Taffy Apple Salad


Happy Halloween! In lieu of costume for school, here is a robotic shirt/sweatshirt

It’s a little belated, but hoping you had a wonderful holiday season, which always starts with Halloween at our house! This was the first year for no party or costumes at school.   I surprised them with Halloween shirts/sweatshirts to wear during school.


I’m not sure, but I bet it was colder on Halloween than Christmas thanks to the famous Polar vortex we were living through again this Fall.  Look how the retailers are trying to cash in on this weather phenomena.


Taffy Apple Salad

When Julie and I met to review recipes left to make from the cookbook, I thought this looked like a neat recipe with lots of things my family loves- pineapple, apples, nuts, and yes, marshmallows and sugar!!  Taffy apples represent Fall/Halloween, so this was a great opportunity to make this delicious salad from page 17. Luckily, Queen Elsa (from Frozen, in case you missed this epic Disney phenomena) agreed to assist me with preparing the salad.

IMG_1917 IMG_1919

Queen Elsa is an old fashioned monarch.  Luckily, she chose to wear an undergarment beneath her royal gown to prevent potential wardrobe malfunctions.  The Queen Mum searched high and low, but could only find the a suitable garment on a clearance rack in a much larger size than her majesty currently wears.   Queen Elsa also prefers beating her eggs the “old fashioned way”- with a wisk vs. an electric mixer. The eggs were mixed with pineapple juice, flour, sugar, and vinegar, then were poured into a small sauce pan.  After the mixture thickened, I put it our on the porch (in lieu of the refrigerator) to chill.


In this picture, her Highness is mixing cool whip, pineapple tidbits and chopped apples with the egg/juice/sugar/flour mixture.

Because I was concerned about a potential egg allergy with friends we were going to share this with,  I nixed adding the chopped dry roasted peanuts.   It was a fun addition to a Halloween gathering we co-hosted with our next door neighbors.  We were thrilled to share the warmth of their garage as kids were trick or treating and checking out the club house.



Salads – Lime Jello Mold

Merry Christmas! 


 Therefore this is the chief article, which separates us from all the heathen, that you, O man, may not only learn that Christ, born of the virgin, is the Lord and Savior, but also accept the fact that he is your Lord and Savior, that you may be able to boast in your hear:  I hear the Word that sounds from heaven and says:  This child who is born of the virgin is not only his mother’s son.  I have more than the mother’s estate; he is more mine than Mary’s, for he was born for me, for the angel said, “To you” is born the Savior.  Then ought you to say, Amen, I thank thee, dear Lord. (From Martin Luther’s sermon on Luke 2)

Lime Jello Mold 

This recipe (p. 12) comes from Donna H., who made several great contributions to the cookbook. It’s a tasty treat! I used sugar free lime jello and boiling water instead of the heavy pear syrup.



It didn’t take long for it to set up. Delish! Thank you, Donna!

Salads – Cranberry Holiday Salad

It’s the beginning of a new church year. The altar is adorned in blue. The midweek services are preparing us for the coming of the Christ Child.

Advent is a season of preparation–but a different sort of preparation than that of the average consumer. It’s not so much about getting ready for a big extravagant holiday. It’s about preparing our hearts for the Savior.

In darkness and expectation we wait. We listen to the voice of the Lord, speaking across the ages, to us gathered in the pews on a cold and dark December night.

And what we hear is good news, good news of peace, of God reconciled to us, of hope and a future.

And while we wait, we have to finish just a few more recipes!

Cranberry Holiday Salad
This recipe (p. 9) comes from Jean D. and it was a tasty addition to our Thanksgiving table.



Salads – Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Cooking Fail

So on Sunday afternoon, I was feeling like cooking or baking, and now with all of the cookies finished (more to come soon on that), I thought I’d work ahead for Thanksgiving and make Donna H.’s Strawberry Pretzel Salad (p. 15). Before I settled on making the salad, though, I had a fairly epic baking failure.

So at the last cooking club, these cooking geniuses all showed up at the library with their amazing Thanksgiving dishes to inspire our own holidays. One woman brought Parker House Rolls. They melted in your mouth–like butter! They were so delicious!

I said to someone, “I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try this recipe,” and my friend responded, “What’s there to be afraid of? You’ve got the recipe all laid out for you.”

Well, there’s a lot to be afraid of when you’re kind of a disaster-waiting-to-happen like me.

Recently, I heard a description of what happens when an airplane crashes. Most of the time, the author said, the pilot is blamed for the final mistake, but often the fault can be laid at a series of small mishaps and errors made by a variety of people. The co-pilot might spill his coffee on the control panel, and then when the tech is called in, he doesn’t notice that another part of the panel shorted out. Once aloft, they run into a storm, and lightning strikes the plane. This isn’t always a big deal, but because part of the controls were already compromised, it causes major problems. And then when the pilot turns left instead of right, an engine fails, and the flight is doomed.

I think this is how it is with most things, and is definitely true for me in my cooking when one mistake after another piles up to a giant snowball of cooking failure.

My first error? I didn’t study the recipe carefully to see how much yeast to buy. So I was trying to do my best to halve the recipe.

My next task after figuring out the math was to proof the yeast. So I heated water to the just-right temperature, between 110-120 degrees. I heated it in the microwave for a little too long, so I added some cold water, and bam–I got 118 degrees. Okay, ready!

So I dumped my yeast packets in the water and started stirring, only after I realized I had not measured the water. I had dumped all of my yeast into what amounted to about 3 times the amount of water I needed. Sheesh…

Well, there went that recipe down the tubes.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

So, instead, I decided to make the strawberry salad (p. 15). I assumed when I started this recipe that it was similar to the strawberry cream cheese salad my family makes, which is basically a strawberry jello salad with chunks of cream cheese added. Yum.

But this one is more of a layered deal. First step is to crush the pretzels. I just sort of squooshed them in a plastic bag. Hopefully I got them crushed enough.

photo 4

Then, combine pretzels with some sugar and butter. By the way, butter is not in this recipe, so I added 4 T, and that seemed to be enough. Press the mixture into the bottom of a pan (I used a 9×9 pan and only made 3/4 of the recipe since our family is small) and bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 min.

photo 5

Then the creamy layer of sugar, whipped topping, and cream cheese is added. This layer could definitely be lightened up. It calls for a full cup of sugar–I think half of that would do just fine.



This layer is followed by the frozen strawberries and jello.

And here’s the finished product. Looks great, eh? Once is sets, it’ll be perfect for our Thanksgiving dinner, along with cranberry sauce.

Salads – Favorite Salad Dressing

Julie here:

Arm Knitting
One of the skills I’ve enjoyed learning and sharing at Elmhurst Public Library is knitting. A new variation on this skill is arm knitting! This week at In Stitches we’ll be learning arm knitting.

Instead of using knitting needles, you use your arms to create the stitches. So it’s a loosely knitted cowl or infinity scarf that looks something like this.


To make the scarves you start with thick, chunky yarn, using at least two or three strands in order to create the fullness. We’ll see how my scarves turn out after this coming Wednesday.

Favorite Salad Dressing

This recipe (p. 10) comes from Joan H. I like it because it not only makes a nice light dressing for a salad, but it’s so easy! We don’t need all of the preservatives and other random stuff thrown in to commercially prepared salad dressing. All we need is a little vinegar, oil, a little sweetness, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Easy!

photo-1Thank you, Joan, for adding this to the cookbook!


Salads – Triple Cranberry Sauce

Julie here –

The Prayer of the Church, The Collect, Part 2


Sometimes when we pray, the words spill out and we can express the hopes and dreams and fears to God. God wants to hear us, like any loving father would.

Other times we want to pray with words that help us focus a little better, to reflect on God’s attributes and present our petition in light of this. This is when a collect can beautifully state our prayers. As I mentioned last week, a collect has 5 parts. So let’s break this down:

(I’m using here a nice harvest prayer from this website):

1) address to God

God our Father,

2) attribute of God related to the petition

you never cease the work you have begun and prosper with your blessing all human labour:

3) the petition
make us wise and faithful stewards of your gifts that we may serve the common good, maintain the fabric of our world and seek that justice where all may share the good things you pour upon us;

4) the closing

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

5) the Amen


Triple Cranberry Sauce

This recipe (p. 18) seemed the perfect sauce to try for the Elmhurst Public Library‘s cooking club when the theme for the month is…THANKSGIVING! Someone already planned on bringing the turkey and other side dishes, so I figured this would be a great one to try in preparation of our Thanksgiving celebration at the end of the month.


The “triple” part of this recipe comes from 1) cranberry juice, 2) fresh or frozen cranberries, and 3) dried cranberries. Also the recipe includes orange marmalade, orange juice, and orange peel, so it should be Triple Cranberry-Triple Orange sauce! Add in some allspice and sugar, and there you go–cranberry yumminess.

IMG_0570I love the balance of sweet and sour in this recipe. It’s got wonderful flavor. Try it this year for your Thanksgiving feast!





Salads – Oriental Coleslaw

Julie here–
Back at it
Well, by now most of us are getting into the swing of the fall school year. I’ve got a planning meeting scheduled for next week for the youth group, and on the tails of that, we’ll be taking the kids on two retreats–one for the younger kids and then one for the high schoolers.

So while all of us college parents are still finding it strange to be in quieter, less active homes, we’re also diving into fall activities. This week I start tutoring at Timothy Christian again, working with the ESL students. It’s great to meet the new kids and hear about the summers of the returning ones.

I looked at the DuPage Forest Preserve fall schedule and circled a couple of the fitness walks and photo meet-ups, to take full advantage of the nicer weather before winter hits.

I’m starting a new Bible study for high school girls, based on the book Divine Makeover: God Makes Us Beautiful by Sharla Fritz. I have used her similar book Divine Design, and liked it. This one is geared more toward high school kids, so hopefully it’ll work well for the girls that will gather in my home soon.

And lately, I’ve been thinking myself of going back to school. I don’t know if I’ll actually give it a try or not, but over the years, I have considered pursuing a Master in Fine Arts in creative writing, and this summer heard about a great MFA program I’d love to enroll in. So I’m pondering it although having all three of my family members in higher education at the same time seems a little crazy. I have a master’s degree in English ed. which I’ve utilized a lot over the years, so I’m relatively sure I would benefit from the program just like I have from the first one. But even if I don’t enroll in it, I’m always excited and thankful to have time to attend workshops and conferences.

So hello, fall!

Oriental Coleslaw
This dish (p. 13) has a bright, oniony, light flavor which makes all of the veggies go down easy!

It’s easy too–just use a coleslaw mix add mandarin oranges, green onions, and break ramen noodles over the top. The dressing includes sugar, oil, vinegar, and the ramen noodle flavor packet. Easy! It’s best to wait to add the ramen noodles (and almonds, if you include those) until the last minute so they remain crispy.

Thank you, Karen O. for this delicious recipe!

Salads – Texas Caviar

I realized the other day that I haven’t updated my scrapbooks in forever. Usually I try to get updated with recent photos over the New Year break and in the summertime. But since my work schedule has changed and isn’t so dependent the school calendar, I realized I’ve gotten behind. The last thing I added to my scrapbook was at the end of 2012.

So I’m getting a BUNCH of photos printed, and then will start to get them inserted into a scrapbook. When I was at a thrift store recently, I found a brand-new scrapbook for $2.99, and really scored when I found Creative Memories pages and page protectors for cheap–12-packs of them for $1.99 each. Sweet! That’s what I love about going to Goodwill. You never know what you’ll find!

There’s a lot that’s happened in a year and a half. I’ve been on two mission trips, had a son graduate from high school, and been at workshops and on various trips. I don’t go crazy with my scrapbooks because then I’d never actually be caught up. But I do like to have photos with some captions. I always enjoy looking back over my old scrapbooks. Things change so fast!

We’re going to take Lucy in to the vet this week. While in a lot of ways, she seems happy and content, she’s really struggling to get around. She’s having some potty issues. She can’t go up and down the stairs–and it’s been a long time since she was able to go on a walk. I hope the vet can tell us at least how much pain she’s in and that sort of thing. She may do well for another few months…who knows.

So when I can look back at my scrapbooks and realize just how little she was when we got her 13 years ago, and remember all the games we used to play with her, the dog parks we went to, the trips she came on…then I think her life kinda stinks now. Hard to know the right thing to do.

Texas Caviar
I’ve had several variations of this recipe (p. 32), and I’ve heard it most often called Southwest Bean salad. Texas Caviar is a colorful twist on the name, isn’t it!?

And it’s a colorful salad! This is the kind of salad you just keep adding stuff to. It would make a nice offering for a potluck or to use when entertaining because it looks so pretty in the bowl.

Here are a bunch of the ingredients:


And look how great it turned out!


For the dressing, I changed it quite a bit to lighten it up. I mixed:

2 T olive oil
1 T cider vinegar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
scant 1/4 c splenda

And it tastes great!

Salad – Southern Black-eyed pea salad

Mountain Climbing Update
Well, my New Year’s resolution to climb a mountain may be back on. The original ill-conceived plan was to go out to Colorado for a visit and climbing expedition in May. But then my older brother and sis-in-law warned me that it would be more like climbing through a snow-capped glacier than a mountain because of the crazy amount of snow the mountains got this year.

So…I sort of got sidetracked and figured this could be my year to drop some weight, and then refocus efforts next summer. But then when my brother heard that we were going to vacation in Glenwood Springs, he suggested we try Mt. Sopris. It’s not a 14er (which means it’s above 14,000 feet), but it’s still just under 13,000!

Even though Jacob would scoff at the need for assistance, my brother has said that while he thinks I could do it, someone experienced should go with us. So we’ll see if my nephew, sister-in-law, or brother can make it. If not, Jacob and I hiked up to Hanging Lake last summer and I would gladly do that again. The views are stunning. The hike was taxing because of the already high elevation for this low-lander, and because the hike went up about 1,000 feet. But I made it with Jacob’s encouragement.

There are moments when I wonder if I’ll ever be the athlete I wish I could be. I hope so. I mean, I don’t ever hope to be some iron woman, but maybe run a 5K someday? Climb a mountain? At least go to REI and buy some stuff?

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated on the climbing front. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to “run” more lately. I put it in quotation marks because Jacob says it’s basically fast walking. But today I clocked my fastest mile in a long time–just over 11 minutes. I wish I could say it was 6 1/2 or some incredible number, but it’s not. That’s just where I am today, though, and I’ll take it since it’s faster than I was a month ago.

Southern Black-eyed Pea Salad
Well, this ended up being a lot different from what I expected! I was sort of expecting a red pepper/bean/olive oil/basil-y dish. But Rhonda Z.’s fantastic recipe ended up bursting with summer flavor in a very unique way.


I started by cooking the black-eyed peas for about 15 minutes. I bought a refrigerated package, so I didn’t have to soak them.

Meanwhile, I prepared the dressing, which is made of sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some seasonings, and salt and pepper.

Then I chopped green onion and red pepper. Since I was serving this for lunch the next day, I prepared the greens, red pepper, and onion, and put them in a plastic bag. Then I added the cooked, cooled beans to the dressing. When it’s time to serve, I’ll just add the dressed beans to the greens, and it will all come together.

Here’s the dressing.


And here’s how it looked all finished. Yum, eh?


Salad – Sunshine Salad

At Orientation

While we were at Ohio Univ.’s freshman orientation, Jacob had to get his student ID. He was staying in a dorm, and Scott and I were staying in a hotel, so we didn’t see him before he headed over to check-in first thing Friday morning.

Turns out he showed up in a shirt from another university, which he’d bought at a thrift store. It was some random school like USC.

The new assistant dean of students was having none of that. He took one look at Jacob, gave him a brand-new t-shirt, and made him put it on. So Jacob’s ID shows two shirts–one red poking out from under the hunter green OU one.

So we all had a good chuckle about that until that evening when the Dean of Students was giving her talk about avoiding sexual assault, drug use, drinking, and all other behaviors that go against the code of conduct.

At the end, she was trying to lighten up the atmosphere when she said something about how the OU Bobcats take a lot of pride in their university, saying that people get mocked if they wear other apparel. She asked, looking out at the crowd, “Did anyone wear any other school apparel today?”

Of course, Scott and I being the loving parents that we are, pointed in Jacob’s direction. At that point, Jacob, had changed shirts yet again. This one was green, not a t-shirt from another school, but not the OU shirt either.

So she called Jacob up on stage, before the hundreds of people in the room. He was a good sport about it, went up there, and showed her his ID with the red collar. She said, “Well, now you’re a Bobcat, so here’s another shirt.”


Here he is, speaking with Jenny Hall Jones, the dean of students at OU.

Before her talk had started, they had a Twitter feed showing on the screens in the front of the room. Students were posting things like: “Hey, where’s the party tonight?” To which a parent replied: “You all are underage.” #NoPartyForYou

Later on, I tweeted this to the dean of students:


Anyhow, it was a fun exchange. Jacob said that the next day, some girl said to him, “Hey, nice shirt,” and he laughed.

Sunshine Salad
This recipe (p. 16) sure brings back memories. It’s got a long history in my family. It’s about as simple as you can get: orange jello (I used sugar-free), crushed pineapple, and grated carrots.


Other than my mom’s/grandma’s strawberry/cream cheese jello, this is the one I remember most from my childhood.

I’ll be taking it to Elmhurst Public Library’s Dish! Club for Cooks on Wednesday. Our emphasis during this month’s meeting is salads, so everyone is bringing one for our event.