Thursday, February 28, 2013

Garlic Cheese Biscuits

Another variation of the Whole Wheat Biscuit recipe.

This recipe is an attempt at copying Red Lobster Biscuits. Use white flour if you want them similar to the restaurant version, but whole wheat flour still makes a yummy biscuit. I like these dropped onto a baking sheet instead of rolled and cut but you can make them how you wish.

Garlic Cheese Biscuits

2 3/4 cups whole wheat or white flour (you may need more flour is using white)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
 1 T parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp honey or sugar
1 1/2 cup buttermilk, plain yogurt, or kefir
1 cup shredded cheese
Mix flour, baking powder, and seasonings in mixing bowl or food processor. Add butter and mix or pulse until butter is pea size or smaller.

If using food processor, dump flour mixture into a bowl. Stir in cheese. Add honey and buttermilk and mix briefly with a spoon. Do not over mix.

Drop dough onto a greased baking sheet. Makes 12-15 biscuits depending upon the size. If you wish, brush tops with milk. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sweet Potato Biscuits

I'm a cook who is always looking for an easy way to get food on the table.

When I have a favorite recipe, I often try to find variations to the same recipe. It is easier to have a basic recipe, that I know works, and several variations, than a whole bunch of different recipes.

This week, I'll share three variations to the Whole Wheat Biscuit recipe.

If your family is like mine, you can never have too many biscuits.

Sweet potato biscuits are my current favorite. The sweet potatoes add color, flavor, and nutrition. They take a little longer to make since I have to think ahead and cook a sweet potato, but the result is worth it. Typically biscuits are only good freshly baked but I even like sweet potato biscuits the next day.

Sweet potatoes takes the place of the buttermilk in the original recipe. I also increase the sweetener just a little. If you don't use honey, brown sugar is a tasty choice.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 sweet potato, cooked and mashed
3 cups whole wheat flour (or a combination of wheat and white flours, if using white flour you may need a little more flour)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 T honey or 1/4 cup brown sugar

Cook and mash sweet potato. Measure 2 cups sweet potato. If you don't have quite 2 cups, just add enough milk to make 2 cups. Stir in 2 T apple cider vinegar. Cool.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in mixing bowl or food processor. Add butter and mix or pulse until butter is pea size or smaller.

If using food processor, dump flour mixture into a bowl. Add honey and cooled sweet potato and mix briefly with a spoon. You may need to knead briefly with you hands until it comes together but do not over mix.

Turn onto a floured counter and pat flat. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle with flour and fold like a letter, then pat flat again. Cut with biscuit cutter or knife. (Square biscuits taste fine!) Makes 12-15 biscuits depending upon the size.

Place on a greased cookie sheet. If you wish, brush tops with milk. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Again, Surrender

Again, Surrender

I thought I did this
    Why am I fighting
I wish the war was over,
          and You
             were Victor.
I long for
    life to be battle-free,
           peace to reign,
                my heart to lie still.
But today,
       I feel like a two-year-old,
          thrashing on the floor
             to get her way.
        Or a belligerent teenager,
                lip curled,
          head held defiantly.
    I want to plan my own life,
           and dream my own dreams.
       I don't want to sacrifice time
             to serve others.
          I don't want to yield
                               to Anyone.

But when I forge my own path,
       fight my own battles,
                         I find disaster.
          My stomach is tied in knots;
             sleep refuses to come.
       I can't live in warfare.
    I crave peace
                      more than life itself.

So again,
    I wave the white flag,
       to the Lord of the universe,
             Captain of my Soul.
    Not my will,
             but Yours,
       be done.

I wrote this poem some time ago, during a specific time that I needed to surrender my will to God's.

I've been thinking a lot about surrender recently. About the time I think I'm surrendered, that I'm willing to do whatever God asks, something else comes up to show me that I'm still trying to control my own life. 

Some days I think that I'm the only one that needs to give up their will. It looks like others always have their life go well, that they never have to yield their own plans and wishes - like I do. 

Of course that is not true. Surrender is part of life for everyone who follows Christ

In the last few weeks, I've had conversations with several women. The specific details vary. One lady may be struggling with singleness, another with a difficult marriage. One woman may long for children, while another struggles to accept an unexpected pregnancy. Whether it is finances, health issues, parenting challenges, church difficulties - every lady who I've broached this subject has something in their life that they struggle to accept. There are things that they would love to change. A desire, longing, or plan they need to surrender. A circumstance, calling, or responsibility that they need to accept and embrace.  

I may not always be able to choose my life circumstances but I can choose my response. More than anything else, I want to respond like Mary. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38)

Hebrew 11 lists men and women of great faith. Reading over the list I find that their faith is shown by their surrender of their will. Noah built an ark. Abraham moved to a strange country then willing gave up his promised son. Moses confronted Pharaoh. Rahab put a scarlet thread in her window. Gideon sent most of his army home.

None of these people did the logical steps to success. But they had the faith to beleive that God was worthy of their trust and obedience.

Right after the list in Hebrews 11 comes Heb 12:1-2 "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Maybe my real problem is that I take my eyes off of Jesus and onto me. 

"The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you, if surrendered to Christ is the best-shaped tool in the Father's hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work." Author unknown 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tips for a Beginning Gardener - Seeds

In the last post to beginning gardeners, I wrote about planning. One of the most important decisions in gardening is where to place your garden. Soil is of primary importance in the act of gardening. 

Seeds are probably second to soil in importance. We know that we get what we sow. If we choose weak seeds of dubious quality, we can not expect a bountiful harvest. Never skimp on seed quality. Planting inferior seeds is not a way to save money. 

This time of year, all the big chain stores are putting out seed racks. I have found the quality of these kind of seeds to be questionable. Typically you can find far better quality and selection by mail-order. I like to purchase seeds from a company that also sells to market growers. A grower who is planting vegetables for a living is not going to waste time on seeds of dubious quality. If their seeds don't grow well, they haven't just lost a hobby crop, but a livelihood. If a company continues to offer poor quality seeds, a grower will take his business elsewhere. I also like to look for a company that does their own seed trials so that they can offer the best seeds for their climate zone.

It is probably obvious then that you should choose a mail-order company from your climate zone. Don't buy from a company in the south if you are in the north. You want to find seeds that are bred to do well with your soil and climate. 

There are many good seed companies but if you want a few suggestions—try Territorial Seeds if you are in the northwest US, Park Seeds for southern US, and Stokes Seeds or Johnny's Select Seeds for the northeast US and Canada. Of course there are many other excellent seed companies but if you have never ordered seeds, this will give you a place to start.

Another option I have found to be good for seeds is some of the smaller garden centers that offer bulk seeds. The quality of these seeds is usually good, though the selection is not as good as mail order. 

If you plan to mail order, do it soon. This is the busy time for seed companies. The sooner you get your order in, the more likely you will get the varieties you want and faster service. My seed order arrived several weeks ago and I was sure that it brought a whiff of spring in the box! 

But it snowed the next day. Maybe spring is not here after all.

Where do you like to buy your seeds? Have you been pleased with the quality?


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

French Onion Soup

This is a soup that I long for on winter days. There is something about it that warms a person to their toes. 

But my children are still at the stage where they sniff suspiciously at their bowl and ask, "Is there onions in this soup?" I can hide onions in a lot of things, but there is no hiding onions in French Onion Soup. I have to provide an alternative menu. But Ed and I don't mind a lack of competition with a whole pot of this soup. And if there are leftovers, it is even better the next day.

The key to this soup is a good beef broth. I like to make this soup after I've cooked a beef roast. You can use bought broth or bouillon but nothing beats a good homemade broth.

French Onion Soup

3 T butter
6 large sweet onions
6 cups beef broth
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
french bread
garlic powder
cheese (mozzarella, Gruyere, or Brie)

In large pot, melt butter. Add onions and cook for 15 minutes without stirring. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook onions until no longer golden, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup of water if needed and continue to cook and stir until dark brown. Stir in broth, Worcestershire, bay leaf, and seasonings. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. While soup simmers, arrange bread in single layer on baking sheet. Top bread with garlic powder and cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove bay leaf from soup. Serve soup with toasted bread.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Beginning a Garden - Planning

 Yesterday the garden was covered with snow. Today the temperature is is near 50 and we are back to mud. 

So it  goes with late winter/early spring in Pennsylvania. 

The warm weather has me itching to start gardening. I've been able to spend a little time outdoors pruning the grapes, berries, and roses. I find myself gazing over the garden. In my mind's eye, I see a bountiful, weed-free garden untouched by ground hogs or blight. 

No garden is so lovely as the one dreamed in February. 

Since I'm asked questions by beginning gardeners, I'm going to share advice to those just beginning the gardening adventure. Today we'll talk about planning.

A garden should begin in February -  with wise planning. 

In Luke 14, Jesus speaks of counting the cost before starting a building project. Gardens benefit from planning too. 

A common mistake of beginning gardeners is to make the garden too large. Evaluate how much time you can invest in making your garden a success. An overgrown garden in August will only demoralize your desire to try again next year. Growing a huge market garden and letting it rot in the field is a waste of money and effort. If gardening is new to you, better to start small and increase slowly. Successfully grow one tomato plant, before planting a dozen.
Evaluate what your family eats. Do you like to eat a lot of salad? Or do you want to freeze green beans? If no one will eat brussel sprouts or eggplant, don't bother to plant them. 

There is also a limit to how much a family can eat at one time. One family is unlikely to eat a dozen cabbages unless you plan to preserve them. Stagger plantings so your produce is not all maturing at the same time.

Put thought into your garden location. Very few vegetables will grow in the shade. Choose your sunniest spot. If you have a spot where a thick stand of grass is growing, or even a healthy crop of weeds, underneath the vegetation is probably some good rich soil that will support a garden. 

 It is nice if the garden is handy to the kitchen, but more important is sunlight and good soil. My garden is behind our house and over a hill. Not handy at all but it is the best soil on our rocky acreage - so that is where we put our garden.

If your soil appears to be poor, only plant low demand vegetables such as beans, beets, and potatoes. If you attempt to grow a plant that demands highly fertile soil it will only be a waste of money. After a few years of soil building, you can tackle the more demanding vegetables such as cauliflower, peppers, and melons.

Next time we'll talk about buying seeds. 

What advice do you have to a gardener beginning their first garden? 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Canning Dried Beans

If you have a pressure canner, dried beans are one of the easiest things to can. Since most of my canning is done in the hot summer, I enjoy doing some canning in the winter to warm up my kitchen.

Besides the cost of electricity (which isn't much with a pressure canner) and lids, the cost of beans is very little. To make nine pint jars of beans, I paid $2.50 for the beans.

I have canned pinto, navy, great northern, and kidney beans. You can even mix beans. Just be careful NOT to fill the jars very full of beans because they will swell with cooking.

To can dried beans -
Sort through your beans to make sure there are not pebbles. Measure 1/2 cup of dried beans into pint jars. Add 1/2 tsp salt per pint jar.


Fill up with water just to the neck.

Place boiled lids on jars and screw rings on tightly.

Place in pressure canner and follow directions for your canner.

Pressure can at 11 lb pressure for 40 minutes for pint jars. (If using quart jars, can for 50 minutes.) As beans cook, they will absorb the water and fill the jar.

Note: According to some experts, beans should be cooked before canning. My mom always canned her beans when dry and I have done so for years, but use this recipe at your own risk.

Do NOT can beans without a pressure canner. Beans are a low acid vegetable and can not be safely canned in boiling water.

Edit to add: In the comments some readers mention that beans should be canned for a longer time than I list. I am only sharing my personal experience. This is the way my mom and I have canned beans successfully for years. But this method is not recommended by the experts so use these directions at your own risk.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Doughnut Making

A yearly tradition-

Doughnut Making.

All the womenfolk from my family (mom, sisters, and sister-in-laws) get together once a year to make homemade doughnuts. Typically it is not on the actual Fausnaught Day but just whenever it suits us to get together.

This is one of those jobs that I would never tackle alone.

But with lots of help it is lots of fun.

Even the children were given a glob of dough to shape. (But their dough saw the floor enough times that their dough was not eaten!)

The final result was about 38 dozen doughnuts which were divided between the six families that helped to make them and shared with friends.

By the end of the day I felt like a grease-sodden lump of dough myself, but with doughnuts in the freezer, memories of this day will live on.

Thankfully, my day ended better than last year!
If you want to share in the fun, you can find my mom's potato doughnut recipe here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Arranging Furniture (And Other Opinionated Activities)

Enjoy a guest post by Dianna Overholt, author of Guiding the House - a homemaker's planner.

Arranging Furniture (And Other Opinionated Activities) 

By Dianna Overholt

This story started because we couldn’t agree on where the clock should be hung. The baby’s name was settled within two minutes, but the hanging of the clock? We discussed it off and on for hours!

It’s one of those atomic clocks that are accurate to the second, also displaying the date and temperature. I suggested hanging it in the kitchen so that I’ll know exactly when to race to the bedroom to get ready for church, and that sort of thing. Michael, my husband, thought it should hang on the living room wall, opposite the stairway. “See?” he said as he found a nail waiting there. “This spot is superior because you can see the clock from five different rooms.”

“That’s true,” I replied, squinting from the kitchen. “But what good does it do if you can’t read the numbers?”

Later I noticed that the clock had reset itself in a different time zone and was now one hour off. We’ll find out how often he looks at it, I thought smugly. 

One day passed. Two days. Curiosity won, and I asked him if he’d noticed the inaccurate hour. “No, I didn’t,” he answered, calmly. “I just look at the temperature.”

Happily, our own temperatures never rose, for after two moves in less than a year the matter of furniture arranging has become rather amusing. I didn’t think, when we married, that men had much interest in furniture placement. Wasn’t arranging furniture a woman’s leisure? My mother only rearranged furniture say, during every other spring cleaning, and my father was content to never move things. I must’ve absorbed some of my father’s attitude, because it was Michael who announced, “We’re going to change this living room around!” one Saturday evening in our second year of marriage.

It seems that he’s absorbed some of his mother’s love of arranging. Every time we visit his family, there’s a new creative furniture arrangement or a different delightful display on the teacart. Michael likes to tell the story of how one early morning his father went to the living room to start his day, and sat down on top of the record player.

The only time I ever really feel an urge to change things is when I’m eight months and three weeks into a pregnancy. Then, the trapping of every dust bunny and the rearranging of furnishings become critically important. Somehow Michael knows that this is not his time to voice strong opinions. He’s more intrigued with how I could move the dresser when I can barely tie my shoes.

My criteria for furniture or accessory placement? Visual appeal and coziness. Michael’s criteria? He likes a cozy appeal, yes, but handiness even more. That’s why a black phone charger resides on our mantle beside a dark-blue pottery jug. I tried relocating the charger, but the mantle was just too handy; Michael moved the charger back. So I’m contemplating other options. Should I twine an ivy plant around it?

My father has a habit with his cap. When he comes inside he tosses it onto the floor beside the refrigerator. Mom tried putting pegs on the wall by the fridge, but that didn’t work well. For a while she hung the caps in the hall closet, but then my dad never could find one when he needed it. Finally she put a woven basket on the floor beside the fridge, and as far as I know, it’s still there, catching caps. 

I’d certainly choose phone charger furniture or bill cap furniture over a deer head looming from the wall. Neither my mother nor I has ever had to contend with one, but I wonder, I just wonder… If my mother’s kitchen sported a ten-point rack, would she use it to hang up my father’s caps?

Who is the furniture arranger at your house? Does it ever cause marital conflict and how have you compromised?

Dianna lives in the Ozarks with her husband Michael, where there's fresh inspiration everywhere: Five children, lost socks, atomic clocks, or dandelion bouquets! Most of all, there's Jesus, Who alone makes life beautiful. 

Dianna is the author of Guiding the House, a homemaker's planner that I'm using and  loving this year. If you missed getting Dianna's planner last fall when I reviewed it, they are now available for $9.95, while supplies last. Shipping is $4 for the first book, and $1 for each additional copy. Visit the Guiding the House website or email her at ozarkfamilybooks (AT)


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