10,000 steps and other journeys

image   I try to take 10,000 steps a day.  there are days when it’s an easy task. Then, there are other days where each step is a journey. Days when my patience is tested, I grow weary and weak from the challenges and obstacles that lay in the path of life.

You see, it’s not only in the physical steps that we move forward. It’s in the spiritual steps that we really get somewhere.

The days when you realize how you have moved beyond periods of life, or the days when you realize that you haven’t.

I have crushing days, days filled with drama, sadness, illness and heartache. Days where I feel that the steps I made have been washed away from the shore of life… I spent 8 years raising a (now recovered) drug addict’s daughter. And in one remarkable swoosh of a wave, everything I did evaporated in the grasps of her biological mother.  Like seeing a  crisp clean wave break through the depth of the dark ocean, the destruction of the element is  always apparent in the aftermath.

So, I step forward and get used to a new normal, a smaller family with one less place at the dinner table. I get used to walking past an untouched room… and I keep walking.

Accumulating steps, and lessons in between. Would I have trekked differently if I knew the destination?

No.

Because I have not made it there yet. This is just a road block. Construction is underway on the road of life and I have the choice to sit and wait, stew and stomp my feet and go nowhere.

Or…..

I can continue. Keep the journey going and enjoy the sights of life, with or without whoever chooses to walk along my side.

I chose to take my steps.

I chose to embrace even the most difficult terrain, because I know that the construction crew God uses in my road is for His road, and His path.

Chances are, there may have been a huge sinkhole He had to fill.

So, take your steps and enjoy your journey. Embrace the road blocks and detours, and know that something far greater is at work, and something far beyond our expectations  lie at the end of our paths.

 

 

 

 

 

homemade pretzel buns

homemade pretzel buns My husband thought I was a bit crazy making these once he saw all the steps involved.  He had no clue what goes into pretzel making I suppose…

You see, pretzels have that chewy, slightly  briny exterior for a reason. They take a swim before they bake.

And, that extra step makes all the difference and yes, it’s well worth it to make your own. Pretzel buns are expensive, and It’s just plain  fun to save money. That was my logic when the hubby raised an eyebrow as I heated up the big stockpot.

Then, when they came out of the oven… he swiped one to eat (which annoyed me because I wanted to save the best looking ones for a photo shoot and when I asked him if he got an ugly one to eat he said they all looked the same which made me realize he clearly needs a training in food styling.)

Anyway, he ate one and had that “wow-this-is-really-good” reaction that all home cooks strive for. SCORE! :) Total. keeper. recipe. Insert happy mama dance.

So… speaking of family: here we are creeping upon summer,  flip flops and beach days are calling me like church bells on Sundays. I cannot wait to embrace summer’s freedom. I’m blessed to be in a realm of existence where summers matter (ie; I’m off during summer) But… I know not all of you have that.

I know that summer is dreaded for many; it’s expensive with camps, or it’s expensive with worry , it’s stressful-and; as parents,  you  cannot wait for school to be in session again.  But: it’s still summer.

Try to remember back to your own summer days: free from the desk, and uncomfortable chair, bagged lunches and cafeteria food, schoolwork, mean kids and test anxiety.  Having to wear uniforms and shoes that are too tight because your mom doesn’t want to buy anymore school shoes before next fall, and don’t even get me started on worn out school clothing. I think by the end of the school year I had a years’ worth of stains on everything, and none of my socks matched. Ever.

Ahhhh.  I am so glad I’m not a kid anymore. Sometimes.

Being a kid is way overrated. Sure, you don’t have typical adult worries; bills, money, health, work just  to name a few.  But with a lot of the adult problems, adults have somewhat control over.  Have a budget, live a healthy lifestyle, do your best at work….

But, when you’re a kid? You’re stuck. Totally stuck in the grasps of childhood. Stuck with whatever mom made you for lunch.  Stuck with the tight shoes, stuck with meatloaf Mondays. And stuck sitting side by side with the third grade bully, because you have the same last name. Stuck with assigned everything.  Let’s face it: childhood isn’t all that great. We just think it was because we didn’t have the worries we do as adults.

However, kids still have worries…. just because they don’t seem as important as your worries , it  doesn’t negate them.

They are real.

So: embrace summer. Understand childhood. Being a kid doesn’t mean life is perfect.

When you pay attention to the “little” problems today, they will come to you with the big problems later.  Because the last thing you want -is them to seek advice for that big problem from the wrong person….Okay. Rant over. You’re here for pretzel buns anyway.

pretzel bunsI slightly cheated on this:

I have a bread machine that features a dough cycle (most do) so I just let my trusty device do most of the work. I got to do the fun part. Playing with the dough.

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This recipe came from Publix family style magazine- it’s basically a free magazine from my grocery store, with drool worthy photos. I’m a sucker for good food pics. Who isn’t? ;)

PS- For the record, this is NOT a sponsored post, Publix has no clue who I am, and I am not getting perks in any way for this post. I simply wanted to share the recipe with proper credit.

homemade pretzel buns
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1½ TBS sugar
  • 1½ TBS active dry yeast
  • 1½ cups bread flour, divided
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 TBS malted milk powder
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • For the brine:
  • 6 cups water
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 TBS water
  • coarse salt
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, heat and stir milk, water, butter and sugar until just warm, and butter melts
  2. Transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle yeast on top
  3. allow to sit about 5 minutes until foamy
  4. Add ¾ cup of the bread flour, whole wheat flour, malted milk powder, and salt
  5. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl often
  6. Beat on high speed three minutes
  7. Using a spoon stir in as much of the remaining bread flour as possible
  8. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes
  9. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover and place in a warm place until nearly doubled in size (about 1 hour)
  10. Line a large baking sheet with foil
  11. Spray with cooking spray
  12. Punch down dough and separate into 8 equal pieces
  13. Shape each section into a ball and place on the baking sheet.
  14. Cover and let rise 30 minutes
  15. Preheat oven to 450
  16. In a large stockpot bring the water and baking soda to a boil
  17. Using a slotted spoon, Gently place dough ball into the boiling brine and boil 2 minutes, turning once
  18. Place on baking sheet, and score with a sharp blade or knife
  19. Brush with beaten egg yolk, and sprinkle with salt or sesame seeds
  20. Bake 12-15 minutes

 

 

 

 

The New Spring

I use every Springtime as a sort of “do over” for New Years.

A time to clear out, not only excess clutter form my home, but also my life and my mind.

  Every year, I cut out processed foods, meats, dairy, and sugars. In addition, I cut out processed society, too. I eliminate the endless chatter of newsfeeds and social media sites.
The first few days are always a challenge. You don’t realize how much of a habit it is to just pick up your device and do a quick scroll.
That quick scroll usually ends up several minutes.

Several minutes you can’t take back.

Then, you have an assortment of miscellaneous stories and status updates taking up space in your thoughts. Disturbing news stories, useless quizzes and polls, not to mention the slew of ads that randomly pop up.
Pure mind clutter.
The thing is, we don’t realize how much it clutters out thoughts and our days until we take it away.
Stopping social media not only decluttered my thoughts but it also gave me more mental clarity than ever before.
It was like spring cleaning my mind.

The times I caught myself wanting to scroll a news feed I filled with The Word, and my mornings were refocused on devoting my day and life to Him, not them.

The same way a freshly cleaned house livens up your mood, a freshly cleared mind livens your soul.

I have never felt more joy, peace and purpose in life.

Sure, there were several friends and aquatences I wanted to keep up with… Babies coming due, birthdays, and prayer requests were still tugging at me, but: God always makes a way for communication in His time.
There is a time for all things.
It’s in the acceptance of that time we can find the peace that we all long for, a peace that surpasses all understanding.
My time here is limited, and I won’t allow it to be stolen by distraction.
I encourage each of you to take the challenge:
Spring clean your mind. Take back your time.
Don’t let your days be stolen by distraction.
You can’t get back time.image

Sunday school 101

For a while now, I have been the director of Children’s ministry at a small local church…  which basically means  I’m a Sunday school teacher and jr youth group leader, and I get to write my own curriculum, and lessons. Of course, I could always use a pre written curriculum, but developing my own has not only helped the children grow spiritually. but it has also helped me to see scripture on their level as well.  Sometimes, opening our eyes with childlike faith is all we need to see the true glory of God.

I had pondered sharing some of it on a separate blog at some point, which brings me back to my original resolutions here on this blog.

I’m not going to separate and compartmentalize my life.

This is a food blog….but life is not all food.

Food nourishes our bodies, But, that’s not all we need. 

 But, it’s not going to help you cope with tomorrow’s stress.

Sometimes, you need something more than food to fill an emptiness inside.

I’m not here to preach or give a sermon. I’m just here to share  some versions of what I’ve taught.

sunday school 101This is  a common sunday school lesson, the parable of the seed in  soil , where it lands determines not only the growth of the plant, but also the fruit it may or may not eventually yield.

When Jesus first told this to His followers, they were perplexed. It was a different concept for them to place themselves out of the standard context of the day. Back then, there wasn’t much time for the development of an imagination. There was work  to be done. 

Unfortunately, in today’s society there also is not much time for the development of imagination… Technology already thinks and imagines for us. 

We want to make a picture of an orange ocean and blue sky? 

Photo editing is at our fingertips.

We want to amuse ourselves and we are instantly satisfied- weather it be a social site or access to thousands of short videos and stories, mind numbing and time stealing games…

Gone are the days where our children crawl upon our laps and simply what to be told a story. 

But: 

Jesus still wants us to crawl upon his lap and hear his story.

We are all his seeds, and where are we allowing ourselves to be planted holds great significance in how-and where we grow our roots.

As we grow older and bear fruit- weather it’s fruit of the spirit or fruit of the womb- 

It all comes down to how well our roots are planted, and where are they planted? 

Are you planted in sandy soil? Will the slightest storm in your life wash you away from Him? 

Are you planted in rocks… In a small crack where you feel secure and safe, unwilling to take a chance and allow yourself to love and grow among others… Sometimes when you feel your safest is when the enemy can pluck you out  and away.

Are you a good seed but you’re surrounded by thorns? Are there people in your life that hold you back from what you’re destined to do? Are you running with the wrong crowd or being led astay by the thorniness of the worldly society we live in?

Even rose bushes have thorns. 

It’s easy to feel like you’re in the right place because there is beauty. But: be aware of the thorns.

Or, perhaps you are planted in His soil. 

Allowing the word to guide, enrich and fertilize you. 

Some of us are still seeds. 

Looking for a garden to call home.

Call out to the sower.

Ask to be planted. 

And grow.

Carrot cake whoopie pies

It’s   officially spring …but it has felt more like summer in my area. 86 degrees with high humidity = bad hair and craving springtime treats.

Of course, when I think of spring, I think of bunnies, and when I think of bunnies, I think of carrots and when I think of carrots I think of carrot cake….

oooo.

Whoopie.

Hence:

Carrot Cake Whoopie PIes

 

carrot cake whoopie pies

And, there are carrots in there. So you can totally call it healthy, right? Okay, maybe not “healthy” but healthier than a non carrot whoopie pie.

carrot cake whoopie piesThe best part is how crazy easy these are to make. Yep, I didn’t go all BettyMarthaCrockerStewart.

Nope

Cake mix with a kick on this one baby! Of course it was an all natural organic blah blah cake mix, and I added a few twists to make it more homier, but the bottom line is that indeed it stared from a box. But, don’t worry: I’ll share the secret tips.

1. melted butter

2. fresh carrots

3. extra cinnamon

That’s it. Now: go get your inner Betty in gear and whip up a batch of these!

Carrot cake whoopie pies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 box carrot cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup shredded carrots , shredded on finest plate to tiny specks (sawdust)
  • For the filling:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 TBS heavy cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Combine the mix, egg and melted butter
  3. Add the carrots and mix well
  4. Allow to rest 15 minutes
  5. Spoon by tablespoons 2" apart on a parchment lined baking sheet
  6. Bake 6-9 minutes or until center is soft and edges are set
  7. Allow to cool and fill
  8. For the filling:
  9. Mix cream cheese, cream and sugar at medium speed until fluffy
  10. Spread on the flat side of cookie, and top with another cookie
  11. Makes 24

 

 

 

spicy chicken dumplings

spicy chicken dumplingsYears ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Chicago, courtesy of Kenmore.

And… with that trip I was able to take a culinary tour with two of my best food blogging friends, and we went to Chinatown and had Dim Sum.

Ever since that trip, I crave those little tasty morsels on occasion pretty much every day.  So, when there is an occasion for bite sized foods (Superbowl, New Years Eve..) you can bet I’m making some sort of Dim Sum.

 

dim sumThese were filled with a mixture of ground chicken breast, green onions, ginger, garlic and chilli pepper flakes for a slight kick.

Dipping them in a citrusy tamari  sauce flatters the filling like a string of pearls and the perfect black dress.

I made these using a bamboo steamer, and one pound of chicken, and spices I had on hand…add the $1.69 wonton wrappers and a grand total of $4.78 produced 36 dumplings. Bargain!Perfect for a party. Or a light dinner with soup.

_DSC3140Steaming these makes them way healthier, although you can also give them a bath in hot oil for a crispy fritter like dumpling. I prefer the steamed, chewy, figure friendly variety personally though.

_DSC3138_0138_edited-1Another thing, is the filling cooks as they steam so make sure you are very clean with the process and don’t cross contaminate surfaces. My advice is to assemble all of the dumplings and place them on a tray. Steam in batches and place the cooked dumplings on a different tray. Of course most of you know this already, but… to be on the safe side, I figured I’d remind you. Raw chicken is nasty before it’s cooked.

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but, of course you knew that… speaking of raw chicken. I had come across a sushi cookbook awhile back, and they had a sushi roll made with seared chicken breast.  Seared as in, still raw in the middle.

Ummm… thanks, but no thanks . I’ll stick with tuna.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these tidbits.  Speaking of tidbits,  here’s the latest family news: (insert nightly news music)

My husband did the sweetest things ever this valentines day. ..this is the guy that used to say it was a hallmark holiday,  but now hes all in. Lucky me!

So, he surprised me with matching tattoos of our wedding date… lets see ….IMG_9326.JPG

And, a baby American parakeet or budgie,  (and yes there is more than one type). Personally I’m  hoping this is a boy mainly because:

a. Boys talk

b.I  have two girls already

IMG_9340.JPG

…..so hopefully  in a year or so we can breed them. These birds are amazing when they are hand fed, they are just little lovers.

Add a steak dinner and I’m  a happy girl.

But just to prove that things aren’t  always steaks and parakeets…i have so e bad news as well, because this wouldn’t be a real news segment without a bit of draaaaamaaaa.

My stepdaughter is on strike from visiting us for no apparent reason… which, in turn makes me depressed since I was her full time “mom” for close to eight years of her life. People keep saying, she’ll come around. Which I am sure she will, but will I even “know” her by that time?

There is an awful cold/flu going around my daughters school, and as y’all know I am a major germ-a-phob, add in the fact I work at the school two days a week, equals lots of vitamins and hand sanitizer. Maybe even a green drink. And a face mask. Just kidding on the face mask. It’s not that I am scared to be sick, heck- there are times I feel a cold coming on and I’m slightly joyful because it’s the only legitimate excuse I can come up with to stay in my lazy gear all day and read magazines on the couch.

But, with a birthday coming up, I am really opting out of being sick this week at least..

Back to dumplings:

spicy chicken dumplings
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chives
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 pkg wonton skins
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine the chicken and seasonings
  2. Place a small quarter sized ball of filling in the center of each wrapper.
  3. Dampen edges and seal
  4. Steam in an oiled bamboo steamer for 10`12 minutes,
  5. Serve with citrus tamari sauce or sriacha

 

 

 

lemon pastry cremes girl scout cookies

homemade lemon pastry cremeslemon pastry cremes~ (n) My favorite girl scout cookie that they discontinued, flaky cookies dusted in powdered sugar with a sweet creamy lemon filling inside.

 

There are a few food items I would say I actually obsess over. Long lost food items from my childhood that cease to be in existence any longer. I have made many attempts to recreate these, some were disastrous ,   Some,  I have successfully re-created.

Lemon Pastry Cremes being one of them. (insert happy dance and several woo-hoos)

Lemon Pastry Cremes recipeFlaky cookies with flecks of tart lemon zest,filled with a buttery lemon filling and dusted with powdered sugar.

I know, it’s January and the last of the Christmas cookies and candy canes have successfully been purged from the house, and now it’s time to purge them from the waistline, and… just as we are detoxing and denying sweets…

THEY happen.

You know who I’m talking about… those sweet little girls peddling their $5 a-box cookies. (Are they $5? $7? They go up every year…) They get you as you go into the grocery store,  all the while you’re intent on getting your fat- free -dairy -free -lactose- free- soy -free-nut-free dairy replacement beverage to go with your extra fiber sugar free fibrous  bark bran flakes…

and they’re there.

You want to say: “I’m on a diet/gluten intolerant/allergic to cardboard”

But, instead you say: “Catch me on the way out” partially hoping you’ll both forget for your wallet’s sake and your hips as well.

But… it happens.

It’s easily justified, they are only sold once a year, and only for a week at that.

…. but,

they freeze well.

There’s new flavors this year.

It’s not January without Thin Mints and Caramel Delites.

So, you buy four cases.

It’s okay. I’m not judging.

I bet they would sell cases more if sales were not during peak “diet season”.

They ought to sell them at back to school time… that’s peak snacking season. Think about it: after school snacks, cookies for lunchboxes, a little treat for mom while the kids are in school, and… don’t even get me started on all the fall flavored cookies they could churn out.  Oh yes, pumpkin spice caramel delite…. I can taste it already….

That’s it. I’m sending a letter to the Girl Scouts.

Dear Madame, (I’m pretty sure it will be a woman in charge, just a hunch)

It has occurred to me that there is an error in your cookie marketing campaign. You are promoting and marketing your goods in the wrong season of eating. May I suggest that peak diet season be replaced with peak snacking season?

We are all embracing our cozy flannels and sweatpants during this season, and your sales of decadent treats will be consumed in even greater numbers, without fear of the extra poundage even showing until well into swimsuit season.

With all due respect,

The Domestic Mama

There.

Point made.

Now: allow me to channel my inner cookie seller and entice your to make these cookies:

 

 

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Using your grandma’s cookie cutter? Oh yes, you’re making granny proud.

_DSC3054_0129Finally putting your micro plane to use? Another bonus.

lemon pastry cremesSharing these with your favorite people?

Homemade is always better than store bought… everyone knows that.

lemon pastry cremes girl scout cookies
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the cookies:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • For the filling:
  • ½ stick butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Combine all ingredients and spread between cooked cookies
Instructions
  1. For the cookies:
  2. Combine the butter, cream cheese and lemon zest.
  3. Add the sugar and mix well
  4. Add the flour and mix to form a dough
  5. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours
  6. Preheat oven to 350
  7. Roll out dough to ⅛" thick and place on a parchment lined baking sheet
  8. Bake 7-10 minutes or until firm
  9. Allow to cook and fill with lemon butter filling (recipe above)
  10. Makes 24 sandwich cookies

lemon pastry cremes

 

A little food, a little fun, and a little laugh in between, enjoy!