Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flavor of the Month - Chocolate Almond Biscotti with Nutella Glaze

Bake at 350

I'm so happy to be able to participate in Bake at 350’s Flavor of the Month for December. The theme for this month is one of my favorite food groups: cookies. I decided to make something that’s not too sweet, given that I’ve gorged myself on Christmas cookies for the last few weeks.

I just love a good biscotti, and these are delicious. Not too hard and crunchy like you’d get at the grocery store, but still a little chewy and moist. Be sure to stop over at Bake at 350 and check out Bridget’s recipe for delicious and beautiful gingerbread cookies and all the other blogs’ yummy cookie recipes.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti with Nutella Glaze

1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) margarine or butter, softened
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
all-purpose flour
Nutella Glaze

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put almonds on a cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Let cool.

2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, margarine, baking powder, almond and vanilla extracts, baking soda, salt, eggs and 1 cup of flour.

3. With a large wooden spoon, stir in almonds and ¼ cup flour.

4. Grease a cookie sheet. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface with floured hands, shape each half of dough into an 8 in. x 2 ½ in. loaf. Place both loaves, about 3 inches apart, on cookie sheet. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.

5. Remove cookie sheet from oven; allow loaves to cool 10 minutes for easier slicing. With serrated knife, cut loaves crosswise into ½-inch thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same cookie sheet, making sure they do not touch. Return to oven and bake cookies 5 minutes longer. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.

Now, you can leave the biscotti as it is, or add the Nutella Glaze. So much for less sugar.

Nutella Glaze

In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup Nutella, ¼ cup powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons boiling water until smooth. Lay biscotti on a parchment- or foil-lined cookie sheet and drizzle glaze over cookies with fork or dip 1 end of each cookie in glaze. Dry at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Yeah, right. They wouldn’t (and didn't!) last half that long in my house.  And if you really want the full Nutella-biscotti flavor sensation, open a jar of Nutella and full on dunk those biscotti.  Enjoy my friends.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

His Indelible Love

I walked into a room in our house where the t.v. had been left on and playing on that channel was one of those shows about tattoo artists and I got sucked into watching it pretty fast. Not my usual thing, but it was interesting.

A man came into the tattoo parlor with some pictures and a story behind the tattoo he wanted inked over his heart. It seems when he was very young, he and his dad were flying in a small plane and as a strong wind kicked up, the plane’s tail went up and the nose went down, threatening both of their lives.

His dad’s instinct was to save his son. He used his own body as a shield between the life of his child and the ground they screamed toward below. His dad made the ultimate sacrifice with his very life.

The man had brought in a newspaper clipping with a picture of the plane crash and a picture of his dad holding him when he was a baby. His request was to have a collage of sorts with the picture of the two of them and the date that his dad saved his life permanently memorialized over his heart as a reminder of his dad and the gift of life he had given to him that day.

More than once the man remarked that he was indeed special to have received that kind of gift. Only a precious few have faced death and have been loved enough by someone that they willingly gave their life for their loved one’s. The joy on his face at being loved that much by his father was palpable.

How could the analogy have been made any more plain?

Jesus Christ came to give His own life to act as a shield between our souls and hell. He placed Himself in harm’s way, giving His very life to pay for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to face punishment for them ourselves.

If we’ve put our faith in Jesus Christ, not only have we been given a second chance in this life, but we’ve been given the gift of eternal life.

How incredibly special is that?

Just think of the magnitude of God’s love for you - that He sent His only Son to die for you. And what’s more, God kept loving you until you were brought to the place of repentance and faith in Him and you became His child.

If we daily remember how privileged we are to be loved so much that Jesus Christ willingly gave His very life for us, then we, too, will beam with joy at the very precious gift we’ve been given.

Now I’m not saying we should have that sentiment indelibly inked onto our bodies, but we can have the joyful remembrance that His love will always be written on our hearts.

“No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Littlest King

In the near center of the Old Testament, highlighted for all to see, are prophetic words made plain regarding the coming Savior of the world. Some 740 years before His glory would illuminate a simple stable and the darkness that covered our lands, Isaiah’s words shined a light on the character of the One to come, the One given to save us from our sins.

Who is this Savior that was foretold centuries before His birth? Who is this babe, sent from heaven, Whom we celebrate on Christmas day? Was He only a harmless baby, perpetually remaining in our minds that iconic figure wrapped in swaddling clothes?

Or was He God’s own Son, given to us to walk where we walk, to live among us, to example to us true love and servitude to the Father? Was He the great I AM, come down from the Father to live, and then die for the remission of our sins? Was He the King of kings Whose reign on the supreme throne will never cease?

Will we only admire His likeness in nativity scenes during Christmastime, or will we worship Him as Lord, in spirit and in truth, all the days of our lives?

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
He would come to us not in the pretension of a king, but in the humble form of a babe;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.
All authority and power will be His. And indeed He purchased His kingdom by bearing upon his shoulders the instrument by which His life was given for ours;

And His name will be called Wonderful,
He is a miracle given for the redemption of all mankind;

Our all-knowing Advisor Who willingly gives wisdom to whomever asks it of Him;

Mighty God,
He is not only human, but He is God incarnate;

Everlasting Father,
He is our Abba-Daddy Who will forever keep us in His care;

Prince of Peace.
He is the Ruler of our souls, able to impart His peace no matter the circumstances that swirl around us;

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
His eternal kingdom, unlike any other, will protect its inhabitants that they may live in harmony forever;

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.
This Child Who would be born in the line of David will take His rightful place on the throne and will reign forever;

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Our God’s great passions for His people, for you and for me, will cause all things to come together to bring about His will, and nothing on earth or under the earth will thwart His perfect plan from coming to its ultimate and grand fruition.

(Isaiah 9:6-7) Italics mine.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Foodie - Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels

This recipe is one of my most favorite at Christmastime. I could eat my weight in them, and I almost have. They take just a bit of practice, but oh...they are so worth it.

Hoping you’re having a joyful Christmas holiday!

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels

1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup margarine or butter, softened
½ cup shortening
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
Chocolate Glaze
¼ cup crushed peppermint candy
(Seal the candy in a freezer bag and smash them with a rolling pin.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together powdered sugar, margarine or butter, shortening, egg and vanilla.

Stir in flour, cocoa and salt.

To make the cookie: take about a tablespoon of dough and knead it in your hands a couple of times to make it smooth. Roll the dough into 9-inch ropes on a very lightly floured board (like the back of a cutting board). Don’t let them get too thin or they can break when it’s time to dip them in the chocolate glaze.

Take each end and criss-cross them to the other side to form a pretzel-like shape.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet, about an inch apart, at 375 degrees for 9 minutes. Let cool, and make the Chocolate Glaze.

Jesus is watching over my cookies while Mary and Joseph watch over Him.

Chocolate Glaze

2 1-oz. squares of unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 cups powdered sugar

Heat unsweetened chocolate and margarine or butter over low heat or in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute increments at a time, just until melted. Remove from heat. Beat in the powdered sugar and 3 to 4 tablespoons water until smooth and of chocolate sauce-like consistently. I make mind a little on the thin side. It’s much easier to dip the cookies that way.

Dip the tops of the cookies in the glaze, a few at a time. Once you have a few cookies dipped, sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candy while the glaze is still wet so the candy will stick.

Let the glaze dry, if you can wait that long, and enjoy.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Are you finding that perfect gift?

We go to amazing lengths to find just the right gifts for our children, our spouses, our parents, and that friend who you really, really want to buy something for, but have no idea what, don’t we?

We scour the ads in the Sunday papers and compare prices. We hunt online, clickity-clicking away till our eyes are bloodshot. We spend hours shopping and braving the crowds and exhaustion, while living on nothing but chips and a 44 oz. thirstbuster on the go. If we remember we throw in a banana to keep our legs from seizing up on us.

And finally, maybe a couple of days before Christmas, we think we’ve found the perfect gifts. We carefully wrap them with the most appropriate paper for each recipient. We thoughtfully word a pretty Christmas card or label a tag and attach it. We put them under the tree or mail them (hopefully on time, and that may mean standing in a long line at the post office).

All that’s done, hopefully, with a heart of love. Sometimes out of obligation, but the amount of work is the same.

I wonder if we spend that much energy seeking the perfect gifts that come from our Heavenly Father?

James tells us in James 1:7 that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

The interesting thing I found is, the two words “gift” are two different Greek words.

“Good gift” is talking about the act of giving. God gives us what will benefit us, and never out of obligation.

“Perfect gift” is talking about a complete bestowment. God gives us gifts of completeness, in other words, spiritual growth that leads to maturity. Yes, that includes trials.

And God gives us gifts that allow us to be useful in the kingdom of God.

Do we seek after these gifts with as much fervor? Do we ask the Lord to give us power to use our gifts to bless others? I pray we do.

Our Father, our provider, loves us so much that He will give us everything we need for a good life so that we are able to grow up in Him, never lacking a thing. And He is not a fickle God. He never changes, but His goodness and light are as bright as always and ever shall be. We can have confidence in Him and in the gifts He has and will provide for us.

They will sometimes be wrapped in a pretty package that fills us with delight and smiles. And sometimes they’ll be wrapped in pain or sorrow instead of a happy bow, but they are always wrapped in His goodness and faithfulness and love. And they will always fill us with joy if we seek to know the perfect gift within.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Foodie - Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

So many Christmas cookies, so little time. Today's cookie is a really easy and delicious recipe. It calls for mint-flavored chocolate chips. I couldn't find those exactly, but I did find a bag of Nestle mixed mint chips and dark chocolate chips in the Christmas baking section of the grocery store. You could just use regular semi-sweet chocolate chips, though, if you can’t find the mint.

Next week: get ready to roll!

I hope you’re enjoying your holidays and remembering what’s most important: sweets.

Ha! Just kidding, of course.  It's the celebration of the birth of our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ t baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 10-oz package mint flavored semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
confectioner’s sugar

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add melted chocolate chips and vanilla, beat in eggs.

2. Add flour mixture and remaining ½ cup chips. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; coat with confectioner’s sugar. (You might want to make a batch of the cookie balls, then roll them all in the confectioner’s sugar all at once to keep from getting a lot of the sugar in the cookie dough.)

4. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 36 cookies.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Love Came Down At Christmas

Hi friends,
Still looking for some Christmas gifts?  Well, look no more!  Halas & Phos online Christian store has lots of great Christian apparel and gifts and you don't even have to trudge through the crowds or the snow!

They've also just put out their December newsletter which has wonderful words of hope for all of us during the Christmas season, and all year long.   You can read their archived newsletters here, and sign up to receive them by email here.  Included is always a devotion, and the great sales that are available and any product news. 
Also, check out their December press release, Don't just wear your Christian Apparel - LIVE IT!

“Love came down at Christmas.”

These words have made their way to the forefront of my mind more than a few times in the last couple of weeks

The eternal God, the great I Am, Who had no beginning and has no end, Who is all-sufficient unto Himself, Who created all things great and small, sent to us His only Son, Whom He loves with an inconceivable love, in the form of a tiny, soft, cuddly baby boy.

Love was encased in a manger that morning.

As his mother and step-father stared breathlessly into the face of their brand new, precious little gift as all parents do, they were privileged to look into eyes swimming with love. They held love, wrapped in a blanket, and waited for him to demonstrate to them, and to all of us, the true meaning of love.

(Read the rest on the Halas and Phos devotional page here.)

Blessings to you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

In What Is Your Hope?

As much as the holidays are meant to be a time of rejoicing, there are many who find themselves feeling hopeless at this time of year. When we think of Christmas, we think of getting together with family and buying lots of presents. But many are instead grieving the loss of a family member, or maybe there’s no family at all with which to celebrate. Many are struggling to find a job again and don’t know where they’re going to find the money to buy gifts.

Instead of being a time of rejoicing, Christmastime can actually magnify those problems. It can be easy to focus on what we don’t have and let ourselves feel empty. But if you have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are not empty.

Your portion is the Lord.

“‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, therefore I hope in Him!” (Lam 3:24)

From all the things you could have in the world, you have the choicest allotment. Your portion is not paltry, it is not less than, it is not weak.

When our portion is the Lord, and when we delight in our portion, we are most blessed.

He is a perfect Father and a loving friend Who never leaves us.  He has removed our transgressions and has prepared a home for us with Him.  He has indwelt us with His Holy Spirit to lead us, to minister to us, to counsel us and to mature us in Him.  He is a God Who cares about every detail of our lives and hears us when we pray.  So pray boldly!

And the hope that we have in Him is not an empty hope, it is an expectant and patient waiting, knowing that our Lord has the power to do as He wills in our lives and knowing that He loves us with an everlasting love.

No matter what’s going on today, put your hope in God. Not in that next interview, not in that next paycheck, not in your family or friends. Those things can disappoint us.

But set your eyes on your portion – Jesus Christ. His power and His love are limitless and in Him, so is our hope. Bring all your worries and cares and concerns to Him and wait, with hope, in His sovereign will.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

We Are His Artistry

Would a painter apply color without a vision?

Would a composer group notes without clairaudience?

Would a culinarian bake without a measured purpose?

Would an architect erect a structure without a blueprint?

Would a gardener plant a garden without first designing its purpose?

How much more would the Creator of all things give you life with a divine dream, breath with a purposeful plan, soul and spirit with an amazing ambition?

Only He holds the key, only He has seen the vision and only He has the power to accomplish what He has purposed...if we will only put our faith in Him.

His vision?

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers.

But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, those He also justified. And whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:28-31)