Book Review and Sign Off

Dear readers, friends, family and fellow bloggers,

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I constantly am going on large breaks from posting. I am an inconsistent blogger. I always have been and I’ve come to realize, I always will be. I have three wonderful and crazy kids. They are 10 months, almost 4, and 6 years old. I have a fantastic husband. We are involved in a terrific church. We have two extended families mostly living close by. We have a wonderful private school nearby. We live in one of the most beautiful and rich places in the whole world. We are truly and abundantly blessed.

With all of that, we have come to the realization that in order to raise the best kids we can in this post-modern, secular culture, we need to concentrate on our relationships with them. This takes time and patience, as any parent will testify. However, in the last 50 years, it takes a lot more time and patience. Our grandparents were able to raise large families with much less proactive parenting than we must today. They didn’t have the nearly as many distractions in their lives, technological or otherwise. Up until the 1950s or so, you could send your children off to play and have fun with the other kids around and be sure that your neighbours held similar moral and cultural ideas to your own. You could live simply because, quite simply, that was the only way to live. That is no longer the case.

I have just finished reading “Hold Onto Your Kids” by Vancouver psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld. I won’t go into a long review here, except to say that I wish I had read it when it first came out in 2004. It is the only “parenting” book that has ever made complete and total sense of everything. I wish I had listened to my instincts when I first came across his name and theory when Emma was a baby, 5 years ago. I wish I had gotten rid of the baby trainer books right from the start. I wish I had cultivated an intentional attachment village. I wish I had spent less time worrying about things. I hope you will all pick it up at the library or buy a copy or borrow mine and read it. It has changed the way we think. Not since God came into my life have I ever been so transformed by and convicted of anything. For those that have or will read it: it may not be “Biblical” in that there are very few scripture references or mentions of God. But look deeper, between the words into the message. The God of the universe is the God of relationship. He is relationship himself. When you understand that, it makes absolute and total sense.

I am most grateful to God that I have the chance to mend my ways. I am not perfect. Neither is my husband. Or my kids. Or anyone else in our world. Only He is. And he gives us second chances. Every day, every breath, we are redeemed and forgiven. Over and over again. And it is with this grace, this renewal, this beautiful gift, that I sign off from the blogging world. It has been great to share of myself and our family and ideas, but it is not a passion. It is not a requirement for our family. It is not an income-earner. It was a hobby and a sporadic one at that. When I got into a consistent groove, it ate up a lot of time. When I wasn’t consistent, it was constantly simmering in my mind, heaping guilt on my conscience. Of course, that comes from no one else but myself, but as I said, I am not perfect.

And so blogging world, I have left my (minuscule) mark. But that doesn’t matter. I could have left a giant crater or nothing at all and it still wouldn’t matter. God doesn’t look at what we do, He sees what it is our hearts. And we are turning our hearts towards our family, on the firm foundation of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As you meditate upon His awesome sacrifice this Easter season, ask Him, again or for the first time, to be the Lord and Master of your life. To forgive you. To redeem you. To free you. And He will – He is a faithful God, abounding in steadfast love. That’s what the cross is about.

To Him be all glory!

no pics lately

My camera is sitting on my shelf with weeks worth of photos on it because my hard drive is almost full! I have to find some time to do some serious memory cleanup on my Mac and on my externals (I have 3!) I never did get into online storage yet (except for all the photos on Shutterfly) but that will probably be a possibility soon… Dropbox, iCloud, Mozy, what else is out there?

And I’m trying out a new theme on this blog – what do you think? WordPress has so many lovely themes! It’s a brighter theme to get us through the long, dark of Moria winter.

A better Chicken Broccoli Divan

When we travelled across our beautiful country in 2010 (was it that long ago!?), food was one of things I often recorded because food plays such an integral role in our daily lives. Food can bring back memories like nothing else. As a mom of three young ones, I am often observing how other families do mealtime and what kinds of foods are hits and misses. When we stayed with J’s cousin in Ottawa, I have a very clear memory of one particular day when their children came home from school and one by one came through the kitchen to ask what was for dinner. The answer was “chicken broccoli”. Each child smiled and said “yum!” at the answer. It was a wonderful thing to witness! Dinner that night was indeed chicken broccoli and it was really good, being a recipe I hadn’t had or cooked before.

Then I saw that Campbell’s commercial where two children are talking about their favourite meals and the boy says something in praise of Chicken Broccoli Divan. What is a divan? Could this be the same dish I have such a fond memory of? In searching for the recipe, I inevitably came upon many that were indeed including a can or two of condensed soup. We don’t eat a lot of canned soup in our house, preferring instead to make our own soups and sauces from scratch and wholesome, identifiable ingredients. Then I stumbled upon a recipe that doesn’t use canned soup. I had most of the ingredients on hand and with a few modifications came up with our own Chicken Broccoli “Divan”. It was easily doubled to make a second casserole to pop in the freezer. Gotta love that!

Chicken Broccoli and Rice Divan

adapted from Hundred Healthy Dinners

Chicken – whatever you have on hand (we used thighs)
4 cups chopped Broccoli – about 1 large head (my kids like the stem so I use that too!)
2 – 3 cloves of garlic (I used dried since I didn’t have any fresh!)
1/2 chopped onion
Bit of dried shallot – use fresh if you’ve got it!
1 yellow bell pepper – diced
Salt & Pepper and other spices to taste(ie dried basil and oregano)
A double recipe of cream of chicken soup (see below)
3(ish) cups of sharp cheddar – grated
1/2 cup bread crumbs or wheat germ or cracker crumbs


Cook rice according to directions. (I had leftover rice from the Hawaiian Beans)

Cook the chicken in a pan with a bit of butter and/or olive oil until no longer pink. You can season it with salt and pepper too. Remove it and set aside. Leave the drippings. If needed add a little more oil to the pan.

Add garlic, onion and shallots and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli, peppers, salt and pepper, and any herbs or spices. Splash a little bit of water and stir.

Cover for about 5-8 minutes until vegetables are slightly softened and flavorful.

While it’s cooking dice up the chicken and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the cooked rice and chicken with the vegetable mixture along with 2 cups of the cheese and the soup.

Put it into a greased casserole (or two!) and top with the remaining cheese and bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until the cheese is melted and a little golden.

Enjoy a great oven to table meal sure to please even your pickiest kids!

Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup

from The Kitchn
makes a little over a cup, equivalent to one can of soup

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons white flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat then add the flour. Cook, stirring rapidly, until the mixture is thick.

Add the chicken stock and whisk until smooth, then add the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

This will keep for a couple days in the fridge, but it’s best to use it the day you make it.

Feeding a crowd with multiple dietary restrictions

I’ve been amazed lately at how many people I come across that have some sort of dietary restriction. It seems like in the past decade, food is more and more the culprit of a myriad of negative things that people suffer. In J’s family alone (in-laws included) we have a vegetarian, a gluten-free, a low-fat, and a low-sodium. On my side I have a diabetic and a recent vegan. Which means that when it comes to something as fun and festive as a child’s birthday party, feeding a crowd of dietary restrictions isn’t easy. E’s 6th birthday party last night a party which combined both families (minus the diabetic) which means no less than five different diets. Granted, vegan and vegetarian are similar, but it’s amazing how many vegetarian recipes have eggs, milk or cheese in them!

Enter one of my favourite recipes: Hawaiian Baked Beans. This is a go-to recipe for us. It is healthy, nourishing food that pleases the palate, the waistline, and the many diets of our combined families! We first had a version of this dish when I had E. A woman from church dropped off a meal one day and it was a sweet, tangy, saucy, baked bean dish. By simply searching for “Hawaiian Beans” I found many, many different versions.

This version is adapted from the one at – I usually modify it according to what I have on hand. It’s such a hit that we’re serving it at a school fundraiser next month! We got many compliments on it last night from several people including the meat eaters!. My grandmother even asked for the recipe.

Photo Credit: Juan Carlo via ecomii

Hawaiian Beans

8 Servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoons crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 cup sliced scallions
few slices of bacon, chopped
1 2/3 cups shredded or finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup Mirin
2 (15 ounce cans) pinto beans
1 (14 1/2 ounce can) diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce can) crushed or tidbit pineapple, packed in juice
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
squirt of ketchup (optional)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

Heat oil and crushed pepper in a large pan for 1 minute. Add garlic, celery, scallions, bacon and saute 3 minutes.  Add carrots, cook 2 minutes and add Mirin. Cook mixture 5 minutes and add beans, tomatoes, and pineapple. Lower heat to medium low and add mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and yeast.  Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with rice.

This can also be done in a slow cooker. Simply do the sautéing and then dump all the ingredients in the cooker. Yesterday I set mine on low for most of the day.

One of the great things about this recipe is that it is very adaptable. Vegetarian? Omit the bacon. No pinto beans? Use another kind. Need more kick? Add more spices. It is easily doubled for a large crowd, freezes well, and can be made fairly quickly on the stove or slowly in the crock pot.

We serve our Hawaiian Beans on whole grain or mixed grain rice. I cook up whatever rice is in the cupboard. Last night it was the end of the wild rice package and a bunch of brown basmati.

Enjoy this wonderful meal and you’ll feel like your on a beach even though it’s snowing outside! (at least it is at my house!)

A Christmas Letter 2011

Hope you are all gearing up for a fantastic Christmas! Today is E’s last day of school and her Christmas Concert. Then we are taking a well-deserved stay-cation! Lots of movies, pajamas, Christmas cookies, and possibly even some naps! We’ll take a hiatus from here until the new year so until then, be amazed by love that came into the world as an infant. God bless you all!

E's chalkboard nativity: Son of God, Pine, The Stable that Jesus was born in

Cookie Cutter as: Sandwich Shaper

Since I’ve not had time to bake anymore I just went with another sandwich, but really that’s fine because my daughter LOVES them in shapes. Today I present: un petit bonHAM de neige!

What a cutie! He’s made with doughy French bread, ham, cheddar and mayo, and decorated with edible food markers. E liked him so much (and she’s been eating a lot lately!) she asked to me to make her another one, so he is joined by his girlfriend today. Her lunches are mostly packed in a Goodbyn that she decorated herself. Love this lunchbox!

Well, that concludes National Cookie Cutter week, but I still have the cookie tree to post. I’ll have to get to it later. I didn’t have time to get it together before J’s party on Sunday so the cookies are in the freezer and the icing is in the fridge ready for the next get together.