Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

What a wonderful week it's been!

A glorious Christmas....

A lot of fun.....

Great food......

Prayerful services.......

A house full of KIDS!!!! All 14 grandkids were here!!!!

And a house full of love.

And then we finished off the week with our second son to be inducted into the Hilton High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Our son Seth was inducted for his role in helping coach the 2005 Hilton National Champion Women's Cross Country Team!!! (video here, Seth's the guy in black you see running around inside the "rope", cheering the champions to victory)

So the team and coaching staff were inducted on the 10 year anniversary of their national victory in Portland, Oregon, the heart of Cross Country running.

So much to be grateful for, so much to celebrate, and as a mother of a big family... and a daughter in a big family... I know we need to celebrate good times when they come.

Moments of joy, times of sorrow, the world keeps turning and the seasons ebb and flow the way they should. the way they always do.

So let's look forward to a new year together! To healthy children and helping one another. To breaking bread and breaking ground together.

Laney with Grammy:

Laney with her Great-Grandma... and time goes on...

Celebrate life... and love... and reach out to others.

And cookies are never a bad idea!!!

I'll see you all next week.... and don't forget we've got our Seekerville Rocking New Year's Eve party going on right now....

Stop over to SEEKERVILLE and leave a comment, we'll toss your name into the festive holiday candy dish for hourly prizes and the end - of - day grand prize of $200 AMAZON card.

I'd love to see your name come out of that "dish"!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Planning for the New Year

Jan's Peanut Butter Smoothie post on Monday focused on just what I'm thinking as I head into 2016.

I need to get back to my healthy eating regime. Regime makes it sound nasty, but really it's a good word choice.

If you look up the meaning of the word regime on, you get this:

a mode or system of rule or government:
a dictatorial regime.
a ruling or prevailing system.
a government in power.
the period during which a particular government or ruling system is in power.
Medicine/Medical. regimen (def 1).
Click on #5 regimen and you get:


Medicine/Medical. a regulated course, as of diet, exercise, or manner of living, intended to preserve or restore health or to attain some result.
YES! That's what my brain was looking for. See, all that sugar makes my thinking less than clear. ;)
 intended to preserve or restore health or to attain some result.
In my heart, I yearn for days of tea and scones, baskets of muffins to go with the morning coffee (or a delicious sour cream coffee cake). Alas, my body cries from energy levels depleted, resources to fight fatigue drained away by all those delicious carbs.
Truth is, when I listen to my body, I feel healthier and happier. I forget that sometimes in the rush of daily living, in the "grab something fast because I'm starving" end of the work day blues. Cooking a healthy meal becomes overwhelming, another task to accomplish. And oh that delicious cookie beckons with it's fast, sugary energy rush.

Followed by the inevitable crash.

So, as 2016 approaches, I vow once again to listen to my body's lament and learn to relish delicious, healthy foods, to become again the healthy writer!

I was reminded this past week that healthy eating doesn't have to be an insurmountable goal. My daughter and I made a delicious nut roast for our part of Christmas dinner, and I had leftovers for days. Eating healthy was an easy choice when I had meals stockpiled to choose from. 

I plan to share that recipe and others with you in the upcoming year, but for today, as we bid farewell to the old and plan to greet the new, I'll share our plan for a healthy New Year's Day dinner.

We plan to adapt this recipe - substituting black-eyed peas for the lentils to observe the tradition. Maybe we'll add some collard greens on the side. :)

The original recipe is called Vegan Lentil Shepherd's Pie with Parsnip and Potato Mash. You can find the recipe at
 I was curious why black-eyed peas, so of course I Googled and found this:

Southern tradition holds that the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day should be black-eyed peas for luck and prosperity -- specifically, one pea for each day of the year. To really ensure a good year, add a mess o' greens for wealth.
That's the tradition I'd always heard, but this one fascinates me:
 According to Wikipedia, the tradition dates as far ancient Egypt. During the time of the Pharaohs, it was believed that eating a meager food like black-eyed peas showed humility before the gods, and you would be blessed. According to Wikipedia, the Babylonian Talmud, which dates to 339 CE, instructs the faithful Jews to eat black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana.
The belief was similar: those who ate black-eyes showed their humility and saved themselves from the wrath of God.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Post Christmas Wrap-Up

Here we are in that weird week between Christmas and New Years. Actually, our Christmas isn't quite over. Since our oldest daughter's husband had to work on Christmas, we'll be celebrating with her family later today. I can hardly wait.

Were y'all like me in the days leading up to Christmas? Baking your little heart out and loving every minute of it? 

Here's just a bit of the carnage as I prepared for the fun.

On Christmas Eve we gathered with the rest of our kiddos for fun and fellowship.
The grand girls kept things lively.
Though my own kids did their best not to be outdone.

And did I mention food?
 The bacon appetizers were the first to go.
 Though the sausage and chocolate came in a close second.
You all know that Christmas calories don't count, right?

Which is a good thing, because we pretty much repeated things the day.

All in all, Christmas 2015 will go in the record books with two thumbs-up. 
And as we begin to focus on 2016, we take stock, regroup and contemplate what lies ahead. 
Lord willing, we'll meet up a year from now and reminisce just what that was.

Happy New Year! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Peanut Butter Smoothie

It's that time of year again.

Not just time to put away the Christmas decorations and put up the new 2016 calendar.

It's recovery time.

Now don't get me wrong. I enjoyed every single bite of fudge, Christmas cookies, and my mom's favorite recipe for Christmas candy. I enjoyed every single minute of the meals we shared with family and friends.

But, there comes that time...a couple days after Christmas...when my body says it wants to lay off the sugar for a while.

Actually, the body says I should never eat sugar again, but I know that eventually I'll be craving something sweet. Sigh.

But no worries. I've found a great way to ease off of sugar and please my sweet tooth at the same time: Smoothies!

I've shared smoothie recipes before, and you can check out that post here: Spring Smoothies.

But today I'd like to add a new one. I've been making one of these for breakfast once or twice a week. There's something so satisfying about this recipe.

The original is from a blog called Working at Homeschool. Jen (the owner of the blog) shares tons of gluten-free Trim Healthy Mama recipes. So far I've only tried this one, but it's a keeper.

Here's my version:

Peanut Butter Smoothie


1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 scoop unsweetened vanilla whey protein powder
4 teaspoons Truvia, or other non-calorie sweetener
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
a pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2-3 cups of ice cubes

A note about the ingredients:
What if you aren't following the Trim Healthy Mama plan? No problem. The main goal is to have a healthy smoothie for breakfast that will satisfy your sweet tooth without adding any sugar to your meal.

Did you notice the fat-laden ingredients in this recipe, though? Those healthy fats, plus the protein, is what makes this smoothie fill you up and keep you satisfied until lunch. Don't worry about the calories - go ahead and eat the peanut butter!

Almond milk: You can substitute your regular milk. It will add carbs to the smoothie, but won't affect the taste.

Whey protein powder: I use the THM brand available on their website (THM Whey Protein Powder), but you can substitute protein powder from your local store. You could also leave it out of the recipe, but it won't supply as much protein for your meal. But here's a thought! You could also substitute yogurt! You'd want to reduce the amount of milk in the recipe, but the yogurt would help supply that all-important protein.

Truvia: I like stevia sweeteners and use them all the time. Some people have problems with stevia, though. So if you've never used it before, buy a small quantity to try. You'll find Truvia near the sugar in your grocery store.

Coconut oil: I use coconut oil often in my recipes because of the health benefits. If you don't have any in your cupboard, go ahead and leave it out of this recipe. But if you aren't convinced that coconut oil is a healthy part of your diet, you can read this: Dr. Oz on Coconut Oil.

Peanut Butter: I like Adam's Natural peanut butter. Other brands have sugar, but not a lot. So if you're fine with a little sugar, use whatever brand you like.

Using a heavy duty blender (one that can handle crushing ice cubes), blend together all of the ingredients except the ice. Run your blender for 10-20 seconds on high speed to get that coconut oil pulverized and mixed in.

Once those ingredients are thoroughly blended, add the ice cubes, about one cup at a time. Blend until everything is nice and smooth.

Pour into a large cup (I use my one-quart canning jars) and enjoy!

Other than the over-eating of sweets, how was your Christmas?

We had a fabulous time....

There's nothing like getting a future son-in-law for Christmas! We're expecting the wedding to be in June, so stay tuned!

And it's a "destination wedding." You've heard of those, right? When the happy couple and all their guests go to some fabulous romantic destination for the wedding of their dreams? Well, this destination is the Black Hills of South Dakota.

What? You think we'd go somewhere else?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs or Boeuf Bourguignon

Hi everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back with a recipe that I thought was a fail, but was actually delicious. How's that for a ringing endorsement, eh?
So, first of all, I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas season. I think he's glad we're home and my opinion is that there's nothing cuter than a kitty under the Christmas tree. We came home from midnight Mass and found him like this.
 We've been on the move so we haven't cooked as much as we do this time of year but we have gotten a batch of tamales and some sugar cookies done. It's not Christmas without those crazily frosted cookies!
Short ribs, several pounds
2 cups chopped carrots
2 chopped onions
3 celery stalks
5 TBS flour
1 small can of tomato paste
1 bottle full bodied red wine
4 cups of good beef stock
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
3 lbs of small potatoes
Although I love mushrooms, I forgot to add them to shopping list and so this isn't completely a traditional boeuf bourguignon... but then with short ribs, that's probably obvious!
So, the first step in this recipe is to brown the short ribs in small batches, about seven or eight minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate and pour off the drippings except for about 5 tbs. Add about 2 cups of chopped carrots, 2 chopped onions, 3 celery stalks to the drippings and stir on medium high heat until the onion is translucent. Add about 3 TBS of flour to the veggies and let brown, stirring constantly.
 Add the wine, return short ribs to the pot, and let simmer for approximately 25 minutes, or until reduced by half. I don't cook much with wine and I took a taste at this point and was horrified. LOL. Apparently, the alcohol has to cook off before it tastes okay. Never too old to learn new things, right?
 So, here it is, nicely reduced. Add the beef stock, garlic and all the herbs. Bring everything back to a boil and let it simmer for another 30 minutes or so, until it's again reduced by about half. By this point, it was MUCH tastier.
After this point, add the peeled small potatoes, transfer the pot (if it's a dutch oven or cast iron) to the oven and bake at 350F for about 2- 3 hours, or until everything is very tender. The sauce should be very savory and since the beef stock has salt, I didn't feel like I needed to add salt at this point but I did add some pepper. 
All in all, it was a very time-consuming dish but it looked wonderful on the table and our guests definitely recognized it as boeuf bourguignon.  Bonus!
I hope everyone is keeping warm, whether you've stayed home for the holidays or have traveled. Feel free to stop by my facebook page Mary Jane Hathaway, check out my posts at Huffington Post Books, or on my blog The Things That Last. Until next time!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Closed for the Holiday, See you tomorrow!

With the grace of a tiny babe, born in a manger...

A child, born to the poor....

An infant, mild....

May we wish you the most joyous of Christmas blessings. The most peaceful of hearts.

No matter what the circumstances, Christ was born for us... and died the same way.

God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bake A Memory Day at Ruthy's Place!

This is our yearly tradition of me, kidnapping all the local grandkids I can get my hands on and having a day-long "Make-and-Bake" session.... It's part of my "Keep Christmas Simple" pledge, to worry more about making memories and respecting the holy day.... while enjoying the holiday! So to pull this off with nine grandchildren, I started by hiring help:

A baking station and a making station, and my buddy Casey is at the making station with Logan and Mary Ruthy... 

And it all went soooo beautifully:

Casey tucking Eli's picture into the ornament he made... We learned from doing it this way that we'll be smarter next year (Light Bulb Moment!) and glue the picture in place instead of thinking we can insert it, envelope style. But it worked... with some coaxing, un-glue-ing and re-glue-ing!!! :)
And this is how they came out: (Logan, Mary Ruth and MacKenzie)

 Casey with the fruits of her labors!!!

 And time to pet Libby-the-Poodle!!!

While that was going on in the dining room, this is what was happening in the kitchen:

Do not ask how many Rolos Finn ate. They'll come arrest me for sugar-overage quotas! :)

MacKenzie, who scared us all with a bout of a rare illness called Kawasaki Disease in October... Best Christmas present ever is having her little sassy self here with us, making cookies and practicing her frog-hop.

MacKenzie can frog hop for longer than I have ever seen a human being frog hop. And she's got great frog-vertical.

We're so proud! :)

And then Casey had to leave... 

And I was here guiding two stations.

But I'm one person.

And... Well... I worked with the newly arrived grandkids and let the others frost sugar cookies on their own:

Come on, you know it's beautiful!!! :)

Imagine about 60 cookies, looking like this!

We made cookie trays for Moms and Dads and each set of parents got two ornaments from each child. One in a round canning jar lid, and one in a popsicle stick frame...

And the reason we did this is right here:

 My tree is decorated in all this fun-ness from the past thirty years of memories (and you can see it here at Cheryl St. John's Annual Christmas Tree Tour, today!

An old tradition, made new!

Merry Christmas, everyone, and may we wish you the happiest of New Year's, filled with peace, love, hope and joy... and may you be healthy throughout!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Apples and Pomegranates

You know how in the story of Adam and Eve, tradition has it that Eve offered Adam a taste of an apple - the fruit of life?

I confess, I've often wondered how they're so sure it was an apple. In mythology, the pomegranate was the symbol of life And pomegranates have SO many health benefits (see below).

Years ago my daughter dressed as Persephone for a 2nd grade mythology project. I remember identifying with Demeter and thinking how awful it would be to lose your daughter to the underworld for half the year.


Which brings us to this dessert.

Since we just passed the equinox and are now officially in winter (even if the Christmas weather report looks like we're in the tropics!), it seems a good time to enjoy both apples and pomegranates.

That same daughter (26 now) worked with me to make this recipe for Thanksgiving dessert. You may remember that the older daughter brought that blueberry pie with the cornbread crust.

I can't claim any credit for the recipe - just for having the good sense to pass it on to you.

You can find the entire recipe here - Autumn Apple and Pomegranate Crumble

I know I just reminded us it was winter and the recipe says autumn, but it's been that kind of a week. Stick with me please. :)

I'm going to lead with the finished product to show you how delicious it looks (although you can just click that link and see Kate (with a K's) pictures.

This was ours -

The delicious topping kind of covers all the inside yumminess, so let me show you some of the ingredient steps.

So, really, why eat pomegranates?

It's definitely a hassle to separate the arils from the membrane.

But if you need stress relief, here's one way. Seeding a pomegranate 

or watch

There's the underwater method,

 but I don't like losing all that wonderful juice in the water.

THIS shows my favored method (and it has nothing to do with the name of the site being ShowMeTheCurry  ;)  )

If you don’t remember the story about Persephone, Hades, and the pomegranate, you can refresh your memory here.

So why am I wondering about the pomegranate and Eden? Just read about all the wonderful reasons to eat this marvelous fruit or drink the juice.

The pomegranate is a nutrient dense food source rich in phytochemical compounds. Pomegranates contain high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols, potent antioxidants offering protection against heart disease and cancer. A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, and cranberries.  From Dr. Fuhrman: How to Live for Life
I have to admit, I had no idea pomegranates were so incredibly healthy. Just read some of the other data Dr. Furhman identifies:
Amazing Clinical Results
This fantastic little fruit recently made its way back into the news after some spectacular clinical results. Here’s what you need to know:
Compounds found only in pomegranates called punicalagins are shown to benefit the heart and blood vessels. Punicalagins are the major component responsible for pomegranate’s antioxidant and health benefits. They not only lower cholesterol, but also lower blood pressure and increase the speed at which heart blockages (atherosclerosis) melt away.
Recent medical research studied heart patients with severe carotid artery blockages. They were given an ounce of pomegranate juice each day for a year. Not only did study participants’ blood pressure lower by over 12 percent, but there was a 30 percent reduction in atherosclerotic plaque. Just as astounding, participants who did not take the pomegranate juice saw their atherosclerotic plaque increase by 9 percent.1
In other studies, potent antioxidant compounds found in pomegranates have shown to reduce platelet aggregation and naturally lower blood pressure, factors that prevent both heart attacks and strokes.2

Some nutritional info:  They contain no fat, low sugar and only 80 calories per 100-gram serving, yet they offer 5 grams of fiber and 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.  Because it’s more concentrated, pomegranate juice is slightly higher in calories than whole seeds at 120 calories per 8-ounce serving. (From

I  have to admit, as much as I love pomegranates (and I really love the arils frozen), the season for getting really great ones is rather short. I've come to love drinking pomegranate juice in warm water as a tea substitute in the evenings.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Mrs. Diana's Sugar Cookies - A Family Favorite

Well, here we are. Only three days until Christmas.
The stockings have been hung.

The gifts have been wrapped.

And while I had planned to show you pictures of the fabulous time my granddaughters and I had decorating cookies, I was having so much fun that I forgot to take any pictures.
However, I can show you some of the fruits of our sugar-induced labor.

Okay, so I was given this recipe for sugar cookies some 33 years ago when I was a young bride. And I've made them every year since. This year, though, I found another recipe that was very similar, except that it had a lot more sour cream which would equate to a fluffier cookie.
So I tried said recipe. It said to refrigerate for at least an hour. I waited two before attempting to roll out the dough.

Ugh! Talk about a kitchen fail. It stuck to everything, even the floured surface. 
Frustrated, I wrapped it back up and stuck it back in the fridge--overnight! 
In the meantime, I whipped up a batch of my tried and true recipe. The dough was much stiffer, though definitely not suitable for rolling yet. And would you believe the dough even tasted better?

The next morning, I pulled out my usual recipe, rolled it and cut out my cookies without issue. Then I pulled out the new recipe. After all, it had been in the fridge all night. 

It still stuck to everything! No matter how much flour I added. (insert frustrated scream)

I managed to eek out a few decent cookies before tossing the rest of the dough in the trash. 
Were they fluffier? 

Yes. But they didn't taste near as good as my tried and true recipe. And I am here to tell you that I will never switch again.

Mrs. Diana's Sugar Cookies

1 ½ C Sugar
1 C Butter
2 Eggs
2 T Sour Cream
1 t Baking Soda
3 ½ C Flour
½ t Nutmeg

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Add remaining ingredients. Chill in refrigerator 2 hours to overnight. Roll to ¼ inch thickness on lightly floured surface and cut into shapes. Bake @ 350, 8-10 minutes.

There you have it. Short and simple. 
Some things just shouldn't be messed with.

Each of the girls got to take home their own plate of cookies. And they weren't limited to simply red and green. We had pink cookies, purple cookies, yellow and blue. 
Best of all, they went home with memories. 

When I was a little girl, my great-aunt Gladys used to invite us kids to her place to decorate Christmas cookies. She had a very small kitchen and one year I bumped into my cousin, sending his plate of unadorned cookies careening toward the floor where they promptly broke.

Aunt Gladys, a retired school teacher, looked at me very matter-of-fact and said, "Mindy, you'll just have to share your cookies."

I can still feel my bottom lip quivering. I didn't want to share my cookies. I'd waited all year for those cookies. Sniff, sniff.

Of course, there was no arguing with Aunt Gladys, so Jeff went home with half of my cookies.

To this day, I can't tell you what those cookies tasted like. But I have memories of decorating those cookies. 

And isn't that what the holidays are all about. Sharing memories and making new ones. 

By the way, one of the girls' plates did fall to the floor. Luckily, we were able to save most of them. And those that were lost got replaced from Grammy's stash. 

In closing, I'd like like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very merry Christmas. May your stockings be stuffed and your cookies unbroken. :)

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gingerbread and Royal Icing

These two recipes are made to go together!

The gingerbread recipe makes soft, sweet, and spicy gingerbread cookies. And when you pair it with the royal icing, it's a match made in heaven. Or maybe in fairy-tale world.

My daughter made her annual batch of gingerbread cookies this week. Her recipe is from Martha Stewart, and it's fabulous. I didn't take pictures...I think I was taking a nap while she was baking.

Honey Gingerbread Cookies


5 1/2 cups flours
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (if you use salted butter, cut the salt back to 1 teaspoon)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Beat the butter and sugar together in your mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the honey and molasses.

Using your mixer's low speed, add in the flour mixture gradually, beating just until the dough is combined.

Divide the dough into three portions, wrap each portion in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Roll out the dough and cut into shapes. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned at the edges.

Cool before decorating.

Royal Icing

This icing is the perfect match for these cookies. The pristine white icing against the brown cookies brings out the gingerbread goodness visually, and the light sweetness brings out the rich spicy flavor.

The easy way to make this icing is to use this:

No worries about using raw eggs, no fuss, and no muss.

Pair it with some confectioners, or powdered sugar, and you're all set.

ingredients (makes 3 cups icing):

3 Tablespoons Meringue powder
4 cups powdered sugar
5 Tablespoons warm water (at our elevation, about 3500 feet, we use 7 Tablespoons water)

Beat all ingredients about 7-10 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.

To decorate the cookies, you can use decorating bags with tips, or you can use a plastic zip-lock bag with one corner snipped off.

I used the bag with the snipped corner until Carrie bought herself some decorating bags.

(Just another one of those things I'm going to have to buy for myself when she moves out!)

Another tip - get one of these glasses. I think it's called a Pilsner glass. It's the perfect size and shape to hold your decorating bag while you fill it with icing. :)

So now that the decorating bags are filled and the cookies are ready, it's time to grab a handy boyfriend and get to work.

Josh and Carrie look like they were having a good time, aren't they?

Wait until the icing is dry, and you have gingerbread perfection.

Enjoy your gingerbread and your Christmas week!

From my family to yours, may your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white!