Friday, July 27, 2012

Mini Breakfast Casseroles for Any Day of the Week

"Waste not, want not." - common idiom

Okay, so this isn't a biblical quote, but it seems like sound reasoning to me. I find myself with a heap of tomatoes and not enough ways to use them up. I know I can freeze some for later, and I will, but I had one odd ball that wouldn't fit into the tomato pie last night and I didn't want to blanch, peel, and freeze just one little ol' pup. Instead, I diced him, and tucked him into four little egg casseroles. Now I can enjoy him three more times (since I ate one casserole up this morning) and feel good about not being wasteful.

Mini Breakfast Casseroles

             One mini casserole and a side of yogurt and honey make a complete breakfast for me.

Step One:

Preheat oven to 350.

Pop two pieces of whole wheat toast or Ezekiel bread into the toaster. Gather your ingredients and prep them. You need:

Four eggs, beaten
One piece of American Cheese torn into four pieces
One chopped tomato, salted
Four tablespoons of feta cheese

Step 2: Assemble

Cut the four pieces of toast and tuck them into the bottoms of the mini loaf tins.

Top each with 1/4 slice of American Cheese.

Place 1/4 of the chopped tomato in each loaf tin.

Pour 1/4 of beaten egg mixture over each loaf tin.

Top each tin with 1 tablespoon feta cheese. Then bake for 20 minutes or until eggs are set.

These can be held in the refrigerator for a few days and reheated in the oven or microwave as needed. I prefer to heat the oven to 350, and pop them in to heat while I feed the dogs and cat, get my morning coffee, and serve up a side of plain greek yogurt with honey. It's a well balanced breakfast of whole grain, protein, and vegetable and fills me up until lunch time!

Variations - I use a small amount of America cheese because it give a little creaminess to it, but Laughing Cow wedges would serve the same purpose. You can use cheeses of your choice - just experiment. Also, play around with your veggies - add last night's asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, or whatever else sounds good. If you don't like the consistency of the bread on the bottom, leave it out. Then you can put the baked eggs between two slices of toast and make a sandwich out of them!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Creating Happiness

Ephesians 2:10 NIV

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I love creating things:  new recipes, drawings, paintings, stories, scrapbooks, jewelry, and more. When the seed of an idea is planted, I feel my spirit quicken. The anticipation when I'm in the midst of a project is downright addicting. The moment of completion is bittersweet...satisifaction mixed with sadness that the creative process is over for the moment. It's great to sit back and enjoy the results of my efforts, but it's not long before another idea takes hold and I'm off to create again. Alas, I dabble in a lot of things, but I'm the master of none. Still, it's a true blessing to be able to creative something. It may not be worth a thing to anyone else, or worthy of praise, but it's a piece of me and it brings me happiness.

Birdcage Planter

I was browsing through the shops on Antique Alley looking for something to put out in my new garden. I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for, but when I saw this birdcage, I knew I had to have it. In my mind, I envisioned a planter to sit upon the tree stump at the front right hand side of the garden. Just as I picked it up, the dealer said she'd clipped a picture of a birdcage used as a planter to display with it. I knew it was a good idea!

When I got it home, I realized it was a rusty mess and had several broken bars. It rather added to its charm, but I didn't think it would hold up the constant watering it would have to endure. Thank goodness for Rustoleum spray paint. I brushed off all the dust and rust I could, then sprayed it down with a good coating of textured gold. While it dried, I made a quick trip to Home Depot to gather some supplies.

I got, moisture control potting mix, sphagnum moss, ivy, and a begonia. Back at home, I grabbed a couple of plastic freezer bags, and a pair of scissors.

To start with, I cut the bags in half from side to side and lined the bottom and lower sides of the cage with it to keep the moss and dirst from falling out through the bars. Then I filled the bottom of the cage with sphagnum moss. Luckily, one of the top bars was broken away from the top of the cage, so I just pulled it back and stuck my hand right in. Next, I placed the ivy, one plant at a time, then the begonia. Finally, I filled in the empty places around the plants with potting soil. I put the broken bar back into place and put it out into the garden.

The plastic stood out like a sore thumb and bugged me, so I tucked some moss inbetween the plastic and the bars and I'm liking the look of things. I'm looking forward to the ivy growing more, and I'm also looking forward to replanting it with new things next spring!

The final project - I love it!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Garden Cooking!

Genesis 1:29 ESV     
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Smoked Gouda Tomato Pie

My tomatoes are finally coming in and I had enough at one time to make a tomato pie. Southern Living Magazine had a tomato pie recipe that used a half cup of mayonnaise on top of it. We tried it, and it was good, but I couldn't get past the mayo. So this year, I tweaked the recipe and came up with a delicious pie I hope you'll enjoy!

One pie crust (I use Pillsbury ready made)
5 or 6 ripe (but not mushy) tomatoes, medium sized
1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese, divided
1/2 cup of grated smoked Gouda cheese
3 Tbsp basil, chopped
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

Step 1 - Place the pie crust in a pie plate (not deep dish) and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Step 2 - Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on paper towels. Sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit for 30 minutes to draw excess moisture out of them.

Step 3 - Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese in the bottom of the pie crust.

Step 4 - Place tomato slices on top of the Parm cheese.

Step 5 - Sprinkle the smoked Gouda on top of the tomatoes.

Step 6 - Sprinkle the basil on top of the Gouda.

Step 7 - Spread the Greek yogurt on top of the basil and Gouda. It doesn't have to reach all the way to the sides of the pan.

Step 8 - Sprinkle Parmesan on top of the yogurt.

Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes or until the Parmesan is lightly browned.

Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before slicing.

Let me know if you try it and be sure to let me know how you like it. If you tweak the recipe, share the tweak with me! I'm always looking for new ways to update recipes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Obedient Garden

An unsuspecting me in 2009
Luke 11:28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

It's important to understand that I've never been a gardener. I liked the idea of a garden, but I had no desire to get out there and get dirty, prune, cut back, weed, mulch, pick anything, or do hand-to-hand combat with pests. When we arrived in Louisiana a few years ago, my husband suggested we put in some raised beds for a vegetable garden, and I figured it was a good idea since we'd had little luck with the few containers of tomatoes we'd tried to grow in Florida. Maybe we'd have some tomato success in LA.  Here, I must say, it's important to understand my husband...he doesn't wade into anything - he jumps right into the deep end. So we built three boxes, got a truck full of soil, and hit Lowes at full tilt. Squash, several varieties of peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, okra, and more I can't even recall.

                                         In the beginning...2009

Then the real work began. We had to maintain all those vegetables by watering, weeding, mulching, pinching, cutting, and debugging. We had to pick things and then we had to clean them, cook them, eat them, freeze them, or can them. You can believe me when I say I was gritting my teeth by the end of the first season. My husband would walk in with a basketful of cucumbers, and I knew I was in for a day of canning pickles with vinegar stinging my nose and eyes. The worst part of all was when the okra started producing and wouldn't stop. Apparently okra loves long, hot summers. Did I mention that I hate okra? Unless it's well hidden in a really good gumbo, I seriously detest it. My husband loves it. So we ate it. Fried. And what we didn't eat, we froze so we could eat it later. Sigh.

                                          Mustard Pickles

Eventually, I got more into things. I planted purple hull peas and an herb garden. I begged for pole beans and Randy built me a trellis for them to climb. I found that I really enjoyed tending to the peas as they were very low maintenance. The pole beans took a little more effort and didn't produce much. What they did produce was tough, so the next summer I tried them once more and found that I'm a pretty poor pole bean planter. I gave up on them. The peas, however, flourished. I loved picking them. I especially loved shelling them. I'd grab a big old Tupperware bowl my mother gave me years ago and sit out on the back porch just shelling away. I felt like I was finding treasure with every pea that popped out into that bowl. Parboiling them and freezing them was no trouble at all. Cooking them to eat right away was even better. I started to better appreciate Randy's love of okra then. In fact, I started enjoying the okra, battered in fish fry and dipped in ketchup, of course!

Good looking, but poorly producing pole beans

Purple Hull peas           
This is the fourth season and I suddenly can't get enough of the garden. In fact, I can't get enough of gardening, in general. Suddenly I'm filled with visions for every nook and cranny in our yard. I can't wait to get my hands on the gnarly shrubs and pull up the nasty, prickly vines that have taken over beds long forgotten. I can't wait to work new dirt into the old, and de-root the beds so new plants can be put in. I'm searching the web for which plants grow best in zone 8a. Which ones like shade and which ones prefer full sun. Mandevillas, hostas, succulents...I don't just want to know. I need to know. If there's a gardening bug, I've been bitten - and bitten good!

                                          The beginnings of a poolside oasis

                                          My newest project - this used to be covered in dead
                                          azalea bushes.

I'm sure my husband is wondering what in the world has happened to me and when it's going to stop. I'll bet he's waiting for me to grow tired of this garden fever halfway through my next project. I won't though, because this isn't really about me. It's about obedience to God. Somehow, I know this is what God has put into my heart, and I feel compelled to do it. There's no way I could get out there and work this hard in 99 degree weather on a late June day without the strength of God. I've been pulling up old azalea roots, lopping off tree branches, hauling wheelbarrows full of roots, weeds, sticks, and leaves across the back yard and into the woods to dump over and over again for the past two days, and still I can't wait to get back out there and work some more tomorrow. That's not me. That's most certainly not me at all. That's God.

I looked at a note pad I put by my bed before I started this blog. It had ideas about what to write about. I knew I wanted it to be about my new love of everything garden. I also knew it had to be about my my renewal of faith. On the pad, I'd written obedience even in the small things. I thought that was going to mean keeping up with laundry and cleaning the sink out before bed each night. When I really started reflecting on it, though, I realized that it meant taking care of everything He has entrusted to me. My marriage, my husband, my children, my home - inside and out, my family, my get the picture. Everything God has entrusted into my care. Somehow, the garden has become so very important because of what it means to my marriage - it's an activity my husband and I can share and enjoy together. It's important to our health - fresh vegetables with all of the vitamins and nutrients still in them. It's important to finish what I start. It's important to be self-sustaining. It's important to be faithful to my Father, and it's important to me to be faithful to my earthly father who loves his garden and descends from ancestors who loved theirs, as well.

The best part of all is the feeling of fulfillment I have at the end of a day gardening. I love seeing and enjoying what my hands have created. It reminds me of God's love for all He created and how much love He has for us. I love knowing I'm in His will. I love feeling so close to Him. I love being obedient, even in the small things, because that's when I feel His love in the biggest way.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Isaiah 43:2“When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.” (NLT)

Fathers are on my mind today. It's Father's Day, so my husband and son, who is here visiting for the first time in over 2 years, spent the day four wheeling and bonding over dust, sweat, and the great outdoors. At 24, my son is the living image of his father right down to the goatee. Where once my husband instructed our son in how things should be accomplished, now my son shares his own knowledge and saves his father time and effort or gives technological support when needed. To see them hanging out together, playing volleyball, bocce ball, Rook, Farkle, or simply lying around watching golf from their floats in the pool, fills my heart with such tremendous love that I can barely contain it. I love these men. I prayed for these men in my youth. When I was only 18, I saw a man and his little boy playing on the beach and I told my boyfriend (now my husband) that's what I wanted him to be like with our son one day. I wanted them to be two-of-a-kind. God evidently heard me. They're knowledgeable, stubborn, funny, good, loving men, and I'm so thankful they're mine.

Of course, on this Father's Day, my father has been on my mind. We talked for a bit this afternoon via the telephone since we live in two different states. Over the past few years, he's faced one health trial after another and there just doesn't seem to be an end in sight. The last time an "event" happened, I felt deeply compelled to make the fourteen hour trip home to see him. I'd just gotten a new Jeep and had free Sirius radio, so I listened to The Message and made the entire journey one big prayer/praise and worship experience. I wanted to speak to my dad about his faith and ask him if he felt prepared to go home when his time came. The opportunity never presented itself throughout the day, but as I was preparing to leave he called me to him and told me straight on, "I'm not afraid to die. God and I talk all the time." That's what I'd been concerned about - not that he wasn't a Christian, but that he was fearful. Relief spread through me and rolled that worry right off of my heart. As though I could have helped by worrying. Ha! He made it through that event and is in the midst of another, but still he's trying to set my mind at ease by pointing out that we don't know when it's our time to go - could be now, could be years from now, and that God's word is relevant even today. That's my dad. He's thinking about the kids, the grand kids, and even a great grand, trying to keep us from getting caught up in a dither.

I think it's fitting that I read about Job in The Chronological Bible this morning. Job. He had everything. He was faithful. He was kind and giving. He had rock solid faith. Then calamity struck in the form of Satan's attacks. Throughout his trials (including the loss of all of his children and his health) he cried out for death and wrestled with is faith. He lamented that he couldn't take his case to court because no one could stand against God. He proclaimed his innocence, fussed, and complained mightily. In the end, he couldn't change a thing on his own. All of the blaming got him nowhere. All of the begging didn't bring him the death he craved. Only his obedience to God and his acceptance that he had no right to judge God and no understanding of God's wisdom brought him relief, renewed health, and double blessings. It's not our place to understand the plans of God. It's our job to believe that God is with us and will deliver us in His perfect time.

So I have a goal: through all of the trials that come my way, I'm going to give thanks and remember that I am never alone. I'm going to trust that God will deliver me, and I'm going to pray, pray, pray!

Just to be sure I remember this goal, I'm going to start today by giving thanks to the great fathers in my life: My dad, my father-in-law, and my husband. Thank you, God, for wise and faithful men.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Squash Blessings

Then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. - Proverbs 3:10

Squash and Corn Casserole
(Recipe at end of post)

I love Proverbs 3. It instructs us in how we should live our day to day lives, explaining that when we walk in the Word, we will be provided for and live in abundance. I know we always have times when we need more money, more time, or better health. There are times when we feel life crushing us with its unreasonable demands. There are times when we feel so far away from God that we wonder if He remembers us. What I'm coming to understand as I age, however, is that it's not God who's left our side at all. Sometimes, we've wandered away. Sometimes, life just happens even when we're living His word as hard as we can go. That's just the way of the world. But His promise is that we're never, ever alone in our trials. He will answer every prayer. He really is in control. And, when we remember His teaching and walk in His way, we are sometimes blessed with abundance.

We don't have a barn, but we do have a garden, and it is bursting forth with squash. The soil must have the perfect blend of nutrients, and the garden boxes must be placed in just the right place to catch the perfect amount of sunlight, because we've certainly never been blessed with as much squash as we have this year. In fact, last year, um...before my return to my faithful walk...our squash was hollow and shriveled.  Now, it's full, plump, and plentiful. In fact, it's so plentiful that I've now made squash pie, squash and corn casserole, grilled squash, steamed squash, and fried squash. I'm on the hunt for new updated recipes...I've seen some for mashed squash and squashed squash (baked in the oven), sweet squash bread, and squash fritters. I imagine we'll try some of all of it before we're through. I also imagine we'll be gifting friends with some of it, too. Of course, we can freeze it, can it, or pickle it to enjoy when fall hits and the plants die away.

I've felt so blessed by this squash that it's made me take a good hard look at the other blessings in my family, my friends, my health, my job, my home. Truly, my cup runneth over. That's not to say everything is perfect. There are areas of my life that need fixing, changing, reworking. Patches of unforgiven hurt. There are people in my life who need prayers, saving, and healing. There are sins to deal with. Thankfully, that's where God's grace comes in. He lifts me up, hugs me close, and nestles me beneath his wings while He reminds me of all the ways I'm blessed and all the ways He loves me even when this early life wants me to believe otherwise.

Life is a journey through green pastures, lush valleys, and sometimes, desolate deserts. But wherever we are in our walk, He is always with us. I remember that when I tend to our garden and watch another squash blossom give way to that precious, yellow fruit. How blessed we are.

On a little side note...we do make wine and have some merlot ready to bottle. We'll probably be blessing others with it at Christmas!

Squash and Corn Casserole

3 medium squash, chopped or sliced thinly
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/4 cup oil
1 15 oz can corn
1/3 cup chopped green onion
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup Pioneer Buttermilk Baking Mix (Bisquick type mix)

Preheat oven to 350.
Beat eggs in large bowl. Add sour cream, oil, corn, green onions, garlic, parm, pepper and salt. Stir in the chopped squash. Pour into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.