PAGES: MAIN TOPICS I WRITE ON

Monday, January 17, 2022

In the Kitchen: Menu Planning

Having a menu plan is a necessity for me. If I go through a period of time when I don't plan out my menus, it's difficult for me to consistently serve good meals. Part of the reason for my need of a plan, is that I have collected so very many recipes over the years, and the decision of what to make each day can feel a bit overwhelming. And then it becomes too easy to just put something together quickly, or else pick up fast food to take home. But if I have a plan with a few ideas right in front of me each week, then I'm much more apt to prepare a tasty meal, even just for the two of us. And besides, it's fun for me to menu plan!


But it's crucial for me that it needs to be a simple and flexible plan. I like to be able to move things around, changing the dates of when to prepare a specific recipe, depending on what is going on each week. 

My current menu planning allows for this flexibility. I spent a bit of time last week planning out my meals for the next three months, through the end of March. I'm continuing to use the same spiral notebook that I used in 2021. Each week has a printed weekly chart that I created on my laptop. And for each week, I have chosen three main dish recipes to put on post-it notes. 


When I actually prepare the recipe, I'll write it into the chart itself, and place a small check mark on the post-it-note. The reason for using post-it notes is that they can be easily moved around to a different week than originally planned for, if I wish. I am loving the simplicity and flexibility of this plan.

I like to switch up my categories of recipes that I pick from during the different seasons of the year. For January through March, I picked from three main categories of recipes in my collections:

One recipe from my SOUP section.

The next from my collection of CHICKEN main dishes.

And the third, changing off between FISH, PORK, or BEEF main dishes.

I'm only choosing three main dish recipes for each week (in this empty nest season of life we are in), as that is most likely the number I will need to prepare each week.  The other days we will use left-overs from previous meals, or use a frozen meal that I've made on a previous week, or else we may be gone from home and need to pick up fast food wherever we are that day. 

Also, at the bottom of each menu planning page is a space where I often put other ideas for the week as well: lunch ideas, sides or breads or desserts to make. Usually on post-it notes, as well, so they can be moved around, if needed. But the most critical planning for me are the plans for the main dishes each week. 

I'm always looking for ways to live creatively in the home, and also, to simplify the responsibilities of life, leaving more time for the things of ultimate importance ... loving God, and loving those around us. Preparing tasty, nutritious meals is just one way to let His love shine through us. And menu planning is a big part of making this happen! 


Friday, January 7, 2022

A Practice, A Habit, A Way of Breathing

 


It’s a daily practice,

a habit, a way of breathing,

as I take the first steps

into each day …

Before I continue on in my

reading through His Word

chronologically, now in the OT.


First of all … pausing, and

writing out my gratitude,

recounting His gifts, glimpses

of His love and care from

the day before, with thanks

and with adoration.


And then …

pulling out a verse card,

just one, from my collections.

Writing it out word for word,

letting His truth sink into

my heart and soul, truth to

hold close throughout the day.


Today’s verse, beyond my

comprehension, love beyond

compare. Our greatest gift,

to be loved by Him. A lifetime

and an eternity of being loved.

Each day, each moment.



I love each of you with the same love

that the Father loves Me.

You must continually let My love

nourish your hearts.

If you keep My commandments,

you will live in My love,

just as I have kept My Father's commands,

for I continually live nourished

and empowered by His love.

My purpose for telling you these things

is so that the joy that I experience

will fill your hearts

with overflowing gladness!

(John 15:9-11 TPT)



Friday, December 24, 2021

The Greatest Gift of Christmas

 



Pausing midday on Christmas Eve, 
on a day filled with a page-long list -
things to do, to prepare, for
our precious family coming to 
spend Family Christmas with us.

The prep is important, and I love it,
and it is needed to welcome the
23 family members joining us next week;
preparation of food, gifts, lodging.
All a joy, and a delight.

And of "first importance"
is preparation of the heart,
taking moments to ponder ...

It comes each and every year,
the Eve of Christmas Day,
and we are filled with wonder.
This year, again, and in deeper ways,
I can hardly even contain the awe
and the miracle of that first Christmas.

"See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a Son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated
'God is with us'".
(Matthew 1:23)

"God with us,
the true gift of Christmas".
(From Gracelaced Advent cards)

"Can you imagine, God,
whose glory filled the temple,
now lay His head in Mary's arms?
Mary held God incarnate,
God had chosen to come 
into the world, free of 
temple walls and barriers, 
to dwell with man."
(From Daily Grace Advent readings)

"The Word became flesh
and dwelt among us."
(John 1:14)

JESUS ... "God with us"
I can hardly contain
the joy and the wonder
of this most precious gift.

God with us ...
in our every days, in our moments,
closer than any other.



Joining in with many, many others all over the world, marveling at the beauty of this Christmas season; and maybe more than ever, in our troubled world, we are in awe of the priceless gift of "Immanuel: God with Us"!! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Bites

 


I love this tasty, and also beautiful appetizer dish! It was a new recipe that I tried a year ago, and has become one of my favorites to make. It has the added plus of being a make-ahead dish. This is always important to me when preparing for the holidays, or really, for any special day.

With two dozen much-loved family members here at our home for our Family Christmas on Dec. 28, I love to do as much as possible ahead of time. It leaves more time to relax, and enjoy being together with those I love! This appetizer dish freezes well, and just needs to be heated up in the oven on serving day. 

This year, I made enough for a very special CityGroup Christmas Party that we had last night, and also have enough already made in the freezer for our Family Christmas next week. I sure love delicious make-ahead recipes, and especially one that is as good as this one.




It's quite an easy process ... after cubing the chicken, coat with a mixture of seasonings, mixing together well. Wrap each piece of chicken with a bacon piece, secure with a toothpick, and then lay on the parchment covered baking pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven to brush with barbecue sauce, and bake about 5-10 minutes more.



Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Bites

Course: Appetizers

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into one inch pieces.
  • 12 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 12 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8 slices bacon cut into thirds
  • 14 cup brown sugar
  • 34 cup your favorite BBQ Sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place chicken pieces in a medium-sized bowl; sprinkle with the chili powder, seasoned salt, paprika, garlic powder which have been mixed together; then toss to coat the chicken.
  3. Wrap a bacon piece around each chicken cube, and secure with a toothpick.
  4. Place single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle bacon-wrapped chicken with brown sugar.
  5. Place into oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from oven, brush wrapped chicken pieces with BBQ sauce.
  7. Bake 5-10 minutes longer or until chicken is no longer pink and bacon is crisp.
  8. NOTE: This is a great appetizer to make ahead and freeze! Freeze in a single layer, then place in an airtight container to put back in the freezer. When using, thaw in the refrigerator, then heat up in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until heated through. (It may work well to bake straight from the freezer, but for a longer time, as well; I just have not tried this method out yet.)




(Credit: this recipe was originally shared at TidyMom.net ... click here. Please visit TidyMom.net to find more great recipes! I made a few changes and additions before posting here on my blog.)

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Encouragement for Christmas Prep



How are you doing at this mid-month time? Halfway through the busiest, and most wonderful time of the year? 

I started out simple ... focusing on simplicity in preparations. And for me, preparations are joy-filled and fun, for they are preparations for our sweet family to be Home for Christmas! There will be about two dozen around our tables for our Christmas Dinner, and our home will be filled up to bursting with so much love! And I do love the preparations ... 

But it's easy to get off track; easy to think that we need to do more, and then easy, to over-do, to over-work. This is where I found myself recently ... 

(copied here, from my journal entry a few days ago)
"Somehow the busyness of the season has escalated, and somehow, my days have become too full. Or maybe it's just my mindset that has accelerated with all the wonderful and lovely things that I would like to do during this season. The result is that I can try to take on too much. As a result, I become worn out, tired, and then the lies from the enemy find places to lodge in the crevices and folds of my tired, worn-out life. And I slip into a performance mode ... in my own mind and heart, and also find myself looking to others, seeking for approval, wanting attention. 
And this is not where I want to be ... " 

And I'm thankful that in these times of escalating stress, that we can pause, and listen to Him as we read His Words, that we can quiet our hearts to hear the gentle whispers of God's Spirit within. Reminding us of Truth, reminding us to choose what is most important, even in the midst of busyness. A heart of trust and rest. A heart that is filled and overflowing with God's love. This is the most important ingredient for a joyful Christmas season.

So as I am preparing food for our Christmas Dinner and for the snacking and game times, as I am cleaning our rooms and setting up bedding, as I am wrapping gifts ... I need to remember. I need to not forget the most important ingredient that needs to envelop each thing that I do. And when I find myself stressed, I need to step back, pause, and remember the most important preparation, preparation of my heart. 

A few of the nuggets of encouragement I've received this first half of December, as I have paused, and listened to His Truth ...


Am I controlled by expectations, or am I filled with expectancy of what God can do? "Expectancy sets our sights on God's promises, rather than the empty pursuit of all that cannot truly satisfy in this season." (Prepare Him Room, advent readings from Gracelaced)

"When we fret over unforeseen circumstances and fuss over impressing others, we miss what Jesus calls 'the one thing' that's necessary - a posture of worship. Jesus came that we might know His presence, not impress anyone with our own." (Prepare Him Room, advent readings from Gracelaced)



Quiet your heart in His Presence,
and wait expectantly for Him.
(Psalm 37:7 TPT/CSB)


He brought me to a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delights in me.
(Psalm 18:19)


Surrender your anxiety!
Be silent and stop your striving
and you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations
and I will be exalted
throughout the whole earth.
(Psalm 46:10 TPT)


See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated 'God is with us'.
(Matthew 1:23 CSB)


And now ... let's continue on through the rest of this month. Pausing, listening, soaking up God's love and truth. Reflecting everyday on the Greatest Gift of all, and living our days and our moments closely with Immanuel: 'God with us'

Pausing, and being filled with His peace, and His joy - in the midst of the season's activity, and in the midst of our preparations for family Home for Christmas

Saturday, November 20, 2021

In the Kitchen: Warm and Cozy Fall Recipes

It's a joy to be "in the kitchen" whatever the time of year, but when the cooler days of fall come, with the holidays following close behind, it's an extra special joy for me to spend time in my kitchen. And no doubt it is the same for you! Here are a few things that I've made in recent weeks ...


This meatloaf recipe has been part of my collection for so very many years; I cannot even remember where or who I got it from. A simple meatloaf recipe, but it's my husband's favorite meatloaf. The addition of Heinz 57 sauce makes it a bit more special than others, in our opinion. I hadn't made it for quite awhile, and it was a real treat to serve it for Sunday Dinner recently.


Meat Loaf

Course: Main/Beef

Ingredients

  • 1 12 pounds ground beef
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, soft
  • 12 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons Heinz 57
  • 1 14 teaspoons salt
  • dash pepper

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients thoroughly. Place in a lightly greased loaf pan.
  2. Brush top with additional Heinz 57 sauce.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees oven for 1 hour.
  4. Allow meat loaf to stand 5 minutes before slicing.
  5. Servings: 6-8
  6. Note: Meat loaf may be shaped into a loaf (8x4x1 1/2) in a lightly greased shallow pan.

(This is an updated version of a previous post in 2011: to see original post, click here.)

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Apple Coffee Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

We really love this moist, delicious apple cake, and enjoy it as a dessert, sometimes even topped with ice-cream! It would be good served for a special brunch, as well. It's a favorite of mine, and can be served any time of year. Warm it up slightly before serving for an extra special touch.

Click here for the recipe at "Tastes Better from Scratch".


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30-Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

A comforting, yummy, and easy soup to prepare ... my go-to chicken noodle soup recipe! It was one of the first soup recipes I made this fall. I like to have the ingredients on hand continually, and this can be quickly made. 

One of the ingredients I like to use is a homestyle egg noodle that I used to be able to purchase at Sam's. They no longer carry it, so I recently ordered more from Amazon ... click here to view, if interested. Another favorite, easy ingredient I use is shredded, or chopped, deli roast chicken. I like to purchase one or two of these roast chickens each time I go to Sam's, and then shred or chop them up to store in 2 cup bags for various future recipes, keeping them handy in the freezer.

Also, an added perk to this soup recipe is that it freezes well.

Click here for the recipe featured in a previous blog post.

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Hot Spiced Cider

Another recipe that I've prepared and served for so long that I have no idea of where I first got it from. I served it at a recent gathering in our home, and was asked for the recipe. A perfect hot drink for holiday season, and easy to prepare. It adds a warm inviting aroma to our home as it simmers on the stove.

Just put the following ingredients in a saucepan, heat, and serve!

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 6 sticks cinnamon
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 lemon, cut in thin slices
  • 1/4 cup honey

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Cinnamon Rolls

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

It has been far too long since I've taken time to make bread. The last time I had a bread-making day was this past March - the 12 loaves I made that day lasted us awhile, but we have sure missed it in recent weeks/months. This past week I set aside time for a bread-making day again, and am so glad that I did! We have missed this tasty, homemade bread! 

With the help of my Bosch machine, I can mix up dough for six loaves of bread at a time!  Or I can use one (or more) of the portions for a pan of cinnamon rolls, or another kind of rolls. Often, after one batch of dough is shaped and rising, I go ahead and repeat the process ... and then end up with either 12 loaves, or often with 10 loaves of bread, and two pans of rolls! This is what I did this past week. I'm so grateful for a good supply of bread in the freezer for the coming weeks (for the two of us, and also to share). It is also so great to have our favorite cinnamon rolls already made for our Family Christmas!



A few years ago we upgraded my much older Bosch machine ... it was my Christmas gift, purchased on a Black Friday sale! I love this machine, it is amazing. 


The photo above shows the dough after it has been mixed in the Bosch machine, set out on my pastry mat, and then risen for half an hour. The next step is to divide into six portions ... five for bread, and one to be rolled out for the cinnamon rolls.

Click here for the Cinnamon Roll recipe shared on my blog back in 2010! And click here for the Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe shared in 2020. 

(I also have an older Whisper Mill, and use freshly ground wheat flour to use in my bread recipe, which makes it extra tasty.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

A Collection: A Few Coffee Table Books, Beauty in our Yard, Embroidery Flowers, and the Joy of Grandkids

 A fun little post of favorites, just a mix of inspirational, fun, or seasonal things that give me joy. It has been a number of months since my last one. Hope you enjoy!


I love these two coffee table style books ...

Gracelaced by Ruth Chou Simons - I read through this beautiful book again during 2021 (reading it season-by-season as it is divided up that way), and just finished up the last section a month or so ago. The artwork and the words are both so inspirational. 

Here's one quote that I had written in my journal from the "Fall - Intercession" reading:
"We groan as we try to pray through life's hardest challenges, while the Spirit groans on our behalf with perfect expression of our every need in the presence of our heavenly Father. ... The Spirit is indeed our Helper, both in our hearts and in connecting ours to His own. He makes prayer not just possible but plentiful as He provides for all the longings we express, and those we cannot."

And I am loving this brand new book by Holley Gerth: What Your Soul Needs for Stressful Times. It is so very timely to read, as no one can deny that we are going through a very stressful time here in our own country, and also around the world. Here's one of many quotes that I have written down in my journal from this book that I am currently reading ...

(Holley had referred to Exodus 3:14 where Moses had inquired of God's name, and the answer was: "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.")    
"Why does this matter in stressful moments? Because I AM is present tense. ... This means the only place we can fully experience the presence of God is the present ... When we get to tomorrow, He will be there. But today He is exactly where we need Him to be - with us." 

 


We enjoyed our outdoor patio flowers, as well as these in the front of our house throughout October, and clear through to the end of the month! A longer season than usual ... their beauty added to the colors of fall, making a beautiful mix of summer and fall! Click here to see more of the beauty in our yard the last half of October.



And I have been enjoying these flowers indoors! I started this embroidery project about six months ago, and I just put on the finishing stitches the last day of October! It's something I picked up to do here and there, in the midst of a full life ... a little refreshing break. It was a free pattern (click here) that I chose to do this year of our 50th Anniversary. The colors are the ones we used at our wedding, and the words "Be Still" are meaningful words from Psalm 46:10 which God used to lead us into retirement a year ago. Lots of memories held in this embroidery art that I plan to purchase a frame for in the future.



It's such a joy to be grandparents to ten sweet grandkids, and we had a fun four-day visit in mid-October to spend time with two of them, and also our daughter and son-in-law. It is hard to believe how fast they grow up ... Eva is our youngest grandchild, and at 9 years old, she is definitely not little anymore! And Cruz (one of three grandsons who are 12 years old) is in 7th grade already! 

Thanks for looking through my little collection of joy! 

Have a wonderful month of November!