Signs of Spring!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Last week I spotted 2 little robins outside my office window. A sure sign that spring is indeed coming. It has been a weird winter -- I am happy to know spring is coming but not sure winter has had it's last hurrah yet.

Last weekend my daughters wanted to drive to Kearney, NE to do some shopping at Target. Although I am fiscal fasting, I went along for the ride. We saw another sign that spring is indeed on it's way --

Sandhill Cranes!

They stop over in Nebraska at the Platte River on their migration north. The skies were FULL of cranes. What a spectacular sight! Now we've had some other signs of spring too -- warmer temperatures, rain, thunderstorms AND a tornado watch too.

What is your first indication that spring is on it's way?

When we were shopping, Baby Gabe's Momma forgot to bring his Moby Wrap (oh, isn't that a wonderful invention) so Auntie carried him around in her jacket -- he was HAPPY!!

If you haven't entered in for my latest giveaway, be sure to scoot over and enter in HERE.

Gooseberry Patch Early Bird Review & GIVEAWAY ~ Meals In Minutes - ROUND 2

Monday, February 27, 2012
ROUND 2 of my 10th Anniversary Edition of Meals in Minutes review!
My friend Lynda is a fabulous cook and has had MANY recipes included in Gooseberry Patch books. This panini recipe among them. I use this recipe a lot when my garden is producing at peak. I will swap out the veggies depending on what I have the MOST of at any given time -- I especially like the addition of eggplant.

Don't have a panini press? Don't let that stop you -- here is a tutorial for making panini without one.

Roasted Veggie Panini
Gooseberry Patch's 10th Anniversary Edition of Meals in Minutes (submitted by: Lynda McCormick, Burkburnett, TX)
(Printable Version)

2 zucchini, thickly sliced
1 yellow squash, thickly sliced
8-oz pkg portabella mushrooms
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 loaf sourdough bread, sliced (I'll use whatever hearty bread I have on hand)
1 red pepper, thickly sliced
1 green pepper, thickly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thickly sliced
1 c spinach leaves
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
4 slices provolone cheese

Combine zucchini, squash and mushrooms in a large bowl; toss with one teaspoon of olive oil and vinegar. Grill or broil until tender; set aside. Saute onion in remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until caramelized; set aside. Spread tops and bottoms of bread slices with desired amount of Olive Tapenade; layer peppers, spinach, tomatoes and cheese evenly on half of the bread slices. Top with veggies and remaining bread slices; grill or broil lightly on both sides. Makes 4.

Olive Tapenade *
6-oz jar pitted green olives, drained
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 c olive oil

Pulse ingredients in a food processor until desired consistency is achieved. Refrigerate any remaining mixture in an airtight container. Makes about 1/2 cup.

* I have used a premade tapenade with great results too.

OKAY -- now to the IMPORTANT stuff -- to enter to win a copy of this book BEFORE it is even released AND a vintage-inspired Faithfulness Farm Apron and Tee Towel set - leave a comment HERE AND for a BONUS ENTRY, blog OR post on Facebook about the review and giveaway (you are welcome to use my giveaway photo). Please leave me a comment so I know to give you credit for your entry. ONE more bonus entry and another recipe to look for on Thursday this week!! Giveaway closes Tuesday March 6th.

Gooseberry Patch Early Bird Review & GIVEAWAY ~ Meals In Minutes

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In 1996 we did something that a lot of people were doing for the first time about then – we hooked up our home computer to the phone line and went *online*. It didn’t take me long to discover a *community* of people just like me. AOL’s WHAT’S FOR DINNER message board (this board was later renamed Let's Discuss Dinner and now is just history). There I met a group of friends that loved to exchange ideas about feeding our families, recipes and just general tidbit’s about each other’s lives. Many of these friendships have endured. It was there that I first heard of Gooseberry Patch. A couple of the girls had contributed recipes to their cookbooks and had been *published*. It didn’t take me long or much convincing -- I ran out and purchased my first GBP book (Celebrate Autumn) and started sending them recipes regularly. I remember the day I got my first letter from them saying they would be including one of my recipes in an upcoming book – I stood at the end of my long, rural driveway jumping up and down like a goof. All these years (and many books) later, I still have that reaction when a see something in my mailbox from them. AND when a new book comes to me, the first thing I do is flip through it to see how many of my friends are also in that book. Blogging has brought me more friendships from GBP contributors. I always feel very honored to be included in a publication and among the company of such wonderful cooks.

I was very excited when I was asked to review the soon-to-be released 10th Anniversary Edition of Meals in Minutes. It was one of the first books I had a recipe included in and unlike reviewing a new book that I am just seeing for the first time and picking recipes I never made before – this book is an OLD FRIEND - I love this book and I love it’s recipes! This new edition is simply wonderful with 20 NEW recipes included. When I thought about what recipes I wanted to share with my readers from this book I thought of my old WFD friends.
My friends Lynda and Steph both have recipes in this book (they both have recipes in several GBP books). You can NEVER go wrong with a recipe from Lynda or Steph. Lynda has a couple THOUSAND of her wonderful recipes available at Recipe Circus and Steph maintained a webpage, Steph’s Country Kitchen Goodness which now is the blog Steph’s Kitchen – AGAIN, recipes from these gals are always top-notch. I also want to share the recipe I have in this book -- all these years later, it is still a winner.

Up first Steph's Ham & Pineapple Kabobs!

I've made this recipe many, many times. I've used both ham and pork chop cubes and think both versions are equally fabulous. I will tell you that we prefer to make this with fresh pineapple -- grilled fresh pineapple is a HUGE hit with my kids. On the side, another recipe from this book - Monterey Bread and a salad. Those of you who follow my Low-Carb Living segments, I want you to know that I ate a grilled pork chop and the salad -- these are NOT low carb recipes but very enjoyable for those who can handle the carbs.

Ham & Pineapple Kabobs
Gooseberry Patch's Meals in Minutes (Contributed by: Stephanie Moon, Nampa, ID)
(Printable Version)

1-1/2 lbs smoked ham, cubed
8-oz can pineapple chunks, juice reserved
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Alternately thread ham and pineapple onto skewers; place in a 13x9-inch baking pan. Combine reserved juice with remaining ingredients. Reserve 1/2 cup for basting. Pour remaining mixture over kabobs, turning to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours, turning occasionally. Grill over medium-hot coals, turning twice and brushing with reserved marinade until hot and golden, about 10 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Monterey Bread
Gooseberry Patch's Meal In Minutes (contributed by: Rita Welters, Bellingham, WA)
(Printable Version)

1 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, chopped
1 loaf French bread

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, butter, cheeses, garlic and onions; mix well. Slice French bread in half horizontally; spread mayonnaise mixture thickly on each half. Bake at 375 degrees until golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 16 servings.

Look for Lynda's recipe posted Monday 2/27 and mine on Thursday 3/1 AND did I forget to mention that there is going to be a GIVEAWAY?!! YAY -- GBP has provided me with a copy the 10th Anniversary Edition of Meals in Minutes to give to you and since this book is SO special to me, I've put together a grouping of special add-ons -- a hand-embroidered Faithfulness Farm Apron AND 5 days-of-the week hand-embroidered tee-towels. Entry is open to all FOLLOWERS of Faithfulness Farm (OLD and NEW) --- Bonus entries will be included on the upcoming 2 posts, so look for thosea and enter, enter, enter. Oh, how do you enter you ask --

Leave a comment on THIS post - that is it. Easy-Peasy!!
This giveaway will be open until Tuesday, March 6th.

Low Carb Living ~ Mushrooms w/Madeira Sauce

Thursday, February 23, 2012
Since I started eating low carb, I've been on the look out for new and DELICIOUS ways to prepare low carb vegetables. So many sauces are easily adaptable, including this very yummy Madeira Sauce. The original recipe called for making a roux with flour and then adding solution, skip the flour AND milk and go straight to cream. This made a lovely side dish to some grilled flat-iron steaks and a romaine salad.

Mushrooms w/Madeira Sauce
(Printable Version)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter for sauce plus one Tbsp for mushrooms
1.5 pound mixed fresh or dry mushrooms (shitake, porcini, oyster)
1/2 cup Madeira wine
1 cup vegetable broth (or liquid from reconstituted dried mushrooms or mixture of both)
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Butter a casserole dish. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the 1 Tbsp butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. If using dry mushrooms, reconstitute in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes and drain, reserving liquid before sautéing. Place mushrooms in the prepared casserole dish and set aside, cover to keep it warm. For the sauce, Add broth (or mushroom liquid) to skillet over medium heat. Bring to a boil, scrapping up all bits. Reduce liquid to half. Add cream. Whisk sauce, slowly adding the Madeira wine. Whisk in butter, 1 Tbsp at a time. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a touch of cayenne. Pour over mushrooms. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the top is golden and the cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

Net Carbs: 10 grams per serving

Posting to Foodie Friday.

Fiscal Fasting ~ 2/2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I don't officially start fasting until Saturday but I have another post going up then so I figured I'd post this a little early -- I have no plans to spend any money between now and then with the exception of filling my gas tank. Oh, and speaking of THAT, I noticed gas has creeped up to $3.49 a gallon here with lots of hoopla about it continuing to rise. How much are you paying for gas? Does it make you think twice about unnecessary trips?

Round 2 of Fiscal Fasting for me for 2012. Last month, I was able to abstain from spending for the full 7 days. YAY!! A few things have changed in my budget since then. I purchased a car -- although I put down a good-sized down payment, I financed a portion too. That means a car payment (it still scares to write those words, lol). Debt -- I really hate it - That makes my modest budget even more modest. In this case, it was the right decision but it still makes me want to get it paid off asap.

Back to my fast, NO spending for the next 7 days. I know that a lot of you, like me, are experienced thrifty's but it is amazing to me to talk with folks and find that *not spending* isn't even on their radar. A friend of mine and I discussed this a few days ago. She talked about giving up clothing shopping for lent. I am not sure if that is indeed what she did but I know that is a big deal for this friend.

I thought I would share when weighing the merits of a potential purchase, some of the things I consider……

Do I need it to live? - This puts food, clothing (to some degree) and the such at the top of the list.

Do I already own something that will meet the same need? - This prevents me from getting take-out food when I have food at home, or buying a new pair of shoes when I already have many pairs.

Will it solve or prevent a real problem? - I don't need toothpaste to live, but it prevents cavities and bad breath so I'm going to buy it. I may think that boredom requires a new DVD, but that's not a real problem so it doesn't pass the test.

Will it provide SOME kind of value? - Sometimes things aren't necessary but we want them anyway. For example, I bought a new laptop last year. It provides me opportunity to blog, keep in contact with friends and family and a great amount of entertainment. So even though I don't need a laptop to live and it doesn't necessarily solve a real problem, I still decided it was worth buying.

Can I afford this item without going into debt? - If I have to go into debt for something I must have to live, I can deal with that (though I'd rather not go into debt - my new car fits into this category). But if it's not a need and I've still decided to buy it, I have to make sure I can do it without pulling out a credit card.

Will someone be angry if I buy this? - Will I have to hide it or hide the receipt? Now that I'm divorced, I don't have a spouse that I have to answer to and even when I was married, I was never one of those wives (although I’ve had friends like this) who pull the tags off new clothes and sneak them into the closet (Hint: This is a sign that you shouldn't have bought said clothes).

Could my money be better spent elsewhere? - Can I really justify buying a pair of shoes if I know my car needs an oil change?

Is the "something else" really important? - Am I spending money that needs to go toward bills? If so, not buying is the wise choice. If the money is just earmarked for a competing *want*, I'll have to make a choice between the 2 *wants*.

Do I still want the item after all this? - If I get through this list of questions and I haven't given up, I'm probably buying whatever the want is. Going through this is my mind though saves me from a lot of impulse buying. Some stores REALLY seem to fuel impulse buying – WAL-MART is one (at least for me). I don’t know if it is something in the air or music or what, but it always seemed I’d go in for a few necessities and come out with a cart FULL – I am very cautious of using my list when I shop in there – if it isn’t on my list, it has to pass the test.

Oh Baby Love,

Monday, February 20, 2012
my baby love....I need you, oh, how I need you!!

Had a little sweetie (and his Momma) come spend the weekend with me. Oh, the FUN we had!! Yesterday he was 4 weeks old -- don't know how the time has passed so quickly but it has. I know that I am partial BUT isn't he simply GORGEOUS?!

I thought I'd post a little catch-up this morning. I think that FINALLY my cold is on it's way out and my voice is back to full use. Keller is up and walking on his own. He was released from the hospital over the weekend but has to stay in Boston for a follow-up appointment on Wednesday. If all goes well, he will be on his way home to Nebraska after that. Thank you for your continued prayers!

This last weekend I did all the cooking involved in reviewing a soon-to-be released Gooseberry Patch cookbook. I am so excited about this particular review -- there is going to be a pretty fun giveaway too. Look for that post on Saturday!

Wishing everyone a very blessed week!

Low Carb Living ~ Peanut Butter Cookies - Low Carb Style

Thursday, February 16, 2012

First off I have to confess that I have a PROBLEM with peanut butter. I love it. I would (and have) chosen to forgo a meal just so I can eat a big ol' spoonful of it (especially if there is also a cup of coffee involved). I really try to not have it in the house -- especially if I am in lose mode, not just maintain mode. That said, SOMETIMES it is nice to have a little treat. These cookies are the BOMB!! - BUT they are a treat - not for everyday consumption. I wrote that for MY benefit :)

Peanut Butter Cookies – Low-Carb Style
(Printable Version)

1 large Egg
1/2 teaspoon pure Vanilla extract
1 cup Splenda or 1/2 C. Splenda 1/2 C. Brown Sugar Twin
1 Cup Peanut Butter (Sugar & Salt free,
1 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt

Preheat over to 350°F. Beat egg in bowl with fork. Add vanilla extract then Splenda. Add Peanut butter & mix till well combined. Lastly add baking soda. & salt. Divide dough into 20 little balls and put on a Parchment lined Cookie sheet. Press down on cookies with a fork to make a crisscross pattern. Bake for 8-10 Minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet.

Each cookie: 84 calories and 2 net carbs

Keller UPDATE!

Here is an update from Keller's Daddy:

Surgery is over. The surgeon was very pleased with the outcome. They were able to remove about 80% of the tumor. It was a very low grade glioma which is benign. At this point he will just have to have MRI's every so often to monitor the remaining portion. If it doesn't grow back he should be to go. If it does, he will have to have some chemotherapy but the surgeon said they have had excellent results with chemotherapy and this type of tumor. All in all a very good prognosis. Thank you all so much for you thoughts and prayers. Please continue to pray that his follow-ups are good and he can get back to being a healthy little boy. More later...

Thank you ALL for praying -- we serve such an AWESOME God! Please continue to pray that the remaining tumor doesn't grow.

Power Through!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

* Nothing you can't handle * Be unstoppable * Take charge and mean it * Buckle down and push forth * Don't waste a precious minute * Fire up those engines * Go for it * You can do it and you know it * Seize the day * Go get it * Keep your chin up * You got it in you * Put a little strut in it * Be resilient *

Day #3 of having NO VOICE. My new signature scent is Vick's AND I have now used 2 full boxes of tissues AND consumed 2 bags of Sugar-Free Triple Soothing Action drops with the catchy pep talk phrases on each wrapper. Really, do we need a pep talk on each drop? Seriously, I've grown weary of this cold. I really just want it to move on now. I am belly-aching but the truth is the fact that I have no voice is the sign that it is coming to it's end. So on that note, I thought I'd share a few things about living with a cold.

Up first -- How to PROPERLY blow your nose. Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way!

•Blow your nose gently. Blowing too hard creates even more pressure that can force infectious mucus into your ears and sinuses.

•Avoid the "both-nostrils-open" blow. Instead ...

•Press a finger over one nostril.

•Gently blow your nose into a paper tissue through the one open nostril.

•Switch your finger to close the opposite nostril, and repeat.

•Although you will feel most "stuffed-up" when you first wake up (after lying flat all night), don't blow your nose immediately. It's best to wait five or 10 minutes after you've been sitting upright before doing so.

•Drink plenty of fluids. This will make it easier for mucus to be removed by blowing gently. Blowing your nose after taking a steamy shower can also help.

•Use paper tissues rather than cloth handkerchiefs. A used handkerchief is a breeding ground for germs -- and when you reuse it you're spreading those germs around your face and hands.

•Only use a paper tissue once, then throw it away. This minimizes the risk of putting germs back onto your face and hands.

•Wash your hands when you're finished, as germs from your nose and tissue will be transferred to your fingers while you blow.

Gargling with warm salt water DOES help. As does drinking warm drinks, lots of rest and I have become a huge fan of Mucinex.

One of the girls I work with insists that putting Vick's Vaporub on the bottom of your feet cures a cough and helps you get rid of a cold quicker.

FALSE! There is no credible scientific evidence to back up this claim. The Vapo-action requires you breathe the camphor fumes to get relief -- at 5'2", my feet are still too far from my nose for there to be much relief :)

Now that I have said all of that, I have something serious to ask of you. My daughter asked me to request prayer for one of her little daycare boys. Keller is 2 years old with the most crystal blue eyes you've ever seen. He is a ball of energy that is obsessed with fishing. His doctors have discovered a mass in his little body. That mass seems to be attached to his spine. He was taken to Omaha, NE and they have referred him to doctors in Boston. He is undergoing a biopsy there tomorrow. Please pray for him, his family and the wisdom of the doctors there in Boston. Thank-you!

Low-Carb Living ~ Hamburger Soup

Friday, February 10, 2012

Remember me whining about catching a cold just before my little grandson was born? It seemed to just disappear -- well, it has resurfaced and my plan for the weekend is to lay low and try to get over with it for good. Soup will certainly go far in my recovery. This Hamburger Soup recipe is one I make a lot to freeze in individual servings for taking to work for lunches. When you eat low carb it is really good to have a plan. Planning ahead means no last minute decisions and carb temptations. Are you feeding carb eaters too? - just boil some pasta (macaroni, shells, rotini, etc.) and serve the soup over the pasta for them.

Hamburger Soup
(Printable Version)

1 pound ground beef
4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
9 ounces cabbage, chopped, 1/2 medium or 4 cups
2 ounces fresh spinach thinly sliced
2 cans beef broth
4 broth cans water
8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Brown the hamburger with the onion and celery. Drain fat. Add the cabbage; cook and stir until tender. Add all remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for about 2 hours. Adjust seasoning to taste. Makes about 8 servings.
Can be frozen

Per Serving: 126 Calories; 7g Fat; 11g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 3g Net Carbs

HAPPY Birthday to a SPECIAL Man in my Life!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012
Dad & Mom on their 50th Anniversary 2010

I have a few very special men in my life -- 2 wonderful sons, my new grandson and my #1 man, my Daddy! Today he celebrates his 70th-something birthday. He has been such a rock to me and my family -- THANKS Dad, for all you've loved us through! I cannot wait to see you in May -- can you believe he is going to RUN a 10K race with my youngest sister and I?

SNOWED in for the Week-end!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Old Man Winter came for a weekend visit! In Hastings, NE, we got 12-inches of snow. Not just ordinary snow -- this was heavy, wet, blown around and stuck to everything kind of snow. Saturday was lots of cuddle time with grandbaby and enjoying multiple movies, comfort foods and hot drinks -- yesterday was shoveling, and shoveling and more shoveling! My favorite pine tree has sustained some major damage -- trees don't fair well on the prairie - I guess that is why God didn't put many here in the first place. We'll have to wait until we have some melt off to see if the whole thing will have to come down. That will make me sad -- my favorite red-boy hangs out in that tree and I get to look out on that tree from my kitchen window. Time will tell.

This week is shaping up to be a busy one. Work, some appointments and then picking up my new car at the end of the week. What is on your agenda for the week?

Keep warm!

Low Carb Living ~ Chili

Friday, February 3, 2012

Some good football food = CHILI. After I started eating low carb, I avoided chili for a long time thinking I wouldn't like it as well without beans. As so often I am, I was WRONG!! Beanless chili is both delicious and wonderfully low carb. I always serve this with some beans on the side for the non-low carb eaters to add to theirs AND lots of low carb toppings (grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro, sliced avocados). Everyone is happy that way!

Low Carb Chili
(Printable Version)

5 pounds boneless beef chuck stew meat, cut in 1½ -inch cubes
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp virgin olive oil or canola oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbsp ancho chile pepper powder or Mexican-style chili powder
1 (14½-oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
3/4 cup dry red wine or beef broth
4 large roasted garlic cloves, minced

Heat oven to 325°F. Toss beef with salt and pepper. Heat 1-1/2 tsp oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add one-third of the beef and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and repeat two more times with beef and oil. Add the last 1-1/2 tsp oil to Dutch oven and cook onion until lightly browned. Stir in chile powder, tomatoes, wine and garlic; bring to a simmer. Return beef and accumulated juices to Dutch oven. Cover and bake 2-1/2 hours, stirring once halfway through cooking time, until beef is very tender. Top with shredded cheese, sour cream, or green onions (optional). Servings: 10

Net Carbs: 3.5 grams

Fiscal Fasting ~ 1/2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thank you for all the great tips on saving money. Well, here I am at Day #6 (I started on Saturday - that is the day my work week officially starts) of my first week of Fiscal Fasting for 2012. I have stayed true to my goals -- NO SPENDING. Well, no money has gone out. I did a little online car shopping and started that process. I am going to be finally retiring my 1998 Honda Odyssey (with 270,000 miles). It has served me well and been a very frugal investment. I have to admit that the entire prospect of car shopping has caused me some stress but I have tried to turn the stress into opportunities for prayer.

Anyway, I usually allow myself lunch *out* with the girls at work once a week (they mostly eat out daily). NOT this week...and I think I am going to rethink that altogether. Lunch out is expensive and lunch brought from home is both more healthy and makes better fiscal sense. I have avoided all retail establishments -- boy, just going into some stores fuels spending and feelings of covetousness. I've worked on projects at home that I have already purchased materials for (you know, UFO's-- unfinished objects, lol) and visited the library. I also went with my daughter to Zumba class at the Y as a way of getting out and being entertained (I pay for my Y membership annually). I will need to visit the grocery store on Sunday -- but only for what I need. I've done a good job of using up some of what I had on hand.

February is a shorter month so I'll only a 3 week break from fasting before my next fast begins. Have you fasted? How did you do? If a week seems too much, maybe a NO-Spend Day is a better idea for starting out.