Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday's Cleaning: Room by Room Series; The Kitchen, part 2

Hello all! Today has been a busy day (already, and it's only 830ish), but I wanted to make sure I got in today's post about cleaning. Last week, I started the series by explaining how the process goes, and then jumped in with the kitchen. If you missed it, here's the link.

Don't forget I get my information from the wonderful Melissa Ringstaff (here's her blog and her website that I LOVE). Go to her page on The Household Notebook (a MUST for really any mom) to download her information that I am going to share with you today. As I highlight a few of the suggestions she gives, I will include the direct link to the download.

So what's on the menu today? The refrigerator and the stove. I know what you're thinking: hasn't she covered the refrigerator like 20 times already? Yes. Yes, I have. But I really want to stress how important keeping the fridge clean can be. So we are going to touch on it today as well as the stove. So here goes....

Cleaning the Refrigerator: (Downloadable link here)
Cleaning the kitchen weekly (highlights)

  • Unplug the fridge. Uh, duh. For serious, though. For a deep clean, this would be something I would forget. You would think I would learn after being shocked a few times. (Childhood friends, no jokes, please!) :) 
  • Work from top to bottom. You would think this would be something I would think of, but I'm really just a jump in there type of girl, and I would end up doing twice the work since the dirty water would run to the bottom. So it's a good reminder to start at the top and work your way down. 
  • Really hot water may crack glass shelves. Yeah, that would totally stink, so just be careful. 
The download only covers the weekly, hence the reason I am doing the fridge and the stove. There were about 10 things she suggested doing, so make sure you check it out. It's a good idea to print the page and make a notebook of a checklist when you decide to do your weekly (or bi-weekly, in my case) cleaning. 

Cleaning the Stove and Oven: (Downloadable link here
Cleaning the Stove Daily (highlights): 
  • Begin cooking with a clean stove. I know this makes sense, but seriously, it's a MUST. There are so many little nasty bacteria that hover around your stove, that you really need to make sure you don't start off a meal with old germs floating around. I HATE cooking in a dirty kitchen, so if you clean as you go, you really won't have that much of a problem cleaning up afterwards (or make it an easy chore for your husband or older children to do after dinner). 
  • Cooking at high temperatures will cause food to spill and splatter more frequently. Good tip, really. Cooking faster does not mean better food or a cleaner kitchen. So turn it down, not only for better food, but also an easier clean up later. 
Cleaning the Stove Weekly (highlights)
  • Use a mild abrasive to clean up baked on grease. I talked about this a little when I covered cleaning with baking soda. It's a miracle worker and will help get that nasty grease up. 
  • Wipe down the entire outside of the stove, as well as under the knobs. The KNOBS!! That is something I always seem to forget. Then when I do it, I'm like "ewww! How did THAT get there?!" So it's a good idea to just remove the knobs and swipe them once a week. 
  • Wipe the walls and cabinets around the stove. Uh, yeah. Things splatter, even if you DON'T cook with a high temperature. Check out the area all around your stove. The counters, the walls, the back splash, and even the area under the hood. 
Cleaning the OVEN weekly (highlights): 
  • Use the self-cleaning oven. I don't do this every week, because, frankly, I'm not too comfortable with my oven heating itself up to, what, ?900 degrees?, once a week. That's a LOT of energy being used, AND it makes my kitchen VERY, very hot. So this is a monthly thing for me, and usually in the evenings. 
  • Wear a dust mask. This is a great idea. If you use a fume free cleaner for your oven, that's fine, but just be safe and wear a mask. I would hate that 30 years down the road, they come out with a study on how people who didn't wear a mask grew a third hand or something. 
Photo credit: http://finedesign-aura.blogspot.com/2011/01/retro-stoves.html

Okay, that's it for this week. Next week I'm going to finish the kitchen with tips on Mealtime Cleanup and Pantry Organization. 

Happy cleaning, everyone! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday's Cleaning: Room by Room Series: The Kitchen, part 1

Okay, I'm here! I have been going back and forth with Melissa Ringstaff, founder of A Virtuous Woman (here's her own blog as well) to make sure I had all my ducks in a row. This is how it's going to work for the next few weeks: I'm going to attach a link to her links each week where you can find the information I'm going to share. I will then highlight some of the tips she gives in cleaning. Why am I just referring instead of creating? You may ask. Well, what Melissa has put together is years of experience and so much more insight on ways to deep clean your home. So I am going to add some of my own comments, but I am mostly going to be going through this with you, page by page.

Also, here's a little disclaimer for Melissa. She is going to release a book with the information I'm going to share and SO MUCH MORE in the near future. Keep an eye out for it (and I will do my best to let you know when it's been released).

So let us begin.

First, let me stress the importance of creating a schedule, whether it is hourlydaily, weekly, or monthly. When I first started, this was seriously a must for me. I found some great links (like the ones I just showed you and this one) that helped me. Maybe it's the teacher in me that has to be organized. Or maybe it's my crazy personality that has to find SOME order or I will never find my keys...or my mind. But until this becomes a part of your daily life and schedule, I recommend finding a calendar that works for you.

The Kitchen, part 1 (Link to Melissa's entry here and here)

Cleaning the Kitchen monthly highlight(s): 

  • Clean the top of the refrigerator. I mentioned this before in Things We Forget to Clean, and I think it stands for another reminder. Since the last time I cleaned mine, it has been a dumping ground, once again, for cereal boxes, thermoses for the kids, and candy Joe is trying to hide from me. 
Cleaning the Kitchen weekly highlight(s): 
  • Wipe down the inside of the fridge. This one always catches up on me. I start looking for something in the fridge and then wonder when that bottle of salsa fell over and spilled out to dry into a nasty gunk in the back of my top shelf. Remember to check out the link where I gave tips on homemade cleaning for the inside of the fridge. 
  • Clean out the freezer. Yup. How many times have you reached for some meat you knew was somewhere in your freezer only to see that it didn't freeze well and you're not really sure what it is? Not happen to you? It has to me! Or I get the sudden urge to buy ice cream only to not like it so much but I don't have the heart to throw away only to find it months later to give it a second chance and get super grossed out! Yeah, I don't clean out my freezer as much as I should. 
Cleaning the Kitchen daily highlight(s): 
  • Clean back splash and microwave. I think if I did this after each meal, I wouldn't really have such a problem when I decide to tackle the kitchen, how about you? Maybe this could be a chore for one of the older kids to do after everyone has finished eating dinner. 
  • Scrub sink until it's shiny. Okay, I can't find the direct link to the article I read about how to keep a shiny sink every day, but here's where I found the idea. I love the idea of having a shiny sink when I wake up in the morning. For some reason it makes me want to cook something...and then clean up. For reals, it does! 
  • Rinse out sponges and rags at the end of the day. I started doing this after following Melissa's Bible Study (where I'm getting most of this information from). It has become an (almost) nightly thing to let my sponges and dish rags sit in a sink of bleached water overnight. I don't recommend doing this with a nice rag, but hey! At least people will know you care enough to disinfect your rags every night or so! 

So that's about it for this week. My goal is to focus on cleaning the refrigerator and stove in detail next week. 

PS: This is how I feel sometimes! 
Photo credit: 

Happy cleaning, yall! Hopefully we'll get this done just in time for Christmas so everyone will comment on how incredible your house looks! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tuesday's Food: My traditional Crockpot Stuffing

A few years ago I was given the responsibility of making the stuffing for Thanksgiving. I searched and searched for a recipe and found one in the Fix It and Forget It cookbook. It went over so well that it has become my normal thing to bring. I LOVE it! Now, I will be honest. There have been some years that I planned poorly on cooking this and ended up with burnt stuffing. So, if you follow this recipe, make sure you plan ahead for it.

Now, to keep up with Stephanie O'Dea's Year of Slow Cooking that Tara (over at MommyTime) and I have been going through. I was a little played out on her recipes, but now that the weather is supposed to be getting cooler (do you hear me, Rob Fowler! I need you to prescribe some colder weather!!!), I am gearing up for some soups and hot drinks complements of my crockpot. I searched Stephanie's site and found, well, what do you know, pretty much the same stuffing recipe I follow! She adds a few other ingredients and her recipe doesn't necessarily call for fresh herbs. Here's her recipe, and below is pretty much mine (slightly adjusted from the Fix It book). NOTE: I will be cooking it after I post this entry. BUT I must say, I wouldn't be posting this if I thought it was anything short of awesome! So enjoy! 

Thanksgiving Herb Stuffing

  • 1 bag of stuffing bread (I used Pepperidge Farm Herb stuffing) 
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 2 Tbsp rosemary
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp marjoram
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  1. Grease crockpot. (Trust me on this one. I didn't do it one year, and it didn't turn out so well)  
  2. Saute onion and celery in butter until both of softened. Remove from heat and all herbs and seasoning. 
  3. In a large bowl, mix stuffing bread with herb mixture. Add enough broth to moisten. 
  4. Dump the stuffing into the greased crockpot and cook on HIGH for 2 hours, occasionally turning. 
That's about it! You won't regret it if you try it. I will say that if 1 bag of stuffing isn't enough, I have added half of another bag and 1/4 cup of butter to the crock, and it turned out fine. Keep that in mind if you are serving a bunch of people. Once you dump it in the pot, see if it fills it up. If not, add more bread and butter. AND  you can also cut up an entire stale loaf if you want, but, frankly, that's just too much for me to do. 

Hope you enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday's Devotion: The Glory of Woman

Proverbs 31: 10-31..."Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised..." 

I look at my daughter in her beautiful Sunday dress and bouncing strawberry blond hair and exasperatingly say, "Abigail! Sit like a lady!" So sits up straight, puts her legs together, and pulls her dress to cover her knees. I tell you, at age 2, she seems to be getting the concept that I'm seeing so little teenagers (and even some grown women) forget: we are ladies. Today I was helping out in my sons' school library when I noticed a young girl in a cute outfit...but her bra strap was very clearly showing. Her attire became the topic of conversation among us women shelving books and organizing the check out counter. Well, not necessarily her attire, but really how so many girls these days seem to forget how to be presentable and still be a lady. I was telling them that my favorite time of the year to teach was the winter. I knew that my female students would have to cover up or freeze their little tushes off! It was so embarrassing to try to have a conversation with someone whose outfit left little to the imagination.

On my way back to the house, I was thinking about these things. It's funny how these things to come up. I was just talking to a friend about how different wives are submissive to their husbands. We started the conversation because we were commenting on how our daughters tend to laugh at and participate in crude conversations (albeit right now, the "crude" conversation is limited to potty talk...literally). It then progressed to how women (young and old) treat males. Although a woman can stand up and think for herself, that does not mean she has to be disrespectful in words or actions to the men in their lives. I was telling my friend at how ashamed I am in the way I treated the males in my life when I was younger. I had it in my mind that I was going to be just as good at everything as they are. Even some of my likes today stemmed from trying to fit in and be on "level ground" with the guys in my life. Again, it's not wrong for me to enjoy football, but there is a ladylike way to handle watching it as well.

I then remembered a movie I just saw recently called A Man Named Peter. I only saw about 45 minutes of the movie, but what I saw really hit me. Peter Marshall, the main character in the movie, and who, by the way, is based off a true story, was going to a youth rally to try to convince the young people (of the 1940s) to have a little more respect for, well, everything. The youth were rowdy and disrespectful, and, quite frankly, acted like so many youth I see today. It was funny how that behavior is pretty much consistent over the years. What really hit me, though, was when a young woman, who was speaking with Peter, spoke about women. The scene was so touching, and her words were so true, that I really could not have put it any better. I am going to attach a link to the clip below so you can see what she said that was so incredible.

What I would like to say, though, at least for myself, is that I am going to do my best to encourage my daughter to develop an attitude of a lady. I really would love for her to strive, just as I am a daily striving, to be like the woman in Proverbs 31: 10-31. This woman works, makes clothes, provides for her family, provides for her staff, sees to the needs of those less fortunate, and so much more. If more and more women would take on training their daughters to be ladies and not princesses or "man-ish", I really think we would see a whole new way of how men will see women. Maybe then Woman will be returned to her glory that God so wonderfully placed us in.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday's Food: Pesto Fish

So it's been a while since I've done a crockpot recipe from Stephanie O'Dea's website "A Year of Slow Cooking." But I had fish, and since I don't really do fish, I was looking for a quick and easy fish recipe. Luckily Stephanie was there with her "Sole with Pesto" recipe. Again, I made a few adjustments. So check out mine and check out hers. See what you think!

4-5 pieces of white fish (I used tilapia because it was on sale at The Pig)
5-6 Tbsp pesto sauce
Parmesean cheese, grated
White cheddar, grated (my new favorite)
aluminum foil


  • Mix the pesto (about 1 Tbsp per piece of fish) and cheese (you can see how I had already started this in the background of the above picture) 
  • Lay a piece of fish on a piece of foil and top the fish with a dollop of pesto mixture (Some of them I did a little on top and on bottom)
  • BTW, notice that my fish is frozen? That's right, I got it frozen and cooked it that way. 

  • Fold the foil over the fix. I do this like you would fold the opening of a four-flap box. Just make sure it's "sealed" so juices don't run out (don't want to have to clean up the mess) 
  • Place in the crockpot and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours. 

And that's about it! I served mine with wild rice and steamed green beans. It went so quickly that the only  picture I got was a half-eaten piece of fish before I remembered to take a nice pretty shot. My boys ATE IT UP! For serious, they literally were licking the plate and told me I'm the best mom EVER! And I even liked it. 

Give it a shot and let me know what you think! 

Devotion: Be the One to ask for Forgiveness

"Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?'" Matthew 18:21

The Lord got me again. Here I was doing my morning devotion, and I decided to pray for someone I'm no longer friends with. She popped in my mind as I was reading a devotion about praying for enemies and then letting God do the rest of the work. We were good friends at one point, but through a series of events, we ended our friendship horribly. I saw this friend (a woman who prayed with me, let me cry on her shoulders, and backed me up when I needed her) as an enemy. So, I thought I was doing my "Christian duty" of praying for her. As I began to pray that God places a desire in her heart to seek forgiveness from those she has hurt, the Lord chose that moment to flash through my head times I was guilty. Whoa! Wait a minute, there, Lord! Are you tell me that I need to ask her for forgiveness?! FLASH! There was the memory of me speaking to her in a way that a Christian shouldn't be speaking to someone else, especially another Christian (no, not cussing, just hurtful words). But! But! My mind wanted to justify to God why I was in the right. FLASH! Another memory of me talking about her behind her back. And another memory and another memory and another memory. Yes, the things she said and did were wrong, BUT my reaction to being hurt was not acceptable. And that was when the Lord gently reminded me of what I was praying before all these forgotten memories came flooding in: forgiveness.

I had no other way to contact her except through email. So I emailed her an apology. My first instinct was to justify my actions, but that was not asking for forgiveness, and that definitely was not going to get the forgiveness I was asking for. So I laid the blame right where it belonged: on my shoulders. And it was one of the hardest things I have had to do.

I think we all have a hard time asking for forgiveness. I mean really asking for forgiveness. Human instinct is to immediately want to justify our actions when someone calls us on the carpet. How about when it's GOD that is calling you out? He knows what you are really thinking. He knows your pain and suffering, but he also knows the pain and suffering you have caused others. If you call yourself a follower of Christ, then you MUST seek forgiveness. Not just from Him but from those you have harmed. One thing I keep reminding my children is the importance of sharing God's love with others. And if I cannot ask for forgiveness for the things I have said and done (or NOT said and NOT done), then I am missing out on an opportunity to experience the true love He has given.

And just as a side note: I have not heard anything back from this lady I have asked forgiveness from. She may not have read the email yet. She may not want to respond. She may not know how to respond. My reaction to her inaction should not be anything more than just prayer that she find it in her heart to forgive me.

Who do you need to ask forgiveness from today? And if someone has asked forgiveness from you, have you done it? Have you released them? Pray that God will give your heart peace and words to say to mend what is broken.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday's Crafting: Homemade (or semi-homemade) Christmas Gifts

If you are a personal friend of mine or a family member (you can be both, by the way), you know that I am all about making gifts! I remember in high school being that weird girl that glued feathers on a piece of decorated cardboard with a picture of me and my friend and attached a note that said "Birds of a Feather Flock Together". Yeah, that was me. I never really had a lot of money to buy a gift, and I always appreciated gifts that people took the time to make and not just pick up in a dash to Wal-Mart. To me, Christmas isn't about getting gifts; it's about developing a relationship with others in love and sharing His love. It's really, really, really hard to explain to family and friends that I don't need presents (although I like getting them; who doesn't?) to know you love me. 

BUT if you are in the same boat, you may be trying to find ways to save money and still give meaningful presents this year. And since the blow up Santa and blazing Christmas lights on the house on my street apparently are announcing that Christmas is here (still more than a month away, by the way), I guess I need to go ahead and share some ideas with you before you finish your Christmas shopping. I will share some of my ideas I have done in the past and will also share some links to other people's ideas (by the way, I'm not sharing the link to what I'm doing this year as a present...but after Christmas, I will share!). Take a  look! See something you like, make it and then let me know how it goes! 

Presents of Jana's Christmas Past

1. Shortbread cookies in SC and Palmetto Tree shapes
2. Bread (pumpkin, gingerbread, apple cinnamon, cinnamon streusal)
3. Homemade gingerbread cookies 
4. Gifts in a jar (cookie mix for those with kids; soup mix for those without)
5. Blueberry Jam and Friendship bread
6. Chocolate Truffles 
7. Coasters, hotplates, and meat rubs (all homemade)
8. Apple Butter and homemade soap
9. Fleece scarfs and heating pads 

Here's the fleece scarf I made mom last year. SUPER easy, and VERY usable! 

Links to Ideas Online

1. Gifts for Teachers. I blogged about this at the beginning of the school year, but I think it works here as well. Don't forget your kids' teachers this holiday! 
2. Gifts in a Jar. This isn't the typical cookie or soup mix a lot of people make. And this was something I was looking to make for other occasions. 
3. Gifts for Children. I love this idea! Kids always end up playing with the boxes anyway! What parents hasn't said, "I don't know why I got him that expensive present! He is having more fun with the box it came in!" at some point. 
4. Teacup Necklaces. Oh my word! I LOVE this idea! And my crafty friends out there, I know you would love this too!
5. Martha Stewart. I don't normally link to her because, well, sometimes she just comes up with the weirdest materials, AND I was trying to find links that most people don't see, but for this ONE TIME ONLY, I will link to dear Martha.  

I hope this gets you in the right direction. If you are making gifts this year (little or big), share your ideas. And if you blog about it, share your link and I'll add it to the list! Happy crafting

Wednesday's Cleaning: Room by Room Series: The Introduction

So it's taken me two weeks to get this started. I ran into a few bumps getting started, but most importantly, I wanted to ask permission for some of the information I am going to share for the next few weeks. As mentioned before, I participated in a Bible study back in January on the A Virtuous Woman website called "From Chaos to Calm." This study focused on helping women clean up their hearts for God, their hearts for their husbands, their hearts for their children, and then cleaning all the rooms around the house (with a few recipes for bread thrown in for good measure). If you have not checked out this site, please do! There is an incredible amount of information on food, cleaning, crafts, medicines, frugal living, and so on. I spoke to (okay, emailed) the author of the website, Melissa Ringstaff, asking for permission to share the downloads I received during the Bible study. She was more than happy to share her information, and let me know that the Bible study will soon be a book. I am still working out some of the kinks with her, but until then, I wanted to share a few things from her site.

Before I share, let me explain how this new series "Room by Room" is going to work. Each week I will take a room in the house (some rooms may be 2 weeks, depending on the content) and share tips on deep cleaning each of those rooms. I have hinted at a few of things that need to be cleaned in my series "Things You Forget to Clean" (part 1 and part 2). As I learned through the Bible study, though, there is so much that needs to be cleaned in each room, and they all deserve their own post. So next week (if I can keep my ducks in a row) we will start on the kitchen.

With that being said, here are a few things from the "A Virtuous Woman" website that I think you really should check out:

1. A Homemade Holiday. This is a link to her page where she is sharing ways to decorate, make crafts, share "Thanksgiving" recipes, and cleaning tips. I have already downloaded the "Fall Cleaning Checklist" for myself. I am posting this some place I can make sure I get it all done in the next few weeks. I want to be PROACTIVE, not reactive (and stressed out).

2. Compost Keeper Give Away! I love a good give away, and I love composting (okay, I don't LOVE it yet, but I sure would love this pretty compost keeper over what I have now). Check it out! (Hey, dad! This might work better than that old orange bucket you use! Just saying....)

3. Keeping the Sabbath. This was one of my favorite entries in the Bible Study. It opened my eyes to ways to worship the Lord with my family. PLEASE check it out!

4. Keeping House. Skim through these pages. This is the information I'm going to share with you in the next few weeks.

Okay, I think that's it. I look forward to sharing information with you and reminding myself of the things I forget to clean (again!).

Have a great week!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Devotion: Praising Your Friends

"Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a great friendship refreshes the soul." Proverbs 27:9

So the Lord has done it again. He has driven home a point he needed me to get by having Sunday's sermon about a topic, which is followed by Monday morning's devotion about the same topic. It's on those days when I say, "I get it, Lord," and then act accordingly. This week, God stressed the importance of friendship. Who are my friends? Who are my close friends? What kind of friend am I?

When the Preacherman began his sermon Sunday, I wasn't really sure where he was going to go with the chosen passages (Colossians 4:7-18). We have been working our way through Colossians, and the last few verses were Paul's words about a few people. I've read (okay, skimmed) these passages before, but when the Preacherman started giving a brief bio about all the men mentioned, I was thirsty for more! Most of those men were good friends of Paul, some closer to Paul than others. It was fascinating seeing little tidbits of these men throughout scripture, and I would have never put two and two together. Isn't it amazing how God allows simple information, such as someone's character, be shown just enough for us to see who they really were as people?  At the end of the sermon, the Preacherman talked about important friends that have stuck by him through thick and thin. He then challenged us to think of those friends who are important to us. I can honestly say that I was starting to have a breakdown right there in church. I was looking around at all the ladies in church who were sitting next to or near their best lady friends as they gave each other tearful smiles. Where was MY lady friend? God then placed on my heart the ladies in my life who really mean the world to me. As soon as I got home, I sent some of those ladies a note letting them know how much they meant to me. I wasn't fishing for compliments, but I was sure going to give some. I just don't think that we remember to tell each other how much friends mean to us. Guys tend to say it in their own ways, but us girls just don't do it.

Then Monday morning, I was reading my daily devotion that I get emailed to me from Proverbs 31 Ministries. Some days I don't get to those devotions, and they begin to fill up my in box. So when I just happened to chose the one about friendship this past Monday morning, I was just amazed at how God gave me that little reminder that I needed make sure I am a good friend and that I let my good friends know how valuable they are to me. (Here's the link to the devotion I read, by the way.) This devotion stressed the need for us to make sure we let our friends know how much we value them.

And finally today, someone posted a link to a blog about husbands. The link went on and on about how husbands shouldn't be praised for being good husbands and dads. The writer of the blog said her husband was doing stuff he should have been doing anyway, and why doesn't she ever get praised for vacuuming or washing dishes? She made a "decent" point about how we have lowered our standards in society to the point where men get praised for helping out with the kids or going to school activities. And by decent I meant that there are enough deadbeat dads out there who don't help out. But what I DONT agree with is her stressing how husbands shouldn't be praised for doing the regular. Why shouldn't they? And if our husbands are our best friends (as my husband is my best friend), shouldn't we be recognizing all the things they do? Just like our girl friends, shouldn't we be lifting our men up as well? Yes! Yes, we should. Wouldn't you like to have someone say, "Hey! Thanks for making dinner!" or "Thank you for showing me how to make that skirt!" Absolutely!

So that's it. That's the lesson for my week. There are some days I am a great friend, but more likely than not, I'm not all that great. I get caught up in my own insecurities. I focused so many times on what is wrong in my life, that I forget to ask about what's going on in my friends' lives (or even my husband's life). They have problems, too. And they are probably wondering how much their friendships are worth to others. If I was truly a great friend, they would know. So the Lord was seriously letting me know that I need to lift others up. Stop being so selfish! Stop making it all about you!

So I challenge you to also let your friends know how much they mean to you. Pray for them, and let them know you are praying for them. Be a gift to those around you. You will find the joy in bringing joy to others.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mini-Pumpkin Pies

It's November! This is by far the best month of the year! No, it's not just because my birthday is in November. There are other great reasons this month is the best: it finally starts cooling off; the fair is in town; Daylight savings (we get an extra hour of sleep); football season (at any level) is at it's height; and Thanksgiving (and if you want, you can include Black Friday and Cyber Monday if that's your thing). One other GREAT thing about November is this month is the beginning of making some incredible comfort foods. One drawback of comfort foods, though, is they are meant to stick to your bones, and if you are trying to lose or keep off the weight, holiday food is not normally the way to go. I am constantly trying to adjust recipes to make them taste great but not be as fattening for me and my family. With the feasting season coming up, I like to give some recipes a try before I present them to my family and my husband's family. Yesterday was one of those days. I posted a picture on Facebook (yes, I'm a junkie) of mini-pumpkin pies with a meringue cookie topping. I got such a response, that I decided to share the recipe with yall. 

A great place to find healthier, yummy recipes is through Weight Watchers. Those people are dedicated to creating recipes that taste like the traditional food we eat, but substituting ingredients for healthier options. I have also found that reading the comments can help make the recipe even better. So the original recipe was for "Pumpkin Pie with Graham Cracker Crust" (do a search for the original). I am in desperate need for portion control, so I made 12 mini pies, which reduced the amount of points, and was easier to keep me honest about how much I was putting in my body. 

Get on with the recipe, already!! Okay, I hear you. Here's the recipe: 

Mini-Pumpkin Pies with Meringue Cookie Topping


  • 6 sheets of reduced-fat cinnamon graham crackers
  • 1 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp reduced fat butter (you can use regular butter. It doesn't change the pt value that much)
  • 6 Tbsp of Egg Beaters Refrigerated Egg Whites 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I made my own: a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (if you use fresh pumpkin, I think it reduces the pt value, but I'm not sure by how much)
  • 1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk
  • Fill 12-cup (or two 6-cup) muffin pan with cupcake wrappers. 
  • Place graham crackers and light brown sugar in a food processor; process into crumbs. Spoon crumbs into a small bowl; add melted butter and combine into a coarse meal. Spoon, evenly, into the bottoms and sides of each cupcake wrapper. I used the back of an ice cream scoop to fill and press tightly. Chill for 30 minutes. 
  • While crust is chilling, preheat oven to 350. After 30 minutes of chilling, bake the crusts until they start turning golden, about 8-10 minutes. Just keep an eye on them. Remove from oven and let cool. 
  • In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip egg whites until frothy. In a separate smaller bowl, combine egg, dark brown sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, canned pumpkin, and evaporated milk. Mix well. Once the egg whites are frothy, fold in to the pumpkin mixture and gently stir until smooth. Pour into each cupcake wrapper. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. 
While that is cooking, prepare the meringue topping. 

Meringue Cookie Topping

  • 2 egg whites at room temperature (I'm not sure why this works, but I have been making meringue cookies the past few weeks, and I have found if I start with room temperature egg whites, they work better. I'm not fixing something that isn't broke)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tarter 
  • dash of salt
  • In a large bowl, mix egg whites, cream of tarter, and salt. Beat until eggs are frothy (about 3 minutes). 
  • Slowly add sugar. Once all the sugar is in, beat on high until it forms bright white, gleaming, stiff peaks (about 8 minutes). 
  • Gently spoon meringue into a pastry bag or ziplock bag (and then cut the tip off a corner to pipe). 
  • Once the pies have slightly cooled, pipe a little meringue onto each pie. 
  • Turn the oven down to about 270. Bake the pies for about 15 minutes. 
  • My own tip: I turned off the oven while the pies were still in there and let them sit. I had to run to the school to pick up the boys, so I didn't have time to get them out, put them on a plate, and let them cool in the fridge. It seemed to work great! It also gave the meringues just a few more minutes to cook. 
  • Serve warm OR put in the fridge and let them cool completely. Make sure you refrigerate any leftovers. They are better the second day! 
Here's the plate of Mini-Pumpkin Pies. Look how pretty they are! 

Here is a picture of the inside. The meringue set just enough that they were stiff on the tops and marshmallowy on the inside. The pie turned out almost like a pumpkin mousse. They were great! 

  And for those of you who are keeping track of points, each pie is worth 4 pts of Weight Watcher pt. plus. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday's Food: Crockpot Baked Apples

So I took last week off to get things in order. I am in the midst of my busy season, and I need a few days to just pull myself together before I had a panic attack. My goal was to get back on the horse this week and really  get focused on getting all my "chores" done (including blogging). Then Halloween happened. I don't know what I was thinking trying to put together a blog post on Halloween, but it just never happened. So when I was getting ready to settle down last night to do Monday, Tuesday, and begin Wednesday's blogs, I had an accident. I hit my head coming out of the refrigerator too quickly and had a nasty headache/migraine. Looking at a computer for an hour or so was out of the question. So, here I am, on Wednesday, not even attempting Monday's blog, and trying to play catch up with Tuesday's blog. My goal for tonight is to 1) organize my closet for the winter season, 2) write two articles for Bounty Paper Towels (I'm a web writer for them), and 3) work on Wednesday and Thursday's blogs. So wish me luck! And hey! There is always next week to get on track, right? :) 

So a few weeks ago I told you about having a ton of apples and had to come up with a few apple recipes to use them all up quickly. I blogged my recipes for White Bean and Apple Chili and Apple and Turkey Meatballs.  Both of which I adjusted from Stephanie O'Dea's website A Year of Slow Cooking. Today I'm going to give you my adjusted recipe for Baked Apples (original recipe found here). 

Baked Apples


  • 5 apples 
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces (it was what I had on hand) 
  • 1/2 cup dried oats 
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup water

  • Pour the water in the bottom of the crockpot and mix with the vanilla. 
  • Wash and core the apples, but dig out a little more for all the stuffing. 
  • In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, raisins, pecans, cinnamon, and oats. 

  • Stuff the apples. I dumped what was left over in the pot around them. I figured it would make decent oatmeal with the vanilla water. 
  • Put the apples in the vanilla water. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-7. 
Those apples WERE washed. They are fresh from a tree, so they aren't going to be grocery store pretty, but so much more yummy! 

I cooked mine for the 6-7 hours. They were a little mushy, so in the future I'm going to try the high for 4 hours. BUT they were good! I love really anything apples, so this was just a great "healthy" dessert (8 pts in Weight Watchers unless you share an apple with someone, then it's obviously 4 pts). 

I love, love, love these and am happy that this colder season calls for such a yummy dessert!