Monday, November 29, 2010

Monster Cookies

We try to keep Christmas simple and meaningful. But one thing we can't skip is the cookie baking. We love cookies all year round but at Christmas time it is fun to have lots of variety for quick gift giving and hospitality.

I remember many times, my dad coming into the house and asking mom if she had something to give a neighbor, or the milk man, or someone else that had happened by. Mom always was able to find a loaf of homemade bread, plate of cookies or box of homemade candy to wrap up with a bow. I love the example of impromptu sharing and want to be prepared to do the same.

I'm hoping to share some favorite simple cookie recipes. Don't look for anything fancy, just homemade yumminess.

We always made monster cookies at Thanksgiving just in time for deer hunting season. Ed isn't real big on hunting but he likes the monster cookie tradition! The original recipe makes a huge amount. I often make only half and included this smaller batch recipe at the end. Traditionally the cookies are made very large (monster size) but I make them normal size.

Monster Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3 cup peanut butter
2 cup sugar
2 cup brown sugar
Cream butters and sugars together.

6 eggs
Mix well.

9 cup quick oatmeal
4 tsp baking soda
Mix well.

1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup M&Ms
Stir in.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

If you don't have a large mixer, the last ingredients will need to be stirred in by hand in a large dish pan. Or you can divide the recipe in half.

Monster Cookies - Small Batch

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
Cream butters and sugars together.

3 eggs
Mix well.

4 1/2 cup quick oatmeal
2 tsp baking soda
Mix well.

1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup M&Ms
Stir in.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is Gardening Worth It?

Yesterday our first garden/seed catalog arrived in the mail. Usually right on the cue with the Christmas cards, the garden companies begin marketing their products.  I know I'm a totally hopeless nut case when it comes to gardening but I just love sitting down with a handful of seed catalogs. I'll build towering dreams of next year's garden and scribble pages full of notes and garden plans.

But first there needs to be some time of reflection on last year's garden.

I like to take some time in November (or earlier) to think the past year. It is a time to ask questions.

What worked well?
What did not?
What do I want to plant again?
What do I NOT want to plant again?
How was the amount that was planted?
How can I minimize this year's problems?
How can I maximize this year's success?
What plant/variety/ technique do I want to try next year?
How can I get closer to my gardening goals?

I'm scribbling down notes from the past year and beginning a preliminary sketch for the garden.  But there is one overarching question this year, Is gardening worth it?

Many times this year you could have heard me say "If I knew it was going to be this dry, I wouldn't have planted a garden." And I thought I meant it. It was terribly discouraging to continually drag around the soaker hoses and choose which plants to water and which ones to let die.

I'm rather optimistic by nature. I'd think, "I'll water the garden one more time and surely this week we'll get rain". But we didn't. Or the next week. Or the next.

And honestly all the love of gardening somehow shriveled up with the parched ground.

Was gardening really worth it? Why am I doing this to myself?

If you read the 2010 Preserving list, you know that God abundantly provided. No, it wasn't the harvest I expected when I drew up my dreams in January. But the freezers and shelves are well-filled.

But  that list is only a small portion of our true garden harvest. For several months we ate almost all of our produce fresh from the garden. I have no way of knowing how many tomatoes, peppers, and onions we ate out of the garden - and that is just a start. We had a terrible potato and carrot crop and nothing to store - but we certainly ate quite a few meals from the meager crop there was.

The green beans never gave me enough to can - but I had several small plantings and for week after week after week we ate fresh green beans several times a week. If I picked more then we could eat for supper, I'd quickly steam the extras and put them in the freezer. So, I never picked a bucket full of beans, but I am so grateful for the beans we enjoyed all summer long.

This year I spent $189.00 on the garden. This includes all plants and seeds. It does not include the lime my husband put on the garden or the very rare chemical. This amount is higher then usual because we replaced our strawberry patch and extended the size and also bought some raspberry plants. This was a bad year for starting anything extra and they suffered through the drought but appear to have mostly survived. I'm guessing that many years I don't spend more then $75 for seeds and plants.

Of course, when you start talking dollars and cents, someone asks "But what about your time."

Yeah, what about it.  I'm just a mom. I have no desire to be out in a workplace bringing home a pay check so that I can afford to pay someone to mow my grass. I don't even have any real desire to make money at home - though some days I dream up crazy plans. My husband constantly encourages me that my frugal money stretching ways are a blessing to him and my family.

I don't know how many hours I spend in the garden. Or what my time is worth. Maybe if I hated gardening, those questions would be important to me. But then I'd also have to put a value on the benefit of fresh air and exercise.

So I'm not going to count the hours that I walk through my garden pulling a stray weed and choosing something tasty for supper. I'm not going to count the time spent watching a parasite wasp on a tomato worm with my children and talking about the wonders of God's creation. I'm going to enjoy the  cool summer evenings spent with my husband discussing the day while hoeing.

I don't have to tell you that $189.00 is very cheap for top quality produce for five months for a family of six who love vegetables. And I would hate to compare my vegetables to grocery store vegetables. At the most they may be eight hours old from the garden, usually only one or two. These are vegetables grown in fertile soil, enhanced by our own poultry compost, and picked at the peak of maturity. In the very few cases when chemicals are used in our garden, it was with utmost care and never on anything that would be consumed soon. Such as when our tiny green beans plants were being chewed off as soon as they appeared out of the ground and the only way to give them the boost to survive the first inch or two appeared to be spray.

Okay, writing this all out answered my question.

To me, where I live, in my stage of life, with my husband's encouragement and help - gardening is very worth it. You may come up with another conclusion but I'm going to relish each seed catalog that arrives and dream in full lush garden color about next year!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lettuce Again! - and other thoughts

I always said that moms couldn't get sick. And usually I don't get sick. But it hit me last week. I'm not sure when last I was sick for longer than a day.

And you don't have to start pitying me. I wasn't really THAT sick. Maybe since I'm never sick I make a big deal out of any little thing. Basically I was able to keep taking care of the children but that. was. it. I didn't do anything else. Meals were casseroles out of the freezer. Cleaning was non-existent. Naptime and any other spare moments found me on the couch. Ed helped tremendously. But you know how I feel when I'm not getting things done. Like a total failure.

So it was rough week. Not only did I feel bad, wasn't sleeping, coughed like a chain smoker and now have no voice - but I felt like a total failure as a wife, homemaker, and a mother.

And so I know - that God still is working on me. To find my fulfillment in Him and not in what I do. To be at peace with the day He puts in my hands. To discover joy, not in me, but in serving Him with my whole being, coughs and all.

Last week I also visited an inmate in prison. She did attend the Bible study in our local detention center and now was moved to a long term facility. The whole evening is a story too long to tell here. I was too sick to go but I had promised to visit and God graciously pulled me together for the evening.

Gratefulness is something that the Lord has been working on me for the last year. Maybe longer. If you feel like your gratefulness factor needs a boost, visit a prison. (Or the homeless or the sick...) What is it about seeing someone with far greater problems than me that makes me sheepishly return to my Father and say "Thank you for my "problems". For my cough, for my crazy children, for my dirty house.

Oh, I was going to write about lettuce. We have lettuce again! Fresh homegrown lettuce - perfect to drive the sickies away! I hope!

I'm not a pure local in-season only cook. But I try as much as possible to base my menus around what is growing fresh in my garden. Which means, in the spring we were eating salads like crazy people but as soon as hot weather hit the lettuce and other greens bolted. Toward the end of summer I tried numerous times to start some more lettuce for fall, but failed every time, apparently because of the horrible drought and high heat. Finally, with the last of my seed, I tried again. This time I kept a hose with a fine nozzle close by and soaked the ground every single day. And this time, a few lettuce and other greens managed to survive.

Later I transplanted the little plants into the cold frame and we have been enjoying wonderful mixed greens salads for the last few weeks! Since it has been months since we've enjoyed fresh salads from our garden, it is relished even more.

May I notice the little things, like lettuce, as gifts from my Father's hand, and stop and give thanks.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Homemade Cocoa Mix

There is something about cooler weather that has me longing for a hot drink. On rainy days like today, it becomes a necessity! I'm not a coffee drinker but do enjoy a warm mug of cocoa or chai tea.

Maybe because I'm a dairy farmer's daughter, Swiss Miss packs stirred into hot water just don't pass. I like the real cocoa powder stirred into real milk. The recipe I was using worked well but it would be slightly more convenient to have a mix already prepared. I was planning to adapt my recipe but found this one earlier this fall in Susan Branch's Autumn.

Simple, quick, and beats Swiss Miss hands down! Now I can enjoy hot cocoa even more frequently.

Several of you said that you took my master muffin mix and gave it for gifts. I can imagine this cocoa mix would combine well for a meaningful, yummy gift.

Cocoa Mix

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients and keep in airtight container.

To make cocoa:
Add 2 T. cocoa mix to 1 cup (8 oz) hot milk. Stir until dissolved. (I use a small whisk.) If you wish, add a few drops of vanilla or some marshmallows.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I can't believe that we are near to the end of November and Thanksgiving. Several of you asked about Thanksgiving recipes and activities. I'll share the links here - in hopes that you will share some of your favorites! I'd especially like to hear how you incorporate an attitude of thanksgiving into your every day life - every day of the year!

Blessing tree
Buying a turkey for cheap meals
Easiest roast turkey
Deviled Turkey rub
What to do with turkey leftovers
Sweet potato pudding
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin chocolate cheesecake pie

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chicken Rice Soup

How did I ever miss chicken rice soup? This is a true comfort food!

Several of you have asked about freezing soups. Soups are actually something that I rarely freeze, so I don't have much experience freezing soups. I just usually make a large pot and we eat it for two days. Not much variety but my family doesn't usually complain.

But chicken rice soup is an exception. With this soup I usually make a huge pot full. After eating all we can stand, I freeze the leftovers. It makes such a nice quick meal, especially if someone isn't feeling well.

I often make this soup with leftover turkey and broth - in fact, now is when I start looking for good sales on Thanksgiving turkey because there are so many recipes that we love with leftover turkey. 

Chicken Rice Soup

3 quart chicken broth (or water with bouillion)
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
3 cups diced cooked chicken
1 pint corn
Place all in a large pot and bring to boil.

1 cup brown rice
Add to pot. Season as desired. I usually use salt, thyme, and parsley.
Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homeschool Art Class

For the last three days, we were privileged to learn from Barry Stebbing from How Great Thou Art.

His three day art class for homeschoolers was well worth the time spent. I loved how he and his wife brought the Lord into the topic of art.

Mr. Stebbing teaches ages five to adult. My five and six year old were definitely on the young side and sometimes struggled to keep up with the fast pace of the class.

But they still enjoyed it, especially the painting.

And I learned a ton and am I'm now eager to add art to our days.

If the Stebbings ever come to your area for an art class, I'd encourage you to join the fun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Worth Reading - Time Management

Sometimes I wonder why I'm so production oriented. Why I can't feel "successful" unless I'm accomplishing something.

Most days end with feeling like I didn't "do" anything. There is never enough hours in a day to finish it all. Everything I did (cooking, laundry, cleaning) will need done again tomorrow

My husband is a wonderful encourager and constantly reminds me that if I've cared for our children, I've done enough in a day. But it doesn't keep me from still trying to do more.

I had a breakthrough realization recently. Frantically stuffing the hours of my day with constant action is like spending every last cent of my pay check every week. There is no margin, no cushion, and a little pothole can completely derail me.

I'm still figuring out how best to align my days to make sure I'm not "spending my whole pay check." Of course, it isn't like I can put a few hours in the bank this week to save for a busy day next month. We are only given 24 hours each day to spend wisely and they can never return. I'm certainly not condoning laziness but when my children and relationships are not being  given priority, something is out of line.

I've been really enjoying Amy Andrew's new e-book Tell your Time. I'm the tightwad who doesn't often purchase e-books but I've learned enough from Amy in the past that I jumped for her book the first day it came out. The book is short but pointed with practical help on how to manage your time. If you want your own copy, if you move quickly, you can get it for half price here. (And I'm in no way affiliated with Amy - just like her book.)

I also highly recommend reading  how Crystal has put these principles to work in her own life by reading her series on time management.

I'd love to hear how you find balance in your life.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homemade Cloth Napkins - the Easy Way

I've slowly been trying to reduce the use of paper products in our home. With children, our consumption of paper products was getting out of hand. They could use half a roll of paper towels to mop up a small spill. I want to encourage them to clean, but the waste was atrocious.

One of the best things I did was to take the paper towels out of the kitchen and put them in a more inconvenient spot. Under the kitchen sink I placed a pile of rags. Now a rag is the handiest available cloth for us all to use for a quick clean up.

I also placed a dish pan for dirty cloths under the sink since my laundry area is in the basement and not quickly assessable. Our paper towel use dropped to almost nothing.

Next I wanted to replace the paper napkins. I was planning to make a cute set of fabric napkins and I was bookmarking directions for cloth napkins all over the web. And, of course, I planned to blog about the adorable napkins I made myself!

But it just wasn't happening. The project never was getting to the top of the list and I didn't think it would hit priority any time soon.

This summer I had replaced my dish towels. The old ones were getting thin at spots but still had a lot of life. One afternoon I sat down with my scissors and cut several of the towels into fourths and zig-zagged the raw edges. It only took a few minutes and we now had a whole stack of child sized cloth napkins.

I keep them stacked in a basket next to the table. They have been easy to launder and dry and the children can easily fold them.

Nothing fancy and some day I still hope to make those cute napkins with mitered corners, but until then, this works for us!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Friendship Soup

I love the mix-in-a-jar type gifts. They are practical, consumable, and usually taste good! Great gifts for that person who has everything and does at least a little cooking.

This recipe is so good that if I'm making one to give away, I make one for myself, too!

Friendship Soup

Layer in a quart jar the following order:
1/2 cup dry split peas
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup lentils
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup brown rice
3/4 cup pasta

Attach the following recipe to the jar.

To prepare:
Take pasta out of jar first.
In large pot brown 1 lb ground beef. 
Add 3 quart of water and 28 oz can of diced tomatoes.
Add all of jar ingredients except pasta. Simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Add noodles in the last 15 minutes.

If you don't like to use beef bouillon granules, omit them from the jar and change the water in the directions to beef broth.

I usually add a scrap of fabric to the jar lid before gifting it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Preserving the Harvest - 2010

I've been hesitating to write this post. Several of you have asked to see a list of the garden preserving I've done this year - as well as where I store it.

I love visiting my shelves of jars or poking my head in the freezer just to enjoy the bounty that God provided. After a very dry summer, I am surprised at how much we were able to put away this winter.

But I don't want to sprout some sort of super-woman cape. I know how easy it is to read a blog and feel inadequate. I know - because I do it far too often.

I'm not sure why we ladies fall into the comparison trap. While it may be okay to learn from each other, to be challenged in our calling as homemakers, so often I've become discouraged by feeling I don't measure up to what another is accomplishing. I have to constantly remind myself that my calling is to serve my family and husband, in my way with my set of gifts, talents, and skills. Gardening is my thing - couponing might be yours.

So, I'm going to share the stats on our harvest this year - but please don't add "garden, can, and freeze food just like Gina" to your list of things to do next year!

And there is no way I could do this all alone. Ed helps me so much in the garden and yard. I don't even know how to run the tiller or lawn mower. He does all the tilling and mulching and most of the planting and weeding. Most weeks this summer, we spent at least one evening working together in the garden.

Plus, for most of the summer, one of my sisters came and helped me for a day each week. Believe me, I planned my major canning days for the days I knew they would be here! Working together while gabbing made the day fly by quickly and (almost) effortlessly. One of the things I missed the most when I married was working together with my sisters and mom. Many hands really do make the work light. My daughter is learning to help and I'm looking forward to having her assistance in future years.

So, if you promise not to compare AND remember I had help, here is the 2010 list.

peas - 58 pint
asparagus - 3 bags
broccoli- 9 bags
green beans - 28 bags
corn - 29 pint
tomato sauce-22 pint
canned tomatoes-10 pint
tomato juice-25 pint
pizza sauce-62 pint
salsa - 10 pint
ketchup-10 pint
vegetable soup-27 quart
chicken soup-17 quart

All vegetables were grown in our garden except 1 bushel of peas bought from a neighbor and the corn which came from my parents. A "bag" is a meal's worth - somewhere between a pint and a quart.

strawberries - picked 68 quart, froze 60 pint
strawberry glaze-13 pint
strawberry lemonade-8 quart
fruit slush-11 quart
blueberries-20 pint
pears-17 quart
peaches-50 quart
apple chutney-6 pint
applesauce-124 quart
apple cider- 20 quart

All fruit was purchased except the strawberries.

And for a tour of the basement... watch your step, I don't usually allow visitors down here. There is no telling what you may find! First, my two favorite closets in the whole house. They are right at the bottom of the basement step, handy to the kitchen. I don't know what the original owner used them for, but they are perfect for canning jars. With the doors shut, they stay reasonably dust free.
 It was difficult to get a picture since the lighting was terrible. The shelves continue past the sliding doors so you can't see all the contents. The shelves are sturdy but I do sometimes worry that they will collapse under the weight someday. I can't even imagine the horror!
The freezer, stuffed with blueberries, strawberries, peas and beans.

 Next the shelf with apple cider on top and applesauce below.

Thanks for visiting. Just don't trip over the children's bikes on the way back upstairs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Torte

I don't normally make elaborate desserts. I avoid multi-step, layered recipes. I'm more of a one dish cake fan.

But this dessert is worth the extra effort. I think it beats pumpkin pie.

I had almost forgotten about making pumpkin torte this fall. Until Ed reminded me of my promise to make one of his favorite fall desserts for every peacock he killed. (Long story. No, the we don't own peacocks. Yes, we have permission to shoot our neighbor's peacocks. And please don't tell me that peacocks are beautiful birds. To me they are worse pests than groundhogs.)

By the time I finished making pumpkin torte, I remembered why I avoid it. The number of dishes I can make dirty with this dessert is amazing. But the first bite reminded me why it was worth it!

Pumpkin Torte

24 graham cracker squares, crushed
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
Mix together and press into 9x13 pan.

2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
Mix together. Pour over crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool.

2 cup pumpkin, mashed
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 T. cinnamon
Mix and cook in pan until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
Dissolve gelatin in water and add to hot pumpkin mixture. Cool.

3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
Beat egg whites with sugar and fold into pumpkin mixture. Pour over cooled crust.

Cool Whip or sweetened whipped cream
Spread on top and refrigerate until serving.

Linked to Tuesday Garden Party

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Question - Vacuum

I'm passing along a question from a friend.

We are shopping for a new vacuum cleaner. Do you have any suggestions for vacuum cleaner brands? What brand do you love? Which would you never buy again? - Kirsten

With all of you experienced wives out there, can anyone give Kirsten some tips? Thanks!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zesty Venison Soup

October, the designated "soup month" here at Home Joys, is over - but believe it or not I still have some soups to share. One of my goals in sharing soup recipes was to have all my favorite soup recipes located in one spot. So, I plan to share a few more this month. Hopefully toward the end of November I can get on a new topic and share some of our favorite whole grain cookie recipes for Christmas baking.

This soup is another favorite from my mom. I think it is the only soup I make containing cauliflower. I've never grown cauliflower before but picked up some plants by mistake this fall. I always heard cauliflower was hard to grow but these actually did  okay and were the excuse I needed to make this soup this week. I didn't have any fresh venison so used some canned venison instead. It made a quick fix meal since the meat was already tender. This is a thick and hearty stew great for the cold weather we've been experiencing the last few days.
The bread is the honey oatmeal bread from Discovering Sourdough. As usual I did some adapting and replaced some of the white flour with whole wheat.

Zesty Venison Stew

1-2 lb venison stew meat
1 med onion, chopped
2 T ketchup
2 T Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup vinegar
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cup cauliflower, chopped

Cut meat into 1 inch pieces. Saute onion in oil til tender. Add ketchup, Worchestershire, and salt. Blend in flour. Add meat, broth , and vinegar. Stir well. Cover and simmer until meat is tender about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add potatoes and carrots to stew. Simmer 20 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook until tender. Serve.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

October - New Thing

My October project for the 12 New Things Challenge was to make a head covering. To be honest, it was not exactly a "new" project because it isn't the first time I've tried making a covering. One of my friends is a skilled covering maker and she offered to teach me how to make my own. It took a lot of persuasion before I even believed I was capable of making my own covering. But she has been a patient teacher.

The challenge of covering making is that even an 1/8 of an inch makes a difference. I've sewn draperies, bridesmaid's dresses, and all my own clothing for years, but never tackled a sewing project this particular in the little details. Last winter, I made numerous attempts. I melted holes in the fabric. I slit holes while trimming the seams. Somewhere in the process I decided that wearing a scarf would be a more practical solution but I do prefer this style of head covering  and I'm known for being stubborn. Eventually I succeeded in making something tolerable enough to wear and put the project aside.

This fall, all my coverings were a dingy brown and I decided I needed a new covering before my brother's wedding - which is why this task ended up on the 12 New Things list for October. I figured I would make half a dozen before it all came together into something wearable. But, thanks to the Lord, because I really didn't have much extra time in October, the first try was deemed successful.

It still has issues. I know there is at least three "professional" covering makers who read this blog and probably cringe at my attempts. My patient teacher may shudder sitting behind me at church. But since it was an improvement from my first tries, I was happy.

For those uninitiated into covering making, the goal is to take three pieces of tulle type fabric...

And turn it into a  pleated cap that fits perfectly.

And here it is modeled.

Now I need to make a few more before I forget what I did right this time. 

Next month- to learn to digitally scrapbook. I think maybe sewing may be preferred to learning something new on the computer...we'll see!


Related Posts with Thumbnails