Sugar-Free, Low-Carb Cheesecake? Yes, please!

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I love cheesecake and I love desserts. And probably the best part of being on a low-carb eating plan is this delicious treat! You can make it as fancy as you want, but what I’m sharing with you is a very fast and quick cheesecake recipe for when you’re having an emergency craving that won’t go away.

You can add other sweeteners such as agave, honey, xilitol or stevia. But for my family, it’s more cost-effective to use Splenda. I know it’s not the healthiest choice, but for a once-in-a-great-while treat, I don’t mind using it.

I hope you enjoy my throw-together recipe!

 

Karla’s Low-Carb Emergency Cheesecake

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For the crust:

1-1/2 c almond flour or meal

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons of Splenda (or other non-liquid sweetener)

 

 

For the Filling:

3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 Cup of Splenda (or other sweetener)

 

Mix the crust in a pie pan. Press it down on the bottom and sides with a fork or your hands.

Mix the filling. Pour into the pie crust.

Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes or until golden brown and cracked on top.

If you don’t want a crust, just pour into a greased pie pan for a simple custard-type desert.

Serve with fruit topping if you wish! Enjoy!

For fancier low-carb cheesecake recipes click here: Food.com

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Pinterest Cooking Sleepover Recipes

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Pinterest Cooking Sleepover Recipes

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It’s been a long cold winter in NE Indiana. The kind of winter that calls for lots of comfort food. (Thank goodness for baggy sweaters!)

Last Friday I invited all the girls at our church, ages K-12 grade, to a Pinterest cooking sleepover. It was a total blast and I can’t wait to share the recipes we tried! I’ve been collecting Pinterest recipes for a long time on my Pinterest board. I will never find enough time to make all of them, but having a cooking sleepover allowed us to make and try six different fattening and  delicious recipes! Some were a hit and others were so-so. All were kid-friendly and fun.

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Before we started our cooking activities, I reminded the girls how God made us with His hands and how special we are to Him. I asked them to remember as we worked with our hands, how God loves what He made just as we love what we make. I reminded them that they are royalty–the daughters of the King of Kings.

Recipe 1:

Pepperoni Roll-ups

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Bing free-use image. I forgot to take pics of our finished products but this is exactly how we served them up!

This was so easy and the kids loved doing it. They were delicious, too.

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I spread parchment paper all along the table and after the girls washed their hands, gave them each two crescent roll doughs, five pepperonis and a handful of mozzarella cheese. Most recipes call for a stick of string cheese, but using grated cheese was less expensive.

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I had the help of three other adults and the older girls pitched in and helped the younger girls. This activity worked for all ages and all abilities. One of our teens has autism and an intellectual disability and she had no trouble participating like everyone else. We all had fun eating the pepperoni and cheese, too, as we worked!

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We used cupcake paper to put the spaghetti sauce in for dipping when we served them. The girls loved them. They were surprisingly filling, too! (Uh, the roll-ups, not the girls!)

Since we have a western theme going on for our Children’s ministry, while the roll-ups were cooking, I read them a cute little book about a little cowboy and a very bossy cowgirl who’s a know-it-all: Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door. We talked about how to be a good friend and the difference between being bossy and being a leader. The book also emphasizes forgiveness, so we were able to discuss that as well. (And yes, the teen girls were just as engaged. I find that teens love story books.)

Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door

The next thing we made were loaded nachos! I modified a very spicy recipe for little girl palates so it wasn’t so hot. We used Scoops brand Tostitos for the girls to put the filling in themselves. (Adults mixed the filling.)

Recipe 2

Loaded Nachos (for kids)

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cans refried beans
  • 2 cans whole kernel sweet corn drained (I think you could easily use frozen as long as it’s thawed and drained first)
  • 1 can nacho cheese sauce
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning (2 could be used if your kids like spicier foods)
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded cheese

Instructions:

Mix together and put in Sccops shells (you could spread this over a pan of chips, too)

Other recipes include beef or chicken, jalapenos and avocados. Any mix like this can be modified to your family’s preferences.

After the shells are filled, sprinkle Mexican mix cheese (Colby and cheddar) over top. Put in oven for a few minutes until cheese is melted on the top. Serve.

NOM! Just typing this makes me hungry!

This recipe made two full cookie sheet pans. The picture above doesn’t do justice to how delicious this was! And all the adults agreed these would make great little hors d’ourves for a party!

Recipe 3

“Gourmet” Hot Cocoa

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Again, I modified a Pinterest recipe. If you do a search on Pinterest for “Crock-pot Hot Cocoa” you’ll find lots of variations. Here’s what I put in our 8 quart crock-pot (this is not diet-friendly by any means but it’s delicious!)

  • 2 bags chocolate chips (you can use any kind, we used bittersweet)
  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups heavy whipped cream
  • 12 cups milk (almost a gallon — we used 2%)

Heat in crock-pot on low being careful not to scald it. Stir often as the chips melt. When I served it to the little girls I added cold milk to their cups to cool it off. I served the adults straight up and hot. We didn’t have any marshmallows but I think that would have ruined it, actually. It was so good!

Recipe 4

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

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We had beautiful red, juicy strawberries but my method of making dipping chocolate bombed. I’d read a blog from Pinterest that said you could just melt chocolate chips. Don’t believe it. I knew better because I’ve helped my friend make candy before and she’s super picky about “tempering the chocolate.” But, I thought I’d try it.

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If you’re going to dip chocolate, get a dipping chocolate. That’s my number one recommendation. It really is a science. Bakers has a great dipping chocolate for the microwave that is super easy to use.  I’ve used it in a special education class before and you really can’t ruin it.

Next time I’ll use a chocolate fountain. I’ve successfully used those before without failure.

So what happened? I must have gotten the chocolate chips too hot and they hardened in the bowl. So I added butter and it helped some, but still it wasn’t thin enough for dipping. So I gave each girl a spoonful of chocolate in their own little bowl and plopped their strawberries on them. And, as it often does when you cook a flop, those strawberries and chocolate were the most popular treat of the night!  Everyone begged for more.

Recipe 5

Cherry Pizza

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Who doesn’t love cherry pizza? The teen girls made this easy-peasy treat and we served it for breakfast:

Ingredients:

  • Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust
  • Can of cherry filling
  • Cream cheese frosting (we made ours from scratch; recipe here)
  • Butter
  • Granola

Instructions:

Roll out the pie crusts (we used two pie crust to make two pizzas) and slather with butter. Bake until browned. Remove from oven and spread 1 can of cherries on each pie crust. Drizzle with cream cheese frosting and granola. Serve.

We didn’t put the frosting and granola on the pizzas until the next morning. (We re-heated the pizzas first.) They disappeared fast! Nothing was left!

Recipe 6

Cheesecake Cake Batter Dip

The girls’ favorites were the strawberries. But my favorite was this dip. I was exhausted by the time we got to this point and it felt so good to settle in with my hot cocoa and this dip with graham crackers. The teen girls mixed this one up themselves. It was sooo good! Instead of serving it dip-like, we frosted graham crackers with it for the little ones. Us older girls dipped to our heart’s content.

I found this recipe on Pinterest but the pin was taken straight IWashYouDry.com (see URL on the picture caption above). There are other variations on this recipe on Pinterest using Funfetti cake mix, so check those out, too. I chose this one because I love the tang of cream cheese and sour cream. Our first batch tasted “funny” and I think it was the vanilla. I think we got a bad bottle. So we threw that batch out and made another without the vanilla and it was scrumptious.

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup white cake mix
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup sprinkles
  • Graham Crackers for dipping
Instructions:
  1. Place cream cheese in your mixing bowl and beat on medium high speed for 3 minutes, or until it becomes light and whipped.
  2. Bring speed down to medium and add the sour cream and vanilla, mix until incorporated. Slowly add the powdered sugar and cake mix to the bowl and mix until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then gently fold in the sprinkles.
  3. Serve cold with graham crackers, pretzels, or fresh fruit slices. Enjoy!

I can hear the Mommies of the Year yelling at me about how unhealthy these treats were. This is not something I recommend serving on a regular basis. These were party foods. One night of supreme, delectable indulgence.  And because there were so many of us, there was little chance of over-indulging.

Besides, I’ve promised the girls that at our next sleepover in the summer, we’ll have a pool party and consume copious amounts of fruits and vegetables to make up for it! I see lots of smoothies in my future.

If you have any cute raw fruit and veggie recipes, send them my way!

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Karla’s Famous Chili Recipe

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Karla’s Famous Chili

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My chili recipe has won first place the church chili cook-off for four years straight and one year before that. (The other year I didn’t enter–but my husband did and won! I gave him tips.)

The twins “make” the chili but they use my recipe. As you know, if you’ve followed me for very long, my twins have autism and cognitive impairments. They’ve been entering this contest since they were fifteen years old and are so tickled to win each year. I think we may sit out next year and volunteer to judge in order to give other folks a chance. So, since we’re going into retirement, I thought I’d share my “secret” recipe here.

Award-winning Chefs, Isaiah and Isaac of Team Akins

Award-winning Chefs, Isaiah and Isaac of Team Akins

Before you get all excited, there’s something you should know.

It’s not that amazing. It’s simple, and I kind of shoot from the hip each year in terms of what to throw in it and how much.

I do have a few things I always do, but I cook by how I feel. (Which goes perfectly with my INFP personality.)

There’s no earth-shattering secret to my–er, I mean, our–chili. It’s simple and easy and it tastes good. That is all.

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Chili Cook-off Winners 2015: 1st place, Isaiah & Isaac Akins; 2nd place, Sylvia Myers; 3rd place, Talbot McKee; 4th place, Matt Myers

The basics are as follows (This makes a huge pot of chili):

4 pounds grass-fed ground beef

2 large onion

1 bell pepper (this year I used a yellow, green and red pepper)

Garlic (you can use what you’re used to, and how much, from either fresh cloves, paste, or minced from a jar.)

1 stick of butter

4 – 6 cups diced stewed tomatoes (depending on the size of the pot)

1 can tomato juice

4 cans tomato soup

2 large cans kidney beans

2 large cans chili beans

2 large cans sweet corn (or bags of frozen corn)

2 Carroll Shelby Chili Kits

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Saute the onions and peppers in butter. Add the hamburger and brown.

Add tomato juice and soup and rest of ingredients. Follow directions on the chili kit for either mild or hot chili. (I find that the medium hot usually wins best here in the north.)

Simmer.

Eat.

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The perfect holiday breakfast dish: Karla’s French Toast Egg Nog Casserole

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Karla’s French Toast Egg Nog Casserole

frenchbread

When I got the idea for this recipe, I was extremely excited to try it. I’m happy to report that it tasted just as delicious as I imagined. And it’s so easy. You mix it the night before and pop it in the oven when you wake up.

I used a basic french toast casserole recipe and instead of using cream or half and half and milk, I used egg nog. It was beyond amazing. I can’t wait to make it again for New Year’s Eve!

FrenchToastCasserole

Ingredients for casserole

1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces) — I used a week-old loaf I got for .60!

8 large eggs

3 cups of your favorite egg nog (no alcohol)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash salt

Ingredients for Praline Topping

2 sticks of real butter — softened (set the sticks out overnight)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Tear up the French Bread into pieces as big as you like — about 1 inches. Some people slice them. I don’t. Place the pieces in a buttered 9 X 13 baking pan or dish.

In another bowl combine the eggs, egg nog, sugar and salt and beat until well mixed. Pour mixture over the bread making sure all are covered evenly. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine ingredients for the Praline Topping, spread evenly over the bread, and bake for 40 minutes. You may want to add your praline topping about 15 minutes into cooking if you don’t like a crusty top. I happen to like the crusty top–it’s my favorite part.

You can serve it with syrup but there’s so much flavor, no one in my house wanted syrup with it!

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Easy-peasy fudge!

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fudge

As you may or may not know, I’d much rather be in my writing cave than working in the kitchen, but there’s something about the holidays that brings out my hidden inner chef. So many people are making goodies that the enthusiasm for culinary delights is contagious.

I love fudge. My grandmother was an excellent candy maker and her fudge was perfect and delicious. I always thought there was a secret formula, and there probably is, to making the best fudge. But when I found this easy recipe, I couldn’t wait to try and it share it! Even I can make fudge now–and without a candy thermometer!

Karla’s Easy Peasy Fudge

 Ingredients:

  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate in my recipe today)
  • 1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cups chopped nuts (I was out of nuts today)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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Instructions:

The recipe I used today said to line a pan with foil, but I think you could probably use parchment paper, as well.

Also, did you know I am 53 years old and I just bought my first electric can opener in 2014? How did I live for so long without this wonderful device!

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Here are the rest of the instructions:

  • Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and salt in a 1-quart bowl.

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  • Cook on high (100% power) in microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.

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  • Stir in vanilla and nuts

 

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  • Cook on high (100% power) in microwave for another 1 1/2 minutes (for a total of three minutes) and stir.

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  • Pour into pan and chill in refrigerator

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As you can see in the picture below, it sets up nicely and cuts easily into little squares.

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NOM! I’m so proud of myself for making fudge just like grandma used to make! Okay, maybe not exactly like she made, but I guarantee you that Grandma would have loved having a microwave!

fudge12I think this would be a great recipe to put in jars for fudge to heat up for ice cream, too.

I’m going to add pecans to my next batch.

What’s your favorite Christmas candy?

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Low-Carb Banana Split Dessert

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I can hardly wait to make this delicious dessert for Christmas Eve! Everyone in our house (except for my Mother-In-Law who is a teeny tiny little thing) needs to watch their sugar intake. The best way for our family is to eat low-carb. Thankfully, almond flour is delicious and we all love cream cheese! If you love dessert as much as we do and are diabetic or counting carbs, you’re going to love this recipe!
Here’s a hint to make it even better: freeze it before serving. Oh. Nom!

 

Banana Split Dessert

lowcarbbananasplitpieIngredients:

3 Tbsp. butter (or coconut oil)
2 Tbsp. Splenda (or other no-calorie sweetener of your choice)
1 cup almond flour
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup Splenda (or other no-calorie sweetener of your choice)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 banana
1 cup heavy cream
1 small can chunk pineapple in juice (not syrup)–well drained
Sugar free chocolate syrup
Instructions:
1. Grease a 7 X 11 pan.
2. Melt 3 Tbsp. of butter and stir in the sweetener. Combine with 1 cup of almond flour. Spread crust into the greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. Do not allow it to brown. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
3. Mix 8 ounces of cream cheese with the sweetener, egg and vanilla. Spread over cooled crust.
4. Bake in a water bath (a larger pan filled half-way with water) for 35 minutes at 325 degrees. Do not allow it to brown on top.
6. Let cool. Top with slices of one banana.
7. Make the topping: whip 1 cup heavy cream until stiff. Add 2 tbsp. of Davinci Vanilla Syrup and whip a little more.
8. Spread half the topping over bananas.
9. Cut pineapple chunks into four pieces. place side by side on top of the whipped topping.
10. Spread remaining whipped topping over pineapple. Drizzle with sugar-free chocolate sauce and top with 12 maraschino cherries.
11. Cut into 12 pieces and enjoy!

Makes 12 servings.

250 calories per serving.

Approximately 5 carbs without the cherries, 7 with one cherry.

Serve frozen or partly frozen or not frozen at all (but it’s better at least partially frozen).

Let me know if you make this recipe and send me pictures!

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Recipe of the week: Melba’s Butternut Balls — a recipe from the 1970s

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This Week’s Recipe: Melba’s Butternut Balls

TeaCakesThese delectable, melt-in-your mouth cookies are also known in different varieties as Snowballs, Mexican Wedding cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Christmas Butter Cookies, Rum Balls (without the rum), Almond Butter Balls (if you use almonds), Pecan Butter Balls (if you use pecans), Peppermint balls (if you use crushed up candy canes) and more.

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Whatever the name, they are easy to make, delicious and a joy to package up as gifts because they’re so pretty. They’re the perfect cookie to serve with coffee, hot cocoa or a steaming pot of tea.

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I learned how to make these cookies from a recipe in my childhood church’s Christmas recipe book entitled, Christmas Family Favorites. I’m not sure how I ended up still having it, but I think the copy I have was my grandmother’s because I don’t think my Mom would have given me hers. However I acquired it, I’m thrilled to still have it more than 40 years later! (I’m pretty sure it was published sometime in the 70s.) As you can see, it is well-worn and stained. Probably from when I used it as a kid!

ChristmasFamilyFavoritesRecipeBook

It was a primitive assemblage, held together with two small plastic rings. But it’s chock-full of my favorite childhood recipes. I very well may have learned to bake out of this little booklet.

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Each recipe is neatly typed and signed by the person who submitted it. I enjoy flipping through the names and remembering the lovely women of the church who mentored me when I was young. In future posts I’ll share several more of my top favorite recipes from the book. As a young baker, I made them over and over again.

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And now, the recipe for:

“Melba’s Butternut Balls”

Ingredients:

1 cup soft butter

1/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar

2 cups sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup finely chopped nuts

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar in medium mixing bowl, add salt, vanilla, flour and nuts, mixing well. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Roll in 1/4 cup confectioners sugar while warm. Cool, then roll again.

Variations: add different types of nuts for different flavors. You may also add crushed candy canes for a delicious, Christmassy, peppermint flavor.

I usually double the recipe because the cookies are small and I like to give full bags or tins of them as gifts.

You can find a paleo/low-carb version of this recipe from my favorite no-wheat flour source here: Mexican Wedding Cookies

Have you ever made these before? What’s your variation? Have you ever eaten them? What does your family call them?

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Cherry Fluff Recipe

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My boys all have their favorites that I’m “required” to make each Thanksgiving.
Jesse’s favorite are my homemade rolls. I’ll be making those tomorrow.
rolls
The other three boys all request my Cherry Fluff. And since it’s insanely easy to make, I am happy to oblige. They ask for it both at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s sinfully fattening and comforting. For some reason, for my boys at least, it tastes like home.
Another reason I love making this is that it’s one more thing I can make a day ahead and refrigerate until it’s time to eat. It can also double as a dessert and looks especially pretty in goblets. I put it on the table in a crystal bowl and it’s very pretty that way, too.
CherryFluff
If you make this, please send me a picture and let me know how you liked it!
I always double this recipe to make a large enough batch to have left overs. It doesn’t last long around here!
The following recipe includes pineapple and some people add coconut, but my husband doesn’t like either, so I leave them out and it’s still delicious. You can also leave out the nuts.

Cherry Fluff Salad

  • 1 8 oz container Cool Whip
  • 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1  can cherry pie filling
  • 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Gently fold in the remaining three ingredients. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Another variation on the Cherry Fluff theme can be found here. I love this serving idea, don’t you?

What are some of your family’s favorites? I want to know!

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Karla’s Dinner Rolls

Dinner Rolls

One of my signature items for my family every holiday season is my dinner rolls. Here’s my recipe and tips. These are fattening! But we only eat them once a year and oh are they worth that extra pound (or two!).

Karla’s Dinner Rolls
Ingredients
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup lard
5 cups all-purpose flour (or more depending on humidity)
Real butter to coat rolls
Karla’s tips:
1.      Use eggs that are room temperature. Cold eggs often deactivate the yeast.
2.      Use lard, not butter or shortening. Lard makes the best rolls, and it’s only ¼ cup, so there’s very little in each roll. If you’re going to eat a roll, eat a good one, right?
3.      Some people like their rolls a little sweeter. This recipe makes great cinnamon rolls, too, so you can add up to another ¼ cup of sugar. More than that may deactivate the yeast.
4.      You’ll need super strong arms if you’re going to mix by hand. I use my Kitchenaid mixer. It’s almost like cheating!
Instructions:
Heat milk just up to 180 degrees. Set aside and cool to between 110 and 115 degrees. (I cool mine to 110.)
·         After the milk is cool, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup milk.
·         Stir in remaining milk, the sugar, salt, eggs, shortening and 5 cups flour.
·         Beat until smooth, adding more flour as needed to make the dough easy to handle. (This is where practice comes in. You’ll know after you’ve done it a few times whether you need more flour or not.)
·         Without a Kitchenaid mixer: turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (With Kitchenaid mixer: you can use the dough hook.)
·         Place in buttered bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled.
·         Shape into rolls.
·         Brush each roll with softened butter. Place 3 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Let rise again, then bake at 325 degrees F for 20-30 minutes.
·         Brush again with butter.
These rolls take about 2-4 hours to make, raise twice and bake (depending on how many batches you are making at one time). They are beautiful reheated and freeze well.

©Karla Akins, 2013