22 May 2016

Iced Sugar Cookie "Cake" Bars

100_7032Back around St. Patrick's Day I was searching for an easy recipe for a dessert we could have while watching a movie.  (In the Heart of the Sea.  Good movie.)  Nothing fancy, mind you, but portable.  There were a lot of "green things" floating around, of course.  Plenty of what I was seeing was pretty elaborate, and that's so not what I was after.  But then I found these St. Patrick's Day Sugar Cookie Bars at Over the Big Moon.  They could easily be adapted to fit any holiday, occasion, or event.

Since I live in a RV with a small gas oven, I could not follow Alli's recipe exactly (the pan, if I had one, wouldn't fit!).  Here's how I turned her cookie bars into cookie cake bars.

Ever go to a shopping mall that had one of those cookie counters, like Great American Cookies, or the Original Cookie Co., or something like that? They had these giant (round) chocolate chip cookie "cakes" that you could get for someone's birthday or whatever.  These are probably available in every grocery store bakery now, so I'm dating myself with the mall thing.

Anyway, this is the same principle, except it's a sugar cookie baked in a commercial style 1/4 sheet pan.

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The whole sugary shebang is simple to make up and, like I said before, can be customized in so many ways.  (You don't have to haphazardly drizzle chocolate like I did!)

Recipe adapted from Allison Miller's St. Patrick's Day Sugar Cookie Bars:

100_7034Cookie Cake Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla (make your own!)
1 tsp salt
1/2 baking soda
5 cups flour

Icing Ingredients

5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp milk

Additional Topping
1/4 – 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Procedure

Grease a 1/4 sheet pan (mine is 9"x12"x1" – like this one).  Preheat oven to 375°.  Cream together softened butter and sugar with a stand mixer on medium speed.  Add eggs, one at a time, to the mixture.  Scrape bowl as needed.  Add vanilla and mix well.

Whisk together last three ingredients of salt, baking soda, and flour.  Add this to creamed mixture until combined.  Do not overmix.

Press dough evenly into bottom of sheet pan.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until very lightly golden brown.  Allow to cool.

For the icing, use a mixer to beat the butter until smooth.  (I went right back to my stand mixer, but a handheld might do.) Add in vanilla and 1/2 the milk (3 tbsp).

Add powdered sugar a little at a time, then rest of milk.  Finish by beating icing a bit to aerate.

Ice sugar cookie cake.  If you have mini chocolate chips, or chocolate sprinkles, you could add those immediately.  If you would rather drizzle chocolate, simply melt your chips in microwave or on stove top.  Put melted chocolate into a plastic baggie.  Twist tie the open end if you want, then snip a small hole in one of the bottom corners.  Squeeze chocolate out through small hole and drizzle over iced sugar cookie cake.

Cut into 12 big bars, or 24 smaller ones.  Store in airtight container.

Enjoy!

Shared at Happiness is Homemade, Tuesdays with a Twist, and (mis)Adventures Mondays.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps pay for the RV, supports our mountain homestead dream of owning land, as well as my blogging activities, and makes the dogs happy.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

18 May 2016

Slow Garden (Newbie Diary) and a Smile

100_7469So.  Starting seeds early didn't go so hot.  Despite some great suggestions from some awesome folks, I just wasn't able (I think) to regulate the temperature well enough to get 'em going.  For those of you that don't know -- I'm living in a RV, and have exactly one large picture window to use.

Even though that didn't work out, I'm pressing forward.  The last frost date for my area was the end of April, so I "direct sowed" umpteen seeds in containers the first part of May.  Then we had a night or two with temperatures in the 30's.  And since then several nights in the 40's, averaging 10+ degrees lower than normal.

And it's been raining.  Like a lot.  It rained for five days after I got everything planted.  I don't know the amount in inches, but I can tell you it has rained 9 of the 18 days this month.  Yep, I've kept track.  And more is on the way.  Good chance tomorrow, and 100% chance Friday and Saturday.

I think this is why less than half of my seeds have sprouted.  Am I right? I'm trying to be patient, but at what point do I say the seeds drowned or washed away? Oy vey.

I'm (purposefully) not using chemical laden commercial products for anything.  Might make things even harder, I know.

There are some babies moving, though.  Here are cherry tomatoes, rainbow swiss chard, organic garlic, and russet potatoes.

2016-05-18

…calendula, heirloom crookneck squash (a transplant), and strawberry popping corn.

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And now for a smile.  I'm used to seeing plenty of animals at flea markets.  Usually puppies, kittens, hamsters, more small pets, and maybe even baby chicks.  I've never seen a big ol' turkey struttin' his stuff, though. Saw one the other day -- along with an "attack" rooster, btw – and had to take a picture.  Hope it makes you smile, too.

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Shared at Coffee and Conversation, Creative Muster Party, The Homemaking Party, Weekly Smile, Thrifty Thursday, Chain Linky Climb, and From the Farm.

From my mountaintop to yours!

17 May 2016

You Want to Borrow My What? #Microblog

100_7557Uh oh.  You're about to see my selfish side.

What is something you'll never lend out to a friend? For me, that's easy.  My kindles.  Yep, plural.  And I still won't let ya borrow one.  (I told you it was selfish.) I was gifted one not long after they came out (thanks, again, Mom!), and then I purchased a kindle fire for myself.  Both of these gadgets are pretty old by today's standards, actually.

To be truthful, I rarely turn on the original kindle.  But when I got an email from Amazon telling me I had to upgrade, or it would be defunct, I cranked that baby up and got it done.  I love knowing it's there, as a backup, if I "need" it.

I'm trying to figure out why these two are so important to me, and I cannot think of a single "acceptable" answer! They are great for reading, of course.  And the fire is a tablet I can do just about anything on, for sure, so productivity is there.  What I do know is if either were broken or lost, I'd be devastated.  So please don't ask to borrow my kindles.

The third little tech gadget in the photo is my iTouch.  I'm slightly better when dealing with the thought of lending that out, but really I'd rather not.  (How selfish!)

Winking smile

Shared at Coffee and Conversation and Tuesdays with a Twist.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

15 May 2016

Notes on Numbers 11 (Book of Murmurings 2 of 2)

clouds-mountainWhen studying a particular passage or chapter of the Bible, I've discovered I like taking in, as food for thought, historical commentaries as well as teachings from the more contemporary scholars.

With Numbers, Chapter 11, I was led -- by Google -- to Matthew Henry (1662-1714).  If you'll remember, the people brought out of bondage in Egypt were complaining about the food God was providing them.  They were tired of it, essentially.  They wanted a bit of variety in their diet.  Someone on the outside, looking in, may think these folks are crazy.  How could they not appreciate all that God had done and was doing for them? Matthew Henry said this:

"Those who are of a discontented spirit, will always find something to quarrel or fret about, though the circumstances of their outward condition be ever so favourable."

The complainers even took things a bit further when they lamented over what was behind them.  Seriously.  They wept about it.  They totally whined --

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said:  "Who will give us meat to eat?
We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic;

I'll bet they were drooling all over themselves.  But that's what happens when you involve the senses.  Returning to Matthew Henry:

"It is evidence of the dominion of the carnal mind, when we want to have the delights and satisfaction of sense."

wavesI'm trying to quit drinking soda.  Trying.  It's not the caffeine, but the sugar my body craves.  And it's also the bubbles.  That tingling in my mouth that transitions into a slight burn as the ice cold Mt. Dew (Code Red; my drug of choice) courses down my throat and splashes in my stomach like an ocean wave crashing on a rocky beach.  When I involve the senses like that, nothing can come between me and a trip to the grocery store soft drink aisle.

A more contemporary teacher, Charles F. Stanley, whose Life Principles Bible (affiliate link) I reference often, says this regarding verse 5:

"When we focus on what we do not have rather than on what we do have, we tend to forget the hardships from which God already has delivered us.  Israel remembered the food, bit forgot the slavery."

Exactly.

desolateGoing into a bit more detail about the manner in which God chose to answer the whining of the people, here's a couple more verses:

19  'You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days,
20  'but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, "Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?"'

Oh, you know God was angry.  Scary angry.  But the people, after being told by Moses, still didn't get it.  As Dr. Stanley says:

"We 'despise' the Lord, who lives among us, when we declare His provision insufficient and His plan defective…" 

At the end of the chapter, we read about God giving the complainers what they wanted, just before he essentially did away with them.  Again, Matthew Henry:

"God often grants the desires of sinners in wrath, while he denies the desires of his own people in love."

It's sometimes a hard pill to swallow, but that explains that.

bwcloudstrees

Shared at Scripture and a Snapshot, Tuesdays with a Twist, The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Monday of Many Blessings, and Coffee and Conversation.

14 May 2016

Sighing is Complaining. And Complaining is a Sin. (Book of Murmurings 1 of 2.)

This is truly a "dear diary" kind of post.  No fancy photos to keep you engaged.  It's about me and my life.  It may not apply to you at all.  And you may not agree with what I type.  Still, I invite you in to this precious space.  Even if just for contemplation and dismissal.  For it's the contemplation I'm after.

I'm not a complainer.  Really.  I have the occasional rant or vent, just like most everyone else.  But I don't make a habit of complaining.

Verbally.

What I am is a sigher (if that's a word).  And I don't mean the "of relief" kind.  I've never been one to "suffer fools gladly."  I know it's a fault, and I can say I've gotten better over the years, but I have a ways to go.  But to be honest and transparent:  I sigh when I'm surrounded by said fools.  (One step forward, two steps back.) I sigh when I'm tired.  I sigh when I'm angry.  I sigh when I'm sad.  I sigh when I watch the news.  I sigh when someone doesn't do what I think they should do.  I sigh when someone is in my way.  I sigh when the dogs don't cooperate with my command.  I sigh when something roots all through the cucumbers I just planted.  I sigh when I have a vision of what my day should be, and it just. doesn't. happen.  See a pattern here?

I very recently had a light bulb moment when I noticed I sigh a lot.  (Shocking, I know.) To me, that means God is showing me something.  And in this case, it's something I need to address:  I am a complainer.

I probably took up sighing so I wouldn't have to have a dialogue about whatever was making me sigh.  Because that would be complaining.  Anybody out there feel me, yet? Here lately, though, B has started to ask, "What are you sighing about?" whenever that loud breath escapes me.  Clearly another sign I sigh too much, and have been doing so for a while.

Now that I've acknowledged my shortcoming, let me explain why it scares me.

Ever read Numbers chapter 11? This book of the Bible is sometimes called the "Book of the Murmurings." The events recorded are said to have began about a year after God brought about the exodus from Egypt.  While the first ten chapters are like a census of sorts, chapter 11 is all about the complainers.  These people, the ones who were not that far removed from slavery, had the nerve to complain to The One that freed them from the bondage.  About the food He was providing them.  Free manna from Heaven.  Every day.  Exactly what they needed.  Every day.  Without even having to work for it.  Every. Single. Day.  He provided.

They even took it a rude step further.  They lamented about what "bounty" they had in Egypt.  Are you kidding me?

I say it's pretty easy to recognize how this behavior could anger God.  But can I recognize the same sorry behavior in my own life? Yes, I'm ashamed to say, I can.

God has – literally – given me my heart's desire with this move.  He has provided me with the ability to live my dream.  And part of the dream that He put on my heart, in addition to returning a bit to the old paths and living more closely with nature, was to live in such a way that pleases Him.  And not only for our personal relationship, His and mine, but to share in such a way that helps others see and appreciate everything He has provided for us.  You and me.

When I sigh, I am complaining.  In that very moment, I am expressing displeasure to God.  Furthermore, I am distracting myself from whatever I should be thinking, seeing, doing.  What if, in that situation, I am supposed to impart wisdom He provided me to share with others? What if, in that moment, when I'm feeling tired or angry or sad, I am supposed to recognize – and praise Him – for the strength he continues to give me to put one foot in front of the other? What if, while sighing under my breath (if that's possible) at the person "in my way," I am supposed to see someone in need?

Oh.  And by the way.  Do you know what happened to the complainers in Numbers 11? God gave them what they wanted.

33  But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague.

34  …there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.

Just sayin'.

P.S. This turned into quite a long post.  If you're interested in a bit more of what I found when studying Numbers 11, come back tomorrow.  I might even sprinkle in some "fancy photos."

Shared at The Art of Homemaking Mondays.

13 May 2016

Summer Squash Macaroni and Cheese

100_5272Do what you can with what you have…and don't forget to take pictures.  Well, I got half of it right.  I didn't do so hot with the pictures part.

Does the word "picture" sound antiquated to you? It does to me.

Anyway. It was just me and the dogs for dinner one night.  I wanted something easy, hearty, comforting, and meat-free.  Easy, peasy, right? For someone who doesn't cook, not so much.  So I turned to an expert – Rachael Ray, and settled on her Boo's Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese recipe from 365: No Repeats.

I went to the store to get some frozen butternut squash.  The recipe actually calls for it initially in that state.  I didn't have time to roast one anyway, and to be honest, I didn't want to.  Unfortunately, there was no frozen butternut squash to be found in the store I chose.  So I went with what was available, yellow squash with onions (still of the frozen variety).

Got home and fumbled my way through the recipe, making little adjustments here and there, and finally got a finished product.

Y'all.  It was good! Real good.

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If I've piqued your curiosity, and you want to know more, here's what I did:

Summer Squash Macaroni and Cheese

100_6978Adapted from "Boo's Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese" by Rachael Ray in the 365: No Repeats cookbook.

Ingredients

  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 lb. penne pasta
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme (or 2 tbsp. chopped fresh)
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14-oz.) can chicken broth
  • 1 bag frozen yellow squash with onions (about 12 oz.), defrosted 
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan-Romano
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta cooks, heat a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the thyme and cook for a minute or 2. Add the flour and cook for a minute or 2 more. Whisk in the broth, then add the squash and onion mixture. Cook until warmed through. [At this point, I broke up the squash into smaller pieces. Nothing too difficult, just allowed it to go a bit and begin to break down.]
  3. Stir in the half and half and bring the sauce to a bubble. Stir in the cheeses in a figure-eight motion and season the completed sauce with salt and pepper, adjusting for taste.
  4. Drain the cooked pasta well and combine with the sauce.

Yield: 5+ servings

Hope you like it! From my mountaintop to yours.

Shared at From the Farm, Freedom Fridays, Simple & Sweet Fridays, Chain "Linky" Climb, and The Art of Homemaking Mondays.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

09 May 2016

My 2¢ on Dehydrating Apples: a How-To with 7 Tips

100_6118Making apple chips, or dried apples, is super easy to do at home with a dehydrator.  (I use a Nesco Snackmaster.) Here are the basic steps:
  1. Select firm apples with as little bruising as possible.
  2. Wash and core the apples.
  3. Slice apples thinly and as evenly as possible (about 1/4-inch).
  4. Places slices in lemon juice and water mixture.  A 1/4 cup juice to a quart of water is a good ratio.  This helps to deter browning.
  5. Season (with cinnamon, for example) if desired.  Place slices on dehydrator trays in such a way that air can circulate around them.
  6. Dry at 140°F for an average of 12 hours.
100_6125What I learned after my first attempt at drying apples at home:
  • It's easy! Don't stress over every little step.  Forget the lemon juice? That's ok.  Your slices aren't perfectly even? That's ok.  Some of your slices are touching on the dehydrator trays? That's ok! You should still end up with a nice finished product.
  • Be picky about your apples.  If you get a ho-hum flavored apple from the grocery store and dry it, it's still going to be a ho-hum flavored apple.  We now live about 3 miles from an apple orchard that's been around for 70 years.  Can you guess where my next batch to dry is coming from?
  • The skin is pretty tough after drying.  Next time, I'm going to peel my apples.
  • The lemon juice and water mixture works.  I had no browning of the apples using this method.  Having said that, there are plenty of people who skip this step.  Try some both ways.  If it doesn't make a big enough difference for you, you'll save time in future batches.
  • I used a Granny Smith (tart) type of apple.  Didn't care for cinnamon on it.  Might want to use a sweeter apple in the future.
  • Be flexible with your drying times.  External factors will play a role in how long it takes to dry your apples.  So don't be hard and fast about it.  Check on the drying progress from time to time.  You want a pliable and flexible apple slice with no signs of moisture.  If you are planning on storing them long term, over-drying is better than under-drying.
  • I store my dried apples in pint-sized mason jars.  The ones I made 10 months ago have not lost any flavor -- still delicious!

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Tuesdays with a Twist Featured

Shared at The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Thank Goodness It's Monday, Inspiration Monday, Create Link Inspire, Tuesdays with a Twist, The Homemaking Party, Thrifty Thursday, From the Farm, and Chain "Linky" Climb.

From my mountaintop to yours!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

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