Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Sunshine

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

So many things that have passed through the time of the last two weeks have brought smiles to my face or joy to my heart.  Here are just a few:

:: A weekend visit from a fun friend

:: A day to work on my own

:: Projects started and finished!

:: Health

:: G Baby's delight in making "snooo baaas" (snow balls)

:: Black Forrest Cake

:: A date night

:: An easy fix to resurrect a dead dryer.

:: A friends help in getting melted gunk out of previously dead dryer.  (Thanks Elmo)

:: Mom's Night Out

:: Play dates

:: Toddler hugs & Kisses

:: Pretty snow scenes

Amidst the chaos of my days, I strive to find the positive.  Some days I do better than others.  I hope you can take a moment to find the sunshine in your 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!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why Blog?

The last two weeks have been very full in my life.  I find that as things get busy, blogging is my first pastime that gets kicked to the curb.  In this most recent bout of scheduling overload, I found myself wanting to blog about the Minestrone soup that turned out wonderful, or the new alphabet matching game that I devised to keep GBaby working on her letters.  But the thought of finding the time to write up the said blogs, just added to my stress.

I enjoy processing life through writing.  I love being able to come back to my own posts to find my favorite recipes and see what was on the menu this time last year when I run out of ideas.   I love being able to share shortcuts I've found in my own kitchen experience.  Looking through garden posts from previous seasons encourages me that Spring will be here soon enough.

For now, life is full.  As seasons change in life, on the calendar and such, please forgive the sporadic frequency of new posts.  That's life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Welcome to Freezing Soups

If you're visiting from my guest post over at the Cheapskate Cook, welcome!  I'm glad you stopped by.  In addition to all the information in my guest post about what types of soups freeze well, below I've linked up some of my favorite soup and stew recipes that are tried and true for the freezer.  Enjoy!

Corned Beef & Cabbage Stew

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Cream Soup

[Green] Baked Potato Soup

Three Bean Chili

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Sunshine

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

This week I was blessed with a date night that HandyMan organized from sitter to supper.  It was great and such a blessing to have friends willing to babysit for us!  Playdates, MOPs and a 2 year old physical rounded out mine and GBaby's engagements for the beginning of the week.

After being declared a very tall, healthy two-year-old, GBaby promptly came down with a stomach bug.  That brought lots of  cuddling, stories and movies the last three days.

After a couple long days for all of us, I'm blessed to have a loving husband who can be gracious in the face of the Grumpy Mama, while I work on adjusting my attitude.

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, February 11, 2011

Freezer Friday & Batch Cooking

freezerfridaysm When I laid out my freezer cooking and batch cooking Plan for the month, I knew it was just a plan.  Due to varying schedules and things that come up, I knew things would be shuffled and changed.

Such is the story of this weeks menu.  I had intended to make Chicken and Dumplings.  Then I realized I had potatoes that I needed to use and hadn't made Chicken Pot Pie yet this winter.  So on Monday I made the freezer version of this recipe.  The ingredients remain the same, the order of cooking is what changes.

I cooked up the broth, chicken and all the veggies in the crock pot.  Then I divided out the veggies into three containers.  One for the oven and two for the freezer.  I added the cream of chicken and a can of water to the dish headed for the oven and dropped biscuits on top once the base got bubbly.  I sent the other two containers to the freezer.  When it's time to cook them, they'll get matched up with cream of chicken, a bit of water and biscuit dough.  I cut the potatoes a little on the big side since they tend to break down in the freezer, but the rest of the mixture will hold up well.

I also mixed up an amazing batch of Cranberry Orange Bread.  Two loaves, one to MOPs, one here at home.  They barely lasted three days.  All that remain are crumbs!  I think I have another bag of cranberries in the freezer.  If I can find them, I'll be making this again!  I left the nuts out, used half white whole wheat and put a glaze on the top.  It was absolutely delicious!

Up on the Batch Cooking Menu for next week: Chicken Stuffing Casserole, Minestrone and since our temperatures are back in the single digits, probably some baked goods!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Review: Divine Appointments


Divine Appointments by Charlene Baumbich is a heart warming novel that explores the true longings that we as humans feel for interpersonal relationships.  From the work-place best friends to the tough as nails consultant who thrives on solitude, each of the main characters are brought to a point in their lives where they must examine what they truly desire.  They find that through “coincidental” meetings, or divine appointments, what they think they need and what they inexplicably desire at the core of their being are often two different things.  Divine Appointments takes you on a journey of friendships lost and found, of love discovered and of dreams revealed and fulfilled.

It took me a while to really get into this book, to understand what was going on with the plot and how the characters really fit into it.  Once it got its hooks into me I found myself wrapped into the stories of these characters, their struggles and their triumphs.  The main characters were all in a different stage of life than I am which may have contributed to the distance I felt from them.

Overall, it was nicely written with strong themes of friendship and commitment throughout.

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

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dish Towel Bib: The Utilitarian Version

bibs1My beautiful two year old loves meal time, enjoys her food and is learning quickly how to use her fork and spoon.  She usually does pretty well but, she is only two and still learning.  Those cute little bibs we used when she first started wielding a spoon are just not cutting it anymore.  I googled something along the lines of "dish towel bib" and looked through a few different blogs with directions and here's what I came away with.  I wish I could credit said blogs, but I didn't book mark them, and can't remember the exact search terms I used - oops!

As stated in the title, this is the utilitarian version of the dish towel bib.  There are lots of other, more creative people out there who better coordinate their materials.  I was more concerned with protecting my daughters clothes.

bibs2Materials: For materials you will need an old bib, dish towels, extra wide double fold bias tape, velcro, sheet of paper and thread.  I used a combination of dish towels I had and some that I picked up at our local DollarTree (love that place!)  Make sure to wash the new towels before you cut and sew them.  The waffle weave towels in particular shrink a lot!

Pattern: To make the pattern, I folded a bib in half and traced it onto a folded piece of paper.  Then, when I cut out the neck hole, I cut about 1/4 inch larger than the traced line.bibs3

Put it Together: Cut on the neck hole out of the towel and then cut the fold apart at the spot that will be the back of the neck.  Pin the bias tape on the cut edges of the towel and sew in place.  Sew velcro in place to close the bib in the back.  Ta-da! Done.

It took me about an hour and a half to whip out 9 of these.  That will be enough to cover mealtimes, finger painting, helping mom cook, etc.

bibs5 bibs7

And see how much more coverage we get from our old white bib and the new towel bib:

bibs4 bibs6

This post is linked up at

:: Finer Things Friday

:: Life As Mom's Frugal Friday

:: Works for Me Wednesday

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Sunshine

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

This week has been a week of mixed blessings.  We had an unexpected day home, but it was due to illness hitting our home and the home of friends.  Gladly, today, we are all well.

I had the opportunity to pull out the sewing machine this week to work on a project for GBaby.  I have been missing my crafty-projects lately and this was a great solution.

This week we got hit with snow, ice, rain, and more ice.  And now it's melting. Spring is on the way (thanks Groundhog Phil!).

GBaby continues to talk more and more every day.  Her most used phrase is usually "more ___"  and fill in the blank with whatever food it is she wants more of.  She is a great eater!  This morning she woke up happy and did great through church and was thrilled to be off to Sunday School to play with her buddies.  I was blessed to see her happily off playing with other kids and a Sunday School teacher who loves these little guys!

Life is full and I am blessed.  May you find time this week to see the blessings in your day.

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, February 4, 2011

Freezer Friday: Ham & Cheese Rolls

freezerfridaysmThis recipe has been a work in progress over the last couple months.  It started out as filled bread sticks.  I made them for friends and was met with rave reviews.  As filled bread sticks, they had some integrity issues:  lots of leaking cheese.  I decided that the flavors were all good, but they needed a different structure.

HandCRolls5My next attempt was filled rolls.  These worked much better!  Then I realized that if I didn't bake them all the way, they froze well and then I could finish baking them when I wanted to serve them.  This method worked fantastically!

While I've made these rolls with ham and cheese combinations, the filling ideas are endless!  My only thought is that if you're leaning towards veggie fillings like peppers and onions, saute and drain them first.  The extra liquid from the veggies could cause leaky rolls.  Read through to tips at the bottom.

Ham & Cheese Rolls

4-1/2 Teaspoons Dry Active Yeast

1 cup Warm Water

1 cup Warm Milk

1/2 cup Butter, Softened

2 Tablespoons Sugar

3 Teaspoons Salt

2 eggs, beaten

6-7 Cups All Purpose Flour

4 cups chopped Ham

2 cups Shredded Cheese

1.  Combine milk, water, sugar  and yeast and allow to sit until yeast begins to dissolve.  Add eggs, butter and 3 cups of flour and mix until a batter forms.

2.  Slowly work in the remaining flower.  As soon as your dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, STOP!  Do not add too much flour or it will not stick together well when you are trying make the rolls.

3.  Spray a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray and place the dough in the bowl to rise. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

4.  Separate dough into quarters and roll dough out.  I roll it out to about 1/4 inch for lots of small rolls, and about 1/2 inch for larger, sandwich rolls.

5.  Cut rolled dough into desired sized squares.  (A pizza cutter works great!) Sprinkle ham and cheese in the center of each square.  (This time I cheated and used sandwich meat and chunks of cheese - it works great for smaller appetizer rolls)


6.  Pull the four corners of the square over the topping and press the dough together until there are no  seams visible.

7.  Place bottom down on a cookie sheet, and space about 2 inches apart.  These will rise quite a bit.


8.  As soon as the sheet is full, bake at 375 for 12-17 minutes to par bake and 18-25, or until golden brown to fully bake.  (Par baked rolls can be cooled and frozen and finished baking for about 15 minutes when you're ready to serve them.)

Serve with hot with your favorite mustard!


On the dough:  You want it to be pretty soft and maybe even a little sticky.  If you use a mixer with a dough hook, it should pull away from the side of the bowl, but not completely off the bottom.  This makes it easier to seal up your rolls.  Second, use cooking spray on your rolling pin and rolling surface instead of flour - this helps with sealing up the rolls too.

On Leaky Cheese: I found that even when I par bake the rolls some tend to leak cheese. I let them cool and send them to the freezer.  Then when it's time to finish baking them I bake them upside down, or seam side up since it's usually the bottom that's leaking.

On Fillings:  The combinations are endless, but remember, the more moisture your fillings release while they cook, (like peppers, onions, fattier meats etc) the soggier your rolls will be.

This post is linked up at Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap: Super Bowl Food. Check it out for other great party food ideas!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February Batch/Freezer Cooking

batchcook2This month I'm taking a different approach to my batch/freezer cooking.  While it is not uncommon for me to go off-menu and whip up a batch of [insert whim here] and freeze a portion of it for a later meal, right now I'm really working hard to stick to the menu.

When I was making my February menu, I was weighing three main considerations:

:: Budget During the early months in the year, I like to shave down my grocery budget so that I have extra in the summer months when fresh produce is in season.  This extra gets used for pick-your-own berries and our favorite farm stand and does well to fill our freezer for next winter.  The other budget consideration is that I'm really trying to stay on grocery budget and have jumped on the "cash only" bandwagon to see if that works.  So far so good!

::Time I love getting multiple meals out of one chunk of time and only have to clean up once.  But right now, the calendar won't allow me a good, empty day to work on freezer cooking. (and the budget doesn't give me all my grocery money at once anymore - I'm learning to split the big shopping up twice a month instead of once a month)

::Replenishing While having meals in the freezer that are ready to pull out, thaw and cook makes mealtime so much easier, these meals do not magically appear.  When my freezer stash gets low, I have to plan on how to restock.

Since my January menu used a lot of my freezer meals, my February menu will be working to replenish them.  I will be posting recipes in my Freezer Friday posts and updating the list below with links as the month goes on.

Ham & Cheese Rolls


Chicken & Dumplings  Chicken & Biscuits

Chicken Stuffing Casserole


Spaghetti Bake

White Bean Chili

Beef & Vegetable Stew