Friday 31 December 2010

One year ends and a new year begins . . .

A new moon rose over the tips of the trees and Snuffkin stood admiring it. He was completely transfixed.

"I ought to make a wish," he thought. "In honour of the new moon."
~Snufkin's book of thoughts

Today I will dig out all my new calendars for 2011 and unwrap them, in readiness for putting them up on the morrow . . . their pages all white, pristine . . . waiting for me to write upon. As I put away the old calendars . . . I'll note that they are looking a bit rag tag . . . kind of like the year . . . pages ruffled, and splotched . . . notes scribbled here and there in the margins and squares marking out each day of my life from this past year . . . days that are gone and will never come again.

Like Snufkin admiring the rising new moon . . . I stand here at the cusp of a new year and admire what is to come. Like anyone, I have my hopes and dreams . . . and wishes for the year to come.

It's kind of frightening in one way, and very exciting in another. All these fresh calendar pages just waiting for me to write upon them. I wonder what the story will be? Will the little squares be filled with good things? The humdrum and the inane? Exciting celebrations and happenings? Sad things, and things too horrible to contemplate? One never knows do they . . . what this new year will bring??? But we cannot stop it from happening . . . time as ever marches on and we must march on with it. We have faith and hope to help to carry us forward.

Here's a Happy New Year wish to you, each of my readers. None of us knows what the coming days will bring, but here's a wish for you . . . that amongst the inevitable stones of the coming year, we will each of us find a few flowers and much to be thankful for. May you be blessed in small and countless ways and find joy amidst any tears that may flow. May all your dreams come true.

Here's a delicious Chicken dish that will have them smacking their lips! It's relatively easy to execute and pays off big dividends in great flavour!

*Mushroom Chicken Scaloppine*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Quick and easy but delicious and special enough for a celebration dinner. Dried mushrooms, ground finely, make a deliciously flavourful coating on the chicken!

1/3 cup dried mushrooms
4 (6 ounce) chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 TBS olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (wild or otherwise)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 TBS sour cream
1 TBS minced fresh flat leaf parsley

Place the dried mushrooms in a spice grinder or small food processor. Process until finely ground. Cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally through the middle. Season with half of the salt and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of each piece with some of the mushroom powder.

Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a large nonstick pan, over medium high heat. Add the chicken, 4 pieces at a time. Cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove and keep warm, and repeat with another tsp of the oil and the remaining chicken.

Heat another tsp of oil in the pan ove rmedium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Cook one minutes, stirring constantly. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until the liquid evaporates. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Increase the heat under the pan and cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated. Add the broth to the pan and reduce to 1/4 cup. Stir in the sour cream and heat through without boiling. Season to taste with some salt and pepper and the parsley. Serve the chicken warm, with the sauce spooned over top.

Over in The English Kitchen today, a year end review of some of my favourite recipes for 2010, like this Sticky Toffee Cake!

Thursday 30 December 2010

Thursday thoughts . . .

If we knew . . . just how much time was left for us . . . how many years or months . . . or weeks . . . we'd cease to fret and fuss about the unimportant things that fill our lives today, making every hour we spend precious before they slipped away forever.

If we knew . . . exactly what the span would be . . . how much more would we value our time and how much more would we live each minute gratefully . . . wasting none of it's treasure and sifting the false from the truth . . . making up for all the time we squandered.

Truth is, we all know our time here in this plane of existance is numbered . . .
and that the end will come for some of us sooner than later . . . but somehow I feel that whenever it comes, it will be too soon . . . unless I make each day count that much more.

Remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered . . .
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath."
~Psalm 39:4

Knowing exactly when our end will be shouldn't make each day more precious. We should learn to value and appreciate each day for what it is anyways . . . a gift from above . . . learn to savour each and every moment, living each day as if it were our last. Finding joy in every moment of the now and not worrying about a past which has already gone and cannot be changed . . . or a future which may never be.

Savour the now . . . to draw ever closer to the Saviour. Live for each moment, and make every day count as if it were my last, get healthier. Those are my goals for 2011. What are yours?

I put my brushes to paper again yesterday and did a Little Red Riding Hood. You can see her in full here at The Artful Heart. I rather like how she turned out actually!

My throat is sore this morning. I hope that I am not getting another cold . . . but it will be what it will be. We went in to town yesterday morning and I hobbled around picking up a few things for the new baby that is coming in the new year. Last night I dreamt it was going to be a girl. I've had that feeling all along, but again . . . it will be what it will be! Just so long as it's healthy. That's what counts. I am going to wrap them up and pop then into the post soon, along with the Peter Rabbit Jack in the Box that I bought several months ago. I hope that the expectant mother and father like what I am sending. I thought he was rather cute and quite different.

I must be off now to begin my day but I'd like to leave you with a happy thought . . .

May each little moment of each happy hour,
Add colour to brighten your day,
like the fragrance surrounding each
favourite flower,
That's frequently drifting your way;
May each little kindness, from those who are caring,
Be with you wherever you go,
While the joys of new friendships, and
happiness sharing
Help true understanding to grow.
~Elizabeth Gozney

And something else to make you smile . . . they sure made Todd smile at any rate!

*Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls*
Makes 16 servings
Printable Recipe

Our favourite cinnamon rolls, made a bit healthier with the addition of whole wheat flour! Delicious!

3 1/4 tsp dry yeast
3/4 cup warm skim milk
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup of butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups white bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour

1/4 cup packed soft light brown sugar
1 1/2 TBS ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup raisins

To Glaze:
3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 tsp milk

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and water, in a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes to prove. Add the butter, honey, salt, lemon juice and eggs, stirring in well. Stir in 2 cups of the white bread flour and all of the whole wheat flour. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead in enough of the remaining flour to help prevent the dough from sticking to the hands. Place into a large lightly greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. PUnch dough down and roll out into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling. Spread over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Sprinkle with the raisins. Roll up tightly, starting with the long edge and pressing firmly to press out any air pockets. PInch seam to seal. Cut into 16 rolls with a sharp knife. Place, cut side down into a lightly buttered 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Whisk together the glaze ingredients, adding the milk a tsp at a time, to form a thick glaze. Drizzle evenly over top of the rolls. Serve and enjoy!

Something to warm you up today in The English Kitchen, Baked Potato and Leek Soup. Delicious!

Wednesday 29 December 2010

An exercise to end the year on . . .

“It’s a valuable exercise to close your eyes every once in a while and think, “What is the most wonderful moment I have lived through during the past year? It might be part of a grand event or a very simple moment, perhaps a brief interaction with another person. The grand or the simple, it doesn’t matter. Just remembering will lift your spirits, and warm feelings will fill your soul.”
~Marjorie Pay Hinckley

It is a simple thing to do, and there is no more fitting time to do it, than at the end of a year, with the promise of the new year to come sitting before us . . . . full of wonderful new experiences just waiting to be held.

I've had a lot of changes come my way over this past year. At this time in 2009, I was sitting in our little cottage down in Kent, never thinking for a moment that everything would change drastically in just a few short months. I had my job, which we thought was secure . . . a lovely home to live in . . . our sweet Jess to cuddle.

This year life taught me that nothing is forever, and that everything in your life can change in an instant. With one fell swoop, and through no fault of our own . . . my job was gone, and with it our home. Then, just a few days, later we lost our Jess. Devastated doesn't even begin to describe our feelings at the time . . . I felt as if you scratched me everything would just come oozing out. The day we lost the job and our home I felt so afraid, my head was spinning . . . and then came the most wonderful moment of my year . . .

I remember I was sitting in the chair, early in the morning . . . Todd was still asleep, and I was praying . . . and it came. Peace . . . the most beautiful sense of peace that I had ever felt. Somehow I knew that it would all be ok, that this was all a part of God's plan . . . that He had a plan for me and all I had to do was to stay faithful, and to be true to my covenants . . . to rest in Him, and to walk with my Saviour . . . all would be ok.

That didn't mean it wasn't still hard. That didn't mean that I sometimes didn't still feel afraid. That didn't mean that my head wasn't sometimes still spinning. But it did mean that I knew it was the right thing for us, at the right time. I knew that our decision to move back to Chester was the correct one, and that in time we would be ok, no matter how difficult things may have seemed at the time.

“But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Ne. 1:20).

In that simple, early morning time of reflection and prayer, I had come to know the tender mercies of the Lord personally . . . with a most timely and comforting awakening in my soul . . . a message of reassurance that could have only come from above.

That, my dear sweet friends . . . was my single most wonderful moment of the year . . .

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
~John 14:15-18

One thing this last year has afforded me, is more time to explore and hone my creative talents. Here's a glimpse of a little painting I did yesterday called "The Princess and the Pea." I had had her on the drawing board for over a year, and finally was able to bring her to life. You can catch her in all her fullness over HERE at the Artful Heart!

Here is proof positive that I can sometimes be a terrible wife, tee hee! Yes, I tortured Todd with pasta again. And then . . . to make matters worse . . . I baked brownies, chocolate brownies . . . I know . . . he hates them both. But then, I redeemed myself . . . and heated him up some leftover Christmas pudding. All was again right with the world.

*Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

Deliciously filling. This is real comfort food.

2 cups of marinara sauce, divided
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 (10 ounce) package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 large egg yolk
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and minced
24 cooked jumbo pasta shells
an additional 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Set aside.

Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper, spinach, egg yolk and garlic in a bowl. Mix well together.

Spoon 1/2 cup of the Marinara sauce into the baking dish, covering the bottom. Divide the filling amongst the pasta shells, filling each. Arrange the stuffed shells in the baking dish. Drizzle the remaining marinara sauce over top and sprinkle with the additional Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes longer. Serve hot with some garlic bread and a tasty salad on the side!

Baking over in The English Kitchen today, scrummily delicious Peppermint Brownies.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

The Simple Woman's Day book

FOR TODAY, December 28th, 2010...

Outside My Window...

The air has gotten a lot warmer. All the snow seems to be gone this morning and there is no frost. I wonder if it is like that all over the UK, or only up here in the North West?

I am thinking...
Here we are at the end of 2010. This is my last daybook entry for the year. What a difference a year makes. Last year this same time, I had no idea that I would be sitting back here in Blacon at the end of a year just filled with surprises!

I am thankful for...
God's Tender Mercies . . . the perfect way that He validates what I know and have always felt to be true . . . that He is there and that He cares for ME. It has ever been so, but it is only in my later life that I have come to recognize His presence daily.

From the kitchen...
You just wait . . . ahem . . . there's mighty tasty things a brewin!

I am wearing...
Pink nightie with pink pajama bottoms and my cream coloured robe, slippers. I love layering in the wintertime . . . it helps to keep me warmer!

I am creating...
I am making a very special doll. shh . . . don't tell anyone and I am working on some new designs.

I am going...
Not a lot planned for this week, but if my leg feels ok, I may try to go into town tomorrow morning. I already arranged a grocery delivery this week so that I don't have to mingle in the crowds in the shops these last few days before New Years. I think it was the smart thing to do.

I am reading...

Divine Signatures, the confirming hand of God by Gerald N Lund
I have never read a book by Gerald Lund that I have not loved. It is a book all about "God-incidences." I firmly believe that there is no such thing as co-incidence, only God-incidence. Mr Lund confirms this belief for me . . . there are no co-incidences, only sacred autographs.

"Sometimes, the Lord sends his blessings in such a highly unusual way, dramatic or precisely timed manner, that it might be likened to a 'divine signature," Lund writes. "It is as through the Lord 'signs' the blessing personally so that we will know with certainty that it comes from him. In doing so, God not only gives his blessing, but at the same he strengthens our faith and deepens our testimony of him."

Included in the book are several true accounts with inspirational messages. One of Lund's favorites is about a brand-new missionary nervously knocking his first door in Brazil. Who happens to open the door? The elder's long-lost older sister who had run away more than three years earlier. She later became his first convert baptism. For a new missionary to find his sister in a city of 14 million on his first night of tracting is no coincidence, Lund said.

I am thoroughly enjoying this book.

I am hoping...
That there won't be any drastic changes in my life in 2011, like there were in 2010. I am not sure I am up for a great deal of change, although . . . they do say that God never closes a door but what He opens a window!

I am hearing...
Early morning sounds . . . the house cracking and snapping as it comes alive. Clocks ticking. Walls creaking . . . the Westminster chimes from our newest clock, Mitzie snuffling here beside me. Joyful sounds. The house is waking up.

Around the house...
My ironing basket has a few things in it, but everything is relatively tidy. I like a tidy house. It was almost an impossibility when the children were growing up. It seemed as if I no sooner got things tidied when they were untidied. There are days I long for the untidiness of a growing family but, then again . . . there are days when I am blessedly happy that the house stays neat and tidy. I do confess I am a big culprit when it comes to making messes myself though . . . it does annoy Todd from time to time. Here's a thought! How come a pile of books is only clutter when it is my pile of books???

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
A little of this and a little of that . . . mostly puttering. I love weeks where I am free to putter . . .

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

The little tornado that has made such a wonderful difference in our lives. Last year this time I had no idea there would be a Mitzie in our very near future. Now I could not imagine a life without her in it.

And just as a closing thought for today . . .

At every moment of our life there will have been things that might have happened, but did not. There are magic moments that go unnoticed, and then, suddenly the hand of fate changes our universe.
~paulo coelho

A thought to inspire for today. We just never know from one day to the next what tomorrow will bring do we . . .

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!

Here's a delicious cake recipe I adapted from one of my old Taste Of Home magazines. The original one had a chocolate glaze, but I prefer to just dust it with icing sugar. A house just isn't a home, without a cake residing somewhere within it's walls!! And cakes containing chocolate of any sort are the most welcome visitors of all!!!

*Chocolate Chip Pound Cake*
Serves 16
Printable Recipe

A contest winner taken from Taste of Home. Delicious!

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sour cream
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Icing sugar to dust the finished cake with

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter and flour a 10 inch fluted bundt pan. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating in each well. Stir in the vanilla. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to the creamed mixture, alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon into the prepared pan.

Bake in the heated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before dumping out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Dust with icing sugar prior to serving. Cut into wedges to serve.

Baking in The English Kitchen today, a delicious Barbequed Turkey Pizza, another delicious way to use up some of that leftover turkey! With a tasty cranberry barbeque sauce it goes down as one of my more favourite adaptions!

Monday 27 December 2010

Marie's Merry Christmas Smilemakers

As I didn't post yesterday I thought it would be fun today to post some of the things that made me smile over these past few days! There was ever so much! We truly had a very blessed Christmas!

The thing I loved most about this Christmas was having my Todd and Mitzie to share it with. I am so blessed to have this special man in my life and for us to be able to share our love with each other and this lovely little pup of ours is just the icing on the cake! Christmas is about Family and Todd and Mitzie are my family. I am so blessed to be able to have so much love in my life.

Being able to share special meals with friends made me smile. I love to have company for dinner anyways, but being able to share our Christmas Dinner and our Boxing Day Dinner with friends made those meals all the more special! Having raised 5 children I am used to a house that is filled to overflowing at Christmas, so I always like to have a bunch over for dinner if I can! It just makes what is a truly special occasion a blessing to me!

Traditions, both old and new. I love all the tradition that surround this special holiday . . . from the mince pies on Christmas Eve, right on down to the pulling of the Christmas Crackers around the dinner table! I love sitting at the table with a silly hat on my head, sharing a corney joke with the rest of the diners . . . listening to the Queen's message late in the afternoon, cuddled on the couch with a full tummy and the smell of Christmas candles and dinner still in the air . . . forgaging in the fridge early in the evening, looking for something else to eat and the inevitable Christmas Eve Turkey Sandwich . . . the lights, the food, the music, the smiles, the Two Ronnies. It's all good!

This is my eldest son Anthony, along with his wife Anne and their two boys. This picture really makes me smile. I just love it. They are such a treasure to me. I love them so very much. My son might not always agree with my ways at times, but he loves me anyways, despite my failings. He understands the concept of unconditional love, and I am grateful for that. He and his lovely little family are a joy to me. That is as it should be.

The Songs of Praise, Boxing Day Big Christmas Sing! I just love Songs of Praise anyways, and we generally watch it every Sunday evening, but yesterday it was their special Boxing Day program and I really enjoyed it. Russell Watson, Haley Westenra, Aled Jones . . . special choirs and an huge audience just filled with people singing their Christmas Praises to the Lord. How special is that? It just can't get any better!

All of the special Church traditions that go along with Christmas . . . the Nativity Service, the Carol Service, the lessons, the cards . . . the special feeling of family that belonging to a Church Community gives. It is sacred to be able to get together with a whole room filled with like minded people and raise our voices together in unison in gratitude for this most precious gift from above, to celebrate the birth of the Saviour and His love. To me this is the very core of my Christmas Celebrations and the most beautiful part.

The food, the music, the cards . . . family, friends, special phone calls, breaking bread, sharing, giving, celebrating the single most precious gift of love ever given . . . it's all pretty special to me . . . I am so grateful for a heart that knows and seeks and recognizes just how meaningful and precious all these things are . . . all the trimmings and presents, candies and candles, turkey and mince pies, hugs and cards . . . these are only the icing on what is the truly precious and underlying single most wonderful Christmas Smile maker of all . . . Love.

Love for family. Love for friends. Love for the Saviour . . . and I had it in abundance . . . God Bless you every one!

Here's a very tasty way to use up some of that leftover turkey. Over here they like to make Turkey Curry after Christmas, but myself, I prefer a good chili or pot pie!

*White Turkey Chili*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

A mighty tasty way to get rid of some of that Christmas Bird!

2 tsp butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
2 tsp minced, seeded, jalapeno pepper
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1 (19 ounce) tin of cooked cannellini beans, drained
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 of a (4.5 ounce) tin of chopped green chilies, undrained
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, red pepper, jalapeno and garlic. Cook and stir until they begin to soften. Add 3/4 of the tin of beans (reserve 1/4 for later), the chicken stock, tinned green chilies, corn, cumin, chili powder salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the temperature and cover. Simmer together for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover and add the turkey and milk. Mash the remaining beans and stir in. Cook for another 20 miinutes uncovered. Stir in the coriander. Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Serve ladled into heated bowls, along with some crusty rolls.

Over in The English Kitchen today, some delicious Pina Colada Cupcakes!

Thursday 23 December 2010

Come to the stable . . .

They came that night to Bethlehem,
The simple and the wise,
The shepherds and the magi saw
The glory in the skies,
And sought the holy manger bed,
That place of mystery
Where God Himself had broken in upon humanity.
The greatest men who walk the earth
Can offer us todaay,
No diviner revelation,
This, then, is The Way.
Though to knowledge high and vast
The human mind may soar,
Every man must come at last
Unto the stable door . . .

The real message of Christmas is that we don't have to worry overly much about the mysteries of life and the eminence of the cosmos.

For all thinking men . . . life forms itself into one gigantic question mark. Philosphers, scholars, theologians, believers and non-believers alike . . . all try to puzzle out the perplexity of our existance . . . why are we here . . .

Truth is that great question has been answered for all time . . . and for all men . . . by a single event . . . a blessed event . . . in a humble stable two thousand odd years ago . . .

Here is something definite, something audible to cling to amidst the ever changing sands of contemplation and reflection . . . Here is something that is pinned down in history, something that never changes.

Everything else about life is charged with the significance of this one Holy happening, with the import of the incomparable fact of the birth of the Saviour . . . The whole truth about man and his relationship with God has been reduced to something simple and small enough to be put into a cattle trough.

God is. He lives. He loves us so much that He sent His only begotten son in the flesh, our Saviour . . . to dwell amongst us, to teach us, to die for us . . . all of this to show us the way back to our Heavenly home. Our Heavenly Father does not want to lose any of His children. He gathers us in as a mother hen gathers in her chicks. Won't you come to the Stable door and enter in? The Gospel is not complicated. It is not hard to understand. It is for all mankind. Jesus is the reason for the season . . .

Here's a delicious dip for you to enjoy with the family on Christmas Eve when you are watching all those Christmas films together! It's also great for when you have an open house over the Holidays! Quick and easy to make and oh-so-scrummy yummy!!

*Spinach and Artichoke Dip*
Makes 5 1/2 cups
Printable Recipe

This is the best Spinach dip ever! You can make it ultra low fat if you use all low fat ingredients

2 cups of shredded mozarella cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 (14 ounce) can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8 ounce) block of cream cheese, softened (half fat)
1 (8 ounce) block of no fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 (10 ounce) package of frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
Tortilla chips, crisps and crackers to serve

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 5.

Combine 1 1/2 cups of the mozarella cheese, the sour cream, 2 TBS of the Parmesan cheese, the pepper, garlic, artichoke hearts, cream cheeses, and spinach in a large bowl, blending well together. Scrape into an attractive baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining mozarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden. Serve warm with the chips etc. for dipping.

Over in The English Kitchen today, you'll find lots of recipes to complete your Christmas Feast!

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Keep Christmas in your heart . . .

"There is always something in life to be thankful for. I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year round. It transforms us. This is the season of Merry Christmases, friendships, cheerful recollections and affection. God bless every Christmas!"

~Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, the famous Victorian author and novelist, wanted people to celebrate Christmas all year round, not just in December. The heartwarming days on both sides of December 25th meant a great deal to the man who created Ebenezer Scrooge . . . that selfish, Christmas hating miserly old man!

In Great Britian during the Industrial revolution of the 1800's there were a great many people who were very wealthy and who lived in great luxury . . . and at the same time there were many more people who lived in abject poverty and despair. Dickens remained a passionate advocate of optimism in the face of despair.

That was a time of great growth in my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints here in the UK. Thousands of the poor were converted and made their way to America . . . to Zion. In 1863, Charles Dickens visited the ship Amazon, as it prepared for departure with a company of English and Welsh Mormon passengers. After observing the cheerfulness of the emidgrants as they bustled about in final preparations for the voyage, Dickens admitted he was surprised.

"I went on board their ship, to bear testimony against them if they deserved it, as I fully believed they would; to my great astonishment they did not deserve it.

Dickens did not believe their religion, but he was impressed with their sense of direction, their ability to organize, their attitude of hopefulness.

"In their degree, these people were the 'Pick and Flower of England.'"

Great words indeed coming from so great and wise a man, and such an advocate for the poor and downtrodden . . . from a man who would keep Christmas in his heart all year long!

I awoke to several inches of newly fallen snow this morning. I am not sure what it means as far as us travelling to Neston to have Mitzie groomed today, as we were supposed to do, but it sure is pretty to look at! I do believe we may have that White Christmas this year. I apologize to everyone in the UK as it is all my fault. I have been praying for a White Christmas since I arrived on these green and verdant shores and my prayers have finally been answered!

Apparently there was an earthquake just north of us in Cumbria last evening about 11 pm as well! I am not sure if anything was felt down our way or not . . . I was asleep . . . but it did register 3.5 on the Richter scale. Apparently we get an earthquake of this magnitude every 12 to 18 months in the UK. You learn something new every day!

Here's a banana bread recipe this morning that is a little bit different. It has a chocolate batter marbled amidst the regular batter. Pretty to look at, low in fat and quite, quite delicious!

*Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread*
Makes 1 (8 by 4 inch) loaf
Printable Recipe

Absolutely irresistable! A real crowd pleaser any time of year!

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup of butter, softened
3 ripe bananas mashed, about 1 1/2 cups
2 medium eggs, beaten
1/3 cup of plain yoghurt
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter an 8 by 4 inch loaf tin well and line with parchment paper. Butter the paper also. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, soda, and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

Beat the sugar and butter together until well blended. Add the bananas, eggs and yoghurt, again beating to blend together. Fold in the flour mixture.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in a medium sized bowl, on high for one minute. Stir until smooth and cool slightly. Add 1 cup of the batter to the melted chocolate, stirring until well combined.

Spoon the chocolate batter alternately with the plain batter into the prepared loaf tin. Swirl together with a round bladed knife. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, until well risen, nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

And in The English Kitchen today, a delicious Cheese Spread, filled with dried fruits and toasted nuts!