Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Soft Sandwich Rolls

I've really been trying to make as much from scratch as I can. I needed some sandwich rolls to use in making some chicken sandwiches, so I came up with this recipe. They turned out soft and delicious. You do need to plan ahead with this recipe, because it requires two risings.

Here's what you need:

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 TBSP honey
2 1/2 teas yeast
2 TBSP olive oil
3 cups flour (I used half white, half wheat)
1 teas salt

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the honey in the warm water. Stir in the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes. It will bubble up and smell yeasty. Shocker, huh? Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Knead until the dough forms a ball, about 5 minutes. I use the Kitchenaid for this, but you can do it by hand. Cover and set in a warm place to rise until double in size, about an hour.

I can't believe I waited until the dough rose to take pictures! Anyway, divide the dough into eight pieces. Roll each into a ball, then flatten into ovals with your hand. Place on greased baking sheets.

Cover and let rise until doubled in size.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. I brushed mine with a little butter after taking them from the oven.

These were really tender and tasty! They would be perfect for hamburger or hotdog buns. Just divide into smaller pieces and shape accordingly. This recipe would probably yield 12 buns.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The secret to juicy hamburgers

Hubby bought a book on grilling a few weeks ago and has treated us to some fabulous dinners as a result. This weekend we tried blue cheese burgers. Yum!

But the simplest thing he's learned about grilling hamburgers is to add water when mixing them up. For each pound of ground beef, add 2-3 TBSP of ice cold water. And season them lightly with a little salt and pepper. You don't need fancy seasoning blends that are expensive. Just salt and pepper. We've tried this method several times, and each time, the burgers were fabulously juicy!

We use ground chuck or regular ground beef. Lean ground beef will leave you with dry burgers because of the lower fat content. And be sure not to overcook them. You want the burgers to be done, of course. But depending on the thickness of your patties, cook for 5-7 minutes per side. You don't want charcoal burgers!

Happy Grilling!

For more great tips on everything from laundry to Easter crafts to homework, visit Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dino fun

This is what you get when you take my husband, add some Legos, a dinosaur diorama and a dinosaur digging kit.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - March 28 - April 3

The last few days of March are upon us. As the old saying goes, In like a lion, out like a lamb. Our weather at the beginning of the month was cold, rainy and dreary. This week the temps are supposed to be close to 80 degrees with several sunny days. Yay! I've been fighting allergies all weekend and could use some sunshine to cheer me up!

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Chicken nuggets, rice
(I used crushed pretzels in place of bread crumbs, and the kids loved it! The pretzels added a nice crunch. Give it a try!)

Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Bacon Chicken Sandwiches, Southwestern lentil salad

Beef and potato pockets, seasoned corn

Grilled brats & veggies served with flatbread

Spaghetti and meatballs

Pizza and cheesy garlic breadsticks

For more menu planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Mondays.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

WVU Mountaineers - Final Four Bound!

Just wanted to give a shout-out to my Mountaineers for reaching the Final Four in the NCAA Basketball Tourney by beating the Kentucky Wildcats!

March Madness at its best!

I want to be like Mommy!

Click on the image to enlarge.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Follow!

Can you believe it's the last Friday in March? This year is flying by! It's been so much fun finding new blogs and meeting new friends through Friday Follow. Why don't you join in?

This week's sponsor, Toothsoap, is giving away three $100 cash prizes! So you've got even more motivation to hop in!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Frugal Friday - displaying artwork

I have to give credit to my husband for this idea. Let me give you a little backstory.

Our daughter loves to draw and color pictures of princesses. And horses. Oh, and dinosaurs, too. Not only that, she loves to tape said pictures to the wall. The wall of her bedroom. The wall of the playroom. Basically, any blank surface is fair game to her. But the tape sometimes rips the pictures and, more disastrously to my husband, can pull paint off the walls.

So he came up with a clever, frugal way to let her display her artwork and save the walls at the same time. Not to mention the money we will save on tape!


He nailed a clipboard to the wall and lets her change out her creations at will. We found a pack of 6 recycled clipboards at Sam's Club for less than $5.

Here's a sample of her artwork for school:

And her impression of a spring flower:

It's so cute watching her decide which piece of artwork gets displayed. And not to fear, we have some clipboards for Mr. Lego to use, too. If we can keep the Princess from commandeering them first.

For more frugal ideas, visit Life as Mom's Frugal Fridays.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Make your own taco sauce

One of my New Year's goals was to make more things from scratch instead of buying prepackaged and canned foods. I've been searching the internet for recipes for crackers, sauces, condiments, you name it.

I found several recipes for homemade taco sauce and combined them to create my own blend. It's so simple and frugal that I had to share it with you.

Here's what you need:

8-oz can tomato sauce
2 teas dried minced onion
1 teas cumin
1/2 teas chili powder
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/4 teas salt

In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients together until well-blended. Let sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight -the longer, the better. This will keep in the fridge for a week or so.

Adjust the seasonings to your family's tastes. This one is rather mild, but a teaspoon more of chili powder would kick it up a notch. Enjoy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cheap taco or burrito filling

We've been making an effort around here to cut back on eating meat. It saves on the grocery bill, plus it's healthier. I've done a bit of research and found that lentils provide a great deal of protein and nutrition and are an easy substitution for meat-based dishes.

After some trial and error, I've come up with a cheap, easy way to replace ground beef in tacos and burritos. This is what works for my family. It's very easy to adjust the spices to your family's tastes.

Here's my recipe:

1/2 cup lentils
1/4 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 teas cumin
1 teas chili powder
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas onion powder
salt to taste

I dump all this in my rice cooker and use the brown rice setting. I just love my rice cooker! It is so convenient to push a button and get perfectly cooked rice without hovering over the stove.

If you don't have a rice cooker, cook the rice, lentils, and seasonings on the stovetop according to the directions on the brown rice package. It should take about 40 minutes.

I can get enough filling for 8 burritos or 10 tacos with this recipe. It's easy to double or triple it if you need to feed a crowd. If this isn't spicy enough for you, add more chili powder or a dash of hot sauce. It costs about 1/4 the price of a pound of ground beef to make this lentil filling. A 75% savings is hard to beat!

You can also freeze the filling to use later. Simply place it in a freezer bag and seal. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat when needed.

For more helpful tips, head over to Works for Me Wednesdays at We are THAT Family. And visit Life as Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap for more recipes using lentils.

Mocha Punch

This weekend I attended a bridal shower for a friend from church. I helped with the decorations, too. It's a girl, in case you couldn't tell!

My favorite part was the punch! It was mocha. Whoever heard of mocha punch? Oh my word, if you like mocha, you HAVE to try this at your next gathering. It is delicious. One of my friends said it was like dessert in a cup.

You need:
2 cups hot water
2 oz. instant coffee
1 cup sugar
1 gallon milk
1/2 gallon chocolate icecream, softened
1/2 gallon vanilla icecream, softened
8 oz. whipped cream

Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool completely.

In a large bowl, mix the coffee, milk, and icecream. Stir to blend well. Pour into the punch bowl and garnish with dollops of whipped cream.

This is frothy, creamy and oh, so yummy!

Find more delicious recipes over at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - March 21-27

Yay! Spring is finally here!!!

This week we're going to fire up the grill to celebrate!

Here's the plan:


Rice and bean burritos, homemade salsa

Grilled chicken and veggies (recipes -more like suggestions - below)

Sausage veggie calzones

Pasta with veggie sauce, cheesy garlic breadsticks

Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes

Grilled hamburgers, potatoes

Grilled chicken is pretty simple around here. I generally use chicken breasts and marinate them in Italian dressing all day. The vinegar in the dressing helps break down the fibers in the meat and makes it more tender. The spices give it great flavor. If you prefer to make your own marinade, use equal parts of vinegar and olive oil and a teaspoon each of garlic powder, oregano, and basil. Add a little salt, too.

Grill for 7 minutes on each side or until cooked. Allow to sit for 15 minutes before cutting or slicing. The chicken will be much juicier this way.

For grilled veggies, choose which vegetables you wish to use. I use onions, red or green peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli. I've also cut corn on the cob into 2-inch pieces to grill, too. Toss veggies in Italian dressing. Place in a grill basket or a foil packet. Grill over indirect heat for 15-20 minutes. Yum!

For more menu planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Mondays. You'll find hundreds of menu ideas by real cooks like you and me, many with recipe links. You just might find a new family favorite or two!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Friday Follow once again

Hello, friends. Can you believe another week has gone by and we're in the last half of March? Where is the time going?

Since it's Friday, I thought I'd join the Friday Follow blog hop again. I love reading new blogs and picking up some followers. If you want to join in on the fun, follow the instructions below.

Have a lovely Friday!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Irish Blessing

To my dear friends:

May the road always rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The best whipped cream

If you've ever eaten homemade whipped cream, you know it's so much tastier and creamier than the store bought frozen stuff. And it doesn't have all the oils and chemicals that the frozen stuff does either.

The ingredients are simple - heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract (if desired) and powdered sugar if you want a little sweetness. Once you've tried homemade, you won't want to touch the fake stuff.

The secret to getting the fluffiest whipped cream is also simple - use a metal bowl and beaters that you've chilled in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. I use my Kitchenaid bowl and whisk attachment.

Pour the whipping cream into the chilled mixing bowl and add a teaspoon of vanilla. Start mixing slowly. As the cream thickens, gradually speed up the mixer. Soft peaks will form. If you want to sweeten the whipped cream, add a couple of teaspoons of powdered sugar and whip some more.

When the whipped cream has reached the desired consistency, store covered in the fridge until ready to use. This is awesome on fresh fruit or pudding. You can also use it in place of Cool Whip in your favorite recipes.

For more helpful tips and tricks, visit Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.


Today I turn 40. I don't feel any older, though the gray hair peeking through on my head testifies that I am. I'm not sad about turning 40. In fact, I'm grateful that God has given me this many years of life. I don't mind telling people my age for that reason.

So, to celebrate turning 40, I'm going to share 40 things about myself with you. And since it's my birthday, you'll indulge me, right?

1. I received Christ as my Saviour when I was 12.

2. I'm the middle child. I have two brothers, one older and one younger.

3. I was born in West Virginia and spent the first 26 years of my life there.

4. I've been married to Charles for 11 1/2 years. It keeps getting better.

5. When I was younger, I wanted a large family. I'm happy with the two children God gave me.

6. History was always my favorite subject in school. Math, not so much.

7. My birthday is March 16th, my Mom's is April 16th, my brother's is December 16th. Weird, huh?

8. I play the piano, mainly for my own enjoyment. I want to learn to play the guitar.

9. I am not a big fan of flying. The takeoffs and landings are not fun for me.

10. I always wanted to be a teacher. I have a degree in social studies education with a minor in English. I have taught in 3 different Christian schools. Now I teach my children at home.

11. Every time my husband has me talked into going on a cruise, a disaster at sea occurs - a ship is hit by a rogue wave, an entire ship contracts the norovirus, someone disappears from a cruise ship and is never seen again. I think it would be safer for everyone if I stopped considering a cruise.

12. The last movie I saw at the theater was Leap Year with my best friend Suzanne.

13. I am not a girly girl. I don't like having my nails done, I don't have a huge collection of shoes, and pink rarely shows up in my wardrobe. Shopping does not hold great attraction for me.

14. I met my husband through his mother. She met me, called him up, and told him she had found his future wife. He claims that we met on the Internet because he emailed me at her request before we actually met in person.

15. German shepherd is my favorite breed of dog. My family had a shepherd named Champ when I was growing up. He was the best dog ever.

16. Driving is one of my least favorite things to do.

17. I'm a homebody. I don't have to be out running around to be happy. I'd rather be at home with my family.

18. I eat my steak medium well. And I love A-1 steak sauce.

19. I've never been outside the US, but I've got my passport ready just in case.

20. I've never been farther west than St. Louis.

21. My husband and I honeymooned in Washington DC. I simply adored all the history there!

22. I would love to travel to Europe, but am waiting for a Star Trek-like teleporter to be invented to beam me over, thereby avoiding the long flight.

23. I'm a small-town girl who wouldn't want to live in a big city.

24. I believe in guardian angels. I know that my children's guardian angels work overtime. No doubt they have asked to be reassigned to less rambunctious children.

25. I drink hazelnut creamer in my coffee every morning. I try other flavors occasionally, but I always come back to hazelnut.

26. My least favorite household task is ironing. Thankfully, my husband would rather iron his own clothes. I just throw my wrinkled stuff in the dryer.

27. I do not swim where I can't see the bottom. No lakes, rivers, ponds, or ocean.

28. I generally do not like books that have been made into movies. Or television shows. Charles Ingalls had a beard, people!

29. When I watch football on TV, I yell at the players and officials as if they can hear me. Even the dog gets up and leaves the room. I don't even know I'm doing it most of the time. I just do it.

30. I tear up every time I hear the National Anthem being played or sung. Every single time.

31. I think Dolly Parton's version of "I Will Always Love You" blows Whitney Houston's out of the water.

32. I take a nap almost every Sunday afternoon.

33. Bacon is my favorite pizza topping. So much better than pepperoni.

34. I cannot stand to be late. It stresses me out. I'd rather be 30 minutes early than 1 minute late.

35. As a child, I collected Smurfs. I have no idea where they ended up. Too bad, because I'm sure they'd be worth a little money now.

36. I don't like to talk on the telephone. I'd rather IM or email. Or talk in person to the person I want to talk to.

37. Currently I drive a 2008 Chevy Uplander mini van. It's roomy and comfortable. And it has automatic side doors, which is a plus when my arms are full of groceries.

38. My favorite Disney character is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She's a reader like me.

39. My hair is starting to turn gray and I really don't care. I'm just not vain about that kind of thing, I guess. My husband doesn't mind, and his opinion is really the only one that matters to me.

40. I love my life. I do. I love my husband, my kids, my extended family, my church, homeschooling, even my silly dog.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

Can you believe I'd never had shepherd's pie until I made it last week? I don't know what I was waiting for. It's really, really good. Comfort food at its best. And it was really easy.

Charles had eaten shepherd's pie at an Irish restaurant in NYC or Boston a few years ago and told me how good it was. Of course, he couldn't remember exactly what was in it, just that it was very tasty. I made a mental note to find a recipe and try to recreate it for him, but life apparently got in the way and the mental note got erased. As I was pondering St. Patrick's Day coming up, I thought shepherd's pie would be a nice thing to try. Charles was really pleased with the results.

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 can green beans, drained
1 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas pepper
1 teas dried rosemary
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups mashed potatoes
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown the ground beef and onion. Drain. Stir in the beans, 1/2 teas of garlic powder, salt, pepper, rosemary and soup.

Spread the mixture into a greased 8x8 pan or a 9-inch pie pan. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, the remaining garlic powder, and sour cream. Carefully spoon over meat mixture. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese.

Return to the oven for another 10 minutes until cheese is melted and the pie is bubbly.

Charles gave this his stamp of approval. He even called dibs on the leftovers for lunch the next day. The kids weren't thrilled with this dish, but they're not that fond of casseroles so I wasn't surprised. I thought it was delicious and look forward to making this again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday -March 14-20

This week I celebrate my 40th birthday! On Saturday, my husband surprised me with a little party and a beautiful cake. He grilled some delicious hamburgers for the guests and we had several leftover. Maybe I'll share his secret for juicy burgers with you later.

Since it's my birthday, we're going out to eat on Tuesday at my favorite Mexican place. The rest of week, I'm relying on my slow cooker and leftovers! So it will be an easy week in the kitchen. I hope.

Here's the plan:

Leftover hamburgers

Teriyaki chicken (I'm making this one in the crockpot), rice, green beans

Out to Los Mexicanos

Wednesday - St. Patrick's Day!
Corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, Irish soda bread

Corned beef hash

Dinner at friends

Rice and bean burritos

For more menu plan inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Mondays.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lentil Stew

I've been trying to expand my repertoire of soups to include more than chili and potato soup. I've found some winners with Chicken & Rice Soup and Cheeseburger Soup. But with spring coming (finally, YAY!) I wanted to get in one more soup recipe. Well, this is actually a stew.

And it is yummy! It can be vegetarian if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken. The beans and lentils provide plenty of fiber and protein, making this a cheap, lowfat dish.

Here's what you'll need:

1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
4 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
2 cups water
3/4 cup lentils
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper

In a saucepan, saute the onions and carrots in olive oil until tender.

Add the chili powder, garlic, oregano and cumin. Cook for a couple of more minutes.

Stir in the broth, lentils and potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils and potatoes are tender. Add the tomatoes and beans. Reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

I turned the heat to low and let this sit on the stove for an hour or so. It thickened up quite a bit. The next day we had leftovers and I had to add a little water to it because of the thickness.

Charles said this reminded him of chili because of the tomatoes and chili powder. I thought it was a little spicy but the leftovers had mellowed a bit, more to my liking. I know, I'm a wimp! Overall, a great, hearty, nutritious soup!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's Friday Follow again!

This is the third week I've participated in Friday Follow, and it's been very enjoyable. I've been introduced to some really cool blogs and picked up some new followers in the process. So, why don't you join us and get in on the fun? Follow the instructions below to link up!

Have a great Friday!

MckLinky Blog Hop

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Tonight I made three different kinds of pizza for a Pizza Buffet night with some friends. Well, four kinds really, because I changed my mind at the last minute and added a bacon pizza to the menu. I had intended to make a BBQ chicken pizza, a spinach alfredo pizza and two pepperoni pizzas (for the unadventurous among us). But to mix it up a little more, I turned one of the pepperonis into a bacon which Mr. Lego likes better anyway.

The BBQ chicken pizza was fabulous! Unfortunately, I didn't measure the ingredients, except for the Gouda cheese. I used the whole 8 ounces! Yum! So the amounts I have posted here are approximations, not exacts.

For the sauce, let me recommend my favorite BBQ sauce in the whole world, Sweet Baby Ray's.

I used the original recipe flavor, but SBR has a whole bunch of unique flavors like Raspberry Chipotle, Sweet Vidalia Onion, and Sweet n Spicy. Pick one that suits your tastes.

Here's what I did:

I took about 1 cup of shredded cooked chicken and mixed it with 1/2 cup of SBR's. I stretched my pizza dough out onto a baking sheet, then spread about 2 TBSP of sauce on it.

I spread the chicken out over the sauce.

Then I topped it with thin slices of red onion. I followed this with sliced Gouda cheese, an entire 8oz round.

I baked this at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until the crust was cooked through. I didn't have a chance to take a picture of the finished pizza because we were all so hungry and dug right in. But I did get a picture of one slice, all that's left of it. It was so, so, so good!

This post is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace. You can find some delicious recipes over there.

Peach Berry Cobbler

I like simple desserts that I can throw together in a snap. With only 5 ingredients, this cobbler can't get much simpler. The flavor combination of peaches and blueberries is unbeatable, too. I buy peaches in bulk during the summer, then slice and freeze them so I can make this dessert all year round. It's just that good.

Here's what you need:

1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 cups sliced peaches
2 cups blueberries
2 TBSP sugar

In a bowl, combine the cake mix and melted butter. It should resemble crumbs.

In a greased 9x13 pan, combine the peaches and blueberries. If using frozen fruit, allow to thaw for about an hour before you mix them up. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the fruit.

Cover the fruit with the cake mix.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until browned and bubbling.

Serve with vanilla ice cream for a special treat!

For more yummy recipe ideas, head over to Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kitchen tip - Works for Me Wednesday

Do you dread using recipes with sticky ingredients like honey or molasses because it all sticks to the measuring cup or spoon and you're not sure if your measurements are thrown off as a result?

Well, dread no more. The answer is simple. Squirt the cup or measuring spoon with a little non-stick cooking spray, and the sticky stuff will slide right out. If you're an uneven sprayer like I am, use your finger to spread the non-stick spray around to cover the entire spoon or cup.

Here I am, measuring out molasses for homemade oatmeal creme pies. Maybe I'll share the recipe soon.

For more helpful tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer for Works for Me Wednesday.

Hash Brown Casserole

I like to eat at Cracker Barrel because of their home-cooked comfort foods. Chicken and dumplings, anyone? But no matter what I order, I always get hash brown casserole as a side. I just really, really like potatoes and cheese together. Yum!

So when a friend gave me a recipe similar to CB's hash brown casserole, I was thrilled. I've fixed this countless times for get-togethers, church dinners and as a side dish for steak. It's great as a breakfast casserole since you can prepare it the night before, then pop it into the oven. And it's even better than the Cracker Barrel version, in my opinion.

Here's what you need:

1 pkg (30 oz) frozen shredded hash browns
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I like sharp cheddar)
salt and pepper

Place frozen hash browns in the fridge overnight to thaw. Or you can put them in a colander and run hot water over them. Just squeeze out the excess water before you mix up the casserole.

In a large bowl, combine the soups, sour cream, one cup of the cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the hash browns and mix thoroughly. This is why you need a big bowl!

Spread into a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes. I like the cheese to be a little crispy around the edges.

This serves a lot of people, so it's perfect for a large gathering. Leftovers are great the next day, too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Menu Plan March 7-13

Last week's international recipes went over well with the family and our church. This week I'm going to try some new recipes from All Recipes. It's one of my favorite recipe sites. I like to read the recipe reviews and often make adjustments based on reviewers' suggestions. You can also search for recipes based on ingredients, which has come in handy when I've needed to use up leftovers. Take a peek over there and see if you can find some new dishes to try!

Here's the plan for this week:

Chili with rice

Tori No Kara-age (deep fried chicken nuggets)

Shepherd's pie, seasoned corn

Potato-lentil stew with homemade bread

Pizza buffet with BBQ chicken pizza, Alfredo pizza, and pepperoni pizza

Lasagne casserole, cheesy garlic breadsticks

Garlic bread chicken sandwiches

For more menu planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Mondays. You'll find lots of good ideas and recipes to jumpstart your menu plans.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Follow Blog Hop

It's Friday already! The week seems to have flown by. I'm participating in another blog hop hosted by One 2 Try, Hearts Make Families, and Midday Escapades. They're very gracious to do this every week and help bloggers connect with one another.

If you want to participate, follow the instructions below and have an awesome Friday!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Doro Wat (Ethiopian Chicken Stew)

I tried out an Ethiopian recipe on my family earlier this week in preparation for our church's International Dinner on Friday night. I found it in Mary Ostyn's Family Feasts for $75. She and her husband have adopted children from Ethiopia and have incorporated cuisine from that country into their family's menus.

One thing I noticed very quickly is that Ethiopian food is spicy! Cayenne pepper shows up frequently in these dishes....and in large amounts! I'm a wimp when it comes to spicy foods. I don't even like the smallest amount of heat. My eyes water and my nose runs at the hint of cayenne.

This recipe calls for a teaspoon of cayenne. The author states that to make it authentic, a tablespoon would have been used! My poor little tastebuds would have wilted from that heat. As it was, I decreased the amount even more when I made it for my family, lest my poor children never try a new dish ever again. But when I make it for the church dinner, I will use the full teaspoon because there are lots of people at church who will eat spicy foods without batting an eyelash.

The recipe calls for boneless chicken thighs to be cooked and added, but I already had shredded chicken in the freezer and felt it would be more economical to use what I had on hand.

Here's what I used:

3 cups shredded cooked chicken
3 onions, diced
olive oil
2TBSP butter
1/2 teas ground ginger
1 TBSP sweet paprika
1 teas cayenne pepper or more to taste
1/2 teas black pepper
1/2 teas ground turmeric
2 cans crushed tomatoes
2 cups water or broth

Heat the oil in a large pot. Cook onions until they start to brown. Add the butter and cook until the onions are browned. Add the spices and stir well. Add the chicken, tomatoes, and water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

A traditional Ethiopian stew would also include hard-boiled eggs, one for each person, placed in the pot before serving. I didn't include the eggs because of our family's preferences.

I'm sure it's no surprise that I found this to be a bit spicy. Charles really liked it, and the kids thought the rice was the best part. We ate the leftovers for lunch the next day, and I have to say, it was much better than the night before. The flavors had a chance to mellow and blend together, making it a much more complex dish. I enjoyed it a great deal more on Day Two.

I made another batch today and will reheat it in my crockpot tomorrow night for the church dinner. I can't wait to see if anyone else likes it, too.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What Sin?

On Sunday morning, a young lady at our church sang this song. I'd heard it before, but this time it really spoke to my heart in a meaningful way.

See, I have this bad habit of remembering things I did long ago - mean things, or bad things, disobedient things - and beating myself up over them. Again and again. These are things that I've made right with God and whomever I wronged. But I still feel badly about them. I mean, stuff from twenty years ago! Why is that?

Let me state right here that if I've done wrong, I should feel guilty for breaking fellowship with my Savior. The Holy Spirit's work is to convict my heart and lead me to repentance. How can I repent if I refuse to acknowledge what I've done?

But once the Holy Spirit has done His work and I've confessed my sin, the guilt is gone. Or should be. Yet still it lingers. Satan loves to use this as a tool to discourage me and keep me from being useful to God. "See what a terrible person you are? Look at what you did when you were nine/fifteen/twenty-five years old! God can never use a sinner like you!" he loves to whisper. There's a reason the Bible refers to him as the Old Accuser.

And so often I agree with him. "I am a terrible person! So stupid! I knew better when I did that! Ugh! I can never do anything for the Lord since I'm such a sinner!"

But the truth, the beauty of grace, is that God puts my sins under the blood of Jesus and remembers them no more. He will never, NEVER, bring them up to me again. I might have to deal with the natural consequences of my sin, but they do not and can never condemn me before God. My sin is gone the very minute I confess!

This post is linked to Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mujadarrah - Lentils and Rice with Onions

I love to experiment with ethnic foods, and fortunately for me, my husband is always willing to be my taste tester. He grew up in Hawaii, so he was exposed to a variety of cultures and foods. He loves to try exotic things.

Charles and I both liked the modifications I made to the original recipe and would eat it again. I'm planning to double my modified recipe to take to our church's International Dinner on Friday night. The kids thought it was okay without the sour cream.

Here's what you'll need:

1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup lentils (I used green)
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 teas cumin
1/4 teas ground coriander
1/2 teas salt
1 onion, diced
Sour cream or plain yogurt

In a saucepan, combine the rice, lentils, broth, water, cumin, coriander and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the rice and lentils are cooked and the liquid is absorbed. This should take about 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally.

I used my rice cooker's brown rice setting and it turned out perfectly.

While the rice and lentils are cooking, heat some olive oil in a skillet. Cook the onions over medium heat until carmelized. Sprinkle some cinnamon over while they're cooking.

When the onions are nice and browned, remove from heat. Gently stir into the cooked rice mixture. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Put sour cream or plain yogurt over individual servings. This really adds some interest to the dish, in my opinion. Mujadarrah can also be scooped up with flatbread or pita bread.

Middle Eastern food has the reputation of being spicy, so people sometimes avoid it. To me, mujadarrah is the perfect dish to ease you into this type of cuisine.

For more whole grain recipes, visit Life as Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap.