Three Batch Cooking Recipes: Soup, Oatmeal, and Veggie Stock

Dreariness descended upon Ashland this past Saturday, so I hunkered down in the kitchen and got a lot of batch cooking done. Homemade vegetable stock, banana bread steel cut oatmeal, and bean and barley soup kept me busy and out of the bitter chill. 


The bleak but eye-catching view from my kitchen. Rather ominous, isn’t it? My neighbor calls this The Halloween Tree.


First up, Banana Bread Steel Cut OatmealIt takes about 8 hours in the crockpot, so start early or make overnight. Recipe from Well-Plated.


Main ingredients. Any milk will do. I just prefer almond. Ignore S&P.



I cut the recipe in half and still have plenty for the week since Jim doesn’t eat oatmeal.



Very satisfying on a wintry day. (Last summer’s frozen peaches from a local fruit farm.)

Next, Homemade Vegetable Stock.

Homemade vegetable stock is a great staple to have in the refrigerator and freezer. I make a large batch in my crockpot, pour it into mason jars, and freeze all but one jar that goes in my fridge. Use it for sautéing instead of oil, as a base for soups, and a foundation for sauces and gravies. Try it in stews, chilis, and for cooking rice and beans instead of water.


Homemade Vegetable Stock

1. Get prepared to make stock by saving vegetable scraps such as onion skins, ends of carrots and celery, tops of green peppers, and garlic peels. Do not use scraps from the cabbage family or your stock might taste bitter. I have a 24 ounce container in the freezer of scraps that I keep adding to until it’s full. Don’t worry about the amount. You can use more or fewer scraps. You can use freshly cut vegetable scraps as well; you just won’t save as much money.

2. Place frozen or fresh scraps in a crockpot, fill with water, and turn on low. I like to make mine before I go to bed so it simmers all night. Or, use a stock pot on the stove, bring to a boil then simmer for a few hours, until liquid is golden.

3. Strain the liquid over a large bowl. Let cool. Discard scraps.

4. Fill mason jars. I use quart and pint jars so I have various amounts for different recipes.  Leave an inch at the top for expansion when the stock freezes.

5. Freeze up to six months. Don’t forget to leave a jar in the fridge for general cooking.



Last up, Bean and Barley Soup Healthy comfort food for the chilly evenings.


This soup thickened on its own without having to do the immersion blender thing. 


Bean and Barley Soup 

(My recipe is made up from ingredients in my fridge and pantry. Add whatever suits you!)


1 medium diced onion

4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

4 minced garlic cloves

6 cups of homemade vegetable broth

5 potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 sprig of rosemary

1 bay leaf

2 tsps. of oregano

1 tsp. of basil

1/4 cup of tomato paste

3/4 cups of uncooked pearl barley

3 cups of cooked white navy beans*

1 quart of freezer green beans, cut into pieces


  1. Heat a couple of splashes of vegetable broth in a large stockpot on medium heat. Add onion and carrots. Cook until slightly softened. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.
  2. Add broth, potatoes, green beans, uncooked barley, rosemary sprig, oregano, basil, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for about 50 minutes, or until barley is tender.
  3. Remove bay leaf and rosemary. Add beans and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  4. Simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Cool and freeze in quart or gallon freezer bags.

*The Instant Pot is great for preparing dry beans, especially if you are like me and forget about them when they are burning cooking on the stove.


Parmesan Chicken Thighs with Brown Rice and Stir Fry Green Beans

I’m getting more comfortable with my Instant Pot so I took a chance and created a recipe for the Gerber chicken thighs on sale at our local grocery.  They turned out quite tender and flavorful. Most importantly, Jim liked them!


1.25 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 cup water

1 small onion

cloves garlic

1 cup brown rice

2 large stalks of celery

1 egg

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Beat egg and a splash of water in a pie plate or similar shape. Set aside.
2. Mix parmesan and bread crumbs in a pie plate or similar shape. Set aside. *
3. Dice celery. Set aside.
4. Preheat IP by pressing the saute button.
5. Mince garlic and chop onion while IP is heating.
6. Add a few tbsps. of water to the pot. Saute onion and garlic until they start to brown.   Add a little more water if vegetables start sticking.
7. Add rice to IP and pour water on top. Stir.
8. Top rice with celery.
9. Dip chicken in egg then bread crumbs. Coat generously. Add to the IP.
10. Put the lid on the IP. Turn nob to “sealing.” Hit “cancel” and then “manual” and adjust the time to 22 minutes.
11. After IP beeps, let pressure release “naturally” for 15-20 minutes.
*If this dish wasn’t for Jim, I would have added Italian seasonings to the bread crumb mixture. But Jim can’t tolerate many spices. I also would have added carrots if he liked them cooked!
Stir Fry Green Beans
I used about one quart of frozen green beans from my freezer that I had picked from my garden and blanched last Fall. (Green beans are very easy to grow.) If you use fresh, boil in a medium size pan of water until bright green, drain, and shock them in a bowl of ice water for a few seconds to stop the cooking.
1/4 cup of slivered almonds
2 tbsps. or so of brown sugar
grated parmesan
1. Heat cast iron (or pan of choice) on medium high.
2. Toss in green beans. If using frozen, the water from the beans will prevent them from sticking. Or swirl some oil in your pan first.
3. Give them a quick fry until heated through. Stir often.
4. Add brown sugar. Keep stirring.
5. When beans are cooked through, add in almonds. Keep stirring!
6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving.






The Privilege of a “Get To”


But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (I John 3:17, ESV)

When I was growing up, I had a list of “get tos” that brought me a lot of happiness. According to the English stack exchange, a “get to” is an opportunity, a positive experience enabled by another person or life situation. “I get to go to Cedar Point again” was a favorite summer proclamation. Also topping the list were “I get to play in the marching band” and “I get to pick out a new bike for my birthday.”  Just the anticipation of these “get tos” brought a quickening in my heart and a smile to my face.

Disregarding possible grammar infractions, I’ve been saying get to on a regular basis, and for good reason. I get to spend more time with my wonderful daughter, extra-special son-in-law, and five sweet little grandchildren in Minnesota. This “get to” presently trumps all others.  And I couldn’t be more delighted.

Sadly, a lot of folks aren’t getting a whole lot of “get tos” these days. Click on a news site or pick up the paper and you’ll find humankind, locally and globally, struggling just to get basic needs met. The current climate of food insecurity and impoverished third world families is beyond comprehension. These realities hit me hard while engaging in what I thought would be a carefree activity: picking berries at a family farm.

I had intended to spend a little morning quiet time with God in a field of raspberry bushes and relax under blue skies. I was feeling happy and free because I got to do something just for me. But that something quickly dissipated. Clouds were forming and the threat of rain hung in the air. Raspberries were too pricey so I chose strawberries, and the young man helping me find my picking lane wanted to chat.

Significantly unusual about this summer activity were my companions in the field. In past outings, I worked alongside people who were similar to me: mostly white, Americans, some Moms with kids, some women my age, and a few men that were available for a leisurely outing. This time I was berry picking at a migrant farm. I was the only woman in the field, the only white American in the field, and obviously the only white American woman that was in the field because she “got to.”

My talkative helper, Danie, was an eighteen year old on a work visa from South Africa. A little probe about his choice to live in Minnesota encouraged Danie to share openly. This particular Midwest farm allowed him to gain more skills in his specific agricultural interests.  Danie explained that because of discrimination, it was imperative to seek work elsewhere to pay for university classes in South Africa where he planned to study farming. “It goes like this,” Danie continued, “the black man is the first in line for a job, then the black woman, then the white man, then the white woman.”

Curious to learn more, I wondered aloud about the presence of gun violence in his country. Danie lamented the unresolved problem of men getting shot while working in the fields. He bemoaned the fact that “the shooters don’t even take anything, they just murder.” I listened quietly, painfully aware of my ignorance in matters of South African socio-political current events. (And this was Danie’s story. I wanted to hear from his heart and personal perspective.)

A reel from my own country’s discouraging news flashed in my mind. Highlighted frames of our society’s immigration issues, discrimination, poverty, and violence played out on my screen.  How ironic that Danie left his own conflicted people group to travel nine thousand miles for an agricultural experience in yet another troubled land. Our verbal exchange of experiences uncovered a commonly shared pain.

On a lighter note, when I asked him how he liked America, he blurted out, “I’ve never seen a store as big as Wal-Mart!” I smiled, but inwardly cringed, and mumbled something into a clump of strawberries about Americans liking their stuff. Changing the subject, I asked about getting settled here.

Moving into a building with several others was hard at first for Danie. Sharing two stoves and one shower created tension among the men. Danie said they “eventually worked it out, we agree to ninety second showers, and now we’re all doing better.”  His fellow workers included three other South Africans, a few Croations, and several Mexicans. I thought to myself that considering all the cultural differences and language barriers, doing better was a great accomplishment. Danie felt he was a fortunate laborer since this work was a short term commitment. He would be going home soon to family life and a college education.

As we talked, thunder started to rumble and raindrops began to fall. I was able to get in a few more questions while filling my pail of strawberries. My earlier grumblings about losing out on Me Time faded. I urged Danie to share more about migrant life.

His crew began their day in the fields at 5 am. and finished about 10 pm. Raincoats were available and weather was not a deterrent.  I glanced at the men hunched over the fruit, and remembered the Mexican children in my elementary music classes years ago who traveled to Northwest Ohio so their parents could pick tomatoes. I felt sorry for the boys and girls who left my classroom in a few short months for farms farther south. Making friends was difficult enough when their skin color didn’t match those of fellow students. But to move from school to school had to be disorienting at the very least. I had so many questions. Where did the children go after school while their Moms and Dads toiled on the farms? Would enough money be made in the fields to truly feed their families when they got back home? Did these folks have any fun together at all, or was life one dreary day after another?

A harder rain forced my thoughts back to the present and urged me to finish my conversation and hop into the car. Danie instructed me to back out of the fields because the road forward was quickly becoming a mud pit. While guiding my Subaru with the use of a rear view camera, I thought about how a well-equipped vehicle is yet another taken for granted get-to privilege.

I drove to the stand to pay for my berries as the rain on the windshield mirrored the wetness on my cheeks. Tears fell for people who spend their days stooping over a patch of fruit, for people who leave their homes in order to put food on their tables, and for families who move their kids on a continual basis.

In a row of strawberries, my get-to life bumped into a have-to world.  Humbled by my privilege, my heart opened a little wider to the tired and poor. God took me to a new place I had not planned to get to.

Compared to most of the world’s inhabitants, my life overflows with time to do what I choose, good health, and more than enough money. Spending these resources to be with each of my long distance children will always be my greatest get-to privilege.

And yet . . .  I wonder if a morning in a migrant field will alter my spending habits.

 If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need . .  .








Beans, Beans, and Blessings

I’ve been vegetable gardening for a few years now, but still consider myself a novice. So when my backyard bed overflows with food, I shake my head in disbelief. My pole beans just keep on a-comin’!

Here’s part of this morning’s bounty~


Before harvesting my next batch, I stopped for a coffee break and a little breakfast. Last night’s blackberry cobbler suffices for a morning meal, right? To my dismay, the only coffee beans I had on hand were a dark roast which neither Jim or I prefer. Fortunately, I knew some of my colleagues would enjoy this blend, so I ground up the beans to take to the office this morning for a little coffee bean treat.

But what’s cobbler without coffee? I ignored my dirt smudged hands and crazy morning hair and jumped in the car to a favorite drive-thru. I ordered my usual, reached out the window with my money, and received an unexpected gift. “Your order is paid for,” remarked the cashier. “The woman ahead of you took care of it.”

This is the second time this has happened to me this year. My eyes were misty as I waved to this generous person and yelled thank you. I told her I should have ordered more! She and I shared a good laugh before we went our separate ways.

I’m writing this quickly, without editing and re-writes, (which is probably quite obvious) because I want to share about tender, little, loving things. Once again, our daily headline news brings a wrench to the gut and extreme disappointment.

Today I choose to bring joy.

Coffee, anyone?


For the record, my favorite coffee is Goldberry Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. But Mickey D’s works in a pinch.




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.


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

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.

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



Super easy. Healthy, tasty, and filling!



Two-Way Oven Roasted “Sun-Dried” Tomatoes


Are you growing cherry tomatoes this summer? These little gems are great to dice up for salads or grab for a quick snack. But if you’re getting a bit bored with eating them raw, try “sun-dried.”  



ready for the oven


Recipe #1 For the Fridge~

cherry tomatoes
fresh or dried basil
fresh or dried rosemary
parchment paper


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.

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




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.


Recipe #2 For the Freezer~ (thanks to my friend, Cindy Edwards)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Follow steps 2 and 3 in the first recipe above. Cindy also drizzles a little olive oil over them.
  3. Roast in oven for 40 minutes.
  4. Turn up oven to 400 degrees. Roast for 20 more minutes.
  5. Turn off the oven and leave tomatoes in for 10 minutes.
  6. Take tomatoes out of the oven. Cool. Place in freezer bags and put in freezer.

Oven Roasted “Sun-Dried” Cherry Tomatoes taste wonderful on pizzas (Cindy says you can put the frozen ones right on the pizza before baking), in sandwiches, or pureed with your homemade tomato sauce. If you’ve never grown cherry tomatoes,  you might add a few plants to your garden. They are super easy to grow! 




Updated 1980’s Fireplace


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?

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!

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~



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


And the “big picture~”

“We’ve come a long way, baby!”


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”