Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Top 5 ways to Spruce up your Thanksgiving

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 
Thessalonians 5:18

I know that everyone is talking about this crazy Black Friday stuff starting on Thanksgiving day this year...and I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents.  It is messed up.  I know Thanksgiving is not as awesome as Christmas, but really people...this is getting ridiculous.  Each year I feel like we keep pushing Thanksgiving farther and farther down the totem poll, and soon it may not even exist!  Maybe Thanksgiving is considered lame because most people think it is just about a turkey, just like they think Christmas is about Santa and presents...and let's face it...a whole day dedicated to a large bird or fat old man...yeah - that is lame.  Nobody wants to invest time and energy into something as non substantial as that.

Is it really asking too much of us to take some time and be thankful, grateful, and count your blessings?  In scripture there are so many quotes about giving thanks and praise to God for the things you do have, that it is obvious how much God wants us to have a spirit of Thanksgiving in our lives.  It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the chaos of the weeks leading up to Christmas, and we really take for granted how awesome this chill time of Thanksgiving is and what a gift it is to us all.  Take the time to sit with your loved ones, be grateful for what you do have, thank God for all the blessings in your life, take a deep breath and just appreciate all around you with a full heart of Thanksgiving.

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." 
Colossians 3:15-17

Top 5 ways to Spruce up your Thanksgiving: 

1.  Don't be afraid to play around with your tried and true pie recipes.
One of my favorite pies is my apple cranberry pie - which came about when I was making apple pie and cranberry sauce at the same time and decided to throw some cranberries into my pie.  Boom - deliciousness!!!  Whatever your traditional apple pie is, throw in 1 cup of fresh cranberries (rinse and cut them in 1/2 first).  Adds a nice tang to your pie!

Also - instead of your traditional pumpkin pie - try shaking things up and making a gingersnap crust instead...I plan on making this one from Alton Brown this year!

2.  Get fancy with the crust designs.
Martha Stewart has a nice little slide show to give you some ideas

Also - get creative with this!  Look around your house and find something fun to stamp your crust with.  If you have crazy whisks lying around like a vinaigrette, twirl, ball, or dough whisk use those!  Have fun with it!

3.  Make homemade marshmallows for your sweet potato casserole recipe!  
Yeah, you heard me right!  I am trying this out myself - will let you know how it goes!  Going to use this smitten kitchen recipe - looks so yummy!

4.  Make your own Cranberry sauce - without refined sugar!
Not that the canned jellied stuff is gross - because honestly I love it...but making homemade cranberry sauce is just so divine!  This version doesn't even call for white sugar!!!!  Thanks to Pioneer Woman for this winner!

5.  Make a Leaf garland and have all your guests write something they are thankful for on each leaf.  Currently I am at work and my niece and I are working on this using random office supplies : )  OR you can make this really sweet "Give thanks" Banner....oh yeah, wicked awesome!

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!
Eat your heart out!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

People always say you can tell a lot about a person by their handshake.  Often I will shake someones hand and they will tell me I have a weak handshake, and that I need to be more firm in my grip.  Doesn't a firm handshake seem manly to you, and doesn't hand shaking in general seem to be such a masculine thing? Call me archaic, but whenever I meet someone new I have to resist the impulse to curtsy.  A curtsy just seems so much more lady like.  Of course I don't do this for 2 reasons: 1)  I am usually not wearing a skirt so I would would just be gripping the air which would be strange 2)  A curtsy now in days would just seem so out of place.  I am just waiting for the day when I slip up and curtsy to someone...of course I am sure it will be someone the Pope : )

Now Thanksgiving is upon us and my littlest brother is about to come home from boarding school for a week, and he loves all things cinnamon.   He called ahead to make sure this coffee cake was on the menu for breakfast everyday he was home, and if I could also send some back with him to school.  Yes, he loves it that much. : )  I posted a muffin version of this recipe a while back, but really it tastes so much better as a cake.  Also, the glaze really elevates the overall flavor of the cake.  If you have a brunch to go to, or a shower of some sort - this moist cake is always a crowd pleaser!

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
adapted from Ina Garten

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/4 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In mixing bowl cream butter and sugar with blender until light and fluffy -4-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time until well blended. Scrape down bowl.  Then blend in the vanilla and sour cream. Scrape down bowl and mix again.  Add dry ingredients to wet ones and mix just until combined.  Be sure not to over mix...this will toughen up your batter!!!!

Pour 1/2 the batter into a greased 9x13 pan or a large bunt pan. Sprinkle 1/2 streusel recipe over batter, cover with rest of batter and then the rest of the streusel. Bake 45-50 minutes. Until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely and drizzle with glaze.


1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional...I usually don't add the nuts because people here don't like them : )

Mix all ingredients together until combined and crumbly.  I mix mine in a mixer, but you can also use your fingers if you want.

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
Whisk together until smooth.  If mixture is too thick add a bit of milk to thin it out - just a little bit.

Make this cake, learn the art of proper curtsying from Shirley Temple, and Eat your heart out!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Doors, fear, and Peanut Butter Fudge Bars! Oh My!

"He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you." Psalm 91:4-8

You know when you are stuck at a crossroads in your life and people say don't worry - God will open doors for you?  Well what if there are no doors?  Just windows.  Or maybe there are no doors - and then all of a sudden there are 3 doors.  Or maybe there are 2 doors but the one you want to walk through is locked and you don't have a key?  Darn!  How do you know which door is the best door for your life?  Also, once you walk through one door you can never go back and choose the other door.  Or maybe the doors are invisible and you just keep running into them, but can't find the door handle?  Stupid doors.  Do you ever find yourselves paralyzed with fear of walking through either door so you just stand still - stuck in indecision?

Have you ever seen the movie "Strictly Ballroom"?  It is this quirky Australian movie about Ballroom dancing by Baz Luhrmann.  It really is a funny movie and I recommend seeing it!  Anywho -  the main character is this nerdy lady who dreams of being a ballroom dancer.  By a twist of fate she ends up being partnered with a professional dancer and becomes a really good dancer!  One of the lines from the movie is "A life lived in fear... is a life half lived."  Every time I am afraid of facing something I think about this girl who was a quiet, shy, nerdy chick who decided to suck it up and face her fears.  In the end she didn't regret it.  Even if she had failed miserably at least she could say she gave it her all.  Sometimes I forget this, and hesitate with making decisions.  Sometimes my fear of being laughed at, judged, or rejected holds me back and instead I do nothing.  How wonderful it would be if we could all accept ourselves where we are on our journeys and just dance without fear!

If I have learned anything over the many years I have walked upon this earth it is this.  It is always better to be moving in some direction rather than to not be moving at all.  Nothing will change if you stand still and don't do anything about it!  Now, this is not to discredit the importance of standing still every once in a while, taking a step back, and re analyzing the doors you are walking through.  This too is important - just don't get stuck standing in the same spot too long!  When this happens I feel like maybe you just need to turn around and consider a new door.

Personally I make the boldest moves and decisions when I know that there are people standing behind me and supporting me in these drastic moves.  Having someone who will help point you in the right direction and is in your corner is always encouraging!  Maybe you have those people in your life, and maybe you don't - but be reassured that God is always in your corner and he is always routing for your happiness and success!

Here is my second attempt at a video...please note - making cooking videos is so much more complicated to do than you think!  It is wicked long - so feel free to fast forward. : )  As always, I love hearing feedback - positive and negative!   Thanks Guys!

Peanut Butter Fudge Bar Recipe
from the recipe box in my head

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups Peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 TBSP butter
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 13x9 baking pan with parchment paper.
In large bowl cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugars and cream until smooth about 2 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.  Add the peanut butter, and mix to combine.  Scrape down bowl.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Scrap bowl.  Add the flour and baking soda.  Mix until just combined.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into lined pan and spread smooth.  Place in oven and bake 10 minutes until golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Meanwhile make the fudge filling.  Place chocolate chips, condensed milk, butter, and vanilla in large pan and mix over medium heat until chips are melted and mixture is smooth.  Be sure to keep a close watch as the mixture is thick and will burn easily.  Pour filling over partially baked dough.  Spread smooth and top with chunks of remaining batter.  Place in oven and bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.

*These bars freeze well, and also ship well.  They also taste really good. : )

"This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 

Be bold, don't live a half life, listen to this song, watch this video and make these scrumptious Peanut Butter Fudge Bars.

Eat your heart out,


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My favorite Cheeses!!!!

I figured it was a good time to talk about cheese as today marks the one year anniversary of my Papa leaving this earth.  During the last year of his life my Mom got him addicted to sharp cheeses as an after dinner snack.  So whenever we would visit him he would say, "Dagny doll, can you be an angel and slice me some thick chunks of that good cheese and bring them to me with some of those really crunchy crackers your Momma buys? And be sure they are nice big slices of cheese, not those thin ones."  I can't believe it has been a year already!  We all miss him more than words can say, but I know he is sitting in his lounge chair up in heaven asking a real angel to bring him some cheese!

Now, I don't eat cheese that much because it makes me feel sick - but every once in a while if I have a bad day I whip out a block of cheese and a chick flick and go to town!  Oh how I adore a good cheese!  You can be sure a party will be good when the cheese is divine.  If you are invited to our home for a dinner or a party you can pretty much count on us always have a cheese plate present...lucky you. : )

In my humble opinion a good cheese plate consists of the following things: something sweet, salty, sharp, crunchy, soft, and fruity.  Some cheese, some nuts, some jam (I recommend anything from my Friend's Jam Shop - Jam by Mags) some crackers or bread, and some fruit.  You won't find many smelly, super soft, or pungent cheeses in our fridge.  We like our cheeses clean, simple, and classic.

Now I know cheese cases at the grocery store can be overwhelming and intimidating, but really just dive in and sample everything!  Figure out what you like and start building a cheese repertoire.  Really, nothing makes you sound more sophisticated then if you know a lot about fancy cheeses.  Most grocery stores will let you sample as many of the cheeses as you want - so don't be afraid to ask!

7 Things you might not know about Cheese:

1)  There was a study recently done on whether or not eating cheese before you went to sleep caused nightmares.  Contrary to popular belief cheese does not cause nightmares, but instead helps promote restful sleep.

2)  The three countries that consume the most cheese are...wait for it...Greece, France, and Iceland.

3)  Lactose intolerance is most prominent in Asian cultures, since cheese is not present in most traditional Asian diets. 

4)  Did you know there is such a thing as "Moose cheese"?  Not too sure how I feel about that.

5)  Good cheese tastes the best when consumed at room temperature

 6)  Some ancient Roman houses had a special kitchen, called a careale, just for making insanely awesome is that?  My dream home will have a careale...and we will also eat cereal in it so it has two functions.

7)  Cheese dates way back to ancient Egypt.  Turns out when King Tut was walking like an Egyptian it was a signal to bring more cheese

Now that you know a little bit more about cheese, I will let you in on my secret list of favorite cheeses

1. Midnight Moon - this nutty cheese is a rich, creamy, semi-hard goat's milk cheese that is a rare treat to indulge in.  Ranging from $25-$35 / pound it makes for a special occasion treat. (FYI - most of my cheese knowledge comes from my older sister and her husband who have impeccable taste when it comes to good food.)

2.  Piave Stravecchio - this cheese is similar to Parmesan in texture but with a stronger sharpness to it.  This is a semi-affordable cheese, and tastes great on any cheese platter.

3.  Sharp Cheddar - plain cheddar doesn't stand a chance standing next to a sharp cheddar.  So good, you just have to keep eating it!  My favorite kind of cheddar is Cabot's Vermont Sharp Cheddar.  Make a grilled cheese with this baby and some nice crusty bread alongside a hot soup and a glimpse of heaven you will see.

4.  Brie- My Dad is old school and always comes back from the grocery store with brie.  I personally enjoy a good brie, but only when paired with a nice jam or fruit.  My absolute favorite way to eat brie is baked and topped with cranberry sauce...check out this recipe for a super easy appetizer.

5.  Gouda - This is a semi-hard cheese with a light flavor.  A good cheese to snack on in between eating the stronger flavored ones.  This cheese is also featured in one of my family's favorite movies, She's the Man, as a pick up line..."Do you like cheese?" "Why yes I do, my favorites gouda."

Also - If you do prefer the stronger flavored cheeses and your taste buds are a little overwhelmed - be sure to snack on some frozen grapes in between cheeses to cleanse your pallet.

Eat some cheese, pray for the soul of my Papa, and hug or call your grandparents if they are still around!

Eat your heart out!