Thursday, May 16, 2013

Popular Cheese Ball

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

8 oz cream cheese

1 jar Kraft Old English cheese spread

1/4 tsp parsley

1/4 tsp onion salt

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

1/2 green pepper chopped finely (or more or less)

a few green onions chopped finely (or more or less)

1. Cream the cream cheese in mixer. 

2. Add Old English cheese spread and mix it.

3. Add all seasonings and chopped veggies.

4. Add shredded cheese and mix until shape-able.

5. You can shape now if not too soft or refrigerate and shape later and roll in nuts or bacon bits or ham bits. 

People LOVE this cheeseball!


6 cups of Rice Krispies
1 C light karo syrup
1 C sugar
1 1/2 C peanut butter
6 oz. butterscotch chips
6 oz. chocolate chips

1. Pour Rice Krispies into large pan.
2. In saucepan, mix Karo and sugar. Bring just barely to a boil, stirring constantly. 
3. When it just starts to boil, add peanut butter and mix it in.
4. Take mixture off the heat and pour over Rice Krispies. Mix together.
5. Spray 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
6. Press mixture into pan, but do not pack down too hard.
7. Melt chocolate chips and butterscotch chips on medium heat in microwave, stirring every thirty seconds. Do not overheat!
8. Spread melted chips over bars. 
9. Cool and cut.

Peanut Blossom (“Kiss”) Cookies

These are better than your average peanut butter cookie. We prefer the milk chocolate taste of stars on them rather than kisses. These go quickly on holiday trays.

5 ¼ cups flour 1 ½ cups peanut butter

3 tsp soda 3 eggs

1 ½ tsp salt 6 TBSP milk

1 ½ cups sugar 3 tsp vanilla

1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed 3 pkgs Hershey’s kisses or stars

1 ½ cups shortening/butter (we use ½ Crisco and half real butter)

1. Cream butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar.

2. Whisk eggs.

3. Mix milk, eggs, and vanilla in separate bowl.

4. Pour milk mixture into creamed mixture, and mix.

5. Combine remaining ingredients (except kisses) in another mixing bowl.

6. Add to mixing ingredients until well blended.

7. Shape dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each.

8. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets.

9. Bake for 8-11 minutes convection; 10-13 regular.

10. Top each cookie immediately with a kiss, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around the edge.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Potato Tip!

I usually steam my carrots, potatoes, and green beans before adding them to almost done meats (as opposed to cooking them all together from the beginning).

I have hit on a tip for potatoes in the past year or two that has made potato prep so much easier. This tip works for potatoes you want to peel or those you do not wish to peel (in that it helps clean them too). You should, of course, cut out bad spots before doing anything with the potatoes.

1. Put whole potatoes in large pot of boiling water.

2. Cook potatoes to the doneness you desire, boiling vigorously. (This will depend on the use you have for them. If you want them partially cooked or you just want the peeling off easily, etc.)

3. Drain the potatoes (use one side of the sink for draining and the other for peeling, so the heat from the drained potatoes and water doesn't make the sink too hot to do the next step).

4. Plunge the drained potatoes into the other side of the sink that is filled with ice water.

5. In five minutes or so, simply reach into the ice water and start rubbing the skins off (or do not leave in water long, but get them out and use with peelings on). The skins rub off with your fingers only and very quickly.

6. Now cut, grate, slice, dice, julienne, or leave whole for whatever you are making.

Crock Pot Wednesday: Beef and Pork Roasts in the Crock Pot

Final product--beef roast with potatoes, carrots, and green beans

If you follow our Crock Pot Wednesdays, you have read about the many soups and stews that I do for our lunch on Wednesdays while we teach classes. Our oldest son is soup-crazy, so I started the tradition for him as he comes to teach with me each week.

Classes are over, but I do want to continue the Crock Pot Wednesday tradition because so many of the entrees in the crock pot are so simple--and one dish!

Today I did a beef roast, potatoes, carrots, and green beans in the crock pot. While I don't have a specific recipe for you, I do have many tips and ideas for the weekly "meat and potatoes" meal that I do.

Here you go:

1. By knowing that one meal is going to be "meat and potatoes" (preferably all in one dish) meal, I know every week that one meal is "covered," so to speak (without too much planning and thinking). My meat and potatoes meals usually consist of one of the following:

~Cheesy potatoes with ham
~Beef roast with veggies (like above)
~Pork roast sided with potato wedges in oven or with the veggies in it (like above)
~Pork roast that is more of a sweet and sour type sided with rice (not true meat and potatoes!)
~Beef stew
~Chicken stew
~Meatloaf with whole potatoes around it
~Beef roast with mashed potatoes (seldom--too much extra work!)

2. I almost always cook my roasts in cooking bags---even if they are in the crock pot. I don't usually buy expensive cuts of meat, so the small price I am paying for the "oven cooking bag" helps make the meat more tender.

3. Sometimes if I find one of those pork roasts or corn beef roasts with the seasonings already in the packet or on the meat, I go for them! Something about knowing the meat is tenderized and seasoned makes that day's main meal feel really easy!

4. I seldom cook my vegetables in with my meat. It sometimes tastes as though the potatoes are overcooked in order to get the meat done, etc. Thus, I always steam+ my veggies in the micro and add them to the oven bag (or dump the oven bag the last bit) during the last hour or two to mix flavors. (If you are not opposed to using a microwave oven, I encourage you to do more and more cooking in it. I put fresh veggies in (one type at a time), put a 1/4 cup of broth on them, and cover--and steam cook in the microwave until nearly done. I also do this on stir fry night for stir fried veggies, like carrots, that take longer to cook than the other stir fried veggies I am using.) +For potatoes, I often use my "potato trick."

5. To make stews (chicken or beef), I cut up my meat and put it in the crock pot early in the day with either store bought soups or homemade soups and a small amount (cup or two, depending on size of crock and amount of meat) of rich broth. (If using canned broth, I add base to the broth to deepen the taste.) I also add onions, bay leaves, and other seasonings. This becomes my "starter" for my stews. Then later in the day, when the meat is nearly done, I add the steamed veggies as described above in number four.

6. The richest, best beef roast I make is rolled roast with mushroom soup, deep broth, onions, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Before I put the roast in that mixture, I rub it with a tablespoon or two of coffee, some garlic, and Mrs. Dash. This makes the best gravy ever!

I love having a day each week dedicated to "meat and potatoes." It fills my four guys up--and gives my mind a partial day off from thinking about dinner too much! Happy crocking!

Homeschool Mom

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Six Ways My Husband Makes Me a Better Mother

Family vacation to Disney World in 2003

I love being a mother! I have loved every stage of it--from being pregnant to having a son turn thirty this year! Reflecting on motherhood is something most mothers do on this special day known as Mother's Day. This reflection, coupled with my husband and I working on many parenting presentations lately for our parenting seminar ("Raising Kids With Character") and for homeschooling conventions, has led me to this blog post. 

We mothers need all of the help and support that we can get in order to do our jobs. When I look at my mothering, I realize that the greatest support and help that I have had throughout the years has come from my husband. I don't say this lightly or as a cliche'. I truly mean this.

Here are six ways that my husband has helped me to be a better mother, ways in which he has invested in my life and the life of our family that have resulted in my having the time, confidence, strength, inspiration, and vision to do what I do every day.

1. Giving great value to what I do

When I had five kids ten and under, the days were long and hard. I remember feeling like a failure many evenings when Ray walked through the door. At that time, he would take me by the hand, lead me to couch, and ask me questions that gave worth to my day: "Did you read the Bible to the kids today? Did you rock the baby? Did you do story time? Did you meet the kids' needs? Did you spend time with the kids?"

When I answered yes to these things, he would say, "Then you did exactly what you were supposed to do today. The other things don't matter."

Suddenly, the dishes in the sink and the unfinished lesson plans seemed insignificant. He had truly brought worth to my day, to my efforts, to my life.

This is one small example of how my husband, year after year, has given great value and worth to what I do. How he has always made my job as a mother, a homeschooler, and even a homemaker feel important and worthy. And this has made me a better mother.

2. Seeing needs and meeting them

My husband's primary love language is serving. I have always felt especially blessed to be married to someone who has "servant" as his native tongue. As a servant, he has never been able to just see things around the house or with the kids that need done and leave them. He believes, and has taught our children to believe, that if you "see a need, you should meet it."

In practical terms, this means that dishes, trash, laundry, picking up, cooking, bathing, putting kids to bed, tutoring kids at night, etc., were always jobs that Ray picked up the slack on. 

I can remember when company would be at our house on Sunday night, and as they left, we always started scurrying around to clean the house, etc. One night a guest suggested that since it was Sunday, we could just leave the work for Monday. Ray quickly answered that "the ox is in the ditch."

 After the company left, Ray explained to the kids: "The ox in the ditch means that it is okay to work on Sunday if the ox is in the ditch, and you need to pull it out. When the house is a mess on Sunday night, and we leave it like that for Mommy on Monday morning, we are leaving the ox in the ditch."

By seeing needs and meeting them, besides teaching our children a spiritual truth, Ray has also helped me have time for important heart training, homeschooling, and outreaches that I would not have had time for. And this has made me a better mother.

3. Helping me not to over-schedule

This one has been met with limited success (but not for lack of Ray trying!). I can remember fifteen years ago when I had six kids in school and more work than I felt I could humanly handle, Ray sat down with me with little sticky notes and a large piece of tag board. Before "Managers of Their Home" and other scheduling programs were even popular, Ray was laying out my day on sticky notes in thirty minute increments!

He tried then, and continues to try, to tame my overzealous tendencies. He laid blank sticky notes throughout the day in strategic locations--telling me that I HAD to put in thirty minutes of flex time here and there. I always tried to put too much into each day and was often frustrated that things didn't go as well in any given day as I had hoped it would, based on my tight schedule with little flex time.

There are countless other times in which Ray has tried to help me not to over-schedule. When I listened to him, my schedule went more smoothly. Bless his heart, he is still trying to reign me in schedule-wise. :) And this has made me a better mother.

4. Focusing more on relationship than role

So many husbands, in trying to lead their family according to their interpretation of Scripture, spend a great deal of time focusing on everybody's "roles." This often results in a hierarchy-emphasis that does not lead to the husband as the servant leader, but only as the leader.

Ray is confident in his role as head of our family. He doesn't need to remind his family of it. He doesn't need to focus his attention on his headship. He doesn't need to flex his leadership muscle.

Instead, he has always focused on relationship--his relationship with me, his relationship with his children. He focuses on meeting our needs rather than on guarding his position. And guess what? His attention on relationship and meeting our needs continues to cause us to respect his role.

An attention to relationships has resulted in greater heart-reaching and heart training of our children than i could have ever imagined--both by Ray and by me. And this has made me a better mother.

5. Loving me as Christ loved the church

Ray has always taken the analogy of "loving his wife as Christ loved the church" seriously. As he sees it, when a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, he will give everything for her. He will not seek for his own gain or his own needs. He will instead love selflessly.

In practical terms, this means that he gives me his time and attention. It means date nights, one-on-one time, long discussions, and lots of ballroom dancing. Obviously, we haven't always been able to have evenings out, and we certainly didn't ballroom dance while we had a houseful of little kids, but he has always sought to love his wife selflessly. And this has made me a better mother.

6. Being available

One of Ray's favorite "parenting stories" that he shares in our seminar is that of Absalom, who, the Bible tells us, "stole the hearts of the people of Israel." Scripture doesn't say that he did anything fantastic to win the people. It only says that every day he stood by the gate and heard the people's complaints and needs. 

In Ray's words, "Absalom was available." We both believe that if we want to win our children's hearts; if we want to be their primary influencers; if we want to be the ones they come to when they are facing difficulties, we must make ourselves available to them, much like Absalom did to the people of Israel.

Even when Ray worked sixty hours a week in the automotive industry (fifteen years ago, before he took a "normal" job to be available more to our family), he still "waited at the gate" every day--making himself available to me and the kids. And this has made me a better mother.

Six key things that have had significant impacts on my parenting. For me, these things, day in and day out and year in and year out, have truly helped me to be a better mother. And this Mother's Day, I am more grateful than ever.

Happy Mother's Day: "Dandelions for Mother"

May brings out the dandelions in our yard, as it does in any yard that is not treated. I remember when my older kids were little, and they brought dandelion bouquets in to me constantly. I used to take morning walks in a neighborhood then (since we lived on a busy highway), and instead of envying their well-manicured lawns, I always felt sorry for them. I thought it would be awful to go an entire spring without a dandelion bouquet! Now I’ve wised up some, and I secretly envy those with manicured lawns---but I would rather have dandelion bouquets than a beautiful lawn any time!

One day when Joshua was seven and Kayla and Cami were three and a half and two, I received multiple dandelion bouquets. It was such a special, wonderful day that I didn’t want to forget it. And I never have….because I wrote a poem about it that I like to reread every spring to remind me of that blessed, hectic, overwhelming time in my life. I hope it blesses you!

                                          “Dandelions for Mother”

I heard the sound one afternoon, a noise I couldn’t deny--

“Mama,” she squealed in her sweet voice--my toddler’s ”I want in” cry.

I made my way to the back door, where she stood with a dandelion bunch,

“In,” she said as I opened the door, with a smile that expressed so much.

“For you,” she beamed proudly, holding in her hand—a wilty dandelion prize

I hugged her as she gave them to me; then she scampered back outside.

That sure was quick I thought to myself, and I turned to go back to my chores,

I put them in a vase, as my centerpiece---I didn’t know there would soon be more!

“Oh Mother,” I heard another sweet voice and someone opened up the large back screen;

It was my four-year-old, smiling from ear-to-ear, like the two-year-old I had just seen.

Her hands behind her back, she gleefully said, “I have a present for you!”

I held out my arms and closed my eyes, the way she always wants me to do.

“Surprise,” she shouted, “I picked them for you because I love you so much!”

I acted astonished, as she handed me a second dandelion bunch.

I got a quick hug (four year olds are busy, you know), then she went on her way,

I put them in a vase on the table; two centerpieces in one short day.

The next thing I knew the four-year-old was back, her hands so full once again,

“I brought these from brother; he’s guarding our fort, so now, he can’t come in.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” I replied to my little dear, “how thoughtfully you share,”

“Come over here to mama’s arms; let’s rock in my big blue chair.”

“Sorry,” she said, “we’re fighting the battle---the Philistines are ‘bout to attack.”

“Brother told me to give these to you, then be sure that I come right back.”

She bounced out the door like a summer breeze, and tenderly blew me a kiss-

A sweet, long-distance one--to replace the rocking she knew I would miss.

I got out a third vase and filled it with water and put in the brand new flow’rs.

What more could a mother ask for----three bouquets within the hour!

I always love to receive some flowers---as so many women do,

A vase filled with roses or carnations---or perhaps a plant or two.

I’d wait for each special occasion, with my hopes built up so high.

Would the florist come to my house today--or would he pass me by?

How silly I finally thought to myself; to wait for the florist’s van,

I’ve gotten flowers every single day---since well before spring began.

And how wonderful these dandelions are---delivered by special hands,

Brightening my life every spring day---as only small children can.

And right at that moment, I realized, how vast are the endless joys,

That come with being called “Mother” by these precious girls and boy.