Monday, December 17, 2012

Post-Bulletin Article

Thanks so much to Jeff Pieters for the great interview and the opportunity to share my work! I really apprecaite it :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Few More Christmas Things

All right, now that there is snow (not much, but some white aroud here), the mood is starting to set in. So here are a few of my favorite things to make, do, or listen to:

1) Make an igloo:

2) Listen to A Christmas Carol (Lionel Barrymore and Orson Welles): FREE here:

3) Cookies, bars, and fattening treats, oh my!

These are all from a little book I put together for the fam:

The CAKE ~ Triple-Chocolate Cake with Chocolate-Peppermint Filling

This is referred to simply as “THE CAKE!” by my family. It is overly rich, delicious, fattening, and phenomenal. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but it’s worth it.


8 oz Lindt chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup whipping cream
1 T light corn syrup
½ tsp peppermint extract


1 cup sifted all purpose flour
cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½  teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Chopped up candy canes for garnish


8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¾ teaspoon peppermint extract

For filling:

Place chocolate in medium bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan. Pour hot mixture over chocolate; add extract and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Let filling stand at room temperature while cake is baking and cooling.

For cake:

Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust pan with flour. Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in both sugars, then vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions each. Mix in chocolate chips.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 5 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack. Peel off parchment. Cool completely.

Using electric mixer, beat filling until fluffy and lightened in color, about 30 seconds. Using serrated knife, cut cake horizontally in half. Place 1 layer, cut side up, on rack set over baking sheet. Spread filling over. Top with second layer, cut side down. Chill filled cake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze:

Stir chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Mix in extract. Cool glaze until just lukewarm but still pour able, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Pour 1/2 cup glaze over center of cake. Spread over top and sides of cake. Chill until glaze sets, about 15 minutes. Pour remaining glaze over center of cake, then spread quickly over top and sides. Chill until glaze sets, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill. Before continuing, let stand at room temperature until softened, about 4 hours.)

Sprinkle candies around top edge of cake. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.


“Pepper nuts” or “spiced nut”. These little cookies are a favorite during the holidays. Not too sweet, not too spicy, and rolled in copious amounts of powdered sugar, they go well with strong black coffee.

Sift together:

2 cups plus 2 T sifted all-purpose flour
¾ tsp double-acting baking powder
⅛ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper


¼ tsp nutmeg (use ½ tsp if using freshly grated nutmeg)
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp anise seeds
1 tsp cardamom

Cream together:

½ cup butter
⅓ cup sugar

Add and bet well until light:

1 egg


¼ cup finely chopped almonds
1 T finely chopped citron
¼ cup finely chopped candied orange peel

Add the flour mixture to the above ingredients in thirds, alternately with:

⅓ cup molasses
1 T corn syrup
¼ tsp brandy extract
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 T lemon juice

Beat well, then set aside overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Shape into 1-inch balls and bake on a greased cookie sheet 10 to 15 minutes. Roll while warm in a vat of powdered sugar.

Non’s Sugar Cookies

Nellie (“Non”) Finnane was my great-aunt and I didn’t know her long as she died when I was a child. But we still have her recipe for sugar cookies. She would not use a butter cream frosting, but instead sprinkle sugar over the still-warm cookies out of the oven. I’ve added the frosting recipe because it’s pretty damn good, too.

Oven to 375°

3 cups flour
1 cup butter
1 tsp salt
⅛ tsp cream of tartar

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla

1 tsp nutmeg (double if using freshly grated)
4 T. milk
½ tsp baking soda

Cream together butter, flour, salt, and tartar. The mixture should like the beginnings of a pie crust. Add nutmeg, milk, and baking soda and mix well. Then add eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  This mixture keeps one week to one month.

Bake on greased cookie sheets 10 to 15 minutes.

Optional: Butter Frosting

Cream together 2 cups powdered sugar, ⅓ cup butter, 2 T milk, and ½ tsp vanilla. Add more milk if mixture is too thick.

Peanut Blossoms

A holiday favorite!

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
4 T. milk
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups plus ⅔ cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 bag chocolate kisses

Mix peanut butter and butter and add in the sugars. Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla into mixture. Add dry ingredients. Form spoonfuls of dough into a ball and roll in sugar. Bake 8 minutes at 375° and press chocolate candy into each one. Cook another 2 to 5 minutes.

Nut Bars

Now this is a holiday bar! It beats any other bar, hands down. Something special happens with the butterscotch and corn syrup that transforms them into one of my favorite naughty treats. Of course, they are loaded with nuts and butter, but these marvelous nuggets are a special occasion dessert, anyway.

1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ plus 2 T. cold butter
1 can (11 ½ oz) mixed nuts
1 cup butterscotch chips
½ cup light corn syrup

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cut in ½ cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with nuts. Melt chips in a small saucepan and add remaining butter. Mix well. Pour over nuts. Bake another 10 minutes. Cool and cut.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Truce - The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting

All right, enough about my tiny little corner of the world.

I was browsing through Amazon and came across this gem of a book:

It is the story of a little Christmas miracle during WWI. I have heard similar stories in WWII, and am always touched when the two sides can put down their arms and recollect on the true meaning of Christmas. Even when Americans sing Silent Night (originally a German carol), it reminds us that we're all in this together, regardless of which nation has decided to fight which nation.

This book is highly recommended.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holy Spirit Church - Thank You!

I would like to extend a huge thank you to Holy Spirit church here in Rochester, MN. The book signing was a huge success, especially in terms of networking and discussion. A lot of people got to see the book, hear the story, and whether they bought the book or not, I think I was able to get the message out.

It was a fun, busy day, ending with setting up risers for the kids' Christmas concert. At least it was snowing, which helped us all get into the Christmas spirit.

The three kings gave up everything to follow a star, to follow Christ. What would we be willing to give up if we were called? Our cell phones? Tablets?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Prologue and Epilogue

The final version of Following Yonder Star does not include a prologue or epilogue. While these little snippets were interesting, they did not necessarily move the story forward.

I am posting them here. The epilogue is pretty much unedited, since we agreed to chop them before the editor worked through it.

As mentioned in the text, there was a Hill of Vaws. In ancient times the keepers of this Hill (also called Hill of Victory). Here, the sentinels of Ind watched day and night against the Children of Israel, and eventually against the Romans. It was a strategic point, atop which they would make a big fire to warn the land.

Balaam had prophesied a Star that would herald the coming of the Christ, and so for many years people kept watch on the Hill of Vaws, watching for the star. Well, on one night, the Star burst into life, and the rest is history.

The prologue and epilogue are my take on what could have happened at the hill.

** NOTE: The following contains spoilers for the book Following Yonder Star **

Click here to view the Prolgoue and Epilogue

Monday, December 3, 2012

Great Weekend, Happy Monday

Thank you, thank you, thank you to a million folks for a great weekend.

Christian Book & Gift in Rochester, MN, for hosting a great signing for myself and other great Christian authors.

Please support these great Christian authors:

Curtis Martin (author of Proverbs for Practical Living and Effective Spiritual Growth). I would highly reccomend the Provers for Practical Living, because it takes out 300 words from Proverbs and adds relevant and meaningful advice for how to live our lives in the crazy, mixed-up world.

John Schreiber (bestelling Christian author)

From these two guys, I learned a lot about how to do a good signing. Plus, met a lot of great folks I would not have otherwise.

I didn't get to talk much to the following, but we did chat a little.

Dennis Aaberg

Bobbie & Mandy Horning

AM 850 WPTF - Raleigh/Durham

Thanks Doug for the opportunity to chat up Following Yonder Star. It was my first interview, and I hope I didn't sound like I was atop a washing machine on spin. I made sure to carry the message of faith, perseverance, and sacrifice.

I have a few more interviews this week, and am very pumped to tell the tale!