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Have you ever spent a bazillion dollars on groceries with no thought whatsoever to menu planning. You go to Wal-Mart or Target and you just troll the aisles in a trance, grabbing things off the shelf and throwing them in the cart. Oh how the those corporate marketing gurus must love it when I do that. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I have exceeded my grocery budget for the next week…month..errr…well anyway. This week I must be creative and cook whatever it is that I purchased. Here we go…
Warning: I’m afraid this week will be dreadfully lacking in the vegetable department. Apparently in my Wal-Mart induced trance, I skipped the produce section.
These beans are so yummy and so flavorful. I usually serve these beans with Jamaican Barbequed Pork Tenderloin. Feel free to go for it, if you aren’t committed to Meatless Monday. As a side-note, I have broiled the tenderloin instead of grilling and it worked great. The Coconut bake is heavenly and quick. It has a wonderful coconut smell, but it doesn’t taste overpowering. Because it doesn’t have to rise as long as a yeastier bread, it is super quick to make.
Notes: The Red Beans are going to be super spicy if you add all the Cayenne and hot sauce. I cut way back on the hot stuff so my kids can eat it! For the bread, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and then turn it off. Cover the bread with plastic wrap and let it rise in the warm oven for 3o min.
To make up for Meatless Monday, I’m going all out with steak today. Ribeye, but you just substitute your favorite cut! If there is anything that can equal my love of bread, it’s french fries. It’s a vegetable, right?
I hate winter. I hate the cold. The only redeeming factor about winter is that I can eat as much soup as I want. I love soup. My kids love soup. I make a lot of soup. This is definitely a favorite.
Notes: For the potato soup, I use at least 2 tsp of salt. For the bread, I used my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook to knead the bread. I also used bread flour and it’s definitely going to take all 7 cups. Definitely cut the french bread into 3 equal portions unless you want ridiculously large loafs. Oh, and I almost forgot, this is the best bread in the whole wide world!
We ate at Steve’s Rib tonight. We used to take my daughter, Lilly, there and tonight we celebrated her 5th year anniversary of going home to be with Jesus. However, if you are looking for a quick meal, try some Cajun Chicken Pasta. Yum.
The sauce on this pasta is ridiculously creamy and delish. Even my pasta-hating husband approves this meal.
- Grilled Chicken Florentine Spaghetti
- Remember that bread from Wednesday? Pop that back in the oven for a few minutes and serve it again!
Notes: You definitely want to add salt and pepper to the pasta sauce. I use white pepper. Grate the parm on a microplane if you have one and it will melt beautifully into the sauce.
You have to make this. Don’t be intimidated by the steps. This meal is sooooo good. Admittedly, I had a little trouble eating something so….green at first. Don’t think about it and just dig in. You won’t regret it!
The perfect Sunday meal.
Five years ago Lilly went to be with Jesus. Five years. I keep picturing tally marks–one set down an eternity to go. How many will there be before I see her again? If I am completely honest, I would have to say that this past year has been difficult. I don’t know if it’s because I was blessed with another beautiful, healthy baby or if it’s because I attended so many funerals for precious little ones last year. Whatever the reason, I have dealt with so much anger, frustration, and doubt that I didn’t have in the beginning. I used to pride myself on being so strong and not struggling with the those “crisis of faith” issues that so many grieving people deal with. Somehow I felt more spiritual, like I had it all figured out. Grief is a strange and powerful emotion. It doesn’t always play by the rules, and those five stages of grief you’ve heard so much about don’t happen in perfect order and you can flow in out of stages year after year. Anyway, I haven’t got it all figured out. All the questions I’ve had this past year remain unanswered. It’s just hard. It just sucks and that’s okay.
Five years seems so significant to me for some reason. The whole tally mark thing, I guess. A specific block of time. So much has happened in the past five years–moves, babies, new church, new friends. So many of the people in my life now didn’t know Lilly, didn’t know us back then. Five years seems to be enough time that people say things to me now that they never would have said to me a few years ago. It’s like people forget. Not that they forget really. They just don’t think about it. Most often these comments have to do with the birth order of my children. Like they will refer to Emory as my “second” child or Archer as “third.” I’m obviously not talking about people who don’t know our story. Truthfully, there are very few people I’m acquainted with who don’t know I have a daughter who passed away since I talk about it openly and probably too frequently for some people.
I often wonder if I should stop publicly marking every anniversary and birthday. I know these are important dates I want to remember and celebrate (if celebration is an appropriate term here), but obviously everyone else is far less attached to these dates. Here is why I continue to do it–to remind my friends of our sweet girl’s life and of our grief, because I don’t want you to forget. I don’t want you to forget that Lilly was my SECOND child, my second daughter. I don’t want you to forget that I have FOUR kids. I don’t want you to forget that while her life was brief, it was brilliant. I don’t want to to forget her, even if you didn’t actually get to meet her. I don’t want you to forget that this is a loss I will carry forever. More than anything, I want to be able to talk about her like I talk about my living children. I want to tell stories about her and I want you to listen, just like I would listen if you were telling me a story about your child. I also continue to mark these occasions for the sake of my other children–for Liberty who knew her and cared for her and for Emory and Archer who know their sister only through our memories.
Today I remember her. I let myself think about all the painful memories from this day five years ago–those memories I keep tucked away so I can breathe. I remember the hospital, the nurses, the smells, the decisions, and the doctors. I remember what it was like to hold her when she took her last breath. I remember the words I said to Liberty when I had to explain that Jesus came to get Lilly. I also remember everything in between. How it was raining the day she was born. How she wanted me to hold her while she slept. How I sat with her in her hospital bed and read to her from my text books. How doctors and nurses were uncharacteristically attached to her. How soft her skin was. How perfect her lips were. How her little body was scarred from surgeries and needles. How much Liberty loved her. How she defied odds. And, how so very much I loved being her mommy.
Thank you for remembering with me. Thank you for letting us share our lives with you and for loving us along the way. This day always carries with it some sadness and if this was all there was to the story, it would be sad indeed. Thankfully, there is so much more.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Have you ever been in a dinner rut? I think if my husband has to eat Creamy Chicken Fettuccine one more time, he might stage a revolt. It is so easy to go to a favorite recipe at the end of a long day when I don’t have the mental or physical energy to come up with a better plan on the fly. That brings me to the point of this post. I shouldn’t be dinner planning “on the fly.” It almost always ends badly. Typically I menu plan 2-3 days in advance, max. By Wednesday or so, I’m out of ideas and…you guessed it…Creamy Chicken Fettuccine…again…tonight. So, in an effort to make my life easier and maybe help my friends out too, I’m going to publish our weekly menu. I’ll include the links to the recipes I use and any notes from my experience making them. I’ll try not to post anything that was terrible, so you can trust you will have a yummy dinner.
- I don’t eat fish (or anything that ever lived in the water). Don’t try to persuade me otherwise. You won’t find seafood on any of my menus. That’s that!
- I don’t make elaborate dinners. You get an entree and a side. One side. And that is a stretch if the entree is ‘all inclusive’ like a soup or casserole.
- I always serve bread. If I forget to mention that in the menu, you can just insert it. I love bread. It is my weakness. It is pure happiness to me. I serve it with every meal. I typically make it myself. French bread, biscuits, rolls, cheese bread, muffins, cornbread, tortillas–I don’t care. If you can put butter on it, it works for me.
- The items on my menu don’t always go together in a chef inspired sense. I am not a chef. I make what I like and what my kids will eat. Sometimes that means crazy sides you don’t typically pair with a particular entree.
- I am a SAHM, so I’m at home to watch bread rise for 2 hours. I am all for quick and easy, but most of the recipes I use take a little time. However, there is typically a Crockpot meal or at least one 30-min meal a week. I also like to prep during the day when babies are sleeping–go ahead and cut up veggies and such when you have time during the day.
- I use A Lot of recipes from Cooks Country. Most of these recipes require you have subscription. I highly recommend it. The online subscription is affordable and well worth the money. You can’t hardly go wrong with their recipes. I know it’s hard to pay for recipes when there are some many online for free. Just do it. You won’t regret it!
- My daughter is Gluten-Free, so all my dinner menus can be made substituting GF ingredients. Except the bread. She just doesn’t eat it. I eat it.
- I’ll post all my menus a week behind. Meaning, I will have already made everything on the current menu a week prior.
I try to make at least one meatless meal a week. The husband thinks this is worse than a Medieval torture device. These meals typically combine the two things he loathes the most about a dinner menu: no meat and pasta! To satisfy his barbarian ways, sometimes I will use just a little tiny bit of meat. I consider this a big time Meatless (or almost meatless) Monday score. Not pasta and 1 chicken breast to split between 5 people. If your hubby is less of a caveman, skip the chicken! Avocado. Need I say more?
- Skirt steak with Paprika Butter
- Potatoes Romanoff – This is a great alternative to mashed potatoes. It is easy and heavenly!
Slow Cooker Wednesday
On Wednesday dinner needs to be on the table at 5:00 p.m. so we can eat and be at church by 6:15. This can be tricky if something goes awry in our day or we have errands to run. Slow Cooker meals are perfect for us on Wed. and ensures my family gets a good meal and we don’t run the risk of hitting a drive-thru on the way to church because we ran out of time! I’m not going to lie, we ate at Chick-fil-a this week. Don’t judge.
- Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff (I serve this over brown rice instead of egg noodles
- Easy Crescent Rolls – they really are easy and buttery and wonderful in every way.
- Brown Rice
These are amazing and a perfect alternative to dragging out the grill!
- Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas
- Flour Tortillas Obviously you can use store-bought tortillas here (gasp). When I do buy instead of make (please don’t tell anyone) my favorite are the Mission Homestyle)
- Corn tortillas (for the GF one)
I make this a lot because it is soooo good. I love it. My kids love it. My husband tolerates it because he would starve otherwise. Seriously, this has replaced traditional Chicken Alfredo for us. You must serve this hot. Don’t let it sit on the stove. Also, this is my go-to bread recipe. I use it most often because it truly is one of the quickest ways to have fresh french-like bread.
We almost always eat out on Saturday because we attend the Sat. evening service at our church. Tonight it was Hideaway Pizza. Liberty’s choice because she was baptized and the fam was in town to celebrate the occasion.
Oh, I loathe cooking on Sunday. I just want to sit in the sun and read a book and have someone bring me food and maybe a Strawberry Daiquiri. Is that too much to ask? Unfortunately, I do not live on a beach in Jamaica, so we need something quick and easy.
Happy Menu Planning!
This week I attended a funeral for a 23-month-old baby. It’s the second funeral for a child I have attended in as many months and the fifth in as many years. Because God has called me to a ministry that brings me in contact with hurting families all time, I often contemplate and question God’s purpose for all the suffering I see. I have grown and learned so much about His goodness and grace throughout the years and I am constantly reminded (because God spends A LOT of time reassuring me and reaffirming my ever-wavering faith) that this journey we are all on is temporary, but there are eternal lessons God needs us to learn now.
On my way home from this precious boy’s funeral I heard the song Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle. In church the next day, we sang it again and our pastor preached on this brokeness. I knew it was God’s way of reminding me (because He has to do this again and again) why some of us seem to the called to suffering. I love this song. It is one of my favorites. It talks about be broken for Christ–coming to the end of yourself and finding Christ. Sweetly broken seems to be a contradiction. There typically isn’t anything sweet about being broken. But, when God does the breaking in order to draw us to Him, His Love, Grace, and Mercy are nothing but sweet.
God wants us to need Him. To know Him. To trust Him unconditionally. To love Him. To depend on Him so completely we cannot take a breath or a step without Him. Our human nature resists this. We want to rely on ourselves, to trust in others, and to love material things. Sometimes we must be “sweetly broken” in order to see ourselves as we truly are–utterly and completely dependent on Christ.
I cannot think of a sweeter way to break a mother’s, father’s, brother’s, sister’s, grandparents, or friends heart for Christ than through caring for and loving a special-needs child. God knows what He is doing when he places these amazingly wonderful children in the lives of people He loves. There is nothing sweeter and more heartbreaking than loving one of His special creations. He knows it is not possible to care for these children in your own strength. The weight of it will crush you and bring you straight to your knees–that’s the broken part. The sweet part is when you get to this place of brokeness, Jesus is there to take the weight and give you hope.
I am quite certain I could never fully understand the sacrifice God made when He sent His only Son, Jesus, to the cross until I held my own child in my arms as she was dying. In the book Heaven if for Real, Todd Burpo writes,
The scripture says that as Jesus gave up his spirit, as he sagged there, lifeless on that Roman cross, God the Father turned his back. I am convinced that he did that because if he had kept on watching, he couldn’t have gone through with it.
Could you? I spent over a year pleading with God for the life of my child. I cannot for one second conceive of sending her to her death willingly. This folks is why God calls some of us to suffering. He made the ultimate sacrifice and Jesus paid the ultimate price. He did so because he loves us and he will do whatever it takes to draw us to himself. There are countless ways he could do this, any number of situations and scenarios that would lead us to him, but sometimes he uses these special little people to break us for him.
God did not give us the ability to see the “big picture.” So often all the suffering seems pointless and cruel. I don’t understand it all and I cannot comprehend how all the suffering fits into his plan. All I can do is trust in the promises his has given us.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. Matthew 5:3
When I was a girl, I remember my mom making fried potatoes and onions. Likewise, my husband remembers his grandmother making something he calls “German Potatoes.” Both of these childhood memories include diced potatoes fried in a shallow skillet. The potatoes came out crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Over the years, we have attempted to duplicate these recipes on many occasions and have always met with disaster. The potatoes would fall apart and stick to the bottom of the skillet and burn or the outside would cook and the inside wouldn’t. Or worst of all, it would be a just a giant pile of grease soaked potatoes.
So, I was super excited when I came across a recipe in one of my magazines that suggested frying the potatoes in heavy cream. This seemed exciting and the simplicity of the recipe was rather intriguing. Always up for a challenge in the kitchen and a new way to cook the beloved potato, I dove right in. The first attempt was an utter failure. Again, the potatoes did not crisp and ended up scorched and stuck to the bottom of the pan. Unwilling to give up on this recipe, I gave it another go. The second round was perfect and perhaps the closest we’ve ever come to duplicating the childhood favorites.
This recipe isn’t for you low-fat, low-carb, calorie counting people. If you don’t fear the fat, here is the recipe and what I learned.
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch pieces. The original recipe calls for Yukon Gold, but I used russet. Primarily because they are easier to come by. I will never grow Yukon Gold in my garden so they just don’t really make sense for me. I say use whatever you have!
1 Cup Heavy Cream
Salt and Pepper.
1. Bring potatoes, cream, and 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt to boil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until nearly tender, about 10 min. A non-stick skillet is a MUST here. If you don’t have a 12-inch non-stick skillet, you can use one smaller. Just use fewer potatoes and less cream. Make sure the potatoes are in a single layer on the bottom of the skillet and that the cream just barely covers the top of the potatoes. It’s also important the potatoes are all relatively the same size so they cook evenly.
2. Remove lid, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and potatoes are well browned, 15 to 20 minutes. This is the tricky part. As the cream reduces, it will begin to separate. The milk solids will stick to the potatoes and the fat will settle on the bottom and crisp the potatoes. If you stir too much the fat will come to the top and the potatoes will not crisp. I really don’t “stir” the potatoes. Instead, I use a spatula to sort of shuffle them around. The less you mess with them, the better! The result is a crispy potatoes with a heavenly creamy texture. Also, if you reach the 20 min mark and they still haven’t browned, don’t be tempted to turn up the heat. Give’um another few minutes. It’s worth the extra time.
Since heavy cream and potatoes are a staple in my house, this recipe became and immediate favorite! Who wouldn’t love something fried in cream?! Don’t worry, Scott had his heart scanned a few weeks ago and he is A ok. No clogged arteries–bring on the cream!
A month or so ago, Scott decided he was going to try his hand at homemade tortillas. The kids and I were out of town and that’s the type of stuff he does while we are away…that and eat at restaurants I refuse to frequent. Surprisingly, for something so simple to make, there are many variations. He tested two that weekend, both of which came out good.
Since I do most of the cooking, I decided to give the tortillas a go and found they are unbelievably easy to make. So maybe your family doesn’t eat as many tortillas as we do, but you definitely need to make these!! First of all, they taste about a million times better than the store bought version. Second, have you ever looked at the ingredient list on a package of store bought tortillas? It’s scary folks! Good tortillas only need 5 ingredients!
I found the original recipe at http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/05/homemade-flour-tortillas/, but after making them several times, I have streamlined the process to make it faster and easier. Now there really isn’t an excuse for make these yummy tortillas yourself! So here ya go…
- 2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
- 2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1/2 cup Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
- 2 Tablespoons (additional) Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
- 1 cup Hot Water
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, get one! I have an 11 cup Cuisnart Food Processor that is possible the most divine piece of equipment in my kitchen. If you can’t afford that one (in one of the most spectacular moments of my life, I picked my barely used Cuisnart up at a yard sale for $5) just get the best one you can afford. Seriously, you won’t regret it! You can also do this the “hard” way by combining ingredients in a bowl.
Turn food processor on and add spoonfuls of lard or shortening (use 1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons) The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour hot water into food processor until mixture comes together and forms a chesive ball of dough. Leave dough in food processor covered and let dough rest for at least an hour. I have on occasion not waited the entire hour and had no problems.
Using a small cookie scoop, scoop dough and place on wax paper or roll into ping pong size balls, place on a tray, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to make the tortillas, heat a skillet or griddle to medium/medium-high heat. One by one, roll out balls of dough until very, very thin. Throw tortillas (one by one) onto the griddle. Cook on each side for 20 to 30 seconds, removing while tortillas are still soft but slightly brown in spots. Remove and stack tortillas, and cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing tortillas in a container. Rolling out the tortillas is a process and frankly I’m not one for taking on projects with a steep learning curve. Buy a tortilla press. Seriously, I got mine for $14 and its worth every penny. Again, we eat alot of tortillas around here. Maybe you won’t mind rolling them out.
You can blame it on my obsession with Gone with the Wind and the romantic notion of sweeping plantations and Jane Austen and her depiction of country cottages and sprawling estates. A proper place needs a name. If nothing else it satisfies my longing for the decency, decorum, an propriety of days gone by.
We named our little piece of land Lillyfield for two reasons. The previous owner (who passed away this past Christmas) spent nearly 40 years on that land. With the exception of the massive oak trees, every tree, bush and flower on the lot was planted by him and his family. Among the trees and plants, he planted hundreds of orange lilies along the back of the property and even built a garden dedicated solely to these beautiful flowers. Naturally, it seemed fitting to take this into consideration when naming our property. Our middle daughter is also named Lilly. She died 4 years ago at the age of 20 months. It is a perfect memorial to our sweet girl who is no longer with us.
The name Lillyfield reminds us of the past and honors our daughter. We are blessed to call it our own.
A couple of years ago my husband and I watched a food documentary that scared us out of our minds. That night I vowed never to eat another chicken nugget, drink another can of soda, or purchase anything from a grocery store. It was going to be all about farming and farmer’s markets, effective immediately! The next morning as the horrific images of CAFO’s and GMO food faded, I realized my expectations for change were perhaps a bit drastic. Nonetheless, the seeds of change were planted that night. Over the course of the next months, those seeds were nurtured by more research about our current food chain as well as how we interact with our environment. The idea of a more sustainable, healthy way of life was very appealing to us. We put all of our spare time and energy into researching–reading and gathering information on all sorts of topics related food, food production, farming practices, and environmental issues related to those things. Researching–we are good at. We thrive on endless internet and magazine articles, documentaries, and YouTube videos.
Armed with all of our newfound knowledge, we began going to farmer’s markets and paying closer attention to things we purchased in the stores. We loved buying local and having the assurance that the food we were consuming wasn’t slowly poisoning us to death. However, the idea of growing our own food didn’t really happen immediately. For starters we were living in a two bedroom rent house, on a tiny lot, in the middle of town. A small garden didn’t even occur to us, much less farming and all that entails. We had recently purchased a 3/4 acre lot on the outskirts of town and construction on our new house was set to begin soon. Over the course of the next year, as our house was being built, we began to envision a small vegetable garden, flowers, and a yard full of soft green grass. Over the past few months, that vision has turned into something much grander. What if we could produce enough food to feed our family of 5?
That’s where we are today–embarking on journey to turn our urban plot of land into a Micro Farm. Unlike my well-intentioned, over zealous proclamations early in this endeavor, my husband and I both know we can’t make this happen overnight. Inevitably, it will be a process filled with many trials, triumphs, and more than few laughs.
It is safe to say our sweet boy has had a rough month. He was admitted to Baptist again on March 4 for fever and respiratory distress. A wicked virus topped with pnuemonia lead to acute respiratory failure. He was on the ventilator for 5 days and in the hospital a total of 9 days. Overall, I think he recovered quite quickly, but it was really scary and exhuasting for all of us. We are unsure why he seems to be so susceptible to respiratory illnesses. Even now he is still wheezing.
|First day on the ventilator|
His illnesses haven’t kept him from growing though. Archer is now 13lbs 10 oz and 24.2 in long! Everyone keeps telling me how big he is, but really he is just average–50th percentile in both length and weight. He is exclusively wearing 3-6 months clothes. I can’t wait to see those chubby little legs in shorts!
|His little eyebrows turn red when he is excited or upset|
Archer is the happiest little baby ever. He has the sweetest personality and is quick to smile and even giggle now and then. Last night at dinner, Scott was talking and he literally burst out laughing. It caught all of us by surprise, espcially Scott, who hadn’t heard him laugh yet. Soooooo cute.
He likes being held a lot. Being in the hospital hasn’t helped with this and neither has the fact that I just like holding him. He does tend to get fussy if left alone for too long. Good thing he has so many people around who just love to entertain him.
His favorite activity right now is sucking on his hands. His loves his binky, but when its not available, his hands will usually do the trick. He’s very excited to have enough control over his arms to get them to his mouth at will ;).
My favorite thing about him is this sweet smile. His whole face lights up when he smiles. It’s just the best.