Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Favorites (11/7/14)

I know... I've been most irregular with posting lately. We've had a lot going on. (I know, who doesn't?!) 

I'm going to post a few favorites from last week along with this week. 

Rush's 5th birthday!
We went to Jump Jam, an indoor tramping park, and had a great time!

Friday was our church fall festival. The weather was TERRIBLE, but the kids still had a great time. 

Saturday, we had a party for Rush, and it SNOWED! We had lots of fun hanging out with family and friends. 

In our small group Bible study on Sunday morning, we discussed the first chapter of our new study A Couple After God's Own Heart. It was based on Adam and Eve and what they did to fail one another in their marriage and how they moved on.

Since last weekend we've had veggie soup with cornbread muffins, chicken enchiladas with brown rice, and baked ziti with steamed broccoli. It has been so freeing already having dinner ready ahead of time!

I had been taking it easy for the last month because I was pregnant and not feeling very well. Then we had our first ultrasound at 8 weeks and discovered that I was experiencing a type of miscarriage called a blighted ovum. I won't go into details, but I did have to have outpatient surgery two weeks ago, and I am finally feeling like myself again this week! I have exercised almost every day! Here is my workout that I did on Wednesday night on our church's indoor track:

During the miscarriage, my sweet mother-in-law got me a gift card to the spa. I am going to use it today, and I'm so excited! I'm getting a one hour facial and spa pedicure!

I'm excited about the weekend, especially Sunday. We are studying Abraham and Sarah in class, and our pastor will be starting a new sermon series on Psalm 107. I'm also looking forward to choir Christmas music practice tomorrow morning.

I hope you make time with God a priority this weekend (and every day)!

Thanks for stopping by and catching up!

What are you learning through the Bible currently?
Just curious: what's your favorite Christmas song? (I can't pick just one!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Freezer Meal Recipes

My sister and I have finally "buckled down" and followed through with making freezer meals to swap with each other. She is a wife to a college pastor/teacher/coffee roaster and busy mom of three with not much time to plan and cook dinner for every night of the week. And don't we all struggle to make time for meal planning and grocery shopping AND getting it on the table?! No matter the phase of life we might be in, this is a chore that is hard to do sometimes. So we decided to plan ahead.

We discussed what meals we could make that would freeze well and be generally healthy. We talked about how many meals to make and how many duplicates of each meal we should make. We decided that for us (two families with two young kids plus one infant), 16 meals for each family would be enough to get us through the month by eating leftovers occasionally and possibly making a non-pre-planned meal or two late in the month (it's our first time, so we'll see!). We each made four duplicates of four different meals. I chose spinach and ricotta stuffed shells, chicken pot pie (my own recipe), quiche, and crockpot vegetable beef soup. My sis made chicken enchiladas, chicken and corn chowder, red beans and rice with sausage, and baked ziti. We kept two of each dish that we made and swapped the other two, giving each family two of eight different meals for the month. Score!

Here are my recipes:
Broccoli Pesto Sundried Tomato Quiche
Crockpot Vegetable Beef Soup
Chicken Pot Pie (recipe below)

Southern Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie (Freezer-Friendly)

by April Mills
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 1 hour
Ingredients (6-12 adults)
    For the biscuit topping
    • 1 1/4 cups milk
    • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
    • 3 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    For the filling
    • 1 lb. cooked and shredded chicken breasts
    • 1/2 onion diced
    • 2 cans unsalted mixed vegetables (or small bag frozen), (or fresh chopped and blanched veggies)
    • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
    • salt and pepper
    • Homemade condensed cream of chicken "soup" (recipe below)
    Condensed Cream of Chicken "Soup"
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
    • 1/8 tsp. celery seed (optional)
    • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
    Poach the chicken by bring it to a boil, then simmering for 15-20 minutes.
    While the chicken is simmering, get your creamy "soup" going:
    Add chicken stock to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and flour until the flour is dissolved.
    Slowly pour the milk mixture into the boiling chicken stock, whisking to combine. Whisk in remaining seasonings. Reduce heat to medium, and bring the mixture back to a very low boil, stirring constantly so that the bottom of the pan does not burn. Let the mixture boil for about 3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside until ready to use.
    Once the chicken is cooked through, let cool slightly, then shred to desired texture. (I use my paddle attachment in my stand mixer to shred the chicken- it's amazing!
    If you plan to cook the pie immediately, go ahead and pre-heat your oven to 350°F.
    In a large mixing bowl, stir together the shredded chicken, homemade soup, diced onion, and veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into a 9x13" casserole.
    Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese on top of the chicken mixture. Rinse out the mixing bowl to use for biscuit dough.
    Make the biscuit topping:
    In the mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted butter and milk just until combined.
    Pour the biscuit dough evenly along the center of the chicken mixture and shredded cheese. Use a spatula to spread the dough evenly over the entire pie.
    To freeze for later, wrap thoroughly in foil, and freeze.
    Thaw in refrigerator the night BEFORE you plan to bake the pot pie.
    Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.
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    This pot pie is cold-weather comfort food at its finest! I also have an emotional attachment to this meal because my mom used to make a similar recipe when I was growing up. I hope you enjoy it too.

    Check back for more recipes soon!

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

    First "Message Monday" (and Meals)

    Hey y'all! You're probably wondering if I forgot that today is actually Tuesday. I didn't forget, but I mentioned in my last post that I had some ideas for the blog to help me be more regular in posting. One idea is to re-cap what I learned on Sunday in a Monday morning post. Since I was without Internet all afternoon Sunday through yesterday, I decided to just go ahead with it today. I plan to also include some of last week's meals with the Message Monday posts.

    On a side note, I am so relieved to finally have a planner again! I feel so much better putting my dates and tasks in writing. I had an Amy Knapp Family Organizer before, and I tried just using my phone after that. I don't know about you, but I tend to remember things much better if I write them down. I highly recommend these planners!

    On to Sunday!
    In small group Bible study, Ben read a passage from Leviticus where God gave instructions to His people to take a year Sabbath from working their land every seventh year. We talked about why God would give such instructions: it symbolized how he rested on the seventh day when he created the whole earth, and we also discussed how even today, wise farmers will let sections of their land rest every seven years to prevent using up all the nutrients in the soil. We looked back at the verses in Genesis where God gave his command for man to care for and rule over the earth. Ben shared that he learned from a Bible commentary that the original word used implied not just using up the earth, but actually making use of what we're given. In other words, man is not supposed to simply consume the fruits of the earth, but to make all our resources useful and try to preserve them. We had some discussion on environmental activism, and why Christians are sometimes accused of not caring about conservation. We concluded that generally (of course there are exceptions), that stigma is a false perception; that Christians do care, but Christ and His Gospel are our main cause. So... God taught me through that reading of scripture and class discussion that he really does desire for us to see the earth as a gift to be cared for, not taken advantage of. (So what if I cloth diapered my two kids and I recycle?) I was convicted that I can do much more to care for my God's green earth, and that He wants me to. 

    Our pastor has been planning a "prayer experiment" that started yesterday. His sermon was on prayer, and revolved around Luke 11:9-10 which says, "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." 
    Our church is going to be praying individually and collectively over the next 40 days intensely, without considering any "loopholes" and waiting to see what God's going to do. I am so excited! The thing that spoke to my heart the most in the sermon was the original word that was used for the "asking" and "knocking." It meant shameless asking and shameless knocking! I never thought that I could ask God for something in that way! So we're praying, waiting, and expecting great things from God! I got to share a new song along with our choir yesterday too; it went right along with the prayer theme. It's called "Standing," and it quotes the old hymn "Standing on the Promises" in the bridge. The chorus says "We're gonna see what we're praying for. We believe every single word. Stronger than we've ever been, standing on the promises. We're gonna see the impossible. We release the supernatural. Stronger than we've ever been. We are standing on the promises."

    Ben and I relaxed for the remainder of the Sabbath by backpacking in to the backcountry of the National Park, and camping for the night. We had the whole campsite to ourselves, and we had a great time. It is such a privilege to get to enjoy God's creation right in my back yard!

    Here are some recipes for last week's meals:
    Fish tacos with chipotle cilantro broccoli slaw (recipe coming soon for slaw)

    Friday, August 29, 2014

    I'm Back! {Friday Favorites}

    I've been off the blog for about a month now for several reasons: cabinet renovation, vacation, cabinet renovation, needing a break from social media, and another vacation. Where did the summer go???

    This break has given me some time to think about my blog and why I do it. There are times when I ask myself "Does this even have a purpose?" And I always come back to the same answers: Yes, because it is an outlet for me in this phase of learning in my life; a way to "hash out" my thoughts, record memories, and hopefully encourage others who may be struggling with similar things. I've definitely gotten caught in the trap of comparing myself to other women, especially stay at home moms who blog about faith and fitness. But that's why I want to write! I truly want my readers to sense genuineness  in my posts, to be drawn to know more about the One who holds it all together when it seems like it's falling apart. On a much less serious note, I also LOVE posting about our meals, not because I think I'm great at cooking, but because I enjoy reading other bloggers' meal plans. It keeps me from getting in a food-rut, and cooking is very therapeutic for me. When I make my grocery list after coming up with a meal plan, I feel accomplished and organized. 

    I have had a couple of new ideas for my blog that will hopefully help me stay more regular in writing. So stick around, and maybe something will stand out to you! I'm just so humbled that you have even stopped by! Thank you!

    Friday Favorites from the last month:

    A trip to Nashville with three couples in our small group so the guys could go to a men's conference called The Main Event.

    Lots of outside playtime with these two monkeys! We picked up McD's smoothies for a fun treat this day. 

    Reading some GREAT books right now. This is a page from Creative Correction by Lisa Welchel (yes, that's who played Blair in The Facts of Life). I am learning so much in this book. It is the most practical application of scripture in a young child's life that I have found yet. She even has lists of verses that apply to different issues, and covers just about everything from whining to asking for help before trying alone. I love the line near the top of the pic: "Our goal should be to ensure that our reflection of God draws our children closer to Him-and that it makes them long to touch the real thing. 
    I'm also reading Women Living Well by Courtney Joseph, and I am thoroughly enjoying it as well. 

    New running shoes! I'm training for a half marathon that I volunteered to be a pacer for! I've never been a pacer before, but I'm really excited about it! Search #gsmhalf on Twitter and Instagram if you're interested. 

    Fifth annual trip to Hilton Head Island. I was terrible about pics on this trip. It was a very relaxing vacation. We didn't really go anywhere except for our favorite restaurant for dinner one night, and our favorite breakfast spot one morning. Other than that, we stayed at the pool in the shade or on the beach!

    New recipes! This was prep for lemon chicken and asparagus from Pinch of Yum. {Remember to follow me on Pinterest to find almost all the recipes mentioned here.}

    It's Labor Day weekend! We are planning to camp in our backyard tonight and/or Saturday. Then after church on Sunday, Ben and I are leaving the kids and going backpacking for one night in the National Park. Little-known fact about April: Backpacking is my FAVORITE thing to do- {cue Nacho Libre voice} every day! (Not really every day, but it is my fav activity!)

    I hope you have a great long weekend too! 

    I'd like to know, if you read blogs or are a blogger, have you ever gotten caught in the comparison trap?

    I want to know a little-known fact about you! Please share in the comments!

    Friday, July 25, 2014

    Cabinet Transformation Progress Update

    If you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen progress pictures of our kitchen cabinet update. 
    This is one pic I didn't share--- one side of my galley kitchen with no doors or drawer faces. 

    People keep asking me: How do you like it? Is it hard work? Would you recommend it? 

    We left for vacation at the half-finished point, but so far, I am very happy with the result. I hope to find some nice stainless hardware to add a modern touch. I think that will be the icing on the cake!

    Yes, it is a lot of work! The most difficult step in my opinion is the "deglossing," (which is the first step of the process after you remove all hardware, doors and faces and clean them thoroughly). The deglossing takes the place of the stripping and/or sanding that you would do in a traditional cabinet refinishing. The deglossing solution is included in the kit (2 bottles in the 150 sq ft kit) along with several scrubby sponge things which you use to apply the deglosser. Just like sanding, you must degloss every area of every door, drawer face (front and back), and cabinet unit thoroughly. The most frustrating thing about this step is not knowing if the stuff is doing what it's supposed to. The directions state several times how critical the deglossing process is because the bond coat (step 2) will not adhere without proper deglossing. So I scrubbed and scrubbed! My wrists and arms and fingers were very sore after the first night (I am doing most of the work after the kids are in bed). It took four sessions of deglossing to finish all of my doors and drawer faces. The only difference I could see after applying (scrubbing the heck out of them!) the deglosser, rinsing well with a wet rag, then drying was a slightly dull appearance to my cabinets. This may be due to the nature of my cabinets: they are light in color and not high sheen or "glossy". Maybe if your cabinets are darker or more glossy you will be able to see the deglosser working better than I could. 

    The work got easier physically from this point, but was still tedious. The bond coat applies simarly to any water based paint. Two coats are required on both the fronts and backs of each door and drawer face and cabinet unit. {Side note: The insides of the cabinets do not need to be done, and Rustoleum does not guarantee that there is enough product to do the insides.} The hardest part for me during this step was preventing running of the paint onto the backside of whichever side I was working on. The directions recommend elevating each door and drawer face with drywall screws in a 2x4, which was a strange idea in my opinion, so I didn't bother with elevating. Maybe it would have helped with the "running"... maybe not. Two coats looked great on my cabinets. Some reviews that I read said that two coats were not enough, but those were cases in which the cabinets were going from dark to light colors. 

    The great part about step 3, the decorative glaze, is that you don't need to put it on the door backs or drawer face backs. I did one small drawer face back first, just for practice, then proceeded with the application process of brushing it on, then wiping with the provided gauze cloths. It was actually kind of fun! I was glad that I used the glaze after seeing it dry. It definitely allowed the wood grain to show through more. 

    The top coat (step 4) was a little harder to figure out than the bond coat or decorative glaze. Thankfully, I did the backs first, so any major mistakes were learned from and will be hidden most of the time. I quickly realized that using too much top coat would cause little air bubbles. So I started using less and spreading it quickly, but firmly for a better result. My only goof-up with the top coat was that I forgot that you cannot brush back over it when tacky like you can with paint. I saw an imperfection on a door that I had finished about 30 minutes before; I took my brush and started swiping over the "imperfect" area, and ended up wiping of the top coat all together in that spot. I had to wait 24 hours, then totally re-do the top coat on that one. 

    I am still only about half finished. I have to do the decorative glaze and top coat on all the wall units, and I still have to do steps 1-4 on all doors and drawers for the sink side. 

    This is what my kitchen looks like right now:

    I am SO ready to be finished, and it can't wait to share before and after pictures. 

    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    Last Week's (QUICK) Meals

    I tried two new recipes last week, and they were both successes. I hope you get a chance to try them out. All of these meals were quick too!

    This was AMAZING! And it was easy too. I grilled some garlic marinated chicken to go along with it; my sister made a salad, and we had hot bread with balsamic dipping oil. Sooo good! (So good that I forgot to take a picture.)  ;) Recipe here. Tip: to make this even faster, crisp and crumble the bacon beforehand.

    Grilled salmon and veggies with leftover artichoke-dill-kalamata whole wheat pasta salad. 

    Frozen bean burgers from Earthfare with Alexia sweet potato fries. 

    Buffalo chicken lettuce (chard) wraps with homemade blue cheese dressing and celery & carrot sticks. 

    Have you tried any new quick recipes lately?
    Have you followed me on Pinterest yet? You can find most of my meal plan meals there.

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

    Current Kiddie Eats at 4 1/2 and 2 {Munchkin Meals Link-up}

    I have been terrible about taking pictures of my kids' meals this summer! It's probably due to the fact that we seem to always be in a hurry! After breakfast it's time to get dressed, brush teeth, make beds, and go to swim team or the gym, a play date, or the grocery store. After whichever morning activity we do that day, it's time to rush home for lunch or eat whatever I packed in lunch boxes (or occasionally get take-out). By the time dinnertime rolls around, I just totally forget to take pictures of the kids' plates!  I promise I've been feeding them, though! Check out Brittany's blog for some great ideas for feeding your kids. Thanks for hosting, Brittany!
    munchkin meals

    Since my kids are 4 1/2 (oh my gosh!) and 2, their foods do not change much from month to month like they did from 9 months to 2 years old, so many of these meals may be repeats. 

    Typical breakfasts: 
    Greek vanilla yogurt with coconut chia granola
    Oat Revolution instant strawberry oatmeal
    Mini cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and bananas
    Waffles (homemade or frozen multigrain) topped with vanilla Greek yogurt and fruit

    Typical lunches:
    Skippy natural peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread with carrots and hummus
    "Turkey rolls" rolled up deli meat with cheese stick and Pirates Booty cheesey puffs, plus berries
    Pulled roasted chicken and hummus on whole wheat wrap with pretzel or pita crisps
    Black bean, spinach, and cheddar quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas

    Typical dinners:

    Stuffed shells

    Grilled salmon and veggies with artichoke-kalamata-dill pasta
    (This was actually my plate.)

    BBQ chicken and sweet potatoes with green veggies

    So that's really about it for my munchkins! I am blessed that overall they are good eaters. They do both have some quirky things that they refuse, for example, my son will not eat sweet potatoes in any form, and my daughter will not eat corn in any way!

    I hope you all have a happy holiday weekend!

    Do your kids have any foods that they absolutely refuse that you think they ought to like?
    Have you "liked" Fruitful Family on Facebook?