Archive for Recipes I Love

Weekend Edition: Copycat Shepherd’s Pie, Natural Cures, and Favorite Things

I hope you are all having a great weekend.

Some newsy stuff::

We’re in the middle of construction again and I’m super excited about this part of our renovation: my kitchen makeover. It feels surreal to be getting new kitchen cabinets and to be able to choose just what I want. Who knew that all of our water damage two winters ago would turn out to be such a blessing in disguise? After a nerve-wracking few days of color samples and trips to the paint store, I’ve decided that the cabinets will be painted Dover White by Sherwin Williams. It’s a bit whiter than I’ve used in my house before, though it has a hint of warm cream, but I want the kitchen to look bright and cheery, so I am going to warm it up with accents and lighting. I’ll be posting pictures as we go on Instagram, so if you want to follow our progress, you can find me here. (PS: If you are on Instagram, tag me so I can follow you, too.)


A while back I told you about a great copycat recipe for the Cheesecake Factory’s Shepherd’s Pie that made after I took my daughter and a couple of friends to Cheesecake Factory for dinner. It was so delish that I decided I needed to make it at home. I found a wonderful recipe at Chaos in the Kitchen (Thank you, thank you, Katie.) that I loved because it used ground beef but didn’t taste “ground beefy” if you know what I mean. I made her recipe the next day, and it was so close, but when I compared it to the leftovers, I realized it was missing something. I added a couple of things and viola–it tasted JUST like the leftovers.

So, to make this at home, use Katie’s wonderful recipe, but also add 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce and 1 tsp Dried Rosemary.

You’ll LOVE it.



Peter has pneumonia and doesn’t seem to be getting better. He’s on his second antibiotic, but this thing seems to be hanging on. My sister Amy is a whiz with Essential Oils, so I got a little advice from her. She gave me this recipe to help with pneumonia based on the oils I had available to me:

Mix 5 drops peppermint, 5 drops Immune Strength, and 5 drops Lemon in 2 Tbsp of carrier oil. Rub on the chest and bottom or feet.

We’ve also been diffusing Rocky Mountain Oil’s Immune Strength in the kitchen and bedroom.

I took the plunge and ordered this set of 14 oils, because it was reasonably priced and before I invested a lot into them, I wanted to make sure I’d actually use them. I also ordered clove and frankincense. When I get them I plan to make Jacqueline’s version of “Four Thieves”. So, I’ll tell you how I make out with all this oily stuff. I know it’s been used for centuries, but it feels a little awkward to me since I have no idea what I am doing. (PS–don’t get peppermint in your eye. Mkay?)


IMG_4997I’m currently reading The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert which has been excellent. Also, Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed, which is so basic that it’s refreshing and encouraging.



We celebrated Hope’s 14th birthday and she got the Cuddl Dud’s Cozy Soft Comforter that is the.softest.thing.ever. Seriously. I got one for Christmas and I am literally so happy to get into bed at night. It’s so bad. LOL. If you go to Kohl’s you need to feel this thing. It’s mostly sold out online.

Links I Loved::

I really enjoyed these articles from around the web:

A Place to Start for Spiritually Stuck People

Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Telling Me I’m BeautifulIMG_5089

That’s it for now. I hope you’re enjoying your winter and finding time to enjoy the little things and taking care of your soul.

I’m interested to know what you’ve been reading and pursuing. Also, if you have any podcast recommendations, would you send them to me? I’m always looking for interesting content related to art, homeschooling, motherhood, or family life. :)


Please note: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting JFD. :)




Weekend Edition

This weekend I’m sharing a few links that I think you’ll enjoy, so grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy.

I’ve been doing all the planning that comes with another school year: meal plans, curriculum choices, Bible study plan, etc, so it feels good to get some of that out of the way.

Food-wise, as soon as the weather gets crisp, I want to start making soup. I make it once a week because it’s usually frugal and it gives me an excuse to eat French bread and makes plenty for easy lunch leftovers. Rebekah was asking for some of my favorite soup recipes, so I thought I’d post them here as well.

Some great soups online::

Garlicky White Bean Soup with Greens via Nourishing Gourmet: This is so inexpensive to make and it’s delicious…and I don’t even care for bean soups usually.

Tortellini Sausage Soup via Gooseberry Patch: This soup is present at nearly every fall family gathering we have. It’s so good served with Caesar Salad and bread.

Cream of Pumpkin and Apple Soup via Wilson Farms. I love the sweetness of this soup. I’ve used canned pumpkin before with great results. Wilson Farms is a beautiful, New England farm and Lynn Wilson has a wonderful cookbook that is one of my go-tos.

Zucchini Cheddar Soup via Wilson Farms: Cheesy and delicious.

These are all family favorites. Let me know if you try them and how you liked them.

What I’m reading right now:

Keeping House: A Litany of Everyday Life. This is a book I return to when I need a little home making inspiration. It’s not a book that will guilt you into becoming a better homemaker. It’s one of those books that reminds you of the why behind what you do. It talks of the necessity of sheltering, clothing, and feeding the people we love the most. It connects the duties of home to Kingdom work and most importantly, it shows how it mirrors God’s watch care over us.

Favorite quotes:

“Housework is all about feeding and clothing and sheltering people who, in the absence of that daily work, would otherwise be hungry and ill-clad and ill-housed.”

She discusses how our culture spends more and more money on kitchen gadgets and cookware, while fewer people actually cook and eat at home. She discusses seasons and rhythms of life and likens them to homemaking and faithfulness.



“Putting away things that get daily or weekly use is a way to exercise a kind of providential foresight. Having clothes ready to wear in the drawer or in the closet is part of creating an expectation that in this home we care for one another. Our needs are not a perpetual emergency but are anticipated and provided for ahead of time.”

“A well-kept house thus possesses a kind of sacramental quality. It is no substitute for either the kingdom of God or the church. But it is a kind of foretaste of the kingdom. A nurturing and hospitable home can be a reminder that God has always been in the business of making a home for people, that God desires that people should have the food and clothing and shelter associated with home, that one day our tattered and partial provision of these things for one another will be gloriously supplanted by God’s perfect provision of shining robes and a sumptuous feast in God’s own house.”


And one of my favorite quotes:

“A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone.”

While I do have a few qualms with the book and she doesn’t write from a conservative Christian perspective, the book is extremely valuable.

The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges was published posthumously and is, not surprisingly, a blessing like his other works.  He starts with the premise that humility is the second most frequently taught character trait in the New Testament, second only to love, but is a trait that is hardly pursued or celebrated. He argues that humility is not optional, but a command of God which is enabled by grace to those who are born again. He goes through each of the Beatitudes and shows how each verse (poor in spirit, mourn over sin, peacemaker) reflects the qualities of the humble person.

A few favorite quotes:

“Instead we too often use the Scriptures not as a means of judging ourselves but as a means of judging others, especially those whose sins are more flagrant than ours. The meek person, in contrast, searches the Scriptures (or listens to it taught) not to judge others but to allow the Holy Spirit to judge him or her. In fact, the meek person earnestly desires the Spirit to use His Word to effect a deep change in his or her inner being.”

“It is often the sinful use of our tongues that causes conflict. But the tongue is only the instrument. The real problem is the heart, for Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) It is because of pride, anger, jealousy, and the like in our hearts that we speak cutting and hurtful words to one another. And it is because we nurse hurts from other people and harbor resentment in our hearts that we engage in verbal conflict.

To become peacemakers, then, we must begin with our selves. We must ask ourselves, “Why do I make cutting remarks to another person? …What causes my resentment toward that person? or “Why do I continue to nurse hurts by that person instead of forgiving them?”

I could go on…it’s Jerry Bridges and he was truly one of my favorite authors. I’m so thankful for his ministry of teaching via writing.

Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin is an inductive Bible Study that covers the Beatitudes. Like all of her studies, it has been excellent. If you’ve never done an inductive Bible Study, this is a great place to start.

Jen defines a meek person as “enduring injury with patience and without resentment” …and as “someone who is not occupied with self at all, someone who does not insist on a set of rights.”

Highly recommend. In fact, I’m doing this with my teen girls this fall.

What books are you reading right now? Let me know in the comments.

Links you might enjoy:

Gossip Says More About Me via Desiring God.

Community Requires Vulnerability via Christine @ Grace Covers Me

The Ministry of Your Everyday Normal by We Are That Family

Blessed Weakness by Lydia Brownback


I’m in the thick of choosing paint colors for several rooms in my house. We’re beginning repairs soon, and I have to have my ducks in a row for the builder. I’ve been on Pinterest searching for a great greige color. If any of you has found a warmish greige color that you really love, let me know the color in the comments or on FB. Thanks. :)

Well, that’s about it. I hope you have a GREAT weekend.

*Post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting JoyFilled Days.


Homemade Fried Rice and New England Style Duck Sauce

My friend, Ruth, had the greatest recipe for fried rice on her website, but the flipgram is now disabled!! (Ruth, we need another tutorial!!) I’ve made her recipe so many times because my kids love Chinese Rice and this recipe is quick, easy, and inexpensive.

fried rice

I’m going to summarize Ruth’s recipe for you the best I can and I think we should peer pressure her into doing another video. Mkay?

Per Ruth’s FB, you need “day old rice, lunch meat, frozen veggies or whatever you have, and eggs.”

I usually cook up jasmine rice the day before and stick it in the fridge for the next day.

To start, I cut up a boneless, skinless chicken breast into small cubes and fry them up in a little oil in my largest non-stick pan. ( I still don’t have a wok!)  When they are almost cooked through, I add green and red peppers and sugar snap peas, cubed, and I fry until slightly softened.

I scramble three eggs and add that into the meat and veggies, making a big scrambled “mess.” I add a little more oil, and then add my cold, day old rice (about 4 cups or so) and fry it until it sizzles a little and browns slightly on the bottom.

When the rice is fried, I added some soy sauce to add color. I just sprinkled it around until I got a nice brown color. Maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup max for a large pan of rice. I also threw in a few Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp Sesame oil, and black pepper. Right before it’s done, I add a cup of frozen peas and cover loosely, stirring until they are soft.

This recipe is so easy to tweak. I’ve made it with leftover ham lunch meat that I cut into cubes. (Also, I’ve made it without lunch meat. It does have eggs in it as protein.)

I always serve fried rice with duck sauce. Apparently our area of New England has their own version of duck sauce because the grocery store version is a sicky-sweet-gloppy-orange impostor and is nothing like our restaurants serve. The duck sauce in New England is thin, almost watery, and applesauce based.

It’s easy to make at home for those of you who can’t stand the store bought version.

New England Style Chinese Duck Sauce

In a saucepan, simmer until flavors meld:

1 cup sweetened applesauce (not the kind with cinnamon)

and 1 Tablespoon each: apple cider vinegar, sugar, soy sauce.

That’s it! Enjoy.


Favorite Things Friday

It’s been a while since I did a Favorite Things Friday edition. Did I mention that life has been just a bit busy? All last week was spent searching for a wedding venue for my oldest daughter. {We got one!} It was a tad overwhelming, but, you guys, I made an Excel spreadsheet for this purpose. Peter was surprised and a little proud as he is a spreadsheet kinda guy.

Also, we’re expecting a little snow this weekend, but it’s nothing compared to last year at this time. Remember this!?


What a difference a year makes. Did you realize that it has been one year since Addy’s surgery? She’s doing great by the way!

And, it dawned on me that I never shared “on the blog” that my daughter, Rebekah, got engaged over Thanksgiving to a great guy also named Peter (his website here). So, to remedy that, pictures! We took these at Harvard Yard. We are so excited for them!

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This week, I’m reading a pre-release copy of Sally Clarkson’s newest book,The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming. It’s available Feb. 2nd. This book is right up my ally. I’m only half way through but it has made me want to hug my kids a little tighter and it has given me “permission”–actually, an excuse–to do what I love which it to decorate and make the home a place where everyone wants to be. You can pre-order it, and there are several book studies that you can jump in to soon. Makenzie at Bold Turquoise is planning one, I know. I plan to review it during release week and Tyndale has agreed to do a giveaway here for my readers! Very excited for you guys!

Here are a few of my favorite things that you might also enjoy: enjoy:


Garlicky White Bean Soup from The Nourishing Gourmet. One of my favorite winter soups! Delish with french bread and blue cheese sprinkled on top!

If you’ve never made Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Bourguignon, you are in for a treat. This is THE best.  I made this for dinner this week and made a batch for a friend who just had a baby. She told me it was delish! Thanks, Ina!

We made one of our favorite addictive cookies this week: Molasses Sugar Cookies  Perfect with chai tea on a cold winter’s day. Here’s my DIY Just Like Dunkin Donuts Chai Tea Mix recipe, which is my most pinned recipe ever. Yum.


How to Choose Contentment Right Where You Are by Joy.

This article by Lore about Spiritual Depression: Men as Trees Walking and Being Honest About the Blurry Things. “What is the cure for [spiritual depression]? For the moment I shall give principles only. The first principle is evident: above everything else avoid making premature claim that your blindness is cured.” In the last few months, several women have told me about their lack of desire for anything, including the Word of God. Their honesty is a gift and will help them as they sort through this season. And, as always, God is in the gift–even if He allows a season of struggle.

How Comfort Food Poses As Spiritual Food. This is a great article to read if you are turning to food to fill needs that only God can fill.

This article on hospitality by Jen Wilkin was both humorous and helpful. Don’t wait until your home is perfect to extend hospitality and don’t allow false standards to discourage you from welcoming others into your home. Was it Shauna Neiquist who said that you could just wipe your coffee table off with a baby wipe and be good to go? I can’t remember. 😉 Anywho, she also has this sweet printable if you are interested.



This CamelBak Eddy Insulated Water Bottle is saving my skin right now. I find my skin is so dry if I don’t drink enough in the winter. This helps make it easy.

I’m also loving TAZO: Earl Grey Black Tea right now. Emily makes me a London Fog with the strongly brewed tea, frothed milk and vanilla. So good!

What are you reading this winter? What favorite products would you recommend? Are any of you planning your garden yet? Share in the comments and let me know what you’re up to!

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links at no cost to you.



Top 10 Favorite Recipes for Youth Group Activities

If you work in youth ministries, you’ve probably prepared a lot of food.

Of course, youth ministries is more than food.  It’s about encouraging hearts who are often trying to navigate the turbulent waters of adolescence, affirming the love of God to kids who often don’t feel good enough or accepted.

It’s about loving kids when they are unlovable and teaching truth at appropriate times, gauging when your listener if ready and able to receive it. And it’s about enjoying life together as joint heirs and members of the same body of Christ.

It’s about encouraging moms (and dads) to persevere in truth, and being a listener and friend when they struggle in this fallen flesh as we all do.

teenagers drinking soda 1950s

But, no doubt, food for teens is huge. I’ve had several friends ask me to share some of my go-to recipes for feeding our youth group, so here you go.

1. Pizza. 

My dough recipe: (makes one crust)

1 cup warm water

1 pkg. yeast

1 T. sugar

Dissolve these three together. Allow to sit until surface looks “bubbly” so you know the yeast activated.

Stir in 3 cups flour, 2 T olive oil, 1 T. salt. Knead until smooth. Place in greased bowl to rise, about an hour.

Spread into pizza pan that has been heavily greased with Crisco. Add toppings: sauce, cheese, garlic powder, oregano.

Pizza sauce (this is enough for two pizzas)

I make my own pizza sauce by draining the water out of a can of crushed tomatoes. Then I saute 2 cloves or garlic in olive oil, add the tomatoes, 2 bay leaves, and 1 T sugar. Cook until thick and dark, about 10 minutes. I throw in some chopped parsley at the last minute and add some black pepper if I feel like it.

I bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is slightly bubbly and browning.

2. Cranberry Meatballs

In a crock pot, mix 2 bags frozen Swedish meatballs, 2 cans Ocean Spray whole berry cranberry sauce, 2 jars Heinz chili sauce (NOT cocktail sauce which looks similar.)

Cook several hours on high in crock pot, stirring to cover the meatballs occasionally.

3. Cranberry Kielbasa

Slice 2 pkg Hillshire Farms Polska Kielbasa into 1/2 inch slices. Fry in a large frying pan until mostly cooked. Add a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce and 2 T. brown sugar.

Easy and delish.


4. Taco Salad with Doritos 

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 sm. onion, diced
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 lg. bottle Catalina salad dressing (16 oz.)
8 oz. grated cheddar cheese
1 med. size bag Doritos, crushed
3 med. tomatoes
Large bag of iceberg lettuce salad
Brown ground beef and drain. Add taco seasoning mix according to package directions. After cooking, drain excess liquid.
In a large bowl combine meat, chopped onion, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. Add crushed corn chips. Toss to coat together with Catalina salad dressing. 
5. White Chocolate Covered Chex Mix :: this recipe is just like mine but I don’t use Cheerios. I double the Chex Mix. And I never measure, so… :)
6. Ice Cream Pie. Easy. Chocolate cookie graham cracker crusts, filled with softened ice cream. Freeze. You can drizzle with with hot fudge and garnish with whipped cream and crushed candy before serving.
7. Chocolate Chip cookies.  This is the recipe I use.
8. Buffalo Chicken Dip. An all time favorite with our teens. I don’t use canned chicken. I just boil a few chicken breasts and shred them myself.
9. Soda floats. Root beer, coke,  or orange soda, over ice and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum. 
10. Just like Sonic Cherry Limeade. We make these by using a bottle of Sprite, 1/4 c grenadine syrup, the juice of 4 freshly squeezed limes, and small jar of maraschino cherries, juice and all.




Two Favorite DIY Holiday Cheese Spreads

I had a group of friends over this week for fellowship and food and one thing they all had in common was their love for these cheese spreads: Garlic and Herb, and Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Cranberry Spread.


IMG_2577I love this recipe because it’s inexpensive and tastes as good, if not better, than the little tubs of Allouette Garlic and Herb cheese spread.

And the blue cheese cranberry goodness…you can’t get that one in the stores. :)

This is not as pricey as the little tubs, and makes twice as much. It’s a simple, quick treat when paired with crackers and grapes or sliced pears and apples. Enjoy!

To make both:

Combine 3 bricks (8 oz each) with one stick of butter until well blended.

Split mixture in half. You’ll use one half for each recipe below.

For the Garlic and Herb Pub Cheese,

Use one half of your cream cheese butter mixture, and add to it:

1 clove finely minced garlic, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp each pepper, thyme and basil. Stir well. Let sit an hour to allow flavors to meld.

For the Blue Cheese spread

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Craisins

1/2 cups crumbled Blue Cheese

2T brown sugar

Process the nuts for about 10 seconds until finely chopped . (I use my Ninja for this. It’s my go-to kitchen tool. I hate lugging out the big food processor!)

Put the nuts aside.

Process the Craisins for 5 seconds–just a few pulses. (Or you can chop them with a knife.)

Use one half of your cream cheese mixture butter mixture and add the nuts, Craisins and blue cheese, sugar, stirring until smooth. Let sit for an hour to allow flavors to meld. (You can throw some extra chopped walnuts on the top to make it prettier.)

Serve with a variety of crackers.


Related Posts

Key Lime Cheeseball {Just Like Tastefully Simple’s}

Hospitality 101 {Quick and Easy No Cook Entertaining}

Keeping Traditions {Making Christmas Tags}

Friday Favs

Are you all enjoying this beautiful fall weather? I can’t help but pull out my iPod whenever I am out and about and spot a beautiful autumn scene.





When your weeks are the busiest, I’m telling you, it’s important to notice the little things of beauty all around you. God is such an amazing Creator and His beautiful creation is a feast for the eyes and a reminder of His watch care in the smallest details of life.

I did a lot of entertaining this week, and a lot of cooking. Several of you asked me to share some of the recipes and menus I use. Here you go.

First of all, I decorated with fall leaves and hydrangea from my yard. I added some bittersweet, sticks, and leaves and viola…free, fall-y centerpiece.



{Thankful and Blessed free printable here.}

To feed a large crowd, 20 or so, I use this menu:

Ham Dinner Menu

Spiral Ham– I love Aldi’s spiral ham. They’re inexpensive (as spiral hams go) and delicious.

Homemade Mac and Cheese. I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe, minus the eggs. I also added a can of Campbell’s cheese soup, a brick of cream cheese, and some milk. I made it up about two hours from the event and kept it warm in a greased crock pot set on low. It was cheesy and delish.

Fried Apples- You could just serve warm applesauce and cinnamon, but this recipe is over the top. It’s my friend Susanna’s recipe and I always get compliments on it.

Combine in a saucepan and heat until dissolved:

1 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg.

Core and peel 8 large apples, slice into eighths, and add to syrup. Cook 15-20 minutes on medium heat until apples are cooked through and syrup is slightly thickened and bubbly.  Add 1 T butter.

Remove small amount (1/2 cup) syrup and dissolve 1T cornstarch into it. Add to apple mixture and simmer in pan until the syrup thickens and has a glossy look.

*I add more apples and you can play with the spices until you get it how you like it. :)

**If I have unexpected company, sometimes I just heat a large jar of applesauce, throw some peeled, sliced apples into it, let them simmer until softened, add spices, serve warm and call it a day.

***Leftover, this is great on ice cream or as a pancake topping.

Green Beans– I get French cut green beans at Aldis for $.49 a can. I heat with butter and garlic salt.

Cranberry sauce and rolls. Ocean Spray. Just saying. :) Right now there is a coupon for $1 off a bag of Ocean Spray fresh cranberries, and Walmart has fresh fruit for $1.50 this week! ( also has a dollar off Hershey’s chocolate, Kit Kat, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups… which can be squirreled away for Christmas stockings.)

Lunch company

Lunch usually means that moms and kids are coming. I usually try to make sure I have something “kid friendly” and something yummy for the moms.


My go to recipe is a quiche. My recipe is really simple and flexible.

Easy Quiche

Frozen or homemade pie shell, unbaked.

1 brick grated extra sharp cheese, thrown into the bottom of the shell

1 1/2 cups “filling”–anything you want, thrown on the cheese. My favorite variations:

  • cubed ham, scallions, pepper,
  • bacon (I’ve used real bacon bits before with good results), pepper, onion
  • asparagus (roasted), red pepper, onions

Then carefully pour into the pie crust:

5 eggs beaten with 1 cup of half and half.

Bake 400 for 45 min or until edges are browned and middle it set.


My favorite salad is a pear, cranberry, blue cheese, candied pecan salad.

I use spring greens, slice up a pear, throw on the pecans, a handful of Craisins, and add some chopped scallions to the mix. I put the blue cheese on the side because not everyone likes it. The dressing makes is what makes this salad to die for, and it’s super easy.

Sweet Balsamic Vinegar Italian Dressing

1 pkg Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix

1/8 c. good balsamic vinegar

1/8 c. white vinegar

2 T. sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix well until incorporated and pour over salad at the last minute.

*You can really use whatever you want in the salad: apples, strawberries, mandarin oranges. It’s all good.

On My Nightstand:


I’m making my way through these books right now, but life has been busy so extra reading is at a minimum.

I received A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together? in the mail two days ago from Cook Publishers and I have to tell you, it’s fabulous. This was a new author for me, but it’s been such a great appeal to love your spouse, that I think Peter and I might try to read this book as a couple. Put this one on your wish list. :)

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds is a must read. I plan to go through the “how to” principles in this book with my youth group girls. Studying the Bible is more than reading a passage and then consulting commentaries. It’s a slow, steady, lifestyle. I’m encouraged that a younger generation of women are increasingly relying on the Word of God, instead of the second hand studies of men via commentaries, blogs, books and sermons…which are all very helpful, but cannot replace careful BIBLE study.

When the Kara Tippett’s husband contacted me about reviewing her book, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard
I have to tell you, I was so impressed by this guy’s letter, and his obvious care for his wife and her story, that I agreed. Kara is fighting stage IV cancer, and this is her story of letting go of her “idol” image of what life is supposed to look like. “Hard is not the absence of God’s goodness.” I will review it in more depth later on this month.

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness is a book that Rebekah had to read for leadership training at her college. I have to admit, I had a hard time getting into this one. I keep thinking…how could churches have missed this stuff? This has been basic to our teaching since childhood, so I guess we’ve been blessed. It’s like growing up in a cooking school, and having an expert cooking instructor write …”Did you guys realize that you have to bake all this stuff? We need to turn on our ovens.” Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it was just my mood. There you have it. It’s a great read for new believers, for sure, but I would recommend The Pursuit of Holiness

What have you been reading? Have a great weekend!





DIY Italian Ice {Lime, Lemon, Orange}

Today I have a refreshing summer recipe for you!


If you’ve ever been to the North End in Boston, you’ve most likely tasted Polcari’s lemon ice. When the weather’s hot, Polcari’s hundred-year-old barrel of lemon ice appears on the corner of their family owned store. For around $2 you can purchase the best lemon Italian ice in Boston.


Authentic Italian ice is easy to make. It’s not like the rock-hard frozen cups you buy in the supermarket, and it’s not icy-crunchy like a snow cone. It’s smooth like a sorbet and has the consistency of a frozen lemonade. It’s also perfect on a hot summer night or on a sore throat.

So today I’m sharing my favorite Italian Ice recipe. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures! (Plus it’s pretty frugal to make!)


Today I made Lime Italian Ice, but you can substitute any citrus fruit.

Any Flavor Italian Ice

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

Bring to boil on the stovetop, and simmer for 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then add

3/4 cup *freshly* squeezed lime juice, (about 8-10 limes) ( or lemon, or orange juice. Lemon and Lime juice should be freshly squeezed. Don’t use lemon juice that comes in a plastic squeezy lemon. You won’t like the results. You can use 100% orange juice with good results.)

2 cups water

2 T lime zest (lime, lemon or orange, depending on what flavor you are making.)

Combine well. Pour into 9X12 glass pyrex dish and freeze for 2 hours. Then “rake” the mixture every hour until the ice is snowy and smooth. This can take up to six hours. Transfer to a plastic container with lid for storage.

*Actual freezing time varies by freezer. Can take over night.

*”Raking” with a fork can take elbow grease! :) Use a large serving fork.

*The ice goes through several stages: slivers of ice, to a thick goo-ey mess that feels like you are stirring petroleum jelly, to fluffy, smooth ice.


Let me know how you like it!











Copycat Recipe: Tastes Just Like Dunkin’ Donuts Vanilla Chai

vanilla chai copycat dunkin donuts

So, I’m so excited about today’s post! Because I’ve finally figured out how to make Vanilla Chai tea that tastes JUST like Dunkin’ Donuts! I have 2 DD’s within 2 miles of my house, and I’m a frequent there for iced coffee. But my friend introduced me to the Vanilla Chai and I thought it was divine.

I did some serious research around the internet and couldn’t come up with the recipe anywhere. There are spiced chai teas out there that did prove helpful. But they were watery compared to Dunkin’s sugary creamy goodness. {You see, the kids and I HAD to go to DD’s to buy a couple— okay maybe more than a couple—so that I could taste test mine with the real thing side by side. I had to. It wouldn’t have been scientific not to. It was, like part of the process. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. :)}

I was able to “sleuth” out that DD’s version is a powder, has 8 {gasp!} grams of fat, contains milk, tea, sugar and spices. I also got some help from some very helpful ladies on Facebook, so thank you!

So, here’s the deal. This tastes JUST like Dunkin Donuts. I hope that it saves you lots of money and doesn’t add inches to your hips! 😉 Enjoy!

Vanilla Chai Tea

To make the bulk spice mix combine:

1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea granules (find it in jars near the Lipton instant iced tea. Except you want unsweetened. I use Walmart brand.)

2 t. ground ginger

2 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. ground cloves

1 t. ground cardamom

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/2 t. all spice

2 cups white sugar

1 1/2 c dry French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer

1 c. powdered non-dairy creamer

Mix well and store in a covered plastic container or Mason Jar with cute tag. :)

To make a Vanilla Chai heat 8 oz milk in the microwave until hot. Then,

Add 2 T of the spice mix. Stir well. Froth, using a hand wisk or by pouring the tea from one cup to another several times (do this over the sink! lol–ask me how I know!) This thickens and froths the drink and makes it the consistency of DD’s. ENJOY!

***These will make great Christmas gifts! You could put the mix in mason jars with cute tags and instructions for brewing the milk/tea! I’m already making some to ship to my girls in college! :)

****You can blend this in a mixer, to ensure that it dissolves better, but trust, me–>You want to use a blender/mixer with a GLASS canister. I used my Ninja with a plastic “grinding bowl” and it totally scratched and ruined it. USE glass!!

Also, some freebies you should know about:

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Perfect Apple Pie {using an oil crust pastry}

Today I wanted to share one of my favorite apple pie recipes. I love this old recipe because it uses an oil crust which is simple to make. I’ve spoken to several old timers who told me that using an oil crust was a Depression Era thing. Regardless of why, this crust is never soggy and I love that about it.

This recipe is from one of my dearest friend’s mother’s recipe box. Anne and I have been friends since the tenth grade. She now lives on the west coast, and I on the east, so therein lies the problem. Visiting is rare and a special treat. A few years ago we got to spend a few days on Peaks Island, ME together and this summer we got to spend a day catching up while the kids played in my mom’s pool.

Now the weather’s cold and I’ve been baking her mom’s pie and anticipating my next visit over a cup of tea with Anne. :)

anne and sarah





Oil Pastry:

2 c. all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

5 T. cold water

Sprinkle of sugar to put on crust after it’s assembled.

Sift together flour and salt. Pour oil and water into measuring cup, but don’t stir. Add all at once to flour and salt mixture. Stir slightly with a fork. Form into 2 balls; flatten dough slightly. Roll each ball between two 12″ square pieces of wax paper. When dough is rolled into a circle to edges of paper, it will be the right thickness for the crust. Peel of the top sheet of waxed paper and fit the dough, paper side up into either an 8″ or 9″ pie plate. Peel off second sheet of waxed paper. Set crust aside. Roll second dough ball the same as the first. Set second crust aside.

Apple Filling:

6 c. tart apples, pared, cored and thinly sliced, about 6-8 apples

3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like your pie and how tart your apples are

2 T all purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

dash of salt

2 T butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To make the filling, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix with apples. Fill the dough lined pie plate with the apple mixture. Dot with 2 T butter. Add the top crust. Cut slits for steam to escape. Seal edges. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 50 minutes or until crust edges are golden brown. Enjoy!


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