Thursday, December 8, 2016

Bake a Legend

Here we are with our second Christmas cookie post of the season. I don’t know what makes these a Christmas staple – I think we should eat them year-round!

The story of these iconic cookies begins when Ohio resident Freda Smith was making peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and too late realized she had no chocolate chips. She did have a bag of Hershey’s Kisses though and stuck them on top of the peanut butter cookies. 

In 1958, she entered her recipe in the ninth annual Pillsbury Bake-off competition. Her cookies didn’t even place. Instead the winner was something called accordion treats, something nobody in this day and age has heard of, I bet.

Moral of the story – winning is not that big a deal and you don’t have to be a winner to become a legend. (I like that. I hope that saying takes off.)

So here’s how I bake up Mrs. Smith’s cookies

1 cup softened margarine
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs 

Blend these first ingredients together. I usually blend together the margarine and peanut butter first, with the margarine warmish so they meld together well. I also use this great Pampered Chef Measure-all cup to measure the peanut butter. Anybody else have a better idea for measuring it and then getting it all out of the measuring cup?

Next add the rest of the items and blend well.

3 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Stir in the last three ingredients and mix well.

Shape dough into balls. I scoop out the dough with the medium scoop from Pampered Chef – no I’m not a secret consultant.  These are the only Pampered Chef products I regularly use, besides, of course, my stoneware.

Roll the dough balls in sugar. I, along with the rest of world, generally roll them in white sugar, but I thought I’d try green and red sugar this year to make them more festive.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. As soon as they come out of the oven, press a chocolate star into each one. Some recipes call for Hershey’s kisses, but do people really unwrap them all, or can you buy them unwrapped. Also, I kind of like the taste of the stars better.

Slide them off the pans before they cool completely.  

Freeze them as soon as they are completely cool and bury them in the bottom of the freezer or they won’t make it to Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Who's Your Favorite Ruminant?

Every Tuesday in December, I plan to post about a different one of my favorite Christmas specials. Today I’ll start with everyone’s favorite ruminant from 1964.

I wanted to begin the month with this show because it seems that when I was a kid, this was the first Christmas special to air on TV. These poor kids today. They can watch their favorite shows anytime they want, just throw in the DVD or pull it up on Netflix. Maybe that’s part of what’s wrong with the younger generation. No sense of waiting and wondering.

I digress.

So why does “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” make my list? For starters, doesn’t it make everyone’s list? We all know the songs. There’s comedy, adventure, romance. And doesn’t everyone always root for the underdog? I’m surprised with so much attention on bullying (and for good reason, don’t get me wrong), that I haven’t heard anything about Rudolph and his friend Hermey being the victims of bullying and what they do to overcome it. (Of course, I do kind of live under a rock, so I miss a lot.)

But then there’s that final scene. Rudolph is hitched to the front of the sleigh. He has saved Christmas. Everyone’s happy. Everyone except a dolly for Sue, Charlie in the Box and the train with square wheels. In fact I just read on some website of 10 facts you didn’t know about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that in the original broadcast they never showed what happened to the misfit toys. But there was such an outrage by young viewers, that the following year the producers added that scene with the iconic line from Dolly, “I haven’t any dreams left to dream.”

To which I say, you always have a dream and you have to keep dreaming it. Someday it will come true. It did for the misfit toys and it will for anyone who doesn’t give up.

That’s why Rudolph stands the test of time in my book, and not just because it is the longest running holiday special ever. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Have You Heard the News?

Welcome to this year’s Christmas edition of my Sunday inspirational blogs. Every Sunday, for the next six weeks I will post an updated issue of the blogs I posted five years ago. I thought they were kind of cute, so decided they were worth revisiting. All the pictures are of animals either my daughter or I photographed on our trips to Kenya. I hope you enjoy the pictures and the story. 

 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him
Luke 1:65-66 New International Version

Visitor: Excuse me, what is everyone talking about?

Dog: Well, you knew that Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth had a baby, didn’t you?

Visitor: No, I didn’t. I’m new to town.

Dog: They are a really old couple. Nice though. They throw their scrapes out to me. Anyway, they are really old and never had any kids, and then all of a sudden she got pregnant.

Visitor: Really?

Dog: But here’s the really wild part. When Zachariah found out they were going to have a baby, he suddenly couldn’t talk at all.

Visitor: Why was that?

Dog: The people say that it is because he didn’t believe that God could do this. But here’s the rest of the story. Today, when he wrote down that he wanted to name the baby John, suddenly he could talk again. He said that it is because he obeyed God.

Visitor: How did he obey God?

Dog: He named the baby John. Nobody could figure out why. Zachariah said that is the name that God chose for the baby. And that the baby is going to be very special.

Visitor: How is he going to be special?

Dog: I don’t know.

Dog 2: I do.

Visitor: Well, hello, I didn’t see you laying there.

Dog 2: It all has to do with Elizabeth’s cousin. She is going to have a baby too. And they say that baby is going to be even more special than John. John was born to lead the way for Mary’s baby.

Visitor: How do you know that?

Dog 2: Why don’t you go visit Mary and find out.

Visitor: Maybe I will have to do that. Where can I find her?

Dog 2: She lives in Nazareth.

Visitor: Well, thank you both for all of your help. I will have to check this out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How's your Spritzgeback.

As we swing into the Christmas season, I have got blog ideas lined up for the entire month. Thursdays are going to be Christmas cookie day. What’s your favorite Christmas cookie and do you think that I’m going to write about it here? You’ll have to check in every week and see

The Spritz cookie has its origins the same place as I do - Germany. I don’t know how long the Loehmer family was in Germany, but the Spritz cookie has been there since the 1500’s. These cookies get their name from the German word SpritzgebackGeback is baked and spritz? Well, that means to squirt.

Now before you swear that you will never eat a Spritz cookie again, think about it? Have you ever made Spritz cookies or seen someone do it? If the dough isn’t just right, it can squirt out of the cookie press. I know mine does sometimes.

A lot of people don’t like making them because, as just mentioned, that dough has to be just the right consistency or it doesn’t come out of the press right and you end up with a mess.

I’m no genius at this, but I have found that the key is temperature. And not just the dough. The press and the pans and everything else that comes in contact with that dough needs to be slightly on the cool side. The more you handle those things, the warmer they get and then the squirting starts.

For better or worse, here’s the recipe I use:

1 cup butter or margarine
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder

Cream the first four ingredients, then gradually add the flour, salt and baking powder. Recipes always say to sift the flour and other dry ingredients together before adding them to the moist stuff. I never do that, I hate to dirty another bowl. I just dump the salt, soda or whatever else on top of the first bunch of flour I add and kind of work it in. Alton Brown, I am not. 

Anyway, oh, yea, preheat oven to 375 degrees. I never do that either. It’s a wonder anything I bake ever turns out. That first batch just has to bake a little longer while the oven heats up.

Ok, maybe this sharing cookie recipes once a week was a mistake. Yea, definitely, coz I’m not going to be able to tell you how long I bake these things. I just keep checking them until they’re done.

Yikes. I’ll have to try to be better next week. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Very Last of the Travels for the Year

About 80 miles north of the state capital, on the west side of I-39, resides the Hancock Agricultural Research Station. Run by the University of Wisconsin, it is a 412-acre research farm where trials of potatoes, field corn, sweet corn, soybeans, snap beans, carrots, cucumbers and switchgrass are run.

I drive down this highway quite a bit, probably a few times a year. The vegetable part of this station isn’t what I have always found fascinating. It’s the beautiful flower garden you can see from the interstate.

I’ve always wanted to stop, and finally that day in October, when Hubby and I were taking a drive, I made him pull over. 

The spot I was captivated by is actually the A. R. Albert and Villetta Hawley-Albert Horticultural Garden. This garden has been here since 1993 and was named, in part, after A. R. Albert who had been the superintendent of the Hancock Station from 1922 to 1947. And that was all the information I was able to gather off the internet. 

The only other thing I got is pictures. 
 The beginning of October was a little late to catch anything in full-bloom. 
Still saw lots of pretty stuff though. 
 Not so late in the season that they had drained the ponds. 
 I love this grass. I've been wanting some in my yard for a long time.
 My favorite all-time picture. How cool, huh? 
 Hubby's giving me the "have you taken enough pictures yet?" look. 
So that's it folks. I have finally gotten through all those road trips and day trips I took earlier this fall. Well, actually, there is one more, but - it's a story for another time. 

We're heading into winter! Come back this Thursday, when I start my Christmas series.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Give Thanks, one more time

I really had planned on posting at least my usual three times this week. I even thought about posting a daily Bible verse on giving thanks, because there are a lot of them to pick from, for good reason.

That did not happen. My week kind of fell apart on me. I do know, however, that no matter how my weeks, or my days, or even my months turn out, I still have more to be thankful for than to not be thankful for. I am blessed beyond measure. 

Various verses from Psalm 118

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in humans.

14 The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16  The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.
25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

New International Version 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A lot to be Thankful for

From Psalm 107

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5 They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
    to a city where they could settle.
8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

I was going to post this to my blog yesterday but then ran out of time and couldn’t think of anything to say about it anyway. Today, I was hit in the face with the reality of homelessness and just now read this again. Wow. Once again, God’s timing is impeccable.

It’s so easy to stereotype the homeless – they live in a big city, they have a drug or alcohol history, they suffer from mental illness, they are lazy, they could have a nice home if they wanted one but instead they choose to live on the streets. You can’t say that every homeless person fits into one of these stereotypes. Or that even most of them do. Each homeless person is as different as each snowflake. Each has a pattern and a story of their very own. And the best way to start to help them is to not judge and to instead treat them as a person, the same way that you would like to be treated.

 Today, at the time, I gave this homeless person everything that I could under the circumstances. Was it enough? As I sit here in my warm house with a full belly and a cat on my lap, I’d have to admit no. But I can’t let guilt weigh me down. I’m left with little to do except to pray for this person and for the people who I must trust to help him. Then I have to turn it over to God.

Not your typical Thanksgiving day message, huh? If you are reading this, though, where ever you, whatever your circumstances, you have a lot to be thankful for.