Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm Moving!

Well, okay, not to a new house. For a while now, as my posts have increased, I have been wanting to find a way to make it easier to find the recipes you want. Blogspot did not have any such feature. My friend Jason just moved his blog over to Wordpress and it has a tag feature which will make it easier to find stuff. So, if you would, click on the link below and come visit me at my new home!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This isn't going to be a recipe post. Sorry. But I have something on my mind that I thought I'd share with you. Some friends are going through the process of adopting and they have been on my heart for a few days. I don't know all the details of how it all works but after filling out enough paperwork to make your head spin and waiting for umpteen people to do their job their packet has finally arrived in Thaiwan. One would think, oh, it won't be long now. But, no. It will be another 18-24 months. They started this a year ago.

It used to be that the only time anyone even considered adoption was after many years of infertility problems. In the past five or six years I have had close friends who chose adoption not because they could not give birth but because God had called them to increase their family in that way. In fact many of them already had given birth to one or more kids.

Ron and I have given birth three times. (Well, I did all the work.) It was not easy. I went through four months of horrible all day sickness, pulled muscles, gestational diabetes, late term deliveries, large babies, the whole nine yards. It was hard. But I am convinced there is nothing in this world harder than going through the ups and downs of adoption. I did not have to fill out hardly any paper work, other than insurance and medical forms. No stranger came to my house to go over it with a fine tooth comb and ask us extremely detailed and very personal questions about our lives, past present, and future, all the while being terrified I might say the wrong thing or forget to clean a toilet. I didn't have to ask several of my friends to write a letter and say nice things about me and my parenting skills. I didn't have to wait for months for someone to stop sitting on their hands and get me a baby! I didn't have to fly to Russia like one family did, meet my child and then be told, "Go home and come back in two months to get him." I didn't have to be on pins and needles for 14 days after my child was born knowing if his birth mom changed her mind I would have to give him back. I didn't have to fly to a foreign country where they require a three to four week stay, bribe many officials and at any moment could change their adoption policies which could ruin everything. I don't think anything could be so painful, but oh so worth it. I am convinced that God created me to give birth, but he has called my friends to adopt. The adoption papers read that a child belongs to his adoptive parents "as if he were born to them." Isn't that so true?

So, pray for my friends, please. Pray that things move faster than they expected in Taiwan. Pray for my friends in Florida who are starting the process to adopt again from Russia who now has the law that you have to come three times before you can take your child home. Pray for my friends who have open adoptions as they go through the heartbreaks of watching these young women who gave birth to their children continue in the harmful life cycle they are in. Pray that those of us who surround them can support them, cry with them, cheer with them, and partner with them as they follow God's will in their lives.

Thank you for letting me share this. If you are one of my friends I mentioned above, thank you for adopting.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Feeding the Younguns

Angela asked for some ideas for feeding the little ones, so I thought I'd start a discussion. I'm not an expert, but after thirteen years of parenting and a lot of mistakes here is some of my advice.

1. Don't completely change your meal planning for the sake of the toddler. Eventually she will grow up and will be more likely to try different foods if she's at least seen you eat them and enjoy them. But don't wear yourself out making two different meals. I often say, "Mommy is not a short order cook." Follow Rule #2 as much as possible. I only make exceptions if I'm making a special dish with shrimp, something really spicy, or a food that is prone to food allergies or not safe for younger kids, i.e. choking hazards and such. I just make sure the foods match. When we have shrimp, I make fish for the kids.

2. Make sure for each meal you have at least one item on their plate they will eat. This is advice I read in a magazine somewhere. I have also learned it is best to introduce only one new food at a time.

3. Don't underestimate your kids tastes. One night when Aiden was a toddler I had not been to the grocery that week and the only green vegetable I had was a bag of frozen broccoli. I had never pushed much broccoli because baby food broccoli stinks and gives them gas, plus none of the kids ever liked it. But, I was desperate so I tried it. I didn't think any of the three would eat more than the requisite one bite so I only made half the bag. I stir fried it in olive oil and garlic and then added some butter. To my shock Aiden kept asking for more and Cameron was not far behind! (Emily ate her required amount.) I ended up making the rest of the bag because they ate it all!

4. It can take up to 15 times of trying a new flavor to learn to like it. That's why my kids are always required to eat one bite of each item on the table. It doesn't always work, Ron is 38 and still hates carrots. But Emily now loves broccoli cheese casserole and broccoli cheese soup. Broccoli is also acceptable if mixed into macaroni and cheese.

5. Don't panic if it seems your toddler will only eat one or two things. EVERY meal. My pediatrician said it is not unusual for a toddler or young preschooler to only eat one meal a day. They also find comfort in repetition and familiarity. So, let them eat yogurt every meal. Just let them know they need to try the other items, too.

6. The Clean Your Plate Club is Dead! This is a very hard concept. Think about it, it's the way you were raised, too, probably. Sometimes your kids really are full. Their little stomachs are really not much bigger than their fists and a clean plate by force can equal over eating which can turn into childhood obesity. If the wasted food really bothers you, make sure you give them very small portions. They can always ask for more.

7. Not every food trick given by the experts will work for your family. I'm sure you already know this, but it bears repeating. Use what you think will work and don't beat yourself up if it doesn't. Believe me, if they get hungry they will eat. And then there will come a time when it seems like they want to eat ALL THE TIME!

I hope this helps you some. Everyone feel free to chime in. I'm working on creating a Word file of all the recipes on the blog. If you would like me to email it to you send me an email at meriam(atsign)followjesus(dot)org and I will return it to you.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Mom, can we eat dirty diapers again sometime?"

Yep, you read that right. We really had something called Dirty Diapers. It's a great idea for a baby shower, but they were a breeze to throw together for a quick supper last night. The kids loved them. The idea came from a mom at Aiden's Mother's Day Out. For the four-year-old's class Alphabet Party, her son had the letter D and had to bring snacks that started with that letter. She makes these for baby showers. Mine is a little different from the original so I am going to give you the instructions on assembly and some filling options because I'm sure you can do many varieties.

Dirty Diapers

1 can crescent rolls
1/2 pound meat, browned (sausage, hamburger, ground turkey, chicken, ham)
Enough sauce to coat meat well (Barbecue sauce, gravy, ketchup, marinara, etc.)
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzerella, swiss, american, etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine meat, sauce, and cheese. Separate the crescent rolls into triangles. Place a spoonful of meat mix on the wide end of the roll. Draw up the narrow point to the top of the triangle. Pull each corner of the wide end in and press into the narrow point so it is shaped like a diaper with the meat mix showing out the sides. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and sizzely. See, they look like dirty diapers!

You could probably figure out a way to make these with a vegetarian filling. I can't think of anything right now. It was pretty funny today, though. We were out running errands when Cameron said, "Mom, can we have dirty diapers to eat again sometime?"

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mud Pie Cookies, Bad and Good

A few weeks ago our local newspaper had an article about poor Haitian women who were making cookies out of mud. Really. Somewhere in Haiti there is a type of clay which is rich in nutrients that was traditionally used to make cookies for postpartum women because it restored nutrients lost in childbirth. Now food prices have gotten so high and the economy so bad the Haitian women have begun harvesting the clay and selling it so they can make cookies to feed their families. I find that incredibly sad.

I made these no bake cookies the other night for church. I wasn't happy with how they turned out because they didn't firm up, but someone liked them enough to ask for the recipe. (Thanks, Linda!) When I wrote the title it made me think of the Haitian mud cookies, which is what caused the above paragraph. I don't have that recipe, but here is what I made for church.

Mud Pie Cookies

1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Mix cocoa, sugar, margarine, and milk in a 2-quart sauce pan. Bring to a boil at medium heat, boil 1 minute. Add oatmeal, vanilla, and peanut butter. (Nuts also, if desired.) Drop by teaspoon on wax paper. Let cool before removing. Store in and air tight container.

My favorite tool for making these and many other cookies is the Pampered Chef Small Scoop. It is similar to a melon baller with a squeeze handle that has a metal piece that scrapes out the bowl of the spoon to empty it. It makes scooping out cookies a breeze while keeping the size uniform. It is also the perfect size for filling mini-muffin pans. Oh, yeah, for melon balls, too.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Potato Soup and McGyver

I'll just say a few things so I can say I blogged something. Allison asked for some easy things for singles or pairs to help avoid frozen dinner overload. It's been such a long time since I only had to cook for the two of us but I remember a few things. Lasagna and manicotti freeze well. Make them as if you would make a large pan full except use several loaf pans instead of a big 9 x 13 and don't pre-boil the noodles. Also, add 1 cup water to the sauce. Bake one pan for dinner and wrap the others tightly with foil and freeze. To serve just thaw over night in the refrigerator and bake as usual. The reason you don't boil the noodles is because pasta continuously absorbs liquid and once you cover it in sauce it will continually absorb the extra water you added to it. By the time it's thawed and baked the noodles will be nice and soft. I haven't pre-boiled lasagna or manicotti noodles in years because this is such an easy step. Do a search on the internet for freezer meals and almost all of them you can make as directed but divide into smaller pans. This will also give you a months worth of meals in your freezer in about a week. I know this will be handy for you, Allison with a busy summer coming up.

Ron had his wisdom teeth out this week so we've been eating a lot of soup for the past couple days. We like soup, but not so much for every meal. It doesn't take long before he's complaining about wanting something solid. He's still too afraid of chewing much so far, but I've been trying to lean on the hearty side of the soup family. Here is the recipe for Emily's favorite Potato Soup. It can easily be halved if you don't want so much.

Potato Soup

4 potatoes, diced
Water to cover potatoes
1/4 cup diced onions (I use frozen.)
6 strips of pre-cooked bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stick butter
2 cups milk
Salt to taste
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Place potatoes in medium sauce pan and just cover with water. Add onions, garlic, and bacon. Bring to a boil and boil gently at medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Mash potatoes with potato masher (do not drain). Add milk and salt, heat through. Serve with cheese and sour cream on the side.

It's easy, fairly fast, and even the kids love it.

While Ron is laid up looking like a chipmunk he's been checking out stuff on the internet to get caught up on some of his favorite shows. (Like CSI and Chuck.) On the CBS website he found McGyver, a childhood favorite. He's a happy boy!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Making Up Something New

Friends often call me to ask for some new recipe ideas because they are bored with the same old, same old. Well, that happens to me, too. Especially times when the budget is really tight. With gas at $2.90 a gallon and milk and egg prices doubling in the past few years, our budget is always tight. It just seems like we eat spaghetti at least twice a week sometimes. I watch the grocery ads carefully and always check the reduced meat prices. Lately we've gotten lucky and I've found hamburger for $.99 a pound and also pork roast, pork chops, sausage, and pork loins. When this happens I buy as much as possible and freeze most of it. The boys have suddenly turned into little Hoovers and we hardly ever have leftovers so I'm trying to stretch things as much as possible so Ron has something for lunches.

Sometimes being budget conscious creates the need to alter some recipes. I usually look at what I have and then go through my favorite cookbooks to see what I can alter to make work. This method works best with my older cookbooks, especially the ones that came from my grandmothers because their generation wrote the book on feeding a family with next to nothing. This is what we had tonight, with approximate prices in parentheses.

Cheesy Mac Skillet

1 lb. ground meat ($1.00)
2 cups dry macaroni ($.50, a half of a box)
1 can tomato soup ($.40, I got Campbell's soup on sale, but I often use store brand)
1 tsp. each garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. dried minced onion
1/3 brick Velveeta cheese ($1.50, it's what I had left over from making broccoli cheese soup)
1 cup shredded cheddar ($1.00)

Cook macaroni according to package directions. While it's boiling brown and drain hamburger. Mix tomato soup into the hamburger with about half a can of water. Add all the spices. Drain macaroni and add to hamburger mixture. Cut up the Velveeta and stir in until melted. Top with cheddar cheese and remove from heat. Cover with a lid for about 5 minutes, or until cheddar is melted.

If desired you can add some frozen corn, peas, or broccoli to add a veggie. I added some corn because it was in the freezer.

We had this with apple sauce and so the whole meal cost less than $5.00 for all five of us. Pretty good, huh? The recipe I altered called for 2 pounds of hamburger, more spices, and canned macaroni and cheese (ewww!). We had a little bit of leftovers but Emily has already claimed them. I'll try to post some more budget friendly recipes. If you have any shoestring cooking ideas, send them on and we will share with everyone!