Monthly Archives: December 2010

Two Delicious Salads – One Delicious Dressing

After a few heavy meals over this holiday, we decided to have salad with both lunch and dinner today and, boy, were they good!

Dressing Recipe (courtesy of my Aunt Cheryl):
1/4 c. blackberry preserves (I used Smuckers, of course)
1/4 c. sweet vinaigrette dressing (I used Wishbone’s Lite Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette)
Melt over medium low heat and whisk together till combined.

Salad 1 (You could reduce the amount, but we had a big group here for lunch, so we used a lot):
3 hearts of Romaine Lettuce
2 cans of Mandarin Orange Segments
1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Pomegranate (arils only)
1 package of Oscar Mayer precooked bacon, cut into small pieces

Salad 2 (inspired by Aunt Cheryl):
1 box of prewashed 50/50 Salad Mix (romaine and spring mix)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small package fresh blueberries
1 small package blackberries
1 small bag of glazed pecan pieces
1 granny smith apple, thinly sliced
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Our lunch salad was served with noodles and meatballs. Our dinner salad was served with pizza. Both were delicious! And I will make that dressing over and over again.

The True Christmas Story

Matthew 1:

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Luke 1:

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Luke 2: The Birth of Jesus Christ

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.


Perfectly Baked Bacon

Preheat oven to 425F. Line bacon in a pan with a rim, sprinkle with a few tablespoons of brown sugar and grind McCormick’s Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder over the bacon. Cook for 10 minutes, turn over and season again, and cook for another 10, or until crisp. May take up to 25 minutes, depending on how thick the bacon is. Mom always uses Oscar Mayer Thick Cut Bacon.

If you don’t have the McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning, it contains rosemary, black pepper, crushed red pepper, dried garlic, dehydrated onion, sea salt, sun dried tomato, and parsley.


Christmas Decorations

We went with a simpler theme this year and only used about half of our decorations. Here’s a sneak preview…

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Merry Christmas!

In the Kitchen with Mom

Me & My Beautiful Mom!

Mom and I made a special dinner for Grandma, Dad, Bryan and Jordan last night. We found super thick, boneless pork chops at the grocery store for a great price. Then we paired it with a squash medley and sweet carrots. Yum! I love cooking with my mom! We both learned how to cook by sitting on the kitchen counter, watching our moms. Some day, we’re going to write a cookbook together!

We started by rubbing 1/2 tsp. of the Sweet & Spicy Rub on each of the pork chops.

Sweet & Spicy Rub Recipe here.

Heat pan with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter until melted. Then add pork chops and cook till golden brown on each side (about 5-6 minutes).

Next we sliced 4 zucchini, 2 yellow squash and 1 onion and put in 2 different pans with olive oil, butter, sea salt, and cracked pepper. We cooked over medium low heat with lids on till soft and lightly browned.

For the carrots, we steamed about 3 c. of baby carrots. Then we drained them and added 2 Tbsp. butter, a pinch of salt, 3 Tbsp. brown sugar, and 2 Tbsp. orange marmalade. Fold together till melted and all carrots glazed.

Sweet Carrots and Squash Medley

We served the pork chops with my homemade Cranberry BBQ Sauce (recipe from Whole Foods).

Cranberry BBQ Sauce recipe here.

Bon Appetit!

A Simple Kind of Christmas

Just taking a moment to blog. I’m enjoying my simple Christmas. It’s always hard to wait till December to use my vacation time, but it’s always worth it to take two full weeks off of work in a row. We spent Friday night and Saturday morning with Bryan’s parents and brother and sister-in-law, exchanging gifts, eating ham and fixin’s for an early Christmas dinner, and sharing breakfast at a great little dive in Pickens, Auntie Ann’s! Delicious bacon! And you can get a waffle for $2!

I packed up all my little gift baskets. I ended up making cranberry bbq sauce, cranberry syrup (for teas and ciders), sugared cranberries, a sweet & spicy rub, citrus salt, French sugar (sugar with vanilla bean and herb de provence), fudge buttons (from dates, cashews and cocoa), and cinnamon pancake mix. I was going to make chocolate dipped figs, but ended up just giving the kids a bag of figs and a bar of chocolate so they can do it themselves or eat them separately. Everything was a lot of fun and not too hard to make. So far the gifts have gone over really great. Can’t wait to hand out my last few on Christmas day!

We had to simplify Christmas this year, due to budget constraints, and it turned out being really fun. I found little baskets at Old Time Pottery for less than $1.50 each and I found ribbon at Wilson’s Five and Dime. UGA for Bryan’s family and OSU for mine (go Bucks!). Instead of tissue paper, I had some old red and white Christmas napkins with snowflakes on them. They worked perfectly to decorate the packages, and they matched the ribbons. After all, Christmas isn’t about the gifts we get or receive; it’s about the greatest gift of Jesus!

This morning, I woke up and there was snow falling! Bryan had built a fire in Grandma’s fire place, which she and I both loved! I miss the snow! It’s just so beautiful! Hoping I get to see at least one bright red cardinal in the snow. It always reminds me of the blood of Christ poured out to cover our sins and wash us white as snow. Beautiful in so many ways.

We had lunch with my dad and brother. And now we wait for the rest of the family to arrive. The Christmas tree is up and Foundation Brass Christmas is playing in the background. Mom’s signing last minute cards and I’m typing. I’m enjoying the chance to just rest and trying to resist the urge to keep myself busy. It’s a life-pattern that I’ve fallen into and am desperately trying to overcome. So, this Christmas, our goal is to rest, read, enjoy family, eat good (while still healthful) food, and be still. I’m enjoying the little things, like walking through shops, even if I don’t buy anything, looking at all the Christmas decorations, watching the squirrels gather their cracked corn in the white blanket on the ground, and long talks in the family room. I love the simple life. I want to live a simple, quiet life. I want to help people and make people smile.

Speaking of smiling, I just found out that one of my dear friends who has not been able to have children for several years is finalizing an adoption tonight! Praise be to God! And Merry Christmas! They have prayed and waited for this day for so long!

Now, it’s time for me to pick up my book and read with inordinate amounts of coffee at my disposal. Merry Christmas! And keep it simple!

Enjoying the journey, Melissa

The Week Before Christmas…

It’s the week before Christmas and there isn’t anything quiet about this house. But it will be worth it all come Friday when I get off early and don’t go back to work until after New Year’s! So, I work during the day, then I come home and do one of a few things: work on Christmas gifts (homemade this year), training my personal trainer clients (twice a week), helping a friend make jewelry, or church activities. I enjoy all of these things, but I am ready for some much needed R&R.

Things I plan to do on vacation:

  1. Spend time with family
  2. Sleep in
  3. Read “Green” by Ted Dekker
  4. Finish “The China Study”
  5. Exercise for at least 1 hour every day
  6. Blog more!
  7. Have “dates” with God
  8. Maybe get my recipe collection typed up on my computer
  9. Go to a friend’s wedding (Love you, Meg!)
  10. Listen to “Ender’s Game,” etc. (audio books)

Tonight, I plan on helping a friend with jewelry, watch the Biggest Loser finale, and eating dinner with my man. He made chicken corn chowder with mushrooms and carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting from scratch! AND he did laundry and dishes! Yep, he’s pretty much the best.

Long Week & Other Ramblings…

It’s been a long week, or month rather. It started with a severe allergic reaction when we helped a couple pack up their basement (friend of a friend side job thing). They failed to mention that they had a large dog, 5 cats!, dust and black mold! We worked from 9am to 2pm and I had a splitting headache by the time we left. The allergies continued until finally last week, they settled into my chest in the form of bronchitis. Fortunately, I was able to get an antibiotic (a last resort for me, since I hate taking medications of any kind if at all possible), and I am feeling a TON better. I prefer using natural remedies for maladies, but this one just wasn’t going away and I am thankful for the prescription.

Thanksgiving was a great time with both sides of the family. And we’re looking forward to spending Christmas with family too. We finally got the tree up on Saturday night. It’s so pretty! I’ll try to post pictures soon. I’m glad we decided to go ahead and put it up. I just wasn’t in the Christmas mood. I don’t know if it’s because of being so hectic, because I’ve been feeling yucky, or because it’s been too warm to feel like December. But it’s finally cold, I feel better, and life is beginning to calm down.

I can’t blog at work anymore (yep, new policy, even if I’m sitting front desk and there’s nothing to do but watch Fox News). Oh, well. Anyway, my posts have been less frequent because almost every evening has been taken up between 2 nights of personal training, 1-2 nights of church, trying to work on household and jewelry projects, and prepping for Christmas…not that I’m complaining about ANY of those things. I enjoy them all. I am just looking forward to two weeks off work where I can do that kind of stuff without being tired out from the day.

In the meantime, I took my next step to simplifying and logged out of Facebook and Twitter indefinitely. Not saying I won’t go back ever or try to connect with a friend via those methods occasionally. I just don’t want it to be a lifeline or an addiction. And I don’t need them. Instead of catching up on the last FB gossip, I started reading The China Study in the evenings. I curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and switch back and forth between reading and staring at the twinkle lights on the tree. It’s a good book so far, though very much a science book. I’m thankful for the science classes I had in college and this last summer at Greenville Tech as a refresher. Currently, I’m in part 1, and it’s talking about the biological connection between high protein diets and chronic illnesses. I have plenty of family members who struggle or struggled with cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, obesity, ulcers, etc. I think most people have this kind of stuff in their family history. And if there’s a way to reduce my risks, I’m going to do my best to do so. Ultimately, God is still in control. But I’m going to do my part as a good steward of His temple, my body. So, I try to eat right, stay active, exercise my mind and refresh my spirit on a regular basis. It seems that lowering the protein intake could help reduce the risk of some or all of these chronic diseases.

So, I’ll keep reading and keep you posted…hoping to finish the book over Christmas break (as well as get in some more blogging). I have a new cookbook idea in the works too, so I’m playing with figuring out the layout and testing my recipes.

Do you have any suggestions for books to read over Christmas break?! Let me know…

Whole Wheat Harvest Tarts by Melissa McKinnon

Whole Wheat Harvest Tarts by Melissa McKinnon

Whole Wheat Harvest Tarts Recipe

  • Yields: 16
  • Prep Time: 50 minutes
  • Bake Time: 35 minutes

Well, I made the plunge and altered my grandmother’s “Perfect Flaky Pie Crust” and it turned out great! Follow the link above for the instructions, but use the ingredients below:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks butter (1 c.)
  • 9 Tbsp. iced water

Divide dough into 16 equal portions and, on a floured surface, roll out each ball into a 6-7″ circle.

Now for the fillings. Mix together the following ingredients and divide into two equal portions (about 1/2 c. per bowl):

  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

The rest of the ingredients:

  • 6 medium apples, peeled and sliced (4 in one bowl, 2 in second bowl with rest of ingredients)
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries
  • 1/2 c. golden raisins
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans

Mix 1/2 of the sugar and spice mixture into the bowl with four of the apples and the other 1/2 of the sugar and spice mixture with the remaining ingredients.

Place ½ c. filling in the center of each dough round, fold in half and pinch edges together either with fingers or a fork. Place on a wax paper lined baking pan (I used stoneware). Brush the tops of the apple tarts with the remaining juices from the filling. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. For the mixed fruit and nut tarts, brush with melted butter (about 1 tsp. each) and place a pecan half on the top of each.

Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes.

Cool on wire racks.

Transfer to serving platter. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Bon Appetit! ~Melissa

Gift Giving on a Budget

Christmas is rapidly approaching. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly believe it’s December already! This year we’re living (and giving) on a single income. So, we’re being creative and giving gift baskets. After all, Christmas isn’t about how much someone spends on you (or how much you spend on someone). We give gifts as a reminder of God’s greatest gift, His Son Jesus, to us on that first Christmas!

I came across this page on the Whole Foods Market website and can’t wait to try some of these ideas out! The majority are simple and contain budget-friendly ingredients, so you can customize each package. You could do themed gifts, like BBQ rubs and sauces for the guys on the list, home spa package for the ladies (see bath salts and oils recipes, or search for a homemade soap recipe), and “visions of sugarplums” package for the kids (check out the Mexican Hot Chocolate Buttons and Candied Cranberries recipes on the site).

Visit your local flea market, consignment shop, or Goodwill for baskets or containers to put your jars in (or just dig around in your closet or basement). Make sure to sanitize them, and maybe even line them with a pretty piece of fabric. If you sew the edges, the cloth can be used as a centerpiece napkin later on! Add a handmade piece of jewelry or a pretty ornament to brighten it up. And let your kids get involved, if you have them. Lots of these recipes are just mixing ingredients and require little to no heating elements.

The possibilities are endless. Start planning now (if you haven’t already). Many of these recipes can be made weeks ahead, so you can relax and work at your own pace without having to feel the holiday hustle and bustle.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Candied Lemon Peels, Orange Peels, or Cranberries
  • Infused Oils and Infused Vinegars
  • Seasoned Salts and Sugars
  • Chocolate-Dipped Figs or other fruits
  • Biscotti, Cookies, and other Baked Goods
  • Pancake Mixes or  Cookie Mixes
  • Barbeque Sauces and Rubs
  • Jellies, Jams, and Marmalades
  • Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
  • Marinated Olives
  • Mulling Spice Sachets

For more ideas, search the “Gift” Category on the Whole Foods Market website or check out this page on the Country Living website (picture above from Country Living site).

Happy Giving! And Merry Christmas!