Simplify: Stop It!!

gateI don’t know if you’ve seen that old Bob Newhart clip where he “counsels” a woman to just “Stop it!”, but it makes me laugh every time. (You can always pull it up and watch in on youtube for a good laugh.) I think I find it so funny because there is so much truth in it. Yes, we do need to just STOP making bad choices. It’s that simple. But, as we all know, it certainly isn’t always easy.

One of the things I have had to do in order to simplify my Christmas season (and beyond) was to stop giving gifts out of obligation. There were so many people I was buying for just because I felt like I needed to–teachers, co-workers, neighbors, distant relatives. And, for many of them, I WANTED to buy them something…but I just didn’t have the financial resources to back me up on that.

I’ve learned that giving out of obligation is not the joyful kind of giving God calls us to do. There are often strings attached, and the financial ramifications of over-spending can last well beyond the life of the gift. This is not true generosity.

I love to give gifts, and I recognize that sometimes my gift-giving makes other people uncomfortable when they have nothing with which to reciprocate. I am not expecting anything; I just want to give to them. Why, then, should I feel uncomfortable when someone gives a gift to me when I have nothing for them? I don’t know, but I sometimes am. I think most of us are.

Interestingly, while we are all called to give, I think God can call one person to GIVE in certain situations and another person to NOT GIVE in those same situations. Know what I mean? Sometimes we need to remember our true priorities and make sure that the choices we make today are moving us closer to our long-term goals.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

My kitchen smells really good right now, and I feel compelled to tell you why.

My daughter just made a pumpkin pie spice blend, and the fragrance is lovely.  Although I am not typically an all-day coffee drinker, I’ve spontaneously brewed a few cups just so that I can sprinkle some of this seasoning blend over the grounds before the coffee brews.  I even have cream from some raw milk to make afternoon lattes.  Mmmm.

Here it is if you’d like to try making your own.

1/4 c. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (or 4 tsp. ground nutmeg)
4 tsp. ground ginger
1 T. ground allspice
2 tsp. ground cloves

Mix well and store in airtight container for use in pies, breads, baked apples, muffins and heavenly cups of coffee.

Homemade Seasoned Salt

Here’s my new favorite recipe for seasoned salt.  You can mix as much of it up ahead of time as you want and store it like you would your other spices.   We especially enjoy this on roasted potatoes and grilled burgers.  Mmm!  Enjoy!

2 T. pepper
1 T. chicken bouillon base
1 t. onion salt
1 t. onion powder
1 T. garlic salt
1 t. cumin powder
1 t. dry marjoram leaves
1 T. parsley, minced
1 t. paprika
1 T. chili powder

I don’t usually have onion salt and garlic salt on hand, so I use onion powder and garlic powder, then add about half of a teaspoon of salt to the mix.

Cowboy Cookie Mix in a Jar

This is our favorite cookie jar mix!

1 1/3 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. chopped nuts of your choice (or peanut butter or butterscotch chips)
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

Layer ingredients in a quart jar in the order given.  Press each layer in gently but firmly before adding next layer. Include a card with the following instructions:

Cowboy Cookie Mix in a Jar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together 1/2 c. softened butter, 1 egg and 1 t. vanilla.  Stir entire contents of jar into bowl.  Dough will be very stiff; you may need to use your hands!

Shape into walnut-sized balls and place 2″ apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 11-13 minutes.

S’Mores in a Jar

This is a fun gift to give.  It’s like summer camp-outs in a jar.

1 1/2 sleeve graham crackers, crushed
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. mini marshmallows

Layer ingredients in the order listed in a quart jar.  I usually add enough marshmallows to fill the remainder of the jar.

Attach the following instructions:

Pour mix into well-greased 9×9″ baking pan (or deep-dish pie plate); set aside.

Whisk 1/2 c. melted butter and 2 t. vanilla together and pour over mix.  Stir well; pat lightly into pan.

Bake for 15 minutes, then cool before cutting into squares.

Chunky Chocolate Cookie Mix in a Jar

This recipe calls for chocolate “chunks”.  I usually just use chips; however, if we have a chocolate Santa or gargantuan chocolate kiss on-hand, I will often hack that thing up and throw it into recipes like this.  The kids would much rather have a gooey treat like this than a hunk of solid chocolate to gnaw.  😉

1 3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Mix above ingredients well.

3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. baking cocoa
1/2 c. chopped nuts or peanut butter chips or butterscotch chips
1 c. chocolate chips

Layer brown sugar, white sugar and then cocoa in quart jar, pressing down lightly to pack.  Add nuts and then chocolate.  Top with flour mixture.

Include a tag with the following instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Dump mix into bowl.
  3. Add 3/4 c. softened butter, 1 egg, 1 t. vanilla.
  4. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet and bake at 350 for 11-13 minutes.

All-Purpose Meat Rub

This all-purpose rub is a HUGE money-saver!  It’s good for chicken, pork or beef, and it can be tweaked for your personal tastes.  This recipe uses KOSHER salt.  If you’re using table salt, reduce the amount to two teaspoons.  Once you know your family likes it, feel free to multiply the recipe by ten in order to have some on-hand for grilling season (spare ribs, beef roast, whole chickens, pork loin, etc.).  This would also make a great Father’s Day gift with a nice cut of local meat.  Mmmmm!

1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1 T. paprika
1 T. kosher salt
1/4 c. firmly-packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (if you like a little kick)