Cooking with My Grandma: Parker House Rolls

IMG_0446So, today is the day I’m starting my “new” hobby.  I’m going to cook through what I’m going to call “heritage recipes”…recipes that I have from great grandmother, grandmother and great aunt that our family still has access to via handwritten slips of paper, recipe cards and well-worn recipe books.  I will probably do this on Monday mornings or Wednesday afternoons as those are blocks of time for me to do things at home.  (Yep, I do my schedule in project blocks of … but that’s a whole different post.)

Strictly based on what I had available at the house and the fact that I had this recipe in a handwritten format (see below), I chose to do my grandmother’s Parker House Rolls first. Plus, I’m usually pretty good at bread baking so I thought I would start on something that I had a good chance of success with.

I started by pulling all the ingredients out onto the kitchen island along with my grandmother’s bread bowl (picture #1) and my measuring cups and spoons.

I tried to keep track of what I was doing and the results by taking pictures of the process.  Now, I know there are expert bloggers out there who take amazing pictures with their phones and cameras and know just what to do to make everything look perfect.  However, I have to be real with you.  I have NO IDEA how to do that sort of thing, nor do I think I want to invest the time in that at this point…so, I’m going to just be “real” with you.  Hopefully, you can handle that! : )

After all my ingredients and materials were assembled, I read through my grandmother’s recipe once again and just started from the top by combining luke warm water, yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a large glass measuring cup.  Now, here was my first hiccup.  She said 2 1/2 packages of yeast.  I buy my yeast in a big jar but have learned over the years that a package of yeast (at least the ones these days) have about 2 1/2 tsp of yeast in them…so that’s what I used as a guide.  After combining those ingredients, I set them aside until they were bubbly…about 10 minutes.  (picture #2)

Then, I combined the remaining dry ingredients (except flour) in my grandmother’s bread bowl (picture #3) and measured out 8 tbls. of shortening in a bowl and put it in the microwave for 1 minute to melt.  (picture #4)  If you notice on her recipe, she said that she used “fryings” instead of shortening.  I wonder if this was like bacon grease or something?

I then poured the milk and put it in the microwave for a minute to make it “lukewarm” ….(what is lukewarm anyway?)

Once the yeast mixture was bubbly, I poured it along with the milk and melted shortening into the bowl and stirred to combine. (picture #5)

Then, I was back to reading her recipe.  It said add flour until the dough was easy to handle.  Fortunately, since I’ve baked bread before, I understood what that meant.   I started with adding two cups (picture #6), then four cups (picture #7) and then six cups (picture #8).  The consistency still wasn’t right and it wasn’t until I had pretty much emptied my flour container and added a total of 9 cups of flour, that the consistency was ready for me to mix with my hands.

Notice the recipe doesn’t say to knead….hmmmm!

So, I needed just until it was easy to handle and to form into a ball (picture #9) so that it could rise beneath a towel in the breadbowl for 35 minutes.

After 35 minutes, punch it down and let it rise again for 35 minutes.

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After that, the recipe stops.  Doesn’t say the temp to cook the rolls at, the size of the rolls, whether I should roll them out, roll them up or what.  I bet everyone around my grandmother would have automatically known what to do.  So, I did what I thought was right…and grabbed a fistful of dough, flattened it between my hands into a rectangle and then folded it in half and put it on a pizza stone that I sometimes use for baking bread.  I’m sure you could use a regular baking sheet, but I like to use a stone for bread because of the texture it seems to produce.

I filled up two pizza stones with the rolls,


covered them with a towel and let them rise again until about double.

Once they were double in size, I brushed them with a little butter, and put them in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  THe recipe made 3 1/2 dozen good sized rolls.


So…I did it!

I spent about two hours on a hobby!…and one that feels like a project with meaning.

I’m going to try something new on Wednesday I think…but first, a trip to the grocery store is going to be necessary.

Faith and Courage,



Cooking with My Grandma

IMG_2915As you know, the last post I wrote had to do with playing in the kitchen.  It was so relaxing.  This past week I’ve been a bit under the weather.  Nothing serious…just, you know, under the weather.  I’ve worked from the couch, read from the couch, watch the seasons change from the couch, slept on the couch, watched TV on the couch.  You know how it is!

I’ve also been doing alot of thinking while on the couch.  Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s a bad thing. For today, I’m just going to talk to you about one of the “good things” I’ve been thinking about.

I need a a distraction…I think people call it a hobby.  Whatever you call it I need one.  Most of what I do as a “ministry” or “business” (theater, art, music, writing, etc) other people often do as a hobby.  However, for me all of those things have to do with my ministry and work.  I need something else.  I have LOTS of other interests…but sometimes, because I love what I do so much I don’t take time to take care of me or develop other interests that I have.

So, I’ve been kind of analyzing what makes me relax…what makes me feel the most satisfied and content…and what brings me the most reward when I actually set aside time to do it and I came up with TWO THINGS.

1.  Playing outside.

2.  Playing in the kitchen.

But, if you know me…my playing always seems to have a purpose or a project!  So, I’ve been thinking about that to and here is what I came up with.

1.  I’m going to get back up on the horse…THIS WEEK…and I’m going to tell you about it…so that someone can share in my journey.  I may even start walking in an effort to build up some stamina and create more energy…but I’m not committing to that yet.

2.  I’m going to play in the kitchen…but I’m going to do it with a purpose.  I’m going to start cooking through some of my great-grandmother’s, grandmother’s and great aunt’s recipes that they left us when they went to be with the Lord.  Doing that adds to my personal satisfaction of celebrating my midwestern/farming/ranching heritage.

See what I mean…I have to have a purpose and a project.

So today, I’m spending some time going through some old cookbooks I have and I’ve emailed my mom and asked her if she can start scanning me some recipes that she has at her house.  I wish I could get to her and we could go through them together…but we have been down to one car since May…so coordinating travel has been a bit challenging.

I hope you will pop in every once in a while and see what I’m cooking, where I am riding…and IF I start walking.

Faith and Courage,


Playing in the Kitchen

Sometimes, when I’m home alone, the most relaxing activity I can do will be what a friend of mine refers to as….

Playing in the Kitchen!

Sometimes, after I’ve had to focus on alot of business related projects for Artios or Heart of the Matter, or I have been traveling, I hesitate to get back into the kitchen.  Don’t ask me why…but I find myself doing the bare minimum regarding getting meals on the table.

But, I’m beginning to realize, that “playing in the kitchen” raises my spirits, helps me get centered, regain perspective, and quite honestly, feel better about myself and my priorities.

So…that’s what I did today.

Let me share with you what I made today!


Roast Pork Shoulder

3 1/2 pound pork shoulder roast

2 tbs. garlic powder

1 tbs. smoked paprika

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. black pepper

2 tbls. grapeseed oil


Combine all the spices and rub into all surfaces of the roast.

Place the grapeseed oil in a skillet (preferably cast iron) and preheat the pan.

Once your pan and oil are heated, place your roast fat side down in the skillet and sear…repeat with all sides and ends of the roast so that a crispy outside is produced.

Place the roast in a preheated 350 degree oven (do not cover) and cook until internal temp reaches 160.


Chunky Mashed Potato Soup

3 cups milk.

1 cup sour cream

1/2 lb. cooked bacon

1 onion diced (cooked in the bacon grease)

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. garlic powder

8 medium sized potatoes


Wash and cut potatoes into large cubes.  (do not peel)  Place potatoes in pot of water and cook for approximately 45 minutes until tender.  Use mixer to “mash” your potatoes.

Add your bacon, onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, milk and sour cream and mix.

Slowly bring mixture to a low boil on the stove.  Use mixer again if potatoes are still a bit “too” chunky.

Serve with green onions and cheese on top.

Then, I broiled cherry tomato, basil and cheese and mixed up some pumpkin biscuits.


I need to find time to “play” more often.

Facing Out

This post is for me….not for you few who read this blog…but for me.

Sometimes blogs act as a journal you know.  This post is one of those.

My school year is off to a fast start.  It’s full of homeschooling, teaching preparation, administrative tasks, running my home and keeping food on the table and clothes washed.  Sometimes I can be so tasked oriented.  I talk alot about people, process, product but sometimes I get my head down, working on a tas, focused on keeping up with my to-do list, that I forget about one person and that person is me.

But what does that mean?  What’s it mean to take care of myself.

I don’t think it means having to have lunch with friends every week, or have my nails done on a regular basis, or even a day of pampering.  Sometimes I think has more to do with focus.  Sometimes, I need to lift my head up…raise my eyes from the task at hand and look around.

This morning I got up about 5:30.  Not because I wanted to get up that early, but because I just woke up…one of the joys of mid-life I guess.  Anyway, I got up feeling a bit unsettled.  I had experienced crazy dreams all night last night and I just woke up a bit on edge.  It didn’t help that yesterday I worked from morning until night without raising my head to “look out.”

So, this morning as I was thinking and praying about figuring out what was bothering me….I went to get my first cup of coffee and decided to change where I was sitting from my chair by the window which faces IN….to the couch which faces OUTside.  I immediately felt more peaceful and had a bit more positive perspective on the day ahead….all because I was “facing out”.

Sometimes taking care of myself is just as simple as that…it’s raising my head, looking out…and realizing there are more important things than completing that “to do” list….it’s not focusing quite so intensely on the task at hand for such long periods of time, instead it is taking a deep breath and looking out…it’s not focusing on my challenges, it is lifting my head and looking out at all the blessings I have.

Not sure if this makes sense to anyone reading…but it makes ALOT of sense to me….and today, I’m looking out.

Bathroom redo

We are in the middle of a bathroom redo…in fact we have been in the middle of the redo since last November.  HA!

Does that sound familiar?

Sometimes, I watch the HGTV shows and see these folks looking for a house where they can move in and not have to do anything and I wonder….does that scenario really exist?  Doesn’t everyone want to make a house their own….their home?

So…we had a limited budget for this bathroom.  In fact, there really wasn’t a budget so I started looking for bathtubs, sinks and toilets on Craig’s List.  Yes, I know that sounds gross….but I waited and waited and was picky and finally found a complete set from one home that had been on a second floor of a seldom used condo…so the pieces looked and felt almost completely new. We go those in before Thanksgiving last year when we had alot of family and friends coming for Thanksgiving.  Then, we had to think about the floor.

Found the floor back in July.  Unsealed natural slate flooring that was available for about $1.38 a square foot.  Can’t beat that. But, the installation process is quite labor intensive and we are still waiting to seal and grout…BUT, at least it is down and I’m not walking on concrete.  Once that’s done…we can put in the vanity (handmade by John) and the benches.

Here’s the thing!

Life is never perfect….and there is always some project that needs to be started or completed.

Sometimes that makes me tired!  But, I usually feel that way when I’m fighting against the process and just want the project.

I talk alot about priorities of people, process and product in our ministry with Artios…perhaps I should apply the same thing to this whole “perfect home” ideal I carry around with me.


Getting Back to Basics


The first of the year brought a very decisive focus for us as a family and a family that has a “family business.”  From the 3rd of January through mid-May our lives and schedules were dictated, by a purposeful choice, by the goals we had set for our family, for restructuring our business and of course, by baseball season.  (John is a High School baseball coach)

When May came, we planned our summer with purpose to allow time to catch up on projects at home, projects at work and have some much needed family time and time with our beloved Rocky Mountains and our animals.  Then came the Artios Outpost intern retreat followed by the Littleton Outpost and the final push in August to get all the east coast schools up and running.

With most of that completed last week, we took a GIANT big breath over the weekend.   Oh yes, there is still more to do but it was time to bring life back into some sort of balance.  For me, outside of our family relationships, balance has to do with home management.  So bright and early on Friday morning, we headed down the mountain, into the valley and straight to the grocery store.

There is something magical about having food in the house and a meal plan in place.  Now, I’m not rigidly attached to a meal plan…but boy, there is a real comfort with knowing that I have one if I need one due to being completely and totally without creativity or energy on any given evening.

But, I digress!

The night before our grocery run, in excited anticipation of the array of produce and meats I would encounter the next day, I decided to put together a meal plan….a plan that included new recipes.

It’s not as hard as it sounds…when you have a tool and trick of the trade right on your phone.

Yep, I’m talking about an app…an app by the name of ziplist.


It not only gives me great ideas but then, I can put that recipe in my recipe box and select for any given trip to the grocery story and it will make me a complete grocery list….and even remind me of things that I may have forgotten.

Nope, I’m not an affiliate of ziplist….I’m just know a good thing when I see it and I want you to know about it too!

What tool do you use to help you meal plan and shop?

I’d love to hear about it!

A Tribute to My Friend

Instead of posting something unique to this blog today, I’m going to refer you to another blog that John and I run called, Heart of the Matter Online.

Late yesterday afternoon, I learned of the sudden passing of a dear friend and mentor, Debbie Strayer.  She was so influential to so many people and a real pillar of home education.  Mentored by Ruth Beechick, Debbie passed along much wisdom, experience and insight to those around her.  I’m grateful to have been able to call her friend.

I’d love to share more about her with you.  You can read more at:  Debbie Strayer – A Friend and Mentor to Many.

See you tomorrow!