World’s Easiest Cinnamon Bread

cinnamon-bread-cropped

Half Loaf of Cinnamon Bread – Look at that yummy center!

I really shouldn’t share this, because I’m giving one of my big secrets away. You see, I like to bake loaves of this cinnamon bread for other people, because who doesn’t love cinnamon bread?! People seem to be under the impression that baking this bread is a real labor of love. Well, here’s the big secret… this recipe is stone simple and takes hardly any time at all to prepare. ¬†ūüėČ

Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves of World’s Easiest Cinnamon Bread)

2 loaves bread dough*

*Either thaw two loaves of Rhodes frozen white bread dough, available in the freezer section of any supermarket, or make a batch of Simple Bread dough and stop at the end of step 5!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cornmeal

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 generous tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

Step 1) Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Step 2) Grease a counter top with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 10″ wide and 16″ long.

Step 3) Beginning right along one of the 10″ edges, spread half of the butter/sugar mixture over the dough rectangle. Leave about an inch along each of the long sides bare. Leave about 2 inches along the far, 10″ edge bare.

Step 4) Gently roll up the dough, beginning with the 10″ edge covered in butter/sugar, and rolling toward the 10″ bare edge. The 10″ bare edge should be on the bottom of your rolled up loaf, with the seam on the bottom. Gently pull the side ends down and tuck underneath the loaf.

Step 5) Repeat Steps 2 – 4 with the second half of the dough and the second half of the butter/sugar mixture.

Step 6) Grease a very large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Then, lightly sprinkle the entire baking sheet with cornmeal.

Step 7) Carefully set your two loaves on the baking sheet, with the seams on the bottom. Leave at least 3 inches of space around all sides of each loaf. If your baking sheet is not large enough to allow this, use two baking sheets!

Step 8) Allow your loaves to rest while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees (do not begin preheating until Step 7 is complete). Then, after your oven is preheated, place your loaves on the center rack. Bake for 25 minutes or until loaves are light golden brown. Remove loaves from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Optional: After loaves are cool, drizzle with cream cheese frosting for an added treat!

Pumpkin Applesauce Cake

WIN_20160421_200343Low fat and vitamin packed, Pumpkin Applesauce Cake makes an awesome dessert item or star of Sunday brunch. This cake is so tasty it hardly needs frosting. But – just to be safe – we’ve topped our Pumpkin Applesauce Cake with an awesome cinnamon cream cheese frosting. You’re welcome. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†Enjoy!

WIN_20160421_181139Ingredients (Makes a 9 x 13 inch sheet cake, serves 20)

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 cup applesauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil Continue reading

Back by Popular Demand! How to Make Your Own Granola Bars

How to Save a Million Dollars a Year

How to Make Your Own Granola Bars!

Granola Bars

OK, making my own granola bars did not save me a million dollars last year.¬† It may have only been half a million dollars.¬† Or maybe just enough for an occasional, guilt free (mostly) massage at a fabulous spa.¬† But more to the point, store bought granola bars are expensive.¬† They don’t seem that way, as you’re pushing your cart down the cereal isle… $3 or so seems harmless enough, right?¬† The problem is, many of those $3 boxes only contain 5 bars.¬† Even that might seem reasonable if everyone was happy with one bar.¬† I, however, have been blessed with boys.¬† Growing boys.¬† Have you seen¬†growing boys raid a kitchen after school?¬† It’s an awe inspiring, slightly terrifying sight to behold.

My darling boys could obliterate a whole shelf of granola bars in only the time it would take them to tear through all of that wasteful packaging.¬† If I continued buying granola bars from the supermarket, I was going to need to supplement my income by renting out my boys for farm labor.¬† They didn’t seem too keen on the idea, so Option B required me to create an easy, low cost granola bar that would pass muster with the kids.¬† Three different versions became fast favorites.¬† I hope you enjoy them!¬† Don’t forget to post your comments below!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part I:  Apple Cinnamon
I make a lot of jellies and jams (recipes coming soon!).¬† Occasionally, a batch of jelly or jam won’t turn out quite right – it’s either overcooked so that it’s too thick to spread, or undercooked so that it resembles syrup.¬† Because I’m too frugal to just throw them away, my “jars of mistakes” have been taking up shelf space, waiting to be put to good use.¬† Well, it’s Good Use Time!¬† You can use any apple jelly for this recipe, whether a store-bought version or a homemade version, even if it’s underwhelming on its own.
Combine dry goods and set aside:Dry Ingredients
3 cups of whole oats
1 cup of high fiber cereal
3/4 cup of diced, dried apples
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamonButter and Jelly
Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:
¬ľ cup butter (or vegan substitute)
1 cup apple jelly

Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9‚ÄĚ x 13‚ÄĚ cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.¬†¬†picture055

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage.

Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part II: Wild Blueberry

Two summers ago, my family spent a week on the Maine Coast (beautiful… highly recommend!).¬† Kitchen goofball that I am, I managed to squeeze my canning pot, canning utensils, and a case of half pint¬†canning jars into the back of the family minivan.¬† I was on a quest¬†to¬†purvey enough of the fabled wild¬†Maine blueberries to make 12¬†jars of jam, and I succeeded… sort of.

I overcooked the jam.

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.¬†¬†There may have been a few words uttered that would, ah,¬†make a Sunday School teacher blush.¬† But… Crowded Earth Kitchen wastes NOTHING!¬† Despite having¬†no earthly idea how I would salvage those blueberries, I packed¬†my 12 jars of crystallized blueberry “rock” into the van¬†and brought them home.

You may use any blueberry jam for this recipe (I salvaged mine by soaking the jars in scalding hot water).  You might even get wild and crazy and try using another variety of jam.  If you create your own version, please let me know how it turns out!

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 1/2 cups of whole oats

1 cup of high fiber cereal

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¬ľ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

1 cup blueberry jam

Blueberry Bars¬†Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9‚ÄĚ x 13‚ÄĚ cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Version III: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip 

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 cups of whole oats

¬ĺ cup of high fiber cereal (any variety will suffice)

1 cup of chopped pretzels (if you like salt) or crispie rice cereal (if you don’t)

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¬ľ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

¬Ĺ cup natural peanut butter

¬ľ cup brown sugar

¬Ĺ cup honey (or maple syrup as a vegan substitute)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars¬† Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9‚ÄĚ x 13‚ÄĚ cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.

Then, press mini chocolate chips into the top of the granola bars (I used two tablespoons; use more if you don’t mind the sugar, or don’t use them at all). Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

Not-From-A-Can Cinnamon Rolls

picture713Those refrigerated “peel and pop” cans of cinnamon rolls, ready to bake and complete with icing, are convenient.¬† Truth be told, they don’t taste half bad. But homemade cinnamon rolls they are NOT… nothing made with ingredients you¬†can’t pronounce (read the can!) quite compares to a truly homemade cinnamon roll.

“How much work are these, really?”

You’ll¬†expend about 30 minutes of effort kneading, rolling, mixing, and slicing.¬† Now, be honest…¬†if you drive to the grocery store, pick out a peel and pop can of cinnamon¬†roll dough, stand in line to pay for it, and drive back home, how long will THAT take?

Go ahead – roll up your sleeves, and get ready to play with flour!

Ingredients (makes about 24 cinnamon rolls)

2 cups lukewarm (not boiling) water

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1/4 cup dry milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup canola oil

2 cups whole wheat flour

4 cups white flour

For the filling:

1 stick of real butter, melted

1 cup of brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup chopped pecans (or substitute raisins)

For the icing:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk

picture330Directions

Step 1)  Combine sugar and lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in yeast, and allow to sit for a minute or two until the surface of the water appears a bit creamy.

Step 2) Add dry milk, salt, and oil to the picture331yeast mixture.  Stir in flours, one cup at a time, and transfer dough to a floured tabletop.

Step 3) Knead dough for a few minutes until a smooth ball forms.  Add a bit more flour as needed, to prevent sticking.  Transfer dough to a large bowl which has been greased with canola oil.

picture334Step 4) Cover bowl with a damp cloth and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size.  This will take about an hour in a warm location, such as an oven that has been warmed to 100 degrees and then turned off.

Step 5) Punch the bowl of risen dough a few times to release air bubbles (this is fun!).   Knead on a floured tabletop for a few minutes.  Divide dough in half, and roll picture714into two long rectangles, each about 5 inches by 16 inches.

Step 6) Combine filling ingredients in a small bowl. Spread filling over dough rectangles, being careful NOT to place filling picture708within 1 inch of one of the long edges, as shown above.

Step 7) Carefully roll the long side lined with filling toward the long side with the plain edge. The plain edge should be on the bottom of your long roll when you are finished. We’re using gravity to help seal the rolls.

Step 8) Slice each long roll into 1 1/2 inch slices. The easiest way to do this is with dental floss!¬† Slide a piece of floss under the dough and “tie” a slice right through the roll.¬† So easy!

Step 9) Lay the rolls 2 inches apart on generously greased baking sheets.  Allow to rest for 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Step 10) Bake rolls for approximately 12 minutes, until the dough begins to turn a golden color. Carefully remove from baking sheets and allow to cool slightly.

Step 11) Combine icing ingredients and drizzle over cinnamon rolls.  Enjoy!