Thursday, August 30, 2012

Baking Naked



I am a big fan of food. I like to eat. I put high value on family meals, sitting down together to enjoy good food and sharing about our day. I also have a new born. This is one of the times in my life I am trying to reconcile my "wants" with my reality. Some days, my kids survive on string cheese foraged from the fridge and apples stolen from the the fruit basket. Not exactly the type of sit down, balanced fair that I had pictured in my mind.

My life gets crazier as the day progresses, with peak insanity striking my home about 5:30. Poor Matt, who usually find himself walking through the door at a bit before 6, is rarely greeted by the smell of cooking dinner , the sight of a clean home with children quietly playing. More often he has to shove the train track out of the way with one foot while opening the door, try and find at least one of the children' pants and help himself to a string cheese to prevent starvation.

My oven was made some time during the Carter administration. It cooks food just fine while heating up my kitchen to almost unbearable temperatures. It gets so hot on the OUTSIDE that my children are not allowed in my kitchen while I am cooking. This is nice in the winter, when the temperature of the kitchen tiles turns my toes into 10 little ice cubes. Now, during the heat of the summer, I have to wait until a rare cool day to bake or be forced to bake naked to keep from getting heat stroke.

Enter the CROCK POT. This has been my answer, along with my grill, to keeping my family fed at least part of the time. My friend Heather Stock posted this list and I thought I  would share it with anyone else who might find themselves relating to the madness that hits a home around. Each one makes 2 dinners and goes straight from freezer into pot. Pair with a salad and call it a meal. After all, you don't want it getting around that mommy bakes naked.


Freezer to Crockpot Dinners

Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches
8 chicken breasts
2 cups chicken broth
2 cans pineapple rings
2 red peppers thinly sliced
1 large onion thinly sliced
provolone cheese
buns or lettuce wraps

Directions: divide all contents evenly between two bags (except cheese and buns).  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Serve chicken/pepper/onion mixture with melted provolone on buns or in lettuce wraps.


BBQ Chicken
6-8 chicken breasts
2 bottles favorite bbq sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 t. garlic powder

Directions: Divide all ingredients evenly between 2 freezer bags.  Cook  on low 4-6 hours.


Thai Pork w/ Peanut Sauce
4 lbs boneless pork loin, fat trimmed cut into large pieces
4 red peppers, cut into strips
1 cup prepared Teriyaki sauce
4 T. rice vinegar
2 t. red pepper flakes
garlic head, chopped
4-6 T creamy peanut butter
optional garnishes: chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, lime slices.

Directions: Divide all ingredients evenly into 2 freezer bags (EXCEPT peanut butter!).  Cook on low 8-9 hours.  Before serving remove pork and shred.  Add peanut butter and stir to dissolve.  Add pork back in slow cooker.  Serve over rice with garnishes.


Savory Pepper Steak
3 lbs round steak cut into 1/2 inch thick strips
1 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large onion roughly chopped
head of garlic chopped
1-2 red peppers sliced
1-2 green peppers sliced
2 16 oz cans italian style tomatoes
2 T. beef bouillon
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T steak seasoning
1/2 cup steak sauce
Directions: Toss steak in seasoned flour mixture.  Divide evenly into the two bags.  Mix seasoning, sauces and bouillon in small bowl.  Divide evenly between two bags.  Add can of tomatoes in each bag.  Divide onions and peppers between two bags.  Cook on low for 7 or 8 hours.


Salsa Verde Pork
4 lbs pork sirloin or loin roast
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 16 oz jar Salsa Verde
2 4 oz cans diced green chilies
2 t. ground cumin

Directions: Combine ingredients and divide evenly between two freezer bags.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Shred pork and stir back in the sauce.  Serve with tortillas or shells.  Top with cheese, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

Fiesta Chicken
6-8 chicken breasts
1 envelope taco seasoning
2 cans corn drained or large bag frozen corn
2 cans black beans drained and rinsed
2 small jars salsa or 2 cans of Rotel
2 cans cream of chicken soup (add later!)

Directions: Divide chicken, corn, beans, salsa and taco seasoning evenly between two bags.  Freeze.  Place contents of bag in crockpot and add cream of chicken soup.  Cook on low 7-8 hours.  Serve over brown rice.  Top with cheese.


Teriyaki Chicken
2 small bags baby carrots
1 onion roughly chopped
2 large cans pineapples (undrained)
head of garlic chopped
6-8 chicken breasts
2 cups teriyaki sauce

Directions: Split between two freezer bags.  Cook on low 6-7 hours.  Serve over brown rice or quinoa.


Sausage and Peppers
8 turkey or chicken sausages
1 red pepper sliced
1 green pepper sliced
1 large onion sliced
head of garlic chopped
2 cans italian diced tomatoes
2 T Italian seasoning

Directions: Split between 2 bags.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Serve over hot noodles or fresh french bread with mozzarella cheese.


Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken
6-8 chicken breasts
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/3 cup vinegar
1/2 cup lemon-lime soda
head of garlic, chopped
4 T. soy sauce
2 t. ground pepper
rice or noodles, cooked
red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions: Combine chicken and all spices and liquids.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.    Remove chicken.  Transfer liquid to sauce pan, add 2 T. cornstarch mixed with 2 T water) boil for 2-3 minutes or until juice thickens.  Serve glazed sauce over chicken.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.


French Dip Sandwiches
2 lb boneless round roast, trimmed
2 envelopes onion soup mix
2 cans beef broth
french bread and sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions: Divide roasts, soup mix and beef broth in two freezer bags.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.  Remove roast and shred.  Slice a loaf of french bread in half, lengthwise.  Layer beef, then cheese. Close, cover in foil.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Slice and serve with bowls of dipping sauce from crockpot.    


Sweet and Tangy Meatballs
2 bags frozen turkey meatballs
2 jars grape jelly (natural fruit spread if possible)
2 bottles bbq sauce

Directions: Split between 2 bags and freeze.  Cook on low 2-4 hours.

Chicken Taco Soup
2 onions diced
2 cans chili beans
2 cans black beans
2 cans corn, drained (or frozen)
2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans chicken broth
4 cans Rotel undrained
6 chicken breasts
cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips (for toppings)

Directions: Split all ingredients into two bags.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.


Shredded Pork Tacos:
3-4 lb pork roast, cut into chunks
2 onions chopped
6 T olive oil
2 serrano chilies
head garlic chopped
salt and pepper
2 cups water
taco shells or tortillas, taco seasonings

Directions: Divide all ingredients into 2 freezer bags.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Serve in taco shells or tortillas.


Beef Stroganoff
4 lbs cubed stew meat
4 cans condensed golden mushroom soup
2 onions diced
6 T Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
2 blocks 8 oz cream cheese (add later!)
2 small containers mushrooms (add later!)
2 t. garlic powder
2 t. paprika
Directions: Combine all ingredients (except cream cheese and mushrooms).  Divide evenly between 2 freezer bags.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Add mushrooms.  Cook 1 more hour.  Add 8 oz. cubed cream cheese. Stir to combine, turn to high for 10-15 minutes until ready.  Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes.


Creamy Chicken Chili
2 cans black beans, drained
2 cans corn, drained (or frozen)
2 cans Rotel, undrained
1 onion, chopped
2 pkgs ranch dressing mix
2 t. cumin
2 T. chili powder
4 chicken breasts
2 blocks 8 oz. cream cheese (add later!)

Directions: Combine all ingredients (EXCEPT cream cheese!) and divide evenly into 2 freezer bags.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove chicken and shred.  Add block of cream cheese, stir to combine.  Return chicken to pot.  Cook on high until well combined.


Ground Beef-Italian Style
2 lb ground chuck (whatever is on sale)
1 large chopped onion
2 shredded carrots
salt, pepper, Italian seasoning

Directions: brown and drain.  Cool and transfer into freezer bag.  Ready to use for spaghetti, casseroles, etc.

Ground Beef- Mexican Style
2 lb ground chuck (whatever is on sale)
1 large chopped onion
2 shedded carrots
salt, pepper, taco seasoning and cumin

Directions: brown and drain.  Cool and transfer into freezer bag.  Ready for tacos, enchiladas, taco soup, etc.


Shredded Chicken
whole chicken fryer
2 large onions sliced
3-4 large carrots
4-5 stalks of celery
salt and pepper

Directions:  Throw all together into a large stock pot of boiling water.  Cook until chicken in completely done.  Remove chicken and shred.  Remove veggies by draining liquid.  Freeze chicken in bag for ready-use.  Freeze chicken stock.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Breakfast Cookies


*Picture stolen from a blog who had a similar recipe to this*

I have discussed before that is have an intense dislike for mornings. It was bad before kids bad has gotten progressively worse. I feel like every morning the sun greats me mockingly, reminding me of how little sleep I managed to get the night before. Enter the breakfast cookie.

Matt has been traveling again. This means I am up with the kids. On mornings he is home, he gets everyone breakfast before leaving for work. When he is gone, I stumble down the stairs, cheery babe in arms, and growl a greeting of  'morning' to any small person I happen to pass. My kids learned while they were quite little not to bug mommy before her morning coffee.

These cookies buy me time to make a real breakfast. It holds over small tummies until my eyeballs stop rolling into the back of my head. I suppose they could be a meal if you are on the run bright and early. I refuse to commit to being anywhere with 4 children before the respectable hour of 9 a.m. These are also healthy snacks for kids to be able to serve themselves on the days that baby J decides he needs to nurse THE ENTIRE DAY. No one starves.
So if you find yourself to be less than plesent company when the sun arises, or if you are forced to be anywhere at the early and ungodly hours, this is something you should tuck into your pocket. The recipe, not the cookie, although the cookie would fit into your pocket nicely as long as you don't mind eating a little lint.


Peanut butter Banana Breakfast Cookies

  • 4  very ripe bananas, mashed until smooth & creamy
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter ~ creamy or chunky 
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups quick oatmeal  ~ uncooked  
  • 1/2 cup raisins or crasins
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips 
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix mashed banana & peanut butter until completely combined then add in the applesauce, dump in everything else ~ mix again until all are completely combined. 

Let dough rest for 10 minutes This keeps you from having soupy cookies.

Drop cookie dough, by spoonfuls, onto a cookie sheet & flatten cookies into rounds. Bake for 20ish minutes or until lightly brown and totally set. Cool for a few minutes before removing from cookies sheet. ENJOY!! (With or without pocket lint)


Friday, August 17, 2012

The act of serving

Often when I sit down at my laptop, I have a blog post pretty much written out in my head. I am an internal processor who refines with the written word. Forgive me, this time, for that isn't the case.

I have such a heart for "the least of these". Not "least" because they matter the least, but because that is how they are treated. Even our government throws money at the problem, when love and knowing a new way of life is more the cure. Conceptually, my heart bleeds for the broken and disenfranchised. The old, the orphans, the sick tug at everything from my heart to spirit. I talk to others about them, I blog about it. I even give money to causes. I feel so frustrated by myself when my actions struggle to line up with my heart.

Yesterday, baby boy was being high needs. He isn't, usually. Pretty chill for a babe of not yet 3 months, content to watch his sister, nurse and nap, snuggle with whomever has a free arm. Not yesterday. He wanted to be held, not happy in a sling, won't be entertained by sisters silly antics or songs. And not just in my arms, but interacted with, talked to, tickled and sung to. He wanted to eat for all of 2 minutes before deciding he was done only to be convinced he was surly going to STARVE if he wasn't immanently  fed 30 minutes later. It was exhausting.

I our house we have an on going expectation of service. Annabelle is to little to turn the water on to wash her hands so a big sis is expected to help. Not just expected to help, but have a good attitude about it. There are things we all need help with, I need Matt to lift heavy things because he is stronger than me. Eliana needs me to make her pancakes because it isn't safe for her to use the stove yet. Addilyn needs Elie to help her cut out picture and tear off tape. We serve each other, it is a culture I try had to cultivate in our home, an attitude that we meet needs for others to the best of our ability. It is what love looks like when used as a verb.

Some days I find myself just doing things to keep the kids busy and out of my hair. Even as I type that it seems so cold. I am not called to find ways to make my life easier, not that I should intentionally go out of my way to make it hard. When my focus becomes my comfort, my lack of irritation, my ability to check things off my list, I am not living in love or service. God gave me my children and gave them to me with needs. Needs that I can meet, the need for my attention, my snuggles, my choosing to play with them and there fore making them feel important.

Children are not convenient, nor were they supposed to be. There is nothing like a child to make you see how selfish you are. Dying to yourself to make way for something bigger and better is uncomfortable, painful even, but so necessary. You can't be filled up with love when you are filled up with your own need for comfort, there just isn't room. I have written of love before, how it is less emotion and more endurance. I feel like just when I start to grasp what love might look like, I am again struck with how very little I get it.

On days where my older children are mostly left to fend for themselves as I care for the littlest member of our family, I have to pray, once again, about the state of my heart. Lord, let me be a servant to the least of these. Let my words be kind and actions be patient, make it not all about me and my comfort. Let my children see joy in care, let me be a model for words in action, love in motion.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The tyranny of STUFF

I have a little exercise for you. Put away your running shoes, it isn't that type of exercise. This one requires a paper and pencil. Quickly jot down the things that fill your time. Things like work, shop, clean, surf the web (damn you FACEBOOK) care for children, talk with husband. Now, write down what percentage of your time you spend doing each activity.

Ok, new sheet of paper.Now write down what you say your priorities are. Compare lists.  Do you see where I am going with this? Of course you do. If your list is like mine God, family and relationships are close to the top of the list of things you believe to be important. Funny how my time doesn't reflect that.

How much of my day is spent caring for stuff, buying stuff, or working so I can pay for my stuff? Driving my kids to activities isn't really the same as being present with them. Occupying the same couch as Matt isn't the same as being invested. Calling my friends for dinner once a week isn't making relationship a priority. The list is pretty ugly in my life.

It came to my attention that I have achieved the "American Dream". House? Check. 2 cars? Check. Mini van full of kids? Check. Husband with a great job? Check. I am so blessed. But you know what? This isn't MY dream. I know everyone says it should be, and I am of course thrilled that I live comfortably, but I don't think that I have "arrived". My dream still feels unfulfilled. It is like being hungry and filling your belly with white rice. Sure, you might be less hungry, but your taste-buds long for more flavor, your body craves more nutrition. You see the variety of succulent fruit, savory herbs and flavorful meats. It isn't that you need MORE to be happy, you just need different.

What if I took the everyone-elses-dream and politely handed it back. What if I said "no thanks" to the life full of "white rice" and chose to live in a small house with very little stuff. What if I chose a plate with less food but more color, texture and flavors. What would people think?  Would they feel bad for my kids, forced to share rooms with less toys? Would they think that Matt just couldn't hold down a good job that allowed us to live big? Do I actually give a rip what they believe?

Do to some possible big changes coming up in our next couple of months, I was thinking of the bare minimum I could have and be happy. How many outfits? Shoes? Pots and pans? How much space do I need? If I could be happy with 10 outfits total, and the same for my kids, how much time would I spend caring for clothing? If we had 1/4 amount of toys as we do now, how much more creatively could my kids play? If I have 1/10th the amount of space to care for, how many more stories would I read to the kids, puzzles would I build, pretend worlds would I discover? Could I give up the plate of filling yet predictably the same, empty carbohydrate rice and go for unknown, less full plate of pallet quenching munchies?

I came across a great blog about a couple who decided to each keep no more than 100 personal items. That  includes things like a toothbrush and underwear. Cell phones. Computer. Could I do that? What would I learn about myself, my children, the condition of my heart?

I am not sure how we got to the place where more stuff or better stuff equals more happiness. Matt spends a lot of time and energy at work, but if we could live on half the money and he could work half as much and we had one quarter amount of the items we have now, could we be more present, more happy? Could  we serve more, give more, love more?

If the American dream, keeping up with the Jones', isn't my dream for our family, what is?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chocolate Beet Cake

So I thought I might loose some baby weight by joining a CSA (community supported agriculture, or a "farm share") but I am thinking it might not be the case. I have made some amazing pesto, both cilantro lime and basil, that is just delish on pasta or chicken. And then there is the mint that just begs for mojitos. Greens are so good cooked up with bacon and onions. Everyone knows that cucumbers taste great with feta.  But the real problem? Beets.

Before I join another CSA, I am going to ask if the farmer has a strange beet fetish. I have received a bunch of beets EVERY WEEK since the summer started. I had never cooked beets before, but always being one to try new things I gave it a go. We roasted them. We steamed them, We grilled them. And as my friend Jen ever so politely put it, the still "taste like dirt". Literally. Huh.

So here I am, a crisper full of beets, greens removed and sauteed. I remembered my friend Jodi telling me about a chocolate beet cake. With nothing to lose, I steamed and mashed a blender full of beets and OH MY WORD...Beet Cake rocks my socks, people!

This cake is almost healthy. My children love it. I have made it twice and am going to make it again (after all, I keep getting more beets) Yes, I adapted it from its original form, this almost goes without saying. But you must try it. SOOO GOOD!~ I should have taken a "food porn" picture for you all to enjoy, but I couldn't. My fingers were sticky with chocolate.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. greek yogurt 
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 ounce semisweet chocolate
  • 2 cups pureed cooked beets
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (if GF use 1/2 c. each oat, rice and corn starch with 2 tsp xanthan gum)
  • 1/2 c. coco powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • confectioners' sugar

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix  1/2 cup oil and brown sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Melt chocolate; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Blend chocolate mixture, beets and vanilla into the creamed mixture (mixture will appear separated). Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Cool completely. Before serving, dust with confectioners' sugar. Or better yet, top with chocolate chip frosting!!