Best Beef Stew

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by Chrystal Evans Hurst

Ok…so I’m trying to be a Proverbs 31 woman and realized that a P31 woman wouldn’t throw away perfectly good food. So…I proceeded to try to figure out what I could do with perfectly good remains of a roast we had earlier this week. Hmmmm….let’s see! I know…Beef Stew!

But I had never made it before and didn’t really know how in the world to go about making it. I started perusing some of my cookbooks that have barely seen the light of day, only to find that Beef Stew can be a complicated thing.

Back to the drawing board. I went back to my “frig” and scoured some more to find that I had other things left over from different meals during the weak. I decided to throw a bunch of unrelated stuff in the pot, risk wasting the perfectly good leftover roast, and take my chances…

Let’s see…

Roast…sliced and diced…cooked carrots cut a little smaller…roasted potatoes diced…a can of corn….some frozen okra…don’t forget that leftover gravy….ok…that doesn’t look like enough liquid…let me add some water….ok…wait…a little more…that looks about right…now…won’t all that water make the stew too watery?…I need some flavor…how about a beef bouillion cube…I’ve always had those on hand and never known what to do with them….let’s let that simmer….ok…maybe I should add a little seasoning…ok…that one has never been used before…let me try a little random concoction of seasonings and see what I come up with ….alrighty…a little garlic power cuz garlic is in everything…

I didn’t know I had it in me but….

After all of that tossing and guessing and hoping…my husband sat down to eat after having the kids on errands this morning. I asked him not to eat out w/the kiddos cuz I had made lunch. Everyone came home to eat. Jessie said that he was so glad that he hadn’t stopped by Whataburger! Jessica said that the soup was better than the soup her Granny makes! We had to force feed Sumo (yes…I know there is irony here with the name) but whatever no big deal. We always have to force feed my preschooler so I didn’t take it personally.

Wow…imagine that…later tonight Jessie said that this was the best beef stew he had EVER had. The pot throughout the day has slowly dwindled down to little of nothing as my family has eaten a little here and a little there…

Whooda thunk?

I wonder if that is how God works out wonderful creations with me. Really, he doesn’t want his creation to go to waste and so he takes a little here and a little there of my leftovers that are really not good anymore standing on their own. What God can do with my “leftovers” is amazing…

God starts with Chrystal…sliced and diced…pride that’s been cooked and he cuts it a little smaller…independance that’s been roasted and diced …He adds a little can of purpose….some frozen hope that she thought wasn’t worth anything…don’t forget that leftover prayer….even though she wasn’t a prayer warrior let me work with what she gave…ok…that doesn’t look like enough faith…only a mustard seed worth…let me add some love….ok…wait…a little more…that looks about right…now…won’t all that love make the new Chrystal to watery and wimpy…i need some flavor…how about some of my power…I always have that on hand and never can find anyone who wants to do something with it…..let’s let that simmer….ok…maybe I should add a little seasoning…ok…she can use some of the Holy Spirit’s discernment and vision…and I don’t want to forget FIRE cuz that one has never been used before…let me try a little random concoction of seasonings and see what I come up with such as passion, selflessness, righteousness, purity of heart….alrighty…a little grace cuz grace is in everything…

I didn’t know I had it in me but….

God did and I’m amazed at the work he is accomplishing in my pot, my vessel of clay.

More than my husband loving the stew, I want to hear him say the same thing about the work that he sees God doing in the soul of his wife.

That’s when I’ll know that I’ve really turned into the P31 woman. I don’t mind simmering awhile so that everything is just right. A little heat won’t hurt anything :)

While I have begun to share some recipes, I have yet to document my own recipe for Beef Stew.  So far, it has been working for me to just throw leftovers in a pot and heat it up!  In lieu of my own recipe, I feel confident in pointing you to The Pioneer Woman for her Beef Stew recipe.  Everything I’ve tried from this woman has left me singing first soprano and doing a high kick!

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Passing On the Gift of Hospitality

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I love to cook, plan events, and invite people into my home.  Though some might call this a “gift” of hospitality, it really is something I caught growing up. First of all, it was something my mom and grandmother modeled. They are Italian and immigrated to the United States when my mom was a young girl.  My grandmother never had the chance to go to school— and so to this day is illiterate and because of that never learned to speak English.  Yet, she is the best cook I’ve ever met and has hundreds of recipes committed to memory. Her greatest delight in life is to cook up a feast for family and friends and to gather them around her table. Often, as the holidays approach, she will begin cooking several days in advance—waking up before sunrise to begin her sauces, bake crusty bread, roast sweet bell peppers for salad, make meatballs, and bake ricotta wheat berry pies. She had 11 kids, and family get-togethers today can easily number over a hundred people, though my grandma, mom and aunts still do all of the cooking! They take such pride in each dish—using only the finest ingredients, sometimes even making trips to specialty markets that are an hour away. It is a labor of love. These dinners consist of several courses and go on for hours—and laughter and merrymaking abound. Around the table relationships are nurtured, stories are shared, the family bonds run deep.

Don’t underestimate the power of a shared meal!

When I was in college I was asked by a couple of friends to start hosting the church small group I was a part of, which they were leading. The group had been meeting for over a year yet the atmosphere was not intimate. People weren’t opening up; no one really knew one another. The group needed a new place to meet, so I agreed to host and at the time didn’t even own a couch or comfortable place for people to sit! The only thing I did differently as the host was to serve food every week, and always something simple because my budget was very tight. As people ate together, something beautiful happened. They relaxed and lingered in conversation. They started to open up about their lives, hurts, joys, and struggles.  It became an intimate community as the Lord worked in and through each of us and knit us together. This idea of “breaking bread” is God’s idea and design. Jesus chose the setting of a shared meal—the last supper—to give his most intimate exhortation and a farewell to his disciples. Throughout scripture there is a theme of God preparing a place and a table for his people.

As a young adult, my vision of hospitality continued to expand as I spent several years in missions. I saw how other cultures practiced hospitality and learned from a missionary organization that deeply valued hospitality. Again, it all was more caught than taught as I spent time in the homes of both foreign locals and missionaries, saw how others practiced hospitality, and then copied what I saw them doing. Some of the most generous people I met were those with the most limited resources.

Here are a few practical ways to involve your kids in hospitality:

-If you have overnight guests, it is fun to prepare a small basket of snacks and drinks (such as a bottled water or even some tea bags with mini electric tea kettle and mug) in their room. Hospitality involves a sensitivity to other’s needs (whether physical or otherwise). Many guests would not want to trouble their hosts for a snack so this way they have something if the mood arises. It is nice to include a little welcome note with an encouraging prayer or verse the Lord puts on your heart for them.  Kids can put the basket together and/or design the card.

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-Another fun option is to leave a small gift in the guest’s room. This gesture lets them know they are loved, thought of, and prepared for. Your kids can help you select something and can wrap it or put it in a gift bag. Older women and grandmas—I know of one empty-nester who, when hosting out-of-town guests with small children, leaves a basket of games, toys, books, or coloring supplies in the guest room for the little ones. This is especially thoughtful when there would otherwise be nothing for them to do around the house.

-We love to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers when we know we will have guests. We’ve also started a small flower garden so my girls can cut and create their own bouquets. They love to arrange flowers and display them on the dining room table. But hospitality doesn’t only occur when hosting company. It is an attitude of welcoming others into your life and extending friendship and generosity, perceiving others’ needs and making yourself available to love on, listen to, and care for others. We love to keep $1 Walmart bud vases on hand so that if a friend or neighbor is sick we can place even a single bloom in it to be delivered to brighten their day.

- As you prepare your home for any company, take a couple minutes to pray together for your guests and the time you will spend together. Pray that they would feel welcomed and loved—that it would be a picture to them of the Father’s love. Pray for relationships to be strengthened and for the conversation to be an encouragement to one another. Ask God to help you be sensitive and available to their needs. Pray too for the children that will be visiting!

-If you are hosting a meal, you could have your kids set the table and make place cards. As a new mom it would at times stress me out to let the kids help with anything because it wouldn’t be done “right”. With God’s grace and help I’ve learned to let that go so it is now about giving them those important experiences.

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-Include children in food preparations. My 6 year old loves to make salad. She chops veggies using a crinkle cutter, which is less sharp and easier to handle than a knife. Both of my girls (6 and 4) love to make cookies, scones, breads, or other treats to serve friends.

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-Chose an easy but delicious meal to make. A nice meal communicates honor to your guests— it says “you are worth it to me.” Throughout the Bible there are stories of people bringing out the best ingredients to honor and serve their guests. It’s how God treats us— he doesn’t skimp or hold back, his love is expressed lavishly. He prepared our environment in such a way for us to fully enjoy it using all of our senses.  But even when resources are limited, you can offer what you do have to bless those around you.

Here is one of my grandma’s recipes for an Italian style pot-roast. Very easy but so delicious— perfect to warm bellies on a cold day and one of my go-to meals for serving guests:

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Mamas, hospitality isn’t only for guests; the hospitality you show to your own kids will greatly impact them and give them a model to imitate. I was recently reading an out-of-print book— containing reflections on motherhood, and was struck by the introduction, a letter from the author to her mother:

“The emphasis on daily meals may have been nutrition (little appreciated by us), but then there was always Sunday noon dinner. No company was ever treated better than us! The appetizer was served on a silver tray in the living room—fruit juice with a blob of sherbet and wafers. In the dining room we ate our “company meal” from our finest china and silver and finished it off with a spectacular dessert tantalizingly displayed on a pedestal server. And you served tea from the lusterware tea set in a performance equaled only by a traditional Japanese tea ceremony! I suspect now that you were creating an atmosphere for the leisurely sharing of ideas and good conversation.

How we anticipated the holidays and special days—each and every one. You took these occasions and turned them into events which instantly were declared Traditions… Then there was my birthday, that one special day set aside to celebrate my being alive! The pink heart cake for my “almost Valentine” birthday, the florist arriving with a nosegay of fresh violets, a dainty heart-shaped box or violet-related gift. To this day violets, hearts, and the color pink in some way remind me that I’m someone special.”

Mamas, may you be blessed with joy and relationships that run deep as you gather loved ones around your tables, and may you know what a gift your life is to those around you.

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Join me!

In light of some happenings in the news lately, I want to start quarterly encouragement for moms for short/free/conferences–and longer e-conferences. We will talk about: why motherhood is so hard, how to built a defense against discouragement, breathing in peace. And how to stay the course.

hang out with Sally

Flipped to Perfection–Just turn your cake or attitude around

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Sunday morning Feasts Have become a regular event in our family!

I have so enjoyed the Webinars the past couple of nights. Lots of moms have asked how you communicate love to children. My children all say that the “feasts” we had every day were one thing that tied them together. Whether we had pancakes, toast and cheese or a a fancy meal, we always lit candles, even out on the deck, and put on music and made each meal a celebration.

This was the time for sharing about our day, telling Dad about the bug we caught or the incident with the skinned knee. All children were asked personal questions and no one was ever allowed to make fun of the answers.

Food is something God gave us for pleasure. And so using meals, snack times, what I call “tea time” discipleship (more on that later), all eating became a time of sharing life, fun, stories.

Were there times when they all fussed and knocked over a glass of juice and had bad attitudes. Of course, but even as little ones, they all loved the candle light, and music and loved having us ask each of them a question about their day.

Pancakes are one of the favorite Sunday meals–sometimes I add grated apple, Sarah and I have pecans in ours and at special times, we even added chocolate chips.

Enjoy!

Synonyms for flip:
Switch, change, turn.

Perfecting pancakes can be quite an art form. In my earlier years of practice, I burnt many cakes that my taste buds had high hopes for. A lot of it has to do with a sudden flip…the quick turn of the wrist which sends the buttery cake flying onto the other side.

Why do we flip pancakes? If they remain on one side for too long, they will burn. Each side finishes it’s process, and when it is time for a change, you must react quickly and carefully.

As I set out all of the ingredients I’ll need to make my pancake batter this morning, my mind is swirling thinking about how our attitudes need the same kind of quick attention when we tend to our children. Just as we have high hopes for our pancakes, we set the bar and hope to be incredible super-moms. But how do we react when we fall short?

Much like making pancakes, we want every move we make as mothers to be perfect and flawless. But when one side becomes a little too toasty, or a day is filled with uncontrollable circumstances, we sometimes just stay on the side of anxiety, sizzling and burning, rather than making the difficult, but necessary, decision to flip and start over.
Enjoy this delicious pancake recipe, and make the decision this morning as you flip your perfect pancakes to also flip your attitude into one that will glorify God and honor your children.

Heart Healthy Whole Wheat Pancakes

1 cup milk
2 tsp sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour (I grind my grains and store them in the freezer for freshness–brown rice, millet, spelt, corn and oats have been ground together with wheat to give a more whole grain bread or cake. Sometimes no one even knows!
1 tbsp vinegar (I love using apple cider vinegar, but white wine vinegar will do as well)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp melted butter
butter for greasing the griddle
1 egg

*Combine your vinegar and milk, and let them curdle while you mix together the other ingredients.
*Grab a big bowl and whisk to combine the whole wheat flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder.
*In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, egg and the curdled milk, until it looks smooth. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir the two together until just barely mixed. You want any visible loose flour to be completely stirred in, but if you still see lots of lumps, that means you’re doing it right. If you stir out all the lumps, the pancakes will be pretty tough.
*Preheat your skillet or griddle to 375 degrees F and grease it with butter. Add small scoops of pancake batter. Cook for a few minutes, until you start to see little bubbles forming on the surrounding edges. *Flip the pancakes with your spatula and cook for a few minutes on the other side, until you peek underneath and see that the bottom is golden brown.

Remember: practice makes perfect. Don’t get frustrated if every cake doesn’t turn out flawlessly. Keep trying & keep flipping.

Enjoy!

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20 Minutes to Dinnertime–Kabobs and Persian rice—Yummmm!

 

 

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Yummm! Even at the last minute, when you don’t think you are capable of making one more meal! We had this for dinner tonight! Thanks to my friend, Brandee, who shared the idea with me.

This is for all the women in the world who have rice in the cupboard and a little more in the fridge! In order to creatively get dinner on the table in 20 minutes, which may seem like an eternity at the end of your day, improvising is key! Whether it is a picky eater you are dealing with, or the challenge to get your family to the table all together may be daunting at 5:30 pm while you are driving home from another exhaustive day. Don’t even think about the drive thru because this is where I can help you!

Dinner can seem to be such a heavy burden when you are tired and just want to accomplish the task of getting a meal prepared, but think about what a great opportunity this could be to teach your kids, especially teens who need to know how to cook the basics; how to cook rice. They will really appreciate it if they don’t already know how versatile rice can be, and it will take you all of about 5 minutes to get it on the stove and then you just let the magic happen! You will still be eating dinner in 25 minutes tops, while building relationship with your awesome kid(s)!

Here are three recipes for a Persian style feast you will be sure to enjoy! You can take all three recipes and have a complete meal on the table. Again, getting the kids involved will be helpful and memorable.  If you have a hurried schedule, just take the pilaf and leftover chicken from the night before or on the way home pick up a nice rotisserie chicken to throw into your rice bowl. The kids absolutely love it! If you know that there is an ingredient your family will not enjoy, omit it or exchange it. That is what makes this your own version of the recipe. No need to reinvent the wheel – just make it your own style of wheel!

When your day seems never ending and time keeps ticking by, remember that rice is your friend in the kitchen!  This new twist on rice will stir some conversation around the table! Wow your family and familiarize yourself a little with the Persian culture. Then, share a quick fact or two and they will really be amazed at how smart you are, on top of being a good cook!

I prepared the chicken and the rice in big quantities, and froze them in freezer containers. Then I took one container out tonight and heated it in my pressure cooker with a little liquid for 5 minutes and dinner was ready!

 

Persian Rice 

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2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup basmati rice (or brown rice)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water or broth
3/4 teaspoon curry seasoning
1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir onion until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in basmati rice, curry, and salt; cook and stir until rice is slightly opaque, about 3 minutes.
  2. Pour in water; stir to combine. Mix in apricots, and almonds; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice has absorbed the liquid, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pilaf to stand covered for 10 more minutes. Stir before serving.

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Chicken Kabobs

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup plain yogurt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 2 inch pieces
2 onions, cut into large chunks
1 large green or red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

*Optional veggies/fruit for Kabobs: pineapple, mushroom, cherry tomatoes/zucchini

Directions

  1. Whisk together the lemon juice, vegetable oil, plain yogurt, garlic, tomato paste, salt, oregano, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and cardamom in a large bowl; add the chicken and toss to coat. Transfer the chicken mixture into a large plastic bag; refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Thread the chicken, onions, and pepper onto metal skewers giving 1/4 inch in between meat & veggies. Cook on preheated grill until the chicken is golden and no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes each side. Sprinkle the parsley over the skewers.
  3. Optional oven method: preheat oven to 375 degrees. On lightly greased shallow pan, line Kabobs 1 inch apart and cook in oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Turning Kabobs after 10 minutes for even cooking.
  4. Serve immediately over rice pilaf or as is on the skewer.

 

Naan Bread Recipe    DSC_0031
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast  (2 1/4 tsp)

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
1/4 cup butter, melted

*This is a great bread to use alongside hummus as an appetizer to meal.

 

 

Directions

    1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume. (If you live in a  cooler climate, preheat oven at 140 degrees. Then, turn off oven and place dough into oven to rise. Keep an eye on the dough, it may rise 10 – 15 minutes quicker!
    2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
    3. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat. (You can use an indoor grill or panini press as well!)
    4. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared. If you make a double batch, this bread can be bagged in airtight container or ziplock/bread bags. To warm bread, wrap in foil and heat in oven at 350 for 10 – 15 minutes.

***Check out the giveaway below for your chance to WIN a copy of Chrystal and Tony’s book, “Kingdom Woman.”
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4th of July (For The Children!)

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Celebrating each holiday with our children has brought so many fun and amusing memories. Our little town of Monument has one of the biggest 4th of July parades of any in the United States. Many years, our children would decorate their bicycles to ride in the 2 1/2 hour parade. Candy is thrown to the rowdy audience, fire engines play their sirens, mini-autos and clowns drive in circles through the entire parade, and soldiers are remembered.

A fair filled with booths of aromatic scents, fragrances of grilled barbecue beef, sizzling, fried funnel cakes, of pink and purple cotton candy, greasy brats surrounds the parade route so that eating is a near possibility at any moment.  All of us pink-up with  sunburn every year, no matter what precautions we have taken.

Later in the cool of the early evening, we gather with the same friends each year for a huge pot luck picnic and we anticipate all the food and antics for weeks ahead of time. Finally, all of us, 25-35 people, trek down to our local Palmer Lake and watch the fireworks sparkle in the sky while being reflected on the lake’s shiny water. Many wonderful memories! This year, we will forego the firework because of the fires, but we will celebrate living in friendship and make fun of the whole evening.

The 4th of July is a wonderful opportunity to bring family together, relax, create new traditions, and have a great time. One common issue with holidays is when our little ones used to have little attention spans. Planning  advance helped me to  make sure that there would be many child-friendly activities even at our adult get togethers.

Craft for Children: 4th of July paper garland


What You Need: red, white, and blue construction paper, scissors, glue, string, ribbon, or twine (color of your choice), hole puncher (optional), star template (optional)

How To: There are a few different ways you can modify this craft to make it age appropriate for your child. If your children are older, you can have them use scissors to cut out the stars, then they can use a hole puncher to place a hole at the top and bottom of each star. They will weave the string through each star, creating a fun, colorful, festive garland that can be used to decorate your party! Children love being a part of things. Crafts make them feel like they are contributing to the event (and it is tons of fun!).

Remember that cutting out perfect stars can be a frustrating task. Consider printing out a template in advance that your children can use as an example. If you have younger children, cut out or print out colorful stars in advance. Allow them to glue the string to the stars, rather than tying and using a hole puncher.

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The New Favorite Treat: 4th of July Marshmallow Kabobs
What You Need: 

1 packet red jello,

1 packet blue jello,

lollipop sticks, marshmallows

How To: 1. Place each jello packet into it’s own small bowl. (The jello should be JUST the packet. It will just be dry colored sugar.)
2. Dip each individual marshmallow extremely quickly into a bowl of water.
3. Roll each marshmallow into a color.
4. In the order of red, white, and blue, place your marshmallows onto the lollipop sticks.
5. Serve these to all the children at your 4th of July soiree!
Nutritious Alternative: If you want a healthier choice at your 4th of July event, use your lollipop sticks and instead of doing the colored jello, do your red, white, and blue by using strawberry slivers, marshmallows, and blueberries.

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May you have a wonderful 4th with your families!  Try these fun, child-friendly ideas to insure that every little one at your event makes memories they will never forget!