Saturday, July 26, 2014

Candied Bacon ~ In the Oven!

Not too long ago I came across a recipe for cooking bacon in the oven.  Much less messy than on the stove top or in the microwave!  Then I started experimenting with different ways of flavoring and seasoning the bacon.  Just the aroma of this from the oven gets everyone excited!  "Candied Bacon!" is what I hear when each one walks through the kitchen.  Unfortunately, I could eat way too much of this!  Nom Nom!  Below is the family tested result!  

First of all, DO NOT pre-heat your oven!!  You will want to prepare the bacon first, then set the pan into a cold oven.

Line a pan with foil.  One package of bacon, light brown sugar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper.

Lay bacon in the pan.  Some will be overlapping.

I wish I had measurements, but this part is really done to taste.
Take several spoonfuls of brown sugar and sprinkle over bacon.  Use your hands to spread evenly and thinly cover the bacon.  Sprinkle evenly with garlic powder.
Add a few shakes of cayenne pepper.

Place into a COLD oven.  Set temperature to 400 degrees and set timer for 20 minutes.

This is what mine looked like at 20 minutes.  I added a few extra minutes to the timer.

I took it out at 24 minutes. Because of the sugar, you will see the areas that will start getting dark.  You don't want it to start smoking or burning!

Place cooked bacon on a plate.  This bacon is not melt-in-your-mouth crispy.  Because of the sugar, it will appear a bit limp when removing from the pan.  It will "crisp up" a bit as it sits.

And it goes great with waffles!  I'll have that family favorite recipe next time!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oatmeal Mornings

Some mornings are just made for hot oatmeal.  Odds are that's most mornings here in North Dakota!  I'm very fortunate that six out of my seven youngest ones will eat it.  I think oatmeal has to be one of the cheapest, healthiest, and quickest of breakfast foods!  We've even been known to make it as a snack later on in the day!

Here's our quick and easy recipe!

1/2 Serving of Oatmeal

  • 1/4 cup of quick oats in a microwavable bowl (I use a large cereal bowl)
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. real vanilla **

Whole Serving of Oatmeal

  • 1/2 cup of quick oats in a microwavable bowl
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp. real vanilla **
Combine first four ingredients in bowl.  Microwave 1/2 serving for about 1 min. 20 secs.; whole serving for about 1 min. 50 secs.  **Keep an eye on it....microwave times may vary.  Remove from microwave and stir in vanilla.  You may also stir in additional water or milk as desired. These can even be made up ahead of time and stored in little baggies...ready to go for whenever you need it!

Clare asks for her oatmeal every morning!

**Watkins makes a great Pure Vanilla and Cinnamon!  You can go to my Watkins webpage here.

Eve Mercer is owner of Modest and
a Watkins Independent Consultant #489754

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Toddler Tops

Just a quick post to show how simple it is to create a toy from the most unexpected household items.  My almost two year old loves to play with this!  She can play with it on her own by putting all the tops back into the juice bottle, or we can count and learn our colors.  Older siblings love to help the younger ones with this, too!

I just happened to notice one day that the tops from the squeezable yogurts and fruits was a perfect fit for the inside of the juice bottles.  It didn't take long to get this collection!

I would recommend rinsing the tops off first and allowing them to dry before putting into the bottle.  I also suggest that you not fill the bottle too makes it easier to shake the tops out.

Have fun with your Toddler Tops!

Do you have a favorite homemade toy that you've discovered and your child loves?
Please share!  We'd love to hear about it and pass it along!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Quick & Easy: Homemade Laundry Detergent!

As promised, here is the Laundry Detergent recipe I have been using for the past three years.  Just by having a few basic ingredients on hand, you'll be able to make detergent quickly and easily, whenever you need it!

So let's first gather what we need!

These are the ratios that I use.  You can easily adjust for larger or smaller amounts.

3 Cups Borax
2 Cups Washing Soda (or OxiClean Powder can be substituted)
16 oz. Baking Soda (about 2 cups)
1 Bar of Soap (Fels-Naptha or Ivory)

Grate the soap.  I use an old cheese grater that is designated just for this purpose.  And make sure the kids know it's not cheese so they don't try and sneak a taste!

I have found that I prefer the Fels-Naptha for a couple of reasons.  First it is a drier soap than Ivory, so when I grate it, it becomes more powdery.  If I do use Ivory, I will let it sit out unwrapped for as long as possible (a couple of weeks) to try and get it to dry out.  If the Ivory is still soft when grated, you will need to try to crumble it with your hands as you add it in.  I have also noticed that Ivory may not fully dissolve in a cold wash, whereas, I have never had that happen with the Fels-Naptha.

I use a Rubbermaid cereal container to store the detergent.
I start by adding the 3 cups of Borax.

Then the 2 cups of Washing Soda.

Followed by one 16 oz. box of Baking Soda.
The Baking Soda may not even be necessary, but it's good for your laundry and helps the detergent stretch further!

Put your grated soap on top!

I prefer to mix by hand.

And here it is....your own homemade laundry detergent!
For a full-size load, you only need 1/8 of a cup.  How's that for economical?
This batch will last me quite a while!

Here's the finished product!

For my machine, the detergent goes in first, then the clothes, then start the machine to begin filling with water.

***Just a note, I do not have a new washing machine that requires "special" detergent.  Mine is top-loading and still works great!  The Duggar Family website has a similar recipe that says it can be used for front loading machines.  Click here to view.

And a just a bit off topic, but since we're talking about cleaning, I wanted to share with you one of my new favorite products!

Watkins Products has a great variety of all natural and organic seasonings and extracts, natural apothecary, home remedies, personal care, and home care.  I am really loving the All-Purpose Cleaner, Tube & Tile Cleaner, Room Freshener, Shampoo and everything else that I purchased!

March 2014 Update: I have since decided to become an Independent Watkins Associate! (#489754)  You can visit my Watkins web site here.  I have bee very pleased with the prices and super fast shipping!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

3rd Generation Comfort Food!

Amazing how two and half weeks of seven sick kids can set you back almost double the amount of time!  I hope everyone reading this is over that fever and cruddy cough that has been making the rounds.

I've been wanting to do some "How-To" posts for quite awhile, and this one has been waiting for me since the beginning of the kids getting sick!  It's our family recipe for Rice, Tuna, Cheese Casserole, which has been around for at least three generations, that I know of.  We eat it at least once a week, typically on Fridays which is a day that we don't meat in our home.

It has evolved quite a bit over the years, and this is my version.  My grandmother would make a white sauce and individually layer all the ingredients.  My mom started substituting cream of mushroom and milk for the white sauce.  Neither one of them used French Fried Onions.  And I decided it was quicker and easier to just mix it all together!

First of all, the ingredients!

3 Cups Dry Rice - Cooked
(6 Cups Water for Rice)
1 Large (10 oz) Can of Tuna - Drained
2 Cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 Cans of Milk
1 Container of French Fried Onions
16 oz. Cheddar Cheese - Shredded

Cook the Rice - This usually takes about 20 minutes, and you can cook it ahead of time.

I love my rice cooker!  This one was my mom's and is probably 25 to 30 years old...still works great!

Go ahead and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  The amounts of French Fried Onions and Cheese are up to you.  Just set aside some French Fried Onions and Cheese to put on top of the casserole.

Pour the combined ingredients into a greased 9x13 pan.  I know it may not be looking pretty yet, but trust me, we're getting there!

Add to the top whatever amount you like of French Fried Onions and Cheese.

Place in your 350 degree oven and bake for approximately 30 mins.  This dish can also be made ahead and refrigerated or even frozen.  I would just recommend covering with foil to prevent the top from getting too browned during the longer cooking time.  You may need to bake for 45 mins straight out of the fridge, and up to an hour or more if out of the freezer.  Use a dinner knife blade to insert into the center to test how hot the casserole is before serving.

This is indeed our favorite meal!  A bit different from how my grandmother and mother used to make it, but I'm sure they'll forgive me!

Kara and Charlotte

Katherine loves hers!

Here's poor little Clare.  I remember when I took this pic that I thought she looked a bit flushed.  This ended up being the first of many nights that we began dealing with fevers and coughs.  :o(
But she ate all her Rice, Tuna, Cheese Casserole!

And I've gotta show my boys, Holden and Anderson!  Yuum-mmy!!

If you do try this recipe, I'd love to know how your family liked it!

And do you have a favorite, family recipe?  Please share!  If you're like me, I'm always looking for kid-friendly meals to add to our table!

Next Time:  Homemade Laundry Detergent!  I've been making the same recipe for nearly three years.  Just a few simple ingredients, and you can make your own detergent in a matter of minutes.  Quicker and cheaper than going to the store!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

On Becoming Pro-Life

Goodness, it’s been two weeks since my last post!  But I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of seven…first things first!

I’ve had in mind what I've wanted to write about for some time.  The recent March for Life reminded me of my own personal journey of becoming Pro-Life and open to life.

Growing up in a strong Christian home, there was no question in my mind that abortion was personally wrong, but it was there that I drew the was a personal opinion that I would not impose on others.  I was a teenager back in the 1980s, and, when we would discuss the Pro-Life movement as a family, my father would always remind us that part of the price of living in a free country is that some people are allowed to do things that we don’t personally agree with.  So, I guess, I considered myself to be Pro-Choice…in the truest sense of the word.  It was simply that – a choice.  I would never choose to have an abortion, but I respected that some women would choose to do that.  I can’t say though that I gave much thought to what an abortion was; it was “just” the termination of a pregnancy in an early stage…not yet a baby (in my mind at the time).  You can tell how naive I was about the whole thing.

Fast forward several years to 2002.  My husband, Michael, and I were engaged and sat down with the pastor of our church for pre-marital counseling.  One of the first questions we were asked was what we were going to do for birth control.  Michael and I had each been married previously.  I had, at the time, an eight year old son, and Michael had a seven year old daughter and a ten year old son.  So with that in mind, we decided that we really didn’t need to have any more children, and Michael would have a vasectomy.  I was thirty years old and Michael was thirty-three…we were getting kind of old anyway!

Okay now, no judging!  I looked and thought a lot differently then!  :o)

Michael and I were married in May, and during the summer we scheduled his appointment for September.  But right before the appointment (as in a day or two before!), we called to cancel.  We had decided that we would like to have at least one baby together.  Anderson was born in July of 2003.  Holden came next in October of 2004.  Then Kara in November of 2005!  Whew!!  I’d had enough!  I talked with my doctor about getting my tubes tied while I was in the hospital with Kara.  But what happened next was truly God’s intervention!

Holden and Anderson - Best Buds!

A week before I had Kara, my doctor moved her offices to a new hospital that had just opened.  Brand new everything…state-of-the-art!  St. Francis Hospital.  I had no idea who St. Francis was; it was a hospital and that was all that mattered to me.  But my doctor informed me that she could not do the tubal ligation at St. Francis, because it was a Catholic hospital.  She was not allowed to do any sterilization procedures there.  I would have to schedule something at a later date at a different hospital.  Well, with six children to now take care of, I had lost my window of opportunity!

At this time, Michael and I were not opposed to the use of birth control within the marriage, but the Pill never made me feel good, so that was why we had looked at something permanent.  I think I also would have still considered myself Pro-Choice.  All that being said, I still think it’s a miracle that we had our first three after we got married!  But now this silly Catholic hospital was making things difficult for me.  I mean, I had just had three babies in three and half years; the last two being only thirteen months apart!  I needed a break!

In the last part of 2006 we moved from Richmond, VA to Charlotte, NC.  Long story short, but it was in Charlotte that we met another family with lots of kids, they homeschooled like we did, and had a strong faith in God.  We finally got together with them in April of 2007…I had just found out I was expecting again.  This family was also Catholic…a big “no no” in my faith background!  But they loved the Lord and lived a life that showed it.  In 2007, Michael and I began to take steps to enter the Catholic Church.  A Church that teaches that the marriage bond should be open to life and not interfered with.  My marriage took on more purpose as I became open to life.  My husband and I grew closer to one another as we saw our marriage as a sacrament.  Kimberly Hahn’s book Life Giving Love was also instrumental in helping me understand these things.

I also became more aware of the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion and birth control.  I realized it for what it really was and was saddened that I had believed the lie for so long.  Sometimes you ignore the truth because you’re afraid of what might happen.  I might have too many children.  I might become Catholic.  So on and so on.

But now I had to really test my faith.  No more contraception.  I would trust in God, and I would be open to life!  Katherine was born in December of 2007.  By this time we had learned about Natural Family Planning (NFP).  NFP is a way to chart a woman’s cycle and know her fertile and infertile times.  Many women who want to become pregnant have actually used this method to achieve pregnancy.  Other women have discovered illnesses that had gone undetected.  There are many benefits to NFP, but a main one is that the husband and wife do it together.  There are so many stories of how NFP has saved marriages and brought the husband and wife closer together.

Katherine, Charlotte, & Kara - I love having little girls!

So now what?  Well, I’m not finished!  Charlotte was born in October of 2009.  I had a miscarriage in April 2010 while we were traveling to visit family.  We named the baby Francis Grace, and she is buried in Fairfield, PA.  Clare was born in April 2011.  And Mary was born in September of 2012, after our move to North Dakota.

Where we buried Francis Grace in Pennsylvania.  It was terrible losing a baby for the first time.  But Michael and I cooperated with God's plan for Francis Grace by being open to life. If we hadn't, then perhaps Francis Grace would never have existed, and in that case, that would have been the greatest tragedy of all.  We gave Francis Grace life, which she now has forever in Heaven.

 Kara and Clare.  Kara loves "mothering" her younger sisters!

And Baby Mary!

Am I Pro-Life now?  The answer is a resounding “YES”!!  When I think of just one of my kids never having existed….just because I didn’t feel like having more…I literally feel sick inside.  Too many kids…never!  I could fill pages of how God has provided.  As a woman, my body was made to bear children.  As a married woman, it is God’s will that I have children.  When you do God’s will, you will be blessed, and God will make a way.  And I understand that some couples are not able to have children, and I know their hearts ache.  But God will provide ways for you to share your motherhood…be open to what God would have you do with your spiritual motherhood…something that I believe is given to all women.

I know not everyone will agree with everything I’ve written here.  I know Baptists and Presbyterians (among others) who are strong in their faith and are wonderful Christians, but also have made a personal decision to use birth control within their marriages.  I completely understand….I’ve been there!  Some may question my decision to become Catholic (and many have), but I can only tell you that it has transformed my life and marriage, and I enjoy a deeper relationship with Christ that I wouldn’t change for anything.

I’ll end with a quote by one of my favorite authors Scott Hahn.

"So when “the two become one” in the covenant of marriage, the “one” they become is so real that nine months later they might have to give it a name! The child embodies their covenant oneness."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

You Reap What You Sew!

Well, sewing patches on my husband’s work pants was not exactly the project I had in mind for this afternoon.  I was hoping to spend some time today working on some digital sewing patterns that I have planned for Modest Handmaidens, posting new items, writing my blog and weekly newsletter...the list goes on!  But, even though I’m ashamed to admit it, this is the second time my husband has asked me to do this, so I really couldn't put this off any longer.

My husband actually spent much of the day on Friday helping me rearrange my sewing room and office.  We moved some bookcases and a dresser out, so we could have room for my sewing machine table (that he made for me!), and he hung up a rack shelf over my desk.  I have to say that this arrangement has really helped me get more inspired to create more projects and even do the necessary mending that’s always around….like these work pants!

That's my mom's 40+ year old Singer!  I wouldn't part with it for the world!

I cut out some denim patches from a pair too worn to really be of much more use.  I also had some brown corduroy I thought I could do something with.

I had plenty of lookers-on!  First Charlotte.

Four month old Clare in her swing.  She loves all the activity going on!

Kara and Daddy were working on a tasty lunch of chili and corn bread!  They included their own special touches, of course!  Such as when Michael thought the chili was too salty, he added ¾ cup of sugar…unique for sure!  But I was appreciative for the break in making the meal so I could keep on sewing.

Little people keep checking in!  Holden had been wanting to play a game, so we played two rounds of Caves & Claws.  (No, you've probably never heard of it!)

Charlotte had seen this dress pattern, and I told her I might make it for her for Easter.  Well, she kept coming in every 15 minutes to see if I had made her dress yet!

Katherine needed words written for her “book”.  She’s always drawing something!  I actually had to buy her her own ream of paper for Christmas so she’d stop taking mine out of the printer!

Well, sometime much later, I finally got Michael’s patches on a pair of pants.  It’s a denim and corduroy patch on the outside and fleece on the inside.  He does a lot of kneeling, so, of course, I wanted to make sure he was comfortable!  He tried them on and made a nice show of pretending like he was working on something while on his knees, told me how soft it felt, etc.  Then he let me know that the first pair I had picked to patch was one that he didn't prefer to wear because they’re a bit too short.  Then he very nicely said, “Don’t patch anymore this way, just use regular denim.”  I don’t think he particularly cared for the brown corduroy.  We had a good laugh though!  I then spent the next bit taking out the hem and making them as long I possibly could…so at least that got done, too!

Believe it or not, I did have some time to think while sewing.  I was reflecting on the pastor’s homily from today’s reading of John Chapter 2 – The Wedding at Cana.  He brought out some points I hadn't thought of before. The bride and groom had run out of wine at their wedding party.  A potential embarrassment for the couple.  The situation was noticed by Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and brought to Jesus’ attention.  We all know the rest of the story…Jesus turned the water into wine.  And not just any wine, it was GOOD wine and in abundance.!

Our pastor brought out that what a couple, themselves, brings to the marriage is not enough.  A good marriage is made up of three people...the husband, the wife, and God.  What the couple lacks (such as the wine in the story), God is able to provide (through Grace) and He supplies this in abundance!  We receive the graces by doing what Mary says in the narrative, “Do whatever He tells you.”  What do Jesus and Scripture tell us about marriage?  So many things, but the two that come immediately to my mind are to be faithful and fruitful.  There’s a reason why families with lots of children are often happy ones!

I pray that my marriage is first a blessing to my husband, then to my children, and extends to those that we come into contact.  Sometimes an afternoon of sewing turns out to be an opportunity that never would have happened otherwise.  You Reap What You Sew!