Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pantry in a bind?

We try to eat a good variety of non-to-minimally-processed foods. I try not to worry too much about "organic," although I would love to be able to buy all organic- it's just not feasible/reasonable for us (for foods that we eat on a regular or daily basis, I will try to buy organic.) More than anything, I try to offer our family a good variety of "whole" foods while allowing small "indulgences" here & there.

Here are some of our main staples:

milk (whole & 1%)
yogurt (either vanilla greek or Stoneyfield organic vanilla) I buy vanilla because it has the lowest sugar other thank plain yogurt, and you can add whatever fruit, nuts, granola, etc. to make it the flavor that you want.
REAL butter
shredded mozzarella, sharp cheddar & parmesan cheeses (We LOVE cheese!)
chopped walnuts & sliced almonds (They stay good longer in the refrigerator.) for yogurt, oatmeal & baking
salsa (Frontera is our favorite. We also like Garden Fresh Gourmet)
whole Wheat tortillas (for quesadillas, tacos, burritos, etc.)
apples (I rotate in pears & grapes some too.)
matchstick carrots
organic baby spinach (My MAIN staple- I put it in everything!)
red bell pepper (I cook a lot of Rachael Ray recipes, and this is a popular ingredient with her.)
whatever meat I may cook in a week
variety of salad dressings (I try to make a hearty & healthy salad to go with my lunch every day.)

Freezer (other than my freezer meals):
Alexia brand sweet potato fries
Alexia mixed vegetable varieties
32 oz. bags freshly frozen vegetables (mainly corn & mixed veggies for soups)
frozen chopped spinach (the cheapest health food out there, in my opinion)
Perdue lightly breaded chicken tenders for lunch in a pinch
any variety of soup for lunch in a pinch
some kind of ice cream
fresh no sugar-added berries

whole wheat pastas
instant brown rice
dried beans (mainly red)
ground flax seed (I refrigerate it once it's opened.)
whole wheat noodles
organic chicken broth for sauces, soups, casseroles, etc.
canned black beans (One of our MAIN staples.)
variety of canned, no salt added tomatoes (diced, sauce, crushed)
canned tuna
extra virgin olive oil
peanut butter
old fashioned oats or steel cut oats (one of our MAIN staples)
whole wheat or grainy variety bread (one of our MAIN staples)
wheat English muffins or waffles
variety of cereals (usually a granola-type... we don't eat much cereal, but we always keep it for  breakfast in a pinch.)
bananas (one of our MAIN staples)
raisins (one of our MAIN staples)
Blue Diamond almonds (we buy the BIG bags) (one of our MAIN staples)

I have found it hard to completely eliminate processed foods when it comes to snacks. Some of our favorite processed (guilty-pleasure) snacks are:

Whole Wheat Ritz Crackers
Cheese-Its Crackers
"Granola"/ Cereal Bars (I want to start making ours and freezing them, but haven't made the time yet... I'm thinking that will be a good winter project. I've been pinning some homemade recipes on Pinterest.)
Dole fruit cups (oranges, pears & pineapple are Rush's favorites) packed in 100% fruit juice,
applesauce of many varieties but always with no sugar added (Rush's favorite is Materne squeezable apple-cinnamon
Pirate's Booty Cheese Puffs (we like the white cheddar)
tortilla chips
Nesquik Chocolate Syrup (no HCS, unlike Hershey)

I would like to share some of our quick/staple-ingredient meals about once a month in hopes that some of you will share yours with me. Here is one of my new creations from my staple ingredients:

Super Simple & Satisfying Southwest Salad

desired amount of baby spinach
1/4-1/2 cup black beans (always drained & rinsed)
1/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
1.4 cup matchstick carrots
chopped red bell pepper (if you have the time) optional
chopped broccoli (if you have the time) optional
sprinkling of shredded sharp (or mild) cheddar
drizzle of your favorite salsa (I like Herdez Green Tomatillo.)
1-2 crushed tortilla chips
fresh sliced avocado (if you have time) optional
fresh tomato (if you have it on hand)

Build your salad as you like.
Drizzle on the salsa & top with the tortilla chips.
Oh my- it's AMAZING!

We want to start juicing to add in some "zing!" to our diets. We are watching Craigslist closely for a really good quality juicer. Do you have a favorite machine or recipe that you could share with us?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stirring Up!

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near," Hebrews 10:24-25.

This was our memory passage a couple of weeks ago, chosen by me for a reason. Earlier this summer I shared some of my thoughts on community and how much we need each other as Christians. My inspiration was sparked after being in close contact with a group of people that belong to a Care Group (as their church calls it) and after reading a chapter in How People Change called "Change is a Community Project" (chapter 5). So here are my thoughts:

We are saved; we thank God for all our blessings; we go to church (and maybe even Bible Study); we listen to Christian music; we serve in a ministry; we pray before we eat; we tell others that we are Christians. But how do we grow? How are we sanctified? How can we be motivated to stay on track in our Christian walk? Besides our personal relationship with God, I believe that real, intentional, intimate relationships with other believers is the way we can do all of this and thus produce more "love and good works."

Wouldn't it be awesome to have a group of people to share your thoughts and questions with about what you study? (This could be an entire other post, but I feel that Bible-talk should be in our everyday language and conversations SO much more than it is!) I would love to be able to share my sin struggles with a small group of ladies that I admire & trust. James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." This is just one of many verses about the benefits of "community" that motivates/convicts me to be more intentional in my friendships.

So, Ben & I have been inspired to, with the help of the Lord, foster some REAL relationships with other Christian families. It is SO hard to do this when you have little ones! (And our weak minds keep coming up with these and other excuses.) Please pray for us as we attempt to do something that we feel very ill-equipped for. More on the specifics later...

I have recently added Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to my library thanks to my brother-in-law. I was talking to him about small groups and community within the body, and he bought the book for us as a gift. I can't wait to read it with Ben! My favorite line on the back description says, "Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship."
Here is a picture of Ben and Lottie with Jared, our brother-in-law.

Recently, someone told me that their purpose for being in a small group was to live out all of the "one-anothers" from Scripture, so I looked them up. (This is not a comprehensive list.):

Love one another John 13:34
show mercy and compassion to one another Zechariah 7:9
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10
Live in harmony with one another.  12:16
Accept one another Romans 15:7
encourage one another 2 Corinthians 13:11
serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Ephesians 5:19
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus Philippians 2:5
Bear with each other and forgive one another Colossians 3:13
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13:1
we have fellowship with one another 1 John 1:7

I am pretty far behind on updating our family happenings...

Some of you know that Rush had walking pneumonia last week right before our annual trip to Hilton Head, SC. He is doing MUCH better now, and we did get to take our vacation. (More on that later...)

Ben had been traveling A LOT, but he has been home for a couple of weeks now. :)

We are reading The Five Love Languages together. I had read it a long time ago and then again about a year ago. It is a great marriage-builder. I HIGHLY recommend it! My love language is Receiving Gifts (it's a mixture of the gift of your presence & acts of service/gifts). Do you know your love language???

Freezer Group is next week already!!! I have got to get cooking! I will post my recipes soon.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Here are two recipes that we have tried and LOVED recently:

from Melissa D'Arabian: Steak & Potato Salad.
Delicious! This one would be a fun at-home date night meal.
My own recipe. Ben & Rush approved.

Here are my two freezer recipes for August:

Ham & Swiss Croissant Casserole
Once the dish is prepped, cover tightly with foil and lid (if your dish has one) and freeze. When you're ready to bake it refrigerate for 24 hours to thaw completely, then bake as directed.

Rachael Ray's Mini Chicken Sausage Meatballs
This is a Mills Family favorite! Before baking, freeze the meatballs on a tray to keep them from sticking together, then store in a freezer bag/container. Before baking, put back on a cookie sheet, covered, in the refrigerator to thaw for 24 hours (I think these could be cooked frozen, but I haven't tested it, so I don't know how long/what temperature is best). Then cook as directed.
 Ingredient note: The gnocchi is amazing, but if you have picky eaters, this recipe can be done with any type of pasta. Also, this marinara sauce is great on any pasta. You could make the sauce and freeze it in batches to be used when you need it.

Buffalo Chicken Sliders

1 package ground chicken (1 1/3 lbs.)
buffalo wing sauce (you can make your own with hot sauce & butter)
grill seasoning (such as Montreal)
sliced swiss cheese, quartered
crumbled blue cheese (optional)
blue cheese dressing (ranch is fine too)
King's Hawaiian Buttered Rolls
lettuce of choice
tomato, sliced thin

In a mixing bowl, combine the ground chicken with 1-2 TBsp grill seasoning, 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles if desired, and 1/4-1/2 cup of the buffalo sauce. Form small patties (about 3 inches). Cook in a grill pan (or skillet if you don't have one) on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Place 2 quarters of the cheese on top of each slider just as it's finished cooking to melt a bit. Split the rolls to make buns. Spread a little dressing on the bun, top with the slider and lettuce & tomato. Delicious!

These would also be good on top of a salad. Omit the buns, make your favorite salad, and before you drizzle on the dressing put 2 sliders on top.