Thursday, February 23, 2017

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

So what's a girl to do when she needs eggnog for the cookies she wants?

She makes her own.

Once Christmas is past, it's very difficult to find eggnog in the stores. The ingredients for making your own, along with everything to turn the eggnog into scrumptious cookies, can be found all year round.

So try this combination for yourself and see if eggnog can be good in February, too.

Ingredients for eggnog:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp rum extract

Ingredients for cookies:
1 cup flour
3/4 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup of the eggnog you just made
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar

Ingredients for sugar topping:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Begin with the eggnog. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl so they're lighter in color and fluffy.

2. Combine the cream, milk, nutmeg and salt in a medium sauce pan. Simmer the mixture on the stove on medium high heat, stirring often.

3. Once simmering, slowly add the hot mixture to the egg bowl. You have to do this incredibly slowly or you will cook the eggs - which is bad.

4. Pour the bowl's contents back into the sauce pan and put it back over the heat. Use a candy thermometer in the pan to show you when it's reached 160 degrees.

5. At this point, remove the pan from the heat and add vanilla and rum extract.

6. Pour the eggnog into a pitcher, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator until it's chilled.

7. For the cookies, start by combining the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

8. In a separate bowl, combine the butter, eggnog and vanilla. Add in the white and brown sugars.

9. Stir in the flour mixture in small amounts until all combined.

10. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least an hour.

11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper - this is super important since the dough will be a little sticky.

12. Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl to roll the dough in.

13. Roll spoonfuls of dough into small balls and coat completely in the sugar bowl. Place them on the baking sheet and lightly press them down into coin shapes. This will help them cook faster and more evenly.

14. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are just turning brown. Allow them to cool for several minutes before removing from the tray, otherwise they will break apart.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How To Wood Burn Stamped Images

When you have acres of woods on your property, it only makes sense to want to use some of it for your craft projects. I'm always on the lookout for fallen branches and logs that can be turned into something even more beautiful. Obviously, that's why my Etsy shop is called Stuff From Trees.

This particular piece of tree was the perfect size for stamping, which I had done in the past. But this time I wanted to kick it up a notch and do some wood burning on those tree cookies, too. And that's how these ornaments came to be.

After cutting the discs, sanding them smooth and drilling a hole in the top, I matched them up with stamps that would fill most of the space.

Then I used a pigment ink on the stamp. It was just dark enough to be seen but not too big to cover with a wood burning pen. Since I've only done a few wood burning projects, I started as simply as I could with this method, sticking to thin line drawings.

Once I went over them with the wood burning pen, they were exactly the way I pictured in my head.

I added a little bit of color with colored pencils and strung them with baker's twine. This little bear stole my heart.

All but one of these ornaments are now available in my Etsy shop. Come visit today and see which ones you'd like to have for your very own.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lessons On A Servant's Heart

I knew it was a problem when I checked caller ID and didn't pick up the phone. I knew exactly who it was, but I was too busy. Too tired. Too strung out by the events of my own day to listen to hers.

I was "too" a lot of things, but mostly I was too selfish.

When the phone rings and your first instinct is to just unplug it, you know it's a problem.
When you really do have some time to talk but you'd rather spend that time on your own stuff, you know it's a problem.
When innocent people are an inconvenience as they're reaching out to you, you know it's a problem.

God has a habit of convicting your heart in ways you can't ignore. He's not going to be subtle when what you need is to be slapped upside the head.

So when I began my Bible study the next day and found myself in the middle of Matthew chapter 14, it wasn't a physical slap. It did, however, make me a little queasy as I suddenly saw two verses in a whole new light.

The portion of Scripture beginning at Matthew 14:13 gives us the first account of the feeding of the five thousand, a story that is detailed in all four gospels. Jesus had just heard of the death of John the Baptist and had taken a ship across the sea. On his heels were five thousand men, plus their wives and children. As Jesus left the boat and saw the multitude that had followed Him, Matthew says the Lord was "moved with compassion toward them." These thousands spent the day with Him, watching as the sick were healed and miracles were marveled over.

And then the evening came.

His disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. Matthew 14:15

It seems like a natural human response to a long day of work. "Master, it's late in the day and these lovely people need to get on their way so everyone can rest. They can go get something to eat and get to bed early. We'll gladly meet up with them again tomorrow."

To the ears of a Savior whose very character is hospitality, this was not the right course of action. Yes, the people were hungry. Yes, it had been a long day. Yes, it was getting dark. But the Bread of Life had a different meal in mind.

But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. Matthew 14:16

The disciples' first reaction was to send hungry people in search of food. Doesn't sound so bad, does it? They'll find something, somewhere, right? There's nothing here for them to eat, so there's really no other option.

I can almost hear Jesus' heart break as He gently nudges them in the right direction. No, they don't have to go anywhere. Everything they need is here in the presence of the Christ.

And here, at the end of the day and in front of thousands of people, provision was given where there seemed to be so little. A handful of loaves and a couple of fish. Good for one or two people, but surely not a multitude.

Until Jesus steps in.

When the disciples began passing baskets of bread and fish around, each row of people had more than enough. Matthew described them as "filled." Not just enough to get by or a snack to tide them over. They were filled to the brim and could have had even more. The disciples brought back twelve full baskets - one for each of them.

When the disciples held out their hands to be used as waiters for the Lord's meal, Jesus Christ was able to use them to share His miracle. Jesus filled their hands with everything they needed to do as He commanded: give ye them to eat. They didn't have what they needed under their own power, but with Christ they had more than they needed.

It was at this point that I understood the message God was laying on my heart that morning. When I was too wrapped up in my own agenda and my own schedule, I had echoed the disciples: Lord, it's time to send the people away. By not giving up even a moment for the needs of another, I mirrored the request of the disciples: They'll find something, somewhere. Send them on their way.

Praise the Lord that He never sends anyone away. He never says He's too busy, too tired or too anything. He will never take the phone off the hook or pretend He didn't hear it ringing. His heart is too loving to turn anyone away when they approach Him. How many times has He been there waiting for me when I needed Him most? Isn't this, then, an example of how we should be treating one another?

Once I had confessed my heart condition, I immediately went to the phone and called that number. We talked, and I was able to provide a listening ear, a suggestion to a problem and opened the door to some hospitality down the road. Through His word, God gave me exactly what I needed to give up my selfishness and take the opportunity to reflect Him a little brighter. I pray now that I will see these moments not as interruptions, but as opportunities to do for someone else what Christ has done for me.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Week Of Delight

It's always a great day when you open up the tool box and there's a great big smile waiting to greet you!

Ok, so it's really the back side of a mounting bracket, but there's very distinctly a smiley face there. Right? You do see it. Please say you see it, too.

If you open your eyes to the world around you, not just get your pliers out and move on, there are all kinds of things happening to make you smile.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:4-5

When your heart is in tune with God, His desires become your desires and His delights become your delights. Then you'll see moments of joy everywhere you go because you're aware of the blessings all around you.

Make this a week of delight. Look at things you've looked at a thousands times with eyes of joy and delight in the Lord. Trust Him to put delightful things in your path, and you'll soon find smiley faces everywhere you look. It might be a challenge at first, but the delight of the Lord will give you a whole new outlook on how He moves in lives.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Teach Your Dog The Muffin Tin Game

If you've never played the muffin tin game with your dog, today's the day to start. Molly adores this game, mostly because she has an affinity for treats and balls ... and probably muffin tins. I'm not sure about that last one.

When you play for the first time, put half a treat in each muffin tin section. I picked up a few tins at the thrift shop so we wouldn't be making muffins in them, too.

Then place a ball on top of most of the treats. As your dog figures out that there are more treats underneath the toys, all the compartments won't have to have treats in them.

Molly knows exactly where the treats are and has no issue throwing balls out of the way to find them.  You can't play this game too much or you'll have a roly-poly puppy who doesn't care if she ever plays this game again. On the other hand, it's great for dogs who get bored very easily or are motivated by food and treats. And if you throw the balls around afterward, she can chase them and work some of the treats off.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kitchen Finance Advice From 1943

I love finding old cookbooks at thrift shops and book sales. It's fun to read through the different ingredients and techniques that were popular, and there are always a few recipes that I want to try. Some of them turn out wonderful, but others need to stay in the decade the book came out, so I will politely leave them there.

The one that has fascinated me recently is a guide from a popular food company that was published in 1943. Right in the middle of World War II, women of America were desperately seeking advice on how to make their share of the available food stretch the farthest. It's a topic I've read about in history books, but until I saw the actually book these woman would have poured over, it really didn't feel real. There were also seven basic food groups in the '40s, adding butter/margarine and yellow and green vegetables specifically in their own categories.

What struck me the most was how relevant much of the information from 1943 translates to grocery shopping today. We're not concerned with points and rations like these faithful women were, but using available foods and still providing healthy meals is great advice for 2017.

Here are just a few of my favorite entries in this amazing book.

* Meat is precious, so store it properly, freeze what you can and thaw only what you'll use.

* Almost every part of an animal can be eaten, so don't be afraid to try "off cuts," which are often much cheaper.

* Save every bit of fat from your cooking. When you cut fat from meat or poultry, melt it over very low heat and strain through cheesecloth. It can then be kept in the refrigerator. To clarify it, heat the fat with a raw potato until it bubbles and the potato slices turn brown. Strain it again and it's ready to go.

* If you're going to separate eggs for a recipe, save the part you're not using. Leftover egg whites can be kept in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator. They can be used in all kinds of baking and will keep a long time. Keep leftover egg yolks in a dish covered with wax paper. Two yolks can often be substituted for one whole egg.

* Milk should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator or bacteria will develop quickly. Take it out, measure it and immediately return it. Stay away from storing it in the door where it will be warmer.

* Fresh vegetables will quickly lose their vitamins and minerals if they are cooked in too much water. Keep them covered in the pan so air doesn't get in, and simmer them in salt water instead of boiling.

* Save the vegetable water, now full of vitamins and minerals too, and use it in soups and gravies.

* If you can't use fresh fruits right away, substitute canned fruit so there is little to no waste.

* To keep cookies soft, place in a air-tight container with a slice or orange, lemon or apple to keep them moist. To keep cookies crisp, cover only loosely.