Saturday, July 13, 2013

Freezer Meal- Southwest Black Bean Burgers

The second freezer meal that has proven to be awesome, is:

Southwest Black Bean Burgers (recipe cred: Nicki Britten and Joanie Gentry)

Get out a big bowl and dump 3 cans black beans and smash up with a large spoon. Just until mostly smashed not all.

Chop up two or three colored bell peppers, one medium onion or a couple shallots, 4 cloves of garlic. Sautée in a pan with some olive oil until onions become translucent and peppers get a little soft.  

Mix in peppers and onions in bowl with black beans, add some chopped fresh cilantro, about two big handfuls. Squeeze some lime juice and add spices. 1.5 tsp cumin, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 3 eggs and 2-3 cups plain bread crumbs or enough until it becomes like a thick paste that you can mold into patties. 

I got about 18 burger patties! That is a real savings from 3 cans of beans. 

This is really so easy. You can even adjust recipe to your taste, add jalapeños for more kick or even a can of corn etc. 

Then flash freeze and put in freezer bags. They are so delicious and handy! Just pull a couple out nuke for 1 min and then sauté in a pan or on the grill. We love pepper jack cheese and avocados on them!

Freezer Meal- Kale Lasagna Roll-ups

I went on a freezer meal blitz the other day, while prepping for dinner. I thought I would share a couple things that have proven to be easy and good!

First up...Kale Lasagna Roll-ups! 

I bought a huge bunch of Kale at the farmers' market, roughly chopped it up, sautéed in a pan with some olive oil and minced garlic until wilted. I boiled one package of whole wheat lasagna noodles. I then mixed: 1 large container small curd cottage cheese, 1 8oz. mozzarella/provolone shred cheese, 1 8oz. Shred Parmesan cheese, 2 eggs, salt, pepper to taste and mixed in the sautéed kale. 

Then lay out lasagna noodles flat and spread some of the cheese mix on top and roll up the noodle like a little rug. Pop in a freezer bag and voila! Instant meal ready to take out set in a pan with a little spaghetti sauce on top. 425 degree oven for about 45-55 min. 

What I love about these are: 

1. You can take out as many as you need. Great for a meal for just one or two people. Or if guests show up pull out more!

2. I love that my kids are eating whole wheat noodles and kale! Kale is all the rage these days, it is a major superfood. Look it up. :)

3. Fast! This took me much less time than layering a traditional lasagna.

Try it! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Where the View Never Changes

Fewer views are as serene as this on an early summer morn. Jehnsen Lake in northern Michigan.

There is something to be said of a view that never changes. The other side of the lake from our family cabin, is wetlands and inhabitable forest, so the view literally never changes. The house is simple and rustic and there is only room enough for the things that matter most. 

Sometimes I think Gods voice gets crowded out of the whirring din of thoughts and ideas inside our minds. It is so necessary to give the spiritual discipline of simplicity a rightful place in our lives. 

 I'm making room to hear his still small voice. To feel the steady rhythm of his unchanging nature.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Favorite Mascara

Mascara is a very necessary part of any woman's makeup collection. Even if you don't use eye liner or shadow, most women will at least give their naked lashes a little boost.

Which brings me to my next point. Volume. I've tried to give others a chance I really have. Just last week I even tried a new kind of "voluminous" called a million lashes something or other. Once again I was let down. 

Loreal's Voluminous is the stuff. Seriously get some.

Monday, May 20, 2013

If I Could Change One Thing

I was randomly thinking about ways I would like to change the other day. 

Thoughts that popped into my head were; losing weight and being better about controlling my portions, saving more money instead of spending, following through on projects I start, and doing a little bit of housecleaning each day. 

As I was pondering all my shortcomings, I realized that there is a root problem with each of these things. That is self-discipline or willpower. 

How does one change or exercise the muscle of ones will? I am investigating this new question. 

One interesting blog post I read recently was from Seth Godin. He wrote that a habit can be changed only in small steps toward a new goal. 

For example, he wanted to stop putting sugar in his coffee. So for about a week and a half he put one teaspoon less sugar in his coffee until he no longer noticed the change and it became his new "normal". Then he put one more less teaspoon and so on.

This rings very true with me. When I think of changing, I feel as if I have to go all or nothing. Save all extra money, no spending allowed, and when I fail, inevitably, I just give up. Each and every time. I know I do this. 

So today, I will begin with simply one less teaspoon of sugar.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

How to Survive Life with a Newborn

I am no expert, but this is my third time. So I thought I would share just a few little things that have helped us.

1. Get a bassinet of some sort and set it up near your bed. Make a "station" of sorts with anything you may need i.e. pacifiers, diapers, wipes, extra outfits, swaddler blankets, etc. Plan on camping out here for several weeks.

2. Buy paper plates. And cups...and forks. Trust me, you need to do this. It won't hurt the environment for just a couple months. You will be relieved of that stress.

3. Go to bed early. Resist the urge to stay up and watch a movie etc. Your body will thank you in the morning.

4. Have your friends set up a meal schedule and bring you meals. This is essential at least for the first week or two.

5. Do not commit to any social engagements for a good couple of weeks. Instead try to enjoy spending time  bonding with your new baby. Cuddling and singing to her. 

6. Pawn your other children off to relatives or good friends as often as you can. 

7. Lower your standards of a tidy house. Do not feel guilty about this.

8. Call a good friend just to chat every couple of days. Your Mom friends in particular can give you encouragement.

9. Keep a good magazine or your iPhone handy in your car for when the baby and/or kids fall asleep. Go through a drive-thru for a special treat and park somewhere to enjoy the quiet.

10. Know your limits. When you are losing patience, call your Mom or hubby or friend for back-up. Even a 20 minute break can really help.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Mother's Guilt

Today I choose to let go of the guilt. I choose to believe that my ways are pleasing to God, when I seek Him.

The episode when I overreacted about the splashing in the bath tub. 

The heavy feeling that I'm not feeding my kids well enough. That they had ice cream from McDonalds and only a few freezer burnt green beans for vegetables all day.

I release the notion that leaving the house to peruse the quiet evening aisles of Target in peace is selfish.

I let go of the fear and the lie that I must be messing up my sons somehow, envisioning the teen angst and lifelong grudges they must feel for me. I replace it with a vision of lifelong relationship and love.

I choose to tend my own heart in between the long hard days, because I know it is what I need to be a good Mom tomorrow.

But most of all I embrace what I need most. I steal away moments when their heavy heads and sweet little eyes close in the back seat and all is quiet.

To pray for strength. To pray that I can accept God's grace today. I also pray that he would transform my thought life. Replace the worry, the guilt with his truth.

I release these thoughts and choose to believe that I am a wonderful mother. That God is changing me and I am good enough.

The gift of living free from this weight is waiting for you. You are already forgiven. But you must take it for yourself. Believe that you are good enough. Believe that you are a beautiful, strong and resilient mother, because of His grace.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cheap Pinterest Popcorn!

Our Family's New Obsession:

Cheap Pinterest Popcorn!

I snagged this idea from Pinterest. AND, it's awesome. It's a super cheap and way healthier way to make popcorn, instead of the store bought microwaveable bags. There is less grease and chemicals in the popcorn. Apparently the fumes from that kind of popcorn are bad for your lungs too. Who knew....boo.

All you need is cheap brown paper bags. I got this 50 pack for less than a dollar. 
Then get some loose popcorn kernels. (Apparently there all sorts of varieties of popping corn, of which I was unaware. I chose white.) This big bottle of kernels was about 2-3 bucks. 

Put about 1/4 cup or so of kernels into a bag.
Fold over the top of the bag twice. 

Microwave for about 2-3 minutes.
Listening for the popping to slow down to one every second, you don't want to burn it.

Then when you open it back up-it's like magic! Beautiful white pillows of crunchy goodness. 
I really like the Earth Balance buttery spread melted and drizzled over it, as well as the White Cheddar Popcorn Seasoning. Sooooo good. And a little less healthy, but at least you can control how much and what goes in it!

It's an easy snack that is always in the cupboard for hungry little toddlers or husbands pawing around for food. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Our Family Won't Accept the American Standard

Some of the most powerful moments Dan and I have experienced together were on a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal. There we worked closely with a non-profit called "Word Made Flesh" and spent most of our time volunteering with Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity.

Little did we know then, when we boarded the first plane of the 48 hr. journey half-way round the world, what an impact it would have on our relationship with each other and with God. It would cement scenes of dire poverty, heart wrenching circumstances like hunger and desperation and a culture that couldn't be any more different from our own, into our young, soft hearts forever.

To this day, certain smells like incense or chai "milk tea", take us back instantaneously. It was there that I watched Dan tremble with untrained hands as he gave an older gentleman a straight shave. Where I watched him wash the body of a man who had very few days left on Earth, even if just for the dignity of it.

I am brought to tears as I remember a young woman named Ruth, who so strongly embodied the essence of Jesus as she sat beside her elderly friend and coaxed her to take small sips of soup and tended the nasty bed sores that plagued her hips and legs. Ruth was only a year or two older than I was at the time and she had committed her whole life to these tasks. She left her home in America to do this. Just this. She will never know how much she impacted my own life.

It was there that I tried my hand at washing clothes without appliances, making meals with nothing more than some hot water, ground corn and a bit of salt. It was there that we were welcomed into one room apartments in the slums that housed five children and their father. There that they so graciously offered us milk tea and what few cookies they had for their special guests.

These experiences haunt my memory and have surely stayed with me- with both of us, since that short trip so long ago. I'm not sure how much good we really did for the people there. But I know without a doubt that God wanted us there to change us. To see what he was talking about when he said that he did not come to be served, but to serve.

Our American life will never be the same after peering through that lens. Our standard has changed. We no longer want the new house in the nice subdivision. We can't justify spending a lot of money on things. And when we find ourselves getting caught back in the American current, we think back. We spend time searching our souls and find those little memories stubbornly living in our hearts. We turn to each other with a new found faith and conviction. Simplicity becomes a spiritual discipline and we spend more time thinking about how to serve others.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Reflections on my pregnancy journey

I am now 34 weeks along.
But here are some photos from 27 weeks...
The time is going so quickly now, that I need to stop and reflect on this journey. 


Almost a year ago now (last May) I had a miscarriage. I was about 8 weeks along, so it was early on, but make no mistake that it was a little life we lost. Even as I write this, my eyes are welling up with tears. I could never have anticipated the emotions that came along with that loss. In fact, before that, whenever I heard about others who had lost babies I felt for them, but I really didn't understand the nature of the kind of grief that went along with it.


I know that for some reason, this can be a taboo subject, but I choose to speak openly about it. In a way, it honors the little life that was so briefly with us. It also helps the healing process and perhaps others who have experienced this to feel validated. 

Looking back on it, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion that came up from depths I had not known within me. I was also taken aback by the same emotional reaction that my husband also shared so deeply with me. It was as if for a few months there, nothing seemed happy or good. A sort of sudden depression I suppose. I have never felt so close to Dan with this intimately shared suffering. Then soon after came a lot of the questions...Why did it happen? Who was the little person? Was it a boy? A girl? What would life have been like with them here? Do you suppose we will meet them again someday in heaven, in another life? Did God choose to take this one or did it just happen? The questions nagged.

After I had made peace about it, which took at least 6 months or more, I began to feel my heart lighten again and the sting of emotion not as strong. But still, always in my heart there is a little piece that belongs to my third child. The child I will someday come to love in more specific ways of understanding. 

I think about the verse that says, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12

Life is such a mystery. Especially on this side of eternity. I am grateful to have a loving Father that is taking great care of what I can no longer hold. We are blessed in this life with two beautiful boys that make our lives rich and full of joy and a kind of love that I had never known existed before. 

What's more, is that there is yet another little life growing inside me now. 

Dan and I have scarred but healed hearts made whole again only through the mercy and love of our heavenly Father.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11

Everything is beautiful in its time.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Is your husband invisible?

I am attending a great Mom to Mom class at our church on Wednesday mornings and the curriculum has been so thought provoking!

One of the points that the author, Linda Schultz Anderson, makes is that often times our husbands feel "invisible". That the kids, our family, our girlfriends and even our careers often times seem more important than them.

My first reaction to that point was, "No, that doesn't apply to us." I quickly moved on.

God must not have been done with me yet. Upon further examination of the study and based on some things that have happened recently, God has stirred up this issue in my heart.

I am always so concerned with my needs. And with good reason I'd say, with two rambunctious young boys and 33 weeks pregnant. I am acutely aware that I don't always get the time I'd like to myself to do things I want to do. I don't always feel appreciated for what I am doing. I often feel like my husband doesn't do enough for me.

And I am beginning to sense a theme in my thought life. It's often all about me! My husband is so humble that I don't think he would ever really express that he feels this way. But maybe he does?

I am going to make a point to be intentional about making him feel affirmed and appreciated (most important things to a man according to this study) Maybe I will even surprise him! (hoping he doesn't read this)

I challenge you to do something special for your husband to affirm him this week. Even if it is a small thing. Do it.

If you want a great resource. Sign up for the "30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge" on this website called Revive our Hearts. You get emails with scripture and ways to keep encouraging your husbands.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Easy Crockpot Potato Leek Soup

This is a delicious, budget-friendly and EASY meal. Also great for LENT, or vegetarians. It makes a lot! Serve it with a fancy, crusty baguette and some garlic herb butter. Also pairs well with a berry, feta salad. Your family will devour it. 

Here is the lineup! Notice the Morton's "Nature's Seasons". This is a great spice mix to have in your cupboard and works well in a lot of dishes. It is great for creamy soups, like this one, and also scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes etc. It has a hint of celery seed and garlic in it.

Wash and cube your potatoes. I like to use yukon golden potatoes, they are more smooth in texture and have a buttery taste. But any sort of potato will do. 

Here is the guest star of this dish. The leek! Here I trimmed it on either end to have just a bit of green shoot but mostly the whiter parts. If you've never had a leek, they have a distinct flavor, but are very similar to the green onion family. It adds a nice touch.

Wash and chop up your leek, as well as a small onion. (If you are not so much a fan of onions, feel free to omit the extra small onion)

Add all three to the crockpot.

Add water enough to fill above the potatoes about 2 inches.
Cook on low for 3-4 hrs. adding soup, sour cream and spices and letting simmer another half hour to hour. Voila! Told you that was easy!

Easy Crockpot Potato Leek Soup

1 Leek
1 small onion
5 or 6 golden potatoes
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (16 oz) container of sour cream
Salt, pepper, "Nature's Seasons" spice

1. Wash and cut up potatoes
2. Wash and dice a trimmed leek
3. Dice small onion
4. Add potato, leek and onion to crockpot
5. Cover with water about 2 inches above potatoes
6. Cook on low for 3-4 hours
7. Add soup, sour cream and spices 
8. Let simmer for another half hour to hour. 

Serves 6-8 
 Try pairing with crusty bread and garlic herb butter as well as a spring salad with strawberries, feta, almonds and a raspberry vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Recipe Credit: Joanie Gentry

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Pinterest Review: Nutella Fruit Dip!

Ummm, as if I need to convince you to try this recipe! This is so easy and so delicious and somewhat healthy! My son asks for this chocolate dip almost everyday now, surprise, surprise! We slice up apple and strawberries, but any fruit is good with it. The recipe gives you a ratio of yogurt to nutella, but I just add a couple spoons of nutella and just about 1.5 times as much yogurt. You can find your perfect ratio too. The more yogurt you use the less calories I'm sure.I have added this to my regular rotation of yummy snacking!

Enjoy this little pinterest gem!