Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pray for me...

No one said being a Christian was fact, it's the hardest thing I've ever done.  The closer you get to GOD, the harder Satan works in an effort to default your beliefs.  Most days I'm so thankful that I am not who I used to be; thankful that I see things in a different light.  Up until this point, being a Christian has not involved a lot of sacrifice on my part.  Even before being saved, I was, according to the world, a pretty good person.  I've never been drunk, never done an illegal drug, tried to live a moral life, etc.  I had more good going on that bad.  In the last month or so, one of my lifelines (seriously) has been a point of conviction in my life.  MuSiC!!!  Oh, how I love music.  There's nothing that can get me through a day like a good country song.  A song about hitting a back road, or the unique sound of George Strait's voice....I could go on and on.  Country has always been me...but lately...well, I just can't stand what country has become.  Nearly every song is pathetic.  I've always loved me some Alan Jackson because I thought he was pretty true to his roots, but if you pay attention to his songs/videos, alcohol and a practically naked woman/women are always included.  Some of the titles of the newest songs need no explanation.....Country girl (Shake it for me), One more drinkin' song, etc.  Heaven forbid, I EVER see my little girl shakin' it for some stranger who is lookin' her up and down.  I'm just done with letting this music filter into our lives.  I'm done with having to switch a song before a cuss word comes on, done with only listening to certain cd's when she isn't with me...DONE!  What's good for the goose is good for the gander.  It's gonna be sooo hard, I just love the sound of country music!  Grr....I guess I will be listening to more bluegrass, more contemporary christian and more oldies.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Apple butter...

Apples have been of the highest quality round these parts this year and I have been trying my best to take advantage of that.  I've frozen homemade applesauce and cut apples--a bushel's worth.  Now I've moved onto making apple butter.  As much as I like to can, it's odd that I had never before made this delightful treat.  My husbands mom seems to have made "the best", but sadly her recipe seems to have died along with her.  My grandmother's recipe just doesn't float my boat, so I began to look elsewhere.  I finally decided to try making a crockpot butter because it is sooo darn easy.  Let's face it y'all, if we can come up with an easy way that tastes pretty good, we have to go for it!  Who has time to slow cook apple butter on the stovetop for hours?  Not I!  I searched until I came up with the following recipe:

2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups apple juice
2-50 oz jars of unsweetened applesauce
4 cups sugar
3 lbs of peeled diced apples

Simply combine all and cook on low for 12 hours.

I tried this recipe to the letter the first time.  I typically do unless I see a glaring problem...I like to give the original recipe a chance.  Well, this one was grody.  It was waaayyy too spicy for my families liking and too sweet.  The color did turn our to be a rich, dark brown and it could'nt have been easier, but it just wasn't perfect.  Seriously, why use wonderful apples if you can't even taste them over the spices?

So, I made another batch.  This one is muuuuch better.  Again, if you like your apple butter full of spices, you might love the first recipe.  To each his own.

1 1/2 cups apple cider
2-50 oz jars of unsweetened apple sauce
4 lbs of Golden Delicious apples
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves

The apple cider has so much more flavor and is worth the effort if you can find it.  Most people have no issues this time of year, but I must admit my little hokey grocery store didn't have anything other than apple juice :(  Sigh.....I also want to note that Golden Delicious apples are naturally sweeter than say a macintosh or a granny smith.  Either of which would be excellent choices, just make sure to adjust your sugar accordingly.  It was a matter of personal taste that I added brown sugar.  I just love the flavor it imparts...adds such depth and richness so I considered it to be a win-win.  I actually cooked this for about 13 hours.  You may also notice extra other words, the butter looks like runny you know what!!!  Just leave the lid off for an hour or two with the crockpot on low and the extra water will evaporate. 

I encourage everyone to try this need not have any experience in the kitchen to conquer this one!  If, the butter isn't canned properly, it must be frozen or used with three weeks of refrigeration.  I haven't taken the time to actually figure up the caloric content of a serving, but I can tell you it's a pretty guilt free indulgence :)  Have I mentioned the smell?  My house smelled like heaven while this was cooking!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Diabetic lemonade...

Considering that my original lemonade recipe is my most viewed post, I thought I would give you a good recipe for all the diabetics out there.  My mother is a diabetic and she came up with this trick years ago and I use it several times per week.  The recipe couldn't be more simple and it is surprisingly good.  Start off with Crystal Light lemonade mix-----stick with me, I know the mix is horrible!  Take a fresh orange and slice half of the orange into thin rounds.  Put the rounds into the lemonade mix and squeeze the remaining half of the orange adding the juice into the mix as well.  Give everything a stir and refrigerate for an hour or so.  I don't fully understand how this works, but the fresh orange juice makes this concoction taste homemade....there is absolutely no taste of aspartame in this AT ALL.  Maybe it's the essential oil in the rinds, maybe it's just the thought of fresh juice being in the mix...whatever it is, people never guess this isn't fresh squeezed.  Even my extremely picky, borderline diabetic husband loves it.  The mix states the caloric content of a serving as being 5 calories.  I would think you would raise that to around 10 or so.....fine by me!  Lol. 

Butcher day!!!

It's the simple things that make me happy, really it is.  For the last few months, I have been going to a local butcher and buying all the meat needed for a months time.  The amount of money I save is HUGE.  So huge that I've paid for my deep freeze in just two months....amazing.  We, like most families probably, consistently use 4-5 cuts of meats the most and those are the ones I stock up on.  Our local butcher is fabulous....the meat is so fresh and the flavor doesn't even compare to what is available in chain stores.  Plus, as y'all know, I live in a very rural area and I just love having a well-stocked freezer.  Today, I spent 57 dollars and here's a pic of what I got after dividing everything.

I realize it's pretty hard to tell what is what so here's the breakdown:  6 lbs of ground beef (lean) for 1.99/lb, 4 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast for 1.79/lb, pre-sliced pork loin for 1.99/lb (I think I had 7 lbs), boneless sirloin roast 2.89/lb (3 lbs), 2lbs of fresh sausage 1.00/lb.  I also got one lb of sliced bologna (1.89/lb), one lb of chipped turkey (3.79) and one lb of chipped ham (3.79) and 1/2 lb sliced colby cheese (not sure of the price on this one!).  For those of you who don't know, lunch meat freezes beautifully as long as it is low-fat.  If you find a good deal, buy extra and freeze it.  Just allow a full-day per lb for the meat to defrost when ready to use.  As you can see, I got an amazing haul for the amount of money I spent.  My family of three will eat on this for a good month......Going to your butcher and buying in bulk is very much worth the investment of time.  I maybe spent fifteen minutes dividing and packaging the meat into usable portions.  25 lbs of meat for 57 dollars!  I forgot to add a lb of slab bacon in the grand total :)  I encourage everyone who enjoys hunting for a bargain or who needs to cut back on their grocery expenses to try out your local butcher!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good and stinky...

I know y'all are wondering what gives with the title.  Well, let me tell ya.  In the last week I have cooked, greens, cabbage and salmon patties.  Shew....Febreeze can't even take care of the smells.  My house has a very open plan and I can't keep kitchen odors confined to the kitchen.  The best thing I have found is to take the rind of a lemon, lime and orange and simmer them in water on the stove top.  The essential oils release and they offer a nice, light citrusy smell.  I do this a lot....sometimes daily.  We like stinky  I am going to share my recipe for salmon patties.  Baby girl loves these and I make them for her a couple times per month.

Start off by taking one can of salmon and remove bones.  The removing of the bones does not thrill me...I would gladly pay more for the bones to already be history!!  Once this chore is done, place in bowl and add one large egg.  Take two pieces of stale bread and tear into small pieces-this will be mixed into salmon mixture.  You will need 1/2 tsp each of garlic and onion powders.  It would be perfectly acceptable to use fresh minced onion and garlic here.  My family doesn't like raw onion and garlic much at all.  When making salmon patties, the inside is only warmed through, so you will chomp down on crunchy pieces of onion and garlic....ick. 

I also have 1/2 tsp of salt on my plate  You are ready to throw bread and seasoning in with salmon and egg mixture.  Mix together very well.  Mixing well will serve to purposes-one to break up any small bones that were missed (always happens) and to also incorporate the bread well.

Because my mama always did, I add approximately a TSP each of mustard and ketchup.  As an afterthought, I added about eight grinds of pepper as well.  Mix again until combined and form into patties.  I shape mine a bit smaller than a hamburger and usually end up with six.

At this point, many people add a crust...I do not.  If you chose to add a crust, you could do cornmeal, cracker crumbs or panko.  I think a cup of panko with a tbsp of Parmesan cheese might be pretty tasty.  Just make sure you dip your patties in egg first to help the breading stick.  You are ready to drop your patties into a 1/2 inch of heated vegetable oil.  I have to honest...I brown the fire outta these.  A super dark crust will make these extra crispy and delicious.  You have to trust me, mine end result looks burnt, but doesn't taste burnt in the least.  After pulling from the hot oil, I rest the patties on a double layers of paper towels for a couple minutes to absorb extra grease.

Is anyone else Christmas shopping yet?

I have officially started.  Usually, I am done by the end of October and while I haven't set any specific goals for myself (lol), have started buying.  The last day of school for myself is Dec. 3rd and I intend to be done with shopping completely by then so I can truly enjoy my time off.  Goodbye micromanaged, getting up super early, running to school twice per day...all of it.  A 4 week reprieve will be greatly appreciated!  Anyhow, one of the perks of shopping early, is not having to deal with crowds and getting good deals.  Yesterday after dropping baby girl off at school, I went to Belk (one of my favorite stores) and found some amazing deals.  I was able to get my husband four Chaps button up shirts for 24 dollars total!  I also picked up two incredibly cute beaded cuff bracelets.  Seriously, I want them for myself, but they will be nice smallish gifts.  They would be perfect for babygirls teacher and instructional assistant, great little stocking stuffers...the ideas are endless.  I am suddenly kicking myself for not buying every stinking one of them :(  Can you guess how much I paid for these jewels?

Well, originally they were 15.99.  I paid 2.74!!  What a steal.  I've found when I find something like this, it's best to snatch it up.  I keep a Rubbermaid container in my closet for such buys.  These would be perfect for stocking stuffers, Secret Santa gifts, gifts for piano, dance or school teachers, etc.  I think I just talked myself into going back and buying more!  lol.  Right now is actually a great time to start shopping as most stores are offering good deals with the weather change.  People are updating fall wardrobe and discounts are deep to encourage that!  This year, more than ever, I will be looking for good deals.  We all need to be good stewards of what GOD blesses us with...there's just no reason to spend a fortune or even go into debt for the Christmas season.  We are to celebrate the birth of Christ...not to distract ourselves with more financial worry!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A huge part of my day....

So this post is a bit off the wall, but I thought it would be appropriate to post about something that consumes a major part of my day....the car rider pick-up line at my daughters school.  In the mornings, things aren't so bad.  A couple of local police officers direct traffic and I make it in and out in less than 15 minutes.  The afternoons, however, are not so fun.  I've found parents are so immature and selfish.  Quite frankly, no wonder so many children are little terrors these days....they learn these traits from their parents as far as I can tell.  Parents are supposed to line up two by two around a loop system until they approach the pick-up area and we are then supposed to drive single file.  Does that happen gracefully?  NO!  Everyday rivals a nascar race.  People are shaking fists, cutting each other off, flippin each other the bird.  I shouldn't be shocked, but honestly, I see something that blows my mind on a daily basis.  Parents start lining up an hour and a half before school lets out for the best spots.  I'll be honest, I thought this was ridiculous until I had to deal with the chaos that occurs towards the back of the line.  Sooo, I now get there early and sit in my car for an hour.  What do I do for an hour, well inevitably I need to pee.  This poses a problem as the entrance doors of the school are always locked.  I would have to walk a country mile to the front of the school and actually go to the office and check in before I could pee!  Geez!  So, let me introduce you to my bathroom.....

Yes, the porta-potty is a godsend for us car-rider parents.  Gross, but oh so necessary!  If, I am not running for the porta-potty, I can be found doing any number of things.  Things that would surely embarrass my daughter, but what she doesn't know can't hurt her.  I give myself mini-pedicures and manicures, makes lists (grocery, to-do, etc.),  I text a lot.  Note:  most people that know me well know I'm a very infrequent texter.  If you suddenly receive several texts in a row from me, you can bet I'm in the pick-up line.  Lol.  I study.  A lot.  I actually do a lot of my college reading in the car.  If I'm a really lucky girl, I will read a book for pleasure.  I also listen to my music appreciation cd's and interpret music as according to my assignments.  This is a funny one because my windows are always rolled down due to the heat and I can only imagine what others are thinking when they hear music from the Middle age, Renaissance and Baroque periods blaring from my car!!!  Opera anyone?  lol.  I try not to sing along to further humiliate the family :) 

The things we do for our children! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A simple womans daybook

Outside my window- The weather is FINALLY moderating and it is a glorious day.  The temperature is nearing 70 and the sun is shining!  Praise GOD!  I actually rearranged my great room so I could put my computer desk beside a window!

I am thinking-how busy this week is going to be, but how extremely blessed I am to be able to stay home and take care of all our needs.  Sometimes being home full-time can be frustrating, but it really is the best for our family.

I am thankful-my husband being sensitive to my needs.  Being home full-time, I don't feel like I can buy myself things like I did when I was earning a salary.  My husband knew I had been eyeing a particular camera lens (that I did not need) and he bought it for me!  Today will be a wonderful day to try it out!

I am going-nowhere until I have to pick babygirl up at school.  We will then rush home and do homework and supper and then head back to school for grandparents day!

I am reading-a chapter in my music textbook and two chapters in my communication textbook.  When in college, reading for fun goes out the window.

I am hoping-for a weekend getaway.  I love road trips!

Around the house-I am hoping next week will allow me some time to do some painting.  This week, I have deep cleaned the great room and put up new curtains.  Makes the whole house feel so much fresher.

A few plans for the rest of the week-schoolwork, housework, youth, prayer service at church on Thursday night, a specialist appt for my hubby and a specialist appt for my babygirl.  Hoping the weather will cooperate so we can camp out this weekend.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Checking in....

Today I am so busy I can barely breathe and I don't have much time to post.  I'm working hard to get my schoolwork under control so I can place my attention on the chaos our week will hold.  We have appointments every night after school and if makes me feel grumpy, very grumpy.  Not to mention we are all being plagued by allergies right now.

I just want to briefly talk about something that has been on my mind lately.  I am not going to complain or rant or rave...not even a bit.  I am sad.  Have y'all noticed how songs being played on Christian radio sound very secular?  For example, take a minute and listen to this song.  The song is catchy and upbeat and I really like the sound of it...honest, I do.  The problem I have is that the Lord is mentioned casually a few times and nothing about the song screams "Contemporary Christian".  I have no problem with the style of the song and I do not believe sacred music need be reverent, hymn-like or calm.  Pop and rock music with a Christian stamp is so needed in this world and I support it, but a person should have no problem identifying it from other more wordly artists.  Am I alone here?  What about Revelation 3:16, and what GOD tells us about being lukewarm?  How many of us are going to be "spit out of his mouth" for being mediocre in our walk with him?  Am I making a big deal out of this?  I don't think so, and as Christians we should be concerned with anything that doesn't appear absolute.  Again, I am not bashing Ms. Jamie Grace.  I think she is fabulous and I'm sure she loves the lord with all her heart, I just wish these upcoming artists would consider their witness a bit more.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you?

As a child growing up, I distinctly remember hearing my parents and grandparents talk about particular events that shook them to the core.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard my mother talk about the assassination of JFK and the death of Elvis Presley.  It always seemed that she remembered every detail so vividly...exactly where she was when she heard the news, what she was wearing, who was with her, etc.  Every time she told the story, it was as if she was reliving the experience emotionally.  Personally, I never understood where she was coming from.  Until September 11th, 2001, that is.  How vividly I remember being at work and answering a personal call from my then 82 year old strong, patriot of a grandmother.  Her voice was strange and shrill as she explained that one of the world trade center towers had been hit.  We were still on the phone as the second plane hit and it became obvious terrorism was the cause.  I felt lost.  How could this happen to us? The United States of America had always seemed exempt from such occurrences.  It was just unfathomable.  At work, we had no television or internet access, so we were glued to the radio listening for bits of information.  We would not fully understand all that had happened until reaching our homes that night and seeing the utter devastation on our television sets.

The sights were horrific.  I believe at 21 years of age, I began to fully understand what the term empathy really meant.  I had not yet been married two years, but could only imagine how so many new widows were feeling.  Children had lost a parent/parents, homes were destroyed, jobs were lost....nothing would ever be the same.  As awful as those images were, I couldn't pull myself away from the television.  It was consuming, one couldn't get away.  Somehow, 10 years later, we are still consumed.  Maybe we should be, we should never forget.  Our guards cannot ever be let down again....closing our eyes will not make things better.

Cube steak: so much more than I ever imagined.

For me, I've never cooked with much cube steak.  I've always considered it to be a cheap, tough cut of beef.  Other than making the occasional country fried steak, I've never used it.  When my daughter came along, I started making steak fingers (same as country fried steak, but cut into long strips) because she loved them and I could get some red meat into her.  Babygirls chronic anemia caused me to start keeping cube steaks around.  For me, they are just so-so, but babygirl and my hubs wolfed them down along with the typical sides of mashed potatoes and gravy.  On a positive note, it was an easy and cheap meal, so I never said much.  Recently, I have become a huge fan on The Pioneer her, love her blog and love her style of cooking!!  She makes a sandwich that she loving calls "The Marlboro Man sandwich".  The Marlboro Man is her nickname for her husband, Ladd.  Ladd is a tough, hard-working rancher who is a meat and potatoes man all the way.  Sounds like my  I decided to try the sandwich and oh my goodness, I simply fell in love.  Seriously, y'all.  It shouldn't have been that good....nasty ole' cube steak, 2 lbs of butter (maybe a touch of an overstatement) and lots of Worcestershire sauce.  How could that possibly be good?  I just don't know, but it is.  Here is a link to her recipe

Some of the pros of this recipe are:  It takes about 20 minutes start to finish, which I love.  It's pretty cheap....cube steak is about 4 bucks per lb and this feeds 4-5.  Seasoned salt, worchestershire sauce and fresh garlic and onion don't set ya back much either.  As for the bread, I like using fresh bolinos from Wal-Mart bakery and they are like 1.60 per six.  As for the cons, well, if you are not a very active rancher, these have waaay too many calories for the average bear to burn off.  The amount of sodium in these babies is pretty crazy as well.  Bottom line:  don't make too often or these will increase your bottom line.  I make them no more than twice per month and I anticipate these like a child on Christmas morning.  It.Is.A.Sickness. 

Above is the real deal in my real kitchen.  You don't need a 3000 dollar camera to make this look!  Above picture is taken with my old D80, no natural light and a 150 dollar lens.  No retouching or editing....:)  And yes, I think my bokeh is quite acceptable!  Oh and BTW, I really don't change PW's recipe at need for it :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Confession time: Clothes shopping.

Hows about another non-food related post?  I do not like to shop for clothing.  I hate it, actually.  Shopping for my daughter has always been more manageable.  At the age of Five, she has turned into a diva overnight.  Strangely enough, this happened about the time she started school-which is a whole other post in itself.  It has become necessary to build her fall wardrobe very quickly.  I thought we would have another month or so to do this, but we have gone from continuous 90-100 degree days to days with highs in the upper 50's.  Sooooo....we made a trip to the mall.  Clothing was to be purchased for babygirl and myself.  All of my fall clothing is too big and I desperately needed a few things myself.  The trip was a disaster.  Babygirl now hates anything I like and vice versa.  The experience was so frustrating and we do face a few non-typical limitations.  For one, babygirl is very girly and yet, traditional at the same time.  She loves to wear cute, long dresses, doesn't like character tees (thank goodness) and happens to be very petite for her age.  It's so hard for her to find something like she wants to wear that will actually fit properly.  In the past, we have had pretty good luck at Old Navy, but to be honest, I am so fed up with their lines.  Maybe I am the only one, but I have noticed a HUGE amount of inconsistency in their sizing.  Not to mention the quality issues.  I have had major shrinking, fading, peeling and the most annoying problem of small holes developing in the paper thin materials.  Does anyone else have these issues?

A friend of mine recommended The Children's Place to me and I decided to order a few things last week online.  I found the pricing to be very good.  At the time I ordered, a sale was going on plus a 15% online coupon and free shipping.  I was able to get her six shirts and three pairs of socks for 53 dollars!  I was pretty dang happy about that.  I was very pleased with the styling of their clothing overall and the quality is very, very good.  The cotton shirt arrived with a very soft and substantial feel and best of all.....babygirl loved them!  Yay! 

Shipping was also very fast.  If my next transaction goes as well, I think I will forever be converted. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm behind on all my chores, so why not blog?

The title says it  My husband has been working oodles of overtime and I have been managing all aspects of our household, going to school full-time, juggling one Dr appointment after another and I just can't seem to get caught up.  My laundry is suffering, my house is horrible and my schoolwork...oh my schoolwork.  It makes me want to cry.  Normally, I am ahead and in good shape, but right now that is not the case.  So, why am I blogging and not working?  This morn I have already taken two tests, completed two discussion board posts and completed a 600 word assignment.  I am due a break! 

I trust everyone had a most wonderful Labor Day holiday.  We had a good time overall.  We made a long trip to visit a cousin in the hospital, went to Mammoth Cave for a tour, caught a play, went to Nashville and went out to eat a couple times.  Last night was the first time all weekend I took time to cook a good meal.  My choice was soup-I know y'all are shocked by that one ;)  Glorious vegetable soup!  Here's my recipe. 

one medium onion, diced
one lb of ground sirloin (quite often I use leftover chuck roast that has been shredded)
1/2 lb sliced carrots
1 cup frozen lima beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 small can petite diced tomatoes
3 beef bouillon cubes
4 cups tomato juice
4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1 large can veg-all homestyle cut vegetables

Begin by sauteing onion in a small amount of olive oil.  After onion is translucent, add beef and brown.  Drain any grease that you might have.  Add rest of ingredients and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  This really is so tasty and VERY easy.  I like to simmer for an hour or so and serve with cornbread, sweet tea and apple tart.  This makes 8-10 servings and is even better the next day!  This can also be thickened and turned into Shepherd's pie if you like that kinda thing, I don't but some do!