Category Archives: Those Wonderful Special Occasions

Reflections, stories, and ideas for holidays

Buttery Caramel Pecan Rolls

Winter time is a great time to get together for brunch and prayer, and if you’re going to splurge a little, then it’s also a great time to make pecan rolls!

Buttery Caramel Pecan Rolls
(Makes 12 rolls)

I suspect culinary die hards would make their dough from scratch, and you can do so if you want to, but I’m very pragmatic, and I’ve found that frozen bread dough works just fine and saves me a couple of hours, so I start by:

#1. Defrost 1 pound of frozen bread dough#2. Cover bottom of 9X13″ baking dish with a mixture of:
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 oz. pecan halves#3. Roll out bread dough to an approximately 6X15″ rectangle
Butter liberally with 1/3 stick of softened butter (don’t go completely to the edges, or it’s hard to make the roll stick together tightly later)
Sprinkle 1/2 cup brown sugar on top
Sprinkle liberally with ground cinnamon (about 1 teaspoon)#4. Crush 6 oz pecans with a rolling pin (while they’re still in their bag),  then spread them lightly over the bread dough.  Use the remaining crushed pecans to fill in any open spaces in the bottom of the baking pan. #5. Roll the dough up, starting with the long, 15″ edge.  You should end up with a roll about 15″ long and a couple of inches deep. Seal edges together by pinching them closed. (Don’t worry if they don’t seal tightly, and if you cut with the seam side down, they shouldn’t come apart much.) Slice with a sharp knife into twelve equal pieces. I’ve found it’s easiest to slice it once in the middle, and then into quarters,  and then each of the quarters into three smaller pieces. #6. Separate each pecan roll and place them evenly in the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight (if you want).  You can also set them on the counter to rise for several hours if you want to bake them that evening.  I usually serve them for breakfast, so I keep them in the refrigerator over night and then in the morning, I take them out of the refrigerator and let them rise for several hours before baking. (If you don’t have “several hours,” you can warm them in an over set to “warm” or 150°F, but keep the plastic wrap on and be very careful, because they can start to bake or dry out, and it sometimes makes the plastic wrap stick so it’s hard to get off before baking. If the wrap sticks, pull super slowly, using your fingers to protect the rolls if need be, or you might end up with the rolls deflating. 😦 )#7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. If the rolls haven’t risen enough on their own (such as on a cold winter morning), you can also encourage them along by setting the pan (still covered, so they don’t dry out) on the top of your oven if it is warm. #8. When the rolls are starting to touch each other, take off the saran wrap and pop them into the oven preheated to 350°F. and bake them for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. If you catch them when they’re no longer doughy but just starting to brown, I’ve found that they last longer without drying out. #9. Remove them from the oven and immediately overturn the pan onto a buttered cookie sheet  so the pecan rolls end up upside-down with the pecans and caramel on top. Scoop out any remaining caramel and nuts with a spatula and redistribute it over the top of the pecan rolls.  They are best served fresh out of the oven, although they are good all day. If you’ve succeeded in baking them through but only lightly, and you keep the unused rolls covered, they can be reheated and still taste fresh for a couple of days.

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart:
so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel
” (Proverbs 27:9).

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Happy New Year! I hope this is a year of many wonderful new beginnings for each of us. Have you made a few thoughtful goals or resolutions? I have, and I sincerely hope to be able to accomplish them. One easy one to share (but hard to do) is my goal of finishing the new addition to our home, then furnishing and decorating it . . .  and then getting rid of all the unnecessary leftover junk that’s been cluttering our basement since the kids grew up!

In that vein, I was sorting through some boxes of my father’s writings and notes.  I always thought he was a pretty staunch atheist until he was 86, when he had a change of heart and mind and entrusted his life to Christ as his Savior. Part of the constellation of beliefs he espoused up until about the year 2,000 A.D. was faith in evolution and the Big Bang Theory, so I was amazed to find this card in his file box:

I’m not exactly sure when he wrote that that note, but it was close to this one:I had heard the story that my father was a believer as a child but lost his faith in college . . . back in the 1930’s. For nearly seventy years, there was precious little evidence of faith in my father that any of us observed. And yet, tucked away in his file box of writing ideas were these little sparkles of faith! First, an acknowledgement that he wasn’t present at the beginning of time and space. “In the beginning”  . . . he wasn’t, but the Bible says that God was. To me, this is a humble recognition that it would be foolish for him to try to deny God’s existence. Second, a prayer asking God to help him accomplish His will, dated January 2, 1974. It has a stain from tape, and so I think it must have been a New Year’s resolution of sorts, placed??? somewhere in or on his office desk??? . . . written almost 30 years before he embraced the Gospel publicly.

This may not seem thrilling to you, but it is to me, because it tells me that the seeds of faith, planted in my father’s heart during early childhood, had lain dormant for many years but had never completely died. Have you been praying for a loved one for years and years without seeing visible fruit from those prayers? Please don’t stop!! I prayed every day for my dad for almost 40 years before he told me one day that he wanted Jesus too.

Or, perhaps somewhere in your own distant past, you believed in Jesus as your Lord and Savior but have since drifted away, thinking the world is such a mess that there must not be a God . . . or feeling that you, yourself, are so hopelessly messed up that if there is a God, He doesn’t care about you. Please turn back to God and ask Him to heal you. God does exist; He is not dead; He does care about you! However, it is possible that “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). If so, I beg you to give up wanting your own way more than you want God. Repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus! He can—and will—save you! “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, ESV).

Will you join me in starting this New Year with renewed faith and hope? Let’s start at the very beginning by embracing the love and mercy of God. Will you pray with me?

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13).

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Spinach-Crust, Cheesy Sausage Quiche for a Crowd

How would you like to make a super simple, delicious quiche without a crust ? Or better yet, to make an easy, yummy quiche with a spinach crust? I have a son who can’t be home for New Year’s Day because he is the accompanist at a church where he’s in graduate school. In fact, so many of his fellow graduate students will be “stuck” at the university that he’s decided to host a New Year’s Day brunch lest anybody feel too lonesome or unloved. We were talking about the fact the he’d like to be able to make one big quiche that could feed a dozen people or so, and that inspired me to try to work out a recipe.  I tried my new recipe for a pan-sized quiche on some dear friends when we had a Christmas brunch, and it “passed inspection” as yummy, so I’ll share it.

Cheesy Sausage and Spinach Quiche
(Serves 12±)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Saute in a frying pan until thoroughly cooked:
1 pound ground, spicy sausage (spicy is better than mild for this)
1 medium diced onion
8 oz. fresh diced mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s but suit yourself)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper   Beat together in a mixer:
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour(I combine the milk and flour in my mother’s antique copper shaker, but use whatever works for you to make sure it’s not lumpy)  Fill 9X12″ baking dish with:
10 oz. fresh spinach (becomes the bottom “crust” if you will)
8 oz. of Swiss cheese sliced or cubed (can use other types of cheese) Add sausage mixture on top and spread evenly Add egg mixture over everything Sprinkle 8 oz. shredded cheese on top  Bake for 30 minutes or until starting to turn golden brown on top Serve hot! (I also made pecan rolls and served fresh blackberries, but the quiche by itself is quite a healthy, filling “meal in one.”) This morning, I didn’t have time to make the pecan rolls, nor were the blackberries on sale, but it’s good “any old way!”      “He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes” (Psalm 147:16).

Savory Parmesan Potatoes

My daughter-in-law Brianna makes “the best” potato dish. There are rarely any leftovers, and it’s versatile enough that you can serve it with anything, from fancy to plain . . . or even as a snack.  I served it recently for a special Christmas dinner party, and both couples wanted the recipe. So, if you’re looking for a way to dress up potatoes, try this!

Savory Parmesan Potatoes
(6+ servings)

#1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

#2. Place 4-6 tablespoons butter on a large baking sheet and melt the butter in the oven. (One large baking sheet can hold about 6 medium-sized potatoes.) Remove from oven to cutting board.

#3. Sprinkle on top of melted butter:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper (Brianna doesn’t use pepper, but I like it)
*
Also, this is an old family recipe, so Brianna doesn’t really measure anything. I measured as I went to try to replicate what seemed about right, but feel free to experiment for yourself with the cheese and seasonings.

#4. Remove a small portion of each end of your potatoes to create a flat surface.
Cut six medium-sized potatoes into 1-1.5cm slices each.   #5. Place the potato slices with one side completely flat on the pan. #6. Rub the top side of each of the slices in the sprinkled mixture and then turn it over (so that both sides are coated). #7. Bake at 400°F. for 15 minutes and then flip. If the cheese has not yet started to stick to the bottoms, wait another 5 minutes and try again. After flipping them over, bake another 10 minutes and reassess. You want the potatoes to be baked through and crispy/browned on both sides.                                                 #8. Serve hot and enjoy!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Truffles: “Buckeyes” (aka Peanut Butter Balls)

Next to fudge (which I wrote about three years ago, and the recipe can be found here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/yoopers-trolls-and-fudgies-and-a-recipe-for-amazing-fudge/), the most popular Christmas candies around our home are “Buckeyes,” which are basically peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. If you love peanut butter and chocolate . . . you’ll love these! “Buckeyes” are so named because they look like horse chestnuts (which have been nicknamed “buckeyes”),  but that’s where the similarity ends, because the real buckeyes are poisonous to humans and most animals!    However, our homemade buckeyes are 100% edible and 200% scrumptious!

Homemade Buckeye Candies
(makes 48 candies, which serves about one person . . . just kidding!)

#1. Filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine:
15 oz. jar of peanut butter
1/2 cup (4 oz) softened butter
4 oz cream cheese
6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix everything until smooth. ( You can use a mixer or mix by hand; I mix by hand because the dough is very heavy and there’s a lot of it, so the powdered sugar tends to fly everywhere, and it takes a big mixer to be able to handle it.)

#2. Refrigerate covered (to keep it from drying out) until well chilled and pretty firm (an hour) or until you’re ready to dip the candies. (Keeping the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight is fine, and the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for days—or even frozen, although that’s not ideal.)

#3. Roll the dough into 1″ balls and place on a cookie sheet. (The cookie sheet doesn’t have to be lined with waxed paper, but it does have to be lined before you dip the chocolates, because the warm chocolates need to be set on waxed paper.)

#4. Chocolate coating: Combine in a microwavable mixing bowl
10 oz. chocolate chips melted in microwave with
2 tablespoons shortening (or coconut oil)
Microwave for 40 seconds. Take it out and stir, then place it in the microwave again for another 20 seconds and stir until it’s completely melted and smooth. Take your time. It’s critical that you don’t microwave the chips any more than you have to, so if you really need more time, only go an extra 5-10 seconds.#5. Once the chocolate and shortening have melted, dip the buckeyes one at a time by inserting a toothpick into the top center of one of the balls. Swirl it in the chocolate, leaving the very top without chocolate. Set the buckeye on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and gently pull out the toothpick, using a fork if needed to dislodge it. You can use the same toothpick for each buckeye. If your family can resist eating them on the spot, store them in a cool place until they are completely cold. Once they are cold, they can be stored (carefully) in a container. I place them right next to each other, but I put a sheet of waxed paper between each layer so that they can be stacked into 3 or so layers. Enjoy!!

 

Buckeyes. 01.19.17.jpegAnd she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus:
for he shall save his people from their sins
” (Matthew 1:21).

Reflections on Christmas Trees by Grace Truman

Have you got your Christmas tree up yet? Traditionally, we set up a tree on the weekend after Thanksgiving and take it down when we ring in the new year. Decorating a tree is one of my favorite things about the holidays, because every ornament has a story. We have bulbs that belonged to both sets of our parents, clumsily painted ornaments made as gifts from our children during Sunday school days and as home-school projects, and gifts from friends. Our latest additions include a hand-blown glass ornament from Venice (sent by our kids who were stationed in Italy for three years) and two beaded hearts given to us over Thanksgiving by one of our grand daughters. Every Christmas tree tells a story, don’t you think?

I have a sweet friend in my writers’ group who wrote her reflections on Christmas trees, and I liked them so well that I asked permission to share them:

“DISCLAIMER: What follows are my personal preferences.  I am not implying that ‘my way’ is right and others’ preferences are wrong.  We are each free to make our own choices—hopefully in accordance with the principles of Scripture.                                                       Choose Real

“Growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I was blessed to be surrounded by nature and blessed to have a father who loved both the Creator and His creation.  Following in my dad’s footsteps, I grew to love the outdoors as much as he did and spent as much time as possible outside. We didn’t have much money, but we did have five acres of property.  Huge white spruce trees grew on our land, along with numerous young trees. Every year, when Christmas drew near, we would walk around and find the best six or seven foot spruce for our Christmas tree.  This created my preference for a real tree. My husband shares this preference.

“Choosing real carries over to the rest of my life.  I love unpainted wood and things made from nature. I don’t like artificial sweeteners or flavorings, silk flowers, or anything plastic.  I choose not to dye my hair or wear makeup, although a friend says that if the barn needs painting, we should paint it.                                                  Choose Homemade

“At one of my bridal showers, my best friend gave me six Christmas tree ornaments that she made.  They still go on the tree every year. After my husband and I were married, money was tight, so I made a treetop star out of cardboard and tinfoil for our first Christmas together.  That, too, still goes on the tree every year. Through the years, we have received more handmade decorations from friends and family. There are beautiful cross stitched ornaments made over thirty years ago.  There are ornaments made by my late sister and a friend who now has dementia. There are knitted, crocheted, tatted, and penny rug decorations. The ornaments our son made in elementary school are on the tree, along with the popcorn string our family strung when he was little.  We, as a family, also made tree decorations from cinnamon and applesauce and salt dough. When I hang each ornament on the tree, I think about the person who made it. We do concede to store bought lights, though.

“Our preference for handmade shows during the whole year.  We decorate with Native American baskets, quilts, and original art.  I cook from “scratch,” using organic ingredients as much as possible.

“My husband sometimes describes people as “store bought” or “homemade.”  By that, he distinguishes between those who seem to focus on possessions and looking good, and those who care more about being genuine and loving others than their looks.

“There is a handmade magnet on my refrigerator that says, ‘Happiness is homegrown.’  I think true happiness comes from love for God and the people in our lives. One way to show that love is by the work of our hands.”

—Grace Truman

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works;
I muse on the work of thy hands”
  (Psalm 143:5).

A Powers’ Family Original Holiday Tradition: Holiday Fruit Salad (with Fresh Cranberries)

I have a dear friend who was an accountant for many years, and at my request, she shared a recipe she’d created for her family . . . in the perfect format for somebody who’s computer savvy: A spread sheet! However, I’m a klutz and couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a wordpress-friendly doc., so I’ll share it with you as is, just in time for the holidays. Merry Christmas!! Here’s what she shared:  “I love cranberries but at our family gatherings I seemed to be the only one enjoying the cranberry dishes……so I created Powers Family Holiday Fruit Salad. Everyone loves it, and it is now a tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas.” 

POWERS FAMILY HOLIDAY FRUIT SALAD

10oz

Cranberries, cleaned and drained

20oz

Crushed pineapple, drained

3 medium

Apples, diced (I use gala)

1 cup

Grapes, halved

2 cups

Heavy Whipping cream, whipped

1 cup

Sugar

2 teaspoons

Vanilla

10oz

Mini marshmallows

Grind the cranberries in a food processor or blender

Combine the cranberries, drained pineapple, diced apples, and grape halves with the sugar.

Stir in the vanilla and mix well

Fold in the whipped cream….then add marshmallows

Refrigerate until time to serve

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3)