Archive for the ‘Notes from the Kitchen’ Category

Cinnamon Caramel Rolls

Grandma and Grandson

What would we ever do if our treasured family recipes were not written down and captured as our heritage to pass onto our families and generations that follow? How sad. That is why cooking and recipes are so important to me. No matter what they are with you, waiting to be made again and again. I love that warm feeling deep in my heart when I come across a tattered recipe card with my Grandma’s or Mom’s handwriting. Immediately I think of the last time we made that recipe together, was it for a holiday? Oh that’s right…oh, and I remember the laughter as we bumbled around my Grandma’s kitchen…we made it a “three tush kitchen” no problem!

"Country Cooking School with Grandma!"

How silly we are together, and such different styles of cooking and prepping ingredients! Flour all over the counters, measuring cups and utensils strewn about, oven toasty warm, and coffee endlessly brewing away. Laughter and stories, laughter until we’re in tears and stitches…did we get all the ingredients in? And there’s almost always a “oops” moment, but ah what the heck, it all eats the same, as my Grandma says! How I will long for these moments one day…long for my children to be old enough to remember their kitchen time with Great Grandma…to remember the tastes and smells the way I do. I love my Grandma Oakes.

Baking at the Farm

I wish I had this special relationship with all of my grandparents, however miles have kept us all too often apart over the last years. Recently, my father lost his dear mother, my sweet Grandma Dorothy. She lived in Colorado much of her life, loved so deeply, gave so much…had seven children and raised the last bunch on her own. Can you imagine? She was a spit fire of a woman, so sharp that lady! She loved to read and read and read. She would finish a novel in a day. She had a quaint little apartment for the longest time, and I still remember those visits, sitting at her organ pretending to play music with my brother. The latest latch rug (is that the right term?) hanging on her bedroom wall. Her phone that lit up when a call came in. Her love of movies that my uncle would deliver regularly. She kept an immaculate home and always smelled of the most lovely perfume. I wish I knew what that scent was….I can still smell it. Hmmm.

Family Reunion with Grandma Dorothy

Grandma Dorothy had the most lovely smile and tender laugh. She always sat so poised at the edge of her chair. Never bitter, never downward looking. Quiet in spirit and so strong of heart. She was always looking ahead, even at our last visit just before she passed. I can remember her voice as she commented on the flowers we brought her, and asked about my brother. She always referred to my dad as “David”  and never Dave. He was her baby you see.

Mother & Son

Grandma Dorothy would write the sweetest letters with the crispest penmanship I’ll have you know! She always had a little kleenex  slid under her watch band also and when we would take her out she would wear this cute little triangular hair covering to protect her perfectly set hair. Grandma Dorothy had the sweetest, calmest voice I’ve ever known. She almost always had something sweet to snack on as well, and one of my dad’s favorites in particular were her cinnamon caramel rolls. Oh, how I will treasure these memories and her wonderful cinnamon rolls.  I miss her deeply. So, in honor of my Grandma Dorothy & Grandma Oakes, I share this recipe with you. Their combined recipes are wonderfully delicious.

Mommy & Son Baking Time

Make it slowly and with a joyful heart, kneading out your thoughts and worries into that dough. Kneading until your shoulders ache (it takes a good 10 minutes you know!) and you’ve shed a few tears. (A few of us in my family have found kneading quite therapeutic actually!) And when those rolls come out from the oven, put on the coffee or whatever delights you, sit down with a pretty plate and savor the calm, if even for a moment. Enjoy.

Cinnamon Caramel Rolls

Mix together & microwave until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm, between 110-120 degrees. :

2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

Add 2 rounded teaspoons yeast to liquid mixture once it is lukewarm.

In a large bowl mix together liquid, 2 eggs, & 4 cups flour with a spoon.

Then, one cup of flour at a time, add 3 additional cups of flour. Can mix with you hands if needed.

Once combined into a smooth, elastic ball-knead for several minutes (about 8 mins.) & place in an oiled bowl. Turn dough over once and cover with oiled lid or tea towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

When doubled, punch down and divide into two rounds (or four if you’re new to working with sweet dough.) Use about 1/2 cup flour total for dusting the countertop and rolling out dough. Working with one round of dough at a time, roll into large rectangle.

Soften a stick of butter and divide depending on how many sections of dough you’re working with. Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 1/2 Tbs. cinnamon. Sprinkle buttered dough with mixture. Roll up dough and slice into 24 pieces if working with 2 sections of dough.  Slice into 12 pieces if using 4 sections of dough. This recipe will make approx. 40-48 rolls depending on the width of your slices.

Melt 1 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 4 Tbs. light karo syrup until just boiling/sugar is dissolved. Spread into 2 9×13 inch greased pans or four 9 inch round pans. 1 cup whole pecans or chopped pecans can be added here if desired. Place rolls in pans. Cover, let rise until doubled in size about 1 hour. If your house/kitchen is not very warm, turn oven on to 200 degrees, place pans in oven and turn off the heat. Let sit in oven until doubled.

Bake rolls at 375 degrees for about 18-20 mins. until lightly golden. Cool several minutes and invert on waxed paper placed on a rimmed baking sheet (in case the caramel runs).

Can top rolls with icing made from powdered sugar, butter & vanilla-but the caramel alone is over -the- top!

These freeze well also. This sweet dough can also be used to make plain rolls of various kinds according to the Betty Crocker cookbook of my Grandma’s from back in the day. Crescent rolls here we come!


Tea Talk

My husband just made me a steaming hot mug of my favorite chamomile tea with a drizzling of sweet citrus honey from Yuma, AZ (thanks to my great Aunt & Uncle who frequent the farmers markets) in my very favorite orange Starbucks mug. Yum. It’s official, the “sickness” as I call it now, has found it’s way to my body, yeah. However, even in the blur of taking care of all my “sickies” today is a new day, a new week and I am determined to treat myself better than I have as of late. Yes, I am referring to my steady consumption of cupcakes, cookies, coffee, sugar, sugar, coffee, coffee…well, you get the idea! Even I am surprised at my food choices because I usually have much more moderation and thought into what I put into my body. Must be the “sickness” wreaking havoc on my decision making abilities, right? Sure, that’s it. But, I guess we all have our moments. Anyway, I have done considerably better today and only broken into the last of the cookies once. Hey, baby steps! All kidding aside, I am determined to continue to press into my focus on my physical goals since in the last several weeks I seem to have become a split personality health & nutrition wise! Today’s thoughtful choice, a spicy slow-cooked pulled chicken quesadilla. Sounds like a laborious process, yes, but I had prepared the chicken and froze it a few weeks ago, so defrost took me from hungry to satisfied quickly. Quesadillas are a fave of mine, whole wheat tortillas, reduced fat mozzarella cheese shredded, fat-free refried beans, moist, spicy pulled chicken prepared with Rotel diced tomatoes, diced jalapeno & chili powder. Layer in a skillet, brown both sides and top with mild salsa and enjoy! This should help clear the nasal passages in a hurry! I must, must, must treat myself well no matter how I am feeling. This is my official “get-a-grip” moment! Off to make more tea and rest…

Toddler Tea Party

Today my four year old toddler asked me to play tea party with him after a game of alphabet memory cards. Instead of “ordering” my usual milk, coffee, pancakes etc… I found myself practically drooling over the mere thought of a freshly made latte. Steamed milk beautifully floating atop the perfect mug of steaming espresso. Mmmm… Alongside this latte I requested a puffy, golden, melt in your mouth beignet (which of course I just saw made on the food network). However, my “waiter” son informed me there were no “be-gna-somethings.” So, I thought a moment and could almost taste the pumpkin cheesecake I tasted in November at a favorite Italian restaurant with the best combination of spices, buttery graham crust, fresh whipped cream, and a crumb and caramel topping. Yum. My lucky day, my son smiled at the fact that cheesecake was on the menu. For my third course, I would love the most thin crust, smothered in luscious alfredo sauce, parmigiano regiano, roasted tomato, spinach, garlic & roasted chicken pizza. “Coming right up” my toddler waiter pronounced! All-right! I was feeding the baby while all of this “ordering” was occurring & could hear my stomach growling. I realized it’d been since early this morning that I’d eaten last. Then my son announced that it was his turn to be the customer and I was to play waitress. A sudden let down of the heart since apparently I had been swept up in our pretend play that I was left salivating and hungry. Then my son “ordered” a simple grilled cheese sandwich and it occurred to me that the most gourmet is really a matter of individual taste. Even a grilled cheese sounded utterly delicious at that moment…a dressed up one of course…a grown up grilled cheese I call it. I can’t help it, I have to spin my twist on most everything! Even pretend.

Elusive Kitchen Time

Good morning, up and at ’em again. Baby girl still struggling with a cough and comforted only by being snug in my arms. Going into work early today, yeah, and I’d really like to make something for my Mom to munch on while she babysits. What to make…baby crying again….need to make Valentine’s with my son who’s been asking this morning for help. Seems like there’s never enough time for my kitchen time. I so dislike that feeling of exhaustion that were it for this I would be creating something yummy. While I’m tending to the children and household chores, often I am thinking on some recipe that recently found its way before my eyes. Is that quirky? Thinking of how beautiful softened pale unsalted butter looks as it’s creamed carefully with crystally white grains of sugar. How perfectly eggs incorporate into the fluffy creamed butter mixture. Add a splash of real Mexican vanilla for a sweet aroma and finished taste. Then there’s the “magic” of baking powder and baking soda! The proportions lend such different results in baked goods. Trust me, I’ve had enough failed muffins to know! Vinegar is also quite a unique ingredient in baking. Sometime I will share my family’s recipe for “Three Hole Chocolate Cake” and you will see a science experiment before your eyes! One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard, food wise, is to always purchase the absolute best quality ingredients you can afford. Such as in baking chocolates. The difference truly lies in quality depending on how this ingredient is used in a recipe. It is so wonderful to me that such simple ingredients can together make such amazing deliciousness! This is why baking especially appeals to me because it’s guided but subjective. There’s room for adaptations and yet there are certain rules to the science of baking that guide you. I am trying to retain these guidelines in my own experimenting. I have to admit, there are lots of flops that come out of my kitchen! As frustrating as a disappointing result can be, it is still energizing and satisfying to pour myself into a recipe. Such joy when my family really enjoys something my hands have put together and by the grace of God it actually turned out appealing! Yes, I have lots of those moments. Sometimes I feel..wonder…what kind of foodie would I be if I really had the time to search, bake, cook, photograph, taste and write the way my heart desires? That question, that longing that stirs in my heart and mind all the time and lures me into the kitchen is what excites me to finish those odd mom-jobs during the day. My kitchen is waiting… Baby crying again…ah to wondering…