Wednesday, February 27, 2013

White as Snow


We've been getting a decent amount of snow this month. I took a little break to get out and take a few photos while it was falling.



The shot below is from a few weeks ago, a couple of days after a fairly heavy snowfall. Life-threatening icicles abounded.

Icicle of death!
Every time I see the freshly fallen snow, it reminds me of this scripture verse:

white as snow

I was thinking about all of the unappealing things the snow covers to transform our drab winter surroundings into a beautiful landscape. Like snow covers the dead grass, cracking concrete, pieces of trash, etc., Christ's righteousness covers our sins when we believe in Him. But, unlike snow, which melts quickly and once again reveals the decay and refuse it concealed for a time, His righteousness endures forever (Psalm 111:3).

I also like how the same imagery from Isaiah 1:18 is used to describe the Lord in Daniel 7:9: 
"As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool...."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Homemade Granola Bars


homemade granola bars
Homemade apple-cinnamon-craisin granola bars
Ed likes to take granola bars to snack on at work. We like Kashi brand bars, which we only get at Big Lots, but the prices have gone up even there, so I started making some last year. We're experimenting with different kinds. So far, we've tried apple-cinnamon-craisin and cherry-almond.

homemade granola bars

I got the recipe from this site, but here's my slightly modified short version (there's a lot to read on that site before you finally get to the recipe). They're really quick and easy to make.

No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars
Makes about 12-18 bars, depending on how thick you want them and how you cut them. I make about 12 5"x1.5" bars about 1/2" thick.
  • 1/2 stick butter (4 Tbsp.)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups plain granola
  • 1 cup puffed grain(s) (such as rice, millet, or a blend) or cereal (such as Rice Krispies or Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs) 
Optional add-in ideas (if combining, adjust quantities so as not to exceed 1/2-2/3 cup total):
  • 1/4 cup raisins/craisins and 1/4 cup chopped dehydrated apple slices with a few dashes of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries and 1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup any small or chopped dried fruit and/or nuts (apricot, tropical fruit mix, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp. flax seeds
Directions:
  1. Line a baking pan/sheet with parchment paper, wax paper, or freezer paper. (I use a 9"x13" baking sheet, but it only takes up about 2/3 or 3/4 of the sheet.)
  2. Heat butter, brown sugar, and honey in medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat, then lower heat to medium-low. Simmer until sugar is dissolved (about 2 min.).
  3. Remove from and turn off heat. Quickly fold in granola and puffed grains/cereal until evenly moistened, and, if using, fold in dried fruit, nuts, spices, etc.
  4. Spread into a baking pan/sheet and press down. Using a spatula or some other flat utensil will help, since it'll be hot.
  5. Optional: Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and gently press in.
  6. Let it sit to cool and harden (I usually wait about 30 min. to an hour or so), then cut into desired size bars/pieces. To store, I wrap them individually in fold-top sandwich bags, so it's easier for Ed to take them to work.
Storage: Keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator/freezer if you need to store them for a while, so they don't go rancid.
    homemade granola bars

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Homemade Lip Balm

    As I mentioned in the Christmas 2012 posts, I made some lip balm for gifts. I made a variety of flavors, including peppermint, lemon, orange, cappuccino, French vanilla, brown sugar, and pumpkin cheesecake, as well as a few others.

    handmade lip balm

    It's pretty easy and only takes about 30 minutes per batch. Most of the time is spent waiting for it to melt together and then harden again. I followed the "Flavored Lip Balm" recipe on the LorAnn Oils web site. One batch yields about eight standard lip balm tubes.

    handmade lip balm

    I did make one change, and that was to add a little bit more flavor oil (for most batches, I found that 1 tsp. was the right amount to cover the beeswax smell). I used the LorAnn Super Strength natural oils for the peppermint, lemon, and orange flavors. For the other flavors, I used some flavor oils I ordered from lipbalmtubes.com.


    Supplies (see link above for recipe and instructions):
    • 1-cup glass measuring cup* and small pan (for double-boiler)
    • 1 Tbsp. and 1 tsp. measuring spoons*
    • small spatula (for stirring)*
    • 0.15-oz. lip balm tubes (lipbalmtubes.com)
    • beeswax pastilles (lipbalmtubes.com) (these are much easier to measure consistently than grated beeswax); I used yellow (unbleached)
    • shea butter (brambleberry.com)
    • sweet almond oil (got it from Valli Produce, the international market in town); could use extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil instead
    • flavor oil (LorAnn oils from Hobby Lobby baking supplies aisle; other flavor oils from lipbalmtubes.com)
    • 1.8"x1.8" waterproof inkjet labels (20 per sheet) (lipbalmtubes.com)
    *If you want to make your own lip balm, be sure to dedicate the tools you use to lip balm-making only. It isn't recommended to make it in/with tools you use for cooking.

    I printed the labels on our computer using the basic template they have on the lipbalmtubes.com web site. I also got some shrink bands (lipbalmtubes.com), but I couldn't get them to shrink for some reason.


    Bonus: We'll never need to buy lip balm again!

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    Meyer Lemon Jelly

    We made our first from-scratch jelly last year. We used the Meyer Lemon Jelly recipe from the book The Art of Preserving (Williams-Sonoma).

    Meyer lemon jelly

    It takes a lot longer than the other jellies we've made using liquid pectin, but it was nice to try something different. The set is softer than we expected, but it doesn't really bother us.

    Meyer lemon jelly

    The Meyer lemons have a very different taste (and price!) from regular lemons. We might try this recipe again with regular lemons for a comparison and a little more sour punch.

    Meyer lemon jelly
     
    I made some labels using Avery 22807 2" glossy white round labels, which is the same kind I used last year. They're perfect for canning lids. I used the blank online template (on the Avery site) to design and print them.

    Meyer lemon jelly label