Sunday, November 18, 2012

A little hiatus revoked....

So, it's been a few weeks. It's not that I haven't been trying new recipes, I just haven't had time to blog about them! And while I'm really focussing on bread, no one wants to read about my kneading process, and learning about starters, and figuring out how to make a whole wheat roll my husband will eat. Other than maybe my mom, who hears about it in person anyway.

But this Sunday morning sees my hubby in Chicago at some big fancy work conference, and I'm going to mom's for lunch. Sunday Lunch Southern Style is a big fancy ordeal, with lots of I'm being adventurous and trying something new that I would probably end up eating all by myself at home.

And while we're being adventurous, might as well try two recipes, no?

Cranberry Pom Relish and Homemade Graham Crackers.

The relish was super simple to make and the recipe was spot on - no variations, nothing. It's tasty, looks really fancy, and is full of things that ward off the flu.

The crackers were another story. It said to mix everything in the food blender just laughed when I filled it with flour and butter and turned it on. So, I kneaded it by hand....and since I was short on time, froze it for 30 minutes. I cut out little stars, instead of hearts...because Thanksgiving Stars are a real thing. And I didn't have graham flour, so I used whole wheat as suggested. They are lacking a bit in that kid-rememberance grahamy flavor, but they are good nonetheless and will make a great compliment to the relish.

All in all, happy repeats will be had, methinks. What have you been up to in the kitchen?

Monday, October 29, 2012

A break to try something different....

 So these past two weeks, I have been furiously beading and sewing and getting ready for my first craft show! Saturday, Paul and I loaded up to spend the morning at the DePuy Craft Bizaar. Which, while not food related, was a brand new experience!

Paul is a great sales man, and due to his pushy smile, we came out on top, with some profit. The way people buy is so funny to me - I had sold one apron in the first 3 hours...and sold 3 more in the last 30 minutes. So many people stopped to look at the Rita Hayworth earrings (pictured on that little yellow leaf on the right side of the photo to the left). They would ooh and ahh and pick them up, hold them up to their ears, and even when everything was marked down to 50% off, no one bought them!

All in all though, a very fun experience. I made oodles of Christmas earrings, fall designs, aprons, and gift bags. There are a few left that I'm selling 20% off of show price on the DaiseyBelle Designs Facebook page. So if you want to start some early Christmas shopping....

Despite the crazy crafting rush, I was still able to try a two new bread recipes, and an egg roll recipe. Bread and I are still becoming friends, and it's the skill I would most like to perfect. Yeast and sourdough starter are so different, and while anything can go into bread, the dough is less than forgiving. But I have a new book to help me through it...So stay tuned next Monday for more kitchen experiments!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Trying Something New: Week Four: Cinnamon Rolls

Some cold, dreary days just beg for something sweet and doughy. Or, any day, really, if you're me, calls for something this delightful!

I often get a super strong hankering for doughy carbs, and as I had been thinking about these for a while, it was time.

I recently was given a bit of sourdough starter from a good friend. Audrey, the starter, is twenty years old! I had never really worked with a starter before (Friendship bread doesn't count!) and I had read that sourdough could be finicky.

So I was a smidge scared, but I wanted cinnamon rolls! And I wanted to make good, homemade ones, that weren't full of sugar and additives that make my tummy hurt. I want to have my cinnamon roll and eat it too!

So, I did some research and found a great recipe. I got my starter ready last night by feeding her, and then planned my day around the rising schedule of this dough. The blog I pulled the recipe from does a great job giving step by step instructions, so I won't over elaborate. I will say though, that while time consuming, these are super simple.

The ingredient list is short - butter, flour, milk, baking soda, vanilla. And there is very little sugar! Two tablespoons in the dough, and only a 1/3 cup brown sugar in the filling, and 1/4 cup powdered sugar in the icing. That's less than a cup for the whole batch! Even though you have to plan your day around them to some extent (they have to rise twice), you only spend ten-fifteen minutes on each step, and as they are spaced out, it doesn't take over your day, or your kitchen.

I did make a couple of changes. I used coconut milk and coconut oil (in place of butter) and used Vanilla Nut extract for the icing, instead of standard vanilla. I was supposed to cut 12 rolls, but made mine a little big and cut 10.

And just for the record these are amazing. And that's saying something - just ask Paul, I never, ever am completely satisfied with anything I make. But these are sooo good!

So, week four was a definite success! Now who wants one? I don't think it's safe to keep them all in my home....I will eat the whole pan.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sometimes I'm an overachiever: Week Four: Smorgasbord

Zuke tots mixed up - so many pretty colors! 
 Now that it's October, autumn baking was calling to me. So, this week, I decided to take on not just one new thing, but three new things! I had frozen zucchini from the garden, organic Gala apples from Azure Standard, and the rest of my acorn squash from last week.

 #1: Zuchinni Tots - I love zucchini because it is full of good for you green stuff, but takes on the flavor of anything it is mixed with. These little bites are zucchini wrapped in flour, cheese, and egg. I of course, used almond cheese instead of cheddar, and frozen zukes instead of freshly grated. 

Consensus: Decent. I wish I had thought to thaw my zucchini sooner so I could have gotten more of the moisture out, and I should have baked them a little longer. I loved how much they felt and tasted like tater tots...and about half of them were great! The other half, were a little too zukey. Paul liked is first bite, but not his second. Also, best served hot! Super easy to mix up, so I'll probably try again. 

#2: Baked Apple Streusel - Fantasic! So super easy to mix together (basic apple crisp topping...used honey and coconut oil instead of butter and sugar) and you can use a cookie baller to scrape the seeds out quickly.

Consensus: Paul doesn't like baked fruit in any form, but I thought they were great!
#3: Acorn Squash and Honey Custard - by far, the best idea of the evening! I liked the squash rings last week, but honestly, I never got back to them. They were a little smoothy and very sweet, and I wasn't totally in the mood for them the night we made them. And then the sat in the fridge for a week.

But pie? Oh my goodness! Steam squash, scrape off of rind into blender, puree with other ingredients (honey, milk, egg, spices), and pour into tins. I was too busy to make pie it's custard.

Consensus: Paul had no idea this wasn't pumpkin pie. He loved it - then found out what it was, and said it wasn't dessert since it was a vegetable. And I'm okay with that. We'll do this again!

New apron....

All in all, a good night! It was fun to start the week in the kitchen and go crazy making stuff....all while preparing dinner too! And I felt very cheery in my new apron that I made this weekend. (Btw: craft show coming up! Aprons for sale!) I haven't forgotten about the cinnamon rolls, but holding those for next week. Had to use my produce while it was still fresh!

So...what things does autumn make you hungry for?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stretch Recap

So all of the elusive posts about grocery budgets and food prep culminated this month in an awesome program at the Warsaw Community Public Library called Stretch: How to make your groceries last. 

It was a four week program geared towards menu planning, grocery budgeting, food preparation, and healthy substitutions. We had about twenty ladies (some from Mission Point!) each night, and we had a good time discussing and sharing information. 

I thoroughly enjoyed preparing for this, and feel like I have a decent curriculum made now. So if anyone is interested in learning more....let me know! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Week Three: Squash-scapades

It's autumn now, officially, and that means it is time to make my kitchen smell warm with cinnamon and brown sugar, and to find new ways to cook some of these root veggies that we'll be blessed with all winter!

Besides cutting up some of the yellow squash from our garden for stir fry, I have never really worked much with squash. They come in such fun sizes and interesting shapes, and their name is a cool sound effect that makes me want to scrunch up my lips and make a funny face whenever I say it.

So, I bought a two pound acorn squash at the grocery this week, and started some research on how best to prepare it. Other than soup, it seems that this veggie mimics pumpkin in texture and taste. I opted for a couple sweet ways to prepare it.

I need about a quarter of it to make these sweet squash rings last night, and I still have the seeds left to roast and the rest to make into Squash Honey Pies (stay tuned for more on those later!).

The rings were super easy to make.

Cut your squash in half, then in strips length wise. Take a knife and cut off any fleshy seeded parts. Dot with butter and season. I used cinnamon, all spice, and brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes on a greased baking sheet. Flip and butter/season other sides and back for 7 minutes longer.

They come out with the edges cripsy, and the squash meat soft and moist. They honestly taste like little pumpkin pie bites - warm and cinnamonny. Paul wasn't a huge fan, but I think I like them. And if I can eat a veggie that tastes like'd better bet I'm going to do that!

I still have some left from dinner, and I'm hoping that frying them in a little butter for lunch will perk them back up.

Any new autumn favorites you've tried lately? I'm thinking next week....maybe cinnamon rolls....

Monday, September 24, 2012

If at first you don't succeed: Week Two: Yeast Rolls

Partially baked
If we've learned anything from previous kitchen blunders, it's that you can't let a few simple ingredients beat you.

This week I chose a recipe for yeast dinner rolls that I had tried before. It was the first time I had worked with yeast, and I used whole wheat flour (which is what I generally have on hand) and they didn't turn out well at all.

So I did my research. Evidently, wheat flour requires extra kneading and a little more fat. Well, I happened to be out of whole wheat flour today, so I used all purpose flour (the non-bleached, non-enriched variety though).

Anyway, they turned out fantastically! As promised on the blog I stole the recipe from, they were super simple and I will definitely keep this recipe on tap.

A few notes though:
1. If you don't have a fancy mixer with a dough hook, never fear - you can just knead the dough a couple times with your hands.
2. Baking times vary. The above picture shows the rolls after the ten minute suggested baking time. They were still very white, and gooey in the middle. After talking to my all knowing friend, Cydney, I found out that everything from room temperature to kneading styles can affect the length of time needed to finish baking any type of bread. Her rule of thumb is to pull the rolls out when you can smell them, then tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, they are done. So after about another ten minutes.....

All done! Fluffy dinner rolls, with nice crispy top layers. They were so yummy - and so simple! The rolls were a little denser than I thought they might be, still tasty, but maybe next time, with some more practice, I can make them a little fluffier. 

I decided to pair these tonight with spaghetti - which I think was a good choice. Choosing to try a side dish, that could be easily replaced if ruined, took the pressure off, and made the process more enjoyable. 

What have you been working on this week? Anything new and exciting? How did it go?

Stay tuned for next week - butternut squash, here I come!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Making up: Or Week One: Meatballs

Sometimes, you make your kitchen mad. You overuse it, you don't clean your appliances appropriately, or in a timely manner. And they stay covered in tomato paste and olive oil scorch marks much longer than they should.

To get your attention, your kitchen has to sabotage your meals. There really isn't any other way for it to say, "hey! I need a break!" So when everything you make comes out crispy and black, there is nothing to do but to give your kitchen some space and get take out.

Preferably, you should eat said takeout on plastic plates that can be thrown out, and won't need washed, to allow your kitchen the ultimate amount of space it needs to heal.

Yes, kitchens can be a little spiteful, but never fear, with a little TLC, you can turn them around.

At least I'm hoping I can!

So, my meatballs didn't turn out so well last night. I actually made a special trip to the grocery store (Which I never do) to buy ground pork, bread, and parsley to make them according the recipe.

I meant to start early in the day, so that I wasn't cooking while I was hungry, and had plenty of time to work slowly.

As Monday's go, that didn't actually work out, and I got started around 5:30. I was hungry, and trying to get dinner on the table, and I'm sure that didn't help.

I had toasted my loaf of French bread to make fresh bread crumbs. I mixed them with the milk and meat and fresh parsley. At this point - the meat balls smelled fantastic! I chilled them in the fridge, and washed up my dishes.

Here's where the problems started. Normally, I would just fry the meatballs in oil, but the recipe said to simmer them in sauce for 15 that's what I did.

 And.....they scorched. The sauce in the pan (cooking on medium-low heat) turned completely black, sticking the bottom of my meatballs to the pan, and preventing the middles from ever cooking through.

The whole pound of them went into the trash, and we called for Chinese take out.

This morning, I cleaned up my kitchen. I am reverting to a staple (Chicken Honey-Ginger Stirfry) for dinner tonight. Hopefully, by next Monday, my kitchen will have forgiven me, and I can try Carly's Cooking Journey Week Two.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jane Fonda and Meatballs

I was standing in my kitchen last week, realizing I had a glorious hour to make dinner...and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to make, and no ambition. 


Now that I'm working part time, mostly from home, I've really looked forward to getting to play Susie Homemaker in ways that would make my mom (and that little nagging voice in the back of my head) proud. 

[Sidebar: did anyone else have a mom that made keeping house look like the most natural thing in the world? Effortless? Now, I helped a lot at home and I know just how non-effortless keeping house is....and how much true strength goes into homemaking....but somehow, when I set out to do anything from scratch that sweaty, tired picture morphs into some perfectly coiffed lady in dress clothes, who would never under pain of death break a sweat. Weird, huh?]

So, as I was bemoaning this to my husband, I realized, that yet again, in my four years of marriage, I'm living with a new routine. Now, the glorious part of this is that after months of late nights and busy schedules and striving just to keep swimming, we chose this new life. Not because we had to, but because God led us here and we want to. 

That is freeing. But it's still new. And Jane Fonda images aside, I love keeping house. I like keeping things clean, cooking, making things beautiful. It suits me. (Housekeeping is the perfect profession for the OCD-creative mind [yes, that's a heavy mix - be grateful you don't live in my head!] because your house becomes your blank canvas, to do anything you like with.) But, like all other grown up decisions, any formation of habit must suit me...not an ideal, not a pintrest board, not my grandmother, just me. 

So, in an effort to make more whole-food meals, where I can name and spell all ingredients used, I'm on a quest. (Yay quest! Cue my theme music, someone?)  I have been moving away from convenience foods for about a year, but there are still a few I hang on to. And rather than go cold turkey, and completely re-learn how to budget and grocery shop, I am picking one new recipe a week. I want to actually learn (as in be able to do without much thought or stress) to make some of the things that now come in little red bags in the freezer aisle. Things that my grandmother would have made sans-recipe because it was just a part of cooking. 

My quest is this: one new recipe per week. I am going to try it according to the actual recipe directions (shocking, I know!) and then practice until I get it right. More than likely, I will do this on Mondays, as that is my unofficial day off, but I plan to blog about each recipe, and how the experience goes. I don't know how long I'll do this for, probably until around Christmas time. Hopefully by then I will have built a new repertoire of dishes that used to scare me - and I'll have that many more cooking skills mastered. 

Would you like to join me? You can read about my kitchen adventures here and try them yourself, or set off on your own culinary journey and just fill me in! More friends always make life more exciting!

This first week, I am going to try mastering meatballs! I found what claims to be the best ever recipe in this old issue of Bon Appetit. So stay tuned - we'll see how this goes! And for those of you that were following the Stretch project on Facebook, I plan to update soon! We're half way through, and it's even opened in a couple of new keep an eye out for that! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

A dream come true...

It's no secret that I'm a little bit of an idealist...and perhaps a tad sappy. But after a miserable last hour at work, seeing Wagon Wheel's closing summer show, "I Love a Piano" was just what a I needed. (Btw: check out Paul's review here later tonight!)

It's Americana through and through, set to the sound track of Irving Berlin's best songs. And I loved that it showed triumph and tragedy, the balance of life as it really is. (Well, as much as can be shown on stage at any rate.) But it was such a classic feel of American history, and as we drove up to our hundred year old house, with our puppies and cozy red kitchen I got so excited about my life in...well, a week or so.

I've been undoing myself at work...packing up extra stuff in my desk, taking down my pictures, adding notes to files for the next person so they won't be confused. It's odd after two and a half years to slowly be working my way out. I was feeling a little sentimental, but then an incredibly stressful, demeaning incident took place today, and I remembered how sweet freedom tastes!

I am So.Stoked. about the KP position. I want to work with lesson plans, and kiddos, and teach them about Jesus. I want the freedom of loose hours, working with people I respect. And have TIME and energy again to do things.

I can't believe how shabby parts of my home have gotten, but I only have enough TLC left to care for myself and our immediate needs after work and very little creative influence. And working part time from home just allows for space and freedom. Not that any job doesn't have its own hiccups, and I'm sure there will be days I just need to get out, but I am going to enjoy this home-ness as long as possible!

Despite the initial financial challenge of a new job, God has always provided, and I know He will. He has blessed me with a beautiful home, husband, fur balls, church family, friends, and GOOD work to do. I really couldn't ask for more. Revelling in the beauty of this.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

For every season....

...turn, turn, turn....

Bad reference to a 90's song aside, I feel like I've been caught in a tailspin, lately! A good tailspin, but it has left me slightly disoriented.

I've been felt called away from my day job for a bit now. The environment has been increasingly stressier, and the sheer energy it takes to maintain working there has left me physically exhausted, and cost me the time and energy to be involved in other things I feel are more important.

Paul and I have been praying for a while now for an answer to this question....and God answered in the most surprising way. It wasn't at all what I was looking for, and Paul had to talk me into applying....and then three panic stricken weaks of realizing that this was EXACTLY what I wanted, but of course there were other applicants for the position!

Long story short, I am stepping into the director position of Kidz Point, our children's ministry at Mission Point. It's a part time gig at the moment....which leaves plenty of time for helping out with Sights and Soundz and DaiseyBelle and keeping up my home (which will probably be less Martha Stewartish...but I would love to have time to walk my dogs, and bake, and sew...because yes, I was born in 1950. I look really good for my age!).

I am so excited to get to be a part of this, I can't even begin to explain. The next month will be busy...last 2 weeks at work, while I start training for this new position. Then, actually STARTING to lead Kidz Point - eek!!! But I think as God makes his strength evident in my intense weakness, and we transition through this time, that the space created in my life, and Paul's too!, will be much needed, desired, and prayed for.

There might not be much posting for the next couple weeks, just like there hasn't been for a bit, but hopefully, once things smooth out, I'll some more time to devote to this, too!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Beautiful berries

 I did tell you I had a couple of pints of gorgeous summer berries - this week, I put them to good use! I had seen a couple of homemade turnover recipes online, and decided to sort of compile them all and make my own.

I decided to cook my cherries down in my itsy bitsy crockpot. I added enough water to cover them, and some sugar.

Once cooked (for about 6 hours...could have gone a bit longer) I ladled them into egg role wrappers.

Folded my wrappers up...the cherry mixture was moist enough that I didn't need any water to seal them.

I used the nasoya wrappers...which baked up beautifully!

400 degrees for about 12 minutes.

These made lovely little breakfast treats - always looking for something a little sweet first thing in the morning. But these are full of good fruit, not overly processed sugar. So they're like poptarts, but better. And they're actually filling!

The only thing I might change next time is the way I prepare the filling. Peaches are on sale this week, so I'd love to try to make peach filling. I will probably look up a legit pie filling recipe, and just cut back on the sugar. The cherries weren't quite as sweet as I hoped once cooked, and while I like tart, I'm not such a fan first thing in the morning! I did put a few chocolate chips in one of the pockets, and that really hit the spot! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Adapting part 2...

...or how Barbie got it wrong.

Did anyone else ever notice that Barbie never drives a junker car, or wears blue jeans with holes in them? Or works at McDonalds?

Paul and I were talking last night about the great need for Americans to "arrive" at something. Whatever our idea of the good life is, we feel that enough persistance and hard work will get us to that place, at which time, we will feel content and whole.

And persistence and hard work will get you a lot of places. You want to build your own house? Work at it. Want to be a doctor? Hard work. But hard work never gets us to contentment. And we've trained our kids this way! Barbie starts in a state of arrival, video games level up to some point of completion. T

his idea is ingrained in the fabric of being American. But it just doesn't measure up to that Higher Reality. I feel discontent because my house isn't done, my career isn't at it's final happy point. I haven't learned to make bread, or sauder jewelry wires. I obviously am missing something. (Yes, my version of the American dream is a little...hippie-fied? I want financial security, but I want to create, and have babies, and love my dogs....oh, and world peace. Yes.)

And my very clever husband pulled a very overused, but true, cliche on me last night. The journey is the destination. Because what I really want is shalom. That utter state of contentment when your whole world is put right...only to be found in Christ. And while we get glimpses of that now, we will only fully know that on the other side of glory. I do have a destination to arrive at....I just can't get to it from here.

So I might as well enjoy my journey, and stop seeking "arrival." I think God is present in our journeys, in our learning and growing. And if He is in it, it is good. Regardless of the state of completion.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Adapting to the American Dream....

...or the benefits of being broke.

I'm having a bit of a mental freak out. I bought an Ipad yesterday. Actually, I charged an Ipad yesterday. And I'm a good Dave Ramsey graduate...we don't buy things if we can't pay cash!

Not to mention that our income has increased...which puts us from broke-college-students to really-low-middle-class. Having been raised by good missionary parents, I can do a lot with broke. And there is a certain freedom in learning to be comfortable with what you have and making it work. Knowing that big expenditures are outside your reality, and learning to make do.

But now with two college degrees and two full time incomes between us (and benefits!) I feel the need to be responsible. The Camry needs new tires. The roof needs the next three years. Christmas needs saved for, the dogs need their shots. We're getting close to that ellusive "American Dream" ... bought a house, and a dog (x2), have two cars (that generally run), and we can afford vacations. I suppose I need kids and a college fund now, huh?

Can you see how after a while this all gets really heavy? And now I've added a (gasp!) credit card bill to all this (18 months same as cash, 10% down, used my rewards points, blah blah blah).

And isn't it crazy that my sinful self can totally find ways to discount, regret, and add misery to God's blessings? We've worked so hard, prayed for determination, guidance, provision, and in His time, God has blessed us. And I feel the need to worry about it. Because I forget...that this truly is "my Father's world...and though the wrong (even in me) seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet."

So on this Sunday morning, I'm holding fast to old words...

"And the cares of this world grow blissfully dim in the light of His glory and grace."

 "I hear the Savior say, thy faith indeed is small....find in Me thine All in All."

"Jesus, be the Center..."

Because the real reality of this situation is that these are all just details, and I'm simply called to be thankful. And thankfulness doesn't require a bank balance of any size.

Friday, July 6, 2012

An ode to blue

Whole foods are important. Recognizing, and being able to pronounce the ingredients in the foods we buy at the store is important. 
But sometimes, indulgence is important.
So today, I am eating left over, reduced-for-quick-sale, Walmart bakery cupcakes with blue frosting. Blue dye-42 is an ingredient that I can pronounce, and more or less recognize. (Don't tell my mom.)
Did I mention that it is 150 degrees here? Someone set a thick, wet blanket over the cornfields of Indiana, and we're all swealtering. From the time I put my cupcakes in the car, and drove the less than ten minutes home from Walmart, my frosting had melted. It's that hot. It's frosting-melting-hot.
On a happier note: I re-entered Aldis today. Pre-surgery, I only had energy for one activity per day. If that activity was grocery shopping, I only went to one store, when I knew it would be at its emptiest, and I took a buddy. There was no shopping around, no store hopping. So I got to know Owens really well - and I made that work for our budget. But now that I'm feeling better, and happened to be at the mercy of Maribeth (who was driving me around today while I ignored the flat on my car), I went to Aldis. 
How did I forget how cheap their groceries were? Now not all groceries are created equal, but they had very happy looking blueberries and bing cherries today - for next to nothing! I got a quart of blueberries and a half pound of cherries for $3.80. (In case you wondered, they are very happily washed, and sitting in a nice, fruit tupperware in my fridge, still looking happy and cheerful.)
I have been beating this heat with fruit (and cupcakes). I seriously don't ever remember enjoying blueberries this much. Maybe you have to be sweating to death to enjoy them. So, I have the dry ingredients for muffins all mixed up, and tomorrow morning, after enjoying my lazy Saturday sleep-in, all I have to do is add my blueberries and egg, and voila! Breakfast! I seriously cannot wait. 
What are you doing to beat the heat this week?  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Project time...

My brain has been spinning. And I've been making other people's brains spin too for a few days now.

Why? I'm in project mode. I have a big, fun, slightly secret project that will be launching in September. Which means I only have TWO more months to get my act together! And this project involves so many things: food, and money, and nutrition, and time....basically all the things I'm always rambling about on here. So you won't mind if I sort out some of this info here, would you?

Oh, good. I wasn't in the mood to disappoint anyone today.

And not that it makes much difference, but we're gonna work backwards.

So - today's topic: Healthy Substitutions. We've all encountered the whole food movement, trying to eat  only foods that contain ingredients that you can name, in their simplest form. And off all the eco-friendly, green, hippie movements out there, this one might be the most legit.

And it has a bonus feature - cost! Organic food tends to cost more, but when it comes to making your own "convenience food" you can actually save a lot of money! For instance, a while back, I made my own taco seasoning out of spices I already had (which means I spent no money to make it) and I have used that seasoning for four separate meals, and probably have enough left for eight more.

So, no MSG, not much salt, and virtually free for 12 meals VS. $1.00 per packet of seasoning, and lots of chemicals I can't name.

This is a win-win.

Here's the thing though: for my September project, I need more of these ideas!! Are there things you have found that can be made easily at home that are either healthy or inexpensive, or maybe both? And these ideas need to be simple - or, if they are complicated, I need to know why you feel they are worth the time and energy.

So talk to me - what ways do you keep whole foods in your diet simply?

Thursday, June 28, 2012


It had been a while, but the other day I picked up my copy of One Thousand Gifts and had a little trouble with it.

I'm about half way through - after the concept of thankfulness as the pathway to true joy and the quest to live in the fullness of His abundance had been well established. In an entirely uncomfortable moment of honesty, Ann Voskamp details her mental chatter while watching her boys fight over breakfast chores one morning.

I almost didn't want to read this part...I prefer to think of those truth giving authors as saints who have it all figured out. And this struck just a smidge too close to home. I've had those thoughts when my dogs knock into me (and my cup of coffee) as I come into the house with my hands full. Or when that last bag of groceries breaks on the way into the house. Or when someone sits at a green light (Green means go people! Even my three year olds know this!)

But her conclusion for fighting those moments of stress was simple and surprising.

She proposes that thankfulness draws us into the Presence of God by turning our faces towards Him. He's always about us, but we seldom notice. So she thanked God for her sons. For their vivaciousness. For the curls falling into their eyes. And those words brought her into her sanctuary - out of herself - and into the Presence of the God who loves her, has a plan for her, and could soften her heart, and her words, in that moment, because He was right there with her.

Kind of an odd thought, huh? When frustrated, throwing something, rather than thanking Someone, seems the more cathartic choice.

But I'll try anything once.

So tonight, as I finished the last hour at work, warm, tired, and trying to find something to finish out those last 45 minutes with in the too-quiet office, I started thanking. Thankful today, for an air conditioned office. Thankful for a job I like most of the time. Thankful for a cool house to go home to. And the mental conversation kind of took off on its own. It grew out of me, and all of a sudden, I didn't mind being at work so much.

It seems silly, but by acknowledging where my blessings come from, Who they come from, I realligned my life against the horizon of grace. These moments and tasks seem doable in light of eternity, in light of all God has given me, of all He provides me. It's not so much an easy fix to an uncomfortable problem as much as a way of seeing the problem redefined as a gift.

It's gonna take some practice, especially in those mean red moments, to remember to practice thankfulness. But I think I want to try. I think it might make a difference.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crazy Day Display

My friends over at Crazy Day Gourmet have invited me to have a DaiseyBelle Designs display in their store!

 As of tomorrow afternoon, these, among other lovelies, will be available for sale only at Crazy Day! Of course, I'll still be posting new things online and accepting online orders. But there will also be an assortment of items for sale at Crazy Day. 

(By the way, these ladies have the BEST coffee in the world. It's true. Go buy jewelry and drink coffee.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mostly Homemade Mondays

Over here today at Frugal by Choice's Mostly Homemade Mondays link in!

Check out her blog for more mostly homemade items!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Back on the bandwagon

I promised after griping Friday night that I'd crawl back on. And I have. Yesterday was actually a little bit better, which inspired me to get back in the kitchen this morning. And in just under 2 hours, I've prepped some for the week and learned some lessons about whole foods. Shall I share?

Breakfast - fried apples and oatmeal. This is super easy and super yummy. Start coconut oil (remember those digestive benefits?) simmering in skillet. Add a smidge of brown sugar, and stir real fast so it doesn't scorch. Peal and slice an apple, sprinkle with ginger and cinnamon, and leave it. Every few minutes, toss the apples so they cook evenly. If you use an-almost-bad-apple like I did, this takes about 10 minutes. Then add oatmeal (and chia seeds) and fry.

My only complaint here was that I like my oatmeal toasted, as in, almost granola. I probably should have started this in another pan, because by the time I added the oats I was 1) hungry an 2) the skillet was too full to toast properly. 

Dinner - Taste of Home's Coffee Pot Roast. Onions, mushrooms, little salt/pepper/chili powder and a cup and half of coffee. 

Breakfast for this week - whole wheat waffles. That's the last one on top, so it looks smooshed. But they are light and fluffy and tasty. I can take these to work and re-toast them. 

Remember me mentioning the whole wheat cake mixes a couple weeks back? 
 Well, I've found that just adding whole wheat flour to a recipe that calls for white doesn't always work. The cakes were bread-like - good flavor, but stiff. So, genius thought, I started looking for recipes that actually call for whole wheat flour. I've been slowly following 100 Days of Real Food's blog and her recipe index has a ton of whole wheat recipes.

I think baking whole wheat with coconut oil also really helps to soften it up.

Whole Wheat Biscuit Mix - again from 100 Days of Real Food. This is to replace my jiffy mix...and also because we ran out of bakery bread and I'm not going shopping until this coming weekend.

Super easy - just the flour, salt, and baking powder. But now I just have to add milk (almond) and butter (or coconut oil) and we're set!

And lastly - just for fun - and because I had extra coffee left over from the pot roast - coffee ice cubes! On the right, I'm freezing my chocolate mint leaves to add to my iced coffee.

So slowly, but surely, I'll get through meals this week. I wish I had time (and money!) to just stay home and peal veggies, and cook and make bread. I'm learning how to fold all of this into a normal life, and trying hard to not feel guilty for using the easy routes sometimes. (I bought a cake at Marsh last night - I just needed icing.) I figure every real food we eat is a step in the right direction, and quite frankly, our bodies have adapted to eating processed food. So every now and then, I figure it's not gonna kill us. It sure beats stressing over things! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

My digestive soapbox...

Front Cover

*Disclaimer #1: This is a tad clinical. And whiny.
*Disclaimer #2: I work in the medical field. I have learned the hard way that when you don't know what a diagnosis is, you just guess. You do not, I repeat do not, google search it. It's scary. There will be no scary pictures here, I promise.
*Disclaimer #3 - last one - If you have a queasy stomach, this may be a little TMI.

You've been warned.

So I had my gall bladder removed about a year ago. That was supposed to be the end to all stomach pain. And it helped, a lot. But when you haven't eaten well for about 2 years (I'm a slow mover) it takes a while to get everything back to normal.

I've been reading an awesome book that talks about a lot of really severe digestive diseases. When you don't have proper nutrition or are sick constantly, you actually skim layers off of your intestines. These layers are where all the good little bacteriums live that help with digestion. Once they've been evicted, they aren't too keen for the reunion tour just because they've been invited back.

So I've been working really hard at learning to eat again, for oh the last six months. And it was working! Lots of probiotics, to get those bacteria critters back in there, lots of coconut products (which help to restore cell linings), and lots of natural foods.

And then Paul and I both got the flu during the hottest, muggiest week of the year. No one feels good when it's so hot, and having the stomach flu doesn't help! And now, after being repeatedly sick again, I can't seem to bounce back. It's as if all the progress I've made, all the cells I've grown back, have been stripped off.

I haven't eaten a full meal in about three weeks. And when I eat, all my digestive organs hurt. I've been using my heating pad at work to relax those muscles - and it's been 95 degrees outside!

And I'm not sure why I've just spilled all of this to the world, except, I'm really tired of this. I worked so hard...and now I'm back at square one. Except nothing seems to be working!

I don't know if I should find a support group, go back to the doctor, start eating only soup? I'm just tired and confused and hungry.

Tomorrow morning I'll get off my soapbox, back on my band wagon, and start, one slow step at a time, to get back to normal. It's just hard to see progress lost - to not be able to eat, even healthy things, and have to struggle back to the top. Do you know how ingrained food is in our culture?

But share with me - anyone else struggle with stuff like this? What do you do to over come it?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Sale

It's Summer Sale time! It's really the only way to beat the heat. :)

All earrings listed in DaiseyBelle Designs Summer Sale Album are between $5-$6 (which is 2-3 bucks less than normal per pair). All necklaces and the bridal line (available in other albums) are 25% off. 

Dragonflies, 6.00, 1 available
Yellow hoops, 6.00, 1 available
You can check them out here. Or look at the pictures below!
Purple flames, 5.00, 2 available


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekend weather

Just when you think a day is off to a pretty good start.... actually gets started. And it isn't at all like you thought it was going to be.

It's been one of those weeks. I realized today that despite my best attempts, the only room in my house I've managed to keep clean this week is my kitchen. And that's if you discount the lego-style stacked clean dishes that have yet to be put away. Before lunch today, I hadn't had a full meal since....Monday night? I haven't walked either of my dogs, or had a cup of coffee in a least six days. And I'm still wearing a little bit of eye liner from last night that didn't wash off in the shower this morning.

Due to Paul and I being back and forth sick we have a gotten at least a few nights of pretty good sleep. But between being sick and working overtime this week, we haven't had any awake time to spend together. (I have got to figure out how to go on dates in our dreams. If we could do this Inception style, life would be so much more efficient!)

And I don't mean to complain. Really. This is how life happens and some really cool things happened this week. We got to see Peter Pan at the Wagon Wheel. For free. We got to have Father's Day dinner at my family's, and everyone was there.

I've been keeping up with my joy calender , and it's filling up! I know I have things to be thankful for.

But some weeks just leave you feeling like you need a vacation. Just a day or two away, where things are easy. Where there isn't a disconnect between my taste buds and my intestines, and what sounds good, tastes good, and doesn't make me regret my very existence two hours later. Where time planned to spend together, gets to be spent together. No interruptions. Where you can forget about chores and bills and efficiency. Just for a bit.

And so I'm determined to find a few little escapes these next two weeks. A few moments to steal away and unwind. Before my top comes clean off! And I'm hoping to start with food that actually digests the way it should.

What do you do when life gets to be too much?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

And cranberries save the day!

Cranberry Pork Medallions Recipe
Taste of Home photo
Mondays can be a bit treacherous. When you have the weight of the atmosphere that just won't give in and rain pressing in on your scalp, and a nasty head ache that has stretched its mangy tentacles around your cranial nerves and won't let go, Monday can be especially treacherous.

So after actually navigating through my work day, I need an easy meal. But one with lots of flavor, that was as good for my soul as it was for my mouth! 

Cranberry Pork Medallions - these have been a Taste of Home rescued stand by for a while now. It's the type of meal that takes 8 minutes of prep, but can sit simmering on the stove until you're actually ready to eat. And it pairs really nicely with noodles, or rice, or steamed red potatoes (with butter and parsley!) 

And it's versatile too! You can actually spend the extra buck to get medallions that look fancy, or you can use pork tenderloin.  And you can use the actual recipe, or you can do it my way. 

Here's your process:

Brown pork in olive oil, salt, and pepper until cooked through. (Brown is kind of  misleading term. Pork never actually gets anything other than pasty white, so remember to sauce!) 

Once done, remove, set aside. In warm skillet mix 1/2 cup cranberry sauce, 2 tablespoon BBQ sauce of choice, 1 tablespoon water, 2 cloves garlic (or whatever you have left in the fridge!) and 1 teaspoon Five Spice Powder. 

Now, I don't keep that in the house, never actually heard of it. So I did a little recipe. It is so named because it is made of 5 spices that touch each of the tastes on the pallet. So I mix about 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon, cumin, salt, ginger, and mustard. It works pretty well. 

Mix well, allow to boil, then add pork. Reduce heat, simmer at least 2 minutes until thick. Then, serve, or reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to simmer for up to 30 minutes. 

The cranberry flavor isn't overly strong, but the sauce it creates is full and sweet. We had it last night with steamed potatoes and apple slices...and all in all, it was about the perfect meal. And it's even better if you're listening to Kennedy's Kitchen while you make it (which you can read all about right over here). 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

'Cause sometimes it needs sayin....


"...I don't presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the 1960s. I don't think it is something any white woman on the other end of a black woman's paycheck could ever truly understand. But trying to understand is vital to our humanity. In The Help there is one line that I truly prize:
      'Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I thought.'"
From "Too Little Too Soon" - Kathryn Stockett's autobiographical insert to The Help.

I almost didn't write this post. I'm not entirely sure what I'm saying, which comes I suppose of not really knowing what I'm thinking. But I just read The Help for the second time, and watched the movie again. And there are all of these thoughts and questions spinning through my head. Thoughts that somehow seem important. So as I sort them out here, feel free to join my inner dialogue. I'd love to know I'm not the only one pondering things!

I'm assuming most everyone knows a little something about The Help (if not, click the link). This story has such a transcendental quality to it. It's set in a very real time and place, with real people struggles. Struggles I can't even imagine...though I know my Granny was raised by a maid, at least for a few years. (Which seems so odd to me.) But, this story is about lines that separate. Lines and rules that dictate how people can think, how they can act, who they can be. And that story arch is broad enough to encompass anyone who has ever been discriminated against, for any reason.

Somewhere along the way (I'm guessing Babel?), humanity felt the need to categorize itself into levels of humanity. Whether economics or religion is the catalyst, we've found ways to justify predetermining other people's lives. It happens across races, genders, orientations, languages, and religions. It happens in the work place, at home, in church, on the street. Some variable - some uniqueness that God installed as another facet of His glory - becomes the defining characteristic on which a hatred is grown. Grown and taught, and passed down for no other reason than it allows one human to feel more humanish, more deserving of rights and blessings, than another. And where logic might step in to point out the obvious (like if someone cooks every meal I eat, maybe their use of my bathroom facilities will in no way pose a greater danger to my health), carefully leveled lies are inserted to keep the balance of hate vs. freedom in tact.

And in the face of that insanity, it's the bravery of these women that astounds me - to speak up and say how things are. They didn't write a philosophy, or a thesis. They told their stories. Shared their life. Hoping and praying that their audience would be smart enough to see the injustice for what it was. And they did this in a time where speaking out was the most dangerous thing you could do.

I grew up in a strong, albeit, slightly transplanted, southern family. We do silence real well. We can bend our backs and press on like ugly on a possum, get through anything, but we ain't gonna say much about it. Even now, when I'm most upset, I have trouble putting words around my feelings, and saying anything out loud is physically painful. And to me, this voice is the most important part of this story. These women found a voice, while the world tried to convince them they were mute.

They found a voice, and they spoke the truth.

I might not ever have the chance to be part of as big a cause as the Civil Rights Movement. But I have a voice. And I can speak the truth.

And who knows, in fifty years, someone might be grateful for the words I chose to speak.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Okay, so most of you know I've been on a "clean up the Morales diet" kick recently. I'm actually eating spirulina. I ordered from a co-op. And last week I made "from scratch" cake mixes by mixing all the dry ingredients together and sealing them up in zip lock bags to be used later (sans preservatives and such that are in the store bought variety. Because let's face it, Carly is going to eat cake. The only question is whether or not she can pronounce all of the ingredients in said cake or not.)

And after about two months of trial and error, I have come to some conclusions. Some healthy substitutions are totally worth the extra time or money. Some, are not? Are going to take more time to acclimate to? Hmm...

Some things are really fantastic and I can't believe I've gone on this long in life without them. Such as coconut products. I mean the health benefits are amazing. And coconut oil bakes up much lighter and fluffier without that sickly-nothing-natural-is-this-color of Crisco. Also washes off of measuring cups easier. Doesn't make your hands feel greasy for two hours if you happen to get a smidge on them. I'm sold. Also, coconut milk is dairy free - which means hello cereal again! (You never knew you missed something....) and it can also be added to smoothies because the juice won't curdle it. I also have coconut milk half and half but I'm not sure about it yet. Only used it once, on a bad cup of coffee, so its hard to tell for sure.

Chia seeds. Yes. Little protein-fiber buses!! And they completely dissolve in any liquid. All that nutrition in my smoothie? Or my cookies? Um, yes.

Now where I fall short here is whole wheat flour. If you're making biscuits, or cake, or anything that is supposed to be dense, holy Moses, yes. Use whole wheat flour. Every part of your body, including your taste buds, will say thank you! (It's the nonbleached factor that is key here.) But last week, I made two batches of my Lemon Sunshine cookies (from that post back in February?) - one from a white cake mix, one from a whole wheat flour-cane sugar granules homemade cake mix. And honestly, the prepackaged variety made better cookies - they were light, and fluffy, and my small group guys ate all but four of the first batch. The second, well, they were more scone-ish - heavier. And healthier - so maybe a breakfast cookie?

They were good in their own right, but certainly not comparable. They were two different cookies. And when I want something sweet and light like a cloud, I'm gonna use a pre-bought cake mix. But I figure, every once in a while....a cookie or two ain't gonna hurt too much. Besides, I did use coconut oil in 'em. :) I'll just have to make a batch and take it to work so as not to eat them all myself!

But this trial and error is a good thing I think. I want to do right by this temple - taking good care of the body God has blessed me with. But as long as I'm feeding good, clean things into most of the time, it's well equipped to deal with a little of the not-so-good stuff.

What about you? Any healthy trends you love or aren't sold out for yet?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

DBD Bridal: the Old Hollywood Collection

There's been an idea creeping in the back of my mind for some time now. This spring, that idea slowly became a reality. And then some wonderful people (Cyd and Paul) helped to finalize the details of that reality.

So today, I'm stoked to share the final product with you!!

My jewelry company, DaiseyBelle Designs is announcing the first of hopefully many bridal lines, the Old Hollywood Collection.
The Ava Gardner
The Elizabeth Taylor. 

The Audrey Hepburn

These are just a few samples of the collection. All eight pieces can be viewed here.  

The Old Hollywood Collection is a unique take on the traditional bridal look. I've incorporated several shades of white and cream colors, as well as soft pink, and bright red. I've seen more and more pops of color being worn by brides themselves this year - and what a great way to add a little self expression to a a very traditional look! The color diversity allows these pieces to serve well not only as jewelry for the bride, but also for attendants and family members, too! The styles are elegant, but a little edgy, for the bride who wants a slightly funkier look. 

I'm so excited to announce this new line! What better way to remember your wedding day, than with a pair of earrings that you can wear again and again?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dime-store Dreams

...or reflections on reading the "The Help" for the second time.

I want to read something inspiring -
A promise in a dime-store paperback -
And pull the edge against my lungs:
Suspense, and daring, and bravery,
and something fought for.

To find love fought for,
gained by footholds of mercy,
as neighbors and comrades,
made stronger alongside each other,
breathe the pesticide of inequality.
Like cheap coffee, salted, and burned through,
it opens the eyes so life is
not flesh tones, or promotion tones,
skirt tones, or loose change tones
but heart tones.


To cry breakthrough tears.
And exhale.
To claim the call to something higher.
And join the cause of the inspired.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gushy moment....

I stole this from facebook.....

You'll have to excuse me, for just a moment, as I gush sappy all over my blog.

But hey, it's my blog.

I love this man.

A lot. 

He is my inspiration to be brave. 

He's my sense of humor, when I've lost mine completely (sticky penguins get stuck). 

He inspires me to create, but to stretch out to the very edges of what I am capable, and come back with something amazing.

He listens to a lot of sciency cooking jargon that means nothing to him, but appreciates that this research towards a healthier lifestyle makes me feel better. 

His arms are where I find home, and he looks pretty darn good in all the new clothes he bought for his fancy new job. ;-) 

He prays for me, and with me, and over me. 

And I don't think I'll ever tire of this rockabilly fairy tell I've been blessed with. 

(The end. Y'all can resume eating now.) 

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I still sometimes have those throw back to middle school moments. The ones where no matter how good your grades were, you still felt gangly, awkward, and in awe of girls with smooth, shiny hair that weren't afraid to wield an eye lash curler.

I also occasionally have throw back moments to my first year of marriage, being broke, and either bumming product off my mom, or scraping together a semblance of a beauty regimen from the Dollar General.

Y'all have those moments, too right?

Well, Saturday, I stared both of those insecure visages in the face and... spent $200.00 on new make up. Between graduation and new jobs, it was time to stock up on items you have to buy in bulk (next week, I'm stocking my pantry!). Paul needed jeans, and I needed skin care....because I've been using St. Ives lotion on my face since March. But it's been such a long time since I bought any decent make up or skin care, and my face is so sensitive, and runs red, that I was sort of at a loss as to what to do.

Enter Lush. A couple of girls in my small group swore by it - girls who always look good, but not diva good (girls who also value sleep in the morning as much as I do!) - so that's where I went.

There's a Lush counter at Macy's, but best I can tell they are based in Great Britian. I have never bought make up from a cosmetics counter in a department store. It was a good experience - one every woman should have, I think. It's rather...confidence boosting. But I digress.

So, skin care, for red oily skin. The nice lady at the Lush counter helped me try on several things and I ended up with:
Fresh Farmacy facial cleanser, Vanishing Cream moisterizer, Tea Tree Toner, and Jackie Oates  color supplement (for normal folk). Oh, and a lip scrub. This all came to about a hundred bucks....but the quality is top notch. I'm loving it, and plan to go back for their body care items as well. Also, because the quality is high, so little is required...this stash will last me at least 8 months. Not too bad when I buy new Walmart stuff every month or so because my skin quits tolerating it or I get bored with what I have.

I also needed color products that stuck, so, for about another hundred I got two Mabelline 24 hour lip sticks, two Essie gel polishes, 2 MAC eye shadows, one paint pot, and one eye liner. All of which lasted through my 100 degree photo shoot this afternoon, and eight preK kids in Sunday school tonight. I'm sold.

(And to top this whole experience off, my hubby bought a TV (for graduation) that I could actually curl up and sit in, assuming it wasn't a flat screen panel with less than a 3 inch depth. Seriously, I'm 71 inches tall, and it's 60 inches across.)

So ladies, take it from me, the hippie look, while eco friendly can be refined ever so slightly, for a more polished gypsy look that doesn't take forever to apply, and doesn't sweat off!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Before good hair products were discovered....


There are some women in my life that I couldn't do my job, my marriage, my house, or my faith without.
Cyd gets the I'm a model award for this shot!

Some that know exactly what to say and when not to say it. (And who will love the caption on the above picture!) 

Who make life increasingly more enjoyable, and make this learning experience that life is actually learnable.

A cord of three strands....we need many of these in life, yes?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Picture perfect moments

So Monday night, I left this....for a few go out and see my yard via camera lens. Our house came with lovely raised flower beds, full of gorgeous flowers, that I neglected last year in lieu of trying not to double over in pain while standing. (Have I mentioned yet that I love eating and that God has been SO good??? I'm amazed at the healing qualities He built into our bodies. But that's for another post.)

So given the rubble state of my back yard, I needed some help! I hate yard work. I really do. But I'm hoping that like cooking, which I used to despise, enough practice will turn chore into joy. So with some help from a green-handed (not just thumb!) friend, who actually enjoys getting dirt under her fingernails, these overgrown flower beds were tackled.

And I took a moment to step out into the breeze and admire our hard work.....
clematis on back deck
 ... and play with my puppies.
Sierra pink tougue
excited Kona

rose bush, Cyd bought me


red roses

grape vine, hiding behind a/c unit                    

pretty painted irises

brilliant rose bud

pink rose bush


purple star light

doesn't it look like it's worshipping?

Because sometimes, you slow time, by fully stepping into it's current.
climbing roses


so, I really like these ones

rocking chair on porch

baby squash, for church

I love this color contrast

lavender I thought died last year


If you get simple beauty and nought else,
You get about the best thing God invents.
-- Robert Browning. 
Filling it with yourself, and forcing focus. Forcing sight, and smell, and touch. So as to not miss anything. To taste every gift, every moment. At least that's what I'm learning from One Thousand Gifts.                                                                                 What moments have you stepped into this week, to soak up and enjoy?