31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 18: Need Less

monkey-breadWhen I was in junior high, my mother used to be able to feed her family of six on $50 a week. We ate a lot of homemade soup and homemade bread, yet somehow I don’t ever remember feeling deprived. I had this hippy friend, Larry, who looked a little like Jesus and played the guitar like a dream. A recovered addict, Larry looked like a zipper when he stood sideways and stuck out his tongue … and could put away a dozen pieces of my mother’s monkey-bread. She would see his jalopy pull in the driveway, sigh, smile, and break out her mixing bowl.

We were not wealthy, not by a long shot. We didn’t even have a television set, and “family vacations” consisted of driving to one or the other grandparents houses, or camping in the woods. I look around my children’s rooms, crammed with all sorts of toys and clothes, and wonder if in fact they would be happier with less.

I know I would be. When you have boxes and boxes piled up in the basement, it’s hard to find what you need when you need it. Drawers stuffed with clothes actually make for MORE laundry, rather than less. And then there’s the books, shelf after shelf of volumes read once, then stored in perpetuity.

But I have come up with a great way to pare back to essentials: Move every year or so, and only take along one truckload. Simple, right?

My plan this year, to get things pared back to the right size:

*  I will get rid of ALL clothes that I haven’t seen on one of us in the past two years. Coats, shoes, boots, snow gear, all of it.

*  Take the children’s books my kids have outgrown to the local church school (I was in their library and was surprised at how threadbare it was), and the rest to the seminary. Parenting books to the Salvation Army.

*  Find a local recycle center that will take computer crap, and have Craig take one box a week until it is all gone, except for what he needs for his job.

*  Save only the Christmas decorations I truly love. Recycle the others.

*  Tear the recipes out of the dozens of cookbooks I have on my shelf that I truly intend to try, and dispose of the others. Seriously, I keep making the same 12 meals over and over — why do I need 46 cookbooks?

What’s your favorite way to simplify?

 

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Wee Cook Friday: Easter Bread!

To conclude the “Wee Cook Friday” meatless meal series, I wanted to reprise my very favorite recipe for this holiday season, my Easter Bread.  We like to make this for Good Friday supper, or for Easter breakfast (especially if there’s company).  We always make two loaves, and play “Easter Bunny” by leaving one on someone’s door stop!

easter-breadWhile I’m on my writer’s retreat, I thought I’d reprise this recipe from “Mommy Monsters” for Easter Bread — makes a great Good Friday supper, or Easter breakfast treat!

Easter Bread

2-3/4 C flour
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pkg dry yeast
2/3 C milk
2 Tbls margarine
2 eggs, beaten
4 colored raw eggs
(optional: 1/4 C chopped blanched almonds)

Combine flour, sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl. Heat milk and margarine over low heat until warm (120-130F). Add to dry ingredients. Add beaten eggs into dry mixture with milk. Beat 2 minutes.

Stir in enough additional flour to make soft dough. Knead 8-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, flip to grease top. Cover and let rise until double (1 hour). Punch down. If adding almonds, knead them now. Divide in half and roll each half into 24″ rope.

Twist ropes together loosely, like a candy cane. Form into ring on greased sheet, tucking loose ends under to form ring. Brush with melted butter, and place eggs into spaces of twist. Cover and let rise until double (about 45 minutes). Bake 350 for 30-35 minutes.

We usually make 2 for two reasons: If they both turn out, we bring one to a friend. If not, we eat the one that doesn’t look as though it will break a tooth. After all, Lent (and any associated suffering) is over. It’s time to REJOICE!

Make a Gingerbread House! An Advent Tradition

At the end of November each year (the Friday after Thanksgiving may be a convenient time, since the project can extend an entire weekend), we get started mixing dough, cutting out the templates, and baking each cookie. The next day, we make a batch of royal icing (I cheat and use the powdered kind, but I noticed Danielle Bean (editor of “Faith and Family”) has a good one on her site here).

About cutting out the template for each piece of the house: You can make your own out of posterboard or laminated parchment paper. If you’re not architecturally inclined, you can enlarge and trace a simple pattern here. Or, if you’re a little more ambitious, here.

We like to make two houses … one to keep, one to give. (I’ve found that teachers especially appreciate it if you offer to host a gingerbread decorating party in the classroom … and may even let you tell the story of St. Nicholas and the three bags of gold!). Continue reading

Wee Cook Wednesday: Fresh Blueberry Pie

Blueberry_BushThis week my dear husband and children hit the local blueberry bushes … and came back with enough for two pies and a fruit salad. Yum!

For those of you fortunate enough to have an abundance of fruit nearby, I thought I’d share my favorite blueberry pie recipe. Very easy, and absolute decadence with either a sploosh of whipped cream (the real stuff, which goes “sploosh,” or a scoop (which goes “plop”) of vanilla ice cream.

Fresh Blueberry Pie  (makes 1 9-inch pie)

1 piecrust (unbaked)

PIE:
4 C fresh, washed blueberries
1 C sugar
3/4 C flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbls lemon juice
dash allspice

TOPPING:
4 Tbls butter
2/3 C brown sugar
1/3 C flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425. Combine berries, flour, sugar, cinnamon (listed under “pie”) and pour into pie shell. Splash with lemon juice. With hands, mix together topping, squishing until combined. Scatter over pietop, and bake 50 minutes, until nicely browned. (Check halfway through and cover rim with foil if too brown.

Enjoy!

Wee Cook Wednesdays: Cocoa-Peanut Butter Gems!

pbgemsToday as my Sweetie set out for a hike with Boy and Dog (you know them as Chris and Maddy), the last thing he said to me was: “Say, do you have any peanut butter in the house? I’d love some of those peanut-butter cookies!”

Awww… well, sure!  “How about if I try something new and add a few chocolate chips …?”  His eyes lit up like Christmas. (Karen Edmisten suggested that I use peanut butter M&Ms instead, which I would have had I had any.)  But my version turned out pretty well, so I thought I’d share it with all y’all. (I’m still recovering from my Texas Adventure.)

 

Heidi’s Cocoa-Peanut Butter Gems

1/2 C butter or margerine
1/2 C peanut butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
dash allspice
1 C chocolate chips (more or less)
1/2 C honey-roasted peanuts (optional)

Beat together butters, sugars, egg, and vanilla. In another bowl, stir together dry ingredients and add gradually to butter mixture. Stir in peanuts and chips. Chill about an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 and roll chilled dough in 1 inch balls between your palms. Set about 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-9 minutes, until browned and set. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before moving to counter to finish cooling. Makes about 4 dozen.

Kids really enjoying making these!

Wee Cook Wednesday: Clove Broth Soup (Thanks, Healthy Mama!)

garlic clovesMoms aren’t supposed to get sick. It’s in the manual, just look under “Acts of God and Other Inconceivables.” But once in a while, it happens:  Someone comes to you in the middle of the night and hits you between the eyes with a blivet, sending chills coursing through the body and leaving you aching from stem to stern.

My hair hurts. *Whimper.*

My dear husband dropped off the kids and picked up the cookies I was supposed to have baked today for “Young Authors” tonight. Also some hotdogs and buns so he could cook tonight the way God intended men to cook: over open flame.

Me, I”m trying to figure out what will slide down my sandpaper throat. Time for some soup!  I found this recipe over at “Healthy Mama’s Kitchen” for her Clove Broth Soup. Sounds like a winner . . . don’t you think?

Wee Cook Wednesday: 5 Minute Cake-in-a-Mug

My mother-in-law passed this along to me. I confess I haven’t actually tried it yet, but thought I’d pass it along for the more adventurous among us!

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract and/or dash of cinnamon
1 large coffee mug (MicroSafe)

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.  Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.  Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract/cinnamon, and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes  (1000 watts).  The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed!  Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. EAT ! (This can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous … be sure to add a little ice cream.)

And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!