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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Chicken Cilantro Soup

Last night, I took some chicken breasts from the freezer and put them in the refrigerator to thaw. I really had no idea what I was going to do with them, but decided I would cross that bridge in the morning. When I took them out this morning, I realized they were already cooked. That threw a wrench in my plan to make parmesan chicken and noodles. Instead, I looked in the fridge and saw a lonely, wilting bunch of cilantro. Clearly, it needed rescuing. 

Now I had chicken and cilantro. I went shopping in my pantry and grabbed up cans of corn, diced tomatoes, rotel tomatoes, and beans, plus an onion. Back to the refrigerator for some celery and minced garlic. After a few minutes of chopping, I tossed everything in the slow cooker and set it on low for 5 hours. (If my chicken had been raw, I would have set it on high or cooked it longer.) 

In retrospect, I could have sauteed the onion, garlic, and celery in some olive oil for better flavor, but my toss-it-in technique saved a step and the need to wash another pot! I also added a cup of uncooked rice during the last hour. I wouldn't do that again. It soaked up too much liquid and made the soup too thick for our tastes. If I had leftover cooked rice, I might put some in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the hot soup over the top of it.

The soup was great. I added a chunk of avocado to each bowl for creaminess. With tortillas chips and fresh fruit, we had a complete meal with very little fuss.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cilantro Soup

Serves 8

3 chicken breasts (1.5-2#)
1/2 bunch cilantro, thick stems removed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
1 can beans, rinsed (black, kidney, or pinto)
2 quarts (or more) chicken broth
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
Optional: 1 lime or 2 tablespoons lime juice (set aside)

  1. Toss everything, except the lime, in the slow cooker. 
  2. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. 
  3. Remove chicken, shred it with a fork, and return it to the pot. If desired, add the juice of one lime and cook for 15 more minutes.
  4. Serve with sour cream, tortilla chips, cheese, and sliced avocado.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 38

Aside from my spending report, today’s post has nothing to do with saving money, becoming a minimalist family, etc. It’s just me being transparent, sharing a very real struggle I face every day.

Here are my stats for week 38:               

Week 38 Spending
Miscellaneous (Doctor's office co-pay)

Here is the share:
At the end of last week’s post, I mentioned that we had returned home to a mess and a lot of kid drama. A dear friend of mine noted the hint of discouragement in that statement, and I shared some details with her. I thought I might include a redacted version in today’s post – to protect the guilty.
We came home to a house that looked like a disaster area and a report of younger kids who had made life miserable for the older kids who were in charge while we were gone. After having such a great weekend, it was quite a letdown.

 I know I need to lower my expectations so I don't get so disappointed. If I just expected the house to be a wreck, then I would actually be happy if it wasn't, right?

My friend shared –
When I get up to my eyeballs in problems, I can feel like I'm going to drown. 

And I replied --
This is where I am. Sadly, my go to response is to try to control the situation rather that trusting the Lord to walk me through it. I'm discovering that the first 35 years of my being a Christian were pretty simple. A problem came up, the Lord provided a way through, and I took it. But in the last 5+ years the trials are so multi-faceted, so intertwined with each other, so pervasive that the solution seems buried beneath all the what-ifs and the worry and the self-recrimination.

But the truth is that while the problems may have changed, the solution remains the same. The Lord will provide a way through, and I just need to take it. I need to loosen my grip on my life and tighten my grip on His life, and hang on while He navigates the circuitous path. I cannot pull myself out of every pit, but He can lift me up. I can't dodge problems, but He can carry me through them. And in the end (and even today), rather than being a bitter, angry woman who blames everything on others, I can know the sweet peace of resting in the arms of my Savior.

That's the place I want be. That's who I want to be. Now the challenge is to get there! 

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday Eats and Treats: Cavatini for a Crowd

Cavatini for a Crowd

This recipe makes two 13 x 9 pans full of pasta. I made one to eat tonight and froze the other one for another meal. We served this with salad and garlic bread. My teen boys kept going back for more and more and more.

Chopped ham, chicken and ground beef are mixed into spaghetti sauce with sauteed onions, green peppers and mushrooms. Layer to bake with pasta and cheeses.

1/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 (4.5 ounce) cans sliced mushrooms,
2 pounds lean ground beef or Italian sausage
2 (24 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
4 ounces chopped ham
1/2 cup cooked and cubed chicken
3 ounces sliced pepperoni sausage
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 pound shaped pasta (wagon wheels, twists, etc.)
2 pounds mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a small skillet, saute onions, green peppers, and mushrooms in butter or margarine. Set aside.
Brown hamburger in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain. Mix in tomato sauce, pasta sauce, chopped ham, chopped chicken or turkey, pepperoni, salt, and red and black pepper. Add vegetable saute to hamburger mixture.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
Spread a little sauce over the bottom of two 9 x 13 inch pans. In each pan, place a layer of pasta, a layer of mozarella cheese, a hamburger sauce layer, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and another layer of mozarella cheese. Repeat layers. Cover pans.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes. If you want your cheese soft instead of crusty, cover with foil while baking and take off for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

(Adapted from Cavatini I recipe at

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 37


Here are my stats for week 37.               

Week 37 Spending
Piano Lessons

Last Friday, I went to Dallas with my friend Regina. We spent the day together celebrating her upcoming birthday. Then our husbands met us for a lovely dinner, and a visit to Trinity Hall – an Irish pub where we enjoyed listening to and singing along with live Irish music. Regina’s husband used Price Line to get a great rate on a really nice hotel, and we were able to…ta-da…sleep until we woke up! It was fabulous! I loved the leisurely pace of Saturday. The hotel gave us a 2 p.m. checkout time, so we took our time packing up. Syd got to use the workout facilities, but I was sorely disappointed there was no hot tub or pool.

After lunch at a Mexico City-style taqueria, we parted ways with our friends and went on our own expeditions which included a little Christmas shopping and a trip to Pick-n-Pull. You would have thought Syd was in heaven. Pick-n-Pull is a self-service automotive salvage yard. You get to poke around, find a car similar to your own, and then commence pulling parts from it that you can use for your vehicle. I decided to stay in the car and read since he was “just running in to get one part for the van.” This place isn’t located in the best part of Dallas, so I didn’t feel safe sitting there with my windows down. So I baked in the car while Syd had a heyday. I can hardly complain. He patiently tags along when I am fabric/craft shopping, and he even uses his keen eye for color to help me match threads and fabrics.

I was very thankful to have the opportunity to step back and be refreshed since we returned home in the early evening to a houseful of kid drama. This is our lives right now. I’m sure someday I’ll be haunted by the quiet in the house, but right now I’d give just about anything to have some peace and joy around here during waking hours. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Musings: Week 35 & 36 and August Spending Report

Last week our family took a mini-vacation to the Metro-mess – a.k.a. DFW. After attending my Daddy’s 82nd birthday bash with 30 family members at my sister’s home in Allen, we spent the night at a hotel where we enjoyed swimming, big comfy beds with lots of pillows, an HGTV-watching marathon, and a lovely breakfast. Then we ventured over to Main Event for a fun day of laser tag, a ropes/gravity course, miniature golf, billiards, and games. It was fun to get away and play together.

 We’re working out the kinks in our new routine – in anticipation of basketball practices, Josiah’s work schedule is changing. Gideon is learning about the wonders of public school and homework, plus he’s decided to play fall baseball, so we have to work that game schedule into our routine. It looks like evenings are going to be way busier than I like – twice a week basketball practice, piano lessons, weekly baseball games. We’ve always made eating dinner together a priority, but it’s going to be tough this fall. It looks like it’s time to break out the slow cooker!

Here are my spending reports for 2 weeks, plus the August analysis.
Week 35 Spending (Aug 24-31)

Week 36 Spending (Sept. 1-6)

August Spending Report

Piano Lessons
Hair Care
Discretionary Cash

That $532 total savings represents 41% of my monthly budget for August. This money will be most likely be added to our emergency fund. I expect our school and piano expenses will increase in the coming months.

We've determined we are going to be intentional about spending the entertainment budget each month. We need to spend time doing fun things together and building memories. We're hoping to go to the beach before the cool weather kicks in, and we're planning a trip to San Antonio in December. We usually camp at Beaver's Bend in November, but school and work schedules make that a challenge. It might just be a few of us going this year. We'll see what we can do!