Real. Good. Fud.

and other joys in life

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Holiday Happiness

 I know it’s a week after Christmas, but I have now had a chance to use all of my wonderful gifts!  Some of the things I was most excited about were the cheapest, simplest items.  For example, new kitchen tongs, a silicone brush and a meat thermometer.  And an apron:

          I’m not the most… graceful person; Tyler calls me clumsy.  So when I cook, and especially when I eat I am bound to get some food on my clothing.  So I am very thankful to have an apron! It’s so beautiful; I am even encouraged to be more careful and tidy.

          Now that I got to share some excitement; I am going to share a recipe with you.  Then, I will end on a more serious note.

          I’m no baker.  My baking adventures usually end in failure; which is fine because I don’t enjoy desserts like I do other food (Andy’s frozen custard is plenty to please me).  But, one thing I have mastered is Cranberry-Orange bars.  I can’t remember where I got the recipe, but they are rather simple. 

          I start by making cranberry sauce.  To do this, I just boil some water, orange juice and sugar (about 1 c sugar, ½ cup water and ¼ cup orange juice).  I then add 1-12 ounce package of cranberries and let them cook until they pop, about 15 minutes.  At that point, I turn off the heat, stir in some cinnamon and orange zest and let them set- the sauce will thicken and become jelly-like.  Then on to the crust.  Just mix together a package of yellow cake mix, ¾ cups of butter and 2 eggs.  Stir in 1 cup of rolled oats, ¾ cup brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger.  Now the hard part… spread about ¾ of this mixture onto the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan.  It’s really sticky, and really hard to spread! Just try to cover the bottom best you can.  Spread the cranberry mixture on that.  Top with the remaining cake mixture, pinching off pieces (it won’t completely cover).  Just pop in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes and allow it to cool for an hour before cutting!  Yum yum! They are slightly sweet, tart and have that warm, seasonal flavor from the cinnamon.  I am attempting to healthify them J  I am slowly cutting out some of the cake mixture and adding more oats.  One day I will be adventurous enough to make the crust from scratch.  Last time, I also replaced about half the butter with some applesauce, which worked great!  And finally, I cut back the sugar some.  Next time I’m going to add some vanilla and top with honey after they are done cooking. 

(credits to Jordan Kent for the lovely picture)

          Alrighty now, I apologize for the long post… but I really wanted to include this final portion!       

          I have an incredible sister, Jayme.  Growing up, we fought a lot and I probably told her that I hated her.  I once even threatened to call child services on her.  I think that’s normal for sisters… But I now appreciate her as a wonderful person.  She is a best friend, and teaches me a lot.  Jayme is a blogger; she got me started.  She began writing about her infertility, which led to international adoption, and now pregnancy (yay!).  All that said, she wrote a post this week that made me think.  You can read it here.  Basically, she first asked what you are thankful for.  Not the obvious things, but everything.  Then, she challenges her readers to do something; get involved to help some people that maybe don’t have those special things- big and small. 

          Tyler got a turkey from his work for Christmas.  I was going to do the honors of cooking it for our family get-together.  My Grandma had some health issues, and our get-together was postponed.  So, I had 14 pounds of poultry and no one to feed.  This week I took it to the food shelter.  Not that this was any big sacrifice; it was free and I had no use for it! But when I went, I saw a lot of homeless people sitting along the curb.  It made me sad. It made me thankful for a lot of things.  The obvious: food and shelter.  But also it made me thankful for a job to provide income for those things.  It made me thankful for an upbringing that encouraged me to go to college and taught me how to be a responsible adult.  It made me thankful for motivation and opportunity to go to school and get an education to have a solid career; one that I will love.  It made me thankful for my car, for the gym I worked out at afterward, the new workout gear I wore.  It made me thankful for all the little pleasures in life; like a cup of hot green tea and dark chocolate on my days off this week.  Because all of my needs are met, I can enjoy things like that.  I could go on and on.  I think most people can sit and feel bad for those people, and think about how blessed we are.  But what good is that?  We have to do something about it.  Between school about 30 hours a week, and work about 35 hours, I don’t have an abundance of time to give.  That’s no excuse.  I’m as guilty as everyone else about getting caught up in my own world and conveniently forgetting about all the needs.  I get caught up in getting out of debt and forget that I have enough money to pay all my bills, buy food, and still buy nice things.  So this year, Tyler and I decided (mostly Tyler… he’s the dreamer) to give a rather large sum of money each month to our church’s outreach program, ImpACT.  I am going to try taking advantage of the church organizing events where we can give some time to help out.  My small group is trying to pick a family or cause each month to give to, last month it was a food basket.  Jayme gave us a gift certificate to Kiva a while ago, which we continually invest for people overseas to borrow to start or run their businesses.

          Now, that ended up being longer than I expected! But please take some of those ideas and find something, anything that you can fit into your life to help someone or something. 

          Time to go tend to my marinara sauce!  I will be updating with a few yummy things I made in my time off this week; tilapia with peppers, mashed potatoes with kale, chicken tacos, and tomato soup.