Friday, August 27, 2010

Family Dinner

Some may wonder why I am so obsessive about dinners. As a child we ate family dinners together every night. I remember my mom cutting portions smaller and smaller to accommodate my teenage friends that often arrived at dinner time. She never turned anyone away, but would add more rice, make a bigger salad, or add more bread to the meal. I remember those chicken breasts getting smaller and smaller, much to the dismay of my hungry dad. I lived in "that" house. The one where everyone felt loved and safe. The place where everyone hung out on sultry summer evenings. Mom would inevitably make an appearance on the screened porch with a tray of drinks and a bag of popcorn or chips. There were kids digging in the fridge. There were extra teenage bodies strewn about the family room many mornings. My friends so loved our house that they would come and stay when I was not even home.

Children can sense a safe, loving home. They gravitate to those houses. My mom never complained about the extra mouths to feed. She never grumbled about the disappearing sodas and kids digging in her fridge. She reveled in the joy of knowing where her kids were, that they were safe, and that she could sleep peacefully.

Well into our older teen years, my brother and I were often home for dinner. Mom said she found out all the important information at the dinner table. She found out which kids were struggling, how we were doing in school, how we were getting along with our friends, and the latest gossip spreading through the neighborhood and school hallways. It gave them a chance to offer advice on our problems and reconnect as a family.

The family dinner has become a tale of antiquity. No longer important in this fast paced world that values travel sports over family togetherness. Parents must divide and conquer to get the kids to all their activities which are conveniently scheduled during the dinner hours. What happened to school activities right after school? I was an active kid. I swam and danced. I worked and dated. How was I still able to be home for dinner? Quite simply, activities were never scheduled during dinner hours.

I guard our family dinners with the fierceness of a bear protecting her cubs. It is important. My girls at younger ages learned how to behave at the table. They learned how to engage in conversation and be polite. How can we expect them to behave in a restaurant when they don't sit at the table at home? As they have gotten older, I find so much truth in my mother's words. We get all the important information at the dinner table. Food has a way of knocking down barriers and opening up honest conversation. We laugh. We play silly games. We tell stupid jokes. We have some serious conversations. We go over things that happened during the day. It is my favorite time of the day. It is not about the food, it is about the family.

Here is my hectic, running around, no time to cook crockpot taco recipe...

2 lbs. ground beef
1 chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 can diced chile peppers
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 C water
1 pkg. taco seasoning (I make my own but store bought works too)

Brown ground beef. Add onions and garlic and saute a couple minutes. Place in crockpot. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cook on low 5-8 hours. Makes great leftovers for taco salad!

Serve with tortillas, roasted corn (or frozen corn), salad, and all the toppings.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Our friend and cabinet guy Rodney over at Wooden Innovations installed the sink cabinet this week. We thought our favorite plumber would get to us this week, but it will be early next week before we see the completion of our bathroom remodel. The lighting has been ordered and I still need to go buy a mirror. I found an antique, silver, framed mirror at the flea market that would look beautiful. I just need to go buy it.

Hubby is still job hunting. The girls and I started back to school "officially" this week. Some couples thrive on their time away from each other. We are one of those odd couples that likes having each other around. His time at home is a blessing not a burden. I suppose my husband is just odd in general. He likes being home with me and the girls. He helps around the house, in fact putting laundry away is his job. He's not interested in looking at other women or even joking about that. He hates to travel for work because he would rather be home. He took his lunch to work because he always says my leftover cooking is better than anything he could get in a restaurant. As much as people joke about their in-laws, I have to give them all the praise for raising 2 amazing men.

I was lucky enough to get one of those men. My sister in law was lucky enough to get the other. My brother in law has been through a lot in the past couple years. My sister in law has been fighting late stage lyme disease. She has been to the point they thought she would die. I think lesser men would have run away from what they have been through, but it has made them strongly united. You can read her story at Our Life In My Words.

I am excited about the future. Some are amazed that I am not afraid because I do not know what lies ahead. The truth is, do we ever know what lies ahead? We think we can plan the years ahead and lay out our path but we do not know what our futures hold. I do know that God is good, that He loves me, and that the Bible says "do not be afraid". My faith in God's big plan makes me excited. He has big things for me and my family just around the corner and I cannot wait to see tomorrow. This is the day the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

For dinner tonight? Maybe chicken.... It is Saturday after all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Could You Live Without?

I do most of my thinking in the shower. The water drowns out the dogs snoring, the kids bickering, and my husband puttering. It's a good time for me to think, pray, and just be alone. So I was thinking this afternoon, as I rinsed the colorant out of my hair to cover the ever increasing number of gray sprouts, what one thing could I live without if I had to cut the budget further?

My hair color was $13 on sale at Harry's and I refuse to give that up. I look young and if I had a head of gray hair, everyone would be terribly confused. I'll stick with my medium golden brown, thank you. I say that I could give up the cable, but could I really survive without Tim Gunn? Perhaps not. I could live without meat, but my husband and rapidly growing children would wither and fall away. I could give up my cell phone in an instant and get a pay as you go. I love my i-Phone but I know it is a want not a need. Our biggest bill outside our mortgage right now is our electric bill because it has been so hot. I will not turn off my A/C. If I had to get a job to keep it turned on, I would be out pounding the pavement rather than blogging.

I suppose I could look at what I have already given up: shopping, vacations, new furniture, the ASG Convention, and a new kitchen. Our budget cuts have not been too deep when I think about it. I still eat the foods I love, still have a couch, albeit a teal green couch, still have a kitchen, albeit an ugly one, and best of all, I still have my family, my pugs, and a place to live. Does God ever promise us more than necessities? Nope.

I got to thinking after I talked to a friend of mine that insisted that her kids needed name brand clothing because they have to fit in. She was not willing to give up anything to afford her kids clothing. In fact, these same kids have i-phones. What does that teach those children? I think those kids will grow up feeling entitled to all the things that everyone else can afford. Nobody ever bothered to tell them "no, we cannot afford that".

My kids are well aware of their daddy's unemployment. They understand that we won't go to the beach this year if he doesn't have a job. They understand that we don't have $40 to go see Toy Story III in the theater. These are the life lessons that will serve them well into adulthood. We are not destitute but it is because of our financial responsibility that we are ok. This is exactly why God wants us to be financially responsible and to teach our children how to be financially responsible. Life is much less stressful when we are good stewards of what He has given us.

For dinner tonight...???? We're going to a birthday party! I'll post our favorite cake recipe tomorrow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Knitting Socks

I am currently obsessed with knitting socks. It has been one of those "things" on my list for years. I have my own sort of Bucket List with things that I would like to try or do in my life. Things that I would like to try just to see if I like them.

I have always said that I would knit just one sock and never make it's mate. I have done some research about socks. Checked out some sock making books from the library and placed others on reserve to wait for them to be delivered to my local library. The first book was about making socks 2 at a time on circular needles. What I made was a huge mess of circular needle cable and yarn. There was this awful laddering going on down the sides and I finally gave up.

I thought that double pointed needles (DPN's or skewers as my kids call them) would be hard and I envisioned one stuck up my nose. To my surprise, they are easier than the circular needle method and socks knit up rather quickly. I haven't finished one yet but am working my way down the foot. The best instructions I have found came from Come to Silver I suppose I will finish this pair of socks even though the size is off and the gauge is really small. I would like to try a pair with worsted weight and bigger needles.

As promised, my Chimichanga Recipe...

Chicken Chimichangas
Black olives
Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
Refried beans (or black beans from previous post)
Sour Cream
Shredded lettuce
Cheddar Cheese
Large tortillas
1 C chicken broth
1 C water
1/2 C red enchilada sauce
1 C long grain rice
Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until done.

4 C diced cooked chicken
Cook cut up chicken with cumin, chili powder, garlic (optional) salt and pepper. Alternatively, a rotisserie chicken would work.

Spoon equal amounts of the following into a tortilla: Rice mixture, refried beans, chicken, black olives, monterrey jack cheese. Turn top and bottom up and then roll and place seam side down on greased cookie sheet. Spray tops of finished chimichangas lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 425 F for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown. Serve with remaining red enchilada sauce, sour cream, cheddar, guacamole, and lettuce.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cooking Without

Honestly, I do love to cook and it is a good thing. While I was nursing my first daughter, I had to avoid dairy. She still continued to scream for hours on end and not sleep. I was at my wits end with her. She screamed inconsolably until she was about a year old. Everyone who knew me then was shocked that I would even consider having another, let alone actually go through with it.

I was shocked when my 2nd daughter arrived 6 weeks early. Placenta previa was the culprit and let me just tell you, it's a scary ending to a pregnancy. Because she was a preemie, we visited every pediatric -ologist you could imagine. Neonatologist, pulmonologist, opthamalogist, and lastly gastroenterologist. When she developed blood in her stool it was the gastroenterologist that shed light on not only her problems, but the problems with my previous infant. She had what he described as a classic case of protein intolerance. This diagnosis severely impacted my diet. I was told to eliminate soy, dairy, beef, eggs, chocolate (yes, really), and nuts. Within a week the problems all cleared up and she was a happy, smiley baby again. If only I had known the first time around.

Fast forward 9 years and they have outgrown all their issues. It was just a case of an immature digestive tract, not a life long problem. I began eating all my usual favorites again. I began having terrible digestive problems. It seems my body forgot how to digest dairy products and not just lactose, it is a cannot digest dairy protein problem. That was soon followed by trouble with soy, onions, and garlic. The onion I can live without, the garlic has been rather hard. The trick is that either dairy, soy, or onion is found in all processed foods. That eliminates cookies, salsa, Italian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, fast food, flavored rice or couscous, potluck dinners, the list goes on and on.

This is where the love of cooking has come in handy. I have been cooking dinner since we first got married. We rarely eat out because I'd rather eat at home. I have developed work arounds for most cuisines and recipes that allow me to eat what I want without consequence. Last night dinner was Baked Chimichangas. I will give the recipes for dairy/soy, onion, and garlic free Mexican over the next 2 days. If you can have those things, by all means add 1/4 C salsa and 2 cloves of garlic to the Enchilada sauce, First up Red Enchilada Sauce and Rena's Black Beans...

Red Enchilada Sauce
1 can diced tomatoes, pureed
1/2 tsp oregano
2 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp basil
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 C water

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered 15-20 minutes.

Rena's Black Beans
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C water (or chicken broth)
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer, stirring occasionally and mashing beans with the back of a spoon. Be careful to not burn the bottom. If it gets too thick, add more water. Mine looks close to refried bean consistency when I am done.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

I have been reading Andy Stanley's Principle of the Path and it hit me last night that I was heading down a path that led to a place I didn't want to be. We were heading to financial instability. We were taking our financial responsibility and throwing it out the window. It was time we acknowledged our situation, accepted the truth, and chose a new direction.

My hubby's unemployment has definitely redirected our focus. Suppose we had taken on this massive renovation and then he were unemployed. Would we have the necessary savings to survive until the next job presented itself? I'm laying it all out here in black and white in hopes that others may take warning. We were planning on borrowing the money to renovate the kitchen. Now I don't have a problem with borrowing responsibly. To me that means being able to pay it back and having a plan to do so. D and I had a heart to heart the other night and he questioned whether I would ever be able to take on that kind of debt in order to remodel the kitchen. My reply was that if we had 6 months living expenses and included the payment that would be required on that loan, then I would be comfortable borrowing. I need to know that if he were unemployed again, we would be able to weather the storm as we are now.

What's for dinner tonight...well, I'll tell you what NOT to have for dinner tonight. Last night we had this fabulous molasses marinated pork as seen on Good Eats with Alton Brown. It was fabulous but the marinade had coffee in it and lets just say there wasn't much sleeping going on at our house. Serve it with baked beans, pasta salad, and some fruit and it's a great summer time meal, just make sure you are prepared to be awake.