Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls = Messiest My Kitchen Has Ever Been

A few months ago my mother-in-law gave me a cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  It is a beautiful book, filled with recipes that make my jeans tighter just from thinking about cooking any of them.  As my mother-in-law just celebrated a birthday, she requested that I make the cinnamon rolls out of the cookbook for our family birthday celebration.  I'm not sure what I just finished cooking, but I assure you that it is not a batch of beautiful cinnamon is mostly a big gooey mess.  I should also mention that my mother-in-law has a gluten allergy, so these were made with gluten-free flour.

I should have had a clue that things would not go so well.  Every cake or bread recipe I make that says to use a medium saucepan misleads me, and you would think I would have learned my lesson.  After mixing 4 cups of milk, a cup of oil, and a cup of sugar together, adding yeast, and then somehow squeezing eight cups of flour into the pan, it was already filled to the top...did it occur to me that the dough would actually rise?  No, even though I knew it was going to do so, I just didn't think about it.  So, after about 20 minutes the dough is spilling over the top of the pan and I have to transfer it to a larger bowl, thus probably damaging the entire yeast/rise process.  Oops.  Now, the recipe makes about 50 cinnamon rolls, so I only rolled/baked half of the dough tonight.  According to the recipe you can roll it out as soon as it has risen for an hour.  Wrong!  I put my dough out on my prepared surface (I used painter's tape to tape saran wrap onto my counter!), it just spread out and stuck to everything, no rolling out at all.  So, I used a spatula to scoop it back into the bowl and stuck the whole batch in my fridge for a couple of hours.  Should have left it there overnight, but I really wanted to eat one tonight! I'm hoping that after the rest of the dough chills overnight it will be firm enough to actually roll once the filling is spread on the dough.  As it was, even after a couple of hours of firming up, this first batch rolled out just fine, but would simply not roll up once I added the filling, regardless of the amount of flour I tried to use, and I only get it to sort of squish together into a long, gooey mess of a lump.  I then used a cookie dough scoop to plop the "rolls" into the pie plates like scones.  The entire process was hilarious, as my husband can certainly confirm, and our entire kitchen was covered in flour, and almost all of my baking equipment was dirty (Chris lovingly did the dishes).

Messy, messy, messy...they aren't actually that yellow, but Chris took this with his phone.

The "rolls" just came out of the oven, and what I have is basically a pie plate with some sort of dough in it, but there are no defined rolls.  I could sort of see the line where the scoops of dough met, so I just took a knife and cut around them so that the icing, which is delicious, had somewhere to go.  They are cooling now, but I'm about to eat one, even though it is almost 11:00...

And the verdict: Pretty delicious.  I can tell that they are made with gluten-free flour, as the texture is a little different and there is a bit of a taste that I can't quite place.  But, they are moist and light, and not too sweet.  Even though they don't look pretty, they taste great!  Yay! 

Freshly Baked Cinnamon "Rolls"

Even better with a cup of coffee!

For anyone interested in the recipe, here it is: Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls.  I wish I had found this recipe on the website, rather than in the cookbook, it is much clearer online!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer, where are you going?

I refuse to believe that summer is more than half over, but I fear I have to acknowledge that my free days are limited.  We have been so busy, I sort of feel like I missed all of June and most of July, only to wake up and realize how much had already happened.  It just isn't fair.

Connor is growing and growing; physically and mentally.  The poor kid is still short and skinny though, still wearing a 12month size in his shorts and swim trunks, but is getting a little taller.  Hopefully he will miss my short gene.  Intellectually he is incredible!  In just the past couple of weeks he has become quite the conversation artist.  He can carry on a pretty clear conversation with anyone, and has a memory that shocks us all.  Yesterday we were playing in the living room and Dino Dan was on in the background.  A dinosaur roared and I said something about it to Connor, who looked at me in complete seriousness and said, "No Mommy, not Dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus."  The kid is smart. 

Connor was able to spend a week with Mimi and Pa while Chris and I took a vacation with friends.  I believe his favorite part of the week was going to Floydada and getting to drive the riding lawnmover and ride in the Combine.  His Pa and Pop Pop had a good time with that as well!  He was also quite impressed that Pop Pop and Granny have a Raider Red statue that is bigger than he is.  We brought him a toy guitar back from our cruise and he plays it non-stop, though he discovered that if he puts cereal in the hole it is difficult to get out.  We missed him like crazy while we were gone; kept seeing little kids around our cruise ship that were about his age, but it was nice to be able to have some adult time again, and it was great getting to see him when we got back!

Connor also started swimming lessons this week, and is doing alright.  He is the youngest in his class, and is a bit timid, but he does really well when he wants to!  We are working on our "scoops" and kicks.  He does each one idependently pretty well, but putting them together is not something he is interested in.  Walking like a monkey on the wall of the pool is only an acceptable activity if it is getting him somewhere he wants to go in the pool, and jumping in doesn't hold much appeal (I'm totally okay with that!).  However, he is a bubble-blowing champ!  I can't believe we only have a handful of days left to play together!

Like I mentioned before, Chris and I just got back from vacation.  We took a 7-night cruise on the Norwegian Spirit out of New Orleans with our best friends, Kathy and Chris Vance.  We had a great time, and were able to see some Mayan ruins and go cave tubing, and we had fantastic weather the whole time we were gone.  But, we didn't escape rain completely, it poured on us while we were walking around New Orleans on Sunday before our flight home.  I'll write a seperate blog about our cruise later, as soon as I finally write one about the Disney trip, but as a preview I will say that I definitely prefer Royal Caribbean to Norwegian.  The itinerary was great, but the cruise experience itself wasn't as nice as we have experienced on Royal or on Disney. 




The next couple of weeks are a bit crazy as well, with family birthdays, more swim lessons, staff development starting, and trying to fit in lots of lunch dates with graduated seniors before they head off to college.  But, I am determined to enjoy what is left of summer! 


Sunday, July 3, 2011

First (and Second) Haircuts at Magic Kingdom's Harmony Barber Shop

First haircuts are a special event in our society, and what better way to celebrate the occasion than a special trip to Walt Disney World to have your little ones first haircut at Magic Kingdom's Harmony Barber Shop!  Now, granted this makes for one expensive haircut...but, if you are planning a trip anyway, why not?!

My son, Connor, was born with a lot of hair, and everyone expected us to cut it long before he turned one, but I had always wanted the Magic Kingdom first haircut, so we just kept letting it grow in hopes that something affordable would come along that could get us to WDW before we couldn't put the cut off any longer.  Luckily, something did, and in November of 2010 we made a Thanksgiving week trip to Orlando along with my parents. (If you can get grandparents to go on your first family trip it is a BLESSING!).  We made Connor's haircut appointment about a week before our trip by calling 407-WDISNEY, and that was that!  We had our appointment for our first morning there with no problems making the reservation at all.  

We headed to Magic Kingdom early that morning to get in a few rides and enjoy our first trip with Connor prior to our haircut.  Magic Kingdom was pretty empty, which made for a great stroll down Main Street; U.S.A, and no wait on Dumbo the Flying Elephant, (of course Dumbo had to be his first ride).  Then we headed to Harmony Barber Shop, which is located on Main Street between the Emporium and the Fire Station.  It is tucked away into a little corner, and just screams nostalgia when you see it.  Such a sweet place!  There are three barber's chairs located inside, as well as an L-shaped bench to wait on and a small cash register.  The wall shelves are filled with First Haircut Mickey ears, Mickey hair glitter, colored hair gels, as well as more traditional barber shop odds and ends.

We only had to wait about 5 minutes for our appointment, and then Connor was introduced to Rex, who would be cutting his hair.  Rex was wonderful!  He gave Connor a bunch of stickers, and then assisted Connor in sticking the Mickey stickers all over himself.  When Connor was thoroughly occupied he sprayed Connor's hair down and got to work, and never minded when Connor got wiggly.  (Harmony Barber Shop is not equipped to wash hair, so arrive with your kiddos already clean).  Rex chatted easily with us as we watched, never minded the four people with various cameras in a clearly small space, was great at distracting Connor with stickers and light chasers; the man has the patience of a saint and he was just a wonderful man.  He made the experience such a joy, and so completely worth the trip!  When he was finished Connor looked like a little boy, not my baby!  He was presented with his special First Haircut Mickey Mouse Ears, and a certificate from the barber shop.  The whole package was right around $20.00, and included the ears and certificate.  Probably one of the best bargains on Disney property.  It was such a special experience for all of us, and I am so glad we waited to get his first cut at Disney.  It is a memory I will cherish always.

In June of this year I brought 29 teenage theatre students to Disney to participate in Disney Performing Arts and Y.E.S workshops, and of course had to bring Connor along too!  Since October he has had four additional haircuts, and was due for another.  We had an equally enjoyable experience with Harmony Barber Shop the second time around.  Our stylist in June was Beverlene, and she was just as wonderful as Rex.  Connor sat perfectly still this time around, as he is now a pro at getting his hair cut.  The cost for the cut was less than $20, which is the same as pay for a kids cut around here anyway.  No ears this time, but stickers galore!  I don't think we will ever make it to Disney again without getting Connor's hair cut while we are there!

Next time you are planning a trip, consider Harmony Barber Shop for a special haircut.  They do first haircuts, kids cuts, and adult cuts too!  Prices are really reasonable, and it is a whole lot of fun!

Friday, July 1, 2011

“Food Network Challenge: Star Wars Cakes” This Weekend

*Reposted from The Disney Food Blog, one of my favorite places for Disney Dining information!  This post combines several of my favorite things: Star Wars, Disney, Food Network Challenge and Cake!

“Food Network Challenge: Star Wars Cakes” This Weekend

Celebrating the grand reopening of Disney’s Star Tours attraction that debuted in May, The Food Network will showcase a new episode of Food Network Challenge – “Star Wars Cakes”!
Using The Force to shield the Dark Side, four cake artists will face off in this galactic battle to re-create Star Wars cakes. Beware of Jedi mind tricks! Will a sensory distraction such as the smell of WDW caramel corn be unleashed?

The challenger that presents an epic cake wins $10,000 and a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. (Lucky ducks.)
Set your coordinates for one of these showings (Eastern Time Zone):
July 3 at 8:00 PM
July 4, 2011 3:00 AM
July 4, 2011 11:00 PM
*End repost*
I was able to try the above pictured cupcake during our recent June trip, and let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS!  The cupcake was basically a Devil's Food, but had gooey peanut butter and chocolate throughout.  The peanut butter was incredible!  The icing was very thick, and had a nice mellow chocolate flavor that didn't overpower the cupcake itself, and the Darth Vader medallion on the top was made of white chocolate.  I can't comment on that part, as I don't like white chocolate so I didn't eat it.  This cupcake was also gigantic; I shared it with my husband and we still didn't finish it.
Thanks for reading!