Monday, December 31, 2012

Mindful Monday: A Dozen Things from 2012

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

It seems as though I should write something reflective, set goals for the coming year, or tell you something along those lines.  But I've never been the type to set New Years resolutions and I really don't feel like analyzing the past year.  I could remind you of my 12 favorite recipes or posts, but sometimes I cringe when I go back and read what I wrote.  Hmmm...12 favorite quotes?...12 favorite verses?...12 completely random things?  I suppose you'll get a little of each if I think about 12 things I've learned this year.  I guess that means forcing myself to be reflective, huh?  Oh well, here goes.

1. Patience, patience, patience.  You can not learn patience quickly, it takes time.

2. Communication is crucial.

3. My attitude and outlook makes all the difference.  Sometimes I just need to change my perspective, not the circumstances.  A good place to start is to look for the humor in the situation or find ways to be thankful.

4. I don't have to understand, I just have to trust.  Proverbs 3:5-6 has been comforting in so many stages of life, including this one.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." -Proverbs 3:5-6

5. Eleanor Roosevelt was a very wise lady.  I am grateful she choose to share and write down her reflections in books like this one.

6. Job hunting takes a lot of work.

7. It is often helpful to be intentional and purposeful, but one must also be flexible enough to throw in some spontaneity.

8. Some things are not mastered or perfected but a continual progression. Maintenance should fit somewhere into that equation too.

9. Focus on the solution, not the problem.

10. Every time I make a mistake I need to ask myself, "what did you learn from this?"

11. I still like weird and random.

12. I still have a lot to learn.

Hey, that wasn't as bad as I thought.  I actually learned way more than I can express here.  It's a good thing my perfectionist didn't kick in and try to pick the top 12.  And it's a good thing I'm not superstitious, I've actually always liked the number 13.  I'm curious to see just what 2013 has in store for me.

Food for Thought: "Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life." -Eleanor Roosevelt 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Festive Friday: Yulekaga - Our Christmas Morning Tradition

Festive Friday: You can always find room to squeeze in a few more treats around the holidays.

Christmas mornings in our family have always involved Yulekaga, a Scandinavian Christmas bread.  My mom remembers her mom making this bread on Christmas Eve and giving it as gifts to the neighbors.  The tradition has continued in that our Christmas mornings still involve this family bread.  I grew up calling it you-la-clog-la, which still gives my mom and I a good laugh I wish I had been old enough to make it with my grandma just once, but I never had the chance.  Fortunately my mom was able to watch my grandma one year and took notes.

My grandma never really followed a recipe and didn't necessarily do things the same each year.  Similarly, we tend to pull out the faded note card but seldom write down our exact adjustments.  I wasn't about to change that this year, but the recipe below is fairly close to our tradition.  I typed out the notes from the recipe card my mom used while watching my grandma and then reformatted it to a style closer to the recipes I usually post here.  As one of my friends says, this is a follow your heart kind of recipe.  I wasn't thinking of pictures on Christmas morning, but here are a few slices we had left the next day.

Yulekaga (Scandinavian Christmas Bread)
recipe from my Grandma as observed by my mom
makes 4 coffee cakes

Heat 2 cups milk to scalding, cool in bowl. Put 2 packages yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water (she puts 1 in water and 1 in milk). Add 1 cup sugar to milk. Melt butter to make 1/2 cup and add ~2-3 tsp ground cardamom. Add to milk. Add yeast mixture and 3 eggs. Add enough flour to make dough like most bread (approx 3 cups per 1 cup liquid.) Knead. Let rise. Roll in rectangle. Butter surface. Cover with brown sugar. Cover with fruit and raisins. Put on cookie sheet in crescent  shape. Make slits across top. Let rise. Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 or 375 if bread needs to rise. Frost when cool. .

modified version we used this year 

1 cup milk
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1-2 tsp cardamom seeds, finely crushed
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt (this must have been forgotten on the handwritten copy. Salt is an essential ingredient in yeast breads.)
 4-5 cups all-purpose flour

melted butter (about 2 Tbsp per loaf)
brown sugar
ground cinnamon
candied fruit

powdered sugar
butter, softened
milk or water
vanilla, optional

* Heat milk to scalding, let cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water, add milk and sugar. Stir in butter, cardamom, eggs and salt.  Add flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough is stiff enough to knead. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
* Cut dough in half and roll each half into a rectangle. Spread with melted butter. Cover with brown sugar and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Top with candied fruit and raisins. Roll into a log, sealing edges well. Transfer log to a greased baking sheet and form into crescent shape. Cut slits across top, cover and let rise until almost doubled. Meanwhile, open Christmas presents. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let cool. Stir together frosting ingredients until desired consistency is reached. Spread over bread.

Food for Thought: "Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it's difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family." -Mother Theresa 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Joy

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. -Psalm 5:11

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. -Psalm 16:11

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. -Psalm 28:7

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. -Psalm 51:12

When anxiety was great within me, you consolation brought joy to my soul. -Psalm 94:19

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our Salvation. -Psalm 95:1

They will  celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. -Psalm 145:7

There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace. -Proverbs 12:20

Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share in its joy. -Proverbs 14:10

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. -John 15:11

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. -Romans 12:12

May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. -2 Corinthians 8:2

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:2

Still hungry? Check out similar posts on patiencepeacehopetrust, and waiting

Food for Thought: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1:2-4

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Unwrapped Wednesday: Handcrafted Spoons and Coasters

Now that Christmas is over I can show you two projects I've been working on.  A few gifts I gave this year were ones I made.  I probably had more fun working on them than the recipients will have using them, but it's the thought that counts, right?

First up are these beaded spoons. Just wrap wire and beads around a flat spoon handle and you're good to go.  I gave them with jars of Cookie Butter/Biscoff Spread. Of course a homemade nut butter would have been nice, but I didn't quite fit that in this year.

Next up are the coasters I made for my mom.  Last year a friend of mine introduced me to these tile coasters (thanks, Mel!).  I've made them with scrapbook paper in the past but wanted to give them a more personal touch.  My mom loves flowers so I picked out four pictures I had taken and went to work.  Making these really made me want to get outside and use my camera for something other than food.

We found these bluebells at a state park several years ago.

These were outside my apartment one summer.  

Blossoms on the tree outside our kitchen window.

Daffodils in our garden last spring. 

There are quite a few tutorials out there on how to make these, so I'll just leave it at that. Hope you had a Merry CHRISTmas. 

Food for Thought: "For the spirit of Christmas fulfills the greatest hunger of mankind." -Loring A. Schuler

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Just popping in to say a quick Merry Christmas.  May you find joy and peace in the greatest Christmas gift of all.

Food for Thought: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." -Luke 2:11

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mindful Monday: Birthday Wonder

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

Somehow in all the Christmas rush I completely forgot about today's post.  How can I be so wrapped up in the festivities that I forget to slow down and be mindful of the true meaning of Christmas?

When my brother and I were younger my mom used to invite all the neighborhood kids over for a birthday party for Jesus.  I have to wonder, what did Mary tell Jesus about the night of his birth?

Did she tell him they placed him in a manger because there was no room inside?

Did Mary and Joseph reveal what the angel told them about Jesus being a king?

Did they talk with Jesus about the virgin birth?

How did she explain the shepherds and angels?

What about the wise men and the star? Did she explain the gifts they gave? Did she understand them herself?

Did she ever mention the danger they were in as Herod searched for them trying to kill her baby?

Did they celebrate his birthday each year with gifts and a party while Mary retold the story of that first night?

How much did Mary and Joseph understand themselves?

I love the verse that says, "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) She did have a lot to ponder, didn't she?

I encourage you to take time to read and ponder the Christmas story for yourself this year.  You can find it in Matthew 1:18- 2:23Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 2:1-21.

Food for Thought: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel- which means, 'God with us.'  -Matthew 1:23 
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 21, 2012

Festive Friday: Lemon Cake with Shaped Gingerbread Center

Festive Friday: You can always find room to squeeze in a few more treats around the holidays.

When I first saw a peekaboo cake I knew I had to try it out for myself.  How do you get that shape in the center?  Let me tell you, that was the easy part.  It took 3 tries before I got the pan sizes right.  First not enough batter to cover the star, then too much batter erupting over the sides while baking.  Finally the right pan size and then I'm missing an ingredient I know I picked up at the store.  It feels like I've been waiting forever to show you this cake.  On the plus side, there was an abundance of lemon-gingerbread slices (errr, more like puzzle pieces) to nibble on while waiting.

The concept is quite simple; bake a loaf, slice and cut into shapes, pour opposite color batter over shapes, and bake again.  Knowing me, I made it much more difficult by choosing base recipes with lots of ingredients and steps.  The lemon cake is based on a recipe I planned to try out for Weird Recipe Wednesday.  It uses white beans in place of most of the butter, but don't be fooled you can't taste them at all.  Lemon and a splash of vanilla cover any hint of beans.  The gingerbread is extra spicy and develops even more flavor as it ages.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Child-like Excitement

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

Snow day!!! There's a beautiful white blanket hugging the ground this morning.  The flakes are still blowing, but I'd say we have between 5 to 6 inches as I write this.  While I'm not quite as excited about snow days as I was growing up (which I for some reason told you about in September), it's still a snow day nonetheless.  I couldn't resist turning on the T.V. for a quick glance at the school closings, just for old times sake.  Seeing the list scroll across the screen just didn't make my heart beast as fast as it used to.  Perhaps the sheer and utter excitement will kick in sometime after that first cup of coffee?

The excitement over Christmas is much the same. The sense of awe, wonder and excitement that surrounds Christmas has diminished over time.  I no longer wake up at an insanely crazy hour of the morning and scamper up the stairs with my eyes popping out of their sockets.  I'm lucky if my eyes are half open and I will not wake you up begging to get started with the day.

Yet I have every reason to be just as excited.  The earth has been wrapped in white just in time for Christmas and we are about to celebrate the most perfect gift of all time.  My excitement over the child in the  manger should be just as sincere as the child-like sense of delight that surrounds snow days and Christmas.  The pure white blanket on the ground should resemble pure, innocent delight wrapping my heart.  Will I ever grasp the magnitude of the gift I've been given?  The fact that God chose to give this gift in the form of a child is perfect reminder of the excitement that surrounds and flows out of every kid.  May the deepening piles of snow also be a soft reminder of the deepening joy of the season.

Food for Thought: "Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind." -Mary Ellen Chase

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Citrusy Carrot Marmalade

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

This recipe started as the uniquely creative kind of weird, but wound up a little differently than preferred after an impulsively irreversible decision on my part.  In other words, I unintentionally upped the weird factor.

You see, I was in a bit of a hurry and the marmalade just wouldn't thicken.  Adding pectin was my first choice, and I even had a spare box of pectin on hand, but the amount of soupy orange mixture boiling away on my stove wasn't enough to warrant an entire package of pectin.  What would I do with a partial package of pectin lurking in the pantry?  And so, just before I tore open the package, I stuffed it back in the box, stood tip-toe, and placed it back on the top cupboard shelf.  Soon I spotted a box of unflavored gelatin packets.  My fingers reached into the box, tore open a packet and sprinkled it over the simmering pot.  Blast, why did I do that?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Peanut-Granola Brittle

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

I have fond memories of helping make peanut brittle as a kid.  When else does your mom give you a 'hammer' and let you shatter something to pieces?  As helpers it was always our job to to give the golden slab a good whack, cracking it into jagged pieces.

Our family has always used the microwave version, which takes less than 15 minutes and requires no candy thermometer.  I stuck to that part of the tradition this year, but couldn't help adding my own twist.  For some unknown reason I had my mind set on adding something other than nuts.  After some mental grocery shopping I settled on granola.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mindful Monday: A Little More Randomness

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

Hmmm...I feel like it's time for another random post.  Ready?

1. The French term pate a choux, pronounced pot-a-shoo, means 'cabbage paste,' and refers to the fact that cream puff pastries look like little cabbages.

2. Last Friday I attended my brother's college graduation ceremony.  As each graduate walked across the stage the announcer shared the student's favorite college memory or plans for the future.  At first I thought, 'no way, they're doing this for every single student...this will take forever,' but it was actually quite entertaining.  I enjoyed the extremes of responses.  There was the typical, 'I plan to get a job or go to grad school,' response along with a few more hopeful individuals planning to become president and change the world.  My favorite was the kid whose plans involved eating a cheeseburger for supper then celebrating Christmas.

3.  Speaking of Christmas, how is it possibly just one week away?  I have, ummm, just a few things left to do.

4. Computers, ugh.  My computer crashed and has now been rendered unconscious.  If it ever regains consciousness it may have amnesia.  Everything since high school gone in the flash of a screen.  We'll have to see how that turns out.  Thankfully, I can use our family computer until I get a further diagnosis.

5. Render can mean to cause or become (as in rendered unconscious), and it can mean to extract by melting (as in rendering lard).

6.  Just reading this book makes me excited. Did you know that if you cream the fat and sugar too quickly in the first stage of a cake, you won't form the proper cell structure to hold water?  Baking is such a science and there is so much yet to learn and practice.  The more you know, the more you realize you don't know.

7. The number on a pomegranate sticker is 3127.  Actually, that's only the number for a medium pomegranate.  Different sizes of the same fruit have different numbers.

8. Have I told you about the fruit sticker collection I had growing up?  Well... every time I ate a piece of fruit with a sticker I would peel off the sticker and stick it to the underside of the corner kitchen cabinet.  Yeah, great for the wood and a wonderful visual appeal.  My goal was to cover the entire underside of the cabinet.  Even though I stopped adding to the collection, I left the stickers there for years.  I believe it was high school or maybe even college before I finally attempted to peel them all off.  Don't look at the underside of the corner cabinet.

9. Why, why, why do I tell you these things?

Food for Thought: "If you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else." -Eleanor Roosevelt 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Festive Friday: Mint Meringue Trees with Chocolate Centers

Festive Friday: You can always find room to squeeze in a few more treats around the holidays.

I think I found the perfect Christmas tree.

It's green and minty and has a chocolate center.

It's easy to assemble and even easier to dispose of.

The only watering required is mouthwatering.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Wait

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. -Psalm 5:3

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. -Psalm 33:20

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. -Psalm 37:7

I wait for you, O Lord; you will answer, O Lord my God. -Psalm 38:15

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. -Psalm 40:1

But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. -Psalm 106:13

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. -Psalm 130:5

'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. -Lamentations 3:24-26

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. -Romans 8:25

Still hungry? Check out similar posts on patiencepeacehope,and trust

Food for Thought: "Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one's thoughts." -Elisabeth Elliot 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Peanut Butter Cookies-and-Creme Fudge

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

Due to the cake adventure I told you about yesterday, we've switched this week's Weird Recipe Wednesday with Tuesday's Twist.  If you're looking for weird, check out yesterday's post.  If you're looking for a slightly more normal recipe (but not really, who am I kidding), then you're in for a treat.  And by treat I mean peanut butter fudge studded with chocolate cookies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Chocolate-Chipotle Puppy Chow

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

Due to some, shall we say.....adventures in the kitchen yesterday, Tuesday's Twist and Weird Recipe Wednesday are switching places this week.  Unless you would prefer to have cake batter erupting out of a loaf pan and oozing down the sides as it bakes?  Yeah, me neither.  That was fun.

And since time flies when you're having fun, today is already Weird Recipe Wednesday.  Are you ready for another sweet-savory combination?  Two of the last magazines I've read have featured recipes pairing chocolate with chipotle.  One recipe was for brownies and the other for chocolate crinkle cookies.  Both tasty I'm sure, but I'm trying (sort of??) to not post bars or cookies every single day in December.  I've been looking for a good excuse to make puppy chow.  Oh look, I found it, let's go.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mindful Monday: No Room

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

It always amazes me what can catch my attention.  One little phrase and bam, just like that, it feels like I've been punched in the stomach.  But there's a lesson in it all, oh yes, a lesson indeed.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning.  The kids' Christmas program at church this Sunday was a play about a little boy who desperately wanted a part, any part, in the Christmas program.  The other kids teased him and everyone told him he wasn't any good.  The story was fairly predictable and I felt sorry for the little guy.  And then came the phrase that hit home.  He just finished his audition and the director said 'don't even bother calling us, we'll call you if we have a part for you.'  All of a sudden I was the little boy, searching for a real life job not just a part in a play.

Over and over the little boy is rejected, unwanted and unneeded.  He ends up as the understudy for the innkeeper  and his only line is, "no room."  He repeats his line over and over, "no room."  Suddenly he sees the Christmas story in a new light.  Just as the other kids seem to have no room for him, the world made no room for Jesus.

He came plain and ordinary, born in a stable with animals because there was no room at the inn.  Throughout his life he was rejected by many, not seen as the star of the show.
"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem." -Isaiah 53:2-3
Life is full of rejection, as kids and adults.  But in every circumstance, He knows how we feel.  When it feels like there is no room or you just don't fit in, he understands.  He's been there too.

It's been almost one year since I graduated from college and I still haven't found 'room'.  I'll admit that as the one year mark approaches, I've been seeing more shadow in all of the 'no room' responses.  It would be easy to get stuck there, feeling sorry for myself, but I know I've grown so much in this past year.  I'm seeing each 'no room' experience as a gentle reminder.  I trust God knows best, and I don't want to push him out or tell him there's no room.  I must be mindful to make room for Jesus, not only this Christmas but each and every day.

Food for Thought: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." -Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, December 7, 2012

Festive Friday: Gingerbread Popcorn

Festive Friday: You always need room to squeeze in a few more treats around the holidays. 

Friday's in December are going to look a little different around here.  December is the one month I can bake all day and then whip up way too many treats without trying to find a decent excuse.  Christmas parties and treat trays are the perfect time time to try out those new cookie recipes or stir up a batch of candy.  Between our traditional treats and all the new ones I'm planning to try, I decided we'll replace Fermented Friday with something a little more festive.  That's not to say our Festive Friday treats won't contain some form of fermentation, (eggnog? rum fudge? brandied cherries? fruitcake???...only time will tell) but no guarantees either.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to our first Festive Friday treat. Gingerbread popcorn. It's like caramel corn on crack.  Okay, not really, but you know what I mean.  It is super addicting though.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: One Term or Another

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

When reading recipes from other countries I often come across words or ingredients I'm unfamiliar with.  Sometimes I assume it's an ingredient we don't have over here or that it's been mistranslated in my browser.  Even recipes written in the same language but different countries are grounds for confusion.  I recently came across a list of cooking terms giving the U.S. term and the British equivalent.  Some had only minor differences in spelling, but others were completely different.  Below are a few of the terms I found interesting.

aubergine - eggplant
rapeseed oil - canola oil
pips - seeds
neeps/swedes - turnips
butty - sandwich
demerara sugar - brown sugar
digestive biscuits - graham crackers
gill - 2/3 cup
courgette - zucchini
gammon - ham
banger - sausage
tatties - potatoes
cup/breakfast cup - 1-1/4 cups
teacup -3/4 cup
vegetable marrow - summer squash
treacle - molasses

source: Food Lover's Companion

Food for Thought: " He who has faith has...and inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence, calmness and assuring trust that everything will come out well - even though to the world it may appear to come out most badly." -B.C. Forbes 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Chocolate-Cherry-Rosemary Bars

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

Do you ever rip recipes out of a magazine and file them away thinking, "yum...but maybe later"? In addition to my growing online collection of recipe ideas I have bulging physical folders of clipped, copied and written recipes.  Some are old favorites and others are recipes I honestly don't know when I'll ever make, but they sure sound good.

Of course my 'cookies,bars and miscellaneous desserts' folder is bursting to the seams.  Every time I open the folder a magazine page with this Chewy Oatmeal-Cherry Bars recipe taunts, 'pick me, pick me.'  I used the recipe's cherry-rosemary combination as flavor inspiration for this loaf of Pumpkin Wild Rice Bread with Rosemary and Dried Cherries last month.  Alas, the recipe still peeks out of the dessert folder reminding me I've yet to make the actual bars.  We both know there's only one remedy to that.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

Take your classic ginger cookie to a whole new level with the addition chocolate.

 If you're looking for a way to spice up your Christmas cookie tray, look no further.  Chocolate and ginger make an enticing combination you don't want to miss.  Rich, sweet chocolate balances the bite of smooth, spicy ginger.  It will only take one bite to win you over.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mindful Monday: Trust

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

O Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. -2 Samuel 7:28

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. -Psalm 9:10

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. -Psalm 13:5

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. -Psalm 19:7

In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. -Psalm 22:4-5 

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps in joy and I will give thanks to him in song. -Psalm 28:7

The Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. -Psalm 32:10

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. -Psalm 56:3

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. -Psalm 62:8

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. -Psalm 112:7

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. -Psalm 118:8

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. -Psalm 143:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. -Proverbs 3:5-6

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. -Proverbs 11:!3

Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers; and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. -Proverbs 16:20

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. -Proverbs 27:6

He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. -Proverbs 28:6

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. -Isaiah 26:3

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. -Isaiah 26:4 

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. -Nahum 1:7

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? -Luke 16:10-11

Still hungry? Check out similar posts on patiencepeace, and hope

Food for Thought: "But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through." -Francis Chan 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fermented Friday: Leftover Oatmeal Turned Bread- Cranberry-Sage or Multigrain

Fermented Friday: recipes featuring yeast, wine, beer or some form of fermentation.

Guess what happens when make a batch of rather bland slow cooker steel-cut oats one day, and then make Chocolate-Pumpkin Quinoa the next day?  That's right, leftover oatmeal.  I'm not one to let leftovers stand in the fridge, they always turn into something else.  It would be pretty fun to make cookies or granola bars with cooked oats, but we need a little yeast action for Fermented Friday.  If we can make bread with rice why not bread with leftover oatmeal?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Ebenezer

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

Ebenezer.  How cool of a word is that!  Say it again, a little more slowly...Ebenezer.  I love funky sounding words, but that could be another post entirely. Typically when I hear the word Ebenezer around this time of year the first thing that pops into my head is Ebenezer Scrooge, the grouch in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  But last Sunday, I learned something that shed a brighter light on the word Ebenezer.

Since I've moved home I started attending a different church than my parents.  Seeing as it was a holiday weekend and my brother was home, I decided to go with them last Sunday. The sermon there ended up playing off the concept of a recipe.  That got my attention.  I speak, breathe, live and eat recipes.

We looked at verses in 1 Samuel 7 as an example of the ingredients needed in a recipe for renewal.  Near the end of this 'recipe' was the act of giving thanks and acknowledging how God has helped us.  In verse 12 Samuel sets up a stone as a reminder of God's help and faithfulness.  He names the stone Ebenezer, which means stone of help.  As he sets up this stone he says, 'thus far has the Lord helped us.'   When we pause to give thanks we are reflecting and acknowledging all the ways God has helped us in the past.

We are reminded that He has helped us up until now (thus far has the Lord helped us).  This gives us hope and peace that he will continue to help us even though we don't know what's coming next.  Regardless of what may come we choose to pause and thank God for all his help.  His rock-solid help and faithfulness have proven themselves over and over.  Time and time again I see how God has helped me.  I am thankful for this pattern and trust it will continue.  He is my Ebenezer, my stone of help.  A concept that makes me love the word Ebenezer even more.

Food for Thought: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning ; great is thy faithfulness." -Lamentations 3:22-23

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Chocolate-Pumpkin Quinoa

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

Are you sick of pumpkin yet?  Too bad, I'm not.  I'll try to transition from fall mode into Christmas, but I'm not quite ready yet.  It's still November after all.  Come December warm comforting spices like cinnamon and nutmeg will jump from apple and pumpkin to gingerbread and eggnog.  My swooning over squash will melt into chocolate, cookies and candy.   But for this week, we'll ease the transition by combining our chocolate and pumpkin. And eating it for breakfast.

It's okay, really.  Let me rationalize this one for you.  It started with this recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Quinoa Porridge.  Replacing oats with quinoa gives oatmeal a modern makeover.  Porridge packed with protein and pumpkin, yes please.  Then there's this Double Chocolate Oatmeal which appears to make eating chocolate for breakfast completely acceptable necessary.  But since we just had oatmeal yesterday, we'll stir up some chocolate-pumpkin quinoa.  Breakfast.  Dessert.  You decide and I'll provide the proper justification.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oats

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

I think I still have a Thanksgiving food hangover.  So before I jump into my usual overkill of Christmas treats I figured some oatmeal was in order.  Somewhere along the line I bought a large bag of steel-cut oats. Why?  Hmmm, a good question.  I wish I remembered my exact plans for these little grains.  But alas, there they sit in the pantry, nearly untouched.

Steel-cut oats are oat grains that have been cut into 2 to 3 pieces rather than rolled and flattened into flakes. They retain a chewier texture than rolled oats and take between 20 to 40 minutes to cook (depending on you texture preference). Time has been the deal breaker thus far.  I just can't wait that long for breakfast.  So instead of 40 minutes at the stove, I threw them in the slow cooker to cook for 6 hours.  I know.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mindful Monday: Patience

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. -Psalm 37:7

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. -Psalm 40:1

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. -Proverbs 14:29

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. -Proverbs 15:18

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. -Proverbs 16:32

A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. -Proverbs 19:11

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. -Proverbs 25:15

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. -Romans 8:25

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. -Romans 12:12

Love is patient. -1 Corinthians 13:4

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. -Galatians 5:22-23

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. -Ephesians 4:2

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. -Colossians 3:12

I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. -1 Timothy 1:16

And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. -Hebrews 6:15

Food for Thought: "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." -Lamentations 3:24

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fermented Friday: Stuffed Full hangover, or is it food coma?  More stuffing went into me than the bird.  And then more.  And now all those leftovers....let's just call it a wrap for the week, shall we?

Actually, I guess I can tell you a few things I learned related to fermentation and yeast bread.

Dinner Rolls
No matter how long you bake them or how much butter you brush on top, your dinner rolls will not brown nicely if your dough didn't have enough sugar or protein.

Pasty pale white rolls don't look so great. But if you keep baking and baking, they dry out in the center.  Dry rolls give you permission to slather them with even more butter, especially on Thanksgiving.

Turning on the broiler for just a few minutes to brown those stubborn tops sort of works, but with so many other things going on you will likely scorch the tops of at least one batch.

 It is super cool and impressive when your brother tells you he want to learn to make French bread.  Wait......what?  You want to make French bread over break?  Okay!!!  I put him to work and we made all the bread for the stuffing.  He did an excellent job.

 How awesome is it that we made bread together!?!?!  I was more than excited.  What's even better is he graciously listened to my over explanations of all that was going on with the dough.

I'm thankful beyond words for all his help and thoughtfulness.

My mom also deserves many thanks for all her help, patience and letting me just do my thing in her kitchen without rolling her eyes.  Another one of those thankful beyond words deals.

Food for Thought: "The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." -Maya Angelo 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Thanksgiving

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am blessed beyond measure. I have more to be thankful for than I could ever list, but here's a random sampling of a few things things I can express in a word or short phrase.  Whether big or little, serious or lighthearted, profound or playful, we give thanks to God for all things; for without Him we are nothing.

a safe place to live
the smell of baking bread
hot water for long showers
warm cozy blankets
steaming hot mugs of tea
strong coffee
good books
my camera
chances to learn and grow
the sound of the breeze rustling leaves
a job
cell phones
lip gloss
moon and stars
colors of the sky

Food for Thought: "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Savory Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Pecan Pie

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

Knowing how much I like to experiment, my brother gave me this super neat pie pan that's split down the middle, allowing me to test two recipes at once.

With a twinkle in his eye he encouraged me to practice my pie making skills while he's home on Thanksgiving break.  Knowing I had a willing taste tester, I set out to make two of the pies on my ever growing 'recipes to try' list.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

Thanksgiving in our family typically consists of a large buffet-style meal sometime in the early afternoon.  After eating more than you ever wanted to it seems we wait, I don't know, about an hour or two before starting to set out all the snacks and appetizers for supper. We then repeat the stuffing yourself process, but this time with party food instead of a sit-down meal.  Makes total sense, right? 

Anyway, these pumpkin peanut butter cups are appearing for the supper part of the spread. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mindful Monday: Favorite?

Mindful Monday: On Monday's I'm going to share what's been on my mind. I by no means have any of this figured out, I'm just thinking out loud here.

I never seem to have an answer to the question, "what's your favorite______?"  The perfectionist in me thinks I have to have the perfect answer, or that there is only one answer.  What if the answer I give isn't actually my favorite? How can I possibly decide and pick just one thing out of all those options? Being the indecisive, perfectionist, people pleaser that I sometimes am, I'm finally realizing that there are far too many areas in which I have yet to form an opinion for myself.  Rather than making a decision, I often just go along with the choices of others, saying I don't really care or it doesn't matter.  Of course this doesn't happen in every situation, but apparently enough that I'm aware of it.

For some reason a conversation I had with someone this summer keeps coming to mind.  The topic was deeper, but for simplicity sake let's just say the topic was music.  Someone asked me what my favorite type of music was and I responded with something along the lines of, 'I pretty much just listen to whatever's already on.  I usually let someone else pick the station and most anything goes.'  Normally the conversation would move to the next question or topic of small talk, but this time the response caught me off guard.  This person looked right at me, saying, "but what do YOU like to listen to? What does Melissa enjoy?"  Ummm, what? You actually want to know what I like and aren't just trying to make small talk? You're really listening and interested and my answer matters to you?  

That got me thinking, what do I like? There are several areas I've just gone along with other people's preferences or opinions. You know, that go with the flow, don't tip the boat, do things they way they've always been done attitude. I don't make a decision because I don't have to.  But what is it that I really enjoy? What is the purpose or motive behind my choices?

What fun to discover new likes and interests.  Everything takes on a new perspective.  I don't have to pick one favorite for life and chisel it in stone, it can change and grow as I do.  Maybe something I thought was my favorite really isn't anymore.  There are some things I really don't care or have an opinion about, where either way really is fine with me.  But there are others I'm pondering in a new light.  The freedom comes in the mindfulness of choice and ability to define and recognize the situation.   I can say 'I don't care' or 'it doesn't matter' when I really do mean it, but I can also state my opinion with confidence.  It's like an exciting new adventure, called life.

Food for Thought: "We don't need to have just one favorite. We keep adding to our favorites. Our favorite book is always the book that speaks most directly to us at a particular stage in our lives. And our lives change. We have other favorites that give us what we most need at that particular time. But we never lose the old favorites. They're always with us. We just sort of accumulate them." -Lloyd Alexander

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fermented Friday: Pumpkin Wild Rice Bread with Rosemary and Dried Cherries

Fermented Friday: recipes featuring yeast, wine, beer or some form of fermentation.

This pumpkin yeast bread is the perfect middle ground. Soft and tender yet sturdy and hearty, it has just the right amount of chew.  Wild rice sneaks in to add body and texture.  But don't be wary, the rice bakes in enough that you can't really tell it's rice while you're eating it.  Pumpkin helps make the loaf tender without using loads of butter (like the potato in these rolls).

A sweet loaf with a hint of savory makes this bread versatile.  Sweet cherries blend with subtle notes of rosemary while a delicate pumpkin flavor lingers in the background.  It's perfect on its own or great for toast or sandwiches.  I am so tempted to make this again next week as dinner rolls or use it in stuffing.  Then again, this bread sort of has the makings of stuffing baked right in.  I don't know, I really need to nail down what I'm making for Thanksgiving.  I'll try to stick to tradition, but knowing me...well, you just never know what you'll get at my house.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday's Thoughts: Giving Thanks

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

One week until Thanksgiving.  I easily get caught up in the food and planning, but that's not really what Thanksgiving is all about is it?  Or at least not what it's supposed to be about. Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks.  Yet a thankful attitude should be present all throughout the year, not just around a holiday.  I'm going to try and be extra mindful of things I'm thankful for in this week leading up to Thanksgiving.

I can be sick of cleaning or thankful I have a house to clean, cleaning supplies and time to clean. (But if you're coming over don't expect too clean, just saying.)  The piles of half unpacked boxes from college overtaking the basement mean that I was blessed enough to go to college in the first place.  A tablecloth that's 6 inches too short makes me thankful for enough family to fill that long table.  Way too many ideas and recipes to choose from makes me thankful for fun and creativity as well as tradition.

A few years ago our relatives watched their neighbors house burn down the night before Thanksgiving.   I'm thankful for a home to fill with family.  One year I was in the hospital for Thanksgiving.  This year I'm thankful to be home with family.  Last week a 10-year-old boy who just had brain surgery here was killed in a car accident on his way to spend Thanksgiving at home.  I have so much to be thankful for.

There's plenty to be thankful or on a lighter note too.  I'm thankful I'm not a turkey.  I'm thankful for cozy blankets, warm tea and slippers on chilly days.  I'm thankful that I saw the stuff floating in my tea before I took the first sip and not after.  I'm thankful for sunshine, fresh air and the fact that it's really not all that cold out yet.  I'm thankful the election is over (what? I am.)  I'm thankful I caught the falling container of banana puree before it oozed all over the counter, doors and floor.  I'm thankful I've made some time to read books lately.  I'm thankful for the softer sheets I put on my bed last night.  I'm thankful for aprons, kneading and the aroma of bread baking.  There is always something to be thankful for.  And probably a little more too.

Food for Thought:  "Gratitude bestows reverence , allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world." -John Milton

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Egg Coffee

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

Last month I randomly mentioned egg coffee.  You knew I'd give in and try it sooner or later, didn't you?  You should have placed bets for how long I'd hold out before I tried this weird technique.  Maybe you did, in which case I hope you won.

I found some old percolators at my grandma's house and mentioned them to her.  She told me about the egg coffee she used to make where whole egg, shell and all, is added in with the grounds. And we're not talking an electric drip coffee maker here either, just a stove top coffee pot.  She claims it's the best coffee she's ever had and they just don't make it like that anymore. (Gee, I wonder why? I don't.)  So after raising my eyebrows for awhile and plenty of skepticism on my part, I gave in.  Truth be told, I had several other weird recipes planned for today, but they crashed, flopped and withered a little too hard to make it all the way here.  Since this egg coffee concept seems weird to my generation, I decided it would work in a pinch.

It's actually a technique that's been used for years by countless coffee brewers and served to plenty of unsuspecting guests.  A Scandinavian tradition, this coffee is also known as 'Lutheran church basement coffee.'  I looked up quite a few recipe variations and had fun learning about this weird tradition.  It wasn't until afterwords that I found this food science post explaining the chemistry involved.  I'll spare you the details, but the egg and shell supposedly remove bitterness and acidity, producing and incredibly smooth cup of coffee.

Let me just show you what happened.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday's Twist: Homemade Butterfinger Bonbons

Tuesday's Twist:  A basic recipe with a fun twist.  In other words, just another excuse for me to play around with weird recipes I've been dying to try.

If I had one word for every one of these I popped in my mouth, that would be a lot of words.

These lasted less than 24 hours, much less.