From Good Friday to Easter

The greatest three days in all of history. A quote and a song for you this weekend.

Sure — everyone loves a Christmas Tree. But’s it’s that bent Easter Tree that guarantees His love for us.”  –Ann Voskamp


Recipe Makeover–Tomato Soup

I’m sure all of us have some sort of emotional or nostalgic connection to some food that comes out of a box or can. I have quite a few. Chips Ahoy cookies make me think of hanging out with my high school best friend after school in her mom’s kitchen. Velveeta makes me think of my grandma. Spam (yes, I said it) reminds me of my college roommate. (Not because she resembled Spam, but because her dad worked for Hormel and she had a Spam t-shirt, among other things.) It also reminds me of my dad, cause he used to fry it up about once a week.

Don’t judge me. I bet you’ve got some crazy food/memory connections too. 🙂

And that’s how I feel about Campbell’s Tomato Soup. A bowl of smooth tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich spells comfort food for me. And last winter, I REALLY wanted that soup. But I knew my youngest couldn’t eat it because of her food allergies and that the rest of us probably shouldn’t with the insidious high fructose corn syrup listed as one of the ingredients.

So I decided to recreate my favorite childhood tomato soup–real food style.

And I was quite pleased with the results. This recipe is easy to make from ingredients you probably already have around. And you can feel good knowing that the very first and main ingredient is chicken stock.

Disclaimer: I did use regular sugar in this recipe. I remembered the canned variety being rather sweet. You could probably use a mild honey in place of the sugar, just use a little less of the honey, as it tends to be sweeter. I’m planning on trying the honey out next time I make it.

quart chicken stock (use homemade if you have it)
1 small can tomato paste
2 TB flour (2 TB sweet rice flour + 1 TB potato starch works well for gluten free)
2 TB butter, chicken fat skimmed from stock, or palm shortening
tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-1 1/2 tsp salt (it depends on how much salt is in your broth–just start with less and add to taste)
dash red pepper flakes (optional)
2 TB sugar (or 1+ TB mild honey–again to taste)
1/2 tsp dried basil (optional)
In a medium saucepan, melt the fat over medium heat. Whisk in the flour (save the potato starch for later if making gluten free) until all the lumps are gone and it has cooked for a minute or so. Whisk in the tomato paste. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, making sure to get all the lumps out. Add in the other ingredients and bring to a simmer. If you’re using potato starch, put about 1 or 2 TB cold water in a small bowl or cup and mix the starch in until it dissolves. Stir into the soup. After it has simmered a few minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning. 
It really doesn’t need to cook long, just a few minutes to give the flavors a chance to develop and the soup to thicken.  Plenty of time to make your grilled cheese sandwich!

Got any bizarre food/memory connections from your childhood?

Celebrating Holy Week with Your Kids

Holy Week is upon us! The time when we remember the days of Christ’s triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, the trials, crucifixion and finally the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

The gospels have a lot to say about this important week in the life of our Lord.  There is so much to learn and remember, such great symbolism and lessons for the believer. And all of it is important in the spiritual training and education of our children.

We can learn something very important about the spiritual training of children from the Old Testament. It’s all about repetition. Deuteronomy 11:19 says to “Teach (the Word of God) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Basically, whenever you can–over and over again.

One of the ways this was accomplished was through the feasts. These feasts that Israel celebrated every year were full of object lessons and symbols that told the story of God’s faithfulness in the history of the nation. If you’ve ever participated in a seder dinner, you know that just about everything on the table stands for something about God or His works.

Children, for the most part, are concrete learners. They need to see or touch something in order to make that connection in their memory banks. So when Jewish children dipped their bitter herb in salt water and tasted it, they experienced the salty tears that their ancestors cried while in slavery to Egypt.

We can make those same concrete connections for our kids as we teach them about Holy Week. We can take our kids to a seder dinner or Good Friday service. We can read to young ones out of a picture Bible that tells the story of the Last Supper and crucifixion.

And I’d like to share something with you that perhaps you’ve seen. We use Resurrection Eggs with our kids. It’s a spin on Easter eggs that leads you through the events leading up to Easter Sunday. Each egg is filled with something from a different part of the story.  There’s silver coins for Judas’ betrayal. A little donkey that Jesus rode. And a crown of thorns among others.


It comes with a little booklet you can read to them as they open the egg and examine it’s contents. And as they see and feel each object, they’re imagining the story and making those memory connections that make the Easter celebration so much more real and meaningful to them.

Plus, it’s just a lot of fun. Who doesn’t want to see what surprise is waiting in a bright colored egg?

How is your family remembering Holy Week?

Meal Plan to Nourish

I think everyone would agree that the trusty meal plan is a sanity/money saver. No one likes the feeling of arriving at 4:30 in the afternoon with NO idea what’s for dinner. But for the real food kitchen, a meal plan is a non-negotiable.

Whether you’re cooking for loved ones with food allergies or striving for real food for other health reasons, you can no longer just grab a box of Hamburger Helper or cream of whatever soup at the last minute. But with a plan for your week, you know if you need to soak some dried beans the night before or mix up some snack muffins for a busy day out.

But there’s another important reason to meal plan. Nourishment. When life is busy, it can be easy to just fill their bellies, without thinking about what we’re putting in there. Yes, we’re eating whole food, but a day of pancakes (even whole grain) a sandwich and a plate of pasta is heavy on the grains, and low on the produce and possibly protein.

I’ve been reminded of this lately. We’ve been dealing with some health challenges in our family. The kind of challenges when you know you need to make every bite count. There are seasons when our bodies need all the extra help they can get to heal. They need not just filled, but nourished. These are the days to load up on high quality meats and eggs, bone broth, vegetables and nutrient dense fats.

To make a truly nourishing meal plan, it’s important to plan for every meal, and snacks. There are times when I only plan dinners, but more often than not, if I want to make sure my family is getting a good balance of nutrients, I need to look at the big picture–all 21 meals of the week. That way I can see if we’re having pasta for dinner, I need to ease up on the starch and grains for breakfast and lunch and maybe fix eggs, smoothies or a salad instead. I can see what kind of veggie variety we’re eating. And I can plan for all those other variables like busy days and appointments, so I’m prepared with a fast but still healthy meal. (Or leftovers :))

There are plenty of free meal planning print outs on the internet. Or just use a notebook. I’ve used a free pdf from for a long time. I usually sit down sometime on the weekends and look at what’s in the pantry and freezer and go from there.

this week's plan

this week’s plan

Yes, this does require some mental energy and preparation. And yes, we have days when we deviate from the plan for whatever reason.  It’s not set in stone. It’s just a tool. But it’s an important tool to help me do all I can to help the people I love on the road to healing and health.

Lent is for humility

A prayer from Brennan Manning…

“Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before you and try to bribe you with our preposterous portfolios. Suddenly we have come to our senses. We are sorry and ask you to forgive us. Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on your mercy no matter what we may do. Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling the gospel of grace, and to delight in your love.”

Make sure they know where beauty comes from

Every mother thinks her daughter is beautiful. That’s a given. I feel that way about both of mine. And we tell them frequently. But yesterday a particular discussion on the radio and with one of my girls revealed that we still need to work on this.

I thought we might escape some of the beauty image lies because we homeschool. I thought maybe they wouldn’t be as tempted to compare themselves to others. We don’t watch those model or fashion shows. We don’t even watch the latest pre-teen wonders out there. My daughter loves Amish literature and Little House on the Prairie. So I was a little shocked to learn that even though we had removed so many of the outside pressures, she still felt it from within.

But I was a girl of conflicted self-esteem too. I wouldn’t repeat middle school for all the money in the world. Body image problems led to starving myself and striving to be perfect at everything I tried. My self worth was completely dependent upon maintaining the right GPA or friendships or cultivating the right talents and gifts. My parents never did anything to make me feel this way. But it was all I could think.

Then I met Jesus. I didn’t magically become a girl of inner confidence or instantly shed my self-esteem issues.  It happened over time. But it did happen. I remember one night after a youth group meeting at our church my youth leader (probably one of the greatest influences in my Christian life) grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes and demanded that I say 10 nice things about myself before he would let me go. It was excruciating. Looking back, it was also ridiculous–that I could hardly do it. But I remember it vividly. And it made a big difference.

As a new believer, I dove into the Bible like I tackled everything else.  I was sick of being depressed and scared and feeling worthless. And slowly, through scripture, prayer and the relentless encouragement of people like my youth leader, I began to believe what the Bible said about me.

That I am a dearly loved child of the King. That I had been adopted out of the broken dysfunctional world and into the family of God. That He had made me, just the way I was–on purpose. And that He had a purpose for me. My worth wasn’t based on anything external, but came from the love of my Savior.

This is what I want my daughters to know. Evidently, though, I have to go overboard on this message, because the world and the devil and their lies are so loud. I’m realizing that it’s not enough to tell them they’re beautiful. I have to tell them why they’re beautiful. I have to tell them and show them over and over again that Jesus loves them with crazy, never ending love no matter what they look like or what they can do.

It’s tough because I can already tell I have one who desperately wants to please and do everything well–just like her mom. And I think that’s the hardest to overcome. Moms, we all have baggage and hang-ups. We have to try like mad not to pass them on to our daughters. Hate your body? Don’t ever let them hear you say it. Want to beat yourself up cause you can’t do something? For their sake (and yours) let it go and move on. 

They hear and see so much. So much that we wish we could erase from their little heads. Don’t think it won’t effect them. That it won’t mess up their relationships with men, or that it won’t skew what they believe about God. You’re just fooling yourself. It will.

BUT–but God gives grace and if we seek wisdom and devote ourselves to prayer and consistently combat the world’s lies with His truth–then there is much hope. He can overcome our hang ups, as well as our children’s.

I for one am glad for this wake up call. I don’t want to be passive about this.

I wanted to pass along some resources that I think will help all of us in this important battle:

* The music from Brit Nicole
If you have a daughter, she needs to be listening to this artist instead of some of the others out there. I actually had the opportunity to take my oldest daughter to one of her concerts. This girl is talented, Christ centered and all about letting young people know who they are in Christ. Definitely some pop/bubble gum in there–but we still have fun rocking in the car :). 
* FaithGirlz
My oldest daughter has the backpack size FaithGirlz Bible. It’s the full text NIV plus study helps and devotionals just for girls–especially preteens. 
Some others I’ve seen and plan on looking into are Just Mom and Me Having Tea, a devotional for moms and daughters, as well as some of the other resources from FaithGirlz. 

Please share…how do you help your kids have a healthy view of themselves?

Real Food Time Savers–Make Breakfast After Dinner

We all know that our families need a healthy, balanced breakfast. As a homeschooling mom, I see this all too easily. When my kids get a healthy breakfast with a good balance of carbs, fat and protein, our mornings run much more smoothly. If, however, they only eat a bowl of cereal or slice of toast–I can bet on a 10:00 am crash and burn.

But let’s face it, few of us really feel like getting up in the dark and cooking up a 5 course breakfast. So what are we going to do? Most of the time, I choose to start making breakfast after dinner.

It goes something like this…After dinner is cleaned up I might mix up the dry ingredients for a batch of muffins and measure out the milk and honey. Or I’ll put a pot of oatmeal or pancake batter out to soak overnight (speeds cooking in the case of the oatmeal and improves the digestion of all grains). If I’m fortunate enough to have muffins or scones in the freezer, I’ll pull some out to thaw. At the very least, even if we decide to have smoothies and scrambled eggs, I’ve planned it so I’m not trying to figure it out in my morning fog.

Measuring out any baking project the night before is a must for me. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve botched just because I was trying to read and measure out ingredients before I’ve had enough coffee to get the old brain running.

Why not give some of these recipes a try…
*  Gluten Free Baked Oatmeal (with soaked option)
*  Gluten Free Multi Grain Waffles
*  Easy Tender Biscuits
*  Cinnamon Bun muffins (from Comfybelly)
*  Grain Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins (Chocolate for breakfast! You’ll win        Mom of the Year!)
* Our favorite buckwheat pancakes (from Nourishing Days)

How do you get a good breakfast on the table for your family?