Friday, December 30, 2011

9 pans of gooey goodness...

Raise your hand if you watched the Pioneer Woman make cinnamon rolls on her Christmas special!

Yeah, me too.

I've followed the PW since I started blogging in 2008. And back then she was famous for her cinnamon rolls. She still is!

I've wanted to make these since I first read her recipe all those years ago. I was terrified. Why? It involved yeast. Rising. Dough. Sccccarrrrry.

But, after watching her make them on the food network, I thought, I can do that! And I did!

I have a few tips for you if you're wanting to make these gooey, delicious rolls. Everything always looks SO much easier on TV than it really is, no? So, here are my trial and errors for ya:

1.) Use a BIG counter.

Seriously, the biggest space you have. Some of my twitter friends said they used their dining room tables. I started rolling out half of my dough on the counter that I usually use. What a bad idea. First, I sterilized the counter because I'm a freak like that. Then I rolled it out, put the butter, sugar and cinnamon on it and started to roll it up. It was too long for the counter and as I rolled, everything dripped out, onto my cabinets and the floor. Gross. Gooey. MESS. So, I stopped, cleaned everything up and then had to sterilize another counter.

2.) Melt 2 extra sticks of butter.

You have to add melted butter to the pan. I ended up stopping and starting to melt extra butter just for this purpose. If you have too much, just use it in your icing.

3.) Let em' rise.

The recipe says to let them rise for 20 minutes. I highly recommend letting them rise longer than that (this is after they are sliced and in the pan). I let mine rise about 35 minutes and they were big and beautiful.

4.) You can omit and freeze.

I don't like coffee. So, as a tip, you can leave the coffee out of the icing. I just added a little more milk to compensate. Also, you can freeze them. I baked them, iced them and the froze some. You could also freeze the icing separately too.

And for good measure, I'll repost her recipe here. Note - this recipe made 9 pans for me. Also, I made the dough 2 days before I actually made the rolls.

Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls
1 quart Whole Milk
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Sugar
2 packages Active Dry Yeast
8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
Plenty Of Melted Butter
2 cups Sugar
Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
1 bag Powdered Sugar
2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
½ cups Milk
¼ cups Melted Butter
¼ cups Brewed Coffee
⅛ teaspoons Salt

Preparation Instructions

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 400 degrees (see note below) until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.

Note: My rolls don’t work for me at 400 degrees anymore. I now bake them at 375 degrees.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Day!

I'm still playing catch up. =)

So, on Christmas Day, I mentioned that Brody woke up with croup. I have to say, in general, if Brody is sick, you know it. My neighbors probably know it too. In fact, anyone within a one mile radius knows it. He's loud and cranky and just in a bad mood (Brayden is completely the opposite - I never know when he's sick because he's always so happy!).

Apparently, we received a Christmas miracle because though he was pretty sick, this little guy was so dang happy! He was smiling and walking and waving and talking!

So, first thing in the morning we opened our stockings:

These pictures crack me up - especially the first one. Gosh, they DO look like twins sometimes!

Then we headed back out to the cabin for Christmas Day. We usually stay overnight but with the kids not feeling 100%, we decided to sleep at our own house. They are excellent sleepers at home (8pm - 9am everyday!) but they don't sleep as well elsewhere.

This is us with my parents:
I did a theme gift for my mother in law. She loves pictures, so we got her a nice wooden frame, a digital frame and a canvas picture of us.

Brayden saw this red four wheeler months ago at Toys R Us. He has talked about it non stop since! He just knew Santa would bring it for him and he was right!

I hope everyone had a WONDERFUL Christmas! Remember the reason for the season!

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve, a Gingerbread House & Bellie

We always go out to our family cabin for Christmas, and this year was no exception. My parents brought their St. Bernard, Bellie, this year. She is the sweetest, most gentle giant you've ever met! My kids adore Miss Belle.

Brayden had croup last week. When Brody didn't get it, we thought we were good. On Christmas Eve I thought he was getting a cold - by Christmas Day, he had full on croup too! Poor boys!

Since it was Christmas Eve, it was Buddy's last day to make an appearance. It took Brayden awhile to spot him, up high on the mantel!

Chris and I decided to build a gingerbread house for the kids. We had the best time working on it and decided that we will do one every year!
The front:
The back:
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! I'll post about Christmas Day tomorrow!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Colorful Tradition - Our Videos

There are some great houses in my local area that do it all up at Christmastime! Every night in December, we take the kids for a drive to look at all of the great light displays. Here are my three favorite ones from this year!

These were all shot on my iPhone, so sorry for the background noise and quality!

House 1 is my very favorite. They've been on CNN a few times! This is the only one of the three that isn't set to music, but the lights are spectacular!

House #2 is set to music. And you have to love the running Razorback in the side yard.

House #3 we discovered last night! There is an empty lot across the street so we were able to park and watch!

This is one of our favorite traditions. Sometimes we go get a Starbucks and drive around, or I'll plug my Spotify into my car and we'll listen to Christmas music (our favorite is Third Days Christmas Album).

Do you like to go look at the lights?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From Us to You...

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Seeing Santa

My blogger friend, Mrs Monologues, is collecting soda pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House! We learned a lot about all of the wonderful things the RMH does while Brayden was at Arkansas Children's Hospital. Help her reach her goal of 15,000 tabs to benefit the RMH charity! Click here for deets!

While we were at the Landing in Branson we went to see Santa! It was a cool setup - they have this gigantic Christmas tree and Santa is in the bottom of it. It's set up like his gift wrapping workshop.

Brayden was pretty excited. He really wanted to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas. Brody was a different story.

Brody looking at Brayden like, why are you talking to this man? He's a stranger!

Brody looking at me begging for help!
Hopefully next year we will have TWO happy boys getting their picture taken with Santa! Last year Brody was happy and Brayden was crying!

Well, technically Brody was asleep...

But still...considerably happy.

Here's to next year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Party, Lights & A Sickie

I'm so behind, but I'm going to try to catch up!

Brayden got really sick and Chris ended up taking him to the ER yesterday. He has a viral infection and croup - which we've never had before. Now we have to keep the kids separated which is a challenge! Brayden is staying upstairs with Chris and Brody is downstairs with me. Poor Brody's heart is broken - he is with his brother every day and doesn't understand why he can't be now!

But back to last week...

Thursday night my inlaws came into town to keep the boys while Chris and I went to a Christmas party. My mother in law, Lori took our picture! We never get a picture of the two of us! Thanks Lori!

Brody had to sneak into it, but that's okay. Ha!

Friday we loaded up the car and took off with my parents to Branson. We were taking the kids to look at the lights in Kimberling City and also to go to Silver Dollar City. I ended up changing my mind about going to Silver Dollar City (and now I'm so glad I did!) and ended up just driving around looking at lights.

We stayed at the Landing and there is a shopping center below it. I finished up my Christmas shopping and we ate at the Macaroni Grill (my favorite place - we don't have one here).

My mom and Brayden:
Chris and Brody. And Chris' Cousin Eddie hat. If you watch Christmas Vacation, you'll totally get that.
Sunday Chris took me to see the Nutcracker. It was a classical performance instead of that new contemporary ballet which I don't like. Ha! I'm very picky about my ballet. I danced classical pointe for many years. It was pretty good - and then we came home to a very sick little Brayden. He was fine earlier in the day, but he looked awful when we got back home. Chris ended up spending close to 3 hours in the ER with him. I was worried because he was running a 103 temp and it wasn't coming down with tylenol. He is a little better today. Hopefully he will be completely well in time for Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Freezer Meal Exchange - HOW TO!

Last week I mentioned that some friends and I were doing a freezer meal exchange. I've gotten a lot of questions on how that worked and how you can organize one.
Here's how it works:

First, you need to figure out how many people will be participating.

If you have 2-4 people I would suggest making 3-4 meals each (times the number of people in your group). For larger groups you can make less meals. Our group had 6 people this time and so we each made 2 meals, 6 times, and therefore we all had 12 total meals (including 2 of our own).

Next up, pick a swap date.

I have read where other groups get together and they all cook in one home. Personally, I don't know how on earth that would work! I used up my entire kitchen getting my stuff made! I would recommend just picking meal swap day where you can all meet at someones home and switch off meals. I had to drive the farthest to get to the swap, so I took some big ice chests with me to transport my food.

The food!

Send out an email to everyone who is participating and ask them to reply to all with what they are making. Also, if anyone has any major food allergies, make sure they mention that. This will help you avoid taking home 6 bags of chili or making something with peanuts when people can't eat it. You don't want to waste all that hard work and you do want variety!

Figuring out what to make can be a little tricky. This time I made Chicken Enchiladas and my Chicken Roll Ups. I probably won't do something like that next time. Why? Because every, single item I made was hand rolled. I ended up making 58 roll ups and 6 dozen enchiladas. It takes forever! Making one or the other with something easier would have been great though!

Here are some meal ideas that would be great to take and freeze:

Chicken and Rice - make the chicken and send the box of 5 minute rice

I hope this helps you start your own freezer meal group!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Version of the Famous Roll Ups!

The most popular recipe in my blog's recipe section are my Chicken Roll Ups. How can you not love them? Cheese, chicken, cream cheese, some more cheese....they are heavenly. The also freeze well and kids will eat them! It's such a win, win!

So, I had the idea to make another version of my Roll Ups. I wanted it to remain something that would freeze well and that kids would like, and my kids? They love pizza. So that's what I did!

Pizza Roll Ups!
Pizza Roll Ups

2 packages of buttery crescent rolls
1 package of turkey pepperoni
1 block of grated Monterey jack cheese
1 jar of Enrico's pizza sauce

Optional - Italian breadcrumbs and melted butter

Lay out your crescent rolls.

On the wide lower portion, put about 1 tablespoon of sauce, topped with 2 tablespoons of cheese and 4-6 turkey pepperonis. You can always add other pizza toppings you enjoy - this is just the basic recipe.

Carefully roll everything up, keeping all the ingredients inside.

Place on a sprayed baking sheet.

**Optional - top with melted butter and Italian breadcrumbs

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Serve with extra sauce!

I hope you enjoy these as much as the originals! And if you don't like turkey pepperoni, just substitute for your favorite pizza toppings.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Favorite Things Party

Last night was a girls night out that I'd really been looking forward to - I organized a Favorite Things Party! I saw this idea on Pinterest a few months ago and filed it away for Christmas. There are several ways to do it. We had ours at a restaurant because we all have young kids and it would be too hard to do it at someones home.

Here are the rules we used:
- Pick ONE favorite thing that you discovered this year or have just plain loved forever.
- Buy FIVE of that ONE thing.
- You can't spend more than $20 total for all five items.

How it works:
- Everyone writes their name down on a slip of paper FIVE times.
- Each person draws FIVE names - you can't draw your own name or the same name twice.
- You take a gift from each of the names that you drew.

Everyone takes home five great gifts!

Here was mine:
The tin is what I used to put the slips of paper in for us all to draw from. My gift was Chocolate Covered Ritz Crackers. They just have them out for Christmas and they are SOOOO good. And all of my girlfriends know I'm a huge chocoholic so it was very fitting.

Here is what I brought home:From my friend Jennifer, who always has wonderfully poofed hair - a can of Freeze It! I was so excited!

From Stacey, a realllllly yummy smelling candle and a hot chocolate mix!

From Lindsay, Burt Bees! Which I love!

From Brittany, a Bath & Body Works antibacterial soap and hand soap! They smell so good!

And from Lisa, a ceramic pot keeper - you throw it in your boiling water and it won't boil over!

I didn't get Rebekah's gift because we only draw 5, but she brought thank you notecards!

(All of their blogs are on my blogroll under people I know)

We had such a fun time and are already plotting when we can do this again....Valentines Day? Easter? I don't know, but I can't wait!

What would your gift be??

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

I never liked Swedish Meatballs.

Granted, up until this year, I'd only had them once in my life.

When I was a kid, we lived in a very diverse area and one of my good friends mom made these all the time. Maybe they were just more...authentic? I don't know, but I didn't like them.

But these....these, I like. And Brayden, my three year old? This is his very favorite meal. I can't believe it, but he likes them more than my chicken roll ups.

I found this recipe on Skinny Taste and decided to play around with it and make it more my own. The biggest difference is that I par cook my meatballs. I don't like relying on simmering them the whole time to cook them through. I also make a bigger batch and removed some ingredients/changed up the amounts.

So, here is my adapted version, which makes about 55 golf ball sized meatballs:

Swedish Meatballs
From: Jenna's Journey, adapted from Skinny Taste

1 T olive oil
2 small onions, minced - or 1 large onion, minced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 lb 90% lean beef
2 eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon pepper and salt
1/2 tsp allspice
4 cups reduced sodium beef stock
8 oz light cream cheese

Combine in a large bowl: onions, garlic, 2 eggs, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, allspice and beef. Mix well.
Line a sheet pan with tin foil. Roll meatballs into golf sized balls.
Once completed, heat a large pan over med high heat. Add oil. Cook meatballs until browned on both sides - they will NOT be cooked all the way through.
Once meatballs are cooked, remove them to a plate or sheet tray. Continue until all are cooked.
Add beef stock to a pot. Heat until boiling, add meatballs and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook with a LID on for about 20 minutes, or until meat is completely cooked.
Remove meatballs with a slotted spoon. Add broth to a blender with cream cheese. Pulse until well blended, then add back to the pan. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add meat. Serve over egg noodles.

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