Sunday, July 31, 2011

Letting Go of Our Fears

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7
I am a worrier. I've said it before, and doubtless, I will say it again. That's why I have committed this verse to memory so that when troubles in life begin to overwhelm me, I can take comfort knowing that God offers peace if we but ask Him for it.

Right now I find myself saying this verse to myself a lot because in a little over six weeks, I will be undergoing surgery to have my thyroid removed. Ever since I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism during my first pregnancy, I have taken medication to help my thyroid function properly. Still, even with medication, I developed some nodules on the lobes of my thyroid, one of which I had biopsied last year. The result was indeterminate. Translation: there is a 30% chance of malignancy. That's a pretty small risk, I know, but the doctor advised me {i.e. scared me} that my thyroid needs to be removed to minimize any risk of cancer developing.

That was last July. Now, a year later and after much procrastination, delaying, and avoiding, I have finally agreed to the thyroidectomy that my doctor had originally recommended. Needless to say, I have been facing a little--no, a lot of--anxiety.

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."
Psalm 9:9-10

Apparently having your thyroid removed is pretty common, but that does very little to minimize my worries. In the book I have been reading, The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, Dr. Meg Meeker spends a chapter addressing fears {because, apparently, we moms have a lot of anxiety} and presents three ways to deal directly with our fears. While Meeker does not take a faith-based approach to letting go of fears, she does make some excellent psychological, yet practical, suggestions that I am employing, along with time in prayer and meditation.

1. Clarify the fear. What am I really worried about?
Well, besides not having a thyroid to regulate my metabolism, among other things, there's...
  • Surgery and the risk of complications that inevitably arise when anesthesia is used.
  • Possible permanent loss of my voice.
  • How surgery will affect my still nursing baby.
  • Recovering and taking care of my family.
  • The oh-so-lovely scar that I will have and the inevitable self-consciousness that will accompany it.
  • My quality of life after my thyroid is removed since I will have to take a synthetic hormone for the rest of my life.
  • Worst case scenario: a slip of the scalpel and a severed carotid artery {translation: possible loss of life}. I'm not trying to be dramatic, just presenting every fear that has entered my mind.
"He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."
Psalm 91:4
2. Start facing your demons: Confide in those closest to you.
Talk about what you are confronting and ask for help. This is the really hard part for me because I am very good at avoidance: I don't like to talk or even think about what I'm afraid of, in hopes that it will just disappear. But, Meeker says, if we talk about what worries us and imagine the worst case scenario, then we take control of the fear and diffuse its power to control us.

My husband is the only one with whom I have shared my fears about this upcoming surgery. I don't like people to worry about me. But I agree that talking about what you're going through definitely alleviates some of your anxieties about it, especially when you confide in loving, supportive, and encouraging people. My plan this week is to tackle head on what is really bothering me, what is creating that knot in my stomach, and to work on untying it for good. Of course that will mean sharing my fears with others.
"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song."
Psalm 28:7
3. Desensitize, step-by-step.
Basically, Meeker says, you need to face your fear over and over so that you are "forced to live through a series of 'what-ifs' regarding [your] anxiety" (192). She says you need to declare war on your fears.

For me, that means mentally preparing myself for the events leading up to and following the surgery including possible problems that may arise. I need to make plans for who will keep my children during and after the surgery; I need to prepare some meals for afterwards when I don't feel like cooking; I need to pump and freeze some milk for the baby; etc. Basically, I need to have a plan in place and to begin implementing it.

Just by writing this down, I feel empowered. By being proactive instead of avoiding the inevitable yet still worrying about it, I am gaining some control over what I thought I had no control over, and that comes as a relief to me.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble."
Psalm 46:1

Beyond Meeker's 3 Steps...
While Meeker makes some great suggestions for dealing with fears, as a Christian, I know that ultimately only God is in control of the events in my life. No matter how much I clarify and talk about my fears and make plans to overcome them, I must submit my will to my Father. He has a perfect plan. Nothing that I do will change that plan. Still, by taking steps to address my fears and face them head-on, I know many of my anxieties will be minimized.

My daily prayer is for God's will to be done no matter what and for courage and perseverance to get me through it.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
Proverbs 19:21
What are you worrying about today? I want to encourage you to take it to the Lord in prayer.
This post is linked to A Wise Woman Builds Her Home.

Menu Plan for the Week of July 31st



Well, this is the first week post-Summertime Pantry Challenge, and I must confess that I ended the eat-only-from-the-pantry, freezer, and refrigerator-challenge a little early because we were plum out of staples. When your oldest child eats oatmeal every. single. morning, it's a cardinal sin to be without it!

On Friday, the kids and I hit up the farmer's market and came away with some okra, corn, green beans, onions, red potatoes, and blueberries. Our garden is cranking out a couple of ripe tomatoes every few days, but everything else--peppers, squash, and cucumbers--seems to be slowing down. We did manage to sow some more yellow squash as well as some zucchini and butternut squash seeds, so hopefully we'll have more summer squash in the next few weeks.

Here is what we'll be eating this week in our house:

Sunday: Chicken pesto panini (using the fresh pesto I made on Friday with the gobs of basil in my garden) and roasted corn-on-the-cob

Monday: Beef roast (in the crock pot), mashed potatoes with brown gravy, green beans, and fried okra

Tuesday: Shredded beef quesadillas (using leftover beef roast) with black beans and fresh salsa (possibly using any leftover corn from Sunday)

Wednesday: My Birthday!! Dinner out :)

Thursday: Chicken cordon bleu on couscous with a garden salad

Friday: Pizza night!

Saturday: Shepherd's pie (using leftover mashed potatoes from Monday, leftover beef roast, and some roast and veggies in the freezer)

That's our menu plan for the week. What are you having this week?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: Why God Won't Go Away by Alister McGrath


Alister McGrath’s latest book Why God Won't Go Away provides a brief but comprehensive look at the movement known as New Atheism and its leading figures: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. According to McGrath, not only does New Atheism assert that there is no God, but it blames religion for the violence, oppression, and social divisions in the world, claiming that religion is at fault for events like 9/11. Those who profess a belief in God are looked upon as “ignorant” and “lacking reason” and are “worthy of contempt.” Rationality and science are the authorities New Atheism relies upon to support and justify these claims, but, as McGrath points out, there are limitations to both that New Atheism fails to acknowledge or address. Ironically, in their zeal to eliminate religion, this contemporary movement has metamorphosed into a fundamentalist group not so unlike those it has set out to destroy. After delineating and debunking each of New Atheism’s tenets and revealing serious flaws in its logic, McGrath asserts that the movement’s future is fading fast as God simply won’t go.
Before reading this book, I had never heard of New Atheism or any of its figureheads, and my knowledge of atheism itself was very limited. That is part of the reason I chose to read this book. As a Christian parent, I believe I have a responsibility to stay informed about any potential threats to my faith in order to defend it at all costs. McGrath’s book provides a wealth of information that will help the Christian defend his or her faith against atheists, “New” and old. As a former atheist-turned-Christian, McGrath himself knows the arguments on both sides of the table and presents his thoroughly researched evidence in a clear, concise manner with a witty writing style that renders the somewhat dry subject matter more palatable. Why God Won’t Go Away is a must-read for all Christians who intend to defend their faith in God to those who refuse to see Him.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Blog Hopping

Hopping around the blogosphere this week, I came across some great recipes and interesting posts on homemaking and raising children that I wanted to share with you.

**Love this homemade spaghetti sauce recipe made in the crock pot using fresh tomatoes by Elaine @ Sunny Simple Life. Yummy!

**I am overloaded with basil and found this great pesto recipe @ Paths of Wrighteousness that explains how to freeze it in jars, perfect for all those glass baby food jars I've saved!

**Lisa @ Modern Vintage Homemaking guest posting @ Raising Mighty Arrows has written an excellent post on making home memories. I am totally convicted by this quote: "Are we making home memories OR are we just taking care of the house?"

**Courtney @ Women Living Well guest posting @ Raising Homemakers has a thought-provoking post on how technology is affecting the parenting of our daughters that anyone with a daughter or grand-daughter should read. "Technology isn't evil but some uses of it are."

What have you found stimulating or inspiring this week?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Things I Love: Refrigerator Jalapeno Peppers

In 2007, we had a bumper crop of jalapeno peppers--so many that I didn't know what to do with them all. I considered canning them, but I wasn't really sure about how they would turn out.

Lucky for me, I have a lot of EXCELLENT cooks in my family, and my mom--one of said EXCELLENT cooks--suggested I email my Uncle Jimmy for his recipe for refrigerator peppers. I'm sure glad I did! That year I put up FOUR QUARTS filled to the brim with jalapeno and banana peppers from our garden. We ate on them for a couple of years before it was time to put up some more.

Fast forward to 2011 and I'm down to my last quart of 'fridge peppers. Lest you should worry that I'm eating 4-year-old peppers, these were made in 2009. Just 2-years-old. :)
Here's the recipe, courtesy of my Uncle Jimmy:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. turmeric
  • white vinegar
  • water
  • peppers {use whatever you have: banana, jalapeno, serrano, etc.}
Directions
  1. Slice your peppers. You can remove the seeds for less heat, but I prefer to put everything in there. {CAUTION: Use vinyl or latex gloves to avoid burning eyes, lips, tongue, etc. Trust me; I know from experience!}
  2. Fill clean jars with peppers. {You can use any kind of jar with a lid. I like to use old pickle jars.}
  3. Add salt & turmeric to jars.
  4. Fill jars with 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. {There are no exact amounts of vinegar and water. You just want to make sure you are using 50% vinegar and 50% water per jar. I fill an 8-cup measuring cup with 4-cups vinegar & 4-cups water.}
  5. Screw on lids tight, and shake it up!
  6. Store jars in the refrigerator, and eat to your heart's content!
Voila! That's it! You can have peppers throughout the year for chili, nachos, pizza, or whatever else you like to make hot.

And another great thing about these peppers is that you can add more to your jars as your garden produces them!

Here is what I put up this past weekend:

Why You Should Make Refrigerator Peppers:
  1. They stay crunchy and don't get soggy like those you buy at the grocery or can using a hot water bath.
  2. They retain their heat even after over two years in the refrigerator!
  3. They can be made with ingredients & supplies you likely already have on hand.
  4. They are super easy & super delicious!
  5. You won't have to buy another jar of jalapenos.
  6. You'll have fresh peppers year-round.
If you try out this recipe, please let me know what you think!

Blessings to you...

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Serving Our Families: Having a Ruth-like Attitude


Ruth Gleaning by James Tissot
As I mentioned recently, serving others is often a lot easier than serving my own family. Why is that? Maybe it's because I take those closest to me for granted: I know they have to love me no matter what, right? Or maybe it's because I don't consider the work I do for my family as service. Drudgery, yes, but service?

When I prepare a meal for a sick friend or send a card to someone needing encouragement, I know that I am reaching out and showing love, providing comfort, giving the person a little lift.

But what about when I fix dinner for my own family? Is there joy in my heart while I'm chopping the veggies? Is there a smile on my face as I prepare the roast? Or is there grumbling on my lips and complaining on my tongue as I serve those who matter the most to me?

"Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred."
Proverbs 15:17
What is my attitude when I serve my family? I love this proverb because it reminds me that it isn't what I serve that matters but how I serve. Even if all I have is a bag of dried pintos and some cornmeal, if I have a humble, loving attitude as I prepare the meal, then we will feast with joy.

As I serve my family day-in and day-out, I need to be mindful of my attitude. It's infectious. Grumbling begets more grumbling, but smiling begets more smiling.


Ruth in the Fields by Merle Hugues


I consider Ruth when I think about attitude. Not only did she remain with her mother-in-law after her husband died, not only did she move to a foreign land, not only did she leave behind her father and mother and all things familiar, but Ruth worked hard to take care of her mother-in-law and herself. She performed the menial work of a servant as she gleaned and gathered the wheat in the fields.

Of Ruth's labors, the foreman told Boaz:

"'She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.'"
Ruth 2:7
Can you imagine how much Ruth must have sweated? How her back must have ached from bending down and picking up the fallen wheat? How she must have wondered why she was doing all this hard work so far from her own home?

But Ruth didn't go home. And we don't see that she ever complained. Instead, she served her mother-in-law and her service was rewarded. Her reputation was such that Boaz provided for her and eventually married her.

While I don't have the menial task of gathering wheat to do, I do have toilets to scrub, clothes to wash, dishes to scrub, and meals to prepare. I can choose to have a grumbling, bitter attitude as I do my chores, or I can serve my family with joy, a smiling face, and a positive attitude, finding beauty in the work God has called me to do. Today I will choose to serve with love.
"Be joyful always..."
I Thessalonians 5:16
If serving your family is a challenge at times--as it is for me, what are some things you can do to improve your attitude? How can you find joy as you serve?

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Monday, July 25, 2011

10 Ways to Serve My Family with Joy

"Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins."
I Peter 4:8
This week I am trying to focus my attention on serving. For some reason it is much easier for me to serve people who aren't a part of my family than those closest to me. But that's not how it should be, I know. So, in an effort to better serve my husband and children, I have come up with 10 ways to serve my family with joy.

(1) Start my day in the Word. I have found that on days when I get up early and read my Bible and pray I am calmer, more patient, and generally more loving to my family. Most mornings, though, my children wake me up, which means no Bible time. I need to get up earlier to have that special time with the Lord to commit my day and my life to Him.

(2) Serve up a special breakfast.

During the work week, we typically eat oatmeal and fruit or yogurt and granola--something quick but filling--for breakfast. Only on the weekends do we enjoy special treats like pancakes and French toast. So, what better way to show my family love than to serve up some blueberry pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast on a Tuesday.

(3) Get off the computer! I must admit that I spend a lot of time on the internet when I could be reading to my kids or simply rolling around on the floor playing with them. I want to make a concerted effort to give my children the attention they need and deserve and to do it with every ounce of my being, not thinking constantly about the post I'm working on.

(4) Take a break from chores and venture outside.
Household tasks always seem to sidetrack me from spending quality time with my family. There will always be laundry and dirty dishes, but my kids won't always want to hang out with Mama. So, maybe we'll go to the pool, the park, or even McDonald's for a fun lunch and some playtime on the playground. Seize the day!

(5) Drop the attitude and smile. I'm pretty good at getting an attitude when I'm tired and my two-year-old is asking 3,000 questions at once. But I need to ease up a little and remember that she's a child; asking questions is how she learns about life. Instead of getting annoyed, I need to take a deep breath, smile, and give my daughter the attention she needs.

(6) Create something fun with the kids.
You might recall in an earlier post that I don't do crafts. Well, I've revised that statement: I only do crafts that a two-year-old can do. My oldest daughter loves to make things even though she usually only succeeds at two things: (1) making a mess and (2) making mama lose her temper. But there are some unbelievably simple crafts for kids that I found on Pinterest that I have lined up for us to do like pine cone bird feeders, homemade finger paints and peanut butter play dough.

(7) Enjoy story time with the kids. My daughter loves to read. The thing is, like most kids her age, she only wants to read the same ones over and over again, so when we sit down to read, say, Goldilocks & The Three Bears or Big Dog Little Dog for the umpteenth time, I find myself speeding through just to get finished. Instead of rushing through my child's favorite books, I'm going to try to slow down, try on some fun accents, and use a few sound effects to make reading more enjoyable for both of us.

(8)
Start supper early. I don't know about you, but when 5:00 rolls around at our house, everyone is cranky: that is not the ideal time for me to be cooking dinner. Lately I have been prepping for supper throughout the day: cooking the spaghetti sauce in the mornings, chopping the vegetables or making the salad during the kids' naps, and fixing a dessert in the afternoon. Then, when dinnertime approaches, I only have to assemble, pull out of the fridge, heat up, and serve. For an added bonus, I can spend more time loving on my kids instead of cooking when the dreaded witching hour beckons.

(9) Greet my husband at the door with a kiss. My husband is very good about giving me a kiss first thing when he walks in the door. It's something I very much expect and appreciate, but I usually don't give him the full attention he deserves. Wouldn't it lay him in the shade if I were to meet him at the door with a kiss? He wouldn't know what to think!

(10) Slow down and enjoy life.
My day revolves around a tiny Post-it note on which the day's agenda is listed. As I accomplish a task and cross it off my list, I enjoy a Type-A person's high only comparable to a morning's first cup of coffee. On the other hand, I am notorious for overloading my days with chores and errands so that by 3:00 in the afternoon, I'm pooped and ready for my husband to come home to relieve me. By then all the joy is gone and I'm usually pretty grouchy. Yes, my t0-do list may be all done, but I don't feel like bragging. Instead, I need to cut my to-do list in half, slow my pace, and spend more of the day enjoying my children and husband, serving them with joy.


"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."
I Peter 4:9
How do you serve your family with joy?
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Gift of Serving Others: Giving up the Excuses & Following Christ's Example


"Service always carries a cost--in time, energy, material possession, reputation, or effort. Yet if we fail to lead in serving others, our whole Christian testimony will be null and void"

Sally Clarkson, The Ministry of Motherhood, 184
"I don't have time."
"We don't have any extra money in the budget."
"I'm just so tired."
"Someone might see me and laugh."
"Maybe when my life is a bit more settled I'll get around to it."
"Let someone else do something for a change."

Do those excuses sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself using one of them instead of reaching out and serving someone in need?

I have. Many times. It's shameful and selfish and something that I continually have to work on, especially if I want to teach my children the gift of service. Yet when life is chaotic, it's much easier to come up with a reason for why you can't lend a hand than to actually do something.

But God has given each of us gifts to use to build and grow His church:

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Romans 12:6-8

Serving is the gift that I believe God has given to me, specifically through fixing meals for others. When given the opportunity and adequate time, I find that I enjoy fixing food for a new mom or for someone grieving the loss of a loved one, for a friend who needs encouragement or someone experiencing serious health problems. But there are times, I admit, when I am unwilling to use my gift for His glory because of some or all of the excuses listed above. I also have anxious thoughts about whether the person will like the food I fix or just throw it out. But when I let excuses and silly fears keep me from using my gift to serve others and bring glory to God, then Satan wins and my witness is nullified.

Lately God has been throwing me headfirst into situations of service that I don't really want to do. Friends of mine have been emailing me about friends of theirs who could use a good meal, and I have readily agreed to help out. Often times I haven't known these women or their families, but God has put it on my heart to serve them, clearly dragging this self-conscious introvert right out of her comfort zone again and again.

Just last week I went over to talk to a young mom at church about her upcoming surgery and found myself offering to bring over dinner one night. Now that was God. All Him. If I had even harbored the idea in my little pea brain, then I probably would not have even made my way over to talk to her. Something would've come up to prevent me from saying anything, and then I wouldn't have had the anxiety of fixing her a meal. But God wanted me to step up and offer my services, so I did. The glory is His.

It's easy to pat myself on the back after I've prepared and delivered food to someone in need, especially when the person calls to tell me how good it was. I feel an inner smugness. "Look at me. Look what I did." That's Satan, too, wanting to take God's glory away and convincing me that I did something great, that I'm someone worthy of praise and honor. But Jesus sets me straight time and again.

"'You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'"

Mark 10:42-45

We all want to be seen as someone important, but Jesus clearly tells us that to become someone of high esteem, we must first become a servant.

Jesus was the perfect example of servanthood, relinquishing His power and authority and renouncing His privileges as deity to selflessly serve mankind, ultimately giving His life for our salvation. What a servant! What an example for us!

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a labor to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”

Isaiah 53:7

No excuses were on our Savior's lips the day He was beaten and led away to die. No anxious thoughts kept Him from submitting His will and doing what had to be done. No silly fears, not even ridicule and jeering, stopped our Lord from becoming our greatest hope.

What excuses are on my lips today as I consider the cost of fixing a meal for a friend whose child has been ill?


Saturday, July 23, 2011

We're on Facebook!

I am still setting up our Facebook page but wanted to let you know that it is up and running!

Please "like us" on Facebook, and get the latest posts as well as other fun and encouraging updates throughout the day.

Blessings to you!

Menu Plan for the Week of July 24th

We're on the final full week of the Summertime Pantry Challenge, and we still have some freezer foods in need of clearing out, namely several containers of homemade chicken broth and some cod.

The garden is producing some lovely extra-large, extra-delicious tomatoes, and I couldn't be happier! Finally, some garden fresh 'maters!

We also have quite a number of jalapeno peppers that I will be pickling one day this week for "refrigerator peppers." I will post this super EASY recipe and show you how to make them.

We also bought another eggplant (I'm lovin' these!), some purple hull peas, grape tomatoes, blue potatoes (yes, they are literally blue), peaches, and okra at the farmer's market that I'll be fixing and eating on this week.

Here is our menu plan for the week:

Sunday: Shepherd's pie (from the freezer)

Monday: Eggplant ratatouille over brown rice (both using chicken broth) with roasted chicken

Tuesday:
Roast with carrots & potatoes with cooked purple hull peas

Wednesday:
Pintos, fried okra, sliced garden tomatoes, and cornbread

Thursday:
Fish tacos (with cod), fresh salsa, and avocado slices

Friday:
Buffalo chicken pizza {Pizza Night!!}

Saturday:
Leftovers

What are you eating this week?

Summertime Pantry Challenge: Week 3

I can't believe it's already Week 3 of the Summertime Pantry Challenge; July is nearly over! Of the five goals I listed at the outset of this challenge, I think I have done a fair job of sticking to all of them.
  1. We have been limiting grocery spending to produce and dairy, with the occasional necessity: this week we ran out of canola oil and mayo, so I replenished the supply. {Fortunately, both were on sale. Score!}
  2. We have purchased the bulk of our produce from our local farmers' markets.
  3. We have cleaned out a lot of the freezer meals including some white beans and spaghetti sauce and used up some shrimp that I found shoved way in the back.
  4. And we have tried out some delicious new recipes including Grilled Gyros and Baked Eggplant Parm.
However, I still have some work to do. This week I need to:
  1. Reorganize my freezer
  2. Create a new freezer inventory
  3. Find a use for and use the 3 (32-oz.) containers of homemade chicken broth in the freezer
Still, the rewards of this challenge have been immense. I really feel like this pantry challenge has taken the pressure off me to hit all the sales. When I see things on sale that I would usually buy, I just tell myself, "We aren't buying that stuff this month." And I focus my attention on those items we are buying. This shift in my thinking has led to less stress and resulted in less time gathering coupons and working on my grocery list. Honestly, we are eating much healthier as a result. I'm not just buying stuff because I have the coupons and/or the items are on sale. I am making a much more conscious effort to purchase only what we absolutely need.

We are, however, spending as much, maybe even more, each week on groceries because we are buying more organic and local produce, which is more expensive than conventional, and there just aren't coupons for it. Yet, I feel good about what our family is eating, so I don't mind that we aren't saving the money that I had hoped.

If you are participating, how are you doing on the Summertime Pantry Challenge?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things I Love: Tortilla Pie

Our family eats a lot of beans. Beans are a great source of fiber and protein, and they are also cheap. A one-pound bag of dried black beans will make three to four meals for our family of four and costs less than $2. You can't beat that in my book!

This recipe is very inexpensive to make. You can use whatever beans you have on hand, whether cooked dry beans or canned ones, as well as whatever types of cheeses you have available.

This recipe is modified from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook's Eight-Layer Tortilla Pie.


Tortilla Pie
Serves 4 (or 6 as an appetizer)


Ingredients


The Mexican Spice Mixture
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 2 t unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 c grated cheese {I used a mixture of sharp cheddar, Monterey jack, & pepper jack.}
  • 4 (9-inch) flour tortillas {I used whole wheat.}
  • 3 (15-oz.) cans of beans, drained & rinsed {I used 1/2 pound cooked black beans. You could also use kidney, pinto, or white.}
  • 1 (16-oz.) jar salsa or make your own
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare the Mexican Spice Mixture: Combine ingredients in a small bowl and reserve.
  3. Combine cheeses in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Combine beans in another large bowl.
  5. Add Mexican Spice Mixture to beans. Combine well.
  6. Spray a 10-inch springform pan lightly with baking spray.
  7. Place a flour tortilla in the bottom of the pan.
  8. Place 1 cup of beans on the tortilla, spreading evenly. Spoon 1/4 cup of the salsa over the beans, and spread evenly. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese mixture.
  9. Top with another tortilla and repeat layers until all the beans are used. When you are finished, there will be 1/2 cup of cheese and 1/4 cup of salsa left.
  10. Place the last tortilla on top of the pie, and spread the remaining salsa over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  11. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes until the pie is heated through and cheese is melted.
  12. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes longer until the cheese turns a golden brown.
  13. Allow pie to cool for at least 15 minutes. Slice into wedges.
I serve Tortilla Pie with plain yogurt (or sour cream), lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and extra cheese and salsa. Our family loves this dish! Even the baby devoured the black beans!



This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday and Frugal Food Thursday.




Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Potty-Training Boot Camp: 1 Week Later

Well, if you have been following me on my potty-training journey and all the stops along the way, then you may be interested in knowing how our Kate is doing after seven days of no diapers or pull-ups (except at night time).

I am very pleased to say that we have had ZERO accidents during wake time. Kate has been wearing her big girl panties from the time she wakes up until bedtime. She very independently goes potty when she needs to without any assistance from her daddy or me.

Lest you think I have a special child, let me preface these comments by saying that my daughter is very stubborn; she is the quintessential "strong-willed child." Only when she sets her mind to do something will she do it. This has certainly been true with potty-training; however, I have had to do some serious hustling to get her motivated (i.e., removing all diapers and pull-ups and telling her that she will no longer be wearing them). Tough love, I know.

Today, I had to take the baby for her check-up and of course Kate came too, and I honestly forgot to ask her if she needed to go potty while we were at the doctor's office {I am just so accustomed to her going without being told now.}. So, I was surprised and a little upset at myself when we were about to leave and Kate said she needed to go potty. Fortunately, there was a nice clean bathroom nearby, and we averted any accidents.

Needless to say, I am very proud of my daughter, who is also very proud of herself and her accomplishments.

Now don't think we've got this potty-training thing completely knocked out. We have attempted 3 different nights with training pants (no diapers) at Kate's suggestion, and 2 of the 3 nights have resulted in wet sheets. I hate to wake her up at night to make her go potty because it takes her FOREVER to go to sleep. But aside from withholding liquids before bedtime, I am not sure what else to do. Any suggestions, experienced Mamas?
Blessings to you!

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday because having only one child in diapers is something I certainly something to love!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Women of Faith 2011

Women of Faith Imagine

Yea! This week I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Growing in His Glory has been selected by Book Sneeze to attend the 2011 Women of Faith conference in Atlanta, Georgia, August 12th-13th. That means two free tickets to be encouraged, inspired, and entertained by world class speakers like Sheila Walsh, Lisa Harper, Luci Swindoll, and Angie Smith as well as hear some amazing performances from Mary Mary, Natalie Grant, dramatist Nicole Johnson, and Christian counselor Steve Arterburn. I am also very excited that Laura Story will be there! Her album "Blessings" is a new favorite.

For the line-up of all the amazing speakers and performers, click here.

If you aren't familiar with the Women of Faith conference, here's a brief run-down taken directly from the Women of Faith website:

"Women of Faith is a faith-based women’s organization encouraging women of all ages and stages in life to grow in faith and spiritual maturity through a relationship with Jesus Christ and an understanding of God’s love and grace."

Our Message: Beyond a shadow of a doubt, God loves you—regardless of where you are in life.
Our Approach: Humor and honesty—real women sharing how God helps them deal with real issues.
Our Objective: To see women set free to a lifestyle of God’s grace by offering events, books, resources, and publications.

This year marks the 16th year of the Women of Faith tour and the second year in which two different events have been offered: "Imagine" and "Over the Top."

Events will be held in 28 cities across the country. You can go here to find the Women of Faith event nearest you.

I am very pleased that I will be attending this year for the first time with my sweet Mama and baby girl. I hope to see you there!

Will you be attending Women of Faith 2011? If so, where? If you will be in Atlanta, please let me know. I would love to meet you!
Blessings to you!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Prayer: My 10 Favorite Scriptures

Source: Floresco Productions

Prayer is on my heart and mind this week.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 favorite scriptures about prayer:

(1) 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 -
"'When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that made in this place.'"
These verses give us hope in dry times (both literal and figurative). If we submit ourselves to the Lord, turning from all wickedness and seeking Him in prayer, He promises to be attentive and hear our prayers and heal our land.

(2) Daniel 6:10 -
"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before."
The political leaders in Babylon envied Daniel because of his "exceptional qualities" and set about to destroy him by attacking his religion. However, Daniel, knowing full well that his punishment for praying to God would mean death, continued to pray. He refused to compromise his beliefs and faith in God even to save his own life. What an example he is for me and I don't even face the threat of death for praying!

(3) Matthew 5:44 -
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: "'But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."
We are called to love those who hate us and to pray for those who want to see us fail. How much easier it is to harbor resentment towards people who dislike us, but Jesus tells us not to retaliate but to love and pray.

(4) Luke 22:41-42 -
Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsamene with His disciples, just before His arrest: "He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed. 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.'"
In our Savior's prayer, we see His humanity: He feared not only the physical suffering that He knew was about to take place, but also--and even more--the pain of being separated from God, His Father, when He took on the sins of the world. Yet, in spite of his dread and fear, Jesus submitted His human desires fully and completely to His Father's perfect will.


Source: Reggie Casagrande

(5) Romans 8:26 -
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
This verse takes the burden off me to pray "just right" because there are times I just don't know what to say; but, I know that the Holy Spirit prays for and with me. That is truly a comfort!

(6) James 5:16 -
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
When we face struggles in life, the first place we should turn to is God. He should not be our last resort. And when we pray fervently and energetically, our prayers can accomplish great things!

(7) Proverbs 15:8 -
"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him."
This verse reminds us that if our hearts aren't right with God, our prayers will not be heard by Him. I am reminded of Cain whose sacrificial offering was not acceptable to God because his motives were wrong. Cain was doing what God told him to do, but God knew his heart and He didn't like what He saw.


Source: Jose Luis Peleaz

(8) Matthew 6:9-13 -
"Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver from us from evil.'"
Known by all as "The Lord's Prayer," these four verses teach us the fundamentals of prayer: who to pray to, what to pray for, and how to pray. The perfect prayer for us to model: simple, to the point, yet comprehensive in nature.

(9) Colossians 4:2 -
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."
Paul advises the church at Colossae to "devote" themselves to prayer, being persistent and not giving up. When we pray we need to be vigilant, attentive to God, and grateful for His answers even when we don't like them.

(10) Psalm 122:6 -
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.'"
In this psalm David is praying not only for himself but also for the people in Jerusalem. Here we have the perfect example of intercessory prayer. We need to remember when we pray to make our petitions and requests on behalf of others and not to pray solely for ourselves.

What is your favorite scripture about prayer or praying?
This post is linked to Top 10 Tuesday at Oh Amanda!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Praying Without Ceasing: A Mother's Lesson


"Pray without ceasing."
I Thessalonians 5:17
As I was preparing our weekly "school" lessons this afternoon, I realized that what I aim to teach my daughter is also what I am hoping to teach myself. The Bible verses I pick out each week for her to memorize and learn are as much for me as they are for her. I want her to hide God's word in her heart so that when she needs encouragement or guidance she has a verse or two to help her out. But I am also memorizing these verses and making application to my own life. This week is no exception.

Each week I pick out a verse from the Bible that features a word beginning with "the letter of the week." We write the scripture on construction paper, and Kate gets to decorate her paper with stickers as we learn our new verse and review previous weeks' memory verses. This week we are studying the letter "P" and its sounds, so I selected I Thessalonians 5:17 for her to learn. Yes, it is super easy to memorize, but to understand? Not so much, especially for young children who have a very literal way of thinking. However, it's also difficult for a thirty-one-year-old woman to comprehend.

When Paul says to pray without ceasing, does he mean we need to pray constantly, without stopping? Do we need to be praying every waking moment? I don't think so. If that were the case, surely we would be like the hypocrites Jesus speaks of in Matthew 6, who babble on and on thinking they will be heard because of their many words.

No, I think to pray continually we must be persistent and regular in our time with God.
We must set aside time each day for prayer, not just praying when we need something.



Consider Christ. He often retreated to a quiet place to pray, taking time away from His followers and those seeking Him, to commune with His Father. Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, and He wanted His disciples to know that persistence in prayer is essential.
In the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18, the widow kept coming back to the judge, pleading for justice, and because she didn't give up, eventually the judge granted her request. In this story Jesus teaches that we should pray, pray, pray, even when we don't receive an immediate answer from God; we must have faith and keep praying, never giving up.

That is what I think Paul means in I Thessalonians. We need to bring our requests to the Father over and over again--not endlessly repeating what we have already said, but truly believing in our hearts that God has the power, and He will answer our prayers in His time. We must have faithful and sincere hearts.



As a child I said the same prayer every single time we sat around the table to eat. I am not sure where I learned the prayer, but it was rhythmic, easy, and to the point:
"God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. In Jesus' name, Amen."
After a number of years of reciting this same prayer, someone in my family suggested that I stop saying this childish prayer and really pray. Looking back I am embarrassed that this was all I prayed. Subconsciously I knew that my prayer wasn't from the heart, but I didn't really know what to say. I was comfortable with my simple prayer because it was safe: it allowed me to hide any emotions that might come pouring out if I were to really pray.

Today I still struggle to pray persistently and from the heart; but, I am working on it. I know that if I want my daughters to learn how to pray, then they need to see their mother praying. They need to hear my prayers and see my emotions as I pour my heart out to my God. They need to witness me praying even when I'm bone tired because I earnestly believe that God hears and answers the prayers of the faithful. They need to learn how to pray from the heart, not memorize what is easy and comfortable, because God wants us to be a people who glorify Him in all we do.

Dear Father, You are holy and worthy of all praise and glory. I know my prayer life is not as regular and persistent as it should be. Forgive me, and help me, Father, to be the right example for my daughters, especially in my prayer life. Teach me how to pray without ceasing so that I can teach my children. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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This post is linked to Women in the Word Wednesdays.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Menu Plan for the Week of July 17













Upon perusing my cabinets, I found a number of canned tomatoes that need to be used. So, I will be making some spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce this week.

I found some great new recipes on Pinterest (I love that site! Let me know if you need an invite.).

Here is what we plan to eat for the week of July 17th:

Sunday: Grilled ground beef gyros with cucumber yogurt served on pita bread with baked sweet tater fries

Monday: Baked eggplant parmesan with homemade spaghetti sauce on whole wheat pasta and salad

Tuesday:
Sweet & sour shrimp on brown rice with stir-fry vegetables

Wednesday: Pinto beans, fried squash, and corn bread with sliced tomatoes

Thursday: Barbecue chicken, roasted potatoes, and salad

Friday: Pizza Night!! {I'll be trying a new pizza sauce recipe to use up some canned tomatoes.}

Saturday: Leftovers

What will you be eating this week?

Summertime Pantry Challenge: Week 2

This is week 2 of the Summertime Pantry Challenge and already my fridge and freezer are starting look pretty sparse. What a pleasant sight! Now we can actually shut the freezer door without it popping back open.

This week I limited my grocery shopping to Kroger and the Farmer's Market. I really want to get the majority of my produce from the latter, so I only bought bananas, white nectarines, 1/4 of a watermelon, and a lemon at Kroger.

At Kroger I spent $45, which was primarily on dairy, eggs, and bread, plus a $9 (!) jar of tahini for the hummus.

At the Farmer's Market today, we bought the following:
1 pound of blueberries- $4
1 large eggplant- $1
1.5 pounds of tomatoes- $2
2 bell peppers- $1
1 red onion- $0.75
1 honey stick (for Kate)- $0.25

Our grand total on groceries this week was a whopping $54.

Besides saving money, we also ate well this week, trying out several new recipes including a delicious cucumber yogurt (using cukes from the garden) and lentil hummus, both of which we ate with Naan, my new favorite bread. Unfortunately, I got a little carried away with the smoked paprika in the hummus and it is extra smokey, but the baby loved it and so did I. I will definitely be making both recipes again.

Also, I modified the pasta with eggplant, portobellas, & tomato because I didn't have any mushrooms (and wasn't going back to the store to buy them!), adding squash (from the garden) and onions. I also roasted all the veggies in the oven with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Tossed them with the whole wheat linguine with a shot of olive oil. Delicious!

While my grocery list is getting very VERY long (I will need to get to Aldi very soon after the challenge is over!), I am really enjoying the fun of being resourceful and trying out new recipes and utilizing what is at my disposal. We're saving money and eating well too.

How are you doing with the Summertime Pantry Challenge?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Growing in Love for Those We Love


"Nothing is tougher than loving well" (Meeker 142).

I agree. The hardest part of being a wife and mother is learning how to love each individual member of my family in a way that best meets his or her needs.

Loving isn't easy. It doesn't come natural no matter what people may say.

I remember the moment after my first daughter was born. Holding her in my arms and looking into those perfect blue eyes, I expected to feel an indwelling of the mothering spirit. You know, when the maternal instincts kick in and suddenly you know how to get your baby to breastfeed, sleep, and stop crying just by holding her in a certain way.

But nothing happened. Yes, I loved that little squalling red-faced baby, but I didn't have the first clue what to do with her. And I didn't feel like my love for her was adequate.



Mothering, just like loving, is hard work.

Fast forward two-and-a-half-years. I still have to work hard at loving this child, and now there is a new one in the mix who needs to be loved in her own unique way.

And to top it off, I have a thirty-three year old big baby who requires a completely different kind of love.

Can you relate?

Loving well is tough. It requires hard work; it demands close attention to the needs of others; and it means figuring out what makes a loved one feel loved.

If I were to love my husband in the way I want to be loved, he would probably be annoyed. You see I feel loved through compliments and gifts, a listening ear and a little one-on-one time. My husband prefers hugs and kisses and some individual attention. He could care less if I gave him a birthday present or an at-a-boy. He just wants someone to snuggle.

My two-year-old needs quality time to feel loved. I have discovered that if I spend a good 15-20 minutes playing with her--my attention solely on her--that her attitude and behavior are markedly better than when I don't. Afterwards, she will play by herself and be sweet to her sister. However, without that attention that she so desperately craves, Kate throws tantrums, back talks, and generally epitomizes the quintessential "terrible two's." It really is a matter of loving her in the right way {and making sure she has eaten and had plenty of rest} that affects her behavior.

But the hardest part of loving isn't the detective work of figuring how to best love our loved ones. It is loving them even when you don't feel like it.

At the Last Supper just hours before His death, Jesus gave His disciples "a new command":
"'Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must you love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another'" (John 13:34-35).
Jesus is the perfect example of love. His love is self-less and unconditional; it is sacrificial and unyielding. He commands us, His followers, to love just as He loved. That is a tough order to fill!

We must be willing to sacrifice our time, our energy, our happiness, even our lives, for others. Only then will the world know that we are His disciples.

Do you struggle with loving those closest to you, or does loving come natural?

Do you know how best to love those closest to you?

**If so, what do you do to fill up their love tanks?**

**If not, I would encourage you to take some time to pay close attention and observe your loved one. What really brings a smile to his or her face?**

Potty-Training Boot Camp: Days 2, 3 & Beyond

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Kate has really done an exceptional job at potty-training. She is persistent {read stubborn} when it comes to accomplishing certain tasks that she values. And I truly believe that when she saw me get rid of all her diapers and pull-ups that she realized there was no turning back this time.

She has done a great job! No accidents, no prodding to go potty every 20 minutes, and only a few reminders that she was wearing panties and not a pull-up. I know she will have accidents, and we're still working on potty-training at night.

Hopefully, though, we are on the road to being diaper-free!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Potty-Training Boot Camp: Day 1 {Success!!}

On Tuesday morning, we spent the afternoon getting ready for "D-Day" {no more Diapers Day}, the first day of Potty-Training Boot Camp. That meant:
  • Washing Kate's brand new Hello Kitty and Ni Hao Kai-Lan panties and the waterproof mattress pad and putting the panties in a basket where she can easily reach them
  • Packing up all the cloth diapers and pull-ups and moving them to lil' sister's room {I did leave her regular diapers for bedtime. I'm taking one hurdle at a time! Day time potty-training first!}
  • Getting out new stickers for her potty chart
  • Setting out her "cupcakes" for reward {cupcakes=Reese's cups}
I built D-Day up as big as I could with talk about "no more pull-ups" and "only pee-peeing in the potty." And Kate seemed eager to wear her new panties and be a big girl. I, however, was very nervous.

Day 1: Off to a Good Start
Upon waking up Wednesday morning--D-Day--I reminded Kate that she was no longer going to wear diapers or pull-ups anymore. She had witnessed me empty her basket of them the day before, so she knew I meant business. However, she was excited and rushed to put on her new Dora panties from Gram-Gram. Kate is a self-starter and very independent, so when she has to go potty she just goes. She knows how to wipe, flush, and then wash her hands. Then, she gets herself a sticker for her chart and comes to me for her "cupcake." So, I leave her to it. I figure as long as she stays dry, then I won't intervene.

Only one minor incident--not potty related but in the bathroom. Apparently, Kate found the Lysol and some wood cleaner. While I thought she was using the potty, instead she was "cleaning" the bathroom. I had wood cleaner ALL OVER THE PLACE. I guess I need to monitor her a little more closely!

Still, Day 1 has been a SUCCESS!! She stayed dry all day, even during naptime!

Tomorrow I'm praying for more of the same! Then the big test will be this weekend when Kate goes to Gram-Gram & Papa's to spend the night. : )

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Okay, so while I am super-excited about the prospects of no longer having to buy diapers for two kids and especially not having to clean up an extra set of poopy diapers, my heart is a little sad.

No more diapers = no more baby, and that makes this mommy a little teary-eyed.
Not a lot but a little.

But when I see her smiling face and new sense of self-confidence I can't help but smile, too. And that is undoubtedly a finer thing.

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Cookbooks



I have mentioned before that I love a good cookbook. Right now my baker's rack is filled with a variety of cookbooks, some very old and some fairly new. I have received many of my cookbooks as gifts, which I think is THE BEST GIFT, but I could use some new ones for my upcoming birthday. {Hint hint wink wink, honey}

If you are looking for a new cookbook, here are ten of my favorites:

1. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.
If you don't already have this cookbook, run right over to Amazon or get in the car and drive to Barnes & Noble and get it! My sister-in-law gave me this book after our second child was born, and the stories and pictures provided many laughs. We love the Comfort Meatballs and our family's "Pizza Night" pizza crust is Ree Drummond's recipe. The.Best.Pizza Crust.Ever. Hands Down. My sister-in-law made the Mocha Brownies, and even my mom, a cooking extraordinaire, said they were the best brownies she'd ever eaten. Drummond's website also features many of her classic down home recipes. If you like hearty {not healthy} home cooking, then you need this cookbook!

2. The Whole Foods Market Cookbook. Given to me by the same wonderful sister-in-law, who knows my love of foods and cooking, this cookbook has provided several recipes that I make on a regular basis: the Sonoma Chicken Salad (always a hit at church potlucks and showers); Eight-Layer Tortilla Pie (everyone loves this one-dish meal); and Mashed Potatoes with Jalapenos & Cheddar (yum yum!). Plus, I love that all of the recipes are based on whole natural foods that are healthy and flavorful. Because of this cookbook, I have ventured out and tried ingredients like quinoa, couscous, and flax seeds.

3. Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.
My favorite Food Network cook is Ina Garten. Everything about her exudes classiness, something this family needs! :) Her recipes are practical but packed with flavor and perfect when having company over or just a night in with the family. We love her Cape Cod Chopped Salad, Company Pot Roast, Creamy Cheddar Grits (Note to self: I need to make those again soon!), and Baked Sweet Potato "Fries." I also appreciate the helpful tips she offers at the beginning of every chapter. Hospitality and being a good hostess are important to her, and Garten shares her secrets with us in her cookbook.


4. The Big Book of Potluck. My mom brought this cookbook back to me from Maine in 2003, and for many years, it set idly on my bookshelf. Recently, though, I was desperately searching for a pasta salad recipe, dusted this cookbook off, and fell in love. It has some wonderful salad recipes including a great Cobb Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Chicken & Pasta Salad, and, my favorite, the Big B Salad (with blacked chicken, butter lettuce, bacon, blue cheese, black beans, and buttermilk herb dressing). How can you ever go wrong with bacon? Also, there is just about every salad dressing recipe in here too. The homemade enchilada sauce recipe I make is from this cookbook. You will never go back to the canned stuff after making this!

5. Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics. When I'm looking to fix some Southern fare, I turn to Paula. I mean who else would give you the thumbs up for using a whole stick of butter in a recipe? There are too many recipes in here that I use frequently to mention all of them, but our favorites are the Honey Bars (a quick & easy dessert with ingredients you always have on hand), Artichoke & Spinach Dip, Barbecue Meatloaf, and Baked Spaghetti (a dish I regularly make for new mamas). Everything in her cookbook is easy to make and I usually have all the ingredients, which is definitely a plus for me.



6.
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. I bought this cookbook from a Southern Living party {kinda like a Pampered Chef party but with home decor} and have never regretted my purchase. This baby gets pulled from the shelves at least two or three times a week simply because it has such a vast variety of recipes that have proven successful time and time again. A classic like the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, I started subscribing to the Southern Living magazine just to get more great recipes like the ones in this book. My favorites are the Sourdough Starter and Country Crust Sourdough Bread, Baking Powder Biscuits, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Bars, and Sweet & Sour Shrimp {I need to make this again soon, too!}.

7. Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook.
Everyone knows this classic cookbook by its red and white checked cover. It is what I call "The Bible of Cookbooks" because of the wealth of information included as well as over 1,200 recipes that are easy to prepare and delicious to eat. This is the perfect wedding gift or a present for a burgeoning new cook. I really appreciate the helpful labels on each recipe, designating if it is "Fast," "Low-Fat" or a "Family Favorite." Often times, these labels guide my decision on whether or not to prepare the recipe. Every recipe includes a nutritional analysis and easy to follow, step-by-step directions. This is the first cookbook I run to when I need to find a basic recipe like fudge frosting because I know it will be there and that it will be simple enough for me to do.

8. Serving up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables. I typically only pull out this cookbook during the gardening season when I have fresh produce coming out my ears and need some new ideas for ways to prepare or preserve it. This cookbook is organized by growing season beginning with asparagus in early spring and ending with winter squash & pumpkins in fall and winter and I love how for each crop, there is information on how to grow, sow, cultivate and harvest it as well as different basic methods to prepare it. Right now we are overrun with the cucumbers, so I am planning on making the Raita and Quick Crock Pickles from this cookbook.

9. Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast & Easy Recipes for Any Day. I picked this up on a desk outside a professor's office one day after hearing he was giving away free books. What a prize! I couldn't believe any one would give away a good cookbook, especially a Moosewood. Like The Whole Foods Market Cookbook, this cookbook has really challenged me to find and try out new, healthy, whole ingredients in my cooking. This Moosewood cookbook features only vegetarian meals but now that we do Meatless Wednesdays, I usually look here to find a recipe to try out when I do my menu planning for the week. We love the Muffin Madness and Multigrain Muffins recipes and make them pretty often these days. Also, when we have a garden full of fresh veggies, I like to make Pasta Tutto Giardino in which I can unload the whole garden. Super rich and delicious! One of my favorite features of this cookbook is its menu option: for each recipe, there is a recommended menu to accompany it. This makes meal planning much easier!

10. My cookbook collection.
I don't remember when I started this collection of recipes, but it is filled with clippings from newspapers and magazines as well as photo copies from other people's cookbooks and handwritten recipes from family and friends. It is simply a large photo album with recipes stuck inside photo pages and organized using divider tabs just like a cookbook. Right now it is in desperate need of reorganizing, and I probably need to start a new cookbook collection. But it is very handy when I need to find a good recipe like Grandma's Sugar Cookies.



What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
This post is linked to Top 10 Tuesday at Oh Amanda!