Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The World's Best Cinnamon Rolls!

As I have mentioned before, I do not claim to have created any of the fabulous recipes shared on our blog.  I just want to share with you some of the many very talented cooks in the blogging world and for you to enjoy the fabulous foods they create as much as we do.

Ree Drummond is the brilliant mind behind The World's Best Cinnamon Rolls.  If you haven't visited her blog The Pioneer Woman, you must do it today.  Ree blogs about her life on a ranch in Oklahoma,  her family, cooking, photography, and lots of other things.  I was introduced to her blog just over a year ago and have really enjoyed reading it, but mostly I enjoy trying out the recipes she posts.  I have her recipe for salsa memorized, since I make it just about every week. Remember that post? :)  I just finished prepping her Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes for Dinner tonight.  I tested them, and they definitely live up to their name!

Now...on to the cinnamon rolls.  These cinnamon rolls have become a part of our lives.  I have made them for Sunday School breakfasts a few times, as well as times when we have company and there are never any leftovers!  Everyone loves them!  Warning:  these are not for the faint of heart!  The butter and sugar content is high!  But, that's what makes them good right?   My favorite part about these cinnamon rolls is the frosting.  It's not your typical cream cheese frosting.  It's maple!  Yum!  Ree also makes some fantastic variations to these cinnamon rolls, including her Chocolate Chip Cookie Sweet Rolls.  Um.  Wow.  I love those.

Here is the recipe for her original cinnamon rolls.  Go make them now.  Or maybe on Saturday.  Or whenever you have plenty of time to devote to cinnamon roll making.  It's worth it.

Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from The Pioneer Woman
*The full recipe makes approximately 50-60 cinnamon rolls.
1 quart Milk
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Sugar
2 packages Active Dry Yeast, 0.25 Ounce Packets
8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
Plenty Of Melted Butter (I usually start out with less and see how I feel from there)
2 cups Sugar (same as butter)
Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon

1 bag Powdered Sugar
2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Melted Butter
1/4 cup Brewed Coffee
1/8 teaspoon Salt
 Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 min. - 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, sprinkle in the yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.
After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together.  (You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for a day or two.  Just punch it down once in a while, if needed, so that it doesn't overflow.)
When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle counter or rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 - 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1/2 - 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.
Now, tightly roll the dough towards you and pinch the seam at the end.
Butter or spray your baking dishes.  Start cutting your cinnamon rolls 3/4 - 1 in thick and place in pan.
Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Pour over warm rolls and enjoy!

Note:  These cinnamon rolls also freeze very well.  I should know.  We are enjoying them for breakfast this week.  :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome Fall! I am so glad you are coming back into my life.

Fall is my favorite season.

There are good things about the other seasons.
Spring - Green grass and warm weather
Summer - Lots of delicious, fresh produce and time at the pool and beach
Winter - Christmas.  Enough said. (Winter definitely gets 2nd place, only because of this one holiday)

But there are also bad things about the other seasons.
Spring - Pollen
Summer - Unbearable heat and mosquitoes
Winter - Frigid frigidness

But fall?  Oh fall, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

In a nutshell, fall means
  • Apple picking
  • Halloween candy
  • Comfy sweaters
  • Cute coats
  • Pumpkin...well, pumpkin everything!
  • Crunchy Leaves
  • Crisp Air
  • Outside activities
  • Hot apple cider or cocoa
  • Warm soups
  • Thanksgiving memories
What is not to love, people? :)

I have already started celebrating the return of fall.  First of all, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks.  Can I hear a hallelujah? :)  I have definitely been enjoying a couple of those!  Also, we picked up our first bags of Halloween candy.  I don't know what it is about that giant aisle of purple, orange, and black bags of candy.  It is irresistible.  A couple of weeks ago, Lester and I went to the apple orchard and picked up a half bushel of Honey Crisp and Golden Delicious apples. (There was a big thunderstorm the day we went, so we didn't get to pick them ourselves.  Hopefully we will go again soon!)  Since then, I have made applesauce, individual-sized apple pies, and apple chips. 

Most recently, I baked up some Apple Cinnamon Bread.  I love quick breads - banana, lemon, pumpkin chocolate chip, etc.  They are all so easy to make and so yummy!  This Apple Cinnamon Bread is no exception.  It smelled so good as it was baking and tasted even better.  My favorite thing about this bread is the slices of apples mixed in to the batter.  You can actually see the little pieces of apple when you slice it.  It also has a scrumptious brown sugar-cinnamon crust for all of you who - like me - have a big sweet tooth.  Enjoy it for breakfast or a sweet snack.  Apple Cinnamon Bread is the perfect way to welcome in the best season of the year.

Apple Cinnamon Bread
adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups apples, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, add the eggs and beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add in oil, applesauce, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Next, add the sugar and mix until well combined.
4. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until flour is barely combined. Fold in the apple chunks. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
5. Mix together brown sugar, sugar, and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the batter in the loaf pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a thin knife or toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool bread in pan for 10 minutes. Loosen sides and remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Note:  Next time I would probably only put half the topping on, but - I don't know - maybe not :)


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Birthday Celebrations

We had a super fun time here last weekend.  This past Thursday was Lester's 25th birthday, and we celebrated in style!

On Thursday night, we had my family and his sister's over for pizza and brownies.  We all had a great time, and Lester loved opening his presents.  He told me that I was the best wife in the world and it was the best birthday he ever had.  Little did he know that there was still more birthday fun planned for Friday night. :)


Lester came home from work Friday night to a house full of guests waiting to celebrate his birthday with him.  We have such wonderful friends, and I am so thankful to everyone who helped to make this a special birthday for Lester.  We ate way too much junk food, stayed up way too late, but also had way too much fun!

Last year, I made a soccer ball cake for Lester's birthday, since he is a big soccer fan.  It was my first attempt at decorating a cake, and I was pretty proud of the results!  I wish I had a picture to show you, but you know me and taking pictures! :P

I decided to try my hand at decorating again this year.  Only this time, I went with a Super Mario theme.  Since actually creating Mario was out of the question, I made a "1 up" mushroom cake and little mushroom cupcakes.  Let me tell you, I bit off more than I could chew with this idea.  The cake almost destroyed me.  But, in the end, the it all looked pretty awesome and tasted great.  Most importantly, Lester had "the best birthday ever." 

That's really all that matters. :)

Here are a few pics of the cake and cupcakes.  I decided to post them here as a memory.  Next year, I'm calling up Publix for a cake. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Chalkboard Project

I would like to start off by saying - I love our house!  We both do!  I don't think a day goes by that one or the both of us doesn't make that statement.

1. We love living closer to church.  We feel that we have more freedom and opportunities to get involved in ministry and grow relationships now.
2.  We love our new town.  Seriously, everything we need is so close!  (Which may turn out to be a bad thing if these late night McDonald's ice cream trips don't stop) :)
3.  We love decorating and making this space our own.
  • So far, the kitchen and living room have been painted and are almost complete.  We ordered a rug for the living room last week and are just waiting on it to come in.  (Hopefully it matches!)
  • Right now, I'm working on the upstairs - turning the bonus room into an office for Lester.  It's his birthday present from me.  He knows I'm working on it, but doesn't know all the surprises I have in store for it, yet.
Decorating is definitely a time consuming part of buying a home.  We're taking it slowly, waiting until we find just the right idea or piece for a space.  But, we are having a lot of fun doing it and know that our house will be just lovely once it is all finished!

Here is our most recent decorating endeavor, and - may I add - we are very proud of this one!

We built a chalkboard!  

The inspiration:
1.  The Brady Bunch - They had a mini chalkboard in their kitchen.  I have always thought that was awesome.
2.  Design shows on TV - I love, love, love watching design shows on TV and have always been fascinated by the creative use of chalkboard paint in rooms.
3.  Pinterest - Yes, I admit it...I have been sucked in to the wonderful world of Pinterest.  It was because of the DIY ideas section that I finally worked up the courage to construct a chalkboard for our kitchen.

How we did it:
Lester helped me out a ton on this project.  Because, let's just face it, I'm really good at coming up with ideas but I need someone to help me accomplish them.  (I don't always think those parts through) Lester comes in very handy in those situations! :)
1.  We bought a super cheesy, cheap-o painting at Old Time Pottery that had a decent frame.
2.  We went to the new homeowner's favorite store - The Home Depot - and purchased a pint of chalkboard paint, a small tester can of white paint, a drawer pull, and some wood screws.
3.  Once home, we ripped the painting out of the frame.  Lester flipped it over and painted the cheap wood backing to create our chalkboard.  (FYI - A little chalkboard paint goes a long, LONG way.  We have plenty left over!)  I painted the frame white.
4.  Once both pieces were dry, we re-attached the chalkboard to the frame, added the drawer pull as a chalk holder, and drilled our chalkboard into the wall.

We're super excited about this project.  As you can see above, we placed it next to the refrigerator and pantry.  It will help when making grocery lists, reminding each other of stuff going on, or just writing notes.
I had to test it out this morning to see how it works.

I think it works just fine. :)