Thursday, December 12, 2013

Healthy Fudge Roll Recipe (Peanut Butter & Carob Fudge)

One of my aunts introduced me to this recipe years ago, but years have zoomed by without me making it. And I forgot the recipe and which aunt introduced me to it, so I've experimented and learned to make it all by myself (aren't I a big girl :)).
When I say "Healthy Fudge" I don't mean that it's like eating carrots and you need to inhale the entire batch. It's healthier because it's free of sugar, corn syrups, and marshmallow goo--plus any other gunk you get with it.
There are four simple ingredients to this fudge and it's easy peezy to make.

Healthy Fudge Roll
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup carob chips
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Over medium heat add peanut butter and honey into pot. Stir until mixture becomes smooth then add carob chips and cook for three minutes or until mixture is well blended and smooth. Add sunflower seeds and mix. Take off heat and pour onto a long piece of plastic wrap and let cool on counter for 30 minutes. Once cooled, form into roll by wrapping the plastic around it and place it into fridge. Every 30 minutes or so I like to turn the roll so it makes it more round and not flat.

When you're ready to eat, just slice it into bite size pieces and enjoy. You'll want to keep this cool, so don't put it in your pocket for later or you just might regret it.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Charles Walton's Story


I have a wonderful grandma who loves to research. She's spent years searching for stories and information on our relatives. And I thank her for that.
I've shared this story in the previous post, but at the time I didn't have all the info, nor did I have the story written in my relatives words. Now I do. The story below is an account from my Grandpa Charles Walton.
 Top left to bottom right: Estelle, Danie, Sarah, Tillie,
Arthur, Hattie, and Charles. (Andrew, the oldest, isn't in the picture)


The Scofield Carbon County Mine explosion

The year of 1900 a terrible event happened which changed the direction and lives of the whole family.  The Sunday School was in the process of gathering to braid the Maypole and enjoy the day, when a man on horseback rode up to the crowd crying at the top of his voice, "Number four mine has been blown to hell,"  The picture of two hundred black faced, some mangled bodies laid all over the school floor was a sight unforgettable.  Two Walton brothers, Andrew and Danie were working at the mine.  This is Danie' Walton's history of that disaster.

IF I HAD GONE TO WORK
At the time of the disaster I was nineteen years of age.   It was May Day,  May 1st 1900.  The miners  went to work at 7:00 AM as usual but being May Day,  they anticipated the celebration which was to take place in the afternoon.   A celebration to most miners was to get out into the sunshine and fresh air or gather at their favorite saloon. 
     I was especially happy that day for being a miner myself, instead of taking my usual place on the fifth level of the No. 4 mine,  I had to go into the thick underbrush of peavine and quaking aspen trees to look for our milk cow and her new calf.   To our family this meant a fresh supply of milk and I was to find the cow and calf and bring them back home.  Mother had packed a lunch as I was not expected to be home until late in the evening. 
     I was happy to be on my way, climbing the trails, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and the welcome signs of spring and at the same time listening for the tinkle of the bell which we had tied on the cow's neck.  Just as I passed over the area which I later learned was almost directly above the fifth level of the mine, I felt the earth tremble.  I recall wondering to myself what it could be and remember looking at my old Ingersoll watch which read ten o'clock.  Not being able to figure out what had caused the tremble, I continued on my way without giving it any futher thought.  I searched most of the afternoon before I finally heard the tinkle of the bell.  The new calf had to be carried most of the way home so I did not arrive until after dark.
   As I neared the town, I was struck by the unusual amount of activity.  The entire town was lit up and nine special railway cars had been left on the main line near our home.  As I came nearer I could see that coffee, milk and sandwiches along with flowers were being distributed to the dozens of heart stricken people I met everywhere.  I found out the earth tremor which I had heard and felt earlier that morning was one of the worst mining disasters ever recorded.  Two hundred and eight men and boys lost their lives in the 'dust' explosion at the No. 4 mine in Scofield, Carbon County, Utah.
   Our home was a hive of activity, serving food and giving aid where possible.   Instead of the reception I had anticipated,   I was very unceremoniously shoved into the kitchen, given a dish towel and told to get busy.  My sister Libbie, managed to give me the details.  Our older brother Andrew was in bed unconscious and not expected to live.  To my sadness I was told that Louis Lychem , a great friend of mine who had taken my place at the mine that day was still missing.  Miraculously Andrew regained consciousness and gave his account of the explosion.

Andrew was a driver on the first level - a driver being one who handles the horses which pulls the empty cars to the miners, who in turn blast the coal loose and loads about 2200 to 2500 Pounds of coal into each car.  These loaded cars were then taken to the main entrance where they were  literally dropped down the half mile track to the exit by an electric hoist.  He had just taken empty cars to all of his men  and was waiting at the switch about a quarter of a mile from the main entrance.
Superintendant Parmely and General Foreman Andrew Hood happened to come along just at that time making an inspection tour.   Seconds later they felt the blast and were almost knocked off their feet.  They all knew it was a serious explosion and the Superintendent instructed my brother Andrew to get word to as many men as possible on his level to hurry out a safe exit and not the usual exit which would be in the direct path of the explosion.  Andrew ran two mile through the mine telling all the men on this level what had happened and where to make a safe exit.  They were successful in saving the lives of all the men on the first and few of the men on the second level, but we finally overcome themselves by the after-damp and all of the men on the third, fourth and fifth levels perished.
The term 'after-damp' is the term used when the oxygen has been burned out of the air.  Dozens of men lost their lives not knowing where the explosion had taken place, or where to get out as there was absolutely no way of communicating with them inside the mine. 
The persistent and heroic efforts of the Superintendent, the Forman, and Andrew to save the lives of the miners almost cost them their own. Andrew was finally carried home and that was where I found him on my arrival.
I went to see Louis Lychen's mother the next day and I shall never forget the anguish and sorrow in her eyes as she said " Oh, if you had only gone to work, my boy would be alive"   I could only weep with her as that was a fact.  Her boy had taken my place.  I promised her I would assist in getting his body out as soon as the air pumps had been replaced.
The mines were very dry and dusty and very little watering was done to keep down the coal dust which clung to everything about an inch thick.  This was especially true on the fifth level where the explosion was believed to have taken place.  We do not know what caused the explosion exactly but I believe it was started by an open twenty- five pound keg of black powder which was intensified by the accumulation of fine coal dust.  After the disaster many precautions were taken to prevent such a tragedy from re-occurring, but this was little solace to the widows and fatherless children of the 208 who perished.  It was three months or more before all of the bodies had been recovered, for many of them were buried under great rock cave-ins caused by the timbers being completely blown out.
I recall Superintendent Parmley shaking my hand warmly knowing as I did I was indeed fortunate being alive.  I obtained permission from him to go to the fifth level and with the help of others we finally located the badly burned body of Louis, lying by my horse.  I could not help weeping again for the finest friend a boy ever had - 'the one who had taken my place.'
Andrew Jackson Walton survived the mine explosion, but he was totally deaf the rest of his life.


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Friday, December 6, 2013

My Miners

Never has a book resonated so fully and pulled at my heartstrings as My Loving Vigil Keeping by Carla Kelly. I had the privilege to listen to Carla this last fall speak about the research that went into writing this novel. Her story is fiction, but follows a true event in our history. She spent thousands of hours, days, months and possibly years to gather enough information on the people and lifestyle of those who lived in Scofield during 1899 and 1900.
I wept when Carla Kelly spoke about the men who lived and worked in those coal mines up Scofield canyon. At the time I couldn't say why I felt so drawn to her story, but it stayed with me for days. When I returned home I told my husband of what I'd learned, then I joined my parents and grandma for dinner. I relayed the story Kelly had spoke of and was stunned when my grandma perked up and said that my great great grandpa Walton and his brothers were there at the time of that horrific day on May 1st 1900.
My Loving Vigil Keeping follows a woman who sets out to begin life anew. She takes a job as a teacher in Scofield mining settlement. The detail that Carla Kelly added to her story brings the everyday to life. I felt as though I lived and breathed family life in that settlement. Reading about the blast that killed more than 200 men caused a ache in my heart.
My great great grandpa was there.
His mother, Harriot Walton, ran a boarding house and raised her children in that settlement. She had three boys that worked in those mines.
Charles Walton (my great great Grandpa) was scheduled to work that day in number four (the tunnels are numbered). He must have woke and prepared to head into work, but by some miracle his cow got out and he went to retrieve it, which delayed him. Before he could join his brothers, Andrew and William, back at the mine, a blast shook the earth. Smoke billowed from the mine entrance. The smell of burning flesh filled the canyon.
I cried, wondering what it was like for him and thousands of others to witness such devastation and helplessness.
I shook my head several times and thought, my grandpa was there.
He and his brothers were teenagers at the time, none married. Andrew had been near enough to the blast to become deafened, never to hear again. By the grace of our Father in Heaven Charles and both of his brothers lived. They all lived long lives, marrying and raising children.
I don't know the history of Charles' brothers, but I do know Charles moved from Scofield not long after. He married Ida Ann Paxman and had a few children, one of which is my great grandma Iona Mendenhall. Ida died young and Charles married again, had a few more children, then buried his second wife. He married once more before growing old with her.
It's difficult to describe how I feel. I grew up knowing my grandpa on my mother's side was a coal miner. To me in meant a hard life and I knew he was tough. But beyond that, I hadn't thought much on the subject. But after learning what mining life was really like and how they put their lives on the line everyday to put food on the table for their family, I have grown to respect them and love them even more for it.
So, now I can say, with head held high, that I am a coal miners granddaughter from both my parents side. I even have uncles who once mined.
My Grandpa Willardson. I love you grandpa ;)

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Newsletter

This is for all the fans of Downton Abbey . . .
I debated whether to share my family's newsletter on my blog, but I talked myself into it by removing some of the personal information in it. Once you read it you'll understand why I couldn't not share it. It's fabulous!
Keep in mind though that I wrote this in Microsoft Word, so coping and pasting it here might mess the formatting up, but I'm not about to spend time rewriting, so we all have to live with it.
It's written to look like the Downton Abbey recap. Just so ya know.



Walter Abbey Recap: Seasons of Changes
Walter Abbey has weathered the past year rather successfully. Lord and Lady Walter’s children are still living, but only just. The beginning of the year proved difficult with colds and illnesses abound, fortunately they’ve pulled through the never ending sickness and increased their health with improved diets. Much of the episodes are spent at dinner parties with their friends, Lord and Lady Belnap and their children. Hardly a weekend goes by where they aren’t conversing and strolling about, enjoying each other’s company.
Earl of ______ (otherwise known as Lord Walter) has been seen abroad the western states more often than not—to the dissatisfaction of his wife and children. He finds traveling life dreary and unfulfilling, but he passes the time with visits to the nearest LDS Temple, giving him a chance to push the weary life of Sales Engineer at Dell Computers aside and let in the peace it provides. When home, he puts the house to rights, giving his wife a breather of managing the estate and children. He gives his calling as Elders Quorum in the local church his all, visiting those he’s inspired to see and helping those in need of relocating. Saturdays he’s seen in the garden, pondering on why the year didn’t produce the results he’d hoped and worked for.
Lady Walter has experienced all the drama of the year, the better part if it turning out glorious. Who dared missed the episode of her nearly dying of a stroke when she unknowingly spoke with a publisher then being asked to send said publisher one of her manuscripts. The episode turned out well enough with the publisher showing interest and waiting for Lady Walter to polish it up and send it back. We have high hopes that it will prove rewarding in the end.
In congruent with the last episode she agreed to have one of her portraits published in Lady Julianne Donaldson’s “Blackmoore” Novel that can be purchased online or at any bookstore near you. Since then she’s worked on book covers and other artwork for friends and authors.
Lord Walter wasn’t the only one at Walter Abby to have traveled this past season. Last June Lady Walter traipsed across the UK, giving the countryside a better look, in hopes to improve upon her writing and experience the grandeur England and Scotland had to offer. Her heart grew heavy at the end when she didn’t get the visit from Nessy like she anticipated. One day she hopes to return to Loch Ness with her husband at her side and get that visit she’d dreamed of.
When Lord Walter’s traveling on business Lady Walter is seen at writer’s groups and conferences, rubbing shoulders with fellow writers, but more often than not she inhabits the study, writing like a mad woman.
Lady _____ Walter has proved herself stubborn enough to lend her hand in the kitchen, against her mother’s wishes. She thinks being a daughter of an Earl gives her leeway in doing what she wants. Her mother outwardly disagrees with Ladies working in the kitchen and doing servants work, but don’t let Lady Walter fool you, inwardly she’s thrilled for her daughter to learn a few things and show interests that will bring her happiness. Last season Lady _____ passed the marked age for all girls going into the Young Woman’s program. Lady ______ has embraced personal progress, dance classes, karate, and extra activities at school, giving the science class her all. In resent episodes she’s been known to pester her siblings, but in the end entertains them to keep them occupied.
Lady _____ Walter gives joy to her parents with her humorous wit and positive attitude. Earlier this season she began to improve upon her studies to be a lady by taking dance classes, hoping to catch up to ______ grace and talents. She has shown the masses how capable she can be in first grade, and loves befriending everyone.
Lord _____ Walter, heir of _____ proves he’s fit to take over the estate. He follows his father about, helping with improvements or projects on the house or in the garden. He spends most the season playing with the family pet, Sir. Chewbacca, and keeping the dirt pile out back covered in monster truck tracks.

For those looking to keep up on all the seasons and episodes of Walter Abbey, visit www.christinewalterart.blogspot.com for the upcoming 16th season where questions of future events will be answered. There you can enjoy the gallery of artwork Lady Walter has to offer.
Those who reside at ______ Estate would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the upcoming year.


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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Make Chocolate Candies- Cream Filled Chocolate Recipe

Ta Da!
It's the moment you've all been waiting for! So many of my friends have been dying to know how to make my chocolates, and most have already attended one of two classes I've taught, but many can't make it when I do. So, I've decided to post the basics of chocolate making.
Cream filled chocolates are one of the easiest. I'll go step by step and provide pictures for you to help you get an idea what it should look like.
If you have any questions, please post a comment and I'll try to respond as quickly as I can.

First, the list of what you'll need . . .
1. Flimsy cutting board that has NEVER been used for cutting. The chocolate will get stuck in the cut marks. (Hide your cutting board somewhere safe, so it's never used with knives.)
2. Chocolate molds of any shape or size. Preferably bite size.
3. Icing spreader that has a bend like the one in the picture below.
4. If you plan to drizzle chocolate (more on that later) then you'll need a sandwich bag.
5. The right kind of Chocolate (see below).
6. A pan
7. A bowl big enough to set on the pan to create a double boiler. (see picture below)

Directions on Melting Chocolate
 
 First, we should talk about chocolate (who wouldn't). The best and easiest chocolate to work with is Guittard A'Peels. There's variations of flavors, such as milk, dark, vanilla (in red and white), mint (in green and white), lemon (yellow), and orange (colored orange for obvious reasons). I usually use the milk chocolate A'Peels and the vanilla. I'm not a big dark chocolate fan, so I don't make any with it. 
Make sure you buy the A'Peels, for there are different kinds that look the same. A'Peels are easier to melt and I personally think they taste the best. If you live in the Salt Lake City area, then the best place to buy them is at Gygi's.
You can also find small paper candy cups of different colors and sizes at Gygi's, plus tons of other kitchen supplies.
To begin. Fill pan with enough water without allowing the water to touch the bowl that will sit inside. Be sure to keep the inside of the bowl free of water. Water and chocolate doesn't mix well. :)
On a low temperature set pan of water over low heat with the clean dry bowl over the top. It takes a few minute until the bowl begins to warm. At that point add the chocolate. Be patient. This takes a few more minutes to melt. You don't want to melt too fast or your chocolate will turn white later on. Nice and easy is what you want. While you wait for the melting to begin prepare your fillings. Keep an eye on the chocolate. You don't want the water below the bowl to boil. If it does boil, take the bowl off the pan and let the water relax and return to a no boil state. Be sure to stir every couple minutes, but don't whip and stir too much or you'll put air into the chocolate which could cause it to turn it white.
It's finished when it's all smooth. Take bowl off heat (keep the pan with water on heat) and place on hot pad while you spoon it into molds or whatever you might be using it for.
Keep an eye on your chocolate as you use it. If it gets cooled off and begins to thicken put back on pan for a minute then remove.
Once you're done with whatever you might be making and you've got left over chocolate, don't through it out or feel like you need to lick out the entire bowl. Spoon the remaining chocolate onto a plate in one inch circles and place in fridge. When that's cooled you can add it back into the bag of chocolate and can use it for another day.

Now for the filling . . .

Mix together
1/2 cup softened butter (one cube)
6 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1 tsp of extract (your choice of flavor)
Mix well until it's as thick as a cookie dough.
The flavors are left to your imagination. When I make lemon I add a tad bit of yellow food coloring so we don't get confused at what we are eating. I love to add chopped candy canes with peppermint extract. I like to add about 4 tablespoons of pistachio instant pudding to the pistachio extract to give it a bit more flavor and color. You can also add coconut with the coconut extract, but I have a completely different recipe for coconut filling that I might share later. My daughter once chopped M&M's and Heath bars and added to this recipe.
Come up with your own flavor and share your experience with me. I'd love to hear what yumminess you've created. (I know, yumminess isn't a word, but I make up words all the time).

Hopefully you've kept an eye on your melting chocolate and stirred every minute or so.
Now that you've got you filling complete and your chocolate is ready, let's proceed.
Fill your molds to the rim (it's okay if it's a little messy at this point). Tap the mold against the counter so the bubbles will detach themselves from the side (you don't want bubbles creating holes in your chocolate).
The next step is tricky. Flip chocolate mold over the top of your cutting board, making sure to keep all the drips falling on the board. You'll need to work fast, as you don't want to let too much chocolate fall out. You are aiming to create a chocolate shell inside your mold, but you don't want the shell to become too thin, but having it too thick will cause you to not have room to add your filling.
Here is a short, somewhat blurry video of me creating a chocolate shell. I had to flip it over twice because not enough chocolate dripped out, so watch the thickness. :)
You want the chocolate to look like this inside the mold . . .
Once you've scraped the extra dripping chocolate off the mold then as fast as lightening put it in the fridge on a flat service. If you don't put it in the fridge right away or if it's not level then you'll get an uneven shell.
Once you've rushed the chocolate to the fridge you'll want to get all that extra chocolate that just dripped out back into the bowl. Using the icing spreader, scrape the chocolate to one end of the cutting board and scrape into bowl.


 Waste not, want not. :)
It takes about 5 minutes for the chocolate shell to cool. You'll want to place your bowl of chocolate on the hot water in between each batch of shells you make, to keep it nice and smooth.
Once your shells are ready, spoon and press filling inside. Be sure to leave enough room for the chocolate that will go on top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it).
Carefully spoon chocolate on top, making sure to keep the chocolate from dripping off the side. Also, don't add to much chocolate. You don't want large pieces of chocolate to hang off the side of your chocolates, and you want them to sit flat and nice.
Place back into fridge right away and wait about ten minutes. Once they're nice and hard you can take them out, flip it over the counter and pop them out of the mold.
If you want to drizzle chocolate over the top, then place plastic baggie with a handful of chocolates. I used lemon flavored A'Peels over my lemon filled chocolates. Heat bag of chocolate in microwave (15 seconds at a time) until smooth. Cut a very small hole at the corner and squeeze and drizzle over chocolates.

 These chocolates can freeze for months at a time, but honestly, they've never lasted that long. When making goodies for the Christmas season I make several different kinds, freeze them, then when I'm ready to pass them around the neighborhood I box them up and let them sit for a few hours. Frozen chocolates are too difficult to eat and they taste better when room temperature anyway. I usually start this process in November, but no later than the beginning of December.
 Yes, you are looking at the sweet nectar of the Gods. Now get into the kitchen and start making your heavenly creations, then leave a comment and let us all know how it went.


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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Funny Story

Last night I was reminded of this event and had to share.

A few years back my husband and I braved the crowds at our nearest Costco with our two youngest children. We weaved in and out of the many isles, getting things we didn't necessarily need and rushing to find the one item we came for. We meandered through the long isle of books, reading each title and getting a few to read.

As like every trip to Costco, we ended up with over one hundred dollars more in merchandise. But we got the cheese we came for, so we were good.
We paid for our goods then stood in the line of people shuffling out of the building. My son (he was three at the time) had his arms around his dad's neck while my husband held him tight. In front of us walked a group of teen girls, who gabbed with each other on their way out.
The instant my son caught sight of the huge cranes (my husband had pointed them out once and explained they used them to hook and carry things) they used to build the department store just south of the Costco, my son cried out, "Look Dad, hookers!"

Yep. We couldn't help but laugh and look apologetically to the few girls who'd turned their heads with a disapproving glare.


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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Salads and Dressings

Check this out . . .
I know, it looks good doesn't it.
Have you ever wondered what they put in dressings? I go cross-eyed when I read the labels of some foods, wondering the the heck they are adding to something that should be so simple. Food shouldn't be that complicated.
This recipe is so simple and has only 5 ingredients. I usually don't time myself when I make meals, but this dressing really only takes minutes to make and is by far better than any dressing out there. My Grandma came up with this recipe, so all credit goes to her. Thanks Grandma.

Grandma West's Blue Cheese Dressing
3 small containers of crumbled blue cheese
15 oz mayonnaise (Best Foods is best, but don't use Miracle Whip)
1/2 cup buttermilk
garlic powder (Not garlic salt--seriously don't add any salt to this or you'll be overwhelmed)
black pepper

Here's whatcha want to do . . .
Mix your mayo and buttermilk together then add blue cheese. Sprinkle a small amount of garlic powder in at a time, tasting as you go. I can't tell you how much to add, as we all have different tastes. Keep in mind that as the dressing sits the garlic will become stronger. Add a few shakes of black pepper and again, you be the judge on how much you'd like.

See how simple it can be. And don't throw the blue cheese containers away. Use them to store your dressing in. I should warn you, it will disappear fast, especially if you have children who love to dip crackers and bread into it, devouring every drop.

This next one is almost as easy as the first. Take a look-see . . .
This is my version of Taco Salad

The Best Taco Salad
1 pound ground beef (I use lean)
1 can low sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 tomato sliced
1 avocado sliced
1 cucumber sliced
Your choice of shredded cheese
1 head of Green Leaf lettuce (if you use iceberg lettuce I will shake my head at you and wonder if you have taste buds at all)

Brown your beef over medium heat until cooked through. Add kidney beans and seasoning and cook for another minute or two. Assemble your salad how ever you prefer then add meat on top. You can use regular old ranch dressing if you aren't watching what goes into your body, or you can mix a pinch of Italian seasoning and sour cream together and use in place of the ranch.
My family likes to add pieces of chips to the salad to give it more crunch.

Let me know what you think of it. I'd love to hear from you all!

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Christine's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

As I've said before, there's not much better than peanut butter and chocolate, and putting it together in cookie form makes it even yummier. These particular cookies are my husband's and at least two of my brother's favorite cookies. In fact, when my oldest brother comes to visit and I don't have these cookies made he tells me "You're fired!"
I'm not sure what I'm fired from, but no one likes to be fired.
If you're concerned about calories and would like to cut back, take my advice and do what my Grandpa West does; Dunk the cookies in milk, it drowns the calories. ;)
Christine's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
3/4 cup butter (one and a half sticks)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use chunky)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Chocolate chips or melting chocolate chopped into chunks. (I use the same chocolate that I use to make chocolate candies (see posts below).)
Cream butter and both sugars together then add egg and vanilla. Mix for 3 to 5 minutes (In electric mixer). In separate small bowl mix flour, soda, salt and cinnamon. Blend flour with butter mixture until well blended, then add chocolate chips or chunks. Spoon onto baking pan (I use a stone, they turn out better that way) and bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes.

Tip: Try not to eat them all in one day.

You might be wondering why I would post recipes like this when I'm supposed to be on a no sugar diet. Well, to report, I've been doing great on this diet and I've gotten to the point where I can make goodies for friends and family without that strong desire to eat them as well. I still get satisfaction watching others enjoy my treats and the smell makes my house warm and inviting. It's enough of a reward for me.
So, enjoy!

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Minestrone Soup

This is one of those recipes made for a slow cooker and one that will also fill your house with a mouthwatering savory scent. The best time to make this soup is on a rainy day and when you know you'll be busy in the evening and don't want to fuss with cooking and loads of dishes to clean.

Minestrone Soup
1 pre-cut package of stew meat
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 to 3 cups water
2 cans diced tomatoes (low sodium)
5 cubes beef bouillon
1 can of kidney beans drained and rinsed (or garbanzo beans or both)
Carrots (how ever many you desire)
1 onion diced
2 to 3 tsp diced garlic
A half a head of cabbage chopped
1 zucchini chopped to bite size pieces
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
salt and pepper to taste
Pasta shells

Brown all sides of meat in hot pan over medium high heat. Don't cook all the way through, just lightly brown. Put meat in slow cooker along with everything else, excluding pasta shells. Slow cook all day on low. Once you're ready to eat, cook pasta shells and add to individual bowls. I wouldn't add pasta to entire thing, pasta can get a bit soggy if added to soup and left in the fridge. I like to top soup with parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Pin It

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing

The other day I stopped at a popular fast food restaurant (I don't know if I should name the place, so just in case, I won't) and ordered a chicken wrap. The only choice I had for dressing all came with sugar. Sugar is in almost everything. Grr. I was already on my way home, so I waited until I could figure out what to eat with it without eating their sugar dressings. This is what I came up with.

Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup sour cream
a few sprinkles of Italian seasoning
Salt to taste (If you want to add more salt)
2 tsp lime juice
Smash avocado in small bowl, add sour cream, seasoning, salt and lime juice. Mix and enjoy on wraps, salads, sandwiches and anything else you can think of.
Who says you can't eat yummy things?

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Buttermilk Pancakes with Buttermilk Syrup

This delightful recipe is from my Mom. She taught me when I was young to make homemade pancakes that fall apart when you take your first bite. This might be a staple recipe in your home already, but I can't know for sure so I'm sharing. :)

Buttermilk Syrup
 1 ½ cup sugar
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup
Bring to boil over medium high heat then take off heat and add in
2 tsp vanilla
Serve over pancakes

Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
Mix together in bowl
1 rounded cup of flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Dash of salt
Mix dry ingredients together then add in with buttermilk.  ONLY STIR FOR 10 SECONDS.  DO NOT OVER STIR.  IT SHOULD BE LUMPY.  Then cook pancakes on pancake grill.
Pancake batter will bubble a bit and that's a good sign of great pancakes.

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Peanut Butter Cups

Peanut Butter and chocolate. What could be better. Being on a no sugar diet has gotten easier, that is until someone mentions peanut butter and chocolate. I recently taught a chocolate making class where I made some peanut butter cups. I had made sure to eat something before hand, so I wouldn't be tempted to eat them. I did great. Didn't eat a single one and still haven't. Oh, but it did smell heavenly. For those who'd like to make their own peanut butter cups follow directions below. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. If I don't get back to you, then something has gone amiss with blogger. (It's been known to happen, and it seems to be more often on my blog.)

Directions on Melting Chocolate
 
 First, we should talk about chocolate (who wouldn't). The best and easiest chocolate to work with is Guittard A'Peels. There's variations of flavors, such as milk, dark, vanilla (in red and white), mint (in green and white), lemon (yellow), and orange (colored orange for obvious reasons). I usually use the milk chocolate A'Peels and the vanilla. I'm not a big dark chocolate fan, so I don't make any with it. 
Make sure you buy the A'Peels, for there are different kinds that look the same. A'Peels are easier to melt and I personally think they taste the best. If you live in the Salt Lake City area, then the best place to buy them is at Gygi's.
You can also find small paper candy cups of different colors and sizes at Gygi's, plus tons of other kitchen supplies.

Once you've got your chocolate home you'll need to prepare your kitchen supplies.
What you'll need . . .
One mini muffin pan (as seen below).
One glass bowl (as seen below). 
One pot that the bowl can fit inside of and can hold water without the bowl touching the water.
Spoons.
One pastry bag without a tip.

To begin. Fill pan with enough water without allowing the water to touch the bowl that will sit inside. Be sure to keep the inside of the bowl free of water. Water and chocolate doesn't mix well. :)
On a low temperature set pan of water over heat with the clean dry bowl over the top. It takes a few minute until the bowl begins to warm. At that point add the chocolate. Be patient. This takes a few more minutes to melt. You don't want to melt too fast or your chocolate will turn white later on. Nice and easy is what you want. While you wait for the melting to begin prepare your fillings. Keep an eye on the chocolate. You don't want the water below the bowl to boil. If it does boil, take the bowl off the pan and let the water relax and return to a no boil state. Be sure to stir every couple minutes, but don't whip and stir too much or you'll put air into the chocolate which could cause it to turn it white.
It's finished when it's all smooth. Take bowl off heat (keep the pan with water on heat) and place on hot pad while you spoon it into molds or whatever you might be using it for.
Keep an eye on your chocolate as you use it. If it gets cooled of and begins to thicken put back on pan for a minute then remove.
Once you're done with whatever you might be making and you've got left over chocolate, don't through it out or feel like you need to lick out the entire bowl. Spoon the remaining chocolate onto a plate in one inch circles and place in fridge. When that's cooled you can add it back into the bag of chocolate and can use it for another day.

Now for the peanut butter. :)

Mix around one cup all natural peanut butter and enough powdered sugar to make it thick. I don't measure this recipe because it will depend on how thick you like it. I like it really thick, like a thick cookie dough. I've also made this with crushed graham crackers mix with the sugar and peanut butter. Personally I love the strong taste of peanut butter and that's one reason I use all natural peanut butter vs one that has a bunch of junk mixed into it.
Moving on. 
Mix the PB and sugar together then spoon into a pastry bag. Be sure there is no tip on the end of the bag. Place bag into microwave and warm for thirty second. If it's not warm enough to push out of the bag easily then warm for another 15 seconds.
When your peanut butter and chocolate is ready then spoon a small amount (about a teaspoon size) of chocolate into cups.

Squeeze a small amount of peanut butter mix into center of chocolate. The chocolate should push against the sides, making the peanut butter settle into the center. If the peanut butter sticks up, then use finger to press down.

Spoon a small amount of chocolate over the peanut butter then tap the pan. The chocolate will settle and become flat. The chocolate can cool too quickly before you get the peanut butter in the chocolate, so start by making only two rows at a time. Place in fridge as soon as you can to let cool all the way. If you don't get it into the fridge before it cools then it might turn white.

If you've done all the steps correctly then they should look like this . . .
 Beautiful, isn't it. It makes me want to cry they look so good.
Again, if you have any questions, please, oh, pretty please comment, then watch for my reply.
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to have more recipes on chocolates soon so keep an eye out.

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Dysfunctional Brian

Let me take you back a few decades to when I was young. I looked like every normal kid. I had the eighties hair style and the handmade shorts with bright neon colors made to look like triangles and paint splatters were at war. Oh, and don't forget the jelly shoes that I wore to bed because I loved them far too much to take off. I had brothers, one sister and parents that loved me. I worked and played hard, like I was taught to do. But . . .

There was one thing different.

My brain didn't work right.

I never understood what was wrong with me--still don't for that matter. I don't remember being tested for any specific learning disorder, but I did spend my entire elementary and middle school years sitting with Mrs. Alexander in the resource center.

I grew  up knowing I was stupid. Being told that my whole life, how could I not believe that? I didn't understand why or how things couldn't make sense. I would look at one sentence or even one word for several minutes without understanding what I was looking at. I'd take a test and spend five entire minutes rereading one paragraph, not comprehending the words. It was almost as if they would mix up once inside my head. If I could explain it, I would say it's like the letters and words went into my brain then changed along the way, making it look like dark foreign marks. Reading had always been my least favorite thing to do. Of course I feel differently now, but I remember my tears dripping onto many book pages, wishing I could have been doing anything other than reading at that moment.

By the time I advanced into middle school I had given up on trying. I knew no matter what I did I would barely pass any test. The only subject I loved was art. I did enjoy learning history, but remembering dates, places and names was a nightmare. When I entered college I thought taking a class on Art history could be rewarding and being two of the subject I was most interested in, I could pass . . . right? . . . Wrong. I soon learned memorizing long Greek words was a recipe for failure.

Words are my worst enemy. Not too long ago I was writing one of my stories and I wrote the word 'across'. To my astonishment the wiggly red line showed up below it, claiming it as misspelled. I kid you not, I looked at that word for nearly ten minutes, not understanding what was wrong with it. In my eyes there was nothing wrong and I began wondering if my software had malfunctioned.
It hadn't. It was my brain. I had to walk away from it then when I came back I realized I had switched the r and the c.

I know, I know, you're sick of hearing that tiny violin that's playing My Heart Bleeds For You. I'll stop.

Despite this sob story about my dysfunctional brain, all the self-esteem issues and bad grades over the years, I still write.

It wasn't until I became an adult that I learned I loved stories. Reading was still difficult. It takes me longer and at times I mess up the words, but I found a love for it regardless. Three years ago I began what was to be a short story for my daughter that I would illustrate for her for a Christmas present. It ended up being a 80,000 word novel that I quickly condemned and set aside.
But I started another story, then another until it snowballed into almost ten novels written with many more ideas on the back burner.
I write because I'm driven. I love it. I do it because I truly want to show my children that no matter your setbacks or difficulty, I you can win.
I will be a published author some day. I know that because my Father in Heaven has set a path for me. He's opened doors that I couldn't open on my own. He's guided me to those who have helped me along the way and given me the knowledge that I need to proceed.

There are days when I struggle with writing. Words don't come to me as easily as they do to most writers. There are times when I am given tasks to do and callings to preform and I automatically think I can't do it. I believe that I'm not smart enough or quick witted to pull something so important off.

But I've learned something over the last couple years. I've learned that the only way I can overcome this way of thinking is to try. I might not be the best or the smartest for the job, but I'm going to try.
I'm going to push myself out of my comfort zone and become the woman my Father in Heaven intended me to be. I know I can be a leader. I don't know how I can accomplish something so far beyond anything I thought possible for myself, but I know I am meant to be a writer and a leader.

There are many of you who believe in me and my stories, and to them I say with tear filled eyes, thank you. Forever and ever, thank you.
I will push forward and write on!



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