"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Big Race

Congratulations N! My 5 yr old won 3rd place in a ski race today!! Actually his time was 2nd - they just misfigured the winners. No biggie. I don't get all competitive over the small stuff. Besides they were all awarded cowbells as medals, so there wasn't a difference there. It was a "fun race." In two weeks he will participate in a sanctioned race and the rules are a lot more stringent there. Doesn't matter to me - as long as he has fun!

That's him on the way to the top. He is the one on the left.

Coming down the course. They made two runs each and took the best time.

He's the one on the left - doesn't look too happy because he was hoping to finish higher, but he really is pleased with his race and even more thrilled now that I told him he was really 2nd. He didn't seem to care that the announcement was wrong.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bread Bowls and Cheese Soup and a Very Silly Game

This week, good friends of ours had to be out of town, so we had their four children over for dinner Monday and Tuesday night along with the young lady who is staying with them. We had a great lasagna dinner one night, and we tried a new recipe the next - bread bowls with cheese soup. I have been looking for a good bread bowl recipe and finally found this one. The recipe made enough for 8 normal sized bowls and two smaller ones. We had a total of 11 people, but the one year old didn't need a bowl - I just put bits of bread from inside the bowls in his soup. One mistake I made was not giving the rolls quite enough room to grow. The small areas where a few of them grew together as they were raising made weak edges and the soup seeped out. But, overall, this is a wonderful recipe for breadbowls - or for regular dinner rolls too. They had a great consistency.

For the cheese soup, I sauteed finely chopped onion, red pepper and celery in butter, seasoning with salt and pepper. Then I added about 4 cups of chicken stock and a tall carton of half and half. I threw in the remainder of a carton of heavy whipping cream which I needed to use up (not necessary) and later decided my soup wasn't going to go far enough, so I added milk - maybe 2-3 cups. I don't know. I never measure anything when I'm making soup. I seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, onion powder, dry mustard, dry parsley flakes, celery seed and probably a few other things ;) until it tasted good (sorry I can't remember exactly) and then added shredded cheddar a little at a time until I got the consistency I was looking for - probably 2 pounds or so. The key is to keep everything simmering without ever boiling - especially once you add the cheese. That will keep your soup smooth. If I had been cooking for our family alone, I probably would have added chunkier veggies and maybe some ham and corn ... but then it wouldn't have been cheese soup, would it? Broccoli would have been a great addition too, but I had heard that the kids we were having over didn't love broccoli. They were a great hit. I meant to take a picture of the filled bread bowls, but we were so busy at the time that it never crossed my mind. I sprinkled shredded cheddar on top after filling the bowls.

I had too much kitchen help :)

So after dinner, we played a new game. I found this game online and ordered it because it sounded hysterical. It is called Quelf, and is perfect for teen groups though we had to throw out some of the less appropriate cards (ie - pretend you are a showgirl...) By the end of the game, my daughter (pictured above) was wearing a tie, a kleenex turned into a bib, and had created a mask from household items which she had to make before it was her turn again, and then wear throughout the game. Another player had to end every sentence he said with "isl" and if one player laughed (which it is impossible not to do) he had to snort like a pig ... every time. The premise of the game is to complete tasks that are guaranteed to embarrass you, and if you can't or don't complete them, you move backwards. There are quiz questions which are intentionally next to impossible to answer, and some have tasks assigned "if you were unable to answer the dog food question, act like a dog and fetch a piece of wood, carrying it back to the table with your mouth." There are "classified" cards in which you act out something and then people have to guess what you were doing, or act like a stand up comedian and tell a joke - if anyone laughs you get to move ahead one and they do too. I had a card where I had to repeat a square dance chant three times in my "best western twang" which included the lines, "Swing your partner round and round, put 'em in the toilet, flush 'em down" - if anyone danced, we both got to move ahead. Overall this was an absolutely hysterical game, but should be played with older kids. We had one player who was 12 and wasn't really able to participate as well. He did have fun though, so I guess that's the point. It really helps the game move along if you can get everyone to listen and not be talking when it's not their turn.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

These chocolate chip cookies are amazing - try them, you'll agree!

1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
(I needed an extra 1/2 cup of flour due to elevation)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans

Cream together butter and shortening, then gradually add sugars. Add egg and vanilla. Beat well. Combine flour, soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Bake at 350* for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. This recipe is supposed to make 2 1/2 dozen cookies, but I don't think we got that many out of it. It's hard to tell since they kept disappearing before they were all baked ;) If you want these to last, you better make a double batch!

Monday, February 15, 2010

A 3-Week Whirlwind

So, the past three weeks has gone by in a whirlwind of activity. We have been up at Red Cliff Bible Camp for the past three weekends in a row. This past weekend, my 17 year old daughter and I cooked for one of their couples' retreats. That was such a fun experience. We had an incredible time and can't wait to do it again.
This is the main lodge at Red Cliff Bible Camp, and the kitchen where we cooked. And yes, the only way to get there is on a snowmachine. My kind of place!!

I will post a couple of the best recipes from the weekend at the end of this post. My personal favorite was the spinach salad we had on banquet night along with our prime rib dinner. The whole meal was so fancy. Both of the evening meals were very fussy - especially banquet night, but a lot of fun to put together. I had never done such a formal dinner before and for a first attempt, I think it went rather well. We served spinach salad with a dijon dressing, shrimp cocktail over a mango basil salsa, prime rib, twice baked potatoes and almond green beans, and for dessert, a decadent heart-shaped brownie dipped in chocolate with white chocolate streaks, served on top of a chocolate mousse with whipped cream and strawberries on the side. I wish I would have taken pictures of the meals, but I was so busy it honestly never occurred to me. Thankfully, most of the recipes that were used for the non-formal meals were my recipes anyway, so it didn't take a lot of thought to cook those, and we could focus on the more difficult stuff. I did learn though that there is a lot of difference between cooking at an altitude of 7300 feet, where we live, and 8600 ft, where the camp is. Yikes. My first attempt at rolls and cake was a little shaky. I had it figured out by the end of camp though!

Our little guy figured out we were leaving, and his sister packed him in the end of our bag. This bag is huge. We fit two sleeping bags, two pillows and all of our clothes and accessories in this one bag. (We couldn't hardly lift it, but we got it all in - uh, once the baby was removed, that is!!)

The weekend before that, my husband and I were able to enjoy the couples retreat as campers. We were treated to all the same great dinners, with none of the effort. It was great to get to go and see how everything was done before having to do it ourselves. I had never had the opportunity to be a camper there before so it was a wonderful experience. Our kids had been there and we are friends with the directors. It was just fun to be the ones enjoying the fun. And the preaching was wonderful. It's such a blessing to get to hear good preaching!

This is the cabin we stayed in during our training weekend.

The first weekend was a training weekend for both my husband and I. Our daughter has served there before so she stayed home with our youngest two boys while we went to training. We learned so much and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the empty camp. We are very grateful for the experience of serving at the camp and look forward to doing a lot more of it.

This is the inside of one of the larger cabins. This one actually has a bathroom in it ... a rarity :)

Can't beat the scenery, huh? During our weekend as couples retreat campers, we had time to take a snowmachine ride up to Green River Lake. This picture was taken about a mile from the lake. The view is even better from the lake, but we didn't think to take a picture there.

Okay, so here are the recipes:
Spinach Salad with Dijon Dressing
1 T. sugar
2 1/2 t. lemon juice
1 1/2 t. tarragon vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 t. salt
1 T. dijon mustard
1/4 t. minced garlic
dash fresh coarse ground pepper
1/4 c. vegetable oil
Combine all but the oil thoroughly. Whisk oil into other ingredients. Drizzle over spinach leaves, then sprinkle chopped strawberries, bacon bits and red onion over the top ... the perfect combination of tart and sweet. This recipe serves 2-4, depending on how heavy you like the dressing. We tossed the spinach leaves in the dressing, then plated with the strawberries, bacon bits and onion.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
This recipe is super simple and very flexible. Bake the potatoes, allow to cool a bit, cut them in half and scoop out the innards. Then, just think of all the things you would want on a loaded baked potato, and mix them with the scooped out potato flesh. We used butter, sour cream, bacon bits, cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and a bit of milk. If I had been home, I would have also added tiny bits of onion and maybe some dill. Once that is all blended, you just scoop it back into the potato boats, sprinkle with more cheddar, bacon bits and chives, and bake another 15 minutes or so, until it all looks gooey. YUM!

Mandarin Pork Roast

2 t. dried rosemary, crushed
4 minced garlic cloves
1 t. pepper
1 5-lb. pork loin roast
1 11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 c. orange marmalade
6 T. orange juice concentrate
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
2 T. honey
2 1/4 t. ground mustard
1 1/2 t. ground fresh ginger
2 minced garlic cloves

Combine rosemary, garlic and pepper; rub over roast. Place roast, fat side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Bake uncovered at 350* for 1 1/4- 1 1/2 hrs. Arrange oranges over roast. Combine glaze ingredients; brush over roast. Bake 30 minutes or longer until meat is 160*-170*, brushing often with glaze.

No Knead Rosemary Rolls
3 T. applesauce
4 1/2 T. sugar
3 T. yeast 1 1/2 T. salt
4 T. crushed dried rosemary
3 3/4 c. warm water
8-9 c. flour
Mix all ingredients, mixing flour in last. Let rise in a bowl until doubled, then punch down and put directly into 3 regular loaf pans or 6 mini-loaf pans. Let rise in a cool oven. When nice and rounded, turn oven on to 425* and let bake 20 minutes or so. Brush with butter as soon as they come out. Serve warm.

Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

Cake batter:
2 T. butter
2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 t. salt
2 c. flour
4 T. boiling water
2 t. soda
2 t. vanilla
2 1/4 c. diced apples
1 c. chopped nuts
Combine ingredients in order listed. Bake at 350* in a 9x13 pan for 30-35 minutes. (If you're doing this at high altitude, add 1/2 c. flour and cook longer.)
Caramel Sauce:
1 c. brown sugar
4 T. flour
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. margarine
2 t. vanilla
Combine first 4 ingredients and cook until thick. Add vanilla. Serve warm over warm cake.

Pecan Coffee Cake
2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. chopped pecans
1 t. ground cinnamon
2 T. butter, melted
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sour cream, then beat in sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. By hand, fold in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Spread batter into prepared pan. To make the Pecan Topping: In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Stir in melted butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over cake batter in pan. Bake in the preheated 350* oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before serving.