Saturday, September 24, 2011

By Request... my Spaghetti Sauce Recipes

I mentioned on Facebook today that I was canning spaghetti sauce, and somebody mentioned she'd love to have my recipes... 

Hey, it's nice to share! 

I started making my own spaghetti sauce about ten years ago. It seemed like every time we got a favorite sauce from Ragu or Prego, they would discontinue it! This sauce was based on a chunky tomato-spinach sauce we used to get. Here's my recipe for a single-serving batch, if I'm making it for dinner using home-canned tomatoes: 

Spaghetti Sauce
2 Tbsp dried onion
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp oil
1 qt tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 can mushrooms
1/2 c spinach, chopped
meatballs (My family likes Mama Lucia meatballs. Yes, I "cheat" by using frozen meatballs!)
Combine all ingredients and simmer 30 minutes.

And here is the canning recipe. This makes about 6 quarts of sauce.

Home-Canned Spaghetti Sauce
¾ c dried minced onion 
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 c oil
6 qt tomatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cans (6 oz) tomato paste
½ c sugar
3 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp oregano
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
3 c chopped spinach
Combine all ingredients, simmer 20 minutes. Pour into hot jars, pressure can 30 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

Gluten-Free "Banana Bread Waffles"

One of the first things I did this morning was sit down and work on my to-do list. As soon as I pulled up the file on the computer, it seemed like my mind went blank. I knew I had loads of things I needed to get done. My schedule was really messed up this week with one car in the shop and me having a head cold that knocked me off my feet for a couple of days. I kept telling myself, "I'll do it this weekend." Now that the weekend had arrived, I needed to get organized! 

I found that just walking around the house helped me to remember stuff I was going to add to my list. Seeing the piles of papers around my desk reminded me of bills to pay. Picking up a ziploc bag of Box Tops from Education from my purse reminded me that I need to get those rounded up from several locations around the house where I've been working on them, and get them in the mail this week. Walking into the kitchen and getting dive-bombed by a fruit fly reminded me that I needed to use up some bananas that are past their prime.

Banana bread wasn't an option today... we still have cinnamon buns and cinnamon swirl bread from my baking earlier this week, so it would probably get moldy before it got eaten. There's no room in either freezer to put some baked goods in, so I decided to make "Banana Bread Waffles" for breakfast... and tweaked the recipe to make them gluten-free. They turned out very well, although, as I mention in the recipe, the batter thickens as it sits, so there's actually more than 2 cups of milk in the recipe... I didn't measure as I added a little more milk (2-3 tbsp) midway through our waffle-making! 

Gluten-Free “Banana Bread” Waffles
4 bananas, mashed
¼ c brown sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbsp oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c oatmeal
½ c brown rice flour
½ c potato starch flour
½ c cornstarch
½ c sorghum flour
2 c milk
½ c chopped nuts

Put bananas, brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla in mixing bowl. Mix until smooth. Add xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until combined. Add oatmeal and flours alternately with milk, mixing on low speed. Add nuts and mix until they are distributed through the batter. Cook in waffle iron, 3 minutes for regular waffle, 6 minutes for Belgian waffle – or make pancakes. The batter tends to thicken on standing, so you may have to add a little more milk midway through your waffle-making.
Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry everybody is!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review & Giveaway: Rebecca St. James' book "What Is He Thinking??"

A few days ago, I got a slim paperback book in the mail. Even though there were chores to do and tomatoes to can, I found myself sneaking away to my favorite chair to read just a few more pages. The more I read, the more I thought, "I wish I had this book when I was going through my late teens and early twenties!"

I already thought that Rebecca St. James was pretty amazing. I love her music, and saw her in a movie on a Christian TV station a few months ago. She's won a Grammy Award. She's won Dove Awards. She was voted "Best Female Artist of the Year" from several years in a row. She even played a character on a Veggie Tales DVD! (LOL, sometimes it's the little things that impress me!) When I heard that she was writing a book to help young women through the turbulent times of dating and finding the man God has intended for them, I knew I wanted to read it!

Product Description

In WHAT IS HE THINKING??, Rebecca interviews a range of men from high-profile types to the guys next door, men that every woman can relate to. Although the interviews focus on single guys ages 20-35, Rebecca also includes words of wisdom from older mentors she respects who have been successfully married for years, such as her dad, life coach, and pastor.

The men share their thoughts on topics like how women can respect themselves and the men in their lives, modesty, purity, taking it slow, friendship, letting guys lead, and more. This book gives them the floor to say what they would really like women to know.

The men respond candidly to questions like:
  • What is the most attractive quality to you in a woman?
  • Is modesty truly attractive?
  • Is neediness a turn-off?
  • What do you find beautiful?
  • How can we be dependent on God for our identity, not on you?
  • How can we help you with boundaries physically?
Rebecca also discusses her own dating life, speaking openly about the single life, her struggle with loneliness, and her hope for the future. She challenges women to see the men in their lives as brothers in Christ and to trust God with their dating lives.

This book is just filled with down-to-earth, sound advice. As I said before, I wish I had read it when I was 21 years old, watching my friends pair off during college, and feeling so hopeless and alone because I wasn't pretty enough, thin enough, or outgoing enough for the guys to like me as anything more than a "Sister in Christ." Rebecca uses a great blend of honesty, humor and wisdom to help young women turn their focus from a frantic search for "Mr. Right" to a peaceful trust that the loving Father who wants them best for His children will meet their needs, including a need for a life-mate. 

There are lists compiled by young men (what appeals to them, what they consider turn-offs), suggestions for dates, and delightful stories of dates gone wrong. Rebecca interviewed older men, like her father, who have had years of experience with marriage to share their wisdom also. Each chapter ends with a summary of "takeaway points" from that chapter, which was very helpful.

One chapter deals with modesty and boundaries. I felt that was very much needed in today's society. When it seems like everyone else is wearing provocative clothing, it can be tempting for a Christian young lady to "go with the flow" and dress the same way as her non-Christian friends. 

I would highly recommend this book for all young women - I would love to see it in our church library, or being used as a discussion guide for a girls' Bible study. 

For more about this book, you can visit the book's Facebook Page

The Giveaway! 
I have the chance to give away a copy of Rebecca's book "What is He Thinking??" to one of my readers. There are two ways to enter: 

1. By leaving a comment below (leave your e-mail address if it doesn't show up in your Google profile, so I can contact the winner)

2. Or, if you would rather not post your e-mail on a public blog, you can send me an e-mail at - with the subject line "RSJ Book"

Giveaway ends on Monday, October 10th at 11:59 PM. Limited to U.S. residents only, age 13 and up. Limit one entry per person per day. 

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 

"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another family favorite: Potato Bread Cinnamon Buns

This is another recipe that I considered submitting when Frito-Lay had their "Tastes From Home" contest. Making potato bread cinnamon buns has been a tradition in our house for over a decade. I think it's one of the main reasons why Bethany loves mashed potatoes so much... because leftover mashed potatoes = cinnamon buns! I make these so often that I usually don't measure very accurately. I don't even measure the mashed potatoes... I just eyeball what's left over and decide if it's going to be a full batch or a half batch. If my kids see me making these, quite often they'll comment "Nice measuring, Mom!" On Monday, I made a full batch, and ended up with the pan above filled with rolls, a 9" square pan filled with rolls, and a loaf of cinnamon-swirl bread. Since they aren't gluten-free, I have to pass up on them, but the rest of the family is making good progress at finishing them off. Bethany said the cinnamon-swirl bread made an awesome cream cheese & jelly sandwich!  Some day I want to try converting this recipe to gluten-free.Maybe this winter when it's cold in the house and I want to have the oven on! 

Potato Bread Cinnamon Buns

½ c shortening
2 tsp salt
2 c mashed potatoes
½ c sugar
1½ c boiling water
2 eggs
1½ Tbsp yeast
2 c whole wheat flour
4-5 c white flour
Cream together shortening, salt, mashed potatoes and sugar.  Add boiling water. Beat in eggs. Let mixture cool to lukewarm, if necessary (if you started with cold potatoes and eggs, it should be slightly warm.) Add yeast. Let sit for five minutes. Stir in whole wheat and white flour, one cup at a time. Knead for 5-8 minutes, until dough is smooth. Let rise one hour. Punch down and form into loaves or rolls. Let rise one hour, or until double. Bake at 350° 30-40 minutes for rolls, 45-50 minutes for loaves.

Cinnamon Filling for Cinnamon Buns
½ c sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla

Spread paste over an 18”x6” rectangle of dough (about 1/4 of a full recipe of dough). Roll up and cut into 1” sections. Makes a 9” pan of cinnamon rolls. The moisture of this paste makes the rolls easy to unwind, so it doesn’t work well with cinnamon swirl bread. For that, use a simple cinnamon/sugar mixture.

For Cinnamon Bread, take about 1/4 of a dough recipe and roll it out into a rectangle as wide as your pan in long. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and roll up. If you want Streusel Topping on your bread, apply before it rises. 

Streusel Topping for Cinnamon Swirl Bread
1/3 c flour
pinch of salt
½ tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp shortening
½ tsp vanilla
¼ c brown sugar
Combine all ingredients and mix until crumbly. Brush shaped loaves with an egg white beaten with 1 Tbsp water. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp streusel topping into greased pan, set loaf in, then sprinkle with ¼ c streusel topping. Press topping into loaf. Let loaves rise and bake as directed above.

Monday, September 19, 2011

DVD Review & Giveaway: Beverly Lewis' The Shunning

I was pretty excited when I got the e-mail offering me the chance to review "The Shunning"  on DVD. I've been a fan of Beverly Lewis for years, and I think I have read all of her books. Here's a little background on Beverly Lewis: 

BEVERLY LEWIS - Author of "The Shunning"

Beverly Lewis, born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, is The New York Times bestselling author of more than eighty books.  Her stories have been published in eleven languages worldwide.  A keen interest in her mother's Plain heritage has inspired Lewis to write many Amish-related novels, beginning with "The Shunning," which has sold more than one million copies.  In 2007, Lewis' "The Brethren" was honored with a Christy Award.

Lewis has been interviewed by both national and international media, including Time magazine, the Associated Press, and the BBC.  Lewis lives with her husband, David, in Colorado. 

The Shunning is the first book in a series called "The Heritage of Lancaster County." The movie stayed pretty true to the book, telling the story of how Katie Lapp struggles to stay within the strict confines of the Amish Ordnung. Her first love, Daniel, shared his love of music with her, even though musical instruments like the guitar and any songs not in the Amish hymnal (the Ausbund) were strictly prohibited. Even Daniel disappears and is assumed drowned in the river, Katie finds that her love for him, and her love for the forbidden music, haven't died. 

Beverly Lewis' The Shunning - About the Movie
Before she succumbs to cancer, the dying wish of Laura Mayfield-Bennett is to be reunited with the daughter she never knew. Unfortunately, that daughter, Katie Lapp, is a member of the Amish order. Katie is about to be married, but uneasy about the path ahead.  Now she discovers the secret her parents have kept from her: she's adopted. 
The film is based on the celebrated first novel of the best-selling "The Heritage of Lancaster County" book series from author Beverly Lewis. Stars Danielle Panabaker & Sherry Stringfield.

I really enjoyed this movie. I don't want to give too much of the plot line away, and spoil it for people who haven't seen it yet! It was a good, clean family movie...although one family member who had not read the book was a little confused by the flashback scenes that introduce Katie's first love, Daniel. I think the movie captured the struggles Katie had in staying true to her faith. I loved the woman who played Ella Marie Zook, the elderly Amish midwife who has befriended Katie. She played the character with just the right blend of quirkiness and grandmotherly love. 

The only problem with this movie is that it followed the book so closely. The book is the first in a series of three, and leaves you with a lot of questions at the end. As the film ends, you are left with a lot of the same questions: Does Katie find her birth mother? Does Katie ever get over Daniel? Will she return to her Amish roots? 

I hope that there's another movie soon to follow Katie's story from the second book in the series, "The Confession!" I'm keeping an eye on the Facebook Page for the movie to watch for an announcement about the next movie! 

The Giveaway! 
I have the chance to give away a DVD of the movie "The Shunning" to one of my readers. There are two ways to enter: 

1. By leaving a comment below (leave your e-mail address if it doesn't show up in your Google profile, so I can contact the winner)

2. Or, if you would rather not post your e-mail on a public blog, you can send me an e-mail at - with the subject line "The Shunning Giveaway"

Giveaway ends on Monday, October 3rd at 11:59 PM. Limited to U.S. residents only, age 13 and up. Limit one entry per person per day. 

The winner is: Louis (Raven in a blue room). Congratulations! 

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 

"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wow, Thank you, Frito-Lay!

Yesterday was such a fun day! I woke up bright and early: the clock said 5:30, but it was my usual 6:30 EST wake-up time. I had plenty of time to check my e-mail, upload some pictures, visit the hotel gym and get a leisurely breakfast before we headed over to Frito-Lay at lunchtime. They put on a delicious lunch buffet with BBQ pork, salads, beans, and cookies. They had enough variety that I could put together a good gluten-free lunch, even having some tasty fruit salad for my dessert.

The view from the test kitchen
The grounds around the Test Kitchen were gorgeous - they had a full wall of windows overlooking "Frito Lake", with trails for walking around the lake. We were too busy to get outside. I guess I brought cooler temperatures to Texas with me, because there was a nice cool breeze coming through the door they had propped open (there were cables leading out to a truck with a satellite dish on it... lots of high-tech equipment all over the place).

The technical side of the live video feed
I got a tour of the test kitchen with Chef Stephen, the Executive Research Chef in the test kitchen. The kitchen pantry was awesome, with sliding shelves and all the ingredients arranged in alphabetical order. I could really have fun experimenting in that kitchen! They had every kind of cooking and kitchen equipment you could imagine - at least five different ovens, including a pita oven that can go up to 800 degrees! Chef Stephen showed me his cookbook library. I think he said there were over 800 cookbooks. LOL, if I ever publish a cookbook, I'll have to remember to send him one! Fun trivia: Vincent Price wrote several cookbooks, and even had a series of audio cookbooks!

Chef Stephen and his cookbook library
We were a little late starting our rehearsal, which was getting Kristen a little stressed. Kristen, Madelyn and Lauren worked very hard behind the scenes to get this event put together. They were a joy to work with, even under pressure! The rehearsal went well, and gave us the chance to fine-tune a lot of details. Chef Stephen came up with quite a few ideas, like making a mixture of ground beef and ground lamb, and let me present that information, making me look smarter!

During the rehearsal - before make-up & my official apron!

After the rehearsal, I headed over for hair & make-up. What a treat! I was joking around that I didn't even have somebody do my hair & make-up for my wedding! When she was having a little problem getting my bangs to stay the way she wanted them, I said that they had a tendency to slip into that "Ruth Buzzi look". She said that she had just done Ruth Buzzi's make-up a few days before that... that Ruth lives in the Dallas area! I told her that she should look up the old Disney movie "North Avenue Irregulars" to enjoy some classic Ruth Buzzi humor!
Make-up time!

The 5 o'clock "show time" was there before we knew it. It all went by so fast! Things were so well orgnized behind the scenes that things flowed very smoothly. Ingredients were all measured out and set in place, cue cards were taped to the walls, and we'd been over the general script several times, and we were ready to go. My spot was in the middle, so I got to step out by the cameras afterward and watch the rest from that angle.  I learned a few more things while watching Chef Stephen prepare the other recipes, Now I know how to prepare an avocado, I didn't know the skin would just peel off like that! I'll just have to make sure my husband isn't in the kitchen when I do that trick with the knife to remove the pit! That would make him nervous! Fortunately, everything went as planned. The only glitch was that we ended a little bit early.We didn't have any armadillos wandering in through the open door or anything like that! Chef Stephen was so enthusiastic as tasted each of the recipes, making me feel like some sort of master cook. I hope Angela and Meghan also got that feeling as he made their recipes!

Once the kitchen and video equipment got cleaned up, we headed out to dinner. The original plan was to go to an Italian restaurant, but when Chef Stephen found out about my gluten intolerance and my love for Greek food, he arranged for us to go to a Greek restaurant. He even picked up some gluten-free pizza crusts and arranged for the restaurant kitchen to grill them, so I would have a gluten-free alternative to pita pockets. Thank you, Chef Stephen!!! The Greek restaurant was fantastic, and I got to try some new foods, like grape leaves wrapped around artichoke paste. So, I can no longer say that I've never had an artichoke! I had a delicious Greek salad with lamb on top, and then a nibble of a Baklava ice cream cake. I don't think I've ever been at a restaurant so late that they turn off the lights in the kitchen! Another first for me! We stayed at the restaurant until nearly ten pm!

Visiting the Flavor Kitchens was a fantastic experience. Chef Stephen is very passionate about introducing new flavors made with natural ingredients. You can see the video by visiting the Frito-Lay Facebook page and click on the "Snack Chatter" link at the left. Here's a link to the page on the Frito Website that has my recipe.

On Friday morning, I had time for one more adventure before I head home: a tour of the Frito-Lay plant, to see how chips are made! It was amazing to see how they could change some things around and use the same machine to make some very different chips, and how huge some of the machinery was. I couldn't help but smile when the guy told us in his Texas drawl about tossing five hundred pounds of corn into a machine to cook! I don't think I've cooked 500 pounds of corn in my twenty-five years in my kitchen!

I was impressed with the way that Frito-Lay works so hard at recycling. All through the plant, there were recycling bins for paper, cans and bottles. During the tour, I heard about how batches of chips that don't go right will be used for livestock feed (I imagine there are some happy pigs in Texas, munching on chips that got a little too brown around the edges!). Other by-products of the production line are used for composting. Even the heavy-duty paper bags that hold 50 pounds of corn or other grain get put into collection boxes for recycling. There was a strong emphasis on safety, too. Even though we were just walking through the production floor, not touching anything, we still had to remove all jewelry, and wear hair nets, ear plugs and safety goggles. That was quite a fashion statement!

On the way home from the airport late Friday night, I had to run into the grocery store to pick up milk for breakfast. As I walked back to the dairy section, I passed a display of Frito-Lay products, and it made me smile. I think I'll be smiling for a long time. It was a fantastic trip!

"Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 

"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm in Texas!

I woke up in a small town outside Buffalo...
I had lunch in Atlanta...
I had dinner at a fantastic restaurant in Plano, Texas....
Wow, what a day!
Thank you, Frito-Lay for making this all possible!

Frito-Lay had a contest called "Tastes from Home" to introduce their new line of regional chips. I entered my recipe for Greek Lamb Burgers, and ended up being one of three finalists. At the end of August, it went to a vote, and I won. (I never really thought about how many people I shared my cooking and my recipes with!)

So, this morning my journey began. My husband dropped me off at the airport on his way to work, and I got a flight to Atlanta, then on to Dallas, and eventually I ended up at this really cool & trendy loft-style hotel in Plano, the NYLO.
Trying out an egg chair

Tonight we had an awesome dinner at Jasper's restaurant. I tried a few new appetizers (like calamari & sofritos), and had a tasty salad with grilled chicken, blue cheese and pecans for my entree. Delicious!

Tomorrow I get to help the Executive Research Chef prepare my recipe, and take a look around the Frito-Lay test kitchen. There will be a live streaming video at 5 PM Central tomorrow - you can find a link on the Frito-Lay facebook page or you can follow on Twitter using #FritoFlavors

I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow, so I'd better call it a night. Thank you to Frito-Lay for sponsoring this trip for me!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A day in my life...

Ah, Saturdays. There are Saturdays when I wake up and say "It's been a busy week. I think I'm going to take it easy today!" And then there are Saturdays when I hit the ground running, determined to knock the stuffing out of my to-do list. Today was one of those days.

I started out cleaning up the kitchen, and starting a batch of yogurt. This is my first time trying to make yogurt. I printed out detailed directions from the internet... got the milk warming up on the stovetop, and cleared out the dehydrator for keeping the milk/yogurt mixture warm later.

Dehydrator ready to go!

Then I headed out into the garage to sort pears. I needed to get all the ripe pears ready for canning. I opened up the garage door so I could work on it in natural lighting... and while I was sitting on the concrete step out in the garage, dressed in my grungy "get it done" clothes, Fed-Ex stopped by with a delivery... I'm glad I at least combed my hair before I started!

To be done today!

Still left to be done
Once the pears were sorted, I came in and opened up my Fed-Ex package. It was my host kit for my ChefBoyArDee HouseParty coming up in a couple of weeks. I got a cute chef's hat, and a nice insulated lunchbag for myself, and some notepads and coupons for the guests.

I started a batch of bread dough, since there wasn't any bread in the house for Sunday breakfast. I made the "Awesome Bread" recipe that I posted a few days ago, but instead of honey, I used up the last of some maple-apple jelly that nobody was eating. Yeah! I love it when I can finish something off like that, rather than having it spoil! Finally, the rest of the family was waking up, and it was time for breakfast. I made multi-grain waffles for them, and gluten-free Cinnamon-Nut waffles for myself. Midway through my first cinnamon-nut waffle, I realized it was missing something. It tasted good, but something was missing. It was then that I realized that when you're making Cinnamon-Nut waffles, you need to put in cinnamon

We had a bit of sadness at breakfast... The Peter Rabbit plate that we have used for twenty years or so finally bit the dust... Ron noticed a crack when he picked up a waffle off the plate. When he pulled on it to see how bad the crack was, it broke apart. 
No more Peter Rabbit! 
So, on I went to my pear canning. I have to admit... I have a bit of quirk when it comes to canning pears. I like to get them all lined up in rows of ten, so I can count them out and know how many more I have to do, and how much longer it will take. I know it takes about 2 minutes to do 3 pears. At this point, I had 101 pears left... about an hour and 8 minutes. 

With that many to work on, I might as well make the most of it. I grabbed my MP3 player, turned on some music, and put my feet up! 

I took a break when I heard the mail jeep coming down the road. I got two nice surprises in the mail:

We got a package from Connie at college (we knew she was sending back her scientific calculator for Bethany to use, but she said there would also be a special treat in there for each of us). I also got a sweepstakes win: two free movie passes, and two coupons for free fountain beverages. Sounds like a date night coming up! The "special treat" from Connie was a neat little book of Post-It notes!

I took another break from canning for lunch. The bread turned out great, and at the last minute, I got the idea to "go gourmet" with our salads, putting some pear slices, feta cheese, and walnuts on them. They were delicious. I'm sure I'll be doing that again while we're stocked with pears.
"Awesome Bread"
Pears, feta & walnuts... yum!
It took me until after 5 PM to finish the canning. Ron brought in a basket of green beans that needed to be tended to also. Once that was all done, it was time for me to get in a little internet time... working on this blog, entering some sweepstakes, getting my daily fix of "Gardens of Time" on Facebook. There's still one more thing on the agenda, though... movie night with Bethany. 

I got a DVD of "The Shunning" in the mail this week to review, so we will watch that while I stuff bulletins. I'll be posting my review of the movie here in a day or two, along with a GIVEAWAY... you might win your own copy of "The Shunning." Stay posted... or check out my blog from yesterday, where I'm doing a giveaway for a Ginny Owens CD. I love getting surprises in the mail, and I think it's great fun to be able to send a surprise to a lucky winner! 

Think that's enough for one day? 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ginny Owens "Get In, I'm Driving" Review & GIVEAWAY

I was sending IMs back & forth with my daughter Connie (a senior at Grace College) when I got the e-mail asking me to review Ginny Owens' new CD "Get In, I'm Driving." I sent Connie a message saying, "Ever heard of Ginny Owens? I can review her new CD." 

Connie responded very quickly: "She was here at Grace! She's great. You'll like her music." 

Apparently Connie knows me and my musical tastes well. I've been listening to Ginny's new CD for several days now, and I love it. She has a unique musical style... mellow, and laid back with a little bit of jazz in there. I was a little puzzled about her first song, though. "Get in, I'm driving?" Hmm.. Connie mentioned to me in her IMs that Ginny Owens was blind, but she's singing about driving? As I listened to the words of the song, though, it all clicked in: 

I use to be afraid I’d never figure out
Who I was meant to be; what I should be about;
Seemed everyone else had a secret I didn’t know;
Guess you could say I was the square peg in a round hole-
But as the time has passed I’ve come to understand,
God made them who they are
And He made me who I am-
So now I march to the beat of my own drum
Sing out the words to my own song,
Give thanks to the One who gives me life;
Every day is like a new adventure,
I can almost hear Him whisper,
“If you wanna take the ride of your life then
C’mon, get in, I’m drivin.”

 Okay... I get it now. 

As I listened through the songs on the CD, I couldn't decide which one was my favorite. There is a song called "Daughter of Destiny" that started when she was challenged to teach a group of middle-school girls how to write a song... in five minutes. 

Or "Lay It Down: 

Lay It Down: Words and music by Ginny Owens
Verse 1:
“You don’t know what I’ve been through,”
She said to me
“Oh I carry the weight of empty promises and broken dreams
And I can’t climb out of this black hole where I live
Oh, I’m trapped in the darkness of the things I can’t forgive.”
You’re holding on tight to the pain that haunts you
But in the end, letting go is all that you can do-
Lay it down,
Everyone’s got a burden;
That’s just part of livin,
So take the one you’re given
And lay it down;
Don’t let it define you,
You’re not strong enough to
Carry that around-
Go ahead and lay it down.
You can read more about Ginny and her music at her website or check her out on Facebook. If you would like to follow her on Twitter, here's that link

I am giving away a copy of Ginny's "Get In, I'm Driving" CD to one lucky winner! To enter, you need to go to Ginny's website and find the answer to this question: How many times has Ginny won the Dove Award? Send me an e-mail ( with the correct answer, and you're in the running for the CD! Open to residents of the US, age 13 & over. Limit one entry per person. Giveaway ends Friday, September 30th at 11:59 PM (EST). 

Winner is: Susan from Quincy, FL. Congratulations!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Ginny Owens CD mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:  "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Book Review: "Love Food & Live Well" by Chantel Hobbs

I received the book “Love Food & Live Well” from the WaterBrook Press “Blogging for Books” program. The promotional blurb sounded great: “Turn food into your ally by following Chantel’s 80/20 rule: A full 20 percent of the time, splurge on the foods you love and incorporate them into celebrations and social occasions. The remaining 80 percent of the time, choose food on the basis of delivering maximum fuel for your body and ultimate health.”

She spends 10 chapters building up the background for her eating plan, giving a lot of information that is probably common knowledge to anybody who has ever read a book about eating a balanced diet: the difference between simple and complex carbs, the value of protein, and why you should not eliminate all fats from your diet.

Chapter 11 focuses on how to apply her 80/20 plan to your meals, but it seemed very skimpy. There are two recipes each for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had hoped for more examples and guidelines, perhaps a week of suggested meals to show how her system is supposed to work, but there were only repeated plugs for “see my other book.”

The book concludes with some good information on interval training, including detailed charts, and fifteen pages of exercises to do on a balance ball.

Overall, the book had a lot of good information, but I felt like it wasn't balanced in its focus. There was lots of general information leading up to her main point, but when you expected detailed examples of her plan, there were only teasers about buying her other books. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Using up what's on hand

I think that an important part of my "no-spend month" will be taking steps to make sure I don't waste food, by using up what I have on hand. This morning was a good example. Saturday mornings are always a time for a hot family breakfast, either pancakes or waffles. Usually I make up some multi-grain waffles from a homemade mix, but this morning when I walked out into the kitchen, I said, "Those bananas need to be used up today!" Banana bread wasn't an option... we made banana bread last week and it got moldy before we ate it all. I should have put half of it right into the freezer! So, this morning's hearty family breakfast was Banana Waffles. Here's the recipe:

Banana Pancakes/Waffles
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp oil
1 egg
1/2 c oatmeal
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c milk
Mix banana, vanilla, oil and egg. Add salt, baking soda, baking powder and brown sugar. Mix well. Add flour and oatmeal, then gradually add milk and mix until well-combined. Cook on hot griddle or waffle iron. Serves 2.

I made a double recipe, and with three people eating, we had two waffles left over. They went into the freezer for reheating for breakfast later this week. If you really like the flavor of banana & nuts, you could add a quarter cup or so of chopped walnuts or pecans to this recipe to make them even more special.

The rest of the day has been devoted to using up produce that needed to be canned.
Ron picked me more green beans to can

I picked a basket of rhubarb to be canned.
So far today, I've canned chunky ketchup & tomatoes, and  peach syrup. Green beans and rhubarb should be done by bedtime, too. Sometimes stuff coming in from the garden can get overwhelming, so I need to stay on top of things so all Ron's hard work in the garden isn't wasted.

Oh, look at the nice surprise I got via Fed-Ex this morning: some goodies for submitting a recipe to the Frito-Lay "Tastes from Home" contest: 
The shiny metal object on the right is a cool recipe/picture holder. You slide the paper under a metal marble and then let the marble fall down, and it holds the paper very securely. Since Ron & Bethany were eager to try out the new flavor of chips, I changed today's lunch menu to hot dogs, baked beans and chips. We all loved this new flavor (I only sampled a few because I'm really trying to stick to my fruit & vegetable fast. I figured potatoes are a vegetable, so I could have just a little taste!)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting better at this "no-spend" stuff

Today I needed to get to my bank to get some papers notarized (the winner's affidavit for my trip to Texas in a few weeks), so as long as I was out and about, I ran in to the store to get milk. That was the only thing that I knew we needed. As I was driving to the store, I remembered something: Fresh Express salad was on sale this week, Buy One, Get One Free, and I had a free coupon. Hmmm... maybe we needed some free lettuce, too. When I got to the store, I pulled out the coupon and gathered up the empty pop bottles in my trunk to return them for the deposit. I also had to return a bottle of juice that somebody had opened, took a good swig from, and put back on the shelf... gross. When all was said and done, I ended up getting $5.24 back in change from buying a gallon of milk and two bags of salad. So, now I'm at $6.26 spent on groceries so far this month.

I tried a new recipe tonight. When I was looking around the Sabra website, I saw a recipe for a salad dressing made from hummus. That really took me back... about 25 years. When I worked out by Eastern Hills Mall, there was a restaurant in the mall (I think it was inside AM&A's) called "The Juicery." I know they made a salad or sandwich that I loved with lots of veggies and a hummus-based dressing. This recipe sounded like it might be a match, and, believe it or not, I had almost all the ingredients on hand... even toasted sesame oil! Well, I didn't have the rice vinegar, so I substituted red wine vinegar. It was a little too thick to pour, so I added a tablespoon or two of water. It was absolutely delicious... I gave Bethany a slice of cucumber with the dressing on, so she could try it. She isn't a big fan of hummus, but she liked it. Ron decided that it tasted great on crackers... so Candy and Bethany tried that, too, and agreed. I love it when a recipe's a hit!