Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam

Ok people, you HAVE to make this!! It's rediculously easy and SOOOOO good.  You might never buy store bought Jam again! (seriously!!) The directions are straight from the box and I got a little "foodie" today with my non-foodie self so bear with me :)

1 box of Fruit Pectin
3 1/4 cups(3-4 pints) of crushed Strawberries
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
4 1/2 cups Sugar
1 cup Light Corn Syrup

Now, I have always used the "Sure-Jell" Pectin (on the left) and it usually works out fine.  I have tried the low sugar kind and the liquid pectin, neither of which I recommend.  However this last time I bought the MCP (whatever the heck that means, but it is made by sure jell) and I fell in love with it! It's what I'm going to stick with.  Usually with freezer jams you have to cook the pectin powder with water for a few minutes. Not a huge deal, but I loved not having to use my stove AT ALL! And sometimes my Jam didn't set correctly but I didn't have any problems with the MCP.  Onward and upward.....

Cut up the strawberries and mash them with a masher.(the metal curvy masher doesn't work as well as the plastic ones with holes in them.  I found a great one at Wal mart this year that has a few "sharp" edges on the bottom) I don't use a food processor, a few years ago I tried it and my jam didn't set up as nice.  I usually get my hubby to help mash while he is watching TV :) I mash them in a big bowl and pour them into the measuring cup.

Then pour the berries back into your big bowl and add the lemon juice.  The directions say fresh but I used the bottled stuff and it was just fine.Then gradually stir 1 box of pectin into the fruit.  Mix thoroughly and stir every 5 minutes for 30 minutes. Pour 1 cup of light corn syrup into the fruit mixture and stir well.

 Then gradually stir the sugar into the mixture until it is completely dissolved. (a few minutes)
Now pour into your prepared containers leaving space at the top for expansion.

I have been using the plastic Jam containers that you buy right beside the glass ones at the store.  The lid screws on, they stack great, they come in 2 sizes and they don't break! I love them (and they are cheap)

Let the jars stand at room temperature for 24 hours to set then put them in the freezer (or fridge to use right away!) They can stay in the freezer for up to 1 year, (longer but that's what the paper says) but they probably won't last that long! I love to give mine away and of course we eat it all year long.  It's soooo scrumptious!!

Here is 2 batches worth

Ok, well that's all I have for today.  If you don't believe me that this is the best Jam you have ever had, I'll give you one of mine to try and I promise you will be convinced!!
[this offer is for a limited time only and will end when my "extra" supply runs out] It has run out :)

Check out lots of other canning recipes HERE

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some good Tex-Mex

I've said it before, but I really like food.  I like to cook, but I don't like that I HAVE to cook.  But such is this season of life and I'm thankful for it.  I LOVE Mexican food.  (some would say Tex-Mex but whatever) Living in Texas there are good Tex-Mex restaurants all over.  Pretty much any place that has salsa and queso is a winner in my book.  (I personally thing that Costa Vida has the best Queso out there right now, oh I love queso) Anyway, back to the matter at hand.  I thought I would share a few super easy recipes that I use pretty often.

The first is my Fake Homemade Salsa.  Although I do enjoy some good ol' medium Pace picante salsa and especially if it is mixed with sour cream.  Oh yum. I love Mexican food.
Ok, anyway, sometimes I want a little more flavor than what the jar stuff provides.  So if you own a food processor and a can opener you can make a dang good "homemade salsa."  Here is what you need

1 can of Rotel (I have fallen in love with the Great Value Fire Roasted kind but the regular stuff is great too)
Red Onion
Lime Juice

I only use 1/4-1/2 of the onion, and I just cut it into fourths.  The food processor does a good job chopping it up.  Put in some cilantro, maybe 1/4-1/2 the bunch.  I use my garlic press and put in about 2 cloves.  Squeeze in a few teaspoons of lime juice and pour in the rotel. (undrained) Hold down the chop or grind button until it is the consistency you like.  It's normal to have a chunk or two of onion or a long string of cilantro, so I just pick that out and toss it.  And that's it!
(Disclaimer-I realize if I was a real food blogger or a photographer I would have pretty pictures to go along with these instructions, but alas I am not.  With that being said I did take some pictures of some posts I am planning on doing, so just think of it as a bonus if it happens I guess :] )

I use this Salsa in my Mexican Casserole and Enchiladas.  I'll also share my super easy Mexican Casserole with you.  This is a favorite of ours.

Mexican Casserole

1 lb of ground meat (we use turkey)
1 can of Refried Beans
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheese

 Pre-heat oven to 350. Brown the meat.  If  using Turkey, season heavily before it cooks.  I usually use taco seasoning.  After it is cooked add the beans and let them warm up. Stir them together.  Put this in the bottom layer of your dish.  (I use a big Pyrex bowl, a 9x9 pan would work ok too) I then put a layer of sour cream.  Then I put a layer of the salsa.  (If I don't make the homemade salsa I just use a strained can of Rotel)  Then I top with shredded cheddar cheese. (you can use whatever cheese you want) Put it in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Then serve with chips or just use a fork.  

Optional: sometimes I have added a can of corn and black beans for a bit more, but usually not.

I'll leave you with one more, Chicken and Quinoa wraps.  I posted this on Facebook yesterday, but here it is again.

3 chicken breasts (or 1.5 lbs of ground turkey or beef)
1 can of corn
1 can of black beans
1 can of red/kidney beans
1 can of rotel (great value has a fire roasted one I have fallen in love with!)
1 cup of un cooked quinoa
red onion
Cook the meat. I put taco seasoning on the chicken and cooked them in a pan, baking would work fine too. Or brown the turkey (make sure you season it while it's cooking, that's my secret for turkey)
Cook the quinoa-I used 2 cups of chicken broth but water works fine too. There is so much other flavor going on you don't really need more than water.
If using chicken chop it up somehow, a food processor works fine. Open all the cans, drain them and dump them in a BIG pan/pot. Add the meat, cooked quinoa, chopped cilantro, and chopped onion. (I left the onion raw but you can cook it with the meat if you like a milder flavor) Get everything nice and warm and serve it up!
This seriously makes enough for about 15 people. I used BIG burrito tortillas, put some cheese in it, then heaped on the mixture. Wrapped it up and ate every bit. You can also wrap them in foil and it makes a great "on the go" meal. I put some in the fridge for leftovers, and some in the freezer for later.

Well I think that's it for tonight, enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Trusting in your motherly instinct aka- The Holy Spirit

My Munchkins
I have had two conversations this week about trusting yourself and what you think as a mother.  The first was with a bunch of other moms, some new and some who have had children for years.  It is my personal belief that "society" today tells mothers that they shouldn't trust their instinct but listen to charts, Doctors, or statistics.  I made the comment that with both kids I have made decisions in both directions and learned lessons from both and that no one can prepare you for the things you learn.  Here's what I mean:

-Allison, my first born did not like to sleep on her back.  She always worked out of the swaddles that we made, she liked her hands out, but she would only sleep in short spurts on her back.  After talking with my mom and Chiropractor/Midwife, we decided that she had good enough head control to not suffocate herself and just a few years ago you could prevent SIDS by putting them on their stomach. (they still don't know what causes it!) Now it's their back, and everything you read tells you that your child could die if you lay them on their stomach.  So I took the "huge risk" and put her on her stomach.  All of a sudden at 2 and 3 weeks she was sleeping 4 and 5 hours at a time instead of 2 or 3.  Um, makes sense to me! Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going to do something that might be harmful for my baby just to get some extra shut eye, not what I'm saying at all.  But this is one of those things that the more mothers I talk to, the more I find that they let their baby sleep on their too! And we all smile and talk about how our kids are still alive. (and with no flat head, an added bonus!)

However on the other hand....
-Caleb my second, was born at almost 8 lbs.  I didn't take him in to the Dr. until he was 6 months old. (there were a few reasons for this, one being our insurance changed and doesn't cover well child visits anymore and with me staying home we did not see this as a necessary medical expense for our mostly Well children.  That being said I do love our Pediatrician! She supports whatever we want to do for vaccinations, she usually prescribes some type of homeopathic remedy for whatever is ailing the kids if we do have to go in, and she doesn't rush to the worst case scenario) Anyway, at 6 months he was in the 50% for head size but less than 5% for both height and weight.  The Dr. asked me all the questions about feeding, sleeping, and development and they were all just fine.  He was still on breast milk at this point and we had JUST introduced a few solid foods that month.  I was in no rush to feed him solids and he didn't seem that interested.  He wasn't showing many of the signs, so I waited.  But then according to the charts, he is small.  It was at that point I started worrying and questioning my choices.  On one hand I KNEW that he was being fed enough.  He wasn't mal-nourished, he wasn't crying because he was hungry, he was a happy baby.  But what if??? And the questions kept coming.  I started supplementing with formula in case he wasn't getting enough calories from my breast milk.  Which eventually led me to stop breastfeeding all together and go completely to formula.  And do you want to know what?? He didn't gain ANY more weight! Nope. He is still (at 12 months) at the very bottom of the charts.  (if he is on them at all!) Well, he has gained weight, but no faster than he would have if I had kept breastfeeding him.  At the time I kept saying I didn't want to be selfish just because I wanted to keep breastfeeding him, if formula was best, then that's what I needed to do.  But today as I was discussing the situation I said,

"I didn't trust myself enough to keep going with what I knew."

Wow. What a statement.  As I thought about it more this afternoon more thoughts about it kept coming.  I think another lesson that every mother learns is to listen to that little voice that says, "go check on the kids" or "go check his diaper even though he is in bed" or one of another hundred other things.  There have been times where I have listened and times where I haven't.  But I am trying to trust that voice more and more.  And here is where the problem lays, It's not my voice or prompting at all! It's not that I didn't trust myself, it's that I didn't truly ask God and listen to his guidance.  Doh! What a pill to swallow.

I've also heard lot of mothers lament over the fact that they had to stop breastfeeding, or never had a chance, and they beat them self up about it, even years later.  But the truth of the matter is that if we have a word from God about something, then it's not about us. [side note- I don't pretend to know every one's situation and don't want to offend anyone by making a blanket statement about any mothering issue] With that being said, if God releases you or encourages you in whatever you are asking about, there isn't really anything that anyone can say if you truly believe God.  Take Heart!

When God told me that Caleb would be a big brother despite the bleeding I was having, it didn't matter what anyone said, (including the devil) that could sway me from that word.  And yet I struggled with fear and belief.  But I continued to go back to that promise.  [another side note- at our sonogram this past Wednesday they saw a Hematoma on the screen that was the cause of the bleeding earlier in my pregnancy. It's not effecting the baby, in fact it's not even attached to the placenta! Just in the uterus.  So that question is answered and I'm glad we didn't have to spend the extra $120 to get that same answer a month ago. Again, a word from God changes everything]

Many times that "motherly instinct" is the Holy Spirit prompting and if I'm listening I can hear it as that and not my own intellect.  What a much stronger thing to stand on! Then there is no guilt, no regret (well there doesn't have to be. Again choosing to stand on the Word and not let the devil pull you into that is such a struggle as a mom sometimes)  But the lessons we learn as we go along this journey are so great, and I'm so thankful I have an amazing Captain who loves to lead and guide me if I can get myself out of the way long enough to listen!

One last thing, I have come to learn over these last few years that God loves the "little" things.  He is not too busy to deal with anything that we need an answer for.  He delights in the details and would love to answer our "little" questions if we can just remember/choose to ask him for the answers.  I really struggle with this but am trying with His help to get better.
Love and peace,

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Caleb's One Year Birthday Party

For those who couldn't be here with us I wanted you to be able to share in the joy :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Maximize your Morning by Inspired to Action

Since I decided to "redesign" my blog I have been thinking up post ideas, taking more pictures, and trying to think as my day goes by about what to write.  I must tell you that I have thought up some amazing things.  Too bad they are still in my head and I haven't quite figured out how to get them "down on paper."  It's mostly a time/priority thing.  I haven't got my day organized where I can make time to blog yet.  But I'll keep trying.

One of the things that I have been wanting to tell you about is a wonderful thing that I am pretty scared of.  I downloaded this free e-book (HERE) last fall and read over it, and then let it sit on my computer.  I read THIS blog all the time (sometimes just skim it because like I said, I'm a little scared of it) and kept up with the last Maximize your Morning Challenge.

I have really struggled since staying home to get my lazy butt out of bed before my kids wake up.  Then I struggle to spend time with God during the day.  Then I struggle with dinner, lists of things to do, and lets not even talk about exercise. HA!

I know God has been calling me to get up earlier, sigh, and I really do want to, sort of.  I have every intention, until my alarm goes off, or Caleb wakes up an extra time during the night or fill in the blank.  So I took a big leap and signed up for the May 15-August 15 Maximize your Morning challenge.

I vacillate between being excited and dreading what's coming.  I know it will be good and I fully expect my days to be completely different even just waking up 15-20 minutes ahead of my kids.  I'm pretty sure Allison is going to love it since a few times this week she has stood at my door and said, "I don't want to get in your bed! I want to go downstairs!"  I mean she is practically begging me to do this.

But I wanted to get this out there in case anyone else is needing a little push.  It's all online, just checking in via Twitter or Facebook.  It's a way to be accountable and encourage other Christian women in our journey to be better moms.  So if you struggle like I do, or if you have it all down you can sign up to be a coach (I say that very tongue in cheek!) Just click on the button and sign up by Wednesday the 11th.  So far there are 600 women joining together in this opportunity!!
So click on the button and join us!!

Some Grief Guidance

So few people know how to grieve WITH people. And I'm no expert, but I have walked down the road myself a few times and wanted to s...