Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In Sickness and In Health

Do you remember repeating the vows to love and cherish your spouse in sickness and in health when you got married? I certainly do.

Forty-eight years ago today my parents repeated those vows to one another. And in the last few years I've watched with love and admiration as my amazing mother has put them into practice.
My dad's health has been in decline for many years, but his condition has worsened considerably in the last four years. He went for three of those years without an accurate diagnosis, as doctor after doctor tried to figure out what was wrong with him. First, it was multiple sclerosis, then Lyme disease, then heavy metal toxicity. But as soon as a diagnosis was made, another symptom would pop up and the diagnosis would be taken back.

Back in August of last year, he went to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio where he was finally given a diagnosis that made sense - Multiple System Atrophy. Unfortunately, this disease is also terminal.

MSA is a rare neurological disorder similar to Parkinson's. Its rarity is one of the reasons why it took so long to get a diagnosis. Most doctors, even neuros, don't know enough about it to accurately diagnose it.

Since 2010, my dad has lost his mobility, as well as much of his motor skills - eating, brushing his teeth, dressing himself, etc. The disease has robbed him of his speech as well, as his vocal chords have become paralyzed. My mother lovingly cares for him completely - dressing, feeding, bathing, and in every other way possible. She insists that she will continue to do so as long as she is physically able.

That's why I say she's amazing. At a time when many spouses would have given up, she continues to honor her vow to care for him in sickness and in health. She doesn't consider it a big deal, either. To her, she's just doing what she promised to do. In a world where the divorce rate is skyrocketing, she's an exception whether she accepts the label or not. And I know that if the situation was reversed and my mom was suffering from a terrible illness, my dad would be doing the exact same things for her.

I look back over the years and am so grateful for two godly parents who have stuck together through the good times and bad times. They raised my brothers and myself to be responsible, respectful and faithful to God. They have set an example for us and our children to follow. For that, I love them.

Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Menu Plan May 26 - June 1

Can y'all believe this is the last week of May? It seems like this year is moving ahead at light speed! Summer heat has arrived, that's for sure!

We spent some time this weekend reflecting on the reason for Memorial Day. Did you know that since the Revolutionary War began in 1775, over 1.3 million men and women have died in wars or other military actions in the service of our country? And every one of them was someone's child, someone's parent, someone's sibling, someone's loved one. They were real people, not just statistics. I think it's fitting that we take a day to remember their sacrifice.

While it's become the norm to hold picnics and cookouts on Memorial Day, we're just going to spend a quiet day at home. We're going to grill some chicken and eat as a family, just like we do every day. But we're going to pause and remember those who've given all that we might be free.

Now on to this week's menu:

Grilled chicken, pasta salad

Sausage stuffed zucchini, parsley potatoes

Jambalaya, crusty bread

Pretzel dogs (this has been on the menu for the past few weeks, but this week I'm finally going to fix them!)

Cajun chicken pasta, garlic bread

Cook out at church

Out to eat, Charles gets to pick since his birthday is tomorrow!

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

BLT Roll-Ups

Graduation season is in full swing, meaning graduation parties are being held regularly. If you're looking for an easy appetizer/finger food for your grad's party, this simple yet delicious recipe is just the thing.

I've always liked serving roll-ups, or pinwheels as some people call them. You spread yummy fillings over tortillas, roll them up and chill, then slice them into individual servings. What could be easier?

This version combines the classic flavors of a BLT sandwich. You're going to love them!

Here's what you need:

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup mayonnaise
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (you can also use store bought real bacon bits or pieces)
2 tomatoes, diced small
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
finely shredded lettuce
8 burrito sized tortillas

Beat the cream cheese and mayo together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the bacon, tomatoes and cheese. Spread about 1/4 cup over each tortilla. Honestly, I don't really measure here, I just eyeball it. Leave the bottom part of the tortilla filling-less. Is that even a word?
Add some of the finely shredded lettuce and press down into the cream cheese mixture.
Now starting with the side furthest from you, roll the tortilla up tightly. You don't want any gaps later when you slice them. I always place sheets of plastic wrap under the tortillas before I fill them so after I've rolled them, I can very easily wrap them up. The key is to keep everything tightly rolled up.

Place the wrapped roll ups in the fridge and chill for a couple of hours, or even overnight. When you're ready to serve them, unwrap them from the plastic wrap and slice into 8-10 pieces.

Don't they look yummy? They would look fabulous on your party table, too!

Variation: You can serve these as wraps, too. Just slice each roll into 2 pieces and serve as a light lunch or supper.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Menu Plan May 19 - 25

We're officially done with school for this year! Whoo hoo! Let the summer fun begin. We'll be traveling a bit to visit family, celebrating birthdays, and taking part in vacation Bible school. What are your big plans for the summer?

Here's what we've got on our menu for the week:

Toscano soup, crusty bread

Steak bites, roasted veggies

Chicken bacon subs, fries

Pretzel dogs, creamy mac 'n cheese

Pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw

Cookout with friends

Roast with potatoes and carrots

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni

I posted about my experiments with one pot meals lately, and I'm happy to say I have another success! This dish was so easy and delicious! We didn't even have leftovers, as both kids and hubby had seconds. I'd say that was a thumbs up from the family!

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups uncooked macaroni
3 cups beef broth
1/2 cup milk
3 TBSP ketchup
1 teas mustard (I just used one squirt, it looked like a teaspoon to me)
2 teas Montreal steak seasoning
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large skillet or sauce pan, cook the beef together with the onions until the beef is no longer pink. Drain.

To the pot add the macaroni, beef broth, milk, ketchup, mustard and steak seasoning. Give it a good stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the pasta is tender. Stir it a couple of times while cooking so the macaroni doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Remove from heat and stir in the cheese until it's melted.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Menu Plan May 12-18

Usually I post my menu plans on Sunday night, but I didn't have time yesterday. We hosted our church's youth group after the evening service for a little get-together, so I was busy cooking and then cleaning up after they left.

I made my family's favorite pretzel dogs, but I cut the hot dogs in half to make mini dogs. I also made sausage cheese balls and BLT pinwheels. My friend Suzanne made some desserts, too. And it's no surprise that when you're feeding a bunch of teenagers, you don't have leftovers.

Now on to this week's menu plan:

One pot sausage and tortellini, crusty bread

Steak and cheese calzones, fries

Asian salmon, zucchini and squash saute

Chicken dressing, mashed potatoes

WV pepperoni rolls

Pulled pork sandwiches, creamy mac 'n cheese

Brunswick stew

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

Friday, May 9, 2014

Coconut Cream Cake

I'm not a huge fan of cake in general. But this cake is quite the exception.

Sweet cream of coconut is blended with condensed milk and poured over the hot cake, soaking into the entire confection and creating a moist, almost gooey, treat.

You need to make this cake a day in advance of when you're serving it to get the full effect. It actually gets better the longer it sits. It will last about 5 days in the fridge, especially if you hide it from everyone.

Here's what you need:

1 box yellow cake mix + the ingredients called for on box
1 can (15 oz) cream of coconut (I found this in the aisle with mixed drink mixes - does that make sense
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Prepare and bake the cake in a 9x13 pan according the package directions. When you take it from the oven, poke holes all over the cake with a fork.

Whisk the cream of coconut and condensed milk together until well blended. Pour over the warm cake, spreading the mixture with the back of a spoon. Allow to cool completely.

Beat the whipping cream on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold in the shredded coconut and spread over cake. Chill until ready to serve, preferably overnight.
See the liquid at the bottom of the cake? The sweet stuff has dripped all the way through! It's so good. And so rich. You won't want to eat a big piece of this at one time. Or maybe you will.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The New York Baking Company Silicone Baking Buddies Product Review

I was recently contacted by The New York Baking Company and asked to try out their silicone baking cups in exchange for an honest review.
Oops! Is that a piece of shredded cheese stuck to the counter? Who wouldn't have wiped the counter before snapping pictures of it? Apparently me, that's who!
I thought, "Why not?" I've got plenty of muffin recipes to choose from to test these silicone baking cups out. Since I had strawberries on hand, I used my strawberry muffin recipe. Yummy!

I lined up the baking cups on a cookie sheet and filled them with the batter.
I baked the muffins at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes, checking for doneness by sticking a toothpick in the middle of a few muffins.
The silicone cups peeled off the muffins like a dream - no rips like when you use paper liners.
There was some juicy strawberry residue left on the inside of the baking cup. I was hoping there would be so I could test out how easily they cleaned up.
And I'm happy to report, they clean up easily and quickly! I simply ran the cups under warm water and used a little scrubbie to get off the residue. It was easiest to turn them inside out to scrub them. Then I let them air dry completely.
I even saved some muffins for the following day - no easy feat in my house, to be sure. Homemade treats go very quickly around here! But I wanted to see how the cups cleaned up after a day or two.

It was as easy to clean them the second day as it was the first!

I love that they take up so little storage room, too, as opposed to muffin tins. I just stacked them all neatly together and put them back in the package they came in. It slides very neatly into one of my kitchen drawers.

Not to mention that they're economical. If you bake a lot of cupcakes or muffins, buying paper liners can get pricy. These baking cups can be used again and again with minimal fuss and clean up.

The only drawback to the Baking Buddies that I could see is that they did not come with instructions, either for using or washing. As someone who hadn't used silicone baking cups before, I wasn't sure what kinds of temps these things could withstand. I googled it, but it would have been nice to have that info provided by the company.

That said, I recommend The New York Baking Company's Baking Buddies. I know I will be using them for years to come.

DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation for this review other than a sample of the product in exchange for my honest opinions. My opinions are my own and you might not have the same experience or opinions that I did.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Menu Plan May 5 - 11

This week is going to be an interesting one for me. Some close friends are going to be chaperoning a senior trip cruise, and they're leaving two of their four kids with us for a couple of days. Their children, a boy and a girl, are the exact same ages as ours. They've literally known each other since birth, and we often think of them as an extension of our family.

But they're not homeschoolers. Which means I'm going to have to get up early to wake them, and I'm going to pack lunches for them. I haven't packed lunches in years since we eat at home nearly every day. I'm looking forward to the challenge of doing it after getting out of the habit when we started homeschooling. I hope I can make sure they're ready for school on time!

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Ladies Night Out at church, hubby and kids are on their own

Chicken souvlaki, fabulous flatbread

Loaded jambalaya (minus the chicken but with extra sausage), cheesy biscuits

Veggie lasagna, crusty bread

Beef shortribs in the crockpot, mashed potatoes

Steak bites, roasted veggies

Mother's Day - we'll get take out

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