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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Peanut Chicken

I love Chinese food, but I hate the price we have to pay to eat it in a restaurant. Here is a recipe that will satisfy your Chinese food craving without breaking the bank. The bonus: it is both fast and simple to make. Serve it over brown rice along with some steamed or stir-fried broccoli.

Delicious Peanut Chicken
Prep Time: 15 minutes         Cook Time: 25 minutes          Serves: 6-8

Ingredients
2 T
Peanut oil or canola oil
1/2 tsp.
Ground cayenne pepper
1.5 pound
Skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-in. pieces
1 (1-in.)
Piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 large
Red or green bell pepper
1 T
Cornstarch
2 cups
Chicken broth
1 bunch
Green onions, chopped
3 tsp.
Soy sauce
1 bunch
Cilantro, chopped
1 T
Sugar
2 cups
Chopped dry-roasted peanuts
1-2 cloves
Garlic, minced



Directions
1.    Heat the oil in a wok or very large skillet over medium heat. Place the chicken in the pan. Cook until the juices run clear. Add in the bell pepper and continue cooking until it’s tender.

2.    Mix the broth, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, cayenne pepper, ginger, and cornstarch together in a bowl. Pour over the meat and bell pepper in the pan. Reserve some green onions and cilantro to use as a garnish. Toss the remainder into the skillet. Cook and stir for 5-10 minutes. Sauce will thicken slightly.

3.    Mix peanuts in with reserved cilantro and green onions. Serve on top of mixture.

NOTES
  • You can replace the peanuts and cornstarch with ¾ c. chunky peanut butter.
  • This recipe is versatile. You can add in other vegetables such as squash, zucchini, broccoli, etc. 
  • Spice it up using pepper flakes or whole peppers.
  • We like to throw in some cashews with peanuts.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 25

Here is this week’s spending report.

Week 25 Spending
Groceries /Food   
$102
Benevolence
$43
Toiletries
$24
Miscellaneous
$13
Total
$182

Posts this week will be short and sweet. Josiah and Gideon are at church camp, and Essie is at a friend’s today and then has church day camp the rest of the week. Miriam, David, and Leah are working, and I have the house to myself. This is a rare gift. While I would like to be madly decluttering while everyone is away – it’s so much easier to get rid of other people’s stuff J  – I am committed to finishing a BIG writing project by the end of the week. I’ll be glued to my chair, staring at my laptop. I’m praying for a productive week. I hope everyone else has the same.

Be sure to drop by next Monday for the 6-month report on spending.


Friday, June 20, 2014

18 Things I Admire About Leah

Our daughter Leah turned 18 last week. She is our third daughter and fifth child. When Leah was born, Miriam was 14 months old and David was 22 months. Life with five children, three of whom were under two, was a whirlwind. When Leah was only 4 months old, Miriam had a life-threatening illness that involved a 3½ week stay at Children’s Hospital in Dallas and almost a year of recovery. As I look back, I fear that we were so stressed during Leah’s first year of life that we didn’t give her all of the attention she needed. Perhaps our bonding wasn’t as strong as it should have been. Maybe that’s why, more than any of our other children, Leah has always been sure to let us know she is here

She is louder and more outspoken than any of her older siblings. Never one who was content to “go with the flow,” Leah has stretched me to my limits as a mom. While the other children readily accepted my love, Leah pushed and questioned and fought. She forced me to prove my love. While this has never been an easy road to travel, as time goes on, I see it has been good for both of us.

18 Things I Admire About Leah
1.    When I was a teen and my mom and I would go head to head, she would usually wind up saying, “I hope you have a daughter exactly like you when you’re a mom.” Leah IS that daughter.
2.    She has an unquenchable spirit.
3.    More often than not, she lets me know exactly what she’s thinking.
4.    She is passionate about the things and people she loves.
5.    Leah is great with young children, especially babies.
6.    She has a keen eye for fashion.
7.    Leah doesn’t limit herself to people her own age. She makes friends with people from different walks of life.
8.    She is a good listener and cares deeply for the people she loves.
9.    Leah loves and respects her pastor and listens to his advice. She recognizes that he has her best interest at heart.
10. When she is happy, Leah’s smile and ready laughter can light up an entire room and raise the spirits of everyone present.
11.  She can be one of the sweetest people on Earth when she puts her mind to it.
12. Leah is physically affectionate – she’ll hold my hand, sit on my lap, brush my hair, and gives great hugs.
13. She owns her own actions and decisions.
14. Leah is fiercely protective of the people she loves and is ready to “charge up” anyone who would hurt them.
15. Leah is willing to ask questions and won’t be satisfied until she finds the answers she needs.
16. She is not too proud to admit her shortcomings and mistakes.
17. Leah is physically strong, and she takes care of her body.
18. When interacting with her friends, Leah is quick to provide a shoulder to cry on and gives good advice.

More than any of my other children, Leah has forced me to go to and remain at the foot of the Cross. Interacting with her has forced me to examine my motives and expectations as a mom, and to recognize and admit my own hypocrisy.  One thing I know, I love Leah with all my heart, and I believe that she loves me. She makes me prove to her 
what I have always said to each of our children since they were infants – “there is NOTHING you can do to make me stop loving you.”

Happy Birthday, Leah. I love you more than you will ever know, and I thank God He’s allowed me to be your mama.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Rachel's Amazing Muffins

My daughter, Rachel, makes the most amazing muffins. This might be because her husband's family previously operated a bakery in Broken Bow, Nebraska, where these muffins practically flew out of the display case. Rachel took the bakery recipe, tweaked it, and came up with some winning variations for breakfast and healthy snacks.


Rachel's Amazing Muffins

Wet Ingredients:
2 cups applesauce
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup oil
½ cup butter, melted
2 eggs

Dry Ingredients:
5 cups flour (preferably freshly ground whole wheat flour)
1 cup sugar
3 heaping tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. soda

Bake at 350 degrees about 20 minutes.
Make 18 HUGE muffins or 3 dozen regular muffins

Variations:
Blueberry: Add 2 cups blueberries
Cranberry-Walnut: Add 2 cups cranberries and 1 cup walnuts
Banana Chocolate Chip: Add 4 mashed bananas, 2 cups chocolate chips, and 1 cup nuts
Apple Raisin Cinnamon: Add 1 cup raisins, 1 cup walnuts, 1 T cinnamon, and 2 apples, peeled & chopped.
Cherry Almond: Add 2 cups dried cherries, 1 cup chopped almonds, and 2 tsp. almond extract

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 24


Here is this week’s spending report.

Week 24 Spending
Groceries /Food   
$46
Basketball fee
$25
Gifts
$41
Total
$112

Josiah had a basketball tournament 3 days this week. He played 3 games each day at 10:45, 2:15, and 3:45. Then Esther had basketball games on Tuesday night at 4:45 and 5:30. 11 games in 3 days -- that’s a lot of basketball. Since our home is about 25 miles from town, once we get to Paris, we stay there. It’s just not time or cost-effective to go back home between games or other activities.

Sitting in a gym watching players I don’t know play games I don’t care about doesn’t appeal to me in the least, so I want to get out of there when my kiddos aren’t playing. I would much rather spend the time between games wandering the aisles of our local Hobby Lobby or having a leisurely lunch with my children, but eating out is expensive, and Hobby Lobby can be a mine field for all of us.

Determined not to repeat my mistakes from last week, I dutifully packed lunches and prepared slow cooker meals for dinner when we arrived home. I grabbed my craft bag, making sure it had enough projects to keep me busy. I optimistically filled a backpack with editing projects “just in case” I found a quiet place where I could work.

I’m glad to report my success at keeping myself out of the “spending zone.” I spent one-third of the amount I spent in week 23. Twice, I made trips to grab some groceries and birthday supplies. Other than that, I stayed out of the stores and kept my money in the bank. If I continue this pattern, I will be back on track by the end of the month and should be able to begin rebuilding the cushion in my household account.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Starbucks Lemon Loaf

For a time, Paris was home to a Starbucks Coffee Shop. Our friend Richard loved to go there. Being a person who is opposed to buying overpriced coffee, I avoided Starbucks. But there was one day when Richard and his lovely wife Regina convinced me to join them there. I had a cup of coffee and a slice of their lemon loaf. It was delicious. I came home and searched the web, and found this recipe which is almost identical in taste and texture to the Starbucks Lemon Loaf.

STARBUCKS LEMON LOAF

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup(s) Flour
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
3 Eggs
1 cup(s) Sugar
2 TBS Butter; Softened.
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Lemon extract
1/3 cup(s) Lemon juice
1/2 cup(s) Oil

Lemon Icing Ingredients
1 cup Powdered sugar; Plus 1 Tablespoon.
2 TBS Whole milk; (I Used 2%)
1/2 tsp Lemon extract

Instructions
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Use a mixer to blend together the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon juice in a medium bowl.
Pour wet ingredient into the dry ingredients and blend until smooth.
Add oil and mix well.
Pour batter into a well greased 9x5-inch loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into center of the cake comes out clean.
Make the lemon icing by combining all the icing ingredients in a small bowl with an electric mixer on low speed.
When the loaf is cool, remove it from pan and frost the top with the icing.
Let the icing set up before slicing.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 23

Here is this week’s spending report.

Week 23 Spending
Groceries /Food   
$204
Entertainment
$112
Toiletries
$37
Miscellaneous
$34
Basketball fee
$5
Gifts
$6
Total
$395

I panicked. I dug through the freezer and realized we’d eaten all the ground meat and breakfast sausage. I looked in the refrigerator and noted a disturbing lack of cheese. I found more empty space in the pantry than there’s been in 6 years, so I felt like I had to stock up on pretzels, our favorite snack food. In my mind, there definitely was a need. As long as there is no opportunity to spend, I can withstand the urge to overstock. But last week, I found myself in Dallas, not once, but twice, and I was in Paris the other 5 days of the week. There it was -- perceived need + opportunity –-the equation for spending mania. And, as you can see, spend I did.

Once I overspent on food, it wasn’t too difficult to move to other purchases, like the 5 skeins of Red Heart Ranch Red yarn, “just in case they discontinue the color before I get that afghan finished.” And “while I’m in the yarn department, I think I’ll go ahead and get the yarn for that next afghan I plan to start after I finish the two I’m working on.” And on my way out of the store, “Look at the fun fabrics they have on clearance. I’ll just pick up a few lengths to make adorable baby blankets for the grandchildren I don’t have yet.” And so it went, until I had amassed almost $400 in purchases.


Tonight I am more than a little bummed out, but I’m not defeated. Monday is the beginning of a new week, and I have the ability to change my ways. I don’t have to let the fact that I’ll be in town at least 4 days next week mean that I have to spend a boat-load of money. We‘ll pack lunches for the days we’re at the basketball tournament. I’ll bake Leah’s birthday cake instead of buying one at the bakery. (My cakes taste better, anyway.) We’ll eat pork and beans with our burgers instead of buying chips. We can do this. I just need to have more resolve and less opportunity!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings are the ultimate comfort food. Cooked in the crockpot with dumplings made from refrigerator biscuits -- it doesn't get any easier than this!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings


Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast
halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup


Salt, pepper, parsley, tabasco
1 onion, finely diced
1 10-ounce package refrigerated
biscuit dough, torn into pieces
DIRECTIONS:
1.
Place the chicken, butter, soup, onion, and spices (to taste)  in a slow cooker, and fill with enough chicken broth to cover.
2.
Cover, and cook for 5 to 6 hours on High. About 1.5 - 2 hours before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. Be sure to push biscuits part way down into the liquid mixture so they soak up the flavor. Cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 22



Here is this week’s spending report. 
Week 22 Spending
Groceries /Food   
$170
Clothing
$15
Toiletries
$5
Miscellaneous
$47
Basketball fee
$5
Total
$242
  
May Spending Report
Category
Spent
Budgeted 
Savings
Groceries*
$568
$700
$132
Miscellaneous
$47
$120        
$73
School
$10
$50
$40
Entertainment
$40
$75
$35
Toiletries
$10
$50
$40
Piano Lessons
$20
$80
$60
Clothing
$66
$60
-$6
Gifts
$59
$75
$16
Hair Care
$0
$30
$30
Benevolence
$0
$35
$35
Discretionary Cash
$25
$25
$0
Total  
$845
$1300
$455

My monthly savings are not as impressive as they were in April, but we had more traveling, more company, and more events this month. I am very THRILLED to report that we were able to pay Esther’s $2506 orthodontist bill for the balance of her treatment. 100% of this amount was funded by savings from our household spending since January of 2014. I can’t begin to tell you what a great feeling it is to know that we were able to save so much. Honestly, the whole process hasn’t really been horribly painful. We’ve had to make adjustments, but I’ve been really surprised by the amount we’ve been able to cut back without really feeling it.

I’m feeling a little bit of a letdown now that there is no cushion in my household account, but I look forward to building it back up in the next months. I’m not sure how our spending will change over the summer months, but our goal is to fund a fall trip to the beach. I think that’s a bandwagon everyone can jump on!

Cell phone update: My phone which was dying last week was given a new lease on life. It wouldn’t charge, but after some cleaning of the contacts and a little adjustment, it seems to be working fine. We’ve decided that we’ll pay for a basic phone for any of our children over 16 who are attending school full-time. If they are determined to have a smartphone, then the bill is on them. So far, one has found an unlocked iPhone on e-bay and ordered it. He’ll be setting it up on Straight Talk within the week. The monthly cost for Straight Talk is just under $50 for unlimited talk, text, and web. If that doesn’t work out for him, he should be able to bring that phone to Verizon and get back on the plan with us. In the meantime, Syd and I will stick to our basic phones, and the other two kiddos have until June 30 to make a decision on what they want to do.