Friday, December 31, 2010

Menu: December 27-January 2

I have been busy enjoying some "stacation" with the hubby and kids! We actually haven't been eating many dinner meals this week. The hubby makes awesome breakfasts so they've been a big focus for us.
  • Monday was my dad's 55th birthday so we spent the day with family eating leftovers for lunch and then went out for dinner.
  • Tuesday we had steak and egg fajitas for breakfast (from the leftover fajita fixin's, scrambled eggs, salsa, sour cream, and a little cheese). Then the hubby made some amazing grilled chicken breast, roasted red potatoes, and corn.
  • Wednesday we went out with some friends after I got off work. I had a tropical mahi-mahi dish with mango salsa, black beans and rice, and sauted veggies. :o)
  • Thursday we had steak, eggs, and hashbrowns for brunch then munched on fruit, veggies, and other healthy snacks the rest of the day. The kids had the leftover chicken and potatoes from Tuesday for supper.
  • Friday (New Year's Eve) I made Sweet Potato Muffins for Sunday's breakfast and then let the kids have a couple for breakfast with their scrambled eggs. The hubby and I had leftover steak, a couple of eggs over-easy, and some whole wheat toast. Yummy! Tonight is our church's College/Career class' New Year's Eve party. Everyone is to bring an appetizer, finger food, or soda. I will be bringing some fresh veggies and dip, and my cocktail wieners and pretzel sticks.
  • Saturday we'll spend the afternoon/evening at my MIL and FIL's watching the Badgers dominate in the Rose Bowl (at least we hope they will). For dinner we'll be grilling up some burgers and such.
  • Sunday we're having crockpot Chicken 'n' Rice with mixed veggies.
Here is the Master List if you need a few other ideas for dinner this week.

Cocktail Wieners

1 package Hillshire Farms Lit'l Smokies (Smoked Turkey variety)
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray's)
2 tablespoons sugar-free or low sugar grape jelly

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan or 1 quart crock pot. Simmer till sauce is smooth and wieners are hot. Serve with pretzel sticks. I love how easy and yet flavorful these are.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We've had a very enjoyable Christmas spending time with family both yesterday and today. I enjoyed cooking the hubby yesterday for Christmas Eve dinner with his family. The adults enjoyed conversing while the kids had lots of fun playing with their cousins.

Gifts are not the main focus of Christmas for us but here are a couple of cooking-type gift ideas that were a big hit -

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookie Swap 2010

I happened to see a book while doing some Christmas present browsing. The name of the book was along the lines of the Great Cookie Swap Cookbook or something like that, and it made me think... Wouldn't it be fun to have a ladies get-together sometime around Christmas and exchange our favorite holiday cookie or candy?

Last night we got together (9 ladies total) and shared Christmas memories and traditions. We played some games, ate some goodies (cold veggie pizza, ham & cheese kabobs, crackers and cheese, chili garlic chex mix, and cranberry punch), and had a nice time of fellowship. Each person attending brought 4 dozen of their favorite holiday cookie/candy to exchange and a copy of their recipe(s) for me to post here (listed below). We really enjoyed it and are definitely planning to make it a yearly tradition! Maybe you could get one together in your area and among your friends. Or have you already hosted one of these over the holidays?

Cookie Swap 2010 Recipes
Cookie Dough Truffles (by Tanya and Sarah)
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 lb. semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Mini chocolate chips or M&M's (for garnish)
  1. Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture is firm enough to form balls.
  2. Shape the chilled cookie dough mixture into 1 inch balls. Place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze for 1-2 hours.
  3. When ready to dip the truffles, melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler (or in the microwave at 50% power, stirring frequently). Using a toothpick, dip each chilled truffle, one at a time, coating in chocolate and letting the excess drip off. (If the cookie dough balls become too soft, return them to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.) Transfer the dipped truffles to a wax-paper lined surface. If using mini chocolate chips for garnish, sprinkle on top quickly after dipping each truffle before the chocolate sets. 
  4. Store in the refrigerator and serve cold. These can also be frozen for longer storage.
Heath Bit Peanut Butter Cookies (by Tanya)
Recipe coming soon.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies (by Chariti)
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Combine oats, flour, salt, and baking soda; stir into butter mixture one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in preheated oven, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Oreo Truffles (by Melissa)
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pkg. (1 lb. 2 oz.) oreo cookies, finely crushed (about 4-1/4 cups), divided
  • 2 pkg. (8 squares each) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted
  1. Mix cream cheese and 3 cups cookie crumbs until well blended.
  2. Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls. Dip in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.
  3. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.
Peanut Butter Bonbons (by Beka)
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 2 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 bar paraffin wax
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter, confectioners' sugar, and coconut flakes. Stir in rice cereal. Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls and chill.
  2. In the microwave or in a double boiler, melt chocolate chips and paraffin wax together, stirring frequently until smooth. Dip the peanut butter balls into the chocolate using a toothpick. Place onto waxed paper to set.
Pecan Tassies I (by Anna)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (very fine)
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 6-8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  1. Mix filling ingredients well, and set aside.
  2. Blend batter ingredients by hand until all flour is mixed into butter and cream cheese.
  3. Place dough (about the size of a walnut) into mini muffin pans. Press into bottom and sides.
  4. Into the center put a teaspoonful of mixture. Press down with fingers (not too firmly). 
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Lift out with a fork. Makes 4-5 dozen.
Pecan Tassies II (by Shannan)
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  1. Combine cream cheese and butter, mixing well until well blended. Add flour; mix well. Chill. 
  2. Divide dough into quarters; divide each quarter into 12 balls. Press each ball onto bottom and sides of miniature muffin pans. 
  3. Combine eggs, brown sugar and vanilla; stir in pecans. Spoon into pastry shells, filling each cup. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Makes 4 dozen.
Peppermint Patties (by Sarah)
Recipe coming soon.

Puddin' Head Gingerbread Men (Mrs. P)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) package regular butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • assorted decorative candies (optional)
  1. Cream butter, brown sugar and pudding mix. Add egg and beat well.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Roll part of chilled dough out on floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.Cut with 4-inch gingerbread man cookie cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake in 350° oven for 6-8 minutes.
  4. Remove from cookie sheet to rack and cool. Mix up your favorite frosting and frost cookies. Decorate with candies if desired.
Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies (by Star)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking sode
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, cream softened butter, shortening, sugars, and vanilla. Beat in egg. Gradually add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Place in refrigerator and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. (If you take them out they start to get dark they are nice and chewy. Just bake them a bit longer if you prefer crunchy cookies.)
  4. This dough freezes very well. I like to form it into balls and flash freeze them on a cookie sheet and then put them in freezer bags and take a couple out whenever we want warm cookies.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Menu: December 20-26

With this week being Christmas, I haven't thought much about what to make during the week. I've really only thought about what I'll be making for Christmas. I'll be filling in the rest of the week as I get a chance, but here are some things that we'll be having...
  • Monday - Chicken Soup and fresh bread
  • Tuesday - Chicken Pot Pie
    A friend and I will be hosting a cookie swap at out Church tonight and I plan to make some Peanut Butter Bon Bons. We will also have a cheese & cracker tray, veggie pizza, veggie tray, cocktail wieners, cranberry punch, etc. 
  • Wednesday - We'll be at my MIL & FIL's house as usual. :o)
  • Thursday - Meatball Subs, fresh veggies, and a side salad
    I will be making some homemade "gingerbread" cottages (made out of graham crackers) with the kids and getting the house ready for Christmas Eve dinner with the hubby's side of the family as it is our turn to host this year.
  • Christmas Eve Dinner - Steaks (hamburgers for the kids), baked sweet potatoes, grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli, glazed baby carrots, dinner rolls or homemade bread, salad, and I am still deciding on a dessert...thinking about a yule log cake or the usual cheesecake.
  • Christmas brunch - Cinnamon Rolls (with raisins instead of nuts), scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and fresh fruit.
    Christmas lunch - steak fajitas
    Christmas dinner - Baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and mixed veggies.
  • Sunday -  Sweet Potato Muffins for breakfast;
    Lunch - ???

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar

I needed a $10 lady's gift for our church's staff Christmas party but have always hated giving the "usual" gifts - store-bought bath baskets, perfume sets, etc. This year I had an epiphany! Why not give a set of jar mixes and some Christmas potholders? I thought it would be a nice homemade alternative to the "usuals". I made up one jar of my "Dreaming of a White Christmas Soup" (I also included a can of the cooked chicken mentioned in the recipe) and another of "Peanut Butter Swirl Chip Cookie Mix" (which I found at and have included below). That way, the person who receives my gift will get both dinner and dessert in a bag. :o)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels (peanut butter chocolate swirl chips, white and semi-sweet swirl chips, etc.)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Place flour mixture in 1-quart jar. Layer remaining ingredients in order listed above, pressing firmly after each layer. Seal with lid and decorate with fabric and ribbon.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Beat 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter or margarine, 1 large egg and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until blended. Add cookie mix and 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional); mix well, breaking up any clumps. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Maybe next year I'll make up some Red Beans and Rice Mix for my gift. Want to create jar mixes from your own favorite recipes? Learn how here.

Want a few more jar mix recipes? Check out some of these sites:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu: December 13-19

It's another frigid week here so lots more comfort foods on the menu. I will also be doing some baking (both to help warm the house and make for some comforting breakfasts).

  • Cream of Chicken & Rice Soup (I plan to work on this recipe a bit to make it lower in calorie/fat than as written) and dinner rolls
  • Biscuits & gravy (I will be using turkey sausage and skim milk to help cut down on fat) with cheesy scrambled eggs and a fresh fruit salad
  • Swedish Meatballs over No Yolks egg noodles and a side of mixed veggies - to cut down on the fat in the meatballs, I will use 85% lean ground beef, turkey sausage instead of the pork, and half and half instead of the heavy cream.
  • Baked chicken breast, mashed potatoes, veggies, and dinner rolls
  • We are hosting a mystery dinner for our College/Career's Christmas party. But maybe you could make some Calzones. Mmmm...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Review: The Nativity Collection by Robert J. Morgan

I was recently provided a copy of this book through BookSneeze.
The Nativity Collection is gift book and contains six short stories centered around different Nativities. Each story takes place in a different part of the world and is set around different circumstances. The purpose of each story is to remind us of the importance of Christ's birth to our very lives. This book would be good for anyone 10 and up to read but might be a little too deep for someone younger.

My Thoughts
The author uses such wonderful wording to paint a vivid picture of each story. Everything seems so realistic that you feel as if this story actually happened and you were there to witness it. There were stories that made me laugh and others that brought me nearly to tears. The illustrations are beautiful but are not necessarily a part of the actual stories. The author presents a strong, spiritual message on different "gifts" because of Christ's birth - hope of salvation, power to change, relationships with others, etc. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good Christmas read. This book is quite versatile - you could choose to read the whole book in one evening, one story aloud to your family each night throughout the week of Christmas, or even as the inspiration for a church Christmas play. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Menu: December 6-12

It is cold here and I am just thinking about wonderful comfort dishes for meals this week.
Here is the master list in case you need a few more ideas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Review: The Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage by Michael & Amy Smalley

I have recently begun reviewing books for the Tyndale Blog Network. With my husband and I planning to enter full-time Christian service in the near future, I decided to read The Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage by Michael and Amy Smalley. The single image on the front cover of a hand mirror aptly describes the book before you even pick it up. It is about taking personal responsibility in your marriage. No matter what kind of shape your marriage is in, you have the power to begin the process of changing it for the best. You cannot base your relationship solely on what your spouse does or does not do. It is your responsibility to change yourself into the spouse YOU should be.

My Thoughts
I was very pleased with the way the Smalleys have written this book. It is laid out in a very informal and straightforward style. I appreciate the fact that they present the material from both the husband's and wife's perspective in sharing personal stories and stories taken from their counseling experience. The material is presented in a step-by-step type process of things to begin working on in your marriage, which makes the change seem more easily achievable. Probably the best part about this book is the fact that all the material is based on what the Bible has to say - we are told to remove the beam out of our own eye before trying to remove the spec out of someone else's eye. God judges us by how we act and react not on how our spouse treats us. The book includes a study guide to help the reader change. It provides a challenge, key verse, and a few questions to ask yourself about the role you play as a spouse. The only downside to the study guide is that there is no space provided for you to write down your answers, thoughts, etc. I have a great marriage but was even challenged to make a few changes of my own. This book will be wonderful material for me to use now in my own marriage and in future ministry helping others. I would recommend this book to anyone struggling in their marriage or planning to counsel someone who is struggling.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Menu: November 29-December 5

We are all feeling better and had a wonderful time with family for Thanksgiving. It was nice to get away but it is good to be home! I have a pick up this week for a grandmother's dress and a wedding gown fitting to do as well, so I will be trying to keep things simple for meals.

  • Baked Chicken, mashed potatoes, and mixed veggies
  • Grilled Chicken Salad - Romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, cheese, carrots, boiled eggs, etc.
  • My MIL is making Chicken Taco Soup on Wednesday. :o) I will also be making up a pan of Zucchini Brownies for our Ladies Christmas Party at Church.
  • Pork Roast, herbed brown rice, and steamed broccoli
  • Breakfast-for-Dinner - Egg Bake, fresh bread, and fresh fruit
  • We may go to a Christmas party on Saturday.
  • Roast Beef Sandwiches, baby reds, and a raw veggie tray
Here is the Master List if you need a few other ideas for dinner this week.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Menu: November 22-28

The kiddos and I all ended up with a stomach bug this week and so I actually didn't end up cooking at all. We had a bunch of leftovers in the fridge so that's what we had.

This year we are celebrating Christmas at Thanksgiving with my side of the family as everyone will not be able to get together at Christmas. It will be a busy Monday and Tuesday for me getting things together for Christmas and I've also got a wedding gown fitting.

Dinners will probably consist of either leftovers, sandwiches, or I have a few meals in the freezer. Knowing all of this, I am including a list of the foods that I will be bringing/making for Thanksgiving week with my family. I have three sisters so we will each be taking a different dish for each day.
  • Turkey - I am in charge of making the turkey this year and I am thinking about trying a new Weight Watchers recipe that I discovered. I will try to post the recipe sometime Monday or Tuesday.
  • Mashed Potatoes and Gravy (made from the turkey drippings)
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Friday, we will be in charge of:
  • Saturday, I will be in charge of making the cinnamon rolls, which I will make up on Friday night and leave them in the refrigerator overnight.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Anniversary Present

The hubby and I have been talking about getting a really nice Cuisinart Food Processor for quite awhile. We kept watching and waiting for them to go on sale and then decided that we'd wait until Christmas to get one for ourselves. One of my hubby's co-workers will give him these flyers for estate sales that his parents run. A few weeks ago, the hubby was reading one of these flyers and saw that there was a 14-cup Cuisinart Food Processor for $50. He talked to his co-worker about it and said that if it was in good shape we'd take it. We figured that it would be a good anniversary gift for ourselves as we would both use it.

Almost week after our anniversary the hubby brought the new food processor home. It was love at first sight for me. The food processor had barely been used even thought it probably over 5 years old! I got to use it the other night when grating carrots and apples for my Harvest Apple Muffins. I loved it even more after using it. As many of you may know, I absolutely love my KitchenAid mixer and I have to say I think I love the new food processor just as much! My hubby sure picks the best gifts, he's such a wonderful guy. :o)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Menu: November 15-21

This week we'll be spending some time with my family so I won't be cooking a whole lot.

  • Pork Roast, brown rice, and steamed broccoli - I think this may be the only meal that I am cooking this week. (Thursday)
  • I made Jambalaya ahead of time to use for lunch Sunday, but my uncle and aunt ended up being in town and took us out for lunch. We will be eating the jambalaya for dinner on Monday night.
  • Some friends of ours asked us out to dinner at Christianos on Tuesday night.
  • Wednesday, we will probably be eating dinner at my MIL & FIL's house. 
  • Friday-Sunday we will be spending time with my family.
I know this doesn't really help anyone else out, but here is the Master List if you need a few ideas for dinner.

Friday, November 12, 2010

KitchenAid Mixer Deal at Kohl's

The hubby bought me a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas almost 4 years ago and, as many of you know, I LOVE it! If you are in the market for a stand mixer or looking for a good Christmas gift idea for your wife then you'll want to check this out. A friend posted this link on Facebook and I just couldn't resist sharing it here on the blog.
Kohl’s: Amazing Deal on 4.5 qt Kitchenaid Mixer (Beats Black Friday Pricing)
BY CHRISTY ON NOVEMBER 11, 2010 had the KitchenAid® Classic Plus 4.5-qt. Stand Mixer on sale for only $199.99, but if you use the coupon codes that are available you can score an amazing deal in conjunction with the mail in rebate and FREE Kohl’s Cash. Your final price can be as low at $103 (+ tax).   You will need to purchase the mixer by November 15th in order to claim the rebate.
Kohl’s Cardholder Deal
KitchenAid® Classic Plus 4.5-qt. Stand Mixer 199.99
Use the code HOLIDAYGIFT for 30% off = 139.99
Shipping is FREE, but there is a $3.25 surcharge you will have to pay
Pay today = 143.24 (+ your states sales tax)
Get $20 back from Kitchenaid mail-in rebate
Brings price down = 123.24
Plus, earn $20 in Kohl’s cash ($10 for every $50 you spend)
Final Price = 103.24 after coupon codes, rebate & Kohl’s cash
**You can earn an additonal $10 in Kohl’s cash if you spend $10 more to get you over $150

Non-Cardholder Deal
KitchenAid® Classic Plus 4.5-qt. Stand Mixer 199.99
Use the code EXTRA20 for 20% off = 159.99
Shipping is FREE, but there is a $3.25 surcharge you will have to pay
Pay today = 163.24 (+ your states sales tax)
Get $20 back from Kitchenaid mail-in rebate
Brings price down = 143.24
Plus, earn $30 in Kohl’s cash ($10 for every $50 you spend)
Final Price = 113.24 after coupon codes, rebate & Kohl’s cash

This is a super deal considering you can pick one up on Black Friday at Sears for $199.99, which has a mail in rebate of $50, making the final price $149.99.   With the Kohl’s deal, you pay less and you don’t even have to leave your home!
**The Kohl’s cash you earn is based on your total after discounts, but before any tax or shipping charges.

Harvest Apple Muffins

I have been wanting to attempt an Apple Oat Muffin or Harvest Apple muffin for over a month. I've never had one before but thought the combination would be really good. I finally found a couple of recipes that I will use as a base and then edit them to my own taste. Here are links to the two recipes that I used for reference - Apple Oat Muffins (Good Housekeeping) and Apple Oat Muffins (Hola Jalapeño blog). If you decide to make either recipe without changes, let me know what you think of them, but here is my version

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Parmesan (Herb) Bread

I used the Best Bread Machine Bread recipe from and then made a few changes. It turned out to be so delicious! Make sure you follow the steps exactly.
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package yeast(or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • butter
  • Optional ingredients:
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  1. Place the water, sugar and yeast in the pan of the bread machine. Let the yeast dissolve and foam for 10 minutes. 
  2. Add the oil, flour, cheese, (herbs), and salt to the yeast. Select Dough setting, and press Start.
  3. At the end of the final cycle, remove from bread machine to a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Roll each portion into a 10-in. x 8-in. rectangle. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a short side; pinch seams to seal. Spray two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. Place dough in pans, cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place bread pans in oven and bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Baste with a small amount of butter.
Parmesan (Herb) Bread shown alongside a bowl of my Chicken Tortellini Soup.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Creamy Chicken Broccoli & Rice Casserole

I love a good chicken and rice casserole but most of them call for a can of condensed cream of something soup, which has a lot of sodium in it. Last night I decided to come up with my own version of this without using a cream soup for the base. Here is what I came up with and it was so delicious!
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans of low-sodium chicken broth (roughly 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice (you can use white rice, just change up the cook time)
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1/2 cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2/3 cup light sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook chicken in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add rice, broth, and seasoning. Bring to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 35 minutes.
  2. Toss broccoli florets and milk into saucepan with rice and chicken, stir and cover. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Top with remaining cheese and leave over heat for 5 minutes. Once cheese is melted you are ready to serve.
I serve a nice side salad along with this dish.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's here!

I am very excited that the part for our oven came in the mail today! I'm hoping that the hubby can get it installed without any problems tonight so that I have a working over by tomorrow night so that I can start using it again. As much as I would enjoy attempting to make roast chicken in my slow cooker, I really like my recipe for oven roasted chicken.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Menu: November 8-14

I still don't have a working oven, so most of the meals this week will be either slow cooker or stove-top.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Flavors of Fall" Pork Loin Roast

I am still not able to use my oven so I had to come up with an alternate to roasting my pork loin. I decided
to slow cook the pork loin in my crock pot, then transfer it to a roasting pan and broil it for a bit to add the nice "crispy" layer that roasting would have provided.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

When life gives you lemons...

Today I went to roast some butternut and acorn squash to put in the freezer for future use in breads, muffins, etc. I had my squash all cut up and on the pans, popped them into the oven and turned it on. I then left the room to attend to one of my munchkins. I can back to check on the progress of the squash about 30 minutes later (and to make lunch for all my kidlets) only to discover that my oven was not "firing" up (it's a gas range). I tested the broiler and the stove top to discover that they were working just fine. After some searching on the internet, I came to the conclusion that the ignitor must be causing the problem. Until I have the hubby take a look at it and decide on a plan of action, the menu may get a little switched around for the next week or so. Looks like I'll be doing some crockpot, grilled, and stovetop meals for a bit. I am currently testing out how to "bake" squash using only the broiler... I'll let you know how it turns out.

FREE Thanksgiving ebook has a free ebook that you can download. It has Thanksgiving recipes, traditions, decorating ideas and more. There are also some helpful printables and downloads to make Thanksgiving more organized for you this year. Download free ebook here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Homemade Lasagna

When I was a kid, Lasagna was reserved for occasions that were a little more on the special-side, mostly because it took so long to prepare. I have always loved the way my mom made it and I continue to make it pretty much the same way.

  • 1 lb. 85%-90% lean ground beef, ground venison, or even ground turkey/chicken
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 quarts tomato sauce
  • 1 4 oz can mushrooms or 1/2 cup fresh, optional
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 box lasagna noodles (I never use up the whole box)
  • 2-3 cups mozzarella cheese (I'm using fat free)
  • 5 oz shredded Parmesan
  • 1 carton cottage cheese or Ricotta cheese (I'm using fat free)
  1. Brown ground beef, onion and garlic.
  2. Add tomato sauce, mushrooms, and herbs, stirring until well mixed.Simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside.In a lasagna pan, layer noodles, meat sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and Parmesan; repeat for 2 more layers. Top off with layer of noodles; sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cheese mixture is thoroughly melted.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Menu: November 1-7

I am still thinking about what to make for dinners this week...
  • Monday - Lasagna, side salad, and French bread (I do add a little 2 tablespoons olive oil to this recipe)
  • Tuesday - We will be going out to dinner with my parents before they head home.
  • Wednesday - We will probably be at my MIL and FIL's house for dinner.
  • Thursday - Pork Loin Roast, steamed broccoli, and mashed potatoes.
  • Friday - Steak with mushrooms and onions, grilled potatoes, and grilled veggies (zucchini, red & green peppers, onions, and garlic)
  • Saturday - We have a college/career's activity doing a "Dinner Impossible" mission for a church function. I am really looking forward to seeing how the "chefs" pull this one off!
  • Sunday - I had planned to make Roast Sticky Chicken, mashed butternut squash (with a little brown sugar, butter, and spices), dinner rolls, and corn. But if my oven is still not in working order by Sunday, I will plan to make a double batch of White Chicken Chili and then freeze half of it for a meal in the future.
For more meal ideas, check out my complete listing.

31 Days of Praise: October 31

I have been thinking this week about how truly blessed we are as a family. We have three beautiful, healthy children, a roof over our heads, running cars in the garage and driveway, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, food on our table, and money in our bank account. We have more "stuff" than we could ever need! Today I praise God for His overall blessing on our family even though we do not deserve it.

I am reminded of a song that my grandpa used to sing to us - "Thank You Lord, For your Blessings on Me"
(written by The Easter Brothers).

Verse I
As the world looks upon me, as I struggle along
They say I have nothing, but they are so wrong
In my heart I’m rejoicing, how I wish they could see
Thank you Lord, for your blessings on me

There’s a roof up above me
I’ve a good place to sleep
There’s food on my table
And shoes on my feet
You gave me your love Lord
And a fine family
Thank you Lord, for your blessings on me

Verse II
Now I know I’m not wealthy, and these clothes , they’re not new
I don’t have much money, but Lord I have you
And to me that’s all that matters, though the world cannot see
Thank you Lord, for your blessings on me

Repeat Chorus, then:
Thank you Lord, for your blessings on me

Saturday, October 30, 2010

31 Days of Praise: October 30

Today the hubby and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. I am so thankful that God was the One who brought us together and has really given us a wonderful marriage. We can honestly say that we have never truly argued over anything (bickered - yes, argued - no). I love my hubby more today then when we got married and believe that I will love him even more in another 6 years.

We did get to go out for dinner and shopping, just the two of us, while my cousin watched our munchkins. It was a nice time to be alone with each other! :o)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

I have been wanting to try my hand at red beans and rice for a while and finally got the chance to make some for dinner tonight. I got a basic recipe from and made some changes - turned it into a one pot dish and made some lower fat changes.
  • 1 pound dry kidney beans
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken, beef, or vegetable stock + 2 cups water (I prefer beef)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper or 1 whole cayenne pepper, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 pound smoked turkey sausage, sliced
  • 3 cups hot-to-boiling water
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • hot sauce to taste (I used 1 tablespoon during cooking and then added some to my bowl later)
  1. Rinse beans, and then soak in a large pot of water overnight. Or bring them to a boil with some water in a large saucepan, boil for 2 minutes, cover, and remove from heat. After 1 hour, drain and rinse the beans. 
  2. Rinse beans, and place in a large pot along with the stock and 2 cups water. Season with bay leaves, cayenne pepper, thyme, sage, parsley, Cajun seasoning, salt, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Stir rice, sausage, onion, bell pepper, garlic, celery and hot water into beans, cover, and continue to simmer for 60 minutes. Serve with some fresh bread.

    31 Days of Praise: October 29

    Today I woke feeling very sick (probably just morning sickness) but the Lord answered my prayers and all 3 munchkins took their naps, which meant that I got one too! It may seem like such a small thing to be thankful for in this day and age, but as the mother of a 3, 2, and 1 year old it is rare to have the chance for a nap even when it is necessary to your well-being.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 27-28

    October 27 -
    I am thankful for God's faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23 reminds us, "...great is Thy faithfulness." He promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear with His help - "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." I Corinthians 10:13
    October 28 -
    I am thankful for opportunities to minister to others. Throughout my lifetime, God has blessed with people who have ministered to my needs. These people have ministered to me beyond what I could ever deserve and because of it I look forward to ministering to others. It's like a domino effect, someone ministered to someone else, who then ministered to me, and I, in turn, seek to minister to someone else. As the song says, "There IS joy in serving Jesus!"

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 26

    The weather is a bit dreary today - lots of wind and rain off-and-on. I had to run a couple of errands earlier today and was reminded to be thankful for two running vehicles that are completely paid off. I do enjoy walking to both the store and post office with the kids when the weather is nice but I don't think I'd like having to do it all the time because of not having a second vehicle.

    Acorn Squash Slices

    I wanted to try something new with squash as a side dish. I've made sausage and apple stuffed acorn squash, mashed squash with brown sugar and butter, etc. I came across this idea from but made some changes to it.
    • 1 medium acorn squash
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup
    • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
    • 1-2 tablespoons water
    1. Wash squash. Cut in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membrane. 
    2. Cut each half crosswise into 1" slices. Place slices in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish.
    3. Sprinkle with seasonings. Combine syrup, water, and butter; pour over squash. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until tender.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Baked Potato Soup

    One of the ladies from my church brought this delicious potato soup to the Ladies Retreat over the weekend. I am a huge fan of potato soup and have never been able to get it quite right. I am very glad she was willing to share this recipe so that I could finally make some great potato soup!
    • 4 large baking potatoes *(read "Note" below)
    • 2/3 cup butter
    • 2/3 cup flour
    • 6 cups milk 
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp pepper
    • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese
    • 12 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled, and divided (I use a whole pound)
    • 4 green onion, chopped and divided
    • 1 (8 oz) carton sour cream
    1. Wash potatoes, prick several times with a fork. Bake at 400 for 1 hour or until done; cool. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, and reserve. Discard shells.
    2. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute; stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly.
    3. Stir in potato, salt, pepper, 1 cup cheese, 1/2 cup bacon, and 2 Tbsp green onions; cook until heated (do not boil). Stir in sour cream; cook just until heated (do not boil). Sprinkle servings with remaining cheese, bacon, and green onions. Yield: 10 cups
    NOTE: I have used baked potatoes (most time consuming), boiled yukon, gold, red potatoes, and even a bag of frozen hashbrowns (thawed) when in a pinch. I usually just peel and dice up a lot of potatoes, cook them all by boiling in water with chicken bouillon for added flavor, and put some through a "ricer", adding bulk and creaminess to the soup base. I like lots of potato chunks, so I use more than 4 potatoes, but I don't know exactly how many to tell you. Honestly, as long as there are potatoes in the soup SOMEHOW, it will be fine. FInd what works for you. (You can also use a jar of REAL bacon bits in a pinch.) One and a half times THIS recipe will fill a large crockpot (like at Ladies Retreat) to the top.
    I have shared this recipe exactly as I received it. I used 3 cups evaporated skim milk and 3 cups regular skim milk, turkey bacon, and 6 oz. light sour cream (instead of the 8 oz. regular)  to cut down on some of the calories. I also cut the butter and flour down to 1/2 cup each. It was just a tasty as the original with a little less calories and fat. 

    31 Days of Praise: October 24-25

    On Sunday (October 24), I was reminded to be thankful for my freedom to worship. We had a special speaker at church who spoke on getting involved in our government to help maintain this freedom.

    Today I am thankful for a cancelled fitting. I had a fitting scheduled for 10:30am and woke up feeling pretty icky with morning sickness (and that's even after going back to bed when the hubby left). I quickly tried to finish straightening up the house and finished at about 10:10am. Then my fitting called to say she wouldn't be able to make and was calling to reschedule. Now my house is fairly clean and I can take some time this afternoon to get a little rest and hopefully feel better. :o)

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Menu: October 24-31

    I shall try to get this week's menu up before Monday but I haven't gotten a lot of sleep in the last couple of days...

    31 Days of Praise: October 23

    I spent over 24 hours away from the cares of home. It was a great time of spiritual refreshment and fellowship being at our church's Ladies' Retreat. I got to spend time with some great women who are wonderful examples of godliness.

    I am thankful for all of the godly women in our church who have been great examples to me in my walk with God. These women have encouraged me as a young wife and mother, and I cannot say in words how much I truly appreciate them.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 22

    While reading Psalm 51 this morning, I was reminded of God's mercy and forgiveness. Being human, I mess things up, I sin against others and against God, and I am not perfect. I need forgiveness many times a day, which is why I am so very thankful that God forgives and shows mercy. I was reminded of Psalm 103 when thinking about and praising God for His forgiveness to me.
    The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.               Psalm 103:8-18
    I have another thing to be thankful for today. I am extremely thankful for my husband (I know that I've mentioned him before) and his willingness to take care of all three of the munchkins so that I can go to our church's Ladies' Retreat today and tomorrow. I did bake a Caramel Brownie Chocolate Chip Cheesecake to bring with me and will post the recipe later. I also made some Chocolate Cheerio Treats to leave for the kiddos (same recipe as Rice Krispie Treats, only using chocolate Cheerios instead of Rice Krispies).

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 21

    I was reading in Psalm 49 today during my devotions and saw something that I have never noticed before. This particular Psalm speaks of the brevity of material gain and its worthlessness in eternity. In verses 6-7, we are told that our riches cannot redeem us. Then verses 9-20 remind us that earthly honor, social stature, and material wealth only last until we die. At death we can "carry nothing away" with us.

    I've said all this as a background to what I am thankful for today. Psalm 49:15 says, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah." It matters not what earthly gain or prestige I may amass on this earth as I cannot take it with me. The grave may take away these earthly riches but it has no eternal hold on me because of my salvation. One day I will be received of God to spend an eternity with Him in heaven, and for this I am thankful.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 20

    Psalm 48:14 - "For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death." 

    As I was reading Psalm 48 in my devotions, I was encouraged by this last verse of the chapter. I am so thankful that God will guide us if we submit to Him. God always has our best in mind and will never lead us astray. He may allow us to go through heartaches and hard times, but it is always for our ultimate good and the glory of God. There is such peace in knowing this and allowing Him to direct my steps.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 19

    As some of you may have guessed from my Name that Sound post, we are expecting child #4. I am not due until the end of June 2011 so I have a long way to go. I have been really struggling with "morning" (more like all day) sickness and fatigue, which shouldn't, but is, making it difficult for me to remember to praise the Lord by "In everything give thanks."

    To help remind myself of the need to be thankful and praise the Lord I have been trying to praise Him for the very thing the I am struggling with each day. Today I am thankful for the gift of being able to "grow" a new life. I truly believe that the ability to bear children is a special gift that God has given to women. I am not in any way demeaning women who are barren or have never been able to carry a child full-term. I am, however, reminding those of the female gender that they have been uniquely and specially created by God.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 18

    Today I am thankful for technology. I like having hot water at the turn of a knob and indoor toilets. I'm glad that I don't have to wash my clothes by hand and can dry them in a dryer if I so choose. Having the option to send a note to someone instantly versus waiting months for a letter from overseas, and a million other things. There are many things my great-grandparents did not have that I often take granted and for these I am thankful.

    Name that Sound

    Here is the sound of something in the oven. Can you guess what it is?

    Hint: I always over-bake this and it often causes heartburn, but it's worth it.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 17

    I am thankful for the love of God. He knew me and loved me before I was even conceived. He knows the number of hairs (including grays) on my head. His love is unconditional and I was reminded of this in one of the Psalms I was reading.

    Menu: October 18-23

    I'm starting the menu a little earlier than usual because I actually have a couple of ideas for this menu. I promise to finish it before next week.
    • Jambalaya - I substitute Smoked Turkey Sausage for regular Smoked Sausage to cut down on the fat content.
    • Stuffed Peppers (Piggly Wiggly has green peppers on sale this week for .99/lb and red peppers for $1.49/lb, which aren't the best prices but pretty good for this time of the year.)***
    • We may be eating dinner with my MIL and FIL on Wednesday like we usually do.
    • Crustless Spinach Quiche and roasted potatoes - I love doing "breakfast for dinner" and quiche is one of my favorite things to make for it. (Yes, I moved this here from last week's menu.)
    • Friday night I will be at a Ladies Retreat (YIPPEE) so the hubby will be making dinner for the kiddos and watching them from around Noon on Friday until Saturday afternoon. :o)
    • Saturday night we may be going to a missions dinner that some friends from the hubby's work invited us to.
    • California Medley Soup and dinner rolls - I love this recipe but haven't had a chance to make it since we started watching our calories. I am going to attempt to alter this recipe to make it lower in calorie than it currently is. All of the veggies needed for this recipe are on sale at Piggly Wiggly and Pick-n-Save this week. 
    ***Spur of the moment menu change. I decided to switch our the stuffed peppers for Curry Chicken Soup and Naan (I am going to attempt the kneading/rising stages in the bread machine to help save me some time).

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 16

    Today I am thankful for the added strength God provides when we ask for it. The hubby and I have been working really hard to lose weight, eat healthy and get in shape over the last 4 months. We have both struggled with being overweight most of our lives and this summer we came to realize that it was due mainly to our inability to say "No" to ourselves. We have since really worked at learning and praying for temperance. God has given us the strength to control our bad eating habits and this week we both hit milestones. The hubby hit the 54 lb mark on Thursday and is almost halfway to his final weight loss goal. Today, I hit the 21 lb mark and am a third of the way to my final weight loss goal.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 15

    I have been cleaning out my girls' closet - putting away the summer clothes and replacing them with the Fall and Winter ones. I have packed up 3 large diaper boxes for the attic and have 3 even bigger boxes to hang up or put in their dresser. 

    Today, I am thankful that my children have more than they really need as far as clothing goes and especially that I did not have to pay for 90% of their clothes. God has worked it out that one of my sister's daughters and one of the girls at church are about the same size and give most of their hand-me-downs to me for Miss Evelyn. I also get lots of clothes for Miss Amelia as one of my sister's girls was born at the same time of year only 3 years earlier. There is also a little boy at church who is a year older than Reagan and we get most of his hand-me-downs. All this and my kids still get new clothes for Christmas and Birthdays from our immediate family! God has surely provided for us above and beyond what we need.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 14

    Yesterday, I got a phone call from my dad. He was just calling to let me know that he was proud of me. Today I am thankful for a Dad who has always been a patient and steady rock to lean upon. He is one of the best listeners that I know of when you need someone to talk to or share a problem/burden with. He is full of wisdom and gives good advice. He has always encouraged me to do the best that I can with what I have.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 13

    How time seems fly lately. We are almost into the middle of the month already.

    October 13 - I am thankful for the power of prayer. James 5:16b, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Throughout my life there have been many times where I have witnessed the power of prayer. Here are just a few.

    I had to have a couple of emergency surgeries and a week's stay in the hospital my sophomore year of college. As a poor college student, I didn't have the money to pay for it and our insurance only covered 75% of a over $40k medical bill. God heard my prayers and the hospital's charity agreed to cover all but $3,500 of the bill.

    When our first child was born, he wouldn't stop bleeding after his circumcision and was rushed to a NICU almost an hour away from our house. My husband and I were terrified and I still get a little choked up thinking about it. Our family, friends, and church family began praying with us for his recovery. The doctors ran so many tests but couldn't figure out what the problem was. Miraculously his blood started clotting after only 2 platelet transfusions and he was able to come home at a week old. The doctors told us that there was no way he should have recovered as quickly as he did. We know that it was all God's doing.

    Twenty-six months ago we decided to stop using credit to buy things and to start paying off debt with a vengeance. I was scared to do it as we'd just had our second child and with two in diapers it wasn't cheap. We want to be debt free by the time we enter full-time ministry and have been praying that the Lord would help us to accomplish this goal. We've gone from over $34k worth of debt (not including our mortgage) down to $16k in that time and have not used a credit card or taken out a loan since September 2008. God has supplied with pay raises, bonuses, etc. to help us get this far and to help us continue our endeavor to be debt free.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 12

    Today I praise God for the friends that He has placed in my life throughout the years who have helped to strengthen and encourage me. I know that I would not be where I am today if it had not been for these faithful friends.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Menu: October 11-17

    After all the hurry and scurry of last week and still cooking almost every meal, I almost feel like not cooking at all this week. However, I know that would not be a wise decision for our wallets or waists so here is the beginning of the menu for this week. I did have one meal from last week that I did not use because I had forgotten that we would be attending a birthday party on Saturday.
    • Spinach Feta Pizza - I will be using pre-made dough this time but if'd like to make your own here is my recipe for pizza dough.
    • Spinach and Tomato Tortellini - I will try to get my version of this recipe up this afternoon but cannot make any promises. Here is the original recipe for now.
    • Wednesday - my MIL made a delicious pan of Chicken-n-Biscuits. Yummmm!
    • Slow Cooker Venison Steaks, garlic mashed potatoes, and glazed carrots.
    • Grilled tuna steaks (salt and peppered then grilled on a cedar plank), grilled turkey bacon wrapped asparagus, tossed salad (spinach, green leaf lettuce, iceberg lettuce, broccoli, carrots, and sliced mushrooms), Mushroom and Spinach Soup, and Slow Cooker apple crisp (I'll try to post the recipe later this afternoon) - I sent the breakfast-for-dinner meal over to next week's menu because the hubby is going to be grilling tonight. We are having some friends over for dinner. :o)
    • Peppery Beef Sandwiches - I'm using the leftover venison steaks and shredding them for the sandwiches.
    • Saturday we will be taking our college/career group to the symphony and out for dinner. I will be making some type of pasta dish for the sitter and kiddos - either taco-style Mac'n'Cheese or a spaghetti bake.
    Interesting Fact: Did you know that eating cooked spinach can be more nutritious than eating it raw? Also, adding some form of citrus into a dish along with spinach helps with absorption of its nutrients. 

    Your Turn: What are your thoughts on spinach? Love it? Hate it? Cooked or raw? Got a yummy recipe with spinach you'd like to share?

    31 Days of Praise: October 10-11

    It has been a busy and fun filled weekend, which is why I haven't posted anything until now.

    • October 10 -
      I am thankful for God's provision above and beyond what we need. While I was attending Bible college quite a few years ago, I would hear of these stories where a school bill would be miraculously paid off by an anonymous donation or something very similar to that after the student had prayed for God's provision. I would always pray about God supplying the funds and He always answered my prayer...with more work hours, a new sewing job, etc. 2 years ago we stopped using credit cards completely (trust me, it was not an easy step for me) and started budgeting (something neither my husband or I had ever done). We have been working really hard to pay off our debts as well and have now paid off over $17,000 of it. There have been times where God would allow my husband to get bonuses at work and then others like what happened on Friday. Yes, you guessed it, I got another sewing job. I have a very simple FREE website for my sewing business, Sew Me Creations, and also a few FREE listings on wedding planning sites and web directories. With all of these being freebies, I don't generally get a lot of business from them. With that said, I received a phone call on Friday from a lady who lives over an hour away who was in need of a seamstress but couldn't find anyone in her price range close by (most were between 2 and 3 times higher than her budget allowed). She asked if I could send her an estimate and said she would call me back after she'd looked it over. I sat down, looked at the photographs she'd sent and wrote up an estimate, which was much higher than I thought she would be interested in paying but to my surprise she called back almost begging me to work on her dress. Over the last month, I have received a minimum of one sewing job a week. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
    • October 11 -
      I am thankful for the wonderful family that God gave to my husband and now to me. I'm pretty confident that I have the world's best set of in-laws a person could have. Many times I know that I take them for granted but was reminded today of how great they really are.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 9

    Yesterday was a bit rough as my 3 1/2 year old decided that he did not want to take a nap. Yes, he did need one. There were a few times when I lost patience with him. We didn't get home till late and then he was up this morning by 7:30. I was thinking to myself how frustrating it was and then the Lord reminded me of His mercy and grace - that His mercy is NEW every morning. I am so thankful for God's mercy toward me and that it is new every morning. Take a look at Lamentations 3:21-26.

    Your Turn: What are you praising God for today? Is there a specific attribute of God that you are particularly thankful for today?

    Chicken Tortellini Soup

    I love homemade chicken noodle soup but have never gotten quite right when making it myself. I decided to give it a try again but to try a few new things this time.
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 cups cooked chicken, cut into chunks
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 stalks celery, chopped
    • 3 carrots, washed and chopped (don't peel it)
    • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
    • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
    • 1 small summer squash or zucchini
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil)
    • 1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley)
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano)
    • 4 cups chicken stock
    • 9 oz. Buitoni Tortellini
    1. In a stock pot or large saucepan, heat oil in saucepan, then add the onion, carrots, celery, peppers, and garlic. Sauté for 8-10 minutes.
    2. Add seasons, spices, and broth. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Add summer squash/zucchini and tortellini. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
    3. Remove from heat and enjoy.  
    A bowl of Chicken Tortellini Soup along with some Parmesan (Herb) Bread.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 8

    Day #8 - I praise God for the messes that my kids create.

    Today is my major cleaning day of the week. This is the day that I try to get all of the rooms swept, dusted, straightened up, etc. so that they are nice and clean for the weekend, which is generally when we have people over. While trying to vacuum the rugs this morning with a fussy, teething 1 year old clinging tightly to my leg, I was reminded of something that an elderly lady from church shared with me one day.

    I had a particularly rough week this spring with the munchkins and happened to bump into this dear lady from church. She mentioned to me how cute the kids were and I commented a bit negatively on the work it takes to raise 3 children that are 3 and under. She replied with a story about a time when she was a newly saved young mother of 3 small children. She was attending a Bible study with another church lady and commented to the hostess on how immaculate the home was and how she wished she could get her home to stay that clean. The hostess thanked her for the compliment and then very graciously replied that she was never able to have children and would love to have a few to clean up after. She reminded me to be thankful for the messes because it means that I have people in my life for which to care.

    Your Turn: What will you choose to praise God for today?

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Homemade Mushroom & Spinach Soup

    I came up with this recipe as a side dish for my soup and sandwich combo (Mediterranean Chicken Wraps).
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2/3 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 a medium onion, chopped
    • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
    • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
    • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 
    • 3 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves (about 2 cups)
    1. In saucepan, heat oil, add mushrooms, garlic, onion, and pepper. Sauté until onions are translucent (5-8 minutes). 
    2. Add salt, pepper, beef broth, and soy sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.
    3. Add spinach and stir until coated with broth. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.
    You can also add carrots and celery if you prefer.

    31 Days of Praise: October 7

    I love to cook, bake, sew, and many other "domestic" things. Today, I am praising God for a mother who took the time to teach a very inquisitive and pesky little girl how to do these things. She was very patient with me and let me experiment with dinner on many a night.

    Your Turn: What are you praising the Lord for today?

    Southern Sweet Potato Bread

    I was looking for a way to use up some leftover sweet potatoes and decided to attempt some Southern Sweet Potato Bread. I had to put a "northern" girl's spin on it but they still turn out moist and flavorful, which equals delicious in my book!

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 6

    Today, I was thinking of and praying for many friends and acquaintances going through major health problems. On this day 6, I praise God for my health and the health of my immediate family. In our almost 6 years of wedded bliss, God has spared us from many major medical issues and for this I am truly thankful.

    Your Turn: What are you praising the Lord for today?

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    31 Days of Praise: October 1-5

    I am currently reading the Psalms in my daily devotions and with it being the month before Thanksgiving, I have decided to write down something to praise the Lord for each day of the month. I have been writing them down for my own benefit but thought I would share them with you as an encourage for you to praise the Lord. I will be posting days 1-5 in this post and then individual posts for the rest of the days.

    October 1 - God has provided me with home, a roof over my head and a protection from the elements.

    October 2 - We both have jobs and a steady income. I know so many families that have been affected by job loss or pay cuts.

    October 3 - I am so thankful for a wonderful husband who works hard to support our family so that I can work very limited hours and be home with our children most of the time.

    October 4 - I read Psalm 32 today and verse one was such a great reminder to me of something that I am truly thankful for, my salvation. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."

    October 5 - I am so thankful for the children that God has entrusted to my care. They are normal kids and, yes, they frustrate and tire me out, but I am reminded that they are a gift from the Lord. I know so many women who have been unable to carry children of their own and experience the joy of hearing a little one say, "I love you, mom," for the first time. All too often I find myself complaining about these little blessings instead of praising God for them.

    Your turn: What will you praise the Lord for today and each day of this month?

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Menu: October 4-10

    I'm not sure if anyone has noticed but I have started planning my menus from Monday-Sunday vs. Sunday-Monday. I am finding it harder to write menus on Friday or Saturday than on Sunday or Monday mornings. Also, our church's Missions Conference begins on Wednesday and goes through Sunday so I will be making a few dishes that can be transported for consumption away from home. Here is my menu for the week:

    **I ended up making Chicken Tortellini Soup instead.

    Mediterranean Chicken Wraps

    A friend and I went out to lunch today (yes, I took the kids with us). We decided to eat at Noodles & Company as neither of us had been there in quite some time (it is also fairly kid friendly food-wise). I had their Med Duo (a Mediterranean chicken flat-bread with choice of soup or salad - I did the tomato bisque, YUM). I want to attempt this dish so bad because you can make it fairly healthy and it is so delicious. Here is the list of ingredients:
    • 1 batch flatbread (10-12)
    • spinach
    • spicy Greek yogurt sauce (Tzatziki)
    • grilled/baked chicken strips (just a few)
    • sauted red peppers, mushrooms and purple onions
    • cilantro
    • feta cheese
    Layer the ingredients on the center of the flatbread or wrap in this order:
    1. 8-10 Spinach leaves
    2. 3-4 Chicken strips
    3. Yogurt sauce (no more than a Tablespoon)
    4. Pepper, mushroom, and onion mix (about 1/4 cup)
    5. Cilantro, minced and sprinkled sparingly
    6. Feta (no more than a Tablespoon) 

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    The Unnamed Pork Roast

    I decided to play around with some contrasting flavors for this pork loin roast. It has such an interesting combination of ingredients that I haven't decided on a name for it. If you think of a good one, let me know.
    • 1 - 4 pound pork loin roast (or a couple of 2 pound ones)
    • 1/3 cup Koops Honey Mustard
    • 1 Tablespoon Koops Spicy Brown Mustard
    • 1/2 cup Jalapeño Berry Sauce*
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon McCormick's Grill Mates Roasted Garlic & Herb seasoning 
    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 1 teaspoon water
    1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients (except the pork loin, cornstarch, and water).
    2. Place pork loin into a roasting pan and preheat oven to 300 degrees.
    3. Coat pork roast completely with the sauce. Cover pan and place in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours.
    4. Remove from oven, baste with juices. Place back into oven uncovered for another hour, basting every 20 minutes.
    5. Take meat out of the oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.
    6. While meat is resting, pour juices into a small saucepan and add the cornstarch and water mixture. Cook over medium-high heat until it starts to bubble and thicken. Remove from heat and pour over sliced pork roast.
    * Jalapeño Berry Sauce was my failed attempt at Jalapeño Cherry Jam. First off, the kids ate too many of my cherries so I had to add other fruits (raspberries and strawberries). Then, it just never thicken up like my plain cherry jam does. Third, it didn't have as much spice as I was hoping for in a jalapeño jam. I canned it and swore I'd find a way to use it some day, and now I have. I do have about 5-6 jars (8 oz.) if anyone wants to try it for $2 (to cover the cost of my jars and ingredients).

    Here is a picture of the sliced roast, sauce, steamed broccoli, and maple roasted sweet potatoes.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    Menu: September 27-October 3

    After not posting a menu last week and doing lots of leftovers and spur-of-the-moment meals, here is the beginning of this week's menu. I will add meal to it as I get time and motivation to do so. Yes, motivation is really the key for me...
    Here are a few things we had last week in case you'd like some inspiration:
    • Chicken Pot Pie - I've learned that less is more where pot pie is concerned. You really don't need to doll this up a lot, it's good just the standard way.
    • Chicken Cordon Bleu, roasted red potatoes (salt, pepper, olive oil, water, garlic, and herbs in a covered pan for 1 hour @ 400 degrees), and a side salad.
    • Tacos
    • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and fruit salad