Moms are the only people I know who willingly lock themselves into a bathroom in order to get some 'me time.' Young professionals sip lattes in hip coffee shops while reading the latest best seller, business executives get their nails done--mani and pedi, even retired women schedule lunch dates with their friends. But moms...we have no free time for me time! From the moment our feet hit the floor it's go, go, go. Kids to dress, mouths to feed, laundry and errands and soccer practice and homework. Never mind our husbands who'd like a sliver of time as well. Most days it's all we can do to fall into bed in utter exhaustion without ever having had a moment's rest.
Jesus knows how you feel.
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
At the height of his ministry, Jesus and his disciples were pulled in every direction. So many demands pressed upon them that they didn't even have a chance to catch a bite to eat! Sound familiar? (How many times can a cup of coffee be reheated before it's worthless?) But Jesus recognized his disciples (and his) need for rest. He arranged for them to get away.
It's okay to intentionally take some time to refresh.
But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Despite a legitimate need for rest, sometimes the needs of the people prevailed upon Jesus and his disciples. Kind of like our kids....Best laid plans for a weekend away, a night out, or just a hot bath can be stymied by a baby's fever, a 4th grader's forgotten science fair project, or a teenager's broken heart. Despite the exhaustion, Jesus had compassion on the people. As moms our heartstrings are pulled by our families as well. It's important to remember that compassion is a part of God's nature. It should be a part of ours too.
Sometimes 'Me Time' gets swallowed up by 'Mom Time,' and that's okay.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
Jesus knew how tired the disciples were. Just a little while previously he'd been the one leading them away from the crowds to a quiet place to get some rest. But now he is demanding that they give yet again...he's calling them into sacrificial living. Being a mom is like being in boot camp for sacrificial living! The demands are there 24/7. There is no denying they are exhausting. And yet...
Jesus calls us into sacrificial living.
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
"How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
After hearing that Jesus is asking them to give yet again, the disciples panic. They don't have what it takes! They can't possibly give anymore; they themselves don't have anything left to give, and what little they can scrounge up is hardly enough. As moms we can feel that way too--spent, empty, running on fumes with no reserve tank. Maybe by scraping the bottom of the barrel--by relying on what little we've got available to us (a phone or tablet, perhaps)--we can buy just a few more minutes or hours. But we certainly don't have enough. But look at what Jesus did. He took the meager bit the disciples could pull together and multiplied it. He made it enough! Momma, you don't have to do it! When you're at the end of yourself, when all your grit and fortitude is gone, when you're just about ready to crumble...Jesus steps in. He can take what little reserve you have left and stretch it into what you need. Is it easy? No. Does it mean giving beyond what you think you can? Yes. Does it demand surrender and trust? You bet. But when we, like the disciples, take stock and bring to Jesus the very last bit that we have, asking him to make it enough, he does.
You don't have to be enough because Jesus is enough!
My heart has been breaking lately over the seeming chasm that exists between races in this country. I cannot understand how anyone can look at another human being and see less. Each and every person in precious in God's eyes. How can any turn a blind eye or a cold shoulder to the suffering of another? How can anyone claim to be a Christian and not be moved to empathy, compassion, indignation, and justice?
Grace. Mercy. Humility. These are the hallmarks of the Christian message--the Gospel.
In mercy God saw humanity in our helpless and hopeless state and had mercy on us, devising a plan to rescue and save us.
In humility Jesus left His throne in Heaven to be born as a human; to live among us, experiencing our pain, and to die for us so that we might live again.
Grace is extended to every person who acknowledges his/her need of a savior and believes in Jesus' death and resurrection as the means of salvation.
These also ought to be the hallmarks of the Christian life. But are they? Can Christians in America (primarily those who have benefited from the status quo) truly say we have lived in humility--the kind of humility Jesus displayed and the kind He asks of us?
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
What does it mean to value others above yourself? If I'm honest, I don't know that I personally have done much of that in my life. Certainly not for people who are not my dearest friends and family. But it is what we are called to as Christians. Humility.
Can we in America truly say we have shown mercy? Think about the kind of mercy God has shown to us:
“But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” (Ps. 86:15)
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Ps. 145:8-9)
"But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions..." (Eph. 2:4-5a)
His mercy extended to us before we knew we needed it. It extended to us while we were still sinning. It extends to us every day of our lives through the good and bad, through the ups and downs, through our faithfulness as well as our stubborn disobedience or ignorance. Perhaps our mercy (on both sides of the fence) should look the same, genuine. Mercy.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (Jm. 3:17)
Can we in America (white, black, and every shade in between) say that we have truly lived by grace? Do we rest in God's grace for us?
"He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
(2 Tim. 1:9-10)
Do we extend grace to others (regardless of the color of their skin)?
“Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Heb. 12:13-15)
Extending grace means I don't hold a grudge. It means I don't seek retribution. It means I don't assume the worst. It means I seek the best for the other person--their best, not my version. Grace by its very nature costs the giver something. It cost God something. It cost the great men and women of faith something. And if I am in humility seeking to promote the Gospel--the good news of God's grace, mercy, and love--it will cost me something too.
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."
Mending the walls of racial division in our country is going to require that all parties (of all colors) put on humility and forgiveness. It is going to require extending mercy and grace. It is going to require that we grow in understanding and empathy. (Do you really know as a white what your black brothers and sisters are going through? Do you need to educate yourself?) And it is going to require that we grow in love for one another--true brotherly love, motivated by a familial bond that goes deeper than we have been accustomed to acknowledging. Because everything else--grace, mercy, and humility--can be summed up in that one word and posture. Love.
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Col. 3:1-14)
I asked the Holy Spirit and a few wise older mothers to give me advice; then I came up with a four-step process by which I could evaluate books. It is not foolproof, but it's been surprisingly effective and has served me well for over thirteen years now.
Before I share my four-step process with you, though, let me recommend that you determine ahead of time the standard by which you'll judge your children's reading material then communicate this to your kids! If they know ahead of time what you will not allow and why, there will be fewer tears and complaints when you have to veto the cool looking book they've just pulled off the shelf. Most parents share some common concerns--foul language and graphic violence, for example--but even families who share similar values and religious convictions can vary when it comes to reading standards. Communicating with your children why particular content concerns you can put you and your children on the same team instead of at odds with one another.
Please, whatever you do, do not assume that just because a book is written for a certain age group it is appropriate for your child. The following are all themes that commonly show up in children's literature but which we chose to avoid (in addition to cursing and violence) in our book selections:
Like I said earlier, this four-step process is not foolproof, but it has proven to be effective the majority of the time. If you are ever in doubt regarding a book's contents after putting it through these four checks, tell your child you'll give it a more careful examination (or read it) before you give your approval. In addition, you can (and should) request that your child stop reading a book and bring it to you if he/she discovers content that is offensive, questionable, or uncomfortable. Not only does this train them to be discerning readers themselves, it gives you an opportunity to talk through any unsettling or defiling content your children may accidentally encounter.
Speaking of raising discerning readers, you can teach them to evaluate their own books. As a rule of thumb, I generally preview my kids' books for them from ages 8-10, telling them why I need to eliminate some books without going into detail. Then from ages 10-12 I begin to have them join me in the previewing process, discussing any content that is glaringly obvious. By age 13, I rely on them to preview their own books, bringing me only those they are unsure of. By the time my kids hit 16, I allow them to read whatever they want (with a few exceptions). Because I have trained their minds to be discerning and their hearts to love God and purity, I can rest assured they will be repulsed by ungodly content and will choose to read those books which align with God's Word. (By the way, this process works equally well with movies!)
I should also mention that before I evaluate any books, I say a quick prayer asking the Holy Spirit for guidance and discernment! God knows how much time I've got, and he knows my kids--better than I do! He wants their hearts soft and pure. I can trust He's got my back. And if offensive content gets missed, I can trust God's going to use that, too, to facilitate conversations which need to occur in order to train and disciple them. So what are the four steps by which I evaluate a book?
This evaluation system is not a guarantee. It is intended as a tool. It will not eliminate your need to preread some of your kids' books, but it will decrease your load tremendously. In addition, I pray it will give you a means of opening up healthy discussion with your children about their reading habits and what they put into their hearts and minds.
Philippinas 4:8 remains our family's standard by which we measure those things we read, view, listen to, and invest in: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (NIV).
As the coronavirus quarantine drags on, we’ve all had to find creative ways to socialize. This has been tricky for large groups such as Scout troops and faith-based youth groups. Online Pictionary can only go so far. In an attempt to connect the youth of our church, our family came up with an energetic and crazy scavenger hunt that can be done virtually. It can accommodate groups as small as four people or as large as fifty. It can also be adapted for use with your own family in your own home. I hope you enjoy the fun and laughs this zany game provides.
This game works well with video group chat platforms like Zoom or Skype. All players need to be connected via the chosen platform and must have their video option activated. Each person also needs to select a base location (the living room couch, for example) to which he/she will return after each hunt.
Depending on the size of your group, you can play this “every man for himself” or on teams. One person will serve as a moderator and judge.
If playing on teams, divide the players equally and assign them first a number (for what team they are on) and then a letter (for the order in which they play). At the beginning of each “hunt,” the moderator will say (for example), “All the A’s are hunting this time.” He or she will then announce the item to be found followed by the word “Go!” Then every person assigned that letter has 30 seconds to hunt through his/her perspective house to find the required item. The first person back to their chosen base location with the item gains a point for his/her team. (If you have a lot of teams playing, you can give 2 or 3 points for first place and 1 or 2 points for second place and so on.)
Items brought back after the 30 second time limit has expired do not count for points or bonuses. Items that have a bonus attached to them net the player/team an extra point. No item can be used more than once for any given player/team. (For example, a roll of TP or a bar of soap cannot be repeated for “Something from the bathroom,” nor can player 1A bring a scarf for “Something plaid” and then player 1D bring a scarf for “Something you wear in winter,” even if that scarf is not plaid.) If a player brings back the wrong item, he/she forfeits any points for that round. HINT: It is suggested that the moderator stress at the beginning of the game that players pay attention to what their teammates bring back in order to avoid forfeiting points by bringing back repeat items.
If, when an item is announced and a player knows he/she absolutely does not have that item in their house (a Slinky, for example), he/she can say “Tag In!” The rest of the team now has the opportunity to search for the item in their place. Each team has a total of 3 Tag In’s to use during the course of the game. The moderator needs to keep track of this and announce when a team has used all of its Tag In allowances. HINT: If the moderator realizes that players/teams are using up their Tag In’s too quickly, he/she may choose to select some rounds as “Earn an Extra Tag In Round” and award every player back with the correct item an extra Tag In for his/her team, regardless of whether they come in first or not.
You can play for a specified amount of time or until all the items on the list are found (there are enough items to last a typical group. Either way, at the end of the game, the points are tallied up and the high scoring player or team is the winner. (See next page for a list of items to be found.)
ITEMS TO BE FOUND
It is just another little reminder from our Creator that He’s made us to be in fellowship with Him. We can drown out that call when life is sunshine and roses, but when life takes us out at the knees, well, that’s when our souls remember we need God.
That stability and peace of mind is one thing that Christians cite as a benefit of their faith. And prayer plays a big part in that. It’s an integral part of the Christian life. Interestingly, though America is solidly a praying nation with 79 percent praying regularly and 55 percent praying daily, many of those who do pray (over 70 percent) report being less than satisfied with their prayer life. Even seasoned Christians struggle with prayer.
I understand struggling with prayer. It is not something that comes naturally for me. I have to work at it, both in consistency and in substance. People all the time tell me they see me as a great prayer warrior, but I'm not. I just muddle along as best as anyone.
Over the years I’ve tried several different methods and techniques to increase the consistency and the substance of my prayer. Here are some of the practices I currently do or have done in the past:
1) For years I journaled and wrote my prayers out by hand. It helped me stay focused. It took a lot of time, though, so as life got more complicated (i.e. children) I found it unsustainable.
2) I have been setting alarms for prayer for a couple of years now. I set an alarm for a specific time of day and pray for something specific when the alarm goes off. The focus of those prayers has ranged from prayer for a specific request given me by another to prayer for political leaders to prayer for salvation. Currently I have committed to pray daily for the salvation of a loved one until it happens or until I die. That's a pretty big commitment, but I really feel passionately about it. Still, I know myself, and I knew I would forget or peter out which is why I've been using an alarm. It keeps me accountable.
3) I've used various books over the years to help focus my prayers and make them deeper. My favorites are by Stormie O'Martin: Power of a Praying Wife and Power of a Praying Mother. These books helped me learn how to pray Scripture and gave me areas to pray for my family that I might not have considered otherwise. I would like to write my own someday, but for now I heartily recommend those.
4) I also feel like it's so important to pray beyond our family. Some years I have focused on praying for America (president, Congress, local leaders, and issues, etc.) and used the alarm on my phone system for that. Some years I have prayed for the nations using YWAM's guide. For several years I prayed for our pastors and my neighbors, using an index card system. This year I am praying for persecuted Christians using a guide put out by Voice of the Martyrs. Over the years I've involved my kids in this by tying our prayer focus to our homeschooling (praying for America when studying American history for example). It has been such a great way for them to learn how to pray in general (especially losing the timidity of praying aloud with others) and how to pray beyond what they want for themselves.
5) When people ask me to pray for them, I often stop and pray with them right then and there. That's because I know that more often than not I'll forget to pray for them later. It's a bit awkward and takes some getting used to, but most people appreciate it. And that way I don't have to feel guilty if I do, indeed, forget. At very least I have agreed with them in faith at least once.
All this being said, I still very much struggle with offering up general or half-hearted prayers. I struggle with being selfish in my prayers, with getting distracted while I pray, and with doubting that God will answer certain prayers. Still, I press on, and I hope that by sharing my struggles and my ideas I can encourage you to press on as well.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call in him in truth. –Ps. 145:18
Statistics taken from:
I’ve always liked cooking. I’ve always cooked on a budget (we’ve had only one income for most of our married years). I’ve always considered myself pretty creative when it comes to cooking. And I keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer. But I’ve got to admit that even I have found myself a little flummoxed more than once lately, looking at what I’ve got on hand and wondering, “What do I make with that?”
The coronavirus crisis is challenging the cooking strategies of many. A quick Google search tells me that (at least of couple of years ago) 56 percent of Americans eat out 2-3 times a week and only 27 percent cook on a daily basis. Whether you are part of the majority or have been an outlier, the reality is we all are dealing with food shortages, temporary closures of restaurants, and (in many states) mandated shelter at home orders. Which means collectively as a nation we’re cooking more.
On the one hand, that’s a good thing! Americans are alarmingly overweight (one site put it at 83% of men and 72% of women in 2020). As a country we’ve also come in dead last among the nations for chronic health conditions several years running now. Much of this is due to our poor eating habits. Cooking from-scratch foods is a fabulous start toward better nutrition. So though we’re stuck inside our homes with strange food items in our pantries and refrigerators, let’s look on the bright side! This unfortunate global health crisis just might be a tiny step forward in America’s own health problems. On the other hand, we’re still stuck in our homes with strange food items in our pantries and refrigerators. Over the years I’ve found four foods to be a fabulous solution to cooking with odds and ends. This discovery was born out of necessity. I’d get toward the end of the month and have spent already all my grocery money, which meant scrounging the cupboards to see what I had on hand that I could combine into something somewhat passable. I also hate waste, so I am continually keeping an eye on what’s in the fridge that might need used up before it expires or goes bad. Not that I never have to throw out what I term “science experiments,” but I do try to keep that to a minimum. Which gets me back to those four fabulous foods.
Each of these dishes is extremely versatile. Combine a couple of always-on-hand staples and you’ve got a good base. Toss in whatever meats and/or vegetables are languishing in your fridge and voilà—instant, delicious meal. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve done this. I’ve earned the reputation for inventing recipes. Half the time my “inventions” are lucky accidents that came about because I was desperate. Granted, it does take some cooking savvy to know what spices combine well (more on that later) and how to pair and cook ingredients to create the best blending of flavors (sautéing, roasting, and boiling all create different nuances of flavor). But I promise you, anyone can follow these four formulas and come off like a pro!
So what are these fabulous four? Glad you asked! Drumroll please…
Soup is not only delicious and nutritious, it is the ultimate ingredient (and, therefore, budget) stretcher. You can start with prepared broth (chicken, beef, vegetable, or seafood) or make your own and go from there. Personally, I love homemade stock. It not only, has better flavor, in my opinion, it is arguably lower in sodium (something we all could use a little less of) and, if you’re making bone broth, has the amazing healing benefits of that come from animal bones. (Don’t believe me? Do a quick search on the benefits of consuming bones.) So let me break down my soup formula for you step-by-step.
Step 1: Make your broth. If you’re using boxed broth, easy peasy (though I do cut it with some water to reduce the sodium level—about a 2:1 ratio of boxed broth to water works well.) To make your own broth, chop and lightly sauté a vegetable base (see below) in a large stock pot. Then add meat bones if you are creating a meat based stock (a whole chicken with most of the meat cut off, a ham bone, some shrimp shells, you get the idea) or other vegetables if creating a vegetable stock (especially root vegetables and leafy greens) and cover with water. Add 1-2 tsp. salt and ¼-½ tsp. black pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 3-10 hours. The longer you simmer the more flavorful your stock will be. If you’re making meat stock, be sure to remove the bone(s) or shells. But don’t discard them—there’s good meat on them thar bones! Let them cool slightly, then pick off every last bit of meat you can. Save the meat for your soups; toss the bones. (Or reuse them…old wives tales tell of reusing bones multiple times to make bone broth until the bones are “spent.”) If you plan on using your stock within the next week, you can just refrigerate it. Otherwise, let it cool, then put it into pint sized freezer safe boxes or bags and freeze for later use.
Vegetable base: Personally, I think onion is a non-negotiable for soup. But if you’re having a hard time finding some at the store as I have lately, you can substitute onion flakes (though not nearly as good) or omit it altogether and up the other robust vegetables in the base—celery and garlic. Regarding celery, use the flimsy little inner stalks and all the leaves—though not very tasty on a relish tray, they work great in soup. As for garlic, you can use cloves that are starting to sprout, have a brown spot (just cut it off), or are so little they’re annoying to work with. Crush them or leave them whole. Either way, the sautéing and simmering will infuse your stock with flavor. If I have it on
hand, I also add fresh parsley (can substitute dried, but it’s nowhere near as tasty) to the vegetable base as well.
Step 2: Get creative. Once you’ve got your stock (either homemade or from a box), you’re ready to make soup! Of course, if you know you’re going to use your stock right away, and you need a big pot of soup (say 8 servings or more), you can combine your stock making with your soup making. Just add the other ingredients along with the meat bones, and you’re good to go. The few exceptions include any pastas or grains (such as rice or barley) that you’re adding to your soup and frozen or canned peas. They tend to get too mushy if cooked all day. So what do you add? Anything really. Below I’ve listed some ingredients I commonly add to my soups and stews. Like I said, soup is a good way to use up odds and ends, so don’t’ be afraid to throw in that one potato, the half cup of fresh spinach, and the somewhat wrinkly tomato or pepper you’ve got in the bottom of your vegetable bin. They’ll all combine nicely and come out just fine, despite their questionable appearance before entering the pot. (Just don’t put in something moldy! Though I have been known to cut the bad part off, chop up the other half, and put that in the soup pot.)
Step 3: Season the soup. Besides salt and pepper (which are a must), the sky’s the limit. A good cottage style soup often has 1-2 bay leaves and some rosemary or thyme. Want an Italian flavor? Add oregano and basil. Mexican? Cumin and chili powder. Middle Eastern? Curry powder. Greek? Dill, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Oriental? Ginger and soy sauce. If you’re unsure, a quick online search will net you the recipes to several ethnic spice blends. But honestly, I used to just open spices and sniff until I found a combination I liked. If I wasn’t quite sure if I liked the combo, I’d put a dash of each in my hand and sniff the blend before committing. Half the fun of cooking is experimenting, so don’t be afraid to try!
Step 4: Add the extras. About 40 minutes from serving do the following:
Casseroles are about as American as it gets. These one dish wonders feed a crowd almost as well as Jesus fed the five thousand. Maybe that’s why they’ve long held a place of prominence at church potlucks! In any case, enterprising mommas have baked these delicious concoctions for decades now, relying on pasta (usually) or some other wonderful carb such as stuffing to stretch the other ingredients and fill bellies. Like a soup, just about anything can go into a casserole, and also like a soup, it’s an easy 4-step process.
Step 1: Pick your pasta (or other filler). This base is the magic when it comes to casseroles. Grains tend to be inexpensive, and they bulk up when cooked (which you’ll need to do before assembling the casserole, with the exception of bread), really stretching budget dollars. This is what feeds a crowd on pennies. With a few well-chosen extras (i.e. protein and vegetables), the cooked grain becomes a complete and well-rounded meal. Some ideas to consider:
Step 2: Add vegetables and/or meat. Ground beef and chopped or shredded chicken are perennial favorites in casseroles, but you can also add cooked legumes or even chopped tofu. Adding a protein gives the casserole staying power nutritionally. These can be stirred into your pasta/grain or layered in a baking dish. Some proteins to consider:
Step 3: Moisten everything with a sauce. Casseroles are typically baked, which means without a sauce the pasta or grain that serves as the base can dry out, making the whole thing less than palatable. Sauces not only ensure you won’t have to choke down an overcooked mess, they also give the casserole its delicious and distinct flavor. Years ago chefs and housewives alike made all their sauces from scratch, but modern cooks often turn to canned or bottled premade sauces, making casserole construction a snap! Some popular sauces to consider:
Step 4: Bake (usually at 325-350° F) until set. Top with cheese or another topping (such as French fried onions or crushed cornflakes) if desired—many casseroles call for this finishing touch—and return to the oven for a few minutes (long enough to melt the cheese or brown the crunchy topping). Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving (many casseroles benefit from this rest; it allows them to set up a bit). Enjoy!
What is a hotdish? Well…a casserole basically. But most casseroles include pasta while a hotdish relies on rice to bulk it up. (At least that’s the distinction I’ve always made.) And while a casserole is baked in the oven, a hot dish is served straight out of the pan in which you cooked it, reducing the time from prep to table—a great advantage when you’ve got a family turning hangry on you. Really, you can follow the same ingredient suggestions for a casserole when making a hotdish, just put rice in place of the pasta and skip the oven! In addition to the sauces listed for casseroles, try these delicious options which pair well with rice:
I might be stretching things here, but a one-pot pasta dish is the pasta equivalent of a hotdish—at least for the purpose of this list. Like a hotdish, it is served straight from the pot, eliminating the need for the oven as well as the extra time that baking requires. (Yes, I know there are many delicious pasta dishes which require baking—lasagna, stuffed shells/manicotti, etc. But we’re leaving them out for now.) Generally, we tend to think of pasta as Italian fare, so home cooks often get stuck in a rut when it comes to the combinations of ingredients and sauces they pair with their pasta. But pasta can be found in cultures as diverse as Asian and African, and these flavors can open up a whole new world for those cooking on a budget. By changing the combinations of ingredients, sauce bases, and seasonings, your family can tour the world while you save money and stretch pantry stapes! Some ideas (beyond the obvious, of course):
Cooking from scratch is having a renaissance. My hope is that by providing you with four basic formulas, you will find the process of creating daily meals not only easier but more enjoyable. With a little practice, you’ll be creating your own recipes in no time while feeding your family home-cooked meals and stretching the budget and your pantry contents to boot!
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Yesterday my inbox pinged as frequently as an old Atari game. Everyone was sending notices regarding the coronavirus, from my son’s high school and our church to the grocery store where I shop and the hotel chain with whom I have reward points. The seriousness of this disease and the potential for pandemic is not to be denied. And although I have struggled with the thought that everyone is overreacting, I also understand the need to take precautionary measures and protect the most vulnerable of our society. Which is why I understand the need to temporarily close schools.
Some school districts across the country, like ours, are providing instruction and assignments online, others are sending home packets of work to be accomplished or are altering their calendar year to accommodate the new “break.” Either way, students are now home and families are suddenly finding themselves temporarily homeschooling. Our family has been homeschooling for 19 years now, so I’d like to think I’m a “seasoned” homeschooler. In light of that, I thought I would offer a few words of advice for those of you who suddenly find yourself in this situation.
Learning at home does not need to look like learning at school.
There is a tendency in those who are new to homeschooling to try and replicate what happens in the classroom. It can feel very overwhelming for the uninitiated. If this is you, stop and take a deep breath. YOU DO NOT NEED TO REPLICATE SCHOOL AT HOME! So what does learning at home look like? The options are limitless!
Focusing on learning while at home has its own set of challenges.
While there is a lot of flexibility in homeschooling, there are unique challenges. It is often hard for kids (and parents for that matter) to get motivated to do schoolwork in the same spaces where the rest of life happens as well. This is even more likely to occur if your child is accustomed to going away for school. If your child is finding it difficult to focus, you might try some of these ideas:
Use this opportunity to teach important life skills.
We all have the best of intentions when it comes to making sure our kids have the skills necessary to succeed in life. But let’s face it, busy schedules sometimes crowd out those less formal lessons. The next few weeks might be the perfect time to focus on making sure your kids not only have the academic training they need to succeed but also the practical everyday skills that will serve them well throughout life.
Taming the screen monster.
It’s something we all fight on a regular basis anyway, but with many districts conducting school online, our children are facing even more screen time than ever. Though I am not advocating for a complete elimination of screened devices for down time, I do recommend encouraging your children to fill their extra free time with other diversions. Not only is this healthy, it also has the potential for strengthening family ties and developing lifelong hobbies! It is perfectly acceptable to not only put time limits on screen time but also to require your kids to meet certain criteria before they are allowed access to screened devices. The requirements at our house have looked different over the years, but I generally require my kids to have their chores and schoolwork done before they are allowed to game or watch. Hours of screen time can be earned based on physical activity and participation in other non-screen related activities. Below are some of our family’s favorite ways to kill time without turning on a screen.
Being together 24/7 is hard--give each other extra grace!
Ever notice how the worst fights always happen on family road trips? Having everyone together all the time in confined quarters inevitably leads to conflict. Personalities clash, tempers flare, feelings get hurt. This is normal. It does not mean you are a bad parent or that your family is dysfunctional. I have always joked that homeschooling brings out the worst in everyone...and then gives us the chance to work on it. Just recognizing that conflicts are likely to happen can help give perspective when things get testy. But here are some additional tips for facilitating better relationships now and in the future.
Don’t forget to have fun and make the most of it!
Let’s face it. These are tough times and this is a tough situation. But don’t lose sight of the fact that we’ve also been given a gift--the gift of time. Suddenly, we all have an excuse to slow down, to decompress, to reconnect. Look upon these 2-3 weeks as a chance to forge deeper relationships within your family. Homeschoolers know a secret you can discover too--play is every bit as important as learning! And it’s okay to put aside the books and worksheets for a while to watch a movie, play a game, go swimming, have a tea party, or try out a new hobby.
In just a few short weeks, everything will likely be business as usual. Seize the opportunity to snuggle, laugh, and play with your children...make beautiful memories while you can!
RECOMMENDED READING FOR EVERY GENRE
A. E. Fuhrman
Reading from every genre is a wonderful exercise for children (and adults for that matter)! Sure, we all tend to have our favorite genres, but encouraging (or even requiring, as I did) your children to read beyond their comfort zone will not only broaden their appreciation for literature but the world as well. Reading outside of what we know and are comfortable with expands our understanding of nature and of other people, cultures, religions, and ideas. It makes it easier to learn new concepts and to speak intelligently on a variety of topics. And it makes for better writing.
This list is merely a sampling of the wonderful books out there, all excellent examples of the genres covered in Wonderful Writing Prompts. I highly encourage you to read them aloud to your children. Listening to other people read aloud sharpens children’s ability to pay attention, to process information, and to pick out important details and remember them later. It also increases their vocabulary and hones their ear for good writing, besides just increasing their love of literature. No wonder children who are read to become better readers and writers!
I have made every attempt to select books that meet a ‘clean reads’ criteria (or to specify where they fall short), but my standards may not meet yours. As always, please preview any books you place into your children’s hands. I hope your family enjoys these books as much as we have.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman
No More Water in the Tub! by Ted Arnold
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
(This book has the benefit of being a springboard for a conversation with your children about cyber safety and sharing information with strangers over the internet. All turns out well for Nim, but it is good to discuss this issue anyway.)
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
Heist Society by Ally Carter
(This book is based on the premise of stealing. It’s a great adventure, but you may want to preview the book before deciding if you want your teen to read it. Or you may use it as a launching point to discuss if a good motive makes a bad action acceptable.)
Nick of Time by Ted Bell
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Amelia Bedelia and the Baby by Peggy Parish
Cookie’s Week by Cindy Ward
Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
The Case of the Measled Cowboy by John R. Erickson
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
Many current books in this genre are full of "potty humor" or downright offensive themes. This is particularly true for books written for tweens and teens. For this reason, I do not have an adequate list for Middle Grade. I’ll keep working on finding clean humorous books for tweens/teens. You can stay abreast of what I find by following me on Goodreads or YouTube.
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Calvin and Hobbes comic books by Bill Watterson
(The humor in this comic strip gets funnier the older you get.)
The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde
(This is a play. Once you’ve read the print version, watch the movie adaptation. Our favorite is the 2002 version directed by Oliver Parker.)
MYTHS & FABLES
I highly recommend, at minimum, exposing your students to Greek & Roman mythology and Norse mythology, as these are the most referenced in our Western culture. Currently Usborne has some of the best anthologies for children. Ingri and EdgarD’Aulaire’s retellings are good as well, though the illustrations are an older style. Aesop is the most well-known fable writer. As with mythology, many excellent anthologies of his fables exist for children. You can also access a comprehensive collection of his fables posted online by the Library of Congress at www.read.gov/aesop .
Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock retold by Eric A. Kimmel
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (a wordless book)
Rikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Jason and the Argonauts: The First Great Quest In Greek Mythology by Robert Byrd
Myths and Legends of the World series by Geraldine McCaughrean
National Geographic Kids Everything Mythology by Blake Hoena
The Voyages of Odysseus by Blake Hoena (a graphic novel)
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series
(He has several other series of novels also based on mythology.)
Women Warriors: Myths and Legends of Heroic Women by Marianna Mayer
LEGENDS & TALL TALES
Like myths and fables, legends and tall tales are primarily short stories, so are usually found in anthologies or picture books. Additionally, the following website has an extremely comprehensive collection of summary style short stories that fall under the category of folklore: www.americanfolklore.net.
Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains by Deborah Hopkinson
The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Steven Kellogg
(Steven Kellogg has a whole series of classic legends and tall tales, including Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, Mike Fink, etc.)
John Henry by Julius Lester
Animal Folk Tales of America by Tony Palazzo
Paul Bunyan and Other Tall Tales by Jane B. Mason
By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman
There seems to be a big gap here. I have been able to find legends and tall tales rewritten for children and for adults (which older teens are able to read), but I have yet to find quality retellings appropriate for both the reading level and maturity level of tweens. Stay abreast of what I find by following me on social media and Goodreads.
Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
(This is a modern story with tall tale flavor. It does contain some adult themes.)
Glastonbury: The Novel of Christian England by Donna Fletcher Crow
(This novel, divided into sections, is based on several historical legends of the British Isles.)
Taliesin by Steven Lawhead
FANTASY & FAIRY TALES
There are SO many picture books that fall into this category. Just a stroll through the local library will net you more than you can carry! But here are a few to get you started.
The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola
The Mitten by Jan Brett
Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinksky
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (and other books in this series)
The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
(Reading or hearing read aloud Lewis' Narnia series is a childhood must in my opinion!)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Naming by Alison Croggon
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I's Bravest Dog by Ann Bausum
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
White Fang by Jack London
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest
Bread and Butter Indian by Anne Clover
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
Pedro’s Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus by Pam Conrad
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray Vining
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
In Search of Honor by Donnalynn Hess
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Sims Levine
(This book contains one expletive, some racial slurs in context, and a reference to a bombing.)
Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
This is a tricky genre when looking for clean reads. Much of what is classified as realistic fiction is full of grit and touches on topics parents may not want their children exposed to. In an effort to ensure the books in this reading list are age appropriate, I have opted to list some books set in historical times. Though set in prior eras, these books were written primarily as realistic fiction not historical fiction. They do not have the emphasis on historical events and personalities like those found in the historical fiction section, though they may be mentioned.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Pollaco
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Blue Willow by Doris Gates
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Crunch by Leslie Connor
(This is set in an immediate but hypothetical future and has a mystery going on as an aside, but the focus of the story and the theme [coming of age] both favor realism genre.)
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Saving Marty by Paul Griffin
(Technically written for middle-schoolers but deals with suicide, albeit gently, so I’ve categorized it for older teens.)
The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
(Contains racial slurs and a reference to the infamous 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham in which four girls lost their lives.)
Detective LaRue by Mark Teague
Miss Nelson Is Missing by Harry Allard
Young Cam Jansen by David A. Adler
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Basil of Baker Street (The Great Mouse Detective) by Eve Titus
Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood
The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Scat by Carl Hiaasen (Contains some mild expletives.)
June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner
Toys in Space by Mini Grey
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The Tom Swift series by Victor Appleton
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
(This is the first in the Lunar Chronicles, sci-fi retellings of old fairy tales.)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
Because most poetry (with the exception of some containing adult subject matter) can be enjoyed by a variety of ages, the reading levels for these anthologies are very loose—feel free to read them regardless of age!
Every young child should be exposed to Mother Goose rhymes. There are SO many good collections; it’s just a matter of choosing your favorite illustrator.
The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry, ed. Bill Martin
The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Edward Lear, illustrated by Jan Brett
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, ed. Jackie Morris
How to Eat a Poem, ed. The American Poetry and Literacy Project & The Academy of American Poets
One Hundred Years of Poetry for Children, ed. Michael Harrison & Christopher Stuart-Clark
101 Great American Poems,ed. The American Poetry and Literacy Project
Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh
Seeker of Knowledge: The Man Who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs by James Rumford
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Childhood of Famous Americans series
Phoebe the Spy by Judith Berry Griffin
Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot” by Michael O. Tunnell
The Man Who Went to the Far Side the Moon: the Story of Apllo11 Astronaut Michael Collins by Bea Uusma Schyffert
Christian Heroes: Then & Now series and Heroes of History series, both published by YWAM
Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick
Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya
Lost City: The Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin
Connecting the Coasts: The Race to Build the Transcontinental Railroad by Norma Lewis
David Macaulay’s books
(I just couldn’t choose a favorite. All of Macaulay’s books are amazingly detailed and fascinating for kids—and their parents too!)
You Wouldn’t Want to…series by various authors.
(This series of books is published by Franklin Watts—a division of Scholastic. These are technically picture books but are targeted at an older audience. The books cover many historical events and professions, all focused on educating about their topic while highlighting the dangerous and gross. They are fascinating reading for anyone, but boys especially love them!)
Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurses of World War II by Betsy Kuhn
Blizzard by Jim Murphy
Secrets, Lies, Gizmos, and Spies: A History of Spies and Espionage by Janet Wyman Coleman
(Contains one potentially disturbing photograph of a dead body.)
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal
(This book has stories of violence; it is, after all, about the infamous Tommy Gun used so widely for decades by the Mafia. That being said, it is fascinating reading, and provides, in my opinion, an excellent launching point for discussing contemporary gun violence and gun rights with your teens.)
Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin
The unexpected escalation of COVID-19 and the ensuing run on grocery stores may have left you in a bit of a lurch when it comes to groceries. Here are a few recipes I’ve developed over the years to feed a large family on a one-income budget. They are nutritious, family friendly, and make the best use of those staples you are carefully managing right now. Most (but not all) require a bit of meat and produce. If you can get your hands on some ground beef, some chicken, and/or some sausage, buy a couple of extra pounds and freeze them for upcoming recipes. (Just be sure to leave some for others as well!) Many of these recipes also work for those who have dietary restrictions or who follow alternative eating plans (vegan, keto, etc.). I’ve noted this where applicable. Enjoy!
NOTE: I would love for you to share these recipes with friends and family, but please be courteous enough to share thi link. Many online creators (whether they are posting recipes, photos, inspiration or something else worth sharing) often fail to receive credit for their hard work. Just like authors, artists, and musicians they deserve copyright credit too.
SOUPS & STEWS
Soups and stews are a fabulous way to stretch ingredients and fill bellies. Add a salad and some bread and you’ve got a complete meal. Plus, they can be prepped the night before and put into a slow cooker or into a large pot simmering on the back of the stove, leaving busy parents free to tackle extra tasks like schooling children at home.
CREAMY CHICKEN SOUP
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
This is a creamy comfort stew. Serves 4-6.
2 cups diced chicken
2 carrots, sliced
1 10 oz can cream of chicken soup
1 14 oz can of creamed corn
2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp dried onion (or ¼ cup minced fresh onion)
1 heaping Tbsp dried parsley
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp seasoned salt
Combine all ingredients in a large pot or a slow cooker. Cook on low for 5-6 hours (or on high for 4-5 hours if using a slow cooker). Note: The recipe can be made on the stove top just 30 minutes before serving if you use cooked chicken.
Combine ½ cup milk and 2 Tbsp cornstarch. Stir into the stew to thicken slightly before serving.
MEXICAN PORK STEW (GF, DF, vegan with modifications)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
This is a zesty stew but not too spicy for kiddos. Serves 6-8.
1½ - 2 lbs cubed pork (omit for vegan)
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can corn, undrained (or 1½ cups frozen corn)1 15 oz. can black beans, undrained (or 1 cup of dry black beans soaked overnight plus ¼ cup water)--(double the amount of beans for vegan option)
2-3 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
Sour cream, optional
Chopped cilantro, optional
Combine all ingredients in a large pot or a slow cooker. Cook on low for 5-6 hours (or on high for 4-5 hours if using a slow cooker). Note: The recipe can be made on the stove top just 30 minutes before serving if you use cooked pork. Top with sour cream and chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with corn chips or warm tortillas.
PORK & LENTIL STEW (GF, DF, keto, vegan with modifications)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
This is a thick and filling stew that sustains. Sop it up with a hearty bread or serve over rice. Serves 8-10.
1-2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
½ lb dry lentils
1-2 lb cubed pork (omit for vegan)
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
1 large turnip, cubed
2 small parsnips, sliced
½ Tbsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
5-6 cups vegetable broth or water
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Note: This recipe does not work as well on the stove top, nor does it work as well on the high setting of the slow cooker.
CURRIED PUMPKIN SOUP (GF, vegan)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
This soup breathes autumn, but it is equally delicious anytime of year. A spinach salad makes a nice accompaniment. Serves 8-10.
¼ cup coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp sea salt
4 cups canned or pureed, cooked pumpkin (or winter squash)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups coconut milk (any variety)
In a large pot, melt coconut oil and saute onion until translucent. Stir in spices and cook for another minute. Stir in pumpkin puree. Slowly stir in broth. Bring to a simmer and cook on low 30-90 minutes. Slowly add coconut milk. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Bring heat up to medium and cook until desired temperature is reached.
GINGERED CARROT SOUP (GF, vegan)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
This lighter soup is perfect for spring or summer. Serves 8-10. Wonderful with blueberry muffins!
¼ cup coconut oil or butter
2 sweet onions, diced
3 lbs carrots, cut into 1-inch slices
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground coriander
2-3 tsp sea salt
⅛ tsp white pepper
½-1½ cups water
Kale, finely chopped (optional)
In a large pot melt coconut oil or butter and saute onion one minute. Add carrots and broth. Bring to a boil then simmer 1-2 hours. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Add seasonings and enough water to acquire desired consistency. Top with chopped kale if desired.
ONE-POT (MOSTLY) DISHES
Most of these family friendly one-pot dishes have a rice or pasta base, stretching the other ingredients (and your budget)!
MEXICAN RICE HOTDISH (GF, DF, vegan with modifications)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
A classic American-Mexican rice dish the whole family will love! Serves 6-8.
1½ cups rice
1 pound ground beef (omit for vegan)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups frozen corn
1 15 oz can pinto beans, undrained (or 1 cup of dry pinto beans soaked overnight plus ¼ cup water)--(double the amount of beans for vegan option)
1 package taco seasoning (GF if needed)
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 4 oz can sliced black olives (optional)
8 oz. shredded cheese (or DF cheese alternative)
Cook rice according to directions in a large oven safe pot. Meanwhile brown beef and onion together. Add corn, beans, taco seasoning, and ⅔ cup water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and olives. When rice is done, stir meat mixture into the rice. Sprinkle with cheese (or cheese alternative) and bake at 325 F for 10-15 minutes.
NEW ORLEANS RICE HOTDISH (GF, DF)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
This easy one-pot rice dish has Cajun flare. Serves 6.
2 cups hot cooked rice
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
½ -1 cup cooked black-eyed peas (frozen, canned, or soaked and cooked dried beans)
½ -1 cup frozen okra, thawed and heated
1 lb kielbasa, cut into ½ inch slices and browned slightly (or cooked spicy sausage, such as chorizo or andouille)
1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning (store bought or homemade--find recipes online)
Combine all ingredients, heat and serve.
POLYNESIAN PASTA (DF, GF with modifications)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
A delicious pasta with a unique twist. Serves 8-10.
1 lb bag shell macaroni (GF if needed)
1 lb kielbasa, cut into ½ inch slices (GF if needed)
1 green bell pepper, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks, drained--reserve juice
1 package Italian salad dressing mix (GF if needed)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
½ Tbsp cornstarch
Apple cider vinegar
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Cook pasta according to directions, drain and toss with olive oil. Meanwhile cook kielbasa and green pepper until pepper is soft and sausage is browned. Combine reserved pineapple juice and enough vinegar to equal one cup with salad dressing mix, brown sugar, and cornstarch; set aside. Stir pineapple and sauce into kielbasa and peppers and cook until slightly thickened. Toss with pasta. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes if desired.
SHEPHERD’S PIE version one
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
Prepared foods make this a quick and easy version of this comfort food. Serves 4.
½ lb ground beef
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 package French onion soup mix
4-5 cups prepared instant mashed potatoes
shredded cheddar cheese
Brown ground beef in oven safe skillet. Stir in vegetables. Combine soups and stir into meat mixture. Top with mashed potatoes, sealing the edges. Bake at 325 F for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and return to oven until cheese is melted.
SHEPHERD’S PIE version two (GF, DF)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
Still relatively easy but more allergy friendly, this version is big on homemade flavor! Serves 8.
4-6 potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled
DF milk of choice (unsweetened and unflavored works best)
2-3 Tbsp DF butter substitute, if desired
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2-3 cups beef broth
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce (GF if needed)
2-3 Tbsp cornstarch
1-1½ tsp salt
¼-½ tsp pepper
DF cheddar cheese substitute (optional)Boil potatoes until tender; drain. Mash and add butter substitute, if desired, and enough DF milk to make mashed potatoes. Season to taste. Whip for a smooth consistency, if desired.
While potatoes cook, brown ground beef, onion, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Stir in frozen vegetables, beef broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Combine cornstarch and a little water and stir into meat mixture until it thickens. Turn into greased casserole dish. Top with mashed potatoes and seal the edges. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Top with DF cheese if desired. Return to oven until cheese melts.
Being cooped up in the house together can make everyone a little testy, but something delicious baking in the oven can brighten the day. And something sweet can sweeten tempers too! Both these recipes are allergy friendly.
APPLE CRISP (GF, vegan, keto)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
A delicious and more nutritious take on this favorite classic! (If you don't need a GF version, you can use regular all-purpose flour in place of the GF flours.) Serves 8-10.
1½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp allspice
⅛ tsp cloves
dash of salt
8 cups chopped apples (approx. four large ones)
⅓ cup maple syrup
½ cup coconut sugar (can use brown sugar)
½ cup almond meal
⅛ cup flax meal
¼ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup melted coconut oil (can use butter)
Combine first five ingredients. Toss with chopped apples. Put into a 9 x 13” baking pan. Pour maple syrup over apples. Combine remaining ingredients until crumbly mixture forms. Sprinkle over apples. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour.
CAROB ORANGE MUFFINS (GF, keto, vegan with modifications)
A. E. Fuhrman, www.smudgedpages.net
These fudgy muffins are delicious with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk. Serve for a breakfast treat or save for a sweet snack.
½ cup GF flour blend
¼ cup flax meal or almond meal
½ cup carob powder (can use cocoa powder)
1 Tbsp vanilla protein powder
½ cup xylitol
1 pkg (approx. ¼ tsp) powdered stevia
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp vanilla yogurt (DF yogurt is fine)
½ cup milk (DF milk works fine)
2 eggs (can substitute flax eggs for vegan)
½ tsp orange extract
Line muffin tin with cupcake papers. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Spoon batter into cupcake papers. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Aimee Fuhrman is a full-time homeschooling mother of four (some of whom are now grown) who moonlights as an author. She loves Jesus, encouraging others, books, knitting, and coming up with delicious allergy-friendly recipes. She lives at the foothills of the Colorado Rockies with her husband of 25 years and their brood.