17 March 2014


Inspired by Jono+Laynie

Gratefuls for this weekend:

1. I am grateful for the beautiful warm weather we had on Saturday, and the resulting
2. dinner outside on the back deck,
3. sight of hot air balloons flying over our city, and
4. backyard bonfire and marshmallows with neighbors.
5. I am grateful for wonderful neighbors with lots of kids for Dino to play with (and fight with, and make up again and play with some more!).
6. I am grateful for Touched Twice United and the amazing way they met the physical and spiritual needs of our community this past weekend,
7. and I am grateful to have been a part of it.
8. I am grateful for The Gideons International, and their mission to make the Bible available to anyone who wants it (They brought Spanish-English bilingual Bibles to give away at the Touched Twice clinic, in response to all of last year's guests' requests for Spanish-language Bibles!)
9. I am grateful for a church that jumps at the opportunity to help others, that strives to get everyone involved, and where my family feels at home every week.
10. I am grateful for Upward basketball, which gives our church kids a chance to socialize with each other, and brings the community together.
11. I am grateful for my incredibly generous and kind husband, who gives above and beyond for those who need.
12. I am grateful for an amazing little boy who has called me "Mom" consistently for the past week, making me beam with pride and tear up with joy every time I hear it.

25 February 2014

Orange Chicken

A month or so ago, I prepped a bunch of "freezer meals" - ingredients all chopped and marinated so that we could just pop them into the oven or slow cooker for easy weekday meals. One that I tried was Orange Chicken. The recipe sounded great, it smelled great while it was cooking a few weeks later, and it tasted pretty good that first night! It was chicken thighs, assorted veggies, and a sauce made from bottled bbq sauce, orange marmalade, and soy sauce. I am not going to give you the exact recipe, because it wasn't so great after all...

Dino disagreed about its greatness. As soon as he heard the name Orange Chicken, he wasn't too sure about it. He kept saying while it was cooking that he liked oranges, and he liked chicken, but he didn't like them together. We countered back - have you ever had them together? No... Then how do you know you don't like it?

When we served it up in bowls with rice for dinner, he was perturbed that it wasn't orange in color - the sauce was mostly brown, and it was tangy, not just sweet. He stared down that bowl, knowing that he wouldn't get dessert until he had eaten the prescribed amount (2 bites of chicken, and 1 bite of each kind of veggie - a little of everything, so you can really know whether you like it). He ended up not eating it but rather choosing to just go to bed instead! He needed the sleep, so we agreed.

The next day, he asked with a dejected sigh whether I would ever make Orange Chicken again. I told him maybe, but not for quite a while, since I like making different things at different times. Almost every day he asked me the same question until, after a few days of taking it for my lunch at work and getting very tired of it, I finally told him no, I would probably never make it again because I wasn't that crazy about it. He was so relieved!

Cut to last week. He's been very inquisitive about jail lately. He got a police station LEGO building set, complete with a 2-bunk jail cell. He has been asking about why a person would go to jail, and what it is like in jail. While we were trying to convey to him that jail is not a pleasant place, not a place that anyone would want to go, we said that there is nothing to do but chores (cook, clean, pick up trash...), and the food is boring and doesn't taste good. He perked up and asked with a grimace, "Do they serve Orange Chicken??"

10 February 2014

Recipe - Lasagna Soup

I am copying this slow-cooker recipe to my blog here, since pages on news sites tend to be archived after a while and I want to make sure I can get to it when I'm ready to make it!


I will probably use regular pasta sauce instead of the spicy "Arrabiatta" (though Wikipedia says it is supposed to be spelled Arrabbiata), so I left "spicy" out of my post heading.

Also, this was from a spot on the morning news featuring a grocery chain representative, hence all the references to Kroger and thier Private Selection brand.

Spicy Lasagna Soup
Makes 10 to 12 servings.

1-18 oz. pkg. Kroger Sweet Italian Sausage Links (sliced)
1 Green Bell Pepper (small diced)
1 Yellow Onion (small diced)
1-14.5 oz. can Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic
2 cups Private Selection Arrabiatta Tomato Sauce
1-32 oz. pkg.Kroger Simple Truth Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
½ tsp.Kosher Salt
½ -16 oz. bag Private Selection Cavatappi

1-16 oz. pkg.Kroger Ricotta
¼ cup Kroger Deli Wholesome @Home Basil Pesto Sauce
Kroger Shredded Mozzarella

In the bottom of a large crock pot, add in Italian sausage.

Add in bell pepper & onion.

Over top, pour in fire roasted tomatoes, Arrabiatta sauce, & chicken broth.

Season mixture with crushed red pepper & salt. Lightly stir everything together, leaving the sausage at the bottom.

Cover and cook on low setting for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

For the last ½ hour, add in the pasta & cook on high until pasta is tender OR you can cook the pasta separately & add into your soup.

In a small bowl, mix together ricotta & basil pesto.

Serve soup piping hot with a dollop of the ricotta mixture on top & a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella cheese.

Have some of our awesome Kroger Deli Hot French Bread & you have a perfect meal to beat the cold!

26 January 2014

Recipe - Chili Stew

I entered this recipe into my church's Chili Cook-Off tonight! It was the first time I have used chunks of beef instead of ground beef, which I wanted to try after the success of last week's Braised Beef with Rigatoni recipe, and this recipe starts out by searing the beef the same way. Since it uses "stew beef" I am calling this recipe Chili Stew. It is flavorful and colorful, and it has a Mexican flavor with cumin and black beans.

Inspired by this recipe on The Kitchn.

Amy's Chili Stew in the slow cooker, before simmering
Amy's Chili Stew

1 tsp canola or vegetable oil
1.5-2 lb stew beef (trimmed cubes from less expensive cuts, suitable for long/slow cooking)
1 Tbs canola or vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp salt
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne (red pepper)
1 cup hard apple cider (or amber ale)
1 can (14 oz) beef broth or stock
2 cans (14 oz each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 cans (16 oz each) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 cans (4 oz each) diced mild green chiles
Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, crackers, cornbread, chopped green onions, hot sauce, diced avocado, etc...

Warm 1 tsp oil in a large heavy Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat (or you can use a skillet if you will be simmering the chili in a slow cooker). Sear beef cubes, in batches so that the pan is not crowded. Turn each cube at least once, and set aside in a bowl or deep plate when done. You will know that the beef has a nice brown crust and is ready to be turned when it releases easily from the pan. Don't worry about those brown bits sticking to the bottom - they'll be yummy soon!

In the same pot, add 1 Tbs oil and raise the temperature to medium-high. Add the onions and salt, and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and continue to cook until softened, about 5 more minutes. Push the vegetables to the side and cook the garlic in the middle of the pan until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir into the vegetables. It is normal for a dark sticky crust to form on the bottom of the pan.

Add all of the seasonings to the vegetables and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour the cider/beer into the pan, scraping up all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue stirring and scraping until the liquid has almost evaporated.
**If using a slow cooker, transfer the veggies there now.

Add the beef (and juices that may have seeped out) back into the pot, as well as the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook on low for several hours, until the beef is tender (slow cooker: Low for 6-8 hours). Use the back of the spoon to gently break up the meat toward the end of the cooking time.

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, crackers, cornbread, chopped green onions, hot sauce, diced avocado, etc...

Chili is often best the day after it has been cooked. It will also keep for up to a week and freezes well for up to three months. I like to freeze leftovers in individual portions for quick meals later!

22 January 2014

Recipe: Garlic-Parmesan Crescent Rolls

Garlic-Parmesan Crescent Rolls

1 can (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls
Garlic salt
Grated Parmesan cheese

Unroll crescents and separate into triangles. Sprinkle with garlic salt and parmesan. Roll up and top with a bit more garlic salt and parmesan. Bake according to package directions.

Recipe: Braised Beef with Rigatoni

Inspired by this recipe from Today, I made a freezer-to-slow cooker meal that was a big hit with my guys!

Braised Beef with Rigatoni

1.5 lb stew beef (trimmed cubes from less expensive cuts, suitable for long/slow cooking)
2 cans (14 oz each) beef broth
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
8-10 cloves garlic
2 Tbs dried sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped kale or arugula
1 lb rigatoni or your favorite pasta
grated parmesan

Sear beef cubes in a skillet over medium heat, in batches so that the pan is not crowded. Turn each cube once, and set aside when done. You will know when the beef has a nice brown crust and is ready to be turned when it releases easily from the pan. Once all the beef is seared, add one can of beef broth to the hot skillet, scraping up all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomato paste and tomato sauce. Add the beef (and juices that may have seeped out) back into the pan. If freezing for later, skip to footnote**

Transfer to a slow cooker or large lidded pot. Add the second can of beef broth, along with the garlic and sage. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Use the back of the spoon to gently break up the meat and garlic toward the end of the cooking time. Season with a little salt, plenty of pepper, and additional dried sage if desired.

To serve, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, and mix into the sauce with the chopped greens. Plate and top with grated parmesan. I served this with green beans and Garlic-Parmesan Crescent Rolls.

**Let the beef mixture cool completely. Add to a zip-top freezer bag with the garlic and sage. Seal, flatten, and label: "Add 1 can beef broth. Cook on Low 8 hours. Serve with Rigatoni and Parmesan."

16 October 2013


For Dino's 7th birthday, we got him a Bible. Not another Bible storybook (though we have several really good ones) - a real, complete Bible. I have gotten each of my little sisters a Bible when they turned 7, with their name embossed on the front and a zippered cover to protect it when it gets flung around amongst their toys. At 7 years old, they are old enough to read some and to follow along when someone else reads.

The worship service at our church includes everyone together during prayers, announcements, singing, and offering. Before the sermon, they invite the 3-6 year olds to the steps in front of the stage for a children's sermon. This is almost always a condensed version of the preacher's sermon, focusing on the main topic or verse, but in a way they can understand. Then these young children are taken up for children's church, where they will do an activity and talk more about that Sunday's theme while the preacher gives his sermon in the sanctuary.

I absolutely love that this church sees the importance of worshipping as a family. It is important for children to see their parents worship God, to see how the church works, to know the songs and traditions that speak to our hearts. I love that this church also acknowledges that a 7-year-old child has been in school long enough to sit still for another half-hour and follow along with the sermon. He may need a small coloring book and crayons handed over from my church bag at some point if the sermon gets too long and he gets too restless, but I know he is still listening, even if he doesn't yet fully understand.

I have always given the NIV Adventure Bible, because that is what I had as a child, too. Dino loves, just like I did, all the little extras in that publication - highlighted verses, explanations about ancient money and measurements, colorful maps, and insights for the morals of the stories. That first Sunday, he was so excited to sit with us through the whole service, and for me to turn his Bible to the pastor's sermon verses. He got a little frustrated, though, when the pastor skipped around through the long passage, just reading one or two verses at a time then pausing to discuss them - I guess Dino expected him to read straight through and be done!

That week, we had Communion. This church celebrates The Lord's Supper the first Sunday of each quarter. I grew up in a church that served the bread and juice of Communion every Sunday, as a continual reminder of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins each week. "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." (I Cor. 11:26 NIV) "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight." (Acts 20:7 NIV)

The sermon that day was from I Corinthians 11:17-24, on properly revering The Lord's Supper, ensuring that our hearts are right with God before partaking. I am sure Dino has seen Communion in church, but it has probably been a while. He was wide-eyed, asking what was going on. While the elements were being passed out, I read to him quietly from Luke 22 (in his own Bible!), explaining what the bread and juice represent, and talking to him again about Jesus' sacrifice. He was satisfied with the explanation that those who have been baptized are the ones who receive communion.

The next week, in the middle of the sermon, he asked if we would get a snack again! No, not until January... Or Christmas...