Monday, December 30, 2013

My Christmas Novel Pick This Year

   Although I have read fiction books written by male authors I tend to read primarily female authors. When I bought this year's fiction Christmas book I assumed the author was a woman. The author's name is T. Davis Bunn. That is how the name appears on the book jacket. T. Davis Bunn is a prolific male author. Who knew? Having written under the pen name Thomas Locke, I am guessing the T. may be for Thomas.... and not say... Tamara, Tracy, Tina or Teresa...... :-)  I believe he is now writing simply under, Davis Bunn. He has apparently written a number of historical fiction and legal thriller books. I am not so over the top for a "thriller" but I do enjoy legally plotted fiction and historical fiction. While this book takes place in current time, it revolves around the ending of World War II in, England. Those of you that know me know WWII from the British, particularly English, side is a topic of great interest to me.
   My pick this year for favorite Christmas fiction story is not a novella but a full length novel. I highly recommend this treasure and waiting for Christmas to read it is not necessary. The story revolves around a current Christmas and a Christmas gone by decades ago while hope, joy, giving of ourselves to others and love are at the heart of this story. The true meaning of Christmas is portrayed in this well written story but it could be enjoyed anytime. My pick this year is Tidings of Comfort & Joy, by T. Davis Bunn.

   Charles Dickens once said, "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." Giving gifts, appreciating and fellowshipping with and loving family and friends, looking back on good memories and blessings, having hope and great expectations for the future, singing songs of joy, even eating and enjoying the abundance we so easily take for granted are all a part of Christmas, and the Christmas season. While we may not experience those wonderful things in such a way throughout the year, we can experience the constant, unconditional and endless love of God and the Savior He sent that first “Christmas” morning. We can walk in the excitement, anticipation, hope, joy and love we celebrate at Christmas everyday of the year. That great, unmatchable Gift God gave us in His Son was intended to restore to mankind everything we lost in, Adam ~ once and for all that would receive His Gift. The promises and Covenant God gave man are shown at length throughout the Old Testament where the promises are made and the New Testament where they are established. If we choose to accept this gift from God we can enjoy forgiveness and right standing with God, eternal life with Him forever, and a life here on earth full of satisfaction, abundance of health, peace, protection, provision and prosperity in all areas of our life.  When the Christmas "season" comes we will truly have something to sing about, something to proclaim!

   If you have not accepted the gift of Jesus I would be happy to talk to you about it, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email through the "Drop me a line" gadget toward the top and on the right of this blog. Accepting this Gift of Jesus will give much more meaning to Christmas for you, and will give you the peace and purpose you long for.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Birthdays, Memories and Jesus!

   I have several grandchildren and the other day one of my grandsons called to say he hoped we were getting together for Christmas because it just would not be the same without me. How do you say HOTWIRE? Last summer I spent time with my daughter and her family. I was able to spend quality time with each of the children. At the end of my stay there my son~in~law thought it might be nice to go to the beach. Such good memories! I spent a day at the beach with this grandson. He, his sisters and I created a magical sand castle.

Our castle in the making. 

His birthday was a few weeks later. He, his mom, dad and sisters went on a Disney cruise with plenty of Caribbean sandy beach ports of call. I felt inspired to design and create this birthday card for him.

I loved creating a card that featured him framed as a piece of God's special artwork.

His birthday was the day on the cruise they were at Grand Caymen.

I love dolphins. I still have my Scholastic book on them from the Scholastic Book Club I bought in 1st or 2nd grade.

This is on my Bucket List.

He said the turtles at Grand Caymen Turtle Farm were his favorite thing. Some of them were as big as 500 pounds.

And there I was thinking the Queen of England was the only one with two grand birthday cakes with celebrations to follow.  See below at dinner.

As for the saints who are on the earth,
“They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”
Psalm 16:3

I made this for him when he was much younger. Given the way he celebrated his birthday perhaps an updated rendition of this card would have been more appropriate.

One of my favorite books.

   Just like birthdays of friends and family, we celebrate a very special birthday at Christmas. Christmas is when we celebrate the birthday of, Jesus. That is why it is such a wonderful time of the year. Yes, I am humming it. I am excited. Just like our earthy family and friends birthdays we are excited, we plan for this big birthday, we celebrate, have great food, a time of fellowship, have parties, give gifts, send cards, sing, and make precious and priceless memories.

   Jesus is the best gift ever and always will be. He is so precious to me and His love and being Lord of my life can never have a price tag on it, He paid it all for me. He paid it for everyone that will receive the precious gift of His love. I think of this everyday of the year, but this time of the year we celebrate it! How will you celebrate God's precious gift this year? What memories are you making with your family and friends? I would love to hear all about them. I enjoy the email I receive from readers.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Church Bake Sale and Peanut Butter Banana Date Bread

   I love to bake. I really enjoying cooking, always have, but I love to bake. I especially like it when someone enjoys what I have made. It makes whatever it took to get that baked worth it. Not to mention how much cheaper and more rewarding and fulfilling it is than therapy. :-) When I can bake to help further the Kingdom of God, all the better the blessing. Our Women's Ministry at church periodically will raise money for things like the school we have and missions. The Sunday before Thanksgiving after church we had a bake sale. I pulled out some card stock tags, ink and some stamps and got started.

These are the stamps used for tags on each item to sell.

Happy Thanksgiving 


Happy Thanksgiving with autumn leaves

Give Thanks

Tags done~ quick, easy and fun.

   Now it is on to baking. I am going to make No~Bake Cookies, Banana Oatmeal Muffins of which half will be topped with Maple Buttercream frosting and Peanut Butter Banana Date Bread.

   I do appreciate the money I can save shopping at Aldi's and I do like their products. Most of their products are as good and some better than high priced and name brand products at the traditional groceries. I have mentioned I do not like their soap or cleaning products, household or personal hygiene items. I have found another product I will not purchase again and threw out the entire can after I took the 1/3 cup out for the cookies and met the result with complete disaster. See that canister of "Baker's Corner Baking Cocoa"? I highly recommend you skip that one at Aldi's. The recipe for these cookies you will see on blue spiral tablet paper is from a project I did in fourth grade. I have used this recipe ever since and have made it the same way every time. For the last 15 years or so I have made them in the same pot. I have never had a batch turn out badly. I do not work in a cocoa kitchen of any kind but based on the outcome of the batch of cookies this baking cocoa produced they either pressed far too much of  the fat out of the cacao beans or added far too much alkalizing agent to it. My guess is they did both. I do enjoy Aldi's oatmeal almost everyday for breakfast and use it for all my recipes that call for oats or oatmeal. When I went to the grocery to get Hershey's Cocoa I also bought some Quaker Oats. That was probably not necessary but I had things to do on the Saturday I was baking and buying Quaker Oats just gave me a little peace of mind.
Aldi's Oats and Baking Cocoa

Tried and true Quaker Oats and Hershey's Cocoa.

This recipe I use was one I made in 4th grade for a class project.

That was back in the day where I folded everything :-)

No Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 stick real butter
1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups oats

Put first four ingredients in saucepan and bring to a medium boil for 4 minutes, 5 minutes is too much so take the pan off of the heat before 5 minutes. I usually let it boil for about 4 minutes.
Add vanilla.
Stir in oats until they are evenly distributed and drop on wax paper.


Let them cool while the other two recipes are made.
 Pale in color, dry, crumbly and slightly more tasty than artificially flavored cardboard. For comparison, these are from the batch made from the Aldi's cocoa which quickly made their way to the trash.

    Whip up two more items for the bake sale and I can package them up. Both recipes will call for ripened banana's and I had two that would work. I am making a double batch of both recipes which will call for a total of 10 bananas. So the eight that needed a little ripening are headed for some manufactured accelerated ripening.
These are just not ripe enough so in the oven they go for about 5-8 minutes on 350°.
They look like a mess, but they were perfect. I buy banana's, Jon eats them. So this is what I do. 

   The next recipe is Banana Oatmeal Muffins. Spark Recipes is full of fun and delicious healthy recipes. It is a cite worth perusing. Because their byline and purpose is to provide healthy recipes I was a little surprised to find one there that had 1/2 cup of shortening in its list of ingredients. This recipe in its original form does call for just that and you will see that if you opt to go to the original recipe. Originally this also called for chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. I only keep shortening around if I am doing a decorated cake that I must have pure white frosting for and can not use a pure buttercream which has a cream colored cast to it. So, I used 1/2 cup of butter instead of the shortening and I do not use the chocolate chips or walnuts in this particular banana muffin recipe. I like both individually or together in banana muffins, but the simple and wonderful flavor of this muffin is just too good to goober it up with other layers of flavor. Using oats in a recipe is a great way to add incredible texture and to bind and hold the ingredients together. When I discovered this recipe an entirely new world opened up for me in the world of baking. Pre~cooked oatmeal offers so much to this recipe. I would not put it in meatballs, but anywhere the oats are not needed for binding other ingredients together I am experimenting with pre~cooked oatmeal. Here is the original Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins on Spark Recipes.

   Below the photos is my rendition of that recipe and I call them just:   Banana Oatmeal Muffins.

Simple ingredients you most likely have at a any given time.

In recipes like this that add mashed banana's I use one bowl. I love to bake, not clean unnecessary dishes.

This recipe calls for sifting. I sift for all recipes with rare exception. Aerating the flour gives a nicer end result.

These are amazingly moist, rich and so full of simple flavor.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Makes 12 muffins
Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line muffin pan.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas
1 cup Cooked Oatmeal  (which is 1/2 cup of oats cooked in 1 cup water)
2 cups all~purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

If you are not using leftover oatmeal and are making it for this recipe; make the oatmeal first so it can cool before adding to batter.

In a large bowl cream together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Add banana’s and mash them, then add cooked and cooled oatmeal. Stir all together until nicely blended. Sift in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Spoon batter into prepared muffins cups filling to about 2/3 full. 

Bake 22-25 minutes, or until done. They will be golden around the edges and paler on top.

Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes then remove muffins from pan placing them back on cooling rack. Good served warm or cold.

   The next recipe will be a double batch of Peanut Butter Banana Date Bread.

Pampered Chef Measure~All® Cup

   Since there is no creaming of the ingredients in the Peanut Butter Banana Date Bread I have mashed bananas in advance rather than mashing them with the whole of the other ingredients. I don't want to overwork the quick bread dough by mashing them in the batter. I pause to show you this because this Pampered Chef Measure~All® Cup is great for butter, bananas, peanut butter, or any solid ingredient. If you turn the tool around and flip it over you will see that it measures liquid from the opposite end. I love NOT scraping food out of a measuring cup. You simply press the whole of the ingredient measured out with one gentle push. Happiness! 

   My father was a great cook, and if it were bread of some kind he loved to bake. He made the best Pepperoni Bread. It seemed to take forever with the rising time, but well worth the wait! Below is a cookbooklet published spring of 1985 and that is when I bought it. Thumbing through it I happened onto the Peanut Butter Banana Date Bread recipe. It was a quick bread and not a yeast bread, but because of the three mentioned ingredients I just knew dad would want to try it when I showed it to him. I knew being made with a mix wouldn't hinder his wanting to give it a go because quick breads, thought not the boxed ones, were really his thing. I made a mental note to put the cookbooklet in my purse so I would have it with me after church Sunday as the girls and I usually went to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Sunday dinner. Then it occurred to me ~ he's gone Teresa, he is not there. Dad died just a few months earlier in January that year. If you have ever lost someone you had very regular contact with, and loved as one does a parent, you understand I was not crazy for not remembering at that moment so soon after his passing that he was in fact, gone. So, suffice it to say this particular cookbooklet brings a tinge to my heart, a churn to my stomach and brief moment of heat to my eyes. That is why I like to use if for fun things, and I thought to bake a loaf or two of that bread for the church bake sale just seemed right.

The tag says, "tried & true".

Simple ingredients.

I do not want a full loaf sitting about the house so I made a little individual serving to split with Jon.

This would be where Emeril Lagasse's "smellavision" would be nice. Delightful aroma!

Once cool these little darlings can be wrapped for the bake sale.

Ours however are going to be eaten warm. 

Here is the recipe.

Peanut Butter Banana Date Bread

1 box Pillsbury Date or Nut Bread Mix  (I always use date.)
1 cup mashed bananas
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 egg
1 tablespoon wheat germ

Heat oven to 350°F. Using solid shortening grease and flour bottom only of 8X4 or 9X5 inch loaf pan. In large bowl, combine all ingredients except wheat germ; stir 50 to 75 strokes until dry particles are moistened. Pour into prepared pan; sprinkle with wheat germ.

Bake at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator. Makes 1 loaf.

You can use creamy or crunchy peanut butter, I use creamy for this bread. Like the photo suggests, I do spread peanut butter on this when I snack on it, I like and use the crunchy then. Fig preserves and orange marmalade age good choices, too. I use canola oil for the oil in the recipe. I rarely use shortening but I do to grease and flour this bread. This may not be tofu on spinach with a balsamic vinaigrette but I did give it the Healthy Eating label because overall for a snack it is not so bad, particularly if you are comparing it to "snack cakes", especially the store bought varieties.

The wrapping and packaging begins.

The flavor in these is rustic and simple, and they are so moist.  They are  perfect for Autumn.

3 cookies to a cup.


   I hope your Thanksgiving was full of all the people and things you are thankful for!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Light the fire, food fast and a movie.

  This is from a dinner we had a while back and I just never posted it. Jon had the day off and we ran errands and got things done, but it took up most of the day. By the time we returned home it was late in the evening. It was a dark and stormy night, no kidding. Rain, thunder, and lightening, everything I love in a perfect autumn night. Hot creamy soup, you know the comfort kind you would never dream of eating in warmer weather?, and warm bread were just what we wanted. It was already supper time so after a quick assessment of the time I wanted to spend and the ingredients I had on hand, I made my way to the basement and grabbed this little cookbook. 


I do not know how many of these little cookbooklets, is that a word???, I have but they take up nearly two feet of my cookbook shelf area. I have some amazing tried and truly great recipes in those pages. I am not swayed by just any of these, I really have picked and chosen a select few it's just that I have been at it for almost thirty years.  This one was published in, 1998.


   This gem I bought at a yard sale a long time ago. This cookbooklet is a little taller and wider than its more contemporary companions, but has the same quality of recipes in its pages. It was published in 1949.

$50,000.00  winning recipe for the Pillsbury's Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest held at the Waldorf~Astoria Hotel in New York City, December 13, 1949.

   I enjoy vintage recipes so much. While those $50,000.00 Nut Rolls are tremendous, there are equally wonderful recipes in that book. There are recipes that feature ginger such as Danish Ginger Roll, Ginger Tea Bread and Ginger Cake Apple Fluff. Ginger is not something you see as the predominant flavor in baked goods today like it was years ago. Gingerbread and maybe the odd Ginger Snap cookie recipe, but that's pretty much it unless you live in the Britain where Scones and Oaties do get to sport ginger. I love ginger and have made it a part of my baking. The other recipes in this book are very interesting and delicious as well.

Creamy Bacon~Spinach Soup is the entrée for this evening's supper.

   Here is the photo of the recipe for this evening's repast.  Since it may be a little frustrating to work off of the photo I will set it out below in a more workable format. This soup is very good as well as fast and easy to prepare. The next selection from this cookbooklet will be this next week and I am thinking it will be the Creamy Reuben Soup on page 28... yumminess right there!!

Eight simple ingredients. The pre~sliced mushrooms and bottled minced garlic are my version of "fast food".

50% Whole Wheat One~Hour bread ingredients for the bread machine. I would like to make the Whole Wheat dinner rolls dough, let the dough rise and then bake but tonight is food fast so one~hour bread it is.

Bacon cut and sautéing.

Spinach squeezed.

The leftover bacon and mushroom will reappear in an omelet for lunch tomorrow.

Bacon nearly done so mushrooms and garlic added.

Broth added. Only need to whisk flour into milk and stir into soup, stirring until thickened.

Bread done. Cool for ten minutes while I ladle soup and Jon starts the fire... 

...and pops a movie in.

No need for place settings because the fire is going, the movie is in and paused where it begins and it is supper by the fire.

Here are the recipes for both the soup and bread.

Creamy Bacon~Spinach Soup

6   slices bacon, cut into 1~inch pieces
1 1/2   cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4    cup chopped onion
1   garlic clove, minced
2 (14.5 oz)   cans ready to serve chicken broth   
1 (9 oz)   package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed to drain well
1 1/2   cups milk
6   tablespoons all purpose flour

In Dutch over, combine bacon, mushrooms, onion and garlic; cook over medium~high heat until bacon is cooked and vegetables are tender. Drain.

Add broth and spinach; simmer 5 minutes.

In small bowl, combine milk and flour; beat with wire whisk until well blended. Stir flour mixture into soup. Simmer until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly.

4 (1 1/2 cup) servings

50% Whole Wheat Bread

12 ounces, 1 1/2 cups   water, 115-125°
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons dry milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons 

Add ingredients to bread pan in order listed, making well in center of dry ingredients for yeast. Program for one~hour bread setting. Turn on. When done, turn off, unlock pan and remove with oven mitts. Shake bread out and allow to cool on rack before slicing.

   Just a little word here. This will make a two pound loaf so if your machine will not make two pound loaves you could halve the recipe, no promises on outcome though. Do not let the salt and yeast touch, it will kill the yeast. Making that well for the yeast is important. If you are using a one~hour feature the water temperature is crucial; too cold you won’t activate the yeast properly, too hot you will kill it. Either way you will get flat bread and not the nice little round loaves we buy to make wraps and lovely pizza pies. If you are tempted to use 100% Whole Wheat flour you need to use your "Whole Wheat" setting. Whole wheat has the entire wheat kernel which means all of the germ and bran are there. This makes for heavier bread that needs more time to rise. Use exact increments. I am not a stickler for exactness in a recipe, in fact I like to go outside the box and customize recipes. In a bread machine you really are better off sticking with the ingredient list and their increments though.

With a little cheese added the mushrooms and bacon provided a delicious omelet, some leftover bread made great toast.

   I hope you are enjoying your autumn. Autumn is quickly giving way to winter so enjoy every minute of it as we welcome a time for Thanksgiving.

   I am an avid soup fan and would love to see your soup, chowder, bisque, stew and chili recipes. It would be fun to organize a Bloggers baking and or cooking cook book, choose a cause and donate proceeds toward it with the funds. Any takers?