Monthly Archives: February 2013

Yum, Yum Cake a.k.a. Tres Leches Cake



This weekend I am at a friend’s home, affectionately called “The Farm,” in western Minnesota. Once a year six to eight women leave their homes, families, and good sense behind to come together to giggle, eat (copious amounts of food), play games, and relax in the light-filled hearthroom overlooking the amazing snow-covered lake. It is bliss.

Tres Leches Cake to ShareThis year my contributions to the 48-hour feast were Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Scones and Tres Leches Cake. These are two of my most used recipes. They are always a big hit. And both are way easier to make than they look (double bonus!). I thought publishing the easier of the two recipes would be a good idea and maybe get this group of ladies to read my blog! This is a yummy dessert that is easy to throw together but by no means a gourmet recipe.

For the cake, I use a mix if I have it and make it from scratch when I don’t. White. Yellow. Purple. Whatever vanilla flavored cake you have will be just fine. WARNING: This is not a cake to make unless you have several people to help eat it. Otherwise you will need drawstring pants for a few days!

20130223_144516Easy Tres Leches Cake

1 vanilla flavored cake baked according to directions in a 9 x 13 pan (one with a lid is best)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 (or so) cup milk (whatever you have in the fridge)
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
whipped cream (homemade or from a tub or can)
1 1/2 cup coconut (toasted)

Bake and cool cake. Toast coconut in a pan on medium heat, stirring frequently (it burns easily). Cool coconut and store in sealed container.

Using a fork, poke holes all over cooled cake. Pour condensed milk into a bowl. Add heavy cream to empty can and add other milk until the can is full. Add to bowl, add coconut extract, and whisk until well mixed. Carefully pour milk mixture over cake using the back of a spoon to push milk into all the holes. Refrigerate cake (or set it on the back porch if you live in MN).

To serve, place a piece of cake on a plate, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with coconut. Yum, Yum.


Fire Down in My Soul


backyard fireThere is a song we sing in church that goes, “Set a fire down in my soul, that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.” And when I am in church I feel it there blazing like a signal fire that can be seen by astronauts. Then I leave the sanctuary where I meet friends and discuss lunch plans in the foyer and it indubitably morphs into a largish bonfire. By the time I’ve eaten lunch and am reviewing the upcoming week’s schedule and budget, the blaze has been reduced to a controlled flame in a fireplace. By noon Monday even that is banked. By Friday I’m lucky to have a candle-sized flame flickering to stay alive.

Can you relate?

But as Saint Francis of Assisi wrote, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” That is all it takes. Faith the size of one candle. When darkness (uncertainty, death, sickness, weariness, responsibilities, unbelief) is all around, the light of one candle (a kind word, a helping hand, a free cup of coffee, a listening ear) offers hope. Especially when that candle leads the way to a bigger light, a real light, a shadow-destroying light. The Light.

Even if we can’t hold on to the uncontainable fire from Sunday, surely we can nurture a little candlelight. A votive or tea light will do. Those of us who have felt the dark know the value of even the smallest hope. Our light is all the more precious for having flickered in the dark but continuing to shine. “My Light shines most brightly through believers who trust Me in the dark,” is one of my favorite Sarah Young quotes.

We all have the ability to shine. We don’t have to do great works, spout jaw-dropping theology, or even preach a sermon. We shine by loving God, loving our neighbors, and being who God created us to be. Maybe, just maybe, if we do those things day in and day out, we’ll find a fire down in our souls that blazes all week long.

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.
John 12:46 NLT

Are you feeling more like a blaze or a little flicker? I’d love to hear your comments.

Aebleskiver Experiment

The best of the experiment—brushed with melted butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Donut holes without the grease.

The best of the experiment—brushed with melted butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.

Fresh out of the pan Aebleskiver.

Fresh out of the pan Aebleskiver.

My hubby is of Dutch heritage (although a little Irish and German have sneaked in to his almost pure blood). I am a mutt—more Irish than anything, a little French, German, English, with a whole lot of Hillbilly! So our traditions are a tad all over the place. We eat pinto beans, cornbread, fried potatoes, and fried okra while drinking sweet tea out of mason jars like my Hillbilly ancestors. We put out wooden shoes in the Dutch tradition on St. Nick’s Day. We wear all green and eat bangers and mash with Irish soda bread and Dubliners cheese for St. Patrick’s Day. We have embraced a global heritage and enjoy adding new traditions when they fit our family.

This Christmas I received an Aebleskiver pan. I think it is pronounced able-skee-ver in the plural and able-skeeve in the singular (one little ball). The cast iron pan has eight little holes in it and is used to make nummy pancake-like balls that are usually topped with powdered sugar and served around the holidays. It is a Danish tradition that I thought might work its way into our hearts. So we decided to experiment.

Aebleskive with chocolate ganache and powdered sugar.

Aebleskive with chocolate ganache & powdered sugar.

When I looked into recipes there were several, although most could be sorted into two basic types—baking soda recipes and yeast recipes. Last month we tried a plain baking soda recipe and a Mexican chocolate recipe. The plain ones were a hit. The chocolate ones bombed.

Today Jeff and I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen trying a yeast recipe with various toppings. We liked the cinnamon and sugar the best (dip the finished aebleskiver in melted butter and roll in a mix of sugar and spice). We tried them with powdered sugar, strawberry jam, and chocolate ganache (even chocoholic Jeff did not like that). These are much denser, much prettier, but not as tasty as the baking soda type. They tasted more like a small dinner roll than a pancake. I think they would make amazing little slider sandwiches. I am keeping a few to try with roast beef or chicken salad.

An aebleskive with strawberry jam in the center.

An aebleskive with strawberry jam in the center.

The traditional way of making them would include cooked apples (thus the name AEBLE) in the middle of the ball. We haven’t tried that yet. It is on our list to try next time with caramel sauce. It is an ongoing experiment!

The recipe below is for the yeast balls. If you want to try the baking soda recipe, the recipe is here.

Yeast Aebleskiver

1  1/2 cups whole milk
1 envelope dry yeast
2 cups flour
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, separated

Unsalted butter
Fillings: Raspberry or strawberry preserves, powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar mixture, chocolate ganache, cooked apples, or your favorite meats.

Aebelskiver cooking in the unique pan.

Aebelskiver cooking in the unique pan.

Heat milk in microwave safe bowl until lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in milk.
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat egg whites in bowl of electric mixer until stiff. Whisk the egg yolks and vanilla into milk. Add the milk mixture into the flour and mix well. Fold egg whites into batter. Cover loosely and let rest one hour at room temperature.
Heat aebelskiver pan on medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small dish. Brush the inside of each indentation of the pan with butter.  Pour batter into each indentation, about 2/3 full.  Cook until golden brown underneath, 3-4 minutes.  Using a wooden skewer, turn aebleskiver over and continue to cook until golden and cooked through, 3-4 minutes.
Remove æbleskiver from pan, and repeat with remaining batter.  Serve æbleskiver with cinnamon and sugar (or other toppings) or use to make small sandwiches for a fun luncheon or fancy tea with the kids!

Gratitude by Way of Exhaustion


snowlamps ©JoelJansenI just got back from a business trip that was exhausting. It started on a snowy, freezing morning around 5 a.m. and ended the next night after midnight. The meetings were great, the welcome warm, but the jiggity jogs between what I was expecting and what actually happened were emotionally trying. I had prayed for God to give me guidance and direction, to shut doors or open opportunities in an obvious way. And, boy howdy, did that happen. The reality of the new dynamic was hard to accept even if it was an answer to prayer. My emotions ran the gamut from anger to gratitude, from surprise to acceptance, back to exasperation and then resignation, conciliation, and thankfulness. The kind of emotional roller coaster that leaves you drained and confused. So today I was just tired, sore, and bone weary.

Then I opened Jesus Calling and read the selection for today:

Come to Me for rest and refreshment. The journey has been too much for you, and you are bone weary. Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life.
    Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different. Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intend you to be. You will get through today one step, one moment at a time. Your main responsibility is to remain attentive to Me, letting Me guide you though the many choices along your pathway.
    This sounds like an easy assignment, but it is not.  Your desire to live in My Presence goes against the grain of “the world, the flesh and the devil.” Much of your weariness results from your constant battle against these opponents. However, you are on the path of My choosing, so do not give up! Hope in Me, for you will again praise Me for the help of My Presence.

Wow, how is that for God speaking directly to me? I read the text a few times because it just seemed unreal. I felt like my soul was opened up and these words were poured in spreading warmth and healing throughout my being.

But, wait, that’s not all.

When I went through my email this morning, I found another answer to prayer. Another unlikely, big answer to prayer. A proposal I sent a week ago was met with openness and a quick response. God knows how to throw a girl some curves! It was a reminder that I have a host of friends and loved ones praying for me, that God listens and responds, and that no matter how I’m feeling, no matter how things look, God is behind the scenes gently weaving my life into a pattern for good. He is in control. I’m giddy with gratitude. God is soooo amazing.

I know I am where I am supposed to be. I know His presence is with me in airports, board rooms, and little shops in Franklin, TN. I know He is guiding, prompting, fighting on my behalf. I may be tired but I am thankful.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

Wild Rice and Chicken Soup


Yesterday we had baked chicken fajitas and there was a couple of cups of chicken leftover. So naturally I thought of whipping up some Wild Rice and Chicken Soup! Besides it is the coldest day in years so thick, bubbly soup and Snuggies were called for!

This is a recipe I came across when I moved to Minnesota and was looking for “native” foods. Up here wild rice is king and I am now a royal subject. We have been tinkering with the recipe ever since.  I rarely use the celery. The king of my castle hates it.

Let me know if you like it.

1 small onion (or half of a large one)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cans evaporated milk (or 3 cups half and half)
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup parsley

Saute onions in butter. Add flour to make a thick roux. Slowly add broth and milk with a whisk.

Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Add rice, salt, chicken, vegetables, and parsley. Simmer 5–10 minutes. If soup is too thick, thing with broth. Serves 8.

Being My Best


What’s wrong with doing your best? I am a competitive person. I played sports through high school, college, and beyond. In classes I worked hard to get the highest grades. At work I did the extra research to have the most creative ideas. I am always trying to be the best I can be. I thought that is what I am supposed to do in every area of my life. Even if that meant burning the candle at both ends.

One of the devotionals I am studying this year is Priscilla Shirer’s The Resolution for Women. She has a section on My Best. She writes, “If you do your best, for example, but you expend much of it on the wrong things, you’ve not only wasted a lot of your energy and resources; you’ve also lost time and opportunities you may never recover…. Being your best at what God wants you to be doing—that’s the thing to shoot for.”

It’s all about priorities. I tend to spend more time doing the things that I like to do, proving myself to be smart, creative, funny, a good cook, or whatever. I expend my energy on being the best at what makes me feel good and then there is no energy left for what is important in God’s eyes (like praying for loved ones or reading His Word). It is not rare for me to spend a couple of hours making a meal that gets rave reviews. I love to see my boys’ eyes roll back in their heads when they dive into my concoctions at dinnertime. In and of itself, that is not a bad thing. But what if by taking the time to make that meal I use the time and energy I could have used for another activity, a God-directed activity? Is it a matter of my pride overruling God’s priorities?

What Mrs. Shirer points out is that we should prayerfully consider what our priorities are. What is important at one time in life can be given much less attention and focus at another time in life. Balance is not about keeping all the plates spinning, but about prioritizing which plates God wants us to spin and which ones we can put back in the cupboard. It is okay to throw something in the microwave for dinner once in a while so that I can be my best for my lifegroup, pray my hardest for a friend, or spend quality, focused time with my hubby.

So I’ll work on that. But when the time comes for a quick dinner, I will still do my best to have the greatest microwave meal that has ever come out of the contraption since its invention.

Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.
Colossians 4:17 NLT