Category Archives: recipes

Kid-friendy Ham and Cheese Rolls


2016-02-12 13.22.35

I’ve been experimenting with a recipe that has been circulating on the Internet. It promises an easy meal or party food in the form of hot ham and cheese rolls. Sounds good to me! When I first saw the link (for some reason this recipe is haunting both my Facebook and Pinterest feeds) I didn’t bother to click on it, but set about making some immediately with ingredients in my fridge. I made a batch of bread dough in my bread machine, rolled it out, layered ham and mozzarella cheese, rolled, sliced, and baked. My oldest daughter just about lost her mind when she tasted my first batch–thought I’d fed her dessert for lunch. They were pretty good, but they were doughy in the middle and didn’t contain enough ham (I didn’t have a full package on hand) and probably contained too much cheese.

For round 2 I actually clicked on the recipe link but was disappointed to see that it involved refrigerated pizza dough in a can, which is a category of food product we don’t eat at my house. (I’m not being judgy. I don’t care if you eat it. We just don’t, and because we’re already at home all morning doing school it is reasonable for me to make dough on my own.) But it also included a yummy-sounding glaze made with mustard and butter and some other things, and sliced Swiss cheese, which sounded a little more flavorful and tidier to slice than the shredded mozzarella that had gone into my first batch. So I tried it again, this time using homemade pizza dough and the glaze. I thought these were yummy, though with the glaze they did start to feel more like a party food and less like the lunch than what I was hoping for out of this recipe. My daughter was very disappointed because she a) didn’t like the glaze, b) didn’t like the much less doughy pizza dough, and c) didn’t like the Swiss cheese as well. The younger kids weren’t impressed either, and I was basically forced to eat a whole pan of party-worthy ham and cheese rolls myself, which honestly wasn’t much of a hardship.

Enter round 3! This time I went back to bread dough, but made up a smaller batch so that when I rolled it out there would be less of it. I used shredded mozzarella but measured it so I knew I’d be getting a reasonable amount, and I brushed the whole thing with butter and sprinkled it with a little bit of seasoning at the end instead of a glaze. These were awesome! My daughter and I both thought this round was great, and I’m glad to have another lunch trick up my sleeve. These feel really decadent on a cold day but aren’t difficult to make and are nutritionally similar to a regular old ham and cheese sandwich on homemade bread. (No nutritional powerhouse here, obviously, but it could be worse. We use all-natural ham and ate them with a side of fruit!) Out of curiosity I used an online calculator to figure out the calorie content and found out that there are 210 calories per butter-brushed roll, made using the recipe below, in case you care.


1 cup water
2 TB butter
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 cup bread flour
2 TB dry milk
1 TB sugar
2 tsp yeast


1 package deli ham
1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 TB melted butter
1 tsp Penzey’s sandwich sprinkle, or seasoning of choice, if desired

Place all dough ingredients in a bread machine pan (liquids first) and set for dough cycle. If not using a bread machine, make a bread dough using the ingredients above however you usually do it and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

After the dough is done preheat the oven to 375 and roll the dough out into a rectangle shape. (It’ll be about 18″ by 12″.) Arrange one package of all-natural deli ham evenly over the dough, sprinkle the ham evenly with the cheese, and roll it all up on the long side. Using a serrated knife cut the log in half, cut each half in half, and then cut each fourth into thirds to make 12 even rolls. Place in 4 rows of 3 rolls in a 9×12 glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle any shredded cheese that fell out when you were slicing evenly over the rolls. Brush the rolls with the melted butter and sprinkle with the seasoning if you wish. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.


Spring fun


We’ve been running around like crazy in this heat. If the rest of the summer’s schedule looks like this I’m going to have to figure out a way to “quit” and homeschool summer too.  We’re always on the run! Splash parks, playgrounds, pools, berry patches and playdates–we need to slow down before we break down. Individually it’s all fun, but it adds up to a wee bit much. Here’s a photo of my little guy trying to swipe strawberries after our recent berry-picking excursion. I made the mistake of letting Dorothy use her own tray, and I had no idea how many she’d pick. I ended up with two gallons of strawberries–about twice as many as I’d planned on. I made strawberry-mango jam, cooked strawberry pie, uncooked strawberry pie, pie filling for the freezer, strawberry ice cream, strawberry daiquiris, daiquiris for the freezer, strawberry bread, bread for the freezer, and we ate huge amounts of strawberries and cream. Enough! Enough! Like our recent schedule of fun, the berries were wonderful but too abundant.

Somewhere in there (I think it was before the advent of the strawberries) I also invented a new cookie I’m pleased to share. I’m not sure what to call it–a Derby Pie Cookie?  Is that trademarked too?  A Kentucky Cookie? A chocolate walnut cookie with thoughts of thoroughbreds? Anyway, it’s sort of like Derby Pie (I mean NOT Derby pie, since the original of course is famously trademarked) but a cookie.  Here’s what I did:

1 cup plus 2 TB all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick (8 TB) softened unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 TB bourbon
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet, but I think next time I’d use dark)
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (toast for 10 minutes at 350)

Stir flour with soda and salt together with a fork. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar in a mixer bowl, then add egg, vanilla and bourbon.
Add flour mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in chocolate and walnuts.
Drop onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until done.  Leave ample space between cookies because they spread a lot.

The living room


More house progress!  Removing the living room wallpaper was a serious pain in the ass. My mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, daughter and husband all worked with me (and in the case of my mother, much more than me) to get the wallpaper off this wall.  There was a thin liner underneath the regular wallpaper that had to be steamed and scraped away shreds at a time.  Ouch.  But now it’s off!  Mom and I primed the newly-bare walls, which had never been painted in their 71 years, then painted them a perky green called spring cactus. I made the curtains from fabric I found online and posted about previously, from Heather Bailey’s Pop Garden collection. This is a room we needed some furniture for when we moved into this house.  I fell in love with the Eames-inspired tulip chair from an online discount store, and we bought the light fixture and white sofa (below) from IKEA. This room is meant to house my collection of hobnail milk glass, and the bumpy white lamp and chair are really just accessories to my beloved dishes.  I have a less-is-more attitude toward some things, but dishes are just not one of them. I love dishes.  I have way too many.  But hey, better dishes than drugs and booze, right?

After I hung the new curtains this weekend  Dorothy came into the room.  She immediately noticed the curtains and rushed over to the windows to admire.  “Wow!  These new curtains are so pretty!  They are going to look beautiful at my birthday party.”  My husband came home an hour or so later and his reaction was not as satisfying.  I had to drag him into the room to see the curtains, which I doubt he’d have noticed on his own.  He glanced and said, “oh, those look nice.”  He might have said the same thing if I’d hung paper bags in the window.  If I hadn’t prompted him he might never have noticed they were there. This is why I’m so grateful to have a daughter.  🙂

My over-the-sofa art is going to be supplied by my children.  I purchased artists canvases at a craft store and covered them with more of the Pop Garden fabric using a staple gun. I have a can of low-tack spray adhesive that I’m going to use to adhere a rotating collection of the kids’ art to the screens.  This felt like a formal but fun way to honor their artwork. I have admired framed child art in other people’s homes, but I’m thinking this will be easier to peel off or stick up art as their talents and interests change.

Now all I have to do to finish this room is patch and paint the ceiling, paint all the trim, mop off the bits of wallpaper that seem to have stuck to the floor, buy a coffee table, sew throw-pillows, buy a coordinating shade for the milk glass lamp (not shown), sew a Pop Garden scarf for the piano, find or make an entry-way rug, paint or replace the plant stand that doesn’t seem to match, and find the rest of my milk glass in a box downstairs.  It’s a good thing my baby sleeps through the night and I have nothing else to do all day, right?  Oh wait…

And today is my daughter’s actual birthday.  She gets to bring a treat to school to share with her classmates, so we made cupcakes with lavender icing at her request. I love this recipe for vanilla cupcakes and have made it several times, even though the method of adding the butter to the batter seems rather unorthodox. The cupcakes don’t turn golden-brown until they are over baked–you have to do the toothpick test to get them out in time–but they come out really moist and they hold their shape nicely so you can eat them without having most of your cupcake dissolve into crumbs all over your lap.  According to Dorothy’s birthday wish the cupcakes needed to have her classmates names on them, so we did that too.  I printed the names onto a sheet of card stock and we just cut, glued and folded the little tags onto toothpicks. Hopefully the birthday girl will feel like she got all her birthday wishes granted today. She woke up pretty excited!

Sorghum cookies


This picture is blurry, but it’s hard to shoot a moving target.  Dorothy is displaying the apron I found at a thrift store recently.  Guess where it’s destined?  This lovely turn in the weather has inspired me to make camping reservations for us at some state parks we want to check out this spring.  I’m so looking forward to our first 2011 trip!

Today in the kitchen I experimented with a local ingredient I’m not very familiar with.  I had picked up a recipe for sorghum cookies at the state fair last summer and had yet to try it.  I altered the recipe to suit our diets and our taste, and they were really quite tasty.  As Rob said, “I still don’t really understand what sorghum is, but it makes very good cookies.”  Exactly.

Here’s the recipe in case you decide to Bake Kentucky Proud as well (or something):
1 cup plus 2 TB sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup sorghum
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup oats
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 and line three cookie sheets with parchment.  Whisk together flours, soda, and salt in a bowl or large measuring cup, set aside.  Cream butter, oil and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, add egg, vanilla and sorghum.  Beat well.  Add flour mixture in two parts, beating well after each addition.  Stir in oats, chips and coconut.  Drop onto prepared cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool three minutes on the sheet, then transfer to wire rack.

Winter days


I think every year my husband starts complaining about winter at about this time, and each year I’m surprised that winter is even in full swing already (wasn’t it just Christmas?) and then all of the sudden I get impatient for spring too.  I have to say, though, that I’m not as impatient this year.  For one thing I’m not horridly pregnant like last year, and for another it is just much easier to live in the present now that this move is over.  Without having to constantly put “real life” on hold to show the house or to spend so much time prepping for change it is easier to appreciate and even linger on each day.  One of the things I’ve been really enjoying this winter (besides my fireplace, have I mentioned that lately?) is this cookbook.  I got it for Christmas and it’s the best.  I love America’s Test Kitchen (I’ve blogged about my fierce devotion to Cooks Illustrated before) and I love the unaffiliated magazine Cooking Light, and this cookbook seems to be the best of both worlds.  The recipes have the reliability of Cooks Illustrated and the health aspects of Cooking Light.  Perfect!  Of course, some of them also have the fussiness factor and four-hours-later-dinner-is-on-the-table factor of CI, but that’s part of the journey, right?  I swooned over the vegetarian chili (with tempeh), scarfed up the cornbread, served the spaghetti and meatballs for Rob’s birthday, splurged on the oven fries, slurped the lentil soup, and changed my go-to bread recipe to their basic whole-wheat loaf. And I’ve only had the book since Christmas!  The only recipe I’ve tried but didn’t love was multigrain pancakes, which were dry, but I think I may have overcooked them.  In any case the red pepper frittata we ate with them was superb!

Could anything be sweeter than this?  Both of my kids somehow made it into my bed in the wee small hours a couple nights ago and I snapped this photograph of them in the morning.  I think they should always wear coordinating clothes because I’m surely more patient with them when I’m giddy over their matchy cuteness.  Rock star pajamas!  My sleeping angels.  This picture will keep me going next time they are irritated with each other and I’m feeling likewise toward them.

The house is still coming along.  The kitchen and dining room are shaping up and gradually other things are migrating to new, permanent homes.  Sometimes stuff doesn’t want to stay where you unpack it–it has to get moved around a bit before it settles.  I organized my serger thread in a lovely old cabinet that belonged to my grandparents and I think the colors are so pretty; it’s like a functional rainbow over in that corner of my family room.  I also purchased an old wooden ironing board at an antiques store so that I can leave it out in the family room and hope it looks more like furniture than something that is on loan from the basement.  I want all my sewing supplies to be out and accessible, but I don’t want my living space to look too utilitarian.  Hopefully I’ll figure that out.

Carbs and a calendar


For various reasons that I cannot blog about yet, we have decided to take our house off the market next week. I don’t mean to be secretive (can one be secretive and have a blog?), but there is a Major Life Change coming to my family that simply cannot yet be discussed in public, but it effects our plans to move.  (It is, for the record, absolutely NOT a new baby.  So please don’t start rumors!)  After much pondering, heart-searching, bookkeeping, and discussion, we concluded that the house should either be sold or off the market by November 15, almost 11 months after the for-sale sign first went into our frozen yard last winter.  So I’ve been making plans for how to live in our current home better.  I’ve poured over the IKEA catalog, Craig’s List, fabric swatches and organization web sites.  I’ve plotted out which furniture we will keep, which will go, what needs to be moved around in order to make this little house work more efficiently for our family.  We also agreed to have a last-ditch open house, so we at least felt like we fought the real estate fight to the bitter end.  And I’m afraid it was bitter–I had already buried the idea of moving, and I did not want to clean and vacate the house on Sunday.  I left our spotlessly clean house with a very grumpy attitude.  Then a very surprising thing happened.  Our Realtor called and said she expected an offer from someone who came to the open house.  What? 

We’re trying not to get our hopes up, since the last time we thought an offer was pending things didn’t work out so well.  Still, it’s been three days and things seem to be progressing.  The potential buyer has been back, asked questions, reportedly gotten a mortgage pre-approval.  We’ll see.  A written offer is still pending.  I’m trying very hard not to dissolve into an emotional mess, but it’s tough.  Should I carry on with my plans to change our house?  Should I be scouring the real estate websites trying to find a house for us?  Should I quickly finish and wrap all my Christmas shopping in case a sudden move disrupts Santa’s progress?  Eek!  So everything feels up in the air, my stomach is quavering, I jump when the phone rings, and I’m craving (and eating) carbs.  The picture above is the first of two “cream” sodas I drank yesterday (in a glass Dorothy decorated).  Fill a glass with ice, then 3/4 full of plain seltzer, then a dash of vanilla syrup (like the kind coffee shops sell), then top it off with whole milk or cream.  Yum.  Sugar.


And while the real estate mess has been stressful, this totally made my day!  Mama Shell, of Shell Shares Recipes, sent me an amazingly fabulous calendar.  It’s twelve super-cool pages of illustrations of vintage campers and I love it!  My first thought was to put it in the camper, but then I wouldn’t get to see it as often, so it’s going in my own kitchen (wherever that may be?) so I can drool over how cute they all are every day.  Thank you Shell!

Crochet is perfect for fidgety, nervous fingers.  I’ve also found that I have three or four minutes each morning and afternoon to crochet while I’m waiting (parked) in the carpool line for Dorothy.  It doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it adds up.  I just keep a project ready to pick up in the passenger seat.  I’d purchased this fun shiny coat this fall but wasn’t sure what kind of accessories to wear with something so…shiny.  I decided to go for contrast, so I ordered some really fuzzy alpaca blend yarn.  I like the fuzzy with the shiny, and the scarf and hat are warm and soft.  I didn’t use a pattern, they are both just very simple.  I made the hat big enough that it will (hopefully) just sort of sit down on top of my hair without squashing my curls.  It’s hard for curly girls to wear hats, but this really warm yet lightweight yarn should help.

Barley in a rice cooker


Right around the time the baby was born I upgraded my rice cooker. Before, I had a little red one (Oster, maybe?) that was okay for making a small amount of white rice in a pinch, as long as you didn’t mind a little burned to the bottom. But it wasn’t very good at making brown rice, which we prefer, and it wouldn’t keep the rice warm for any amount of time without scorching. I used the Cooks Illustrated method of making brown rice in my oven, and that never seemed like a big deal. But somehow the addition of an extra human to our family rendered the steps involved in making rice (boiling water, for example) too fussy, and I invested in a good rice cooker. It works great, and as of today I love it even more. A few weeks ago I tried making quinoa in it, according to a suggestion I read online. That worked so well that today I decided to branch out and try pearl barley. It worked! Hooray! I used the liquid-to-barley ratio suggested on the package (2.5 cups water to 1 cup rinsed barley). I rinsed my cooked barley to cool it down, then made it into a Greek-style grain salad similar to this recipe. It’s yummy, and I’m about to take it to my “baby” brother’s birthday party tonight in my fun new thifted bowl. (Is it possible he’s 30?? Holy cow!)

And oat raisin muffins! Rob and I have a little tradition of taking homemade muffins on road trips. We once made a little peace summit trip to Galena, Illinois (our agenda: to discuss the possibility of ending nearly a year of not speaking to each other by getting just getting married) during which we munched on my homemade pumpkin muffins the whole time, and since then it just feels like small road trips and muffins should go together. Today I experimented with a new recipe plus adjustments for what I had on hand, plus addition of fallish spices, and this is what I got. They are yummy! We’re going to take them on our camper-seeking expedition. I’ll share the recipe I ended up with:
1 cup oat flour
1/4 cup quick oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
2 eggs
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raisin
Preheat oven to 400. Spray 12 muffin tins with cooking spray. Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl by using a whisk or a fork. In another bowl or large measuring cup whisk together eggs and wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, blend. Stir in raisins. Divide evenly into muffin cups (each should be about 3/4 full). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing the muffins from the cups. If you take them out too soon or wait too long they will stick.

Sandwiches, pants, babies…


A sort of rambly blog post tonight. The rest of the family is asleep but I’m up, kind of on edge, watching over this huge pile of boxes ready to be put in storage tomorrow. I’m glad our realtor is having us put all this stuff away, actually, because it is a good reminder that we probably don’t need to own much of anyway. I’m not an anti-stuff purist (if vintage glass dishes put a smile on my face, is their existence in my home really something to be ashamed of, even though I already own other dishes?), but I don’t want needless clutter in my space, or to be caught up in its acquisition or preservation just for the sake of it. It’s a small leap from “can I store this for 3-6 months” to “can I live without this altogether?” So maybe after this move I’ll shed some of these things for good and feel lighter for it.
In the meantime, it’s prime time to enjoy my favorite sandwich. I didn’t grow a garden this year because of our housing situation, but we’ve still been able to get our hands on enough fresh, local tomatoes to make my very favorite grilled cheese sandwich. It’s mutli-grain bread brushed in olive oil, the inside smeared with pesto, then melty cheese and slices of juicy ripe tomato. Yum, yum, yum. So tasty that eating it just wasn’t enough–I had to be a dork and photograph it for my blog. 🙂

And pants. I said this post was random, right? I made these pants for Worth last week during the sewing frenzy, but never got around to photographing them.

Same funky print as the hat. I don’t have a pattern that has this contrasting back panel so I just cut up the pattern and left a seam allowance around the area I cut. Next time I do something similar I think I’ll start the panel down a bit lower. But I like the way they turned out.

And here’s my boy. He’s not really waving, though it looks like he is. He’ll be six months in 12 more days and is on the eve of getting his first taste of solid food. I took a bunch of pictures of him today to record all his gorgeous fat rolls and chubby deliciousness so I can look back and be proud of this boy I fed. Not that he’s going to stop nursing now, but soon I won’t know which little dimples I can fully take credit for. He’s sitting unassisted now and is getting all this fuzzy new hair. It’s trite but true–they change so fast! I’m totally silly over him, my beautiful boy.

A caffeine fix and an earring


We had a fun weekend with a happy baptism celebration and out-of-town guests. We’re having a summer that is fun but never lazy. So lately I’ve been finding my afternoon energy in this yummy blended drink that seems much more appealing to me in this nearly 100 degree weather than a hot cup o’ joe. I blend 10 ice cubes with 2/3 cup of cold coffee, 1 tablespoon of powdered milk and 1 tablespoon organic chocolate syrup. Yum. Ordinarily powdered milk is not something I’d consider putting in a drink (I keep it on hand to thicken homemade yogurt), but this drink is too watered down if I use regular milk and too fatty if I use cream. This version gives me just the right caffeine kick, tastes just the right amount chocolately, and is only 75 calories. Happy mama.

Yesterday I had one of those tough-call parenting moments that makes me need more coffee. Dorothy had been lobbying for quite some time to get her ears pierced. I don’t have any particular thought-out philosophy about child ear-piercing. I’m not really comfortable piercing an infant’s ears (although I don’t really have any problem with the theory), and I was 13 years old myself before I even wanted earrings, so I don’t have any helpful memory of how my own mother handled the issue. So I’d basically told Dorothy she could get them pierced whenever she really wanted to, and I’d taken her to the mall to show her where you sit and describe how they do it. That had cooled her off on the idea for a while, but yesterday she was back on it, big time.

We watched a Youtube video of ear piercing, I was frank about the fact that it does hurt, but she was motivated. I wonder if a child at Bible School last week had earrings, but Dorothy didn’t mention it. To make a long story short, Dorothy ended up getting one ear pierced and then changed her mind about it. Although I’d stayed quite neutral to that point (I was neither discouraging or encouraging the piercing–this was her thing), once we had one earring in I thought it would be a bit odd to walk away without both done. I hugged, consoled, bribed her with new earrings and ice cream. She sat back up in the chair to get the second one in, but just couldn’t go through with it. She’s four, after all, and it does hurt. The young woman doing the piercing felt like if I could hold her still long enough, she could just get it in there (I’m sure she’d done this before), but there was no way I was forcing my kid to get an ear pierced. What a breach of trust! So we left, with one earring.

Today Dorothy is very proud of her earring and has even yelled out to the elderly man across the street (who is hard-of-hearing and certainly neither heard nor cared) that she got her ear pierced. She says she’s going to get the other done “tomorrow.” I’m thinking maybe in a couple weeks. Or maybe she’ll just look charmingly and quirkily lopsided for years. Isn’t that the way life is anyway?

Back at home last night as she was processing the whole ordeal we had to pierce her teddy bear’s ears. (Both of them.) The bear did not find it particularly painful.