Saturday, December 24, 2011

O Night Divine

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night
of our dear Savior's birth.

...there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

...the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

...This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

....the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

...they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Glory to God in the highest, 
   and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

...Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 

For God so loved the world, he gave....

Joy to the world, the LORD is come!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peanut Butter Balls

This recipe has surely been around for ages and with good reason!! They really are fabulous!! But you know me! I like to make things a little healthier, if I can, and lately, I've had to make things free of wheat, dairy and yeast.  So, I revamped an old favorite using natural peanut butter - containing no hydrogenated oils, added oils or sugar - and ingredients that do not contain dairy or wheat.

If you have made these before, you know there is actually butter mixed in with the peanut butter. Ew!! I also find that my sweet tooth likes things less sweet, so I decreased the sugar and I use a high cocoa content chocolate (60-70%) for taste and to avoid dairy.  With all these mature changes, I like to think of these as Grown Up Peanut Butter Balls! (Now I suppose if you added a splash of Bailey's, you could call them Silly Grown Up Peanut Butter Balls!!!  Somebody do that and let me know how they turn out!!) And finally, I like a good crunch, so I increased the krispies. 

So, does this mean these Grown Up PB Balls are good for you?! No, but with the lack of hydrogenated oil and butter, along with less sugar, and a purer chocolate with a higher content of antioxidants, this recipe is just as tasty and less likely to do as much damage!  

3 cups peanut butter
3 cups powdered sugar
3-4 cups krispy rice cereal
2 cups dark chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter and sugar. Slowly to start so you don't whirl all the sugar out of the bowl!

Oops! I get a little sloppy! I should take my own advice!

Once combined, add the krispy rice.  I start with 2 cups and then add more to my preference. If you add too much, your mix is too dry and won't stick together! So go gently.  I find somewhere between 3 and 4 cups is nirvana! Blend slowly to prevent mashing the cereal until totally combined. 

Set aside.

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler - or if you don't have such a fancy gadget, do what I do.  Place a big bowl over a bigger pot with a few inches of water in the pot.  Set the water to boil.  As the water boils, it heats the bowl and melts the chocolate without scorching it!

Mmmmm.... melting chocolate!

While the chocolate is melting, work on making balls from the peanut butter mixture.  You can make them as big or small as you want.  I usually shoot for a ball one inch in diameter, give or take a little.

Be sure to lay down wax paper on a cookie sheet for easy release. 

They look like little soldiers all in a row!

I also looove to have help! And this is a project my kids actually like to help with!!! It's a win/win!

Just be sure they wash their hands!!! ;0)

Remember our chocolate! It should be melted by now!!
Ahhh!! A nice pool of chocolate!! Time for skinny dippin!!

As far as I know, you cannot buy a fork like this one! BUT you can create one, just like we did!! All you need is a flimsy fork and some muscle!

Once dipped, I like to roll the ball gently up the side of the bowl, catching it each time, to release some of the chocolate.  You don't want the chocolate too thick or your sweet little bonbon will have feet!  

Put the now-lightly-covered peanut butter ball back on the wax covered cookie sheet. 

Let them cool on the pan awhile or freeze them a bit before you pack them into delicious Christmas treats for family and friends!  

I know! You can't help yourself! Just give in and try one!!!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And the old becomes new...

There is something precious about making the old, new again.

When I was just a wee thing, my mom took old Coke bottles and created three regal wise men presenting gifts to their King in flowing, shimmering robes.  

I'm sure in the early 70's this was the best way to recycle glass! However, with today's methods, I'm not so sure!  Regardless, I'm thrilled my mom created these guys! They hold a special place in my heart.  So when she was about to do the unthinkable, I pounced and gave them a new home!  Since then, these guys have come out every year in their spectacular glory to help me celebrate the holidays!

Old bottle, new life.

Discarded and forgotten
A couple years ago, it was time for my sweet grandparents to make "The Move" from their home of many years, dressed from top to bottom with heart-warming memories, into a smaller place with little upkeep required.  Imagine the treasures found in the basement and attic as they prepared to downsize!! My favorite treasure...?  Two boxes of old glass ornaments!

These are the real deal!! They are gorgeous!!! They hung on my grandma's tree for years before she packed them away to be replaced by the newer and shinier versions. But now they have a new home, displayed in a new way as the jewel of my mantel, the piece de resistance, in all their old grace and simple charm.

Old ornaments, new life.

Old to new
And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that I should not lose any of all that He has given Me, but that I should give new life and raise them all up at the last day.  ~John 6:39

Why wait for that last day!?  New life lies just a decision away! 

Look closer! What's your trash? It can be recycled!  Just put it in the hand's of the master creator. 

Have you been discarded and forgotten? Run into the arms of the one who loves you to death.  There is an empty spot on His "mantel" awaiting your arrival as the piece de resistance! 

This is the hope and joy in the season! This is why we celebrate Christmas! This is the reason for His birth!  

Old cross, new life.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Homemade Doughnuts (quick and easy)

Warning  - this recipe is no where near good-for-you! I'm not even gonna try to attempt it by adding flax seed or protein powder or telling you that if you fry them in coconut oil you'll have added health benefits.  Oh no, this recipe is strictly to please my kids, who sometimes, after doing a really good job of eating healthy, just wanna splurge and I just wanna let 'em!

One of my favorite memories of going home to grandma's house in Pella, Iowa is homemade Doughnut Day! Ahhhh!!! There is nothing like a doughnut fresh out of the fryer and dipped in a sugary sweet glaze!  (I wonder if the owners of Krispy Kreme had a grandma like mine...) 

Not only did grandma make the most amazing doughnuts from scratch on D Day but EVERY ONE of my aunts, uncles and cousins who were in town, came over and we made it a party!  We all hung out around the kitchen table while grandma and her daughters worked the assembly line - drop, drain, dunk and distribute.  The excitement that permeated the room seemed to make the air buzz and the chair legs vibrate across the floor.  Lots of loud boisterous laughing, regaling of silly stories from years past, praising, in exuberant exaggeration, grandma and her minions for their never-fail ability to make the MOST amazing doughnuts in the entire UNIVERSE, and playful jockeying for the most doughnuts and their holes.  The memories could not be sweeter, or smell finer, or wrap me in more warmth than was in that kitchen on D Day!

A few years ago, I had grandma give me the recipe.  This was like a sacred act of passing on one's ancient history to the next generation in hopes that future generations would know where they came from!  This sacred act was performed over the phone in the country-folk way of giving directions:
"Head out on the road that takes you to Sue's Aunt's 2nd cousin's house - is she a 2nd cousin or a cousin once removed? - Anyway, turn at the farm with the three legged dog. You'll take the next right at the farm with the barn that blew down in '52.  Once you reach the Walnut tree where we buried Ol' Blue, turn left....."
Hear this - I LOVE this kind of stuff!!! So, when I got grandma's recipe straight from her mouth and not some old cookbook, I knew I had the real thing; a tried and true recipe with little secrets from the one who perfected, not only the ingredients, but the technique as well!!

Sadly, since receiving the recipe 6 years ago, I have made the doughnuts 4 times! Once as a tester batch, immediately after talking with grandma, which turned into a big fail! A second time, shortly after that, as another tester that was a huge success! A third time, shortly after that, for a Halloween Open House, which was an even greater success, and last year on the driveway to pass on a little love to my neighbors!  Let me just say this..... it is VERY time consuming - all that rising and punching, the making of mashed potatoes if you don't already have some made, the scalding of the milk just right so as not to kill the yeast...  Phew! It's a lot of work! Now I understand why Grandma only did this once a year when we pleaded and cajoled, bribed and outright begged! She had to start the night before, in order to have an afternoon of doughnuts for the ones she loved!  What a sweet woman with a servant's heart!!! I just love her!  Thanks, Grandma!!!

And so, here is the good news!  I found a way to make doughnuts that takes a 20 minute jaunt to the store for one thing and 5 minutes of prep once you get home.   Biscuits!!  You know those pre-made, uncooked biscuits that come in those refrigerated containers that you pop open by whacking on the edge of the counter!!!  To this day, they freak me out! I'm never prepared for the pop!! Or maybe, I'm too prepared for the pop so when it happens my tension releases in one terrified squeak!  

Anyway, it's as simple as popping one of those open, cutting out a center hole with a knife or shot glass, DROPping them in the heated oil to cook to a golden brown, pulling them out to DRAIN on a paper towel, DIPping them into the easy already-made glaze, and DISTRIBUTing them to those who are soooo excited to grab one that they are practically crowding you into the hot oil!

Some of my gluten-free friends are wondering at this point if I found gluten-free biscuits for my son. Sadly, no.  However, you could make your own from scratch easily enough - 10 minutes max - faster than a trip to the store!  I may have to try this myself! So, now you're wondering if poor Ian had to sit there and watch us delight ourselves with this most sinful treat.  No, I'm not that heartless!  It was Ian's free day! Three days strict diet, one day free - anything he wants (within mom's reason) and no ill effects! He's fortunate that way!  But let me know if you make your own biscuit dough from gluten-free ingredients and how they turn out! I would try it myself but it will be another 2 years before I break out the fryer again!!  :)

So, here's the recipe:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 TBS water
splash of lemon juice

Add the water a bit at a time to the sugar, along with a little splash of the lemon juice, until you have a glaze thick enough to coat your finger, but thin enough to drip back into the bowl.  Set aside for dipping.

BTW - We created an option... along with the glazed doughnuts, we also made sugared doughnuts.  We tried dipping a few of the doughnuts immediately into crystalized sugar.  (Try adding a bit of cinnamon to the sugar!)  The reviews were very positive but their first love is still the glaze. 

1 container homestyle biscuits
Vegetable oil or coconut oil - enough to go halfway up the doughnut - about 1/4  
      inch over the bottom of a deep pan (to prevent splashes).
OR a deep fryer


Cut a hole in the center of each biscuit with a knife...

...or narrow shot glass.

Set aside.

If heating oil on the stove top, turn the heat to medium high.  If working with a deep fryer, turn the heat to 360.  You know the oil is ready when you dip a tester "hole" in the oil and it sizzles!

Be careful working with the hot oil!!! I wear those plastic gloves for washing dishes and use tongs to work the dough.

Set up your assembly line first before you dunk anything. (I like to set it up outside so I don't have that stinky oil smell that lingers long after the doughnuts have been eaten.)  From left to right....biscuits prepped for DROPping in the oil, the oil, a plate covered with paper towel for DRAINing the oil off the doughnuts, glaze for DIPping, and a serving platter to DISTRIBUTE the doughnuts!

Then get to it!







Delicious, fast and easy!!! See if your kids don't think you're the bomb after this!!

And for those of you who know me well, you are likely appalled that I have posted a recipe that requires deep frying!  AND that I used something so processed and store-bought as pre-made biscuits! Well, it is a bit out of character, I admit, however, I will say that in keeping with my character, I am a traditionalist, I am occasionally practical, and I love to make my kids smile!  So, there is a time when tradition must be followed, when children must be allowed to indulge in their childhood dreams, and when one must be able to indulge those dreams quickly!!

Enjoy!  I think Eli is going in for round two!