Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Feel Better Chicken Stew

This time of year always brings sniffles and coughs. Chicken soup is a standard remedy for those who are suffering from colds and flu. I decided to pump up the healing properties of chicken soup by adding some ginger and garlic, along with a splash of lemon juice. Even if you or your family aren't feeling poorly, this stew will nourish and warm you.

Here's what you need:

One 3-4 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
3 teas minced garlic
8 cups chicken broth
3 chicken breasts
1 small onion, diced
2-3 carrots, grated (you can use matchstick-cut carrots instead)
1 cup brown rice
1 teas dried parsley
juice of one lemon

In a large saucepan, combine the ginger, garlic, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Toss in the chicken breasts, veggies, rice and parsley. Cover and reduce heat, allowing the stew to simmer for about an hour.

Check to see if the chicken is cooked. When it is, remove from the pot and shred with a fork. Return to the pot.

By this time, the rice should be puffy and tender. It will help thicken the stew. Right before serving, stir in the lemon juice.

For more yummy recipes, head over to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bathe and Brew Shower Coffee Maker?

The strangest gift I got yesterday was this, a Bathe and Brew Shower Coffee Maker (and Soap Dispenser). Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Probably not! Because it's a prank box! Charles thought it would be funny to wrap my real present in a fake box and see my reaction.

My reaction was bewilderment. Ha ha! Charles has been known to get me thoughtful, but less than practical gifts. There was a time when he was traveling a great deal for his work and he had no time to shop. So he perused Sky Mall magazines while flying and found some ummm....interesting selections for me. This bug vacuum comes to mind.

So I was thinking, how can I be gracious and not hurt his feelings? This is the dumbest idea ever! When he started snapping pictures I figured something was up. Then he urged me to open it....and a tab popped stating that my real gift was inside.

He redeemed himself by getting me what I really wanted, a new study Bible. I love that man!

Menu Plan December 25-31

Ahhhh, Christmas is over and it was another one to remember. We so enjoyed having friends over for dinner and games. We're thankful that even away from our families, we have brothers and sisters in Christ who seem like family.

One thing about big holiday dinners that I enjoy is leftovers! Yay! Last week I shared some ham recipes using leftovers so check those out.

Here's the menu for this week:

Christmas dinner

Baked chicken nuggets, mac and cheese

Ham and White Bean Soup (crockpot), rolls

Spaghetti with meatballs

Ham quiche, roasted carrots

Turkey and rice soup (crockpot), homemade bread

New Years Eve pizza buffet

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

This is what Christmas is all about....Jesus coming to earth so He could die and give us a way to come to God. Thank You, Jesus!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Means Hope

I was reflecting on how many people I know who have lost loves ones this year. The list is really, really long. My mom will be spending her first Christmas without her mom. My cousin lost her 14-year-old son in a dirt bike accident. Another dear friend lost her 15-year-old son to an undiagnosed heart condition. And several of my friends have lost parents and grandparents, many unexpectedly. At a time of year when families come together, these families will be hurting and grieving their losses.

And yet, in spite of the sadness, there is hope.

Why? Because Jesus came to give hope. Hope of eternal life. Hope of seeing those loved ones again. Hope of comfort and strength when we can't go on. Jesus came to make a way of salvation. For all of us, if we'll simply receive His gift.

So in the midst of the tears, there can still be joy. There can still be peace.

Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for leaving Your throne in heaven and coming to this sinful earth. Thank You for making a way for us to live eternally with You.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Quick Peanut Butter Fudge

Okay, I'm done with the leftover ham recipes for now. But with Christmas just around the corner, you might find yourself in need of a quick sweet treat. Well, peanut butter fudge never has been quicker! All you need are two ingredients.

one 18-oz jar of peanut butter
one can of vanilla frosting

That's it!

Place the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 15 seconds or until it stirs very easily. Add the frosting and mix until well blended.

Pat into a greased 8x8 pan and refrigerate for an hour.

Cut into small squares while cold.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Leftover Ham Recipe #4 Ham Broccoli Quiche

This is the last of my leftover ham recipes. I hope you've found some inspiration for using up the remains of your yummy Christmas ham.

I acquired this recipe shortly after I was married and have just recently dug it back out. It's a basic quiche recipe, not too eggy which I really like. Even my kids gobble it up, so it's a great way to use up ham leftovers. But deli ham works perfectly fine, too.

Here's what you need:

1 9-inch pastry shell
1 cup diced ham (smoked ham is great in this)
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1 cup half and half or milk
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas onion powder
1/2 teas seasoned salt
dash of black pepper

Layer the ham, broccoli and cheese in the pastry shell.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, cream or milk and spices together.

Pour over the entire pie shell. Cover the edges of the crust with foil or a pie shield. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until the filling is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the quiche set for 10 minutes before cutting.

*Note - to avoid the possibility of a soggy crust, prebake your pie shell for 10 minutes, making sure to cover the edges with foil or a pie shield. I generally don't do this because we have a convection oven and it cooks pretty evenly. But you might try it if you have trouble with uneven baking in your oven.

You can customize the savory ingredients to your family's preferences. Swap out the ham for sausage or bacon. Try Swiss cheese instead of cheddar. Forego the broccoli for spinach or mushrooms. Use your imagination....and use up those leftovers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leftover Ham Recipe #3 Ham and White Bean Soup

One of the best parts about having ham for dinner is having a leftover bone or two with which to make soup. It imparts such wonderful flavor to soup and reduces the amount of seasonings you need to use.

I make this soup in the crockpot. And you'll need a big crockpot.

Here's the ingredient list:

1 ham bone
1 cup diced ham
4 cups chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 teas minced garlic
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
2 cans (15 oz each) white beans, drained and rinsed well
2 teas cumin
1/4 teas black pepper
Water, optional

Put all the ingredients into a large crockpot. If there's any room left after the bone, veggies, beans and spices, add a little water. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Remove the ham bone from the pot. Scrape off any meat still clinging to the bone and return the meat to the crockpot.

This soup is delicious! The cumin adds a smokiness to the broth and the veggies soak up all the wonderful ham flavor. It's even better the next day, if you can prevent your family from sopping it all up right away.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Leftover Ham Recipe #2 - Cheesy Ham and Veggie Shells

This is the second recipe in the Leftover Ham series. Since Christmas dinner is coming and many people will have ham, I thought it would be a great idea to share some ways to use up leftovers.

I found this recipe over at Finding Joy in My Kitchen. SnoWhite is an excellent cook, and I always enjoy her recipes. I tweaked this one a bit using the veggies I had on hand. But broccoli is an excellent choice, as is zucchini. The beauty of this recipe is you can clean out the ham leftovers as well as your veggies!

Here's what you need:

1 lb shell pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 cups chopped veggies (I used red pepper, mushrooms and onions)
2 teas minced garlic
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped ham
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, heat some olive oil. Add the chopped veggies and garlic and cook until soft.

Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir to coat well.

Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. The mixture should start to thicken. If it gets too thick, add some more milk until the reaches the consistency you want.

Now stir in the cheese until is completely melted. Add the ham.

Finally, stir in the cooked pasta shells and make sure everything is covered with the cheesy sauce.

The sauce will thicken upon standing, so if you need to reheat this, add a bit more milk.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Leftover Ham - Simple Yeast Roll Sandwiches

Ham is a popular main dish to serve for Christmas dinner around these parts. We all love it. But inevitably, we have leftovers. And then I'm trying to find ways to use the ham without wasting any. So this week before Christmas, I'll feature some ham recipes using leftovers so hopefully you can use up all your leftover Christmas ham.

One of the easiest way to use up leftovers is to make sandwiches. You can use regular bread if you want, but my family loves these little bite-sized sandwiches made from yeast rolls.

Here's what you need:

1 pkg frozen yeast rolls, baked according to the package directions
Leftover sliced or chopped ham
Cheddar or Swiss cheese slices (You can use shredded, too, if you don't have slices)
Mustard, if desired
1 TBSP butter, melted
1/4 teas garlic powder
1/4 teas onion powder

When the yeast rolls are cool enough to handle, split each one. Spread mustard inside if desired. Layer with ham and cheese. Place on a baking sheet. Combine the butter, garlic powder, and onion powder. Brush over the little sandwiches. Stick in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted.

Then stand back and see how quickly these yummy bites are gobbled up. Super easy and super delicious!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Menu Plan December 18-24

The final countdown has begun. One week until Christmas! Is everyone else excited, too?

This past weekend was filled with food and fellowship. Friday night we had dinner with friends who are very special to us. We ate and ate and ate. Saturday night we attended our Sunday School class Christmas party. We ate and ate and ate. Then today we went out to dinner courtesy of some friends. We ate and ate and ate. The server even gave us our dessert for free!

The moral of the story is, don't overindulge in rich foods this last week before Christmas. You will be miserable if you do. And who wants to be miserable for Christmas? Tonight we're paying for it with upset tummies and trips to the bathroom. Enough said.

Now on to this week's menu.

Out to eat

Asian meatballs over rice, sesame green beans

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder, homemade bread

Parmesan crusted pork chops, buttered noodles, roasted carrots

Pesto chicken pasta, broccoli

Tacos, cheesy fiesta potatoes

Pizza soup, garlic breadsticks

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We'll Have to Cancel Christmas!

Hubby and I have always laughed and laughed at that line from "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" when a blizzard threatens to keep Santa snowed in at the North Pole. Like anything could cause Christmas to be cancelled. It's not about Santa, anyway.

And then yesterday my oven caught on fire. And the idea of cancelling Christmas wasn't so funny anymore. Of course, Christmas can't be cancelled. But all the baking I was doing, yes. Christmas dinner at our house, yes.

I was heating the oven to begin the baking marathon for the day. I heard a pop and a sizzle and looked at the oven to see smoke seeping out. I quickly turned it off and within seconds the fire died down. But not before the bottom heating element had burned completely through. There would be no more baking in that oven. The recipients of my Christmas baking endeavors might have to settle for Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes instead! LOL

I'm fortunate enough to have a double oven.

The top one is a convection oven and I love it. Food cooks evenly and I've never had a problem with temperature variations. It's also the one that caught on fire.

The bottom one is smaller and is very unpredictable. It is definitely usable, but I know I'll have to watch it like a hawk.

The good news is we ordered another heating element and it's already on its way. None of the local home improvement stores had it in stock because the ovens are so old. So by the middle of next week the top oven will be back to normal.

Just in time for Christmas dinner! Yay!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Easy Bird Treats

Our breakfast area has a floor-to-ceiling window that allows us wonderful access to nature. We love to watch the birds that visit our backyard regularly. It's one of our favorite things to do while we eat lunch.

So to encourage our visitors to stop by often, we made simple little bird feeders from toilet paper tubes, peanut butter, and bird seed. Easy peasy!

Spread peanut butter all over the toilet paper tube. I learned from experience that the peanut butter layer needs to be fairly thick. Now roll in bird seed until the tube is covered.

To hang, simply slide the tube over a branch on a tree or bush. The birds found ours within a few minutes. Here's one of our resident cardinals enjoying his treat.

The kids already have plans to make dozens more for every bush and tree we have! Because they're so easy, why not?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Menu Plan December 11-17

Tonight's Christmas program at church went off without a hitch! We practiced and practiced, praying for hearts to be touched and drawn closer to Jesus. In the end, I know God was glorified. I love this time of year when people's hearts are so open to hear the good news of the Gospel.

I have lots of Christmas baking to do this week, so I'll stay busy. Thankfully hubby is home this week (he was gone all last week and I really, really missed him!) and he'll help keep me on track.

Here's the menu for the week:

Turkey rice soup in the crockpot, homemade bread

Indian Butter Chicken over rice

Sausage lentil soup

Crockpot beef stroganoff, noodles, green beans

Baked egg rolls

Over at some friends' for chili!

Sunday School Christmas party

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Activity Advent Calendar

This year we decided to stay home for the holidays. Since our families live out of state, we often travel and spend Christmas away from home. Even though we'll miss the family gatherings, it is important that we establish some of our own traditions. To help take some of the sting out of not being with our families, I've tried to come up with some fun traditions.

So I made an advent calendar with a Christmas activity per day, counting down to Christmas Eve. I was going to use some chipboard or foamboard as the background, but Charles had some plywood left over from another project. He volunteered to cut it to size, then he spray painted and sealed it for me. He attached a picture hook on the back and added some felt to the corners so they wouldn't scrape the wall. Love that man!

I found a template for a library pocket at Homeschool Share, one of my favorite sites to get lapbooking templates. I printed the template out on cardstock, then traced around it on to Christmasy scrapbook paper. I added embellishments and numbers, then glued the pockets to the back board.

Inside each pocket is a Christmas activity for that day. So far, we've hung up our stockings, enjoyed hot cocoa, watched the Polar Express and decorated the kids' bedroom doors. Today we'll make an easy snowman ornament for the tree.

Our other activities will include making a gingerbread house, creating bird feeders from toilet paper tubes for our birdie friends, baking and decorating Christmas cookies, delivering treats to friends and neighbors, participating in our church Christmas program, and singing carols. Our last activity is reading the Christmas story from Luke 2.

Every morning the kids have come downstairs and rushed to see what was on the agenda! They've really gotten into the spirit of things.

Now I'd better go check tomorrow's activity and make sure I have all the necessary components!

Adding...here's the complete list of our activities if you need some ideas to do with your own family.

Hang stockings
Watch The Polar Express (or any other Christmas movie your family enjoys)
Decorate the bedroom doors
Drink hot cocoa by the fire
Make an ornament for the tree
Cut out snowflakes and hang around the house
Go out to eat (one of my faves)
Decorate Christmas cookies
Deliver Christmas cookies to neighbors
Participate in the church Christmas program
Sing carols at the nursing home
Go to the mall to see the Christmas tree displays
Drive around to see the Christmas lights in our jammies
Sleep around the Christmas tree
Shop for your sibling
Wrap presents for your sibling
Make a Christmas craft
Write a letter to Santa
Color a Christmas themed coloring page
Play charades with Christmas songs
Share a Christmas memory with everyone
Build a gingerbread house (I bought a kit with 5 small houses for $10 at Target)
Make bird feeders out of toilet paper tubes, peanut butter and bird seed
Read Luke 2 together

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Menu Plan December 4-10

Three weeks from today!!! Is anyone else excited about Christmas like I am? I'm going to start on my holiday baking this week. I'm hoping to get some cookie dough made and in the freezer for later use. It's going to be a yummy week around here!

Now on to the menu plan for the week.

Out with friends after church


Pasta and meatballs

Homemade chicken nuggets, french fries

Crockpot potato soup in bread bowls

Rice lentil burritos, chips and salsa

Sausage lentil soup, yeast rolls

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pizza Soup

We love pizza around here. So when I found this recipe for Pizza Soup, I knew it would be a hit with my family. It was. I played around a bit with the ingredients to tweak it to my family's tastes. Everyone loved it. It was especially good the following day.

Thanks to my early Christmas present, chopping the pepperoni was a snap. The beauty of this recipe is that you can add your favorite pizza toppings to make it uniquely yours. Next time I make this, I'm going to add mushrooms and green peppers.

Here's what you'll need:

1 lb ground turkey or beef, browned and drained
1 pkg pepperoni slices, chopped (I actually used about 1/2 of the pkg)
2 jars (24 oz) spaghetti sauce, your choice
1 carton beef broth
1 TBSP dried minced onion
2 teas Italian seasoning
1 teas garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup half and half
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Croutons and more shredded cheese for garnish

In a large saucepan, combine the browned meat and pepperoni. Stir in the spaghetti sauce, broth and seasonings. Blend in the half and half. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 20-30 minutes. This will help the flavors blend.

Stir in the shredded cheese until all of it is melted. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Serve with croutons and additional cheese, if desired.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Early Christmas Present!

My husband is so sweet. I've been wanting a food processor for some time now. He researched all he could about which one to get and finally found one he thought was the best for the money. It arrived right before Thanksgiving last week. He let me open it early so I was able to use it to chop all the onions I needed for various dishes. I've used it just about every day since.

This is a package of pepperoni slices I needed to chop so I could make pizza soup (a recipe I'll be posting later).

This is the pepperoni after a few pulses from my Cuisinart Pro Custom 11.

It works so wonderfully and is a huge time saver! Next week I'll be using the dough paddle to mix up some cookie dough and possibly some bread dough.

Thanks, honey!