Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crockpot Tater Tot Casserole

I have made this casserole for years, but never added veggies...and never tried it in a crockpot...until today. It was a hit!

Crockpot Tater Tot Casserole

1 lb. ground beef (cooked & drained)
1 bag tater tots
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 soup can water
Frozen peas and carrots
Salt, pepper & garlic powder to taste
Shredded cheddar cheese

Mix ground beef, 1/2 bag tater tots, soup, water, peas and carrots. Pour mixture in 4 quart crockpot. Pour remaining 1/2 bag tater tots on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook on low about 4 hours. Top with shredded cheese and cook another 30 minutes.

Tuesday Tips

  • If you have never heard of the Hillbilly Housewife website, you must check it out. There are so many money-saving tips and recipes...I have learned so much from the info there.
There is also a weekly newsletter that you can sign up for by email. This week's edition is here.
  • My sister Diane sent me a great way to use leftover chicken tenders/nuggets.

Plantation Chicken:

1/4 cup chopped (very small) white onion in 2 1/2 tablespoons of oil until onions are soft and clear.

Stir in:
2 tablespoon flour and mix until light brown

Add slowly:
2 cups water and 1 teaspoon liquid Gravy Master (to make the gravy brown) and whisk until smooth.

When the gravy is smooth and slightly thick, add the cold chicken tenders and you can also add leftover vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, peas. Sprinkle with Season-All to taste and cook until heated. Serve over rice. This is so yummy and you would never know it is leftovers.

  • My friend Elysa's daughter is going to Swaziland, Southern Africa, next July to serve as an Adventures in Missions ambassador missionary for one month. They are raising funds for this trip by making BEAUTIFUL hand-crafted jewelry. I personally know this family and I can assure you that the profits from these sales will be such a blessing, not only to Elysa's daughter, but also to all the little children in Swaziland that she will touch for the Kingdom.

Check out some samples of the jewelry here. These would make excellent gifts for anyone on your list...you know it's only 85 days until Christmas. : )

  • Living on a Dime is offering their book Dining On A Dime Cookbook: Eat Better, Spend Less in an e-book form for $10. This is a great deal. I have this cookbook and there are so many great recipes and tips for eating frugally. Click here to read more about it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

God-Sized Assignments

Several years ago, I worked through Henry Blackaby's study Experiencing God. I've been thinking about that study a lot lately. The overall theme was that God is always working in and around us. Instead of us coming up with a plan and asking God to bless it, we should find out what He is doing and join Him.

It is rather disconcerting when we realize that it's not all about us. I mean, as Christians, we know that...intellectually...but it is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day "stuff" and lose sight of the big picture...kind of like not being able to see the forest for the trees. Not that we will every really know the big picture...only the Lord knows that. The best we can do is to seek Him and ask for His wisdom and guidance in all that we do.

We all know about super-sized...from drinks to fries...but the assignments that He has for us are God-sized. I don't think we are really living our lives in faith unless we are attempting to do something that we humanly cannot do on our own...something that if God doesn't show up, we will fail miserably. How exciting to be invited to join Him on an adventure! How incredibly scary as well.

Where is it that you sense God calling you to step out of the boat? Leave a comment and share your stories...we would love to join you in prayer for your adventure.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chocolate Carrot Cake

I made this cake this morning and it's yummy!

Chocolate Carrot Cake

1 2/3 cups self-rising flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ cup Splenda Granular

¼ cup prune puree (I used a small jar of plum baby food)
¼ cup canola oil

1 large egg
3 large egg whites
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup orange juice
2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 medium)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with Pam. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and Splenda, then set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix prune puree (or baby food), canola oil, egg, egg whites, vanilla and orange juice. Add flour mixture to prune mixture ½ cup at a time and mix. When all the flour has been added, fold in the carrots and pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. (140 calories per serving)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Margins in Life

I once heard about a book called Margin, maybe on a Focus on the Family broadcast. That was a long time ago, but I've never forgotten what the author said because it rang so true in my own life.

I looked up the book on Amazon.com this morning and found it here. The product description reads, "Are you worn out? This book offers healthy living in four areas we all struggle with-emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances-and will prepare you to live a balanced life."

I have not read the book yet, so this is not a review, merely a commentary on how full our lives are. The society in which we live does not allow for much down time. For some reason, we believe that we must be busy all the time.

We pack our lives with so much that we are living on the edge most of the time, not allowing time or energy for unexpected things that come up. Inevitably, those unexpected events do happen and many times we are pushed over the edge. Often the really important things are pushed to the background as we desperately try to just survive. Surely this can't be the way God wants us to live as Believers.

Here is an excerpt from a devotional that I wrote several years ago:

"Opening up our homes to invite those in who need to see God’s love in action must be pleasing to our Lord. There is an abundance of hurting, lonely people, both in the world and in our church, who are starving for fellowship and companionship. It does not matter to them if your furniture has been dusted or not, or whether you serve a gourmet dinner with all the proper utensils. What matters is that you took the initiative and cared enough to invite them into your home and into your life.

I have been guilty of neglecting to practice hospitality, and the reasons for this are probably the same ones that keep you from practicing it as well. We live in a very busy culture, and we sometimes measure our success by the number of appointments that we have on our calendars. We run from here to there, and by the time we get home, we are exhausted. So then the thought of having to clean the house “good enough for company” and plan a nice meal just seems way beyond my energy level.

When I hear people talk about the way life was in years gone by, it makes me long for a slower, more peaceful way of life. A time when people stopped by friends’ and families’ homes for a visit and a meal, and they knew that they were truly welcome. A time when people sat around a dinner table or a fireplace or on a front porch and talked, sharing problems, telling stories, dreaming dreams, being themselves and being accepted by their friends - feeling a part of a community - part of a family - connected.

My prayer for all of us this week is that our Father will give us a friendly, hospitable heart. That he will help us to set our priorities straight so that we have the time and energy to minister His love in a way that would be pleasing to Him. That He will open our eyes to the hurting and lonely who desperately need our friendship, and that He will flood us anew with His love so that we will not be afraid to open our homes and our hearts and share ourselves with each other."

Monday, September 22, 2008


It's a God thing.

Sherwood Baptist Church, located in the small town of Albany, Georgia, is daring to believe God once again. Their second movie Facing the Giants was a blockbuster hit at the box office and DVD sales. Armed with a low budget, one camera and an abundance of faith, they have released their latest movie, Fireproof, which is opening this weekend.

Focus on the Family has a very positive review here. Church members fill the cast, along with Kirk Cameron starring as the main character. The story is a very familiar one of marriage gone bad, but the difference is that in this story good triumphs over evil and the name of Jesus is honored.

This is one of those pro-family, pro-marriage movies that we should all support to send a message that we want more movies like this. Let your friends know about Fireproof and make plans to see it. Mike and I are going...maybe we'll see you there! : )

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is It Really Possible?

Lysa Terkeurst wrote an article for Proverbs 31 ministries telling about how, as a young, unmarried woman, she made the decision to have an abortion. She kept this secret for a long, long time, so afraid that her church friends would find out about it and reject her.

Here is a quote from her article:

"For one in three women within the church, it is one of the most painful parts of their life story. One for which they want to find forgiveness and healing, but are too afraid of being judged to share their secret with anyone. So they suffer in silence, wrapped in a cloak of shame."

Can this be true? One...in...three? If so, it is mind-boggling...and heartbreaking.

I have been sitting here for about five minutes just looking at the screen and reading what I have just typed...shaking my head...and trying to comprehend. It's impossible to make sense of it.

If those statistics are true, then there is a pretty good chance that someone who ends up reading this blog will fall into that category. Let me assure you that you will not find condemnation here. I don't agree with abortion, but I also know that the grief that those women live with every day is stronger than anything I can say.

My concern is not only for all the innocent lives that are lost through abortion, but also for the lives of these women who live bound by shame and regret...and I want to speak truth to you. There is forgiveness...there is love...there is healing...all waiting for you at the foot of the cross. Jesus died just for you...to take your sins so that you can be reconciled to God the Father.

Lysa is now sharing about this dark time in her life and God is using her testimony to touch others and bring glory to His name. Sisters, if we can make ourselves transparent to other Christians and share our struggles, perhaps they will be able to share their secrets with us. The Christian community should be a safe place to open our hearts without fear of rejection...but I know first-hand that it is not always that way.

Lord have mercy on us.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I have been wanting a KitchenAid mixer for years. I finally took the plunge and bought one. Being the frugal shopper that I am, I found a refurbished one on Amazon.com for $152 and I got an instant rebate of $20...so $132 is not bad for a mixer than retails for almost $400. I mainly bought it so I can start making wheat bread. But today, BK and I decided to try it on some oatmeal cookies.

I am learning how to convert my recipes to healthier versions. The verdict? See for yourself....

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

3/4 c. Splenda
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. Land-O-Lakes Light Butter (any kind is fine - this is just what I used)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3 c. quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. raisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix sugars, butter, baking soda, salt, vanilla and eggs until well blended. Stir in oats, flour and raisins.

Spray cooking spray on cookie sheets and drop dough by rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart.

Bake about 10-13 minutes or until light brown. Cook 2 minutes and remove to racks to cool. (Makes 2 dozen - about 140 calories per cookie)

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I'm sitting here eating a bowl of rice and gravy. I just looked down into the bowl and the word "comfort" just floated back up to me.

According to Wikepedia, "Comfort food is typically inexpensive, uncomplicated, and easy to prepare. Many people turn to comfort food for familiarity, emotional security, or as a special reward. The reasons a dish becomes a comfort food are diverse but often include pleasant associations of childhood. Small children often seem to latch on to a specific food or drink (in a way similar to a security blanket) and will repeatedly request it in high stress situations. Adults eat comfort food for a sense of continuity."

I could have told you that.

What I don't get is why this forty-something year old woman feels the need to keep turning back to her security blanket over and over....and over and over.

Thankfully, I know in whom I believe and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I committed unto Him. My God isn't finished with me yet.

Not So Funny

I called my son last night on his cell phone. He was laughing when he answered and I asked him why. He said that he loves when I call him on his cell, because he has the ringer set to play the music from Psycho to let him know when I'm calling.

I was not amused.

Oh well, I raised him...and my side of his gene pool contributed greatly to his wacky sense of humor...so I guess it's my own fault, huh?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Got this in an email this morning...funny...

Are you tired of those sissy 'friendship' poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of True Friendship. You WON'T see cutesy little smiley faces on this card- Just the stone cold truth of our great friendship.

1. When you are sad, I will jump on the person who made you sad like a spider monkey jacked up on Mountain Dew!!!

2. When you are blue, I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

3. When you smile, I will know you are plotting something that I must be involved in.

4. When you're scared, we will high tail it out of here.

5. When you are worried, I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining, ya big baby!!!!

6. When you are confused, I will use little words.

7. When you are sick, Stay away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.

8. When you fall, I'll pick you up and dust you off-- After I laugh my rear off!!

9. This is my oath... I pledge it to the end. 'Why?' you may ask; -- because you are my FRIEND!

************Remember...friendship is like wetting your pants, everyone can see it, but only YOU can feel the true warmth.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thoughts On The Shack

Recently, Mike and I facilitated a book discussion group on The Shack. I want to share a few of my thoughts about the book.

First of all, let me say that although I consider myself a conservative Christian, I do tend to have an open mind when it comes to thinking outside the box. There has been some controversy about the book. From what I've read, it seems that the folks who have negative things to say about the book are threatened by the very theme of the book...which is that it's more about relationship than rules.


God has used this book to touch many people and it was one of those books that was hard to put down. The story is riveting and even though it's fiction, the characters are believable. It caused me to think...and then rethink...about many of my beliefs to see if they line up with scripture, or if they come from a lifetime of denominational teaching.

The main character is a man named Mack. Mack's daughter was kidnapped and presumed dead. He struggles to get past that tragedy. A few years later, he received a note asking him to come back to the shack in the woods where it is assumed that his daughter was killed. The note was signed "Papa," which is a name that Mack's wife calls God. Curiosity drove him back to the shack, where he does indeed meet God...in ways that surprise Mack...and I would imagine most readers as well.

One of my favorite parts of the book was when God talked to Mack about the pain that he had experienced. I think this is something that every Christian struggles with at some point: Where is God when I'm hurting? God assured Mack that He was right there with him...and He was with his daughter as well. He told Mack "Will you at least consider this: When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?"

Another very interesting part was when the Holy Spirit talked to Mack about his perceived "rights" and how in reality, God is the only one who has any real rights. "You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms. That is a hard pill to swallow; choosing to only live in me. To do that you must know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness."

I could go on and on about the book, but if you have not read it, please get a copy and see for yourself what all the talk is about.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quote For The Day

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, September 12, 2008

Divorce For Sale

I was driving home from a shopping trip this morning, minding my own business, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a billboard with the giant words "DIVORCE $402." Underneath that it said something like "When your marriage is over" and then listed a telephone number.

Seriously...is this what our society has come to? It's wrong on so many levels.

First of all, let me just state the obvious. Marriage was created to be a sacred union between a man an a woman...for a lifetime. Having been divorced, I can personally tell you that once the idea of the possibility of divorce gets firmly planted in your mind, it is very difficult to work past that. So many couples saunter up to the alter these days with the idea already in their mind before they even say "I do." It's like they tell themselves that if it doesn't work out, then there is an easy way out...what the heck...let's give this thing a shot.

It is no secret that marriage is hard work. Sure, there are fun times. Remember the "honeymoon stage" when the things that drive us crazy later in the marriage seem cute in those early days? A marriage relationship is kind of like the little nursery rhyme about the little girl who had a little curl...right in the middle of her forehead. When it's good...then it's very, very good...but when it's bad...then it's horrid. On one of those horrid days, a billboard touting such an obviously good deal on a "solution to fix all our problems" might be just the catalyst to get the ball rolling.

Is the attorney who paid for that sign concerned about the heartache that divorce causes? Does he/she care that lives are torn apart, children are emotionally scarred or that more single mothers live in poverty than any other people group in our population? No. It's all about the buck.

We live in a fallen world and as long as there are imperfect people getting married, then there will be divorce. As I said, I have been divorced, so I'm not throwing stones. I just want to say that to even entertain the idea of divorce is usually not a very wise decision if in our hearts we sincerely want to honor the commitment that we made to each other on our special days.

Sale or no sale...I mean frugality only goes so far, you know?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Trust

We heard an incredible testimony on Focus on the Family this morning. This man was at work in one of the Twin Towers on 9/11/01...a day that none of us will ever forget. One of the jets crashed into his office, about 20 feet from where he was sitting at his desk...and he lived to tell about it.

If you would like to listen to the program, go to http://www.focusonthefamily.com/ and click on "Listen to Daily Broadcast." It is very powerful. The name of the broadcast is "When the Towers Were Falling."

I'm sure that there were many people praying that day for rescue and safety, but many of them died. At the end of the program, Dr. Dobson made some comments about the question we all ask ourselves at some point...why do some prayers seem to get answered and some don't? Obviously, none of us have the answer to that question...only God knows.

We may never understand why God allows tragedies in our lives, but we can be assured of this...He loves us with an everlasting love and He is good. He has a plan and a destiny for each of us. We can't see the future, but He knows how the story ends.

Dr. Dobson ended by quoting Job 13:15 "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." How much trust does it take to utter those words? Job really knew his God. He understood that whether he lived or died, God's purpose for his life would be fulfilled.

How much it must please our Father when we get to the place in our walk with Him that we can say "Not my will, but Your will be done"...no matter what 911 we are facing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Heavenly Conversation

If you had been a fly on the window of my van this afternoon, this is what you would have heard:

Me: Yep, your name is Bonnie just like my Mommy's name was Bonnie
BK: Why?
Me: That was just her name
BK: But now she's in Heaven
Me: Yes, she is in Heaven
BK: When will I go to Heaven?
Me: I hope not for a long time
BK: But why? I want to go now!
Me: Because I would be very sad if you weren't here with me
BK: Okay...it will be a long time...like 30 minutes
Me: Is 30 minutes a long time?
BK: Yes

Kids...you gotta love 'em! : )

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

He's The Real Deal

We are told in the Bible that God is love - Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. I John 4:8 (NIV)

It's not that He is just loving or lovely, or even lovable...but He IS love. It is the essence of His being. If He was not love, then He would cease to be. Take a minute and try to wrap your head around that.

I was thinking about I Corinthians 13:4-8. Most of us are familiar with this passage, which describes what real love is like (I even have a framed print with these verses in my den). It occurred to me that since God is love, we should be able paraphrase these verses by substituting God for love. Let's read it that way to see if we can learn something about His nature:

God is patient and kind. God does not envy or boast, God is not proud. God is not rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.

Our Father wants us to know Him. Not just know about Him, but to really know Him. For when we really know Him, then we will begin to understand the depths of His love for us. Only then can we truly trust Him enough to fully place our faith in Him.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What I Most Want You To Know - Life After Divorce

Our guest blogger today is my friend Carol Wood, who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Carol's story is inspiring to me because she began a new career later in life, allowing God to prove Himself faithful to be her Jehovah Jireh.

What I Most Want You to Know - Life After Divorce
I became a divorce statistic 10 years ago this November. I married right out of college to someone I thought was Mr. Right. I prayed about the decision, went to several premarital counselors, did all that I knew to do at the time.
Twenty five years later, that marriage ended up in divorce, and I had to rebuild my life. I had been a stay-at-home mom for 25 years with no appreciable job skills. I went for career counseling to assist me in making the decision about what to do with my life and was told, “You have a very unusual personality—don’t go work in an office—you wouldn’t like it and you wouldn’t be good at it! You’re going to have to figure out your own path.” I truly did not have enough sense to figure it out—fortunately the Lord just put me where I needed to be.
I went back to school and earned a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Each step of the way, He has guided me to where I needed to be, and I wouldn’t take anything for what I’ve learned on this (still-ongoing) journey. I love my life and what I do, and I wouldn’t be doing it if I hadn’t been propelled into it by divorce.
Here are some things I learned along the way:

Divorce is not the unpardonable sin—it’s just something that happens to you. Though I do believe that God intends for families to be intact, the primary means of educating children about Him and His ways, He is not rendered helpless by people’s sinful decisions. He can still achieve His purposes in your life, and in your children’s.

Divorce should not change your view of who you are. It should let you know just exactly who that is. Some of what and who we thought we are is built on facades and false belief systems. Divorce is as good a time as any for that to be torn down.

Divorce is an opportunity to learn about yourself…take it. To not take advantage of it is to keep yourself small-minded and scared.

Divorce is hard on kids. They deal with it better if their parents deal with it honestly.

Divorce is a great opportunity to find out your partner doesn’t define you. God defines you—get in line with Him and agree with Him about who you are. If you don’t get that, you may pursue another wrong relationship to try to fill the gaps left by your spouse’s leaving.

Judgment doesn’t help—whether it’s toward your spouse or yourself. It keeps us bound up in unforgiveness and does not make space for grace. It hardens you and keeps you from experiencing life to the fullest.

Get help! There are Divorce Care groups all around. It really puts life in perspective to see that there are others who are going through what you are, many in worse circumstances than yours. If that isn’t enough, seek out counseling.

And, if it’s been a number of years since you divorced and you are just now figuring out that you did all the wrong things, well get help now. It’s never too late.
~Carol Wood

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sarah Was Sizzlin'

I watched with interest Wednesday night as Sarah Palin spiced up the Convention. I've got to tell you, she is one spunky lady. If you didn't get a chance to hear the speech, here is a YouTube clip for you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Weighty Topic

"The significance of giving up the obsession with food is not a thinner body, not a smaller pants size, but giving up your protection from pain, for when you protect yourself from pain, you protect yourself from intimacy. When you allow your pain to be visible, you can give it a voice. And when you give it a voice, you can release yourself from it." Geneen Roth, When Food is Love

People use all kinds of things as protection from pain - alcohol, drugs, sex, rage. Food is one of the more socially acceptable forms of protection (except of course when our country has an obesity rate of about 25%).

I have known for a long time that it's not just about a diet...much more is needed. In fact, there is ongoing research about a percentage of people who have weight-loss surgery who lose tremendous amounts of weight, only to go on to become alcoholics...trading one addiction...or obsession...for another. All in a vain effort to hide from the pain.

Even our relationship with God can be effected, because as long as we are trying to protect ourselves from pain, then our ability to be intimate is compromised...even with Him.

I believe that total and complete emotional healing is possible. Nothing is too hard and no pain is so deep for Jehovah Rophe...God is our Healer.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Has God ever spoken to you through a cartoon?

I'm not sure if I have ever written a post about Veggie Tales, but I don't think that I have. We love Veggie Tales at our house. Over the summer, we saw one of their newest movies, The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. The kids loved it. I mean, what's not to love? Throw a few veggies with attitudes into some pirate costumes and set them out to sea for an adventure...ah...that's what the cinema is made for, right?

At the end of the movie, the King tells the pirates, “Hero's aren't the ones who are the bravest, smartest, strongest, or best looking. Heroes are the ones who do the right thing, the good thing.” This statement made an impact on me.

When I think of a hero, my definition tends to be a little more strenuous...maybe even super hero-ish. But the simple definition given in the movie helps me to see that we can all be heroes in our own lives.

Just doing the right thing...the good thing.

Life holds many decisions that we must make. Sometimes it all just seems overwhelming. Occasionally it is hard to know what is the right thing in a situation. However, most of the time we know full well the right thing to do...but we may waver in our convictions. It takes a real hero to consistently do the right thing. Life would no doubt be a lot less complicated.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

I have been intrigued with the idea of spaghetti squash, so I finally bought one at a local farmer's market. I had to do a Google search to see how to cook the squash, but then I created my recipe for the casserole. The verdict from the family is unanimous...it was pretty good...and a relatively easy to get a veggie serving or two in. The coolness factor was way up there. This makes a lot. After we ate all we could eat, I fixed some for Mike to take to work two days and stuck the rest in the freezer.


1 spaghetti squash
2 cans spaghetti sauce
2 cups shredded cheese blend (I used a mixture of Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack and Cheddar because that's what I had)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 lb. cooked meatballs, cut into thirds (could use cooked ground beef instead)

To cook spaghetti squash:

1. Cut in half lengthwise
2. Scoop out seeds and pulp
3. Turn cut-side down on cookie sheet
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

After baking squash, shred inside with a fork. This part was cool because it really does look like spaghetti. Be careful, it will be very hot...I used an oven mitt to hold each half while I shredded.

Spray a casserole dish with Pam. Layer as follows and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

First and second layers:
1) 1/3 of the shredded squash
2) 1/2 of the meatballs
3) 1/3 of the sauce
4) 1 cup cheese blend

Third layer:
1) remainder of the squash
2) remainder of the sauce
3) Parmesan cheese

Monday, September 1, 2008

What I Most Want You To Know - What's So Special About the Crockpot?

Our guest blogger today is Stephanie O'dea. Stephanie's blog A Year of CrockPotting is chocked full of crockpot recipes. She adds a new one every day as she cooks for her family. She was featured on the Rachel Ray show July 9 and you can see a clip here. I have been so inspired by the recipes that Stephanie posts each day and I have tried many of them. She has a great sense of humor and I look forward to reading her daily posts.

What is So Special About the CrockPot?

I've never really liked cooking. I am a total klutz, and many cooking tasks I perform end up with a cut finger or a burnt forearm. I also am easily distracted and have a problem with multi-tasking. I can't seem to not do it. Even when I'm supposed to be watching something on the stove or a treat baking. I routinely will put on a can of soup and then wander into the backyard and start pulling weeds. Twenty minutes later, I come back in to a kitchen full of smoke and a ruined pot.

That is why I love my Crock-Pot.

I LOVE it. The crockpot has turned me, ME, into a cook. A real one, who can offer her family nutritious hot meals nightly, along with fun desserts and baked products without even needing to be home.
I can now weed to my heart's content.

When I worked full-time out of the house, I'd prepare the crockpot the evening before with vegetables and meat. In the morning, I'd set it out on the counter to take the chill off, then go through my morning routine. The last thing I did before leaving the house was to click the crockpot on. I'd come home 8 hours later to an already-made dinner. The crockpot was/is my mother's little helper. There is nothing more disheartening than scrambling at 6pm to throw something together with two small children starving and in tears.

At the beginning of this year I challenged myself to cook more, and decided to go about it the only way I knew how: with my Crock-Pot slow cooker. Over the last 240 days, my mind has exploded with the versatility of this amazing kitchen appliance. You can bake, roast, simmer, and stew pretty much anything. I have been thrilled with the results of some of my crazy ideas. Falafels? Chocolate Mousse? Apple Dumplings? Smoking meat in the crock? Who would've thought?

The year is beginning to wind down, and I have a bunch of recipes bookmarked and ready to cook in the few months ahead. I look forward to giving the crock(s) a workout, and am interested to see how the recipes I have chosen will transfer to crockpot cooking.

The Crock-Pot is a wonderful invention---every home should have at least one or two.