Who said sugar and spice is for girls?

One night I watched little boy L playing with dishes in the bath. He held a toy cupcake tin in one hand, level, and with the other he carefully poured the smallest possible amount of water out of a teapot into each of the six holes. Then he set the teapot aside, chose a measuring cup, and repeated the layers. Then he chose a teacup, and repeated again—dribbling only the tiniest amounts and not spilling a drop—until each cupcake hole was brimming with water. Then he stirred. Then he dumped it all out, and began again, with the utmost patience and care.

By now I was thinking two things. Wow—check out the motor skills! And—Yum!!

“Would you like to bake cupcakes for real?” I asked him.

“Yeah!” he said. “What you gotta do is you gotta put little bits on top. Coconut on top, and butter, and…”

The next day, we made these, out of our heads.

coconut cupcakes

They were just as delicious as they’d looked in the bath.

chocolate chip cupcakes

Easy Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix

3 Tbsp. cocoa powder, to taste

Toppings (coconut, chocolate chips, Heath bits, nuts)

{I know. Boxed cake mix. But it’s easy for a five-year-old and hey—no frosting needed!}Mix yellow cake mix as directed on package. Remove half of batter from bowl. To remaining half, add cocoa powder. Spoon a scoop of yellow and a scoop of chocolate mix into greased cupcake tins. Stir with a toothpick to swirl slightly. Top with desired toppings. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until done. Best enjoyed fresh.

Mini hotdog buns

So last week was no-grocery week and I decided to bake hotdog buns instead of buying them. I got out a jiffy recipe from a trusted cookbook and started measuring and rolling. In typical Shari-fashion I made them the day of the cookout so they’d be fresh, pinning everything on one effort without leaving myself time to make a second batch if the first ones failed, and worrying most that I’d crank out these massive beefy buns large enough to engulf turkey drumsticks—you know how yeast is!

stack of buns

I went a little overboard in my efforts to keep small, and when I pulled them out of the oven they were—quite small. Really small. I thought the hotdogs might be able to wedge their paws in.

Embarrassed to serve them, I nonetheless had little choice. I sliced them halfway through with an electric knife and stuck them in the picnic basket with the other fixins.

Up until the moment the first guest put a hotdog in one, I thought “This will never work.”* But it did. Most perfectly.

hotdog in bun

*I think this a lot while I am creating.

The ladies liked them because they were dainty and low-carb and the men liked them because they were an excuse to eat more hotdogs—more like a hotdog handle, really. We found it refreshing to skip the usual big-hunk-of-extra-bun-on-the-side. Plus they were yummy. I think my brother ate five.


And my daughter ate a s’more. Which is not what this blog post is about.


As I was saying. I asked for permission to share the recipe with you! I’ve made it before as dinner rolls, and I love it because it’s the quickest yeast recipe I’ve made, simple and clean and no-fuss. Rhoda Byler graciously gave permission to share; it’s from her cookbook Kountry Kupboard Kook’n, available for purchase here. Lots more yummy down-home recipes in it too.

hotdog in bun 2

Try it?

Jiffy Buns

4 to 4 ½ cups hi-gluten flour (or half wheat)
2 Tbsp. yeast
1 cup milk
¾ cup water
½ cup oil
3 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt

Stir together 2 cups flour and yeast. Heat water, oil, milk, honey and salt until very warm. Pour into flour mixture; beat well. Add rest of flour to make a soft dough; let the mixer knead briefly. Let rest 10 minutes. Roll ½” thick on well-floured surface. For dinner rolls: cut out in circles. For little hotdog buns: use a pizza cutter to slice into 1 x 4-or-5″ rectangles. Let rise ½ hour on greased sheet. Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes.

Recipe compliments of Enos and Rhoda Byler

Kountry Kupboard Kook’n

What do you make with yeast just for fun?

Summertime Cooking Swap – 2014

Confession: This is definitely the week in the summer when everything goes downhill as far as planning, cooking, and general attitude. This is the week when I realize that I am accomplishing roughly half of what I intended, my garden is weedy again, and nobody knows any Spanish yet. This is the week when everyone says “Mom, I’m hungry” all.the.time, in every language they can think of (English, American Sign Language, Whine-n-Pout, Thievery, Pantomime, Deafening Bellow, and Swahili). This is the week when the Back to School sales start lookin prit-ty good…

(I knew I would feel guilty for saying that.)

Please tell me what to cook! I’m bored to tears with my planned menus.

Last year this time we did an idea swap, remember? Still some great ideas over there for anyone who wants to browse through them. Let’s do it again, shall we? What do you like to cook in the summer?

This summer we’ve loved

  • Homemade pizza


  • Strawberry shortcake

(Here’s our new favorite recipe—I add an egg and go easy on the salt)


  • Grilled burgers

(Gina has two winner recipes I keep using over and over: BBQ Burgers and Chili Burgers)


  • and Barbecued chicken salad.


That’s greens, tomato, avocado, beans, corn, and cheese—topped with baked or rotisserie chicken, deboned and brushed with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Your turn! What do you like to cook eat?
Keep it relatively simple. Include a recipe or a link as you wish.

Iced coffee

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.

We realized with a small shock we’re two-thirds of the way through summer vacation. How did that happen? Oh well. Pour out another round of iced coffee; we’ll need the boost before this is all over…

iced coffee

Iced Coffee

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup instant coffee
Splash of vanilla

Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients until dissolved.


Pour several tablespoons over ice, and fill glass to brim with cold milk. Refrigerate remaining syrup until needed.

iced coffee in a cup

There are certainly fancier versions. I like the simplicity of this one.

The recipe is from my sister-in-law Renita, who says it’s public domain for the young housewives in her community. My little secret is to make half the sugar white and half brown, for an almost-caramel twist the whole family will enjoy

fight over.


Mo-o-o-ommmm….! You have iced co-o-offfffee?!?


Yes dear. Go unload the dishwasher.


Just kiddin.

three straws

No children were harmed or disappointed in the making of this blog post.


What’s your favorite cold drink in the summertime? Want to share the recipe?