Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Apple Chip Cake


Family recipes provide a special connection to the past, so I wanted to grace the Thanksgiving buffet at my grandmother's house with one of Mother's favorite recipes. My father has always loved her apple chip cake, so it seemed the perfect choice for remembering her this Thanksgiving.

Apple Chip Cake
This moist cake is delicious served any time of day.
1/2 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 well-beaten eggs
3 cups chopped, uncooked apples
1 cup chopped nuts
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
2 tablespoons vanilla

1 stick margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine above ingredients, stirring in nuts and apples last. The consistency of the mixture will be more like dough than batter. Bake in a greased tube or Bundt pan at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack, then invert onto a serving dish. Melt margarine on the stove top, and stir in remaining ingredients for topping. Bring to a full boil, let it cool, then spread it over the cake.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Simply Thankful

This year Thanksgiving Day passed quietly at our house. Although we will celebrate the holiday merrily with extended family this weekend, the mood at home has been subdued.

Friends warned me that the holidays would be difficult now that a seat at our table is empty, but I had hoped that focusing on the family still gathered round would keep sadness at bay. Sometimes the tears have come this week -- and often at the most unexpected times -- but along with them has dawned the realization that grief can help us scoot our chairs closer.

The loss of a loved one helps us find greater value in our family relationships.
The tears pull us closer, as we lean on each other.
The memories help us look for the beauty in everyday moments shared.
The missing reminds us how important it is to be present.
And the hole left in our hearts reminds us how fulfilling life can be when it is filled with love.

And for that, I am Grateful.

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


"The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with Joy."

-- Psalm 126:3

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Emma's Blue Dress

Smocked bishop pattern: Creations by Michie' #135; smocking plate: Camille by Ellen McCarn
Bishop construction: Beth's Heirloom Sewing; Smocking, hair bow and photography: Melissa Lester
"A mother's treasure is her daughter." -- Catherine Pulsifer

Friday, November 19, 2010

Introducing Our Winter Book Club Selection


"It's a lovely story: heartening, wholesome, humorous, suspenseful and redemptive. It resonates with the true meaning of family and the life-healing power of forgiveness all wrapped up in a satisfying ending." -- Publishers Weekly

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright tells the story of Jack and Laurel, B&B owners married nearly 40 years before they die in each other's arms. Reunited for their parents' funeral, Jack and Laurel's grown children discover boxes of letters their father wrote their mother through the years. Jack's Wednesday letters reveal the secret that threatened to destroy their marriage -- and the love that led them home.

Find The Wednesday Letters here, and make a note to join us for book club in February.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Silent Gift Book Club Recipe


Our ladies book club selection for fall, The Silent Gift by Michael Landon, Jr., and Cindy Kelley, was set in the 1930s. This Depression Era novel gave us a wealth of creative inspiration for planning our dinner. Sites like this one offer popular recipes from that era. (One of our members discovered in researching foods of the 1930s that Jiffy Cornbread was introduced in that time frame.) The novel's main characters spent some time in a soup kitchen, which inspired a simple soup supper for our meeting. I made pumpkin soup, and friend Sharon Lyle brought her delicious recipe for loaded potato soup.

Loaded Potato Soup
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups chopped potatoes
1 onion, chopped
16 ounces sour cream
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 lb. broccoli florets, chopped
1/2 jar Hormel bacon bits
2 cups Cheddar cheese
Pepper to taste
In large pot, boil chicken broth, onion and potatoes. Stir until potatoes are mashed. Add sour cream, cream of celery soup and cream of mushroom soup. Add broccoli and bacon bits. Stir in pepper and cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Mug Shot

Our fall book club selection, The Silent Gift by Michael Landon, Jr., and Cindy Kelley, centered around the tumultuous journey of single mother Mary and her deaf-mute son, Jack. Several times throughout the novel Jack drank hot chocolate, so I thought sipping hot cocoa was a must for our discussion of the book. I prepared this recipe for minty hot chocolate, which got great reviews from all the ladies. And I think it tasted even better served in custom-printed mugs from Discount Mugs -- a special favor for each member of our book club.

Still to come, recipes and our new winter book club selection.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Warm Welcome

Our book club enjoyed a special treat last week when we were welcomed into a member's home for our fall meeting. Our host, Teri Phillips, is an interior decorator and party planner. Stepping into her beautiful home, several of us said we felt like we were on a mini-vacation.

Teri created such a welcoming atmosphere for our dinner and discussion.

We had a smaller group for this meeting due to scheduling conflicts, but the more intimate dinner was a welcome change of pace. We all lingered around Teri's kitchen table for a relaxed discussion of our fall selection, The Silent Gift by Michael Landon, Jr., and Cindy Kelley.

A view of Teri's breakfast room and the courtyard beyond.

Thank you, Teri, for giving us such a warm welcome. And just so you know, next time I visit I'm packing an overnight bag!

"To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations -- such is a pleasure beyond compare." -- Kenko Yoshida

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Basket Full of Fall

We are falling for our teachers today with pretty basket lunches.

I hope our elementary and middle school teachers will enjoy skipping the cafeteria today in favor of an autumn-themed menu of pumpkin soup, wheat crackers, turkey-cranberry rolls, autumn fruit salad and seven-layer cookie bars.

Find the recipe for pumpkin soup here. The turkey cranberry rolls are adapted from a Pampered Chef recipe.

Turkey Cranberry Wreath
2 packages (8 ounces each) refrigerated rolls
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups cooked turkey, chopped (12 ounces)
1/2 cup celery, diced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, snipped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 egg, separated
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll crescent dough; separate into 16 triangles. Arrange triangles into a wreath on a baking stone. Mix mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, turkey, celery, parsley, cranberries and cheese. Scoop filling onto dough, top with nuts and seal. Beat egg white lightly, and brush over dough. Bake 25-30 minutes or until brown. (For individual rolls, unroll crescent roll dough into rectangles. Press perforations between the triangles to seal, and cut each rectangle into two squares. Place a scoop of filling in the center of each square, and pull up corners of dough to center. Sprinkle a few nuts on the roll, and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.)


Autumn Fruit Salad
My sister, Jennifer, passed this recipe along from her cooking club.
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon apple cider
2 Red Delicious apples, cut into 1" chunks
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into 1" chunks
1 banana, sliced into 1/2" rounds
2 Bartlett pears, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 pound red grapes
1/2 cup toasted almond slivers
Mix yogurt, spices and apple cider. Toss with fruit. (I used Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious apples, green grapes, glazed walnuts and sweetened dried cranberries.)

Magic Cookie Bars
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14-ounce) can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (6-ounce) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (6-ounces) butterscotch chips
1 (3 1/2 ounce) can flaked coconut (1 1/3 cups)
1 cup chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for glass dish). In 9"x13" baking pan, melt margarine in oven. Sprinkle crumbs over margarine; pour Eagle Brand evenly over crumbs. Top with remaining ingredients; press down firmly. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store loosely covered at room temperature. Yields 24-36 bars.

Resources: Baskets, cloth napkins, ribbon, small ramekins, Wal-Mart; paper napkins, fall floral picks, Hobby Lobby; plastic cutlery, Costco.

We are so thankful for wonderful teachers who inspire their students every day. I hope today's basket lunches remind our teachers how much we appreciate the work they do.

"Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition." -- Jacques Barzun

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall Lunch with Vonda

My recent ladies day in Tennessee afforded a weekend visit with my best girlfriend, Vonda. She served this wonderful meal of corn chowder, spiced pecan and pear salad, yeast rolls and peach cobbler. I have been craving these flavors since I returned home, and I am sure that you will too once you give Vonda's recipes a try.

This dessert is even sweeter when shared in the company of girlfriends!

Corn Chowder
2 cans creamed corn
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup chopped ham
2 cups frozen shredded hash browns
2 tablespoons margarine
2 1/2 cups milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more milk if needed for desired thickness.

Salad with Pears and Spiced Pecans
1 bag spring mix lettuce
1 pear, chopped
Sweetened, dried cranberries
Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Spiced pecans

Spiced Pecans:
12 ounces pecans
1/2 to 3/4 cup, plus 6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder

1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Dried basil, minced garlic, salt and pepper, to taste
To make spiced pecans, fill a 2-quart pan 2/3 full of water. Add sugar, and bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Turn off heat and add pecans. Let soak 10 to 15 minutes. In a large plastic storage bag, combine chili powder and 6 tablespoons sugar. Add soaked pecans, and shake bag to cover nuts. Spread pecans on a cookie sheet and bake 5 to 6 minutes at 350 degrees.

Combine salad ingredients in a medium serving bowl, and prepare dressing. For dressing, blend oil, apple cider vinegar, sugar, basil, garlic and salt and  pepper. Pour over salad just before serving.

Peach Cobbler
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1  large can sliced peaches
1 stick butter
Melt butter in larger casserole. Mix batter. Pour in baking dish, and  add peaches. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve warm with ice cream.

Keep scrolling for images from our all-girl weekend!

Fall Friends

Mary Ashley and Emma joined me on my recent trip to Tennessee and Kentucky.

I treasure our girl time and will take them with me to ladies days as long as they enjoy it.

A highlight of this trip was spending the night with my best girlfriend, Vonda, and her daughter, Hannah.

Eleven-year-old Hannah was so kind to the girls. I'm so thankful Mary Ashley and Emma have such a sweet girl to look up to.

"The tender friendships one gives up, on parting, leave their bite on the heart, but also a curious feeling of a treasure somewhere buried." -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Monday, November 8, 2010

Welcome Thoughts

If your Monday is like mine -- filled to the brim with housekeeping chores -- perhaps you will appreciate these thoughts from favorite author Emilie Barnes: "The spirit of welcome begins in your own heart, in your own attitudes. It has its birth in your willingness to accept yourself as God's child and to be grateful for your place in God's family, your true spiritual home."

"With that foundation, welcome becomes a way of life. You open your life to others instead of shutting them out. You learn to see your encounters with people as gifts instead of viewing them as hindrances or distractions."

"And you treasure your close relationships for what they are -- gifts from God. With that attitude, a smile and a hug become as important to the spirit of welcome as a candle and a pot of stew."

-- Emilie Barnes, The Spirit of Loveliness

I pray that all the tasks we do today to bring order to our homes will bring honor to God and blessings to our families. And that we will remember that today's chores are expressions of love -- each task a blessed opportunity to tell our families ...

Welcome Home.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin