Monday, January 23, 2012

Jesus' Promise to Mothers

When I awoke this morning, I was immediately frustrated.  It was 5:15 and Cora, our youngest, was already awake, chattering away in her crib, and Kate, the oldest, was in our bed, a recent occurrence that bugs me Thankfully, she was still asleep, but I knew the slightest noise I made would wake her up.  So, I just lay there steaming. I couldn't even pray I was so angry. 

As you know, every morning I spend my first few waking moments holed up in our bed with a cup of coffee planning the day, praying, and spending quiet time in my Bible. This morning, however, my routine was all messed up.  (Isn't it just like Satan to wreck our good intentions?) Fearful of waking Kate so early, I crept out of the room without even making an attempt to grab my Bible and devotional. (Our children are THE lightest sleepers!) So, instead of digging into my daily devotional as I usually do, I found my daughter's pink Bible and opened it up.  I was in the book of Isaiah.

At that moment I didn't know why God had taken me there, but He did. I would read for a few minutes, pause, and think about all the stuff I needed to do. My frustrations mounted, and I found that I wasn't even paying attention to the words; my eyes were just passing them over. My heart was wrong, and it was wrong all morning. My husband commented several times how he wished I'd cheer up, but all I could think about were:

Why don't my kids ever sleep late?
Why are my plans always ruined?
The laundry is piled up and the kitchen is a mess, and I've got to fix breakfast.
We're leaving for vacation in a day, and I have a bazillion things to do.
My head is stopped up, my nose won't stop running, and my lips are parched.
I'm exhausted, and it's not even 7:00!

Yes, I was having a temper tantrum, much like the ones I punish my own children for all the time.  But while  theirs are more vocal, with screaming and crying, mine was all pent up in my heart. My actions were unloving, and my words were unkind.  My husband and children were only innocent victims.

After breakfast and some chores, I laid Cora down for a nap, and Kate and I had our Bible studies on my bed.  She looked at her Bible and I at mine.  This time I returned to Isaiah and was drawn to these words:

"He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young." {emphasis mine}
-Isaiah 40:11

That's me--"those that have young"--He's talking to me!  Why have I not been listening?  Because I'm selfish and proud, too caught up in my own petty troubles to even think God would care.

But He does.

After reading this passage, my body relaxed, my heart softened, and a peace that I hadn't felt all morning rushed over me. Those words of comfort spoke directly to me, as if Jesus were saying:

"Keri, stop trying to do everything yourself. Stop trying to control every. single. little. thing.  Trust in Me, and let Me lead you. I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep, and I will take care of you.  Submit to Me."

The Lord has a special place in His heart for mothers.  He promises to lead us "gently" because I think He  knows there are moments when we will become frustrated, scared, and overwhelmed. Yet, it is then that we most need to let Him gather us in His arms and carry us close to His heart.

May God richly bless you today as He has blessed me!


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Sunday, January 22, 2012

January Pantry Challenge Update #3

This week marks the fourth and final full week of the January Pantry Challenge.  For updates on previous weeks, click here and here.

This past week I spent roughly $50 on groceries, buying mostly fruit, dairy, and canned beans.  It is really UNBELIEVABLE how expensive food is!  Even though I only bought the bare minimum of what I thought we needed for the week, I still spent considerably more than I'd wanted, and I didn't even buy any meat! 

We've eaten up almost everything in the fridge, so there was a bit of a struggle to find lunch a few days there. But we subsisted nicely on bean and cheese burritos with fruit: our favorite, never-fail, fall-back meal. Besides the fridge, the pantry and freezer are both becoming pretty sparse.  I made a batch of chicken stock this past week, which is filling up a good bit of the freezer, but the meat and frozen veggies are definitely dwindling.  The pantry challenge couldn't have happened at a better time for us because we're leaving Tuesday to make our way to Orlando. {Did I mention we're going to Disney World?  We're so excited!}  But I hate to leave food in the fridge, so I'm glad most of it will be gone before we're off. 

Let's recap my goals for this January Pantry Challenge:

(1) To reduce grocery spending.  Doing good here!  We were down about $25 this week from what we usually spend.

(2) To use up what food we have on hand.  I have already had to start re-stocking, so we are doing good here, too.

(3) To keep a running inventory of all the food in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.  This goal has been the biggest challenge for me.  I keep my inventory worksheets in my household notebook, which is usually in my bedroom, so when I use up a food, I often forget to write it down.  Either I need to move my notebook to the kitchen or tape the inventories in my pantry where they are readily available.  Because I'm really working hard at decluttering, I am thinking option number 1 is the best choice.

All in all, this pantry challenge has been a success in terms of saving money at the grocery store and being resourceful.  Plus, I'm learning to make do with what I've got instead of running out to the store every time I need an extra ingredient.  It's been an excellent lesson in discipline for sure! 

If you're taking a Pantry Challenge at your house, how's it going?

Blessings to you!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

To the Mamas of Young Children:

This is a season
of wet hair and ponytails, 
of sweats and old t-shirts,
of chapstick but no makeup, 
of little sleep and feeling scatterbrained,
of tears and stress,
of much crying and whining,
of dusty furniture and piles of dirty dishes,
of crayon scribblings on walls and fuschia nail polish on carpet,
of stinking diapers and spit-up stained sheets,
of persistent crumbs and unmade beds,
of late nights and early mornings,
of few moments of "us" time and even fewer moments of "me" time.

But it is also a season
of PB&J faces and fingers,
of snuggles on the couch and tickles on the bed,
of "Ma-Ma" and "Da-Da,"
of twirling and dancing,
of hopscotch and bubbles,
of playing dress-up and hide-and-seek,
of reading books over and over and still loving them,
of jumping in mud puddles and balancing on beams,
of swinging and sliding,
of making new discoveries and creating sweet memories,
of learning what it truly means to love,
of seeing Christ in their little shining eyes.

For Mamas of young children, know that this is only a season, a short time in your life when your children will depend entirely on you.  It seems like an eternity at times when you haven't had a shower in days and you can write your name in the dust on the TV.  But in the blink of an eye, those little ones will be gone.  Don't let this season pass by without truly being a part of it; be present.  Take time to love on your children, to put down the vacuum and play with them, to teach them about Jesus, to learn more about the little people God has entrusted to you, and to see the new person God is transforming you--their Mama--into.

I pray God's richest blessings on you.


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pantry Challenge Update & Menu Plan for the Week of January 15th

We're still going strong with the January Pantry Challenge.  Even though I spent more than the first week ($38.75), I am proud that this past week my total was under $65 at the grocery store.  (Usually, we spend roughly $75 a week for food.)  We've being go through yogurt and fruit like crazy, so I'll be making a batch of homemade yogurt this week.  Trust me: If you eat a lot of yogurt, you should really make it yourself.  It's so much more cost-effective than buying the 32-oz tubs, especially if you buy organic. 

Because our grocery budget has been lower this month as we eat out of the pantry and freezer, I've been able to put the leftover money back and even reduced the amount of money I took out for this week!  (Tryin' to save some moolah!)  The food is slowly dwindling--although we still seem to have tons of meat in the freezer--so most of the items I'm purchasing this week are staples, produce, and dairy.  The inventory worksheets have REALLY helped me to know what's available and what's been used up, so I can (1) plan our meals and (2) add used-up items to the grocery list.  I highly recommend keeping a running inventory of all the food you have at hand. Sure it takes a little effort upfront, but life is so much easier when you don't have to run continually to the fridge or pantry to see what you've got.

So, as we continue to eat from the pantry, fridge, and freezer, here's our menu plan for the week of January 15. I'll be continuing the two-week menu plan. Sort of.  See we will be leaving for Walt Disney World :) next Wednesday, heading down to my parents' house Tuesday.  So, this menu plan goes from Sunday, January 15-Monday, January 23.

Scrambled eggs with orange slices
Yogurt with granola & fruit
Cinnamon oatmeal with blueberries & strawberries
Blueberry muffins & sausage links
Peanut butter & jelly toast with fruit

Turkey & cheese sandwich with fruit
Bean quesadilla
Grilled cheese & carrot sticks
Pizza (from the freezer) and fruit


 Sunday, Jan. 15: Leftovers from the previous week

Monday, Jan. 16: Sonoma Chicken Salad on lettuce with crackers or bread and Fruit Salad (This is THE BEST chicken salad I have ever eaten!)

Tuesday, Jan. 17: Breakfast for Supper! Fried tenderloin (deer), Southwestern Hash Browns, Scrambled Eggs, Biscuits, & Fruit

Wednesday, Jan. 18: Big Meatballs in Herb Tomato Sauce (from this great cookbook) on angel hair pasta with Salad

Thursday, Jan. 19: Sweet Potato-Black Bean Quesadillas with lettuce and tomatoes and Fruit

Friday, Jan. 20: Pizza Night!!

Saturday, Jan. 21: Meatball subs with chips

Sunday, Jan. 22: Leftovers

Monday, Jan. 23: Salmon Wellington (freezer) with Brown-Wild Rice & Broccoli and Carrots

That's what we'll be eating these next few days.  What's on YOUR menu?

Blessings to you!
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Friday, January 13, 2012

I'm Back on Feedburner: My Apologies!

If you had subscribed to Growing in His Glory via email and thought I was no longer writing, I APOLOGIZE.

Apparently, Feedburner limits the file size that it will burn, so when the blog reached maximum capacity some time in early December, Feedburner stopped sending emails of my feeds.  Please forgive my technological ignorance!   I believe I have remedied the problem and would love for you to resubscribe!

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Thank you for bearing with me as I navigate the foreign terrain that is the blogosphere.  I pray God's richest blessings on you!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

When We Are Tested by God

Since we found out in August that we would be having a third child, we have been working towards putting our house on the market and moving into something a little bigger. Like most women--I would imagine, I have been super excited about the prospects of a new home even if it isn't brand new.  My husband purchased our home before we married and so I have never felt like this house has been my "home," so being a part of the decision-making process for a "new" place has made me a little giddy.  

But then last week, after starting Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and putting together our budget, my husband pointed out the likely possibility that we couldn't afford to move right now. We don't have any debt (except the mortgage) and we live very modestly, but like everyone, we're feeling the strain of the economy and money just isn't going as far as it used to. I knew before he even said the dreaded words that we probably would be staying right here--at least for a little while--and I was, admittedly, heartbroken.  
After dropping our daughter off at Mother's Day Out--a luxury for my sanity--my eyes brimmed with tears. Thoughts of more space, rooms for each child, a larger kitchen, a nicer neighborhood, a bonus room for the kids' toys--all those extras, not "necessities"--loomed largely in my mind, and suddenly we were back to our three bedroom, 1,100 square foot house, a place that I still, after nearly five years here, reluctantly call home. [I'm ashamed to admit that I have never made much of an attempt to make our house a sanctuary for our family because I always thought (hoped) we would be leaving it soon.] Instead of feeling gratitude for what we had I was devastated. 

But just at that moment, tears streaming down my cheeks, God opened my eyes.  While stopped at a red-light, a young woman dressed neatly in a long denim skirt holding a cardboard sign reading "My family needs help!" was standing right outside my car window.  Usually, I am quick to turn a blind eye to people asking for money (something I really need to work on), but this girl stood out to me, and I knew I had to do something.  I pulled out my wallet and the wad of gift cards in my purse, rolled down the window, and handed her a small gift. Nothing much really.  But as I gave the money and gift card to the woman, I heard her praising God.  I wept.
Oh, my ingratitude!  To have a house to live in, to have food to eat, to have clean clothes to wear, to have so much, and yet I am always wanting more.  What right did I have to be upset?

Rembrandt's The Sacrifice of Isaac

As I think about the internal struggle I am going through, I know God is testing me.  He knows how I will respond; He knows the outcome.  But He's refining me to make me more like Him, and He will not stop until I am completely His. I have a long, LONG way to go, but I am grateful that I am loved by such a God who promises:
"...[God] will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

                                                      -I Corinthians 10:13

"'Never will I leave you nor forsake you.'"
                                                -Hebrews 13:5b
As our Bible study leader pointed out in her message yesterday, a refiner doesn't take his eyes off the silver in the furnace lest it be ruined, but he sits close by, watching very carefully so he can pull out the finished product at just the precise moment.  How does he knows when it's finished? When he can see his own reflection in the silver. So also when we are put to the test, God sits closely by us, watching and waiting until He can see His image in us. The process of refinement is painful, yet it is necessary if we want to be more like our Creator. 

Are you in the midst of a test or trial right now?  Trust in God's promises.  He will carry you through.  

I pray God's richest blessings on you!

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Making Quiet Time with the Lord Your Top Priority

A common struggle for many women is finding time with the Lord. This struggle isn't just for young moms, although most of us certainly seem to have it, but also for career women, single women, women without children, and women whose children are grown. Yet, despite the season we find ourselves in, having and fostering a relationship with the Lord should be our top priority: above our husbands, our children, even the housework. Unless we make Jesus Christ the first and most important "to-do" on our lists each day, our husbands will suffer, our children will suffer, our homes will suffer, and we will suffer. How can we make it through the day without the Lord?

I love what our preacher said in his sermon yesterday: "Even more essential than our physical nourishment, than food or drink, is our spiritual sustenance." We make time to eat and drink at least three times a day, but what would happen if we viewed God's Word as the only form of sustenance we needed: the Living Water and the Bread of Life?
"Jesus answered and said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'"

-John 4:13-14

"But He answered and said, 'It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"

-Matthew 4:4
When women confess to me that they struggle to find quiet time to spend with the Lord, I must admit that I'm a bit critical in my thinking. I want to say, "Get up earlier!" or "Turn off the TV!" But I've been there. I know how hard it is to wake up any earlier in the mornings when you've been up all night with a newborn. I know how it feels to just want to relax on the couch with your husband after a long day and watch your favorite shows together. And there's nothing wrong with either of those things. But we have to reassess our priorities. Who is my first priority: the Lord or myself?

If we truly want a relationship with the Lord--if we desire the peace and security He offers, if we yearn to know Him more intimately, if we crave quiet times with Him in meditation and prayer--we will make time for Him. We will postpone our human needs and wants and find true fulfillment in our Lord.
"I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food."
-Job 23:12
Most mornings I crawl out of bed around 5:30 when my husband's alarm goes off. It's tough to do and when our youngest was still waking up at nights to nurse, I often rolled over and went back to sleep. But since she's been sleeping through the night, I have found that I can go to bed early (around 9-9:30) and be fully rested with eight hours of sleep when 5:30 arrives. The girls generally wake up between 6 and 6:30, so I usually have 30-45 minutes to pray, read my devotional, and prepare for the day.

Lest you think I'm Wonder Woman, there are plenty of mornings when I oversleep or a child has been up at night and I need extra rest, and that early morning quiet time falls by the wayside. Then, I try to keep the girls in their rooms for a few extra minutes so I can say a quick prayer and commit the day to the Lord. I will tell you that on mornings when I don't have time for the Lord, my days fall apart pretty quickly. But after MANY early mornings with the Lord, it's become a habit; I have found that I CRAVE my time in the Word and in prayer, even forgoing that first cup of coffee just so I can get in a verse or two from His Word first. (Of course when baby #3 arrives in May, things will change once again; that is the beauty of the seasonality of motherhood.)

I want to encourage you, though, to make God your top priority. Set aside time every day to commune with Him. Forgo food and drink temporarily so you can feed on Him. Before long it will become a habit, and you won't be able to make it through the day without Him. You will find that He will satisfy your appetites and meet all your needs.

Blessings to you!
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Growing Home

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pantry Challenge Update #1 & Menu Plan for the Week

Last Monday I posted my initial goals for the January Pantry Challenge that I am participating in with Life as Mom and scores of others across the globe. Each week I plan to give you an update on my progress. 

My original goals were (1) to lower our weekly grocery budget, which hovers around $75 per week; (2) make & keep a running inventory of what's in our pantry, freezer, and fridge; and (3) shop only for the basics and my stockpile. 

(1) Last week I kept all my receipts so I could keep track of my spending for the month.  I was completely shocked to see that I only spent $38.75 at the grocery store.  I didn't buy any meat because we have tons in the freezer, which certainly lowered my spending.  As I make the weekly grocery list today, I KNOW that my spending will definitely be higher this week; however, I plan to keep it under $75 and use as much of what we have as possible. 

(2) Last week I also took inventory of all the food and condiments in the house and have been fairly diligent about marking items off as we eat them and adding items as we purchase them.  These handy-dandy inventory worksheets I created have been a lifesaver for sure!  I hope you'll take advantage of them or make your own. 

(3) Shopping for only the basics isn't my struggle.  Every week we need a fresh supply of milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, fruits & veggies.  We are going through lots of fresh and dried fruits right now so I'm trying to keep that stocked up and buying less crackers.  My struggle is with my stockpile.  I think I have a hoarder personality because I don't want to use up the meat or shrimp in the freezer unless I can replenish it soon.  I'm not sure what my actual struggle is with, but I feel compelled to buy and buy items when they are at a rock bottom price for fear that the deal won't come back around for a long time. 

The Pantry Challenge has really shown me so far that I am capable of making do with less if I'm only creative with the ingredients available to me.  I'm trying new recipes--some good, some not so good--to use up these foods so as not to let them spoil.  I'm also finding that having an inventory is not only key to being successful in this pantry challenge but also integral to not being wasteful.

For my Menu Plan for the week of January 8th, click here.  I'm doing my menu planning two weeks at a time this month.  Despite a few changes, it has truly been nice not to have to think a lot about what to fix every week. 

If you're doing a similar Pantry Challenge, how are things going for you?  I'd love to hear from you!  


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Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Hunger Games: A Book Review

 If you look at my reading list for Bookin' It in 2012, you won't find Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games--and the other two novels in her trilogy--on there until August, but I put the book on reserve at our local public library, unsure when it would become available since it's very popular here right now, and was able to check it out last week.  I had only one week to read it, but I didn't need that long to read The Hunger Games because this is one book that is a very quick read. 

I would compare The Hunger Games to two of my all-time favorite books: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and Margaret Atwood's The Handsmaid's Tale (1985).  All three works are dystopian novels: works that depict an oppressed and impoverished society sometime in the future in which the majority of inhabitants live completely at the mercy of the ruling minority by punishing outward rebellion and keeping the people under their thumb through starvation and strict rules.  

The Hunger Games is set in Panem, the ruins of North America.  Ruled by the iron hand of the Capitol, the twelve districts of Panem are reminded each year of their precarious positions by the Hunger Games, an annual event in which two children--a boy and a girl--from each district are sent to fight to the death, gladiator-style, before a television audience. It's kind of what it might have been like if the gladiator fights at the Roman Colosseum had been televised.

District Twelve is the focus of The Hunger Games, where the novel's protagonist and heroine, Katniss Everdeen, lives with her widowed mother and younger sister Prim, surviving primarily by Katniss's ability to hunt and gather. We see immediately the level of devotion and loyalty that Katniss possesses in her protection of her little sister.  When Prim's name is drawn to participate in the games, Katniss volunteers to take her place--an almost unheard of action at this time. Peeta Mellark, the son of a local baker who once threw burnt bread to Katniss when she and her family were near starvation, is also named to fight in the Hunger Games.  The novel then follows Katniss and Peeta's preparations for and participation in the games where the aim is to kill or be killed and where only the strongest and smartest will survive.  (However, the Capitol, of course, still has control over the outcome.)

To me, the beauty of The Hunger Games is the development of the characters, most notably Katniss, through whose eyes we see the harsh reality of living in a world at the mercy of an authoritarian government that punishes nonconformity and keeps its inhabitants in a state of oppression.  For Katniss, who has had to step up and fill her father's shoes following his death (caused indirectly by the Capitol), life is about providing for her family's basic needs; anything else--music, beauty, love--is extraneous and impractical. Ironically, it is when she leaves her home in District Twelve and enters an arena of the most inhuman(e) conditions that Katniss discovers the beauty of humanity.  Even while fighting to survive with limited food and water and any number of predators--human and animal--lying in wait to kill her, she takes the time to sing to a dying girl. After the girl's death, Katniss decorates the body with flowers, effectively rendering beautiful the ugliness of death, an act of rebellion that does not set well with the Capitol.

The literary critic in me could go on and on, but I won't because I want you to read the book for yourself!  It's a nail-biter and a tear-jerker, an escape from reality yet not so far-fetched as you might think. The intensity and suspense of the plot as well as the beauty of the characters and their individual struggles to survive and also maintain their identities makes The Hunger Games a book that I would highly recommend.  It's clean; it's well-written; it's thought-provoking (Are we very far from becoming a society like this one?).  Check it out at the library if you're cheap like me, borrow it from a friend, or snag a used copy from Amazon.  Just read it!  There's something for everyone in there.  (I will post on the other two books later.)

I'm also looking forward to seeing the movie set to release March 23, 2012.  Check out the trailer here.
Have you read The Hunger Games?  What are your thoughts?  What did you like/dislike about the book?

Blessings to you!


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Bake

 If I had been sticking to my menu plan, we would have been having Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing on Wednesday night.  However, since I didn't end up going out of town on Tuesday, I decided to use up the roasted chicken from Monday to make this recipe.  Let's just say that what started out as a 9 x 13 pan of enchiladas ended up with one little Ziploc storage container of leftovers.  Cora, the 15-month-old, ate two bowls, and Daniel and I both had two platefuls.  
Since I am trying to forgo making extra purchases at the grocery store and instead use ingredients on hand as part of the Pantry Challenge, I made the enchilada sauce from scratch.  Don't be scared by all the ingredients: they are all things you probably have in your pantry. And, oh my, it's divine!  Plus, you can make your sauce earlier in the day, throw everything together, and then put it in the oven thirty minutes before dinnertime.  Easy and delicious!

Here's what you need:

Enchilada Sauce
1 T. canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. chili powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. cumin
1/4 t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 large can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
2-3 drops hot sauce
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil and saute onion and garlic until tender.  
 Add chili powder, flour, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper to taste.  Then, add broth and stir until thickened.
Add tomato sauce and hot sauce and stir. 
Stir in the chicken and simmer on medium-low heat uncovered for 10 minutes.

The Rest of the Bake Ingredients

10 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Usually, I make enchiladas the traditional way--by softening the tortillas, filling, then rolling them up.  However, for some reason, all my corn tortillas sliced in half.  Who knows?  So, I opted to cut them into strips, then tear them into smaller, bite-size pieces.

Add a layer of enchilada sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. 
Then, spread torn up corn tortillas on top of sauce, sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese, and top with a few dollops of sour cream.

Sauce-Tortillas-Cheese-Sour cream.  Repeat layer after layer until all ingredients are used up.  End with cheese on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with avocado, lettuce, and tomatoes or your favorite toppings.  Delicious!

Serves 5-6.

I hope you enjoy this adaptation of a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Big Book of Potluck.

Blessings to you!

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Photobucket> A-Wise-Woman-Builds-Her-Home

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Getting Back into the Groove

With the holidays finally behind us (man, do I sound like a Scrooge?), I feel like we can now ease back into a routine. I don't know about you, but the schedules and routines that hold our days together suddenly disappear in the midst of the holiday season when Daddy's home and "school" is out. So, today and for the rest of this week, the girls and I are catching up on some much-needed rest and slowly getting back into the groove of life as we know it. That means returning to "school" for Kate tomorrow, getting back into a nap routine for both girls, reestablishing my regular cleaning schedule, more "from scratch" cooking, and simply getting organized.

I'm also ready to get back into a groove with this here blog. I've been so busy and scatter-brained lately that writing hasn't been high on my agenda. That's pretty much because I have trouble remembering what day of the week it is most days! Oh, the joys of having "pregnant brain"! But I do want to let you know about some of the topics I'll be covering this month on Growing in His Glory to keep you checking in:
  • The January Pantry Challenge.  I'll post weekly progress reports here on Mondays.
  • Bookin' It!  You can check out my 2012 reading list here. This month I'm reading Tsh Oxenreider's Organized Simplicity plus finishing up Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) AND The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Let's just say these are three VERY different books that have put me into VERY different frames of mind (from tears and laughter to fear and stomach-churning). I'll be posting the book reviews for each as I finish them. 
  • New recipes I'm trying out
  • Devotional thoughts for the New Year
  • And the beginning of a new series in February on Prayer
Thank you for reading and especially for your encouraging comments. They keep me motivated! I pray God's richest blessings on you and your families in the year 2012.  Pray for me as I get back into my blogging groove!  Thanks so much!

God bless!

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Will You Join Me For a Pantry Challenge?

Well, it's the start of a new year and with that comes new beginnings, new goals, and new attempts at productivity.  When the door to our freezer wouldn't shut the other night, I decided it was high time for another "Eat-from-the-freezer-and-pantry Challenge".  So, I will be participating with Life as Mom and other bloggers in the January pantry challenge.

Essentially, a pantry challenge is what you want it to be; you set your own personal goals.  The first year I participated I wrongly assumed that I was only to eat what food we had on hand and not spend a penny at the grocery store.  Let's just say I gave up after a week!  If you have a very large stockpile of food in your freezer, fridge, and pantry and want to see how much money you can save by not buying groceries, then I say "Go for it!"  But don't limit yourself or you may burnout pretty quick!

Since that very first pantry challenge, I have modified my goals to accommodate our family's needs while still attempting to save some money at the grocery store.  This go-around my goals are much more lax than they have been in the past, yet I hope this will help me stick with it.
 January Pantry Challenge Goals

1. Lower our Weekly Grocery Budget!
Create a two-week menu plan and concentrate on using up the food we have already.  If I need extra ingredients, though, I'll get them although I do want to limit those extras and use up what we've got.

2. Inventory it!
Take & keep inventory of the contents of my freezer, refrigerator, and pantry, so I will know what we have and, when something goes on sale, so I can stock-up!
3. Shop only for the Basics & My Stockpile!
Limit grocery shopping to the basics (milk, yogurt, eggs, bread, & fresh produce) and stockpiling when I find a really great deal.  If it's not essential and not at my stock-up price, then I'm not buying it!

 Tools for a Successful Pantry Challenge

What is essential to me in taking part in a pantry challenge is to first take inventory of all the food you have at your disposal.  In my experience, if you don't know what foods you have, then you won't be very successful in cleaning out your freezer, fridge, and pantry.  I have created three very simple inventory worksheets that you can download and save or print out.  You can find my Refrigerator Inventory, Freezer Inventory, and Pantry Inventory worksheets here.

The second essential tool for a successful pantry challenge is to create and stick with a menu plan.  I have decided this time to plan my meals every two weeks (one day I'll plan a monthly meal plan!).  I have a handy Menu Plan & Grocery List worksheet that you can download here I just print out one each week; jot down our menu on one side and any extra ingredients I'll need from the store on the other.  Then, I can take it with me when I get groceries and post it on the fridge for the family to see.
I hope that if you have a bursting-at-the-seams pantry, fridge, and freezer, you will join me (and many others) for the January pantry challenge.  It's a great way to clean out the old and make way for the new in this brand new year!  Be sure to check out my handy-dandy Freezer/Refrigerator/Pantry Inventory and Menu Plan & Grocery List worksheets free for your use.

Blessings to you!

Photobucket> A-Wise-Woman-Builds-Her-Home

Menu Plan for the Weeks of January 1st-14th

I've decided to menu plan for two weeks instead of one during this month's pantry challenge.  I think it will relieve the anxiety I feel every Saturday when I start looking at the fridge and freezer contents and ponder what we'll be eating for the next seven days.  Instead of getting antsy five times this month, I'll only suffer two or maybe three times tops.  Yes, I'm being a bit dramatic, but if I can do this two-week meal plan, then it'll ease some of stress.  I really don't like making decisions.

Here's what we'll be eating this week. 

Oatmeal with fresh blueberries & cinnamon
Cinnamon toast & scrambled eggs with cheese
Yogurt with granola & fruit
Scrambled eggs with sliced smoked salmon
Pancakes & bacon {weekend fare}
French toast & sausage {weekend fare}
Whole wheat pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins with fruit

Turkey or ham sandwiches with fruit
Black bean or refried bean quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas with carrot sticks or fruit
Grilled cheese & soup
Cheese, turkey, & crackers with cherry tomatoes
Peanut butter & jelly and carrot sticks
Creamy mac & cheese with fruit

Sunday, Jan. 1: Snack-y supper

Monday, Jan. 2: Oven-roasted chicken with long grain & wild rice and green beans

Tuesday, Jan. 3: Out of town

Wednesday, Jan. 4: Spinach salad with warm bacon dressing and quick rolls

Thursday, Jan. 5: Spinach & mushroom cream cheese lasagna with salad and garlic bread {Can you tell we have a lot of spinach in the fridge to use up?}

Friday, Jan. 6: Pizza Night!  {I'm thinking pesto (from this summer) mixed with pizza sauce, some Italian sausage and sauteed mushrooms and onions. Yum yum!}

Saturday, Jan. 7: Leftovers or Dinner Out

Sunday, Jan. 8: Barbecue chicken sandwiches with coleslaw and baked beans

Monday, Jan. 9: Penne with shrimp and herbed cream sauce, steamed broccoli

Tuesday, Jan. 10: Slow cooker carne asada with fresh guacamole, salsa, and fixins' on whole wheat tortillas

Wednesday, Jan. 11: Pintos and cornbread with broccoli & cauliflower with cheese sauce

Thursday, Jan. 12: Baked spaghetti, salad, and garlic rolls

Friday, Jan. 13: Pizza Night! 

Saturday, Jan. 14: Leftovers or Dinner Out

Have you ever meal planned for longer than a week? I'm working towards a month-long plan.  Any tips?