Savoring the Gift

carrot cakeToday would have been my father’s 90th birthday. Four years ago on December 23, 2013, my father’s spirit left this planet to be joined face-to-face with the One he loved and for whom he lived, his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Are birthdays celebrated in heaven? I don’t know; but I do know this! Of all the gifts Dad ever received on his birthday, there are none that compare to what he is experiencing today. Talk about a celebration!  “Praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”  (Psalm 150:1-6)

Dad may not be physically here, but his spirit lives on . . . and there’s nothing preventing me from joining with him in the celebration!  I can almost hear the music! “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him!” (Exodus 15:2)

In honor of my father, I want to share the recipe of one of his favorite birthday desserts!  Without fail on his special day, Dad could always count on receiving a slice or two of this delicacy from one of his children and he relished every bite. So, here’s to you, Dad!  I’ll eat a piece for you!

Carrot Cake
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1-1/3 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated or ground
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
2 cups carrots, finely grated
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped or ground

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through salt) with a whisk. Add oil and eggs and stir together with a spatula. Stir in carrots and nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Slide a knife around the cake to detach it from the pan. Release the cake from the pan, invert and peel off parchment paper. Let cool right-side-up on rack. Frost with light cream cheese icing, if desired.

Light cream cheese icing:

6 oz. 33% less fat cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup sifted powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Using hand mixer or wooden spoon, whip until creamy.

Store iced cake in the refrigerator.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:

As I reminisce about my father’s earthly birthday celebrations, I have to smile. Dad was famous for taking forever to open a gift! When he was handed a brightly wrapped package, he’d set the gift on his lap and study it, grinning. Then he might hold the gift up to the light, softly shake it, or run his hands over it, feeling for any unusual bumps or edges. Surrounded by an audience of expectant family members, he would then begin the process of slowly, excruciatingly removing each piece of scotch tape . . . being ever so careful not to rip or mar the wrapping paper in any way. When the last piece of tape was finally removed, he would slowly lift up one corner of the wrapping paper, peak inside . . . and look up at his audience with another grin. Finally, he’d reveal the gift much to our delight . . . and relief!  945411_10202501249550798_1671146050_n

Dad took great pleasure in the joy of opening a gift. There was no rush to “get on with it”, but rather, he did all he could to savor, prolong, and enjoy the moment. In a similar way, we are surrounded by gifts to be savored and enjoyed that have been created by our heavenly Father for our pleasure. Think about it. Many of the things we see and hear are gifts to us, products of God’s wonderful creative hand. As small as a tiny flower or as grand as a mountain, as lovely as the song of a bird or the sound of a soft summer rain, His gifts are there, waiting to be seen and appreciated and to speak to us in individual, God-designed ways. But, too often we move through life with blinders on, flying along at warp speed, trying to complete all of our many tasks, rushing through our days so quickly we don’t think about creation or our Creator, let alone sit back, relish and enjoy his gifts . . . and Him.

Psalm 71:8 says: “Just as each day brims with your beauty, my mouth brims with praise.”

So take a lesson from my Dad. Slow down. Savor the moment. And truly enjoy “opening the gifts” God has given you. He’ll watch with pleasure.

— Cheri Henderson

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Orange You Glad?

Juicy and sweet and renownedOrange Pie for its concentration of vitamin C, oranges make the perfect snack and add a special tang to many recipes; it is no wonder they are one of the most popular fruits in the world. The benefits of this wonderful fruit include antioxidant protection and immune support, protection against cardiovascular disease and cholesterol-lowering benefits! Granted, when they become part of a dessert, some of these benefits may be diminished, but sometimes the sweet treat is worth the trade-off, don’t you think? Alone as created, oranges are great! But mix them up with other ingredients, and you can have a delicious and appealing dessert!

Orange Creamsicle Pie
(Yield: 2 Pies, Serves: 16)

Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
16 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 cup orange juice
1 (4 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
1 (3 ounce) box orange gelatin
2 (6 ounce) prepared graham cracker crusts

Directions:
Soften cream cheese at room temperature starting a couple hours before making your pies; the cream cheese must be super soft in order to avoid lumps in the pie filling. Blend cream cheese and frozen whipped topping well; add orange juice and beat with mixer until very creamy; stir in pudding then gelatin and blend well. Divide filling between graham crusts; chill at least 3 hours before serving. Decorate with whipped cream and thinly sliced oranges if desired.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:Food for Thought
In this case, the orange was joined with other ingredients to make a delicious dessert, but the trade-off was the nutritious benefit from the orange alone.  Sometimes our desire to align with other people or other things in an effort to gain popularity or recognition is not in our best interest and may even injure those around us.

A Parable:  A lone orange tree, in the midst of a vast apple grove, was so impressed by the beauty and popularity of his surrounding neighbors; he yearned to be just like them. With great unhappiness, he looked upon his dimpled, tough exterior and then gazed longingly at the apples’ smooth, shiny red skins. “Surely”, he thought, “they are more palatable and easier to eat than my fruit which has to first be peeled before anyone can even bite into it!” So in an effort to become like them, when the wind would blow, he’d lean his limbs towards the branches of the nearby apple trees, rubbing up against them, hoping a transfer would take place that could change him … but nothing happened. So he pressed his roots further and further out towards the roots of his neighbors, thinking if he could intertwine with theirs, perhaps that would be the thing that would change him … but an orange tree he remained.

One day he saw a man walking past him carrying a ladder and a bucket of red paint. “Excuse me, sir,” the orange tree said. “Where are you going with that paint and for what purpose?”  The man replied “Goin’ up yonder to paint that barn on the hill. Why do you ask?” The tree, with much excitement, told the man of his desire to be like all the other trees around him and asked “Would you be so kind as to bless me with a little of your time and materials, and cover my oranges with that brilliant red paint you are carrying?” The man, feeling sorry for the tree and wanting to be of help, agreed to do so and climbed upon his ladder to begin the painting process. After several hours, every orange on the tree was totally covered in red paint. “Thank you, sir,” the orange tree gratefully cried. “You have satisfied the desires of my heart and now I am completely content and gratified.” The man smiled, nodded, and went on his way.

Many weeks later a group of children were walking through the apple groves, looking for the orange tree they had heard resided there. Because their town was surrounded by only apple groves and all of the orange groves were hundreds of miles away, oranges were very difficult and expensive to come by.  Though the children were looking forward to the unique and wonderful taste of a juicy orange, their primary purpose was to help a little boy who had accompanied them in their search for the orange tree.  For months, their beloved little friend had been battling scurvy, and as he struggled to walk upon weakened, bowed legs, his friends led him carefully along, filled with hope that a fresh source of vitamin C would bring healing to his body. With eagerness, they came to the place where they had been told the tree was located, but to their dismay, found only the remains of a withered tree with streaks of red running up its brittle limbs and down its splintered trunk. At the base of the tree lay shrunken circles of dimpled red paint.

Hungry, unfulfilled and with their hopes dashed, they held the hand of the sick little boy and made their way back to town.

The Parable of the Story:  Dissatisfaction with our God-given gifts, an unhealthy envy and misplaced longing (encourage by the good intentions of unwise “helpers”), can destroy God’s true plan and purpose for our existence, leaving destiny unfulfilled and lives impaired by the lack of spiritual “nourishment” we could have provided.

1 Samuel 16:7 says “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 says “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

“Orange” you glad you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, perfectly created to bring Him glory? Created in His image, He thinks you’re beautiful! Who are we to disagree?

–Cheri Henderson

The Main Ingredient

dried-apple-dollsLast weekend my darling husband came home with several bags of apples given to him by one of our friends from church. He knew I had already done my grocery shopping for the week, but sheepishly suggested I might want to come up with a way to use them so they wouldn’t go to waste!  I knew he wasn’t thinking I should use the apples to make one of those awesome Pinterest craft projects … like shrunken apple-head dolls …or a festive apple cinnamon wreath! No. Knowing my husband and his ever-present sweet tooth, there was no doubt about what he wanted. And as I quickly scanned my cupboards, he was pleased to learn I had everything necessary to make one of his favorites!

cobbler

Apple Cobbler
(Serves 12)

Ingredients:
9 cups tart cooking apples, peeled, cored, sliced to 1/4 inch
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, melted
ice cream if desired

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place sliced apples in ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan. Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in bowl; sprinkle over the apples. Combine remaining cinnamon, flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder and salt in bowl; beat at medium speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over apples. Pour melted butter over topping. Bake 45-55 minutes or until lightly browned and apples are tender.

Serve warm with ice cream if desired.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Yes, this time, I had all the ingredients I needed, but have you ever made a recipe and left out a primary ingredient or worse, used the wrong one? As much as I would like to forget it, I clearly remember a time years ago when I made a chocolate cake and mistakenly added baking soda instead of baking powder! I couldn’t figure out why the cake didn’t rise, but when I tasted it, the salty taste was a clear indication of my mistake! Imagine if I had made the apple cobbler recipe, but forgot to include the apples? Or mistakenly used salt instead of sugar? I would have ended up with an unappetizing, inedible mess, worth nothing but to be tossed into the trash!

Life’s like that too. The divine recipe for our lives requires a primary ingredient, a life surrendered to Jesus Christ, for us to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for us here on earth … and for eternity. If the outside looks like the real thing, but a heart for Jesus is missing on the inside … if we have omitted or substituted something else for a true relationship with Jesus Christ … the end result will be nothing but eternally disastrous. Scripture says “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we can be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “I am the Vine, you are  the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) “Knowing the correct password – saying ‘Master, Master’, for instance – isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience – doing what my Father wills. I can see it now – at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.'” (Matthew 7:21-23 MSG)

There is a day coming when there will be no second chance for you to “correct the recipe” of your life if the main ingredient is missing, no second chance to make it right. It will be the day when you transition from this life to eternity. 1 John 5:12 says “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Are you prepared for that day? Do you have the right ingredient, a life surrendered to the Son of God as your Lord and Savior? If not, I pray today will be the day you do.

–Cheri Henderson

Terms of Endearment

Pumpkin Apple Pie

I love the traditions of the holidays, especially those surrounding our family meals.  One, in particular, is Mom’s Pumpkin Apple pie.  It matters not whether it’s Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas (and although Mom has pretty much handed off the responsibility of creating it to one of the daughters or daughter-in-laws), it is still a “must have” at our family holiday dessert table.

Mom’s Pumpkin Apple Pie

Ingredients:
1 – 1 lb. can apple pie filling
1 unbaked 10” pie shell
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon powdered cloves or pumpkin spice
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup of sugar
1 – 1 lb. can of pumpkin
2 tablespoons molasses
1-1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1-1/2 cup milk
2 eggs – slightly beaten

Directions:
Place pie shell in a 10” pie pan. Pour apple pie filling into shell.  In a large bowl, combine cornstarch, spices, salt and sugar. Add pumpkin, molasses, and melted butter. Blend well. In another bowl, combine milk and eggs. Stir into pumpkin mixture. Pour over apple pie filling. Cover crust edges with aluminum foil or a pie crust shield and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 45 – 60 minutes.  (Insert a knife in the center and if it comes out clean, it’s done.) Cool. Top with whipped cream.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
This particular dessert has always seemed to be such an appropriate creation for my Mom because my Dad’s pet name for my mother was “punkin”. I remember Dad using that term of endearment for Mom many times during my childhood, and whenever he used it, it was delivered with a gentle, loving fondness for her.

Did you know that God also has many terms of endearment for each one of us? He not only calls us by name, “I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1), but just as we use affectionate terms of endearment to assure our children and spouses of our love, so does Our Father.  When we become Christians and are adopted into the family of God, here are some of the names He calls us:

Child (John 1:12-13)
Friend  (John 15:14)
Heir (Romans 8:17)
Saint (Ephesians 1:1)
Chosen (Deuteronomy 7:6 & Colossians 3:12)
Dearly Loved (Colossians 3:12)
Beloved (Song of Songs 2:16)
Priest (1 Peter 2:9)
Son / Daughter (2 Corinthians 6:18)
His (John 17:24; Isaiah 43:1)

In the same way Mom would smile and lovingly respond to Dad whenever he called her “punkin”, our hearts are filled with joy when we “hear” our heavenly Father’s terms of endearment for us. With tears of love, we respond back to Him “Abba, Father”! (Romans 8:15)

— Cheri Henderson

Two Plain Crackers…Transformed!

001It always amazes me how a single ingredient – fairly plain and uninspiring alone – can have such a delicious end-result when joined with others.

Case-in-point: this recipe. Though it called for two graham crackers per serving (yawn-not a big fan of graham crackers), I knew the end-result was going to be fantastic! And I was not disappointed!  With the addition of such a sweet filling between them, two plain-old crackers ended up being a beautiful and delicious presentation!

Pineapple “Ice Cream” Sandwich

Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
36 graham cracker squares

In a large bowl, beat together the thawed whipped topping, crushed pineapple, and vanilla pudding mix for 2 minutes. Spread the whipped pineapple mixture ½ inch thick between two graham cracker squares. Wrap gently in plastic and freeze for 2 hours.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Just like two plain crackers can become so much more when there’s a sweet filling to join them together, so it is in our relationship with others. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”  Whether it is a relationship between Christian friends or that of a husband and wife, when the two are closely joined in Christian love and fellowship, Jesus, by his Spirit, will come to them, bind them together, and be the sweet center of their relationship.

The Sweetness That Holds Us Together
For better, for worse; it’s no matter;
for richer, for poorer, you are mine.
God chose us and joined us together
and blest be the tie that binds!
It’s not important the things we attain,
nor how much we achieve in this life.
Our happiness isn’t measured by earthly gain,
but our love for each other and Christ!
And when the enemy tries to attack us,
we’ll lock our shields and together agree
that this threefold cord can’t be broken.
Through Jesus we will have victory!
I walk through this life totally complete
because I’m walking with you by my side,
and the sweetness of it all, the completeness of it all,
is Jesus – between us – for life!

— Cheri Henderson

Hidden Treasure

005Depending upon your family traditions or country of birth, you may call it a pot sticker, pierogi, dumpling, gnocchi, gnudi, or spaetzle. But whatever you call it, it is a yummy bundle of pastry, filled with hidden treasures that (unless named beforehand) can only be found by opening it!

I choose to call my yummy pastry a “Bundle” . . . and in this case, the hidden treasures are strawberries, cream cheese and toasted sliced almonds! And because it is harvest time for this delicious fruit, there’s no better time than now to share the recipe with you!

Strawberry Bundles
Serves 8

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bundle Ingredients:
1 pkg. refrigerated pie crusts (2 crusts)
4 cups fresh sliced strawberries
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
½ teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons of toasted sliced almonds
2 egg whites

whipped cream

Directions:
To make cinnamon-sugar, combine ingredients and set aside.

Bring pie crust to room temperature according to package directions.  Combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel and cinnamon. Mix cream cheese and almond extract. Divide pie dough into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and then flatten into a 6 inch circle. Spoon ¼ cup of the berry mixture into the middle of each round. Top with 1 tablespoon of cream cheese and 1 teaspoon of almonds. Lift up the edges of the dough and crimp with your fingers to seal. Pierce tops with a fork to allow steam to escape. Brush with egg whites; sprinkle each with ½ teaspoon cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a light drizzling of the leftover berry mixture and a dollop of whipped cream!  Refrigerate any leftovers. Store the remaining cinnamon-sugar in an airtight container.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Have you ever literally found a hidden treasure?  Several years ago, the television program, Good Morning America, interviewed a gentleman who had just unearthed a large, rare emerald while digging in his own backyard in North Carolina! It was huge, and while they didn’t place a value on it at that time, judging from the size of it, I’d say this man was set for life! I watched in amazement and quietly wondered if there were any treasures buried in my own backyard . . . hmmm, what did I do with that shovel??? But then, at that moment, the Lord spoke to me that I truly am “set for life” because I have a treasure far, far greater than any emerald a man could ever find in this earth.

Matthew 13:44 says “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Back in those days in the poor communities, people buried their treasures in the ground because it was the best, most inexpensive, safe place to protect their valuables. The man in the parable “went in his joy” to sell everything he had. Why? Because he found a treasure worth having above all else he owned. He didn’t have enough money to buy the treasure, but after selling all he had, he could afford the field.

32 years ago, I found my treasure of all treasures, a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. While there is no amount of money and nothing I could ever do to earn this treasure, selling all that we have, as described in the Matthew 13:44 parable, means a surrender of all that we own and everything we are to His Lordship. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure.

And as this adventure continues, there are more treasures to be discovered!  Just like the bundle of pastry has to be opened before you find the hidden treasure in it, so too His Love Letter to us, the Word of God, must be opened and searched out. What we seek does not consist of silver and gold . . . or strawberries. Rather our quest is to gather the precious gems that come from a full knowledge of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). If we truly are to get to know Jesus, we must be immersed in His Word and led by His Spirit. God’s truths must be sought earnestly with all the attention of someone seeking hidden treasure.

The psalmist said, “I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds great treasure.” (Psalm 119:162).  For I have “laid up treasure for myself as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that I may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:19)

So with a warm “Strawberry Bundle” and cup of coffee in hand, I’m off to open His “Love Letter Bundle” and discover the treasures inside! I hope you have a treasure-filled day!

– Cheri Henderson

The Remedy for Being Overcooked!

001

For those of you who don’t know me, I have to admit I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times. As such, I’m always disappointed on those occasions when things don’t turn out the way I originally planned. Case in point: my Memorial Day Flag Cake.

I was so looking forward to bringing this decorative cake to a friend’s Memorial Day cookout this past weekend and gratifying the guests with a real taste treat.  I thought I had followed the recipe to a “t”, and was sure, as I put the last dab of icing on the cake, that my endeavor was a success.  But later, as I and the other guests lifted our forks to our mouths and took the first bite, I knew in an instant – the cake was overcooked and too dry.  Everyone “mmmm’d” as they tried to swallow the cake without aid of a beverage to help wash it down, and they were generously complimentary.  But I knew they were just being kind.  Although the final creation was beautiful on the outside and the taste of the icing was superb, the cake itself was not great. I wanted great. And I was sorely disappointed.

Often in cases like these, if you retrace your steps a bit, you can usually discover where the problem originated, but even after I read and re-read the recipe, and confirmed that I had followed all of the directions completely, I was at a loss. A 5-star recipe with glowing comments on the internet suggested the problem was mine, but what was it?!  As my husband watched my consternation, he quietly asked “Could your oven temperature be off? Maybe you need to get one of those oven thermometers and measure it.”  Such a simple suggestion . . . and it turned out to be the perfect one.  A new oven thermometer indicated my oven temperature is off by 25 degrees!  Easily remedied, I look forward to giving this recipe another try!

Yellow Pound Cake with Butter Cream Icing (Flag Cake)
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten
Serves:  20-24

Ingredients:
18 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sour cream at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
3 cups flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/2 pounds (20 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To assemble:
2 half-pints blueberries
3 half-pints raspberries

Directions:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. (Don’t skimp on this – light and fluffy is a must!) On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out fairly clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.

Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries, approximately 12 blueberries across and 8 blueberries down. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

Serve the cake right in the pan, or if you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan. Any leftover cake freezes really well – just wrap it in foil loosely a few times over.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
It’s virtually impossible to produce something that’s excellent when you’re working with a defective tool, but I now have a remedy.  I will adjust the temperature for the oven discrepancy . . . and will make this cake again, perhaps for the 4th of July!  Next time, I know it will be excellent in every way!

In a similar way, no matter how many great ingredients go in to the mix, all human beings are incapable of attaining an excellent eternal outcome through their own defective efforts.

  • For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
  • And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.(Revelation 20:13-15) 

Talk about an overcooked cake! I promise you, eternity in hell is not the desired outcome for anyone! But God has provided a perfect remedy for each one of us.

  • For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16)
  • For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
  • Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And the icing on the cake!

  • But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” ( 1 Corinthians 2:9)
  • Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:1-5

I hope you will choose the perfect remedy for an excellent ending . . . Jesus Christ.

–Cheri Henderson

A Day Late and a Chocolate Dessert Short!

chocolate covered cherriesAny day is a good day for chocolate . . . especially on Valentine’s Day!  Apparently many people agree with me because according to economic reports, America manufactures seven billion pounds of chocolate each year and consumes almost 100 pounds of the confection per second!  Additionally, studies have shown that eating dark chocolate provides certain health benefits, such as a reduction in high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels by up to 10 percent. Chocolate also stimulates endorphin production which gives a feeling of pleasure, and contains serotonin which acts as an anti-depressant!  It’s very gratifying to know that by eating chocolate, we can contribute to the economic health of the nation and the physical health of our bodies!

So what do you say we get busy and do our part today?

Chocolate Covered Cherries

Ingredients:
60 maraschino cherries with stems
3 Tablespoons of butter
¼ teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons corn syrup
2 cups of confectioner’s sugar – sifted
1-1/2 lb. sweet dark or milk chocolate

Drain the cherries on paper towels. Combine butter, corn syrup and salt. Stir in sugar. Knead until smooth. Shape the dough into marble-sized pieces and mold around the cherries.  Place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet and chill. In a double boiler over hot water, melt chocolate stirring constantly.  (Do not add water to the chocolate.)  Holding the stems of the fondant-molded cherries, carefully dip them one at a time into the chocolate, using a spoon to completely coat it.  Place on waxed paper in a refrigerator to harden. Store in a covered container in the fridge and let ripen for 2 weeks so the fondant will liquefy.  No cheating!  They are well worth the wait!

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Unfortunately, because today is February 15th, this creation will be “a day late and a chocolate dessert short” for Valentine’s Day!  I regret I didn’t think to do this two weeks ago, so I would have been able to enjoy my sweet reward on Valentine’s Day!  I can only blame it on poor planning and a lack of preparation on my part!  Thankfully, I’ll have another opportunity next year to be better prepared for this special day.

Let me tell you, though, there is another “special day” ahead, a “once in a lifetime event”, for which we’ll have no second chance to make things right.  It will be the day when we transition from this life to eternity.   1 John 5:12 says “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  Are you prepared for that day? Do you have the right ingredient, a life surrendered to the Son of God as Lord and Savior, so you will be able to enjoy your sweet reward on that day?

Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23) “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10) “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners. Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9) “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:10) “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

Tomorrow could be your eternal Valentine’s Day. I pray you’ve planned ahead and are prepared for that special day!

— Cheri Henderson

Grandma’s Recipe

chruscikiNothing brings me more pleasure than preparing a dish for my family that celebrates our Polish heritage. Yes, I’m proud to say I’m 50% Polish!  My paternal grandparents, John and Hattie Galeski, came to America from Poland in the early 1900’s, and while they both have gone on to be with the Lord, they left our family with some precious memories and wonderful traditions . . . many of which involve cooking!

Over the years, I’ve had the honor of preparing many of my “babcia’s” recipes, and sometimes when I close my eyes and breathe in the aromas, I could swear I’m once again standing in Grandma’s little kitchen on Gerhardt Street.  Some of my favorite dishes are kielbasa and cabbage, pierogi, gawumpki (cabbage rolls), zrazy (stuffed slices of beef), butter garlic cabbage and kluski noodles, mizeria (cucumber salad), and chrusciki (fried bow tie pastries covered in powdered sugar)!  None of these would probably fit under the category of “health food” (except maybe the cucumber salad . . . if you ignore the fact the cucumber slices are swimming in sour cream), but sometimes you just have to eat and enjoy!  So, as the Polish would say, “Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa”… “Eat, drink and loosen your belt”!

I hope to share several of these recipes with you in the coming months, but since I’m battling a bit of a sweet tooth today, what do you say?  Let’s make some chrusciki!

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg yolks (room temperature)
  • 3 tablespoons dairy sour cream (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon vodka, whiskey or vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vegetable shortening or oil for deep frying
  • Enough confectioners/powdered sugar to thoroughly dust the cookies

Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks and rub them in with your fingers until combined. Add all the other ingredients except the powdered sugar, and blend well. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the mixture for a good long while into a smooth dough. You need to trap as much air in the dough as you can during this process. Just keep repeating a pattern of folding the dough, flattening it, folding again, flattening it, for at least 30 minutes. If using a mixer with a dough hook, knead for at least fifteen minutes. You should be able to see at least some little air bubbles in the dough. Wrap it in plastic wrap and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least a half an hour (or you can leave it in the fridge overnight if you like.)

When you’re ready to make the cookies, roll the dough out very thin – about 1/16th inch thick and then slice into 1-1/2 inch wide strips. Cut the strips diagonally into 5-inch lengths. In each strip, cut a one-inch slit the long way, in the middle of the strip. Pull one end of the strip through the slit so it kind of looks like a bowtie.  Heat the oil in an electric skillet to 375F. Deep fry the strips in small batches until they turn light golden, turning once. Drain on paper towels and let cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar  . . . and then try not to eat them all!

I am so thankful for the recipes my grandmother passed down to me and my siblings, and am happy to see the tradition continue as we begin to share them with our own children.  From generation to generation, grandma’s delicious meals will continue to be celebrated in our family.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Today I’ve had the pleasure of sharing one of my grandmother’s “sweet” recipes with you, but there is one other that is even sweeter . . . and quite simple:  “Albowiem tak Bóg umiłował świat, że Syna swego jednorodzonego dał, aby każdy kto weń wierzy nie umarł, ale miał życie wieczne.”  It is the “recipe for eternity” that my grandparents and my parents have passed on to their children:  “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Psalm 145:4 says “One generation shall praise Your works to another.” May we always be diligent in doing so with our own children, so that someday they will also do the same!

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children (and grandchildren and great grandchildren) are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).  Amen!

— Cheri Henderson