Silent Night, Holy Night

Each day brings us closer to celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus, and the anticipation continues to grow. The lights around town take on a brighter glow. The Christmas carols being played on radio become more precious as we sing along to “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, all is bright”. We dream about actually having a silent night to which we could just sit and reflect on that Holy Night so long ago.

Maybe our days around Christmas are not filled with wonderful memories, or we are not going to be spending this year with friends or loved ones who for various reasons, will not be sitting around our tables. Some years, we can only dream about “I’ll be Home for Christmas” because circumstances dictate otherwise. In those years when Christmas in our homes, is not the Christmas picture we have seen and dreamed about in so many Normal Rockwell pictures or Hallmark movies, we begin to ponder, just what was the night like when Jesus Christ was born. Did He really come to give us life and that this life could be abundant with hope and faith? When will our hectic lives give us nights when all will be calm? Was it a Silent Night when Jesus was born? Probably not. Bethlehem was full of people who had come to partake in the census. It only became a Holy Night because of the birth of the Savior. He came as a little baby, destined to take up His cross for our sakes. But the stillness which He offers to us is a stillness in our hearts. That because of Him, circumstances of loneliness, depression and/or sickness can still offer all of us, hope of an eternal life to come, when sin will be no more. That is our hope in Christ Jesus! Where or who are we putting our hope in this Christmas?

As I approach December 25th, are my thoughts on that Holy Night so long ago. Am I continuing to live to bring Joy to my world? Is my life such that others watching me would “give glory to God in the Highest?” Do I give my heart a chance to be Silent for even a night, that my hopes and dreams are only on the Christ Child? Am I remembering that “little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie, the hopes and dreams of all the years are yet in thee tonight.”

Good Christian Men Rejoice,for that Star of Wonder, Star of Bright, Star with Royal beauty bright; continues to pursue us, continues to love us and desires that we might recognize that Holy Night, when the stars shone so brightly! It was the night of our dear Saviors birth.
From the cradle to the cross! Because He lives, we can face tomorrow”
Revelation 21:5 “And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold i make all things new”.
A dear sweet friend of ours use to sing a song every Christmas, Ring the Bells, Ring the bells, let the whole world know, Jesus Christ was born so many years ago.

May my heart be silent in awe of wonder before Him and my heart kneel before His throne.

Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Biscotti

Rediscovering some of my Christmas with Southern Living books (this one was 2001), I found several recipes which I want to make this season. Since it is so much fun to make biscotti and I have a friend who I will not name (but looks like she stuck her finger in a light socket to style her hair), that continues to ask me to bring her more biscotti every time I see her. So Spikey Hair Lady, will try this recipe to see if get meets your approval.
This is my friend who Randy tells her that he has to sit in front of her at church as he can’t see the preacher if he sits behind her. Of course, after she sees this post, we probably won’t be friends much longer and I will get to keep all the biscotti for myself.

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
3/4 teas baking soda
1/2 cup finely chopped peanuts (they tested with cocktail peanuts, I will use my Virginia peanuts I buy at Costco)
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
*I deleted the 1/4 teas salt recipe called for since the peanuts were salted

Ingredients for Dipping Biscotti in
1 cup semisweet chocolate mini chips, divided
1 1/2 tables creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tables shortening

Beat 1/3 cup peanut butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs, beating until blended
Stir together the four, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.(if using salt). Add to peanut butter mixture, beating on low speed until blended. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead in peanuts and 1/2 cup mini chips.

Shape dough into a 13′ x 3″ log on a lightly greased baking sheet (or ungreased parchment lined sheet). Bake at 325 for 40 minutes or until firm. Remove to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes.
Cut log diagonally into 1/2″ thick slices with a serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion; place slices on uncreased baking sheets. Bake at 325 for 7 minutes; turn slices over and bake an additional 7 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool.
Combine remaining 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 1/2 tables peanut butter and shortening in a small saucepan. Melt over low heat and stir to mix.
Dip one end of each biscotti in chocolate mixture. Place biscotti on wax paper until chocolate hardens.
Yields about 28 slices

Rodelle Baking Cocoa

Last year i discovered this wonderful cocoa, so rich and dark in flavor that it has replaced my regular cocoa in almost every recipe!

This year it was at Costco for $6.99 /25 oz bag so i bought enough bags to last me until i go to a nursing home or Jesus returns (personally i pray for that to happen first, maybe I’ll be raptured with a bag of Rodelle in my hand!)

Wanting to make cookies for a car trip to Sedona tomorrow with some friends, i looked up some recipes on my blog of which i hadnt made in a while and wa la….these popped up! So first batch is out and instead of the ganache filling the recipe calls for, i used Hershey kisses for the middle! Using the Thumbie, it is so easy to make perfect indentions for the kisses! Am also making some of these using raspberry jam in the middle! Love the flavor of raspberry and chocolate together! If you dont have Rodelle cocoa, you can use Hershey, they just wont be as chocolatey!

(Dont want go make Hershey people sad because I like Rodelle better, I want them to know NOTHING is better than a Hershey kiss, except a kiss from my hubbie)IMG_1642

Gingerbread Latte Cake with Vanilla Whipped Cream Frosting (taken from Southern Living)

When I said I was going to finally get the chance to sit down by the Christmas Tree and look for recipes in my new magazines, it was so fabulous to see this cake pop off the page. Every year, the anticipation of Starbucks making their gingerbread frappes and lattes,just begin the Christmas season off so tastefully. When I saw this beautiful gingerbread cake recipe, visions of sipping a gingerbread latte while savoring every bite of this cake did me in. Thank you Southern Living for continuing to “wow” us with exciting and luscious recipes.

Cake Layers
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
1/2 cup chopped crystalized ginger
2 teas baking powder
1 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
1 teas ground cinnamon
1/4 teas ground ginger
1/4 teas ground nutmeg
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups hot strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup molasses

Espresso Simple Syrup
3/4 cup hot very strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Vanilla Whipped cream Frosting
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teas vanilla bean paste (or 2 teas vanilla extract)
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Prepare cake layers; preheat oven to 350. Process flour, crystllized ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a food processor util crystalized ginger is finely ground, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Beat salted butter with a electric mixer on medium, until creamy. Gradually add light brown sugar beating unit light and fluffy.
Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir together coffee and molasses in a glass measuring cup. Add flour mixture to the mixture alternately with coffee mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating on low speed just until blended after each addition.

Place egg whites in a glass bowl. Beat with a electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites, in thirds into batter, folding just util incorporated after each addition.

Spoon batter into 3 greased (with vegetable shortening) and floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake in preheated oven until cake tests done in the middle, about 19-22 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Espresso Syrup. Bring coffee and granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium high. Boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1/2 cup, 5-6 minutes.

Remove cakes from oven when done and cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Transfer from pans to wire racks; brush evenly with warm espresso syrup. Cool completely. About 1 hour.

Prepare frosting while cake layers cool.
Beat cream and vanilla bean paste (or extract) with electric mixer on medium high speed until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar beating until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat as it will turn to butter.

Assemble cake by spreading frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Gently press crushed ginger cookies around the bottom of the cake sides, if desired or sprinkle some caused ginger cookies over the top of cake.

Love Reaching Down From Heaven

This morning, our preacher spoke from 1John of God’s love for us and what that truly means. During the Christmas season, we are continually reminded of that love, in that we see the nativity scenes everywhere and hear the stories of God sending his Son to earth for us. But in our everyday life, do we really stop to think of what this great love really means? This morning in his sermon, he gave the analogy of when one of our children fall, do we just look down at them and tell them to “get up and get over it, that fall wasn’t that bad.” Or do we instantly bend down and scoop them up and tell them that it will be alright; That we are there and will take care of them. That is what God does for us. We are His own and He cares for each one of us. He ask us to think about the last time we truly felt God “love on us”. It was at that moment that I remembered a Christmas miracle, which happened this past week. It was one of those incidents which, at the time, reminded me that nothing is impossible with God, but I hadn’t thought about the fact that indeed, He was truly “reaching down and showing me that He loved me and cared about even the small things in my life. Here is the story:
A few weeks ago, I mailed a package to a friend for her combo birthday/Christmas present. It was a book she had been wanting and an apron that I had made for her. She is a strawberry fanatic and so the apron was made from material which had cute little snowmen and chocolate covered strawberries piled up around the snowmen. I was so excited to send these to her, knowing that it would make her so excited when she opened the package. In my haste to get it in the mail, I reused an envelop that I had received a Amazon order in. Because it was a bubble envelop, when I tried to write my return address on it, it began to poke holes, so I didn’t put anything except my name. No address whatsoever. When I looked up her address in my contact list, I used the correct street address, but ended up using her old town and zip code, not the new town she had moved to over two years ago. Into the PO I ran and dropped it in the slot. I texted her and told her to be expecting a present in a couple of days. After a week, she still had not received it. At 5 am one morning, I awoke with a awful thought. It dawned on me what I had done. As soon as I could, I drove to the PO and told the guy at the window my story. I ask him if there was any way to track it. He assured me that because I had not put a return address on it, I would never see it again. That the package would go to their unclaimed mail station in North Carolina. I was so distraught. Realizing that not only was the present lost, but when was I going to learn to not do everything in a hurry. I texted my sweet friend and told her what I had done. It bothered me so much of what I had done and I began to pray, telling the Lord that I knew that nothing is impossible with Him.
This week, on Tuesday, to be exact, I came home and Randy is outside. He tells me to go in the house and look on the dining room table. Asking why, he quickly tells me that the package was on the dining table. What? But how? there was no return address, how could it be here? I ran in (yes, I did run,because this was truly a miracle) and there it was. Apparently, someone had seen my name and had taken the trouble and time to peel off the top label to see where it originated. So they had returned it and here it was! Thanking the Lord for Him giving me a Christmas miracle, i still didn’t think about what this really was. After today’s sermon, it made me realize that God does give us those special little blessings to show His love for us, even during the routine days.

Today, after church, Randy and I went to eat lunch. As we finished our meal, the waiter came to tell us that the couple sitting at a table over had already paid for our lunch. We were taken care of. Randy, of course, remarked, “well, shoot, if we had known that, I would have ordered the bigger breakfast”. He is such a dear. We walked over to thank them and they just said, “Merry Christmas”
This Christmas, my prayer is that I will be more conscious of God’s goodness to me. To look for the unexpected gifts that He sends to me and to also open my heart to someone who might just need to feel God’s love reaching down to them.

Thanksgiving Sides

Since we will have two sets of our kids here for Thanksgiving, I thought I would ask each of them what dish would they want that says, “Thanksgiving” to them. I won’t do that again. Some of the reply’s were fried chicken tenders, mac & cheese, Coke Salad and stuffed jalapeños. Since macaroni and cheese was requested, I began to look for a good recipe and find it I did…In Cook’s Country magazine. So instead of just having a box of Kraft mac & cheese, I think I will treat them to a special dish of gourmet mac! Maybe it will make them want to come back again soon.

8 oz (2 cups) elbow macaroni
salt and pepper
8 oz mild cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
2 teas cornstarch
4 tables unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 tables all purpose flour
2 teas dry mustard
1/8 teas cayenne pepper
2 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (slightly beaten)
2 teas Worcestershire sauce
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)

Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat to 375
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large saucepan. Add macaroni and 1 teas salt and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Toss milk cheddar with cornstarch in a bowl and set aside.
In now empty saucepan, melt 1 tables butter over medium low heat. Add panko crumbs and stir, cooking until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl and reserve.
Return saucepan to heat and melt remaining 3 tables butter. Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 mins.
Stir in flour, mustard, 1/2 teas salt, 3/4 teas pepper and cayenne and cook stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Whisk in water and cream and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Remove cream sauce from heat and whisk in mid cheddar-cornstarch mixture until melted. Whisk in eggs, yolk, Worcestershire. Stir in precooked macaroni. Transfer macaroni mixture to 8″ square baking dish. Sprinkle with sharp cheddar cheese, then panko crumbs. Bake until well browned and set, 20-25 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Thanksgiving Memories

It seems unreal that Thanksgiving is a week from Thursday. As I was sitting here looking through different magazines to see if there was a recipe which caught my eye to post, each recipe I read found made me remembering different Thanksgivings along with the pictures in my mind which kept coming with each one.
On FaceBook, there is Throw Back Thursday where people will post a picture from their past that has special meaning. Next Thursday, I’m certain that there will be many pictures posted on FB that shows family and friends sitting around the table with all types of delectable dishes. Sometimes, these pictures make me sit back and think, “my table never looks as good as those I see posted” or “that family looks like they have no problems sitting there with everyone smiling and laughing” We begin to compare our lives with theirs, even though we know nothing except what we see in the pictures.
This week, we will be going to California to see friends and celebrate a dear friends 80th birthday. This precious lady and her husband invited Randy and I to their home, when they barely knew us, when we moved to California back in 2010. She didn’t want us spending Thanksgiving alone our first year there. The memories I have of being in their home conjure up thoughts of being made to feel like a part of their family, even when we just met some of them that day. We sat around the table and ate foods that were not our traditional Thanksgiving foods, but it was the best dinner because of their hospitality. They taught us to play Hand & Foot after dinner, which is still one of our favorite card games.
Looking back over my pictures on my phone the other day, I found a picture of our last Thanksgiving in Dallas when Randy’s mom and dad were still with us. Thinking back about that has made me more aware of trying to make every meal with friends or family special as we never know what is around the bend.

Years ago, memories of Thanksgivings when the kids sat at the “kid” table putting black olives on the end of each finger and sticking peas up their nose to see if they could “blow” them out brings so many smiles to my heart. The laughter that came from the kids,when together with their cousins, was now, thinking back, a true Hallmark memory. Isn’t it funny how, at the time, we are so concerned if the kids are behaving and not really enjoying the things that bring so much laughter in later years.
Some years seem to be more about the food. The years when like Randy says are great, “the kids are all married, everyone has jobs and nobody is in jail.” That is his description of when people ask about our family. He thinks he is so funny.
One year Randy and I were cleaning up the kitchen after everyone left. We had had a houses full that year and there were people eating in the living room and the dining room. After we finished cleaning up, Randy told me that he would go and begin to turn out the lights in the living room and turn off the fireplace. In seconds, he comes around the corner and says, “Eric forgot his brother, Craig is in the living room, sound asleep in the lazy boy”. We quickly called the kids to turn around and come get the “left over guest”. Eric had parked in back and left through the garage so had forgot that he had also brought his brother. I can handle only one loud snorer in the house at one time! Hope they remember that they have 3 kids now and don’t leave them anywhere!
Then there are the years when there is a new family member or a new baby. Those years seem to be the ones which stick out in our minds. There may be years which a pinkie ring ended up inside the turkey or I forgot to thaw out the Sister Schubert Rolls.
When we hear the word Thanksgiving, we automatically think of turkey, dressing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.
This year, when we are gathered around the table I want to have different thoughts come to me. I hope that the words, grateful, blessed and contentment come to mind. Not just blessed to have family around us, but blessed to be a child of God. Blessed to have hope because of Jesus Christ who came to give us eternal life, if only we believe. Blessed to be a part of the family of God with friends who walk with us in this season of life. Blessed to have my own copy of a Bible, when so many in other parts of the world would give anything to have one. Blessed with joy and peace, because He gives a peace that the world cannot take away, no matter the circumstances going on all around us.
We are a blessed people and we owe God, the creator of all, to give Him our best and the first fruits of our lives. So in between telling the kids or grandkids to quit putting peas up their nose, or hurrying to take out the rolls from the oven before they burn, may we remember to turn our thoughts to the One who is the Giver of life and blessings.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Chocolate Magic Pumpkin Cake

Yesterday was the magic day of discovering this delicious cake. I stood at the dessert table at church and ate 3 pieces. As I was standing there trying to figure out how to put another piece of this on my plate without anyone seeing me, I looked behind me to see 3 ladies asking if I had made it and if so they wanted the recipe. We could not find the lady who made it,so a friend of mine(one of the friends who stood there with me dissecting each bite to see if we could figure out what was in it) finally found the recipe on Pinterest and sent it to me (Thanks Debbie for finding it)We all ended up standing there and using our plastic forks, finished off the plate of this amazing dessert. Never had I thought about combining chocolate and pumpkin other than adding chocolate chips to pumpkin cake, but wow, this cake seriously “takes the cake”. Am making it Monday to take to a luncheon, praying that there will be some left for me to “snack” on all afternoon. If not, I guess I will be forced to make another one! Bless My Heart!

Cake
1 box of devils food cake mix baked according to directions on box for making the 9×13″ cake

For the Pumpkin Layer
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teas pumpkin pie spice

Frosting
1 (4 serving size box french vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup cold milk
8 oz container Cool Whip
4-5 gingersnap cookies, crushed for top, if desired

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare box of cake mix (Duncan Hines is a great chocolate cake mix)according to directions on box and pour into a greased 9×13″ pan. Set aside and do not bake yet.

In another bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the pumpkin layer and stir until smooth. Slowly pour the pumpkin mixture over the chocolate cake batter.

Carefully place cake pan into preheated oven and bake for 50-60 min or until center is no longer jiggly and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely to room temperature.

Frosting
Place the vanilla pudding mix into a large bowl and pour in the cold milk. whisk until combined and starting to thicken. Gently fold in the Cool Whip until completely combined. Spread on top of cooled cake. Sprinkle crushed ginger cookies on top if desired.
Store in Fridge, covered.
*taken from Pinterest I Wash You Dry

Almond & Apricot Biscotti

Have made this twice and each time, it gets great reviews from folks I share it with. Makes great hostess gifts or place in a decorated vase at each end of the dessert table. Great little dessert especially for people who don’t like a lot of sweets, but like just a little something to go with hot tea or coffee.

2 cups flour
4 tables butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teas salt
2 eggs
2 teas baking powder
1 1/2 teas almond extract
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1 cup sliced (very thin) almonds

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add softened butter,mixing until coarse crumbs form. With mixer on low, add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition; add in almond extract; Stir in apricots and almonds; continue to stir until dough is in ball form, about 1 minute.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, shape dough into two 2″x12″ logs. Bake in preheated oven until dry and set, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire racks. Let cool completely.
Transfer to a cutting board and with a serrated knife, cut logs on the diagonal into 1/4″ slices. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets until golden, 15-20 minutes, (turn each slice over halfway through baking) and rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool completely on sheets on racks.
Store in air tight container up to 1 week.

I melted vanilla candy melts and drizzled it over each cooled slice.

Toilet Talk

Names of the guilty are not being used as I promised that no mention of their names would be used in this post.
There we were, minding our own business at the grocery store when all of a sudden we looked up from the little while powdered donuts that Peter was throwing into the cart. Since company arrives from California tomorrow for the weekend, we were loading up on good quality toilet paper instead of the awful stuff that he makes us use and splurging on Name Brand green beans instead of the store brand. After all, we don’t want to be known as tightwads. We looked up with pride in our eyes that we actually went for all the top notch brands, when there right in front of us are friends we know from our neighborhood. We exchanged pleasantries about what we were all doing for the weekend, when the wife says, (and I quote) “what kind of toilet do ya’ll have?” I answered, “a white one”. She looks at Randy and says, “no, I mean, is it round or oblong?” All I know is I’m the one who cleans it, I never payed attention to what shape it is. She then proceeds to tell us that they are getting ready to buy a new toilet and the salesman at Home Depot told her that men don’t like the round ones because (sorry for the potty talk) it is harder to aim. So he recommends a oblong shape. They, and I mean, Randy and the other two, as I have walked off pretending to look over the type of roast I want to buy, began discussing how hard it is to sit down on the round ones because it doesn’t fit guys butts as well as the oblong. Then the wife begins to tell us that her leg gets a pain in it when she sits on theirs, to which my darling husband says to her, “well, maybe you shouldn’t sit so long on it.” Maybe that is why we don’t have many friends. He always has such cute little remarks that come out before I have the chance to monitor them.
As they continue having this discussion, here comes another friend from our community. Thank goodness, I guess they didn’t want him to know about how they all sit for how long on the potty, so we all said our goodbyes after customers began to glare at us blocking the bread aisle. We walked off and I told Randy, “and that’s why I never go to the store without make up or earrings.” You never know when you are going to run into friends who might need some counseling, even if it’s just about their bathroom habits. Wasn’t it just yesterday that when we ran into friends in the store, we spent the time talking about the latest vacation or showing pictures of our precious grandkids? Now, we run into people and the talk turns to toilets and what brand of heartburn medicine do we buy.

A new season has dawned. We left worried that we might be nearing the end of our ability to use a normal 13″ high toilet. Is the need for the high 18″ toilet in our near future because we can’t bend down that far? If so, I guess pictures on the new toilet will replace the pics of grandkids so we will have something to talk about. You never know when you might run into friends at the grocery store.