Monday, March 31, 2014

Crockpot Beef Stew

This is crock pot beef family loves it.
 I like to make it in the crock pot, so that I can do the work of it in the morning when I have more energy.....then leave it to cook all day.

I don't always make it the same.....sometimes there are variations depending on what I have on hand, but it is usually pretty similar.

I started here with about 2 pounds of baby carrots - they were on sale this week and I was in a hurry, so didn't want to peel and cut up the regular carrots. Personally, I think the regular carrots have better flavor than the baby carrots, so that it what I usually use.

I had found red potatoes on sale, so we just scrubbed them and cut them up, leaving the skins on. We scrubbed 5 pounds and used all but 3 potatoes.....I ran out of space in the crock pot. :)

We cut up 2 large onions also.....and added both the potatoes and onions to the crock pot.

I had bought stew meat - about 1 1/2 pounds of it and I browned it in olive oil in a frying pan on the stove. I also used 1 packet of onion soup mix on it and about 1/2 cup of water. I rarely use mixes, so felt a bit guilty about this, but this helped since I was in such a hurry this day.

When the meat was browned, but not cooked all through, I added it to the crockpot.

Next came the diced tomatoes.....after I took this picture, I added another can of diced tomatoes.........then decided there was enough room for some green beans in there.....see those little spaces?... well, I filled them up with green beans.  By this time, the crock pot was really full........and I added water.....enough to bring the level up near the top, but not all the way. I also sprinkled some red pepper flakes on the top.

I had to push the lid down to get it to close since it was so full, but it worked. Normally, I do 2 crockpots of a meal like this so that we will have some leftovers, but I broke the liner of my other crock pot, so only have one now. I have to fill it really full......then when it is cooked, I transfer some to a saucepan and add salt, pepper and thicken it with corn starch in water, to make a nice thick hearty broth in both the crock pot and in the saucepan. When I use 2 crock pots, I don't have to transfer it, but this works for now until I get another one. With my size family, we put 2 crock pots to use very often.

We served fresh homemade bread with butter with the stew..... the whole meal was delicious and we all enjoyed it greatly. I love making crock pot meals.....they cook while I am doing other work and they taste wonderful after simmering all day.

Thank you for joining me here at Gentle Joy Homemaker. I hope you have a great day!   :)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been a bit dissatisfied with most chocolate chip cookie recipes that I have tried, for one reason or another (and I have used many different recipes....I bake a LOT of cookies at my house!). I use only butter as the fat in cookies - no shortening and many times the cookies turn out to be too flat when I use only butter. I just refuse to use shortening, though, as the hydrogenated fats are so bad for my family......and besides, butter tastes better. :)

I have found a couple of recipes that I like for chocolate chip cookies, but I kept searching for something better. Recently, I found a recipe that I was able to tweak a bit and we REALLY like it.  I made them again today.....and remembered to take pictures.....finally!

The recipe is a bit different, in that there is no vanilla in it............also the ratio of eggs and butter is different from most chocolate chip recipes. I added oatmeal also..........and the cookie dough is stiff...they take a bit of arm strength to stir up....but they are really worth it. I admit that I called on one of my sons today to stir at the end when my arm was really tired...... He knows that a "labourer is worthy of his hire" meaning that he gets to eat a cookie when they are done...he was certainly a willing worker. :)

I like that the cookies stay chunky - and not flat. They are a bit crispy on the outside....but so chewy inside. I have also found that they do well in the cookie jar.....many of the chocolate chip cookies from other recipes will stick together in the cookie jar....or dry out....these seem to stay separate nicely.....and last least as far as I can tell since cookies don't last too long at my house!!!  :)

I decreased the amount of chocolate chips from the original recipe and yet there are still lots of chips.

                                                                                                                                           375 degrees
                                                                                                    ungreased cookie sheet    8 minutes
                                Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                                       1 1/2 cup granulated sugar                        
                                                       1 1/2 cup brown sugar
                                                       2 cups butter, softened(yes, that is 4 sticks)
                                                       2 large eggs
                                                       4 1/2 cups flour
                                                       2 teaspoons baking soda
                                                       1 teaspoon salt
                                                       3/4 cup rolled oats (could add up to 1 cup, if desired)
                                                       1 1/2 packages chocolate chips
                                                       2 cups chopped nuts (optional)

         Add ingredients to a large mixing bowl, in the order written, and stir well each time there is a  line in the recipe. (I am teaching some of my kids how to make cookies and this is so much easier for them to see at a glance what to add and when to stir).  Dough will be stiff....just keep stirring. Drop by teaspoons full on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool about 2 minutes or so on pan, then put them on a wire rack to cool.  These taste delicious........and they do freeze well. Enjoy!

I hope you like these as well as we do.......we have made them several times and they are popular with all who try them.

Thank you for visiting my blog today.........I hope you have a wonderful day!!

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Big Painting Project

We needed to paint several rooms, but there was no money for paint. We were trying to get our house ready to put on the market and paint helps so much to freshen things. What to do?............... Well, God provided 2 cans of gray paint....for FREE!!!  Someone was just getting rid of it - you see it sometimes on Craigslist.

   At the time, it wasn't my first choice, but free is free and God had provided it, so I was going to use it.............somehow!

After some thought and since there were 2 gallons of the same color,  I decided to use it for the hallway, entryway. garage entry and 2 stairways (we live in a split level with 3 half size stairways) and planned to put white trim to contrast...........

We LOVED it! What a blessing. :)  If we had been able to afford to go and buy the paint, we never would have picked out the gray, but it was a perfect color for contrasted so nicely with the white woodwork and the oak flooring..... ....and it was calm, yet crisp and cheery.

After doing all of the gray areas, we still had paint left (I am quite frugal and am pretty good at stretching the paint!), we still needed to paint the living room, dining room and kitchen. There wasn't enough gray paint to do all of them and we really didn't want everything to be the same color, so I experimented................

We painted the living room gray and then I ragged on some blue - I had just a bit of it left in the bottom of a can from years before.......

 We liked gave the room a blue color, but wasn't strong blue......and it flowed very nicely from the entryway which was just the gray with white trim.

Next, the kitchen.....hmmm......didn't want gray in there at all......I looked and found 1/2 can of a light herb green(another freebie!) that we decided to try......

Since the kitchen isn't large, and cupboards and such take up a lot of the wall space, the half can was plenty with a bit left over, so I had another idea.....................
  We painted the dining room gray also, although I was really concerned that I could stretch the paint far enough to finish the room. Like I said, I am very good at stretching the paint, but this was iffy..........   By the end, I felt it was like the woman and her son in the Bible with the oil that was so plentiful!!!!  There was enough to finish.....and a little.....not much at all.....left for touch up.  Wow....that was amazing......those 2 cans of gray paint did a lot!

Then I ragged on the green paint from the kitchen over the gray......and again changed the look of the gray and we really liked it.

 The green over the gray is reminiscent of wallpaper, yet it is understated and not overpowering. It is a nice backdrop for the room. The green rag paint over the gray is on the top part of the room........below the white chair rail, I left it plain gray.
 One thing I LOVE about this project is that it doesn't all look the same.......and yet it flows so wonderfully.  All of the colors are combined in different ways and they work so well together. It was a fresh look and it all started with 2 free cans of gray paint.  :) 

Remember that bit of gray paint I had left? Well, I decided to do some more experimenting.....The basement was a tan so I ragged the white wall of the stairwell to the basement with the tan and the gray and created another different look there also, and still had a little gray for touch up.

All in all, this project was a success.......and I think it was even better for having to make the free paint work for us..... and also needing to use creativity.  The only thing I had to buy for this whole project was the white paint for the woodwork.........and I had part of a can already, so only needed to buy one gallon.

Please don't think I am bragging on, I am marveling at God's provision and His blessing us with creativity and contentment. If I had fussed and demanded that we buy the paint I wanted, my husband would have tried to figure out a way to do it.........and what a blessing we would have missed. We find that we aren't just "settling" for the freebie.........but after it is all done, we can't imagine liking it nearly as well with other colors. God's provision for us is pretty amazing.

I also find it amazing that 2 gallons of free gray paint, stretched to cover: the hallway by the bedrooms, 2 stairwells, front entryway, garage entry, living room and dining room. I would never have started the project expecting it to go that far and I really think God stretched it for us.  I am good at making the paint stretch, but I don't think I am THAT good at it. :)

I have had other projects where I used what I had or what God provided for free - and they turned out to be blessings. I have learned to trust Him to provide and not demand what I want, but to pray about it and wait to see how He's not always free, but He is still the One who provides for us....sometimes He provides through what we already have....and I tend to "shop" in my own home before looking elsewhere.

Thank you for joining me today.....I hope you have a wonderful day and see God's provisions for you also.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Salad Pizza As A Meal

Salad Pizza is a meal that we really enjoy. I know that it is mainly meant to be a party type food, but we enjoy it as a regular meal. We make it a bit different so that it is more nutritious than the party recipe would be.

It tastes great, is not a heavy meal, but it is has bread, veggies and protein.

We make regular baking powder biscuit crust......and then....

.....pat it out onto a large cookie, it doesn't look too pretty, but it works. :)

Next, we bake it for about 15 minutes or so, until it is nicely browned.

While it is baking, we cut up veggies - sometimes it varies, but we like to use carrots, peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, green onions and others. Whatever your family likes should work.  We tend to really load our "pizza" with veggies - especially in the summer when we have lots of fresh ones. It is a great way to eat lots of veggies.

After the crust is baked, you can either wait for it to cool...........or since we are usually in a hurry, we put the sauce and toppings on pretty quickly while it is still warm. Our crust, with the toppings added soon, stays a bit soft and then crusty on the bottom........

For the sauce topping, we use a mixture of 8 oz of cream cheese and some ranch dressing, milk, sometimes sour cream, sometimes some dill, etc..........until there is enough sauce topping to cover the crust generously.

We don't like for it to be dry and since we are using this more as a meal, we make sure there is enough "sauce".
Then we add the veggies............and tomatoes......(in the winter when we don't have fresh tomatoes, we use canned diced tomatoes, drained, and it works well.)

Next cheese and bacon bits (real bacon bits).  Sometimes, we add olives and you could add mushrooms.....really just whatever your family likes. Then I press it down with the palm of my hands so that the toppings all settle into the "sauce" and stay put when we cut the pieces.

Next, we use a pizza cutter to cut it into squares or rectangular pieces and then we eat. For a while, we made this many Sunday evenings for our supper and loved it. We have been out of the habit, but have started having it tastes so good and it is like a big salad on a crust, but it is more satisfying than most salads and all of our family enjoys it.

Sometimes we use it as part of the meal and sometimes the Salad Pizza IS our meal. It works well either way. The flavors all blend together and taste wonderful. As a mom of a big family, I love having meals like this to add to the list of meals I serve......and it is also nice that everyone enjoys it.
Thank you for visiting today...........

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

WHERE Are My Ducks????

WHERE Are My Ducks?????  Silly title?  Well, bear with me................years ago, I would often say to my husband that I needed to get "my ducks in a row" and then I would be all set. 

 I liked having my "ducks in a row". I liked feeling "on top" of things. 

 I had my lists and checked them often and loved marking off items as I completed them. I felt efficient, purposeful and orderly. It was great!

When I got married and started having children, there were more "ducks" to tend to and I had to work harder and harder, but I was determined to keep that orderly row of ducks.....

I handled the messes, the extra work and the fun- and just kept tending to the increasing number of ducks.

If things got overwhelming, I would make a new list or two and work really hard, lose sleep if necessary,  and get all of those ducks back into a "row".  It felt good.

 Often I would notice someone with their disorderly life and then look with pride at all my ducks in a row and think to myself that if they just used "my system", then their ducks would all be in a row also.

 Then, my "ducks" started acting up. They resisted my efforts to keep them in a row. My responsibilities continued to increase.... husband, children, medical problems for one child, doctor appointments, medical procedures that I had to perform for my son, making many quarts of sterilized water, keeping medical charts for my son, trying desperately to keep my son alive, living on an extremely tight budget, eating healthy, gardening, etc, etc.
Pretty soon, I had so many ducks....that I couldn't even find all of them!

It seemed that everywhere I looked, there were more ducks, and they were not at all in a row.

Panic set in..........I tried to find all of the ducks and put them in the best order that I could......I would be so glad to finally be a bit more organized.....then all of a sudden, there would be ducks in other places again.

Everywhere I looked, there were ducks.................WHAT was I supposed to do?  I used to LIKE ducks.......but now, it felt like the ducks were taking over. My responsibilities started to feel overwhelming......

I would find ducks wherever I looked....on a shelf that needed to be dusted, in a sink of more dirty dishes, the laundry hamper, another meal to make, kids wanting a snack, more papers to grade, needing to spend quality(?) time with my husband, being a good friend to others, gardening, bushes to be trimmed, and more and more and more.

I still kept my lists............but instead of helping me...........they oppressed me and I felt I was a slave to them.

 I wanted a  break from all of the "Duck Management Issues"......I was tired......I was weary.....and I was starting to dislike.........ducks.

Here, there and everywhere.................

Those wonderful ducks.....weren't so wonderful anymore. Where I used to feel like I could be Mrs. Wonderful Wife, Supermom, Great Teacher and more..........I started feeling unable to do anything, except try to corral a few ducks....if they let me. 

 I started to feel like I was a failure....and wondered if others noticed my messy ducks. I felt embarrassed, knowing that I had been critical of others, and feeling the criticism of my current "Chaotic Duck Status".

The ducks continued to show up, seeming to mock me with their presence in so many places. 

I sadly noticed all the ducks....knowing I couldn't control them...........I just had too much to do.

Finally, I had a thought......

Knowing that God won't give me more than I can handle..................and I couldn't handle all of my "ducks" anymore................I figured out that I must be trying to take care of more "ducks" than God intended for me. 
 What a thought! The issue became.....trying to figure out which "ducks" God wanted me to keep track of.............and which ones had to go.

That was/is a LOT harder than it sounds......there are so many "ducks" (responsibilities) that I cannot get rid of......... and some that I like to keep on my list.

First of all, I repented of my prideful spirit....and humbled myself before the Lord.....asking Him to do a mighty work in my life.....
...........and I am looking for those things that I am doing in my flesh....rather than in the spirit.  I am asking God to show me what things to let others do and what things don't need to be done at all. Then I am trying to honor Him with my responsibilities and not "faint" under them.

My husband and a son have been willing to buy groceries if I give a list......I have taught different children to make certain treats...shortbread, butterscotch bars, etc. My older daughter makes many meals and sometimes bread and does most of the laundry. I still have plenty to keep me busy- really busy.....and the others in my home are not mad at helping fact, they need to be involved more.....

So, anyway, I took off my SUPERMOM cape and put it in the give away pile......... but then I realized that NO MOM should try to be SUPERMOM, so I took it out of the giveaway pile and put it in the trash where it belongs.

We need to encourage each other to be all that GOD wants us to be....and no more.

If I come to your house and see some of your ducks in odd places, I will give you grace.....and I hope you will give me grace.....and give grace to other sisters also. We can encourage each other to keep important things at the top of our list. We don't need to compete WITH each other.....we each serve the Lord Jesus Christ and encourage each other. Sure, we can have a schedule and be orderly - God is a God of order...........but we should never obsess over it.

I have come to realize that my ducks won't always be in a row, and I really appreciate when they are.....................

............or at least when I can find them......:) 

Thank you for visiting today.........I need to go check on my "ducks".   :)

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