Sunday, November 16, 2014

What About Your Marriage?

I have been burdened for the last few years to pray about marriages. The marriages of our church elders, of Christian leaders in the public focus and more. Every year I feel more and more burdened.
Marriage is under attack from many directions.... there are those who want to change the meaning of marriage... there are those who want to destroy marriage... there are those who want to encourage living together without marriage... and then there are those everyday stresses on marriages.






When I talked with my children the other day, I encouraged them to pray for married people in our church... or our neighborhood, family, friends, etc. No, not because we know or suspect there is a "problem", but because every marriage faces stresses. Some of those stresses may be busyness, fatigue, money worries, expectations, illness - serious or minor, child training issues, work schedules, extended family issues, and more. Maybe it is insecurity in the relationship, maybe addictions are hardening hearts or a wandering eye is being fed. Maybe there is a lack of contentment with things... or the spouse. Maybe there is nothing "big", maybe there are just lots of little irritations from everyday life - laundry, meals, dishes, cleaning the bathroom, and more. Whatever there might be, there ARE stresses that affect us and those stresses can also affect marriages.

How can we help that? We live in this world and there will be stresses. Christian are not immune to being affected.  So what can we do?

I have been greatly saddened to hear of several marriages that are being torn apart just recently. I am praying for reconciliation and I hope God grants that, but realistically... some of the people involved have already "moved on". They are "done". God can still soften their hearts and convict of sin... and I will pray, but I don't want to wait until the breakdown happens.... and ask God to "fix" it.  Maybe we should pray even before the breakdown of the marriage happens.

Though there may be other things we can do, in this post, my focus is prayer.  We can PRAY.  We can pray for God's protection around our own marriage and the marriages of others. We can pray for strength in difficulties. We can ask God to lead us in the way we should go, to alert us to any areas that are not pleasing to Him, and more. We can thank God for marriage... and for the marriages around us. What a blessing to see marriages... and especially marriages that last. We can ask God to bind husband and wife together, knitting their hearts together and helping them to remain committed.
We can be careful to be thankful for our spouse... and be thankful to God for His work in our marriage. The way we pray for our own marriage, is also a way we can pray for others.

It is easy to look around and see that everyone else has a perfect marriage..... but we are all sinners married to sinners and there are no perfect marriages. May we renew our commitment to live for the Lord in all things... even in marriage... and may we pray the same for others. Let's hold each other up in this way. The world is working hard to tear marriages apart... let's not sit back and wait for it to happen.  I hope you will be praying for marriages of those around you. I know I will.

I may be offline for a while... I am not sure how long. We will be traveling to help my parents as Dad has need of a stent to be put in because of a blockage in his heart... and Mom needs care. My husband is staying home to work and the kids will go with me. We don't know how long Mom and Dad will need us, so there is much uncertainty right now and I look forward to hearing what the doctor says. I also look forward to coming back home to see my husband and have things get back to "normal". I would love to have your prayers. Thank you ... and I hope you have a great week. :)




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Monday, November 10, 2014

Easy Lentils and Rice

We love lentils and rice... and I love to save money on our food as much as I can. We make this in an oven baking dish (or two) or in the crockpot.  It is filling, has protein, is liked by all in the family and it is a satisfying dish.










 I like to put this in the crockpot before church on Sundays with no potluck. (We have a potluck twice a month).  It is easy and fast to put all of the ingredients in, turn the crockpot on high.. and when we get home, lunch is hot and ready.

I use dry lentils (about 1 pound) and dry rice (about a pound also). I also add water so the crockpot is about half full or so. Then I add some chicken bullion powder, dried onions, Italian seasoning, olive oil and tomatoes - diced, or diced with chiles (mmm), or salsa.  
 My guys love this stuff, BUT they have to have tortillas to turn it into burritos. :)  I prefer it on a plate with no tortilla, but they love the burritos.

We usually add some cheese, salsa and sour cream, but we have also eaten them plain and they still tasted good... and were even cheaper to make. 

I like to eat mine without the tortilla...














 These can be made with a small amount of filling... or they can be stuffed.  My guys like them both ways... and they eat a lot. They eat more than one burrito. This can be served with salad, but this time, it was already 2:30 pm (it is hard to leave our brothers and sisters at church and we stay a while to chat!) and the kids wanted to eat right away, so no salad.

The flavor is good... and this is a meal that sticks with them for a while, without spending the money on meat to go in it. 

We did have kombucha also.

When there are leftovers (IF there are any leftovers!), they make a great snack for the guys, or can be added to soup the next day. 











                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                                 Lentils and Rice

          1 pound of dry lentils
          1 pound of dry rice
          9-12 cups of water or so (about half of the crockpot, for me)
          1 Tablespoon chicken bullion (sometimes I leave this out)
          1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (or whatever seasoning you choose)
          1 Tablespoon dried onions
          2-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
          1 can tomatoes.... diced, diced with chiles, salsa, etc. (sometimes I put 2 cans)
Put all in the crockpot and cook.
         .......................
When cooked, these ingredients can also be used to form burritos or to garnish the food on a plate.
           Tortillas
           Shredded cheese (we like sharp cheddar on this)
           Sour cream
           Salsa

 Can be cooked in the crockpot on high for about half of the day... or low for all day. Can also be put into casserole dish (maybe an 11" x 15"... or I will add more and put 2 casserole dishes - 9" x 11" in the oven).  When done, make burritos by spooning the lentils and rice on a tortilla, add  cheese, salsa and sour cream, if desired, and roll into a burrito.  Can also be eaten on a plate with the cheese, salsa and sour cream. (at least that's how we like it! :)  Tortilla chips taste great with this. 

   This recipe can very easily be adjusted to your family's tastes... if you like it spicy, add more salsa or hot sauce.... change the flavor with different herbs or spices....  budget super tight? can't afford sour cream?  leave it out... it is still good.  No cheese? that's okay too.
           ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I figure that this recipe cost me about $7.00 to make and I served 8 people (5 of them were men or boys who eat a lot).... it would be more if you also serve tortilla chips with it. I shop sales to get a good price on the foods. I also shop at Aldis for many things.  Obviously, I can't spend this much on every meal or I would go way over budget, but this is a good hearty meal that we make once or twice a month.

Thank you for visiting my blog today. :)



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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Creamy Pumpkin Potato Soup, Mmmm Good

This Creamy Pumpkin Potato Soup is a very flavorful savory soup with a hint of sweetness. The blend of flavors is unique, but pleasing. It was unlike anything we have had before, but we all really liked and enjoyed it. It is a great soup to serve with hot fresh bread or dinner rolls.. and wonderful for the cold weather. 

I have a lot of pumpkins to use and so have been thinking of fun ways to use them. We love pumpkin/potato soup, so I made that. Of course it was a bit different than I usually make it, as my kids joke that I rarely make things the same way twice. :)  I was in an experimenting mood and this really turned out to be good... very savory with a hint of sweetness. My whole family loved it and asked that I remember how I made it so that I can do it again... so I wrote it down... and here it is. :)


First, I started with butter and added diced fresh onions and garlic and sauteed it for about 10 minutes. 

Here are some of my pumpkins that I an using. Yum....   The one I used for this recipe was about 9" tall x about 10" wide... similar to the one in the middle.... and I used the entire pumpkin in this soup, but it was a big soup. I actually doubled the recipe below, so you would need a smaller pumpkin for the recipe.

We removed the seeds and strings, then peeled about half of the pumpkin and cut the pumpkin into chunks... maybe about 1" size.

The other half of the pumpkin was put on foil on a cookie sheet with a little water and baked for about 30 minutes.







 The pumpkin chunks were added to the pot and so were the potatoes, celery, carrots...
 
... and parsley after the parsley was all cut up small.  This cooked for about 30 more minutes or so until the pumpkin chunks were tender. 

I also added spices and seasonings at  this time (I added more later on also).

Here is the pot of soup so far..... next I divided it into the two crockpots (They are both about 6 quart crockpots.)

 The recipe below is for 1 - 6 quart crockpot... I doubled it to make it for my family.



Once they were in the crockpots, I added about 12 cups of water since the pot of soup so far was very thick and I was just sauteeing and cooking the vegetables. I also scooped out the baked pumpkin and added that to the soup and stirred it in.






Once in the crockpot, I added more freshly ground seasoning...  a mixture of Celtic salt, pepper, dill weed, dill seed, rosemary, dried onions, dried garlic, crushed red pepper and savory.  I make it into a mixture and grind it on top of the soup. You can see how to do that here  Grind Your Own Seasoning .... Easily... ....

You can also just add the spices instead of using the grinder. I like adding more at this point... the ones I added earlier have cooked into the vegetables... now these will simmer together and enhance the flavors.

 Then the soup simmered for about 4 hours. Oh, the house smelled so good. :)

 After the hours of simmering, I added sour cream and mixed it in. Then I spooned out about half of each crockpot and put it in the blender and blended it.  After pouring it back into the crockpot and stirring it all together, the soup became very creamy... and it smelled great.

We also made homemade dinner rolls using my Basic Homemade Bread Recipe. The hot dinner rolls were a wonderful addition to the meal.

                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                               Creamy Pumpkin Potato Soup

              1/4 cup butter
              2 onions, chopped   
              3 cloves garlic, chopped
              4 cups raw pumpkin, cut into small chunks 
Note: Bake the other half of the pumpkin, cut side down, on cookie sheet with 2 Tablespoons water added. Bake for about 30 minutes. It will be used later.
              3 stalks celery, diced
              Large sprig parsley, chopped
              2 1/2 pounds potatoes, cut into pieces ..........Sautee and cook together for about 30-40 min.

              Bake the other half of the pumpkin, cut side down, on cookie sheet with 2 Tablespoons water added. Bake for about 30 minutes.
         
              1 1/2 Tablespoons chicken bullion powder
              1/2 teaspoon salt
              1/4 teaspoon black pepper
              1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
              1/4 teaspoon paprika
              1/4 teaspoon basil
              1 teaspoon tumeric
              1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
              1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
              1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
              1/4 teaspoon allspice
              1 Tablespoon bacon bits   ........................... all spices can be added while cooking on stove

          After cooking on stove for 30-40 minutes, transfer to crockpot. Then add.....
               6 cups water (or more)
               The rest of the cooked pumpkin, scraped from skin and added to soup
               Grind spices over the top generously.  Grind Your Own Seasoning.... Easily  is what I used... or you can add them separately. They are listed here:
                Celtic Salt
                Pepper
                Dill Seed
                Dill Weed
                Rosemary
                Dried Onions
                Dried Garlic
                Crushed Red Pepper
                Savory   .............I mix all of these up in my own grinder as show in the link above... or season to your own taste.

  Simmer in the crockpot for 3 - 4 hours, then add 
                 1 cup sour cream 
                 Salt and Pepper to taste

   Blend about half of the soup in a blender, then add back to the crockpot and mix together. The result is a very creamy and savory soup with a hint of sweetness.  Serve with fresh bread or dinner rolls.  Optional garnish of sliced green onions, cheese, bacon bits.


  I cooked this on the stove and then in the crockpot. It would also work to put everything into the crockpot and simmer 8 hours or so. I didn't have that much time and had to rush things a bit. This soup has a very unique flavor that my family just loved... and the fresh dinner rolls and butter went nicely with it. If you don't have all of the spices, just use what you have and see what you come up with... it should still taste great! :) 

          This makes enough to put into a 6 quart crockpot, but amounts can be adjusted if needed.
                     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



































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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grind Your Own Seasoning... Easily

 
I love to use a variety of herbs and spices.... and yet, I do not like to pay high prices for them. I also love to grind them but again, I do not  like to pay high prices for them. Also, I prefer to mix my own, rather than use the pre-made mixes found in grinders in the store.

I was glad to find a wonderfully easy solution. :)  After looking at different stores and buying a couple of ginder bottles with herbs in them and using them up, I was excited to try putting my own into the bottle, BUT I found that many of the bottles with a grinder are made so that they cannot be re-used, as the lids are either "snapped on" at the factory or glued to the bottle.


 I was sad to see that, but kept looking and finally found some brands of herb/seasonings with grinders that do have a screw off top and they can be re-filled and re-used.  The main store I have bought them at is Aldi's.  I am not sure what the price is currently, but I was paying about $1.69 each... they have black pepper, poultry seasoning, herb seasoning and a couple of others.

I bought a few of them and tried them... they were okay, but my main interest was in using the bottle, so after using them up, I started to experiment.  My initial attempts were quite tame... dehydrated onions and garlic... and maybe Celtic salt. :)  That was okay, but I have branched out much since then.

I haven't bought any for a long time, as I just keep using the bottles I have. One problem with them is that the bottle itself is glass, but the lid is a hard plastic, so the lid CAN break.. yes, this is the voice of experience talking. :)  Once the lid breaks, it is time for a new grinder bottle. 

Here, you can see that I have put several herbs and spices in and they are rather layered. I fill it about 3/4 full, leaving the extra space to allow for the mixing of the herbs and spices as I shake the bottle. You could also mix them up in a separate bowl and then just fill the jar - either way will work fine.




Here is what it looks like after mixing. 
 Any dried herbs and spices that you like to cook with, can be used.  I use Celtic or mineral salt - the ones with the chunks.. they are so healthy for us and they grind nicely.  I usually use a lot of dried onions and garlic as my base... and then... add whatever sounds good.

I like to have a couple of different mixes made up and ready to use.



This mix has Celtic salt, chopped peppercorns, dill weed, dill seed, rosemary, dried onions, dried garlic, crushed red pepper, savory.

I rarely put any ground seasoning in... I use the whole rosemary and savory, so using things dried from our garden works well. I do like to add tumeric, so sometimes I put that in a mixture... and I use the powdered spice.

In some of my mixes, I will add dried peppermint or spearmint, parsley, thyme, oregano, stevia or others. Just be sure they are safe for human consumption, and then you can "play" with them.
It helps to label the mix.... I don't always do this as we tend to go through it rather quickly and I just fill it back up again... and it isn't always the same every time. :) I have been using a lot of dill weed and dill seed (though both are dill, the flavors differ a bit) ... and we enjoy the slight flavor in different foods... it adds something a bit unique, but doesn't taste like pickles!

I really like using such a mixture on hamburgers....  and the family loves it.  It works well in soup, casseroles or other foods. It works best to use it when there is a bit of time for the herbs/spices to cook into the food... we don't use these on the table to put onto already cooked food.

Anyway, this is easy.... tasty.... AND much more economical than buying prepared herb and spice mixtures. This way, it is possible to buy in bulk, but still have the convenience of a mix all ready to grind. I love how God helps to stretch our food dollars in such ways. :)

Thank you for visiting my blog today. I hope you are having a great day and week.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Last Of The Harvest....

We had a hard freeze a couple of nights ago.... so there was a rush to get all of the rest of the harvest in.  We had already harvested the herbs.... especially the lavender, which you can read about here. We were still getting tomatoes and so those needed to be harvested, along with other things.

 I didn't harvest a lot, but I wanted to gather some more herbs to add to my supply for winter..... and there were flowers also. :)
 Here, there are a couple of mints, basil, some thyme... and roses.

We had quite a few green tomatoes and red tomatoes in the garden, so I am glad to have those. Some years, we eat the last of them close to New Year's Eve. We eat them as they ripen.

The picture also show green onions, yarrow, stevia... and more flowers. :) 






I was actually quite surprised that I had enough flowers out there to make these displays.... and wondered why I hadn't done it in the last few weeks.











The small roses started blooming again recently... I am glad to have them in the house. 


The alstoemeria was also beautiful... 


 The stevia and yarrow are hanging here.  Normally, I do not harvest herbs that are flowering.... but I did it this time and the leaves still taste sweet, so we will use them.  They will dry for a week or so, then I will put them away.

It is a bit sad to close the garden down for the winter... and yet, it is also good. There is much to take my attention in the winter months and it seems that there is an orderliness to our days and months, which is good. I do appreciate the break from gardening... although I did did up the pepper plants and potted them, hoping to have peppers this winter.... we'll see.

By spring, I will be very eager to get things growing in the garden again. For now, the garden can rest.

Thank you for visiting today. I am so thankful for all that God provides..... through the garden and in other ways.  God is the great Provider. 

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