Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the Old...

In with the New!  
Well as this year quickly comes to an end it is a great time to reflect on the past months and think about how blessed we have been in 2013. John and I have been blessed with good health, and even though we are not rich we have so much more than we need. We have a warm home with beds to sleep in, food to eat, and clothes to keep us warm. We are blessed that our parents who are 76, 84, and 85 haven't had any major medical problems this past year, and are doing fairly well considering their ages. We are blessed that our youngest child graduated with honors from college and we had the resources to help her accomplish that, and our son is doing great in his career and is contemplating going back to school for his masters. We are blessed to have such good friends and neighbors and are able to enjoy community and fellowship with them.  We are blessed that John still has a job even with the rocky economy.  We are blessed that our faith is strong, and have a Heavenly Father that loves us... we are truly blessed.

"But blessed is the one who trust in the Lord, who's confidence is in Him.  They will be like a tree planted in the water that sends it roots by the stream, it does not fear when heat comes; it's leaves are always green.  It has no worry of drought and never fails to bear fruit." ~Jeremiah 17:7-8



As the year closes, many people make resolutions for the New Year. I am not a real good resolution maker, I usually fail at them by the end of the first day and then feel guilty for a month after :(. So instead of making a New Years resolution, many years ago I decided to make one resolution to myself, a resolution... not to make a resolution that I knew I would eventually fall short of, but instead say a prayer and give the New Year to the Lord.  I usually just pray, offering myself into His hands and asking for the guidance to accomplish the things that are laid in my path in the New Year and try to rely on Him to help me accomplish new goals and challenges,  and help me to see changes that need to be made in my life or things I need to work towards.  I also pray for my family and friends, and leave the resolutions in God's hands and try to give that ultimate control to Him.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Phillipians 4:6



The New Year is an exciting time... it leaves you with the feelings of new beginnings and leaving old things in the past. Most resolutions people make are about working toward more positive goals in our lives... working on bad relationships, jobs or health. It is amazing how many weight loss and exercise equipment ads are on TV this time of year! Almost everyone vows to get into shape, eat better and exercise, and usually after all the goodies we consume over the holiday season, it is a great time to begin! 


May He give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed. 
~ Psalms 20:4



John and I decided about 2 years ago to live a healthier lifestyle. We decided to eat better, exercise more, and get enough rest. I decided to join Weight Watchers and although John did not go with me to meetings, did it alongside me.  We both lost a considerable amount of weight and also because we walk 2 1/2 miles almost every evening started feeling great.  We sleep better, and have a lot more energy, and a lot fewer aches and pains.


For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jeremiah 29:11 



Of course like everything, it is a lot of work, and we back slide at times, and since colder weather is upon us and our roads are a bit slippery, we have not been walking as much. Also, because of the holidays, I have been making and blogging some not so healthy recipes!  We understand that we can eat just about anything we want, but in moderation, but the holidays seem to be a little more challenging with parties, eating out with friends, and holiday baking.  I actually do better when I journal, or use a food log to keep myself accountable and with the holidays, I have not been keeping up with that... so like everyone else, now is the time to pull it in, and get it together!


Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. ~Psalms 34:8


In the new year, am hoping to revisit some of our favorite healthier recipes, and tips for weight loss and share some other great ideas from friends and family who are also working toward healthy goals that can help us all physically, mentally, and spiritually! For me personally, it is not so much a "resolution" but a "re-dedication" to myself and my family to live a healthy lifestyle... I do want to be around someday to enjoy my Grandbabies!


For I command you today to love your Lord God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. ~Deuteronomy 30:16


Along with some great new recipes I want to explore I am hoping to begin some few fun projects. For those of you that know me, you know I love to take something old, and make it new again!  I have some great furniture pieces that I want to re-work and some fun craft projects to try! 


To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness, and holiness. ~Ephesians 4:22-24



I also want to impact my world with simple kindness.  One of my prayers is that I can at least touch one person each week in 2014 with something special. A card, a note, a kind word, a phone call, a meal, or something else the Lord lays at my feet that a friend, or a stranger is in need of. Just think, at one person a week I could touch the lives of 52 people with Gods love, even if it is only in some small way... can you imagine if we each made that commitment how it would impact the world around us! 




Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and the greatest commandment.  And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. ~Matthew 22:37-39


But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Against such things there is no law. ~Galatians 5:22-23

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in it's various forms." ~1 Peter 4:10



I would love to hear what your resolutions, and prayers for the New Year are.  What goals or things do you hope to accomplish and how you plan on getting there?  If you need a friend or a listening ear, or just someone to pray for you or with you, I would love to help, all you need to do is ask.


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore, i will hope in Him." 
~ Lamentations 3: 22-24 " 



My prayer for all of us as we enter 2014 is that it will be one filled with love, joy, and  a peace that reaches to the depths of our souls. That we will each feel the love of God in powerful ways, and have community with others who will hold is up in prayer and support us along our life's journey.  May this be a year that we all feel much love, and in turn love others well. That our hands and our hearts are open and that we grow in our personal faith, and are able to utilize the gifts God gave us. May we be generous with our resources, for we know that it all comes from God. May we all live better, healthier lives, get enough rest and exercise and in doing so we will be better servants and be able to do whatever it is that God lays before us. Let us not march to the beat of our own drum, or do what others expect of us, but rather march to the beat of our hearts and that which God has laid in us and for the purposes that He intends. In all this, may we draw closer to God and be filled with Him and in doing so, let it renew our minds, bodies, and  our souls... Amen!
  
Do not  conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to approve what Gods will is, His good, pleasing, and perfect will. ~Romans 12:2




Happy New Year!

With much hope for the New Year,
Sandy

Monday, December 30, 2013

Najo's Cheesecake


This Cherry Cheesecake recipe has been in my family for some years.  It used to be served in a cute little restaurant in the area and circulated around home cooks since I was young. My son John likes this dessert a lot and since it looks so Christmassy with the bright red cherries, I decided it would be a perfect dessert for Christmas Day.  It is an easy dessert that can be made ahead and kept in the fridge it is a perfect choice for the busy holiday! But it is not just for Christmas... Valentines Day is just around the corner and this would be great to make for your sweetheart!

Najo's Cheesecake
Crust
2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup butter softened

Mix all ingredients for the crust and pat into a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  Crumble crust while still warm and press back into pan.

Filling
1 pkg. 8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 small container cool whip thawed

Topping
2 cans cherry pie filling or homemade strawberry topping

Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together.  Fold in cool whip.  Pour on top of cooled crust.  Top with cherry pie filling and chill for 12 hours.

If you want to make fruit topping instead of using canned pie filling you can use 1 16 oz. package of frozen strawberries thaw drain and reserve juice. Thicken juice with 2 to 3 TBS. cornstarch and sugar to taste.  Cool and fold in strawberries.  Spread on filling in place of canned pie filling!

Cooks Notes - I think you could substitute any canned fruit pie filling for the cherry and I think it would be delicious... maybe we will try blueberry sometime!


Mix the ingredients for crust in medium size bowl


Place in a 9" x 13" baking dish


Press crust in pan, I use a baggie over my hand


Bake crust in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes


Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar, an vanilla until smooth


Gently fold in cool whip


I used 2 cans of cherry pie filling but you could use any flavor, 
or make your own with fruit


Break up warm crust and repress in bottom of pan


After crust is cooled completely, spread cream cheese mixture and top with pie filling or fruit of your choice!

This is a pretty quick and easy dessert and would be great to take to a pot-luck dinner.

Sandy



Friday, December 27, 2013

Jalapeno Popper Dip!


This would be a great game day or New Years Eve party dip!  We served it on Christmas Eve, it was super easy to put together, and it got a three thumbs up!

Jalapeno Popper Dip
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayo
5 pieces of crispy cooked bacon cooked and crumbled (optional)
1 can of chopped jalapenos (or fresh if you choose)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Topping
1 1/2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 stick melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all the ingredients for the dip (except topping), and spread in to a 9 x 13 dish or other casserole dish of your choice.
In a medium size bowl combine the topping ingredients and place on top of dip in pan. Bake for 20 minutes then broil for 2-3 minutes until crackers are a little browned on top. Serve with crackers, tortillas, or pita chips!



Combine ingredients for dip except the topping


Spread mixture in baking dish


crush Ritz crackers in plastic bag, add Parmesan cheese and butter


I made this ahead and put it in the fridge til I was ready to assemble and bake
spread crackers on top of dip and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes until warm and bubbly and crackers are brown.  Brown up top even more by broiling for a few minutes before taking out of oven.


Serve with crackers, pita chips or tortilla chips for a tasty snack or 
appetizer at your next party!


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Twice Baked Potatoes!


We served these lovely twice baked potatoes on Christmas Day. We made them a day ahead and put them in the fridge before baking them the second time and they turned out fantastic! This was a great idea, and saved a lot of time. We were able to enjoy Christmas morning opening presents, drinking coffee, and spending time with our family instead of running around trying to get dinner ready! 

Twice Baked Potatoes
6 large baking potatoes
olive oil
coarse salt

Filling
1/3 cup half and half
6 TBS. butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. slat
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup shredded cheese, divided
4 oz. softened cream cheese
6 slices of bacon cooked crisp and crumbled, divided
1 bunch of green onions chopped, divided

Directions
Prepare potatoes by washing, drying and piercing skin with a knife in several spots. Brush potato with olive oil and coarse salt. Bake potatoes in preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour or until tender.  Take out of oven and allow to cool slightly.  Cut potatoes in half and gently scoop out centers making a potato boat, leaving a little to keep the skins firmer to hold filling.  Put the scoop centers in large bowl and mash with butter, salt, pepper, sour cream, and cream cheese. Whip with electric mixer until creamy.  Add 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, a little of the crumbled bacon and a little of the onions and stir to incorporate (leave some bacon, onions and cheese to sprinkle on top). Gently scoop filling back into potato boats.  Sprinkle with other 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, bacon and green onions.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes until warm and cheese is melted. 

Cooks Notes -  I made these the day before I planned to serve them, so I covered them with foil and put them in the fridge before baking the second time.  When ready to serve, pull them out of the fridge and let the chill come off, place in oven and bake for about 1/2 hour or until warm and bubbly! Enjoy! 

wash and scrub outside of baking potatoes.  Rub olive oil and coarse salt over the outside of the potato, and pierce skin with a knife a few times.  Lay on baking pan and bake in 350 degree oven for about an hour until tender.



When potatoes are tender, remove from oven and scoop out most of the centers, leaving a little so the skins stay firm (like a little boat).  My Sou Chef John helped with this step!


Place potato boats into a baking dish


Place the potatoes that you scooped out into a large bowl


Mash potatoes with butter, half and half (or milk), sour cream, cream cheese and salt and pepper to taste 


Whip until smooth like you are making mashed potatoes



Add chopped green onions 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and crumbled bacon


Place the potato mixture back into the potato skin.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese, bacon, and green onions, and bake in 375 degree oven until warm and cheese melts.  

We made them a day before serving so we covered with tin foil and placed in fridge, we pulled them out ahead of time to get the chill off and then baked.  It took a little longer because they were cold from being in the fridge but they turned out fantastic and saved time on Christmas Day!

These would be nice to serve at any special dinner... New Years Eve is coming up, maybe you should give them a try!

Sandy

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!.


Well friends, it is Christmas Eve and the day is almost here that we have been shopping, baking, crafting, and hopefully reflecting on.  It is time for family, friends, food and presents! It should also be a time of worship and reflection.  A time of celebration and thanksgiving. A time of love and peace.  A time filled with the love of Christ.  

As I sit here I am reminded of Christmases past, and think about our Christmas traditions. Almost every family has them, those special things we do every year around the holidays that our family looks forward too. Whether your holiday tradition it is taking the kids to cut down the family tree, seeing Santa in the parade, or reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve., they become treasured times with our friends and family that are etched in our memories forever.  

We have a few of those in our home, some have morphed a little since the kids are adults now, but even at that, some have stayed the same.  I am sure that my kids will create some of these for their own families someday, along with some of their own, and as our family grows we will need to be flexible and create new "traditions".  

One of our favorite things to do when the kids were younger was to make a Gingerbread house together.  I used to make a form by hot gluing a cardboard box in a house shape and then hot gluing graham crackers on the outside, sometimes it was pretty big!  We never ate the house we just used it as a decoration, but we had fun decorating it together.  With a little royal icing, and some candy set out in little bowls in the center of table we went to town decorating our own little Christmas masterpiece!  I am looking forward to doing this again someday with my grand kids!

On Christmas Eve., we celebrate with my side of the family, usually at my Mom's house early in the day, so the evening we are free to do our own thing.  We usually plan on going to one of our Christmas Eve. services at church either they have 3 4pm, 7pm or the 11pm candlelight service together as a family.  It is a beautiful, peaceful time to really reflect on the reason we celebrate, and puts Christ in the center of our Celebration were he needs to be. The music, the message, and gathering with family and friends is a wonderful time to relax and really soak in the love and the message of the season. 

When we come home from church, we get out some holiday appetizers and snacks we gather around the Christmas tree and let our kids open up a few gifts. These gifts are the same every year, and even as adults it is fun to carry on this tradition.

They each get some new PJ's that they usually put right on, and then they get to open a family gift which is usually a family Christmas movie that we can watch, or a game that we can play together.  Even though they know what the gifts are going to be I think there is something comforting and special about continuing traditions, and making those memories together.

This year will be a special time for us because Jessy's boyfriend Justin is the worship leader at Woodside church in Farmington. This year instead of going to our own church for the Christmas Eve. service, we will go to theirs because they will both be doing the music at the service. This should be a relaxing time of music, worship, prayer, and reflection together and we are really looking forward to it! Justin's family lives in California, and he won't be flying out to see them until later on Christmas Day, so we are excited that he will be able to join us in celebrating this year (I hope he likes his new jammies)! 

My prayer for you is that you are able to relax and enjoy this special time with your family and friends and enjoy your own family traditions and celebrations. If you don't have any special traditions, try creating some, you will be making memories that will be passed down for generations. 

If you have trusted in the One that was born in the manger so many years ago, my hope for you as you celebrate our Saviors birth this Christmas, is that you may experience the peace and love that the season offers you. If you have not trusted in Him, my prayer for you is that you listen to what he has to offer... it is the greatest gift you will ever receive!

May the light of the manger, be with you all year. Many Christmas blessings from our family to yours.

Peace and Love,
Sandy



Monday, December 23, 2013

Chocolate Crinkles

These are an old fashioned cookie favorite that I remember my Mom and Aunt Janice making every year for the holidays.  I haven't personally made them in years, but recently when Jessy and I were Christmas shopping we decide to have lunch at a Panera Bread. After lunch we decide to get one of their big cookies from the bakery to split and decided to get one that looked delicious on one of their add boards... a chocolate crinkle. Unfortunately the line was too long so we skipped dessert but it made me crave chocolate crinkles, so we decide to add them to our holiday baking list.

Chocolate Crinkles
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 sq. unsweetened chocolate (4 oz.) melted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar (powdered)

Directions - Mix oil, melted chocolate, and granulated sugar.  Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed.  Add vanilla.  Stir in sifted flour, baking powder, and salt to oil mixture. Chill several hours or overnight (dough is a little sticky).  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Drop by teaspoonfuls of dough into powdered sugar and roll to coat and shape into balls. Place about 2" apart on greased baking sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Do not overbake! Makes about 6 doz. cookies.

I pulled out my vintage Betty Crocker cookie book and found the recipe.  It is a great recipe book, filled with all the classic cookie recipes that I remember having as a kid. I got my cookie book as a gift when I got married 26 years ago from my Mom and have been using it ever since!  She has one that is even older than mine, the pages are worn and yellowed with baking love :).  


I love my vintage Betty Crocker Cookie book!


My cookbook  has batter splatters and worn pages, 
and lots of happy baking memories!  It is filled with classic cookie
 favorites and even though now I use the internet a lot for new recipes to try, 
I love the classics that remind me of my childhood, and baking with my Mom!


I didn't have unsweetened baking chocolate but the back 
of my cocoa container tells how to make the equivalent of a 
1 oz. square of chocolate. This was a great substitution!

 

For a 1 oz. square of chocolate mix 3 TBS. Cocoa with 1 TBS. oil


Mix dough, chill really well, and roll in balls.  Dough will be a little sticky.
Roll in powdered sugar and place on cookie sheet to bake


Bake in a 350 degree oven for 


Yummy!


These are a great cookie for the chocoholic, they are a little crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside... make sure not to over bake!

These cookies make a great addition to our holiday cookie plates and it is one of those classic cookie treats that everyone remembers and loves.  These are the perfect cookie to serve up with a steaming mug of hot cocoa after some sledding or snowman making this winter!

Taking a trip down memory lane,
Sandy



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dipped Gingersnap Cookies

Run, run as fast as you can...
You can't catch me cause I'm the Gingerbread Man!


These are one of my favorite cookies, the recipe was given to my Mom by her neighbor Alyce Cue at least 15 years ago and I have been making these around the holidays ever since. They are a crispy cookie on the outside and a softish cookie on the inside, dipped in white chocolate for a beautiful presentation and a great cookie from the fall right through the Christmas season!  

The Cue family lived right behind us growing up and they had 4 children, her Daughter Carolyn and I were good friends growing up. Mrs. Cue was a really sweet lady, she loved to craft and cook. Our neighbors always had a multi-family garage bi-annually (spring and fall) and everyone would bring food to share to eat throughout the sale weekend, it was a really fun time. Mrs. Cue was a great home cook, and always brought delicious dishes and treats and was always willing to share her recipes with us, I don't think she would mind me sharing her recipe with you! I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do!

Dipped Gingersnap Cookies
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups flour
4 tsp. soda
1 Tbs. ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Additional Sugar
2 pkg. (12 oz. each) vanilla baking chips
1/4 cup shortening

Directions:  In mixing bowl combine sugar and oil and mix will.  Add eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.  Stir in molasses.  Combine dry ingredients and gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.  Shape into 3/4" balls and roll in sugar.  Place 2" apart on un-greased baking sheets.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until cookie springs back when pressed lightly. Melt chips with shortening in small saucepan over low heat (I do this in the microwave and follow package directions for melting). Dip cookies half way.  Shake off excess chocolate and place on waxed paper to harden.  Enjoy


Good tip... If you have time, when doing a lot of holiday baking,
mix up you dough the day before.  This will cut down on time, and you can
get right to the fun stuff.   Most cookie dough needs to chill a little anyway,
to make it easier to handle.  Sometimes it is good to get it out a little before
baking and set it on the counter at room temp. to let soften a little.


Get your dough and sugar ready in a bowl


Scoop dough out and form balls, dip in granulated sugar to coat


Lay sugar coated cookie balls on an un-greased cookie sheet


Bake cookies in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes


Dip 1/2 of cookie into melted white chocolate


Let chocolate harden, then store in an air tight container!

Last year I think we made gingerbread men, but if you like the taste of a ginger cookie and don't want to take the time to cut and decorate little men, these are a great alternative.  They look pretty, and taste great!  I hope you enjoy Mrs. Cue's Dipped Gingersnap cookies too!

Sandy