Friday, December 31, 2010

Freezer Friday!

freezerfridaysm Remember my last post on Tuesday about my Freezer Cooking ambitions for the week?  Here's the breakdown of what's back in my freezer so that I can defrost & heat for the next five weeks, instead of cooking.

- 24 Ham & Cheese Rolls (The recipe is coming!)

-2 Pans of Ravioli Alfredo with Broccoli & Grilled Chicken

- 2 Pans of Chicken Stuffing Casserole

- 2 containers of Chili (for Chili Dogs later)

- 4 containers of Butternut Mashed Potatoes

The added bonus is that the only grocery shopping I have to do this month will be for produce, milk and eggs.  What a great way to start off the new year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Menu Planning Madness!

When I made my December menu, I had only planned through Christmas and then New Year's Day with a big honkin' gap in between.  As much as I would like to go on kitchen strike for the next five days, that's not realistic.  Then I looked at the calendar and realized that I needed to top out the freezer with ready to cook meals for January since my time will be dedicated to ventures other than cooking.  So, there went my delusion dream of a kitchen break.

frzplsSo instead I will be combining my freezer cooking with a "clean out the freezer/pantry" challenge, similar to last year's challenge.  I worked to find dishes that will freeze well and use up stuff I already have on hand.  I was given  Taste of Home: Freezer Pleasers for Christmas which was very helpful with some new meal ideas to mix things up a bit (great index by ingredient!).

Christmas Ham remainders were repurposed to soup and Ham & Cheese Rolls that made it to the freezer.  I'm really looking forward to the rolls  as they are similar to a hot pocket and will go great with soups!

I will be cooking up a chicken which we will have for dinner and then will be used to make double batches of Chicken Stuffing Casserole and Chicken Potato Casserole and broth.   I also plan to pull some grilled chicken from the freezer and make Ravioli Alfredo with grilled chicken and broccoli to go to the freezer.

Also on the planning board is Beef Stroganoff and Chili.  Check in for Freezer Friday to see how far I get! (Oh, and for New Years Day on Saturday, there's a large pork roast who's travel plans include a stay in my slowcooker, a meet-up with homemade rolls & homemade BBQ sauce and then the freezer)

I'm hoping with a little extra work this week, my freezer will be stocked with meals, instead of ingredients, and I'll be done cooking for the next month!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Little Star

little star Little Star by Anthony DeStefano  is a charming story of Christ's Birth, as recounted by a father to son.  The age old story is told with a twist: it is from the perspective of the stars in the night sky.

There is a lot going on in this short little story.  You have a parent retelling the Christmas story in a new light, but in symbolism, one can also see story of redemption through Christs death and the true gift of life everlasting.  All these threads are woven together into a great tale of determination by a little star to shine out for what he believes in.

I was captured by the illustrations by Mark Elliot.  Mary and Joseph are portrayed as very young people, which they were.  The characterization of the faces in the celestial bodies are well done to show the emotions written into the text.

Overall, it's a wonderful book to share the true gift of Christmas with your child, young and old alike.

I received a complementary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

sunflower Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

It is Sunday night and my brain is fuzzy - so this post may be a bit scattered.  One of the biggest blessings of this week was the arrival and installation of my new washer and getting caught up on laundry.  One emergency load of laundry ended up turning into an impromptu gathering with friends - it was fun to catch up.

Christmas eve was spent with family and friends and Christmas day was blessedly low key.  Although GBaby was pretty sick, it was fun to watch her eyes light up when she found a gift that was on the hearth, unpackaged and not wrapped.  I also loved watching her enjoy the simple toys and basic play, in the midst of all the lights and noise that came with some of the other gifts.  Christmas was pure with GBaby this year.  Delight in new things to play with, but no hint of the "gimmes" or "mines".  There are even still gifts on the hearth -once she wore out, she didn't have the desire to explore any further.  So we left them for now.  Theres 11 more days of Christmas, right?

Saturday night finally brought a break in a fever that GBaby had been fighting since Thursday and again I'm thankful for the guy who said "lets give people this obscure mold and watch them get better".  Ammoxicillian, ibuprofen and tylenol are great.

Tonight as a tired me reached the end of my nice-mom rope, I'm glad that HandyMan was willing to be home and take over the parenting so that I can have some space to work on regaining some patience.

As the Christmas season continues, I'm so thankful for all that we have: food on the table, warm house and bills paid.  I hope you can find a moment to remember the blessings found in the little things this week.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

nativity Merry Christmas!

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire.  Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. He went with Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

From Luke 2 (The Message)

May you find peace, love and hope this Christmas and cherish the gift of family!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Simple Christmas Menu

SweetStashI love the week(s) surrounding Christmas and New Years because usually they are filled with family and friends and a break from the normal routines.  This year, I keeping the menus simple so that I can enjoy GBaby's Christmas adventure and the friends and family who will be crossing our threshold.

We're joining friends for an early dinner on Christmas Eve before the service at church.  When we get home, I'll have cheese and crackers, fruit and goodies to snack on with a glass of wine (probably while I finish wrapping gifts!)

Christmas morning will bring a "normal" breakfast for us: scrambled eggs and biscuits or some other such meal of ease.

At our house this year, Christmas Dinner will be a mid-afternoon affair: a small gathering. I picked mid afternoon for a couple reasons.  First, I really enjoy having a large meal midday instead of in the evening.  Second, I can cook in peace while GBaby naps!

Up on the dinner menu: Honey Baked Ham (ordered by Mom-In-Law and delivered to my door- Thanks!), a variation on these Acorn Squash Bowls , homemade Parker House Rolls and asparagus.  A friend who's coming is bringing a pineapple-jello type salad.  For dessert: more goodies from the never ending Sweet Stash hiding on my freezer!

I'm getting hungry and can't wait!  I'm also percolating my New Year's Menu - check in next week for that yummy-ness!

Linked up at Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap: Christmas Dinner

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

9 Years Ago...

Nine years ago, I set out on a journey as I walked down that church aisle.  At the end of the short walk down the aisle, I fell in beside my best friend and oh the places we've walked since.

Louvre. . . freshman dorms a I finished my tenure as a Residence Hall Director  . . . around camp as we transitioned to our next season . . . Pasadena, CA . . . hard work, long hours and wonderful friends . . . a completed MDiv and PHT (Putting Him Through) . . . to the hills, the open arms of camp once again to clear the LA smog . . . my cancer. . . around the world . . . along beaches with sea-lions in New Zealand . . . along the city streets of Prague, Sydney, Paris, Dublin, Venice, Berlin, Krakow and Oslo and the small villages along the way. . . a small town in NY . . .a home for your gifts . . . our first house. . . starting my business . . . your soccer coaching . . . our daughter. . . my clean bill of health . . .

. . . So many places the road has taken us the last 9 years.  I can't wait to see where we will go in the next nine!  Happy Anniversary HandyMan!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: Christmas is In the Air

DSC04507 Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

Christmas is right around the corner and I am so blessed to be surrounded by a loving community and looking forward to time with family.  I am cherishing the wonderful simplicity that is Christmas in our home this year, and am enjoying the giving of the season.  (I have lots of cookies & goodies - anyone want some?)  Like everyone else, our calendar has been jammed with activity, but I've been able to hold to the peace of the season, and for that I'm grateful.

This week has brought less leisure computer time [read: less blogging] and more time with friends in celebration of the Christmas season, more baking, and more time crafting and playing with GBaby.   We had a fun play-date/cookie decorating morning with friends this week as well as a grown-up evening out.

I'm grateful for the "neighborly kindness" of friends who have let me run laundry through their washers and am thankful for my new washer-wherever it may be!

I took Charity's Candles out for a fundraiser on Saturday and did well for everyone.  I've started a new job and am loving the technical challenges that it is giving me to work my brain and trouble-shoot outside the daily stuff.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cooking Up Family Memories

Many family memories are often centered around food.  I spent the morning cooking up some recipes that have been handed down through my mom and thinking about my grandparents: two who have been gone for a number of years and two who live halfway across the country from me.  (I cheated and found similar or identical recipes on my favorite recipe site and linked them through.)

famgoodies1Peanut brittle always makes me think of my dad's Dad - my Grandpa George.  Every Christmas, peanut brittle was his trademark treat and he had a microwave recipe that was awesome.  I remember one Christmas when I was in high school, making this recipe with my dad in the kitchen of our house, finagling the hot syrup and putting the cookie sheets in the garage to set.  After that my mind wanders to playing cards with my Grandpa, learning how to drive in his little red Dodge Shadow and a particular "kid in the candy-store" moment when he was told that we had frozen yogurt on hand for his dessert.  Peanut brittle also makes me think of my Grandpa Bud - he always has a jar of peanuts between the front seats in his car.  He's always tinkering and we've played a fair number of card games with him too.

famgoodies3Peanut Butter Balls and another treat called Frying Pan cookies were a Christmas favorite that my mom would make from recipes that her mom handed down to her.  Grandma Jean would send us a package at Christmas complete with homemade jam, lefse, and other goodies.  Grandma's jam and jellies were always the best and we looked forward to them all year!  When we visit Grandma, everyone takes a break from activities for coffee and a treat in the morning.  For us kids it was usually cookies and milk.  Grandma's health doesn't allow her to cook so much any more, but what goes around comes around and I'm looking forward to sending off a box of goodies for her and Grandpa Bud this week.

famgoodies2I remember the feasts that would accompany the holidays at my Grandma Foy's house.  She would make pies by the dozen and they would all be lined up on the pass-through between the kitchen and dining room.  In the back room you could find the tins that were packed with fudge and cookies.  I'm sure there was turkey or ham or other healthy foods, but that's not what my childhood memory held on to.  (Oh, except for Grandpa George's chili and he always had some around with hot dogs for us.)  I remember Grandma teaching me how to crochet and summer days in their back yard.

So many generations are often represented in our traditional Christmas goodies.  Make sure you take a moment and share these memories with your children and loved ones this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: Silver Lining

27245042207_ORIGPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

This has been a week in which the silver lining has just obliterated the clouds that have tried to come our way.  A crunched car door has resulted in a super speedy insurance payout. A dead washer has resulted in an early Christmas/Birthday present for Handyman and me, leaving our money in the savings account for when the next major appliance decides to go off to the Great Recycling Center.

I think I may have mentioned before how much I adore Christmas lights. I had an after-dark drive home last night and there were Christmas lights all over the country-side drive between a neighboring town and home.  I see a glow ahead and turn a corner to see a house all lit up with little twinkling lights.  Sometimes white, sometimes multi-colored but always brightening the dark evening sky.  Love it!

I had a peaceful, early morning on Friday.  Usually I sleep in until  GBaby wakes up and then stay up later after she goes to bed to get stuff done.  Friday, I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep.  So I had some alone-baking-time, and quiet work/blog/organize my world time in front of the fireplace before the rest of the house woke up.  As nice as it was, I know myself and to enjoy it when my body wakes me up for it - it's never as fun when I try to wake myself up early to get a jump on things.

I've found myself in a rather lackadaisical state this week.  While that can also be read as "unmotivated", it's been a pretty relaxing/go-with-it type of week.  I think it's going to hit me in about 48 hours that Christmas is less than two weeks away and I have gifts to ship and cards to get in the mail and baking ... and... and...  But for now - eh, whatever.

May you escape to a lackadaisical moment in the coming week, and appreciate the fun, lights and family as we approach Christmas!

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Calendar

Last week I shared a hint of the Advent Calendar project that has taken up much of my spare time recently.  I started with this amazing pattern over at ShannonMakesStuff.  While the pattern is intended to make a Christmas tree background and ornament advent calendar, I've adapted it to fit our home, budget, and storage space.  Instead of the Christmas tree background, I've strung the ornaments on ribbon along our mantle.  Instead of felt, I've used paper and Mod Podge.   The project is a bit less than half way done.  Here are some pictures of how it's turned out:

[gallery columns="2" orderby="title"]

This post is linked up at Life As Mom's Frugal Friday and Amy's Finer Things Friday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Best Made Plans: December Freezer Cooking

I made a great freezer cooking plan last week.  I was going to go shopping on Friday and then be off and cooking for the weekend.  It was a great plan, and then life happened.  Very early morning, grumpy toddler, and a lost grocery list started Friday off.  Finding that someone had hit my car and the following paper work finished out Friday in the late hours of Friday evening.

Motivation on Saturday was slim, but I did manage to get some of my list done. Easy Sugar Cookies and Molasses Cookies are in the freezer.  I got my three batches of beans cooked up, measured and to the freezer yesterday.  I also got two taco-bakes to the freezer.  The rest of the list will wait until another day.  There's always later.

I'm with LifeAsMom: January will be a Pantry/Freezer challenge month.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Sunshine: First Snow

27241113550_ORIGPracticing contentment by remembering the graces of the week and practicing gratitude by giving.

Today, I woke up to the sounds of the first "real" snow: the snow plow.  It really wasn't much - maybe an inch - but G had fun exploring the weird, cold white stuff that stuck to her shoes.  Now as I sit in front of a raging fire in the pellet stove, I appreciate the quiet of the afternoon.

I'm so glad to be well from the bug caught me last Sunday and kicked me in the pants for three days.  A full night's sleep last night was great too!

Friday I was invited to a Ladies' Christmas Dinner held at a local church which was amazing.  Decorations were beautiful, company was great and it was a wonderful time of soaking in the peace and joy that surround the True Meaning of Christmas.

This time of year, I'm always blessed to see generosity extended to meet the needs of others in the community.  It's always amazing to see what a small group of dedicated, thoughtful people can make happen!

Finally, today was especially blessed by the willing hands of friends to help out.  While I was busy with one project, others were chasing after my daughter, and another was fixing the door to my car so that it would open and close properly.  Yet another reminder to me that we're not meant to go it alone in this world.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16 -The Message) May the light of the Father brighten your week!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Freezer Friday: Stashing Christmas Goodies

christmasstorageBetween now and Christmas, most households will bake more than they do at any other point in the year.  I'm sure none of this comes as a surprise as images of fudge, cookies, candy and family favorites dance in your heads!

Baking really can be a lot of work: mixing, baking, clean-up, repeat.  If you bake smart and store safely, you can take a lot of the chore out of baking, and just enjoy the results.  Here are a few tips to take the stress out of baking this Christmas.

Smart Storage

The best way to keep your goodies fresh is to bake them as freshly as possible.  Air and moisture are the enemy of most baked goods.  Air tight containers, plastic wrap and zip-top bags are your best defense against stale goodies.  In some cases, you may want to double your defenses.


Cookies can be a real pain in the neck and keep you tied to the oven for hours on end.  However, if you scoop and freeze your favorite cookie dough, you can have fresh cookies on hand in about five minutes longer than your baking time, whenever you need them.   Sugar cookies can be made, rolled and frozen on a quiet evening, and then baked and decorated with half the mess later.  Slice-type cookies, like my Coconut Fudge Cookies, can also be a wonderful time saver as the "logs" of cookie dough can be frozen ahead of time.  Thaw, slice, bake and you're ready to go.  Just remember to wrap cookie dough logs in plastic wrap tightly and then store in a freezer zip-top bag to keep them fresh.  Cookie dough balls can be frozen on a cookie sheet and then placed in an airtight container or zip-top bag once they're hard.  I layer my cut-out sugar cookies between wax paper in an air-tight container.  Your darling child forgot to tell you that they need a dozen cookies for a party on Saturday, no problem.  An impromptu gathering and you need to bring something to share, no problem.  Sugar craving after a day of shopping, no problem!


Fudge is also a great prep-ahead goody.  Prepare it as you normally would, but do not cut it.  Remove it from the pan in as large of pieces as you can and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then in a freezer zip top bag.  Fudge can be refrigerated happily for about three weeks.  For longer storage, put it in the freezer but allow it to thaw as slowly as possible before cutting.


Many candies can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator or in air tight containers.  Brittles and Peanut Butter Balls are two that come to mind that our family loves.  Most can be made weeks in advance, and stay very fresh with the proper protection.

With a little planning, you can bake in peace and fully enjoy your Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December Batch Cooking

(photo credit)

December is here and around here, that means baking and stashing.  This Christmas I'm bringing back some of the candies my grandparents made and some goodies that bring back so many memories!  Here are a few of the things on my batch cooking list for the beginning of this month.  Stay tuned for more recipes as the month goes on!

-Grandpa George's Peanut Brittle

-Grandma Foy's Fudge

-Grandma Jean's Molasses Cookies

-Easy Sugar Cookies

-Reduced Sugar Strawberry Spread

-Cranberry Orange Scones

It's also time to restock the freezer of beans so I will be cooking up white, pinto and black beans.  The Cowboy Beans from September's batch cooking were a hit so I'll be making up more of those and Burrito Bakes (everything you like in a burrito, layered between tortillas lasagna style and topped with lettuce, salsa and sour cream).

On the breakfast front it's time to make up more Drop Biscuit Mixes and oatmeal packets.

Friday will be grocery day (while one batch of beans are in the crock pot!) and then I have my work cut out for me on Saturday and Sunday, but hopefully it will lend itself to a bit of ease later this month!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What I'm Working On. . .

advent The liturgical season of Advent began on Sunday.  This is a season of waiting and anticipation of the arrival of Christ on Christmas.

As a child I have vague memories of opening little paper doors on a glittery display as we counted down the days until Christmas.  This year I am working on our advent calendar.  I'm making a variation of this advent calendar and so far (I have two days done) it's looking pretty good!  Instead of felt, I'm using paper and mod-podge.  So, with Advent and the anticipation and preparation for Christmas underway, some of my creative juices are heading towards projects rather than blogging... I'm sure you understand!

I will post the project when I'm a little farther along.  In the meantime, if you have an older child -one that can handle scissors, intricate patterns and glue- you may want to print this out and enlarge it as a great craft project during the advent season.  I particularly like that it incorporates all of the symbols of the Christmas Season and ties them back to the True meaning for Christmas.