Something to hold on to...

"Today I am one day nearer home than ever before. One day nearer the dawning when the fog will lift, mysteries clear, and all question marks straighten up into exclamation points!
 I shall see the King!"     Vance Havner

Friday, February 18, 2011

Welcome couponers!

I just want to say hi to anyone from the coupon class I taught Thursday night. I hope you are not too confused. Email me with any questions and I will be happy to help you out!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Old Pot and a New Recipe

First: The Pot

I love this dutch oven. When husband and I were engaged I spent a lot of time at his house and his mom would cook the most delicious roast beef dinners prepared in an old cast iron dutch oven. Not realizing that her years of experience had much to do with it, I went on a search for a dutch oven of my very own. The trick, or so I was told, was to not buy a new one, but to look carefully for one that was well used and well loved.
I didn't know where to begin to look, I was just barely 20 and had no experience in such things, but I knew someone that would. My brother Carl! If you had know him, you would know that he was quite thrifty, and loved to find unique items at thrift stores. This was back in the day when going to thrift stores was not cool. Well, what would you know, but one day he surprised me and said that he found just what I was looking for! He found this pot on the shelf at our local Goodwill Store, and I think I had to pay $17.00 for it, which seemed like a lot back then. I was willing to part with the money and I have never regretted it! I have used this dutch oven countless times over the years, and though I know that cooking experience has much to do with it, you cannot beat the flavor of anything slow cooked in cast iron.

Recently, like many things (and people) over the years, my much loved dutch oven needed a face lift. Another brother, Tom, has obtained a wealth of knowledge on all things cast iron, and has perfected a technique for restoration. He took this dutch oven and a couple of skillets home with him last fall, and shipped them back to me all pretty and black, and slick as a whistle. I am a happy girl!

Now: The Recipe

Get ready to drool.

Can't you almost smell the beef stew in the pictures above? Look, really look at the second picture. Now, click on the second picture and take in all of those tender chunks of beef, the beautifully cooked potatoes (no mushy potatoes here), look at the perfect carrots. Doesn't this make you want to run out and grab some Dinty Moore? NOT! It makes you want to cook up a batch of this super easy, super delicious stew! Don't worry, if you do not have my dutch oven, just use the heaviest pan you have with a tight fitting lid.

This recipe came from my good friend Kasi. I have heard her talk about it for several years, and I decided it was time to try it. I will say, it is the best stew I ever ate!

5 Hour Beef Stew

1 1/2 lb. lean stew meat

1 cup of celery, sliced

1 onion , chopped

3-4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 carrots, peeled and sliced thick

1 can stewed tomatoes (juice and all)

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

1/2 TBS. salt

3 TBS. Instant Tapioca

Mix all ingredients together, do not add water, extra juice, etc. Cover and bake at 250 degrees for 5 hours , or until meat is tender. Stir occasionally. Serves 6. You may add more potatoes, carrots, or meat to serve more.

***What I did different***

My stew meat was closer to 2 lbs, and I used it all. I did add more potatoes (2 more) and more carrots (2 more--wish I had added 4 more, they were g-o-o-o-d). I cut the celery, potatoes and carrots in large, uniform chinks. I then decided to add another can of stewed tomatoes, (mine were 14.5 oz cans).

I put this in this morning before I got ready for church. After church and some errands I checked it for the first time (5.5 hours). I decided to take the lid off and let it cook another 30 minutes uncovered while I made corn muffins and got everything ready.

***Why I love it**

I am actually amazed at a few things. First: it is just so easy. You do not brown the meat or fuss with anything. Second:I did not even stir this for over 5 hours. Third: everything cooked perfectly. Tender meat, vegetables cooked perfect, not mushy, not crunchy. Last, but most important: It is delicious!

Thanks Kasi!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Strawberry Jam and the Sweetness of God

It is funny how some things get etched in your brain. Things, that to most are insignificant, like making jam. Today I am home from school due to our 2nd snow day this week, because of the massive mid-west snowstorm. As far as large amounts of snow, our town was spared. We instead, were hammered with little ice pellets for about 30 hours straight. It could have been much worse.

I decided to use these days playing catch up, and I decided to get some things done around the house. In my freezer there was a tub of crushed strawberries that I had purchased last summer at a great price. Things were very busy last summer with moving husband's parents, so I decided just to crush the berries and freeze them for a better time to make jam.

Last night, as soon as I learned school would be canceled for today, I pulled the tub from the freezer. As soon as I pulled out the tub my mind went back to another day. Jake and I did this same thing two and a half years ago. He was living at home, it was in the summer and he had the day off work. We had a tub of berries in the freezer then, pulled it out and started the process. About half way through I received a phone call.

That was the day I learned I had cancer. You can go here to read about that day.

So much is different about today. I am living on the other side of that awful news. Now I can rejoice in simple things, like making jam. Now I can remember the way God led me through a very dark time and how he taught me to trust him.

I suppose I will always think of strawberry jam in a special way, instead of tasting the sweetness of just the berries, I will taste the sweetness of God's promises. God is good. Even in those days of uncertainty about my health, I knew that God loved me and was in control. I hope I conveyed it then. I hope I convey it now.