Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Christmas Letter to You, Whether You Celebrate Christmas or Not

Dear and Precious One,

God loves you with a deep and everlasting love. His is the only perfect love you will experience here on earth. All other loves, as beautiful as they can be, are only pale imitations of His true and abiding Love. He resides in your heart, caring for each precious beat of it, whispering to the inmost part of you His words of True Love.

Like all good loves, He listens, too. He waits for your word, longs to hear you utter the smallest of prayers so that He can hear your desire for Him, for change, for perfection. He wants you to love Him in return. He will never force Himself upon you. He will wait for you and love you from afar for as long as you demand it.

He knows how you breathe, how you feel, how you wonder. He also knows your struggles. He meets you with Mercy when you fail to live in the way that He knows is best for you. He asks you to wait for something much better than you can imagine. He sighs with your impatience and anger at Him and loves you anyway.

Your life is so much more than you can even imagine. His plans for you are so far above your ideas as the Heavens are above the Earth. Allow Him, the author of your very soul, to whisper the first parts of His desire
s for you in the silence of your expectant heart.

I will pray each day for you, my brother, my sister in Christ,
Christie Martin

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Candy Making: Chocolate from Scratch Using Candy Molds

With all our kids' allergies, we can't eat the chocolate from the stores. Our options are to spend upwards of $5 for a candy bar, live without chocolate for Christmas, or make some ourselves. Last year we splurged on the disappointing and expensive candy bars. This year I am attempting to make chocolate candy. The recipe I arrived at after much experimentation is as follows:

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 TBS corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
sprinkle of cinnamon
dusting of powdered sugar

I simply heated the coconut oil to the melting point for about 30 seconds in the microwave and then added in all the other ingredients except the powdered sugar. I stirred the mixture until it thickened and poured it into candy molds (available at hobby and craft stores). I then froze the molds for 20 minutes in an attempt to harden the chocolate.

The resulting candy was a bit bitter, so I rolled them in powdered sugar. That made them nice and tasty. They are a dark chocolate, so you have to be prepared for a strong chocolate taste. Their texture is on the soft side, sort of like a truffle. They are good enough to outshine the expensive disappointments from last year. They are going in to this year's stockings Christmas Eve.

As you can see we're individually wrapping them in strips of foil.

Individually wrapped homemade chocolate ready for the stockings!

After all the chocolate I ingested today, I highly recommend fooling around with chocolate recipes. If you can improve upon mine, I'd really be interested in hearing from you.

Meanwhile, this is the next recipe I am going to work with. It's from  over at Love to Know Gourmet.

How to Make Chocolate from Scratch

Learning how to make chocolate is an art unto itself. Gather your basic supplies and learn how to make chocolate from scratch with these simple, step-by-step instructions. Whether you decide to make truffles or chocolate molded candies, candy making is a fun pastime.

Recipe for Homemade Chocolate

Whether it's a chocolate bar or a fancy filled chocolate, the base of chocolate candy is made from cocoa powder or cocoa beans, cocoa butter, butter, and sugar. Some recipes also recommend using blocks of unsweetened baking chocolate.

Traditional Gourmet Recipe

The gourmet recipe to make milk chocolate requires some unusual ingredients. You may not be able to find these at the local supermarket, but most online and gourmet retail shops carry them. Chocolate Alchemy sells cocoa beans, roasting equipment, and other equipment needed to make pure chocolate from scratch. In general, to make chocolate from raw beans, you need to select the beans, roast them, grind them, cook them with sugar and butter, then process them for many hours before pouring, molding, and melting them again to temper the chocolate. This process can take several days, and requires special equipment to grind the nibs.

Basic Gourmet Recipe

Since most people don't have several days to devote to chocolate making, the following basic gourmet recipe shaves off several days by starting with cocoa powder. Cocoa powder substitutes for roasting, grinding, and processing raw cocoa beans.

When purchasing ingredients for this recipe, make sure you buy the very best cocoa powder you can afford. The better quality cocoa powder will yield a richer, more satisfying chocolate taste.
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup water

  • Heavy saucepan
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Chocolate molds
  1. Heat the water in a medium-sized saucepan until simmering.
  2. Cream the cocoa powder and butter together into a paste.
  3. Add the cocoa mixture to the hot water. Bring it back to simmering, and then remove from heat and transfer the cocoa mixture to a bowl.
  4. Sift the two sugars and salt together in a separate bowl to eliminate any lumps.
  5. Add the sugar to the cocoa mixture and stir well to combine.
  6. Add the milk slowly and stir.
  7. Pour the chocolate mixture in thin layers into molds and freeze or refrigerate until firm.
The recipe doesn't produce tempered chocolate, it is a more firm truffle consistency. You can make it harder by substituting softened cocoa butter for dairy butter - that will give it a raw chocolate consistency (firmer than truffles, but softer than a candy bar).

The thinner you pour it, the harder it will become as well; thick chocolate molds will produce a fudgier consistency.

Be sure to click on the llink for variations and more instructions on the recipes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wifey Wednesday: Enjoy the Holidays

Nothing says frantic to me quite like the Pinterest and magazine spreads of November and December. Those glamor shots of centerpieces and perfectly pinched pie crusts, ornately wrapped homemade gifts arranged artfully on a tray for the guests of a festive formal holiday party with signature drinks and home-baked gingerbread houses as decor are the peer pressure of the digital age. Even if you do manage to pull off a party mid-December, the pictures pointedly ask you, "Did you take the time to individually wrap your antique book collection with color coordinated wrapping paper to add punch and sizzle to your bookshelves? No? Well, we won't judge."

"Nobody breathe until I get a picture of this for the website!" 

My advice for the holidays is to remember them for what they really are: holy days. This time of year is the time we stop in wonder at the miracles of God. There was enough oil for one night and it lasted for eight. There was a moment when God became flesh. It's a wonder. Let's just wonder.

Sure, it's nice to celebrate that with food. Who doesn't celebrate with food? Just remember that you and your family are celebrating with God and His larger family. Don't worry about making a perfect celebration, just make a celebration. Perfection isn't our lot in this life. Relax and tone down your menu to foods your kids will actually eat. If nobody likes turkey, serve roast beef. If nobody likes to cook, order in pizza. It's your family. It's your celebration. Enjoy it.

"So dinner's running late, at least no one
will see me in curl…oh, the doorbell!"

If you, like me, enjoy the cooking and the hours of preparation and aftermath in the kitchen, remember to factor in the fact that the baby will create a hazmat diaper, the five year old will toss a tantrum, and all the kids will want to help, dinner's going to be at 2:30 and not noon, at least one pie will be burnt, and the cousin from Wisconsin will not have the manners to refrain from criticizing the biscuits. "Yes," you'll be forced to agree, "Memaw's biscuits are better than mine." Just let it be.

That's my advice. Just let it be. No matter if half your family is down with the flu for Christmas, no matter if half your New Year's Eve guests invited their own guest, no matter if the toddler stripped down to her all-together while no one was watching and marched down the aisle at Midnight Mass, that's how this particular celebration is turning out. Just let it be. (Do redress that girl, though, it's cold out.)

Relax. Have a sense of humor about it. Enjoy it. The flubs are half the fun anyway. The baby will need to be fed when the turkey button popped. Go ahead and take the turkey out and then sit and feed the baby while the meat rests. It's okay. Christ was a baby once. He's not going to mind if dinner's late. If Uncle Joe mangles the carving and there's not a piece of meat bigger than a chopstick, does it really change the fact of Christ incarnate?

Just let it be. All of this is your story for this year. You celebrated and it wasn't perfect. My family lives on the Great Plains of America, beauty here is found in the vast expanse of sky and grass or it is found in the close ups of the prairie primrose, but in between is the thistle and the goat head. You don't see those when you get real close and you don't see them when you take in the vastness of it all. If you crave perfection, think of the big picture: God incarnate, God's miraculous light. Or get in really, really close. Some years, that particular candle next to that poinsettia is as close to perfection as you can get.

Have a Happy!


This has been a Wifey Wednesday post. For an even wifier Wednesday click on over to To Love Honor and Vacuum!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I'm Officially a Winner!

Yay! Whew! I stuck it out!

I wrote my whole entire novel. Now it is in dire need of editing. But yay!

I'm going to sleep now...