Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Croutons

This is probably a really obvious thing that you all do but just in case, I thought I would share this quick, yummy tip.

Make your own croutons! It is so easy and so worth it. Homemade croutons are SOOO much better than store bought.

Over a period of weeks I put the ends of my bread loaves (ya know at the end when it gets a little stale?) in the freezer and after I have about 10-15 pieces of bread I take them out of the freezer, cut them into cubes, (whatever size you want) spread them on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over them, mixing them around to distribute the oil then sprinkle any herbs or spices that you want. My favorite is simply garlic salt and dried basil. Mix them around and bake them at about 275/285 degrees. It usually takes about 25-30 minutes depending on how many you have made. I just check them every once in a while and bake them until they are chewy to crispy. Put them in an air tight container and store in your fridge. They last forever and they are so yummy!!!!

If you do make croutons, share the things you put on them! Hope you all try this if you haven't already!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blog Update/Rose and Thorn...

Blog Update...  I just wanted to let everyone know that Faith and I will not be posting as much as we used to.  We are still going to update, but not as frequently, at least through the holiday season.  We both feel the need to slow down a little.  Thanks for reading.


Personal Update...  I feel like I have changed a lot in these past months of running this blog.  I didn't realize how easy it was for me to get caught up in the thorns of life and miss out on the roses.  Now don't get me wrong, I am not going to win the Miss Optimistic award any time soon, but I do find it much easier to take each day with a smile.  I feel like God has helped me trust Him in the hard times (he has helped me do this so many times) and really focus on all the great things in life, and to focus more on His promises.  

Okay, enough updates.  Let's do Roses and Thorns...

Thorn:  Eric is still on the job hunt.    
Rose:  Eric has a job, and God is providing all our needs.  Plus we are learning how to live on less and less.  I feel like I have become a better wife and mom, figuring out ways to save money, ways to cook healthy for less, etc.  It has been fun to work hard as a wife/mom for our family in this way.  God has placed me in this time of life and I love doing my best each day to serve Him.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yummy Butternut Squash Soup

I tried my hand at making some Butternut Squash soup the other day, and YUM!  It was easy and delicious.  The recipe is from my cousin Jen.  I think I will make some more for the freezer when squash is inexpensive so that I can enjoy it for lunches through the winter.

                         

Yummy Butternut Squash Soup
1 Medium Butternut Squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
Nonstick Vegetable spray
1 medium onion (chopped, about 1 cup)
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger (optional)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 cups chicken broth (or stock)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds.  Arrange halves, cut side down, in a roasting pan that has been sprayed with veggie spray.  Bake the squash in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, until very tender.  Set aside to cool.  When the squash has completely cooled, scoop out the flesh from the skin.

While the squash is baking, cook the onion and ginger in the butter (in large sauce pan) for 10 minutes, until the onion is softened.  Add the brother and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, covered.  Add the squash pulp to the sauce pan.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, in batches, and puree until smooth.  (You can add water to gain the desired consistency...I like it thick).    Add salt and pepper to taste.  Return the soup to the sauce pan and cook over moderate heat until it is hot.  Garnish with sour cream and croutons!  

(This soup freezes and reheats wonderfully!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Closet organization

This is a little bit embarrassing.  This is my everything closet, the one that holds a wide variety of things, plus stores the stuff I need a temporary home for.  It is always a disaster.  

So a few weeks ago I tackled it and, well, wow.  It made such a huge difference.  The biggest change was the amount of extra space made to, well let's be honest, store more stuff.

I did some purging, some re-organizing, and some re-homing (if that is a word).

So, here's the before...
AHHHHH!  And to be honest, it was even a little messier than that.  I had already organized the floor before taking the picture.  When we moved in, the previous owners left the extra floorboards from the bathroom remodel right here in the closet on the floor.  For three years I left it there thinking 
1. that it needed to be inside
2. that maybe I would clean that up another day
3. where else can I store it?  

But I found a new home for the flooring, and opened up an entire new space for indoor storage. 

Here's the finished product.  It still isn't perfect, I would love some more storage compartments and such, but for now I am really happy with the results.  I can now store the diaper bag and my purse in there, which is a much better place for it than the kitchen floor where Elsie promptly empties them.  
Sigh, happiness.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday, Monday, oh oh...

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I guess Megan and I have both been very busy! Who isn't?!

Today's thorn in my side is a thorn in my side...oh...every day!?! I'm sure it's all of your's too! My thorn is a messy house even though I cleaned yesterday and the day before..you get my point! So, I get to clean again, and again, and again....

The Rose? Once I clean my house I feel like I have accomplished something and living in a clean house is so much more enjoyable!

You?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Keep the tomatoes coming...

If you still have green tomatoes on your tomato plants, here is an idea.


Dig them up or pull them out of the ground, roots and all.  Shake the excess dirt off.  Then hang them upside down in your garage.  I know, it sounds weird, but it seems to work.  And I am not sure that it is necessary that they be upside down, but it keeps them out of the way :)  The tomatoes continue to ripen, even without the sun.  I heard the idea from a few different sources so I am trying it out.  So far so good!  The tomatoes in the garage are ripening faster than the ones I left in the garden.


Now then, what are you going to do with your (garage) tomatoes?  I am doing a lot of freezing of my tomatoes.  I don't do much sauce, mostly crushed or chopped.  But when I do sauce, I use this cool thing.

It was my Grandma's, and it is sturdy and simple and just cool.  I did some applesauce in it too.  Anyways, tomatoes don't seem to yield very much sauce, so I prefer to do the crushed or diced first, saving sauce as a last resort.  There are so many recipes that call for canned tomatoes, so I am excited to have frozen ones on hand.  

I hope this is helpful to someone out there!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Roses and Thorns

Back to Roses and Thorns this week. It's also combined with a challenge. If you read this post you ACTUALLY have to comment! Okay? We like to hear from you!!

My Thorn this week: Hubby working about 62 hours this week.

The Rose: This is his LAST week doing this! Yay!

Now, what is the thorn in your side today? this week? month? year? Share!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Recipe- Chicken and Corn Chowder

I am sharing a yummy chowder recipe that I am actually making for dinner tonight. I got it from Rachael Ray's show and it's really easy and really full of flavor. Totally worth trying, so please do. Perfect for a cold, rainy day! Hope you enjoy...

Chicken and Corn Chowder

2 T butter
1 1/2 lb chicken, cubed
1/2 c chopped onion
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 small carrots, sliced
2 c frozen corn
2 c cream of potato soup
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 t dry dill weed
1/2 c evaporated milk

In a large skillet, melt butter, brown chicken. Transfer chicken to slow cooker. Add onions, celery to skillet, saute 3-4 minutes. Add onions and celery to crock pot along with carrots, corn, soup, broth and dill weed. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours or until chicken is tender. During last 10 minutes, stir in evaporated milk. Serves 8.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dear Mom, Thank You...

I have to share with you a very encouraging blog post that I read a few weeks ago. It was written by a lovely young lady named Ellie. She is in her early teens and seems to have wisdom and understanding far beyond her years. She has a beautiful family who love and serve God together. I don't know the family very well but from what I see, I want to follow and learn to love they way they do.

I was extremely encouraged by Ellie's post, and hope you are too. She wrote this to her mom for Mother's Day last year. I hope that my daughters can say this of me someday, especially the last thing on Ellie's list.


Dear Mom, Thank You...

...for giving me birth.

...for marrying the most amazing guy and awesome dad.

...for providing me with a wonderful education these past seven years.

...for always being available for hugs.

...for letting me cry when math got hard.

...for being an example of what a godly woman and wife should be.

...for giving me the two best sisters.

...for teaching me about my Heavenly Father.

...for letting me sit in your lap and snuggle, even though it's not the most comfortable thing to do.

...for the discipline you have given me (and will continue to give).

...for being a wonderful homemaker.

...for making me do things I didn't want to do (such as Mrs. Barrett's writing class), but have taught me so much. You know what I need even when I don't.

...for the small things that show me you care. Driving me places, teaching me how to cook and sew, the shoes you bought me as a surprise.

...for the tuck-ins every night.

...for the times you stayed up with me until 3:00 am, because I couldn't go to sleep.

...for the weeks you let me sleep in your room because of my anxiety.

...for making me sleep in my own room with Dad, to get over my anxiety. : )

...for making potatoes for dinner.

...for all the encouragement you have given and still give me.

...for every day letting me know I'm loved.

...for being willing to take a Basque student three years ago. That sudden decision you and Dad made has been one of the best.

...for providing me with the opportunity to play violin.

...for the girl talks.

...for introducing me to many wonderful books.

...for just putting up with me for 14 years!

...for being fun to be around. You are the coolest mom.

...for working hard to be a mom. Even though it's what you want to do, I know it's not always easy.

You are amazing. I love you so much. Happy Mother's Day.


Pretty cool huh.  It's the everyday stuff that really matters. 


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Homemaker Tip

My last few "Homemaker Tip" posts have been pretty lengthy (and hopefully helpful) so today I want to try something new. I want to hear from YOU! Please share your favorite organizational/decorating tip. Either something you were told about over the years or something you have learned on your own. Don't be shy, PLEASE SHARE! Megan and I like to learn from our readers too:)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Favorites!

We are going to take a little break from sharing our thorns and roses with each other.  Yep, it's always exciting and new here at Choose to Bloom!  You gotta keep coming back cuz you never know what great thing you will find ;)



This week, we want to hear some of your favorite October memories.  When I think of my favorite memories and family traditions, I am encouraged to make similar memories with my family and kids.  So share!  
What are some of your favorite memories of October?!


Here's mine...
I always loved the church fall festivals.  I remember going to St. Paul Lutheran church when I was a kid for a harvest dinner.  We all dressed up and everyone brought soup and salad.  
There was barrel to dip your face in to retrieve a prized apple, a pinata (yes, someone got hit in the head with the pinata stick), and lots of candy!  It was such a fun way to celebrate fall together.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weekend Challenge

Take a bubble bath.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Recipe - Beans

I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to feed my family rice and beans for a week.  We started this on Thursday and it has been great!  I thought I would give you a rundown of the recipes we tried.  (I spent a morning cooking up my entire weeks worth of dry beans so that they would be ready for each different meal.  This of course took some time, but ended up saving me a lot of time each evening.)


Recipe #1:  Taco Soup (with cornbread)
(I don't use a recipe, so I am guessing on the measurements)
1 1/2 cup black beans 
1 1/2 cup pinto/chili beans 
1 1/2 cup kidney beans
1 cup garbanzo beans
1 can Rotel
1 can tomato sauce (or homemade tomato sauce)
1 packet ranch salad dressing mix
In a large pot, stir together all ingredients.  Add about 1-3 cups water to make it the consistency of soup.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat.  Simmer for about an hour.  You may also want to salt to taste.  I normally make this recipe using canned beans which adds plenty of salt.  You can add ground turkey/beef, throw in some corn, or add anything else that you want.   

Recipe #2:  Chili
I tried this recipe.  It was pretty good, but needed some extra seasonings.  It also ended up a little soupy.  But it was pretty good.

Recipe #3:  Baked Burritos
Again, no recipe.  But simply take some of the pinto beans and mash them up.  Simmer on the stovetop, add some water if they dry out.  You can add spices (chili powder, garlic salt, etc), salsa and some cheese.  You can also add in some of the other beans (whole, not mashed), corn, olives, onions, anything!).  Heat it all together, melting the cheese and then fill each tortilla, roll, put in a greased baking pan.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  

Recipe #4:  Haystacks 
Put a pile of shredded lettuce on each plate.  Then let everyone choose their toppings - beans, cheese, corn chips, olives, sour cream, salsa, etc.  (aka Taco Salad)

Recipe #5:  Taco Pizza
Make/buy pizza crust (we like the jiffy pack, but I am soon going to make my own dough - Andrea or Alison, could I get your recipe?!).  Bake the crust for about 10 minutes (if you are using dough) at 425.  Then spread on a can of tomato sauce, some cheese, pinto/black/red beans, olives, anything you want!  Bake for another 5-10 minutes.  Add chopped lettuce and tomatoes.  

Recipe #6:  Baked potatoes with Chili
Heat up some left over chili, bake some potatoes, and enjoy.  Serve with cheese and sour cream.
Gotta love easy quick meals!

Recipe #7:  Cheese quesadillas, refried beans, Spicy Spanish Rice
Refry up those beans, make some simple cheese quesadillas, and add to the menu this spanish rice!  (I haven't tried it yet, but we will have it in the next couple days.  I'll let you know if it's good.)
1/3 cup salsa, chunky
1 cup water
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 can (16 oz) diced tomatoes, not drained
1 1/2 cups quick cooking brown rice, uncooked
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray.  Add all ingredients and mix well.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 25 min or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.  

So, that was our 7 day beans and rice menu.  I guess we only did rice once (we aren't really rice people), so that was our 7 day bean menu.  Just to give you a little idea of the money you can save by cooking with dry beans, I spent less than $5 for our whole weeks worth of protein.  That's not bad.  And they are all very hearty meals so hopefully the hubby won't mind the lack of meat!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blessings from Above

I praise God for the way He cares for me and takes care of me.  As I trust Him and walk toward Him in faith He cares for my every need.  


God has shown me over and over that He will take care of me and my family.  Spiritually, physically, and emotionally.  Whether by providing food, a friend, a good conversation, or some quiet time with Him and an eternal perspective.  He does provide.

Recently a huge burden was taken off our shoulders.  For a few months we will not have to worry about our student loan payments because of the generosity of people that love God and love us.  I'm so thankful for their generosity, and for the Lord's provision.  God is so good, over and over He shows how much He cares.  When I sit down and think about the ways He has provided and cared for me, I can make a very long list!

Does anyone else want to share a way that God has provided recently or in the past?  Whether it was financial, friendship, guidance, etc.  

(Faith, thanks for sharing on your personal blog ways that God has recently provided for you. It made me stop and think through the ways He is providing for my family as well!)