Monthly Archives: September 2012

Ham & Cheese Pretzel Bites


These are so yummy! They take a while to make, however, so don’t be thinking you will just whip up a batch while watching Dancing with the Stars. But they are sooooo worth it. I promise. And with a little here, a little there, you can make them in the afternoon and enjoy the little yummies with your family or girlfriends at night. I served mine with homemade tomato soup and it was an amazing combo. I always double the recipe, but I have seven people in my house. ❤

1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (or instant yeast)
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
3/4 cup finely chopped ham
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 Tablespoons coarse salt

Combine the yeast, 1 tsp brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl. Set aside until foamy, 5-8 minutes. In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, and milk mixture to the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Add the remaining flour as needed. (Or add all the ingredients to a stand mixer and mix with paddle attachment until well combined. Then switch to hook and knead for about a minute, adding flour as needed until dough pulls away from the sides). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.

Brush the inside of a large clean bowl with oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap (I put mine in my unusually large Tupperware bowl and seal the lid). Allow to rise in a warm, draft free area until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface (an hour or two).

Mix ham and cheddar together until well combined. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands and rolling-pin with flour. Roll one of the four sections into a 12×4-inch rectangle. With the long side facing you, gently press 1/4 of the ham and cheese into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible, starting with the end that has the filling. Cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining 3 portions of the dough.

Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Boil pretzels in batches of 8 to 10, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once. They should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer them back to the baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes.

Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 8 if you only eat 6. Serves 4 at my house.


And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
But don’t be afraid. If God’s by your side,
with big beasty things you’ll never collide.

(Dr. Seuss and more!)

Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park. They were sometimes scary.

Don’t Be Afraid

Am I Listening in the Right Places?


This morning the radio announcers were talking about a young band that had recently performed a concert. This is the kind of performance that is typically attended by screaming, ready-to-faint-at-a-blown-kiss teenage girls. It was packed to the rafters with girls and their twitter followers. Before the band starting playing, the announcers said, it was pandemonium. Screaming. Sobbing. Jumping. No seat being used except as ladders to get a better view. Craziness.

Photo borrowed from

As soon as the band started playing, however, the noise from the audience stopped. Completely. All those hormonal, celebrity-crazed girls buttoned it. The announcers said the girls continued standing, but leaned in to hear every word of the lyrics. I’m sure there were still a few jumping and some tears leaking down their chins and lots of lips mouthing the words. But they listened. Between each song, however, the ear-piercing screams escalated once again. These girls listened carefully when the band they worshiped was playing, then praised loudly in response.

That is how I want to be with God. I want to listen in the right places.

I’m usually so deep in requests and complaints when I’m talking with God that I am not listening to what He has to say. Or at least not attentively. Or I’m talking over Him. I should clean out my ears, clamp my gums together, and listen. Or read and let His truth come to me through His lyrics. I’m sure that I know some of the Words.

And in between I want to praise Him with all the passion of those screaming, jumping girls. Why do I not regularly praise like that? Well, usually because it would startle people at Starbuck’s or wake people in my household or drown out the T.V. Sometimes I do praise loudly. Occasionally, I listen to the Bible and pray in my car—the loud, eyes-open, hand-waving kind of conversation with God that makes people think I should be institutionalized. That’s a safe place to praise with passion (unless it’s my turn to drive in the carpool)—as long as I keep one hand on the wheel at all times. And it looks like I’m yelling at myself which tends to keep stalkers and kidnappers from targeting me.

But, seriously, why don’t I listen at the right places and praise Him with passion? Because it feels awkward. Listening when you don’t “hear” anything seems crazy. The Bible tells us over and over to listen to God. The more we listen, the more we hear. But hearing doesn’t mean walking around with an ear trumpet listening for the audible voice of God. It means listening with your heart, your spirit. It means opening yourself with a quiet passion to acknowledge and obey God’s nudgings and pauses. To listen to the whispers of His Spirit, the authority of His Word, the wisdom of trusted advisers.

It is also awkward to praise loudly when those around you aren’t joining in. It is easy to scream your head off at a band whose woofers and tweeters are setting off alarms ten streets over. In the quietness of your home, workplace, or church, however, it is a different story. But God says to sing His praises from the rooftops. He is a mighty God and we should praise Him mightily.

So watch out world. My praise driving is about to ramp up…unless, of course, it is my time to listen.

Go yourself and listen to what the LORD our God says. Then come and tell us everything he tells you.
Deuteronomy 5:27 nlt
Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing his praises.
Psalm 66:8 nlt

Meatloaf Cupcakes


So I wasn’t sure about putting recipes on my blog, but then I had someone tell me that I really shine in the kitchen. Then it clicked. Cooking is one of the ways I show love to friends, family, and church. It is how I let my light shine!

I have been getting requests for this recipe. I didn’t take many photos, but at least you can see how it ended up. I saw a photo of meatloaf cupcakes on Pinterest and thought it was a great idea for getting meatloaf on the table much faster. I made extra side potatoes for my potato lovers. But next time I think I’ll pipe on more potatoes, sprinkle with extra Parmesan and pop them back in the oven to let that melt. These were very good. We served with broccoli and fresh bread.


2 lbs. ground chuck or ground beef
1 can tomato paste
1 onion, chopped fine
1 pkg. ranch dressing/dip mix
2 large, dense slices of bread (or 3 pieces sandwich bread)
1/2 c. milk (I used 2%)
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 eggs
salt and pepper

Mashed Potato Frosting
5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 tbs. salted butter
1  c. whipping cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt, sea or kosher
1 tablespoon black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Either tear or process bread into small pieces. Put into bowl with milk. Push bread  into milk and let soak for five minutes. Mix all of the ingredients in large bowl, just until mixed. Over mixing makes for tough meatloaf. Spray muffin pan with spray oil. Fill pans with meat, rounding tops like a dome. There should be enough for 12 muffins. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let set. Use knife to loosen.

While meat is baking, boil potatoes in a large pot until soft, approximately 20 minutes. Drain. Add milk and butter to pot and heat until butter is melted. Add potatoes, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to pot. Mash until smooth. Put potatoes into a pastry bag or freezer bag with tip cut off.

Carefully remove cupcakes from pan. Pipe potatoes onto meatloaf cupcakes. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.


In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart. Our ever-growing soul and its capacities can be satisfied only in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has no peace until it rests in God.
~ Sadhu Sundar Singh


Living the Answer


When I woke up this morning I was scared witless. Last night I dreamed the same dream over and over. God was telling me that I was born a question mark. As soon as I breathed that first breath half a century ago, He asked, “Marilyn?” How I’ve lived my life is how I have been answering His question. In the dream, He was asking me if I’m satisfied with my answer. Am I satisfied?

Even now my hand shakes just thinking about it. I was born with a question mark. My life is the answer. I feel like I’ve been taking a test in my sleep. Like something important has been happening and I haven’t even been aware. If my answers were graded right now, what kind of grade would I have? Truthfully, I’m not sure I want to know.

So what exactly was He asking? Marilyn, who are you? Marilyn, will you follow Me? How will you use the gifts I’ve given you? Who will you love? Will you help others? What will you do with the time I’m giving you? Will you shine for Me?

My LIFE is the answer.

It has me evaluating the decisions I’ve made, the path I’ve taken, the people with whom I’m doing life. Would God be pleased? Is He? What do I need to change to give a better answer? Do I need to go back and answer questions that I skipped over? Are there apologies I need to make? Forgiveness to extend?

Am I satisfied with my answer? Not really. There has been good. There has been bad. But overall, I am not seeing an A.

God has reminded me that I am a living answer. But He also reminded me that He is a God of grace. As long as I trust Him, call on Him, give my life to Him, He covers for me. When I hurt others or they hurt me, He heals. When I disappoint, He redirects in love. When I fail to shine, He makes up for it with His light. He is awesome.

Now I’m fully awake. God asked a question. My life is the answer. I am not on my own, however. I have Someone whispering the answers in my ear. What I mess up in disobedience, laziness, or misdirection, He makes up for in grace and mercy. He knows all the answers and He is on my side, directing my path. And I am satisfied with that!

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:15–16 nlt


There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of one small candle…. In moments of discouragement, defeat, or even despair, there are always certain things to cling to. Little things usually: remembered laughter, the face of a sleeping child, a tree in the wind—in fact, any reminder of something deeply felt or dearly loved. No man is so poor as not to have many of these small candles. When they are lighted, darkness goes away and a touch of wonder remains.
~Arthur Gordon

Purple Blooms on a tree in the Japanese Garden.

A Touch of Wonder

Sunday Words


James 1:22: Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.

Wow. I’m reading this passage and thinking about what it means. We cannot just listen to the Word. We must do what it says—not just hear it in church, but DO what we hear. We are to carry our Sunday words into our Monday life?

How do you do that? I’m trying, but it isn’t going so well. How do I retrain my brain to give thanks, be patient, love unconditionally when the recycling bin is overflowing unto the floor? When the bills out distance the paychecks? When the cat food can is sitting on the counter drawing flies while the kids dance right by it with their earphones on? It isn’t easy.

God didn’t promise it would be. But He did say He would help and that it would be worth the effort. James gives us the key to getting through it. “Come close to God, and God will come close to you,” (James 4:8). I am not alone in this. I have help. I just have to mosey up to Him and ask. And the more I talk to God, read His guidebook, trust Him, the easier will come thanksgiving, patience, and love.

That I can do. One breath at a time. One mess at a time. One day at a time. Then another, then a week, then a life.