Let’s Bake Those Hot Cross Buns!

So. Those hot cross buns I made for my book club. Yep. Gotta say, they were delish!

I adapted a recipe from The Pioneer Woman that I found here. I do love the PW. I think her and I could be besties. Hey Ree! I played with the ingredients a bit to use stuff that I had on hand so I didn’t have to run out to the grocery store in my jammies.

I messed up a step when I was adding the yeast so I started a second batch just in case. Even with the mess up both batches were yummy. I ended up with about 48 buns. The neighbors were happy to receive the extras! (It also helps placate them while we have construction going on in our backyard.) The construction guys were pretty happy to get some also. It takes energy to pound those nails.

First I heated up some condensed milk, water, canola oil, and sugar to just under a boil. I let it cool for awhile until it was about 120°. You need it about this temperature for the yeast to do its magic when you sprinkle it in. I forgot to sprinkle the yeast on the liquids before I mixed in the flour on the first batch! Wasn’t sure what was going to happen but it was all good!

After adding some of the dry ingredients it was time to let it rise for a bit. I like to use Pillsbury flour when I do my baking. It gives me consistent results and I trust the brand.

Multiple risings going on here. Look at those cute towels. That is my Grandma Jessie’s cornbread recipe on them!

After the rise and adding a bit more of the dry ingredients it was time to turn the dough out on to the counter and incorporate the cinnamon sugar and raisins. This was a fun step. Play Doh anyone?

I formed the dough into golf ball sized pieces and placed them on the cookie sheet and let them rise again.

Then it was time to brush them with the glaze, pop them in the oven, let them cool, and drizzle that yummy frosting cross on them.

This recipe makes buns that are light, almost croissant-like. The cinnamon sugar/raisin ratio is perfect. So so good with a cup (or two) of good coffee in the morning.

Let me know if you try them for your Easter festivities this year. These will for sure be a part of our tradition from now on!

Books and Buns Hot Cross Buns

Yield: about 24 buns

1  12oz can Carnation® Evaporated milk

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup C&H sugar

1 package fast rising yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

4 cups Pillsbury All-purpose Flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1 egg white

Splash of heavy cream

ICING

1/4 cup warm water

1 TBSP light corn syrup

1/4 tsp almond extract

3 cups powdered sugar

Combine the evaporated milk, water, canola, and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan. Heat over med low heat while stirring to just under a boil. Set aside and let cool to 120°.

Transfer liquid to a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over liquid. Add 4 cups of flour and mix until combined. Dough will be sticky. Cover with a really cute towel and let rise for one hour.

Mix 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Add to dough and stir until combined.

Combine cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press to flatten a bit. Sprinkle a third of the cinnamon sugar and a third of the raisins on top. Fold the dough over on itself and flatten it again. Repeat with a sprinkling of a third of the cinnamon sugar and a third of the raisins. Fold it again and repeat the sprinkles one more time. Fold it again.

Put a little bit of flour on your hands and roll golf ball sized rolls. Turn the edges of the balls under themselves slightly to get a nice rounded shape. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and cover and let rise one hour in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 400°

Mix egg white with a splash of heavy cream and brush on each bun when they have finished rising.

Bake for 16-18 minutes or until tops of buns are deep golden brown.

Remove from pan and all to cool on a cooling rack.

Make icing:

Stir warm water, corn syrup and almond extract in a small bowl until syrup have dissolved. Add liquid to the powered sugar and beat with a hand mixer until smooth.

Once buns are cooled, scoop icing into a small zippered sandwich bag and snip the corner a little bit. Make the crosses with the icing on each bun.

 

 

 

 

 

Books and Buns

Book club! Who’s in one? I LOVE mine. We just celebrated the nine year anniversary of ours. We call ourselves the WWWW. Wacky Wednesday Wino Weaders. Let me tell you, we have fun.

Look at that wine glass! Perfect for our WWWW.

There are seven of us in our book club. We are all neighbors. Last night we were reminiscing about how when we started we were really just acquaintances. A friendly wave to each other and neighborly chit chat was about the extent of our relationship.

Over these last nine years we have developed a special bond that we each treasure. We know that if any one of us needed something the others would be right there for us.

We have read 93 books together. Some amazing ones. Some ok ones. Some not so amazing ones. We have laughed, cried, agreed, disagreed and had some great wine (I mean discussions!).

So what, do you ask, do those hot cross buns pictured above have to do with books. I will tell you!

The book that we read for last night’s meeting was “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty. It was a great book and we all gave it the thumbs up. The story is set in Australia and part of the story takes place on Good Friday. Well, I guess everyone in Australia eats hot cross buns on Good Friday because for a while in the book it seems like every single character is eating one! The author made them sound so good. I am telling you, it gave me a craving for one, even though I really couldn’t remember ever eating hot cross bun. So I HAD to make some to take last night. Because…… carbs, cinnamon, raisins, frosting. I think we may have a new Good Friday tradition in our house!

Do you like to read? Are you in a book club? I highly recommend it!

Sushi! You can make it at home. Yum!

Sunday dinner. We love it. A time for the family to get together and touch base. This Sunday there were only six of us, all adults, at the house. The perfect time to try my hand at sushi.

My son and DIL gave me this sushi making kit from Williams Sonoma for my birthday. How fun is that? I was excited to see how my own homemade sushi would turn out.

I made the sticky rice the day before in my rice cooker. It needs to cool before you use it. There is a package of rice in the kit, but it is basically sushi rice (calrose), rice vinegar, sugar and salt. You can use this recipe here. I don’t know what the “kombu” is in the recipe and I didnt use it.

Two of my DILs were there to help me prep everything a give me moral support as I learned to roll the sushi rolls.

We prepared carrots, cucumber, avocado, imitation crab, store bought poke, asparagus (the first little stems from my garden this year!), sesame seeds, nori, wasabi mayo, and the crunch topping. We used panko bread crumbs for the crunch topping and just toasted them in the toaster oven.

I thought that the nori that came with the kit looked small so I bought a pack of large sheets. As you can see below, my first attempt rolling using the larger sheets did not turn out as planned! Way too big! The sheets that came with the kits turned out to be the perfect size. Of course!

Once I figured out the correct size nori to use, and the proper way to use the mat I was on a roll! (Pun intended!)

The hubs grilled some teriyaki chicken for my one son who does not eat fish. He loves to fish though. You may have seen a picture of him on a previous post holding a salmon. Also we added a yummy Asian Salad from Taylor Farms and voila, dinner was served!

I think that my first attempt at sushi was pretty good. Certainly not as beautiful and artistic as the real sushi chefs but not bad for a beginner.

I look forward to looking up some recipes and watching some sushi making videos on youtube and stepping up my sushi game!

Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery. A Spring Delight!

Yesterday was another day for a girls outing with one of my granddaughters. Spring was in the air and we set out for Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens in Fallbrook.

This is a magical place! So beautiful. So peaceful. So quirky. And such a fun time. We found lots to see and do there, and we even came home with our own little fairy garden!

Look at this sweet carriage!
Just walking around the grounds was such a treat. There are adorable things everywhere. We loved seeing what each new turn would bring us.

This is the Woman of the Garden.
We purchased their “Kids Spring Break Experience” which runs everyday from 10AM-5PM through the end of April. The $19.50 package includes: a cookie, Myrtle Berry Lemonade, Happy Goat Mountain Access (with goat treats), and a Build Your Very Own Fairy Garden.

We started out feeding the goats. They were very gentle, and hungry! Even little little ones would enjoy feeding them.

Hungry goat!

This guy was checking us out.
Next we sat down to enjoy our cookie and lemonade. There is a little cafe on the grounds that has salads, sandwiches and even a crepe station. Your get your order and they have picnic baskets and tablecloths that you can take and sit anywhere on the grounds that you choose. And, there are so many beautiful places to choose.

The lemonade is super yummy.
Next it was on to make our fairy garden. The package includes a pot, three plants (they have a variety of different ones to choose from), potting soil, moss, and one little figure. The staff was very helpful with getting us started and then off we went. It was fun working side by side with my granddaughter to create our gardens.

Aren’t these just the sweetest?

As I have said before, I really enjoy spending one on one time with my grandkids. When I think of my gramma, I smile. We did lots of fun things together. Is it selfish of me to want my grandkids to smile when they think of me? I think not!

 

 

Bonus Love!

Here’s the thing. I have four bonus grandkids. Our oldest son is getting  married in May. He has two children, she has four. Brady Bunch anyone?!

They got engaged on Thanksgiving of 2015 and that day her kids started calling us Gramma and Grandpa. Love it! The number of grandkids we had doubled. Just like that. In the blink of an eye. Lucky us! Eight grandkids to love.

I have never cared for the term “step”, as in stepmom or stepchild. A while back I was reading a blog and came across the term “bonus child”. Doesn’t that sound so much nicer? I think so. So now I have four bonus grandkids!

Last weekend I volunteered to drive up to Disneyland in the late afternoon and pick up one of the older grandsons and his friends who were there for a band concert. Long story. My oldest granddaughter volunteered to ride along with me for company.

We drove up and hung out at Downtown Disney until it was time  to pick up the boys.

My granddaughter and I had so much fun just hanging out together. It was fun walking around and checking out what ever store we wanted and just being silly. And being girls!

We also had some pretty good eats as well. We started out at LaBrea Express Bakery. We had the clam chowder bread bowl and the turkey mozzarella panini and both were really good and not super expensive. The clam chowder was very rich and smooth. So yummy!

Of course we hit up the Jazz Cafe………..because beignets! This was my granddaughter’s first introduction to these treats and they were a hit. Four of them come in the small order and it was a perfect amount for the two of us. My lo carb day flew right out the door when we bought these!

Our last stop was to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie. There is an AMC movie theater at Downtown Disney. It was fun to see it there on opening weekend. We both agreed that it was a good movie and the Emma Watson looks just like one of my DILs.

It was so nice to have a companion with me for the trip up to Disneyland. I am trying to do one on one time with each grandchild and to find out what is going on in their lives. The hubs and I try to make all the baseball games, school performances, piano recitals, etc that we can, but I believe that there is nothing like that one on one time.

We are so thankful for these four “bonus” grandchildren and the many memories we will make with them.

What about you? Do you have bonus grandchildren? How have you embraced them into your family? What are some ideas you have to get to know them? Let’s talk!

To Die For Wasabi Salmon – Really!

This. Is. So. Good. The Hubs and I love this salmon. We eat it at least two times a month. Usually more.

It doesn’t hurt that the Hubs and two of our sons took a fishing trip to Alaska last summer and I have a freezer full of salmon, and halibut, and rockfish. I love fish. I could never be a vegetarian because I would miss fish too much. I guess it’s a real thing that you can eat too much fish, so I try not to eat it at every meal!

Here they are on their early morning flight to Alaska.

The men (My boys are men! Sigh. It went by way too fast. ) had a great time hanging out together, fishing, bonding, fishing, laughing, fishing, and just enjoying the beauty of Alaska. Oh yeah, and also fishing!

Look at that beauty caught on the Kenai River.

I make this salmon so often that I don’t even have a recipe written down. People ask me to send it to them and usually I just shoot them a quick text with instructions.  I figure this blog is a good place to finally write down the details. It is adapted from a recipe that my sister-in-law, Laura, gave to me years ago. I don’t know the recipe’s source but I am sure grateful to whoever came up with this wonderful combination of flavors.

Start out with your beautiful salmon.

Then mix the wasabi paste and mayo. I sometimes substitute plain yogurt or half yogurt and half mayo. Depends on what kind of mood I am in! It’s great either way. I use Roland Foods Wasabi Paste. I’ve found at my neighborhood Barons Marketplace and also at WinCo.

Spread the mixture on the salmon and drizzle with Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce. This is the absolute best teriyaki sauce in the world! I am not exaggerating. Such a rich flavor. Not too sweet and there are sesame seeds mixed right in it. Perfect! Once in a while I will find it in a larger size at Costco and I always snatch it up. I wish it was there all the time. You know the Costco saying. “If you see it, buy it, or it won’t be there next time!”

Bake for a bit and then enjoy the best salmon! You will crave this salmon. You will dream about this salmon. You will rave about this salmon. You will want to share it with everyone. Really!

To Die For Wasabi Salmon

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 lbs. Salmon filets

1/2 cup mayo (or plain yogurt or a mixture or both)

3/4 to 1 tsp. Roland wasabi paste (adjust wasabi to taste. You may find you want to use a little less)

2 Tbsp. Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce for drizzle

 

Preheat oven to 425°.

Spray baking pan with cooking spray and place salmon in pan.

Mix mayo and wasabi paste together until smooth. Spread mixture over the top of the salmon,

Drizzle with teriyaki sauce.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until salmon flakes but is still moist. Don’t over bake or you will end up with very dry salmon!

Calories per serving: 290

WW Plus points per serving: 8

 

 

 

My Little American Girl®

 

I am a mother of boys. I raised three of them. Baseball, soccer, tennis, cross country, Star Wars, video games, jeans, t-shirts, Garbage Pail Kids, baseball cards, Legos®. You name it. I loved every minute. Well, there were probably some minutes that I didn’t “love”!

Once my boys were raised the grandkids started coming. One, two, three. Boy, boy, boy. Love them! And I knew what to do with them!

The fourth grandchild turned out to be a girl. Immediately I imagined tea parties, sparkly shoes, hair bows, shopping, baking cookies and all sorts of girly girl things. Bring on the pink! I have not been disappointed.

Watching her unwrap her first American Girl doll was something I was especially looking forward to. She received it two Christmases ago. She was three at the time. I got her the Truly Me doll. So adorable!

We decided to go to the American Girl Store for her birthday that year. We live about an hour and a half from one so it was do-able. I truthfully don’t know who was more excited, her or me!  Dolls, lunch, shopping. All in one place. How much fun is that for a little girl and her gramma? Her mom, her other grandmother (“Mimi”-who happens to be one of my very best friends. Bonus!), myself and our Princess Glitter Sparkle had a super fun time.

Last year. Look at that smile.

Her fifth birthday was this month and I got her a Bitty Baby from American Girl®. Of course we planned another trip to the store. We all piled in the car, with the addition of a cousin, and headed up again.

This year. Getting her doll ready to eat.

If you live close to one of the American Girl® stores, and your granddaughter or daughter is into the dolls, I highly recommend at least one trip there for shopping and the lunch, tea or dinner. So fun and so adorable. From the first little cinnamon bun they bring you to the flower pot dessert it is delightful.

So much fun stuff to check out!

I really am having fun with her as she gets to know the American Doll® collection. I see many memory making moments in the future!

Thank heaven for little girls!

More bags this year!

 

 

 

Soup, Sun, Lentils and Tea

 

I had every intention of going to Trader Joe’s last Saturday and buying ingredients to make some soup. The hubs and I had couple’s bunco that night and the soup was going to be my food contribution. It would be so yummy and fresh!

I got in the car and drove across town. One step out of the car and I felt the wonderful, glorious, uplifting, (insert adjective of your choice here) sun on my face. Ahhhhhh……. lovely!

I am a “summer” girl. That’s why I love living in SoCal. I can not resist any little thing that smacks of summer. Suddenly all my plans changed.

No soup for me!

I ran into Trader Joe’s, bought the ingredients for my go-to quick appetizer and headed home. It will take me one minute to throw this together. It is amazing! I serve it with Trader Joe’s blue tortilla chips.

 

When I got home I grabbed my Kindle. I spent the afternoon in my back yard sipping my favorite green tea with coconut. Now this is what I am talking about when I say “living life in the slow lane.” I am learning to turn off my type “A” personality and embrace the “B” that has been inside me longing to get out. I like it!

It may only be March but I’m in the mood for summer!

Trader Joe’s One Minute Lentil Salad

Serves: 6  Prep Time: 1 Minute

INGREDIENTS

 

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, combine lentils, feta and bruschetta sauce, then stir. Serve cold with your favorite TJ’s crackers.

Thank you Trader Joe’s for the recipe.

Our Style Cookies

Cookies! Grandkids! They just seem to go together, don’t they?

We did a remodel of our kitchen some years back. Back when we had only one grandchild. (Now we have eight!) One of the must have features that I insisted on was a big island with a large countertop space. I wanted it for making cookies with my grandkids, among other things.

That rolling pin is the one I used with my mother when we made cookies together. Now I am using it with my grandkids. Love!

Well, let me tell you. This island has proven to be priceless for making memories. So many memories!

I love a good cookie recipe just like any baking gramma. But time can sometimes be a problem. Its nice to be able to be spontanious when one of the grandkids says, “Gramma, can we make cookies?” I like to be able to say, “Of course we can!” as often as possible. Isn’t that what a gramma does?!?

That is why I always, always have this Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix in my pantry. My “A” type personality shudders at using a pre-made mix for cookies. But the “B” that I am striving to embrace loves this! Really easy. Super fun. And  a very tasty cookie to boot.

I also found a great recipe for icing to use to decorate them. Yay Pinterest!  What did we ever do before it? You can find it here. Its a great recipe because it uses just three ingredients that I always have on hand. Powered sugar, light corn syrup, and almond extract. This frosting is easy to tint any color the kids want and it looks so pretty when it dries. Glossy and bright!

I am always on the lookout for cute cookie cutters to add to my collection but truthfully, the kids like the simplest the best. Can’t go wrong with a circle or a heart.

And the sprinkles! Oh my. So many to choose from and so many fun ones are available at stores now. Not your grandma’s sprinkles. We are talking princess sprinkles, hearts, confetti, superhero bling, sanding sugar. The possibilities are endless.

The kids cut them out, ice them, and decorate with the sprinkles on their own. I love seeing their creations. I’m sure it is good somehow educationally – tactile, sensory, creativity – but that is not for me to worry about. I just want to see them have fun!

Honestly, this is such a fun activity and only takes about an hour tops! So in the time it takes for their parents to go see a movie you can make these, munch on a few with a glass of milk or cup of coffee, spend quality time with your grandchild, and make a memory. Win/win – for you, the grandkids, and their parents!

PS – I always send the cookies home with the grandkids. They are too tempting to keep around the Hubs and I. They are that good!

 

 

Asparagus Bacon Breakfast Bites

I am not a big breakfast fan. I love breakfast food but I do not like to eat first thing in the morning. Give me two cups of good black coffee to slowly enjoy and I am happy. There might have been times that it’s noon and I forgot to eat! So, so many things bad about that. I know!!!

I think I have found one solution. I have been making these little breakfast bite/muffin things for the last few weeks and they are really good and super easy to make. I can pop one or two in the microwave for about 30 seconds or so to reheat and it’s good to go. They also store well in the fridge for 4 days.

Super fresh ingredients

They are lo carb (2 g.) and have a good amount of protein (18 g.). The Hubs and I are trying cut carbs since we have been home from Kauai. He is a type II diabetic and I am a carbaholic!  I am trying to have healthy food available for us that is easy and quick. These are a win/win.

Choose your own fillings!

You can easily adjust this to add any thing that you have in your fridge. Veggies, cheese, proteins. Anything your taste desires. I did them with broccoli, mushrooms and shredded Mexican cheese last week. They were good but needed some punch. I used Tapatío on them after heating up. Perfect!

Ready for the oven

Let me know if you make them and any flavor combos you tried.

Little breakfast reminder for me!

Asparagus Bacon Breakfast Bites

Makes 12 muffin/bites

Serving size: 2 muffins/bites

Ingredients:

15 eggs – lightly beaten

10 uncooked asparagus spears – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

3 slices of bacon – cooked and chopped

3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray muffin pan with cooking spray.

Distribute chopped asparagus and chopped bacon evenly between each muffin tin.

Pour beaten eggs evenly into each muffin tin and top each one with 1 tablespoon of the parmesan.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until cooked through.

215 calories per serving (2 muffins)

6 WW Plus points per serving