Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Molasses Sugar Cookies

On a trip to Logan, Ohio last year, my mom and I stumbled across a little red box.  It would've been easy to miss, just jumbled in with old odds and ends on the porch of the antique shop.  Somehow though, it caught my eye.  As I bent down closer, I could make out the word 'RECIPES' on top.

Well, naturally, the next thing to do was open it.  I was expecting it to be empty... it was marked only $5.  To our surprise, it was packed with old, handwritten or typewriter-made recipe cards.  Mom encouraged me to get it, although I was unsure at first if I should... would the recipes even be any good?

On the trip back home, she drove, while I kept pulling out recipe after recipe... "Ohh, that sounds good!  Listen to this one..."

I went through almost every recipe by the time we pulled in the driveway.

Since last year, I have tried a few of the old recipes, such as this one, which I've re-typed, mostly unaltered.  You can click on the picture of the original card below, for a larger view.


Molasses Sugar Cookies

3/4 c. shortening                              2 c. sifted flour
1 c. sugar                                           1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 c. Brer Rabbit Molasses             1/2 tsp. ginger
1 egg                                                  1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda                             1/2 tsp. salt

Melt shortening over low heat, remove from heat; allow to cool.  Then add sugar, molasses, and egg.  Beat well.  Sift together flour, soda, spices, and salt; add to first mixture.  Mix well and chill.  Form in small balls.  Roll in granulated sugar.  Bake on greased cookie sheet in moderate oven (375) 8 to 10 min.

They did forget one thing, so I'll just add it for them...  

It's a Wonderful Life

Have you ever thought about how amazing it is that you were born?  Every person walking this earth is a living, breathing, miracle.  What would this world be like without you?  A beautiful example is found in the holiday classic: It's a Wonderful Life.  


As you probably already know, George Bailey finds himself in such despair he wishes he was never born.  His wish is granted, and he gets the unique opportunity to see his own world from a stranger's perspective.  Harry, George's little brother, drowned as a boy because he wasn't there to save him.  Mary, George's wife, never found the love of her life, and so grows old alone in an empty house.  George's children... well, they simply don't exist.   Finally, he wishes to be sent back when he realizes how much his life meant to others... what a wonderful life he had.

Happily, George ends up in the version of the world where he was born, his brother is alive, Mary's his wife, and he's a father.  George's troubles dissolve because his friends and family care about him... they help him in his time of need... which then turns into a time of joy and celebration.

We all have a purpose in this life... well really, purposes.  It's easy to lose sight of the 'big picture' just as George did.  We'll never know what the world would've been like without us, or where we'd be if we would've made different decisions... in the end, the 'what ifs' about our past are pointless.  

All we can be certain of is where we are right now.  We've made it here for a reason.  Every experience, whether good or bad, has shaped us in to who we are now, and who we are meant to be.  We are living out our own versions of a wonderful life, even if we haven't realized it yet. 

What if life doesn't seem so wonderful at the moment?  Just remember ~ no one has to go it alone.  If you're struggling through a difficult time, lean on your faith, family and friends.  There's nothing you can't handle, especially together. 

"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle.  
I just wish that He didn't trust me so much."  

~ Mother Teresa ~

Friday, June 24, 2011

Beauty of the Day

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  -Matthew 6:28-29

King Solomon's wardrobe must've been quite something to be used in comparison to God's handiwork.  Sorry Solomon, but no competition...  

Daylilies are definitely one of my favorite perennials.  Tough, yet beautiful, they can withstand just about anything from drought to poor soil to shade.  They thrive even if you can't spend much time working with them, which is quite nice... especially if they're planted a good distance from your home.

Originating in Asia, at first daylilies only existed in orange, red, and yellow.  Now thanks to cultivation there are lilies in several shades of nearly every color, with the exception of true white, blue, and black.  The daylily's scientific name, Hemerocallis, means "beauty of the day," which is fitting.  Every beautiful bloom lasts only one sunrise to sunset.  

Hopefully you already have a daylily or two in your own garden, but if not, why not add a few?  Keep in mind that as much as you love admiring them, deer love eating them.  A simple solution is placing bars of 'Irish Spring' soap in cheesecloth and tying to wooden stakes around your 'edible' plants.  Have a great day, and ~ Happy gardening!

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.  - Chinese proverb

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Peach Cream Pie

This is exactly what the name implies... a creamy variation of peach pie.  Let me assure you, it's delicious!  If you make it, let me know.  I'd love to hear what you think...

Perfect pie crust (prepare enough for 2 crusts... 1/2 recipe)

5 or 6 fresh peaches*
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 c. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Slice peaches and place in an unbaked 9" pie crust.  Mix remaining ingredients and spread evenly over peaches.  Stay within 1/2" of edge of crust so mixture won't bubble over while baking.  Place top crust over peach filling.  Bake at 350` for 50-60 min.

*Peaches are in season in Ohio from mid-July to mid-August.

Monday, June 20, 2011

More than Just A Story

It's easy to skim over any given Bible story and say you know it.  Noah's Ark, Jonah and the Whale, David and Goliath.  Then there's the Christmas story, and the Easter story...  Maybe you grew up hearing short and sweet versions of them in Sunday School.  You know what they're about, the general theme.  That's fine, there's nothing wrong with the condensed versions... but have you moved past Sunday School? 

The truth is, those stories are about real people.  They lived in a different time, spoke in a different language, lived in a different part of the world, but in many ways they were the same as you and me.  They worked hard to provide for themselves and their family.  They had friendships.  They were husbands and wives; fathers and mothers...

Take the "Easter story" of Jesus dying on the cross.  Of course, this one is condensed quite a bit for young eyes and ears.  Even the title is condensed... we don't say: the "Easter story" of Jesus who was tortured to the point of near-death, then nailed to hang on the cross, where he then died...  It's important children know Jesus chose to die on the cross for us and our sins, but without all the graphic, and honestly... gory detail of what he experienced.

Watching Passion of the Christ  last night, I realized that for many years, my thinking was stuck back in time, on the Sunday School version of Jesus' crucifixion.  I never challenged myself to move past the condensed version.  I never really "put myself in his place"... or his mother's place, or the man who helped carry the cross' place... because when you do that, the "Easter story" becomes more than just a story.  It becomes a very real, powerful, life-changing event...

So, whether you're listening to a sermon, reading your Bible, or snuggled up reading a bedtime book of Sunday School-version Bible stories with your kids... remember those words are about real people.  Try to 'put yourself in their place'.  You'll find a new appreciation and understanding of those Sunday School stories.  Because, they're pretty amazing... when you really think about it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Two Recipes and One Spicy Story

Dutch Apple Pie

This variation of apple pie features a crumb topping.  All apples are not created equal ~ each has its own purpose.  A few good varieties for pie are Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.  This recipe only requires a bottom crust, so I've also included a recipe for the simple treat Grandma Leasure used to make with the extra dough.  Enjoy! 

Perfect pie crust (only need the 2 crust version, so 1/2 recipe)

6 c. sliced apples
3/4 to 1 c. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp flour

Mix all ingredients and place in an unbaked 9" pie crust.  Prepare crumb topping:

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour

Using 2 knives, cut the butter in to the sugar and flour.  When thoroughly combined, sprinkle over apple filling.  Bake at 350` for 50 minutes.


Okay, now for the fun part... before I share Grandma's recipe, I have a funny family story to share.  It involves Aunt Arlene, Uncle Don, and one spicy 'cinnamon' roll.  

Grandma Leasure had made a one-crust pie of some sort, and there was leftover dough.  Arlene, about 9 at the time, was told she could fix the sweet treat always made with extra dough... a cinnamon roll.  She prepared it with care, and placed it in the oven.  

With seven kids in the family, whoever got to this treat first usually took it and ate as much as they could, even if it made them sick...  

This time, my uncle, known to many as 'Big' Don, happened to walk in to the kitchen as the roll finished baking.  Arlene proudly set out her creation to cool, and Don quickly claimed it.  He took a bite.  At first Arlene thought he really liked it... until his eyes started turning bright red, and then his face.   He threw it down, and started chasing her.  Out the door and down the street they ran - for two blocks!  All the while she had no idea what was going on... until he said her cinnamon roll was a 'hot & spicy' version.  Once back home, she realized instead of cinnamon, she'd accidentally substituted chili powder!  He thought she'd done it on purpose to get at him.  Love that story! 

Cinnamon Roll

A simple, but delicious way to make use of your extra pie crust.  No exact measurements here.  Trust me, it'll be alright... just make sure you grab cinnamon...

Leftover dough (one pie crust)
Softened butter
Cinnamon + sugar

Roll out dough in a circle, as if for a pie crust.  Spread enough softened butter to cover pastry.  Mix cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkle generously over butter.  Roll and secure pastry edge with a little water.  Fold ends of dough under the roll and place on foil.  Place foil with roll on oven rack while baking your pie.  **Note: If the pie requires a higher temperature just in the beginning, as with pumpkin pie, place the cinnamon roll in after the temperature has been lowered.**  Cool on a rack, slice, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Perfect Pie Crust

Summer yields so much fresh produce, it would be a shame
if at least some of it weren't baked up in a delicious pie!
Use this recipe for your crust, and you won't be disappointed.
If it doesn't turn out just right the first time, don't give up!

"Family life is a bit like a runny peach pie...
not perfect but who's complaining?"

~Robert Brault ~

This recipe makes 4 crusts for 2 pies.
I usually divide it in half.

4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups shortening

Combine flour and salt.  Cut in shortening with 2 knives until you have pea-sized pieces. 

**I use my metal stand-mixer bowl for combining the first ingredients, and place in freezer while combining the ones below- keep ingredients, dough, and bowl as cold as possible during the pie crust-making process**

1 egg
1/2 cup cold water
1 Tbsp white vinegar

Beat the egg and combine with water and vinegar.  Pour over the shortening/flour mixture.  If using stand mixer, use the dough mixing inserts, or just knead by hand.  Less is more, so don't overwork the dough, just mix until everything is combined and the dough can be handled easily without being sticky.

Roll in to a ball and divide in to 4 smaller balls, then store in fridge or freezer while preparing filling. 

When rolling out, I just use parchment paper sprinkled with flour (rolling pin sprinkled with flour also).  Re-flour the parchment paper/rolling pin as needed.  When ready, try to center the 'bottom crust' over the pie plate, and flip the parchment paper over.  The dough comes off easily.  Try not to stretch the dough, just gently adjust, and patch if needed.

Cut excess dough off edge of pie plate, place filling inside, and get 2nd ball of dough from fridge/freezer. Re-flour parchment paper, roll the 'top crust' to be about 1" over the edge of pie plate, and cut slits in the center of the dough.

Place the 'top crust' over pie, and trim edges to be somewhat even all around.  Slightly separate 'bottom crust' from pie plate and fold the extra 1" of the top crust under it to seal the edge.  Pinch dough around the edge to decorate and seal. 

Mix the white of one egg with a little water and brush on top crust.  Sprinkle with a little sugar (and cinnamon if desired).  Place strips of aluminum foil around the edge to avoid over-browning, take off for last 5-10 min of baking.  **In the oven, place the pie plate on a pizza pan to thoroughly bake the bottom crust.  Especially important with fruit fillings, as they have a tendency to make the bottom crust soggy.**

**Tip from Grandma Leasure:  Avoid baking a pie if the humidity is high.  The dough is harder to work with, and the crust doesn't always turn out.**

Thank you to my Aunt Tammy and her mother, for sharing this Polish pie crust recipe with my mom.  Thank you Mom for sharing this recipe with me, along with your and Grandma's tips.  Thank you also for your patience as I'm sure I've tested it with all my questions...  Love you! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mother Knows Best

"Youth fades, love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; a mother's secret hope outlives them all." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes 

March of 2005... I was a newlywed.  I didn't know much about cooking or baking, but was quite eager to learn.  I laugh when thinking back to our early meals of 'Chicken garlic pasta' and 'Rainbow pasta salad.'  In fact, for awhile, most of our meals were pasta, in one form or another.  Once, I tried my hand at dessert... a 'colorful' cobbler.  My husband, trying to be helpful, said, "It tastes good, but I think the apples are supposed to be peeled."  Of course, he was right.  Oh, was there any hope for me? 

Well, thankfully, Mom knew I'd need some help in the kitchen.  One of her wedding gifts was a recipe box... a treasure chest to me, full of her recipes.  Inside I found such standards as 'Broccoli Casserole' and 'Mom's Meatloaf' as well as 'Foolproof Fudge' and 'Easy apple dumplings'... hmm, was she trying to tell me something?  Still, it was encouraging just to see her handwriting and From the kitchen of: Mom.

So I learned from experience, and called for advice.  I used the recipe cards less and less.  One day last year, I pulled out that little box, and started shuffling through the desserts section.

I came upon my greatest challenge yet.  Homemade pie, completely from scratch.  I remembered stumbling across these very recipes back in the days of my 'colorful cobbler'...  Dutch apple pie?  Peach cream pie?  What was Mom thinking when she put these in here?  I'll never be able to make a pie from scratch!  

Mom always told me to just try making one, and she would help me through if I had questions.  Well... last summer, after five years of putting it off, I was finally ready.  I started early, and called Mom at least a dozen times.  When that first pie came out, browned to perfection and smelling like heaven... I was hooked.

I'm here to tell you, I'm not perfect.  I'm still no master chef, and not everything I cook or bake will turn out... I promise you... but at least I conquered something I never thought I would.  Was there hope for me?  Seems so... and Mom knew it all along.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What If?

"If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd have fewer imaginary ones."  ~Don Herold

A few nights ago my daughter was in a very talkative mood.  It was just one question after another... “What if this happens?  What if that happens?”  So many hypotheticals coming from my 5 year old... it really was mind-boggling.

I responded as best I could (and really, who knows what would happen if an octopus met a baby bird?) but after one question was answered (to her liking) she had no less than three more waiting.  It was exhausting, yet so cute and entertaining.  She probably would have kept going, except eventually Daddy announced it was her bedtime.

All those questions got me thinking.  How many pointless "What ifs" do we worry about throughout our day?  How much time have we wasted worrying about things that never happened?  It's good to make plans, for the expected as well as the unexpected... but sometimes it's best to let go and see what happens.

So yesterday I did just that.  I told the kids to get dressed, and without any real expectations other than having fun, we took off down the road for the park.  We (yes, all of us) took turns going down the big slide and getting on the teeter-totters.  Then my son found a basketball someone had left behind.  We played for awhile, and although I'm absolutely no good at the game, my kids thought I was awesome when I made a few baskets.  Not long after that, my daughter found a frog, which she lovingly named 'Mr. Toad,' hiding at the base of a tree.  Naturally (for my daughter anyway) she then took it down the slide, on the swings, and around the baseball diamond.  Someone left a pop bottle in the grass, so we all had a talk about picking up after ourselves, and the importance of keeping places like the park clean for others.

I didn't expect all that to come from just playing at the park.  I knew slides, swings, and teeter-totters would be there, but the unexpected discoveries are what really made the trip interesting.  It turned out we did a lot more than just have fun, because we were open to anything.

So what did I learn from talking with my daughter and playing at the park?  Let life just happen sometimes, and have a little fun along the way.  Take your focus off all the "What ifs" of life and deal with what is.  Isn't that what really matters anyway?

So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today's trouble is enough for today. -Matthew 6:34

Friday, June 3, 2011

That beautiful season... Summer

I fell in love with these summertime quotesI couldn't decide on just one or two, so I thought I'd share them instead, with all of you...  Hope you enjoy, and have a beautiful day!

"If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance."  ~Bern Williams

Oh, the summer night
Has a smile of light
And she sits on a sapphire throne.
~Barry Cornwall

 "What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade."  ~Gertrude Jekyll

No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.
~James Russell Lowell, The Vision of Sir Launfal, 1848

"In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day.  No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them."  ~Aldo Leopold

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the 
clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time."
~John Lubbock

"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."  ~Henry James

Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; 
and the landscape lay as if new...
Created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

A life without love is like a year without summer.  
~Swedish Proverb

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Love is Action

Love.  It's more than just an emotion.  It's an action...

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

God showed His love for us with an action...the greatest sacrifice.  Imagine willingly giving up your one and only child to die, so he could save even those who ridiculed, tortured and killed him.  Jesus forgave them right away... while still nailed to the cross.  At the height of his own suffering, he was thinking of others.

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." 

It's hard to fathom what Jesus experienced for us.  Would you willingly die in order to save another?  Your children, husband or wife, parents or a friend?  What about someone you'd never met?  What about a murderer?  Jesus died not only for the good people of the world, but for the horribly sick and twisted.  Those who destroy lives.

Even good people are sinners...  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. -Romans 3:23  The Bible also states that... For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.-Romans 6:23

This is where John 3:16 comes back in ...whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  You are unconditionally loved.  If you accept Jesus in your heart, your life will forever be changed... here on Earth and for all time.  Any one of us could die today.  Where do you want to spend your eternity? 

"Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.  Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life.  I ask you in to my life and heart to be my Lord and Savior. I want to serve you always."

Thank God for His greatest sacrifice.  Love.  It's more than an emotion.  It is action.