The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Merry Merry Muffins!

I've been on a muffin kick lately.  This is my second muffin recipe post in a row!

I actually found and modified this recipe last year, so when this year's Christmas season rolled around, I pulled the recipe back out and made some again, except I made mini muffins--lots of little yummy!

This recipe began as an eggnog bread recipe.  Quick bread recipes are a cinch to turn into muffin recipes--just use muffin pans instead of bread pans, reduce the baking time, et voilà!   I added banana to this recipe, which, in combination with the eggnog and its spices, gives this recipe a wonderful taste that even non-eggnog lovers will love.  I'm proof of that!

Here is my "new and improved" recipe.

Banana Eggnog Muffins
makes twelve muffins

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup cane juice crystals (or white sugar)2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup eggnog (I used Oberweis eggnog)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups freshly ground whole-wheat flour (or 2 1/4 cups white flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash freshly ground nutmeg (freshly ground is very strong, so go easy!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 12 muffin cups with muffin papers.  Blend together the eggs and butter.  Add cane juice crystals and beat.  Mix in bananas, eggnog, and vanilla.

With whisk, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Add to wet mixture and stir just enough to moisten and until all has been mixed together.  Pour evenly into muffin cups.  Top muffins with turbinado sugar ("sugar in the raw"), or cinnamon/sugar, or leave plain.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden and they test done with a toothpick.  Let cool on wire rack.  These muffins freeze great.

Banana eggnog muffins

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Cream Cheese Muffins

Sometimes I get into this crazy baking mood, where I want to spend several days in the kitchen whipping up stuff.  The week before Christmas was such a week for several reasons:

  • I wanted to bless our church family with pre-fellowship treats at Christmas Day service
  • I wanted to bake some things for Christmas Day with my family
  • I simply felt like it!

I had wanted to make a few recipes which called for cream cheese, so while at Costco I bought a bulk box of (what I thought was) three packages.  After I got home, I realized it was three pounds.  Wow.  What to do with all that cheese?  Well, I was in a baking mood after all!

I love muffin recipes, and have tried to keep them to a minimum handful of basic recipes so they don't overflow out of my recipe binder.  However, I didn't have a recipe with cream cheese in it.  Time to search the internet.  I found several recipes that called for a cheesecake-like filling, but I didn't think my guys would go for that (except my dearie, of course).  I searched for one that would have me mixing the cream cheese up with the eggs and butter, or something similar.  And I found one.  I modified it to accommodate fresh whole wheat flour, and since it was a plain recipe, I decided to add some berries.  I doubled the batch, and made half into blueberry muffins, and half into blackberry muffins.  The blackberry ones were my favorite.  I made some more with raspberries--total yum.  Below is my modified recipe.  Mmm...

Blueberry cream cheese muffins

Cream Cheese Muffins
makes 12 regular muffins

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 3/4 cups fresh whole wheat flour (original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar (I used cane juice crystals)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional--I used it)
1/4 teaspoon lemon flavor (optional--I substituted 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice)
1 to 1 1/2 cups berries

Beat cream cheese and butter together; add egg and beat again.  Add milk, vanilla and lemon (if using) and mix well.  Combine the dry ingredients; if using berries, mix them in with the combined dry ingredients (this helps them from clumping together, especially if you're using frozen berries).  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet just until moistened.  Fill greased or lined muffin tins about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar ("sugar in the raw") or cinnamon sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden on top.

Raspberry cream cheese muffins

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tea Talk -- Make Your Way Known

Welcome to my home for Ruth's Tea Talk!
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.

I'm having...a mug of Irish breakfast tea in a big "hot chocolate mug."  I made pancakes this morning for the guys.

I'm feeling...fine.  :)

On my trying to create a new Facebook page for my business.  I thought it would take just a few minutes, but alas, I ran into problems, including somehow creating two pages!  I have spent the morning working on it.  Hopefully it's fixed now.  I also have to type out the cars' schedule--where the cars will be when, and who will be in them--so that Fernando can coordinate his therapy sessions and I can coordinate simply having a vehicle for errands and such.  Busy days are coming!

I leave you with...a passage of Scripture that is fitting as we look forward to a new year.  I pray that this Scripture is fulfilled in both my life and yours as the new year progresses!

Psalm 67

God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us--
That Your way may be known on the earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let all the peoples praise You.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For You will judge the peoples with uprightness
And guide the nations on the earth.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
The earth has yielded its produce;
God, our God, blesses us.
God blesses us,
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

This is not a selfish blessing.  There is a purpose to the Lord's blessing:  That His way and salvation may be known to others.  And the last two verses sum it up again:  He blesses me so that others may fear Him.  May I be useful to the Lord so that others are drawn to Him this new year!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas a la Italy

Time to catch up on the latest...

Christmas preparations were full of hustle and bustle last week.  Part of our annual preparations include planning for the Christmas Day meal.  Food is something special--not in and of itself, but the time spent socializing while preparing it, and the time of fellowship spent as we sit down and eat together.  My cultural heritage is both British and Italian, with the Italian side being the clear winner when it comes to food.  After all, my mom--the cook in the family--is Italian!

This year, my mom came down a week before Christmas, and we prepared part of the main course together.  On the menu for this particular Saturday morning:  manicotti.  Yummm.

First, we made the pancake noodles.  It is a mixture of egg, milk, and flour--basically, crepes.  If you've never eaten authentic Italian manicotti, you're missing out on a treat.  It is not the pasta (manicotti) tubes that you would find in your average grocery store.  Crepes are thin and light, and, when filled with the cheese filling and baked, melt in your mouth.

We oversaw the guys putting together the filling--a mixture of three cheeses, egg, freshly grated nutmeg, and parsley.  Once the noodles were made and the filling mixed together, I pretty much sat back with my camera and watched my mom work.  :)

We lay out the noodles, 4-6 on a cutting board, and use a cookie scoop to evenly measure out the filling onto the center of each noodle.  Then we pat the cheese out, sort of like a flat log.

Then we fold one side over, then the other side.

Once they're folded, we place each manicotti in a pan and place the pan in the freezer.

Once the manicotti are frozen, we pop them out of the pan and put them in freezer bags or wrap them and and put them in a freezer container.  On Christmas Day, we simply thaw them out, arrange them on a bed of sauce (in a baking pan), cover them with sauce and a little grated mozzarella, and bake them.  Dee-lish!

After the manicotti were finished, we had time to sit back and socialize.  My mom brought cookies for the boys, which they loved, of course.

Thomas earned his cookies that morning by drying dishes for us.

Fernando relaxed in his chair all morning.  His recovery from surgery is going well, and the only thing really bothering him is the shoulder strap from the brace he has to wear.

Even though he is a lefty, Fernando has no problem eating cookies with his right hand.  ;)

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tea Talk -- Today!

Welcome to my home for Ruth's Tea Talk!
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.

I'm having...a mug of Irish breakfast tea in my new Polish pottery bubble mug (as they call it).  I love my mug and this tea!

I'm feeling...fine and healthy.  :)

On my a little bit more baking that needs to be done for the weekend, and then the rest of my focus will be on Christmas Day!  Our extended family will be spending the afternoon and evening in our home, and we hope to create a warm, inviting atmosphere for everyone.  This includes cleaning and all the other preparations that need to happen!  I'm mentally making my lists, and I need to get it all written down in order to sort out all the logistics.  But--I love logistics!

All my snowflake ornaments--I purchase one or two each year--are on our tree!

I leave you with...another appropriate verse for this season of joy, hope, and peace.

...for today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11 NASB

Merry Christmas, dear Tea-Time friends!!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tea Talk -- This Will Be A Sign

Welcome to my home for Ruth's Tea Talk!
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.

I'm having...a mug of Irish breakfast tea in my new tea mug!

On one of my extremely rare "window shopping" adventures, I spotted this Polish pottery.  After oohing and aahing and practically drooling over the various pieces and patterns, I was persuaded by the shop owner to fill out a gift wish list.  She then proceeded to hand me a $10 gift certificate to her store!  But wait...  there's more to this story...

Last week I spent a massive chunk of time typing up a school project for Jacob.  He usually pays me in peanut butter cups, but seriously--I had spent over 14 hours and typed 87 pages of information.  This project was big.  In thanks, Jacob accompanied me back to this shop, where he chipped his "payment" and, along with some money I had saved, we purchased the teapot and mug in the blue poppy pattern, and the sugar and creamer in the cornflower pattern.  Jacob was so sweet to go with me, since window shopping is complete foreign to his character (I pray frequently for his future wife!).  At one point, after browsing for several minutes, Jacob leaned over to me and whispered, "I'm trying, Mom, but this is really hard!"

I'm feeling...fine and dandy.  :)

On my mind...are details of Christmas.  I'm guessing Christmas is on your mind as well!  I'm trying to enjoy the whole process, instead of becoming frenzied with preparations for just one day which will pass as a vapor.  Today I plan to enjoy hand-addressing envelopes in which we will send out our annual Christmas letter (which is written but not yet copied).  I enjoy this activity because it gives me time to think about each person and/or family we send a letter to.  I think back on the blessings of each person, and thank the Lord for all of them.

I leave you with...a passage of Scripture fit for this season.

This will be a sign for you:
you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there appeared with the angel 
a multitude of the heavenly host 
praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
Luke 2:12-14 NASB

 "A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse..." [Isaiah 11:1ff]

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Focus on Others

This Christmas season, we are determined to be others-focused.  It's not an easy thing to do!  Everywhere I turn, I am assaulted with ads and enticements which pull me toward the "me-me-me" attitude usually fostered during this time of year.  But as I said, we are determined!

One way we put our focus on others' needs this Christmas was by adopting a needy family for Christmas.  (Thanks to my Dad's church for this special program!)  Our extended family and we chose a family who would not have received gifts this Christmas, and we bought items that both meet their needs and a few of their wants.

We had such fun running around in little groups at the store, trying to find the girls' section, and this or that toy, or those shoes.  Even the frustration of trying to find "size 9 long juniors' pants for girls" was part of the joy of the evening.

The gifts--along with boxes of wrapping paper and bows--made their way into our dining room.

This family had six children, so we wrote their names on pieces of paper to keep their gifts from getting mixed up.

 Then the wrapping party began...

[Thanks for the pic, Danny!]

 Halfway done...

We asked the cashier for gift receipts, just in case some of the clothing didn't fit.  My dad and mom decided to see the "longest gift receipt the cashier ever printed" (according to him)!

We were able to get all the gifts into the large trash bag that the church provided.  My dad took the bag of gifts to the church to drop off, and all the gift bags will soon be distributed to the families.  We are all happy.  :)

Scripture is filled with reminders to be others-oriented.  Put others' needs before your own.  And I think we did just a little of that this past week.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tea Talk -- His Name

Welcome to my home for Ruth's Tea Talk!
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.

I'm having...a cup of Trader Joe's sipping chocolate.  (I actually had this last night.)  Very rich, very chocolatey.  :)

Hot chocolate in my Gibson china teacup

I'm feeling...just dandy this morning, though still a bit sleepy.

On my how to calculate the radius of a curved roadway, how to use the triangulation method to place evidence in a field sketch, the length of a yaw skid mark...  Yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, either.  These past few days, I have been typing up an outline of a "Traffic Accident Investigation" field manual for Jacob.  I have learned more about parts of cars, skid marks, flares, and evidence-gathering than I ever wanted to know.  And today will be the final push to complete the outline.  I'm nearing 80 pages of typed material!

I leave you with...any Scripture should take my mind off traffic accidents and evidence, lol.  I leave you with this particular passage as my mind and heart look toward this Christmas season:

For a child will be born to us,
a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called

Wonderful Counselor, 
Mighty God,
Eternal Father, 
Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NASB

O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Tale of Three Trees

Have you read A Tale of Three Trees, the children's book?  Well, this post is not about  It is a story of our quest with Lori's family to find a tree.  Really, three trees.  Lori and her guys found one for them.  We found one for us.  Then, we found one for my brother.  So--this is the tale of three trees, told mostly in pictures.

What's a tree farm without a reindeer??

Thomas searches for the trees that are taller than he...

I think this is the one!

We marked one tree we liked, in order to find it again if we decided to choose it!

Once we had three trees chosen and cut down, we posed for a group shot.  (The last time we did that, we were in warm, sunny Florida!)

Shaking the tree on the tree-shaking-thingy

Such strong, manly men!

 Such goofy men!

Follow the car with the tree on top--that's Lori and her family.

We got to stop at the Mouse House again this year!!  Here are our young men, looking manly again, at the Mouse House.  :)

You'll get to see the tree, all decked out, in a post to be posted soon.  :)

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