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Welcome to my corner of the world. I believe our experiences are not only for our benefit, but should be shared. I hope you will find something in my journey to encourage and inspire you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What is love?

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Has there ever been someone you have struggled to love? A family member? One of our daughters has been a challenge for me pretty much from the start. We thought our family was complete with three children, but God knew that with three children, it was too easy for me to rely on myself instead of leaning on Him. 

I was head over heals in love with our fourth child, knowing that she probably would be our last. She was (and still is) funny and filled with joy. Along with her Daddy, she was challenging me to be less serious. Then her determined nature began to show itself. I should have known we were in for quite a ride when she was about eighteen months old and told me "No, that!" as I took an outfit from the dresser that she did not want to wear.

The more I did things that seemed loving - an extra story, letting her choose an outfit, ... - the more she wanted. I said no to more in an effort to preserve my sanity. Then she became more difficult and I felt my heart start to harden towards her. At some point I realized love isn't always pretty, sometimes it has to say no, stand firm, and endure the backlash. I just didn't know how to love this little girl God gave us to raise.

What is love anyway? Is it mushy, gushy feelings?  Is it just feelings of deep affection for someone? It really goes far beyond feelings. Jesus tells us to love our enemies! You can't do that on feelings alone. I think God's love is based on the high value He places on each person, the same value He wants us to place on people.

Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God and that the second is like it - love your neighbor as you love yourself. I can try to do that, but my selfish nature really doesn't want to put much effort into loving others. I mean what have they done for me anyway?

Then in John 15:12, He gives a new commandment:
"...that you love one another, just as I have loved you."
That will look a lot different than loving as I love myself. And a lot better.

I know there is only one way to love like that - lay down all that I hold onto that gets in the way and let God love through me. That is scary. The things I hold onto are what keep this protective wall built around me so no one can see the insecure, frightened woman behind the "has it altogether" facade.

As I started to consider how God loves us and what that would look like if I live it out, I headed to my concordance. I just love research, digging into a topic to learn all I can. I searched for all of the places the Bible tells us about God's love.

I found some of its characteristics: it provides and protects, is just, merciful, everlasting, lavish, unchanging,  compassionate, sacrificial, tenacious, and for everyone.

Somewhere in the middle of all that study, all that knowledge I was trying to stuff into my head, I realized I had missed something vital:

God's love isn't learned by studying it.
Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We learn how God loves by LOVING others and experiencing God's love ourselves.

I understand God's compassionate love when I walk through cancer with a friend.

I understand God's sacrificial love when I give up my desires in order to serve.

I understand God's unconditional love as we raise our children.

I've come to the conclusion that I don't really know how to love, not like God does anyway. If I want to know more about God's love, I have to let go of my fears (which usually are the result of my selfishness and pride) and just love people more. I can learn how to do that by watching those who really know how to love and by soaking up God's love letter to me.

It has been a rocky ride, but that little girl is eighteen now. She loves Jesus with all her heart and loves people, especially children. She has stretched me, often to the breaking point. Maybe that is the point - I have to be broken before I can love as God does. There have been many times I have cried out to God asking Him to teach me to love her - I'm still learning.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Emotional Transition - Life after being a full-time mom

The other day I took this mug out of the dishwasher and started bawling...


 because I didn't see these beautiful young ladies.

Photo by Gabrielle Handwerk

 Those grins made me think of these little girls who used to play and giggle as they ran through our home.


Photo by Dan Blackwood

The little blond is a college freshman and the brown-haired sweetie will graduate from college and get married in the spring.

This all left me wondering...

what's next for me.

I've been a full time mom for almost twenty five years. We home schooled for nine of those. The years when there were four (these cuties have an older brother and sister) little ones around my legs all wanting my attention at once were the most fulfilling years of my life so far. I was tired most of the time, and there were days that I wanted to quit, but my days were filled with purpose and joy. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was doing what I was made to do. 

And now as our house empties, I wonder where I am to pour all of the energy that went into nurturing and training our children.

Then that still small voice reminded me that my husband would love more of my time and attention. We have a good marriage and have worked to make time for each other, but it isn't the same as before kids. Then there are the friends who I've always longed to spend more time with. God will lead me if I trust Him to show me the way. 

And so I wept for:

 days gone by and the sweet little girls and boy who take part of me with them as they go,

and for the love in our daughter and her fiances eyes and a wedding that will give us another wonderful son,

and for joy as I look at who our children are and consider how God will use them to change their worlds,

and with fear as I wonder what employer will be willing to take a chance on a fifty plus year old whose only experience is managing our home and home school,

 and with  anticipation as I wait to see where God will call me next.

All of this makes me think of this quote:
E.E. Cummings

 I have more questions than answers right now, but I will trust that God has a plan and wait patiently (or sometimes not so patiently) to see where He leads.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

I'll confess before I say anything else - I Love Pumpkin! Pumpkin roll, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin granola, pumpkin creme brulee, even pumpkin pie, but I don't like the crust. I'm making myself hungry. Here's another pumpkin recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. (This recipe is gluten free because it uses oats instead of flour. They are more dense and chewy than muffins made with flour, but just as tasty.)

These bars are moist and not too sweet., and closer to cake than cookies. The original recipe is from this cookbook that I have had for over twenty five years. I have used many of it's recipes in all of those years and definitely not just at Christmas. Even though I have always preferred savory foods to desserts, close to half of the recipes in my personal cookbook are desserts. I wonder why.

Note: I used the stoneware pan because my metal sheet pans that are the right size were in the dishwasher. This was a mistake. By the time the bars were cool enough to serve, they were overcooked and tough. I should have taken the pan out of the oven a few minutes early to adjust for the heat the pan holds - I wish I had thought of that before I baked them.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 16-ounce can pumpkin
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine flour, baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl beat eggs, pumpkin, 1 ½ cups sugar, oil, and vanilla extract until well blended. Add flour mixture and mix just until moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread in an ungreased 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Stir together remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool and cut into bars.

32 bars

Monday, September 30, 2013

Strength When You Are Weary










 
“Bless the Lord
O my soul
and all that is within me, praise His holy name...
Who satisfies your years with good things; 
so that
your youth is renewed like the eagle.”
Psalm 103:1, 5 (NASB)










These verses struck me last week. Wow! God fills my years with good which gives me strength. 

They also reminded me of this passage:
      "Do you not know? 
Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is beyond human reach. 
He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. 
Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; 
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Humans get tired. We get discouraged. We run out of energy. – That is part of the human condition. We are not created to take on life on our own. Our mortal bodies are weak and prone to wear out.

BUT:

Our infinite, immortal, everlasting Father knows that. IF we will call on Him, He will fill us with the energy and other resources we need to run this race called life well. We will be equipped for every challenge and prepared for the battle. Though we grow weary, He never does.

We do have to slow down long enough to talk to God and let Him fill us. We will have to acknowledge our inability to do everything for ourselves and recognize our dependence on Him; to confess our independence and self-sufficiency, and the PRIDE that keeps us from calling on Him.


  I will have to trust the people God has placed in my life with my heart (PRIDE gets in the way of that too when I don’t want anyone to see my weakness.) so God can use them to build me up. I struggle so much with that. I'm afraid if I let people see the real me with all my insecurities and faults that they won't like me or accept me. (Of course those are the very things that make me me.)

God could have created us to live and work independently of each other, but He didn't. We are created with an innate need for fellowship. He could supernaturally meet all of our needs, but He chooses not too. God often uses the family members and friends He has placed in our lives to encourage and strengthen us. I miss that blessing when I choose not to share my struggles with others.

Are you weary?
What is troubling you?
Turn to Jesus.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Well - A Place to be Refreshed



 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

I don't know how many times I return to these verses when I have run out of my resources and am worn out. It would seem like after thirty five years of walking with God, I would know better than to try to accomplish everything by my strength; that I would stop to ask God about His plans for my day, instead of plunging ahead with my own. Some days or weeks or occasionally longer I do better, but then life gets busy and I run off ahead of God again - praying He will bless my plans instead of considering His.

When our kids were in school, this time of year was especially hectic. It takes time to settle into a school day and homework routine, fall sports are starting, then there is back to school night and those things the kids need that weren't on the school supply list. 

If you have run out of steam and are running on empty, why not take five minutes to meet Jesus at the well of living water and listen to this song by Casting Crowns. The first time I heard it, it stopped me in my tracks. 

" I have what you need,
But you keep on searchin,
I've done all the work,
But you keep on workin,
When you're runnin on empty,
And you can't find the remedy,
Just come to the well."
Casting Crowns
The Well


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dirt Cake


I first made this for a family 4th of July party ten or more years ago. The kids are all grown now and we rarely go to my mom and dad's for the Fourth, but every year we did I was asked to bring dirt cake. (I don't really know why it is called cake. - It is really a pudding or parfait.) I love it in a bucket. We also made it in a wheelbarrow and dump truck. I wish I had pictures of those. While the recipe doesn't call for gummy worms, they are a necessity in our house.

Start by crushing the Oreos, then set them aside.

Make the pudding mixture. If the cream cheese sets out for several hours it will mix in much more smoothly. (Microwave it 15 or 20 seconds if it isn't room temperature.)

Then layer the pudding and cookies ending with cookies. A straight sided bowl will work, but a bucket or foil lined terra cotta pot (that is new) are much more fun. You could add a silk flower to a flower pot.


 
When I made this recently, I created a more adult version. I crushed a sleeve of Graham crackers and mixed the crumbs with two tablespoons of sugar and maybe three tablespoons of butter to create a crust. I pressed the mixture onto a baking sheet and baked it for 10 minutes at 350 degrees to toast the crumbs. (Plain Graham cracker crumbs work, but I like the flavor after they are toasted.) I also used blueberries and raspberries and Lemon Fruit Tart filling (I found it at Wegman's. Lemon pie filling would work.) The tart filling was a little thick so I mixed a tablespoon of lemon juice into about one half cup so it would spread better.

I really enjoyed the fruit version. It isn't quite as sweet or heavy as the Oreo dirt cake, but I'm a sucker for any fruit dessert and I love citrus. The Oreo version seems to be most people's favorite.

Since I had made two versions, I layered everything in Mason jars. (I have also used eight ounce plastic cups when I was taking dirt cake to someone's home.)

Now that fall is here, I may have to try mixing some pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice into the pudding mixture and layering it with ginger snap crumbs.






Dirt Cake
1 large package Oreos
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 small packages vanilla instant pudding
3 cups milk
1 12 ounce container Cool Whip
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Crush cookies to fine crumbs.  (Easiest in a food processor.) Combine cream cheese and confectioners sugar with an electric mixer.  Add pudding mix and milk; mix well.  Fold in Cool Whip and vanilla extract.  Layer pudding mixture with cookie crumbs.  Chill until ready to serve.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Four Bean Salad

This recipe is an oldie, but it is much loved by my husband. I can't believe Labor Day was the only time I made it this summer. I believe I found this version in the Huntsville Heritage Cookbook that was a wedding present almost thirty years ago. Actually, the original recipe is three beans. I added the garbanzo beans at some point. It is very simple, and delicious. And it keeps in the fridge for weeks.

 The ingredients are very simple:
green beans
wax beans
kidney beans
garbanzo beans
oil
white vinegar
salt
pepper
onion
green pepper.
First, drain and rinse all of the beans.  You want as much water as possible to run off so it doesn't dilute the dressing.

Then, mix the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Put the onion and green pepper that you have diced into a large bowl with the drained beans.

 Pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix gently. Stir the salad two or three times over several hours before serving. The flavor improves as the salad stands so you can make it days before you need it.

Four Bean Salad
1 14.5 oz can each green beans, wax beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans
¾ cup oil
¾ cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 medium onion diced

Drain and rinse all of the beans. Allow them to drain while finishing the recipe. In a small saucepan mix the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and heat to boiling. While the dressing is heating mix all of the vegetables in a large bowl. Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables and mix gently to combine. The salad should be stirred a couple of times over several hours before serving. It is best when made at least a day ahead.

Monday, September 2, 2013

I Go To Nature


I don't have much to say today. This quote expresses exactly the way I feel when I get outside. Even sitting on the deck with the traffic noise and houses, calms me and helps restore my equilibrium. Too often, I am so caught up in all of the things that need to get done that I don't slow down to notice what is around me. Those are the days that I am most anxious and frazzled. I need time to rest and be refreshed. We all do.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chicken Nacho Dip


We first had this dip at a party. It was so good, we went back for more several times. The couple who brought it found the recipe here. I've used more black beans and included the liquid with the Rotel tomatoes to suit our family's tastes. If you cook extra chicken a night or two before making the dip, it is very quick to throw together.

 It is really an appetizer, but we add fruit or a salad and eat it for dinner. My son made rice to go with it tonight too. 

I guess it doesn't look very appetizing, but it is really yummy. It has become a favorite around here.


Chicken Nacho Dip
10 ounce can Rotel Tomatoes, undrained
1 pound Velveeta, cubed
2 large cooked chicken breast halves, shredded
1/3 cup sour cream
1 ½ Tablespoons taco seasoning mix (about half of an envelope)
15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on high 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally or until hot. Serve with tortilla chips.

6 servings (main dish)

(I would be afraid to heat this on top of the stove. I think it would burn easily, but you probably could heat it in the microwave instead of a slow cooker, if you don't have a couple of hours to wait for it.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Creativity


What does it mean to be creative? If you don't have an artistic bone in your body, can you still be creative?

 








 I don't think it takes artistic ability to be creative. God is creative, and since we are made in His image, we are too.

Is there a tune that bubbles up when it's quiet? Are there images that come to you as you read God's word? Do you write about what God says to you? - You are being creative.

When an image comes to me as I read, I try to capture it in my journal. These sketches aren't very good, but it doesn't matter. They really aren't intended to be shared.


  Luci Swindoll explains creativity this way: “Being creative is to find your own voice inside yourself, to identify your own ideas and aspirations.  It means singing the song that’s in your heart, to your own melody.  You’re the only one who can hear it, because it is coming from God.  If you look at this song with your intellect, it goes away because it doesn’t respond to your mind; it responds to your heart.  The mind turns it cold, and it quits singing.  These are the pinnacles of experience that caused the great masters of art to produce what they did.  These personal moments give the greatest happiness and greatest wisdom.” ( Life! Celebrate It)

It's hard to find that creative spark when we are always busy and bombarded with noise and information. I have to slow down and be quiet, and quit thinking about what I need to do or the things that are troubling me. Unfortunately, those moments often happen in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. Maybe that is actually a good thing. I do lose some sleep, but the house is quiet and there isn't anything else demanding my attention.

"Created in the image of God, we are meant to brim over with creativity...
All image-bearers of God were intended to overflow with effervescent life, stirring and spilling with God-given vision." Beth Moore, Get Out of That Pit

So pick up a marker, sing a song, write a poem, do a dance and find freedom in discovering who God made you to be and expressing your creative side.

Psalms 40:3 NIV
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

Monday, August 5, 2013

In The Garden

As I sat on the deck a couple of weeks ago, this hymn came to me:

 
In The Garden by C. Austin Miles
photo by Kristi Blackwood










At the time, I didn't know what God was beginning to do in our 18 year old's heart. (She wrote about it in her blog post, Changing My Plans). She came to me last week and said that she believed God was calling her to withdraw from the college she was enrolled in. (I was ready to spend two weeks shopping and packing to take her to this out of state school.) Instead she will enroll in the nursing program at our community college in preparation for the mission field. This plan allows her to graduate debt free so she won't have to work to pay off loans before she can pursue God's call.

Change isn't easy for me. I had just gotten adjusted to her leaving, now I have to readjust to having her home (which is not a bad thing). There is time to get her enrolled in fall classes, but not much. It will be a scramble to take care of admissions, enrolling in classes and getting books. I need those quiet moments with God every day to respond to whatever change the day brings with grace and to live with the peace and joy God desires for me.

I still love the old hymns I grew up singing. They tend to speak to my heart in quiet moments. There is a beauty and poetry in the lyrics that is missing in much of today's worship music.



Monday, July 29, 2013

Lord I Need You

I've been reading Ezekiel lately. This Old Testament prophet has reminded me again of how God kept calling Israel back to Him. They kept turning their backs on Him and chasing after the gods and ways of the cultures in the area where they had settled. God loved them so much that every time His children ran away, He pursued them and restored His relationship with them.

I'm struggling right now with the mistakes I've made, especially as a parent. We have a wedding coming up next summer and the joy that should mark this time is being marred by strained relationships. There were things I knew I was letting slide over the years that have resulted in distance between our children. I pray they will work through their differences soon and enjoy close friendships.

Like the Israelites, I need to ask for forgiveness from God and those I have hurt. Then I need to move forward knowing that God will meet me where I am, and guide me to where I should be. He loves me and longs for a relationship with me. God is for me and wants to help me to succeed.

God's word has also been reminding me that regardless of whether I am a full time homemaker, employed full time or somewhere in between, my true calling is to show God's love to everyone He brings into my path.

God teach me your ways.
Teach me to number my days.
Teach me to let go of self centered ways.
Teach me to love without fear.

The song Lord I Need You has been running through my head a lot lately. The only way I'll make it through each day is to acknowledge my dependance on God.

"Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You ."


                                           

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cole Slaw


There are different points of view of what cole slaw should be. My husband prefers this version that has no mayo. My mom on the other hand doesn't care for this version. If it doesn't have a mayo based dressing, she won't eat it. I actually like this sweet and sour version.

I always make cole slaw to go with BBQ.  (Here's my mom's BBQ.) I grew up putting pickles on sloppy joes and BBQ to add crunch and a sour component to balance the sweetness of the sauce. Then I went to Virginia Tech and fell in love with a southern boy. I was introduced to BBQ with slaw and I haven't turned back.


I use a bag of slaw mix instead of shredding a head of cabbage these days and often use red instead of green pepper.
 
I have also changed the procedure slightly since I wrote this nearly thirty years ago. I mix the sugar, vinegar, salt and dry mustard in a saucepan and heat it just until the sugar is dissolved. Then I whisk in the oil before pouring it on the vegetables.


This needs to stand a while for the flavors to blend. Several hours is enough, but it is better after a day or two.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ways to Beat the Heat at Living Well Spending Less

It is miserably hot again here so when I decided to make something sweet, it had to be no-bake. I have these two recipes pinned and haven't decided which to make. These No Bake Almond Butter Bars at Living Low Carb or Best Ever No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Bars at Money Saving Mom.

Of course, I got distracted by all the links to past articles at Money Saving Mom and saw the badge for Living Well Spending Less (I had to check it out because we all want to be able to enjoy life more while spending less, don't we?) and found her Thrifty Thursday link up.

I'm adding my Mom's BBQ to the list of fun summer activities and oven free recipes.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pepper Steak

When I was in high school, I got home from school around 2:30. At lunch, I would have a pack of those awful orange cheese crackers. (I liked them then.) and wait until I got home to have lunch. There were often leftovers in the fridge which was always a treat since my mom is a great cook. My favorites were pepper steak and shrimp creole.

 This recipe is a 70's home made version of the popular Chinese restaurant dish. I usually make a couple additions to make it more interesting. I add two or three minced cloves of garlic when I brown the meat, and if I have it, a teaspoonful or two of toasted sesame oil just before serving .


Pepper Steak
1-1 ¼ lb round steak
2 cups beef broth (or 2 boullion cubes and 2 cups water)
1 large green pepper, sliced (or half green and half red)
4 Tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium works well)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

Cut steak into strips and brown in a little oil.  Add green pepper and sauté a few minutes to begin softening peppers.  Add broth and soy sauce, and simmer 30 minutes.  Mix cornstarch in ¼ cup water, add to pan and stir constantly until thickened.  Serve over rice.

Serves 4-6

Friday, June 14, 2013

Banana Pudding in a jar









When we had friends with kids coming for dinner, I wanted to make a fun dessert. Since I have gotten caught up in the craze for making everything from no-cook oatmeal to salads in Mason jars, banana pudding came to mind. It seemed like a perfect recipe to adapt to individual servings. We have loved Paula Deen's Not Yo' Moma's Banana Pudding since my mom introduced us to it years ago so I started there.


(Our friends' son liked it so much he used two spoons.)


  I did use Trader Joe's Ultimate Vanilla Wafers since the Chessmen cookies wouldn't fit in 8 ounce jars. I also have changed the procedure to dirty fewer bowls.











You could use regular vanilla wafers, but these are really rich and good and have vanilla beans - see the black flecks.







 After gathering the ingredients, I mixed the cream cheese, condensed milk, milk, pudding mix and whipped topping. Then it was time to start layering.The pudding mixture set quicker than I would have liked. It doesn't need to be as firm when it is going in jars as it does in a large pan, so I think I will change things next time. (I didn't need as much filling as this made either.)







 This recipe makes a large dish of banana pudding, so after I filled the ten jars I had pudding left. I layered it in a casserole with strawberries.











 Banana Pudding in a Jar

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I use reduced fat)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 
2 cups milk (I use skim)
1 (5-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed
1 pkg Vanilla Wafers
4 large bananas, sliced
12 8 ounce Mason jars

In a large mixing bowl mix cream cheese and condensed milk until smooth. Add the milk and pudding mix and mix until well blended. Add the whipped topping and mix until just combined. Place one cookie in the bottom of each jar. Add a couple of Tablespoons of the pudding mixture, then top with about half of the bananas. (5 or 6 slices in each jar.) Add a cookie to each jar and press down to remove some of the air space. Add some more of the pudding and the rest of the bananas. Top with pudding almost to the top of the jars and finish with a cookie before putting the lids on. Refrigerate at least several hours before serving.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten free)



I had planned to make these banana oatmeal breakfast muffins, on Debbie Riechert's blog, one morning, but between the time I went to bed the night before and the time I was ready to bake, the ripe bananas had disappeared. That was fine since Jenny had been asking for Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins too. I just made a few changes and they were amazing.

Jenny requested them again today and when I forgot to add the chips to the batter, I decided I needed to rewrite the recipe instead of following the one I had found. Putting the chocolate chips on top just isn't the same. I also have made a significant procedural change.

 Instead of mixing everything in the food processor, I transferred the oat flour to a mixing bowl and added the remaining ingredients. Stirring just until blended.






Without the structure gluten provides, these don't rise as much as they would if made with wheat flour so they can be filled to the top. 

When I changed this recipe to pumpkin, I added some sugar since pumpkin puree isn't as sweet as banana. You might be able to add more honey instead, but that would throw off the ratio of dry to wet ingredients and I don't know how they would turn out.






Pumpkin Oat Muffins with Chocolate Chips - GF


2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
 ¼ cup sugar
½ cup chocolate chips, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor or blender, grind the oats into flour. Pour into a mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Grease 18 muffin cups. Divide batter into pans. (You can fill the cups almost to the top. These don’t rise like muffins made with wheat flour do.) Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.







Monday, May 20, 2013

Joyful Trials

Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta, GA

 "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials" (James 1:2)

Other translations say a great joy or pure joy. I have so far to go if maturity is being joyful in my trials. I'm learning to find joy in spite of my trials, but in them? I don't know how to do that.

I know God uses trials to help us grow up, so I grit my teeth and bear it when trials come. That is really exhausting though. There isn't much joy in that either.

James tells us why we can be joyful in our trials:

"knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (or patience, steadfastness, perseverance). And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Dan and I went through disaster relief training at our church last month. I learned how to work in the feeding unit. Something I hadn't considered was the strength that would be needed to carry pots of food and to get the equipment set up and packed up. I will need to get myself to the gym to work on upper body strength before being deployed. The work I do everyday just doesn't produce the strength that will be required for the work. Muscles require exercise to grow and become strong. Faith works the same way. If there is never anything we are tested in, we don't learn to trust God and rely on Him. Faith requires trials to grow. Some trials are small - a misunderstanding with a friend, rush hour traffic. Others are really difficult - a loved ones death, a cancer diagnosis, living with a chronic illness.

 (I didn't go through the recovery training, which is why I could take pictures. Handling a chainsaw and shoveling mud out of houses didn't seem like a good fit.)

We have a choice when trials come. We can give all of it to God - what is happening, our anger, and hopelessnesss, and the outcome - and grow. The alternative is to grumble and complain and become bitter and let our faith atrophy like unused muscles.

God will never leave you. He is there in all of the trials. Sometimes, we don't hear Him or feel His presences, but He is there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Greek Bread Salad


 We love this salad. I know bread in a salad? It really works though. You do need a good sturdy bread, one with a dense chewy bite. (We love the roasted garlic bread from the COSTCO here.) This is one of the few recipes that I make as written. It is the Barefoot Contessa's Greek Panzanella. Follow the link for the complete recipe.

Ingredients:
Good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule
Kosher salt
1 hothouse cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1/2 pound feta cheese
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted

You can adjust the amounts of the vegetables to suit your families taste and what you have on hand. Even though the recipe calls for 6 cups of cubed bread, I always make more.  There is taste testing while they are being toasted, of course - Usually by everyone in the house. It also seems to be the favorite ingredient in the salad, so leftovers have very little bread.

For the vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

The dressing is pretty garlicky, which we love. You can use one clove if you don't want it to be so strong. Dijon mustard in the dressing may sound a little odd, but don't leave it out. Mustard helps emulsify the dressing (keeps it from separating).
You do need to plan ahead a little, since the salad should sit at room temperature for about half an hour to blend the flavors.
 This is great with grilled meats.

I did make the salad without the bread at first. I took some of the vegetables (that I cut smaller) and dressing and mixed them with quinoa (a bargain at COSTCO) for our daughter who is on a gluten free diet.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Finishing Well


My dear friend Anne Marie writes about homeschooling, family life, and her love for God on her blog Future Flying Saucers. She also shares the Bible lessons she prepares for her AWANA club.

I wrote about the challenges of homeschooling our strong willed daughter and my thoughts as we approach graduation for a guest post on her site.

Here is the link:
Finishing Well