Saturday, October 31, 2009

Whooooopie Pies!

The minute I saw the recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, I knew I had to try them!

Pumpkin cake-like cookies and creamy filling...where could one go wrong?

Well, the recipe said, "Makes 6". That surely would not be enough for sharing, so I decided it would be wise to QUADRUPLE it...yeah, that's like 4 times of everything.
Still, in my head, that was only 24 problem.

As I was dumping in the ingredients, the bowl was getting a little uncomfortably full.
I wish I would have taken a picture, but I continued with resolve to finish the task.

For FOUR HOURS, I baked 12 at a time for 10 minutes. Yep, that's like 240 cookies = 120 pies.
They were stacked everywhere.

As I started filling them, I got sort of picky. I figured that if I threw out some, the others could have more filling. Wouldn't that be better anyway?

So, I ended up with about 80 pies and a container of cakes to freeze to use later.

It's interesting how a mistake can make you a hero, though!
When I walked into the teacher's lounge at Cloe's school with a pan of pumpkin whoopie pies, I could feel the love! (If only they knew!)
Here's the recipe. I'd advise not quadrupling or tripling this...I'm just saying...
(Please don't think about the fact that I was just dumping 3 c. butter, 4 c. sugar, 8 eggs...not even batting an eye...)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, 1 stick melted, 1/2 stick softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree (I a little apple butter, too...yum!)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt
  • 1-2/3 cups flour
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.

  3. Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

  4. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

  5. Spread the flat side of cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.

*By the way, I did a little research into my memory bank of the only whoopie pie I've ever had...out in Amish land...they are much bigger than the size of a cookie. A genuine whoopie pie is about the size of a small dessert plate. Good knowledge I guess I'll use next time!

Happy Birthday Brother!

Happy Birthday Mark!
Mom and Dad's Halloween treat...a trick for Joy and me.
You're still a goober.
I still love you.
Do you realize, I have no normal picture of you?
Well, a prayer card.
Does that really count?
You get paid to smile for that...sort of.

Sometimes you've teased the snot out of me...literally.
But, I'm still pretty proud to be your little sister.
I wish you didn't live so far away,
yet I wouldn't trade what you're doing for God for anything!

Hope you have a very special birthday,
filled with pumpkin pie and a bowl of whipped cream.

I love you very much!
Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sometimes a picture says a thousand words to a mom...

Carson: How high can I climb for this picture, Mom? I like being up in a tree!
McClain: How about you just hold me real careful here, Mom! I love you and will give you my best sweet smile but don't let go!
Cloe: I'll wear anything for school spirit week...including my brother's size 2 camo shirt. Give me a bow and some ruffles...I can make anything feel like a princess outfit!

Cookies: Sure wish this lady would figure out how to make cookies. We just run like thin pancake batter all over the pan.
Cookies: Wait! Did she figure this out? Could it be? Are we yummy cookies? For real? Yay!!!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Thanks to this sweet mom for sharing her awesome recipe!)

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (add 1/4 to 1/2 extra if cookies run all over the pan)

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 2 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats

  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips

  • PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

    COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat brown sugar, butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, morsels and nuts; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

    BAKE for 9 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12 to 13 minutes for crispy cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

    Remember to follow baking instructions before consuming. *See, the recipe says so...don't eat cookie'll kill ya...that's what I keep telling's working...

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    The Pumpkin Party!

    Cody and I love to host parties for our awesome Willow Creek friends! The last few years, we've been hosting a pumpkin carving party. The creativity of these couples never ceases to amaze me!

    (No they're not a couple...maybe Andy was giving a few pointers.)

    The great rivalry!

    My favorite pumpkin: the new Willow Creek logo!
    Also, we just launched an amazing new website:

    Check it out!!!
    (Kudos, Josh!)

    After carving pumpkins, everyone came inside for a bowl of hot soup! The next part of this post is really just for me...I make these soups all the time and can never find the recipes. They are posted here and there on blogs and it always takes me forever to find them. SO, here are my favorite four soup recipes.
    Vegetable Beef Barley Soup
    1 1/2 lb. beef stew meat
    2 T. olive oil
    7 cup water
    1 16 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
    1 large onion, diced
    4 cubes beef bullion
    1 heaping tsp. basil
    1 heaping tsp. oregano
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 c. sliced carrots
    1 c. sliced celery
    1 c. barley (I used regular barley and cooked it before adding it to the soup)
    2 large potatoes, cubed
    1 package frozen mixed vegetables

    In a large pot, heat olive oil and brown stew meat. Drain any fat. Stir in water, undrained tomatoes, onion, beef bullion, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Stir in carrots, celery, barley, and potatoes. Cover and simmer fo r 45 minutes. Add frozen vegetables and heat through.
    *Feel free to add any other vegetables that you would like. We've added squash and peppers.
    *This can easily be done in the crock pot. Cook the meat and combine all ingredients except for the frozen vegetables. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Add vegetables about 20 minutes before serving.

    Cream Cheese Potato
    (This one really isn't my favorite, but everyone else seems to love it!)
    1 large bag frozen hashbrown potatoes
    1 block cream cheese (cubed and softened)
    1/2 gallon whole milk
    Flour and water to thicken
    Minced onion (if desired)
    dill weed
    salt and pepper

    Put hashbrown potatoes in a pan and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are almost done. Drain off some of the water so it only barely covers the potatoes. Stir in cream cheese until it's all melted. Add milk and minced onion and heat thoroughly. To thicken, stir a couple of tablespoons of flour with a little water until smooth. Pour into soup and stir constantly. Soup should begin to thicken. Add dill weed, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese.

    White Chicken Chili
    3 T. olive oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 tsp. chili powder
    1 1/2 tsp. cumin
    1 tsp. oregano
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 cans white kidney or navy beans, drained and rinsed (I used one can white beans and two cups black beans.)
    3-4 c. diced, cooked chicken breasts
    1 c. frozen corn kernels
    1 (7 oz.) can diced green chilies
    2 c. chicken broth
    Salt and pepper to taste
    4 T. heavy cream or half and half (optional to thicken)

    Warm the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and saute, stirring often, for 7 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic and saute for another minute. Stir in the beans, chicken, corn, green chilies, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and allow it to continue simmering, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Add the cream if desired.

    Serve the chili hot, topped with monterrey jack or colby jack cheese. Also good served with tortilla chips.

    Black Bean Chili
    (This is actually Abby's amazing recipe!)

    8 ounces bacon (about 8 strips) cute into ½ inch pieces
    2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
    1 red bell pepper, cut into ½ inch cubes
    2 T fresh garlic
    ¼ cup chili powder
    1 T cumin
    2 tsp coriander
    1 tsp red pepper flakes
    1 tsp oregano
    ½ tsp cayenne pepper
    2 lbs 85% lean ground beef (I use gr. beef and italian sausage)
    2 cans (16 oz each) black beans, drained and rinsed (I serve these on the side because I love my husband!)
    1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
    1 can (28 oz) tomato puree
    table salt
    tomato juice

    1. Fry bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently, unt il browned, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but 2 T fat, leaving bacon in pot. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne; cook. Stirring occasionally, until veggies are softened and begin to brown (about 10 minutes). Increase heat to medium-high and add half the beef; cook, breaking up pieces with spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining beef and cook, another 3 to 4 minutes.

    2 Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and ½ tsp salt. The chili at this point is very thick. If you like it that way, then just bring it to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Otherwise, add tomato juice to get to the right consistency for you; (I add a good 4 cups or so) bring to a boil and then simmer. Beef should be tender and chili dark, rich and thick. Adjust seasoning with salt.

    By the way, I'm sure you don't need this disclaimer, but I do realize that my photographs...stink. Sometimes I feel like I'm on the same photography skill level as this little guy:

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    A Week in Review

    Last week was super fun but crazy busy!
    We started with a trip to the home improvement store for some gallons of deck stain...Cody's project.

    Next we headed to Cloe's final pom-pom class. She loved shakin' those pom-poms! The teacher had the girls do actions to some really cute children's songs. The boys loved watching, and Carson tried to get a little groove on...that boy makes me nervous sometimes! McClain thought the pom-pom girls were *beautiful*. He makes me nervous too!

    Tuesday we visited a new Acts 2:42 Group that is full of super duper people! Then we headed off to our Drake University Bible Study. It starts at 8:30 pm which also happens to be the time of day my brain shuts down. They are great kids, though, and I love being with them! I just hope they don't mind my little yawns and teary tired eyes! I grabbed this picture incognito with my phone. The guy on the left, Jeremy, has come several times. He is taking courses to become a police officer and is pretty open that he hates God. There is nothing more that I would love to see than Jeremy give his heart and life over to Jesus Christ. The guy is carrying the weight of the world in bitterness. Next time you pass a police officer, pray for Jeremy!

    Wednesday, I packed the kids up and had Cloe drive them to Grandma's house...
    Oh wait, I drove. Sometimes I wish they could transport themselves, but I know I'll be a nervous nelly when that does happen someday, too!
    Thursday morning, Cody and I got up early and headed to Minneapolis for a couple of fun days! We visited the Sculpture Garden...guess the Land of the 10,000 Lakes knows how to raise big fish!
    We also had a blast shopping and looking around the Uptown area.
    We did a lot of this...we have so turned into geeks since we got our new phones.
    French press coffee, an amazing dessert, and here we sit tweeting, facebooking, and emailing. We love it!

    Punch Pizza was amazing! They fire the pizza in an 800 degree oven for just four minutes! It's amazing! I think I'm going to send them a request to branch out to our neighborhood!
    Here we are at the David Crowder Band concert! I love the hunky guy that took me to this concert and I also love DC's music! He writes brilliant lyrics that are packed with amazing and encouraging truths of our great Savior!
    Friday we covered the rest of the Cities...Ikea, MOA, St. Paul's Grand, Trader Joes, a beautiful lake, back to Uptown, and supper in Roseville! We made it home around 1:30 am!

    I know the week in review isn't complete yet, but Saturday deserves its own post. I'll just give you a little disclaimer for it: preparations for a big pumpkin party needed to be completed, four crock pots of soups assembled, breads and pie baked, toilets cleaned, floors mopped...we decided for some reason not to set an alarm clock...woke up at 10:55 am! AHHHH! Stay tuned for results of the rest of the day!

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Rustic Apple Tarts

    I totally wasn't planning on posting tonight...the kids are at grandma's and we're heading north tomorrow...but Cody and I just shared the yummiest treat ever:

    A Rustic Apple Tart.

    You've got to whip up one of these and share it after your kiddos go to bed! Extra delicious when the husband stops and grabs some ice cream on the way home!

    Here it is...I'm "borrowing" these beautiful pictures, by the way. I had no idea it would be this good, so I didn't have my camera ready!

    I had some extra pie crust leftover from the pie we took to Cloe's teacher today. (Yes, I am the biggest kiss up ever! I really want Cloe's teacher to know we appreciate her!) So I decided to try something I'd seen popping up in magazines...rustic apple tart! So Martha Stewart-ish...

    Rustic Apple Tart

    Grandma's Pie Crust

    1 stick of cold butter
    1 heaping cup of flour
    1/3 c. cold milk

    Use a pastry blender to mix butter and flour. Add milk and use your hand to form into a ball of dough.
    On a very floured surface, roll out into a large circle.

    Slice three or four apples and toss with sugar and cinnamon. (just guess on the amounts...)

    Place dough on a cookie sheet. Pour apples into center of dough and wrap the dough up around the edges of the apples. Sprinkle with sugar.

    Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

    Yum!!! Even better served al-a-mode! I may never make a real apple pie again...

    OK, now I'm leaving for a couple of days! We're heading north to do some fun exploring in the Twin Cities and to enjoy a little David Crowder!!!!
    Have a great rest of your week!

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Yesterday was sort of a surreal day. While we went on with a beautiful day of yard work, apple processing, pom-pom dancing, playing, book reading and family fun, so many many of our friends were hurting so deeply.

    *A girl that grew up in our church had a lung aneurysm and is in critical condition needing a miracle to stay alive.

    *A dear family from Cody's hometown who lost their young mother to cancer just a few months ago lost one of their teenage sons to suicide today. The dad found him.

    *A dear couple that had me as their flower girl when I was a little girl set up a caringbridge site today for the husband who is just in his 50's and is terminally ill with cancer.

    *We also received a message that two young men from our church family have lost their mom to cancer. They are just young guys with young wives...

    My heart is hurting for these people and their families! Yet, I'm able to go on with my life: cuddling my babies, packing lunches, cooking, shopping...doing all the things I love. I feel so selfish--why am I so blessed? Why are others go through such tragedies and trials? I "know" the bring glory to God. But the reality of their pain can open the door for fear to creep into my heart: what is God going to do in my life to bring glory to Him? I start thinking thoughts of a vengeful God, rather than a merciful, loving, comforting, heavenly Father. It's not God "actively doing" these tragedies, it's God permitting them--Satan and sin would seek to destroy, but God seeks to draw us unto Himself to be our Father. God shows Himself as God in amazingly real ways that we see so much more during trials. Oh, we can see how He is God during times without trials, as well, but do we really take the time like we should? I'm learning that in trials and in times of peace, my Savior must be real to me all the time. My affections must be set on things above, not on things on the earth. My focus must be living for the glory of God. Everything I have is a gift from's all His! As I fight the fears, I must remember that nothing is going to happen that is out of God's hands. I feel so blessed to know Christ my Savior and to know that He is TRUE comfort and TRUE peace!

    Please be praying for all of these hurting people that they may cling to their Savior!

    Psalm 27

    1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
    The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?
    2 When evil people come to devour me,
    when my enemies and foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
    3 Though a mighty army surrounds me,
    my heart will not be afraid.
    Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

    4 The one thing I ask of the Lord
    the thing I seek most—
    is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.
    5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
    6 Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
    At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.

    7 Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!
    8 My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
    9 Do not turn your back on me.
    Do not reject your servant in anger.
    You have always been my helper.
    Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
    10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

    11 Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,
    for my enemies are waiting for me.
    12 Do not let me fall into their hands.
    For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
    with every breath they threaten me with violence.
    13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

    14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Onda-lay, Onda-lay, Arriba!!!

    Tonight's dinner smelled soooo good, it just could not cook fast enough! Literally, the rice took sooo long the kids had to have an alternate supper! Long after the kids were fast asleep, Cody and I enjoyed this delicious Chorizo Spanish Rice! It was worth the wait! Chorizo often goes on sale for super cheap at Target, so be on the look out! You'll want to stock up!

    Chorizo Spanish Rice

    1 T. olive oil
    16 oz. Chorizo, sliced 1/4 inch thick
    1 c. uncooked brown rice
    2 c. chicken broth
    1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
    Diced peppers (I used one large red and one large green because we love peppers!)
    1 diced onion
    1 tsp. dried marjoram

    Heat oil in large deep skillet. Add chorizo and saute until golden, about 5 minutes. Add rice; stir to coat with oil. Add broth, then add onion. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Sitr in tomatoes with juices; add marjoram. Cover and simmer until rice is tender. Add pepper near the end to keep from getting mushy.

    And here's the picture...oh wait! I took the picture without the memory card in the camera! Ahh!

    So, here's the alternate photo of a half-eaten bowl...Mmm, mmm, good!

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    I'm not one to wish away the time, but let's just say, I am glad this week is over! It's not one I would like to repeat! If I may throw just a little pity party: I was the sickest sicky you ever did meet (along with all three kids!)! I'm better now, though...I hope!
    Pretty sure at our house we had a little bout of this:Thanks for the help, Horatio.

    So, a few days out and time was a wastin' at the apple orchards! I mustered up some energy and drove to our favorite apple orchard: Happy Apple Orchard! We picked up a bushel and a half of apples (by "picked" I mean I pointed at 3 bags!). Thankfully the orchard guy carried them to my car. I was ridiculously weak!
    Thursday night I started my apple marathon! My first goal: 1/2 of the apples turned into applesauce! We love homemade applesauce! It freezes so well. We use it all year long as a great snack and as a substitute for oil in my baking.
    I'm almost embarrassed to post these pictures of the steps for making applesauce. It's too easy. Seriously, I think my friend's rabbit Julio could figure this out. I'm just saying...

    Here we go:Fill a crock pot with washed apples that have been sliced in half.
    That's need to cut out seeds or stems!
    Now go find a fun project to do for several hours.
    (Set crock pot to cook on low.)

    Now for the fun part:
    Pour apples into strainer and start stirring!
    (These strainers (also called ricers or colanders) are so helpful for making applesauce and for crushing tomatoes...look for them at garage sales, thrift stores, or antique shops!)

    This takes A LOT of muscles
    ...just one awesomely helpful, strong, handsome man.
    Yep, he's my main squeeze.
    My hunk-a-hunk 'o burnin' love.
    I'll stop with that now.

    Keep going until it looks like this:
    just mostly the skins and seeds left.

    Mmmmm....warm, frothy, tart and sweet applesauce!

    Pour into containers.
    Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

    *My favorite part is when these comes out of the freezer, it still has that frothy, air consistency.
    Soooo good!

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    She lost her first tooth!

    Yesterday, I greeted an extra smiley Cloe as she bounced out of the bus.

    She had lost her first tooth at school!

    I think that was secretly her goal all along. A few weeks ago, I heard all about the special treasure chest you got for your tooth if it came out at school.

    During math, they were practicing counting, so the teacher asked Cloe to wiggle her tooth 10 times...then wiggle it all the way forward and hold it for 1o seconds...either her teacher was really into the cuteness of this wiggly tooth or she just really wanted it to fall out so Cloe would quit messing with it.
    (As a former teacher, I'm guessing it was the latter. But as a mom, of course it was that she looked so darn cute wigglin' that little tooth!)

    Here it is!
    Cloe was ALL smiles with this little pink treasure chest.

    There's the hole!

    She was all too eager to go to bed with her tooth in position
    for a visit from the Tooth Fairy.

    All ready...what no dollar bills in my purse?

    I had to hack into her piggy bank for $1 bill!
    Don't worry--I documented the switch off just to keep things on the up and up...
    I even paid her 4 extra quarters just for good measure.

    Ahhh, out cold!

    Of course, after taking the tooth and replacing it with the dollar, my old whack-o emotions had to set in. My baby lost her first tooth. It's another sign of the passing of time! Tomorrow I'll be sending her off to least, that's what it feels like! I laid down beside her and had a little boo-hoo time for this mom!

    SO...drum roll please...the winner of the tooth contest:
    Amanda's guess totally cracked me up: 3:47 today.
    She was actually only about an hour off.
    Amanda is a new bloggy friend I just met recently.
    You should totally buzz on over here and check out her awesome cakes and cookies!
    (Now the rest of you just had an ah-ha moment as to why I like her!)
    Congratulations! If you'll email me you're home address, I'll get you your prize in the mail asap!

    Thanks everyone for guessing!
    I especially appreciated my three little Frenchies who guessed!
    I love you guys!

    Sunday, October 11, 2009


    We're on the verge of a big milestone here at the C home!
    Another "first" is headed our way!
    We've got our first wiggly tooth!
    When will this big event take place?

    Leave a comment with your guess!
    If you're guess correctly, we'll give you the tooth!
    OK, that would be gross!

    If you guess correctly, you'll win a prize!

    Here's a close up shot to give you a feel of just exactly how loose this tooth is!
    Happy guessing!

    *There's still time to guess!
    The tooth is just hanging in there...literally!

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Some Good Ol' Comfort Food

    Cloe's school nurse called on Wednesday afternoon and let me know Cloe had a bad tummy ache and a little fever. She came home and slept and slept and slept and slept...19 out of 24 hours! Her fever spiked and then gradually went away. Our first taste of the cold and flu season, I guess.
    Then cold, damp, rainy weather crept in on our Thursday completely sealing the deal that summer is gone!

    We were in need of some comfort food at our house! These Chicken and Dumplings fit the bill!
    Chicken and Dumplings

    1 medium onion, diced
    5 medium carrots, sliced
    4 stalks celery, sliced
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    4 c. chicken broth (I used bullion cubes)
    Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
    2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    1 cup (spooned and leveled) flour
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or 3/4 Teaspoon dried dill weed
    1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

    In a crock pot, combine vegetables, chicken, thyme, and broth. Simmer for 3-4 hours or until chicken in completely cooked and tender. Cut chicken into bite size pieces and put back in with broth and vegetables. (On the stove, simmer for 20 minutes...)
    To make dumplings: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, dill, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. With a fork, gradually stir in 1/2 cup milk to form a moist and soft batter. It should be just a little thicker than pancake batter and should easily drop from the tip of a spoon. (Add additional 2 tablespoons milk if too thick.) Set aside. Drop batter in simmering liquid in 10 heaping tablespoonfuls, keeping them spaced apart (dumplings will swell as they cook). Cover, and simmer until chicken is tender and dumplings are firm, 20 minutes. Serve.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Hungarian Stew

    Cody and I got to kick off the week with a little staff retreat at this nice Bed and Breakfast near Newton. It was a great time spent together praying and planning. I *love* that God has us at Willow Creek with some great people who are passionate about serving God, sharing Christ, and loving others.

    We came home to these little lovey boys and sweet sister! I can't believe how much I miss them even when we're just away for 24 hours! I can never get enough of these cuddly sleeping pictures! Notice the Barbie pillow, too! They love it when Cloe lets them "borrow" her pillow! I'm not sure how I got blessed with these sweet children, but it's a pretty awesome, humbling responsibility! I love being a mom!
    Yesterday, the weather was just *perfect* for a new soup-in-the-crock pot recipe!
    Slow-Cooked Hungarian Stew

    2 lb. lean stew meat
    2 c. fresh baby carrots
    1 medium onion, diced
    1 medium green bell pepper, diced
    3 tsp. paprika
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. dried thyme
    1/4 tsp. pepper
    1/2 c. chili sauce
    2 c. beef broth
    1 (10 oz.) pkg. egg noodles
    1 (8 oz.) container sour cream (can use light)

    Combine stew meat, carrots, onion, green pepper, spices, chili sauce and broth in slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. (I added the peppers near the end so they wouldn't get super mushy.)
    Before serving, add the sour cream. Cook noodles according to package directions.
    Serve the stew over the noodles.

    This is *S*P*I*C*Y*! Our kids usually eat what we eat--no problem, but this was a little too spicy for them. They enjoyed peanut butter and jelly! That's a real treat when you go to a peanut free school!

    Looks like tomorrow is going to be another day perfected suited for soup!

    I've been warning that you this was coming!
    A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Mike spoke on 1 John 5:21: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Seems easy little Buddhas in my house, no golden calves, no totem get the point. Oh, but no, he didn't stop at those idols. He got to the ones that hurt! Even though it's almost been two weeks since hearing this message, it is echoing in my mind:
    "Who's on Your Throne?" The theme was rooting out idols of the heart. Idolatry is relying upon people or things to provide, fulfill, and satisfy that which only God can provide, fulfill, and satisfy. We don't make little idols for our mantle but we make idols with anything so central to your life that you can't have a meaningful life if you lose it.

    In Isaiah 55:1-3 we see that God is the unlimited provider and people are going elsewhere to try and be fulfilled. Silly Old Testament people; certainly I would never live like that! Oh wait...

    Then Romans 1:18-32 also speaks of sins of idolatry. Verses 29-31 says they were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice...full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness...they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless...just in case you had any ounce of a thought that you didn't have idols, this list should fix that notion! Again...ouch!

    God has provided us with a "throne". We all have God given desires that direct all decisions in our lives. It's not a matter of if we worship, it's a matter of what we'll worship. Our "throne" directs all the decisions and responses of life.
    Pastor Mike went on to describe what happens when idols occupy the throne and when God occupies the throne:
    When idols occupy the throne: leads to disappointment and bitterness. Idols will fail and end in destruction. Idols lead to sorrow, destruction, and violence.

    When God occupies the throne: Satisfaction. Only He can deliver on all the promises--I need to be love, fulfilled, protected, satisfied.
    When God occupies the throne: Peace. It leads to peace in all areas of your life because when God is on your throne it means everything else is in it's proper place.

    Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all my idols that just jump up during an average day. I don't mean to gossip...I don't mean to be boastful...I don't mean to be full of envy...and on and on... Overwhelming!
    How am I going to stop these idols from creeping in? What will pull my heart off the things I think will satisfy me? I LOVE THIS: Drink deeply in the Gospel to satisfy all your deepest needs. Really...that's it? That's it!
    When I'm consumed with thinking about the fact that yes, I am a dirty, wretched, idol loving sinner I must confess and focus on the Gospel: God sent a remedy for my sin. Can you imagine giving your only Son (who was perfection) to not only pay for sin but to become sin for the entire world? I'm Humbled. Grateful. Compelled. Awestruck. The idols can fall by the wayside when my focus is on Jesus Christ. How can I bring glory to this great Savior? How can I show Him my gratefulness? What can I do for His Kingdom?
    As I mulled these sermon thoughts over and dealt with the conviction in my heart, I came across this quote from a Bible Study I'm doing on prayer: Is there any point in praying if you are unwilling to be loyal to God's kingdom by doing your part to accomplish His will?
    Ouch! (again!) This puts those idols in yet another perspective. What am I doing praying for my children's safety, their salvation, my husband, missionaries, babies with cancer, on so on, if my heart is packed with idols? Am I loyal to God's kingdom or participating to accomplish His will when I'm feeding into idols?
    So, 1 John 1:9 gives hope: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Yes--God is faithful to forgive and cleanse me from "not right" living. I'm free to go again living righteous with the help of God!
    I know I've not given Pastor Mike's message full justice. You should really listen to it here--it's worth the time! Beware though--it's going to beat you up in the best way possible: for God's glory!

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Today my Aunt Ruby passed away. I'm not exactly sure how old she was--but it was getting up in the high nineties. She never had any children of her own, so we always loved her and visited her just like another grandma. It's not a super sorrowful time as I realize she lived such a long life, but I do feel bad for my dad who was very close to her. He sounded very exhausted on the phone today...that might also be due to his playing with our boys for the last four days!
    So, we will miss Great Aunt Ruby! However, we don't mourn as those without hope! Our hope is in Jesus Christ--the author and finisher of our faith! We know one day we will be reunited with Aunt Ruby in the glorious presence of our faithful, loving God!

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    Today we celebrated my Dad's birthday! He is not only a great dad, but a super-duper great Grandpa! The boys just eat up their time with him! It's not hard to see why they love spending time with him: John Deere tractor rides, hands on participation in the garden (a.k.a. touching dirt), endless pony leg rides, plenty of horsin' around, and lots of lovin'! Cloe loves her Grandpa, too! Her favorite: styling his thick curly white hair! I'll have to find that picture...

    After MOPS this morning, my sister and her two children joined us for a special birthday lunch:

    White Chili with ChickenMy dad loves beans...and I love beans! This recipe was the perfect way to celebrate on a cold, rainy October day! I can't wait to make this recipe again!

    White Chili with Chicken

    3 T. olive oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 tsp. chili powder
    1 1/2 tsp. cumin
    1 tsp. oregano
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 cans white kidney or navy beans, drained and rinsed (I used one can white beans and two cups black beans.)
    3-4 c. diced, cooked chicken breasts
    1 c. frozen corn kernels
    1 (7 oz.) can diced green chilies
    2 c. chicken broth
    Salt and pepper to taste
    4 T. heavy cream or half and half (optional to thicken)

    Warm the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and saute, stirring often, for 7 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic and saute for another minute. Stir in the beans, chicken, corn, green chilies, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and allow it to continue simmering, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Add the cream if desired.

    Serve the chili hot, topped with monterrey jack or colby jack cheese. Also good served with tortilla chips.

    Of course, no birthday is complete without a sweet treat! My dad loves fruity desserts, so after being inspired by Peter Marie's special brownies, I made up this brownie concoction. I'm pretty sure those boxed brownie mixes just can't be screwed up!

    Black Forest Brownies

    1 boxed brownie mix (for 9x13 pan)
    2 eggs
    1 can whole pitted sweet cherries in juice, undrained

    Mix all ingredients together. Pour in pan and bake about an extra five minutes than the time on the box. Serve with yummy custard from Culver's...only if you're husband is as kind as mine!

    It's a hit!

    The rest of the day was full of weird ups and downs...spiritual application coming soon! This morning at MOPS I was so overwhelmed at how blessed we are and how much unneeded "stuff" we have when so many have so little and are going through horrible suffering...see where the spiritual application is going to just slide in quite nicely here in a soon to come post!

    I guess God was just helping me to "let go" of some of my "stuff" when I turned a corner on my way home and the bottom to this beautiful little pedestal set tipped on it's side and somehow shattered. Don't worry--the cake was all gone! How refreshing to have just been reminded that this was just "stuff"! It was sure pretty while it lasted! There's a whole lot more to this and I'm really excited to share what God has been teaching me this week...but again, it's going to have to wait until another day!

    Soon it was time to pick up this sweet little girl from school. As we pulled up, I felt awful when I saw her standing with her umbrella flipped inside out, just being pelted in the face by the rain and wind.

    (see her off in the distance...)

    It made my day to see her smiling and taking this all in stride..."Mom, my umbrella has gone crazy!"

    That was our Friday!
    Tomorrow it's off to IKEA to get in a little early, super frugal Christmas shopping!