Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Munchies - Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Today's bite sized cookie recipe is one that I think would be a great addition to your dessert selection for a Super Bowl party on Sunday, or really whatever other excuse you can come up with to make them!  Whoever  came up with this recipe is brilliant - peanut butter cups on peanut butter cookies, what's not to love?!?  Since we didn't have mini muffin tins we made giant cookies in regular muffin tins and put full sized peanut butter cups on the top, but we both agreed that it was a lot of cookie, and the mini's would have been a better ratio of cookie to peanut butter cup.  Also, I think the yield is off, this recipe seemed to make a LOT of dough.  We made 24 large cookies and still froze some of the dough, but in the future I might cut the recipe in half. 

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
1 cup butter softened
1 cup peanut butter (We used crunchy peanut butter and I loved the texture it gave the cookies!)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 16 oz package miniature peanut butter cups

Blend butter, peanut butter and sugars until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and add to creamed mixture.  Shape dough into balls that fit nicely into ungreased miniature muffin tins.  Bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.  Don't overbake.  After removing from oven, immediately press one miniature peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie.  Let cool in the muffin tin.
Yield: 3 dozen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mountain Beauty

Last week Laurel and I were looking at our week, and planned that our ski day would be Tuesday, God graciously saw fit to make it the most clear, beautiful day!  The sun was shining brightly, the sky was a deep blue, and it was finally clear enough that, for the first time, I could see all of the mountains around Jackson (even the other clear days there were clouds covering the highest mountains).  I took several pictures with my phone, but nothing can compare to the splendor of the mountains in person.  Being in the mountains always reminds me of God's power, majesty, strength and sovereignty, but at the same time they show His creativity and remind me that He is the author of beauty.  I pray that as I move here to live in Jackson, the beauty of creation will continue to point me to the Creator.  

About a year ago, I decided to memorize a portion of Colossians 1, and as I was standing looking out over the tops of the mountains the Lord brought part of that passage to mind...

Colossians 1:16-17 - For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Psalm 95:3-6 - For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

Nehemiah 9:6 - You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Munchies - Chocolate Chip Fruit Dip

It's been a busy weekend with all sorts of fun stuff going on, hockey games, meeting new friends, checking out the square, cowboy boot shopping, visiting churches, buying ski passes for tomorrow, finding the toboggan in the shed, doing daily snow depth checks, and then what do you know, it's time for Monday Munchies again!  Since Laurel and I were snowed in a couple of days last week we cooked (and ate) a lot, but I'm still getting used to this blogging thing and didn't take pictures of anything - blog fail.  Today's recipe is one that my cousin made several months ago, and my mom and I have made it several times since.  It's great served with fruit, or to make it more dessert like, we have also tried it with graham cracker sticks, chocolate graham cracker pieces, and vanilla wafers.  This would be a good recipe to keep in mind for your Super Bowl parties - go Giants!

Chocolate Chip Fruit Dip
1 package (8 ounces) Cream Cheese (softened or cubed)
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar  
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Serve with fruit or graham cracker sticks (or whatever else you want!) 

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and vanilla; beat until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Serve with fruit or graham cracker sticks.  Yield: 2 cups

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hello Jackson!

After several long hours in the car, Laurel, Duke, and I made it to a beautiful and snowy Jackson, Wyoming!  I don't know how much the official total snowfall is, but we made a snow gauge by taping marks every 12 inches on the poles that show where the driveway is, and today it's slightly above the 24" mark with chances of snow all throughout next week too.  I LOVE snow so I'm having a blast with it all!  

From my short time here, I've compiled a list of 10 things which makes Jackson a pretty awesome little town:

1. Snow - lots of snow!
2. The beautiful scenery - I absolutely love the mountains.
3. Friendliness - people (except the people at the Post Office, must be a national epidemic) are super friendly.
4. Ski slopes - so many choices within just a few miles!
5. Winter activities - along with skiing you can spend time snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, taking sleigh rides, tubing, ice skating, hockey and more, the snow doesn't stop these guys!
6. Summer activities - hiking, camping, fishing, biking, kayaking, white water rafting, 4-wheeling, the options are limitless.
7. Seattle's Best - much to my surprise and excitement, there is a full Seattle's Best cafe in Smith's grocery store!
8. Stocking caps are acceptable to wear at all times - love my hats!
9. Music scene - several options each week, lots of country and bluegrass which is fine with me!
10. Local dining - there aren't many chains here but there are so many interesting local restaurants it will be fun getting to explore them when we aren't snowed in!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Munchies - Wheat-Free Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Peanut Butter

It is 5:30 Monday morning and I'm super excited, which means...I'm leaving for Jackson, Wyoming in 30 minutes!  Don't worry, I'll keep you all posted on my adventures along the way, but now back to business.

This week's recipe is a tasty new cookie recipe I tried last week.  Although it is gluten free, it doesn't have any special flours or other weird ingredients so it tastes just like a normal delicious cookie, and the raw cookie dough is awesome too (don't worry mom, I survived the raw egg)!  The only downfall of these is that after a day or so they get a little dry (nothing a little nuking in the microwave can't help though).  The next time I bake these I will probably only bake a dozen or so, then scoop out dough balls onto a cookie sheet, put the cookie sheet in the freezer for several hours, then put the frozen dough balls into a freezer safe container to store them until I want fresh baked cookies again!  I also think these would be good with almond butter in case anyone has peanut allergies.  I apologize for the bad pic!  This was a last minute Monday Munchies recipe decision so this is a poorly lit smartphone pic of the picture in the cookbook (there was only one burned cookie left in my house and that picture turned out even worse).

Wheat-Free Oatmeal Cookies 
with Chocolate Chips and Peanut Butter
3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups creamy peanut butter 
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar 
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. 

Combine the oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. 

Place the peanut butter, butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and beat together with an electric mixer on medium-high until smooth (2-3 min).  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Beat in the oat mixture on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the chocolate chips. 

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie.  (I found that the cookies stayed in whatever shape the dough balls are, so I needed to press the dough down to flatten the balls so they actually looked like cookies - the learning process was not pretty, but it sure tasted good!)

Bake the cookies until they are golden around the edges but still soft on top, 10-12 minutes.  Let the cookies stand on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then carefully slide the parchment sheet with the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool completely.  (I kind of skipped that last step.  I waited until they were cool enough to transfer without falling apart and they turned out fine.)

Makes: 48 cookies
Recipe Source:  Cookie Swap Cookbook   

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lessons From A Busted Garbage Bag

I'm convinced the workplace is filled with bad employees.  I've worked with them, I've supervised them, and have definitely experienced them as a consumer.  Two examples stand out to me in particular.  One time my mom and I were at Kohls purchasing several small items (LOTS of individual pairs of socks, small candles, etc.) and then bought two shirts to give as gifts.  As we started the transaction this cashier talked non-stop about how horrible her day had been.  She locked her keys in the car, was late, the store was super busy, and lots more.  As she finished the transaction we asked if we could get gift receipts for the two shirts.  She explained that she had to print off gift receipts for every single item (we're talking probably 15 items or so).  My mom commented that it's too bad they couldn't just print them for individual items and the girl said "oh well, it doesn't matter to me.  It's not my money!" and then she handed us the whole pile of receipts.

The most recent example came this morning as we noticed the mail truck coming down the street.  For those of you who don't live here, we had a little snow last night and it was SUPER windy today, and like many other blustery days, it just happened to be trash day.  Our trash cans were out by the street waiting for the garbage man to come pick them up, but at some point one blew over and the bag fell out into the street.  I looked out the window just in time to see our mail lady drive right over the bag of trash, popping it and spreading trash all over the street, instead of driving around the bag.  It's unfortunate that turning the steering wheel would have taken SO much effort.  What happened a few minutes later made me think of how we view occupation.  My mom braved the sub-zero wind chill temps to pick up the garbage the mail lady spread around and a little later the garbage truck came.  I was walking by the window again, just in time to see them dump the trash and then carefully set the cans and lids halfway back in our front yard so that they wouldn't blow out into the street.  A garbage man's job isn't exactly a coveted job, especially when it's cold and snowy, but this guy went the extra mile, and completed his work in a more honorable way than either the cashier or the mail lady.

How often do we go about our work with the mindset that our job is the ministry to which the Lord has called us?  Do we treat our jobs as a ministry or is it just a way to make money?  Even if we don't like it - or if we actually hate it, even if it isn't a glamorous job or might even be looked down upon - like my garbage man, even if our supervisor is terrible or our co-workers are annoying, even if no one seems to notice the work we put in, we are called to work at our jobs with ALL our hearts as working for the Lord not for men.  Do we love our supervisors and co-workers more than ourselves, do put their interests above our own?  Do we take initiative when the job is mundane or difficult, do we do our work without grumbling or complaining?  The workplace is our platform for being God's light, do you take advantage of the opportunities He has given you?  Like it says in 1 Peter 2:11-12, live your lives in the workplace in such a way that your co-workers, customers and supervisors will see a difference, and realize that the difference is Christ in you.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Munchies - Cheesy Pepperoni Bread

It's Monday again, they seem to roll around so quickly!  Today is the first of many weekly(ish) installments of Monday Munchies, where I will post some of my new and old favorite recipes.  

New Year's Eve is one of my favorite nights to try out new appetizer and dessert recipes, and this recipe is one I had my eye on for quite some time and decided to make for our party with our neighbors.  Now, this New Year's Eve party only consists of 7 people but every year we fix enough food for about 40 people, and then we swap leftovers, it's wonderful!  Friday I had lofty aspirations to make all sorts of completely homemade complicated and time consuming party food...then I woke up sick Saturday, and after waking up I decided I'd be doing good to even take a shower.  This recipe was one I decided I could throw together and it ended up being one of my favorites of the night even though it was super simple.  It would be a great one to keep the ingredients on hand for football games, game nights, unplanned visitors or even for a quick snacky dinner.

Cheesy Pepperoni Bread
  • 1 can Pillsbury Italian or French bread (Initially I planned to make my own dough, but this was nice and easy.  Sometimes easy is best, in my case, easy = nap!)
  • Garlic bread seasoning (Garlic powder, dried onions, parsley, basically whatever floats your boat.)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Sliced pepperoni (I used turkey pepperoni because it's healthier...I know, like there's healthy pepperoni haha!  But I think it tastes just as good.  I also think mini pepperoni's would be great in this!)
  • Black olives - optional
  • Pizza sauce or marinara sauce for dipping

FYI, the pepperoni slices are frosty, it's not mold or something!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll the bread dough so that it makes a large rectangle.  Sprinkle with seasoning, then top generously with the mozzarella cheese. Place desired amount of pepperoni slices and olives on top of the cheese. Carefully roll the dough jellyroll style into a loaf and place seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.   

Recipe Source: Adapted from Sing for Your Supper Blog

Monday, January 2, 2012

Goals – Kicking Off 2012

Confession: I’m kind of a goal freak.  This probably stems from my (sometimes unhealthy) love of competition.  I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving goals. I love beating whatever time frame I set, I love the challenge, the endurance and determination it takes.  Over the years though, I've learned that although I can easily set and achieve goals that it doesn't necessarily have any long term outcome (building new habits, lifestyle changes, etc.), it was just more of a game for me.  Goals were great, but once they were achieved it was on to the next thing for me.  There was a class at Master’s where we learned a lot of valuable things about goals, and I would like to share some of the things I learned with you in hopes of spurring you on toward achieving the goals or resolutions you have set for 2012!

One thing to be mindful of before setting goals, is that they should reflect our priorities (those things, activities, and responsibilities only you can take care of), which helps you limit what you feel like you have to take on.  Priorities change based on your season of life.  Do you know what your priorities are right now?  Here are a few that might make your list: relationship with God, husband and children, managing your home, caring for aging parents, work obligations, school, health and fitness.  Make a list of your priorities and set your goals from there.  This gives you a broad picture of what you want your life to look like and then you can create specific goals to support your priorities.  Another helpful thing is to create from your priorities a life mission statement.  A few years back I made this mission statement from some of my favorite verses: Philippians 1:27; 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:23.
 “Whatever happens in my life, I want to conduct myself in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27).  No matter where God calls me, or what He asks me to do, I want to do everything with all my heart, as unto the Lord.  I will do all my work with excellence, regardless of what that work may be, that I might honor God and bring glory to His name in everything I say and do however great or small.”   

Sometimes we feel like our goals smack us in the behind, but this rarely happens when we SMAC them first!  When setting goals make sure they are:

S: Specific – Many goals fail because they lack detail.   
M: Measurable – How will you measure your progress? Come up with short range, intermediate and long range plans of how you will measure your progress. 
A: Achievable – Sometimes goals fail because they are simply not realistic.  We must remember that our time, energy and resources are limited.  
C: Compatible – They must be compatible with all your current obligations and responsibilities in life.  

One of the most important things I have learned (the hard way) is to be realistic when making goals.  I tend to get excited and think that I can do way more than I actually can, then I get discouraged when I fail or I achieve the goal at the expense of other things I shouldn’t have let go.  Take the time now to adjust your goals and make your expectations realistic!

Be prayerful in what goals you set, and consider the following scriptural principles related to setting goals: 
  • The most important thing for the Christian goal setter to keep in mind is that his/her relationship with Christ must come first (Exodus 20:3).  Although goals are good, when we put them above our relationship with the Lord we are making them idols and breaking the first commandment (Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller is an excellent read on this topic).  
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment (James 1:5) regarding what your goals should be and how you will accomplish them.  
  • Spend time in God’s word looking for principles that apply to a goal that you are considering setting (Psalm 119:24). 
  • Get counsel from godly people who know you and whom you trust (Proverbs 15:22). 
  • Once you have goals set, grow in the character qualities of perseverance and determination to accomplish that goal and remember that only through relying on Him can we achieve our goals (1 Chronicles 16:11; Matthew 19:26; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 15:58; Galatians 6:9, Colossians 1:10, 3:23).