‘Tis the Season for Cookies: Gingerbread!

Gingerbread House

I’ve always loved making gingerbread houses. I’m not sure when I made my first gingerbread house, school perhaps? Or with my mom? But I remember making them, and loving the process. The first one I made was with graham crackers and a milk carton, if I recall. I even made gingerbread houses one Christmas for all my friends.

When Alexis was born I couldn’t wait until she was old enough to make them too, and once she was (we did our first gingerbread house when she was 3), we’ve made one every year since. We make a big production out of it…we make the cookies one day, along with hot chocolate, and then we assemble the houses the next. We make royal icing, get our candy together and construct away.

The secret to a good gingerbread house is a firm cookie, and these have a bit of a crunch to them. That also helps if you want to turn these cookies in to ornaments, because the firmness makes for a good ornament too. I’ll give you instructions on how to do that below as well.

Be sure and check out the other participants of ‘Tis the Season for Cookies to see their fabulous cookie recipes for this week as well!:

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Diana Cannone at To Di for Bakery.
Judy Chiappini at No Fear Entertaining.
Mandee Racer Pogue at The Kitchen Wife.
Marye Audet-White at Restless Chipotle.
Renee Joslyn at Flamingo Musings.
Sandy Smith at Eat Real.
And Sherri Jo at The Adventures of Kitchen Girl Jo.

The theme this week was formed and decorated!

Gingerbread House: The Pieces

What You’ll Need:
1 cup packed natural brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark molasses
2/3 cup cold water
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In large bowl cream brown sugar, butter and molasses until smooth. Add water and mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.

Sprinkle some flour onto the surface you’re working on and roll dough out to between 1/4-1/8th of an inch thick:

Gingerbread House: Rolling the Dough

To make a gingerbread house cut out house shapes using a template, or gingerbread house cutters. To make ornaments, cut with the cookie cutters of your choice. If you are going to use the cookies for ornaments remember to make a hole for the string or ribbon to tie them onto your tree. You can do this by using a straw to make a hole at the top of each cookie.

Bake for 9-10 minutes and cool completely on the pan. Cooling overnight is best. You want them to get extremely firm, the firmer the better.

And if you’re like Alexis, then you’ll want a little bite of dough, or several bites of dough, or a lot of dough. It’s good dough. And it is eggless, if you’re worried about such things, which we aren’t, but there you go.

Gingerbread House: Dough!

And make sure you get plenty of flour all over yourself. On your face, on your apron, on the floor…I mean the bigger mess the better. Just ask Alexis! ๐Ÿ˜‰

After the cookies have cooled and sat overnight you want to make some royal icing if you’re making gingerbread houses (see below) or you can paint them if you’ve decided to make gingerbread ornaments.

Gingerbread House: Royal Icing

What You’ll Need:
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
8 cups of powdered sugar

Add all the ingredients to a large glass bowl and stir until mixed.

Beat on medium speed for 5-6 minutes until icing is thick and has a pearly sheen to it.

Use immediately to make your gingerbread house, or to decorate cookies.

Now you get to assemble your gingerbread house!

Take a piece of cardboard and cover it with aluminum foil. This will be your “yard” for your house. Next add a layer of royal icing for the “snow” on the yard, and this also serves as glue for the bottom of your house walls:

Gingerbread House: Snowy Yard

Now you want to put up your walls:

Gingerbread House: Putting it Together

I like to use a canned good, or a bottle to balance the walls on until the “glue” dries. Add a line of royal icing to each wall and balance them against each other. Once the icing dries you will do the same process to add the roof to the house.

While the walls are drying you can also start adding some of the decorations around the sides of the house:

Gingerbread House: Decorating

The roof can be tricky, because gravity, well she’s a bitch. You’ll need to hold the roof on while the icing dries. Be generous with the icing on the edges of roof peek, so that it has plenty to hold on to. This is when you can watch a Christmas movie, or something, while you’re sitting there holding the roof. If you’re really talented you can figure out a way to brace the ceiling with cans or bottles, but you have to have the perfectly situated can or bottle size and it’s easier said than done. Your best bet is holding it on and amusing yourself for a bit some other way.

Decorate with icing, candy, sprinkles or other embellishments if you’re going to cookie route. Whatever you like works. Just let out your inner cookie creator!

If you’re making ornaments paint them with craft or acrylic paints and let dry completely. Once the paint is dry you can “seal” the ornaments by painting or spraying on a coat of polyurethane if you want them to last for many years. If you want to make “Pissy” Gingerbread boys and girls, like the one pictured below, use a fluted cutter to cut a “bite” out of the side of their heads or even their foot if you want, because after all wouldn’t you be a little pissy too if someone took a bite out of you? ;o)

Pissy Gingerbread Man

See? Doesn’t he look pissy? I absolutely love these ornaments! To make a girl gingerbread person, paint a little bow on the other side of the head away from the “bite”.

I’ve made gingerbread houses for almost 30 years now. Wow. That’s a long time! Alexis gets a little impatient and doesn’t wait for her “glue” to dry so she ends up with a disaster house, more often than not. Being the laid back kid she is, she just goes with it. Last year she said her collapsed house was hit by a tornado. This year she explained it was caused by a tsunami. But hey, she kept decorating it anyway!

Gingerbread House: Decorating Her Disaster

I mean how disastrous does this look?

Gingerbread House: Catastrophee

Candy cane loss, Christmas tree chopped in half, Santa hanging out next to the rubble. The kid makes it fun, even if it’s not what you expect in a gingerbread house!

But what she really enjoys about the collapsed houses, other than having fun in general, is eating the parts!

Gingerbread House: If it Collapses, Eat it!

What’s not to like about a little nibble of gingerbread? Oh and royal icing. AND candy! ๐Ÿ˜‰

This was the first year my house collapsed too. I’ve made so many houses over the years, but this one just gave up. I think it had to do with the humidity in the air, as a friend of mine suggested. We had a very rainy day on Saturday, like ark worthy rain, and when I decorated the roof the weight of the icing and candy, just took out the house.

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I’d like to tell you I was as cool about my house collapsing as my 11 year old, but sadly not so much. As I’ve said I’ve never had one collapse I wasn’t impressed, so it took the wind out of my sails a bit, and it felt like a big defeat. But then again I nibbled on mine too, so that made it all better…well sort of! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Gingerbread disasters aside, a few years ago I made a Fangtasia gingerbread house:

Fangtasia Gingerbread House

I was a big fan of the Sookie Stackhouse books, and even though they didn’t end up the way I would have liked, this is still one of my favorite gingerbread houses I’ve ever made. I put a bite out of Bill’s head, like the pissy gingerbread men, as if Eric had gotten tired of his nonsense and finally taken a bite out of him to put him in his place. I made Sookie look Christmasy, and I did a cross between book Eric and Skarsgรƒยฅrd Eric, by the pink spandex from the book, and the black muscle shirt from the show.

The point being, gingerbread can be anything you want it to be. Just have fun with it. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are about?

‘Tis the Season for Cookies: Pecan Pie Cookie Bars

Pecan Pie Cookie Bars

I’ve been meaning to get back to the blogging thing for a while, and I’ve got plans for a redesign and change around for the the New Year, but when some online friends in a blogging group I’m in on Facebook started to talk about having a cookie post round up in December, I could resist and I signed up for ‘Tis the Season for Cookies right away!

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Week one’s theme is fruit and/or nuts and I knew these Pecan Pie Cookie Bars were just the thing! This is one of my all time favorite recipes that I got from a friend years ago. They’re just perfect for sharing during the holidays and make the perfect addition to a cookie tray or gift for someone on your list. They take the comfort of pecan pie and turn them in to an easily transported cookie bar that is a whole lot easier to take, not to mention a less messy alternative to share, than your traditional pecan pie.

Be sure and check out the Pinterest board for the group for more great cookie recipes from the other participants. We’ll be posting recipes each Monday for the next few weeks.

Also check out the other participants of ‘Tis the Season for Cookies to see their fabulous cookie recipes as well!:

Diana Cannone at To Di for Bakery.
Judy Chiappini at No Fear Entertaining.
Mandee Racer Pogue at The Kitchen Wife.
Marye Audet-White at Restless Chipotle.
Renee Joslyn at Flamingo Musings.
Sandy Smith at Eat Real.
And Sherri Jo at The Adventures of Kitchen Girl Jo.

Happy Holidays!

Pecan Pie Cookie Bars

What You’ll Need for the Shortbread Layer:
1 1/2 cups of unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 sticks of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a bowl stir together flour, sugar and salt until combined. Next add butter and stir until dough forms.

Mash flour mixture in to the prepared dish, spreading it out to cover the entire bottom of the pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

While the crust is baking, make the pecan filling. (See Below).

Pecan Pie Cookie Bars

What You’ll Need for the Pecan Filling Layer:
4 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of light corn syrup
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 cups of pecans, chopped

In a large glass bowl melt butter in the microwave.

Once butter is melted add sugar, corn syrup, eggs and vanilla extract and stir until well mixed.

Next add the chopped nuts. (An easy way to “chop” the nuts? Put them in a ziplock bag and beat the snot out of them with a rolling pin. Not only do you get “chopped” nuts, you have the added benefit of getting out some of your frustrations at the same time. What’s not to like about that?) Stir nuts until thoroughly incorporated with the sugar/corn syrup mix.

Pour filling on to the baked shortbread crust and spread out to the edges. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Let cool completely before cutting in to squares.

Notes: You can stir a package of chocolate chips into the filling if you like. You also do a mix of nuts instead of all pecans, or how about adding in some seeds of some sort like pumpkin of sunflower, for part of the nuts.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

I’ve always been curious about squash blossoms, but I had never tried one. I’ve never had the nerve to take them off of my own squash plants, preferring to let them become their destined squash. A couple of summers ago I got some blossoms at the farmer’s market with the intention of stuffing them, but they got pushed back to the abyss of the refrigerator and I forgot about them, until they turned up on my next fridge clean shriveled and beyond use. That little foray in to squash blossoms was the end of my curiosity until I saw them again recently at a local farmer’s market. This time however I would be scrumptiously victorious!

Edible flowers have always amused me. When Alexis was three, she became obsessed with them. At the time we lived near a Whole Foods, and they usually had packages of them in their produce section, so we’d pick one up from time to time. A particular favorite of both of ours were Nasturtiums, which sort of have a peppery taste about them, and also violets, which tend to be a bit sweeter. I also have fond childhood memories of eating rose petals from my mom’s roses with my sister. I even introduced this tradition to Alexis on one of our trips to Tennessee. If you’re curious about some of the flowers that can be safely eaten, Wikipedia has a nice section on the topic.

Squash blossoms are a lovely, golden yellow color and are slightly sticky to the touch. Sometimes when you purchase the blossoms, they will have small squash attached to the end, but most of the time when you buy the blossoms, you’ll get just the blossom. You can eat them raw, use them in stir fry, or as I have done, you can stuff, bread and fry them. Any way you make them though, they’re a fun little treat.

What You’ll Need:
1 small package of button or baby bella mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 10.5 ounce package of goat cheese
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sized skillet, sautรƒยฉ mushrooms and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil, until tender. Set aside.

In a glass bowl add goat cheese and microwave on high for 10 seconds, to soften. Stir in mushroom/garlic mixture, thyme, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until well incorporated. Set aside.

Add about an inch of olive oil to a deep skillet and heat over medium heat until hot.

While your oil is heating, mix breading and then stuff/bread your blossoms.

To make the breading, in a pie dish stir together panko crumbs and parmesan. Depending on how salty your parmesan is, you might want to add a bit of sea salt too. The easiest way to decide is to take a taste of the breading/cheese mixture and see if it needs a bit of salt. You can also add in some black pepper if wanted.

Beat your eggs in a separate dish.

You can stuff the blossoms one of two ways…

First you can fill a pastry bag with the mushroom/cheese mixture and gently pipe the mixture down in to the blossoms until each one is relatively full…

Or you can gently tear the blossom down one side and put a dollop of the mushroom mixture in each, then wrap the blossom back together, using the cheese mixture to stick it closed. This is the method I used.

Once the blossoms are filled roll the blossom in the beaten egg to coat and then roll the egg washed blossom in the bread crumbs until completely covered.

Place breaded blossom in the oil and cook for about 20 to 30 seconds until the side in the oil is browned. Then slowly and gently rotate the blossom in the oil until all sides are browned. It takes 1 – 2 minutes per blossom depending on its size. I usually brown 4 “sides” and once it is browned all over place cooked blossom on a paper towel lined plate to drain and then serve while still hot.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Notes: You could play around with the goat cheese mixture and add onions or other herbs. You could add a mixture of cheeses, blue cheese would be heavenly. You could also replace the goat cheese with cream cheese if you liked. It’s a fun dish to play around with. If you have any of the cheese/mushroom mixture left over, it makes a good spread on bagels.

Where to Eat: The Main Cup Middletown, Maryland

The Main Cup: My Tea Cup

There is a restaurant in Middletown, Maryland that I have wanted to blog about for a while for my Where to Eat section, but as you can tell I haven’t been blogging much lately. Today Alexis and I ate lunch there and I remembered to take some pictures, so today is the day! Let me tell you about The Main Cup.

The food there is great, but we’ll get to that in a minute, first let’s talk a little about the ambiance. Ambiance…who cares? I do, and so should you. This restaurant is in a charming historic building on Main Street in Middletown and you can read a little bit about it’s history here.

It has charming brick walls, art from local artists you can purchase and a nice homey feel. As you can see above, Alexis likes to sit at the table with the leather couches. They open early, have free wifi and I’ve been known to pop in to write in the mornings, especially when we lived on that side of the county, and enjoy a muffin or bagel, along with some hot tea. It has a laid back attitude and friendly service that makes it a very pleasant place to stop.

Now let’s talk food….

Alexis and I usually go for lunch, but Jamison and I have gone for dinner before too. I’ve never ordered anything I didn’t like. If you want to start out with a fabulous appetizer, I recommend the buffalo or crab dips. Their salads are fabulous, and so are their soups. Their burgers and pizza are extremely good too. They also have some really great fish and chips, some of the best I’ve ever had.

The Main Cup: Reuben and Sweet Potato Fries

One of my favorite things to get is their Reuben sandwich with sweet potato fries. It is perfection, especially the fries. Alexis likes to get their chicken tenders with regular fries:

The Main Cup: Chicken Tenders and Fries

They even have a fabulous selection of desserts. Alexis is particularly fond of the lava cake and I like the carrot cake a lot too. Today we tried the Smith Island Cake, which is Maryland’s official cake, the more you know! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Main Cup: Smith Island Cake

So if you’re in, or around, Middletown, stop by and check it out, or even drive over…it’s worth it I promise. Even now that we live across the county we still pop back over and now and then. You won’t be sorry you did.

Cocktail Time: Grown Up Jungle Juice

I have to admit, when it comes to cocktails, I like fruity drinks. In fact the less of the alcohol you can taste, the more happy I am with the concoction. For a while now I’ve been looking for a fruity, adult punch type drink, and I’ve never quite come across what I was looking for, so I made this. This, lovely, fruity combo that really packs a punch.

When I was finished I let Jamison taste it, even though this isn’t his type of drink at all and his face was priceless. He informed me this is similar “hunch punch” and was often served at frat parties he attended with friends. I had heard of hunch punch, but someone never actually tried during my years in college, probably because I was a huge dork, and I went to a frat party all of once in my time at UT. I wasn’t impressed and drank nothing. I might have been there for all of 30 minutes, if that long. My roommate insisted I go along with her and we walked around Frat Row after a football game. The whole thing didn’t make of an impression on me, other than not being impressed. It’s funny how that notion sticks with you. I think it was the equivalent of, “Hey, hold my beer and watch this!” and that just wasn’t me thing.

Anyway…I got sidetracked again didn’t I? I’m good at that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Another thing this reminds me of is the Jungle Juice they used to serve in the school cafeteria when I was growing up. I don’t know why, but it does. It’s probably the Kool-Aide component come to think of it; I think Jungle Juice was a fruit punch as well, which would explain the similarity. The idea of the Jungle Juice stuck though, and thus Grown-Up Jungle Juice was born.

This is definitely a drink to share. It makes a large pitcher of goodness, and did I mention how strong it was? Of course I did! ๐Ÿ˜‰

What You’ll Need:
1 lid full of Kool-Aide Fruit Punch mix
1 – 12 ounce frozen pineapple juice
4 cups of lemonade
1 cup of peach schnapps
1 cup of dark rum
1 cup of triple sec
1 cup of limoncello or limoncino
1 cup of Everclear
1 bottle of sweet red wine (Note: I used a bottle of muscadine wine from Savannah Oaks Winery in Tennessee.)
1 cup of whipped cream vodka
1 cup of Absolut Mandarin vodka

First off, again let me warn you…this stuff is STRONG!! You’ve got a lot of alcohol here, mixed with a little juice, and a splash of Kool-Aide for fun. This is a stay where you are sort of drink, not a have a glass and go drive sort of libation. Stay where you are, have fun with friends, tell some stories, relax, but not drive. Do not drive.

And yes the Kool-Aide is a little low brow, but who cares…this is a fun drink, not a sophisticated sort of deal. If you want sophisticated, make some sangria. This is more of a beachy, party, have fun, be silly with your friends sort of drink.

Now let’s make some Jungle Juice!

You’ll need a very large pitcher, at least a gallon. Add all of your ingredients and stir to mix. Chill at least an hour before serving. If you want to make it really fun you can put it in the freezer and let it get slushy, like I did as you can see in the picture above, which might take a while depending on the temperature of your freezer.

Notes: You can different kinds of juice if you like. You could even leave out the Kool-Aide and add a bottle of cherry juice instead. If it’s too sweet, you can water it down with a little lemon-lime soda or even plain sparkling water.

Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

As some of you know Jamison is a pick eater. On top of this, a few years back, we found out he can’t really tolerate gluten. Not a big deal, but when the majority of your diet is in some form of gluten, you’ve got problems. Every once in a while, I go out on a limb and try to make something different for him to eat, though he’s not much of a “Let’s try something new!” sort of person. I get bored with his food. He suffers through, but I’m completely bored to tears, and this is how this came about.

He’ll eat bacon, he’ll eat cheese, he’ll eat potatoes, why not toss them all together and make something new. I knew it was a crap shoot whether he’d eat it or not, but hey, I like all those things too, so it was all good, and that’s exactly what this was…all good! Jamison even liked it, and Jamison liking something, especially food, well that’s not a common occurrence.

The great thing about this, is there are no wrong answers. A little more of this, a little more of that, it all works. This is also a good dish for using left over baked or mashed potatoes. I always like something that takes leftovers to a new level. It’s a win, win, win, win situation! ๐Ÿ˜‰

What You’ll Need:
10-12 potatoes, baked and peeled (Note: Just fill up most of a 13 X 9 inch dish with potatoes.)
1 package of uncured, natural bacon, chopped and cooked and drained
1 cup of half and half or heavy cream, divided
1 stick of butter, melted
Sea salt (Note: If you want to just go crazy use season salt instead!)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 – 8 ounce block of cheddar cheese, shredded and divided

First you want to bake your potatoes and let them cool. Or you can use left over potatoes. It’s all up to you. You want enough potatoes to basically fill a 13 X 9 inch dish with mashed potatoes when it’s done. This go around I baked them for the recipe specifically.

Bake those potatoes, let them cool, peel the skin off. Set aside.

While the potatoes are baking, chop up a package of bacon and cook until crispy. Drain and set aside.

Next shred your cheese. I can’t stress this enough…take the time and shred it yourself. The stuff you buy pre-shredded is weird and has stuff in it to keep it “separate” and from molding. You want cheese, not fillers. It’s so much better when you start with a block of cheese and shred it yourself.

Trust me.

After your potatoes are cooled, and all of your ingredients are ready, turn your oven on and start mixing!

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl mash the potatoes with butter, 1/2 cup of half and half or cream, salt, pepper, 1 cup of cheese and sour cream. You want the consistency of mashed potatoes. If you need to add a bit more dairy or sour cream to get it right, go for it. Once you hit the right consistency stop adding. Just add a bit at a time. Sometimes you won’t need to, others you might. Sometimes potatoes are more dry than others.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch dish with non-stick spray. You can use the dish you baked the potatoes in if you like, that’s what I did. Spread potato mixture in to the dish. Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the rest of the cheese and all of the bacon. Then pour 1/2 cup of half and half or heavy cream over the top of the cheese and bacon evenly.

Bake for for 25 minutes covered. Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until slightly golden and bubbly.

Let sit for 5 minutes and then serve.

Notes: You could serve this by topping it with a bit of sour cream and some chives or green onion if you wanted, but trust me, it’s good just as it is!

Pumpkin Banana Muffins

Pumpkin Banana Muffins

Long time, no see huh?

I’ll bet you thought I’ve gotten lost and I guess in a way I have.

I needed a little blog break, so I took one. 2013 really has been a horrible year for my family as a whole, and topped with my on and off again depression, it just got the better of me for a while. Depression kind of moves in, takes up camp, drives its stakes down deep and dares you to remove them. The human psyche is such a fragile place.

Last week however I actually got back in the kitchen in a big way and I thought I’d share these muffins with you. I can’t promise I’m back on a regular basis, but I’m feeling better, and I’m feeling creative, so we’ll see where we end up from here.

For now, if you’re a pumpkin lover, grab a cuppa and make some of these muffins…you won’t be sorry you did!

What You’ll Need for the Muffins:
2 cups of unbleached, all purpose flour
1 cup of brown sugar (preferably natural)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of cinnamon (preferably Saigon)
1/3 cup of oil (preferably safflower)
1/3 cup of maple syrup
1 cup of buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 – 15 ounce container of mashed pumpkin
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
Crumble topping (see below)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Prepare muffins pans with cupcake liners and set aside.

In a large bowl stir together flour, brown sugar, sea salt, baking powder and cinnamon until completely incorporated.

Add oil, maple syrup, buttermilk, eggs, pumpkin and bananas to the dry ingredients and stir until completely mixed.

Add batter to prepared muffin pans, filling each cup 2/3 of the way full.

Top each cup with a layer of crumble topping.

Place muffin pan on top of a baking sheet to prevent spill overs. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tops are golden and muffins stick clean.

Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes 32-36 muffins.

Notes on the Muffins: You can add in nutmeg and/or allspice if you like. 1/4 of a teaspoon would be fine. You can also add 1 cup of raisins to the batter if you like them.

What You’ll Need for the Crumble Topping:
1 cup of raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup of brown sugar (preferably natural)
1/2 cup of unbleached, all purpose flour
1 stick of butter, softened and cut into chunks

In a large bowl stir together pumpkin seeds, brown sugar and flour until completely mixed.

Add butter chunks and work in to the dry mixture with your hands until mixture is crumbly.

Use mixture in recipe above.

Notes on the Crumble Topping: You can use nuts instead of pumpkin seeds, or a mixture of the two. This is also a good topping for sweet potatoes.

Happy 10th Birthday Alexis!

It's Your Birthday Baby A!

Dear Alexis,

Yesterday you turned 10.

10.

How is that possible?

I normally write a little letter to you on each of your birthdays and post it on my blog. One day you’ll read them all, and I hope you’ll understand how much I love you, how much I have always loved you, how much I will always love you, and what you truly mean to me. Yesterday however, we were out having birthday fun and I didn’t get to write my little missive. Today I’m diving right in!

You got money from various people for your birthday as people tend to do and you couldn’t wait to go buy things. But first you wanted to make sure that you helped others before you spent anything on yourself. When I asked you what you wanted to donate to you replied, “Children and wildlife!” You have such a big heart. I love that about you.

It has been a long year. 2013 hasn’t been good to us as a family, and quite frankly I’m ready for 2014 to roll on in. We started out on January the 2nd with your aunt’s breast cancer diagnosis, we moved, school got all shuffled around, Pop had a heart attack, and that’s just a mere summary. But through it all you’ve kept good spirits. You look for the good, even when bad things happen around you. I hope that you can continue to do this as you grow older. It’s a very good skill to have.

Before you were born I would hear people say you didn’t understand love until you had a child. I used to think that was complete bollocks. I knew children I loved dearly. I loved your father. I loved family. But they were right…the minute I looked at you I was hit by a wave of emotion I had never expected. I loved you instantly, and I thought I had loved you before you were born, but I had no clue what love actually was. You were love.

You want to grow up so fast. I always tell you, “Slow down. Trust me, you’ll grow up all too soon and you’ll wonder where your childhood went.” I wonder where mine went. At 39 I can’t figure out where the time has gone. At 29, when you were born, I thought you’d be small for a long time. 10 years is a long time in some ways I suppose, but it has gone by so quickly! My beautiful baby girl has grown in to my beautiful young tween. Slowing down time is like trying to hold water in your fist…you can try, but it just runs out. And no matter how much I might want to keep you as my little girl, time has other ideas. Enjoy life. Make the time matter. Make the time count.
The Birthday Girl!

Keep your amazing spirit. Keep your love of all things and people around you. Keep being cool. Because you really are cool kid. Really, really cool. And I’m so glad out of all the moms in the world, you picked me.

Love,
Mom

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

First off let me say thank you for all the prayers, good thoughts, emails, etc. that you sent to me for my father. We really appreciate all of you. It meant a lot.

Let me give you a little update….

Daddy ended up having to have a defibrillator inserted in to his chest. The unsettling thing about everything that happened was they could never tell us exactly what happened and why. One thing they were adamant about though was, if it happened once, it would happen again, and we needed a safeguard in place to deal with what may come. Daddy’s slowly regaining strength now that’s he home and allowed to get up and move around. I stayed in Tennessee for the week he was in the hospital and the week after to help out mom and then headed back to Maryland. Alexis and I will be going back to Tennessee in late July/early August to check in. Again, thank you for all the thoughts and emails. Again, they really meant a lot to me.

And now let’s discuss some cinnamon rolls!

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls: Ready to Eat

One day when I was at Mom’s house I was watching the Food Network. I’ll admit it…I highjacked the TV because I was tired of hearing the tripe on Faux News and needed a break. One of the shows in my little marathon Food Network block was was Alton Brown’s.

I love Alton Brown. Most of the time anyway. There have been shows where he’s told you things to do to make the best whatever that I totally disagreed with, but that’s a rare occasion, and as always it’s always good to remember it’s OK to disagree. For the most part he amuses me. His humor and quirky wit are fun to watch. On this day he was making cinnamon rolls. I mean who doesn’t like cinnamon rolls? I’m sure there are those out there who don’t, but I’d say they’re hard to find, and really do we want to do all that searching?

No. Not me!

Anyway…

These cinnamon rolls were amazing to look at. It was one of those times when you wish you had smellavision so you could smell them baking. There’s something so settling and satisfying about smelling cinnamon (or even just dough for that matter) when it’s baking. They were big, fluffy, absolutely awesome just to look at! I found the recipe online and left it open in a window on my iPad browser. I had to make these and yesterday I started the dough.

The dough is made the day before, rises and then you roll the dough out, fill it with the goodness of brown sugar and cinnamon, roll, cut, and put in a baking dish, cover it, and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

Easy peasy.

The next morning you let them rise for 30 minutes in an oven with a dish of boiling water underneath them for 30 minutes, remove and preheat oven to 350 F. Put them back in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, ice and eat.

Seriously, what’s not to like about that?

And when they come out of the oven, they’re browned and gooey and perfect!

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls: Ready to Ice

Even the icing loves these rolls! Don’t believe me? Take a look at this heart Alexis found on hers:

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls: Even the Icing Loves These Rolls!

How cool is that?

Try these cinnamon rolls. You’ll love them!

You can find the recipe here.

Pick a Side

Mom and Daddy

Since daddy has been in the hospital all of his tests except for the heart catherization have been in the gray area. The heart cath yesterday showed that there were no blockages in his heart, which while very good news still doesn’t tell us what actually happened. None of the tests have shown the reasons behind what occurred so the only option at this point is a defibrillator being inserted in his chest to give us some of an insurance that next time, if there is one, this would be harder to happen . His doctor teased him and said, “Dude. You’ve got to pick a side!” We all laughed at that. His doctor is awesome.

After we got home I started thinking about picking a side. As we go through life we all have sides..Christian, non-christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Democrat, Republican, one side, the other, up and down. There are sides, and we as humans divide ourselves into categories, with nice little labels that “define” us. (I’ll get in to my thoughts on what defines us at another time. Trust me that’s a long rant, but right now that is irrelevant.) We are each individuals, yet we long for a side.

So I’m going to pick some sides…

I’m picking the side that is against 2013. I’m not sure what side that is yet, maybe I’ll have to make a side myself, but that’s the side I’m picking.

I’m picking the side against my sister having breast cancer. That one is self explanatory.

I’m picking the side against heart problems.

I’m picking the side of puppies and kittens, sun and warmth, ice cream and chocolate, bunnies and chipmunks, oceans and seas, and most definitely any side that keeps my entire family healthy. All of us. That makes us a side too.

I’ve picked my sides.

Have you?