Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Very warm comfort food that has a deep rich flavor. One of my favorite things. Wish it was healthier – but at least it is yummy and comforting.

4 cups medium shells (almost a whole box)
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cups flour
2-½ cups skim Milk
2 teaspoons dry Mustard
1 egg
1 pound cheese, I used sharp cheddar and an italian blend
½ teaspoons Salt (and don’t forget to salt the water when boiling the pasta)
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
½ teaspoons ground pepper
Optional Spices: Paprika, hot sauce (which I put some in)

Cook pasta till firm and drain. Melt butter and add flour and stir for 5 minutes. Don’t let it burn. Add spices and milk, stir until combined. Add cheese and everything else. Dump in the pasta and stir. Put into an oven-proof pan at 350 for about 25 minutes. I topped mine with homemade croutons and parm cheese.

Delicious!

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Chocolate York Cookies Sandwiches with Mint Buttercream Filling

Deep chocolate with york peppermint candies and a mint buttercream filling. Yum.
I took a hint for the cookie from The Novice Chef and then made it my own. Thank you!
Here you go: great for kids of all ages…

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup York mini candies (the ones that look like m&ms)

Cream wet, add dry. Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes. Let cool completely.

1 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 t milk
2 t peppermint extract

Cream butter for about 5 minutes. Add in sugar and keep beating for about 5 total minutes. Add in milk and extract. Beat a little more till light and fluffy.

Then put buttercream in between 2 cookies and enjoy!

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Apple Cider Pancakes with Sugared Apples

On this ice-y morning, I woke up early and immediately thought of pancakes. I had been thinking about them for days but thought today is the day. I didn’t really want to brave the roads due to the slush and ice, but proceeded. I saw a jug of Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider on my counter and that was my inspiration, so I headed to my little netbook and plugged away into the world wide web.
Here we go:

1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups vanilla yogurt
1 cup apple cider
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Combine wet. Mix dry. Gentle stir the two together. Keeping griddle pan on medium low heat, make pancakes using a 1/4 cup scoop and cook until done.
Before you start making the pancakes, get the apples cooking:
2 cripp lady apples
4 tsp unsalted butter
2 heaping T brown sugar

Slice apple thin and stir into butter and sugar. Keep on low and let cook until all the pancakes are done.

Top with cool whip, apples, maple syrup, whatever you fancy.

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Workout Choices: Yoga or Rock Music

Working out: especially this time of year (or should I say in 2 weeks) this is what is on everyone’s mind. You find magazines, gym specials, tv shows, use-at-home products, new videos, etc – all geared toward one things…helping you work out harder and better. Whether your reason is to be healthy, shed pounds, have engagement with other people, or whatever…working out is fun and beneficial. As I was spinning this morning at a local gym, I thought of these things.
Yoga (for me, little y yoga) has gotten a bad rap lately for certain leading conservative personalities. My thoughts have been posted on this blog and you can read them for yourself. Have you made up your mind about it?
Then as I was in two classes: body pump and spin, I thought about another avenue…
Why do I need to listen to a crass instructor who makes sexual jokes during class? Why do I need to listen to rock music that talks about killing someone and uses profanity that the instructor blares at the right volume (the volume is not the problem). I got a great workout in both classes. Loved it. But…there are negatives.
Is there a difference?
If I attend a Hot Yoga class for 90 minutes and shed serious body fluid and kill my muscles or if I sit in my home and do a 50 minute yoga video…or if I let my ears here sex jokes and poor taste rock music…what is the difference?
How do I engage the culture (be outside my Christian bubble) and do one or the other? I would rather attend yoga classes than be yelled at or have rock music filling my ears at 6am.
Is one necessarily worse than the other? I don’t think so. So…in matters like this…christian liberty?
Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3 come to mind. What are your thoughts?

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Taste of the Holidays: Cranberry Bliss Bars

If you are a regular at Starbucks during the holidays: you know pumpkin and peppermint lattes, gingerbread mochas, and cranberry bliss bars. You know…the triangle cut iced wonderful bars of cranberry deliciousness. Well, here is my take. They turned out very moist and not as dry and crumbly as Starbucks…probably because these were freshly made.
Enjoy.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, room temp
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate chips,

Frosting

4-ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup dried cranberries

Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine dry and add to the creamables. Fold in cranberries and chocolate. Bake at 350 in a well-greased 9×13 pan (I also used foil to line the pan, then sprayed it) for 35-40 minutes.
Remove and let cool, completely. Cream the frosting ingredients together and top on the cooled cake. Before the frosting dries, sprinkle the dried cranberries on top.
Enjoy!

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The Hand Model – and Us

Most of us are not hand models…but if you saw this video on the CBS Evening News with Katie…then you might have seen a glimpse into your own life (or my life: which I did). Here is why I say that. And please, click the video above, watch it, then come back and read below…
( I assume now that you’ve watched the video) – thank you Tim Challies by the way for pointing it out…

Here are four points (some specifically for women, some for all of us).

1. Pride. I was once told that we see the sin in others when it is a sin that we also struggle with. The glaring sin of pride is the first thing that stood out to me when I heard this woman’s conversation with Katie. This woman may have the world’s most visible hands…but she didn’t create those hands. The Creator God gave her those hands…and not once did I hear her turn around and pay compliment to Him? All creation was made for God’s glory…including hands.
2. Dismissing Responsibility/Laziness. In order to protect her hands, she can’t do many of the things that God has commanded us to do. Specifically as women we see in Titus 2 and Prov 31 many responsibilities that women/wives are to do with their hands: cook, gather material, work, provide clothing and food, take care of the household’s needs, etc. This requires use of hands. May require different things for different people, but at some point – we need to use our hands. She isn’t. She is relying on other people, and in turn, dismissing the responsbilities given to her. Do we really need our husbands, children, maids to open a can for us?
3. Fear of Failure. She is so afraid of taking off her gloves, cooking, etc because she feels that if something happens to her hands, than she will be a failure. I wonder when this obsession with her hands started? Wonder what role her parents had in this overarching theme of her life? I wonder what would happen if she broke her hand, or got a splinter, or a nail chipped…would her life be ruined? Do we NOT do things because of fear of failure or do we do the easy things because we know we will succeed and we don’t have to worry about someone doing it better? What happens when this woman ages and her hands wrinkle?
4. Wrong Dedication. I am working on a church Sunday School curriculum called Treasuring Christ. It is designed to teach students that Christ is more worth anything we can live our lives for: that God, through Christ, is all that is worth living for. He is everything. Her life is about her hands and her work. She goes about her whole life in seeking protection for her hands and a spotlight to be shown on her hands. Where is Christ? Ok, we may not be hand models – but what area of our lives is more than Christ? Is it your family? your career? Your sports? Your hobbies? Your money? What? Take inventory.

Here is the grace of Christ:
Colossians 2:6 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taughts, abounding in thanksgiving.”

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O Holy Night

Have to admit: this is definitely in my top 3 favorite Christian Christmas songs. Each year I hear it there are different truths I hear and remember. Here is my favorite rendition of it. And here is my second fave. With that last one, the cool thing, so many of those on the video are worshiping Jesus around His throne this Christmas).
So, here we go…

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining; (I love how God made even the stars to glorify Him)
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth! (How dear is Christ to me really? Do I really know Him to be my only Savior?)
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, (What does pining mean? to lose vigor, health, or flesh (as through grief), to yearn intensely and persistently especially for something unattainable. And oh, how I do that. I persist in sin when I know Christ is better).
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, (Sin is very tiring and exhausting)
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices! (This is the immediate necessary response to seeing Jesus.)
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. (Do we readily admit/recognize that Jesus came in human form. Dr. Moore just wrote a great post on this: So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger, (Really, Jesus, the Name Above all Names, King of Kings…born in a dirty manger? Andrew Peterson’s Labor of Love tells this beautifully)In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger. (The Bible tells us He knows all of our struggles, He is our great High Priest, our Perfect Sacrifice.)Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; (If we name Christ…this should be evident in our lives)
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother (I am in such bondage, without Christ. Why do I continue to live in the bondage with Christ?)And in His Name all oppression shall cease. (Help me, Jesus, to know the power of your name over all my temptations)Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name! (Worship should be 100% of us: dancing, singing, joyfully rejoicing)
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever! (one day, everyone will bow. This side of eternity effects the other side of eternity.)
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

So…how do you celebrate Christmas? Everyone has a thought on this. I’ve read some that are depressing and some that are grand. After working retail for many years at the holidays, it is very hard for me to celebrate Christmas at home. But…I love focusing on the gospel. The gospel that Christ came to earth in the man, Jesus. This holiday is His. This holiday isn’t mine. This holiday isn’t mine to get and give gifts. This holiday is His. How will I celebrate when (if ever) I get married and have kids? I don’t know. But, it is something to think about.
May you celebrate well, this O Holy Night.

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