November 6, 2012

Quick and Delicious English Muffin Pizzas

When you hear the phrase "English Muffin Pizzas" does it bring back memories of childhood sleepovers and friends gathered around the table assembling their pizzas with their favorite toppings?  For me, it definitely does.   We considered it a special treat to have friends over for a sleepover, and with sleepovers came fun kid-centric dinners.   One of my favorites was when my mom brought out the English muffins and we all became instant pizza chefs, concocting our own tasty masterpieces.
Several months ago, I started craving this fun treat.  I wondered if it would break some unwritten culinary rule for my husband and I to make English Muffin pizzas.  I had always thought of them as a kid food and hadn't eaten them in over 20 years.  But I decided to throw caution to the wind and I am so glad I did.  It turns out, anyone can eat English muffin pizzas! As adults we tend to have more sophisticated palates, and this opens the door to a wide array of amazing toppings. Plus, English muffins are low in calories and when you add fresh toppings, they aren't just tasty, they are healthy too and very easy to make.

  Start with a package of your favorite brand of English Muffins. Split them in half and add pizza sauce.  I find the Boboli brand pre-measured pizza sauce to be very handy. One package of sauce covers one package of English muffins quite nicely.

Spread the sauce with a spatula or knife. They are starting to resemble pizzas!

Next, add cheese and choose your toppings. This picture is an example of the kinds of toppings we like to add. (Kalamata olives, banana peppers, avocado and onion.)  See how "grown up" these toppings are? ;)

Chop up your toppings and place them in little bowls so everybody can have fun picking what they want. (If you use avocado, don't add it until after the pizzas are cooked.) Crushed Red Pepper is another topping we like to add to our pizzas.

Act like a pizza chef and create your amazing masterpieces. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the muffins are cooked to your liking.  Then add any cold toppings (avocado, etc.) and enjoy!

Here are some other ideas for toppings that you may want to try:
Bell Peppers
Green Onions
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Blue Cheese
Black Olives or Green Olives
Canadian Bacon 

*Everyone's ovens cook differently so make sure you keep an eye on your pizzas the first time you make them to make sure they don't burn. 
 *I use an AirBake pan with holes in it to help the crusts get crispier without burning. Click here to check out the pan I use. You can also use a normal pan.(I don't work for the AirBake pan company, I just like them)
*Leftover pasta sauce makes an excellent and cost effective pizza sauce.

November 4, 2012

Reviewing "Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day"

"Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day" by Daryl Aaron does a great job of introducing the reader to the study of Theology. Theology can be very intimidating to a new Christian or even a seasoned believer and this book takes it and divides it up into manageable sections. Each section can be read in 15 minutes and begins to tackle a specific idea pertaining to Christian theology. A few of the topics Aaron includes in the book are "Did God Really Make Everything?", "Why Should We Believe that Jesus Christ is God?", and "Is the Holy Spirit a Person or a Thing?".
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book, since Theology is usually something that takes volumes to explain. I was pleasantly surprised at how well each topic was described and how the author tried to show both sides of some of the traditionally controversial issues such a predestination and if a Christian can ever lose their salvation. It would be very easy to read one of these chapters each day and get a good introduction to each of the topics he covers. It's not meant to be an exhaustive study on any of the topics, but rather serves to whet your appetite for Theology and cause you to hunger for more and continue to study on your own. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in getting a good introduction to the study of Christian Theology.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review of the book. The opinions represented here are my own.

November 3, 2012

"Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible" Book Review

Since it was first published in 1956, "Our Daily Bread" has been a daily devotional resource that has helped readers spend time each day in God's word. If you are a reader of this wonderful daily devotional, you will be thrilled to find out that the "Our Daily Bread Devotional Bible" contains 365 dated daily devotions structured in a way that starts in Genesis and takes you through the Bible.
For the purposes of this review, I focused on the book of 1 Corinthians. The book starts off with a great summary of what you will be reading in the book, including a sidebar with a list of important facts about the book and a book outline. As you move forward you find a dated page that also has a topic heading. It lists the scripture that you will be focusing on for that day and then a very thoughtful yet concise devotional that directly correlates with the scripture you have just read.
While reading through 1 Corinthians, I thoroughly enjoyed each devotional. The topics ranged from the gift of the Holy Spirit, to how to keep your marriage strong, and the importance of avoiding pride. I believe that they provide a neatly structured reading plan that gives you a direction for that day and will keep you coming back on a daily basis. I would recommend this Bible to anyone who is interested in a good daily devotional. Even if you have never been a consistent Bible reader, this is the perfect place for you to begin.

Disclaimer: Tyndale Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are my own.

October 23, 2012

Reviewing "The Giving Quilt: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel"

I have long been a fan of Jennifer Chiaverini's books and was given the fun opportunity to review her latest book called "The Giving Quilt". Here's a quick summary from the publisher:
"It's Thanksgiving time at Elm Creek Manor and the circle of quilters are working hard to prepare for their annual 'Quiltsgiving' event. Expert and novice quilters from all over gather for a special winter session of quilt camp to make blankets for Project Linus. With each quilter as unique as the next, you learn about their individual stories as they all answer the same question, 'why do you give?'."
When I started reading this book and found out that it was set at present day Elm Creek Manor during a quilt camp, I was thrilled because her books that take place in that setting are always my favorites. Using her descriptive writing style that we have all become familiar with, the reader is transported into the Elm Creek world.  Personally, it always makes me wish I could attend a real life version of this camp.
This book is a bit different from the others in that each of the chapters delves deeply into one specific character's life using very detailed flashbacks.  Each woman has a story about dealing with a major adversity and/or tragedy in her life which ultimately leads to a longing to give back in some way. 
Much of the "action" of the book occurs during the flashbacks which leaves the reader feeling like she's just read a collection of stories instead of one cohesive book. If there had been more of a plot occurring in the present, I think it would have made for a more interesting read. I would still recommend this book to anyone who loves quilting books and doesn't mind some in depth character analysis along the way.

October 14, 2012

"A Perfect Pet for Peyton" Book Review

"A Perfect Pet for Peyton" by Gary Chapman and Rick Osborne is an adorable book that parents can read with their children to help them learn about the 5 Love Languages. The illustrations by Wilson Williams Jr. are gorgeous and the story is interesting and engaging.  On each page there are cute little picture searches within the illustrations that provide a fun bonus activity for the child.
The book is about a group of kids who are attending a birthday party at "Mr. Chapman's Perfect Pet Pal Emporium".  Each child reacts to different situations that arise during the party in their own way and as the story progresses, the lesson about how each person is made with a different love language emerges.  At the end of the party, the children are each given their own "perfect pet pal" which fits perfectly with their individual love language.  There is a guide for adults in the back of the book which will help to initiate a discussion about love languages with the child and provide insight into which love language your child "speaks".
I would recommend this book to anybody who wants their child to learn the philosophy of the 5 Love Languages and desires to help their child feel loved in their own special way.  I think the kids will find the book entertaining and educational. Parents may even find that they get just as much if not more out of the book than the kids do. Figuring out what makes your children feel loved can make a huge difference in how you interact with them for the rest of their lives.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

September 6, 2012

Make this cake. Today.

It's September! Can't you believe it? It actually rained yesterday, NFL football started last night, and even though it's still hot and weirdly humid outside, I can tell that pumpkiny, fall weather is on its way.   One of the things that I like about fall and winter is that I get into the mood to cook and to bake. My friend Shelly helped to usher in my baking mood even quicker than normal by enticing me with a new cake recipe she was trying. Through lots of over the phone peer pressure, she convinced me that I needed to go to the store right away, and make the cake that night, so that we could both try it and then compare notes on what we thought about it. Here's the big secret: It only has TWO ingredients! (please ignore the rice in the background)

So all you do, is take a box of Angel Food Cake mix (just the contents of the box, no need to follow the directions on the box), and combine it with a 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple in its own juice. (No need to use a mixer, just stir it by hand) When you do this, something magical happens. The mixture starts to froth and it turns into an amazingly airy, fluffy bowl of deliciousness right before your eyes. Once it's all mixed up, simply pour it into a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. How much easier could it be??

 This is how it looks when it's done.

The result is a cake so airy, so pineapple-y, so tasty, no one will believe how easy it is to make. Serve it with a little bit of cool whip or ice cream, and you've got a major crowd-pleaser on your hands. 

Tip:  Make sure that your oven is preheated before you start mixing up your cake.  That way, you can put the cake directly into an already heated oven, resulting in a cake that doesn't collapse after baking.

Addendum: For clarification purposes, do not follow the directions on the box of cake mix or add anything like eggs or oil or water.  Simply mix the boxed mix with the pineapple. 

August 23, 2012

"The Truth about Forgiveness" by John MacArthur

Does anyone really want to forgive? Or admit that we need forgiveness? Whether we’re giving or receiving, forgiveness is hard. It seems unfair. It feels unnatural. And as best-selling author and pastor John MacArthur demonstrates, forgiveness apart from Christ is unnatural. It is only as we understand our need, Christ’s power and example, and what it really means to love that we can embrace two of the most liberating acts of love: forgiving and being forgiven.

I have always enjoyed listening to John MacArthur's sermons and reading his books because he always tackles the issues at hand head-on.  He doesn't mince words. Every sentence he writes seems very well thought out and is filled with Biblical truth. His take on the prodigal son story is very touching and could be life-changing for many people. I'm sure many of us have heard a lot of sermons about the prodigal son.  John MacArthur delves into the details of the story and brings to the surface a portion that I had always skipped over without realizing it.  The prodigal son's father had been keeping an eye out for him ever since he had left. And when he spotted him coming home, he ran to him to embrace him and forgive him before his son had the chance to even say a word. MacArthur explains that the very act of running was something that would be very out of place in the Middle Eastern culture of that time.  It actually would have been shocking to the Pharisees who were chomping at the bit to hear about how the prodigal son had been punished. MacArthur draws a wonderful parallel to the forgiveness offered to us in the gospel and challenges us to remember that it's not because of anything we have done that we are forgiven.  He writes "God does not love us for what we are. He loves us in spite of what we are. He does not love us because we are special. Rather, it is only His love and grace that give our lives any significance at all ... God loves us because He is love; love is essential to who He is. Rather than viewing His love as proof of something worthy in us, we ought to be humbled by it."

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to learn more about God's forgiveness and what a truly amazing gift it is to us.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

August 6, 2012

The Quilting Olympics

I may have gotten a bit carried away in titling this blog post. But doesn't it sound exciting?  In reality, I was just trying to figure out a way to combine into one blog post my trip to the Long Beach quilt show, and all of the Olympic fun that has been going on. You may think that makes me lazy, but I prefer to call myself "efficient". So here goes.
About a week ago my mom and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Long Beach Convention Center for the International Quilt Festival. The show never disappoints and we always leave feeling exhausted and happy from hours and hours of shopping and quilt viewing.  I kept myself to a budget this year and didn't leave with many packages.  So instead of pictures of loot, I'm going to share a picture of my favorite quilt at the show. It is titled "Spring Blossoms" and was machine pieced and free-motion quilted by Terry Aske of British Columbia, Canada. Isn't it beautiful?

In case you haven't heard, wink wink ,  The Olympics also started that weekend.  To say that I am a big fan of the Olympics, is quite an understatement. I grew up in a family that was a little bit obsessed with the Olympics.  So I have an ingrained appreciation for the millions of hours of  Olympic coverage that is available to us.  I was so excited for the Opening Ceremonies, I decided to turn our date night into a mini Olympics party. My husband isn't quite as Olympic obsessed but he kindly obliged and participated in my party plans. 
I decided that we should have Greek food in honor of the first Olympics. So we got take-out. (I'm not Greek and won't pretend that my Greek food cooking skills could ever surpass that of the oh-so-tasty restaurant "Daphne's".)  Here is a photo of our Olympic Falafel deliciousness:

We also had a torch lighting ceremony which coincided with the West Coast replay of the actual Olympic Torch lighting. Ours wasn't quite as dramatic but was definitely just as heart felt. Plus, ours had the added bonus of smelling really good. Here is our "torch".
When you think about it, quilting and The Olympics really do have a lot in common. It takes training and many hours of hard work to perfect your skills.  Some quilt "training" even results in blood (pin pricks), sweat and tears (think seam ripping).  And in the end, you can be proud of what you've done, even if you never win one of those fancy ribbons at a quilt show.

July 29, 2012

Out of the Shower

Last time we spoke, my fabric was "taking a shower".  We were getting ready to have new wood (laminate) floors installed and I was busy clearing out closets, getting things off of the floor, and trying to find new hiding places for all said things.  Here is a photo of the guest bedroom shower in all of its glory to refresh your memory.

I am not a clutter-y person.  I thrive when things are in order in our house.  So I knew from the get-go that this whole flooring thing was going to be a challenge . To give you another peek into the chaos, this is what our dining room looked like after all the living room furniture needed to be relocated. Eeek!

Once the work commenced, things got to the point where we needed to vacate the house. Thankfully, we planned for this and took ourselves to a nearby hotel to avoid the construction dust. One of the most well-known laws of home renovation is the following:  "In order to make something better, it has to, for a period of time, get worse".  This is illustrated in the next photo of part of our bathroom during the floor removal process. Look at that 70's linoleum! Who knew there would be linoleum under the linoleum?

When we were able to return to our house and start the cleanup process, it was really fun to see how great the floors turned out.  Our neighbors even started stopping by to check on the progress.
This is not our cat. But he seems to like the new floors. 
Since we were tearing the house apart anyway, we also decided to do a partial remodel of the master bathroom. When we bought the Townhouse several years ago, we renovated the other bathrooms but left ours as-was because it was in the best condition. Here is a shot of the new, fun, updated bathroom.

Right after all the renovating and painting finished, the fun started.  I had the pleasure of getting a visit from my sweet friend Shelly.  We've known each other since kindergarten and she lives in another state (far, far away) now. When we have a chance to get together, it's such a blessing to me. There is always lots of talking and laughing and playing and eating.  We exercised a lot and ate a lot.  So things were pretty balanced.
Kayaking in Ventura Harbor
Shelly on top of a large rock
More hiking

Apple Fritters in Solvang
Aebleskivers in Solvang
Disclaimer: We ate a lot more foods than are pictured here. 
I'm keeping them a secret for your own good.

May 22, 2012

My Fabric is taking a shower

We are getting ready to do phase two of home renovations. Phase one happened right after we bought the house and before we moved in. That was over three years ago and now we are ready to take on phase two and get to those projects that were put on the back burner when we moved in.  It's exciting and a little (a lot) overwhelming because part of it involves new flooring which involves moving things out of rooms which involves moving things out of closets which involves my fabric hanging out in the shower.  My husband laughed when I revealed that I'd decided to place my quilting "stash" in the shower.  "Look honey, it's like a whole new closet we've never used!" 
I've been on a sort of quilting hiatus lately. After we closed down our business at the end of last year and my mom and I were able to purchase our quilting frame and Juki machine to go with it, I felt like I'd accomplished a goal that we had been working toward for a while. I've been keeping busy with other things like hiking on the weekends, reading, doing Bible studies and working on simplifying our lives.  My husband and I have realized recently that we need to pay closer attention to how we are spending our time.  Making sure to focus on the important things, we've been trimming some of the excess. (i.e. too much TV watching).  We've started having weekly date nights which is a lot fun and spending more time talking in the evenings together. Simplifying the "time clutter" in our lives is a great feeling and I think it's also allowing my creative "juices" to start flowing again.  I plan to put those creative juices to good use, once our renovation projects are done and I get to move my fabric back out of the shower. :)

February 21, 2012

Book Giveaway Winner

Congrats to Sallie for winning the "Sonoma Rose" book giveaway! She has a great blog, so if you have a chance, head on over to Sallie's sampler and check it out. Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

February 16, 2012

Book Giveaway- "Sonoma Rose"

I have some exciting news! Jennifer Chiaverini's newest book, "Sonoma Rose" is coming out February 21st.  I've been given the opportunity to give away a copy of this great new book to one of my wonderful, faithful and amazing blog readers. Hey, that's you! :)   I've long been a fan of all of Jennifer Chiaverini's books. They are always fun to read and given the fact that quilts are always somehow included in the story-lines, the books serve as sewing inspiration for me.  Here is a summary to whet your appetite:

"Rosa Diaz Barclay is touched by the criminality surrounding Prohibition when she discovers that her husband, John, has given over the duties of their Southern California rye farm in favor of bootlegging. Fearing the safety of her four children, Rosa flees, carrying only a case of John’s ill-begotten cash and her mother’s two quilts. Lars Jorgensen, her true love and the father of two of her children, aids in her escape, and together the six travel north to San Francisco. Under assumed names, they are hired to work at a Sonoma vineyard, where Rosa creates a personal and professional identity that she would never have dared imagine at the opening of her tale, and one that brings great honor-and beauty-to all who surround her."

How to Enter : Comments are now closed
* Leave a comment telling me the title of a book you are currently reading, want to read or have read recently 
* Make sure you include an email address if your account isn't linked to an e-mail automatically
* Entries are open worldwide
* Deadline to enter is Monday, February 20th at 9pm Pacific Standard Time (the winner will be chosen by random number generator and announced on Tuesday, February 21st)

January 10, 2012

A Produce Extravaganza

      Happy New Year, blog land! I know I'm a little late but it's always better late than never, right? I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like I've had a very busy past couple of months.  It feels good to get back to "normal", back in the swing of things, and back to blogging.  I'm sorry to say that my lack of blogging very accurately represents my lack of sewing.  But I realized last night that just because my blog has "quilt" in the title, doesn't mean I can only blog about quilting.  What an amazing realization, right? :) Can you tell my brain cells have been on vacation?
       So what have I been up to in my spare time if I haven't been sewing? I've been juicing, learning about juicing, talking to others about juicing, and completely changing the eating habits of our household.  My husband and I had the chance to watch a few documentaries that really opened our eyes to the importance of eating and/or juicing our veggies. (and fruits... er... fruit).   We realized how much processed food we were putting into our bodies and decided to make some big changes. It's been fun to do this together and we both are enjoying working on our new habits.  We joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) organization recently and just received our first delivery of organic fruit and vegetables last weekend. At 35, I'm a little bit embarrassed about my lack of veggie knowledge outside of the lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, onion and bell pepper world that I have lived in. This lack of knowledge leads me to ask questions such as "What on earth is a rutabaga?"  But I'm so excited about the adventure of figuring out how to prepare the pretty and nutritious things that will arrive in our CSA crate each week.

Here's a photo to show you how much tasty goodness arrived in the crate last weekend

So far we have baked the acorn squash, juiced the spinach, pears and one of the pomegranates and roasted the potatoes and rutabaga.   I looked like a crime scene after dealing with the pomegranate. Next time I will do the process with the pomegranate immersed in water. ;)

This is a "Rutabaga and Potatoes seasoned with Herbs de Provence" picture for your viewing enjoyment

The spinach that arrived in our crate was the very meaty Savoy variety.  I decided that juicing would be the best way to get the full effects of all the great nutrients in the spinach so we went through all of it in two juicing sessions. Last night I made a tasty pineapple, spinach, carrot, apple juice to have with our dinner. 
It turned out looking very green from the spinach but it tasted wonderful. 

My next challenge is a big one.  Collard Greens.  I have never had collard greens. (I can hear the collective gasp from all of the Southern blog readers.)  If you know of an amazing way to prepare collard greens that doesn't involve using meat or cooking the greens for hours until all of their nutrients are gone, please share.  :) I checked online to see what's coming in our crate this weekend and guess what! More collard greens for us. So I really need to get moving or we are going to have a major glut of greens in our fridge. 

After all of this healthy food talk, I thought I would leave you with something unexpected.  Cookies!

On New Year's Eve I turned my kitchen into a test-kitchen and did an experiment with chocolate chip cookies.  The cookie on the left is a store bought pre-made dough cookie. The cookie on the right was made from scratch. I think you can tell which cookie won. And here's a link to the recipe if you want to try them yourself.  Click here for cookies