Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls--With Improvements

I realize that I make a bold statement by claiming to improve on Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls. Pioneer Woman, herself, says, "If I had to pick one recipe of mine that I could incontrovertibly claim is the best there is, it would most definitely be cinnamon rolls. " And she is supported by thousands of readers, many of which publicly back her claim. I agree, this recipe is the best I've ever tried--with a few modifications.

I have been making cinnamon rolls for many years using just two recipes: for many years I used Fanny Farmer's recipe and a few years ago I started using a Betty Crocker recipe which used mashed potatoes in the dough. Most of the time these rolls turned out well, but the dough wasn't consistently great. I finally gave Pioneer Woman's widely acclaimed recipe a whirl a few months ago. The dough is wonderfully soft, yet not sticky, and very easy to work with. It rises perfectly every time, not just most of the time. And, the PW's signature icing includes my favorite cinnamon roll flavors: maple and coffee. I had been making maple icing for some time, but never thought to add the coffee--perfect!

My "improvements":
  • Add two tablespoons of ground cinnamon to the dough. These are, after all, cinnamon rolls. We tried the first batch without this addition and found the dough to be a little bland.
  • Cut the salt to 2 teaspoons.
  • Seriously reduce the amount of butter spread on the rolled dough. PW's recipe calls for 1 1/2-2 cups melted butter. Instead, I used 1/2 cup softened butter, spread on the dough with a butter knife or small spatula.
  • Instead of 1 cup of white sugar I spread 1 1/4 cup brown sugar on the rolled dough.
  • I cut the delicious poured maple/coffee icing recipe in half and instead of pouring, I spread it with a small rubber spatula. Half a recipe added plenty of sweetness to these rolls--even sweet-tooth Tatya agrees.

As I cruise around the recipe blogs I am humbled by the fantastic photography and detailed pictorial tutorials. I just don't have the time or inclination to do all that so here is my Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls--with improvements--Recipe in basic black and white, or you can follow PW's fab tutorial. PW keeps it real, I keep it simple:

Phase 1
-Mix in a heavy bottom pan:
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 quart whole milk
-Heat to scalding and take off the stove.
-Let cool for 45-60 minutes--until it is lukewarm and the right temperature for mixing in the yeast.
-dissolve 5 teaspoons yeast (2 US packets) in the milk mixture and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast begins to react.
-mix 2 Tablespoons cinnamon with 8 cups of flours and then add the flour mixture to the milk mixture and mix thoroughly.
-Cover with a cotton dishtowel and let rise for 1 hour or a little more.

Phase 2
-The dough should have risen nicely in an hours time. Next, mix together:
1 cup flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
-Add this flour mixture to the risen dough, stirring to mix well.

Phase 3
-On a floured surface, roll out half the dough into a roughly rectangular shape (not too thin).
-Spread with half a stick of softened butter.
-Spread 1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar over the butter.
-Sprinkle some more cinnamon over the the brown sugar. Hint: I add just a little white sugar to ground cinnamon which I put in an old spice bottle/shaker. The added sugar makes it easier to distribute the cinnamon evenly.
-At this point you could add some chopped walnuts before you roll up the dough--Dear Husband always appreciates this effort.
-Roll up the dough.
-Slice into rolls. I slice my rolls about 1 1/2 inches each and I usually end up with about 15-16 rolls per half-batch, 30-32 total.
-Place rolls , not quite touching (or just barely touching), in a greased baking pan.

At this point you can let the rolls rise another 30 minutes and then bake, or you can cover and refrigerate them overnight, and bake them in the morning. I've done both and they turn out equally good.
-Bake for about 18 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until golden.

PW's Crowning Touch: The Maple-Coffee Icing:

1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons brewed coffee
2 Tablespoons melted butter
pinch salt

Spread over cinnamon rolls--I use a small rubber spatula--about 3-5 minutes after the rolls come out of the oven. Let cool and enjoy!

Note Bene: You can also refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, if you have or need the time. This makes the dough a bit firmer and just a little easier to work with.

My kitchen has seen the production of nearly 300 cinnamon rolls over the past couple of weeks: Tayta made (with my advisory help) a quadruple batch to raise money for her sister's Kickstarter project and tonight, Tayta and her two friends made another quadruple batch to sell at the ball field tomorrow. This time they are raising money to help rescue young woman from human trafficking bondage. Their youth group, spurred on by the vision of one of these dear young girls, has raised over $400 to help these young women.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Email Subscriptions to Quotidian Life

This might be a good way-to-keep-in-touch solution for:

(a) friends (and family) who don't get on the internet much, and when they do, don't think to check blogs.

(b) friends who are tired of clicking on only to find I haven't updated.(Springtime in particular seems to be a high-living, low-blogging time of year.)

Thanks to Blogger's new service, you can sign up for email notifications of Quotidian Life blog updates--see the sidebar on the right.

Friday, April 22, 2011

by John Donne

SINCE Christ embraced the cross itself, dare I
His image, th' image of His cross, deny ?
Would I have profit by the sacrifice,
And dare the chosen altar to despise ?
It bore all other sins, but is it fit
That it should bear the sin of scorning it ?
Who from the picture would avert his eye,
How would he fly his pains, who there did die ?
From me no pulpit, nor misgrounded law,
Nor scandal taken, shall this cross withdraw,
It shall not, for it cannot ; for the loss
Of this cross were to me another cross.
Better were worse, for no affliction,
No cross is so extreme, as to have none.
Who can blot out the cross, with th' instrument
Of God dew'd on me in the Sacrament ?
Who can deny me power, and liberty
To stretch mine arms, and mine own cross to be ?
Swim, and at every stroke thou art thy cross ;
The mast and yard make one, where seas do toss ;
Look down, thou spiest out crosses in small things ;
Look up, thou seest birds raised on crossed wings ;
All the globe's frame, and spheres, is nothing else
But the meridians crossing parallels.
Material crosses then, good physic be,
But yet spiritual have chief dignity.
These for extracted chemic medicine serve,
And cure much better, and as well preserve.
Then are you your own physic, or need none,
When still'd or purged by tribulation ;
For when that cross ungrudged unto you sticks,
Then are you to yourself a crucifix.
As perchance carvers do not faces make,
But that away, which hid them there, do take ;
Let crosses, so, take what hid Christ in thee,
And be His image, or not His, but He.
But, as oft alchemists do coiners prove,
So may a self-despising get self-love ;
And then, as worst surfeits of best meats be,
So is pride, issued from humility,
For 'tis no child, but monster ; therefore cross
Your joy in crosses, else, 'tis double loss.
And cross thy senses, else both they and thou
Must perish soon, and to destruction bow.
For if the eye seek good objects, and will take
No cross from bad, we cannot 'scape a snake.
So with harsh, hard, sour, stinking ; cross the rest ;
Make them indifferent ; call, nothing best.
But most the eye needs crossing, that can roam,
And move ; to th' others th' objects must come home.
And cross thy heart ; for that in man alone
Pants downwards, and hath palpitation.
Cross those dejections, when it downward tends,
And when it to forbidden heights pretends.
And as the brain through bony walls doth vent
By sutures, which a cross's form present,
So when thy brain works, ere thou utter it,
Cross and correct concupiscence of wit.
Be covetous of crosses; let none fall ;
Cross no man else, but cross thyself in all.
Then doth the cross of Christ work faithfully
Within our hearts, when we love harmlessly
That cross's pictures much, and with more care
That cross's children, which our crosses are.

...and a wonderful meditation on the cross by Peter Leithart.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Camping Food

Frozen hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly, pita bread, fruit, chips, and potatoes wrapped in foil which didn't bake through as I didn't know to pre-cook them, all unceremoniously carted down to the Rummana campsite in plastic shopping bags, sustained us during our first Wadi Dana camping adventures beginning about thirteen years ago. We've come a long way since then, each year learning a bit more about the fine art of preparing camping food that not only nourishes but also provides pleasure--and sometimes even a little envy from our friends at the next camping table. But it is envy in good fun: we enjoy sharing with each other the best of what we bring and we tuck away new ideas of what we'll bring the next year.

One of our first family camping trips to Wadi Dana---the frozen hot dog days. (This picture graced our Christmas card that year. I had planned to take the picture in Dana and had instructed the kids that the family picture must be endured FIRST--thus our cleanliness--and then they could go off and play with their friends.)

Back at the Bedouin/Eating Tent:

When we first began camping at Dana we couldn't find a cooler or a decent camp chair to bring with us but we now have a large white American cooler, third hand from an American Embassy family who brought it in with their shipment. All non-perishable food is packed safely in Rubbermaid containers, hauled over as extra-baggage pieces over the years. We are camping in style! Below are recipes we enjoyed this year in Dana:

Camping Pasta Salad

This has become our traditional first lunch when we arrive at Wadi Dana. Thanks for this great camping meal idea goes to some Swiss friends whom Dear Husband and the boys camped with in Wadi Rum one summer. The pasta is precooked, drained, and stored in a ziploc bag. All the other ingredients are pre-cut and stored in baggies or small plastic containers. When we arrive at the campsite all we have to do is to mix the ingredients in a large bowl and dress it with olive oil and a little coarse sea salt and spices.

The ingredients for this salad are flexible, depending on what you have on hand, but here is what I used in Dana:

One 500 gr. bag pasta, cooked and drained
sliced olives
cubed mozzarella cheese
tomatoes (cherry or grape are nice but I used regular ones cut into chunks, too.)
chopped red and yellow peppers
olive oil
chopped fresh basil (or dry if you don't have fresh)
maybe a little lemon pepper and or sea salt

You could also saute some vegetables instead: onion, garlic, zucchini, eggplant. Just depends what you have on hand.

Fellow camper, Jackie, shared this great dip with us:

Black Bean Hummus

1 clove garlic
1 15 oz. can black beans, drain and reserve juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whirl all ingredients in the food processor, scraping down the sides. This is good served with pita chips--we make our own in Jordan!

This year the prize for the most ambitious camping dish goes goes to Tiffany. I could hardly believe my ears when I came back to the eating tent after an afternoon hike and Tayta ran up to inform me that Tiffany was making onion rings. "Really? Real onion rings? How is she doing that??" With a small propane burner and a small pot of boiling oil. Amazing. I would never have thought to attempt it. The onion rings were delicious and she made plenty to share. Here is the recipe she used from

A few more camping food notes:
  • We now bring our french press with us so that we can enjoy coffee with the baked goods that Tayta provides;
  • A typical Australian hamburger is served not with pickles but with sliced beets. Quite nice.
  • Twice baked potatoes are a delicious substitute for baked potatoes. Made ahead of time and wrapped in foil, they need only be re-heated in the fire.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Grandeur of God~Wadi Dana

Last week the city folk got out of town to enjoy each other and the unique beauty of a small yet grand corner of God's creation. We love Amman, but it is after all a city, and we anticipated--with no small hope of temperate weather--escaping the traffic, pollution, grimy streets, and winter-chilled houses for the warmth, wide open spaces, star filled night skies, and rugged beauty of Wadi Dana. I was hoping for, as writes Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Grandeur of God:

"The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod...

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings."

In the vastness of a nature never spent we joyfully rediscovered the dearest freshness deep down things.

I used to be an English-Garden-beauty kind of girl but now it is the expansive, sandstone terrain with its sparse but exquisite flora which captures my imagination.

The silence serenaded me as I walked the trails and sat on sandstone rocks, letting the sun melt away a couple months worth of winter chill.

I think I understand why so many migratory birds pass through Wadi Dana on their way to and from Europe: I can imagine they are enjoying themselves as I watch them float effortlessly through the gorge, riding from one wind current to another.

Palestinian Sunbird

The broom, in full, fragrant bloom was a-buzz with hundreds of bees. This particular bush was so big that I could easily imagine the prophet Elijah taking shelter under it as is mentioned in I Kings 19--without the bees!

This bird, among others, found it a choice shelter.

Rains had been light this year and flowers few, but once I focused my desert eyes I was not disappointed with the flora beauty I found.

Brightening the landscape in chartreuse clumps, the Euphorbia looked especially fine. And if one looked very carefully they could find a tasseled hyacinth putting on a show:

Leopoldia comoso

Somewhere along the way unruly clumps of wild mustard became more beautiful to me than beds of tulips...

and the late afternoon vision of desert sage than a bunch of long-stemmed roses.

I didn't spend all my time alone: we scrambled and hiked...

and otherwise enjoyed each other's company.

Our shrinking family--sniff, sniff. And when did Artist Son get so tall??

Up next: Wadi Dana, The Food

Monday, April 04, 2011

Resurrection Letters, Volume II~He Makes All Things New

From a favorite soundtrack for the Easter season:

"All Things New"

Come broken and weary,
Come battered and bruised 

My Jesus makes all things new, all things new 

Come lost and abandoned,
Come blown by the wind 

He'll bring you back home again, home again

Rise up oh you sleeper awake 

The light of the dawn is upon you 

Rise up oh you sleeper awake

He makes all things new

All things new 

come frozen with shame,
Come burning with guilt,
My Jesus loves you still, loves you still


The world was good, the world is fallen,
The world will be redeemed,
The world was good, the world is fallen,
The world will be redeemed 

So Hold on to the promise,
The stories are true.
My Jesus makes all things new,
The Dawn is upon you.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Holy Sonnet XIV~John Donne

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Tour for Peace

It has been a couple of months of twists and turns for Oldest Daughter, times of hard work, expectation, disappointment, revelation, and more hard work. What began as a vague but determined desire for continued musical growth and an opportunity to use the music God has given her to bring something good to the lives of others where it is greatly needed, developed into ideas which required persistent inquiries, networking, and arranging, and has culminated into the musical Tour for Peace project described in the Kickstarter project below.

If they are successful, Oldest Daughter (who will come out of anonymity on this blog for a time), and her good friend and fellow violinist, Holly Jenkins will spend several weeks this summer giving a free recital tour, hold free workshops and give lessons for youth in Jordan and Ramallah, in the Palestinian territories.

A brief word about Kickstarter: it is an online venue for funding creative projects. All projects must first be approved by Kickstarter before they can be launched. Projects are an all-or-nothing venture: If Lauren and Holly do not reach their goal of $6000 in the next 26 days, they will receive no funds and backers will not be obligated to meet their pledges. Thus, backers are not charged (via Amazon payments) until and unless the project if fully funded in the specified time.

They are off to a good start and are hoping for a rush of donations at the beginning so that they might attract the attention of the Kickstarter organizers and be featured on their site.

Thanks for taking a look and for considering this project!