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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Celebrate a Faithful Life

Celebrating A Faithful Life

This set of cookies celebrates a woman's life filled with the beauty of faith and grace.  As I dreamed on these cookies, I thought of the responsibilities of her life.  Daughter.  Pastor's wife.  Mother.  Teacher.  Counselor.  Friend.  In all of these she is a woman of faith.  More recently, an unbidden role crept into her life.  Cancer patient.  The family wailed and cried when the diagnosis of incurable ovarian cancer was determined.  For a while we refused to accept a new reality for her, a woman who was otherwise healthy and active, who went marching into retirement with dreams of travel, helping those in need and working in her beautiful garden.  This wasn't the plan!

Although travel was mostly set aside, and helping others became spoken encouragement instead of delivering Meals on Wheels, the call of the beauty and peace in the garden remained.  The two surgeries, endless rounds of chemo and perpetual needle sticks/IVs/exams became something not to be simply endured, but seen as tools, the hoes and herbicides, to manage and beat back the weeds of disease.  As these implements were welcomed, strength was gained and better health flourished.  She was able to tend her beloved day lilies and all her blooms.  The beauty there fed faith in God's grace, that love she relies on when the world says "all is lost."  The garden says "here is My beauty, offered to you now and eternally."   

This set of cookies celebrates my mother's life, filled with the beauty of faith and grace.  It represents her favorite day lilies, cone flowers, hydrangeas, and blueberries, little birds and rabbits.  I honor the life she gave me, her firstborn daughter, her love and gentle counsel through the years.  I am blessed by her respect for me, and the thousands of ways she has offered encouragement through the joy of our lives together and the pain of loss.  I celebrate my mother's love of God's beautiful garden of this earth and her faith in His eternity.   

I love you, Mom!

***These cookies are part of a collaborative project designed to honor Anita of Sweet Hope Cookies ( for her tireless work on behalf of those living with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).  I have followed Anita's work for quite some time, and finally met her in Salt Lake City at Cookie Con.  She is full of joyous mischief, witty remarks and is a constant blur of action living her love for others out loud.  Anita works for support of ALS patients because her brother Randy died from the effects of this debilitating disease.  I feel a kinship with her, as my grandfather, my mother's father, was stricken with this illness when I was a young girl, and died a few years later.  It is my intent to follow Anita's path of generosity and deep care for others through cookies.  I find it quite apropos to celebrate the life of my mother while celebrating Anita's inspiration, as they each have added so much sweetness to this world!*** #CelebrateLife

Celebrate Life Collage - 20 Cookie Artists Inspired by Anita of Sweet Hope Cookies

Image Map

This clickable photo takes you to each cookie artist's Facebook page or blog.  I hope you will read how each has celebrated someone she loves while honoring Anita's inspiration.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Faith and Flour

Who would have believed it would be cookies?

A wise woman, my pastor, in fact, taught me that all believers are given dominion (Genesis 1:26).  At the time I was wrestling daily, if not hourly, with purpose.  It was agonizing, and I ended many days feeling empty, when my aim was to be fruitful.  I had experienced a heartbreaking change in my professional life.  I resigned the job, but it had not been my plan.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit pushes you, ready-or-not out, of a dangerous and deadly-to-the-spirit situation.   A year later, belief was strong, but my faith needed a giant boost.  Reflecting on dominion in a totally different way, thanks to Pastor Shelley, I could step one foot before the other not knowing the plan, but having faith that whatever God had waiting was unbelievable good.

With many, many unfilled hours stretching before me I decided to bake.  I had frozen paletas (Mexican style fresh pops) all summer, but it was cold outdoors with the coming of winter.  The oven was the more attractive option.

I had seen lovely cookies somewhere online, skimmed a recipe, and waded in softening the butter and measuring flour.  The cookies were simple for a girl who thought the best toy ever was an Easy Bake Oven.  But royal icing?  I was ignorant that it is tricky, taking knowledge and finesse.  This mystical icing is as fragile as fairy dust, and takes the bloom of the peony and the sweetest song of the lark to love it into a workable form.  

Upon finishing the cookies, my kitchen featured several hundred drips of royal icing in rainbow colors on the counters, floor, and sink, truly every surface.  I am not easily vanquished, even by meringue powder, so I kept at it.  But I'll be honest, though I was proud of those cookies, I still didn't see dominion.  I'll share more of the story in the next few posts.  If you struggle with purpose,  I hope you'll find something for your encouragement here.  

My First Cookies 
She's Come a Long Way, Baby!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paradise Found in Pineapple Guacamole

Pineapple Black Bean Guacamole

Want a fresh treat that tastes like paradise?  This guacamole is it!  With a tropical twist of pineapple added, you'll be singing holy guacamole!  

Pineapple Black Bean Guacamole
2 medium avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1/4 cup salsa verde
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh or canned pineapple
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced*
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 T minced garlic
1-2 T lime juice to taste
1/4 t ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Cojita cheese, crumbled

In a large bowl mash avocados.  Stir in salsa verde until combined.  Add pineapple, beans, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper, and stir.  Cover and chill 2 hours.  Sprinkle with crumbled cheese.  Serve on warmed tostadas or with tortilla chips.  *Use kitchen gloves and eye protection when handling jalapeno seeds to avoid burns. 

Salsa Verde Ingredients

Now this is where it gets really fresh:  Make your own salsa verde with tomatillos, poblanos, cilantro and more!  Don't use the canned stuff.  It is easy to do and your taste buds will thank you!

Salsa Verde
2 poblano peppers
4 tomatillos, quartered
2 avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1 T white vinegar
Pinch of salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Put poblano peppers under preheated broiler on a sheet pan.  Cook for 8 minutes, turning every 2 minutes until skin is charred.  Remove from broiler and allow to cool for 10 minutes until skin separates from the flesh.  Core, seed and peel the charred skin from the peppers.  Place in food processor.

 Add tomatillos, avocados, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, vinegar and seasonings to the peppers.  Pulse until salsa is smooth.
Salsa Verde

Pineapple Guacamole Tostada with Fruit Salad and Black Beans

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Super Appetizer, Sans Bowl

Need a Super appetizer for that football-centric party a few Americans might be planning for Sunday?  Want something beyond the ordinary dips and chips served in a Bowl?  How about these sensational Chicken Jalapeno Poppers for a taste that will feed those with Giant appetites and people who declare themselves Patriots?  Serve these and your guests will cheer, declaring YOU the victor in the kitchen!

Chicken Tenders, Pepper Jack, Jalapenos and Bacon

Chicken Jalapeno Popper Recipe

1 package of Chicken Tenders
1 package thick-cut bacon
6 oz. package slice Pepper Jack cheese
40-50 pickled jalapeno slices
20-30 wooden toothpicks

Line a jelly roll pan with foil and place a baking rack on top, allowing bacon fat to drip off poppers.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   Place chicken tenders in a ziplock bag.  Pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizing mallet until tenders are slightly flattened.  Cut each tender in half.

Cut the package of bacon in half horizontally.

Prepare Pepper Jack cheese by stacking two slices together, and cutting into 1" x  2" pieces (each stacked slice should yield 6 parts).

Place one piece of bacon on work surface. 

Top with a piece of chicken.

Stack with Pepper Jack and 2 jalapenos.

Wrap in bacon and secure with toothpick.  Place in oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bacon browns and crisps.  Turn poppers over and bake 5-7 minutes more until bottom side browns.  Serve warm.

Kitchen Victory!  YAY, you!  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Peas Please for New Year's Ease

Texas Caviar

I've never been a superstitious person.  I love black cats and I'm not afraid to walk under ladders.  The only reason I don't open umbrellas indoors is because, seriously, if I need an umbrella indoors I obviously already have bad luck!  In the South, most people eat black eyed peas to bring good luck in the new year.  If one waits until after Christmas to purchase a couple of cans, she may find the grocery shelves empty.  I'll proffer that for me, eating black eyed peas is a tradition, rather than a way to stave off difficulties in the new year.   But how could I not feel fortunate?  I'm from Texas and have a New Year's ritual of consuming a spicy relish featuring the legume that brings good luck!

Peas, Pimientos, Jalapeno, Green Onions, Dressing
Texas Caviar Recipe

2- 15 oz can black eyed peas
4 ribs celery, diced
1 bunch green onies, diced
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced*
1 small jar pimientos
1 small bottle Italian dressing

Drain and rinse peas in water.  Place in bowl and add the diced celery, green onion and jalapenos.  (Be sure to wear protective gear for hands and eyes when seeding jalapenos; the seeds will burn your skin!)  Add the pimientos to the peas.  Pour just enough dressing over the peas to coat relish; toss all ingredients.  (To reduce the fat content and calorie count without affecting taste, pour oil off the top of the Italian dressing.)  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  If you don't live in Texas, where fresh jalapeno is available year-round, use fresh green bell pepper and add 1/2 t of cayenne pepper.

If you're still not convinced, I'll put it plain talk for those of you not blessed to hail from Texas:  Pardner, we don't need none of them fancy fish eggs around these parts.   Just give us some peas, green onions and celery with fresh jalapeno for kick!  Now that's what Texans call good eatin', good luck caviar!

Good Luck for the New Year and Delicious, to Boot!

Serve with Tortilla Chips Texas Style!