Rudolph Noses

The story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer has delighted children at Christmas time since 1939. When I attended an elementary school Christmas musical recently, I realized children are just as fascinated with Rudolph now as ever, and I hope they will continue to be for years to come.

To help be sure Rudolph remains the most famous reindeer of all, I've made Rudolph Noses for the children at my house to enjoy. These take practically no time to make, but you may want to make several batches because they disappear quickly too.

Rudolph Noses

What you need:
Bag of tiny pretzel twists
Bag of Hershey's kisses (or you can use Rolo's)
Bag of red and green M & M's (you'll only use the red ones)

Preheat oven to 170 degrees F. Prepare a sheet pan by lining with parchment paper. Lay pretzels out in a single layer on the parchment paper. Place one Hershey's kiss on each pretzel; bake for 4 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately top each with an M & M, pressing down gently. Allow to cool until firm. Place the pan in freezer for a few minutes to speed up cooling, if desired.

Rudolph noses are little salty, a little sweet, and a lot cute!


A Favorite Magazine

The January/February issue of Christian Woman Magazine has included my article "A Mother's Self-fulfilling Prophecy."

I'm super excited to have a favorite magazine like this one publish my article. Another article of mine was previously published by Christian Woman in their September/October issue.

A subscription to this magazine would make a great last minute gift if you're looking for something meaningful and inspiring for someone.


Baked Whole Apples

When you want to make your kitchen smell like apple pie without all the fuss, try making baked apples. These Baked Whole Apples are sweet little individual desserts that will please almost anyone. I used Granny Smith apples for mine, but any baking apple will do. The ingredients in the filling can be adjusted to suit your taste. Some like to add raisins to the filling, and ice cream or caramel sauce are optional after baking.

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Baked Whole Apples

4 baking apples
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup apple juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Core the apples, but don't cut all the way through. Leave the bottom of the apple intact. Trim away some of the peeling from the top of the apple. Place the apples upright in a small baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts. Carefully spoon mixture into center of apples. Drizzle the melted butter over the brown sugar mixture, dividing the butter among the apples. Pour apple juice in baking dish around the apples. Bake for 35 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve with ice cream or caramel sauce, if desired.

Baked Whole Apples before baking



Sweet Sourdough Bread

This sourdough bread is the first I have baked from my newly made Sweet Sourdough Starter. No special talent is required to make bread like this, just the patience to care for a starter and the ability to follow a recipe. Sourdough starter can be used for a variety of baked goods, but probably the most popular is the basic white sourdough bread recipe. I love baking all kinds of bread, not just because home-baked is more delicious, but also because the smell of bread baking equals home and contentment to me.

Basic Sweet Sourdough Bread

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup fed sweet sourdough starter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups all-purpose flour + some additional

In a large bowl, combine sugar, water, and yeast; stir together. Set aside until the yeast bubbles, then add starter, oil, and salt. Stir in flour 1 cup at a time. Turn dough out onto floured surface and fold dough over gently several times, working in additional flour a little at a time as needed until dough is no longer sticky. Place dough in a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled. Punch down dough and shape into two loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pans and let rise again. Bake at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Brush tops of loaves with melted butter.



Sweet Sourdough Starter

Sourdough bread is one of the best foods ever to come out of an oven. I have baked sourdough for quite some time, but I recently made a new starter for my baking. I was inspired to make this kind of starter after I had some bakery sourdough. That bread was some of the best ever, and I wanted my own sweet sourdough starter. This starter has been around for years, and it is commonly known as the "Herman" starter. It can be used to make sweet sourdough bread, biscuits, pancakes, coffeecake, and lots more. It takes longer to make this starter than any previous starter I have tried, so patience is necessary, but it will be worth the wait. I started this batch way back before Thanksgiving, and finally got to bake my first bread with it today. Yum - o. I've heard sourdough gets better the longer you keep the starter, but I don't know how it can get any better.

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Sweet Sourdough Starter

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup milk, lukewarm
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar

In a two quart glass or ceramic container (do not use metal), combine yeast, milk, flour, and sugar; stir well. Cover with cheesecloth or other loose covering. Let set in a warm place (about 80 degrees F) for 4 days to ferment. Starter should expand and be bubbly. It will develop a slightly sour, yeasty smell.

The starter is now ready to "feed." This is the beginning of the 10 day cycle for the starter.

To feed:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar

Mix flour, milk, and sugar together. Stir mixture into starter, cover loosely, and place in the refrigerator. Stir daily. (If you forget a day, it will do no harm.)

After 5 days, feed again and refrigerate. Continue to stir daily.

After 5 more days (this is the 10th day of the cycle) feed the starter again and let set at room temperature for at least a couple of hours or more. The starter is now ready for baking.

After removing desired amount of starter for baking, cover and refrigerate the remainder.

The starter will be all bubbly and will expand after being fed. Be sure not to seal the container tightly.
Also, keep in mind - starter is a living thing and it grows when fed. On baking day before you feed the starter, remove a cup of the unfed starter to use in another recipe, give away to a friend, or discard. By removing a cup each time, the feeding will be in proportion to the amount of starter. That will also prevent -- yikes! -- a mess in the refrigerator from overflowing starter.



Cranberry Sauce

Today was a great Christmas shopping day for me. It was windy and cold here, but I was cozy and warm shopping on the couch. I do love cyber Monday. Not only is it time to get the shopping done with Christmas only weeks away, it's also time to begin planning the food for the next round of feasting. I barely have all the Thanksgiving leftovers emptied out of the refrigerator, and I'm hurrying on to the next holiday.

Even with all the hurry, I always enjoy preparing a holiday meal. Putting the Thanksgiving meal together was more fun this year because my son Daniel was here to help me with the cooking. He helped out by making Spinach Maria and a Sweet Potato/Carrot slow cooker dish. He also convinced me that we should try making our own cranberry sauce this year. I usually make a blueberry salad the family likes in lieu of cranberry sauce, but I decided to give homemade cranberry sauce a whirl.

The recipe we used was super simple and quick to make, plus it was very tasty. We made it ahead to allow it time to refrigerate in the mold overnight. I love any dish that can be prepared ahead. The original recipe came from Alton Brown.

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Cranberry Sauce

1 pound fresh cranberries (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup 100% cranberry juice (not cranberry juice cocktail)
1 cup honey

Prepare a 3-cup mold with cooking spray. Wash and sort the cranberries, discarding any that are soft. Set aside to drain in a colander. In a medium saucepan, combine orange juice, cranberry juice, and honey. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into prepared mold. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Invert the mold onto a serving dish to remove the cranberry sauce. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired. Slice and serve.