Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili Recipe

I shared this recipe back in October, but I wanted to post it again. I made it again this week (healthy foods for us, remember). It's so yummy, healthy, and EASY. Do not let the pumpkin scare you away. It really just adds a creamier texture. This is so tasty, and even my children loved it. (Well, the two smallest did not, but they want to live on chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, peanut butter, and cheese. It's a challenge for Mom.) Remember that with soup and chili, you usually do not have to measure carefully. Let me know if you make this and if you like it!

Also, someone else checked the ww points. One serving is only 1.5 points, and it is all core.

Enjoy!

Bev


Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili

1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped (I used green. I'm too cheap to pay for the yellow. The green are good.)
3 garlic cloves, minced (I buy the minced garlic in a jar in the produce section. I use a lot of garlic, onions, and peppers when I cook.)
2 -3 tsp olive oil
3 cups chicken broth
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained (or about 4 cups if you cook them yourself)
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey or chicken (Use whatever you have leftover or pick up an inexpensive rotisserie at the grocery store.)
1 can (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 tsp dried parsley flakes
2 tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt

In a skillet, sauté the onion, yellow pepper, and garlic in oil until tender. Transfer to a 5-qt slow cooker; stir in the remaining ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through.

Yield: 10 servings

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Getting Fit by Forty!

I will turn 40 in 2009. Yippee!

I have gained a lot of weight in my 30s, and I want to go into my 40s with a healthier body. I know it is stereo-typical to make weight loss a New Year’s Resolution, and that few people succeed, but I am going to try.

My weight-gain started about the time I turned 30, when both my metabolism and activity level decreased. Then, I had a few life changes: marriage, motherhood, cross-country move, career change, pregnancy, another cross-country move, another pregnancy (that’s zero to five children in just over two years), and other adjustments. It has been wonderful, but difficult, much more so than I anticipated. I have eaten my way through every stressful situation. I am still doing so, and that has to stop.

It is time for another change. I am concerned about my health, I am disappointed with the example I am setting for my children, and I am embarrassed about my appearance. I want to be slimmer, healthier, and more energetic as I raise my children and enjoy the coming years with my husband. I can do this.

I had a lot of success following the Weight Watchers Core Plan, but when life got hectic, I stopped going to meetings and got off plan before I reached my goal weight. I am slowly putting those pounds back on. WW recently changed their program and I am no longer a member, but the Core Plan worked for me, so I am going to try to follow it again. Basically, it requires eating healthy foods – fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fat-free (or low fat) dairy, whole grains – and limiting fat, breads, and sweets. There’s more to it, and I’ll talk more about that later, but since I feed seven people each day, and as much as possible I want us eating the same meals, this plan works for us.

Losing weight is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. It is harder than getting my master’s degree (but I had Pam to help me then). It’s harder than teaching high school English (but I had Denise, Jennifer, April, Clay, Jeff, Rebecca, and lots of other good friends and wonderful, dedicated educators by my side). More difficult than being single and taking care of my own home (but Dad and those great teenagers across the street, as well as other friends and family, helped). I know I am not alone, though. My family, who loves and encourages me, will support me. Maybe some of you will, too.

I already have some menus planned with lots of variety to keep things interesting. I will share recipes, tips, successes, and stumbles as I go. I may struggle and have to start over on the first day of every month. I may be reposting this goal a year from now. But this is important and all I know to do is keep trying.

So what about you? Does anyone else need to shed some pounds and work towards being healthier? Will you join me? If your jeans already fit nicely and you follow the food triangle each day, would you stop by on occasion and encourage me?

Today is day one. I can do this. If weight loss is also your goal, you can do it, too! Here we go!

Blessings,
Bev

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Pictures and Vegetable Strata Recipe







We had a wonderful holiday with family, and we are enjoying some down time together before school starts back. I hope your holidays were special, too.

I made a really tasty egg dish for lunch today, and I want to share the recipe. The original recipe came from weightwatchers.com, but I adapted it a bit.

Tomorrow, I am blogging about weight loss goals for 2009. If you have some pounds to shed, let me know and we can cheer one another along.

Vegetable Strata

8 Servings

7 slices whole wheat bread, toasted and cut into cubes
2 tsp olive (or your favorite) oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 slices Canadian bacon, diced
20 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry in a dish towel
10 oz frozen butternut squash, thawed
8 eggs
¾ cup skim milk
½ tsp each, salt and pepper
Your favorite shredded cheese to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat oil in skillet and sauté onion until it is soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and bacon, and cook until onions start to brown, 3-4 more minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Place spinach, squash, eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Add onion mixture and whisk again. Pour in the bread. You may need a spoon to combine this time.

Pour the entire mixture into a 9 x 13 pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Serve with fresh fruit.

*Notes: I could not find frozen squash. I bought a whole butternut squash in the produce section. I microwaved it for 10 minutes to soften, then cut it in half lengthwise. I scooped out the flesh of one half to use in the dish, then scooped the rest into a bowl and froze it for later.

Also, the original recipe called for 4 eggs and 6 egg whites. I could not justify tossing out 6 egg yolks. Using 8 eggs allows for one egg per serving, which is a great way to get in good nutrients.

**Everyone really liked this. I like spinach, but I didn’t know if anyone else would go for it. They didn’t even try to top it with sour cream or ranch dressing, like they do many other vegetable dishes. It was so yummy and filling. I served it with a small plate of pear slices and peeled Clementines. This would make a great dish for brunch on New Year’s Day or on the weekend.

Enjoy!

Bev

Monday, December 22, 2008

Trail Mix Recipe

If you need a last minute gift, or something to top off your gift bags, trail mix is quick and easy, and most people really love it. There are also numerous combinations you can use. Try this one.

(I do not measure. I do use store brands for as many ingredients as possible.)

Cheerios -- plain, honey-nut, yogurt, or a bit of each
Chex cereal -- any flavor or flavors
M & Ms -- your favorite flavor
Raisins
Nuts -- any combination (I use plain peanuts) *If anyone is allergic or cannot eat peanuts, remember to leave these out.
Pretzels -- plain, chocolate-covered, whatever -- I like to crunch these up into smaller pieces.

*Other options: coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit... other snacks you enjoy

Fill quart-sized ziplocks and share with family and friends.

Have a wonderful weeks, friends! I am off to start baking banana bread and zucchini bread to share with loved ones. That's the last chore. Rock candy is made, trail mix is made, and all is ready to share. I am so very blessed.

Bev

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rock Candy Recipe

For most of my adult life, I have made most of the Christmas gifts I give. I am positively lousy at deciding what to buy for people, but I make a mean cookie and banana bread, so I go with my strengths. I admit that I have made some pretty goofy gifts over the years, but one that I know is appreciated is the rock candy I make for my dad. I know he loves it, and it pleases me immensely when I get that email saying his container is empty and I need to make more. It also makes me giggle the way he hides it from everyone and jokingly fusses at his wife if she dares ask for a piece.

I'm sharing my recipe here. The candy takes a little work, and it is easier to buy the little bags of pre-wrapped cinnamons at your local grocery store, but I think this is good candy. I am making a big batch this afternoon, so I will try to take pictures and add them to the post tonight. Enjoy!

Rock Candy

1 cup water
1 ¼ cups light corn syrup
3 ¾ cups granulated sugar
liquid food coloring (any color, as much as you wish)
1 tsp cinnamon oil or candy flavoring*
1/3 cup (more or less, as desired)

You need a candy thermometer for this recipe.

*I have not been able to find cinnamon oil at Walmart or Kroger lately, and since I am not willing to go shopping all over town, I have been using cinnamon extract. I use 1 tbsp of extract in place of 1 tsp of oil. Sometimes I add more since my dad likes the candy strong.

In a heavy saucepan, combine water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and food coloring. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook for 3 minutes to dissolve sugar crystals. (Do not lift the lid or stir.)

Uncover and attach candy thermometer to pot. Make sure the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pot. Cook on medium-high heat without stirring until the hard crack stage. While the candy is cooking, line a cookie sheet with foil and coat foil with cooking spray. This is what you will pour the liquid candy into. Remove candy from heat. Stir in oil or flavoring.

*If you are using cinnamon oil or extract, I highly recommend adding the oil outside. It produces a powerful smoke that will sting your eyes and nostrils if you are not careful. It only takes a moment or two to settle back down so you can bring it inside. The other flavors do not seem to be as strong.

Quickly pour the candy onto the cookie sheet, being extremely careful. I try to have someone else available to help scrape the pot. This stuff gets sticky really fast.

When the candy has hardened, cover it with foil and break into small pieces. I use a meat mallet or a hammer. You may come up with an easier method. I suppose it would be simpler to use candy molds, but I have never tried them.

Place the candy in a ziplock bag and add the confectioner’s sugar. Seal the bag. Put this bag into another bag and seal it. Then, toss the candy and sugar until the sugar is distributed throughout and all the candy has a light coating.

Store in airtight containers. Give to someone special or hide away and keep for yourself.

Blessings,
Bev

Edited to add: In the midst of making candy, I had to leave to take Abel to the evening clinic, where he tested positive for strep throat. I looked at the doctor and said, "I have four more children. I'll see you tomorrow." Thus, I have no exciting candy-making pictures to share. Maybe next time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haikus

Tiffany posted a writing prompt on her blog. She challenged readers to write a haiku about shiny things. My initial thought was to write about my children's eyes, which sparkle and shine, but I strayed a bit from the shiny part. Here are my pitiful little attempts.

Their eyes shine with pride
A goal they worked hard to reach
Blue belts for my boys

Tears are real this time
She pleads with Mommy to stay
It’s scary in the dark

She lights up a room
And finds true joy in learning
Growing up so fast

Full of energy
With my grandma’s eyes… and strength
Innocence and joy

They keep me awake
Make me laugh and cry, and
Teach me about love

Now it's your turn!

Bev

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Meme

I copied this Christmas meme from Angie , who copied it from another blog. I chose only what I wanted to answer since it was a bit long. I think the questions are fun!

1. When do you put up the Christmas tree? As soon as possible after Thanksgiving.

2. Real or Fake? Fake. Small enough to sit on a table (app. 3’). Charlie Brown would approve.

3. Lights? What color? Multi-colored, mini, not blinking.

4. Theme or No theme? No theme. Just small ornaments the children hang on the tree. Only the top half are left because Hope pulled them off every time I turned my back and I got tired of fighting that battle.

5. What’s under the tree? Gifts for the children.

6. Where do you hang your stockings? All seven hang above the dining room window. I love that you can see their silhouettes from outside.

7. Do you put lights on your house? No, but I put a string of lights along the fence and some on the steps railing. They looked pretty in the snow yesterday.

8. Got any outside lawn decorations? No.

9. Do you put up a nativity? No.

10. Do you hang mistletoe under the door? Yes, under the door between the living room and dining room. Sometimes I stand under it and clear my throat until Mark notices. :-)

11. Got a wreath on your front door? Yes.

12. Favorite Children’s Christmas TV show/cartoon? I like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’ve always felt like I belong on the Island of Misfit Toys. I thought I enjoyed the Peanuts cartoons, but I’ve been watching some of them with my children lately, and I had forgotten how much yelling, insulting, and name-calling they have. I guess my ears were not as sensitive when I was a child (how sad). My children did not really enjoy watching.

13. Have you ever seen the Nutcracker Suite Ballet live? Yes, twice, and I enjoyed it.

14. Ever been to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show? No, but I think it would be fun.

15. Ever gone to the movies on Christmas Day? No, but my brother often goes.

16. Did you know it’s the biggest day of the box-office? I knew a lot of people go that day. I did not know it was the biggest day.

17. Favorite Christmas book or story? The Gift of the Magi, The Legend of the Candy Cane . There are probably others that just aren’t coming to mind right now.

18. Do you stuff your stockings with any types of food? I stuff the children’s stockings with edible goodies and small toys. Hope and Elizabeth get coloring books this year. I’m not telling what the older children get because they sometimes read the blog.

19. Do you go to church on Christmas or Christmas Eve? No. I grew up in a small town and my church did not have Christmas services. The church we attend now does have a Christmas Eve service, which I would attend, but we will be at grandparents’ houses.

20. Have you ever gone Caroling? Yes, and when my children are a little older, I would like to do so again. It’s so much fun! (I hope I get to do all those things I keep putting off until I no longer have anyone in the house who wears diapers.)

21. Favorite Christmas Carol? I love Christmas music. We sometimes play it in July. I love it. One song that stirs my emotions every time is Mary, Did You Know. No one sings it better than my friend Dock, not Kathy Mattea, not Natalie Cole. He sings it with such heart and passion. He is a godly man with a strong, beautiful voice, and I always think of him and his wife this time of year. I really miss seeing them. (Don’t yell at me, Bonnie! I know she really knew, but it had to be hard to comprehend at the same time. It’s still a beautiful song.)

22. What’s your favorite Christmas cookie? All cookies are my favorite. I especially love monster cookies, which my friend Sheryl introduced me to many years/pounds ago. I’ll post the recipe some day.

23. Any “special” foods or candy that you only have at Christmas time? I can’t think of any. I can say that we always have banana pudding at holidays, except for the time my brother was away in the Navy. For some reason all the cooks decided we could not have his favorite dessert when he was not there. My cousin and I revolted and the pudding returned.

24. What do you eat on Christmas EVE? Dinner at my dad’s house: ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn bread, rolls, desserts, lots of other yummy stuff...

25. What do you eat on Christmas day? Dinner at my mom’s house: ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn bread, rolls, desserts, lots of other yummy stuff...

26. Do you like Eggnog? No, but Mark and the children really do.

27. Do you like candy canes? I don’t love them. I don’t love candy. I love cookies and cakes, unfortunately. I like giving candy canes to the children, though. They all enjoy them. They sometimes use them to stir hot chocolate.

28. Do you send Christmas cards (handmade or bought)? Yes (bought), but mostly to family and friends I do not see often. I include a picture of the children. This year, I included the address for my blog!

29. Do you make a “list”? Yes. Each child gets a gift you want, a gift you need, a gift to wear, and a gift to read. Extended family members receive baked goods. My dad gets homemade cinnamon rock candy. It gives me much joy to give him something I know he enjoys.

30. Do you shop on Black Friday? No!

31. ARE YOU READY FOR CHRISTMAS? For the most part. Shopping is finished, but there is baking to be done.

May your holidays be filled with joy, regardless of how you celebrate!

Bev

Monday, December 15, 2008

Words of Wisdom for Wives

When I married Mark, the women in his church hosted a shower/welcome party for me. The hostess asked each woman to write her favorite recipes, as well as some words of wisdom for marriage, on recipe cards. They were presented to me as a gift. I still keep the cards in my recipe box, so I see them often. I want to share some of the things those wives wrote. I think it was pretty good advice!

* Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. It is a key ingredient to a successful marriage.

* Read "The Excellent Wife," by Martha Peace.

* Strive to be a Proverbs 31 wife. Love your husband and do loving things for him, even when you do not feel like doing so. The tone/mood of the wife/mother sets the tone/mood for the entire house.

* Seek help, guidance, and counsel from other godly women. Do not think you have to do it all or figure everything out yourself.

* Be an encourager to your husband! Isaiah 50:4 -- "The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught."

* Proverbs 15:1 -- "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." These words are so important in a family. They promote peace between husband and wife, parent and child. They stave off many an argument. They open the heart and ears of the other person to hear you speak instead of making him more defensive. These words are hard to follow in the heat of an argument or when you are sure you are correct, or when a child is very irritating or extra disobedient, or when relatives force their two cents of advice on you, or when friends rebuke and correct an action or attitude. These words are well worth keeping at the front of your mind -- a soft answer.

It is easy in the busyness of day to day living to forget these and other important truths that protect our marriages and families. It is important to be reminded of them, however. Even after 4 1/2 years, I still feel so new at being a wife and mother. I still feel like I am trying to figure it all out, and just keeping everyone fed and clothed is sometimes a challenge, much less tending to spiritual needs and trying to be a role model. I fail daily, but I keep trying, and I keep asking for God's grace and mercy.

I also try to keep in mind that Proverbs 21 says it is better for a man to dwell in the corner of the rooftop than to share his home with a contentious woman. When I am tempted to nag (or after I have nagged!) about dirty clothes that don't make it to the laundry basket, or water left on the sink after teeth are brushed, or other matters of equal importance, I try to ask if I am driving my husband to the rooftop. Yes, I want him to do his part in keeping the house picked up, but I need to honor him as well. It is a delicate balance, one I am still trying to acquire. Again, I keep asking for grace and mercy. I am not an excellent wife or mother, but I long to be.

Perhaps you have other words of wisdom to share regarding marriage or family. I would certainly love to hear them.

Blessings,
Bev

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When Life Gives You Lasagna, Make Soup

Elizabeth: (While playing with her Play-Doh factory) Look at the soup I made!

Robert: Elizabeth, that's lasagna. See, it's flat like lasagna noodles.

Elizabeth: Ya...Ya (having trouble saying the word)... I'll just call it soup.

:-)

Here are some pictures of her playing...at 4:30 this morning. So much for getting up early to have quiet time to myself. She looked so sweet, though, feeding "nutritious foods" to her Hippo.



Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Do you wear crocs?

I have typed this post several times, but before I can publish it, life interferes. Hope wakes up early, or Elizabeth bumps her head and needs me to hold her (which is better than when she tells me she hurt her bottom and needs me to kiss it...), or Robert and Abel turn into the Pick and Nag brothers and get into a disagreement in which the word butt is used several times. (Please do not get the wrong idea. They are fabulous boys.)

Oh wait. Here are the girls. It seems Dora went off before I could finish typing. Now I must go put my daughters to bed. Priorities and all that. Let's see if I can get back before the session times out.

...

One daughter down. One refusing to close her eyes. But here I go again.

If you wear crocs, you can have them recycled. They are ground up, formed into new shoes, and donated to organizations that work in third world countries. Neat, huh? Someone posted the site on the message board for our homeschool group, and I wanted to share it here. To learn more about the program, go to SolesUnited . To learn where you can donate your used shoes, click here .

Now, it's trivia time.

Who kept time with the Little Drummer Boy? The ox and the lamb.

What do most elves wear on the tips of their shoes? Bells.

Who do we pretend the snowman is in the song "Winter Wonderland"? Parson Brown

... I hear the patter of little feet. She is still not asleep. She is asking for cookies. (No way!) I suspect it will be a long night.

Blessings,
Bev

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wise Decisions

Today's news provides me with another wise-decisions lesson for my children. This is not a happy story. You can read it here. A 25-year-old woman from Brooklyn has been missing since Wednesday morning, when she left a bar with a registered sex offender.

Now, how many things are wrong with that picture? Hmmm... let's see. I would say you do not need to be in a bar, especially at 4:00 in the morning. Tell me what good can come of that. (Go ahead and yell at me for saying you need not frequent bars. I will not be swayed. I am certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that one can lead an exciting, fulfilling life without spending your evenings in night clubs.) Next, she left the bar with a man I am assuming she did not know. If she did know him, did she know about his criminal record? Just what does one think a man has in mind when he leaves a bar with a woman in the wee hours of the night? He is not interested in hearing about the books she reads or about her dreams of becoming an actress. He does not know a famous producer that he can hook her up with. If he promises any of those things and is sincere, then he can contact her via email or the telephone -- tomorrow -- when it is light outside.

At 25, a woman should know better, but a charming man can be incredibly persuasive. Even strong, intelligent, mature women who have been taught to say no, who know the dangers, can get caught up in the thrill of being at the center of a handsome man's attention. Believe me, silly, giggly, immature teenagers are not the only females whose emotions can get the best of them. A smooth talking man can talk a woman into making very unwise choices, especially if she has alcohol in her system, especially if she is lonely, especially in an environment like a nightclub. (Want to yell at me again? I am not belittling females. I am being honest. We are emotional creatures. Yes, some women are stronger than others. Yes, some can resist or see through a slick proposal, but do you want to take that chance when it comes to your daughter?) I do not mean to say that tragedies like this are the fault of the victim. I am saying that we cannot control the actions of others, so we need to protect ourselves and try to stay out of harm's way.

So how does one avoid pitfalls like this? The answer is easy. You do not go to bars alone. You do not go places with men you do not know. You need to be home during the wee hours of the night! You say there are no other ways for a woman to look for a potential mate? Sure there are -- and believe it or not, nice men go out during daylight hours, too. You say a girl has a right to unwind and have a good time? Sure she does, but there are plenty of safer ways to unwind, make friends, and enjoy yourself.

Am I a prude? You better believe it. Do I want to do everything I can to protect my children and prepare them for adulthood? Absolutely. Do I want to keep them from ever having fun? Of course not! But I want them to learn to find pleasure in the simple things in life, to dream big and pursue their dreams, and to do so wisely. There are enough dangers in day to day living, and we need not go looking for trouble.

My heart breaks for this poor woman and for her loved ones who just want her to come home. I do not know if she is dead or alive, but if she is missing, can it be for a good reason? I doubt it. This is a senseless tragedy. It could have been prevented.

Teach your children to make wise decisions, do all you can to protect them, and pray that they will remember what they have been taught.

Bev

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pictures, Ornament Recipe, and Fun Facts

I usually have family pictures made this time of year, but with the busyness of our world lately, I have not had time to schedule an appointment. I really wanted to have pics to send with Christmas cards, though, especially for loved ones we do not see often. I decided to use the digital camera and take photos myself. They won't look like the professional ones, but I thought they would be nice.

I worked hard to get this done right, mind you. I dressed the children in red and white. I took lots of practice shots until I found just the right spot (making sure the Christmas tree was not fully in view since Hope pulls all of the ornaments off the bottom half when my back is turned and I got tired of putting them back on). I was ready. The problem was that my darling two-year-old did not want to sit in her sister's lap for pictures. She was not hungry. She was not sleepy. She just did not want to cooperate.

Pictures really are a big deal to me. I really wanted this to work. I did all I could think of to get her to smile long enough to snap one good shot. I bribed her with a lollipop. I did funny dances. I squeaked a duck and jingled some bells. Nothing was working. Then my older children had an idea. I turned a Dora DVD on and sat with the computer in my lap. It worked. We will have Christmas pictures after all. I thought I would share some of the shots that will not be mailed with the cards. Of course, maybe these are the ones I should send. I am certain we would get some laughs!








We had fun decorating for the holidays this week. I don't do anything fancy, but I do enjoy having a few lights along the fence and here and there inside the house. The lights give me joy. I especially enjoy turning them on early in the morning, when I am the only one awake. It's so peaceful and happy. Last year, I was reluctant to take my lights down, so I made heart shaped ornaments, painted them red, and hung them on the set of lights and garland hanging around my back door. I kept that set up until Valentine's Day. I considered making shamrocks and hanging on for another month, but I gave in and packed them away.

There are several ornament recipes online and in my numerous cookbooks, and I do not remember which one I used. (I know it was a really simple one!) Here is one I found that allows you to do the baking in the microwave. I think I'll try that this year!

BAKED DOUGH ORNAMENTS

4 c. all purpose flour
1 c. salt
1 1/2 c. water
Tempera or acrylic paint
String or ribbon
Clear acrylic or varnish

Do not eat the ornament!

Mix all ingredients in large bowl with your hands. Roll into a smooth ball. Roll dough 1/4" thick with rolling pin on waxed paper. If sticky, sprinkle more flour on wax paper. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or table knife. Use a pencil to make a hole for a string to go through. Bake 4 to 5 minutes in microwave on high. Do one at a time. The time needed and the size/thickness can be changed for different projects. When cooled they can be painted with tempera/acrylic paint. Then sprayed with clear acrylic paint (or varnish) to seal out moisture.

Store in cool, dry place when not being used.

Lots o' fun!

Of course, I cannot end this post without a few important facts about Christmas.

What are the two most popular Christmas colors after red and green?

Silver and Gold.

Hanging a wreath on the front door comes from which ancient culture?

The Romans (or maybe the Persians, depending on what sources you check)

One more...What is the biggest selling Christmas single of all time?

"White Christmas"

A fun site for lots of things Christmas

Blessings,
Bev

Money

Does it make anyone else the least bit uncomfortable that the people who are leading our nation during an economic recession are not so great at managing their campaign money? Why would we expect them to be stern with banks and automakers who come asking for bailout money when they spend more than they have to get elected?

I am not in favor of more government control on spending, but I would certainly be more impressed by leaders who spend carefully, and who do not spend money they don't have. They might be a little more inclined to work on the national budget in the same manner.

Just a thought...

Democrats in Debt

Clinton's Fundraising

(In the interest of fairness, when I find stories about Republicans in financial trouble, I will share those, too.) My goal is not to embarrass those who spend unwisely, as I certainly am constantly working on that myself, but to bring attention to the practices of those who have been elected to lead our country. I am neither a politician nor a financial advisor, but stories like this frighten me as a mom.

Bev

Friday, December 5, 2008

O.J. Simpson

Woo. Hoo.

Small comfort to the Brown and Goldman families, but perhaps a small taste of justice nonetheless.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mom Videos

Where did this week go??? I have intended to post several times, but bedtime comes before I get to the computer or Hope wakes up early in the morning and wants to help me type. I have several things I want to share, but while I work on getting them written, enjoy the following videos. One was sent by my fun friend Deb. It reminded me of the Mom Song, which you have probably seen but is still really funny. Enjoy, and I hope to be back with more posts soon.

Bev

(I could not get the videos to load directly on the page, so I am pasting in the links. Sorry.)

Go Fish Mom Song

The Mom Song

PS -- Name the two states in the USA with a town called North Pole.

Alaska and New York.

(I love the holidays!)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Remembering the Past...

I got to worship at my former church this morning, the place I called home before I married my prince charming and moved far, far away. The congregation is small, and it was such a delight to see everyone again. I enjoyed visiting with the Longs, the Brinks, the Holbrooks, the Browns, and the Beldens, as well as meeting some new families. There was not enough time to get caught up, but it warmed my heart to see children who had grown and share hugs with dear friends. Isn't it wonderful to be somewhere that you truly feel loved, to know that people are sincerely glad to see you, and that they mean it when they ask how you are? Wonderful.

The visit also reminded me of a funny story. For a time, I was the only unmarried adult in the congregation. One month, the pastor shared a series of sermons about family. The first week, he preached about God's commands for husbands. The next week, he spoke to wives. The third week, he addressed what God says about children. It was a very informative series, filled with insightful, beautiful lessons, but I remember chuckling to myself that the pastor had preached to everyone in the church but me that month. I didn't fit in either of those categories, so I sort of got a pass.

Want to know what the week four message was about? David, Bathsheba, and the sin of adultery! I kid you not. I'm sure it was just a coincidence. I'm certain the pastor was not trying to make sure everyone heard a message that they could apply directly to their own lives, especially the single gal who needed to be reminded about what trouble she could easily get into. I'm certain that it only seemed like people were looking at me out of the corner of their eyes, then looking at one another with raised eyebrows as he spoke. I'm not really that self-conscious or paranoid. I'm sure it was just one of those things. Regardless, I'm completely over it now. It hardly ever crosses my mind. Really. Like I said, it was so nice to visit this morning.

Want to know what today's sermon was about? Revenge. Like, how if someone does something that embarrasses you or makes you uncomfortable, you ought not try to get back at them by posting about it on your blog. It was a really good message.

Yeah, I have a way to go in my spiritual walk...




Have a wonderful night (and go to bed, Sheryl -- it's late)!

Bev

(Edited to add: Just in case there is doubt, my tone is meant to be light. I have much respect and affection for the pastor and his wife. My intent is to make you laugh, not to be spiteful.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Big Brother...

We are having a delightful time visiting with grandparents this weekend. As always, my children are providing plenty of entertainment. Last night, Elizabeth was running in Grandma's house and I could not get her to stop. (That is not the entertaining part.) She ended up sitting quietly on the couch beside Daddy. She did not like it, but she obeyed. We knew when her attention span was gone, though. She began telling us that she was getting bored...that she was not enjoying her time on the couch any longer. Mark basically ignored her complaining until she said, "Daddy, this is about as much fun as watching paint dry!"

That got our attention. We both stopped, stared at her open-mouthed for a few minutes, then composed ourselves enough to ask where she had heard that. She didn't give us an answer, but she did earn a few more minutes on the couch.

We learned later that it was her big brother Robert who taught her such a respectful phrase. You know, that guy who is supposed to protect and defend her, who teaches her good things and sets a fine example for her. I'm sure he did some giggling when he shared the fun new saying he was introducing to her. Unfortunately, he neglected to teach her that it is not the best thing to say to Daddy when trying to get out of trouble.

Funny. It made Pappy, Granny, and Grandma laugh a lot, when Elizabeth was not listening, of course!

Have a great evening!

Bev

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Little Elves

I love the holidays! I love lights and greenery and happy people and music and snow and ... I just love it all! Thanksgiving was wonderful, and I look forward to a weekend with my parents. Next week, we will put up some decorations and get back to school work. Before I leave, though, let me share some Christmas trivia and a fun video. I'm sure my children will love me for posting it.

How many gifts would you receive if you counted all the gifts in the song "The 12 Days of Christmas?" 364! Gee, I would settle for the five golden rings.

Enjoy the video, then go over to Elf Yourself to create your own. It is free (or $5 if you want to download and keep it). It is easy, if you have pictures you can upload to your computer. It's oh-so-funny, too!




Blessings, Bev

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Powdered Doughnuts

Warning: This post is not about healthy food. It is not about healthy eating. No wise decisions will be shared here. If you are looking for ideas for a nutritious dessert to share with your little darlings, stop reading now. Do a search on Google. There are hundreds, nay, thousands of well-educated, superbly experienced cooks blogging about the good things you can feed your family. This is not what you will find here tonight. Continuing to read is at your own risk.

However, if you would like a little break from all that good-for-your-arteries kind of stuff, you have come to the right place. Let’s talk about doughnuts. This is the easiest way of making doughnuts you will ever find, short of driving down to the nearest Krispy Kreme location and picking up a dozen. (No, these are not even in the same category as Krispy Kreme, but when you want something quick, easy, and sweet, they will definitely suffice.)

The directions (this does not count as a recipe):

Pour 1 to 2 cups of powdered sugar into a pie pan or shallow bowl.

Pour about 1/4 inch of your favorite cooking oil into your deepest skillet (more oil if you wish, but a lot is not really necessary).

Heat the oil over medium high heat.

While the oil is heating, open a can of biscuits. (The bicuits that are layered do not work as well. They sometimes come apart. They will work if that's all you have, but if you are using Pilsbury, the red or blue cans are better.) Use your thumb to gently poke a hole in the biscuit and stretch it out a bit, so you have what looks like a doughnut.

Drop the biscuit into the pan and fry it, being careful not to let it or your fingers get burned. Repeat with the other biscuits in the can. These brown quickly. Turn them once.

When each doughnut is done, place it in the sugar and turn to coat.

Place powdered doughnuts on a clean plate and keep something nearby to swat at hands that try to swipe the doughnuts before you even get them to the table.

After the last doughnut comes out of the skillet, remember to turn off the burner. Your mouth will be watering and you will be focused on getting to the table, but leaving the oil on the stove will lead to a big fire. Not good.

Pour a glass of milk or your favorite beverage. (I recommend cold Diet Pepsi, but to each her own.) Dig in, being careful to wipe the sugar off your lips so as to protect your dignity.

Yum!

We do not fry foods very often here, though my mom and grandmothers definitely cooked that way. While we were making these last night, my daughter looked at me very seriously and asked, “Is this the way you used to cook?”

I had to bite my lip to keep from saying, “Yes, back when I was skinny and hardly ever ate vegetables!”

I sort of thought that would be sending the wrong message, so I just said my mom occasionally fixed these for us when I was growing up. And that is the truth.

Have a wonderful night, and a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Blessings,
Bev

Red Bean Chili

I am sure this is not the case at your house, but my basement has become the place where stuff gets piled. Any papers that need to be filed or shredded, pile them in the basement. Anything that needs to be put away, but doesn't have a place yet, the basement. School books that are not currently being used. Yep, the basement. It was getting out of control, so I finally decided I need to make cleaning it a priority. I also want to move our school room down there. Currently, the older children work in the "living area," the kitchen, living room, and dining room, which are all sort of connected. The problem is that I also have a 2 and 3 year old who cannot be quiet all day while their siblings work. So, I want to convert one of the two small rooms downstairs into a school room where the older ones can study without pre-schoolers climbing all over them. My goal is to start the new semester down there after Christmas.

So I've been working. I have decided that my neighbors must be bringing their piles of credit card applications, old recipts, school papers, and other Important Things That No One Has Time To Deal With to our basement. How can we generate so much stuff??? I am making progress, though. The file cabinets are in much better order, with drawers for keepsakes, papers for the house, and school work. I filled a laundry basket with junk for the recycle bin, and brought up a stack of old papers that the kids can draw/color/paint on the back of. Yay! Progress.
Some interesting items I found:
*$16 -- in old birthday cards!
*a $25 gift card to Target -- a gift from when Elizabeth was born...almost 4 years ago (Mark checked the number online. It says the card has expired. Bummer.)
*Lots of credit card applications (I shred the parts with our info on them), including several from ESPN. Really, ESPN?
*A package of McDonald's coupons (Hey, maybe we will use those if we need to stop on the way to Grandma's house this weekend.)
*Several "Please subscribe" letters from Fortune Magazine. Fortune magazine? Ha, ha, ha. Oh, if only they knew us. We should be getting requests from the folks at No Fortune But Lots of Children and Lots of Bills Magazine. Yep, we would subscribe to that one. Gee, we could write for it!
*My recipe card for Taco Soup. Don't ask. I have children and sometimes my brain does not work. That should cover any reason why the card is in the basement as opposed to in the little black box where it belongs. It's in the proper place now.
*Receipts and user manuals for appliances I purchased years ago and no longer own: A weed-eater that died long ago; a gas heater I installed my old house, which I sold in 2004; the baby swing that was purchased in last spring's yard sale... and so on, and so on...

There were other things, but I'll let it go at that. I never throw things away. I just don't always put them where they go. But I am working on it.

I've also been putting warm weather clothes away and putting cold weather clothes in the closet. Yes, I'm way behind, but I started all this in October, before my mom and stepmother got sick. Things got a little crazy. Well, I'm always behind, but that's the reason this time. We don't have a lot of closet space, so out-of-season clothes get stored in Rubbermaid bins in the garage.

I cannot believe how much clothing we have for the seven of us. Surely Mr. and Mrs. George, our kindly neighbors, are paying the children to sneak their shorts and T-shirts into the piles, too. Regardless, clothes are now stored, and we will take four bags of out-grown items to Goodwill today! Yippee! (Sidenote: My neighbor's first name is George, so my children call him Mr. George. Thus, they call his wife Mrs. George. She loves it and asked me not to correct them. So, we all call them Mr. and Mrs. George. Sweet.)

I am on the right track! Soon, the children will have a quiet school room and Mark will have his little library back, clutter free. I will keep you updated on this oh-so-exciting drama!

Now, on to the important stuff. The chili recipe. I love, love, love chili, but I've been trying to cut back a little bit on red meat, so I had not made it yet this season. Yesterday was the perfect time. I did make one change to my usual, simple recipe. I usually add plain ole chili powder for seasoning, but I tried a mix I found online. It was good, but I ended up adding more chili powder. I should probably double the seasoning recipe next time. This made a big pot, so we will have it again tonight, which will make preparing for Thanksgiving a bit easier.

The recipe:
(All amounts are estimates. You can add or decrease as suits your tastes.)

1 lb (or more, as desired) ground beef
4 cups kidney beans, cooked and drained (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato sauce
1 onion
1 green pepper
2 cups water
1 serving chili seasoning (see below)

Chili seasoning (adjusted a bit from the one I found):
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground oregano
1 tbsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. instant minced onion
1/4 tsp. instant minced garlic (I skipped the dry and added minced garlic.)


Brown the ground beef with the peppers and onions. Drain any fat. (I had a large package of meat that I had browned the day before. I added about 2 cups to the chili. The rest goes in the freezer for the next dish.)

Combine all ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Top with cheese and sour cream, if desired.

*Remember, if you are using dry beans, cook them on the stove. They release a toxin that is not taken care of in the slow cooker. (I realize that sounds really lame and unspecific. Please do some research on your own. This post is really long already!) http://www.foodreference.com/html/artredkidneybeanpoisoning.html


Yum! Have a great day!

Bev

Monday, November 24, 2008

White Bean Soup (or Chili)

A couple of funnies, first.

We took our whole gang to the session meeting, where Hannah took membership vows to join the church, on Saturday. I wanted all of us there for this important occasion. There was another family there, also becoming members. This sweet, young family had a newborn (really new -- two weeks old). Mark looked at the little bundle, sighed a big sigh, and looked at me all googly-eyed. I just shook my head no and looked away! He has to be kidding!

(Okay, for the record, I would love to have more children if circumstances were a little different: if I were a little younger, if I didn't have like 400 pounds that I have put on since getting married to lose, if I weren't still trying to figure everything out after going from zero to five children in just over two years...you get the idea.)

I just thought it was funny and sweet. My darling husband would not complain if God sent us five more children. I would not mind either, if God sent them via an alternative route. I do not do pregnancy well.

Second funny... My kids told me a joke today. That is nothing new, but this one really made me chuckle. Here goes. What do you call a rabbit owned by an insect?
A bug's bunny. Ha, ha, ha. Tee, hee, hee.

Okay, onto more serious stuff. This post is about beans, after all. I made white bean soup, or chili, whichever you want to call it, today. I have a recipe that I like, but I wanted to try Stephanie's version. So I sort of combined the two.

The recipe:

4 cups or so of white beans (I used navy beans I had cooked and frozen a few weeks ago.)
1 onion, chopped
2 apples, cut in tiny chunks, peels on (I had a Granny Smith and a Golden Delicious on hand, so that's what went in.)
3 cloves minced garlic (I buy the pre-minced stuff in the jar, and I love it.)
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups chicken broth (I made it myself! I cooked a chicken in the crockpot yesterday, then made broth overnight!)
4 cups or so of cooked, chopped chicken (from the freezer)
1/2 cup plain non fat yogurt

I put it all in the crockpot and cooked on high for about 4 hours since some of the ingredients were still frozen. After that, I cooked on low for 2-3 more hours, then turned off the heat and removed the lid to allow it to cool before dinner.

This was good. I don't know if I liked it better than my original recipe (which did not have the apples or the yogurt), but we liked it. This made A LOT, so leftovers went directly into the freezer for another night.

Tomorrow is chili night again. What do you call chili made with kidney beans and ground beef? That's just regular ole chili to me. Anyway, I browned the meat with peppers and onions, and even cooked the beans today. All I have to do tomorrow is put all the ingredients in the crockpot and turn it on. Ahhh...

Long post. I need to go watch Dancing with the Stars. I'll be so sad when the season is over.

Blessings,
Bev

Sunday, November 23, 2008

To God Be the Glory

It is Thanksgiving week, and oh what God gave us to be thankful for this Lord's Day. My beautiful, intelligent, tender-hearted daughter Hannah became a church member this morning. We are presbyterian, so Hannah was baptized as an infant. However, after working through the catechism and growing in many ways, she expressed a desire to make a profession of faith and begin taking communion. When we spoke with our pastor about it, he said he likes to meet with young people before they take membership vows. They met each week for a few months. He had her memorize scripture and made sure that she had an understanding of what it means to be a Christian. They talked about serious theological issues. She understands that she is a sinner saved by God's grace. I think she knows much more scripture than I do. I believe she loves the Lord and loves His word. Oh my, what more could a mother want for her children?

Yesterday, she went before the session, and this morning she stood before the congregation while the pastor welcomed her. She will take communion for the first time in a few weeks.

We sang How Great Thou Art before Grace went before the church. That is one of a handful of songs that I simply cannot sing without being moved to tears. This morning it was especially powerful to me. I could not help but think of the great things God has done for my wonderful family and for me. I am certainly not the mother I dreamed of being. I do not pray with my children as much as I should. We do not always have family Bible reading (We try...). I am certainly not the example of a gentle, quiet, even-tempered mother that I wish I was. I fail in so many ways, and Hannah (all the children) deserve much better. Yet, I know I am trying. They know I am trying. They know I love them, and I know they love me. Even when they want to wring my neck or they think I'm the meanest mom EVER, deep down, we love one another. That is what God has given me. How Great Thou Art. How unworthy we are. God has brought my sweet daughter unto himself, given her his name.

The tears come again even as I write, and all I can think is to pray that God will allow me to see all my children come to know him, and to thank him for such incredible blessings. May I be a better leader and better example for Hannah's siblings, and may I help her grow in grace.

To God be the glory. Great things He has done.

Bev

Friday, November 21, 2008

Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

Another simple, easy meal tonight. I sliced chicken breasts into strips and placed them on a large cookie sheet. I sprinkled a small amount of salt, along with lemon pepper on top. On another cookie sheet, I placed sliced sweet potatoes (peels on). I baked them at the same time, in a 400 degree oven, for 25 minutes. While they baked, I cooked a quart of those apples from the freezer and steamed some broccoli.

Quick, yummy, nutritious!

More thoughts to share, but they will have to wait until the weekend. I'm tired, and I am off to bed. In the meantime, check out some of the other blogs listed over on the right. I found a few new ones recently, and I think you will enjoy them. Have a wonderful night!

Bev

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lentil Soup

I made the most yummy, healthy, inexpensive, easy soup in the crockpot today. It was yet another recipe from Stephanie's Crockpot Blog . If you like to cook, or if you want to learn more about using your crockpot, or if you like to eat, you really should visit this site!

The soup was so good. Go here to see the recipe and a picture. Moroccon Lentil Soup. I made a few minor changes. I did not add garam masala because, well, I did not know what that was until I looked it up on wikipedia, and I could not find it in the spice aisle at my grocery store. I used ground ginger instead of fresh. I also skipped the puree step at the end because my hand mixer would not work. Hmph.

Regardless, everyone over the age of five ate it and enjoyed it. Elizabeth and Hope are living on bananas, grapes, peanut butter, and cheese these days. So much for my desire to feed my children well.

Anyway, this soup was great. There was enough left for dinner tomorrow night (yippee). I will make this again. And did I mention that it is inexpensive and nutritious?

Blessings,
Bev

Chocolate Moment

Do you know how hard it is to sneak a few M&Ms in this house -- without having to share them? No matter how hard I plan, no matter how I check to make sure everyone is occupied in another room, someone hears the package rattle or smells the candy the moment I open the bag or senses that Mom is alone for a few seconds, and here they come.

Am I selfish? Mean? Perhaps. You know I am not going to let them have candy at 10:30 in the morning, but when a woman lives with five children, I think she deserves a little chocolate when she has the urge!

Furthermore, what do you think of the fact that I cannot even write a short little post for my blog, when my children are supposed to be doing school work, without all of them suddenly needing my attention?

Hmph. I'm off to get some carrots to munch on. Let's see if that brings them running toward the kitchen!

Bev

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Potpourri Cooker in Place of Candles

I love the aroma and the mood created by sweet smelling candles, but we only use candles for birthday cakes in this house. I have five energetic children. That's ten always-moving arms. Twenty never-still limbs. I am not willing to take the risk. But this time of year, I want the house to smell like the holidays, so I use my potpourri cooker. At least if one of the balls no one is supposed to be tossing in the house sails into the pot, I do not have to worry about the house catching on fire.

You do not have to purchase expensive potpourri to use your inexpensive cooker (or potpourri warmer, if that is what you call it). Simply put a little water in the cooker (1/2 to 1 inch), then add whatever spices you like. My favorite combination is vanilla and cinnamon. (This is the only thing for which I use imitation vanilla, which is really inexpensive if you buy the store brand. Cook with the real stuff, though. It's better for you.)

I've tried several combinations, and intend to try more this season. I added whole cloves once, but the smell was so overwhelming, I had to quickly toss the entire batch. I'm thinking of adding pumpkin pie spice, or maybe peppermint extract. I'll let you know if they work well. We had tangerines for lunch today, so I saved the peels and put those in the pot with some water. The smell was too pungent, so I took most of them out. With only a few small peels, the scent was much more pleasant. Mmmmm....




Since my theme is holiday related, let me share yet another Elizabeth story. (That child provides enough material that I could write a book about her alone.) I bought a pack of Christmas trivia cards the other day. I have been reading a few of the cards at breakfast or lunch for the children. This morning's question was, "Where was the first Christmas card created?" Elizabeth's immediate answer: The North Pole.

(The correct answer is England, but Elizabeth's is definitely funnier!)

Have a wonderful night. I need to go see who made it to the finals of Dancing with the Stars.

Bev

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blessings

When I was single, I went to church alone and I sat by myself, unless some of the sweet, sweet children in the church sat beside me and kept me company. There were more children than adults in our small congregation, so I was certainly never lonely. One beautiful little firecracker named Jenny used to sit on my lap, wiggling and squirming the entire service. (Little did I know she was doing her part to prepare me for motherhood. Both of my girls have been just like her in that area. I hope they pick up some of her other traits, too. She is growing into a beautiful, intellingent, godly young lady.) I even listened to the entire sermon and took notes back then.

Now, just a few short years later, my family travels to church in a van. We fill almost an entire pew in the sanctuary. I feel like I need eight arms to keep both of the little ones in their seat, quiet, and still. I often end up taking one or both of them into the church vestibule for most of the service, so I miss the sermon. There are speakers that allow me to hear the pastor, but my attention is usually focused on the girls. (Mark is great at reviewing.) I do not take notes. Yet, I know this is a short season, so I do not complain about dealing with Elizabeth and Hope. I want them to learn to sit through the service, and I know they will eventually. I am just so thankful for these blessings God has given me. I wanted a family, but I did not know if having one was part of God's plan for me. What changes He has brought to my world in such a short time. How very blessed I am.

May I be a better wife and mother today, and may my savior draw me closer unto himself. May I remember to count my blessings and react to those around me in a gentle, loving way.

May your heart be guided by our savior, as well.

Bev

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Easy Apple Butter

I made apple butter! I am so excited! Before we came home from the mountains (eastern Kentucky) on Wednesday, my uncle brought us a big box of apples. I had no idea what kind they were, other than the kind that grows on trees, as evidenced by the long stems and leaves still attached to many of them. I was not sure what to do with all of them, but with everything else I had to do, and with the condition of my home after a crazy few weeks (think snow globe, all shook up), I needed a quick and easy way to get these yummy orbs preserved. So I went to the internet.

I initially found a recipe that called for making apple butter using pectin. I thought that was for jelly, but being the inexperienced country girl that I am, I just went out and bought pectin. But then I went searching for how to freeze the rest of the apples and found directions for making apple butter for the freezer. The fact that the title contained the word "easy" caught my attention.

The recipe:

5 1/2 lbs. apples, peeled and finely chopped (I did not peel. I washed really well and chopped.)
4 cups sugar, more or less depending on apple sweetness
2-3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Place apples in slow cooker. Combine sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Pour over apples and mix well. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook for 9-11 hours or until thickened and dark brown, stirring occasionally. Stir more frequently as it thickens to prevent sticking. Uncover and cook on low 1 hour longer. If desired, stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Spoon into freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Cover and refrigerate or freeze. Makes 4 pints.

I did not schedule the start time well, so mine cooked for about 14 hours. I was not willing to get up in the middle of the night to take care of them, but there was so much liquid in the crockpot when I went to bed that I was not concerned. When I got up, I removed the lid and cooked for about 2 more hours to let the liquid evaporate. I was convinced that I had way overcooked this and no one would touch it with a ten foot pole. I was wrong! My family loved it. Even Mark, who is not crazy about such concoctions, loved it. I made biscuits (okay, from a can...) at lunch so they could enjoy it. I was so proud. The only thing I would do differently is to add less sugar. I think it is a bit too sweet, but I heard no complaints.

As the recipe stated, this made about 4 pints. I spooned it into 4 of those disposable Rubbermaid containers with the twist lids. One went into the refrigerator and the other 3 into the freezer. I hope the freezer does not change their consistency.

Sidenote: After putting the apples in the crockpot, I still had a lot left in the box. I did not have time to make applesauce or anything else, so I simply sliced them and put them in freezer bags. I have FIFTEEN quarts. My freezer is full. I cannot buy anything else that must be kept frozen until we consume the apples and zucchini. Suggestions, anyone?

Second sidenote: Is anyone else's body still operating on Daylight Savings Time? As anyone who has ever been in my presence after the sun goes down can tell you, I am not a night person. If I had my way, I would go to bed at 9:00 each night and get up at 3:30 or 4:00. I love, love, love the quiet and productivity of the wee hours, but my mind stops functioning when I am tired at night. Since the time change, though, I want to go to bed after dinner. I bath the girls and get their pajamas on, ready to read and tuck them in, and the clock says 6:48. I fell asleep in front of the computer while Mark rocked Hope the other night. It was 8:00. I do not remember having this much trouble adjusting in the past. Maybe I'm just getting old. But I am not having trouble waking up in the morning!

Time to get ready for church. Have a blessed day!

Bev

Friday, November 14, 2008

Whole Wheat Biscuits

Elizabeth slept a little late this morning, so when she started waking up, I teased her and asked if she was going to sleep all day.

"No. I just have a lot of sleepy points this morning."

I love her creative mind!

On to the recipe... I have been wondering if I could make biscuits with whole wheat flour. My gang loves canned biscuits, so I wanted to see if I could make something a little healthier. I realize the words biscuit and healthy are not usually used in the same sentence, but I am adventurous and wanted to try. A quick internet search yielded a few recipes, so I played with them a bit and came up with the following recipe. The biscuits were good. They are not the soft, flaky, perfectly round biscuits that your grandmother made, if your grandmother used lots of Crisco and rolled the dough out with her wooden rolling pin, then used a drinking glass to cut perfect circles, and made a big pan of sausage gravy in her cast-iron skillet while they baked. No, they aren't like that. But they are good. I want to keep looking and playing with this idea in an effort to improve the biscuits, but I will make these again. The children loved them, and that's the important thing to me (other than that healthy thing).

I doubled this recipe and made what my brother calls drip biscuits. You probably call them drop biscuits. Instead of making a thicker dough that I could roll out, I made a wetter batter that I could spoon. I baked one batch in my mini-muffin tin, like my grandmother sometimes did. These make nice, little, bite-sized biscuits. I used the leftover batter to make 6 regular sized biscuits on a cookie sheet. I keep meaning to take pictures that I can post. I will try to remember the next time.

The recipe:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
about 1 cup skim milk (I suspect 2%, whole, or buttermilk would work. This is what one of the recipes called for and what I happened to have in the refrigerator.)
1/3 cup oil (I used olive oil, again because that is what I had on hand. I am not an expert on the way different oils affect flavor. I just know olive oil is good for you, and I am not willing to keep five different types in my small kitchen.)

Preheat oven to 400. (You may want to adjust the temperture depending on your oven. I will probably try 425 the next time.) Combine dry ingredients. Combine milk and oil in a separate bowl. Make a depression in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquid mixture. Stir only until all ingredients are moist. Drop onto a cookie sheet or into mini-muffin cups. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.

Enjoy!

Blessings,
Bev

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Fun!

My mom is still in the hospital, but she is stable so I came home for a bit. The children have classes at our co-op today, and I teach an English class. (My mind feels like mush after these crazy past few weeks, so I do not know how much teaching I will do, but we are almost at the end of the semester. Fortunately, this is not a time when I need to be giving difficult lectures. We are winding down and finishing some projects.)

Hannah took some fun pictures of Elizabeth and the boys playing in the leaves last week. I just loved them, and wanted to share. I hope you enjoy them!

Bev





Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Our world has been a little crazy since my mom went into the hospital, as it often is when there is a crisis. My children are being real troopers, but I get some interesting reports about what happens while I am away.

When I called to check on everyone yesterday, Elizabeth (3 1/2 yo) told me how dinner went.

E: We had a good day, Mommy. I ate my pizza like a big girl.
Me: That's great, sweetheart. Mommy is proud of you.
E: Yes, and after I ate my candy, I stole a piece of Abel's candy.
Me: (In my gentle, Mommy tone) Elizabeth, stealing is wrong. You need to ask before you take things.
E: Well, I did ask. But Abel said, "No," and got all mad at me, so I just took it.

We have a bit of work to do.

Blessings,
Bev

Monday, November 10, 2008

Update

My mother is in the hospital. It is a long story, but it looks like this is going to be a long ordeal. We are dealing with the situation one day at a time. I am three hours from home, staying at my dad's house, and the hospital she is in is a 40 minute drive each way.

On a much brighter note, my children are with me now! Mark kept them for the weekend, but he loaded up school books, clothes, and the football that seems attached to Abel's hand, and brought them to me yesterday. What joy in my heart. It felt like I had been away from them for weeks instead of 55 hours and 27 minutes (uhm, approximately). They will stay with Pappy and Granny while I am at the hospital each day. I do not know how much school work they will do, but Pappy and Granny assure me they will help. It is hard to focus when the schedule is off, but they would be bored and stir crazy if we took the week off.

It did not take long for everything to feel normal again. Shortly after we got here, Hope found some checkers to play with. She loves to carry around little things that she can count, stack, and play with. (Remember the Splenda packets?) At one point, she crammed them into her mouth, then threw a huge fit when I took them away from her. Mean ole mommy. Elizabeth tried to feed her peanut butter sandwich to the dog. "But Mommy, she likes the peanut butter." Robert and Abel went through every board game in the play room. I am not sure what they will do for entertainment the rest of the week. Hannah spent an hour in the bathroom fixing her hair -- before bed! Ahhh. All is right with the world again. The only thing missing is that handsome fella who sleeps in my bed. I wish we were together, but we know this has to be taken care of and we pray this will be a short season.

Time to shower and get ready for the marathon ahead. How thankful I am to have these five beautiful mouths to feed this morning. I will update again soon, and I promise to get back to posting yummy recipes when I am home again. I also have hopes of following through with a resolution to prepare (and post about) healthy meals each day in 2009. I am chewing on details (ha, ha, ha...pardon the pun) and will elaborate soon.

Blessings,
Bev

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Quick Note

I am leaving in the morning to deal with a family emergency. I do not know how serious this is or how long it will take. I hope to be back home with my dear husband and my sweet babies (big and little ones!) soon. Since coming home from the hospital after giving birth to Hope 2+ years ago, I have not spent a single night away from them. Sometimes I take the children and visit my parents while Mark stays home, but I have not left all of them before. This will be difficult for me and them, but I know that God will give us all what we need.

Bev

The Election and a Publication

I wanted to comment on the election, but Mandy's post says it much better than I could. http://ajourneydownthenarrowroad.blogspot.com/2008/11/curse-and-prayer.html
(Scroll down to the part written in red.)

Like Mandy and many others I've read about and spoken to, I believe that now is the time to stand behind our President-elect and pray for him. This is the leader our citizens chose. I will not always agree with him, and I will not keep my opinions silent, but I will speak of him with honor and respect.

On a much lighter note, I encourage you to take the time to check out Dawn's blog, http://mom2my6pack.blogspot.com/ , today. She received the first copy of her book yesterday and is so excited, as she should be! Her story is fun and exciting (just like her blog), and I am happy for her.

It's 3:00 a.m., when I should be in bed, but I have much to do. Time to shut down the computer and focus on responsibilities.

Until later,
Bev

PS -- I wish I could rename the links I paste in my posts. For example, instead of seeing the address for Mandy's post, I would like to show "Mandy's fabulous post" or something similar. I thought I had learned how to do it, but it is not working here. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

Hmmm... Upon viewing my post, I see that the addresses are not even showing as links. It looks like I have some learning to do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nutty Sweet Potato Soup

I love watching Ellie Krieger on the Food Network. She makes such yummy dishes that are so nutritious. (I've tried several.) When I saw her make the Nutty Sweet Potato Soup, I knew I had to try it. Mark loves sweet potatoes, and I have been looking for new soup and stew recipes.

The soup takes a little time to prepare, but is relatively easy. After the ingredients cook, you puree the soup, then add peanut butter and honey before serving. When I made this for my family, I took one bite and almost spit it back out. The spices nearly set my mouth on fire. I took my bowl to the sink, THEN I NOTICED THE PEANUT BUTTER AND HONEY ON THE COUNTER. I forgot to add them, and they significantly cool the heat. I'm a ding-dong.

Mark and the older children liked this both with and without the peanut butter. They have requested that I make it again. I will definitely add it to our menus.

I am including both the link to the Food Network site where this recipe is listed, as well as the recipe itself. I copied it directly from the site. I am a little concerned about copyright laws here. If it is not legal for me to post the recipe, someone let me know. Thanks!

The link: http://www.foodnetwork.com:80/recipes/nutty-sweet-potato-soup-recipe/index.html

The recipe:
Nutty Sweet Potato Soup2007 Ellie Krieger, All Rights Reserved

Yield
6 servings, serving size 1 1/2 cups
Times:Prep10 min Inactive Prep-- Cook30 min Total:40 min Recipe Tools:

Directions
1 tablespoon canola oil

Ingredients
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (2 cups)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, with their juices
2/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup chopped scallion greens (about 3 scallions)

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over a medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and carrots and cook, stirring until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the cayenne, black pepper, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the sweet potato, broth, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

*Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in a regular blender in 2 batches and return the soup to the pot. Add the peanut butter and honey and stir, over low heat, until the peanut butter melts. Serve warm, garnished with the scallions.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Enjoy!

Bev

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rustic Autumn Fruit Tart

I've returned from my long weekend in the mountains. I enjoyed spending time with family (as always!), and my stepmother seems to be feeling little better.

I made this dessert a week or so ago, but have been too busy to post the recipe. It is yet another from the October/November 2008 issue of Taste of Home. I really recommend that you pick up a copy. There are so many great recipes in it, and we are still working on our way through them.

I have never made a pie before, so I thought even the simple preparation for this dish would be a challenge, but it was honestly very easy. I adapted the recipe a bit, so I am recording it my way rather than the way it is in the magazine. My family LOVED this! It's yummy, but you really do not need to feel guilty about indulging in a small serving. I topped ours with whipped topping. (I like ff whipped topping. It's not for everyone, but I sometimes have a few...well, okay, sometimes more than a few bites for dessert.)

The recipe (Plan ahead. Butter and cream cheese must be softened, and dough must chill for one hour. Make this after lunch for dinner tonight if you are home during the day, or after dinner the night before.):

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used reduced-fat; it worked well.)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I will try subbing a little whole wheat flour the next time.)
2 large apples, sliced but not peeled
1 medium pear, sliced but not peeled (Peel the fruit if you wish. We like peels left on. It is easier and gives more fiber. The peel softens in baking, but if you do not like that texture, remove it.)
4 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup orange juice
1/3 cup brown sugar (I was out and used white.)
1/2 cup apricot jam, warmed (This is added after the tart bakes.)

In a small mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add flour, beat just until mixture forms a ball. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a large bowl, combine apples and pear. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and spices. Stir in orange juice until blended. Add sugar and blend. Add to the fruit mixture and gently stir to coat.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 14 inch circle (does not need to be a perfect circle). Place in a 9 inch pie pan. (The crust will spill over the edges.) Pour the fruit and juices into the pan. Fold up the edges of the pastry over the fruit, leaving the center uncovered.

Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Spread with apricot jam. (I warmed the jam in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave, then used a spoon to pour/brush it over the pie.) Let cool on a cooling rack.

So simple and easy. I suspect this would work with lots of other fruits, but I am not a baking expert. I'll try some variety and let you know since my family insists I make this again. (I just love when they like something enough to ask for an encore!)

Have a wonderful, healthy day!

Bev

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bah! Humbug!

I am a Halloween Scrooge. I admit it. Our children do not trick or treat. We do not give out candy. We usually do not participate in Halloween events, and I do not believe my children are missing out on anything. They get dress-up opportunities. They get way more candy than they need. We do lots of other fun things.

However, I am not so much opposed that we pretend Halloween does not exist or think anyone who chooses to participate is a heathen. I even let the children watch some of the Halloween cartoons on Nick Jr. and Disney, explaining to Elizabeth and Hope that witches, ghosts, and monsters are not real. They are pretend, just like monkeys who talk (Boots!) and the Backyardigans' adventures.

When I saw "It's a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on our Dish guide, I recorded it to watch with the children. I have not seen it since I was a child, but I have memories of enjoying it, along with all the other seasonal Peanuts cartoons. We finished schoolwork on Wednesday and piled into my bedroom to watch together before Daddy got home from work. I was all warm and fuzzy about sharing something from my childhood with my own darlings. The opening scene of the cartoon shows Lucy yelling at Linus for writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin. She calls him stupid and a blockhead, words we do not use at our house (except when Mommy slips and must apologize... ). My 14 year old looked at me with raised eye brows, as if to say, "Hmmm. I'm surprised you are letting us watch this." Then there was the scene with Lucy promising not to move the football and pulling it out of the way, letting Charlie Brown fall on his back. Another look from Hannah. "That Lucy sure is mean," I said, meekly. For the next 20 minutes or so, we watched as children yelled at each other, called one another names, and used the terms stupid and blockhead a lot. Oh, and there was the scene where Snoopy plays the Red Baron, shooting down enemy planes, getting shot down, and crawling through enemy territory. Oh yes, pleasant TV time for my little ones. When it was over, I apologized to my children. I told them I really remembered enjoying the show. I guess my ears are much more sensitive now than they were when I was a child. It appears that my children's are, too. They did not complain, but they did not enjoy the show, and I am wonderfully glad. We will skip this episode in the future...but maybe we'll look for the Thanksgiving show next month and see if my memories of that one are more accurate. Maybe I'll preview it alone first.

But there's more to my Halloween experience. My dad lives in a neighborhood that gets hundreds of trick or treaters, and the city council changed trick or treating to Thursday instead of Friday this year. (I do not know why. Makes no sense to me.) Dad asked if I would come give out candy because he and his wife are under the weather and could not do it. Of course I was glad to help.

Oh, it was quite an experience. I want to share my many thoughts and observations.

I do not know if there is a maximum age for trick or treating, but I think there should be. If you have your car keys in your back pocket, you ought not be coming to ask for Skittles from me. If you plan to vote in Tuesday's Presidential election, you need not be knocking on my door asking for gum. Stop at the Double Kwik and pick up your own when you are filling up the tank.

If your child is not old enough to walk, you may want to consider waiting a year or two before taking him trick or treating. I gave candy to numerous moms and dads carrying tiny little babies dressed in tiny little costumes. Just who is going to eat that candy?

I saw more than one scantily clad young girl at my porch. I wanted to ask where the parents were, but on some occasions, Mom and Dad were right there on the sidewalk, beaming proudly at Sally's pretty costume. What is that about? Why would you want to dress your child like a hooker, or a sexy witch, or a cave woman with a lot of cleavage to show? Are you going to wonder why she wants to dress like that at school? Are you going to let her? Do you plan to encourage her to show as much skin as possible and teach her that boys love to look and that people will like her if she dresses that way??? Arrrgghh!

It is definitely a different era than when I was growing up (and yes, I did observe Halloween growing up). Would you believe that some kids were talking on their cell phone while they were out? They walked up to me, never missing a word in their conversation, held out their bags for a piece of candy, and walked away. It's hard to say thank you when you are chatting about what Bobby is wearing for a costume and what Jenny said to you when you bumped into her outside of the cafeteria today.

The parents are every bit as interesting as the children. One lady, with a lollipop sticking out of her mouth, walked up to me and stuck her hand out. "Trick or Treat," she said. I wasn't sure if she was serious, but she stood there until I put a piece of candy in her hand. She chuckled as she walked back to the other adults she was walking with. (I saw no children with them.) She looked back at me and muttered, "My kids are stingy and won't share." I am not making this up! Gee, I wonder where they learned such poor manners. It was so hard for me not to say, "Then go the friendly Wal-Mart and buy yourself a Snickers bar, Lady." I refrained. But I did not smile.

One child thanked me for his treat, then turned to his mom and told her he was cold and ready to go home. "Don't you want to go on up there to the fancy houses and get the good candy?" Honestly! She really said that. I just smiled and said, "Sorry, just Dum-Dum suckers here." What else can I say about that? I hope her cold little boy enjoys the cheap candy he got here in the ghetto. I hope his manners are a little better than his mother's.

Perhaps my favorite parent observation was the Mom driving around the neighborhood in a golf cart. Several parents let their children out, then drove along the street watching as the child went from house to house. Why park and get out to walk with your child? It's cold, after all. At least they were supervising. Lots of parents just let the children out and waited for them at the corner. Oh yes. I understand letting your child roam free, going door to door in a neighboorhood where you don't know everyone. When it's dark and crowded. Right. But one mom lives in this area and just got out the golf cart. She did not avoid the low temps, but at least she didn't have to walk with the crowds. Interesting.

In all fairness, let me say that there were some really nice children who were dressed in age-appropriate costumes, whose parents made sure they said please and thank you, who stayed on the sidewalk rather than running through the grass to cut in front of other children. I saw lots of kids who had appropriate sized treat bags or buckets, instead of the pillowcases some brought. (PILLOWCASES! Just how much candy are you expecting to get?) There were lots of children who only stopped at my house one time, unlike the double-dippers (those were usually the pillowcase goblins). Lots of nice children enjoying a night out.

My conclusion: For the amount of time, money, and energy spent on costumes, gas, and dental visits, it seems to me parents could get a lot more. They could buy some nice treats rather than going door to door in the cold asking for candy from strangers. They could do something crazier, like playing dress up at home, baking some cookies (or healthy muffins!) together. They could make caramel apples, take lots of pictures, and laugh together. What fun memories they would be making.

But then again, I am a Halloween Scrouge.

Blessings,
Bev

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quick Dinner - Pizza on Pita Bread

Sometimes, no matter how much you plan, a wrench gets thrown into the schedule and you have to make due. That happened today, and I did not have the time or energy to make what was on our menu. I admit that I was tempted to ask Mark to pick up $6 Hot and Ready pizzas from Little Caesars on the way home, but I resisted. I had whole wheat pita bread and that chicken I had put in the freezer a few days ago. Ah, pizza ingredients.

I spread pizza sauce from a jar on the pita bread. (If I had remembered, I would have sprayed a little olive oil on them first.) I added bite-sized pieces of the chicken and some pineapples. (Any ingredients would work, but I avoid the fatty, though delicious, pepperoni and sausage.) We were out of mozzarella cheese, so I used the fiesta blend we had. I had two cookie sheets with 6 pizzas each on them. I baked them at the same time in a 350 oven until the cheese was melted and the pizza was warmed through (10-15 minutes?). While those baked, I chopped some spinach, tomatoes, and cucumbers for a salad. The little girls will not eat a lot of fresh vegetables yet (but I keep putting the veg. on their plates and urging them to take bites), so I heated some corn for them. Abel and Elizabeth had prepared a jello and fruit dessert earlier in the day, and it turned out really well. Good job, you two! There you go. Dinner was saved with very little effort, and this was much healthier than Little Ceasers (with all due respect to the pizza industry...). Yay for us!

I still have recipes from last weekend and some funny stories to share. I will get to those next week, but today I am off to visit my parents. Enjoy the weekend!

Bev

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beef and Vegetable Pasta Casserole

This recipe started with one I found in a cookbook, but I made enough changes that I am comfortable calling it mine. This was yet another that I was not sure about, but we all really loved it. It's really simple. It turned out to be bigger than I expected, such that the whole casserole would not fit in my 9 x 13 pan and I had to use a 1.5 qt Corningware for the extra, but there was only one serving left and Mark claimed it for his lunch tomorrow. Wow. My kids eat soooo much lately. I have a teenager daughter and two sons eating their way toward their teens, so maybe I should not be surprised.

The recipe (Note that none of these measurements need be exact. This is a casserole, not a soufflé.)

2 tsp olive (or your favorite) oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 red onion, diced
1 green (or red or yellow) pepper, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes (I look for the no-salt added.)
1 cup beef stock
1 lb whole wheat penne (or your favorite pasta, but use something whole grain!)
2 zucchini, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 cup of frozen peas (I think frozen peas and carrots would go well here, too.)
Your favorite shredded cheese. I used mozzarella.
About 1/2 tsp each of dried basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme. (You can use whatever herbs you like. These worked well.)

Preheat oven to 400. Cook pasta according to package directions, except cook a little al dente since it will finish in the oven. In the meantime, cook the beef, onion, and pepper in a large skillet. Drain any fat. Add herbs, tomatoes, and beef stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Stir in pasta, zucchini, and peas, then carefully pour into a large baking dish. Either sprinkle cheese over the top or stir it into the mix. (The next time, I will mix it in rather than leaving it on top so there's cheese in each bite. A small amount would go a long way, I think.)

Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted and browned if you like it that way.

Yummy, healthy, filling... I will make this again!

Blessings,
Bev