Monday, October 22, 2018

Keepers: Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup Part 4


 

Finally onto week 4 in our series (here are part 1, part 2, and part 3), possibly the last installment!  I'm scratching my brain for "quick" breakfasts (intended week 5 post) that aren't cereal, instant oatmeal or fried eggs!  Most of the ideas I come up with are NOT quick!  Shoot me an email if you have any to share and I will collect all quick, from scratch, minimal clean up breakfast ideas into one post with a shout-back to all contributors next week!

This week we are talking about our slow cooker!  I put this marvelous kitchen aid on the docket because, even though it is "slow" it is so absolutely low-mess and stress-free and, essentially, quick when evening rolls around.  When my oldest played football and basketball, my slow cooker was our life-line to healthy, from-scratch meals the minute we walked in the door... even if a game went into overtime!

For expecting mamas, slow cookers are helpful for their low-mess qualities AND (unless you have a huge family) their tendency towards leftovers!  When your infant finishes their morning feeding you can either put them on your chest in a snugly or (if they rest well alone) sneak off for a quick 5-15 minutes and throw dinner in the Slow.  Then, relax, enjoy warm squishy cuddles and come back at dinner time feeling hugely accomplished when you feed your family a warm nutritious meal... even if the house and your hair are in shambles!!

I have combed my blog for previous posts of slow cooker recipes over the years and will share them below.  The list of possibilities, however, is endless.  I recommend the "Fix it and Forget It" cookbook series.  I own an older version and it shows the love I have for it!!  (consequently, I am giving one away in my next drawing, details at bottom of post).  I like the "Fix it" series because the recipes are simple and realistic, using ingredients the average person keeps in her pantry!  Some of the recipes below are adaptations from "Fix-it" and others are my own concoctions.

Prep time: on all is typically under 15 minutes

Clean up: on all is, at minimum, a spoon to stir.  At most; cutting board and knife, can opener, frying pan and spatula or tongs along with wipe-down of your prep area.  If you heat sides separately at dinner time, you may have a pan and spoon from that.  Otherwise, come dinnertime, you will only have the dishes you use to eat with!!!  If the crock is emptied then you may need to soak and wash that.  If it is still even half full, I put mine in the fridge and pull out the next day for re-heat.

(see why I like the slow cooker so much?!)

Caesar Chicken Sandwiches
Slow-cook the chicken in broth and Italian seasoning, drain, shred and add Caesar dressing into the pot, warm for an hour and serve on whole-grain burger buns with a side of potato chips, salad, slaw or veggie sticks.

Hobo Chicken Stew
 I use 2-3 cans Cream of Chicken soup, 1 cup chicken broth (I make mine with bullion), dash of garlic and onion powders, dash of salt, pepper, sage (if you have it) and celery salt or flakes (if you have it).  Drop in 5 FROZEN chicken breast and a bag of frozen mixed veggies.  Cook on low for 8 hours and viola!!!

White Chili

I use raw beans, soaked to package instructions but you could use canned beans if you prefer.  Measurements are approximations since I tend to just throw stuff in!!

1lb White beans pre-soaked according to package or 3-4 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 chicken breast halves diced (can use raw or cooked... can use left over chicken of any kind as well)
1 can diced or stewed tomatoes
1-2 cups salsa (or another can of diced or stewed tomatoes)
1-2 cups water
1 Tbsp chicken bullion
1+ tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin
A few dashes of Parsley, salt and pepper.
When I have cilantro I will add a tsp

Throw all ingredients into crock pot, liquid should cover the chicken and beans.  If it doesn't, add a bit more water.
Cook on high 6 hours or on low 8-10.

Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips or cheese quesadillas (Cheddar cheese warmed in flour tortillas)  We also garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

So-Easy Southwest-style Chicken
The pictures say it all, you can see I go super cheap!  But here is the list:

Salsa
Stewed tomatoes (you can use crushed if you prefer)
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Cumin
Chili Powder
Red Pepper (if you like super spicy)
Cilantro
Salt and Pepper
Chicken of choice (I used boneless skinless breast)
     When feeding a crowd I will fillet my chicken to make it stretch

I mix the sauce straight in my cooking dish.  Salsa and tomatoes first.  For 5 pieces of chicken I use about 2-3 cups salsa.  It doesn't have to cover the chicken but I like a good 1 1/2 to 2" lining of sauce in the bottom of my cooker. I crush the tomatoes by hand like so:



Then I sprinkle all my herbs to taste.  Usually about 1-2 teaspoons each (except the red pepper which I just barely put a pinch in).  A dash of salt and pepper and then give a quick stir. 

Add the chicken and stir around just till coated.  Place the lid on and cook on low all day or on High for approximately 4 or 5 hours.  (For frozen chicken, cook on low)


I love serving it with a side of salad and black or pinto or refried beans, and even tortilla chips.  All with trimmings of sour cream, green onions and cheese of choice.  I have also served it over a bed of Spanish rice which I have a crazy simple recipe for:

White or brown rice
cook in chicken broth (I use bullion base in water)
once done cooking, add salsa to taste
.... viola!
If you are looking for quick, low-mess though, go simple on the sides and keep it easy!

BBQ Chicken  
Cooks marvelously in the slow cooker.  The best part?  You don't even have to thaw the chicken first!!!!  Use bone-in or bone-out, throw in a greased pot with one container of BBQ sauce and kick back till dinner!  You can serve with your favorite side (baked beans, slaw, salad, chips, etc..) which should be quick and easy to pull together at dinner time.  You can also shred the chicken and have BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

Pork Loin or Beef Roast and Veggies  
Both cook the same:
Have quartered potatoes, pealed and halved carrots (or baby carrots) and onions in bottom of slow cooker.
Sear your roast on all sizes (if it has a fat side like my loin does, I do NOT sear that side).  For searing novices: high heat and a splash of oil.  Wear and apron and be prepared for a messy stove top!  I cover my empty burners with metal pie pans to keep them from getting grease splattered and smoking later.
- Plop your seared roast on top with fat side up.
- Pour water in just until it covers veggies
- sprinkle about 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce into water (I just shake the bottle in till it seems good)
- Pour one packet of Onion Soup Mix over top (I use about 2-3 Tbsp of a homemade onion soup mix recipe I found on Pinterest [I omit the onion flakes in this recipe simply because I rarely have them on hand])
- Cook on low all day 

 You can cut and leave in pot to serve.  I put mine in a baking dish for serving to contain any residual juices.

Beef Italiano  
Basically, any spaghetti, goulash, etc, can easily rest in a slow cooker all day with the edition of cooking noodles or serving as a fun finger-food dinner by putting the meat sauce in bowls, mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top and bread sticks for dipping... we can call it, "Inside-out Pizza"!  The kids will love it!


Leftovers Stew or Soup  
Left over meat can be incorporated with frozen or fresh veggies and coordinating broth to make a stew or soup.  Don't forget a bay leaf and the veggie-beef stews tend to like a can of stewed or diced tomatoes thrown in.  Use your family's favorite veggies and scour the Internet for additional inspiration.  Most soup and stew recipes out there can be made in the slow cooker, even if they are billed as a stove-top creation.  If you make it hearty enough, rice and noodles are not even necessary!

I pray all your cooking adventures will be fun and nutritious... and maybe you can also learn why a slow cooker is every busy woman's best friend!

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF! Details of the prize package are in October 15th's article on Extremely Fast Meals

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

But Now I Keep Your Word


I set out into October expecting to write about LIGHT in my Mid-week Messages.  The Light of Jesus, the Light of God's Word... light in it's various forms in scripture, particularly through Psalm 119 as it has been a theme this month (God's Word: a Light to my path♥️)  But, instead, I find myself writing about marriage and how Psalm 119 is helping me with mine.  I wrote about it last week as I shared Hope for a Struggling Marriage and, this week, you guessed it, marriage is on the menu again.

I know, October is the last month one would expect to elicit thoughts of weddings and married life.  However, with my anniversary falling on the 10th every year, at the height of pumpkin spice season, my thoughts often linger on the early days of life with my husband.  I'm reminded of so many falls ago and all which has kept us going since.

I don't talk about my married life here on the blog very much. Mostly because hubby and I seem to ride more roller coasters than marry-go-rounds together and I never could see what I might bring to the conversation on the topic.However, this month, I feel like God has been moving me to be more open.  Perhaps because a portion of my sabbatical was prompted by struggles as a wife last fall.  Shutting down was, in part, because I was afraid to talk about where I was and I couldn't get over the hump to talk about anything else. However, since last fall, I have come to realize how not talking about it removes a much needed voice to other women like me.  I guess, to make any amount of sense here, I need to start from the beginning, in a shortened 'this is just a blog article' version...

I didn't grow up "in the church".  My grandma took me when I happened to be with her on a given weekend.  In high school I moved in with my dad (my parents were divorced) and, due to a closer proximity with grandma, I began attending more frequently.  At 16 I walked forward at church to 'get saved', though, to this day, I am not certain it was a true salvation but rather "fire insurance" as a result of yet another fire-and-brimstone sermon. I wasn't sure about the whole "Jesus" thing but I was certain about one thing: I didn't want to go to hell.

After what I have come to dub as my 'psudo salvation' I didn't live like a Christian.  I did try to read the King James Bible my grandmother had gifted me when I was 13 but the words were to frothy and I gave up.  Living under an Atheist's roof and being a daddy's girl by nature, incentive to 'walk right' was definitely lacking.  My dad's remarriage my freshman year to a woman who despised me drove me farther away.  I wanted love and acceptance badly.

So, I married my high school 'sweetheart'.  He was a year older and had joined the Air Force.  I graduated a semester early and, while my peers attended prom, I was planning my shot-gun wedding.  A few days after exchanging vows we loaded up our pick-up truck and headed west to his first duty station in Washington state.

And that is where it all took a big leap.

I had always wanted to attend church on Christmas eve and, recognizing I had a chance to formulate my own family traditions as an adult, we went for it.  I could have never anticipated how my pseudo-salvation would break that night.  After a fun play presented by the youth, pastor took the podium and began his O Holy Night message: the story of Abraham and Issac on the mountain.  I can't explain what happened except, despite the welcoming friendliness of the evenings greeters and the hope of establishing a church 'home', the message lit an unholy fire in me and I grew angry at God: "What kind of God would ask a dad to sacrifice his kid???" and "How on earth is this relevant on this night?"

As the evening concluded I made vaguely polite gestures of farewell, fighting the urge to run from the building.  I never went back.  Out of tradition I remember kneeling to set cookies for Santa by the gifts under the tree.  There, just before bed, in the glow of Christmas tradition I stood up resolutely and point-blank told God I didn't want anything to do with Him anymore.

I ran hard and fast away from faith.  I made mistakes, suffered from severe depression, attempted suicide, dabbled with drinking and made a general wreck of my life.  My marriage couldn't handle the weight of destruction we both wreaked and, after 4 years, when my oldest was 2, we split.

It was in this state that I met my now hubby.  He was coming out of a much rougher life than I.  I can honestly say, with my grandmother's tugging and my mom's new-found-faith, I never wandered too far.  I still longed for family and home and dreamt of being a housewife caring for it all.  I'm truly simple at my core.  Yet, as hubby and I took off in the direction of couple-hood, we did so in this lost and broken state.  Living together before and during engagement and even having Ashley before we were married.

Once we said "I Do" I found my marriage struggling again.  Desperately.  Until one day, when pregnant with Brenden, I wandered into a small church in our little town.  I had never heard sermons preached with so much power and so little yelling!  I learned of a loving God, not just a damning God.  Then, one morning, while an infant Brenden slept in my arms, Pastor had us open our Bibles to Genesis 22.  As I saw the heading, I cringed, ready to run for the door. The Sacrifice of Issac.  However, as pastor spoke, I realized something was different.  This time I heard the story of a God of Love.  A God who commanded complete Trust and devotion.  A God who would never really have a dad kill his son, but rather, would call a dad to Trust and then He, God, would provided what was needed.

I sobbed.  I held the small bundle that was baby Brenden close to my chest for fear my trembling arms might drop him!  I cried into his soft, blanketed body and called out to God from my heart, seeking His deep forgiveness for my foolishness and sinful ways, finally seeing and understanding.

That day I went home changed.  That day I began really digging into my Bible.  In her wisdom and desire to see me accept Christ, my recently converted mother had sent me an easier to read translation which quickly became my most treasured possession.  I devoured it, allowing God to transform me through every new and profound message which shed light on those warn out old ways.

One thing God's Word showed me in particular, the greatest light to my step, was how much God hated divorce.  I had been divorced.  It was a tough pill to swallow.  I found myself calling out to God for his mercy and finding conviction to set things right.  First, I made amends with my ex-husband, asking for his forgiveness.  It was what I felt I needed to do to be free to commit my whole heart to my hubby.  He forgave and I moved forward.  Second, God showed me through His Word how He calls us to STAY and serve our spouses even in the difficult times of married life when everything seems lost.  God impressed on me how He had a plan for my unbelieving spouse and He uses us, as wives, to bring that plan to fruition.

So, while my marriage didn't improve at first, my attitude did.  I committed to praying for my husband daily, to see Him come to a saving grace.  I prayed God would transform my husband into a man I could pray with in all of life's ups and downs.  It took 10 years of praying in this way before that big day came.  10 years of diverging beliefs and lonely struggles.  But it was worth every.single.day.

After his salvation he too soaked up God's Word and the counsel of other believers.  Within that first year he was Called to use his gifts in the missions field... a Call I had known 5 years prior when God told me He would show me the time to step forward in It.  So we answered, we sold much, gave much, traveled much and Trusted completely.

Then, almost 6 years ago, God called us out of field work and into our current home.  This, I believe, has been the biggest struggle in our lives.  Going from full-time work for God to full-time work for secular society.  The strain has been very difficult on our family and our marriage.  I thought maybe something was 'wrong' with us until I recently read "Missionaries are REAL People" by Ellen Rosenberger and discovered, no, our struggles were real and normal and manageable IF we kept our eyes on Jesus.

Yet, even in our struggles, I am reminded how each year does get better, with it's tweaks and adjustments, we move along.  Studying Psalm 119 this month has helped me with the struggles we still face in ways I didn't realize I was needing.  Every time I have read this Psalm in the past I only saw it for it's treasure of verses on the importance of God's Word.  But this month, I have also seen it for the treasure of verses on the POWER of God through His Word.  This week... the reason I share such a detailed back story... is because God's Word reminded me of how powerful our stories and experiences are:

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.  
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.   
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.  
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes..... 
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statues.  
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold an silver pieces.
Psalm 119:65-68, 71-72 (emphasis added)

I once deeply regretted my past and resented how it wasn't different or better... that it took me so long to walk the right path... that my mistakes have had such far reaching ramifications.  Learning how these experiences were needed for my story, though, has been a slow process.  Meditating on verses 67 and 71 finally and completely closed the door on those apprehensions.  My faith has been made stronger because of my trials, not in spite of them.  I've known this for a long time but I feel like, each time I learn more on the topic, it becomes increasingly tangible.

Perhaps this post is still about LIGHT.  The light of hope and the promises in darkness.

I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
Psalm 119:55

This great big story is too much for one post and I hope I haven't overwhelmed the blog page with randomness as I tried to cram it all in such a small space!!  I hope, if nothing else, other women out there struggling like I have and still at times do, can find hope in the words and story here.  It can be hard to keep my chin up when hubby and I tend towards fire and ice more often than I care to admit.  But when I cast my gaze to the scope of our history I am reminded of how great and good God is.  How he set his light in my darkness, how he used my afflictions to teach and grow me.

One thing I do know as a result of my afflictions... I don't take my faith for granted.  When I look at the good work God has done in my husband I know He won't stop.  God is good, He does good, He will teach me his statutes and I will keep His Word♥️

I pray, if you are in any of the places I have been or am now, that you find peace in knowing your past is your past, it makes us who we are today as God teaches us how to keep His Word through it all...even and especially concerning our marriages!

***
If you are interested in a Psalm 119 study guide, scroll down to the end of this article to see how you can get a FREE copy!  Though I have poured over the beautiful words of this Psalm many times before, I am still finding new and wonderful messages to grow my Walk with Christ.
***

Blessings,











By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF! Details of the prize package are in October 15th's article on Extremely Fast Meals

Monday, October 15, 2018

Keepers: Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup Part 3


We are half-way through his month-long series on FAST from-scratch meals with minimal clean up!  This week I thought we could talk chicken.

Fast and chicken, in my mind, most often go together when cut up and added to other dishes.  Roasting chicken, whether de-boned or bone-in, can easily take in the neighborhood of an hour.  I do like throwing chicken in a roasting dish and popping it in the oven for a no-fuss meal prep night.  However, this would not fall into our "Quick" category so I have not included those recipes here.

*Cutting Chicken Quick Tip You can mass-cut chicken when you first bring it home from the grocery store and freeze for quicker and less messy prep time.  Spending 30 - 45 minutes once every grocery shopping period doing a meat pre-cut will save you loads of time throughout the month during meal prep.  Remember, it isn't just the time butchering which you are consolidating, it is also the clean up of your cutting board, knife and work area.  Cut once, clean once! 

Whether cutting breast meat or thigh meat, I cut it into bite size pieces and then measure the pieces into a Ziploc bag by estimating about 1 handful of meat per person (if you have small hands you might consider 1 1/2 handfuls per person).  Lay bags flat in freezer for easier thawing.

With our quick-cutting tips in mind, I will proceed to the following recipes assuming this stage is done.  Choose breast or thigh meat according to your personal choice.  If you do NOT pre-cut your meat, tack approximately 5-10 minutes onto your prep time and an additional 5 minutes on clean-up with cutting board and knife.

Chicken Salad
I don't mean the shredded kind with mayo and sandwich bread!  Nope, literally, chicken and salad.  This is my go-to dish for summer time but if you like salad it can be good any time.  I put a few splashes of Olive Oil (or whatever oil you typically use) into my pan and begin cooking my chicken pieces on medium-high heat.  While chicken cooks I put on my multi-tasking hat and prepare my salad.  As with ground beef, when chicken appears about half-way done, I begin adding my seasoning.  
 Variations as follows:

Greek Style: Store bought Greek Seasoning OR about 1tsp each of onion powder, garlic, dill, oregano and a dash of salt and pepper.  Serve over green salad with cucumbers and tomato and a side of Cucumber Dressing.

Italian Style: Season with Italian Dressing OR about 1tsp each onion powder, garlic, oregano and basil.  Serve over green salad with tomato, green peppers, olives and fresh Parmesan cheese and a side of Italian or Caesar Dressing

Ranch Style: Dash on about 1 tsp each onion and garlic powders, dried celery leaves, a few shakes of Paprika, thyme, salt and pepper.  Pile on top of green salad with tomato, red onion, radishes, and grated carrot, Colby-jack cheese, bacon bits and topped with Ranch Dressing.

Southwest Style: Season chicken with the usual onion and garlic powders and add in about 1tsp each of cumin, chili powder, cilantro and dash on some salt and pepper.  When chicken is almost done cooking, pour in about 1/4 cup salsa per approx. pound of meat.  While chicken cooks you can heat up some black beans.  Thinly slice lettuce greens and add in chopped tomatoes and green onions.  Finish with Monterey-Jack Cheese and top with Ranch Dressing OR salsa, sour cream and avocado or guacamole.

For the first 3 salads you can make the meal more filling by serving with a side of pita bread, toasted garlic bread, bread sticks or rolls.  For the Southwest Style serve with tortillas or tortilla chips.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, (+ saucepan and spoon for Southwest Salad with Black Beans), cutting board and knife, possible bowl for holding salad

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)


Other cut chicken meals
Chicken salads are about as easy as it gets.  The following recipes require a few more dishes but with relatively similar cook times.
This picture is a variation of the recipe below

Stove-top Chicken, Broccoli and/or Cauliflower: This dish can be made with Broccoli OR Cauliflower OR Both!  I like to buy frozen veggies and steam.  While veggies steam, cook chicken in butter and season with onion and garlic, at least 1 tsp each, and a dash of salt and pepper.  Once chicken is cooked, reduce heat to medium low, drain veggies and incorporate into pan with chicken.  Top generously with one of three cheeses:
  • Just cheddar 
  • Cheddar and Parmesan (fresh or powdered)
  • Cheddar, Parmesan and feta 
Lightly incorporate the cheese and place a lid on the pan.  Let rest on low heat for a few minutes while cheese melts.  Serve and enjoy!

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, Steamer pot, basket and lid, measuring cup

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)

In this picture the chicken is shredded, however, you can cut into small pieces or long strips.
Chicken Tacos/burritos: Cook chicken as the SW Chicken Salad recipe above calls for.  Once it is done, stuff into hard or soft taco shells with lettuce, tomato and cheese OR Line a tortilla with cheese, chicken and beans (black, pinto or refried).  Roll up and serve or warm in 375реж oven for 5 minutes and serve with a side salad.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, (pan and spoon for beans if cooking them, baking sheet if warming in oven), cutting board and knife

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)

Of all the chicken meals I cook, these are the quickest and least messy!  Can you suggest any chicken meals which take 30 minutes or less and don't require many dishes though still hold the benefits of from-scratch?

If you would like to see the first two articles in this series, click on Links in text to visit Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.  Next week we will be talking Slow Cookers.  These meals may not be "quick" but they are extremely time-efficient and low clean up which is why I love them!

Speaking of slow cookers, I finally got the next give-away assembled and it has been inspired by this month's Quick Easy Meals thread (as well as by autumn and Thanksgiving!):

The cookbook pictured here is mine, I used it for the image but the "New Revised" plastic comb bound edition is what will be sent to whomever wins!  The leaf place-mat is not included (it is old and ragged, you don't want it!!)  The details:
  • Fix-It and Forget It Cookbook
  • Coffee/cocoa mug
  • Cinnamon Spice scented candles
  • 2 metal turkey candle holders
  • Decorative hand-painted brick (double sided for TWO seasons!)
Drawing will be held October 31st.  Scroll down to see how to sign up.

That's it for this week's edition of Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup, I pray your kitchen adventures are blessed with good food, good times and good company!

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF! 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

HMJ: School Break, October Snow and Teen Talk


It is rather scary how fast this school year is going already!  When planning out our school year I scheduled a week off for every 6 weeks of work.  Our homeschooling history dictates this to be a wise choice and rejuvenating opportunity!  Well, this was that week!  Yup, 6 weeks down and the only thing crazier is knowing, in 6 more, it will be THANKSGIVING!!!

Brooke ended up getting sick at the beginning of the week.  I felt bad for her having to spend her time off with a bad cold but appreciated her maturity when she commented to me, "At least I got sick on my week off and not during school!"  Love that girl!

Halfway through the week hubby and I celebrated TWENTY years of marriage!! 

We went out to dinner and then decided to come back home and hunker down in front of the fireplace with a date-night movie.  It was cozy and perfect.

I know, the math doesn't add up.  20 years with a 20 year old daughter and 24 year old son.  I'm planning a window of testimony on our marriage and faith this coming Wednesday. 

Speaking of planned articles, I got the curriculum review up on Thursday as promised last week!  Be sure to check it out if you or someone you know has younger kiddos since I am doing a give-away with this review. 

Snow was a big part of our week as well!
It came and went.... and came again!
I guess that is just part of Montana life!  I love it, no matter the time of year ♥️  We were going to take a trip into the mountains today to enjoy fall foliage but the snow and recovering sickies caused us to post-pone.

Brooke still had a study hangout Thursday.  She was desperate to get some friend time in despite her incessant runny nose.  She worked on her Geography Island project, chatted, and enjoyed some post-study video games with brother and sister joining in.  I feel so blessed to see my kids, even Brenden and Ashley as adults now, share such a valuable friend group.  I don't believe it is an accident...


Over the years, as the kids were growing up, we were rather guarded with the friends we allowed full-access into their lives. We limited interaction with kids whom we knew to be a bad influence and encouraged opportunities to hang-out with friends who shared values.  Along the way we have always had open discussions, assessing behaviors and influences realistically, and provoking our kiddos to think about what makes a good friend.  
  • Do they love Jesus with all their heart?
  • Do they lie?
  • Do they consistently deliberately disobey their parents?
  • Do they talk bad about family and/or siblings all the time?
  • Do they build you up or tear you down?
  • Do they ask you to do things you shouldn't?
  • Do they treat their other friends and even strangers disrespectfully?

I don't recall a time where we ever told them "NO" to having any given friend.  We didn't want to raise rebels, rather, we were aiming for thinkers and good choice makers.  Restricting them would not have taught them to think for themselves.  So, depending on the given situation, I would access one of the many questions like those listed above and ask my kids to consider.  When affirming negative answers resulted, the discussion was threaded onto how it made them feel, or others feel, around this friend and if the anxiety and negativity was really worth it.  I did have to point out once or twice that it would be better to wait friendless for the right friend to come along then to maintain a bad friendship which may ruin an opportunity for a better friendship later on.  I would also encourage prayer for God to send the right friend in HIS time and help my kiddo productively as they waited for their prayers to be answered. 

We would also consider how the Bible often discusses the importance of surrounding ourselves with like-minded believers as our core friend group.  The Bible also warns of the consequences when we choose otherwise.  
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
1 Corinthians 15:33 
If the Bible warns of these things, than, as Christians, we ought to take God's best plan for us seriously. 

I do have to digress here and articulate; when I say a "bad" friend, I don't mean a friend I personally don't like or I personally don't like their parents.  I mean, a friend who causes trouble consistently or deliberately behaves unbiblically consistently.  Everyone makes mistakes, especially young people as they learn the ropes of life, but I am talking about someone who plays in the mud of mistakes without a care.  I also wouldn't allow my kids to hang out at friends houses where a parent or sibling was abusive an alcoholic or a drug addict... NO exceptions.... not even if the friend was a good kid, if anything, I opened my home more to them to come over for a reprieve!

Having a bad friend or acquaintance didn't mean we snubbed our nose either.  It offered opportunity to discuss how to share our faith... how to be a good friend to someone who doesn't know how.  How to give grace and seek to understand; sometimes bad friends are that way because they are hailing from difficult home lives.  When our kids entertained the idea of a not-so-good friendship we simply encouraged them to choose less time in that person's company and offered alternative suggestions. When they were with that particular person, whether by choice or necessary proximity, we taught them to be more guarded so as not to be tripped into equally bad behavior.

When kids are young it is easy to distract them away from bad influences.  Doing so along with discussion and explanation grows in them a heart to seek out friends who truly have their best interests in mind.  When they become teens it is so important to keep the line of communication open.  Ask, listen and offer grace-filled council.  Not judgment or condemnation, rather, love and direction.  If they can trust you to not over-react when they share difficult situations they are facing with friends... then they will trust you to continue coming to you in all scenarios.

Raising teens isnt' easy.  It starts best by planting good seed when they are younger.  However, no matter when you find yourselves in a direction of deliberately trying to navigate the difficult waters of the teen years, breaking through IS possible with consistency and loads of prayer!  A bit of time and authentic investment in who they are and what they have going on will make this stage much more manageable. 

By the way, last year, just before my sabbatical, a reader asked me to write more on Teen issues.  I hope this can be a regular part of my Mother's Journal writing.  If you have any teen topics you would like to hear more on, let me know and I will see what I can do!

How has your week been?

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF! 
Drawing details in Monday, October 15th's post.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Curriculum Book Review of Mighty Reader Workbook

I love curriculum... I am a recovering curriculum addict!  When my kids were elementary age I would scoop up every single freebie I could get my hands on.  I had it all sorted by subject and then sub-sorted by grade and topic!  It is funny, of all the things I gave up when we went into missions and now that we have settled back down, my curriculum compilation is what I really miss!  I do gain comfort knowing it went to a dear homeschool friend who used it well!

So, while I am down to ONE homeschooling kiddo (and she is a High School Junior this year), my old curriculum habits and love for learning and teaching prompted me to welcome an opportunity for reviewing the Mighty Reader Workbook for  1st Graders by veteran teacher Heidi Cooley.

Flipping through this beautifully made sturdy workbook I found myself wishing I had a 1st grader to walk through it with!  The book is intended for public schoolers to use as extension read-at-home with a parent work to improve reading fluency.  However, I feel it could be a valuable asset to any homeschool curriculum as well. 


There are 13 lessons which cover 13 weeks of reading activity.  Each lesson is based on a story from the Bible and could easily double as family devotion time.



The author has provided thorough and clear directions for working with your young readers as well as a lay-out of how to conduct the daily lessons within each week.

 With Ms. Cooley's process, parents and children work together to complete reading goals progressively moving from tandem reading to solo reading by the end of each lesson week.

Activities for reading comprehension are also included for each day.  These vary by week and always seem fun, asking the child to circle and color words as well as draw pictures to reflect how they have comprehended the story.

I love this workbook so much I was tempted to keep it for my some-day grandchildren... however, I have NO idea when that will be since we haven't had any wedding bells for any of my adult children yet!  SO, I have decided to share this wonderful resource with one of my readers!  That's right, YOU get an opportunity to enjoy this lovely workbook with your 1st grader for FREE!  How?  Well, I have a few ways....
  • Comment below telling why you think you might like to have this workbook
  • Sign up for my monthly newsletter (details at bottom of article) and then send me an email letting me know you have signed up and what you are looking forward to most in my newsletter (overview of topics in each newsletter are listed below.  Email: amanda@faithandhome.com)
You can do BOTH: comment and Newsletter sign-up/email send: to have your name entered TWICE for a chance to win!  But don't delay, I will be drawing the winner on Friday, October 26th!  Be sure to tell a friend as well!

Blessings,






I received Mighty Reader Workbook at no charge from B&H/Lifeway blogging network in exchange for my honest review.




By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF! 



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Hope for a Struggling Marriage

Oh, if only life could be simple.  If adult children really did listen to your sage advice and if husbands never wearied and complained.  I operated for a very long time thinking all the other blogs out there held 'perfect' families to which I couldn't hold a flame.  My past year of sabbatical, however, reminded me that everyone has their trials... and yes, there are some near-perfect families out there, but there are also many like mine... trying as they might, still falling far short of that wonderful Glory every Christian strives for. 

It gives me peace. 

Not a sadistic or satiric sort... no, a comfort in knowing I am not alone... I am in good company.  Last night, after another weary day where I was reminded that the war is not yet won and battles still must be fought, I sulked into an article where one wife wouldn't take "no" for an answer.  When her husband packed to leave, she refused him to go and instead, opted for peace and grace and allowing him time to sort.

No, my husband is not packing to go... far from it!  But he is struggling right now.  Wow.  I admitted that on the worldwide web!  I prayed 10 years for my man to know Jesus as his savior and when God answered my prayers, my husband didn't walk... he ran into His arms.  It was wonderful.  The years since have been full of finding ways and learning the ropes.  Many successes... but in recent years... many failures. Too many details for a little blog post.  Hubby still loves Jesus, but he is also being beat-down by the world. 

He wants to be strong.  He wants to get it right every time.  He wants to see others get it right too.  I know this.  But in his struggles and fights, it gets messy.  And in the mess, people can be taken for granted.  We all do it, he is no exception.

In his years since salvation I have taken for granted that I didn't have to work as hard anymore.  Where I use to be mindful of my reactions and actions so as to measure them carefully against the Word of God in hopes of not just growing in Christ myself but also drawing the man I loved.... now I could relax my walk and know he already saw Christ. 

Perhaps relaxed is the worst place to be.  Perhaps there was a great and Holy purpose to those years of trials... a purpose I lost site of in the years of Goodness.  A purpose I am needing to rediscover... to remind my love of God's goodness again.  To reflect grace and peace inside of a graceless and peaceless world.  Yet, so out of practice am I, it is like holding wild horses or trying to move a stubborn donkey.  He bucks, I buck.  He brays, I bray.

It's petty, really.  And truth be told, it is an approach so polluted by the world and a mindset of entitlement that says; because I am a woman I deserve.  Because I feel, I shouldn't have to put-up.    But truth be told, if we all got what we really deserved, it would be a pretty bleak outlook.  We didn't deserve for a man to be ridiculed, beaten and nailed to a cross... humiliated... and why?  For us, so we could have a perfect eternity after muddying up the temporal! 

Then I think of the hormones of 4 pregnancies and the wailing of those deliveries... I think of the clinical depression that set in after loosing my mom and my entire reproductive system unexpectedly in the same year and under the age of 30.  I think of menopause and control issues and ALL that the good Lord has helped me overcome... and all my husband endured out of love and devotion... even when I was unlovable... so that I could be here today, more confident, healed and at peace than any other time in my life.

And I think of that late-night article.  The strength of a woman to say "NO" and see through the bucking to tame the beast.  To realize his lashing and running wasn't her, it was struggles and hurt that our poor men are often ill-equipped to maneuver.  Hopes and expectations which drop to the floor when work isn't well or job is lost.  Our men know we depend on them and they are at a loss and scared when they fall short.

So they growl and grumble and skulk.  They wander and wonder and forget.

But we... we wives who may not like those burly men very much at the moment... we get the honor of praying for and loving them... not because they are lovable, but because God loves them anyway.  In a world that says 'run from the hardships' Christ says 'stay for the hope'.  He stayed, up there, nailed to a chunk of wood.  He could have climbed down.  He could have called upon a legion of angels.  He could have been like the world and 'run from the hardships' but he didn't.  He 'stayed for the hope'.  And we all, every.single.one.of.us who believes and follows, has a place at the Table as a result.

Reading Psalm 119:25-32 in my devo today, really put all this into perspective.  In part (with my emphasis added):

My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
...
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!
...
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart
[or for you set my heart free]
- Psalm 119: 25, 28, 30-32

Oh, how my heart clung to this passage today.  Clinging to the dust, melting away for sorrow, yet such hope.... God's Word can give me strength and life.... I can choose His way and clinging to God's Word I will gain that strength and endurance to run in the way He shows me.  I am set free.  But the world binds me to expectations...

... expect perfection in relationships
... expect others to justify me
... expect people to do what I expect of them
... expect  

Yet, the more I expect the more tethered I feel.  Waiting and hoping expectations will be met.  Psalm 119 doesn't say, 'focus on people' to fulfill.... no.  It says to focus on God and His Word.  It doesn't say walk according to what the world says (leave, fight, be entitled)... nope.  It says to walk according to God's Word.  It goes one farther.. it says to RUN!  (stay, make peace, serve and sacrifice).

In all these months, when the bucking and braying made their rounds, I have felt so stifled, so tied-down.  Not because of the hardship... but because of my worldly mindset inside of the hardship.  But now, being reminded of those years of prayer and Devotion to God and the magnified peace and relational prosperity in my marriage as a result, I feel so free!  I can breathe again.  I can HOPE.

Perhaps you have one of those 'life is wonderful' marriages... praise be to God for such a blessing!  I celebrate with you ♥️  But, just maybe, you are like me... on a roller coaster... battling the messages of the world which pull you into hopelessness while God is holding out a hand and encouraging you to be strong and hope again.  I pray you will grab a hold of Him.  That, like I have found, you can find the true freedom of letting go of expectations and clinging to God.  Remembering; we are not in a sprint... we are running a marathon with perseverance and purpose to reflect Christ to those around us and the world at large.  We aren't entitled... yet we are amazingly blessed and given a Promise far greater than this world.

***
If you are interested in a Psalm 119 study guide, scroll down to the end of this article to see how you can get a FREE copy!  Though I have poured over the beautiful words of this Psalm many times before, I am still finding new and wonderful messages to grow my Walk with Christ.
***

Blessings,






Post Note: I wrote this article on October 7, 2018.  It is being published on Wednesday, October 10, 2018, my 20th Wedding Anniversary!  My husband and I were not saved when we got married and I had been divorced with a 3 year old when we first met.  Even in my secular days, I knew I didn't want to jump marriages, it hurt too much.  Then, becoming a Christian early in our marriage, I learned how much God hates divorce.  I repented and renewed and, for the 10 years I waited for my husband to know Christ the way I did, I was committed to make it work because God made salvation work for me.  It is this journey which keeps me plugging forward and keeps me devoted and inspires me to encourage other woman... no matter how difficult the road is, Hope always finds a way♥️




By the way.....

*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF!  

Monday, October 8, 2018

Keepers: Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup Part 2


I'm back with the second installment in this month-long series on FAST from-scratch meals with minimal clean up and this week, we are talking about Beef!

If you shop Costco or watch the sales at your local grocer's butcher block, beef can be found at some great prices to rival chicken and pork.  It is a pretty forgiving meat, especially in it's ground or roast form, and it has so much pairing potential.  Let's take a look at a few fast recipes for anyone not bent on avoiding red meat (slow cooker variations to come in part 4!):


Stroganoff
Super easy and cost-effective meal.  I've shared the recipe before but just in case you missed it then:
1.5 - 2 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey), fry with some chopped onion (or add onion powder after draining), drain off grease when meat is about half-done, sprinkle on about 1tsp garlic powder, and a few dashes of salt and pepper to taste.  Spritz in some Worcestershire sauce.  Once meat is browned, add 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup, 1/2 can beef stock (I use water and half a teaspoon beef bullion and the mushroom soup can filled half way with water) and 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Stir and warm well over medium heat.

(You can add parsley and/or fresh garlic when cooking for additional flavor)

I serve this mixture over mashed potatoes or egg noodles with a side of green beans. 

Dishes: Frying pan, pot for potatoes or noodles, strainer for potatoes or noodles, spatula, optional pot and spoon for green beans or other side.  (If making potatoes you will also need a potato peeler, knife, and cutting board for scratch -or- measuring cups and spoons for boxed instant)

Cook time: approx. 20-25 minutes if served with noodles or instant potatoes... 30-40 if making potatoes from scratch


Tacos/Burritos/Taco Salad
Fry up 2lbs. ground beef.  I add about 1 tsp each of cumin, garlic, onion powder and, when it is almost done, salsa (approx. 1/4 to 1/2 per pound).  Chop (or buy pre-chopped) lettuce and tomatoes.  Serve with pre-shredded cheese and, if you like, sour cream, salsa and olives. Beans are optional.  You can do canned or you can cook homemade beans in the slow-cooker.  I make a whole pot of beans at once and then freeze in portions to thaw and warm up when I need them for dinner.  If you freshly grate cheese by hand it will add to time and clean-up.  You can grate a supply of cheese ahead of time to be kept for various uses and stored in the fridge or freezer.  I buy mine in bulk, pre-grated, at Costco or on sale at the grocery store.

Tacos and Burritos shells can be store-bought and are quick.  Homemade shells take a bit longer.  This is where taco salad can be a great alternative.  Make your salad and throw the beef (and optional beans) on top.  My family likes to crumble Doritos into their salad!

Dishes: Frying pan, cutting board, spatula, knife and spoon if having sour cream.

Cook time: approx. 20-25 minutes if you are multi-tasking and/or have help  (you can chop veggies while meat and beans cook).  Much longer if making tortillas from scratch.

Beef Italiano
Simply put, any variation of spaghetti/rigatoni/goulash!  This meal can be as fast and low mess as you choose.  All options listed below assume some form of noodle is cooked  and that meat is fried while the sauce is being made.(multi-tasking)....

Multi-task step one: set water on burner  set to medium-high to high setting.  Keep an eye on it and, once it starts to boil, add in noodles if choice (approx. 1 handful per adult/half handful per child) and stir every minute or two to keep noodles from sticking.  (I add a dash of olive oil to my water to aid in non-sticking noodles)
Dishes: cook pot and spoon to stir/serve with and strainer Cook time: approx 20 minutes.

Muti-task step two: while the water is doing it's thing, throw 1lb ground beef in frying pan set to medium-high and fry away!  (unless you took my advice last week and pre-cooked ground beef, then skip to next step!) I like to add a few dashes of garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper after grease has been drained.
Dishes: Frying pan and spatula Cook time: approx 10-15 minutes.

You don't need to stand and stir the meat constantly, just every minute or two.  So while the meat is cooking you can start on one of the sauce options below and, once your meat is done, you can combine the two to finish simmering while the noodles wrap-up cooking.

Option 1
Sauce in a jar = add into ground beef once it is cooked and warm.
Dishes: none Cook time: none

Option 2   
Sauce (mostly) from scratch = I use a 1-2 cans of tomato sauce and/or stewed tomatoes broken up.  I heat on medium to medium high with approx. 1 tsp each of powdered garlic and onion, parsley, and basil, 1/2 Tbsp oregano and a dash of salt, pepper and sugar (a small dash of sugar helps neutralize acids in tomato sauces)  I cook until it is well heated through, having added in my meat whenever it was ready, and then serve over noodles with some Parmesan cheese.   
Dishes: cook pot and spoon to stir/serve with Cook time: approx 20 minutes.

Option 3
Sauce dressed up = using one of the above two steps, add in chopped green peppers, onions, fresh garlic, mushrooms and/or sliced olives.  This will add about 5 minutes to prep-work and cutting board and knife to the dish pile... but it will provide a heartier, more filling dish.


*Note: an interesting thing about sauces is that you can cook them any time, even in the morning or while littles nap, then let cool and refrigerate... it actually produces a tastier sauce because the flavors have more time to marry!

WHOLE MEAL Dishes sum-up combined:  cook pot, strainer, spoon for stirring/serving, frying pan, spatula, bowl or saucepan to make sauce in, whisk or spoon to stir sauce with.

WHOLE MEAL Total Cook time combined: approx.25-30 minutes.  If any of the steps were pre-cooked then shave off as much as 10-15 minutes!  Add about 5 minutes if you choose sauce option 3.


Simply Beef and Rice  
Use beef broth with a sprinkling of powdered garlic, onion and parsley for rice, make portion for 4 cups cooked rice (any rice variety will do).  (I have a pressure cooker which takes about 15 minutes to make my rice beginning to end.  I always start this first since it is the longest part of the dinner making process for this dish.  I make 2 cups rice to 2 cups water in it.)

While rice is cooking, fry 2 lbs ground beef or steak/beef strips as suggested in other beef frying recipes above.  Add in 1/2 of a medium fresh onion chopped and 6 cloves garlic minced OR (quicker and less mess...) 2 tsp. powdered onion, garlic, and dried parsley, 1 tsp. basil and 1/2 tsp paprika.  Throw on a generous shaking of salt and pepper.

Once both meat and rice are done, combine and serve!  You can serve with a side of your favorite veggie or as a one-dish meal on it's own.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, cook pot and lid, spoon for stirring rice and serving (cutting board and knife if using fresh onion and garlic)

Cook time: approx. 20-25 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)


Pepper Beef and Rice  
This dish is very similar to the one above with a few variations.  Also, cook using the multi-tasking method to accomplish more in less time (or enlist a helper!)...

Cook rice plain (no broth or seasoning)

Season beef with same garlic and onion POWDER (not fresh chopped) and about 1 tsp basil along with salt and pepper

Biggest difference: empty  2 cans stewed tomatoes into a medium to large saucepan.  Lightly crush the tomato chunks with your hand to break them up.  Slice into strips for steak or chopped for ground beef and add in: 1-2 green and/or red peppers.  Do the same with 1/2 an onion and 4 cloves garlic (optional, you can used 1-2 tsp each of dried onion and garlic in the tomato mixture if you like).  Cook tomato mixture on medium to medium-high heat about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasional.  Green peppers should become slightly tender but NOT soggy.  If it starts to bubble too much, turn down to medium and put a lid on to avoid too much moisture escaping.

Once the tomato mixture is finished, combine with meat and simmer a few more minutes.  Serve over rice.


Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, cook pot and lid, spoon for stirring rice and serving, saucepan and possible lid (you can use the same spoon as with rice), cutting board and knife

Cook time: approx. 30-35 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)
*In all honesty, this meal is probably the messiest and longest to cook.  I don't recommend it if you are in a real hurry!!  But I threw it in here for it's ease.  You can pre-cut the peppers, onions and even garlic and freeze.  If the meat is pre-cooked as well then all you need to do is combine these ingredients into the stewed tomatoes, bring to a boil on medium high, then cover and turn down to a simmer on medium to medium low for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, while rice cooks.


Burgers Dressed... or undressed!
Burgers are just.that.simple.  Whether you pan fry or grill, you can't beat their convenience.  You can make patties as soon as you get the meat home from the store.  To store, separate the individual burgers with freezer or wax paper and lay flat inside of Ziploc bags.  Or you can just pat them up when you are ready to cook. 

Burgers are our go-to for quick and easy.  I like the grilling option because it gives me a break from cooking since my husband loves to do the outdoor cooking!  He has even trained our 18 year old in the art of "perfect" grill marks and he handles the grill quite well as a result!

If you are pan frying, however, it can get a bit messy.  I keep a lid on my burgers for the first half of cooking and vented for the last bit to cut down on splatter.  This is also helpful if you have littles toddling around while you cook.  Some splattering will still happen but it isn't quite as bad and is fairly quick to clean up.  To cut down on splattering, choose ground beef with lower fat content.  Too lean (93%) or turkey burgers will need a dash of oil in the skillet to fry without sticking.  Roughly 89% lean is a good in-between of lower splatter with a bit of fat for flavor!

Serve burgers with chips and basic condiments for lowest mess.  You can also warm corn or baked beans.  Other sides can include salads; green, pasta, potato, or coleslaw.  If you do these from scratch your time and mess will drastically increase. You can make ahead and keep in fridge or grab some pre-made from your grocer's deli. 

Dishes: Frying pan (or, if grilling, a plate to hold meat when it comes off from cooking), spatula.


Cook time: approx. 15 - 20 minutes.  Basic sides can be prepared while cooking burgers.  More complex sides should be approximated accordingly.

Variations on the basic burger which wouldn't require anymore time and only marginal additional mess:

Mexi-burger: cook with salsa in the last half of cooking (or mix into ground beef before forming patties) and top with cheddar cheese, sour cream and shredded lettuce.  Avocado is another favorite garnish as well.  Serve with tortilla chips and/or black beans.

Ranch burger: top with ranch dressing, bacon bits (whole bacon is better but takes longer and is messier!), shredded cheddar, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato.

Italian Burger: season meat with oregano and/or Italian seasoning while cooking, top with mozzarella and a dab of spaghetti or pizza sauce

A-1 burger: cook patties with A-1 sauce in the last half of cooking.  Top with Havarti or Provolone and shredded lettuce

Pan Swiss Mushroom Burger: In the last few minutes of frying, throw sliced mushrooms (use fresh or drained can) and onions in to cook with the burgers.  Top with a slice of Swiss cheese on each patty just before removing from pan.  Once burger is on bun, scoop mushrooms and onions on top.



That is all I have for today!  What are your FAST, from-scratch, easy to clean up beef dinner ideas?  I would love to hear!  Next time we will talk Chicken!

Whether you have a chef's heart or reluctance in the kitchen, I pray you find each meal prep an opportunity to serve and love your family as God's out-pouring of love through you!


Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing AND I will send you October's newsletter which includes a FREE printable Bible Study and bonus PDF!