21 September 2016

Healthy Living

Harvest season and preparing for winter has me so swamped, y'all, I haven't had any time to sit down and write. Fall is so short here, and this year for the first time we have all of the getting-a-house-ready-for-winter work to get done on top of the storing-up-food-for-the-winter work. It's exciting! And crazy busy. I almost, not quite, but almost wish that the snow would just fall already and we could say "we got done everything we could" and I could just focus on all of the work inside instead of splitting my time and feeling like I'm not making enough progress inside or out.

So why are you sitting down to say that you don't have time to say anything? Fair question. I just had to pop in and remind anyone who might be interested and hasn't heard yet that this year's Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle went on sale today! I love these bundles---they are overflowing with resources on everything from cooking healthfully to taking care of kids to losing weight to managing hormones naturally... ebooks and online courses and even samples of products that are geared toward a healthy lifestyle. You can find the whole list here.

The first couple of times that I saw these bundles talked about, I waited until toward the end of the sale to pick them up; it took a while for me to convince myself that I would actually use enough of the included items to make it worth the price. Now, I know that I've definitely gotten so much more than my money's worth in the past few bundles, so I jumped on this one right away. And as a bonus for going for it right away, they are giving the .mobi (kindle) and .epub (most other ereader) files of all of the books, usually a $10 upgrade, to everyone who buys the standard package of .pdf files up until the end of the day tomorrow (Thursday) for free. I'm assuming that's midnight Eastern time, but my 40 Kbps connection won't load their webpage for me to confirm that right now... so if you know that you want the full bundle with the ebook formats, don't wait until the last minute!

A couple of things that I'm particularly looking forward to in this year's bundle:

- Complete Wild Edibles Package, a movie and ten ebooks on foraging by Sergei Boutenko
- Planning & Designing the Family Food Garden, by Isis Loran
- Real Food on a Real Budget: How to Eat Healthy for Less, by Stephanie Langford
- Living Healthy with Chocolate, by Adriana Harlan
- and all five resources on hormones and balancing them---there are three video courses, an audio course, and a book!

The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle is only available until September 26, 2016---and the ebook files are only free until Thursday night!---so if this sounds like something you are interested in, don't miss out!

Did you already pick up a copy, or are you planning to? I'd love to hear which resources you are excited about!

19 August 2016

Seven Quick Takes

Still unpacking, organizing, settling into the new house and trying to create new rhythms to fit the new space... and a little bit of extra excitement, just so we don't have to worry about getting bored, right?

The kids and I had two moose in the yard the other day! There was a big cow and a two-year-old bull, and we ran from window to window watching them both meander all around the yard and through our woods. Kit got so excited, shouting "Dog! Dog!" Pretty much all animals are "dogs" right now, except for sheep/goats. Little Bear and I have talked a few times since then about always checking for moose before we go outside; it's fun to see them from a safe distance, but you definitely never want to get close!

Kit and Little Bear both had fun seeing the animals at the fair; Kit in particular amused a good number of folks in the barn by carrying on an excited (loud) conversation with some of the sheep: "Baaa." "Baa!" "Baaaa." "Baa! Baa!" etc., for the better part of five minutes. She's also adamant that every time we visit my parents, she gets to pet their dog; "Dog! Wuh[f]!", she insists. "Wuh, wuh! Dog!" Little Bear's takeaway from the fair was that he wants to raise rabbits. I explained that if that ever happened, they'd be meat rabbits, which of course I don't actually expect that he completely understood... Though we have been consistent in talking about how moose meat comes from moose, grouse meat comes from grouse, etc, so maybe he understood better than I think he did.

Our car is back in the shop for the second time in two weeks. First it was overheating every two miles, and needed a new water pump. This time, the transmission died and is getting rebuilt; we were fortunate to find a guy in the next town who would do it for less than the jeep is worth, so that's something. I don't know how long jeeps are expected to last, as a rule, but we're only at about 125k miles... We are going to have to decide, once we get it back in a couple of weeks, whether there are enough new parts in it now that we should hang onto it in the hopes that it will not need work for a while, or if we should sell it while we still can and get at least a little out of it to put toward our next vehicle.

The timing, if it had to happen, worked out about as well as it could have: the transmission went out on the afternoon that my sister was getting ready to head back to college, so the old suburban she'd been driving all summer was still on insurance but she didn't need it anymore. My parents let us borrow the 'burb so we didn't have to rent a car; the transmission is going to take two and a half weeks! We really appreciate being able to use the suburban. It was a little odd at first, driving my own kids around in the vehicle I grew up riding in, but it also feels comfortable, familiar—I know the 'burb, know how it handles, and it feels right to have little kids chattering in it again.


We accidentally reinforced Little Bear's desire for rabbits last weekend, when the kids and I went out to "pick up your share at the farm"-day for our CSA. After getting the rest of our vegetables from the stand, we got to go into the field and pick our own snap peas, which was fun for the kids. I gained empathy for my mother's slightly-exasperated "lift up the vines and look under them" every summer; my siblings and I would always insist that we did that already, and then she'd have to come along behind us and pick half again as many as we'd gotten. "There are more peapods right there," I kept telling Little Bear, and each time he was shocked; clearly I had just made them appear out of nowhere because there hadn't been any pods left when he checked, no sir. But it was fun. And after we were done picking, we stopped to see their sheep and goats (for Kit), and on the way back to the car, discovered the farm's rabbit enclosure, so I let both kids sit and watch the rabbits for a few minutes. Little Bear learned somewhere that rabbits live in hutches, and he spent half the ride home talking about building a hutch so the rabbits could come live at our house. I don't expect we'll be ready for any animals for several years, but anything's possible; who knows if we'll wind up with meat rabbits some day.

This weekend has been full; yesterday morning the kids and I ran errands in town and attended part of the morning session of our Catholic radio station's anniversary celebration and fundraiser. I missed a bunch of the last talk, running around with a noisy Kit out in the foyer, but everyone said that it was wonderful and very funny. On the way home we picked up my meager winnings from the fair—a blue ribbon for my dairy-free version of my mother-in-law's pan cookies, and a red for my cranberry banana bread—and promptly spent the money a mile down the road at the farmers market. On salad turnips! I was so excited to see salad turnips, and very proud that Little Bear was excited about them too. Also exciting: the local orchard with special apple-crabapple grafts had a table, and we were able to bring home several bags of the only apples that Matt can eat raw!

A scant two hours after getting home, we were heading back down the hill with freshly-frosted mini cupcakes for the dessert auction at the radio station's celebration. There was a slow-cooker cook-off, and I enjoyed a spicy posole. I trust that Little Bear ate a real supper as well; he was sitting with my youngest brother and his friends, and they all do a good job of looking out for him (and are good sports about letting him run after them). After dinner there was another talk, this one on marriage (the earlier one I'd been in and out of was on parenting). We tried to listen, but Kit hadn't napped much and it was after bedtime, so we had to leave part way in.

Matt wasn't able to come with us either time, unfortunately; his day was dedicated to two huge chores, cleaning/organizing the garage so that we can pull the car in, and moving our woodpile over from the old apartment. The garage looks great now! And two of his coworkers spent the afternoon out in the cold rain helping him haul and stack wood, so he wound up grilling for them and having a pleasant evening in. Hopefully we'll all be able to go to the celebration together next year.

28 July 2016

Quick Takes

Whoops! Let's slip in at least one post for July... Seven Quick Takes it is. Quick ones, at that.

This has been a beautiful summer! Lots of sun, lots of rain to cool things back down after the sun, and not a single smoky day so far. Not one! Any time I'm starting to feel like I'm all done with the hot/rainy weather, I remember that Anchorage is under a nasty pall of smoke from forest fires down south, and I'm immediately thankful for our weather again.


This is, hands down, simply the best ice cream ever. Even though it's non-dairy! Salted caramel, dark chocolate, and the faintest hint of coconut... mmmmm. Matt disagrees, but none of those things are exactly his favorite; I'm not going to try too hard to convince him of the ontological superiority of my dessert, though. Then I'd have to share!

Speaking of sharing desserts, Little Bear is sounding out words well enough now that we can't get away with spelling out desserts around him. He's known i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m for a while, and last night when Matt asked me if I'd made p-i-e, he perked up and asked what kind of pie it was.

Kit is walking and running, still losing her balance and falling over close to half the time, but she walked all the way across the living room several times tonight before she toppled! She prefers to hold onto my finger, though, and if she isn't in the mood to walk on her own when I try to get her to let go, she certainly makes sure I'm aware of her opinion. 

Her latest all-the-time word is "ba," bath. We spend lots of time running down the hall toward the bathroom with her shouting "ba! ba! ba!", then trying to turn her around and convince her to do something else. Usually, she turns toward the deck door instead and starts asking to go out on the "deh! deh!" It's not very conducive to getting things done! I'm glad she's talking and we can understand her, though. Other words we're hearing: "duh," done (at the table); "mo," more; "wa," water (water bottle); "ma" and "da," mom and dad; "bah," ball; "meh!", amen (while folding her hands).

This doesn't sound like a terribly busy summer so far, does it? Why haven't I been blogging? I've been home with the kids, doing a little school, enjoying the summer, eating ice cream... and packing.

We're moving! After going in ridiculous circles with our lender and the local government, everything finally worked out with the house we made an offer on several months ago, and Matt and I signed the final paperwork yesterday. We're pretty excited! There's a lot of cleaning and packing and cleaning and moving and cleaning to do yet, but very soon we will be in our own house!

As a side note, our sale absolutely would have fallen through without the immense amount of work our realtor put in, meeting with many people at the borough offices—even our lender was strongly encouraging us to forget about this one and look for something else. If you're looking to buy in the Fairbanks/North Pole area, we wholeheartedly recommend Billy at Madden Real Estate.

We're enjoying the challenge of planning a menu around whatever the CSA gives us each week, and it's been great learning to use new vegetables! I can't tell you how happy I was today, though, that I won't have to think too hard about what to do with any of the vegetables I picked up this afternoon: snap peas, pak choi, multicolored carrots, broccoli, kohlrabi, squash, and lettuce. And a bunch of thyme, which didn't make it into the picture somehow. All things that I already know how to use—perfect for what will definitely be a very busy week around here!

I hope that your summer is going well! I'm looking forward to getting back into a more regular cycle of blogging once we are settled into the new house.

15 June 2016

Midweek Motley

What we're doing

I will be so glad, y'all, to have Matt home for bedtime tomorrow night. The kids haven't really seen him since bedtime Monday night, because they've been sleepyheads in the mornings and he's been out late into the night these last two nights. Between Kit, who has a cold and by the end of the day just wants to cling to me, and Little Bear, who maybe is jealous that the only present parent is giving his sister all the attention? I don't know exactly what's up with him, but he's been a handful and a half at bedtime. I'm glad that Matt is on the parish council (tonight's out-late-reason), but I'm also really glad that I won't be soloing bedtime tomorrow.

Kit really only sounds sick when she's upset, usually because she's been thwarted in whatever she was trying to do: escape onto the deck, chase after Little Bear's train engine, grab the fish sauce out of the fridge... I don't know why she goes after the fish sauce specifically, it's not the closest bottle when the door opens, but if she manages to grab anything it's always the fish sauce. But anyway, she's usually not upset, and is generally very happy. She's been extra smiley today, because she just learned last night both A) how to pull herself up to stand with her hands on the kitchen step stool, and B) that when she's standing there, she can walk all around the kitchen pushing the step stool, around and around in circles. She's so excited and proud of herself!

Our first week of CSA vegetables has gone really well. I was a little intimidated by this batch when we brought them home—I'd never cooked with most of them; I'd never even heard of sorrel or mizuna! So there was definitely a bit of "what have I done?!?" going on, contemplating a whole summer of building menus around new and weird vegetables. But you know what? It's been wonderful.

What we're eating

The sorrel was the first thing we cooked up. And that right there is a change—I'm pretty sure that the only green leafy thing I have ever willingly cooked instead of leaving raw is spinach, and that pretty much exclusively in eggs. But the "farm notes" for last week said that sorrel has a lemony flavor and is good wilted with fish, so I pulled a little pack of halibut cheeks out of the freezer and opened up my copy of Cooking Alaskan—which has a startling number of recipes for sorrel, actually—and wilted it. It gets much, much smaller when you wilt it! I was expecting shrinkage similar to that of spinach, but it definitely shrank more than spinach does. It tasted very good, though! Lemony indeed. Some of the chives also accompanied the halibut, but were more garnish-y than vegetable-y.

Next came the bok choy. About 2/3 of it went into the wok with sesame oil, pork, and a coconut aminos-based teriyaki sauce. I loved the flavor, and how you get two such different textures from it: the dark green leaf becomes smooth and silky, and the white stem remains firm. Both parts were surprisingly sweet, and went really well with the teriyaki.

It certainly wouldn't have hurt to use the whole head of bok choy, but I did appreciate having some still around this morning so I could throw it in our fried rice for lunch. It's so fun to hear Little Bear exclaim, "I just love bok choy!"

Sunday evening was a throw-everything-in-a-skillet night, and it turned out really well! Olive oil, garlic, and sweet Italian sausage cooked through, then I added some cooked brown rice and a can of petite diced tomatoes, and when that was warm I stirred in about half of our bunch of spinach and let it cook just until the spinach was a very dark green.

This prove so popular that I basically remade it for supper yesterday, since I had two links of Italian sausage that needed to be used; to change it up a little, I used a larger can of crushed tomatoes instead of the petite diced, and served it with pasta instead of rice.

I've had radishes before, but only raw, as part of a veggie tray; it had never occurred to me that you could cook them. The farm notes included a recipe for brown butter radishes, though. Butter obviously wasn't an option for Kit or me, but I decided to try sautéing them in olive oil. They sweetened up quite a bit, losing much of their "bite;" Kit wasn't much of a fan, but the rest of us enjoyed them.

And there's some of the arugula-chickweed salad, which we've been enjoying alongside most of our suppers over the past week. I was surprised by how much we all like it! Matt was just saying the other evening that grocery store leaf lettuce is going to taste awfully bland, when we go back to that in the fall.

The mizuna keeps being intended for meals, and then not quite making it in... My latest plan was to put it in homemade chicken noodle soup tonight, but it was way too hot for soup. If I can make myself turn the oven on tomorrow morning, it'll go into an egg bake to have around for breakfasts. Otherwise, I'll have a frizzy salad for lunch to use up the last assorted bits of greens; we pick up the new week's vegetables tomorrow after Matt finishes work!

What we're reading

Little Bear found a Margaret Wise Brown Golden Book treasury at the used book store the other week, and has been asking for stories from it each night before bed. I believe that it's called Friendly Tales. I'm so glad that they've collected so many of the classic Golden Books into treasury volumes to reprint! We also have Farm Tales, and my mom has one with a bunch of stories illustrated by Eloise Wilkin, who is one of my favorites for little kid books. Anyone know if there are any others?

I'm still sort of pretending to work on The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization, and I'll keep pretending, but at this point it's more for the principle of "I started it so I'm going to finish it." Maybe one of the remaining essays will strike a chord with me, but so far I've just been irked by it.

Instead, I've been reading cookbooks. A friend brought over two allergy-friendly cookbooks earlier this week, The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook and What's To Eat?, and I'm looking forward to using the birthday cake recipe she recommended from the latter for Kit's birthday. If I can make myself turn the oven on. We're supposed to get into the 80s for her birthday! Maybe we'll all just eat (dairy-free) ice cream instead. :-)

12 June 2016

No-bake Granola Bars

I know I've mentioned these no-bake peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars a few times lately, but they're just so delicious and easy! We've tried several variations on the base recipe over the past couple of months, and I have to say that I believe we've found a winner. Our family's winner, at any rate; as you'll see in a moment, it's easy to adapt them to fit your own preferences!

The basic recipe that I've linked above, from Don't Waste The Crumbs, makes a good bar. Salty, sweet, holds together very well instead of crumbling apart like many other no-bake recipes I've tried before. I'll let you go visit her site for the original recipe, but for comparison purposes, I'll tell you that her honey-to-peanut butter ratio is 1:1 and her pretzels are crushed to breadcrumb-consistency.

Pros: Like I said, they stick together really, really well. And they only get fingers a little bit sticky; Little Bear, who hates having messy fingers, didn't have a problem eating them---though he did ask me to wash his fingers when he finished eating.

Cons: They were a little too sweet for me, and they softened significantly in just a short amount of time after removing them from the refrigerator; the day I brought one to town as a snack for Little Bear, it was a very good thing that I had a pack of wipes in my purse to clean him up!

The chunkier version was actually attempted by my younger brother, but I'm going to include it anyway because we learned something important from it. He included the optional peanuts from the basic recipe, which I've never done, and crushed his pretzels by hand to a much-less-fine size than the recipe called for. The largest pieces I saw were a little smaller than 1 cm. He also used the "if needed" coconut oil because his mixture was too dry.

Pros: They were chunkier, more like what I've always thought of as a "granola bar."

Cons: They didn't hold together well at all; they were too dry, and crumbled. The only reason I can come up with is that the pretzels needed to be crushed more finely in order to hold the bars together. He used exactly the same peanut butter I did, it even came out of the same bucket!, so it wasn't a difference in our peanut butters.

An almond butter version, as Yvonne asked about the other week. I maintained the original 1:1 ratio, just substituting almond butter for peanut butter, and used almond extract instead of vanilla extract. For the record, this was the first time I've ever used almond butter so I don't know whether mine was typical or of an unusually runny consistency, but it was not as thick as peanut butter.

Pros: They held together well, and tasted like almond. Stirring the mini chocolate chips into this batch was easier than with any of the peanut butter batches.

Cons: Soooooo sticky! Little Bear refused to eat his until I brought him a wet towel, so that he could wash his fingers after each bite. They were too sweet for me again; I had thought that the stronger salty/roasted flavor of the almond butter would balance out the sweetness of the honey, but the sweet and salty notes were more competing than complementing each other. In my opinion, at least; it turns out that I don't actually like almond butter very much, so take that with a grain of salt.

And finally, our perfect version! I changed the honey-to-peanut butter ratio to 3:5, and crushed the pretzels to a coarse cornmeal consistency.

Pros: These held together very well, even staying fairly firm when I brought them to town with us (so they were out of the fridge for an extended period of time.) And they were not very sticky at all; Little Bear had to be reminded to wash his hands after snack, because he didn't think that his fingers were sticky. They were not as sweet, which I appreciated, and felt more filling, so it worked fine for me to cut them a little bit smaller.

Cons: It was harder to get the mini chocolate chips into this version, and I wound up basically kneading it like dough to work them in.

Here you go: Shifflerhaus No-bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars

2 cups oats (instant or rolled; I used instant)
4 oz pretzels
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups peanut butter
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line an 8"x10" baking dish with parchment paper. Crush pretzels in a food processor or blender until ground, about the consistency of cornmeal. Pour into a bowl and mix in oats and chocolate chips. In a smaller bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine peanut butter, honey, and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and thoroughly combine; you'll likely wind up needing to use your hands. Dump into parchment-lined pan and press out smoothly, giving attention to the corners. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes or in the fridge for several hours. Remove from pan, cut into bars, wrap individually in plastic, and store in the fridge.


- It would be worth trying the almond butter again using these quantities, except that I don't have enough almond butter left to make another batch, and I didn't like it enough to want to buy more. If you try it out, though, let me know! Or if you think that I must have had a particularly poor first jar of almond butter and there's a better brand that I should try before writing it off altogether, I'm willing to consider it. :-)

- I've just now realized that not everyone uses natural peanut butter, a.k.a. the kind you have to stir before using. All of the no-stir brands that I've seen contain soybean oil, so we can't use them, and anymore it doesn't even seem out of the ordinary to me to stir the peanut butter jar each time I open it. In other words, I can't tell you what will happen if you use no-stir peanut butter in this recipe; if you try it and find out, though, I'd be interested to know how much of a difference it makes.

09 June 2016

Midweek Motley

What we're doing

Our miniature "container garden" on the deck is growing well, for the most part. The herbs all seem content, and the Siberian bush tomatoes are getting bushy indeed. Our grape tomato plant, on the other hand, is definitely less than thrilled with the 40s and 50s we've been having; I think I need to pull it inside, if I can find somewhere that Kit won't be constantly getting into it. The green lettuce is growing more quickly than the red, though today I noticed Little Bear knocking over one of the reds when he watered it, so that may be the reason. The strawberry plants in their hanging basket are covered with little white berries, and a few of them are beginning to pink; more and more of the berry plants' leaves are starting to turn brown, though, and I'm not sure what's going on there. Little Bear is still being very helpful with the weeding and watering, and is always proud to show off "his" plants when we have visitors.

Kit's vocabulary is growing. I know we're often the only ones who understand her, but she's not quite 1, so that's normal! We're hearing "boom" frequently these days, as she's constantly looking for opportunities to drop things on the floor so she can use her new word. Another new one this week is "buh" (bye), which she says every time I hang up the phone. Oh, and "aaah-meh!" She's just started folding her hands when we all sit down to pray before meals, which is so cute, and then when we get to the Amen she often shouts "aaah-meh!" and beams at her own cleverness.

What we're eating

This afternoon we picked up our first "share" of the summer from a CSA that we signed up with this spring. Since we're still renting and I don't have the ability to plant a big garden right now, I've been so excited about getting produce fresh from a local farm each week this summer, and expanding our family's repertoire of vegetables consumed. Well, I had my own vegetable prejudices confronted right off the bat; there aren't any vegetables that I "won't eat," exactly, but despite knowing that Matt likes it, I have never once brought home arugula in our nearly-5 years of marriage. And what went into the top of our sack of vegetables this afternoon? A large bag of arugula-chickweed salad. But I ate it! And it wasn't as off-putting as I remembered... which may possibly be related to the fact that I make my vinaigrettes with a 1:1 ratio of oil and vinegar... Everything tasted more or less like balsamic. But still. 

Here's the whole of our leafy loot. From the top left: arugula-chickweed salad, spinach, sorrel, chives, bok choy, mizuna mustard, and radishes. Kit helped herself to some of the mizuna while I was putting everything away, and she didn't seem to mind it, though she didn't wind up actually swallowing any of it. Little Bear groused about not liking chickweed, because his youngest aunt doesn't, but we told him that he had to try it anyway and he wound up excitedly asking for a second helping of salad.

I'm in the process right now of testing out the no-bake granola bars from last week with almond butter instead of peanut butter, so we should have a post with the main recipe for those and a couple of adaptations up soon!

What we're reading

From Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas, Tim Burton's Big Fish, Me Before You, and the Terrible Power of Story
 - Beautiful, inspirational look at Story, at how powerful a force storytelling is in forming and directing our hearts and minds. She reminded me strongly of J.R.R. Tolkien's essay On Fairy-Stories, the conveying of fundamental Truth through myth.

From Meg of Held By His Pierced Hands, Heavy Blessings
 - Reflecting on the Visitation and the pregnancy of St Elizabeth, Meg delves into how receiving blessings with joy and gratitude does not preclude acknowledging that some blessings can be difficult to carry.

From Tiffany of Don't Waste the Crumbs, All-purpose Slow Cooker Chicken
 - Did you know that you can roast a chicken, roast it, in the slow cooker? I had no idea. It worked perfectly, though! And we really, really appreciated being able to cook the chicken without heating up the house.

From Katie of Kitchen Stewardship, 3 Common Summertime Toxins (& How to Avoid Them)

From Kendra of Don't Waste the Crumbs, Companion Gardening Beginners Guide

From Molly Green Magazine, Allowing Yourself Time to Heal

And I'm still listening to Andy Minter's recording of Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda on LibriVox, but I'm getting close to the end; I'm still very impressed with and thoroughly enjoying Minter's presentation, and was so excited to see that he has also done the sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, which I've actually never read. That will be a treat!

08 June 2016

Sourdough Cinnamon Roll Bread

This would be one of those "happy accidents" in the kitchen: a recipe that was apparently a total failure, but instead is getting renamed and added to my recipe file. Love those!

We made sourjacks for breakfast after Mass again this past weekend, so there was about half a cup of leftover starter sitting on the counter. Flipping through the sourdough section of my cookbook, I found something that sounded delicious: sourdough cinnamon rolls. Matt said yes, please make that!, so I fed the starter another cup and a half each of flour and water, and gave it about 24 hours to get good and foamy. Then Little Bear and I started in on the recipe... But by the time it said we were ready to let the dough rise, I was pretty skeptical. It did say that it made a soft dough, but soft enough that I was still stirring it with a spatula instead of kneading it? I conferred with my mom and decided to let it rise as it was; I could always add a little more flour after the first rise.

After the first rise, it was a mess. I'd barely even call it "dough"! It poured out of the bowl onto the countertop, closer to the consistency of a quickbread batter. I kneaded in another cup or so of flour, which made it so that I could sort of maneuver it around, but my hands were thickly coated in the sticky mess, and there was clearly no way that I was getting a dough with enough form to roll out flat and make proper cinnamon rolls without adding a lot more flour. The starter in the dough could probably eventually get the dough to rise if I added the extra flour, but I didn't want to wait another day before baking them! 

So I gave up. Eh, I didn't really want cinnamon rolls anyway... and I'm out of powdered sugar, so I couldn't frost them even if I did make them... Never mind the fact that I made some more powdered sugar for another recipe later that afternoon, anyway; I was looking for excuses. But, I have a huge problem with throwing food away, and I felt badly about disappointing Matt and Little Bear. I looked at the bags of raisins and brown sugar, looked at the little boy who was so excited about cinnamon rolls, and decided to take a chance.

Little Bear eagerly dumped handfuls of brown sugar and raisins on top of the lump of sticky dough, and carefully shook on some cinnamon. I kneaded it all together as best I could, split it in two, and dumped it into two greased bread pans. When it had risen, we threw it in the oven at the temperature the cinnamon rolls would have baked at, and hoped for the best.

And the result? Better than I could have hoped! The loaves slice nicely, and somehow perfectly merge the tenderness you expect in a sweet roll with the sponginess of sourdough bread. The sourdough tang is certainly there, but it doesn't overpower the sweetness or the cinnamon. It's like eating slices of cinnamon roll, minus the mess! You could certainly ice the top of the loaves, too, if you wanted to bring the bread one step closer to cinnamon-roll-hood, but we're enjoying it all by itself.

Here's the recipe, if you don't mind getting sticky and want to give it a shot yourself. And just in case your dough turns out like, well, dough, I'll include the "real" cinnamon roll directions, too.

Sourdough Cinnamon Roll Bread

2 cups sourdough starter
1 cup lukewarm milk of choice
3+ cups flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
a couple handfuls of brown sugar and raisins

Mix together starter, milk, and 2 cups of flour, beating until smooth. Add eggs and oil, and beat thoroughly again. In a small bowl combine sugar, salt, soda, and 1/2 cup flour, then sprinkle mixture over the dough and stir gently. Gently knead in another 1/2 cup of flour, with a spatula if necessary. If it looks like a soft dough, congratulations! You can make proper cinnamon rolls out of it if you want to. If you're not sure whether it's "soft" or "soup," don't worry; that's how mine looks. Leave the dough in a bowl in a warm place, covered with wax paper, to rise until doubled. (Sourdough takes much longer than yeast bread to rise, and I can't give you an exact number of hours—that will depend of the room temperature, the humidity, your starter's temperament, etc.)

When the dough has doubled, if it looks like a ball of dough, go ahead and divide it in half, roll out each half into a rectangle, top with the cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins, roll it up lengthwise, cut it into 1" wide cinnamon rolls, and put them in a greased pan cut side down. Cover and rise until doubled, which could take hours and hours again. 

If your dough looks like a soupy, sticky mess, don't panic; grease two loaf pans well. Knead in, again with a spatula if necessary, about a cup more of flour or enough to make it slightly handle-able. Knead in the cinnamon, raisins and brown sugar. Divide the dough in half and put/glop/pour into the two prepared pans. Cover and rise until doubled, hours and hours etc.

Whichever form your dough wound up in, when is has doubled again, bake at 375 degrees F for about 40 minutes. Turn them out of the pan immediately and cool on wire racks.