Monthly Archives: May 2011

Please Name This Recipe!!

I make this recipe (or an incarnation thereof) once every 2-3 weeks.  It’s yummy, and as always, gluten-free.  Currently, I have a crock o’ pinto beans simmering on a back burner of the stove top to accompany dinner tonight, and I’ll make some white rice, as well, to go with.

This dish is Mexican-inspired, but just saying “Mexican Crock-Pot Dinner” sounds really lame, so will someone please help me with a better title?  I should probably offer a prize for naming this recipe.  I don’t have one to offer.  Maybe you could suggest a prize, too.  🙂  Once named, I’ll add this to my permanent page of GFCF recipes.

A note on the meat:  As with most Crock-Pot dishes, a less expensive, fattier cut of meat works best for slow cooking.  For best flavor and extra nutrition, I like bone-in meat, but then, you’ll be fishing the bones out as you serve it.  I suggest chicken thighs or drumsticks (not chicken breasts), or just about any cut of pork, except sirloin.  If the bones bother you, stick with boneless pork country-style ribs (which are not ribs at all) or boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I have also made this recipe with beef, but I think chicken or pork works best.

“Mexican Crock-Pot Dinner”
serves 8

  • 3 – 4½ lbs. chicken or pork (see note above)
  • 2 medium or 3 small onions, cut into eighths
  • I cook with Mexcian Grey Squash every week. Use like zucchini, but Mexican Grey has none of the bitterness that zucchini often has.

    3 medium or 4 small Mexican Grey Squash or zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into ¾” pieces

  • 8 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 – 28 oz can petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 – 7 oz can diced green chile peppers
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano (MUST be Mexican)
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 – ¼ tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • Optional:  4 oz crumbled Mexican Cotija cheese

In a medium or large Crock-Pot or other slow cooker (mine is 6 quarts), combine all ingredients except meat.  Add the meat, gently tossing to coat meat with some of the spices and juices.  Set cooker to “low.”  Gently stir once per hour, if possible, until the mixture has cooked 6-8 hours, or until meat is tender and falling off of the bone.

If you care to go through the trouble, you can use a slotted spoon to remove bones before serving.  Or, just do what we do, and plunk the removable crock onto the dinner table next to the “bone dish.”

Serve over cooked white rice, sprinkled with Cotija cheese (or feta), if desired, with a side of pinto beans.

Other suggestions:

  • For a Cuban twist, add the zest and juice of one orange before cooking, and serve with rice and black beans.
  • If you have a very large Crock-Pot, add 1-2 lbs of soaked pinto or black beans to the bottom of the slow cooker.  Mix the veggies & spices in a separate bowl and gently spoon the mixture on top of the beans.  Top with the meat.  The moisture from the meat and veggies should provide plenty of water in which the beans can cook, but if you want to be on the safe side, add an extra 1-2 cups of water.
  • For added heat, try adding 1-4 minced canned chipotle peppers.

Dear Brown-headed Cowbird,

I love your clear, watery warble. But your parenting practices are highly suspect.

I can’t decide if I like you or not.



Having technical difficulties with my Facebook/Like badge to the right. Hm.

The donate button

Donate to OSC by PayPal if you’d like. NO PRESSURE.

OK.  So, for the last 17 months, I’ve been ghostwriting, which brings in a bit of income that has been extremely helpful to my family.  Last year, it paid for our family’s (frugal) summer trip, and now any income I make is going toward a family emergency fund*.

I’ve had offers for more ghostwriting work, but it is so time-consuming and in reality, I just don’t have adequate time to faithfully commit to clients. Thus, I need to stop, which, of course, cuts off the income.

Weekly, I get offers from advertisers who want to use space on my blog in one way or another for pay, but I really want to keep this an ad-free blog, so you know you’re always getting 100% unbiased info…  Well it’s biased to me and the stuff I like and personally recommend.  But, there are no commercial enterprises represented here.

Hence, there on the right-hand side, you’ll see a new “Donate” button. Seriously: NO PRESSURE.  I have no idea if anyone will contribute, and I am not going to twist anyone’s arm at any time;  I’m just sending out feelers, more or less, to see if it will become a viable source of supplemental income…

I hope no one is offended.

(Hereby ends the least salesmanny salespitch, ever.)


*In other words, I’m not going to say something like “I have five mouths to feed”;  our family is not going to be homeless nor starve if you don’t contribute.

Just about everything but parenting

  • Writing:  If you have read here for a while, you may remember that much of my 2010 and part of 2011 was taken up with ghostwriting a book.  The book is now available for sale — here at Brushed by God — and soon elsewhere.  🙂
  • School:  During the school year, it seems like a genius plan to work for six weeks then take off a week.  With these regular breaks, my house gets clean, special trips happen, everyone breathes a deep breath.  But, ’round about this time of year, when just about everyone else is done with school and we still have four weeks left, it seems less than brilliant.  We’re not finished until June 10.
  • Garden:  Thanks to repaired irrigation tubing and some short, cute fencing, my garden now really looks like a garden, according to my husband who blessedly did the irrigation and fence work.  🙂  However, the fence does not keep out our dog, who has an odd — and maddening — affinity for corn plants.  My corn, some of them 18″ high, does not like it, either.  The garden sits in a side yard, and we may have to run a sturdier barrier from house to side-fence to make the garden dog-proof.  Otherwise, the garden is taking spectacular shape.
  • Fitness:  I am now feeling stronger after nearly three weeks of hiking 3.5 miles, three times a week.  This makes me happy.  My “fat” jeans are looser, too, even though I’ve really lost no weight.  I guess that’s from muscle gain?  I don’t know.
  • My bodybuilding cousin Romney, military wife and mother of two.

    Random extended family thoughts:  I’ve been reflecting on how widely differing my extended family is.  It’s really a cross-section of American society in general…  Just amongst my cousins (including both sides of my family), one is a nun, one is gay, another just placed fourth in a body-building competition — it has been interesting to watch her really transform in the last 18 months,  one is a single dad, one lives in a neo-hippie commune, one is teaching English in Japan, one is a theater professor, some are academics, some are blue-collar workers, some are Christians (in various manifestations), some are pagan, some are married, some not…  Lots of really disparate interests and paths of life.  I find it really fascinating.  Are most families similar to mine in their dissimilarities??  I don’t think there’s enough closeness in my extended family, and I’m sure there’s some cause-and-effect somewhere in there, but I’m not sure of the root…  I’m sure I’m part of the problem, too, sadly.

  • Church stuff:  Over the summer, I’ll be attending a Beth Moore Bible study (the updated version of Breaking Free).  Yesterday, my pastor’s wife asked me if I would, during one of the weeks’ meetings, give a little testimony based on the story I wrote last week, on the story of my son Wesley’s life, and how God really saved my life (literally) through him, when I thought it would kill me.  I was really pleased with her request.  I printed out and edited the original story because I have to hold it to seven minutes, which required me to cut it roughly in half.  That’s OK.  My writing is generally too bloated and filled with unnecessary asides, anyway.  I have pared.  🙂
  • Household stuff:  My hubby installed a “new” microwave over the weekend.  Our “old” one was just 5½ years old, but literally falling apart —  the vent broke off and had already been replaced (then broke again), the door handle completely broke off…  Replacing the door was going to cost us nearly $200.  Ack!  We couldn’t do that.  Thankfully, he works for a homebuilder, and we were able to get one out of a model home for less than half of retail.  Cool!  So, it’s five years old or so, but it’s never been used.  A friend of ours has the same model and is very happy with it.  I now have to figure out how best to clean stainless steel, as it is the first stainless appliance in our home.  Small complaint, though;  I’m happy to have a functional microwave.
  • Birds:  A Northern Cardinal (and today, his mate) has been visiting my back yard for the last three mornings.  Cardinals are not rare in the Phoenix area, but they are uncommon, and in the 5+ years we’ve been in our home, this is the first time that we’ve had a daily visitor.  Mr. Cardinal has pleasantly interrupted my mornings.  🙂
  • Other cardinals:  My husband was asked to design a home — like a manse — for a cardinal in California.  I’m very proud of him.  It’s a modest 1600 s.f. house on a very narrow lot.  My man is brilliant and thinks in 3D.  He whipped out the plan in one day.
  • My mother:  In sad news, my mom is back in the hospital.  I can’t remember how much I blogged about it last year, but in July, we nearly lost her.  She has Marfan Syndrome, and her skeleton is collapsing, which has given her decreased space for her lungs (and other organs).  Additionally, half of her diaphragm is paralyzed.  Then, she got double pneumonia.  She recovered, to our great relief.  She is a stubborn lady, and that can pay dividends when fighting illness.  She has lost a tremendous amount of weight and is very frail, and has been placed on oxygen “as needed”.  In the last month or so, her need for oxygen has been 24/7, with her oxygen saturation dipping into the 60% range or even down to 50% if she’s off of oxygen for even a short while.  After a doctor appointment yesterday, the doctor sent her straight to the E.R.  She has double pneumonia again, and is correspondingly hypoxic.  She was supposed to have major surgery (an estimated 12 hour ordeal) on the 25th of this month to resection her spine and to put in metal supports inside her ribcage area.  This is a risky procedure even for a healthy person;  for her, the doctors had given about a 60% chance for surviving surgery, mostly because of the extremely mushy shape of her arteries — she’s had two AAA repairs and one femoral artery replaced already due to aneurysms.  However, the surgery is really her only hope — aside from miraculous healing — for longer-term survival, since right now, she’s slowly being suffocated.  With this bout of pneumonia, the doctors have indefinitely shelved the surgery.  She’s crushed about that, but — unlike past stays — she’s relieved to be back in the hospital.  Normally, she is an unwilling patient.  I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or not that she’s happy to be in the hospital.  Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

So many books, so little time!!

Currently reading (for a book club, and very much enjoying.  I don’t think I’ll finish it in time for our meeting, still, I will attend for love of dear friends and fabulous discussion):

John Adams by David McCullough

Next up, in no particular order…

A book that sounded intriguing, when I read a little review on the NPR website:

This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman

The eighth and latest in the Maisie Dobbs series — a series which I have enjoyed, and have read all the previous seven, but cannot recommend wholeheartedly, so don’t blame me if you read it and don’t like it.  🙂

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

The eighth — but not the newest — of Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell series.  I highly recommend them — start with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.  I was introduced to King’s series late last year, so I’m not up-to-date….  I think the series is on book #13 or 14.  Literary, intriguing, excellently written, well-crafted mysteries, written by a woman of apparently complicated — though also intriguing — social and religious convictions:

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King

I think I need to weed through my blogroll.  It’s not really up-to-date any more…  I always have a weird dilemma, though, about blogrolls.  There are some blogs I regularly read, but whose owners/writers never (to my knowledge) read mine…  I’m still unsure if its a breach of etiquette to include them.  Similarly, there are blogs that I’ve really enjoyed in the past, but the authors haven’t updated them in, oh, a year or so.  Yet, I feel badly deleting them.  What to do, what to do?

Summer panic… and peace

Right about this time every year, there gets to be a tight feeling in my chest, which I have to fight for… oh, about five months.  It’s a bit like claustrophobia, but it’s more along the lines of heat-o-phobia.  Truly, I despise summer in the desert.  Some people really love the heat and thrive in it.  That, however, is not me.  I have worked hard to find things to appreciate about the place I live so that I’m not living with a crappy attitude and wishing to be elsewhere, half of my life.  My husband is a native, his dad is a native (which is REALLY rare;  the Phoenix area is a valley of transients)…  My mom and stepdad are here, my sister and brother-in-law are here, my niece is here… plus, we truly have the most amazing church where we both serve and are fed.  Not to mention my husband’s fabulous job that he’s been at for 19 years.  It’s highly unlikely that we’ll be leaving any time soon.  I have come to value the benefits to living here, apart from the weather, which, any time I really let myself think about it, I could pretty easily conjure up some tears.  I mean, I really despise summer in the desert.

But, I will not dwell on the endless 110°+ days;  I will, instead, continue to look for things that make the desert tolerable or even pleasant, and fight the heat-o-phobia and its accompanying tears which threaten to steal my peace.

Several things have made the transition into summer easier for me this year:

  1. There have only been a handful of 100° days so far.  Today, as I write, we have been the beneficiary of some low-pressure front, or something like that, and the temps are supposed to top out in the 70s.  Yesterday’s high was 80°.  I know that God doesn’t allow these sort of days solely for me, but I like to think of them as Him giving me a bit of hope and reprieve, letting me know that I can make it, and that it’s not ALL oven-like misery.
  2. I have been waking earlier.  Much earlier.  A couple of weeks ago, I started hiking a mountain — hill, more like it — that is nearby.  I wake at 5:30 a.m., am on the trail by 6:00, and home by about 7:15 just in time to help my hubby gather his lunch for the day, his to-go mug of coffee, and to kiss him goodbye.  The first day I did the early-morning hike, Martin said, “You could do that every day and it would be OK with me.”  Other than a spunky 2yo who sometimes wakes way too early and won’t stay in bed, and has the power to open the fridge and take out everything she can’t eat and have a surreptitious binge whilst Daddy is in the shower and Mommy is not yet home, it works really well.  And, I have the great feeling of becoming fit and healthier, as well as breathing in the cool, early morning air and being there to (almost) greet the sunrise.  I do a balloon-shaped trail that is about 3.6 miles, savoring the temperatures that are in the 60s or 70s…  It has been wonderful.  And, somehow, it’s SO MUCH EASIER for this night owl to roll out of bed at 5:30 for a hike, instead of, say, the stationary bike.
  3. I think ours is taller than this, and it's in bloom.

    Our backyard is now over five years old, and the pathetic little saplings have matured and grown into a lush (for the desert) green oasis.  This may not seem like much, but when I’m surrounded by hot, brown, and dry, it’s such a blessing to be able to walk into my back yard and breathe in a little bit o’ GREEN.  The trees are now climbable, and one of them even has a little rope swing attached.  We have two medium (but lovely) fruitless pistachio trees and two large tipu trees.  Wonderful.

  4. My garden.  Again, it’s only May, and I got it in a good month later than I should have, so who knows how fruitful it will actually be.  But for now, it’s medicine to my soul to push the dirt around and coax and nurture little plants into being.  Usually once a day (at least), I pull out my kneeling pad and just sit on it, looking at the garden.  Even when there’s nothing to do in it, I feel good looking at it either up close, or just glancing out the window while working in the kitchen.  Over the weekend, my hubby installed soaker tube for the irrigation and put up a little wire fence to keep our dog (and small children) from romping through the tender growth.  He proclaimed, “Now it looks like a real garden.”  I concur.

So, maybe He wasn’t trying to kill me after all…

When I was 27 years old I was fairly certain God was trying to kill me.

I was reminded of this upon recently reading about an old acquaintance’s plans to adopt a baby after two birth children, but not perhaps as you might initially be thinking as you read this account of the hardest season in my married life — a season that lasted, oh, about five years.

Reading the adoption-plan story also made me consider my standard response to the numerous people who ask me whether or not my husband and I are having more children.  For a canned response, perhaps it falls under the category of “TMI”, but it encapsulates my thoughts on the subject,  “Well, we’re not planning on it, but we’ve done nothing permanent to prevent pregnancy, nor will we do anything permanent, and two of our five were conceived when we weren’t ‘planning on it’, so you never know what God has in mind.”

Back to when I was 27:  I had a one-year-old boy and my oldest son was three.  My second son had been a surprise:  I had decided, after one, that one was more than enough, and I privately extended grace to all the mothers of “only children” over whom I had stood in judgment.  I also — seriously — asked the Father for forgiveness for my wrong attitude, rooted in abject ignorance, over how difficult mothering is, and how one child can truly feel like plenty — very fulfilling.   So, there I was with my two boys, and daily, I felt like I was barely, barely, barely keeping my nose above water.  Literally, every day, I felt like I was drowning, only to just survive another day.

Then, I found out that I was pregnant again.

I remember laying on my back on the floor of the family room one night, early in the pregnancy, after everyone else — including my husband — had gone to bed.  I was weeping, laying it all out there before God, in ugly and brutal and heartbroken honesty.  I told him that I was sorry I didn’t want the pregnancy, sorry that I was having great difficulty accepting His choice for me, sorry that I was even having those thoughts, and so on…  I had to lay there  — a position of my choice, being entirely vulnerable, before Him —  and in all seriousness, confess to Him that if He was intending for this to literally kill me, that He was going to have to help me trust Him on that, too.  It was just… too far beyond me to consider that this pregnancy, and the resulting baby, could be for my benefit at all.  So, I considered that maybe that God wanted that baby’s life so dearly, for such a specific and important purpose, that He would need to sacrifice mine in order to bring that little one into existence.  I’m not being melodramatic.  I was completely serious, and that was the best I could come up with:  That the baby needed to be alive, even if it killed me.  Even if God killed me.  “Though [You] slay me, yet will I trust in [You]…” reverberated in my mind, alternated with, “Lord, I believe;  help my unbelief!

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Got sucked in to trying a new WordPress theme… Those things take so stinkin’ long to get just right. I should have kept the old one.

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