Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Perfect Cake for Christmas Day!

On Sunday afternoon, I was looking for something good to make for the church fellowship that night, and started flipping through my latest Taste of Home magazine.  This recipe for Peppermint Pound Cake caught my eye  . . . and was soon baking in my oven!  I think I'm about to have a pound cake recipe for every season!  :)

Peppermint Cream Pound Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened  (I only had salted butter, and it was fine.)

1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening (ugh!  I used coconut oil instead!  If you don't have that, I'd suggest using more butter!)

2 cups white sugar

6 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup finely crushed peppermint candies (or candy canes)

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening (or coconut oil!) and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in extracts. 

Combine flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture alternately with whipping cream. 

Fold in candies.

Transfer to a well-greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.


1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar

1 tsp unsalter butter, melted  (I used salted butter and omitted the 1/8 tsp salt.)

1/4 tsp vanilla (I substituted peppermint extract instead -- good choice!)

1/8 tsp salt

4 to 5 TBSP heavy whipping cream

crushed peppermint candies for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the confectioner's sugar, butter, peppermint extract and salt.  Stir in enough cream to achieve a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over cake.  Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies.  If possible, chill before serving.

Note:  My cake turned out a bit dry.  I may have overbaked it a bit, but I think next time I will put a bowl of water in the oven while baking, as per the instructions for the pumpkin pound cake.  I think this would take care of the problem.  Anyway, there wasn't much of it left after the Fellowship Meal . . . . so I'd say it was a good choice! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Do Weekends and Holidays Go By So Fast??

I can't tell you how much we enjoyed having Tiffany home for Thanksgiving Break (so thankful she is a teacher!~) and how much we treasured having Abby here with us, as well!  If only Ashlyn could have come home too . . .

The only problem is that the time FLEW BY way too fast!  We packed a lot in, but still there was so much more we wanted to do together.

Alan and Joe left right after church to take Abby home.  Actually, they just took Abby half-way home!  Not that they left her stranded -- they met her Mom at the halfway point and she took it from there!  :) 

(In case you're wondering, Matt quickly pulled the Santa Hat out of the van and put it on right before the picture!) 

After church, the rest of us ate dinner and helped Tiffany get her stuff together and out to her car, so she could get on the road, too.  Even though it was very difficult for her to say good-bye, she consoled herself with the fact that she will be back in just three weeks for a two-week Christmas break!!!  (Yes, one of the blessings of being a teacher!)  I took this picture of her in our front yard before she left, and it is probably one of my all-time Favorite Pictures of her!!  Isn't she beautiful???  (Inside and Out, I might add!!!)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Decorating for Christmas -- Family Style!

Saturday morning we set about to put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house for Christmas.  We couldn't do this without Tiffany -- who loves all things Christmas, and tries to convince all of us to do the same!!  :)  She not only sets the mood, but sets a plan in motion!!!

After Alan and Joe got the tree on its feet, it was time to start decorating.

Each child hung up their own ornament collection.

Then Joe put together a team and started "decking the halls!"

Before long, our house was looking very festive!!  Yep, Tiffany did it once again!!!  :)  She motivated everyone to work together and transform our house into a Christmas Cottage!  :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How to Get the Most Out of "Ole Tom"

Alternate Title:  5 Ways to Use Leftover Turkey

For the past several years, we have been roasting our Thanksgiving turkey in a 20-quart Rival Roaster Oven.  We have found that our turkey ends up being much moister that way, and it frees up the oven for baking the various side dishes, which is a huge advantage. 

After the meal, I just throw the carcass back into the roaster, add several cups of water, salt and pepper, a splash of vinegar, and some chunks of carrots, celery and onion.  Then, I let it simmer over night.  The next day, I sift through the bones, picking out the meat, and then I strain the broth and put into jars and refrigerate or freeze.  Then I have my own stash of nutritious broth to use in recipes.

I love having leftover turkey.  I don't think it is possible to have too much!   You don't have to use it all right away -- just package it up in quart-size ziploc bags and use for any recipe for which you would normally use chicken.

Honestly, I rarely have much turkey left to freeze.  After we eat leftovers for a couple meals, and the guys have their customary turkey sandwiches, I make one or more of my favorite recipes with the leftover turkey pieces.  Here are 5 ideas for using your leftover turkey:

1.  Leftover Turkey and Dressing Casserole:

This is a simple variation for your Thanksgiving leftovers.  Get out a 9x13 baking dish and layer pieces of turkey on the bottom, followed by a layer of leftover stuffing/dressing, and then leftover mashed potatoes.  Finally, cover with any leftover gravy or turkey broth.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until heated through.  This is really yummy!  Serve with any leftover side dishes from the Main Event.

2.  Turkey Soup

I chop some onion and celery and maybe a bit of garlic and saute in a stick of butter in a large dutch oven.  Then, I fill the pot with turkey broth and throw in chopped turkey pieces and some veggies.  For veggies -- use a couple bags of frozen mixed vegetables, or frozen vegetable soup mix, or just dice some carrot and throw it in along with some frozen peas or whatever you have on hand. (Maybe some chopped up veggies leftover from Thanksgiving?)  Then, sprinkle in a bit of poultry seasoning or thyme.  Add rice or barley if you like, and let it simmer all day!  Very soothing and so good for you!

3.  Turkey Hash

This is one of our absolute favorites and I look forward to making it every year.  I posted the recipe for my Turkey Hash right after I started blogging, and you can find it here.

4.  Turkey Salad

Just chop up your turkey into little pieces (by hand or with a food processor) and mix with plenty of mayo, diced pickles, and some salt and pepper for a simple turkey salad.  Or, for a really delicious turkey salad, try this recipe for Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad.  Just substitute turkey for the chicken. This is soooo yummy!!

5.  Turkey Pot Pie

Here is an easy recipe for Turkey (or Ham) Pie that came from a caterer in our church in Albany. This is a tasty, southern dish:

chopped turkey (or ham)
boiled eggs (about 3)
peas or mixed veggies (optional)
cream of celery soup
1 1/2 cups of turkey (or chicken) broth
1/2 stick butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
3 TBSP mayonnaise
1/4 tsp salt, pepper

Cover bottom of 9x13 pan with leftover chopped meat.  Add chopped or sliced boiled egg.
If using vegetables, add them on top of the meat and eggs.
Mix together soup and 1 cup broth.  Pour over all.
Combine butter, flour, milk, mayo and salt and pepper with 1/2 cup broth.  Pour over top of casserole.
Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

I think I'll make this simple dish for supper tonight, so if I remember, I'll come back here and add a picture.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Just a Few of the Things I am Thankful For this Thanksgiving

We are just So Blessed!!  Here are a few of the things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving:

* Faithful, hard-working husband of 27 years:

*  Crazy Family that has Fun Together:

*  Beautiful, talented, godly oldest daughter:

* with a Special Talent for making Delicious Apple and Pumpkin Pies from scratch!

* Sweet "adopted daughter" who loves God and our family (especially a certain young man!)

* Cozy home where we live, laugh and love:

* Abundance of Delicious, Wholesome Food:

* Ability to see, smell, and taste the blessings of Thanksgiving Day:

* Blessing of New Round Table:

* Friends and Familly Gathered around our Table:

* Verse haltingly read by little 8 year old who could not read at all this time last year:

* Safe and snuggly place to snooze once bellies are full:

* Blessings of the Lord! 

We rehearsed the blessings of the Lord before eating our Thanksgiving meal by going around the table and each reading a portion of Psalm 103.

PSALM 103 -- Praise for the LORD's Mercies

A Psalm of David.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
 Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
6 The LORD executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children's children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
19 The LORD has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the LORD, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
22 Bless the LORD, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guest Post: Seven Tips to Help You Get Organized for the Holidays

It is easy to get overwhelmed about all of the cleaning, de-cluttering, and cooking that need to be done as we prepare to host Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners, Parties and Open Houses.  Today I am offering a guest post by Kim Pittman, owner of Organize 4U, who has some ideas for Getting Organized for the Holidays. 

With the holidays just ahead of us, we look forward to spending time with family and friends. For some, just the thought of having guests in our home makes us a bit nervous because we feel all out of sorts and perhaps embarrassed at the condition of our house. As one who has made it a career to organize for others I try to communicate to my clients that you can’t fix in one hour or one day what has taken years to create, but you have to start digging out somewhere. So if you are feeling overwhelmed about having someone in your home…….hold on and find comfort in knowing you can do a few things to tidy up areas of your home so you will be able to relax and enjoy time with your company.

For most of us, entertaining involves a meal and with that thought in mind I would like to offer a few tips on how to tidy up your kitchen.

Tip #1 "SIMPLIFY" is the key word to staying organized. One COMPLETE set of cookware should be sufficient. Clutter takes over when there are multiple sets of cookware.

Tip #2 Coffee mugs and plastic cups (that we get at ballgames, etc) can clutter up kitchen cabinets. Pick out your favorites....... keep it to a minimum and get rid of the rest!

Tip #3 If you really want to SIMPLIFY things in your kitchen then don't clutter it up with so many cleaning products! Buy what works and use what works! If you are not using (or do not plan to use) the cleaning products currently under your kitchen sink.........THROW THEM AWAY------TODAY!

Tip #4 Having a clear container to store cereal serves two purposes. First, we are able to see if the box is empty or full. Second, it keeps cereal fresh in the event that you have someone at your house that has a problem with not closing up the box! :>)

Tip #5 GROUP LIKE ITEMS in the pantry. (Soups, Vegetables, Cereal, Pasta, Baking Items, Paper Items, etc)

Tip #6 Sam's can be a great way to stock your pantry BUT only if your pantry is big enough to accommodate buying in bulk. Over buying can cause clutter! :>)

Tip #7 The best way to create more space in your pantry is to add extra shelves. More narrow shelves for canned goods is a great way to add more space. Stacking canned goods is never a good idea.

For more organizing tips, check me out on facebook at Organize 4U.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our "Shopping" Experience

Don't you hate it when you are shopping for something specific that you need, and you just can't find it???  You go from store to store, hopeful as you enter each one that it will contain "the perfect dress" or shoes or gift or whatever you are looking for, only to leave it a short time later feeling disappointed, frustrated, weary, and eventually Discouraged over your lack of success.

We have been shopping every weekend for the same item -- and have found it quite difficult to find the one we are looking for.  We have tried several on for size,  but it is challenging to find one that is just the right fit. 

The object of our search?  A new church home. 

I think looking for the elusive "perfect church" is always a challenge.  Because we were members of a church that was pretty close to Ideal once before, it makes the search that much harder.  We still tend to compare every church we visit back to that one.

So, we are church shopping (not to be confused with church hopping!) these days.  You know the routine -- every Sunday a different church -- looking for an unobtrusive place to park the ginormous white van with 12 fishes on the back, the awkward feeling of having all eyes on you as you enter and look for a pew long enough to hold the whole family, answering all the same questions about whether you are new to the area, whether that pew full of children "are all yours," etc.  And then there is the even more awkward feeling of having no one talk to you or ask you any of those familiar questions at all, but to simply ignore the fact that there is a strange family sitting in front of them in church.  (Perhaps they were just "put out" because we actually had the nerve to sit in their pew!)

With each church, we enter eager and hopeful . . . and with most, we leave disappointed, frustrated, or heavy-hearted.   We left one church with pounding headaches and ringing ears, and felt almost defiled, as if we had just spent the past hour and half at a blaring rock concert!!!   :(   We have left other churches with mixed emotions, liking some aspects and disagreeing with other aspects of their worship service.  Sadly, we have left some churches with just a sense of lethargy, the service having been nothing but a prelude to our afternoon naps.  (What a reminder of why God calls a lukewarm church nauseating!  See Revelation 3:16.) 

Finally, this past Sunday, we actually left a church feeling Hopeful!  It seemed a most unlikely candidate -- a very modest church building with no stained glass windows, no chandeliers, no choir loft, no fancy fellowship hall, or any of the other adornments we are used to, but just a very humble building (by American standards) with a simple group of believers that seemed intent on actually worshiping and serving God with their whole hearts!  It was a profound reminder that the church is not the building at all -- but the people -- the body of Christ!

If there was one word I would use to describe this church it would be "Real."  We aren't interested in going to church just to mark it off our To Do Lists, to impress others or to appease our consciences.  If all we are going to do is "play church," we might as well stay home.

I am reminded of this thought-provoking post by a Christian author of children's books that I used to worship with in days gone by.  She tackles the difficult issue of why we should go to church in the first place.  The answer might just surprise you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

How Would You Use This Space?

One of the challenging aspects of moving is that you don't just take your stuff out of its location in one house and deposit it in the identical spot in another house.  Every house is arranged differently: each offers different organizational challenges to overcome.

One of the unique challenges in this house centered around the previous residents' fascination with the "fruit of the vine!"  They had turned the pantry into a wine cellar (with no shelves!) and had a wet bar area in the kitchen complete with a wine cooler that features different temperature settings for white or red wine!!!  They were obviously real connesuers!

Since we are not drinkers of "adult beverages," these fancy features were totally wasted on us!!   So, my dilemma was how to creatively redeem that space and make it work for us.  How would you have used this space??? 

Obviously, we didn't waste a lot of brain cells on the wine cellar.  With a little bit of money and effort, my husband and oldest son turned it back into a pantry, which I quickly filled with the food!

But what about the wet bar area??  After much thought, this is what I decided on:

I turned the "wine bar" into a "coffee bar!"  I bought two glass cannisters at Ross to store my coffee beans -- one for regular coffee and one for decaf.  Then, I have my coffee grinder, cream and sugar set, etc. all set up there ready for "the daily grind."  The wine cooler??  It is now a convenient creamer cooler, plus it houses my husband's diet coke stash!  :)

What do you think?  Is this a good use of this space??

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sunset at the Marina

We went over to the marina this evening and while the boys played football on a big, grassy field there, Hannah took these incredible pictures with my camera!   Pretty impressive, huh??

Disclaimer:  I am in no way trying to copy or compete with my friend Donna  G -- who posts the most gorgeous pictures of sunsets almost daily on her blog, and who recently posted some outstanding pictures taken by her daughter, Graham.

Not only can this girl make biscuits . . . she can also take pictures!~! 
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