Lemon Loaf

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon(s) BAKING POWDER
1/2 teaspoon salt  

3 eggs 
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup oil (recommend coconut oil)

1 cup + 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Use a mixer to blend together the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon juice in a medium bowl.

Pour wet ingredient into the dry ingredients and blend until smooth. Add oil and mix well.

Pour batter into a well greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into center of the cake comes out clean.

Make the lemon icing by combining all the icing ingredients in a small bowl with an electric mixer on low speed.

When the loaf is cool, remove it from pan and frost the top with the icing. Let the icing set up before slicing.


Life After Birth

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

- Útmutató a Léleknek


Cheesecake Crescent Rolls

2 cans of Pillsbury Crescent rolls
2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup Sugar

Unroll and spread 1 of the cans of crescent rolls on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish (or 8 x 8 if you want to cut the recipe in half). Combine softened cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and vanilla. Spread over crescent roll layer. Unroll and layer remaining crescent rolls over cream cheese layer. Melt your butter and spread over top of crescent rolls. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 20-30 minutes in 350F oven until bubbly and slightly browned. Drizzle with a little honey if you like. Let cool a bit, slice and eat.


Real Love


Burned Toast

When I was about eight or nine, my mom liked to cook food and every now and then I remember she used to cook for us.

One night that stood out in my mind is when she had made dinner for us after a very long and rough day at work, She placed a plate of jam and extremely burned toast in front of my dad. Not slightly burned but completely blackened toast.

I was just waiting to see if anyone noticed the burned toast and say anything. But Dad just ate his toast and asked me if I did my homework and how my day was. I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember hearing my mom apologizing to dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said:

“Sweetie, I love burned toast.”

Later that night, I went to tell my dad good night and ask him if he really liked his toast burned. He put his arm on my shoulder and said,

“Your momma put in a very long day at work today and she was very tired. And besides, burned toast never hurt anyone but you know what does? Harsh words!”
Then he continued to say, “You know, life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people I’m not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like every other human. What I’ve learned over the years, is that learning to accept each others faults and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences, is one of the most important keys for creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship. Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right and have compassion for the ones who don’t.”


Mexican Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour-Over Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 Tablespoons milk
1 box (or more) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and sugar and set aside. in a saucepan, heat the butter, oil, cocoa, and water until the butter is melted. Stir it up and pour it over the flour and sugar mixture. Then add everything else (beat the eggs a bit before adding them). Beat the batter until everything is well blended. Bake in a 12x18x2" pan that has been greased and floured for 25 to 30 minutes.

In a saucepan, combine the the butter, cocoa, and milk and heat it to boiling and make sure the butter is melted. Remove it from the heat and beat in the powdered sugar. The recipe calls for one box of powdered sugar, but I always use more. Add the vanilla and beat one more time, and them pour it over the warm cake.


Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350º F. Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 

Combine bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter in a large bowl. Fold in flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Scoop into muffin pans. 

Bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes, and large muffins for 25 to 30 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped.

Makes  6 jumbo muffins, 12 regular muffins,  or 48 mini muffins


Shepherd's Field

I remember the very first time I saw the magnificent painting The Shepherds and the Angel by Carl Heinrich Bloch. It really stirred my emotions---the beautiful deep black starry night, the glorious angel emanating radiant holy light, the startled but humble shepherds, the pen of ewes corralled for protection next to the shepherds. It was stunning! 

I have spent hours over the years pondering this amazing painting, and have concluded that the Spirit of the Lord made known to Carl Heinrich Bloch some important truths surrounding that holy night.

If you look closely at this beautiful scene, you will see that he depicts the angel’s visit to the shepherds on a spring night … not the dead of winter, which was commonly believed in Master Bloch’s time. 

And it is my opinion that it was also revealed to the artist (though there is no evidence to substantiate my claim other than the powerful spirit of this painting) that the angel’s glorious Annunciation … “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” was not delivered to ordinary shepherds, nor were they ordinary lambs that were being birthed that holy night (Luke 2:11). 

Only the Holy
Anciently, Jewish law proclaimed that only flocks designated for temple sacrifice could be raised near cities; Bethlehem being in close proximity to Jerusalem––the seat of Roman power and the Temple. Thus it was known to all that the firstborn male lambs from the area around Bethlehem,* commonly known as the City of David, were considered holy, and set aside for sacrifice in Jerusalem. (Even to this day in some parts of the Middle East this practice still exists.) 

Generations of hereditary shepherds tended these sacred flocks, designated by Temple Priests from their youth and specifically trained for this royal task. It was an honor and a sacred duty. They were protectors and guardsmen of these special flocks and were willing to risk their lives for their sheep.

They were taught and spiritually educated in what a sacrificial lamb must be like, and to make sure that these lambs were never injured, damaged or blemished. Such a shepherd was King David in his youth… on the very same hills. 

In the spring, during lambing season, the bawling of sheep rang across the hillsides and fields of Bethlehem. The newborn lambs were brought to the Tower of the Flock––a large stone tower in Shepherd’s Field anciently referred to as Migdal Eder––where a ceremonially cleansing of the new lambs took place in a specified birthing room.

These shepherds, under special rabbinical care, would routinely place the newborn lambs in a hewn out depression in a limestone rock known as “the manger” and wrap them in swaddling bands (strips of gauze-like cloth) to prevent them from thrashing about and harming themselves. Once they had calmed down they could be inspected to see if they qualified for temple sacrifice … “without spot or blemish” (see The Jewish Oral Tradition & Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah). 

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered, And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7).

A Type and Shadow or the Last Resort?
There are scholars of ancient scripture who believe that Joseph and Mary were directed by heavenly angels to the Tower of the Flock––Midgal Eder–– for the birth of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice!   

And that the newborn Jesus was ceremonially cleansed and swaddled with the same bands used on the tamyid lambs brought there for inspection before sacrifice, and laid in the hewn out limestone called “the manger.” Thus when the angel pronounced to the shepherds “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” there was no need for the angel to give these shepherds directions to the birth place because they already knew! (Luke 2:12) 

Whether Joseph and Mary ended up at Midgal Eder, having been led there by Holy angels in symbolic testament of things to come, or whether they ended up in an animal stable as a means of desperation or last resort, we will not know until those details of Christ’s birth are revealed.    

But I do find myself filled with tremendous emotion and overwhelming gratitude for my Savior, as I ponder His birth and the profound symbolism behind it all.

* Beth Lechem in Hebrew means “House of Bread” and held no real significance until “He who would be known as the Bread of Life was born” (Ensign, December 2013, Come Let Us Adore Him).

Wordless Wednesday

The Christmas Story

Christmas Around The World - Romania

When most of us think of Christmastime, visions of hams, turkeys, rolls, cakes, pies, and other goodies dance in our heads. And while many Christmas traditions take place outside the dining room, the festivities almost always revolve around food. We've found this to be the case no matter where you live, so take a moment to share in holiday traditions and favorite recipes from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world.


Craciun fericit! Romania has many different cultural influences, so traditions vary across the country. The most widespread tradition, however, involves caroling. These songs include traditional texts, dances, and images. While carolers sing, children carry stars that they have cut out of cardboard and decorated with Bible scenes. Friends and family often bring instruments as they carol together, and the people at the houses usually give food to the carolers, or sometimes if they're lucky, money. The carolers move from house to house all night until the sun comes up on Christmas morning.

Mos Craciun, or Old Man Christmas, brings gifts, but gifts are given and opened on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. Out in the villages, gifts usually are simple, like fruit, nuts, and pastries. Although Christmas is celebrated on December 25 in Romania, sometimes Christmas is compounded with New Years Eve, as it is in the neighboring country, Moldova.

Food is a large part of the holiday, and the women in the family often end up cooking for three days prior to Christmas. Teo Aemilius says about cozonac, a traditional cheese bread, "Cozonac is Romanian Christmas bread. The smell of this delicious bread baking means it is Christmastime in Romania - time for merriment and lots of good food. It means it's time for singing Romanian Christmas songs, for laughing, and for eating cozonac with apples or sweetened cottage cheese, yeast doughnuts with lemon curd filling, and other lovely Old World-style foods, such as fresh sarmale (cabbage rolls), mititea (sausage), and pickled cucumbers. It means Mosu Craciun is about to arrive. It means that soon there will be toys for the youngest children and stockings filled with fruit, nuts, cookies, and maybe some new mittens and socks. Ah, the sweet smell of Cozonac baking!"

  • 1 cup milk, heated
  • 1 fresh yeast cake (or 1 yeast packet)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 3-4 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
Cheese Filling:
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla or lemon flavoring
Bread: Heat oven to 350° F. Heat the milk to lukewarm. In a separate bowl, crumble yeast. Add 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 tablespoons milk; set aside. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. To the lukewarm milk, add 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, melted butter, lightly beaten eggs, and optional food coloring. Add yeast mixture. Beat all with rotary beater until thoroughly blended. Pour mixture over flour and work in, with a wooden spoon, until all flour has mixed well with milk mixture. Knead with hands for about 5 minutes or until dough will not stick to your hands. Cover with clean tea towel and place in warm spot. Allow dough to rise until double in size.

Punch down and knead again for 2 minutes. Let rise again. Place dough on an oiled work surface and roll out until it is a sheet about a finger's width thick. Spread Cheese Filling uniformly over the top, then roll dough up like a jelly roll. Grease a bread pan, place the roll inside, and allow it to rise to the top of the pan. Brush with a beaten egg and then bake at 350 until done. After 45 minutes, check for doneness. Makes 1 loaf. 

Cheese Filling: Using a fork, mash and blend the cream cheese. Add cornstarch and egg yolks and mix well. Add sour cream, 1–2 tablespoons at a time. Work quickly and mix thoroughly. Add sugar and flavoring. Spread over the dough

Tea Aemilius
Ploiesti Branch
Bucharest Stake
Ploiesti, Romania

Recipes and experiences excerpted from Worldwide Christmas Cookbook by Deanna Buxton. Copyright 2009, Covenant.


Christmas Around the World - Brazil

When most of us think of Christmastime, visions of hams, turkeys, rolls, cakes, pies, and other goodies dance in our heads. And while many Christmas traditions take place outside the dining room, the festivities almost always revolve around food. We've found this to be the case no matter where you live, so take a moment to share in holiday traditions and favorite recipes from Church members around the world.


Feliz Natal! Down in Brazil, the Christmas season is in the summer. Papai Noel, or Father Christmas, comes from Greenland and wears silk clothes because it's so hot outside. On Christmas Eve, children leave out their shoes, and Papai Noel comes during the night and fills them with small gifts, and leaves other gifts hidden around the house.

Because Brazil used to be Portuguese colony and has a strong influence from other European immigrants (like German), they take many European Christmas traditions, like the Christmas dinner. Although it is unusual for a summer day, they eat a large dinner with turkey, ham, rice, beans, and fresh fruit. Many families have a midnight dinner.

Many Brazilians celebrate the Christmas season until Three Kings Day on January 6. This day celebrates when the Magi brought gifts to Baby Jesus.

Feijoada (Brazilian Meat and Bean Stew)
  • 1 pound black beans
  • 1 pound pork shoulder
  • 1 pound smoked sausage
  • 1 pound carne seca or beef jerky
  • 3-4 strips smoked bacon
  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 small or 1 large onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • Hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the beans and soak them overnight. Next day, put them in a pot of new water and boil until they are tender; this will take at least an hour. As the beans are cooking, put pork shoulder, sausage, carne seca (available at Latin markets), bacon, and pork chops in a pot of water and boil for 1 1/2 hours. Cut the onions and garlic in small pieces and cook them in oil until they are a bit golden. Add them to the meat. Add the cooked beans to the meat, then add the bay leaves, hot pepper sauce, and salt and pepper. Cook for another hour until all the flavors are mixed together. Remove the bay leaves and separate the meat. Cut the meats in slices and put the beans on the middle of a platter with the meats around the sides. This is best prepared while listening to good Brazilian music and best eaten with friends and family. Makes 12 servings. 

Feijoada is the traditional dish of Brazil. Everyone has a different favorite version; the exact ingredients are not as important as how you eat it. You should be celebrating something - anything - when you eat it with your family and friends. This is especially good for celebrating Christmas with all the people you love.

In Brazil we celebrate often - it doesn't matter what - and so we eat often. Part of the celebrating is the wonderful Brazilian sounds of music and conversation and happiness. It is all part of this delicious celebration. You can change the ingredients according to what's available and what you like best. Whatever you choose, remember that Feijoada is about more than just eating. It is about celebrating!

Leontina Van der Ham de Silva
Alameida Ward
Partenon Stake
Porto Alegre

Recipes and experiences excerpted from Worldwide Christmas Cookbook by Deanna Buxton. Copyright 2009, Covenant.



Christmas Around The World - Japan

When most of us think of Christmastime, visions of hams, turkeys, rolls, cakes, pies, and other goodies dance in our heads. And while many Christmas traditions take place outside the dining room, the festivities almost always revolve around food. We've found this to be the case no matter where you live, so take a moment to share in holiday traditions and favorite recipes from Church members around the world.


Merii Kurisumasu! Even though it's not a national holiday, Christmas is still a big hit in Japan. They decorate with Christmas trees and give each other gifts. The Japanese Christmas Cake, much like strawberry shortcake, is one of the most prominent traditions. Since only 2 percent of Japanese people are Christian, the focus of the holiday is helping others. Many families spend the day in service.

In Japan, there is a kind old man called Hoteiosho, who is like Santa Claus. He carries a huge pack and is said to have eyes in the back of his head, so the children behave if they ever think that he is around.

For Japanese Latter-day Saints, the holiday is a special time when they can draw together and celebrate Christ. "Every Japanese ward has a spiritual celebration in the chapel," says Yoko Ikegami of Himeji City. "We then eat together, and everyone brings a food to share. Sometime on Christmas Eve, we go caroling in front of the train station where there are many people coming and going. Some people stop to listen and enjoy the singing."

Japanese Christmas Cake
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk, warmed
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • various fruits (such as strawberries, peaches, cherries, oranges)
Whisk eggs in a bowl. Place the bowl over warm water in another large bowl and continue whisking. Add 2/3 cup sugar a little at a time. When the egg mixture becomes light yellow, sift flour and add to the bowl. Mix the flour lightly into the egg mixture. Mix butter in warm milk; add to batter and stir gently. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line an 8-inch cake pan with waxed paper. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool it on a rack. Cut the cake in half horizontally. Mix heavy cream and 4 tablespoons sugar in a bowl. Whip the cream well. Take half of the whipped cream and mix with chopped fruits. Place part of the cream on top of a round cake slice. Place another cake slice on top of the cream. Spread the rest of the whipped cream on top of and around the cake. Decorate the cake with colorful fruits and Christmas decorations. Makes 6 servings.

Yoko Ikegami
Himeji Ward
Kobe Stake
Himeji City, Hyogo-pref, Japan

Recipes and experiences excerpted from Worldwide Christmas Cookbook by Deanna Buxton. Copyright 2009, Covenant.


Music Monday


Christmas Around the World - Great Britain

When most of us think of Christmastime, visions of hams, turkeys, rolls, cakes, pies, and other goodies dance in our heads. And while many Christmas traditions take place outside the dining room, the festivities almost always revolve around food. We've found this to be the case no matter where you live, so take a moment to share in holiday traditions and favorite recipes from Church members around the world.

Great Britain

Happy Christmas! Many Christmas traditions in America (like hanging mistletoe) come from Great Britain, but the country still has unique differences.

Like children in the U.S., British children often write letters containing what they would like for Christmas. Some put the letters in the post, but traditionally they throw the letters into the fireplace to be carried up by the draft. Father Christmas receives these letters and leaves gifts in the stockings hung by the fireplace. The gifts aren't usually opened up until mid-day on Christmas because of church.

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day; historically, the name comes from collecting money for the less fortunate in clay boxes, and then when they were full the collectors would break them open. Boxing Day today is known primarily as a shopping and sport day, though it still includes giving to those in need.

Christmas traditions in Great Britain continue until January 5, which is Twelfth Night. These twelve days between Christmas and January is where the "Twelve Days of Christmas" comes from.

"For Christmas lunch in England," says Anna Buttimore of Thundersley, England, "we always have roast turkey with all the trimmings - cranberry sauce, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, chipolatas, and this Bread Sauce. Traditional Christmas desserts, such as Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, contain lots of dried fruit, which I don't like, and often contain copious quantities of alcohol. So I look forward to eating my chocolate Yule log instead as the children play with whatever Father Christmas left in their stockings and Hubby Dearest eats mince pies and watches the Queen's speech."

English Mincemeat Pies
  • 1 1/4 pounds round steak, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 4 tart apples (Granny Smith), peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups dried currants
  • 2 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1/2 pound candied mixed fruit peel, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 16-ounce jar sour cherry preserves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) can pitted sour cherries, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double-crust pie
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
In a heavy pot, combine steak and apple cider. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until meat is tender. Stir in chopped apples, sugar, currants, raisins, fruit peel, butter, and cherry preserves. Add ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Let simmer, uncovered, over low heat until mixture is very thick, about 90 minutes. Stir in cherries and remove from heat. Refrigerate, tightly covered, for at least a week before using. Preheat oven to 350° F. Put filling in unbaked pie shell (or make 3-inch tarts the way we do) and place pastry on top. Crimp edges and poke several holes in top pastry. Brush top with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 1 whole pie or 6 to 8 3-inch tarts.

Growing up, mincemeat pies were part of our family Christmas tradition. Normally, they would be brought out as a sweet course at the end of our main meal; we would eye them lovingly, questioning whether there was room to eat anything else.

Roderic Buttimore
Southend Ward
Romford England Stake
Thundersley, Benfleet Essex, England

Recipes and experiences excerpted from Worldwide Christmas Cookbook by Deanna Buxton. Copyright 2009, Covenant.


Music Monday



Christmas Countdown