Friday, December 30, 2011

Pear and Cranberry Pie

We had a dear friend come for dinner, someone I have known for many years.  I picked up some fresh cranberries and pears, and decided I would make a pie for dessert.  I made a simple olive oil pie crust.  I don't carry shortening in my house, I actually haven't bought any in maybe a decade.  The olive oil crust suits us perfectly, and tastes delicious with the sweet and tart fruit filling.

Pear and Cranberry Pie

1 1/2 to 2 pears, depending on size, cored and sliced
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Stir the ingredients together in a bowl until the fruit is well coated and looks evenly distributed.  Place in the uncooked pie crust and then put the lattice or crust cutouts on top.  Bake at 325 for 40 minutes.  Keep warm in the oven at 250 until ready to serve.


Olive Oil Pie Crust

2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp ice cold water

Sift flour and salt into food processor with dough blade attachment.  Gradually pulse in olive oil, then ice water.  Pulse until just blended, no more.  Too much blending will make a tough dough.  Roll out about 2/3 of this ball between sheets of wax paper to make a thin bottom crust, and then use the remaining dough to shape out some lattice, leaves or other decorative top crust.  You could use it to make one thicker bottom crust, but one recipe was plenty for the pie I made.

This crust also makes a delicious savory pie, such as quiche. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Awesome Buttermilk Waffles

It's not often I post recipes from other websites, but if they turn out fabulous, I'm all for sharing!  We recently had brunch with my family, using someone's new Belgian waffle iron.  (I'm jealous.)  They didn't have a good waffle recipe, so I went upstairs and got on my mom's computer to do a little research.

I knew they had buttermilk and wanted to use it, and so I was on a mission to find a good waffle recipe using buttermilk, and not having any strange ingredients.  Here's what I found, and boy am I glad I found this (note the 5 stars) right on Martha Stewart's website.

Buttermilk Waffles 

Martha Stewart Living, June 1999

Serve warm with sweet butter and Fruit Syrups.
Yield Serves 4 to 6


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) melted unsalted butter, plus more for waffle iron
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Grease waffle iron with a small amount of melted butter, and heat. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Pour into dry mixture, and combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter.
  4. Ladle about 1/3 cup batter onto each section of the waffle grid; spread batter almost to the edges. Close lid, and bake 3 to 5 minutes, until no steam emerges from waffle iron.
  5. Transfer cooked waffles to a baking sheet; place in an oven set to low heat, about 200 degrees, while using remaining batter.


On the TV show, Martha used 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, instead of vanilla extract and baked waffles 5 to 7 minutes.

These waffles were light and fluffy, and very flavorful!  I made a double batch of my raspberry maple syrup for these. YUM!  Now I'm wanting a Belgian waffle iron to make tall fluffy waffles...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Giving

Last night our family read from 1 Peter 5: 1-7. We talked about what it means to be humble, what greed is, and putting others before us. Then we sat down at the table with strips of red, green and white foam (could be construction paper), a stapler and some pens. On each piece we wrote someone or a situation to be praying about. I didn't count, but based on how much I think I cut out, we probably had about 60. Then we linked them together in a chain, using the stapler. Then we went to a more comfortable place in the house and each prayed. We prayed that God would lift up each of those people and situations. The girls prayed, too, and it was so sweet.

Last year I shared with you a mission that we supported at Christmastime, when we bought a bed, food and Bibles for children and families in Haiti and Honduras, through Lifeline Christian Mission, a great organization that I know is reputable.

Another great organization that we learned more about this year is called Gospel for Asia. They have a Christmas campaign where you can donate things that will truly impact the lives of the recipients.
For example: "Have you ever received a rooster or hen as a Christmas present? Maybe not, but for a Dalit family, these animals are a welcome gift—and often the source of 200-300 eggs a year! And when the pair produces chicks, they will continue to provide nourishment and income."

It is so simple, and your children, if you have children, will also enjoy hearing about the different ways you can help families. Make them a part of this giving process!

"Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way."
1 Peter 5:2-3 (The Message)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent- New Book to Read with the Children

Last year we officially started the advent tradition of opening a new Christmas book and reading it to the children.  My mission was to find a book that reflected the true meaning of Christmas, and yet still captures the heart of a child.

If you read my post from last year, you know that we read a great book called The King's Christmas List, which is such a heartwarming story, and presents the opportunity to discuss giving to people in need.

This year I found a book at the Craftsmen's Christmas Classic show, held each year on Thanksgiving weekend, where everything is original crafted work.  There were a couple of vendors there who had authored or illustrated children's books, including the family of Phillip W. Rogers (I believe his sister was there on his behalf).

The book we selected was called Does God Celebrate Christmas? and is great discussion for the meaning of Christmas, the hustle and bustle of shopping for gifts, and a tactful approach to Santa and all the other fluff that people try to fill their holiday with.
I'm very glad we chose this book.  The girls seemed to really enjoy the story, enough to ask to hear it all over again!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Entertaining at Christmas

My mom had a Christmas party this weekend.  There were around 50 people in her home.  There was a lot of food, so that everyone could have a 'floating' dinner.  

Mom asked if I could make signs for some of the food items, so that people would not feel the need to ask what certain things were.

I came up with these little bags that contain soft peppermint sticks.  I took some copper wire and looped around a pencil, stuck the wire down into the peppermints, took a cellophane square and pulled the corners and sides up into a bag shape and tied it with a small piece of silver cord.  I punched out the scalloped oval and regular ovals, along with a tiny hole punch to fit the wire in.  Tightened the wire to hold the paper firm.

When the party was ending and people were leaving with goodies, we pulled the wire out and handed over the peppermints!

Another idea: These would make fun place cards for a festive Christmas table setting, which the guests could each take home afterwards!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So Many Ways with Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies are so often overlooked by more popular cookies, but I'm here to tell you that they are near the top of my list.  Where else can you find so many cool things to do with them?  In the past I have stamped them with a cookie stamp and hand painted them with edible paints.  Also I have sprinkled them with colored sugar crystals before baking.

This year I...

  • Dipped in milk chocolate and then chopped walnuts  (Let set on wax paper in the fridge.)
  • Dollop of milk chocolate and topped with Andes Mint Chips
  • Sandwiched with lemon curd, and dusted with powdered sugar

I got rave reviews at my mom's Christmas party.  The recipe came from Kids in the Holiday Kitchen which is a cookbook I talked about in my last post.  They were divine!

These last a while, so not only are they great to make ahead for a party, they would also be wonderful packaged up for a gift!

What do you do with shortbread cookies?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Salmon with Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce

So this is really a semi-homemade dinner, but I had to share for a few reasons.  One, I liked it a lot.  Two, my 6 year old daughter liked it so much she wanted me to make more for her LUNCHBOX (which I didn't actually do because I wasn't sure how to keep that warm).   Three, it's so easy.

I know I have talked before about The Fresh Market.  I've been a fan since childhood.  My mom and I went in there one afternoon while she was here visiting and they were doing some sampling, which spells trouble every time!  I walked out of there with 2 things that were not on my list that day, but both were well worth the extra money.  Here was one of the recipes being sampled: Garlic Sage Pork with Butternut Squash Sauce.  The other recipe was this: Fall Fennel Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette Both were delicious.   

Naturally I went home with Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce and some Cuisine Perel Blood Orange Vinegar and fennel!

Anyways, I got creative one weeknight when I knew we were having salmon for dinner but needed to keep my time in the kitchen at a minimum and yet still have a delicious dinner that kept everyone happy. The butternut squash pasta sauce contains roasted red peppers, garlic and onions, and makes for a very tasty flavor!  This is what I did:

Salmon with Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 (8oz) salmon fillets
1/2 cup Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
1/2 cup organic chicken broth

Saute the garlic in the oil on medium-high heat, until it just starts to turn color.  Add the salmon filets, top down and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Flip and cook for 3 minutes.  Gently stir in the sauce and broth and warm through.  It is ready to serve when your sauce is warm and your salmon is cooked to preference.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Baking, Festival of Trees, and giving to others!

This past weekend was full of fun Christmas activities for us, including baking Christmas cookies and brownies.  This year we added in scripture to talk about creation, from Genesis 1, to tie in to our creations.  This year, many of our goodies will be headed to my mom's Christmas party.  I set aside all of my favorite baking recipes this year and tried some from the book Kids in the Holiday Kitchen.  I made 3 recipes from this book and they all turned out very nice.  The shortbread cookies were my favorite, and I did several things with them (I will share details soon).

A small but exciting opportunity presented itself this week.  I ran into a dear friend at the store.  She was there with a college-age girl who was packing for a mission trip to Togo.  They were shopping for gifts for the children.  We decided to gather some things together to send with her, such as small toys, toothpaste, etc.  On Sunday, we delivered a small box of items at church, so that she could pack them with her stuff.  Please be in prayer for Ashley as she heads to Togo this week.  Also be in prayer for all of the children and others that she may touch on her journey!

We also brought some homemade turkey soup to a couple of elderly individuals who are in less fortunate conditions than us.  We hope they were blessed by our small offering.  We read scriptures to our girls about helping the poor, the orphans and widows.  We continually explain to them how much we have been blessed, by explaining how little others have, in comparison.

We also visited the Festival of Trees.  This event takes place at a local convention center and includes over 100 trees, all uniquely decorated.  It is a fundraiser for a local non-profit that "provides emotional support and resource information for families who have a child with a disability, chronic illness, premature birth and for families who have experienced the death of a child."  

We always enjoy seeing the trees, and our kids love it, too.  Each tree is accompanied by a sign that explains the name given to the theme, who sponsored it, and who it is in honor or memory of.  Here is a peek at some special designs from our visit this year.
 NC State Tree with flags, dogwood, cardinals, and I love the lighthouses made from TP tubes!
 This tree reminds me of the land of sweets from the Nutcracker!  This was my favorite.
 Of course there had to be a pirate tree, this is pirate country!  Arrrrrrgh!
 In memory of a young girl who touched so many hearts in our area, lost her battle with cancer this year.
 Pink Ribbon Tree
 I just loved the colors on this one!
 A couple of nicely decorated trees...
 Beach theme, I also loved the colors on this one, and loved how they used aqua cello wrap as decoration!

More to come on our advent activities, stay tuned.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 
1 John 3:17-18

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homemade Pizza

I love homemade pizza.  Fresh mozzarella, fresh basil... Tonight I made some pizza sauce, too.  I used to buy some great pizza sauce, but I can't find it at any of the stores here locally.  So I set out to make a sauce that my family could love.  It is so easy to make, I don't know why I haven't done it sooner.

This recipe makes enough sauce for 4-6 pizzas!  I was able to put 2 pints in the refrigerator after making 2 pizzas tonight.  You can refrigerate or freeze any remaining pizza sauce that you don't use right away.

Do you have any favorite homemade pizza toppings?  I love fresh spinach, basil, bell pepper, and sometimes pineapple.  If you're going to do fresh leafy greens such as basil or spinach, it's best to lay it down on the sauce, before the cheese goes on.  It will not smoke or dry out that way. 

Fresh mozzarella that comes in the form of a ball tastes nothing like the block mozzarella, so much so that I hate to even call the block real mozzarella.  It tastes incredible fresh and on pizza, so I really hope you'll make the change.  It really doesn't cost that much more!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

28 oz stewed tomatoes*
3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1Tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Bring the ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring regularly to heat more evenly.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

*I prefer Pomi brand, which comes in a 28oz box, and is BPA free.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reflections during the Christmas Season

My friend Rachel wrote a blog entry that I wanted to share.  Think about this as you are preparing for Christ's birthday.  Christmas is a time of giving, and are we giving for the right reasons?  Are we giving to the right people?  Are we following our instincts?

I'm once again doing 25 days of Advent with my girls.  Our focus is on giving, not getting, at Christmas. I have changed some of it, partly to adjust for changes in age, partly to improve upon things I learned from last year.  One thing that will not go away, however, is the discussions about those who do not have basic necessities such as food, or beds, or clean water, and supporting them. 

Christmas season is not meant to depress, but we should reflect on the true meaning of giving.  Respond to what your heart is calling you to do, and blessings will fill you with true joy.