Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A warm winter row

To be quite honest, I really don't mind taking down the Christmas decorations in early January. To clarify, the work of taking them down and getting them put away isn't that appealing; however, getting the house cleaned back up and back to normal is somewhat refreshing. As eager as I am to start decorating the day after Thanksgiving, I am ready to begin the cleaning up process on New Year's Day.
Once the Christmas decorations are down, I do have a need for something to fill the empty feeling in the house. As I shared two years ago, I reserve my snowman decorations for January and February. Here is a picture of the snowman quilt that I featured in my January 2015 post.
This year, I have added a winter-themed quilt row. This one was designed by My Girlfriend's Quilt Shoppe in Logan, Utah, for the 2014 Row-By-Row event. It just took me a while to get it finished and then to decide whether to incorporate in a larger quilt or have it as a seasonal wall quilt. As you can see, I opted for the latter.
This row featured some fun textures and techniques. I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but the snowman is made from a scrap of batting for a more snow-like appearance. The mini quilts measure about 3 inches finished. I used my machine's walking foot do do the quilting on them. For more about using a walking foot, refer to my December 2015 post. These two mini quilts were made using two 4.5 inch squares of fabric. The instructions for making these little jiffy quilts can be found here.
I'm not sure about the weather where you are, but we've had more than our share of snow this season. The Salt Lake City airport has had just over 23 inches of snow for the month of January. Our little hollow has definitely had more than that. Here are a few glimpses of the snow accumulation around our neighborhood.
Here you can see some of the banks resulting from the aftermath of the snowplow.
I like this perspective from standing in the driveway and looking down the sidewalk. These are the banks of snow from the aftermath of the snowblower.
 A glimpse of my backyard. Here you are seeing the snow reaching the top of the fire pit with an additional foot or so of snow on the top of the fire pit.
 Another glimpse from the backyard looking toward the snowy mountains.
One of my resolutions for 2017 is to work on Scripture memorization. I'm so very grateful for my childhood Sunday School days and my weekly memory verses that have stuck with me through the years. At the present, I'm working on Paul's description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6. As this passage reminds us, our battle is not against flesh and blood. As a result, spiritual foes require spiritual tactics. We are also reminded that we need the full armor, not just selected pieces. My current memorization strategy is to add a new verse on the 1st and 15th of each month. Here are the verses for the month of January:
Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 
Ephesians 6:10-11.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Spinach artichoke dip … a warm treat for football playoff season or really any time of the year, especially during the winter

Over the past few years, in particular, I've been observing that right on the heels of the New Year's diet resolutions come the pitches and promotions for football playoff and Super Bowl treats. Personally, I tend to be one who goes for "moderation in all things." I've never been one to adopt a "paleo" diet or to eliminate sugar or grains from my diet. Just the same, I'm also not one to advocate for munching down on deep dish pizzas or bowls of guacamole. 
With my University of Utah Utes not in this year's playoff picture, I really don't have a favorite team, although I am more partial to Clemson for this year. My favorite post-season college football game is still the 2009 Sugar Bowl.

For those of you who are looking for a warm treat for tomorrow's College Football Championship game or just a treat that is always welcome, especially during the cooler months of the year, here is my spinach artichoke dip recipe. I've had a friend from the South describe it as, "Slap ya Mama good," and I hope you will enjoy it as well.

A quick word about artichokes - they are actually part of the thistle family and are native to the Mediterranean region of the world. They were actually part of the diets of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The artichoke was introduced into England in the 1530s and ultimately made its way to the United States during the 1800s, courtesy of French and Spanish immigrants.
By Jamain - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20737898
Spinach Artichoke Dip

16 ounce bag of frozen spinach, cooked and drained
One can (13.75 ounce) artichoke hearts 
24 ounces of cream cheese (use the real stuff, no reduced fat substitutes or the dip won't set up)
6 ounce bag shredded parmesan cheese

For this recipe, I use a 2-quart Pyrex casserole dish. 
1. Cook and drain the spinach.I empty the bag of spinach into the casserole dish and heat it in the microwave until cooked. I don't add water - there is enough liquid within the spinach as part of the freezing process. I typically use a slotted spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as I can.
2. Drain the artichoke hearts and stir them into the spinach. If you purchased a can of whole hearts, you will need to quarter them. Also, be careful not to use marinated artichoke hearts. 
3. Add the cream cheese and parmesan cheese. I usually buy a 16 ounce tub and an 8 ounce brick of cream cheese. The main thing is to use the original cream cheese and not a whipped or reduced fat product.

 4. Stir everything together. Your mixture won't be entirely smooth at this point in the process, but don't worry. Just do your best to stir everything together for now.
5. Bake at 350ºF for 30-40 minutes. Stir the mixture at about 15 minutes into the heating process to make sure all of the ingredients are mixing together well.
6.  Serve with sliced baguette bread, crackers, pita chips, vegetables or any combination of these that you like.