Monday, July 20, 2009

Perfect Butter Pecan Cookies

I must admit that I was not a big fan of butter pecan anything—until I made these cookies. I thought I'd give them a shot and see what happened (figuring I could give them all away if they really didn't turn out well). The first time I made them I HAD to give them away to keep from eating the whole batch. They are ridiculously simple (unless your name is Kristen) and are really quick to make. Let me know what you think.

Butter Pecan Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (the lowfat version works fine)
1 butter pecan cake mix

Mix all three ingredients together. The dough will be quite sticky, and that is OK. Place tablespoon sized balls on cookie sheet and smash to make flat (I know—that's really technical!). Cook at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy in moderation (if you can). :-)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: The I Believe Bunny

When I saw this book offered in the Thomas Nelson Blogging for Books program, I knew I had to request it for Kaelan, my 20-month-old daughter. She absolutely LOVES reading. The two phrases I hear all day are, "Momma, read it, please," and "Momma, hide." She will sit in her room and sort through her books, looking at the pictures and reading them to herself, or me. We seriously never make it through a day without at least 20 readings (or various books or the same book multiple times).

With all that reading, I want to make sure I'm providing quality literature for her (one of my quirks as a former elementary school teacher). I'm REALLY picky about the "feel" of a book—language and pictures or illustrations. Some books I keep in the pile because she really seems to enjoy them, but others I'll hide, hoping that she forgets we ever had them.

The I Believe Bunny falls in the middle for me. Honestly, I love the message portrayed throughout the book, but the quality of the language was a little sub par to me. The I Believe Bunny stresses relying on God, even when we think we might be too small, and trusting in Him to meet our every need. One rainy day, the bunny hears a mouse calling for help. He tries to help her by stretching out a stick, but falls short and is afraid she's going to drown. He prays for help and his friends show up to help fish the little mouse out just in time.

Tish Rabe, author of several Cat in the Hat books, does a good job of portraying the message throughout, but she does so through telling instead of showing. Even kids' books should leave some room for children to figure things out. The book does fall in line with her work from the Cat in the Hat books, though. For example, I wasn't impressed by Clam, I Am.

Overall, it was a good selection to add to our library. Kaelan enjoys reading it, and I'm definitely able to pull good insights from the book to share with her.

Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing

Since entering pregnancy I have a) been terrible at continuing to blog regularly and b) been craving cinnamon rolls like crazy. I wasn't thrilled with the outcome of previous batches because of both form and taste. I like a cinnamon roll that is gooey and cinnamoney (yes, that's a word) on the inside and oozing with icing on the outside. These cinnamon rolls hit the spot and the maple icing just adds to the "yum" factor. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have...and will continue to.

Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing

You need:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
For the filling:
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
For the icing:
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring
  • enough milk to make desired consistency (not much)

  1. Heat milk, water, and butter until warm (butter doesn't need to be completely melted). Add the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and add to the milk mixture. Mix well.
  2. Knead on floured surface for about 10 minutes and add more flour as needed to reduce stickiness. Return to greased bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled (about an hour). Punch down, and divide into 2 parts. On a floured surface, roll each part into a large rectangle. Smear each rectangle with the softened butter. Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle over the rectangles.
  3. Roll the dough up into two logs starting at the long side. Cut each log into 12 slices. Place the rolls cut side down into two 9x13 inch greased baking pans. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 30 minutes).
  4. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Combine the confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, maple flavoring, and milk. Frosting should be thick. Spread over baked rolls and enjoy. Yum!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor: Book Review

I must say, I haven't had much luck with my book choices (or the books others choose for me) lately, and I know I haven't been a great resource in helping you choose books to add to your reading list. For that, I'm extremely sorry. This will be the last book review for a while, so we only have one more bad book to share together...for now. But at least I'm honest, and I let you know when a book really isn't worth your time.

Let's start out with the summary. Evidently this book is part of a series, the Dragon Keeper Chronicles. In The Vanishing Sculptor, by Donita K. Paul, readers will meet Tipper, a young emerlindian (we'll talk about this later) who’s responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate during her sculptor father’s absence. Tipper soon discovers that her actions have unbalanced the whole foundation of her world, and she must act quickly to undo the calamitous threat. But how can she save her father and her world on her own? The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions–including the nearly five-foot tall parrot Beccaroon–and eventually witnesses the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder. Through Tipper’s story, readers will discover the beauty of knowing and serving God.

In the summary, The Vanishing Sculptor seems to have all the right elements for a successful plot--intriguing characters, mystery to draw you in, a fantasy world that adds to the drama and interest. However, when reading this book, I just wasn't drawn in. Not that I didn't want to be--I was REALLY looking for a book to love, but this wasn't the one. I made it through 4 chapters. I think the problem, for me, was that it moved too slowly. There wasn't enough to make me want to keep reading. I want the book to draw me along, teasing me with something that needs to be discovered each step of the way. That just didn't happen here. Am I being too demanding of my books? I don't think so. I only have so much time to devote to reading, and when I do give my time to something, I want to be rewarded for it. I don't want to feel like I'm in English 101, expecting a test at the end.

I think another turn-off for me in this book was the need for a glossary. I despise a book that requires a glossary. I don't mind if the author uses a made-up word in such a way that you understand it's meaning and then includes a glossary just in case you forget it's meaning later. I really mind it when the author uses a made-up word and offers no explanation in the text, requiring you to look it up while you're trying to get into the plot. No fun--back to English 101.

So, for me, this book was not a winner. If it sounds interesting to you, by all means, try it out in the local bookstore. But I'd suggest you read a little before you actually commit.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes: Book Review

So, lately with the book reviews, it's been kind of hit or miss. They've either been so bad I couldn't finish them or so good I couldn't put them down. Well, for me, Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes was middle of the road. I had no problem putting it down when I needed to go on to something else, but I did have enough motivation to actually finish the book. I know, I know. That doesn't tell you much, so let me go on.

When Summer gets the call that a mammogram has come back abnormal, she decides to do something for herself, for a change, and heads to Holland on a whim to see her lifelong pen pal, Noelle, in person for the first time. It turns out to be a visit that they both needed, and they have the time of their lives during her week long trip. It is a tale of unquestionable support and friendship, even through life's toughest challenges.

The message is one of learning to trust in God and the people He has placed in our lives as supporters. Both Summer and Noelle see God's hand shaping their paths as they travel through the country visiting the sites. It is a good story of the deep friendship that can form between two women, even though they are miles apart.

This book doesn't really fall into one of my favorite genres, but the heartwarming story kept me going. Now onto the next one. :-)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stealing Home and Saints in Limbo: Book Reviews

Stealing HomeWhen I looked at Stealing Home by Allison Pittman, I must say that I wasn't anxious to start it. I had just finished a book that I loved, and I was afraid of being disappointed by a dud. Not to mention the fact that it was about baseball (to some degree)--which I am not interested in at all. But since it was next on my list, I grudgingly picked it up and started in. I must say, by the end of the first chapter I was hooked. I read through the book in about 4 days, needing to find out what happened next. I am a sucker for a good love story, though. :-)

In 1905, Chicago Cubs baseball superstar Donald "Duke" Dennison is sent to Picksville, Missouri, to complete the end of his rehabilitation from alcoholism. He is staying with the father and sister of David Voyant, the sportswriter who exposed the truth of his disease, in a dry town away from the spotlight. Ellie Jane, David's sister, and Floyd, the town sheriff, take him in and try to help him adjust to small town life. Duke finds his own way when he starts a town baseball team, but before he heads back to Chicago, two drifters out for revenge take what doesn't belong to them.

The story comes from 4 different perspectives, Duke, Ellie Jane, Ned Clovis, who owns the local feed store and is in love with Ellie Jane, and Morris Bennett, a 12 year old Negro boy who finds he is a natural at baseball. I really enjoyed the unique perspective of each character. Definitely a good read!

Saints in LimboI was not on a roll, however, with the attention grabbers. I know that Saints in Limbo by River Jordan comes highly acclaimed and has already received the positive attention of readers and critics alike, however, I could only make myself read the first eight chapters...and that was pushing it. I guess I kept hoping that it would get better and really draw me in, but it didn't, and I wasn't.

To be fair, here is the summary:
Ever since her husband Joe died, Velma True’s world has been limited to what she can see while clinging to one of the multicolored threads tied to the porch railing of her home outside Echo, Florida.

When a mysterious stranger appears at her door on her birthday and presents Velma with a special gift, she is rattled by the object’s ability to take her into her memories–a place where Joe still lives, her son Rudy is still young, unaffected by the world’s hardness, and the beginning is closer than the end. As secrets old and new come to light, Velma wonders if it’s possible to
be unmoored from the past’s deep roots and find a reason to hope again.

I guess it just wasn't the type of story that I'm really sucked into. I don't know what was really missing. Maybe it sounds like it is right up your ally. If it does, and you read it, let me know how it ends, because I know I won't be sticking around long enough to find out. :-)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Night Watchman: Book Review

When I sit down to read a book, I want that book to draw me into the story from the first page. I don't want to have to suffer through a chapter or two before I really get hooked in the plot. It has been a while since I've read a book like this...a long while. That's why I was so excited to read The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir. From the first page I was hooked. I read the 300+ page book in only a few days (which says a lot considering my limited reading time).

The book tells of policeman, Ray Quinn, who was forced into early retirement after a shooting that crippled him and killed his partner, Trisha. Feeling sorry for himself, he struggles through life searching for the reason he was left and his partner was not. When a murder-suicide of a pastor and dancer takes place at the condos he guards by night, he is drawn into investigation again by the suspected murderer's sister, needing help to clear her brother's name. After several twists and turns, and an action-packed plot, he finds that this case and his own shooting may be tied together.

I am a big fan of NCIS, and this book was right up my ally. It gives hints and leads, but you never really know the truth of the outcome until the end of the book. I like it when I can't guess the guilty party. This is definitely one to add to the nightstand pile! I loved it!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hero: Book Review

HeroI'm really excited to offer a guest post by my amazing, talented husband, John UpChurch. Hero, by Fred and Jasen Stoeker, was more along the lines of a "guy's book" so I decided to turn this one over to him. If you're interested in seeing more of John's writing, head over to More Novel by the Week for writing tips and tricks from an editor or check out his website. Enjoy!!

Salvation brought disillusionment. With no one to blame but myself, I had the mistaken belief that once I was saved, temptation would wither away like a dead leaf. I was wrong, very wrong. While I was set free, I realized that living my life for Christ meant dedicating myself to a better way.

Part of my failures before God came in and turned everything upside down involved a failure to keep myself unpolluted from the imagery of this world (i.e., pornography). And salvation did not simply remove the source of that pollution. The world really doesn't care that you've been transformed and hopes you'll ignore what it means to be set apart. My missteps there didn't simply stop overnight.

But I was disgusted by it, and I thank God for leading me to a book that gave me a new understanding of where purity starts. Purity doesn't mean simply not looking at "the really bad stuff"; it means not looking at the gateway stuff as well. For men, gateway imagery is everywhere: TV, magazines, posters at stores--pretty much everywhere.

That book, Every Young Man's Battle (EYMB), taught me how to attack the root of the issue instead of simply pruning the leaves. It was for that reason that I was excited to read a new book from Fred Stoeker in the same "trilogy" (as he refers to it), Hero. (I missed the second book, Tactics, but it teaches young men to apply what they learn in EYMB).

For Hero, Fred partners with his son Jasen to show the fruits of living out a covenant to purity. Thus, much of the book discusses how Jasen learned to apply what his father had taught him and the rewards that came with it.

The core message of this book is that men aren't heros because of deeds or accomplishments; they are heros because of their commitment to being the man God created them to be. And foremost is a desire for true purity. The world provides many arguments against purity (sadly), but Fred and Jasen do an excellent job in knocking down each one.

Any man seeking to live for God--and seeking to be a better husband and father (either now or in the future)--should take this practical, biblical advice and run with it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gotta Love Those Links: May 11th

It's been a while since I've done a links blog, so I thought I'd share some inspiration from around the Internet. Just in case you're wondering where the recipes have gone, they will return. I'm expecting our second little blessing and cooking hasn't exactly been appealing to me. I'm hoping this phase passes quickly, and I can resume experimenting with the many recipes I have on my waiting list. You'll be the first to know when I'm ready. Well, OK, maybe John will know first because he'll actually have to eat it. :-) Anyway, back to the links.

Skip To My Lou has provided a great tutorial for sewing cloth napkins, particularly on finishing the corners. I love the fabric she used in the bottom example!

I really like this key holder How About Orange created. This would be a great catch-all for our house!

I have toyed with the idea of making yogurt at home, but the whole process was kind of intimidating...until I found this. Nourishing Days gives step-by-step directions for making yogurt in the crockpot. It looks so easy, I can't wait to try it!

I think these birthday counting cards are SO cute for kids! It really lets you get creative and personalize it for your little friend. Chez Beeper Bebe even gives you the template to make it easy!

On a non-crafty, non-food note, here is a great article about why it is GOOD for us to nap. It gives suggestions for making the most of your nap. And here is a handy nap alarm clock to make sure you rise when needed. :-) It has pleasant sounds to wake up to, which puts me in a better mood than hearing a rooster crow loudly in my ear.

Well, I hope everyone had a fabulous Mother's Day weekend! Hopefully you were able to spend quality time with your mom or your children. Have a great week!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day Book Review

Three great books just came out in time for Mother's Day, making them the perfect gift for a mom you know...or yourself.

Dear Mom--Every mom knows how communicating with a teenage girl can be difficult, even impossible at times. One-word answers. Defensive conversations. Daily arguments. How typical for teens to put up such barriers. All the while, moms truly long to know what their daughters really think.

Best-selling author Melody Carlson, whose books for women, teens, and children have sold more than three million copies, bridges this chasm with trusted insight. She speaks frankly in the voice of the teen daughters she’s written for and she tells it like it is: struggles with identity, guys, friendship, and even parents—it’s all here. The straight-talk to moms covers such things as “I need you, but you can’t make me admit it,” “I’m not as confident as I appear,” and “I have friends. I need a mother.”

Instead of focusing on outward behaviors, Dear Mom looks at a young woman’s heart and reveals to moms:

· how to talk to teens so they hear,

· how to connect despite the differences of perspective or years and experiences,

· and how strengthen the bond every mom and daughter ultimately wants.

The lively chapters in Dear Mom can be dipped into topically or used as a read-through tool by moms and daughters alike to understand what motivates or deflates, troubles or inspires—and just in time for Mother’s Day and all the Mother’s Days ahead.

Mama's Got a Fake I.D.

Formula for identity loss:

1. Take one multifaceted, intriguing human being.

2. Bless her with a child.

3. Mix with today’s cultural assumptions.

4. Add the demands of motherhood.

5. Presto! All identity except Mom disappears.

For every woman wondering what happened to the unique combination of gifts and abilities she was known for before kids came along, Caryn Dahlstrand Rivedeneira has good news: in Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., Rivedeneira helps moms reclaim their full identity as creative beings, gifted professionals and volunteers, loving friends, children of God—and mothers.

This inspiring and practical guide shows women how to break free from false guilt, learn a new language to express who they really are, and follow God’s lead in sharing their true self with others. After all, motherhood doesn’t have to mean losing one’s identity. Instead, being a mom makes it possible for a woman to discover a more complete identity as the person God made her to be.

Enduring Justice

In Enduring Justice, Hanna Kessler’s childhood secret has remained buried for over two decades. But when the dark shadows of her past threaten to destroy those she loves, Hanna must face the summer that changed her life and the man who still haunts her thoughts.

Crimes Against Children FBI Agent, Michael Parker knows what it means to get knocked down. And when the system fails and a white supremacist is set free, Michael’s drive for retribution eclipses all else.

A racist’s well-planned assault forces Hanna and Michael to decide between executing vengeance and pursuing justice. When the attack turns personal, is healing still possible?

This thought-provoking novel deals with healing from sexual abuse, the balance of justice and mercy, and maintaining mixed-race friendships in the midst of racial tension. Readers who enjoy investigative thrillers by Dee Henderson, Colleen Coble, and Catherine Coulter, and who watch crime dramas like Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, and Without a Trace will love this book—and the entire series.

Hope this gives you some great ideas for summer reading. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jane Kirkpatrick Book Review

I recently had the opportunity to review two of Jane Kirkpatrick's books, A Flickering Light and Aurora. I hadn't read any of her previous works, but I was intriguied by her use of word play and riveting detail that draws you into the lives of the characters and the story she is presenting.

A Flickering Light is the story of fifteen year old Jessie Gaebele, a German girl who is struggling, with the rest of her family, to earn what their sick father is unable to. When the opportunity arises for her to work in a photography studio, learning more about her "dream career" she jumps at the chance, even though it means making sacrifices until she has completed the apprenticeship. She proves to be quick at learning the tricks of the trade, but not at mastering her own heart.

Aurora is set in the mid 1800's, and is the story of an Oregon utopian community by the same name. The photographs in Aurora are spectacular, showcasing many of their crafts and quilting, showing the people and stories of the community.

Overall, both books were wonderful and a great addition to the summer reading list of anyone interested in the culture of the mid-1800's.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Noticer: Book Review

Have you ever read a book--a fictional book--that really made you stop and think about your life and what you are accomplishing with it? I couldn't name one that had done that for me until I read The Noticer by New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrews.

The story is set in the small beach town of Orange Beach, Alabama and introduces an interesting character named Jones that graces the town with his presence and leaves it a much better place. Jones becomes "best friends" with many people in the town, showing them a different perspective on their lives and how they are living. People have a chance to take a fresh breath and see things in a new light thanks to Jones's insight. During the story, six of these stories are shared in a candid, casual way that makes you stop and think of the applications in your own life.

So, what are you doing to make a difference in the lives of others? As Andrews says, everyone makes a difference, the choice you have is what kind of difference you will make--positive or negative. Do you truly make your family a priority? Are you investing in others? Are you kind and compassionate? Are you living your life with purpose? If others could change something about you, what would it be? Definitely a book worth reading! You might also want to check out the Noticer Project and make a noticeable difference in someone's life today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book Review: Gardening Eden

Over the last year, I've toyed with making our household more green and trying to cut out waste while making things healthier for our family. I've taken baby steps and changed quite a bit about the way that we live. Most of what I cook is from scratch, which eliminates excess packaging (and extra preservatives and other unwanted chemicals). I've switched to homemade cleaners, which are much safer considering I have a little one running behind me. I started a compost bin, which helps reduce trash, but also creates an organic fertilizer for the garden I've started. I'm hoping to reduce our grocery bill by growing some vegetables at home.

Honestly, my primary motivation for this whole movement has been money, or lack thereof. By making these small changes, I have already saved us a TON of money. We've slashed our grocery bill in half. I know that according to proponents of global warming, the world will come to an end if I don't start making changes, but that was not the reason I decided to make changes. Granted, there are other benefits for making lifestyle changes, and that's where Gardening Eden enters for me.

Gardening Eden by Michael Abbaté is written from a Christian perspective detailing why we should make our homes and lifestyles greener according to God's word, which is what our compass should be anyway. Included within its recycled pages are biblical reasons to motivate us to care for the amazing creation that God has entrusted to us, along with realistic baby steps on all levels that you can take to make changes that really matter. My favorite quote from the book says, "If we recognize the true goodness endowed in Creation by the Creator, how can we not be impelled to appreciate, respect, and protect it as His wonderful gift to us?" (pg. 32). I was honestly convicted as I read through the pages thinking, "Why have I not done more, sooner?"

I have established several of the practices he recommends in the book, such as cooking at home, eating less, turning the thermostat down, changing out standard light bulbs for CFLs, and avoiding disposables. Some of the suggestions he makes are in process. Environmentally-friendly landscaping is something we are looking into, and shortening the length of our showers is happening on most days. I'm getting ready to start a larger compost pile that will hold everything that could be composted.

Some of his suggestions just didn't pan out for me, even after research. I looked into joining a Community Supported Agriculture group, but the cost for CSAs from local farms is prohibitive for us right now, considering the vegetables we eat are a bit limited. Buying a more efficient car isn't on the docket right now, either. Although we would eventually like to trade our X-Terra for something that doesn't use as much gas, replacing it isn't an option right now. But following every tip wasn't Abbaté's point. He wanted to make you think about the lifestyle changes that you could take, emphasizing that every step toward a greener lifestyle was another way to worship the One who created everything for us.

Overall, this was a GREAT book, giving me lots of ideas to help this become a permanent change in our home and not just a fad. We are called to work and take care of the garden He has given us. I know after reading it, I'll be scrutinizing my decisions more carefully. Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Word of Promise: Next Generation New Testament

Everyone loves free books, right? I know when there's no extra money lying around for "entertainment," one either has to get creative or head to the library. I found a program that went the former route, and I first told you about it here. Through the misfortune (or rather, someone's great fortune) of UPS, I ended up with two copies of the MP3 set I chose to review, and Thomas Nelson Publishers is graciously allowing me to give away the extra copy to one of my readers (more on that later).

We've been listening to The Word of Promise: Next Generation New Testament. It is a 3-disc set that contains the New Testament dramatized by an all-star cast, including Annasophia Robb, Jordan Sparks, Emily Osment, and Corbin Bleu. The set includes over 23 hours of listening, including introductions of the books by Max Lucado and his daughter, Jenna. I chose this MP3 set because it was geared toward a younger audience, and I thought Kaelan might enjoy listening to it now and even more when she gets older. So far, I've been right. When she sees my computer, she'll point to it and say, "Sing, sing!" which is her term for reading and singing. She loves to hear it and wants it to start again even between chapters.

Although I have enjoyed it, I haven't been quite as taken with it as she has been. I really like the sound effects and listening to the Bible brought to life. The background information given on the chapters is enlightening and brings new perspective to your listening. Most of the vocal actors are good, but some aren't really believable. It is hard to listen to a disciple that sounds like he's about 10. Jesus, played by Cody Linley, sounds pretty mellow throughout. It is a little disconcerting in the temple with the gamblers when He's actually supposed to be upset, but instead sounds like he's talking to his sick puppy.

Overall, it is good listening, and both Kaelan and I have had fun listening. It is great for riding in the car or playing through my iPod. I would definitely recommend it for parents with preteens or teens. Turning it into a family activity (complete with pauses and discussions) would be a great idea, too!

OK, now for the freebie. If you are interested, I have an extra copy of the set to give away. Please spread the word to all your friends and fellow bloggers. Here's how it is going to work. Please leave a comment telling me what you and your family do for fun in tight times. For an additional entry, tweet about the giveaway and leave me a comment (with the link) that you tweeted. By posting on your blog and linking back you'll earn another entry (leave another comment and the link to your blog). The giveaway ends Monday night, April 13th, and I'll randomly choose a winner then. I can't wait to see where this takes us. :-)

**Giveaway has ended**

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Summer the Wind Whispered My Name

Being a book review blogger definitely has its perks. There is a constant supply of free books in a variety of genres. The added blog traffic is a plus. But it also has its snags. When you get a book that doesn't tease you all the way until the end, it can be a drag to have to finish the book until you can get your next "fix."

At the end of January, I contacted NavPress and was approved as a book review blogger for them. They immediately sent out my first book, The Summer the Wind Whispered My Name by Don Locke. I was seriously impressed with the speediness of the whole transaction. I received this book before I received the material from another publishing company I had been approved for almost 2 weeks earlier. Very nice!

The book tells the story of a middle-class American boy living in Ohio and his adventures over the summer in 1960.

I was so excited that I immediately started reading that night. After the first few pages, let alone the first chapter, I knew this one was going to be difficult. Even though it is fiction, which I thoroughly enjoy, it was a period fiction piece from a recent part of history that I did not experience...the 60's. The author seemingly did not take this into account when writing the book, giving no description, or even hint, of the "iconic" characters and events included. Maybe I should have listened more carefully in my history classes. This made it more difficult to really get into the book because a lot of the allusions used went over my head.

I was also a little discouraged when it took so long to get through a small section of the plot due to the numerous side trails the author took along the way. For example, in a section meant to discuss an encounter Davy, the main character, has with his neighbor who is found lying on the front porch, he goes off (in detail) on his Uncle Frank's funeral and his first encounter with a dead body. There is a lengthy section on the cast of Father Knows Best and a four page section on Two-Ton, a kid's comedian that works with Davy's father. None of these add significant depth to the novel or contribute to the movement of the plot.

While I did enjoy the book a little more as I read further, I prefer a book that grabs me from page one, and this definitely was not it. There were some redeeming qualities, though. The overall message of the story is heartwarming. I was reminded of the need to truly be a neighbor to all those around me, even those who may seem different than me, even when it is the unpopular or uncomfortable thing to do.

Overall, I would recommend this book to someone interested in the 60’s and a good story of friendship.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homemade Banana Pudding

I think homemade banana pudding is a staple of southern desserts. It always seems to turn up at one of our family gatherings. My grandmother often makes a regular banana pudding for everyone and then one without bananas for my dad because he doesn't like them. Either way you choose to make this one, the homemade pudding will far surpass the Jell-o variety. It is quick and easy to make and doesn't take many ingredients.

You need:

2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter
1 box wafer cookies
2 bananas

Heat milk until bubbles form at the edges in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Pour into hot milk a little at a time and stir until completely dissolved. Continue to cook and stir constantly until pudding thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter. Layer the bottom of the serving bowl with wafer cookies and then bananas. Pour just enough vanilla pudding on top to cover the layer. Repeat pattern ending with pudding on top. Refrigerate until set and serve.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I have made this cheesecake knock-off a couple of different ways. This one was not my most successful, but you get to see a picture of what it kind of looks like and learn from my mistakes. The directions below take the cake in my opinion (after numerous trials and errors).

You need:

1 graham cracker crust
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup mini milk chocolate chips (NOT regular)
1 tsp. flour

Preheat oven to 350. Beat cheese with mixer until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Toss chips with flour and stir into cheese mixture. Pour into pie crust. Bake 35-40 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched. Cool and serve.

Note: Your cheesecake will look different than the one in the picture above. I found that when the chocolate chips hardened at the bottom, they were really hard to bite into and made the cheesecake difficult to eat. Make sure you use the mini chocolate chips because they will be easier to eat. Just trust me on this one. :-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

This is an excellent recipe for an alternative to banana bread. It combines the classic flavors of peanut butter, banana, and chocolate to create a memorable dessert perfect for any gathering. As you can see from the picture above, there wasn't much left when I actually remembered to take a picture. I hope you and yours enjoy this as much as we did.

You need:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour (I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, stir the flour, brown sugar, peanut butter and cinnamon until crumbly; set aside for topping.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture just until moistened.

Divide half of the batter between two greased 8x4 inch loaf pans; sprinkle with half of the topping. Top with chocolate chips. Repeat layers of batter and topping.

Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Modified from (2009, February/March). Peanut Butter Banana Bread. Taste of Home, 42.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chocolate Pudding

Did you know that you can make chocolate pudding from scratch? OK, call me sheltered, but it was only recently that I learned that all pudding does not come out of a Jell-0 box. I came across a recipe for homemade chocolate pudding that whetted my appetite and my curiosity.

You need:

1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cups sugar or honey
4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk the cornstarch and cocoa powder together in a medium sized pot. Make sure there are no lumps. Add about 1 cup of milk and the sugar. Whisk together until there are no lumps. Stir in the rest of the milk over medium to medium-high heat and stir continuously. (This is the hard part. You might want to switch out with someone else if your hand gets tired.) Heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Simmer for no longer than 1 minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla. You can eat it warm (which is really yummy) or cool to set and eat cold (which is really good, too!).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Question of the Day: March 2nd

So, I'm sitting here thinking about my blog and looking at the statistics over the last month. There are a lot of people coming to my blog to read what I have to say, but very few actually leave comments. I know exactly what that is like. I read quite a few blogs myself and it has to hit me just right before I leave a comment. However, I would LOVE the opportunity to learn a thing or two from my readers and to hear where you're coming from. So, I have a question for you today. I REALLY hope that you will decide to leave a comment and answer the question of the day. I'd love to hear from you.

What is your favorite recipe to make (or eat)? It can be something you cook or bake. You can link to the recipe if you have one handy, but if not, feel free just to leave the name of the recipe. I can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fabulous Homemade Bread

This recipe for homemade bread is fabulous! It is very easy to make (considering it IS homemade bread), has good texture and flavor and wasn't too crumbly at all. It will leave your house smelling DIVINE! I wonder if anyone makes an air freshener that smells like homemade bread. Well...they do freshly baked cookies! Why not bread? :-) Anyway...

You need:
2 envelopes of dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/4 c granulated sugar or honey
3 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp salt
9-10 cups of flour (I used half whole wheat and half all-purpose)
1 cup oats

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a bowl. Add the honey, butter, and salt. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add oats and then flour, 2 cups at a time, until the dough is only slightly sticky and you can easily work with it. Remove from bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes. You may need to keep adding a little flour at a time. Spray the original bowl with nonstick cooking spray and return the dough to the bowl. Allow to rise 45 minutes to an hour or until doubled. Spray two loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Punch dough down and knead until smooth. Divide dough in half and form two loaves, tucking seams underneath. Let dough rise until it reaches the tops of the pans. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding when you tap on the bottom, about 35-45 minutes. Cool and serve.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gotta Love Those Links: February 19th

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm ready for this week to be over and for the weekend to arrive. Maybe these sites will get your creative juices flowing for some fun this weekend. I know my to-do list is full!

Apartment Therapy Unplugged: Home Office in a Closet: I thought this was a really neat idea for hiding the "mess" of a home office in a closet if you don't have room for an official office. I asked John if he thought he could work from a closet and he said he to find an empty closet.

Boden: How to make friends from old socks: Such a cute idea for sewing sock dolls. Something to keep in mind for Kaelan's next birthday.

Sew, Mama, Sew: Napkins from Fat Quarters: Using cloth napkins seems to make the dining experience so much more "fancy." Now to find some fabric and the time. I guess while I'm at it, I could make my own chair covers, too. :-)

Cicada Daydream: Fat Quarter Tote Bag Tutorial: This must be the month for fat quarter ideas, but I really think this tote looks easy enough to make and functional enough for everyday use.

CSS Drive: Color Palette Generator: If you have a picture you love and you're looking for coordinating colors, either for a website or as inspiration for a room, this is the site for you. It will pull a color palette from any picture that you upload. Looks like fun!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Banana Muffins

This recipe came from Lindsay @Passionate Homemaking, modified a bit (of course). I love it that these muffins are wonderful every time I make them. I actually bought bananas that were on special and froze them just so I'd have them for this recipe (and the occasional smoothie). We eat A LOT of muffins at my house. It is really easy to double the recipe and freeze them for fast breakfasts. Pull a few out, microwave them for about a minute and you have a healthy, filling breakfast for all. Kaelan loves them. But then, she loves all things bready. I'm not sure where she gets that from. *grin*

You need:
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 mashed bananas
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 c. melted butter

2 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease 12 muffin cups. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat bananas, sugar, eggs, and melted butter. Stir banana mix with flour mix until moistened. Do not over mix! Spoon batter into muffin cups. Mix topping and sprinkle on top. Bake 18-20 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Apple Barn, Anyone?

Have you ever been to the Apple Barn in Pigeon Forge, TN? If you have, you, no doubt, remember their apple fritters. I went to the Apple Barn for the first time about 7 or 8 years ago and picked up one of their newsletters on the way out. Little did I know that the newsletter in my hand contained gold. OK, not real gold, but a recipe worth its weight in gold. Inside was the recipe for their famous apple fritters. I recently ran across said newsletter and tried it out again. My results were a bit disappointing because of my lack of "frying skills" but I'll share it with the hopes that someone else might have better luck. The taste will not disappoint. Mine tasted fabulous (even if I had to bake them after I fried them because the insides weren't done). Maybe next time I'll try to turn them into a muffin so I can skip the frying step. I'll let you know how it turns out.

You need:
1 cup milk
3 cups cake flour
1 orange, rind and juice
4 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup apples, chopped, but not too fine

In a mixing bowl, combine the milk, egg, sugar, and melted butter. Add the orange juice, rind, chopped apples (skins may be left on), and vanilla. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir into milk mixture with a spoon until blended. Do not overmix! Preheat oil in a skillet to 350 degrees. Drop off end of tablespoon into hot oil. Fry to a golden brown. Turn so they brown evenly. Allow to cool.

Let me know how yours turn out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homemade Tortillas

Even though it sounds like a daunting task, making homemade tortillas isn't that hard or time consuming and the results are well worth the effort. You know exactly what is going into what you're eating, and they are WAY cheaper than buying them in the store.

You need:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 c. warm water

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add oil and stir. Add water 1 tbsp. at a time until dough can be gathered into a ball. Kneed 15-20 times. Let dough rest 15 min. Divide into 12 equal balls. Roll each ball out from center to make a circle. Cook on ungreased skillet on medium-high heat about 30 seconds on each side or until puffy.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Happy Friday!!

I was reminded by a friend that we should cherish every day we have with those we love. Make sure you give a hug and kiss to those close to you, and tell them how much you appreciate them.

Thanks so much for reading my blog! I was beginning to think I should just give up, but I've received encouragement from several of you, and I'm so glad that you're enjoying it. I appreciate all of you and hope you have a fabulous weekend!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gotta Love Those Links: February 5th

Can you believe that Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching?? It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating a new year. As I am writing this post, I am listening to my daughter scream in different tones from her room (where she is supposed to be napping). She's not upset at all, just exploring the noises her voice box can produce. Anyway, onto the links.

Wonder Time: Bottle Cap t-shirts-- What a fun way to spend a spring afternoon--outdoors, doing something crafty with your kids. OK, so it isn't quite spring yet, but this project gives me the bug. There are so many different things you could do with this shirt. For a boy, a tractor or car with bottle cap wheels might be appropriate. You could do ice cream cones, lollipops, fruit, whatever your imagination can concoct.

The Farm Chicks: Happy Little Spice Drawer
-- I do A LOT of cooking at home, and I'm constantly sorting through my spices in a cabinet trying to find the right one. I LOVE the idea of putting the spices in a drawer so you can just look down and see which one you need. I also really like the idea of using empty baking powder tins for those things you use most often. I just threw one away, too! Oh well. I'm sure they'll be more.

Blissfully Domestic: Shower Curtain Play mat-- I think this would be a great way to encourage creative play at home (or in a classroom). It seems easy (and cheap) to make, and you could definitely involve your kids in the process.

The Smith Family: Canvas Wall Hanging
-- If you've ever been to IKEA and looked at the fabric they have to offer, you will know where the inspiration for this piece came from. I have stood drooling over the fabric, not knowing which one to pick or what I would do with it after I got it home. I love what Tanya's done with just a little fabric and a simple wooden frame. It totally changes the dynamic of the wall!

Maple Creek Blog: Tote Giveaway
--These totes are too cute to choose between. Leave a comment on her blog. Get a chance to win.

I hope you've had an inspiring week so far. Tomorrow is Friday! The weekend is in view. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Overkill? I think not.

I found another interesting opportunity today, thanks to my wonderful husband. NavPress also has a Blogger Review Program, and I have been accepted into their community of bloggers. I emailed them my info today and received the confirmation about an hour later. Very fast! I've requested my first book, The Summer the Wind Whispered My Name by Don Locke. I'm hoping to eliminate downtime between the two programs. If you are interested in the program, email them from this page and you, too, can carry the title of Review Blogger. By the way, I'm still waiting for my set to arrive from Thomas Nelson. It will be two weeks tomorrow. Not as speedy as I would have hoped. Hopefully this will help. If anyone knows of any other book review blogging programs, feel free to share them in the comments.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gotta Love Those Links: January 29th

Everybody had a good week so far? Looking forward to the weekend? I am. I have been LONGING for a nice, warmish day to hike. It has been forever since we've been and I'm seriously contemplating bundling Kaelan up in everything from her closet and packing rain gear so we can just go.

Anyway, on to some neat things I ran across this week.

I love this cute makeup bag from Grace Violet. It would be perfect for the "baby junk" that occupies my purse (and keeps me from having to lug the whole diaper bag around). Maybe I'll win one. :-)

This is an awesome giveaway from Boogers, Screams, Headaches, and Dreams. There is so much to choose from! Congrats on the 200th post. I'm sure I'll be there someday.

This project looks like so much fun from Craft Stylish. They give directions for taking an old sweater and turning it into those cute mary-jane-like slippers you see at the store. Now, I've just got to learn how to crochet.

If you've already started thinking about Valentine's Day, here is a cute idea for a Valentine's vase from Good Housekeeping. I'd bet you could do the same thing using any recycled item (tin can, plastic container, etc.). Ribbon could also be substituted for the fabric.

This is a cute idea from Martha for a warm Valentine's tea treat.

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Creamy Turkey Vegetable Soup

Who likes using leftover turkey (or chicken) on sandwiches or even worse...plain?? I made this recipe with leftover turkey from Christmas that was too dry to eat alone. In the soup, it was absolutely delicious and so much better! My family will never suffer from dry turkey again. The recipe is very forgiving. I was able to make several substitutions and still render a wonderful soup. The soup is great with homemade bread or crackers.

You need:
1 large onion, finely chopped OR 1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. butter
3 cups diced red potatoes (white potatoes work, too)
2 cans (29 ounces total) chicken broth
2 cups cooked cubed turkey breast (chicken would work, too)
2 cups mixed vegetables (I used green beans, corn, and carrots, but feel free to experiment)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper (I didn't have this, so I used black pepper, and it was fine)
3/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. thyme
2 cups milk

If you are using a real onion, in a large saucepan, saute the onion in butter until tender. Add potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the turkey, veggies, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme. Cook 10-12 minutes longer or until veggies are tender. Stir in cream and heat through, but do not boil.

This post is part of the Nourishing Soups and Stews Carnival at The Nourishing Gourmet. Make sure to check out more great recipes!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gotta Love Those Links: January 22nd

Here are the links I'm loving this week. Some really neat ideas!

Apartment Therapy: How to build a simple indoor swing (for winter)--This one makes me want to go get the stuff and start today. It looks so easy, and I can just imagine how much fun Kaelan would have with this!

Photojojo: The Perpetual Photo Wall Calendar--Talk about everyday art! This could really spruce up any wall in your house. You could use any kind of picture that you could imagine. Can you see your kids holding up signs with the numbers on them? Or maybe pictures from your favorite places around the city. There's so much room for creativity here that it really becomes YOUR calendar.

Fit Brains: Scientifically Based Brain Fitness Program--Just for fun. Make sure you give your brain a daily workout in one form or fashion. This is a neat place with lots of FREE games in a variety of categories. Remember the adage: Use it or lose it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I have a new title: Book Review Blogger

I recently learned of a program through Thomas Nelson publishers in which bloggers are sent a free book in exchange for writing a review of the book and posting it on their blog as well as the Thomas Nelson site and a retail site. Not a bad deal, I thought. Free books for a book lover in exchange for sharing my thoughts. I submitted my application for the program and 3-4 days later (after the weekend), I heard that I'd been approved. My first book, or rather, set of MP3s is on its way. Out of the four selections they offered, I chose Word of Promise Next Generation New Testament MP3 Set. I immediately received an email stating my selection was on the way. So, we'll see how this goes. After I finish listening (to all 23 hours!), I'll be posting the review here, so stay tuned. If you are interesting in blogging about books for Thomas Nelson, go here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hold On!

In Psalm 91:14-16, God makes a huge promise! Here's what He says:
"If you'll hold on to Me for deal life," says God, "I'll get you out of any trouble. I'll give you the best of care if you'll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times. I'll rescue you, then throw you a party. I'll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!" (The Message)
Isn't that a great promise? No matter how big the problem seems to us, God is totally capable of handling it. He doesn't say, "If you try hard enough," or "If you do enough things right..." He says that if you hold on to Him for dear life, He'll pull you out. We just have to trust Him and know Him.

Are you going through a rough time? Does it seem hopeless? Know that there is always hope in our God. He will always come to our rescue. He promises He will and He keeps His Word!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Amish Baked Oatmeal

I found this recipe on one of my feeds and tried it the next morning (altered just a bit, of course). Love at first taste! Kaelan loves to eat this rolled into little balls (easy for little fingers to grab). To make the morning run a little more smoothly, I usually combine all the ingredients the night before, cover the dish with plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator. The next morning, as soon as I get up, I turn the oven on, take the plastic wrap off, and stick it in (nope, I usually don't wait for it to preheat). I take a shower and get ready, and 30 minutes later, a hot breakfast is waiting for my family.

You need:

1/2 c. quick oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
2 t. vanilla
whatever you want to add in (canned pumpkin, blueberries, strawberries, raisins, cinnamon—you name it!)

Preheat over to 350. Grease 8x8 pan. Mix all the ingredients together and pour into prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

So easy!! Let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chocolate Cobbler

I found this dessert on the Blissfully Domestic feed and it turned out to be really easy and very yummy with vanilla ice cream. It makes a cakey (is that a word?) topping with chocolate sauce underneath.

You need:
  • 1 C self rising Flour OR 1 C all purpose flour plus 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 2 T Cocoa
  • 1/2 C Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 T Canola Oil
  • 3/4 C Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 C Cocoa
  • 1 3/4 C hot tap water
First, mix together the flour, sugar and cocoa. Add the milk, vanilla, and oil and mix everything really well. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan. Mix the brown sugar and second dose of cocoa together and sprinkle over the batter. Very slowly pour the hot water over the entire dish. Bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes. Enjoy with whipped cream or ice cream.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where is God?

As I was reading this morning, I came across this verse:

"You walked off and left us, and never looked back. God, how could you do that? We're your very own sheep; how can you stomp off in anger?" Psalm 74:1 The Message

Have you ever felt like that? That God just totally walked out on you and left you high and dry? I know I have. The chapter goes on to explain that a town has been completely demolished by their enemies. There is nothing left that symbolizes God. Everything has been destroyed.

OK, so my life isn't quite that dramatic, but right now my family is going through a tough time. It has been really tempting to think that God has forgotten about us. That He has just left us to fend for ourselves. Thankfully, I know that's not true. I know because of what His word tells me and because of my life experiences. There have been many times when I thought all was lost, but God showed up and turned things around for my good...just like He promises He will do (Romans 8:28). He tells us that He will provide for our every need (Philippians 4:19). He promises that whatever we ask for (according to His will) He will give if we just believe we have received it (Mark 11:24) I keep these verses and others posted in my house so that I can keep my mind focused in the right direction. I keep hoping, keep believing that God is going to move in a big way in 2009 and turn things around.

Just a couple chapters later, the guy writing the psalm has a change of heart, too. He says,

"O God! Your way is holy! No god is great like God! You're the God who makes things happen; You showed everyone what You can do--You pulled Your people out of the worst kind of trouble, rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph." Psalm 77:13-15 The Message
I want to have a heart that God is pleased with. I want to be found faithful in the end, through the highs and the lows of life. I KNOW that God will bring us through tough times and we will be closer to Him and stronger in our faith in the end.

Has God recently brought you out of a tough time? What verses helped get you through?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Blissful Brownies

I had been looking for a "made-from-scratch" recipe that really tasted homemade. I found several that tasted like a box mix and that just wasn't what I was after. This recipe is healthy (for brownies) and has the homemade yummy goodness.

You need:
EITHER 4 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate OR 3/4 c. cocoa and 1/4 c. oil
1/3 c. canola oil
1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sugar
4 eggs OR 8 egg whites
1 c. flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 c. pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 13x9 pan with foil, with the ends of the foil extending over the short sides of the pan and grease.

Microwave the chocolate on high for 1 min. and stir until smooth OR stir together the cocoa and oil until smooth. Add oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in sugar. Add eggs OR egg whites. Stir until well blended. Add flour and pecans. Mix well. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake 25 minutes or until brownies pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely. Lift brownies from pan using foil handles. Cut into 24 brownies (ideally).

Thanks Kraft!! I modified their recipe a bit. (Food & Family, Winter 2007, pg. 53)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Layered Pumpkin Bread

A while ago I found a recipe for layered pumpkin muffins. I made them, and while they were really yummy, they were really fussy. I think foods are fussy if they take a lot of ingredients or a lot of work. So, I searched around and found this recipe to make instead. I love that it is healthy and easy to make. My family loves it, so it is a winner for breakfast or snack at our house.

You need:

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c fat free milk (or whatever your family uses)
1/4 cup oil
2 cups flour (I use 1 c. white and 1 c. wheat)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice OR cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 80z. pkg. cream cheese (I use the low fat version)
1 tsp. vanilla

First, preheat the oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. Mix the pumpkin, 1 c. sugar, brown sugar, eggs, milk, and oil in a large bowl. Add flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Stir until just moistened. Set aside. Beat cream cheese, vanilla, and remaining sugar until well blended.

Spoon half the pumpkin batter into the pan, followed by the cream cheese mixture and then the other half of the pumpkin batter. Bake about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before you take it out.

Let me know what you think if you make it.