February 28, 2011

Pride of Iowa

I grew up on a farm in Iowa.

A place full of rolling hills, lush vegetation and high humidity.
A place full of yucky, black flies that bite and wondrous fireflies that light up the countryside in the evenings.
A place where, when the wind blows from the south, you smell the pig yards and the cattle manure.
But, when the wind blows from the north, you smell the sweetness of freshly cut alfalfa fields.
There is nothing that compares to that sweet smell of freshly cut alfalfa...

I would be lying if I didn't tell  you that I love my childhood state of Iowa.
Iowa.... You make me smile! (it used to be the "slogan" that fit me perfect)

So, it should come as no big surprise that one of my most favorite cookie recipes is entitled, "Pride of Iowa" cookies.

They are one of the easiest and best cookies you can bake.

Since we were finally feeling a bit more like ourselves, after weeks and weeks of illness, we made these cookies last night.

Annie and Maggie helped me.







Go ahead. Try the recipe for yourself. My guess is that they will quickly become a favorite of yours too.
After all, how can a cookie named after the great state of Iowa not be wonderful?
I smile just thinking about them....

Pride of Iowa Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup coconut
3 cups quick oatmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add coconut, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Add flour. Stir in nuts.
(as a side note, although the recipe doesn't call for the addition of chocolate chips, I add them anyway. About 1 cup of chocolate chips mixed in with the nuts.)
Roll into balls, about the size of a walnut, and press down on cookie sheet with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.




February 23, 2011

Memories (Part II)

Remember how I mentioned a while ago that I was going to write down a few memories I have of my father?
Well, here I am again.

My dad used to always, always tell me to keep the gas tank in my car above one quarter of the tank.

I would get in trouble if it wasn't.

I suppose this was just simply good sense to do, especially when you live in the country and the closest gas station is miles away.
Or, in the winter time, when you never knew if your car would get stuck on a road somewhere. It was good to have a gas tank with some amount of gas in it.

To this day, I go into a panic if Adrian tries to drive the van and the gas tank is under 1/4 of a tank.

I tell him, "NO! You need to stop at the gas station and get gas. It needs to be filled!"

His reply is usually, "Calm down woman! What is your obsession about having the gas tank full?"

I suppose life is different when you live in a big city. We have gas stations that surround us. There isn't such a need to always have the tank on full.
Unless your car has a problem keeping track of the correct amount of gas in your vehicle (like ours does).
Then, you might be cruising along the interstate on half a tank one minute (didn't that gauge say we had half a tank over two hours ago?) and go to zero with lights blinking and sensors dinging in no time.

I can't handle that scenario.

The farmer girl in me screams out, "GET SOME GAS IN THIS CAR!"

Because, the last thing you want to have happen, is to have your car run out of gas.

You can ask my husband if that has ever happened to him.

I can tell you that it has never, ever happened to me.

Mostly because I have an obsession with the gas tank being full, thanks to my father's advice many, many years ago.






Keep on truckin' people. Just remember, keep your gas gauge at least 1/4 full.

February 22, 2011

My Grocery Bill

My grocery bill has been growing.

Has this been happening to any of you as well?

I stick to strict budget when it comes to groceries. I have a whole "pantry" system worked out at my house (which is a topic for a later date).
I usually know what a good deal is and I won't buy anything unless it fits my "good deal" status and also works with my budget and my pantry rotation.


I can usually always stick to my budget. Until lately.
So, I am beginning to realize, that my shopping strategy has to change a bit and there are a few items I need to keep an eye on to make sure they don't surge in price as well.

I went to the grocery store a few days ago. I had oatmeal on my list. I buy the generic oatmeal and can usually get it for about $2.
I almost had a panic attack when I saw the price, for the generic, was up to $3.99. Seriously?
The name-brand price was $5.19.
For one container of oatmeal.
Outrageous!
Since when did oatmeal become a luxury item on my shopping list?

Have you looked at the price of juice, or ice cream lately? (those are luxury items on our list)
The prices are high.
Milk, sugar, flour, butter, yogurt.... all those things have increased as well.

I am happy to note, and feel it is my duty to inform you, that I did see oatmeal on sale at Safeway.... 2/$5. That is a great deal right now (it wouldn't have been in the past). Throw in a coupon and it brings the price down to 2/$4.
I bought 6 of them.

I am afraid there are going to have to be more price adjustments made in my shopping scheme.
And, I'm thinking that it's going to be important for our garden to produce bountifully this summer. I have a feeling I'm going to need to can more than I did last year.

Get ready people. Prices are going up.

And, in the meantime, I will continue hunting for lower prices at my grocery store that is in the midst of getting remodeled.
Did I mention that?
Oh yeah...
I think their oatmeal prices are paying for it all .....

February 18, 2011

Whine

We've got "the whine" at our house.... and, unfortunately, I'm not talking about Cabernet, Zinfandel or Merlot...

"Mommy, I don't feel good..."

cough, cough....
(intermittent crying)

"Daddy, I have a headache"

cough, cough, cough

"Mommy, I'm not hungry...."

(intermittent crying)

"Mommy, I'm hungry...."

"Mommy, I don't want to eat THAT! I want something else!"

cough, cough, cough.....

"Daddy! I need to go potty!"

cough, cough....
(more intermittent crying)


The weather outside has been beautiful for the past few days. Temps up in the 60's, sun shining, birds singing.... you'd almost think spring has arrived.
Other than the fact that we have "the whine" at our house right now.

Yesterday, while my patience was quickly evaporating, I realized that we needed a distraction.

So, you know what we did?

We took the van to the car wash.

It ate up at least 20 minutes of our time, plus we were out of the sick house.
The children were enthralled by the high-powered suds and water.
There was minimal whining.

Perfect.

So, if the whine ever comes a-knocking at your door, there is one way to quiet it down for a few minutes.
Go get a car wash.


There you have it, my solid parenting advice for the week.


I pray for a better weekend...... especially since Birthday Season officially arrives at our house tomorrow......

February 16, 2011

Annie

Since birthday season is right around the corner at our house, I'm getting ready to start weeping over how big all our babies are getting.
I can hardly believe a year has passed already.
Our baby, who can still actually be labeled as a baby, is soon to be growing out of babyhood.
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh !!!!!!!!!!

I know I shouldn't sob at this turn of events. It's always exciting to watch the children grow. But, I love babyhood and toddlerhood the best. And, we're quickly wrapping up those days in our household...

So, since Annie and Maggie are at the height of cuteness right now, I thought I'd share a few of their antics with you.

One of Annie's favorite things to do lately is get a hold on the toilet paper roll and pull. It just keeps coming, and coming, and coming. She also loves to then shred that toilet paper into tiny bits of confetti. It will keep her amused for a long time and makes a wonderful mess for me to clean up.

But, since I've "wised up" to her antics, and the toilet paper is less available for her to get into, she has now found a new favorite activity:




She uses her chubby little baby fingers to push the button on the baby wipes container. I'm not sure who showed her how to do this, but I'm assuming she learned the technique from one of her older siblings...



                 Voila! The baby wipes box magically opens up and now the fun can begin!!!



They just keep coming, and coming, and coming! It's so much fun! And, she won't stop until every single baby wipe is out of that container.

It must be an inherited disorder. I do the same thing with a bag of Cheetos....


Annie and Maggie have also started to really play together well.



It always amuses me how little girls just love to play with babies... even when they themselves are babies!
I think it shows that girls have that need to nurture inside of them from the very beginning.



And Annie is intrigued by everything on the dolls. She likes to poke them in the eyes, ears and noses.
It's kind of funny, because all of our children have done the very same thing when they see a newborn baby. They go for the eyes first.


I love my chubby little baby. And, soon she will be 1 year old.
My, how time flies...........









February 15, 2011

German Pancakes

On Sunday, I woke up with a fever. I didn't realize that I actually had a fever though until late in the afternoon, when my body said, "Enough is enough!" and made me fall into bed. Although I didn't have a fever yesterday, my body was still achy and tired. I was grumpy. Today, the littles have the fever. They are, as I write this, snuggled in our bed, watching cartoons and sipping orange juice.

Thankfully, I have a great husband who jumps into the midst of things and takes charge. After my announcement of, "I have a fever!" on Sunday evening, he took control of the kitchen and made dinner.
When Adrian has to make dinner quickly in this house, he has a favorite "go-to" meal. Of course, it involves bacon.

Actually, although I felt totally yucky while he was making dinner, I had to snap a few pictures just because his bacon always is so good and crunchy, and the German pancakes are so puffed up and pretty.


You want of piece of bacon right now, don't you? It's so brown, and so crunchy, and so greasy....




I got a picture of Adrian in action! Don't his German pancakes make your mouth water?
The recipe he uses is just a simple recipe from the red and white checkered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. They turn out fantastic every time and the children love to eat them.

On this particular evening, he added a jar of our canned peaches to the batter. It made them a little heavier and more filling. I think you could probably substitute the peaches for almost any fruit... but we haven't tried it yet.
He also puts a generous amount of cinnamon-sugar topping on, right after it comes out of the oven, when the butter is still bubbling around the edges. It soaks in and adds a nice sweet, crunchy crust on top.



How about this for a fast, easy, warm, tummy filling meal? It took about 30 minutes before dinner was served and there wasn't a single piece left after the children were through with it.

Oh, Adrian is so wonderful. I love it when he cooks.... and cleans.... and takes care of the children....
I'm going to go snuggle with the littles now and sip orange juice with them, knowing that my house is well tended to.....

Oh, wait. I'm not sick anymore.
Bummer.


German Pancakes
2 T. butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp. salt

Place butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (we use pie pans). Place in a 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes, or until butter melts. In a bowl, beat eggs until well combined. Add flour, milk, and salt. Beat until smooth. Immediately pour into the hot skillet. Bake about 25 minutes or until puffed up and well browned. Sprinkle pancake with cinnamon-sugar and cut into wedges.
Serves 6.



February 14, 2011

Valentine

Happy St. Valentine's Day!


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of teaching Sunday School to our 6th-8th graders at church.
Although I initially balked at the idea, I've found that I really enjoy it. The children are eager to learn, they ask lots of questions and, amazingly, they listen really well.

I did, however, need to spend a fair amount of time preparing for this class. They had just finished up studying about the Christian martyrs and were moving onto Constantine. What an interesting time in the church's history!
This preparation, along with just general thoughts about Valentine's day, really made me think deeper about this day that we celebrate with candy and flowers. And, the more I internalized it, the more I realized that I've become side-tracked by all the glitz. So, let's have a little history lesson, shall we?


Before Constantine, the Christians received terrible persecution.
They were thrown into prison, burned alive, stoned, chopped into pieces, and served up to wild animals and gladiators as entertainment. They were harassed, ridiculed, and disowned by their own family and friends. To profess that you were a Christian meant that you were not afraid to face death. And, yet, through all this, the church grew.
We celebrate the martyrdom of many of these saints in our church still today.

St. Valentine or Valentinus was a Christian martyr. There are many details we do not not about this Valentinus, including when he was actually martyred. In fact, historians say that the Christians specifically chose February 14 for St. Valentine's day to oppose the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, which was the very next day. Lupercalia was celebrated by Roman priests and was a fertility festival.

Now, there are a few things to mention about this that certainly pertain to our day and age.

First of all, why do we celebrate St. Valentine's Day?

My children certainly seem to think that this day is about hearts, and professing your love to someone, buying a girl flowers and eating chocolate.
For the Romans, it was about celebrating fertility. Women lining the streets, hoping to be blessed by the pagan priests with fertility. Can you imagine women lining the streets these days, hoping for the fertility gods to bless them? It's the opposite. I think some women are afraid to even come near me, because of how many children I've had. Fertility is no longer a blessing in our society.... it's a curse. So, instead of celebrating the pagan festival of fertility, we've changed it to a pagan festival of sexuality. It's a sensual day. And even our children grasp this in a small way. Why else do we eat candy hearts with "You're Hot" on them?

For the Christians, it was a day to celebrate the martyrdom of a saint. To remember that our faith in Christ is worth dying for. To know that the greatest gift anyone could ever receive was given to us on the cross in Jesus blood. That we are washed clean in his scarlet blood and given a white robe of righteousness in his baptism. These things are what we need to impress upon our children! Our love for one another is nice. But it's not perfect. It's not like Christ's love for us. 

Now, I'm not suggesting you forget about handing out cards to people, making them gifts, etc. I just think we need to remember to teach our tender youth that there is a greater message that is lost in this day. The message that because of Christ forgiveness we are made whole. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life" John 3:16

May you all have a wonderful day, marveling at the gifts which God has blessed you with.

February 12, 2011

Ain't It Purty?

As you have noticed, I've changed the way this blog looks a bit.

I wanted to lighten it up a tad. After all, we are inching closer to warmer, longer days.
I felt like this space needed a little more sping in it's step.

Now, I'm definitely not a computer geek. I won't even pretend to know what html is. But, I can figure things out with step-by-step tutorials. Which has gotten me this far.

Me, trying to figure out computer language, is like a deer caught in the headlights.
Or, like a pig stuck in an old well hole. (remember that one mom?)
Or, like a cat getting caught in the motor fan.
Wait, that last one wasn't a good picture to conjure up.... 
Anyway, it's dangerous for me to try to do anything on the computer, because I usually don't have a clue what I'm doing.
It takes me forever to figure out.
But, if I've done it once, I can do it again.

Let me know what you think of the new design.

February 11, 2011

Memories (Part I)

Lately, I've been thinking quite a bit about my father.

For one, it's hard to believe that 3 months have passed since I first flew back to be with my family as dad lay, dying, in the ICU. I've played over those tense days in my mind, trying not to forget the little details. I'm always afraid of forgetting things, because I tend to have a terrible memory. I run over the same little things in my mind, day after day, and I think it's starting to wear on me. So, I'm just going to get them out of my head, write them down here, and hope that it helps me to not obsess about forgetting.

The first thing I hope to not forget about, regarding my father:

My dad had freckles.

I know, this may seem silly to announce to the world. Bear with me. For the longest time, I've been trying to figure out why some of our children have freckles on their noses and arms and legs. Did you know that freckles tend to be inherited genetically? Adrian and I aren't full of freckles. And, although I haven't had the chance to examine my in-laws for freckles, I had plenty of opportunity to stare at my father for 10 days. And notice freckles. On his face. On his arms. And, by golly, on his legs.

Aha! I found the genetic culprit! Or at least one of them... And, so, this information I will share with my children when they ask about their freckles. "Did you know that my dad had freckles, just like you?" And, hopefully, with my grandchildren one day. It seems strange to think about freckled grandchildren already, but I sure am hoping we have at least a few of them!



One of my "freckly" children.


Ahhhh... already my heart feels lighter and there is a little more space in my brain for something else to fill that spot.
Now, I need to get busy tending to those freckled wonders of mine.
Until next time....

February 10, 2011

Stink.

It's been a long week. Does anyone else feel the same way?
There are times when you just need a good laugh to snap you out of it.

Fortunately for us, the children are our number 1 entertainment. You can count on them to either make you smile or make you want to pull your hair out. Either way, there is always something going on around here...

For example, the other day, Adrian was taking Ben to Kindergarten and Peter to preschool at our church. They always seem to have interesting conversations on the ride there. On this particular trip to school, Adrian decided to start a game of "I Spy."
Now, the whole point of "I Spy" is to actually spy something with my little eye, right? Not so for Ben and Pete. Peter said, "Dad, Dad! I spy something orange and white... what is it?" Not having the correct guess, Peter exclaimed... "The Bronco's stadium!" Which is not, by the way, on their route to school. So, actually spying something was optional in their game.
Then the game, with an expanded rule set, continued... Now it was Ben's turn to spy. "I spy something that is blue, " Ben said. Pete responded with , "Is it dead or alive Ben?"

That little story is about all you need to know about Ben and Pete. Those two are trouble.

So, yesterday, the children each had another writing assignment. I've been trying to have at least 2 writing assignments per week in the hope that, by writing more, their writing assignments would start to become easier for them.

I also have to admit, I so much enjoy reading what they have to write, that it's hard for me not to make them do one every day!

I chose Than's to showcase this time. And, because the rough draft was actually the funniest, it is the one that I am going to post. Happy reading!



Why People Should Not Litter

          People should not throw their trash on the ground and litter. This is bad for our environment. There are many reasons why littering is bad.

           The first reason why people should not litter is because it will stink. And if something stinks, the stink will go somewhere else to stink that place up. The second reason for why you should not litter is because it is a bad thing to do. If you litter, the stink will get on you and you will have to take a shower! The third reason why you should not litter is because it will make other people's houses stink. If you litter and make other people's homes stink, they will be really mad at you.

           In conclusion, you should not litter or bad things will happen to you. And, bad things will happen to houses. It would make the world a stinky place.


Now, what more would the EPA have to say beyond this?
I think it should be their new marketing pitch.





February 9, 2011

Heart Pot Holders

"You're too hot to handle..."

You know, I've been waiting all week to type that one.
I'm sure that when my mother's and my sister-in-laws receive these, they'll appreciate my sense of Valentine one-liners.

Ahhh... a sewing project. I like to sew. Lately, it's felt great to get that sewing machine out again and remember things like: how to thread the machine, how to wind a bobbin.... you know, all those minor details.

So, when I happened across this little gem of a sewing project, I knew I had to try it.
After all, how hard can it be to make a potholder???
Martha Stewart Valentine Pot Holders


I like Martha, but her and I have a somewhat rocky relationship.
I appreciate her for the fact that she crafts beautiful things.
I especially like her nature crafts. And her baby crafts.
And, for the fact that most everything she does is from scratch. (c'mon people... she has even made Peeps by herself.... who does that???)

But, this is the problem I have with Martha.
I am afraid that she sets me up to fail.

I've had this happen on more than one occasion, so I should know better by now. After all, she was sentenced to a prison term! These things I should remember, but I always give her the benefit of the doubt... and then, she burns me....

Last year, Joanna and I tried to make her beautiful heart-shaped hand soaps.
They didn't turn out beautiful like Martha's... but we still used them.
Martha also didn't mention that I should use old pans to melt the soap in. I felt like we were tasting glycerin in all our casseroles for a few months after that.
She's tricky like that....


So, this year I was enticed by Martha again. And, I had to try it.

They turned out like this...........






 Pretty cute, huh? I guess I can't blame it all on Martha. My sewing ability isn't quite up to par yet.
 If it were, they would look even better.

However, if you want to try these at your house, here are a few tips from me:

1. Make sure you don't listen to Martha about the cotton batting. Instead, you'll want to make sure and get the Insulated batting, used especially for projects like this.
Otherwise, your gift recipients may just burn off their fingers taking that hot item out of the oven.

2. Don't listen to Martha about template sizing. She said to adjust the template to 200%. I did that, and the first one turned out HUGE! If you have man hands, then go for it. But, it's almost big enough to be a chair pad.....
On the second one, I went with 150% enlargement, and it was much better.

3. Martha, Martha, Martha!!! She doesn't tell you about the pockets on these potholders. But, yes, the little flap do-hickies that you first sew bias tape to are pockets. So, don't be alarmed when you are cutting out fabric and wondering just what those little do-hickies are about.

I think that's it. They were a fairly easy project, even for a beginner like me. Try 'em out!

Oh, and I'd love to hear if you've ever been burned by Martha on a crafting project.
I'm guessing I can't be the only one.... can I????

February 8, 2011

Boyish Valentines

When my boys found out that they were going to be making Valentine cards, they almost went into hysterics.

"What? Do I have to use pink paper?" "Ewww..."

"I'm not going to say "I Love You" on it or anything mushy like that."

"This is for girls to do...."

Can you tell that the men in this family like to be men? There is no room for pink, or even a hint of pink, when it comes to things that my boys do.

So, this put me in a bit of a predicament.
Valentine's Day is, after all, about a bunch of mushy, pinkish stuff. Right?

I wasn't going to let the boys off the hook.
They were going to make Valentine cards, and they were even going to use pink.
It just was going to be disguised as something boyish.

I did a fair amount of searching on the Internet.
I didn't want it to be complicated because I wanted them to do it all by themselves.
I also didn't want it to scream, "VALENTINE'S!!!!" .... because I was trying to disguise it, remember?


So, here are two examples of what we came up with.

The first is a rocket ship Valentine.
We found the idea on Family Fun website.



First, you need some candy. They suggested using Spree or SweeTarts, but Air Heads are cheaper and not as much candy... I think.
If you are really crazy, I suppose you could use candy bars too.

We had some whole Air Head bars, but then ran out and had to buy the bag of little Air Heads. That works, you just have to tape two of them together.



Then you need paper to wrap the candy in. We cut them into 3 1/2 x 5 inch pieces.
Also, you need to design a "flame" for the tail of the rocket and a triangle for the tip of the rocket.
We took a 2 inch wide strip of paper and folded it in half and cut it that way.




Everything is held together by tape.
Wrap the candy in paper. Tape it.
Put the "flame" on the end. Tape it.
Put the triangle for the tip. Tape it.


You end up with some pretty cool rocket Valentine gifts. And, these don't even have a trace of pink in them!


We also designed a Heart and Arrow Valentine.



I had some old Valentine themed pencils that I picked up on clearance last year.
We brought them out and Sam designed a fletching... I guess that's what you call the end of the arrow where the feather or plastic things are.
I just figured he knew what he was talking about....



Then we cut out some hearts. Notice, Sam is not using pink, or red, or purple paper. It's blue.
This was the only way I could talk him into cutting out hearts.
BOYS!!! Honestly.....



However, I did get him to dress up the heart with some red plaid paper.
Then, you need a hole puncher to make two punches in the heart. One at the top and then one toward the bottom, on an oblique line...(I can thank Saxon Math for my knowledge of line segments....) ... or at an angle for those of you non-Saxon mathers.



And this is your finished Valentine gift. Manly with a touch of Valentine in it.
Perfect for those hardcore boys of yours.

February 7, 2011

Crayon Hearts

"My heart melts for you"

"You color my world"

"I Heart You"


When you see corny sayings, like the ones above, you know what time of year it is.

Valentine's Day.

It's just around the corner. Seven days from now in fact.
At our house, that means it's time to get busy.
Because, with 8 children, we have a ton of Valentine's to make for friends and family.

Now, dear family and friends, if any of you are reading this.... you will most likely see one of your Valentines. You're going to have to just act surprised when they come in the mail.

Of course, since your Christmas presents are still on the counter in the kitchen, you most likely won't see your Valentines until July anyway.
In, which case, you will have long forgotten about them..... (again, Sorry! I promise to send those pkgs. at some point).

One of the easiest, most fun Valentine crafts that we tackled this year were Crayon Hearts.

The motivation was simple.

I have a lot of children in the house who like to peel the wrapper off crayons.
And break crayons.
So, those two things combined, make our crayon box look terrible.
But, because I can't throw anything away, I kept them because they still colored.
And, I knew that I would find a project for them somewhere down the line.

So.......... if you have a bunch of cruddy looking crayons, this is something you should do!!!!


Step 1:  Peel the wrapper off crayons.



As you can see, the princess is my number 1 crayon wrapper peeler at the moment. She will sit for hours and do this.
Ben was good at sorting through the crayons and looking for the ones that the princess had already unwrapped. There were quite a few.....


Step 2:  Cut your crayons in little pieces and put them in a heart shaped muffin tin.



Of course, if you don't have a heart-shaped muffin tin you could just use a mini-muffin tin or regular muffin tin. The options are endless I suppose.

We filled our tin up to the top with cut crayons. This is important because it will give you a nice, thick crayon at the end.
Also, we weren't careful with color combinations. We just threw 'em in!

Place this pan in the oven at 250 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Just until your crayons have all melted together.
Be careful when taking the pan out of the oven so you don't mess up the swirling color combinations. 

Step 3:  Let your crayons cool and then "pop" them out of the pan!


You will end up will beautiful, heart-shaped crayons like these!
What a great way to turn those yucky crayon pieces into a special gift for your special Valentine!





February 4, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Bake-Off

Last night, I had the grand idea of making cinnamon rolls for breakfast the next morning.

Our family has a tremendous overnight cinnamon roll recipe. And, we've made them for just about every special occasion you can think of.
Which means that we've made them about a gazillion times.

It's such an easy recipe, that makes a generous amount of rolls, so I've never even thought about trying a different recipe.
Until last night.

I did, what every American does, when they need to find information fast.
I typed "Overnight Cinnamon Rolls" into google.
Wow!
I was amazed at how many results came back.
Apparently, there are a lot of people in the world that make overnight cinnamon rolls.

So, then I looked over a few recipes to see if anyone had one similar to ours.
Nope.

Then, I decided, I was going to play "Iron Chef" in my kitchen and have a Cinnamon Roll Bake-Off.
Our family recipe up against 3 tough competitors.

I chose the 3 recipes that came up on google first. Plus, they were all a little bit different from each other in some way. So, I thought it made the competition fair.

The first recipe I chose came from Food Network. It was Overnight Cinnamon Rolls by Alton Brown. Link to Alton Brown's recipe  One of the interesting ingredients in his recipe was buttermilk. And egg yolks.

The second recipe I chose came from All Recipes. You know, people put some crazy code name up there, so this recipe came from DENDES5238 and is called Overnight Cinnamon Rolls I. Link to All Recipes  This recipe seemed fairly straight-forward. Nothing too different about it from any other recipe, other than the icing. And, I wondered if that alone would make or break it's chance of winning.

The third recipe I chose came from Ree Drummond off her Pioneer Woman cooking section. It was named, Cinnamon Rolls 101. I know that she has gathered quite a following and has some pretty down-home recipes. My guess was that she would be the toughest competitor. Link to Pioneer Woman Recipe  Her recipe was interesting. Different than any other because it had baking soda and baking powder added. Of course, lots of butter too. But, the most interesting factor was the icing. It sounded gooey and good.

Of course, then there is our family recipe for Overnight Rolls. It's the best... 'nuff said.

So, after I had my recipes all together, it was time to get busy and make this dough.

Oh, did I mention that I decided to do this at about 7pm?
You know me, I like to plan things out...

Anyway, after a good hour or two of making cinnamon roll dough, and letting it rise, it was time to take it out of the bowls and display it on the counter.

As you can see, the Food Network and All Recipes dough made a small batch. Only 12 rolls. However, our family recipe and The Pioneer Woman's made a large batch, about 2 1/2 dozen.

Are you doing the math?
Yes, I made over 70 cinnamon rolls.

This fact alone made my husband declare that I was trying to make him fat.

However, if you are lucky enough to live within a one block radius of us, you were delivered fresh cinnamon rolls this morning for breakfast.



After I rolled each pile of dough out, put the filling in, cut them up and put them on the pan, it was time to cover them and let them do their yeasty business during the night.

Now, I should note a few things here...
1. Both the Food Network and All Recipes recipe were lacking in butter for the filling. Really, only 1 1/2 tsp? I guess they thought they were making up for it with the brown sugar... but, that was kind of disappointing.

2. My family recipe and Pioneer Woman's recipe allows for the use of lots of butter. This will, in turn, make your rolls seep butter, sugar and cinnamon EVERYWHERE! So, just be ready for a gooey mess.

3. Don't forget to butter the pans. Your beautiful rolls will forever be stuck on the sheet if you don't.

4. Start a little bit earlier than 7pm.... especially if you are going to be making 4 different batches of rolls. Or, just make one batch of rolls. But make sure you use my recipe.

Now. Let's fast forward to this morning.

I awoke, not as early as I should have, to run downstairs and fire up the oven.
After all, there were a bunch of rolls to be made!

I put trays of rolls in, took trays of rolls out.
Our house smelled like a Yankee candle. Or, better yet, like Aunt Sue's shop in Dunlap, Iowa where they make the absolute best cakes and rolls. (Seriously, check it out if you're ever in Western Iowa).

Every pan of rolls looked scrumptious. I knew this was going to be hard to declare one the winner above the rest.

I moved on to making the icing for each recipe.
This, in turn, made my kitchen look like a bag of powdered sugar had erupted.
It was messy.


I plated (a little term I picked up from the Food Channel) the rolls. Some on chinet, some on my every day dishes.
You didn't expect me to use my china, did you?

It was time for my panel of judges to help me determine who was the winner.....



Granted, they are a little young. And maybe a bit biased. But, here were some of their observations....

"I like Pioneer Woman's because the dough is soft. Her sauce is kind of good too."

"Uhhh... this one tastes sour."

"Mmmm... this is sooooooooo sweet."

"I can't get my fork to cut this one."

"Is this Grandma's? Because I like her the best."

There were even more comments, but I won't bore you to death with them all.

The children declared the winner to be.................

Sharon's Overnight Rolls. (They just are the best. What can I say?)

Here is a quick description about each of them. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion... so yours may differ from ours.


Alton Brown's recipe.  This had an interesting taste. I'll leave it at that. The icing was good and, if you're looking for a roll that keeps it's shape well, this is the roll for you.



All Recipes:  This roll was a little dry. And a little tough. It held it's shape well. I would recommend, however, if you do make this recipe to change the icing. It was not the best.



Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond):  I am a fan of her recipes. She did not disappoint with this one. The icing was good. The roll was soft and sweet. It was an all-around tasty cinnamon roll. But, it didn't make me want to leave behind my family recipe.
Her dough takes a little more effort than my recipe. Time is of the essence in this household and I had to take that factor into account.



Sharon's Overnight Rolls:  Simply the best. Easy to make. This roll will never fail you. It has a soft, sweet texture. The icing is rich and creamy. It is a recipe worth your time and effort. Your taste buds will thank you.





Sharon's Overnight Rolls

                                      Dough1 pkg. dry yeast
                                  1/4 cup lukewarm water
                                   1 tsp. sugar
                                   2 eggs, beaten
                                   1 cup sugar
                                   1 T. salt
                                   3 cups lukewarm water
                                   10 cups flour
                                   1/2 cup oil
              
                                      Filling:  1 cup brown sugar
                                1 cup white sugar
                                1/2 cup melted butter
                                                 A generous amount of cinnamon sprinkled on top  
                                       Frosting:  6 ounces cream cheese, softened
                                    1/2 cup butter, melted
                                    1 tsp. vanilla
                                    3 T. heavy cream
                                    3 cups powdered sugar

Combine yeast, 1/4 cup water, and 1 tsp. sugar until yeast is dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Combine eggs, sugar, and water; beat. Stir into yeast and mix well. Beat in 7 cups of flour. Add oil and salt. Add 3 more cups of flour. Knead lightly. Place in greased bowl. Let rise for about 2-3 hours, punching down as needed.
When dough is ready, divide in half. Roll out each section to a big rectangle. Spread with melted butter and filling and roll up, lengthwise, sealing well. Cut into rolls and place on greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise overnight.
In the morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes or until browned. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

February 3, 2011

Snow Day

What do we do when it's cold and snowy out?





We put the littles for a nap on the couch. In front of the nice, cozy, warm fire. It's the best place to be.



See? Even Titus likes taking a nap here. It's amazing he's not laying on top of Peter. Or tucked under his pillow.



The princess. Never too far away from her beloved blankies.





Yes. Peter does sleep, occasionally. I guess even the warmth of the fire was no match for this tough guy today.

As I write this, naps are over with... the littles have awoken and are requesting cookies and hot cocoa....
Who said that cold, snowy days aren't fun?

Wrestle Mania 2011

Watch out all you WWF bad boys. The real deal has come to town.

That's right.

I know you're quivering in your little spandex wrestling shorts.
Wait, can they really be called shorts? Aren't they more like undies?
But, I digress.....


Last night, because we had nothing too much better to do, we had some wrestling in front of the fire.
Because that's what city folk do.




The children love to wrestle with Dad. And, although it becomes entirely too loud and probably a little dangerous, I let them. It's great fun.



You see, the whole point is to NOT get pinned. Because, that means tickling. Although I'm not sure that the children don't try to get pinned. It's fun, yet painful to endure. Kind of like the ballet.

If you look closely, you'll see that Annie's pacifier is on the floor. That means Annie is somewhere in the mix, but you can't see her in this photo.



You still can't see her in the photo, but she's there. On the floor. Laughing. And, I even think that good ole' Titus is smiling and trying to get in on the fun.

This carried on for a while. We had tournaments, to see who was the Ultimate Wrestler.
 I think Joanna was undefeated.
(All I can say is, she has a little bit of a mean streak in her...)


Hopefully Denver will figure out soon that it's not Fargo, ND and the temperature will warm up. Until then, I think Wrestle Mania is here to stay for a few nights.

February 2, 2011

Do I Smell Cabbage?

Susie: "Do I smell cabbage?"


Me: "Yes, you do."


Susie: "Oh good! RUNZAS!"


Runzas, as in Bierocks, as in Cabbage Rolls, as in German Meat Turnovers. I've heard them called all these things. But, regardless of what name you give them, they all share a common theme... yum, yum, goodness.


I especially like to make them on cold days when you can appreciate the oven being used.
They freeze well and are a favorite with my children.

*****  Now, I had every good intention of making Runzas for lunch. However, the stomach bug that had struck the littles on Monday, reared it's ugly head again on Tuesday. So, I thought it would be best for us to lay low and eat plain food. I would just make the Runzas before bed and have them ready for the next day.

So much for that thought.

I had the Runza dough laid out on the counter last night, a bottle made for the baby so she could go to sleep, and a movie ready to play for the rest of the children. Then, it happened...

"BAM!"
Followed by a high-pitched princess scream.

"MOMEEEE!!!!" "Help me!" "OUCHIE!" "My finger!"

You guessed it right, a finger caught in the midst of a door slamming.

I am a wimp. I've worked in the medical field, and now that I stay at home, I've lost my nerve. I can't stand to see my babies bleeding. It rushes me right to the brink of over-reacting. I can't help myself.

Plus, fingers in doors is one of the many hideous, bloody, nightmarish scenes that I've reenacted in my mind over and over again. It always ends with part of the digit laying on the floor, my child bleeding fiercely and me... passed out on the floor, next to the digit.

Thanks be to God, it wasn't quite that bad. The pad of my baby's middle finger was sheared off, bleeding everywhere, and it was apparent that a trip to the emergency room had to be made. While a few logistics had to be overcome (and we thank our firefighter friend and his wife again for helping us) we headed towards the E.R. We arrived, they took us back right away, and that finger was tended to pretty darn quick.


 Instead of stitches, the princess ended up with Derma Bond to hold the tip of her little finger together. She was tough... as tough as a princess can be. It had been a rough day. And, after we arrived back home from the E.R., it was time for all of us to go to bed. *****
Ouchie! It still is bothersome today... but only when she looks at it.


Of course, everything is better with some princess stickers.


This morning was much better. No trauma and no big tummy aches.


So, it was time to finally get to making those Runzas... or whatever you want to call them, so we could have them for lunch.

The first thing you need to do is get your meat all browned up. Our recipe just calls for ground beef, but lately I've started spicing it up a bit by adding in sausage or chorizo. Make sure you put plenty of onion and garlic in too.

Then, after your meat is cooked, you need to drain the fat off and add your diced cabbage, salt and pepper, and a little water to help steam the cabbage.

Cover your pan and let it simmer for a few minutes, until the cabbage is cooked.



Now, put your filling in the refrigerator so it can cool (this is important) and start to make your dough.
Your dough will take a while to rise, and your meat will take a while to cool... so I guess you can use this time to do your dishes or sit on the couch and eat bon-bons.... or run your daughter to the E.R.

Then, after it has risen, you are going to roll it out, fairly thin (but not too thin), in a big rectangle shape. The goal is to get at least 16 squares of dough or more...

After you have your squares of dough cut out, it's time to add the filling.


Put a healthy dose of filling in the middle. You want it to fill up the the middle of the dough square, but not so much that it will be hard to seal.


Then, pinch opposite sides of the square together.


And then bring the other opposite sides of the square together.


After that, you will pinch those seams tight, so your filling doesn't leak out when it's cooking. Your dough will look better than mine... remember, I had to keep it in the fridge overnight due to a trip to the E.R.


Then, you bake those in the oven for a while (I put an egg wash on mine, just to make them look a little prettier) and when they are golden brown they are ready to eat! Yum!
We serve them with a dollop of ketchup and they are great! A wonderful, easy meal for a cold day.
And, don't be afraid to experiment with them. I know some people add cheese, carrots, potatoes... be creative and let me know how they turn out.

Runzas

                                        Filling:
                                         1 1/2 pounds ground beef
                                         1/2 cup onion, chopped
                                         3 cups shredded cabbage
                                         1 1/2 tsp. salt
                                         1/2 tsp. pepper
                                         1/2 cup water

                                        Dough:
                                         1 pkg. dry yeast
                                         2 cups warm water
                                         1/2 cup sugar
                                         1 1/2 tsp. salt
                                         1 egg, beaten lightly
                                         1/4 cup soft butter
                                         6 1/2 cups flour


Directions: Brown beef and onion; drain grease. Add cabbage, seasoning and water. Simmer for 15 minutes or until cabbage is cooked. Cool. Divide among squares of dough.
                        Mix water and yeast, add sugar and let sit for 3-5 minutes. Add salt. Add egg and soft butter. Stir in flour. Knead well for 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and let rise for about 1 hour. Roll out, about 1/2 inch thickness, in a big rectangle. Cut out squares of dough.

Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.