Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies - Recipe and Product Review

http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/images/gold_label_virgin_coconut_oil_32oz.jpg
Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil

When I was asked to sample and review Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, I knew a special recipe had to be created.  Something everyone would enjoy, something for the holiday season, something new and something easy.

These cookies hold their shape, slightly crunchy on the outside with a moist and crumbly interior that melts in your mouth.  Mini muffins were tried and they held up to the test of the cookies as well as the baking time.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Substance of Living
 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Substance of Living

Ingredients:


2 cups All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil (room temperature or slightly melted)
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 cup Pumpkin Puree (not pie mix)
1 cup Chocolate Chips 

Directions:


Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.  Combine wet and dry ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Substance of Living

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 F for 12 to 15 minutes.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Substance of Living

Notes:


  • These cookies and muffins disappear so quickly that I'm not sure which is faster - making or eating them!
  • These are wonderful straight from the freezer.
  • I used a teaspoon to measure the size for the cookies and a small muffin pan for the muffins.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Substance of Living
You know how you have certain recipes that are so good you want to share them but don't because they are just that good?  You have the best intentions of sharing but somehow there's never any left over to share - that's how these cookies and muffins are.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Substance of Living
To find out more about Tropical Traditions and coconut oil, please visit the following web pages:




Tropical Traditions has a trusted website that makes shopping for their products easy.  The gold label coconut oil was delicious in baked goods making them crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.  It was also delicious in our homemade vegan butter, which uses the coconut oil in its raw form.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Substance of Living
Have you ever cooked or baked with coconut oil?  If so, what is your favorite recipe?  What is your all-time want-to-share cookie or dessert but can't because it's already eaten?






P.S., Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Santa and Sarah


This is a story about miracles, blessings, and the belief in angels. There are times throughout the year that I find myself cynical and sweet stories, such as this - even though it is fictional - restore my heart.

Three years ago, a little boy and his grandmother came to see Santa at the McAllister Mall in Saint John. The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.

"Who is this?" asked Santa, smiling. "Your friend?

"Yes, Santa," he replied. "My sister,  Sarah, who is very sick," he said sadly.

Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, and saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue. "She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!" the child exclaimed. "She misses you," he added softly.

Santa tried to be cheerful and encouraged a smile to the boy's face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas.

When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, and started to say something to Santa, but halted.

"What is it?" Santa asked warmly.

"Well, I know it's really too much to ask you, Santa, but ..." the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa's elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors.

"The girl in the photograph... my granddaughter well, you see ... she has leukemia and isn't expected to make it even through the holidays," she said through tear-filled eyes. "Is there any way, Santa, any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That's all she's asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa."

Santa blinked and swallowed hard and told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, and he would see what he could do. Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon.  He knew what he had to do. "What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying," he thought with a sinking heart, "This is the least I can do."

When Santa finished visiting with all the boys and girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to the Hospital.

"Why?" Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face.

Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah's grandmother earlier that day.

"C'mon
.....I'll take you there." Rick said softly. Rick drove them to the hospital and came inside with Santa.

They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said, he would wait out in the hall.

Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door and saw little Sarah in the bed.

The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother and the girl's brother he had met earlier that day. A woman whom he guessed was Sarah's mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah's thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah's aunt, sat
in a chair near the bed with a weary sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, and Santa could sense the warmth and closeness of the family, and their love and concern for Sarah.

Taking a deep breath, and forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, "Ho, Ho, Ho!"

"Santa!" shrieked little Sarah, weakly as she tried to escape her bed to run to him IV tubes intact.

Santa rushed to her side and gave her a warm hug.
A child the tender age of his own son -- 9 years old -- gazed up at him with wonder and excitement. Her skin was pale and her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But, all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of, huge blue eyes. His heart melted, and he had to force himself to choke back tears. Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah's face, he could hear the gasps and quiet sobbing of the women in the room.

As he and Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa's shoulder or his hand gratefully, whispering "Thank you" as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes. Santa and Sarah talked and talked, and she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she'd been a very good girl that year.

As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, and asked for permission from the girl's mother. She nodded in agreement and the entire family circled around Sarah's bed, holding hands. Santa looked intensely at Sarah and asked her if she believed in angels.

"Oh, yes, Santa... I do!" she exclaimed.

"Well, I'm going to ask angels watch over you." he said.  Laying one hand on the child's head, Santa closed his eyes and prayed. He asked that, God touch little Sarah, and heal her body from this disease. He asked that angels minister to her, watch and keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing, softly, "Silent Night, Holy Night....all is calm, all is bright."  The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, and crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all.

When the song ended, Santa sat
on the side of the bed again and held Sarah's frail, small hands in his own.  "Now, Sarah," he said authoritatively, "you have a job to do, and that is to concentrate on getting well. I want you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, and I expect to see you at my house at McAllister Mall this time next year!"

He knew it was risky proclaiming that to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he "had" to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could -- not dolls or games or toys -- but the gift of HOPE.

"Yes, Santa!" Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright. 
He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and left the room.

Out in the hall, the minute Santa's eyes met Rick's, a look passed between them and they wept unashamed.

Sarah's mother and grandmother slipped out of the room quickly and rushed to Santa's side to thank him.


"My only child is the same age as Sarah," he explained quietly. "This is the least I could do." They nodded with understanding and hugged him.

One year later, Santa was again back on the set in Saint John for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by and then one day a child came up to sit on his lap.

"Hi, Santa! Remember me?!"

"Of course, I do," Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her. After all, the secret to being a "good" Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the "only" child in the world at that moment.

"You came to see me in the hospital last year!"

Santa's jaw dropped. Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, and he grabbed this little miracle and held her to his chest.  "Sarah!" he exclaimed. He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long and silky and her cheeks were rosy -- much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before. He looked over and saw Sarah's mother and grandmother in the sidelines smiling and waving and wiping their eyes.

That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus.

He had witnessed --and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about -- this miracle of hope. This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive and well. He silently looked up to Heaven and humbly whispered, "Thank you, Father. 'Tis a very, Merry Christmas!


May you and your family have a blessed Christmas!

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Substance of Living

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remembering the Fallen

I'd like to take a moment to remember those who have left us this year or in past years before reading today's message.

There are momentous times throughout our lives that we remember exactly what we were doing, where we were, and who we were with.  Last year, 2012, we had a few of those moments.
 

Twas' 11 days before Christmas around 9:38 when 20 beautiful children stormed through Heaven's Gate. 
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air. They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.

They were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say. They remembered nothing that happened earlier that day.

"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse. 

"This is Heaven" declared a small boy. "We're spending Christmas at God's house."

When what to there wondering eyes did appear, but Jesus, their Savior, the children gathered near.

He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same. Then He opened His arms and called them by name.

And in that moment was joy, that only Heaven can bring, those children all flew into His arms of their King, and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace 1 small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face, and as if He could read all the questions she had, He gently whisper to her, "I'll take care of your mom and dad."

Then He looked down on earth, the world was far below He saw all the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.

Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched his hands, "Let My power and presence re-enter this land!!"

"May this Country be delivered from the hands of fools.  I'm taking back my Nation! I'm taking back my schools!!"

Then He and the children stood up without a sound. "Come now my children let me show you around."

Excitement filled the space, some skipped some ran, all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.

And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight, "In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT!!!"


 
There is so much good in this world and the children truly are our future.  One by one, we can make a difference.


Please remember the families of all who were affected by this and other tragedies.  Your prayers do matter.

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Substance of Living

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Perfect Buffet for all Meat and Non-Meat Eaters

Buffet Table as seen on Divine Dinner Party
Buffet Table Setting as seen on Divine Dinner Party

This has to be one of my more politically correct, non-offending party ideas.  You may already know this, but in case you forgot or are new, I'm 99% vegan, my oh-so-fabulous husband is pretty much 95% vegetarian, and our family and friends are probably 100% meat eaters (with a vegetable or two thrown into the mix).  Oh!  I'm also gluten-free.  I'm overstating this but I think you get my point.

In the eyes of our family and friends, we are the non-normal ones out of the whole bunch of bananas.
It used to scare our family and mostly our friends to come over and eat at our house in fear that they may have to eat seaweed and tofu.  lol

What DH and I like to do is come up with a theme for the party / event / dinner and work from there.  So, say we are going to have a Father's Day buffet, a Mystery Murder Buffet, or a Theater Buffet.  Once we figured that out we would decide on a bunch of food items and then create a menu to please all.

Let's say we have brainstormed the following.


Salad

  1. Spring Mix Salad Bar with Carrots, Red Onion, Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, Shredded Cheese Mix, Croutons, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Ranch and Fat Free Italian Dressing
  2. Caesar Salad Bar

Side Dishes 

  1. Green Bean Almondine
  2. Creamed Corn
  3. Sauteed Corn & Zucchini
  4. Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
  5. Baked Potato Bar
  6. Pasta (Gluten-Free and Whole Wheat)

Dinner Rolls (Gluten-Free and Whole Wheat) with Butter (Vegan and Regular) 

Main Dishes

  1. Chicken Piccata
  2. Cedar Plank Salmon with fresh Herbs
  3. Blackened Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa
  4. Blackened Tofu "Steaks" with Pineapple Salsa
  5. Garlic Roasted Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream and Au Jus

Desserts

  1. Hot Fudge Sundae Bar with Brownies, Vanilla Ice Cream, Cherries, Chopped Nuts, Sprinkles, Chocolate Chips, Hot Fudge (or chocolate sauce), Caramel Topping, and Whipped Cream
  2. Baked Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream

Beverages

  1. Coffee
  2. Tea
  3. Water
  4. Bloody Mary or other Signature Drink

After making our list, we would go through and choose a salad, 2 or 3 side dishes, rolls, 2 types of main course, a dessert, and probably each of the beverages.

Tips:

  • When creating a buffet like this, it's better to keep each dish a little smaller than if you were to only have a salad, vegetable, main, and dessert.  The reason for this is that not everyone will choose everything. 
  • Everything is set up in separate bowls or serving dishes so that everyone can essentially make their own dinner.  Some may want prime rib while others will want pasta and maybe some fish. 
  • Each item will have a label so that there are no questions between which dish or bread might be gluten-free, etc.  This also helps if anyone has a particular food allergy.
  • Purchase items on sale, with coupons, and ask if you can pick up certain items on the day of your party.
  • Use the K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Sweetie) method and go semi-homemade.  Spend your time on the items that you really want to make from scratch.  Instead of making your Bloody Mary mix (unless you are known for your mix) buy a really good mix and add your celery stock, horse radish, and vodka.
The more you plan and do ahead, the more you will be relaxed the day of your party.  When you, the host is relaxed and having fun, everyone else will enjoy themselves.


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Substance of Living

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's Eve - Winter Holiday Chair Covers

When the holidays and winter is upon you, do you often think about nesting?  Sweaters, scarves, mittens, warm coats, boots, fires in the fireplace, and of course hot cocoa are all some of the things we do to nest.

Another thing we can do to warm up our homes and nest is to cover our dining chairs.

Christmas Inspired Chair Covers


Santa Hat Chair Cover by Uncommon Designs
Santa Hat Chair Cover by Uncommon Designs



Red Ribbon with Pine Cone and Greenery Chair Cover by Happy Interiors
Red Ribbon with Pine Cone and Greenery Chair Cover by Happy Interiors



Poinsettia and Burlap Chair Cover by I'm a Little
Poinsettia and Burlap Chair Cover by I'm a Little



Hanukkah Inspired Chair Covers


Blue and White Chair Cover by Our Little Nest on the Lake
Blue and White Chair Cover by Our Little Nest on the Lake



White Faux Fur Chair Cover by Seasonal Home Decoration
White Faux Fur Chair Cover by Seasonal Home Decoration



New Year's Eve Inspired Chair Covers


Blue, White, and Silver New Year's Eve Chair Covers by Minimalisti
Blue, White, and Silver New Year's Eve Chair Covers by Minimalisti



Black and White Formal New Year's Eve Chair Covers by Elite Mobile DJ
Black and White Formal New Year's Eve Chair Covers by Elite Mobile DJ


New Year's Eve Clock Chair Cover by Whimsy Decor
New Year's Eve Clock Chair Cover by Whimsy Decor


New Year's Celebration Chair Cover by BHG

How will you nest your kitchen and dining room chairs this holiday season?


We at Substance of Living wish you the merriest and safe holiday.





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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Books to Read During the Month of December 2013

Merry Christmas!  December is about family and getting together to share special moments.  So, with all of us running around, we've selected a few books to enjoy this month when you get some spare time or need to unwind.

Ways to give books this month:

  • Be a Secret Santa and give a book to a friend, co-worker, neighbor, or family member anonymously
  • Hostess Gift - Give each party attendee a book at the end of the evening
  • Bring a book to give as a Hostess Gift when you're invited to a dinner or party
  • Advent Calendar - Choose one person to give a book to each day or give a book to a different person each day
  • Choose a theme to give - Christmas, cooking, mysteries, biographies, travel, hobbies
  • Give a gift that fits each person's personality or hobby.  Say someone likes crafts and mysteries, did you know that there is a genre that includes these two items?
White Christmas by Emma Lee-Potter
White Christmas by Emma Lee-Potter


Forever Christmas by Christine Lynxwiler
Forever Christmas by Christine Lynxwiler


Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks
Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks


If you're new to our book club and would like to get caught up, check out June, July, August, September, October and November.

What books would you like to receive as gifts this year?  Do you have a favorite author?





P.S., Should you decide to purchase any of these books through the links, Substance of Living will receive a small percentage and will help keep this blog going.

Please share me with your friends!
If you enjoyed this post, please do a friend and me a BIG favor and forward this email. If you received this email from a friend and you'd like to see more, please sign up today. Don't miss out on future articles. Have Substance of Living delivered directly to your inbox.  THANKS!

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