Monday, August 27, 2012

A Little Comfort Please!!!

This is a big week in our house!! School starts!!! What?! And although I adore time with my children – I cherish every incredible moment, particularly the ones where they still like me!- I am THRILLED that they will be returning to that esteemed place of childhood learning, known here as Ben D. Quinn Elementary School. Ahhhh- they will once again be engaged in conversations that do not revolve solely around SkyLanders and whether or not they will dress for the day! They will meet new friends, face new challenges and be educated! I love this!!


Along with this new school thing, comes another new thing for us – UNIFORMS!!! Seriously!!??!! Now for J this is a blessing! He loves that he doesn’t have to ever face the dreaded question of, “what shall I wear today?” No more guess work! Wake – shower – dress mindlessly – breakfast – brush teeth – school. Morning routines couldn’t be more fitting for my boy child… My girlie girl on the other hand… not so much! We’re talking about my child who longs to wear patterns of many types all at the same time! I mean seriously – look at this outfit! So tame compared to most – and yep – it was like 105-degrees when she wore this!

She’s my budding fashionista who initially redesigned many of her clothes out of necessity because she’s so “willowy” as Aunt Audrey is fond of saying… but she quite enjoys it now! So when we saw that school uniforms were in our future – well – dread is the word that comes to mind!


Last night, however, Z put on one of her outfits and danced around with joy! She enjoyed putting together fun combinations, and discovered that accessories are the new passion of her life! Initially we thought we were going to have to be uniform down to the hair bows, but have since found out that she can be as funky as she wants where that is concerned – “holla!” She has ordered a few fun scarves and has purchased a crafting kit from “Little Miss Match” that is full of fun do-das to attach to carabineers and then clip on to her backpack for as she says, “fashionista flair!”


RELIEF!!! SWEET RELIEF!!! All that panic for nothing!! This of course reminds me greatly of one of my favorite verses in Philippians, seeing as I am the worry-wart queen!!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Phil 4:6

I seriously take my worrying too far so much of the time. And I know this is a verse that we hear about and talk about all the time in the church… I hate to drone on and on about the same ol’ thing but when I find myself plagued with the same problem time after time, I know that I’m most likely not alone in the struggle – that there are others out there who are worry-warts like me!


This verse is freedom folks! It is the solution to being bogged down in the “what ifs…” of life and the giving in to the “but wills…” that immediately follow. Worry - we don’t need to and are in fact told straight up not to do it! We are instructed on how to correct our hearts – PRAYER!! The simplest, most important thing we can do as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends, individuals in Christ! Without a healthy prayer life the worry takes over, the depression sinks in and the negativity takes root. From that nothing but bitterness, sadness, and dissatisfaction can grow… I don’t want that in my life – and I certainly don’t want that for my kids!


Resolution – as a devoted mom – I want to pray for my babies – and let’s face it that’s what they will always be to me. I want to pray for them to love where they are – they’re city & school, yes, but more importantly where they are in life. I want to pray that they feel covered up in love every day! I want to pray for them to have the confidence and self assurance that comes from knowing Jesus – which is certainly more confidence than wearing just the right dress! And at the end of the day, I want to be so covered up in Jesus that they are bathed from head to toe in His presence, and not just the Dial Gold I hope they remembered to use in the shower (come on, you know you wonder sometimes too! They’re 9 & 10 – priorities are not always on hygiene!) As this new school year starts I vow to pray more for these cuties I’ve been given on loan, for however long God allows, and worry less…


And in that worrying less I say, “Let them eat comfort food!” Comfort in the Spirit & comfort in their bellies… so we start the school year with a week of our FAVORITES!!


Also – here’s how awesome they look in their uniforms as they boldly go into this brave new school year – because every mama’s gotta brag a little ;-)

This may quite possibly be the most labor-intensive mac & cheese you will ever make, but friends, it is SOOOOO worth it!! This is a recipe from the Food Network and I certainly want to make sure the credit goes where it belongs so follow this link to the recipe. I will tell you, however, that I have used sliced, sautéed mushrooms instead and in addition to the ham and if you could see my face right now you would know that it tastes like heaven!! This is a bit of a pricey recipe too so watch for the gruyere to go on sale – and oh my! You will be so glad you did!!! Can’t wait for dinner!!!


Tuesday - Top Of the Ridge Chicken: a Momma Hartsell Recipe

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 stick (1/2c., 8Tbsp.) butter, melted

1c. crushed herbed bread crumbs (I use Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing)

1 clove garlic, minced or 1 Tbsp. garlic powder

3 oz. parmesan cheese – I use the can stuff (1 small can = 3oz.) and it’s just fine, but, if you’re a foodie,

go for the real stuff…


Put butter in a shallow dish and microwave to melt. Place bread crumbs, garlic & cheese in a gallon size zip-top bag. Dredge/dip chicken in butter and then place in gallon bag with all the goodness. Once all chicken pieces are in the bag, shake to coat. Line cookie sheet with foil and place chicken on it. Bake at 375-degrees for approximately 45 minutes, a little less if you’re using the thin cut breasts… THIS IS SOOOOOOO GOOD!!! This is my hubby’s favorite thing that my mom makes – better than her amazing cheesecake, better than Christmas standing rib roast dinner, better than ANYTHING!! Yep – it’s that tasty!! (Did you know that mom?!)


Wednesday - Moravian Chicken Pie: a Momma Hartsell Recipe

4 poached chicken breasts, roughly chopped (or 1 rotisserie chicken, or leftover chicken… you want

about 3-4c.)

2 cans, cream of chicken soup

1c. self rising flour

1 stick butter, melted

1c. milk


In a small bowl, mix together chicken and soup. Pour into a 9”13” casserole dish. In a separate bowl, combine flour, butter and milk. Whisk together until smooth. Pour over top the chicken mixture already in casserole dish. Bake at 400-degrees for 45 minutes.


You’ll note that this does not have any vegetables in it – if you were lucky enough to visit the Tavern in Old Salem (Winston-Salem, NC) when it was open (I heard it closed recently – boo!!) you could have ordered “Moravian Chicken Pie” and it would have come as a slice of pie without veg. We were blessed when we were at The Salvation Army Training School to have a wonderful chef who had once been at the Tavern and for special Sundays she would make this dish!! As a child I refused to eat veggies so when Momma made chicken pie she was particularly sweet to me and would make an extra dish just for me without those little “beasties.” I adore chicken pie of all varieties these days, but when I want good ol’ comfort food – this is where I go!!


Thursday – Homemade Pizza & CRACK Bread (

OK – so I may totally cop out and buy a DiGiorno this week (budget allowing) because my J informed me that he doesn’t feel like any of my homemade pizza attempts have ever come quite up to par – yes, those were his words! But I will be making Crack Bread. I absolutely adore a blog called, “Plain Chicken,” and if you have never visited it you need to go straight over there after reading this entry! Soooo many great recipes and ideas!! My favorite recipe thus far, however is the one for Crack Bread, aka Cheddar Bacon Ranch Pulls. It’s got bacon. It’s got ranch. It’s got cheddar. It’s got BUTTER!! Do I seriously need to go on? This stuff is positively addictive! The first time I made it we went through the whole loaf in like 5 minutes – I wish I were kidding but no – our faces and hands were covered in scrumptious, buttery deliciousness. This is the perfect food for football parties, church receptions, slumber parties, movie nights, celebrations, rough days, rainy days, TGI-Thursday parties… you get the picture – there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can’t be made better with a bite of this amazing, awesome-sauce edible!! As a quick note – I do usually make it with a French loaf because by the time I get to the bakery, they’re usually out of the round loaves for the day – bummer, I know, but the flavorful goodness is still there!! Oh – yeah!!


I love a money saving meal!! I really love it when it tastes good to boot!! This recipe from Pilsbury does not disappoint. I have modified it by making it even cheaper – I make my own pie crust using Melissa d’Arabians super easy recipe found here ( Yes, I know the link takes you to her potato torte, and no I have not tried that although it is on my list!! The pie crust here couldn’t be simpler or tastier – try it – you’ll see!!!  The other modification I do to this recipe is to make smaller, individual size empanadas- it makes the food more fun if you can eat it with your hands, right?! Just reduce the cooking time slightly – the best thing to do is to keep an eye on it and when they start to brown pull them out to cool. Seriously – you need this empanada in your repertoire for those days when a taco just won’t do! It feels really special to have this little baked pie of deliciousness!! YUM!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Pinterest- it's what's for dinner + some thoughts!

So – September is almost here!!! YAY!! Fall is almost here!! Apples! Pumpkins!! CINNAMON!!!

In an attempt to be more organized this fall I’ve resolved to set and maintain menus! YAY! Weird – yes? Ummm… afraid so but I don’t claim to be otherwise… Although, I’ve never longed to be Martha Stewart or a contributor to Family Circus (Isn’t that the mag that has as a feature “A Month Of Menus”?) but I’ve pinned all these things on pinterest and seriously – I really want to try them all!!! YUM!!!! It's my plan to cook these platters of palate pleasers and review the previous week each Thursday- if you're cooking along be sure to let your taste buds comment too!!

This month’s menu, includes dinners (the evening meal that is) from pinterest exclusively!! Yeah baby!! I’m also adding a board to my pinterest account that is pinned in order with my menu, in case you want to follow along and cook with me. The more the merrier I say… I also say, this is a constructive, albeit calorie laden at times, way to deal with stress

In other news – I am feeling like one really blessed chick these days!! And you know that ol’ song “Count Your Blessings,” well let me share a handful of my most recent ones in the hopes that maybe they’ll make you laugh, or smile or giggle a bit…

1)      Tuesday night I was bitten by the paint-me bug. The bug hit in my office and as I returned home from work I made an announcement to my children, “I think I’m gonna paint my office tonight, anyone want to help?” My Zoe girl immediately hopped to and got really excited! We jumped in the minivan and drove to Lowe’s. Bought a gallon of paint and got to work. Z stayed and worked with me until after 10PM and never complained. Not even once! She rolled until her arms felt like they might fall off. When that happened she just cranked up the Pandora and entertained me with her creative lyrics! I was so thankful!! Imagine my surprise then when I opened my laptop on Wednesday morning and there was a handmade note from my girl which read, “Thanks so much for letting me help!” Seriously – is this child real?! Answer – Yep! And she’s all mine!!

2)      We were on vacation last week – and now that we live on the coast – the mountains are much further away. That being said, we were two hours away when my boy J started to rouse and got really – REALLY – talkative. In fact, I’m fairly confident he only stopped long enough to swallow hard once!! He talked about everything – from the book he had just finished reading to the activities he had done with his god-brother whilst on vacation (for which we were present, no less), to the things he wanted to do in his game once we arrived home, and when might that be? how far away? what’s our speed? You get the idea – if it came up in his thoughts it found its way out of his mouth! And although my ears got kind of tired, I count it as a blessing because he’s 10 – and the fact that he still wants to talk to his parents about everything in his life thrills this momma’s soul!!

3)      My shoulder and neck were sore – my husband, who hates massages, rubbed my sore spots! What a sweety!

There are so many more things – and funny things – and thoughtful things, that I could share – and I will, semi-soon perhaps even! I know that some of these things are not exactly stop the presses kinds of things, but they are the stuff of my life. When I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs, crying into my pillow, or pulling out my hair something like one of these blessings will happen – God gifts for sure!!! These are the things that get me through and remind me that I am never alone – not a for a minute!!!

Psalm 116: 7, “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

Have you counted your blessings lately?

September Dinner Menus

1)      Pizza Puffs

2)      Breakfast for Dinner Casserole

3)      Taco Pancakes

4)      Cheesy Oven Fried Chicken (make enough to freeze!)

5)      Lasagna Rollups (make enough to freeze!)

6)      Savages Pizza *

7)      Chicken Pad Thai

8)      Leftovers – no recipes needed!

9)      Revival in Elizabeth City – no cooking two days in a row?!

10)   Crockpot Cube steak

11)   Mac & Cheese Quiche

12)   Chicken w/ravioli Carbonara

13)   Savages Pizza

14)   Chicken Gyros

15)   Potato Soup Yummo

16)   Pizza Pot Pie

17)   Pollo Loco

18)   Melt In Your Mouth Chicken

19)   Turkey Meatballs

20)   Hubby’s Birthday – Can’t say – it’s a surprise!!

21)   Sausage puffs – snacks before the fundraiser – what?! Festival of Tables – don’t know what this is? – ask me!!

22)   Roasted Tomato Soup

23)   Crock pot Bourbon Chicken

24)   Cordon Bleu Casserole

25)   Meatloaf Goodness

26)   Cheesy Oven Fried Chicken

27)   Lasagna Rollups

28)   Chicken Noodle Soup

29)   World’s Best Chicken

30)   Grilled Chipotle Lime Shrimp

For links to all these recipes and more, check out my September board on pinterest!