The Best Caramel Sticky Bun Recipe, Ever

Caramel Sticky Bun

Caramel Sticky Bun

Caramel Sticky Buns

Caramel Sticky Buns

I LOVE Caramel Rolls.

The smell of caramel rolls was imprinted upon my mind at an early age by my Grandma Jean.  Visiting grandma and grandpa was a special occasion that my siblings and I eagerly awaited.  We would wake up early under piles of homemade patchwork quilts and build up the courage to brave the icy wooden floors.  Once our stomachs began rumbling around, we quickly found our nerve.  Our little toes hit would hit the floor and send a shock running through our bodies; just in case any remnants of sleep were still hanging around.

On the way down the creaky stairs I always paused to peek out of my favorite round window that overlooked the western side of the yard, the chicken coop and the barn.  Then I’d run the rest of the way down the stairs and throw all of my weight against the door, which had a tendency to stick and cause panic, terrified that I would be locked upstairs all day.

By the time we all made it downstairs, Grandma had already been in the kitchen for hours and grandpa was just coming in from the fields for breakfast.  One of my favorite things grandma used to make was caramel rolls.  Sadly, I don’t have her recipe; though I doubt that after raising 11 kids she had much need for recipes.

After many attempts and dozens of recipes, here is what I took away from each.  Below is my favorite, healthiest, caramel sticky bun recipe I could come up with.

Pans:    2- 9 inch round cake pan, or 1 -18×9 inch pans (this recipe works WAY better when you use a pan with high sides, the rolls rise better and are much softer.  Don’t ask me why this matters, I have used a high side cookie sheet (1/2 inch sides or so) and they turn out nowhere near as good as when I use my 9 inch round cake pan with the 3 inch or so sides.  I think it has something to do with the caramel sauce bubbling up better with high sides, and probably about trapping the heat in better as well.  Trust me, use a pan with sides.

Dough:

You can buy 2 of the 8 large reduced fat (or not) buttermilk biscuits and use that, I have never done so, but it would dramatically cut down on time.

Otherwise Begin with the Dough:

2 T warm water water

1 packet of yeast or 2 ¼ teaspoon yeast

1 cup milk and 1/2 cup water, warmed to about 115°F

2 ½ c flour

½ cup ice cold water

1 teaspoon salt

2 T honey

1 egg

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

Oil for bowl

Add the yeast to the 2 T of warm water in a very large mixing bowl.  Let sit for about 5 minutes to ensure that your yeast is active.  Add the water/milk mixture then about 2 cups of flour.  Beat on low for about 4 minutes.  Cover and let the “sponge” sit for 30 minutes to 2 ½ hours.

After the sponge has sat add the salt, ½ cup ice water, 2 T honey, 1 egg and as much of the flour (1/2 cup regular and whatever of the 1 ½ cups of whole wheat you can mix in).  Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is elastic, but not dry.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover.  Let the dough rise for about 1 ½ hours or until double in size.  Punch the dough down and divide in half.  Let rest for about 15 minutes covered to make the dough easier to roll out.

While the dough is resting make the caramel sauce and prepare the filling by melting the butter in a small bowl and getting out your granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Roll our each lump into a thin, about ½ inch (z direction) or less sheet measuring approximately 12 inches long (x direction) by about 12-18 inches high (width, Y direction).   Spread ½ of the melted butter across the sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar then roll up the sheet and cut into approximately 12 rolls.  You will roll this up along the Y direction so that it is the 12 inches in length (x) and slice along the roll to make the individual cinnamon rolls.

Pour your caramel sauce in the two 9 inch cake pans or the 18×9 inch pan.

Place your sliced rolls in the sauce spaced evenly with enough room to rise (almost double).

Cover and place in the fridge overnight or let rise a second time and bake immediately after the second rise.   Second rise is about 1.5 hours, or until rolls have doubled.  If you place the rolls in the fridge overnight allow about 2 hours for the second rise the next morning.  Bake at 375 F for about 25 minutes until the tops are lightly browned, checking at 20 minutes.

When the rolls are done invert them onto a plate and drizzle the glaze over them.

Caramel Sauce:

In a small saucepan combine:

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup honey

2 T water

¼ cup butter

Heat until mixture is smooth, sugar is dissolved.

Pour into the bottom of 2 – 9 inch round cake pan, or 1- 18×9 inch pans (this recipe works WAY better when you use a pan with high sides, the rolls rise better and are much softer).

Filling

¼ c butter

¼ c honey

Cinnamon and Sugar

Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

4 tsp milk

Whip together until creamy, adjusting consistency as needed.

Caramel Rolls Recipe

Caramel Rolls Recipe

Yogurt Pound Cake

Yogurt Pound CakeYogurt Pound Cake

A Lighter version of Sour Cream Pound Cake.

Take out 1/4 cup butter, 3 eggs and ¾ cup yogurt.  Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Grease and lightly flour a 8×4 or 9×5 inch loaf pan.

Ingredients:

¼ c butter

¼ cup yogurt + ½ cup yogurt

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups flour

¼ t baking powder

1/8 t baking soda

 

In a medium bowl combine:

1 ½ cups flour

¼ t baking powder

1/8 t baking soda

In a large bowl or a mixing bowl add 1/4 cup butter and ¼ cup yogurt and mix with a beater for about 30 seconds, add 1 cup sugar gradually beating after each small addition.  Sugar addition should take 5-10 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, beat 30 seconds to one minute after each addition.

Add vanilla (or other flavor almond, anise, orange)

Alternately add flour mixture and yogurt mixing after each incorporation just until combined.  Pour batter into pan and bake in a 325 F oven for approximately 60 minutes.  Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove and finish cooling.

Serve with ice cream and sauce if desired.

Yogurt Pound Cake

Yogurt Pound Cake

Grandma Christenson’s Crepe Recipe

Simple Crepe Recipe

Grandma Christenson's Crepe Recipe

My father recently gave me this recipe from his “Grandma Christenson” who used to watch him when he was young.  It is the best basic Crepe Recipe ever.  And this is coming from a Crepe fanatic.  When I was younger my siblings and I used to be in charge of our own dinners.  After playing at the park or wherever we had wandered off to, I would run home in front of the others and tell them that I was so hungry I could smell crepes.  Crepes were my specialty.

I used to use the recipe from Better Home and Gardens, and it worked just fine, but this recipe is so simple and it can be varied any way that you like

Original Grandma Christenson’s Recipe

3 cups milk

3 eggs

1 cup of flour

I don’t have a crepe pan so I cheat and make mine a bit thicker:

My Variation (thicker crepe, cheater’s recipe)

2 cups milk

2 eggs

1 – 1½ cup of flour

This makes about 10 crepes.

I put plenty of butter down on the pan every third crepe and they always turn out beautiful, expect that your first one will not be so great.  After that they get better.  The recipe sounds simple but you will be amazed how yummy they are, especially if you cook them in butter.

Variations:

To make a thicker crepe add more flour

To make more of a pancake, add more flour and 1t baking soda, 2T sugar and 1 t vanilla (nutmeg and cinnamon are awesome in pancakes).

Cooking Crepes in a Regular Pan

Cooking Crepes

Easy Hummus Dip (Chickpea Dip)

Hummus Dip

Easy Hummus Dip

I have tried to make hummus from scratch, soak and cook dried garbanzo beans, blend it with other ingredients, and it never tasted right.  So imagine my surprise when I threw a can of garbanzo beans in a food processor with the juice of ½ of a lemon, olive oil and some salt and out came on of the best hummus dips I’ve ever had.  It is not a traditional hummus as it doesn’t have tahini.  Tahini is not something I regularly have in my pantry so it didn’t make the cut.  You could easily add ¼ cup tahini if you do have it.

Recipe

1 15 or 16 oz can of garbanzo beans

Juice of ½ lime or lemon or about 2 tablespoons

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt (to taste)

Combine in a blender or food processor until smooth

Serve with bread and veggies, such as cucumbers or slices of tomatoes.  One of my favorite ways to eat hummus is on toast with a thick layer of hummus topped with thinly sliced tomatoes and a little salt and pepper, yum!

A Knife Novices Attempt at Making Her Father’s Turkey Soup

 

Turkey Soup and Bread

Turkey Soup and Bread

Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup

The last time that I visited my parents my dad, a cooking fanatic, was in the kitchen making soup.  O.k. so he wasn’t in the kitchen yet.  To be more precise he was trying to recruit a helper.  That helper ended up being me.

Once he had his little helper, then he was in the kitchen.  I scrubbed as he chopped; turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, carrots and a whole other slew of things.  I’m the scrubber because I’m not allowed to chop in front of my dad.  He literally has to leave the kitchen.  He’ll laugh and nervously twit around me for a few moments then hastily mutter that he can’t watch any longer.

Don’t be deceived, this is not because he’s afraid that my non-existent chopping skills will lead to a severed finger.  Oh no, he simply can’t bear to see someone using a knife in such a sacrilegious manner.

So when he’s in the kitchen, I’m scrubbing.

As he chops up a storm, he throws everything into a big pot with some stock and it miraculously turns into the best soup on the planet.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it here:  I am not a soup person.  But when I’m at my parent’s house I’ll easily eat an entire pot.

Back at home, I found leftover turkey in my freezer and a few rutabagas in the crisper.  So here is me copying my father’s soup.

 

In a large pot sauté

½ onion

3 cloves garlic

 

Add chopped

3 carrots

2 small potatoes or 1 large

2 rutabagas

and:

1 cup Pinto Beans

 

Add water and stock in a 2:1 ratio, respectively, until vegetables are just covered.

Salt to taste, about ½ t or so

Herbs (Dill, Sage, Thyme etc)  Throw in the entire stalk if using fresh.

Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer until vegetables are soft.  Add more stock and/or water as necessary.

 

The one thing my dad does forget to do is pick out the weird things that he randomly tosses in the pot.  I’ve found Parmesan cheese rinds and squash peels that he thought would soften up.  He literally throws everything into his soups.  Stalks of herbs are to be expected.  As far as picking things out of your soup, at my parent’s house, you’re on your own.

This turkey soup is rich and fragrant though I have to admit it’s not quite as good as my dad’s.  That may have to do with his keen cook’s intuition; knowing just what weird leftovers will turn his soup into a divine pot of deliciousness.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that it has to do with the way he chops his vegetables.

 

The Amazing Health Benefits of Chocolate

As February is the month of Valentine’s Day, why not get to know a little more about one of the most common gifts of the day of love.  The amazing properties of chocolate, beyond a great comfort food, may just surprise you.

Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical theobroma tree. The earliest documented use of cocoa was over 3,000 years ago, when it was enjoyed as a drink by Mesoamerican peoples, including the Aztecs.

In order to produce the products that we recognize today as chocolate, the beans from the Theobroma cacao tree are fermented, dried and roasted.  The interior of the bean is ground to produce cocoa solids and cocoa butter, if the products are not separated it is referred to as chocolate liquor.

Chocolate and Flavanols

Chocolate is packed full of amazing little molecules called polyphenols.  It’s particularly rich in a class of polyphenols called flavanols, also found in high concentrations in tea, grapes and apples.  The most widely recognized way that flavanols and their metabolites exert their beneficial effects is by acting as antioxidants.  Flavanols also affect multiple signaling molecules, including nitric oxide, a chemical which relaxes smooth muscles and is important in blood pressure regulation.  Flavanols and their metabolites most likely act on many targets, including enzymes, receptors and signaling proteins.

Chocolate and Cardiovascular Disease

Chocolate appears to be good for the heart both literally and figuratively.  Many studies have examined the effect of cocoa and chocolate on cardiovascular health.  A review by Buitrago-Lopez at the University of Cambridge examined the literature and concluded that chocolate consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiometabolic disorders.  The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke when compared to the lowest levels of chocolate consumption (Buitrago-Lopez et al., 2011).

Chocolate and the Brain; Effects on Serotonin

Perhaps not surprisingly to chocoholics, chocolate effects signaling molecules in the brain related to emotions.  Researchers have published results in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry detailing their studies on the effects of cocoa solids on anxiety in rats.  They found that short term feeding of cocoa solids reduces anxiety in rats, but does not change levels of serotonin and related neurotransmitters related to emotions.  Interestingly, after long term feeding (2 weeks) cocoa does not show an effect on anxiety but instead appears to enhance the concentration and turnover of serotonin (Yamada et al., 2009).

Chocolate and Cancer

There even appears to be some correlation between chocolate intake and cancer rates.  Additionally, studies have been done that suggest that chocolate intake can actually improve cancer progression!  In 2009, Dr. Maskarinec examined epidemiologic studies and intervention studies with cocoa and chocolate on cancer progression and rates, and concluded that there appears to be some benefit, though more studies need to be done to definitively prove benefits.

So the overall take home message this Valentine’s month is enjoy your chocolate; eat dark chocolate or chocolate low in sugars and fats.  And if you have any health concerns, check with a doctor.  Due to the high content of polyphenols in cocoa there are some conditions that warrant caution.  But, in most cases, our little comfort food, chocolate, appears to be pretty darn good for you too.

Clean Your Mental House for Valentine’s Day: Reduce Projections

For Valentine’s Day give your significant other the best gift of all.  Work on you!  Start by identifying and eventually withdrawing your projections.

Projections are wants, needs and desires that are not consciously recognized and claimed as our own.  The only way we know how to register these unclaimed feelings is by ascribing them to another person.

The most convenient place for our projections to get dumped are on our significant other.

So take back your feelings, claim them.  They are yours after all.

But this is not an easy thing to do.  There is a reason they are projected!  Paula Reeves, PhD has one of the best suggestions for identifying when we are projecting.  She briefly discusses the technique in her book, Women’s Intuition.

She suggests writing down a list of things that your significant other does that bothers you and how you feel when they do those things.  Then go through the list and replace the name of your significant other with I.  Reread the list and notice if your body responds in any way to the list as you re-read it with I.  Your body knows about these projections, your conscious mind does not.  So your body will tell you when something is true.  You will feel it.

Star the items that got a response and start to think about them.  If you said something like:

“When Anthony acts irresponsible it makes me feel like I am his mother and have to pick up all of the slack.

and

When I act irresponsible it makes me feel like I am my mother and have to pick up all of the slack.”

If the above comment got a body response, a fluttering in the stomach for example, think about what the statement means in more depth.  Try journaling about it.  There may be a part of you that wants to act responsible but never felt that you could.  Try to address this and let yourself be a little irresponsible, note how you feel.

Sometimes the projections aren’t so straightforward, sometimes they need to be worded in a certain manner to ring a bell.  So if you write down the same complaint multiple times in different words, it may help.

Once you admit your projections you can begin to address them and they will start wrecking less and less unconscious havoc in your life.

(I am not a counselor or a psychologist, this post is for entertainment and not meant to treat or diagnose.)

Make your own Valentine’s Day Gifts: Sugar Scrub

Homemade Sugar Scrub Gift

Homemade Sugar Scrub


Who doesn’t love a good gritty rub down?  Especially when it’s scented and beautifully packaged.  Who ever is lucky enough to receive this gift will feel like they took home a little piece of a spa.  Sugar scrubs are easy to mix up and make wonderful gifts.  Here is what you’ll need.

Container:  A wide mouth short container works well, glass or plastic, just make sure that it is clean and dry before you use it.  If you’re using glass be careful in the tub.

Oils:  I often use Soybean Oil (Vegetable Oil: check the ingredients, it should say Soybean) for sugar scrubs, it’s inexpensive and works well.  Other more expensive oils that you can use are Olive oil, safflower, Sunflower, Grape seed, pretty much anything works, I’d stay away from Corn Oil.  Organic Oils are nice as well, though they do increase the cost.

Sugars:  This is a very important ingredient as there are many different grains of sugar.  A fine sugar such as C and H Pure cane granulated sugar makes a delicate scrub.  A natural cane sugar of a larger grain makes a gritty coarse scrub; wonderful for feet and dry patches.  My boyfriend Brad loves the gritty scrubs, I prefer them as well

Essential Oils:  You need to use an oil to scent this scrub as it contains no water, you don’t want to add a water based fragrance.  I say everyone should have tree tree oil, orange oil and lavender oil.  They are the most versatile oils and are relatively cheap.  Orange and Lavender work great for scrubs, tree tree oil can be used in a variety of other things and is just good to have on hand.

Homemade Sugar Scrub

Homemade Sugar Scrub

To make combine the following in a bowl, this will make approximately 2 cups of scrub:

1 cup of oil

¾ cup Sugar

Mix well to make a suspension and add about

½ t of essential oil, more or less to your preference.

Use a spatula to get all of the product out of the bowl.  Pour the sugar mixture into container.  Do not fill the container too high, remember when the person reaches into scoop out the scrub they will displace some of the oil.  It shouldn’t be so high that it will overflow.  The sugar will eventually settle to about ½ to ¾ the height of the oil, this is where it should be.

Dried or fresh flowers tied with a ribbon give your gift a little something extra.

Flowers on Sugar Scrub Jar

Flowers Add A Little Extra

Delicious Healthy(ish) Double Chocolate Valentine’s Day Cupcake Recipe

Chocolate Cupcake with Frosting and Sprinkles

Chocolate Cupcake with Frosting and Sprinkles

Frosting with Sprinkles and Heart

Frosting with Sprinkles and Heart

Looking for a healthy version of a traditional Valentine ’s Day treat?  Look no further.  This recipe uses canola oil and low fat or fat free yogurt instead of butter.  It is also lower in sugar than most cupcake recipes without sacrificing the taste. For a super chocolate treat use Hershey’s Special Dark Coco powder in place of regular coco powder.  Not only do you get an almost black cupcake, the taste is extra rich!  Yum!

Makes about 16 cupcakes

Ingredients:

¼ cup Vegetable oil or Canola/olive oil combination

¾ cup Sugar

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

½ cup coco (Hershey’s Special Dark recommended)

½ t baking soda

½ t baking powder

¼ t salt

1 ½ cup flour

1 cup yogurts

¼ to ½ cup milk

1 cup chocolate chips

Grease muffin pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix oil and sugar with electric mixer, add eggs one at a time, beating one minute after each addition.  Add vanilla.

In another bowl combine dry ingredients and mix well.

Add Dry and wet (yogurt and milk) ingredients alternately to the sugar mixture, mixing after each addition until combined.

The batter should look like cake batter; add more or less milk (1/4 to ½) depending on the type of cocoa and flour you use.  They absorb varying amounts of liquid.

Add the chocolate chips and fold in.

Fill muffin tins at least ¾ full.

Bake for 12 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.  Cool 2-3 minutes on a rack and run a knife around the edges to loosen.  Cool and frost if desired.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

5 Reasons Small Apartments are Awesome!

The other day my daughter was watching Disney’s The Jungle Book and this song caught my attention.  It is called “Bare Necessities,” and I highly recommend listening to it, ahh the wisdom of Disney.

“When you find out you can live without it and go along not thinking about it.

I’ll tell you something true the bare necessities of life will come to you.

Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities,

forget about your worries and you strife,

I mean the bare necessities, that’s why a bear can rest at ease,

with just the bare necessities of life.”

 

So if you need a reminder of why small apartments are awesome, besides being a bare necessity, here is my little list.

1.  Cleaning is much faster and you can find the dirt easier.  I’ve almost stopped cleaning altogether.  I simply wait until my daughter spills something then I’ll wipe that area of the floor clean, half way done!  😉

2.  Your creative muscle gets more exercise.  How can I make this fit, what’s the best way to maximize space, how can we all have our own areas in the same area?  The list goes on and on.

3.  Smaller Carbon Footprint, lower heat bill.

4.  You know what you have and you don’t accumulate as much junk, because you can’t.

5.  You’re closer to your family, literally and figuratively.