Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's all about perspective...

Now, lest any of you start entertaining some grand idea that I'm some Supermom that has it all together cause I have five kids and I blog and make graduation slideshows and do cooking days and even have my little ones help in the kitchen, I thought I'd put an end to your wild imaginations right now:) Anyone who knows me well or has dropped in unexpectedly can attest to the following confession...I'm not always good at keeping up with the housework. (GASP!) Hard to believe? Not really. I get a little distracted with other things. Five of them, to be exact:)

I thought it might reveal a lot if I snapped a photo of what my kitchen counter often looks like. Truth be told, this is not the worst it has been. I wasn't exaggerating when I compared it to a picture out of an I Spy book in a previous post. It's a dumping ground for anything and everything...

What you might find on our kitchen counter:

-misc. small choking hazards that were fished out of the baby's mouth
- 1/2 a cup of coffee that has been waiting for me since 8:30am
- change from my husband's pocket
- a Bible
- a library card
- a plastic container of chocolate chip cookies
- my open planner
- magazines/books that I keep hoping to read while the littles are napping
- hair rubber bands
- our "correction jar" (I'll explain that some other time:)
- a few socks that are missing a match
- CD's on Christian parenting, and misc. music
- a bib
- sippy cups
- a ball cap
- a wadded up bunch of "Silly bands"
- a canning lid
- a Chipotle gift card (YUM, jackpot!)
- a rock?!
- a golf ball
- a small container of buttons
- school papers and mail

There you have it, ladies...I'm an open book. This is the real me. I'm not afraid to be honest.

The word I most often use to describe our house is DISARRAY. It's not absolutely filthy (as in dirt), althought it's not uncommon to be able to write your name in dust in multiple places in our home. We try to keep the house relatively clean. Our problem is just that things pile up and nothing is "in it's place." DISARRAY. Anyway, I hope that helps y'all feel better and puts any Supermom thoughts to rest:) Just out of curiosity, I'd love for you to leave a comment and tell me the craziest thing I might find on your kitchen counter.

On a different note, I'm praising God today for the hand of protection that was on my children this weekend...the guardian angels were working overtime:) We had two major injuries, and amazingly, neither of which required stitches! Saturday Mattie was sitting in a camping chair on our porch and a certain someone, who will be left unnamed, pushed her. She fell backwards and bashed her head on a very large rock/piece of cement that was on our porch (which didn't belong there, go figure). I don't usually flip out in emergency situations but there was a small puddle of blood under her head and man, was that thing bleeding! After getting her cleaned up, it ended up being a rather small cut. Obviously, I didn't have time to shoot a photo. It's healing nicely.

The very next day, Silas took a pretty good tumble down several of our stairs. No broken bones, but bless his heart, here is a day by day progression in photos of his eye injury...

Is he not like the sweetest thing ever, even with a black eye? Other than his eye, he seems fine. Still as goofy and silly as ever:)

Sometimes it's all about perspective...
and it's weekends like these that remind me that there are five little blessings that need my time, cuddles, love, help, encouragement, tickles, baths, band-aids, and attention, and often times, those things can't wait. Cleaning up a messy kitchen counter...well, that's something that can:)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Once a Month cooking day (with children:) Part Four

We've survived another canning season...although there are many projects throughout our home that had been shoved aside that need my attention. But back to the cooking day:)

Here are two chicken recipes from our church cookbook that are some of my "easy, throw in a bag" OAMC recipes:

Chili Sauce Chicken -- Laura Miller

1 1/2 lb. uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bottle chili sauce
1/3 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. olive oil
10 to 12 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in gallon zipper freezer bag. Freeze. Thaw the day before you want to serve. This recipe is best on the grill but you can also bake at 350 for about an hour or until chicken is cooked through.

Creamy Italian Chicken --Karen Brown

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 envelope dry italian dressing mix
1/4 c. water
1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 8oz. can sliced mushrooms

Combine dressing mix and water in gallon zipper freezer bag. Add chicken. In a quart zipper freezer bag, combine cream cheese chicken soup and mushrooms. Squish to mix:) Label bags, tape small bag to large bag, and freeze.
Thaw at the day before you want to serve. When thawed, place chicken in crock pot. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours. After 4 hours, add the cream cheese, soup, and mushroom mixture to crock pot. Cover and cook 1 hour longer or until juices run clear. Serve over rice or noodles.

The great thing about the previous recipes is that you just throw the stuff in a bag. But even though it seems too simple, it saves me the prep on the day I want to serve it. Normally I would have to marinade for 2 hours or mix up the ingredients before cooking. This way it has already been marinading as it froze and as it thawed and it saves me a little time since everything is already mixed, I just throw it in! Even if it saves me 15 minutes of prep, to me, it's worth it.

As far as the enchiladas, sloppy joes and taco meat go, I do not have some magical freezer recipe to share with you...Just take the recipe that you usually use when you make 'em fresh and throw them in the freezer. Just cook up the meat, add seasoning (and for the enchiladas, wrap them up and pour your sauce over them), then freeze. It's as simple as that:) I usually freeze my sloppy joe and taco meat in a gallon freezer bag. I know, I'm really a lot of help, aren't I? But really, if you already have a great recipe, USE IT!

Once you've chosen your recipes, you need to compile a list of all quanities of like ingredients (i.e. if you have three recipes that call for chopped onions, add the quantities and note the total amount) so you know, first, how much to buy and then, the night before, you can do all the chopping. If you have multiple recipes that call for cooked chicken, figure how much you need cooked, then note how much you need chopped or shredded and cook, chop, shred, etc. the day before. The goal is for all your ingredients to be ready to go for "recipe assembly" on cooking day. This process may take you a few times to work through. The first time I did an OAMC day, I messed up the figuring and had to chop up a little more of this or that. But now that I've done several cooking days, I have a better handle on the process. You may want to assemble your more involved recipes first and leave your easy "throw in the bag" type recipes for last. That way when you are getting tired and close to reaching your limit of cooking for the day, you'll have your easier recipes at the end.

If you aren't brave enough to do a whole cooking day and you happen to be making any of the above or some type of casserole, just make an extra to stick in the freezer. You can accumulate a great supply of meals if you just make an extra of each meal for about a week. Little by little you can have a few weeks worth of meals to share with others or add to your menu, here and there.

And as for the kiddos helping...

a chopper comes in very handy for all kinds of things. Hope chopped onions for me--until she couldn't see anymore because her eyes were watering so bad. They were some strong onions! Green peppers are also a frequent ingredient in our recipes and you can let the kids chop away!

She also sliced some mushrooms for me. Her first time using a paring knife...Aghhhhhhh! She was very careful and did a great job. I tried to trust her with some "grown up" jobs since she IS seven years old. Wow, how will I ever survive when she's learning how to drive?!

Mattie really enjoyed mixing up the enchilada filling:) Dump, dump, dump, stir!

And Hope, Mattie, and Silas all had a hand in making the muffins. Hope even made the box of Fiber One blueberry muffins ALL BY HERSELF! Oh the joy of being able to read:)

I snapped this photo on cooking day...I had to be quick because the muffins were disappearing as they cooled. Needless to say, they don't last long around here. We only have one bag of mini muffins left and are also on our last bag of pancakes. But we do have several freezer meals still left to go through. Looks like it won't be long til we need to restock...good thing we are almost up to 20% off our groceries at Giant Eagle with our FoodPerks. I'm gonna have to be really saavy with my coupons that week to make the most of our trip. Let me know of any good coupon sites that you use/love!

May your mind, body and spirit be filled with good things this week! Blessings to you until you return!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Once a Month cooking day (with children:) Part Three

Since it's been awhile, let me just refresh your memory about what we made...

Muffins (some zucchini, some Fiber One blueberry from a box--4 doz. large & 3 doz. mini)
Beef and Bean Enchiladas
2 lbs. Taco Beef
Hearty Tomato Beef Stew
French Stuffed Potato Topping
Chicken Enchiladas
Chili Verde
Creamy Italian Chicken (for the crock pot)
Chili Sauce Chicken (for the grill or oven)
Herbed Chicken (for oven)
Southern Noodle Bake (my husband calls this "Amish Lasagna")
4 lbs. chicken, cooked and cubed for salads
Sloppy Joe beef
12 "uncrustable" PB&Js
Approx. 70ish whole wheat banana oatmeal choc. chip pancakes

Here are some tips for doing your own Freezer Cooking Day:

1. The most important part of doing a cooking day is to HAVE A PLAN! It's all about the preparation. This is usually a week long process for me. Several days of planning, grocery shopping day, prep the day/night before, and then the actual "Cooking Day".

2. Take stock of what you already have in your pantry. Try to choose recipes that include ingredients that you already have on hand.

3. Plan around a good sale. In my case, it was boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb.

4. Decide which recipes to use and how much you want to make. If you are new to freezer cooking, you may want to try just 4-5 meals to get used to the process. Here are some things to keep in mind:

** If you need some ideas on what freezes well, you may want to invest in a good Once a month cooking cookbook. A good one to get you started would be Once a Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg. Or check into the menus for places like Touch of Gourmet or Super Suppers. Search internet sites for OAMC recipes. Or heavens, just take a walk through the freezer section at your grocery store. My initial interest in freezer cooking came when I thought to myself, "Well, if they can freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, why can't I? How hard can it really be?" Most items in the freezer section can be recreated by you at home. Think pastas, meatloaf, pancakes, cookie dough, smoothie kits, muffins...the sky's the limit. If "they" can freeze it, SO CAN YOU:) But if it's something you've never frozen before you may not want to make multiples of it until you are sure it worked.

**Make sure to take into consideration how much freezer space you have. When you have a big family like ours, it helps to have a chest or upright freezer available.

** Think about what type of container you will use for each recipe. If it's a recipe that I might possibly take to a potluck or give to another family, I tend to use foil pans, so as not to have to get them back. Soups, stews, marinating meat can all go in zipper freezer bags. Plastic containers (square or rectangle) that can stack are also a good choice, to make the best use of your space.

Hang in there with me...I know you want even more details. No worries, I'm just getting started. There are whole books on this, people. I'm trying to break it down into little bit size chunks. No, I didn't say break dance, although I must say, I did my share of trying to spin around on a cardboard box back in the eighties:) So come on back and next time, I'll get more specific on the grocery/prep/cooking day info and how you can get your own little aspiring chefs involved:)
Shoot me some questions, if you have something specific you are wondering about. Or comment on what ideas you have about recipes you'd like to try (or have tried before) on your own cooking day!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Makeover of the Heart

Pardon me once again as I get distracted from my Once A Month Cooking posts...

I'm starting a new online bible study today and I thought I'd share the link, cause I would SO love for any (or all) of you to join me.

Seems like lately I've had some "heart issues" to deal with and I just know that God has led me to this study for a reason. I would appreciate your prayers as I dig deep into God's Word and open myself up for a Heart Makeover:) Clink on the link and check it out for might just be where God is leading you too. Leave a comment and let me know if you decide to join the study, so I can pray for you, too. Blessings to you until you return!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Can you ever can too much???

Okay, so I said "Come back in a few days to get the details on the Once A Month Cooking" and what I really meant was...I have five children and more than I can handle on my plate, so I'll do my best to get around to telling you more about our cooking day, whenever I get around to it:) I'm still working on my Part 3 post because we've been a little busy around here canning large amounts of produce and sending a five year old to his first few days of Kindergarten.

Here's some of our bounty...



Green Beans and Tomatos...

**These beans are not all from this year...I think we did over 100 quarts last year! And most of what we canned did not come from our own garden. We are blessed to have some very skilled (and generous) gardeners in our family!

We also made a little applesauce, of which I forgot to snap photos. Anyway, now you understand why I'm a little delayed in my post about the cooking day. Apparently, cooking day slid right into canning month. I'll do my best to post more in the next week but we've got more green beans that are waiting to be picked and I still have to do something with all these...

Praise God, yet again My Cup Runneth Over...this time with vegetables:)

Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.
-Psalm 67:6