Saturday, December 15, 2012

Holiday Musings

A few years ago I wrote a “Holiday Musings” article for Training for Triumph’s newsletter. It has a lot of the same ideals that you will find in this blog—in season and out of season! However, I want to share it with you this Christmas. I pray that you will be moved and encouraged by it.

                                                       “Holiday Musings”
                                                               by Donna Reish

I love Christmas! I love giving gifts to my children; I love lights and beautiful decorations; I love doing family activities over and over again every year; I love baking goodies and giving them away. I even have a verse to substantiate my desire to give good gifts to my kids at Christmas time: “If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). I mean, God knows that even we mere mortals love to give good gifts to our kids!

Although all of the things in my “I love” list above are somewhat “unspiritual,” we have found through the years there are some common threads that we try to emphasize/do during the Christmas holiday—some to remember and ponder what Christ has done for us more fully; some to deepen our relationships with each other; some to show Christ’s love to the world. Allow me to give you a list of my holiday musings.

1. Think about, talk about, sing about, and remember the true reason for Christmas as a family throughout the month. 

We have found many things that help us focus on the birth of Christ more and more throughout December: singing carols together; reading Christmas picture books with the littles in the afternoons; collecting nativity scenes; reading from chapter books that emphasize the birth of Christ, such as Max Lucado’s Cosmic Christmas, Gene Edwards’ The Birth, and Marjorie Holmes’ Two From Galilee; going to community events that point us back to the reason for the season, such as Christmas plays, live nativities, walks through Bethlehem, Christmas cantatas, movies, and plays that emphasize the coming of the Savior.

2. Create family traditions. 

We have too many holiday traditions to list in just one short article, but research has born out the importance of traditions in building a child’s outlook on many things—and it is so obvious when you hear children talk and repeat that mantra: “We always…” There is something about being able to say that "We always ..." or "In our family, we… "

 Two of our favorite traditions are decorating the house together and reading inspirational Christmas stories throughout the month of December. Our older kids laugh until they cry as they give play-by-plays of each ornament making ordeal we have gone through. (Our tree is decorated with only home made ornaments—another tradition we have is that of making ornaments together.) Anyway, they have a joke of holding up the sample ornament (one that I bought that we were modeling after) and holding up one of ours and chiming, “Sample ornament; Reish ornament” over and over. Then they tell about the time I threw the cinnamon sticks across the room in a fit of Christmas stress as we tried to make the “ornaments in a minute” out of cinnamon sticks. Then we all laugh some more—and I try my best to keep from crying as I think about Christmases gone by—and wonder where the years have gone and long for just a day from a Christmas ten or fifteen years ago.

Traditions do not have to be elaborate or expensive. Some of ours (besides the decorating night and ornament making) are as simple as watching certain Christmas movies while we wrap gifts; eating shrimp alfredo while we watch White Christmas; reading about holiday traditions each morning; learning a new carol together each year (all the verses!); having the kids exchange their gifts with each other on Christmas Eve; reading inspirational stories each night before bed; reading one of the Gospels during the month of December; etc.

3. Think about Jesus’ entire life—his birth, life, death, and resurrection—not just his birth. 

Linking the Christmas story to the fact that without it we would have no hope of salvation is important, especially with younger children. Two ways that we do this include discussing, reading about, and singing about the names of Christ and what they mean throughout the month; and reading one of the Gospels—not just the Christmas story—during December. This helps us focus on our salvation even more. (Another thing we have done to focus on Jesus’ entire life is to listen to Focus on the Family’s radio theatre “The Luke Reports.” I will put links to some excellent resources throughout December, so check back frequently!)

4. Reach out to those less fortunate—and do so in a way that costs you and your children something.

 I know that doesn’t sound very “Christmasy”—good cheer and mistletoe and all (btw, I love mistletoe if the right “mistletoe-ee” is around!), but taking a can to a canned food drive or parents buying gifts for the children to leave at the angel tree are not sacrifices for our children—and do not do much to teach our children the true meaning of Christmas—and the true meaning of sacrificial giving.

When I speak of reaching out to those less fortunate, I am talking about giving up time (a few evenings or days?) and money (money with which a child could buy himself something). I’m talking about doing hard things. I’m talking about getting dirty, being inconvenienced, etc. I know that sounds strange, but honestly, what could we possibly do or give that would be too much for our Lord? Find true, meaningful service projects for your children—extensive time spent at a nursing home or group home caroling, making cookies with residents, reading to them, etc.; earning money to be used to give gifts to truly poor or forgotten people (like county home residents or the disabled); going out into the homes of people who never have a Christmas visitor; serving food at a soup kitchen; cleaning mattresses at a rescue mission. Focus on others more than ever before this Christmas—your children will thank you for it eventually. (For the new year, read the stories written by the author of Mandate for Mercy (also the founder of the Mercy Ship ministry) about how his mom made his family squeeze together in the car every week to pick up poor and desperate people to take them to church—and the impact this had on this man causing him to spend his life on the poor and desolate—this is the kind of reaching out we are purporting here.)

5. Reach out to your relatives.

 Yes, those strangers who are watching "bad" things on television the whole family get together while puffing away on their cigarettes. Teach your children to go to family get togethers to serve—not to judge. Start out teaching your children about this concept of serving relatives with a Bible study (ahead of time) on “being great in God’s kingdom by serving” and “doing for others asking nothing in return” and “being a light by your good works.” 

Then, if it is true, tell your children that you have been more concerned about yourself than you have of others at past family get togethers. And that you want your entire family to change all of that. That you want to “do your good works that others would glorify your father in heaven.” Discuss ways that you can do this during this holiday season: working harder to make good dishes to the gatherings (no lentil casserole, please—bless these people with fat and sugar!); helping with young cousins; encouraging grandparents; helping to set up and take down; being kind to each other as an example of family unity to those who might not have any idea what that looks like. 

(Note: Because I always get asked this, I will put a caveat here—I am not talking about reaching out to relatives in any way that would put your children in danger. We recommend that your children never be left with non-Christians and never be put in situations in which they could be harmed.)

6. Really talk to others this holiday season. 

Your ministry of bringing your relatives to Christ will begin not with your family’s judgment of them, but with your interest and concern for their lives in general. Jeff Myers, leadership specialist, founder of Passing the Baton, and current president of Summit Ministries (as of 2012),  gives the following list of things to discuss this year with relatives young and old. Some are one-on-one types of discussions while others would work well for group discussions**:

Express thanks to someone in the room for something they did for you.

"I'm thankful for..." Finish the sentence.

If you could have the attention of the whole world for 30 seconds, what would you say?

One thing I'm thankful for about our country.

What is the key to success in life? Why do you say that?

Tell about a lesson you learned the hard way.

What are some ways life is different now than in the old days?

Tell a story of a decision your ancestors made that changed the direction of their lives-and yours.

Tell about a lesson you learned by watching someone else.

"A person I would like to honor publicly is..."

"Time and money aside, I would rather be..."

Tell about an experience that changed you for the better.

Tell a story about something that started out bad but had a happy ending.

"My first hero was _________."

Tell about a time when you showed courage.

Describe a teacher who had a significant influence on your life.

Tell about an invention that made your life easier.

"The most admired public figure when I was growing up was ____." Tell a story.

Tell about a memorable event in your life.

"A famous person I've met is _____." Tell about the experience.

"I got in so much trouble..." Tell the story!

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**Note: These are good to print off and use as dinner discussion for your immediate family, too!

6. Express genuine gratefulness to God and others

December is a month to really display the quality of gratefulness—and to teach your children to do so too. Not just mere ”thank-you’s”—but sincere thanksgiving to God for His Son and for others for everything they do for us. Teaching children to say thank-you, write thank-you notes, etc. is a start. However, gratefulness begins with the realization that everything good we have comes from the hand of God. That we are nothing without Him. And that He knows what we need more than we do. It is deepened when we give up materialism—the idea that we have to have this or that in order to be happy—and focus instead on the good things God has done for us. Thoughts on materialism would require an entire article in itself, but when we have to have things to make us happy, when our mood and outlook change as a result of getting more and more, or when we cannot be happy in whatever situation we are in (materially speaking), we are probably steeped in materialism. Praying through this, sharing with our family the importance of giving up our ideas that we somehow deserve this or that, focusing on gratefulness for all that God has done for us outside the material things we are lacking—these are ways to feel and exhibit true gratefulness.

7. Spend quality time reaching into your children’s hearts. 

That’s a tough one, huh? I mean, the busiest time of the year, and we have to add another thing to the list. I remember vividly eighteen years ago when I had five kids ten and under. I still had younger siblings at home who would come and spend a lot of Christmas week with us. I made four Christmas dinners in a row for various relatives. I got up early in the morning to make home baked bread and rolls and went to bed late at night to get the overnight breakfast casseroles in the oven. I get tired just thinking about it. I was trying to serve others, but found myself distanced from my kids by the time the holiday week was over. I can remember looking at Joshua, then ten, one evening after the relatives had all left, and calling him over to ”sit in Mommy’s rainbow” (my bent legs as I lay on the sofa)—and he seemed so far away. I had been with him all week—I was usually with my older kids all the time as they did not have any older siblings to take them anywhere like my littles now have! However, I felt so far from him. I had let the busy-ness of Christmas keep me from those I love the most. Now I have to remind myself that one more home made goody or one more shopping day is not worth distancing myself from my children. Stay close. It’s Christmas!

This Christmas I pray that all of us can ”keep Christmas” in a way that glorifies God and teaches our children deep Christmas truths.

*Copyright TFT 2008

Monday, December 10, 2012

Two Dozen Tried and True Holiday Recipes

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+.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Story for You: "The Burglar's Christmas"

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, Positive Parents who are "Character Training From the Heart"! :)