Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guide to Taking Meals to Others



This post was previously published at Vignettes, where Kristin invited me to be a guest-poster back in the summer.  I thought I'd republish it here in case any of you missed it!

If you've ever had someone prepare food for you when you were sick, you know what a blessing the "ministry of food" can be!  I love being able to bless people in need with meals, whether they are (or one of their family members is) sick, grieving, moving, or welcoming a new baby.

I thought I'd share with you today some tips for successfully bringing meals to others!

1) Ask them
This might seem kind of unnecessary, but it is important to talk with the family first and find out if a meal would be a blessing.  Ninety-nine percent of the time they'll say yes, but this also gives you a chance to find out if they have any food preferences (i.e., vegetarian), intolerances, or allergies and what day/time they would appreciate the meal.
2) Keep it simple
It is better to take a bagged salad, store-bought bread, and a simple main dish than to completely stress yourself out over making something elaborate.  I find that it is easiest if I just double what I'm making so that I can feed my family and theirs with one swoop!  Plan a menu that you can complete part of a day ahead or at least the morning of so you are not as rushed at dinner time.

3) Stick with what you know
Don't try out a recipe you have never tried before.  You'll just be wondering if it turned out okay, and be horrified if you find out later that it did not.  The only exception to this rule is if you 1) know your way around the kitchen really well, 2) have a backup plan, and 3) are able to taste the dish before sending it over.  I recently tried a new recipe (fried rice) when taking a meal to some friends, but I had white rice for backup and I tried it before I packaged up their portion!

4) Avoid polarizing foods
In addition to avoiding foods that the family is allergic to, try to stay away from making main dishes that include polarizing (love 'em or hate 'em) foods, such as seafood, mushrooms, etc.  Consider packaging salad toppings such as tomatoes and dressings separately so that the recipient can use them (or not) according to their preferences.

5) Package wisely
Disposable containers are VERY much appreciated when you are delivering a meal.  That way, the family does not have to worry about washing and returning your dishes.  I find great disposable pans with lids at the Dollar Tree (usually two or three for $1).  Consider including some disposable plates and napkins too, especially if the family is moving (their dishes may already be packed!).  Make sure you also package things well for transport in the car.  You don't want sloppy Joes all over the baseboard of your car!  I like to wrap things in a big towel to keep them warm, then put them inside a cardboard box to prevent spills.

6) Give yourself a window
Maybe this tip is just helpful to me.  :) Don't promise that you'll arrive at 5:00 sharp... instead say you'll be there between 5:00 and 5:15.  Shoot for 5:00, but if you're running a teeny bit behind schedule, you'll still be there within the window you gave them. 

7) Don't forget dessert
Even if it's just store-bought ice cream or pound cake, try to include a little something sweet for the end of the meal (unless of course you know for sure they would not appreciate it).

8) Give a little extra
I like to include little extras sometimes, like a pretty menu or decorative labels for the food.  Flowers from your garden would be lovely to include if appropriate for the occasion.  A hand-written note to the individual or family would mean so much, and a small gift for an older child would be a blessing to a new mom!  I love to include homemade bread when possible.  Another fun thing to do is take a few breakfast items for them to enjoy the next day!

9) Enlist a crew
If you are the meal coordinator, put the phone away and instead click over to Take Them a Meal, a website which simplifies coordinating meals.  I recently used this site and it only took me 5 minutes to set up a schedule and post the details to facebook.  Everyone can then just sign up directly on the site, avoiding the need for you to spend time on the phone or try to avoid duplicate meals!

Meal Ideas
Finally, here are just a few meal ideas to tuck away for the next time you are taking someone a meal:
-spaghetti
-lasagna
-favorite casseroles
-soup 
-takeout from their favorite restaurant
-pulled pork/beef sandwiches
-chicken pot pie

I hope these tips have been helpful to you and enable you to bless others through cooking for them in their time of need!

For more ideas on the topic of ministry meals, visit my hospitality Pinterest board!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Week Twenty


Week twenty = "halfway" there!  I went until almost 42 weeks with Vera, so I guess halfway is relative. At any rate, the days are flying by!  I'm starting to show more now (um, can we just compare with last week for a second?!), and depending on what I'm wearing, you may actually be able to tell that I am pregnant!  (Speaking of maternity clothes, did you enter the Isabella Oliver Maternity giveaway yet?)  But seriously, I feel like my bump really emerged in the last week!

Tad was so excited that he got to feel Baby Mango move last weekend.  I feel her move a few times a day, and if Tad is fast enough getting his hand to my belly, he can sometimes feel her too!

Week twenty with Vera.

Isabella Oliver Maternity GIVEAWAY Today

I am SO excited about my post on She {hearts} It today!  I'm reviewing Isabella Oliver Maternity, AND I get to giveaway a wrap dress to one lucky reader (ARV $145)!  I had to push my tummy out a little bit so you can tell I'm pregnant :) but I loooove this tunic and know I'll wear it tons this fall/winter!

You can read the review and enter the Isabella Oliver Maternity giveaway here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Double-Orange Scones and Orange Butter

I made these scones a few weeks ago and they were SO delicious for breakfast!  They would be perfect for a cool fall day or for a Christmas brunch.  The orange butter is simply divine and pairs beautifully with the warm scones.

Double-Orange Scones

2 cups flour
4 Tbsp. sugar, divided
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. grated orange peel
1/3 cup COLD butter
1/2 cup mandarin orange segments (canned), chopped, drained
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 3 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder, and orange peel.  Cut in butter using a pastry cutter (or two knives) until mixture resembles course crumbs.  Add mandarin oranges, milk, and egg.  Stir just until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough over onto a floured surface.  Knead gently 10 times.  On a cookie sheet, roll out dough into a 7-inch round. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar. Using a pizza cutter, divide into 8 equal wedges. Separate slices slightly.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Meanwhile... prepare the orange butter...

Orange Butter

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp. orange marmalade

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Stir in marmalade. Serve with warm scones.

Enjoy!
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Linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table
Tuesday Night Supper Club
Tatertots & Jello
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Little Owl

I made this funny little owl (following this tutorial) to go with my fabric pumpkins.

I might make a few more!
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New Words

Vera has been picking up some new words lately!  She already knew Dada, Mama, kitty, kitty cat, what's that, and water (used rarely).  She could also sign for milk.  In the last week, she started saying water very clearly and frequently (as in, "water water water water" while pointing at her cup or the sink).  She also is trying to sign for water as well (it's a harder sign, since you have to make a "W" with three fingers and bring them to the corner of your mouth).

In the last week Vera also said "more" while signing for it at the same time.  Tad is pretty sure he heard her say "bread" when he got her up from her nap.  I am almost positive she said "water bottle" to me this weekend while holding one!  I think I've heard her say "why?" a few times. She of course still signs for milk when she wants to nurse.

Her vocabulary is just exploding, but it doesn't even come close to matching her comprehension level!  This is such an exciting season.

Betty Crocker Cookie Mix WINNER

With a little help from random.org, I have selected the winner of the Betty Crocker Cookie Mix Giveaway!

Congratulations, Raven in a Blue Room (entry #12)!  I just emailed you, and if I don't hear back from you in a couple of days, I will draw a new winner.

Remember, for those of you who did not win, you can still print a coupon for $.75 off your purchase!

Thanks to all who entered!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fabric Pumpkins

Using a tutorial I found (this one is also good), I have been making quite a few fabric pumpkins this fall!

I think they turned out pretty cute!

They really aren't that hard to make once you get the hang of it.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Week Nineteen

Well, the last week sure flew by!  It's hard to believe I'm at 19 weeks already.  Mango has been moving around a lot more, which is so exciting.  Tad hasn't felt her kick yet, but hopefully he can soon.  I've been feeling really great this week.  Still having some back pain, but that's totally normal right now.

Week nineteen with Vera.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stretching a Chicken to Last Eight+ Meals



I gave myself a little cooking challenge over the weekend.  I like to push myself in my culinary abilities (see my culinary bucket list here) and learn how to do new things.  This was also as a result of a panic moment when I realized I had nothing planned for dinner (um, at 4:45pm).

Tad went and bought a rotisserie chicken (which was a little pricey at our Food Lion - $8).  I promptly announced that I was going to stretch the chicken to last for six meals!  Tad couldn't believe me at first, but as the weekend went on and I kept producing more meals from this one little bird, I think he became slightly impressed.

Here's how I stretched one rotisserie chicken into eight+ meals.

Meal #1 - Chicken & Biscuits with Gravy and Roasted Carrots
Sorry, no picture of this meal.  It was extremely simple and nothing to blog about! ha!  Just make some biscuits, top with chicken, pour on some gravy, and serve roasted carrots on the side.
This served the two of us and Vera.

That night I picked all the meat off the bones of the chicken, shredded it, and stored it in the fridge.  The next morning, I made stock using the chicken carcass (I hate that word).
Meal #2 - Chicken Tortilla Soup
This is another easy recipe.
I used half of my chicken stock to make this and saved the rest for meal #5.  I added a can of fire roasted tomatoes, some frozen corn, half a jalepeno pepper (leave out if you don't like it too spicy), cumin, ground black pepper, cilantro, and the juice of half a lime.  I garnished the soup with a dollup of sour cream (actually Greek yogurt), toasted tortilla strips, and more cilantro and served it with chips on the side.
This recipe served the two of us plus gave us two leftover servings as well.
Meal #3 - Chicken & Garlic Pizza
Again, super easy (are you sensing a theme?).  I made a pizza crust, added sauce (can of tomato paste plus a can of water plus Italian seasonings and parmesan cheese), and topped it with mozzarella cheese, chicken, chopped fresh garlic, and thinly sliced red onions.  Yummy!
This recipe served the two of us plus Vera, plus it gave us one leftover serving.
Meal #4 - Hummus, Chicken, & Spinach Wraps
We were out over lunch for this meal, so I made these wraps before we left.
Spread hummus on a tortilla, then top with spinach, chicken, red onion, and shredded cheese.  Roll up and enjoy!
This served both me and Tad for lunch.
Meal #5 - Chicken Soup with Bulgar and Orzo
I made my mom's standard chicken noodle soup recipe, but instead of adding rice or noodles, I added about 1/2 cup of bulgar and 1/4 cup of orzo.
This served the three of us generously, plus provided two or three leftover servings.
Meal #6 - Caprese Chicken Pasta Salad
This was one of the meals I was most excited about.  I made a caprese salad (fresh basil plus fresh tomatoes, chopped, plus marinated mozzarella balls) and added it to cooked whole wheat pasta and our trusty cooked, shredded chicken.  (The marinated mozzarella balls were from the antipasta bar.)  It was so delicious and was light but filling at the same time!
This served me & Tad.

At this point I could have stopped, since I had successfully made the original six meals I promised to make.  I really made more meals than that if you counted the leftovers!  But I still had more chicken so I kept going!
Meal #7 - Black Bean Southwestern Salad
I tossed some of the chicken with a little bit of taco seasoning and heated it up.  I topped a bed of red leaf lettuce with black beans, corn, chicken, green onions, and homemade salsa.  This was a great lunch!
Served two, plus some extra stuff for Vera (beans, etc.).
Meal #8 - Chicken Pot Pie
I used THE LAST of the chicken to make a chicken pot pie.  I made the easy version, using pre-made pie crusts and canned mixed veggies.  It turned out great!
This recipe served me, Tad, and Vera, plus provided us with leftovers for another whole meal!

The end!  I ended up using my $8 rotisserie chicken to make eight different recipes, which (including leftovers) actually was 23 servings (not counting Vera's)!  I know I could have saved more money by cooking the chicken myself (I saw roasters for about $4 at Aldi today), so maybe I'll do that next time.  But this was so convenient and easy and still ended up being quite cost efficient! 

What are your favorite recipes for stretching a chicken?

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Betty Crocker Cookie Mix Giveaway!

I'm all about baking homemade cookies.  In fact, I almost always bake cookies from scratch.  However, the fall is often really busy for our family, and sometimes I really appreciate the ability to throw together a snack to take somewhere in just a few minutes.

Betty Crocker recently released a new cookie mix: Molasses Cookies!  I just made a batch this morning, and they only took about 10 minutes of hands-on time, plus 8 minutes to bake each batch.  I rolled each ball of dough in sugar before baking, and I made my cookies a little larger, so the mix yielded 26 cookies.  These cookies taste exactly like my family's favorite from-scratch version, which we call Ginger Crinkles.  This mix is such a time saver and no one would be able to tell they're not from scratch!  I'll be serving these cookies up at our youth Bible study tonight!

Here is a printable coupon for $.75 off the purchase of one Betty Crocker Molasses Cookie Mix pouch (available at your local grocery store this fall)!

ALSO - one reader of Feathers in Our Nest is going to win a Betty Crocker Prize Pack that includes the following:
-one Betty Crocker Molasses Cookie Mix
-one red Betty Crocker apron
-one non-stick baking pan
-one red mixing spoon

To enter (leave a separate comment for each entry):
Make sure to leave a valid email address so you can be contacted if you win!
-Follow Feathers in Our Nest via Google Friend Connect (required entry)
-"Like" Feathers in Our Nest on facebook
-Tell us what your favorite fall cookie is!
-Tell us with whom you would be sharing this batch of cookies if you won

One winner from the U.S. will be randomly selected at 9AM EST on 9/26/11.

Good luck!

This product, information, and prize pack has been provided by Betty Crocker through MyBlogSpark.

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED***

To Market, to Market

Saturday we went to the local farmer's market to pick up some fresh produce!  I was so excited about all of my purchases.

We got peaches, green onions, regular onions, sweet potatoes, a butternut squash, a dozen eggs, pumpernickel bread, and a HUGE cinnamon roll (Tad and I had already eaten half of it before I took this picture).

Oh, and I bought a sweet little purple pepper that didn't make it into the first photo.

Look how pretty these eggs are!  They are quite large and delicious too. :)

Do you try to shop locally?  Or do you grow a lot of produce yourself?  Or are you like me on most weeks, buying from the grocery store?  I would like to buy more local produce than I often do. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Recent Reads

I definitely dropped the ball on reporting each month on what I have been reading!  I think I need to catch up for April, May, June, July, & August!  It's embarassing to admit how little I actually read this summer :( but I think I'm going to blame that on morning sickness, a few weeks of travel, and the fact that I take 1.5 naps a day since I started growing another person inside me!
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper
Finished this one back in the spring as we wrapped up our seniors Bible study.  It's a great book, regardless of how old you are and it inspires you to make your life count for God's glory!

Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Again, finally finished this one last month as we concluded our study of it in our community women's Bible study. I've read it probably 4+ times now and I get something out of it each time!  Highly recommend.


The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I rarely read fiction, but I had heard lots of good things about this book so I gave it a try. LOVED IT. I deeply hate racism, and this book (set in Jim Crow law era Jackson, Mississipi) was inspiring and riveting. There is some language in it, but I felt like there were enough redeeming qualities about the book to make it worth reading.

The Organized Heart by Staci Eastin
This book on organization doesn't focus on the things most similar books do - getting a planner, decluttering, cleaning schedules, etc.  Instead, the author discusses the heart attitudes that need to change so that our lives can be more organized.  It's just a little book, but it is packed with so much truth! I really enjoyed reading it and I think it would be great for a short (8-week) women's Bible study.

The Stay at Home Mom by Donna Otto
This is a great book filled with encouragement for moms who stay at home (or who want to figure out how to make that possible in their families)!  It is full of practical advice and I learned lots from reading it.


Currently Reading

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
I've been reading this one for a while now, as it is one that is meant for pondering. 

And We Are Changed: Encounters with a Transforming God by Priscilla Shirer
This is our new book we are studying for our ladies' Bible study!  I've just started reading in (one chapter in), but already I can tell it's going to be good.  Our study begins this Tuesday.

Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris
Tad chose this for our youth Bible study (open not just to seniors this time, but to anyone who wants to go deeper) this fall.  I can't wait for our study to start Monday!

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but today it's chilly and feeling like fall, and it definitely makes me want to curl up and read a good book!  Hopefully this list will give you some ideas. :)

What have you read lately?

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cuddles

This fall, our church's AWANA program launched a "Cuddles" class for little ones 1yr-2yr.  Vera has been enjoying her class so far!  They color, have a lesson, do a craft, eat a snack, and of course play.  She's always happy to stay each week!

It was hard getting her to stand still for a picture on the way to church last night, but we got a couple of pics anyway.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Week Eighteen

I love week eighteen.  I'm not sure why, but I really start to feel amazing around this point.  I've been feeling better for a couple of weeks this time around, and it's so nice to not feel even a hint of morning sickness anymore!

Baby Mango is about the size of a sweet potato this week.  I feel her move probably 1-3 times a day, which is normal for this early in the pregnancy.  It will be fun to see if she is as active in utero as her big sis was!

I still might not look very pregnant to you, but I feel like I am going to pop out any second!  I have tons of ligament pain, cramping, and back pain, and I know this is because I am growing to accommodate my sweet little girl!  Soon everyone else will be able to tell she's in there. :)

Week eighteen with Vera.

Charlie's Soap

Today on She {hearts} It, I am reviewing and giving away a couple of items from Charlie's Soap (non-toxic, biodegradable soap)!

Read the review and enter the giveaway here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

This is a delicious recipe to make for special occasions (let's face it, we probably shouldn't be eating like this every day!).  My mom sometimes would make it when I came home to visit during my freshman year of college, and she would send back pieces for me to share with my roommates.  When Kristy visited recently, she requested I make it!  There are lots of steps/layers involved, but the end result is completely worth it!  Also, it serves a TON of people (hint: cut the pieces small because they are very deep!).

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup sour cream

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, alternating with the sour cream, mixing well to combine.  Pour 1/2 of batter in the bottom of a greased 9"x13" pan.

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sugar

seedless raspberry jam (maybe 1/3 to 1/2 cup?)

Beat together cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar.  Spread filling on top of cake batter.  Spread thin layer of jam on top of cream cheese layer.

Spread the rest of the cake batter on top of the filling.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, COLD

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two knives until coarse crumbs are formed. Sprinkle crumbs on top of cake.

Bake at 350 degrees (in a preheated oven) for 45 minutes or until done.

Let cool, then refrigerate cake and serve it cold.

Enjoy!

Like this recipe? Follow me so you never miss a new recipe post!
For more of our family's favorite recipes, click here.

Linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table
Tuesday Night Supper Club
Tatertots & Jello
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Black & White


We took some photos on Sunday morning before church because we were so nicely coordinated. (shh! Don't tell Tad! First step, coordinating, then next step, *gasp* matching!)
Vera's waving!

Tad got a haircut later that afternoon!
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