The Land of Milk and Honey

I’ve tried taking Benadrylbenadryl-3 at night to help me sleep, but it’s no good.  Sure, I sleep (or is it pass out?), but when I wake up, I  almost feel like I have a hangover, I’m so dopey, dry-mouthed, and groggy.  So no, not an option.  And then I’ve tried a nice healthy slug of some alcoholshot glass.  At first glance, it works like a charm.  But then, about three hours later, I’m wide awake and my heart is actually pounding a bit (after all, alcohol is a stimulant).  So again, not an option.  Now, taking Natural Calm magnesium has indeed changed my life.  I sleep better, my (self-diagnosed) restless legs have calmed way down, and all my systems are humming along nicely (if you know what I mean).  Natural VitalityBut sometimes I feel like I am getting kind of  immune to the magnesium, like my tolerance has built up too much, so lately I’ve only been taking it a couple of times a week.  Where does that leave me on the other nights if I’m not sleeping?  Well, I have another option.

Someone recently shared with me a trick her personal trainer told her.  My personal trainer doesn’t tell me anything because I don’t have a personal trainer. And if I did, he/she would be so annoyed by my lack of cooperation they wouldn’t give me handy hints like this.  But I digress.  By the way, this will only work if you like warm milk.  Which I do.  Okay, just before bedtime, I put a mug of nonfat milk (nonfat because it’s what I have–don’t know that it’s crucial to the process) in the microwave on the “beverage” setting, which warms it very nicely, in  a Goldilocks kind of way.  Then I put a squirt of honey in honey-jarit.  Real honey.  One time I went to the dollar store (morbid curiosity) and saw honey there.  I looked at the ingredients and it was just corn syrup! Honey-flavored corn syrup!  I was appalled.  Again, I digress.  Apparently the honey is a natural sedative due to the glucose, which is relaxing, and the milk promotes sleep due to the tryptophan.  So it really has a basis in, like, science.

Anyway,  you just put the honey in the milk and stir it up and drink it, and then you get into bed.  Try and read for more than about 10 minutes! I was very skeptical the first time I tried this, but I tell you what, it works.  Placebo effect or not, who cares? It makes me sleep like a proverbial baby, and even if I wake up, I go right back to sleep.  So that’s today’s handy hint, for which you will thank me (and an anonymous trainer) in the morning.  I’m sure of it.

Gainful Employment

It’s finally happened.  The Vacaville Housewife has begun climbing the corporate ladder.  Well, the corporate step stool at any rate. And it is, may I say, absolutely no fun whatsoever.

The raw material

I get home after everyone else is home, and I’m beyond tired, and I still have to make dinner.  I know, I should have spouse or offspring do it, but  I’m not willing to do that.  I still feel adamant that dinner (and food in general) is my responsibility and I will persevere!  I didn’t want to go back to work yet, but needs must, and so here I am.  When I was growing up my mother worked, but she was home by about 4:00, and we had housecleaning help.  If that scenario was on deck, I’d feel much better.  But sadly, it’s not, so I content myself with planning my exit strategy, fantasizing about flinging down my papers and shouting, “I quit!”

Until that dramatic day, however,  I am left juggling grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry.  On the weekend, I make three lists of dinners:  make-ahead (to, uh, make, you know, ahead) quick and easy (to make on work nights), and regular (to make on weekends).  And as far as baking goes, well, there just isn’t a lot of time for that.  Which makes me sad.  A quick and easy cookie that my mother used to make has always been one of my favorites, and it is also one of my children’s favorites.  They are called Valley Cookies (though I’m not sure why, since they look more like little hills.  I also make what my children call Cave Cookies, so we have all the landforms covered.  But more on those another time.), and you don’t even have to bake them.   You make them on top of the stove, leave them in the fridge to harden, and they take literally five minutes to make.  Do it before bed, and you’ll have cookies for lunches tomorrow.

Valley Cookies  makes about 3 dozen

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup milk (I use whole milk)

1 stick butter (4 oz.)

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

4 Tbl. Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp. vanilla

3 1/4 cups oats (quick cooking or old-fashioned–I use old-fashioned)

Miss Congeniality cookies

Place butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat.  Add sugar and milk.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Boil for one minute.  Remove from heat. Quickly add the peanut butter, cocoa, and vanilla, and mix well.  Now add the oats (no dilly-dallying–you don’t want the mixture to set up before you get the oats all mixed in).  Cool mixture slightly, for just a few minutes.  Drop mixture by tablespoons onto a greased or Silpat-covered baking sheet. You can also cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, and drop the cookies onto the plastic.  Put the uncovered baking sheet in the fridge and let cookies harden.  When hard, remove from sheet and store tightly covered in the fridge.  They won’t win any beauty contests for cookies,  but they sure are tasty.  And they get tastier when you think  how it took you about five minutes to make them.

Negative Hot Cross Buns in the Bread Machine

Negative Hot Cross Buns

No, not negative in a bad way.  Rather, it’s like a photographic negative in that the icing on top of the buns is carved away to reveal the cross on top, rather than the cross piped on top of the plain bun. In our house, we are unrelenting sweet-tooths (sweet-teeth?).  The amount of icing on a hot-cross bun has always been a bit disappointing.  I came up with a way to up the frosting ante, if you will. After all, Lent is over in the morning.  S0 I frosted the bun, then carefully scraped away a little frosting to make the shape of a cross.  Religious homage, lots of icing–everybody’s happy!

I read that hot-cross buns were originally served on  Good Friday to pilgrims who had to travel a long distance to get to their Easter place of  worship.  They were a little snack to tide the pilgrims over until the next meal on their trek, and the little cross on top (which I would guess was carved into the bread before baking, rather than made of sugar and vanilla) added to the importance of the day.

The following recipe started in the new New York Times Cookbook, but I changed it quite a bit–I didn’t need 24 buns,  I didn’t have currants, nor did I have a lot of time,  but I did have a bread machine and some sultanas I could soak in brandy, so here’s what I came up with.  (And by the way, if you haven’t made the buns yet and breakfast is already over, I certainly see no reason why you shouldn’t have them for dessert after lunch. )

Ready to rise

Hot Cross Buns                             

Nude buns fresh out of the oven

makes 8

1/4 cup sultanas (golden raisins)

2 Tbl. brandy

1/2 cup whole milk

1 1/2 tsp. butter, softened

1 1/2 Tbl. water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg, beaten

1 3/4 cups flour

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. yeast

Place the sultanas in a small bowl with the brandy. Let sit for 30 minutes then drain.  In a small saucepan, scald the milk. Add the butter, water, sugar, and salt.  Let cool to lukewarm.  (My bread machine has me add the liquid ingredients first, then the dry, with the yeast last–you do it how yours tells you to.  Also, my bread machine pulverizes the raisins into tiny bits, which works for us because there is an anti-raisin group in my home. But if you want whole raisins, knead them in after the dough comes out of the machine.) Pour milk mixture into the bread machine pan.  Add the beaten egg.  Add the flour, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg, and yeast.  Switch machine to “dough” setting.  When complete, remove dough (it will be wet) to floured board and knead a few times until smooth, adding a little flour if needed to make a workable dough.  Divide dough into eight pieces, forming each piece into a tight, round ball.  Place on a lightly greased (or use a Silpat) baking sheet and let rise about 30 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

While buns bake, mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, a dash of vanilla, and enough half-and-half or milk to make a smooth icing. Ice the cooled buns as desired (regular or negative).

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