Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fried Chicken

Potluck Saturday


Making one of Preacher Man's all-time favorites... Fried Chicken! Seems like nearly every potluck has someone bringing a bucket of chicken. There is no way I have the time during this season of my life, but someday when I'm a little more free with my time or have more slaves... errrr... children to help out around here, I would love to be the person that brings fried chicken to every potluck. Only my bucket will be HOMEMADE! :) The chicken that is... not the bucket. Well, maybe the bucket too... I digress.

I watched my grandmother make fried chicken, fried okra, mashed potatoes and homemade gravy countless times. It is truly an art. I'll do my very best to tell you how I do it, but this is one of those things where I don't measure ingredients and I just do without thinking, because I've done it since I was a child. I can certainly give tips and suggestions, but frying and gravy making just takes some practice. And indeed, it is one of those things that you may not really want to practice too much for the sake of your health, and that is understandable. Our family is extremely active, we don't eat out, and we don't eat much junk, so we can afford the calories every once in a while as a treat. And to be honest, I only deep fry a couple of times a year just because of the work it takes and the mess it makes in the kitchen. :)

So put on your apron and let's get started!

You'll need some chicken. A whole chicken cut up, or whatever assortment of pieces you and your family like amounting to 3-4 pounds. I like to cut boneless skinless chicken breasts into strips or little nugget chunks, but you pick out what you like.

Buttermilk Marinade:
2 c. buttermilk*
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
(This seasoning combo is from the Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook and is my very favorite.)

Flour Coating:
3 c. flour
2 Tbs. salt
2 tsp. pepper

Oil for frying. I usually use canola.

*for the dairy sensitive, we substitute goat milk for all milk in this recipe

1) Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces. Cover with a lid and store in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

If you are going to take the time and trouble to make fried chicken, you really must do the marinade. It is totally worth it!

2) Mix the flour coating and set up your "frying station". Here's mine:


From left to right you will see the marinade, the flour coating, and the frying pan. The left hand is used to work with the marinade and the flour (the club hand, I call it, you'll see why if you do this!) and it will get really, really nasty. The right hand is used to work with the utensils.

You cannot see it, but to the left of the "frying station" is the "draining station". I use a big brown paper bag with a cooling rack on top. This will allow the grease to drain, but the chicken itself won't sit in the grease. Looks like this:


3) Now you'll want to heat the oil over medium heat. I add oil to the pan until it is about 1" deep. I use my All-Clad fry pan or my cast iron skillet. The larger the pan, the better. It will take a while for the oil to heat up all the way. You can start preparing some chicken while it heats up.


4) Coating the chicken: I recommend the method of double coating. You will get a much better crispy crust this way, and isn't that what fried chicken is all about? With your left hand, remove each piece of chicken from the marinade. Roll it in the flour mixture, coating lightly. Dip briefly back into the marinade, and then coat thoroughly in the flour mixture. Let the chicken rest on a separate plate until it is ready to go into the oil.

5) Check the oil to see if it is hot enough. I run my hand in the sink and flick a little water into the pan. If you hear a deep, hollow popping sound, it is ready. If you don't hear that sound, keep waiting until you do. Using some tongs, add the chicken pieces one at a time. Don't crowd them too much, you want to be able to turn them.


6) Turn the pieces as they are done on each side, but try not to handle them too much so the delicate coating stays intact. Remove from the oil when the meat is done and set the pieces out in a single layer to drain. The coating will be golden brown and crispy, but you cannot strictly rely upon the outside appearance. This is where I go by intuition and experience... If you are a novice, use a meat thermometer or cut open a piece to be sure it is done.

7) Munch on a piece or two while you fry the rest. But don't eat too much, because you want to enjoy eating it with that yummy gravy!

Now, on the gravy... I've made a lot of gravy and I still get very stressed out when I do it. I love cooking with my littles, but I shoo everyone out of the kitchen when it is time to whisk the gravy! I'm not going to tell you how to make it step by step because it's something I mostly do by intuition. I can't take pictures while I'm doing it because I'm usually too busy tossing in more milk or flour and whisking like a mad woman. So I'll give you some links to a couple of ladies who CAN show you how to make gravy and I will give you my tips.

Making gravy is both an art and a science. In a nutshell, all gravy making is:
1) warming up fat (butter, meat drippings or oil usually) - as much as you can, use those tasty meat drippings to get the best flavor! For this fried chicken recipe, I drain out all but about 1/4 c. of the oil to make the gravy, taking care to leave as much of the good crispy bits in the oil.
2) whisking in an equal amount of flour
3) lightly cooking that fat/flour mixture, whisking all the while
4) thinning it out with milk, still whisking away
5) re-warming the gravy and allowing it to thicken some more, but not too much because it will thicken even more at the table as it cools. Are you still whisking? Don't stop!
6) seasoning the gravy with salt/pepper, more whisking...
7) transfer to the table, you're done!

It's all about the fat to flour ratio - you want the same amount of each. Too much fat = oily gravy. Yuck. Too much flour = lumpy gravy. Yuck. Use equal parts. If you are a novice, do measure. If you are brave, just wing it like I do. ;)

And now, a lesson from the pros:
Mrs. Connie of Smockity Frocks - see the link on her main page where she is making gravy while getting her 8 kids ready for church. WHAT A WOMAN!

Pioneer Woman - This is her biscuits and gravy recipe, but it's all about the technique.

Don't forget to sip some southern sweet tea with your meal.

This post is a part of the Four Moms Go-on-a-Picnic linky.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pita Pizzas

A fast and easy lunch or dinner... use pita bread as your crust. Kids love these mini pizzas, especially if you let each child top their own pizza!




What are your favorite pizza toppings? What do your kids like?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thankful Thursdays

Psalm 57 -

1Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in You my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
2I cry out to God Most High,
to God Who fulfills His purpose for me.
3He will send from heaven and save me;
He will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out His steadfast love and His faithfulness!

So much here for which I am thankful...
God's mercy, refuge, salvation, love, faithfulness, and that He has a purpose for ME!

God is good! God is faithful! Always.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wisdom From James

Wednesdays With The Word

Such richness here!

James 1

2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

9Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

16Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Silly Snack: Apple Lips

1) Slice some apples. 16ths work well. Thinly spread some peanut butter on two slices.


(Cute piggies, huh?)

2) Line up four mini marshmallows on one slice.


3) Put 'em together.


Smiles all around!


Yeah, red works a little better, doesn't it. :)

Sewing Tutorial: Sewing a Knee Patch


My Hole-y Jeans

I bought a nice pair of used jeans to be my "going out pair" and about the third time I wore them, blew a hole in the knee. I was pretty bummed. So while these can't be my nice pair anymore, they aren't exactly ready to be relegated to gardening and car washing yet. So I patched them.


Patched Up Knee

This is the way I patch jeans for everyone in the family. It's simple and effective, and helps them last a year or two longer before they are only good to wear as cut offs. In my experience, the knee patch will outlast the jeans. I recommend patching before the hole gets to be too large. For one, it will be easier, and secondly, the fabric will keep more of its strength.

So how to go about doing it...

1) Cut out your patch with pinking shears* (those zig-zag scissors). I like to use denim on denim for functionality and strength, and I have a big pile of old jeans I've been cutting up, but you can also use cute print fabrics or something to contrast. Just look around in your scrap pile. Cut the patch with plenty of room to cover the hole on all sides. A rectangle or square will be the easiest to sew, but you can use any shape.


*Note - if you don't have pinking shears, or if you prefer not to use them, you will just need to cut the patch even larger and iron down about 1/4" on each side to enclose the raw edges within the patch. This will work well with thin cotton, but isn't recommended for heavier denim or corduroy as it will be very bulky.

2) Cut a slightly smaller piece of iron-on pellon/interfacing. Use the kind where one side is fuzzy, and one side will be sticky. This is optional, but I highly recommend it because it will help stabilize the fabric.


3) Iron on the pellon patch over the hole, sticky side down. (You don't want to iron the patch onto your iron!)


4) Pin the patch in place, and get ready to sew. Set up your machine with matching thread and a straight stitch. Make sure the fabric is lying nice and flat and that extra layers of fabric won't be catching underneath.


5) Start sewing very slowly. I line up the edge of the patch with the edge of the presser foot and that is a very easy guide. Gently guide the material through the machine, and gather fabric underneath with your left hand to keep it out of the way. This can be a little tricky to do. Just remember, slow and steady wins the "I don't have to use the seam ripper" prize! :) Rather than just going all the way around, I found it easier to do the horizontal sides one after the other, then I rotated the fabric and did the vertical. Keep things nice and flat and straightened out so your patch doesn't bunch up.


6) After doing the straight stitch, I went back and did a zig-zag over the edges to make it more secure. Alternately, you could snip the fabric with scissors if you want to have more of a frayed look.


There's my finished patch! I've been wearing these jeans for a couple of weeks now and it is holding up very well! (And before you ask, of course I've washed them too! :P)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sewing Tutorial: A European Hem


Perfectly Hemmed Pants

Learning how to do a professional looking hem on a pair of pants or a skirt is a handy skill. Often, I will find a great pair of pants at a garage sale or thrift store that is just too long, but I buy them anyway, knowing that I can fix them in about 10 minutes at home. A European hem is often used on jeans, and it is the hem to use when you want to keep the original hem of the pants. In the case of the pants I was shortening, there was a large, nicely done cuff that I didn't want to just cut off. These pants were the perfect candidate for a European hem and it was incredibly easy to do!

1) Decide the proper length for the pants and determine how much you want to shorten them. (Keep in mind what shoes you will wear with the pants!)

From here on, we will be working with one leg at a time.
2) Turn the pants leg wrong side out. Halve the amount you want to shorten, and mark that measurement from the top of the original hem. In my case, I wanted to shorten my pants two inches, so I marked one inch above the original hem all the way around the cuff.


3) Turn the pants leg back to the right side out. Fold the cuff right up to the lines you marked. The lines should be right along the very edge all the way around. Iron very carefully and give it a good sharp crease.



See the lines right on the edge there?

4) Now you are ready to sew. Set up your machine to do a straight stitch with matching thread. Line up the needle to sew right along the very edge of the stitching line for the cuff. Make sure the fabric is lying down smooth and be sure that you are not catching extra fabric, especially underneath. You may need to use your hand to guide and tuck away extra fabric.


5) Now you may start stitching all the way around the cuff. Go slowly, keeping things nice, smooth, and straight. (This is where doing a good job ironing will pay off!) Going slowly and guiding with your hand underneath will help keep extra fabric from getting caught in the stitch and will save you ripping out seams later! When you've gone all the way around, snip the threads.


6) You should have a nice cuff with that extra 2 inches of fabric tucked neatly up underneath.


This is what it should look like wrong side out. See that neat flap of fabric?

Unless the fabric is extra bulky, I wouldn't recommend cutting it off. If you need to lengthen your pants later, it will be easy to do by letting out the hem you just sewed.


This is right side out where I am pushing back the cuff so you can see my stitching. The seams are nicely hidden by the fabric. You really can't even tell they have been hemmed!

7) Now you can straighten out the cuff, give it a touch up with the iron, and try them on. Make sure you like the length, then do the other leg.


Happy Sewing!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Curried Egg Salad

Potluck Saturday

In case you have some extra hard boiled eggs lying around...

7 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 Tbs. chopped onion
1/3 c. fresh chopped parsley
1/3 c. mayo
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. curry powder* (Preacher Man likes to double this!)
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbs. coarsely chopped sweet pickles (sweet relish works too)

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and spread on some bread. My favorite is pumpernickel. If you have lettuce and tomato to add on the sandwich, that is yummy too! Makes 5-6 sandwiches.

*Our favorite is Penzey's sweet curry powder. There is nothing else like it. It's incredibly fresh and fragrant. Try it, and you'll LOVE it! Try a 1/2 c. jar for free, using the coupon code KINDNESS at checkout. This coupon code is good for your choice of spices in a 1/2 c. jar and it expires 7/11/11. I don't get a kickback from Penzey's, I just love their spices a lot.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Caring for God's Creation


When I was in seventh grade, I wrote an essay proclaiming that God would end the world in His time and nothing we did to the earth would speed up or slow down that process, therefore, I would proudly continue to use my aerosol hairspray, thank-you-very-much. (I think my science teacher wanted to wring my neck!)

I have always been rather bold in my assertions when writing.

THANKFULLY, I have matured beyond where I was as an awkward junior high girl. I no longer need aerosol hairspray to get my bangs to stand up several inches over my forehead. Whew! I think I've also gained some considerable wisdom since then. Aren't we all glad we have matured beyond where we were in junior high!?

I still believe that God will end the world in His time and that nothing we do to the earth will speed up or slow down the process, but I also believe that God would have us care for the gift of His creation.

God gave man dominion over His creation, but as the wise saying goes, with this great freedom, comes great responsibility.

Genesis 1:27-28 - So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

Genesis 2:15 - The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Let us take care, and not be reckless with this blessing. This earth is just a shadow, and we will see God's true glory in heaven, but cultivating an attitude of thankfulness and careful stewardship is much more desirable than one of waste and materialism. We live in a disposable society, and it takes a conscious effort to live differently.

Besides, frugality and taking care of our world go hand in hand.

The environmentalist enjoys an economic bonus by adopting frugality. We tightwads, whether or not it is a prime motivation, get to wear the cloak of environmentalism, stand tall, and not let anyone tell us we're crazy.

- Amy Dacyczyn, The Tightwad Gazette.
A note on my "green" grocery bags - I have collected these over the past couple of years and have gotten about 8 for free. Our local grocery store offers $.05 off for each bag used. I use at least 6 each week, which I estimate saves me between $15-$20 per year. Every little bit counts, you know! I keep them in the car at all times in front of one of the car seats so I don't forget to take them into the store. I actually prefer these to the plastic or paper bags because they are so nice and sturdy and I can loop one over my arm, making it easier to carry the groceries in. If you look carefully at the picture, you can see that all three of these have been repaired! These are all about three years old and they are starting to rip in places. Rather than just toss them, I repair them with a zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine. It takes about 2 minutes, and is just another way to be frugal and avoid waste.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thankful Thursdays: Spring!

It is my favorite time of year! Spring! Aren't these tulip trees breathtaking!?




Lovely spring days like today are so refreshing to the soul! I am thankful for God's marvelous creation! He sure is an artist to give us so many delights for the eye.


I don't know what this tree is. A weeping something or other, but it sure is beautiful!


And then some lovely daffodils and grape hyacinth. I just love hyacinth. They have such a delightful perfume.

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

From "A Prayer in Spring" by Robert Frost

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bible Verses on Herbs

Genesis 1:29 - And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food."

Deuteronomy 2:1-3 - "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!

Proverbs 15:17 - Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.

Luke 11:42 - "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."

(This one is wildly out of context, but I like it on its own nonetheless...)
Hebrews 6:7 - For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;

My Herb Garden

I find such peace working in the soil, cultivating beautiful, living things. Last weekend, Preacher Man and I did some work cleaning out my little herb and flower garden and I planted my annual seeds for the year. I get so excited watching this little plot transform!


Growing your own herbs is very inexpensive and is so rewarding. Once while we lived in an apartment, we grew herbs in a sunny kitchen window in little terracotta pots. They did surprisingly well! I'm happy to have some room in the soil to plant them now, as they really thrive that way.

My parsley remained alive over winter despite being covered snow for so many months. It has even doubled in size! I planted some sage and thyme as seen in the picture above, and I plan to grow chives and mint in a partially buried pot. (This is because these herbs tend to take over unless you take some measures to contain them.)

When the weather warms up, I will plant basil, oregano, and cilantro in the space in between my tomato plants in the larger vegetable garden. Basil in particular improves the taste of tomatoes. Did you know that it is advantageous to plant certain things near one another? This is called "Companion Gardening". Certain herbs and vegetables help one another by repelling pests or improving taste and growth. The reverse is also true, some herbs and vegetables should not be planted near one another. Here is a set of recommendations for companion gardening that I have collected from various sources:

*Borage deters tomato worms. It's also good for strawberries and squash.

*Catnip deters flea beetles.

*Chamomile improves cabbage and onions.

*Thyme deters cabbage worms.

*Sage helps rosemary, cabbage, and carrots. It deters cabbage moths, beetles, and carrot flies. Do not plant it near cucumbers.

*Summer Savory improves the growth and flavor of beans and onions. It discourages cabbage moths.

*Roses like garlic and parsley. (Garlic repels aphids.)

*Tomatoes like basil and parsley.

*Cabbage likes dill and sage, but NOT tomatoes.

*Carrots like lettuce and chives, but NOT dill.

*Radishes like nasturtiums.

*Asparagus likes tomatoes.

*Horseradish keeps away potato bugs.

*Marjoram improves the flavor of all vegetables.

*Mint improves the health of cabbage and tomatoes.

*Rosemary deters cabbage moths, bean beetles, and carrot flies. It's also good for sage.

*Do not plant basil near rue.

*Bee balm is good for tomatoes.


My tiny daffodils make me smile!

Happy Gardening!

Isaiah 40:8 - The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

This post is a part of the Frugal Gardening 101: Busy Mom's Guide linkup. Click on the link for more gardening posts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

More on Hospitality

Well, my recent post "How HGTV and the Food Network Have Killed Hospitality" rose to the top 10 in my stats within 24 hours of posting it and has received more comments than anything else I have written. Preacher Man says it is because of my outrageous title. ;)

I also wanted to thank two people for their very thoughtful comments:
Leah - "I almost appreciate being invited into "humble" homes more than any other kind, because it makes me feel comfortable. Sometimes super "nice" homes can make me feel like I don't belong there or constantly afraid I might ruin something. "Humble" homes encourage me to open up my own humble home!"

This made me think about the times I have been most impressed by someone's hospitality. While I have been in the homes of some well-to-do people, neither of the times that stand out the most to me were situations like that. One was when a single older man invited our family over. He worked very hard preparing way too much food and setting the table "just so". His efforts and kindness made us feel loved and appreciated. Another time, a different single older man invited us over. He suffered with his mental health and had very little. He made some chicken and a salad for us and we all sat on the floor to eat. His apartment was very bare, but, again, he went out of his way for us, and I felt both humbled and honored. These men helped me learn that anyone can show hospitality, no matter what their circumstances.

And then Amy said: "Sometimes we think we don't have the time or resources to be hospitable to the folks who do really need it because we're too busy working on how to impress the ones who don't really need it with our "hospitality"."

Yes, yes, this is so true. Biblical hospitality is not about entertaining, it is about showing love and fulfilling someone's needs, whether their needs are a full tummy or just someone to talk to. It's all about others.

Who needs our hospitality?
  • The poor, someone who may never be in a position to repay us (Luke 14:12-14)
  • Strangers (Hebrews 13:2)
  • Enemies (Romans 12:20)
  • Orphans & widows (James 1:27)
  • The sick (Matthew 25:36)
  • Those in prison or who are lonely (Matthew 25:36)
  • Fellow Christians (Galatians 6:10)
  • Our own families (1 Timothy 5:8) - they need our warmth and generosity too!

On the subject of hospitality, there is much to say. I'm not the only one saying it though. Passionate Homemaking has chosen the topic of Hospitality as the theme for the month and there have been some excellent articles there. Here they are if you have not seen them:
Defining Hospitality: Strangers Welcoming Strangers
Encouraging Edifying Conversations During Hospitality
Practicing Hospitality with Kids
Hospitality: To Bless or Impress
The Best (and Most Overlooked) Way to Prepare Our Home for Guests
A Call to Practice Hospitality

We lose what on ourselves we spend,
We have, as treasures without end,
Whatever, Lord, to thee we lend,
Who givest all - Who givest all.
- Christopher Wordsworth

Matthew 6:19-21 - Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"All The Way My Savior Leads Me"

Sunday Hymn Post

by Fanny J. Crosby

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide,
Heav'nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well,
For I know, whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me;
Oh, the fullness of His grace!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father's blest embrace.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Being A Borrower

Psalm 37:21 - The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.

Borrowing can be a real blessing. It can also be a curse. We have been blessed to have some kind and generous friends and neighbors. One of our neighbors has a garage full of tools and has given my husband permission to go over any time he has a need and borrow tools without even asking. Some friends of ours have allowed us to borrow their power washer to clean the siding on our house. Other friends have offered their carpet cleaning machine (and I hope to take them up one that one soon!). If we had to invest money ourselves, buying or renting all of these tools, it would cost us a LOT of money. I am so grateful for generous friends.

Still, I do not ever want to take their generosity for granted! When I borrow, I try to be sure to do the following:
  • Return borrowed items in a timely manner. The importance of this one cannot be emphasized enough. A project requiring a borrowed item immediately becomes top priority! If I do not intend to use the borrowed item and be done with it within a month, I do not borrow it.
  • Return items in a condition even BETTER than I received them. Tools are cleaned thoroughly and vehicles filled with gas and sometimes vacuumed out or taken through a car wash.
  • Include a sweet "thank you" - a note + some kind of home baked treat
When I do these things, I find people are happy to lend to me because they know they can trust me to take care of their things and return them.

Exodus 22:14 - If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution.

If something should happen to an item I am borrowing, I would feel obligated to make full restitution either making repairs or paying for a replacement if need be. This is the risk a person takes when borrowing, and helps me take extra care with another person's property.

Now, as far as lending goes... If I lend something, I do not expect to get it back again.

Proverbs 22:7 - The rich rules over the poor,and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

Sadly, not everyone will be as scrupulous about being a good borrower as you would like, therefore, if I lend something out, I do it with more of the mindset that I am giving it away. If it is too precious of an item for me to give it away, I do not lend it out. I find that I am most often lending out books. For books that I frequently lend, I actually purchase extra copies so I can have "lending copies" and still have one for me to keep. I find that when I keep this kind of an attitude, I do not get angry and hold a grudge when the item I lend is not returned for over a year... or ever. I don't want something like a lost borrowed item to come in the way of a relationship with someone.

So when it comes to borrowing, I try to be the kind of borrower that is faithful to return items in a timely and thankful way. And when I am lending, I try to do it generously and have a giving and forgiving spirit. It all seems to come out in the end, so I try not to keep score. Borrowing and lending can be a real blessing as long as we keep this in mind:

Matthew 7:12 - So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Sewing Machine

Thankful Thursdays


Today I'm very thankful for my sewing machine. I'm almost equally thankful for a large desk that I use as my sewing table and the fact that I have the space to keep my sewing machine and iron set up and ready to use at all times. Not having to haul everything out every time I want to work on a project means that I use it MUCH more often!

Anyway, my lovely little Bernette was just given to me by my mom when my machine was near the end of its life. This is my mom's old machine that she bought back in the early 90's, but it is still humming along beautifully for me! My sewing machine saves me a lot of money. I am able to make frugal gifts for friends, make my own curtains, mend clothing easily, sew modest clothing, or make alterations to make things modest. Personally, I think every girl ought to have some basic sewing skills. Mine sure have been useful!

I've been doing some mending lately, working on patching some jeans and I put new elastic in a waistband for Big Littles. I have a pair of pants that need hemming as well. I'm taking pictures as I go, with the idea of posting them as a tutorial here. Any requests for sewing tutorials? It would need to be something I would do anyway, but I'm happy to hear what my readers would be interested in learning.

The internet is such a wealth of information, but if you want to acquire some basic sewing skills, your library probably has a copy of the Singer books. My favorite is the Sewing for the Home volume. You will find step by step instructions complete with pictures - they make it very easy! This book is where I learned how to make curtains and make a mitered corner.

What do you like to sew? What would you like to learn how to sew?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How HGTV and the Food Network Have Killed Hospitality

Ok, I admit my title is a bit of an exaggeration, but I believe it because I am seeing a general decline in hospitality among Christians. What would modern culture have us believe about hospitality?
  • Gourmet food
  • Multiple courses - serving fancy drinks and hors d'oeuvres as your guests come in the door with swanky music playing, of course!
  • Perfectly clean home
  • A home with modern styles and decoration
  • Beautiful table set with lovely china, place cards, centerpiece, tablecloth...
  • Candles and flower arrangements strewn throughout
  • Pretty, new furniture
Isn't that what is on TV, in cookbooks, and magazines? Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with a dinner party with all of these lovely amenities and comforts. The problem comes in when we think that the only way we can extend hospitality is if we first have all of them.

I have littles. Our furniture will be stained and scratched. Candles everywhere would be dangerous. Unless I lock my children in a closet for half of the day, there will be toys strewn in the living room, and the meal is going to need to be simple. Also, we choose not to live like the proverbial Joneses, laden with debt so we can have the latest and greatest furnishings and decorations. We live in our home. All four of us work, play, eat, sleep, and learn in our home nearly all of the time. We keep our home mostly neat and clean, and I think it is rather comfortable, but I don't think anyone would say it is magazine worthy. I do not apologize for this, and I hope that you won't apologize for your home either.

I actually had a woman say to me once that she really wanted to have us over, but they needed to replace the carpets first. We still haven't been invited over, and that was years ago. I have eaten in homes with dirt floors where the children sat on the floor next to the table to eat and everyone was happy and comfortable. I really don't care about the state of the carpets.

When we allow materialism to encroach and let personal hangups and perfectionism to prevent us from practicing hospitality, Satan wins. Does that sound rather extreme? I don't think that it is.

Hospitality is not just a good idea or a suggestion, it is a command. It is a requirement for elders (Titus 1:8, 1 Timothy 3:2), widows indeed (1 Timothy 5:10), is a command to all (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2), and must be done with the proper attitude (1 Peter 4:9). In my Bible dictionary, it gives the following definition:

Hospitality: act of entertaining guests with warmth and generosity

Having people into our homes, friends and strangers alike, is a part of being a Christian, and it's something we all need to practice. As women, and the keepers of the home, it will primarily fall into our domain. I didn't do a lot of studying or research for this post, mostly I'm just spouting off the top of my head. I write to encourage myself to keep on working and doing better, seizing each opportunity that I see.

Four things come not back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, time past, the neglected opportunity.
Omer ign al-Halif

Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.
William Arthur Ward

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"On Jordan's Stormy Banks"

Sunday Hymn Post -

by Samuel Stennett

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.

O the transporting, rapturous scene,
That rises to my sight!
Sweet fields arrayed in living green,
And rivers of delight!

There generous fruits that never fail,
On trees immortal grow;
There rocks and hills, and brooks and vales,
With milk and honey flow.

O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.

No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.

When I shall reach that happy place,
I’ll be forever blest,
For I shall see my Father’s face,
And in His bosom rest.

Filled with delight my raptured soul
Would here no longer stay;
Though Jordan’s waves around me roll,
Fearless I’d launch away.


I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.

Revelation 21:23 - And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Happy Beef-day

ground beef and stew meat browning on the stove

A major time saver for me is having pre-cooked meats in my freezer, ready to add to a meal like lasagna, chili mac, chili, pasta fagioli, etc.... When our grocery store has ground beef on sale, I always buy the limit. I take it home, and cook it up for the freezer while I am washing the dishes. (Yay for multitasking mamas!) I like to make the following:
I used to cook the ground beef in 1 lb. batches in a skillet, but that really takes a long time! Now, I just put it all in my big stock pot, turn the heat on medium low, and stir it occasionally until it is done. Then I drain it, rinse it, and divide it into one pound portions in my labeled freezer bags. Press out the extra air and freeze them flat to be efficient with freezer space.

Now this may seem pretty elementary, but I did not know that you could freeze cooked ground beef like this when I first got married until my friend told me her mom did this. I thought this was brilliant! It saved me so much time and even money since I bought the meat on sale in bulk. Batch cooking - I love it!

I just heard of someone cooking the ground beef overnight in their crockpot, which would eliminate the need to stir and attend to the pot, but I haven't tried it yet. Sounds like a great idea though!

Meatballs -
cooked on the left, uncooked on the right

Potluck Saturday - Meatballs
  • 4 lbs. ground meat (I like to use a combination of whatever is cheap - beef, turkey, or pork)
  • 2 c. bread crumbs*
  • 2 Tbs. Italian Seasoning**
  • 4 Tbs. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan***
  • 1 onion, minced in the food processor
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced in the food processor
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 c. water
* for a gluten free version, substitute crushed Rice Chex cereal or whirl some gluten free oats in the food processor
** we like Penzeys Pasta Sprinkle - if you are making sweet & sour meatballs, leave this out. Note - I am not affiliated with Penzeys and they don't give me money. I just love their spices. :)
*** leave this out if you need them to be dairy free - I usually substitute extra breadcrumbs

Combine all of the ingredients in a very large bowl. Mix well with your hands. Form into 1-2" meatballs, packing them so they will hold together. Try to be consistent in their sizes. (A medium cookie scoop helps with this.) Decide whether you will fry them or bake them and follow the directions below.

Frying them: Heat equal parts vegetable oil and olive oil about 1/4" deep in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs in batches being careful not to crowd them too much. Keep turning them so they brown evenly. As each meatball is cooked through, remove it to a plate covered with a couple of paper towels to drain.

Baking them: Preheat your oven to 350*. Arrange the meatballs on a cookie sheet. (I always use a silpat. If you don't have one, try parchment paper to prevent sticking.) Depending on how large you made your meatballs, they will take between 40 minutes and 1 hour to cook. Just check them from time to time, give them a shake to keep them from sticking, and see if they are done.

Serve right away, or put in a gallon size ziploc for the freezer.

My meatball recipe is based upon the one in this cookbook by Ina Garten:

This cookbook is beautiful and is filled with recipes for tasty food.

These meatballs are delicious on spaghetti, and are also yummy in escarole soup.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Would You Do With:


5 pounds of matzoh?


Happy Passover by the way!

Kind of like the free Easter ham and the free Thanksgiving turkey, our local grocery store offers a coupon for 5 lbs. of free matzoh every year at Passover. I've never gotten them in the past because... well... we're not Jewish. I decided to just go for it this year, after all, it's free, right? I'm not one to turn down free food. So we pick up our box of matzoh and as we are checking out, the cashier says, "This coupon is for the 5 lb. box." "Oh?" I reply. "Yes, you got the 1 lb. box, but it's ok, I'll have someone go get you the 5 lb. box." "Ok" I reply. The helpful store employee comes trotting up with the GIANT package up there in the picture and I just burst out laughing. "That's a LOT of matzoh!" I say. And it was all free!

Now what to do with it? I have a few ideas. For one, I think they will stand in for saltines rather well, so I plan to try them with peanut butter. I think they will be nice crushed on top of a casserole. I plan to make some salmon patties and roll them in the crushed matzoh.

All Recipes only listed two:
Matzoh Ball Soup - quite traditional
Matzoh Candy - not so traditional

I think I'll try them both. :)

Any other ideas?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

HMF - Dairy Free Ice Cream

HMF = Hungry Mama Food
This is more of a Hungry Mama Snack, but ironically, is also a Lite Mama Snack depending on how you make it. I got the idea from Annessa at Flourish. She got the idea from a Whole Foods Recipe, so this is one of those recipes that has been passed around and tweaked, but it's because the idea is brilliant! It's ice cream without the "cream". Frozen bananas stand in for the creamy part and you can flavor it however you like. For me, I needed a dairy free protein/fat boost every day, and this shake is the vehicle! You may just want a healthier substitute for your nightly bowl of ice cream or you might want a frugal treat. This is all of those.

You will need:
  • freeze one ripe (but not mushy) banana in chunks in a small ziploc baggie to have ready when you want it*
  • 2 tsp. peanut butter or almond butter (to add protein, I add more like 2 Tbs., but I confess it tastes more like a health shake and less like ice cream when I do this)
  • 2 tsp. cocoa powder (don't add more, trust me! It will not taste more chocolaty)
  • about 1/3 c. liquid - I use rice milk, but use any kind of milk or milk substitute you have
  • 2 Tbs. melted coconut oil (optional - I add this for the extra fats, if you don't want extra fats, no matter how healthy, just don't add it!)**
  • Add sweeteners if you wish. I don't need it, but you can make it sweeter with liquid stevia, sweetened rice milk, sweetened peanut butter or just plain old sugar.
Now, I don't have a blender. I've burned out three cheap ones now, and I don't care to invest three digits for a fancy one, so I just use my KitchenAid food processor. A blender would probably work better though. So, throw the banana chunks, the peanut butter and the cocoa powder into your blender or food processor and whirl it around until it breaks up the banana chunks. Add the liquid through the hole in the top, adding just enough to make it smooth. If you add too much, it tastes more like a Wendy's Frosty, which, to me, is not a bad thing!! :)

Then spoon it out into your bowl, and enjoy guilt free!

* the spartan among us will wash out and reuse those baggies, so I recommend the heavier weight freezer bags to withstand repeated washings
** if you add the coconut oil in as a solid, it will make your ice cream taste grainy, and who wants grainy ice cream? Melting it solves that problem. Even though it is a bit counter-intuitive to add warm liquid to make ice cream, it works. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

HMF - Meatloaf

HMF = Hungry Mama Food
You need HMF if you are a nursing and milk pumping mother with littles that barely sits down all day. Quick carbs and sugary stuff just makes mama cranky, so there are certain criteria for HMF.
  • Best if you can eat it with one hand.
The other day, Preacher Man asked, "Why don't you fix yourself beans and rice?" I gave a sort of mean laugh (feeling badly about that one, actually) and said, "Because I have to sit down and use utensils to eat that."
  • Must have protein and LOTS of it!
I snack on meat. Backwards in a lot of ways, but I NEED it, especially since I have a dairy sensitive nursling. No cheese for me. :( I have not always been such a carnivore, but it is essential for survival right now.
  • Must leave mama satisfied for 2 hours minimum.
This is rather tough criteria, and is especially challenging on a limited grocery budget. But it's important to keep mama healthy and happy. And since I get a little tired of almonds and peanut butter sandwiches, I'm looking for creative ideas.

Of course, it could also be HTBF = Hungry Teenage Boy Food if you have some of those.
I honestly fear for the state of our food budget in about 12 years when we will be buying both HMF AND HTBF! Yikes!

Anyway, one of my favorite HMF meals is MEATLOAF! Specifically, the meatloaf sandwich!


I think meatloaf has a little bit of a bad rap. For starters, the name isn't the most appealing in the world. I didn't grow up eating it, and only had it once that I remember while visiting some distant relative. And I was surprised that I liked it! It's also a very versatile dish and is a good one for hiding extra veggies. My version is different than many. For one, it's not a loaf. I like to make it in a 9x13 pan because it makes it easier to drain the grease, and because it gives more crispy edges, which I like. I also try to always batch cook with meatloaf. I mix up 4 lbs. at a time and freeze half in a ziploc bag for later. Very handy! I also like to use ground turkey for a portion of the meat. So here is my recipe for 2, 13x9 pans of meatloaf, just the way I like it!:
  • 4 lbs. ground beef (the leaner the meat, the better)
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 4 small onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c. dehydrated bell pepper (optional, but I LOVE the taste!)
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 c. milk (for dairy free, substitute plain rice milk or goat milk)
  • 8 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dried sage
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard (I have used prepared mustard and it works well too.)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3 c. ketchup, chili sauce, or BBQ sauce + more for serving
Preheat oven to 350*. Break up the ground meat into smaller pieces in a very large bowl. (Seriously, you will probably need to use the largest bowl you own, or plan to divide it and mix it in two bowls.) Run the bread slices through the food processor until chopped finely and add to the meat. Quarter the onions and finely mince the onions and the garlic in the food processor too. Mix in the onions and garlic, as well as the rest of the ingredients. When thoroughly mixed, divide the mixture in pat down into two ungreased 13x9 pans. Drizzle ketchup on top. Bake for 50 minutes, then drain off the grease. Bake 1o more minutes, or until the center is no longer pink. Enjoy!

Serves 16

And for the leftovers:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...