Saturday, November 23, 2013

Perfect Pie Pastry

Sigh.  I absolutely adore aliterations...

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, pie crusts.

For years I loathed the song "Billy Boy".  The one with infamous lyrics: "She can make a cherry pie with a twinkle in her eye..."  Where is that woman, I'd like to give her a shaking!  There is nothing sparkly about lard and flour all over your counter, floors, clothes and eye lashes.  There is no 'easy as pie' when the stupid lump of grease won't hold the flour together and it looks more like the Shroud of Turin than something you would put in your mouth.

But, I don't enjoy eating cake.  And my husband routinely requests pie for his birthday dinner.  And frozen pie crusts break my budget.

After years of frustration and endless forays into countless books, websites and little old lady counseling I finally learned something.

It doesn't take fancy ingredients.  You don't need a bowl of water with ice cubes, vinegar, boiling water or buttermilk.

It doesn't require fancy equipment.  You don't need a marble slab, french rolling pin or a Tupperware plastic pie size measurer thingie.   You don't even need an I Love Lucy apron.  But it is fun to wear...

What you need is:
2 cups regular ol' flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
6-7 Tbs cold (ish) water

Using a fork, mix the flour and salt together.  I use a fork instead of a pastry blender.  It works better for me.  Measure out 2/3 cup of shortening and mash in with the fork until everything is crumbly.  The more small crumbles of shortening and flour, the flakier the crust.  Evidently, the shortening melts in the oven, leaving a pocket of air, hence the coveted flakes.

HERE IS THE SECRET TO THE WHOLE THING: Turn your faucet to a slow trickle of cold water.  Start measuring into a Tablespoon, slowly pour out of spoon into crust mix while stirring with the fork.  TAKE YOUR TIME!  Mix 1 tablespoon at a time, moistening the dry parts in every corner of the bowl. (I know, round bowls don't have corners.  But you know what I mean)  By the end of 6 Tablspoons, meticulously stirred in, the consistency should be moist, but not soggy.  Rarely is the the 7th Tbs ever need.  I usually regret it if I do add #7.  Gather up all the loose but moist crumbles into a ball and let it sit for a few minutes.  This is a good time to prepare your scrumptious filling.  The sitting time lets all the parts suck in the water.  When you come back to it, it should be perfectly pliable, ready to roll out on a floured counter top with a floured rolling pin.  Bake as directed.

I have frozen lumps of pie dough in ziplock bags before.  It works, but you lose something in the texture if you thaw it in the microwave.  I have heard that you can roll it out and stack between sheets of wax paper in a brand new pizza box and freeze, but I've never had an un-used pizza box on hand to try that with.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Convenience Food

"Feed me with food convenient for me." Proverbs 30:8

Whoa!  Do I have a proof text for fast food?  Just what I've been looking for, hehe...

Okay, here it is in context:
"Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain." Proverbs 30:8-9

I looked up "convenient" in the dictionary.  It comes from a Middle English word that can mean "appropriate, befitting".  The writer is asking for just enough.  Nothing too rich or fancy.  That might cause him to forget that he is daily dependent upon Almighty God.  Too big for his britches, you might say.  But, not too poor, either.  Absolute starvation could cause him to steal out of necessity or other acts of desperation, thus ruining his testimony.

And what about the vanity and lies part?  How often are we guilty of projecting that we are of more consequence than we really are.  A sort of keeping up with the Joneses, if you will.

I find here the simple life advocated in a most winsome way.  " 'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free, 'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be; And when you find yourself in the place just right, 'twill be in the Valley of Love and Delight" -Shaker Hymn

I would like to start a series on Convenience Foods.  Food that is simple, healthy, frugal, delightful.  And ways to make such food truly convenient and doable in today's complicated world.
I will begin with Beans and Rice.
Yawn....
Wait, not just any beans and rice.  Exciting Beans!  Celestial Rice!  Not Your Great-Grandma's Beans and Rice!!  Nourishing and Exotic Beans and Rice from all over the world!!!

Are you excited now?

Good.

My family of 6 was in raptures this week with a substantial meal I prepared using 1 cup of rice, 1 pound of beans, 1 1/2 chicken breasts and 1/2 a cup of cheese.  There were a few extras required, (such as 1 can tomato sauce, some spices and some veggies and tortillas) but this is the basis of our Chicken Fajita Fiesta with Spanish Rice, Refried Beans, Restaurant Style Queso and Pico De Gallo.

It was really good.  And filling.  Not only did my dear hubby personally eat 5 fajitas, there was enough left over for lunch the next day!  Move over Taco Bell...  This is real convenience food!

It begins with a really good pot of beans.  I try to fix several pounds of beans every few weeks and freeze them for some fast food.  Here is how I begin:

Mexican Beans

Rinse 1-2 lbs dry pinto beans, put in large pot and cover with water.  Add1/2 tsp baking soda to the soaking water.  (helps cut down on gas)   Either soak overnight or bring to a boil for 2 minutes.  Let sit an hour or more.  Rinse and drain beans.  Place back in pot.  Cover with fresh water plus 2 inches.  Add (here's where it gets fun!)  a few spoonfuls of bacon grease, butter or vegetable oil.  The oil keeps the beans from foaming so much.  Bacon grease is the most flavorful.  You decide!  Chop and add 1 large onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Stir in a generous amount of chili powder and cumin, maybe a tablespoon of each, up to you.  Simmer 1 1/2 hours, salt to taste and continue to simmer until fully cooked, maybe another 30 minutes.  Your house is going to be smelling heavenly by now...
These beans are perfect to eat as is, over rice, added to Taco Soup or Chili or, my favorite...

Refried Beans

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add butter or bacon grease, about 1 tablespoon.  Ladle in several spoonfuls of Mexican Beans, trying to put in more beans than juice, but definitely need some juice.  As it begins to simmer, use a potato masher to mash the beans smooth.  If it's runny, just bring up the heat and let simmer until thick.  Add extra salt, chili powder or cumin to taste.

We had our leftover refried beans today in Grilled, Stuffed Burritos.  Originally, they nestled on our dinner plates next to their BFF:

Spanish Rice

Heat 1/4 c oil in skillet with lid. (don't use the lid just yet)  Stir 1 cup of rice over medium high heat until golden.  Stir in 1 chopped onion, 1/2 a bell pepper, 1 tomato and 2 cloves of garlic.  Let saute about a minute.  Stir in one 8 oz can of tomato sauce, 2 cups water (I use the tomato can to measure) 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp of chili powder.  Place lid and simmer on low for 20 minutes.

Chicken Fajitas

I had 1 1/2 chicken breasts in the freezer.  The first half of the package had been put to noble use in Sick Day Chicken Soup  When partially thawed I sliced into thin pieces, placed them into a plastic container and poured about 1/4 cup lemon juice, dash of worcestershire, dash of liquid smoke, garlic salt and lemon pepper.  Snap on the lid, shake and let marinate a few hours if you have time.  If you don't, just finish thawing in the microwave.  Slice 1 1/2 bell peppers and 1 1/2 onions.  Cook the chicken in a small amount of oil until done, about 8 minutes, add the veggies and cook on high until the onions are slightly carmelized.

You are going to want some Queso and Pico to top things off.

Restraurant Style Queso

Melt a 1/4 cup butter in small saucepan.  Saute 1/4 finely minced onion and clove of garlic.  Stir in 2 Tbs flour and whisk until smooth.  Add 1 cup of chicken broth or 1 cup water plus 1 cube of chicken bouillon.  Stir while boiling until thick and bouillon is dissolved.  Add small amount of milk, maybe 1/4-1/2 a cup.  Don't let it boil now.  Stir in 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar or Velveeta until it's thick and smoothly melted.  You can add minced jalepeno, some canned green chili, Ro-tel tomatoes or chipotle chili powder for a little heat.

Last but not least...

Pico De Gallo

Chop 1 onion, 2 tomatoes and a few jalepeno slices.  Mix in a bowl with chopped cilantro (if you have it, if not it's ok) lemon or lime juice (or vinegar in a pinch) salt and pepper.

Warm tortillas between damp paper or dish towels in microwave 30 seconds.

It may all seem like a lot of work, but if you can spread it out over the course of the day, it's not so bad.  And it sets you up to have a lot of useful leftovers, particularly beans.  Stayed tuned for more beautiful bean footage...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fear Thou Not

Wow.

Today's message was straight from God.  And just what I needed to hear.

It was what every single person in our sanctuary needed to hear.

It's what the visitor who is suffering from cancer needed to hear.

Pastor J C Fulton preached on Fear.

It will take your breath away, then give it back with a bold new song.

Please take 30 minutes to listen to it right here.


I meant to get a post up this week.  Rob was gone on a business trip practically ALL week.  There were a lot of things that I hoped to do with my "extra" time.

Guess what?  I didn't get much of anything done!  Surprise, surprise, surprise...

Oh well.  The important stuff happened: School every day, 3 meals, a few snacks, clean clothes, a couple of movies.
And pumpkin seeds.
We gutted the volunteer pumpkin on our front porch and had a grand time mushing the gooey, stringy seeds around before we toasted them.

It's the simple things that memories are made of.

The post I was going to write would have been entitled "Our Daily Bread".
Jesus encourages us to ask for our daily needs, knowing that our Father will provide all that we need for life and godliness.  Our Creator remembers what we are made of.  Basically, we are walking, talking mud pies.  And we have needs.  He is the self-existent One.  We are the most dependent of creatures.

"Therefore take no thought saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  ...For your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." Matt. 6:32

I get so overwhelmed and guilt stricken sometimes.  Feeding and clothing a family is really hard work.  And I can get to feeling pretty inferior.  Other Moms have it more together.  Other Moms dress their children better, feed them better snacks, take them to more fun outings, make sure they have a top notch education, give their children i-pads and cell phones, keep their noses wiped with a better brand kleenex...

It's not hard to have an A-list pity party.  And I am the life of my parties!

But we don't NEED all those things.  Jesus didn't promise an i-pad in every lap.

Last year, when I was at my lowest and barely able to function, I jotted down the top 3 needs that must be met for my family every day.

They are:
1. Everyone must be fed
2. Everyone must be dressed
3. Everyone must be loved on.

That's it!  God has promised to provide all of these needs.  "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the (trouble) thereof." Matt. 6:33-34

This was huge in helping me through this week.
 Food, Laundry and Love.
If we ate nothing but beans and rice that's okay.  Everyone gets fed. (to hear my kids tell it that is all we ate, but it's not. I swear!)
If there is only one set of clean clothes in the drawer to put on that day, it's alright.  At least there won't be any streaking. 
If we don't manage to get any school done but to sit and read library books on the couch and watch a few movies together, that's fine.  In fact, for young children, that's perfect!

It's amazing.  When I lower my expectations for myself to the three basic needs, I feel so free.  And when I am trusting, begging for God's help to survive the day, God always provides so much more.  We always wind up having so much fun when I am not stressing over being the perfect mom.  When I allow myself to be human, when I admit that I am actually needy.

There are days when I bring my best game.  And I trip.  There are days when I feel good, but nonetheless recognize my need for God's blessing and wisdom.  And He gives it.  Then, there are the days when I know I have nothing to give.  Not one shred of patience, no strength, barely any love, maybe just one quivering nerve and there's a toddler jumping on it.  That is where God loves to come running and show me it's not by my might, it's His.

His strength is made perfect in my weakness so that I will KNOW it is HIM, NOT ME that is so awesome!

And so, that is how I survived the week.  And last year.  It's how I'm going to make it tomorrow.  And next month.

I'm afraid this is a rather disjointed and confusing post.  I was interrupted several times while writing.  And it really is two separate posts, joined rather awkwardly at the hip.  I have a feeling I won't have a chance to write it this week and it's just begging to be let out.

But then again, I started out with a sermon on Fear.  Maybe this does belong in the same post.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Autmn Aria



Autumn Aria
Mary Hudson


The song descended with dusk.

I could hear it from my kitchen window,

Pulling me through the door,

Out into the crystal cold.



Golden purple notes draw me westward, sunward.

Enchanted trees stand frozen in the stillness,

Their indigo silhouettes thrumming the harmony

Of my autumn aria.



Hickory incense, sacred to the memory of

Winters past brings a chuckle to my throat.

The sound never escapes my lips.

To break the stillness would end the music.



Swiftly my feet carry me

Scuffling leaves in a cadence

All their own. This moment,

This symphony is mine alone.



A discordant rumble rends the night,

The headlights pierce my thoughts with impunity.

The melody is lost forever.



It’s just as well, for I have returned

Home.











November 24, 2008

 Dear Sir or Madam,


Thank you so much for sponsoring this contest.  This is my first attempt at poetry since I was at least eleven years old.  I am now twenty-three, a homemaker and mother to two rambunctious boys, with another one on the way.


This poem snuck up on me rather unexpectedly.  I can tell you “write a poem” was not on my mile long to-do list that day.  I rushed outside to throw away a diaper and was arrested by the one-of-a kind, not-to-be-duplicated spell of the evening.  I returned to the house long enough to grab a coat and ask my husband to watch the kids.  

 And then I walked.   

The entire universe became my private retreat and I felt myself renewed with every step.  Suddenly, I was rudely interrupted by an obnoxious truck and the spell was gone.  

 I know I can never regain the moment, but this poem is how I captured the memory.   

And that is why I wrote it.


Sincerely yours, 
                                                       Mary Hudson

                                    


*Once again, I was struck by the beauty of an autumn evening while taking out the trash.  This long forgotten contest entry came to mind.   I loved writing it.  But I didn't win.  It seems this was a sham contest with no real "winners", just potential suckers who would be willing to buy an "anthology" with their masterpiece included.  

Oh, well.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No Sugar, But Pass The Chili!

Okay.

Wow!

The sugar free "diet" seems to be working, yay!!!

After about three days of eschewing white sugar and using Nectresse in my coffee, the foggy feeling began to lift.  I just began a little book entitled "Potatoes, Not Prozac".  I love the title!  And I love potatoes!  Hot Dog, this sounds like my sort of diet :-D  It addresses sugar sensitivity and how it can cause depression, adrenal fatigue, even alcoholism (alcohol converts into sugar).  I just haven't been eating right and that's been eating my lunch, so to speak.  Thank you to everyone for your love and concern and prayers for me.  I am so blessed to have such wonderful friends and family who care.  I'm going to be okay.  Just don't bring me any chocolate malts for awhile...

And speaking of eating...Our church had their annual hayride and chili cook off over the weekend.
All the boys wanted to enter their own pot of chili.  An idea I promptly quashed. I did offer to help them all collaborate on one Brother's Chili Entry.  Cy and Alvin pooped out in the first 5 minutes, which left me and Dee in the kitchen.  Cooking with one hungry boy is a lot easier than with 3.  My ingredients seem to stretch further.  Hmm, I wonder why?

We needed to leave in about an hour.  I didn't have a recipe to follow.  (I just spent two hours being first assist to my Darlin's top secret recipe operation.)  Dee and I were going rogue...

Dee's 1st Place Award Winning Chili

Take two ziplock bags of frozen, cooked, ground beef (and turkey maybe?)  toss into the microwave and nuke 2 minutes

Saute  one chopped onion and a couple cloves of garlic in oil, butter or bacon grease.

Add the partially thawed beef and finish heating.

Stir in 1 package WalMart brand chili mix, I can crushed tomatoes, 1/2 can of water and 1 can Rotel.

Taste.

Decide that is not enough seasoning and add 1 package of Aldi's brand fajita mix.

Taste.

Decide that is too much seasoning.

Panick.

Add a little more water, 1 large tablespoon (the kind in the kitchen drawer) of brown sugar, some chili powder and some cumin.

Taste once more.

Call it good, dump in crock pot, dash out the door.  

High five one happy 6 year old when he collects his prize.

I would like to make clear that Dee and I collaborated every step of the way, he made the final decisions.  I chopped, he stirred.  He gets his name on the certificate and the cans of Dr Thunder, I get the basket with toilet paper, Draino, plunger and scented candle.  We're both happy! 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Promise For The Day

The verse that got me through yesterday was:

"...Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:13

 Put on your uniform. 
 Pull on your big girl panties, so to speak. 
 Be realistic about your situation.  Neither despairing or blindly optimistic.
 Hope to the end.  That hope needs to be grounded in Jesus.  

This morning I fried an egg in some olive oil.  I really need the shot of protein first off.  (If Robert hadn't asked me to fix him some eggs first, I probably wouldn't have done this.  Thanks for the nudge, Babe!)

I also brewed both of us some delicious Samovar Tea  that my Honey Bunch bought me in Alaska.  It was sweetened with Nectresse, a sugar free substitute made from monk fruit.

I'm still in my jammies, not willing to do my work out just yet.  I really don't like my prenatal workout video.  Maybe I will borrow Sherry's this afternoon.  It's going to have to be small changes, over time.  I'm not quite ready to go all Paleo...

My devotions this morning were very tepid.  I went to bed mad at Robert over some trivial thing.  I tossed and turned all night, my arms and legs kept going numb.  I woke up rather surly.  

After trudging through Isaiah, and pushing through my devotional, Faith's Checkbook, I remembered that I had forgotten about Psalms.  To stay on "schedule", Psalm 17 should be next, but it was Psalm 16 that grabbed me.

"I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel; my (heart) also instructs me in the night season."

This time is just a season, not forever.

"I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope." 

If I focus on what is wonderful about my God, I can't help but be happy.

"For thou wilt not leave my soul in (the place of the dead); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy Once to see corruption.  For thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."  

 My Father knows where I am at.  He's not going to leave me here.  Christ had to go through the absolute and literal pains of death and separation from his Father so that I never will.  He really was forsaken.  I am not.  He is going to show me the path of life, the next step to take.  His presence is the definition of joy.  Today,I will bless the Lord.