Monday, December 29, 2008

Apricot-glazed pork tenderloin

There is such pleasure in bringing a delicious home-cooked meal to the table, and the enjoyment belongs both to the one who prepared it and to those who'll enjoy it. As wives and moms, nurturing is part of the role God gave us, and in an important way, that means feeding the hungry bellies of our family with our love-filled cooking. There's nothing better!

One of the dishes that gets most requested at my house is this one:

I clipped it out of Southern Living Magazine a few years ago, and that's where the above picture is from. They're showing it served over rice, but I always serve it with mashed potatoes and either baby carrots (drizzled with a honey/butter sauce), steamed green beans or sauteed mushrooms. Any veggie will do of course.

It's a beautiful dish to serve but yet it's very simple to make. My favorite kind! :)

The glaze needs just a few ingredients:

There are only 3 of us in our family so if you'd like to make it, simply adapt the recipe according to your needs. I buy a pork tenderloin of a little over a pound, so 2 lbs worth should be good for 5-6 people.

Place the pork tenderloin on a lightly greased rack in a foil-lined pan and sprinkle it evenly with salt. Mix the following ingredients in a bowl:

1/3 cup apricot preserves
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger (I use the puree you see above)
1 tablespoon water

Spread the mixture evenly over the pork.

Bake at 435 for 25-30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 155 F. Remove the pork from the oven and cover with foil. Let stand 5-10 minutes, until the thermometer registers 160 F.

(Every oven varies so start checking for temperature after 25 minutes. If your tenderloin is on the larger side, it may take closer to 35 minutes to be ready.)

Then slice and serve with your favorite veggies or other side dishes. There you have it, dinner that's good enough for a special occasion and one that needed no fuss at all. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thank you!

A week or two ago, I received this beautiful award from Susan at A Life of Grace.

Susan, thank you for thinking of me and giving me this sweet award. I appreciate it!

I had to list 5 things I'm "addicted" to. I'd say some of the things I most enjoy are part of the following: chatting with a girlfriend over a cup of tea or coffee, reading cookbooks and collecting recipes, cleanliness, watching my little boy play Little League sports (and hubby coaching), and of course loving God and my family.

The rules are that I must give this award to 5 other bloggers, but I really have difficulty in picking and choosing because that means leaving many people out. The fact is, there are so many of you who have such beautiful blogs where the conversation is friendly, inspiring, and brings glory to Christ.

I'd like to spread the joy attached in receiving this award by doing things a little differently. If I'm a regular visitor to your blog, then it's because I think you and your blog are fabulous! So, if you'd like to, please pick up this award and make it yours, especially if you've never received this one before. Please pass it on to 5 other bloggers or as many as you wish.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

May we all be forever thankful that God sent us His one and only Son, the most generous and loving gift anyone could ever receive. In Him alone is the promise of eternal life. In Him alone is everything we children of God could ever need. What an amazing reason to celebrate!

Wishing all of you a Christmas filled with joy, love, peace, and wonderful memories to be cherished for years to come.

Many sweet blessings to you and yours!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's all in the bag

Here's a time-saving cooking tip I thought I'd share with you today. We all know how convenient it is to use a slow cooker, right? Just put your food in it in the morning, turn it on low and at dinner time, you've got your meal ready. What could be easier?

Evidently, someone thought that clean-up could be easier and I'm thrilled with their invention.

Several months ago, I started using these slow cooker bags and found them to be the next best thing since sliced bread. Have you seen them at the store? They look like this:

You place the bag inside the slow cooker, put you food in it and cook it as usual, and the best part comes after the meal. When it's time for clean-up, you just throw away the bag! The inside of the cooker stays clean so no more soaking and scrubbing. Pretty smart invention if you ask me.

Now, why can't I think of things like that?!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It takes a (Christmas) village

Each December, some of my favorite decorations to put up are my Christmas villages. This year, I did two. Would you like to see them?

Oh good, because it just so happens that I'm joining Boomama's Christmas tour of homes by taking you today on a tour of my Christmas villages. Let's get started!

Sunday morning and Pastor Bob stands outside the church to greet everyone.

Since he likes to buy candy and flowers for his wife, I've conveniently placed Chelsea's right next to the church.

A few shops, with the pharmacy in the back.

I hear this Bed and Breakfast is fully booked a year in advance.

Here's some last-minute shopping made easy.

Please pretend along with me that the little old lady could actually fit through the door of the grocery store. Without going in sideways and in a horizontal position, that is. :)

Ice skating at the tree lot today sounds like a lot of fun. And look, it's not too crowded!

If you're not the outdoors type, how about going for a visit to the museum?

I do believe this is how Toys'R'Us got started. Ah, the nostalgia!

I've always wanted to try my hand at pottery. And going down a sleigh with a friend!

Jacques the baker is giving away three loaves of bread today. Please pick moi!

I can see for miles and miles...

Every village needs a school, and this one is very special because it allows and even encourages prayer. :)

Although I didn't put up a village in my tearoom, I did move in this cute little green house.

The view from the side is even better!

That's about all I have to show you today, except that Boomama's guidelines mentioned leaving a Christmas recipe in our post. If you're here today for the first time, then you've missed my recent White Christmas Fudge recipe but you'll find it only a couple of posts down. And it just so happens I have some ready...

I hope you've enjoyed your tour today. Click here to see Boomama's decorations and to peak into the homes of her other participants. I can't wait to visit everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Welcome friends!

This is the welcome sign that hangs outside by our front door. Its job is to officially welcome guests and visitors before we can get to the door. You probably have one too, don't you?

At this time of year, all of us tend to do a lot of "welcoming". We entertain family and friends, maybe also a few neighbors, coworkers, etc.

However, when we already have so much on our plate, showing hospitality isn't always something we look forward to. It often takes a lot of our time, effort and money, but it doesn't have to.

It can be as simple as having a few friends over to play board games and calling for pizza. Or, how about going for a walk with family and friends in the neighborhood to see all the beautiful decorations and having them over afterwards for hot chocolate and a Christmas movie?

Sharing special moments with others by welcoming them to our home is something we are all called to do. In fact, God's Word tells us we must do it with a cheerful heart.

Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9

Now that's to the point! Notice that the command is simply to "be hospitable". Nowhere does it say that we must try to outdo ourselves or Martha Stewart for that matter. It really can be simple and fun.

May the hospitality we'll all soon practice be a time of rejoicing and blessing for all of our guests as well as ourselves. :)

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:2

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mary Engelbreit Christmas teapot

In the midst of decorating for Christmas, there's always some small treasure we're happy to see again and display. Today, I thought I'd share with you this cute little teapot of mine from Mary Engelbreit.

That was a view from the side. Now here's the front:

And the back...

Have you ever seen such a cute little house all decked out for Christmas? I almost wish I could move in!

It actually sits in the china cabinet in my tearoom all year round but at Christmas time, I really enjoy getting it out and using it. It's such a special treat!

I hope that today, you'll be able to join me in relaxing for a few moments, as we're busy with various preparations for the celebration of our Savior's birth. Slip away from the fast pace of the season for a little while and treat yourself to a nice cup of tea, coffee, hot cocoa or apple cider in your very favorite mug. :)

Wishing you a wonderful day and many sweet blessings!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

White Christmas fudge

Can I let you in on a secret? Sugar and I are pretty close. But as much as I enjoy sweet treats, I actually enjoy sharing them even more. With Christmas fast approaching, I have even more reasons these days to spend time in my kitchen baking and making all kinds of sweets.

One of the things I make every year at Christmas time is white chocolate fudge. It's a rare treat because it's super sweet. Just know that a little bite really goes a long way. If you'd like to make it, here's what you'll need:

2 packages (6 squares each) of Baker's premium white baking chocolate
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2/3 cup coarsely chopped almonds (toasted or not, either way works great)
2/3 cup dried cranberries or craisins (I typically use craisins)

I believe I mentioned that this is super sweet, right? Look no further for the reason why:

This is how this yummy treat gets started. Put the 12 white chocolate squares in a large bowl and pour in the condensed milk. Microwave them on high for 2 to 3 minutes until the chocolate is almost melted and stir with a spatula until the chocolate melts completely. Add the orange peel, almonds and craisins, and stir until all the ingredients are well blended. Pour into an 8x8 pan lined with foil extending over the sides of the pan.

Refrigerate it for at least 2 to 3 hours before serving. Lift the fudge out of the pan using the foil handles, then peel the foil off the fudge. Cut into 5 rows both ways to make 25 squares.

If you behaved and didn't lick the spatula (probably because someone else got to it first!), now is your chance to get a taste. Go ahead and take one while you still can!

Store the fudge in a plastic container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks but frankly, I can't imagine it lasting that long. It'll be gone within a few days, especially if you're in a sharing mood. As a matter of fact, this fudge makes a great gift. Not that you have to give it all away, of course. Just keep a couple of pieces to have along with your cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy a great way to sweeten up your day! :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Seasons of change, seasons of courage

I don't know about you but I'm a creature of habit. Give me good old predictability any day and I'll leave the surprises for those who enjoy living on the edge.

I think we can all attest though, that once in a while life will throw an unexpected change or turn of events in our direction. The kind that makes not only our routine come to an end but sometimes as much as our current way of life.

In the midst of unexpected changes, big or small, we need to muster up the courage to face them head on.

After all, change can be threatening. It can rob us of our peace of mind, comfort and health. Things like moving, changing jobs or losing a job, mourning a loved one, coping with a newly diagnosed health issue, a sudden empty nest, and so on.

As always, God is aware of our need for courage and wisdom during all of our seasons of change. He doesn't want us to go it alone but with His help.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

Courage in the midst of change is not always easy to come by but we must remind ourselves that as children of our Heavenly Father, we are never alone in any of it. If you're in one of those seasons at this time, be encouraged that the Lord is with you today and always.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Throughout the United States this week, houses have been cleaned and tidied up, decorated festively and made ready for company.

Hours of labor-intensive and love-filled home cooking will result in a feast rarely seen throughout the year.

Relatives who tend to be strange characters will put on their best outfits, and their best behavior. Love will fill the air!

But, throughout it all, may this special holiday be first and foremost a glorious occasion to be reminded of the many blessings that we enjoy. May we all look to the Lord our Provider with a grateful heart and a prayer of thanks, for He is the One whose hands continually bless us, protect us and unite us.

Wishing you and yours a plentiful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Zebra cake

When I was a child, I used to love to make this cake because I could make it all on my own. I think my mom called it a log cake but ever since I started making it with my son, it's been renamed the "zebra cake" and you'll see why once it's sliced.

It's one of the easiest and least expensive desserts anyone can make, and it only requires a couple of ingredients. It's perfect for those times when you're not looking for something pretty and fancy, but still want a little something sweet to bring to the table. The picture below shows all you'll need to get started.

Start by whipping 2 cups of heavy whipping cream. Then, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. As a child, I used a tub of Cool Whip which was fine, but I prefer the taste of freshly whipped cream sweetened with vanilla or a bit of powdered sugar.

Spoon some of the whipped cream on top of one chocolate wafer, top it with another wafer, top that one also with cream and put them on a plate once you've stacked up a few in your hand.

Then, simply repeat the process until the box of wafers is empty. And, by the way, it's perfectly fine to eat one or two right out of the box. In fact, I would say it's mandatory. :)

Once the cake is assembled, spread the remaining whipped cream all over the top and sides of the cake and refrigerate it for at least 4 to 5 hours. Don't do as I once did in a moment of impatience and assume it will be just fine after only a couple of hours in the fridge. The wafers will still be hard and the cake just won't be a good thing, so give it the 4 or 5 hours it needs.

You can certainly add some chocolate curls on top of the cake to give it a more finished look but I like to keep it quite simple. When you're ready to serve the cake, slice it on an angle.

And that's why at our house we call it a zebra cake!

It's important to note that this cake tastes and looks better if it's eaten within 24 to 48 hours. I make it in the early afternoon, serve it to my family for dessert that night and again the next day but longer than that and the cream starts to turn a bit brownish due to the wafers' color. Keep in mind that you can cut the ingredient amounts in half and make a smaller cake or you can freeze part of the cake (according to Nabisco).

Wishing you a wonderful day and as always, many sweet blessings!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A lizard and a Lizzy

Yesterday, an uninvited guest showed up at my house. He didn't bother to ring the doorbell or even knock. He just sneaked in when I opened the door to let my dog out. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know he was in the house until I walked in the dining room and noticed him by the window...

Did you see him there?

Yes, apparently this lizard decided to come in and make himself comfortable in my blinds. Maybe he was running away from home and thought mine would be a good place for a fresh start. That could only be because he didn't know that my boy is highly skilled at relocating lost, confused, and adventurous lizards back to their natural habitat - anywhere but inside my house! So, back home he went and I'm pretty sure he's living happily every after.

But, as it turns out, this is only one of the four-legged creatures that have made their way inside my home. Here's another, although I must admit that this one was actually brought here on purpose, as a birthday gift from hubby to me many years ago. Her name is Lizzy.

Many people think she's a puppy but she'll be 15 in a couple of months. She still acts like a puppy though, as she follows me through the house with every step I take. And I do mean EVERY step I take!

Now, if she could just stop any more uninvited creatures from sneaking in, that would be great. Unfortunately, this kind of thing just isn't a big priority for her. Naps come first.

Wishing you and your furry ones a wonderful day! :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Peace is looking at a sunset and knowing Who to thank.
-Author unknown

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chicken and fruit salad

Whenever I have a tea party, I like to set a pretty table with flowers and a variety of teacups and plates. While I'm at it, I also try to serve the food in ways that play up the "girliness" of it all. Here's an example in the photo below.

A chicken salad with fresh fruit which I served in a pretty teacup. Why put it on a simple plate as if a tea party was any old occasion? It's not! :)

I serve it along with several other items such as a quiche or mini frittatas, two or three kinds of finger sandwiches, sometimes a green salad or fruit platter, and of course, scones are always on the menu. That's all before I bring out desserts, but let's get back to the chicken salad for now...

This is probably one of my favorite chicken salads, and if you'd like to make it, well I'm happy to share the recipe. It's a simple recipe at heart but with a few little additions that make it quite special. Feel free to vary the ingredients a bit if you wish (as I often do).

In a large bowl, place about 2 cups of cooked and cubed chicken breasts, cooled. Add 1 to 2 stalks of celery (chopped), and 1 chopped apple. I use the packaged fresh apple slices from the grocery store for added convenience and chop several slices. However, if you're slicing your own apple, be sure to first mix the chopped slices in a small bowl with at least 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown (that's another reason why I like the pre-sliced ones, they don't turn brown). Then add to the bowl with the cubed chicken.

Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of mayo. I've never measured the mayo so this is an approximate amount. You should start with less and increase the amount until you're happy :) with how it all looks. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

While it's in the fridge, take out 2 crunchy granola bars. I use Nature Valley roasted almond or simply honey roasted. Use whatever brand you like, as long as it's crunchy. Then, crush them inside a ziplock bag using a rolling pin.

When you're ready to serve the chicken salad, gently mix half of the crushed granola bars in the salad and 1 cup of drained mandarins. Then, serve the salad in either a bowl or individual teacups (it should make about 5 or 6), sprinkle the remaining crushed granola bars on top and serve immediately.

You could add all kinds of fruit such as seedless grapes (green or red), pineapple, kiwis, strawberries, as well as skip the granola bars and throw in some sliced almonds instead. The variations are just about endless.

Bon appetit!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The real Giver

Just recently, as I waited in the check-out line at my local Super-Target with a cart full of groceries, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

Behind me was a woman I had never met. She didn't have a cart, or a shopping basket, or any items in her hands. She wasn't in line behind me but just seemed to have come out of nowhere.

With a smile on her face, all she said to me was "Can you use this? It expires in a few days", and she handed me a Target gift card. Although the card value wasn't enormous, I couldn't have been more shocked! I thanked her sincerely and as soon as I turned around she was gone.

I couldn't help but wonder why she had picked me out of all the shoppers in the store. What made her come to me rather than the person in the next lane, or ahead of me, or better yet, why didn't she just use the card herself? After all, she was already in the store!

Then I asked myself this: could it be that God used her to bless me? Had He noticed that I have tried my best to be a good steward with the money that I'm given? I think so, yes. As Christian writer C.S. Lewis spoke of back in the early '40s in his book Mere Christianity, behind this lady's kindness was in fact the real Giver. Here's an excerpt from the book:

"You may say "I've never had the sense of being helped by an invisible Christ, but I often have been helped by other human beings". That is rather like the woman in the first war who said that if there were a bread shortage, it would not bother her house because they always ate toast. If there is no bread, there is no toast. If there were no help from Christ, there would be no help from other human beings.

But do not forget this. At first, it is natural for a baby to take his mother's milk without knowing his mother. It is equally natural for us to see the man who helps us without seeing Christ behind him. But we must not remain babies. We must go on to recognize the real Giver. It is madness not to. Because, if we do not, we shall be relying on human beings. And that is going to let us down."

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights. James 1:17

Friday, November 7, 2008

Homemade chocolate truffles

I had a taste for chocolate yesterday afternoon so I decided to get all fancy and make truffles.

Actually, the name is the only thing that's fancy about them. They're very simple to make and require only a few ingredients.

I took the recipe from this children's tea party book that I own:

These would be wonderful served at any tea party but they certainly don't need a special occasion.

If you'd like to make them, all you need to do is mix the following three ingredients in a small (microwave-safe) bowl: 1 cup of milk chocolate chips, 1/2 a stick of butter cut into small pieces, and 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Microwave for one minute on high, stir, and microwave another minute. Stir until the mixture is smooth and refrigerate it for at least one hour.

Then, using a teaspoon, make about 12 little balls. Note that you may need to put the bowl or the truffles in the freezer for a few minutes if you find the chocolate getting too soft.

For the coating, mix 5 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa and 5 tablespoons of powdered sugar on a plate. As you'll see below, I'm sure I used more than the few tablespoons called for but that's because I didn't bother to measure. It's just for the coating after all.

Then, gently roll each truffle one by one on the plate until it's coated all around.

Oh, who has time to do this one by one?! Go ahead and throw in a few at a time and let them roll around to get a good coating...

When you're finished, put the truffles in a plastic container and store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to have them. Or, you can forget the storing part altogether and eat them right out of the Tupperware or,

... or put them on a pretty plate and behave! Start with one and stop at two, or three. Four tops.

Hope you enjoy them, and many sweet blessings! :)

P.S. How do YOU satisfy your chocolate cravings?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Are we there yet?

Does this sound like something that comes out of your children's mouth every two minutes as soon as you pull out of your driveway?

We all know that most children don't have much patience. They want everything now. Not in hours or days or weeks.

Funny enough, we when take a closer look, we find that many of us adults are very much like our children in that sense. Regardless of what turns (including U-turns) we've decided to make in our lives, we want to make sure we're going to get where we're headed, and we want to get there as soon as possible. We need assurance that our plan is going to work, that we're on the right track, and we want to see definite results immediately.

Well, God's timing and ours is often two very different things. But if we're busy doing God's will, then we can have peace simply by knowing that He's with us directing our path.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

All of us can stop worrying, looking for immediate results, wanting to get there now. All we need is to seek our Lord Jesus Christ, trust in Him, believe in His infinite wisdom and power, and know that He will take us where we need to be.

He has the controls, after all. We just like to think we do. :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A reflection

"God loves America. When you realize what He accomplished in bringing forth a new nation on this continent - a government founded on Christian principles and dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - you have to realize that He had a dramatic vision and purpose for this nation."

Dr. James Kennedy (1930-2007)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The taste of autumn

When temperatures start dropping and leaves start turning a bright red, orange and yellow, it not only feels like autumn, it looks like it too. But here, the temperatures are still above 80 and it always looks like summer.

Didn't the trees get the memo? Leaves are supposed to change colors! The landscape is supposed to look like this picture...

Above is a picture I took in North Carolina at this time of year two years ago. Instead, out of my backyard, this is what I see today...

Don't get me wrong, I think palm trees are beautiful and I enjoy very much having them in our landscaping. But, they certainly don't announce any change of season. So, what's a girl to do? Well, I decided that since I don't have the feel of autumn around me (with temperatures in the 80's!), and I don't get to see autumn make its arrival with leaves changing colors, I would taste it instead.

To some people, autumn may taste like a pumpkin pie, or an apple pie, or a sweet potato pie. To me, it's not so much a pie but more like a pumpkin brownie. But, I wouldn't want to offend Martha by calling it a brownie: officially, it's her pumpkin chocolate chip square. Just to set the record straight.

And I made a batch today. Yes I did, I tasted autumn!

I've been making these for a couple of years now and I have to admit that, even though I didn't used to be a big pumpkin fan, these have won me over. They're delicious and bring out the "it's finally autumn!" feeling in me. I hope you'll enjoy them too, so here's the recipe:

Martha Stewart's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving the foil extending over the short sides of the pan. (She doesn't say to do this, but at this point, I spray some Pam on the bottom and sides of the pan. It's a habit I can't shake!) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pie spice, baking soda and salt. Then set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in the egg and the vanilla until combined. Beat in the pumpkin puree (the mixture may appear curdled, don't be alarmed if it does.) Reduce the speed to low, and get your bowl of dry ingredients. Add them to the wet ingredients until just combined, so be careful not to overdo it. Lastly, fold in the chocolate chips using a spatula.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 35 minutes or so, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pan, for about 2 hours.

Lift the cake from the pan using the foil handles, peel off the foil and cut into 24 squares. Enjoy autumn! :)