Jul 29, 2016

Friday Feasting: Easy Chicken Enchiladas

"Because I am currently at the beach for a week with my Mom and Dad, six siblings and their significant others, and the fourteen grandchildren (half of which are mine!), I'm submitting an easy recipe today. It feeds a LOT of people with a Sam’s pack of chicken breasts cooked in the crock pot and shredded. I wish I had called Mexican night this week when we were assigning dinner nights for each family, but my sister claimed it first."

Easy Chicken Enchiladas
This recipe is from allrecipes.com (are you surprised??)

Serves: 10-12
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins

2 packages cream cheese
2 cups Salsa
4 cups chopped cooked chicken breast meat
2 cans pinto beans
12(6 inch) flour tortillas
4 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream cheese and salsa. Cook, stirring until melted and well blended. Stir in chicken and pinto beans. Fill tortillas with the mixture, roll and place into the prepared baking dish. Spread cheese over the top. Cover with aluminum foil.
3. Bake for 30 minutes, or until heated through. Garnish with your favorite toppings such as lettuce and tomatoes, or sour cream.

Bonus: Mango Salsa

Jul 27, 2016

Open the Eyes of My Heart

It seems like lately I have not been able to focus or even recognize the joy and beauty in parenting my oldest, sweet daughter.  Please don't take that as a knock on parenting or on my child. As anything in life, there's ebb and flow.  Sometimes I feel like I've got a handle on the situation and sometimes I don't. Well, this weekend God blessed me with perspective and I will be forever grateful for that moment.

Grace shines when she's on stage and loves to sing her sweet heart out.  God has blessed her with a lovely voice and I get such a kick out of hearing her sing (just like her daddy). This past weekend, she starred as Serena Katz in Fame, Jr. for the park district summer theater program. I've watched her on stage in four other shows this past 18 months and enjoyed every last one of them. However, this time it was like I had new glasses on.

There she was, center stage, singing and dancing beautifully. I wasn't looking at Serena Katz, really, I was looking at my sweet little girl growing into a beautiful young lady. Oh did I cry. The tears just welled up and fell down my smiling momma cheeks.  Right in front of my eyes, my oldest child was growing up.  Wow!  Where did the time go?  How did this happen?  It was like God was giving me a fresh perspective, a reminder that His work in her isn't done, but that so far she's pretty amazing. 

I needed that moment.  I needed to see Grace right where she belongs using the gifts that God has given her to recognize that she is indeed growing up into her own person. All of a sudden, I realized that parenting this lovely young lady doesn't have to be like what the world says about raising tweens and teens.  I know there will still be ebb and flow.  We're going to argue and disagree, but I know that I can't make her into something she's not.  There will be good days and bad days for both of us.

For so long, I've been focused on the tough stuff, the bad days, the arguments all the while my sweet girl has been growing up into a young lady.  I don't want to focus on the tough stuff anymore.  I want to focus on all the amazing things that make my sweet Grace who she is and who she will become.

 Maybe you've been having some tough days mothering a particular child or children, that's okay. For just one moment, though, stop and ask God to give you eyes to see what you've been missing. Ask our Heavenly Father to bless you with a moment of joy that gives you new perspective.  I promise He will deliver!

Jul 22, 2016

Friday Feasting: Instant Pot | Mexican Beef

AKA...New Recipe Night!

I am still learning how to use my instant pot and gathering recipes to try.  
This one for Mexican Beef from NomNomPaleo.com looked so yummy I had to try it!!! 

Here's what I did...

Gathered ingredients...

(Notice the coffee mug in the back.  We spent the afternoon at the pool...
I *needed* that dark chocolate truffle pick me up!!!)

Sauté onions in about one tablespoon oil.

Add tomato paste and garlic.

Cube meat and toss with chili powder and salt.  Add meat to the pot.

Lock the lid, seal the valve, and set to "Meat/Stew" for 35 minutes.

Natural Pressure Release (NPR) and oh.my.goodness...the most tender yum-yum ever!

Here's Janie's plate...Her meat is served over rice, mine was wrapped in a low carb tortilla.
This recipe was super easy.  
I had all the ingredients (or a decent substitute) on hand.  
AND, the overall and overwhelming vote was that this recipe 
needed to be added to our regular meal rotation.  Win, Win, WIN!!!

Here's the recipe...

Instant Pot | Mexican Beef

2-1/2 lbs beef chuck roast,** cut into bite-sized cubes
1 Tbsp chili powder
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp ghee (or fat of choice...I used MCT Oil)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (oops, I had already chopped a red onion, the only onion I had, so I used it.)
 1 Tbsp tomato paste
6 cloves garlic (I used the kind out of a jar.)
1/2 C roasted tomato salsa (I used good ol' Pace Picante Sauce.)
1/2 C bone broth (I used the insta-chicken broth out of a squirt bottle with water.)
1/2 tsp Red Boat Fish Sauce (???huh...I used Bragg's Aminos.)
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro and radishes, optional (I opted not.)

1.  In a large bowl, combine cubed beef, chili powder, and salt.
2.  Press the "Sauté" button on the Instant Pot and add fat to the cooking pot.  Once the fat is melted, 
add onion and sauté until translucent.
3.  Stir in tomato paste and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. (Or as long as it takes to cut the beef and toss it in the spices...oops.)
4.  Toss the seasoned beef, and add salsa, chicken broth, and fish sauce.  
5.  Cover and lock the lid.  Press the "Keep Warm/Cancel" button to cancel the "Sauté" setting.  Press the "Meat/Stew" button to switch to the pressure cooking mode. Push the down arrow to set the time to 35 minutes and walk away!
6.  When the stew is finished cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to the "Keep Warm" mode.  Let the pressure release naturally.  It takes about 15 minutes.
7.  Unlock lid and season with salt and pepper to taste.
8.  Top with cilantro and thinly sliced radishes...if you want.
9.  Serve over rice or wrap in a tortilla.  (I realize that probably messes up the Paleo part of this meal, but that's what we did.)

**Note: I actually used Nilgai (I'll wait for you to google that...) that my dear husband hunted on the King Ranch in south Texas.  My dear brother-in-law "won" the hunting trip at a private school auction.  My dear sister-in-law was lobbying for the week in Paris, but the Nilgai hunt won out.  And my BIL took his brother (my dear husband) as his +1...isn't that awesome!  I think my dear SIL is still harboring a little grudge.  Sigh.  Anyway...if you ever come across a package of Nilgai meat or have a windfall of a Nilgai hunting trip, do not fear...it is delicious!!!  Very lean, not gamey.  Just delicious.

Jul 20, 2016

Fixing People

Last night before we crashed, my husband and I watched a clip from Fr. Mike Schmitz on Facebook. It was a step in the right direction in my desire to end the Sabbath with a spiritual aspect instead of Facebook. (**Ma Kim waving hands in a hypnotic way**…Pay no attention to the fact that I found the video on Facebook!)

Of course, after watching it, I “shared” it and said “For my married peeps.” I have several friends who are struggling mightily in their marriages, and I hope that perhaps one or all of them would watch and be able to share with their significant others. Or at least watch it themselves and realize they could be the font of grace in their marriages, even if it takes a depth of humility that seems beyond what they are capable of.

I shared an example in my own marriage, too. My husband constantly leaves the light on in our closet. What a waste of energy!! In my mind I’m thinking, “I have to stick to a budget when I go grocery shopping, and YOU get to leave the lights on.” How long this has gone on!! Sarcasm would drip from my mouth when I would say in his earshot, “Don’t worry, I’ll turn this light off!”, “Hey, lights don’t turn themselves off!”, or my personal favorite, “Watch the little Closet Fairy turn the light off!!”

One afternoon, I was sitting there on the bed just taking a breather, and I looked at the dark closet door.

God gave me the grace to realize that if something tragic happened, and my husband was gone forever, I would YEARN for those left-on lights, that gritty man-hair left all over the bathroom sink, and that (sometimes very LOUD) family home organizer who keeps us all in line when I just want to throw my hands up in despair.

This really just goes back to Ma Molly’s post from last Wednesday. We must dig deep and find gratitude and practice humility even when we’d rather just “fix it” to our own standards. Especially when we KNOW we are not perfect either, in ANY sense of the word.

Persevere. Fight the good fight. Your marriage is worth it. Always.

Jul 18, 2016

Monday Meme: The Need to be More Like Mary

Yesterday's Gospel always gets under my skin, but I'm glad that it does. Every time I hear the story of Mary and Martha, it seems as though the timing is perfect. I'm usually in need of a reminder that I can actually be a better wife, a better mom, a better friend if I spend time with Jesus first. The grace that Jesus gives us through the sacraments is by far more life-giving than an extra 5 minutes straightening the living room or putting toys away. Neither of those tasks is intrinsically bad, but Jesus is reminding us that we need to prioritize. Boy oh boy, do I need that reminder sometimes!

Jul 13, 2016

What If People Could Read Your Mind?

My husband and I were watching a show the other night. The episode centered around a patient whose sudden illness involved lack of inhibition, meaning he said whatever came to mind. He said things to his wife, his child, his boss, the doctors, etc.  that were unkind and hurtful, things he would never say out loud if he could help it. These were people he loved, respected but his internal dialogue was full of negative thoughts.

I'd seen that episode before but this time it got me thinking. I find it interesting that the idea of how troublesome speaking your mind can be is an often used theme for movies and shows. There is the movie Liar, Liar, which I haven't seen but from previews have seen how much trouble is caused by his inability to lie. There is a Doctor Who episode where the people in a town can only speak the truth, not sure if they had to say what they thought, but if they spoke it was true. There is a scene where a couple walks by and The Doctor asks them if it is difficult always speaking the truth. The woman happily says it is not hard and the man says it is hard.

Am I the man or the woman in that scene? If I came down with an illness that made me speak every thought, would I offend and hurt my loved ones? I am a nice person. I try hard to be kind and considerate and loving. But even when trying, hurtful things can slip out. Maybe a sharp response or a sarcastic remark when I'm tired. Maybe I make an offhand comment about someone who bothers me in front of others. Those are things that happen when I am trying to be charitable, when I am in control. But what if I wasn't in control?

The real question then is what is really in my head, my heart?  What thoughts do I let run through my internal dialogue? Do we tell ourselves it is okay to think angry thoughts about our husbands as long as we don't say them? Are we critiquing Father's homily or what our friend's daughter is wearing? Do we allow a running commentary of negative self-talk, berating ourselves, complaining about our lives, or wishing our days away?

I think we all can relate to at least some of those scenarios. Things we'd never dream of saying aloud. But, really, what can we do? Who thinks happy, loving thoughts all the time? Pollyanna? I mean, even if your life is great, and you are content, you still going to think that the cashier is painfully slow or that you really didn't need to be at that meeting. So what's the answer? What is a fallen person to do?

Fortunately, this train of thought coincided with a talk I went to at a homeschool conference. The topic was how to be happy now, in the present. I'm not sure what I was expecting the answer to be, and the answer certainly wasn't a new concept to me, but it hit me hard. Give thanks in everything. Good, bad, ugly. We know this, right? It's in the Bible. But do we live it? What if I changed the conversation in my head? What if I actually thanked God for everything?

The interesting part of the talk was that the speaker wasn't suggesting we find something good in each situation for which to give thanks. Nope. He said we should thank God for the bad with the good. "Thank you God for this rush hour traffic" sounds a little counter-intuitive. And I know I read the story of Job and I'm still like "really?"  But here is the point, I think. Each bad or annoying situation (or person) is truly my opportunity to grow in virtue, to offer my suffering to gain grace, and to just reframe the way I look at life.

So, to tie it in to the negativity in our minds and the mortifying idea of how we would sound if each thought somehow made it out of our mouths. I think the key to pulling it together is humility. St. Francis deSales wrote of how instead of being surprised when we fall, we should be astonished by the fact that we can stand at all. We need to humility to stop thinking we deserve something perfect, but also the humility to realize that we can't fix our own faults without the Grace of God. Negative self-talk is actually pride speaking. So instead of complaining that I can't get it together, I can thank God for chance to grow in humility. When I am judging someone's intentions, I should thank God for the gift of that person in my life who pushes me to look at my own pride and intentions, and also challenges me to grow in charity.

I certainly think that part of the giving thanks in everything is finding the positive. It has to be, especially for us "glass half empty" people. When the baby soaks your bed, thank God for the baby. 🙂

Bottom line, I think being practiced in the attitude of thankfulness, and the virtue of humility, will change the thoughts that run free through your brain. You really will think the positive things first, and you won't have to worry about someone reading your mind! (Just in case you end up with some rare disease in a House episode or find yourself on an unknown planet with The Doctor! )

Jul 11, 2016

Monday Meme: "Can You Pass Me a Paper Bag, Please?"

Since I started officially homeschooling about 9 years ago, I have brought four additional babies home from the hospital.  There is another one making his or her debut in the family right smack in the middle of fall “term” (mid-October) this year.  I must say, dear Heavenly Father Whose Timing is Always Right, that that is a really, REALLY tough time (in my mind) for a homeschooling mom to bring home a new baby.  You need to get started in August vs. September so everyone will be in the school “groove”; you really don’t want to do ANYTHING during that time because you’re exhausted just fixing breakfast and there’s just 6 weeks left till birth; then you need that recovery time after baby comes – let’s just say four weeks for giggles – and that puts you SMACK in the holiday season.  Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas cookies and parties, the desire to keep the regular traditions up for your sweet children; although, now you realize you’ve just set yourself up for failure come St. Nicholas Day and you have no gold coins.

Yes, I realize all of this is self-induced stress.  Yes, I realize I need to pare down in some – no, many – ways.  At least I am thinking of this now, on this side of the new babe.  In fact, I’m thinking of it so much, that I’m having a hard time breathing sometimes.  You know what’s it’s like with lots of children in the house – no time to think for more than 20 seconds before someone needs you for something.

And then…

‘Tis the season for school planning.

Don’t you sometimes just want someone to come in and tell you NOT that “everything’s going to be ok”, but that they know exactly what you need to do for each child for each day???  Since my Fairy Homeschooling Mother hasn’t come calling for the past four babes, I’m getting the feeling that it is up to me.  And God, of course.  And all those other saints ahead of me who have overcome what they considered bad timing and circumstances that seem impossible to overcome.

I give thanks for the post last week by Ma Karen showing how she’s going to use her “morning basket” (that doesn’t have to happen in the actual morning).  It’s given me ideas to ponder as I lead my 8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, & K children on this road of education this upcoming year.  I give thanks for my experience with babies and homeschooling.  It’s not going to look like what ANYONE (official) thinks school should look like, but it’s going to be ours and the kids are going to love on their new little sibling.  I KNOW I shouted so much after Baby #6, whom was also born in October, because I just didn’t feel I was getting anything done.  Having that experience will hopefully give me balance in my expectations.

I keep reading posts on Facebook from younger mamas with fewer children, but still are under the same stresses with new babies and toddlers and homeschooling their 1st and 3rd grader.  I know exactly how they feel, but I feel like such a hypocrite giving them any advice.  I feel like I barely have it “figured out” even on my eighth!!  Isn’t that crazy??

One thing I have learned, though, He always…ALWAYS…ALWAYS provides.  On the other side of the troubles are Light and Joy and a child who is suddenly so grown up.  You have a hard time understanding that on baby #1 or #2 or #3 or #4.  But it is Truth.

But did I mention part of our homeschooling journey is sending my oldest off to 9th grade at our local public high school??  And that he starts in less than a month??


Jul 8, 2016

Friday Feasting: Enchilada Casserole

(photo credit HERE)

"This recipe is a super delicious Mexican casserole that can work for any night of the week. We've
thrown it together with substitutes on the color of peppers, the type of beans, and the kind of tortillas.
Just to kick it up a notch when serving, we add some shredded taco cheese and a dollup of sour cream!  Enjoy!"

(from http://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes/enchilada-casserole/)

1 medium yellow onion chopped
1 medium red bell pepper chopped
1 tbsp freshly minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, not drained
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup corn
5 cups roughly chopped kale leaves (we prefer more finely
6 corn tortillas (6 inch) cut into 1 inch squares
Guacamole optional

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop or prepare all ingredients before starting.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil and add the onion and bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, oregano, basil and chili powder, and saute for 1-2
minutes more, adding water as needed to keep things moving.
4. Stir in diced tomatoes, beans, zucchini, corn, kale, and 4 of the cut up tortillas, cover and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring halfway through.
5. After the 5 minutes, place 1 cup of this mixture into a blender and blend until smooth then add back
into pot and stir sauce all back together. (We skip this step and just immersion blend in the 9x13 dish)
Spoon mixture into 9x13 dish.
6. Scatter remaining tortilla pieces across the top and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove and let
stand for 5 minutes before serving.
7. Top with your choice of fun things like cheese, sour cream, guacamole, crushed tortilla chips. Serve
and enjoy!

Jul 6, 2016

Together Time

A couple of Mays ago I read Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie.  

teaching from rest.jpg
It came at a time when I was tired and ready to give up the homeschooling life (not really, but oh, so close).  I had one in college, one going to college, and three “Littles” left at home. We had been on the enrolled in a school, gotta check the boxes, get college applications in, send in the packet of work to the consultant, go, go, go, rush, rush, rush  merry-go-round for three years.  I was exhausted and desparate for something to be different in our homeschool.  With the older two out of the house and the “Littles” still at home years from high school, it was the perfect time to slow down and think through our homeschool plan.  

“Together Time” was one of the first new things.  I wanted a set time to pray together and sing together and talk and laugh and read together.  It’s called “Morning Time” in some of the Teaching from Rest materials, but I was hesitant to call our time that, since I was pretty sure from the outset that “Morning Time” could be at a non-morning time.  But, I knew we would be “doing” this time “together,” so our “Together Time” was born.

“Together Time” can be whatever you want it to be; there is no right or wrong.  Our Together Time plan has morphed through the seasons.  Sometimes it has been several hours filled with prayers, song, religion, grammar, history, and science, and at other times (like now), it is a leisurly stroll...a little prayer time, a couple songs, the current read aloud, and a touch of history and grammar.  A short time to come together during our lazy summer days.

I have organized our “Together Time” materials a couple different ways.  Today, all the books, song sheets, white boards, and supplies are all tucked in to a pretty bag, ready to grab and go wherever we want to be for Together Time.


I also have my binder tucked into the bag.  This binder has the plan and a place for me to make notes of what we have done during our time together.  I have a simple page for each activity.  If the activity is open-ended (like prayers), I make a note of what we did on a quarterly calendar.  

If the activity is more structured (like our history book reading), I have the lesson plan printed and check off and date the work completed.


Here’s a little peak into our summer line-up:
Prayers, Latin Chant, and Hymns…
We just about always start with the Big Three (Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be) then add one or two other favorites.  The leader of the day chooses the extra prayers, as well as the Latin Chant and Hymns.  Popular Latin Chant choices are Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Tantum Ergo, and Salve Regina.  And we sing Canticle of the Turning and On Eagle’s Wings a lot.

Read Aloud…
I always have a “fun” read aloud going.  It is usually a book from our historical fiction list, but we just finished reading Michael Clay Thompson’s charming Mud Trilogy.  Next up, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy by Ian Doescher.  I’m as excited as the kids.

We are wrapping up Practice Island by Michael Clay Thompson, which is sentence analysis.  I write the sentences on write boards, and through the week they analyse a sentence a day on their own, then one day during Together Time we go over the lot.

History Reading…
All Ye Lands: Origin of World Cultures just a little bit every day. Slow and steady wins the race, right?


In the fall, we’ll add in some Religion reading, Geography, and more Grammar, Writing, and Poetry.

By the way, my “Littles” are not so little...only the 8 year old is smaller than me.  I have a dear son in 8th grade, a dear daughter in 7th grade, and another dear son in 3rd grade.

It may be time to crack the spine on Teaching from Rest again and see what other gems fall out.

Jul 4, 2016

Monday Meme: God Given Rights

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—Declaration of Independence

Note who gives us that right.  Not the government.  Not those who have served.  Not men or women.  Our creator gives us that right.  Our government can recognize God-given rights, but it does not give rights.  If a man-made entity can give us our rights, that entity can then take our rights away.  Therefore, those are not rights, but privileges.  Big difference!

This is so important to instruct our children.  Our education system is not teaching this.  Our children are being taught that government gives us our rights.  The government gave women the right to vote.  The government gave us the right to kill our unborn children.  The government gave us…  If we are not careful, government will demand our loyalty and worship.  Considering all government is made up of humans, there is a great potential for error, ie human error.

Parents can be oblivious to this.  When I point it out in print to friends or co-workers, it makes them think.  The light bulb goes on as if to recognize how blind we are, and how the media and schools brainwashed us.  Even newscasters say that government or the supreme court has given…  It is really scary.

As we celebrate our country’s birth, please appreciate and acknowledge WHO, not what, gives us our rights.  Pray for our country.  God bless America!

Jul 1, 2016

Friday Feasting: Favorite Falafels

Favorite Falafels!
Yogurt, tahini, salt, and cucumber combined for the sauce.
Falafel mixture...in progress.
Cook in oil 3-5 minutes per side.
Remember the pita bread.

Favorite Falafels

A recipe we hit upon many years ago and one that almost all the children enjoy! A great vegetarian meal than even meat lovers like. 

For Sauce:
8 oz yogurt or sour cream
¼ C tahini
½ tsp salt
1 cucumber, peeled and diced

For Falafels:
2 (15 oz) cans garbanzo (chickpeas) beans, drained/rinsed
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, bottom stems removed
2 tbsp minced garlic
¼ C oil (olive is what we use)
4 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander 
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1.5 C bread crumbs
2 tsp baking powder

Pitas (pack of 8)

For Sauce: Combine yogurt, tahini and salt until blended. Fold in cucumber. Set aside.

For Falafels: In a food processor, add chickpeas and pulse until minced.  Add oil while running processor for 10 seconds. Remove to large bowl. Process onions and parsley until chopped. Add to chickpeas. Add cumin, coriander, salt, lemon juice eggs and baking powder and stir to combine. Add bread crumbs and combine. After all ingredients are mixed, form ping-pong sized balls and flatten. Continue with the remainder of the falafel mix. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or ready to fry.

Add a thin layer of oil to cover bottom of pan and heat on med high. When hot, add falafels to pan and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until done. 

Cut pitas in half (we quarter half for the littles) and serve with tahini sauce. 

Serves 8-10