Dreamsicle Punch

I had the pleasure of making this delicious punch for our welcome back reception on Thanksgiving Eve last month.  Before kids (BK, as I like to refer to it!), I was the “cookie party lady”.  Yes, a strange title for a Registered Dietitian!   I was in charge of reception after the children’s Christmas program each December.  I wish I had this fabulous punch recipe from page 105, given to us by the lovely Sheree G… much better than the punch I made from Southern Home Living magazine for years!

Being the cookie party lady, I was in charge of assembling trays of cookies donated by our Sunday school families, making punch and of course, decaffeinated coffee for the adults.  Truthfully, the most challenging part of my duties was making sure that the kids didn’t sneak any cookies before the program!  I came up with a mantra I now use during my PK (post kids) era quite often:

  1. You must take the one you touch
  2. You must take the one you licked
  3. I will serve no cookie (or anything else) before its time

Dreamsicle Punch

I purchased the ingredients for the punch and kept all items except the soda in freezer, ready to go in 1 bag.  I stealthfully left the service after the sermon and went to the lower level kitchen, where I had stashed my supplies.  It was super easy to dump the frozen orange juice and lemonade, which were slightly thawed by this time, and easy to remove from the can.  Then, I scooped out the sherbet, carried the punch bowl to Ascension room and emptied contents of the cream soda bottles into the punch.

Here are the lovely Melanie and Kiana enjoying the punch at the reception.



Cookbook Corrections

Corrections for Redeemer Lutheran Cookbook, published 2013

Updates 12/2014

p. 1 – Artichoke Dip
1 glove garlic should be 1 clove garlic

p. 2 – Bar Nuts
2 T snipped fresh parsley should be 2 T snipped fresh rosemary

p. 15 Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Add 1/4 cup melted butter to the ingredients

p. 16 Sunshine Salad
Add small packet of orange jello to the ingredients

p. 32 Texas Caviar
1 small jar mild green chills should be green chilies

p. 48 Grilled Pork Tenderloin
At the end of the directions, add: Cook tenderloin in 375 degree oven for 45 min.

p. 53 Oriental Meatballs
These could be in appetizers; the balls should be rolled into 1″ size, and no larger.

p. 66 Banana or Pumpkin Bread
2 1/2 c. water should be 2/3 cup water

p. 68 Double Cranberry Bread
Remove last two ingredients (included in the list twice)

p. 82 Mattie’s Chocolate Cherry Cake
Add 5 T butter to the frosting ingredients

p. 92 Buttermilk Bars
Add 2 1/2 cups flour to the beginning of the list of ingredients.

p. 95 Divinity Cookies
In the directions, before the last sentence add: Add the vanilla and beat mixture until mixture becomes slightly dull. Stir in nuts and drop onto sheet.

p. 95 Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Directions should state scant instead of “scan teaspoonfuls.”

p. 96 Five Pounds of Fudge
Add 12 oz. German sweet chocolate to the ingredient list.

Grape Salad, reprised

Apparently, an article published by the New York Times has got Minnesotans up in arms over grape salad.

The article, “The United States of Thanksgiving” pairs one specialty dish with each of the 50 states, and assigned grape salad to Minnesota.

This caused quite an uproar, which you can see here and on Twitter if you type in #GrapeGate.

Apparently, @SamSifton of the NYT linked to my wee little blog.  Here’s the screenshot of my 1 minute of fame:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.26.31 AM

And in case you want to try the Grape Salad recipe for your Thanksgiving dinner, here you go:


Anyhow, in case anyone would like to make the grape salad–in Minnesota, Illinois, or beyond, here it is. And here’s the link to my blog post about it, from last winter.


I am in Northeastern Pennsylvania this week as we prepare for my brother’s wedding.  One of the few perks about 13 long hours of driving with two young kids was the ability to bring more stuff, like my laptop!

We survived the many hours in the car together with many books, DVD’s and Nooks from the library providing distraction from the question on everyone’s lips: “How much longer until we get there?!”

photo 1

It’s been 16 years since I made the cross country trip (that time heading west), traveling with my dad, who he is an excellent driver.  I sent this text to family and friends on the last leg of the journey-
” I forgot how long this trip takes, just like I have (almost) forgotten how painful childbirth was!”

photo 3


Before we left, I was in a cooking frenzy, trying to use up the perishables.  2 friends had given me the ratatouille’s main ingredients for this delicious stew from their gardens, zucchini and eggplant.  I couldn’t let them deteriorate without taking the opportunity to make this fabulous recipe.

I had used up the last of my tomatoes earlier that week, and found that the grape tomatoes I use to make salads worked well for this dish.

The most difficult part of making this recipe was cutting the vegetables and waiting for them to simmer on the cooktop!

photo 1

Zucchini and eggplant were cooked separately, eggplant with some sea salt to blanch out potential bitterness

photo 2I  served the “rat” as my husband likes to refer to this recipe with hearty whole grain bread and sprinkled parmesan cheese.  It was our main meal despite being listed as a vegetable side dish.


Six-Word Memoirs

Six-Word Memoirs

A few years ago, when I was teaching English composition to college freshmen, I came across a writing exercise called “Six-word Memoirs.” The idea behind it, as you may guess from the name, is to write a memoir in only six words. Six words? I hear you asking, How is that possible?

My favorite kind of writing is terse, tight, and economical, so it’s no surprise that I love the challenge and the creativity needed to come up with a great six-word memoir.

It’s pretty incredible to read what people have written, some poignant and reflective, others humorous and light-hearted. But all of them have one thing in common: they’re only six words long.

The city of Miami, Florida during their international book fair this coming November is promoting the idea of the six-word memoirs among participants. Winning six-word memoirs get interpreted by a Miami photographer and published in a limited-edition postcard series. Pretty cool! Here are the examples on their website:

“For sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn.”

“Strangers. Friends. Best Friends. Lovers. Strangers.”

“Penniless weirdo. Struck lottery. Overnight genius.”

Here are a few I found on Pinterest:

Hard work is the short cut.

I dance daily, watched or not.

I’m not shy. I’m an introvert.

Saved by grace and witty charm.

Made my own kind of music.

Pretty great, eh?

And here are mine…obviously still a work in progress:

Talent plus hard work equals success.

My mantra: this too shall pass.

By grace I’m saved through faith.

Stuff happened. I wrote about it.

Easy Cheesy Appetizer Bread

Kelly here:

As Julie mentioned, this past Sunday was Rally Day at ours and many other churches.  As I’m doing my work in the kitchen, I enjoying listening to the podcast Concordia Publishing House makes available to prepare teachers for next week’s lesson.   The Podcast is part of a radio show on Lutheran Radio called Issues, Etc, which is a lively interchange between 2 Pastors, Todd Wilkens and Tom Baker. They examine the scripture we will be looking at, and are always pointing out many nuances I would miss on my own. If you’d like to listen, check out this link.

My afternoons and evenings are now consumed with hosting play dates, assisting and reviewing homework and spelling words.   I have two of amusing moments to share from the past week  of school.

The always observant elementary students noticed that some of the waffles they were served for “breakfast for lunch” Thursday had a “best used by date” from 4 months earlier.  During the short trek back from Edison, our walking group had really come up with their own conspiracy theory around the expired waffles, complete with “eye-witness” testimonials from the nurses’ office and bathrooms that substantiated their story.  It was quite reassuring for all involved to find an email from the food service director when we arrived home, stating the waffles were safe and she had even put herself on the line by eating one, without bodily harm.

Tonight, I found this darling synopsis on what it means to be a citizen, which was likely written yesterday am after living through another flash flood warning here in swampy Elmhurst


Bad hair days are an important fact we live with as a citizens of the wet/windy Midwest

Bad hair days are an important fact we live with as a citizens of the wet/windy Midwest


Easy Cheesy Appetizer Bread:

During our freezer crisis this past week, I seized the opportunity to use some items from freezer/fridge to make a few more of my assigned recipes.  I had planned to make the easy cheesy appetizer bread for our birthday bash in July, but time/energy didn’t allow.  I had all of the ingredients in the malfunctioning freezer, so it made an easy appetizer for our Labor Day dinner.

Didn't need the Hellman's, low-fat creamy ranch did the trick!

Didn’t need the Hellmans, low fat creamy ranch did the trick!

This delicious recipe on page 3 was simple to put together.  I must admit I cheated a bit since I’d misplaced the dry ranch dressing I’d purchased for the recipe.  I  deleted the mayonnaise and instead substituted liquid ranch dressing, which we always have on hand to dip veggies in.  The cheese and dressing mixed together easily and I put a thin spread of it on each baguette slice.  I only made about 1/2 of the recipe for our small group, so they easily fit under the toaster oven’s broiler.

Here is the finished product, just delicious!  Thanks to Sally M for this recipe that delivered on its promise to be easy and cheesy!


Back to school blues, part 2 and Betty’s wilted garden salad


Kelly here-

We have almost 2 full weeks under of the school year under our belt now.  Both kids are making new friends, inviting and being invited to play dates, embracing their new routines.  We’ve started a walking group with our neighbors, attended curriculum night, had the first “hot lunch” and checked out school library books.  Unfortunately, they also brought home the first colds of the school season and passed it onto their parents.  Our son’s cold migrated into his ears and lungs, which brought us to immediate care instead of the end of the season swim at local pool.

This holiday weekend, in the midst of caring for sick kids, the upright frost-free freezer decided to stop cooling.  I discovered this as I was pulling out some baked goods to bring to my father-in-law.  Thankfully, I was able to salvage most of what was in the freezer, got lots of strength training hauling heavy bags of food upstairs from the basement and Grandpa’s freezer was restocked with treats.  Now, what to do with the overflowing refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen and malfunctioning freezer in the basement as my husband heads out-of-town again?

The freezer debacle felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back.   I had to turn this hot mess my life was turning into over to God.  God provided a solution in the most unlikely of places… the locker room!

Carol, one of my lovely water aerobic students, was listening to my tale of woe after class.  She mentioned having a similar problem caused by an ice build up at bottom of her “frost-free” freezer.  Carol’s son fixed it by thawing the ice dam that covered the coils.  Upon arrival home, I could see a similar ice buildup.  Within an hour, I managed to chip/melt the ice away and expose the coils. The temperature dropped 30 degrees in the next hour and is now back in the safe range, thank God!

I marvel at how the Lord uses these times of adversity to pull us closer into Him.  I have 4 friends who were recently diagnosed and/or are being treated with cancer.  It is awe-inspiring that each of these Christian women continue to praise God and share their blessings, even while receiving  treatment and experiencing excruciating side effects.  When the most recent friend, who is a charismatic preschool director and educator, was diagnosed, there was an outpouring of shock, sadness and support.  Her response: just pray and focus on the following bible passage: “Trust in the Lord with all your Heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your path straight”- Proverb 3:5-6.


My favorite mug from one of my BFF’s


Betty’s Wilted Salad

Bon apppetit

Bon apppetit!

This was a fantastic, colorful salad from page 8 in our cookbook that I made for our friend’s dinner.  It would be a great salad to use fresh garden greens, scallions and radishes instead of the traditionally featured tomatoes.  I was especially pleased that “Betty Crocker Jr”, who helped with chopping, was willing to try a bite of a radish.  She was not pleased with the spicy after taste!

I found fully cooked bacon that I heated briefly and used drippings mixed with red wine vinegar, a bit of sugar, pepper and lemon juice, as the recipe directed.  We paired this with roasted apple/butternut squash and marinated pork loin. Many thanks to Betty and Rhonda Z, who submitted the recipe.  Rhonda directed our last Vacation Bible school at Redeemer with charisma and enthusiasm that was contagious to all kids/family/staff.  She also does an amazing job as a substitute pianist/organist.  Thanks for this delicious and nutritious recipe!!


Construction Excitement and Lemon Deluxe Bars

photo 4

Here comes the concrete!

Kelly here-

Nothing beats construction/house projects for great entertainment!  My neighbors are having a front yard makeover!  Every minute prior to school this week was spent on the front porch/sidewalk observing and interacting with the workers.

I enjoyed speaking with the concrete company owner, who did a great job on their new sidewalk and driveway.  He hails from County Mayo, Ireland, (where many of my ancestors immigrated from) and still has an Irish brogue after 30 years on this side of the pond.   Meanwhile,  his  “3 Amigos” were being interviewed by my son, who was very excited to report that they were all from Mexico.  Hopefully he used the Spanish he’s been learning since preschool to communicate with them!

Deluxe Lemon Bars

During our rainy Saturday afternoon at home, I was blessed to find all the ingredients I needed to make these tasty bars!  I decided as long as we were making the crinkle cookies and had quite a mess going, we should try these as well.

I loved that this was another 2 step recipe.  “Betty Crocker Jr.” was in charge of this recipe as usual.


Step 1: Cutting the butter into the flour/egg/sugar mixture


Step 2: Pressing the crust mixture into 9×13 pan and baking for 20 minutes

 We had used our mixer to make the chocolate crinkle cookies, so my daughter made the executive decision to use a whisk to mix the lemon juice, sugar, flour, etc mixture while the crust was baking.


Step 3: Mixing liquid topping while crust baked



Step 4, pour liquid lemon/sugar mixture over crust and return to oven for 20 minutes


After they cooled and were sprinkled with powdered sugar, I decided we needed to share them with some friends!  I brought them to the fellowship hour the next day.  By the time I remembered to take a picture of the finished product the bars had disappeared! Thanks Marian F for these fabulous bars that melt in your mouth!



What I’m Doing

On Sunday afternoon, I arrived at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM. It’s set against the hills of the Sangre de Christo mountains, amid sage and pinon pine. The sun beats hot in the afternoons, but the nights cool in this high desert. We haven’t yet had time to explore Santa Fe, and I’m feeling itchy feet to do that. But first, I’ll tell you what amazing experiences we’re having here.


This is the perfect vacation for me. I can get away from the humdrum treadmill of life and see some beauty in the landscape. Last week was a great way to unwind, hike, enjoy beautiful scenery, and best of all spend time with my family. This week, I’m focusing on what I love best: writing. I’m attending a workshop called the Glen West, put on by Image magazine, a Christian publication which wrestles with the connection between faith, art, and mystery. The bold claim of the conference is: “A week can change your life.” So far, I’m super impressed. I’m rubbing shoulders with poets like Luci Shaw, a contemporary of Madeline L’Engle, both my heroes.


In the mornings, I am in a poetry workshop with Karen Anwhei-Lee, a lovely, quiet, helpful teacher. I am about 90% finished with my poetry collection of a girl, Emma Brown, traveling with her family on a covered wagon journey from Indiana to Oregon in 1852. I have to give a shout-out to the reference librarians at Elmhurst Public Library. In my efforts to make the project as realistically historical as possible, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I toss out questions to the reference librarians, and they give me helpful, thoughtful, and plentiful reading to help me in my research. Yesterday, for example, I asked what families from Indiana in 1852 would have baked for Christmas treats. Margie answered within a few hours, directing me to websites, and sending books to be held for me at the checkout desk. Sure, I could hunt online for hours, and do a lot of the legwork on my own, but when I have a variety of issues I’m trying to explore, they sure are helpful. Thanks, guys!

In our poetry workshop, we are discussing poetry, doing brief writing exercises, and then critiquing each other’s work.

For tonight, I will leave you with a lovely prayer I just read in a book called Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer, edited by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney.

We thank thee, Lord, for the glory of the late days and the excellent face of thy sun. We thank thee for good news received. We thank thee for the pleasures we have enjoyed and for those we have been able to confer. And now, when the clouds gather and the rain impends over the forest and our house, permit us not to be cast down; let us not lose the savour of past mercies and past pleasures; but, like the voice of a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memory survive in the hour of darkness. If there be in front of us any painful duty, strengthen us with the grace of courage; if ay act of mercy, teach us tenderness and peace.
~Robert Louis Stevenson