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Yesterday was a flop. Or was it?

September 19, 2011

The vegetables were not done enough. The apple crisp was too done (so the apples were almost like applesauce). I felt like I spent so much time on this meal, and then it wasn’t even turning out to be good!

But my family is just about the greatest family a person could ask for. We planned to have Sunday lunch with my brother and sister and their “significant others” (which equals a total of 6 people). In the middle of running around the kitchen preparing the meal, my other sister called saying that their lunch plans had been cancelled. She had enough food for another 6 people, so she and her husband and friend decided to add their meal to ours and join us for lunch. With an abundance of food, we extended an invite to my grandfather and a neighbor couple. This meant that we now had DOUBLED our number around the table.

It became very clear to me that this was about much more than my cooking. It was about these irreplaceable people. These people who not only graciously ate the imperfect food, but emitted so much joy and love that the time around the table became a time of laughter and encouragement.

Thanks to all who kept yesterday from being a flop. You’re the best.🙂

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Mom’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

May 9, 2011

As a child, I remember the last pieces of the my mom’s strawberry-rhubarb pie being fought over, because it was so good! With it being strawberry season now, my mom, sisters, husband and I all decided to go strawberry picking one morning recently. After half an hour, we had 6 gallons of strawberries! Later, as we were washing and hulling the strawberries, we all started talking about mom’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. Well, that was it! We were craving it so much that we decided it was worth making a trip to the store so we could make the pie that morning.

A day later, my husband was telling his family about the pie, since he had never had it before. Come to find out–some of them had never tried strawberry-rhubarb pie either! The conversation quickly turned to a request for me to make them a strawberry rhubarb pie so they could try it🙂

While I was not concerned about making the pie, I was very nervous about making the pie crust. I recently tried making empty pie shells for a refrigerated pie–and only 1 of 3 pie crusts turned out to be usable! So, as you can see, I was very nervous about that part. As my sister instructed me, I used all butter and kept it very cold while I blended the ingredients and then rolled it out. My sister also reminded me to fold the crust in half twice, so that it looks like this picture. This makes it much easier to transfer the crust without breaking it. Then I simply unfolded it–and wahlah! A beautiful crust!

I have to say, I’m sold on making baked pies as opposed to refrigerated pies, since the weight in the pie crust helps it to turn out without bubbling in the middle or cracking and falling apart! Isn’t this such a beautiful pie? The lattice top I made by rolling another crust out and then cutting it in about 2 inch slices with a crinkle cutter. It takes a little bit of strategy to make all of the pieces cross at the right place, but not impossible!!

Question for you, the reader: Have you ever used pie weights? I have heard of these, but never used them. Would they solve my difficulties with baking empty pie crusts?

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New and Improved-Our Garden, Year 2

May 9, 2011

Just over a week ago now, we got our plants in the ground for our garden! Last year was our first year to try a garden. It was a fun experiment, but this year we decided to improve upon what we started last year.

The first thing we decided to improve was to expand our garden about 8 feet in length. Then, you will notice the stakes and ropes around the perimeter of the garden. This was to help guide us as we terraced the garden, in order to make level sections instead of a sloped garden. I must admit, my husband and father-in-law deserve credit for the hard work they put into tilling and terracing the garden! My role was to pick out the weeds/grass that came up after tilling and bringing the men so cold water🙂 I was very grateful that they were willing to put so much work into our garden!

The second thing we decided to improve was the choice of plants that we will grow in our garden this year. A few things that worked well last year were tomatoes, pepper, cucumbers, zucchini and squash. In addition to those things, we also planted pole beans, watermelon, potatoes, and herbs (basil, cilantro and parsley). We also got more variety of each of the plants. For example, we are trying some heirloom tomatoes as well as ones called “Beefsteak, Carolina Gold, Pink Girl, Roma, Grape” and a few others. We are also trying banana peppers for the first time!

The third thing we decided to improve was our method of planting. After talking to some gardening friends of ours, we learned that it was good to put cow manure and lime in with our plants when we planted them. We also read up on how far apart to space the plants from each other and then mapped out our garden.

As we have planted our garden, I am anxious already to see our plants grow and bear fruit! As I go out to the garden every day, I look for signs of growth. Isn’t it amazing that these plants grow and bear fruit over a period of weeks and months? Yes, we may have pushed the dirt around, put in some fertilizer, and water the plants every day–but I can do nothing to actually make the plant grow! God does this incredible, miraculous work. I am humbled at His awesome power and sovereign control of all things.

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life is good. a simple recipe.

April 24, 2011

I received a new Betty Crocker recipe book for Christmas from my good friend and co-worker, Tanya. During our lunch break, She and I often exchange samples of recipes we’ve tried the night before. Somehow, most of these tend to be desserts🙂

From the cookbook Tanya gave me, “Ready, Set…Eat!,” we tried a recipe the other night called “Provolone Smothered Chicken.” The flavors in the 4 ingredients of the grill recipe complement each other so well! The ingredients are:
1. chicken breasts
2. tomatoes
3. provolone cheese
4. french bread.

Want to try it yourself? Here’s all we did! First, we marinated the chicken in italian dressing for 30 minutes. Then we grilled the chicken. Next we toasted the french bread on the grill while we topped each chicken breast with a slice of tomato and then provolone cheese. When the cheese is melted, assemble the chicken onto french bread slices–and there you have it! A gorgeous (not to mention scrumptious) open-faced sandwich!

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Corset Cookie Cutout!

January 23, 2011

I recently hosted my sister’s personal shower. What a blast! Talk about girls and lots of fun. One of my favorite things we did was decorate cookies that had been cut out as a corset! Aren’t they adorable? I have to admit. I actually did not make these myself. My friend who helped me host the shower had this cookie cutter and offered to make them.

Another friend of ours had the genius idea of leaving some of the cookies plain so that the guests could decorate them at the party! I thought that was a fabulous idea.  I had heard that you can actually buy icing already in a tube, so I went by Wal-Mart to check it out. Sure enough, there were tubes of icing there! Now you have to realize, 99 times out of 100, I would MUCH rather have homemade icing. I’m very leery of the artificial stuff. However, when crunch time came,  All I had to do was put my icing tips on those tubes, and wah-lah! Ready to go with zero mess! I bought a red, a pink, and a white tube of icing, and they worked beautifully. The girls really enjoyed getting to decorate their own cookies.

The cool thing about these corset cookies is that you could decorate them two different ways: 1) as a corset, or 2) as a little dress (if you turn it the opposite way). You can see in the picture that some of the girls were making very cute outfits the other way. Everyone loved it!

This was a very fun creative activity with little mess, due to the Wilton tubes of icing.🙂

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Holiday Cookies

January 23, 2011

Do you like gingerbread or sugar cookie cutouts better?

Five teacher friends and myself rolled, cut out, baked, and decorated a batch of each kind one night before Christmas break. What a good time we had! I would highly recommend hosting a fun evening like this. All I did was make a batch of sugar cookie dough and a batch of gingerbread dough the night before. Then, that afternoon before the girls came over, I made some white buttercream frosting. Then I set out the rolling pins, cookie cutters, and decorating sprinkles that I had. My friends brought some of their favorite cookie cutters and decorating toppings to add to the mix. I was excited about this, but not quite sure how it would all work out. Since I had never done it before, I was just hoping everyone would be able to participate and have fun.

But there was absolutely no need to worry, they were awesome. As soon as everyone got there, my friends each pitched in. Two people started rolling out the dough. Another couple of people started adding food coloring to different bowls of icing I had out. The others helped place them on the baking sheet. We all enjoyed laughing at the gingerbread men whose arms had to be stuck back on, etc.🙂

Ten minutes later, we had our first batch out! Once they were cool, some people were able to jump in to the decorating while others continued to cut out the cookies. My job was primarily to take the baking sheets back and forth from the table to the oven. Of course I enjoyed laughing as much as anybody else did though!

The decorating definitely seemed to be the favorite part for everyone. I couldn’t believe how creative everyone was! Don’t their cookies look so fun and creative? When we were through with the decorating, I let the girls each take a plate of cookies with them to enjoy. They had worked hard for those cookies!

Once this was all said and done, it was truly a creative mess.

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The Best Pumpkin Pie Alternative

November 21, 2010

My all time favorite Thanksgiving dessert is my mom’s Pumpkin Roll. It is a pumpkin cake rolled with a cream cheese and powdered sugar filling. We had this today after our family Thanksgiving meal (before my sister takes off with her fiance for the holiday). Needless to say, I was saving room to have a nice big piece of the pumpkin roll!

I’ve heard many people say that they’ve always wanted to try to make a pumpkin roll, but they are intimidated by the fact that you have to roll the pumpkin cake after you bake it. Since my mom has done this many, many times over the years, I am going to share with you how she goes about rolling the pumpkin roll.

After baking, my mom immediately loosens and turns the cake onto prepared towel (put powdered sugar on both sides of clean hand towel). Then she carefully peels off wax paper and rolls up the cake and towel together, starting with the long edge. She cools the cake on a wire rack (or in refrigerator). When the cake is completely cooled, she carefully unrolls the cake, removes the towel and then spreads the cream cheese mixture over the cake and re-rolls!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving recipe? Please share your ideas! While tradition is fun, a novel recipe on the table always provides some excitement to the meal.