Here’s how the first day of my Back-on-Track Challenge went:
*Health & energy -- Exercised; went for a walk; filled out Body Clutter investigator (a great tool from FlyLady that helps you chart how you’re doing in the areas of food, exercise, sleep, water, etc.); printed out 10 more copies of the BCI; did quite well with my eating considering our house is pretty empty of fresh groceries since our vacation.
* Devotional/Bible study -- Had a wonderful time of Bible reading and prayer. Worked on a Scripture memory passage. Spent some time studying (or should I say restudying) the areas of patience and longsuffering -- areas where I really need to grow.
* Homemaking -- kept up with all of my daily routines!! Did some reorganizing of the grandkids’ toy storage in the living room (badly needed since all 5 of them were here at once on Monday night). Vacuumed some of the living room furniture.
* Creativity -- spent a very few minutes backstitching on my “Country Baking” sampler.
Oh my, I feel woefully out of step with my routines that had been working so well for me. Vacation was wonderful, but it disrupted every routine -- eating, exercising, homemaking, sleep -- you name it. Even my devotional life suffered this time, which isn’t usually the case when we travel.So it’s time for another Back on Track challenge!
Working on the theory that it takes 21 days to build a habit, I’ll be starting tomorrow with the goal of being completely back on track by November 20. Just in time for Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season. I’m also hoping to incorporate into this challenge some Christmas preparations, along the lines of baking for the freezer, firming up my gift list and purchasing and crafting some gifts. If anyone else is feeling as sidetracked as I am, feel free to join me in this challenge!
It’s going to be a different sort of week around here, and I’m thinking I’ll be working mostly with ingredients I have on hand, as we haven’t been to the grocery store since returning home from vacation. We likely won’t do any major grocery shopping until Thursday. So here’s my tentative plan:
We’re slowly trying to inch our way back into real life around here following our vacation. But the surprises keep on coming!
Yesterday after lunch we learned that our youngest daughter, who had surprised me by joining us in Florida for our vacation, had yet another surprise up her sleeve. While we were journeying back to New England via Amtrak, she and her little boy had flown up here instead of back home to Nevada as we assumed. She got here well before we did and had her brother meet them in Boston. She then spent the night with her sister and family, after taking her sister completely by surprise!
This will be a brief visit, as they head back to Nevada early tomorrow morning. But it’s such a treat to have her and the little one here even for a short time. We are so thankful to the Lord for this added blessing!
We are safely home from our vacation! Thanks to everyone who prayed for our travels!
We had a super time with the friends and family we were able to visit with. And, as I mentioned earlier, the biggest blessing of all was being able to also spend time with our daughter and her little guy from way out West. It was the most incredible surprise, and also incredibly generous on the part of her hubby to share them with us for an entire week.
Our trip was great and quite refreshing, but we are so glad to be home. I expect to be quite busy for the next few days with laundry, unpacking, and getting back into my routines, but I plan to blog about our trip soon. (It will have to be soon, because I didn’t keep a journal of the trip this time, and I’ll forget all that happened if I don’t get it all down in writing soon!)
I can only take a minute or two, but wanted to let everyone know that we are having a great trip so far! We had a nice trip to Florida on the train. Upon arriving in Jacksonville, I received a huge surprise in the form of my daughter and little grandson! They had flown here from Nevada and were going to spend the week with us and the friends we are staying with. What a wonderful surprise. It is a treat getting to know our little 1-year-old grandson.
Tomorrow we are all heading off on a 2-day camping trip. Monday night we hope to meet up with friends for a brief visit, and Thursday we'll be heading to Tallahassee for a visit with Mr. T's sister and family. Friday we head home again. It's been a wonderful vacation so far and we are very thankful to the Lord for this opportunity to be refreshed!
We haven’t taken a lot of really great foliage pictures this fall -- the color in our area just doesn’t seem as bright as usual -- but I thought I would share just a few pictures.
It rained a lot last week, so many of the leaves fell off the trees. Mr. T got a couple of great photos of individual leaves against the wet ground. These pictures really show the bright colors of the individual leaves.
And then on Saturday, we took an easy hike with missionaries who were at our church’s missions conference. We try to do this almost every fall. It’s a beautiful view of trees and lakes with very little effort -- the hike only takes 30 to 40 minutes and is quite an easy climb. But check out the view!
It was a super-busy weekend, with our church’s missions conference going on, and activities galore which we were involved in. And we’re also trying to get ready to go on vacation, and so there’s the packing, planning, and working at leaving the house fairly tidy and all of the loose ends tied up. So with all that going on, there was no time to blog on Friday. There’s really not time now, but I’m going to be missing 2 Fridays, so thought I would quickly share what I’ve been up to.
First of all, I finally finished the cookbook I’ve been working on for a belated wedding gift. I packed it up and got it to the post office today. Here’s a shot of some of the divider pages and of the open, unfinished cookbook.
Now -- we will be staying with family and friends on our vacation, and so for a hostess gift to take to each of the 2 homes we’ll be staying in, I came up with this idea -- a gift bag containing a crocheted dishcloth, 4 fall-themed coasters, and a box of Canadian Vanilla Maple Tea (which seems not to be available in most of the country, and is sort of a New-Englandy flavor). Here’s one of the dishcloths:
And here is one set of coasters:
The other coasters are not finished yet -- they are all cut out, and it only takes a very few minutes to sew them. Here is what those will look like:
So those are pretty much my crafting efforts for this week. My cross-stitch sampler is almost done, as far as the cross-stitching goes. By the time we get back from our trip, I hope to have accomplished a significant amount of backstitching on the sampler.
1/2 cup margarine, melted 1 1/2 cups flour 8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I use the lighter Neufchatel) 1 cup confectioners sugar 8 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided use (the light variety works fine) 3 cups cold milk (skim works fine) 2 boxes (3.4 oz. each) instant lemon pudding mix
In a bowl, combine the margarine and flour. Mixture will look crumbly. Press crumbs evenly into an ungreased 13x9-inch baking dish. (A glass dish shows off the pretty layers of this dessert.) Bake at 350º until set, about 18-20 minutes. Cool completely.
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping. Spread this mixture over cooled crust.
In a large bowl, beat together the milk and pudding mix. Let stand 5 minutes or until thickened. Carefully spread pudding over first layer.
Carefully spread remaining whipped topping over the pudding. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
Yield: 12-16 servings.
This is still a rich-tasting dessert, but I’ve lightened it up a lot. I cut the butter in half from the original recipe, and use light dairy products and whipped topping. This has a nice refreshing taste after a meal. I found the recipe in an older issue of Taste of Home magazine.
Here's a wonderful recipe I tried recently. I adapted it from one I found in Simple & Delicious. You will be amazed at how perfectly the potatoes bake in the slow cooker.
ROUND STEAK ITALIANO
1 to 2 pounds boneless top round steak
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 Tblsp. onion soup mix*
1 Tblsp. olive or canola oil
2 Tblsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
Garlic powder to taste
6 to 8 medium potatoes
1 Tblsp. cornstarch
1 Tblsp. cold water
Cut steak into serving-size pieces; place in a 5-quart slow cooker. In a small bowl or a 2-cup measure, combine the tomato sauce, soup mix, oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic powder and pepper; pour over meat.
Scrub and pierce potatoes; place on top of meat. Cover; cook on Low for 7 to 8 hours or until meat and potatoes are tender.
Remove meat & potatoes to a serving platter and keep warm. Pour cooking juices into a small saucepan; skim off any fat. Combine the cornstarch and cold water until smooth and gradually stir into cooking juices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
* Here’s my recipe for:
ONION SOUP MIX
3/4 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. celery seed, optional
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. When a recipe calls for onion soup mix, use 5 Tablespoons mix for each envelope of onion soup called for. So many recipes seem to call for a package of onion soup mix, and this is far more economical.
On Saturday afternoon, Mr. T and I took off on a little “foliage drive”. It didn’t really matter that the day wasn’t brilliantly sunny; the fall colors were about at their prettiest, and we could take a few hours away from our many responsibilities. So we did!
It was really a treat just to drive through the countryside together. I did a bit of crocheting on a dishcloth, and we listened to a high school football game until we lost the station. The hardwood trees nearest us and the ones far off on the hillsides were all changing colors. We could see all shades of red, orange, and yellow, with the tall, dark evergreens mixed in amongst them. Just breathtaking!
We stopped at a small lake and watched some loons. I suppose they were fishing, but there were several of them, and it really seemed as if they were showing off their water acrobatics and diving techniques for one another! Unfortunately, they were too far from shore for us to get any good pictures of them.At another lake, we were able to walk down to the beach and get some photos of the water and the colorful trees. We were the only ones there, and it was very tranquil and peaceful... just what we needed after a busy, stressful week.
Later on, we stopped at a country gift shop and treated ourselves to some goodies like fudge, maple cream, and strawberry-rhubarb preserves to bring home with us... souvenirs of our little autumn adventure! It began to rain while we were in the shop, so we headed home after that, feeling much more refreshed than when we started out a few hours previously. God is so good to give us that little bit of leisure time... just enough to refresh us and encourage us along the way.
Another Monday! It looks like a busy week ahead -- it’s our church’s missions conference weekend, and that involves a lot of cooking and hospitality, not to mention flexibility. I don’t have all of my meals planned completely, but here’s my working plan:
MONDAY: Hamburgers, Roasted Vegetable Chili, Green Apple Spinach Salad (all leftovers from the weekend)
Barely any crafting has been done around here this week. A flu bug over the weekend left me exhausted and the week has been busy with other appointments and responsibilities. Here’s what little I managed to accomplish, and some UFOs.
On the plus side, I did manage to finish one dish towel (4 to go!) and a dishcloth -- the “Faded Denim” one I showed unfinished last week. Resting atop the dishcloth is a gift tag I made from a Gooseberry Patch book. You can't really see details, I know, but the tag is made to look like a dish towel.
In the next photo you see two UFOs. The fall fabric remnant will become 2 more hot pads like the one I showed last week. The other item is a fall placemat which I got on clearance at Kohl’s some years ago. It is folded to give you an idea of its intended purpose as a placemat purse.
I’ve also cut some more fabric squares for coasters, and have a white dishcloth about half crocheted. (We’re going on vacation soon and will be staying with family & friends. I want to bring some dish cloths and coasters along for hostess gifts.) I’ve also made decent progress on my cross-stitch “Country Baking” sampler and hope to have it to the point of being ready for back-stitching by the time we leave on our trip. I should be able to get lots of back-stitching done on the train.
That is about it for my crafting efforts this week. If you have managed to accomplish or even start any crafting, then head on over to Waiting for Him and share your projects. Shereen and others will be eager to see what you have to share. Happy Crafting!
Okay, I guess I really need to share this recipe again! From responses to my slow cooker white chili, I see that many folks are looking for a good white chili recipe. This is it! I posted this here on my blog last August, but for the convenience of all who would like to try this, I'm posting it again. Enjoy!
CREAMY WHITE CHILI
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tblsp. vegetable oil
2 cans (15 1/2 oz. each) great northern beans, rinsed & drained
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream*
In large saucepan, saute‚ chicken, onion & garlic in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies & seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream & whipping cream. Serve immediately.
* I have sometimes left this out, or other times I substitute fat-free half & half.
Yield: 7 servings.
(I have also made this in the slow cooker; just make sure you don't add the sour cream and cream until the very last minute, or it will curdle.)
For Favorite Ingredient Friday this week, it’s the Holiday Edition, and so I thought I would share some of our very favorite Christmas cookies!
SACHER TORTE COOKIES
1 cup butter, softened
1 (4 1/2 oz.) pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup apricot (or raspberry) jam
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons melted butter
Heat oven to 325°. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and pudding mix; cream together until fluffy. Beat in egg and extract. Gradually add flour, beating at low speed with mixer until dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Dip balls in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. With your thumb, make an imprint in center of each ball.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until cookies are firm; remove from sheets immediately to wire racks to cool. When cookies are cool, fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon jam. In a small saucepan, or in microwave, blend chips and butter over low heat until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon chocolate over each cookie.
Yield: About 4 dozen cookies.
This is one of our very favorite Christmas cookie recipes. They look pretty and fancy but are very easy to make.
3 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted if very lumpy
4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
Colored candy sprinkles and/or halved candied cherries
Red or green colored sugar, optional
Using a heavy-duty mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add dry ingredients, beating constantly until well blended. Roll dough into 1-inch balls (dust hands with additional cornstarch if necessary); dip balls in either colored candy sprinkles or colored sugar. Place balls, decorated side up, on ungreased cookie sheets. Press lightly with a fork. To decorate with cherries, do not dip balls in sprinkles or sugar. Instead, place plain balls on cookie sheet and press lightly with fork. Top each cookie with a cherry half.
Bake at 300° for 20 to 22 minutes or until cookies are set but not browned.
Yield: 16 dozen cookies
This is a very big recipe, but it is very easily divided in half. It is
so easy, but produces many beautiful cookies quite quickly. These are
some of our very favorite Christmas cookies.
CHRISTMAS TREE SPRITZ
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
14 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups flour
Green paste food coloring
Colored candy sprinkles
Heat oven to 400°. Cream butter and sugar. Blend in egg and extract, then flour and salt. Blend in small amount of green coloring to tint dough a light green. Place tree plate in cookie press. Fill press with 1/4 of dough at a time. Form cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle cookies with colored candy sprinkles.
Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove to racks to cool. Makes about 9 dozen.
This is a favorite on our cookie trays because it adds a note of lively color. If you do not care for almond flavoring, substitute vanilla.
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 Tblsp. lemon juice
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
Beat butter until light; beat in sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon peel and juice and egg to blend thoroughly. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture, blending well.
Fill the cookie press with one-fourth of the dough at a time. Use the plates of your choice to press out cookies about 1inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. (I traditionally use the camel plate for these
cookies. No idea why I started doing that.)
Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes, or until light brown on edges. Remove from baking sheets to cooling racks. Makes about 8 dozen cookies.
These cookies have a very nice lemon flavor. It's a change from the
more traditional spritz flavors.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2/3 cup raspberry jam
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 tsp. sugar
For dough, cream butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat until well mixed. Stir in flour. Pat dough into a 13 x 9-inch pan. Spread jam evenly on top. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients; spread carefully over jam.
Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Cool in pan; cut in very small squares (about 1-inch) as they are very rich. Makes about 5 dozen.
I found this recipe in a magazine one year when I was searching for a new recipe for my cookie trays. These cookies are very easy and have been a hit with everyone.
MACAROON KISS COOKIES
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 pkg. (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. orange juice
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
5 cups flaked coconut, divided
9 oz. Hershey milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped (about 54)
Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, extract, and orange juice; beat well. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture until well blended. Stir in 3 cups coconut. Cover dough and chill it for about 1 hour.
Shape the dough in 1-inch balls. Roll balls in remaining coconut; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Remove from oven and press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, then carefully remove to racks to cool until chocolate is firm. Makes 4 1/2 dozen.
I found this recipe in an old Early American Life magazine being discarded by the library. These cookies are delicious and very festive-looking.
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar, divided
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 3/4 cups flour
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tblsp. unsweetened baking cocoa
1 egg, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Candied cherry halves OR red and green M&Ms
Cream butter with 1 cup confectioners' sugar until well blended. Mix in 1/4 cup cocoa; gradually beat in flour, mixing until smooth. Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, for filling, beat cream cheese in small mixer bowl; add remaining 1 cup confectioners' sugar, 2 T. cocoa, egg yolk, and vanilla, beating until smooth. Set aside. Slightly beat the egg white in a custard cup; set it aside.
Shape cookie dough into 1-inch balls; dip in egg white, then roll in chopped pecans. Place balls 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Gently press thumb into center of each cookie to make indentation; fill each with about 1 tsp. filling mixture.
Bake for 12 minutes at 350° or until filling appears set. Cool slightly on cookie sheet; top each cookie with a cherry half or an M&M candy. Remove to racks; cool completely. Store in refrigerator due to the cream cheese filling. Makes 40.
This recipe was in the same magazine article as the Macaroon Kiss recipe. These cookies are really pretty and delicious. The M&Ms are my own variation. If you would like vanilla filling rather than chocolate (even prettier!), just leave out the 2 T. cocoa in the filling mixture.
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tblsp. dark molasses
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tblsp. cinnamon
1 Tblsp. ginger
1 Tblsp. cloves
Juice and grated rind of 1 orange
Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy; add molasses and egg. Mix until blended. Sift flour, soda and spices into creamed mixture. Add orange juice and rind; mix until well blended. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into heart or reindeer shapes. Transfer to cookie sheets.
Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, until brown. Cool on rack and store in a covered tin. Makes at least 3 to 4 dozen cookies.
I found this recipe in an old Country Woman magazine. The lady who submitted it said that these were the first cookies she baked each year to make her house really smell like Christmas. It works! Of course, you need not limit yourself to hearts and reindeer; that's just what I did. Sometimes I cut some pine trees and moose as well!
Cream butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl. Add nutmeg, sugar, and vanilla; mix thoroughly. Stir in flour to mix well. If necessary, chill dough for easier handling. Shape dough into logs about 3 inches
long and 1/2 inch in diameter. Place logs 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.
For frosting, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar and the vanilla; mix well. Beat in cream and the remaining sugar. Frost cookies. With the tines of a small fork, make
lines down the frosting to simulate bark. Sprinkle with nutmeg (freshly ground is wonderful). Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies.
This recipe was a winner in a Country Woman contest. It's been a favorite ever since I first tried it. The cookies are easy to make but rather time-consuming -- still, so many family members love these that I wouldn't think of not making them!
Well, I hope this is not too many recipes and that it doesn’t overwhelm anyone. For more of my holiday recipes, crafts, and gift ideas, check out my Christmas blog at Mrs. T's Christmas Kitchen !
This chili is quick and easy to throw together and makes your kitchen smell so good while it is simmering. I want to stress that this is not my regular white chili recipe. That is called Creamy White Chili and is posted elsewhere here on my blog. This recipe is nowhere near as awesome as that one. However, it is tasty and very, very easy, so I will make this one from time to time. I adapted it from one I found in an older Quick Cooking.
SLOW-COOKED WHITE CHILI
1 pound boneless chicken breast 1 medium onion, chopped 1/2 tsp. minced garlic 1 1/2 cups water 1 15-ounce can great northern (or use cannellini ) beans, rinsed and drained 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained 1 11-ounce can whole kernel white corn, drained 1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies 1 to 2 tsp. chicken bouillon granules 1 tsp. ground cumin Fat-free half & half to taste
Place all of the ingredients except the half & half in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low for 7 to 8 hours. Just before serving, remove the chicken from the slow cooker and cube or shred it. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and stir in fat-free half & half to your taste.
Yield: 8 servings
We took this along for one of our picnics by the river, along with cornbread. It was a wonderful picnic meal for a cool evening!
I live in scenic northern New England with my handsome husband. We're empty-nesters with a bunch of adorable grandchildren. We love (tent) camping and traveling, but don't get away as often as we'd like to.