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Month: December 2016

The. Best. Caramel. Rolls. Ever!!!

The. Best. Caramel. Rolls. Ever!!!

These are the most amazing breakfast rolls you will ever eat!

Every Christmas morning at our house begins with these caramel rolls. Since I’m the one who actually bakes the caramel rolls, I am up earlier than anyone else and it’s my responsibility to taste-test the caramel rolls.  (The early bird gets the middle roll!) It’s a tough job but someone must sample them before they’re released to the masses.  I usually have a caramel roll with my coffee before everyone wakes.  Then I have another one for breakfast.  Then after we open presents, Grandmom shows up with grits and sausage balls and the egg bake or quiche is out of the oven, so I have one with brunch.  And maybe just a little one for my afternoon snack. . . . . and one when I wake from my Christmas afternoon nap. . . . I’m sure you get the picture.  I absolutely love these rolls!

I also love that it’s part of our Christmas tradition. We have had to change some traditions over the years, but this recipe is flexible enough to travel (they once traveled in pre-bake mode in a RV from Florida to Atlanta), be made in advance (most years) or be frozen (one year when we were in Breckinridge until Christmas Eve).  I can’t remember a Christmas morning when we didn’t have caramel rolls.

I usually make the dough for the rolls on the 22nd or 23rd of December and then leave it in the refrigerator.  The dough is “punched”  down once a day (it will continue to rise) and on the 24th I roll it out and place the rolls on top of caramel.  It then all goes back into the refrigerator until about two hours before the time we want to eat them on Christmas morning!

You know I”m not a great morning person so there is a trick or two involved for us to have these warm, delicious rolls on Christmas morning.  It’s all in making the timing work for your schedule.

Here are the basics:

Refrigerator Rolls
Bring to boil one quart milk (I use the microwave). Stir in 1 cup sugar, let cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, melt one cup shortening (Crisco) and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Dissolve one package of original active dry yeast in ¼ cup of warm water. Add one tablespoon of sugar and stir. Set aside and let yeast begin to rise.
When milk mixture is lukewarm, stir in yeast mixture. Then mix in four cups sifted flour. (You MUST use flour that you’ve sifted – I had a serious fail one year when my sifter went missing!  Luckily I realized it in the early stages and was able to start over.)  Let this mixture stand one half hour.
Mix together 1 tsp soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 Tablespoon of salt and add. Stir in room temperature shortening. Add 10 – 12 cups of flour to make soft dough. Knead until dough is smooth.
Place in large greased bowl, cover and place in refrigerator. Knead or “punch” down twice the first day. “Punch” down once a day while kept in refrigerator.

Caramel Topping
Combine 1 pint heavy whipping cream, ½ cup butter and a 2# bag of brown sugar.  Microwave, stirring frequently until mixture is smooth.  Let cool and pour equally into three 9 x 13 cake pans.

Roll out dough on floured surface to desired thickness for size of rolls. Spread softened butter on dough and cover with brown sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon on all.

Spread dough with softened butter and then smooth brown sugar over butter. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of brown sugar. This makes delicious caramel on the inside and avoids that strong cinnamon bite when bakers add only cinnamon.
Rolling the dough. . . .
Cutting individual rolls
Rolls placed on caramel
Rolls – after rising – ready for oven!

Roll up dough and cut in 1” rolls. Place on top of caramel mixture. Cover with light tea towel and let rise one hour.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until brown on top. Take out of oven, let sit five minutes then invert on tray covered with freezer paper.

Let rolls sit for 5 minutes after baking, then invert onto tray or pan covered with freezer paper

Options for baking at a later time:
The wonderful thing about these rolls is that you can get them ready (roll and set on top of caramel in 9 x 13 glass cake pan) and put them in the refrigerator the night before Christmas. Just get up early enough to let the dough rise about an hour before baking them. I put them in the oven to rise – if you don’t have a proof setting on your oven, just turn on your oven for a couple of minutes and then turn it off. The heat should be minimal around 75 degrees for them to rise. You can also just turn on the oven light to generate some warmth.  I cover the rolls with a tea towel as they rise.
One year I froze the rolls because we were traveling before Christmas. After placing rolls on top of the caramel in the baking pan, I wrapped the pan in foil and put them in the freezer.  On Christmas Eve, I put the rolls in the refrigerator when I went to bed so they could thaw. Then I let the rolls rise an hour before baking them.

It’s really an amazingly flexible sweet roll recipe.

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More Balls!!! Love peanut butter?!?

More Balls!!! Love peanut butter?!?

These are “buckeyes” to many, but I dip the entire ball and add vanilla so I’m just going to call them peanut butter balls!  No matter what you call them, they are sooooo good!!

1 1⁄2 cups peanut butter (crunchy or creamy – your choice!)
1⁄2 cup softened butter
1 lb powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Dipping Chocolate – I like the Ghiardelli melting wafers.

Any dipping chocolate works – this one is easy and delicious!


Mix peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in bowl.
Shape into balls.

Refrigerate balls.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate according to package directions.  Insert toothpick into refrigerated balls and dip into chocolate.  I let the chocolate harden and then dip the top in the chocolate.
Cool on wax paper and store in refrigerator or freezer.

Easy!  Delicious!  Great to share!



You MUST add these to your goodies list. . . . . . . .

You MUST add these to your goodies list. . . . . . . .

Oreo Balls.  Oreo Truffles.  There are Oreos in these?  People who don’t even LIKE Oreo cookies love these!  This recipe seems to have been around since the beginning of Oreos, yet I didn’t know about it until a few years ago.  Now we have them every Christmas!  They are incredibly easy to make and whether or not you like Oreos (it doesn’t seem to matter!) . . . . . well, you will LOVE these!  These are undoubtedly the most simple things I make at Christmas.  And they are one of the favorites of everyone.  Every year there are friends who have never tasted them who goe crazy over them!

1 (14.3 ounce – Previously 16 ounce) package Oreo cookies, crushed
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (12 ounce) bag Ghirardelli Dark Melting Wafers                                      1 (12 ounce) package Ghirardelli White Melting Wafers


Mix crushed Oreos and cream cheese together by hand.
Roll into walnut size balls.
Chill for an hour.
Melt white melting wafers.
Stick a toothpick in the Oreo ball and dip it in the melted white chocolate.
Allow to harden on wax paper.
Takes about 15 minute.
While waiting, melt about dark melting wafers.

My family happens to love the white chocolate.  Dip the Oreo balls in whichever chocolate your family likes!  After the chocolate has hardened, I dip the top of the balls in chocolate to hide the toothpick’s hole and add a yummy layer of chocolate on top.
When Oreo balls are no longer sticky to the touch, decorate with drizzles of chocolate and white chocolate.  (Or not – I didn’t this time!)
You can use a sandwich bag with a tiny hole cut in one corner to drizzle the chocolate – or drizzle with a spoon.

The crushed oreos resemble coffee grounds!!
Any dipping chocolate works – this one is easy and delicious!
Chilled and ready to dip!
Want to impress your holiday guests?

Want to impress your holiday guests?

Not sure what you’re making for your Christmas Eve dinner?  Need a fabulous appetizer?  Want to impress your guests?  These are the BEST Crab Cakes EVER!

Yes, this is actually the recipe for crab cakes from the world-famous Miami South Beach restaurant, Joe’s Stone Crabs.

When Joe Weiss opened his family restaurant, Joe’s Stone Crabs, on the tip of Miami’s South Beach in 1913, no one thought of eating stone-crab claws until he perfected a way to boil and chill them.  This story and recipe was in one of our local papers many years ago and I have made these crab cakes ever since.  It is one of my very best recipes.  I rarely order crab cakes in restaurants now since I can make the best-ever crab cakes at home!

I’ve substituted panko bread crumbs because I like the crunchy texture.  The recipe makes 8 dinner-size crab cakes or 16 appetizer-size crab cakes.

Crab Cakes

1 1/4 cups plain panko bread crumbs

1 pound super lump crabmeat

1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup minced onion

1/4 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon minced  garlic

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon red pepper sauce

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mustard Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1 3/4 teaspoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon steak sauce

pinch salt

Crab cakes:  Line cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper.  Place 1 cup bread crumbs in shallow dish.  Combine remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs with remaining crab cake ingredients except oil in large bowl until just blended.  Shape mixture evenly into 8 patties.  Coat each crab cake with panko crumbs, turning carefully to coat both sides.  Transfer to prepared cookie sheet.  Cover and refrigerate two hours.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Cook crab cakes in batches, adding more oil if necessary, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Transfer to warm platter.  Service with mustard sauce.

Mustard Sauce:  Combine all ingredients in small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Makes 1/2 cup.

Crab Cakes Mixture
Crab Cakes Mixture
Crab Cakes and Panko Crumbs
Crab Cakes and Panko Crumbs
Ready for the Refrigerator
Ready for the Refrigerator


The Absolute BEST Christmas Cookies!

The Absolute BEST Christmas Cookies!

I love, love, love frosted sugar cookies. Anyone who has been around me knows that I love to make them, I love to give them to friends & family and I love to eat them! My grandmother gave me a baking set when I was very young and got me started with cakes and cookies. The set included four tiered round cake pans – perhaps the most elegant thing I had ever seen – and several metal cookie cutters, which I still have. I have added to my collection over the years and have a very large box of cookie cutters for all occasions now. I have hosted cookie parties (think women, wine and lots of laughing!), sent care packages and made cookies for every occasion you can think of, including numbered jerseys for my son’s football team. You can see that I’m not an artist. In fact, I’m not even very creative. But I do find pictures to copy, friends to imitate and I have long-time favorites that I keep repeating. I’m not trying for the picture-perfect cookies that bakeries make (here comes the cookie snob in me) but these are absolutely homemade, from the heart and delicious!

I have used the recipe, from The Joy of Cooking Cookbook, for at least 32 years! I got this cookbook as a wedding gift. This is the best rolled sugar cookie recipe EVER:

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Early in the day or the day before:

Measure all ingredients into a large bowl – use a mixer if you’d like but I just mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula. Then I use my hands to finish mixing and shape dough into a ball. Put it in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours so it’s easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. For best results, use freezer paper on your cookie sheets, but if you don’t have freezer paper, make sure you lightly grease the cookie sheets. (If you haven’t tried baking cookies on freezer paper you are missing out – I went through years of doing it the hard way before my friend Jennifer wised me up!)

Roll half or a third of the dough at a time, keeping the rest of the dough refrigerated. If you like your sugar cookies crisp, roll your dough very thin. I like my cookies a little softer so I roll about 1/4″ thick. Make sure to flour your rolling-pin AND your cookie cutters as you roll and cut. Roll your trimmings until all your dough has turned into cookies!

Place your cookies about 1/2″ apart on your cookie sheet and bake 8 minutes or until the edges are very lightly brown. I use a special little cookie turner to remove cookies to racks. Cool and decorate. I use a powdered sugar frosting that starts out with:

3 cups of powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons of softened butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Add milk until the frosting is the consistency desired. Add powdered sugar if it becomes too thin. I like the frosting a little thicker so it holds the decorating designs.

My sons used to help me decorate when they were younger and one day I will make these with my grandchildren. My friend Lisa tells me she makes these cookies with her daughters every Christmas. I hope you have traditions – food or otherwise that you love. If you need a new one, I’d be thrilled to have you make these cookies! Wait until you see the Valentine’s Day version!

Isn’t life fun!

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