Sunday, September 20, 2009

Of Cinnamon Rolls and Peanut Brittle

David made cinnamon rolls this morning, using my recipe. I got my recipe from my Mom, who would, when I was a small girl, make them and time it so they came out of the oven about the time I got home from school. There is nothing quite like walking into a kitchen that is filled with the aroma of baking bread. I haven't made these for a long time, but I think I may need to bake some again.

Most times with recipes I got from Mom, there was just a list of ingredients and she just assumed I knew how to put it all together. So I have added instructions the way I do it. Good luck!

Cinnamon Rolls

Dissolve 1 package dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.
Heat 1/2 cup milk to nearly scalding, remove from heat and add 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup shortening and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring to dissolve.
Cool milk to lukewarm and stir in yeast mixture.
Add 1 cup flour, beating well.
Add 1 egg, beating well.
Add 2 1/2 - 3 cups flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth.

At this point, Mom's recipe says to let dough rise in a greased bowl until double in size, but I have always skipped that part.

Take half of the dough and roll it into a rectangle about the size of a large cake pan. Spread butter over the dough, sprinkle with either white or brown sugar and then with cinnamon. I have never had amounts for these - just went by what looked right.
Roll the dough the long way and pinch the seam so it holds together.
Slice into about 1 inch pieces and arrange in a greased cake pan.
Cover with a towel and let rise until it looks right (at least doubled in size - probably more) and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown on top. Brush tops with melted butter.
While still warm, drizzle with a glaze made by beating together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Do the same with the other half of the dough. Mom always made one pan to eat and another for the freezer. They are wonderful!

As long as I am giving you the above recipe, I thought I would add a few more that maybe my children will remember. The next one is for buns - the ones I used to make for family gatherings. It is the same recipe Mom used and it makes mountains of them. The recipe can be cut in half, but I always made lots and froze them. I have been making these since I was about 12 years old, right around the time that Mom's hands became so crippled that she couldn't do this any more. This recipe is just a list of ingredients, and is made the same way as the cinnamon rolls. These taste better than any bakery buns I have ever had. Maybe that's because my Mom made them!


4 packages dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup melted shortening
2 cups milk, scalded
1/2 cup sugar
2 well beaten eggs
7-8 cups flour

Shape into balls the size of an egg. Place on a greased cookie sheet and let rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown on top. Brush tops with butter while still hot. Remove from cookie sheet and cover with a towel to let cool. This keeps them from drying out.

I think all of my children remember "Grandpa's World Famous Peanut Brittle." My Dad would make this every year about Christmas time. He didn't use a candy thermometer - just watched it to see when it looked right. Sometimes he wouldn't watch too closely, and he would heat it to nearly scorching. Now if I did that, it probably wouldn't be fit to eat. But his peanut brittle always was better than anyone else's. Here is the recipe, straight from his recipe card.

Peanut Brittle

2 cups sugar
1 cup white syrup
2 cups raw Spanish peanuts
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil, then add 2 cups sugar, and 1 cup of white syrup, stir until dissolved and boil until it will spin a thread. Now add 2 cups raw Spanish peanuts and cook slowly over a low fire until it turns a golden brown. Take from fire and add 2 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons soda and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir quickly. Spread on two large cookie sheets that have been well buttered. Place in a cold area to cool.

These are the best sugar cookies ever, and they don't have to be rolled out and cut into shapes. They just melt in your mouth. I think Mom got this recipe from Aunt Etta, but I'm not positive on that. It has been in her recipe box for many years, and because they taste so good, I often will make them at Christmas time, sprinkled with colored sugar, rather than the traditional rolled cookies. Mix them like you would any other cookie recipe.

Mom's Sugar Cookies

2 cups sugar
2 cups butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Chill dough and then roll into balls about the size of a walnut. Butter the bottom of a glass, dip it into a small bowl of sugar, and press the cookie balls flat. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges of the cookies turn a light brown.

The last recipe I'm adding today is the one that Mom made for every family occasion, where there would be a lot of people. It makes enough to serve 20 - 25, but can be cut in half for family use. I always thought she made this because it tasted so good, but a number of years ago, at a family get-together for an anniversary or birthday or something similar, somebody asked Mom if they could bring her a plate of this shrimp salad. She replied that she didn't want any because she didn't like it. When asked why she made it for family doings if she didn't like it, she replied that she made it because it looked pretty in the bowl! Now that was my mother - wanting things to look pretty.

Shrimp Salad

4 cups uncooked macaroni rings
1/2 cup sliced stuffed olives
2 cups diced celery
1/2 cup canned baby peas
2 cups cooked baby shrimp
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1-1/2 cup mayo

Boil macaroni rings, drain and cool. Add rest of ingredients and blend well.

My mother's recipe box is an interesting piece of Matheny family history. There are recipes from relatives, some neatly written on recipe cards and others written on scraps of paper, on the backs of envelopes and still others clipped from newspapers. Many of the recipes I remember from my childhood, when my mother stayed at home and cooked and baked as mothers of that era did. Later when Mother became more ill, I remember Dad doing much of the cooking, and he was at least Mother's equal in the kitchen. A while back, my brother stayed with me for a day or two, and he remarked that I cooked just like my Dad - everything on high heat. Perhaps that's because I had heard Dad say that only cowards cook on "low."

Wake Surfing and Race Car Driving

I am a firm believer in learning new things. Keeps my mind active. Keeps the cobwebs from taking over. This past week I learned about Wake Surfing.

Jeri stopped by one day while I was at work to download some photos of Chris and Nicki from her camera onto my computer. When I got home that evening and looked at the photos, I had to email her and ask about what the kids were doing. I knew about water skiing and I knew about surfing, but I had never heard about wake surfing. I don't get out much.

It seems that in wake surfing, a surfboard is used, but it is shorter than a surfboard used to ride the ocean waves. The person doing the surfing is towed behind a boat like in water skiing, only he or she rides the waves of the wake behind the boat. A friend and neighbor of Jon and Jeri has all the equipment for wake surfing, so he took the kids out on the lake to give it a try. I'd say they did pretty well at it. Looks to me like they were having lots of fun.

My grandson, Chris, works at the Speedway on the weekends during the summer racing season. A couple of weeks ago there was a party for all of the workers, and as a part of that, anyone who wanted to drive one of the race cars could do so.

Yep. That's Chris. Driving that car. Looking good. He came in second in the second race. He won't let me talk about the first race. But he did tell me that at one point, the car ahead of him lost a wheel. I'm thinking that it took some pretty fancy driving to keep his car from crashing.

Way to go, Chris!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Playing With Grandkids

A couple of days ago David called me and asked if I had any plans for the weekend. I replied that I had a fun filled weekend planned after working at my job Saturday morning, washing puppies - things like doing the hated and despised laundry, the mopping of floors and perhaps a little cleaning here and there. Really important stuff. So he asked if I would like to spend a little time with my grandkids. Hmmm.....tough choice. Laundry or grandkids. I vote for grandkids!

David, Staci and the kids picked me up late in the afternoon on Saturday. We went to a really nice park just a couple of blocks from my apartment. The kids had a grand time swinging on the swings, showing me how they could go hand over hand on the monkey bars, climbing all over the castle and sliding down the slides. I had a grand time watching them and taking pictures. The girls took turns going round and round on the tire swing, just as fast as their Dad could push them, and showed me how high they could go on the regular swings. Jacob was just everywhere doing everything.

I expect that the kids could have kept this up for a couple more hours, but as the adults were pretty much worn out, we headed to a local restaurant for dinner. Over dinner Boston and Maddie had all sorts of things to tell me - about school and riding their bikes and a play date where Boston went swimming in a hot tub. Maddie cleaned up her bowl of macaroni and cheese right down to the last macaroni, and Boston beat me five games of tic tac toe out of seven. And I was really trying to win. I also learned that Jacob can throw a french fry much farther than I would have thought possible for a child his age!

After everyone had eaten their fill, we went back to my apartment for a little while because the kids wanted to see my cats. Now the cats are used to having only me to deal with, and they tolerate me as I am the one who feeds them, so they weren't overjoyed with having their territory invaded. But nobody got scratched or bitten and there was some serious kitty petting going on, so all in all, the kids were happy. When the kids had enough of the cats, and the cats had enough of the kids, it was time to take three tired children home. I got some pretty good hugs and kisses from all three and even some "Bye Grandma. I love you, Grandma."

Sometimes I get tired. Sometimes it seems as though all I do is work, whether it be at my job or at home. But then, along comes a day like Saturday when I can spend time with my kids and grandkids, watching them play, listening to them tell me about all the things they do, getting hugs and kisses from them, and suddenly I am no longer tired. Days like this are what makes my life totally worthwhile.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Day of School

Last evening my phone rang. It was David, asking me if I was busy and telling me that a couple of girls wanted to talk to Grandma. I am never, ever too busy to talk to grandchildren. I love it when they call to tell me all about what they have been doing.
Maddie started Kindergarten last week. When I asked her how she liked school, she said that she liked it a lot. I asked her what she had done in school that day, and she replied that she did recess and lunch - you know, the important stuff - along with Art. She said that day had been "Yellow Day," and she wore her yellow shirt and a yellow barrette and pony in her hair and brought yellow flowers that Dad picked in their yard. And tomorrow was "Green Day," and she was going to wear her green shirt. All in all, I'd say that Kindergarten was a huge success.

When I asked Boston, who started Second Grade, how she was liking school this year, she replied that She Loves It! She likes her teacher and has made some new friends already, and had friends from last year in her class and she Just Loves It! I hope that her enthusiasm for school continues.

Zach started Fourth Grade this year. Seems like just the day before yesterday that he, too, was starting Kindergarten. He has grown up so fast. Zach says that Fourth Grade is when kids finally get some respect!

Chris and Nicki wouldn't let their Mom take any first day of school pictures this year. Seems that they are too old for that sort of thing. So just so they don't feel left out, here is a first day of school picture of them taken several years ago. I'm not sure what grades they were in, but I like this picture.

Now this picture taking on the first day of school is not a new thing. It has been going on for a number of years. This picture was taken some 50 years ago. My sister and I were ready to start our first day at Sunnyside School, the two room country school we attended after we moved to the farm. There were three kids in my class. I would love to tell you that I walked five miles to and from school, through the blowing snow, uphill both ways, but I can't. The school was a mile and a half from our house, and I only walked on really nice, sunny days, and only if I wanted to. What a wimp.

I wonder what my grandchildren, who attend large, modern city schools would have thought of the little school with four grades in each of the two rooms. That school is gone now, merged with the larger schools in the area. I consider myself lucky to have had the experience of attending that little country school.