Mountain Mama Mandarin Rolls
Mountain Mama Mandarin Rolls

Mountain Mama Mandarin Rolls

Thanks to Facebook, I was notified it was Betty’s birthday. I consider her my “Mountain Mama”, to take a line from the old John Denver song. You see, I went to college up in the mountains of North Carolina, over six hours away from my coastal home. Luckily for me I met great girls on my dorm floor, freshman year. Teacher Tammy and I became great friends and sorority sisters. She lived down the mountain about an hour away. Like many of my fellow freshman, she went home frequently on the weekends. Our school became a suitcase- college come Friday through Sunday.

First rising

First rising

Teacher Tammy (her nickname: an education major) kindly took me home with her many week-ends. We headed down the mountains with Prince and the Go-Go’s blaring from her cassette player. I loved her family from the second I met them. So many great memories of driving slowly, cruising along the town center, tanning thickly coated in coconut oil, driving her grandmother to get her hair done, Betty’s delicious beefy cheesy –mac and every Saturday and Sunday morning, there were baked orange-cinnamon rolls. I had never had them before and boy, did they disappear fast.
Decades later, these rolls baking still remind me of waking up at Tammy’s home in the mountains. These rolls will make you feel toasty warm and your guests welcome.

I had been wanting to create my own orange rolls but sadly the oranges we get here in Hawaii are rather dull tasting.  And I surely didn’t want to waste the flour and butter on dud citrus if it had a starring role (roll, haha).  Well, for the holidays the stores are filled with mountains of juicy tangerines, clementines and mandarins.  Folks, go pick up a mesh bag of mandarins and get up early on January First to make your family very happy.

Mandarin Mountain

Mandarin Mountain

Icing Mandarin Rolls

I’m planning to make these a winter tradition.  Which now makes me think of the original Read home tangerine tradition.  My sister Susie and I were allowed to dive into our stockings Christmas morning before anyone else was awake; no presents under the tree could be opened before all were up and seated in the living room.  We had the candy we loved and went crazy over the giant peppermint stick. I mean it was as big as a salami roll. We would lick it to a coned-point and then after a day it would go into the fridge, forgotten and turning pink… and get tossed about Valentine’s Day.  We always had great stocking stuffers but we would be puzzled by the lone tangerine rounding out the toe of the stocking. Susie and I would remove it from our stocking and put in back in the fruit bowl on the kitchen table. Later, we discovered that Sweetpea was keeping up a tradition from her Mama. A tangerine was a special treat in the winter of her childhood in the Virginia Valley.  Christmas citrus will always remind me of Christmas morning excitement.
Zest Mandarins

MtnMama Orange Rolls 1st Rise


3 1/2 Cups flour ( I used bread flour because I wanted to use it up from my pantry)
2 packages yeast (1/4 oz. packages)
1/4 Cup sugar
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 TB mandarin zest (can substitute clementines, tangerines or oranges-whatever’s juicy & fresh)
1 TB fresh squeezed mandarin zest

8 TB butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 TB zest
1 tsp fresh manadarin juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

2 1/2 Cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup fresh mandarin juice
1 TB mandarin zest
1 TB butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Zest mandarins, I was able to get about one tablespoon of zest from each fruit. You’ll need 6 tablespoons for the entire skillet of rolls (separated into dough, filling & icing)

In bowl of upright mixer (before you add the attachment), whisk dry ingredients: yeast, sugar & flour. In microwave, place water, milk and butter. In 10 second increments, melt butter and warm the water and milk. Attach dough hook and with mixer running, slowly add warm butter and buttermilk mixture, add in vanilla, salt, juice and zest. Add eggs one at a time. Your dough will be very sticky. Knead 8 minutes.

Oil large bowl and use your oiled hands to remove dough from mixer bowl (remember, it’s super sticky). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place lightweight kitchen towel over the bowl. Place in warm place and let rise until dough has doubled. About 45-60 minutes.

Punch down the dough. Place a small amount of flour on counter. Flour rolling pin (or roll out between parchment paper) and roll out to large rectangle. Combine softened butter with vanilla juice and zest; spread out onto rectangle leaving a one inch border on all edges. Cover butter layer with sugars, cinnamon and salt.

Roll up into log and cut in half. Then cut the halves in half so you end up with 8 spiral rolls. Butter a cast iron skillet liberally with butter. Place rolls in skillet, cut side down. Cover entire pan with plastic wrap and light towel; let rise in warm place for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees after the first 20 minutes of this second rising. Mix together all icing ingredients.

Bake rolls at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, Let cool 10 minutes then pour icing over warm rolls. The icing will harden slightly as rolls cool.
I serve them straight from the skillet.
Mtn Mama Orange Rolls01

Best Grilled Spicy Chicken Ever

Spicy Sweet Sticky Chicken…Best EVER!


This is the best sweet spicy chicken you’ll ever eat; it’s incredibly easy and sassy too.  Just make sure you have  plenty of iced tea because the heat is gonna make you want to down a glass or two. It has a slow heat that will sneak up on ya.  It’s a different kind of heat than you’ll find in a big order of buffalo wings.  The heat from this is the sweet sticky sauce that is so popular in Southern and  Asian cooking. This is a great crowd and hostess pleaser; it’s inexpensive and easy to cook a bunch.

Start by marinating your chicken thighs overnight in the fridge. Pour all the marinade ingredients in a re-sealable bag placed in a large bowl (just in case there’s leakage and makes for easier handling); put all the chicken thighs in and give it a gentle massage to coat all the pieces.



3 lbs Chicken Thighs (Bone-in, skin on)


2 TB Sriracha Sauce (not Tabasco)

2 TB Oil

1 TB Rice Vinegar

1/2 Cup water 

(discard marinade after chicken placed on your grill)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Preheat  grill to high. Combine all ingredients in food processor, pulse until garlic and ginger are chopped small. Transfer sauce to small pan, heat until reduced and thickened to barbecue sauce consistency. Grill chicken over high heat, skin side down until lightly charred but not cooked through.  Pour 2/3 of sauce in bottom of large casserole dish.  Place grilled chicken over sauce, turning each piece to coat.  Cover dish with foil, bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve over shredded cabbage with steamed rice along with reserved sauce on the side. The sauce is killer.  My boys love it over their rice and I pour it over my grilled vegetables.

1/4 Cup Soy Sauce (shoyu)

1/4 Cup Honey

juice of one orange

2 TB Rice Vinegar

2 TB Sambal (chucky chili garlic sauce)

2 TB Brown Sugar

1 TB Hoisin Sauce

1 TB Sriracha

3 tsp Fish Sauce

1 tsp fresh lime juice

6 cloves garlic

1 inch knuckle of ginger, peeled










Southern & Sweet…Carolina Cornbread




Let’s start with a cornbread controversy.  Southern cornbread purists will tell you that this delicious skillet of baked corn goodness should be savory, no sugar.  And folks, they’re serious ’bout that. Pop that cornbread batter in hot oil and you’ve got a hush puppy. Order cornbread in Hawaii and you will be served corn bread that has been baked in a square pan and it ‘s buttery and sweet like cake. Heck y’all, it IS cake.  Really good corn cake.They’re both wonderful when done right. 

Barbecue is happy to have some cornbread alongside. Collard greens put it to work, sopping up all that pot likker.  Sweetpea says my Daddy liked to eat it soaked in buttermilk and a spoon.  But my favorite is with cold baked beans.  That to me is such a great and simple lunch but be warned; it’ll put ya in a carb coma.     ah bliss…You can fancy it up with bacon, corn niblets, cheddar cheese, onion and my buddy Jim likes to bakes his spicy by adding chopped hot peppers.  

My recipe is southern(savory) and a lil’ sweet.  Me and my cast iron skillet are currently baking this cornbread on Channel 53, Olelo.

Here’s some tips before you start. Put your cast iron skillet in the cold oven and then preheat; you want it to heat up slowly.  Have the batter made before you put the butter in the hot skillet. The butter just takes a moment to melt and you don’t want it to burn. Not to be bossy but you gotta use yellow cornbread.  Folks, cornbread is golden. In more ways than one.


Put cast iron skillet in oven, Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 1 TB yellow cornmeal

2/3 c.sugar

1 TB baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 1/4 c buttermilk

1/3 c. vegetable oil

3 TB melted butter

In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Melt  butter in microwave.  In separate bowl, whisk eggs and remaining wet ingredients.

Slowly add butter to egg mixture.  Add wet batter into the dry ingredients, stirring just to combine.  Add 2 tablespoons butter to hot skillet in oven.  Swirl the skillet to have butter evenly distributed. Carefully, pour batter into the very hot skillet.  Bake 33-35 minutes until golden brown.  Once baked, keep cornbread in the skillet until cooled, uncovered. This will keep the crust crisp. Lightly brush with additional butter. Why not, right?   

My recipe is southern(savory) and a lil’ sweet.  I am currently baking this cornbread on Channel 53, Olelo.



Cast Iron Cornbread

Cast Iron Cornbread

Carolina Cornbread baked in my cast iron skillet

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Bubba, Number One Kitchen Dog


Meet Bubba. He’s easy to find. Step into my kitchen and look down.  Don’t worry he’s a little deaf and probably won’t even wake up to look at you.  But if you open the fridge or drop a crumb, he’s on it with his sniffer working over time.

Image  He loves liver and crisp apples; but not at the same time. Bubba likes sleeping on our sofa.  Bubba is not allowed on the sofa.  Let’s discuss furniture. As a military family you never really have nice furniture because you move every three years and it’s rough on the big items.  One of our friends in Japan had her brand new sofa show up without any of the seat cushions. Imagine that. So finally we had the nice leather couch and club chair I always wanted. And I guess, Bubba feels the same way.

Bubba is a rescue dog.  He’s about eight years old, sad not to know this boy’s birthday.  He’s a little cranky and a little deaf. Though my husband swears his hearing is selective.  Bubba seems to be able to hear cracker packages being opened. Maybe he is attuned to a Saltine frequency.  We know very little about his previous life before he came to live with us; his military family could not get medical clearance for him to fly due to his age and chronic ear problems. Doesn’t that just break your heart?  Imagine having to leave your bulldog boy behind; the one you had raised since a baby.

Image  There’s a special place in heaven for the Rescue Dog Support Folks.  They took Bubba in and had to endure the heart wrenching departure of his family.  It must have been so hard to see the kids crying as they were leaving their bulldog they had grown up with their whole lives.  I’m getting choked up, let’s move on.

One afternoon when I was listening to Howard on Sirius, he was talking  about the recent passing of his bulldog, Bianca, and mentioned the bulldog rescue groups.  He was shouting about how many people buy bulldogs but don’t understand the special needs of this breed. I know bulldogs.  I’ve only had bulldogs.  My first was brought to my dad as he was dying from cancer by my brother.  I can still remember our summer at Emerald Isle when this squishy faced dog showed up.  Her name was Ivey; kinda weird dog name.   So Howard’s rant  was one of those things that must have been rattling around in my head because later I googled “Bulldog rescue Hawaii” and unbelievably, there was Bubba.

Image  The adoption process was daunting, as it should be. We had home visits, questionnaires, and references.  Sweet Michael and I laughed that we were able to bring our newborn human son home without all these hoops to jump. We were so excited to have been selected to take this bully into our home.  The first days would have broken your heart.  He sat by the door, looking out to the yard and onto the street.  His expression seemed to say, “Uh, my family is coming to get me and I must be ready to go”.  He needed intensive hugging…I took a vacation day from work;  a whole day just to hang out with him.  I brushed and massaged him, followed by a couple of walks around the block; yes, a singular block.  He’s a bulldog not a marathoner.  He was opening up, I could feel it.  Then one morning, Sweet Michael, opened the bedroom door as I was getting ready for work. “Babe, have you said good morning to Bubba yet?”, he asked. “No why?” “Because Bubba has been sitting outside the room staring at the door waiting for you all morning”, he answered. Oh my goodness, Bubba had opened his broken heart and taken me in.