Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ode to Books

China mug from theliterarygiftcompany.com

I wish I had this mug. Maybe if I had this mug, I'd actually make more time to read? I dunno.

What are you reading now? Here's a look at what I have recently read, am either currently reading or have on my to-read list in the near future:

Happily Ever After: The Life-changing Power of a Grateful Heart
by Trista Sutter

This one I would really recommend. It may be written by the first Bachelorette in ABC's The Bachelorette series, but it's a clean read and a great look at the power of gratitude, and that's something I really believe in!

A Pledge of Silence
by Flora J. Solomon

This one I would not recommend for everyone. It is a historical novel set during World War II, and tells the story of a nurse caught in the crossfire in the Philippines at the time it was lost to Japan. There is adult language and situations contained in this book. Overall, it was an interesting look at history, and I'm usually a sucker for historical fiction.

The Selection
by Kiera Cass

Have you read this one? It's on my upcoming list.

by Veronica Roth

Same with this one. I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent, so I hope to enjoy the conclusion to the series.

Sycamore Row
by John Grisham

Currently reading this one. It's got some language (but no F-word, which I hate), but it's true to John Grisham form with great suspense and twists in the story. I have read and enjoyed most of Grisham's books. My all-time favorite of his? The Runaway Jury! 

The Flight of Gemma Hardy
by Margot Livesey

Another on my to-read list. It comes highly recommended by one of my neighbors who read it for a book club.

Anything I should add to my to-read list?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Homemade Angel Food Cake: 3 Easy Tips for a Better Cake

Have you ever made homemade Angel Food Cake? I have, lots of times, and I have some good tips to help you out.

Baking an Angel Food cake is not as hard as you might think--and the taste really surpasses anything you can buy from the store. Trust me, I've bought my share of angel food, and the store-bought ones always seem to have a chemical aftertaste.

Tip #1: Use room temperature egg whites. It really makes a difference in the finished product because room temp egg whites will whip higher and stiffer than cold ones. It's tempting not to wait when you're in a hurry, but it's worth it.

Tip #2: Sifting all the flour and sugar can be a big pain. I discovered that if I run the flour and sugar through my blender, I get a great result. So much easier and faster than sifting!

Tip #3: You can cut the sugar in this recipe (the sugar that is sifted with the flour) by 1/4 cup. When I did this, it was actually by accident and my husband said that Angel Food cake was my "best one yet."

Homemade Angel Food Cake
adapted from a recipe at Food.com 

1 c. cake flour (no substitutions)
3/4 c. + 2 T. powdered sugar
12 large egg whites, best at room temperature
1 1/2 t. cream of tartar (a must!)
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract

First off, use an actual angel food cake pan. This is a pan that has a large hollow tube in the center and comes apart into two pieces--the base and the sides. This makes it much easier to remove from the pan after you have cooled it. Don't grease the pan.

Preheat oven to 375. Sift (or run through your blender) the cake flour with the 3/4 c. + 2 T. powdered sugar. Set aside.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks, and don't get any yolk into the white or the cake will not rise like it should. Beat the whites with the cream of tartar and salt until it forms peaks. Peaks are when you lift the beater or whisk attachment straight up out of the whites, and little pointy peaks form and stay without falling over immediately. Once you hit this point, slowly add the other 3/4 c. powdered sugar. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. Stiff peaks are peaks that won't fall over at all when you lift the whisk up out of the whites, and they will actually look stiffer than the softer peaks from before. 

Beating on low, slowly add the flour mixture and the vanilla & almond extracts. After beating, use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and make sure all the flour is incorporated. Do this gently. Spoon batter into the angel food pan. Gently cut a knife through the batter to remove any air pockets. 

Bake angel food approximately 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched with your finger. In my oven, the cake is done at 27 minutes. Invert the cake onto a funnel or long-necked bottle, so that it hangs upside down. Crazy, I know...but this is how you do it. I remember watching my grandma hang angel food cakes upside down like this. I keep an old sparkling cider bottle around just for this purpose. 

Once the cake has cooled completely, remove the cake from the pan by first running a knife around the edges of the cake. Holding the center tube, lift the cake out of the pan. Then run a knife around the bottom of the cake to remove it from the base. 

Our favorite way to eat angel food is either plain or with berries and cream. Yum!   

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter 2014

We had an awesome Easter Sunday and hope you did, too! Here is a glimpse:

 That dude in the top left pic is still fighting his kidney stone, but he managed to get dressed up and go to church with us. Love him!

There are two people missing in the pics above. One is this guy (on the left), serving up in Eastern Washington:

A HUGE shout out to the family who fed him a great Easter dinner yesterday and then sent me this pic. That is the way to his mother's heart for sure.

The other person? He's in some of the pics we took and he fits right in with our family, but I don't know yet how he would feel about ending up on my blog.  All in good time! :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Suck it up, buttercup.

That's a quote that was posted on the side of the road during one of Nicole's half-marathons. It's a favorite of mine because it's true. And today it's my mantra.

Kidney stone prescriptions. Fun stuff.
Over this last week to ten days, I've been not sleeping well. I fall asleep fine, but then I wake up and my mind gets racing and then I just lay there for hours.  I like my sleep. I need my sleep. So this has been frustrating.

Night before last, I got a whole two hours of sleep, and I was exhausted by 3:00 pm yesterday. Oh yes, I tried to take a nap, but I was at that point where I was too exhausted to sleep. I figured that I was going to self-medicate with a couple of Benadryl and hope that I could stay asleep all night. But when I went to bed, I thought for some reason that I should not do that, but take a little melatonin instead, so that's what I did. I call that inspiration, because had I taken two Benadryl (one can knock me out) I would have been useless when my hubby needed me.

At 2:00 am I was woken by my hubby, who was at first tossing around hard on the bed, then he started getting up and walking through the house. After a few minutes of this I asked him what the problem was. "I've got a bad pain in my left side and it hurts to lay down so I'm trying to walk it out," he said. Within five minutes, the pain was worse, so that he was really complaining about it, and he does not complain about stuff, so I knew it was bad. He begged, "Please get dressed and take me in somewhere." That meant a visit to the ER.

Fast forward four hours, a CT scan and numerous shots of narcotics later, and we knew what it was: a big ol' kidney stone, with a smaller one behind it. I've heard how horrible kidney stone pain is, and if you've heard it but not experienced it, just know it isn't a lie. It was not fun for him, poor guy!

So I'm running on a whopping 6 hours of sleep over the last 48 hours, but hey, I'm not the one having to pass a large kidney stone. There isn't anything else to do but suck it up--and pray for a quiet night tonight and a quick passing of that stone!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rhubarb Cake

It's about that time of year again: when the rhubarb plant my husband transplanted from his grandma's yard to ours is in full production mode. That means tons and tons of rhubarb! This cake is one good way to use some of it. It has a very tender crumb and is moist and delicious. It's good as is, or topped with a little whipped cream.

Rhubarb Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 cup buttermilk (or soured milk made by putting 2 t. lemon juice in the bottom of the 1 cup measure and adding milk to the top. Allow it to stand for about 5 minutes.)
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 egg
2 c. sliced rhubarb, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1/4 c. sugar
3/4 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 pan with pan spray. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Beat butter and sugar together well, until light and fluffy. This should take about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat well. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix well. Add 1/2 of the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the buttermilk, and the last 1/3 of the flour mixture. Mix well between each addition. Fold in the sliced rhubarb. Spread batter evenly in the pan. For topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon together thoroughly. Sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nothing is impossible because of Him

Happy Easter week!

I feel like I have sooo much to be grateful for lately (more on that later), and this is at the top of the list. How blessed we are to have a Savior who knows us and loves us individually! #BecauseofHim, we can start over. Again and again. So much is possible because of Him! I know it's true. Go here for more about what Mormons believe about Easter.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Must try: Sally Hansen Ultra Wear Top Coat


Today I have a review of Sally Hansen's new Comple Salon Manicure Ultra Wear Top Coat (completely my own opinion--no sponsorship of any kind).

Not too long ago, I posted about my experiment with  DIY Gel nails using Gelous. That stuff is okay, but you know what? Sally Hansen's Ultra Wear Top Coat is better. As in, days worth of wear better. I got four days of wear out of the Gelous Advanced Gel Coat before the chipping was just too much.

Now take a look at the pic above. You can see minimal chipping of my nails, and this is seven days of wear. Mind you, I'm cooking, I'm cleaning, and I even put on some work gloves a few days back and pulled some weeds in my garden. I am not easy on my nails, that's for sure. So for approximately $6, you get pretty darn good results!

In the pic above, I'm wearing Pure Ice nail polish in Tickle Me Pink under the Ultra Wear.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What I learned this weekend.

Howdy, friends.

This weekend was LDS General Conference (#LDSConf) and it was awesome. What is General Conference? It is a series of 7 meetings, each two hours long, over a period of two days. It happens every first weekend in April, and every first weekend in October. What is talked about? Jesus Christ and His gospel. How we can follow Him. How we can emulate Him. How we can be better people.

It is edifying, uplifting and positive. And yes, Mormons are Christians.

Today I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes from this weekend's conference. There are lots of great ones out there, just check Pinterest....but these quotes are from my own note-taking, the things that stuck out to me personally.

Christ-like love is the greatest need we have on this planet. ~Jeffrey R. Holland
The best filter is the personal filter of a deep and abiding testimony. ~ Linda S. Reeves
Families are the treasure of heaven. ~Neil L. Andersen
 If blessings were immediate, choosing the right would not build faith. ~Henry B. Eyring
Obedience prepared the Savior to endure to the end on Golgotha. ~Robert D. Hales

There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, and even glorious--be grateful! ~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Heavenly Father accomplishes his miracles one prayer at a time, one person at a time. ~ Jean A. Stevens

The Savior has known and felt ALL our individual burdens. 
~David A. Bednar

No sacrifice is too great to receive the blessings of the temple. ~ William R. Walker 

Christ's resurrection from the dead ended the great human predicament. Now there is only personal predicament. 
 ~ D. Todd Christopherson

 Did you listen/watch General Conference? Share your favorite quote in the comments.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

After five days of eating out it's nice to come home and have a home cooked meal, even though the eating out is fun while it lasts. Part of this mom's vacation is a vacation from cooking.

This recipe is a favorite that I always seem to forget about. Don't ask me how that works....I just know that every so often when I'm trying to figure out what to have for dinner, I'll suddenly remember, "CHICKEN BROCCOLI CASSEROLE!" Capitals, exclamation point and all. And every time I remember to make it, everyone loves it. Maybe they love it because I don't cook it too often? Whatever the reason, it's always a hit!

Chicken Broccoli Casserole
serves 4-6

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 10 oz. bag frozen chopped broccoli
1 10 oz. can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 t. prepared Dijon mustard
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray an 8x11 baking dish with cooking spray. Put the chopped broccoli in the bottom of the dish. Top with diced chicken. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soup, mayonnaise and Dijon until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Spoon mixture over top of chicken and spread to evenly cover. Cover dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 10 more minutes. Top with remaining cup of shredded cheese and bake five more minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Break Southern Utah Style

Last week was Spring Break in these parts. We decided to take off and enjoy the beauties of Southern Utah. Everyone in our family just loves being around the red rocks. Something about a red rock landscape is soothing to my soul.

All of the following pics were shot by me in and around Zion National Park. 

There are plants and flowers that manage to thrive in this environment. What a life lesson!

We hiked from the road at the bottom of this pic, up to where I took this shot. It wasn't easy, and coming back down was harder on my knee than going up, but with a vista like this, it was worth it!