A Prayer for Year’s End

O Love beyond compare,

Thou art good when thou givest, when thou takest away, when the sun shines upon me, when night gathers over me.

Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world, and in love didst redeem my soul; Thou dost love me still, in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.

Thy goodness has been with me during another year, leading me through a twisting wilderness, in retreat helping me to advance, when beaten back making sure headway.

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead; I hoist sail and draw up anchor, with Thee as the blessed Pilot of my future as of my past.

I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.

If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation, thou wilt be with me in them;

If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation, I shall not drown;

If I am to die, I shall see thy face the sooner;

If a painful end is to be my lot, grant me grace that my faith fail not;

If I am to be cast aside from the service I love, I can make no stipulation;

Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial, as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.

(From The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Emphasis mine.)

Christmas Cookies (Part Two)

IMG_2890My freshman year of college was a really great year. I loved my school and my friends, and I had the world’s best roommate. When Christmas season rolled around, my roommate and I decided to do some holiday baking. We bought magazines and collected recipes, and one Saturday we took over my parents’ kitchen. Our recipe selections were very ambitious for our cooking skills, and several of them were total disasters. Sweet “carnival” cornbread that baked over the sides of the pan and made a gigantic mess in the bottom of the oven? Check. Braided egg bread with a cream cheese filling that didn’t rise and was hard as a rock? Check. Mint layered bars with real (gross) mint jelly that no one wanted to eat? Check. Despite our failures, we had a great time and somehow ended up with enough edible treats to share with our friends in the dorm. And one of the new recipes we tried was an absolute winner. I’ve made this recipe every Christmas since, and often at other times of year, too. It’s always a hit, because seriously, what decent Southerner doesn’t love red velvet? And who can pass up the flavor of red velvet cake in the convenience of a cookie?

IMG_2889The best thing about this recipe is that it’s so easy – it uses a cake mix!

Red Velvet Cookies

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil

Mix ingredients together until smooth. (A stand mixer with a paddle attachment works much better than a hand mixer with beaters. Trust me.)

IMG_2892Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. (Don’t skip the parchment paper – it’s really worth the effort! And from my experience, cookie sheets with air pockets inside just don’t get the job done with these cookies.)

IMG_2893This next step is very important! I forgot and skipped it once and the results were disastrous. (I take ruined cookies very seriously.) Using the bottom of a glass (or the palm of your hand) flatten the dough slightly.

IMG_2894 Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes until the tops crackle. These cookies are easy to burn, so watch them closely.

IMG_2896Doesn’t that look yummy? But wait – it gets even better! While the cookies are cooling, mix up the cream cheese frosting. That’s right. We’re going to ice them.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 stick butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar

Combine cream cheese, butter, milk, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat on low speed until mixture is creamy. Gradually add confectioners sugar, beating until smooth.

Once the cookies are cool, frost away!

IMG_2898They don’t look perfect, but they taste wonderful. Christmas cookies don’t get much easier than this!

 

 

 

 

Christmas Cookies (Part One)

 Today, I felt like making cookies. Not just any cookies – oatmeal toffee cookies. I made these several times a few years ago, and they were amazing. I don’t know why I waited so long to make them again, but today I wanted them. The only problem was that I had lost the recipe! I thought it was in a family cookbook that my mom had compiled and given me, but nope, not there. I looked for it in the stack of recipes I’ve printed from various websites over the years – not there either. I couldn’t find it in any of my cookbooks. Where, oh where, did I get that recipe? And if I loved it so much, why didn’t I save it? What’s a girl to do?

Well, google it of course! After reading through several online recipes, I came up with what I thought was a close match to my beloved oatmeal toffee cookie recipe. I baked up a batch, and yes, they were as good as (or maybe better than) I remember!

IMG_2882Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (softened, unsalted) butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (one 8 oz. package) toffee bits (I use Heath Bits ‘O Brickle, not the chocolate coated Heath bits)

IMG_2881

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cream together butter and brown sugar, then stir in the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then stir in the oats and toffee bits. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cookies have crisp, golden-brown edges.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies. Today, I just baked a dozen and wrapped the remaining dough in plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer. I’ll have cookie dough ready to bake when my Sunday School class begs for a treat or when I need a dessert to take to a Christmas party. Besides, if I baked all of the cookies today, all three of us would eat more than we should!

IMG_2884These cookies are so good! JD informed me after I started baking that today is National Cookie Day. Maybe my subconscious knew that and triggered my craving? Either way, I’m always happy to celebrate made-up holidays and eat cookies!

IMG_2887Oatmeal Toffee cookies are Piper approved!