The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Monday, January 30, 2012

Potatoes and Leeks

I have taken a ton of food photos lately, so little by little, they'll be appearing on my blog in the form of recipe posts.  Won't that be fun?

I don't know where I got this recipe, but it's a good one and it's easy.  If you have potatoes and purchase some leeks, you don't need much else--just staple goods you should find in your kitchen.  Also keep in mind when looking at my photos that my quantities may seem different--I have been known to 1.5x, double, or even triple a recipe to feed all my men.  :)

Potato Leek Soup

3 leeks
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped shallots (I use regular onion)
2 tablespoons butter
1 quart chicken stock (or water with bouillon to taste)
4 potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream (I used half 'n half)
2 tablespoons butter

Prepare the leeks by slicing the root end off just a little above the roots.  Thoroughly rinse with cold water and shake out as much water as you can.  Place them on a cutting board and thinly slice the leeks, removing a layer or two as you slice into the tougher, darker green area.

Sauté the leeks with the celery and shallots in the two tablespoons of butter about 5-7 minutes.  While they're cooking, peel and quarter the potatoes.

Once the leeks are soft, add the broth/water+bouillon, and the salt, and simmer 20-25 minutes.

Once the potatoes are tender, remove them to a bowl.  It's okay if you get leeks in with the potatoes, and it's okay if you leave some leeks in the broth.  Then, mash the potatoes with a potato masher, and return them to the broth and stir until incorporated.

Then, stir in the milk, cream, and remaining butter, reheating if needed.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with some parsley or croutons.  We like putting cheddar cheese on top of our individual bowls of soup.  This soup has a nice, potato-y flavor, and the onion taste is super mild.  If you (your kids) can't stand even the sight of an onion in any shape, take an immersion blender and blend everything together once you've completed the recipe directions.  (They'll never know.)

We tried making pumpernickel croutons (click here for recipe!), which turned out yummy.  They complemented the soup well.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tea Talk -- Examine and Probe

Welcome to my home for Ruth's Tea Talk!
Click on Ruth's button above to participate with me.
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.

I'm having...a cup of tea with honey and half-n-half, in Fernando's Stone Mountain Park mug.

I'm feeling...pretty good.  My neck has had some pulled muscles for a while, but things are getting better.

On my mind...continues to be Jacob's internship issues at school.  He is handling things very well by himself, and he lets me know everything that is going on.  No matter how this turns out--whether or not he actually receives an internship--we know the Lord will be honored.  Also on my mind is losing my mind!  This week Joseph and I drove to an "expo" featuring community service organizations.  We pulled up to the recreation center where the expo was being held, and I glanced at the article again--the day was wrong.  Then I glanced again.  The expo is in February.  How could I have missed that??  Joseph was very patient; he hardly ever gets mad.  Then we enjoyed a nice ride home.  :)

I leave you with...a short passage of Scripture as our country is getting into gears with upcoming primary elections, and then the presidential elections this coming autumn.  We need, so very much, to return to the Lord!

Why should any living mortal, or any man,
Offer complaint in view of his sins?
Let us examine and probe our ways,
And let us return to the LORD.
We lift up our heart and hands
Toward God in heaven...
Lamentations 3:39-41 NASB
  • examine (2664)--search, ponder, ransack (there's an interesting connotation!)
  • probe (2713)--ascertain, examine, investigate, make a search, ponder, taste

The Lord had Jeremiah use these two words, not just one.  To me, both of these words lend emphasis to the importance of making sure our hearts are indeed turned toward the Lord in everything and in all areas.  It doesn't mean a quick check to see if something is there.  It is a thorough search!  I loved reading that one of the translations was ransack.  This word gives the connotation of tearing the place apart to find every little thing, such as a burglar ransacking a house to steal every single item of value.  This is what I am exhorted to do with my ways!  And taste--I've "sampled" a leftover dish in the fridge, just to make sure it's still edible.  I mean, it looks good.  But how does it taste?  This refers to a second examination of something that may, at first glance, appear to be okay.  Again, I need to apply this to my ways--my time, my money, my thoughts, my actions, my words...

Lord, is there anything--anything at all--that is hindering my relationship with You?  Help me to search, probe, and ponder, and expose those areas one by one.  Purify my heart to keep it turned toward You!

Snow on our lawn

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Where's the Beef?

We waited and waited, and wondered and wondered.  We had purchase a side of beef from our farmers, and we were supposed to get it in early December...but it was January and we still didn't have it.  We finally received a phone call with our beef order, and the guys and I went to pick it up last weekend.

Eric and Samantha raise Murray Grey cattle for our yummy beef.

Because their cows were smaller on average this past year, Eric gave us the option of purchasing a second side.  So instead of a 1/4 side of beef, we ended up receiving a very large quarter side, but not quite a half.

The boys did all the work, and Fernando and I drove home happy.  Our freezer is now stocked again with yummy, 100% grass-fed beef.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tea Talk -- My Hiding Place and Shield

Welcome to my home for Ruth's Tea Talk!
Click on Ruth's button above to participate with me.
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.

I'm having...a cup of Trader Joe's Irish breakfast tea.  I drink it every morning, and drink other teas throughout the day (in winter).  I'm posting a photo of the below teacup (from a recent Ladies' Christmas Tea) because it reminds me of spring.

Thinking of spring!

I'm feeling...cold!  That's why I'm dreaming of spring.  :)

On my my crazy schedule today and for the next several weeks.  Thomas joined a local math team!  I think it's great, but they're currently meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are the two long days for Jacob and Danny down at Joliet Junior College.  Plus Fernando has physical therapy on some of those days, so my Tuesday/Thursday afternoon schedule looks like this:

  • 12:30pm -- take Fernando back to work so I can have the car in the afternoon
  • 1:00pm -- arrive home from taking F. to work
  • 1:45pm -- take Thomas to math team meeting
  • 2:15pm -- home from dropping Thomas off
  • 3:15pm -- pick up Fernando from work and take him to therapy
  • 4:00pm -- drop off Fernando at therapy and drive down to pick Thomas up
  • 4:30pm -- arrive home for dinner preparations!?!

This is no fun.  But at least there are only a few math team days when Fernando has therapy, so all I have to do is take Fernando back to work at lunchtime in order to have the car.  I'd really like to have a steady routine for at least a little while.  I think the Lord has other plans for me.  :)

I leave you usual, a Scripture verse.  Short and sweet.

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I wait for Your word.
Psalm 119:114 NASB

  • hiding place -- a covering, secret place, shelter
  • shield -- buckler; from 1598 (to cover, surround, defend, protect)
  • wait -- await, have hope, wait expectantly

Told you I was thinking of spring...!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

I've heard/read it over and over again this winter--what weird weather!  And it's not just here in Chicagoland, either.  Strange winter weather seems to have swept over everyone's neck of the woods.  The below shots are not late autumn "Frisbee in the park" images.  We were playing on January 11!

We played for a short time, though, because the Frisbee broke.  It pretty much split in two.  So I sent the boys on a two-mile walk west to their grandparents' home, and I stayed behind to catch the sunset--which, again, was boring from a photographer's eye.  But as I've said, no sunset is boring.

Here's a couple of images from the very next day.  :)


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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tea Talk -- Be On The Alert

Welcome to my home for Ruth's Tea Talk!
Click on Ruth's button above to participate with me.
Sit and share a cup of tea with me as we encourage each other in the Lord.

I'm having...a cup of Trader Joe's Irish breakfast tea in my Polish pottery.  The below is a picture of one of Lori's teacups.  Isn't it pretty?

I'm feeling...healthy and well.  Thank you for asking!

On my mind...I'm helping Jacob with some issues he's having with the community college he is attending.  He is receiving the "run-around" from various people, so I'm helping him put together a strategy and plan of action which will help him obtain what he is seeking, and which at the same time is God-honoring and respectful.  It's so hard when I have been wronged; I just want to charge in and demand my rights.  It's even harder when my young men are wronged!  Even though they're older, they still don't have the skill (which is built through experience) to negotiate and figure out what to do.  We're praying that the Lord would be glorified through this situation.  I'll definitely keep you posted!

I leave you with...the end of a passage of Scripture we read in family devotions last night.

Be on the alert then,
for you do not know the day or the hour.
Matthew 25:13 NASB

  • alert:  formed from the Greek word to awaken, to raise up.  Meaning to be awake, to watch.

Jesus spoke these words after He shared the parable of the ten virgins.  All ten took their lamps.  All ten fell asleep.  But only five were prepared for the bridegroom to come.  They stayed the course and were faithful til the end.  Jesus admonishes me to be on the alert, to be aware of Him in all things--in my own personal life and in world events.  It is not physical sleep that is at issue here--it is my spiritual alertness to Him in my life.  My constant surrender to and focus on Him keeps me alert and awake in Christ!

The DuPage River in winter

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Goin' Bananas for Cake!

Jacob kept asking me if I was going to make his favorite banana cake.  The bananas in the bowl on the counter were getting riper and riper, and I knew I'd better use them soon.  Finally, I had both a chunk of time and a son who was happy to help put the recipe together.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 cups ripe bananas (3-4)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour (I used 3 1/2 cups fresh whole-wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2 1/8 cups sugar (1/8 cup = 2 tablespoons)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

3/4 cup butter, softened
12 oz. cream cheese (1 1/2 packages), softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups + 1/4 cup (or so) powdered sugar

walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.  Grease two pans:  8" or 9" rounds or squares (I used 9" squares in the photos).  Lay a piece of parchment paper (I also use waxed paper) on the bottom of each pan, then grease the paper and flour both pans.  (You'll really want to take the time to do this step; otherwise, the cake will come out of the pans in clumps, because it is so moist!)  Set the pans aside.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with the lemon juice.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the 3/4 cup butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Stir in the banana mixture.

Measure all the ingredients beforehand so they're ready to go into the mixing bowl!

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from oven, and let cool at least 10-15 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.  Carefully peel the parchment paper off.  Cool completely.

For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth; beat in the one teaspoon vanilla.  Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.  Can add more powdered sugar (or more milk if too thick) until desired consistency is achieved.  Spread on top of the first layer, then place the second layer upside down on top of the first.  Frost top layer and sides of both layers.

If desired, sprinkle walnuts over the top (or however you want!)

Of course, you must serve this cake with vanilla ice cream!

The perfect marriage of sweetness and creaminess!

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Afternoon with the Girls

My friend Gail and I had been trying to get together for some time, and things finally worked out to spend an afternoon together last week.  What a great way to start off the new year, visiting a dear sister in Christ and having some very special Girl Time!

Gail's daughter Diana set the table so beautifully, with teacups...

A cute honey pot...

Even a water pitcher to quench our thirst after lunch.

Diana showed me the "Tea for One" set she made:

She told me that her mom made the sugar and creamer set:

And she showed me her special tea plates:

Our luncheon was delicious, with tuna melt sandwiches:

And orange-poppy seed muffins, which Diana created from a recipe she modified.

Gail and I spent a wonderful afternoon sharing conversation, thoughts, opinions, feelings, laughter...  Later, her older daughter Kelle made chicken Parmesan for dinner, and I got to stay to partake of that meal, as well!  I was so blessed to be able to spend time with these beautiful, Godly ladies.

 Luncheon brought to us by Diana!

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Boxing Up Christmas

This is not a philosophical discussion.  If you've visited my blog more than once, you know I'm an intensely practical person.  So, I'm not getting rid of Christmas in our home or anything like that.  I'm literally boxing up our Christmas decorations and putting them away.

In the above photo, I have five Rubbermaid 44-quart storage boxes.  This is the entirety of my Christmas storage, and, once I pulled out those boxes this week, I hoped to get it down to four.  I don't do a lot of decorating; it takes too much time and I'm usually the only one who wants to do it anyway.  (Makes me wonder what our young men will do for this holiday once they're married--but that's a far-in-the-future post!)

You can also see that I have several shoe boxes into which I organize our Christmas tree ornaments.  I use tissue paper to wrap the glass ornaments, and also to separate the other ornaments so they don't bang together or anything.  I find that once they're in tissue paper, inside the shoe boxes, and inside the plastic storage boxes, they're pretty safe.

One or two of the guys usually help me take all of the ornaments off the tree.  Joseph was so kind to help me do that this year, and we laid them out all over the floor.  I have mostly single ornaments, except for some plastic snowflakes and a few other ornaments, such as the glitter glass ball ornaments we made one year.  I collect snowflakes, and those were all boxed up before I realized I should take out my camera to document this clean-up project.  :)

Every time I box up the ornaments for the year, I sort through them and decide if it's time to say "good-bye" to any of them.  This year, there were some boxed ornaments that I was no longer happy with, and a few select others that had no meaning for me, so those when into a separate box and are now in my basement "garage sale staging area."  That created just enough room to combine everything else into four Christmas storage boxes.

Side note on de-cluttering most everything:  Should I keep it?  I ask myself these questions:

  • Do I (or my family members) enjoy it?
  • Is it broken?
  • Is it useful?

As I placed each "keep-it" ornament in one of the small cardboard shoe boxes, I wrote down the ornament description on a Post-It Note which was stuck on that shoe box.  Once all the ornaments were in shoe boxes, I had a "contents list" for each shoe box.  [I already had content lists on the boxes, but they have been scratched out/written over for several years and it was time to create new lists.]

Being the "neat-and-tidy" type, I then took each Post-It Note list and typed it out on the computer, then printed out all the lists.

I then cut out each of these "content lists" and taped them to their corresponding shoe boxes.

The shoe boxes were then arranged inside the Rubbermaid storage boxes, and I was done with the tree ornaments.

Each Rubbermaid box is labeled "Christmas" on one side.  On the other side, each has a sticker with a list of items in the box.  Two boxes are labeled Christmas tree ornaments, and the other two contain the tree skirt, manger figures, mantel decorations, stockings, tree lights, etc.  All four Rubbermaid boxes sit in our basement next to our entertainment center until next Christmas season.  In the below shot, you can see the manger atop the five boxes; the photo was taken last summer during one of our basement clean-up projects.

And now I have just four Christmas boxes, plus the manger.  It's nice to look over to those stacked boxes and see several empty ones.  (I'm typing on the basement computer just to the right in the above photo, and there are actually three stacks of boxes there now!)  *contented sigh*

There is still so much to do, but I know that it's a little-by-little process.  I'm content.

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