Classic Buerre Blanc Sauce with Rockfish

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First of all, I feel like I’ve said this a hundred times, but I’m sorry for not writing for so long.  I really enjoy sharing encouragement, ideas and recipes with all of you and it is my goal to do that on a regular basis in a more organized way.  I’m working on it!  I know I’ve said this before too, but for some reason I am still waffling and don’t feel totally comfy with the name of this blog… I keep thinking it is either too cutesy or lacking in what I want to convey.  I am open to suggestions, and I will keep ruminating on that.  I am hoping to buy my own domain soon and make the site prettier and easier to navigate.  I could give about ten more dreams/fantasies but I’ll stop there for now.

A lot has happened since I last wrote, and the one which will be most noticed here is that my family has eliminated gluten(wheat) from our diet as well as most other grains.  We have adopted a not-completely-stickler(is that the technical term?) form of the primal/paleo way of eating.  If you talk to purists we are more primal than paleo since we still eat dairy, but I use a lot of paleo resources for recipes as well.  In case you have read about these and are wondering, this does not mean I have adopted an evolutionary view of biology.  We have chosen this shift in eating for a variety of reasons, mostly to see if it helps with my health and to (hopefully) resolve Isaac’s tummy aches and frequent diarrhea.  It has certainly made a huge difference health-wise for me, and since January I have lost 31 pounds with absolutely no hunger or deprivation.  Needless to say, I’m thrilled with the results!  So, there has been some progress on both of the ongoing journeys I have shared here, namely weight loss and home organization.  I will tell more soon.

This recipe is simply fabulous and so fast and easy to make.  It is one of the classic French sauces, very versatile as a base for multitudes of variations, and a great technique to know but also a cinch to master.  You will look and sound like a fancy chef who knows her French food, and your family and friends will be licking their plates.  My recipe here is a slight variation on that from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and you can find many of the other variations and uses there.  If you don’t already have a copy of it, I suggest you put down your [gluten-free] donut and go get one right this instant.

I served this over rockfish because that’s what was in season(read: on sale and affordable).  I simply drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and broiled it until done.  You can use this sauce with any fish of your liking- we especially enjoy it with salmon or steelhead- or with vegetables or any other cooked meat that needs a little pick-me-up.  It’s a great way to dress up those chicken breasts you got on sale but can’t think of an appetizing way to serve them for the thousandth time.

This can be made ahead and then reheated slightly when you’re ready to serve it, but don’t get it too hot and reheat it gently, beating in a little more liquid or butter if needed.  Enjoy!

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Classic Buerre Blanc

  • 1 1/2 T. white wine vinegar
  • 2 T. white wine, dry vermouth or lemon juice
  • 1 T. finely minced shallot or green onion
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or less if you are using salted butter)
  • dash pepper
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter
  1. Combine the vinegar, wine, shallots, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and continue boiling until the liquid has reduced to between 1 and 2 tablespoons, 8 minutes or so.
  3. Lower the heat to almost the lowest setting.
  4. Cut the rest of the stick of chilled butter up into about 10 or 12 pieces.
  5. Add the butter one piece at a time, swirling the pan and stirring gently to incorporate each one.
  6. When you have added all the butter the sauce should be ivory-colored and slightly thick.  Taste for seasoning and serve.  Enjoy!

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Honey-Almond Flax Granola

I know that making one’s own granola has long been deemed a hippie thing to do, but I suggest you get in touch with your inner flower child for this recipe because it’s that good.  It is much cheaper than commercial granola, not to mention healthier and twice as tasty.  I include nuts and flax seeds for healthy fats, omega-3s, and other beneficial nutrients, not to mention they are all delicious!

This recipe is totally flexible so that you can sub in your own favorite nuts and dried fruit, leave out the coconut if you want, or try wheat germ instead of flax seed.  That is the great thing about granola- it is really hard to screw up and there are endless variations.  I don’t have any coconut oil in my pantry right now but I would love to try that to replace some of the oil with that in the future.  Enjoy!

 

Honey-Almond Flax Granola

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed (see note)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds or other nuts of your choice
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • 2/3 cup canola oil or other oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries or other dried fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 250º.
  2. Mix flour, oats, flax seed, almonds, and coconut in a large bowl.
  3. Mix oil, water, honey, vanilla and salt with a whisk in a separate bowl.  Pour over dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Spread on 2 baking sheets and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown.
  5. Cool slightly in pans, then crumble into a storage container and stir in cranberries.  Store in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Note:  I buy whole flax seed and grind it in my food processor because it’s less expensive, and it is very easy to do.  Just fill the bowl of the processor up more than halfway with flax seeds and process until finely ground.  It takes me about one minute.  Store the remaining ground flax seed in an airtight container in the freezer to keep it fresh for future use.

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Baked French Toast

As promised, I offer you my recipe for baked French toast.  This is the perfect use for leftovers from the challah recipe in the previous post, but you can use any good-quality bread of your preference.  For another delicious twist, try it with croissants or brioche.  You really just need to take my word for it and make this, because I can’t describe how delicious it is.  It has the decadent richness of a perfect bread pudding and it is the easiest way to make French toast for several people without standing over the stove. I basically took all the ingredients for a big batch of French toast, threw them in the pan together and baked them.  It turned out to be a good experiment!

For weekends or houseguests, I make it through step 3 and put it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, just pop it in the oven and bake it a little longer.  It’s so easy!  Serve it with butter and powdered sugar or maple syrup.

If your bread is fresh and not stale(I certainly have trouble waiting that long to make this!), just slice it and bake it on a baking sheet at 350º for 10 minutes and it will readily soak up all of that delicious custard.

Baked French Toast

  • 1(1 lb.) loaf slightly stale challah or other bread(see note above for using fresh bread)
  • 7 eggs
  • 4 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • butter, powdered sugar, or syrup, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  2. Slice the bread about 1/2 inch thick and arrange it in two layers in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, cutting or tearing the bread to fit the pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, honey, vanilla, and salt.  Pour over the bread and press the bread down if it tries to float.  Let it soak for 10 minutes.  If desired, do this ahead of time and refrigerate several hours or overnight, until ready to bake.
  4. Tent the dish loosely with foil and place it on the upper rack of your oven with a pan of hot water in the lower rack.  Bake at 350º for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 30-45 minutes, until it is puffed and browned and the custard is set.  The time will vary slightly depending on what kind of bread and how much you used.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool slightly, then take all the credit when your family and friends start swooning!

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Challah


Recently I have been experimenting with baking different kinds of yeast breads as I have gained confidence with my basic recipes.  Most yeast breads are very similar and once you learn the method they are all pretty easy.  Rich, eggy challah is something I have always enjoyed but never dared to make because it seemed so special and complicated I figured it must be way too hard for the likes of me.  Wrong.  It is easy and delicious, and when you take out those shiny, beautifully braided loaves, you can say, “I made that!”  Tonight when my husband got home from class he remarked, “Wow!  If those taste half as good as they look that will be wonderful!”  I was so proud.
This is also perfect for one of my other favorite things: french toast.  Tomorrow I will share the recipe for amazing baked french toast which is made even more amazing with this bread.  If any of the stale bread survives after french toast, which is unlikely, use it to make delicious croutons by tossing with butter, garlic, and herbs and baking at 350º for about 15 minutes or until browned and crisp.

Note- My very special apartment oven seems to be having an identity crisis these days, swinging wildly in temperature, but I am doing my best to make my recipes accurate for properly working ovens.  One piece of advice is to use an oven thermometer, without which I don’t think I would be cooking at all with this current piece of junk that the complex doesn’t seem to care to fix.  I certainly hope you can just walk away and set a timer when baking instead of having to sit in the kitchen to check the temperature and doneness of the food every 10 minutes.

Challah

yield: 2 loaves      total time: about 3 1/2 hours

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110º F)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey or sugar
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter (or vegetable oil if you prefer)
  • 3 eggs (2 for bread, 1 for egg wash)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached bread flour or all-purpose flour
  1. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.
  2. Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for five minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky. Divide each half into thirds and roll into long snake about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 15-18 inches long. Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and braid(remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect- its ok for it to look “rustic” and homemade!). Either leave as a braid or form into a round braided loaf by bringing ends together, curving braid into a circle, pinch ends together. Grease two baking sheets with a light spray of vegetable oil and place finished braid or round on each. Cover with towel and let rise about one hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 375º F (190º C).
  4. Beat the remaining egg with 2 teaspoons water and brush a generous amount over each braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired.
  5. Bake at 375º F for about 30-40 minutes. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing.

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Chicken and Broccoli Curry Casserole $1 per serving- super fast and budget friendly!


Once again I must apologize for not writing in so long.  It goes to show that, like many of you I’m sure, I am busy and not as organized as I’d like to be!  But that is why I love writing here, to show my experience and learn from yours as we encourage one another to grow.  Do I smell some time management posts coming?  I think so.  There will definitely be a grocery budget series soon which you won’t want to miss as I am a (humbly?) self-proclaimed jedi of the grocery budget.

Sometimes I am hungry for a simple, comforting favorite from my childhood, and this favorite from my mother’s recipes always fits the bill.  Almost all of the ingredients are things I always have in the pantry and fridge/freezer, and none of them are expensive.  This is easy to make and has all of the creamy, cheesy satisfaction you are looking for with a good nutritional profile to boot!  All you need to complete the meal are white rice and a green salad.

My mom’s original recipe has you make the rice first and put it in a layer in the casserole dish, then top it with the chicken mixture.  I don’t always do this because it’s a little faster to cook the rice while the casserole bakes, but the recipe works the same that way and it’s easier to bring it to a potluck or a friend if the rice is already in the same dish.

Chicken and Broccoli Curry Casserole

  • 2 cups white or brown rice, cooked according to package directions
  • about 2 large or 3 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed, or a similar amount of leftover chopped chicken or turkey
  • 1 16-oz bag frozen broccoli, thawed
  • 1 cup low-fat or canola mayonnaise (I use Best’s with olive oil)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, other cream soup of your choice, or equivalent amount of homemade soup or white sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper the better!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Cook the rice according to package directions and keep warm until serving, or put it in an even layer in the bottom at a 9 x 13 casserole dish if you prefer.
  3. Combine the rest of the ingredients except cheese in a large bowl, then spread in casserole dish.
  4. Bake, covered, about 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly, then uncover and spread cheese over the top.  Bake a few more minutes to melt the cheese.
  5. Serve with rice, if desired.  Enjoy!

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Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread

My few attempts at baking bread before I got married resulted in a product with a texture somewhere in the vicinity of a hockey puck.  When I got married, I registered for a bread machine and received it; it is a very nice one and works very well.  However, I was still captivated by the taste and texture of homemade bread I had tasted at others’ homes.  Surely I, a most capable female and otherwise very accomplished cook, could make bread, one of life’s more basic items, couldn’t I?  So began the experimenting and recipe testing.  I found, to my delight and surprise, that a fairly simple explanation in a cookbook of the steps involved in making bread demystified the process, and I started producing bread that bore no resemblance to a blunt death instrument!!

I think the pleasure of eating fresh homemade bread, warm from the oven, is one that is without parallel.  So I offer my favorite recipe which I have tweaked and developed to be high in fiber and whole grains, low in fat, and high in the enjoyment of eating the product of one’s own handiwork.  This bread has a perfect soft texture, is slightly denser than most commercial bread, and has that perfect balance of yeastiness, a slight sweetness, and a smooth yet pleasantly chewy texture.  Add a little good quality butter or a drizzle of wild honey to a slice fresh out of the oven and you’re going to be really happy.

I have certainly seen over time that baking bread is something that gets better with experience and practice, but when I first began I discovered a few basic technique tips which gave me success from the beginning.  If you pay attention to these things, you will be well on your way to a delicious loaf of bread.

  • The temperature of the water for dissolving the yeast.  Most recipes say “warm” water and some specify the temperature, which is ideally supposed to be between 110° and 120°.  At first I even used a thermometer to get it right, and you can too if you’re not sure because the temperature is crucial for the yeast to become active, but if it’s too hot the yeast dies.  I discovered I had not been getting it warm enough because to me the description “warm” doesn’t fit 110°- that feels hot to me.  Once I realized what it should feel like, my little yeasties bubbled and got happy.  Adding a pinch of sugar or a few drops of honey to the water helps too.
  • Knead thoroughly.  Recipes tell you to knead until the dough is “smooth and elastic,” which is a helpful description, but not one I knew how to attain at first.  It is important to knead the bread forcefully and for enough time; I use my stand mixer to knead for 8-10 minutes but if you do it by hand you should do the full 10 minutes.  A couple of other ways to tell when you have kneaded enough:  when the dough can be stretched until paper-thin and translucent without tearing, and when if you smack your hand hard into the lump of dough and leave it there for five seconds, your hand comes back off easily without the dough sticking to it.
  • Do not under- or over-rise.  If you don’t let the dough rise enough, it will be dense and tough.  If you let it rise too much, it will be coarse and dry.  The exact time the dough takes to rise depends on your climate as well as the temperature and humidity of your house.  With practice I have gotten to know how long it takes and can set a timer now; you can observe how long yours takes.  If your house is very cold and drafty in the wintertime, there are a number of ways to give the dough a warmer place to rise.  You can put it in the oven with only the lightbulb on and a pan of hot water underneath, or put a few inches of hot water in the sink and put your bowl of dough on an inverted dish holding it above the water and drape it all with a towel.  Be careful with either of those methods though since they can make it rise quite fast.  You are supposed to let the bread rise “until doubled” but I found it was hard at first to visually see that.  It has risen enough when  you press two fingers lightly into the top of the dough and the indentation remains.

I use a KitchenAid stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, and I mix the ingredients and then let the machine do the kneading for me- how easy is that?

Oatmeal Bread

Combine in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup honey or brown sugar
  • 1 Tb. salt
  • 2 Tb. butter

Pour over:

  • 2 cups boiling water

Stir to combine.

Dissolve:

  • 1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp) in 1/2 cup warm water
  • add a pinch of sugar or a few drops of honey

When oat mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add yeast mixture.

Stir in:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup oat bran (optional)

If you are using a stand mixer, continue to let it stir on the slowest setting until the dough starts to come together.  Let it knead for about 8-10 minutes, adding enough additional bread flour to keep it from sticking to the sides of the bowl.  Sometimes I have to add as much as 3/4 cup additional flour.  Flours vary widely in moisture content, so it depends.  If you do not have a stand mixer, knead by hand on a floured surface 5-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic(see tips above).

When the dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a greased bowl and cover.  Let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour.  Punch down and let rise again, about 30-40 minutes.  Form into two loaves and place in two loaf pans.

Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool on a rack.  Enjoy!

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Pasta alla Checca- A Perfect(and fast!) Summer Tomato-Basil Pasta

ImageToday we had errands to run and it was the end of a long week, so I wanted something fast, fresh and delicious, and this was just right.  The classic combination of sweet tomatoes and bright basil combines with creamy fresh mozzarella, nutty Parmesan and just the right bite of fresh garlic to make a flavor explosion that is truly sublime.  This recipe has become a summer standby for me and is also great for parties and potlucks because it also tastes good served at room temperature.  Usually the leftovers from this don’t last much longer than breakfast the next morning!  If you aren’t convinced you should try it yet, you should know that the whole thing is done with time to spare in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta.  It takes the pizza guy longer than that to find my house.

The trick to this(and any other “sauceless” pasta tossed with olive oil, veggies, etc.) is to save some of the cooking liquid to toss in with the sauce.  That makes it adhere better and coat the pasta more evenly.

And since we’re on the subject of sauce sticking to pasta, I would like to point out the SUPREME EDICT OF ALL PASTA which is that you should never, ever, EVER rinse pasta after cooking it!  Whoever came up with that idea is not Italian, and I can assure you my Papa DiBlasio will roll over in his, um, urn if you do!  Rinsing pasta removes all of the wonderful starch on the surface which is what allows your sauce or dressing to adhere evenly to the pasta, giving you the perfect bite every time.  Not to mention rinsing the pasta cools it off, which makes no sense to me.  I am famous for stressing out if I get thirty seconds behind in the kitchen, worrying that the food will be cold when I serve it, and my husband politely informs me that something which is still steaming and hot enough to burn his mouth is probably not too cold to serve.

Pasta alla Checca

  • 3/4 pound pasta (I usually use a short shape like farfalle or penne, but you can use whatever you like)
  • 8-12 ounces grape, cherry, or other sweet tomatoes, halved(or coarsely chopped if you use larger tomatoes)
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, coarsely chopped if not already grated
  • 3 garlic cloves or 2 large ones
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn or coarsely chopped
  • 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Prepare the pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid and fastidiously observing the supreme edict of all pasta.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the tomatoes, scallions, Parmesan, garlic, basil and oil in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until chopped but not pureed.
  3. In the bowl you will use to serve the pasta, combine the tomato mixture gently with the cubed mozzarella and salt and pepper.
  4. When the pasta is done, add the reserved cooking liquid and cooked pasta to the bowl and toss.  Taste and adjust salt and/or pepper to taste.  Buon appetito!

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A Monthly Budget: A Brief Discussion of Why and How

My thoughts about a monthly family budget are as follows:  You should have one.
Of course, this is easier said than done and there are as many ways to go about it as there are households that face the issue.  What is important is that you do find a way to create a monthly family budget that fits your circumstances.  Why is this important, you ask?  You may say, “We’ve always done fine without one” or “That sounds restrictive.”  I will admit that both of these statements have characterized me at one time or another, and my husband and I have lived the majority of our six years of marriage with only a loosely defined budget.  I will qualify that by saying one of the reasons is that we usually didn’t have enough money to worry about how to spend it- we eeked out our basic needs and that was that!  However, now that we are able to meet our needs, we have realized that even though we don’t have much extra money right now, defining how we manage our money will help us maximize what we have.  I would argue that budgets are not restrictive, but offer the freedom to function smoothly, much as a train running on its tracks.

In brief, some of the main reasons to budget are:

  1. God has commanded us to use everything He gives us wisely, no matter how little that may be.
  2. Budgeting ensures basic needs will be met, even on a limited income.
  3. Since you know your needs will be met, you will be able to buy other things and do other things without worrying that you won’t be able to pay the bills as a result.
  4. If we are conscious about how money is spent, we ensure that we truly are using our money in the ways that are most important to us.
  5. Without a budget, even the most impressive feats of penny-pinching in a particular area will not necessarily result in money being saved either for another purpose or to save for the future- money not spent on one thing will simply remain “in the pot” and possibly be spent indiscriminately on other things.

Of those reasons, it is #5 that really gets me when I think about it.  I realized that since we don’t regularly put money into a savings account, any money I think I have “saved” by painstakingly planning meals and shopping for economical foods just floats in the checking account and is used on incidental purchases and lattes.  I have nothing to show for myself the next month even when I come in well below my set goal for groceries.  Without a budget, the money you “save” by spending less on a particular thing doesn’t really do you much good because you are not keeping track of where the rest of the money is going.

Once I came to face that startling realization, I decided we most certainly need to set a budget.  That way, if I can save money on groceries I can either use it to buy sale items to save for future meals or I can put it aside toward new clothes, furniture, or something else exciting!  We are working on setting our monthly budgets and goals right now, and my number one piece of advice to you is that thankfulness and a good attitude go a long way!  If you start out thinking, “We’re barely scraping by anyway so this will just remind me how little I have to spend,” you will not be very successful.  Start by being thankful to God for every way He has provided for you and ask Him to bless your efforts to make good use of the resources He gives you.  Look at creating your budget with a sense of creativity and adventure, remembering how rewarding it will be to pay your bills and start being able to save more, give more, and meet more of your goals over time!  For me, making the monthly budget is similar to making my menu plans and grocery lists- I look at it as a challenge to be met and I am always proud when I can pull it off.

It goes without saying that debt, excessive credit card use, and other difficult circumstances will greatly hamper your efforts in this area, but that does not mean all is lost.  For one thing, resolve to curb any bad habits such as overuse of credit cards.  Next, if you are in debt, create a plan to get out.  This is not at all my area of expertise, but there are a lot of excellent resources and services to help you make a plan if you need help figuring out your next move.  I know that Dave Ramsey has a plethora of helpful Christian resources regarding responsible use of money and getting out of debt.  No matter what your situation, remember this: God promises to care for His children and help them in times of need, and you need only look to Him if you are in financial distress.  This doesn’t mean it will disappear or be easy, but He will see you through if you trust Him.

My family’s current budget is very simple and straightforward; it is simply a division of our total income into the major categories we regularly deal with each month.  Of course our situation and needs will be different from yours, but you are welcome to use or modify my form or simply use it as a starting point for a written plan of your own.

Get my monthly budget planning form (2 pages in PDF format)

Take some time to thank God for providing for you.  I know it is an overused cliché but it is so true: no matter how small your budget, you are very rich compared to many of your brothers and sisters around the world.  If you are not homeless, malnourished or severely lacking basic needs, you are very blessed.  The most important thing to remember whether you have little money or a lot is that earthly things will pass away and nothing in this world compares to the surpassing value of the riches found in Christ.

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NEW: My Journey to Better Homemaking by Careful Budgeting, Reducing Clutter, Time Management and Better Organization

Recently as I have been regaining my health and trying to get back to normal routines, I have become very excited because this is a great opportunity for a fresh start in so many areas that I have always desired to improve.  Here’s the great news for you: you don’t need to break your back or be sick for two years to have a fresh start too!  You can simply resolve today, along with me, to begin a journey of overhauling your habits and routines and become a better steward of all that God has given you.  As you see in the title of this post, the major categories I am focusing on can be broken into budgeting, reducing clutter, time management, and organization.  I have always loved to write, and I have discovered that I find great joy in blogging and sharing my adventures with others.  So, please bear with me as I undertake some construction to expand the household management aspect of this blog and make it more informative(and hopefully more fun and useful to read!).

One thing I struggle greatly with when starting projects like this is feeling totally overwhelmed.  For me, this feeling of having a mountain of things to do and not knowing where to begin is an extremely difficult hurdle; I often stand at the turning point stewing and being anxious because I become afraid I can’t succeed and then that leads to a deadly case of feeling like I might as well not start at all.  If you struggle with this too or if you have trouble following through on projects, these posts will be for you!  I am going to share the tips, tools and resources which help me to shape plans with concrete steps so that I am sure I can finish the job.  Of course, no one is perfect, and yours truly is certainly no exception.  We all start things one way and then change course mid-stream, we all start something with enthusiasm and fizzle out, and we all start projects that turn out to be impossible.  I’m sure I will have some of those foibles along the way which I will share with you as well as what I learn from them.  I hope that sharing my experience along the way will help others and I’m sure the accountability of posting my progress publicly will help me to stick with it!

As many of you know, I have a passion for graphic and print design.  Recently I have been having a lot of fun putting that to good use creating budget forms, menu planning sheets and many other things which I am assembling into a homemaking binder.  For me, having a pretty sheet to fill out makes planning easier and more fun!  There are lots of ideas and designs out there for how to organize these and I encourage you to use whatever suits you and the needs of your family the best.  I will be sharing with you my own designs which you are free to use if they help.

The next post in this series will be a brief discussion of overall budgeting.  I am not a financial guru and my monthly budget is very simple.  I will go into more detail with budgeting for food and household items since those are much more my areas of expertise.  Stay tuned!  I greatly look forward to your feedback and wisdom during this discussion.

Readers- I’m curious: What things do you want or need to change about your habits, routines, and organization?  Do you ever struggle with being overwhelmed, and if so, how do you deal with it?

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

A couple of mornings ago I had a hankering for a delicious muffin and I set out to make blueberry muffins since I knew I had blueberries in the freezer.  As I turned to a few cookbooks for inspiration, I was initially disappointed.  I didn’t want a bunch of white flour and sugar that happened to have a few blueberries thrown in.  I wanted the heartiness of whole grains and the satisfaction of knowing I had created a tasty and healthy masterpiece.  So, as all cooks must do sometimes when the need arises, I took matters into my own hands and wrote my own recipe.  Now that three test batches have disappeared, each faster than the first, I am sure I have a fabulous recipe to share with you.  In my opinion, the lemon zest really wakes up the other flavors and adds to the overall effect.  These are 100% whole grain, have very little sugar and a very reasonable amount of fat, and in my opinion taste much better than muffins whose nutritional profile is less than desirable.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!  You can certainly use fresh blueberries when you have them, but I always have a bag of organic frozen blueberries from Costco in my freezer and they produced great results after being thawed in the microwave for about 40 seconds.

  • 1 1/4 cups oats
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.  Combine oats, flour, baking powder and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Combine milk, oil, and beaten egg separately (to use less dishes and therefore wash fewer, I use a 2-cup glass measure into which I pour the milk, the oil right on top to equal 1 1/4 cups, and then the egg, mix with a fork to beat the egg, and pour).
  3. Add liquid ingredients and lemon zest to dry ingredients, stir just until combined (thou shalt not overmix!).  Gently fold in blueberries.
  4. Fill into a muffin tin either lined with baking cups or lightly greased.  Makes between 10 and 12 muffins depending on how full you like to fill the cups.
  5. Bake in preheated oven at 400º for about 18 minutes until just cooked through and lightly browned on top.  Enjoy!

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