Monday, July 30, 2007

Menu Plan Monday for July 30

Another Monday! They sure do come around quickly. This looks like a fairly busy week with a lot going on in our lives. Here’s my plan:

MONDAY: Leftovers from the weekend

TUESDAY: Garden Ravioli, Tossed Salad, Multigrain Ciabatta Rolls

WEDNESDAY: (picnic) Spiral Stromboli, Easy Veggie Salad

THURSDAY: Chinese Pepper Steak, Bow-Tie Pasta, Green Beans

FRIDAY: Avocado Omelet, Breakfast Potatoes, Baby Carrots

SATURDAY: Tuna Melts, Baked Multigrain Chips, Baby Carrots

SUNDAY: (potluck at church) Greek Seafood Salad, Ranch French Bread, Black Forest Dream Dessert

Friday, July 27, 2007

More craftiness

Well, here it is Friday again. I think this Sew Crafty Friday is a great thing for me to be involved in, because it gives me some accountability. I find myself looking forward to what I can share with this crafty group.

The first thing I did was to make a table topper out of some gorgeous berry-basket fabric my daughter had given me ages ago. I had always hoped to find more and make valances for my dining room windows, but never found any. I decided that fabric had languished in a tote long enough! She also gave me a coordinating print that is just berries, and I'm thinking I'll make placemats from that.

My next project was to turn a UFO cross-stitch project into a wall hanging. I used materials I had on hand to finish the entire project. I may hunt for a shorter dowel, but this was the best I could do for now.

And lastly I wanted to show you something really neat -- this wonderful retro bias tape I inherited from my grandmother. Checks, dots, plaid, and floral prints. I just recently rediscovered my little stash of this stuff and can't wait to trim some projects with it.

Favorite Ingredients Friday for July 27

Okay, now this Friday it really is the appetizer and snack theme at Favorite Ingredients Friday. I have lots of appetizer recipes I could share, but I chose this one because it's light and summery and so good with the fresh garden cucumbers. Enjoy!


8 ounces cream cheese
1 pkg. dry Italian salad dressing mix
Party rye bread (about 1 loaf)
Cucumber slices (1 to 2 cucumbers)
Paprika or salad seasoning, optional

Combine the cream cheese and salad dressing mix. Spread the mixture on slices of party rye bread. Top each open-face sandwich with a cucumber slice. If desired, sprinkle each with paprika or dry salad seasoning. Refrigerate until serving, and be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

These little sandwiches make a great appetizer. They also work very well as a tea party type of sandwich.

If, like me, you prefer to make your own dry Italian dressing mix, here is the recipe I use.


1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. each: pepper, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, sweet red pepper flakes
Pinch of paprika

In a custard cup or small bowl, mix all together. Whirl briefly in a blender if you like a finer texture (I skip this step). Makes the equivalent of 1 packet Italian dressing mix. May double or triple the recipe if you need more than one packet of mix in whatever you’re making.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Picnic by the River for July 25

Last night we did manage to have our picnic by the river on the way to church. The day had been beautifully sunny but really uncomfortably warm.

I had spent a good bit of the day making ready for overnight guests last night. We were to have a ministry team from a Christian university at our Wednesday evening service, and Mr. T and I had volunteered to open our home and guest room to the young married couple leading the team. I needed to change the sheets and spiff up the guest room just a bit (it needs a major spiff-up involving paint and redecorating, but that’s another story); plus I wanted to mop the bathroom floor, make granola, and do some other necessary tasks. It really didn’t look as if there would be time to prepare for our picnic, but the Lord worked it out.

Our menu was super-simple -- Italian subs which I threw together with ham, salami and provolone on herbed wheat sub rolls from Walmart (love that reduced bread rack!) and canned 3-bean salad, along with baby carrots. And a jug of water, of course.

It was lovely and cool under the trees at our favorite picnic table down by the river. Although I had had to really hurry to get the picnic together, it was worth it all to just sit there in the coolness and watch the sunlight sparkling on the water. A much-needed moment of tranquility in our week!

Slow Cooking Thursday for July 26

Here's my slow cooker recipe for this week. I don't often use the potato mixes, but it's worth keeping a package on hand to make this recipe with. It can even be made without the ham (for plain potato chowder) if you prefer, but the ham adds great flavor. If I omitted the ham, I would probably sprinkle the soup with bacon bits when serving.


1 pkg. scalloped potato mix (could also use au gratin potato mix)
1 to 2 cups diced ham
4 cups chicken broth
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1/8 tsp. pepper
Half & half cream to taste (I use the fat free half & half)

Mix together in crockpot the scalloped potato mix, ham, broth, celery, onion and pepper. Cover and cook on Low for 7 hours. Stir in as much half & half as you like to make it the thickness you prefer. Yield: 4-6 servings

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Simply Delicious Supper

I tried a new recipe tonight -- Simple Shrimp Scramble. We like a breakfast-type meal for supper every now & then, and this was it for this week. I served this with Breakfast Potatoes, an easy microwaved potato side dish, and green beans. I'll share the shrimp recipe here, and you can easily find the potato recipe by typing "Breakfast Potatoes" into the search box and clicking "Search Blog".


1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tblsp. olive oil
5 ounces frozen cooked salad shrimp, thawed
8 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice

In a large skillet, saute´the onion, green pepper and garlic in 1 Tbslp. of the olive oil until tender. Stir in shrimp. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.

In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbslp. olive oil. Beat together the eggs, salt & pepper; add to skillet and cook, stirring, until completely set. Stir in the shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with cheese; remove from heat. Cover skillet and let stand several minutes until cheese melts.

Yield: 4 servings

I adapted this from a Quick Cooking magazine from 2004 and it is simply delicious!

Another devotional page...

Here is another page from this year's summer devotional for kids. This is the page for June 2; it's from the category called "In the Dome Car".

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD: teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

Let’s pretend we have just left Union Station in Chicago, Illinois. We are headed West on the famous Amtrak train called the California Zephyr. What a great trip we have to look forward to! We’re going to see lots of neat things out the windows of this train, so let’s find seats in the Sightseer Lounge and get comfortable.

One of the first cities we pass through is Galesburg, Illinois. One of the most interesting thing about Galesburg is how many trains pass through it. Many people in and around Galesburg work for the BNSF, or Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The two sets of railroad tracks in Galesburg carry about seven trains every hour between them. Other Amtrak trains that pass through Galesburg every day are the Illinois Zephyr, the Carl Sandburg, and the Southwest Chief. Every June, Galesburg has a special festival called Railroad Days to celebrate its railroading history.

From Galesburg, there are many different trains we could choose to take to many different places. Our Bible verse today reminds us that although we could take many different paths in life, the most important thing is choosing to walk in God’s ways. How do we know what God’s ways are? We learn His ways by reading His Word, the Bible. In the Bible we read what God has said and we see how He led His people through the years. We also learn His ways by asking Him to teach us, just like David did in today’s verse. Praying and asking God to show us His ways and to teach us His paths is a sure way to learn what He wants us to do. We need to be sure that our hearts are right with Him and that we are ready to obey what He shows us to do.

* Thank God for the way He leads us and directs us when we look to Him. Ask God to give you a heart to obey His Word and follow His leading. Ask Him to help you be faithful in reading your Bible and to be faithful in your prayer life.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Menu Plan Monday for July 23

Wow, Monday again already. It looks like a busy week ahead, and we are having overnight guests on Wednesday night. Here’s my plan for the week:

MONDAY: (leftovers from Sunday) Hamburgers/Hot Dogs, Potato Salad, Tomato/Cucumber Salad

TUESDAY: Veggie Stuffed Peppers, Southwestern Rice Bake, Baby Carrots

WEDNESDAY: Tuna Melts, Multigrain Chips, Cherry Tomatoes

THURSDAY: Company for breakfast; Homemade Granola, other cereals, Raspberry Muffins, Chocolate Peach Muffins
Supper meal for parents: Chicken Divan, Noodles, Petite Bean Blend

FRIDAY: Italian Submarine Sandwich, 3-Bean Salad

SATURDAY: Simple Shrimp Scramble, Sweet Potato Oven Fries, Easy Veggie Salad

SUNDAY: Crockpot Ribs, Potato Salad, Easy Veggie Salad

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Our last few picnics have been...

Regular readers may have wondered why they’ve seen no mention of our Wednesday picnics by the river for a few weeks. It has rained every Wednesday for 3 weeks! The first time (July 4) we did take our picnic along, but ended up eating it in the car as the rain poured down. The second week it seemed as if a thundershower was imminent. We probably could have had our picnic, but we weren’t sure and I had had an exhausting afternoon. So even though I prepared our picnic supper, we ate it at home. Just as we arrived at church, the rain began pelting down. This past Wednesday, there was no question. Definitely raining. We’ll see what happens this week!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Slightly crafty

Yesterday I did a couple of crafty things. I'd been wanting to make a new valance for our guest room window, and had a couple of calendar towels I thought would be perfect for what I had in mind. I was pleased with the way it came out. Basically, I cut off the calendar part from each towel and then hemmed them all around so only the picture part showed. Then I simply attached them to the curtain rod with clip clothespins.

While poking about in the linen closet, I came across another calendar towel just begging to be put to use. It had a lovely apple border and a picture of apples on the top. I wanted to utilize that border! I folded the towel so that the border at the bottom met the border around the picture, sewed it in place, and then simply cut off the excess (the actual calendar) on the back side. The result was an apple-y table square.

Also this week, I finished up the 6th in a set of 7 embroidered flour-sack towels. Here it is:

And that's it for now! (I also started a simple daily journal as described by Jewels at Eyes of Wonder. That's a crafty endeavor all its own.)

Favorite Ingredients Friday for July 20

This week's theme for Favorite Ingredients Friday is Appetizers & Snacks. Here's my contribution:


One 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup pizza sauce OR spaghetti sauce
2 Tblsp. chopped green and/or red pepper*
2 Tblsp. thinly sliced green onions*
Breadsticks or tortilla chips for dipping

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and Italian seasoning together. Spread the mixture in an ungreased microwave-safe 9-inch pie plate.

In a bowl, combine the mozzarella and the parmesan. Sprinkle half of this mixture over the cream cheese in the pie plate. Spread the sauce over the top and then sprinkle all of the remaining cheese mixture over the sauce. Top with the chopped peppers and the green onions.

Microwave the dip uncovered on High for 3 to 4 minutes, rotating the plate a half turn several times if your microwave does not have a turntable, until the cheese is almost melted. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes before serving with breadsticks or tortilla chips.

* You can top this dip with almost anything -- I have used finely chopped pepperoni, peppers or green onions only, a combination of the three -- or I have just simply topped it with a sprinkle of pizza spice. It doesn’t seem to matter what you use -- the dip is going to get gobbled up regardless. I very often bring this to potlucks because people enjoy it so much. I usually make two of these, and there is still never any left to bring home.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Spirit Lifters"

One of the blessings of a daily walk is that one almost always sees something beautiful to lift the spirits. I call these little glimpses of beauty “spirit-lifters”. The primroses in the photo are what was blooming in the wildflower garden last week. But on our daily walk this noon, I saw a couple of other lovely things. First, it was the brown-eyed susans that “just happened” to be blooming around a neighbor’s roadside pot of red geraniums. Another neighbor has planted blue morning glories to twine around a mailbox post. There are orange tiger lilies in clumps along our walking route, too. And last, but not least was a clump of daisies trailing gracefully down over the grassy bank of a little roadside stream.

God is so good! I love seeing these glimpses of the beauty He has created. What a wonderful reminder of His power and greatness and His attention to every detail. Without question, we can trust Him with the details of our lives!

Slow Cooking Thursday for July 19

Today’s recipe is for a terrific slow cooker appetizer. My daughters got this recipe from one of their dorm supervisors at the Christian boarding school they attended for high school. Despite its disgusting name, it always goes over well at get-togethers or potlucks!


1 can cheddar cheese soup*
1 16-oz. pkg. Velveeta (store brand is fine), cut in cubes
1 16-oz. jar mild picante sauce or salsa
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
Combine all ingredients in crock pot on High. It will take
approximately 1/2 hour for the cheese to melt. Serve hot with tortilla

You can probably see by looking at this recipe that it could easily be made in a regular saucepan rather than a slow cooker. However, the slow cooker keeps it at a nice even temperature so the dip stays hot right to the very last tortilla chip.

* If, like me, you refuse to pay good money for a can of cheddar cheese soup, you can do what I do and make your own cheap and easy substitute.

I’ve included the basic recipe and variations for this condensed soup substitute below. The cheddar cheese variation is in bold.


Do you hate buying canned soups for use in recipes? This recipe makes a perfect substitute for 1 can of soup.

3 Tblsp. margarine
3 Tblsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk or other liquid (as specified in variations)

Melt the margarine in heavy saucepan; blend in flour and salt and cook until bubbly. Remove from heat and gradually stir or whisk in liquid. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened.

Cream of chicken: Use 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. chicken broth as the liquid. Add 1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage.
Cream of celery: Saute´ 1/2 c. chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion in the margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Cream of mushroom: Saute´1/4 c. finely chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion in margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Tomato: Use tomato juice as liquid. Add a dash each of garlic salt, onion salt, basil, and oregano.
Cheddar cheese: Use milk for liquid. Stir into the finished sauce 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/4 tsp. dry mustard.
Cream of shrimp: Drain the liquid from a small can of tiny shrimp into a measuring cup. Fill cup with milk to measure 1 cup of liquid. Add a dash of pepper, onion salt, curry powder, and paprika to the finished sauce, and stir in the shrimp.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Menu Plan Monday for July 16

Monday again! My, these Mondays do come around quickly! It looks like a busy week ahead. Here’s my menu plan:

MONDAY: Pork Tenderloin (leftover from Saturday), Sweet Potato Oven Fries, Coleslaw

TUESDAY: Vegetarian Penne, Cucumber Salad, Multigrain Ciabatta Rolls

WEDNESDAY: Dilled Salmon Pasta Salad, Ranch French Bread, Baby Carrots

THURSDAY: Garlic LIme Chicken, Potato Salad, Green Beans

FRIDAY: Garden Fritatta, Breakfast Potatoes, Tomato Aspic

SATURDAY: Italian Submarine Sandwich, 3-Bean Salad

SUNDAY: Crockpot Ribs, Potato Salad, Easy Veggie Salad

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Healthier cooking & eating

Carrie, over at Life on a Back Road, asked a question about healthier cooking and eating. She shared some simple things she is doing and asked for others' input. I shared this info in a comment over there, but decided to post it here too for others' benefit.

Just a few ideas off the top of my head:

* Like you, I’m pretty sure that realistically, I’m never going to eliminate white flour and white sugar from our diets. I think I’m pretty balanced in what I do. I am finding that as I learn more and more about processed foods, I’m being a lot more careful about what I buy and a lot more vigilant about reading labels.

* I subscribe to the Nutrition Action newsletter, which is a great publication for demystifying food labels and does lots of good research as to the healthiest (and least healthy) products out there.

* I find myself looking more and more to the natural foods area of our supermarket for cereals, granola bars and crackers that do not contain a lot of fat or high fructose corn syrup. I have noticed that Kashi cereals and granola bars (which are delicious and healthy too) are available in Walmart in their regular cereal aisle for quite a bit less money.

* I do love King Arthur Flour, particularly their White Whole Wheat. I don’t make all my own bread, but do make most of our French bread and some of our rolls, muffins, biscuits, etc.

* I use olive oil and canola oil as much as possible instead of other oils or fat. I use canola oil in my pie crusts and wherever possible in sweet baked goods like cakes, muffins, etc. I will often substitute canola oil for melted butter. I use olive oil for just about everything else, and usually use less of it than the recipe calls for. 1 tablespoon of olive oil is usually enough to saute´an onion in, for example, even if the recipe calls for 2 or 3 tablespoons.

* I always use less cheese than a recipe calls for. If it says “2 cups shredded cheddar”, for example, I usually use just 1 cup. (This saves money as well as fat.) If you think the recipe won’t be flavorful enough with less cheese, you can try using a sharper cheese, which will add more flavor.

* I also use less ground meat in a recipe than the recipe calls for (except in something like meat loaf or meatballs, where the amount of meat is really quite important). In a casserole or soup, I will often cut the amount of meat called for in half.

* I’m sort of inconsistent about turkey products. I use turkey kielbasa and Italian sausage, but I don’t use ground turkey that much because I’ve read that some brands include things like ground-up turkey skin. From what I understand, the way around this is to use the ground turkey breast. And that’s pretty pricey.

* I watch for good sales on things like ground round and boneless chicken breasts. There are some good buys out there, especially at smaller local markets which often stake their reputation on the quality of their meats.

I almost always cut down the amount of sugar called for in a cookie or dessert recipe. (I wouldn’t dare do this in a layer cake, though -- except maybe a carrot cake -- because I think I’ve read that cutting down the sugar too much would cause the layers not to rise enough.) I believe you can cut the sugar in a cookie or dessert recipe down by 1/3 and no harm would be done. But if you don’t want to mess around with figuring this out, just don’t fill your measuring cup all the way with sugar. Fill it about 3/4 full -- that’s what I do and it works out fine.

* In salad dressings, I find that recipes often call for twice as much oil as vinegar or lemon juice. For example, 1/4 cup oil and 2 Tblsp. vinegar. I usually switch that around and use 1/4 cup vinegar and 2 Tblsp. oil. If that sounds too acidic to you, try substituting water for part of the oil. I have done that and it works great. So, in our example, that would mean 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 Tblsp. oil and 2 Tblsp. water.

* I make my own dry mixes for Italian and ranch dressing, taco seasoning, onion soup mix, and the like. It is much, much cheaper and you are in control of what is in the mixes.

* Sometimes I make my own condensed-soup substitute which cooks up in a saucepan like a white sauce. These days I will often buy the reduced-fat or healthy versions of cream of chicken or mushroom soup to use in the occasional recipe. But I will always make my substitute for specialty canned soups like cheddar cheese and cream of shrimp. Much cheaper and tastes better too!

* In my young-mom days, I made my own yogurt, mayo, ketchup, etc. (But please, don’t ask for my mayo recipe -- it was made in a blender using a raw egg and would never be considered safe today!) I also used, in baking, something called the Cornell Triple Rich Flour Formula. It’s a way of adding food value to baked goods made with white flour. Before putting any flour into the measuring cup, place in the bottom of your 1 cup measure: 1 Tblsp. soy flour, 1 Tblsp. dry milk, and 1 tsp. wheat germ. Then fill the measuring cup with flour to make 1 cup. Do this for each cup of flour the recipe calls for.

* I don’t routinely serve dessert with meals (anymore -- years ago, I did). For me, dessert is pretty much something I only eat when we have guests or are eating at someone’s home or a church potluck. Mr. T keeps ice cream in the freezer and I usually have a tin or two of cookies stashed in there too, so he has his dessert in the form of a bedtime snack!

I guess those are all my ideas for now! I’ll probably think of more after posting this!

Tiger Lilies

I'm pretty sure I shared this photo last year when my husband snapped it, but just couldn't resist sharing it again. In our part of New England we often see these lovely daylilies (colloquially called tiger lilies) growing wild along the back roads. Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Favorite Ingredients Friday for July 13

Well, the theme for this week's Favorite Ingredients Friday is Healthy Eating. I try to lighten up most all of my everyday recipes, so I really couldn't decide what to share. I finally decided to share two recipes, one for fruit smoothies/shakes and one for roasted vegetables.

First, here is a basic recipe with many variations for a healthy fruit shake/smoothie. I have tried several of the flavor variations and have enjoyed all the ones I've tried. Although a frozen banana is vital to the consistency of this shake, you really don't get much of a banana flavor in the variations. They just taste good -- and of course are very healthy. You can freeze the bananas whole (in ziplock bags) anytime you have overripe ones on hand -- or anytime you find a good deal on overripe ones. It is an easy thing to do with overripe bananas rather than feeling you must make muffins, banana bread, etc. every time. The recipe makes 1 tall glassful.


1 frozen banana
1 cup liquid (as specified in recipe)
additional fruit or flavoring (as specified in recipe)
optional sweetener (as specified in recipe)

Break the frozen banana into chunks and put in blender. Cover with specified liquid up to the 1-cup mark on the blender container. Add any additional ingredients. Blend until the mixture reaches "shake" consistency, usually 30-40 seconds. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Now for the variations.

VANILLA -- use 1 banana, 1 cup milk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract

CHOCOLATE -- use 1 banana, 1 cup milk, a few squirts of chocolate syrup

STRAWBERRY -- use 1 banana, 1 cup milk, 1 handful fresh strawberries, washed/sliced (or use unsweetened frozen ones -- works fine); pinch of sugar if desired

BLUEBERRY -- use 1 banana, 1 cup milk, 1 handful fresh or frozen blueberries

PURPLE COW -- use 1 banana, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup grape juice

PEANUT BUTTER -- use 1 banana, 1 cup milk, 2 tsp. peanut butter. May also add some chocolate syrup for a "Reese's" effect. (This one is yummy!)

PINA COLADA -- use 1 banana, 1 cup milk, 1-2 tsp shredded coconut, 1/4 cup crushed pineapple

APPLE -- use 1 banana, 1 cup apple juice, 1/2 of an apple, peeled & chopped, cinnamon & nutmeg to taste

KEY LIME - - use 1 banana, juice of 1 lime placed in a 1 cup measure and milk added to the 1-cup mark

TROPICAL -- use 1 banana, 1 c. orange juice, 1/4 cup crushed pineapple


Now, moving on to my second recipe:


Vegetables of your choice:
Mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, green, red, yellow or orange sweet peppers, baby carrots (or use regular ones), onions, eggplant, etc.
1 to 2 Tblsp. olive oil
Herbs or spices of your choice -- I use either pizza spice or Italian seasoning
A gallon-size zip-top plastic bag

Line a large shallow pan with foil.

Cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces. (Baby carrots may be left whole.) As you cut them up, place them in the zip-top plastic bag. Add 1 Tblsp. olive oil to the bag. Seal the bag and shake vigorously to coat the vegetables with oil. Dump the vegetables out on the foil-lined pan. Spread them out evenly.

(If you have more veggies than will fit in a gallon-size bag, then re-use the bag after dumping out the first batch, and add another Tblsp. of olive oil to the bag.)

Roast the vegetables at 425º for about 25 to 30 minutes. You can sprinkle the seasoning on either before or after roasting.

Yield for this recipe will depend on how many vegetables you use, but 1 pan should be enough for about 4 people.

This is a recipe I developed myself after some trial and error. The blend of roasted vegetables is just beautiful with all of the different colors. It goes well with grilled meats, or alongside pizza or sausage subs.

Happy healthy eating, everyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Slow Cooking Thursday for July 12

Here's another of our favorite slow cooker recipes:


6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 15 1/2 ounce cans great northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups sliced fresh carrots
1 cup sliced celery
2/3 cup Italian salad dressing (the light kind works fine)
2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Place the beans, carrots and celery in a 5-quart slow cooker; top with chicken. Combine the Italian dressing and the seasonings; pour this mixture over the chicken. Cover and cook on Low for 4 to 5 hours or until the chicken is cooked and the carrots are tender.

Yield: 6 servings.

This recipe is from Simple & Delicious. It is a very tasty dish! The chicken gets incredibly tender and the flavor is wonderful. I recommend serving this in bowls or soup plates, as it is quite juicy. If you prefer you could serve it with a slotted spoon and use dinner plates, however.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ranch French Bread and Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Brenda had asked for the recipes for my Ranch French Bread and Sweet Potato Oven Fries. They’re here in the kitchen in other places, but I decided to post them again here. This way, I can include my recipe for Ranch Dressing Mix, which I prefer to the store-bought in any recipe which calls for the dry mix. It works just fine and is much cheaper.

I have found the Ranch French Bread makes a huge hit with everyone who tastes it. I’ve taken it to our monthly church potlucks several times now and it always disappears! I cut the loaves in half and keep the half loaves in the freezer -- always ready when we need bread to accompany a soup or salad. Here’s the recipe:


1 1/4 cups warm water
4 Tblsp. buttermilk powder
2 Tblsp. canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 Tblsp. ranch dressing mix
1 tsp. salt
4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine. Choose the dough setting and press the start button.

When dough is finished, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Roll each portion into a 14-inch by 12-inch rectangle. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal and tuck the ends under. Place seam side down on a parchment-lined (or greased) baking sheet. With a sharp knife, make 5 shallow slashes across the top of each loaf. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush lightly with butter. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Yield: 2 loaves

I adapted this recipe (which originally made 4 loaves) so I could make the dough in the bread machine. I love the way the machine produces perfectly kneaded, perfectly risen dough to work with.

We were pleased with how wonderfully this bread turned out. It’s delicious, with a lovely texture.

And here’s the recipe for the dressing mix:


2 Tblsp. plus 2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 Tblsp. dried parsley flakes
2 1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in airtight container -- a jar, tin, or small plastic container would work well. For each packet of ranch dressing mix called for in a recipe, use 1 Tblsp. of this mix.

The oven fries are more of a technique than a recipe. There is a recipe for them in, if I remember right, the newest Simple & Delicious magazine. But I just adapted a recipe for regular oven fries to make these. We loved them.


This is what I did to serve the 2 of us. You could surely double, triple or quadruple the ingredients to serve your group.

1 large sweet potato
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup flavored dry bread crumbs
1 Tblsp. Parmesan cheese
Dash or two of salt
Dash of cayenne pepper

Peel the sweet potato and cut into wedges. The sweet potato I had was quite large, so I cut it into thirds horizontally and then cut each third into 8 wedges. Place the wedges in a ziplock bag -- I recommend the gallon size -- with the olive oil; seal the bag and shake well to coat the wedges with oil. Then add the remaining ingredients to the bag; seal and shake again so the wedges are coated lightly with the crumb mixture. Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 350º for 50 to 60 minutes.

And there are your recipes, Brenda (and anyone else who would like them). Enjoy!

Monday, July 09, 2007

On working efficiently...

Another Wednesday! Time for Building our Homes Together over at Prairie Flower Farm! This week I decided to share some of my simple strategies for time management.

(First, a disclaimer: If you are what FlyLady calls “Born Organized”, you will probably not want to bother reading this post. It is not news to you. You were born knowing this information. In fact, you will wonder why on earth anyone would bother to write this stuff down. But Sidetracked Home Executives like me may find it helpful.)

For several years now, I’ve been praying that the Lord will help me to grow in the area of time management. It’s been very exciting to me to see real, measurable progress in this area!

I’ve learned that it helps me to make a schedule for the week (and I’ve created my own weekly calendar form to help me with this) and to write out a tentative schedule for each day. Elizabeth George uses the illustration of putting flowers in a vase. If you just stuff the whole bunch of flowers in the vase, it will probably look fine -- but not as nice as it could look if you placed each flower where it would looks its best. And in the same way, we can just try cramming activities into our day helter-skelter. We will probably still accomplish quite a bit -- but not as much as we could do if we thought about where to best put each activity on our to-do list. This simple concept has helped me so much!

But recently (and I know this is an answer to prayer because I would never have thought of it on my own!) I’ve begun seeing how the same concept applies to the 15 to 30-minute segments of my day as well. Take tonight, just for an example. Here’s what I had to do in a few minutes after supper:

* Fill the coffee maker with water for tomorrow.
* Wash dishes.
* Put away leftovers.
* Package up some raw chicken breasts for the freezer.

What I would probably do instinctively would be this: put away leftovers, wash the dishes, package the chicken, and fill the coffee maker.

But I actually found myself thinking through what I had to do and what would be the most efficient use of my time. So here’s what I did:

* Put away the leftovers. (They were sitting on the counter right in front of the coffee maker, and if I left them there, I knew I would invariably drip water on them. Since I would have to move them anyway, why not just put them away?)
* Filled the coffee maker. That takes cold water, so if I filled the sink with hot dishwater first, I would be diluting the hot water.
* Filled the sink with hot soapy water and washed the dishes. Did not empty the water out.
* Packaged up the chicken. Now I have a sink full of hot soapy water to clean my hands in after handling the chicken.

Okay, this may come instinctively to everyone else. But not to me! I am so happy to see how God orders my days, hours, and even my minutes when I truly desire to use each minute for His glory and seek His help in doing so!

Menu Plan Monday for July 9

Another Monday! So far it doesn't look like this will be a terribly busy week (no busier than usual, that is!). I don't mind. Normalcy sounds good to me! Here's my menu:

MONDAY: Italian Sausage & Vegetables, Ranch French Bread (leftovers from Sunday)

TUESDAY: Chicken Caesar Salad Pizza, Baby Carrots

WEDNESDAY: (picnic) Veggie Beef Bundles, Coleslaw

THURSDAY: Orange Chicken Stir-fry over Pasta, Asparagus Stir-fry Vegetables

FRIDAY: Crab Melt Loaf, Pasta Salad, Baby Carrots

SATURDAY: Pork with Pineapple Salsa, Sweet Potato Oven Fries, Coleslaw

SUNDAY: Sunday Chicken Supper, Ranch French Bread

Friday, July 06, 2007

Favorite Ingredients Friday for July 6

Here's a recipe for one of my favorite chicken dishes. The toasted walnuts are the secret to the fabulous taste!


3 tsp. cornstarch, divided
3 Tblsp. soy sauce, divided
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4” strips
1 Tblsp. water
1 1/2 tsp. vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
Dash of hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup walnut halves
3 Tblsp. vegetable oil
1 medium green pepper, cut in 1” pieces
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

In bowl combine 1 tsp. cornstarch and 1 Tblsp. soy sauce until smooth;
add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl combine next four ingredients with remaining
cornstarch and soy sauce; set aside.

In skillet, sauté walnuts in oil until toasted. Remove with a slotted
spoon and set aside. In same skillet and same oil, stir-fry chicken
until juices run clear. Add green pepper and ginger to skillet; cook
and stir 3 minutes or until pepper is crisp-tender. Stir reserved
cornstarch mixture and add to skillet. Bring to boil; cook and stir 2
minutes or until thick and bubbly. Stir in walnuts.

Serve with or alongside rice -- either plain white rice or fried rice. I like to serve it with a tossed green salad with mandarin oranges added.

Makes 4 servings.

This wonderful recipe is from a Quick Cooking magazine of some years ago. We love it!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Slow Cooking Thursday for July 5

Here's my slow cooking recipe for this week!


20 ounces (1 1/2 lbs.) Italian turkey sausage, either sweet or hot*, sliced 1 inch thick
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained
2 medium potatoes, cut in 1-inch chunks
4 small zucchini, sliced 1 inch thick
1 medium onion, cut in wedges
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Garlic powder to taste
1 Tblsp. fine dry bread crumbs
Shredded pepper Jack cheese

Place sausages, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini and onion in a 5-quart slow cooker. Add the oregano, basil, red pepper flakes and garlic powder. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until vegetables and sausage are tender.

Stir in bread crumbs. Serve sausage and vegetables in bowls; pass cheese to sprinkle on top.

Yield: 6 servings.

* Turkey sausage is sold in 20-ounce packages.

I adapted and simplified this from a recipe I found in Simple & Delicious magazine. We absolutely love this recipe. It’s been a hit at potlucks, and I have even served it to company.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tender Glazed Pork Chops (or Cutlets)

Here's a wonderful new recipe I tried last week. I've mentioned before how I make a meal for my parents each Thursday evening. I try to make a really nice meal that will last them for more than one night. This past week the pork sirloin grilling cutlets were on sale for $1.19/lb. so I planned to use them in a pork chop with apples recipe. But Thursday was a very hot day and that recipe just seemed too heavy. I found this glazed pork chop recipe in the Quick Cooking Annual Recipe book for 2006. It is sooooo delicious!


1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Garlic powder to taste
4 boneless pork loin chops (about 3/4 inch thick) OR 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork sirloin grilling cutlets, same thickness
1 cup apricot preserves OR orange marmalade
1 - 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 - 1/2 tsp. lime juice
1 to 2 Tblsp. olive oil

Sprinkle the pork with onion powder, oregano, and garlic powder.

In a small saucepan, combine the preserves or marmalade with the lemon juice and lime juice. Cook and stir over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until preserves are melted.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Cook the pork over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until nicely browned on one side. Turn the pork; generously brush with the glaze. Cook 8 to 10 minutes longer or until juices run clear. Serve with remaining glaze.

Yield: 4 servings.

I was out of apricot preserves so decided to use some orange marmalade I had on hand. It turned out to be a really nice flavor with the lemon and lime juice added. These are just delicious.

Menu Plan Monday for July 2

Wow, these Mondays come around fast! Here's my plan for the week, maybe subject to a bit of change due to a busy week and some vacation days as well as appointments and a holiday.

MONDAY: Italian Submarine Sandwich, Tomato Soup

TUESDAY: probably eating out after some appointments

WEDNESDAY: (July 4th) Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Potato Salad, Baked Beans

THURSDAY: One-Pan Potatoes & Pepper Steak, Bean Blend, Coleslaw

FRIDAY: Crab Melt Loaf, Pasta Salad, Baby Carrots

SATURDAY: Garlic Lime Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries, Coleslaw

SUNDAY: Italian Sausage & Vegetables; Ranch French Bread