Saturday, June 19, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

I'm a master procrastinator. Case in point, I'm writing this post instead of cleaning my kitchen. I figure, I'm writing about cooking, which involves working in the kitchen, so maybe that makes it okay. . .right? No? Well, it was worth a shot. Okay, I promise, right after this post, I'll go clean the kitchen. Once I check my email (again) & call my Mama. But, then I'll clean the kitchen. (Speaking of Mama, you know that these sorts of bad character traits are all her fault. Somehow. I'll bet I could get a psychologist to agree with me. Cue mischievous laugh.  Oh, wait. . .that puts me in a psychologist's office. . .hmmm.)

How in the world all of this became the intro for this week's recipe I'll never know.

Italian Baked Chicken with Smothered Potatoes

Ingredients for Italian Baked Chicken:

-2 lbs. chicken breasts
-Zesty Italian dressing (believe it or not, the Wal-Mart brand is our favorite one. And I detest W-M.)

Directions for Italian Baked Chicken:

-Spray a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray, all over the bottom & up the sides

-Shake the dressing bottle well (I know, I know, but somebody's not gonna do it) & squirt enough dressing to coat the bottom of the dish.

-Lay out the chicken breasts so that they're slightly overlapping (I'm able to lay out 3 side-by side & end-to-end this way).

-Stab each piece of chicken all over with a fork.

-Pour Italian dressing all over the chicken breasts until they are mostly covered.

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. This allows the chicken breasts to marinate while the oven is heating up.

-Bake chicken until both sides are golden brown. Be careful not to cook them too long or the dressing will turn black, which they say is carcinogenic.

-When serving chicken, spoon any remaining dressing from the bottom of the dish onto the chicken.

Ingredients for Smothered Potatoes:

-Cooking oil
- ~ 5 or 6 potatoes*
-6 or 7 onions*

*Note: The number of potatoes & onions is really a personal preference. We like our potatoes smothered in onions, so I put more onions than potatoes in this dish. The onions always shrink up considerably, & even when I think I have too many potatoes & onions at the start, it never seems to be enough once I'm done. Oh! Also, I only cook this in an electric skillet, so some modification may be necessary with a cast-iron or any other round skillet.

Directions for Smothered Potatoes:

-Pour enough oil into the skillet to just cover the bottom.

-Turn the skillet's temperature gauge up to 350 degrees.

-Chop the onions. Watch this video for a great way to chop an onion without the risk of it slipping & you cutting yourself. Follow the instructions until just a little after the 2-minute mark. At this point, you need to cut the onion straight down vertically (instead of horizontally as she does). Don't dice them. Here's a picture to show you how they should look. Visuals always help me. Oh! And one more thing - I slice my onions very thin. I get more onions this way, plus they turn more brown like I like.

-Once you've distributed the onions into the skillet, put the top on & let them cook while you cut the potatoes.

-Scrub the potatoes & cut off any bad parts.

-Cut each potato from one end to the other. Don't cut them too thick or they'll take forever to soften, but if you cut them too thin, they'll fall apart.

-Before you lay the potatoes out in the skillet, stir the onions. They've been cooking on one side up until now, so this lets them cook on the other side as well.

-Lay the potatoes out in one layer on top of the onions, as shown.

-Replace the lid & continue to cook them, stirring periodically so that everything is cooked evenly.

-When you notice the onions & potatoes beginning to stick (don't wait too long on this), you'll need to turn the temperature down to about 300 degrees. I like darker & slightly crispy onions & potatoes, but it's no fun to fight the stuck-on potatoes while you're trying to cook them!

-Once they've reached your desired consistency & coloring, turn the skillet to warm until you're ready to serve them.

Okay, now this next part is vitally important. Please make sure that you do not divert from these directions in the least.

-Once your meal is on your plate, squirt ketchup all over the smothered potatoes & then mix together. Seriously, you won't get the right flavor if you don't. I realize some of you are mavericks who like to blaze your own trail, but don't. Or, if you do, don't tell me about it. 

Serve this meal with corn, green beans (I doctor mine up with minced garlic, Italian seasoning, a little bit of salt & pepper, & just a dash of sugar), & rolls. Dessert can be whatever you wish.


A Heartfelt Thank-you

You're probably going to be shocked to see such a short post from someone as notoriously long-winded as me, but this is just a short "thank-you" to everyone who has reached out to me in loving concern over my last post.  You have encouraged me, prayed for me, & pointed me to Christ.  Thank you all for your love & friendship.  Thank you for being the body of Christ to me.  I love each & every one of you.

*Update:  A dear friend of mine just sent me this article from the True Woman blog that is toad-i-ly appropriate to my situation.  Just read it; you'll see.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pray For Me - PLEASE

The last couple of weeks have been fraught with struggle. I can't elaborate on some of the details in such a public way, although I can assure you that it's nothing to do with our marriage. We're happy as pigs in mud. So, no worries there, okay?

If you've read through our blog up to this point, you've seen mention of my "difficult relationship". Well, that particular difficulty has reared its ugly head once more. It had been relatively easy to let harsh words & frustrating behaviors roll off my back, but now. . .well. . .it's not. Now, I'm struggling to feel the love that just recently seemed to come so easily. Okay, that's not really true. I'm definitely not "feelin' the love", but I'm not fighting for it, either. Nor am I struggling to contain my anger. Nope, I'm letting it have full reign. And, if I'm honest again, I don't want to reign it in. I've been hurt & it feels good to be angry. Here's the rub, though: I know it's wrong. I know full well that I'm sinning in my anger. And I don't like that, not one bit. That's why I'm letting y'all know about this particular struggle. I don't want to feel loving & I don't want to let go of my anger. Right now, I'm not even sure that I want to want to! So, I'm having to pray for that desire, & I'm asking you to pray for me as well.

The other struggle comes in the form of my sweet baby girl, Ginger. If you remember, she was diagnosed with cancer Christmas Eve '08. She went into a remission last summer that has lasted all the way until now. But now, it's back with a vengeance. We took all the babies into the vet in the middle of May for their yearly shots & everyone marveled at how well Ginger's been doing. We even wondered if maybe God had healed her. I know that sounds crazy - like, why would He heal a dog when He doesn't heal people? - but this remission was rare. Her first remission lasted only 3 months, & the rule of thumb is that the length of a subsequent remission will only be half. So, I should have lost her last Fall at the latest. (I have to pause here & publically praise God for giving me more time with her than is supposed to be medically possible.  I'm more grateful than I can say.)  Here she is a year out, with no sign of the cancer. Could it have been that God had answered my frantic down-in-my-bones cries with a "yes"? It seemed so. Until the end of May. I felt what may be her lymph nodes popping back out in her neck. We went in to our vet again - who, if I may say so, is an absolute God-send to us - & he thought it was probably the vaccines, but he wanted to keep an eye on it. So, we made our weekly trip to his office last week (on our anniversary, no less) for the confirmation of my fear that the nodes are larger & the cancer is back. In the past week, those nodes have continued to grow while some others in front of her shoulders went from nonexistent to tennis ball-size. We've gotten her started on Prednisone, which has already begun to shrink the nodes, & we have another treatment plan set to begin Monday. But, ultimately, we're just delaying the inevitable. This cancer is terminal. It's only a matter of time before it kills her. And it breaks my heart to know that. I've broken down sobbing countless times over the last couple of weeks. Like right now. I can't stand the thought of what's coming, but it's coming nonetheless. I'm scared. This is painful now, but it's going to be exponentially more painful when God takes her. Everything in me is screaming, "I DON'T WANT TO LOSE HER!!!" And yet, I will. God will see me through it. Michael will see me through it. I do know that. I desperately need your prayers. She may not be a human, but she is my baby.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

I LOVE desserts! As many of you know, I have quite the sweet tooth. Ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate cake, doughnuts, lemon ice box pie, & today's featured recipe. . .apple crisp. I've made a peach crisp before that turned out quite nicely, so I decided to make one with apples in honor of Memorial Day. I mean, what's more American than an apple dessert?! I searched online & found this one, only I tweaked it a bit to suit the size of our baking dish & our taste (we like a LOT of topping!). We think it's simply fabulous!

Apple Crisp


          -4 cups apples
          -1/2 c. sugar
          -1/2 T all-purpose flour
          -1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon


          -1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
          -1 c. all-purpose flour
          -1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
          -1/4 tsp. baking powder
          -1/4 tsp. baking soda
          -1/2 c. butter, melted


-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

-Peel, core, & slice the apples. I have an apple corer that slices the apples. I cut off any hard pieces that are left, then cut each slice in half lengthwise. Then, I cut these thinner slices in half across the width so that they're more bite-sized.

-Spray the bottom & sides of an 8"x11" baking dish with cooking spray. (If you want to use a 9"x13" dish, use the original recipe, although you might have to tweak the topping portion if you still want a lot of topping.)

-Lay the apples down, side by side, on their bottoms rather than their sides. You can fit more in this way.

-In a large bowl, combine the sugar, all-purpose flour, & cinnamon. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the apples.

-Using the same mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, & baking soda. Stir in the melted butter until crumbs form.

-Pour out the topping onto the apples, completely covering them.

-Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Michael likes to eat his apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. I feel like that takes away from the flavor of the apples & topping, so I eat mine as is. We each think our way is the best. . .how about y'all?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Kate Rusby-Sir Eglamore

Another Kate Rusby song! This is so upbeat & the lyrics are hilarious! I LOVE the end of the song when all the band members are playing lively & it's so obvious how much fun they're having. This is such a FUN song! No offense, but if you don't like it, you might want to see a doctor, because I can pretty much guarantee that there's something wrong with you. ;-)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

I can imagine my Dad's reproving glance over serving this meal in the summer. Astonishingly, even though I know that anything cooked is hot, I have somehow adopted his belief that some things - like chili & a full range of soups - are better served in colder weather. I guess you can't successfully fight your upbringing all the time. Not on the really important things. However, for this dish, I gladly make an exception! So, for your enjoyment (now or in colder weather - I'll let you choose), I present. . .

Taco Soup


-1 lb. ground beef
-2 cans pinto beans
-2 cans dark or light kidney beans (or both, if you like more beans. You'll just need to add an extra T of both the Ranch & Taco seasonings to compensate for the extra liquid.)
-2 cans corn
-2 cans Rotel
-1 packet or 3 T Ranch seasoning
-1 packet or 3 T Taco seasoning


-Cook meat in a large skillet until brown & crumbly.
-Combine meat with all other ingredients in a Crock Pot. Stir thoroughly to fully incorporate the seasonings.
-Cook on low all day.
-Serve over Fritos with a topping of grated cheddar cheese & sour cream. For a lower calorie, more healthy version, simply omit this step!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our Fairy Tale

Today's story is a fairy tale. Not one of those fairy tales filled with talking animals, singing godmothers with magic wands, & "happily ever after" endings - although I have to say that I do enjoy those. This is more of a modern fairy tale that includes an online dating service, emails, & cell phones. But just like the old-fashioned kind, it, too, has romance & sheer joy. It, too, leads the man & woman through difficult trials. But this fairy tale wasn't orchestrated by a sweet, though absentminded, fairy godmother. No, this fairy tale is orchestrated by God.

Every story has a beginning. Fairy tales typically begin with the famous words "once upon a time" & plop you right down in the middle of someone's life. This one, however, has no real beginning. Because God has no beginning. And before time began, before the world was created by Him, He planned this story. He planned for the man & woman to meet, fall in love, & get married. But it doesn't start with them, not really. In order for these things to come about, He had to plan for their parents, their grandparents, their great-grandparents, & so-on & so-forth - to meet, fall in love, & get married. Take just a moment & think about all of the little details that had to line up just so in order for these two people to even be born, let alone meet & fall in love! It boggles the mind! But, of course, that's why He's God & we're not.

As creatures, our lives are full of beginnings & endings, though, so this story has to start somewhere. So. . .Once upon a time, there was a young woman who wanted to be married. She had grown up loving the Disney fairy tales where some handsome young prince sweeps the beautiful princess off her feet & carries her away from all of her troubles to live happily ever after. As she got older, she graduated from these cutesy stories to more grown-up "chick flicks" where, again, some handsome fella & beautiful girl overcome some sort of difficulty & end up falling in love & living happily ever after. These stories always filled her with longing & a question of whether anyone would ever love her that way. Eventually, she realized that the answer was "no". No man would ever love her like that for one main reason - it wasn't real. She finally understood that what she was in love with was the idea of love, but she had no knowledge of what real love was like. She aimed to find out, though, & began reading books that would help her understand how to really love. (She highly recommends the Bible for this.) Even so, even though she wanted to marry & even prayed for the man whom God might bring to her, she finally came to have faith that if God allowed her to remain single, she had Him & He was enough.

Meanwhile, in a land somewhat far away, there was a young man who dreamed of falling in love & getting married as well. He, like her, watched as those around him married & began families. He wanted this for himself, but was beginning to believe that it would never happen. He loved to spend time with his sister & her family, especially his nieces & nephew. Few things - if any - made him happier than playing with & doting on them. This made him want to be a husband & father even more. So, when his sister & brother-in-law (who also wanted him happily married) suggested that he join eHarmony, he hesitantly agreed. Little did he know that God was working out His plan & his life would soon be forever changed.

At about this time, our young lady was nearing the end of her own eHarmony subscription & was debating about whether to continue after having sifted through several self-described "godly" men who were somewhat lacking. Then, one day in early February, she was matched with this new fella. His picture showed him with his two nieces, which was promising. They flew through the communication process & graduated to private emails very quickly. Then came his first phone call to her - on Valentine's Day. In only a couple of weeks, she knew that she wanted to marry him. Her mother's reaction to this news was understandably cautionary: "You need to slow down." Her young niece showed her displeasure by covering her ears with her hands, shaking her head back & forth, & repeatedly declaring, "I don't wanna talk about it!" Even so, everything was falling into place just as God had planned. They knew the first day they met in person that their feelings were mutual & he asked her parents' permission to marry her. After having met him, they heartily agreed - complete with a "bear hug" from her dad & tears from her mom. A mere three & a half months later, she walked barefoot down the aisle to meet her groom in a beautifully simple ceremony in her parents' backyard.

Three years ago today, I married the man of my dreams & prayers. God has blessed me richly with a godly man who leads our family in pursuing the Lover of our souls. We have struggles just like any other couple; no marriage is perfect because every marriage is between two sinners. Yet, we have a beautiful & joyful marriage because Christ is our foundation. We both look to Him to sanctify us. I've learned that marriage is work, but not because I'm working to change my husband. Marriage is work because I'm working to change myself. Of course, I can't speak for Michael, but for me, I constantly need God's help to hold my tongue, to be submissive, to be slow to anger, to be selfless, & to forgive. And then, when I blow it, I run to Him for forgiveness & restoration, which He freely gives. This is what makes a marriage that is refined - rather than consumed - in the fires of life. God planned this marriage. God brought this marriage into being. God is transforming this marriage day by day so that we bring Him glory through it. And that is the worthy goal of every Christian marriage!

Happy Anniversary, my darling! I am honored to be your wife, & I love you more than words can say!

*Our most gracious heavenly Father, thank You for our marriage. Thank You for blessing me with Michael. He is a godly example to me, & I love him dearly. Please help me to be a godly wife to him - to be loving, kind, humble, submissive, patient, & selfless - to be his helpmeet as You've created me to be. Please give him the wisdom & strength to lead our family in righteousness. Please forgive us both - & please help us to forgive each other - when we fail. Help us to love each other more every day, but protect us from making each other & our love into idols. Help us to love You supremely so that we can love each other better. Please use us & our marriage to point to Christ & the church & to glorify You. In Christ's holy name I pray, Amen.