Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lava Cake

The sauce that bakes into this cake is very chocolaty. No one can guess it’s low-fat. Maybe because there’s so much sugar. :) My kids call this Lava Cake because when you pull it out of the oven, the sauce breaks through cracks in the cake, bubbling. This is great as is or with a scoop of ice cream, like a hot fudge brownie sundae. This is one of our favorite quick desserts.
HOT FUDGE PUDDING CAKE (Low-fat)

1 ¼ c. sugar, divided
1 c. flour
7 T. cocoa, divided
2 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
½ c. skim milk
1/3 c. margarine, melted
1½ t. vanilla
½ c. packed light brown sugar
1¼ c. hot water
Preheat oven to 350º. Stir together 3/4 cup granulated sugar, flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk, margarine and vanilla; beat until smooth. Spread batter into ungreased 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons cocoa; sprinkle evenly over batter. Pour water over top. DO NOT STIR. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Let stand 15 minutes, spoon into dessert dishes, spooning sauce from bottom of pan over top.

Red or White?

Sabrina and I went to an antique store so I can look for something unique for the house. Well, I didn’t find anything, at least in my price range, but Sabrina did. She bought this Cabbage Patch Kids high chair. Antique???? They aren’t that old! I know they’re considered collectibles, but it’s kind of depressing to see old metal lunch boxes and thermoses like I used to use and the fun little people school and everything I used to have in an antique store.

Sabrina loves this high chair, but thinks the color is boring. She wants to paint it red. Maybe that will be her next project to do while I finally paint the half bathroom downstairs.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sweet & Sour Chicken with Pineapple & Red Onion

This is a really good dish that I found at My Kitchen Cafe. I couldn’t find the scallions so I used green onions. I cut the red onion into fairly small pieces to hide it a little from picky kids.
¾ lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breast, cut into uniform pieces
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. rice vinegar
2 - 3 T. canola oil
1 med. red onion, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 (20-oz.) can pineapple tidbits or 2 cups fresh pineapple cut into wedges
3 med. scallions, green parts cut into ¼-inch lengths and white parts minced
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. minced fresh ginger
Sweet and sour stir-fry sauce (recipe below)
Toss the chicken with the soy sauce and vinegar in a medium bowl; set aside for 15 minutes, tossing once or twice.

Heat a 12- or 14-inch skillet over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes (the pan should be so hot you can hold an outstretched hand 1 inch over the pan for only 3 seconds.) Add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl it so the oil evenly coats the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil until it just starts to shimmer and smoke. Check the heat with your hand as before.

Drain the chicken and add it to the pan. Stir-fry until seared and about three-quarters cooked, 2 ½ to 3 minutes. Scrape the cooked chicken and all of the liquid into a bowl. Cover and keep warm. Let the pan come back up to temperature, 1 to 2 minutes. When it is hot, drizzle in 2 teaspoons oil. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the onions and stir-fry until just tender-crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pineapple and cook 1 minute. Add the scallion greens and cook 15 to 30 seconds.

Clear the center of the pan and add the white parts of the scallions, garlic, and ginger. Drizzle with ½ teaspoon oil. Mash into the pan with the back of a spatula. Cook until fragrant but not colored, about 10 seconds. Remove the pan from heat and stir the scallions, garlic, and ginger into the vegetables for 20 seconds. Return the pan to the heat and add the cooked chicken. Stir in the sauce and stir-fry until the ingredients are well coated with sauce and sizzling hot, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with rice.
Sweet and Sour Stir Fry SauceI doubled the sauce recipe and used half apple cider vinegar and half rice vinegar in place of the red wine vinegar. I used canned pineapple so I reserved the juice to use in this sauce.

3 T. red wine vinegar
3 T. sugar
1 ½ T. tomato sauce
1 ½ T. pineapple or orange juice
1/4 t. salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Which Would You Rather Have?

My Ulitmate Blog Party post is after the cookie recipe below.

Do you sometimes feel like you are trying to do good things with your life and make righteous goals, but things don’t seem to go as you planned? Maybe you wonder why our Heavenly Father doesn’t help you accomplish those goals and stumbling blocks just seem to keep falling in your path? I have felt like that and this quote from C.S. Lewis says so perfectly what Heavenly Father is really doing. Our imperfect perspective makes it hard to see that palace sometimes, and it takes faith to trust Him, but we can always know that what He is doing is for our eternal good. What we have planned may be great (cottages aren't bad), but He knows our true potential with His help and grace, and we can be so much more.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1960, 160

(The closest thing to a palace I could find in my photos.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Banana Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

The Ultimate Blog Party Information follows this amazing recipe.

I found this cookie recipe at Baking and Boys! and kept thinking about them until I finally made it two days ago. It is an original creation by Jenny at Picky Palate . Her photos and Katrina’s photos both show how great their cookies turned out. I made them as directed, but the “dough” was very wet and I definitely couldn’t “scoop” it like the recipe instructed. I didn’t know what I did, but to try to fix it, I added flour a little at a time until I had added an extra ½ cup. It still wasn’t right and I couldn’t roll it in sugar. So I just dropped it by spoonfuls onto the sprayed cookie sheets and sprinkled sugar on top. (I need to get some coarse sugar to use next time so you can actually see it like at the other two blogs above.) We liked the cookies and they were gone quickly.

I wanted to figure out what I did wrong, so I sacrificed and made it again and taste-tested. I was careful to double-check everything the whole time (actually I triple-checked). I did everything as directed, but they were wet again. I just baked them like that to see how they would come out. They took longer to bake, and the texture not as good as the first batch. I don’t know if it’s the weather or the altitude, but I know that Jenny always has great recipes. So it sounds like I’m going to say that I’m not going to make the cookies again, but they are addicting. Although they are too wet to roll, it still bakes well and tastes so good. The flavor combination of bananas, peanut butter and chocolate is amazing. I’ll just have to work with the amount of flour. There is one thing wrong with it that I didn’t mention. It only makes about 2 dozen cookies and they disappear fast!



½ Cup mashed ripe banana, about 1 medium banana
¼ Cup granulated sugar
¼ Cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 medium egg or ½ of a beaten large egg
¼ Cup creamy peanut butter
¾ Cup whole wheat flour (if you substitute white flour, you’ll have to add more, about 1 Cup)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 regular size Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, cubed (I cut them in thirds, then thirds again)
1/3 Cup additional sugar for rolling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place banana and both sugars into stand or electric mixer on medium speed and mix until well combined. Mix in vanilla, egg and peanut butter until combined on medium speed.

Place flour baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Slowly add to the wet ingredients until JUST combined, then add the Reeses Cups. Don’t over mix this.
Scoop cookie dough using a medium cookie scoop, roll into sugar and place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Using the palm of your hand, gently press down cookies so they are about ½ inch thick, they don’t spread much. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until cooked but still soft. Let cool for 3 minutes on hot cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.Makes about 20 medium cookies

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Ultimate Blog Party 2009

This is the first year I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes For Mom, but it’s not their first year doing it. There are tons of prizes being given away and you blog about it for a chance to win. There are lots of blogs listed and you can click over to visit them, leave comments and make new friends. So head over and join in. It ends on the 27th so don’t wait! You can also join in on the fun if you are on Facebook or Twitter even if you don’t have a blog.
Ultimate Blog Party 2009
There is a very long list of prizes and it’s hard to choose my favorites, but these are my top 3:

*Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer Provided by: Moms Who Think
*$100 gift card to HomeGoods Provided by: HG Openhouse
*Free Fotomural - Custom black and white photo tiled mural on card stock Provided by: Fotomural

Or my other choices would be:
USC 58, UCS 27, 14, 87, 88, 130, 125

Peanut Butter on Your Computer

I just found this new product that looks great for my kids. Robin and I didn’t teach our children to be bi-lingual like we should have, but I’ve been trying to help them learn some phrases and words here and there. This Spanish-language learning software called Peanut Butter looks like something they could use to learn and explore the language on their own and at their pace. I’m hoping to win a copy. If I do, I’ll definitely review it here for you! Sound like something you’d like to win too? You can enter at Life is Sweet. While you're there check out all her other posts, like her photography tips with beautiful photos as examples or try out some of her recipes.

***************Advance notice: I'll be having my own giveaway on my blog next week so come back and see what it is and enter!

Shredded Salsa Beef

This photo may not look very appealing, but this beef is gooood. I made this and used it in tacos and we all liked it. Julie at Julie Cooks says that it is perfect for freezing so I’m going to try that soon. Just throw it in the crockpot and let it cook. Later put it in the freezer for a busy day! I did follow the recipe, but it ended up too wet for tacos for us (I probably used too much water) so I drained a lot of the liquid. Then I sautéed more chopped onions and added the meat. I just warmed it until it was a bit less liquidy.
1.5-2 lb roast
1 onion, chopped
4 oz can chopped green chiles
1 cup chunky salsa
2 T brown sugar
1 T soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1/2 - 1 cup water

Throw everything in the crockpot and cook all day. Use 2 forks to shred the meat before serving. Can be used for burritos, tacos, chalupas, quesadillas, salads, etc.

Monday, March 23, 2009

He Knows Just How to Teach Me, to Reach Me

When Robin and I went to the temple on Saturday, we were trying to attend the Spanish session for our ward temple day. Somehow they didn’t count correctly and let too many of us go up to the endowment room from the chapel and they didn’t have room for all of us. Since I am not a native Spanish-speaker, I was booted out. Of course, Robin came too, along with a few other men. Instead of taking us back down to the chapel, they took us to another endowment room where a session would be starting in half an hour. It was very quiet in there. At least the chapel has the organ and people walking in. This room was completely silent. Before leaving that morning, I had asked Heavenly Father to teach me whatever it was that He wanted me to know so I started thinking about that and trying to be receptive to any thoughts. Well, I guess I know enough, because I didn’t learn anything new. Hehe But the rest of the time I was thinking about how Heavenly Father teaches me.

Heavenly Father loves each one of us and knows us inside and out. He even knows how we best learn and He teaches us in the way that is customized for us. Isn’t that special? I am a very visual learner so Heavenly Father has often used things that I can see to teach me. One time I went to the Provo temple hoping to find some solace or even answers to some heavy problems I had. I got through the whole session and didn’t feel any answer. I sat in the celestial room and prayed silently. I suddenly started to feel this overwhelming peace and love, almost like arms wrapping around me. I looked down at the legs of the table which held the giant vase of flowers in the middle of the room. It had claw-foot legs. I immediately had the thought that I was strong and just had to hold on, like that bird’s claw. Every time I was in the celestial room, I’d look at the claw-feet and remember that answer to my prayer. One day, I went in and saw that they had replaced my table with a new art deco-looking one. There’s nothing wrong with the new one, but I miss seeing that reminder. I still think about it every time I see the new table though. That’s just one example of His visual teaching to me, His slow-learning daughter.
Heavenly Father has also taught me with words specific and special to me. When I was young, I always wondered what I promised Heavenly Father before I left to come down to earth. I felt that if I could just find out what it was, I would be willing to do it. I remember having those thoughts as young as when I was in first and second grade. I thought I probably promised someone who was going to be born into a family who weren’t members of the church, that I’d find them and teach them about the gospel. (Remember Saturday’s Warrior?) So I invited quite a few friends and even an elementary teacher to church.

Skip ahead to when I was 16 and was getting my patriarchal blessing from a man who I never met, in a city where no one knew me since we were new. I wondered what my blessing would say and I even secretly hoped that Heavenly Father just left 2 specific things out of the blessing altogether. I had my life planned and it didn’t include that. So guess what was in the blessing. You guessed it. But it didn’t just say “You will…. Or You should…” It said specifically that before I left my Heavenly Father, I promised Him that I would… When the patriarch said those words, I knew that it wasn’t really him talking to me, but my Heavenly Father talking to me in exactly the way I needed to hear it. It was the first time in my life that I really knew that Heavenly Father knew me and loved me.

Heavenly Father is so gracious and loving and generous with his tender mercies. He gives us what we need how we need it. I’m sure if you think about it, you'll see that He has taught you in a way important to you too.

“Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord's tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits "his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men" (
D&C 46:15).”
Elder David A. Bednar , The Tender Mercies of the Lord, April 2005 General Conference

White Texas Sheet Cake

Yesterday Robin took Alex and Elisa to the Draper temple dedication at the stake center. Since Sabrina is too young to go, I stayed with her. I tried to make it a special time for her too. We looked at photos of the temple online and talked about the different rooms and different words like celestial and sealing. Then we drew a picture of the Draper temple. She loves to draw so we did that for almost an hour while listening to I Love to See the Temple over and over. Here is Sabrina’s drawing with notes coming out of Angel Moroni’s trump.
After that, I told her that we could make a treat that we could all eat together when the others came home. She wanted to make something white since we talked about everyone wearing white in the temple. I found a recipe for White Texas Sheet cake on Recipezaar, but I knew she wouldn’t eat it since she won’t eat cake. She said she didn’t mind making something she wouldn’t eat and she wanted to make it. So we made the cake as instructed. I was very nervous that it was going to be too flat since I’ve never made a sheet cake before, but it turned out great. We didn’t have time to make the frosting. I remembered that we had a little canned frosting left over from Elisa’s dessert-making with friends. I never buy canned frosting so it was nice to have that option. The only problem was I didn’t have enough white frosting to cover the whole thing so I turned it into a black and white cake. I asked the kids what the message was and they all three said basically the same thing, that the white represented Jesus and the dark was Satan and we could choose which we wanted. Alex was making fun of Elisa for choosing the chocolate frosting side to eat. Here is Sabrina with her masterpiece, sticking out her Jolly Rancher blue tongue, acting like she likes the cake. I really had a good time even though I didn't get to go to the dedication.
I love almond extract so I was happy to find this recipe. I think it would also be great with lemon or orange zest either in the cake or in the frosting. But I will be making it according to the recipe again, maybe serving it with berries. It is an easy potluck dessert that is sure to be a hit. Even Robin really liked it and he isn’t big on desserts. It's light and has the perfect texture. It didn't say whether to grease the cookie sheet or not so I used the spray with flour and it worked great.

White Texas Sheet Cake
1 c. butter
1 c. water
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sour cream
1 t. almond extract
1 t. salt

Frosting:
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. milk
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. almond extract
1 c. nuts, chopped

In a large pan bring to a boil 1 cup butter and 1 cup water. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Add the remainder of the ingredients into the pan and mix together; pour into a 10x15 cookie sheet pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until cake is golden.
Cool 20 minutes maximum before frosting.
Frosting: Bring to a boil 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup milk. Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar, almond, and nuts.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

He Used WHAT to Make That Art?

About a month ago, I took the kids to the BYU Museum of Art to see the Walter Wick exhibit and listen to the artist speak. They were so excited. You don’t know who Walter Wick is? I bet you know his work.
He does the creative work and photography for the I Spy books and several other book series. We found out a few of his secrets in his presentation and we had fun looking at the exhibit, but there were so many people there and we ran out of time so I promised them we’d go back to finish looking at it all without rushing. Friday I kept my promise when we went back to see the exhibit. If your children like I Spy, they will probably love Wick’s new puzzlebook series. They can play games from the book Can You See What I See? You can also check out videos that show how the models for the photos are made. (Also, you can click GAMES right above the game and find a lot of other games from Scholastic.)

While we returned to the museum to see the Walter Wick exhibit, another one caught Alex’s eye so we went in to see that one and it was lots of fun. That artist was Dan Steinhilber and is work is fun and unexpected. He’s a Washington-DC artist who uses common household items to make his art. This one was my favorite. I love the color and the flowing lines. I honestly wanted it for my house (even if it is much too big) when I saw it from across the room. I was quite surprised when I came up close to it. What do you think he used to make this?

It is hundreds of duck sauce packets attached to a canvas. Did you guess that? See it here? Cool, huh? Well, I thought so. It’s a pretty small exhibit and I don’t want to spoil it all for anyone who may get to see it. There are a couple of rooms with special exhibits which require electricity. That’s all I’ll say. I hope you go check it out. If you’d like to see more photos, you can go to the BYU MOA .

I’ll just show you one more photo from it. These balloons were all blown up when the exhibit first opened, but many of them are deflated. The kids really liked this one.

CARIBBEAN CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES

This is one of the easiest recipes I have, but it is also a bit unappetizing to look at. Sorry. It makes very tender chicken with lots of flavor. My kids love it for dinner, but my husband seems to think it’s more of a lunch. We sometimes have it on the King’s rolls and sometimes on buns. It is a very wet chicken mixture so I’d advise putting it on the rolls or buns right before eating as the bread will get soggy. It’s a bit messy but we just use forks to eat whatever falls off the bread and onto the plate. I usually use green onion, not chives, but forgot this time. My kids were glad. I was sad since it would have helped the photo a little at least and I like the addition.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Crushed pineapple, drained
1 bottle Teriyaki Baste and Glaze
Chives, chopped
King’s Hawaiian Sandwich Rolls

Chop chicken into bite-sized pieces. Heat small amount of oil in skillet. Cook chicken for 3-5 minutes. Add pineapple and teriyaki baste. Cook until thoroughly heated, stirring often. Stir in the chives. Serve on sandwich rolls.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Be Happy!

I have been working hard on complaining less for about a year now. Before that I did feel like I probably complained too much, but I felt justified because of this problem or that situation. Did you ever notice how complaining about something just makes you feel worse? The more you go over in your head whatever is bothering you, the worse your mood gets. Well, at least that’s how I feel.

For example, once I started thinking about something that Robin did that hurt my feelings. It was actually like a month before that day, but I started rehashing it in my mind, justifying why I was right. I was going over and over it in my head as I was getting ready and he was sleeping. The more I was thinking about it, the madder I got at him all over again. By the time he woke up and said, “Good morning”, I was so upset that I shot him quite a look. Poor Robin just wondered what he did, but was too afraid to ask. I caught on quickly though and changed my attitude and we had a good day, but it helped me to see how much my thoughts and attitude can effect my happiness.

I am not completely free of the habit, but I have been doing much better, and I can tell you that it feels great. I have been so much happier and so much more grateful for the blessings I do have. We probably all know people who are complainers and have felt emotionally drained after being around them. I don’t want to be like that. Of course, friends are there to support you and listen to your troubles, but even the language we use when share our problems can help us remain peaceful and optimistic no matter the situation.

“If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it." Anthony J. D’Angelo

“…No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse.”
Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Tongue of Angels,” Ensign, May 2007, 16–18

“You deny yourself happiness and court misery if you constantly complain and do nothing to rectify your own thoughts. Rise above the shrill clamor over rights and prerogatives and walk in the quiet dignity. . .”
Gordon B. Hinckley, Satellite broadcast fireside for husbands and wives, 29 Jan. 1984

“By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves…The most effective medicine for the sickness of self-pity is to lose ourselves in the service of others.”
Gordon B. Hinckley, "Whosoever Will Save His Life," Ensign, Aug. 1982, 5

Gorditas

Since I have started posting each recipe separately, I can’t keep up with the ones I’ve made and taken photos of. It makes it seems like my blog has turned into only a food blog and it doesn’t match my title. Hopefully I’ll find ways to keep adding other types of posts too.

I just tried this one for the first time last week. I added a bit more milk than it calls for since it seemed to dry to me. (Probably my fault though.) Robin used it like a tortilla and put taco ingredients on it. I thought it was a bit too thick for that so I ate it on the side. We both really liked them. I had another later for a snack with chocolate milk and it was really good. 2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 T. baking powder
4 T. vegetable shortening
2/3 c. water or milk
1/4 cup oil (for frying)


Combine flour, salt, baking powder and shortening; mix until shortening is blended. Add water; mix well. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board; knead until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Roll dough into a ball; place into a plastic bag. Separate and roll out enough dough to make six 4- to 6-inch thin, flat rounds.


In a cast iron skillet, heat oil to 375°. Place rounds in oil; cook each side 20 to 30 seconds or until light golden brown. Drain on paper towel. Fill with prepared fillings as desired.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

THE Cheesecake

I call this THE (long E sound) Cheesecake because it is my favorite cheesecake recipe. I sometimes serve it with strawberries or chocolate ganache, but it is great all by itself. The water bath really helps the cheesecake not crack. Every time I’ve made it without the water bath, it has cracked. But I’ll tell you a secret: It still tastes just as good! I always use Neufchatel cheese instead of full-fat cream cheese. Yeah, like that helps. It makes me feel better about it anyway. This was Alex's choice for his family birthday party dessert.15 graham crackers, crushed
2 T. butter, melted
4 eggs
4 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese
3/4 c. milk
1 c. sour cream
1 ½ c. sugar
1 T. vanilla
¼ c. flour

Preheat oven to 350 º. Grease a 9-inch spring-form pan. Put foil around outside of pan to prevent water leaking in from water bath. In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter. Press onto bottom of spring-form pan and set aside. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Place spring-form pan in roasting pan. Pour boiling water in the roasting pan (being careful not to pour on cheesecake) and cover about ¾ of the outside of spring-form pan. (This step is optional, but helps with even baking.) Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Turn off oven, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 5 to 6 hours; this prevents cracking. Chill in refrigerator until serving.

Lion House Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Alex requested these since they are one of his favorites so I made them. There’s no need to flatten the dough on the cookie sheet. They flatten by themselves. Make sure that you don’t overcook them or they get too hard. They actually look a bit undercooked when they are done. Then they stay soft for a few days. Yummm!
¼ c. shortening, melted
¼ c. cocoa
½ c. oil
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla
2 ½ c. flour
½ t. salt
1 ½ t. baking powder
½ c. walnuts, chopped
½ c. chocolate chips, optional
½ to 1 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. In large mixing bowl, cream together shortening, cocoa, oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well mixed. Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix well, than add walnuts and chocolate chips, if desired. Dough will be very sticky and almost runny. Refrigerate dough for 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Drop and gently roll dough by tablespoonfuls in powdered sugar, being careful not to overhandle dough. Place on a greased or wax paper-covered cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes. Do not overbake. The cookie dough may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days; baked cookies will store for at least 2 weeks, if well covered and refrigerated. These cookies freeze beautifully.
Yield: Approxiamately 5 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chicken Garden Medley

I don't know where I found this recipe years ago, but it is one of my favorites. I used zucchini instead of yellow squash this time.

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ c. butter, divided
1 small yellow squash, julienned
½ c. each julienned green and sweet red pepper
¼ c. thinly sliced onion
2 T. flour
½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper
¾ c. chicken broth
½ c. half-and-half cream
8 oz. angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
2 T. shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium high heat sauté chicken and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear. Add vegetables; cook until crisp tender. Set aside.

In a small sauce pan, melt remaining butter, Add flour, salt and pepper; stir to form a smooth paste. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil; cook for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cream and heat through.Pour over chicken and vegetables; stir until well mixed. Place pasta in greased 2-qt.baking dish. Pour chicken mixture over top. Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake for 20 minutes; uncover and bake 10 minutes longer.

Cucumber Salad

This is so colorful and crunchy! I left the capers out. I wanted to add feta, but didn’t have any on hand. Maybe next time. I found this one at Sweets by Sarah . Sarah is a Marine Corps Capitan who is in Iraq so while she is still updating her blog, her new posts don’t include recipes. You can look at the older posts for lots of great ones though.3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded & chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 pint grape tomates, halved
1 red onion, chopped
2 t. dill weed
1 jar capers, drained
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil

Chop all the veggies and combine them in a bowl. Add capers, dill weed, cider vinegar, and olive oil. Mix to coat all ingredients.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How to Educate Our Desires

I recently read a book called Prayer, which is a collection of talks or essays from different people about prayer. I have also been listening to talks online about the subject the past few weeks. Then I was asked to give the spiritual thought on prayer next Sunday in Relief Society. I am happy that I get a chance to share with the ladies a few things I’ve read and been thinking about. It’s hard to narrow it down since it’s such a broad subject and spiritual thoughts are short. I think I have started to finalize my thoughts though.

Like many people, I learned to pray when I was little. I can’t even remember ever not knowing how to pray I was so little. My parents taught me at home and we said prayers at home and at church so I had lots of practice. I thought I understood what praying was. Over the years I have learned that praying is so much more than just thanking my Heavenly Father and then handing Him my list of wants and needs.

I love the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for prayer, specifically this part:

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”

I could spend so much time talking about each part of this, but I am going to talk about the first sentence. Our job in prayer is to find out Heavenly Father’s will and to be willing to change our own weak, human will to mirror His perfect will. That doesn’t come easily or quickly, but how often do we kneel with that purpose, willing to put the necessary effort and time into prayer? And how can we come to know His will?

“One might ask, ‘Why is it necessary that the Holy Ghost prompt us even in our prayers?’ One reason is that only with the help of the Holy Ghost can we be lifted outside the narrow little theater of our own experience, outside our selfish concerns, and outside the confines of our tiny conceptual cells. It was Jacob who reminded us, and in such beautiful language, that the Spirit (which teaches us to pray) also ‘speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be.’ (Jacob 4:13) The Spirit ‘searcheth…the deep things of God’(1 Corinthians 2:10), and superficial prayer will not produce such probings…

“We tend to pour out petitions without letting inspiration pour in. God can truly prompt us in our prayers to ask for that which is right, to not ask amiss. God can educate our desires.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “What Should We Pray For?”

So we should pray, asking what to pray for. We should ask that the Holy Ghost inspire us and help us to know what is right for us even BEFORE we ask for it. Then we need to ask for humility and the ability to accept our Heavenly Father’s will. Prayer isn’t as easy as I thought it was when I was little, but the work also brings greater joy and communion with my Heavenly Father.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chocolate Swirled Banana Bread

Our Best Bites has great step-by-step photos of this recipe. I had some ripe bananas and wanted to try a new recipe. It was pretty good, but I'm not sure if I'll make it again. I have so many similar recipes and it wasn't special enough to me. I wasn't very good at marbling it. I somehow made an evil-looking smiley face with the chocolate.

2 c. flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
¼ c. butter, softened
1 ½ c. mashed ripe bananas (about 3-4 medium bananas)
2 eggs
1/3 c. plain lowfat yogurt or sour cream
½ c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups and level. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Cream sugar and butter. Add bananas, eggs, and yogurt, beating until just blended. Add flour mixture. Beat on low until just moistened. Microwave chocolate chips in a medium bowl for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Add 1 c. batter to chocolate, stirring until well-combined. Spoon chocolate batter alternately with plain batter (so you have stripes of plain and chocolate batter) in an 8 ½” x 4 ½” loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Swirl batters with a knife.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan and then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Getting Up to Date

What have you been up to for the past month? We’ve been busy, but I haven’t posted much about what we've been doing. When going through our photos, I noticed that I haven’t been taking many photos and most of them are blurry. Yeah, one day I’ll get a good camera!

This is Pedro, his wife Carina and one of their daughters at a party for Pedro who just got back from a year in Afghanistan. It was so great to see them together!


It was good to see friends at the party. Sabrina was holding her little friend Harrison’s hand and walking around, but Elisa had a hard time getting their photo.

Here is Alex with his birthday present, a new bike. He hasn't been able to use it yet thanks to the snow outside. Spring will come eventually and he's looking forward to getting out.

Elisa and 2 of her friends got together at our house to make treats for Dia de logros. (I’m pretty sure it’s still called Achievement Day in English.) I thought it was funny that it took all 3 of them to get the brownies from the bowl into the pan—and yes, that is batter in the pan that was scraped out. The girls wanted to make the brownies by themselves and Elisa makes things with me all the time and has made a few things on her own, so I figured it was safe. They asked me to help spread the brownies out when they finally got it into the pan. I looked at it and mentioned that it looked like it didn’t have any flour in it. They all looked at each other and asked who put the flour in. No one had. So after all that work getting the batter into the pan, they scraped it out, added the flour and put it back in.


After they put the brownies in the oven, they went to the dining room to dip pretzles in chocolate and sprinkles. Sure, it looks calm here, but a bit later they got crazy and I was cleaning green sprinkles from the table and floor for a couple of days! Every time I thought I got it all, more would show up.

How do you know the Almanza kids are at your house?

The Almanzas are our great friends with 3 teenagers and an 8-year old. They all came over for dinner and the teenagers left their shoes like this. I’m not making fun of them. I think it’s awesome that they feel comfortable enough with us to just throw their shoes off and come in. I didn’t take other photos that day, but Sabrina and their 8-year old did and this is the only one that isn’t blurry. Don't you love her dimples?


I took the kids to an art museum family night. They had a sculptor do a demonstration and then a big group of martial artists come do a demonstration, which proved a bit dangerous. A few of them hit pieces of wood, which broke in half. One of them hit his pretty hard and the wood flew directly at a painting, which made one of the museum workers panic. He ran over to the painting and checked it out and talked to the group’s leader while they continued the demo. After they finished, without damaging anything, they had an art project for the kids. Elisa brought her friend with us.
What? I didn’t tell you the kids put on a bit of weight? Sabrina woke up in a strange mood and padded her pajamas. She looked like a Teletubby or a BooBah. Alex and Elisa thought it was funny so they did too. Then they asked me to take a photo and actually asked me to post it on the blog. They’ll be sorry some day!
Just a shot of Sabrina concentrating on the computer.
Here’s a short, unrehearsed video of the kids singing. My camera work needs a lot of work. I don’t get much practice taking videos. I should do it more often. Can you figure out which chin is whose?
video

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Garlicky Bean and Chicken Enchiladas

We really like this recipe that I found at Taste and Tell. Actually, I’ve copied a lot of recipes from Deborah’s blog and I will probably be sharing more with you soon. This was originally a Rachel Ray recipe without the chicken, so try it either way. I did add more chicken and used Monterey Jack/Cheddar since I’m the only one here who eats pepper Jack. First I bought a fresh salsa verde at Sunflower Farmers Market to use in the enchiladas, but when I tasted it, it was very spicy and knew I couldn’t use it. So I bought a bottled salsa verde and it turned out fine. I’ve been dipping tortilla chips in the fresh one and it tastes so good. It burns my tongue, but I can’t stop eating it! 2 T. olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 (15.5-oz )cans cannellini beans, drained
1/3 c. chicken broth
Salt
1 c. cooked, shredded chicken
12 6-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
2 c. salsa verde
1 ½ c. shredded pepper jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beans and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the chicken broth. Season with salt and cook, mashing the beans, until softened, 7 minutes. Add the shredded chicken. Let cool slightly.

Place about 1/4 cup garlic/bean/chicken mixture on 1 tortilla and roll up to enclose; transfer to an oiled 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Repeat with the remaining beans and tortillas.

Pour the salsa over the filled tortillas. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake until the cheese is melted and the salsa is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Oriental Chicken Bake

If you've read my blog before, you know that I usually put all my recipes for the week together in one post. I've decided that I will post them separately so it will be easier to search only desserts or only chicken, etc. I hope it helps.


Oriental Chicken Bake

I like this recipe for two reasons. The first is that it is so easy. I can put all the stuff together and throw it into the oven. The second reason I like it is that the chicken is breaded, but not fried. I found this recipe years ago, but I can't remember where, and made it. Then I recently realized I hadn't made it in a really long time, so I made it again. I won't wait so long for the next time. It makes very tender, flavorful chicken. You can use whatever veggies you like and you can use chicken pieces, but increase the cooking time. Cooking time below depends on how big the chopped chicken pieces are.
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1/4 t. black pepper
Salt to taste
1/3 c. flour
1 c. green pepper, sliced
1 c. carrots, chopped
2 t. canola oil
2 T. pineapple juice
2 T. soy sauce
1 t. chicken bouillon granules
1 T. dried chopped onion
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375°. Sprinkle chicken pieces with the salt and pepper. Coat on all sides with the flour. Place in a single layer in a shallow greased 2-quart baking dish. Lightly toss in green peppers and carrots. Combine remaining ingredients and pour evenly over the chicken pieces. Cover and bake for 25-35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Enjoying Sweetness in Adversity"

"Let us remember — trials are an evidence of a Father's love. They are given as a blessing to his children. They are given as opportunities for growth.

“Now, how do we approach them? How do we overcome them? How are we magnified by them? There seems to be a reason why we lose our composure in adversity-why we think we can no longer cope with what we're faced with here in this life. There is a reason why we give up, why we 'fall apart at the seams' so to speak. The reason may be so simple that we lose sight of it.

“Could it be it's because we begin to lose contact with our greatest source of strength— our Father in heaven? He is the key to our enjoying sweetness in adversity-in gaining strength from our trials— he and he alone."
— H. Burke Peterson, Conference, Oct. 1973 Did you pick up on the same thing that I did? “He is the key to our enjoying sweetness in adversity.” Do you usually enjoy sweetness in the midst of your trials? I may have faith to endure my trials with the faith that Heavenly Father can strengthen me and that He knows why I am going through the trials and what it can teach me and how I can change to be more like Christ because of them. But I can’t say that I have thought of the trials as “sweet.”

Duke Senior in William Shakespeare’s As You Like It says:
“Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”
As You Like It (Duke Senior at II, i)

When looking back at some of my trials, I can see how much I have grown spiritually because of them and how I have come closer to the Lord through them. They help me have more compassion for others, more gratitude for each blessing, more faith to confront the next problem. All of those things are sweet and much more valuable than a precious jewel. I will start today to pray to see and to enjoy the sweetness in my adversity. Like the quote says, Heavenly Father is the key. If we remember His plan, His infinite love, His purposes, we will be able to better endure our adversity even if we don't understand what we are supposed to learn from it or why we have been given trials that others don't have to suffer through. He blesses us with trials because He loves us.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Zucchini & Romance

What does zucchini have to do with romance? Well, nothing in this two part post. First, the recipes---When I make my menu for the week, if I have one recipe that calls for something I won’t use up completely (like a can of evaporated milk) or has a great sale price, but is perishable, I include another recipe that will use that ingredient up. This week it was zucchini.

Italian Chicken with Noodle
This is just a breaded chicken recipe with Italian noodles, but this is how the recipe was in the cookbook so I’ll include both recipes here.
Chicken:
1/3 c. unseasoned dry bread crumbs
½ t. Italian seasoning1/4 t. salt
¼ t. garlic powder
3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 T. oil

Noodles:
8 oz. (4 cups) uncooked medium egg noodles
2 T. margarine
¼ c. green onions, sliced
1 c. zucchini, sliced
1 c. tomato, seeded & chopped
½ t. sugar
½ t. Italian seasoning
¼ t. salt
¼ t. garlic powder
½ c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Combine bread crumbs, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder in large plastic bag. Add chicken to bag, one piece at a time. Shake to coat. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken breasts; cook until no longer pink. Set aside.

Prepare noodles as directed on package. Rinse and drain. Set aside. In microwave-safe bowl, combine margarine and onions. Microwave on HIGH for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are tender, stirring once. Stir in remaining ingredients except for cheese. Add noodles; mix well. Microwave for 2-3 minutes. Add cheese while still hot and stir. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with chicken.

Italian Sirloin Stew
I found this recipe many years ago and still love it.
1 lb. boneless beef sirloin steak
1 lg. clove garlic, crushed
2 T. olive oil, divided
2 med. onions, chopped
1 t. dried basil
½ t. ground red pepper
1 (14 ½ -oz.) can tomatoes, undrained
2 c. beef broth
2 med. zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
2 t. cornstarch
2 T. water
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Cut beef steaks into ¼-inch thick strips; cut each strip into 1-inch long pieces. Combine garlic with 1 tablespoon oil; stir into beef and set aside. Sauté onion in remaining oil in large saucepan 3 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and red pepper; cook and stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes, beef broth and zucchini. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Meanwhile heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir beef 1-2 minutes; add to sauce. Stir cornstarch dissolved in water into stew and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with grated cheese, if desired.

Low-fat Zucchini Cookies
Of course, I had to try a new zucchini dessert with all this zucchini I bought. I opted for this low-fat version, but didn’t have high hopes. I haven’t found many low-fat desserts that I really like. I just made them this morning and after “taste-testing” 3 cookies from different pans, I give them a thumbs up. They are a bit cakey, but I don’t mind that in these. I will definitely make them again and maybe add a little coconut next time. They made my sweet tooth happy.

I made it with 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup regular flour and only ¼ teaspoon cloves. The info at
Tried and Tried Again where I found the recipe says that if you make them into 40 cookies, it’s about 1 ½ WW points for anyone who uses that. (If you have read many of my recipes you can tell that I don’t!)
1 c. sugar
¼ c. butter, softened
¼ c. applesauce
1 egg
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
½ t. ground cloves
1 t. cinnamon
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. oatmeal
1 c. finely grated zucchini
1 c. chocolate chips
1 t. vanilla
* Optional Items: Protein powder, wheat germ, craisins, etc.

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Cream together sugar, butter, applesauce and egg with a mixer on low speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add dry ingredients, alternating with grated zucchini. Once all ingredients are well combined, fold in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon full onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until cookies are barely starting to turn brown around the edges. Let cookies stand for 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack for cooling. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Now for the romance… Robin came home from work yesterday with a present for me. It was one of my favorite perfumes—Romance. How sweet! I’m wearing my new perfume with melty chocolatey zucchini cookies next to me. Pretty good life.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Developing My "Soul Power"

I am blessed to have amazing people with a strong trust in the Lord around me. One of those people is a sister in my ward. Her husband just had brain surgery to remove a tumor a couple of weeks ago and now he is slowly recovering, learning to walk and talk and all of the important tasks that many of us often take for granted. It was a scary first week with a few problems and setbacks, but he is looking good now. His wife came to church on Sunday and shared her testimony. It was so special for me to hear her speak about her confidence in the Lord and His plan, that He is perfect and so is what He requires of us in this life.

I have also been thinking of a sister who used to be in our ward a few years ago. Not long after they moved into our ward, her husband was in an accident and died. Of course it was very difficult for her, but she came to church and shared her wonderful spirit and testimony with all of us. I couldn't imagine being in that situation and being as accepting of the Lord's will as she was.

Hopefully I am building up my faith enough day by day so that if I am in a life-changing situation in my life, I can react as these dear sisters did. I cannot wait until the day I need my faith to start to strengthen it. I'm so glad to know these women and to see what a difference our attitude and faith makes in our trials, which affects our blessings in this life and the next.

"In these defining moments, the crisis doesn't create one's character it reveals it." Lynn G. Robbins, "Tithing, a Commandment Even for the Destitute," Ensign, May 2005, 34

"Trust [the Lord], even when in eternal perspective it temporarily hurts very much. Have patience when you are asked to wait when you want immediate action. . . . The path you are to walk through life may be very different from others. You may not always know why He does what He does, but you can know that He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful."

Elder Richard G. Scott , "Obtaining Help from the Lord," Ensign, November 1991, p. 86]

"Seen with the perspective of eternity, a temporal setback can be an opportunity to develop soul power of eternal significance. Strength is forged in adversity. Faith is developed in a setting where we cannot see what lies ahead."
Dallin H. Oaks, “Spirituality,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 61