Friday, September 30, 2016

Foodie Friday: School-Morning Breakfasts

I slept in this morning.  I really, really slept in!  I am sitting here at a little after 8:30 in my robe and pjs, with my morning coffee and a biscuit.  I have been in almost constant motion for about a week, getting up early, going to bed late and I think if finally caught up with me.  Which is kind of amusing as today I am writing about delicious breakfasts first thing in the morning!

At the beginning of this school year, one of my goals was to have breakfast ready for my children most mornings.  Yes, some days, this includes cereal or bagels; but even then, I usually try to have those items set out on the table for when the kids come down in the morning.  Many days, I try to have a yummy, home-made, filled-with-love kind of breakfast such as muffins, pancakes, quiche, scones, etc.  These breakfasts mean planning ahead and early mornings.

On school mornings, I am up at 5:00.  (We do four-day school weeks with a homeschool co-op on every other Friday.  Today is neither a school or co-op day, hence the luxury of sleeping in.)  This is the time I can get last minute breakfast prep done and read my Bible in the rare-quietness of my home.  Usually, I figure out what I want to make for breakfast a day or two ahead of time and get as much of the recipe together the night before.  Pancake batter is mixed and refrigerated, muffin batter is mixed, put in muffin cups and refrigerated, biscuits and scones have the dry ingredients together the night before so I can just add wet ingredients, roll and cut the morning of.  Yes, I could bake everything ahead of time, but there is just something about fresh-from-the-oven.  Don't you agree?

Today, I share two of the breakfasts we enjoyed this week:  Blueberry Croissant Puff and Biscuits with Pumpkin Butter.

One of the reasons I like baking things early in the morning, is so that it's ready for my farmer-husband when he gets up.

Blueberry Croissant Puff

This is a recipe which actually needs to refrigerate overnight, so planning ahead is essential.  It hardly takes any time at all - which is one of my top requirements for most recipes - and most of my family loved it!  (I got an "it was ok" from my 11 year old daughter.)  I used a package of mini-croissants from Aldi.  No use buying large, expensive croissants when you'll just break them up!  This recipe warms up nicely and could even be used as a dessert.  It's the fruit and eggs that make it breakfast-worthy.  :) 

Ingredients
  • 3 large croissants, cut up (about 5 to 5½ cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Place croissant pieces in a 9 inch square pan. Sprinkle with blueberries.
    3. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer until well blended. Gradually add milk, beating well after each addition. Pour evenly over croissant pieces. Let stand 20 minutes or soak overnight.
    4. Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes or until set in center and golden brown. You may want to cover it with foil for the last 10 minutes if the tops are getting too browned.
    5. Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar.
    6. Variation: Instead of baking in a square pan bake individually. Place croissant pieces evenly in 10 (1/2-cup) ramekins; sprinkle with blueberries and pour cream cheese mixture evenly over croissant pieces. Let stand 20 minutes. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until set in center and golden brown.
Notes
This can easily be doubled in a 9X13 pan.  (Which is what I did)


I use baskets as often as possible.  Biscuits, butter, jam and baskets - nothing says "farm breakfast" louder!

A few years ago, I began making apple butter.  It was something my brother loved and I guess my husband had a liking for it, as well.  I never cared for it so, obviously, I never thought about making it!  I came across a recipe or two that looked easy enough and I had great success.  So, when I came across this recipe a few weeks ago for pumpkin butter, something I had never heard of, I was intrigued and challenged.  Again, this was a huge hit!  It makes quite a bit, so it will keep my large family satisfied for a time and it would make a great little gift for someone.

SLOW COOKER PUMPKIN BUTTER

PREP TIME
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
Author: 
Serves: 6.5 cups
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 (29-oz.) can AND 1 (15-oz.) can Libby Pumpkin Puree (NOT Sweetened Pie Filling)
  • 2½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ⅛ tsp. ground ginger
  • dash of salt
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a 3-quart or larger slow cooker add all the ingredients and stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours, stirring once at the 4 hour mark.
  2. After the cooking time is complete add the pumpkin butter to a blender, add the lid on and pulse. It will be thick, and you may need to stop and stir the pumpkin butter in the blender to get it moving. Pulse until you have the desired puree.
  3. Cool in refrigerator. Serve cold.
  4. I put the extra pumpkin butter into canning jars, give as gifts, but I remind my friends that it needs to be refrigerated. Could also be put into the freezer.

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My favorite recipe for biscuits can be found at kenkatschke.com (no, I have no idea who this man is, but he makes some mean biscuits!)   If you follow the link, you will find it to be a sweet blueberry biscuit.  While I do make those, I have found that leaving off the glaze and leaving out the blueberries gives me some of the best biscuits I have ever had!
Note:  Do not, under any circumstances, use almond milk over cow's milk.  It makes for the toughest biscuit known to man.  And, it's doubly-embarrassing when you serve them to guests.  Don't ask me how I know.

Farm-House Biscuits 
(re-named by yours truly)

Ingredients:
2 Cups Flour 
1 Cup milk
1/3 Cup sugar
5 T of butter
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


Directions: 
Freeze butter. Preheat oven to 450F. Mix salt, sugar, flour, and baking powder in a bowl and sift. Add the cold milk into dry ingredients and mix. As dough begins to form, use a cheese grater to grate your frozen butter evenly over dough. Fold dough, and knead… repeat until all butter is spread evenly throughout dough. (If dough is too sticky to handle, add ¼ Cup flour.)

Roll out dough. Cut out biscuits using a mason jar or cup.   Place on un-greased cookie sheet or cake pan. 

Place in oven and bake for about 7-12 minutes (until golden). Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave, and paint finished biscuits with pastry brush. 

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May you enjoy these recipes - even if you don't get up super early in the morning.  We all know that breakfast is wonderful any time of day!
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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hey, Mom!


Hey, Mom!

I know you hear that countless times a day.  Sometimes, you want to just ignore it (and, if you're like me, sometimes you do).

But, I think this time, you may want to listen.

Hey, Mom!

You're doing a great job.  

You probably don't believe that.  On your best day, you may think you are doing an "ok" job.  Most days, you probably wonder why God even gave you children.  Or, why did He give YOU to your children.

Am I the only one who has ever thought that?  "Lord, why are my children tormented with me as their mother?"

But, God chose YOU for them.  And you, even while you doubt, are doing a great job.  How do I know?

You are worried.  You are stressed.  You are running fifty different directions - sometimes physically, sometimes mentally.  And why?  For your family.  You want to take care of them.  You want to keep them healthy.  You want them to be happy.  You want them to be independent, strong members of society - even if they are only just two years old today.  You just know that whether you feed them homemade mac & cheese or boxed mac & cheese will determine their entire future.  Only moms know this stuff.  No one else cares like mom.  YOU care.  And, you are doing a great job.

Hey, Mom!

God sees you and He is loving you.

He is rejoicing in your victory of not screaming at your child over the marker on the wall.

If you're like me, you did, indeed, scream and God is holding you as you cry over yet another failure.

He sees you running around the kitchen trying to get dinner fixed before the kids start another argument.  He's holding you up - that's why you aren't falling into a heap.

He hears you telling your daughter, yet again, to pick up her room.  He smiles slightly as you come closer to understanding what He goes through with you.  He's not vengeful, just hopeful that this will give Him a closer relationship with you.

Hey, Mom!

The one who doesn't think she is pretty enough for her husband at the end of a busy day with toddlers...

The one who passes her wedding portrait on the way to put laundry away and pauses a moment to wonder where that girl with the romance in her eyes went....

The one who tries to repair her teenage daughter's broken heart over a lost friend...

The one who sits in the hospital with a child recovering from surgery...

The one who has just ordered pizza for dinner for the third time this month...

The one who just looked at the scale and has no idea how she's going to lose those ten pounds...

The one who agonizes over her son's future...

The one who is balancing school and/or career with motherhood....

The one whose 3 year old just had a full-blown tantrum in the grocery store...

The one who relives that one mistake over and over again...

The one who goes to bed dreading tomorrow...

The one who is homeschooling her children but wonders if they really are better off...

The one who is not only caring for children and husband, but for aging parents and grandparents...

The one who stays busy so as not to have time to face the inner torments....

Hey, Mom!

Yeah...YOU...

God loves you and He is right there with you.
                   
You're doing a great job.
                                                  
You're beautiful in all that crazy mom busy-ness.  
                                                                                                                         
It's going to be OK!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ministry Monday - Kids' Club



About six years ago, our church began an after-school ministry, a "kids' club," in one of our suburban school districts.  It proved successful and so we began another kids' club in a city recreational center on Monday afternoons.  Youth desiring to minister in the suburban outreach needed to be a minimum age of 15 years old.  As I did not have any children of that age at the time, we were not involved.  I loved the idea of this ministry - teaching kids from different backgrounds the Bible and about the love of Jesus, playing games with them and building relationships with the goal of them beginning a relationship with the heavenly Father.  However, I could not leave my own children who needed those things in order to teach other children.

I remember clearly the day I was talking to the leader of the Kids' Clubs and found out that the city ministry had no such minimum age.  I could bring all seven of my children.  Obviously, my then-3 year old and other little ones would not be able to teach, etc., but my older kids would be a help.

So it began.  Every Monday during the school year, we load up our van, drive out of our farm driveway and trek into the inner-city.  Over the years, we have come to know and love many children - some of whom have stuck around while some have left the program due to moves or getting caught up in the city crowds.  We have had our joys and our heartbreaks.  Some children have challenged us with their attitudes while others have quickly won us over with their sweetness.  We've talked to kids considering suicide, spoken with kids whose parents are in jail, we have experienced one of our clubbers being in a serious accident and seeing his recovery.  Each of these children have stories - broken homes, broken lives, but they shine with childish hope.  They come searching for love and we are there to give it to them and introduce them to the Giver of unconditional, unending love.

Some of my older children are no longer able to minister on Mondays due to their increasingly busy schedules and adult-hood overtaking them.  Yet, my once-little ones are now old enough to become leaders and more active helpers.  From the first day so long ago, however, even my youngest children ministered in their own way.  They were (and still are) the same ages as some of our clubbers.  My children would sit and listen to the lessons, sing the songs, and learn the verses - all the while encouraging their city-peers to do the same. "Hey, that kid is doing it...so can I!"  My littlest one would often capture the attention and smiles of some of the little girls - ministering in spreading joy.

Ministry on Monday afternoons has become a way of life for us.  Our 12-passenger van is almost always full as take other young people who also desire to serve in the Kids' Club.  This transporting of ministers and feeding them afterwards has become a ministry in and of itself.

Being a mom is my main ministry.  Nothing should come before it.  Yet, when I can minister with my children - actively teaching them to minister to others - this is the highest calling.

In the coming weeks, I will discuss more about being involved in ministry while being a mom. I will delve a bit more into our Kids' Club ministry as well as our Monday evenings, homeschool group, coffee-dates, moms' breakfasts, etc.  In the meantime, I would love to hear how you minister with your children.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

First Day of School 2016





We have just finished our THIRD week of school and I am just now getting around to blogging about our first day.  Does that tell you anything about my lack of time?

No, I'm not running hither and yon.  For once in my life, I am busy AT home.  I think I have become more of a keeper AT home than I have ever been before and it's keeping me busier than ever.  At the same time, it's keeping me pretty happy and more contented, as well.  But that's another post altogether.

Back - way back - like three weeks back - to our first day of school.

While I normally prefer to get a good night's sleep on school nights, I stayed up late the night before getting things ready for the moment my children walked downstairs. No balloons or confetti - just little things to let the kids know it was a special day and I was thinking about them.


 I made muffin batter and got it all set so I could just scoop and pop (scoop in muffin cups and pop in the oven) in the morning.  Since the first day, I have made sure the downstairs is straightened up, the kitchen orderly, and breakfast (or the plates and fixings) are on the table along with a sign announcing the breakfast of the day.  I am attempting to give the kids much more variety in their breakfasts, and with more forethought and planning, I am able to limit cereal days to just one or two days a week.   I tried a new recipe for the first day of school - pancake bites - which, I believe, went over pretty well.  I would definitely add sausage and/or bacon, to a few next time.


I bought these mini-chalkboards for our daughter's graduation party this last June.  I can't tell you how many times I've used them for picnics to label food and now I have found a new use - encouraging notes around the house.  


Reminders to be joyful - even during their computer math & science classes. :)


Nothing like brushing your teeth in the morning with a sign of hope!

I got up around 5:00, went downstairs, got the muffins in the oven and read my Bible, taking the muffins out when they were ready.  I then went upstairs (once my husband got up) and worked out and got ready for the day.  I came downstairs in time to eat breakfast with most of the children.  

At 9:00, we all sat down to sing, share what we learned in our individual Bible readings that morning, and continued reading from a book we had been reading about heroes of the faith.  At 9:30, we began our academics.  I had written a schedule for each child to follow.  This is a new thing, but it has been very helpful in organizing time on a shared computer and classes when some children need me more than others.  

The routine we used that day has held so far and we are finishing school around 2:00 or 2:30 each day.  I make sure I plan little to no events during our school days so we can just relax and get the school done without a time limit hanging over our heads.  

Our first day, in fact, our first weeks, while not without their stresses, have been among some of the best school days we have ever had.  I am praying that the rest of our year goes so well.

How was YOUR first day?  

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