Preparing for the New Year

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I forgot how precious the holidays are when you teach school!  I have really enjoyed my time off and we were so blessed to be near our family and able to see them multiple times throughout the holidays.  As this first day of 2015 wraps up, I have begun to think about work again (I might have to start a summer countdown calendar though).  One thing that I will be doing before school starts back up and I am busy-busy again is that I will freeze some meals for those days that I just can’t spend time cooking.  I am planning to put two different “main entrees” into the freezer before Sunday night.  One of them, Porcupine Meatballs, I’ve blogged before.  This new one is a recipe my Aunt Gwen shared with me.  Neither of us have made it after it was frozen, yet we have made it fresh.  However, I’m going to try freezing it and bought gallon-sized freezer zip bags at the store this week for that very purpose!

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Place into a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast (if they are crazy big chicken breasts, cut them to make thinner)
  • 4 Tablespoons of lime juice (about 2 limes if using fresh)
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped (this was about 3 cups prior to chopping it)
  • 1, 16 oz, bag of frozen corn
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Once all the ingredients are in the bag, mix it all together and zip the bag closed.

Place in the freezer for up to 3 months.  When you are ready to prepare the dish, remove it from the freezer and thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Cooking times:

Slow Cooker: This recipe works great in the slow cooker.

  • Low for 8 hours
  • High for 4 hours

Stove:  I found this site that helps convert recipes from stove to slow cooker.  I may try this when I cook this for my family as the slow cooker and my teaching hours don’t mesh well.  According to this on stovetop it would take about 45 minutes to cook this meal.  I will most likely pull the chicken out and brown it on both sides and then pour the rest in on top to finish cooking it all together.  I will update this post after I try it to let you know how it works!

 

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Family time is priceless!

 

Ratatouille—Vegetables after the Carb Fest!

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We have had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Texas.  It was wonderful to drive to be with our Giese family.  Thanksgiving is the only time of year that the entire clan (close to 40 of us) plan to get together.  This year we were just outside of San Antonio and next year I get to host!!! (And yes, the spreadsheet is already forming in my head and I’ve determined where furniture will be placed too!)  Then on Friday we drove over to see Brad’s parents and had another wonderful feast.  Needless to say, we need some vegetables without butter and brown sugar all over them!

I just finished prepping this Ratatouille recipe that I found last winter in “Slow Cooker Revolution”.  I served our dish with some Rigatoni Pasta to help my kids be a bit more receptive to this vegetable focused meal.  It does take a bit of time to prepare (30 minutes) but then you have 4 to 6 hours to clean up the kitchen and know that later your family will have a warm, healthy meal without any butter :)

Ratatouille

Cut into 1-inch chunks:

  • 2 eggplants (2 pounds)
  • 3 zucchini (1 1/2 pounds)

Heat in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat:

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Brown in the heated oil for about 5-7 minutes:

  • 1/2 of the eggplant; turning it to brown on all sides.  (I pepper mine a bit)

Transfer browned eggplant to your slow cooker.

Repeat process with 1 Tablespoon more of oil and remaining eggplant.

Then, work in two batches again, to brown the zucchini (adding 1 Tablespoon of oil before each batch.)

Put the browned zucchini in the slow cooker.

Heat 2 more Tablespoons of oil in the skillet.  Add to the shimmering oil:

  • 2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme (could use 2 teaspoons of fresh if you have some)

Cook the vegetables for 8 to 10  minutes until softened and lightly browned.

While the vegetables brown, drain but reserve the drained juice

  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

Once the vegetables are browned, Stir into them and cook for 1 minute:

  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

Slowly whisk into the skillet, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out lumps:

  • the reserved tomato juice

Transfer everything to the slow cooker.

Stir  into the slow cooker:

  • The drained, diced tomatoes

Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low until the vegetables are tender.

Prepare your desired pasta just before the vegetables are finished

Stir into the vegetables:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Enjoy!

August 10- a day I will always remember

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Today is one of those “anniversary” days for me.  It is one that I will always remember for the rest of my life.

It is the day we picked up our girls, in 2013, from Sleep-Away camp in Pennsylvania for the last time. It was the day that we told them three very big things:

1) Uncle Dude and Aunt Erin were going to have a baby

2) Aunt Robin died during the night after battling cancer

3) We had decided that I would not accept a job in Texas that had been offered to me….a job that would have allowed us to live just an hour from our extended family.

August 10 is quite the anniversary for me.

This year I remember the day while sitting in Texas, our new residence….where God has provided a job for Brad and now, pending a written offer, a job for me. We moved into our home a week ago and live just over an hour from our extended family. Last year, I had no idea how it would all happen but we decided to Trust God and Walk Forward, knowing He had a plan for us. Knowing if we trusted Him, we would end up in just the right place….wherever that would be.

Today we visited a new church….I hate church shopping but it is a necessary evil of moving. The preacher was the highlight of the church for me, even with all its wonderful amenities. His sermon was a perfect confirmation of our desire to move back to Texas.

He preached from Colossians 3:20-21. His first point was “Make the relationships with our family of primary importance.” This entire move was based on this need of family. Our schedule in Pennsylvania did not allow us to interact as a family on a regular basis. Brad’s job was a great job, but the hours were not conducive to his being around at the times our girls were home. We did not like this. We had seen the warning flags that the pastor, Dr. Mark Hartman, shared

  • When the busy seasons become the norm.
  • When we connect our careers with our self-worth
  • When we stop fighting the battle of balance and give in to the career.

We saw these flags beginning to fly in our lives and didn’t want to overlook them and carry on.

I am thankful that God gave Brad and I the same desire, to find a job that allowed him to have a more consistent schedule to be home in the evenings. We know that our girls are growing up and we will never have this time again….we want to be the parents God has asked us to be. We also wanted our girls to know and be able to develop relationships with their extended family, as family is such an important part of life.

For us, this meant some big changes in career, location, and finances.

Moving is tough. We miss our friends, we have worked for hours packing boxes and now unpacking boxes and I won’t even mention the money involved in a move—ouch!

God is faithful and He provides.

I know He will provide new friends.

I know He will provide rest.

I know that He will provide for our needs.

 

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

I hope to always be able to remember August 10 as a day that is bittersweet; mixed emotions and God’s hand always at work.

Hearing about a new cousin on the way!

Hearing about a new cousin on the way!

Celebrating the life of my Aunt Robin.  I miss her so much.

Celebrating the life of my Aunt Robin. I miss her so much.

Eating lunch in our new home....no Burger King this time but Whataburger!

Eating lunch in our new home….no Burger King this time but Whataburger!

Rainbow over our new hometown.

Rainbow over our new hometown.

Hey Math Teacher…when will I use this stuff?

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Yes, that is often the thought of many a math student sitting in the desk of math classes around the world. Well, let me tell you when you will use “this stuff”. Currently my life seems to be one big story problem; and the answers are not written at the back of the book!

We are excitedly looking to move back to Texas in the next few weeks. God has generously answered the prayers of many people and opened the doors for us to move back close to family. Right now, though, we constantly have to figure out all kinds of things:

  • If we have to be in Texas by x-date yet our belongings will be picked up on y-date and it takes so many hours to get to Texas, how many hours do we need to travel each day? (Make consideration for traveling with two cats)
  • If our insurance ended on June 30 and the COBRA information arrives on July 11 and is RIDICULOUSLY high, which short-term insurance plan should we go with taking into consideration the maintenance medications we are using and that our family will be traveling in two different directions in three different vehicles across the nation in just two weeks?
  • How many jobs do I apply for in the short amount of time I have to sit at the computer and give to that task?

I could go on and on. I am getting many opportunities to quote Philippians 4:6 to myself…I’ve paraphrased it a bit to fit my situations though:

Be anxious for nothing, not even finding the right job,

Be anxious for nothing, not even how you will get all of this done,

but with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.

 So the recipe for life is to start each day with Thanksgiving.

Thank you Lord for this move!

Thank you Lord for the opportunity to watch you work.

Thank you Lord for guiding each step of the way.

Thank you for the amazing friends and relatives that are all helping out in their own ways.

Thank you for being so amazing and loving me even when I don’t deserve it.

 

The answers are in the book…His book….the Bible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

 

So when in doubt, go to the best book around, The Bible and seek his help with the story problems of life.   The answers are not at the back of the book but all throughout, from start to finish!  Then, as Philippians 4:7 goes on to say “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Answers throughout the book!

 

Back to packing!

 

 

Tortellini and Ground Beef…who knew?

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We tried a new recipe at our house this week and it was a winner.  It has the two characteristics of a recipe that I love: fast and easy!  Then it has two more loves for us…tortellini AND ground beef, I never would have thought to put them together.

Our life here in the Smith house has been going a little fast too….not so much easy but not too difficult.  I have had many thoughts of blog entries to write and share with you, but things just are moving too fast to sit down and write at this point.  Meals at our house have not been to creative either as my schedule has been very full.  But I did finally try something new this week and since everyone liked it at our table, I thought I would share it with you.

I first found the recipe and pinned it to  Pinterest and then when we made it had to change a few things to fit the ingredients we had in the house.   So here is my version:

Baked Tortellini Casserole

In a large skillet or chicken fryer pan:

  • Brown 1 lb of lean ground beef

Add to the beef before it is totally browned:

  • 1 small, onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • pepper to taste

While the beef is browning, prepare according to package instructions:

  • 1 large (12 oz) bag of dried tortellini (We had cheese and spinach tortellini in the pantry.  I cooked it on the shortest end of the cooking time so that the tortellini would finish cooking in the oven.)

tortellini bag

Once the beef is thoroughly cooked through and drained, stir in:

  • 2, 14-oz cans of diced or petite diced tomatoes (could use crushed tomatoes too)
  • 1, 8-oz can of tomato sauce

Stir into the beef mixture:

  • prepared tortellini
  • 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese (we mixed mozzarella and Parmesan)

Transfer to a casserole dish and bake at 350° for about 20-30 minutes

Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of Italian cheese of your choice over the top and serve!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast anyone?

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Today is the first day of our spring break and I’m happy to report that it actually feels like spring!  Now tomorrow is another story but at least we have today.

This morning I made a recipe that I recently found on pinterest.  It seemed easy enough for a mindless-morning recipe.  I hate breakfast recipes that make you think too much or that you have to cook for an hour or so (meaning you have to wake up way before your family to get breakfast ready).

This one was quick and easy and it is totally gone after my family had breakfast.  We served it along with a bowl of fruit.

Crescent Roll Breakfast Ring

Preheat oven to 375°

Scramble on the stove top

  • 5 eggs (I tried to do 6 as that is what I had left in the carton and honestly….it was one egg too many!)

Lay out on a parchment lined pizza pan or  cookie sheet

  • crescent rolls in a circle that looks much like sun rays!

Add to the crescent rolls:

  • 8 slices of fully cooked bacon (I purchased a box of fully cooked bacon to make this an easy prep breakfast)

 

Yum...Bacon!

Yum…Bacon!

Add to the ring in the following order:

  • 1/3 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (or colby-jack)
  • cooked eggs
  • 1/3 cup of shredded cheese

Fold the crescents over and tuck in or pinch the point to the long side of the roll

Add to the top of the ring

  • 1/3 cup of shredded cheese
Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Bake for 17 minutes or until the crescents are done and golden brown.

Enjoy!

Breakfast Ring_slice

Change of Seasons

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Saying that this has been a hard winter is quite the understatement. Heck, it is technically spring yet the winter weather still is hanging around.  We moved into our current home just a few days after Christmas. The week after we moved in the snow came and it didn’t leave our yard until well into March. I have never in my life lived with so much snow for so many days. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it….but I survived. On one of the not-so-bleak days this winter, my handsome fella and I went for a walk. We noted that the evergreen trees were a nice addition to the landscape in the neighborhood as winter would be so VERY bland without them.

I am so ready for the next season. I am ready for flip-flops and Capri pants. I’m ready for sitting in the backyard and soaking up the sun. I’m ready for a little color and vibrancy in life! The flowers of spring are always energizing and almost intoxicating as they change the landscape around us. Did you know to enjoy the tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths that I love so much…they actually must be planted in the fall before the first hard frost? They require the cold of winter to become what they are meant to be.

I wonder how that plays into my life? I feel like I have been in a hard winter for a while.   Even in the hard winter there have been those pops of green from the “evergreen trees” to keep life from being bland and too depressing.  I am so thankful for the “evergreen trees” in my life.  I am ready though for the next season; I’m ready for the vibrant colors and shapes of the spring flowers.  Just as God has designed and shaped the flowers that will soon be coming, I know he has a plan for me. I can’t wait to see the design.

Did you know that in the basal center portion of the bulb for all of those wonderful flowers are the leaves cradling a baby bud that is just waiting for spring?  In many of the species, this bud already has the appearance of a flower while still in the bulb!  Just like God has that plan already laid out for me.  The basic framework for the next season in my life is all there.  The winter was necessary to shape me into the woman he wants me to be.  He has had the plan all along and has just been waiting to reveal it to me when the time was right.

So until then, I keep trusting him and walking forward knowing that a change of seasons is near.

As for a taste of spring now, I made this pound cake when my younger daughter had a friend over that was staying for dinner.  The friend doesn’t drink milk so my original plan for the evening dessert, ice cream, was out.  I looked around my pantry and then found this recipe on the Duncan Hines website.  It was so yummy and moist.

 

Pineapple Orange Pound Cake

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease and flour a 10″ Bundt pan.

Combine together in a mixing bowl:

  • 1 package of Duncan Hines Signature Pineapple Cake Mix
  • 1 small package of vanilla instant pudding
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 grated orange peel (about 1 Tablespoon)

Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for two minutes.

Pour into the prepared pan

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted inot the center comes out clean.

Cool for 25 minutes in pan and then invert onto a serving plate.

Make the glaze:

Combine in a small saucepan and then simmer for 3 minutes:

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Brush the warm glaze on the cake.

Enjoy!  The cake didn’t last 24 hours at my house.

 

Spring is Coming!