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Resting in Him


Today is Shabbat or Sabbath.  It began at sundown yesterday and ends at sundown today.  A day of resting.  A day of restoring.  A day of reflecting on the goodness and faithfulness of Father.  It is a day that Papa, in His grace, built into the Hebrew calendar.  One day a week to rest the body and reconnect with the important things in life: family, friends, and Him.

The concept of rest has been all but forgotten in our culture.  Americans typically spend their days rushing from one event or activity to another, chronically sleep deprived and stressed out.  So much to do in the short amount of time allotted.

But what if you had permission to take one day a week and rest?  No chores; no “musts”; no “shoulds”.  Just rest.  Read a book.  Take a bath.  Go for a leisurely walk.  Relax.  De-stress.  Reflect on all that’s good in your life.  Rehearse your blessings.  Rekindle your joy.  It’s incredibly freeing you know.  To just say “no” to the world’s expectations of you, to re-claim your time.  To deliberately choose what to do with your day.

Not only do you have permission to do that, but Father earnestly desires it for you.  That’s why He put it on the calendar.  So take some time to rest today.  Don’t make it hard or attach a bunch of rules to it.  Just have some fun.  And as a friend from Texas likes to say, “Shabbat Shalom, y’all”!

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Baked Manicotti


Yummy Baked Manicotti

Preparing healthier meals is one of the journeys I am on in this new year.  This baked manicotti recipe is one that I put together from several different recipes I found.  The cheeses are homemade as well as the spaghetti sauce, and the basil and parsley are from last summer’s garden.  I get my eggs from a friend who has pastured chickens which is a huge blessing!  The only thing in this that’s not so good for you is the white pasta shells.  Since we don’t eat pasta much (maybe once a month or so), and since my tastebuds seem very whole wheat pasta resistant, I am ok with the compromise this early in my journey, although when all the pasta I have is gone I hope to switch to the brown rice pasta.  🙂  You can always use whole wheat, sourdough, or brown rice pasta for yours.

Baked Manicotti Recipe

12 large manicotti-you can also use the shell shaped ones for fun

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp dried basil

1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided

3 cups spaghetti sauce

Prepare pasta according to package directions and rinse with cold water.

Put one cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Pretty sauce

Mix egg, ricotta cheese, 1 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, basil, and parsley in a small bowl.

Mix the herbs, egg, and cheeses well

For easy stuffing, put the cheeses in a plastic baggie that seals and snip off a bottom corner.

Cheese mixture in the baggie with the corner snipped off

Insert the cut corner into the manicotti and squeeze the bag to pipe the mixture into the shell.  Be careful you don’t overfill it or it may split.  Place the stuffed shells in the baking dish.

Stuffed shells on their bed of sauce

I actually had some odd sized shells so I just stuffed until I was out of stuffing.  🙂  Now you need to pour the rest of the sauce over the shells and sprinkle with the last 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese.

All ready for the oven

Now bake this in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.

Bubbly and nicely browned

I served this with a simple salad, green beans, and garlic toast made with my Italian Herb & Cheese Bread recipe that I also use for pizza crust.

This is really simple to make.  You can even assemble the dish ahead of time and put in the oven when you get home from work.  Just let it come to room temp while the oven is preheating.  You’ll need to add about 10 minutes or so to the cooking time if you bake it cold.  Give it a try and then come back and let me know what you think!

I linked up at Foodie Friday, Monday Mania, and Simple Lives Thursday.

Thankful Thursday #6


Oh what a glorious day it was yesterday!  Sunny and warm with just a bit of a breeze.  What an amazing gift!  Even though it’s a few weeks early to be planting, I just couldn’t resist.  It’s supposed to stay pretty mild until spring anyway.  Or so say they who know.

I always end up with more seeds than I have room to plant, but I got most of them in the ground.  I planted my lettuce mix and green onions and spinach.  I also got my snowpeas, green beans, and sugar snap peas in along the fence.   I also got some herbs going in pots in the house.  Then I just sat and soaked up some sunshine.  My, but it felt good.   Course, now I’ll be checking every day until I see the first green shoots poking up out of the ground.  I love watching things grow.  And I love harvesting veggies.  Not too crazy about the weeding part, I’ll have to admit.  But home grown veggies are worth it!  I’ll be sure to let you all know when stuff starts coming up.  🙂

What are you thankful for today?

If you have a blog post that you would like to share, click on Mister Linky below.  Or just share with us in the comment box.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!


I’ve spent the last few weeks periodically drooling over the seed selections in my Baker Creek seed catalogue.  I always dream of having a huge garden when in reality I only have a very small garden spot.  It’s always a little painful to have to eliminate choices I don’t have room for.  Especially from Baker Creek.  They sell heirloom seeds from all over the world.  If you enjoy gardening, I would encourage you to visit their website.  So many seeds, so little room!

I think I have narrowed down my picks for this year.  Pretty sure.  Maybe.  I’m going to give broccoli a try since it’s something we all really like,  And of course salad fixin’s are a must.  There’s nothing quite like picking your lunch 5 minutes before you eat it!  I’ve chosen a salad mix and green onions, and I’m going to try celery this year too.  Carrots don’t seem to like my dirt so I’m giving those a pass.  Green beans will grow up the chain link fence along with sugar snap peas.  I’ll have some tomatoes in pots as well as potted herbs:  basil, oregano, rosemary, chives, cilantro, and parsley.  And although I would love to have potatoes, onions, garlic, and sweet corn there just isn’t enough room.  Same goes for watermelons, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, and so many others.  Sigh.

So for now I will plant what I can in this season and continue to plan for my big garden in a future season when I have more space.  It’s actually kinda fun to plan out the perfect garden.  On paper there are no limitations and I really like that idea.  It’s still a little too early to start planting here but it’s supposed to be around 65 degrees today, so I think I’m going to go outside and play in the dirt!

Do you have a garden?  What are your favorite things to grow?

I linked up with Frugal Days Sustainable Ways


Happy last day of January!  Since it’s the end of the month I thought I would just share with you my changes for the month.  Some changes have been easy, some have been harder.  It actually only took a few hours to clean out the pantry, although the emotional trauma is still with me.  🙂  So, drumroll please:  in the healthy eating category I got rid of the bad oils, high fructose corn syrup, white refined sugar (see what I did with that here), and I’m working in kicking my Dr. Pepper habit.  I have begun soaking my oatmeal and I installed a faucet mount water filter for drinking and cooking.

In other areas, I have begun recycling (I know, right?) and I am doing a ton of research on whole foods, traditional ways of food preparation, and healthier alternatives to household products.  And I’ve been more consistent with my blogging! 🙂  My pantry purge also triggered a purging spree throughout my entire house.  If I don’t love it and/or use it, it’s outa here.  It’s been incredibly freeing to de-clutter.  And I love having less to dust.

So there you have it.  Some baby steps towards a better year and a better, healthier life.  Over this next month I hope to find healthier versions of some of our favorite foods, especially some of those packaged mixes the I like.  Switching to whole foods is a process and there’s grace for the journey.

Have you made some changes this month?  What has been the most challenging for you?

New Year, New You #3


I know you have all been impatiently waiting to read the continuing adventures of Pantry Girl, Food Avenger.  If you want to find out what happened before, you can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

We now re-join our heroine sobbing in the middle of the kitchen floor surrounded by mountains of canned goods and boxes of “stuff” thinly disguised as food.  Battles can be emotional, and having just ninja chopped HFCS to near extinction, and Chuck Norris kicking MSG and artificial sweeteners to the curb, our pantry purging protagonist is portraying her passionate protest at the plight of our national provender.  Holy hyperbole, Batman!  Seriously, I could be a one woman reality show!  Ok, enough with the drama.  I really didn’t break down and cry, but it did kinda make me mad when I began to realize all the junk that is in so much of the foods that we eat.

To continue, the next things that got the boot where my half can of Crisco and my jug of canola oil.  (Repeat after me:  hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil are not my friends!)  I have been using other oils for a while, so it was definitely past time to toss those!  I use butter or olive oil in most of my recipes and I just recently been introduced to organic coconut oil.  It is naturally solid at room temp and makes a great alternative to unnatural shortenings.  It comes in two ways: expeller pressed which has a neutral taste and no smell, and extra virgin which tastes and smells coconutty.  Yes that is too a word.  It’s good for pie crusts and frying things and that makes me happy cause I loves me some homemade french fries!  As an aside, don’t EVER try to fry homemade french fries in olive oil.  It will fill your house with smoke.  Really stinky, thick, black smoke.  And then your smoke detectors will go off because the detect the really stinky, thick, black smoke.  All of them.  Loudly.  At the same time.  And then you’ll need rescue dogs with earplugs to find your children.  At least, that’s what I’ve heard.  Because I would never be silly enough to use a low smoke point oil to fry french fries in.  I’m so glad we’ve gotten that out of the way.  🙂

Another change that’s in process is replacing refined, white sugar with raw organic honey and organic dehydrated sugar cane juice.  While I know that is not the least refined kind of sugar,  as I said before it’s a process.  I have quite a bit of white refined sugar in my pantry left over from some very good intentions I had about making goodie baskets for all those near and dear to me for Christmas gifts.  Unfortunately the goodie fairy never showed and now I’m stuck with lots of refined sugar that I don’t want to eat and I feel that it wouldn’t be good stewardship to toss all of it out.  (Now that I know how to make sugar body scrub it won’t go to waste!)  I am also continuing my search for healthier alternatives to some things I use frequently, like the onion soup mix, Italian salad dressing mix, and the ubiquitous cream of something soups.  There are several recipes online and I will keep trying them until I find one I like.

What pantry items have you deep-sixed for homemade, healthier alternatives?  Please share, it may be something someone else is looking for.  🙂

I linked this at Fight Back Friday.


Last week a friend and I went to dinner at an Italian place.  My friend ordered a dish in a wine sauce and she let me have a taste.  I decided right then that I needed to come up with a recipe that had a wine sauce.  This is what I came up with using ingredients that I already had at home.

Chicken and Broccoli in Wine Sauce

Here’s what I used:

3 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces (preferably organic, free range)
2 bunches of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium onion, thickly sliced and the slices cut in half
4 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 c homemade chicken stock
1 c white wine (I only had a white zinfandel, so that’s what I used)
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
pinch of sea salt
ground pepper
thyme
toasted sesame seeds
Put the chicken stock, wine, minced garlic, and 1 1/2 tsp sea salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by about half.
While the sauce is reducing, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onions and saute until they are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and chicken.  Cook, stirring, until the chicken is no longer pink.  Put the broccoli in the skillet.  It will steam beautifully just sitting on top of everything else.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Check sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Pour the sauce over the mixture in the skillet.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme and toasted sesame seeds.  Stir to distribute sauce and seasonings.  Serve with a green salad and garlic toast.
This was a really quick and easy meal and it made the house smell really good.  The kids liked it so much that they ate it all and didn’t leave me any leftovers for today! 😦  You could serve it over pasta or rice for a more filling meal, or if you want to stretch it.  This will easily served four adults, or in my case, 1 adult and two teenagers.  I just love it when an experiment works out!
Do you experiment in the kitchen?  What has been your favorite experiment so far?

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