Let’s Celebrate!

Get out your party hats; it’s time for a celebration! Today is National Bittersweet Chocolate and Almonds Day. I don’t know who came up with that idea, but it seems like a grand excuse to enjoy a delectable dessert. In searching for a yummy recipe to try, I came across one that serves two purposes. First, it contains the required ingredients, bittersweet chocolate and almonds; and second, it is a nearly flourless torte. What is the purpose in finding a flourless torte, you may ask. Well, my oldest son must eat a gluten-free diet and so I am always in search of delicious recipes that are easy to adapt for him. If you’ve never had to deal with a gluten intolerance, let me just tell you that almost everything prepackaged in the grocery store contains gluten or flour in some form or another. Finding gluten-free alternatives for a teenage boy is no small task. So, I was very excited to discover this easy to follow recipe. It contains only three tablespoons of flour, which can easily be substituted with three tablespoons of rice flour. This is a gooey, fudgy cake that goes great with vanilla ice cream. It doesn’t take long to prepare and your friends and family will be impressed! On that note, I am delighted to share a scrumptious recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate and Almond Cake.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Almond Cake

Bon Appétit | May 1999

by Michel Depardon, St.-Rémy, France

yield: Serve 10 to 12


  • 12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream


Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Finely grind 1/2 cup almonds, flour and salt in processor. Using electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until thick, about 2 minutes. Fold in almond mixture, then chocolate mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack (center will fall). Press edges down with fork to level top. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Cut around cake; remove pan sides. Beat cream in large bowl to firm peaks. Mound cream atop cake; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup almonds.

Weathering the Storm

I am amazed and humbled by the responses I have received regarding my post Jesus in the Dishes. Incidentally, it won Honorable Mention in the Falling for Jesus contest for which it was originally written, and it was republished on www.blissfullydomestic.com.

Depression is the “silent killer” of many marriages, often without either party knowing the root cause of their struggles. Talking about mental illness is still taboo in many circles, which only compounds the problems for those caught in its snare. Because depression is so isolating and we felt so alone in our battle, we did not realize the impact that our story would have on others. Writing about that time in our lives has been therapeutic and we are now better able to express what we could not even put into words two years ago. Today’s post is in my husband’s words, written about a year and a half after we first saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Once upon a time, I dreamed of marrying the perfect girl.

When I married her, I realized she was not perfect, and sometimes I wondered if I should have waited for someone else.

We had children, and they were bright and shining beings who had been entrusted to us, and us alone. And I knew that we were the right parents for them, and I was content.

Then the dark storms came for me, and I could do nothing for myself. She cared for me, suffered with me, and beat her heart against the dark wall surrounding my soul.

When the storms had passed, I found that she was still beside me, tattered and torn. Then I knew that she was indeed the one I had dreamed of; for she was true, kind, generous, and had sacrificed much of herself for me. I was humbled, and I was more than content – I was grateful.

From her loving husband

The Creative Call is Coming!

It’s finally coming! It’s your chance to discover or uncover the creative gifts that God has placed in you.

The unfortunate truth is that once we have found our way in the so-called “real world”, even if we become successful in a chosen profession, many of us discover we’ve lost something of ourselves. We lose the simple pleasure that we once cherished of being who God created us to be and doing what God created us to do. We may even feel our gifts are lost forever. But are they?

Our gifts are not from God to us, but from God through us to the world. When we fail to use these gifts, we suffer the same way a person accustomed to regular physical activity may feel pent up, out of sorts, and off-balance after going several days without exercise. When we try to live without exercising our artistic gifts, we may feel restless and empty. Life lacks fullness. Something buried deep within longs to emerge.

— Excerpts from The Creative Call

If you are ready to uncover those buried gifts, you are invited to join us as we embark on an 8 week journey of exploration with The Creative Call. An online group has been set up where we can “meet” to discuss what we’re learning, share new insights, and encourage one another to experiment with our gifts. It will be facilitated by Lisa Scott, of Wisdom Pursuit. Though the holiday season is a busy time, there is no better time of the year to provide so many opportunities for exploring our creative gifts!

Are you excited yet? Ready to see what God has for you? I can’t wait to meet you all! Here are the details:

  • Send an e-mail to all of your friends and blog buddies who might be interested, or post this announcement on your blog
  • Please purchase a copy of the book The Creative Call and a journal that you will love to write in
  • Plan to read one chapter a week (starting the week of Nov. 16) and complete the journal exercises
  • If you are not already a member of The League of Extraordinary Wives website, please send an e-mail to wedblissfully at gmail.com to receive an invitation.
  • Join the group The Creative Call on the League of Extraordinary Wives website
  • Introduce yourself to the group and get ready to start this grand adventure.
  • Questions? E-mail Lisa at lisa at scottclan dot cc

Apple-icious Fall Treats

Traditions are the glue which helps to hold a family together. Some traditions are based on holidays or seasons, while others are unique to each family, created because of the interests and loves of those particular people. Fall brings both holiday traditions and seasonal memories, often based on the foods that are popular during the season. Today, I took a walk down memory lane thinking of traditions in our family that have grown up around one of the most popular and versatile fall fruits, the apple.

“To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet. Some of these apples might be labeled, “To be eaten in the wind.” It takes a savage or wild taste to appreciate a wild fruit. . . The era of the Wild Apple will soon be past. It is a fruit which will probably become extinct in New England. I fear that he who walks over these fields a century hence will not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples. Ah, poor soul, there are many pleasures which you will not know! . . . the end of it all will be that we shall be compelled to look for our apples in a barrel.”

– Henry David Thoreau

My kids may not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples, but they would argue that some of the best tasting apples in the world come from a barrel – provided it is near an apple orchard. They and their grandparents have a lovely fall tradition of going together out to an apple orchard, selecting the best tasting apples they can find, and bringing them home to make homemade applesauce. They wash and cook the apples, feed them through the strainer, add just enough sugar to take out the tartness, and package it all in freezer containers. It is truly a labor of love, and one whose fruits we enjoy for the rest of the year. Fall just wouldn’t be the same without their applesauce making weekend!

My grandmother was a baker – not by profession, but by habit. She was a country woman at heart and she baked a few pies every day whether she needed to or not. I always loved her pies, but I really miss her apple dumplings. To me, they were the ultimate comfort food, and a mighty good breakfast with some milk poured over them! She also participated in making apple butter the old-fashioned way with a group of friends, cooking it all day in a huge black kettle and then canning it for the winter. In her later years, she began making her apple butter in a crockpot. All of the flavor, none of the hassle.

I have carried on the apple butter tradition -the crockpot version, not the Little House on the Prairie version. It takes two days in a crockpot, so plan it on a weekend if you work away from home during the week, but it doesn’t require much effort. I freeze mine in canning jars, but you could freeze it in plastic containers or can it and store it on a shelf. It’s not hard at all, so if you’re looking for a good way to bring home the taste of fall and wow your friends with your domestic abilities, then try this apple butter recipe:

Crockpot Apple Butter
4 c. sugar ( I use brown sugar or succanat)
8 c. cooked apples
1/2 c. vinegar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Wash. peel and slice apples thin. Pack into crockpot until full. Add only enough water to keep from sticking to the bottom. Cook all day, covered on low; that night, add 4 cups of sugar to 8 cups of cooked apples (adjust sugar if less than 8 cups). Add 1/2 cup vinegar; stir well and cook all night, covered on low. The next morning, add spices. Cook, uncovered, on high for 3 hours. Fill jars and freeze them when cooled to room temperature, or fill jars and seal, if canning.
Yummy! Makes great gifts, too!

Nothing says happy kids in fall like caramel apples, so why wait for the fall carnivals to get them? Caramel apples are easy to make and a delightful way to enjoy some of the bountiful fall harvests. Yes, they can be messy when eaten, so for younger kids especially, make them a outdoor treat. You just need some small to medium sized apples, caramel candies, popsicle sticks, and wax paper. Stick the popsicle sticks in the apples, melt the caramels in a saucepan, dip the apples in the caramel, set them on the wax paper, and put them in the fridge for an hour to cool. We made a dozen in about a half and hour this weekend, but nobody wanted to wait a full hour for them to harden. The result: We had a major tug of war battle between the caramel and the wax paper, but those who didn’t mind chewing on a little wax paper still had a scrumptious treat.

What about your family growing up, or your family today? Do you have favorite fall memories or traditions with apples? What new traditions do you want to start? What apple recipes do you love? Please share with us!

Is it a Mid-Life Crisis or a New Calling?

I’ve been in a funk for the last week or so. Something has just been unsettled in my soul, and I hadn’t been able to identify it. Until today. I had anticipated heavy involvement in my kids’ schools this year, but it hasn’t turned out that way and they are doing just fine without me underfoot every day. My younger two, who attend a “university format” school, go to classes Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and are home doing lessons with me on Tuesday- Thursday. Next year, we just learned, the school will change to a traditional 5 day a week format. So, after 15 years of being a stay at home mom, I will have no one to stay at home with. With only four years until we begin footing college tuition bills, an income-producing opportunity would certainly be a prudent use of that time. However, as is true for many of us, the jobs for which my college degrees prepared me are not necessarily the ones I desire at this stage of my life. So, I’ve been in this funk – the what do I want to do with the rest of my life blues.

The one thing that excites me regularly is writing this blog; it has filled a part of my soul that I didn’t know was empty. Putting thoughts into words and creating beautiful spaces has stirred up a surprisingly intense passion. I have always enjoyed being around creative people but never considered myself to be one of them. Recently reading The Creative Call, I sensed God telling me that He sees me as a writer. Me? A writer? With no journalism or English degree? And writers fall into that “starving artist” category – not exactly a lucrative career to pave the way for three kids in college!

When I started writing this blog it was, in my mind, to journal our family’s transition into middle and high school. However, God had other plans for it, which I am just beginning to discover. Since its inception, He has been telling me, “One step at a time; I’m only giving you one step. When you follow that one, you get the next one.” Me, the planner, the map -my- life- out- for- the- next- six- years person. It’s making me crazy. It’s making me nervous. It’s making me rely on my daily prayer time to be sure I get that next step.

Oh, me of little faith. It only takes a day or two of silence for me to doubt what I’ve heard. So, this morning, I got up and prayed. “I don’t see how you’re going to use this blog to make me a writer,” I told Him. Slightly disgusted with the lack of an answer to my prayer, I decided to check my e-mail. There, in my inbox, was an invitation to post one of my articles in an online women’s magazine and possibly to write several more articles for them in the future. Sheepishly, I confessed that once again, I was running ahead of God. Oh, me of little faith. He who can make an oak tree from an acorn can surely make a writer out of me.

If you would be interested in participating in an 8 week online group study and discussion of the book The Creative Call, please leave a comment with your name, e-mail, and a note about what you believe your creative calling to be (if you’re not sure, join us to find out!).

Snow on the Mountain

I participated in a mystery dinner the other night where each of us brought several ingredients, but only one person knew the secret recipe. We watched in anticipation as each person shared their contribution – rice, chicken, chicken broth – so far, so good. Pineapple, cheese, and black olives? Chow mein noodles, coconut, and green onions? Where in the world did she get this idea? Java, as it turns out. For those of you, like me, who have forgotten our high school geography, Java is an Indonesian island in Southeast Asia. My friend picked up this recipe from a missionary to Java many years ago. Since many Indonesian and Asian dishes are quite spicy, I suspect that this one has been modified for American palates. Though we looked at the table with a bit of hesitance at first, everyone who tried the meal loved it. Apparently, there are meanings to each of the toppings, which I would love to find if anyone knows what they are. The title of the dish, Snow on the Mountain, refers to the coconut which is sprinkled on top. The rest of the toppings, though mysterious in meaning, were quite tasty combined together. If you’re ready for an international meal without a lot of work, give this delicious dish a try:

Snow on the Mountain

1 lb chicken, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces

4 cups cooked white rice

1 cup chicken broth, heated and thickened with 1T. cornstarch

toppings: chow mein noodles, green onions, sliced almonds, black olives, pineapple chunks, shredded cheese, coconut

Put rice on the plates as the base, followed by chicken and the toppings. Pour thickened chicken broth over all and enjoy!

Jesus in the Dishes

Update : Please see the November 4th entry for a update on this blog post.

This entry was written for the Falling for Jesus contest.

It had been two years, at least. Two years of that dark monster of depression clinging to my husband and engulfing my family in a daily struggle just to stay afloat. Sometimes he could beat it back far enough to convince those around him that things weren’t so bad, but other times it seemed as if the monster would strangle the life out of him as he lay exhausted in the bed, unable to face another day of fighting. On those days, I wondered if it would ever end and how I would survive if it didn’t. I even occasionally secretly wished that he was fighting a disease like cancer instead of a mental illness. Then, I reasoned, I would have the sympathy and support of the church members who always cared for those in need. Instead, I suffered in silence, hoping and praying that the torture would end, and attempting to protect my husband from those who would tell us that if he just trusted Jesus more, it would all go away. We did trust Jesus, and it didn’t go away.

Finally, we accepted the fact that he was dealing with a genetic chemical imbalance that could only be properly treated with medication. The first few weeks, nothing seemed different. We questioned whether we had made the right choice. “Why, Lord,” I would ask. “Why won’t it just go away?”

Then, one day, it happened. He walked into the room and said, nonchalantly, “I’m going to the store. I started to do the dishes but we’re out of detergent.” Now, this may seem like an ordinary comment to many of you. But to me, they were the most wonderful words in the world. You see, he had been a man who had always helped out around the house. But it had been months since he had attempted to wash any dishes, and I couldn’t remember the last time he had offered to pick up anything at the store. I managed an “okay” and a smile before I turned away and burst into tears. I had seen the light at the end of the tunnel and it was too beautiful to behold.

Relief washed over me in waves as I was reminded that Jesus had heard our prayers, He knew my pain, and He would continue to be by my side as we fought this monster. Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV, tells us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” He was restoring my husband to me in His time and in His way. Though there would be more battles to fight, I knew then that the final victory would be ours in Jesus.

With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

Psalm 60:12, NIV

Parental Rights – or Not

I am infuriated over what I just read. A 13 year old diabetic girl was given the new HPV vaccine at school against her parents’ consent and against her own wishes. Unbelievable! Where have parents’ rights gone? The worst part about it, from the parents’ perspective, is that the vaccine has not been tested on diabetics so they have no idea what the possible side effects could be for their daughter. The school was apologetic and said that the doctor administering the vaccines was to blame, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

My son’s school was giving the flumist vaccine today, which I refused to sign the consent form for and told him to reject if offered to him. I have no hard feelings towards those who choose to do it, but he already has a myriad of allergy and dietary issues, and I don’t want to complicate things further by putting more foreign substances in his body. Also, with the flu vaccine, I feel like it is a hit or miss situation since they never know if they’ve chosen the right strain for that year anyhow. Better to eat your veggies and get a good night’s sleep to fight off most viruses, in my opinion. But, if my son comes home and I find out he received the vaccine against our wishes, the fur will begin to fly. Not because I think his health is in imminent danger, though it could be because we never know what he will react to, but because it represents a trumping of governmental herd-mentality thinking over individual parental rights. Just because I send my child to be educated in a public school does not mean that I give up my rights as a parent regarding his medical care.

Okay, I’ll take a deep breath now and hope for the best. And I’ll pray for TallSkinnyKiwi and his daughter that she will suffer no long term effects from this outrageous abuse.

Read the original story here.

Let’s Have S’more Fun!

Remember roasting marshmallows over the fire as a kid? Do you like your marshmallows slightly toasted or do you burn them to a blackened crisp? I’m a “slightly toasted” gal myself. My kids, however, compete to see who can keep their marshmallow burning the longest without it falling off the stick. And, they would ask, what is the point of roasting marshmallows if you don’t make s’mores? In fact, they wonder, what is the point of building a fire if you’re not making s’mores? I may be the only mom who actually keeps a “s’mores supplies” container in her pantry so that I am ready at a moment’s notice for this diabetic’s nightmare of a treat. Since we got weary of the children begging for fires in the middle of summer, we invested in an outdoor firepit. Now we can enjoy our s’mores year-round.

I mentioned last week the Unplug Your Kids weekly project. This week’s theme is smooth. My craft queen daughter and I thought for a while but did not come up with any inspired crafts. So, we opted to stretch the definition a bit; after all, when the hot marshmallows melt the chocolate, that chocolate is pretty smooth! And it did get us off of the computer tonight and outside for some fun family time together. We even attempted to sing “Kumbaya!” All was well until darkness was creeping over the land and my daughter, barefooted, stepped in a deposit the dog had left behind. There was great wailing and gnashing of teeth heard from afar. However, the allure of more sugar soon allayed her frustration, and laughter and silliness prevailed once again.

For those of you who may not, horror of horrors, know how to make s’mores, you need only three ingredients: marshmallows, graham crackers, and smooth milk chocolate bars ( and a fire, of course). One crucial trick we have learned is that the cheap brands of marshmallows always end up as one huge, sticky glob. Buy the Jet-Puff marshmallows if you want to actually get the marshmallows out of the bag and onto the stick to roast them. Roast your marshmallows until they are slightly brown to charred black. If you have a steady hand and you’re a bit of a pyromaniac, you can rest a graham cracker topped with a chocolate bar on one of the logs while you’re roasting your marshmallow. It’s sort of like the old game of Operation, but if you’re successful, you get yummy, gooey chocolate on your s’more. Assemble all the parts and enjoy. See you around the campfire!