Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book review: Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India

Image from here
This was an interesting book about a woman who moved to Delhi, India and lived there for six years. It's part memoir and part commentary on some of the Indian customs, including arranged marriages, the caste system, and the differences between India and America. It was funny and quirky and kept me reading. I thought it did a great job of summing up some of the best and worst and most confusing parts of India.

"If India had been a man, we would have had a very unhealthy relationship indeed.  The place overwhelmed and infuriated me; sometimes, after a hot day of frustrations, I felt as though it was taking blood from me to feed itself.  In the mornings, though, waking up with India beside me, I was a girl newly in love.  I'd lie very still, blinking into the bright white light.  I could hear Radha moving around in the apartment, and I'd pray that she wouldn't intrude.  I like to let the outside cacophony wash over me, as though it was a part of my dream.  If I lay perfectly still, I imagined, it would stay with me for the whole day."
- Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India by Miranda Kennedy

Monday, August 29, 2011

On being positive

Image from here
I was talking to a friend of mine on Sunday and she told me that while our church is going through a time of transition, her family has decided that they will look at everything positively.  I LOVE this idea for several reasons:
1) It means there is no decision about how to react to specific situations because you've already decided to be positive.
2) It will keep them involved in what's going on at church even if things aren't exactly as they want them to be because they've promised to look at everything positively.
3) It will allow them to keep each other positive.  If one person gets discouraged, there is always someone else to encourage them to remain positive.
4) This is a great idea that could work in any situation because who couldn't use a reminder to remain positive from time to time.

And because you probably want to know, here's what's going on at church.  We're in the middle of transitioning from a head minister who has been there for years to an interim minister while we search for a new head minister.  We also managed to lose one of our associate ministers at about the same time, who will not be replaced for the time being.  This is definitely going to be a long search process to find a head minister because we haven't even found the search committee for the new head minister, let alone began searching.

While this transition can be scary because there is so much changing, I'm choosing to look at it as an exciting time in the church, which will help determine the direction of the church for years to come.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

From India. With Love.

Image from here
One of my favorite bloggers is having a giveaway for her birthday over at From India. With Love.  She is living in India and of course posts gorgeous pictures of the people and things she sees on a daily basis.  Can you tell I'm a little jealous?  Head over to her blog to enter to wish her a happy birthday or to enter the giveaway yourself.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A quick update

My friend's mom's surgery went really well.  Thanks for the prayers.

Monday, August 22, 2011


A friend's mother is going into surgery tomorrow morning.  As someone who knows the uncertain feeling of having a parent go into surgery I ask if you could pray for her and her family tomorrow.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. -Psalm 62:8

Sunday, August 21, 2011


"If you are going to do creative work that will change the world, then there
is one ingredient necessary to your success: REST.

You must take time to take care of your soul, to check in with your
emotional self and make sure all is well with your inner life. This is
ESSENTIAL — more than with any other type of work, in my opinion.

Because your vocation requires you to pull from within, to consult the
genius inside of you, to reach into the depths of your soul and share it
with the world — to inspire, encourage, challenge, and change.

I will say it again: If you endeavor to create, you must rest."

Jeff Goins

It's not often that I have someone telling me to rest.  I know I have a tendency to not do it enough, to simply keep going until I can't go anymore, which is why this quote resonated so much with me.  This quote was originally posted by Rachel over at No. 17.  Go check out what she had to say about it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recipe: Applesauce

And here's my recipe.


This makes enough for 4 people. If you would like to freeze or can, use more apples. 

--4 large apples, skinned ,cored, and cut in quarters
--juice from 1 lemon
--1/2 tsp cinnamon
--1 tsp vanilla
--1 T brown sugar
--1/4 cup H20

Skin, core, and cut your apples into quarters.
 Plop the pieces into your crockpot. Add the juice from the lemon, and the water. Pour in the vanilla (I used imitation--we were out of the good stuff), and add the cinnamon and brown sugar. 

Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. When the apples are super tender, mash with a potato masher or large fork. My apples were very tender after 6 hours, and I used a fork.

~I wanted to make more applesauce so I used 10 apples and doubled everything else.
~I also used my immersion blender to make it into applesauce, which was so easy.

5/5 stars

I LOVE homemade applesauce.  My mom used to make a whole bunch and then freeze it, which is why I was so excited to make this recipe.  I used 10 apples and doubled everything else, which was enough to fill the entire crock pot and then it cooked down to about a half of a 6 quart crock pot of applesauce.  I used my handy, dandy immersion blender to make it into applesauce.  It was so easy because I could do it while it was still hot and in the crock pot.

The flavor of this was really good!  It's so much better than store bought applesauce.  The only thing I would change would be to not double the water because it did end up a little watery, but I will definitely be making this again and then freezing it, though it's so easy to make that I could just whip up a batch if I want some.

Recipe: Beef Stroganoff

It's week 2 of the crock pot challenge!  Here's Laura's recipe for the week!

Beef Stroganoff

1 lb beef sirloin cubes, raw
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or (or equal amount of garlic powder)
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
2 tsp Worstershire sauce
1/2 of 4 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained
8 oz sour cream

Combine all ingredients except sour cream in crock pot.  Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.  Stir in sour cream until well blended.  Serve over rice or noodles.
~stew meat for beef sirloin
~4 oz mushrooms instead of 2 oz

3/5 stars

I need to try this again because, while good, I think it needs quite a few tweaks. First, and perhaps unfairly, I think parts of the recipe should be doubled. There are certain things I love to have leftovers of, and beef stroganoff is most definitely one of them. This recipe only made about 4 servings, so there's not much left over. Here's what I would do: double the soup and seasonings and quadruple the mushrooms (if you're into "funge," as we call it in my household). Absolutely do NOT double the sour cream. Cook's instinct told me 8 oz was waaaaay too much, so I didn't put exactly that amount in, but it was still WAY too sour-creamy, and the sour cream flavor drowned all the other flavors. I'm used to my mom just putting an unmeasured glob into her recipe, so I'd probably only use 4 oz next time if I weren't going to make a double batch. Also, as I've become quite a fan of funge lately, I'd recommend putting in the whole 4-oz can of mushrooms in a single batch and 2 cans in a double batch. As to the meat, right, like I can afford sirloin. I wasn't crazy about the texture of the stew meat, and I'd only use half a pound for a single batch and the whole pound for a double, but as I do 98% of my shopping at Aldi, stew meat was the most convenient. All in all, probably a great recipe. Just needs heavy tweaks.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Recipe: Crock pot lasagna

My husband has been wanting to make homemade lasagna for a really long time, but I think that Stouffer's does a fine job of making lasagna.  But we had two containers of ricotta in the fridge that we needed to use up, so I decided to try out this recipe.

4/5 stars

I left out the red pepper flakes because I didn't have any and I added some store bought sauce for the top layer because I ran out of the sauce that the recipe called for.  If I make it again I'll probably either add another can of crushed tomatoes to make more sauce or just use store bought spaghetti sauce because that'd make it so much easier.

The thing I was surprised about with this recipe was how easy it was.  Seriously, all I had to do was mix the sauce ingredients together, mix the cheese ingredients together, and then layer them with uncooked noodles and spinach.  Part of my resistance to making my own lasagna was because I've seen several recipes where you have to cook the lasagna noodles before adding them to the lasagna.  

The cooking time of 3 - 3 1/2 hours was perfect.  The noodles were cooked all the way through and the cheese on top was melted.  The lasagna looked really impressive when I served it.  The layers held together well, even though the cheese mixture was a little hard to spread when I was making it.  As for the flavor, it was pretty good.  I think it could be better with a few changes, which I'll explain below.

I gave this recipe 4 out of 5 stars for what it could be!  When I make it again, which I will, I will make it even easier by using store bought spaghetti sauce because the store bought spaghetti sauce I used in the top layer had mushrooms in it and definitely added to the flavor.  The other things I would do is use a little less spinach, a little more mozzarella/parmesan cheese in the cheese mixture, and probably add some ground beef because I know that Andrew's going to complain about the lack of meat when he tries it!

The best part about this recipe?  It's gotten me over my fear/resistance to making homemade lasagna!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Recipe: Pizza soup

My friend Laura who's doing the crock pot challenge with me sent me her review of pizza soup.

--1 jar (14 oz) of pizza sauce
--3 empty jars full of water
--1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
--1/2 red onion, chopped
--1 cup sliced mushrooms
--1 cup baby tomatoes, cut in quarters (or 1 can diced tomatoes, drained)
--2 already-cooked Italian sausage (I used chicken Italian sausage)
--1 cup sliced pepperoni, sliced in quarters (Hormel turkey pepperoni is labeled gluten free)
--8 fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 1/2 T dried)
--1 T dried oregano
--1/2 to 1/3 cup of dried pasta (if your pasta is tiny, use 1/3 cup. if it's big, do 1/2. I used 1/2 cup Trader Joe's brown rice penne)
--shredded mozzarella cheese (to add later)

The Directions.

Use a 5 or 6 quart crockpot for this recipe. Serves 4 hungry adults, or 2 hungry adults and 2 kids with enough leftovers to feed them all again.

Wash and prepare veggies. Dump them into the crockpot. Cut up the sausage into small pieces--I sliced, then cut the pieces in fourths. Add to crockpot. Cut up the pepperoni, add it, too. Add basil and oregano. Pour in the pizza sauce, and follow with three empty jars of water.

Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours. Everything in this is already cooked, so you are really only heating through and allowing the flavors to meld.

Thirty minutes before serving, add the dry pasta, and turn to high. My pasta only took 20 minutes to soften quite nicely.

Garnish/top with shredded mozzarella cheese.


~yellow onion for red onion
~chorizo for Italian sausage 
~no bay leaves
~very little oregano

3/5 stars

This tasted great! Verrrry pizza-y, and I've been craving pepperoni pizza for weeks! And makes quite a bit. I substituted yellow onion because that was what I had, and I thought it would work better than the red onion; I substituted chorizo because I don't like Italian sausage; I skipped the bay leaves because I didn't have them and didn't want to deal with them (Fishing out 10 bay leaves from hot soup? Yech, no thanks.); and I used maybe about half a teaspoon of oregano because not only was that all we had left, but the stuff makes me sick. I also used a blend of Italian cheeses to top instead of just plain mozzarella, and that was fantastic. 

Now, my complaints: I'm a big fan of bold, seasoned food, so this, prepared (sort of) the way the recipe directs, didn't do it for me. I added in some salt, crushed red pepper, and Penzeys Tuscan Sunset seasoning, which all helped TREMENDOUSLY. Oh, and I also shook in some Tabasco on my portion, but that's just me. I also think it needed more pasta. My biggest complaint by far, and the reason I'm only rating this 3 of 5 stars, is because of the grease factor. The soup was incredibly greasy from the pepperoni. When you finished your bowl, the sides were COVERED with red-orange grease, and if you had more than one bowl, you felt queasy. I blotted a few of the pepperonis with paper towel, but that was really too much work. It's possible, though, that I just wasn't using a high enough quality of pepperoni.   

Would I make it again?  Not sure.  I'd probably have to really be craving it.  While tasty, I didn't relish sticking spoonfuls of unhealthy soup into my mouth.  There's very little redeeming, health-wise, about this dish.  Other than the mushrooms and the tomatoes, it has no nutritional content.  As Crockpot365 says, it's a great dish for kids.  Who, let's be honest, can afford all those calories and the grease.

You can tell I'm not the one who wrote this review because I'm a total wimp when it comes to spicy food.  I've never put Tabasco on anything in my life!  And Laura's much more thorough when it comes to writing review than I am.  Maybe I'll get better at writing reviews during this challenge too!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Another school year starts next week and I'm getting more excited about it as it gets closer.  The thing I like about the start of another school year is the structure it brings, especially after the summer which usually has almost no structure to it.

I am definitely one of those people who works well with structure.  When a teacher used to assign a project in school, I was the student who wanted to know exactly what they were looking for and how much time I would have to complete it.  If they had a rubric that was broken down into the parts of the project so that I could check them off as I finished them that was even better.

Image from here
This trait has followed me into my adult life.  I get more accomplished when my time is structured and I have a list of the things I need to accomplish that I can check off as I go.  (My new favorite thing is listing them in a word document and then using strikethrough to show when I finish them.  There's something much more satisfying about seeing the entire sentence with a line through it than simply seeing a little check mark in a box.)  So even though I may not be looking forward to all of the things that come with starting another school year at least I know the structure (and all that I will accomplish because of it) is something to look forward to.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Teacher discounts

As I think about going back to school I'm loving that several stores are starting to offer (or maybe they already did and they're just advertising) a teacher discount.  We're talking some of my favorite stores.

                                                    Michael's offers 15% off to teachers.
Image from here

                        Jo-Ann's offers 15% off to teachers with a few bonus days of 20% off.
Image from here
These discounts are perfect since I'm in charge of the art club at school.  The only thing I keep thinking?  Come on Hobby Lobby!!!

Other stores that offer teacher discounts include New York and Company, Office Max, and Office Depot.

A crock pot meal a week

So school is starting next week, which means that I'll have much less time at home than I do now.  I always mean to cook more during the summer and then never really get around to it.

Image from here
Today I made the peanut butter chicken crock pot recipe that I've posted about before here.  I was reminded of the recipe when I went to visit my friend Laura and she made it for me.  I was texting her today about how I was making the recipe and we got in conversation about how we wanted to try more crock pot recipes.

So we've taken on the endeavor of cooking a crock pot meal a week.  I think that it's a totally achievable endeavor, especially with someone else doing it with me.  And with each of us trying out a different recipe we can find the good ones and then pass them on to the other one.  I'm really excited about it!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Recipe: Almond Ricotta Cheesecake

Picture and recipe found here
Andrew brought home a whole bunch of ricotta cheese from work so I've been looking for recipes that use ricotta.  I found this one and made it last week.  It was easy to make, didn't involve many ingredients I didn't already have (which is always a plus), and tastes great!  The almond flavor is stronger than the cheesecake flavor because the ricotta is so mild, but I loved it.  I'll be making another one today so that I can use up the rest of my whipping cream and because you can never have enough cheesecake!

Almond Ricotta Cheesecake

  • 1 cup finely crushed graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 cups (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped blanched almonds (I left these out of mine.)
  1. Combine crust ingredients.  Press evenly over bottom and 1 and 1/2 inches up sides of an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. Combine ricotta cheese, sugar, whipping cream, flour, salt, water and almond extract in large bowl of electric mixer; blend until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time; blend until smooth.  Stir in chopped almonds.  Pour into pan and bake in preheated 350 degree oven 1 hour or until set.
  3. Cool in oven with door propped open 30 minutes.  Refrigerate 4 hours or longer before serving.