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Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to make healthier desserts

Now, I'm not teasing. I really did make this pan of cookies healthier! Carbs are not entirely bad for you. In fact your brain needs sugar to function properly. All the easy access we have to refined carbs is the problem! Our bodies can more easily metabolize refined carbohydrates and store them as fat. That's why we crave them so much, we're programmed to try to survive the next famine, which is surely just looming around the next corner! The trouble is, most Americans haven't ever seen a true famine, just lots of feasting. What I've done is I've taken my favorite chocolate chip cookie bar recipe and I've changed out the carbs to be as unrefined as possible. I also used the freshest ingredients possible to keep the flavors bright and bursting in your mouth.

Instead of white flour, I used freshly ground, hard white wheat. Hard white wheat is available at the cannery. If you don't have a grinder, I would suggesting purchasing local whole wheat flour to ensure it's as fresh as possible. Here in Montana, we actually have local whole wheat flour at the grocery store! An even better flour for cookies and quick-rising baking (non-yeast baking) is soft white wheat, which is what whole wheat pastry flour is made of. Soft white wheat has less protein so it's less likely to become tough and hard in baked goods. This is also why it's not recommended for making yeast bread.

Instead of white sugar, I used sucanat, which is dehydrated cane juice (pictured below). If you read the ingredients list of healthier breakfast cereals, like Kashi and Special K, to name a couple, you'll see it listed there. It's also recommended for diabetics because of it's glycemic index.

Sucanat is available in Billings at health food stores. It has a flavor like dark brown sugar - perfect for cookies!

For the fat in the cookies, I did use real fat. You need to stick to fats that are high in Omega 3. Olive oil and canola oil are both good fats, as are walnut oil and other nut oils. What I used is a stick of healthier butter for baking. It's half butter and half canola oil. It also comes in half butter and half olive oil. (If anyone knows of a better solution for cookies, please leave a comment!!! I'd love to hear it.)

Always use real vanilla, especially when you're trying to cook healthier. The food really needs that burst of goodness you can't get from imitation flavorings. I also added a little extra flavor by adding orange extract and cinnamon.

So, here's the recipe:

2-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t cinnamon
2 cubes canola/butter spread, softened
1-1/2 cups sucanat
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. orange extract
2 eggs
1 pkg (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup whole almonds

Preheat oven to 375°. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In large bowl, combine butter/canola oil, succanat, vanilla, and orange extract. Beat until creamy. Beat in eggs. Add flour mixture and stir just to combine (over beating will result in tougher cookies, especially with whole wheat flour). Gently stir in chocolate chips and almonds.

Spread in greased 15 x 10 inch baking pan. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Cool, cut into 2-inch squares.

Beef Noodle Bake

This is recipe is a lot like lasagna, but quicker and easier. It's comfort food that I wouldn't mind serving to company!


1 lb. ground beef
1 (12oz.) can mushrooms, drained
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
4 oz. whole wheat noodles, uncooked
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 (8 oz.) pkg. reduced-fat cream cheese
1 cup reduced-fat dairy sour cream
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Cook and stir ground beef in 10" skillet until lightly browned.

Add mushrooms, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar and tomato sauce. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Cook noodles by package directions and drain.
Chop onions, using some of the green tops, and combine with cream cheese and sour cream. Blend well.

Grease a 2-qt. casserole and assemble the casserole components:

Evenly spread about half of the noodles; top with half of the ground beef mixture. Spread about half of the cream cheese mixture over top. Repeat.

Top with Cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350° until bubbling hot in center, about 50 minutes if chilled, 30 to 35 minutes if not chilled. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

  • Instead of layering the ingredients, just mix them all together.
  • Try using part skim ricotta or low-fat cottage cheese instead of the cream cheese and sour cream.
  • Try adding 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning to the hamburger mixture.
Serving suggestions:
  • Garlic bread or Golden Focaccia
  • Garden salad
  • Fresh fruit salad

Friday, May 29, 2009

Golden Focaccia

I've tried to make focaccia before, but was never really happy with the taste. This recipe, however, is absolutely perfect!!

Start out with your favorite bread recipe (if that's frozen dough from the supermarket, go for it!!). I used 100% whole wheat bread dough and it was mahvelous!

Using enough dough for one loaf of bread, roll dough out into a rectangle. Grease your baking sheet and sprinkle with corn meal.

Carefully place your dough into your pan and continue rolling until it fits. It doesn't have to go all the way to the edges. If the dough fights you and keeps springing back to a smaller size, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then roll it some more.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 2 hours. (The first time I made this, I left it on the counter while I went to church for three hours. It worked great!)

Now, with the fingers of one hand, dimple the dough all over.

The very most basic seasoning is to drizzle with 2 T. olive oil and sprinkle with 1 t. kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can add anything you like!!! I first sprinkled mine with 3-4 cloves of smashed garlic, roughly chopped, then drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and one big pinch of Herbs de Provence. Fresh thyme, basil, or rosemary would also be wonderful! You can even put on black olives or chunks of torn fresh mozzarella. You could also try chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Preheat your oven to 425° and bake for 20 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to make sure it's not getting too brown. Mine went for 20.

Cut into squares and enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Water Storage
Jodi Gorham of Shepherd Ward provided the important information in this post.

We’ve been told that the recommended amount of water to store is 14 gallons per person. For my family of 7, that comes to 98 gallons of water -- so 2 of the 50 gallon drums. It seems like a lot of water to have to store, but when you think about it, it’s not very much at all. We live out in Shepherd and, like many, have a cistern. Knowing how large our cistern is and how often we have to fill it, I know that we use at least 1,000 gallons of water per week (and that’s with frugal water usage).

Think about what we use water for. There’s washing (clothes, dishes, and people), cleaning, cooking, drinking, and flushing, to name a few. How long is 98 gallons of water going to last if I’m still trying to do all of that with it? Not very long. One day when our cistern ran dry and it took a day to get water again, I started thinking about things I should have in my storage that would cut down on water usage in a time of emergency. Here are a few things I came up with: hand sanitizer (for frequent hand washing

cleaning wipes (like Clorox, for cleaning surfaces), baby wipes (for hygiene), paper goods (to cut down on dish washing),
water filter/purifier,
and even a portable toilet (like a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat) would be a good idea.

Being aware of ways to conserve water and get by on less is also something we should think about. Living with a cistern (and having to go without running water a time or two), my kids have come to know what a spit bath is and how to, in a pinch, save water from bathing and washing to use later for flushing. They also know that mom is going to get after them if they leave the water running to brush their teeth or if they play in the water too long while washing their hands (that’s literally money down the drain for us).
So think about water -- storing it, conserving it, and just being prepared

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Favorite Things

One of my favorite places on the internet is my sister's blog. It is so cozy and homey. She has lots of detailed tutorials for cooking and sewing. Today, she posted a recipe and tutorial for Sunshine Cake. Her description of the why and how it came to be is delightful. How I miss her! Though I have never lived in southern Missouri, that place means home to me because my parents have lived there so long. Do you have a place like that? I hope so. Please post a comment about it.

My sister's blog

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chelsy's Eclairs

You'll just have to imagine a plate full of eclairs. There were only four left by the time we thought to take a picture. ;)


Ready In: 1 Hour
Servings: 9

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 1/2 cups cold milk

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons hot water

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup water.
Bring to a boil, stirring until butter melts completely. Reduce heat to low, and add flour and salt. Stir vigorously until mixture leaves the sides of the pan and begins to form a stiff ball. Remove from heat. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate completely after each addition. With a spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a No. 10, or larger, tip, spoon or pipe dough onto cookie sheet in 1 1/2 x 4 inch strips.
3. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake 20 minutes more, until hollow sounding when lightly tapped on the bottom. Cool completely on a wire rack.
4. For the filling, combine pudding mix and milk in medium bowl according to package directions. In a separate bowl, beat the cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Fold whipped cream into pudding. Cut tops off of cooled pastry shells with a sharp knife. Fill shells with pudding mixture and replace tops.
5. For the icing, melt the chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in 1 cup confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in hot water, one tablespoon at a time, until icing is smooth and has reached desired consistency. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and drizzle over filled eclairs. Refrigerate until serving.

Hilltop Ward Montana Women's Run Team

Chelsy Hooper, in the Hilltop ward, put together a Hilltop Ward Team for the Montana Women's run. She even organized a pot luck spaghetti dinner the night before the race.

It was finger-lickin' good! (Left to right: Renee Berg, Joan Larsen, Lillian Nehring, Chelsy's mom. In background: Francine Palmer and Aubrey Larsen.)

Left to right: Lillian Nehring, Renee Berg, Aubrey & Jessilyn with Baby Benjamin Palmer, Erin Kirby

The eclairs were particularly delicious! Thank you Chelsy!!! (recipe to follow)

Saturday morning before the race.
Back row - Left to right: Aubrey, Joan, Jessilyn Larsen, Chelsy Hooper
Front row - left to right Lindsey and Emily Larsen

The race is about to begin!!

Go Jessilyn and Chelsy!! WooHoo!!

They made it!! Jessilyn, Joan and Emily Larsen

Jessilyn Larsen took first place for her age group in the 5-mile run!! Way to go!!

Just chillin' after the race.

The kids had fun at their run, too.

Teancum Palmer and Gabe Hooper.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Education: The advantage in this life and the next

Life has a funny way of putting people in situations they didn’t expect to be in. Being prepared helps people survive, and sometimes thrive, in those situations. Getting an education is one of the tenets of provident living and becoming self-sufficient.

Let me introduce you to my college roommates. Twenty-two years ago, I met three fabulous women: Karen, JoLynn, and Cheryl. We were brand new freshmen at BYU and full of dreams and expectations. We were getting our education because we thought it was important, but I’m not sure any of us fully expected that we would ever really need to use our college degrees or training. We all planned to marry, have kids, and stay home with those kids, as we had been taught and as we believed was God’s plan for us. We all graduated from BYU: one in musical-dance theater, one in accounting, one in biology, and one in communications. Then, life happened.

Three of us did get married and did have kids. Cheryl never did; she ended up relying on her education to support herself. Another roommate, Karen, found herself on her own, with three small children, after an unexpected divorce. She used her education to get a job that paid enough to support herself and her children. JoLynn remained married and had five wonderful children. Her husband had a good job, but she was able to work from home and use her accounting degree to help family, friends and others with their tax returns every year, providing money for extra opportunities for her children, such as harp lessons and family vacations. I’m also married, with two great kids, but over the years, I have had to use my education to work in and out of the home, depending on my husband’s employment situation, which has had its ups and downs. Where would the four of us have found ourselves if we didn’t have our education to fall back on?

Now, even though I teach at the college, I don’t believe college is for everyone. However, education is for everyone, whether it’s formal training, a college degree, or self-taught skills.

Sister Camilla Kimball said, “What we must be concerned with is preparation for life, and that preparation is continuing education. Whether it is to earn a living or to rear a family, men and women both need to have the knowledge that enhances their natural talents” (address at Spencer W. Kimball Tower dedication, Brigham Young University, 9 Mar. 1982).

Sister Ardeth G. Kapp added, “Preparation for life is for young women who marry and those who may never marry. It’s for women who will have children to help educate and others who will not. It’s for women who will need to support themselves and their children at some time in their lives. For some of us, this may mean going to college or a trade school. To others, it may mean home study. To all of us, it means looking at the long-term goal of making education a lifelong process, not just a two- or four-year event after high school called ‘higher education.’ One might ask, does pursuing an education contradict our goal to marry and have a family? Definitely not! We need to be educated for our families as well as ourselves!” (“The Treasure You Will Take With You,” New Era, Jan 1985, 9.)

We will be better women and more useful members of the church if we are educated. D&C 130:18-19 says, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” I would add that the person will also have so much the advantage in this world.

I think again of four fresh-faced college girls embarking on an educational path that would lead them to destinations unseen and unthought-of at the time. We didn’t know what life held in store for us, and we didn’t know how much we would need the education we were about to gain. How grateful we’ve been for wise counsel from a prophet, leaders, and parents who encouraged us to learn.

Take time now to squeeze a little learning into your day; find a way to finish your education if you need to or search for training opportunities to better prepare yourself to support yourself and your family should you need to. Education is truly a treasure, an advantage, which will bless you in this life and the next.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hearts Knit Together

Mosiah 18:21 "And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another."

When I was looking for a centerpiece idea based on this scripture, I came across this fun pattern for felted knitted hearts. They’re adorable and fast to knit up.

Please print off the pattern. It is free!

Pattern is here

I did run into a few roadblocks and misunderstandings in the pattern, so I wrote up this little tutorial for anyone who wants to knit these.

Yarn: I used Brown Sheep, Lamb's Pride, Cranberry Swirl, but any feltable yarn will do. (A yarn is feltable if it’s made of 100% animal fiber and says “handwash” on the label.)

Needles: Size 8.

Here we go!

On the row labeled "1st Hump" you put half the stitches on a holder (above) and cast on three stitches (below). I used the backward loop method.

When you're done with "Dec Row 2" it should look like this:

Now comes the part that really confused me. "Pull up tightly and secure. Sew seam down to cast-on sts." Basically, you snug that trailing thread up and sew the two sides together down to the 3 cast-on stitches you made right at the base of the first hump. Like this:

When you get down to the cast-on edge, it'll look like this:

Next, you "pick up 3 sts in 3 cast-on sts." So - from where your tail is from the seam you just finished, with a new piece of yarn, pick up three stitches, working towards your stitch holder.

Now knit across the stitches on your holder.

Proceed with the instructions for the second hump, and you'll have this:

Sew down to the bottom of the first hump, and continue down to about an inch from the bottom of the heart. I used the mattress stitch. Place your needle down between two vertical lines of knitting and pick up two of the "ladders" from the back side. Then do the same on the opposite side. Snug this up. Keep going back and forth, making sure that you always go between the same two vertical lines on each side, and you end up with a seam that disappears into the pattern of the knitted stitches. It's like magic!

You're now ready to stuff the heart!! The pattern says to use polyester stuffing, but I used my saved stash of wool ends. I keep them in an old sock until I need some fiber fill. Because the wool ends will felt down to a smaller size, you need to stuff the heart extra full!

Yes, I did get it all in there!

Sew down that last little bit.

And you're ready to felt. Don't worry that the humps of the heart are a little pointy. When it felts down, they'll smooth out into nice round heart humps!

(Note: I stuffed my red tails in there with the multicolored ones. Then I used my darning needle to thread my last two tails upwards into the point of the heart and out the middle of the heart. I trimmed them off after felting was completed.