Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flavor of the Month - Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cupcakes

Bake at 350

This month’s Flavor of the Month theme was a real brain stumper. Bridget from Bake at 350 chose John Hughes' movies as the theme. You know, the guy who wrote/directed and/or produced movies like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, National Lampoon’s Vacation, the Home Alone movies, and many more. He died this past August and this was a way Bridget thought we could reminisce over those movies that so many of us watched as we entered our young adulthood.

So. What to make? I poured over recipes, looked up movie quotes and trivia and asked friends for ideas. “Bueller?….Bueller?….”

But I think I finally came up with something good: Sweet Sixteen Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cupcakes with Billowy White Peppermint Frosting. Mmm…pepperminty. Perfect to represent either 16 Candles or Pretty in Pink.  (I just realized these could also go with the John Hughes' movie, Uncle Buck, because John Candy was in that one.  Get it?  Peppermint Candy?   Hee hee.)
And with Christmas (ha!  Christmas Vacation..I just got 'em coming left and right) coming right around the corner, it would be a delicious dessert as cupcakes or you could double the scratch recipe and divide the batter between 2 9-in. cake pans and make a cake. I know some of you shy away from making a cake from scratch, so if you'd prefer to use a boxed mix, just make it according the instructions on the box, adding the peppermint extract with the liquid ingredients.  

And don't forget to hop over to Bridget's Flavor of the Month Post and check out the other John Hughes inspired recipes.  She has some adorable (as usual!) cookies up.  And some way-too-cute Pretty in Pink Krispies. 

Sweet Sixteen Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cupcakes

1 ¼ cups sifted cake flour         
½ teaspoon baking soda           
¼ teaspoon salt                               
1 stick unsalted butter, softened to  
      the consistency of mayonnaise
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ tablespoon peppermint extract
2 extra-large eggs, warmed in their shells
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
¾ cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Continue beating while sprinkling in both sugars, a tablespoon at a time. Add the peppermint extract and beat until very light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each, then beat until very light and creamy. Blend in the chocolate.

Blend in the flour in 3 parts, sprinkling it over the bowl, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 parts. Beat on the lowest speed and just until each addition disappears.

Fill the muffin cups to half way. Bake for 15 minutes, (35 min. for 2 cake layers) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool. Makes about 20 cupcakes.

Billowy White Peppermint Frosting

¼ cup sugar
¼ cup white corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
2 extra large egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
12 oz. pink or red peppermint candy, crushed, to sprinkle on top

In a 2-qt. top of a double boiler (or set a medium size bowl over a small saucepan), use a hand mixer on low speed to blend the sugar, corn syrup, water, egg whites, cream of tarter, and salt. Set over (not in) a little bit of simmering water on medium heat.

Beat at high speed just until the frosting holds a peak when you lift the beaters, 4 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

Remove from the heat, add the peppermint extract, and beat at high speed until the frosting is cool and divinely billowy, another minute or two or three. Use at once. Sprinkle with peppermint candy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Armour of God - Helmet of Salvation

Armour of God Series - Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 2c, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

“And take the helmet of salvation..” (Ephesians 6:17a)

An actual helmet would protect our heads, but a spiritual helmet protects our minds and its thoughts.

Much of the spiritual battle takes place in our minds. It is there that we can choose to give place to temptation and to the lies of the enemy, which will, if we let them, take us down into sin. And it is also the place where we can choose to take those thoughts to Christ in prayer and receive the strength to be obedient to Him.

“For though walking about in flesh, we do not war according to flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, pulling down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ; and having readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

When you are attacked with thoughts of temptation to sin, or to believe a lie, or simply to give up the fight, what will you do? Will you allow those thoughts to penetrate your mind as you did before you were saved, and determine the course of your life, or will you live and believe according to the salvation that you’ve been granted?

“For you ought to put off the old man (according to your way of living before) who is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And you should put on the new man, who according to God was created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-32)

Remember who you are now in Christ. You are saved through Him and are now a new creation with a new life. When ungodly thoughts try to enter your mind, remember your helmet of salvation, and go to your Savior. He alone has the strength and power to fight against the enemy’s ways.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ooo, a poll.

Hello bloggies.  I have a dilemma I'd like you to help me solve.  When I write out the Monday devotional posts, I wonder if they're too long and that they could scare some people away.  So I've created a poll over to the side where you can vote (yes, completely anonymously) on your choice - shorter, a little longer like they have been, or either way, it doesn't matter to you.  This blog is for you and I really do want to make it a place where you feel comfortable sitting down and being encouraged in your walk with the Lord.  But it's hard to know the audience when I'm stuck behind this big, rectangular piece of electronics.  So if you would take a second and vote for your choice I'd be ever so grateful.  I've left the poll open for one week. 

Thank you. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

So Long Self!

Time to lighten it up around here, peeps.  So grab a Pepsi and a bowl of popcorn and crank 'er up!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday Thanks - My Brothers and Sisters Who Have Gone Before Me

This week has been very difficult.  Right now, I'm awake in the still-dark, wee hours of the morning because my back hurts and I just can't lay down anymore.  I am facing a 2-hour MRI next Wednesday which rests on my mind like an anvil.  My physical weaknesses have made me feel all but useless.  And the enemy is messing with my family.  I must admit I'm very hard-pressed to find anything that I'm thankful for right now.  But I'm determined to find something anyway. 

There's been a long pause since the end of the last paragraph and the start of this one.  But I've finally thought of something I'm thankful for: other people who have lived difficult lives and allowed God to use their circumstances to speak to their hearts and have chronicled their wisdom for the rest of us to glean from.  Aside from God and His Word, that's where I get inspiration to continue on when things get tough like this.

One of my very favorite devotions is Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charles Cowman.  Her understanding of life's sorrows and the good that the Lord does in our hearts and lives through them never fail to speak to my heart.

I also love the gut-level truth and honesty about the things of God in My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.  I find my head nodding at his observations and he confirms to me things that I have almost grasped, but his wisdom is able to put those thoughts to words very succinctly.

I'm thankful that these men and women of the faith, who have courageously lived their lives, one day at a time, learning who their God is and then being willing to share with me what they know so that I can try to get through mine. 

No matter how hard today is, or this week, or this year, find something that you're thankful for today, and every day.  And then give God an offering of thanks. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Prayer Requests

Hello, dear readers. I'll be praying for you today. I'd love to lift up any specific prayer requests if you have them. Have a wonderful day.

God bless,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Armour of God - Shield of Faith

Armour of God Series - Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 2c, Part 3, Part 4

We’re halfway through the list of spiritual armour, so let’s quickly recap to make sure that armour is still fully in place, and not laying in heap in a corner of a room somewhere.

1. Loins girded with the Truth

Be prepared and alert for enemy attacks by knowing the truth through believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord; by knowing the truth set forth in God’s Word; by being a doer of that truth and living a life free of hypocrisy.

2. Breastplate of Righteousness

If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, know that you are clothed in His righteousness, and don’t allow the enemy to condemn you for sin that Christ has already paid for. Conviction, however, is from the Lord, and is a tap on the shoulder to maintain that right place with God by humbly acknowledging our sin and asking forgiveness for them.

3. Having your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace

Be prepared by starting each day on the sure foundation of Christ by bringing everything to God in prayer and by reading His Word; then take the Good News of Christ to the world.

The next piece of armour is the Shield of Faith.

“Above all, take the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16)

This type of shield is a large, rectangular-shaped shield which measured approximately 2 feet wide and 4 feet tall. It was curved to fit around the body of the soldier to offer the most protection.

Interestingly, this verse specifically says that the enemy will throw at us, not just arrows, but fiery arrows. The word fiery here means to kindle, to be ignited, to be inflamed with anger, grief, lust.

We all know what that’s like - to be so inflamed with an emotion that, if we’re not careful, we can allow it to bring us to the point of sinning.

So what is your protection from giving in to that sin? Your own strength? God says that’s not enough. We need to take cover within our faith in the Lord.

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:16)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually see temptation coming. I’m usually minding my own business and suddenly, it’s there. Remember, it’s not a sin to be tempted, but rather the sin comes after we have given place to the temptation in our minds and hearts and then we act upon them.

But if we are living in a state of continually walking with the Lord, abiding in Him, seeking Him and putting our trust and faith in Him, then when temptation stares us in the face, we’ll be filled with the power and strength of the Holy Spirit and our desires will be to do God’s will rather than the will of our flesh.

It’s interesting that these shields were so large that they afforded a soldier the most protection as they knelt. The shields were even more effective in giving protection to an entire legion of soldiers when they stood side by side overlapping their shields.

We are also most protected as we allow our faith in the Lord to drive us to humbly seek God in prayer when we’re tempted, asking Him to give us His strength to not give in to the temptation and to remove it. And, as the body of Christ, we are strongest as we stand together in prayer with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16a)

Is your faith in Jesus Christ alone today? 

"But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield."  (Psalm 5:11-12)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Foodie - Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This is a bowl full of creamy, awesome, garlicky goodness right here. The ultimate non-chocolate comfort food: Garlic Mashed Potatoes. They should call it Mmmm, because when you take a bite you can’t help but make that sound.



Garlic Mashed Potatoes

1 whole garlic bulb
Olive oil
1 lb. new potatoes, unpeeled
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

To roast garlic: cut off the top of garlic bulb, sprinkle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove 6 cloves and chop. (Actually, at this point they're so soft I just squeeze the garlic out of the outer layer right into the bowl.)

Cut new potatoes into quarters. In a large pot, bring potatoes to boil over medium-high heat. Boil until soft, about 12-15 minutes. Mash, then add whipping cream and the garlic. Add butter, then salt and pepper to taste. Top with a dash of chopped parsley.

I usually fudge a little on the recipe to save some calories, but if you’re wanting/needing the full-comfort version, this is it.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday Thanks - Music

There is nothing like a familiar melody to give comfort to the deepest parts of our souls when we're hurting. There are times when really, nothing else will do.

I have a few songs that I will go to when I need to be uplifted and reminded that this world is not all there is. That there is a precious and caring God Who loves me and knows all of my wounds, both old and new, that have scratched across the surface of my heart. Some of them are very temporary and superficial; others will likely last a lifetime and burrow deep into the core of my being where only God can reach.

And sometimes He reaches those lonely places with a song. And so today, I am thankful that our God created the ability to worship Him through music and that He gave some the marvelous gift to link together rhythm and rhyme and gave all of us the ability to give voice to the tune, even if only in our hearts.

One song that never fails to elicit a delighted smile within my heart, if not on my face, even as the first few notes hover in the air is King of Glory by Third Day. The words focus my mind and heart back onto worshipping my Savior as they remind me that He is not only the King of the world, but of my heart, and my soul is filled with a renewed wonder at His majesty. And as the song nears its crescendo, I am awash with awe once again that at this time in all of history, I am supremely blessed to have been called by name into His royal kingdom to serve the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

For what song are you thankful?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prayer Requests

I'll be praying for you today. If you have anything specific, please leave your prayer request in a comment or email me by clicking on the postcard.

God bless,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmm...

When God said, "Let there be light," (Genesis 1:3) in what language did He say it?

An image of the Sombrero Galaxy, located 28 million light-years from earth.

Why did He create light? He is all the light the world would ever need.

"And this is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." 1 John 1:5

"And the city (the New Jerusalem) had no need of the sun, nor of the moon, that they might shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations of those who are saved will walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it." (Revelation 21:23-24)

"And there will be no night there. And they need no lamp, or light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light. And they will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 22:5)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Proof That God's Grace is Alive and Well

Heyyyy! I'm so excited and blessed to have been asked by my friends, Tim and Cindy Mrva, to be one of the devotional contributers for the monthly newsletter for their online Christian store, Halas & Phos, Salt & Light.

Please check out their virtual store, which has scads (scads is still a word, right?) of Christian merchandise, complete with cool t-shirts, homeschool curriculum, jewelry, Christian skateboards and even sunglasses with doves on the side and verses printed on the inside of the arm. Yep, gonna have to pick me up a pair of those. There's so much more I couldn't even list it all here.

They also have a ministry page with links to devotions, blogs, websites and stories that will surely bless you. And you can also sign up to receive their monthly newsletters by email, which will introduce you to new merchandise, let you know about sales that they're having and will also include a link to the monthly devotion.

Here's a little intro to the first devotion, hot off the press:

In the Driver's Seat? Scoot Over!

A while back I was driving with my 17-year-old son in the front passenger seat of the car when we came to an intersection. My goal was to turn right after a car or two had passed. Apparently, I was taking entirely too much time for my son’s taste as he thought it was safe to move into traffic, and he, in no uncertain terms, let me know of his wisdom on this subject. (Read the rest here.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday Thanks - A Brand New Day

Today I'm thankful for new beginnings. No matter what the circumstances were yesterday, no matter what my attitude was, I don't have to stay there. I can start over today. God's mercies allow me to go to Him, ask for forgiveness, know that He hears me the instant my prayer is uttered, set my heart and mind on Him again, and start afresh. What a loving and gracious God we serve.

What are you thankful for today?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Prayer Requests

Today is the day I get to pray for your needs. Just leave a comment with your prayer request or email it to me by clicking on the postcard to the right.

God bless,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Funnies - Your Turn

Nothing funny today, but I'll tell you what, since we're having a long, holiday weekend (at least here in the States, we are) hopefully doing something fun with our families, how about you come back here sometime over the 3-day weekend and leave a comment telling me something funny that happened to you...or something funny someone said..or something. Okay, one funny picture to get you started...

(caption idea?)

Have a safe and happy weekend.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thursday Thanks - You!

This week, what I'm thankful for is not, in fact, a what, but a who, and that who is you. Yep, you..sitting right there..I'm talking to you. There would be no reason for me to do this if you didn't log in and click your way over here. It blesses my socks off that anyone would ever stop by. And when you leave comments, well, that's just like the the icing on the cake, sweet and the more the better. You know, like that coveted corner of the cake that has all the icing roses on it? Yeah, like that.

So to all of you who take time out of your busy day to stop by every now and then, thank you. I hope you feel loved.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Persecuted Church in Vietnam

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means taking a look into one of the countries that is now listed among the restricted nations of the world, where professing Christ can mean torture, imprisonment or death.

This month we’ll take a glimpse into the communist country of Vietnam.

Currently, Vietnam is approximately 54% Buddhist, 22% non-religious, and 8% Christian. The government officially recognizes one Buddhist organization, the South Evangelical Church of Vietnam, the Roman Catholic Church and two Protestant organizations, which are The Christian Missionary Alliance and the Evangelical Church of Vietnam.

The government bans all unregistered groups, and it doesn’t allow anyone who belongs to an unauthorized religious group to speak publicly about their faith; likewise, foreign missionaries are prohibited from sharing their faith.

The churches that remain unregistered do so because of the extreme restrictions that are put on those that are registered. Known Christians are routinely harassed, arrested, imprisoned and tortured.

Underground Christians have to baptize at night in streams and will walk for days to acquire a bible or to hand them out. Despite the persecution, many are following Christ and there is a need for trained teachers and leaders.

The following is but one of the prisoner profiles listed on the website The Voice of the Martyrs. It is a story of Le Thi Cong Nhan, a Christian woman who is currently imprisoned for her Christian faith, and has been for the past two and a half years. It reads as follows:

“In May 2007, Le Thi Cong Nhan, a Vietnamese Christian and lawyer, was sentenced to four years in prison followed by three years of house arrest. Nhan was arrested and sentenced alongside Nguyen Van Dai, a Protestant church leader and lawyer. They are accused of a wide range of crimes; such as “conspiring with terrorists, in their efforts to promote human rights efforts, including religious rights and democracy.” They are also accused of compiling “evidence of Vietnam’s suppression of the Protestant religion and providing it to the U.S.-based Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam and the U.S. embassy.” Following Nhan and Dai’s sentencing, the Vietnamese state news agency accused the lawyers of “posting information on the internet … [and] painting biased and distorted pictures of the country and its internal affairs.”

To me, this speaks loud and clear about the fear that the government has about being revealed as a corrupt government who then turns that fear on its citizens by treating them in an absolutely malicious manner. Shoot, why would anyone want to promote human rights, for Pete’s sake, especially when they are religious rights and, heaven forbid, democracy? There is, to be sure, an evil force behind the persecution these brothers and sisters are facing.

You can find information on Prisoner Alert about others who are currently imprisoned in Vietnam for their faith, and there are addresses where you can write to each one.

Please keep this woman and the others in your prayers, that God will give them the strength to endure and to hold onto their faith no matter what.

"Remember the prisoners as if chained with them-those who are mistreated-since you yourselves are in the body also." Hebrews 13:3