Archive for April, 2010

There’s a serious problem in our society, a matter of neglect and misuse that no one is talking about.  There are no celebrity campaigns or colored bracelets.  Mainstream media won’t touch this story! 

But I’m bringing it out in the open right now. 

It’s about recipes and the horrifying number of people who refuse to use them.  All across our country people are sitting down to food that is anything from merely palatable to downright repulsive simply because someone felt a little creative and decided to “wing it” in the kitchen!  Meanwhile, a cookbook leans forlornly on a dusty shelf, its pages still as crisp and clean as when it was printed.

I’ll have more– much more–to say about this urgent issue in a  later post, but in the meantime, rescue a recipe and give it a try! 


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I finally did it. 

For these, Shakespeare would have composed a sonnet. I'd give it a shot, but I'm too busy running off the two pans I consumed last week.

I first discovered the recipe several months ago on The Pioneer Woman’s site.  They looked incredible,  but seven pans of yeasty, cinnamon-sugary rolls dripping with maple, coffeee-laced frosting seemed a bit dangerous. 

Knowing my proclivity for all things sugar, cinnamon and coffee-flavored, I knew I could not make those rolls unless I was prepared to give away at least six pans.  That would leave one pan for my household:  half for my family and the other half for me! 

So, with my magnanimous plan in place, I got to work and produced my first ever cinnamon rolls.  Just as I feared, they were so delicious I had to wrench the pans from my own fingers in order to give them away.  In fact, only four pans made it out of my kitchen. Sweet, buttery, light rolls, a  simple cinnamon-sugar filling and a subtly flavored frosting that took the rolls from tasty to addictive.   (Seriously, I might need a 12-step program to deal with that frosting.)  And, just as I had hoped,  they were easy!  If you can pour, scoop, stir and play with play dough, you can make these cinnamon rolls.  

Though I fell in love with the frosting--worthy of its own sonnet, I thought this amount of frosting was just right; a generous drizzle rather than a drowning.

Please don’t be intimidated by the yeast.   Do you sometimes break out into a sweat just reading a recipe that calls for yeast?  The instructions often demand a precise temperature for the liquid. Do you fear nothing in your kitchen will ever go right again if you hit the wrong temp and kill your yeast?  The Pioneer Woman makes it simple:  the liquid needs to be lukewarm or warm, “not hot.”  Easy. No sweat!  The rest is all mixing, waiting, rolling and sprinkling.  

Now, based on what I gleaned from reading through many of the comments on The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll post, I guessed that the rolls would be a little two sweet for me. So I made the following adjustments: decreased the sugar in the actual rolls to 3/4 cup; reduced the sugar in the filling by 1/2; used only half of the frosting recipe to top the rolls. 

The result?  They were still a little two sweet for me.  Next time I make them I will try to further reduce the sugar as well as increase the cinnamon in the filling and the coffee in the icing. 

For the recipe and detailed illustrations of each step, visit here.  If you like cinnamon rolls, give it a shot.  The fragrance that will grace your home while these rolls bake is not to be missed! 


PS:  Not to beat a dead horse, but that frosting is too yummy to be limited to just topping cinnamon rolls. I can vouch that it’s a tasty dip for:  strawberries, bananas, apples, animal crackers, graham crackers,  and pretzels.

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Did you have one? Something that made you feel warm and comfortable no matter where you were? I never had a favorite blanket, or even a treasured doll.  But I do have somethings that revive the steady sense of security I experienced as a child:  books

 Sturdy hardbacks with page after page of beloved characters and engaging narratives:  Anne of Green Gables; Agatha Christie collections; a Hans Christian Anderson compilation.  When I open these old friends, I always bring them close to my face, hoping to capture the faintest hint of new-book smell that I imagine lingers deep within the binding, a fragrance unique to each book that evokes memories of the person who gave it to me and the countless readings when I was younger.

No less treasured are the paperbacks.  I have a small, fat volume containing all of Jane Austen’s published novels.  An inexpensive, tattered Chronicles of Narnia has a new home on my daughter’s shelf.   And every few years I reread a unnassuming copy of Jane Eyre

These favorites have their own associations that elevate them above the realm of great literature.  One was a gift from my husband who knew of my affection for the author; another we read aloud together when we were dating;  and one marks the transition I made from enjoying a good read to more deeply appreciating the craft of character development.

Some of these books take me back to the couch in my parent’s living room where a fire burned in an unlovely black stove and everyone had a favorite seat and a favorite read.  Others remind me of the life-altering moments when I discovered the beautiful language and characters within their pages.  Like the Sunday I first drew The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from the shelves of our church library and stepped into Narnia.  Or when I huddled in the dark of our family’s suburban during the late Christmas-night drive home from my grandparent’s house and read Anne of Green Gables for the first time by the thin illumination of my father’s key chain flashlight.

There is no childhood possession that can rival the fine words of my favorite books.  No toy can  stand against compelling images or beautifully drawn characters.  These precious books stimulate more than sensory memory.  They engage my mind, fire my imagination and inspire  creative responses. 


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Running: Here We Go Again!

My running shoes. Running shoes that fit and support beautifully. Priceless!

Well, I did it.  I turned myself into a runner. 

Lest there be any misunderstanding about things like speed, endurance and frequency, let me explain:  I like to run

That’s it.  I’m not fast. I don’t do it nearly as often as I would like and I usually don’t run more than a couple of miles before I have to walk.  But I like it. 

I like the anticipation of a run, wondering if it will be a good one or not, wondering if I will run as well or as far as I plan.  I like fighting through the initial stiffness before reaching the point where it feels good, as if my body finally remembers that it was made to run.  And I especially like how I feel when I finish: muscles and skin heated, energy surging, my mind clear and sharp.

All of these reasons are why, after any forced hiatus from running (like pregnancy), I am always eager to start up again.  And those same reasons  help me persevere as I reacquaint my body with the joys of pounding suburban sidewalks.  Like my old attempts at running once a year, it rarely goes as I expect because my mind and body just aren’t in sync.

If I could converse with my body, our little back-to-running chat would go something like this:

Me: O.K. We’ll start with a leisurely walk and make it a brisk one here in a few minutes.  I think we’ll continue that for about ten minutes for a good warm up.

Body: Sounds good to me!  Ahhh…feels good to stretch and get some fresh air!

Me: (breathing deeply)  Oh, yeah, this is nice.

Body: Wait, brisk walk already? I thought you said a few minutes!

Me: C’mon, I’m feeling strong. Let’s go ahead and pick it up!

Body: (muttering) Don’t. Push. It.

Me: I think I’m ready for a light jog.  Let’s do a 2 minute jog/1 minute walk sequence.

Body: What?! I just gave you a baby seven weeks ago!  What do you want from me?

Me: Whew! This doesn’t feel as good as I thought it would!

Body: You’re killing me!  I can’t concentrate when I’m jiggling all over like this.  Can we stick to walking ?  I’m still carrying all those banana splits you ate for nine months!

Me:  I could definitely use an out-of-body experience right about now…

Fortunately,  I just need that one over-eager session to settle myself back into reality. Nine months away from running is a long time.   It’s like starting all over again, expect for one significant detail:  I know I can do it and I know roughly how long it will take.  It might be a struggle, but knowing that the struggle will end is an invaluable boost.  It takes the edge off  those beginner’s pains.  It keeps me moving.

If you’re new to running or just getting back into a running routine (that’s me) ease in slow and steady.  You’ll reach your goal safely and make yourself a runner for life!


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It’s not like we lived in the dessert.  (Just the suburbs. ) Our development  was built up after acres of land were scraped free of all vegetation so that hundreds of houses could be tapped together. Hankie-sized yards were sewn in and dotted with a tree or two. Except for our lot.

When we moved into that house I told myself it didn’t matter. Trees are a lot of trouble (someone told me this once.) The yard was too small for a really large tree. Besides, we could always plant our own. But we never did. We just lived without trees; without shade, songbirds and leaf-filtered light.

Then we moved to Eastern Tennessee. We moved in the fall.  As we drove along Interstate 40 past Nashville, the road began to rise and fall before us, drawing us closer to the Smoky Mountain foothills.  In every direction I saw rich fall color lavished across the treetops.

Our new (temporary) home was a town home complex where we would live while we waited for someone to purchase our treeless Texas abode. On an exploratory outing, we were greeted by this.

 And  as I walked beneath those outstretched limbs and inhaled that heady amalgam of earth and living wood, seven years were redeemed.


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About That Hot Chocolate…

It was delicious! 

Oh, wait.  What hot chocolate?  This.  The hot chocolate recipe I alerted you to back in January.  The hot chocolate for which I promised a response almost three months ago, before I took a hiatus from regular blogging and reduced my internet time altogether.  Yep, that hot chocolate.

It was fabulous and gets two thumbs-up from this hot chocolate lover.  Now that spring is here and hot chocolate weather is behind us, you might be wishing that I had provided this information a bit sooner.  Don’t fret!  I’ve got a couple of ideas for enjoying this sweet chocolate drink.

1.  Crank your thermostat down to sixty, dig out your flannel jammies and enjoy a cup.

2. Drink it cold. I know, it takes the hot out of hot chocolate, but is the point really to have a hot drink, or to drink chocolate?

It’s good to be back!


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