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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Homemade Buttermilk & Dressing

Buttermilk gives an extra dose of deliciousness to so many foods, from waffles and pancakes to biscuits, cakes, and salad dressing. The problem is, I always find myself running out of the stuff. In a pinch, I've tried adding lemon juice to regular milk, but it's not the same. So, you can see why I was excited to discover a simple way of making my own buttermilk. It only takes a couple of minutes to combine the ingredients. You do need to plan ahead because the mixture needs to sit for 24 hours.

Simple Homemade Buttermilk

Ingredients:
3.5 cups of milk, whole, low-fat or skim
1/2 cup of buttermilk at room temperature

Directions:
Mix the milk and the buttermilk. Allow the mixture to sit in a warm place for 24 hours. Stir and refrigerate.

That's it. You have a fresh quart of buttermilk. Be sure to save 1/2 cup of the mixture to make the next fresh batch of homemade buttermilk.

Tips:
If you have milk that it sour, don't throw it away. It makes great buttermilk. 

Buttermilk freezes well, so if you have extra and it looks like you're not going to use it, pour it into pint size freezer bags, lay flat, and freeze. Then you'll always have buttermilk  at-the-ready.

Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients:
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Spices: Begin with garlic and onion powders, add some dill or parsley. Try different combinations until you find one that suits you.

Directions:
Mix buttermilk, mayonnaise and spices with a whisk. 
For best flavor, chill for at least 3 hours.

Tips:

For dip, thicken dressing with additional mayonnaise.

Next week, I'll share my grandmother's recipe for buttermilk pancakes. You don't want to miss it!

Just in case you're a bit of an information hound like me, I found an interesting article on the history of buttermilk. Click the link if you care to read it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 34


The weekend was a bit crazy. Nathan and Amanda were in for a weekend visit, and our church had a last- hurrah-before-school-starts trip for the youth which encompassed all of Saturday. Gideon and Miriam started school on Monday, and for some strange reason, I felt compelled to start "getting down to business" with Josiah and Esther and our home-school efforts.

Needless to say, these are the reasons my Monday Musings are coming to you on Tuesday, and why they'll consist of little more than my weekly spending report and an update on my knee. I was tempted to skip the post altogether, but I don't want to start down that slippery slope.

Here are my stats for week 34.                  

Week 33 Spending
Groceries  
$45
Entertainment
$10
Clothing
$10
Basketball camp
$70
Total  
$135

My knee is much better this week, but I still need to baby it. If I walk or stand too much, it starts to ache. Today was the first day I tried wearing shoes other than flip-flops and it was a mistake. I thought a good supportive athletic shoe would do me good, but as I was tugging to get them on, my knee twisted and “Ouch!” Then I was climbing a step stool to get a jar of salsa from the top shelf of the pantry when I missed a step and came down full force on my left leg. So, I’m back to ice packs and flip-flops.


Except for taking Josiah to work in Tigertown, I haven’t ventured further than Roxton – a trip to the school for Gideon’s Meet the Teacher night and a couple of trips to the café. This has obviously kept my spending down, since a trip to Wal-Mart still scares me. Fortunately, Syd has been a champ and has gone to the store for necessities, like those delicious ribs and sausages he grilled when Nathan and Amanda were here. You know, sometimes, you just need to throw the spending plan out the window and splurge on fresh beef!



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Zucchini Stew

One of the benefits of having a bum knee is that Chef Sydney has been making some delicious meals for us. This zucchini stew uses lots of fresh garden vegetables and Italian sausage. It's a complete meal when you add crusty French bread.

Zucchini Stew

Serves 4                                 Ready in 1.5 hours



Ingredients
1 T olive oil
2 sliced Italian sausages - regular (or hot, if you like a little kick to it)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large potato, diced
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, cut in 1/2" cubes
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 pound fresh green beans or 1 15-ounce can of green beans 
3 cups water or chicken broth
1 T chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 T chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions
Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Mix in the sausages, onion, potato, bell pepper, and garlic. (Add fresh beans here. Wait until later if using canned.) Cook 10 minutes, stirring often, until potatoes are slightly tender.
Add the zucchini to the pot. Pour in the tomatoes and their liquid, and the water. (Add green beans here.) Season with basil, oregano, cilantro (or parsley), salt, and pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce to low. Simmer 40 minutes.
Serve topped with Parmesan or Romano cheese and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.
Don't forget to prepare some crusty French bread for dipping.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 33



Without trolling through my old posts to verify this, I am going out on a limb to report that this is the week of my best Spending Report ever! I'd like to brag on myself, letting you know how I've turned from my spending ways, but that wouldn't be totally true. So here's the report, and after that, the truth.

Here are my stats for week 33.                  

Week 33 Spending
Groceries  
$19
Entertainment
$21
Clothing
$25
Total  
$65

Two weekends a month, my younger children and I volunteer at a local food pantry. Our time there is one of the highlights of my month. I work with a great group of people, and we are doing meaningful ministry. On Friday mornings, we arrive at the church and help set up for the Saturday food distribution. This was one of our Fridays, so Essie, Gideon, and I reported for duty. We were working away, when I noticed my left knee was really bothering me. I thought it might hurt less if I took off my shoes. When I was removing the shoe from my right foot, I decided to use my left foot to push the back of the shoe off my heel. I felt this popping sensation followed by intense pain radiating from my left knee. I’d never felt such pain – if I moved my knee in any way, the shooting pains would start. Long story short – after a trip my favorite doctor, 5-star treatment by his staff, and an x-ray, I was sent home with instructions to stay off my knee and continue to elevate and ice it through Sunday evening.

Remember how I wanted to make time for watching “You’ve Got Mail?” I had it. I had time to watch more DVDs than I’d ever wished for. Naps – check. Long conversations with my beloved – check. Now, I’ve got to admit all the pampering has been great, but I’m a pretty independent gal, and I draw the line with having to get help taking a shower! So, the past three days have been relaxing and humbling. As a person who is almost always the one helping others, it’s been eye-opening to be in a position where I have to receive it.
 
The injured knee and my swollen foot that looks like a sausage
Another lesson learned from the recliner – empathy. I must admit I’m not the most sympathetic person in the world. I’m much more of a “buck up and move on with life” sort. When people go on and on about this or that pain, I tend to do an inside-the-brain eye roll. Yesterday, I called my daughter Rachel and apologized for not being kinder and more accommodating when she tore her ACL and had knee surgery – twice! And then I had to apologize to Josiah for accusing him of “milking” his injury for special treatment when he broke his wrist and had to have surgery, although I still secretly believe he was pushing it a little too far… J I still have a few more apologies to make, but this lesson is taken to heart. People’s pain is real, and my judgmental attitude never helps anyone, and very likely adds to their pain. Even if I am successful at hiding it, the stinky attitude hurts me and robs me of the blessing of genuine compassion.

So the real reason for my spending success this weekend is my torn up knee which has kept me very close to home. A sweet friend picked up some groceries for me, and my clothing purchase was made online – new underwear for one of my kiddos who has expressly asked to remain anonymous. I’ve a new appreciation for my family, as they have graciously picked up the slack and helped keep this household running. Thanks to Joel for bringing over chicken on Friday night, and to my sister for rescuing me, and to my food pantry friends who have called and checked on me, and even sent me home with a wheelchair which has made getting around so much easier and has been a great pastime for the kids. And thanks to my dear Syd who acquiesced to my insistence that we build our house with 36”-wide doorways in all of our downstairs rooms. While I was envisioning us as 95 year-olds having walker races throughout the house, it has been very nice to be able to get around easily this weekend.

The knee is improving. I can stand now and put some weight on it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to walk on it tomorrow. If you think of it, please keep me in your prayers. I really don't have time for torn ligaments and knee surgery. Plus, I don't think my fanny can take much more sitting around!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

In keeping with our theme of slow cooker meals after church on Sunday, I have another recipe to share. I put everything together in the slow cooker the night before, and then set the entire crock in the refrigerator. At 8:30 a.m., I nestled the crock into the heating unit, set the temperature to high and the timer to 4 hours, and went back to getting ready for church. It was cooked to perfection when we walked in the door. All I had to do was cut the chicken into bite size pieces, set out some tortilla chips, and put cheese in a bowl. I was glad I doubled the recipe, because the 9 of us ate almost all of the soup in one sitting!

This truly is the best Tortilla Soup I've ever tasted.  The thing that put it over the top may have been the homemade enchilada sauce. The original recipe called for canned enchilada sauce, which I usually keep in my pantry. I was out of the canned sauce, and I didn't even have any of those little packets for making it either. I did have all of the ingredients to make enchilada sauce, so at 2:30 a.m., I was stirring away in my kitchen. I've included the enchilada sauce recipe after the soup recipe.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
1 pound boneless chicken -- I used boneless, skinless thighs
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes -- I used ones with green pepper and onion
1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce (or 1 cup of homemade sauce)
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilis
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. back pepper
1 can hominy (or corn)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir.
  2. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. (Be sure chicken is thoroughly cooked.)
  3. To serve, place tortilla chips in bottom of bowl. Ladle soup over chips. Top with cheese, if desired. You can also top with sour cream and/or avocado.
  4. Eat it by itself, or serve with green salad or guacamole.

Super Simple Enchilada Sauce 
(Makes approximately 6 cups)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chili powder
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
3 cups water
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder

Directions:
  1. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat oil. Stir in flour and chili powder, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly so the flour doesn't burn.
  2. Slowly, stir in water and tomato sauce. Add spices and stir until smooth.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
  4. Extra sauce can be ladled into pint jars or zipper seal freezer bags and frozen for later use.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 32


Here are my stats for week 32.                  

Week 28 Spending
Groceries  
$190
Entertainment
$20
Clothing
$41
Toiletries
$4
School           
$88
Total  
$343

I expected my school spending to be higher this month. I must admit that I have a serious addiction to affection for school supplies. When they sell Sharpies or a box of 12 pencils for $0.29, I just can’t resist!

This reminds me of a favorite quote from one of the world’s BEST movies – You’ve Got Mail:
“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
(Hmmm – I think I need to make time to watch that movie again – very soon.  J)

Random thoughts – I know. These days, I have lots and lots of thoughts racing about in my head, and none of them are really ready to be nailed down.

Little thoughts like:
·       When am I going to be able to watch “You’ve Got Mail?”
·       Will I ever get Nathan and Amanda’s afghan finished?
·       What are we going to eat for dinners this week?
·       Do we really need another daily routine chart?

And big thoughts like:
·       How do I reach that child of mine who seems to be constantly pushing me away?
·       As Christians, what should be our response to the unaccompanied minors crossing our borders?
·       Am I a failure as a home school mom since I just enrolled one of my children in public school?
·       How can I be a living example of the gospel of Christ?

And then I read over my “big” thoughts and realize there are mothers all over this world who are holding their children for their last breathes as they succumb to AIDS or starvation. There are parents in ICUs across this country, sitting at their children’s bedsides, pleading for God to spare their lives. And suddenly all of my thoughts seem very, very small. My prayer is that I’ll see life from a larger perspective rather than looking at my own life through a microscope.

I’ll close with the lyrics to one of the songs that God used to form my faith when I was a new Christian. It’s still my prayer for my life – I just forget sometimes...

If you’re not familiar with it, you can watch it here on YouTube. 

My Father’s Eyes
I may not be every mother's dream for her little girl,
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world.
But that's all right, as long as I can have one wish I pray:
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say,

She's got her father's eyes,
Her father's eyes;
Eyes that find the good in things,
When good is not around;
Eyes that find the source of help,
When help just can't be found;
Eyes full of compassion,
Seeing every pain;
Knowing what you're going through
And feeling it the same.
Just like my father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
Just like my father's eyes.

And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done,
Good and bad they'll all be had to see by everyone.
And when you're called to stand and tell just what you saw in me,
More than anything I know, I want your words to be,

She had her father's eyes,
Her father's eyes;
Eyes that found the good in things,
When good was not around;
Eyes that found the source of help,
When help would not be found;
Eyes full of compassion,
Seeing every pain;
Knowing what you're going through,
And feeling it the same.
Just like my father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
Just like my father's eyes.
My father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
Just like my father's eyes.
Songwriter: GARY WINTHUR CHAPMAN, Father's Eyes lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken


Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken
Ingredients:
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thigh tenders or chicken breast tenders
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tbs grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup cashews

Cilantro or green onions (optional) as a garnish & for flavor as desired

Directions:

  1. Cut chicken into 1 1/2 in chunks.
  2. Combine flour and pepper in large Ziploc bag. 
  3. Add chicken. Shake to coat with flour mixture. 
  4. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken about 2 minutes on each side. 
  5. Place chicken in slow cooker. 
  6. Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes in small bowl; pour over chicken. 
  7. Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours. 
  8. Add cashews and cilantro. Stir. Serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.
Double the sauce ingredients if you like sauce and want to have some to pour over the chicken and the rice. 


If you have a rice cooker with a timer, I suggest using it so everything will be ready when your hungry crew walks in the door. 

Recipe adapted from: 365 Days of Slow Cooking


Monday, August 4, 2014

Monday Musings: Weeks 30 & 31




I took 2 weeks off from blogging due to being past a deadline on a writing project. All my receipts were stuffed in an envelope on my desk. Rather than spending a lot of time organizing and sorting by dates, I compiled them into the July monthly report.

July Spending Report

Category
Spent
Budgeted 
Savings
Groceries*
$605
$700
$95
Miscellaneous
$12
$120        
$108
School
$13
$50
$37
Entertainment
$0
$75
$75
Toiletries
$97
$50
-$47
Piano Lessons
$0
$80
$80
Clothing
$119
$60
-$59
Gifts
$79
$75
-$4
Hair Care
$20
$30
$10
Benevolence
$20
$35
$15
Discretionary Cash
$25
$25
$0
Total  
$990
$1300
$310

Here’s what I’ve learned:
·       Out of sight means out of mind. When I wasn’t diligent about keeping up with spending, then I overspent. Case in point – the groceries. We do have three family birthdays in July, and we have a large extended family gathering on the 4th, so extra grocery spending is understandable, but somehow we just kept spending. When I record and report my spending weekly, I’m more aware when things begin heading in the wrong direction and I can correct it.
·       It’s easier to spend with a debit card than it is with cash. I know this shouldn’t be the case, but it’s so easy to swipe that card. When all of my spending was on a cash basis and I had to hand over the green, I was more cautious. I also had my money portioned out by category in an envelope system, so I was more aware of going over budget in a given category.
·       It’s really tough to NOT spend money on gifts. I love it when I’m shopping and I come across something that is the “perfect gift” for someone I love. For me, the ultimate act of love is making a gift for someone. So, I’m a sucker for beautiful yarn or fabric.
·       Going to school is expensive. One of our children is going to public school this year, so we had to get school clothes and supplies. When you home school, no one really cares if you wear the same jeans and shirt 3 times a week, but this is a whole new world for us.
·       I have an uncanny ability to justify “unauthorized purchases.” See the previous 4 points for proof. J

·       I won’t give up. I’m not going to be defined by my failures, and I’m not giving up. August will be the month I go back to shopping for groceries from my freezer and pantry instead of at the local grocery store.