Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Cookies

By: Brady Evans

I’ve got a cookie monster of a husband. For a while I gladly made him cookies. I made him chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, nut-filled cookies. He requested chocolate chip cookies most often, though. It didn’t take long before I was tired of using my precious cooking time to make the same boring recipe over and over again.

So I began purchasing him cookies at the grocery store and generally only bought whatever was on sale. One week shortbread cookies were on sale and he fell in love with the sweet, slightly salty, crumbly texture. I began to brainstorm about making these cookies here at home. I could add a variety of mix-ins and no eggs were required, making them really easy to whip up regardless of the grocery situation!

I added a total of 1 cup of mix-ins to Ina Garten’s shortbread recipe so I encourage you to either make my recipe adaptation or come up with a new concoction of your own!

Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Cookies (adapted from Ina Garten)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.  Add in nuts and dried cranberries and mix on low until thoroughly combined.
  3. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into 2 cookie logs, 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Cut 1/2 inch cookies with a sharp knife.
  6. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Humble

By: Sherree Thompson

I went to the grocery yesterday to grab a few to get us through the week. I had both kids in tow, so I knew I had to be quick. A meltdown was inevitable; we were in the grocery, after all. I scooted through the produce section and then made my way down to the meat department. I skimmed the prices, hmm’d and haa’d and bocked at the prices, and  then finally made a small selection. Whoohoo! We made it out with no major issues.

Later in the evening I mentioned the prices to my hubs in disbelief. I complained about the value – or lack of – compared to few years ago and simply just grumbled at the wgeneralcost of food. Shortly after that conversation I got the most paralyzing headache and had to go lay down. And that is where I stayed until early this morning.

I was recapping my evening, thinking about those prices, when I suddenly remembered my walk one morning. It was the first walk I’d taken around the neighborhood. Pushing the double jogging stroller, I had entered a street just two down from my own. What I saw made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Not because of ethnicity, age or even gender, but because it was all too familiar; it was poor. Real poor. Not the “I don’t want to pay $200 for an electric bill,” but the “I have to make this one meal become two” kind of poor. Now let me just say that I don’t know this family I’m writing about. I don’t know if they are having trouble putting food on the table or paying their electric bill. I am simply saying that seeing them made me recall situations from my own childhood and some of the struggles my mom had.

Grocery shoppingI stood there washing dishes thinking about this family and my grumbles about the cost of food. I was humbled and then grateful. I have said too many times lately “There’s just not enough,” “How are people making it?” and “What are we doing wrong?”  You see, there is enough. It’s all in the way I was looking at it. I was replacing needs for wants. What I “need” is to shut my trap and be very, very grateful for the blessings I’ve been given. So what that I can’t go buy or spend whatever I want? Neither can most of the world.

So I present this challenge: Buy an extra bag of groceries, drive down a road you wouldn’t normally and drop it at a house you think might need it. Being grateful for what you do have isn’t always easy in a world that is reminding you of what you don’t have.

So Simple Yet So Super

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

I like to think of myself as a pretty resourceful person. Especially in the kitchen. Tonight was one of those nights when I was hungry and I wanted something really robust but I didn’t want to spend all evening cooking. And, I’m in one of my clean out the refrigerator modes. So, I looked around tonight and came up with a winner: a quick, kick-something Chicken Tortilla Soup. If it weren’t for packing my daughter a lunch tomorrow, I’d have eaten the rest of it myself!

As I looked around, I found that I had a bag of cooked, shredded chicken breast. I had fresh corn, onion, corn tortillas in the fridge. That got the idea cooking. Since I’m a cookbook and recipe junkie, I constantly peruse different versions of dishes. Over time, I think an amalgam of information ends up brewing in my head. I tend to take sombrerothe parts of one that I like, combine it with an idea from another, add something in from that one. So after seeing chicken, corn and tortillas in the kitchen, I just got this craving for a Mexican themed soup.

Even though it was in the 90’s today, don’t let that deter you from soup. Soup is highly UNDER-rated. It’s one of the world’s most perfect foods, really. It can contain proteins, all kinds of veggies, pasta, rice, even fruit. And I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who just finished a bowl of soup and wasn’t feeling all full, toasty and good on the inside. And there are the added benefits of freezing it for later, taking to a sick friend, using it in lunchbox thermoses and being able to have a giant crockpot of it waiting for you at the end of the day.

Our tortilla soup tonight was, in a word, FANDANGOTASTIC. I combined 2 cups of the shredded chicken with:

  • 32 oz chicken broth (one of the big rectangular cartons)
  • 1 cup of fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove minced fresh garlic
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup chunky salsa (I used Herdez)

I brought all of this to a boil, then turned it down and simmered, covered for about 30 minutes. Remember that my chicken was already cooked when I started this. If you have raw chicken, cook it before adding to the other ingredients. At dinner, I offered crispy corn tortilla strips, sour cream, cheddar and sliced green onions to garnish. Some avocado would have been choice, if only I’d had one on hand!

All three of us devoured our soup and managed to save just enough for my daughter to take to day camp tomorrow for lunch. As an added bonus, our house smells divine! I keep walking out onto the patio just so I can come back in and smell my house! And, all of this, start to finish (with some chopping) took 40 minutes. Perfect for a weeknight dinner.

Elizabeth writes Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef). Please read, follow and comment. You can also find her culinary musings on Facebook and occasionally on Twitter.

Mommy Must-Have: Girls’ Night

By: Leah Prescott

Movies

I am so grateful that through my life I have had so many wonderful girlfriends. Now that I am a Mom, I cannot imagine facing this monumental task without the support and advice of other women who have gone before, or who are currently “in the trenches” with me. Since I’m staying home with the kids, I feel sort of like these other Moms are my co-workers. We face the same challenges, we share strategies, and we commiserate with one another.

The “workplace” would be a lonely place without this fellowship! So through the last several years we have made it a priority not just to have playdates and parties as families, but to have girls’ nights, which we anticipate and savor. They are a life-saver! We share laughter, fears, and problem-solve together. How can I make potty training easier? How to approach modesty with our daughters? What can I do to cut down on whining between siblings? And, always; has anyone figured out a way to keep the house clean with all these little people running around? (The answer, for the record is, no.)

This week, we stepped outside the norm and went to the movie theater. I confess I have almost stopped going to the theater. I guess I am getting old, but I just don’t typically enjoy paying through the nose to watch 20 minutes of previews in a room of questionable cleanliness with tons of strangers who may or may not be respectful of other viewers. I don’t mean to sound like a prude, but why do they make movies these days so VIOLENT? Not to mention, my bathroom is not close at hand. Anyway, you get the drift.

I recently made an exception to the rule and gladly forked over my $9.50 to see “Mom’s Night Out” with some of my fellow moms. I wasn’t sure what we were about to see but I was pleasantly surprised. Hilarious, heartwarming, and poignant, this wasn’t a Christian movie, but a movie made by a Christian. Rather than awkwardly building a film around the message, this movie had a strong cast, fantastic writing, and smooth direction.  The uplifting theme was smoothly delivered without sacrificing entertainment value and I felt as if I had been personally thanked by the director at the end of the film for my service as a mom. I was smiling about this movie all week and there are a couple lines that may just become catch phrases among my crew. “Stress paralyzed” is definitely a thing.

I encourage you to make time to have girls’ night with your friends this week. Start a book club, craft night, margarita Monday, or just invite your neighbor over to share a cup of coffee. We all need the camaraderie and support. And if you have a chance to see “Mom’s Night Out,” let me know what you think!

Sneak It In and Tone It Up

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Stuck Behind Your Desk

In a perfect world, we’d all schedule daily fitness activities, and we’d never miss a workout. But this isn’t the perfect world, and there are days that you just can’t make it to the gym or out for that evening walk.

For days like that, here are three great links:

  1. 12 Hip-Opening Yoga Poses (especially good if you spend most of the day behind a desk)
  2. Deskercise! 33 Smart Ways to Exercise
  3. 100 Tips and Tricks to Sneak in a Work Out at Work

For those days that you just can’t get out of the office, how do YOU add activity to your day?

LMC Nurse Notes

LMC is hiring nurses with at least one year of experience in Med/Surg, Critical Care and Labor & Delivery to work night shifts with a $2,500 signing bonus. Learn more:
http://www.lexmed.com/careers/career-paths/nursing.

 Leigh Warf, RN, MN, CWOCN, is a wound care specialist at LMC. We asked her, “What do you like about working as a nurse at LMC?” Her answer is below:
Leigh Warf

LMC Nurse Notes

LMC is hiring nurses with at least one year of experience in Med/Surg, Critical Care and Labor & Delivery to work night shifts with a $2,500 signing bonus. Learn more:
http://www.lexmed.com/careers/career-paths/nursing.

Katie Bedenbaugh, RN, OCN is a nurse for cancer patients at LMC. She has received the hospital’s Award of Excellence and LMC Gold for her great work. In this video, she talks about the experience of taking care of cancer patients and what she enjoys about being a nurse at LMC.