Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Norwegian Grub and CHRISTMAS Cinnamon Rolls

Christmas is HERE!! 

This year the anticipation has just been killin' me! 
This is my first year working retail in a setting where the music is not really... negotiable? If you will... 

However, even with the endless hours of 'Santa Baby' and 'All I Want for Christmas is the Girl of My Dreams'... I
still have been so unbelievably excited for it all. 
Last night my parents and I went to my great-uncle's house, as we always have, and although it was a smaller crew than I am used to, it was
so great. My cousin and great-aunt made traditional Norwegian food... We almost always enjoy lefse, but this year were able to experience lutefisk (more on that in a moment) and rømmegrøt. 

Lefse is a Norwegian flatbread or tortilla of sorts made of flour, cream, and potatoes, of course... We always doctor it up with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, but others often enjoy it with savory items like ham and cheese or beef. 

Lutefisk is a traditional Nordic soup made from aged cod and a whole lotta butter. It is gelatinous in texture (the second of the two main problems... and has an extremely strong, pungent odor (the first of the big problems). Its name literally means 'lye fish'.  I am not a 'gaggy' person... I couldn't stomach this. My great-uncle, Keith, is a big, burly Viking and told me while I was giving my very best efforts to choke it down, that even he couldn't stomach it... it was at that moment that I decided I wouldn't renounce my heritage by spitting out the rank fish soup. 
Ahhhh, rømmegrøt. :) My first introduction to this decadent treat was at Nordicfest in Decorah, Iowa. It is a porridge made of whole milk, butter, and is often topped with cinnamon. It is rich and delicious and the perfect way to end a wonderful evening of food, stories, and laughter.

I just love my lil tree! It might be why I am still so very excited about Christmas! 

While last night was wonderful, today was lovely too!! My brother and sister-in-law are expecting their third little bumpkin and just moved into their new house about a month ago. It's much larger than their last house and a really great layout for rambunctious boys and a bunch of adults to eat, drink, and be merry.

My contribution to the brunch was homemade cinnamon rolls.... I have backed way off on baking in the last few years as I've been noticing it's really just not all that necessary, nor does my body like it very much... but I forgot how much I LOVE whipping up something sweet. :) Thankfully, I had the opportunity to tap into that delight once again this Christmas.

If you're interested in making these lil Christmas beauts, just follow these simple steps!

For the dough, you'll need:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (NOT pastry flour!!)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the deliciously gooey insides, you'll need:

  • 1 stick of butter or 1 cup
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar

For the icing, you'll need:
  • 1/2 bag of powdered sugar (about a pound... they're sweet!)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter (about 1/3 of a stick), melted
  • a dash of salt
  • a generous splash of pure maple syrup
To make the dough, you first need to heat the milk, oil, and sugar in a medium pot over medium heat. You want to warm the mixture, but NOT boil it... it's a delicate dance here. Once you've heated the mixture, but saved it from boiling, set it aside and let it cool until it's lukewarm.

Once the milk, oil, and sugar have cooled, add 4 cups of the flour and your packet of yeast and stir just to combine. The dough will be sticky. Cover the pot with a towel and let the dough rise for an hour while you wrap more presents... or while you shower and beautify before everyone else wakes up. ;)
After your hour has passed, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour, baking soda, baking powder, and the salt. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, start melting your butter, and roll your dough into a large rectangle. I had to roll mine into two large rectangles... just do what you need to make it work. :) 

Pour on your butter and spread it around with your lovely little hands! (Have fun with it, how often do you get to slather butter all over your counter?!)

Sprinkle your cinnamon allllll over your rectangle of gold... I mean, dough. I love cinnamon, so I was extra liberal in this step. Don't be stingy on the edges! Follow with your sugar - the same mindset for that ingredient... the more, the merrier.

Do your best to roll your rectangle up super tight... this will simply make it easier to keep all that ooey, gooey, goodness INSIDE your rolls rather than all over your counter. Take a step back to enjoy your masterpiece and break out the butcher knife to slice your log into rolls. 

I felt like a combination of when I eat corn on the cob going back and forth, making sure I don't miss a single kernel and how I used to pretend to type or play the piano as a kid - you need quick fingers to keep it all together!

So much goodness right there.

Bake at 375 for 13-17 minutes, depending on your oven. Make sure not to let them get too brown as nobody's looking to eat any hockey pucks for their brunch... golden is good, aim for golden. 

This is the part my nephews love the most: the icing. It makes sense, who doesn't love straight sugar and butter? Mix together powdered sugar, milk, butter, and a smidge of salt. Once that's all mixed well, add in your splash of maple syrup. Most would whisk this all... I don't care for whisks though, so I simply mix it with a fork. To each their own! 

If you can even contain yourself for the 7 minutes or so that the smell of baked dough and buttery, sugary, cinnamony perfection has been tantalizing your nose, then break them out and let them cool for a moment before slathering the icing ALLLL over them. I'd suggest doing this while they're hot as the icing is pretty heavy duty.

I could stare at them all day... is that weird?

Good as gone.


Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Vagabond Image & Design

Just another shout out for the current scholarship-giveaway going on with Vagabond Image & Design!

Here are a few ideas of whom you may want to nominate:

Your sister and/or best friend for being there for you always.

Your friends who are crazy in love and trying to stick to a budget for their upcoming wedding.

Your brother who has this gorgeous family that just keeps growing and changing and you just know they need to document the exciting moments, but have other things at the top of their priority list.

Your sister who cares for everybody she meets and treats them with utmost respect and dignity. She cares for her family, but never seems to treat herself. Perhaps she needs a little something extra special this Christmas.

Your co-worker who has a new little gem to love on and simply hasn't taken the time to capture those first memories...

...or your darling friend who doesn't neglect to capture the moments, but never seems to be in the frame for those moments as well!

How about that one special someone that is nourishing and carrying new life.

Nominations can be anonymous or not, whichever you choose! Simply follow the instructions on this link to enter the person you're thinking of right now... Go ahead! What are you waiting for?!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Morning Bliss...

  • blog facelift
  • rediscover favorite CD from high school
  • start conquering to-do list
  • mountain of deliciousness
After making potato skins the other day, I had left over baked potatoes to make breakfast with...
I wish you could taste them... I also wish you loved potatoes as much as I do...

Check, check, check, check! And all before 8:30. 

Heavens, I love Saturdays. It's really a shame it always takes another 6 days for them to roll around again.

In case you haven't heard, girlwithagypsyheart is hosting a scholarship-giveaway with Vagabond Image & Design... read the previous blog post here for details -- in short, you can nominate a loved one to win a grand prize of a full photo session with copyrighted disc of their edited images for free! All in the spirit of giving. Check it out!

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Giveaway? Christmas? WHAT?!

In the spirit of GIVING, Vagabond Image & Design wants to help you take a step back and remember the reason for the season with a scholarship giveaway!

Do you have someone on your gift list that you want so badly to give the perfect gift, but just can't quite find that very one? Do you have a loved one who really struggles during this time of year (it's not always easy or natural for some to join in on the joy and cheer -- lots of loss and memories spark sadness instead this time of year.) Or maybe you're like me, and have someone who has everything they want and need... I get it. Those people are very tricky to Christmas shop for. 

Have no fear, an answer is here! Photography is a way to capture and document where you are here and now; it's something that can be looked back on to recognize the growth, memories, cheer, and oftentimes a point of reference for a new start!

**Here are the deets:

PRIZE: GRAND PRIZE- ONE FREE PHOTOGRAPHY SESSION of the clients choosing plus a disc of edited images with copyright. (Engagement, Newborn, Family {immediate only}, headshot, maternity, or a children session – must be done in the Cedar Valley or if mutually agreed within 30 miles of Cedar Falls/Waterloo). 

2nd Prize- ONE mini 30 minute photography session of the clients choosing (Cedar Falls/Waterloo location only - all additional items ala-carte).

HOW IT WORKS: Click the girlwithagypsyheart Facebook link and become a FAN of the FACEBOOK page (I will check this) and this is good for one entry. Check out the blog before it gets it's incredible face-lift.

Email why the person you wish to make merry with this gift should be treated to a personalized photography session. This can include why you're thankful for them, how they've impacted the community or another's life, how they have persevered through a difficult season of life, or anything that you deem worthy of a personal, fun, never-to-be-replicated gift. Please include your name and contact information as well as your connection with whomever you're nominating and what type of photography session you wish to bless them with. In 250-1000 words, please paint a picture for me of specifically why this person is the best fit to receive the Grand Prize. (This is the fun part - get creative, enjoy it!)

The scholarship will be open the 12 days of Christmas and I will announce the winner on New Years Day. 

(aka: Feel free to email your essays from December 13th-December 25th, at which time the contest will be closed and I will take a few days to read through them and find a winner. Winner will be announced the first day of 2014!)