Monday, November 28, 2011

Where to begin...

My brain is swirling with too many thoughts and ideas for posts.  My camera is filled with food photos of recipes to share, but there's just not enough time in the day.

This blog is primarily a journal so I can pass down family history, stories, ideas, recipes, and examples of God's goodness witnessed.  I don't want to ever take anything for granted and hope to teach our kids that God is GOOD ALL THE TIME!

Yesterday I was feeling down, in despair, and destitute- actually quite pitiful.  The word that came to mind was RAW.  I know on the blog, and in life, I may seem upbeat and cheery, but there are times when I feel like the scales are tipping to the side of uncertainty, "What do we do now?"  It's at these moments when I realize I'm not in control. God has a plan.  He's making me and molding me into the person He desires me to be.  Reliant on Him, rather than reliant on self.

This has been a tough year on us.  Like many Americans, we've been hit pretty hard with the economic downturn.  Living on one income is difficult.  Unexpected expenses can really rock the financial boat.  We've had a number of unexpected expenses arise.  I feel like we've had a financial earthquake and the aftershocks keep rolling in.  I wonder when it will end, but I'm afraid to even ask.

Through all of this God continues to teach us lessons.

The Stuff Doesn't Matter

In 2007, my hub was offered a job position in Southern California.  We had a comfortable life in the Pacific Northwest.  We had a lot of friends, a GREAT church, a wonderful community, newly built custom home, a view of majestic mountains, everything we could dream of.  I remember walking our property talking with God.  I didn't want to move.  I loved all we had.  I loved the comfort and security.  I sensed Him asking me, "Do you love this house, more than you love what I have in store for you?  Do you love this property more than the plans I have for you?  Do you love that view more than what awaits?"

These are tough questions!

At that time He gave me the following verses:

Genesis 12:1
"Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."
Hebrews 12:1  
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,"

I like how The Message rephrases it too:

Hebrews 12:1-3
Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
"Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!"
I knew God was asking me to jump out of the comfort zone and head to a new land with new adventures in store.  He was dealing with my heart and my stuff.  I took to heart, "throw off anything that hinders."  I had a lot of sentimental stuff hindering me from moving.  We began to move things out, but that was only the beginning.

Even after paring down, we moved to SoCal with A LOT!  I really felt for our poor movers.  Over the last couple years we've thrown off probably thousands of pounds of hindrances, but there's still more to be done. I'm giving away and selling so much.  It's freeing!  And I've realized so much of it just doesn't matter temporarily or eternally.  It's cluttering up our house, my heart, and our family freedom.

God, Where Are You?

Over the last six months or so, I feel like I've been in a boxing match getting knocked into the rings, finding strength to get up only to get hit again. God's blessed us with amazing resilience, but it gets exhausting.  I can't tell you how many times I've had "Job" moments.  Now there's a man who went THROUGH it!!

Over the last few months we've lost friends to illness, our cat died, we've had financial strains, broken bones, dental issues, and we're looking at being transferred once again.  We're living in a state of uncertainty.  I've noticed anxiety creeping into life again.  Living in the moment has gone out the window while my mind is preoccupied with worries about how this is all going to work out.  Since I'm such a control-freak, I'm so quick to try to grab the reins from God thinking He has NO IDEA where we're going.  I'm just like the Israelites during the Exodus.  You'd think I'd learn something along the way, but apparently I haven't grasped the concept yet!

I'm reading Beth Moore's Breaking Free right now.  Could there be a more perfect book, besides the Bible, for me to read?  I'd quote the whole book because it's that good, but that would make for one HUGE blog, so I'll keep it short.

"God surpasses our dreams when we reach past our personal plans and agendas to grab the hand of Christ and walk the path He has chosen for us."

"His Word, 'is a lamp to my feet.' meaning a guide for the steps I'm taking right now.  His Word is also 'a light for my path,' meaning a guide for my immediate future.  God's Word sheds light on our 'present' path and our immediate future so we'll know what steps to take, but for further instruction we'll have to walk today and check again!"

God does know where we're going.  He hears the cries of uncertainty and reassures. He's been consistently revealing himself through His Word, other books, sermons, and my kids.

Listen to the Kids

I may not have mentioned it yet to day, but our kids are awesomeness!  They provide great perspective and wisdom continually.

Yesterday, when I had the look of a stressed out mom, our oldest son said to me, "Mom, this is just like Soul Surfer.  When Bethany lost her arm and thought she had lost it all, she went to Thailand.  God gave her perspective in her situation.  Mom, you just need to check your perspective."

Oh my word!  Was that my precious child who just spoke these amazing words? Love Him!  The wisdom of youth is priceless!

I had lost perspective.  He guided me back on the path.

Last Thoughts...

When the Israelites were full of doubt in their weakness Moses reassured them,

"Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you;  you need only to be still."  Exodus 14:13-14

So, I will be still, or as The Message reads, "keep your mouth shut!"  God has a plan. He is the potter, I am the clay.  Sometimes this molding process can just be a bit uncomfortable.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Harvest Margaritas

The day before Thanksgiving I was cooking away and watching Food Network's Thanksgiving Live.  The show featured recipes and tips from Rachael Ray, Anne Burrell, Sunny Anderson, Melissa d'Arabian and Bobby Flay.  I was so inspired watching these professional chefs.  What a GREAT life they seem to have!

One recipe idea that sounded good also happened to be completely out of character for me.  It was a cocktail idea.  The cocktail conversation kept coming up on the program.  Maybe they were trying to sell cocktails.  Well, they succeeded!

Bobby Flay presented his recipe for Harvest Margaritas.  About 10 or so years ago I bought some Tequila for some event.  We still have it.  Does alcohol ever go bad? Hmmm....good question.  Anyway, we just keep moving it from house to house and it sits up in the cupboard waiting for a good idea.

I looked up his recipe online and headed to the store for the ingredients we didn't have.  Bitters.  What the heck is bitters?  After arriving at the grocery and wandering down the alcohol aisle I read just about EVERY label and did not see something that read "Bitters."  I then sought the expertise of the internet. Apparently bitters used to be added to most drinks.  Interesting, but what is it?  I never found it, so I would have to improvise.  I used a couple splashes of Triple Sec instead.

Another item the store was out of was whole allspice.  Must have been a run on whole allspice for the fall holidays.  Again, improvisation was necessary.  I would leave it out.

Here's Bobby's real recipe:

Bobby Flay's Harvest Margaritas (Almost)


  • 2 ounces tequila, such as Patron reposado tequila (I used whatever was in the cupboard)
  • 1 1/2 ounces chilled Spiced Simple Syrup, recipe follows
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Few dashes bitters (or Triple Sec like I used)
  • Ice
  • Lime wedge, for garnish
  • Kosher Salt


Combine the tequila, simple syrup, lime juice, bitters and ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10 seconds. Serve straight up or on the rocks with a lime wedge for garnish.

Spiced Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 8 whole cloves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
Combine the sugar, 1 cup water, allspice, cloves, cinnamon and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is completely melted. Remove from the heat and let steep for 1 hour. Strain into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold.

How did it turn out?

We were graciously invited to enjoy Thanksgiving with some friends.  Ahead of time, I made the simple syrup.  I brought my Harvest Margarita ingredients to share and get some professional opinions.  They margaritas were a HIT!  They are super strong, so each couple just shared one.  We must be a bunch of lightweights.  It was fun to try something new.

I will keep them in mind for the future.

Thanks Bobby, for the great idea.  Maybe next time I'll need to find out what in the world bitters are.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Where there's a will, there's a way!

Black Friday 2011 was a big day in our family!  It's a 2-post kind of day.  First, the happenings for the littlest member of our family.

I'll begin with a little history.  Two of our littles were pacifier binky boys.  We attached those little plugs to their shirts and they loved them for a couple years. The binkies  were great soothers and took care of whatever ailed a little peewee. Around the age of 2-3 they either accidentally spit them down the flushing toilet (oops, bye-bye binkie) or sucked them to the point of destruction.  Before we knew it, they were done with the pacifier.

This was not the case with our little princess.  She was blessed with two favorite fingers that soothed her endlessly.  There was no chance these precious little appendages would actually get flushed down the commode.  Within the last year we've gently encouraged her not to plug her mouth with her favorite fingers especially during the day.  The more she felt stressed about quitting, the more she sucked!  The skin on her pale little fingers was consistently shriveled like she'd been in a pool for days and we noticed they were looking a bit more crooked than the others having been held at an angle for years.

She really needed to quit, but I didn't want to stress her about it.  It would come in her time.  We're not big on bargaining with our kids.  She either would quit on her own, or not.

To be honest, I cherished her little finger sucking.  She's the youngest and when I'd look at her with those fingers in her mouth she looked liked the little baby I once knew.  She wants the world to see her as an independent big girl.  I think she'd gotten to the point where she didn't want people to know, but it's just too hard to quit.

Within the last year or so she set her mind on getting her ears pierced.  She talked about it all the time.  She would save her money and buy rhinestone-looking scrapbook embellishments and stick them to her earlobes.  I told her when I was her age, I'd twist up aluminum foil and make hoop earrings and wear them like real earrings.

She asked constantly about getting her ears pierced.  Our response was, "When you stop sucking your fingers..."  We figured it wouldn't happen in quite awhile.

If you know our girlie, you know she's a girlie with a mind of her own.

She wanted her ears pierced...BAD!

At some point, late summer, she all of the sudden quit sucking her fingers!

We couldn't believe it!

There are probably times in her sleep when they creep back in, but during the day is basically non-existent.

She was so excited!

Her daddy told her, if she could make it 30 days, she could get her ears pierced. The countdown began.

But, it was soccer season.

She easily made it through the 30 days, but then had to wait until the end of soccer since the girls aren't allowed to wear any jewelry during the game.

Soccer finished last weekend so today was our first free day to make the trip to Claire's.

Her daddy filled out all the paperwork.  She picked out her birthstone earrings.  She was beaming!  She was so excited, but yet so nervous!  The two sales gals who were helping us had more hair color variations than I could count.  There was turquoise, red, pink, and maybe a little brown mixed in.  They had multiple piercings including ear discs, nose rings, and feathers hanging from the cartilage of the ear.  They were so patient and kind to us.

A little girl about 4-5 years old noticed my girlie in the chair, looking hesitant.  She told her daddy she wanted to come in to encourage our girlie.  She came in to say, "Be Brave."  How precious!

We took photos.  Then before it happened, she jumped out of the chair and said, "I'm not doing it.  Let's leave."

This is the "I'm pretty nervous" face.

Okay Mom, I'll smile for you!

With my dad beside me, I can do this.

Okay, I'm not sure about this again.

My stomach feels sick.  I'm ready to run!

I wasn't expecting that.

What to do now?

We talked about it and after a couple moments, she once again climbed back in the chair.

Back in, and ready to go.

Hair pinned back and the dots are marked where the earrings will soon be.

I love her!

Uh oh, the reality is sinking in again.

We opted for the double piercing so both piercings would happen at the same time.

It was SO fast I think my girlie was surprised.  Before she knew it, it was done.

Wow!  It's done, and she's smiling!

So proud of her new bling!

Her little lobes looked pretty red, but still as cute as ever.

Look at those little red lobes!
She looked in the mirror and the pride of facing her fears and seeing a dream come true was written all over  her little face.

A Big Girlie!
The rest of the day she's been flicking her hair around and displaying her shining bling.

What a girlie!

Love her!

Butter Pie Crust Dough

Butter Pie Crust Dough
from Bon Appetit/Epicurious
Makes one 9-inch pie crust.

Single crust recipe.  For a double crust, double the following:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until coarse meal forms. Add 3 tablespoons water. Using on/off turns, blend just until moist clumps form, adding more water by 1/2 tablespoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 1 hour. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)

Cranberry-Ribbon Apple Pie

When I think of fall, visions of apple trees and pumpkin patches come to mind. Here are some photo memories of a trip we took to an apple farm/pumpkin patch in 2008.

Now this is a pumpkin patch

And every great pumpkin patch has a enormous corn maze

circa ~2008

Pumpkins and Apples- Fabulous Harvest

There are so many delectable apple and pumpkin recipes to choose from where does one begin?  In the last many years, I've come to appreciate Bon Appetit recipes.  I can honestly say, everything I've ever made from Bon Appetit turns out great.  My aunt is a long-time Bon Appetit subscriber and amazing cook.  She's saved all her magazines and I'm sure has quite the collection stashed away.

For our Thanksgiving gathering this year I chose to make Bon Appetit's Cranberry-Ribbon Apple Pie.  The crust is great and the pie was a crowd-pleaser.

Cranberry-Ribbon Apple Pie


1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup 100% cranberry juice (I didn't have the juice on hand, 1/2 cup water worked fine)
2 cups cranberries (fresh)

2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 3/4 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Butter Pie Crust Dough disks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon milk
Cinnamon/Sugar mixture

Vanilla Ice Cream

Stir 3/4 cups sugar and juice in saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add cranberries; bring to simmer.  Reduce heat; simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 25 minutes.  Cool.  (This can be made ahead of time and chilled).

Toss all apples, flour, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and sugar in large bowl to blend.

Apple Mixture

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out 1 dough disk.  I roll out between two sheets parchment paper.  Transfer to 9-inch deep dish pie plate.  Trim overhang, if necessary, to 1-inch.

Pie Crust

Pie crust Recipe

Spread cranberry mixture over crust bottom.   Top with apple mixture;  dot with butter.  Roll out second dough disk; drape over apples.  Trim, if necessary.  Press crust edges together to seal; crimp.  Cut 1-inch hole in center (I cut slits in top- for steam release).  Brush crust with milk.  Mix 1 tablespoon sugar and pinch of cinnamon tin small bowl; sprinkle over crust.

Bake pie 15 minutes at 400 degrees; reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake until crust is golden, about 50 minutes.  You may need to place baking sheet under pie to catch juices that may bubble out.  Also, if top of pie is golden and about 40 minutes, you can cover with foil to prevent further darkening.  Transfer to rack; cool at least 2 hours (unless your family demands to eat it while warm).  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mini Sweet Potato Streusel Tarts

A number of years ago I came across this recipe from Cooking Light.  I don't care for pumpkin pie, but this little treat is my pumpkin pie substitute.  These little tarts are bite size so if you're watching portions, enjoy one and then call it quits.  They are a bit time consuming to prepare, but I think they're definitely worth the effort. It's best if you have a mini-muffin pan to make them in.  I also have a wooden tart tamper/ mini-tart shaper.  Mine was from Pampered Chef, but I saw them online for about $4.  Since I only make them once a year for Thanksgiving, the time spent making them is actually relaxing and they're so adorable I can barely stand it!

Sweet Potato Streusel Tarts
from Cooking Light

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (I don't use the vegetable shortening.  I end up just using 4 tablespoons butter)
3 tablespoons ice water
Cooking Spray

1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/4 cup evaporated milk

2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans (or other nut)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Before beginning, prepare sweet potatoes.  Peel, cube, and boil sweet potato until softened.

Peel, cube, cover sweet potato with water and boil until softened.

Done; ready to mash

Ready for filling
To prepare crust, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife.  Place the flour, granulated sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in food processor; pulse 2 times or until combined.  Add 2 tablespoons butter and shortening, and pulse 4 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal.  With processor on, add ice water through food chute, 1 tablespoon at a time, processing just until combined (Do not let it form a ball).  Shape mixture into a 6-inch log; wrap in plastic wrap coated with cooking spray.  Freeze 30 minutes.

The worker


Add chilled butter


Resembling coarse meal

After chilling, shape the dough into 24 balls, and place 1 ball in each of 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray.  Press dough into the bottoms and up the sides of the muffin/tart cups.

I have these handy gadgets for these little tarts.  They make this project so easy!

Ready for filling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare the filling, place syrup and next 5 ingredients (syrup through egg) in a bowl;  beat with a mixer at medium speed for 1 minute or until well blended.  Add sweet potatoes and milk;  beat until well blended.  Spoon about 4 teaspoons filling into each muffin cup.

To prepare streusel, combine nuts and 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a small bowl; cut in 1 1/2 teaspoons butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Sprinkle streusel evenly over tarts;  bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook an additional 12 minutes or until filling is set.  Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack.  Run a knife around outside edges.  Remove tarts, and cool completely on wire rack.

Fresh out of the oven

Ready to serve

Try to just have one!