Sep 30

Caramel Fun

2008 at 6:59 pm   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Homemaking | Recipes

I have to jump in here and say that this caramel contest has been a blast. Which brilliant girltalker came up with this idea anyways? (I won’t say who.) I mean, how many opportunities come along in life where you are obligated to prepare and consume numerous desserts? Does it get any better? I won’t say that it wasn’t a lot of work; we were more than a little tired by the time we took this picture. And I didn’t exactly enjoy cleaning up the big mess when the fun was over. But it was all worth it. Don’t be shocked if you find a similar contest showing up on the blog in the future…maybe “All Things Chocolate” should be next. Oh, and let me just state that the food pictured below is only some of what we made last week.



Today’s big winners are Meredith Huspeni for Caramel Apple French Toast and Chasity Elseman for Caramel Apple Muffins. Delicious recipes ladies!

Caramel Apple French Toast

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 - 3 large tart apples, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 slices day-old French bread (3/4 inch thick)

In a small saucepan, cook brown sugar, butter and syrup until thick, about 5-7 minutes. Pour into an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan; arrange apples on top. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, milk and vanilla. Dip bread slices into the egg mixture for 1 minute; place over apples. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake uncovered at 350° for 35-40 minutes.

Caramel Apple Muffins
(From Southern Living)


* 1 (3-pound) bag small apples (12 to 14 apples)
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted and divided
* Quick Caramel Frosting


Peel, core, and cut 4 apples into 24 (1/4-inch-thick) rings. Sauté apple rings, in batches, in a lightly greased skillet over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from skillet, and place 1 apple ring in the bottom of each of 24 lightly greased muffin pan cups.

Peel and finely chop enough remaining apples to equal 3 cups. Set aside.

Stir together sugar and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.

Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients; add to sugar mixture, stirring just until blended. (Batter will be stiff.) Fold in finely chopped apples and 1 cup pecans.

Spoon batter evenly over apple rings in muffin pan cups, filling cups three-quarters full.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan, and cool, apple rings up, on a wire rack.

Press the handle of a wooden spoon gently into the center of each apple ring, forming a 1-inch-deep indentation in the muffins. Spoon warm Quick Caramel Frosting evenly over muffins, filling indentations. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans.

Sep 29

The Crazy Caramel Contest

2008 at 6:04 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Homemaking | Recipes

Stockxpertcom_id634630_size0_3 Caramel (k?r’?-m?l, -m?l’, kär’m?l) A smooth chewy candy made with sugar, butter, cream or milk, and flavoring.

A few weeks ago we got the urge to have another contest. One of us (I won’t say who) suggested a caramel contest. At first some of us (I won’t say who) wondered if there were enough caramel recipes out there to have a real contest. I mean, there’s caramel popcorn and caramel apples, and….what else?

But within minutes of the posting, our inbox began to fill up with caramel recipes: old family favorites, crowd pleasers, and even original concoctions. Who knew you could make so many things with caramel? There were dips and drinks, cakes and cookies, pies and pizzas.

It took about twenty-four hours for us to remember why, in four years of blogging, we’ve never done a cooking contest: oh yeah, because the only way to judge the entries is to cook them! What have we gotten ourselves into? Whose crazy idea was this anyway?

With dozens of entries there was no way we could make them all. So Mom and Janelle divided them up into categories (cakes, bars, cookies, crisps, cheesecakes, muffins, pies, drinks, dips, breakfast foods, snacks, and more). Then they chose from the categories using a single, strictly scientific, standard: which recipes look the yummiest.

After paring down the options they doled out assignments. We dragged the kids to the grocery store where we purchased bags of caramels, tubs of caramel dip, jars of caramel topping, and sugar for homemade caramel sauce.

The newly created girltalk test kitchens swung into action.

(I have to admit: it’s not as easy as it looks on The Food Network. I guess it helps to have an assistant to unwrap all those little caramels.)

After much cooking and tasting and deliberating we chose our winners. It wasn’t easy—you all sent in so many amazing recipes! We’ll be posting the winners throughout the week (in no particular order) and those women will each receive one of our favorite cookbooks.

So, without further ado, our first winner is Kristy Wigginton with her recipe “Divine Decadence.” This one is rich (but not to rich for me!) It’s easy to make and an elegant dessert to serve on a special occasion.


Step 1:
2 cups pecans, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted margarine

Combine and press into a greased 9” pie pan. Bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes. Cool completely.

Step 2:
1 (14 oz) bag of caramels
1/2 cup whipping cream

Melt two ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every 1 1/2 minutes. When well combined, pour into the crust.

Step 3:
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Bring cream and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Combine until all chips are melted and smooth. Pour over caramel. Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Cut into wedges or bite-sized pieces. You definitely need to eat this with a big glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee!

Sep 26

Friday Funnies

2008 at 10:11 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Fun & Encouragement | Friday Funnies
Rebecca sent us this week’s Friday Funny which is sure to make you laugh. Caramel contest winners coming up next week! Signing off for now…

Nicole for the girltalkers

A friend of mine has four little kids and lives across the street from a school. She was busy with the youngest child last week when she got a call from the school secretary - “Do you know where your children are?” She admitted she had lost track of two. The secretary informed her that they were on the playground of the school, after crossing the street themselves. My friend apologized, and said she’d be right over to get them. “Well,” the secretary hesitated, “we don’t really mind them playing here. But they’re naked.”

Sep 26

Busy Time Survival

2008 at 4:35 pm   |   by Janelle Bradshaw

I’m back with the second and third principles for surviving those extra busy times. (I’m also happy to report that my laundry is out of the dryer and slowly making its way to drawers.)

2) Simplify the really-do-matter items where possible. Examine your essential to-do list and ask, “How can I make these tasks easier?” Take your husband’s dress shirts to the dry cleaners. Use paper products at mealtime. Order pizza for dinner.

3) Size up our limitations. As Dad likes to remind us, “Only God gets his to-do list done each day. We are not God. We are finite creatures with serious limitations.” Only God accomplishes everything he needs to do, in exactly the way he intends, in precisely the right amount of time. Only God! This truth helps us see the arrogant absurdity of expecting to complete our own to-do list. It frees us to humble ourselves and draw upon God’s strength to simply do what we can in busy seasons.

I trust these three thoughts will serve you in the same way they have served us, time and time again.

Sep 25

Managing Busy Seasons

2008 at 4:09 pm   |   by Janelle Bradshaw

Stockxpertcom_id115863_size0 Kristin posted yesterday on dealing with interruptions. My life feels like one big—and wonderful—interruption at the moment. It’s a whirlwind of diapers, crying, spit-up, nursing, and laundry. There was a breakthrough this morning: my bed got made. Yeah! Although, come to think of it, I just remembered a load of laundry that is still sitting in the washer from yesterday.

Unexpected busy seasons—like a new baby, the start of the school year, final exams, travel, or a deadline at work—often leave us wondering what should and shouldn’t get done. My mom has given my sisters and me three simple principles to help us navigate really busy seasons, and I hope they will serve you too.

First of all, Separate the really-do-matter items from the really-don’t-matter items. Then take care of the really-do-matter items first. For example, when we hit hectic seasons as homemakers, Mom has taught us girls that after sitting at Jesus’ feet, we should attend to three priorities before anything else:

(1) Our husband: “What one thing would please my husband the most?”

(2) Our children: “What one issue in my child’s life needs consistent attention?”

(3) Our food and laundry: “Regardless of how dirty my house is, or how many piles of clutter have accumulated, or whether or not the beds are made—as long as my family has nourishing food to eat and clean clothes to wear, their basic needs will be taken care of.”

So if you presently find yourself in a busy season, stop for a few moments and separate; and then forget about those “really-don’t-matter” items for right now.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the second and third helpful principles for navigating busy seasons. But first I’m going to apply the “food and laundry first” idea and get that load of wet clothes into the dryer.

Sep 24

Dealing with Interruptions

2008 at 5:20 pm   |   by Kristin Chesemore

Fall is officially here! I’m really enjoying the beautiful weather here in Maryland. It’s a balmy seventy-two degrees today. The windows are open and the kids are playing outside. It’s truly my favorite time of year.

The fall season also brings a new routine of church meetings, school, sports and the like. But the past week my routine hasn’t gone as planned. I’ve had many unexpected interruptions that have hindered me from completing my normal daily tasks. It seems that every time I turn around there’s something else for me to do that I haven’t planned for—and I want life to stop for just half an hour so I can get my laundry done!

But, as my mom reminded me the other day, God is more concerned with my heart than my laundry. She reminded me of a quote by C.S. Lewis that gave me a biblical perspective on interruptions:

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.” The Quotable Lewis, (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989), 335.

It is hard to remember! But what a difference it makes when I view interruptions not as hindrances to my routine but as “sovereign deliveries” from God, part of his good plan for my day. Then, and only then, can I truly receive them with joy.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Sep 23

Am I Worldly?

2008 at 4:27 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre

51mdqk0ygpl_sl500_aa240_ Most of us are vaguely familiar with the verse in 1 John 2:15—“Do not love the world or anything in the world”—but we’re often unsure how to obey this command. Confused, and perhaps a little uncomfortable, we may ignore it altogether, sweeping it under the rug (along with other similarly difficult passages in God’s inspired Word).

But the authors of a new book, Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, want to remind us of the vital importance of this verse (and indeed all of Scripture), and help us understand how to apply this command to our hearts, our bank accounts, ipod playlists, dvd collections, and clothes—in short, every corner of our lives.

In the first chapter, Dad (editor and contributor), identifies with the confusion many Christians feel about this topic of worldliness:

“What does it mean for a Christian — what does it mean for me — not to love the world?
Does it mean I can’t watch MTV or go to an R-rated movie? Do I have to give up my favorite TV show? Is it OK to watch a movie as long as I fast-forward the sex scene? How much violence or language is too much?
Are certain styles of music more worldly than others? Is the rap or indie music I’m loading onto my iPod OK?
How do I know if I’m spending too much time playing games or watching YouTube clips online?
Can a Christian try to make lots of money, own a second home, drive a nice car, enjoy the luxuries of modern life?
Am I worldly if I read fashion magazines and wear trendy clothes? Do I have to be out of style in order to be godly? How short is too short? How low is too low?
How do I know if I’m guilty of the sin of worldliness?”

Worldliness seeks to address these and other tough questions. Along the way, they issue “a passionate plea to a generation for whom the dangers of worldliness are perhaps more perilous than for any that has gone before.”

This book is a sober warning to all of us who would neglect 1 John 2:15. Yet the authors (pastors, all) have first applied its truth to their own hearts and lives. They offer real-life, unflattering examples of their own sins and temptations to worldliness. Most of all, they remind us of the one place where worldliness dies, mercy lives, forgiveness is found, and holiness is possible: the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I hope all our readers, and especially young people, will read and benefit from this book.

Sep 22

Radical Womanhood

2008 at 9:04 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre

51yxhlkhy3l_sl500_aa240_ Finally, I hold in my hands a copy of Carolyn McCulley’s new book, Radical Womanhood. It will be widely available in only a few days, so pre-order your copy now! Here’s a little more of why you should get this book from a post I wrote back in April:

Radical Womanhood

April 11, 2008

Today I pre-ordered my copy of a new book by our dear friend Carolyn McCulley entitled Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World. So what that it’s not due out until October 1, 2008. I’m just that excited about it. And you should be too.

Here’s how Carolyn describes the book:

The theme of the book is to explore what’s happened in the last 200 years in terms of feminist thinking and to sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly to understand our culture’s current thinking and how that compares/contrasts with what the Bible teaches. We’ll look at issues related to men, marriage, children, domesticity, sexuality, and the church. My goal is not to create an us/them self-righteous dialogue about feminism for two reasons: 1) Scripture teaches us that our real enemy is not flesh and blood; and 2) intellectual honesty demands that we acknowledge feminists initially addressed serious problems for women. We have derived some (limited) benefits from the three waves of feminism (1848 to today), but we need to be wise about how our culture thinks about key issues. Good observation does not make for correct interpretation. The interpretation has actually created many more problems for women. So that’s why in today’s world it’s truly radical for a woman to live in a counter-cultural way, glorifying God.

On second thought, maybe I don’t want to wait the six months plus the couple of days it will take my order to ship. Maybe, come October 1st, I’ll camp outside my local bookstore with other Carolyn McCulley fans to get the very first copy that hits the shelves.

In the meantime, we can all listen to Carolyn’s recent messages on Radical Womanhood shared with the women of CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, NC a few weeks ago. They won’t last you until October but they’ll be great weekend listening.

Sep 19

Friday Funnies

2008 at 9:30 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Fun & Encouragement | Friday Funnies

This week’s Friday Funny is from Katie. She’s meeting with a group of friends who just began reading through Feminine Appeal together. Here is the story behind the picture below: “Last week we met for the first time to discuss our new book choice, and one of the ladies in our group pulled out her copy of Feminine Appeal. As she pulled the book out of her purse and noticed what was stuck to it, she held up her book and jokingly said, ‘Can I just tell you about the kind of week I’ve had?!’”


Hope you have a great weekend!
Nicole for Carolyn, Kristin, and Janelle

Sep 19

A Caramel Contest

2008 at 4:12 pm   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Homemaking | Recipes

Stockxpertcom_id419678_size0 I was strolling through my local grocery store the other day (in search of a brownie mix that I really wanted to try) and I practically ran into a huge box of pumpkins. Upon arriving home (having successfully located the brownie mix) I noticed a pumpkin on my neighbor’s porch. Then it dawned on me: it’s Fall! It’s time for apple cider, pumpkin chocolate chip bread, and caramel popcorn. And in order to get things started right in the food department this Autumn, we are gonna launch another girltalk contest appropriately titled “All Things Caramel.” Yes, we want your caramel recipes…popcorn, cookies, apples, brownies…you get the idea. Your deadline is next Friday, September 26. There will be prizes for the winners, of course! So don’t waste any time. E-mail us your entries at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

I’m gonna kick things off with one of my favorite caramel recipes (even though the girls will not allow me to win the prize). These bars are so yummy…

Caramel Layer Chocolate Squares

1 (14 oz.) pkg. caramels
1 pkg. German Chocolate cake mix
¾ cup butter, melted
2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided in equal portions
1 cup chocolate chips

Combine caramels and half of evaporated milk. Cook over low heat, stirring often until melted and smooth. Grease 9x13” pan. Combine dry cake mix, butter and rest of evaporated milk, and chocolate chips. Stir just until mixed. Press half of dough firmly in pan. Bake 6 minutes at 350*. Spread caramel mixture over all. Top with remaining half of dough. Spread gently to cover. Bake at 350* for 15 minutes. Let stand until cool before cutting.