Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mini Cinnamon Rolls

    There are few times in my life that I have the where with all to plan enough ahead to make, "from scratch" cinnamon rolls--maybe once if ever.  It is really unfortunate because I love cinnamon rolls, even the ones I explode from the can.  Getting my hands on a good cinnamon roll is so dangerous because it cancels all self-control I have.  I love cinnamon rolls.

   This variation of cinnamon rolls is great because it combines the elements of from scratch cooking with the elements of convince products which could be the best of both worlds.  The good news is, they are so good no one would be the wiser that you did this from scratch.  For my family, we don't corrupt our cinnamon rolls with anything foreign like nuts or raisins, just can't happen.  If you were one to corrupt your perfect cinnamon rolls with such clutter then be my guest.

1 package of Pillsbury Crescent rolls
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Cinnamon Sugar
1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon milk
Dash vanilla

Preheat oven to 400.  Unroll crescent roll dough and pince perforations to seal, making one complete sheet of dough.  Brush with melted butter.  Combine the Cinnamon Sugar and Brown Sugar together in a separate bowl and sprinkle over the buttered dough, evenly.  Starting at a narrow end, roll tightly.  Cut roll into 1/2 in coins and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 for 14-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Make glaze while the rolls are baking.  In a small bowl mix powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk together until smooth.  Glaze the rolls while still warm.  Makes about 12-15 rolls.


  • I keep Cinnamon Sugar in a sifter shaker and just kind of guessed how much I used.  If you don't have cinnamon sugar on hand.  combine 2 Tablespoons of Sugar to 1 tablespoon Cinnamon and stir well.  Don't bother if it's heaping.
  • Using puff pastry would be a great idea if you happen to have that on hand and remember to let it thaw.  I usually only use it for a specific recipe and use all of it up so I don't keep it on hand.  The Puff pastry would be great, though, in this recipe.
  • If you wanted to brush the tops of these rolls with more butter, live dangerously I say.  I didn't and found the rolls to be perfectly buttery. 
  • I use salted butter because I like the flavor of salted butter in sweet cooking.
  • I slowly glaze these rolls hot out of the oven because the glaze kind of soaks in to the rolls.  If you like your glaze to just kind of lay on top, then go right ahead and wait until they are cool
  • One of the things I love about this recipe is the crispiness that the butter and sugar become as they bake. It's almost like a carmel, so good.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bacon Egg and Cheese Muffin

   Saturday morning is my day to cook breakfast.  I have always been an early riser, getting up really early every day of the week.  During the work week that means I get to the office around 7:00-7:30 each morning which provides a lot of time to work, study, and get ready for the day.  Saturday, however means breakfast.  Kendra gives me a hard time because I get on such a rut that I don't' think of other things.  Worst part is, it's really true, I could eat waffles every Saturday morning for the rest of my life and not get tired of them at all.
   Last Saturday I was determined to come up with something new and different and really prove to my sweet wife that I could be different.  The idea to make a scrambled egg, meat, cheese, and some sort of bread "muffin" came to my head.  I'm not creative enough to just pull things out of thin air, well at least very often, so I hit the internet in my search for such a creation.  I was kind of heading in the bisquick direction, but quickly moved from that to these muffins.  I read a few recipe blogs and then synthesized these which turned out to be exactly what I wanted.  They are really good, quick to assemble and they aren't bad the next day either.  I think they could be frozen and reheated, though I didn't try that.
   This variation uses bacon, since that is the meat I had on hand, but you could use any protein you wanted.  I'll add some suggestions to just get your head spinning after the recipe is posted.  Be sure to spray your muffin pans really, really think pooling  well.  I used my hands to smoosh the biscuit dough out flat then used my fingers to get the dough to be evenly distributed in the pan.  I did learn that I need to add the filling and cheese to each pan then pour the egg mixture over, which the recipe reflects.  It just didn't work out of me when I mixed it all together and then tried to be fair to each little muffin well.

1 can refrigerated biscuits (I used Pillsbury)
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup cheddar cheese 
5 eggs
5 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a muffin pan very generously with non-stick cooking spray.  In a medium size bowl, prepare your egg mixture, set aside. Flatten biscuits and place one biscuit in each muffin well, distributing evenly up the sides.  Place a heaping spoonful of meat and cheese mixture over evenly into each muffin well.  Add egg mixture to fill just barely the top of each muffin well.  Sprinkle with additional cheese.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the eggs are set and not jiggly at all.

  • I tried mixing all of the ingredients together and spooning evenly, I had some egg mixture left over which meant I had to go back and fill some of the wells that just didn't look full enough.  It's really your call, if you want to do separate, go for it.  Or roll the dice and be fair to each well.
  • Be sure to cook whatever veggies you may want to add, the water will wreck this, except for green onions.
  • Some combinations I thought of: 
    • Sausage and Cheese
    • Chorizo, jalapeño, and cheddar jack
    • Veggie
    • Spinach (sautéed) ham, swiss
    • Grilled Chicken, sautéed mushrooms, and swiss
    • Red bell pepper, sautéed onion, artichoke, and black olives
  • These come right our of the pan, if you spray them well enough.
  • Basic ratio is one egg to one tablespoon of milk for the egg mixture.  then you'll want about 2 tablespoons of mixture (whatever you want) per well to fill up.  
I served this with cinnamon rolls and a fruit salad (chopped up fresh fruit drizzled with honey).  Everyone loved it and I hope you do too.  I think these would be great for a brunch or busy on the go family who doesn't want to hit a drive through.  You can nuke and go with a great breakfast all week long. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chicken Dumplings

My first "real" ministry job was at the Mayfair Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.  I have great memories and some wonderful friends to this day from my time there. The Lord put us together, no other way to figure it out, and I look back on those days with great joy.  One of the many fantastic people who attended Mayfair was Ms. Mattie.  Mattie was simply amazing.  She was well into her 80's, cleaned the church building every Monday and worked the Nursery EVERY Sunday and Wednesday without fail.  Never called in sick, never needed a break, never complained of being tired or stressed, just served and loved and loved.  She was into her second generation of babies, loving the babies of babies she had cared for in her nursery when I came along.  I learned so much from her about the heart of servanthood.  She is one of my heros.  A tremendous legacy, tremendous.

Keenagers was a group of friends who started playing cards and other games the first Thursday of the month at the church building as Mattie put it, "ages ago."  This group had been together for over 20 years when I started hanging out with them.  What's a lonely single guy to do on a Thursday night?  Seemed like the perfect place for me to be, it was.  I played Dumb Rummy with Dorothy Reeves,  Lois Smith, and Jane Bell just about every week.  Scrabble, dominoes, more dominoes were also played everyone ate then just sifted and settled to their comfortable spot where they played games and laughed a lot.  It was the highlight to most of their weeks.  Lewis and Regina Gandy, Chester and Catherine Goss, and Buck and Ruth Gearheart were the only couples who still attended.  The rest were widowed and lonely. Oh the stories they told, the even better ones on each other.  Cards and games were not the most important thing, food and the fellowship as we ate was.  Kathryn Goss' jalapeño hominy was amazing.  It took me a year to try it because hominy in a spicy cheese sauce just didn't really hit my happy button, but once I did I couldn't get enough of it.  Swannie Stanczyk's mashed potatoes were beyond my ability to describe.  NO clue how she did it.  She always brought them in a 3 quart Club cookware pot, wrapped in bath towels. I should have been embarrassed by the amount I ate, but I was among Mommies and Grammies who loved LOVED to see the young folk love their cooking.  It was my wonderland.  Mattie and I usually cooked our grub at the building since we were there already.  I remember 80% of the stories she told, and desperately try to remember the other 20%.

Chicken dumplings was one of the recipes that Mattie shared with me when I couldn't think of anything to make.  It was from her niece who had been given it by someone, handed down and down, one of those recipes like green bean casserole.  I refuse to call them chicken and dumplings because it really isn't in my book, but it's a fine razor thin line.  The preparation is really very easy, easily started and on the table in an hour, less if you follow the shortcuts I recommend.  I have changed up some things, of course, and share my way of doing the chicken dumplings.

I made this for the kids last night, thinking Kendra was going to be away (JBF) but turns out she was home early.  It was a gamble that the kiddos would hate it, but I was pushing ahead hoping for the best.  Kendra opened the oven and said, "we haven't had that in a LOOONG time."  We were both taken back to Mayfair and Keenagers, and Mattie...so great to have one little smell open up such a wonderful happy memory.

Maybe one day someone will be talking to someone and say, "I read this blog from an odd guy who was a Children's Minister but liked to cook...anyway this was one of his posts, it's really good."  That would be such a compliment to the memories I tie to this recipe.

2 cups finely chopped, cooked chicken
1 cup Grated Cheese, plus 2 cups for later
1 teaspoon Poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon Garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cans Crescent rolls
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 cup Chicken broth
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray, set aside.  In a medium bowl, place the chicken, grated cheese and seasonings in a bowl.  Mix well.  Unroll crescent rolls, separate into triangles.  Place one tablespoon of the chicken mixture in the wide part of the triangle, fold and roll.  Make sure the crescent is sealed by pinching all of the edges.  Place in 9x13 pan.  Repeat the process until both cans are completed.

In a medium sauce pan, place the soup, milk, and broth mixing to combine.  Heat to near boiling.  Pour over the crescents. Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes.  After 35 minutes, add reserved cheese and cook 5 minutes longer until cheese is bubbly and melted.


  • You can use left over rotisserie chicken, canned chicken, or slow poach chicken breasts.  I only had frozen breasts, so I went with the slow poach.  Place frozen breasts in a medium sauce pan, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, add a very generous amount of salt.  Boil for 8-10 minutes or until the breasts are cooked.  The key is to finely chop.
  • The measurements of the seasonings are estimations, I simply sprinkled the poultry seasoning over the chicken mixture, I was generous.
  • Don't freak out when you pour the soup mixture over the chicken, you will want to, but don't.  The liquid cooks down to a thick gravy and really does magical things to the crescents.
  • I think the crispy top of the crescents coupled with the tender savory dumpling like crescents at the bottom are what get me every time.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life by Chocolate Cake

I have always wondered how far one could push the chocolate envelope when it comes to cake.  I will wonder no more as I think this cake is the most intense chocolate cake I have ever eaten, made, or experienced.  If you are a true die hard chocoholic then this cake is for you.

I originally found this recipe from the Betty Crocker website and made very few improvements, I'll share the things I tweaked to make this cake "my cake." Right after I made this cake I began to think of other things I could do to make a "white chocolate" version of this cake using strawberries.  Doesn't that sound great?  I think it does.

This cake is incredibly dense, the batter was super thick, but tender and moist after baking.  The pudding and sour cream help to make this so moist even beyond the first day.  I chose to use mini chips in the cake batter instead of the big chips and really liked the resulting texture it gave the cake.  Of course adding vanilla to any cake is a must for me, it just makes me feel better knowing that it is in there.  There is a lot going on in this cake however.

The glaze is really a whole other post!  It was like pouring fudge on the cake.  I wasn't too thin, or too thick.  I found that it rolled nicely down the side of the cake, and unlike other glazes, stayed on the cake and didn't just keep on rolling to the counter.  After it cools is becomes this fudgey, gooey, chocolate coating.

Hot Coffee or Milk is a must, it's the only two things that could possibly compliment this cake to make it better.  I think this cake would freeze great, however I would advise that you glaze the cake when you plan to serve it.  Only because I'm not sure how it would turn out.

box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® butter recipe chocolate cake mix
cup chocolate milk with 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
cup butter, melted
container (8 oz) sour cream
package (4-serving size) chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
bag (12 oz) mini chocolate chips (2 cups)
Rich Chocolate Glaze
cup semisweet chocolate chips
tablespoons butter
tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2
teaspoons water

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease and lightly flour 12-cup fluted tube cake pan, or spray with baking spray with flour.
  2. In large bowl: mix cake mix, chocolate milk, butter, eggs, sour cream and dry pudding. Mix with hand held mixer until well blended, batter will be very thick. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon into pan.  Make sure to spread the cake, evenly distributing it--it's THICK.
  3. Bake 56 to 64 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Turn pan upside down onto cooling rack or heatproof serving plate; remove pan. Cool completely, about 2 hours.
  4. In 1-quart saucepan, heat glaze ingredients over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Drizzle over cake. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sugar Cookie Bars

Yes, it's on an upside-down bowl.
I've never been one to just, "come up" with a new recipe out of thin air, I have to have inspiration and then reinvent or tweak it to my liking.  When I first caught wind of the idea of taking a sugar cookie and turning it into a bar I was all about that.  Turns out dozens of other cooks have has the very same idea, go figure.  I read about ten different recipes and finally decided on the recipe that I was going to tweak to make my own. Even if having a sugar cookie bars is not your idea of delicious, you will for sure want to try this buttercream frosting.  I haven't had a better buttercream--ever!

My son, Titus, helped me make these bars, up to the point of frosting, for our church community group meeting.  It's great fun to have your kids help you cook, and they get to learn all about fractions and following instructions...so much to learn from being in the kitchen and cooking.  He's quite the cook, I'm very proud of him.  The bars come together quick and bake even faster.  One lesson I've learned is not to wait for these bars to get dark on top.  These bars cooked in 10 minutes.  I didn't really get a stop watch and keep time, but I would say that from mixing to frosting it was maybe 45 minutes to an hour.

These bars are very versatile in that you could add your favorite extract, or citrus zest and create a whole new bar.  The frosting could be tinted to any shade you wanted.  I chose to go with the  plain white and used the really cool crystal sugar, which of course could be any color available.

The cookie is tender and moist with a very "sugar cookie" taste, only thicker.  How bad can that be?  The buttercream frosting is just to die for.  Creamy and sweet with that ever so slight salt that cuts through the sweetness of the frosting.  There were some parts of the bar where the frosting was as thick as the bar itself! Don't get me wrong, I love frosting as much as the next guy, but I should try to do a better job of spreading the love next time.

1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda

For the frosting:
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
5 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional)

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.   Spray a jelly roll pan with non-stick cooking spray (the size will vary) Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the extracts, mixing to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed just until incorporated.  It's easier to add all the dry ingredients to another bowl and stir them together, but if you don't feel like getting another bowl dirty then just add the salt, baking powder, and flour.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer. I got a paper towel wet and kept my fingers moist, not wet, to keep the dough from sticking to my fingers. Bake 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla, salt, and confectioners' sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the milk.  Tint as desired with food coloring.  Spread over the cookie in the pan, sprinkle with the sugar and  cut into bars and serve.

Ice cold milk or hot coffee is a very necessary accessory. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Margaret's Tea Cakes

I had never heard of a tea cake until I was married.  My wife raved and raved about her Grandmother's tea cakes and how delicious they were.  When she was in High School she was very active in Track and Field and basketball.  It drives her crazy when i brag about how well she did in athletics and talk about all the awards she won.  Her Grandmother would make a huge batch of tea cakes for her to take on the out of town meets.  Her coach always asked if Margaret's tea cakes were, "coming with us."

Tea Cakes are a different kind of cookie in that they aren't really sweet.  They are a dense and soft cookie slightly sweet and very subtle in flavor.  I think they would be really good with some lemon zest and a lemon glaze.  But, these weren't for me, they were for my wife who likes them just the way they were.  I did tweak the recipe adding a little more baking soda, vanilla, and almond extract.  I liked they way they turned out.

A word of caution though, if you don't like to roll of fiddle with cookies, walk away.  The first dozen I made I just dropped out of my scoop.  They didn't look very pretty at all, very rough. The amount of flour in the batter made them hold their shape and not spread as I thought they would.  I rolled them in my hands and patted them out (that's what made them look so smooth).  You could roll the dough out and cut them, but I didn't think that step was necessary.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
6 tablespoons of milk
5 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about 5 min.).  Add eggs, milk, and extracts mixing to incorporate.  Slowly add flour until completely combined.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, rolling into a ball and slightly flattening out.  Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven 10-12 minutes.  They will not brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.

Note:  I think they would be delicious with some lemon zest added to the dough, then glazed with a lemon glaze.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Snickerdoodle Oatmeal

I served this with a little buttered toast.

I've always heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  My sister and I grew up getting ourselves ready for school each day alone.  Both of our parents worked and left the house before we were even awake usually.  Both my sister and I chose to sleep rather than eat breakfast, so we skipped the most important meal of the day.  During the summer months we would eat cereal each morning, occasionally pancakes or frozen waffles.  My Mom would always get on us for not eating breakfast, but there was no way we were going to wake up early to eat, sleep was precious.

When we had Titus I was determined to make breakfast for him each day and have him growing up eating breakfast.  He evolved to preferring Pop Tarts, Toaster Strudel, or cereal over time but occasionally would want to have something hot...well hotter than a toaster hot.  I have this HUGE hang up for wanting my children to eat homemade food and not reheated factory prepared food.  I can't really explain it, but it is a big deal to me.  I want them to ask for home made cookies over packaged, home made brownies over Little Debbie, and so on down the list.  Maybe it because I watched too much TV, who knows I certainly don't try to figure out my crazy quirks because there isn't enough time in the day.

Having just wrapped up a long Christmas break, extended by a visit from sweet long time friends, I stayed home to help Kendra get the kids ready for their day.  Titus brought home the classroom beta to babysit over the holiday, and he needed to go back to school.  I usually go to work early, before anyone is awake since I wake up at 5am everyday without an alarm clock.  The brisk morning made me think of oatmeal and so I just decided that I would make oatmeal for the kids and not ask what they wanted.   We have microwave packets of oatmeal that they usually eat, but I wanted to make something cooked on the stove.  

All of my kids loved this oatmeal!  This is a rare treat and very unusual for them to all agree that they love anything, let alone oatmeal.  Their reaction and praise for, "the best oatmeal on earth" made decide I'd better make it a recipe and get this written down.  Since I had to think of a name for this "recipe" I tried to associate the flavors and decided Snickerdoodle cookies is the closest flavor association I could make, thus the name.  The bonus is that saying, "snickerdoodle" is fun.  The picture above is Levi's serving, which needs to be room temperature or cooler because he doesn't like hot stuff.

Snickerdoodle Oatmeal

1 1/2 cups Instant Oatmeal
1 cup Milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Cinnamon Sugar (plus some for garnish)

In a medium saucepan add milk and water, bring to a boil over medium heat.  When the milk and water come to a boil, add salt, vanilla, and oats, stirring well.  Cook over medium heat 2 minutes.  Remove from heat adding remaining ingredients.  Stir well to combine.  Taste and adjust to suit personal taste.  Garnish with cinnamon sugar (about a tablespoon for each serving).

4 generous servings

  • When you boil milk on the stove, be watchful.  You really don't want to walk off from a pot of milk in the stove.  When it comes to the boiling point, it doesn't boil like water, it swells and foams up.  If you aren't careful it will over flow and that's no fun to clean up!
  • I think the vanilla adds a layer of flavor the compliments the cinnamon and sugar, it really helped finish off the dish, for me at least.
  • I keep cinnamon sugar mixed up and in my pantry in a flour shaker.  The one I have is from pampered chef, but you can find them readily at most stores that sell kitchen duke.  My ratio is almost equal parts cinnamon to sugar.
  • If you dont' think this tastes like a snickerdoodle that's ok, just change the name.
  • Start to finish this was done and ready to eat in 20 minutes, maybe less.