Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Breakfast!

Ohh, yummy Christmas breakfast!! I made this dough in the bread machine and prepared the cinnamon buns on Christmas Eve night. I placed the pan in the fridge overnight and baked them the next morning. I frosted them with (storebought) cream cheese frosting.


Oh, man...were they GOOOD!!! :-)


(I used the full amount of dough this time. Perfectly BIG and flaky. Mmmm!)

Before eating those warm, gooey rolls, I opened a nice knife set from my husband!! All I asked for was a new paring knife!! I've never had nice knives....I'm not quite sure how to use things that really cut! lol!

Today, I'm enjoying a relaxing day after Christmas, just watching my kids play with all of their new toys. I wasn't planning on taking down the tree until next week, but I'm feeling awfully motivated at the moment! Naptime for the kids is quickly approaching, and the big green giant may be gone by the time they wake up.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your families!

Recommend: YES

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The Lightkeeper's Daughter by Colleen Coble


I’ve seen several of Colleen Coble’s books in my catalogs and in bookstores, but I’ve passed them by, because most of them are written in today’s time period. And you all know how much I love that setting… ;-)

When I was given a chance to review The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, set in the early 1900’s, I thought I’d give Colleen a try.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter is the story of Addie Sullivan, who may not be who she thinks she is.

When a strange man shows up at the lighthouse, claiming Addie had been shipwrecked as a little girl and is actually part of the wealthy Eaton family, Addie agrees to leave the lighthouse to become the governess in the Eaton’s home, while an undercover investigation of her real identity continues.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter is full of twists and turns and strange characters to keep the reader interested. At times, I felt like I was watching a very fast paced movie and was wishing for a commercial.

While fiction is exactly that - fiction! - The Lightkeeper's Daughter seemed unrealistic to me for that time period. For one example, I had a hard time finding the escape from... oh, I can't tell you that, in case you read the book.

Overall, The Lightkeeper’s Daughter was okay. The story itself was neither good nor bad. I had to reread a few different confusing paragraphs to see if I’d missed something, when I think some simple errors were just missed during editing.

Although romantic suspense is not really my cup of tea, Colleen Coble delivers her specialty in The Lightkeeper's Daughter.

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope and pray that each of you know the true  
Reason for the Season.



Matthew 1:21, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

John 3:16-17, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

I wish each of you the  
Merriest Christmas!


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*photo, taken from Gospel Light's The Really Big Book of Bible Story Coloring Pages, edited by me*

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saltine Toffee



This recipe is so very quick and easy...and impressive!

A super delicious toffee that begins with, yep, saltine crackers! I've made this for several Christmases and my family gobbles it up!

Now, if you've got picky people on your list, you may want to tell them about the crackers AFTER they've declared how yummy the candy is. Although, I don't think saltines are that strange... they're mostly flour, salt, and water, right?

If you're looking for something last-minute to take to that Christmas Party, whip up a batch of this Saltine Toffee!






Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Begin by lining a jelly roll pan with foil. Place one layer of saltines in the pan (usually 1 sleeve of crackers, although my sleeve was 1 short this year! I had to open a second sleeve for just ONE cracker!) :-)





Next, melt together 1 cup of butter (NO substitutes) and 1 cup of brown sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently.





Once mixture comes to a boil, boil for 3 minutes.





Immediately, pour carefully over the crackers. Bake in oven for 5-6 minutes.





Remove from oven. Toffee mixture should have spread to cover all of your crackers (don't worry if a spot or two isn't covered, though)!





Sprinkle with 2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips (this year, I used a mixture of milk and semisweet). Let sit for 5 minutes.





Carefully spread softened chocolate and sprinkle with nuts, if desired (I like to use sliced almonds; some people omit the nuts and drizzle with white chocolate).





Chill in fridge, about 30 minutes, then break into pieces and impress your guests! Yum yummy!





Recommend: YES

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Candy - Snickers Cheat!


I found this recipe a few weeks ago on Allrecipes, and since I had all of the ingredients on hand, I decided to give it a try.

All I can say is: FANTABULOUS!!! If you like Snickers, you'll love these. Not exactly the same, but very similar. YUMMM!

Although simple, the recipe does take a little time - mostly just waiting between layers. As each layer chilled, I washed the bowls to use again for the next step. This Chocolate Caramel Candy will definitely be included in my future Christmas platters! I sent a plate of various candies to work with my husband, and these were the thumbs up favorite.

chocolate caramel candy
CHOCOLATE CARAMEL CANDY

1 cup milk chocolate chips (I used semisweet)
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts

1 (14 ounce) package caramels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I used evaporated milk, since I'd already opened the can for the previous step)

1 cup milk chocolate chips (I used semisweet)
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Lightly grease one 13 x 9 inch pan.

To Make Base: Combine 1 cup milk chocolate chips, 1/4 cup butterscotch chips and 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until melted and smooth. Spread into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate until set.

To Make Filling: In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in sugar and evaporated milk. Bring mixture to a boil and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the marshmallow cream, 1/4 cup of the peanut butter, and the vanilla. Add the peanuts, and spread over the base layer. Refrigerate until set.

To Make Caramel Layer: Combine the caramels and cream in a saucepan, stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Spread over the top of the filling and refrigerate.

To Make Frosting Layer: In another saucepan combine 1 cup milk chocolate chips, 1/4 butterscotch chips and 1/4 cup peanut butter, and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Pour over the caramel layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Cut into 1 inch squares. Store in the refrigerator.

Recommend: YES

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The. Best. Fudge. EVER.



Really. It is.

I am soo glad for the lady who gave me this fudge recipe at one of my bridal showers! I have made it every Christmas since. The smoothest, creamiest fudge I've ever had. And...YUMMMMMM is all I can say about it!

(Although, every year, when I give my husband a piece to test taste, he grimaces as he's eating it it. It's his way of saying, "Oh, it's bad. I wouldn't give it as gifts. You should keep the whole pan here at home for me!" Sorry for him, the WHOLE pan never stays, but there always seems to be plenty of fudge both for gifts and us)! ;-)




CHRISTMAS FUDGE

1 lb grated milk chocolate (I only use Symphony bars! And, I use a vegetable peeler to "grate." It seems to be the easiest method I've discovered over the years)
12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips
1 jar marshmallow fluff (the original recipe never specified a size - I just use a normal jar, 7-10 oz)
1 stick margarine or butter
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
pinch of salt (I omit)

Place grated milk chocolate, chocolate chips, and fluff in large bowl. In large saucepan, combine margarine, sugar, evaporated milk, and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly pour cooked mixture into chocolate mixture, stirring well. When well blended, add 2 cups chopped walnuts (optional for you....absolutely omitted for me!). Pour into a greased jelly roll pan and chill. Cut when firm. (I like to line the pan with foil and then waxed paper, so that once chilled, I can lift out of the pan and cut easier).

Recommend: YES

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Grandma's Buckeyes (aka Peanut Butter Balls)


Some of my favorite memories as a little girl are the times I spent with my grandma, learning how to cook!

One year, she asked me to copy her favorite recipes into little books she'd bought to give to her grandchildren for Christmas. I spent months writing - years before the internet made printing books yourself easy! I cherish that little book, not just for Grandma's recipes, but for all of the memories those dishes she made with love bring back.

Grandma always had a plate of these Buckeyes sitting out during her Christmas Eve party. I haven't made them in several years, but they turned out perfectly and tasted just as yummy as I remember Grandma's candy!

buckeyes aka peanut butter balls
GRANDMA'S BUCKEYE CANDY

1 lb smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 lbs powdered sugar
2 sticks butter or margarine, melted
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or Baker's German Sweet Chocolate
1/4 slab paraffin wax (I've never bought this...for every 8 oz of chocolate, I add 2 tablespoons of shortening)

Mix first three ingredients together, and roll into 1-inch balls. Place in refrigerator overnight (I just chill for an hour or so). The next day, melt chocolate with paraffin in double boiler (I used my mini crockpot this year...perfect!). Using a toothpick, dip each ball into chocolate, leaving a small circle to look like a buckeye (which is similar to a horse chestnut, I believe).

Place on waxed paper and let harden.

Recommend: YES

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister


Tyndale generously sent me a review copy of The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The untold story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister with Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin.

In September of 1927, Nonna was born to a well-to-do, loving family in Russia. She had a happy young childhood and was well educated.

When WWII began, Nonna's privileged life slowly started to change. Nonna and her parents left the city for the assumed safety of her beloved grandmother's country estate.

When Nonna was only 15 years old, she and her mother unknowingly became German prisoners as they agreed to leave their village and work in a factory in Germany. After several transfers, Mama and Nonna were sent to a hospital, where Nonna, because of her fluency in several languages, is asked to translate.

Without telling too much more about the events chronicled in the book, Nonna (barely) survives that dark time in history and immigrates to America in 1950 after WWII is over. She meets and marries Henry Bannister. She never tells her husband about her painful past. She keeps all of her diaries and photographs hidden in a locked trunk in the attic.

"A decade before Nonna died, she took [Henry] by the hand and led him to the attic... 'It's time,' she said. They climbed the attic stairs and sat down beside the old heavy wooden trunk... Nonna pulled a thick stack of legal pads, each long yellow page filled with hand-penned words. 'The translations of my diaries, and my story,' she said. Then Nonna climbed down the attic stairs, and Henry began to read." 

Nothing is clearly written in Nonna's diary that she was saved, but she was certainly taught of God and mentions her faith. Although she kept her terrible secrets hidden away for so long, Nonna did not seem to harbor any bitterness.

This was part of a poem she wrote after her father's death:

…They tortured you while you were living,
And pierced your heart when you lay dead.
You’ve taught me how to be forgiving,
Please tell me how to forget!

It is hard to call a book such as this wonderful, because of all the horror that is described. And yet, The Secret Holocaust Diaries is also full of the beautiful, happy memories of a young girl:

“…I would write about what it was like before the war, rather than what was happening now. I was hoping that if I kept writing about it, the old times would come back, and I could forget what was going on all around me.”

I read The Secret Holocaust Diaries in two evenings. It was wonderful. It was painful. I closed the book, glad that Nonna’s story had been told, and yet saddened to think that she had borne such a heavy emotional burden for so many years before telling her family.

Living today where finding "long-lost" family and friends is relatively easy, I continue to wonder if Nonna's story will help find any of hers, if still living, if still searching for Nonna themselves.

Both sad and wonderful, but mostly fascinating, I hope that you will read Nonna's very personal story. 

Thank you, Vicky and Tyndale, for sending me The Secret Holocaust Diaries to read and review.

Also reviewed on Amazon and Christianbook.

Recommend: YES

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**Disclaimer: I was given a free product for review purposes only. My reviews are not monetarily compensated and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way, unless otherwise disclosed. Each review is based on the reactions and opinions of myself and/or family.**
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Faith's Chicken Casserole

Faith was a lady in my childhood church. Everyone loved her casserole - and so it was named, "Faith's Chicken Casserole!"

Although, the first time I had it, the casserole used leftover Thanksgiving turkey... and that's how I usually make it! Creamy, rich sour cream does not put this delicious dish at the top of a healthy dish list, so I tend to only make it once a year. After Thanksgiving. With all that leftover turkey and leftover stuffing bread cubes!



FAITH'S CHICKEN CASSEROLE

1 whole chicken or 5 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 pint sour cream
1 stick margarine or butter, melted
1 (7 oz) package bread dressing cubes

Combine margarine and bread cubes. In a separate bowl, mix together soup, sour cream, chicken, and 2/3 of bread/margarine mixture. Pour into lightly greased 2 1/2-3 quart casserole dish or 9x13 pan. Sprinkle remaining bread cube mixture on top. Bake, covered, at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until bubbly. Uncover for last 15 minutes of cooking).

Recommend: YES

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Italian Sprinkle Cookies



I decided to try a new cookie recipe this year, from my small, well worn Taste of Home "Cookies for Christmas" book. The submitter said that Italian Sprinkle Cookies "take a little time -- but...are well worth it!"

I find they took MUCH less time than cut-out cookies, and (to me) just as tasty! I did change some of the extract flavorings and added nutmeg for that "Christmas-y" flavor. I'd say Italian Sprinkle Cookies are a keeper!


ITALIAN SPRINKLE COOKIES

6 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon almond extract (I used vanilla)
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract (I used Wilton's butter flavoring)
(I also added 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)

GLAZE: (I would recommend doubling this)
1/2 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

Colored sprinkles

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs until light and foamy, about 5 minutes. Set aside. In another mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder (and nutmeg if using); stir in oil and extracts. Gradually add eggs (dough will be stiff). Roll dough into 1-inch balls (I used a small cookie scoop). Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

For glaze, combine milk and extracts in a large bowl. Add sugar; whisk until the glaze is smooth. As soon as cookies are removed from the oven, quickly immerse two or three at a time into the glaze. Remove with a slotted spoon or fingers. Place cookies on wire racks to drain. Quickly top with sprinkles. Let dry 24 hours before storing in airtight container.

Yield: about 7 dozen.

Recommend: YES

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Recent Contests Winners!

My three most recent contests have finally ended and all of the winners have been chosen!

Thank you to each of you who visited and entered! I am in continual contact with many different companies and hope to host some more great giveaways soon!

Here are the winners!

{Sarah} won a 5-piece Pizza Kit from Curious Chef.

{Crystal} won a Chef Set from Green Toys.

{Eloise} won a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from California Olive Ranch.

CONGRATULATIONS!

Don't forget to check out my GIFT ALERTs! Only 12 more days until Christmas!

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Find It Games


You know those people on your gift list?

Those people who are sooo hard to buy for?

Those people that have everything?

Those people that don't seem to need anything?

Those people that don't WANT anything?!

Oh, yeah...we've all got 'em!

WELL! I've got the perfect gift for any and everyone!! A FIND IT game!


Each FIND IT game is a large clear tube filled with tiny plastic "beads" and hidden objects. Our family has the Original version.

Several objects are pretty obvious right away. My husband (who doesn't like games), started looking and was VERY quickly checking off item after item after item.

I thought to myself, "Oh, great! What a waste of $20!"

And, then, like listening to the slowing of microwave popcorn popping, my husband stopped calling out items. We'd probably only checked about half of the items.

Now, I was saying, "Did you find this yet? Or this?"

And husband would say, "What?? That's in there?? You're kidding...I've got to find that??"

find it game
And our FIND IT game became quite addictive! We just couldn't stop shaking and twisting and turning!

We had it sitting in the living room during our large family Thanksgiving and with the help of 10+ people, we've found almost everything on the list. That's right - almost everything.

At least FIVE items have yet to be seen!! And, supposedly, FIND IT's most elusive item is a hidden penny in each game! Yep, we haven't found it yet...

Here's an example of some of the 47 original hidden items - easy (for us): sunflower, pipe cleaner, feather; hard (for us): staple, popcorn kernel, marble).

We've purchased another original FIND IT for our nephews for Christmas (they do have a kid version) and we know they will love it! A FIND IT game is great for ALL ages - 8 to 98 the box claims! :-) But, I'll tell you that my 3 year old loves "finding t'ings!" too!

A FIND IT game is also perfect for long trips in the car - or airplane flights! Buy one right before a long trip, and I doubt you'll hear a peep from the backseat! ;-)

I've already added the Deluxe Version to our family's wishlist, and, thinking our little girl would enjoy the Glitz and Glamour Version!

I think a FIND IT game is worth every penny and will delight and fascinate whoever holds it! Once you see a FIND IT, you'll also think, like me, "Now, why couldn't I have thought of that?!"

Hurry! There's still time before the big day!!! You can find a store near you that carries FIND IT games (many Barnes and Noble do) or purchase online here or, we used Amazon.

Recommend: YES

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**I was not compensated in any way for this post. The post is purely my opinion of this product. FIND IT photo was used by permission.**
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