Happy Thanksgiving!

Am I a bad host??  Come on, you can all be honest with me and I promise I won't take it personally.  It's only natural to wonder after trying and trying and trying and trying to invite people to our home for Thanksgiving and being completely unsuccessful.  It started in April when we invited my sister, my brother, their families and my parents.  They aren't here.  They decided to all go to my sisters' home instead.  Ok.  Then, I invited our great friends from graduate school but they couldn't make it.  Next we turned to many friends and families around town.  Again, nothing!  Having no desire to spend Thanksgiving alone, we invited ourselves to our friends home who live about 20 miles away.  Yep, that's how dejected we felt.  We invited ourselves.  My hubby and I honestly had a discussion about what it is about us that people don't like?  I know it isn't the cooking..... :-)

I thought you would all enjoy seeing how I have spent my past three days.  I've been crazy busy fulfilling all the pie orders sent my way this Thanksgiving.  I am so grateful for the business but I don't think I will be able to take a bite of pie tomorrow.  This picture doesn't even show all of them either so you can imagine why I probably won't be in the mood for a slice!   In some bizarre way, I did have an enjoyable time cranking out all these apple, dutch apple, peach, triple chocolate pecan, banana cream, french silk and vanilla cream pies.  My Christmas baking orders have already started coming in so my break will be short lived!

Orange Cranberry Scones

Twilight.  Need I say anymore?  If you don't have a clue what I am talking about, you must not have any form of a teenage girl in your life.  All my oldest daughter has talked about for weeks has been the release of the Twilight movie based on the series by Stephanie Meyer.  The two of us read the series together this summer and I can understand why a 14 year old girl would go crazy for this series/movie.  I had even given her permission to go to the midnight show with her friends tonight, a school night!  I was in the "awesome Mom" category for a few days which was great.  Then the true to life categories of "horrible, mean, unfair and stupid Mom" reemerged when I had to take away that privilege due to some bad decisions on her part.

I know my kids would never believe this, but I HATE it when they put me in the position that I have to be the responsible parent and do such things.  I much prefer being the "awesome Mom" but unfortunately that rarely goes hand in hand with being a good Mom.  It honestly breaks my heart, but again, they would never believe me because they think their Dad and I sit in our room at night planning ways to make their lives miserable and so much worse than all of their friends.
As an unspoken form of "I'm truly sorry you can't go, but you left me no choice", I made these scones for her this morning.  She has been asking for them for a long time so I thought it would be good timing for me.  They were heavenly.  Big, soft, sweet, tart and indulgent.  These will be made again and again in the Jones kitchen with many different variations I've been thinking of all morning: cinnamon sugar, chocolate chip, raisin, apple, pecan, almond, raspberry, lemon.....  I loved the orange and craisins together, but next time I will try chopped fresh cranberries instead.  Let me know what flavor combos you come up with!!!
Orange Cranberry Scones
makes 12 BIG scones
adapted from allrecipes.com

1 C sour cream (I used light)
1 tsp baking soda
4 C flour
1 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 C butter
1 egg, beaten
1 C craisins
zest of large orange

juice from 1/2 large orange
powdered sugar
dash of salt

1.  In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and baking soda.  Set aside and allow to bubble up.
2.  Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
3.  In large bowl or food processor, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, zest and salt.  Cut in the butter until pieces are pea sized.  Stir in craisins,  sour cream mixture and beaten egg.  Mix just until moistened.  (I had to dump mine on the counter at the end and knead it lightly to get it into a ball)
4.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly.  Roll dough into a 3/4" round.  Cut into 12 wedges and place them 2" apart on baking sheet.  (This makes BIG scones.  Next time I will cut them smaller to make 18-24.  They spread a lot so don't cram them onto your pan.  Make two batches if necessary)
5.  Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and tops are not soft or mushy.  Cool completely and drizzle on icing.

California Cornbread

I am an old woman. There is no way around it anymore.  As much as I want to be included as part of the "young mother" group, I'm just too old.  This morning, I watched my beautiful 14 year old daughter walk to the front of our congregation at church to accept her Young Womanhood Recognition Award (it's her necklace in the pic) and there was no way I could pretend anymore.  How can I be part of the young mom group with a daughter who looks and acts so mature?  Maybe it's because I still have so many young kids, but I just don't want to be a middle-aged Mom!!!
But, with sacrifice comes blessings.  I am willing to sacrifice my youth for the blessing of such an amazing teenage daughter.  She worked very hard to accomplish this milestone by today, her 14th birthday and what a way to celebrate.  Watching her this morning reminded me that not only is she gorgeous, she is talented, intelligent, responsible and most importantly, fun to be around.  I think for all of that, I will gladly become middle-aged.
What does today's recipe have to do with all of this?  Absolutely nothing, except it is so unhealthy that it will do wonders for my newly accepted, middle-aged body and heart.  This cornbread is light, sweet and moist, which means it is my kind of cornbread!  I have never been a fan of the dense, dry kind.  My kids love this stuff and always want a piece to stick in their lunches for school the next day.

California Cornbread
serves 12

2 C baking mix, such as Bisquick or Jiffy
1/2 C corn meal
1/2 C sugar
1 Tb baking powder
2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 C butter, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 7 x 11 glass pan.  Whisk together dry ingredients then add the wet.  Do not over-mix.   There will be a few small lumps.  Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and serve warm.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Is there any early morning sound more exciting to a school child than to hear the snow plow go down their street?  If there are plows, there must be snow.  If there is snow, there must not be school!!!  Today was our first snow day of the season and my kids were completely thrilled. 

Honestly, I think I get just as excited as they do because I can vividly remember the same thrill from when I was a kid.  I also remember being completely ticked-off when my school was the only district in the area who didn't cancel when it was clearly too dangerous for those yellow submarines to be sliding all around the roads.  For those of you who didn't get to experience these joys of childhood, I sincerely apologize.  There is a magic only to be found in being unexpectedly home all day in front of the t.v. while the snow and ice come down in buckets outside your window.
These amazingly indulgent cinnamon rolls are the perfect compliment to a snow day.  I've made many a cinnamon roll and these are the best, hands down.  I would compare the dough to a rich brioche which makes them light and tender.  Don't let the length of directions intimidate you.  They are extremely easy to throw into the mixer.  Their only downfall is the amount of time involved for the risings.  The actual work is minimal but they do take some planning and early rising if you need them by 7:00 am before your kids run out the door.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
makes 12

4 large eggs yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
1/4 C sugar
6 Tb unsalted butter, melted
6 oz buttermilk, room temperature
4 C flour
2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

1 C light brown sugar
1 Tb cinnamon
salt, pinch
1 1/2 Tb unsalted butter, melted

(My kids don't like cream cheese frosting, so I made a simple icing of pwd sugar and milk)
2 1/2 oz cream cheese, softened
3 Tb milk
1 1/2 C powdered sugar

1.  In your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the yolks, whole egg, sugar butter and buttermilk.  Add 2 C of flour along with the yeast and salt.  Whisk until moistened and combined.  Remove the whisk and replace with hook.  Add all but 3/4 C of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for five minutes.  Check the  consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky.  (I had to add 1/2 C)  Knead on low for 5 minutes more until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.  Transfer to an oiled bowl and allow to rise until double in volume, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
2.  Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and set aside.  Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into an 18 x 12 rectangle with the longest side near you.  Brush the dough with melted butter, leaving a 1/2 border along the top edge.  Sprinkle on the filling and gently press into the dough.  Beginning with the longest end near you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder.  Firmly pinch the seam to seal and very gently shape to create an even thickness along the cylinder.  
3.  Using a serrated knife or dental floss, slice into 12 equal rolls.  Arrange rolls in the baking dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Store in refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.
4.  Remove rolls from fridge and place in an oven that is turned off.  Fill a shallow pan 2/3 full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls.  Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until puffy, about 30 minutes.  Remove both pans from the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
5.  Bake on the middle rack until golden brown, about 23-25 minutes.  Allow the rolls to cool slightly before icing.  Serve immediately.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Budget.  Does that word make you cringe, nauseous and begin to sweat?  It certainly does for me and brings back many bad memories of my early married and motherhood years.  It has been quite awhile since I've had to watch our family spending like I am right now.  You see, my hubby has gone through some employment changes recently and we are being extra cautious as he gets his consulting business up and running.  

Though changes in employment are never a welcome experience, we feel quite prepared since we work very hard to live a provident lifestyle as our church counsels us to do.  I am intensely grateful for our food storage that allows me to keep grocery bills to a minimum.  I know this transition time is only temporary for us, but it could have been extremely stressful, scary and overwhelming if we hadn't have been prepared.

One of our biggest expenses is the grocery bill.  I've stopped purchasing prepared foods, such as cold cereal, to help cut it down.  My kids basically ate cold cereal every morning and now I'm up extra early to make them breakfast.  How do my kids feel about it?  To quote my 8 year old, "Mom, I hope Dad never gets a job so we have breakfast like this every morning!!!"
Last week I quickly threw this coffee cake into the mixer and boy was it a hit!  I had wanted to take a picture of the whole cake but by the time I got out the camera, 3/4 of it was already devoured. It was really moist unlike many coffee cakes I have made/eaten before and super easy to make.  The only change I might make next time is to try a smaller pan or maybe a tube pan because it comes out a bit thin in a 9 x 13.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1 C butter
2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 C sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

1/3 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
2 Tb butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 baking pan.
2.  In mixer, cream together 1 C butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla.  Add flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix just until combined.  Spread 1/2 of batter into prepared pan.
3.  Prepare the streusel by mixing the flour, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon together in a small bowl.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the streusel over the cake batter.  Spread remaining batter over the top and sprinkle on remaining streusel.
4.  Bake 35 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out nearly clean.

Election Result

Sorry bloggers for not posting sooner!  As I anticipated, I was beaten out in the school board election but very proud of the 1109 votes that did come my way :-)  People have been extending me apologies, but there is no need!  I honestly loved this whole experience and would do it again in a heartbeat.  No regrets, no sadness, no pity parties.  I'm still going to work very hard for Marshall Schools and am excitedly brainstorming "What's Next" for me.....

Get Out and Vote!!!

Just a reminder to get out today and vote!  Being involved for the first time in the election process has given me a greater understanding and appreciation for it.  Never again will I make an uniformed choice as a voter.  I have battled hard to get more than just my name known so that the voters of Marshall actually understand me and my views about public education. Unfortunately, the majority of voters will just randomly pick a name and that is very frustrating for a candidate to realize.
I'm sure the other voters thought we were crazy, but my hubby and I had a fun time taking pictures of me, voting for me :-)  I don't know if my name will ever appear on a ballot again, so I just had to get pictures of it.  
I have no regrets and am honestly grateful for the chance I had to participate.  I encourage you to put yourselves out there, take a chance and try it for yourself.  You might be surprised!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Time for everyone to be honest with me.  Do you sneak your kids Halloween candy as much as I do or am I the only mother who feels it's OK to steal from her own children?  Don't get me wrong, I always ask first but they tell me no, or offer me something lousy like Twizzlers.  They really leave me no choice but to quietly stalk their hiding place, pick through their overflowing buckets of candy and find just the right one.

Of course, my kids have enough candy to last them until next Halloween but they will find a way to devour it in a matter of days.  I think it would be great to take some of their chocolate candy, chop it up and use it in these cookies instead of the chunks.  Now if I can only stop eating it long enough to try that great idea.....
These cookies are very impressive in size (4 1/2" diameter) and taste.  Definitely one of the best chocolate chip cookies to come from my oven.  The recipe calls for chocolate chips, but I use chunks because they give the cookies that great thickness and texture to the finished cookies because they are bigger.  I also love how easy they are to make because they use melted butter.  The only downfall of this recipe is that since they are so huge, you have to let them completely cool on the baking sheet so they can finish cooking.  I only have two sheets which means a long wait between batches in the oven.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
makes 14 LARGE cookies (4 1/2" diameter)

2 C + 2 Tb all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 Tb unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C semisweet chocolate chunks

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Whisk flour, soda and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
2.  In a separate bowl, beat by hand the butter and sugars until thoroughly mixed.  Beat in the egg, yolk and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chunks.
3.  Roll a scant 1/4 C of dough into a ball.  Hold the ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves.  Rotate the halves so the jagged sides are facing up and join the halves together, being careful not to smooth the uneven surface on top.  Place the formed cookies onto parchment lined baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2" apart.  I can get 6 cookies on a sheet.
4.  Bake until the cookies are lightly browned and the outer edges start to harden but the centers are still soft and puffy, about 15 minutes.  Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet.  Remove once completely cooled.