Category Archives: Tried & True

Strawberry Sensation: Whip up an Instant Family Favorite!

You know you have a winner recipe when you  jot down the date and your family’s reaction when you first try it, then add notes over the years as you tweak it here and there.

Ten years ago I tore a recipe out of a magazine and made it for my husband’s birthday. “Yummy!” was the general consensus…so I made it the following year and added another note to my recipe, “Still yummy!” (thus, a family favorite was born…)

strawberry sensation

Strawberry Sensation

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (I use all 4 cups in step #2 and add another generous amount of fresh strawberries when I’m ready to serve)

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (you could decrease amount slightly to reduce sweetness or use fat free version)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 8 oz. container cool whip (or homemade – see below)

8 Oreos (double or triple the amount so you can add a middle layer)

1 Tbsp butter, melted (depending on how many Oreos you crumble, you may want a little more butter to hold topping mix together)

I love recipes that have a short list of ingredients, and I especially appreciate recipes that can be made in advance. This one is a WIN-WIN! You can keep  one  in your freezer & pull out for an instant crowd pleaser at any time.easy recipe

Step #1 – Prep pan: Line inside of 8 x4-inch loaf pan with foil, leaving a generous overlap to allow for a full coverage later.

Step #2 – Strawberry Mixture: Slice and mash 2-4 cups of strawberries in a large bowl. Stir in condensed milk & lemon juice. Fold in 2 cups of cool whip.

Step #3 – Pour about 1/2 of this yummy goodness into the foil-lined loaf pan.

Step #4- Crush Oreos in a ziploc bag. This is a perfect job for any young helper you may have lying in wait that you can “pay” with a couple Oreos! Add the melted butter into the ziploc and blend in the bag.

Step #5 – Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Oreo topping over the strawberry mixture.

Step #6 – Pour the remaining strawberry mixture into the pan.

Step #7 – Spoon the remaining Oreo topping onto the strawberry mixture, gentle pressing the cookie crumbles into a layer.

Step #8 – Prep for freezing: Fold the foil ends over until the pan is completely covered.

Step #9 – Freeze 6 hours or until firm. I’ve left one in the freezer a couple months & it was fine. I think I made 2 for Memorial Day weekend one year and only served one. It was a happy surprise to rediscover it again just in time for a 4th of July swim party! 

Step #10 – To Serve: Invert onto a serving plate, remove pan and foil. Spread the remaining cool whip onto the top and sides. Slice fresh strawberries, then layer them on the top and along sides of the dessert. Allow to sit at room temperature about 30 minutes until it has softened enough to slice.

blowing out candlesTheoretically this recipe makes 12 servings, but not for my crew! If it’s not all gobbled up during your first serving, then store the remainder in the freezer for a lucky few to have a second round later.

This is easy enough for any summer day, but yummy enough to grant as special birthday wish!

strawberries and creamBonus touch:  Instead of store bought cool whip, make your own! Beat heavy whipping cream in mixer until peaks form, adding a splash of vanilla and a little sugar to taste.

~ ~ ~ Hope you enjoy this sensational dessert to finish your summer strong! ~ ~ ~

***If blueberries are more your jam, check out For the Love of…Blueberries 

For the love…of blueberries!

Summer is all about curious explorations and fun family outings.blueberry farmRecently we had a joint family adventure to a local blueberry farm and dove into our first experience of picking fresh blueberries.

We each grabbed a bucket and headed down the rows of lush blueberry plants.Within a few minutes we had established a rhythm:

Reach in to a full branch, grab a few berries,  do a sample taste test, and drop the remainder into the bucket.

Repeat.

It wasn’t long before we were confident in our picking game. The boys quickly determined that the ripest berries would release easily, leaving the rest on the vine for later.The sun warmed our backs and a light breeze kept us going when our task began to feel a bit like “work.”

Occasionally we’d switch rows and swap stories, eyeing each other’s buckets to see how much progress we were making.blueberry pickingConversations bounced about as our buckets slowly filled.

Sweet tidbits of summer’s glory…

With boys ranging in age from 6 to 15, we could see the difference in their maturity levels in their conversation as well as their picking styles.

Some were methodical and steady. Others experimented with centrifugal force as they hurled their buckets in large circles, challenging each other to go faster and faster.

One needed to do his taste-testing at the sno-cone truck to “preview” flavors for the rest of us. (It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!)

The Lord must see this same maturation process in our spiritual lives. Our prayers and spiritual walks strengthen as our faith ripens over time, saturating into us as we press through life’s challenges.

We are all maturing at our own unique pace – – –

… some of us are “green” yet full of potential

… others are at the “sweet spot” of maturity & ready to share 

…others are past their “peak,” yet maintain a strong, distinctive flavor



Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” Hebrews 6:1



amily picking blueberriesAs we rallied the troops and weighed in our buckets, it didn’t matter how much each of us picked. Our efforts were gathered together in one beautiful heap.
One family outing reaped many bonuses:
  • the simple joy of having freshly plucked berries to add to our granola, yogurt, and salads

red, white, and BLUEberry~~~ the red, white, and BLUEberry fun during 4th of July celebrations ~~~

blueberry buckle– camaraderie shared in the deliciousness of blueberry buckle,  carrying on traditions of friends &  past 4th of July parties

blueberry muffinsHow much sweeter all these experiences were because we had gathered the blueberries ourselves and shared in our collective abundance, enjoying the fruits of our labor.  Sweet rewards for hot, summer days – – – infusing fond memories and new traditions – – – for the love of blueberries!

 

 

Snacks and Post-Its!

“What’s for Snack?”

Isn’t Snack a funny word? Just writing it and saying it out loud sounds silly. But lets definitely get this straight: a Snack is a serious business! My children “snack” more than they “meal”…(see, that just sounds ridiculous). Snacks tide you over till the next meal, they energize kids to get back outside and play, they stop whining on a car ride, they distract small children when you need a quiet moment, so on and so on…THEY ARE VERY POWERFUL.

Throughout our week, family members trail back home at different increments in the afternoons as school buses drop off and boys get picked up. My two older ones love to arrive first to the kitchen and begin “the snack”. After several years of this constant question, I wised up this school year and devised a snack strategy! And for your viewing pleasure, I have visuals!! 

So here is my kitchen cabinet of Post-It notes. Somewhere between the third and fourth child, I resolved myself to the need of Post-Its if I was ever going to remember anything again. I use them ALL the time for everything. In the case of Snacks, this method works beautifully because I reuse them as needed. (And as you can also see, we don’t eat very healthy snacks always! I may need to revise that now that I’m looking at it!)

I usually pick the snack before they get home and lay it out on the counter with a note of what it is and how many they get if its something like cookies, brownies, etc… and if you don’t know about 3-2-1 Cake, let me enlighten you:  a simple, one-serving cake that a child can make in the microwave. You need 1 Cake Mix of choice and 1 Angel food Cake Mix combined together as the Dry Mix.       Independence abounds as a child scoops, stirs, zaps and eats! They can add chocolate chips, whip cream, syrup, whatever add-ins  of happiness to their cake too.

There is always a big bowl of Trail Mix available in the house also. It’s easy and great for a quick grab and go snack. I buy all the ingredients in bulk to save cost; then make my own variations of yum!

 

And the food pantry has an ever-changing assortment of granola bars, applesauce and such that get thrown in lunches, and are grabbed up right before adventures. 

Well,  we could all snack forever, but after a while one gets thirsty… so I want to remind you that if you didn’t read my post on Drink Stations , then its time for you to get on board! Seriously, this technique has saved me many runny noses, coughs and such.

Super easy: set up a station in your kitchen with coasters, tray, compartment boxes, etc. and put your family’s names on designated spaces. The rule: 1 cup per day. Wash them at night and let them pick a new cup the next day! Everyone knows where their drink is; no one drinks after another!! Germs are thwarted. Dishwasher is not exploding. This is a game changer for me.

Alrighty! Here’s to tasty snacking! And don’t forget the Post-Its! They sure come in handy.

 

 

Bold Prayers

I used to be afraid to pray bold prayers. I thought that if I prayed bold prayers I would have persecution come my way. And then one day I read that it doesn’t matter how intense ,or not,  your prayer time is, persecution will still come your way. And so that is how I came to be a prayer warrior.

Now the  Armor of God is an invaluable gift to us, and  I used to also think that I had to ask God for it each day or else I didn’t have that spiritual protection. It wasn’t until I was considerably older that I came to understand that the armor was a gift that is never taken back. The importance of praying for it daily is truly for us to remember in thanks that we wear it all the time, and can use it in times of need.

One of the things that our family does on the drive to school each day is to take turns and thank the Lord for His armor that He custom made for us. I started that prayer time to teach my children about the armor of God…but every day is a reminder to me as well, and it fortifies us in our day. We are all prayer warriors.

When we pray, it diffuses the enemies schemes. We then get the privilege of watching God move through our lives. I’m not fearful anymore of prayer.

When War Room came out in the theaters, many people set up places in their homes to pray bold prayers. Whether they taped cards on their closet walls or wrote them in journals…bold prayers came out of that movie. The book, Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer also was written alongside War Room.  She walks us through a simple way of writing out a bold prayer.  At first, I wasn’t going to try the technique…but I’m so grateful that I went ahead and tried it. These are the prayers I cling to in peace and persecution.  The prayers I have taken the time to write out, are the ones the Lord uses the most with me.

.Again, I never wrote out a prayer before I read this book. But by taking a few moments to construct a specific prayer over a topic, and then surrounding that prayer with thanksgiving, praise, repentance and scripture…whoa. Game changer for me.

So okay, it feels slightly vulnerable, but I’m going to share a few of my bold prayers because my heart feels a heaviness to do that. There is power in prayer; it does all our hearts good.  My bold prayer right now, is that your heart is encouraged to either begin or carry on in a prayer time. I’ll never regret praying bold prayers.

 A Prayer For Passion

Lord, Your loving-kindness never ceases. Your compassion never fails. Thank You, Jesus! Lord, please take my heart and renew it; make me a holy vessel for You. Lord, refresh my spirit, search my heart, show me how to be a prayer warrior for my loved ones. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (psalm 51:10) Amen.

A Prayer For Focus

Lord, You are far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else, (not only in this world but also in the world to come. Ephesians 1:21). I lose sight of where the attacks that come at me originate. I lose my cool, temper and self-control. Please keep me continually aware. Open my spiritual eyes; strengthen me with Your Armor, God, so that you can cut the enemy off from his plots and destruction. This battle is not mine, but Yours, God. Station me where I see Your salvation. I will not fear because You are with me.

 

A Prayer For Fears

Thank You, God, that You have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind, (2 Timothy 1:7). Forgive me, Lord,  when I start listening to the voice of fear and stray from Your destiny for me. Help me, please, to step boldly in my faith with You by my side. Make me fearless because You are fearless! Remind me of Your promises. Thank You for Your instruction and teaching in the  way I should go.; Your counsel and Your eye always upon me, (Psalm 32:8).

May all of us have a beautiful day.

5 Go-To Meals We Love

Ordinary Threads is about to meet with a great group of women to help them set up Menu Planning Boards for their homes next month. As the preparation for that swirls in our heads, our thoughts are focused on FOOD! I have a few Go-To meals that I’ve been making for years now. When a week turns crazy, these are my steadies. They are easy, fast and yummy. Add a salad, veggie, bread or fruit and you’re ready to eat! Try one or all!

SPAGHETTI PIE

1 Kraft Italian Dinner Box

2 Eggs

1  16oz. can Tomato Sauce

1  6oz. package of Mozzarella Cheese, grated

Boil spaghetti from dinner box and drain and rinse. Beat eggs in large bowl and add parmesan from dinner box. Add spaghetti and mix well. Put half of spaghetti mixture in bottom of greased 9 inch pie plate and then layer half  of the grated cheese and then repeat layers one more time. Bake 10 minutes, uncovered, at 350. Do sauce per package directions. Cut pie in wedges and serve with sauce.

 

SPEEDY SAUSAGE SUPPER

1  lb. smoked sausage, sliced

2 TBS Butter

1 small Onion, chopped

half cup fresh Mushrooms, sliced

1  8oz. can Baked Beans

1  8oz. can Kidney Beans

1  8oz. can Tomato Sauce

1 envelope Chili Seasoning

Cheddar Cheese, grated

Melt butter in large skillet and add onion and mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes. Add beans and tomato sauce. Stir in Chili Seasoning and add Sausage. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until heated through. Garnish with grated cheese.

QUICHE (HAM, VEGGIE OR BACON)

1 Half-baked Pie Shell

4 Slices Bacon, crumbled

Ham Cubes

Veggies of choice, diced

Blend of Swiss and Cheddar Cheese, 1 1/2 cups together

3 Eggs

1 cup of Milk

Dash of Nutmeg

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Mix all together in a bowl. Pour into pie crust. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 Degrees.

ONE-POT PASTA

1 lb. spaghetti

1 pkg. Smoked Sausage, sliced

1 large Onion, thinly sliced

3 cups Grape Tomatoes, halved

3 cups fresh Basil

Sea Salt and Pepper

1 cup Parmesan, grated

In a large pot over medium heat, combine EVERYTHING, but cheese and add 4 1/2 cups of Water. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer till Pasta is cooked through and water reduced. Stir in Parmesan and Serve.

RANCH CHICKEN

1 small package of Ranch Dressing Mix

6 Chicken Breasts

1 sleeve of crushed Ritz Crackers

1 cup of Parmesan Cheese

Melted Butter

Coat Chicken in Melted Butter, then in a bowl filled with mixture of crushed crackers and Ranch mix. Place in a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Pour remaining Butter over the top. Cover with foil. Bake 40 minutes at 350 Degrees.

These Recipes are a culmination of Family, Friends and my own Finds that have proved Faithful time and time again for our Family. I enjoy cooking for my family, but time doesn’t always allow for it. The focus for me in a season of young children and after school activities is to share as many meals around a table as possible in the week. When a meal can be made fast and in one skillet, pot or pie crust, it’s a winner in our books! Makes clean-up a breeze too. Make a list of these meals and more that will give you quick sustenance but also rich time with your loved ones.

Here We Go, Girls, Get Your Momstations Ready!

God is Faithful; in the Sunshine and the Storm.

Aren’t Summers with children in the home a “hurry up and get to relaxing!’ And then, “hurry up and get ready for the school year!” We try to cram as much fun and spontaneity into every steamy day of our break. We have sipped lemonade, lounged by a pool, admired our cute pedis and laughed with our kids…we have unplugged for the glorious summer. But this week we have been recharged and it’s “Go Time!” All moms are prepping for the new school year. 

“Hustle and bustle” is again reinstated into the vocabulary; it cannot be denied. However, with a few tricks up our sleeve, it can still be fun! 

Let’s talk Momstations!!

Sometimes we make it home before school pickup, and sometimes not. Usually we are traveling to the next destination of sports practice, music lesson, karate, Scouts, etc.  Last year I grew weary of the frazzled feelings every afternoon evoked, so I applied a few thoughts to action and they worked!! 

So here you go; sure hope they lighten your load as they have mine:

I have a thermos for everyone in my car that gets filled with ice at breakfast time. They are labeled with names and set in cup holders in our car. By afternoon pickup we have cold water for all; and no sticky drinks are sloshing in my car. 

Along that line, There is a snack bag placed in an insulated bag each morning too. Inside are individual “mystery snacks” for all riders. (My kids just like the term “mystery”, and each day I put some sort of trail mix combo that varies each day so it feels different). This trick has saved me many Quik Trip runs!!

I love to encourage readers, so I stash magazines, comics, crosswords with pen attached, Mad Libs, joke books, maps, you name it…in all nooks and crannies of the car to be found. (Kids love to discover maps of their town to navigate).

There are always 2 decks of cards in the glove box, because many a time I have been waiting for one child and sitting with the other. Card games are a great filler of time, and more importantly, a fantastic way to engage in conversation and hear more of your child’s heart. (They are also used in a restaurant for the kids if the adults are trying to talk for a few minutes).

I keep a Bible Quilting Bag in the front seat with me all year-long. It is decked out with flair pens, washi tape, devotional material and my journal to quilt in...let me know if you’d like me to set one up for you too!!  It’s my favorite “go-to” thing in the car! (the kids have one too; nothing blesses my heart more than taking a few moments to write a scripture alongside my child).

 

As we cross paths all over town throughout the school year, we can still engage in meaningful times and quiet respites if a little planning goes in to it. Hope this spurs you on to begin thinking of ways to set up your Momstations and enjoy the ride!