Food and Recipes

Better Than Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo

fettuccine alfredo

I adore pasta- it’s a love affair that began from the time I was old enough for table food. Being just north of 29 years old now, I have reluctantly tried to cut back on the simple starches in my diet, but sometimes a girl just needs her fill of carbs, ya know? So what it’s been only two days… let’s not worry about technicalities.  Throughout my culinary adventures, I have experimented with several possibilities or shall I say, pastabilities, of creating new dishes of all sorts. But as interesting and exciting as new recipes can be, I find myself always going back to the basics.

While plain pasta is perfectly acceptable in my book, there is one ingredient that is the undisputed pasta counterpart. (You can safely guess where I’m going with this)…cheese.  Of course, traditional macaroni and cheese is an obvious go-to for potlucks and busy weeknights,  but if you really want to knock the socks off your family or guests and elevate your expectations of homemade pasta-cheese pairings, try your hand at Fettuccine Alfredo. It’s a fancier version of mac n’ cheese. If mac n’ cheese is the t-shirt and jeans of pasta, think of Fettuccine Alfredo as the little black dress. Not over the top- just simple. classic. perfect.

I will disclose, however, that this is not a diet-friendly recipe by any stretch of the imagination. But that’s why it is soooo rich and satisfying! You can add grilled chicken, if it makes you feel better, but it stands on its own just fine. Heavy cream. Butter. Parmesan. All the necessities for a deliciously creamy sauce. But two ingredients transform this simple sauce into a blissful bite that will leave your friends and family asking, “hmm…what is that?” For a bright, citrusy burst of flavor- fresh lemon- both the juice and the zest.  The other star ingredient…nutmeg. It’s not much more than a pinch, but it’s a pinch of awesome! And nutmeg is the surprising warm and earthy spice that separates this sauce from all those other guys.

Better Than Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo

16 oz. Fettuccine

2 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream

Juice and Zest from Two Lemons

1 Stick Butter

2 Cups Grated Parmesan

1/4 Teaspoon  Nutmeg

Salt & Pepper, to Taste

Sprinkle of Freshly Chopped Parsley (optional)

Cook pasta in salted, boiling water, according to package directions. Zest both lemons and set zest aside. In a large skillet, stir two cups of cream and lemon juice until combined.  Add the butter- cook and stir over medium heat just until the butter melts, about 3 minutes.  Remove sauce from the heat. Drain the pasta, add to the cream sauce and toss. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream and parmesan to the mixture. Add the lemon zest, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Return to low heat and toss until thickened, about 1 minute.  Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and more parmesan- because why not?

Whether it’s for a special occasion or a lazy, late-Friday night indulgence on the couch, Fettuccine Alfredo is your main cheese. ( Get it? Cheese- instead of squeeze)…sorry, I just can’t seem to pass up on an opportunity to insert a corny pun! Enjoy!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Life

Why There Is No Friend Like Mom

mom

She’s your trustworthy confidant, biggest cheerleader, and loyal companion. The one who longed for you and loved you even before she ever laid eyes on you. She tirelessly devoted herself into every ounce of your well-being (and probably still does).  Growing up, my mom was my everything- my security blanket, source of comfort, playmate, and teacher.  As I have journeyed through womanhood- got married, had children and a home of my own- out of nowhere, the woman who was once my mentor, suddenly became my best friend.

The same woman who carried me in her belly for nine months is one of my favorite people on the face of the earth, but not just because she’s my mother (which is reason enough), but simply because of the woman she is. She taught me how to love, how to forgive, how to pray, how to trust in God, and how to be a gracious wife and mother to my own family. All friendships are unique blessings, but none quite measure up like the friendship of a mother.

Moms Are Loyal

Unlike many people in your life, your mother will unconditionally love you. From the very first time she felt you flutter in her womb, she loved you. And because of this incredible bond that God designed from conception, your mother will see you through- rain or shine. After all, she has witnessed you in your deepest depravity and yet, consciously chose to diligently remain actively present and put in all her efforts to raise you into a lovely young woman.

When you disobediently defiled your parent’s wishes and when your pre-teen hormones turned you into an adolescent nightmare- your mom still loved you through it all.  Not all friends will loyally be there for you like that and love you in spite of all your flaws and weaknesses.

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” -Proverbs 17:17

 

Moms Will Tell It Like It Is

While most friends are reluctant to be confrontational and tend to sugar coat the truth, moms are not afraid of honesty- even if the truth is hard to swallow. A lot of friends avoid telling the brutal truth because they don’t want to hinder their relationship with you. But there’s an undeniable selfish motive there. They hesitate to offer honesty that would benefit you in order to maintain their level of personal comfort. You know what I mean…truth bombs-the things we need to hear, but don’t necessarily want to hear.

Moms, on the other hand, have your best interest at heart and there is no room for selfishness. Therefore, they will give you the truth if they are completely convinced it’s what’s best – not for them- but for you. The Mom who told you to “march back upstairs, because you aren’t leaving the house looking like that,” is the same woman who will not shy away from telling you what you need to hear.

“An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” -Proverbs 27: 5-6

 

Moms Are Trustworthy

It’s a little known fact that women talk. Shocking, right? Since the dawn of time, girls and gossip unfortunately go hand in hand. We are naturally and fundamentally bent towards this particular temptation. We have experienced gossip from both sides- we have been a participant and we have likely all been a victim of it. The term “stabbed in the back” was coined when Julius Caesar was assassinated by his most trusted friends as a result of the Roman conspiracy.

So while men tend to be more literal creatures, as we discover here, women have all felt the same emotional heartache from a friend who betrayed us. But a mom’s love is the purest kind of love- it always protects and would never display your weaknesses or even your deepest kept secret. She wouldn’t dare sacrifice your trust and cause you intentional harm. She is first one who had your back and will always have your back.

“There are friends who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” -Proverbs 18:24

 

Moms Are Relatable

Whatever season of life you find yourself in, your mom has already walked through it herself at some point. She’s the perfect source for advice- from how to soothe a teething infant to how long you should cook the beef roast. Moms are like Google on speed dial- always there at the push of a button, containing all the answers to life’s questions (well most of them, anyhow). When you feel as though no one understands what you’re going through- remember, you have mom. For every circumstance you are facing, she has a story that relates. Through her experiences, she offers encouragement and wisdom to inspire and enlighten. There is so much comfort in knowing that someone else in this vast world not only understands exactly what you’re going through, but how to handle it.

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” -Proverbs 27:9

 

Moms Are Dependable

Flaky friends are a dime a dozen. But someone who you can always count on? That’s a rare find! Moms don’t cancel plans because a “better” opportunity came up.  And Moms are dependable, even if it requires their inconvenience. My mom will spend her entire lunch hour just listening to me rant about my day. Whether I am overjoyed with the BEST news in the world or am a stressed out, anxious mess, I confidently rely on my Mom’s listening ear and affirmation. She is always there for me when I need her the most or when I just need someone to talk to.

“Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?” -Proverbs 20:6

I’ve watched many friends walk in and out of my life, but none have stood the test of time like my Mother. She has not only taught me how to be a better mom, but a better woman. She is one of a kind! I thank God for her and I cherish her- for being my loving mother and my dearest friend.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

Home

Create Inviting Curb Appeal

As we prepare to store away all things winter (thank you, Jesus) and spruce up our yards for Spring, I can’t think of a better opportunity to shed some long overdue sunlight on a dreary exterior. Springtime is a season to embrace budding beginnings and embark on new adventures…and maybe even get our hands dirty.  But achieving the desirable curb appeal for your home can be somewhat intimidating, especially on a tight budget.

Perhaps you may think curb appeal is unnecessary. But in my humble opinion, curb appeal is the equivalent of a first impression.  So what first impression is your home making? Although the chances for my modest threshold to grace the cover of Martha Stewart Living is highly unlikely, I still believe anyone can create inviting curb appeal for any home on any budget. Seize this chance to be creative and get inspired!

 

Welcome Sign

I can’t think of a more obviously inviting way to welcome someone to your home than to plainly advertise it . In one of my D.I.Y weekend project blogs, I repurposed an old, unused bench as the canvas of my Welcome Sign. Perfect wood is not required here. In fact, the more rustic, the better! Don’t have a large piece of wood on hand? I love incorporating this same idea on a smaller scale with a homemade door sign. Besides, I’m a sucker for anything with a mason jar!

 

 

Potted Plants

You can’t fully celebrate Spring without planting something, right? But I understand that not everyone can have a green thumb. I understand because I’m one of them. I have a cooking thumb, a cleaning thumb, and when I feel like it- a baking thumb. But no green thumb here. That’s what I love about potted plants- they are low maintenance, but add so much beautiful color to the exterior. Take advantage of creativity here. Add dimension and interest by placing the potted plants on something- crates, a rocking chair or simply line the porch steps.

 

 

Spruce Up the Shutters

Replacing outdated shutters can easily become a pricey project. That’s where my dear friend, paint comes in. Over the past several months, my relationship with paint has gone from simple acquaintances to practically bosom buddies. I paint all. the. time. I can always depend on paint to transform something drab into something amazing. Make a big impact with little investment. Be sure to choose something clean and neutral, like classic black or modern slate. This is not the time to think bold. If you want the look of farmhouse wood shutters, check out my D.I.Y Wood Shutters  blog located under my weekend projects! Each shutter was only $8!

 

 

Add Flower Boxes

Add a touch of country charm with flower boxes. There is just somethin homey about flower boxes- very cottage-esque. And bonus! You can take care of these plants from the convenience of your window. Adorable and practical! Joanna Gaines often incorporates these in her exterior designs, as she is famous for her utilization of 3-D décor.  Making these yourself is super easy too. Check out this link for D.I.Y window boxes by The D.I.Y Network.

 

 

Simplify the Landscape

Unless you own a brand-spankin’ new home, you likely have more of an abundance of shrubbery than a lack thereof. Over the winter months, landscaping can become tired looking and overgrown. In this case, less is more. While greenery is beautiful and inviting, too much can easily become distracting and overbearing.  Begin by trimming out- of- control bushes and hedges. If a plant covers too much of the house, the home can appear smaller and become lost in the foliage. The landscaping should compliment the house, not overshadow it. Think less “Little Shop of Horrors” and more “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

 

 

Outdoor Seating

Imagine sitting on your porch or stoop on a warm, sunny morning, sipping a hot cup of chai tea and watching the kiddos play in the yard. Outdoor seating provides functionality and style to your home’s exterior. Even if you don’t have room for a big ‘ole southern porch swing, you can incorporate clean- line furniture that can suitably fit even the most quaint of entries. Nothing is more inviting- and comfy- than an outdoor living space. But outdoor furniture can cost a pretty penny. So when shopping for your outdoor living essentials, take advantage of garage sales and consignment shops. I found my free gem of a rocking chair by the side of the road! It was perfectly weathered and just what I was looking for.

 

Creating stylish curb appeal doesn’t have to be complicated or even expensive, for that matter. You just have to use a little creativity, be willing to roll up your sleeves, and get your fingers dirty!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Dear Overwhelmed Mom-You Are Blessed

Mom_in_grocery_store_with_kids_throwing_cereal_and_eating_on_floor

While perusing the isles of the grocery store one day with my 4-year old, I couldn’t help but notice the familiar sounds of a disgruntled mother (kind of resembles a ticking time bomb that’s about to explode) who appeared to be reaching her breaking point in the midst of isle 8, right next to the dairy. Her four boys, all under the age of 5, were running up and down the crowded isle, playing monkey in the middle with a tube of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls (and making impressively accurate monkey impressions, I might add), as passing onlookers offered their snide remarks and glaring looks of disapproval.

As much as the mother tried to ignore the looming judgment around her, while attempting to round up her boys to remind them that they were at the store and not the set of Planet of the Apes, her human limitations became all the more evident. She was clearly outnumbered 1:4 and probably wished she could teleport to a happy place (alone) or at least miraculously grow an extra set of arms. She wore a weary expression on her face while she reached for the coffee creamer- probably thinking to herself, “I’m going to need this today.”

For a brief moment, I felt sorry for her. I empathized with her frustrations with both her rambunctious kiddos, as well as the “offended” shoppers. After all, grocery stores are practically battle fields for mothers. The struggle is real- VERY REAL! But then I realized, despite the simple fact that I could completely understand how she feels, I was no better than the other onlookers. I shouldn’t feel sorry for her because her children aren’t “perfectly behaving.” Because even when our children are challenging, disobedient, and utterly frustrating, may we not forget- they are still a blessing from God.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” -Psalm 127:3

It’s in these moments, society will quickly name children with all sorts of discouraging labels- embarrassing, distracting, and a nuisance. I’m certain the mother could even relate to these feelings in that moment. Yet, even when our children push our buttons (and our limits), they are a blessing, nonetheless. They have been fearfully and wonderfully made by a divine Creator, who as a  Father himself, must constantly bestow extensions of grace to His imperfect children.

Fellow mom, do not be dismayed. In every season of parenting, there will be a share of trials, but don’t allow the trials overshadow the triumphs. Since God entrusted you with little souls to train and nurture, you are highly blessed. And don’t allow discouraging moments with your children or even other onlookers convince you otherwise. Motherhood is not merely about survival. God has given us a calling and He has equipped us to answer that calling.

“Having children is not about surviving another day of changing diapers, cleaning up messes, refereeing sibling rivalries (or monkeys in the grocery store isle). It’s all about having another day to point your children to Christ, to train them to take their place on the front lines of the battle for God. ” -Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth

Motherhood sometimes (okay, oftentimes) depletes us of patience, hope and even our joy on difficult days. We doubt our ability to be effective mothers and we may even doubt the gifts God has placed in our care. But God makes no mistakes. Your children are not by chance. They are a blessing- in spite of their imperfections and human tendencies- they are a blessing. And because they are a blessing, you are inherently blessed.

While I stood there and debated between apple or orange juice, I overheard an elderly woman speak to the discouraged mom, “Four handsome young men you got there.” The mother reluctantly nodded and added, “Thank you. If only I could get them to listen to me.” The elderly women gently placed her hand on the mother’s back and said, “I raised five children- two girls and three boys- sometimes it’s the most challenging children that grow up to be the most influential adults.” It was as though her words parted the storm clouds just enough so the mother could see a glimmer of sunshine on the horizon- and hope for the future.

That elderly woman has no idea that she will likely forever be known to that weary mother- who was at her wits end and the brink of defeat- as “the hero of isle 8. “What a beautiful encouragement for all moms that our work is not in vain. It can be extremely difficult to see past the day to day struggles. Sometimes we are too caught up with the tiring demands of what motherhood requires of us and easily forget that our children are indeed a blessing. So sometimes, God sends us a reminder.

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'”- Proverbs 31:28 & 29

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Uncategorized

Birthdays On A Budget

birthday 4

April-June marks birthday season in the Robinson household. But while birthdays are supposed to be a time of celebration, many parents (myself included) find themselves overwhelmed with planning, preparations and the attention to details. And in a society where 8-year olds are getting iPhones for their birthdays, resisting the urge to overspend on birthdays can be a bit of a challenge. When you are a one-income family, the challenge is magnified times a gazillion. Thankfully, over the years, I found the joy in simplifying birthday parties…plus, extravagant just wasn’t in the budget!

But since when did creating memories require the assistance of maxing out the credit card anyhow? There is a common misconception that in order for a party to be fun, it must be extravagant. But you can achieve an extraordinary birthday party without it being extravagant. One is determined by imagination and one is determined by budget. I’m just going to leave that little tidbit there and let you decipher which one is which. Imagine throwing a kid-approved party with no buyer’s remorse. No nail biting while balancing the checkbook. Just a little planning and creativity, and the only one that will notice your birthday party was on a budget is your wallet.

Plan Ahead

Just like making out a grocery list to avoid impulse purchases, planning ahead is key to party planning when you are on a budget. Make a detailed list and give yourself plenty of time to shop around. Shopping at the last minute increases your likelihood to go financially overboard.  Be sure to search for coupons before your embark on your mission to take advantage of sales. Remember, you will often pay a premium for convenience, so try avoiding making all your purchases in one place.

Minimize Theme Incorporation

I realize kids love themes for their birthdays. I love themes for my kids birthdays. It gives me a focus. But you don’t need to elaborate this theme in every. little. detail. Themed items tend to be more costly, so when you are shopping, stick to solid-colored balloons, plates, cups and utensils.  Incorporate themes in other areas, like creatively naming the food. Like most little boys, my son went through a car phase. For his third birthday, I threw him a Hot Wheels party, so I served the guests motor oil (sweet tea), antifreeze (Kool-Aid), spare tires (mini chocolate donuts), Hot Wheels pasta salad (pasta salad with pinwheel pasta), “Pit Stop” sliders (mini deli sandwiches) and “Nascar” cupcakes.

Digital Invitations

While I enjoy good ole’ fashioned snail mail, I discovered that I could utilize modern conveniences to my advantage by sending out digital invites. Mailbox invites add a nice touch, but they add an unnecessary expense as well.  This saves money on the invitation, envelopes and stamps.  It also creates an easier method of reply since most people would rather click a “yes” or “no” button than formally RSVP.

Keep the Menu Simple

It’s easy to overthink food when feeding a crowd. But keep your audience in mind- kids are pretty basic in their culinary preferences. Hot dogs, for instance, are a universally accepted kid food. Your goal here is to avoid fancy and aim for simple. Make some of your child’s favorite side dishes-  with the use of some of your own discerning here as children may offer very random selections. When it comes to beverages, don’t worry about stocking up on bottles of water and cans of pop. Serve refreshments in pitchers instead. You might be surprised at how much beverages can add up.

Borrow Instead of Renting

When hosting a crowd, you may discover that your dining table, suitable for your family is not quite enough. But before you place orders on renting out tables and chairs, ask around to family, friends and neighbors first to see if they are willing to lend you some extras. Don’t worry if the chairs don’t match (even I had to set aside my OCD for the sake of saving money here). Mismatched tables can be easily covered with colorful tablecloths and the chairs, well… it’s eclectic. More importantly, it’s a place for your guests to sit, so it works.

Forget the Venue

Venues create a large portion of party cost for many parents. Inflatable arenas and trampoline parks cost an arm and a leg and often offers a very limited time frame to party. If you are really trying to stick to a humble budget, there is no better place to host your party than in the comfort of your home, backyard or even your garage.

Stock Up at the Dollar Store

Party stores may have a large selection of party-specific items, but the Dollar Store has a great selection for savings. In fact, this stop is the best place to load up on party décor items such as balloons and streamers, plus all you need for party favor goody bags. Even rummaging through your local thrift store can uncover hidden party treasures.  I had a friend who threw a girl’s tea party for her daughter and discovered a 20 piece tea set from the thrift store for $19.

Affordable Entertainment

This has always been the most challenging aspect of party planning for me. I have no trouble creating the menu, decorating, and even spending hours baking the day before the party. But activities tend to leave me stumped.  Then I realized that instead of being a one-woman circus or purchasing several items I will likely never use again, I could inject a little 80’s entertainment into my kids’ parties.

Organizing a simple game of dodgeball or freeze tag is one way to keep kids active and engaged in fun. Scavenger hunts are another great way to get the kiddos excited. If you have a child who loves crafting, incorporate this concept into the party. Even something simple like allowing the kids to decorate tiara-shaped sugar cookies for your daughter’s princess party will keep them pleasantly occupied- and sugar induced.

Go Homemade

Sure, a catered three-tiered fondant masterpiece is eye-catching, but also a tad bit expensive and let’s be honest, over the top. Baking a homemade cake is not only better on the budget, but it adds a touch of nostalgia (something kids in this generation don’t get enough of). And rather than stressing over a Pinterest- worthy cake, make cupcakes or cake pops using simple decorations of icing and sprinkles. Fondant tastes like sugary plato anyway.

The imminent temptation to skimp on prep time will not allow you to skimp on savings. I can save about half the cost in prepping my own veggies than purchase a store-bought vegetable and dip tray. Put together cold-cut sandwiches rather than splurging on the “Ultimate Deli Party Platter.”  Whatever shortcut the store offers, you can make it for less.

Don’t allow the details of the celebration overshadow the real reason for the celebration. And remember- you don’t need an extravagant budget to have an extraordinary birthday party!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

Uncategorized

I Will Rise

i will rise 2

As tears welled up in my eyes, I could feel the anger well up within my soul.  I stood still, feeling powerless, defenseless, and defeated. It’s like watching a raging storm unfolding before you and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You only hope the damage is repairable and eventually, the sun’s rays will shine a favorable light into the devastating ruins, offering some form of clarity in the aftermath of dust and debris.

When your character becomes the spectacle for others to attack, our natural instinct is to rise up to defend our honor. When someone persecutes your beliefs, when your integrity is on trial, and when you are knocked down by malicious accusations, we are heavily tempted to strap on our fighting boots and go to battle in self-defense. And yet,  Matthew 5:39 commands, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

Does this mean we are passively permitting our accusers to continue in their scoffing? We seek justice and we feel entitled to our vindication. Every fiber of my being was ready to pounce- to retaliate. I wanted to take control over the situation and prove to the doubters of who I truly am,  and not what they say I am.

God met me where I was in that broken moment. And He led me back to the cross- where Jesus bore our sin and shame- where He was falsely accused and mocked. As I considered the upcoming celebration of Resurrection Sunday, He reminded me of not only the excruciating pain He endured on the cross, but the humiliation He received.  The very personification of God was placed on display and publicly ridiculed, questioned and insulted. They didn’t believe Jesus to be who He really is- the Son of God- and instead, called Him a blasphemer. But Jesus never wavered. He never retaliated.

As Jesus willingly hung in atonement for our sins, the soldiers jeered, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40). Even though Jesus was the way, the truth and the life, who had all the power and authority in heaven and earth, He did not retaliate. He did not save himself. The words of the mockers could not alter the unchanging character of the One true God.

But He did respond, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34).  When our redeeming Christ was slain on the cross, the enemy thought he had won! He pulled out all the punches, every low jab. While His body was broken, while He was made a spectacle, He chose forgiveness. And in three days, the Truth was brought to the light.

“Those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:29).

The grave could not hold Him. The father of lies was defeated. The false accusers were put to shame when He conquered death and He rose.  Jesus’ character on the cross is the perfect demonstration of our attitude when we are wrongfully accused and attacked.  We are not commanded to retaliate, but to respond. And our response is to be like Christ– we turn the other cheek, we forgive, and we trust in the Righteous Judge- the One who justifies us.

The Lord has already told us, “For we do not fight with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). We will face many battles in this world, but I praise God that He has overcome the world! And while we must remain constantly on-guard and steadfast, we do not need to be defensive. We can stand back, without standing down. For in time, the truth always finds its way to the light. Because no matter what anyone can conjure up about me, it doesn’t alter the truth.

I am a child of God. He has called me by name, to work according to His purposes-to be His instrument. He has vindicated me. He searches and knows my heart.  From the ashes, I will rise- I will rise above with the divine strength the Lord gives me. Because He won, I am heir of His victories.  And even when slanderous words try to knock me down, because of who I serve and who am in Christ- praise His name- for I have been called blessed.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely” (Matthew 5:11).

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

Uncategorized

German Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pot pie 2

The alarm clock (also known as the worst sound in the world) went off. The moment I dread each morning was upon me once more- where I am forced to decide whether to hit the snooze button or  unveil the quilt that had so perfectly encapsulated my warmth and face the chill that awaits me when my feet hit the floor. The terrible- awful season, also known as winter, was in full effect.

Other than the simple fact that I am solely responsible to get my children to school on time, I pondered other reasons to motivate myself to get out of my warm cocoon.  Thus, it was in that defining moment I determined that only a good meal-one with carbs- would combat the flurried fury of North East Ohio and move me into a vertical position. Rather than “rise and shine,” I have found rolling out and caffeinating to be more effective.

Despite the fact that it was the wee hours of the morning, I was diligently in search of something hearty for later on. A casserole, beef stew or soup just wasn’t going to cut it today.  I craved authentic comfort to warm me up- a quilt for my belly, so to speak.  There was only one recipe that came to mind. And it fit the bill perfectly.

German Chicken Pot Pie. This dish takes me back to my childhood- sitting in my Grandmother’s kitchen. There was nothing like Grandma’s chicken pot pie (or Grandma’s kitchen). The dictionary has yet to create an adjective worthy to describe this dish, but I will do my best.  Traditionally, chicken pot pie is made with a chicken and vegetable filling inside a flaky pie crust. But not in my Grandma’s kitchen.

My German Grandmother’s chicken pot pie was simply made with chicken and thin, dumpling-like squares in a heavenly broth. Really- the broth is heavenly as it is made with the holy trinity of vegetables (also known as the Mira qua)- carrots, onion and celery. Ever wondered what liquid gold looks like? Well, here you go! I realize this recipe highly resembles chicken and dumplings, but my Grandma calls it pot pie- and you don’t disagree with Grandma!

I promise this recipe will completely change your definition and your standards of chicken pot pie. Even though I have her recipe, I have yet to exactly duplicate hers. It must be the extra pinch of love-a key ingredient that belongs exclusively to Grandma’s.  But that won’t discourage me from making it to soothe my cravings for comfort and nostalgia.

My Grandmother told me the secret to any flavorful broth is to use the whole chicken. We’re an equal opportunity kitchen and we’re not leaving anything out- it’s the combination of the white meat, dark meat, bones and skin- working in harmony that produces a richly satisfying stock. And this recipe is no exception to the rule of flavor! It almost makes me look at boneless, skinless chicken and ask, “what’s the point?”

German Chicken Pot Pie

For the Chicken…

1 Whole Chicken

1 Whole Large Onion, Peeled

3 Stalks of Celery

3 Large Carrots, Peeled

2 Cartons of Good Chicken Stock

1 Tablespoon Chicken Bouillon Granules

1 Teaspoon Pepper

Combine all ingredients into a large kettle. Cook until chicken juices run clear, about 1-1/2 hours.  Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Debone and cut into chunks. Strain out the vegetables, reserving the heavenly chicken stock, also known as liquid gold.

For the Pot Pie…

2 Cups Flour

3/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder

3/4 Teaspoon Salt

4 Tablespoons Butter, Softened

2 Eggs + Milk to Measure 3/4 Cup

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry cutter or fork. Make a well in the flour and add the egg and milk mixture inside the well.  Combine to form soft dough. Roll dough out to a 1/4 inch thick rectangle on a well-floured surface. Let the dough rest for one hour. In the meantime, bring the reserved stock back to a boil. Cut the dough into 1- 1 1/2 Inch squares. Drop the dough squares into boiling stock, stirring constantly. Add the shredded chicken into the pot and heat through. Serve on a table covered with a floral 70’s plastic table cloth.

It’s a one of a kind recipe from a one of a kind kitchen.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Projects

Bathroom Re-Vamp: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

After blogging about my favorite budget-friendly bathroom re-vamp ideas, I was inspired to test some out and hopefully encourage other homemakers that it is very possible to create a beautiful home on an affordable budget.With my house being a mid 70’s split level, I knew I had my work cut out to transform this unique layout into the rustic farmhouse-style home I always wanted.And being married to a football coach, I knew that while he was busy tackling game plans, I would have to tackle a great deal of the home improvements.

Rewind 6 Months Ago…

I just finished my triathlon- spackling, sanding and painting- the walls of my house and I was ready for the next challenge.  I was a woman on a mission- this inspired, HGTV- esque homeowner- ready to take on any project the house threw at me. Shower in need of tiling? No big deal. I’ve got this. After all, I have seen every episode of Property Brothers, which makes me an expert, right?

One day,  I stood- hands on my hips, eyes focused (for dramatic effect)- in front of my half bathroom, in all its 90’s wallpaper glory, and whispered to myself, “let’s do this!” Growing up with a handyman dad, I felt completely competent in my abilities. Handy is in my DNA. In retrospect, I had no idea what I was doing.

About 30 minutes into the project and overwhelmingly in awe at how incredibly well wallpaper adheres to drywall, I came to some simple conclusions. First off, how in the world does  HGTV  make their renovations appear so easy? Seriously- a bathroom floor is tiled in the course of a commercial break. The deception! I also concluded that wallpaper was evil and one should have to repent for putting it up. I felt as though someone owed me some sort of an apology for the remodeling abuse (I’m pretty sure remodeling abuse is a real thing).

Eventually, the wallpaper was off! (Insert sigh of relief) I felt as though I conquered something- like when David defeated Goliath or something comparable to that magnitude. As I’m  admiring my wallpaper- free walls, I stood back in amazement of the blank canvas (and myself), until a thought-provoking question came to mind: what do I do now?

I was able to determine that I didn’t want to paint the wall top to bottom. Considering the wall was already divided with trim and a shelf, I knew instantly beadboard was the perfect solution for the lower half of the wall. I always wanted a reason to incorporate beadboard, so I seized the opportunity.

But I was a little reluctant to work with beadboard. The material is intimidating for a beginner (as in someone who just recently self-taught themselves to paint) to handle and relatively expensive in the inevitable chance I would measure incorrectly. Not to mention having to actually use a table saw to cut the beadboard. I felt a little project dismay.

I was not, however, reluctant on a paint choice. I selected a bluish-gray for the upper half of the wall and set about the work I had been accustomed to the past several months of my life. I absolutely LOVE blue tones, so this was a no-brainer for me. Considering the small space a bathroom offers, I wanted a color that was airy, clean and simple.

Fast Forward to Last Saturday…

I am ashamed to admit that I let the bottom half of the bathroom sit unfinished…for months. I fought with myself about just painting the lower half and be done with it, while the other part of me wanted to wait until I could muster up the courage to attempt beadboard. While conducting some research on beadboard, I stumbled upon my bathroom salvation (and re-vamp tip) when I discovered Martha Stewart’s paintable beadbaord wallpaper.  It’s a tale of two wallpapers!

For a moment, horrific memories of wallpaper flooded my mind. I wasn’t sure I was prepared to revisit that dark time in my life, but I knew it was more user friendly than traditional beadboard and cost effective. The task was completed in two days, which makes it perfect for a weekend project! I am thrilled with the results and I managed to maintain my goals in home improvement: 1) Make It Beautiful and 2) Make It On A Humble Budget.

This bathroom had good bones, so I felt I was able to keep my re-vamp to a minimum. While the floor tile, vanity and sink would not exactly be my first choice, they were not entirely  outdated enough to need stained, painted or replaced. So I made due with what I had and kept things simplistically humble. I used a little elbow grease and baking soda to clean up the grout and freshened up the trim with some paint. I added some little touches of décor and the project was complete!

Before

Capture.PNG

After

 

 

Project Cost:

Paint: $30

Beadboard Wallpaper: $30

Wallpaper Glue: $15

Paint Supplies: $10

Small Can of Trim Paint: $15

Total: $100

In two days for $100, I completely re-vamped my bathroom. I’m not sure which is more impressive: the results or the receipts! Proof once more, that homemaking doesn’t have to be complicated and expensive. Humble skills. Humble budget. That’s home improvement done the humble way!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

Uncategorized

When It Rains, It Pours

standing in the rain

On the day of our wedding, I was anticipating becoming Mrs. Robinson and celebrating the beginning of a new journey with my husband, Jesse. About 30 minutes prior to the ceremony, there was a downpour of rain- just long enough to leave our fairytale outside wedding completely drenched. There was no time to dry  the damage, so we reluctantly had to implement plan B and move everything inside the building where our reception was to take place.

My dreams of a beautiful sun-kissed June wedding by the lake suddenly shattered into pieces. I felt utterly devastated as I began to cry, testing my water-proof mascara before its original performing debut.  Attempting to catch my composure, I just remember thinking, “my wedding is ruined!” That is, until someone, whom I can’t even recall, put their hand on my shoulder and reassured me that the rain on my wedding day was a sign of God’s blessing. It didn’t feel like a blessing at that moment- it felt more like a bummer than a blessing- a total damper in our plans (pun intended). But afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of our guests specifically described our ceremony as not only beautiful, but intimate.

I can remember our wedding day fondly, as it has rained many times on our anniversary over the years. And each year, as we learn to trust in God more and more, I am also reminded how the rain truly is a sign of God’s blessing. We often use the expression, “when it rains, it pours” as a metaphor of our encounter with negative circumstances- ones that seem to arrive in this extraordinary wave, creating a full domino effect of devastation. Suddenly, we find ourselves overwhelmed, flooded by life, and struggling to keep our head above water.

I guess you could say it rained very hard on our family last October, when Jesse was told by his district that due to financial strains, many teachers would be losing their jobs. You can safely guess who was one of the teachers. He was facing a lay-off after Christmas break, leaving us without full income and medical benefits. Completely devastating news when you are a one-income family. Yet, in a time when I should have been trembling, I was not shaken. Faith stirred inside me and I had peace that God was going to make a way, even when I- in my finite mind- could not fathom how.

Thanks to divine favor with his district, Jesse was recommended to another district, who oddly enough happened to have an opening for a health/physical education teacher in an unlikely time of the school year. In November, Jesse began working for his new district, restoring his job security and benefits.  But devastating rain hit once more in January, which left his job uncertain once more. I am sparing details at this moment, but in due time, I will perhaps tell of this extraordinary trial with a testimony. However, I will say this: God’s plans are for good and not evil. I have complete assurance of this.

After receiving a vision from God the other day, I was prompted to read in the book of Joel.   As I was reading, God drew me to a specific verse: “Rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both the autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil” (Joel 2: 23,24). The revelation God gave me transformed my entire perspective of the rain. Rain was not designed to be devastating. In fact, the only historical time rain was considered a devastation was the flood. Since then, God promised not to destroy the earth by flood. And thereafter, God’s people greatly rejoiced when God provided the rain.

I wasn’t certain what the verse meant exactly, but I knew I had to find out. In Biblical times, the people were incredibly dependent upon the rain for the well-being of their crops and their livelihood. There were two seasons of anticipated, abundant rain: autumn and spring. The autumn rains fell between the months of what we consider October-November. The spring rains fell between March-April.  The rains were both significant of God’s faithful provision.

It was then I understood why the Holy Spirit led me to this word. When God provided Jesse with his new job in November, He provided the autumn rain. And even though we are knee deep in the trenches of a trial, I stand steadfast and believe in God’s promises. In times of drought, there is nothing more refreshing than a shower of God’s faithfulness. It is because of His faithfulness, I can be fully dependent upon Him.

Life has a tendency to knock us off our feet from time to time. In seasons such as this, we are tempted to question God. Where is He? When will He bring forth the rain? Looking back over the years of my life and marriage, I can testify that He brings “both the autumn and spring rains, just as before.” He remains the same. Yesterday. Today. Forever. And it is in the midst of such seasons that I experience intimacy with God that I would otherwise not understand. His rain floods my heart with joy. Hope springs up within me and it is well with my soul.

Even now- as I sit writing this- hearing the sounds of the rain against my window pane, I rejoice in God’s unfailing provision. If you are facing extraordinary trials, remember that God never leaves us or forsakes us and He always provides. He makes a way, where there seems to be no way.  He brings forth restoration to the desolate areas of our lives.  He pours out His faithfulness, just as He promises to be faithful. And just as He promised new wine and oil,  His mercies are new every morning.  I have assurance of the harvest and I peacefully anticipate the spring rain.

God’s Blessings (in the spring and autumn rains),

The Humble Homemaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food and Recipes

Saturday Morning French Toast

french-toast

Jesse and I lived in this cozy townhouse after we just got married. Being newly weds and experiencing the exciting freedom of our first home together, I can recall so many sweet memories. My first try at French toast was not one of them.   In spite of stemming from a line of wonderful cooks, I had yet to get my feet wet in the kitchen and discover my passion for cooking.

In fact, had it not been for Panera and Chipotle, I’m certain we may have not lived to see our second anniversary.  One Saturday morning, I felt  homesick for some homemade breakfast. Even though my mom always prepared dinner growing up, my dad often made breakfast for us on the weekends. Other than making eggs sunny side up, also affectionately known as “dippy eggs,” my hands down favorite has always been French toast.

Along with paying my first rent payment, this was one of those profound adult moments where I realized that I was moved out and married. The spatula had been passed to me. The fate of breakfast dippy eggs and French toast was now in my hands. Although I had never previously tried to make French toast, I was familiar with the basics.  My first attempt at French toast was…let’s just say… almost editable. If you’ve ever wondered by any stretch of the imagination that French toast could resemble bricks, I’m here to tell you it’s possible.

Thankfully (for the sake of my family) despite this beginner culinary failure, a new found interest sparked within me. And my journey to becoming the home cook I aspired to be began…with burnt French toast, but nonetheless.  This recipe has been experimented and perfected over the course of almost 10 years. No offense, Dad, but I am confident to say this is THE BEST French toast recipe. It blows restaurant’s French toast out of the water.

The number one secret to my famous Saturday morning French toast is the bread. You could find a simple Texas toast or choose a traditional challah bread, but do yourself a favor and pick up a loaf of bread from Menches Brothers. Trust me, this is a good decision. You want a bread that is thick and sturdy to absorb the liquid gold it will inevitably be submersed in.

You could use the rookie approach by simply using milk and eggs for your French toast batter.  But with a few more decadent ingredients, French toast practically transforms into dessert. I have to remind myself that I’m actually eating breakfast. I feel as though I’m getting away with something. With vanilla, honey and cinnamon, you just might find yourself in a French toast coma all day. Pair with a light berry fruit salad (eases the sugary guilt some).

Saturday Morning French Toast

1 Loaf of Menches Brother’s Bread

6 eggs

2 Cups Half & Half

1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

3 Tablespoons Honey

8 Tablespoons Butter

How to Make:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add half and half, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and honey. Whisk together thoroughly.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge a piece of bread in the cream mixture and allow to sit for 15 seconds per side. Melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet and place one slice of bread down, cooking one at a time. Cook the first side for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip French toast and cook other side for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.  Place browned French toast pieces onto a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes to allow the inside to cook through. Serve with warm maple syrup and a generous sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar.

French toast so good, you just might make it a week day staple too! Enjoy your Saturday y’all!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker