Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Time for Thanks Giving - The Finale

This is the final entry in my four week series of things that I am thankful for.  I saved the best for last, of course.

Absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the thing that I am most grateful for in my life is a loving, saving, grace-giving God.

God loves me and you with such passion and protectiveness.  You can even go so far as to say that God is jealous for us, for our affections and our allegiance.  He desires an intimate, personal relationship with each and every one of us.

For me, this means that I can put aside trying to be perfect, trying to do enough, be enough and accomplish enough.  He loves me AS I AM... sometimes weak, sometimes needy, and always imperfect.  I am made perfect through Him, through the sacrifice of His Son.  How many people are you willing to sacrifice your own child for.  I'm going to say no one.  I couldn't even bear the thought of it.  But God did.... He sent His only Son to atone for the sins of a lost world, for everyone who was, is, or ever will inhabit this earth.

Deep stuff, huh?  I understand love.... I love my husband, my children, my friends and family.  But take that love (and it's a whole lot of love) and multiply it by a million and still, you're not even close to the love that God feels for all of us.  How can I ever express how thankful I am for that?

When we receive God's love we are expected to show that love to others around us.  There are endless possibile opportunites to serve others and spread a little love.  Ask around.... at your church, your job, on the internet.  All For Good lets you search for volunteer opportunities by location.  Take your kids!  What better way to teach them to show God's love than by teaching them to serve.

I hope that each of you has a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad

This past Thursday our department at work had a Thanksgiving potluck.  By the time I signed up all of the desserts were spoken for, so I decided to bring a salad.  I've had a salad similar to this before and I really enjoyed it.  I thought that the flavors would be a great compliment to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Lots of folks don't enjoy salads.  I, on the other hand, could probably live on them.  I like them all.... leafy salads, layered salads, pasta salads, chicken salads, fruit salads.... the list is endless.  I look for salads that aren't "boring".  Something that's more flavorful than just a bag of lettuce and a bottle of dressing.  This salad has so many flavors that mesh so well together.  Honestly.... I could have just this salad and some warm bread and butter and call it a meal.

For the salad greens I used prepackaged baby field greens from the local supermarket.  Since I prepared the salad at work this was the easiest option (and what I would have done even if I had prepared the salad at home).  You can use any salad greens that you like.

The original recipe called for toasted walnuts.  I chose to make candied walnuts instead and they were so good!  I did not use all of them for the salad, so I snacked on the rest of them for a couple of days.

My favorite part of the salad is the gorgonzola cheese.  Now I knowwhat you're thinking... it's somewhat pungent.... and it looks funny.... but have you ever tried it?  It's good, I promise.  If you just can't handle the gorgonzola you could substitute feta cheese, but it won't be as tasty.

Here is the recipe with the modifications that I made.  It presents beautifully and tastes even better.

Pear, Goronzola, and Walnut Salad adapted from Inn Cuisine

For the salad:

1 regular size bag (your choice) prepared salad greens

2 fresh pears, either French Butter, d’Anjou or Comice, peeled and cut into 1/4″ wide slices

Note: To prevent the peeled, pear slices from browning, I quickly swished them in fresh lemon juice and set aside.

5 ounce package (or container) of crumbled Gorgonzola (or feta)

3/4 cup walnut halves or pieces, candied (see below for recipe)

Optional – dried cranberries &/or dried cherries for extra color, flavor and texture

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

coarse salt

freshly ground pepper


Put prepared lettuces in a large salad bowl. Add pear slices, Gorgonzola and toasted walnuts.

To make the vinaigrette, combine red wine vinegar, prepared Dijon-style mustard and salt in large measuring cup. Stir to dissolve salt. Mix in the olive oil. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or small, wire whisk.

To serve, mix the vinaigrette again and pour over the salad, tossing gently with your hands. If necessary, add additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to individual salad plates or bowls, arranging pears, Gorgonzola and walnuts as you find visually appealing.

If desired, serve with warm French bread.

Candied Walnuts from

Candied Walnuts Recipe


1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves

1/8 teaspoon coarse salt


Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.

As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined either with a Silpat non-stick mat, or with wax paper or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely.  Try not to eat them all before you make the salad.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Time for Thanks Giving - Part Three

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching.  My first Thanksgiving celebration is actually a potluck lunch tomorrow.  How crazy that we're starting the Thank-feasting a full week before the actual holiday arrives!  That just goes to show that it's never too early to give thanks.  In fact, giving thanks shouldn't be a seasonal gesture at all.

In this installment of my weekly posts of gratitude leading up to Thanksgiving I want to say just how thankful I am for my family.  In my life family means so much more than just those to whom I am related by blood.  I am blessed to have had in my life both a loving mother and a caring step-mother.  Troy has step-family as well, which means that my children are growing up with a wonderful over abundance of aunts, uncles and grandparents galore!  I have more sisters than some people have first cousins and it makes for great (though loud and sometimes rowdy) times when we all gather together.

These past few weeks have been rough with Troy working five or six nights a week.  Without the support of my family I don't know that I would be sane enough today to be writing this post.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for single parents who do this  You are super-heroes!

In additional to traditional familial ties I have also been blessed with a church family in which the members care for and love one another.  There have been a few storms in my life that this special family has helped me weather.  I am so thankful to have them in my life and they hold a special place in my heart.

I know without a doubt that my family isn't always sunshine and rainbows.  We have our share of drama and trials, but in the end we're always there for each other and I'm so eternally grateful for them!

For this weeks Thanksgiving craft I want to share an easy, tasty treat that my girls enjoy making at Thanksgiving.

Marshmallow Pilgrim Hats from Disney FamilyFun


24 chocolate-striped shortbread cookies

12-ounce package of chocolate chips

24 marshmallows

tube of yellow decorators' frosting


Set the chocolate-striped cookies stripes down on a wax-paper-covered tray, spacing them well apart.

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave or double boiler.

One at a time, stick a wooden toothpick into a marshmallow, dip the marshmallow into the melted chocolate, and promptly center it atop a cookie.

Using a second toothpick to lightly hold down the marshmallow, carefully pull out the first toothpick.

Chill the hats until the chocolate sets, then pipe a yellow decorators' frosting buckle on the front of each hat.

"For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long?" ~ Rebecca Harding Davis

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Running Saga

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2

I haven't posted much about my running here but I thought it was time that I shared my running story.  It's something that I really enjoy and something that has become a part of me.  Running is also something that I truly believe anyone can do if they put their mind to it.

If you've known me in real life for any period of time you know that I am by far not athletically inclined.  I've struggled with my weight my entire life and have always been the picked-last-for-the-dodgeball-team kind of girl. 

Several years ago someone on The Nest (an online community for newlyweds where I met and made friends with a great group of gals) posted about the Couch to 5K program.  I gave it a shot and quit after no more than a week.  It was hard and I hated running.  Fast forward to three years and one baby later and I needed to do something, anything to get into a regular fitness routine.  I'm not trying to be supermodel skinny, I just want to be healthy.

I decided to try the Couch to 5K program one more time.  My fabulous friend Kasey had been doing the program with great success and was recruiting people for the Race for the Cure on October 3rd.  With exactly nine weeks until the race I had just enough time to complete C25K.  In a moment of insanity I registered for the race!

I cannot say enough  good things about  C25K.  Anyone on any fitness level can do it.  I'm not saying it's not hard and I'm not saying it doesn't hurt some days.... I'm just saying it works!  I believe the one thing that made this a success for me was realizing I was not alone.  A friend said to me the other day when I was nervous about something, "I see Jesus right there holding your hand."  How right she was!  Knowing that God was with me through every step, stumble, and gasping breath and that HE WANTED ME TO SUCCEED made the hard parts so much easier.

Now, on a good week I run most mornings.  My runs range from two to five miles depending on the weather, time constraints, and just how I feel in general.  I'll never be an elite runner or even a good runner by the worlds standards, but I AM a runner none the less.  Most days I listen to some great upbeat worship music while I run.  Other days I just listen to God and the world He created.  Every day I thank Him for giving me the ability to be out there.

In another post I'll share some of the tips, tricks and websites that I've come across these past few months.  But I do want to share this site with you.  Shelley at Running for Christ is following God's pull in her life to use her running to minister to others.  She is sending me a few Running for Christ shoe charms that I'll be glad to share.  Just let me know if you're interested and I'll get one to you.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline - 2 Timothy 1:7

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mini Weekend Recipe Review

My life is topsy-turvey crazy right now, so I'm making this week's recipe review a short one.  I made PW's Chocolate Sheet Cake for a get together Saturday night and it was AMAZING. 

Photo courtesy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks

It's every bit as moist and rich as I remember my grandmother's chocolate sheet cake being.  It brought back great childhood memories.  Give it a try!  Head on over to The Pioneer Woman Cooks for her very, very, very detailed instructions.  You won't be sorry you did.... or maybe you will be if you're like me and eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Time for Thanks Giving - Part Two

This is the second post in my Thanksgiving series.  Before the big turkey day feast in a few weeks I want to continue to focus on being sincerely grateful for the blessings in my life.

I am so very thankful to have a great group of friends.  What I lack in quantity of close freinds is more than compensated for in their quality.  They are the kind of friends that a girl can laugh with, cry with and tell her darkest secrets to... usually all in the same conversation.  The common tie that binds us all together is our love of God and our desire to be strong women of faith.  They are my encouragers, my prayer partners, and are there to hold me accountable when I stumble.  Without them I don't know where I would be.

A simple and easy idea to get the family involved in the spirit of gratitude is a Blessings Box like this one found on Blissfully Domestic.  A simply box is decorated and placed in an accessible location with slips of paper.  Throughout the year family members write downtheir blessings and tuck them away in the box.  Then on Thanksgiving they can be read aloud.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~ Melody Beattie

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Weekend Recipe Review - Ham and Cheese Crescent Ring

This was such a hit at the soup swap and so yummy that I made it again for dinner that night along with the tomato soup that I got.

Ham and Cheese Crescent Ring adapted from

1 c. fresh or frozen chopped broccoli (uncooked) - I omitted this.

1/4 c. chopped parsley (or 2 tbsp. parsley flakes) - I used chives.

2 tbsp. finely chopped onion

2 tbsp. prepared mustard - I used dijon mustard.

1 tbsp. butter (softened)

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 c. shredded Swiss cheese

1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

1 to 2 c. cubed cooked ham

1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain broccoli. In large mixing bowl, combine parsley, onion, mustard, butter and lemon juice; blend well. Add cheese, broccoli and ham; mix lightly. Set aside. Separate crescent dough into 8 triangles. On greased cookie sheet, arrange triangles, points toward the outside, in a circle with bases overlapping. The center should be about 3 inches in diameter.

Spoon ham filling in a ring evenly over basis of triangles. Fold points of triangles over filling and tuck under bases of triangles at center of circle.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot. 6 servings. To make ahead: cover and refrigerate up to 3 hours. Bake 30 to 35 minutes.

A Fun Fall Idea - Super Duper Soup Swap

Sunday I hosted my first ever Soup Swap.  It's a great way for you to stock your freezer with six different types of soup without having to buy ingredients for and prepare all six.  I used for guidelines.

Basically, each person brings six quarts of the soup they prepared and goes home with six quarts of different soups.  We only had five ladies attend, so we each got two quarts of one soup.

The Soups-

Tomato Spinach & Basil Soup
Creamy Turkey & Wild Rice Soup
Crockpot Chicken Taco Soup
Beef Stew
Beef Taco Soup

So far I have tried the tomato soup and the turky and wild rice soup.  Both are delicious!  It's great to know that on nights I'm short on time but still want to feed the family a "home cooked" dinner we have a variety of soups to choose from.

I also prepared a few snack foods for the ladies and their kids.  The biggest hits were the ham and cheese crescent ring, the cheese ball, and the gingersnap bark. 

I consider the soup swap a great success and hope to plan another one before the end of soup weather.... maybe in January.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Time for Thanks Giving - Part One

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It brings together a few of my favorite past times.... cooking, eating and spending time with family.

This year during this holiday season I really want to focus on being truly thankful.  In a world where so many go hungry, thirsty, and without the basic necessities of life, I (and all of you reading this blog) have been provided with an overabundance of blessings.  When is the last time we showed sincere appreciation for them?

Each Wednesday until Thanksgiving I will post about something I am truly thankful for as well as an idea of how to get our children and families actively involved in giving thanks.

Today I give thanks for my husband.  Genesis 2:18 tells me that I was created with the purpose of providing companionship and help to my husband.

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Gen 2:18

God not only provided my husband with a help-mate, but He provided me with a husband who 99.99% of the time willingly shows his appreciation of my help.  He does not intentionally take me for granted as a wife and mother.  I am blessed that he strives and sacrifices to be a good provider, husband, father and friend.

Kristen from We Are That Family posted this Give Thanks Countdown Calendar on (In)Courage.  It looks like a fantastic way to get every member of the family to share what they are thankful for.

In closing I leave you with Hannah's Song of Thanksgiving from 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

1 Then Hannah prayed and said:
"My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn [a] is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

2 "There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

4 "The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.

6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.

7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.

 8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
"For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
upon them he has set the world.

9 He will guard the feet of his saints,
but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
"It is not by strength that one prevails;

10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
"He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed."