Friday, March 27, 2015

Creamy Chicken Chili - A Homemade Bean Soup Mix

In experimenting with bean soups, I learned that my family prefers white beans such as navy or great norther. I don't know if they have a milder flavor or if it is just their appearance.

And this soup is the family favorite of any bean soup that I have made.

 It is a version of the white chicken chili I share last year. The ingredients are easy to assemble and place in a plastic bag or jar. Then dumped into a pot and and cooked. This recipe does require cooked chicken and sour cream added just before serving. I like to keep canned or frozen cooked chicken for recipes like this.

Creamy White Chicken Chili

2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 T dried minced onion
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper - optional
2 cups Great Northern beans - or other white bean
1 tsp salt
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
1 cup sour cream 

For soup mix layer bouillon, garlic, onion,cumin, oregano, pepper, and beans in a 2-cup bag or jar.

To make soup, dump soup mix ingredients into large pot and add 8 cups of water. Cook until beans are soft, using one of the methods below. Add salt, chicken, and sour cream. Stir and serve immediately.

Cooking methods: 

Note: Cooking time will vary depending upon your cooking method and the type and age of your beans but here is what has worked for me.

Oven: Bring water and soup mix to boil in a large dutch oven on stove top. When water boils, cover with lid and place in 250 degree oven for 2-3 hours. This is my favorite method since I don't have to check it.

Stove: Bring water and soup mix to boil in large pot on stove. Turn back heat to a slow simmer for about 2 hours. Add more water if needed.

Slow Cooker: Dump soup mix into slow cooker. Bring water to boil on stove and pour into slow cooker. Cook on high for approximately 5 hours.

Pressure Cooker: Follow the directions for cooking dried beans in your pressure cooker. Mine took about 30 minutes.

Coming up - more bean soup mix recipes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Make Your Own Dried Soup Mix

This winter I have experimented with making my own dried soup mixes. I thought I was too late to share this with you all, but winter is not letting us out of its grip, so to me that means soup weather.

I had seen several cute soup mixes for sale. I loved the idea of adding more dried beans to our diet since they are both inexpensive and good for you. I also had some dehydrated peppers, dehydrated onions, and homemade tomato powder in my pantry. I wondered if I could use them to make a bean soup mix.

I wanted a soup mix that I would need to add no more ingredients so I dehydrated some carrots and celery to add to my selection.

As always, I was amazed at how little room dehydrated vegetables took.

Carrots before dehydrating.

Carrots after dehydrating.

Celery before dehydrating.

Celery after dehydrating.

A whole stalk (not a stem - a whole stalk!) fit into a pint jar after dehydrating. What a space saver for the pantry.

But now to use these dried vegetables.

I pulled out my dried beans and with a couple online recipes as a base, I started experimenting with various combinations.

The process that I decided worked best for me was to first place the seasonings in the jar.

Then add the beans, and finally add the dried vegetables. For my family, a full pint jar was the perfect amount for a meal. To feed a crowd, I could have used a quart jar with a double amount.

While I had my ingredients out, I would make several jars. With gift tags added, they were a simple gift. And I loved the simplicity of dumping the jar into a pot, adding water, and having my meal prep finished.

I chose to add all the ingredients at the same time, except for the salt. If you prefer to pre-cook your beans, drain the water, and then add your veggies and seasonings in fresh water, you would need to package them separately. With the long cooking time that beans require, the spices are not as strong but it seemed to work for our family. Maybe you would prefer to have a little baggy with the seasonings which you would add at the end of the cooking time.

A few of the soups I added meat which could not be included in the jar but if I had some pre-cooked ham or chicken in the freezer, it was still a very easy meal.

I hope to give you some ideas for bean soup mixes to spark your own ideas. But this post is long enough so I'll share the specific soup recipes another day.

From left to right are Peasant  Bean Soup, Five-Bean Soup, Creamy Chicken Chili, and Southwestern Bean and Barley Soup.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

HIS Grace is Sufficient

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 The following is an excerpt from Streams in the Desert compiled by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Truth I needed reminded of today.

"The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day's work. I felt very wearied, and sore depressed, when swiftly and suddenly as a lightning flash, that text came to me, "My grace is sufficient for thee."...I said, 'I should think it is, Lord,' and burst out laughing.

..."It seemed to make unbelief so absurd. It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking the river dry, and [the river] said, 'Drink away, little fish, my stream is sufficient for thee.'

"Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine; and Joseph might say, 'Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.' " - C.H. Spurgeon

His grace is great enough to meet the great things-
     The crashing waves that overwhelm the soul,
The roaring winds that leave us stunned and breathless,
     The sudden storms beyond our life's control. 
His grace is great enough to meet the small things -
     The little pin-prick troubles that annoy,
The insect worries, buzzing and persistent,
     The squeaking wheels that grate upon our joy.
             by Annie Johnson Flint

Monday, March 16, 2015

One-Dish Pork Dinner

I like simple one-dish meals.

And this recipe adapted from The Family Dinner Cookbook was perfect.

And best of all, my whole family loved it. Even those who don't like sweet potatoes.

One-Dish Pork Dinner

Adapted from The Family Dinner Cookbook

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T butter
1 tsp cinnamon
3 large pork chops (or boneless pork loin)
2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped (may also use acorn squash)
3 apples, peeled and chopped

Mix brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon until crumbly; set aside. Place pork in 9x13 dish. Arrange sweet potatoes and apples around pork. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. I added a small amount of water - maybe a half cup - so it would not dry out. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until pork is done. Baking time will depend upon thickness of your pork. I had thick slices with bone which took nearly 2 hours. I uncovered the pan for the last 30 minutes. If you have thin slices of boneless pork it may only take 45 minutes.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Who is God?

What do I believe about God?

And does it matter what I believe?

Do I picture an indulgent Grandpa handing out lollipops to his darlings? 

Do I cower as I imagine a harsh dictator meting out wrath on an unsuspecting victim? 

Do I think of a disinterested creator who has set the pendulum swinging on this earth before vanishing and forcing humans to muddle through their circumstances alone? 

Do I think of a Being far too busy to annoy Himself with my concerns?

What I believe affects my actions. If I doubt God's Word, my life will be affected. 

Consider Job. 

He lost everything he possessed, including his children and health. Even his wife and friends deserted him. In his anguish, Job still expressed trust in God's faithfulness. “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21) He also found hope in a future Savior. “For I know that my redeemer liveth.” (Job 19:25)

The example of Job demonstrates how a proper view of God was able to keep Job faithful despite his afflictions. A proper view of God may be the most important truth to embed in our lives. Our view of God will color our view of all life, causing us to despair or praise, to worry or trust.

My view of God must come from His Word. As I read through the Bible, especially the New Testament, I stop and ask, what does this passage tell me about God?

Here are a few examples:

God is love” (1 John 4:16)

He is “a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19)

He is our adopted Father (Romans 8:15 Gal 4:6)

He is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6)

He will “judge the world in righteousness.” (Acts 17:31)

He is “longsuffering...not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9)

He is “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3)

And that only scratches the surface. We could spend the rest of our lives studying the character and attributes of God and still have more to learn. 

We can also study the life of Christ. God spoke “unto us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2) so studying Jesus and His teachings will show us His Father.

So here is a challenge - for me and for you. Find and delight on Scriptures that share the character of our wonderful God. Then we, like Job, will be prepared to respond to life's circumstances with truth.

What attributes of God have you found in the Scripture?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bookmarks: Iditarod Race and Alaska Picture Books

This week, the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race began. Dog lovers from around the world are testing their endurance in the world's longest dog sled race. For the next week or so, our family will be checking out the Iditarod website for details of the race. It is an excellent time to learn a little about Alaska's history, enjoy a good dog story, and hear tales of remarkable skill and courage.

And maybe reading these stories will make me just a little more grateful that I don't live further north!

Here are some children's picture books that we have enjoyed about the Iditarod race and other adventures from Alaska.

The Great Serum Race, Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie S. Miller
The true story of the race against time that began the famous race. Wonderful illustrations combine with the story of the 1925 diphtheria outbreak in Nome and the brave mushers who brought the lifesaving serum.

Mush by Patricia Seibert
An overview of the history of the Iditarod Race, including the dangers found along the trail.

Iditarod Dream by Ted Wood
Youth can compete in a mini version of the Iditarod called the Jr. Iditarod. Through photographs, follow fifteen-year-old Dusty as he prepares, competes, and wins the Jr. Iditarod.

Painter and Ugly by Robert J. Blake
A story of “what could happen” if two dog friends met on the trail of the Jr. Iditarod. The real charm of this book is the wonderful paintings of Alaska.

Akiak by Robert J. Blake
The story of a dog who was going to make it to the finish line – even if he had to travel alone. Another winning book, written and illustrated by Blake.

Alaska's Dog Heroes by Shelley Gill
The Iditarod dogs are not the only ones with amazing stories, this book shares the stories of over a dozen Alaskan dogs.

Big-Enough Anna by Pam Flowers
The true story of the small dog that braved a one year journey across the Arctic. With determination, she showed that you don't have to be the biggest to succeed.

Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog by John Muir, as retold by Donnell Rubay
The famous naturalist Muir wrote about a little dog and their adventures on an Alaskan glacier. This book retells the story for children with remarkable illustrations.

Baby in a Basket by Gloria Rand
A true story from 1917 of a lost baby in the bitter cold of the Alaskan wilderness. Ted Rand's illustrations never fail to add life to a story and they don't fail in this book. I choke up when I read this sweet story with a happy ending.

Hannah's Alaska by Joanne Reiser
Ever wonder what it would be like to live in Alaska? This simple story shares the joys and challenges of life up north with its short winter days and huge summer cabbages.

Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing by Margaret Nicolai
A charming story of a five-year-old boy's first fishing trip with his grandfather. The dramatic oil paintings show life in an Eskimo village.

I hope this is a list that you can use at your local library for fun reading with your children.

What are you reading to your children this week?

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