Food on Friday...Hit it Out of the Park Chicken and Rice :)

When our oven went out several months ago, we decided that we would hold off on repairing/replacing it for the moment and just "do without" for a while.  We were headed into the heat of summer (when we don't use the oven anyway in our un-airconditioned kitchen), and we're in a state of decision-making at the moment as to our future plans for this house (putting any serious financial outlays on hold for the time being).  Besides...with a stove, an electric skillet, two crock pots, an electric roaster, a microwave, a toaster oven (provided by a friend :)), a bread machine (which I haven't used in a while but plan to pull out soon), and a "Kitchen Kettle multi-cooker/steamer/deep fryer", who is really going to miss an oven?  

Well, I do miss the oven, just a bit. Although we *have* finally figured out a way to cook frozen pizzas (oddly enough, one of the things that my children miss most about not having an oven...go figure...:)), and we've learned that you can, in a pinch, bake cookies in a toaster oven,  I miss being able to throw a casserole in a Pyrex an hour before supper or pop a batch of muffins in the oven for breakfast.  

However, for the most part, it's been fine.  We're trying new recipes and getting more creative in the kitchen, which is always a good thing.  And we are learning that there are lots of alternatives to cooking in the oven.  
We've tried a few new things already, and I have a file full of ideas ready to try.  In the interest of motivating myself to actually turn those ideas into food on the table,  I've decided that I am going to start a new feature here on the blog..."Oven-Free Fridays".  I'll be chronicling some of our successes (and probably a few failures along the way) in oven-free cooking.  I'm even considering trying my hand at creating a nifty little "Oven-Free Fridays" button. :)  

And for "Oven Free Fridays" debut recipe..."Hit it Out of the Park Chicken".  My crock pot has always been a trusty friend in the kitchen, but it is getting even more of a workout these days.  I've been scouring on-line crock pot sites for ideas and come up with a list I want to try.   I'm hoping to attempt crock pot banana bread today (I'm skeptical, but an urgent early-fall craving for banana bread is convincing me to give it a try), and I plan to try out crock pot brownies later in the week.  

Tuesday, though, my crock pot project was totally spur of the moment.  Rather than poring through the file of recipes I have saved, I was sneaking a quick peek at Pinterest in between activities, and I happened upon this recipe.  I realized that I had all the ingredients, I hadn't planned supper yet, and I needed a quick, easy meal because I needed to get out the door right after supper.  

So...I tossed the cream cheese, cream of chicken soup, Italian dressing mix, and frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot and set it to high.  I didn't even stir the sauce ingredients up in advance like the recipe suggests.  (I did stir them well after it had cooked for a bit, though.)  

YUM.  The original recipe calls this "crock pot chicken and rice".  We've decided to rename it "Hit it Out of the Park Chicken", because it was definitely a home run at our house (and I have too many "chicken and rice" recipes already. :))  Even one of my very picky children, who had originally said, "I don't want any of that chicken stuff, Mom...I'm not eating that,"  came back later (after I insisted on a thankful bite :)), and said rather meekly, "You were right, Mom, that chicken stuff is really good!"  

I LOVE super-easy crock pot recipes that end up being just impossibly better than the sum of their simple ingredients.  Saloon beef is one of our favorites that fits those criteria...it just doesn't seem possible that something that easy can be so amazingly good.  This recipe is another of those.  When I threw it in the crock pot, I was just hoping for simple and edible busy day food.  It turned out to be fabulous!  It's rare that all six members of our family really love something...but everyone raved about this one.  I'm looking forward to making it often this winter...definitely comfort food at it's best. 

The original recipe can be found here.  Here's what I ended up doing:

Hit it Out of the Park Chicken

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 package Italian dressing mix 
5 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

Other than thawing the chicken breasts a bit in the microwave because I realized I was pressed for time to get them fully cooked before I had to be out the door that evening, I just dumped it all in the crock pot and turned it on high.  About 30 minutes later, I stirred the sauce ingredients together.  It cooked on high about 4.5 hours, I think...until the chicken was done/tender.  I shredded the chicken (in a very coarse shred, because I was running late )), and served with rice.  The original recipe said to mix it with the cooked rice, but with my bunch, I decided it was safer to serve it on the side. :)  It would also have been really good over noodles.  


I'd love to hear your favorite "oven-free" recipes...just leave me a comment with a link or recipe!

(Joining up with Ann Kroeker today for Food on Fridays...be sure to check out the rest of her blog while you're there!) 


In "Other" Words ~ Loving the Unloving

It seems like I say it at least 3 times a day some days..."It's not hard to be kind to your siblings when they are being nice to you...it's being nice to your siblings when they aren't being nice to you that counts."  

Some days, they do well with that...others, I find myself thinking "Will this EVER sink in?"  

And then I realize that God could say the same about me.  He keeps teaching...and I keep resolving to do better...and then the neighbors do something annoying, or someone pulls out in front of me during traffic, or...or...or...

And I am reminded that one of the best ways for my children to learn this is to see it in me.  Ouch. 

Bro. Kent has been preaching from Romans 12:9-10 the last couple of Sundays.  Here are a few snippets from my notes...

     * God calls every believer to a Spirit-led life built on the foundation of love.  We are to be 
        characterized by love.

     * Agape love, focusing selflessly on the beloved...as opposed to the "norm" in our culture, 
        which seems to be, "I will love you as long as you make me happy and meet my needs."
        (That kind of "love" actually selfishness masquerading as love...)

     * Agape loves whether the beloved can make you happy or not...We could NEVER meet
        God's needs or make Him happy...He needs NOTHING, and is totally self-sufficient. 

     * They don't deserve our love, but neither do we deserve Jesus's love...we are called to 
         love them as He loves us. 

     * Jesus Himself said that they will know we are Christians NOT because we call ourselves  
        Christians, but because we love one another. 

Loving the unlovely isn't easy.  As Bro. Kent said Sunday morning, we have to crucify our pride every moment of every day in order to do this.  BUT...as he also reminded us Sunday, it is God's will for us to do this, and therefore when we pray that He will make us able to love and honor others as He commands, we can be confident that He will give us the grace and the power to do it.  I realize that too often, I don't even ask.  

"If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. ~ Luke 6:32-36

Living for God is our host this week for In "Other" Words Tuesday.  Thanks to her for hosting and for selecting this week's quote.   Please visit her blog to see what others are sharing about this quote today.  


Multitude Monday ~ Journaling the Gifts...

Joining with Ann in journaling the gifts...

51 ~ "Sermons that stick" and the things God teaches me through them...

52 ~ An abundance of free books downloaded this morning...classics of the faith, children's classics, schoolbooks, great biographies, history, etc....

53 ~ Military friend home briefly from deployment, and the sacrifices his family and so many others make for our freedom...

54 ~ Fellowship with friends at church yesterday...

55 ~ Children singing as they work...

56 ~ Their silliness that brings so much laughter...

57 ~ "Lawn Chair Dates" in the cooling air...

58 ~ Phone calls that are welcome interruptions to my day...

59 ~ "Just the right pen" to pen the thanks...

60 ~ Isaiah 65: 17...




I have always been fascinated by woodpeckers.  We've had several varieties in our yard this year, but only recently have I been able to get an occasional shot...

Downy Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker


Candlelight S'mores

Joining in today with Wordless Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Mom.  


In "Other" Words..."Stay thy heart..."

“ When you have no helpers, see your helpers in God.
When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers.
When you have nothing but God, see all in God.
When you have everything, see God in everything.
Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord. ”
~ Charles Spurgeon

I ran across this quote a while back and immediately thought, "This is one of those quotes I need to write on the palm of my hand in permanent ink so that I can see it every day."  :)   That last line pretty much sums up one of the main lessons God has been teaching me recently..."Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord."  We did an in-depth study this summer on Colossians 3:1-17, with the theme "Heads Up!"...reminding us to "seek the things that are above".  And ever since then, in the Sunday School lessons I teach every week, and other things I hear and see from day to day, God continues to remind me that I am to be seeking Him with all my heart...always...no matter what the circumstances.   

"When you have no helpers, see your helpers in God."  ~ I hear so often of people going through serious difficulties with virtually no earthly support.  I struggle sometimes with feeling almost guilty because we have, through all the storms of the past 7+ years, had many "helpers".   I've said, "I don't know how people manage during times of crisis without friends like ours and a church family that truly is a family."  We've been blessed that our experiences with that have been rare to the point of almost non-existent.  

And yet...in other ways, we have experienced that aloneness.   When our world exploded in 2006, we knew no one who had been through the experience our family suddenly found itself dealing with.  For various reasons, we could tell no one during those early days but a tiny circle of friends, fewer than the fingers on our hands.  They were wonderfully supportive...have been throughout...and I have no idea how we would have made it without them.  But as wonderful as they are, and as big a blessing as they have been...they hadn't walked our road.   There were days when I begged God to send someone who truly understood, someone who could say, "Yes, we've been there, and this is how we handled this or that", someone who could counsel with a voice of experience.  

God in His perfect wisdom had other plans.  He began to show me that He wanted to be our "Wonderful Counselor."   He wanted us to learn to depend completely on Him.  He wanted to show us that He was truly all that we needed.  He wanted to be our Helper. 

"When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers." ~ I said that I've struggled sometimes with feeling almost guilty because we've had so many helpers, when others go through similar situations feeling quite alone.  And as I said, there were times when we felt totally alone in some ways.  And yet we've had so many helpers who have been so precious.   We've had people who have prayed faithfully, people who have brought meals, people who have helped in so many ways.  We've had friends who have stood by us, wept with us, made us laugh, slogged through the trenches with us, and when we came to the point that we couldn't go any farther, carried us to Jesus.  

Those people have been the hands and feet of Jesus to us.  We have seen God work in amazing ways to bring just the right people across our path at just the right time.  We've seen friends listen to a still, small prompting and meet a need in just the right way.  God has been our Rock and Fortress...but He has used many people to do His work in our lives, and I am so thankful for each one.  

"When you have nothing but God, see all in God." ~ I think sometimes this one is the easy one.  When we hit the very bottom, it is sometimes easier to realize that God is not only all we have, He is also all we need.   He has proven that to us time after time in these years.  And when we are clinging to Him most closely, He is truly all that we can see.  All else is crowded from our field of vision by Him.   

"When you have everything, see God in everything." ~ This, I think, may be the hardest of all.  When things are good, it would seem we would be the most thankful, the most focused on Him, because the storms aren't there to distract us.  And yet, for me, it doesn't work that way.   For over a year now, things have been {relatively :)} calm here.  We have begun to adjust, for now anyway, to a "new normal".  And yet the less "desperate" our situation has been, the easier it has been to turn my gaze in other directions, to release my hold on Him just a bit, to let the world begin to crowd in.  It seems that "learning to see God in everything" in the good times has to be a more intentional, conscious decision, rather than the natural response borne of desperation in the hard times.  

 Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord. ~ That's pretty much what it all boils down to.  No matter what, seek the Lord with all your heart.  It sounds so easy...but it is so hard sometimes to truly do.  And yet what a difference when our hearts are completely stayed on Him.  Then we can say with Paul...

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  ~Philippians 4:11-13

Thank you for joining me for this week's In Other Words!   To participate, share your thoughts on the above quote on your blog, and then come back here and add the direct link to your post.  Then visit others who have shared on the quote this week.  I'm looking forward to reading what others have to share!

Multitude Monday...The Music and the Gifts...

"You need a pencil..."  We hear those words often in choir rehearsal.  Most often, so that Lyndel can tell us all the places we aren't supposed to breathe, and the few select places we are. :) (I sometimes have the urge to write "Turn blue in the face here..." ;-))  Occasionally to change a word, due to doctrinal or other issues, and otherwise usually to emphasize dynamic markings or point out the proper pronunciation of a a particular word or syllable ("Remember it's yewr, not yore!"  "Mark it...it's hallelu-YAH, not hallelu-YUH.") 

Occasionally I'll run across a piece of music that still has my dad's name in his distinctively familiar hand on the front.  I always grab it...it's a crazy thing, I know, but there is something comforting, even after all these years, about singing with a piece of music I know my dad sang from years ago.  It's been over seven years now since he sang in choir...over seven years since he was last able to haltingly walk into church.  It really doesn't seem possible that it's been nearly that long...and then in some ways, it seems like it's been a lifetime.  With all that's gone on since, there are times that those days truly seem like another life altogether.   

After all these years, those pieces of music with Daddy's name on the front are pretty few and far between.  Most of them have been erased by now, many replaced with another penciled name.  I'm not sure why, but I'm bad about not putting my name on my music...so I tend to grab a "no-name" piece.  (And yes, that is actually what we call them...as people gather their music, it's common to hear "I need a no-name, please!" For some reason that still strikes me as funny every once in a while. :))

Daddy's name may have been erased off the fronts of most of his music, but there are still lots of older pieces that have his neatly-penciled (or sometimes hastily scrawled) notes *inside*.  In the earlier months after he died, opening one of those pieces in the middle of rehearsal tended to cause the "someone just hit me in the stomach" feeling.  It was somehow different to be caught off-guard by his handwriting in the middle than to see his name on the front and intentionally select it. I fought ill-timed tears more than once, particularly when his notes were more than just a word here and there.  Now, though, they make me smile...and more than once they've been a comfort or encouragement in a rather odd way at a specific time.  Yesterday was one of those times. :)

The last couple of weeks I've missed my dad more than I have in a long time. This time of year always reminds me of him...both because he loved fall so much, and because that fall seven years ago was so intense with his decline and the realization that we were near the end.  But I'm still not sure why the "I miss my Daddy" meter has been so high these weeks.  Part of it, I'm sure, has been the activities that I knew he would have enjoyed so much...the fair, the air show, helping Peter with his wood-working projects, etc.

Daddy as Noah, WHBC Noah's Ark party, 198?

And part of it, I imagine, is that I've struggled with discouragement in a lot of areas in the past few weeks.  And for almost 36 years, my dad was my greatest encourager in times of discouragement. :)  I've felt that void even more than usual lately.

So, yesterday. :)  I'd just come from teaching a Sunday School lesson on Jesus giving hope no matter what the circumstances, a lesson I realized I needed to hear myself as much as I needed to teach.  I walked into the choir room, grabbed some music, and put my folder together as we began to rehearse.  I turned a page, and  there they were...tiny penciled letters that told me my dad had once sung these very same words from this very same paper.  I smiled even as my voice wobbled a tiny bit...it wasn't quite a hug or a phone call, but it was something.

A little while later, singing the same words from the same paper with the same penciled letters,  I was suddenly overwhelmed...not just by the penciled markings themselves, but by the actual words we were singing..

"At the name of Jesus, at the name of Jesus,
Every knee shall bow in Heaven and in earth.
That every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord!"
(Cindy Berry)

My dad sang those words, many times.  And now He is in Heaven, bowing before the Father and confessing that Jesus is Lord face to face.  The hope that we sing of in those words is now reality to him.   He loved so much to worship through song here, especially in choir...but that worship here is like seeing through a mirror dimly compared to the worship He is doing there...seeing face to face.

Daddy went through some very dark days on earth.  Job issues, church issues, health issues...all kinds of health issues, from strokes to blindness to cancer.  And yet all of those things are as a vapor now...no more sorrow, no more tears...ever!  And even so, all the pain and frustration and anxiety and sadness that we are experiencing now...it, too, will eventually be as a vapor as well, as we are able to worship Him face to face. What an encouraging thought!

I didn't ask for a hug or a phone call from my dad this week...I knew that wasn't possible.  But God used Daddy's long-ago pencil scratches to encourage me almost as if he were still here telling me himself.  I think that encouragement...from my earthly dad and my Heavenly Father...is a good place to start this week's Multitude Monday list...

~ Long-ago pencil marks in music, reminding me of God's faithfulness and certain hope....
~ Daddy's heritage in the area of church music...singing in choir, directing handbells, serving as choir librarian, and more...
~ Three generations of our family rehearsing Christmas music together this year...what a blessing to have my two "youth" in the choir!
~ Reminders again of the blessing of quality, God-honoring music in our corporate worship at church...
~ Being reminded that these days, for a Christian, are the *worst* days ever...the best is yet to come, and will last forever!
~ Clearer mind and stronger body this week...step by small step...
~ Unseasonably mild weather...such a blessing after the extremes of the winter, spring, and fall...
~ Daily provision...
~ My husband and children always...
~ His faithfulness always, even when I realize the depths of my own unfaithfulness...
~ His mercies which are new every morning...


Yumm! :)

I've been planning to make these ever since I ran across the link on Pinterest a while back...and finally made them in honor of Sweetest Day yesterday.  I just about trashed the whole batch...during the second freezing, I opened the freezer door and the whole tray fell out!   About half of them were unsalvageable, and the other half didn't end up being as pretty as they started out...but they were worth it!  They got rave reviews from Billy *and* the kids, and we are planning to make another batch this week (hopefully a *full* batch!)..

We decided "Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwiches from Disneyland" was a bit cumbersome as a name, so we're just calling them Disney Bars. :)  A few observations, should you decide to make them:

1. I usually buy generic brand graham crackers, but decided to get the Honey Maid brand from Sam's for these, with the thought that they wouldn't crumble as badly as the generics, and would break in half more evenly.  Umm, no.   They actually crumbled worse than the generics I usually use.  Lesson learned.  :)  

2.  They are *really* rich.  I used squares (half graham crackers) for this batch, but for the  next  batch we'll use fourths (small rectangles).  The squares were just too much. 

3.  Be *really* careful getting the trays in and out of the freezer.  If you drop one and half the batch lands in the floor over halfway through, it won't be pretty. 

4.  Make sure you have plenty of milk on hand. These need milk.  They insist on it. :)  


I just realized that I altered the recipe a bit...here is my version (and I don't measure, so I'll try to guesstimate where I can) :

Disney Bars

Dipping Chocolate (I used half a package of this, for one sleeve of graham crackers.) 
Graham Crackers (one sleeve, halved)
Peanut Butter

I melted the chocolate in the microwave per the directions on the package, then dipped the graham crackers and froze until solid.  Spread with a thin layer of peanut butter, freeze again, then cover the top and sides with another layer of melted chocolate.  Freeze until ready to serve.  Serve with milk.  Yum! 


Air Show, Part 1

Hoping to spend some time this weekend getting caught up on the blog a bit...I have a LOT of Air Show pictures, so I'm going to break them up and spread them out among other things. :)  The local Air Show has been a tradition for us for many years...it was good to reminisce this year about the years my dad went...he LOVED the Air Show...and all the years we went with tiny babies and/or toddlers in strollers.  So different this year to go with "big kids" who didn't have to have their ears covered every time there was a loud noise! :)  (I must say, though, that I missed the stroller a bit...it sure did come in handy for carrying "stuff". :))

Bedfords had the coolest thing this year...a tent right down by the runway with a roped off area in which they had tripods set up with some incredible zoom lenses to which folks could attach their own DSLRs and take photos.  I got to try out this lens.  Wow.  

They also had loaner DSLRs and lenses.  I borrowed this lens for the afternoon.  Oh, my.  I LOVED using this lens.  It was quite versatile...prior to using it, I'd been switching between my two lenses depending on whether I was trying to get planes in flight or statics/people on the ground.  While the 18-200 wasn't ideal for planes in flight, it worked, and I was able to use the same lens the rest of the day.   I wondered aloud more than once if I could get by without a driver's license from now on (I'd had to leave it to borrow the lens).  I was only joking...mostly. :-D  

All in all it was a great day spent with good friends...we enjoyed it all, even if we did come home sunburned and utterly exhausted. :)