Friday, December 12, 2014

Tried and True Recipes

I can't remember if I have shared about this on my blog or not.  But it's what I'm working on now, so I wanted to write a post about it.  I realized some time back that I was completely ignoring my recipe collection and recipe books.  Without thinking about it, I had come to rely on online resources only for my recipe sources.  Once I realized I was doing this, it really made me miss the days when I would grab a recipe book or two and pen and just sit down and take some time to go through and find new things to try and plan menus.  When I was a young wife, I used to do this all the time.  There were only a few spots online back then that I could get recipes from.  98% of my recipes came from books, newspaper or magazine clippings and hand written recipe cards shared from other cooks.  

Then along came all the choices the internet eventually brought and....Pinterest.  Oh my, Pinterest.  It's kind of a recipe wonder land, isn't it?  But I wasn't happy when I realized that my recipe collection that I had literally worked painstakingly on over many years to compile was never getting used.  This really gave me the push I needed to set aside all the internet recipe sources and get back to my real, tangible collection sitting right there on the shelf.  I've also been slowly over the last few weeks taking the recipes I have tried from online sources and know I want to keep and copying them out by hand on recipe cards for my recipe box.  I also compiled a lot of our favorites from different books and websites and copied them off and put them in a binder.  I have several binders from years ago as well.  Right now between the new binder and my recipe box I have all of my "go to" and "must have" recipes all together for easy access.  

I'm sure I'll still find new recipes to try online, but if we like them - I'm going to write them down and get them put into my collection instead of trying to just remember which website it was at and attempting to look it back up every time I want to make it in the future.  

So in this spirit, I'll share two of our favorite recipes for this time of year.  These are two soups that I will be making this weekend.

Taco Soup
This is a very simple, very quick convenience type of meal.  My family loves it.  I always serve it with rice for them to mix in if they choose.

1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (4 oz.) can green chilies
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 envelope ranch dressing mix
1 lb. ground beef

Cook and drain ground beef.  Add in all the ingredients to the crock pot.  Do not drain the cans.  Cook on high 2 hours or on low 4-5 hours.

Butternut Squash Soup
There is some disagreement among my friends and family as to if this should be qualified as a soup or a dip, because it is very thick.  To me, it's a soup.  Others have felt it's more of a dip because of it's thick consistency.  (Which you could easily thin out if you chose to do so.)  But regardless of which it is, I do always serve it with plenty of crackers or a crusty bread for dipping.  It's truly addictive!
 
6 Tbls onion 
4 Tbls butter
3 C. water
4 cubes chicken bouillon
(I prefer to use real chicken stock, but this is the original recipe as I received it.)
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
black pepper
cayenne pepper

First cook your squash.  I always half them down the middle, drizzle the cut side with olive oil and a bit of salt then bake with cut side down.  Once done, scoop out the flesh with a spoon and discard the skin.  Saute your onion in the butter.  Then add the squash, water, bouillon and peppers to taste.  Place this mixture (still warm) into a blender or food processor with the cream cheese.  Blend/process until smooth and creamy.  Return to the saucepan to make sure it is heated through, but do not bring to a boil.  Serve immediately.

What recipes do you enjoy this time of year?

Prayer works

Hello my friends.  I'm sorry I've been absent - again.  The week before Thanksgiving we found out that one of our beloved dogs had cancer and that there wasn't anything that could be done.  We had to say goodbye to her.  She was such a sweet, sweet girl and we are still feeling the loss every day.  Then day after Thanksgiving my husband took extremely ill and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital.  He ended up having emergency surgery.  Logically, I understand that we came very close to losing him.  If we had put off medical intervention another couple of hours, it is quite possible we would have lost him.  Emotionally, I have not connected to that fact at all.  It's like I know it, I look at it from different angles...but I can't allow myself to get close to it.  But ~ praise the Lord - in the most literal sense ~ he got the help he needed in time and he is fine.  He's still in the recovery phase of things, but he is doing well and has been healing perfectly.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord was with us that night and the following day.  His hand was on everything, even before we knew things were serious.  Our lives can change in the blink of an eye and, "as a vapor," can become very real, very fast.

Due to his close call and a few other things in life, we find ourselves heading into a time of reduced circumstances.  But ~ that is life, yes?  Our Christmas this year is about our family being together and not anything under the tree.  I have to say I'm very proud at how our kids are dealing with it all.  They haven't been the least bit phased by a gift-less Christmas.  They understand everything happening and have had nothing but pleasant attitudes all the way around.  That does make things so much easier.

Needless to say, I've been doing some heavy praying about many things lately.  I had the realization a couple of days ago that nothing had changed in our circumstances...but I was starting to feel so much better about them!  

I had prayed for our situation to change but I think God helped me to instead feel better about our situation.  I truly believe that.  Many times have I been reminded of Philippians 4:11-13.
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I think this is something we all have to be reminded of from time to time and have it be a lesson to learn again.  
So in closing I will say that ~ sometimes life isn't easy.  
And that's ok. 
It may be a daily challenge to keep our chin up and keep going.
But we can do it.
That is what life is about.
Let's try to embrace our difficult times as well as our easier times, because we are called to be content in both.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Household Update

Things here have been....ok-ish.  Sort of.  Our daughter remains stable but I'm getting a bit nervous because the past week it seems her symptoms are wanting to flair again.  But she has been doing ok.  What we have been dealing with recently is not so much her illnesses but the effect they are having on her life.  She is at an age where her friends are flying the coop and starting their lives and she is not in a position to do so.  We've had to change some of our goals for her.  It was for the better and was even a welcome thing to her.  But still.  I have to admit it breaks my heart to see my child not be able to navigate this life on an easier, more ordinary path.  I may or may not have had a day this past week where I closed myself up for the day and gave into my broken mother's heart and cried the whole day.  It seems now days that even when I'm happy and having a good day, I'll tear up without even knowing it's fixing to happen.  I find that I cry even when I'm happy.  It's a problem.
 
One day at a time. 
 
We take that mantra seriously around here.
 
Other than that, I realized yesterday that I have completely fallen off of the 'clear out the deep freezers' wagon and that we seem to be eating down and refilling the same top third of our main one over and over again.  Sigh.  Life happened.  I'm honestly not in the frame of mind right now to try and rectify that situation.  But my mind is starting to formulate it's yearly plan to make sure the pantry is well stocked for the cold weather months.  I think either a trip to Sam's or a big mega trip to Aldi's may be in my future.
 
Other than that, today I decided to dress up a couple of jars of store bought spaghetti sauce and it's simmering away in the crock pot right now.  We'll have it with spaghetti, garlic bread and probably some green beans.  Oh ~ and I'm planning to indulge with this super quick and easy recipe for dessert.  I asked my daughter if she thought it seemed like a good idea and, being a chocolate loving female like myself, of course the answer was yes.
 
In other kind of aggravating news, it seems that God keeps sending me kittens.  Lol.  Ugh.  We have the trio we adopted two years ago and their mom that we finally tamed and brought in last winter during the Polar Vortex.  Well now is seems two nieces of the trio have come our way.  Our neighborhood has a serious issue with wild and very fertile cats.  ~  Get your animals fixed folks.  And don't just dump ones you don't want. Be responsible.  It's not rocket science.   ~ When that happens there are lots of folks like me and my family left trying to make right a problem that is so much bigger than what we can fix.
 
I did a little shopping at Goodwill recently and found a really nice, name brand, rather expensive if bought retail purse.  New, tags still on it.  ~  For.....$9.99.  Yep, that's what I like.  It's a red oxblood color and I've decided it's going to be my Fall purse.  Just waiting for October to come and I'm going to switch over to it.
 
That's all I have for now.  I just wanted to touch base a bit.  I hope you are all well and happy.  ((Hugs)) to you from me.  ~~

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm still here...

Hello all. ~~
 
I'm still here.  Thank you so much for all the sweet comments during my absence.  We had to regroup in some ways.  Our daughter did suffer a bit of a setback and it shook her confidence.  We spent a very long time in recovery mode.  We've changed the way we do some things.  We even had her take a full month off from school - with her doctor's blessing. 
 
Recovery.
 
Finding the center again when it can look different than it did before.
 
 
We are ok now.  She is ok.  I think her confidence in her body, her mind, even her medications is still shaken ~ but that is a normal reaction for someone in her situation.  But for now, she is medically stable and that is a blessing. 
 
You know, I am pretty good about not having a "why me" attitude about life.  I truly see troubles and trials as part of our process here and I don't see any of us as being somehow above that.  It's not too difficult for me to not have thoughts of "this isn't fair," and things like that.  Maintaining this mindset has been for me...fairly easy throughout my life.  It's not ever been too difficult for me to know that if I'm suffering in some way...that is just life.  It has it's highs and lows, it's good and bad.
 
But. 
 
I have learned over the past few years that it can be a bit more difficult to maintain my grasp on that attitude when it's my child who is the one who is suffering instead of me.  I'm not proud of it, but on occasion through this, I have had my thoughts of "this is not fair," and "why her?"  She is such a good and beautiful soul and this world is a better place with her in it.  So why must her plate be so full that she has to spend all of her time simply balancing the things that are on them and not contributing to the world in the ways that she wants to? 
 
Deep breath.
 
Regroup.
 
Shove out those thoughts.  There isn't any room for them.
 
We take it one day at a time around here.  We have learned that is best.
 
Thank you for hanging in here with me.  I do appreciate it. 
 
We are ok ~ and I will try to write more here soon.
 
Hugs from me to you. ~~

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Difficulties

I know some of you are waiting for my next installment of the pantry series and I will try to get that up next week.  Our family had a pretty big upset last week.  Our daughter's health took a very fast and drastic few steps backwards on Friday morning.  It was a rough weekend.  But we got through it and so did she.  I am purposely keeping everything very calm and low key right now and there is a lot of rest on our agenda.  It is needed physically, emotionally and mentally for all of us.  So I'll try to get back to regular posting next week.  But for now, I'm am just cultivating some quiet.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What we learned when we had to live out of our pantry - Part 1

I recently asked if anyone would like to read an account of the time we had to live exclusively out of our pantry with no shopping.  There was interest and I was asked to post, so I'll do that now.  I have to admit, it's a bit daunting to try and compress several months of our life - some of the hardest months we've been through - down into a blog post.  But I will do my best. 
 
In 2005/2006 my husband became self employed.  I very quickly learned that the figure of speech, "feast or famine" was very much truth for those who are self employed.  I knew this would effect our kitchen more than anything.  So I talked it over with DH and we agreed to start pantry stocking in earnest during the "feast" times in order to better weather the "famine" times.  We stocked up and planned and worked and brainstormed and stocked up some more where our pantry was concerned.  We had one small deep freezer we had been given when we got married and a large one that had belonged to my parents.  When we started pantry stocking we purchased another large one at an auction for $40.  So we had 2 large freezers and 1 small one.  We worked hard to get them filled up.  We took a spare bedroom and added a couple of shelving units to it.  This soon became known as our "food room."  I added about 4 tall bookcases along the wall down our hall.  I purchased used icing (so they were food grade) buckets from the Walmart bakery for $1 a piece.  All I had to do was clean them.  (I'll talk about how to properly clean these buckets in another post.)  We shopped at Sams and Save A Lot.....a lot, lol.  I followed sales and deals and loss leaders.
 
We did this for two years. 
And then....the bottom just fell out of the economy.  Since my husband worked on a contract basis, he was the first to be let go.  But not only was he let go, but every single contractor in the city where he works in his field was let go.  This was late 2008, early 2009.  It's not that he just couldn't find a job - there simply were no jobs.  At all.  At that point, the recruiters that work in the city where DH works had every single one of their contractors out of work.  It was crazy. 
 
We immediately got rid of anything we could think of that was "extra."  Cable tv - gone.  (Still don't have that by the way, lol.)  Cell phones - gone.  Anything we could cut, we cut.  We didn't have a lot of frivolous bills to begin with, so the list of things cut was kind of small.  Luckily, our debt was very small as well.  There were not any credit cards to deal with.  The only thing we kept was our internet because without that, my husband wouldn't be able to get his next job.  It's a requirement for what he does.
 
So.  There we were with no job and no job prospects any time soon.  So let's talk about how our pantry and all the other stocking up really saved us.   We did not shop in any store at all from January - April.  (2009)  Then from May - December, we had to be so careful and watch every penny and we still had plenty of weeks where there simply was not enough money to go around.  (DH was working again by the end of the year, but it started out slow - part time hours.  He wasn't able to pull full time hours again until the beginning of the next year.)  As I said the other day, on my husband's last day of work, he came home with two huge boxes.  I had no idea what they were and they turned out to be toilet paper.  He had stopped at Sam's on his way home and spent $40 getting two of the biggest boxes they sell.  It wasn't the softest or the nicest tp, but we didn't care.  It worked and that's what mattered.  I already had us very stocked up on bathroom products.  Shampoos, conditioner, soap, shower gel, deodorant, q-tips, feminine products - you name it, I had been working on stocking it for 2 years.  Then the two huge boxes of tp he came home with, put our bathroom supplies over the top.  We did not run out of any of these items.  So they go on the "did well" side of the list.
 
Now, my method for stocking these things.  We weren't brand loyal.  If I found a soap or shampoo or what have you at Big Lots for .75 or .99, I bought it and it got put into our supply and rotation.  I even found some soaps and products at a dollar store called "N.B." This literally stood for "No Brand," lol.  They worked fine, smelled fine and even came in pretty packaging as well.  So I was not picky about brands.  Honestly, I had a motto of, "Buy it cheap and stack it deep."  And...it worked.
 
  Another note about feminine products.  Not to be tmi, but we're all ladies here.  First of all, if you keep your eyes open on Ebay, sometimes you can come across amazing deals there for these products.  I scored two huge boxes of feminine products that contained 500 in each box.  If memory serves me (it has been a few years) I think I paid less than $50 for both boxes.  I also did one other thing - and I know this isn't for everyone but it will be fine with others.  Keep what you like and ignore the rest.  I started purchasing, slowly over time, cloth pads off of Ebay.  Now, this was several years ago and honestly, they were cheaper then than they are now.  I found an Ebay seller who, at the time, would sell cloth pads for only $1 a piece in lots of 2 or 3.  I made a few purchases from her and some others I found here and there who had a good price and managed to get a decent sized stock of cloth pads.  So, no matter what - come what may, I knew that I had enough of these products in one form or another to serve me and my daughter for an extremely long time. 

Also along these lines ~ washing clothes.  I learned how to make my own clothing detergent years ago.  My normal method of keeping clothing detergent stocked up was to purchase whatever detergent I want/need at the time and can afford plus also always stay stocked up on Zote, Borax, and Washing Soda.  That way, if need be, I could make the switch over the "homemade" detergent without any issues.  We certainly did need to make the switch pretty quickly.  But since I had plenty of homemade detergent ingredients on hand and the amount of these ingredients needed to make a HUGE batch of gel detergent is so small, I had no problems in this department.  So this can go on the "did well" side too.
 
Ok, I'll need to stop here and split this into several posts over the next few days.  Otherwise, it will just be waaaaay too long and I'm afraid it will be too much for you to wade through at once.  So this was how we came to where we were and how I approached stocking up the bathroom products.  Tomorrow I'll start talking about food items. 
 


Saturday, March 22, 2014

New Easter pretties

Ok, I promise I'm not writing this it plug Yankee Candle, lol.  I just happen to love them and it's something that I let myself splurge on 2 or 3 times a year.  They have got so
many absolutely precious things out right now for Easter.  And considering how bad my spring fever is right now, anything Easter related is a good thing in my book!
 
I found out a week ago that they had put out a limited edition Peeps candle.  Now, the thing is, we adore Peeps in this house, lol.  My daughter loves them and they've just always been a thing for us.  So last week my daughter and I made a special trip to Yankee Candle just so both of us could get one of the Peeps candles.  :0)
 
 
How.  Cute.  And the scent has a good "throw" too.  It smells just like Peeps and my daughter told me last night that she can smell it in her room even with the candle unburned and with the lid still on.
 
They also had a Bunny Cake Candle.  Adorable.  You know the bunny coconut cakes you can buy at the grocery store each Easter?  Yes, that.  And it smells just like the cake. 
 
 
This morning I went to their website....(to gander a bit more at that bunny cake candle, lol) and found that they have online and in their catalog only ~ both a Chocolate Bunnies candle and a White Chocolate Bunnies candle.  Now, you can't get more Springtime and Easter than that, lol.