Cinnamon Rolls and the TCM

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cinnamon roll recipes tend to be long and long recipes tend to disuade me. but short recipes using boxed/pre-made ingredients also disuade me. so i tried to settle on a recipe somewhere in between.

i found this recipe by Quest4ZBest at Food.com. the recipe uses a bread maker to prep the dough. dump the ingredients into the machine, press start and 2 1/2 hours later, wala… dough!

i like that.

so this morning i whipped up a batch.

as the dough was mixing and doing it’s thing in my 1998 Panasonic machine, i hopped onto the Bowflex for a workout. next thing i knew i was searching for a race on my iPad.

i wanted a destination, non qualifying, doesn’t break the bank, road trip kind of race.

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i started with a search for a half marathon… Alabama, California, Colorado, Nevada. oh hey, full marathons. Boston? ha, ha… no.  NYC? has a lottery, but in the end a super expensive trip. Flying Pig? race is in may. 18 weeks of training during the winter is not going to happen for this curly haired runner girl.

the Twin Cities Marathon? hmm… “The most beautiful urban marathon in America,” no need to qualify and a reasonable early registration entry fee. i like that. and i have never been to Minnesota.

so my destination race in 2018 is the Twin Cities Marathon.

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i think i will try to hit that ideal running BMI again in preparation of training.

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as soon as i finish this cinnamon roll.

o.m.g. i forgot how super duper delicious cinnamon rolls are.

make a batch.

one bite and your day will suddenly become a whole lot better.  like butterflies and flowers better.  trust me.

f.


img_1033-4 recipe notes

-> flour:  

i used regular flour by mistake.  i totally missed that, and i even had some in the pantry. 

-> butter:

i use Land O’ Lakes butter in my recipes.  so to make it spreadable i nuke it for a few seconds.

-> rolling the dough:

i started at the shorter end.  oops.  so instead of 16 cinnamon rolls, we ended up with 8 huge rolls.  like Cinnabon size, which is fine if you want to feel like you just ate a Cinnabon. 

This is How I Roll

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an imperfect roll

Thanksgiving was my mom’s holiday, Sicilian and loved to cook. there are cookbooks with tiny ripped napkin tabs marking recipes she had made or planned on making someday. notes scribbled in the margins.

family or friend, she always made sure you were fed, stuffed, and left with a container filled with leftovers.

this will be the first Thanksgiving without my little Sicilian mom. i knew i would eventually carry on the tradition, but i didn’t realize how soon and how hard it would be. losing her just three months ago and planning a feast like Thanksgiving with twenty plus family members and friends… trying to make some of her signature dishes… is more emotional than stressful at this point.

she always made her Italian bread into rolls for Thanksgiving. so a week ago i made a batch. instead of 1/4 cup of salt, i added 1/4 teaspoon. the rolls were wonky and bland.  excited to taste one of the rolls, my husband and i split one minutes out of the oven.  after the first bite i knew, not enough salt. ugh.  my dad’s face was priceless.

so today was round two.

now making bread takes time, and i wanted to go for a little run today. no plan on how far i was going to go… five, ten, thirteen… three miles. didn’t matter really.  i wanted to do both.

my mom’s recipe has a two step rise process.  so i figured i could totally make bread and run. no problem.

i used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to mix and knead the dough. (two and a half pounds of flour is too much for the standard size mixer by the way. don’t recommend that.)

and out the door i went.

5.31 miles later i came home, punched down the dough, downed a peanut butter gel and water and let the dough rise again while heading out for another run.

3.8 miles later… the dough was ready to be shaped and baked.

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an egg wash and sprinkle of sesame seeds later…

 

 

still needs some work.

hoping my bread will be as good as my little Sicilian mom’s someday. i only have three loaves left of her last batch she made.

i guess i need to schedule another long run soon.

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f.

A Groovy Birthday Cake

 

 

this past winter we binge watched the Kid’s Baking Championship. and after the fourth episode, i wanted to bake a cake, a tie-dye cake. looked super fun.

i loved how the Valentine’s Day cookies turned out, so i went with all natural food coloring again.  i guess if i am going to eat something loaded with calories, make it with more natural ingredients, right?

and i have a vision, so i doodled it of course.


 

cake

A Tie-Dye Birthday Cake

This tie-dye cake by Erin Gardner was the inspiration for my cake.

img_1033-4  What i used:

img_1033-4  What i did:

1.  I followed the instructions on the box to prepare the batter and used 8 inch cake pans.

Tip One:  I would recommend making sure the butter is super soft.  The instructions on the box does mention this, but I didn’t read that until after. Luckily I set the butter out on a day, when the temperature was in the 90s outside.

2.  To add color to the batter, I divided the batter into 6 smaller bowls.

3.   I added 12 drops of food coloring to each bowl creating a rainbow of colors.

Tip Two:   Orange – 6 drops of red and 6 of yellow, Purple – 6 drops of red and 6 of blue.  In case you skipped art class.

4.   Then just plopped each colored batter into the cake pan, tapping pan on counter after the last scoop was added.

5.    And waited patiently for the cake to bake…

I can see some of those colors popping through.

6.     Let the cakes cool for a couple hours.

7.     Made a batch of the whipped cream frosting.

Tip Three:  Make sure the cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture is completely cool before adding to bowl of stand mixer.  Recipe does state this.  I let mine sit for at least 45 minutes, so the mixture was pretty thick.  I whisked it a bit before adding to mixer, so it would incorporate into the whipped cream better.

8.  Used an offset spatula to spread the frosting.

And swirls and sprinkles later…

wa-la!

So groovy.

By the way if you know of a natural food coloring that produces a tie-dye cake with vibrant colors, please send a message my way!

 

balloons

 

 

 

 

 

 

-f.

The Detroit Free Press Half Marathon

twelve weeks, twelve days off from training, i completed the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon.  life got in the way again, but i plugged through the training days. well, almost all of them.

this round was a struggle.  i felt i was being tested daily, emotionally and physically, but here i am.

i ran those 13.1 miles, and never gave up just like mom reminded me to.

13.1

The Expo

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always a cheesy photo opp available.

while waiting in line for my bib packet i was looking around at all the other runners.

who was running 26.2 miles tomorrow?  who was running the international half? or the U.S. only portion like me?


and then there was the t-shirt…

which was pretty neat.

that night we took a stroll in the city.

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six miles later (it is all about the mileage) the rain started coming down pretty hard, so we stopped at Angelina Italian Bistro for some carbs.

Mediterranean Linguini

i had the pumpkin carrot cake for dessert. they wouldn’t give me the recipe. the nerve, i tell ya.

13.1

Race Day

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the start time wasn’t until 10:30 am, super late, but i could sleep in.  i just couldn’t find a bagel anywhere in the city to go with my Justin’s almond butter. so i settled on an english muffin instead, and i was at the start line in plenty of time.

rain was in the forecast again, like a 50-70% chance of rain, and i had just bought a new pair of my current fav’ running shoe at fifty bucks off!

but very little rain!  just super high winds. wind is not a runner’s friend.  i felt the wind was pushing my legs sideways at one point, when i was running between two buildings. was crazy.  i could have walked faster.

and a hamstring cramp or two later, i finished.

we walked back to the hotel, i showered and chilled for a bit.  then we walked to Townhouse for my post race burger and fries tradition.

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Townhouse Burger

i ate my burger, my fries and half of my husband’s fries. plus hot chocolate creme brulee for dessert. don’t judge. i was hungry, and they were truffle fries. how can you let truffle fries go to waste?

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first race i completed after the loss of my mom.  no one to tell me how proud she was of me, like only a mother could.  but i like to think she was with me. watching me from the sidelines, smiling, waving and thinking, “So this is what it is like, when she runs a race.  She’s crazy.”

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f.

The “Best” Apple Pie

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autumn is here again! yay!

leaves are changing…. apples are in season…

time for a pie.

i have baked my husband several apple pies (his favorite dessert) over the years, and each one has been “the best” one yet.

mmm… i am pretty sure that first one was not. i remember doubling the pie crust recipe for fear of it being too thin. i remember buying northern spy apples, because they were “the best” apples to use for pies.  the crust was thick.  the apples still had a crunchy texture.  the filling was a little runny. pretty sure it was not the best apple pie.

i have tried a variety of recipes over the years.  and there seems to be a few consistencies between them all.

pie crust recipes are pretty basic. flour, sugar, salt, cold shortening/butter… cold water. i tried a crust with shortening, one with butter. one with a mix of shortening and butter. one mixed in a food processor, one by fork, one with a pastry cutter and one by hand.  some recipes add white vinegar. ok, i tried that.

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the filling, again pretty basic. apples, sugar, flour or cornstarch for thickening, cinnamon, salt. the apples? i tried granny smith, rome beauty, jonathon, winesap, pink lady…some i had to search for and could never find. some recipes added honey, some walnuts.  some topped the filling with dots of butter. some added nutmeg, lemon juice.

and the arch de triumph, the top.  i tried a crumb topping, a crust with leaf cutouts along the edge, the basic crimped edge, small leaf/fall cut outs for the steam to escape and just basic knife cuts, some cuts with a little fanciness.

so here is my recipe for the Best Apple Pie, to date at least, according to apple pie critic, Eden K. (aka husband).


 

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img_1033-4  The (Current) Best Apple Pie

makes one 9 inch double crust apple pie

Warning: Not halved for two.  So run a mile or eight before consuming.

Tip One:  I made an apple pie the night before my husband’s birthday, and it took 4-5 hours. Yikes. So make the pie pastry the day before, divide in half, flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Store in frige until use. Or… you can freeze the disks for 3 months! Just wrap the disks in plastic wrap and place them in a freezer bag.  When ready, place them in the frige overnight to thaw. How neat is that?!

The Pastry

Tip Two:  If you buy the pastry already made, totally ok.  I won’t tell.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 heaping tsp sugar
  • 2 sticks (16 tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 1/2 inch pieces
  • a glass of ice water

 

The Filling

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I used Braeburn, from a local orchard, for this pie.
  • 4 lbs of baking apples peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices: jonathon, granny smith, pink lady, honey crisp, rome beauty, winesap, golden delicious or gala (Whatever is available.  You can mix them up.)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 heaping cup of sugar
  • 1/2 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 heaping tsp nutmeg
  • 4 heaping tsp cornstarch
  • Couple dashes of lemon juice

 

The Finale

  • 2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • egg wash – 1 egg white, beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 2 tsp sugar (I use course/raw sugar for fanciness.)

 

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In a food processor pulse the pastry dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar) until combined, about 5 pulses.

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Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (tiny clumps), about 10 pulses.  You want bits of butter in your crust.

Note:  I have seen some recipes use grated cold butter.   I tried grating butter, not fun.

Add 3 tbsp of cold water and pulse 2 to 3 times.  The dough should hold together, when squeezed with your fingers, but not dry, crumbly or sticky.  if needed, add 1 tsp of cold water at a time, pulsing twice after each addition.

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Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, divide in half.  Shape each into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

 

Remove one pastry disk from frige.  Let sit at room temp for a couple of minutes.  Want dough to remain cold, but manageable when using the rolling pin.

On a lightly floured work surface (or a lightly floured pastry mat), roll the dough into a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick (thin enough, but not too transparent).  You may need to throw a bit of flour on the rolling pin to prevent sticking.  When ready transfer dough to pie plate, wrap the dough around the rolling pin to ease transfer.  (If you used a pastry mat, just invert it onto the plate). Gently press the dough into bottom and sides of plate. Refrigerate.

Tip Three:  Don’t stress if it rips on transfer or does not overlap pie plate edge. Just piece ripped areas back together with your fingers.  And I always have enough of the rolled out top dough to make up for any bottom shortage. It will still be pretty after baking. 

On a large sheet of lightly floured parchment paper (or a pastry mat), roll out the remaining dough  into a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick.  Here is where you can use leaf pie cutters to cut out vents for the steam to escape or use a knife to create your own design. Place in frige until use.

Tip Four:  Your design will alter, when baking.  See examples below.  Don’t sweat it.  Just have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Tip Five:  While the prepared dough is chillin’ peel, core and slice the apples for the pie filling. Grab a helper. Music optional.

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Place the sliced apples in a dutch oven or a 5 quart pot.  Add the brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and cornstarch. Stir until blended. Over medium heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.  Uncover and cook until the liquid has thickened and becomes glossy, 5-7 minutes more.  Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and let cool to room temp.  About 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of oven, place a sheet of foil on the rack (to catch bubbly drips). Preheat oven to 400.

Whisk the egg wash (egg white and water) in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Transfer cooled filling to shell.  Scatter butter pieces on top.

Remove top dough from frige and place on top of the filled pie shell.  Tuck, trim, seal as needed.  Crimp edges.  Do your fanciness.

If using decorative cutouts, brush the underside with egg wash and press into pie top slightly.  If not and you haven’t cut into the top crust yet, use a knife to cut slits for venting.

Brush entire top with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Place pie on baking sheet.  Bake until golden and bubbly, about 55 min to 1 hour.  Check pie crust in 3o minutes, if too dark cover edges with aluminum foil or use a pie crust shield (I use the shield).

Transfer pie to a wire rack and allow to cool for a couple hours.

Tip Six:  This is where my husband’s patience is tested. He likes to cut the pie warm, but the pie ends up being oozy.  Kind of like lasagna, needs a resting period.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, optional, but yummy.

 


 

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– f.

 

 

 

 

p.s. if you are ambitious, how about these decorative apple pies! or this for a blueberry pie!

p.s.s. so out of curiosity i checked the number of words in the lower right hand corner of my screen, while writing this post.  over 1200.  wow. a lot goes into making an apple pie from scratch.  like over 3 times the amount of words than some of my other “treat” posts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The S Cookie

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since my mom passed away, i feel like everyday has been a blur.  i wake up, try to get things in order for my dad before i go back to work, write out the thank you cards from the funeral, mow the grass, do the laundry… and try not to let the utter sadness take over, when i see something that reminds me of her. which is everything.

nothing seems the same. and i guess life will never be the same, which i know i have to accept and move on, right? everybody goes through this, dealing with the death of someone close to them at some point in their life.

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but it still sucks.

my husband lost his mother and father in three months.  i lost a cousin and mother in nine.

holiday traditions will change, but new traditions will emerge.

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so in honor of my mom, i decided to try to make a batch of her famous S cookies. i have a recipe. i think i made them once. i really don’t remember.

my Nonna made S cookies.  her cookies were sprinkled with sugar.  my mom’s S cookies were softer and glazed with a powdered sugar icing flavored with a touch of anise. and i could taste the love in every bite.

i hope my S cookies will be as good as hers someday.


 

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S cookie

img_1033-4   Dough:

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 (1 cup) Crisco Baking Stick, All-Vegetable Shortening cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, sugar and baking powder.


Tip:  When using the dough hook attachment set the speed according to the instruction booklet for your mixer.  My Kitchen Aid mixer states to set speed at two.

Add one Crisco slice at a time to mixer, mixing until crisco is incorporated. May need to scrape down sides.


Make a well in center of dough.

Add beaten eggs and orange juice. Mix until dough is incorporated.  Let dough hook knead dough until dough pulls away from the sides of bowl, about 2 – 5 minutes.


On a floured surface roll out dough to about 12 – 14 inches in length and about 3/4 inch diameter.Cut rolled dough into 5 inch logs and shape into a S.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.


Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Tops of cookies will have a cracked appearance.

img_1033-4  Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp and 1 tsp hazelnut coffee cream
  • 1/8 tsp anise extract

Tip: Anise can be overpowering. Think black licorice. You can adjust the amount to taste.  Use less or more or none at all.  

Mix ingredients in a small bowl using a spoon or whisk.  Spread icing onto each S cookie and place on a wire rack.

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Tip:  The icing will run off the cookie a bit, so place a lint free towel or sheet underneath the wire rack. Otherwise you will have a sticky counter to clean up afterwards.

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Allow icing to harden at least 8 hours. I frosted the cookies the night before and by the next morning the S cookies were ready for delivery to my father’s house.


and some cookies i saved for us for the cookie jar later.

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so i am suprising my father with these S cookies, waiting for him to critique. eek. my husband loved them. yay!

but the best thing about making these S cookies was it made me the happiest i have been in weeks. and i truly believe my mom was with me, when i made this batch.

so here’s to you mom, my little green eyed angel.

– f.

p.s.  if you Google S cookies you will find a slew of recipes. just discovered this recently,  and the recipes vary. my mom always said different regions in Italy have their own version of the S cookie. kind of neat.

A Stroll in the Big City


ten years ago my husband and i headed to New York to see the Detroit Tigers play one of their final games at old Yankee Stadium.

two became four then six and so on. to commemorate that trip we all decided to fly in for a ten year reunion and see the Detroit Tigers play at the new Yankee Stadium.

and since i planned on logging a whole lot of steps on this trip (aka cross training for my half marathon), i needed to invest in a good pair of sandals.  it was summer after all.

so two days before we were scheduled to fly out i purchased these. the last pair i owned lasted ten years before i had to retire them.

and our last trip to NYC we walked about thirty miles. so this trip i wanted to make sure there was no chance of blisters and lots of comfort for those long strolls around the city.

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this trip we logged fourty miles in four days, shouting out how many miles we walked so far that day. our goal was to beat the previous day’s record.

how did we walk that many miles?

well let me tell ya.


The Brooklyn Bridge

we started on the Brooklyn side.

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The High Line

we decided to walk it from beginning to end.


Intrepid Museum

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for my husband, a veteran, the admission was free of charge.  that was nice.

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Central Park

we walked through Central Park on a Sunday.  people were lounging on the grass, walking, running, cycling… perfect day of the week to walk around the park. very relaxed atmosphere.


The MET

one my favorite places to visit and plus a little culture doesn’t hurt.


and all those miles and steps allowed me to eat stuff like this.

The Emmy Burger
The Emmy Burger

and this without eater’s remorse.

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The Munchies for me and Pistachio Squared for my hub.

tip one: once you get your bearings in the city, getting around is much easier. i prefer my two feet, but sometimes that is not the best option. there is the subway (cheap) and a taxi cab (not so cheap), but it’s a big city. so when you are chowing on a super yummy burger deluxe and fries and suddenly realize you should be in line for the Harbor Lights Cruise in 30 minutes and are too far away to walk and the subway would take too long, you hail a cab.

tip two:  get in line for the Harbor Lights Cruise 30 minutes beforehand and sit on top for the best views and photo ops.  otherwise you may not be able to sit together or find a seat.

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so if you are heading on a vacation get those legs and feet moving! that burger, pizza… ice cream or beer you ate will be well deserved after all those miles you logged on your trip.

our last morning in the city we walked a mile for breakfast round trip and didn’t even notice.

i like that.

 

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f.


 

this post was written at a time in my life i contemplated giving up my blog. life decided to take a turn. my mom became ill.  my focus shifted from running and my blog to trying to balance work, making sure my father was taken care of and she wasn’t alone dealing with this sudden diagnosis of cancer, a surgery and complications after.  i started to take days off from training.  some runs or cross days i just couldn’t squeeze in and other days i just didn’t want to.  luckily my job allowed me the time off so i could be with her. so i decided to spend my days and nights with her at the hospital while she remained with us.  one of the best decisions i ever made.

the weeks leading up to her diagnosis she started to tell me to never give up. and since she passed away, i try to remember what she said to me, never give up.

so here i am, still blogging and training for my half marathon in october.

 

 

 

 

i miss her.