This happening in the kitchen today…

I almost didn’t.

But then I did.

I just couldn’t say no.  After all we bought the cookie cutters just for these recipes and Christmas only comes once a year.  So instead of ten…twelve….twenty different kinds we are making two. Two of our favorites.

Just in time for Grandma’s arrival.

Now let it snow…..might be wishful thinking with weather in the 60’s but a girl can wish can’t she now?

https://allinthesojourn.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/christmas-gingerbread/

https://allinthesojourn.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/counting-down-to-christmas-with-cookies/

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For The Weary, The Sick, Or The Sick At Heart This Christmas Season When Your Child’s Begging To Bake Cookies

Sometimes you have nothing left and one extra request can break the camel’s back.

This is what I was afraid of when little ones came home from school the first night of holiday break begging to make these because “Johnny’s” mother brought them into class and they are SO cool…and MOM WHY DON’T WE EVER MAKE THINGS LIKE THIS!

A sigh later and a big prayer for some get up and go and we were off making these.

And the surprise for this weary mom? They were easy! And they are fun! And much of it can be done by my six, eight and ten year old as I cheered from the couch.  In fact, if we never make it to cookies in 2014 I’m patting us all on the back for at least doing these.

Marshmallow chocolate candy cane fun

So really.  Put on the coffee or the cocoa, Christmas music and your slippers and get ready for some forever memory making that won’t break the camel’s back….I promise! And you will feel SO gourmet sipping your homemade peppermint mocha.

Holiday dippers

Holiday Dippers

1 bag of medium size marshmallows

1 box or bag of mini candy canes

1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Half-n-half cream

Split your supply of candy canes in half.  Crush half of them while they are in their wrappers (I used a meat pounder and let my 6 year old have a ball)

Unwrap the other candy canes and place in a bowl.

Melt your semi-sweet chocolates by adding a tablespoon of cream and then placing in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until smooth and creamy.  Add extra cream as needed to thin.

Place straight part of candy cane stick into marshmallow.  Dip as far as you like in the melted chocolate.  Roll in crushed candy cane.  Place on wax paper to cool and harden.  I didn’t have that so I improvised with tin foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray.

Chocolate peppermint dipped marshmallows

Wrap individually in plastic bags to give as a gift or store in a container with lid to use with all your hot chocolate drinks and/or coffee.  It makes for a delightful minty drink.  Enjoy!

Peppermint Holiday Dippers

Just What Every Holiday Table Needs

Every year like clock work she’d pull out the hand crank grinder weathered dull by time and use. We’d pour in cranberries and turn, crimson spilling the bowl full. Sisters near quartering oranges and apples adding to the berries until the room wafted bright of citrus oils while we sang Over the River and Through the Woods, only we knew grandmother was coming to our house not us to hers. Sometimes snow danced and other times just bare branches with a few lone leaves, but whatever the weather we’d have this to grace our table.

imageYears later, and with another generation, I pull food processor off the shelf throwing in the same tantalizing ingredients. And this heart bursts full with each bite. Memories in every spoonful.

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Cranberry Salad

1 bag of whole cranberries

1 orange quartered, rind on

1-2 apples cored and quartered (I like Granny Smith or honey crisp or a combo)

1/2-3/4 cup of sugar to taste

Place all the ingredients in the food processor except the sugar, and pulse until the right consistency. Some like it fairly chunky and others like me prefer it finely chopped but not puréed. Add your sugar and pulse to incorporate. Store in the fridge for at least 12 hours before serving to chill and flavors to marinate. Serve cold with turkey or any chicken dish….or by itself a spoonful at a time.

Taking Care of Mother (How Kombucha Changed My Life)

image(Reposting all because of a spelling error ugh!) Thanks for grace….

I had heard rumbles about this health drink called Kombucha and may or may not have tried to gulp it down before re-locating. But when we drug our tired weary selves into a new town and in one of my sicker moments I decided to try it at the local coffee shop.

And I felt better.

And it changed my life.

So began the hunt to make my own because $4 for a little bottle just wasn’t going to make it into the budget when I was downing a bottle a day and hubby wasn’t buying how much I thought this helped me heal and feel better.

So I found a friend who had a mother (aka scoby…symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and I began a life changing journey that I am passionate about. I will say it was frustrating and I almost gave up because there  are very few specific recipes for the second ferment on the web and what I was really craving was the effervescence that is in this fine drink. And I was discovering through failed attempt after attempt that it’s an art to get there.

So in an effort to make it easy for you, here are my tips and very basic recipes. Feel free to post questions and I will do my best to answer.

First you need to find a mother or scoby. Each batch makes a new mother so if you have a friend making Kombucha they will most likely be happy to get one off their hands. Also health food stores sell them as do websites. I like cultures for health as they are reputable and reasonable. There are also lots of good tips about Kombucha and other fermented products that are good for your body with probiotics and prebiotics etc. on their site.

To make your first ferment find a gallon glass jar (or you can half the recipe for a half gallon).

In a pot pour 4 cups of filtered water and 1 cup of sugar. Stir bringing to a boil on the stove.

Add your tea bags. You can have fun with this using white, green or black unflavored teas. It cannot be herbal or flavored tea as it will kill your mother. I like to use 6 black tea bags and 2 green. Turn off water and let tea steep until room temp.

Next pour your cooled sweet tea into the glass jar and add your starter Kombucha liquid that came with your scoby. For 1 gallon you should have 2 cups of starter.

Next add your filtered water until it almost reaches the top and place your mother in the tea. Cover the top with a towel that will allow the Kombucha to breathe but will keep out fruit flies.

Place out of direct light on your counter or in a cupboard and let it sit undisturbed.

Begin tasting your Kombucha day 5 with a straw that you slip down the side of your jar capping it with your finger to draw it out and sample it. When it starts to have a bit of effervescence and it no longer tastes like tea you know your ready. I’ve found it can take anywhere from 1 week to 3 before it is ready depending on the temperature of your home, how much bacteria is in your batch etc.

Next is the fun part! You can either drink the raw plain unflavored Kombucha as is or second ferment for more bubbles and an infused flavor.  I always second ferment and the two flavors that we have got down to a science are mint and ginger.

Ginger Kombucha (for each 24.5 oz bottle. I found these lemonade bottles at Harris Teeter and I LOVE how tight their seal is.  It really makes a difference on having extra bubbles. You can always buy plain bottles online too in any size.)

1 TBL peeled finely grated fresh ginger (I’ve tried blending it, using chunks but this seemed to work the best)

1 TBL sugar

Raw Kombucha (first ferment)

Stuff your tablespoon of ginger into each bottle. Using a plastic funnel (metal is supposed to hurt the good bacteria in the kombucha) add your tablespoon of sugar.  Taking your mother(s) out of your raw kombucha using your funnel pour from your gallon glass jar until it almost reaches the top of your bottle. Seal and lightly shake to mix sugar and place on your counter for 4-5 days without opening for best bubbles.  At the end of those 4-5 days place your bottle(s) in the fridge.  I found each gallon jar can make 4 24.5 oz bottles per batch.  That will leave you enough raw kombucha at the bottom of your jar to start your next round.

Mint Kombucha (for each 24.5 oz bottle)

1 large stem of mint (or 2 small)

1 TBL sugar

Follow the exact directions above for the ginger flavor. (My kids love this one!)

RULES TO ALWAYS FOLLOW

  • Always listen to mother, she rolls au naturel (never use antibacterial soaps on anything that will come in contact with kombucha, don’t use flavored or herbal teas, don’t use metal in any part of the process except for the brewing of the tea…although some people say stainless steel is fine I have stayed away from it all.)
  • The more the merrier: until it starts to ferment too quickly keep all your mothers in your new batches and just throw the ones out that are looking pretty ratty tatty.
  • Clean freak: always wash your hands (but not with antibacterial soap) before working with your kombucha.  Your mother is sensitive to bad bacteria.
  • Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty: get familiar with your scoby.  She doesn’t bite!  And she isn’t as gross as you may think.  It’s good to not be afraid to handle her with your hands as you put her in and out of the kombucha.
  • When you fail, try try again: if you let your first ferment kombucha go too long and it tastes too sour like vinegar.  DON’T TRY TO FIX IT.  Just dump out all but 2 cups of starter and begin again. There are lots of options for what people suggest to do with too sour kombucha on the web, but I have yet to go there.

 

Mom’s Apple Pie

Leaves tipped golden. Harvest wafting through the air. Hayrides, pumpkins, cups steamed full.

“Oh, Marilla,” she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with her arms full of gorgeous boughs” ‘I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?”  Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery

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And then there’s apple pie! Nothing like it in the world and this kitchen like my mother’s and her mother’s and her mother before cocooned in the smell of apples and cinnamon.

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APPLE CRUMB PIE

1 deep dish frozen pie crust

6-7 peeled and sliced apples (fairly thin slices) I like to use granny smith or a mix of different apples

1 TBL cinnamon

¾ cup sugar (brown or white works)

Mix together in bowl and place in pie shell. I like my apples to come up in a mound a few inches above the crust as they will shrink when baking

CRUMB TOPPING:

6 TBL butter cold and diced up

¾ cup flour

½ cup sugar

Crumble all ingredients in a bowl with your hand or in a food processor. The end consistency should be crumbly. Sprinkle on top of pie.

Place on a pizza stone and put in a 375 oven for 40-45 min. or until the juices begin to seep out of pie. It is NOT done until this happens even if the top is browning. You may need to turn the oven down if it is getting too brown before the juice runs.

Picnic at Summer’s End (when I’m really at my end)

Somedays one needs to slip away and soak in all this unadulterated beauty.

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Even Jesus knew the loud gets louder and the clamor of crowds make hearing the Word harder. So we slipped away with picnic in hand and some journals and sand toys and I don’t remember breathing so deeply.

And with each breath burdens lifted. Suddenly it got a whole lot easier to be brave because when fear is greater than faith nothing is possible and monsters under the bed are real. But read Ruth and it doesn’t take long to see our God rewarding the courageous heart. The one risking it all to step into the unknown, the unseen, the uncomfortable because a God unchanging waits calling into the deep.

It takes heart this being brave and we have all we need in this kingdom where the King is Love.

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For the weary, a picnic recipe that isn’t the last straw:

CEASAR SALAD with Chicken Leftovers

1 head iceberg lettuce chopped (or romain)

1 cup mayo

1/2 lemon juiced

Garlic salt and pepper to taste

cooked chicken cubed (as much as you like or have)

croutons

freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Stir mayo and lemon juice together. Put in a container and over ice in cooler. Place lettuce and chicken in a container large enough to toss ingredients and place in cooler. At picnic add croutons, Parmesan and toss with dressing adding seasoning as desired. Enjoy!

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When You Miss Mom

On a day when the skin is red (these allergy shots have a way of being memorable) and the heart is raw and needing to take one more step makes the lungs burn, all I really want is Mom instead of being the mom. It’s then I pull out a pot to make this ’cause there’s no way closer to her than a kitchen wafting garlic, tomatoes and the sweet scent of basil.

spaghetti sauce

At the end of gulping it down Hope girl asks what’s for dessert and they, all grown up before my eyes, whip up a memory of picnics gone by near lakes and sandy rivers. Mom would pack these simple treasures of perfection. It looks complicated and oh so fancy when it’s merely a box-mixed-cupcake brimmed with your favorite filling. Tonight it’s what we had in the fridge…fresh strawberries and whip cream dusted with powdered sugar.  (Hope girl’s favorite anything strawberry shortcake.)

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And because mom hugs are miles away I’m clinging to this tonight:

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. ~Isaiah 40:11

For Days When You’d Rather Walk Away

The morning was new and one could smell it in the air, grass still wet with pearls of dew. Summer bounty was calling our name, berries sweet and ripe. Metal pails clinked as we marched along hearts bursting with excitement, the wood filled with song birds and crickets, dragonfly wings shimmering light. Around the bend and up a hill there they were, a sea of black and red.

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One eaten one kept the pails slowly filled but excitement quickly turned to tears as thorns tore through flesh leaving berry battle wounds. I gathered my brood to comfort, mind drifting back to the little girl in gingham under a high noon sun leaning through prickly vines to beauty waiting all glistening black, and her wincing as the barbs gripped skin and cloth.

It’s hard to push through pain to the prize waiting. Sometimes it’s easier to just walk away, but for every thorn there is sweetness and I tell these ones I’ve carried and coached and cried over that pies and jams won’t happen if we’re afraid of scratches and scrapes. And that if you’re right stayed on the goal, it won’t hurt nearly as much.

We dig back in, timid and gingerly they work. But I know, and I can taste it, all this sweetness come from thorns.

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Best blackberry pie recipe ever! (crust even better made in a food processor).

Never…Going…Back

Not if they threaten, or whine, or cry  or dump every Lego while shouting and screaming will I ever go back. This slice of heaven screams artisan, chewy with a bit of crunch and anything and everything delightful about cheese and sauce and dough married together (and I even used 100% white whole wheat flour shhhh). Since I stumbled across this recipe late in the day I employed the sponge rise method.

One bite later and I know I will never go back to my old pizza dough recipe. Not even if they drag me.

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Excuse Me While I Have Another Helping

Some days there are no words, or stories or songs…just recipes.  Today’s one of those days. This one goes all the way back to childhood where over smoky bonfires and barbecue Mom would serve up steaming spoonfuls of this goodness and the next day turn the left overs into an amazing cold salad. There is nothing not to love about this dish and it’s impossible to mess it up…and the perfect addition to any picnic I might add…so excuse me while I go have another helping.

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Two Way Brown Rice and Lentils

3/4 cup green lentils

1/2 cup brown rice

1 medium onion chopped

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp thyme

1 clove minced garlic

3 cups of chicken (or vegetable) broth

dash salt

Preheat oven to 300. Put all ingredients in a casserole dish and give a quick stir. Cover and bake for 2 hours. Serve warm or cool to turn into your cold salad.

For the salad add your favorite chopped vegetables. I love cucumber, tomato, carrots, celery, cooked and cubed sweet potatoes. Toss in feta cheese.

For the dressing you can use your favorite store bought Italian dressing or you can make your own vinaigrette. I take 2 cups of the lentils and rice, add vegetables and feta tossing it with 2 TBL red wine vinegar and 1 TBL vegetable oil with a touch of salt to taste. You can enjoy this salad straight up or sandwich it in a pita or tortilla but be prepared for friends to ask for seconds!