Friday, January 29, 2010

Time to let the cat out of the bag...

When it comes to baking,
I'm no


In fact,
I'm more of a
And that is why I follow
Amanda at i am baker.
She's


are the



I'm thankful for friends to share with
or I'd be one

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

I think I may have found the most lucrative deal ever. Talk about being thrifty...sifting through all those emails is finally going to pay off. I know some of you have gotten invitations in the mail for prayer shawls and healing water, but this one will pretty much take care of all our needs for the rest of our lives. Here's the email:

Dear Friend,
I have a profitable business proposal in my bank, that i want to transact
with you for investment purpose. I am seeking your partnership/assistance
in this business transaction to transfer the below fund to your country.
The amount of money involved in this transaction is US$16,100,000.00. If
you are interested get back at me with the listed information below for
more details:

Name: ______
Address: _____
Phone No: _____
Sex: _____
Country: ______
Occupation: _____
Bank & #: _____
Sincerely,
Mr. Kuo Jiann-Jonga

Wow! I hit reply faster than a speeding bullet. Here I've been pining away for bargains and sifting through hundreds of coupons and all I needed was to get hooked up with Mr. Jiann-Jonga.


Okay, so obviously you've been jipped of a thrifty tip this week. It's because the one coming next week is so gigantically huge that I've got to start working on it now! So keep couponing, hit Children's Place for their $2.99 and $3.99 sales--ask if you need coupons, and tune in next week for a gigantic Thrifty Thursday!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Day Late...or Maybe Not?

Many of you awesomely participated in the
Blue Monday Challenge.

I had planned to participate on Monday. I had grand plans of encouraging others...with sugar, chocolate, and such.

God had other plans for my day. I'll have to admit, when the curve ball hit, I wasn't exactly thrilled. God was asking me to do something that I don't think I'm good at doing. I love to bake, and I love all things happy. This wasn't baking, and it wasn't so happy. In fact, this was tough. People were hurting, and God was putting it in my lap to help them. I couldn't help them with sugar or chocolate, either. The only things that would be of any help were the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit. I was scared I was going to screw up. I was scared I was going to give them the wrong answer. Thankfully, Cody was home. God has given that man an incredible passion for helping people, for knowing the Word of God, and for using God's Word to help people. He helped me respond in love with Biblical truths. There was no spreading of cheer with sugar, but there was a joyful resolve that God's Word had gone out and we'd prayed for the Holy Spirit to work.

Yesterday, I began reviewing my lessons for my small group of ladies at church. Can you believe what God had in there? Here it is:

2 Peter 1:3 (He) has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.

God seems to specialize in putting us in positions where we must rely on His work in us. I often recognize God's leading specifically because He calls me to do something I am afraid to do. I'm learning that when God wants to show Himself in living color, He works throu
gh us. He purposefully puts us in a place where we will have to depend on him to accomplish the task at hand, therefore seeing His greatness and turning our worship more fully toward Himself.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Je
sus so we can do good things He planned for us long ago.

And there it was: the reason for Monday. God was showing Himself in living color to us. He did work in the situation through the power of His Word and the Holy Spirit and glory was brought to Him for His loving kindness, His forgiveness, and His power to change lives.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

I hesitated to post this because I know you, my loving and caring friends, will be full of sympathy for my day going askew and getting rough. Don't be. It's what God had planned all along. Despite my plans to do easy, fun things that seemed like the way to encourage others, God had deeper, harder things for me to work through. No, I didn't love the situation at all, but because of it, I spent more time in prayer, grasped more what it means to truly trust God in all things, and watched as He worked, in spite of my insecurities, in someone's life.

As for Blue Monday, the sugary part of it sort of turned into Blue Tuesday for our college students who come over for Bible Study. Don't be blue, we love you!

I quickly figured out yesterday that Cloe is becoming a master of Rice Krispie Treats as she manuevered that wooden spoon and coated the cereal in dyed blue fluff! The boys are still hanging in there as my number one taste testers. And Cody, well, he just comes up with his own surprises sometimes--IBC root beer for dinner! Yes, he'll have three nominations for Daddy of the Year!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

*Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Cody and I sang this song by Matt Redman in church this morning. We also showed an amazing video on life. Click here to watch it. Click here to listen to Pastor Mike's sermon on adoption...you'll be glad you did!

So fearfully and wonderfully made
How could they say there is no God?


Reminded every breath that I take,
It's by Your hand I have been formed


So what am I going to do with this life You gave me?
What could I do but live for Your praise?



You gave me this breath,
And You gave me this strength,
And every day I'll live to obey You.
With all of my heart,
With all of my soul;
Let every breath I'm breathing display You God.

There's elegance in all you create
Your grand designs leave us amazed.



The wonders of the way we've been made
Speak of Your power, tell of Your grace.


So what am I going to do with this life You gave me?
What could I do but live for Your praise?
So what am I going to do with this life You gave me?
What am I going to do with this life?
What I am I going to do in these days You've ordained?
What am I going to do with this life?




Psalm 139:13-14
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Photo booth Friday

Philippians 4:11
Not that I am speaking of being in need,
for I have learned in whatever situation I am
to be content.


Sometimes it's a little easier...
Key West, June 2009

than others!
Iowa, January 2010

Head on over HERE for a fun challenge to beat the
Winter Blues!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Tip #10: Skip the gym membership, grab a good exercise dvd, and work out!

This is a frugal tip that is working great for our family--it might not be the right fit for everyone!

I have worked out at Curves and at the YMCA, but found both places presented a challenge after having kids. Curves stopped having childcare because of dropping membership. The YMCA daycare was great, but my boys picked up everyone's germs. Not so good for their little asthmatic lungs at the time! Plus, both places added a chunky $30-$40 a month to our budget.


Recently, two of my oober get-fit friends introduced me to some amazing but still doable workout dvd's.
Here's my favorite one so far:

It hurts...seriously!

If you happened to sign up for Swagbucks last week...which you should click here if you haven't yet...you can use your earned amazon.com giftcards for workout dvd's which start at just $6!

The start of a new year is a great time to get back on track with exercising, in case you've fallen off the work-out wagon like me!

Happy Exercising!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finally...a recipe for macaroni and cheese that turned out creamy and good!
...and didn't look like baby spit up on macaroni!
...and didn't involve processed velveeta cheese!

Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced pickled jalapeño chilies, or to taste (added a lot more on Cody's side)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 T. olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained well
cayenne to taste if desired
1 box whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Monterey Jack (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 6 ounces)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1/4 pound)In a large heavy saucepan cook the onion, the garlic, the jalapeños, the coriander, and the cumin in the olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, stir in the flour, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the milk in a stream, whisking, bring the liquid to a boil, whisking, and whisk in the tomatoes. Simmer the mixture for 2 minutes and add the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.
In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the macaroni for 4 minutes, or until it is barely al dente, drain it well, and in a large bowl combine it with the tomato mixture. Stir in the Monterey Jack and the Cheddar and transfer the mixture to a buttered 13- to 14- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or 3-quart gratin dish. In a bowl stir together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the macaroni mixture, and bake the macaroni and cheese in the middle of a preheated 375°F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is golden and bubbling.

*recipe adapted from Epicurious.com


Thumbs up for the mac-n-cheese from Big Mac!

Hot Stuff for my HOT STUFF!

Just so you see my true colors...Cody fixes my stove
and I start it on fire.
Never fear, the baking soda saves the day...every time!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quinoa

Several months ago, I was in the kitchen with a friend of a friend who was preparing us an oober organic, healthy lunch. As a wannabe, trying to appear organic and healthful myself, I suavely leaned over to one salad and said, "Oh, is that the grain QUINN--NOAH?"
She gave me the weirdest look out of the corner of her eye, and replied, "Do you mean Keen-wah?" Yeah...I am so not cool somtimes. She was very gracious and explained how she had prepared the delicious salad.
Ever since that day, I have been obsessed with quinoa...learning about it, buying it, cooking it, finding new recipes... Quinoa is actually nutty grain from South America. It's an excellent source of nutrition. To check out all the facts on it, click here! I made this quinoa recipe for the leadership retreat this past weekend and it got rave reviews! Give it a try!
Black Bean and Corn Quinoa

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.

*I kept this in a little crock pot. It's best to add the cilantro at the last minute so it doesn't get wilty.

My favorite way to serve this is with Black Corn and Flaxseed Tortilla Chips from Target. It's also good served alone as a main dish!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weekend Recap

This weekend, Cody and I went to a Leadership Retreat with a bunch of super cool cats from Willow Creek. I am daily humbled to be apart of such an amazing ministry. God is doing awesome things in lives of people at The Creek!

Tonight, my mind is full of great things God is teaching me and showing me, but I think it'd be easiest for you to read and listen for yourself!

Check out this post on Haiti...
It's perfectly worded and grounded in the Word. Pray for Haiti and the ministry going on there!

Read this awesome eye-opening article...
It's put into words something Cody and I have been passionate about since we had children and began praying for their salvation.

Listen to this challenging message...
It'll challenge your evangelism and give you a taste of the excellence we hear every week! Seriously, if live even a reasonable distance at all from West Des Moines, you need to be at Willow Creek! (Yes, a shameless plug! While I'm at it...the music is pretty swell, too! Must be that handsome guy with the guitar...)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Photo booth Friday

As I was recently reminded,
I'm gonna miss this someday!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Tip #9: Look for easy online ways to earn cash or prizes.

As a stay-at-home mom, my opportunities to make easy extra fun money are sort of scarce. I've found a couple of reliable, online sites that don't require a lot of time and have pretty good rewards. (Not like BIG bucks rewards...just a little extra fun money here and there.)



The first site is Swagbucks. This site is a "search and win" site. After you sign up, you can use their toolbar for searches just like you would on google. The fun part is that Swagbucks are awarded periodically as you search the web. There's no rhyme or reason for if and when you'll win, but it's fun to see those dollars pop up on your search! The Swagbucks can be traded in for great gift certficates to places like amazon.com and Target. If you want to sign up, click here.


The next site is called Inbox Dollars. They send paid emails a few times a day. They also have surveys and other cash offers that come periodically. Once you have earned $30.00, you can request to have a check sent. I'll be getting my first check from them in a few weeks, and I'm excited to use it for a fun Date Night!

Do you have any secret money making sites? Let us know!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Blueberry Coffee Cake

Being without an oven was going just fine...
...until I got a hankerin' for some cake!

Silly sweet tooth!

So I googled "Slow Cooker Cake Recipe".
(What would I do without my friend google?)
I was surprised how many recipes popped up.
Many were for chocolate lava crock pot cakes.

Although those sounded really,really good,
I'm really trying to stick with healthier recipes. Really.

I also wanted a cake that we could eat for breakfast.
Doesn't every mom serve cake at breakfast?
I guess I'm just that cool...or not.

So I finally landed on this Blueberry Coffee Cake recipe from the Weight Watcher's website.
WW...must be healthy, right?
To my delight, this recipe is healthy and most importantly, delicious!
So delicious, I might just keep on baking in my crock pot!

Slow Cooker Blueberry Coffee Cake

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened blueberries
1 Tbsp powdered sugar

Instructions
* Combine both flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Combine egg, yogurt, oil and vanilla extract in a small bowl; stir well. Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth; stir in blueberries.
* Grease a 2-quart round soufflé dish; spoon batter into dish. Grease a sheet of aluminum foil; cover dish tightly with foil, coated side-down, so no water seeps in.
* Pour 2 cups of hot water into a 5-quart or larger slow cooker; place covered baking dish in slow cooker. Cover slow cooker; cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. Remove baking dish and cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn cake upside down onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before slicing.
Notes
* You can substitute fresh or frozen and thawed raspberries or chopped strawberries for the blueberries, if desired.



The cake--all settled in the "bath tub"!

Finished baking and definitely worth the wait!



So good it almost looks heavenly there on the plate!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Family Outing


Yesterday we took a little family outing to Reiman Gardens.

It felt so nice to be in a tropical climate
that
we all smiled!

Well, almost...
You might have thought it was torture with one look at this little forced smile...or this weak, half-hearted smile.
But it was actually quite relaxing and beautiful,and colorful,and prickly,and fun!
Well, maybe still not so much for Carson.
Ah, here we go.
Happy at last!

Taking pictures with his own phone.
The best part?
Being together!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Steel Cut Oats

Have I mentioned how much I love oatmeal?
Not just any oatmeal, though.
That instant powdery stuff in the packages...not for me!
Only good 'ol Steel Cut Oats will do...almost like straight out of Grandpa's oat field.

What are Steel Cut Oats?
Glad you asked!
Steel cut oats do not look like regular oats at all. Regular and instant oats have been rolled which gives them that familiar "oatmeal" look. Steel cut oats are cut right off the stalk. Someone one referred to them as "chicken feed". Please don't let bother you, though! They are such a tasty, hearty way to start off the morning!

Speaking of hearty, steel cut oats are high in protein, fiber, and B-vitamins. They also count as an amazing serving of whole grains. Rolled oats have been steamed, rolled, steamed and rolled again, and then toasted. Although still good for you, much of the nutritional value has been processed...or rolled right on out of there! (hahaha...coffee's really kickin' in this morning!)

You can find Steel Cut Oats right next to the rolled oats in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. They also go by the name Irish Oats. I find them to be a bit costly at the grocery store. Never fear, I have a frugal solution! Many of you have heard me talk about Keller's Kountry Store, now called The Baker's Pantry located in Dallas Center. This fun little store has steel cut oats for dirt cheap...98 cents a pound! That's approximately four cups of oats per pound. One cup will feed the kids and I for breakfast. Not bad...25 cents for a warm healthy breakfast for four!

So how do you cook this wonder food? Awhile back, I shared a little gourmet over-the-top way to fix steel cut oats here. Usually, I just fix them on the stove with water. Since our stove was on the fritz last week, (Cody got the burners to work and now we're just waiting for an oven part...yeah!) I had to come up with another way to prepare our oatmeal. Slow Cooker to the rescue!
I found a great recipe here and it worked out pretty well. I doubled it, also, since we were all home and the boys seem to be on a eat.everything.in.sight.growth.spurt.phew!

Steel Cut Oatmeal for the Crock-Pot


1 c. steel cut oats
4 1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt (I left this out)
2-3 T. butter (I left this out, too)

Mix oats and water in a greased crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.*A "crust" sort of formed around the edges. I should have stirred it sooner to prevent this.

Mmmm...pure goodness there!

Steel-cut oats are good topped with brown sugar and milk, agave nectar and blueberries, or my newest favorite topping: Honey, Walnut and Dried Fruit Topping.

A super sweet friend gave me this delicious topping in a beautiful jar for Christmas. Being the recipe stalker that I am, I found the directions so I could make more...can you imagine, the first jar is already gone?Honey, Walnut, Dried Fruit Topping

1/2 c. walnuts, toasted and cooled
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. dried apricots, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1/2 c. good-quality honey

Stir together nuts and fruit; transfer to a 6-ounce jar. Top with honey. Topping can be refrigerated in jar up to 1 month; to serve, bring to room temperature.

Hope Steel Cut Oats become your favorite breakfast, too!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow Day!

My TOP 10 REASONS for loving snow days
...and why I won't mind making them up in June:

10. I don't have to bundle up the boys to take Cloe to school.
(It's so much easier to get them in the car and buckled when it's not freezing outside!)

9. We all get to sleep in!
(Thank you Daylight Saving Time for keeping it a little darker in the morning!)

8. Everyone loves to cuddle in the morning when it's a snow day!
(It's like they've got an instinct to just relax!)
7. On a snow day, it's perfectly acceptable to hang out in pajamas all.day.long.
(Any other day, this would be considered pretty stinkin' lazy!)

6. Painting toilet paper tubes and turning them into race cars is super fun!

(Man, did I have to work hard to save three tubes! These kids are definitely pitchers!)The Maticulous ArtistThe Green Monster!The Proud Maker

5. We can stay home all.day.long.
(No errands, no shopping, no parks...no guilt!)

4. Playing Old Maid as a family is full of hilarious fun!
(SO thankful for games! They help provide entertainment, focus, and keep the kids from getting stir crazy!)The Old Maid--two times in a row!

3. Teaching them how to make paper snowflakes made me feel like a magician showing the coolest magic trick ever! (In a few months, they'll be playing out there and will have no time to concentrate on elaborate crafts!)
2. Cuddling on the couch and watching movies under tons of blankets is the best!
(I love to hear them giggle at the funny parts and to feel them snuggle in at the sad parts...go Lightning McQueen!)

1. Spending time with my children is...priceless!

Bye for now!
We got one more blustery day to enjoy staying snug as a bug in a rug!

Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Soup!

We've got a little predicament at our house:
the oven put on a magical light show the other day
...and died.

I've been trying out my skills in creating crock-pot recipes.
It's a wonderful challenge on these snowy-homebound days!

Here is yesterday's creation straight out of a
Seinfeld episode with the Soup Nazi:

Mulligatawny Soup

There are many, many variations of this recipe. I picked a very simple version because I had all of the ingredients.
It was so surprisingly, amazingly good--despite it's lack of eye appeal! It's packed full of vegetables, protein, whole grains, and FLAVOR! Everyone in our family loved it--this will be a keeper!

Mulligatawny Soup

1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 c. carrots, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 T. curry powder (more for a spicier dish)
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. brown rice
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Greek yogurt (optional)

Heat oil (crock pot on high for a few minutes). Saute onions, celery, and carrot for five minutes. Add curry powder, chicken stock, rice, and chicken. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Add thyme. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve! A dollop of Greek yogurt on top tames the spices for little ones and adds acts as a really nice creamy thickening agent for the soup.

Mmmm...good to the very end!