Sunday, March 30, 2014


I love homemade rolls. And, let's face it--who doesn't?!  I have a few recipes in my arsenal that I make from time to time--quick-rise, croissant-style, spoon rolls, etc.

These rolls, however, are my "go-to" recipe. I developed the recipe when we were newly married, and I've been making them since.  This is the recipe that I've shared with people in all the places we've lived (so get ready--if you make these, your friends WILL be asking).  I even taught a class on making these once to a group of stay-at-home moms who were wanting to learn.

Here's what you need: (Recipe's at end of the post.)

Flour, salt, baking powder, yeast, butter, sugar, egg, water. The basics.

Put the yeast and 2 tsp of sugar in the warm water in a large mixing bowl. If you are using a stand mixer--this should be the bowl you use. Let it sit until the yeast starts to grow.... this. Yours may not look like a doughnut. This is a rare phenomena. Usually it just looks like a big blob of wet, yeasty air.

 While your yeast is growing, melt your butter just until mostly melted (don't boil it). Whisk in the rest of the sugar and the egg. You don't want your egg to cook in there, so make sure your butter isn't scalding hot before you add the egg.

Now mix the butter mixture into the growing yeast water.  It will look about like this. 

Okay, I kinda skip a step here with the pictures because it's not much to see. In a separate bowl mix 4 cups of flour, the baking powder and the salt.   Add this dry mixture to the wet and mix until well incorporated. I use my paddle for this step, then switch to the dough hook for the next step.

Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The amount varies for me each time slightly. This batch took 3 1/2 more cups total. 

Remove the dough and knead it just enough to form a nice smooth(ish) big ball.

 Put a little (1/8 cup or so) oil in a large bowl and turn the dough over in it once to coat it--seam side down. 

Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let it rise until it's doubled in size. This is about 2-3 hours if it's at room temperature; 1-1.5 if it's in a warm place (like sitting on a warm oven or next to a crock pot). 

Here is the double-in-size dough.

Punch it down. (Like my fist indentation?)

Pull off approximately 1/3 cup pieces of the dough, and turn them in your hands so that you are forming a ball that has a seam on the bottom and is smooth on the top. This picture shows the top and the bottom of a dough ball. You don't want to roll it between two palms like you would play-dough. Imagine you are forming the dough around an imaginary marble or bouncy ball. You want it to cover it and have a seam on the bottom. (I hope this is clear...)

Place them in a greased baking dish right next to each other, but not squished. 

Cover and let rise. I put mine in a warm oven (I heated to 170 before then I turned it off when I put them in). They were doubled in size in 30 minutes. 

Here are the un-baked doubled-in-size rolls.

Hot out of the oven!

Mmm, mmm....
I like to butter the tops before serving. Best served fresh and warm.

All plated up. I love a colorful meal. 

Best Rolls Ever
(This is what my son exclaimed at dinner tonight. I thought it made a nice title)

2 cups warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1.5 sticks butter
1 egg
8 cups flour (all-purpose, or combination of all-purpose and whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 cup canola oil

1. Dissolve yeast  and 2 teaspoons of sugar in warm water. Set aside to allow yeast to begin to grow.

2. Melt butter and mix with sugar. Add egg and mix well. Add butter mixture to yeast that has begun to grow. 

3. Mix 4 cups of flour with baking powder and salt.  Add this to the yeast mixture and stir well.

4. Stir in, then knead in 3-4 more cups of all purpose flour--1/2 cup at a time-- to make a dough of even consistency. Form into a ball. Turn over once in a metal mixing bowl greased with canola oil. Cover and let rise until double in size (2 hours on a warm oven, or 3 at room temperature).

5. Punch down , then form 2-3 inch balls and place in greased baking dish. They will more than fill a 9x13. I use an 11x17.  Cover and let rise 30-45 minutes more in warm place--until doubled in size. 

6. Bake at 375 15-20 minutes, until light brown. Butter tops while hot. Makes 2 dozen.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pickled Asparagus

I have learned to be a food preservationist in the last couple of years.  I grew up seeing my mom can and freeze and dehydrate, but it really didn't interest me back then. It was something old people did. :)

Now, I LOVE it! Maybe that means I'm old. 

I got eleven pounds of asparagus from Bountiful Baskets last week, with hopes of trying out pickling some of it. Well, I ended up pickling all of it. And I'm glad I did, because it is some delicious stuff. Even my pickiest eater liked it! 

Here it is all plated pretty-like. See all those yummy canning spices? Mmm, mmm.

Here it is all done! My recipe made 6 quarts. That seventh jar has pickled peppers. I used the leftover vinegar mixture to can some green chilies I had been needing to use up. They turned out yummy, too. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers....

I just think asparagus is a lovely vegetable. It is up there with artichokes on the aesthetic scale. I might need to do a painting of some to put in my kitchen.  This picture is pre-trimming. I needed to trim to 6" to fit them in my quart-size jars.

Here are your basic pickling needs. I tried out the pickle crisper (with the green lid) for the first time on this recipe. I had success with cucumber pickles without it, but asparagus just seemed more flimsy to start with, so I thought it would be worth trying it to insure success. It worked!

The blanching process was not a part of every recipe I read before making these. I decided it was better to be safe than sorry, so I blanched them. 1.5 minutes in the boiling water....

...Then immediately in the ice bath. I love how green they looked when I got them out of the pot!

The jars are all STUFFED full. They have a slice of white onion on the bottom, then the asparagus spears, then the red bell peppers (I put those in half of them), and a clove of garlic on top. Then ladle the hot brine over the pretty veggies, filling to 1/2" from the rim.

In the water-bath canner for 20 minutes.  Lids don't have to be covered with water. Water should come at least to neck of bottle, though.

These make a great addition to a deli or relish tray. I have seen them served along side sushi, salad, or wraps. I like them alone or with some cottage cheese. Enjoy!

Pickled Asparagus
Makes 6 Quarts

You'll need: 
11 lbs fresh Asparagus, trimmed to 6 inches
3 quarts water
2 quarts distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons pickling spice
1 cup pickling salt
6 garlic cloves
1/2 white onion, sliced
1/2 cup sugar (optional)
1 Red bell pepper, sliced (optional)
Pickling crisper granules (optional)
6 sanitized quart size mason jars. Wide mouth would be nice, but I used regular because that's what I have.
Lids, rings, canning tools

1. Blanch your asparagus: Prepare a large bowl or pot with 2-3 cups of ice.  Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Immerse asparagus in boiling water for 1.5 minutes. Remove immediately and put in ice bowl. Cover with cold water.  I had to do this in 2 batches for this much asparagus.
2. Mix water, vinegar, pickling spice, and salt (and sugar if you are using it) in a large pot/ dutch oven.  Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn on to low to keep warm.  I wanted some sweet, but not all, so  I added sugar after I filled half of my jars.
3. Put a slice of onion in the bottom of each jar. Stuff the jars with the asparagus, crowns on top.  If you are using bell pepper, slide a few slices into each jar. I used the bell peppers in half of mine (the ones I made sweet).  Put a garlic clove and crisper granules (if using) on top of the asparagus.
4. Using a canning funnel, carefully ladle the hot vinegar mixture into each of the jars, filling to 1/2 inch from the top.
5. Clean the rims and set the sanitized lids on each jar. Put on rings and turn to a loose seal. (finger tight--not palm tight).
6. Process in a water bath for 20 minutes.
7. Store in a dark, cool place until ready to enjoy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Printables

These cheery prints make me smile when I see them around my home. I hope they do the same for you! Happy Spring!!

Click on the titles to go download the PDFs.

I picked up a couple of cute, double-sided, $1(!!), 4x6" frames from Ikea last week (I was "forced" to hang out there for 3 hours while I had work done on my car).  So, of course I needed to make something fun and festive to put in them.
I already had a white 8x10" frame, so I made a design to go in there, too!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Nests

Easter season is upon us, and I've been seeing edible nests popping up all over--in magazines,  on Pinterest,  and on cooking blogs. 

I'm going to add to the excitement with these bits of yumminess. 
These are a "no-bake" treat, so they whip up quickly. And, the ingredients are pretty basic.  The only ingredient I had to buy extra from the store was the candy eggs.

Here's the recipe: 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Nests
Makes 24 nests

6 cups Honey Bunches of Oats cereal (corn flakes work, too)
1 cup oatmeal (I use whole rolled, but quick works)
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon butter
72 small Easter egg candies (I prefer malted milk eggs). 1 bag will more than cover it.
wax paper
Chocolate Drizzle:
1 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil (shortening works)
1 quart size Ziplock bag

1. Lay wax paper out on a cookie sheet or counter top.
2. Measure the cereal and oatmeal in a large mixing bowl. 
3. In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar and corn syrup. Cook on medium heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and add peanut butter and butter. Stir to combine.
4. Pour sugar mixture over cereal. Mix well,coating all the cereal and oatmeal as much as possible. 
5. Take approximately 1/4 cup scoops of the cereal mixture and form into nest shapes on the wax paper. You should be able to make 24 nests. 
6. Prepare Chocolate Drizzle by putting the chocolate chips and the coconut oil in the ziplock bag. Set the bag in a microwave safe bowl or cup.  Microwave this 30 seconds at at time. After each 30 seconds, squeeze the bag gently to mix the chocolate chips and oil. Once all the chips are melted, cut a very small hole in one of the bottom corners of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate over the nests.
7. Put 3 candy eggs in each nest. (My kids did this part as soon as each row was drizzled.  They might have sneaked an egg or 3 into their mouths in the process.)

So yummy, and so pretty!  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Timeless Classic Skirt

Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall,  Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball---

What do these women have in common aside from being among the most classic actresses of all time?

They all wore skirts with the timeless, classic cut of this one. 

Seriously, this look will ALWAYS be in style. It's modest yet flattering, flowy yet feminine. Once it's in your closet, it won't ever leave. 

For this skirt, I used an excellent tutorial by Altered Cloth, which can be found here.
The directions for measuring, cutting, pinning and sewing are all there with clear illustrations.

I used a synthetic knit fabric for this one. It was actually with the athletic/swim fabric at the store. It feels so light and soft. Jersey knit would also work well. It MUST be a fabric that stretches quite a bit, since you don't use any elastic in the waist--just the fabric. 

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lemon Spool Cookies

With all the sewing I do, I have been accumulating several empty thread spools. I have thrown some away, but I always feel guilty when I do, because spools just seem useful somehow. And they are! To make these adorable cookies-- perfect for all your upcoming spring get-togethers--you don't need a cookie press. All you need is a spool!

Lemon Spool Cookies
2 2/3 cups white wheat/ all-purpose flour (I use half of each)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
4-5 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1 large empty plastic spool from thread, paper removed from ends

1. Mix flour, salt, and baking powder.  Beat butter and coconut oil with 1 cup of the sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, lemon rind, lemon juice,  lemon extract, and yellow food coloring.  On low speed, gradually mix in the flour mixture.  Chill 1 hour.

2. Heat oven to 400. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

3. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar with 1-2 drops food coloring.  Form dough into small walnut-size balls (or use a small cookie scoop), and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.   Dip a flat- bottomed glass in the sugar then press each dough ball slightly (just enough to give it a flat top coated in sugar).

4. Use the end of the spool to press the center of each cookie about half-way down. I like to dip my spool in the sugar too.

5. Bake 8-9 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

The spools I thankfully didn't toss. 

The dough balls before pressing

Yellow Sugar
(makes me think of that line from Monsters, Inc: "No,no,no...It's lemon!")

The first press--with a flat-bottomed glass dipped in sugar

After the second press (with the spool), before baking 
(That pan was a wedding gift--can you tell?)


So pretty! Spools...who knew?

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