Saturday, October 27, 2012

Birthday Cupcakes

The recipe is from the famous Magnolia Bakery in New York City. These are REALLY good cupcakes! 
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350*. Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners (use a cookie scoop), filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar (an entire two pound bag comes out just right for me)
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar (I always do!). If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

To make them look like Magnolia's, pipe on the icing in a swirl and top with sprinkles. I'm not so handy with the icing bag, so I just spread mine on top with a swirly flourish!

Yield: enough for 2 dozen cupcakes
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Just a Little Tip for the Kitchen

Do you cook with celery leaves?  It not, do give it a try!  I especially like to chop them up and add them to soup.

Here are three soups in particular where I use celery leaves when I add the celery:
Chicken Noodle, Minestrone, and Pasta Fagioli

Got any little tips for ways to cook with something that would otherwise be thrown away?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Building Character: Boldness

This week we are talking about BOLDNESS vs. fearfulness.

Our eldest son needs no encouragement towards greater boldness!  To quote Ogden Nash, he is "as brave as a barrel full of bears"!  I, on the other hand, tend towards being shy and fearful.  This is an area I pray about and sadly, where I regularly fail.  So if you or your child is like me, the emphasis will be on just saying something... anything!  Just speak the Lord's name out loud and do it with as much confidence as you can muster!  If your child is like my son, emphasize being confident in the Lord and not in our own selves.

BOLDNESS vs. fearfulness

Confidence that what I have to say or do is true, right, and just in the sight of God.

Acts 4:29 - "Lord... grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence."

This week's Bible Story:  Acts 4 - The Boldness of Peter and John
In chapter 3, Peter and John healed a lame man at the temple.  There were many witnesses to this miracle, and the apostles were very clear that they were able to perform this act of healing because of the power given to them by Jesus Christ.  They then preached a sermon calling all of the Jews to repent of their sin and to be converted to Christ.

Their proclamations about Jesus came to the attention of the Jewish rulers, and Peter and John were put into prison for the night.  The next day, they were brought before a large crowd of Jewish leaders for questioning.  They were specifically asked, "By what power or what name have you done this?"  Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit answered, "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole."  He also said, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

The rulers marveled at the boldness of Peter and John.  With the man who had been lame standing before them, healthy and whole, they couldn't say anything against them.  They decided that the best they could do would be to severely threaten them.  Verse 18 says, "So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus."  Peter and John said that they would have to obey God rather than men and despite the threats made to them, went on their way, boldly proclaiming Jesus, His death, resurrection, and the salvation available through Him.

  • What sort of persecution did Peter and John face?  Did that stop them?
  • What sort of persecution might we face?  Should that stop us?
  • Peter and John were NOT bold to speak out about political or personal views.  They were speaking about a matter of life or death!  Do you think they would have had the same kind of boldness for things that were less important?
  • Peter and John were filled with the Holy Spirit and that seemed to help them with boldness.  Do we have this today?  
  • What are some specific times and places we can speak Jesus' name with boldness?  (Role-playing might be a good idea.)
  • How should we handle it if we are ever asked to stop speaking Jesus' name?
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Baked Ziti for a Crowd

We recently hosted our largest crowd ever in our new home - about 30 people!  I didn't know how many people to expect that day, but I knew it would be a lot.  I wanted to be sure we had plenty of food for everyone.  We were also leaving for a big camping trip the next day, so I wanted to keep things as simple as possible!  (Hence the boxed brownie mixes!)  Things worked out so well, I wanted to record what I did for future gatherings.  If you haven't made baked ziti before, think lasagne, just 4x easier to prepare.

Baked Ziti for a Crowd
 In bowl #1 mix:
  •  2 lbs. cooked and drained ziti
  • 6 c. pasta sauce (homemade from 2, 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 lbs. of ground Italian Sausage (optional)
 In bowl #2 mix:
  • 2 lbs. ricotta cheese
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated
  • fresh basil to taste (I used several Tbs. from my plant)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan 
**You will also need another 4 c. mozzarella.

Layer in this way in an extra large disposable pasta pan:  1/2 of the ziti mixture goes in the bottom.  Cover with all of the ricotta cheese mixture.  Put the remaining half of the ziti mixture on top of that, top with the 4 c. of mozzarella and cover with foil.  Bake in a 350* oven for 30 minutes, removing the foil during the last 10 minutes to let the cheese get a little brown and bubbly.

(I think my large roasting pan might also work well,  I'll try that next time.)

For our gathering, I served - 
  • this recipe for baked ziti that serves 24
  • a crock pot full of dairy free/gluten free meatballs in sauce
  • I also cooked 3 pounds of whole wheat linguine and some gluten free pasta, but I think next time I will only cook one pound.  There was TONS leftover!
  • 1 lb. of salad greens loaded up with yummy chopped veggies
  • for dessert, I prepared 15x10" pan of brownies, thawed a bag of frozen raspberries, and served a quart of vanilla ice cream.  

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

And so it goes...

I'm up far later than I should be for a person that needs to wake up at 3 a.m. to begin a road trip.  A very long road trip.  I've been up trying to make food for the trip so we can keep fast food stops to a minimum.  So we've got:
  • bran muffins
  • breakfast sausages
  • refried beans
  • spanish rice
  • corn tortillas (Preacher Man made these!)
  • PBJ and lunch meat for sandwiches
  • loads of chopped fresh veggies & fruit
 We found a good veggie burger recipe we'd like to try next time around.  Not because we are opposed to meat, but because they could stand not being refrigerated.  We're going to try beans and rice in plastic cups in the car.  I'll let you know how that one goes.  (Hopefully not too messy!!)

All that to say, I didn't get the posts done I would have liked to have done, and so it will be another week before you hear from me again.  And so it goes... 

Once we get home, I hope to stay there for a while.  Boring is good.  I like boring!

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Friday, October 5, 2012

"I'm all about that"

I went to college with an adorable girl that used to say the phrase, "I'm all about that".  I'm not sure if this was a general trend, or just what was going on in the bubble of the little Christian school I was attending, but it caught on.   The color yellow?  "I'm all about that".  Hawaiian pizza?  Rachmaninoff?  Swishing through fall leaves? Definitely "all about that".

And I really don't intend to demean what was just fun banter.  I think God gave us some wonderful pleasures to enjoy in this life and that if we walk around with a sober look all of the time, it will not draw other to Christ whereas infectious joy in God's creation, WILL.  But I was thinking about this phrase lately in regards to the choices that we make and the way we live our lives. 

And since today is the day I like to post about Homeschooling and Mothering in general this post can certainly bend towards that direction, but this is a choice every person needs to make at some point in his or her lives.

I've said it before in several different ways and I don't know how to more powerfully convey the meaning. 

"Nothing else in this life matters.  NOTHING.  Only Jesus Christ and that we have a heart for the Lord."

"He is EVERYTHING and everything is about Him."

From a popular preacher, "If you've missed heaven, you've missed it all."

But really, I think this one may be the best: 

"Jesus Christ?  I'm ALL about that!"

So if you go around freely sharing how much Jesus means to you, what does that make you? 

I had a sudden realization a few years ago that I had become "one of those people".  Radical.  Extreme.  People might wonder if I was brainwashed.  Serving Christ had become my WHOLE life.  Sports, politics, making money, saving money, health and nutrition, and any number of other things that people can be passionate about.  Meh.  It's all just ok.  I can even view those things from a spiritual perspective. But really, what am I ALL about?

Galatians 6:14 - But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 - "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all." 
For a little self-evaluation:
If you were to ask your children, what would they say you were all about? 
How do you spend the majority of your time?
Where do you spend most of your money?

Are we REALLY all about Jesus?  Or have we deceived ourselves.
Let us press on!

Philippians 3:12-14 - "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chicken Stock in the Crock Pot

If my traditional stove-top method of making chicken stock is a bit much for you, then here is a fast and easy method to try in your crock pot.  I like this method because you can do it with any leftover chicken skin and bones, so it is a great use for a picked over roasted or rotisserie chicken, or for all of the bits left from bone-in chicken breasts or drumsticks.  I've also simplified the recipe making it easy to memorize if you are so inclined. 

This simple, fast stock works well if frozen in various size containers.  I use mostly pints and quarts and keep them in the door of my deep freeze.

Crock Pot Chicken Stock
  • bits and pieces from your leftover chicken carcass - meat removed for another use
  • 2 large carrots, scrubbed clean and broken in half
  • 2 large ribs of celery, also cleaned and broken in half - adding the leaves is good
  • 2 medium onions, quartered (leave the skins on)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley (or 2 Tbs. dried)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • a teaspoon of whole peppercorns
  • a splash of apple cider vinegar (optional, but it helps leech out all of the healthy stuff into the broth)
  • just enough water to cover
Do you see the 2-thing going on with the vegetables?  That is an easy way to remember how much to throw in. 

Fill up your crock pot with all of these goodies, set it on low for about 8 hours. 

Once it is done, strain the broth through a sieve and discard the chicken and vegetables.

Refrigerate the broth and once it has cooled, skim the fat off of the top.   Pack your broth into containers and use within a couple of days or freeze for future use. 

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Building Character: Availability

This week we are talking about AVAILABILITY vs. self-centeredness.

In weeks past, we have discussed Attentiveness and Alertness, which are both character qualities that help us learn to put others ahead of ourselves.  Availability focuses on the same thing: others.

When I think of availability, I think of giving of my time.  If my time is scheduled down to the very minute, there will not be much left for spontaneous, and much needed service.  Time is a valuable, and limited resource, so we must learn to use it well.  I am blessed to have more freedom and flexibility with my time than many other people, but I need to make sure that I am using my "extra time" for the glory of God and for serving, not just for my own gratification.  

The bottom line is that I need to always keep the proper perspective.  I'm sure most of you are familiar with this cliche, but it is simple and makes the point well.  My life needs to be ordered in this way:
1. Jesus
2. Others
3. You

And with that, you get JOY.  What a nice, simple way to keep our priorities straight, and it is easy for our kids to remember too.

AVAILABILITY vs. self-centeredness

Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving.

Philippians 2:20-21 - "For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus."

Doesn't that verse make you feel sad for Paul?  The only person he felt like he could trust to send to the brethren in Philippi was Timothy.  Let's admonish ourselves and our children to never let the same be said of us.  Let us always remember that nothing else in this life matters one single bit.  Nothing else but Jesus Christ.  And EVERYTHING we do, is all about Him.  If we are so busy seeking our own interests that we are not able to serve Him and His saints, then we need to cut some things out of our lives. 

Note to Mothers:  By serving your husband and children, you are serving Christ.  I am fully aware that there are times in our lives where being faithful in those two realms of service require ALL of our time and energy.  If that is where you are at this time, then know that you are doing Holy Work and continue serving faithfully.  Do not feel guilty if you are unable to keep up with Sister So-and-so, especially if she is in a different stage in life or has different circumstances.  God does not ask you to do what she is doing, He only asks you to be faithful in the tasks He has given to you.

This week's Bible story:  Jesus Makes Himself Available to the Multitudes
Mark 6:30-44

Jesus was having a difficult time.  He had just found out about the death of His cousin, and faithful servant of God, John the Baptist.  And John's death particularly distressing because he had been beheaded for offending the king when he said that he had no right to the wife he had married.  Jesus loved John and was surely mourning the loss while He also had to comfort the other disciples.  Jesus said to them, "Come away to a deserted place and rest a while."  Verse 31 tells us that they had been so busy lately that "they did not even have time to eat."

So they went away into a boat by themselves, but the multitudes saw them and ran to meet Jesus.  Jesus had been hoping for a little downtime with His disciples.  No doubt He wanted to rest, get nourishment and meditate before getting back to work, but it was not to be.  Verse 34 says Jesus "was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.  So He began to teach them many things." 

While it is not the focus of today's study, you can go on to talk as much or as little as you like about what happened next, which was the miracle when Jesus fed over 5,000 people!  Jesus saw the needs of the multitudes, set aside His personal wants and wishes, and showed them compassion.  He took time for them, teaching, healing and serving them.  Jesus is a wonderful example to us of pouring out our lives to glorify God and serve others.

  • Young children are so naturally self-centered, that I think they need help learning what things they are doing for themselves and what things they do for others.  Bring it to their attention and offer praise when you see them serving others - helping with a chore, assisting a sibling, cleaning up after themselves, etc...
  • I think it is also helpful to point out to them when they are being self-centered.  For instance, we have a child that likes to dictate how the other child can play and always wants things to be "his way".  Sometimes I question him saying, "Are you playing that way to make your brother happy or yourself happy?" Sometimes they need a little help figuring out a way to play where they can both be happy.  Don't think it is impossible to teach siblings how to serve one another.  What better way to learn than at home? 
  • Think of a service project you can do together.  It can be as simple as coloring pictures to send to someone that is sick or suffering.  It could be visiting a friend that is shut-in or a nursing home. Try to find some way you can go out of your way to show compassion and service to others.
  • Just like Jesus, we need to make sure we always take the time to share the gospel with someone that is interested in the message.  Talk about ways that you can do this.  Pray for God to send you someone that is looking for the gospel.  Pray for God to help you speak His name with boldness when you are interacting with other people.  Take the time to talk about Jesus throughout each day with your children.  Remember, they need to hear the gospel too!
Next week, BOLDNESS!

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