Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"What's on your mind?"

This afternoon, I sat and stared at my Facebook page and the "What's on your mind?" prompt. I was due to update my stale status from last Saturday and everything that was running through my head seemed wrong to post.

Here were some of my thoughts:


is having a personal pity party.

Is tired and overwhelmed.

Is broke.

Feels guilty spending money on anything, even groceries.

Mourns the loss of cable TV.

Wonders how much she needs to give up.

Fears losing her home.

Is feeling sick.

Is out of patience with her children.

Got pooped on today.

Wonders why she even bothered dressing her son before she fed him oatmeal.

Has a mountain of dirty laundry to wash.

Aches all over.

May be fighting depression.

Needs wisdom.

Needs strength.

Wants to just cry.

Wonders what is wrong with her aching body.

Needs a sinus vacuum.

Is too tired to care about much of anything.

Needs a break.

Is humbled by generous gifts from others.

Knows God still cares.

Knows this is temporary.

Feels God's presence.

Hopes that she doesn't waste this suffering.

Prays that God grows her through this.

Knows that God's strength is sufficient.

Prays that she will be a witness to God's strength and abiding love
through all of this.

Is at peace despite her circumstances.

Knows God is in control!

I know that this might seem a little raw and honest, but it has been a rough day
for me. I have allowed myself to become stressed about my circumstances
which is not a good thing. On top of that, I am not feeling very well. It feels like it would be just easier to stay in bed. But through my personal pity party, amazingly, I can't help but still feel God's presence. What I KNOW to be true keeps flooding in. These are temporary circumstances and I know God is allowing us to be dragged through this valley for a purpose. I also know that God will not give us more than we can handle. He clearly tells us so in His Word and I believe it.

So, sorry for the pity party here. But I know that I am not the only one going through difficult circumstances right now. It is my prayer that God's strength can uphold you, as well, through your tough season, too. If you are in need of prayer for anything, it would be my privilege and honor to pray with you and for you. Feel free to comment here or e-mail me through the contact box on the lower right side of this page.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chili on the Cheap

Last Sunday, we had the family over to celebrate my youngest's first birthday. The timing of the day was such that I needed to come up with a lunch that could be ready to serve the moment we walked in the door from church. I came up with the idea of chili and cornbread because both could be made ahead. I took the chili out of the refrigerator and put it in the crockpot before we left for church in the morning and I made the cornbread the night before and quickly reheated it in the oven when it was time to eat.

The chili must have been ok because I had virtually no leftovers from my big pot of it. Even my brother-in-law who has proclaimed that he “Does not like chili” had two bowls. Because of this, my sister-in-law has asked for the recipe. Here is my dilemma...I didn't use one. You see, lately I have been on a quest to slash our grocery expenses drastically. I have discovered I can cook the cheapest when I don't follow recipes to a tee, but instead use what I have on hand or can purchase at a bargain.

With the exception of baking which is a bit of an exact science to make things rise properly, most cooking has a lot of play in it. I tend to read tons of recipes that I never actually use. I read them to try and understand the common threads that make up a particular dish. For example, when I wanted to make chili, I went to my favorite recipe site, All Recipes, and did a search on “chili”. Then I sorted these by rating so that I could look at the most tried and true and loved recipes. The recipes are quite varied, but if you look closely at what makes up the bulk of each recipe, you will notice that there are some trends. Most recipes are based on many of the same ingredients or at least the same types of ingredients. I noticed that chili tends to be made up of some sort of tomato base (whole canned tomatoes, tomato juice, etc.), chili powder, beans of some type, meat of some type, and then there are various extras that give each chili its unique flavor.

Now, if I just picked a chili recipe and then proceeded to go out and purchase all of the ingredients that I needed for it, it may not end up being any bargain. So, I looked at what I had on hand first and created my own recipe based on those things.
So here is my recipe:

These make up the base of the chili. I used a large (28 oz) can of whole tomatoes, a large can of crushed tomatoes and a (14oz) can of diced tomatoes. I did not drain any of them.

Most recipes have some sort of beef (ground, roast, etc) although I found several that also included some type of sausage. Since I didn't have anything on hand in this department I bought a couple of pounds of ground beef because it seemed to be the best deal and I know we love that in chili.

Most recipes call for kidney beans or chili beans which are already seasoned. My family members are not big bean fans even though I am trying to train them to be for the sake of saving money and eating healthy. I ended up using a can of black beans and a can of pinto beans because that is what I had on hand. I did use a little trick my friend, Angela, told me. After draining the beans, I put over half of them into my food processor and ground them up. This gives you the nice bean flavor in your chili without so many whole (obvious) beans themselves.

I used chili powder which is what gives most recipes their standard chili flavor. I think I used about ¼ cup. I also added one fresh jalapeño, because I had them on hand to make pico de gallo. How much spice you use is up to you and your family's personal taste. I added some and then tasted. I have found that bottled hot sauce is really yummy, too, but I was about out of it last weekend.

There's quite a few extras that can go into chili. I read through several recipes, taking note of what I had on hand and what I thought would blend together without a clashing of flavors. I keep a fairly well stocked pantry and spice cabinet so I had quite a few things available to add to my chili.

Here is the list of what I threw in:

Onions! We LOVE onions around here, so I think I added two chopped yellow onions.

Garlic. We also love garlic and it can add a little kick so I think I used 4-5 fresh cloves, minced.

Cumin. 1-2 tsp.

Beef Bouillon. I actually used beef soup base, but 3-4 bouillon cubes would be equivalent.

Beer. It adds a really nice flavor to chili. I used a bottle of Budweiser that was hiding in the basement from who-knows-when.

Worcestershire sauce. I splashed some in. It was perhaps a tablespoon.

Brown sugar. I used a loose ¼ cup.

Apple Cider Vinegar. I used a splash – a tablespoon or two.

Cinnamon. I just shook some in. It was perhaps a teaspoon.

Fresh cilantro. I only added this because I had it on hand. It tastes wonderful and added pretty flecks of green into the chili. I used about ½ a bunch, chopped.

Salt. Add it to taste.

Black pepper.

I browned the ground beef along with the onions in the bottom of the pot and then drained off the grease. Then I started adding in the rest starting with the tomatoes and working down the list here. I taste tested often along the way to make sure I was happy with the flavor. It is better to add too little of an ingredient if in doubt about it because that can be fixed.

After all the ingredients are in, it is important to let this simmer a bit for the flavors to blend together. In my case here, I let it simmer for an hour and then let it cool and placed it in the fridge. Then it had about 4 or so hours in the crockpot the next day. This made a good sized pot of chili.

I served it with fresh pico de gallo (which is something that my family has learned to crave), fritos, sour cream, and sharp cheddar cheese.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

All things work together for good...

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

A couple of blog posts back, I shared in perhaps too much detail the ordeal with Rachel and the stuffing up her nose and how faithful God was in answering our prayers to give the doctor wisdom to help her. What I didn't mention that when we were there, the doctor also noticed a lot of wax in Rachel's ears. It was enough that she could not get a look at the eardrum. Since we had to return for a follow up on the nose, the doctor told me to put mineral oil in Rachel's ears at night for the week preceding her next visit and she would clean all that wax out and check her ears. Instantly, a light bulb went off in my head and I asked the doctor if a lot of wax in her ears would affect her hearing much. If you know my little Rachel, you know that she is not a good speaker. She doesn't say much and her words are very garbled and unclear. I can't even get her to say her own name. The thought had never occurred to me that her speech difficulties could be related to a hearing issue. The doctor said that yes, wax could diminish her hearing and that could indeed affect her speech development.

So, yesterday, we went for Rachel's follow up visit. The doctor has this long skinny tube hooked up to a low pressure "vacuum" so that she can suck the wax out and remove it. She said that there was as much wax in both of little Rachel's ears as she would remove from a full-grown man and that this had to affect her hearing. Once she could see the eardrums, she noticed that there was quite a bit of fluid behind them. It was not infected and it appeared that it is something that may have been there for some time. She had us see the audiologist for a test that measured the movement of the eardrum. In one ear, there was NO movement and in the other virtually none! My poor girl has probably not been hearing much of anything. It is as though she has been walking around with earplugs in her ears. I just wonder for how long this has been the case.

Well the solution for fluid behind the ears is surgery to put tubes in her ears. Although part of me wants to freak out aver that, I know that it is not that big of a deal because I had tubes put in my ears so many times as a kid that I lost count. Unfortunately, Rachel has probably inherited my bad ears.

Well, my point of this post is not just to share my little girl's problems, but that God is so good. I just know in my heart that these ear problems are the root of Rachel's speech problems. And to think, had Rachel not stuck stuffing up her nose, we would have never have found this out now. God truly DOES use all situations for His good, just as the verse above says! God's loving care never ceases to amaze me!