Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Running to and from

Over a month ago Monica asked if running was a long time thing for me or something new. The answer is both. I started running in junior high because my best friend was a runner. I hated it. The track coach relegated me to the mile along with others who had no speed and no desire to improve. For me track was a means to a social end and it didn't take me very long to develop the mantra, "I only run when chased."

A few years ago a friend of mine who has been an avid runner since age 12 encouraged me to run. She assured me I could do it. I think I had the desire to be a runner but really didn't know how to begin. So for a couple months I ran a little, walked a lot, ran a little more, and so on, until I hurt my knee. The podiatrist encouraged me to rest and let the knee heal and then buy a pair of real running shoes instead of trying to run in my three-year-old Meijer specials. I did so, but then we got a lot of snow and a foster child came to live with us and I lost interest in running.

Last year I decided I needed to drop a few pounds and get some exercise so I started walking inside with Leslie Sansone videos. I was quite happy with this until the dog chewed up the DVD! So faced with the necessity of another plan, this summer I started walking the track at the high school while my kids took tennis lessons. After a few weeks I started feeling the need for speed and figured I'd walk a lap and run a lap. This slowly turned into more walking than running and now I'm up to 2.5 miles on my short day and 4 miles on my long day.

I wouldn't say that running is a passion for me, nor do I have any goals to run races or lose weight, but I will agree with Beth that I have never regretted going for a run but have often regretted not doing so. It is a time that I can run from my obligations and the noise of my house and enjoy time alone listening to music and burning off some stress. I find that I handle the pressures of life more easily and sleep better at night when I'm getting plenty of exercise, all for the price of a pair of good running shoes and some workout clothes from Walmart.

Running is probably not for everyone, but take it from this short-legged middle-aged mom, it's never too late or too hard to start!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, JT


This is the boy who became the man that makes my life such a joy. Happy birthday, love!

What's that smell?

I love my dog.


But sometimes she stinks.

And sometimes bathing her just switches the stinks from smelly dog to perfumy dog. So after finishing the bottle of major-dog-product-brand lavender-smelling dog shampoo, I went on-line to find a homemade version. All of the ingredients were inexpensive and I happened to have them all on hand (we use glycerin to make bubbles in the summer). I just mixed them up and poured them into an empty ketchup bottle. Easy peasy.

And how does she smell?
Clean. Just clean.




Homemade Dog Shampoo
(recipe courtesy of Care2Com)

1 cup mild dish soap
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup glycerin
1 qt. water

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a large bottle. Shake before using.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sun and Earth

I like a clean house (although it seems a rare event that I have one) but I don't like a lot of the products on the market today that are full of harmful chemicals and unnecessary colors and fragrances, and ingredients that mess with our septic system. While I do make a lot of my own cleaners using vinegar, baking soda, peroxide, and other non-toxic ingredients, I haven't found a homemade dishwasher soap or laundry detergent that thrills me.

A few months ago Sun and Earth ran a "try us out" special that included a regular sized bottle of almost every item in their line for $25. I jumped at the offer and have been well pleased. Their liquid dish soap, laundry detergent, and dishwasher packets clean beautifully and have a pleasing light citrus fragrance. I especially like their bio-degradable dryer sheets that don't leave your clothes feeling chemically coated and perfumed. Almost everything is available in jumbo sizes, too, and I mean jumbo: you can order a 5 gallon bucket of laundry detergent!

This weekend only Sun and Earth is running a free shipping special on orders $25 or over. Just enter the coupon code freeshipweekend.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Running

Logged 20 miles this week. Thanks to God for the beautiful weather and making my almost-40 body work, and thanks to Beth and Christine for the inspiration.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Embracing Helplessness

"If you are not praying then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life."

~ Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

Monday, November 9, 2009

Life Lessons Learned on the Road


Running against the wind has its benefits. It forces you to engage every muscle and focus on pressing ahead.

Friday, November 6, 2009



After seeing In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto reviewed on a few other blogs I frequent, I was intrigued. Proposing neither a diet nor an eating method, Michael Pollan asks some thoughtful questions about what we eat, how we eat it, and if it's really doing us any good, questions like:

  • Of what does the Western diet truly consist?

  • With all the health claims on the labels of our food, why are we getting fatter and sicker?

  • Why are we developing heart disease and diabetes at alarmingly increasing rates?

  • Is there a connection between the food pyramid, the food conglomerates, and the medical establishment?

  • Why are people in other countries who eat their culture's traditional diet healthier regardless of that diet's fat or carb content?

  • Would what I eat even pass for food in my grandmother or great-grandmother's day?

I recommend In Defense of Food to anyone willing to take a look at what's really on your plate.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Never buy brownie mix again!

Alice was the administrative assistant at my husband's office when my first child was born. While not old enough to be a gramma, she pampered our baby and always wanted to hear (and tell) a "Bubba story." She was always available to babysit and even hung out with our little guy when his sister was born.

On top of her friendship and love for all of us, Alice is a great cook. She often brought food into the office for the staff to sample. Seriously hot salsa, amazing rye rolls and the best brownies on the planet were some of her specialties. While I've never been able to exactly duplicate the rye rolls even with the recipe and detailed instructions, the brownies have adorned our table on probably far too many occasions. These brownies are simple, chocolate goodness made from pantry staples. The top is fragile and crisp while the inside is somewhere between fudgy and cakey that melts in your mouth. Oh, mama!



Auntie Alice's Brownies

10 Tbsp. butter
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)


Melt butter in a saucepan. Add sugar, cocoa, flour and salt. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add nuts if desired. Pour into a greased 8x8x2-inch pan. Bake slowly at 325 for 35 minutes. When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A little "bite" and switch!

About 4 years ago I found myself on Kraft's mailing list. Occasionally they'd send me nice calendars, coupons and other goodies, all courting me to buy Kraft products, but what began arriving in my postbox three times a year was their Food & Family magazine, a slick production chock full of ways to combine Kraft products into tasty-looking treats. I admit I enjoyed reading it and figuring out how to use less expensive generic products to replicate their recipes or transform them from concoctions of processed chemical food-like substances into real food.

Imagine my surprise when I received my copy today with an urgent "Last Issue" stamped on an interior envelope containing an invoice where I can now get the "preferred subscriber discount" of $6.99 a year! Yes, that's only $6.99 for a glorified advertisement!

I'm sorry, Kraft, but you can keep your magazine. I've enjoyed your freebie while it lasted, but, well, I'm just not that into you. We've gone "real food" around here, and in these economically dismal times, I'm not interested in helping to bolster your advertising budget. It's been nice, albeit not "real." So, ciao. (Or should I say, "chow?")

Monday, October 26, 2009

Have you heard about Alice?

No, this is not gossip, it's great stuff!


I never thought I'd be so excited about toilet paper and shampoo, but Alice.com has made me giddy. No more forgetting which brand of deodorant my husband prefers. No more coupon clipping. No more schlepping the kids to Wal*Mart. All I do is log in, find my preferred products or search for the best coupon offer, place them in my on-line cart, and wait for my friendly UPS man to drop my big blue box on my doorstep. No tax. No shipping. No hassle. And Money Saving Mom even has the best deals listed for me. Alice is my new best friend.

If you're interested in getting to know my friend Alice, simply click on button on the right sidebar and you'll get $10 off your first order. Then your kids can think you're nuts, too!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Our God

"God loves to lavish kindness on us. The bigger your conception of God, the more amazing this is. God is the creator of the universe. He holds the galaxies in being. He governs everything that happens in the world, down to the fall of a bird and the number of your hairs (Matt. 10:29-30). He is infinitely strong and wise and holy and just. And amazingly, he is kind. 'When the kindness of God appeared...' (Titus 3:4). And because of this kindness, we were born again. Let your very existence as a Christian tell you every hour of every day: God is kind to you."
~John Piper, Finally Alive

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leading "middle" ones to Christ

While there is a plethora of resources available for discipling wee ones, I'm coming up short on what to do with these middle years. We've enjoyed story Bibles and books like Leading Little Ones to Christ, but now that everyone is reading on their own and my eldest is officially middle-school aged, I'm at a loss for how to communicate the truths of Scripture in a way that grips them where they're at. A lot of material aimed at family devotions is rather corny or involve lots of crafts and preparation. Is there anything out there that focuses on the awesomeness of God and our tremendous need for Him, while being straightforward and age appropriate?

I need some help from those of you ahead of me in parenting years. How do (did) you disciple your kids during their middle years?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Heart-to-Heart

I picked up this book at the library after it was enthusiastically recommended by a fellow blogger, but after barely sampling the first chapter, I set it aside. Danny Silk had served up a biblical interpretation that makes me gag and I decided I couldn't choke down the rest of the book.

But for some reason I didn't return it.



Then I lost it with my kids, and I was shocked to recognize that I was using the same juvenile tone, attitudes and words as they were. We were either threatening each other or throwing our hands up in disgust. It is pretty ugly when the adult in the situation is rolling her eyes and declaring, "What-ev-a!" and "Right back atcha." When I crawled into bed feeling exhausted and defeated, there it was staring me in the face, Loving Our Kids On Purpose. By that point I figured, "What the heck; he might have a point in there somewhere."

So I devoured Loving Our Kids on Purpose and learned a great deal about peacefully helping my kids discover what's really going on in their hearts when they act sinfully, and how to help them see that it is those heart happenings that leads to their interpersonal conflicts. Instead of nagging or giving orders followed up by, "Or you'll be grounded," I've been trying to help them make good choices based on realistic outcomes. Thankfully God's provided the circumstances. We had a day with one child in the basement playing Legos while the others were diligently doing school work. Well guess who had no time with his friends after they came home from school? I didn't have to get mad; I just pointed out the fact that there is a time for school and a time for play, and he had made a choice. We've had some interesting discussions and I've learned a lot about my kids' hearts in the process. They're really neat little people with real hurts and dreams and fears, and I love them a lot.

While I still disagree with a lot of Danny Silk's psychological take on the Bible, his book has made me take some giant steps back to look at how I parent. I've built my whole doctrine of parenting on a few "cut and paste" verses that give me way too much power. I've put too much personal stock in whether my kids do things my way and haven't considered them as Image bearers, too. And with my "my way or the highway" parenting style I forgot that you truly do catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

So we're all practicing a bit of self-control around here and are making choices that consider each other as more important than ourselves. It's definitely not perfect, but it's nice.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Best Roasted Chicken on the Planet

Oh I had a little chicky and she wouldn't lay an egg...I can't talk about chicken without that little ditty popping into my head! What really happened was that I had a wacky day and forgot to put the chicken in the crockpot this morning. When I realized it was too late I decided to make up my own oven recipe. The result was a lip-smacking, finger-licking success.

Oven Roasted Chicken

1 fryer, cut up
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp dry mustard

Plop the stick of butter into a roasting pan, pop the pan into the oven, and heat oven to 425. Mix the flour and spices in a pie plate, coat the chicken with the mixture, and place skin side down in the pan with the now melted butter. Bake for 30 minutes then turn the chicken over and cook for another 15 minutes.

The finished product produces lots of great bits on the bottom of the roasting pan for making gravy.

So if you don't have the time or the inclination to make Amy's fab Newspaper Chicken, this is a fast and delicious alternative, with gravy possibilities to boot!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jumping over the Clif

When at his office, my husband used to survive on microwave popcorn and pots and pots of coffee; not the healthiest thing in the world. For a while I packed him a lunch but most of the time it came back uneaten. I’ve fitted him out with nuts and dried fruit only to have him complain of gas. (Believe me, this is an occupational no-no! Who wants to spend an hour talking about his problems shut up in an office with a gaseous man?) He really likes Odwalla Bars and Clif Bars but in order to eat them regularly they’d need a budget line item of their own. So I experimented with ingredients and came up with these moist and tasty bars.

Homemade Energy Bars

Ingredients:

2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
2 2/3 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup dry milk powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup dried mango, chopped
1/2 cup slivered raw almonds

Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix honey, peanut butter, vanilla, and eggs.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients. Stir this mixture into the peanut butter mixture to make a uniform dough. Press it into the pan.

4. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cut into bars while still warm but allow to cool completely in the pan. Wrap each bar individually and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month.

I used apricots and mangos because that’s what my husband requested, and almonds because I had some left over from making granola. Feel free to substitute other fruits and nuts or add chocolate chips, and leave me a comment about what you came up with.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Food's more fun with dip


While we haven't officially taken the Eat More Fruits and Veggies challenge over at Heavenly Homemakers (one of my new favorite sites), we've been trying to do just that: eat more fruits and veggies. We like veggies but I'm a lazy lunch lady. Because it takes time to cut all those buggers into finger-sized pieces, lunch often is eaten with a lone baby carrot or scoop of applesauce to "count" as our selection from the produce section.

What's a mom to do? Serve dip, of course! Dip makes everyone beg for peppers and cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, making Mom feel like a heel for saying, "No. Eat chips." But the veggie dip from the market is a chemical slough and the Unseen Ranch of the Lowlands mix is full of all sorts of mystery items. Even the recipe from an old cookbook included MSG as an ingredient! So this afternoon I started playing around with some recipes, starting with a ranch dressing mix recipe I found at Heavenly Homemakers. This is what I came up with:


Veggie Dip
(makes 2 cups)

16 oz. container of sour cream (I like Daisy brand. It contains one ingredient: cultured cream. Yay.)

3 3/4 tsp. dried minced onions

1 3/4 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

2-3 drops of hot pepper sauce

1/2 tsp. dried dill


Mix spices into sour cream and refrigerate at least a few hours for flavors to marry.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What's your obsession?

As I mentioned before, I'm reading Sam Storms' One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God. Great book. Highly recommend it.

Storms pins the cause of lackluster faith and boredom with Christianity on our inability to see past petty pleasures to the encompassing greatness of God. We have no sense of anticipation for Christ's return because we have not come to love and yearn for the Bridegroom Himself and the future He's secured for us. Instead we muddle around in the mire of earth, thinking God is pleased with our little trinkets and tokens. Our hearts are not bound to our Savior in the glory of heaven, hence we have little (if any) understanding of David's declaration:


"You make know to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11


Psalm 16 is delicious. Brimming with sweet communion and long held trust, it is a love poem, a declaration of enduring, passionate commitment on behalf of both the speaker and the hearer, the poet and His God. David was a shepherd. He'd sat on the hills of Bethlehem and seen the wonders of the stars. He'd heard the stories of God's faithfulness passed down through the generations. He knew that the pleasures of God far outweighed the pleasures of sin. He was obsessed with the true beauty of his God.


I want this kind of passion for God; mere obedience void of emotion is not enough. There is something more spiritual, more Spirit induced, about it. Storms quotes Mark Bickle, saying, "It take God to love God."

"Loving God requires a loving God. We will be passionate for him only so far as he is passionate for us. To love God as we were made to love him requires and antecedent love in God for those whom he has made. He must take the initiative. He must reveal the depths and extent of his commitment to us and the delight in his heart for broken people. Only then will our slumbering and self-centered souls be aroused to seek him with all our hearts and relish the revelation of himself in the person of his Son, the man Christ Jesus." ~Sam Storms

Do we understand the passion of God for us? I know I don't; I haven't been looking. But One Thing has pulled back the curtain a bit more for me and challenged me to "Taste and see the the Lord is good" and know that "His love endures forever."

"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:13


"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith..." Hebrews 12:1-2


"...seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above..." Colossians 3:1-2

"...look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen..." 2 Corinthians 4:18

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Complicated

"Round and round she goes; where she stops, nobody knows." This little ditty tends to encapsulate my life. Imagine a less funny Lucile Ball, jumping head-first into the latest idea on the "best way" to live the Christian life. The result is the same--a complete mess--but nobody's laughing.

A very wise friend of mine put her velvet hammer to me the other day about, as she put it, "Making things too complicated." She pointed out that I tend to gravitate towards "fringe folks" with a lot of rules for life that are not biblically prescribed. Rules like parent like this, wear this, eat this, etc. I thought I was just searching for the "right way" to do things, but my friend pointed out that I'm much more of a people pleaser than I thought I was.

We become like those we spend time with. Why? It's more than just picking up traits via familiarity; we want to be accepted, to be in the circle. Over the years I've changed everything from my hairstyle to my peanut butter brand in order to be loved by others. I thought I wanted it easy: just tell me the rules and let me follow them for a good result. Until it gets to hard. Or doesn't work. Then I'll switch programs. But that's just the problem. I switch programs. Instead of being satisfied with what the Lord has for me and my people, I want to buy into someone else's life.


I need to figure out what all of this means. I know it means setting aside other people's expectations of my food, housekeeping, and child rearing, as well as not burdening others with my expectations of them. It means following the Lord in loving people more than rules. It means bowing before a God Who is so much bigger than law. It means much grace and fewer gurus.


God said to the exiles in Babylon, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). Can I not believe that He has His own crazy plan for my life, too?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Real (Junk) Food

After years of consuming stuff from a box we've been switching to real food, you know, things that come out of the ground or from an animal. Real food taste different. It has more texture and deeper flavor and, for the most part, does not turn to mush in your mouth.

The question we've faced from our kids and even from our own "inner children" is, "But does it taste good?" I can confidently tell you, "It depends." Some things are just too strange for our tastebuds. Some things take getting used to. Other things are amazing from the get-go.

I get most of my recipes from other bloggers and today I figured I'd share the wealth by listing some of our favorite real junk food.

Alton Brown has the best recipe for onion dip. Move over Heluva Good and pass the kettle chips!

Kimi's "Mounds" Bars are my husband's favorite candy treat. They're very rich; I put mine in mini muffin tins.

Who can argue with oatmeal that tastes like peanut butter cookies? I swap sucanat for the brown sugar but otherwise make Lynn's Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal as written.

We had Laura's whole wheat cinnamon rolls for Bubba's birthday breakfast. They also make a delicious desert. Yum.

A while back we switched from soda pop to Naleczowianka sparkling water with a splash of juice or a slice of lemon. Over the last few months we've taken a liking to kombucha, a fermented tea explained by Betsy Pryor. It's fizzy and tart and probiotic to boot!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Obdurate

I had to look it up. This was a word I'd never heard before but its contextual usage by Sam Storms told me it was not complimentary.

"I don't believe it's possible to truly understand and appreciate the great things of God without being stirred with passion and zeal and joy and delight and fervor. Only obdurate spiritual blindness prevents the human soul from being greatly impressed and powerfully moved by the revelation of such eternal splendor." ~Sam Storms, One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God

Yet as I read and study and plead with God for relief of the dryness in my soul I remain obdurate. Hardened. Resistant to persuasion or softening influences. "God, show me your glory," is a constant cry of my heart that seems to echo like footsteps on a marble floor in an empty, quiet, massive room. "How can I know so much about You and still have to ask, 'Where are You, God?'"

"Worship in eminently practical because adoring and affectionate praise is what restores our sense of ultimate value. It exposes the worthless and temporary and tawdry stuff of this world. Worship energizes the heart to seek satisfaction in Jesus alone. In worship we are reminded that this world is fleeting and unworthy of our heart's devotion. Worship connects our souls with the transcendent power of God and awakens in us appreciation for true beauty. It pulls back the veil of deception and exposes the ugliness of sin and Satan. Worship is a joyful rebuke of the world. When our hearts are riveted on Jesus everything else in life becomes so utterly unnecessary and we become far less demanding." ~Sam Storms, One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God

I was taking my groceries up from the car last night when from the driveway comes a cry of, "Mom! Come quickly!" I thought someone was hurt or another red fox was in our yard. No, my son had seen the greatness of God. Last night was dark and clear and he wanted to point out the big dipper. The stars were amazing! My cry of, "Where are you, God?" was not only answered, but had been there since the beginning of time. I just wasn't looking past the end of myself.

"O, Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?" ~Psalm 8:1-4

I've been missing out on worship because I've been obdurate. I've chosen not to bend the knee but, like the Pharisees, requested a sign. My focus has been on my dryness instead of His rivers of living water. Yet, true to His merciful character, He is opening my eyes to the signs He's already given. Romans 1 says that His divine nature can be seen in creation. I want to suck in the beauty of God, to revel in His majestic display of His glory, and to be changed.

(Photos taken at Cuyahoga Valley National Park)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The magical fruit

I never used to eat beans except the green variety coated in mushroom soup and covered with french fried onion rings. Then I met the sweetest boy from Texas...and married him! Let me tell you, this girl from Ohio was shocked to find they eat all sorts of beans and the cardboardiest cornbread you've ever tasted not just as a run-of-the-mill fare, but on holidays, too. So I've learned to take the sugar out of my cornbread and smack it on the lips of my boy, and cook up everything from pintos to black eyed peas. (Sorry Dallas family, I have yet to embraced the greens. Yuk.) Not only is it tasty but frugal, as well. Because we eat so many, I soak dry beans and cook a couple pounds at a time in my crock pot and freeze them, saving myself a few more pennies, but canned will work just as well. This was today's dinner:

Black Beans and Rice

2 cups water
1 cup brown rice

1/4 lb. bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 banana peppers, chopped
2-15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1-14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes with juice
1-1/2 Tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Put water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add rice and cook for 45 minutes while you chop veggies for beans and make cornbread.

In a large skillet, cook bacon until lightly browned. Add onions, garlic and banana peppers. Cook until softened. Add beans, tomatoes and seasonings and cook until thickened.

Serve beans over rice and serve with a cucumber salad and Laura's whole wheat cornbread muffins.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Eats

This has been a fresh foods summer for our family. Slowly but surely I've been working my little gaggle toward eating very little processed food and finding out what real food is supposed to taste like. We picked the strawberries from our garden to make jam out of just the berries and a itty-bit of maple syrup thanks to Pomona's Universal Pectin that doesn't require sugar to set. We signed up for a CSA with a couple local farmers and have eaten such exciting things as beets and kohlrabi. And together with a friend we bought our first side of local beef.

So are my kids happy? Yes and no. They'd rather have Cheerios than oatmeal, but they found they loved chocolate beet cake and zucchini crisp. Because they're already veggie and bean eaters we've had no trouble setting aside the "normal" foods in exchange for some crazy delicious new ones, and I love not having to stoke up the oven on warm days. Here's what we ate today:


Peanut Butter Noodles with Steamed Vegetables
(serves 6)

Bring a pot of water to a boil for noodles. While waiting, prepare sauce and set aside.

Sauce:

1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Prepare veggies--you can use any and as many as you like, these are just what we picked up today at the farmers market:

thinly sliced red cabbage
sugar snap peas
carrots, peeled and julienned
zucchini, julienned
summer squash, julienned
green onions

Add a package of whole wheat spaghetti noodles to boiling water. Lightly steam vegetables in another pot. When both are done, toss together in a large bowl with sauce and a cup or so of peanuts.


(I derived our"tame" recipe after trying The Nourishing Gourmet's Asian Noodle Salad which my kids found too strong.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm chewing on this

"The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?"

~ Martin Luther quoted by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

Monday, June 8, 2009

Maybe I've said enough

Have you ever gotten to the place where you have nothing of value left to say? I'm there; I've been there for a while, and I got nothin'. Maybe it's part of the humility study I took on this year. Maybe it's God putting a guard at my mouth and asking me to shut up long enough to listen.


So for now I'm trying to absorb and apply what I've learned from Paul Miller's book, Love Walked Among Us, while diving head-first into Andrew Murray's Humility. Loving like Jesus means dying to self, that much I get. But putting it into practice is another gigantic matter all together. I rarely get it right, choosing to love like me and asking God to bless it, and akin to the disciples, my heart is often hard even after I've seen Jesus do a huge work (Mark 6:52).

I need to be still now and listen for the God Who is not silent.
Pictures taken at Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Eat your veggies for dessert

I love rhubarb. It's tart and tangy , cooks up a pretty shade of pink, and is easy to grow in my garden. It's good stewed over ice cream or cooked into muffins, but nothing beats a rhubarb pie. It's the vegetable version of sour gummy worms!

The only downside to rhubarb is my dear husband. He won't even try the stuff; calls it red celery. So unless I want to eat the entire pie by myself, I have to find someone else who loves rhubarb, and most of them are in nursing homes! Come on, people under 80! Try something old!

To encourage a return to the "good ol' days" of rhubarb eating, I'm posting my favorite pie recipe. So run, don't walk, to your nearest green grocer (or pull it out of your elderly neighbors yard), purchase a bunch of red celery, and bake up a pie tonight!


Rhubarb Pie
(this is the recipe my mom uses from an old Betty Crocker cookbook)

Prepare pastry for a two-crust pie:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 plus 2 Tbsp. shortening
4 to 6 Tbsp. cold water

Measure flour and salt into mixing bowl. With pastry blender, cut in shortening until particles are the size of peas. Sprinkle in water bit by bit, mixing until all flour is moistened and dough almost cleans the sides of the bowl. Roll out two crusts. Line 9" pie plate with one and fold the other in quarters, making slits on the folds for vents. Set aside.

Make filling:
1-3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
5 cups cut up fresh rhubarb (1/2 inch pieces)
3 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 425. Stir together flour, sugar, and orange peel. Put half of the rhubarb into the pastry-lined pie plate, sprinkle with half the sugar mixture, and repeat with remaining rhubarb and sugar mixture. Dot with butter and cover with top crust. Seal the edges. Bake for 40-50 minutes. You may need to lay foil over the top if the crust starts to brown. I cook mine with a cookie sheet underneath to avoid cleaning the oven if the rhubarb spills over. Cool to room temperature before eating.

This post is dedicated to my Mom and Dad (who are not over 80) for driving out for the weekend and sharing my pie!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Scream'n

You scream. I scream. We all scream for ice cream! What's the first weekend of the summer without ice cream? We've tried to pare our consumption of refined sugars down to a bare minimum around here, but that didn't keep us from enjoying this terrific ice cream reminiscent of the amazing Coconut Almond Chip at Katie's Corner, a tiny local homemade ice cream joint that operates out of the old FotoMat (remember those?) in my hometown.




Coconut Almond Chip Ice Cream

1-14 oz. can coconut milk (I use the Thai Kitchen full-fat kind)
1.5 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup maple syrup (the kind that comes from trees, not Mrs. Butterworth's)
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup almonds, chopped

Mix together coconut milk, half-and-half, and maple syrup. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to your machine's directions. About five minutes before it's finished, add coconut, chocolate chips and almonds. Scoop into a covered container and freeze for a few hours to ripen flavors.


If you happen to contract my serious addiction to naturally sweetened ice creams, the Nourishing Gourmet has some wonderful recipes. She writes from a dairy-free perspective, but having no dairy allergies, we like to replace at least half the coconut milk with half-and-half. Her raspberry and pumpkin are delicious.

Let the summer begin!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do you buy it?

That Mom give an interesting synopsis of the impending manifesto from the Homeschooling Leadership Summit. Quite an agenda given "In the name of the Lord." Caveat emptor.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Click and Save


Cannon Press is having a bottom dollar sale this week. Two of our favorite books are going for a song: Trial and Triumph: Stories From Church History for $1, and Future Men for $2. They have lots of other goodies as well. Click on over and take a peek.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Redemption

If God is good, why is life often so hard? Doesn't the Bible say that "Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing" (Psalm 34:10)?

So why do long-awaited children receive cancer diagnoses? Why are new brides left widows? Why do loved and prayed for babies enter heaven instead of earth? Why do couples silently suffer the pain of an empty womb?

WHY?

WHY!

I don't have any answers. Yet I can't believe, as Rabi Kushner, that an all loving and all powerful God would not allow bad things to happen to good people, that He must either not be loving, or not be powerful. We have too limited a view of what is going on around us. God, however, sees from the beginning of time until the end. He knew Christ would die a hideous death before Adam and Eve ever sinned in the garden, and that through that death we'd find life. He knew that Abraham would never own an inch of the land promised to him, and yet hundreds of years later millions of Israelites would take the place by storm. He knew that David's mighty kingdom that was to last forever would crumble the minute his son Solomon's body was cold, and yet his Son will sit on the throne for all eternity. I guess all I can offer is that sometimes love and power just don't look quite right from our eye level.

One thing I am sure of is that this world, all of it and all of us, are anxiously waiting for redemption. Even the most beautiful things about life are not as they were created to be, and no matter how many pretty Band-aids we slap on, only Jesus can fix what's broken. Take a look at how Paul says it in Romans 8:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)

I don't have a clue why so many folks around me are experiencing very painful suffering. I don't have any idea what God has in mind for their troubles or for my own. All I can offer is the thousands year old plea of Asaph:

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Let’s Dish! Day 6

Do your kids sit still in Sunday morning service? Let’s just say mine are “statically challenged.” And it doesn’t help when their breakfasts have worn off by the time they get to church. I want them to have a good dose of protein to help them keep their minds on the Lord instead of on their tummies. With little time to fuss on Sundays, I usually make one of these easy freezer-friendly egg breakfast dishes:

French Toast Casserole

5 cups bread cubes
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
butter
1 tsp. cinnamon

Grease an 8x8 pan.

Put bread cubes in pan.

Beat together eggs, milk, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and vanilla. Pour over bread. (If you’re going to freeze it, do so here.)

(If frozen, thaw before this step.) Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top. Dot with butter.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Serve with pancake syrup.

Crustless Quiche
(Makes 2)

3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup cooked ham, sausage or bacon, diced
veggies of your choice, diced
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Grease two pie plates. Mix cheese with flour and divide evenly between the plates. Do the same with meat and veggies.

Beat together eggs, milk and seasonings. Pour half into each pie plate.

To freeze: cover with wax paper and foil. Thaw before cooking.

To cook: bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until filling is set.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Let’s Dish! Day 5

I love Tex-Mex food.  When I was prego with the girly-girl it was all I wanted to eat.  So here’s a recipe for crock-pot enchiladas that will make you wanna slap yo mamma.

Crock-pot Enchiladas

1 lb ground beef
2 fresh jalapeños, diced (and seeded if you don’t want the heat)
1 large onion, diced
2 cans pinto beans (I soak and cook 1 cup dried—extra yum!)
1 large jar of salsa
1 package of taco seasoning (or homemade equivalent)
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 package flour tortillas
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ground beef with onions and jalapeños.  Drain meat and mix in pintos, salsa, taco seasoning, salt and pepper. 

Layer meat mixture, tortillas and cheese in your crock-pot, ending with cheese on top.  Cook on high 2-3 hours or low 4-6 hours.  Serve with sour cream, green onions, and pico

If you want to make this ahead, put it all together and stick it in the fridge overnight, then pull it out to cook it the next day.  This recipe easily doubles for a crowd. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Prayer Request

Early tomorrow morning a small child will lose a kidney and gain a new chance at life.


Reese Milligan is my second cousin's little miracle baby. Kirk and his wife had prayed for a child for years and were blessed with a baby girl last April. A few months ago Reese was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She's been through many tests, scans, and a round of chemo and tomorrow she will have surgery to remove the tumors on her kidneys and likely the entire left kidney.

Please pray for Reese and her family. Pray that the doctors will have great wisdom and skill and might even be able to leave the left kidney. Pray for Reese's subsequent healing. And pray that God will grant great strength and peace to Kirk and Jenn as they bear witness to and walk humbly before their loving Heavenly Father.

Read the rest of their story here.
UPDATE FROM KIRK:
"The surgery went well, although long. They were able to salvage the left kidney. They removed about 1/3 of it. The surgeon felt he could remove the tumor (size of a small egg) without destroying the kidney. So, we are very happy about that. However, she is not out of the woods yet. The initial pathology on the removed portion showed some cancer cells along the border of the part that was removed. So, that indicates there are probably some cancer cells along the corresponding border of the part of the kidney that remained. We are awaiting the results of a detailed pathology to determine whether or not those cells are dead or alive. Results will be in 48 hours. If the cells are dead, then no worries. If they are alive, and they survive the remaining chemo treatments (thru Jun/July), then the doc will go back in and remove the kidney.
With regards to the right kidney, the small tumor (fingernail size) was removed without complications."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Heart Issue

This is . . . the difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and the joy of the true saint.  The [hypocrite] rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy: the [true saint] rejoices in God . . . True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God.  And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures . . . But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice . . . that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground, he seems in a sort, lovely to them.

~Jonathan Edwards, The Religions Affections

 

God help me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Let’s Dish! Day 4

Over the past few years I've struggled to find the meaning of "healthy eating."  Does it mean raw, organic, free range, low carb, or low fat?  I still don't have perfect answers on those buzz words, but I do know it means consuming fewer processed foods.   But processed foods are fast and readily accepted by the little people around here and many of my casserole dishes contain at least one highly processed ingredient.  Being that I already prepare a lot from scratch, including biscuits, salad dressings, pancakes, and brownies, I figured I'd try my hand and un-processing those needed ingredients.  Here are a few that work from The More-with-Less Cookbook:

Non-canned Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/4 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp. onion, grated or finely chopped
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk

Sauté mushrooms and onions in butter.  Blend in flour and salt and stir until bubbly.  Slowly add milk, whisking all the while to prevent lumps.  Cook until thickened.

Non-canned Cream of Chicken Soup

3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth

Melt butter.  Blend in flour, spices and salt and stir until bubbly.  Slowly add milk and broth, whisking all the while to prevent lumps.  Cook until thickened.

 

My next attempt is stuffing mix from scratch.  I haven’t tried it, but the Homemade Chicken Stuffing Mix at Tammy’s Recipes looks pretty good.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Let’s Dish! Day 3

Before discovering her family had numerous food allergies, my friend Anika and I used to get together for a day and cook a month’s worth of meals for our freezers.  This is one of the recipes I acquired from her:

Spaghetti Pie
(makes 2 pie plates)

1-8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1-16 oz. tub sour cream
1 bunch green onions
1 lb. box spaghetti noodles
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained
cheddar cheese

 

Cook spaghetti.  Meanwhile, mix cream cheese, sour cream and onions in a very large bowl.   Place hot drained spaghetti into bowl with cream cheese mixture and toss until combined.  Place half of spaghetti mixture into two greased pie plates.

Combine meat and spaghetti sauce.  Top the spaghetti in the pie plates with meat sauce.   Do not mix.  Sprinkle with cheddar.

For tonight:  Bake at 400 until bubbly, about 25-30 minutes.

For later:  Cover and place in freezer.  When ready to use, thaw completely and then bake as directed above.

This is terrific with garlic bread and a green salad.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Let’s Dish! Day 2

When I was growing up my family was never into casseroles; my father didn't like them.  All casseroles except this one:

Chicken and String Bean Casserole
(serves 8)

This is just like the green bean casserole you eat during the holidays, but with chicken added.

Combine and mix well:

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. soy sauce

Fold in:

3 cups chopped cooked chicken

1 16oz. package green beans, thawed and drained (we like French style)

1/3 cup chopped onions

Pour into casserole dish, cover, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Uncover and top with French fried onion rings.  Return to oven for 7 minutes. 

Terrific served with corn muffins or crescent rolls and a green salad.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Let’s Dish!

Being a homeschool mom can be exhausting, to say the least.  I think I get most of my exercise circling the table as my three little chickadees keep chirping, "Mom.  Mom. Mom."   Being at home all day does have its benefits:  we can school  in our pj's or take the dog on a walk for PE.  But after taking a look around, I've decided that living in this house 24/7 is starting to take a toll on our dwelling.   Average families exit the house for a while most every day, leaving only their pets to make a mess.  We, on the other hand, canvas every room all day long, emptying toy bins, spreading out books, flushing toilets, dirtying dishes, the list goes on and on.  I have trouble keeping my house "respectable" clean, let alone "Better Homes and Gardens" clean.

And then there's the food.  We're hungry Americans: not only do we have to eat it, but our lives often revolve around it.  With the schooling and the laundry and the cleaning, gourmet has gone out the window and family-friendly has come sailing in.  Whether you call it a covered dish, a casserole, or a hot dish, the one pot meal has supplied my hungry hoard with balanced meals and given me those much needed moments to fold my laundry, sweep my floors, and even blog occasionally!

Throughout the month of April I intend to share some of our family's favorite casseroles, many of which make two meals, one to eat and one to freeze, starting with tonight's dinner,  Cordon Bleu Bake.  ( Sorry there's no photo, the lions were circling! ) If you have any dishes to share on your blog, please leave a link  in the comments.  I’m always looking for good ideas!

 

Cordon Bleu Bake
(makes 2 pans)

I found this recipe while perusing one of the Taste of Home publications (can’t remember which one) at the piano teacher’s house.  I like the fact that all of the ingredients are available at Aldi.

2 packages stuffing mix
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
8 cups cooked cubed chicken
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 lb. deli ham, cut in 1” strips
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Prepare stuffing as directed on the box.  Combine soup and milk and set aside.  Divide chicken between two 9x13 greased dishes.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Top with ham, Swiss, 1 cup cheddar, soup mixture, and stuffing.  Sprinkle with remaining cheddar. 

For tonight:  Bake covered at 350 for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 to 15 minutes.

For later:  Cover and freeze.  When ready to use, thaw in refrigerator.  Set on the counter for 30 minutes before baking as directed above.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Pox! Yo, Mama

My children have the chickenpox. All three of them. This would be of little consequence, and in fact we had planned on it for our youngest, but the eldest two were vaccinated against the disease. “What!!!???,” you exclaim. Yes, this is true. And one of my vaccinated kids has it the worst.

I called the pediatrician’s office this morning to report in to the nurse and was informed that they are seeing more of this these days and are now giving boosters. At four years old. My two vaccinated kids are 10 and 8 and no one ever mentioned boosters to us.

Having the chickenpox is no problem and I’m actually relieved that now none of my children will ever get it again. I just wonder how many other parents like me who took it on good faith that their children would never get the chickenpox will find themselves with sick children. Or how many adults will realize only after breaking out in spots (and exposing everyone they've come in contact with for 2 days) that their immunity to a childhood disease was good only while the disease would have done little harm.

So if you have vaccinated your children (or was vaccinated yourself) check with your doctor about booster shots. Or do as we inadvertently did and lay the questions to rest by catching it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Kids

"Mommy, I love you, but I don't love you enough to eat your food."

~Statement made by my eight-year-old after sitting at the table with her siblings as the three of them wept and gnashed their teeth over a very yummy (from the parents' point of view) dinner of pasta with chicken, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and fire roasted tomatoes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stormy Day Activities

It was rainy and nasty outside so we made this today. Figured anyone willing to call themselves "Two Fat Als" had to know what they were doing. All I can say is, "Wow. Will somebody please, pass the butter?"

In Theory…

My kids are blooming pianists who, like most elementary musicians, would avoid their theory lessons if at all possible. Our music teacher is very laid back, desiring her students to enjoy playing the piano. She doesn’t sweat their lack of theory or send them home with loads of nomenclature to memorize. I however, was trained by a lovely lady who did, and while I hated it at the time, I now see its intrinsic value. I don’t want my kids to hate music lessons by the time they hit junior high but I do want them to learn the key signatures, chord progressions, and intervals. So I’m doing what the most sneaky of parents do: employing educational computer games. The following websites provide free music theory training that my kids find quite entertaining:

Creating Music is an elementary site for exploring music

Musicards.net has online flash cards for all levels of theory education.

MusicTheory.com provides students with interactive games for learning theory at the beginning to advanced levels for strings, guitar, and keyboard.

Ricci Adams’ MusicTheory.net has both lessons and games for keyboard, guitar, and brass.

Big Ears is a wonderful site for learning to hear note intervals.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spicing Up Lunch

For being the shortest month in the calendar, February sure does seem to drag around here.  Maybe it’s because the weather’s unpredictable and the neighborhood kids spend a lot of time inside, or maybe it’s simply because we’re between the church holidays, but we just seem to be blahhh.  Even lunch seems to be boring.   LB and I were perusing an old Pampered Chef cookbook the other day and decided to try out a new menu item:

Pepperoni Pizzadillas
(serves 4)

1 (8oz) packaged shredded mozzarella
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup tomato, seeded and chopped
1-1/2 cups chopped veggies—we tried mushrooms and peppers
1/4 cup sliced green onions
8 small flour tortillas
20 slices pepperoni
1 cup marinara sauce, warmed

Heat a grill pan or large frying pan for 5 minutes over medium heat while chopping veggies.  Combine cheese and seasoning in a small bowl. 
Cover one tortilla with 1/4 each of the cheese mixture, veggies, onions, and pepperoni.  Cover with another tortilla and slide carefully onto grill pan.  Cook about 3 minutes or until bottom tortilla looks browned.  Slide carefully onto a plate, invert another plate on top over pizadilla, and flip so grilled side is on top and you don’t spill the ingredients.  Slide back onto grill pan and cook until bottom side is crisp.   Repeat with remaining 3 pizadillas.

Cut in wedges with a pizza cutter and serve with a small dish of warm marinara.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

History at Ancient Prices


I know the beginning of the next school year is over six months away, but boy, am I glad I started thinking about it early! I was looking for Diana Waring’s History Alive on homeschool classifieds and decided to check the resale prices against buying it new from her site. Low and behold, she has a marvelous clearance sale going on! The History Alive products will now be published by Answers in Genesis so her self-published sets for Ancient Civilizations and Romans, Reformers, and Revolutionaries are now on sale for a fraction of the original cost. If you are going to be homeschooling anywhere near these eras, or even if you just like to listen to interesting history stories, check out Diana Waring’s recession-buster sales.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cookies!

Prevention has done it again! The latest issues has a wonderful recipe for smart cookies: cookies with no trans fat, low saturated fat, and lots of taste. Of course I modified it a bit, but the taste is terrific.

Smart Chocolate Chip Cookies

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1-1/3 cups sucanat (the original recipe called for 2/3 cup each of brown and white sugar)
2 large egg whites (you can substitute a whole egg but it changes the fat ratio)
1-1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. Whisk canola and sucanat together in a large bowl. Add egg whites and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Stir in dry ingredients until well blended. Add oats and chocolate.

Cover and chill dough for at least 15 minutes. Heat oven to 375 and lightly spray two cookie sheets.

Shape dough into 16 balls using a little pressure to make them stick together. Put 8 balls on each sheet, flattening each into a 3” patty.

Bake 7 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let cool a few minutes before removing to rack to cool.


Nutritional Info Per Cookie: 218 cal, 3 g protein, 32 g carb, 2 g fiber, 10 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 162 mg sodium (Can you imagine what the counts are on those yummy mall cookies?)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Facing Facebook

A year or so ago my cousin began gently harassing me to get a profile on Facebook. She explained that many of my relatives, including my own brother, were already on and it made family communication very easy. I agreed to check it out and then promptly forgot. After a few more months and nudges I finally bit the bullet and signed on.

Facebook does make it easier to keep up with my family and even reconnect with some members whom I haven't seen in years. Like "six degrees of separation," it's fun to see who's found who from camp, college, and high school. I've even been found by the girl who was my neighbor when I was a toddler! However it also puts people who were a mere flicker in my memory back on the radar screen, and I'm not really sure how I feel about that. All sorts of emotions that have been dormant for decades come flooding back into the present. Feelings of bitterness, insecurity and one-up-manship that I thought were long gone surface a little too easily for my comfort.

So what's a girl (okay, a middle aged gal) to do? First, I'm standing firmly on the conviction that I am content with my life. I love my husband, my job, and my station in life, and I will not be concerned over things that didn't bother me last year let alone ten years ago. And second, I will not shy away from people who "knew me when" because, as Brandon Heath so aptly sings, I'm Not Who I Was. God has been in the process of changing me into the image of His Son Who is kind, merciful, and (thankfully) graciously forgetful. Is that not the best thing I have to offer, anyway?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Got MUFA's?

Okay, I admit, at first glance I thought it was an abbreviation for a vile insult. But I've been educated by the knowledgeable folks at Prevention Magazine that a MUFA is a monounsaturated fatty acid, and a calorie-controlled diet rich in MUFA's is bueno for the belly. It appears that MUFA's help us store less visceral fat in the abdominal region, therefore lowering our risk of several serious diseases. So what are some of these MUFA's, you ask? Oils, olives, nuts and seeds, avocados, and, my personal favorite, dark chocolate made the list.


As I've said before, I'm a dessert fiend. Because I don't overeat them they don't "show," but I know that I need to make better choices when it comes to sweet treats in order to benefit my long-term health. This was tonight's yummy MUFA recipe:


MUFA-Over Ice Cream!
(Makes 5 servings)

1.5 cups skim milk
18 oz. fat free plain yogurt
3 cups Aldi frozen mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine ingredients in a blender or smoothie maker. Transfer to glasses or ice cream dishes and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Eat with a spoon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

8 Minutes

I can't believe it, but this year I've been out of high school for 20 years. Back in September I got this crazy idea that I wanted to see if I could get my weight at 38 to the same place it was when I was 18. Well I did it! Yes, today I can fit in my prom gown. Whoo-hoo! (Maybe that just means I got my mid-life body 20 years too soon!) Here's a picture of me with my Best-Beloved taken at Thanksgiving:



I only had about 10 pounds to lose (but don't forget I'm only 5' tall, so that was about 9% of my body weight) and of course after 3 babies and 20 years, things aren't exactly in the same place and my skin definitely does not have the same elasticity, but I am probably in the best shape of my life. Here's the kicker: it wasn't difficult. I am not dieting (although I should eat fewer cookies) and I'm only spending between 8 and 30 minutes per day, six days a week, doing moderate aerobic exercise. Usually I spend part of my morning with Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds 2 mile High Calorie Burn. Leslie has a bajillion workouts and most are available at your local library. But today I tried a new workout I found in Prevention Magazine. It's an 8 minute interval workout that can blast the socks off even a fit bod.


So do you want to get fit? Did you make one of "those" New Year's resolutions? Check out Prevention Magazine's 8 Minute Fat Blast for a great kick-start.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy (Belated) Chinese New Year!

The Chinese are officially into the Year of the Ox and my family is officially into Chinese food, however, I am NOT into the price of take-out.

When I was a teenager we ate at a nice Chinese restaurant almost every Sunday after church, in fact, we sat in the parking lot until they opened up the place. But our favorite Chinese restaurant, #1 Chinese, had the best food but zero atmosphere--just a counter for ordering and a room full of plastic picnic tables. I've taken my cues from #1 and don't worry about fancy Asian dinnerware or chopsticks, just stick with good food.

Here are a couple of our favorite recipes:


Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry
Makes 4 servings

2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
3/4 lb. flank steak
1 medium head broccoli
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 Tbs. oyster sauce
2 cups cooked white rice

Make marinade by combining soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add cornstarch and blend in with the back of a spoon. Stir in garlic and ginger.

Trim steak. Cut in 1/4-inch thick strips about 2-inches long. Stir meat into marinade. Cover bowl and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While meat marinates, cut up broccoli. Set aside.

Heat wok until hot. Add oil and coat pan. Add meat and stir fry 2-3 minutes. Remove meat to a plate.

Immediately add broccoli and chicken stock to pan. Cover and cook on high for 4 minutes or until bright green and crisp-tender, stirring once. Uncover pan and stir in meat, marinade, and oyster sauce. Cook uncovered for another minute or two until broccoli is just tender. Serve over rice.



Fried Rice
Makes 4 entree sized portions or side dishes for 6

Cook 1 cup of white rice ahead of time and completely cool it or you will have rice mush.

Heat 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet.

Add:

1/2 lb. thin pork chops cut in strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, depending on how spicy you want it
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Stir fry until meat is tender and hot, about 1-2 minutes. Add rice and stir fry another 5 minutes.

Add:

1 cup frozen veggies of your choice. We like peas, carrots, and corn.
Small cooked shrimp, if you want it.

Stir well into rice mixture and heat.

Just before serving, push rice into a pile on one side of the pan and add:

2 beaten eggs

Scramble egg until cooked through and then stir into rice mixture. Serve piping hot with extra soy sauce.


I usually pick up a box of egg rolls at Aldi (don't forget to have really good Chinese hot mustard on hand) and a packet of hot and sour soup mix at my local market to round out our feast.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tax Season


Well it's time again to pay my Uncle Sam and this year I'm getting it all ready for free. Our good ol' uncle has set up a site for finding free do-it-yourself on-line tax preparation and filing at Free File for anyone whose adjusted gross income is less than $56,000. I've always purchased Turbo Tax and used their e-filing option so I chose Turbo Tax Freedom Edition from the Free File list. It is available to anyone whose adjusted gross income is less than $30,000, or is on active military duty, or qualifies for Earned Income Credit. The interactive site sets you up with an account so you can safely come and go without losing your information and operates pretty much like the Turbo Tax Deluxe product. Depending on where you live, even your state filing may be free, and if not, Turbo Tax will file it for less than $10. I was very impressed.

If you prepare your own taxes, make less than $56K, and want to save about 60-bucks, check out Free File. It was definitely worth my time!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolution

Last night we said goodbye to 2008 with Chicago Dogs and Prince Caspian; just an ordinary family night at our house. There was no champagne, no late-night party, no watching the ball drop. But we enjoyed ourselves. In retrospect, it was a fitting end to a rather calm year. We had no big surprises and no major catastrophes. Things just carried on. And yet in the every day seeing of life, much has changed.

Along with reading a lot of things I'd never have touched before with a ten-foot pole, over the course of 2008, I read through the Bible with the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan (a nicely organized method, by the way, if you're interested in trying it). I haven't done this in about 4 years and what surprised me was the flavor it had this time around. (I'm starting to see Ed Cyzewski's point about theology not being static!) Last time I felt bogged down with the requirements and statues of the law, and this time what jumped out at me on almost every page was the tremendous and constant compassion of the Creator God toward His stiff necked and proud people. From the rebellion of Adam, to the yo-yo obedience of the children of Israel, to the arrogance of the Pharisees, God has dealt with flagrantly idolatrous folks. But the biggest how-do-you-do of all was understanding that I stand right there in the camp with them. I came face to face with the realization that I'm just as prideful and stubborn and idolatrous as they were, and that's exactly why I need a Savior.

I started 2008 with a lot of answers on how to live the Christian life and ended it with a truck load of questions. I thought I knew a lot about God and how He worked, and now I'm starting to see that my white middle class American understanding is just a teensy-weensy corner of His greatness. This has been both frightening and humbling. Which leads me to my quest for 2009.

This year I want to learn to:

1. Cry Out--The children of Israel cried out for relief, the lame and the afflicted cried out to Jesus for healing, and the heavenly throng cry out praise to the everlasting King. I, too, need to truly believe that He hears and respond accordingly.

2. Seek, Look, and Fight--I want God to reveal Himself to me in unmistakable ways and that requires a passionate quest through the Scriptures and battle against my flesh, not in legalistic or monastic ways, but in knowing my Savior and following His commands to love as He loves.

3. Humble myself--In reading through the Bible I was overwhelmed with the amount of times Scripture places the humble man in the place of receiving from God. This is not a comfortable place from my human perspective because it requires eating a lot of crow, but if it is the humble that receives grace, I need to be able to stop thinking that I'm right, accept the criticism of others, see my sin for what it is, and confess it before God and man.