Monday, April 23, 2012

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits

Sometimes life just calls for a little bit of comfort food. This nice, creamy chicken sauce mixed up with biscuits just hits the spot. Even better, this recipe serves 6-8 people, and can easily be doubled to accomodate a larger family or table full of guests.

Creamed Chicken and Biscuits
1 stick unsalted butter
 about 2/3 - 3/4 pound of carrots, onions and celery, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I use White Lily, but most brands work fine)
6 cups chicken stock, either homemade or from a base (if you use bouillion, try to find one without MSG) 1/2 cup heavy cream
 1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
3 cups chopped, cooked chicken breast
about 4 oz. of frozen peas, thawed

1. Melt butter on medium heat, add veggies and turn temperature up to medium-high. Stir and cook until vegetables begin to soften, 7-10 minutes.

2. Add the flour and stir until combined. Lower heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Don't let flour burn!

3. Add 1 cup stock to the pasty mixture and stir until smooth.

4. Keep adding stock 1/2 - 1 cup at a time, stirring until smooth, until all stock has been added.
5. Bring mixture to a boil and then turn heat to medium-low.

6. Slowly stir in heavy cream, and add salt and pepper.

7. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in peas 10-12 minutes before serving.

A note on the biscuits: Just about any drop biscuit recipe will do here. I've made this with everything from superfast Bisquik biscuits to the made-from-scratch variety. They're all good with this chicken sauce. I will normally set the chicken aside after it's cooked, make up my biscuits, and then add the peas to the chicken sauce while the biscuits bake. After that, serving up the dish is easy. Enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: From Dust and Ashes

The Book: From Dust and Ashes by Tricia Goyer
Moody Publishers, $13.99 (2003)
In From Dust and Ashes, Tricia Goyer tells a story of faith and hope set against one of those dark times most people try not to think of - the aftermath of the Holocaust. Set in St. Georgen, Austria as World War II draws to a close in Europe, the author does an absolutely fabulous job of bringing the confusion and tragedy of that time to life. And even better, she lightens her story with hope of healing for her characters.<

The characters in this book are a disparate lot. The story opens as the pregnant wife of an SS concentration camp guard watches her husband flee their housing in the dead of night. They know that Allied troops approach, and much of the story focuses on what happens when they arrive. Unlike many of the SS wives, Helene comes from St. Georgen and her father takes her in after her husband leaves. When the troops arrive, Helene is moved by pity over what she discovers in the now-liberated camp and she and her father take two of the concentration camp survivors.

From there much of the story focuses on the recovery of the two women taken in by Helene as well as on Helene's own healing. Given the hatred of the SS among the survivors, the American troops and many of the townspeople, Helene keeps her past a secret. Some of the Americans befriend Helene and her family and one of them, Peter Scott, seems to take a special interest in Helene and her guests.

From some of the incidents in the book, it becomes obvious early on that even though the camp at St. Georgen is liberated, this is still a dangerous time. War has left the country quite unstable and in Austria, one also sees the tug of war between the Americans and the Soviets over the occupation of territory - a power struggle with huge day to day consequences for the Austrians being governed. And then there are the SS who have evaded capture and still cause trouble here and there. Amid all the intrigue, we see Helene, her friends from the camp, and Peter all learned to find hope in God and to rebuild. That message of faith and hope comes through this story loud and clear, and it's truly inspirational rather than preachy.

The author tells a very big, wide-ranging story in this novel and a huge cast of characters is required to weave all those strands of story together. One can tell that the author thoroughly researched her story and that she enjoyed her subject. It shows in the strong storytelling, and both the characters and the high adventure of this story kept me flying through the pages. Not only does Tricia Goyer tell a good story, but she tells one that uplifts and inspires the reader. While some of the details in this book are probably not for young children or for the squeamish, it's an excellent story and I recommend it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Taco Soup

Well, I love soup and I love the seasonings that go into tacos, so when faced with leftover ground beef and some random odds and ends of vegetables, I came up with...

Taco Soup

8 oz. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 T. flour
2 cups water
about 1 lb. whole kernel corn (I used thawed, frozen corn but canned should work)
1 can kidney beans
1 lb. canned/bottled diced tomatoes*
2 T. taco seasoning
1 T. taco sauce - pick your spice level :)
1 tsp. non-salt seasoning salt (Tony Chachere's makes a good no-salt seasoning salt, and Penzey's Forward is also quite good, though I take issue with some of Penzey's politics)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Brown ground beef and onion in skillet, stirring frequently. Drain.

2. Add flour and stir until dissolved. Add water and pour mixture into large saucepan.

3. Add corn, beans, tomatoes, taco seasoning, taco sauce, seasoning salt alternative, and garlic powder. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

4. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Serve hot. This is great garnished with shredded cheddar, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, etc... Serves 8.


*With tomatoes, it can be hard in some areas to find tomatoes that aren't canned. I try to go BPA-free, though, for health reasons. Muir Glen is BPA-free and I'm sure there are other brands, too.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter and Giveaway Winner!

I hope that everyone had a happy and blessed Easter. It was a beautiful day here, and we had a wonderful time sharing it with my in-laws and our church family. Christ is risen indeed, and may we continue living in that promise even after Easter Day has passed.

And now we have a winner in my Wee Sing musical giveaway. Thanks to the good folks at Random.org, the randomly drawn comment winner is....#6 - Tami of A Godly Homemaker! Congratulations!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Midweek Links - Holy Week edition

Yesterday, as I wrote about how I ponder Holy Week here at home, I realized that I have seen so many other good ideas for the season out there online and that's just what I had to share this week.

For instance, I LOVE these Radical Ways to Celebrate Easter from More to Be. Celebrating Easter by drawing closer to God and renewing our relationships with Him is so much more encouraging than just looking for an Easter bunny!

That's not to say that I don't love Easter eggs, though. If you haven't seen this really gorgeous tutorial over at Studio JRU, go check it out. I thought these eggs for would beautiful for decorating Easter day, and great for snacking on afterward. And even if you're not inclined to try it, the photos alone are worth a look.

For some wonderful Easter traditions good for all ages, I love this post by Jessalyn over at Desiring Virtue. There are all kinds of great ideas(and photos!) for the week here.

And for some intentional outdoor Easter celebration, I love the idea of an Easter garden. Mrs. June Fuentes features her family's version HERE and it's a creative inspiration. I have a number of cousins between the ages of 9 and 14, and I could see this being a good project to do with them.

Have you seen some good ideas for bringing Easter and Holy Week into your homes this week? Or, perhaps you've written on this very topic? Share your finds in the comments below, and happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week at Home

As I've deepened in my faith over the years, Holy Week has started to take on more and more significance for me each year. Of all the weeks in the Christian calendar, this one commemorates so many pivotal moments in Christ's life on earth, and it's very fraught with emotion for me. There is the bittersweet festive beauty of Palm Sunday, the quiet, pondering days at the beginning of the week.

Maundy Thursday, with its memories of the Last Supper brings fellowship and yet the sadness of knowing what will come. The darkness of Good Friday, this time tempered by the joy of what comes next as it all crescendos into the almost uncontainable joy of Easter. Christ is risen! Our God keeps his promises and saves us in love.

Even though I am not Catholic, I go to a reformed Protestant church that celebrates many parts of what once was the traditional Christian year in most churches. I treasure the church services of this time, but how to remember and bring this amazing time home?

Decorations - I got this idea from a friend: She places all the festive Easter decor in one place so she can grab it easily, and then waits until after dinner on Saturday night to lay it out. Up until that time, the house is decorated in the more somber colors of Lent. And as a reminder of the time, I will often also serve hot cross buns. For those who don't know the significance, it's been a great conversation starter.


Fellowship - Those days leading up to Easter are days of waiting, but I love them also as days of fellowship. Before Maundy Thursday service, we'll often have a simple meal with friends, where we serve one another and read the story of the Last Supper aloud.

Prayer - I used to simply wake up on Easter, put on a colorful dress and head off to services. Now I'm discovering that this time of year is more meaningful when I pray and ask God to prepare my heart for both the somber commemorations of Holy Week and the exuberant triumph of Easter.

Reading - I'm a reader; words reach my heart the fastest. And some of the wonderful works written about Lent and Holy Week are amazing. I still remember attending a reading in college of an old American Medical Association Journal article discussing the medical aspects of Christ's crucifixion. Though told in very scientific language, it was impossible to hear that and remain unmoved.



And this year, I've been reading a wonderful collection of sermons and essays that I highly recommend. Called Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, it is edited by Nancy Guthrie and contains wisdom from classic theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as more modern authors like R.C. Sproul and John Piper.

This book moves one thoughtfully through so many aspects of Holy Week. John Piper discusses how Jesus followed His Father's will, setting His face to go to Jerusalem even though He knew it meant death. Charles Spurgeon, Adrian Rogers and others write in depth of the meaning of various parts of Christ's time after His arrest - the bullying of the soliders, His keeping silent before Pilate, and so on.

Looking at these aspects of Christ's last days on earth in such depth makes me ponder the amazing sacrifice of that death on the cross more deeply than I have in years. And amid all the wonderful lessons I learned in this book, there is one that I've learned this Holy Week that I truly want to cling to in the future.

In his essay, "Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit", the late James Montgomery Boice absolutely shook me up. He points out how Jesus on the cross, in His agony, still used Scripture when He spoke aloud. That really struck me, and Boice's admonition really stuck with me: "You need to fill your head with Scripture and think of your life in terms of the promises of Scripture now. If you do not do it now, how will you ever find strength to do it when you come to die?"

And I think that is much of what Holy Week is about for us in this home - bringing God's Word into our home, remembering Christ's story, and consciously living in His promises.

-------
Book note: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross
Nancy Guthrie (ed.), Crossway Books, $12.99 (2009)

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Musical Giveaway!

After being knocked for a loop with a nasty spring bug, I am SO glad to be back online! And I thought I'd celebrate with a little giveaway. I recently had a chance to try out all kinds of Sunday School materials, and I have a fun musical goodies for you.

Whether you have children, work with children, or just like kid's songs, this one is fun. I'm giving away a brand-new, still-sealed-in-its-packaging edition of Wee Sing Bible Songs. It comes with a 64 page songbook and a CD. And since it's Easter, I just might throw in a few extra little surprise treats with the winner's package. :)


As you can see, it includes tons of songs. There are some that I remember from church and home growing up, such as "Do Lord" and "Father Abraham". And I found all kinds of new-to-me songs like "Books of the Old Testament" , "The Twelve Disciples", and "Who Did Swallow Jonah?"


So, how do you enter? It's easy!

1. Just comment below and tell me why you'd like to win. Please note: I'll need you to make sure that your comment links back to your blog, or that you leave me an email address so I can contact you.
2. I don't feel comfortable making people follow my blog via LinkyFollows, Google, Twitter, etc... in order to enter. However, if you do follow, I'll give you one extra entry if you leave me a comment letting me know that.

This contest is open until 9:00 p.m. EST on April 6, 2012. Have a great week!
-----------

Joining the fun with Welcome Home on Raising Arrows