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Cooking Light on Soup Night February 17, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Fattiness, Food, soupe du semaine.
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Well, look at that – I made a rhyme!  Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

You may (or may not) remember how we were going to start actually cooking stuff from the (several) food magazines to which we subscribe, à la Zach and Clay.

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Of course, it didn’t help that we just added Food & Wine and Cooking Light to the collection.

In my defense, my niece was selling “stuff” for a school fundraiser, and my options were magazine subscriptions or, I don’t know, $27 wrapping paper?

Hello Cooking Light!

Then, I scored my $1 leeks at the public market (I should have bought all they had – the next week, they were $3!), and right about then, I stumbled upon the Jamie Oliver Leek and Potato Soup recipe in January’s Cooking Light, and, well, like that.

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And, since someone else has already gone to the trouble of posting that recipe on Recipezaar, I won’t bother.  Just go on over there and print it out for yourself.

So we took our nice, clean leeks (2 of ‘em), and I sliced them a little thinner than ½ inch.  I wasn’t sure if Peeps was going to want to ultimately puree the soup or not, so I figured smaller was easier to puree, and it was also, well, smaller if we left it chunky.

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I also enlisted my husband to peel potatoes – the recipe called for Yukon golds, but I’d picked up some red-skinned gold potatoes at the market, and, well, once they’re peeled, who’d know the difference, right?

My potato experience has essentially been limited to “baking” and “waxy” – you start flinging specific varieties at me, and my head might explode.  It’s a potato.  Sheesh.

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Now that the potato question is settled, I chopped the rest of the veggies – about a pound of onions, a cup each of celery and carrots, and a couple of cloves of garlic.

Did I ever mention that “Santa” brought me a new santuko knife for Christmas?  I (heart) my santuko – and it’s nice that Peeps gets a chance to use his birthday knives once in a while.

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So anyway, we tossed all the veggies in the Dutch oven to cook in just a bit of olive oil, partially covered, until they were nice and soft – about 20 minutes.

While the veggies were cooking, we heated 3 pints of chicken stock (which would be the same as the 6 cups called for in the recipe) in the microwave.

Do you know that a quart jar won’t fit in the microwave?  That’s kind of inconvenient, wouldn’t you say?

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Once the vegetables have softened, add the heated stock and the cubed potatoes, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook, covered, until the potatoes are done, about 10 minutes, then salt and pepper to taste.

We did decide to leave the soup “rustic” – the veggies were chopped fairly small, so it made a nice chunky soup.

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We reheated this soup later in the week – we always like to let soup sit in the fridge for a couple of days to marry the flavors – and this was no exception.  It was full of great, homey flavors – potatoes and leeks and homemade chicken stock.  I always know when a soup is a hit by how many days I have it for lunch – if no one else will eat it, I usually end up stuck with it, but if it’s good, I might get one lunch, then it’s gone by the time I get home from work the next day.

This one was gone before I got to it for lunch, so . . . I guess it’s a keeper, huh?

Blueberry Battle August 18, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Fattiness, Food, random stuff.
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You know how, when something is in season locally, it’s so easy to, well, to go a little overboard?

You know, like when asparagus is plentiful and everywhere, so you buy several pounds . . . then you eat grilled asparagus and asparagus omelets and asparagus risotto . . . Or maybe you’ve been picking garden-fresh spinach out of your teeth for a couple of weeks . . .Perhaps you score a deal on sour cherries and make pie and jam and sorbet. . . We all know that produce is best when it’s fresh, no matter how well it freezes.  And the closer to home you can get it, the better!  And that especially includes lovely, seasonal blueberries that you pick yourself!

In addition to freezing a (very full) gallon bag of the blueberries, and besides the blueberry pie experiment, and even after enjoying a couple of colorful blueberry smoothies for breakfast, there were plenty of the berries left for muffins.  Plenty.

A couple of months back, we received our May/June issue of Cook’s Illustrated, and we kind of glanced at the blueberry muffin recipe . . . OK, nice, but who really cares about blueberry muffins in April?

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Then, in June, we noticed that one of the (several) food blogs I subscribe to, The Bitten Word, made that very recipe, and they were very pleased with it. . . now I’m interested.  So I made them.

And they were good.  Very, very good.  So good, in fact, that I was loath to  give most of them away. . . which is necessary, especially given the earlier pie experiments, the curtailed puppy walks AND the disturbing lack of movement (in the correct direction!) on my fatty meter over there. . .

So I tried one, enjoyed it, then shared another with Peeps after they’d cooled and enjoyed it even more.

Then I packed the rest of them up and we delivered some to a couple of neighbors, and the rest came to the office.

Did I mention that these were some seriously tasty muffins?  Yeah . . . but here’s the thing.  They were a little fussy to make.  Which should not have been a huge surprise, given that it’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and all.

That, and I grew up with my mother’s blueberry muffins, and my mother’s muffins have always been kind of the gold standard of blueberry muffins, you know what I mean?  This was a recipe that came out of one of those little plastic-bound church cookbooks from her home church when she was a teenager – and let me tell you – THAT was a LONG time ago.

I’m just saying, that’s all.

Mother’s recipe was actually originally for “blueberry muffin cake” – it was baked in a 9×13-inch pan, and probably intended to be served as a coffee cake.  At some point, I guess my mother decided to try making the cake in muffin form (probably after one of our blueberry-picking expeditions!), and they were Pretty Darned Not Bad!  And since I was a teenager, that has always been the recipe I’ve used for almost every fruit-based muffin I’ve made  – blueberry, cherry, grape – a rainbow of muffiny goodness, all in one recipe.  Although I don’t actually make muffins much anymore, it’s still one of those bridges between a childhood treat and a grownup indulgence.

Meanwhile, I dropped a comment on the recipe post over at Bitten Word, mentioning that I’d made the muffins, and I’d enjoyed them very much, but I wasn’t sure how they’d compare to my old family recipe.  And I actually received a nice email response from Clay asking if I’d be willing to share that recipe. . .

So, now that I’ve dug the recipe out of the (ahem) archives, here I am, sharing.  And not only was that the way my mother brought me up – to share, I’ve also gone the extra mile and created a printable version for sharing, too.

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First, I whisk together the dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. table salt

Set aside.

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Additionally, the recipe calls for 3 cups of “floured” blueberries – take your fresh berries (or, if they’re frozen, thaw and make sure they’re WELL-drained), and toss them gently with a couple of tablespoons of flour – just enough to coat them.  Set those aside, too.

Meanwhile, cream together  (I use the KitchenAid):

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar

PhotobucketYou’ll want to beat that until it’s fluffy, then beat in 4 eggs.    (I didn’t say it was lowfat!)  Now for the real departure from your usual muffin recipes – this doesn’t use the Muffin Method!  Once your eggs are beaten in, with the mixer running, add the flour mixture alternately with 2/3 cup of milk.  I usually add each in 3 or 4 installments.

Beat it all together, and the directions are very clear on this – “mix very well, the longer the better.”

Nope, that is NOT the muffin method!  It’s actually more like a white cake than anything else, isn’t it?

Cake you can eat for breakfast!  YAY!

PhotobucketWhen you deem the batter to be sufficiently mixed, then very gently fold in the floured berries and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  And I do mean GENTLY!  (You do know that if you mash the berries, you’ll end up with purply-greenish cake muffins.  Blech.)  As I said, the original recipe is for a 9×13-inch cake, though you can adjust the baking time for two 8×8 pans or about thirty (yes 30!) muffins.

Pour batter into prepared pan (scoop into muffin tins), sprinkle with a bit of sugar, and bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes for the cake (less for muffins – 25-30 minutes), until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Obviously, I went with the muffin option – they’re easier to freeze and to transport when I ultimately end up giving most of them to the neighbors.

PhotobucketSo were they better than the Cook’s Illustrated version?  It’s hard to say – they were different, that’s for sure.   And I did not actually taste the two versions side by side – and I’m not going to, either!

I will admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve used this recipe, and even longer since I’ve had muffins that my mother made (things always taste better when your mother makes them!). . .

I’d have to say, though, that Mother’s muffins are actually more like cupcakes with blueberries in them – not at all a bad thing – but trying to compare is kind of an “apples and oranges” thing, I think.

Say, speaking of oranges . . . I’ll bet they’d make an awesome dessert warmed up with maybe a scoop of orange sherbet on top . . . kind of like a shortcake.   I’ll bet Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe . . .

(I Feel) Fat Tuesday February 24, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Fattiness, Food, random stuff.
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Nice, huh?  I mean that they name an entire day after chubby chicks and tubby hubbies.  :oops:

What?  That’s not it?  ;)

Actually, Peeps and I are quite big fans of New Orleans, though of Mardi Gras – not so much.  Thousands of drunk people stumbling up and down an already massively crowded street – we might as well just do Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  :roll:

So what celebrates New Orleans like a nice bowl of jambalaya?  (Other than Emeril himself, of course.)  Yeah, I can’t think of much either.

Jambalaya seems to be something that is unique to each cook – it’s a combination of a few basic ingredients. . . and though our version is put together a little differently than is “traditional,” we’ve found the final result to be, well, more than satisfactory.  :P

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So here goes.  We start with, not a mirepoix, but the trinity – onions, celery and green bell pepper, diced fine.  It seems that a red onion got mixed in our bag of white onions.  Oh well, it happens.  We’ll just leave it there and pretend we meant to do that. Besides, it was already peeled.   ;)

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Saute the veggies in a little canola oil until the just start to soften, adding a pinch of salt, a sprinkle (or two) of cayenne, and of course, don’t forget the bay leaf!  After all, laurel trees are all over the place in Louisiana – of COURSE we need a leaf or two.  Just, you know, don’t forget to take them out when you’re done, that’s all.  ;)

Stir in a couple of Tablespoons of tomato paste to give it a tomato-y boost.  That, and also to use up the other half of the can of paste before we forget about it.  ;)

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Remember last fall how we canned all those tomatoes?  And do you realize that we’ve only got about half a case left?  And we haven’t actually made a big pot of sauce yet.  :roll:

This sort of thing is exactly where they all went. I guess we’re gonna have to can more this year, huh?  ;)

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So anyway.  We used 2 quarts of tomatoes, liquid and all.  Actually, I just mash the tomatoes up good in my hands.  It’s kind of slimy and gross, but it’s much more thorough.  Or, as my grandmother used to say, fingers were made before forks.  Spoons too, for that matter.

And yeah, I know, everyone’s grandmother probably said that.  :roll:

Now for the fun part.  The meat.  :D

You may recall that Peeps started playing with using the smoker last summer.  A really good thing to smoke is chicken.  It doesn’t take all day, and it really takes well to the smoky flavor.

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So as it worked out, we “happened” to have a package of smoked, cooked chicken just lying around in the freezer, though we usually use any old cooked chicken.  ;)

Also, a couple of links of  nice andouille sausage, sliced, is always a good thing.  ;)

We, um, didn’t use actual andouille.  No, we used, uh, Emeril’s Kicked Up Gourmet Sausages:oops:

I’ve got to say, Emeril is everywhere, isn’t he?  He’s almost as bad as Rachel Ray:roll:

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However, to make up for the Food Network sausage, we did dig a package of actual crawfish tails out of the freezer.  We often use shrimp, which also works quite well, if not quite as authentic.

Which is fine if you’re in upstate New York.  ;)

So the whole mess gets stirred together and simmered for a bit – everything in it has already been cooked, so we don’t need to let it cook more than, say, half an hour or so.

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At this point, we divide the “stew” up and freeze it in quart containers.  After all, if there’s one thing better than jambalaya, it’s more jambalaya later on, right?  ;)

But wait!  Isn’t jambalaya a rice dish?  :?:

Of course it is!  But we don’t want to freeze the rice, do we?  Yuck.

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See, here’s the beauty of the thing.  You know how I just said we freeze the jambalaya in quart containers?  Well, it’s not just because they’re closest.  Oh no.  Through extensive testing and trial and error, we have discovered that optimal ratio of jambalaya to rice is a quart to 1 cup dry rice, cooked.  :D

And while the rice is resting, we heat the jambalaya, then we just stir the two together.

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Slice up some French bread (of course!) and we are ready to celebrate Mardi Gras – north of the Mason-Dixon, of course.  ;)

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What about dessert?  Seriously?  You want dessert after all that?  No wonder I feel fat!  :lol:

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Well, while doing our weekly shopping, we picked up a King Cake (is that supposed to be capitalized?) – and I’d actually never had it before, and Peeps, well, he has.  So there’s your dessert.  :D

OK, this is seriously one of the yummiest cakes I’ve ever had.  If you’ve never had King Cake, you have GOT TO try this.  It’s an eggy-rich brioche-type cinnamon-roll coffee cake sort of thing. With hideously gaudy sprinkles, but we can live with that.

Yeah, I’ve gotta learn how to make this.  If what I just picked up at Tops was that good, I can only imagine how homemade would be.  :shock:

Only thing – watch out for that non-edible baby inside.  I guess we’re better off sticking with the edible babies.  :lol:

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Soda Jerk December 17, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Fattiness, Politics, random stuff.
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Is there such a thing as Battered Voter Syndrome?  Because, as much as I’m against “disorders” and “syndromes” and pretty much any other “disease of the week,” I think I’ve got this one. :roll:

Think about it.  Have you ever believed something a politician said, then voted, and found, well, he (or she) didn’t quite mean exactly what was promised?

Take, say, President Bush.  (I’ll bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you?)  I liked President Bush.  I sort of still do, truth be told.  He promised us, the conservatives of this country, a true conservative. And let’s face it, after the Clinton Years, that was an attractive proposition.

Now I’ll admit to being, well, a bit of an old school conservative.

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I voted to re-elect Reagan in my very first presidential election.  I truly believed in his “shining city upon the hill.”  Still do, actually.  But unfortunately, politics in general have gone downhill since Reagan’s day, haven’t they?  :cry:

Now there’s “W,” permitting border agents, men who were doing their jobs and defending their country, to rot in prison.  And spending tax dollars like a drunken sailor, besides.  :roll:

Are you starting to feel a little used?

Oh, but he authorized a federal welfare check an economic stimulus.  OK.

Kinda like when the abusive husband comes home the Day After with flowers, huh?

Here, go get yourself something nice.

:roll:

Or what about Governor Dave? Governor of New York.  The first legally blind governor ever?  That’s an accomplishment, isn’t it?  :roll:

Seriously, do you know Governor Paterson?  The guy who stepped in and became governor after Governor Happy Pants Elliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace.

Yeah.  He talked a good game.  Gonna cut expenses, tighten the belt in Albany, be an honorable politician.

Is there such a thing?  :shock:

If there is, Paterson is our guy, right?

Right?

Yeah, right.

This weekend, while no one was paying much attention, Governor Dave proposed an additional tax on non-diet soda.  An obesity tax.

So Mister “Man-of-the-People,” Governor “Just-Plain-Folks” is going to raise revenues by taxing SODA?

Not all soda.  Just the soda the government deems is unhealthy.  The non-diet stuff.

We’re from the government, and we know what’s best for you.  If you’re going to drink soda, you should drink artificial, made-in-a-laboratory crap.  Otherwise, you’ll pay an extra 15%.

And if you don’t like it, too freaking bad.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Neither Peeps nor I are soda drinkers – diet or otherwise, though we do like an occasional (maybe once a year or so) root beer float.  With real root beer, of course.  So in reality this proposed tax increase has no effect on us.  Not this one.  Not yet.

If it were just about raising a few extra bucks, Governor Dave would tax soda across the board.  I mean, come on.  How much soda is drunk in a day anyway?  Tack an extra 15 percent on all of it – ka-ching!  And he could get away with it.

He’s Governor Dave.  The knight in shining armor, come to clean up the mess Governor Happy Pants left.

He’s witty and well-spoken and self-deprecating.

People of the State of New York.  We’re in an economic crisis and we’ve got to make some sacrifices.  All of us.

That would fly, I think.

But no.  They have to make it “for your own good” and “we’re the government and we know what’s best for you.”

You know what, Governor Dave?

I’m an adult.  And a reasonably smart one, too.  How DARE you presume to think for me.  And you think you know what’s best for ME?

When will we have had enough?

When will we say “no more?”

No more lying to us.

No more screwing us over.

No more stealing our hard-earned money.

I propose we consider following the lead of my forefathers.  We can all gather up all the non-diet soda we can get our hands on and dump it into the nearest body of water.

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After all, we are Americans, aren’t we?

And you’ve gotta love the fact that this hits the news with a vengeance on the anniversary of the original display of rebellion.

Is that a sign or what?

We’ve got to stand up, first to Albany, then to Washington, and say, well, we all know what needs to be said, don’t we?

Cinnamon Rolls For Sue December 16, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Fattiness, random stuff.
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Mmm. . . cinnamon rolls.  Who doesn’t love cinnamon rolls, right?  Sue does – and she asked for the recipe.  Hi, Sue!   wave.gif

My grandmother on my father’s side used to make cinnamon rolls.  But they involved a yeast and butter.  I’m talking lots of butter.  I have her recipe, and I hope to be thin enough to make it and actually enjoy it again. . .

But until then, I’m going to have to treat cinnamon rolls as a special treat and only partake occasionally, perhaps when I’ve been very, very good nutritionally all week.  :D

Anyway.  A while back, in a fit of fattiness, I bought the Cook’s Illustrated The Best Light Recipe.

Have I ever mentioned how much I respect Cook’s Illustrated?  They’re all about finding out what works and how.  And they, like me, are not willing to sacrifice taste for heathiness.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for healthy eating.  But not if it doesn’t taste good.  I’m just saying, that’s all.

So anyway, Cook’s Illustrated did a “quick cinnamon roll ” makeover.  Their original recipe boasted 380 calories and 11 grams of fat per roll.  :shock:

If you’re looking at it that way, well, cinnamon rolls are pretty much evil incarnate, aren’t they?

But wait, there’s more!

This makeover recipe – they were able to reduce the calories by 100 – to 280 – and the fat by . . . a lot – to 4.5 grams.  From 11.  That is HUGE.  (I don’t know about anyone else, but my problem isn’t so much calories as it is fat.   All the  best calories are in fat, it seems.)

First, we need to wrap our brains around the idea of a cinnamon roll being leavened with baking powder rather than yeast – hence the “quick” part of the recipe, I guess.

Essentially, they either greatly reduced, or eliminated altogether, most of the butter in a traditional cinnamon roll recipe.

Let’s see what we’ve got, then, huh?

First off, I didn’t take any photos during the process of making the rolls – I didn’t even really think of it.  :oops:

So I’m just going to do like other food blogs do and just give you the recipe.

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Quick Cinnamon Rolls with Buttermilk Icing

via Cook’ s Illustrated The Best Light Recipe

Filling

1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon table salt

Dough

2½ cups unbleached flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. table salt
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Icing

2 Tbsp. (1 ounce) light cream cheese
2 Tablespoons buttermilk
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425°.  Meanwhile, spray 8×8 baking pan AND a wire rack with vegetable spray and set aside.

FOR FILLING:  Mix filling ingredients in small bowl and set aside.

FOR DOUGH:  Whisk flour, sugar, powder, soda, and salt in large bowl.  In separate bowl, combine buttermilk with 2 Tablespoons melted butter.  Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until liquid is absorbed, about 30 seconds.  Dough will be very wet.  Transfer to well-floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and no longer shaggy-looking, another 30 seconds.

Pat dough by hand into a rectangle, 12 by 9 inches.  This dough is very, very wet.  You’re going to probably want to keep the flour nearby, and possibly even do this on a piece of parchment. Brush with remaining Tablespoon melted butter.  Sprinkle evenly with filling mixture, leaving ½ border on all sides of dough.  Press filling firmly into dough.  Loosen dough from work surface, using spatula or bench scraper.  Starting with a long side, roll dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion, pressingly lightly, to form a tight log.  Pinch seam to seal.  Cut log evenly into 9 pieces, and flatten each slice slightly to seal edges and help keep filling in place.

Arrange 9 rolls evenly in prepared baking dish and cover tightly with foil.  Bake, covered, about 12 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until edges are golden brown and delicious (“GBD”) – 12 to 14 minutes more.

Using a spatula, loosen rolls from pan.  Turn out onto a plate, then cool, right side up, onto greased wire rack.  Let cool about 5 minutes before frosting.

ICING THE ROLLS:  While rolls cool, line baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper (for easier cleanup) and set rack of rolls over paper.  Whisk together cream cheese and buttermilk until smooth (mixture will be lumpy at first), then sift confectioner’s sugar over mixture.  Continue whisking until smooth glaze forms, about 30-45 seconds.  Spoon glaze evenly over rolls.

And that’s it.  I’m going to make a couple of additional suggestions, though.  First – you may want to separate the rolls before icing them.  Once the cracks between the 9 cinnamon rolls are covered with icing, it’s harder to tell where to separate them.  Just saying.  :oops:

And you’ll probably want to eat these within the first day or two of baking – otherwise they seem to dry out.  A lot.  Remember, there’s almost no fat in them to help keep them moist.  :roll:

Though I suppose you could nuke them for half a minute and melt some butter on them. . . but if you’re going to do that, you might as well go ahead and make Less Light/More Fat Cinnamon Rolls, don’t you think?   :roll:

*sigh*  Life is all about trade-offs, isn’t it?

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