Friday, September 30, 2011

Sharing a few links...

New Hampshire Troubadour September 1950
Good morning!  Today I thought I would share just a few links that have been inspiring to me lately. 

First up, a post from Carrie concerning the recent Ladies Retreat 2011 at The Wilds of New England.  I went to this retreat and loved it, but have not yet written the longer post that I want to.  Carrie has written a great account of our time there and has some nice photos too.  I promise I will still post about this, but in the meantime you will enjoy reading Carrie's thoughts, I know.

Next, a few posts from syds1girl at Daily Musings from the Hill.  This real-life friend of mine has a lovely blog and a wonderful talent for relating devotional thoughts to everyday life and the beauty of nature.  Check out these recent posts; you will be encouraged, challenged, and inspired!

Teach us to Number our Days
A Sweet Savor
Songs in Late Summer

Susan, at By Grace, is another writer who inspires me.  This post, Come, concerning the blessings of fellowship with our Lord, will likely inspire you too.

Mrs. Smith, at Sweet Tea and Simplicity, is new to blogging, but she is a wonderful photographer and an inspiring writer as well.  This excellent post, Frames That Count, challenges me to be sure I am spending my time wisely as God would have me to.

I loved this wonderful post that artist Susan Branch wrote about her dad:  The House that Jack Built.  If you are blessed to still have a dad in your life (or even if he has passed on) this post is likely to make you cry, but will surely encourage you to appreciate his influence in your life.

My friend Patty, at Beside Still Waters, has written a great post that reminds us all how important it is to Encourage others. 

And last of all, if you enjoy beautiful photography, fall decorating, and also want to be encouraged to have a thankful heart, you'll want to read Thankful Be, an inspiring post written by Aunt Ruthie over at Sugar Pie Farmhouse.

Hope you all enjoy these links as much as I did!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fun little craft project for fall

Some time ago my daughter Carrie gave me this lovely little tea wallet:
Here is the pattern she used:  Little Birdie Tea Wallet

It is very handy for when we travel to our favorite getaway destinations and may have access to hot water for tea but not a variety of tea bags.  The little wallet means I can take along a small assortment of my favorite teas with me.  Carrie made one side differently so it holds index cards.  Very handy for note-taking or list-making on the go.

I'm planning a fall-themed giveaway soon and thought it would be fun to make the tea wallet with a fall theme.  Here's how the fall tea wallet turned out:

And here is the inside:

I also made one with a Christmasy look for a Christmas in July gift exchange:

Isn't it amazing how the look can vary with just a few simple color changes?

This pattern is quick, easy, and lots of fun.  And you will find many other adorable projects at Wee Folk Art!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sweet and Sour Pork for the slow cooker

(Photo from Photos Public Domain)
I am always looking for good slow cooker recipes.  I like to have Sunday's meal ready in the crockpot when we return from church.  In addition, I will often use the crockpot on any busy day during the week so supper can cook itself while I do other things.

Recently I found a good price on boneless pork sirloin steaks and wanted a good and different way to prepare them.  I went looking for recipes and found this one:  Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Pork.  It came out very good.  I cut the pork in bite-size cubes.  At the end, I added in a few halved maraschino cherries for fun and color.  I served this over Uncle Ben's Ready Rice® to make the meal quick and easy.  We thought this was delicious and I will definitely make this recipe again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A simply wonderful time!

The gorgeous table decorations.  Those are corn husks tied around the votive holders.
I have no time right now to do a lengthy blog post.  But suffice it to say that this past weekend's ladies' retreat at The Wilds of New England was simply wonderful!  The fellowship was sweet, the music was a blessing, the laughter was therapeutic, the food was good, the fall decorations were beautiful, the sleep was nearly nonexistent ... and the teaching was outstanding.  I feel as if I learned so much and I am so thankful that I was able to be there!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Comfort food for fall: Cube Steak Stew

One of the things I like about doing our grocery shopping in the morning is that there are always packages of reduced meat.  These days, however, there are always a lot of people who want to look over these bargains.  Sometimes I need to return to the meat case later to have an opportunity to see what's there.  I will often pick up meat that wasn't on my list if I think I can use it and if it's a particularly good buy, even if I'm not sure yet what I will do with it.

Yesterday I found some packages of cube steak marked down, and picked one up, remembering a cube steak stew recipe I had liked years ago.  Of course, when I went to  look for the recipe, it was nowhere to be found.  I looked online for a similar recipe and struck gold on the second try.  Here is the link: Cube Steak Stew.

As one reviewer suggested, I left out the tomato sauce and substituted 2 cups water instead.  I also left out the green pepper because I didn't have any, and it was wonderful without it.  I had to use Italian style diced tomatoes because that was all I had on hand, and we liked it a lot with those flavors.  In the future, I may try using frozen mixed vegetables rather than peas, and I think the small whole onions would be a nice addition, rather than the chopped onion.

I will definitely make this recipe again.  It was quick and easy and very tasty.  Perfect for a nippy fall night.  I made homemade biscuits to go along with it, which made for a very nice supper.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sugar-scented memories

I mentioned yesterday about how one of our friends gifted me with a wonderful vintage cookbook:

My granddaughters have fallen in love with this book, and I don't blame them.  I mentioned earlier how this is the book that I learned to cook and bake from.  Mine was the smaller, but no less wonderful,  1957 edition. 

After school on Monday, the 8-year-old wanted to bake something from the newly acquired book.  She chose to make sugar cookies.  (I pretty much never bake sugar cookies except as cut-outs at Christmas time.  I'd rather spend my calories on something with more flavor -- like chocolate, for instance.  But we had all of the necessary ingredients on hand for these, so that is what we went with.)  Although she has done a good bit of cooking and baking with me and has done some pretty much on her own, the format of these recipes is new to her. 

The cookies are a bit different in that they don't call for vanilla or nutmeg, which are common ingredients in many sugar cookie recipes.  Instead they call for grated lemon peel.  I well remember baking these cookies on my own at home, and how yummy they made the kitchen smell.
Here's the chef with her finished product.  Very pleased with herself and with her cookies.  Her taste test verdict:  "These cookies are delicious!"
Oh, the sugar-scented memories this brought back!  My kitchen smelled just like the one of my childhood when I was baking sugar cookies!  I took a nibble of the taste tester's cookie (saving my calories for chocolate) and yes, they tasted just the same too.

If you would like to try this recipe and are not blessed to own a copy of the book, here it is:

Sparkling Sugar Cookies

Heat oven to 400º.  (We used 375º)
Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Mix thoroughly in bowl:
1/2 cup soft shortening  (we used Land'o'Lakes margarine, softened)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon peel

Blend in:
1 egg
2 Tblsp. milk

Sift together:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
And mix these dry ingredients into the shortening mixture.

The recipe calls for the cookies to be dropped on the baking sheet 2 inches apart and then flattened with a glass.  Our dough turned out too firm to drop, so she rolled it into balls and placed them on the baking sheet.  Then, we greased the bottom of a drinking glass, dipped it in sugar, and pressed the dough down.  My little chef adored this process, which was a new technique to her.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A vintage treasure!

As I mentioned in my last post, we had a progressive dinner with our church family on Labor Day.  We hosted the soup course here.  One of our friends noticed that I collect cookbooks and that I especially enjoy vintage ones.  Sunday morning he came into church with this:

This book is actually a later, larger format version of the book I learned to cook with.  I owned several children's cookbooks growing up, but this is the best of them all.  Although I still have my old 1957 copy, it is in tatters.  This version, from 1963, has the exact same recipes and many of the same illustrations.  Here's the back cover:

My granddaughters are enchanted by this book.  Stay tuned for some of their cooking adventures!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Chocolate Cake ... and other random thoughts

 I just don't seem to have time to write a coherent blog post these days, so will just share a few random thoughts and a very good cake recipe.

Wednesday was Mr. T's birthday and so I baked him a cake.  Chocolate is his favorite, and the easiest, best chocolate cake I know of is Never-Fail Chocolate Cake from COOK & TELL, my favorite recipe newsletter. This cake recipe is also found in the cookbook of the same name, by Karyl Bannister. Here’s the recipe.


1 cup sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup milk
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan.

Combine the sugar, chocolate, and milk in a large saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Add the butter, remove from the heat, and cool briefly. Beat in the remaining ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick tests clean. Cool in pan on rack -- or remove from the pan if desired. Frost, or top with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Makes 1 9-inch cake. (For a larger cake, the recipe may be doubled and baked in a 13x9-inch pan.)

I like a milk chocolate frosting with this. This cake is very fudgy, and a dark or fudge frosting might be too much. (But that is certainly up to you.) I adapted a frosting recipe I found on the internet some years ago.

1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tblsp. half & half cream (I used the fat-free kind)

Beat the softened butter in a medium bowl. Slowly beat in the remaining ingredients until combined, then beat on high until frosting reaches desired consistency. (The recipe didn’t say how much frosting it would make. It doesn't seem like enough for a 13x9-inch cake, so when I double the cake recipe I add another cup of powdered sugar and another tablespoon of cream, and leave the other ingredients the same.  The recipe as printed generously frosts a  9-inch cake.)

Maybe your family will enjoy this celebratory cake too! (With school starting for many students, this might be a nice dessert for the kickoff of the school year -- or the beginning of fall, if you can wait that long to try this.)

A few other thoughts:

*  I will never forget the winter when I tried a new chocolate cake recipe almost every week.  My husband loves chocolate cake ... almost as much as he loves ice cream.  And that's saying something!

*  Didn't summer seem to fly by even more quickly than usual?  I can't believe it is September already.  I love fall -- it's my very favorite season -- but it just doesn't seem as if summer should be over yet.

*  August went by in a blur with something going on almost every weekend.  The first weekend was free but after that things got busy.  We were able to get together with dear old friends (who now live in England) for lunch one weekend.  The last weekend in August, family from Alabama was in town and we enjoyed breakfast out with them.  We also hosted a gathering here for other local family to spend time with this couple.

*  On August 15 our newest grandson was born in Utah, far from his intended birthplace of Idaho.  He arrived at 35 weeks, while his family was on vacation -- and this particular place in Utah was where he needed to be as a premie!  God directed them in their vacation plans so that this new little one would be in the right place to get the necessary care.  He's home now and doing well, but we continue to marvel at God's care for the details of our lives.

*  On Labor Day we enjoyed a fun progressive dinner with other folks from our church.  We hosted the soup course here at our home.  My friend Ginny helped me out by bringing a wonderful lentil barley vegetable soup.  I also served Italian wedding soup and broccoli cheese soup.  It was a rainy evening but the fellowship was a blessing.

*  Mr. T had a bit of time off this week due to rainy weather, and has started a small (but major) remodeling project in our dining room.  He installed new windows yesterday!  This will be lovely, when finished.  He saved all of the old trim and is going to refinish it.  Before replacing it though, he will be repainting the walls and ceiling in this room.  So this project could easily take several weeks.  I can see, too, that with the new windows and their larger expanses of glass I am going to need valances.  (The old windows had 12 individual panes, six over six.  I had gotten rid of the curtains years ago to let more light in, but now we are going to need a little something for valances -- or possibly a cafe type treatment for the bottom half of the windows instead.  So that will be a project for me!  As if I needed another one ... but it will be fun.)

*  One of my summer projects has been a Bible study time with two of my granddaughters.  What a blessing it has been to teach them, using old Sunday School curriculum, important Bible lessons along with fun projects and little choruses.  I hope to continue this on Saturdays as the Lord allows.

*  Our garden has done quite well this year ... much  better than previous years.  We've been enjoying lettuce, Swiss chard, green beans, lot of tomatoes, and winter squash.  I think we will have a fair amount of squash to enjoy through the fall and winter months ... and that's a good thing because squash is one of our favorite vegetables.

* I'm so enjoying being able to participate in Building our Homes Together with Jesus, an inspiring blog hop over at Prairie Flower Farm.  To see my posts and links to those of others, click on "Building our Homes" in the label cloud here at the top right sidebar.  I think you will enjoy this eclectic mix of encouraging posts, many of them older ones that I have done, others that are newer.  I should add that I can't vouch for every one of the links as I haven't checked out every one of them myself.

*  Our ladies' Sunday School class has been studying the book of Ephesians using the Elizabeth George Bible study, Understanding Your Blessings in Christ.  It is excellent -- informative, encouraging, rebuking, and challenging.  I think I can say we have all grown through this study.

I'm sure I had much more I wanted to say, but this is plenty for now.  My Sunday School lesson, vacuuming, laundry, and Bible lesson preparation are all calling my name!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Berry Patch Brownie Pizza

(Photo by Taste of Home)
This week I needed to come up with a dessert for a church potluck and happened also to find a great price on fresh strawberries.  There was a strawberry yogurt bundt cake recipe I wanted to try, but because of  our hot humid weather I didn't want to have the oven on for the length of time it would take to bake that.  I had made a fruit-topped brownie pizza sometime in the past and decided this time to try Berry Patch Brownie Pizza .  I would use strawberries only, no other fruit. 

In preparing the recipe, it seemed to me that the fruit needed some sort of glaze to hold it in place.  So I melted strawberry jelly and drizzled it over the quartered strawberries.  It's funny how an idea that sounds so good and workable can backfire on us sometimes.  That happened in this case.  Though I was very careful to stay away from the edge of the brownie crust with the glaze, somehow it must have worked its way under the crust anyway.  When I cut the dessert at the potluck, I found that areas of the brownie crust had become damp and mushy.  No matter; it looked great (on top), tasted wonderful, and got rave reviews.  But if I make this again I will not make the mistake of adding a glaze.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Banana Coffeecake with Chocolate Chip Streusel

I love a good coffeecake, and so when I wanted to use up some overripe bananas, I went looking for a banana coffeecake recipe.  This one , which is originally from Bon Appetit, and which I found on Epicurious, appealed to me.  After reading some of the reviews, which stated that the coffeecake was too sweet and that the streusel didn't hold together well, I made a number of
changes, so I am going to post it here as I prepared it.  


1 cup chocolate chips (6 oz.)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 Tblsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tblsp. canola oil

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 Tblsp. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350º.  Spray a 9-inch square pan with baking spray.  In a small bowl, combine the chocolate chips, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon and oil; set this streusel mixture aside.

Place flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in sifter and set aside.  In large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and egg in large bowl and beat with electric mixer until fluffy.  Beat in mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Sift in dry ingredients and blend well.

Spread half of the batter in prepared pan.  Sprinkle with half of streusel.  Repeat with remaining batter and streusel.  Bake coffeecake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool in pan on rack.

Now for the review.  We thought this was delicious and a wonderful use for overripe bananas.  I would definitely make this again.  Next time, though, I plan to use the mini chocolate chips as I just like them better in a streusel topping.  And I will probably use less than 1 cup.  I added the oil to the topping to help it hold together and that did work well, but I think perhaps using 2 Tblsp of softened butter and maybe 1/4 cup of  flour would work even better.  To my mind, streusel toppings that contain no flour just don't work as well.  I would definitely use the whole 1 Tblsp. of cinnamon, though, as that added a wonderful flavor dimension.