December 14, 2011

Diana's Famous Rolls

Before my lovely friend, Diana, gave me this recipe, I had never had much luck with rolls.  But this recipe rocks 1) because it's delicious, and 2) because it's forgiving.  The first time I made it, I actually added four times too much water (don't ask), and after adding more flour, they still turned out!  The next time I made them, I followed the recipe, and they were amazing--AMAZING.  I will probably never look for another roll recipe again because I love them.  Here they are:

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Diana's Famous Rolls

* Yields 4 dozen rolls

2 cups milk
8 Tbsp butter (one stick)
2 Tbsp yeast
1/2 cup water
3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt
6 - 6 1/2 cups flour
Butter for brushing tops of rolls

1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, scald the milk.  Remove from heat, and throw in a stick of butter to melt.  If it's taking a long time to melt, put it back on the off-but-still-warm burner until it melts completely.  Meanwhile, soften your yeast in the water. 
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, sugar, and salt.  Add milk mixture, and stir to combine.  Add yeast and water mixture.  Stir in the rest of the flour (6 - 6 1/2 cups) until it forms a nice, soft, smooth dough.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it, and let it rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.  
3. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions, and grease 2 cookie sheets.  Roll out each dough portion into a large circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut the circles into 12 "pizza slices" or triangles.  Roll each slice, starting with the large end, into a crescent shape.  Or, if you want, they work just as well in regular round roll shape.  Place rolls on the baking sheet and brush with butter.  Cover, and let them rise until doubled (about 30-40 minutes).  
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake rolls for approximately 12 minutes, or until they're golden brown.  Brush with melted butter as they come out of the oven.  This will not only give them a buttery delicious flavor, it will actually prevent too much steam from escaping, leaving you with super moist rolls.  Cool, huh?
5.  Yum!  Devour those rolls.

December 7, 2011

Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

I had a few friends recommend the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion to me a while back, and I finally went and checked it out from the library.  I also had a Christmas cookie exchange party this week and wanted to bring something amazing, so I looked through the Baker's Companion for ideas.  Lo and behold, this candy cane cookie recipe jumped off the page at me and shouted, "Make me!"  So I did.  I have to give you fair warning--they're kind of labor intensive.  But they ended up being pretty fun once they were done.  Who knows?  Maybe making these will become a Christmas tradition.

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Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies
(from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion)

5-1/3 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract or flavoring
2 cups flour (or 8.5 oz, if you're measuring by weight, as they suggest in the Baker's Companion)
Red food coloring
Sugar for sprinkling (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and shortening on a high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the sugar, egg, and milk, and stir until well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.  Mix in the baking powder, salt, vanilla, and peppermint.  Stir in as much flour as you can.
2. Now that you have your dough made, put 1/4 of it in a separate bowl, and use the food coloring to dye it red.  Now separate the remaining dough into two equal parts.  Leave one of them plain, and dye the other light pink.  Separate each color of dough into 6 equal portions.  This is where, for me, it was easiest to just roll them all into little balls, stick them on a plate, and put them in the fridge to chill overnight.  If your dough happens to be easier to work with than mine was, you can continue on ahead at full speed.  I found though that chilling the dough made a huge difference in the coming steps.

3. When you're ready to assemble the cookies, lightly flour a large work space and preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Roll each dough ball into a rope 12 inches long.  Lay your strips of dough side by side, alternating colors, until they form a large rectangle.  See picture below.  Take a floured rolling pin and roll it across all of the strips of dough.  This will push the ropes together into one big rectangle of candy cane-y goodness.  You want the rectangle to be about 14x9 and about 1/4" thick.  Now you have one giant rectangle of striped dough.  Pretty nifty, right?

4. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the dough into diagonal strips about 1/2 inch wide.  Now cut each strip in half, so you end up with strips about 5-7 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide.  Place the strips on an ungreased cookie sheet, and carefully curve one end down to form a cane shape.  As a side note, make sure you turn them the right way so that they look like a J.  Christmas is about Jesus, after all.  Sprinkle them with sugar, if desired.
5. Bake them at 375 for 7-8 minutes, then remove them from the oven.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Don't overcook them or they will become ultra crispy very quickly.  Be ye warned.  Also, be careful as you're taking them off of the cookie sheet because they can be kind of fragile, and you might end up with a lot of broken candy canes if you try to rush it.  
6. Merry Christmas!  Eat your Christmas-y, pepperminty, candy cane cookies!

December 5, 2011

How to Price-Match at Walmart

I've had a lot of people ask me lately about how I grocery shop and feed my family on a small budget.  So now I reveal to you my biggest secret (or at least the one I've been most excited about lately)...


Walmart.  It's a controversial store...but they price match!  I used to be anti-Walmart when it came to grocery shopping.  I was not a fan of giving up my full grocery store first.  Let's face it.  It's kind of a bummer when you grocery shop at Walmart.  Where are the free samples?  Where is the super duper fresh produce?  Where are the happy people that put your bags of groceries into your cart for you and then offer to help you to your car?  Well, they're not at Walmart.  So for a while I refused to shop at Walmart for groceries, even though my husband insisted that I could get things cheaper there.  But then money got tight and I started looking for ways to save a few more dollars.  I ventured into the grocery section of Walmart with skepticism.  In order to prove to my husband that I wouldn't save that much money at Walmart, I started keeping a spreadsheet of the prices of items we normally bought and how much they cost at each store.  And after a few weeks of doing this, I realized that Walmart actually did have lower prices on a lot of things.  But it wasn't until I started price-matching that I saw the real difference.  And now that I do it every time I go grocery shopping at Walmart, I'm more than willing to give up my free samples and super duper fresh produce and happy people helping me with my bags of groceries.  I get kind of a thrill out of coming home and saying, "Honey!  Guess how much money I saved this week with my coupons and price-matching!"

I admit that I was too scared to ask how price-matching worked for a long time, but when I saw the lady in front of me doing it one time, I got up the courage.  And now I've done all the dirty work for you.  So just sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of my labors.  Without further ado, I give you...the rules of price-matching at Walmart.

(Bear in mind that these are the rules as they were explained to me.  As I understand it, all Walmart stores should price-match, but there are some things that seem to be up to the discretion of the individual store.  So if some Walmart worker yells at you for doing what I'm about to explain, I'm sorry.  They're probably just having a bad day because this always works for me.  If you want the exact, detailed policy from, go here.)

  • Walmart will match the price of an EXACT item that is advertised by another store.
  • The other store must actively advertise the price of that item.  So if you want to price-match something from a store that doesn't put out an ad (like Costco or Winco), it's no bueno.  They won't price-match it for you.
  • If the Walmart you're shopping at doesn't carry that EXACT item because they don't sell that brand, you can substitute a comparable brand for the same thing in the same size.  That means that if Kroger is on sale at another store, you can buy Great Value for that price.  Or if Meadow Gold is on sale at the other store, but Walmart only sells Viva, you can substitute it.  Just remember, it has to be exactly the same product in the same size, just a different brand.
  • Walmart does NOT price-match with other Walmart stores, Sam's Club, or any store's prices advertised on the internet.
  • The ad you're using to price-match must be valid for the same day you're buying it at Walmart.  Sorry, no using last week's ads.
  • You DON'T have the ad with you to price-match...technically.  I have only been asked to show the ad once, and I price match every time I go shopping.  According to one cashier, you only have to have the ad with you if the discounted price is more than 50% off the Walmart price.  But if you look it up on the Walmart site, they say that you don't have to have the ad ever.  So if they give you trouble, site that one to them.  I generally bring the ads with me, just in case, but most of the time I just have the prices listed on a post-it note, and I guess they figure if I took the time to write them down, they're probably the right ones.
  • You can only price-match if the ad says an exact price, not a percentage off or buy-one-get-one.  
  • Walmart also honors other stores' coupons if they have an exact price listed.
  • You can price-match produce and meat too.  So if you have a package of chicken that says a total price on it already, just tell the cashier that you want it for such-and-such-price-per-pound, and they'll ring it up for you.  Who cares about the price that's printed on there, anyway?  You're price-matching.  Beauty!
  • Let the cashier know you're price-matching before they ring everything up.  I like to separate my groceries into two categories on the little belt thing: the things that are regular price and the things that I'm price-matching.  Since they have to enter in your price-matched items one at a time, they'll be a lot happier with you if you tell them in advance that you're price-matching all of that stuff so they don't ring it up too quickly and then have to take it off and ring it up again.  Plus, that's just courteous.

I hope this helps.  It sure helps me, anyway.  Happy price-matching, everyone!
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