Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Differentiating Meals

There's this thing in education - one of the newer fads, if you will, called differentiating instruction.

In theory, it's great. It's basically grouping within a class, but not calling it grouping and actually creating the groups based on interests, learning styles, talents, etc.

I say in theory because every teacher I have ever spoken to about this says it is way too much work to have it happen on a regular basis in a self-contained class. Sort of like creating separate lesson plans for each lesson for each child in your class. Um, nice - in theory.

In reality, we modify it.

It occurred to me that differentiation is rather similar to cooking meals for my family. I start with a base and then change it up to meet preferences.

Just like education today is not the way it was when I was in school, my meal prep is nothing like my mother's.  She was of the I cooked it, you eat it mindset. I have too many horrific memories of struggling to swallow tongue. I just cannot inflict that on my family.

Today's recipe comes via just such a differentiated meal.

My husband was having flank steak. I really wanted a salad that had beets. So I improvised.

 I took some of the flank steak
and simmered it in horseradish sauce.
 I had some beets that I'd cooked and then frozen. I'd planned to use them in a smoothie, but I had the sudden inspiration that they would taste good in my salad.
You can still see the ice in this photo.
The icy beets were delicious.

I plated it with the greens in the middle with the horseradish steak on top. The horseradish acted as a dressing. Then I arranged the beets and slices of orange.

Really, all very delicious. This is definitely a salad I will make again. The flavors really blended together well.

So, the sad news around here is Fenway busted something in his other leg. I fear it's another ripped ACL. We're off to see the surgeon this afternoon.

He is such a sad pup tonight.

But earlier today, something he was dreaming had him happy!


So, what is dinner time like at your house? Do you "differentiate" or "make 'em eat tongue?"

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Baking Therapy with Easy Coconut Cake

Mindy here and we are now down to the studs throughout the entire house. The only place drywall remains is in the closets.

This was not part of the original plan, but I love that the house is going to have a fresh start.

I must admit, though, that the renovation process can sometimes be stressful. And in my book, the best way to combat stress is to bake. Okay, so the flip side of that coin is eating, but we won’t go there.

On this occasion, I asked hubby what he was in the mood for. His request? Coconut cake.
Perfect! I’d just pinned a sour cream coconut cake recipe to one of Pinterest boards and I was eager to try it out. You all know how much I love cakes with sour cream in them.
So here’s what you’ll need:

1 white cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1 cup sweetened flake coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 9x13 baking pan with butter or spray.
Combine all ingredients except coconut in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides then continuing mixing at medium speed for two minutes.
Fold in coconut with a spoon or spatula and pour into prepared pan.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before frosting.

I wasn’t a fan of the frosting recipe that accompanied the original cake recipe, so I took this from another coconut cake recipe. This version is a little more like a spreadable glaze than a frosting, but yummy nonetheless.

1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sweetened flake coconut

Whisk all ingredients except coconut together until smooth then fold in coconut.
Spread over cake.
Top with more coconut.
And enjoy!

This cake was very tasty as is, however I do think I will change a few things next time. For starters, the original cake recipe called for a teaspoon of coconut extract. I did not have any and was not about to run into town, so I skipped it all together. That said, I think I will add it in next time for more coconutty flavor and/or substitute some of that Bakers brand coconut milk that comes in a blue can for the regular milk.

The original glaze recipe also called for coconut extract but, again, I wasn’t about to drive into town for that one thing so I used vanilla instead. Ah, the things one learns when they go rural.

But I’ll take it. I mean, where else can Maddie enjoy her post as top deer/cow watcher when we go for our evening drives?

And I love taking in the views unobstructed by buildings.

Now it’s your turn. What's your favorite way to beat stress?

Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband and the last of her five children. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cookies for One...or Two

Jan here. Last week I mentioned how our family has changed. Within eight months, two of our four children got married and another one moved out of the house. With only one of the children living at home (working full time and school full time...he doesn't have a chance to move out!) we are almost empty nesters.

One advantage of this stage of life? We get
to visit our favorite places without working
around multiple schedules. :)

So I've been looking for some single-serving recipes. But the problem? I'm trying to stick to the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating (alternating higher carb and higher fat meals), but hubby loves his carbs and fats all mixed together. Preferably in things like pies and cookies.

The solution? I'm taking some of our favorite recipes, or some of my favorite THM recipes, and turning them around to make both of us happy.

This week I tried these "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" cookies. These are huge, and satisfying for either a snack or a dessert. Or breakfast. They're great for breakfast!

Each of these recipes makes one cookie, because when there are only two/three of us, we really don't need four dozen cookies hanging around!

Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Single Serve Cookies

Normal recipe:


1 egg
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
pinch baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

And now is where it gets fun - choose 3 - 4 Tablespoons of your favorite mix-ins:

mini chocolate chips
flaked coconut
hulled hemp seeds
chopped nuts
raisins or dried cranberries
etc. - use your imagination!

Low-Carb recipe (basically the same as the normal recipe, but with low-carb ingredients):
By the way, this version is also gluten-free.


1 egg
1/4 cup Trim Healthy Mama baking blend or substitute (check Pinterest for recipes)
1 Tablespoon unsweetened peanut butter
2 teaspoons Trim Healthy Mama Super Sweet, or 3 envelopes Truvia
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
pinch baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 - 4 Tablespoons mix-ins - if using chocolate chips, choose a stevia-sweetened brand like Lily's. If using coconut flakes, choose a kind that's unsweetened.

For our cookies, I added chocolate chips and coconut flakes. I should have added more! 

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl, then transfer the batter to a baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 13-15 minutes.

The normal ingredient cookie on the right was soft and cake-like. After trying this cookie, my husband said that I should have added oatmeal. :)

The low-carb version on the left was delicious. Not as light as the normal version, but still yummy. 

I'll keep experimenting as we go, but I'm encouraged by the results so far. Who says being empty-nesters has to be boring?

In other news, "An Amish Courtship" releases next week!

You can pre-order here!

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Rosemary Lemon Pasta with Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Hello, everybody!! Mary Jane here. I really struggled with what to call this dish. Was it Rosemary Chicken and Bacon over Pasta? Was it Bacon and Chicken with Rosemary? Was it Rosemary Pasta with Bacon and Chicken and Lemon??

In the end, I just threw some words up there. You get the general idea, which is that it's DELICIOUS. This is one of my favorite summertime dishes and we bring it to cook outs regularly.

 So, it's not hard to make but it does have quite a few steps.

1. Cut a chicken breast into strips. Season (we used a lemon pepper sprinkle.)
2. Wrap with bacon
3. Cook on a foil covered baking sheet at 400F until the bacon is crispy and the chicken is done- about twenty minutes. (I like my bacon crispy.)
4. While the bacon and chicken are cooking, boil the pasta.
5.Take a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and heat in a small pan with a few tbs of butter. Don't let it brown too much, just a little. Let it warm in the butter util fragrant.
6. Remove the bacon from the oven and set on paper towels to drain.
7. Toss the pasta with the rosemary butter. Add a few sprinkles of lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I added about 1/4 tsp of pepper to ours because I like the lemon pepper combo.)

8. Place the bacon and chicken on the pasta. Add lemon slices and sprigs of rosemary. Enjoy!!

That's all for now! Be sure to pop over and pick up my Cane River set for .99 all through the weekend. (Thank you, Bookbub!) Almost 800 reviews with a 4.7 star average. Tell your friends they can get it here!

Until next time!

Friday, July 21, 2017

New York Bagels!

Missy Tippens

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that my daughter was studying abroad. On the way back to the U.S., she spent the night with her roommate on Long Island. When she arrived back in Atlanta, she brought us a dozen fresh NY bagels from Manhasset Bagels, compliments of her roomie's mother who'd run to pick them up that morning!

We froze several and have been eating them this past week. Rationing something special to make it last longer! :)

Today, I wanted to share what my daughter made for lunch yesterday. (I'm sorry I only took 2 photos.)

She took an Everything Bagel (topped with onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic...yummy stuff!), sliced it in half, then toasted it a bit under the boiler. Then she topped it with the makings of a sandwich.

She layered on slices of turkey then topped with colby-jack cheese, open face style. Then she broiled it again to melt the cheese and warm the turkey.

When she took it out of the oven, she added sliced avocados. Personally, I would love to have added arugula and maybe even tomato slices. You can eat it open faced or put it back together and eat it sandwich style.


Here, you can even see how the cheese melted downhill before she put the two pieces back together as a sandwich. :)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mandarin Orange Salad

I am quickly putting this on the blog because I had it at a luncheon yesterday and loved it...

And then spent the afternoon in the ER with my beloved son-in-law who ran the foul side of a ground nest of bees...

And then to the other side of the city for my granddaughter's final soccer game of the season.


But, having said that, this dessert type salad was amazingly light and delicious! And easy!

Orange Mandarin Jello

1 Lg. Package Orange Jello
1 Can Mandarin Oranges, drained (large can)
1 lb. Cottage Cheese, small curd
1 8 oz Cool Whip

Mix all together. Save a dozen orange segments for garnish, if desired. Once blended, put into pretty bowl. Chill. Serve.

We had this on the dessert table, but it doesn't matter where you put it. It was marvelous! And I'm going to try it with Greek Yogurt, too, to replace the cottage cheese. I think that would hike the protein level and be delicious. I'll let you know!

Our luncheon was absolutely lovely.... and the day was true summer, hot, muggy and slightly buggy... as in real bugs, who seemed to think they were invited to the picnic.

They were not on the invite list, but they showed up anyway!

And all went well, the picnic was ending when my sweet son-in-law brought the farm truck in because he'd been stung. :( What he didn't realize (nor did we) was that he'd been stung dozens of times over his body. He thought the swelling ones on his face were the only ones, but those bees chased this good man right out of those woods...

He's doing well now. Some IV antihistamines and steroids, and he's looking much better.

So I never got the pics of the salad.... But I got the recipe, so that's the best thing!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cool Summer Lunches for a Hot Summer Day

Last Maine pictures for awhile (well until next week anyway).

It got stormy when we were ready to leave.

So we got home late Saturday and I've been in workshops for school for the last three days.

All together now - no cooking being done.

That's not entirely true, but I doubt anyone really wants recipes for hamburgers and gravy which is my dear husband's Monday staple.

But good news - this workshop I've been attending - they're giving us really good food!

I wish I'd thought to take a photo before eating yesterday, but I think the recipe is easy enough to figure out.

They had salads, including a delicious pasta salad with olives, sandwiches, and wraps. The wrap is  my focus.

Quinoa, Couscous and Corn with a bit of cilantro and dried cranberries. All wrapped together.

I didn't eat much of the wrap itself, it was nothing special. But the inside was delicious. On a brutally hot day here, the chilled couscous, corn and quinoa mix was perfect. The corn gave it a little crunch, the grains were filling, and the sprinkling of dried cranberries was just the right touch of sweetness.

My only complaint was the cilantro - too strong.

I was hoping we'd get the same lunch today so I could figure out if there was any dressing, but we got a salad instead.

I did remember to take a photo.

Quinoa, Couscous, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint on a bed of spinach.

Refreshing and light on a hot day!

And just for fun since there is corn in the first recipe - my neighborhood "corn field" is thriving.

A sunflower hiding amidst the corn stalks.

Confession time - I'm not a huge fan of the taste of quinoa, but mixed with the couscous it was delicious.

How's your summer going?