Thursday, December 23, 2010

day 355: “they’ll know we are Christians by our love"

 “they’ll know we are Christians by our love"—how an atheist was led to belief through sacrificial giving—a story about lee strobel for family read aloud

Lee Strobel, in his book, “A Case for Christmas,” tells the heart-warming story of the poverty-stricken family he met while “investigating” Christ (as an atheist) many years ago when he was a journalist for “The Chicago Tribune.” This family, the Delgados, ultimately awakened his previously-absent faith, proving that during this time of year, and all of the time, the words, “they will know you are Christians by your love” are completely accurate.

The Delgados, sixty-year old Perfecta and her two granddaughters Lydia and Jenny, were living in a small apartment after having been burned out of their roach-infested tenement. Strobel arrived at their home as he was working on a series about the neediest people in Chicago. Strobel could not believe what he found—a small kitchen table and a handful of rice. A short-sleeved dress each for the girls—and one sweater that the two of them took turns wearing, alternating as they walked to and home from school a half mile away.

Besides the shock of extreme poverty that Mr. Strobel observed, he also witnessed another first—the hope and peace that this arthritic, sickly grandmother exuded. She was sure of her faith, convinced that Jesus had not and never would abandon them.

The atheist-journalist wrote the article, but could not get this family out of his mind. He pondered the irony of it all—this family had nothing but faith and yet was joy-filled. He had all things material, but lacked faith—and felt hollow within.

On Christmas Eve, he decided to drop in on the Delgados. What he saw again shocked him. Where there had been lack, there now was plenty. Where there had been emptiness, there now was fullness. The readers of his newspaper had responded generously to his article, providing this family with an apartment brimming with material gifts: roomfuls of furniture and appliances; beautiful Christmas tree with gifts galore beneath it; more food than they had probably seen in one place; myriads of clothing, including warm winter garments, scarves, gloves, and hats. Additionally, they had received thousands of dollars in cash.

Strobel’s retelling of the moments after he entered the apartment this second time is so poignant, allow me to quote from the book (and the website linked at the end of this post):

“But as surprised as I was by this outpouring, I was even more astonished by what my visit was interrupting: Perfecta and her granddaughters were getting ready to give away much of their newfound wealth.”

“ When I asked Perfecta why, she replied in halting English: ‘Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.’”

”That blew me away! If I had been in their position at that time in my life, I would have been hoarding everything. I asked Perfecta what she thought about the generosity of the people who had sent all of these goodies, and again her response amazed me: ‘This is wonderful; this is very good,’ she said, gesturing toward the largess. ‘We did nothing to deserve this --- it's a gift from God.’ ‘But,

she added, ‘it is not his greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. That is Jesus.’”

”To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything --- more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus --- because, in a sense, I saw him in Perfecta and her granddaughters.”

”They had peace despite poverty, while I had anxiety despite plenty; they knew the joy of generosity, while I only knew the loneliness of ambition; they looked heavenward for hope, while I only looked out for myself; they experienced the wonder of the spiritual while I was shackled to the shallowness of the material --- and something made me long for what they had. Or, more accurately, for the One they knew.”

“ The Delgados amazed me by the way they sacrificially reached out to their neighbors with a tangible expression of Christ's love. What an opportunity for all of us to follow their cue this Christmas season --- and to watch as God cracks open the hearts of even the most hard-hearted cynics.”

The quotes in this post were taken from Lee Strobel’s book, THE CASE FOR CHRISTMAS, as was the content of the story.

You may access the story in its entirety, as well as more information about Mr. Strobel’s books at

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

day 354: the burglar’s christmas by willa cather—story to read together

Last week I posted a link to a favorite Christmas story (“Gift of the Magi”) that is available online in its entirety. I hope you and your family enjoyed reading that together!

Today I am thrilled to provide a link to another favorite, though lengthier one, by Willa Cather (author of “Oh Pioneers” and “My Antonia”) entitled “The Burglar’s Christmas.” It is rather long and may even require two reading sessions, but it is an incredibly heart-warming story of reconciliation, forgiveness, and a mother’s love.

You may find it in its entirety here:

Merry Christmas, special families!

day 353: christmas in the car

Tonight as we drove home from an extended family Christmas gathering, reading aloud and singing, I was reminded of an old article I wrote for our newsletter several years ago—Christmas in the Car. I will post it in its entirety below—gotta sneak in those family times any chance we get as our kids get older!

From 2004:

If your children are growing up as fast as ours are, and if you travel distances to church, piano lessons, grandparents, etc. as we do, you might want to try some of our “Christmas in the Car” tips. Basically, every year I see the holiday time slipping away from us. The girls are taking college classes; off to Spanish or piano; teaching their own guitar, language arts, and piano students; working at their jobs; and more. Every time I think we’re going to have a sing-along/reading time tonight, someone announces that she has a Spanish test tomorrow and has to study all evening! Thus, our “Christmas in the Car” time was born.

We spend a great deal of time in the vehicle each week—driving to lessons, church, grandparents, etc.---all forty-five minutes away from us minimum. Being the efficiency expert that I am (of sorts!), I began utilizing this time in the vehicle to keep some of our holiday traditions alive. Try some of our “Christmas in the Car” ideas—and keep those traditions going strong:

*Sing carols as you drive.

*Listen to Christmas radio dramas (Focus on the Family has good ones), Uncle Dan and Aunt Sue Christmas stories, Christmas books on tape, Adventures in Oddysey Christmas stories, etc. as you are driving.

*Sing your way through the Christmas story. Start with “Mary, Did You Know?” and move on to “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” then move onto anything having to do with the shepherds (“The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High”). Next move into the birth/after the birth with “Silent Night,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger,” and “We Three Kings.” Lastly, sing of the joy of his arrival: “Joy to the World” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

*Tell the Christmas story in one sentence increments as you go around the van, person-by-person. (This gets interesting with the little ones who might have them fleeing Herod’s wrath before Jesus is even born!)

*If a passenger can read without being sick, you might read your way through a favorite (pictureless) holiday book. We enjoy reading Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado and The Birth by Gene Edwards. Everyone looks forward to reading another chapter the next time we get in the van.

*Likewise, we read “devotional” type books about Christmas while we drive. This year, we are enjoying short chapters in the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (see review). We have also enjoyed Christmas Stories From the Heart, The Christmas Reader, and more in years past.

*Use the driving time to memorize the Christmas story from the book of Luke. (We like to assign one verse to each person and go from person to person.)

*We enjoy memorizing all the verses from a certain Christmas song each year. In years past, we have memorized “Away in a Manger,” “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and “We Three Kings.” We can still sing most of the verses today!

*Drive by Christmas lights on your evening travels.

*Go through a drive-through or walk-through nativity while driving by one.

*Deliver goodies to those in route.

*Play “20 Questions Christmas-Style” or “Name That Christmas Tune.”

*New game: A person picks three things about the Christmas story that are really true or just thought to be true (or embellished, such as the little drummer boy playing for Jesus), and the others try to guess which two things are really in the Bible and which one is not. This is eye-opening.

*Sing whatever Christmas song you are reminded of by the decorations you see—stars, snowmen, angels, etc.

*Make up your own humorous twelve days of Christmas song, with each person getting to add their own items to the list as you sing around the van.

*Play the ABC Christmas game—“What I love about Christmas is A for angel, B for baby, C for candy, etc.” Go around and each person starts with A and tries to remember what was previously said. (This is a spin-off of the “I went to Grandma’s and I took A for applesauce, B for blankets, etc.)

*My personal favorite: Have someone write your holiday cooking and shopping list and holiday menus down for you while you drive and dictate to them. (Be forewarned: No comments about the spelling or penmanship are allowed when the child is done writing for you!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

day 352: christmas read alouds for ages ten (or twelve) and up rated as fave, etc. with links

Different ones have asked for more read aloud ideas, especially my very favorites, so I thought I would list them by age (today—ten or so and up) and by category (i.e. “Bible-related”; traditions; devotional; etc.) with *** by my “very-most-favorite-if-we-only-read-a-handful-of-christmas-books-this-year-this-would-be-one-of-them”! Hope this helps you as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with your sweet children.

Note: Many of the books on this list make for wonderful devotionals for anybody—not just for read alouds!


***Wouldn’t want to go a Christmas without it


*Good enough to make it on my list! 

Note: I have included “out of print” ones because you can often pick them up used or at the library.

Note: Every time I review books, I forget to include this note. It is actually not proper to place quotation marks around book titles (major works). However, when I post to the blog, my italics (the proper way to note book titles) go away. Thus, I surround book titles with quotation marks on here. Maybe I will get more savvy as I blog longer, but so many things about the internet/blogging elude me!

                   “Bible/Devotional/Nativity-Related Stories/Retellings”

*”One Incredible Moment: Celebrating the Majesty of the Manger” by Max Lucado I do various Christmas "devotional" types of books with the family each year. I love different writers' inspirational thoughts on Christmas. This year I am doing Max Lucado's "One Incredible Moment: Celebrating the Majesty of the Manger" with the two little guys in the mornings. Very cool book!

**”Come and Behold Him…An Invitation to Christmas Worship” by Jack Hayford. I am re-reading this one aloud this year—and I read it fifteen years ago to my olders too. It is so inspirational and worshipful.

*“”The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger” by Lee Strobel--Just started a new Christmas book that I highly recommend for those with older kids who want "devotional" type of Christmas reading that is on the more serious side: Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel. We have a lot of his other books; some of his dvd's; and some audios--but this one is just the perfect size for Christmas reading and toting around. Warning: Read small portions at a time; it’s fairly heady.

***”Cosmic Christmas” by Max Lucado. We have read this short (sixty pages without much text on each page?) almost every year for the last six or eight as we drive to a relatives since it only takes an hour or so to read aloud. It tells the story of Christ’s birth from heaven’s viewpoint—with Satan and angels battling. An extremely cool nativity story that our teens love.

**”The Birth” by Gene Edwards; similar to “Cosmic Christmas” but lengthier and in more detail. Gene Edwards is a master storyteller.

***”A Christmas Longing” by Joni Ereckson Tada. My favorite Christmas devotional—short entries, very poignant and moving. Love it!

                     “Traditions and More” Types of Books

**“Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas” by Ace Collins; I have read from this ever Christmas for years and years. We never read the entire book—just a dozen entries or so each year. We use it in part in place of our history during December—it is so interesting!

**”Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas” by Ace Collins
Instead of our regular history unit studies during December, we have always done various Christmas tradition books. This one is one that we have used often (and are using this year). It is so interesting to learn about the history of customs, songs, and traditions. This is a good book for Christian families with older children (say, ten or eleven and up).

**”Christ in the Carols: Thirty-One Devotionals for Christmas and Advent” by Christopher and Melodie Lane; more devotional than educational, this book about Christmas carols has shorter entries than the previous one. It is a beautiful little book.

**”Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader: Christmas Collection” Portable Press; Yes, Uncle John’s! This is like all of the other Uncle John books—informative essays about everything, except this one is Christmas only. Such interesting tidbits—secular and Christian about Christmas past and present. We get a kick out of this one!

      “Other Christmas Stories or ‘Set at Christmastime Type Stories”

*”The Max Lucado Christmas Collection” by Max Lucado; just got this one in the mail today! Was recommended by a friend—and I love Max Lucado’s writing style, so I’m sure we’ll love it!

**“A Christmas Reader: A Collection of Family Favorites for the Holiday Season” compiled by Gail Harvey; has many classic stories too. I have read from this one off and on for twenty years!

*”Startling Joy: Seven Magical Stories of Christmas” by James Calvin Schaap re-titled “Finding Christmas: Stories of Startling Joy and Perfect Peace” –a little longer “short stories” than the Christmas in My Heart series, but still filled with heart-warming ones.

**”Christmas in My Heart: A Treasury of Timeless Christmas Stories” compiled and edited by Joe L. Wheeler. One of my favorite Christmas collections is any of the Joe Wheeler Christmas story books. There are so many of them, so there are many out there for sale used too. Check out the extensive list of collections at his site below. These are heart-warming short stories for Christmas read alouds, gift books, and more! (This is the same author I wrote about earlier with the many wonderful “Great Stories Remembered” books.)

***“Christmas Stories from the Heart” by Alice Gray. One of our top three "Christmas compilation" books. Heart-warming, amazing Christmas stories for family read alouds. I can't recommend this one highly enough for ALL Christian families who love to read and share stories together. (Note: Older editions have different covers. Libraries also carry this one.)

**”A Treasury of Christmas Classics” Harold Shaw Publishers (not in print anymore) –another one with classic stories. Great for literature!

Monday, December 20, 2010

day 351: two dozen christmas recipes from our kitchen to yours!

                                                Mexican Wedding Cakes

One of our favorites! So tender and rich. We make them for every occasion!

2 cups butter 1 cup powdered sugar

4 cups sifted flour 2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup finely chopped pecans

extra powdered sugar for rolling after baking

1. Whip butter with mixer; add sugar.

2. Next, add flour and vanilla.

3. Add nuts.

4. Roll in balls the size of walnuts.

5. Bake about 10-12 minutes regular oven; 7-10 minutes convection.

6. Roll in powdered sugar as soon as possible after baking.

7. Re-roll in powdered sugar before serving.

                                          Sour Cream Cookies

A favorite of several in our family, hands down! These are the most tender, soft, delicious cookies. We use various colors of sprinkles for other occasions (red and blue for July 4th, red for Valentine’s Day, pastel for Easter, etc.).

4 c flour 1 ¼ tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp soda ¾ tsp salt

1 1/4 c. butter, softened

3 eggs 2 cups sugar

1 ½ tsp vanilla 1 ¼ cup sour cream

Colored sprinkles/sugar according to occasion

1. Sift soda, flour, salt, and baking powder together; set aside.

2. Beat butter, sugar, and eggs together.

3. Beat sour cream and vanilla into the butter mixture.

4. Gradually beat dry ingredients into the wet mixture.

5. Refrigerate for one hour or longer. (We shape and freeze, freeze in one quarter containers (chunks of dough); etc. too.)

6. Drop and sprinkle with colored sugars (or sprinkle half way through baking time. (If sprinkled before baking it's not as distributed but it stays on better.)

7. Bake at 350' for 6-8 minutes for convection; 8-11 minutes regular oven.

                                  Peanut Blossom (“Kiss”) Cookies

These are better than your average peanut butter cookie. We prefer the milk chocolate taste of stars on them rather than kisses. These go quickly on holiday trays.

5 ¼ cups flour 1 ½ cups peanut butter

3 tsp soda 3 eggs

1 ½ tsp salt 6 TBSP milk

1 ½ cups sugar 3 tsp vanilla

1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed 3 pkgs Hershey’s kisses or stars

1 ½ cups shortening/butter (we use ½ Crisco and half real butter)

1. Cream butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar.

2. Whisk eggs.

3. Mix milk, eggs, and vanilla in separate bowl.

4. Pour milk mixture into creamed mixture, and mix.

5. Combine remaining ingredients (except kisses) in another mixing bowl.

6. Add to mixing ingredients until well blended.

7. Shape dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each.

8. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets.

9. Bake for 8-11 minutes convection; 10-13 regular.

10. Top each cookie immediately with a kiss, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around the edge.


A simple candy (though the dipping process is best done by older kids or adults or you’ll have peanut butter balls floating in your melted chocolate!) that most people love. I’m always amazed how quickly we run out of these in spite of the large amount it seems we make on candy days.

1 (18 ox) jars creamy peanut butter 2 sticks (1 cup) butter

5 cups powdered sugar 2 cups chocolate chips

1. Mix peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter in mixing bowl until well blended.

2. Add more peanut butter or powdered sugar if mixture is too moist or too crumbly.

3. Chill until firm.

4. Roll into small balls and place on wax paper.

5. Melt chocolate chips in large glass measure at 70% power for three minutes, stirring every one minute or so until melted and creamy.

6. Dip each ball with toothpick or candy dipper into chocolate. Leave top part of ball undipped.

7. Makes around 100 balls.

8. Let set up on foil pieces until firm (usually a few hours if doing it at room temperature).

                                         Peanut Butter Fudge

This is the yummiest peanut butter fudge I’ve ever had---when I get the texture right. It can be tricky to get it just right, but it is so worth it.

4 cups brown sugar 4 cups mini marshmallows

4 cups white sugar 4 cups peanut butter

2 cups evaporated milk 4 TBSP vanilla

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1. Combine sugars, evaporated milk, and butter in heavy saucepan.

2. Cook until softball stage on medium (235’), stirring often.

3. Remove from stove.

4. Stir in marshmallows, peanut butter, and vanilla.

5. Stir until all is melted and begins to thicken.

6. Pour into 2 13x9 greased baking dishes.

7. Cool, cut, and serve.

8. Makes approximately 5-6 lbs.

                                          Never Fail Chocolate Fudge

My personal favorite holiday treat—the more walnuts, the better. This is a very simple fudge recipe that truly is no-fail.

8 cups sugar ½ lb butter (2 sticks)

2 (7 oz) jars marshmallow cream 2 cups chopped nuts

2 12 oz cans evaporated milk 2 12 oz packages choc chips (4 cups)

1. Melt butter in large heavy sauce pan.

2. Stir in milk and sugar.

3. Bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching (on medium to medium high heat). (Bring to softball stage; 235’.)

4. Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate chips until melted.

5. Add marshmallow cream and nuts, stirring until well blended.

6. Pour into two 9 x 13 greased baking dishes.

7. Cool at room temp.

8. Makes approximately 6 lbs.

                                              Banana Bread

I like to have one of the kids use up brown bananas anytime of the year and put some of these loaves in the freezer. Then we have them for potlucks, company, or new baby gifts. Quick breads are even better after they’re frozen!

2 cups sugar 2 tsp soda

1 cup butter (1/2 lb or 2 sticks)

2 tsp salt

4 eggs 6 cups flour

1 cup sour milk 6 large bananas

1. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl.

2. Add eggs and blend.

3. Add sour milk. (To “make” sour milk, put 1 TBSP vinegar in bottom of one cup measure before adding milk to measure.) Blend.

4. Mix flour, salt, and soda in another bowl with a fork.

5. Stir gradually into creamed mixture.

6. Add smashed bananas.

7. Pour into four small, well-greased bread pans.

8. Bake at convection 350’ for 30-45 minutes or until fork or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Regular oven 45-60 minutes)

                                           Scotch Crunchies

If you like butterscotch chips and cashews, you’ll love these. Don’t let their strange ingredients steer you away. They are SIMPLE and yummy.

2 (12 oz.) of butterscotch chips (4 cups) 2 cup cashews

4 cups chow mein noodles

1. Melt butterscotch chips in eight cup glass measure in micro at 70% of power for two to three minutes, stirring every thirty seconds or so, until thoroughly melted. (Do not overheat.)

2. When melted, stir in cashews and chow mein noodles.

3. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto foil.

4. Let dry.

                                              Peanut Clusters

A peanut-chocolate drop candy that is SIMPLE to make.

2 (12 oz each) packages butterscotch chips 12 cups peanuts (not redskin or dry)

2 (12 oz each) packages chocolate chips

1. Melt chips in eight cup glass measure in micro at 70% of power for two to four minutes, stirring every thirty seconds or so, until thoroughly melted. (Do not overheat.)

2. When melted, stir in peanuts.

3. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto foil.

4. Let dry.

                                     Best White Frosting for Cookies

Even years when we bought frozen shaped cookies at the restaurant supply store (instead of making them) due to time crunches, we always still used our own icing recipe. This has lots of extra flavors, but those are what make this frosting delicious. Definitely not your typical powdered sugar/butter icing!

2 cups Crisco 4 lbs. Powdered sugar

1 cup hot water 2 tsps. white vanilla

4-6 drops lemon extract 1 tsp almond flavor

2 tsp clear butter flavor ½ tsp salt

1. Mix all but powdered sugar in mixing bowl and whip until all is mixed.

2. Add powdered sugar a cup or two at a time until frosting is desired texture. (May add more hot water or more powdered sugar, as needed.)

3. Use on cookies as needed. May keep at room temperature between cookie baking as long as well covered.

4. Very delicious icing!

                                       Butterscotch Brownies

These chewy brownies are good year round. They’re easy and feed a crowd.

1 ½ cup oil 6 cups brown sugar

6 eggs, beaten 4 ½ cups all purpose flour

6 tsp. baking powder 3 tsp salt

3 tsp vanilla

1. Blend oil and brown sugar in mixing bowl until well blended.

2. Stir in beaten eggs.

3. Sift all dry ingredients together in separate bowl.

4. Add to wet mixture one cup at a time until well blended.

5. Stir in vanilla at end.

6. Pour into three 9 x 13 glass baking dishes sprayed with PAM.

7. Bake in convection at 350’ for 16-22 minutes or regular oven for 24-30 minutes. Do not overbake!

Note: This is one of the few treats that I have made healthfully with very good results. Some have even thought the healthy version was better tasting! For the healthy counterpart , substitute egg whites for eggs (two egg whites for each egg), sucanat for the brown sugar, and part white/part whole wheat flour for the all purpose (or all whole wheat pastry). Follow same instructions. Still pretty heavy on the sweetener, but very good.

                                            Butterscotch Pudding

There’s nothing like homemade butterscotch pudding. We use this for pies, occasionally, but more often than not, we use it for “banana pudding.” It is a hit everywhere we take it---layer pudding, vanilla wafers, banana slices, walnuts, and real whipped cream—then repeat. Everyone raves about it.

2 cups brown sugar 4 TBSP sugar

1 stick butter 3 eggs

6 TBSP water 4 cups milk

¼ tsp salt 2 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup cornstarch/flour mixture

1. Put brown sugar, butter, and water in pan.

2. Boil for about five minutes until syrup is light brown.

3. Add milk and heat until just about boiling.

4. Combine flour/cornstarch mixture, salt, sugar, beaten eggs, and just enough extra milk (0-4 TBSP) to pour easily.

5. Cook on medium heat until thick, stirring constantly with wire whisk. (Watch closely or it will stick or scorch.)

6. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

7. Makes 10-12 servings or enough filling for two pies.

                                          Choc-Full Oatmeal Cookies

We got this delicious cookie recipe from a friend named Suzy, so for the longest time, we called them “Suzy’s Best Cookies”---because everyone liked them so much.

4 eggs 2 cups brown sugar

2 cups regular sugar 2 cups shortening or butter (We use ½ of each.)

3 cups flour 6 cups oatmeal

2 tsp salt 1 cup coconut

1 cup nuts 2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda 1-2 cups butterscotch chips or M & M’s

1. Cream shortening and sugars in mixing bowl.

2. Beat in eggs.

3. Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl. (You will have nuts, butterscotch chips or candies, and vanilla remaining.)

4. Stir in vanilla.

5. Stir in nuts and chips/candies by hand.

6. Drop onto greased cookie sheets.

7. Bake at 350’ convection for 8-12 minutes or regular oven for 10-14 minutes.

8. Makes nine dozen plus.

                                       M and M Holiday Cookies

This is our regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. It is Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies without the coconut. When sugars and butter are thoroughly whipped, these are the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

4 ½ cup flour 1 ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tsp baking soda 4 eggs

2 tsp salt 4 eggs

2 cups butter and Crisco combined (half of each)

2 (12 oz) pkg holiday M & M’s or chocolate chips

1 ½ cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375’.

2. In bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In mixing bowl, cream butter, Crisco, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla thoroughly.

4. Beat in eggs.

5. Gradually add flour mixture.

6. Stir in M & M’s or chocolate chips by hand until thoroughly mixed.

7. Bake in convection at 375’ for 6-9 minutes; 9-11 minutes regular.

8. Makes 10 dozen 2 ½ inch cookies.

                                             Pecan Pie Bars

We always used to make “Pecan Pick Ups” (also known as Pecan Tassies)—which are elegant looking for a wedding, shower, etc., but these bars are quicker---and just as tasty.


6 cups all purpose flour 1 ½ cups sugar

1 tsp salt 2 cups cold butter (no subs)


8 eggs 3 cups sugar

3 cups corn syrup ½ cup butter, melted

3 tsps vanilla 5 cups chopped pecans

1. In large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.

2. Cut in butter until crumbly.

3. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of two greased 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pans (“jelly roll” pans).

4. Bake at 350’ for 14-18 minutes convection; 18-22 minutes regular (until crust edges are beginning to brown and bottom is set).

5. While crust is baking, combine the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl for the filling. Mix well.

6. Stir in pecans.

7. Bake 28-24 minutes more (convection) or 25-30 minutes regular oven or until edges are firm and center is almost set.

8. Yield: Six to eight dozen.

                                         Pumpkin Bread

I love to have moist pumpkin bread loaves in the freezer, just like banana bread. Sometimes we add nuts to this.

1 ½ tsp cinnamon 4 ½ cups sugar

3 tsp. baking soda 1 ½ tsp nutmeg

3 tsp allspice 4 ¾ cups flour

6 eggs 1 cup evaporated milk

1 ½ cups butter 1 ½ lb (24 oz) canned pumpkin

1. Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl until thoroughly mixed.

2. Pour into greased and floured bread pans (two).

3. Cook for 40-55 minutes convection or one hour regular at 350’.

4. Yield four large loaves.

                            Holiday Crème-Filled Sandwich Cookies

New recipe this year. We’re anxious to try them!

Basic Dough Recipe:

2 (17.5 oz each) boxes sugar cookie mix 1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 eggs


¾ cup butter, softened 1 tsp flavoring

3 cups powdered sugar 2 to 3 TBSP half and half

20 drops or so red food coloring

1. In medium bowl, blend sugar cookie mix with butter, food coloring, and egg. Mix well. (This will make a red marbling effect.)

2. Preheat oven to 375’.

3. Roll dough into balls 1” in diameter. (Be sure each cookie is the same size.)

4. Place 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 6-9 minutes convection or 8-10 minutes regular oven. (Do not let edges get brown.)

5. Let cookies cool on cookie sheet for one minute, then transfer onto cooling rack.

6. While cookies are baking, cream butter, flavoring, and powdered sugar together. Add enough half and half to make spreading consistency.

7. When cookies are cool, place approximately 1 tsp filling in center of back of one cookie.

8. Place another cookie on top (flat side over filling), and using even pressure, press down in middle of top cookie to force filling outward to cookie edges.

                                     Chocolate Topped Toffee Bars

You can’t go wrong with Heath in anything!


2 (18.25 oz each) white cake mix ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

½ cup packed brown sugar ½ cup milk

4 eggs 3 cups toffee chips or crushed Heath

1 ½ cup chopped pecans

Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup milk chocolate chips 4 tsps. butter or shortening

1. Preheat oven to 375’.

2. In large bowl, combine cake mix, butter, brown sugar, milk, and eggs.

3. Beat on low speed to blend, about two minutes.

4. Stir in toffee chips; then stir in pecans.

5. Spread batter in two floured and greased 9 x 13 baking dishes.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

7. While bars are baking, melt chocolate and butter together in small sauce pan or in glass measure in microwave on 70% power for one to three minutes, stirring every minute until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

8. When bars are cool, drizzle with chocolate glaze.

                                           Gooey Snickers Brownies

A different kind of brownie, but a yummy one!

2 (18.25 oz each) box German chocolate cake mix 1 ½ cups butter, melted

1 cup evaporated milk 8 reg. Snickers bars

1. Preheat oven to 350’.

2. Slice Snickers bars in 1/8 “ slices.

3. In large bowl, combine cake mixes, butter, and evaporated milk.

4. Beat on low speed until well blended.

5. Spread half of batter into the bottom of two greased 9 x 13” baking pans.

6. Bake for ten minutes.

7. Remove from oven, and place candy bar slices evenly over surface.

8. Drop remaining half of batter by spoonfuls over candy bars, as evenly as possible.

9. Place back in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes more convection; 20 minutes regular. (Brownies will jiggle slightly on top when you remove them.)

                                               Tiger Butter Candy

Very simple candy that is as good as it is easy!

2 pound white chocolate chips or wafers 1 cup chunky peanut butter

1 cup chocolate chips 2 TBSP half and half

1. In large glass measure, heat white chocolate and peanut butter on 70% for 2-3 minutes, stirring every minute.

2. Mix well.

3. Pour onto a foil-lined baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray; spread into a thin layer.

4. In another glass measure, heat chocolate chips and half and half at 70% for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every minute until chips are soft. Stir until smooth.

5. Pour and swirl over peanut butter layer.

6. Freeze for 5 minutes or until set.

7. Break into small pieces.

8. Yield: about three pounds candy.

                   Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread—“Monkey Bread”

When my older kids were little, I made elaborate pecan rolls for Christmas morning. This is much simpler---and almost as delicious!

Two bags (24-27 rolls each) frozen dinner rolls 3-4 cups chopped pecans

2 large pkgs non-instant butterscotch pudding 2 cups sugar

1 cup brown sugar 2 tsp cinnamon

2 sticks butter

1. Butter two angel food cake pans, bunt pans, etc.

2. Sprinkle chopped pecans in bottom of the two pans.

3. Arrange 24-27 frozen dinner rolls in bottom of each pan.

4. Combine pudding mix, sugar, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and sprinkle this mixture over the rolls.

5. Melt butter and drizzle over the rolls and powdered mixture.

6. Cover and let rise in refrigerator overnight.

7. Bake at 350’ convection for 25-35 minutes; regular oven 45 minutes.

                                                  Muddy Buddies

The yummiest cereal mix, in my opinion. Make a ton if you’re having a crowd.

16 cups Chex cereal (or Crispix cereal)

1/2 cup margarine 1 ½ cup peanut butter

2 ½ cups chocolate chips 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Melt together the margarine, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. (May melt in large glass measure in micro at 70% for two to three minutes, stirring every minute.)

2. Pour over the cereal and stir.

3. Add powdered sugar to coat while mixture is still wet.

4. Store in air-tight container.

                                                Cherry Delight

A delicious, creamy dish that my mom made for our holidays when I was little. You can cut the filling and cherries in half and make it in one pre-made graham cracker pie crust also.


2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs ½ cup sugar

2/3 cup butter, melted


2 bars cream cheese 16 oz. Cool Whip

3 cups powdered sugar 2 tsp vanilla

Two cans cherry pie filling

1. Mix crumbs and sugar in 9 x 13 glass baking dish or rectangular Tupperware.

2. Pour melted butter over the crumb mixture and press down into the pan evenly.

3. Cream cream cheese in mixer.

4. Add powdered sugar and continue creaming. Add vanilla.

5. Fold in cool whip until it is mixed throughout.

6. Dollup filling over crust everywhere and smooth down evenly.

7. Cover entire filling with the two cans pie filling.

8. Refrigerate and serve.

9. Serves 12+.

day 350: quick bread gifts—recipes

Banana Bread--- four "small" loaves

2 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Butter 1 stick=1/2 cup,

2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

2 Teaspoon Salt

4 Each Egg(s)

1 Cup Milk sour milk or part sour


6 Cup Flour

6 Each Banana/s large

2 Cup Walnuts, chopped or more


1. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl.

2. Add eggs and blend.

3. Add sour milk. (To "make" sour milk, put 1 TBSP vinegar in bottom of one

cup measure before adding milk to glass measure.) Blend.

4. Mix flour, salt, and soda in another bowl with a fork.

5. Stir gradually into creamed mixture.

6. Add smashed bananas.

7. Pour into four small, well-greased bread pans.

8. Bake at convection at 350' for 30-45 mins or until fork or toothpick

inserted in center comes out clean. (Regular oven 45-60 mins.)


Banana Bread -- Double eight "small" loaves

4 Cup Sugar

2 Cup Butter 1 stick=1/2 cup,

4 Teaspoon Baking Soda

4 Teaspoon Salt

8 Each Egg(s)

2 Cup Milk sour milk or part sour


12 Cup Flour

12 Each Banana/s large

4 Cup Walnuts, chopped or more


1. Cream sugar and butter in mixing bowl.

2. Add eggs and blend.

3. Add sour milk. (To "make" sour milk, put 1 TBSP vinegar in bottom of one

cup measure before adding milk to glass measure.) Blend.

4. Mix flour, salt, and soda in another bowl with a fork.

5. Stir gradually into creamed mixture.

6. Add smashed bananas.

7. Pour into four small, well-greased bread pans.

8. Bake at convection at 350' for 30-45 mins or until fork or toothpick

inserted in center comes out clean. (Regular oven 45-60 mins.)


Pumpkin Bread 4 large loaves

1 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

3 Teaspoon Baking Soda

3 Teaspoon Allspice

6 Each Egg(s)

1 1/2 Cup Butter 1 stick=1/2 cup

4 1/2 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg, ground

4 3/4 Cup Flour

1 Cup Evaporated Milk

1 Each Canned Pumpkin each=24 oz here


1. Mix all ingredients together in large mixing bowl until thoroughly


2. Pour into greased and floured bread pans (two).

3. Cook for 40-55 minutes convection or one hour regular at 350'.

4. Yield four large loaves.


Apple Bread makes 1 loaf

1/2 Cup Margarine

2 Each Egg(s)

1 Cup Sugar

1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Vanilla

2 Cup Flour

2 Cup Apples, sliced

1/2 Cup Nuts, chopped optional

Topping Ingredients:

2 Tablespoon Margarine very soft

3 Tablespoon Flour

3 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 Tablespoon Cinnamon


Blend margarine, eggs and sugar together. Add soda, salt and vanilla; beat.

Add flour, mix, and then add apples and nuts. Place in greased bread pan.

Mix topping ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of breads.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

Freezing Directions:

Wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Seal, label and freeze.

Serving Directions:

Allow the bread to thaw. Slice and enjoy.


It's really good warmed up in the microwave with a little bit of butter on



Apple Bread -- Double makes 2 loaves

1 Cup Margarine

4 Each Egg(s)

2 Cup Sugar

2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1 Teaspoon Salt

2 Teaspoon Vanilla

4 Cup Flour

4 Cup Apples, sliced

1 Cup Nuts, chopped optional

Topping Ingredients:

4 Tablespoon Margarine very soft

6 Tablespoon Flour

6 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

2 Tablespoon Cinnamon


Assembly Directions:

Blend margarine, eggs and sugar together. Add soda, salt and vanilla; beat.

Add flour, mix, and then add apples and nuts. Place in greased bread pan.

Mix topping ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of breads.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

Freezing Directions:

Wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Seal, label and freeze.

Serving Directions:

Allow the bread to thaw. Slice and enjoy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

day 349: quick bread gifts

Earlier I discussed food gifts that you can make with your kids—snack mixes and fudges.

Snack mixes start here:

Fudge gifts start here:

Lastly, I wanted to leave you with a third gift idea that we have had success with—not quite as fast as the snack mixes or fudge gifts, but tasty and inexpensive. That is the gift of quick breads.

Quick breads are cake-like, non-yeast, non-rising breads. These include pumpkin, apple, applesauce, banana, zuchini, cranberry, lemon, carrot, and more. They are generally well liked, freeze wonderfully (some are better after freezing), may be embellished with nuts and fruits, and can be made in various sizes for various purposes.

When we did strictly quick breads for gifts, we used the small (think “mini”) loaf pans, popped them out, cooled them, then bagged them in decorative bags. I have seen others bake them in mini foil bread pans and bag them, pan and all in decorative bags. For larger families or larger gifts, you may desire to use full sized loaf pans. I like using the mini loaf pans and giving two of these to larger families. (That way, they all baked evenly, etc.)

Before I give you three of our favorite quick bread recipes (in the next post), I want to share with you our funny “banana bread/courtship” story…from December 2004:

“I have to relate a funny story to our practice of making doughs and batters early and keeping them in cold places until we bake them. Last year, Joshua and Lisa had just gotten engaged the day before our banana-bread-batter-making-day. Lisa pulled into the driveway to spend the evening with us when Joshua ran out of the shower announcing that we had to do something with the banana bread batter (now in what I would most accurately describe as a vat of at least a dozen gallons in the middle of the dining room table) ------because Lisa gets sick over bananas. She can’t eat them, or even smell them, he related. Well, we were filling loaf pans on the dining room table, and you have to understand that our dining room table is about six feet from every room in our small downstairs. There’s simply no escaping it. So we filled the pans quickly and baked several loaves, then promptly put the remaining vat of batter in the back of the van (to keep the cats out of it!). Of course, the banana bread smell was all through the house by this time.

The next night, Joshua was on his way up to pick up Lisa to go to a Christmas philharmonic concert when I called him and told him he had the banana bread batter in the back of his van. He said it was okay because it must be frozen; it didn’t smell at all, so he went on up to pick her up. By the time he got to her house, the batter was nice and warm from the heat of the van, and the entire van smelled like rotten bananas! (Needless to say, Joshua drove her parents’ car to the concert.) The moral of this story: Keep your batters and doughs in cold places away from cats and anybody who doesn’t like ‘banana bread batter.’ (I think that’s the moral of this story. Maybe it’s find out any complete aversions your future daughter-in-law has before immersing her in that aversion.)”

Tomorrow—recipes for banana, pumpkin, and apple breads.