Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Feel Better Chicken Stew

This time of year always brings sniffles and coughs. Chicken soup is a standard remedy for those who are suffering from colds and flu. I decided to pump up the healing properties of chicken soup by adding some ginger and garlic, along with a splash of lemon juice. Even if you or your family aren't feeling poorly, this stew will nourish and warm you.

Here's what you need:

One 3-4 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
3 teas minced garlic
8 cups chicken broth
3 chicken breasts
1 small onion, diced
2-3 carrots, grated (you can use matchstick-cut carrots instead)
1 cup brown rice
1 teas dried parsley
juice of one lemon

In a large saucepan, combine the ginger, garlic, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Toss in the chicken breasts, veggies, rice and parsley. Cover and reduce heat, allowing the stew to simmer for about an hour.

Check to see if the chicken is cooked. When it is, remove from the pot and shred with a fork. Return to the pot.

By this time, the rice should be puffy and tender. It will help thicken the stew. Right before serving, stir in the lemon juice.

For more yummy recipes, head over to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bathe and Brew Shower Coffee Maker?

The strangest gift I got yesterday was this, a Bathe and Brew Shower Coffee Maker (and Soap Dispenser). Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Probably not! Because it's a prank box! Charles thought it would be funny to wrap my real present in a fake box and see my reaction.

My reaction was bewilderment. Ha ha! Charles has been known to get me thoughtful, but less than practical gifts. There was a time when he was traveling a great deal for his work and he had no time to shop. So he perused Sky Mall magazines while flying and found some ummm....interesting selections for me. This bug vacuum comes to mind.

So I was thinking, how can I be gracious and not hurt his feelings? This is the dumbest idea ever! When he started snapping pictures I figured something was up. Then he urged me to open it....and a tab popped stating that my real gift was inside.

He redeemed himself by getting me what I really wanted, a new study Bible. I love that man!

Menu Plan December 25-31

Ahhhh, Christmas is over and it was another one to remember. We so enjoyed having friends over for dinner and games. We're thankful that even away from our families, we have brothers and sisters in Christ who seem like family.

One thing about big holiday dinners that I enjoy is leftovers! Yay! Last week I shared some ham recipes using leftovers so check those out.

Here's the menu for this week:

Christmas dinner

Baked chicken nuggets, mac and cheese

Ham and White Bean Soup (crockpot), rolls

Spaghetti with meatballs

Ham quiche, roasted carrots

Turkey and rice soup (crockpot), homemade bread

New Years Eve pizza buffet

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

This is what Christmas is all about....Jesus coming to earth so He could die and give us a way to come to God. Thank You, Jesus!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Means Hope

I was reflecting on how many people I know who have lost loves ones this year. The list is really, really long. My mom will be spending her first Christmas without her mom. My cousin lost her 14-year-old son in a dirt bike accident. Another dear friend lost her 15-year-old son to an undiagnosed heart condition. And several of my friends have lost parents and grandparents, many unexpectedly. At a time of year when families come together, these families will be hurting and grieving their losses.

And yet, in spite of the sadness, there is hope.

Why? Because Jesus came to give hope. Hope of eternal life. Hope of seeing those loved ones again. Hope of comfort and strength when we can't go on. Jesus came to make a way of salvation. For all of us, if we'll simply receive His gift.

So in the midst of the tears, there can still be joy. There can still be peace.

Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for leaving Your throne in heaven and coming to this sinful earth. Thank You for making a way for us to live eternally with You.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Quick Peanut Butter Fudge

Okay, I'm done with the leftover ham recipes for now. But with Christmas just around the corner, you might find yourself in need of a quick sweet treat. Well, peanut butter fudge never has been quicker! All you need are two ingredients.

one 18-oz jar of peanut butter
one can of vanilla frosting

That's it!

Place the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 15 seconds or until it stirs very easily. Add the frosting and mix until well blended.

Pat into a greased 8x8 pan and refrigerate for an hour.

Cut into small squares while cold.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Leftover Ham Recipe #4 Ham Broccoli Quiche

This is the last of my leftover ham recipes. I hope you've found some inspiration for using up the remains of your yummy Christmas ham.

I acquired this recipe shortly after I was married and have just recently dug it back out. It's a basic quiche recipe, not too eggy which I really like. Even my kids gobble it up, so it's a great way to use up ham leftovers. But deli ham works perfectly fine, too.

Here's what you need:

1 9-inch pastry shell
1 cup diced ham (smoked ham is great in this)
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1 cup half and half or milk
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas onion powder
1/2 teas seasoned salt
dash of black pepper

Layer the ham, broccoli and cheese in the pastry shell.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, cream or milk and spices together.

Pour over the entire pie shell. Cover the edges of the crust with foil or a pie shield. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until the filling is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the quiche set for 10 minutes before cutting.

*Note - to avoid the possibility of a soggy crust, prebake your pie shell for 10 minutes, making sure to cover the edges with foil or a pie shield. I generally don't do this because we have a convection oven and it cooks pretty evenly. But you might try it if you have trouble with uneven baking in your oven.

You can customize the savory ingredients to your family's preferences. Swap out the ham for sausage or bacon. Try Swiss cheese instead of cheddar. Forego the broccoli for spinach or mushrooms. Use your imagination....and use up those leftovers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leftover Ham Recipe #3 Ham and White Bean Soup

One of the best parts about having ham for dinner is having a leftover bone or two with which to make soup. It imparts such wonderful flavor to soup and reduces the amount of seasonings you need to use.

I make this soup in the crockpot. And you'll need a big crockpot.

Here's the ingredient list:

1 ham bone
1 cup diced ham
4 cups chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 teas minced garlic
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
2 cans (15 oz each) white beans, drained and rinsed well
2 teas cumin
1/4 teas black pepper
Water, optional

Put all the ingredients into a large crockpot. If there's any room left after the bone, veggies, beans and spices, add a little water. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Remove the ham bone from the pot. Scrape off any meat still clinging to the bone and return the meat to the crockpot.

This soup is delicious! The cumin adds a smokiness to the broth and the veggies soak up all the wonderful ham flavor. It's even better the next day, if you can prevent your family from sopping it all up right away.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Leftover Ham Recipe #2 - Cheesy Ham and Veggie Shells

This is the second recipe in the Leftover Ham series. Since Christmas dinner is coming and many people will have ham, I thought it would be a great idea to share some ways to use up leftovers.

I found this recipe over at Finding Joy in My Kitchen. SnoWhite is an excellent cook, and I always enjoy her recipes. I tweaked this one a bit using the veggies I had on hand. But broccoli is an excellent choice, as is zucchini. The beauty of this recipe is you can clean out the ham leftovers as well as your veggies!

Here's what you need:

1 lb shell pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 cups chopped veggies (I used red pepper, mushrooms and onions)
2 teas minced garlic
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped ham
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, heat some olive oil. Add the chopped veggies and garlic and cook until soft.

Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir to coat well.

Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. The mixture should start to thicken. If it gets too thick, add some more milk until the reaches the consistency you want.

Now stir in the cheese until is completely melted. Add the ham.

Finally, stir in the cooked pasta shells and make sure everything is covered with the cheesy sauce.

The sauce will thicken upon standing, so if you need to reheat this, add a bit more milk.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Leftover Ham - Simple Yeast Roll Sandwiches

Ham is a popular main dish to serve for Christmas dinner around these parts. We all love it. But inevitably, we have leftovers. And then I'm trying to find ways to use the ham without wasting any. So this week before Christmas, I'll feature some ham recipes using leftovers so hopefully you can use up all your leftover Christmas ham.

One of the easiest way to use up leftovers is to make sandwiches. You can use regular bread if you want, but my family loves these little bite-sized sandwiches made from yeast rolls.

Here's what you need:

1 pkg frozen yeast rolls, baked according to the package directions
Leftover sliced or chopped ham
Cheddar or Swiss cheese slices (You can use shredded, too, if you don't have slices)
Mustard, if desired
1 TBSP butter, melted
1/4 teas garlic powder
1/4 teas onion powder

When the yeast rolls are cool enough to handle, split each one. Spread mustard inside if desired. Layer with ham and cheese. Place on a baking sheet. Combine the butter, garlic powder, and onion powder. Brush over the little sandwiches. Stick in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted.

Then stand back and see how quickly these yummy bites are gobbled up. Super easy and super delicious!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Menu Plan December 18-24

The final countdown has begun. One week until Christmas! Is everyone else excited, too?

This past weekend was filled with food and fellowship. Friday night we had dinner with friends who are very special to us. We ate and ate and ate. Saturday night we attended our Sunday School class Christmas party. We ate and ate and ate. Then today we went out to dinner courtesy of some friends. We ate and ate and ate. The server even gave us our dessert for free!

The moral of the story is, don't overindulge in rich foods this last week before Christmas. You will be miserable if you do. And who wants to be miserable for Christmas? Tonight we're paying for it with upset tummies and trips to the bathroom. Enough said.

Now on to this week's menu.

Out to eat

Asian meatballs over rice, sesame green beans

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder, homemade bread

Parmesan crusted pork chops, buttered noodles, roasted carrots

Pesto chicken pasta, broccoli

Tacos, cheesy fiesta potatoes

Pizza soup, garlic breadsticks

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We'll Have to Cancel Christmas!

Hubby and I have always laughed and laughed at that line from "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" when a blizzard threatens to keep Santa snowed in at the North Pole. Like anything could cause Christmas to be cancelled. It's not about Santa, anyway.

And then yesterday my oven caught on fire. And the idea of cancelling Christmas wasn't so funny anymore. Of course, Christmas can't be cancelled. But all the baking I was doing, yes. Christmas dinner at our house, yes.

I was heating the oven to begin the baking marathon for the day. I heard a pop and a sizzle and looked at the oven to see smoke seeping out. I quickly turned it off and within seconds the fire died down. But not before the bottom heating element had burned completely through. There would be no more baking in that oven. The recipients of my Christmas baking endeavors might have to settle for Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes instead! LOL

I'm fortunate enough to have a double oven.

The top one is a convection oven and I love it. Food cooks evenly and I've never had a problem with temperature variations. It's also the one that caught on fire.

The bottom one is smaller and is very unpredictable. It is definitely usable, but I know I'll have to watch it like a hawk.

The good news is we ordered another heating element and it's already on its way. None of the local home improvement stores had it in stock because the ovens are so old. So by the middle of next week the top oven will be back to normal.

Just in time for Christmas dinner! Yay!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Easy Bird Treats

Our breakfast area has a floor-to-ceiling window that allows us wonderful access to nature. We love to watch the birds that visit our backyard regularly. It's one of our favorite things to do while we eat lunch.

So to encourage our visitors to stop by often, we made simple little bird feeders from toilet paper tubes, peanut butter, and bird seed. Easy peasy!

Spread peanut butter all over the toilet paper tube. I learned from experience that the peanut butter layer needs to be fairly thick. Now roll in bird seed until the tube is covered.

To hang, simply slide the tube over a branch on a tree or bush. The birds found ours within a few minutes. Here's one of our resident cardinals enjoying his treat.

The kids already have plans to make dozens more for every bush and tree we have! Because they're so easy, why not?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Menu Plan December 11-17

Tonight's Christmas program at church went off without a hitch! We practiced and practiced, praying for hearts to be touched and drawn closer to Jesus. In the end, I know God was glorified. I love this time of year when people's hearts are so open to hear the good news of the Gospel.

I have lots of Christmas baking to do this week, so I'll stay busy. Thankfully hubby is home this week (he was gone all last week and I really, really missed him!) and he'll help keep me on track.

Here's the menu for the week:

Turkey rice soup in the crockpot, homemade bread

Indian Butter Chicken over rice

Sausage lentil soup

Crockpot beef stroganoff, noodles, green beans

Baked egg rolls

Over at some friends' for chili!

Sunday School Christmas party

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Activity Advent Calendar

This year we decided to stay home for the holidays. Since our families live out of state, we often travel and spend Christmas away from home. Even though we'll miss the family gatherings, it is important that we establish some of our own traditions. To help take some of the sting out of not being with our families, I've tried to come up with some fun traditions.

So I made an advent calendar with a Christmas activity per day, counting down to Christmas Eve. I was going to use some chipboard or foamboard as the background, but Charles had some plywood left over from another project. He volunteered to cut it to size, then he spray painted and sealed it for me. He attached a picture hook on the back and added some felt to the corners so they wouldn't scrape the wall. Love that man!

I found a template for a library pocket at Homeschool Share, one of my favorite sites to get lapbooking templates. I printed the template out on cardstock, then traced around it on to Christmasy scrapbook paper. I added embellishments and numbers, then glued the pockets to the back board.

Inside each pocket is a Christmas activity for that day. So far, we've hung up our stockings, enjoyed hot cocoa, watched the Polar Express and decorated the kids' bedroom doors. Today we'll make an easy snowman ornament for the tree.

Our other activities will include making a gingerbread house, creating bird feeders from toilet paper tubes for our birdie friends, baking and decorating Christmas cookies, delivering treats to friends and neighbors, participating in our church Christmas program, and singing carols. Our last activity is reading the Christmas story from Luke 2.

Every morning the kids have come downstairs and rushed to see what was on the agenda! They've really gotten into the spirit of things.

Now I'd better go check tomorrow's activity and make sure I have all the necessary components!

Adding...here's the complete list of our activities if you need some ideas to do with your own family.

Hang stockings
Watch The Polar Express (or any other Christmas movie your family enjoys)
Decorate the bedroom doors
Drink hot cocoa by the fire
Make an ornament for the tree
Cut out snowflakes and hang around the house
Go out to eat (one of my faves)
Decorate Christmas cookies
Deliver Christmas cookies to neighbors
Participate in the church Christmas program
Sing carols at the nursing home
Go to the mall to see the Christmas tree displays
Drive around to see the Christmas lights in our jammies
Sleep around the Christmas tree
Shop for your sibling
Wrap presents for your sibling
Make a Christmas craft
Write a letter to Santa
Color a Christmas themed coloring page
Play charades with Christmas songs
Share a Christmas memory with everyone
Build a gingerbread house (I bought a kit with 5 small houses for $10 at Target)
Make bird feeders out of toilet paper tubes, peanut butter and bird seed
Read Luke 2 together

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Menu Plan December 4-10

Three weeks from today!!! Is anyone else excited about Christmas like I am? I'm going to start on my holiday baking this week. I'm hoping to get some cookie dough made and in the freezer for later use. It's going to be a yummy week around here!

Now on to the menu plan for the week.

Out with friends after church


Pasta and meatballs

Homemade chicken nuggets, french fries

Crockpot potato soup in bread bowls

Rice lentil burritos, chips and salsa

Sausage lentil soup, yeast rolls

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pizza Soup

We love pizza around here. So when I found this recipe for Pizza Soup, I knew it would be a hit with my family. It was. I played around a bit with the ingredients to tweak it to my family's tastes. Everyone loved it. It was especially good the following day.

Thanks to my early Christmas present, chopping the pepperoni was a snap. The beauty of this recipe is that you can add your favorite pizza toppings to make it uniquely yours. Next time I make this, I'm going to add mushrooms and green peppers.

Here's what you'll need:

1 lb ground turkey or beef, browned and drained
1 pkg pepperoni slices, chopped (I actually used about 1/2 of the pkg)
2 jars (24 oz) spaghetti sauce, your choice
1 carton beef broth
1 TBSP dried minced onion
2 teas Italian seasoning
1 teas garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup half and half
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Croutons and more shredded cheese for garnish

In a large saucepan, combine the browned meat and pepperoni. Stir in the spaghetti sauce, broth and seasonings. Blend in the half and half. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 20-30 minutes. This will help the flavors blend.

Stir in the shredded cheese until all of it is melted. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Serve with croutons and additional cheese, if desired.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Early Christmas Present!

My husband is so sweet. I've been wanting a food processor for some time now. He researched all he could about which one to get and finally found one he thought was the best for the money. It arrived right before Thanksgiving last week. He let me open it early so I was able to use it to chop all the onions I needed for various dishes. I've used it just about every day since.

This is a package of pepperoni slices I needed to chop so I could make pizza soup (a recipe I'll be posting later).

This is the pepperoni after a few pulses from my Cuisinart Pro Custom 11.

It works so wonderfully and is a huge time saver! Next week I'll be using the dough paddle to mix up some cookie dough and possibly some bread dough.

Thanks, honey!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Menu Plan November 27-December 3

Can you believe Christmas is in four weeks? Four!!! Where has this year gone?

We had a lovely Thanksgiving with friends then spent the remainder of the weekend decorating the house for the holidays. It was 70 degrees, though, so it didn't feel much like Christmas. Unbelievably, there IS snow in the forecast for Monday night/Tuesday morning. In November. In Alabama. Unbelievable! LOL

Whether it snows or not, the holidays are quickly approaching, and I need to get my plans in motion. I usually bake a variety of treats and hand out goodie trays to friends. I'll keep you updated on that.

For now, this week's menu:

Crockpot turkey and rice soup, bread

Honey mustard chicken, rice, green beans

Pizza Soup

Sausage veggie calzones, fries

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes

Wisconsin Cheddar Soup in bread bowls

West Virginia Pepperoni Rolls

If you want more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of ideas from other cooks just like you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Great Stuffing/Dressing Debate Part Two

Yesterday I posted my first stuffing recipe using onions and sausage as a flavorful base. It was handed down to me by my husband's grandmother, a native of Michigan. Today I'm going to post a Southern recipe, chicken and cornbread dressing. It can be served as a main dish or a side dish.

Here's what you need:

2 cups cooked shredded chicken (check out my tip for easily shredding chicken)
Jiffy Mix corn muffin mix, baked according to the package directions
1 1/2 teas poultry seasoning (feel free to use less, we like ours really savory)
1 teas salt
1 teas onion powder
1/2 teas black pepper
1 egg, beaten
2-3 cups chicken broth

Start by breaking up the baked cornbread into crumbs. Combine with the shredded chicken in a large bowl. Add seasonings.

Stir in the beaten egg. Then add 2 cups chicken broth. Make sure all of the cornbread crumbs and chicken are moist. Allow to sit for 10 minutes so the crumbs can soak up all the lovely moisture. Now if you like a really moist dressing, add a little more broth until you reach the consistency you like.

Spread the mixture into a greased 8x8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

Cut into squares and serve. Around here most people make chicken gravy to pour over the top, but we prefer ours plain.

If you're cooking for a crowd, simply double the recipe and use a 9x13 pan. Your cooking time will increase slightly, too.

So, where do you stand in the Great Stuffing/Dressing Debate? Do you make stuffing or dressing? Cornbread or plain bread? Sweet or savory?

I've shared this recipe over at Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Head over there to check out some more yummy recipes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great Stuffing/Dressing Debate Part One

At this time of year, people everywhere are discussing whether they're serving stuffing or dressing with their Thanksgiving dinner. I know, this is one of those life-altering debates that could change how you view the world! Not!

But do you call the dish stuffing if you don't actually stuff the turkey with it? Should it actually be called dressing? Am I the only one who thinks about such silly things?

Growing up, my knowledge of stuffing was limited to Stove Top in a box. No one that I knew made their own from scratch. Then I moved South and found out it's a tradition to make homemade stuffing.

And that in itself is cause for debate. Some people swear that cornbread stuffing is the only way to go. Then you have people who moved here from the North bringing all kinds of weird combinations like oysters and cranberries. I've even seen people put pineapple in their stuffing! No kidding!

To sum it up, I've found that no two stuffing recipes are exactly alike. And you know what, I'm good with that. I love being able to take a basic idea and add my own flavorful twists to it.

So today I'll share with you a recipe handed down to me from my husband's grandmother who was raised in Michigan. It's a savory sausage combination that makes my mouth water! Tomorrow I'll share a traditional Southern chicken and cornbread recipe given to me by a member of my church who is renowned for his Southern cooking.

Savory Sausage Stuffing - this needs to sit overnight, so plan ahead

1 loaf of white sandwich bread, cubed
1 lb. bulk sausage
4-5 large onions, chopped
1 teas rubbed sage
1 egg, beaten
1 quart milk

Place the bread cubes on baking sheets and brown in the oven until toasted. I heat my oven to 400 degrees, so it takes 10-15 minutes. Check often and stir so all the bread gets evenly toasted.

While the bread is toasting, cook the sausage in a large skillet until no longer pink. Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the chopped onions and cook in the sausage drippings until translucent and starting to brown. Sprinkle with sage as the onions cook.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, sausage and onions. Pour the beaten egg and 2 cups of milk over all. With a large spoon, stir to mix well. I usually just dig my hands in there and get everything mixed together. The stuffing should be very moist. Add more milk if needed. I usually add another cup or so because we like moist stuffing.

If you plan to stuff your turkey with this, set aside as much as you need. Then pat the rest of the stuffing into a greased 9x13 pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

About 90 minutes before serving, take the pan out of the fridge and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Check to see if the stuffing has dried out too much. If so, pour a little more milk over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until browned.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Menu Plan November 20-26

Thanksgiving Week is here! Yay!

This year we're hosting our dear friends again since all of our family is out of state. Everyone pitches in and makes several dishes, so the burden of the whole meal doesn't fall on one person. We're going to brine and roast the turkey like we've done in the past, too. I've already got the turkey thawing and plan to stick it in the brine on Tuesday. Here's my post on brining a turkey.

Charles took this week off from work so we could do some fun things together as a family before the hectic holiday season starts. We're all very excited about the entire week, not just Thanksgiving Day.

Now on to the menu plan:

Easy Crockpot Potato Soup, homemade bread

Chicken cornbread dressing, fried potatoes

Pasta and garlic bread

BBQ Chicken in the crockpot

Thanksgiving Dinner!

Leftovers - we love to make sandwiches with the leftover turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy!

Turkey and brown rice soup in the crockpot

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Easy Blender Salsa

I love homemade salsa. The jarred stuff just tastes...well, jarred. I have a fresh salsa recipe that I love. And if you like something a little different from traditional tomato and pepper salsa, this cucumber salsa is the way to go.

But lately tomatoes have been crazy expensive around here. So I found an alternative to using fresh tomatoes. Instead I used canned fire-roasted tomatoes. And the results are just wonderful!

One of the things I love about making my own salsa is that I control the spiciness. And since my family doesn't like spicy, we skip the jalapenos and use green bell pepper instead. You, however, can use whatever level of spicy pepper you like.

Here's what you need:

2 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes (15 oz each)
1 small can pickled jalapenos, drained (I substitute a small green pepper, chopped)
2 TBSP dried minced onion
1 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
lime juice to taste
salt to taste (I usually don't add salt because the chips I eat with the salsa are salty enough)

Toss all the ingredients into a blender. Pulse until the salsa has reached the desired consistency. This will probably only take a few seconds. While I adore chunky salsa, this recipe is better when it's pureed, like the kind of salsa you'd get at a Mexican restaurant

Now, a word of caution. This salsa does get watery the longer it sits. The solution to that is to eat it quickly. And that most likely won't be a problem, considering how yummy it is. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let the Holy Spirit do His work

Letting the Holy Spirit do His work is a topic I've been pondering for a long, long time. As a mom, I want to be sure my children follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. But if I never give them the chance to experience His leading, how can they learn to follow?

Let me explain. I know parents who micromanaged every detail of their children's lives, down to the color of the clothing they wore. As the children grew, the parents continued to keep very tight control over every aspect of their lives, in the name of protecting them from the evils of this world. The children were accustomed to having someone else make decisions for them - simple ones like what clothes to wear today and difficult ones like which college to attend.

When they finally became adults and branched out on their own, they had no one telling them exactly what do to. So guess what they did....they dove headfirst into every kind of sin imaginable! Was it rebellion in their hearts all along that caused them to go down those paths? Possibly. But it very well could have been that they'd never been given the opportunity to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit themselves. They'd never listened to that still, small voice because Mom and Dad drowned Him out with their own leading.

How can we expect our kids to exercise discernment if we discern everything for them? Sure, we need to set guidelines for them as they grow. We need to teach them to obey and respect us. But we also need to let them develop a reliance on God's guidance so when they're away from us, they make wise choices.

I know it's hard to relinquish control. But I have to let the Holy Spirit do His work in their lives. He alone can convict and lead. I can advise, pray, and set a good example. It's quite possible that they might make different choices than I would. But if they're sincerely following after God, I have to trust that His Spirit will lead them to where they need to be.

But man, it's not easy. Help me too, Lord!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Menu Plan November 13-19

'Tis the week before Thanksgiving, so meals this week will be frugal. Not much going on - a follow up with my family doctor from my chest pain experience three weeks ago. Charles was supposed to be traveling for work this week, but the project was delayed. I'm very glad he's home this week.

Now on to the menu plan:

Indian butter chicken (I made it in the crockpot - delicious!), rice

Baked spaghetti, bread sticks

Baked egg rolls

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans

Black bean chili, sweet buttermilk cornbread

Burritos, chips and salsa

Crockpot Potato Soup

For more meal-planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Carmelized Squash

Side dishes are always a challenge for me. I have no problems with main dishes. Give me a slab of meat and I can do something with it! But I find myself relying on the same veggies - beans, broccoli, carrots and corn - to round out my meals. Oh...and potatoes. We love potatoes.

My sister-in-law shared this recipe on her blog, so I tried it and loved it! The squash was tender and sweet. The hardest part was chopping those butternut squashes into chunks, but the end result was well worth the effort!

Here's what you need:

2 medium butternut squash
6 TBSP butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teas kosher salt
1/2 teas coarse pepper

Cut off and discard the ends of each squash. Peel and cut in half length-wise, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Chop into chunks and place on a greased baking sheet or pan.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Add the salt and pepper.

Pour the butter mixture over the squash and toss to coat.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45-55 minutes until the squash is tender and the glaze has carmelized. Turn the squash every fifteen minutes or so to make sure all sides gets browned and toasty!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Here's a hearty chowder to warm you up on these cool fall evenings. The sweet flavor of the corn and the chunks of chicken combine perfectly to make a filling meal. The Old Bay seasoning gives a little zip to the soup, too.

What you'll need:

1 small onion, diced
2 cups frozen Southern-style hash browns
2 TBSP flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 can evaporated milk
2 pkgs frozen creamed corn, thawed
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 teas Old Bay seasoning
1 teas dried parsley flakes
1 teas garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste

In a saucepan, cook the onion in a little olive oil until soft. Add the hash browns and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle with flour to coat.

Slowly pour in the chicken broth, stirring as you go. Scrape up any bits of flour on the bottom of the pan. Do the same with the evaporated milk. If don't have evaporated milk, just sub regular milk, about 1 1/2 cups.

Now stir in the creamed corn. This was the first time I'd ever used frozen creamed corn for anything. I chose sweet white corn, but next time I make this, I'll use one package of white and one package of yellow.

Add the shredded chicken and seasonings. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Garnish with cheddar cheese and bacon bits, if desired.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Emotional Rant Ahead

This week has been rough on me emotionally. Not because of anything happening to me or my family. We have our share of difficulties, to be sure. But this week is okay in that way.

I'm sure by now you've heard of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Joe Paterno, long-time coach who was widely respected for running a clean program, ended up losing his job. And I completely agree with the board's decision that he had to go.

Because in 2002 Joe Paterno was made aware of an assault on a child that took place in the very showers his own players used. The perpetrator was well-known to Paterno. Jerry Sandusky had been a defensive coordinator for Paterno for years. He'd also been investigated for similar allegations in 1998 involving minor boys and showers. Sandusky retired the following year, leading many people to believe that the shower incidents were the reason. So basically, Joe Paterno know he had a sexual deviant coming into his facility and bringing young boys with him.

When a grad assistant - one of Joe's former players and currently an assistant coach at Penn State - told Joe about the sexual assault, Joe reported the incident to the VP and the athletic director. Then he did nothing. Knowing that Sandusky had a history of this behavior, Joe Paterno didn't contact the police. He washed his hands of it. He thought his obligation to that poor child ended when he told some higher-ups, even though he knew that no legal steps had been taken to investigate the abuse.

So why does this bother me so? I'm not a Penn State alum. I'm not even a Penn State fan.

But I'm a mom. With a 10-year-old son. The same age as the boy in the 2002 assault. And I can't fathom how so many adults could so totally fail to protect innocent children when they knew Sandusky was a pervert. How could they turn a blind eye to the abuse?

My emotions have run from anger to sadness to disappointment to downright rage this week. I'm drained. My heart breaks for those poor boys who could have been spared if just one person had done the right thing. I can't help but think, what if that had been my child who had been abused then forgotten by people who could have helped him? And I really, really want to hurt someone. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but I want to hurt the man who violated those children, and I want to hurt the people who ignored it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Menu Plan November 6-12

I know that "falling back" from Daylight Savings Time is supposed to give you an extra hour of sleep, but my internal clock doesn't know it. This morning instead of waking up at 7:00, I was awake at 6:00. And now I'm sleepy at 9 pm instead of 10 pm! Maybe we should just leave time alone, huh? LOL

Now on to this week's menu.

Out to eat - celebratory dinner for a friend who got a new job

Chicken and corn chowder, yeast rolls

Peking pork chops, Asian quinoa

Toscano soup, whole wheat bread

Cashew chicken

Dinner with friends

West Virginia pepperoni rolls

For more menu planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall around the neighborhood

Fall has come to the neighborhood. Last year the leaves were kind of dull and brown because of the lack of rain. But this year, things are gorgeous! I love the color palette of fall!

Peeking through the hedge at our neighbors' yard down the street

Behind our house

Directly across the street

Of course, all that beautiful color leads to this.

And this.

But since they get paid for raking, they don't complain too much!