Thursday, July 26, 2012

Faith & Service & Blessings


It's Beautiful isn't it?  I know I have mentioned before that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or sometimes more commonly known as Mormons.  This building you may have already seen pictures of, it is the Salt Lake City Temple, and its a beautiful place, and a very important place in our religion.  It is through the Temples that we believe that families can be together forever.  I feel incredibly blessed to be a member of this church and for the blessings that it affords me.  Through the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I know where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going after this life.  I do know the purpose and plan for life, that isn't to say I know the reasons for trials and suffering, but I know that it is all part of a loving Heavenly Father's Plan for us. 

I have learned so much from attending church and studying my scriptures, and I realize that I still have lots more left to learn, after all that part is a life long process.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve as a full-time missionary several years ago and to share my beliefs with others.  I still desire to share those beliefs with all that I come in contact with.   The fact is this Church brings me incredible joy and peace, it has truly changed my life, and being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a huge part of who I am, and I am very proud of that part of my life.  If any of you have questions or want to learn more please go to www.lds.org or let me know and I'd be more than happy to answer any questions.

"With all my heart and the fervency of my soul, I lift up my voice in testimony as a special witness and declare that God does live. Jesus is His Son, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Redeemer; He is our Mediator with the Father. He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again."
—Thomas S. Monson, "I Know That My Redeemer Lives!", Liahona and Ensign, May 2007
Topics: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, Testimony



New Friends and Ben's Cookies....


 
     Some weeks you meet people that inspire and change you, Last week was one of those weeks.  I went to visit a new family that had moved into our congregation at Church.  Having moved many times myself, I try to be as welcoming and helpful as possible, so I made this sweet new family dinner and brought them some delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that I had made.  I love pumpkin and I love cookies, so I figure how can I possibly fail with a cookie like this?  So off I went armed with my goodies to meet this family.   When I arrived at their home I met the children, who were absolutely adorable, active and gregarious, but cute, active kids.  One in particular caught my eye (and later my heart), was cute little Ben.  Ben is almost 5 years old, and loves attention, at times Ben has a hard time expressing himself.  You see, Ben has Autism and sometimes is unable to express his thoughts and emotions into words.  What Ben did express to me was love through hugs and smiles, and an incredible appetite when it came to my cookies.

Ben's sweet mother assures me that he is a fussy eater and doesn't eat most things, so she was surprised to see how much he liked those cookies.  So I told Ben when he ran out of cookies he needed to give me a call and I would be happy to make him more cookies, sure enough he ran out and wanted the same cookies all over again.  I of course was more than happy to oblige and more cookies were made, actually writing this post reminds me that I need to check on Ben this weekend and make sure he has enough of "his cookies."  Ben may not be able to express himself as he would like all the time, but I watched him express thanks, love, appreciation, and generosity.  This little guy has taught me a lot more lessons than many adults have.  He helps me to realize how lucky I am, and that we can all have positive outlooks no matter what is befalling us.

So in honor of my new friend Ben, my classic pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are being renamed to simply "Ben's Cookies"  Make them for your neighbors, and friends, make them for a new family on the street, the recipe makes five dozen cookies, so there are plenty to go around.  Remember what makes cookies taste best is when they are made with love and shared with love.

Ben's Cookies
Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 12 ounce bag chocolate chips (your preference, I use semi-sweet)

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray
Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars,until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly browned.  Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest and cool.


Friday, July 6, 2012

In love with my mixer...and my nieces and nephews


I don't know how I lived before my Kitchenaid Mixer.  I can make anything with that thing, it definitely makes me grateful for the age that I live in, how did grandma & great-grandma ever manage without these things?  There are very few things that I deem absolute neccesities for cooking, and thing is one, it makes everything so much easier.

Last night my brother and sister-in-law and their picture perfect kids came over for dinner and a very competitive game of scrabble.  It was their youngest son's fifth birthday and I was thrilled to be a part of it.   Mr. Love From Scratch and I don't have any children yet, bust one of my absolute favorite roles in life is that of being an Aunt.   None of my brothers live close by, I wish they did, especially so I could see their darling children more.  So last night was a huge treat for me, family time is the best time.  

For the birthday dinner I made cerviche which is an absolute favorite of mine, and my nephew wanted a blueberry cheesecake.  Sounds like a perfect summer meal right?  I had figured I would probably be making a cheesecake that night anyways, just because my brother's favorite dessert has always been cheesecake, and my mother makes an excellent cheesecake.  I won't divulge her secret cheesecake recipe (she wouldn't appreciate that), so I will share the recipe that I always use when I make my cheesecakes, it is such an east recipe to make too. definitely try this one, it is always a crowd pleaser, or in the case of last night it made four beautiful children very happy campers.

Love From Scratch Cheesecake

Crust:

2 cups ground gingersnaps
1 stick unsalted butter melted

Filling:

2 (8 ounce) blocks cream cheese (softened)
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 lemon zested & juiced
1 dash vanilla
Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform with non-stick spray

Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a glass, press the crumbs down into the base and 1-inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
For the Filling:

In the mixer beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute until smooth and free of any lumps. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add ricotta, sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. The filling should be well-mixed but not overbeaten. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Set the cheesecake pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it. Place the spingform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Bake for 45 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so be careful not to overcook. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours.








Sunday, July 1, 2012

Suprises and Discoveries at Farmers Market!


Everyone loves a Farmers Market!  I especially love to see all of the produce and and local offerings.  Last week a friend of mine went to check out what was available.  We found a beautiful priduce stand that had all kinds of goodies, one particular treat was new to my friend, and that is the purple potato.  The purple potato is said to have originated in Peru, and is becoming more widely seen here in the states. 

I have had purple potatos on numerous occasions and I have to say I am a huge fan, I love them.   I love their creamy, buttery, rich consistency.  They almost taste decadent, plus they are purple, how cool is that?  they make for a stunning presentation.  Kids love them, its always fun to see something in an unexpected and fun color.

Right now these little beauties are being touted as "the new blood pressure medicine" and "loaded with antioxidants".  Numerous researchers and studies have found these to be practically superfoods and fighting cancer and heart disease.  Is all of this true?  Is it more than just hype?  I actually don't really know.  What I do know is that these are delicious addition to any recipe, I hope that all of these benefits are true because they are so good that any additional reason to eat them is only icing on the cake.  

I love to use these in my potato salad, they taste great, and make the salad look so festive for a holiday bbq.  These can be used in the most casual of settings, or dressed up to accompany the most elegant of entrees.  Experiment with these, see how they work for you!  I would love to see the creations you come up with!