Meal Ideas For The Busy Parent

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I’m going back to school this Fall. Hopefully it will be my last semester there for a while and I will graduate in December. Hopefully.

I panicked today thinking about meals and being gone from home all day three days a week. I’ve been at home all day for a long time and thinking of making meals ahead is not new to me but it kind of sneaked up on me. Or maybe it snuck up.

Anyway, I am making plans. the first plan is to purchase a ….microwave!   I haven’t had one in about 6 years. Every person in the house has groaned about it at least once, including me. Maybe we won’t get all nuclearized. I think we’ll get a very small one and take our chances. Because I am all for quick and stress-free meal prep right about now.

Next thing on my agenda is to put together make-ahead breakfasts.  I will get these recipes on the blog as soon as I have some good pics of them.  Here is what I have so far:

Cranberry-Nut bread

Boiled Eggs on English Muffins with Cheese and Herbs and Stuff.  I need a shorter name for that one.

Sausage and Potato Hand Pies. Kind of a homemade hot pocket/Cornish pasty thing.

Muesli – this is like granola but uses a binder like Kefir or yogurt

Quiche

Muffins

 

Then I will get some lunch ideas together that can be easily taken with me as I leave for the day. I like cheese, apples, boiled eggs, carrots, stuff like that so no problem there.

Dinner time though…… there’s the challenge. I am going to be relying heavily on my crockpots. For years I have put together freezer meals for the crockpot.  I started when I read the book, Once A Month Cooking by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson. In 1986, people! That’s a long time ago but the book is still in print and they have a we site with recipes and all that.

So my choices for suppers are endless and I will try to get all my meals for the week together and in the freezer or frig on Saturday. Which brings me to the next conundrum…. how to get my weekly schedule put together in a way that works for me.

I’ll get recipes and schedule ideas up asap…….  

Help With Time Management

One of the things I remember from grade school way back in the day was my report card which said, “Uses Time Wisely”.

I always got a NO.

Once I became a college student I learned pretty doggone quickly how to use my time wisely, because after all, I was paying for that time now. I took what I learned over into my home when I married and had children. It was hard. It was a whole new world of learning how to organize and use my time wisely when I wasn’t supervised all day and when I had children.

As moms and wives we really do have to learn to use our time wisely, otherwise we’re going to be feeling like we’re drowning in obligations, chores, work and even fun times.

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The best way to make sure you do that is to keep a Planner. I simply buy one that has lots of writing space and a big monthly calendar. I used to use a spiral notebook, it works great. Just as long as you have something to write down what you need to accomplish and maybe some notes to spur your memory about what should be done and when, you’re good to go. You can put together a great Planner and its FREE, over at Donnayoung.org.  She has all kinds of forms, calendars and more that you can print out and use as your planner.

 

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The Essentials Of Time Management

Add these things to your planner to help you use your time more wisely………..

Prayer and Bible Reading – How many times have we all agreed that we need to be reading our Bibles, we need to be praying, we need to be involved in some kind of study or devotional but…. we just don’t do it. Schedule your time with God first thing every morning. Before you get out of bed is good! Even after you get up, let it be one of the first things you do. Schedule it so that you will see it on your list of things to do every morning. Do I really need to tell you how much better your day will be if you do?

Menu Planning – When you plan your weekly menus, you save money, time and effort. Go ahead and plan every Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner meal then shop to that menu. You can write down all your menu plans and have them right there at your fingertips when its time to cook. That link I gave will help you learn how to plan weekly menus.

Cleaning – This blog is devoted to helping women get a handle on their homekeeping so there are all kinds of posts about how to clean each room in your house, how to make index card systems to help you keep your home clean and more. Then there is a good post about keeping the house clean once you get it in order and one about getting control of the laundry.

The Ins and Outs of An Ordinary Day – You can plan a Basic Household Schedule and it will help you get things done that often slip your mind or that you find difficult to work into the day. You don’t live or die by the Schedule, you make it work for you. If you can’t get something done, that’s OK, but you get to choose what gets done and what doesn’t.  Its your schedule.

School and Homeschool Activities – These kinds of activities can run away from you if you don’t keep an eye on them. Schedule library trips, field trips, tests and what you must cover in your curriculum weekly.

Intimacy With Your Spouse – Obviously you don’t want to plan all the spontaneity out of life and its not the kind of thing you would want to write in your planner, but take it from someone who has been married for 33 years, sometimes if you don’t plan it, it don’t happen. ‘Nuf said.

Personal Grooming and Fitness – Whatever you need to do to feel healthy, you should do. Like walking or running or exercising. And I know its hard, especially for mommies of little ones, to schedule a shower, but you can plan for one each day even if its not at the same time each day. I used to get my shower and wash my hair first thing in the morning when my children were all home and in home-school. Then I changed that to having a shower in the evening. What ever works!

I know its hard to clean a house, clean yourself, make food, run errands and do what needs to be done when you have a little one or two or more. I’ve been there and done it.  What I am saying is that you don’t have to languish in mess and disorder; you really can pull it together if you work at it.

 

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Do One Thing At A Time And Be Fully Present In That Thing.

This flies all over the current Multi-Tasking Mania that most women live in. I can multi-task as well as the next gal but I have learned that if I want to do my best I have to focus on what I am doing.

So now how do I manage to do my best and NOT multi-task if I have eleven billion things to do before dinner time?

The thing is, if you really do have that many things to do before dinner, you may need to simplify and get rid of some things from your load.  Maybe you should reassess what you’re doing. Stop and take stock of what you’re doing because mommy, you’re probably doing too much. And chances are, you’re not doing your best at any of it. Even good things can become bad things if you’re doing them for the wrong reason or out of season.

Why do something simply because you can? Why do anything and not do your best? I’m not talking perfectionism here, I’m talking Colossians 3:23 here:  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men. 

Its pretty clear that if I am doing a work for God I should be doing my best. And if I am to do everything as unto the Lord, then I should be using my time wisely, focusing on my task, doing my best.

You can’t do everything but the things you do can be done well.

So yes, I am suggesting that you let some things go.

And do your best at everything you do, not ‘be’ the best, just do your best.

And be completely present in each moment.

And use a Planner to help you get all your wonderful, messy, happy, tough work done each day. You can do it!

Attitude Of Gratitude ~ December 10

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I’m cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude. Come join me!

Today I’m thinking about all I have to do. I haven’t done the first thing toward Christmas, mainly because I have a project to finish up for my husband. Its pretty tense, I am concerned that I might not get it finished up before he has to have it.

But I am taking a break to write this down: I am grateful for Things To Do.

I’ve always had more than enough to do. With 5 children, its never been dull. But now that the children are mostly grown I realize that my friends who are older and have empty nests are right, sometimes there just isn’t anything to do. When you’re used to doing for so many people, it sure can seem that way.

Even if I didn’t have people to serve, I think I’d go find someone to serve. There is always someone who needs help. You have to look around in our culture sometimes to find that someone. And so I am thankful grateful for something to do for others today.

What are you grateful for today?

Attitude Of Gratitude Hunting

So in my post yesterday about cultivating an Attitude Of Gratitude, I mentioned that when I am sad or feel myself getting down, I start counting blessings. Let me tell you what that DOESN’T mean. attitude-of-gratitude 2013

It doesn’t mean that feelings of grief are bad and to be avoided.
It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t cry if you feel like crying.
It doesn’t mean that crying or giving in to feelings of grief will destroy your holidays.

What it does mean is that I don’t allow my grief to overwhelm me to the point that I get depressed or to the point that I don’t want to participate in the festivities of the holiday.

Today I have counted some blessings and they are:

The warmth of a few faithful friends
The sweetness of old ornaments and decorations that carry a lifetime of memories
The fragrance of baking bread and brownies and how that always seems to make the house warmer
The beauty of ice forming on clotheslines and red berries

Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude

Early on this month I started having anxiety and feeling stress. It wasn’t just the Christmas season but that always has a lot to do with it. Its because loss lingers and when the loss occurs during one Christmas season it tends to want to return every year and overshadow everything about the season from that monumental Christmas forward.

Then life happens, children act like children and family members break your heart and well, life just starts to look like this looming shadow that threatens to engulf you. That it happens at Christmas-time makes it feel more raw and overwhelming.

I know I can’t be the only person who deals with this at Christmas. So I want to tell you how I deal with this and hopefully encourage you and show you that there is actually a lot of hope for you and a huge possibility that you can have a happy, peaceful Christmas.

First, I pray. I pour out my heart to the Lord. I ask for forgiveness where I need to and ask for the Lord to help me put Him first in my life. I guess you know by now that when Jesus is in His rightful place in your life, your life goes much better. Getting your mind wrapped around that takes time. It takes His divine intervention in your life. So don’t just pray once, keep praying.

Next, I start being intentionally thankful. I cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude. To cultivate means that you grow something, you make the conditions right for it to grow and you attend to what you’re growing.

Every day I thank the Lord for several things in my life. I intentionally look for things and people and situations to be thankful for. I look for something to be thankful for in just about every moment.

When I start to feel sad, I start counting my blessings. When I begin to feel myself getting down, I count more blessings. Believe me, my life and your life is filled with blessings. More than you recognize right now. And being intentionally thankful just opens up a whole world of Joy!

During December of this year I am going to count my blessings pretty frequently and you’re invited to join me. I’ll post my blessings here and maybe that will help you get started cultivating your own Attitude of Gratitude.

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Halloween and Ghosts

Several years ago I wrote a post and a follow-up post about ghosts and what the Bible says about them. Those two posts have continued to be some of the most visited articles on my site. Seems like its a big topic these days. Actually, anything supernatural and has to do with demons or ghosts is big right now. Don’t even get me started on zombies, they’re big too mostly because of the tv show about them. openbible

These two articles answer a lot of questions, hopefully in a clear way and from the Bible.

So I figured since its almost Halloween and that’s when lots of people get interested in searching for these topics, I’d re-share these posts for anyone who is interested. You are welcome to share the links if you like.

The Bible has a lot to say on the matter.

What Does The Bible Say About Ghosts?

Follow-Up To The Bible/Ghost Post

How To Wet Cure Pork

Friends at the CHK Facebook page asked for my bacon curing method.  I’m happy to share how I do it. Lots of people cure their own bacon. There are two methods of curing pork; wet cure and dry cure. The dry cure entails rubbing the meat with a mixture of salt and spices and then leaving it to dry and cure. The wet method uses a brine. I prefer the wet method but the dry is good too.

Pork belly

Pork belly

Almost ALL old recipes for curing bacon call for salt peter. Salt Peter is just an old name for Sodium Nitrate or what we recognize as nitrates and nitrites in our food.

I have a horrendous sensitivity to nitrates and nitrites. I avoid them if at all possible. Except for today when I stuck a piece of store bought bacon in my mouth while I was cooking because we’re out of home made bacon. Bad move.

So when I started curing our bacon, and ALL the “Old” recipes called for salt peter, I was stumped.

What could I use?

Maybe bacon was off the menu?

Say it ain’t so!

I decided to just use canning salt the first time. It worked like a charm. With a few caveats.

Then I used Sea Salt. Also worked. Read this……..

Here’s the thing; Regular un-iodized salt, whether sea salt or canning salt, is what you want to use if you want to skip the salt peter and nitrates. But, using salt in place of the salt peter will not give you a piece of meat you can store in the smoke house for years like salt peter will. You’ll have to cut up the meat and store it at cooler temperatures like a frig, freezer or cellar.

Before you start you need to be aware that meat should be cured in glass or stoneware containers. Don’t use metal because it reacts with the salt and meat and stuff and can cause off-flavors.

I use glass baking dishes, stoneware crocks and pyrex baking dishes to cure meat in. Anything that is glass or stoneware and that you can lay the meat down in flat will work.

Wash and then scald your containers with boiling water before using them. You want them as clean as possible.

If your bacon has a thick layer of fat on it, don’t cut it off but score it across the surface of the fat and don’t cut into the meat.

Choosing The Meat

Bacon is made from pork sides. You’ll want to get the smaller sides rather than the really huge sides because the smaller ones are usually more uniform and slice up better. 8 pounds is usually the biggest that I use but if you buy a half of a pig or a whole pig, you’ll get what you get and just make do.

Prepare The Meat
use a really sharp knife and cut off the layer of skin, leaving the layer of fat next to the skin. If you want a leaner bacon, go ahead and trim off that layer of fat too.

The Recipe.

For every 100 pounds of meat I use:

10 pounds coarse un-iodized salt
4 pounds un-sulphured molasses (OR substitute 2 1/1 pounds brown sugar OR 4 pounds maple syrup)
Maple syrup is my choice.

So, if you are curing 25 pounds of meat just divide that by 4 and get
2 1/2 pounds salt
1/2 pound molasses

Or if using maple syrup, use 1 pound which is about 1 quart.

This is just the basic recipe. You can improve on the flavor by adding all kinds of spices and herbs to your brine. Here are some ideas:

  • black peppercorns
  • fennel seed
  • caraway seed
  • dried rosemary
  • dried thyme
  • bay leaves, crushed
  • garlic, finely minced
  • onion, cut into slivers

You can add these in any amounts and combinations you like. Use your nose to tell you how much of each to add, but in general add less thyme and rosemary than you would other herbs and spices. Here is what I use most of the time:
Bay leaves
Maple syrup
Peppercorns
Onions
Rosemary
Garlic

bacon

Sliced bacon

 

 

 

 

 

I will assume from this point on in my instructions that you are curing a small amount of bacon….

Make your brine in a large pot, stir it up well and bring it to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. This will take about an hour. Don’t attempt to use the brine if it is still warm.

Strain the brine and pour it into your vessels.

Place trimmed bacon, trimmed side up, in your vessel.

Pour the brine over the meat and then to make sure the meat is completely covered by the liquid, weight it down with a stone or other heavy object. I use iron pans.  I have laid a plastic cutting board down over the meat and then weighed it down with a heavy pan.

Make sure your vessels are kept as cool as possible. A cellar or refrigerator is best. Keep the meat under the brine and for 4 days.  If you are brining large quantities of meat, you’ll need to replace the brine every now and then. If you are doing that, and making really big quantities of bacon, shoot me an email for more info on how to do that. 

If you should happen to get scum forming on top of the brine, you’ll need to empty the vessels, scrub them well, wash the pork thoroughly, repack the pork and add new brine. You can also use the original brine so as not to waste it if you boil it and cool it before using it again.

At this point you can smoke your bacon if you like. I do because I want to store it long-term not in a refrigerator. Some people don’t like smoked and just use the cured bacon as it is, that’s good too but you’ll have to use it quickly unless its refrigerated.

Smoking deserves a post all its own. So I’ll write that up for you later.  Basically, this bacon has to be stored either in a cellar or refrigerated unless its smoked. So I smoke it for several days, wrap it in cloth and store it in a cool place. Not necessarily a refrigerator after its smoked.

After its stint in the brine, the meat is ready to cut up and store if you’re not smoking it. I slice it by hand and then pack it as for freezing. I store some in the freezer, some in the frig and I have canned some just for kicks.

 

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

I was reading in  Matthew 11: 16-19 today and like a new thing to my mind, these words appeared for the many hundreth friend of sinnerstime and yet for the first time:

“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying:

‘We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
And you did not lament.’

 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

 

Jesus is a friend of sinners.  And tax collectors, no one likes tax collectors, we understand that. But then we realize that we have to lump ourselves in with the “sinners”.  No one likes a sinner either.
I’m so glad Jesus is a friend of sinners because I am a sinner. And I don’t think its anything to be taken lightly or flippantly. You may have seen that video at Youtube where a 70′s band plays and sings a stupid song called Jesus is My Friend…. well He’s not a friend like that.  He is a Friend to sinners.  God stoops down so low to take us in and show us that we are wanted. Jesus befriends us when no one else will because we’re just so deplorable and He is filled with Grace for sinners.

Then I looked at that last phrase that Jesus spoke; “But wisdom is justified by her children.”

No preacher of the truth will please everyone. The very best of Gospel preachers of liberty in Christ will be reproached by some (most?). But sooner or later they will be vindicated by God, justified and shown to be upright.

God will justify those who believe in Christ as well. That includes us sinners who are the friends of Jesus.