Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An easier way to make homemade cinnamon rolls

If you received a bread machine for Christmas this year (or any year), here is a recipe you can't beat for cinnamon rolls without all the traditional mixing and kneading you have to do to make the darn things. All you need is a bread machine with a dough setting. If you are like me, you might be a bit tired of sweets so I think waiting for a few weeks to make this might be best, but this is a good recipe to try and a great way to put that bread machine to good use. The bread machine takes the work out of a hard job that I hate -- kneading!

The recipe.

Cinnamon Rolls 
(for the bread machine -- Rolls will not bake in the bread machine yet the equipment does the hard work!)

1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk (or almond milk)
1/2 cup butter (or margarine) softened (20 to 30 seconds in the microwave)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I don't use bread flour because it contains more gluten)
1/2 cup sugar
5 teaspoons yeast (or 2 packages yeast, not the quick-rise kind)
Cinnamon/Sugar/Butter mixture, recipe follows
Glaze, recipe follows

Add ingredients to the bread machine in the order listed above. I like to add the yeast on top of the sugar because I feel putting them together at first makes the yeast act more quickly.

Set the machine on the dough cycle and turn it on. Be sure to check to see that the ladle inside the bread machine is turning. Let it run through it's cycle. My bread machine's dough cycle runs for 90 minutes.

Two photos above, make sure the ladle is in place; an action shot of the bread machine doing it's work.

When the dough rises to the top, turn it out onto a clean surface and cut the dough in half. With a rolling pin or with your hands, flatten the dough and pull it out until it forms a rectangle.

Spread the dough with the following
Sugar/cinnamon/butter mixture:
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

Use half of this mixture for each half of dough you prepare.

Roll the dough into a cylinder and cut into 15 equal slices. Place in a greased pan. (I use a large cake pan.)

Repeat with the second half of the dough until the pan is full. You will make 30 cinnamon rolls.

Allow to rise about 30 to 45 minutes until the rolls rise until all gaps are filled and are about an inch high. They will get a little bounce in the oven. Preheat the oven at 375 degrees and bake the cinnamon rolls for approximately 25 minutes or until they are nicely browned.

Make the following glaze and pour on the hot rolls.

1 box Confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Milk (or Almond milk)

My family likes tons of glaze. If you prefer less, only make half the recipe. Pour the Confectioner's sugar into a bowl with a pourable spout, if possible. Add vanilla flavoring then milk, a little at a time, and stir vigorously until mixture is thin enough to pour but is not runny. Pour or ladle the glaze onto the hot cinnamon rolls.

Allow to cool. Store in an airtight containers or in two large gallon, plastic bags lined with Wax or parchment paper.

This may seem like quite a bit of work but if you have ever kneaded dough for five minutes to make rolls, this will seem like a breeze! This works for all kinds of rolls, too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I haven't posted all week and I do feel kind of bad about it but my husband had minor surgery and I had more duties than I expected in getting ready for Christmas. Today I am back with some last minute Christmas ideas.

Above is my new favorite Christmas tree topper from MyHomeIdeas.com. It's hard to imagine that I am still in awe of all the berries on all the hollies I see EVERYWHERE this year, but I am. This is so beautiful and if I have time, I will add some holly to my tree and all around my house. It's too pretty to pass up this year. It may never be this lovely again!

The simplicity of the table decor from MarthaStewart.com is striking. I love it! The Amaryllis is a beautiful Christmas flower but any red flower would work.

 I love the idea of wrapping gifts in useful kitchen and bath linens, also from MarthaStewart.com. This is a Japanese art I would like to learn.

 Thought I had found every kind of cupcake decoration there was? This from Michaels.com escaped my notice -- until now.

I really like this idea because -- well, have you priced the very popular photo cards? You would think that the volume of users would drive the price down but not so this year. With this DIY card you could pose for the shot and then print out the card and cut with an x-acto knife and insert the photo inside. Of course ordering cards might be less time consuming. This would be great gifting and it could later be framed. Neat idea from MarthaStewart.com.

Kids love to draw on things and I love these napkins, again MarthaStewart.com. There is still time for your kids to do this. It would help to keep them busy now that school is out!

And last from MarthaStewart.com, a favor tree. I love it. This is a great way to be ready when guests arrive. They can leave with a nice gift presented in an easy, yet decorative way.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Good-for-you marshmallows

My daughter made these amazing recipe of homemade marshmallows and blogged about them. Here is the same information. These are marshmallows made for those that need to stay away from cane sugar and eggs. They were easy to make and they made our little fella who is allergic to a number of things and needs to stay away from foods that feed yeast, very, very happy.

This recipe may be made with agave nectar which has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar.

Here is what my daughter had to say:

Actually, these marshmallows are not only egg-free, but they also contain no cane sugar. They are made with maple syrup, but you could use agave or corn syrup according to your needs. They should stay refrigerated, and they are slightly gooey-er than the typical marshmallows, but the recipe I used said they work well for rice-crispy treats, which I plan to make soon.

The best part? They are super-duper easy!!

Egg-free (and sugar "free") Marshmallows

6 tablespoons cold water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup agave, maple, or corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
Flour or corn starch

Add gelatin to water and microwave 30 seconds. Pour into mixer. Add syrup, vanilla, and salt. Beat with electric mixer for 12 minutes until the marshmallows are very thick and tripled in size. Pour into a 9x12 baking dish coated with cooking spray and dusted with flour or corn starch (I lined my dish with parchment paper and put a little corn starch on top). Let them cool in the fridge at least three hours or overnight. Cut marshmallows with a wet knife into squares.

When I first put the ingredients in the mixer I thought, "These are gonna be brown!" But they fluffed to a nice color fairly quickly.

The mixture globbed down into the dish, and I spread it with a rubber spatula. I didn't worry about trying to make them too "pretty" as I am just planning on using them in a recipe. It would be good to note that this would make a great marshmallow cream to add to a recipe without any other steps.

And this is the finished product -- not beautiful, but very tasty. My 6-year old allergic child was thrilled when I gave him a bowl-full!! I may make some Christmas shapes the next batch using cookie cutters.

The prettiest wreath ever

My sister surprised me yesterday with this gorgeous wreath. It is made from holly she found growing in her yard. I think it is probably the prettiest wreath I have ever seen.

A couple of weeks ago I posted photos of a wreath she had made earlier with some details on how to make one. I knew she was planning on making one for me but I am just blown away by how pretty it is. I am so proud of it and I really appreciate my sis for taking the time and using her considerable talents to make me this wreath.

This photo makes me realize how faded my front door is but it's not as bad with this beautiful wreath.

Thanks sis and Christmas blessings to you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Old Fashioned Candy

This morning I had to be sneaky to get this photo? Why? Because I didn't want to bring attention to the large glass jar hidden in an obscure corner of my kitchen.

It is a jar brimming with "sugar plums" -- at least the visions of sugarplums I always see in my dreams. Old-fashioned candies like these chocolate drops, fruit candies and coconut bonbons. When I was a child, long before Christmas, my father would bring home an enormous sack filled with candy including his favorite -- chocolate drops and his next favorite, orange slice candy.

I wanted to mention this candy in my blog because I want everyone to know that you can still buy these old favorites that have delighted so many generations. The place where you can go to open a flood of memories is Arnall's Grocery in downtown Newnan, GA.

They have everything from old-fashioned soft peppermint sticks to ribbon candy to peanut butter treats and even chocolate covered raisins and pretzels. Arnall's is usually a favorite place of mine for garden supplies, but at this time of year I go there for candy. I am not sure how many candy varieties they have because I only bought our favorites this year. I tried to stay away from things that only I love.

Nothing peanut butter can come into my house because of allergies but our favorite is definitely the chocolate drops. My husband could eat his weight in those and usually does during December. I also love the bonbons and the cinnamon, peppermint and clove soft candy canes. That is why they are hiding in a dark corner. At this point I will leave them in plastic baggies and later I will take them out and pour them into a candy jar. I think the sound of the jar lid might deter some and the plastic bags take longer to get into.

At least that is my strategy to have some of these candies left for my candy jar later in December. I could also make another trip to Arnall's.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reindeer Cupcake

This cute reindeer cupcake is my last decorated treat. (I promise!)

Instead of icing I melted chocolate chips and spread the warm chocolate over the top of the cupcake. I used icing and M and Ms for the eyes and nose, The mouth is first a mini vanilla wafer and the mouth is drawn on with an icing pen. and the ears are made from a wafer that is cut in half then either put in the chocolate before it is cooled. The "antlers" are made from pretzels. They should be be cut with a sharp knife and shaped to resemble the antlers.

These weren't my favorite but kids really loved the friendly-looking confection.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More cupcake ideas

Use old-fashioned fruit slice candy to make the easiest cupcake decorations ever! These Christmas cupcakes, like the poinsettia one above is simple and striking. If you don't think you can use any of my previous suggestions for decorating cupcakes, you can be sure these are the easiest decorations yet.

All you need are some kitchen shears and fruit slice candy and iced cupcakes. To make each flower just cut a piece of candy horizontally in half to make two flower petals. You need five half pieces (2-1/2 whole pieces) and some small snips of green jell candy for the leaves. Cut some small yellow pieces and arrange in the center, top of the petals placed on top of an iced cupcake and you have made an easy poinsettia. This idea would work for any season or occasion. Just cut the shape of the flower you want to make.

Even a very small child can help to make this decoration. You will need to help with the cutting but after that, all that is needed is an imagination.

The holly cupcake above is just two holly leaves made from a slice of fruit slice candy and three red hot candies for the holly berries placed on an iced cupcake.

You can find these candies in most stores, usually in packages that contain a number of colors. I just made sure I purchased a bag that contained Christmas colors.

Thanks to Angela McRae who took these photos.

Monday, December 5, 2011

This morning I almost drove past this tree on my way to work. I checked the rear view mirror to be sure I wouldn't be rear-ended, and quickly turned into a parking lot to take a photo of this great tree covered with one of my Christmas favorites, mistletoe.

My son called one day last week and told me he was bringing by some mistletoe for me. He found some low-hanging mistletoe and wanted to bring me a bunch. Of course I was thrilled. I am hanging it and will be tying bunches together with red ribbon to hang in our doorways and to put in arrangements.

Mistletoe is one of those plants that is both universally loved and greatly maligned. It is very important in our forest ecosystems because it helps to feed overwintering wildlife. Birds, and some insects and mammals eat the berries and leaves to sustain them through the winter months.

Though we don't usually notice that mistletoe is growing in our trees until winter comes and the trees lose their leaves, we see the evergreen clumps all along the roadside at this time of year. I believe what I have seen in this area is the European mistletoe, native to Great Britain, but there are over 200 species of this plant worldwide. It is a semi parasitic plant and has a symbiotic relationship with the host plant, usually a tree.

It is generally thought of as a positive, rather than negative plant for trees because of the benefit to birds, though the mistletoe can occasionally be more of a pest if it grows to the point that it smothers and kills a tree limb. Mistletoe might be more beneficial if controlled rather than stopped, for this reason.

The plant is in the order Santalales (perfect), and like most other Christmas plants, with the exception of the Christmas tree, is considered poisonous to humans and pets, though how poisonous is disputed by some. I would advise against ingesting berries, leaves or tea made from the mistletoe plant. It should be kept out of the reach of small children and animals.

Mistletoe can be dried and kept indefinitely by hanging it upside down in a dry place. I have also read that it can be frozen and refrigerated to keep it like new for Christmas celebrations. I have not tried this.

Though the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe was, not surprisingly, started by the Scandinavians, Washington Irving made it a popular past time by writing that young boys would pluck a berry after luring a girl underneath the mistletoe for a kiss. Of course after all the berries are gone, the kissing must then end.

Mistletoe is a traditional "good luck"  plant as we see in this old postcard I found online and     I love the fact that mistletoe has been the state flower of Oklahoma since 1893, though they also have a state wild flower and a state rose. I can also remember my dad bringing home mistletoe and holding it over my mom's head while kissing her. It is still a great memory for me.

Today, if you goggle mistletoe, the most likely thing you will find is a video of Justin Bieber singing about kissing his girlfriend under the mistletoe -- not my favorite video. I am much happier with the YouTube video where Frank Sinatra sings, "Oh by gosh, by golly, it's time for mistletoe and holly."

I will leave you with that link. Happy Decorating!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holly Berry Wreaths

It is the perfect year to make a holly berry wreath! That is because there are so many berries. I have never seen anything like it.

I've read that the reason for this abundance of pretty red berries is because the weather conditions were absolutely perfect for berries -- and acorns. The rain came at just the perfect time. It was a bit dry later, but during the time the holly trees were making berries, we had plenty of rain.

Later though there wasn't as much rain, there was enough to keep a multitude of berries on the trees and growing.

My sister made this pretty wreath and she sent me these photos of her progress.

On thing you MUST do when working with holly is to wear gloves.

This wreath was made from a plastic wrapped hay wreath. She added picks onto each small holly branch by attaching florist picks with wire onto each holly cluster and inserting them into the straw wreath. She began with the outside of the wreath and filled in with holly in a circular pattern, until all of the holly covers the straw wreath. (Above is a photo of the wreath with holly cuttings inserted into the wreath using florist pics.)

I don't think I would say it is easy because I know it took hours of meticulous work to wrap all the holly cuttings with pick wires and floral tape but the results are just beautiful.

I wouldn't mind having one either. She did a great job.