In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder

Sweet potato corn chowder has become one of my favorite fall soups!  I had never even had it until my mother-in-law made it in my home while she was visiting us for a week to help with my postpartum recovery after I had our twins, and I must say it was comforting and delicious! 

For me personally, I try to avoid regular potatoes and other starches that can spike blood sugar, but sweet potatoes are another story.  There are so many health benefits from sweet potatoes, as long as you aren't drowning them in butter and brown sugar!

Recently, I sent her a text asking for her recipe.  She's a nurse and was working at the time,  and she couldn't remember her recipe.  She quickly found something online that she said looked very similar to hers and sent me the link, so I could make it for supper.  She sent me this link from Daring Gourmet.  I don't know my mother-in-laws exact recipe, but I do know that this recipe looks and tastes a lot like hers, which made me a very happy girl. 

The pictures in this post are from a few weeks ago, but just looking at these pictures is making me want to add this to next week's menu.  I hope you enjoy it as much as our family does.  Even my toddlers love the sweet potatoes and corn from this dish.

4 slices of bacon, diced
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups diced sweet potatoes
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 15 oz. can of corn, drained
3 1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1 c. heavy cream 
2 green onions chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Fry bacon in pot then transfer to a plate, leaving bacon grease in pot. Saute onion over medium-high heat until tender.  Add bell pepper and cook till softened.  Add sweet potatoes and cook for another five minutes.  Add flour until dissolved.  Add broth, corn thyme and marjoram.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Add cream, green onions and bacon and cook till warm.  Add salt and pepper to taste .

*  I use coconut flour instead of all-purpose flour, and it turns out fine.
*  I also use half and half instead of heavy cream to cut back on calories. 

*  Instead of marjoram, I used dried oregano, as marjoram is not something I keep on-hand. but is supposed to be similar to oregano.
*  If you want a more creamy texture, you put part or all of the mixture in the blender, then mix it back in with the remaining pot of soup.

Pumpkin Roll

This pumpkin roll is one of my all-time favorite fall desserts.  I have been making this every autumn from the time I was fourteen years old.  Ok, I just did the math and realized that is more than half my life, which makes me feel really old!

If I remember correctly, this recipe was from a church cookbook.  The church I attended as a child put together a cookbook, filled with various recipes from members of the church, and gave the cookbooks out one year at a Mother Daughter Banquet.  One year ~ many many years ago ~ I was looking for something to make for Thanksgiving and decided to try this recipe out.  The rest is history.  I've been making it ever since.

I may be a little bias, but this is the best pumpkin roll recipe I have ever tasted!  It's not because I'm a good baker, it's because the recipe for the batter is moist with the perfect pumpkin spice flavor.  When that is combined with the rich cream cheese frosting, my taste buds do a happy dance!

I made this particular pumpkin roll pictured in this post for a ladies event at church, but I must confess....I din't have a piece of it!  As some of you know, I am challenging myself to Trim Healthy Mama, making sugar and flour big no-no's for me right now.  I'm sure I'll make a pumpkin roll again over the holidays, at which time, I will make an allowance for the occasional sugary treat.  Until then, I'll just enjoy making sweet treats for others and taking pictures of my work.  My waistline and blood sugar levels will thank me later for having the will-power to make that decision;)

3 eggs
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. canned pumpkin
3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

8 oz. softened cream cheese
4 tbs. softened butter
1 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat eggs on high for 3-5 minutes. Mix in sugar and pumpkin. Blend in remaining dry ingredients.  Once batter is mixed well. Pour onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 14 minutes.

While cake is baking, mix icing ingredients together with an electric mixer.  Make sure cake is completely cool before icing cake.  Once icing has been applied, roll the cake up, dust with powdered sugar and slice into one inch slices.

I usually line my cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminium foil and spray it with a light coat of cooking spray.  This makes for easy cleanup, but it also make the cake come out of the pan easily, making it roll up easily.

Over the years, I've learned to double the icing recipe for a thicker, richer, sweet cream-cheesy center!  This is completely optional, but you've had one of my pumpkin rolls and asked me for the recipe, know that I ALWAYS double the icing recipe!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Adoption Update: Getting Started Again

I've said it in my blog before....adoption has always been something we knew we wanted to do.

We both have a heart for adoption.  We both saw it happening at some point.  We just didn't know when it would happen or how we would be able to afford it.  

We still don't have answers to those questions, yet here we are stepping out in faith, mailing out paperwork and writing the first of many checks towards the ultimate goal of bringing home our child that we already love even though this child may or may not even even exist yet.  A child that we will have CHOSEN to be apart of our family.  A child that I may not ever feel in my womb, but a child that will be loved the same as the two sons I have known from conception.   How exciting is that!

The very first adoption post I wrote was two and half years ago, back in March of 2013.  If you would have told me back then, that in October of 2015 we would just be starting the process of adoption, I would not have believed you.

But you see, some things have happened in the past few years, effecting the timing of our adoption process.  If reading a list of facts bores you, feel free to skip this part.  But for those who are curious, here is the timeline of events that has brought us to where we are now:

  • November 2012 - We were struggling to get pregnant and began seriously considering international adoption for the first time, particularly China adoption.
  • January 2013 - We were told we would likely need medical help to conceive a child.  As a result, we decided to pursue both adoption and fertility at the same time.  We met with a fertility specialist.  We also began speaking with our adoption contact and had a lot of our questions answered.
  • February 2013 - We filled out an application for international adoption, but soon realized there was some confusion with the agency about us qualifying to adopt from China.  I knew I had to be 30 years old to adopt from China.  I also knew I would be 30 by the time the adoption was finalized.  If we started the process that month like we wanted to, I would be younger than 30 by the time paperwork was sent to China,.  Therefore, our adoption plans were on hold.  We would need to wait six months to start the adoption process, making me 30 by the time our paperwork was sent over to China.  In the meantime, we were contributing to an adoption fund, giving us a head-start at saving the $30k it would take to adopt from China.
  • August 2013 - We found out we were pregnant with twins!  We also realized it had been six months since we last spoke with the adoption agency, and my age would now qualify us to begin the adoption process.  We contacted the agency, and after much consideration, we and the agency thought it would be best to wait until after the twins were born to begin our adoption process.
  • March 2014 - I stopped working at 34 weeks pregnant, bringing a two income home down to a one income home.  Our twins were born at 37 weeks, making our family of two a family of four!
  • May 2014 - Without me working, and with medical bills pouring in, we had no choice but to stop contributing to our adoption fund.  We promised to only use the funds in the account for a future adoption, so those funds have never been touched.  By the time we had to stop contributing, we had a little over 25% of the $30,000 we needed to adopt.
  • November 2014 - Matt got a job promotion.  Even with the job promotion, we decided we would not begin contributing financially towards adoption until we had completely paid off all of our medical bills.
  • March 2015 - The twins turned one year old!  We finally paid off the $18,000 we had in medical bills that were accumulated from the time we got pregnant until the time the twins turned one. {Our out-of-pocket yearly maximum payment is $6,000 with our insurance company.  Because my pregnancy was split between 2013 and 2014, and because the boys needed a minor procedure done that I could not get scheduled until 2015, we had met the max out-of-pocket during all three years (2013, 2014 and 2015), giving us $18k in medical bills over 18 months time.  Don't even get me started on medical expenses and insurance for the middle class!} 
  • April 2015 - We...or should I say ME....finally began pushing to at least have an adoption discussion again.  It took Matt a little while to get on board with more kids via adoption or pregnancy.  Prior to this, he had a hard time seeing past the boys and was really questioning whether he wanted to expand the family!  Our boys had just turned one, and he was more than content with our boys.  I expressed I felt content, but I didn't feel complete.  We had to give each other time to process our thoughts before coming back to the subject of expanding our family.  It was during that time frame that we decided to begin trying to get pregnant naturally, knowing that our chances were slim, and we would reopen the adoption conversation at the end of the summer once we reexamined our finances.
  • August 2015 - No luck with a pregnancy.  I went ahead and had some tests run, just so I knew where I was hormonally.  My doctor suggested we consider some form of medical treatment to help us get pregnant, but like the first time we sought help she pointed out that we could end up not pregnant at all, pregnant with one, or once again pregnant with multiples if we chose that route.  Matt really did not want to go down that road again, for several different reasons.  It was during this time frame of choosing to forgo help with a pregnancy that he began to get little excited about adoption, seeing as how the boys would probably be over three years old by the time an adoption could be finalized.  And so at the end of the summer, we decided to reach out to our adoption agency.  It had been nearly two years since we last spoke, and we soon realized that the agency we were previously in contact with had closed.  At the same time, we would and are still trying to get pregnant.  If by some chance we have a miracle pregnancy naturally, we will continue to pursue an adoption while being pregnant.  Pregnancy is only nine months.  Adoption will take much longer.  
  • September 2015 - We reached back out to our original home study contact, and she helped us choose a new agency. Progress on an adoption was finally beginning to take place.
  • October 2015 -  We officially completed and mailed our first packet of paperwork (application for international adoption) to get our home study going, along with our first non-refundable check for $500.  We are expecting our next packet of paperwork in the mail any day (an application for the agency) and expect to have it completed and mailed back with a check for $550 in the upcoming weeks.
And so friends, that's where we are at with the adoption process.  We are basically just getting started again.  So far, we are just filling out paperwork and writing checks.  This a long process.  At the earliest, we are thinking 18 months from now until adoption completion...if we even get to a completion.  There are a lot of things that could happen between now and then that could possibly interfere with the end results of a successful international adoption.  The next step is to get our home study scheduled.  I'll keep updates on the blog as the process unfolds.  Until then, we are patiently and excitedly waiting to bring home a new addition to our family.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Trim Healthy Mama Challenge

Hello dear blog readers!  I'm trying something new on my blog today. I'm posting my very first vlog, which by the way, I spent more time trying to upload to my blog than I did creating the video!  I ended up having to create a YouTube account and upload the video to my blog from YouTube, which was a little frustrating, but that's ok.  Honestly, if I didn't put this post into a video, I know I would have never sat down to the computer and typed it all into a blog post!

Today, I'm starting my Trim Healthy Mama Challenge, which is what this video is about.  In the video I discuss the following:  What is Trim Healthy Mama?  Why am I trying Trim Healthy Mama?  What are some of my concerns with Trim Healthy Mama?

I'll try to get an update up in a few weeks to let you know how things are going, but for now here is my very first video on my blog....

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Classic Cucumber and Onions

Classic cucumber and onions!  A childhood favorite of mine!  I can't have a summer cookout without them!  I heart the salty,vinegary crunch of the garden cucumbers in this dish! I remember snacking on cucumber and onions in the warm summer months when I was a kid.  As an adult, not much has changed about that.  Here is how my mother made this classic dish growing up, and how continue to make them now.

One cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 to 1 sweet onion, sliced thinly
1/2 c. white vinegar
2 c. water
2 tbs. salt 
1 tbs. sugar

Mix vinegar, water, salt and sugar.  Soak cucumbers and onions in the liquid for 3-4 hours, or overnight for best results.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Slow Cooker Maple Mustard Chicken

As a busy mom, I heart my slow cooker!  In my kitchen, the crock pot easily gets used 2-3 times a week, no mater what season it is.  The easier the recipe, the better!  You really can't get much easier than this maple mustard chicken recipe.  I discovered this recipe on Pinterest a year or two ago, and decided that with a few adjustments, it was a keeper!  For one, I couldn't find quick tapioca for thickening, but had cornstarch in the pantry and used that instead. Secondly, I don't usually keep a stone ground mustard in my fridge, but I always have Dijon mustard on hand. 

While this recipe only has a few ingredients, I do recommend using good quality ingredients.  In my pantry, I keep a bottle of 100% real organic maple syrup for my cooking and baking needs.  It's definitely more expensive than the bottle of Aunt Jamima, but it also doesn't taste like a bottle of Aunt Jamima, as it is not quite as sweet as the typical processed pancake syrup most people have in their pantries. 

4-6 Boneless frozen chicken breast (thighs or tenders will also work)
1/2 c. Maple syrup
1/3 c. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. corn starch

Spray crock pot with cooking spray.  Combine syrup and mustard and pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.  When chicken is almost finished cooking, set chicken aside. Whisk cornstarch in the sauce until smooth.  Add chicken back in for the remaining time. Serve over rice.

Slow Cooker Southern Green Beans

As a first time gardener, we planted half a box of green beans.  We almost didn't plant any green beans, but one of our little guys LOVES green beans, so we decided to plant some for him! He seriously eats green beans like candy!  Fresh, frozen or canned, as long as they are cooked, he'll eat 'em up!

Now that I've discovered this recipe for green beans, I wish we would have planted more!  The flavor maker is the bacon, making these green beans the best I've ever had!

These taste great, but they are also really easy.  Fresh green beans take awhile to cook, so using the slow cooker is the ideal way for me to make these. I love that I can throw everything in the crock pot, walk away, and a few hours later my house smells amazing!

This is truly the only way I will make green beans ever again, and next year, we are definitely planting more than half of a garden box of green beans.

2 c. chicken broth
1 pound of green beans, cut into two inch pieces
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 c. cooked bacon, choped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. white vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a crock pot and cook on high for three hours or on low for six hours.