Grace for Moms

My Belle-aroo

My Belle-aroo

One thing that is vital to motherhood is living in God’s grace. Mistakes we make as a parent directly affect our children. Ever cringed as your child repeats something you said? My Caleb picks up every -ism he hears. The other day he said in response to a shiny red car, “Dad, that’s sick!” (By the way – if something is sick, it’s actually awesome). He’s maybe heard that once in his life. That’s cute, but when I see my kids picking up the bad, it feels horrible. I work so hard to protect them, and yet it’s inevitable that they will pick up my sinful habits.

Praise God there is redeeming grace (and therapy) available to my children. My mistakes are not etched in stone. Rather they are able to be molded to bring God’s glory forth. The hurts I cause in my children can be used by their Creator to draw them closer to Him. Now that’s grace to live in.

In Isaiah 40:11 it says “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart, He gently leads those that have young.” Oh, that’s grace to bask in as a young mom. He gently leads me, as in He leads me differently because I have young children. I need His grace and tenderness to surround me. Some evenings after the house grows quiet and dark, I remember things that I did or said that I regret. I feel frustrated that I got angry with Caleb, or that I was too hard on Isabelle. Soon my day is peppered with all my failings. I feel defeated and inadequate. It’s then when I need to receive the grace extended to me. It’s available to me anytime, but I must embrace it for it to run through my veins. We named our new baby Lydia Grace. I pray that she lives in the grace she’s named for.

Every week grace comes in the form of a popcorn/smoothie night. That’s right, no cooking for this mama. Whip out the Whirley Pop and freestyle a yummy fruit smoothie. Complete it with a movie and we’ve got instant meal, happy kids and easy clean up. And may I repeat that we do this EVERY week! I got the idea from my lovely friend who did it every Friday night. Her kids expected it and loved it.

My Caleb-bubby

My Caleb-bubby

For the smoothies I buy a big package of frozen fruit (strawberry, peach, mango, pineapple) and a smaller bag of frozen blueberries or raspberries. We almost always have have bananas, milk and yogurt on hand. You could probably sneak something else in there to get some added nutrients . . . 1 cup spinach, flax seed, wheat germ or fresh-grated ginger. Just don’t tell anyone you did it!

For the popcorn we have a stove-top popper called the Whirley Pop. Love it! Found it at a garage sale for a few bucks, but I have seen them at most stores for around $15. Two tablespoons of oil and 1/2 cup of kernels and whirl away! I even get my kids to do the “work” of making popcorn my letting them turn the handle as it heats and pops. I add an ample sprinkling of salt to the finished product. My nephew Ethan remarked that my popcorn “tastes like there’s nothing on it.” His solution was adding butter! So if you’re not a fan of stove-top popcorn, buy microwave popcorn. Oh the buttery goodness of microwave popcorn! And even less mess!

Tara’s Freestyle Smoothie

(once you’ve created your own, insert your name!)

Supplies:

 2 handfuls mixed frozen fruit
1 small handful frozen raspberries or blueberries
1 banana
1 small container yogurt (stick to a complementary flavor such as strawberry or peach)
milk
(sneaky health food option – see above)
blender

Directions:

Place the frozen fruit in blender. Peel banana, break in half and throw in. Dump the yogurt in. Pour milk in – start off with around 3/4 cup. Or two big glugs. Sneak the health food in, too. Blend and boogie. Add more milk if you like it smoother.

Lydia Grace, born April 13

Lydia Grace, born April 13

Using the words of one of my favorite chefs, Ina Garten, “How easy is that?” So mommy, give yourself a grace night and don’t make a meal. Work yourself out of a job, too. Maybe one of your older kids could learn to make the smoothies and another one is the official popcorn maker. Then you could just sit back and receive the grace of a popcorn/smoothie night. Bon appetit dear one.

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Squash Curry

When I have seen curry listed in the title of a recipe or on a menu selection I’ve quickly dismissed it as an option for myself. Not because I didn’t like it, but because it was unknown and mysterious to me. What is curry anyway? It’s a quite general word to describe Middle-Eastern and Eastern dishes flavored with a combination of spices and dried or fresh hot chilies.

That leaves the door open for many dishes to fall under the “curry” category! My first adventure in experiencing curry was at a Laotian restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. Madison has a large population of Hmong people who come from Laos. We were in the mood for Asian and stumbled upon this fun restaurant on Willy Street.

Let’s digress — my hesitation to try curry is a lot like my hesitation to befriend internationals. Other cultures are mysterious, unknown. But in reality internationals are the ones living in the midst of mystery. They have left their familiar and are living in our familiar. I spent 3 months abroad in college living in Brazil. The most wonderful moments were when the Brazilians embraced me and guided (sometimes forced) me through their culture. Jesus made a point to break cultural barriers in his life on earth. So let’s challenge our taste buds and hearts to breach the unknown!

Here’s a close version from the one I ordered at Lao-Laan Xang Laotian Restaurant. Omit the half and half for dairy-free or less calories.

Squash Curry

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 med onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs canola oil
1 1/2 Tbs red Thai curry paste*
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 c chicken broth
1 Tbs fish sauce*
1 1/2 c sweet potato cubes
1 1/2 c butternut squash cubes*
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 c half and half, optional
3-4 Tbs fresh, chopped cilantro
cooked rice to serve with

*(see Ideas and Advice below)

1) Saute chicken in oil until no longer pink. Remove from skillet.
2) Saute onions and garlic in skillet for 2 minutes. Add curry paste and stir.
3) Whisk in coconut milk, broth and fish sauce. Bring to boil.
4) Add squash and sweet potatoes, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
5) Turn heat to low. Remove 2 cups of cooked squash and sweet potatoes to food processor. Process until smooth and return to pan. (Thickens mixture).
6) Add half and half and lime juice; stir. Add chicken.
7) Get ready for an explosion on your taste buds!
8) Serve over rice and sprinkle cilantro on top.
9) Let me know what you think.

Ideas and advice:
*Red curry paste usually comes in a small can or jar. You won’t use all of it for a single recipe, so freeze 1 1/2 Tbs portions in ice cube trays. Once frozen pop out into a freezer bag and voila!, they are ready for the next time you make this dish!
*Fish sauce is stinky! But that’s okay, it adds great flavor. Store unused sauce in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
*If you buy a whole butternut squash be aware that cutting it up is an adventure. You might lose a finger if you aren’t careful! Try this:  http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_peel_and_cut_a_butternut_squash/   or else you can buy already diced squash at Walmart or Sam’s. Freeze any unused squash for your next recipe. I got three squash curries out of one squash.

Humble Pot Roast in a Bag

Sunday Pot Roast

Often the yummy pot roast that my mom made on Sundays was under appreciated by my young palate: I smeared ketchup on the meat! Well, I know better now, but I have to say I’m not afraid to coax my 2-year old into eating it with some ketchup. Pot roast makes me nostalgic for my childhood. I can picture the very pan being placed on the table and the lid being opened to reveal steaming meat, nestled among soft carrots, potatoes, celery and onions. I love how the meat turns that deep red on the inside and those carrots – they’ve never tasted better!

Pot roast is typically braised – which means it’s sauteed (browned) in fat/oil first and then cooked slowly in a small amount of  liquid – but I by-passed the browning in favor of less dishes and less time. My mom has taught me that browning brings out a better flavor – and I agree, mom! But with two pint sized creatures running amock, time is of the essence. I usually do my roasts in the crock pot, but they seem to come out with too much liquid and the meat won’t hold together at all – still delicious though.

So I opted to cook it in the oven with an oven bag. And although a little salt and pepper for seasonings will suffice, I found a recipe that added some interesting seasonings – and I really liked the outcome!

I am thankful that I have a hotline for my cooking questions that’s always reliable and personal. (My Mom!) Because after cooking the roast according to the bag directions it was still tough and pink! aaaaahhhhh! This is not the pot roast I remember my mom making – so tender and juicy!  “Well, Tim, let’s eat our salad and breadsticks first.” A quick call to mom . . . “oh, you added lots of vegetables? Well that increases the cooking time.” A roast is not merely a two-hour meal, it’s an all afternoon cooking on low meal. Oops. Low cooking time and a long time are key. My mom said 4-5 hours is ideal. My roast went in at 5:00pm and came out at 9:30 and was delicious!!! Bon Appetit!

Simple ingredients most cooks have on hand.

Humble Pot Roast in a Bag

1 large cooking bag
1 tablespoon flour
1 3-4 lb chuck roast
6 medium potatoes, washed and quartered
1/2 lb baby carrots
2 lg onions, peeled and quartered
2 celery ribs, rinsed and chopped in half
dried basil
seasoning salt
garlic salt
pepper
1/2 cup red cooking wine
1/2 cup water

Place 1 tablespoon inside the cooking bag, hold closed and shake (this prevents the bag from bursting). Place the bag in a roast pan, with at least a two-inch high side. Season both sides of roast liberally with basil, seasoning salt, garlic salt, and pepper. Place the roast inside the bag in the middle of the roasting pan. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl. Season liberally with same seasonings and mix. Nestle the vegies around the roast and pour wine and water over roast and vegetables. Close bag with it’s zip tie.

Bake at 325 degrees for 4-5 hours. Check tenderness before removing. Remove onions and celery pieces before serving if you wish.

Raw roast before cooking. So colorful and so good for you!

Soul Satisfaction

Food is such a wonderful thing, not only is there so many flavors, but there’s various textures, aromas and colors. God is creative and abundant in allowing us to nourish our bodies in such a creative way.

But because I love food so much, I’ve realized that it can sometimes be my comfort and even what I look forward to in a day. Jesus has been revealing to me that this is no good and He wants to be my comfort and what drives me.

So on Sunday I began a journey of choosing Jesus and not my taste buds! This next month will be a sort of fasting period for me. I am still going to eat! Don’t worry, but I am fasting from eating beyond what my body needs. So that means no Diet Coke and no French fries . . . and yes, no medium peppermint lattes either, no evening snacks when I’m not hungry — okay, okay, I’m done lamenting. This is nothing to what I will gain. I felt like God was saying to me that He wants Psalm 63 to define my life: That God’s presence and comfort in my life satisfies my soul as with the richest of foods! And that I would crave Him alone!

What a journey that lies ahead for me! I’m giving up a lot, but I know that “a lot” that I feel now will be shrunken to “very little” when I experience how much more satisfaction I have to find in God than food! Feel free to ask me how I’m doing on this! I need accountability – especially when I drive past Wendy’s and smell that fried goodness. I think there’s a conspiracy among fast-food restaurants and that they put addictive things into their foods so you want to eat more . . . . okay, maybe not.

More to come on my journey in the following weeks! If you are interested in more on this topic check out Made to Crave