Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Nut-Filled Pastries

One of my fondest memories from childhood is baking cookies with my mom during the Christmas season. She'd pull out a tattered book filled with handwritten recipes and thumb through it to find our family's favorite cookies. The hours we spent in the kitchen together nurtured a close mother-daughter bond that has grown over the years. And my mom not only taught me how to bake, but she instilled within me a love for baking.

I'd like to share one of my favorites cookies Mom and I made every Christmas together: Nut-Filled Pastries. I hope you enjoy them! :-)

Nut-Filled Pastries

Pastry Dough
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup butter, softened
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream

Nut Filling
2 cups ground walnuts
2/3 cup dark corn syrup

Confectioner's sugar


(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

(2) In a large bowl, blend flour and butter together. Stir in egg yolks and sour cream. Knead dough on a floured surface. Chill dough for at least 20 minutes.

(3) In the meantime, stir ground walnuts and dark corn syrup together. Set aside.

(4) Cut dough in half and roll each half into a ball. With each dough ball, roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out 2 inch squares. Drop 1/2 teaspoon of nut filling in center of each square. Starting at one corner of square, roll to opposite corner. Shape into a crescent. Place each pastry onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until pastries are lightly browned.

(5) Allow pastries to cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Roll warm pastries in confectioner's sugar and allow to cool. When completely cooled, roll pastries in confectioner's sugar for a second time.

Makes approximately 6 dozen pastries.

Monday, December 14, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Greek Layered Dip

Appetizers . . . what a wonderful creation! I've often thought I could live the rest of my life eating only appetizers. If you were to browse my cookbook collection, you'd find many devoted exclusively to appetizers.

Appetizers offer a wide range of culinary options: cold and hot dips, meatballs and wings, cheese and crackers, mini quiches and pizzas, tea sandwiches and quesadillas, satays and kabobs, and the list could go on and on. They're creative, petite, and packed with flavor!

I'd love to share with you one of my favorite dips: Greek Layered Dip. It's scrumptious and easy to make. I hope you enjoy it! :-)

Greek Layered Dip
Adapted from a Betty Crocker Recipe

1 (8 ounce) container of chives & onion cream cheese
1 (8 ounce) container of hummus
1 cucumber (peeled, seeded, & chopped)
1 red or orange sweet bell pepper, chopped
3 Italian plum tomatoes (seeded & chopped)
1/3 cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
1 (4 ounce) contained crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
Pita chips


1. Spread cream cheese over bottom of 10-inch quiche dish or pie pan. Drop hummus by small spoonfuls over cream cheese and spread evenly. Top with remaining ingredients in order given.

2. Serve with pita chips.

Make Ahead: You can prepare the dip up to four hours before serving. Just cover and refrigerate it until serving.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin

"It was ironic. I lay in my jail cell on a squeaky iron bunk, gazing at the stained mattress above me, and I remembered the day I first understood the meaning of the word ironic. I couldn't help smiling at . . . well, at the irony of it. The meaning had become clear to me ten years ago on the day my grandmother, Beatrice Monroe Garner, was arrested."
~Opening lines in Lynn Austin's
Though Waters Roar~

Lynn Austin's newest novel, Though Waters Roar, tells the stories of four generations of women and their quests to find meaning and purpose in their lives. Set in Pennsylvania and spanning from 1848 to 1920, this novel captures these four women's struggles and triumphs during several significant events in history, including the Underground Railroad movement, the Civil War, the Woman's Suffrage campaign, War World I, and Prohibition.

Within the first few pages of this book, I knew I was reading a novel crafted by a talented, veteran writer. The story's beautiful prose, profound and diverse characters, and rich historical landscape immediately captured my attention and kept my curiosity throughout. With Austin's careful pacing and the twists and turns she sprinkles throughout this novel, I found myself drawn more and more into the story as it developed. What I especially liked about this book was the reflective, spiritual messages Austin weaves in the characters' actions and dialogue, encouraging me to further grow in my walk with Christ.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

For more information about this book, please visit Bethany House's Web site.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

BEEing A Mom: Christmas Traditions

"Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart."
~George Matthew Adams~
For the last two evenings, my three-year-old son Hayden and I have carried on a family Christmas tradition from my childhood: making cookies together. Last night, we mixed the batter for sugar cookies, rolled out the dough, cut out tree and snowman shapes, and baked them. Tonight, we iced and decorated the cookies. The best part of the activity: the special time we spent together.

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are the Christmas traditions I shared with my parents and brother. Now as a mom myself, I hope to pass on some of those traditions and create new ones for my family. But how do you choose the best traditions for your family? I've discovered some of my favorite traditions tend to be simple and meaningful. And many are fun for the whole family.

Here are some of my family's Christmas traditions:

(1) Decorating the tree and house together as a family. Every year when we pull out the Christmas decorations from storage, I bubble with excitement as I open the boxes and begin decorating the tree and house with my family. I especially enjoy watching my husband search through the boxes of ornaments to find the ones from his childhood. I can tell many of them bring back special memories of Christmas with his parents and brother. And this year, my son has been fascinated with the nativity set, which has provided many opportunities to begin teaching him about the true purpose for Christmas.

(2) Giving. The true spirit of the Christmas season is to give to others, especially those in need. This represents the ministry of Jesus, and what better way to celebrate his birth than to give to those in need during this season.

(3) Making cookies together. Growing up, my mom and I shared many special moments together in the kitchen making Christmas cookies. As many of you know, I love to bake. But I've also discovered how simplifying this tradition can result in a more relaxed Christmas for my family and me. Before I became a mom, I'd spend days in the kitchen baking hundreds of cookies. Now, I only bake a few varieties and spend less time on this activity. During the last two years, I've especially enjoyed the time I've spent with my son as we make our special sugar cookies. And when we're done baking, we love sharing the cookies with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

(4) Reading Christmas stories together. During a visit with my parents over the Thanksgiving holiday, my mom gave me a book from my childhood: an illustrated book with stories from the Bible. Flipping through it, warm memories filled my mind. As a child, my family read the story about Jesus' birth from this book at Christmas. And now, I'm thrilled about being able to carry on that tradition with my husband and son.

My son and I also enjoy reading other Christmas stories during the season. This year, I purchased a picture book entitled Advent Storybook: 24 Stories to Share Before Christmas by Antonie Schneider. This beautifully illustrated book tells short stories (one for each day from December 1-24) about a little bear's journey as he follows the bright star to see baby Jesus. Similar to Aesop's fables, each story in this book ends with a statement summarizing the moral of the story. For example, for a story about an eagle, the mother bear tells her son, Benjamin, "If we trust in God, he will always catch us before we fall." Both Hayden and I look forward to reading this book each day, and I'm planning on carrying on this tradition in the years to come.

(5) Driving through neighborhoods in our town to view the Christmas lights. During my childhood, my parents loved driving around our small town to view the Christmas lights. And as an adult, I still enjoy this tradition. As Christmas music plays in the car, I find this a relaxing time to spend with my family. Of course, we can't forget to bring hot cocoa on our outing.

(6) Attending church together as a family on Christmas Eve. My parents began this tradition with my brother and me when we were young, and my husband and I have continued on with it since we've been married. This is a precious time to focus on why we celebrate Christmas and to give glory to Christ.

(7) Christmas Breakfast. Christmas mornings in our home often include a special breakfast. This year, it will probably include Ebelskiver pancakes and quiche with orange juice and coffee.

I'd love to hear about your family's Christmas traditions. :-)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner

"It seemed to be a cottage that was alive, but it was only the vines twining in on themselves and clinging to the structure that were living, not unlike the memories and feelings people had attached to the house over time, making it mean more than mere sticks, pieces of wood, nails, and peeling paint could ever imply on their own."
~Excerpt from Rose House
by Tina Ann Forkner~

Rose House tells the story of a woman coping with immense grief and pain and of her search for healing and hope. In the days following the loss of her husband and two young children in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon pours out her sorrows outside the Rose House, a serene cottage nestled in the Sonoma Valley. Intrigued by the cottage, she returns to the valley four years later and discovers a painting in a local gallery that precisely captures her grieving moment at the Rose House. As she searches for answers about the painting, she befriends some of the locals and begins to find hope. But she's also forced to confront the mystery and painful secrets surrounding the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children.

With beautiful writing and a rich cast of characters, Tina Ann Forkner's second novel captivated me from beginning to end. She breathes life into the characters, skillfully portraying their deep emotions. And interestingly, Rose House finds its own unique role among the characters, its rose brambles and its past bring it to life on the pages of the book. For me, the best part of the book is the epilogue where Tina treats her readers to a well-crafted, poignant ending.

I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: Closer by Jim & Kathy Burns

"Over the past thirty years we have tried almost every marriage devotional, and to be perfectly honest, we have usually failed at having the discipline to continue. The busyness of life or the feeling of guilt because we missed so many days often caused us to silently ignore what we knew was important to our growth. This book is the result of our trying to draw closer to each other while having a true desire to improve our spiritual growth as a couple."
~Jim and Cathy Burns in
Closer: Devotions to Draw Couples Together

Closer, a new book by Jim and Cathy Burns, contains 52 short devotionals intended to help "draw couples together." Some of the topics covered in this book include setting a nonnegotiable date night, the importance of praying together, rekindling romance, and learning to apologize. Designed for couples to complete over the course of a year, this book provides a practical tool for couples to grow closer in their relationships. Each devotional contains a series of questions related to the topic that couples can complete together.

This book presents a realistic, scripture-focused approach for couples to invest in and nurture their relationships. The wide range of topics covered identify many issues married couples face and offer ideas on how couples can address those issues and grow closer together. I particularly like the list of questions at the end of each devotional and the challenges the authors sprinkle throughout the book, such as "pray together for your marriage each day for sixty days." I'm looking forward to completing this devotional book with my husband over the next year.

I highly recommend this book to any married couple seeking to grow closer in their relationship.

For more information about this book, please visit Bethany House's Web site.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.