The Importance of a Full Pantry and a Good Attitude

Full Pantry and Good AttitudeDo you ever just wake up overwhelmed? I do.

The first thought on my mind this morning was not one of gratitude, but rather, “I have SO much to do!” And instead of taking a moment to re-focus, I proceeded with my day, hurrying and grumbling about what lay ahead.

After a few hours of work and over an hour of house cleaning, I was tired. And grumbling. And well, more and more overwhelmed.

Then it hit me. We had nothing for lunch.

I was tempted to order takeout in that moment and continue my grumbling, but I stopped and thought about something I had read in Deliver Me from Negative Self-Talk Expanded Edition: A Guide to Speaking Faith-Filled Words. Paraphrasing, of course, but the author says at one point in the book that we often miss the blessings in front of us when we’re wishing for something else.

(The above link is not an affiliate link. I’m just a happy reader wanting to pass along a good read.)

I stopped and looked around, thinking about the blessings all around me. And my mood shifted to more of a can-do attitude.

So I looked through the pantry and found a package of red pepper corn chowder from Frontier Soups. Once that was one the stovetop, I began mixing up some quick biscuits. Those went in the oven, and lunch was in the works.

I felt better and grateful. And when my husband came up the stairs and said “Wooo! It smells great up here!” I felt happy.

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  —Isaiah 40:31

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Cinnamon Bun Muffins

Cinnamon Bun MuffinsLast night, my husband was rummaging through our refrigerator. Frustrated with finding nothing of note, he asked, “Don’t we have anything sweet?”

No, we sure didn’t. My heart sank as I realized I hadn’t cooked any treats for us lately.

I decided to do something about that today during my break from work. I was excited to try to this recipe for Cinnamon Bun Muffins as I had recently purchased palm shortening. Although fairly common in paleo recipes, this particular type of shortening was new to me.

Unfortunately for the muffins, I was distracted. Thinking about everything under the sun–along with the muffins–I happily began gathering the flour, eggs, and such. Mixing it all up and filling the muffin tins, I was pretty proud of it all.

And then it hit me. I had forgotten to add the vanilla extract. Seriously.

I didn’t want to throw it all in the trash, so I put the topping on the muffins and set the pan in the oven. I just hoped it would be edible.

The smell while the muffins were cooking was just wonderful. And you know what? The muffins still taste yummy. I can only imagine how great they would taste if I hadn’t forgotten an ingredient.

The moral of the story is “Never bake when you’re tired or distracted.” And even if you make a mistake, sometimes everything will turn out OK.

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Easy DIY Lip Scrub

Easy DIY Lip ScrubThis winter has been tough on my skin. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit older now, or perhaps possible peri-menopause. No matter the cause, my typical beauty routine isn’t working.

While I have a body scrub and lotion, I was lacking something for my lips. And boy, did I need something! No matter the amount of lip balm I applied, my lips were rough and bleeding. So I decided to try something new.

I didn’t want to spend money on an expensive lip scrub, so I did a bit of searching and found this recipe. With all ingredients from my pantry, how could I go wrong?

Mixing up the recipe was quick and easy. The only change I made was to use coconut oil instead of olive oil.

I massaged the scrub on my lips for about 20-30 seconds. And the result? It worked! I admit that I will most likely have to repeat it within a few days, but I think it will make a huge difference over time.

And with at least a few more months of winter ahead, I will definitely need it. Here’s to frugal beauty care!

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Spicy Slow Cooker Soup

Spicy Slow Cooker SoupIt was a super-busy holiday season with gifts and work and family and get-togethers and baking and fun. The post holiday season let-down has been rather relaxing, though, and the leftover party food has provided us with many days of meals.

But the party’s over, and with my work hours greatly diminished, I need to cook frugally.

Onward, brave housekeepers! To the slow cooker!

Today was a somewhat slow day workwise, so I had some time to throw together a spicy soup, all with ingredients from our kitchen.

Here’s the basics for the soup. Feel free to take this as inspiration and change according to your own tastes or what you have on hand. Frugal cooking isn’t frugal if you have to go out and buy ingredients, right?

Just a fair warning, this turned out quite spicy.

Spicy Slow Cooker Soup

  1. Cook bacon and save the grease to use later.
  2. Bake chicken tenderloins, cutting into small pieces.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, throw in a good helping of sliced peppers and onions. Add some heaping tablespoons of bacon grease and ghee.
  4. Spice the chicken, peppers, and onions with habanero-infused salt, cumin, herbs and spices blend, onion powder, and chipotle seasoning.
  5. Stick the dish with the chicken, peppers, and onions back in the oven to cook a bit more. Take it out when the peppers and onions are cooked, and everything  is smelling great.
  6. Add to the slow cooker a drained can of pinto beans, a can of Ro-Tel, crumbled bacon, and a can of regular diced tomatoes. Stir in the chicken and pepper mix.
  7. Cook on low for the day. Enjoy!

Hubby seemed to love this soup! He went back for seconds!


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Merry Christmas! (And a Quick Recipe)

Christmas KatnissI know that many of you are rushing to finish your last minute holiday preparations, but I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas this year.

And if you’re needing a quick homemade gift or just a dessert for the family, here it is:

Quick Pecan and Marshmallow Holiday Bark

If you have mini-marshmallows, then you’re ahead of the game! Otherwise, cut a bunch into pieces. Mix the cut marshmallows in with chopped pecans (or any other type of nut you have on hand) to prevent the marshmallows from sticking to each other. Then melt chocolate and mix with coconut oil just to make the chocolate last a bit longer. Combine that chocolate-y goodness in with the marshmallows and pecans and spread into a greased pan. Cut when firm and eat!

I will be having a quiet day at home this year, but I hope that you enjoy your holiday.

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Chocolate Caramel Popcorn, or Salvaging a Failed Kitchen Experiment

Chocolate Caramel PopcornDuring one of my daily Facebook-ing sessions, I happened to see a recipe for caramel chocolate bark posted on a company’s website. It looked so easy that I thought I must try it for the holidays. Easy, sweet, and awesome! What could go wrong?

Well, it was ok, but it wasn’t great. And it certainly wasn’t worth serving to others. My husband gladly ate the result, but what to do with the remaining caramel?

Google search to the rescue!

We have plenty of popcorn kernels in our pantry, and so I decided to give this recipe a try.

I used the basis of the recipe and made a few changes based on what I had on hand.

I popped the popcorn and mixed it with two handfuls of chopped pecans as well as a small handful of small chocolate morsels. The caramel was poured over this mixture and put in the oven as specified in the recipe. From here, the only change I made was stirring the mixture every 5 minutes while it was in the oven.

The result? Honestly good! Very gooey and delicious, with the right amount of crunch from the nuts. My only possible change for making it in the future would be to sprinkle a bit of salt over it at the end. Sweet and easy, perfect for the holidays!

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Cinnamon Brunch Cake

Cinnamon Brunch CakeSometimes it seems like my little efforts at home are worthless.

Baking and cooking and cleaning seem small things, easily forgotten as the world becomes more and more chaotic. We all grasp onto what we can, but often it seems like the center cannot hold. In the midst of all of the awful news and the prayers and the pleas for peace, it seems like these things at home have no meaning.

And yet…

I open my Bible and find the only One who can bring peace. He is the center that remains constant, the only Light for our lives.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

And I get up and do what I can for my family, to bring some measure of pleasure to their day.

When my husband left for a meeting, I decided that I would bake a cake and greet him with some yummy smells. This cake recipe seemed pretty easy, so I set to work in the kitchen.

Here are the minor changes I made when mixing up the cake:

  • As I did not have non-stick spray, I just melted a big dab of coconut oil in the pan and spread it around. I did not bother to pour off any excess, which seemed to work just fine with this cake.
  • I added chopped pecans for a crunch.
  • I did not measure the topping ingredients or the melted butter. (I was generous with both.)

This made a wonderfully moist and simple cake for my husband to enjoy. And the house smelled delightful.

When all we have left are prayers and family and home and Jesus, then maybe that is when we truly find our riches. And maybe our little efforts at home still have meaning. At least I hope so.

Praying for Paris, Beirut, and so many other places…

Graham Cracker Toffee Crunch, or Overcoming Fears in the Kitchen

Graham Cracker Toffee CrunchDoes anyone else have those dishes that you just avoid making…

Mine would be anything related to homemade caramel or toffee. Yes, I have my own kitchen fears, those dishes that seem to loom larger than life, just taunting me with my own past mistakes.

Back when I was a teenager and fresh out of home-ec class, I decided to take upon myself the task of making dessert for a special dinner when my father’s boss would be visiting. Yes, indeed-y, I was determined and courageous.

I found this delectable recipe in a magazine that involved making homemade caramel, which was absolutely necessary for the recipe. My mother encouraged me to do a simpler dessert, but I wouldn’t listen. No sir, I was confident in my ability. So we gathered the ingredients, and I set to work about an hour before dinner was to begin.

You can probably guess how this turned out, right?

I burned everything. It was awful…I mean, awful. And living in a rural community, we couldn’t just run out to a grocery store or a bakery. My mother hurried to prepare something else while I stood dejected.

I suppose I learned several valuable lessons that day, but I also developed a fear of those sorts of dishes that would last quite awhile. I never wanted to smell that awful burnt smell again, so I just avoided making those dishes. A good plan, for awhile.

But lately, with the onset of middle age and just a ton of shake-ups in my personal life, I decided to give it a try again. I’d been seeing a recipe for Graham Cracker Toffee Crunch floating around the internet. As we had an unused box of graham crackers in our kitchen, I thought this would be a good time to face my fears.

To the kitchen! Honestly, it was pretty much all bravado. I felt more like the following quote from The Princess Bride:

Miracle Max: Have fun stormin’ da castle.

Valerie: Think it’ll work?

Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.

I was careful, very careful. And you know what? It turned out just fine. No awful burnt smell, no dejection. It was a quick and easy cooking experience, and it used up some old graham crackers, so frugal too.

Would I make it again? Yes, I sure would. I think it would make a quick and easy treat for the holidays. And we all need easy and yummy treats for the coming months, right?

Plus I can say that I made it, despite my fears. I stormed the castle of toffee and came out alive.

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