Cinnamon Rolls in Solitude.

If I were to give it a title, I am not sure what I would call it.  When people are up late into the evening, it is often called the “witching hour.”  

This is completely opposite.

I am up early.  As usual.  It’s my favorite time of day.  My sweet girls are still nestled snugly in their beds.  Dear hubby has yet to awaken (amazing since I hit the snooze button approximately 4 times…)  I am accompanied only by my coffee, the last of yesterday’s homemade cinnamon rolls, and the solitude.

It’s Monday and my calendar is full, this week especially.  Still praying for some really big things to happen.  Waiting can be a restless time.  Yet in this precious morning hour, it is easy to forget the pressures and the constraints of life.  They are easily erased by a painted morning sunrise.

Coffee helps.  And so do homemade cinnamon rolls.  

Here is my favorite recipe.  It’s easy, quick (no-rise!), and entirely superb.

No-Rise Cinnamon Rolls

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. white sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ c. butter, chilled
2 T. butter, softened
1 c. cold milk
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 T. white sugar

For glaze:
½ c. confectioner’s sugar
3 T. milk

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in ¼ c. butter or margarine until crumbly.  Make a well in center, and pour in milk.  Stir to form a soft dough, adding a bit more milk if needed.

3.  Turn dough out on lightly floured surface.  Knead 8 to 10 times.  Roll into rectangle about 1/3 inch thick and 12 inches long.  Spread softened butter over dough.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over dough rectangle.  Roll up as for jelly roll.  Mark first, then cut into 12 slices.  Place cut side down in muffin pan.

4.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes.  Turn out on a tray.

5.  To confectioner’s sugar, add enough milk or water to make a thin glaze.  Drizzle over cinnamon rolls.

 Visit my Recipes page for more yummies…
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Tea is for Tacos.

Don’t get me wrong.  Coffee is truly unrivaled in my kitchen.  I savor every drop.  

There is Morning Coffee.  

Mid-morning coffee.  

Afternoon coffee (often accompanied by some home-baked goodness).  


There is just so much to love about coffee.


I can hardly stomach a day without my evening tea.  I prefer peppermint, sometimes with just a smidge of honey.  I can’t imagine a more perfect nightcap than losing myself in a lovely book by low lamplight and sipping hot tea.

Besides being wildly relaxing, one of my favorite benefits to drinking hot peppermint tea is the way it aids indigestion and eases stomach discomfort.  I have always had a sensitive stomach, although I find as I get older I am learning to love more spicy foods (like the insane amounts hot taco sauce I sloshed onto my tacos earlier this evening after which I often spend the evening lying on the couch thinking, “Why me?”)  Tonight, I conducted a pre-emptive strike on my impending stomach woes by taking my tea early… and no problem

Peppermint tea is also believed to aid in mild asthma, vomiting, and headaches.  During pregnancy, it was the only thing that helped me survive morning sickness and heartburn and its stress-relieving properties are unmatched (except only perhaps by coffee).

And with that my friends I say…


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Pinching Pennies.

Yesterday was the day.  Grocery day.  The day I take my carefully crafted list born from my meticulously mapped-out menu and have a go at things.  

Except today was different.  There was no list.  There was no plan.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.

But it was grocery day. 

My Monday was uncharacteristically busy, full of abnormal interruptions and unusual occurrences.  In addition, I have lost my mojo.  Ever since moving a month ago, I simply haven’t quite settled into a normal routine yet.  Things are still missing.  (We finally got a decently sizable snow, yet my wonderfully warm boots have gone into hiding!)  Boxes are stilling begging for my attention.  (Although, some of them have been packed for so long and moved so many times that its truly like Christmas to go through them!)  And my meal-planning has been haphazard at best.

I was tired.  And we would have to eat something so I did what seemed logical:  I packed up the kidlets and headed to the store.  All I could think about was how easy it would be to just do frozen pizza.  I was praying for a sale.  (Seriously needing to save a buck or two.)  No dice.  $3.86 for one cardboard pizza.  Out of the question.  Then it occurred to me… I didn’t really need groceries.  I was only craving convenience.  So what if we actually ate out of our pantry and freezer this week?

We turned around and drove home.  

And I made a list of all the meals I could make from what I already had on hand.  I am not a stock-piler or an extreme-couponer, but I do buy in bulk when I can and buy extra of things I love when I find a good sale.  

Last night, we feasted on sirloin steaks (from the freezer and marinated ALL day in a homemade Balsamic vinaigrette), Iowa sweet corn (Handpicked and frozen by yours truly.  You can read more about that day here:  Musings), lettuce salad I cut and prepared myself, and applesauce (from the pantry).  My girls are steak lovers and were more than thrilled.  And I didn’t dish out a penny because I already had everything!

Pizza with Turkey pepperoni.  

Tonight, we had homemade veggie pizza:  homemade pizza dough, pizza sauce (from the pantry), mozzarella cheese, spinach, fresh garlic, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms!  When I have turkey pepperoni around, that is my girls’ favorite, but they didn’t seem to mind the veggies.  I had enough to make two pizzas so guess what’s for lunch tomorrow?

On the menu for the rest of the week?  

For breakfast: 

Homemade cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins (I have a plethora of summer berries in the freezer), scrambled eggs and toast, fruit salad and oatmeal.  

For dinner:  

Tuscan Tomato Bisque soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Sloppy Joes, Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with yeast rolls, Deer steaks with roasted veggies, and Tacos.  

And I’m not too worried about lunch.  There will be some mighty good leftovers to choose from.

So maybe its not such a bad idea to take a break from grocery shopping once in awhile.  I just put a hundred bucks in my pocket.

I think this calls for another round of coffee…

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I may be in a new-to-me house, but the fact remains… the only dishwashers I possess are at the end of my arms.  They are called hands.  And they serve me well.  Honestly, I am not sure what I’d do if I did have a dishwasher.  I have grown so accustomed to hand-washing every grimy dish (with love, of course).

I do some of my best thinking while I do the evening dishes.  If I choose to add music, I also do some of best dancing in front of the sink, much to the embarrassment of my 7-year-old, Peanut (who cocks her head, rolls her eyes, flips her hair at me and darts out of the room).

But on occasion, there arises a beastly baked-on, crusty mess of a pot or pan.  (I have one particular skillet that is a serial offender.  I am not quite sure why I haven’t thrown it out by now.)  These times call for the use of excessive force.  There are plenty of things on the market to combat this sort of thing: all manner of scrubby pads and powerful cleaning agents.  Most of them are okay and work well, but most of us have the tools to get the job done right in our own kitchen without spending any extra cold, hard cash.

All you need:

All Purpose Vinegar Cleaning Solution  (8 oz. warm water with 8 oz. white vinegar in a spray bottle)
1 leftover plastic mesh bag (like the ones used to package oranges or onions)
1 rubber band (optional)
Baking soda (optional:  for the really tough stuff)

1.  Start by spraying the offending gobblety-gook (I am pretty sure that’s a technical term.) with all-purpose vinegar cleaner and let soak for about 5 minutes  (Just enough time for a coffee break…)

(You can read more about the homemade vinegar solution here:  Super Secrets.)

2.   Use the mesh bag as a scrub pad to finish the job!  You can simply wad it up in your hand or use a rubber band to secure into a ball shape for easier scrubbing.

3.  For really tough messes, let the pot sit in the vinegar solution longer and sprinkle with baking soda.  The natural reaction between the vinegar and baking soda will power away stuck-on food, making it easier to scrub away.  Voila!

Do I like my coffee black?  There are other colors?

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Good Intentions.

It still pains me to think of all the awesome things I had planned for this blog during the month of December, but hey… what could a girl do?

I had a laundry list of homemade gifts to make this year (thanks in large part to my new love, Pinterest!).  It was truly a miracle that I was able to finish most of them in time for Christmas.  Amid piles of boxes, we spent several “family nights” putting together many gifts for friends and family.  It was the perfect way to find joy amid the chaos of moving during the holidays and a great stress-reliever for all of us.  

I am somewhat distraught that I did not manage to get pictures of all our craft projects.  It was late Christmas evening, during that drowsy, content, gluttony-induced-near-coma that comes after a perfect day of celebration when I realized that most of my creations were not photographed.  But in that blissful moment, I didn’t seem to care much.  C’est la vie…

 A few of our projects:

Reindeer Root beer  (We used brown pipe cleaners, googly eyes, red pom poms and hot glue to turn cases of IBC root beer into a herd of reindeer.)
Peppermint Cocoa in a Jar  (These turned out amazing.  I will definitely be making more and I will post the recipe and pics!  Could also be a great Valentine’s Day gift…)
Chicken Noodle Soup in a Jar  (I will make more and post this one, too.  A great idea for a gift basket for a sick friend.)
Scarves repurposed from T-shirts  (One of favorite projects from Pinterest!  I gave away all that I made, but I will be posting this one, too.)
Glass ornaments  (We filled glass ball ornaments with all kinds of things:  red feathers, confetti, tulle, glitter, etc.  We used white tulle for the tie to hang them.  We handed these out to dear friends during a night of caroling.  They were beautiful.)

We even managed to eke out most of our traditional goodies, too.  (Another Christmas miracle!)  Although, I didn’t get to post much about them, I added several our of our family favorites for the holidays to the Recipes page.  (Like Grammys’s Sugar Cookies, my great-grandmother’s recipe… to-die-for!)  Some of my favorite party appetizers are up, too, including a great Hot Spinach Dip and Smoky Cheese Ball.

A photographer I am not, but here is our Buche de Noel.

The Buche de Noel cake is one of our favorite treats.  There are many different recipes floating around out there, but this one is the best!  You can find it here on the Recipes page.  Buche de Noel is a French Yule Log cake.  We began this as a family tradition when I was in high school.  My French teacher gave her students this recipe that she learned to love while living in France.  I’m telling you… this is the real deal.  Since my girlies are still young, I love to have them present a birthday cake to Jesus during our Christmas Eve family dinner and this is the cake we choose.  We bake this cake together as a family and for little ones, it truly is amazing every step of the way.  They marvel at how the beating of the egg whites can turn them into fluffy little mountain peaks.  They are equally enthralled by creating a fine winter snow storm as we sift the cake flour.  Not to mention, this delicate cake tastes downright heavenly.

And just for the pure cuteness factor… 

During our move, my two smallest ones raided my treasure trove of scarves and I found my Ladybug playing “Mary & Baby Jesus.”

And then I found my little Lovey doing something similar, only Baby Jesus was now a blonde, with long, golden curls.

I can now see the bottom of my coffee cup, and I believe there is a whole basement full of boxes just dying to be unpacked… Off I go.

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Dear Grandma.

It is the one time a year I purchase processed cheese, (usually in the form of Velveeta), in a vain attempt to replicate your famous homemade mac & cheese. 

I am pretty organic and whole-grainey these days.  It goes against nearly all I believe in when it comes to food, yet Thanksgiving dinner isn’t quite the same without the creamy, indulgent richness of my favorite childhood dish.

My attempt has ended in utter failure yet again.  It has been 2 1/2 years since you passed and even longer since I’ve tasted such decadence.  (The dementia took you far too early…)  

I have followed your recipe with diligence and I have tweaked your recipe thinking something might be wrong and I just can’t get it right.  I admit, I don’t add all the food coloring you used to, but certainly that can’t be it.  I am inclined to believe there were secrets in your head that you never bothered to write down.  How I wish I had the chance to glean more kitchen wisdom from you before you went home.

Perhaps it’s just as well.  Maybe it’s time the macaroni and cheese becomes shelved as a beloved childhood memory.  Sometimes new traditions are worth establishing…

Rest assured, however, Grandma… I have definitely mastered your yeast rolls and in that fact, I rejoice.

Love you forever and always.

Talking Turkey.

2 days and counting.  I am entirely giddy for the impending holiday.  The menu is set and grocery lists are made.  This is one of my top two favorite grocery shopping trips of the year (the other being Christmas, of course).

Normally, I would have my Thanksgiving goody shopping done by now, but planning my little Ladybug’s birthday party so late in November really threw me for a loop this year.  

(You can read more about the shindig here:  Pinkalicious.)

I did manage to purchase a turkey and presently the 22-pound bird is already thawing in my refrigerator.  (I know.  BIG bird.)  I don’t know why I don’t make roast turkey all year long… it’s entirely delectable, everyone in the family will actually eat it, and it’s usually quite economical.  Our family can feast for days, turkey freezes well, and I can make a load of turkey stock from the bones. 

I don’t think anyone really sets out to be wasteful and squandering the deliciousness of a Thanksgiving turkey should be completely criminal.  Thus… the list.

My Top Ten Ways to Use Leftover Turkey:

1.  Turkey Sandwiches.  Need I say more?  There is hardly anything better than a sandwich piled high with savory roast turkey.

2.  Salad.  A lettuce salad loaded with fresh veggies (and turkey!) is a light (and delicious) way to atone for Thanksgiving gluttony the next day.

3.  Turkey & Noodles.  Use turkey stock (I like to thicken mine with cornstarch), season and add egg noodles.  Serve over leftover mashed potatoes.  Comfort food at it’s finest.

4.  Turkey Glop.  A friend told me about this idea a few years ago and it’s perfect!  Take all the leftovers:  stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkeys, gravy, corn, green bean casserole, etc and layer it in a casserole dish.  Heat in the oven and voila!  Turkey Glop.

5.  Turkey Enchiladas.  Turkey is a good alternative to almost any chicken recipe.  

6.  Sloppy Joes.  Shred leftover turkey and add your favorite sloppy joe sauce.

7.  Turkey Pot Pie.  One of my favorite comfort foods on a cold day.  Here is my favorite recipe:  Turkey Pot Pie.

8.  Turkey Tetrazzini.  Another of our family favorites.  This recipe from Martha Stewart is incredible and makes enough to freeze some for later:  Turkey Tetrazzini (I swap the chicken for turkey.)

9.  Freeze.  I purchased a 22-pound turkey.  There will be leftovers.  And some cold day in January, I will be thrilled to be feasting on roast turkey that I didn’t have to cook.

And my favorite way to use leftover turkey…

10.  Bill & Tutu.  Bill is my 80-something-year-old, next-door neighbor.  He lives alone.  And he has a teensy, puff ball dog named Tutu.  Come Thanksgiving day (and well into Christmas), he will be showered with our kitchen concoctions.  Always gracious and well-deserving.  We love you, Bill.

One more coffee, and off to the market I go…

Our oak tree hanging on to the last of it’s leaves…

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This post is a part of Frugal Tip Tuesday.

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