Archive for the ‘food’ Category


Seven Quick Takes

   Posted by: liz

Join Jennifer at Conversion Diary every Friday for 7 Quick Takes!

I admit, this is only 6 quick takes. This serves more of a “catch-up” post as I’ve lots to talk about, but never the OOMPH to sit and post. Tonight, my husband is partying with some bachelors (um…all married men, except this weekend’s groom), so I have time to sit and type while the boys play. And eat pizza and drink rootbeer: their own little bachelor party!

  • Kenny and I are training for a 5K in August. I’ve always been an avid power-walker, and I always hit the elliptical hard at the gym. But running? Oh, my lungs!  It’s a completely different workout than I’m used to, but I’m ready for it!  Kenny and I have been out a few times running. It’s good for me to run with a partner, or else I’d justify walking most of the time!  Friends of ours at church told us about the 5K, and it sounds like a great run, for a worthy cause (a local Meals on Wheels fundraiser).  It just might make a runner out of me, yet!
  • It’s that time of yearwhen we switch our black shoes for whites, and our red wines for white!  I’ve come to love red wine this winter. The “comforting” red zinfandel (Rex Goliath and Cardinal Zin are two of our favorites) and “familiar” shiraz (Yellow Tail) have kept us company this winter, but we’re ready for our favorite chardonnays (Hob Nob, Yellow Tail, Sabeka, Cupcake) and Pino Grigio (I haven’t found a favorite brand of Pino Grigio yet, but we had Rex Goliath at our dinner group last week and I really liked it. A bottle of Rex Goliath (red or white) ALWAYS shows up at our dinner group dinners).I’m looking for a good chardonnay-in-a-box. Anyone have a recommendation (I love oakey, spicy chardonnays, rather than the sweeter, buttery ones).Kenny thinks I need to start some kind of business around wine. I love talking about the different textures of wine, and the pairing of wines with foods, the differences between each type of wine. Of course, getting together with friends and drinking it around good food is always a highlight. To quote one of my theatre professors, “It’s a beautiful thing.”
  • I was recently invited to join a new book club and I’ve only been to one of our gatherings, but it’s so much fun!  I inhaled the book that was “on deck” – Anna Quindlan’s Every Last One. I’d recommend it because it was such a fast, intriguing read, but the subject matter is really hard. I loved the slow, steady introduction of the main character’s life. I can’t wait to discuss it as it was a hard theme and I’ve been processing it around in my head for at least a week now.I have always wanted to be in a book club. What is more fun than hanging out with girlfriends, talking, laughing, eating, and discussing books? I can’t wait for more books to come!As I wait for our next book, I’ve read Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation (non-fiction, theology…absolutely loved it…i’m considering forcing kenny to read it so we can hash it out together), and am currently reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City which is also non-fiction, but reads like a novel. It takes place in Chicago, just before the turn of the century around the building of the first World Fair. It is a fascinating read so far!
  • I have only one thing to say about the current crazy weather we are experiencing in the United States, especially that of the deadly tornadoes that the South experienced this week: God is not trying to get our attention by sending bad weather! I’m so sad to hear Christians explaining the deadly twisters as vindication on a sinful country. Geez. I’d invite you to tell that to a mother who lost all her children in the Joplin tornado. Please stop trying to explain, and just help those who need it.
  • Our family is attending a wedding on Sunday. Kenny is in it. It’s his SIXTH wedding that’s he’s been in since we’ve been married. I have been in ZERO weddings since our own wedding. Is this weird?I was telling Adam today that we’re going to a wedding on Sunday and he asked if there was going to be kissing. I told him yes and he grimaced. I changed the subject quickly and told him that his friends Owen, Luke, Isaac and Danny will be there to which he replied, “Which I LOOOOVE!” His pronouns need some work.
  • The boys are loving their summer school schedule…and so am I!  We go really light in the summer with reading practice from books they’ve chosen from the library, “treats” from us if they can read (and comprehend!) a full book or chapter or two in a chapter book.  I also found a great spelling game that we’ve used a few times this week called Word Pirates. It’s actually a game that I can sit through and enjoy playing. You roll dice, spell words, block your brothers’ bridges….the boys actually ask to play it rather than me say, “hey, let’s play that game where you spell words!”


meals in our home…

   Posted by: liz

friday night is always pizza night here. i make two separate doughs – one with half whole wheat flour and one with all whole wheat flour. the boys gobble up their specially-made pizza (rowan’s section has no cheese on it, the other two boys eat just about anything on theirs), and kenny and i share the gourmet, olive-oil, herb, whole wheat crust, tomato and specialty cheese pizza with a good strong red wine, and green leafy salad. i love pizza nights. we haven’t had a real pizza night in a few weeks, but we’re back at it this weekend, i hope!

the past few saturdays  i’ve been trying out new recipes. this past saturday i was totally uninspired, so  i resorted myself to making breakfast for dinner. as i was getting out the eggs and bread to make scrambled eggs and toast, i remembered that i had a few very ripe bananas on hand, so i whipped up a batch of banana bread, sprinkled in a few mini chocolate chips and popped it in the oven. i abandoned the scrambled eggs and toast (knowing full well that my super-taster wouldn’t eat a bite of it) and decided on “Banana Bread French Toast” for dinner – a truly decadent dinner, and one that does not invite dessert at its table.

all three boys inhaled it. how could they not? it was the sweetest dinner they ever had!  they had been “suffering” through grilled meat and salad dinners all week (my ideal dinner!), so i felt like spoiling them a bit with a fun dinner.

my changes to the recipe: sucanat or demerara and white whole wheat flour in the banana bread recipe, and i added just a few tablespoons of mini chocolate chips). a bit of real maple syrup and whipped cream on top, and they were in dinner heaven! serve it with a fruit salad or just a sliced banana on top. also, make sure you let the banana bread cool fully (make it well ahead of time and not right before you want to make the french toast) or else you’ll have soggier, falling apart piecees of french toast (it still tastes great, though!).


more thoughts on crockpot cooking

   Posted by: liz

i just finished putting together a chicken and rice meal in the crockpot (using NO cream-of-soup from a can), and i have to run some errands this morning.

when i was putting the meal together, and it was too late to change my dinner plans, i suddenly realized that there will be a time this morning that i will not be in the house as my crockpot is PLUGGED IN and COOKING away.


so i sent an email to my mom (who lives across the street from me):

“mom, i’m headed out to the shops. i have dinner in the crockpot so will you, from time to time, look out your window to make sure the house isn’t on fire? thanks!  ~liz”

and yes, i’m serious.


Lenten Cooking

   Posted by: liz

i swear i haven’t given up blogging for lent! i’ve been busy reading and studying and reading some more, that when i sit down to put my thoughts on paper, i’m at a loss for words. i once learned that the more you read, the better your writing becomes. well, i’ve proven that wrong! i’ve been reading blogs, books, and articles by the dozens these past few weeks, and my writing has become non-existent! i have many thoughts running through my head, and i’m so glad for the time i have put aside to wade through these thoughts, read great minds who have thought these thoughts before.

so today, our third Lenten Feast Day, i will share with you three recipes i’ve made during Lent (when we weren’t cycling through the stomach virus in our house this week!) based around a whole-food diet (real foods, not processed, boxed or packaged ingredients) during Lent. two of them are from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and the others are from cooking blogs where i find a lot of my current favorite whole-wheat recipes.

Corn Chowder with tossed salad, and Whole Wheat Bread (dinner!)

Banana-Chocolate Chip (protein) Bread (snacking!) with homemade chocolate chips!

Whole Wheat Pasta with vegetable marinara, salad.

in the “keeping it real” department, the whole wheat bread didn’t turn out this time, and it was completely my fault. i’ve been successful scores of times in the past with this recipe, so don’t let that keep you from trying it (you CAN bake with yeast!). i pulled the bread out of the oven too soon (i didn’t set a timer) and it was practically raw in the middle. once toasted, it was slightly palatable to hungry boys, but not enough for me to enjoy it. but i will do it again this week, as i continue to bake our daily bread.

these pictures are from a walk we took three weeks ago, on a warm sunday afternoon. it didn’t look warm because of the snow on the ground, but it was a lot warmer than it is today (sunny, no snow!) at 38 degrees for a high! i will not look at the forecast again until we are assured no more freezing temperatures, and now more snow or freezing rain.


a cooking challenge

   Posted by: liz

a long time ago, in a galaxy….nevermind.

a long time ago, i stole or borrowed (not sure which) my mom’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. it’s straight out of the Cold War. no, the 60′s free love revolution. i’m actually not sure how old it is because i can’t find any copyright information in it. i looked it up and found out it’s at least worth $63 and i guarantee you it’s not because of the quality of the recipes inside!

i’ve made a few things from this cookbook before. but only in the dessert section. my brother Andrew and I made the Bonnie Butter Cake found in the cakes and frostings section of the book. It’s a mammoth of a cake and melt-in-your mouth delicious, as long as you eat it the same day it’s made. it’s hard as a rock the second day, so make sure you make it for company.

this book refers to guests as “company” not as “entertaining” or “hospitality.” I remember when we used to call guests “company” and we’d “visit” with them in the dining room after the meal (translation: sit and talk after the meal).

this book is chock-full of fabulous meal ideas for your company! begin the meal with clever small plates and appetizers like “Petals ‘N Pickles.” other mouth-watering recipes included are, “Frosted Liverwurst Pate,” “Ambrosia” and “Sunburst Salad.”  You know you’ve been searching your mom’s and grandmom’s recipe lists for that jello salad that has the shredded carrots….it’s Sunburst Salad!

The writers for the Betty Crocker cookbook are sure to bring a smile to your face and a tickle to you heart. They truly believe that food is the means to all happiness:

Watch early-morning moodiness dissolve into a sunny smile. All of these sweet breads can turn the trick – and they can do it even faster when served piping hot with plenty of BUTTER.”

“No perfume can compare with the heady aroma of homemade white bread!”

“Mary’s sleeping over! Jim’s bringing a GIRL home from college! You’ve asked friends to come for brunch after church. Or you just woke up this morning so full of goodwill that you wanted to make the day special. That’s the day for any one of  the good things in this section. Our testers tell us they’re delicious!”

“Meat: your meals and your budget revolve around it.”

“Simple, classic salads! Slimming, health-brimming salads! Crisp, cool salads! Bright, sparkling salads! Taste-tempting salads! You’ll find your skill with a salad makes its own contribution to the quality of life in your house.”

There is even a “recipe” for frozen vegetables in the Vegetable section that basically tells you to read the back of the frozen vegetable package. Brilliance!

I am considering making a whole meal from this cookbook once or twice over the next few weeks. Starting with the appetizer, main course with side salad and vegetable dish, and dessert. You can join me! Photograph your dish, and make it look like the one from your Betty Crocker cookbook. Don’t have one? There’s bound to be a fantastic 1960s cookbook at your local library just waiting for you to check out.

More details to come. But first, I leave you with more Crocker goodness.

Appetizers: A special little something any old night to tell your favorite family, “I’m so glad you came home!”

We used to make Sukiyaki a lot.

Galaxy Cookies!  Otherwise known as sprinkle cookies.

I think it would be fun to document meals made from an entirely different era. Go find yourself a great cookbook and let me know if you’ll be joining me!


seven quick takes ~ mental health friday

   Posted by: liz

for the past few weeks, rowan has been asking for a “day off of school” to which i always responded, “you get TWO full days off every week!” i think it was beginning to dawn on him that “snow day” meant NO SCHOOL for those who go to school, and not just “it’s snowing today! let’s do math!”

so today at 10:30, after i spent two hours cleaning out the boys closet and drawers, i decided that today was a no school day. rowan was overjoyed with the news. he almost started crying he was so happy. it was an easy decision: i needed a mental health day, and they were all playing together so well, i couldn’t possibly interupt.

besides, we are starting our new homeschool co-op on monday (more on that below), so it felt like a good time to take a long three-day weekend (and we haven’t taken a day off since before christmas!).  on monday, we will be “kicking it up a notch” in our homeschool!

for the three years that we’ve been learning together, we have been basing our education around the Classical Model of education. we feel that this way of learning best matches the way God created our minds to learn. there are certainly different degrees of the classical approach, and we’ve strayed from a strict approach, introducing other forms or methods along the way.

next week is our first week together in a classical co-op. Classical Conversations is a national organization with local co-ops. the co-ops meet once a week where students learn on their level (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) with other students, beginning at the age of 4. i’ve known about Classical Conversations for a few years now, but there hasn’t been one in western PA until now. typically, the co-ops start in the fall and run two 12-week semesters, but the interest in starting this local chapter was so high, that the PA state director pushed the local director into starting at the end of january. and here it is – filled to capacity! i’m so excited to begin this chapter in our learning together!

today, i’m making pizza dough for dinner. adam’s my little helper – every time he sees me pull out the mixer and hears the flour bags opening, he’s pulling up a chair to help pour in all the ingredients. i’ve been in the kitchen a lot this week, and it’s felt so good. i’ve been making pure comfort food dinners (PW’s Chicken Pot Pie is my new favorite) and baking bread, making cookies and smoothies. the kitchen has truly been the heartbeat of our home this week.

i need a new hat. so i pulled out my circular needles and just started a hat. i hope i finish it. at least before next winter!  i’m still working on a scarf that i started for myself back in october for the upcoming winter. i hope to finish it before the next upcoming winter. that’s how my knitting projects usually go. if it’s not something for a very small person (namely, a baby), it never gets done. or it sits for a few years and then either i frog it, or my mom finishes for me.

i’m reading fiction again. i haven’t read fiction since my summer of reading (and blog reviews!), but i’ve gotten my groove in schooling/homemaking again that i have found time to read fiction again. Jodi Picoult’s House Rules was lent to me a few weeks ago. i’m only 50 pages from the end. this one kept me captivated.

i’m also reading nonfiction: Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas and A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (is there anyone out there NOT reading Ann’s book right now? if not…you need to!).

i am considering a “blog series” for Lent this year, similar to the thankful posts in november i’ve done in the past. would love to know if anyone would be along for the ride. what would you want to blog about during Lent, in preparation for Easter?

for more quick takes, visit Jennifer’s blog, Conversion Diary.


american comfort food

   Posted by: liz

i have a recipe to share and it’s full of real, whole-food ingredients. it’s pure american comfort food, and i hope you’ll make it to share with your family or with another family sometime soon!

i made it up on a whim this afternoon as i was craving a hearty meal as the snow began to fall. again.

Savory Meat and Potato Pie

1 cup whole wheat flour (i use white whole wheat)

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp. sugar (i used sucanat)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 cup cold butter

4-5 T. whole milk

1 lb ground meat of your choice

1 tsp. olive oil

1/2 large white onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 large carrot, sliced thinkly

2 medium potatoes, one diced and the other thinly sliced

1 tsp. butter

1/2 cup beef broth

1 tsp. flour

salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme to taste

splash of red wine (i used merlot)

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk the whole wheat flour, pastry flour, sugar and salt together with a wire whisk. Dice the cold butter and mix with pastry knife into the flour until butter is pea-sized. Add the milk 2 T at a time and incorporate until it forms a ball (it’s easiest to flour your hands and work the milk in with your hands). Working quickly, flour a flat surface with and roll dough out 1/8″ thick. Place into a 9″ pie plate and make it fit snugly, pinching off any extra dough. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes or until the edges are dark golden brown (after a few minutes, prick a fork into the bottom to release any air bubble forming between the plate and the dough). Let cool.

Meanwhile, while the crust is pre-baking, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the ground meat and brown well. Add the sliced carrot, dice potato, beef broth, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and mix well. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the splash of red wine. Let simmer on low. If the broth makes it soupy, add the tsp. of flour, cook for another minute and then take it off the heat. Let it cool slightly without a lid.

While the meat mixture is cooling, melt butter in a smaller skillet. Add thinly sliced potatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Flip and brown on both sides. Let cool.

Pour the meat mixture into the pre-baked pie crust. Cover with slices of potatoes. Put back into the oven for 15 mintues to warm through thoroughly. If desired, add shredded cheddar to the top of the potatoes to melt.


school week 1, recap

   Posted by: liz

i hope to recap each or at least every other week of school this year so i have a better record of things we’ve done. pictures at the end of the post!

i can honestly say this was the easiest first week of schooling that i’ve ever done!  i know it’s only my third year, but wow! i hope they’re all this fun and easy.

i think a few factors helped our success:

  • the alarm clock. this amazing invention was so interesting to all the boys for the first few days. they were very easily getting into bed on time for the first few nights because they were excited for the alarm to wake them up. so now, they are already used to the earlier bedtime, the no video-on-school-night rule, and they are getting up before the alarm wakes them for the most part (8:00 a.m.).
  • fun, new curriculum. last year, i focused on getting the two older boys reading and basic math skills. we chose really good classically-based curriculum (and we’re continuing to use them for reading/spelling/math this year), BUT…it got tedious and the joy was lost from our school time. last year was a hard lesson for me. we all got frustrated quickly and too easily. i take responsibility for stealing their joy, so i was really careful in selecting good, fun material for the subjects that we added this year: history, Bible, and grammar. each morning, all three boys are eager to start, and we’re doing a lot of coloring, pasting, memorizing with hand-motions, cutting, creating, writing and drawing. it’s even more fun for me this year!
  • heavy doses of prayer. i’ve been trying to get up two hours before the boys’ alarm gets them up. since i’m used to an early wake time, this hasn’t been too difficult, but i’ve been using this time for quiet lesson prep and praying for a good day. i want so badly for the boys’ experience in school to be a good one, and when their mama is frustrated and angry most of the day, that’s doesn’t really make for a good experience. i’ve been praying for patience and the presence of calm. it’s been a great change this year!
  • frequent recess and snack breaks. we are usually done with all of our lessons by lunch, but i’m still finding it very helpful to break frequently for snacks, drinks, or playing outside. my mom supplies our snack needs (drink boxes and snacks from trader joes!). we’ve had great weather this week, so i’ve been sending the boys (and me!) outside a lot. this helps all of us to better focus when we re-gather for the next subject. the two older boys open up the chicken coop, feed them and water the animals in the morning, so we’ve had a lot of time to be outside during the school day, not to mention afternoon free-time!

we had a field trip day on tuesday with only Bible after breakfast that day as an “official” class. october starts our local co-op class (every other tuesday morning) and all of our field trips will take place on tuesdays, so it’s good to get in the habit of tuesdays being a bit “off” of the normal at-home school schedule.

in a nutshell…this week the boys memorized a catechism question related to their Bible class, “The Butterfly” by Christina G. Rossetti from their grammar class, made several drawings of our related memory work, found their places in their math lessons, reviewed phonograms from last year’s spelling/reading work, and started their logs for history, grammar, and Bible.

*                         *                       *

i’ve also gotten back into meal planning this week. all summer i’ve kept a lot of meat and charcoal on hand as well as fresh veggies. we grilled meat, tossed a salad and voila! a meal!  but now i’m writing meals down on the calendar and shopping in advance again to prepare for the cooler/colder months when the grill is out-of-order. here’s our week of meals so far:

monday – ground turkey with chick pea curry over rice

tuesdayfield trip day The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh: out for dinner

wednesday - Chicken Enchiladas Verdes (SO, SO good)

thursday - Spiced Pork and Apricot Stew with salad

friday - Sticky Roasted Chicken (rotisserie-like, baked in low oven for 5 hrs), fresh green beans and tomatoes

saturday – out to a friend’s BBQ

sunday – homemade pizza and salad

*              *               *

sand “mover” at The Children’s Museum:

Adam with george at the Curious George exhibit:

Hands-down, the boys’ favorite part of the museum…controlling this wooden robot:

Rowan’s favorite book because of the monarch butterfly on the cover. We collected butterflies all summer and the monarch was their prized butterfly (he’s still in search of a viceroy, Uncle Dan!). we all love the lessons in this grammar book as well (First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise).

want to read more weekly wrap-ups of other homeschooling families?  check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers every Friday!


homesteading year 4, part 1: expectations

   Posted by: liz

for the first year living up here, we did nothing except try to plant a garden (didn’t happen) and had a baby (adam!).

that was a lot for us, so we took it easy the fall and winter of our first year. but plans started picking up the following spring and we dove head-first into homesteading our little plot of land out here in the rolling hills of western pennsylvania!

that next spring, we ordered and DROVE to ohio to pick up our 15 egg-laying chicks. they were still wet when we picked them up (from hatching!) and we brought them back to our home, set them up with a warm brooder box in our laundry room and watched them for hours (kenny even got up twice in the night to check on them!).

we even had a garden that year, that was eaten to the ground by groundhog, but at least we planted and tended a lovely garden!

fast forward to this summer and we’ve found some balance to the whole “hobby-farming” endeavor. we have a new barn with an actual fenced in 1.8 acres. within that fence, barnyard politics rule…not the rules we thought to set up. the donkey is in charge of the five sheep and the two goats. the chickens keep their distance and the cat sneaks some water when the donkey isn’t looking (and then makes her way back out of the pasture fence).

the bees died out this winter and we didn’t get more, we tried to get 10 chickens in our freezer, but only consumed two (gave the rest away). the best laid plans…and all that jazz.

our garden is booming this year thanks to a very patient and green-thumbed kenny. the beans were a huge crop, the limas and edameme are just about to pop, and the tomatoes are all lovely and blight-free this year! we have a cutting garden again (zinnias!) and we had fresh lettuce and broccoli and herbs and will be picking some beautiful butternut squash (for soup!) soon. not to mention the decorative gourds for the dining room table fall decor (that i won’t be spending money on!).

we’ve been eating farm fresh eggs for years now, and i can tell you they are superior and worth the effort o keep hens just for that. last night, we had our first dinner of roasted herbed whole chicken that were raised, killed, and cooked by our own hands and it was good…but not WOW! the drumsticks were tough (probably because the donkey love to chase these chickens and they got a LOT of exercise!), and the breast meat, although large in quantity, were just as tasty as the herbed butter we cooked them in. what was satisfying was the fact that we can now, if we ever need to, raise and harvest our own chicken.

i am glad for the opportunity to learn and teach this way. i’m learning just as much as our boys are, and that is satisfying enough!


summer days: the deck

   Posted by: liz

the spring after we moved into this house, kenny was hankering for our next home improvement project (the first being to rip out our second floor bathroom and install a shower). i strongly urged that we needed a deck. there was a 3×8′ porch off of the back porch, but there wasn’t a nice place to sit and enjoy our back yard view. we’ve done several other room updates in the house since the deck project, but we still feel as though the deck is one of the best additions or changes that we’ve made since moving in.

this weekend, the deck was the one “room” where we spent the majority of the day. here was our saturday….

kayle, our outdoor cat, always joins kenny and i for the morning of cup coffee on the deck. she’s been a 100% outdoor cat for a full year now,a nd she never tries to get inside. we think she’s really enjoying her “retirement years” in the great outdoors. we see her in the morning when we feed her, and wake our senses with caffeine, and in the evening for her second feeding. the deck is the perfect location to greet the morning.

after a morning and lunch hour of sprinkler running, we spend some reading and playing time in the shade or sun. rowan looked up from their game during this time and said, “what a great family vacation day!” it felt like it as we relaxed, read, enjoyed the non-busy moment…a rare moment these days!

and what a perfect close to the perfect day! thai peanut skewers on the grill with fresh thai springrolls. we ate outside, of course.

it’s the perfect summer room, and i’m so thankful we have this space to enjoy!