Monday, December 31, 2012

Our Favorites from 2012

Last year around this time we posted the most popular recipes of 2011.  This year we thought we'd do something different.....this time we are sharing OUR favorites!  Each of the Mavens has chosen their favorite personal recipe of 2012.  We hope you'll give them a try if you haven't already!

from Emily.....Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin

from Anna.....Mexican Street Corn

from Melissa.....Amazing Crockpot Grits

from Audrey.....Mom's Rolls
from Niki.....Cheesy Vegetable Chowder
from Julie......Cottage Ranch Dip

from Amy.....Cobbler Custard Cups
from Kara.....Spinach Dip

Care to share what some of your favorite Maven recipes have been?  We'd love to hear from you!

image source: Microsoft Office Clipart (manipulated through Picmonkey)

My Favorite Carrot Cake!

This is the best carrot cake I have ever had! Even people who think they do not really like carrot cake LOVE this one! 

My mom is famous for this cake! Her co-workers always request this for their birthday, and she is asked to bring it to family and church activities all the time. This is a picture of the one she made for our family Christmas party. I wish there was a "scratch and sniff" and a way you could have a little nibble. The texture is so amazing...mmmmm...and the flavor is just perfect! It's very dense and so moist, and I love the nuts in it! But it's the icing that I dream about!

Mom's Famous Carrot Cake

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 cups white sugar
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups shredded carrots (I like fine shreds)
1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple (this is what makes it extra amazing!)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional - I like lots!)
1/2 cup raisins (optional - you'll never find them in MY cake!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or spray) a 9 x 13 pan.

2. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs. Beat well. Stir in flour mixture, then carrots, pineapple, nuts (and raisins if you insist.)

4. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until done in center.

Icing for Cake
(People have actually requested that my mom make an extra bowl of frosting, just so they can eat it by itself! This icing is AMAZING!!)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 TBSP butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans 
1 cup shredded coconut 

1. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients and beat until smooth. Then stir in nuts and coconut. Spread over cooled cake. It's sooooooo good! You are going to love it!

Because this cake is so dense and moist, it might be difficult to make it into a 2 layer cake. Mom always keeps it one layer, which I think is perfect!

Source: My cute little mom, Brenda Joyner.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mormon Morsels: Goal Setting

Free Digital

I know that this is the typical thing to talk about at this particular time of year.  We all get in that GOAL zone don't we?  It is the perfect time to review/evaluate your life and see where you can do better, add some new goals, lose some old ones.  Back in the mid-70's when I was a college Freshman, I had a class that was kind of a mix between consumer education and home management.  I wish that I could remember the name of the course, but I am sure I could look back on my transcripts to find it.  I won't because I came in to the office today to do this post, as the message I wanted to share is on my work computer, and so I have no access to my home files at the moment.  Anyway,  we had a great teacher, Lynette Bartholomew, and she loved to share quotes and stories with us that she would run across that would pertain to the curriculum.  The following is one of the things that she shared and I have carried around the original handout from class all these years, in all its purple mimeograph glory.  Yes it is that old.  So old I am not sure I even have the process name right. 

by Evalyn Bennett

A every young woman approaches marriage and child rearing, she sets up goals, hoping to make her home a little bit of heaven.  As the years roll around these specific goals have to be re-evaluated and changed with the changing times.

                My goals 21 years ago included:

1.       Keep an immaculate house which would be an ideal setting for the Spirit of our Heavenly Father to dwell.

2.       Read at least one excellent book a month and become well-informed about the world around you.

3.       Prepare well-balanced, attractive gourmet meals, experimenting with at least one new recipe a week.

4.       Bear many children who will be well-dressed, well-pressed and well-behaved.

5.       Keep an optimistic outlook on life.  At the end of every week try to evaluate what created in you good feelings or  frustrations.

6.       Tell your husband, once a day, that you love him.

The first two years of our marriage, before children, was like a fantasy.  I was so organized, orderly and adorable.  We ate such creations as Cordon Bleu and Capon Under Glass.  Our discussions were stimulating and the house was hygienically spotless.  Not a thing out of place.

Then came the first child.

With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing, praying, some of my goals needed to be modified.  I must give up my immaculate house.  My revised goals now read:

1.       As you pass a table, blow hard on the top to rearrange the dust.

2.       Put the vacuum in the middle of the living room floor so that anyone calling on you will think that sometime soon you intend to get debris from the floor.

Then came the second child.

With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing, praying, some of my goals needed to be modified.  I must give up my reading books.  My revised goals now read:

1.       But not my newspapers.  I still snatch time for a little worthwhile reading of my favorite funny paper characters, Mary Worth and Dr. Rex Morgan, but only every other day.  And who can live without Ann Landers?

2.       To keep well-informed I rush to the door when I hear the mailman to discuss some pertinent problems: "Has the garbage been picked up down the street yet?"

Then came the third child.

With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing, praying, some of my goals needed to be modified. 

1.       Instead of preparing well-balanced , attractive gourmet meals, experimenting with at least one new recipe a week, my goals now read "Serve one hot dish a day."  This means if you serve hot soup for lunch you can get away with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.  when I do find an extra hour and decide to go all out on a roast, potatoes, gravy and baked bread, the children ask, "Who is coming to dinner?" or "Is it Thanksgiving already?"

Then came the fourth child.

With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing, praying, some of my goals needed to be modified. 

1.       Instead of reading "well-dressed, well-pressed and well-behaved," my goals simply read "dressed."  If the diaper is hanging around the knees by noon, my neighbors know that I pinned it properly earlier in the day.  I haven't seen the bottom of my ironing basket for three years, and really don't know when I ever will.  Praise be for polyester.

Then came the fifth child.

With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, washing, praying, some of my goals needed to be modified.

1.       My goal no longer reads "Keep an optimistic outlook on life.  At the end of the week try to evaluate what created in you good feelings or frustrations."  it now says "Keep your voice down until noon.  At the end of every week count to see if you still have five children.  Check your varicose veins to see if your legs will take you through another mad week."

My last goal "Tell your husband, once a day, that you love him," now simply says "Try to speak to your husband once a day."  With Cub Scouts, Little League, watching football, basketball, baseball, track, violin lessons, PTA board meeting, United Fund drive, Primary Blazers, Relief Society visiting teaching,  Bar Auxiliary, Law Wives, University Women's Club, chicken pox, rosella, hepatitis,  Asian Flu, and tonsillectomies, I feel lucky to call out to him as we rush past each other going in and out of the front door.  "Golly dear, I am overdrawn at the bank again."

Twenty years later my goals are summed up by reading "Sustain Life and endure to the end."
Source:  Lynnette Bartholomew, Ricks College, Rexburg, Idaho

Friday, December 28, 2012

Chocolate Eclairs

This is one of those desserts that take extremely little time to prepare, but tastes SO good. It tastes a lot fancier than what the ingredients seem. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Chocolate Eclair Dessert

Eclair Filling:
2 small boxes French Vanilla Pudding
3 cups cold milk
8oz container thawed Cool Whip
Full Graham cracker sheets

 Chocolate Frosting: 
 1 ¾ cup powdered sugar
 4 Tbs HOT water
 4 Tbs soft butter
 4 Tbs Cocoa
 1 tsp vanilla

1. Mix pudding and milk with wire whisk until well blended. Let stand 5 minutes. Fold in thawed Cool Whip.
2. Place whole graham crackers in the bottom of a 9x13 sprayed pan, covering entire bottom.
3. Spread pudding mixture over graham crackers.
4. Top with another layer of whole graham crackers, covering top completely.
5. In a bowl, beat all ingredients for chocolate frosting until smooth.
6. Spread frosting over top layer of graham crackers.
7. Refrigerate 24 hours.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

May all the joy of this Christmas season be yours this day and always.

Merry Christmas Card - Old Fashioned Street Scene from

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sour Cream Banana Bread

There's a reason I don't make this very often.  I can't stop eating it!!!

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups sour cream

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour bundt pan.
2.  In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined.  Add the eggs in, one at a time, beating each egg in well.  Add mashed banana and beat in.
3.  Combine the dry ingredients into a separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat well after each addition.
4.  Pour into bundt pan and bake for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes.  Then invert onto a cooling rack and allow to cool further before slicing and serving.  If decorating, allow to cool completely.

  • I didn't mash my banana up beforehand this time.  I just threw the peeled suckers in whole and let the machine do the work for me.  Lazy?  No.  Efficient!
  • Of course, you can use other types of pans.  This time I used a decorative Hansel & Gretel pan from Nordicware, and had enough leftover to do a small loaf.  Just keep an eye on the bread and adjust your cooking times accordingly.
  • If you want to put a glaze on top of the bread, you can do that while it's warm and/or cool.  While it's warm the glaze will soak in to the top more.  While it's cool it will just sit on the surface mostly.  If you do two "coats" (one while warm and one while cool) you'll get the best of both worlds!  Or you can just do like I did and give it a powdered sugar snowfall.
Source:  Tasty Kitchen

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mormon Morsels: What Will You Give for Christ(mas)?

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  December seems to have flown by.  And now, I sit here at my computer wondering if I am ready.  There is so much to do.  Most treat plates have been delivered but a few remain to be handed out today.  We have the Mormon missionaries coming over for a Christmas Eve lunch and I have sourdough biscuits, sweet potato casserole, and dressing to prepare.  There's cinnamon rolls to make tomorrow night for Christmas morning breakfast.  Oh, and the dog needs to go to the groomer's tomorrow morning or she won't be able to even see what's in her stocking!  The Christmas presents are all wrapped and ready.  And I am so excited for the kids to see their gifts.

But after watching this video I wonder.....what did I give for the Savior?

Christmas is a wonderful time of year.  I look forward to it and relish every Christmas carol, every special Christmas movie, every gift that is made or purchased out of love and thoughtfulness.  But the real gifts of the season are the ones without a price tag.  The ones that come straight from the heart and cannot be wrapped. Those are the gifts that matter most.

And as the Christmas season winds down I find myself wishing that I had given more of those special gifts.  And I am a little sad that I didn't do more.  But the good news is that Christmas really never ends!  I don't have to feel sad about not doing enough this season because Christmas is really about love, and love is always in season.

I am reminded of one of my favorite Christmas songs....The Secret of Christmas.  It's not very well known, but the message is beautiful and true:

May we all find ways to do those "Christmas things" well into the New Year and may those acts welcome in next year's Christmas with the joy and happiness that come from serving Christ through serving others.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cranberry Orange Muffins

These are some of our favorite Christmas eats! My sister-in-law Miriam Sellers passed the recipe onto me when I married into the family (she is a remarkable cook and can make healthy food taste sinful).  Enjoy!

1 3/4 c. Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
3/4 c. Sugar (or sweetener of choice)
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/3 c. Butter (melted)
1/2 c. Milk
1 Egg slightly beaten
1 tsp. Orange peel
1/2 c. chopped Cranberries
1/2 c. grated Apple

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Make a hole in the dry ingredients, add wet ingredients into the hole.  Mix until moistened, then add cranberries and apples.  Do not over mix   Place in lined or greased muffin tins.  Bake for 13-17 minutes, or until golden brown.  Lightly butter top and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  

Source: Miriam Sellers

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Perfect French Bread

More than a decade ago the ladies at my church had a monthly "homemaking" meeting and, although I do not remember what else we had to eat that night, I do remember the delicious, homemade French bread that my friend Irene Jarvis made.  She shared the recipe with me and when I have the time I like to make my own from her recipe.

2 1/2 cups very warm water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups all-purpose flour, stirred and measured
2 pkgs. dry yeast (2 tablespoons)

1.  Into a large warm mixing bowl, pour warm water, then stir in sugar , salt, oil and half of the flour, and the yeast.  Beat vigorously 2-3 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour until all dry ingredients are completely mixed in, leaving the spoon right in the heavy batter.

2.  Allow dough to rest 10 minutes, then stir down.  Allow dough to rest another 10 minutes, then stir down.  Repeat this process until dough has been stirred down five times.

3.  Turn dough onto floured board, kneading only enough to coat dough with flour so it can be handled easily.  Divide into two parts.  Roll each part of dough into rectangles about 9" x 12", and roll up like a jelly roll, starting from the long side.  Pinch edge of loaf to seal the dough.

4.  Arrange dough lengthwise on large cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with corn meal, allowing room for both loaves.  Cover lightly and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

5.  With a very sharp knife, cut 3 gashes(oops, forgot to do that...) at an angle on top of the dough then brush entire surface with lightly beaten whole egg.  If desired, sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.

6.  Bake immediately at 400 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown (you will notice mine was a little more brown.  I wasn't downstairs at the time I should have taken it out!)  Remove from baking sheet immediately and cool on racks.  2 LOAVES

Source:  Irene Jarvis, El Paso, Texas

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Crock Pot Christmas Morning Oatmeal

This oatmeal gives you a great holiday taste.  You can dig right into it as soon as the last ribbon is ripped off the last Christmas morning package.  In my opinion, the nuts should not be optional.


1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
3 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 c. and 2 T. dried cranberries
1/4 c. and 2 T. butter, cut into peices
3 c. regular rolled oats
3 c. water
1 1/2 c. apple juice
1 1/2 c. cranberry juice
1/2 t. salt
1 c. and 2 T. candied walnuts (optional)


1.  Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a bowl.

2. Add the apples and cranberries, tossing to coat evenly with the sugar mixture.

3.  Transfer into crock pot.  Top with butter pieces.

4.  Mix the oatmeal together with the water, apple juice, cranberry juice, and salt in a bowl, and pour over the apple mixture in the crock pot.  DO NOT STIR.

5.  Cover.  Cook on Low for 8 hours.

6.  Stir before serving.  Spoon into bowls and top with candied walnuts, if desired.

Source:  Crock Pot Girl

Monday, December 17, 2012

Amazing Country Crock Pot Grits


Ok, this one is for all of you grits lovers! When I make this for church breakfasts or family events, people go crazy and eat every last spoonful and ask for the recipe. It's sooooo easy and delicious! And it's perfect for Christmas morning!

This recipe is for a huge batch that fits in a 6 quart crock pot. You can half the recipe or adjust it accordingly for a smaller batch.

There are many ways to make it, but here is how people seem to like it best:

3 cups grits
3 1/2 quarts water (14 cups)
2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 lb sausage, browned and drained (I use Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage)
1/2 stick salted butter (or more)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2-4 cups of shredded cheese (however much you like)
6 eggs (or more) scrambled
Pepper to taste

1. Bring 14 cups of water and 2 tsp salt to a boil. Add 3 cups grits while stirring. Let it come back to a boil and turn down heat, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, or until the grits are done according to the directions on your package. I would suggest stirring every few minutes.

2. While the grits are cooking, brown the sausage, drain, and put in the crock pot. I like to make sure it's broken up into small pieces.

3. Scramble as many eggs as you like, and put those in the crock pot too. I like lots of eggs and have a lot of mouths to feed, so I usually scramble about 10 eggs.

4. Cut the butter up in pieces and put in crock pot. Put cream cheese in crock pot. Add a bunch (2-4 cups or so) of shredded cheese. I use the Wal Mart brand Mexican blend mix because it melts well and is really creamy.

5. Pour the grits into the crock pot. Sometimes I can't fit all of the grits in because I have so many other ingredients in the crock pot! Add as much pepper as you would like.

6. Stir all of those yummy ingredients together until it's well blended and the cream cheese is stirred in. Taste it to see if it needs more salt. Keep the crock pot on the lowest setting - warm or low.

I make this at night and keep it on warm until the next morning when we chow down on it. Grits do thicken over time, so you have to start off having the grits a little thinner than you would ultimately like them. Sometimes I have to stir in a little milk or water to keep it from being too thick. You can also make this and eat it right away.

There are lots of variations for this recipe! You could add bacon bits, ham dices, sliced summer sausage, or whatever kind of meat you want. You could cook the grits with cream or milk instead of water. You can add whatever kind of cheese you prefer, and however much of it you like. I have a friend who has made it with shrimp, garlic, a little onion. The possibilities are endless. I promise you are going to love it!

Source: Adapted from Debbie Evans, one of the best country cooks I know! 

Photo: I never realized that grits were actually not very pretty. I had to take close to a hundred shots before I found a few that looked nice enough to post. Grits might not photograph as amazingly as they taste, but that does not matter. Just eat and ENJOY! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Trouble At The Inn


Thanks to Audrey for sharing her favorite Christmas story last week.  That story displayed the type of giving that "hurts so good".  I will share with you my all time favorite Christmas story.  It has that same kind of tugging at your heartstrings.  It always brings on the true spirit of Christmas in just three little words.  I hope you enjoy it and will share it with your family, along with some candlelight and hot chocolate of course.

"For years now whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling.  Wally's performance in one annual production of the Nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend.  But the old timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.

Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth.  Most people in town knew that he had difficulty in keeping up.   He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind.  Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation if the uncoordinated Wally asked to play ball with them.

Most often they'd find a way to keep him off the field, but Wally would hang around anyway--not sulking, just hoping.  He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector, paradoxically, of the underdog.  Sometimes if the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who'd say, "Can't they stay?  They're no bother."

Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play's director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him to a more important role.  After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines, and Wally's size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.

And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town's Yuletide extravaganza of  staffs and creches, of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stage full of squeaky voices.  No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling.  They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn't wander onstage before his cue.

Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn.  Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop.  Wally the Innkeeper was there, waiting.  "What do you want?" Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture.

"We seek lodging."

"Seek it elsewhere." Wally looked straight ahead but spoke vigorously.  "The inn is filled."

"Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain.  We have traveled far and are very weary."

"There is no room in this inn for you." Wally looked properly stern.

"Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary.  She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest.  Surely you must have some small corner for her.  She is so tired."

Now, for the first time, the Innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary.  With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.

"No!  Begone!" the prompter whispered from the wings.

"No!" Wally repeated automatically. "Begone!"

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary, and Mary laid her head upon his shoulder, and the two of them started to move away.  The Innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however.  Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple.  His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.

"Don't go, Joseph," Wally called out.  "Bring Mary back."  And Wallace Purling's face grew into a bright smile.  "You can have my room."

Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined.  Yet there were others--many others--who considered it the most Christmasy of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen."

Source:  Dina Donahue reprinted from the "Baptist Herald" (Dec. 15, 1968)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes

This is such a tasty dessert! Who ever said that cupcakes must have a huge glob on icing on top has obviously never had these. They present so well too! All your friends will think that you spent loads of time making this gourmet dessert. (Just don't tell them that you use a cake mix... I promise not to tell.)

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes

1 can(s) 20oz sliced pineapple drained, juice reserved 
1 bx yellow cake mix  (My cake mix was sugar free, and turned out great!)
1/2 c oil 
3 eggs 
1/3 c butter, melted 
2/3 c brown sugar
12 maraschino cherries cut in half 

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 24 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray. 
2. Cut each pineapple slice into 4 pieces; set aside. 
3. In large bowl, beat cake mix, oil, eggs and reserved pineapple juice with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. 
4. In small bowl, stir together melted butter and brown sugar. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons butter mixture into each muffin cup. Top each with 2 pineapple pieces. Place cherry half, cut side up, in center of pineapple pieces. Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each cup. (My muffin pans seem small, make sure that you don't over fill your muffin tins. I ended up putting less than a 1/4 cup.)
5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife around edge of cupcakes to loosen; invert onto cookie sheet. Serve warm.  (I also ended up cutting a few of the muffin crowns off so that the cupcake would sit flat.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Creamy Hot Chocolate

We found this recipe several years ago and hot chocolate has never been the same! This recipe beats every homemade concoction we've tried--and there are some goodies out there.


1 (14 oz) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (we've used other brands and they work, too.)
1/2 Cup unsweetened Cocoa (we usually use Hersey's brand)
1.5 tsp Vanilla
1/8 tsp Salt
3 Cups Hot Water
3.5 Cups Milk*
Mini Marshmallows (opt)
Whipped Cream (opt)
Ground Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Chili Powder (opt)

1. In a large sauce pan, over Medium heat, combine Sweetened Condensed Milk, Cocoa, Vanilla, and Salt. Mix Well.
2. Mix in the water and the milk. Heat through, stirring frequently. Do not boil.

Serve with mallows or whipped cream and a dash of spice. Questioning the chili powder? Ever seen the movie "Chocolat"? That's where we got the idea and it really is quite good.

*The original recipe called for 6.5 Cups Water, but we like it with the milk. It makes it creamy.

Source: All Recipes, with slight variation

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Peanut Butter Crackers


These are just about good enough to make you slap your momma!   Ha-Ha-Ha! No, seriously, these things are scrumptious and addicting.  We make these every year as part of our Christmas Treats Extravaganza! Some families probably just call that night Christmas Eve.  But, we call it our Christmas Treats Extravaganza!  (It's fun to say. Use your biggest announcer's voice.  Try it.)  We make a ton of different kinds of goodies/ treats and we eat them for dinner, and then we have plenty for our company that comes to visit.   You should try these, and I promise your family will love them! They almost taste like Nutter butter cookies!

Creamy Peanut Butter
Ritz crackers
Almond Bark Candy
Wax Paper

Lay out a long piece of wax paper.  Spread peanut butter on a Ritz cracker and sandwich it with another Ritz cracker.  Make these using 1 whole sleeve of crackers.  Once you get this far, set them aside and break your almond bark into squares. Place them into a microwavable bowl, and melt them in the microwave for about 60 seconds.  Take the bowl out of the microwave and try to stir the squares and break them up as much as you can.  Then put the bowl back in the microwave for about 15 seconds.  Then stir and break up lumps. You will do this over if needed until the candy is all melted and smooth.  Then put a Ritz cracker sandwich into the candy and flip it over with the fork covering as much of the sandwich as you can.  You have to work quickly because the hot candy melts the peanut butter!  Then as you pick up the Ritz cracker sandwich with a fork (kind of scoop it up. don't stab it with the tongs!) , you can tap the fork gently on the bowl to get off excess candy.  Then put the Ritz cracker onto the wax paper you have layed out.  Finish the entire sleeve of cracker sandwiches you have made. 

You can get about 1 & 1/2 sleeves of Ritz cracker peanut butter sandwiches dipped to one package of almond bark candy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chocolate Peppermints

I recently made these little gems for a family gathering and they were quite tasty.  A great recipe for the holidays or for special events....or just because you want 'em!

1 pound powdered sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1.  In a mixer, slowly add the sugar to the cream cheese, working in a little at a time, until well blended.  Add the peppermint extract and mix well.  Cover mixer bowl with a damp cloth.
2.  Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Roll your peppermint "dough" into teaspoonful sized balls and place on wax paper.  Make an indentation in each ball, either with your finger or with the back of a 1/4-teaspoon.   Cover and refrigerate while you get the chocolate ready.
3.  Melt the chocolate chips in a disposable decorating bag in the microwave until fully melted.  Snip off the very end and fill each indentation.  (OR, if you don't have these bags--but you should cuz they're awesome-- melt the chips in a microwave proof bowl and then pour the chocolate into a ziplock bag, seal, snip the end, and fill the indentations).  Refrigerate until set.


  • Take them out of the fridge for a half hour to an hour before serving.
  • While making the balls, keep the unused "dough" covered so it won't dry out. 
  • Make the indentations as you go.  If you wait until you've formed all the balls, the dough will crack.
Source:  from Amy at She Wears Many Hats

Sunday, December 9, 2012

No Nativities to Be Found!

I had an experience this week that kinda shocked me. We have a tradition to do “12 Days of Christmas” for a few people each year, and I really wanted a small nativity to use as one of the gifts. So I went shopping in my little town to find a small, inexpensive nativity set. To my surprise, I could not find a nativity anywhere! Not even an ornament depicting the nativity scene! I ended up going to 5 different stores (that I am sure have had them in the past!), but there were no nativities to be found. I was a little bit in a hurry to get home, so when I entered the last store, I asked the clerk if they had any nativities, and he looked at me with a blank stare and sheepishly asked, “What is that?” My jaw dropped and I was speechless (for one of the first times ever in my life!), and my 16-year-old son who was with me started explaining to him what a nativity was. I went home empty handed that night and felt such sadness in my heart that people are forgetting that Christmas is about Christ!

This experience has made me even more determined to make sure we have the true meaning of Christmas in our home and in our hearts this Christmas season. I’m going to focus more on serving others than buying presents. I’m going to play beautiful Christmas music in my home, and try to have more fun and make special memories with my family, instead of getting stressed with all that I think I have to do. I’m going to contemplate more about the Savior, and talk more about his perfect life and his ultimate gift to us, and try to live more like he has taught us and shown us. And I am going to prominently display every nativity that I have!

I wanted to share my favorite Christmas quote. President Howard W. Hunter said this in his last public address to the Church. He suggests 22 things we should do this Christmas.

“This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.” 

What beautiful counsel. May we all remember that Christmas is about celebrating the birth and life of our Savior Jesus Christ, and may we all try to live more like him.

Hugs to all and Merry Christmas! Melissa 

 (Quote from: Howard W. Hunter, “The Gifts of Christmas”, First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 1994)

(Painting by Simon Dewey, "And His Name Shall Be Called Wonderful")

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mom's Rolls

For my first recipe post I thought I would share one of my families favorite recipes.  Growing up we had these almost every Sunday.  They are light, buttery, and melt in your mouth.  Enjoy!

½ cup Warm Water
2 ½ T. Yeast

Mix together and set aside.

1 can evaporated milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 T. salt
½ stick butter softened

Mix above ingredients with 4 cups flour.  Add yeast mixture and 1 cup HOT water.  When mixed well add 4-6 cups flour, if the dough is too sticky (I like mine to pull away from the sides of the mixer but still stick to my finger) add flour ¼ cup at a time.  Knead for 2 min on medium speed.  Let rise until double.  Punch down and let rise until double again.  Punch down then separate into 4 equal parts. Roll 1 part of the dough into a circle. 

Spread about 2 T. of  softened butter onto the dough.

Cut the dough into 12 wedges.

Roll each wedge from the outside towards the center to create a croissant shape (My kids love to help me with this). Repeat with remaining dough.  Place 2 dozen rolls on a cookie sheet (this recipe will fill 2 sheets) cover and let rise until double again.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 min, or until golden brown.

NOTE: This recipe works well for cinnamon and orange rolls.  Instead of rolling into circles roll into rectangles and fill with either of the following:

Cinnamon:                                                  Orange:
1 stick melted butter                                  1 stick melted butter
1 c. brown sugar                                        1 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon                                             1-2 t. orange zest
Top with cream cheese frosting               Top with orange frosting.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Red Hot Apple Cider

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Oh my!  It's my day to post and I totally spaced it!  Husband is out of town on business and I have been cleaning and decorating and just playing, because I can be up late and not wake anyone up.  Looks like I could have remembered to blog a recipe, doesn't it?  So if you need a little warming up this afernoon/evening, then I have gotten this post up JUST FOR YOU!  We had dinner with some friends one night during the Christmas season and Trini served hot cider that was so yummy.  I asked her for the recipe and she just laughed.  When you see the ingredients you might laugh, as well, but once you taste it you will be like, oh my gosh.

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Apple Cider or Apple Juice
Red Hots candies

1.  Pour desired amount of apple cider or juice in a stove top teapot or in a saucepan.
2.  Pour desired amount of Red Hots into pot/pan, according to how spicy you want your cider.
3.  Heat to desired temperature.
4.  Pour into mug or cup and may want to put a cinnamon stick in for garnish.

Here's another fun hot drink tip:  Another friend, Adrianna, puts cinnamon sticks in her water when she is heating it for instant hot chocolate.  Kind of a quick way to sort of have Mexican Hot Chocolate.  Yummmm...also good when making instant oatmeal.

Source:  Trini Marquez, El Paso, Texas

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crock Pot Apple Butter

 I recommend thinking outside the box when using apple butter.  Mix it into oatmeal.  Spread on top of a plain or spice doughnut.  Mix it into your meatloaf.  THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!


7 c. applesauce
2 c. cider
1 1/2 c. honey
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground allspice

Applesauce:  Preferably homemade, unsweetened, but a good quality commercial is ok.


1.  Mix all ingredients in crock pot.  Cover and cook on low heat 14-15 hours or until mixture is deep brown.

2.  Pack while hot into 4 hot pint jars.  Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

To Bring in the Christmas Season...

A tradition in my family is to read Christmas stories every night in December. I decided for this post I would share with you all one of my favorites.  It was emailed to me many years ago and touches my heart every time I read it. 

I love everything about this season.  I love the lights, the smells, the kindness, and most of all the opportunity to celebrate our Saviors birth.  I am so grateful that he chose to come to this earth and save a soul such as mine. 

I pray that the light of Christ will shine in your homes this Christmas season.

Christmas Eve 1921
"It is always more blessed to give than to receive."
 -- Author Unknown

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1921. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible; instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight. " I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood---the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting.

What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?" You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I said, "Why?" "I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the wood pile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt."

That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. "Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?"

"Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?"

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp. "We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it.

She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children -- sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, "'May the Lord bless you,' I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do.Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night; he had given me the best Christmas of my life.