Monday, February 28, 2011

Crockpot Cooking: Barbeque Ribs

This is the simplest recipe so far.

Barbeque Ribs

Boneless Pork Ribs
Barbeque Sauce
Meat Tenderizer - optional

Put the meat in, sprinkle with tenderizer if desired, cover with sauce and turn on low.
All done. They were so tender and delicious.

As you may be able to tell from the first picture, our ribs were still frozen when we put them in the pot, so we cooked them on high. After a couple hours of cooking I broke them apart, sprinkled the ones in the center with a little meat tenderizer, put on a bit more sauce, and then continued cooking.

I really don't think cooking could get any easier.
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Crockpot Cooking: Chicken, Chicken Stock and Yogurt

As you'll notice in the photos, I'm not actually cooking the chicken in a crockpot. I used to do this in a crockpot, but it's been a long time since one chicken would feed us all, so I have to do two. I have two crockpots, but what's the point in using both of them when one large roaster oven will do the trick? This is something similar to roasted chicken, but since it's not cooked in the oven the bird won't brown nicely, and be all pretty for your table. It will however, be very tasy and juicy - which to me is preferable to pretty anyway. Who wants pretty, but dry chicken?

So, onto the first step:

(Almost) Roasted Chicken

Chicken         Celery
Carrots          Onion
Seasoned Meat Tenderizer
Cooking Spray (this is probably optional if you're using the slow cooker)
You could roast potatoes along with this, and I have before, but you're going to be making stock later from what's left in the pan, and potato remnants can make the stock cloudy. I don't really care about that (I just didn't want potatoes last night), but if you want truly clear stock you'd better skip the potatoes.
This is another incredibly easy meal.
I very lightly sprayed the roaster oven, then laid celery, carrots, and half of a large onion in the bottom to form a sort of rack for the chickens to sit on. I cut the remaining half of the onion in half again.
I sprinkled the inside and the breast side of each bird with the seasoned meat tenderizer, put one of the 1/4th sections of onion in the cavity of each bird and placed them, breast side down in the roaster. I drizzled the skin with a mix of olive oil and melted butter. This will help the skin brown a bit. At least it does in the roaster oven, I can't remember if this will brown it in the crockpot - it's worth a try if you like the skin. Then I sprinkled a little more tenderizer and fresh cracked pepper on the backs, put the lid on and turned it on. Fresh birds will not need to cook all day in a roaster, so for us this is good to start after lunch and cook on low (250-300degrees). You can get away with all day cooking on low in a crockpot. You can even start with a bird that's frozen if you're worried about it drying out. Since I'm not worried about looks, I cook my chickens upside down because it keeps the breast meat from drying out. This works well with turkeys too. I would never place looks before taste anyway, but since we've so many at our Thanksgiving dinner, we serve buffet style with the bird already carved up on a platter. It doesn't matter what it looked like to begin with.

That's it. That's all you do. You can eat the veggies if you want, but not being a big fan of cooked carrots, and not liking celery at all (it's really just in there for the stock), I just leave them in the pan after I take the chickens out to put on the table.

Now for the stock.

Chicken Stock

Remains of one roasted chicken, two in this case (pick the leftover meat off)
Any leftover roasted veggies
Fresh celery, carrots, and onions
Parsley (dried or fresh)
Using the same pot, with the roasted veggies still inside, I throw in a few more scrubbed and chopped carrots (I don't peel them for this) and celery stalks, another large onion (some say you can even leave the skin on the onion, but I've never done this) and the remains of the chicken. I serve the chicken still on the bones and have a bowl on the table for everyone to put them in when they're done. If it really skeeves you out to think about cooking with bones someone's eaten off of you can try to cut all the meat off the bones when you're serving, but bacteria or viruses won't withstand the cooking process you're about to put this stock through.
Add a spash or two of vinegar (this will pull the calcium out of the bones and into your stock, making it readily available to your system in the process), and fill the pot with water; then turn on low and cook. No, you will not taste the vinegar in the stock. Since the temp. on this roaster oven will go quite low, I make sure it's at least set high enough to keep the liquid at a steady simmer. For this size pot that's just shy of 300 degrees. Boiling it hard will result in a cloudy stock. A slow and steady simmer will give you a clear stock.
This is what mine looked like this morning. If you want yours to look like the store bought stuff you could stop right now, but I like mine richer, so I will cook it at least another day. Oftentimes mine is as dark at store bought beef broth, and sometimes darker, but everyone loves soup made with my stock.
I will probably cook this until Monday morning. Thirty minutes before I cut it off I will throw in some fresh parsley (you could use dry) and some peppercorns. Then I'll turn it off and let it cool a little before I carefully scoop out the solids. After that I'll strain it through several layers of cheesecloth, put it in the fridge to cool completely (you can pull the fat off the top after it's cooled), and then pour it in containers, leaving an inch of headspace to allow for expansion, and put it in the feezer.
Homemade stock is so good, and so much better for you than the store bought stuff. This might sound like a lot of work but it's not - just a lot of cooking (which you can, for the most part, ignore).


Milk - 1/2 gallon
Store bought yogurt (or some from a previous batch). Cream on top or low fat, but not fat free. 

You need at least a 4qt crockpot for this. I don't know if a smaller crockpot would hold enough heat for this to work.
Pour a half gallon (8 cups) milk in the pot and turn it on low. Cook for 2 &1/2 hours in a 4qt. pot, or 2hrs, 45min in a larger pot. When the time is up, turn the pot off and let it sit, undisturbed for 3hrs.
After the three hours are up, you'll add in the yogurt.
Since we use raw milk the cream forms a skin on top that I have to remove before I can add the yogurt. It doesn't affect the taste, but the skin part has an unpleasant texture once the yogurt has formed.
To add the yogurt, put some (I don't really measure it, but I think the original recipe said 1/2c) in a bowl and stir in some of the warm milk. It looked like a little more than half a gallon of milk (I'm sure Kay just eyeballed it when she poured it in the pot) so I added another scoop of yogurt to the bowl before adding the milk.
Mix well (do not use metal bowls or spoons), pour it back into the pot, stir it in well and put the lid back on.
Cover the pot with a folded blanket or towel and leave it sitting for about 8 hours. I usually start my yogurt in the afternoon so that it's ready to cover and let sit when it's time for bed. 
The milk will have cultured overnight. First thing in the morning, transfer it to a glass or plastic container and put it in the fridge. It will be ready to eat once it's chilled. The little bit of yellow on mine is what was left of the cream - there is always a bit that is still liquid under the part that skinned.
Homemade yogurt won't be as thick as store bought unless you add some plain gelatin to the warm milk before you add the yogurt/milk mixture. This isn't an issue for me as I love to eat it, slightly sweetened, with a touch of vanilla, poured on top of fresh fruit, or in smoothies. A box of plain gelatin would probably tell you how much it would take to gel that amount of liquid. Just remember, you're not eating gelatin; you wouldn't want it that firm.

This is a good way to make a lot of yogurt cheaply. Even if you use the store bought kind every time instead of saving some of what you previously cultured, it is still cheaper to make it than to buy it. I've never really added it all up, but I know I can make a half gallon of yogurt for under $4.00 (the raw milk we get is $6/gal), and it would cost at least double that if I were to buy a half gallon of yogurt at the store. I can bring the cost down to right at $3 if I use part of my previous batch for the culture.
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Large Family Logistics

They are hosting a give away over at Regan Family Farm.  It is for the book "Large Family Logistics". Even with two of my children grown, and one of those two engaged (although both still live at home), I could still use pointers. Who of us doesn't? So, I'll be entering her drawing for this resourse. I can certainly hang onto it for my girls' use later on too.

I'll have to admit that I've not read this blog, but I did start reading her daughter's blog sometime ago because Ri hooked up to it. It sounds like a very sweet family, and being a sucker for cute little kids, I especially love the pics of their littlest one doing what kids do best - like when she nibbled the points of several of the heart cookies they made for Valentine's Day. :D.

Why don't you jump on over an check them out. I believe they will be holding the drawing on Sunday.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


My post yesterday put me in mind of what I'm grateful for today. My two older daughters.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm not grateful for my younger daughters, I am, but I guess what I'm really grateful for is the caring, helpful young women the older girls have become. They pitch in and get things done without me having to ask, just because they know it needs to be done. And if I'm busy, they will make sure that all the really necessary stuff gets done whether it's day-to-day chores, or preparations we are making for a function we have to attend, a small intimate gathering, or a big family dinner. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to walk in the house after the dozen or errands that needed to be run are complete (and you know it took longer than you wanted it to) and supper is nearly finished, the laundry was washed, and the living room has been tidied. They are also regular helpers withthe girls schoolwork, and have been  invaluable when it came to helping with my grandmother. Indeed, I could not have had her stay with us if I had not had their help.

So, it is for the wonderful young women my older girls have grown into that I'm grateful for today.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Oh...weren't they little just yesterday?

I tried to post at least the first part of this Saturday, but we kept having problems with our internet that (we hope) were repaired today.  Now I'm free (thanks to Ri's official announcement) to post the rest.

Our oldest daughter turned 21 on Saturday. Yeah, that's right 21! We took her out for her birthday at lunch on Friday though, because we were not all going to be able to go out to eat together on Saturday. She had shrimp scampi...yummm.
Then on Saturday, I went out and got her one of her favorite milkshakes; caramel coffee. She had already had her party. With so many that have birthdays so close together we have one big party, but try to do something a little special on their actual birthday.
It's hard to believe she's 21. We missed the first few years of her life, my husband not getting custody until she was five, but we have a few precious memories of when she was a baby - like her practically wearing her 1st birthday cake, ALWAYS loving lasagna, and absolutely adoring anything that had four legs (she still loves lasagna and animals, but can now eat her cake without wearing it :D). Thankfully there have been acres of memories since shortly after she turned five. She's grown from an adorable, bald-headed, little bundle of energy into a beautiful young woman (yes, she has hair now), and btw babe - gray eyes are gorgeous!
Happy Birthday honey!

In other news, Superman asked Ri to marry him Friday evening (Friday was busy!). He asked her father for his permission a few weeks ago and has been planning the perfect time to surprise her. He really wanted it to come out of the blue so he waited because she got a little suspicious after he had spoken with her father and started asking all kinds of questions. So after her curious little mind had quieted down (this took about 3 wks) he sprung it on her during a commercial break of one of T.Lynn's favorite shows, acting like he was getting up to go to the bathroom and then dropping down on one knee and proposing. She was touched that he was so courteous as to not want to disturb T. during her program. She was also terribly surprised and sat there for a second or to, as if she didn't know what to do. It was great! Now he's setting his sights on getting a home for them, she's freaking out a little about finishing up her hope chest, and I really need to get started on that quilt I want to make for them. Good thing I've been buying up yellow fabric every chance I had for the last 3 weeks. And she thought I was ridiculous for worrying about it so soon - ha!
Congratulations to you both!

It really was just yesterday that they were antagonizing one another when they should have been doing their schoolwork, or piling up pillows in the living room to jump into, or excitedly asking to hold one of their new baby sisters. Making tents in the dining room when it was too wet to play outside, playing with their new, plastic bowling set in the kitchen on Christmas morning, or spending hours walking around, one on each side of their newest baby sister, "helping" her learn how to walk. I promise you it was.
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Crock Pot Cooking: Pot Roast

Okay, here's how I do pot roast.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
1 Roast (I prefer chuck roast, but you can use whatever you like)
Stock (or water and beef base)
Veggies of your choice (or none at all)

This is so simple it ought to be illegal, but I'm sure glad it's not.
Put your roast in the crock pot and add your stock, or the water and beef base. Here again I used chicken stock and a tablespoon of beef base - I still haven't gotten around to making more beef stock.
I don't even thaw the roast out, I just plop it in frozen, first thing in the morning, and then cook it on low all day.
You can add veggies if you want, but I don't like to. To me it's just like beef stew with one really big hunk of meat in it if you add veggies. This is something I like to cook if I don't have any time in the morning, but will have a little time in the evening to finish up supper (or when one of my older daughters will be there and can cook the rest). Most often we serve it with mashed potatoes, or with cubed red, or fingerling potatoes that I roast in the oven with onions, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Just like with the stew, you will thicken it with a rue made from a combination of olive oil, butter and flour. I even used the same pictures I took for the beef stew because it's the same process. If you need to thicken it quickly you can use cornstarch and water. Just add cold water, a little at a time to the cornstarch while stirring, until you have it fairly runny and then pour it in. Remember to stir the pot while you add it or you'll get little lumps. If it's still not thick enough, mix some more and add it in. Do this until you have the consistancy you want. After you do it a time or two you will get the feel for how much cornstarch you will need to start with in the future, for the amount of food you're making. I think the rue makes a slightly better tasting gravy, but the cornstarch does a good job too.
I try to slice it for serving, but because it's so tender, I often end up with something that looks like shredded beef. This piece looks pretty good, but it was one of the first I cut. By the time I got around to serving my plate we had the shredded beef. :D
Mmmmmmm. It was very good. Kay makes the best mashed potatoes. She doesn't mash them completely smooth (you can see the lump of a potato in the front, left of the pile) so you occasionally get a big chunk of potato - I like that.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crock Pot Cooking:Chili

For this recipe I'll have to include a link to one of my daughters' blogs. This is a recipe they came up with one day, as you'll be able to tell by the incredibly long name they gave it.
For the most part they use leftover beans we had a day or two before, and they typically use a pint of plain, diced tomatoes we canned, unless we don't have any fresh peppers, then they'll use a pint of the homade "Ro*tel" we canned. You're free to use canned beans and diced tomatoes. All of the seasoning are used "to taste", so you can adjust them as you see fit.

So, without further ado, here's the link to Bree's site for Ri and Bree's
Chili, For-when-your-mom-leaves-you-at-home-with-ground beef-and-nothing-else-and-says-"Cook something".

Hope ya'll enjoy!
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Crock Pot Cooking: Tacos

Our church has a covered dish meal the first Sunday of each month. On the other Sundays, families are still encouraged to stay and spend some time in fellowship, you just bring lunch for your own family. This is one of the meals we take on those Sundays. It can also be set up and ready to eat once you get home if you don't have fellowship meals at your church. Or you can put it together at lunch time and it will be ready for a quick supper.

Taco Filling

ground beef
taco seasoning mix

Brown your ground beef. This is 6 lbs I cooked Friday night in preparation for a birthday party we had on Saturday.
When your meat is nearly done, add your onion. I like to grate mine when adding to taco meat.

I usually do this part the night before I'll be having the tacos because we're usually eating them for lunch. I also go ahead and chop the lettuce (with a plastic knife) and tomato as well. To make it easy, I usually buy pre-shredded cheese for these.
The next morning I put the ground beef and onion mix in the crock pot, add the taco seasoning and water and turn the pot on high. I use McCormick because it doesn't have MSG, and I like to use equal parts of the regular and low sodium. I don't usually add a whole pack per pound of meat as the instructions indicate. I add a little less and then taste it shortly before serving to see if it needs more. In the past the kids have complained it was too spicy if I used the whole amount. They're getting older though, and more of them like spicy food now. Homemade taco seasoning mix is on my list of things to try and make, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.
There you go. If you prepared the other fillings while your meat was cooking your tacos will be ready to eat as soon as you heat the tortillas or taco shells. When we take this to church we don't bother with taco shells. We take small, flour tortillas to make soft tacos with, wrapping them in foil and laying them on the lid so they can warm while the filling cooks. I usually run in the kitchen between singing and the sermon (during our meet and greet) and flip the package over so both sides get warmed. You can keep the warmth on them by covering them with a small, folded towel after you flip them over.

I've occasionally used a small cookie sheet in place of the lid for the crock pot (sometimes by necessity if the lid was broken) and this makes a great surface for warming rolls or other bread during the last part of the cooking. I've put the bread on during the meet and greet, and everythings ready to eat by the time the service is over.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crock Pot Cooking: Beef Stew

As promised, here is my first recipe for use in a slow cooker:

Beef Stew
stew beef pieces, or you can cut a roast into small pieces
potatoes                        carrots
onions                           frozen corn
salt                                pepper
oil/butter                        flour
stock (or water and beef base)
Cast of characters
This photo does not accurately depict the quantities I used. Some of the potatoes were already in the pot, I ended up putting in more carrots, and I didn't use two whole onions. You can't tell it from their position in the photo, but these were onions I was culling from the onion basket, so there were some bad spots in them. Stews and soups are an excellent way to use up small, or less than perfect veggies, or to finish up using the last one or two of something you have on hand.
Chop up the veggies. As you can see, we don't peel potatoes for our stew and I like to cut the carrot quite small. This is a personal choice as I really prefer to eat carrots raw. Chopping them small keeps me from biting into a huge chunk of carrot. If you like them cooked, cut them bigger. One of my favorite ways to sneak things like carrot, onion, or zucchini into things so the kids can't tell it's there is to grate them finely.
We cut our stew beef into smaller pieces than it is sold in the store. It's much easier for smaller mouths to eat, plus it allows a smaller amout of beef to stretch and feed more people. Here it's already cut up and I've sprinkled it with freshly ground pepper and seasoned meat tenderizer. I use the tenderizer in place of salt since it's primary ingredient is salt. You can find them made with papain as the tenderizing agent and no added MSG. Also, you need be careful about how much meat tenderizer or salt you use. Beef base and commercial stocks/broths tend to have a lot of salt, so you wouldn't want to add much, if any to your stew if you use them. I don't put salt in my homemade stock, so I'm free to add what I want to the food I'm using them in.
Next, add your stock (or water and beef base). I was out of my homemade beef stock, so I used some of my chicken stock and added about 1Tbls of beef base. If I were using water I would probably use approx. 2Tbls beef base (for this quantity of stew). I prefer to use a beef base I find at the health food store instead of one from the regular supermarket. I don't like to use things with long ingredient lists of things I can't pronounce. That's why I would much rather use my own stock to begin with.

At this point you put on the lid and turn it on. If you started in the morning, turn it on low, if you started at noon, turn it on high.

About a half hour before serving, add frozen corn. Again, this is a personal preference, if you don't want it, don't add it.
Now it's time to thicken your stew.
Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet.
Add flour. I used some Kamut flour I had ground a few days before (and kept in the freezer). You can use white flour if you want. I also added some more salt and pepper since I had already tasted the broth in the stew.
Just make sure the ratio of flour to oil/butter makes a rue that isn't too thick. Here it's just starting to bubble. Mine is this color because of the olive oil and whole wheat flour. If you make it with white flour, or don't use olive oil, it will be lighter.
You really need to cook this rue kind of slowly (med-high heat), stirring often until it starts to brown. It's a little harder to tell with a darker rue, but you'll see it getting a little browner, and it will start to smell....well, toasty. Once it does start to brown it can burn quickly, so turn down the heat and keep stirring until it's all a little darker. Then add it to your stew, stirring as you pour it in the pot, and...
there you go. Thick, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs beef stew. Make sure to taste it to see if it needs any additional seasoning before serving.
You can use other veggies if you like and you can omit some of the things I've listed if you want; stew is kind of, whatever-you-want-goes. I would not remove the onion though. Even if you don't like to eat onions, they impart a wonderful flavor to foods you cook with them.

Enjoy your stew!
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Using your crock pot.

I've decided to run a segment on my blog about using your slow cooker, for a couple of reasons.
1)A blogger I read, A Blossoming Homestead, recently asked for suggestions so she could use her crock pot more.
2)I would like to have a place to put instructions for crock pot cooking so my girls can easily access it, and a lot of the things I cook in a crock pot I either never had a recipe for, or I modified a recipe to such a point that it doesn't much resemble the original.

I will try to post a new recipe once a week, most likely on Saturday. That should fit pretty well into my schedual because Friday is  a perfect day to use the slow cooker. Beenie has guitar lessons in the fairly large city to our north every Friday morning, and since that is where the Costco, Whole Foods, restaurant supply store, and two fabric stores are located (as well as the place I get the girls eye glasses, and we have regular trips there for adjustments/repairs), and anything else we could possibly need, I try to get as many of my errands run as I can on those trips. Sometimes, if I have a lot to do, I'll send one girl with Beenie and then go run at least one errand while she has her lesson. Then, when all my errands are done there, or if I'm running out of time, I beat a path home, grab a bite to eat (if I didn't eat luch on the fly in the van), put away purchases and get Grandma to head out for her standing, Friday afternoon appointment to have her hair washed and set in the small city to our south. I also corral whichever kids are going with me, and many times drop Kay at the library (along with whatever girls want to stay there), before I jet on over to the hair salon. Sometimes I leave someone with Grandma so I can finish up an errand or two while they work on her hair and other times I stop on the way home to finish up my errands. Oh, and I don't usually forget to pick Kay back up from the library on the way home. :D
All in all, it's a great day to throw something in the slow cooker so that supper is done that night without too much more effort. I just have to remember to take pictures.

I will add a couple things here just to help you out.
1)I do not use canned soup in any of my recipes - that's why many of them don't look much like the original recipe I had for whatever food it was. I converted all the recipes to using a homemade cream-of (mushroom, potato, etc.) soup many years ago. You can use the canned soup if you really want to, and I'll try to remember to make a note in the instructions for where you can subsitute it. My version takes a little more time than opening a can of soup, but you can use all natural/organic ingredients and way less sodium.
2)I will not be using exact quantities very often, because unless you feed 9 people on a regular basis, you will not need to make as much as I do. It's all pretty simple. If you're making stew for 2, just put in a potato or two, one fourth to half an onion, and a carrot, along with your beef. If you're making enough for my family you put in 10-12 potatoes (depending on size), 1-2 onions (size again), at least 4 carrots, and way more beef. The crock pot I use most is 7qt. Yours may be smaller. Of course, you can always make a larger quantity and eat leftovers for a few days.
3)Occasionally I will use a large roaster oven in place of a crock pot. This is purely because of the quantity I am making. I just turn it on very low and use it just like a crock pot.
4)I might make more than one post a week if I used the crock pot more that week.
5)I will be making a new label so that all the slow cooker meals can be easily accessed.

I'll be starting tomorrow with my slow cooker beef stew - it is currently bubbling away and smells soooo good! We're just waiting on Bree and Beenie to finish up the garlic cheddar biscuts they are making to go with it.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

You just gotta love it!

Some of you probably remember the pictures I've posted in the past of things I've found in weird places. Like the crayons and cell phone in the fruit basket. Or the crazy straws in the kitchen utensil bucket. The toilet paper roll in the decorative tissue box in the living room, or the toy knife tied in the pull cords for the blinds. Well, this is what I found when I opened the door on my sewing cabinet a few days ago.
Actually, I didn't see it at first. I opened the door and reached in to grab the box you see on the top shelf - the one behind the tomato and grapes, and encountered the plastic fruit instead of the box. To be honest I was thankful that the box was still there. My things have been known to get evicted on occasion when they are "in the way".
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Happy Birthday Beenie!!

She turned 12 today, so we are headed out in a bit to have her ears pierced. This is one of the milestones the girls always look forward to. She is so excited.

Happy Birthday Honey!
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gratituesday: Bible Teaching

Laura, from Heavenly Homakers hosts Gratituesday. I've participated in it a time or two, and I wanted to again today.

What I'm grateful for today is good, solid Bible teaching.

I've gone to church most of my adult life. We've gone to many different types of churches. Presbyterian, Non-denominational, Non-denominational with a leaning toward charismatic, Baptist, Independent Baptist (yes, there is a difference), Methodist, Charity (this was a Charity style church, but not officially connected with the Charity churches), and Bible churches.
These churches have had a variety of different set ups. Most had some sort of Sunday School class activities before regular church service. All but two had an additional weekday service, usually touted as a bible study, more often resembling a Sunday morning service with less singing. Some had Sunday morning and evening services in addition to the mid-week service. And some had a constant stream of activities: services (minimum of 3 a week), camp meetings, revivals, jubilees, homecomings, ladie's meetings, men's meeting, youth meetings, etc., etc., etc.

Hands down, I feel that I've learned more about the Bible in our current church than all of the others combined. I'm not saying I didn't learn about the Bible during all of those years when I was attending other churches, but most of that learning was done through my own research because of unanswered questions I would have after preaching services, or because I was curious about a particular topic, but wasn't satisfied with the (seemingly pat) answers I was getting. That is all well and good, and exactly what you should do. We should all study the bible on our own and not leave our training exclusively in the hands of our preachers, but it is invaluable to have dedicated elders who are intent on training their congregation. We are supposed to be taught so that we can mature in the knowledge of scripture. Unfortunately, I have heard preachers insist that the congregation look to him for understanding, instead of equipping them to understand it on their own.

Our current church has two preaching/teaching elders who usually lead our services. They use expository teaching, in the truest sense. They've systematically taught through entire books of the Bible, or sometimes through a particular topic, often debating both sides of an argument. They also open the floor after the teaching for questions or comments about the service, allowing input from everyone. If they don't have a ready answer for a question, they encourage answers from the congregation. If they, or no one else has a ready answer, they will research it later and get back to you. I have learned so much, and had so many questions answered.

So, it is wonderful Bible teaching that I am grateful for today.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Time to think about the garden.

It's that time again. I need to plan out what I want to plant this spring and order my seeds. I probably should have already done it, but I'm sure it will all work out.
We plan on increasing the garden plot this year. As you may know, we only planted around the deck and a bit against one side of the back of the house last year. The deck is in the middle of the back of the house and we planted around the right side (if facing the back). This year we plan on putting a couple of beds off the left side of the deck. We won't be planting veggies right against this side of the house, partly because the outside units for the heat pumps sit there, but also because the section of free ground that is there stays in the shade almost all day. I would like to plant a few hosta in that shady part. Because of the layout; the house is on one side of the proposed garden plot, and the deck on the adjacent side, there's not much incidental foot traffic, and less of a chance of kids accidently stepping in the beds. On the down side, that is the one area in the whole yard where water sits for awhile if we've had a lot of rain. It's never had standing water for more than a day, but it's still something to keep in mind. Since we do raised beds it shouldn't (please, please, please) give us too much of a problem. If it does we'll just convert it back to lawn and move the garden beds somewhere else next year.
With the increase in gardening area, I may plant beans this year. I'd also like to plant pumpkins, but they take a lot of space, so I don't know for sure if they'll make it in this time. I also plan on moving some of my herbs to the front flower beds. I think the pineapple sage would look great up front. Some of the greek/globe basil would also look nice and the oregano would probably fair better in front than it did in the back. I would like to move my rosemary to the south side of the house, but we don't have beds of any kind over there right now, so I'll have to see if we'll have enough resources to put one in there as well. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew, especially since hubby suggested planting a few fruit trees this coming spring, and he wants to remove the rose of sharon bushes that are in the front beds and replace them with something that holds it's shape well once it's prunned. The rose of sharon is not a neat shrub so it falls all over the sidewalk even when it has been prunned.
There's a lot of work that will need to be done, but so many good things to look forward to.
Are ya'll looking forward to gardening this spring?
I can hardly wait!
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