She works with willing hands.

Vegetable Beef Soup

I always keep chuck roast in my freezer.  I use it often and for a variety of purposes.  It is a wonderfully flavorful cut of meat – full of marbling and perfect for cold weather cooking.

Yesterday I took out a sweet little baby chuck roast (only about 1.5 – 2 pounds) and thought, “now, what am I going to do with you?”

Too small for a pot roast or beef stew, I needed to concoct a dish that wouldn’t require a ton of meat – a meal where the chuck roast could play second fiddle because that little hunk of beef wasn’t made for the spotlight.  And then it came to me!  Vegetable beef soup.

This soup is so comfy and so yummy that I ate a big bowl of it right before I went to bed last night.  (I actually ate my bowl of soup while I was sitting in bed.  Just don’t tell anybody.)

Here’s what you need to make it:

veg beef soup ingredients

That’s vegetable oil peeking out from behind the garlic and bay leaves hiding behind the celery stalks.  Bay leaves are shy, with their subtle background flavor.  Much like my mini chuck roast, they never steal the show, but they’re a valuable player.

You also need two of these:

beef bouillon cubes

Plus salt and black pepper, to taste.

Start by cutting your beef into roughly two inch chunks.  I’m not nuts about this, but I always remove the larger pieces of fat, leaving the thinner marbling throughout.

chuck

The fat adds flavor, baby.

Now dice one large sweet onion.  I had a huge onion, so I used half of it.

dice sweet onion

Next locate your prettiest stock pot and heat two tablespoons of vegetable over high heat.  When the oil is good and hot, place your beef into the pot in a single layer.  Brown your beef on one side and then flip.

Once it’s looking nice and brown on both sides, throw in your onions.

browned chuck

That’s a masterpiece of a photo if I ever saw one.

Give it a stir.  Then measure two tablespoons of minced garlic and throw that in, too.  Give it another stir and let your beef, onions and garlic hang out a few minutes (maybe 2-3) and make friends, stirring frequently.

Measure one cup of beef broth,

1 cup beef broth

and pour it into your pot, scraping the bottom to dislodge any brown bits that are stuck there.  Then crack open your can of diced tomatoes and pour the whole thing into the pot.  Now grab the rest of your beef stock and pour it all in, too.

pour in broth

Measure one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and add it to the pot.

Then measure one-half of a tablespoon of Italian seasoning,

italian seasoning

and stir it in with your other ingredients.

Throw in two bays leaves.

Finally, unwrap two beef bouillon cubes and throw ’em in, too.

Bring your ingredients to a boil and then lower the heat to a low simmer.  Cover the pot and allow it to cook for an hour-and-a-half.  This gives the chuck roast plenty of time to get nice and soft.

While it’s cooking, chop a handful of baby carrots.  Do you like that precise measurement?  It’s about this many:

handful carrotsThen dice two celery stalks,

celery stalks

and two small potatoes.

cut potatoes

The operative word here is small.  Large potatoes will soak up too much of the broth.

After one-and-a-half hours, stir your soup and throw in the carrots, celery and potatoes.  Open and drain the canned green beans, corn and black-eyed peas.  Add them all to the soup and stir.

Cover the pot and simmer the soup on low for another hour.  The soup is done when the veggies are soft but not mushy.

After it’s done cooking, season the soup with salt and black pepper, to taste.  Add a little salt and give it a taste.  Then add a little more and taste again.  There’s nothing worse than over-salting a pot of soup that you just spent the whole afternoon preparing.

Garnish with a bit of grated parmesan cheese.  I planned to garnish with a little fresh parsley too but then I had a blonde moment and forgot – but I didn’t even miss it!

veg beef soup

This soup is so yummy and so comfy I’m getting sleepy just writing about it.  I’m going to go eat a bowl in bed and then turn out the lights.  Nighty night.

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1.5 – 2 lb. chuck roast

1 large sweet onion

1 tbsp. minced garlic

32 fl. oz. beef broth

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 tbsp. worshtershire sauce

1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning

2 bay leaves

2 beef bouillon cubes

handful baby carrots

2 celery stalks

2 small potatoes

14.5 oz. canned green beans

14.5 oz. canned whole kernel corn

14.5 oz. canned black-eyed peas

grated parmesan cheese (optional)

fresh parsley (optional for garnish)

What I’m Reading Right Now

Have I told you that I bore easily?  (Not exactly in an attention deficit sort of way, but more of an ‘I have varied interests and a hard time focusing on a single thing’ sort of way.)

As most writers do, I love to read.

(And yes, I just called myself a writer.  Maybe I’m more of an aspiring writer.  Or a wannabe writer.  Either way, I spend a portion of each day writing, so I can claim the title, right?  As long as I promise not to take myself too seriously?)

Books are good for my soul – a quiet retreat from the mundanity and stressors of life.  God’s Word (the Bible) is of course, for me, foremost among those soul-nurturing books.

But I also love myself a good cookbook.  Or a good book about food.  Or a good theological book.  And right now I just happen to be reading all three.

1.  The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

This woman is my soul sister.  (She just doesn’t know it and she might be creeped out by me saying that.)

pw dinnertime

Seriously, I adore Ree Drummond.  As I’ve shared before, I learned to cook by repeatedly preparing nearly every recipe on her uber blog The Pioneer Woman.  Her clear, step-by-step recipes are down-home yet interesting, and her style is laid back and comfy.  We would certainly be friends if we were to one day meet.

This book is classic Pioneer Woman, and I love it.

My friend Jenn loaned me her copy to peruse before I purchased my own.  [And here I must parenthetically add that I have awesome, wonderful, lovely friends who know me well and often loan or gift me books.  Thoughtful and encouraging friends also nurture my soul.  Thank you ladies.  I love ya.]

2.  Bread & Wine – a love letter to life around the table with recipes by Shauna Niequist

bw

This book was a gift from my friend Jaime.  I’m a few chapters in, and feeling thoroughly inspired by the author’s “Cooking Club” of girlfriends who gather around a table monthly to share a home cooked (often themed) meal.  They each prepare a dish (appetizer, main course, sides and dessert) and often bring their wee ones with them.  Schlepping carseats, coats, hot dishes and serving utensils, they meet around the table and share food – and life – celebrating births and mourning losses.  They eat and love.

Those are my kind of people.  And this is my kind of book.

3.  Knowing God by J.I. Packer

knowing god

Want your mind blown?

Then read this book.

This masterpiece by theologian J.I. Packer will transform the way you view God.  Written for the common Christian, Packer manages to communicate immense biblical truths in clear and understandable ways, no seminary degree required.

This book is so rich and so wonderful, I could read each chapter over and over, and some days I do.

Lake George-ing It

I hope y’all had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Jersey Boy, the littles and I had the pleasure of spending our Thanksgiving holiday on the banks of glorious Lake George, New York.  It was our first time there, and wow, is it gorgeous.

We stayed here:

Photo via http://www.thesagamore.com/.
Photo via thesagamore.com.

That’s the Sagamore – a historic island resort that’s straight out of the movies – with idyllic lodges right on the water, a 10,000 square foot indoor rec center featuring all manner of entertainment, and an Italian restaurant where the chef cooks a mean short rib.

It was a family reunion of sorts, hosted by Jersey Boy’s generous uncle, and wow, did we feel spoiled.

I didn’t wash a single dish, cook a single meal, or scrub a single pair of grass-stained pants.  And I spent nap time each day in front of the fireplace with my nose in this (a gift from a friend):

breadandwine

It was positively glorious.

Thanksgiving dinner involved a ridiculous spread, the highlight of which was a chilled mountain of crab claws, ginormous shrimp, and raw oysters.  The seafood was so yummy, in fact, that I barely touched my turkey.

The following day, while Jersey Boy played half court basketball with his much younger cousins (doing his best to show them that thirty-seven-year-olds still have game), my eldest climbed the walls (true to form).

wall climbing

How much do you think I’d have to pay someone to install one of these in my family room?  He needs all of the energy-burning activities he can get.

We got all hopped up on sugar during the gingerbread house making event.

sugar3

sugar1

sugar2

Gum drops can do some crazy things to a kid.

And we even got to see the big man (his wife, too).

santa

It was a Happy Thanksgiving filled with extended family, rarely seen friends, decadent food and abundant thanks.  I wish we could do it all again already.

adios lake george

Thanks for the memories, Lake George.  You were gorgeous.

Cookbook Love – Lemon & Salt by Ashton Keefe

I love me a good cookbook, and this one is great:

2

Yes, I borrowed it from the library (which I also love).  I bring my littles to the library at least once a week and let them scour the shelves for anything that piques their interest (age-appropriately, of course).  It brings me back to when I was a wee one and Mimi let me wander our tiny public library for what felt like hours, exploring all manner of genre.

Books are one of my love languages, and this cookbook gives me the warm and fuzzies.

Lemon & Salt – a modern girl’s guide to ordinary revelry is as much about the photography as the recipes.  The pictures are so pretty, in fact, I think I’m buying a copy to display in my kitchen.  I mean, those tomatoes on the cover look so yummy I want to lick the course salt right off of them.

cover

But my favorite part is the food.  With approachable recipes featuring easily procured ingredients, the dishes are, in the words of the chef-author, “unfussy, practical and memorable.”  That’s my kind of cooking.

Here is the table of contents:

contents

Because who doesn’t want to “treat yo’self?”

This is at the top of my “recipes to try” list:

5

That salmon is so darn pretty.  And I want to stick my finger straight into that pea smash and give it a taste.  Nom nom nom.

Other notable recipes include Date Night Carbonara (when you’re looking for a “sexy weeknight dinner”), Warm Herb Potato Salad (perfect for my mayo-averse Jersey Boy) and an Easy Mixed Berry Jam (which I may just jar and store up for winter).

If you have a modern girl to buy for this Christmas, gift her this cookbook.  With recipes that are easy, elegant, accessible and impressive (all at the same time), it’s sure to give her the warm and fuzzies.

[Once again for the avoidance of doubt, no one paid me a dime for this review.  But I suppose I would accept payment for reviewing cookbooks if someone forced the job upon me.  It wouldn’t be a terrible way to make a buck or two.] 🙂

 

Board Book Obsession – Pride and Prejudice

Baby Girl and I stumbled upon this board book at the library, and let’s just say I’m obsessed.

board book

Let me preface this by saying that I may or may not spend the occasional Saturday night watching the 2005 film adaptation of this classic novel (starring Keira Knightly) on repeat.

I said may or may not.  You’ll never know for sure, so don’t judge me.

This board book is the epitome of adorable.  I kind of want to kiss it…or at least cuddle it a bit.

It is a counting book by Jennifer Adams, with precious illustrations by Alison Oliver, and given its board book-ish nature, it’s probably best suited for the three-and-under crowd.

Here are a few of my favorite pages.

Mr. Darcy is looking quite dapper, no?

page 2

The page featuring “4 marriage proposals” kills me.

page 4

That Lizzy was quite the lady to be desired.  Immense were her charms.

And what girl wouldn’t love 9 fancy ball gowns?

page 9

I’m partial to number 6 myself.  It would show just the right amount of shoulder, without being scandalous.  The floral embellishments keep it looking demure.

If you’re on the hunt for a Christmas gift for a toddler girl, look no further.  Little Miss Austen: Pride & Prejudice is the sweetest version of Jane Austen’s classic tale that I ever did see, and is certain to captivate that wee one.

[For the avoidance of doubt, I received no compensation or freebies for this review.  I just loved the book!]

Today I Am Thankful

Today I am thankful for the piles of crunchy brown leaves covering my lawn – begging to be raked and bagged – because it means I have a yard where my kids can run.

Today I am thankful for the mountain of shoes, jackets, backpacks, papers and books that adorn my mudroom – strewn about and begging to be organized – because it means my kids have everything they need for school.

Today I am thankful for the dishes that sit unwashed in my dull sink – longing to be washed, scrubbed and shined – because it means my family has full bellies and fresh water.

Today I am thankful for the chip in my manicure – reminding me that even the gel polishes only look great for a few days – because it means I have the time and means to afford small luxuries for myself.

Today I am thankful for my imperfect belly and stretch marked hips – telling me I’m less than perfect – because it means my body grew to accommodate three full term babies.

Today I am thankful for a husband to argue with – making me feel like we still have trouble communicating after all these years – because it means I have a dedicated spouse with whom I have the opportunity to share my life.

Today I am thankful for tense relationships with extended family members – discouraging me when things aren’t easy and perfect – because it means our loved ones are still alive.

Today I am thankful for my strong-willed child – challenging me daily with his boldness and energy – because it means one day (I pray) he will be a man of strong character.

Today I am thankful for this imperfect nation with its partisan politics – frustrating me every time I read the news and ponder America’s future – because it means today I am still free.

And above all, today I am thankful for my all-powerful, all-knowing God – who sent his son to the cross to suffer a brutal sinner’s death in my stead – because the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Amnion Pregnancy Center’s Annual Fundraising Banquet

Last Thursday night Jersey Boy and I attended Amnion’s annual fundraising banquet.

amnion

There we are with dear family friends, and I have to say, my Jersey Boy looked pretty dashing (even after spending his wee morning hours dealing with flight delays on his way back from a business trip to Texas).

As I shared with you last week, fourteen years ago I received post-abortion counseling through Amnion.  All of their services, including ultrasounds, medical support services, counseling and sex education are provided free of charge, regardless of the recipient’s ability (or inability) to pay.

The folks at Amnion are men and women doing God’s work.  Every day when they head to the office, travel to a school to present RealEd (their relationship education program) or call a client over the weekend to give her emotional support, they are participating in an invisible spiritual battle.  Because – do not be deceived – there is a war being waged.  And Amnion’s employees and volunteers are the hands and feet on the front lines of saving precious lives.

The guest speaker was a woman named Carol Everett, a former abortion clinic owner and director whose clinics performed 35,000 abortions during her tenure.  She left the abortion industry in 1983 after a dramatic conversion to Christianity.  Carol’s personal story of transformation is a compelling example of God’s mercy and forgiveness, boldly illustrating Christ’s redemptive power over sin and death.

And while Carol transparently spoke of her personal grief and pain after aborting her own child in 1973 (shortly after the passage of Roe v. Wade), most of her talk focused on the business of abortion.

Because – do not be deceived – abortion is a business.

And there is big money to be made.

After she had an abortion, Carol learned how lucrative the industry is for abortionists and the clinics where they practice, and she set a personal goal to become a millionaire by selling abortions to vulnerable women and girls.  She ran a chain of four abortion clinics where she financially benefitted from each abortion sold.  And with each child killed, Carol’s pocketbook swelled.  She explained the sales pitch that begins the moment that a scared girl calls an abortion clinic and a “telephone counselor” answers the call, with the goal always being to sell that girl an abortion.  Following a carefully crafted script, the “counselors” are trained to convince the girl that abortion is her only viable option.

Overcome objections and make the sale.

Bring in the cash.

I want to be a millionaire.

Those were Carol’s goals.

This past summer average Americans got a window into the business of abortion when undercover videos were released featuring Planned Parenthood execs haggling over the price of aborted baby organs.  In one of the videos, Dr. Mary Gatter, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Medical Directors’ Council President, was captured saying, “Why don’t you start by telling me what you’re used to paying,” when asked how much money she would expect to receive from someone buying fetal tissue.  After a bit of negotiation, Dr. Gatter suggested that $100 per specimen would not be enough and concluded, “Let me just figure out what others are getting, and if this is in the ballpark, then it’s fine, if it’s still low, then we can bump it up.  I want a Lamborghini.

Negotiate the highest price.

Bring in the cash.

I want a Lamborghini.

It is bone chilling.

It is the business of abortion.  And with a first trimester abortion costing up to $1,500 (according to Planned Parenthood’s website), and second and third trimester abortions costing much more, there is serious money to be made.

Small non-profit organizations like Amnion Pregnancy Center are waging war against the business of abortion.  Amnion provides hope with its free services to vulnerable girls facing unintended pregnancies.  They are fighting a spiritual battle.  They are doing God’s work.  And I’m ready to put on my combat boots and join them.

Amnion Pregnancy Center’s Annual Fundraising Banquet

amnion

Next Thursday, November 12th, Jersey Boy and I plan to attend Amnion Pregnancy Center’s Annual Fundraising Banquet.

As I shared in My Abortion Story, fourteen years ago I had an abortion, and I received post-abortion counseling at Amnion Pregnancy Center.  My counseling sessions were completely free of charge, with a professional counselor who aborted her own child many years prior.  She knew my pain in a deep, personal way, and she lovingly showed me that I was not alone.  She also helped me understand that because of God’s love, Jesus died an undeserved death so that the sin of my abortion could be forgiven.  Through my counselor, Amnion shared the truth of the Gospel with me, and I am indebted to their cause.

I was thrilled when Amnion recently published My Abortion Story in their quarterly newsletter.  You can read it here.

All of Amnion’s “services are confidential and free of charge, regardless of age, race, religion, marital status, or financial situation.”  Amnion provides medical support services to individuals facing unintended pregnancies, high-quality counseling, and education to local schools and churches through RealEd – a program that encourages and equips young people to critically consider sex and relationships.

This year’s fundraising banquet will feature speaker Carol Everett, a former abortion clinic owner and director who left the abortion industry in the 1980’s after becoming a follower of Christ.  Today Carol uses her faith in Jesus to reveal the darkness of abortion.

Tickets to the event are still available and can be obtained here.

This is my first year attending the fundraising banquet, and I’m excited to see what the evening will bring.  And of course, I’ll blog about it afterwards.

Now go enjoy this gorgeous fall weekend!

Much love to you,

Unbored Housewife

Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Carrots & Parsnips

I roast a whole chicken once or twice a month.  It’s crazy easy, and I’m always left with enough chicken for at least one night of leftovers.  Because some days, this unbored housewife just needs to serve leftovers.  Seriously, I just prepared an amazing meal last night!  You need to eat again already??

Sorry, I’m talking to myself again.

Back to the chicken.  If you add veggies to your roasting pan, it’s a complete meal, and seriously yummy.  My kids always fuss over who gets the biggest piece of that gorgeously golden brown, crispy and flavorful chicken skin.

chicken skin

Mmmmmm.

Here’s how to make it.

Start with a whole chicken, and remove and discard the bag of giblets that sometimes comes stuffed in the bird’s cavity.  Now pull out and discard the plastic pop-up timer.  Those things are fairly useless.

pop up timer

Next grab this stuff:

this stuff

Those are a few handfuls of baby potatoes, baby carrots, one Vidalia (or sweet) onion, fresh garlic and a parsnip.  If you’re unfamiliar with parsnips, get to know them.  They’re like a carrot, only sweeter, and they’re delicious when roasted.  Of course, you can use more than one parsnip – I recommend it, in fact.  But I only had one of these babies lingering in my produce drawer.  Simply guesstimate how many veggies you’ll need to roast based on how many mouths you’ll have to feed.

Now grab some fresh rosemary and thyme.  I snipped this straight from my little backyard garden.

rosemary and thyme

If you don’t have fresh herbs, go ahead and use dried.  I won’t judge.

Now rinse your baby potatoes and carrots and throw them into a bowl.  Quarter your onion and throw that in, too.  Then peel four garlic cloves and crush them just a bit to release their aroma.  Peel your parsnip (just like a carrot) and cut it into smallish chunks.  Throw it all into your bowl and grab this:

lemon olive oil

If you don’t have lemony olive oil, grab regular extra virgin olive oil.  Drizzle the oil on top of your veggies, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

s&p to taste

Now toss it all to coat well.

Next place your chicken into a large roasting pan (I use a Pyrex pan) and drizzle the chicken with olive oil.  Halve a fresh lemon.  If you’re using regular extra virgin olive oil, squeeze one-half of the lemon on top of the bird.  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and black pepper.  Now stuff both lemon halves into the cavity.

lemon into cavity

Arrange your veggies around your bird, and pour the oil at the bottom of the bowl onto the chicken.  Don’t waste that goodness!

oil in bowl

Now grab your rosemary and thyme, strip off the leaves, and sprinkle them on top of the chicken and veggies.  Stuff a few sprigs into the cavity.

chicken with herbs

Pop your pan into a 425 degree oven for approximately an hour and a half (stirring your veggies a few times so that they don’t stick and burn), or until the chicken is cooked through but still moist in the center.  (This depends largely on the size of your bird.)

When you remove it from the oven, your chicken’s skin should be a gorgeous golden brown.  Loosely cover the bird with foil and let it sit for at 10 minutes before carving.  Then dig in.  Yum yum.

roast chicken

INGREDIENTS

whole chicken

baby potatoes

baby carrots

1 sweet onion

4 cloves of garlic

1-2 parsnips

rosemary

thyme

extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon

salt & black pepper, to taste

What I’ve Learned About Blogging

I’ve been blogging for almost nine months now, and I’m still very much in learning mode.  I started this blog without a budget, so after choosing and purchasing my domain name, I created this site by myself with WordPress (rather than hiring a professional to build it for me).  Far from a tech whiz, I know enough to keep things functional and basic.

Despite my newbie-ness, from time to time, I receive a message from a dear reader asking me for advice about blogging.  And I have to say, I almost feel silly rendering said advice, because I’m so new to blogdom myself.  Nonetheless, I have picked up a few encouraging tidbits along the way.  So here is what I’ve learned about blogging, nearly nine months in:

1.  Write about what you love.

If you’re not passionate about your topic, it will show.  When a post starts feeling clunky and forced, I bag it and move on to a topic that feels more like me.  Speaking about focusing on what you love…

2.  You also need to love to write.

Unless you have a photography based blog, most of blogging is writing.  So if you’re anything like me, and delight in the art of weaving words together, go for it – and write!  Like all skills, writing must be practiced if you want to be any good at it.  So…

3.  Write consistently.

Set a goal (once per week, twice per week) and try to stick to it.  I do my best, but you know…life happens.  Some days I’m just thankful if my kids’ teeth are brushed and we all have on clean underwear.

4.  Consider it a marathon and not a sprint.

You may have a few posts that do well and go mildly viral-ish, but it takes a lot of writing and time to cultivate an audience.  Don’t get frustrated if building your readership is slow.  Do it for the love, not for the numbers.

5.  Focus on content.

If you want people to read your blog with consistency, good content is the most important element.  Networking with other bloggers and seeking out sponsors can be worthwhile pursuits, but should always be secondary.  First and foremost, publish good, coherent content.

6.  Appreciate your readers.

I am tickled pink when people read this blog.  Value your readers, and thank them for spending time with you.  Seriously – thank you.  I love ya.