Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spaghetti Sundays Part II

I like to share things on this blog that are tried and true so you, my readers, can depend upon the fact that the things I share work well for at least one person, leaving it up to you to decide if they will work for you too. I will tell you that what works for me is having Sunday's lunch ready with only 4 minutes of work that morning!

Want to know how? Read on...


Spaghetti Sundays have been a tradition in our home for the past 18 months or so and it works for us. It works so well, that I think if I live to be 100 years old like dear old "Ma", I will still be serving spaghetti for whatever family and friends I am blessed to entertain each Sunday afternoon.

Our favorite sauce includes these meatballs which I make gluten free and dairy free. I pick up about 4 lbs. total of ground beef, turkey and pork each month and make them in a big batch. I freeze the meatballs in quart size containers ready to add to the sauce on Sunday morning.

Here is how I have Sunday's lunch ready with only four minutes of work that day:
(I do this while I am fixing breakfast and I timed myself!)
  • Open 2, 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes with a hand crank can opener
  • Dump these two cans in the crock pot
  • Stir in a palmful each of Italian Seasoning and dehydrated onions
  • Add about a teaspoon of garlic powder (I just guesstimate the amount in my palm)
  • Dump in a quart of frozen meatballs
  • Give it a stir, put on the lid, and turn the crock pot to low so it can simmer for a couple of hours while you are away
  • Fill a stock pot with water, put the lid on and set it on the stove

Now, when you get back to the house after an uplifting assembly, the first thing you need to do is turn the burner with the stock pot on it on high. I recommend having the stock pot filled and ready on the stove because if your Littles are like mine, they will be whiny and starving and are not going to be happy if you have to put them down to fill a pot with water and carry it to the stove. If it is already sitting on the stove, you can cuddle your sweet ones and simply turn on the burner with a free hand.

Hopefully you have made the most of preparing on Saturday, so pulling a ready made salad out of the fridge will be a breeze. If not, it's ok to skip the salad. We often do. Honestly, we usually only do salad and bread for company.

Something else that will make life with Littles simpler is to keep a "spaghetti shirt" handy. Bibs have been such a bother. It seems like they always manage to get their food on their clothes anyway, so I just go with a full t-shirt that is dark colored (preferably even red!) and a size too big, and we use these as our bibs when extra messy food is on the menu, and spaghetti is definitely messy!

Lastly, I've added a page under the Sunday tab of my Home Management Notebook with some benchmarks so I can be sure I am on track on Sunday mornings as far as time goes. Mine goes:

  • Up by 7:15 am
  • Spaghetti Sauce in the crock pot by 8 am
  • Start cooking breakfast by 8 am
  • Be dressed by 8:45 am
  • Have the Littles dressed by 9 am

I also condensed my Preparing for The Lord's Day post into a simple checklist for my notebook for Saturday night:

  • baths for everyone
  • diapers washed
  • bags packed
  • clothes selected/ironed
  • salad prepped
  • breakfast: muffins, sausage, boiled eggs?

Referring to these lists keeps me on track and it's just another thing I've been doing for a while that works for me. What tips do you have for making Sundays go more smoothly?

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hospitality Throughout Acts

Remember this?

peaceful morning

Last year I joined some fellow bloggers going through the book "Open Heart, Open Home" by Karen Mains. In one of the chapters, she challenges the reader to go through the book of Acts noting each instance of hospitality. I was intrigued by this when I read it, but did not have the time. I finally did it, and below you will see a catalog of every instance of hospitality described in Acts. There are many more instances of implied hospitality, but I did not include those because the list is long enough already!

I just think it is so very interesting that in a book about the early Church and what the Christians did, that hospitality was such a natural part of that. Instructions on hospitality are best found elsewhere in the Bible, but I believe Acts gives us the best example of what Biblical hospitality really looks like. We can see that it is integral to carrying out "the Great Commission". (Mark 16:15)

Chapter 1:
The 120 disciples (vs. 15) were waiting in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, which made for a rather unique experience. Not all were from Jerusalem, and surely needed accommodations and nourishment while they waited. The upper room (vs. 13) surely belonged to someone.
Chapter 2:
44 - “All who believed were together, and had all things in common.”
45- They sold their possessions so they could share with anyone who had need.
46 - The disciples were assembling daily both in the temple and were breaking bread from house to house and “They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”
These Christians had a strong desire to be together and they did not allow hangups like language barriers, outside commitments, or even lack of funds prevent it from happening.
Chapter 4:
23, 31 - After being arrested and questioned by the Sanhedrin, Peter and John “went to their own companions” and they all prayed together.
32 - “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.”
34 - 35 - “Nor was there anyone among them who lacked...” Many sold lands and houses and gave the proceeds to the apostles to be distributed “as anyone had need”.
Chapter 5:
42 - “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Chapter 9:
43 - After healing Dorcas, Peter “stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.”
Chapter 10:
23 - Peter provides lodging for the men sent by Cornelius the centurion
28 (11:3) - “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean”
i.e. - no more barrier between Jew and Gentile
24; 48 - Cornelius asked Peter to stay a few days
Chapter 12:***
5, 12 - many were gathered together in the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark - they were praying for Peter who had been put in prison. (James, the brother of John had already been killed by Herod, and it was his intention to kill Peter also. vs. 2) We know that they were all praying in the middle of the night! (vs. 6)
Chapter 16: it appears this chapter involved Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke
15 - After she and her household were baptized, Lydia said, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.”
34 - After he and his household were baptized, the Philippian jailer “brought them into his house [and] set food before them.”
40 - After being released from prison, Paul and Silas went back to Lydia’s house
Chapter 17:
5 - 7 - We learn Paul and Silas were staying in the house of Jason. Jason’s house was attacked and he along with some of the brethren were dragged to the rulers of the city. Here we see hospitality at a personal risk to yourself and your home.
Chapter 18:
3 - Paul stayed with Priscilla and Aquilla because they were of the same trade, tent-making.
7 - Paul then stayed a while with Justus, “whose house was next door to the synagogue.”
11 - “And he continued there a year and six months...”
20 - In Ephesus, “they asked him to stay a longer time with them...”
27 - “And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him...”
Chapter 20:
7 - 8 - Paul was speaking in an “upper room” where many were gathered together “and continued his message until midnight”.
18 - Paul says, “In what manner I always lived among you...” He did not take any income for his work for the Lord (1 Cor. 9:15-18, 2 Thess. 3:7-8), relying on his tent-making and the generous hospitality of the Christians in every city.
20 - “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.”
33 - 35 - Paul on providing for the needs of others: “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
Chapter 21:
16 - Paul and Luke met Mnason of Cyprus “an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge”.
17 - “When we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.”
Chapter 27:
3 - Paul is on his way to Rome for trial. “And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care”.
Chapter 28:
7 - Shipwrecked on the island of Malta, “there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days”.
10 - “They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed they provided such things as were necessary.”
14 - Landing at Puteoli, “we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days.”
15 - “And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us... When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.”
23 - Jewish leaders in Rome visited him at his lodging where he “explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God... from morning till evening.”
30 - “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ...”

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Pancake Month!


Would you like to try the best blueberry pancakes in New York City?

You can! Right at home! The recipe is right here!

Or here:

(That is an Amazon affiliate link by the way.)

My wonderful MIL got me this cookbook for my birthday last year and it is full of delicious brunch recipes. Following the directions in this book, I have finally learned how to make the most perfect roll out biscuits AND the best pancakes in New York City!

What is the secret to perfect pancakes?

Separating the egg whites and whipping them into medium peaks before folding them into the batter.

Yep. That's the secret. In full disclosure, the one drawback to this method is that it makes me wash three large bowls when all is said and done instead of one. But it is sooooo worth it! Most pancake recipes call for a large amount of baking powder to make them fluffy, but baking powder leaves a metallic flavor. This recipe by Neil Kleinberg uses a fraction of the baking powder and relies upon the egg whites to give the pancakes their fluff. The result is oh-so-delicious!

Here's a picture of the batter with the egg whites gently folded in like puffy little clouds:

pancake batter

Some other tips to help you achieve pancake perfection:
  • Don't over mix the batter. According to The Pancake Master (aka - Mr. Kleinberg), too much mixing makes them tough. Lumpy batter is good. Really!
  • Get your griddle nice and hot!
  • Flip them when the edges start to look a little dry and you can see all the way through the bubbles that form in the middle of the pancake like so:
ready to flip

See? Perfectly golden brown!

perfect puffy pancakes
  • If you have something you want to mix into your pancakes like blueberries, nuts, or chocolate chips, don't mix them into your batter! As you spoon your batter onto the griddle, sprinkle your goodies right on top of each pancake. Trust me on this one, you will get perfect little pockets for the maple syrup to ooze in.
  • Speaking of... Use REAL maple syrup!! I can usually find it for a good price on Amazon when we are running low. We like B grade the best.

Now, the recipe:
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder, plus 1 teaspoon
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 teaspoons unmelted for the griddle
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Combine the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the yolks, milk, melted butter, and vanilla until combined. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture. The result should be slightly lumpy, yet combined to form a batter.
  3. Whip the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl until they reach medium peaks. (I use a KitchenAid stand mixer and beat them until they are good and foamy, but still soft in the middle.)
  4. Gently mix the egg whites into the batter with a large rubber spatula. Remember: this batter should be slightly lumpy and have large parts of egg whites not fully incorporated; it should look like whitecaps in the ocean with foam on top. (The batter will last a few hours in the fridge without deflating too much.)
  5. Heat a griddle — either an electric griddle, a stovetop griddle, or a big flat pan — to 350 to 375°F. Grease the hot griddle with the remaining butter. Drop about 1/3 cup of pancake batter on the griddle and cook to set.
  6. When the pancake is golden brown on both sides, remove with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling, cooking several pancakes at a time.
Now the fun part: Garnish with confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon sugar, warm Maple Butter (mix equal parts melted butter and maple syrup), fruit, or whatever brings delight into your sweetheart's heart. February is "Pancake Month" at The Clinton Street Bakery and they feature special gourmet toppings every day. Their most popular topping? Carmelized pineapple, roasted macadamia nuts and toasted coconut.

Sign me up for a short stack of those, please!!!

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Garlic: It's good for you!


It's cold season... time to break out the GARLIC!

Garlic is an AMAZING plant! It is one of the best antibacterial plants out there! Garlic not only builds your immune system, but your body doesn't become immune to its antibiotic qualities, so you can take as much of it as you want! It's also effective against viruses, while antibiotics are not. Next time, try garlic at the first sign of a cold or infection! It just might save you a doctor's visit!

Other qualities of garlic: antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, antiparasitic, antifungal, immune stimulating, antispasmodic (think coughs), expectorant, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, lowers fevers, improves circulation

I'm not going to cover the ins and outs of how to take garlic medicinally, but I thought I'd encourage you to get the most out of cooking with garlic.
  • Cook with fresh cloves!
    Garlic powder and jarred minced garlic is convenient, but the more processed it is, the less your body will benefit from it.
  • The entire garlic family carry the benefits of garlic to a some degree, so try increasing the amount of garlic, onions, and leeks in your cooking. I throw garlic into almost everything now and I usually triple the amount a recipe calls for. If the power and pungency of garlic is a bit much for you to take, just start slowly. You'll be feeling like an Italian in no time!
  • I highly recommend chopping it up by hand into a small mince. Your skin will absorb the oils and benefit from it. I don't recommend using a garlic press. It is less convenient than you would think. Have you ever tried cleaning one out!? You lose many of the good qualities of garlic with the press. Invest in a heavy, sharp knife instead.

This is a great knife! It's the one in the photo above.

A yummy way to get some raw garlic in you: Hummus!
- 2 c. canned chickpeas, drained
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1/3 c. tahini (sesame paste)
- 6 tbs. lemon juice (or juice from 2 lemons)
- 8 dashes tabasco sauce

Zip through the food processor until nicely pureed. Good chilled or at room temp. The longer it sits in the fridge, the stronger the garlic smell/taste becomes! It will last up to a week refrigerated.

What is your favorite way to eat garlic?

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Hold to God's Unchanging Hand"

Sunday Hymn Post

Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Trust in Him who will not leave you,
Whatsoever years may bring,
If by earthly friends forsaken
Still more closely to Him cling.

Covet not this world’s vain riches
That so rapidly decay,
Seek to gain the heav’nly treasures,
They will never pass away.

When your journey is completed,
If to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in glory
Your enraptured soul will view.

Hold to God’s unchanging hand,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand;
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Words by Jennie Wilson

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Soffritto... soffratto...

Potato... Po-tah-to...

We're gonna learn a useful cooking skill today on Potluck Saturday... How to make a "soffritto".

What is a soffritto?

A soffritto is a combination of aromatic ingredients which have been cut in very small pieces, and slowly sauteed in cooking oil for 15-30 minutes.


I find it fascinating that variations of this technique is used in so many cultures as the start of something wonderful.

Soffritto = Italian = olive oil + onion (red or yellow) + garlic
Sofrito = Spanish = olive oil + onion + carrots + tomatoes
Mirepoix = French = butter + celery + onions + carrots
"The Holy Trinity" = Cajun = butter + green pepper + onions + celery

And many, many more, being most common in Mediterranean, Latin American, Caribbean, and European countries.

The basic technique is to get out a heavy-bottomed saute pan, swirl a few tablespoons of oil around the pan and turn it up to medium heat. Then you toss in the veggies as you chop them. I always start with onions because they only taste better if they burn a little. (It's called caramelizing!) Next, I add the larger, harder veggies I plan to use because they take longer to soften. This would be bell pepper or carrots. Add whatever else, and do the minced garlic last because it is so tiny. Let it all hang out in the pan for about 15 minutes until everything is soft, giving it a shake and a stir from time to time.

The soffritto is the flavor base, and you can go anywhere with it! Add whatever herbs and spices suit your fancy. Start with a soffritto for some incredible sauces for meat or pasta, flavorful beans, rice, vegetables, soups, and stews, or just a delicious veggie saute to go with quinoa or couscous.

And If your family is anything like mine, starting on a soffritto is a great way to have the kitchen all to yourself for a little while. ;) Big Littles always runs away when he hears I'm cooking onions. (I love cooking with my Littles, really I do!)

Get this awesome print by April Starr from The Flourish Cafe on Etsy.

Does this technique seem familiar to you? I think learning basic techniques such as this, is how to gain freedom in the kitchen and will help you learn how to cook without a recipe.

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