Category Archive: In the Kitchen

Cooking for Ten

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Something weird happens when you prepare one recipe for ten families. You hit a rhythm. Your eyes sort of glaze over… cranberry sauce, onion soup, pour the dressing, mix it together… until you make a mistake and dump the cranberries into the wrong bowl. Then you halt, figure out what’s what, and get back to the business of making freezer meals.

Several years ago my friend Carrie read a book about cooking a whole bunch of meals in one day—30 to be precise—and them freezing them. It’s a lot of work up front, but incredibly helpful in reducing meal prep time for future dinners. Carrie invited a bunch of girlfriends to Cooking Day and we worked, side by side, on our feet for hours on end to fix those 30 meals. We divided the costs and went home that evening with achy calves but feeling like queens with freezers full of meals.

Fast forward a few years. Carrie is keeping tabs on her husband’s cholesterol, which means a whole lot of lean chicken meals and not many casseroles at her home. So I’ve started a new freezer meal coop where all the chefs prepare two meals at home… ten times over. In this post I’ve included a few shots of one of my meals, Cranberry Chicken, and one of my dog, who stays oh-so-faithfully at my side when I’m cooking. I like to pretend he enjoys my company but I know better. He’s the dog equivalent of a Hoover vacuum cleaner so all in all, he earns his keep and keeps the kitchen floor spotless.

The recipe for Cranberry Chicken can be found at my (our) recipe blog, Needs More Butter.

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December 3

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Mission accomplished.

On Thursday, Livia baked sugar cookie gingerbread men. And floured. And rolled. And baked and floured some more until there were clouds of flour covering the kitchen counter and floor.

The house had a flour storm unlike any ever witnessed before. Flour on Liv’s scalp. Flour on our clothes. Flour on the dog’s head and, after one especially tumultuous mishap, flour turning his gluttonous doggy tongue from pink to white. Honestly, I don’t know how he even swallowed at that point.

December 2

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On Monday, Livia wanted to bake gingerbread men. We didn’t do it.

On Tuesday, Livia wanted to bake gingerbread men. Knowing she wouldn’t like the spicy cookies, we convinced her we’d make sugar cookies in little gingerbread men shapes. But still, we didn’t do it.

On Wednesday—that would be today—Livia wanted to bake sugar cookie gingerbread men, but got distracted by Bolt on Netflix online. I pulled out the ingredients, took a few photos for the December Photo Project, actually made the dough, and that was it.

Will all Livia’s cookie wishes be fulfilled on Thursday? Stay tuned. It doesn’t get more exciting than this, folks.

**You are very welcome to join the DPP at any point! We’ll continue updating our participants list through the weekend.

Thanksgiving

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We enjoyed a really relaxing and delicious day yesterday as we celebrated Thanksgiving with both sets of parents. There is something quite decadent about two turkey dinners in one day, I must say. What I really felt was the wealth of riches God has given us: our parents (now grandparents to Livia) that have raised us faithfully and loved us unconditionally over the years. We are incredibly blessed by our families.

As much as we enjoyed our folks, we did miss our siblings. So Bean, Adam, Kris and Andrew? Can’t wait to see you at Christmas!

Pictured above are a few of the side dishes we ate at the Lawton dinner. There was the sweet potato souffle and bourbon cranberries from Needs More Butter sitting next to The Pioneer Woman’s corn/wild rice dish. We ate our fair share of green bean casserole and stuffing, and of course, the star of every Thanksgiving meal, turkey. Liv and I ate turkey sandwiches tonight and I can’t imagine a better way to eat leftovers than slapping them between mayo-coated slices of bread. Mmm, mmm good.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, what is left of 2009? A lot! The December Photo Project starts shortly (make sure you sign up—it’s fun!), then we have the national holiday known as My Birthday, and finally Christmas. Jesus’ Birthday. Somewhat of a larger event than mine, I suppose. ; )

Homemade Laundry Detergent

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1/2 C washing soda
1/2 C Borax
1/3 bar of Ivory soap, grated

In a large pot, heat 6 cups of water; add grated soap and stir until dissolved. Add washing soda and Borax and stir until dissolved. Remove pot from heat.

In a clean 2 gallon pail, pour 4 cups of hot water and add heated soap mixture. Top pail with one gallon + 6 cups of cold water; stir well.

Use 1/2 cup per load, stirring detergent before use.

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After my friend Sarah M. posted a detergent recipe, I became very curious about the idea of making such a product at home. While I’m not exactly a frugal woman, I knew making my own detergent would save a lot of money. But the biggest draw in my eyes was the number of ingredients. I’m concerned about all the weird chemicals in our home environments these days and I’ve slowly become more interested in using simple products to accomplish household tasks. I still like spraying 409 on the kitchen counters, so don’t suspect me of turning super granola or anything. ; )

I used this page as a reference and ended up visiting the Duggar family site (afterall, their kids look clean, don’t they?!). If you dig around the world wide web using Google you’ll find a lot more information on the financial savings of homemade detergent. I’m also going to post the (inedible) recipe to Needs More Butter for easy referencing in the future.

Final note: Arm & Hammer Washing Soda isn’t the easiest product to find. I check about six different stores before finally locating it, ahem, at my grocery store three miles down the road. Wish I had looked there first!

Cupcakes

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Cute cupcakes are only a boxed cake mix away. Liv and I like to put some batter in the oven and move on to icing. It’s simple to mix up Wilton’s buttercream recipe and then tint it to our heart’s desire.

Our preferred icing method is to heat the icing in the microwave, then dip the cupcakes in the mixture. Livia’s task, then, is to sprinkle like a mad woman before the frosting hardens. We get a little crazy, sprinkles go everywhere, but the end result is cute cupcakes every time. Need a quick platter of treats for a friend? Want an afternoon pick-me-up? Cupcakes are the answer. The cuteness is just the (ahem) icing on the cake.

Contentedness

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Yesterday turned out to be a really great day.

It involved working out at the YMCA for the first time ever, shocking even (or especially) myself; mowing the yard on what had to be the most gorgeous July day in Nebraska history. And cooking a dinner that reminded me why cooking can be worthwhile: hello, Chicken Tikka Masala.

My mom made the cheery hot pads pictured above. Cooking is a lot more fun when you have handmade gifts to help keep your hands from burning. Thanks, Mom—I love them!

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Our community dinner blog, Needs More Butter, is still up and running despite the fact that community dinner has been shelved momentarily. I just posted a recipe for one of my all-time favorite salads, Bok Choy Salad; and for a yummy take on an always delicious side dish, check out the Corn Casserole.

We love community dinner—at this point, it feels like a very natural part of our lives in this neighborhood—but at the same time, a family can only do so much during the week. So what is it that’s taking up our time and momentarily shoving community dinner out of the way? Redeemer. Redeemer is our church plant (meaning, a new church body started by an older congregation, in this case Zion Church) and we are wholeheartedly committing to the vision and ministry of it. And really, community dinner hasn’t been completely shoved aside. It’s been somewhat replaced by our small group which meets every other week. We eat, we hang out, we study the Bible, we pray. We only did three of those four at community dinner. ; )

Baking on Monday

Ma had a system. It went like this:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

Apparently, Laura like baking and churning days best. I don’t blame Half-Pint a bit; baking days are always nice.

I’ve fallen into a routine of baking on Mondays, though I’m not sure why. (I like to bake, reason one, perhaps.) I was never more grateful for a Baking Monday than last week. When Liv was so sick the rest of the week—and we were all sleep-deprived—it was really nice to pick up a blueberry muffin for breakfast or eat a slice of toast for a snack. The truth is that I’m not at all organized when it comes to homemaking skills. I can be incredibly organized when it comes to working in an office or traveling or leading group projects, but home life is different for me. I value flexibility and the ease by which I can jump in the car and head for Target and Starbucks, so adherence to a strict cleaning schedule doesn’t exactly bring me joy. But I like to bake. And Livia likes to bake alongside me. So perhaps Mondays will turn into our baking day, and we’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of our labors the rest of the week.

The recipe for Grandma’s Banana Bread is up on Needs More Butter.

You know what? I do adhere to another day on Ma’s schedule… Sunday. Resting is so not a problem. We’ve got that one down.

Story in Photos: Baking

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The recipe for Esther’s Orange Marmalade Layer Cake is posted on Needs More Butter. More photos can be found on my Flickr site.