Foodie Cookie Exchange

If you’re one of the special (and lucky) people who participate in holiday cookie exchanges, I’ll bet you’ve already begun to haul out the mixing bowls, cookie sheets, and wooden spoons.

My experience with cookie exchanges is like this: “Help!”

Okay, to be fair, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also worth it. My ladies’ small groups met one winter night to bring cookies, fudge, and brownies to share. The idea was to bring a dozen (or more) cookies to share and we all got to select a dozen (or more). The tables were so full and the choices were so varied. How do you make up your mind?

I guess that’s another opportunity to say, “Help!”

I’m sure you have favorites you like to make, including the traditional choices and family must-haves. If you want to try something new, try these. I especially like the coal ones because it’s such a cute idea and I like chocolate, of course. These are richer than the usual crispy treat variety, don’t look as dark, and take a bit more time, but again, worth it. Both recipes require a dough from the fridge or freezer. The shortbread cookies require baking, but maybe you want the oven hot so it’s all nice and cozy while you sip hot chocolate.

Funfetti Shortbread Bites

  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. red and green nonpareils or sprinkles

Cream together the sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter until combined. Add the flour and mix well. Transfer dough to a large bowl and knead until it’s nicely formed. Add nonpareils and knead again to combine them well. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 325º.

On waxed paper, roll dough into a 1/2″-thick square. Freeze 15 minutes. Cut dough into 1/2″ squares and transfer to a large baking sheet. Bake until cookies are golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

Oreo Coal Cookie Bites

  • 40 Oreos
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. semisweet or melting chocolate
  • 1/3 c. Oreo cookies, crushed or cocoa powder, for dusting

Grind the Oreos into crumbs, using a blender or food processor. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, add the cream cheese, and mix together. (A fork works well for this.)

Form balls using about one tablespoon of the Oreo mixture, making them misshapen like a lump of coal. Place them on a plate and into the fridge for about 30 minutes, up to 1 hour to become firm. Microwave the melting chocolate or morsels in 10 to 15 second increments until smooth.

With a fork or toothpick, dip each Oreo ball into the melted chocolate, then set onto parchment paper. Sprinkle immediately with crumbs from Oreos. If using cocoa powder, once the balls are chilled and firm, dip your fingers into the cocoa and lightly rub onto Oreo balls to complete the “coal” look. Store balls in the fridge until ready to serve.

Stay safe and sane and enjoy your holiday season. Eat hardy.

Christmas Carols Meeting Scripture

My favorite Christmas music will always be traditional carols. I grew up with them and appreciate them even more now because I see how most are scripturally sound. For instance, Bible verses apply to 𝗮𝗹𝗹 of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Here’s how:
The first verse is all from Luke 2:8-14
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!

And then,
Christ, by highest heaven adored, (Hebrews 1:6)
Christ, the everlasting Lord; (Isaiah 9:6)
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the favoured one. (Luke 1:28)
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th’incarnate Deity: (Colossians 1:15)
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, (Philippians 2:6-7)
Jesus, our Emmanuel! (Isaiah 7:14)
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!

Hail! the heaven-born
Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness! (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings. (Malachi 4:2)
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die: (John 3:16)
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth. (1 Corinthians 15:22)
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King !”

Whenever I read the words of a song, in addition to singing along to the tune, I see that song differently. Not in a 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 way really, but with even more meaning.

And yes, I’ve started to listen to Christmas music since a month or so ago.

Question: What is one of your favorite traditional Christmas carols? Do you have a favorite so-called ‘secular’ Christmas song? One of my favorite traditional ones is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” When it comes to secular music, I like to sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Bonus Like: “We need a Little Christmas” from the musical “Mame.”

 

Foodie Dips Into the Holidays

Foods that often turn up at a get-together are dips accompanying a chip of some kind. Right? But what if you’re tired of store-bought dips and want to bring one that’s as easy to prepare as it tasty?

The holiday season upon us, we’ll be invited to work, family, church, and other sorts of buffets. Foodie Friday helps out with a handful (not literally) of recipes featuring ease of prep and variety to boot.

Not to say men can’t be great cooks, but even the average guy who wants to show off a little can whip up a simple dip. In fact, the first recipe on the list comes from a man I used to work with. People raved over this dip from our department’s Christmas soiree and I was smart enough to ask for his recipe. (Thanks, Jerry!)

Seafood Dip

  • 2 T. dry onions
  • 2 T. water
  • 1 large can Albacore tuna, drained
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (fat-free, if preferred)
  • 1 T. hot sauce
  • 2 t. parsley flakes
  • 2 T. chili sauce
  • 2 T. horseradish

Mix dry onions and water together and let sit while mixing remaining ingredients. Blend onions into tuna mixture. Chill before serving.

Seafood dip made with salmon and plain yogurt

You can also use the same amount of red salmon in place of tuna. For either kind of seafood, be sure to drain it completely (“smash” it with a fork if you have to in order to get all the moisture out). Flake it so that it stirs in evenly.

Creamy Hot Artichoke Dip

  • 1 14-oz. jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 c. low fat mayonnaise
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients and bake uncovered at 350 degrees or until heated through. Serve warm. Although it’s better baked because you can get a nice brown crust on top, this dip can be prepared in one of those mini crock pots too. That will make it easier to transport and keep it warm once you get it to its destination. That’s also a great idea in summer when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen.

Veggie Dip

  • 1 c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ c. minced onion
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • ½ t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. dill weed
  • ½ t. cumin

Whisk all ingredients together. Chill before serving. This dip is also pretty good on baked potatoes.

Serving suggestions: Naturally, dips are great with chips of some kind. Depending on the dip, select pita chips, corn chips, veggie chips, or Fritos. Some work well when spread on crackers. You might even discover a dip that works like a condiment in a wrap or pita pocket.

I like when a recipe doesn’t require fancy ingredients, especially when the ingredients called for don’t cost a lot. Move past the French onion and ranch dips and go bolder! You may come up with a winner like my friend, Jerry. Try substituting plain nonfat Greek yogurt for the mayo or cream cheese if you like. The consistency will be different (and you’ll have to really mash out the liquid in canned seafood), but you’ll have less fat and more protein.

And here are a couple bonus selections from the Iowa Girl. A fruit dip and Southwestern Black Bean Dip.

Eat hardy!

 

Fa-la-la-la-la! It’s Halloween

No matter what you do or feel about Halloween, here’s a little fun for you today.

Our parents let us trick-or-treat. As I remember it best, I usually wore a mask which made me perspire. I couldn’t see with peripheral vision either. (not safe!). It usually rained and my oldest sister resented having to take her young siblings out and trudge us all over town.

But I believe Halloween can be a great time to engage with your community. Be kind and generous to the kids who come to your door. Keep smiling and be a blessing to someone today.

“Fa-La-La, It’s Halloween”

Deck the porch with ghouls and mummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
‘Tis the season for our tummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
As we sing our pumpkin carols
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

See the children in their costumes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Trick or treat once more re-zoo-ooms
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Follow us in merry measure
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la!
As we gather gobs of treasure
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

Teachers hope it all soon passes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
They’ll see hyper kids in classes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Will we ever learn our lesson?
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-NOPE!
Candy wins out, Ima guessin’

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-lah…lah…laaah!

 

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Because He Lives: A Book Review

Because He Lives by Jennifer Flanders; 205 pp; Prescott Publishing; copyright 2018

While the subtitle of the book is “a devotional journal for Easter,” this uniquely formatted book serves a Christian for any occasion, any time of year.

Flanders compiled each chapter to reflect various aspects of God’s nature, his miracles, and his love. The author says Because He Lives is a “celebration of His life, death, burial, and resurrection.” The meditations are meant to get the reader thinking about the life and work of Jesus, especially his Passion week.

Different from any devotional I’ve seen, this one presents a coloring book style. I believe that Flanders creates her journals this way to make the act of meditating on scripture more engaging. As with her other works, the daily readings are mostly dependent on scripture, basing the message on Christian creeds.

While engaging in the scriptures offered for reflection, readers may want to write prayers, poetry, experiences related to the reading, prompts from the Holy Spirit, or anything God brings to the mind and heart. There seems to be a completely gentle way of helping Christians speak on paper the influences of God’s grace in their lives. I found it refreshing in its simplicity.

I enjoyed Flanders’ inclusion of prophesies fulfilled, the various episodes of God’s goodness in Jesus’ ministry, scriptures related to living a life dedicated to Christ, and remembering the eternal perspective that we should always keep in mind.

The journal is certainly slanted toward the Easter season, but even though the title suggests that, I’d recommend it for any time of year. The artwork is borrowed from paintings and graphics we’re familiar with and, as I said, are suitable for the person who enjoys using markers and colored pencils as personal expressions. The book would make a nice gift for any occasion, reminding us that we are who we are ‘because he lives.’

BookCrash provided a complimentary copy of Because He Lives in exchange for this review.

 

 

Now, For 2019 Foodie Fun

Yep, we still insist, some of us, in making new year resolutions.

Did you make resolutions to create a “better” you for the new calendar year? It’s almost a joke anymore to resolve to lose weight or eat less or reduce time spent on social media. But, go ahead; I believe in you.

Me? I try to keep my resolutions realistic. Like “I resolve to drink unbelievable amounts of coffee every day and to eat chocolate at least three times a week.” I’m realistic and cowardly about admitting I break promises to myself.

Me? I make a list of things I’d like to accomplish during the year, being quite specific and applying those goals to each area of my life. But I almost never make a goal about food. Except for that one about how much I spend on groceries. *sigh*

Me? I like to eat. I enjoy cooking and baking. I can be found puttering in the kitchen when I’m anxious. I can be found puttering in the kitchen at all hours of the night. Chances are, if you called and I didn’t answer the phone, I was busy in the kitchen.

Eating, cooking, and baking were probably family events for you during the past holiday season. I can’t think of any November/December holidays that don’t involve food. After all, cooking and eating bring us together for a great time of fellowship.

I hope your holidays, whichever ones you celebrate(d), were some of the best you’ve ever had. And I hope you bring joy to your little world through a good meal, a tasty snack, a chewy cookie, or a quenching drink.

Now it’s about time I went to the kitchen to bake those pumpkin bars I promised my friend.

Eat hardy!

Reasons Good King Wenceslas Stays Relevant: Media Monday

During this year’s Christmas season, social media seems to be crowded with the hashtag #NotAChristmasSong. People, come on…

I remember singing, as a tradition, so many of the songs they’re talking about. Singing them makes me happy and nostalgic. No matter what people think, I’ll continue to sing them. Perhaps for most people, it’s just a joke and they’re not really slamming these songs. They may be trying to make fun of the social media hashtal using their own hashtags. But, in my opinion, some of those folks are a little too serious about what is and isn’t a Christmas song.

A song I remember singing is “Good King Wenceslas.” In reality, it’s not a Christmas song, but a song mentioning the Feast of Stephen. That particular feast is to honor the first Christian martyr, the apostle Stephen. Celebrating that feast is also a way to remember that Christ offers eternal life. Stephen, after all, saw Christ standing at God’s right hand. That gives a whole new meaning to “it’s a wonderful life.”

The song is also a nice story about how a king looked after a poor and probably oppressed man. Now how much more can that be about Jesus?

In the lyrics to the song, the good king welcomes his page to follow in the footsteps he makes in the deep snow.

“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread thou in them boldly”

How much more could that be about Jesus’ offer to us, “Follow me”?

The page obeys, knowing his King will guide him in safety and security. Even in hardships.

“In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted”

The word dinted means “with force or power.” How much more could that be about Jesus’ character?

Eventually, the story sends a message to everyone, no matter their worldly status, that blessing the poor brings a blessing. How much more could that be about God’s favor?

I invite you to click to see the musical score for Good King Wenceslas, which has all the verses of the song’s music and lyrics. Put yourself in the poor man’s place, receiving gifts from a King. Put yourself in the page’s place, following your Master. (If I was a betting sort of person, I’d wager you can’t read it without singing along.)

Oh, my King and Master, thank you for the position you give me as I follow you. I am lowly as a page, and not deserving of your grace, yet you’ve chosen me to stand with you. May I follow, every day, in your powerful steps and remember to provide justice to the poor and oppressed. Help me to remember how much you love us all. Amen

Cookies, Here We Come

Well, it’s that time of year when some of us are getting ready for the Christmas cookie exchanges. Now, this post may seem backward, but I’ll be talking about weeks-ahead preparation for baking your dozens of cookies. Next time, I’ll include some recipes for favorite Christmas (and any time of year) cookies.

Today Foodie has some tips on freezing cookie dough for baking in the future and freezing baked cookies so they’re handy any time. You may want to do a little research on which cookies/doughs aren’t good bets for freezing, but here’s some tips for those that freeze well.

What to have on hand

  • Plenty of gallon-sized zipper type freezer bags
  • Wax paper or parchment paper
  • Cookie sheets
  • Containers with covers (for bar-type cookies)

Place baked cookies on a silicone baking sheet or parchment-lined cookie sheet. (They can be placed close together since they’re already baked.) Freeze them for an hour (or until solid), then transfer to a freezer zip-top bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible before you put them in the freezer to prevent freezer burn.

For slice-and-bake cookies, shape the dough into one or two logs, use a layer of plastic wrap first to prevent freezer burn and odor absorption from your freezer. Then put into a zipper seal bag and freeze.

How Long To Freeze Them

With proper storage, most cookies can be kept in the freezer for up to three months. The best way to store cookies depends on the type of cookie you’re baking. For example, chewy bars should be stored in a single layer in a covered airtight container.

Thawing Tips

If you thaw baked cookies in the containers you stored them in while in the freezer, the condensation that forms while they thaw could linger on the cookies. Then they become soggy. Remove them from the freezer bag or airtight container when you defrost them so that condensation won’t form. It’s best to put baked cookies on a paper towel-lined plate to thaw them. Always thaw them at room temperature.

Baking Frozen Cookies

Balls of drop cookie dough can be baked directly from the freezer, while slice-and-bake and cut-out cookie dough needs to thaw out shortly on the counter so that they can be sliced or rolled out. Regardless, the doughs will be colder than they would be if they were baked fresh, so you should plan on adding a minute or two to the suggested baking time to make sure they get cooked through.

Have fun baking all those batches of cookies, sharing them with friends, and, most of all, eating them.

Thanksliving

Last year on each day of November, I tried to post something I’m grateful for. Didn’t want to mess with that this year. Basically, I’m grateful every day.

This jar sits on the windowsill by my desk. It’s getting filled with little slips of paper that have expressions of gratitude for, oh, just a lot of little and big stuff with which God blesses me. I take them out every once in a while and read them to remind myself of how faithful He’s been. When it gets full, I toss them.

This week I put in a piece of paper expressing gratitude for a thoughtful friend who invited me to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner. “What are you doing Thursday? Got any plans?” Well, no, as a matter of fact, I didn’t except maybe to go to a local spot that is serving a traditional meal for free. Figured I’d see lots of people there that I know.

When you’re single and your family lives far away, the holidays can be hard. I’ve spent many of them alone. Not complaining, but I surely am grateful for people who recognize a small need and respond.

I suppose this jar reminds me that we can practice thanksliving all year long.

Be a blessing to someone today.

 

Fa-la-la-la! It’s Halloween

No matter what you do or feel about Halloween, here’s a little fun for you today.

I got to trick-or-treat as a kid. As I remember it best, I usually wore a mask which made me perspire and in which I couldn’t see (not safe!). It usually rained and my oldest sister resented having to take her young siblings out in the small town we lived in.

But I believe Halloween can be a great time to engage with your community. Be kind and generous to the kids who come to your door. Keep smiling and be a blessing to someone today.

“Fa-La-La, It’s Halloween”

Deck the porch with ghouls and mummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
‘Tis the season for our tummies
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Don we now our gay apparel
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
As we sing our pumpkin carols
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

See the children in their costumes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Trick or treat once more re-zoo-ooms
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Follow us in merry measure
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la!
As we gather gobs of treasure
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

Teachers hope it all soon passes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
They’ll see hyper kids in classes
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!
Will we ever learn our lesson?
Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-NOPE!
Candy wins out, Imma guessin’
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-lah…lah…laaah!

HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN