Monday, December 5, 2011


advent [ˈædvɛnt -vənt]
an arrival or coming, esp one which is awaited

I feel a deep connection with advent this year.  My church in Denver celebrated advent in their own, semi-liturgical way.  They tried to make each service almost ache with a sense of waiting.  I understood it on an intellectual level.  We wait for Christmas, we wait for the coming of the Messiah.  We partake in the waiting so that we can celebrate the answer to our wait. This year I feel it.  I do ache.  My heart aches, my spirit groans.  

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart

The people in the advent story were waiting for someone to save them from their shame, their people’s oppression, their fear, and so many other things. They weren’t expecting the Jesus they got. They were expecting a warrior who would protect them, fight for them, vindicate them.  Instead, they got a baby.  They got a pacifist. They got someone who told them to give up everything they had to follow him.  How will the Emmanuel who comes to me be different from the Emmanuel I am waiting for?  

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

I am waiting for someone to make my heart not hurt anymore, to repay what I have lost, to take away my sadness and give me joy.  Even though every part of me wants to “get over this,” I am going to allow myself to feel.  I’m going to let myself feel the uncomfortable ache.  I will wait for the coming of my Emmanuel because I know He will come.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The New Reality

The things that make me tear up have been catching me somewhat off guard lately.  Things I would never have thought of: a recipe I wish I had, a conversation with the owner of a local herb store, the new side bar on Facebook.  
My mom battled cancer for almost two years and just recently lost her fight.  Maybe “lost” isn’t the right word.  Maybe she won.  Maybe the rest of us lost.  My family and I were blessed to spend quite a bit of time with her over the last month or so, since it became evident that the tables were turned and she would probably not survive.  Sam and I spent a week with her over the end of October and beginning of November.  I wheeled her around in a wheel chair, helped her to the bathroom, changed her bandages, loved her.  We had been home for about two weeks when dad called to ask to come home early for Thanksgiving.  When I walked in the door I was surprised by how quickly she had faded.  It was becoming increasingly more difficult to think of her as my mom and not as my grandparent.  She looked so old and worn out, and she said such senile things.  On Sunday she was pretty awake and alert.  My sisters and I sat down with her and we used my sister’s computer to record our conversations.  I asked her to tell us why she was proud of each of us, to say what she liked about us.  Her comments were so uplifting! She wanted us to go through her jewelry and pick out what we wanted, and as we sifted through necklaces, earrings and rings, she told us the story behind each one and why she liked them.  
I wish last week had never happened.  I wish I could call my mom’s cell phone and she would answer.  I wish my heart didn’t have to hurt like this.  But, it did happen, and I’m so thankful that it happened the way it did.  We each got to say goodbye, to say how much we loved each other.  We got to serve our mom the way she served us her whole life.  We got to celebrate the life of one of the most beautiful, strong, wild women I have ever known.  I’m so thankful that we had the opportunities we had.  And I’m so glad I was able to spend twenty-six years with such a remarkable woman.  On Monday we had a memorial service.  We remembered her life and shared our memories of the impact she’d had on our lives.  It was so fun to hear how everyone’s lives had been shaped by something my mom did or said.  I felt so honored to be part of her.
And now the journey begins.  Now we try to adjust our lives to this new reality.  Now we learn how to look up recipes and adjust them to being the ones she used to use.  We learn how to see “Chelly Moore” on the right side of our Facebook screens and not look for the little green circle letting us know she’s online.  We get to share our conversations that would have made her so happy and interested with someone else who will also find them interesting.  We get to remember and cry and hurt and someday we will cry and hurt a little less.  
So that’s how my last week has been.  Well, basically my last six weeks.  Now I’m past the wounding and onto the healing part.  I’m thankful for the healing. I’m thankful for being back at home with my sweet husband who has helped me through this whole process.  I’m thankful for the little things that make me happy during these days.  Here’s what I’m happy about today:
-I worked today and they let me serve in the middle section.  Granted, It was super slow and I only made $20, but they have never let me have the sacred middle section before.  It made me feel like my boss thinks I’m good at my job. I liked that.
-Tonight is my first Parsons Christmas Parade!  We are going to my aunt and uncle’s house for treats after the parade so I’m making two delicious goodies.
-I had an interesting conversation with the owner of the herb/massage/natural healing place yesterday.  I was telling her some of my issues and she said I should look into getting my thyroid tested.  If I can get that straighted out, it might solve a lot of the issues I’ve been having.  I find the human body fascinating in the way it all works together. It is crazy how if one thing goes wrong, everything can fall apart, and if you fix that one thing, everything goes back to normal.   I forgot to call the doctor again today, but I’m going to get my thyroid tested next week, hopefully, and we’ll go from there.  
-We finally actually turned on the heat in our house on Tuesday.  I love having a warm house. I love coming inside and noticing the temperature change.  I love not having to wear layers in the house.

I figure you’re interested in what I’m bringing tonight, so here it is:

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

My chocolate chip cheese ball, rolled in graham cracker crumbs

I’m also making cupcakes with ganache filling. I’m thinking I’ll probably have some with mint ganache and some with regular ganache.  They’ll have buttercream icing and I’m sure they’ll be delicious!  I’m excited about them. :)

Cupcakes with centers removed for filling
White cupcakes have regular ganache filling, green cupcakes have mint ganache filling

I know most of this post has been kind of a downer. I'm really doing okay. My heart hurts and life is quite a bit different now, but I'm still doing okay. My life is still very good and I'm still surrounded by people who love me. This will sound cheesy, but I hope you find time to be thankful even in the middle of this season's stress, expectations and exhaustion. I hope you feel as blessed as I feel right now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas at Thanksgiving Candy

Sam’s brother, Isaac, will be home for Christmas this year, so we wanted to do Christmas with the Jacks.  Also, Abby just had a baby so they aren’t going anywhere for Thanksgiving this year (they usually do Thanksgiving with Jason’s family), but might be going somewhere for Christmas.  Those things combined made us think Thanksgiving with the Moores would be a good plan.  When mom got really sick it seemed like a really good plan.  So, next week, we are heading to my parents one more time.  Tiffiny Jack (my sister-in-law) is having Thanksgiving in Florida with her grandparents, too. So, Tiffiny, Julie and I got together to make Christmas candy a month early.  We traded what we made so that we ended up with a very good assortment of candies.   I decided to make a three candies from my childhood.  I made peanut butter cups, nut goodie, and english toffee.  

Here’s how I made the peanut butter cups:

Peanut Butter Cups
1 package chocolate chips (milk chocolate if you prefer, I like dark chocolate)
½ C Peanut Butter
½ C Butter
⅓ C graham cracker crumbs
⅓ C Peanuts, finely chopped
1 C powdered sugar.

Melt the peanut butter and butter in a sauce pan, stir in the cracker crumbs and peanuts, then stir in the powdered sugar.  Set aside.  Melt the chocolate chips (be careful not to over-cook!).  You can either put them in a pan (chocolate, then peanut butter mixture, then chocolate again) lined with waxed paper, or you can do what I did, and make individual peanut butter cups in mini muffin cups.  It takes forever, but they’re pretty great!

Nut Goodie
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips
1 C peanut butter
1 C roasted peanuts
1 cup butter
2/3 cup light cream
3 ounce package vanilla pudding mix (NOT instant)
2 pounds powdered sugar (7-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the first 3 ingredients together in the microwave or on the stove.  Do not over-heat, just melt slowly.  Line a pan with waxed paper, or use individual mini muffin cups.  Fill the bottom of the pan with a shallow layer of the chocolate/peanut butter mixture.  Set aside to cool.  In a sauce pan, melt together the butter and cream.  Add vanilla pudding and cook until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and mix in powdered sugar until thick and smooth.  Add vanilla.  Spoon this mixture over the first layer of chocolate.  Add the peanuts to the remaining chocolate mixture and spoon that over the vanilla pudding layer.  Put in fridge or freezer to set up.  Cut into squares and serve (if using the pan method).

English Toffee
1 package chocolate chips
½ C slivered almonds
2 C butter
2 C sugar

In a heavy sauce pan, heat butter and sugar over high heat, stirring constantly.  It will melt and mix together, then  it will start boiling and boil for quite a while.  Once it gets up to about 250 degrees it will begin to change color to a light brown.  Allow it to change color and then remove from heat and pour immediately onto a buttered cookie sheet.  After just a few minutes, pour the chocolate chips over the top.  As they melt, spread the chocolate around.  Sprinkle nuts on top and allow to cool and harden.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Hello, Grace. We will be good friends."

     I wish all my long absences were for more fun reasons.  Life goes from being fairly consistent and not very exciting (work, clean up the house, make food, watch tv) to being fairly full of conflicting emotions (hope and sadness are probably the front-runners).  Mom’s cancer has spread to the point that it has a grip on most of her abdomen.  Most recently, it has caused excess fluid to build up around her lungs, constricting their movement and not allowing her to get a full breath.  Sam and I went to spend the week with my parents in case this doesn’t get better.  I wanted to be able to have some time with her, to help her and dad.  It was so good to be with her.  She is so hopeful and full of faith that it is easy to be hopeful around her.  There were a few things that were pretty hard to see that week: watching your mom struggle for breath, wheezing and convulsing trying to get air is awful.  She has a pretty huge wound where the cancer has eaten away her right breast and one day I had to dress the wound.  It is just so painful to see my mom like that.     As hard as all that was, it was still really good to be able to spend time with mom.  I still believe that God wants to heal her and that he can and I hope that he will.  I would love for my mom to not be in pain anymore and to have her life back.  I miss her.  
    There was some beauty in last week.  My older sister was due to deliver her fifth child while we were there.  She said that if nothing had happened by Thursday (her due date), her midwife was going to help her “get things moving” (caster oil?  ew...).  On Monday night, Abby came over with her sister-in-law and my good friend, Nicole and her twin sister Natalie.  We watched a movie called “The business of being born”.  The movie was all about natural birth with a midwife vs. hospital birth.  It talked about the medicines hospitals give to induce labor and what they do to the baby and the likelihood of a c-section delivery.  They also talked about the mortality rates for hospital births.  It was interesting to see the statistics and think more about what I would want to do in the future.  The movie talked about how there is a fear surrounding birth, and I realized I had felt that!  I want a baby, pretty badly, but there is that fear of delivering.  All you ever hear about it is “Oh it hurts so bad!” And you see women giving birth in movies or TV shows and they always seem so angry and afraid, like they’re furious with their husbands for making this happen to them, or their husbands aren’t there and they have to face this alone.  So I thought about that some, but didn’t really know what to think of it all.  And then Tuesday came...
    Tuesday afternoon we were all sitting around watching some movie on TV.  Mom was in and out of reality, catching some sleep when her breathing would allow.  The rest of us were half-paying attention.  The phone rang.  Dad answered the phone and “oh really?”-ed and “okay”-ed for a while and then said something about “baby” and gave a thumbs up.  We instantly perked up.  Once he got off the phone he said Abby was in labor, but it was slow for now.  He said she would call when things were getting closer.   We waited and waited and waited and finally we gave up and went over there anyway.  Her labor was speeding up and slowing down and frustrating her quite a bit.  We waited for quite a while, and then we decided to not waste more of mom’s portable oxygen tank and also to let mom get some rest before the big event, so we left and went home.  At around 9, Jason called and said we should probably hurry and get over there.  Abby does water birth, and she had just got in the tub before we arrived.  The contractions were getting stronger and closer together and we all waited in anticipation of meeting the new baby.  About an hour and a half later, things built up to a breaking point and Abby was exhausted.  She told me once that you get to the point where you don’t think you can do any more, that you can’t possibly push again, or handle another contraction, and then you know you’re almost done.  She hit that point, and then she was done.  

    It was beautiful, and full of the strength and grace that beauty possesses. Being a part of the birth was so communal (mom called it tribal) and as far from fear and anger as I can imagine.  I am so grateful that I got to be a part of that before the birth of my first child.  So, after all that pain, hard work, waiting, anticipating, we got to meet her.  At 10:46 pm, November 1, 2011, we welcomed Abigail Grace Shalom Howard into our family.  She has dark hair and dark eyes.  She weighed 7 lb, 7 oz and was 19.75 inches long.  She’s beautiful.  She’s perfect.  
    Abby held her first.  She held her until she needed to get cleaned up and warmed up, and she passed her on to mom.


When mom could finally let her go, I got to hold her. There is something so incredible about being the third person this baby has ever met.  “Hi, Grace.” I said “I’m you’re Aunt Hannah.  We are going to be good friends.”


And we are!

Abby expected her to be a lot bigger than she is, so most of her clothes are too big.  That’s why her sleeve is in front of her face. I think she’s waving hello to you.
    So that’s what I did last week.  I loved my mom. I loved my dad. I met my new niece.  I had a life-changing experience.  I was filled with range of emotions at once.  It was a good week.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Round Two!

Well, that post was long enough, I think!  I saw a recipe for english muffins the other day when I was thumbing through my mother-in-law's cookbooks.  They had gone to pick Isaac up from the airport and we had to drop a friend off close to where the Jacks live so we let ourselves in to wait for them to get home.  Since we were waiting, Julie asked me to make some biscuits to go with the stew we were having for dinner.  They turned out pretty good, so maybe I'll tell you how I make biscuits sometime too!  Anyway, I saw a recipe for english muffins and thought they looked like fun, though a little time consuming to make.  Since today is my day of relaxation, I decided to give it a go!  I already have some ideas of how to do this a little differently so I get more of what I was looking for. 

English Muffins
1/2 C Milk
1 T Sugar
1 1/2 t yeast
1/2 C Warm water
2 T Melted shortening
1/4 C Sourdough starter
2 1/2 C Bread flour
1/2 t Salt

In a saucepan, scald the milk, remove from heat and stir in the sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine water and yeast and let sit for several minutes until creamy.  Once the milk has cooled, pour into another bowl (I used my electric mixer) and use the same saucepan to melt the shortening.  Once your yeast has dissolved, add it to the milk/sugar, add the melted shortening, sourdough starter, and half the flour and mix until smooth.  Slowly add in the salt and rest of the flour until you get a soft (but not sticky and unmanageable dough).  I turned my mixer up to a higher speed and let it beat the dough for a few minutes.  If the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball which  sticks to itself instead of the bowl, you've got enough flour.  But keep your dough soft, it will make for better air pockets in your finished product!  Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled.  Once the dough has risen, place dough on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2 inch thick.  Use a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, or rim of a glass to cut out the english muffins.  Place muffins on a sheet of wax paper sprinkled with corn meal.  I got 10 out of my batch of dough. Next time, I will roll them out a little thinner so they have more room to rise. 

Sprinkle the tops with more corn meal, cover and let rise at least 30 minutes or until they are tall and puffy.  You want lots of good air in your english muffins.  Here's the part that is a little annoying: cooking the english muffins.  Heat a skillet over low-medium heat until nice and warmed up.  Cook each muffin for about 10 minutes on each side.  Keep turning them to ensure they don't brown too quickly.  A few of mine got a bit dark.

The things I'm going to do a little differently next time (maybe you can try them too?) are:
  • add a little extra yeast. mine didn't get too big of air pockets. I wanted a lot more.
  • roll out the dough a little thinner so they have more room to expand. I let mine get pretty big and they were almost too tall because of how thick they were to begin with.
  • I might add more sourdough starter next time. I'd like more of that flavor.
Well, that's all. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did!

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

It has been quite a while since I told you how to make your sourdough starter, and quite a while since I promised my recipe!  Basically, I'm a slacker, and I'm more busy than I realize sometimes.  I could give you excuses, but you don't care and you don't want to read them.  Instead, I'll give you an update on my life as a southerner:

Fall has landed in the SEK (southeast Kansas, for those of you not from here).  We finally have a break from the 100+ degree, smothering heat we dealt with for most of the summer. Everyone who lives here assures me this is the worst summer they've had in however-many years and I hope they're right. It was awful most days.  When I lived in Colorado, even on the hot days you could still get out for a walk or just sit in the sunshine.  Here, I felt like my skin would melt off if I stood in the sun for more than the quick walk from the door of my house to the door of my car.  Our last electric bill, the one at the beginning of the fall weather, was almost $200 less than the ones during the heat of the summer.  Thank God for 70 or even 80 degrees.  Everyone here is visibly excited by this change in seasons.  Driving around town after work and school get out, most people are walking their dogs, riding bikes, or just sitting on their porches breathing a sigh of relief. 

I am there with them.  We have had our windows and doors open most days, letting the house air and letting the scents and sounds of fall come rushing in.  We have sat on our awesome porch.  And this weekend, we went camping.  Sam's brother came home on leave from the Army for two weeks, and on his last weekend here, we went camping with his family and another family.  The other two couples each had a baby and a toddler and we had our two dogs.  It was so nice to get away from work and routine and relax in a chair by the fire.  I got to play cards, play with kids, hold sleeping babies, hold laughing babies, eat food cooked over an open fire, cook food over an open fire, and just rest for two and a half days.  The two problems I usually have with camping are: I always am cold when I sleep and the ground is too hard.  This time, I was sandwiched between Sam and our two dogs in a two person tent, so I didn't really get very cold.  The ground was still hard, so I didn't sleep well at all the first night, but the second night I was so tired it barely mattered that the ground was hard.  I was pretty sore from all the sleeping, sitting, and standing on hard surfaces that I was really excited to get home and sleep in our bed and sit on a couch, but I loved the weekend.

It was good to get to spend time with Sam's brother again.  We hadn't seen him since Liza was born in the spring.  It was also nice to spend time with the Shepards.  I haven't found many people I feel totally comfortable with  since moving here, but the Shepards are the type of people I can relax with. It is lovely and filling to spend time with friends when you have been somewhat deprived on friendship.  That sounds over-dramatic, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

Normally, my Mondays are spent sleeping and laying on the couch trying to recover from the week before the next one starts (my work week starts on Tuesday).  Today, having rested since Thursday, I am baking, taking are of Ralph (he has an ear infection again...apparently he enjoyed playing in the lake a little too much), and writing again!  Due to my long absence from the blog world, I am posting two recipes today.  I'm finally giving you my sourdough recipe, and I'm also giving you an english muffin recipe I just tried today.  So, i'll post the second one in the next blog post so this one doesn't take ten years to read. 


2 C Flour
1 1/4 C Water
1 t Yeast
1 t Salt
3/4 C Sourdough Starter
1/4-1/2 C Flour for kneading

Mix together flour and Water until smooth and let rest for about 15 minutes.
Flour and water mixed together and resting
 Add in yeast, salt, and sourdough starter until mixed together, then beat on a high speed for 5 minutes.  The dough should be really  smooth and soft.  Let this rest for 30 minutes or so, then dump onto a floured surface, stabilize the dough with one hand while rolling the dough under with the other hand.  Spin the dough in a circle, turning the dough under with each turn until the dough is a slightly flattened ball and the dough feels somewhat tight.  Place the ball on a floured surface, sprinkle flour on the top and let rest for another 30 minutes.  
Ball of sourdough after first knead
After the dough has rested, place the ball top down on a very floured surface and flatten slightly.  Fold the top half down until the top edge is now in the center of the circle and press down until the dough completely joins together.  Turn the dough around (the folded edge is now closest to you and then unfolded side is farthest from you) and do the same thing again, bringing the top edge to the center (where the other was joined together, not the center of the folded half) and pressing down again.  Now, you'll take the top half and fold it over the bottom half and press the sides together until they completely join together.  That is difficult to explain and my phone was being a punk so I didn't really get good pictures of the shaping process.  So, I made a very badly drawn diagram of how to do this.  Sorry if it just confuses you more.

Bad diagram of sourdough shaping

Now you'll just place your loaf onto either a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, or a cookie sheet sprinkled  (pretty well covered) with corn meal.  Both of these will keep the bread from sticking very well.  Here's the hard part about sourdough, depending on the humidity and heat where you are, the final rise could take 30 minutes or it could take several hours.  I made some this summer where it over proofed between the time that I kneaded it and came back after eating a sandwich.  I've also made some where it took several hours.  Just wait until the loaf has doubled in size before you bake it, however long that takes.  You can bake it at about 375 or so for about 30 minutes or until you can tell it is done.  If you want a crispier crust, try baking it at a higher temp and spraying the crust with water a few times throughout the bake to keep it from browning too much before the inside is done.  So, I'll end with some tips that might help you:

  • You want a soft dough, but not so soft it can't hold itself up.  If your bread is too flat, try adding more flour next time.   The amount of flour you add will depend on elevation and humidity, so if my recipe doesn't work quite well the first time, just adjust next time.
  • After the first rise, it is best to not play with the dough or knead it much at all. I suggest just shaping the loaf.  One of the great things about sourdough is how big of air pockets you can get. If you work the dough after the first rise, your air pockets won't be as big and you'll end up with dense bread.
  • Make sure you let your bread rise long enough.  Be patient. It can take quite a while!
I hope you enjoy this bread. It is definitely one of my favorites!

Friday, September 9, 2011


It has been eight months since our wedding.  We have had eight months of marriage--of trying to figure out how to communicate, love, and meet needs.  Marriage is so weird.  I was sitting next to Sam on the couch last night, mad at him for something he had said, and I realized all I really wanted to do was hug him.  I wanted his arms wrapped around me tightly. I wanted to find comfort in his arms even though I was mad at him.  I think that’s one of the weirdest things about marriage.  It is probably also one of the coolest. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Addictions and Inspirations

  We are addicted to Gordon Ramsey shows.  We can’t help it.  We don’t have cable, but we have Netflix and HuluPlus on our BluRay player (aren’t we cool?), so we have most shows available whenever we want them.  A month or two ago we got addicted to Master Chef.  We picked our favorites and watched episode until we had caught up with when they were airing.  Every Tuesday night we would get home from work and whatever else we were doing that day, look at each other and ask “What should we do tonight?”  The answer was always “Master Chef!”  Not long after we found the greatness of that show, another Gordon Ramsey show was added to the Hulu library: Hells Kitchen.  We started at season 1, episode 1, finishing each season really quickly.  We just started season 5 last night.  
  Watching all the dishes they make, we realized we don’t cook new things very often at all, and don’t know how to make a lot of things they serve.  In my last blog I mentioned I wanted to cook new things and that I was excited about not just cooking the same thing over and over again.  So, over the weekend I pulled out some of the cook books we got for our wedding and looked through them to find some good places to start.  Last night, I made chicken pot pie.  It was so good!  I over cooked the veggies a little, but other than that, it was amazing.  I saw a recipe for a chocolate tart that looked fantastic, and I had left over pie crust dough, so I decided to use it up.  That was one of the best dinners we’ve had!  
 Tonight I’m making a stuffed zucchini recipe I saw a few weeks ago.  I hope it’s as delicious as it sounded.  Being creative and adventurous with our cooking has made not going out to eat pretty easy! We went out once with our pastor and his wife to discuss music stuff, and wen went out for breakfast because we got out of Spanish class really early and we didn’t have any breakfast food at home.  
 Speaking of Spanish, I think that class will go pretty well.  Our teacher is from Brazil and has never taught Spanish before, although she minored in Spanish in college.  I think it will be pretty fun to learn from someone who has never taught it before.  We’ll all learn together.  She seems like a really fun teacher who will do everything she can to make it interesting.  So, I’m not NOT looking forward to it as much as I was. :)
 I know I promised my sourdough recipe, but I still haven’t made more bread since I had SO much left over from the farmers market.  So, if you don’t want to keep feeding your starter until I tell you, you should just put it in the fridge and I’ll get back to you.  I have to tell you about the chicken pot pie I made, because it was just that good. I don’t have any pictures because it’s basically all gone and I forgot to take pictures of the process.  Just imagine it being beautiful.
 To start off, I put two chicken breasts in some water to boil until they were cooked, since the recipe called for 1.5 cups shredded chicken.  Then I made my pie crust.  

Pie Crust
1.5 C flour
½ t Salt
5 T Cold butter
4 T Crisco
3-5 T Cold Water

Put the flour and salt in a bowl, cut in the butter and the crisco until the mixture is grainy. Don’t over mix the dough! If you leave larger chunks of butter/crisco (pea size) you’ll have a flakier crust. Slowly mix in Cold water starting with 3 T. Add more as needed until the dough holds together.  Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Chicken Pot Pie
1 Can Chicken broth
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
½ C White wine
1 Potato, chopped
½ C Chopped Carrots (we used shredded because we had left-overs)
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 small yellow squash, chopped

1 Small Onion, chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
½ t Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Pour the wine and about half the can of chicken broth into a skillet and bring to a simmer.  Put each chopped vegetable in the broth to simmer, starting with the thyme, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, potato and carrot as they will take the longest to cook (and you want the flavor of the thyme, garlic, and onion through the whole thing).  When the carrot and potato are getting close to being done, put the broccoli and squash in the skillet and simmer for a few more minutes. Add more chicken broth as needed. You need moisture, but not too much.  Once your veggies are cooked, add your chicken and your cream of chicken soup and stir together.  If you need it to be thicker, you can thicken up with just a little bit of flour.  Pour into a small casserole dish.  I used something similar to this:
Roll out one half of your pie crust dough on a floured surface. Cut out enough dough to go over your dish and about an each down each side.  I used the lid as a guide and cut it an inch bigger than the lid.  Place the dish in your oven and bake at 425 for about 35-45 minutes (until the crust is golden brown).  this will serve 2-4 people, depending on how hungry you all are. It would have served 3 of us.  
 Give it a shot sometime. It didn’t take very long to make and it was insanely delicious!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I have been quite the slacker about blogging lately, but not a slacker about much else.  A lot has happened in the last 3 weeks!  I'm currently enjoying my "Sunday" which hasn't been much of a restful day at all.   I got up this morning, made chocolate ice cream, drove to a friends' house and baked for 4 hours. I made chocolate chip, peanut butter, and snickerdoodle cookies, zucchini and banana nut bread, cheddar garlic, challah, sourdough, and crunchy wheat breads.  I've been sitting at the farmers market since 3 and have only sold 4 dozen cookies and one loaf of zucchini bread.  But I'm enjoying being outside in the cooler temps so I can't complain too much.

I got a job in the last 3 weeks.  I started working at Ernesto's, which is one of 3 mexican places in town.  I started shaddowing a waitress, and on Friday night I had 3 tables (under supervision, of course) and I made $13 in tips.  I'm having fun working again.  It is a good job.  It makes me think, is always changing, keeps me moving constantly, and I see people I know almost every shift.  

Sam and I have realized we eat out way too much, so we have decided to stop doing that.  This makes it so we are coming up with more creative dinner options a lot.  The other night I made pretty tasty, tender pork chops.  I'm also perfecting my stir fry skills.  I'm going to start going through cook books and trying new recipes.  I'm excited to try some new things and change things up a little more.  We went grocery shopping on Sunday and found cheap veggies on the "discounted for quick sale" cart.  We got 4 green peppers for 2 dollars, about 5 stalks of broccoli for 99 cents, 8 or 10 bananas for 99 cents, a bag of shredded carrots for 99 cents.  Today Sam got a head of lettuce for 79 cents.  Cheap produce makes cooking a lot more fun.  

Dad came a couple weeks ago and put in a gas line for us.  Due to more frustrations with the city inspector we still don't have gas running through the line, but I'm sure we  will soon.   I can't wait to bake in an oven again and be able to use more than one burner at a time.  I would say we have eaten very well on just one burner and a toaster oven for 3.5 months, though!  

Here's some other news:  Sam and I are taking Spanish this fall.  Sam gets free classes and free books since he works at the college and I get free classes since we are married.  So, we are taking it together.  I never fully graduated from CCU and all I'm missing are 6 credits of foreign language.  It will be good to be finished, but I'm not really looking forward to sitting in class again.  Oh well.  At least Sam will be sitting next to me!

It was incredibly dry through all of July and the first part of August.  It still felt humid to me, but it barely rained and it was at least 100 degrees most days.  My flower bed was looking really depressing, dry, and withered.  The other day it rained and rained and rained.  A few days later, I got a surprise in my flower bed in front of the house:
They are beautiful!  I haven't looked to find out what they are yet, so if you know, you should tell me.  I have about 7-10 stalks of these flowers with about 5 blooms on each stalk.  They are a lovely change to my dry, depressing flower bed.

On the topic of food, the exciting news is: I finally got my sourdough starter the consistency I want.  I've made 2 batches of sourdough now and it is BEAUTIFUL!  Today's is especially lovely.  I suppose it is good that none of it has sold so that I can eat it!  

I need to figure out how to explain how I make my sourdough so that I can give you the recipe.  For now, you should just get your sourdough starter going.    Put a cup of flour (preferably bread flour) in a bowl.  Get a cup of water and mix it in slowly (you won't use the whole cup) until you have a fairly stiff dough. 

 If you get it too soft, add some more flour and work it in until it is stiff.  It will soften as it ages. Put your starter in a glass jar or a plastic container.  Don't close the lid all the way (especially if you're using a glass jar!)  Let it sit on your counter for about 5 days.  It will start getting really bubbly and smell sour.  Once you get to this point, you'll need to take care of it.  Think of your starter as a pet.  Give it a name and treat it well!  Every day you will need to throw half away and feed it.  Put a 1/2 c of flour in a bowl, add the left half of the starter, and add enough water to make a stiff dough again.  Clean your jar or plastic container and put your starter back.  If you don't feed your starter for a few days, it will get moldy and gross.  You want to keep it at a tasty state of fermentation.  If you're going to be making bread and want some extra starter, don't throw as much away the day before and add more flour and water (make sure you put it in a big enough container over night as it will expand!).  If you're going to be busy or out of town for a few days, put your starter in the fridge after feeding it.  When you get back, set it back on the counter and feed it the day after you pull it out!  I'll write out my recipe for sourdough and tell you next time.  Your starters should be ready by then!

Well, I'm about tired of sitting out here.  I sold a couple loaves of banana nut bread and a loaf of challah a few seconds ago, though, so maybe I should stick it out for the last 30 minutes.  Anyway, that's what life has been like down here!  Until next time....  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Too Darn Hot!

There are very few activities that sound enjoyable when temps are in the triple digits.  I can think of three off the top of my head:
  • eat ice cream
  • have friends over for dinner
  • go swimming.

We did all three on Friday.  Friday is Sam’s “first Saturday” during the summer, so we slept in as late as we could.  We were relaxing in the living room, talking about how sleepy I still was and how exhausting this heat is, when Jono knocked on our door.  Jono’s work schedule makes him nearly impossible to see for the average person (3 to midnight, I think), but he couldn’t sleep as late as he normally does, so he came to hang out with us before work. We caught up with him for a while and argued about whether Zooey Dechanel or Ellen Page is better looking until he had to leave.  Not long after that, we got the call from Matt and Becca so we hurried out the door.  

The water at the pool is getting hot, so swimming isn’t as refreshing as it used to be, but it still better than most things.  Violet met us there and we spent the afternoon getting some sun and catching up with friends we don’t see often enough.  After about two hours in the water, I left to go sell ice cream at the Altamont farmers market.  When we finally gave up on the chance of selling much more, Sam and I went home to prepare for the third enjoyable activity of the day.  

Matt is a vegetarian, so we always enjoy the challenge of creating a delicious, filling meal, using no meat or dairy.  Sam thought veggie fajitas sounded good tonight, and I agreed, so went to work on that.  Sam made the fajitas and the rice and I made some flour tortillas.  Sam roasted broccoli and cauliflower with some olive oil lemon juice and fajita seasoning and he cooked onions, green and red peppers in a skillet with some oil and fajita seasoning. It was a delicious combination of flavors!  We also had black beans, mexican rice, sour cream and cheese.  It was such a fun night.

I know you’re all wondering how I made the tortillas, so here you go!  This is basically the easiest recipe ever.  It’s also really delicious!

3 C Flour (white or wheat)
1 C water
⅓ C Applesauce
1 t Salt

Mix and divide into at least 12 balls, let rest for a while.  Roll out as thin as possible on a floured surface.  Heat a dry cast iron skillet to medium heat.  Place a tortilla in the skillet and let cook for about 30 seconds-1 minute.  Turn over and let cook on the other side.  It will start bubbling when it’s done.  If your skillet isn’t quite hot enough, you might have to turn it over again.  Don’t leave them on too long or you’ll get dry, burned tortillas.  

The camera on my phone was being obnoxious so I didn’t get very good pictures of the tortillas. I think these are both before the first flip.  They still look pretty doughy.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy these tortillas! They’re tasty, easy, and vegan. :)

In other news, I got a job at Ernestos today. It’s a mexican restaurant.  I’ll be waiting tables during lunch and one night a week.  It will give us a bit of an income boost, without making our lives totally insane (hopefully).  I think I’ll enjoy working again, but I’ll miss all my free time and flexibility.

I should probably go give the dogs baths. They’ve been super itchy lately, so hopefully that improves the mood around here.  Have a good one!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Phyiscal and Emotional Exhaustion

I’ve been dragging all day.  I’m pretty sure I got enough sleep last night, but yesterday was too exhausting for even “enough” sleep.  Yesterday was the first Monday at the Oswego Farmers Market.  They’ve been busy enough on Thursdays to open a second day, and it was busier than one might expect for a first day.  After groceries, I made about $50, which I wouldn’t say is terrible.  I had a lot of fun, and I have a better idea of what to do next week.  I made Cheddar Garlic and Cinnamon Apple yeast breads, and I made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Poppy Seed, Banana Nut breads and muffins, and Blueberry Muffins.  Yeast breads sold way better than sweet breads. This is probably because yeast breads seem more intimidating. Next week I’ll make more than 2 kinds, and we’ll see how it goes.   

For my Denver friends reading this, farmers markets out here are really different.  In Denver, you had to have a ton of paper work showing you were a licensed kitchen and you had to pay “rent” to whoever ran the market.  Rent over there is usually a minimum of $25 a week. Down here, Oswego and Altamont don’t require any paper work or rent money.  You just show up and sell your stuff.  It takes a lot of the pressure off of markets and everyone is really relaxed.  Yesterday, the only other people selling things were a family of friendly Amish people selling their produce and a few baked goods. I enjoyed talking to them and they even traded with me!  I got  a little watermelon and a cantaloupe in exchange for a loaf of bread.  They also gave me a cup of yellow pear tomatoes.  They’re tasty!

The farmers market  was somewhere above 100 degrees, making for a physically exhausting day.  I forgot to bring water with me (well, I remembered to bring water, but I had nothing to put it in, so I skipped it), and by the end of the day I was really thirsty!  The Amish family had brought two jugs of water with them, and the dad had gone to the grocery store and brought back cans of pop for the kids.   They gave me the last glass of water from their jugs.  They were a very friendly family!

The other half of the exhaustion was brought on by a phone call while I was baking.  My Aunt Joneke down in Texas called to tell me mom was in the hospital.  Mom has been doing her chemo treatments in the same town where my Aunt and Uncle are temporarily staying (my Uncle is an engineer for Ball Can Companies--the guys who make pop cans--and he’s working at a new plant I think).  Aunt Joneke has been helping mom during her treatments and giving her rides to the doctor, airport, and wherever else.  Apparently, mom was reacting weird to fluids and insulin before her chemo treatment and her Dr. realized something was wrong.  They found out she had an infection and they admitted her to the hospital.  That’s all she knew when she called me.  She said depending on what kind of infection it was, it could possibly be pretty dangerous.  Waiting to find out if your mom is going to live or not is a horrible thing.  I guess we’ve been doing that for a while now, but it always seemed so far off.   There has always been another treatment to try, another doctor to visit, but this was just right in front of me.  

I finished baking, took the stuff to the market, and had my phone sitting with the volume turned up as loud as it would go so when there was news, I would hear it.  Finally it came.  Mom send a text message to say she was feeling better and that the antibiotics were working.  “Keep praying, but don’t worry,” She said.  “God has my back.”  Apparently she had sepsis, but it hadn’t damaged any organs yet.  If her Dr. hadn’t caught that something was wrong, she probably wouldn’t have made it through the chemo treatment.  She would have gone into septic shock.   It sounds like she’s in a very good hospital, surrounded by people who know what they’re doing.  Hearing how God is protecting her over and over again, I think He probably has more in store for her than just dying of cancer.  It is scary to go through this, though, even with faith that God “has her back.”  If you’re the praying type, keep my mom in your prayers.  We would all appreciate it a lot.

So, today I’ve been resting, mostly.  I did get the laundry done and I did some cleaning around the house, though, so I haven’t been totally useless.  Tonight we’re going to dinner with Sam’s old friends.  It should be a good evening.  I guess I’ll leave you with something I was pretty excited about yesterday.  I found/changed a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip bread that rivals the deliciousness of the Great Harvest recipe I’m not allowed to use.  So, enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

3 cups white sugar
1 large can pumpkin puree (24 oz maybe?)
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips

I mix the dry ingredients together first (minus chocolate chips), then add wet ingredients and mix well.  Mix until you don’t see any more globs of flour.  If you don’t get those totally mixed in, you’ll find white chunks of flour/baking soda in your bread and that doesn’t taste very good or look very good.  Once you’ve got it all mixed well, add your chocolate chips.  Pour into three 9x5 inch loaf pans. (or 4 smaller loaf pans and make some muffins with the left over batter. That’s what I did!)  Bake at 350 for an hour (or less if you’re using smaller pans).  It turned out really good! I was excited.  Here’s how it turned out.  (Lets be honest... I mostly cut this piece so I could eat it, not so you could see how it turned out!)