Thanksgiving Rolls

My second favorite Thanksgiving food, after my mom’s dressing, is rolls. Usually, I buy Rhodes frozen dinner rolls, let them thaw and rise, pop them into the oven and feel very impressed by my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast. (Well, one year I purchased premade rolls from the grocery store along with a premade pie and brought it to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving. Let’s just say that my offering did not pass muster. I redeemed myself the next year with a tray of Rhodes rolls fresh from the oven.)

Last year I decided to make homemade rolls. I searched for a recipe on Thanksgiving morning and gave it a whirl. I don’t remember what happened, maybe I burned them or they didn’t rise, but I had to make new ones that were finished right before everyone sat down to eat. SAVE!!

This year, my 13 year old daughter offered to make rolls on Wednesday. She followed her mother’s example, searched for a recipe online and proceeded. When I got home from work, there were rolls in all phases around the kitchen. Some baked, some rising into monstrous size, and large blob of dough in the refrigerator bursting from its plastic wrap and beginning to make it’s way down the edge of the shelf. A sad and tired girl had been convinced by her older brother (who has NEVER made bread of any kind) that she needed to double the recipe. The rolls didn’t taste great and she was pooped. I gave her a big hug, ate five rolls and told her we’d start again on Thanksgiving morning.

The recipe I found the next day was absolutely delicious and very easy. The link from is here. The directions are for a bread maker so here’s my adaptation using my KitchenAid mixer.

Sweet Dinner Rolls

2 1/2 tsp rapid rise yeast (or 1 package)

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup warm milk

1 egg, beaten slightly

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup white sugar

1 tsp salt

3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, softened

Microwave the water and milk for 45 seconds to one minute. (I make it feel like a really warm bath. Not so hot that you can’t keep your fingers in it.) Add the yeast  and about a teaspoon of the sugar. (I measured the sugar and just took a big pinch out.) Let it rise for 10 to 15 minutes until it’s foamy. If it doesn’t foam, start over.

Place the water/milk/yeast mixture, egg, butter, remaining sugar, and salt into your mixing bowl. Mix briefly then add flour 1/2 cup at a time. (When I measure flour, I always fluff it in the bag or container first then scoop it into the measuring cup. This way it doesn’t get too packed down.) The dough is sticky so add just enough flour so you can handle it. Add a little flour to the counter top and knead a few times. The dough is wonderfully soft.

Grease a bowl with oil and roll your dough in it then cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until double. Divide dough in half and roll out on lightly floured surface. Roll each half into a 12-inch circle, spread with softened butter and cut each circle into 8 wedges. Start at the widest part of each wedge and roll gently.

Place point side down onto cookie sheet lightly sprayed with Pam. Curve each roll a bit so it gets a crescent shape. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Pat yourself on the back for being so darn amazing and talented then eat rolls to your heart’s content.

5 Uses for Canning Jars

About a month or so ago at the Farmer’s Market, peaches were in season. I have been craving my mom’s canned peaches for a few years now, so on a whim I bought a box. I called my mom who agreed to come over and help me can them. I had already purchased jar lids and rings earlier, so all I needed to do was grab some pint jars from the barn. I have boxes and boxes of jars that I inherited from my mom and have never once used them.

I dumped out the bugs and loaded up the dishwasher while I waited for my mom to arrive. It didn’t take long for her to assess the situation. (I didn’t think I even had a ‘situation’ until she got here.) First, she glanced at my box of peaches and asked where the other boxes were. I told her that she was looking at it. (I didn’t want to be overzealous and all.) Then she took a close look at the fruit. She informed me that the peaches I bought were very ripe and wouldn’t can well. They needed to be more firm. Actually, she said the person who sold the peaches to me should be ashamed of themselves which just made me laugh. I could picture my mom giving the peach seller a serious talking to. 🙂

So what do you do when you have a box of overly ripe peaches and lots of canning jars unwrapped from storage? Well, you start slicing peaches to make a cobbler then you freeze the rest.

I’ve come up with a number of uses for the jars because I was too lazy to rewrap and store them again.


Use #1 – drinking glasses

I swore when we moved that I saw a brand new box of glasses, so I refuse to buy any.

Use #2 – store bulk nuts

I think I should make some granola.

Use #3 – store food from opened containers that don’t reseal well

Use #4 – store homemade pancake syrup

Brown sugar, powdered sugar, cornmeal, syrup

Use #5 – store bathroom supplies

I’m not sure if my husband likes it when I organize his stuff or not.


I suppose you could can peaches in them, but these ideas are much easier to implement.



I Think I’m Possessed

Our little farmhouse was built in 1916, and I think I’m being possessed by the spirit of the farmer’s wife that must have lived here. Not really, but why do I have the sudden urge to do all things domestic now; things I’ve never even done before. It’s 10:30 pm and I just finished baking two loaves of bread.Image

When I got home from work today, I dug out my giant stock pot I received as wedding gift many years ago, and plunked two roasted chickens in it plus veggies to make my own chicken broth. Why? I have no idea. I ended up with 3 1/2 quarts of broth that I will freeze in ziploc bags tomorrow.


I even scrounged through all the chicken that boiled off the bone and froze it in ziploc freezer bags.

What next? Canning? Quilting? Maybe I should stitch up a bonnet and apron. Good grief!

Trying Out Gluten Free

I’ve been doing a little research about fibromyalgia and have learned that many people who are gluten-intolerant have symptoms similar to mine; namely being tired, joint pain, brain fog, and mood extremes. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been stocking up on foods that can be eaten on a gluten-free diet and have been gluten-free since Sunday. Since I love to bake and have very little self control, I’m not sure how long I’ll last, but thought I’d give it a shot. It certainly can’t hurt.

That being said, here’s how it’s gone so far. I’ve focused on eating more foods that I like that are naturally gluten-free such as fruit, salad, and meat. Since I really like Quaker Chocolate Crunch Rice Cakes anyway, I bought a few packages to keep on hand, too.

What has worried me most is all the foods I love that are wheat flour based. My first attempt at baking gluten-free was a recipe I love for using up lots of eggs: Dutch Babies. I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour.

Dutch Babies aka Puff Pancake

It wasn’t as puffy as it normally is but after dumping some sugar and fruit on top, I couldn’t taste the difference. (Sugar cures almost every ill.)

Now, without painting too many pictures of gluten-free rainbows and butterflies, I attempted to substitute gluten-free flour in my Fudgy Chocolate Cake recipe. Ummm….yucky.

Even with a bunch of powdered sugar on top.

Grab and Go

I have been noticing lately how something as basic as food can make such a huge difference in my family’s life. As I mentioned in my last post, the lack of nutritious meals the week before really took it’s toll on me physically. I also noticed a lack of peace in my home. I spent time last Saturday taking an honest look at how I like to eat and how much effort I want to put into it.

This is what I finally realized. I’m a ‘grab and go’ eater. I try to pack a lunch to take to work, but I noticed that I’m the most successful when I can just grab items from the refrigerator or cupboard, toss them in a bag, and go to work. I also noticed that I have definite times when I’m hungry, and if there’s nothing easy and nutritious available, I’ll eat whatever is handiest. If that means leftover Girl Scout cookies at the office, so be it.

This past week I focused on preparing lunch and snack foods in advance for the week. I bought a couple of Rubbermaid food storage sets on sale at Fred Meyer and was ready to start cooking on Sunday afternoon. Here are some of the foods I made:

Yogurt Smoothies – made a double batch; frozen in serving size containers

Grilled chicken – sliced what was leftover from dinner and frozen in serving sizes

Grilled sirloin steak – sliced in serving sizes and frozen

Whole almonds – divided into serving sizes

I bought a lot of fruit, too.

The verdict? I ate much less junk. I was able to toss food into my lunch bag without too much thought. A couple of times for dinner we had what I call Random. It’s my lame way of turning “I didn’t make dinner :(” into “Everyone gets to make whatever they want tonight! :)”. It works fine as long as I only do it about once a week. Anyway, for my Random dinner I was able to simply grab some cooked, sliced meat from the freezer, thaw it out for two minutes, and eat. Add some fresh fruit and I was good to go. Not ideal, but better than eating five bowls of Corn Pops.

The meal plan my husband and I made worked out well, too. With a house full of teenagers, it’s difficult to get everyone in the same room at the same time, but we had dinner together a few times together last week. That’s a big improvement for us.

Baby steps.

Fudgy Chocolate Cake

I think I should write a cookbook titled “The Insomniac Baker” since I made it at 12:30 at night (or was it really the morning). I got this recipe off the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box. Hershey’s calls it “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake, but I think my title is more descriptive of how the cake turns out. It is sooooo yummy and easy to make. Just put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix. Easy peasy.

Fudgy Chocolate Cake

2 c. sugar

1 3/4 all-purpose flour

3/4 c. cocoa

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

1 c. milk

1/2 c. vegetable oil

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 inch round baking pans with PAM. See notes below.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. (This will make the batter thin, but don’t worry. It’s supposed to be that way.)

Pour into pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks.  This cake is delicious served warm.


I don’t layer this cake because it’s fudgy and kind of sticky.  Usually I just cut and serve it straight out of the pan.   I spray the sides and use parchment paper on the bottom if I plan to get the cake out of the pan.

Serve it with powdered sugar sprinkled on top or best yet – fresh whipped cream. Mmmmmmm! Fudgy Wudgy!!

Accidents in the Kitchen

While making chicken noodle soup this evening, a sudden memory flooded back to me of  my first year of marriage. About 10 minutes later,I burned my pinky pulling a pan of cornbread out of the oven. All of this detail to lead into my story.

When I got married, I had never done any cooking. Baking, yes. Cooking, no. I don’t even remember what I was trying to make for dinner, but I  needed cooked chicken. The only problem was that I had no idea how to cook it. I figured I could just boil it so I got out my new copper bottom Revere Ware pot, filled it with water, plopped in a couple of chicken thighs, and turned on the gas.

It had been a pretty tiring day at school, so I decided to take a little rest on the couch while the chicken boiled. As luck would have it I took a full on nap. I’m sure it was the smoke that woke me up. The apartment was filled with CHOKING smoke. I had no idea smoke could be so painful to breath. I tried to hold my breath and ran to the kitchen. The smoke burned my eyes. In my blinded state I desperately grabbed for the pot. I managed to turn the burner off, but in my haste I flailed around and knocked over the crock pot full of water that had been soaking from dinner the night before.

I ran out of the apartment and over to my crazy neighbor. She really was nutty – saw ghosts and stuff. Her son came over and braved the smoke to help me open windows. Our place smelled awful! My husband was met with an open front door and leftover smoke when he came home later that evening from a test.

I just asked him what he remembered from that fateful day. He said he had mixed feelings. On one hand he thought it was kind of cute. You know – newlywed wife tries to cook and all that. On the other hand…OH MY GOSH!!

When the smoke cleared enough, we went into the kitchen to determine the damage. The water had completely boiled out of the pot and cooked dry until there were just a couple of charred bones FUSED to the bottom. I kid you not. We turned the pot over and the copper had completely burned/melted off. I didn’t even know that was possible. The carpeted floor had soaked up all the filthy, crock pot water. “sigh”

The carpet was later cleaned. The apartment eventually aired out. And I received a new pot for my first Christmas gift.

P.S. After 25 years of marriage, I’m on my third Revere Ware pot.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

 I have a real problem buying granola bars from the store. It might be that the packaging misleads me into thinking I’m going to have more than a two-bite snack. I feel like I’m being ripped off. So after a bit of searching, I found a recipe I really like. The original recipe is here. I omitted the brown sugar in my version because it made the bars feel grainy and too sweet. This recipe has more steps than some I’ve tried, but I think it’s totally worth it. You get a more crunchy, flavorful result.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

4 T. salted butter

1/4 cup honey

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

1/4 cup hulled green pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 9 x 13 baking dish. (The original recipe calls for a 9 x 9 pan. They turn out pretty thick that way, though.)

In a small saucepan, melt butter with honey over low heat, stirring.

In a large bowl stir together oats, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Pour butter mixture over oat mixture and stir until combined well.

On a large baking sheet, spread granola evenly in a thin layer. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes to keep from sticking or burning, until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. (Do not overcook; the granola will crisp more when cooled.)

Remove granola from oven and cool in the pan. When the granola is completely cooled, place in a large bowl.

Combine the corn syrup and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is at a boil. Remove from heat and pour the mixture over the granola, stirring to coat well. Cool slightly and press into the prepared baking dish and let cool completely and harden. Cut into 15 bars. (Even though you can cut into the bars when cooled, I find they stay together best when cut the next day.)

Notes:  This is the kind of recipe that you can add or delete ingredients easily. The photos I took don’t include pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds because my kids don’t like them.

Other options include 1 cup raisins or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or mini chocolate chips. Let your imagination run wild.


Banana Bread

Ignore that burned looking corner. I would never burn my baked goods. I have to much respect for them.

I  was craving banana bread on Sunday. After I started, I realized I had enough overripe bananas to make another batch. My kids don’t like nuts in anything, sooooo…..I added a cup of pecans to the next batch. That means I can eat the whole batch by myself!! I didn’t though. I took a little loaf to work today, and my coworkers inhaled it. They make me feel so good about my baking.

I got this recipe from a family friend. She’s the sweetest woman I’ve ever met. She’s the kind of woman who comes into town and delivers little loaves of banana bread while she’s running errands. I finally ditched the recipe I’d always used after my kids raved about hers. Enjoy!

Banana Bread

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. salted butter, softened

2 eggs

3 T. sour cream or plain yogurt

1 t. vanilla

1 t. baking soda

2 c. flour

3 large ripe bananas – mashed

Stir dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs, sour cream (or yogurt), and vanilla. Alternately mix in dry ingredients and banana.

Spray bottom of 2 loaf pans with PAM. Pour batter into pans and spread evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes


The original recipe calls for 1 t. salt. I usually have salted butter on hand so I just omit the salt. If you use unsalted butter, be sure to add the salt.

If you’ve never mashed bananas, you can use a pastry blender or my favorite, the food processor.

I divided the batter between 2 loaf pans because I don’t like how dark banana bread gets when it cooks longer in one pan. It makes to kinda flat loaves. That’s just my preference, so you could certainly bake it in one pan.

When I use little loaf pans, it makes four little loaves. Again, you could just divide the batter between two little pans.

Add 1 cup of pecans or walnuts if you don’t want to share with nut haters.

My son made the cutting board for me in shop class. I love it!!