Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

ONE- We went to a Pastor's conference in Moscow, ID this past weekend, and on the way there we saw a gorgeous phenomenon over the fields of the Paulouse- the moon rising full on one side of us and the sun setting on the other side. It was spectacular! The moon rose in pinks and purples, while the sun was setting in oranges and yellows. What a masterpiece! Speaking of the conference, we really had a great time! The speakers were great and we enjoyed getting to know the little town of Moscow. They have a great little main street with cute coffee shops and stores- we even got to sneak away over a lunch break and visit the local farmer's market! One of the highlights of the weekend was that Hubby got to meet one of the pastors and authors who has been really influential in his life!

TWO- Remember how I told you we got pumpkins and apples from Greenbluff last week? Well, I finally got around to doing something with them and made pumpkin applesauce! I had made the recipe last year but forgot just how good it was. OH YUM. We ate the entire batch in two days. And it makes a lot. You should make some, pronto.

THREE- Thanks to my older brother, Hubby and I are officially hooked on the political drama The West Wing. Yes, I know we're a little late to the party. Like, 14 years late. But, oh well. Better late than never, right? We are currently watching Season 1 on Amazon Prime with our trial subscription and I have a feeling that is going to factor into our decision when the trial is up... Oh, Amazon, your ploy is working. Anyway, about the show. One word: dialogue. Okay two words: dialogue. And acting. Even though our political viewpoint doesn't always line up with the fictional administration, it is fascinating to try to understand a little bit more about how the White House operates. We find ourselves often lost in the quick exchanges, but intrigued nonetheless!

FOUR- I have another Cubbie in my class! A cute little boy came to join us last night at Awana, which made it much more fun for the little girl, especially during game time. One thing I adore about that age (3-4) is that they are so honest! I was teaching them about heaven last night, and how someday we'll go there to live with Jesus and the little boy looks at me sceptically and says, "But not today..." :)

FIVE- We hit our first deer! Here in Pend Oreille County, it is quite common to hit deer, and we managed to go four years without joining that club- until last Saturday, that is. On our way home from the conference, two deer ran across the road at dusk. We missed the first one, but the second hit the hood and flew off into the ditch. I have no idea if he survived or not. :( Thankfully, we were unharmed and my little car made it out with only a little ding in the hood. It hasn't really been her week. First the deer, now her brakes. She has to go into the shop next week to have a front end brake job since one of the calipers went bad and ground the brake pad down to the metal (See what I just did there, acting like I know what I'm talking about?). Meanwhile, a friend has graciously loaned us her car!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

{Slow Cooker} Tuscan Chicken Stew

What makes something "Tuscan"?

Is it the white beans?

Or the tomatoes?

Surely somebody knows.

I don't, but I'll tell you something I DO know:

This stew is YUMMY.

It is full of delicious veggies, tender chicken, spices, oh, and of course those beans and tomatoes!

And it is guaranteed to warm you up if you've been outside at a football game, raking leaves, pumpkin patching, or any of the other outdoor activities people do in the fall.

And the best part is, I slowcookerized it for you (as of now that is officially a word, just so you know), so your slow cooker does all the work while you're out having fun (or in the case of leaf raking, not having fun)!

Slow Cooker Tuscan Chicken Stew
adapted from South Your Mouth
makes 6-8 servings

1-2 lb. chicken pieces (I used skinless thighs)
5 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 lg. onion, diced
5 med. red potatoes, chopped
1 15 oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through. If using bone-in pieces of chicken, remove bones and chop or shred meat. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday Thoughts






As you can see in the above photo, my yard is having a leaf convention. We have two beautiful trees in our yard (I'm not sure what they are), but once a cold snap hits, they drop their leaves like hot potatoes. On the other hand, our huge old oak waits till the last possible second to drop its leaves- generally once we've had a snow and its difficult to rake. And since we don't have a fancy mower with a bag, we do (or I should say, he does) it the old fashioned way.

TWO- Speaking of leaves and fallish things... Hubby and I went up to Greenbluff on Monday to get some pumpkins and apples! One farm had giant honeycrisp apples (YUM) for only $1 per lb.! What a steal! We also had an amazing cinnamon roll paired with oh-so-delicious caramel apple cider- not the Starbucks variety, mind you, but serious, fresh apple cider! Wow, was that good! Now I just need to find some time to roast/puree my pie pumpkins and get a batch of applesauce going in the crock pot.  What's your favorite fall drink? That cider pretty much topped the list for me...unless I was able to go back to Joseph, OR and get a Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate made with fresh chocolate from Arrowhead Chocolates where you get a salted caramel dark chocolate spoon to suck on while you're waiting. THAT was some serious heaven in a cup. And on a spoon. But I digress...favorite drink?

THREE- I found my Halloween costume! I wouldn't dress up for Halloween at all, except our church puts on a harvest carnival for the kids in the community that night. A lot of them stop by to play games and get candy as they are trick-or-treating through the neighborhood. And they love it when Hubby and I dress up. I found this cute little homemade bumblebee costume at Value Village and I think, paired with my black leggings and a springy antenna headband thing I found, it'll be quite fun! Hubby found a great beard, so he's going to be a Bible character- he hasn't decided which one.
By the way, while we're on the subject, it just irritates me to no end that practically all you can find in costumes for women is slinky, "sexy" costumes or absolutely disgusting ones. *sigh*

FOUR- Speaking of the Bible, as of right now my dining room table is completely covered in paper. Stacks of paper. We are starting our men's and women's Bible studies next week and I am in the midst of the copying, sorting, hole punching process! As I type the copier is whirring and every few minutes I get up to sort a few more pages. Whew! I think I'm a little over halfway through. I think God prepared me for this side of pastoral ministry through my job at The UPS Store- I certainly did my fair share of copying, sorting, stacking and hole punching there!! Sometimes I really miss it, and it feels good to smell fresh ink and feel the paper hot off the copier again. I can't say that I've missed the dry hands and paper cuts though...

FIVE- So the government shutdown is over. Well, that's about all I'm going to say about that, since I don't really want to start a political war over here...
However, if you like Fox News, politics, and watching videos online, there's a show we love and would definitely recommend- Power Play with Chris Stirewalt. Chris is informative, funny, concise, and has the craziest and most creative vocabulary of anyone I know. We always find ourselves laughing out loud (which isn't something I can say for most news shows!) and understanding the issues better. Power Play is strictly for the internet crowd, and provides great discussion panels on current political issues while remaining clear, understandable, interesting, and, dare I say, entertaining! The guests are always enjoyable and informative and the topics relevant. Check it out- you just might become a groupie like us...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

{Slow Cooker} Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

One of my absolute favorite fall food items is the butternut squash.

I was only introduced to it a couple of years ago and it changed my world forever! It's creamy texture and delicate, nutty flavor incorporate well into a variety of dishes, but it especially lends itself well to soups. Its bright color is cheery, and pureed into a dreamy smoothness, it banishes the chill of a crisp fall evening in no time!

This recipe makes a huge batch-we had some for dinner, froze enough for another dinner, and had enough leftover for several lunches!

Pro tip: to make your squash easier to cut (these things are notorious for being difficult to get into!), microwave it for 2-3 min. The rind should be somewhat softened so you can slice it in half without cutting off your hand in the process.
Also, before freezing, be sure to let the soup cool completely!

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup
(printable version)
adapted from Hamilton Beach
serves 8-10

1 medium onion, chopped
2 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 in. chunks
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 in. chunks
5 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream

In a skillet, cook onion in butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 min. more. Spoon into slow cooker.
Add squash, sweet potatoes, broth and seasonings.
Cover and cook on high 4 hours or on low 6-7 hours.
Let cool slightly, then puree in a blender or using an immersion blender (stick blender) until smooth. Stir in cream.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

ONE- Yes, that gorgeous picture up there is where we live. One "block" from our house is that lovely river- I'm so blessed! I just love this time of year where we live- everything is getting gilded! Other than food, the main thing that lures me away from my depression about summer ending is the way the Creator paints everything golden. What a gorgeous interlude between summer and winter! Hubby and I were talking last night about how nice it is that we have fall. Aren't you glad we aren't sweating and eating popsicles one day, then wake up to three feet of snow the next? I for one am glad for the somewhat gradual transition!

TWO- I took my second cooking class this week! Monday I learned how to make croissants at The Kitchen Engine in Spokane! Local pastry chef Amy taught us how to make classic butter croissant dough, then showed us how to mix it up with rum-soaked raisin and chocolate versions! The class was very hands-on (I got to wear an apron and get my hands in the dough!) and fun! I learned lots of new terminology and some new techniques that I will {hopefully} be sharing with you soon if I can recreate the process myself at home! Fun fact: when you have made all the turns on your croissant dough there should be 81 layers of dough and butter! Crazy, right? That explains that flaky, airy texture!!

THREE- I really enjoy classic books. I've been reading Ivanhoe lately and something was puzzling me. Familiar characters and events kept popping up, although I've never read the book before! So many things (a jolly friar, Allan-a-Dale, guys in lincoln green, etc) reminded me of Robin Hood! I was confused because the Robin Hood I read was by Howard Pyle, not Sir Walter Scott (the author of Ivanhoe). So who really came up with Robin Hood? Who gets the credit? Where did I go for answers but, of course, to Wikipedia. Aha! Neither one! Robin Hood is an old legend, dating back to the medieval times, so both men drew from that, as did many others. Their literature helped shape what the modern view of Robin Hood is today, but neither can be credited with inventing him. Problem solved.Thank you, Wikipedia.

FOUR- I went to Burlington Coat Factory for the first time in my life (that I know of) this week! I was astounded to find out that they have more than just coats! I feel sure that I should have known that somehow, but I truly thought they just sold coats. I mean, the NAME is Burlington COAT factory. Right? So anyway, now I'm hooked. For a girl who loves Ross, Burlington Coat Factory is a thing to behold! It's like a bigger, more organized Ross! Sort of. Anyway, I did go there initially to buy a coat, and found one I love for a great price! But now I'm itching to go back- maybe for Christmas shopping? Am I the only one who thought they sold only coats? Please say no.

FIVE- Hubby and I are trying to decide which streaming service to go with. We are thinking of getting a Roku thingy for our TV, but we can't settle on a service. So, if you've got a preference, give them a shout out (and reasons, please!)! We like classic movies, family friendly stuff, British drama, romantic comedies and very select TV shows- mostly classics, cooking stuff and PBS drama. Our main two choices at present are Amazon Prime and Netflix. What do you think? Go!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

ONE- Return of the Soup Night!!! With the advent of October and our Awana program starting up again, we officially began Soup Nights yesterday!! As much as I love summer, as soon as the weather starts to get chilly, I can't wait to start our Soup Nights. Every Wednesday I make soup in the crock pot so when we get home from our church activities the house smells heavenly and there's a crock pot full of hot soup ready to fill our hungry tummies. :) We kicked off this year with a smooth and delicious Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup (look for it on the blog soon!)- full of flavor but astoundingly low on calories, which is perfect for my "diet" of sorts. Yay! The butternut squash is seriously one of my favorite things about fall. Its mellow, nutty flavor and smooth, buttery consistency is perfect in so many dishes!

TWO- Like I said, we started Awana last night and surprise! I have a Cubbie after all! Only one so far, but she's a cutie! I'm excited to teach, but it will definitely be a challenge to adapt the class to just one child. I don't think she minded all the undivided attention though. :)

THREE- We went to a wedding on Saturday and it was lovely!! Of course, as weddings usually do, it made us reminisce about our own wedding a little over four years ago! When we got home, Hubby dug up the song we danced to for our "first dance"- a totally obscure song I found on a random Christian compilation album called "Dream Alive" (go ahead and google it- you won't find it). We danced in the kitchen and for the first time I felt like when I closed my eyes I was actually there- back in that special moment when we took our first dance steps as husband and wife. The wedding day always feels like such a blur to me when I look back on it, so finally being able to recall something so clearly was really special! Do you have any stand out memories of your wedding day, or does it all jumble together?

FOUR- Speaking of getting married, I just realized today that I have never updated my PayPal account with my married name. I also have a debit card that still has my maiden name on it. Seriously how long does it take to get everything finally changed over??! You'd think after four years I would have squared it all away! Now PayPal wants me to fax them a copy of my driver's license and marriage certificate!! Ugh. Too much hassle for something I rarely use, I tell you!

FIVE- In preparation for Season 4 of Downton Abbey, Hubby and I have been rewatching the previous three seasons, and it's every bit as delightful and suspenseful as the first time. We are in the middle of Season 2 right now and I am already dreading living through Season 3 again. Too. Much. Grief. If you haven't seen it yet, and somehow managed to escape everyone talking about it, I won't give anything away, but it's almost enough to make you want to boycott Season 4. Almost. Speaking of Season 4, why on earth can we not watch DA at the same time as the UK???! I'm so frustrated that they get it now, but we have to wait till January!!! It seems very unfair. There, I've had my say!!!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Overnight Sourdough Pancakes {+ my first cooking class}

So a couple of weeks ago I went to my very first cooking class! It was in our local kitchen shop and was a great experience! Our instructor, Sue, was very relaxed and methodical, taking time to demonstrate proper technique and answer any questions- and there were many! We not only learned how to bake sourdough bread in the form of sliders and buns, but also got a lesson on how to feed and maintain our very own sourdough starter! I really enjoy sourdough bread, so was excited to get to take home my own sourdough "baby"- and feed it and watch it grow!

Sue informed us that sourdough is infinitely variable- the yeast takes on different flavors depending on the air where you live! So while the sourdough in San Fran is quite sour, ours here in the NW may not be. Rather it will be a very flavorful artisan bread. In the class, we made farmstead sourdough buns (which I'd love to recreate) and they were delicious! Fluffy, soft and- while not particularly sour- bursting with flavor.

After tending and feeding my starter for a little over a week, I decided to try one of the recipes we were sent home with- sourdough pancakes!

Rule of thumb- don't deplete your store of starter! You want to have at least half a cup left to continue to feed!

The pancakes are fantastic! The sourdough gives them a hearty, yeasty flavor and a light, airy texture. They are relatively easy to prepare, too, because you prep the starter the night before (unless you want to have them for dinner, in that case you could prep it in the morning).

If you don't have your own starter, but would like to, check your local kitchen shop or order it online! Your starter should come with instructions on how to reconstitute and care for your starter.

Overnight Sourdough Pancakes
makes about 2 dozen pancakes

1 c. sourdough starter
2 c. warm water
3 1/2 c. flour
3 eggs
4 TB sugar, maple syrup, or honey
1/4 c. oil or melted butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

The night before you want to eat, combine in a large bowl the starter, water, and flour (make sure it has plenty of room to rise). Cover.
In the morning, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Add more water if thinner pancakes are desired.
Heat a large pan over medium/high heat and grease with oil or butter. Spoon about 1/4 c. of batter into the pan for each pancake. Cook 1-2 min. per side, or until golden. Keep hot in a warm oven while repeating with the rest of the batter if desired. 
Serve with butter and syrup, berries, or other desired toppings.
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