by shows like “Extreme Couponing” – coming up to the checkout with $500 worth of mayonnaise and antacids and slowly watching the total dwindle down to $6.75 must be a huge adrenaline rush and I applaud the thriftiness of these coupon mavens. Unfortunately, I find three problems with extreme couponing:

1. It takes time, which I don’t have.

2. I have neither the space nor the desire to store $500 worth of mayonnaise and antacids.

3. I take my food seriously and coupons for real foods (produce, protein, and dairy) don’t really exist.

So what’s a girl to do? I am pretty much bound to seasonal produce and often improvise a dish based on what’s on sale. I do prefer eating seasonal produce, but sometimes eating the same stuff for weeks on end becomes pretty lame. Thus was the case with corn. I just can’t pass up a good corn deal, and for the last 6-8 weeks it’s been 6-8 ears for $1. Insane – I can’t pass that up. Unfortunately, my family started getting really sick of corn (other than my daughter) – boiled, buttered corn is delicious, but it’s not a weekly staple. We had to revamp the corn. In came elotes – street corn! Grilled and sauced, it brings new life to lowly corn. You’ll start to think it SHOULD be a weekly dish – in fact, I might be sad when it becomes expensive again.

I’ve had elotes from restaurants that was boiled corn with the elotes sauce – it’s fine, and in a pinch is still good, but if at all possible, grill the corn. We’ve served it on and off of the cob, and while it’s good both ways, it’s less of a mess to eat if you cut it from the cob.

Elotes

8 ears fresh corn

1/2 cup mayonnaise (1 step closer to clearing the coupon stash!)

1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

1/2 cup shredded cotija or queso fresco cheese

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp garlic salt (regular salt is fine, too)

1 garlic clove

1 lime

handful of fresh cilantro

1. Shuck the corn, heat the grill. Stir together the mayonnaise and sour cream until well combined. Add in the chili powder, paprika, and garlic salt. Mince or press the garlic and add the garlic and cheese to the sauce. Chop the cilantro and cut the lime into small wedges.

2. Place the corn directly on the grill, turning frequently (8-10 minutes) until all sides are nicely charred. Cut the corn from the cob and serve with the sauce, a squeeze of lime, and a little cilantro.

Late Summer Gazpacho

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where it isn’t summer anymore, feel free to file this away for use 7-8 months.  But if, like me, you’re still seeing 90 degree temperatures and you’re looking for a fresh tasting meal, then join me for some gazpacho.  If you haven’t made gazpacho before, you definitely should.  It’s quite possibly the easiest dinner ever, it will sufficiently increase your fruit and vegetable consumption for the day, and if you’ve ever thought it would be wise to eat salsa straight out of the bowl, but spice is a concern – you’ll be in heaven.

It’s great for a light lunch, but if you’re serving it for dinner you probably need to consider it as an appetizer or serve some heavy side dishes.

Gazpacho

adapted from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

3 garlic cloves

1/2 red onion

1 cucumber

1 zucchini

2 stalks of celery

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

2T red wine vinegar

1 tsp tabasco or cholula

4 cups V8

salt and pepper

3 hardboiled eggs

1 avocado

1. Peel and roughly chop the garlic and onion and pulse in a food processor until liquefied.  Cut off the ends of the zucchini and cucumber and process until smooth.  Roughly chop the celery and tomatoes and add until the soup is about the consistency of salsa.

2. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the oil, vinegar, hot sauce, and V8.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. Chop the avocado and eggs and serve the gazpacho cold with the eggs and avocado on top.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

So, you’re looking for the easiest dessert you could possibly make that also tastes incredible?  Here it is.  It’s not fancy, it’s not difficult, and it’s not really cheesecake, but it’s the ultimate potluck dessert.  I send it to work with Ross often and none of it ever comes home.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

2 cans crescent rolls

2 8oz. packages cream cheese (low fat is fine, fat free is not), softened

1 1/4 cup sugar, divided

1/2 stick of butter

1T cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Roll out one can of crescent rolls (don’t break apart) and press into the bottom of a glass 9×13 baking dish.  You may need to manipulate it a bit to cover the whole bottom.

2. Beat a cup of the sugar with the cream cheese until fluffy and combined.  Using a spatula, spread the mixture all over the layer of crescent rolls leaving about a half inch border around.

3. Unroll the second can of crescent rolls and arrange to cover the top,  I press the edges together.  Melt the butter and pour over the top, stir the cinnamon and additional 1/4 cup of sugar together and sprinkle over the top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.