Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beef Tips and Rice



I can always tell a huge difference when I make it to the 16 week mark in my pregnancies!  I feel so much better and can meal plan, grocery shop, and cook without feeling sick.  Thanksgiving Day (2 more days) this year is the halfway point of this pregnancy (20 weeks) and I can't believe how fast it has flown by!  Since it's the holiday season I have been in a major cooking mood, so there are lots of recipes coming this way.  This beef tips and rice recipe was easy and so good.  My husband said to add it to the list of regulars so I thought I would share.   I use this blog as a way to organize a list of my regulars, and I hope it gives others ideas of what they can make for their families.  Some of you have been so encouraging to let me know when you make a recipe from here and enjoy it!

Ingredients:
2 lbs beef stew meat
10.75 oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 small packet brown gravy mix (see note*)
1 beef bullion cube
1 cup water
1 small onion, chopped

Directions:
1.  Combine all ingredients in 4 qt slow cooker and mix to combine.
2.  Cook on low for 7-8 hrs.
3.  Serve over hot white rice.

*I got this recipe on Pinterest from Southern Bite and he recommends using the big packet of brown gravy mix, but I used the small packet and thought it was plenty.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sausage Tortellini Soup



I have been a fan of the mom blog Confessions of a Homeschooler, for a while now and have used quite a bit of her resources for homeschooling preschoolers, but I recently saw on her blog that she has shared some recipes.  All thanks goes to her for this fabulous soup recipe that we tried last night.  I had never bought Italian sausage before and had to have someone at the grocery store help me find it since it wasn't with the rest of the sausage.  FYI, it was found over in the meat section beside the ground beef in my Kroger.  They were out of sweet Italian sausage links, so I got mild Italian sausage links, but I plan to try the sweet kind next time I make this.

Ingredients:
6 links sweet Italian sausage (I also added 1/2 lb ground sage sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cans beef broth, 2 cans water
16 oz diced tomatoes (I used 14.5 oz)
2 cups sliced zuchini (I used 2 zuchini)
6 oz can sliced black olives (I used chopped to hide them from my kids)
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 package cheese tortellini
1 can kidney beans
1 cup carrots diced (I didn't use these)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1.  In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and brown sausage links.
2.  Add garlic and onion.
3.  When onion is tender and sausage is cooked, slice sausage links.
4.  In large pot, bring beef broth, water, sausage, garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, tomatoes, zuchini, kidney beans, and carrots to boil.
5.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-20 minutes.
6.  Add tortellini and olives and cook until tortellini is tender.
7.  Serve with Parmesan cheese.

*Our favorite bread to eat with soup is this homemade recipe.




Homemade Artisan Bread

I started cutting this loaf before I remembered to take a picture. :)  

 A few years back I was reading on a blog where someone recommended saving money on groceries by baking your own bread.  I've never been a fan of kneading (because I don't really know what I'm doing) and I don't own a bread machine, so I've never really been into the whole homemade bread thing.  But as I was reading that day, the book recommended said that there was no need to knead the dough.  I was interested.  After reading a little bit more about it I ordered it on Amazon and it has proven to be a really easy way to make good, homemade bread - WITHOUT KNEADING!  The name of the book is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I have made several of the recipes in the book, but the one I have made the most is this one (called the Master Recipe) that we normally eat with soup.  I half the recipe which makes two loaves.  You can make one loaf and refrigerate the rest of the dough for up to 14 days.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3/4 Tbsp salt (I use Kosher)
3/4 Tbsp granulated yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose, white, unbleached flour
large plastic bowl with lid (not airtight)

Directions:
1.  Add salt and yeast to warm water in a large bowl. Stir.
2.  Add flour to water mixture and mix with wooden spoon.
3.  Wet hands and squeeze the mixture just until uniformly mixed - kneading is unnecessary!
4.  Put lid on bowl and let rise for 2-5 hours at room temperature until top is flattened.  It usually only takes 2 hours in my house, but the room's temp, initial water temp, and humidity will change the rise time.
5.  After this initial rise time you can refrigerate dough for later use (up to 14 days) or cut dough in half to bake.
6.  When ready to bake, cut dough in half and prepare dough by tucking edges under (shaping loaf) and placing it on a floured baking stone.
7.  Allow to rise for 40 minutes.
8.  20 minutes before baking time, begin preheating oven to 450 degrees.
9.  After 40 minutes of rising on baking stone, dust surface of dough with flour and slash top  with 1/4 in. deep tic-tac-toe pattern with serrated knife.
10.  Pour 1 cup of water into a broiler tray or baking dish and place on bottom rack of oven to create steam.
11.  Place baking stone with dough on middle rack in oven, even if 450 degress has not been reached. 
12.  Bake 30 minutes.
13.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting.

This seems like a lot of instructions, but it is really easy and quick once you get the hang of it.  I recommend getting the book if you try this recipe and like it.  There are a lot of good recipes in the book and a lot more details to this recipe that you may enjoy reading.



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Our Family Is Growing!



I couldn't be more thrilled to announce that WE ARE GOING TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY!!!

This has been an eventful week for our family.  On Monday, we found out that I am pregnant and on Tuesday our oldest child turned 6.  Monday night after I bathed Camille and got her ready for bed, I asked Grant, Livi, and Weston to come upstairs to the school room to see something.  When they came up there I had written a special message with a dry erase marker on the mirror... I am pregnant with baby #4!  Grant read it first and looked at me wide-eyed with a smile on his face and said, "When did you find out?"  We waited a minute for the kids to read the message and figure out what was going on and then we all squealed and danced around the room. :)  

This is the first time I have gotten to surprise Grant with the news.  Livi and Weston are so excited!!!  Camille doesn't know what all the fuss is about, but she will soon enough.  She is the same age Alivia was when I got pregnant with Weston - 10 months.  So, Camille and Baby #4 will be 19 months apart just like Alivia and Weston.  Which means Alivia and Camille are 5 years and 1 month apart and Weston and Baby #4 will be 5 years and 1 month apart also.

Weston was 2 when I got pregnant with Camille, and although he was excited and understood what was going on, it's neat to see how much more in to it he is this time around at age 4.  He has been holding my hand a lot this week (which he never does), and he'll randomly come up to me, hug me, and look up at me and say he's so excited I'm having a baby! :)  He wants a brother, of course, but Thursday night when I was putting him to bed I asked him if he would still be happy about the new baby if it's a girl and he said, "Oh yeah, mom, that's fine."  He's the sweetest thing!

We should find out around Christmas if we're having a boy or girl and baby #4 is due in April.  That means I won't be pregnant in the heat of the summer this time and we should be wrapping up school by the time the baby comes so that we can have the summer to relax and enjoy him/her.  God has been so gracious to me!


"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!"  -Psalm 127:3-5


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake



I think this cake is best served fresh and warm.  It's not that hard to make - if you can get someone to grate the German chocolate for you. :)  I found out the hard way with my particular bundt pan that the best way to prepare the pan is to coat it with Crisco (I do this by using a paper towel to wipe it all around) and then dust with flour.  The first time I made this recipe in this pan all of the chocolate chips and German chocolate sunk to the bottom of the pan.  I sprayed it with non-stick cooking spray before baking, but that wasn't enough to get it to turn out after cooling.  Take the time to coat the pan well!

Ingredients:
4 eggs
1 yellow butter cake mix
large box instant vanilla pudding 
8 oz sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
4 oz. German sweet chocolate, grated
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 340 degrees.
2.  Beat eggs well then fold in ingredients in order listed.
3.  Bake 50-60 minutes.


Chicken Bundles



I can remember, as a teenager, going to my boyfriend's house for Sunday lunch after church and his mom serving these chicken bundles.  His mom is now my mother-in-law and her mother (who is a fabulous cook!) gave me the recipe for these years ago.  They are a cream cheese and chicken mixture wrapped in a cresent roll.  The great thing is you can make them ahead of time and refrigerate them overnight until ready to bake.  Or you can even freeze them to make later.  They require a few steps to put together but they taste delicious.  We eat them served with rice and there is a recipe for yummy sauce included.

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked, chopped chicken
1/3 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped
8 oz chives/onion cream cheese
1 tsp lemon pepper
pinch salt 
2 pkgs crescent rolls (8 count each)
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix (crushed real fine)
3 Tbsp butter, melted

Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
6 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
3 oz. can sliced chopped mushrooms, drained
1 cup milk



Directions:
1.  Mix chicken with mushrooms, water chestnuts, cream cheese, lemon pepper, and salt.
2.  Secure wax paper to countertop with tape and dust lightly with flour.
3.  Take 2 crescents and press together on wax paper.  Roll out thinner to hold filling.
4.  Brush each roll with melted butter.
5.  Spoon chicken mixture into middle of crescent; Seal/pinch each bundle and place on cookie sheet or baking pan.
6.  Mix topping ingredients together and spoon over bundles.
7.  Refrigerate/Freeze bundles or bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Sauce Directions:
1.  Melt butter in sauce pan.
2.  Add flour and blend.
3.  Add chicken broth.
4.  Cook over medium heat until thick.
5.  Add remaining ingredients.
6.  Spoon over baked chicken bundles.


Homemade Biscuits



Ever since before we had kids, these biscuits have been a Saturday morning favorite at our house.  My husband is actually the one that makes them and he has gotten really good at it.  The recipe comes from Taste of Home magazine, Feb/March 2005.  It was an Old -Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie recipe I made and the biscuits on top were so good we decided to make them by themselves.  I have sweet memories of us in our apartment in Louisville (on-campus housing at Southern Seminary) enjoying these together on Saturday mornings.  Now we have three kids to share them with.  This is how he makes them.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup cold butter

Directions:
1.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar.
2.  Cut in the butter until mixture looks like crumbs.
3.  Stir in milk just until moistened.
4.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead 8-10 times.
5.  Roll out to 1/2 in. thickness; cut with a floured 2 1/2 in. biscuit cutter.
6.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

(You can bake these on a cookie sheet, but we now bake them in an iron skillet.)

Makes 6-8 biscuits.





Friday, August 8, 2014

Our 2014-2015 Homeschool Room



We have come to really enjoy our learning space upstairs.  In my last post I shared how I began homeschooling my oldest daughter for the second semester of her kindergarten year in January.  We started out doing our lessons in the dining room and work on the dining room table.  I soon realized this wasn't the best place because the dining room always had books and papers everywhere, whenever we had people over we had to find a place to put all of our school supplies, and a dining room table and chairs designed to seat adults is not ideal when you are teaching handwriting skills and your 3 and 5 year olds have to sit on their feet with slouched backs to reach their papers at the table.  

So, we moved upstairs.  Our school room was formerly our guest bedroom/husband's office.  When my husband graduated in December 2012 he slowly began taking all of his books to his office at work.  We hurried this process along :) and also put the guest bed (which was my husband's bed as a kid) in our oldest daughter's room (which still serves our guest when they come and our daughter sleeps with her brother in his bunkbed).  I quickly threw together what we had to make our new "school room" inviting.  This is how it looked last year...




It hasn't changed a lot, but I added some new things to keep it fresh and updated.  I found a clock at Dirt Cheap because it is much more fun to learn how to tell time on a real clock as opposed to a picture on a page.  The "months of the year" and "days of the week" printables I got for free a few years back off of a mom blog.  The American flag was $1.00 at JoAnn's Fabric. The window valance was 99 cents at TJMaxx.  Alivia was given the chalkboard/dry erase easel from Mamaw on her third Birthday.  The posters on the wall came in the Abeka Kindergarten curriculum.  The table and chairs came from Santa when Alivia was 16 months old.




I wanted our school room to also have some fun things in it so that it wasn't a bore and so our children wouldn't associate school with all work and no play.  I put Livi's Barbie house in one corner and the Smart cycle in another.  The Smart Cycle has educational games they can play on the tv and get exercise at the same time.  We have a new weather and temperature chart that came with our curriculum and a few years back I bought United States and Presidents of the US placemats for $1 each at Walmart and hung them up this year as posters since we will be memorizing these.  I use my laminator all the time and the pink lamp on the desk was actually the one from my college dorm room.  This desk was in my room as a kid.





I'm one of those parents that shops for my kid's Christmas and Birthday presents at the teacher store.  We have started a nice collection of puzzles and educational games/activities.




The other side of the room has the desk (from Grant's Nanny) that I use, and also our school books, dollar store posters, and Weston's cars and track.




Above my desk is this calendar we received with our curriculum where we change out the months and numbers.



The book shelf by my desk has the kids school books, curriculum/lesson plans, the collection of classic chapter books we have begun thanks to Goodwill, and the kid's boxes of supplies (pencils, scissors, crayons, glue, etc...) on the bottom.  Hanging on the wall beside the bookshelf is a "prayers for my children" poster and our "homeschool planning calendar" that I plan to share more about in my next post.  The picture is of Grant and I on prom day when we were 17.

Everyone has different ways of organizing their homeschool room and I like being able to get ideas from other moms like these...





It's pretty obvious from our room that I'm not following an unschooling model of learning.  Homeschooling for us means learning at home, much of the same things my kids would learn if they attended public school.  Our decision to homeschool was not a negative reaction to the school system in our area, but a desire to spend more time in our kid's lives, be their main influence, develop meaningful family relationships, be in control of their education, and teach from a Biblical worldview.

We can't wait to start this school year on August 18th!




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I'm A Homeschool Mom

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." 
-Psalm 90:12






I'm really looking forward to this school year!  This time last year I was dreading school starting because my oldest child was about to start kindergarten and she was going to be gone Monday-Friday 8-3:30.  I couldn't even imagine!  I thought to myself, I only get her the first five years of her life and then I send her away for someone else to teach her all day most days for the next 13 years before she starts college and then is grown and gone?  

{I had always just assumed when the time came it would be normal and natural for my kids to go to school, but it wasn't.  She was five and I had so much I still wanted to teach her and a relationship I was not finished developing with her.  By the time she got home from school every day she was tired and needed to chill while I fed the baby and cooked dinner.  Then Grant would get home from work, we would eat dinner, take baths, get ready for bed and the kids went down at 7:00.  (Her bedtime was 8:00, but when she went to school and didn't nap all day she was exhausted by 7:00.)  Saturdays are always full with birthday parties, Sunday School get togethers, etc...  Sundays are always full of church activities and a work day for her dad.  This didn't leave much time to read, paint nails, talk, have fun, do homework, play with siblings, do chores, go to the park or library, or be involved in extracurricular activities.}

So, this time last year I was pregnant with baby #3 (born in September) and figured my hormones were getting the best of me and the wisest plan was to send her to kindergarten like most other kids.  After all, could I really give her a good education while taking care of her 3 year old brother and newborn sister?  Much less the social backwardness she was sure to develop by not being around other kids all day.  Ultimately we decided it would be best for her to go to the elementary school 3 minutes from our home, and that is what she did.  I took her to school the first week and balled my eyeballs out as I left the parking lot everyday.  This is normal, right?  I hear it gets easier with each kid, which I can understand, but at the time it was difficult.  Since this was such a traumatic experience for me, and my then 8 month pregnant self couldn't control the emotions, Grant began taking her to school the next week which had been our plan all along.  As soon as they pulled out of the driveway, I would begin crying and after 4 weeks of this, Weston finally looked up at me one day and said, "Mom, are you just going to keep crying everyday?"  Okay, son.  Thanks for that!  

Around that time, I gave birth to Camille who has turned out to be such a joy to our family (that's her middle name), and I totally could have homeschooled Alivia that first semester.  But you live and learn and it was a good experience for all of us.  For me, it reaffirmed the thoughts I had about homeschooling, and for Alivia she got a taste of what other kids do all day when they go to school.  When she started kindergarten she had just turned 5 - the first day of school, in fact.  She had to grow up and overcome some fears of walking in by herself and finding her room each day.  When Grant dropped her off she would start crying and cling to him and he would have to peel her off of his body and a sweet lady would walk her to the front door of the school.  This lasted about six LONG weeks (I know, because I would text Grant at 8:15 each day to see how she did).  She got a little more brave each day and finally started leaving the truck sometimes without remembering to hug her dad goodbye.  She always got in the van at the end of each day tired, but with a smile on her face saying she had a great day.  She had a very sweet teacher that I was able to communicate with on facebook and who even called my cellphone one day to ask if Livi could watch a movie they were about to play because Alivia had told her she wasn't allowed to watch it.  Weston, Camille, and I went to eat lunch with Alivia about once a month in the cafeteria.  Our lunches at home had become very quiet.  About 4 weeks after Camille was born, I went on the kindergarten field trip and was sad that Weston couldn't go with us, and I had to leave my nursing newborn at home with my mom who drove 4 hours from AL to TN to babysit.  Every afternoon I would wake up my precious baby girl and 3 year old boy early from their naps to go sit in the carpool line which took about 30 minutes.  Without making this post much longer than it already is, suffice it to say, not much of this whole schooling lifestyle was making sense at this point.

Child #1 missed Baby #3 like crazy, and Child #2 and I missed Child #1 like crazy!!!  It did not feel right at all.  So much so, I decided her last day before Christmas break would be her last and I homeschooled her for the second semester of kindergarten.

This year I will be homeschooling her for first grade and her brother for PreK.  I really like to plan, teach, organize, and spend time with my kids, so for these reasons and so many more it just makes sense.  I'm so glad I get to be the main influence in their lives at this point.  It's a huge responsibility, but that's kind of what I signed up for when I became a parent.  Growing up, I never in a million years would have thought I would homeschool my children, and I may not homeschool them all the way through 12th grade, but we'll just take it a year at a time, continue to pray about it, and try to make the wisest decision.  It's interesting to think about the people, resources, and experiences I've had in life that I now see were leading and preparing me for this season in my life.  I do get overwhelmed sometimes thinking about all the time it's going to take, and how I really might need a break, but 95% of the time I am super excited about all it involves.  For now, I have such a peace about our decision to homeschool.  It may not be God's will for every family, but I'm so grateful He's blessed us with 3 healthy children and has us in this place at this time.


"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. . . . in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."
-Psalm 139:13,16

There is a homeschool tutorial that meets at a Baptist church about 10 minutes from our home that the kids will be attending on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30-12:15.  It is called Faith Homeschool Tutorial and it has been around about 10 years.  I am hoping it will prove to be the best of both worlds, allowing me to homeschool and yet have a teacher and classroom setting two half days each week.  For the time being, we are the only homeschool family at our church, so we are hoping to make connections with other homeschool families in our community through this tutorial.  They use Abeka curriculum which is what I have used with my kids since they were 2, so we are familiar with that.  I have read The Well Trained Mind and researched classical education and I'm interested in doing some of that as well.  The kids and I sat in on a day of a Classical Conversations community in the spring, and although we decided not to be involved in that this year, we haven't ruled it out for the future.  Pinterest actually has a lot of classical conversations material and a ton of general homeschool ideas, curriculum, and freebies.  

According to our state laws we have chosen to be enrolled in a church related school and we have chosen Home Life Academy.

Where we live there are so many options when it comes to our children's education.  We can homeschool, choose a homeschool tutorial or co-op, go to public school, private school, private Christian school, Christian classical school, Montessori private and public schools, magnet high school, or homeschool for high school while dual enrolled in college.  For our kids to attend a private school I would have to go back to work as a dental hygienist and put my younger kids in daycare.  Grant and I see more benefits to me staying at home and educating our children.  There may come a day when we feel like sending our kids to school each day is the best option.  For now, I'm super thrilled about teaching my kids!  I'll let you know if I have this same enthusiasm come February. :)

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." 
-Ephesians 5:15-16


Monday, July 28, 2014

United States Project

As part of our homeschool curriculum this year I have decided to teach Alivia and Weston the 50 states and capitols, where they are on a map, and all of the U.S. presidents.  I recently found this fun idea that we are calling our "States Project" and we finished it up today.  

I typed out a letter to send to each of the 50 governors asking for information about their state.  The kids took turns running upstairs to get the letters as they came out of the printer.  Then we had an assembly line going as I signed my name on one letter, passed it to Alivia to sign her name, and then she passed it to her brother for his name.  We did a few each day for about a week because writing your name 50 times is hard work for a five year old and especially for a four year old, but they persevered. :) And their handwriting improved!



  
Next, the kids put stamps on the envelopes while I wrote the addresses on each of them.  Thank goodness for sticky stamps these days!  When I was a kid you had to lick each one!  I think this was their favorite part.



We then took them to the mailbox a few at a time.  Livi opened the mailbox, they each put their stack in, and Weston put the flag up.





The kids and I have worked hard to get these in the mail.  We are hoping to receive packages including maps, brochures, worksheets, coloring pages, magazines, or anything else the governor's office of each state sends us.  My kids really enjoy sending and receiving mail and I thought this would be a great project to keep them interested in learning about the states.  I'll update as we receive our goodies!



I also found this great coloring page of America for the kids to color.


Alivia is my little artist and really enjoys coloring with her oil pastels.


We have a Melissa and Doug United States sound puzzle that says the capitols when you put the state puzzle piece in place.  I haven't found a song I like yet to help us memorize the states and capitols, but I thought this one was cute for the presidents.  Alivia has been numbering and writing the presidents names on a piece of paper as copywork practice from a placemat we have.

We can't wait to start receiving mail and learning about each state!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cheeseburger Pie



One of my favorite meals growing up was this pie.  While I was living away during my college years my mom would make it every time I came home to visit.  The recipe used to be on the back of the Bisquick box, but I have a Better Homes And Gardens magazine cutout dated Ocober 2001 that I get out of my recipe box every time I make this.  I usually have all of the ingredients on hand, so I can make it when I need a last minute idea, or for a friend that needs a meal.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup Bisquick
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Grease 9 in. pie plate.
3.  Cook beef and onion until beef is brown; drain.
4.  Spread in pie plate; sprinkle with salt and cheese.
5.  Stir remaining ingredients until blended.
6.  Pour into pie plate.
7.  Bake 25 minutes.


  

Homemade Baby Food



I began feeding my firstborn pureed vegetables and fruit when she was about five months old.  I did the math and figured out we could save money and offer our daughter healthier food if I made it myself.  That was about six years ago and now I have three children that I have fed pureed vegetables made in my kitchen.  I haven't tried making fruit, because when I first looked into it and read that you have to boil the fruit first that seemed a little odd, so I buy the large container of no sugar added applesauce and mash up fresh bananas and purchase Beechnut brand jars for other varieties of fruit.  I found that making the vegetables myself at home ended up being 1/5 of the price of buying premade jars of food with added ingredients.  When my second born came along I had a busy one year old and wondered if I would have the time to make the pureed food again, but I did.  The third time around I really wanted to make healthier, cheaper food, but thought it definitely wouldn't be a possibility with a four and five year old and all of the new tasks I had recently committed to, but it's true that you make time for what is most important to you.  Here is the process...


1.  Purchase fresh or frozen veggies of your choice in bulk. Some that I have chosen are brocolli, green peas, green beans, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, etc...



2.  Cook the vegetable in the oven or on the stovetop as you would for yourself, not adding salt or any other ingredients.
3.  Place the cooked vegetable in a blender, add water and blend until pureed.



4.  Pour puree into ice cube trays and freeze.  I prefer cheap dollar store trays covered with plastic wrap, because the name brand trays with lids tend to be harder to get the frozen food to pop out.  



5.  Pop out of the trays and place in freezer plastic bags labeled with date and vegetable.
6.  Depending on your child's age and appetite remove about 1-5 cubes at a time to thaw and feed your baby.


I didn't start feeding my third baby pureed food until she was about seven months old (started with rice cereal at six months), and she is now 9 months and starting to eat some cut up table food such as blueberries, bananas, watermelon, bread, green beans, peas, etc...  She still has the homemade pureed food when there is not really a baby friendly option with the meal we are having, but all this to say, pureed food is a short stage of a baby's life so it has been worth it for me to make most of it at home.



Magic Cookie Bars


These cookie bars are so yummy and easy to make.  The recipe is from my mom who used to make these for us when we were kids.

Ingredients:
1/2  cup butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 14 oz can condensed milk
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2.  Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs, press into bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish.
3.  Pour condensed milk over evenly.
4.  Layer remaining ingredients evenly.
5.  Bake 30 minutes.
6. Cool before cutting into bars.



Banana Nut Bread



Grant's Mamaw gave us this recipe early on in our marriage and the classic, moist taste is a favorite.  Most of the ingredients we usually have on hand, so it is a great recipe to make if we haven't gotten to all of the bananas before they get too ripe to eat.  You can also freeze bananas to speed up the ripening process (they turn black) and thaw them for this recipe.  I have had this banana bread with chocolate chips or golden raisins added, but I have never added them myself since we like the basic recipe the best.  This is one of those recipes I'm not sure whether I should file under desserts or breakfast.  It is good for several days after baking and my husband likes it best fresh or warmed in the microwave with a dollop of butter on top.

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (works just fine with any type of milk)
1 tsp vanilla
2 or 3 ripe - mashed bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Stir all ingredients together in large bowl.
3.  Pour into 2 small greased pans and bake for 40 minutes.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Twice Baked Potatoes and Bacon-Wrapped Green Beans


My sweet husband usually cooks steaks for our Valentine dinner.  This year I made twice-baked potatoes and bacon-wrapped green beans as our side dishes.  The potato recipe came from Allrecipes.com and the green bean recipe came from a friend that made these for me when Camille was a newborn.  

Twice Baked Potato Recipe

Ingredients:
4 large baking potatoes
8 slices bacon
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
8 green onions, sliced, divided

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Bake potatoes in oven for 1 hour.
3.  Cook bacon in skillet over med-high heat. Drain, crumble, and set aside.
4.  When potatoes are done, allow to cool for about 10 min.
5.  Slice potatoes in half lengthwise.  Scoop potato out of skin and place in large bowl. Save skins.
6.  In the bowl, add sour cream, milk, butter, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup cheese, and 1/2 green onions.  Mix with a hand mixer until well blended and creamy.
7.  Spoon the mixture into the potato skins.  Top each with remaining cheese, green onions, and bacon.
8.  Bake for another 15 minutes.




Bacon-Wrapped Green Bean Recipe

Ingredients:
Fresh or canned whole green beans
Italian dressing
bacon

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Wrap a piece of bacon around a few green beans and tie bacon in a knot.  Repeat with the rest of ingredients to make desired amount.
3.  Place bacon wrapped green beans in baking dish and pour Italian dressing over.
4.  Bake 20 minutes or so.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Times of Refreshment

"I need regular moments in my life... of refreshment and restoration that refill the spiritual well in my heart, which is too often left dry by the spirit-draining hustle and bustle of contemporary life.  If I don't care to keep it filled, I soon find I have no spiritual refreshment to give to those whom God has put into my life, especially my always-thirsty children.  When I let my well run dry, I am no longer able to be a source of refreshing water to them, or to others in my life.  To say it more simply, I cannot keep giving out without taking in."          
     -Sally Clarkson, Seasons of A Mother's Heart


When I was a teenager in my church youth group I remember many times hearing people say things like, "You don't always need to be taking in, you also need to be giving out."  During that time in my life when others were paying my bills, cooking my meals, I was involved in numerous extracurricular activities, spending lots of time with friends, going on dates, exercising daily, and going to Bible study after Bible study, I had plenty of time to sit at the feet of Jesus and soak up the knowledge and goodness of God.  I had to be intentional about "giving out," whether it be sharing the gospel with someone or serving others.  I also remember a Sunday School teacher describing our lives being like a sponge that is filled up with water.  She taught us that we need to not only soak up God's word but allow ourselves to be squeezed out sometimes and refreshing to others.

I think moms have the opposite problem.  WE ARE DRY!  We give, and give, and give, and then we give some more, and when there is nothing left to give we tear off a piece of the sponge and throw it in as well.  At least that's how I feel sometimes.  

"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." -Psalm 42:1

I'm thirsty.  I need life.  I know the source.  But when?  (Said every mom who's ever lived!)

I thought I was busy before I had kids.  That is comical to me now.  I was busy, but I only had myself to carry around, and now I have three little ones attached to me at all times and getting places or accomplishing things is a little more difficult.  Don't get me wrong, I chose to have these three little ones and consider them a blessing and the source of much joy in my life!  My life is a dream come true in so many ways!  But children are hard work!  I have found that the first year of my babies lives are particularly demanding.  I nursed my first two babies for a year, and my third baby for the six months that she has been alive.  There is just something about nursing that drains me.  I literally feel like the life is being sucked out of me sometimes, and that continues after the first month of pain and mastitis and everything getting regulated.  Add that to the crazy hormones, irregular sleep, diaper changing, spoon feeding, and carrying around and that first year is just a doozy!

Times of spiritual refreshment have changed for me over the years.  My husband is a pastor which means we have countless opportunities to serve and minister to others.  Although Sundays shouldn't be our only time in the word or singing or praying, in the past, I always looked forward to the refreshment that I knew would come as I "didn't forsake the assembling together with other believers."  Sundays and Wednesdays for me now (and for the last 5 years), have involved being a single mom, pastor's wife, working in the children's ministry, or teaching a small child (or 3) how to sit still, be quiet, and listen to their father's sermon.  Not the most refreshing of times!  My plan is to get up before the children each morning and spend time reading my Bible and praying, and that happens some, but reality with three young children looks a little different than my plans many times.  So, sitting in my comfy chair with a cup of hot cocoa (I'm not a coffee drinker) having my quiet time OR being refreshed at church, is more like a fond memory in this season of my life.  I have had to find soul nourishment in more creative ways.

Everyone's situation is different, but the point is we all have to carve out time to "take in," especially when we are in a season of "giving out" so much.

In the midst of a lot of good things, I want to choose the best things.  I know that when I say "yes" to something I need to say "no" to other things.  That's the problem, I've always had a hard time saying "no."  I recently said "yes" to homeschooling.  Add that to my already FULL life (including that baby that I'm nursing) and I am exhausted!  I've been thinking for a while now that I need to SLOW DOWN.  And once again I have reached that point where I have no other choice.  I can always feel it coming.  When I get sick because my body is worn out, when I am weepy due to lack of sleep, when I am impatient with my kids, when I can't encourage others, when I have nothing left to give my husband, when I'm in a bad mood all the time and can't enjoy life.  That's when I reevaluate and cut some things out of our schedule and slowly start living again.  

So, if it's you I have to say "no" to in the near future, please don't be offended. 

Since I'm slowing down I thought I would take the time to write this and hopefully encourage others to slow down, evaluate what's most important, and focus on those things.  We can't do it all!  Everyone's situation is different and I'm NOT encouraging anyone to be lazy or selfish or to quit their responsibilities.  I still plan on working hard and being tired at the end of each day.  But I also know...

"I need regular moments in my life... of refreshment and restoration that refill the spiritual well in my heart, which is too often left dry by the spirit-draining hustle and bustle of contemporary life.  If I don't take care to keep it filled, I soon find I have no spiritual refreshment to give to those whom God has put into my life, especially my always thirsty children.  When I let my well run dry, I am no longer able to be a source of refreshing water to them, or to others in my life.  To say it more simply, I cannot keep giving out without taking in."

*What is the refreshment and restoration that the spiritual well in your life needs?
*Has your spirit been drained by the hustle and bustle of life?
*Do you have spiritual refreshment to give to those God has put in your life?  especially your children?
*Are you giving out more than you are taking in?