Friends That Feel Like Family

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Friends/Family

This past Monday, Lar and I were privileged to meet one of my blogging friends in person!  Anne (MerhlingMuse)  and her husband, John, stopped by on their way home from a wedding in Denver.

Anne and I had been plotting and planning for a bit to make this day happen. The minute they rolled up in their vehicle it felt like family had come to visit. The time we had together sped by all to quickly.

The couple hours we had was really not enough time to get all the answers to questions we wanted to ask. We learned about each others’ families, churches, hobbies and pretty much every thing in between. We also found out that the Smokies would be a great place to visit.

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Old Train ~ Fremont, NE

Lar and I shared some photos of a train that we had taken on our weekend trip to Lincoln, NE to see our son and his family.

We had found out in advance that John was a train buff and just could not resist taking some photos to share.

We took a brief tour outdoors and Anne was able to take photos of the girls and their chicken coop. The girls cooperated by letting me pick one up for a quick photo of them being held.

Questions were asked about where the water had been during the recent flooding and what we grew for crops. There was lots of talking and laughing before we even made it into the house for a bit of lunch.

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Cheesecake Pie with Blueberry Topping

I had made a Cheesecake Pie to share for coffee time. Only we had peach ice tea instead of coffee to go with the pie.  I am going to share the recipe as I promised Anne I would make sure she got it.

This is a great pie to make as you can use different kinds of fruit for the topping. You can use canned pie filling or use fresh fruit sweetened with sugar.

 

Easy Cheesecake Pie

Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers, about 24 squares
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
Press into pie plate and refrigerate till it is set.
(I have been known to skip the refrigerating step if I am pressed for time.)

Filling:
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla
1 cup sour cream
8 ounce tub Cool Whip
Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla till smooth.
Add sour cream and cool whip.
Put on top of graham cracker crust.

Fruit:
1 can pie filling
Can spread over pie or put dollop on each piece
OR
Sweetened fresh fruit

Refrigerate for a bit before serving and enjoy!

Note:  I have never made this pie with real whipped cream instead of cool whip.
If you try it let me know how it works out!

It was so much fun to talk over lunch. Stories were shared. (see Anne’s link above as she tells them really well!) So much laughter as we discovered we shared a very similar sense of humor. I loved Anne’s story of the family saying, “The chicken is used to it.” I will also let her tell that story as it is hers to share. Needless to say it made me laugh while also learning a good lesson!

It didn’t take long….at least it did not seem long …and it was time they went back to their travels. I am so grateful to hear they made it home safely. I am also so grateful that God put this couple in our lives. I think my husband said it best as we waved good-bye. “That was a great visit….it felt like family.”  He was so very right.

 

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
— Unknown,
via etd.ohiolink.edu

 

No friendship is an accident.
— O. Henry,
The Heart of the West

 

 

 

 

 

White Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Kate’s Awesome Cookies

Years ago my niece shared some amazing cookies with our family. When asked; she willingly gave the recipe. They quickly became a family favorite and I decided I should probably make them again as it had been a long time since I had.

The beginning of this week saw us in the middle of a snowstorm and it seemed a perfect day to bake….so I did!  I usually don’t bake much anymore unless the kids are coming home or company is coming. I have found; when it is just my husband and me, we don’t need that much sweet stuff around.

I was feeling kind of “bakey” (I know it isn’t a word but it should be). I think that feeling was due to the cold weather and the snow. I pulled out the recipe from my niece and found I had all the ingredients on hand. That was a good thing as we were not going to be driving anywhere with the snow flying like it was.

I am going to share the recipe with all of you because it is just to good not too.

Kate’s Awesome Cookies

1 Cup butter flavored Crisco
3/4 Cup white sugar
3/4 Cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 Teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 Cups flour
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Bag white chocolate chips (2 cups)

Cream Crisco and sugars
Add the eggs, vanilla, soda, and salt.
Fold in white chocolate chips
Bake at 350º for 8-10 minutes.

Do Not Overbake!
Note: I usually take them out and let them sit just a bit
on the hot cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
These freeze beautifully (If you have any leftover to freeze!)

I had to kind of grin when I typed the line “Do Not Overbake”. I should probably heed that with more things in my life…only translate to Do Not Overthink…..Do Not Second Guess and so on and so on.

I have a great habit of second guessing myself on decisions made. My husband does not understand this….is this perhaps a woman thing or just a me thing? For some reason it can be hard to let past choices go. I am working on that and hopefully making progress!

I have a friend named Brenda H. who made a great observation. She asked a group of us women if we trusted in God or if we trusted God. What a difference one word makes in a sentence! Perhaps trusting Him would make a world of difference in the second guessing category?

May the weekend find you confident in your choices. May you realize that no matter what, God still loves you and there will always be people who will stand behind you…..and may we all learn to trust.

And the next time you find yourself second guessing yourself just say, “Do Not Overbake”! I am going to do the same.

Feed your faith and starve your doubts.
– Kenneth E. Hagin Sr

Faith talks in the language of God.
Doubt talks in the language of man.
– E.W. Kenyon

 

 

 

Cold Days and Warm Food

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This past weekend our weather has changed.  I am not totally sure it was for the better! There were winter storm advisories but that kind of bombed out for us and I was good with only getting a small amount of snow.

The weather guys were right on their prediction of  cold temperatures. Sunday saw us in the sub zero range with a wicked wind chill to go with it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look to change any time soon. (This always makes my husband wonder why our ancestors settled here!)20190121_112554.jpg

Today just seemed to be the kind of day where a good pot of chili soup needed to be simmering on the stove. The only problem with that is my husband is not in favor of chili soup.

Chili soup was kind of out of the question for him for a meal; so I also went with one of his favorite cold weather foods…..Balken Brei. I made him a loaf pan of it last week when I heard the weather was going to nose-dive temperature wise.

I am NOT a fan of Balken Brei but I do like how it smells. For those of you who have no idea what this “delicacy” is I will try explain. When you render the lard from a pig you end up with these crunchy little bits called cracklings.

You take those cracklings and fry them out till they are a crisp golden brown and kind of dry.  At this stage you can go ahead and make Balken Brei or you can freeze your cracklings till ready to use.

For the brave among you I am going to give you the recipe so you can try this Dutch treat for yourself.

Balken Brei
1 Pound Cracklings
Water
Salt and Pepper to taste
White Flour
Allspice to taste

Put the cracklings in a sauce pan.
Cover, till just covered, with water.
Add about 1 tsp. sald and 1/2 tsp pepper.
Bring to a boil then let simmer till most of the water has been absorbed by the cracklings.
Remove from heat and add flour. You will keep adding flour
till the mixture is very stiff and hard to stir.
Add Allspice to taste…start with about 5 teaspoons.
You may have to use your hands to mix at this point.
Put mixture in loaf pan lined with wax paper and press in firmly.
Cover and put in fridge to cool.
Once it is cool and firm you can slice into thin slices.

To prepare:
Cut into thing slices and fry in pan in melted butter.
Fry till golden crisp.
Serve with syrup.
My husbands favorite is Dark Karo syrup.

Some people use buckwheat flour. Some people add other meat to this recipe. My husband prefers the basic one so that is what I go with. It think he likes it this way because that is what he grew up with.

I am pretty sure this is NOT a heart healthy recipe. For years my sons have called this “fried fat”. I am also not sure what cracklings really are! If they were fat they would have melted? If anyone knows please let me know.

Being of Dutch background, I often wonder if our Dutch ancestors were just so tight thrifty that they did not let anything go to waste…not even cracklings! I also wonder if there is any other use for them….other than feeding the girls…..

And now…..I really want to know….what is your favorite cold weather food? When those temps dip close to zero and the snow flies (assuming you live where this happens) What is your go to food for comfort? If you have a favorite recipe please feel free to leave it in the comments or link to it if you have already posted it on your blog.

Have a great week doing things for those you love…..and if you live where it is cold….stay warm and make a family favorite!

Cooking is like love
It should be entered into with abandon
or not at all
Harriet Van Horne

 

Really Good Pudding Dessert

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The other day I got a call asking if I would trade turns for bringing lunch to our Coffee Break Bible Study. I had no reason to refuse so I went ahead and started looking through my pantry items to figure out what I could make without making a trip to the grocery store.

After checking the fridge and finding that I did, indeed, have cream cheese and also realizing I had the necessary White Chocolate pudding mix I decided to go ahead and make a family favorite for Bible study.

If you are looking for an incredibly easy dessert to make and if you like cream cheese…this may just be the dessert for you. It is smooth without being overly sweet and totally delicious. It does not take very much time to put together, which is another big win….at least for me it is a win.

Great Pudding Dessert

Crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter

2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped nuts-optional

Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup powdered sugar

8 ounces Cool Whip
2 packages white chocolate instant pudding mix
2 1/2 cups milk

Directions:
Mix crust- put in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350º  for 15 minutes.
Whip Cream cheese, powdered sugar.
Add 1/2 of the Cool Whip and mix thoroughly.
Spread on cooled crust.

Mix milk with pudding mix.
Add rest of Cool Whip.
Put on top of Cream cheese layer.
Top with nuts if desired.
Let set in refrigerator.
Enjoy!!

Years ago I got this recipe from a friend. It had no name so I just named it what my family always called it! Sometimes keeping things simple is a great way to go. Many times…..keeping it simple is a great way to go. (Yep….I think there is a lesson in there somewhere!)

I am always on the lookout for quick simple recipes of all kinds. I love to explore the possibility of new favorites. If you have a family favorite please feel free to share in the comments……in fact I would be very grateful to have you share, as I could add to my stash of simple favorites.

 

“The discovery of a new dish
does more for the happiness of the human race
than the discovery of a star.” 

― Jean Anthelme Brillat-SavarinThe Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cheese Bars

Chocolate Chip Cheese Bar

January is typically the month that many resolutions are being made. Resolving to lose weight, to exercise more, read through the Bible in a year, stay in touch with loved ones….and the list goes on.

Heading the list always seems to be the weight thing. For some reason when I decide I should work on the weight issue every amazing tasting food seems to end up in front of me. I am not sure how that happens or why. Is it kind of the Murphy’s law of dieting?

I had planned to bake less this season to help with the getting healthy idea. I really did plan to do that….and then the phone rang. A neighbor gal called to ask if I would take her turn bringing lunch to Coffee Break Bible Study on Wednesday. (She was busy moving cattle with her family). Of course I said sure…..I love to bake. (I love to eat too!)

I figured it was a great time to make those bars that are really addictive. If I am baking bars like these particular bars, it is always a good idea to bake them when you need to bring most of them away. It is never a good idea to have a whole pan of these in the house with just two people.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Bars
2 cups +4 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 Cup butter or oleo, softened
12 Tablespoons sugar
12 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Filling:
2 8-ounce pkg. Cream Cheese

1 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375º
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt….Set aside
Combine butter, sugars, and vanilla
Beat in eggs; add flour mixture, and mix well
Stir in chocolate chips
Blend until creamy
Put half in bottom of 9 x 13″ pan
Then spread filling mixture over this and top with rest of cookie dough
Bake 20-30 minutes
Cool and cut
Store in refrigerator (if there are any left!)

 

These bars are from a recipe book that the employees made when I worked at a lab that produced swine vaccines. I have always told people to look for the recipes in that book that are from a woman named Ethel. If you make any of her recipes you are in for a real treat!

I have a feeling that till the bars are gone those New Year resolutions are just going to have to wait….fortunately or unfortunately it won’t be long and they will be gone. I dallied with the idea of using this post and linking it to the Daily Post photo challenge “Growth”……for the very reason that consuming too many of these bars will definitely promote growth…of the wider, not taller variety! Aaaahhhh well…..tomorrow is another day…..I guess.

If you give these bars a try let me know what you think of them…..also please feel free to share some of your favorite recipes….I am always on the lookout for a new favorite.

“Take a bite of food,
if it tastes good…..spit it out
……you can’t have it!”
An Uncle

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.
Unless there are three other people.
Orson Welles

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/orson_welles_104829?src=t_diet

Christmas Traditions

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Some things are a Christmas tradition that have no basis in anything Christmassy whatsoever. For us that would be some of our cut out cookies. We have the traditional bells, trees, stars and snowmen but we also throw in buffalo, doves, pigs (we are in Iowa!), geese and jackrabbits. I am not sure how the animals became part of our tradition but they have been included for a long time.

Christmas is the only holiday that I really take the time to make cut out cookies. They are so time consuming to make as you have to mix the dough, chill the dough, roll out the dough, cut out shapes, roll again, cut some more, roll some more, cut again…repeat…repeat…repeat. It is a process that goes on and on till there is only a tiny little blob of dough left. I am grateful that my husband helps with this process!

While all this cutting and rolling is going on you are also baking cookie sheet after cookie sheet of cookies. I usually try to set the timer for each batch as I always tend to burn some of them. The ones I burn; are typically those on the last couple of cookie sheets. I am not sure if it is because I am too busy with the other cookies or just plain sick of cookies!

After all the baking they still need to be frosted. I will never win a cookie contest for looks with these cookies but they do taste good. Fortunately for me, my husband is more concerned about taste, texture and flavor than he is with presentation when it comes to food of any type.

The recipe I use is one I have used for years. It came from a co-worker from years ago and is always a favorite. The amount of dough may look meager but it really does go a long way.

Cut Out Cookies
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 cup butter (real)
2 eggs
4 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon almond flavor
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut butter into dry ingredients (like you do with making pie crust)
Add eggs, cream, and flavorings

Chill a few hours
Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness
Cut with cookies cutters
Bake at 350º till edges are just brown
DO NOT OVERBAKE
Frost with a powdered sugar frosting….I don’t actually have a recipe I follow for this.
I just put a couple cups of powdered sugar in a bowl,
add 1 tablespoon melted butter,
add 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
then add milk a little at a time till you get a spreading consistency.

The only downfall to these cookies is that they do not last! I kind of think I tend to only make them for the holiday because then there are more people around to help eat them. If only my husband and I had to eat them we would probably end up in a sugar coma.

I am glad that my family looks beyond the looks of these cookies. The cookies are a good reminder that it is always good to look beyond what you can see. So many times, in so many circumstances there is so much more than what is visible.

The old saying about not judging a book by it’s cover is still so true today. To paraphrase it…don’t judge a cookie by it’s frosting! And definitely don’t judge people just by what you see.

Let’s take this weekend to really see, hear, and understand people and their circumstances. Let’s give a little grace to those we find hard to understand and let’s show some love to those who frustrate us. Let’s take the time to really taste those cookies instead of just looking at them.

Blessings to you all this weekend!

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating.
By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil
and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” 

― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

 

 

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”
–   William James  

 

 

Good Impulse Buys

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A Taste of Summer

I have to admit…..I can be an impulse buyer. The stuff the stores put on the end caps of their aisles draws my eye and sometimes causes me to open my pocketbook and dig a little deeper so that I can purchase it.

Last week I made a quick stop in our local grocery store and discovered they had lugs of fresh peaches standing there…..right where I could not miss them. I love peaches. I love fresh peaches, frozen peaches, peach pie, peaches on ice cream, peaches in smoothies…..peaches.

I found myself walking out of the store with a box of peaches. Of course.  I knew when I saw those peaches that at least one box would be going home with me. (I must also confess I picked up another box a few days later!)

From that first box of peaches I ended up with 19 pints of canned peach halves. I would have ended up with more, but we just could not resist having some fresh, sugared peaches over vanilla ice cream.

IMG_4083 Canned Peaches

Stocking the Shelves for Winter

When I was done filling my jars with peach halves; I was left with a bowl of peach pits and peels. I remembered that last year I had attempted peach pit jam and it turned out beautifully…..it also tasted great on toast or ice cream.

I decided I would give it a try again. I could not find the recipe I had used last year but I found another one that seemed comparable. (If I would organize…maybe I would have my recipes when I needed them!) I did tweak it because I wanted to water bath can it, as I do not have enough room in my freezer to store jelly. Here is the link if you want to follow the freezer jelly directions: that Susan Williams

For those of you concerned about cyanide with peach pits, I have been assured that it is so minimal that it would not matter. (I do not use the cracked pits as they say the cyanide traces are in the seed inside.) I also washed my peaches prior to canning with Young Living Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak as I did not purchase organic peaches and I really didn’t want all the stuff they spray fruit with, to end up in my jelly.

Here is the adjusted recipe that I used:

Peach Pit Jelly

Yields approximately 8 jelly jars

Ingredients:
Peach pits and peels from a lug of peaches
water to cover peels and pits
1 box + 1 Tablespoon Sure Jell low sugar recipe pectin (the pink box)
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Instruction:
Peel and slice peaches, reserving pits and peels in a pan.
Cover peels and pits with enough water to just cover and bring to a boil.
Let them steep, covered, for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain liquid through cheesecloth or flour sack towel.
Measure out 4 cups of liquid and pour into large pot. (it may boil over)
Bring peach liquid to a boil and stir in the pectin.
Whisk and boil for approximately 3 minutes to dissolve any lumps of pectin.
Add 4 cups sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice.
Boil jelly till it comes to a temperature of 220º.
(I boiled for 4 minutes- stir constantly)

Pour into jelly jars, put on lids and rings and
process in water bath for 10-15 minutes.
(Can also be frozen instead of canning.)

I have also been told that if your jelly fails to set; you can open your jars, bring to a boil again and add another Tablespoon of pectin per each quart of liquid you have. Once you boil that for 3 minutes, again put in jars, (with new lids) and reseal.

IMG_4089 Peach Jelly

Summer in a Jar

I have not opened a jar yet so I cannot say how it tastes…but it smelled wonderful as I was stirring that potful of jelly! I may have to crack open a jar tomorrow just to check the flavor.  I will let you know how it turned out when I open one of those jars.

It is always fun to can the produce but it is also fun to start using those jars. It is a win win no matter which way you look at it.

And now I am wondering….what is your favorite thing to can or freeze? Do you like doing fruit best or vegetables? Do you have a favorite recipe to share….because if you do..please feel free to leave it in the comments so we can all give it a try!

 

An apple is an excellent thing —
until you have tried a peach.