Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to all!

I realize that I have been posting about food lately, but Christmas really is about more than that. It is easy to think it is about giving, hospitality, family and friends and many other excellent things. But at the heart it is about Christ's birth to live a perfect life and die on the cross for us when we were dead in our sins. It is about what He did for us to enable us to come to the Father, God in heaven.

Linus tells the Christmas story well:

Key Lime Pie

I was so excited about these I had to share. Yesterday was my husband's birthday, and since he isn't a big fan of cake I always have to figure out what dessert to put the candles in. I had these Mrs. Field's Chocolate Dessert Shells that I had been waiting for a good chance to use and there was a recipe for key lime pie on the back. I love key lime pie, and this was so easy and so good. All it took was a 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lime zest, 1 tsp. (plus a little more because I tasted it and wanted more lime flavor), beat, pour into shells and chill 2 hours. You could put whipped cream on top, but they honestly didn't need it. And they look fantastic (I can say that because they were so easy to make, right?)! They were a hit and I know for a fact I will be making key lime pie again in the future.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Cooking and Baking, part I

I started Tuesday with Preacher Cookies (a.k.a. no-bakes) and spiced pretzels for my wonderful students. Our last class was Wednesday.

I made latkes for supper that night as well, in honor of the first night of Hanukkah. We ate them with sour cream, the first jar of my own canned stewed apples that we've opened, and green salads. The apples were great, and I was so pleased that the jar was still completely sealed and they weren't too mushy as I had worried they could be after processing. The latkes were good too, though I'm not sure they were perfectly fried. I am not an expert in frying things (this is the only case I would do it) and I'm ok with that. I only partially followed the recipe above.

This morning I made gingerbread dough and cut, baked and decorated the cookies with my sister and nieces. They tasted good, some turned out well...

Some not so much.
We still had a good time though!

Merry Christmas!

As you can see, our Christmas tree is up! We had a nice evening last Friday decorating it, listening to Christmas music, playing cards, and of course eating cookies.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Don't you like random lists?

1. Spoliation is a word, and a very cool one at that. Note to self: try to find a way to work this word into everyday conversation.

2. While I love Wal-mart, their own brand of tea (decaf at least) is terrible. I will throw it out as soon as I get around to buying another kind. And no, I am not a tea snob (the fact that I even tried WMT tea should be a good indication).

3. This is more something I was reminded of, but I just love development economics. Economic Expansion and Development was one of my favorite classes in college and I was reminded of this throughout the last few chapters of Foundations of Economics by Shawn Ritenour. I definitely recommend this book if you want to learn about free market economics from a Christian perspective. I find it so fascinating how all the pieces of the economic theory puzzle come together into a practical path for economic progress. Even better is the way all of it jives with the Christian worldview. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since God created us in His image to harmonize with the rest of his creation, but it still amazes me that it all fits so perfectly!

4. I taught my last actual lesson to my high school economics students yesterday, and handed out their final exam (to be taken at home and proctored by a parent). I am amazed that this semester has gone by so quickly. I think it went fairly well. I know some things that I will have to change for the future, and I have certainly learned so much. I hope the students have also learned and that they don't forget the material, but I also hope they enjoyed it. I truly enjoy economics and it has been such a blessing for me to be able to share it with these students, so if they received some inkling of that enjoyment through class then I am happy.

5. Christmas is in 10 days!! We have yet to put up our Christmas tree, which is very sad. I haven't finished shopping yet, either. I am heading out to try to finish up (hopefully) today.

6. We did, however, watch Charlie Brown Christmas already this year. It is such a good show and I love to watch it. It is probably one of the few things that really is tradition around here, for me at least. It is amazing that such a clear presentation of the Christmas story has been running on regular TV for so many years. God works in mysterious ways.

Monday, December 5, 2011


But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
~Romans 3: 21-26

My husband taught this passage to the middle school youth group at church last night. He did a wonderful job explaining the passage and keeping the kids engaged. They seemed attentive and I hope they took away even a little of the wonder and grace this passage shows of God's love.

I was so struck during the lesson by how blessed I truly am. I am assured of God's love and grace, as the passage describes, though I know what a sinner I am. (And may I truly live it.) I am married to an amazing man who has such a heart for teaching God's Word to these kids. And there are so many other blessings on top of that. God is good.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

This is another take-off on a friend's recipe that doesn't look much like the original. It worked well, and froze very well. I almost thought they were better after being frozen and thawed, but maybe I was hungrier then. They are a little sweet, but not too sweet. They remind me of baked oatmeal. We ate these in the car on Thanksgiving morning on our way "over the river and through the woods."

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp ginger
1 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all purpose flour
4 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 c. old fashioned rolled oats

Cream separately:
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 c. plain, nonfat yogurt
heaping 1/2 c. brown sugar
heaping 1/4 c. canola oil

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir just until completely moistened. Fill muffin cups and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until done. Makes smallish 24 muffins.

Nutrition facts: 1 muffin has 112 calories, 3 g of fat, 175 mg of sodium, 2 g of fiber, 6 g of sugar, and 3 g of protein. They are high in vitamin A at 55% daily value (don't you just love pumpkin) and have some iron and calcium (6%)as well.

Friday, December 2, 2011


When looking at what appears to be a trend towards DIY (do it yourself), I see a correlation with the trends towards organic or small, self-sufficient farming and farmers markets. It is also, perhaps, related to this trend, but that’s a topic for another day. Understand this is all my own thoughts, and I haven’t done any research directly into this topic. This is simply my observation filtered through the economics of human action.

People want to get back to the basics, the simpler things, back to the land, closer to what they eat, etc. Many who take this view in small farming seem to channel it into anti-factory farming, anti-big business (i.e. Food, Inc.- my thoughts on that are here). But they don’t realize (at least I hope they don’t) the reasons we have large factory farms. Division of labor caused farms to develop from self-sufficient plots where the farmer made everything to more specialized, more efficient, factory type farms where the farmers can produce so much more of the final product (and specialization is such that we tend to specialize in what we’re good at producing). If we were all still producing all or most of the food necessary for our own families to live, there would be fewer economic and scientific advances, fewer finer things in life, less time for hobbies and recreation, even social time. The greater efficiency of the factory translates well to farming, so that our standard of living has increased dramatically, and many more people are fed. If someone chooses to produce as much of their own food as possible on their own farm, that is completely fine. But they are doing that because they choose that supposedly simpler life over anything else. They do it (hopefully) realizing that it does take more time and energy, and they won’t get ahead that way. If people go to farmers markets, they should go expecting to pay more money for the goods there.

I think the DIY trend is part of the desire to be self-sufficient and go back to a “simpler life.” As with self-sufficient farming, one must realize that DIY may not be the least expensive route. It can be fun or provide a sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done, but then you are choosing to do it for those reasons. There are people who specialize in all of these goods and services (even perhaps those on Etsy), and they have done so for a reason. They are probably the more efficient or least opportunity cost producer of that good. As my economics students could tell you, they have comparative advantage in that particular line of production. If we choose to DIY, it must be with the realization that the costs may be higher than we realize. This includes not only time (probably more than an efficient professional) and materials (not bought in bulk, as a specialized producer might), but also the value of what we could have been doing with the time and energy we invested in making whatever item (called opportunity cost). If everything was DIY we would be back to those small self-sufficient farms, working from dawn to dusk to feed a family.

That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to DIY. I attempted canning for the first time this summer. Yes, I could have purchased canned peaches, but it was something new to try. It was a fun experience and there is a certain sense of accomplishment when you do something like that for yourself. However I recognized that I was doing it because I chose to do so. My personal preferences at the time were such that I ranked leaning over a hot stove to can peaches and apples, with the resulting feeling of accomplishment, over the next highest ranked use of my time. But that’s the great thing about preferences- they are personal and they don’t have to “make sense” to everyone (provided, of course, that they are morally equal). We must just realize that we are doing the task because we choose the enjoyment the process gives us, the satisfaction of a job well-done, and/or the quality of the finished product over what someone else could have done.

We must also be careful not to compare ourselves to others, whether in our craftiness or in our decisions about where to shop. We have to be careful that we’re not doing these projects simply because our friends do. We must avoid the trap of unconsciously looking down on others who aren’t as creatively inclined or skilled, or simply don’t choose to use their time in that particular way. There may very well be projects that are more efficient or cheaper when we do them ourselves instead of paying someone else to do them. But this must depend on each individual, their resources and skills. No project or decision has the same costs or benefits for everyone. We are created with individual skill-sets and preferences, so what is a good DIY for you may be a terrible project for me!