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Friday, March 30, 2012

Biscuits Two Ways

My husband rates restaurants on ice quality....I rate restaurants on bread quality.  Don't tell, but I have been known to drive through KFC just to order a biscuit and a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. Shhhhh...... 

Growing up, my mom often made her Grandmother Spencer's Cloud Biscuits.  I remember always having them alongside beef stew. But my favorite was when she would make them into Cinnamon Biscuits; which are like cinnamon rolls but made with a biscuit dough instead of yeast dough. They aren't as neat and tidy as a traditional cinnamon roll, but they are tender and deliciously comforting.  

As much as I love Cloud Biscuits, today I want to share a different biscuit recipe that is kind of a semi-homemade biscuit. It is especially great for Cinnamon Biscuits because the dough is just a bit sturdier than a traditional biscuit dough and easier to handle.  I found this recipe on allrecipes and haven't changed a thing! 

FYI - I made one full recipe and used half for regular biscuits and half for Cinnamon Biscuits {hence the title of this post}This recipe is great for beginners and is REALLY yummy!  It takes almost a whole box of Bisquick, a package of yeast (I use jar yeast), some sugar and some Crisco. 

First, I stirred those yummies all together, minus the warm water.

Then I cut in the shortening....if you've never done it before this just means you cut the shortening up into little pieces that are almost blended in to the dry ingredients.  If you don't have a pastry cutter like this, just use a fork.  When making biscuits you don't want to use a mixer because it will over-mix the dough and make tough biscuits - which might as well be a curse word.  Can you hear it?


After cutting in the shortening, your mixture will look like this. Notice it's not smooth, just lumpy and begging for some kind of liquid. It's coming, don't worry. 

Because of my great fear of tough biscuits, I barely mix in the warm water (just hot water out of the tap) and pour the whole glob out on the counter where I pat it into an adorable little 1 inch deep rectangle to cut into biscuits.  This dough is not very sticky, so I didn’t add any flour.  If you are using a different recipe, you will want to pat or roll your dough out on a lightly floured surface so that it won’t stick.


I grew up using a jelly jar to cut biscuits – they are smaller than usual, but a perfect little biscuit size.  Happiness.

Put these little beauties on a cookie sheet, I ended up rearranging mine so they touched on the sides.  Brush the tops with some melted butter [optional, but a great idea] and bake for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Now for the Cinnamon Biscuits:
I do use a rolling pin for these.  I want my dough to be as close to a rectangle shape as possible and somewhere between 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick; depending on how sturdy my dough is.  Once I get it all rolled out I spread 1/2 stick of softened butter all over it.  Then I sprinkle it with white sugar, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon. [I'm not sure how much, but if you pressed me I would say 1/4 - 1/3 cup of each sugar and about a Tablespoon of cinnamon; but don't press]. I sprinkle sugar until there are no wettish spots of butter, don't be skimpy with the cinnamon.  You could do all sorts of things here - chocolate chips, nuts, cocoa powder.....but nothing compares to cinnamon.

Now you start rolling.  The trick here is to keep the roll tight, but not tear your dough or press all the good stuff out. Let me just say I have had disastrous Cinnamon Biscuit experiences where the biscuits are ugly and all the filling squishes out. I just get it all in the pan and scrape the fallen filling on top - it always works out in the end.  This step is what makes cinnamon biscuits difficult. If your dough is really sticky use the flat part of a knife or spatula dipped in flour to loosen up the dough from the counter as you are rolling it up.

Do your best to seal it up at the edge.

And cut it into pieces a little bit over 1 inch wide.  I love that little tool behind the cinnamon log.  I use it to cut cinnamon biscuits and rolls and to loosen dough up from the counter - it's good for lots of other things too.

Gently place the Cinnamon Biscuits in a pie plate that has been sprayed with Pam, you will have to reshape them a bit.  I let these sit covered in the frigde overnight, then sit out the next morning so they weren't fridge cold.  

Then baked them at 375 for 18 minutes and topped them with vanilla icing.

Feather Light Biscuits
from Allrecipes
  • 6 cups Bisquick
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/3 cup Crisco
  • 1 cup warm water (120 to 130 degrees F)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

  • In a large bowl, combine the baking mix, sugar and yeast. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in enough warm water to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough to 3/4 inch thickness; cut with a  biscuit cutter or jelly glass. Place on baking sheets. Brush tops with melted 
  • butter and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. 

  • For Cinnamon Biscuits, make dough as directed. Divide into two sections.  Roll 1/2 of the dough into a rectangle 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick.  Spread with 1/2 stick softened butter or margarine.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon evenly over the top.  Roll into a log and cut into 8-10 pieces.  Lay rolls in a deep dish pie pan and bake for 15-18 minutes at 375 degrees.  Repeat for the other half of dough.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


But he said to me, 
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses….”
2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Weakness.  This is not how I wanted to start a blog post on running.  I kept hoping for some great momentous victory to launch a great inspirational post.  In the last couple of frustrating months I’ve learned that what God is teaching me through running is about weakness.  Truly. Stinks.

I wanted to open a blog post on running with a verse like Psalm 18:29, With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”  Maybe something about strength, giant-slaying, victory.  I woulda totally given all the credit to God and secretly hoped I could look amazing too.

But no, this is the lesson for me. Maybe you need to go on this trip too.

But he replied, "My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak." 
So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. 
Because when I am weak, I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 CEV

Here's my boasting about running:

  • I am not fast.
  • I am not strong.
  • I am not beautiful.
  • I am not improving.

I started running (sorta) last August.  My husband is a runner and has been for about five years.  When people would ask me if I was a runner I used to answer them with this doozy, “The only way you will ever see me running is if I am being chased….by someone….with a knife.”  But then he decided to run his first marathon at Disneyworld.  And by the way, they have a family 5K a couple of days before the marathon… wanna?  So, attempting to be supportive, I committed along with our older two kids.  To train we would do my husband’s version of Couch25K around the mile loop in our neighborhood.  As we walk/ran I could not imagine ever, not ever, ever making it 3 miles. But, I began to run by myself a couple of times a week.  I mapped out a 2 mile course in my neighborhood and didn’t tell anyone I was doing it because I didn’t think I could. I really was curious about running, it has made such a huge impact in my husband's life especially and I wanted to give it a try.....really I wanted to conquer it easily.

I began to run my loop a couple of times a week….and I struggled.

It took me a couple of months to get to 2 miles….and I struggled.

I ran the 5K distance once a couple of weeks before our trip....and I struggled.

I came back after watching my husband and friends conquer a marathon all ready to become a real runner. I set myself a training schedule....and I struggled.

For some of you reading this, you are flipping into rescue mode right about now either because you love running or you love me. Don't do it!  I'm writing this because of what I learn here in this bit of discouragement. There are a lot of things I love about running [and I'll blog about those sometime...maybe], but honestly it makes me feel weak. Weak like nothing else has in a long time. I've been really bugged by this and have spent the last months fighting it and trying to fix it. Once when I was complaining about running and comparing myself to some other faster and stronger girls; my husband said, “Well, honey those girls are a lot younger than you and were athletes in high school….”  It really wasn’t his fault, he was trying to be encouraging and I totally forced him into that corner. That's how hard I was working in "fix-it" mode.

Then in my Bible Study along comes a week about thorns and weakness and other things I hate. I realized that for me, running isn’t about becoming strong.  For me, running is about shedding my pride and the comparison game and smiling at my weakness.  I PROMISE, this is not something you will ever read in a running magazine [seriously I just snorted imagining that headline]. God might teach this to you in a different way, but it's time to park here.  To feel weak means I am dependent and needy.  I don’t have to be afraid of that, I just need to aim it in the right direction. If I believe what the Bible teaches, then I must believe that when I take my weakness to a loving Creator He transforms it into strength.  Every time I run, EVERY TIME, there are moments when I feel only weak. [I even wrote about that here.] And that’s OK because He is only strong, He teaches me and encourages me and strengthens me EVERY TIME! And the thing is, I have given my life to tell the truth about His. Weakness (Running, for me) helps me do that.

This is a screenshot from my phone - important because it's my longest run ever.
To this day, I have never run much farther than 3 miles (Oh, how it pains me to admit).  I run 1 ½ - 2 miles three times a week. I don’t run fast or pretty, but I do run consistently.

By the way, I did find this verse from the Hall of Faith Folks in Hebrews 11:34 which describes many men and women of faith  whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle…”  

I still hope to have a "Psalm 18:29" running post in my future; but for now my greatest hope is that my lessons about strength and weakness and running are all preparing me for real life battles. Maybe they've encouraged you to take a new look at weakness in your own life.  Because on the other side is always strength.

My kids and I after the Disney 5K

There is nothing like a race, I am looking forward to doing this again!
We were waving up toward the stands after we finished.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

I set out to make one of our family favorites last week.  As I sat my baby girl on the counter to bake with me (something all my kids have done over the years) and her feet stretched all the way down past the knobs on the bottom cabinets, I shook my head.  My big kids still sit on the kitchen counter, but it's usually to eat the goodies from the kitchen not make them.  It made me smiley know the feeling?  That sentimental momma pride that hits on occasion reminding you to make the most of these days.


These muffins are super easy and my kids' favorite thing I bake (second only to Chocolate Chip Cookies).  If you want to eat them for breakfast call them muffins. If you want to eat them for dessert call them cupcakes. They really are delicious.  I found these years ago when I was first discovering the internet.  I still remember cringing when the computer would make dial up noises during baby naptime. In those days I used to love to scour a website that had copycat recipes of famous restaurant dishes.  These muffins came from there.  But I can't remember now what they are supposed to be a copy of!?

If you follow any of the food posts on my blog, you have seen that I have a huge attachment to pudding mixes. See here and here.  So, you shouldn't be surprised that this recipe has a box of pudding mix.  But the real secrets to this muffin are these little jewels.

Almond extract, FROZEN mini chocolate chips, and a perfectly sized muffin scoop.  The almond extract is not recognizable, but makes these amazing and less cake-mixey.  I keep mini chocolate chips permanently in the freezer just for this recipe.  Baked from frozen, they stay in tact so that you have little bitty nuggets of melted chocolate all through these muffins. I love my Pampered Chef scoops and have blogged about them before.  This is the biggest one and it is THE Muffin Master.  The end.

Easy instructions; dump everything except the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl and mix it up.....then mix in the frozen chocolate chips.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners, no need to spray them.  Fill each of them with one scoop of batter.  This leaves the perfect amount of batter in the bowl for licking. Bake for 25 minutes, mine take 23. They should barely bounce back when you touch them.  Be careful not to overbake them, a rookie mistake. That was fun, when do I ever get to say "Rookie Mistake?"

For this batch (my second last week) I used a Duncan Hines mix, but usually I choose the Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge cake mix and Jell-O Chocolate Fudge pudding mix.  When I use that combination the muffins are prettier....I thought these were a bit flat looking compared to how they usually come out. Maybe they are camera shy. It could also be that "we" dropped an entire egg on the counter as "we" were cracking it and scooped it all into the batter while mom was taking pictures,  so"we" might've missed some.  I know Rookie Mistake.

But again, these days are short.....
I'll take a flat muffin and keep my little helper. And her chocolate covered freckles.

Chocolate–Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 package chocolate fudge cake mix
1 small box instant chocolate fudge pudding mix
3/4  cup water
4 eggs
½ cup oil
1 cup mini chocolate chips, frozen
½ tsp. Almond extract

Mix cake mix, pudding, water, eggs, oil, and almond extract until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Fill 18 greased and paper lined muffin cups, bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Friday, March 2, 2012

When Jesus Stays for Dinner

I love to teach my Bible Study on Wednesday mornings.....truly one of my favorite things is to teach and learn with them.  Except when we are in between two studies and I have to "fill" a week. I don't shine here.  So a couple of years ago we had just finished Beth Moore's "When Godly People Do Ungodly Things" and were about to head into the book of Philippians on our own, but there was this one glaring week OPEN in the schedule.  Too short to dive into something meaty, just one little 2 hour slot; I had to come up with something! I chose Luke 24:13-35 and the Road to Emmaus because it fit into the Easter-ey time of year.  God showed up and taught me a lesson I'll never forget learning and sharing.   This past Tuesday night I got to share it with a wonderful roomful of ladies in a church across town. God's letting me out some these days. What a precious privilege that was. I can't quit thinking about it.  

I believe that our life on this earth is not just about our destination.  Once we tuck up under Jesus, trusting in Who He is and what He did for our salvation the destination part is all done.  After that, life is about walking with God on the journey.  When we do THAT well; when we follow well, we have Kingdom Influence that's powerful beyond our expectation but totally in line with His.

My Grandmother had this picture in her home, it's one of her things that I got to keep.  I've always loved the story.....and the way Jesus gave these men such passion and hope.  Here it is, just in case you've never heard this story.

"13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread."  Luke 24:13-35

To set the stage, this whole story happened on the original Easter morning.  These guys are seriously confused by what's just happened.  They are crushed.  They went to see Jesus, expecting and believing Him to be the great leader to help them fight their way out from under those scuzzy pagan Romans.  They likely watched, and definitely knew all about the crucifixion.  Ugh.  Things were not going the way they'd planned.  So, they do what many of us do when dreams get crushed.  They head home. And this is where we find them.

Lessons from the Emmaus Road:

Jesus joins them on their journey but they can’t recognize Him. (16)
Literally  in Greek this verse says that their eyes were “holden” or “held fast."  This was on purpose, it was God’s plan.  We are taught (and rightly so) to seek and we will find God (Jeremiah 33:3 for example); so when we can’t make that happen we get really discouraged. Lesson one: sometimes you won't understand what's happening and it's not because you aren't trying hard enough or you are wrong. It may be God's design. 

 Jesus Joins the Conversation (17)
Jesus walks up and says, "Hey, what's up?  You guys look upset....why?"  Yep, this cracks me up [not because they are sad, that would be mean....because of their reaction]. The ESV says that they stop. I imagine a slow turn of head to finally look at this stranger who has irritatingly interrupted them. Their answer is something along the lines of, "Did you just land from Mars?  What on earth??!! You haven't heard about Jesus?  Haven't heard about what happened to him this weekend?"  Don't you love that Jesus doesn’t scold or fuss at them? He just asks the questions.  That's the next thing for us to learn when we can't recognize Him in our circumstances.  Drop the "Why Me?" (self-centered) and ask Him instead, "Why am I sad, why am I troubled?" (Psalm 43:5, God-centered) It's OK to ask the question, because this is the beginning of the road and you will NOT believe what Jesus is about to do. We have miles ahead.....

Cleopas and Friend Open Up:
And as soon as they open their mouths they show they have done two things: misunderstood God’s purpose (21) and misunderstood God’s power (22-24). In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus gives His job description in His own words (from Isaiah 61)….yes, He came to redeem, but not like they expected.  There was not going to be a big military coup where they could get behind a champion and go all Braveheart on their enemies. They misunderstood His purpose.  But again Jesus doesn't leave them there confused and venting.  You can tell by the "Yes", "and besides" and "Moreover" Cleopas throws in that he's venting.  We just need a "well then" from his buddy and a few snaps to finish it off. Think of the last time you connected all your sentences with "And then" "Plus" and ended with "Whatever".  You get the picture.  Jesus listens. Psalm 62:8 tells you to "pour out your heart to HIM", because "He is your refuge."  He can handle your venting because He knows that as you talk to HIM you will begin to listen and your confusion will begin to make sense.  If you look back at Cleopas' tirade, he has all the right facts, he's just confused because every fact is being sifted through DISAPPOINTMENT.  When Truth gets sifted through disappointment instead of the other way around, the result is confusion. Ah snap, that stepped on my own toes.

Detour to Visit Hope
This is the heart of our lesson on this road.  See where Cleo says, “We had hoped" (21)?  This is where the rubber of everyday living meets the road of Sunday church faith. They are disappointed. They are saying, "We trusted this guy, and he let us down. He died and now we have all these confusing accounts about what's happening to him....we can't even let him rest in peace.  We traveled to Jerusalem with hearts full of hope and now we are heading home crushed and disappointed and confused." Been There? It's a raw and painful place to be, confusing for religious church girls who feel guilty for being let down by God. Tuesday night I shared our family's adoption story.  It's full of unexplained miscarriages and frustration and "Hey God, I've already done this a couple times, can we PLEASE move on to my original plan? 'Cuz it's a good plan, full of children and church and such, You'll like it. C'MON!"  Crushed Jerusalem. Like Cleo and company I tried to figure out how to walk home from my crushed dreams. I had hoped, you have too.

Here's what I've learned about Hope. I can be OK (actually better than OK, I can rejoice or glory) in my pain and disappointment because it produces endurance which produces character (proven character) which produces HOPE.....and this is the kind of hope that doesn't disappoint because it comes from the Holy Spirit being poured into my heart. (Romans 5:3-50
Suffering -  endurance – character – hope, without disappointment.  
I can get behind that.

I also learned that hope comes through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures according to Romans 15:4, and that Hope is my calling in Ephesians 1:18.  If you are in the questioning, disappointed stage of your Emmaus Road and haven't yet taken the Hope Detour, hear this.  Read it like the road sign it is.  I mean it; squeal the tires, wrench the steering wheel, make the exit.  Suffering is not your calling.  It may be your season right now.  We ALL will have seasons of struggles and pain by God's design and calling.  But it's not the calling of your life.  Hope is your calling.  Biblical Hope changes your perspective.  This is the place where "we had hoped" (disappointment in circumstance) becomes "now we KNOW You" (hope because of God's character). It's totally worth it.

Foolishness of Unbelief (25-26)
In light of what we just learned about hope, it’s easier to swallow Jesus' reaction to their venting doubt.  Just a reminder; God will always tell you the truth (even, or especially, when you are being a foolish baby), but He never leaves you there.  Jesus doesn't scold them and walk away in disgust.  He scolds them, but then He wraps His arm around their shoulders and starts talking.....and it's a miracle.

 Jesus Teaches a Lesson (27)
I can never get over this part.  When I teach this, right here is where I go all to weird pieces. These men don't know that it's Jesus talking to them. He's a stranger who starts teaching them.  Jesus starts with Genesis and works all the way through the prophecies about Himself and the history that made way for Him.  Can you imagine how the resurrected Jesus must've felt as He walks arm in arm with these hurting confused men and tells His story in the third person?  Mere hours after physical life is breathed back into Him He is walking a dusty road with messed up doubting people helping them see the Truth He paid everything to secure.  If I could change places with anyone in all of Scripture it would be these men.  To hear this lesson, to walk with Jesus at this place and time makes my heart melt. He loves us....He does, so much.

Jesus Stays for Dinner……..then Disappears (29)
Cleopas and his buddy are amazed and just on the verge of a miracle of faith.  They feel it and cannot bear to part with this man. I wonder if they feel like they are just a kick or two away from coming up for air after diving deep under water. Hope after pain. They beg him to stay and he does.  When they sit down to eat he prays and breaks the bread. As he hands them pieces of bread their eyes are opened and they are able to recognize Him.  They knew Jesus before He died, they followed Him and now they can see that it's Him. Delightful recognition; what a gift.  And then He vanishes, I imagine with a huge affectionate smile because He knows they are forever changed.

Cleopas and Friend get Spiritual Heartburn (32)
If I were in their sandals I would be freaking out at this point of the story.  Seriously jumping up and down in circles trying to put a sentence together while shriek ugly crying.  The gist of it would've been, "Can you believe Jesus is alive and not dead??!! Wahoo!"  Did you see that they are not taken by the super strange reality that a dead man is alive in their kitchen? Their reaction? What made their hearts "burn within them?" Their conversation doesn't return to their former expectations of Jesus the man. Jesus talked with them and  Jesus opened the Scriptures. They've just seen Jesus in the flesh and watched Him VANISH, and all they can talk about is the lesson He taught while they walked, when they thought Him a stranger.  He talked to them [prayer] and He taught them the Bible [Bible Study]. Here's the miracle - both of these things are available to you and me.  Both of these things are available to you and me. Sit back and let that soak.

The Relational WORD, not Jesus’ Recognizable Presence is what burns in our hearts.

One last little note on our friends' journey.  They likely spent hours with Jesus walking those seven miles.  After their encounter, as soon as He disappears, they run back to Jerusalem...the place where they were disappointed. They run back with new hope and new purpose and new understanding and are able to see the reality that God had dreamt up for them; the reality that puts their dreams to shame.

Our Baby Girl at 6 months.....4 years later she still reminds us daily of God's grace in a hundred ways.
Our "return" back to Jerusalem from Emmaus includes this little miracle.  Sometime I will blog about her story.  But for now it's enough to say that God taught me about Hope and He walked with me down this particular Emmaus Road for years teaching me the value of His relational Word. Then He led us to this precious daughter who was conceived within weeks of God whispering to us that we must find her. This is just one part of our journey.  So wherever you find yourself; at the starting point, reeling in the disappointment ready to head home, processing and asking the hard questions, seeking Hope, being amazed by the Living Word lessons, or eyes opening to the grace-filled Presence you mistook for absence; wherever you are, may you be encouraged to share this journey with others and keep your eyes on Him. 

“Your heart means far more to Christ than anything.  
That your heart is utterly taken with Christ is more important than any amount of service you could render or rules you could keep."
Beth Moore, Jesus the One and Only