Lentil Vegetable Chili

Got tomatoes? Use fresh or frozen from last season for a large batch of this vegetarian chili. I froze several pounds of Romas, which are my favorite variety because they create a thicker tomato sauce. Just cut off the stems before you put them in freezer bags.

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Ingredients:
16 ounces of chunky tomato sauce
3 cups of homemade vegetable stock
2 cups of dry lentils
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. of chili powder
1 tsp. of chipotle chili chili pepper
1 tsp. of cumin
1 tablespoon of honey
1 cup of frozen corn

Directions:
1. Put tomato sauce, vegetable stock and lentils in a stock pot. Heat to boiling, then simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.
2. Heat a skillet with 1/8 of a cup of vegetable stock. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and bell pepper. Cook on medium low until onion and carrots are tender. Add a splash of liquid if vegetables begin to stick.
3. Add spices to skillet. Simmer for several minutes. Remove bay leaf.

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4. Add skillet mixture to stock pot. Stir in frozen corn and honey. Simmer for several minutes.

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Super easy. Healthy, tasty, and filling!

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Oven Roasted “Sun-Dried” Tomatoes

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Are you growing cherry tomatoes this summer? Our community garden was overrun by these little gems last year. I was getting bored with just putting them raw in salads, so making them like a “sun-dried” tomato was a welcome change. 

 

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ready for the oven

Ingredients:
cherry tomatoes
fresh or dried basil
fresh or dried rosemary
pepper
parchment paper

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Directions:
1. Preheat oven at 200 degrees.
2. Cut tomatoes in half. Place on baking pans lined with parchment paper.
3. Chop herbs and sprinkle on tomatoes. Grind or shake some pepper over them.
4. Roast tomates for 2 hours or more if you want them a bit “leathery.”
5. Let tomatoes cool. Place in air tight containers. Refrigerate or freeze.

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My roasted cherry tomatoes after 2 hours. Bake longer if you like them chewier.

 

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My perennial lovage is flourishing this season so I’m going to add it with the other herbs when I roast the cherry tomatoes. Lovage tastes a bit like celery and is also a nice touch in tomato sauces.

 

Oven Roasted “Sun-Dried” Cherry Tomatoes taste wonderful on flatbread pizzas, in sandwiches, or pureed with your homemade tomato sauce. If you’ve never grown cherry tomatoes, I encourage you to add a few plants to your garden. They are super easy to grow! 

 

 

 

Updated 1980’s Fireplace

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My good friend, Wende Lance, suggested we whitewash our fireplace although she knew my husband Jim didn’t want more work added to our fixer upper. Another special friend, Aubrey Bates, thought that a German shmear on our brick might look really sharp. Jim thought the natural 1980’s orangey brick looked just fine, thank you.

It took me about six months to convince Jim to try something different with the fireplace and another couple to get up the courage to actually do something. We figured if worse came to worse, we could paint the whole thing a solid white. But I really wanted a washed effect. And the textured wallpaper stripped, and the plastic panelling down, and the stained carpetting ripped up. So what was one more project?!

Our family room at the end of a long day of moving boxes~
(Thank you, Jeff and Kelly Franks and my Sunday School class.)

Lovely, eh?

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Below is a snapshot of the original fireplace next to the fireplace with one coat of whitewash. The first coat was very watered down. I figured I could always add a second coat, but couldn’t go back once I committed.  I definitely was encouraged by the difference one coat made!

Coat number two. I still wasn’t convinced, but Jim was warming up to it!
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I watered down the paint again, brushed on a third coat, and got the whitewash look that I envisioned. Here are a couple close-ups of the final product.

The look for summer~

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I think I’ll paint the candlestick a darker color.

 

And the “big picture~”
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“We’ve come a long way, baby!”
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White wash: 50 percent white chalk paint, 50 percent water
Brush: round chalk paint brush
Third coat: add 50 percent more water to make a ratio of 3 parts water, 1 part paint
Brass fireplace trim: spray paint with flat black spray paint
Accent wall: Sherwin Williams “Peppercorn”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Freezer Tomatoes for Sauce and Chili

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Last season, tomatoes in our community garden went CRAZY.  So we canned them, made sauce to give away, begged strangers to take our tomatoes, donated them to food pantries, and froze pounds of Romas and Big Boys. I found an easy way to freeze tomatoes and prepare them for sauce, so they did not go to waste!

 

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Romas!

 

Freezing tomatoes:
Put 6-8 whole tomatoes in Ziploc bags. Do not peel. You can remove the stems and core them before freezing if you desire. I cut off the stems, but save getting rid of any unwanted core when chopping the frozen tomatoes for sauce. I use mostly Romas, which do not need to be cored.

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Oh, I froze my overflow of jalapeños peppers as well and used them all winter!

 

Peeling tomatoes:
Put on a full kettle of water to boil. Place about 10 frozen tomatoes in a colander. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes until you see the skins split. This will take about ten seconds or so. Slip skins off the tomatoes. That’s it! The skins slide right off.

Freezer Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

4 1 gallon plastic freezer bags (i.e. Ziploc) of whole tomatoes
boiling water
vegetable stock
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, finely chopped
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped

For a spicy Mexican sauce:
Try 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper, a few pinches of red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. of chili powder, 1/2 tsp. of chipotle chili pepper seasoning and 1 tsp. of cumin. Taste as you add in spices, adjusting the amount to get the flavor you like.

For an Italian flavored sauce:
Chop up some fresh lovage (tastes like celery), oregano, chives, and basil leaves. Add a bay leaf. If you don’t have fresh, try 2 teaspoons each of dried oregano, chives, and basil. Just add and taste, adjusting to get the flavor you like.

Directions:

1. Roughly chop peeled tomatoes. Put in large stock pot.
2. Heat a few splashes of vegetable stock in large pan. Add garlic, onions, peppers, and   celery. Cook on medium low until soft.
3. Add veggies to tomatoes in stock pot.
4. Add herbs and spices.
5. Simmer sauce on low for four hours. The longer you simmer it, the thicker it will get.
6. Sauce will be chunky. Use an immersion blender or regular blender if you like a smooth sauce.

Spicy Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

4 cups of chunky freezer sauce
1 cup homemade vegetable, turkey, or chicken stock (I use homemade vegetable stock.)
4 cups of cooked black beans. (I like to prepare them in my Instant Pot.)

Directions:

  1. Put sauce in stock pot. Add liquid stock.
  2. Bring to boil.
  3. Turn heat to low. Stir in black beans and simmer for twenty minutes.
  4. Serve in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, or cashew cream.

 

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My church planted a community garden to build relationships with folks in our community, bless our neighborhood with fresh produce, and adopt some families that struggle with food insecurity. One unexpected personal gift is new friends that are nurturing and encouraging me as I lead our garden ministry. Sandy and LuAnn are two of my new garden “sisters” that gave me this sweet little devotional.

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A little peek on the inside~ a perfect garden metaphor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quirky and Quotidian

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Poet and author Kathleen Norris is my favorite non-fiction female writer. Her work never fails to enhance my spiritual reflection. Norris is probably best known for her New York Times bestseller, “The Cloister Walk,” which recounts her six month experience as an oblate in a Benedictine monastery.

My own abbreviated yet sacred time at the monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota nudged me to delve more into Norris’s adaption of Benedictine practice in the  mundane, i.e. quotidian reality of everyday.  Norris’s The Quotidian Mysteries Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work,” (take note that women’s work is in italices), turned out to be a meaningful follow-up to The Cloister Walk and her psycho-spiritual offering, Acedia and Me.  The Quotidian Mysteries weaves Benedictine thought with Norris’s intimate accounts of meeting Christ in the dailiness of homemaking, warding off a lethargic depression and ennui named acedia. Historically, acedia represented a fourth century  monk’s “noon day demon,” the stealer of joy and contentment in the rhythm of cooking, cleaning, and serving others. Hence Norris’s encouraging nod to a sanctifying liturgy in laundry and other repetitve, household tasks.

Norris writes:

The Bible is full of evidence that God’s attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a Great Cosmic Cop, eager to catch us in minor transgression, but simply because God loves us–loves us so much that the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life. It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is “renewed in the morng” (Ps 90:5), or to put it in more personal and also theological terms, “our inner nature is being renewed every day” (2 Cor 4:16). Seen in this light, what strikes many modern readers as the ludicrous attention to detail in the book of Leviticus, involving God in the minutiae of daily life–all the cooking and cleaning of a peoples domestice life–might be revsioned as the very love of God. A God who cares so much as to desire to be present to us in everything we do.

When we moved to our new home, I determined that our space would project an aesthically pleasing simplicity, even during the “meaningless workings of daily life” at the washer and dryer. Unfortunately, the layout was just plain quirky. Thanks to a multi-level floor plan, our living room closet floor joists literally hang from the ceiling of the second level laundry area, jutting awkwardly into the room. I appreciate that the previous owner enclosed these supports with a useful peg board. But I don’t know how many times I’ve hit my head on the corner of this “box” while retreiving clothes from the dryer. While I obviously couldn’t move this annoying structure, I could pretty up the room and make it more functional.

My Quirky Laundry Room: Before and After

Here’s a pic from the previous owner and the pegboard “box.”

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Now my laundry room is a serene space. I added cheap yet cute curtains from Wal-Mart, hooks to hang book and grocery bags, and a little planning center on the opposite wall that I painted yellow.

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And around the corner of the “box”~

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I hung a few personal items as well. This is a scripture verse sent to me one Christmas from my son, Brian.

Planning center with a Walt Whitman poem and illustration my daughter, Christy, made in elementary school~ (I save everything.)

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Norris muses in The Quotidian Mysteries, “But the daily we have always with us.” In the tedium of laundry and all that’s quotidian, may we recognize the ever constant presence of a loving God.

 

 

 

 

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Kitchen Reno

 

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Yesterday’s post focused on our choice to live with less while making smaller spaces welcoming and attractive. Today will be more practical and pictorial, illustrating how we got from start to finish in the kitchen. 

 

From demo day all the way to the finish line, Jim and I were blessed with incredible friends that did some amazing work . . .

. . . such as Ashland demo rock stars Andrew Eades and Steven Cole!

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Unlike many of the Home and Garden Television remodeling shows, our kitchen renovation lasted several months before I could gleefully ask the Chip and Jo question, “are you ready to see my fixer upper?” Reality tv certainly is not our reality when it comes to time spent on completing a project. I’m slowly learning to be okay with that.

A reminder of what our kitchen looked like before we moved in~

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Here’s a better look at the cabinetry, which was our main project. Barbie rescued all the hardware to reuse on the cabinets, which saved us a lot of money. Plus, I like the old pulls and handles.

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Kitchen doors were delegated to the driveway where my son Jeff and my husband Jim cleaned them with a M-1 Paint Deglosser and Pre-Paint Cleaner. Oh, I probably should add that we forgot to number/label the doors as they were taken down.

 

In the meantime, Steven was getting crazy in the kitchen with the sawz-all. The old tiles were stubborn, so he removed them and the drywall down to the studs with this handy tool. Go, Steven! Upper doors are off (thanks Barbie and Joanne). And thanks to Dane for attending to plumbing needs.

 

Counters gone, tile and drywall off, appliances and sink moved out. Progress!

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Time to celebrate with supper on the deck and the passing of the project baton to Jeff.

Joanne and Andrew Eades

 

I was so excited to get freshly painted, white cabinets! First order of business, create a spray paint box in the garage. I actually helped Jeff do this. He has quite a system for hanging the plastic.

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Love this cute kid.  Handsome young man.

 

Cabinet boxes were sprayed in the kitchen. Doors were sanded and sprayed in the garage. What a process! I suppose we could have chalk painted and bypassed a lot of work, but when there is a pro in the family . . . Plus I love that our son could use his talents in our new home.

 

Jeff promised me that I could scrub just about anything off these cabinets, and he didn’t disappoint! The finish is quite durable. The product he used was Sherwin Williams Pre-Catalyzed Waterbased Epoxy Extra White. I couldn’t be more pleased, or thankful.

Take a stroll around our new kitchen!

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The kitchen is open! Coffee, anyone?

 

 

Pantry and Floors by Isenhart Design Company

Lighting from Olde Parsonage

Canvas Wall Scripture by Emilie Lemon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Spaces

Are you riding the Marie Kondo purging wagon or perhaps the minimalist wave? Are you down sizing, right sizing, or sizing up condominium living?  Perhaps you are smitten, like I am, with an urge to decrease your material footprint and live life more simply.

Judging from national best-seller lists, I am not alone in my existential quest. Readers are devouring less is more memoirs such as William Powell’s New Slow City, Living with Less in the World’s Fastest City (you guessed it, NYC), and home management manuals like Tsh Oxenreider’s Organizing Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living.  Via social media, popular speaker and author Jen Hatmaker is campaigning hard to renew interest in her unembellished and elemental lifestyle challenge, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, published in 2012.  While this ideology is trending now, I’ve been on the path for a few years.

I’m not sure if this was a gradual awakening, a nudge from God, or the norm for senior citizenship. Perhaps it’s a braid of all three. Several of our friends are relinquishing back yards and bonus rooms for condos and townhomes. But fewer square footage is not their only impetus for change. A release from things that clutter up personal space is rising up in my generation. Quaker writer of Christian simplicity Richard Foster equates these desires as both a grace and a discipline. “We change our lifestyle . . . out of inner promptings, knowing that when the call is made the power is given.”

My particular faith tradition, The Brethren Church, finds common ground with Foster. From its beginnings, my tribe has prioritized a life of simplicity in both the inner self and outward experience. Some Brethren embrace it, some ignore it, some are impervious, or just plain unaware of this particular core value. But in concert with the writings from Brethren thinkers and theologians, folks in my circles are having conversations about seeking simplicity within their own contemporary settings.  I don’t yearn for “the good ole’ days,” after all, the persecution of the early Brethren by Protestants and Catholics forced them into a homeless and desperate existence. I’m just trying to steer away from stockpiling stuff, and being okay with less spots to store what I already own.

I can’t help but think of soul singer Patti LaBelle when she belted out: I’ve tidied up my point of view, I’ve got a new attitude! Eighteen months ago our move forced me to adjust my attitude regarding all the furnishings, books, home decor, kitchenware, and clothes I had accumulated. Smaller rooms that necessitated less begged the question, “Do I really need all this?”

My kitchen counter space and dining area took the biggest hits. From spacious to cozy cost us a little pain as I gave away a few of my favorite things.  It was no secret that I coveted my dining room table as well as my former chef’s kitchen island. Yet a voluntary relocation gave room for a bit of creative functionality. Living with less, I determined, would not mean less appealing.

I could bemoan shrunken spaces or recreate them into something special. Jim and I chose the latter and we are delighted with the outcome! When I enter my home, my heart is peaceful. My home is life-giving. Less has become more.

Some before and afters~
This photo is from the realtor’s website. The 1980’s tired cupboards did not deter me. Even at first glance, I could see potential.

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A dyed-in-the-wool eat in kitchen! How many of us grew up with a dining table taking center stage in the same room that our Moms cooked in?

Here’s a closer look with one of my Sunday School class members, Barbie Martin, skillfully removing handles from the cupboard doors. I’m thankful for her prep work so my son could work his painting magic! (Jeff is a professional painter in Olympia, Washington.)

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The tile choice just “wasn’t me.”  Plus, the pairing of the backsplash and countertop patterns created too busy of a look for my taste. Demo day would make quick work of both! But I had to succumb to a single bowl sink, rather than the double that’s become the norm. I find it interesting how baby boomers have grown to expect twice the amount of workspace than we had in the 1950’s.

Ready for the big “reveal?”

TA-DA!

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Our walls are a soft blue-gray formula that my son and I designed. We playfully named the color “blae.” I accented with reds and yellows (that you can’t see) for a French country feel. The only structural change was the addition of the custom built pantry by Isenhart Design, who did a beautiful job matching the arch of the doors.

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Here’s a closer look at the oven side of the modest L-shaped kitchen layout. We used the existing door pulls/handles and except for the pantry the cupboards are original as well. Didn’t Jeff do a fabulous painting job?

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My artsy friend Jeanie thought I need a little pattern in the room so I added a black and white French print scarf to the sliding glass doors. The blue fiesta ware in the hutch came from Jeanie’s kitchen and she now has my earth tone place settings. We traded dishes to accomodate our new color schemes. So fun! I chalk painted the oak chairs but Jim and I could not bear to paint the buffet and hutch. Although it’s several years old, it still looks like new. The chairs, however, received lots of wear and tear decades ago from my children so I didn’t mind redoing them.

Jim’s excellent contribution was crown molding, not only in the kitchen, but family and living room as well. Look at that edge! He’s really honed his skills.

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To the right of the edge is the wall to our stairwell to the lower level. It would have required some scaffolding or ladder balancing to add molding there, so we he passed on that area.

One more pic of my kitchen, after the sun sets~

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Simple, yet special spaces . . .

I think the Shakers best articulate what I hope to live into.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
(“Simple Gifts.” 1848, by Elder Joseph Bracket)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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