Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mexican Casserole (freezer meal)

I was looking for a good freezer meal that would use things I had on hand (though I did have to restock a few things before I made this).  I found this recipe, and of course tweaked it quite a bit.  Here's what I ended up doing.

1.25 lb. ground turkey, browned
with 1 diced onion and a couple good spoonfuls of minced garlic

3 cans of diced tomatoes (I started with 2 but added a 3rd because it was too spicy)
2 cans of corn, rinsed and drained
3 cans of black beans, rinsed and drained (really it was 1 can plus two can-sized bags I had in the freezer from a pot I had made from dried beans)
about 16 oz. of picante sauce
5 tablespoons of taco seasoning (I mix my own, and I think I made it extra spicy this time)
a little salt to taste (I went light on the salt in my taco seasoning)
Simmer a bit to let the flavors combine. 

This made a huge pot of filling, which was what I was going for.  I wanted the meat to go a long way, and it really did distribute well so I didn't think it was lacking in the final product at all. 

I layered the filling with flour tortillas in 3 baking pans (8x8, and two 9x13 foil pans) according to the instructions in the recipe: start with a little filling, add halves of tortilla with straight sides along the outside of the pan, add more filling, etc.

I almost forgot the cheese, so only the top couple of layers had it.  I think if I did this again I would use more cheese, but I only had 2 cups to go between all the pans and I think it worked fine.

I baked the 8x8 pan for supper for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  The other two I covered in foil, let cool down a bit, and put in the deep freeze.  I wrote the directions from the recipe on them (40 minutes at 350, pre-thawed).  We enjoyed the one we ate that night with a little plain Greek yogurt (a.k.a. sour cream).  I'm hopeful the other two will turn out well when we need them too. 

I calculated the approximate cost of making the entire recipe (my canned goods are from Aldi so much cheaper than the average), and I think it comes to about $12.  Not too shabby for 3 good meals!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Blog posts- why there haven't been and won't be many

I haven't been posting very much, as you may or may not have noticed, depending on who is paying attention to what is posted.  I'm guessing that's not very many people. 

As you might have noticed I try not to share personal details online "in public," therefore it's sometimes hard to write about life in general.  Because of that, I will probably be only posting once in a great while about something I want to "spout off" about, or about food and cooking.  Sometimes I run across articles online that don't fit under the Common Cents categories and so I'll probably be using this blog as I place for those. 

If I write something that bothers you, please take it in the spirit in which it was written: I have strong opinions and sometimes the anonymity of the internet is the best place for those.  I may or may not be correct about them, and I realize that.  Please respond if you want, and I will look forward to reading your thoughts.  (Oh, and it goes without saying that any comments should avoid personal details.)

If you're still reading, thank you!  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kids in Church

I ran across this piece and thought it excellent.  It's from a Catholic perspective, so there are some obvious points about which I would differ from the author.  However, in the big picture I think she makes some excellent points about bringing children to church. 

It does bother me that it has become so automatic to so many to drop their children off in the nursery every Sunday.  I won't go so far as to say there shouldn't be a nursery.  I know there are cases where it might be best. I'm sure some days the parents just need a break, or the baby needs a nap.  But in general, I think it would be ideal if using the nursery were the exception and the occasional circumstance rather than the rule. 

Certainly children aren't good at sitting still for so long.  But if they aren't made to try sometimes, how else are they going to learn?  Young children won't understand everything.  I wouldn't say they have to sit and listen the entire time as if they did.  I think coloring books and Bible story books are perfectly acceptable ways to keep children quiet during a sermon.  As they grow and mature, more will gradually be expected of them.  But I do think that if it is at all possible they should be there.  Worshiping as a family is an amazing blessing that is available to us.  Many people don't have that, and I think that can be easy to forget. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thankful Post

Many people have been posting daily on Facebook about things they are thankful for.  I think it's a nice tradition, but I haven't.  In the past I've even done a Thankful series here on the blog, and I haven't done that either.  But I do have much to be thankful for.  So while I'm up at a ridiculous hour (and no, it has nothing to do with cooking a turkey) I thought I would jot down a few thoughts.

1. God's "works of providence... [H]is most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all [H]is creatures, and all their actions (Westminster Shorter Catechism question 11).  Recent current events have been rather discouraging, but we must never forget that God is working everything for good for His people.  And no, I don't believe He needs our country for this, but He does have a plan and we can rest in that even while we pray.

2. God's amazing blessings on a personal level as well.  Family.  Hope.  Provision for the future.  Today my husband's parents are coming to visit and we're all joining my family for Thanksgiving dinner.  In many families this would be a very tricky situation, and possibly one to be avoided at all cost, but I really am not worried. That's a blessing in itself.

3. Simple things, such as a warm bed, a clean (for now!) house, a break from teaching this week, a cat who hangs around when I'm up in the night even when the dog goes back to bed, good books to read, and the list goes on.

4. Thanksgiving cooking and baking: this year for me it includes Spinach Gratin, Cranberry Pear Pie, and wheat dinner rolls.

And of course, this list doesn't begin to scratch the surface.  It's so easy to moan and groan about being tired, or too busy, or stressed. We can easily just spend a day of overeating on Thanksgiving, forgetting what it was truly intended to be. Or we can count our blessings, one by one.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thoughts on Hospitality

I have mixed feelings about hospitality.  I enjoy having people over, or at least I enjoy the concept of it.  I will plan it, and look forward to it.  But then when I get there I have some hang-ups about the entire experience. The following is just a hodge-podge of thoughts I have on hospitality.  They aren't terribly well organized.  But this post has been in the works for about a month and I figure I'll go ahead and put it up. 

1. Cleaning-  I am not one of those people who keeps a spotless house.  I do clean when it's just us at home, but not as much as I should.  This means that when we plan on having people over, I need to do some major cleaning.  I'm usually fairly content to do what I can.  I don't usually sweat about the minor details (maybe because by that time I've finished literally sweating about the major ones).  I vacuum, clean bathrooms, clean the kitchen, straighten up.  I may or may not (probably not) get to dusting.

2. Time- We're all busy, of course.  It's so easy to think that we're too busy to add something extra, to cook and clean for new people, to cut into any relaxation time.  Sometimes I think this is valid and it's ok to allow yourself a season in which you really just can't add any pressure.  But more often it's probably an excuse.

3. Energy- My particular problem with hospitality lies here.  I have been rushing around the house cleaning, cooking, doing all the last minute things.  Everything is ready.  I can finally sit down.  But wait, the guests will be here soon.  And I have to try to participate in conversations and make them feel comfortable.  My personality is such that this doesn't come terribly easy to me. I can do it, but it takes effort and it helps when I am rested and relaxed.  That usually isn't the case after the scramble to get the house ready for company. 

4. Selfishness-
     a. It's my time.  I need to relax.  We've been so busy.  This can be valid, but I imagine that most of the time it isn't.  
     b. We've had so many people over but we hardly ever receive invitations ourselves.  Yes, people probably should reciprocate.  But is this why we do it?  No.  At least it shouldn't be.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I can think of one invitation we haven't reciprocated on ourselves.  We had our reasons, but whether they're valid or not is another story.  So maybe all those people have their own reasons, either valid or not, for not having us over in return.

5. Space- There are challenges we have to consider, and they vary depending on who we're having over.  We have pets to keep an eye on.  That can be a concern for people with allergies, and with little kids we have to keep an eye on the dog since he isn't necessarily used to interacting with them (he's good, but bears watching).  Depending on how many people we're having over, parking can be a concern.     

6.  Food- Cooking isn't an issue for me.  I usually don't plan something too crazy or experimental when we're having company.  I usually go for easy, sometimes using the crock-pot.  That's nice in particular because I can have the kitchen cleaned up before company arrives.  If I am scrambling to wash three pots before people arrive I'm even less likely to enjoy myself.  It's not going to be gourmet, but it will probably be pretty good and that's good enough for me. 

7. The List- For a while we kept a list of all the people we wanted to have over at some point.  I am pretty good about scheduling this sort of thing.  Whether I actually feel like it when the time comes is another story, but it usually ends up being a truly enjoyable time.  At least for us, hopefully it is for our guests as well! 

I know so many people who truly have the gift of hospitality.  They do it all well.  They make people feel comfortable.  I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  I like having company, but it still doesn't come easy to me. But I guess it doesn't really matter how I feel about it.  It's a challenge that I need to work on. 


Friday, September 28, 2012

Freezer Space!

Thanks to my family, I now have a hand-me-down small upright freezer in the basement.  Two happy results of this development are:

I no longer almost break a toe every time I open the freezer,

and I can actually buy meat when it's on sale.

Since it's upright and not a chest freezer, the cold air spills out whenever you open it.  That means limiting how often I need to go down there.  It also means to keep it running efficiently I need to keep it fairly full.  I'm considering trying to buy a portion of a whole cow (in neat white packages, of course).  I was wanting beef so badly lately.  I hadn't seen any good enough sales for a while.  But I did find some last weekend. 

I am getting back into the groove of cooking again, I think.  Tonight I made crock pot Mongolian Beef with stir-fry vegetables added towards the end.  This is definitely one of our recent favorites.  It is so easy and has great flavor, though it is spicy.  We eat it with brown rice. 

I did some cooking yesterday for breakfasts.  I made about 2 dozen Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal muffins out of 4 of the approximately 6-8 frozen brown bananas I had accumulated in the freezer. 

I also made my crust-less version of this spinach quiche recipe, using a 2 pound bag of frozen spinach, about 18 eggs, about 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese, a little milk, about 1/4 cup Parmesan, garlic, onion, Italian seasonings, seasoned salt and pepper.  Using such a large bag of spinach was actually kind of an accident (I had in my head that it was 1 pound), but I compensated by throwing in more eggs.  But I was pleased to end up with 2 dozen muffin sized quiches and 6 larger ones (made in a giant muffin tin, about half full).  I love this recipe, especially with the additional veggies.  It's so easy, has a ton of flavor, and it really isn't bad for you at all.  I have been very bad about eating breakfast lately, and these really help me start the day with some good protein and vegetables. 

I froze most of the oatmeal muffins and quiche for future breakfasts.  They're staying in the upstairs freezer where they're easily accessible. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Psalm 130

From the depths of woe I raise to Thee
The voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
And hear my supplication;
If Thou iniquities dost mark,
Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before Thee?
To wash away the crimson stain,
Grace, grace alone availeth;
Our works, alas! Are all in vain;
In much the best life faileth;
No man can glory in Thy sight,
All must alike confess Thy might,
And live alone by mercy.
Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His word
Upholds my fainting spirit;
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience.
What though I wait the live-long night,
And ’til the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might;
It doubteth not nor feareth;
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
And wait ’til God appeareth.
Though great our sins and sore our woes
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our upmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free
From all their sin and sorrow.

~tune updated by Indelible Grace