Loving Your Neighbors During the Holidays (Pumpkin Bread Recipe)

Loving Your Neighbors During the Holidays (Pumpkin Bread Recipe)

Laura P

Hello. I grew up traveling the world as a military brat. I ultimately felt God's pull to Oklahoma Christian University where I met my husband. We now have 3 beautiful children and have settled in Mustang, Oklahoma.I am a homeschooling mom and with 3 kiddos it is a full time job! I am daily encouraged by God's great patience and grace in my life. In my free time I enjoy reading and crafting.
Laura P

I have a tough time loving my neighbors.

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For me, this is just not something that comes naturally.  I can say hello and make a bit of small talk here and there, but beyond that I mostly try to ignore my neighbors.  That sounds so mean!  However, I think it’s something that’s true for most of us.  We are comfortable to a certain degree with the strangers that surround our own personal space. But beyond a quick hello or wave, I think most people prefer to tuck away and not be sociable.

To me, it feels funny to be expected to make friends with complete strangers.  After all, my friends are people I’ve CHOSEN.  Neighbors are not chosen.  I choose to surround myself with like-minded people.  Because I like to be comfortable in expressing myself with the people I spend time with, I choose them accordingly.  I also like to surround myself with friends who have similar parenting styles.  Someone I trust my children to.  None of these qualities are things I get to choose in my neighbors.

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light of the world

A Light for Christ Cannot Be Hidden

I do, however, recognize that I cannot possibly shine my light for Christ if I’ve kept it hidden away behind the door to my house. And so each year I try to do something nice for my neighbors.  That sounds pretty lame now that I’m writing it out.  Once a year?  Is that all I can muster?  Perhaps I will have to find other opportunities throughout the year to bless my neighbors. For now, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my children and I bake pumpkin bread for our neighbors.

The recipe I want to share with you today is from my dear friend Megs.  There is probably someone who needs to be credited with this recipe, but she’s the one who first made it for me so she’ll get the credit here!  This recipe turns out incredibly delicious, so keep that in mind when you’re baking!  You’ll want to be sure and leave some for your family as well.

Pumpkin Bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

5 eggs
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 (3oz) packages of instant vanilla pudding
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs well.  Add oil and pumpkin and beat until smooth.  Next, combine all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and stir to mix.  Gradually beat into pumpkin mixture, scraping the bowl between additions.  Pour batter into two well-greased 5×9 loaf pans.  Each pan should be a little over half-full.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife can be inserted and removed cleanly.  Let stand 10 minutes to cool.  Remove from pan and serve!

Mini-Loaf Option for More to Share

When I make this for the neighbors, I use a mini loaf pan that holds 12 mini loaves.  I grease the pan generously and fill about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes.  After my mini loaves cool completely, I wrap them in plastic wrap and tie a pretty bow around the loaves.  I try to include a message of well wishes from our family and we hand deliver them to the neighbors.

How does your family like to shine the light of Jesus?

What are some ways that you love your neighbors?

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Steve Lehman’s Famous Soup

Steve Lehman’s Famous Soup

Kristin J

I am a girl who loves to sit with a cup of coffee and daydream. I am most passionate about Jesus, my family, and family ministry. My husband and I live in Oklahoma with our two precious daughters. I spend my days with my girls, discovering and growing alongside them! You can usually find us either in our sunroom, the park, or taking long walks through Target. :)
Kristin J

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

While I was growing up, my dad always had some version of tortilla soup he liked to make. It was a staple with our busy schedules, but we loved it enough to enjoy it for our Christmas Eve dinner. He’s never followed a recipe for his soup and it’s changed quite a bit over time. In recent years, his soup has been out-of-this-world-good. He might be making a pot for the hungry teachers at my mom’s school, friends and family, or simply to eat on for a few days.

Everyone always wants the recipe but he doesn’t know what to tell people. He usually says something like, “I don’t really have a recipe, it’s more of a method.” So recently I decided to observe him and attempt to form a recipe. I think I’ve got it! I’m not sure that you’d really call this a tortilla soup (though it is quite good with tortilla chips) so I’m affectionately calling this Steve Lehman’s Famous Soup. This is a wonderful soup to share with the ones you love! I hope you enjoy!

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Steve Lehman’s Famous Soup 

Note: The amount of veggies can depend on your preference or what you have on hand. Feel free to adjust to your needs. 

12 carrots, peeled and sliced at an angle

1-2 yellow squash, diced

2-3 ears of corn in the husk

1 large onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

(Optional) A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

2 32-ounce boxes of unsalted chicken broth

1 large can of diced tomatoes, drained

8 ounces good quality salsa (or to taste)

1 heaping Tbsp oregano (or to taste)

1/2 tsp cumin

3/4 tsp coriander

Salt and pepper to taste

2-2.5 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs

Directions

  1. Add a couple swirls of olive oil to a hot skillet. Add garlic, onion, and carrots. Cover, and let cook about 15-20 minutes, or until carrots are just starting to get soft, but are still firm. Stir occasionally while they cook.
  2. Meanwhile, heat broth, tomatoes, salsa, oregano, cumin, coriander, cilantro, salt and pepper in a large pot. Bring to a simmer. (*The salsa might scare you a bit, but it really doesn’t add very much heat. If you want to avoid spicy, use a mild salsa. Also, use a good quality salsa, preferably one that is NOT chunky.)
  3. Prepare the corn. Place corn, with husk, directly into the microwave. Cook about 15 minutes, or until you can cut off the end and squeeze cob out of husk clean with no silk. (Time will vary.) Slice corn off of the cob.
  4. When the carrots have reached a soft but firm texture, add them to to the pot along with with all the juices from the pan. Add corn to the pot at this time as well. Continue to simmer.
  5. Season chicken thighs with a good seasoning salt. Add a couple swirls of olive oil to your hot skillet and cook chicken thighs completely. When they are done, dice chicken.
  6. Add chicken, along with all the juices from the pan, and squash to the pot. Simmer about 45 minutes more, until ready to eat.

Serve soup with blue corn chips and avocado or fresh cornbread.

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From Disaster to Delicious!

From Disaster to Delicious!

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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Latest posts by Kristi F (see all)

I now have a new favorite soup and it happened completely by accident. My dinner was nearly a disaster!

I had prepped all the veggies to make a chicken roast only to realize that I had waited too long to use the chicken…stinky!!  Truly stinky!!  So I thought I would salvage the rest and make a veggie broth and add a box of orzo for dinner.

Well, it sounded like a good plan until I tasted my creation and realized I had added WAY TOO MUCH PEPPER!

After I posted a “Save Dinner SOS” on Facebook, I headed over to Google to see what others had found.

I’m so thankful I asked my cooking friends for help on Facebook first, because they came back with the answers that saved my dinner and brought about this new favorite soup recipe.

Are you ready for this? The answer to too much pepper is

Lemon and Cream!Dinner SOS

 In case you’re curious, the recipe, which I’ll call Creamy Vegetable Orzo Soup, is super easy. Cut all the following into bite-size pieces:

  • 1 sweet potato or white potato
  • 2 onions
  • 4 ribs of celery
  • 4 carrots
  • 6-8 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 1 Tbsp Herbamare
  • Add all this to a large pot and saute everything above in coconut oil for several minutes to your liking.  (I typically saute them for 5-8 minutes so they are still a bit crunchy.)
  • Add water to almost full and then let simmer for 30 minutes.  (The longer the better flavor, but this night, we were hungry and needed to eat soon.)
  • Right before you are ready to serve add 2-4 drops of lemon oil or 1/2-1 full lemon juiced and 1 cup cream.  (I would recommend starting with a little of each and then add more as desired.)
  • Cook the orzo in a separate pot and add it to the big pot when the soup is ready to serve.

This dinner which was almost a debacle really got me thinking about our lives.

We start out with high hopes, but sometimes we get sidetracked by something that was not part of God’s plan for our lives.  Maybe we get too focused on money, our looks, or our job titles. Maybe we just leave God out altogether because we like our plan better than His.

Usually, veering off track brings heartache. Sometimes we feel like there is no way God could use us again.  We’ve made a mess of our lives that can’t be corrected.  That is an outright lie brought to you by the king of lies and destruction.

Don’t believe the lie! Just like my damaged soup, Jesus can take you right where you are and bring about such a new creation that the world will only be able to stand in awe of His handiwork.

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We see this story over and over again in the restoration powers of Jesus’ healing hands.  Whether it was healing the demon-possessed man who lived in the graveyard or raising Lazarus from the dead, it’s the hope of a resurrected heart and a new life that has Him living at the middle of it instead of ourselves.

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Right now, hand over to Jesus whatever horrible thing you think God can’t clean you of. The truth is HE CAN and HE WILL!  All you have to do is believe the truth.  Jesus came to cleanse you of all your sins–not just a few, but ALL of them!  Now, that’s a recipe for hope and eternal life!

Embrace it and savor it.

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Lemon Chicken and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner

Lemon Chicken and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner

Kristin J

I am a girl who loves to sit with a cup of coffee and daydream. I am most passionate about Jesus, my family, and family ministry. My husband and I live in Oklahoma with our two precious daughters. I spend my days with my girls, discovering and growing alongside them! You can usually find us either in our sunroom, the park, or taking long walks through Target. :)
Kristin J

Latest posts by Kristin J (see all)

The school year might be upon us, but the weather is still warm and it’s not quite time to simmer a pot of chili on the stove! With routines kicking back into gear we can all use easy dinner recipes. Have you tried any of the popular sheet pan recipes that have been floating around social media? Those are PERFECT for busy nights! You can whip them up quickly and if you line your pan with foil or parchment paper, clean up is a breeze. What makes them perfect for this late summertime is that they utilize all the great veggies you find this time of year at the market.

My mother-in-law recently shared this recipe for chicken thighs with green beans and red potatoes that’s drizzled with a lemon dressing and we gobbled it all up- even the picky preschooler! So I thought I’d share the love with all of my sweet friends at Creating a Great Day in case you are in need a delicious and simple dinner recipe!

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Lemon Chicken and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner:

Ingredients:

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 lb  small red potatoes, quartered

1 lb  fresh green beans

3 TB Olive Oil

2 TB Fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 TB Italian Herb Blend (Or combine a TB of your favorite dried herbs such as rosemary, basil, oregano, and thyme)

Instructions:

  1. Arrange veggies and chicken on sheet pan.
  2. Combine oil, lemon juice, and garlic with herbs, salt, and pepper.
  3. Drizzle oil blend on chicken and veggies and use your hands to coat everything well with the oil.
  4. Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.
  5. Serve with crusty bread, which you can dip in the oil from your pan. 🙂

 

I hope your family enjoys this sheet pan dinner as much as we have!

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Growing with our Garden

Growing with our Garden

Kristi F

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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Latest posts by Kristi F (see all)

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This is from the first year we grew a garden with our children.  It was so exciting to make the square foot garden boxes, pick the seeds each child decided to plant, watch the first sprout pop up above the ground, and see the variety of God’s awesome creation. Then, we started harvesting some delectable garden goodness and in the process learned some lessons too!

Taste Bud Treats

Of course, you can just eat most items raw, straight out of the garden but we enjoy exploring different approaches with our taste buds, which brought us to these two yummy sandwiches.

Tomato, Cheese & Basil Sandwich

 

Simple Ingredients:  Honey Mustard, Tomato, Cheese and Basil

 

I love anything with basil, so when I noticed that some basil was ready to harvest, we promptly added it to our sandwiches.  After taking her first bite, my youngest daughter shouted in a loud, baritone voice,

Mom, I love these leaves!  They are delicious!”

She should like them.  I ate basil and cheese sandwiches every day for weeks when I was pregnant with her!

Cucumber Sandwich

 

At a baby shower I attended, the hostesses served these delectable sandwiches.  The mixture of herbs in the creamy spread was so enjoyable, I tracked down the person who made it to gather the recipe.

Simple Ingredients: Creamy Spread and Cucumbers

Creamy Spread (can also be enjoyed as a dip):

1 Cup Greek Yogurt

1 Cup Cream Cheese

2 teaspoons dried dill

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Lesson Learned

God uses all his creations to teach us a little more about Him.  Growing a garden has helped us grow in our understanding of our relationship with Him as well.

For example, when I was trying to learn how to harvest basil, I found this great video that explained exactly how to harvest the basil in such a way that the plant would continue to grow.

 

In the video she says,

“If you want your plant to continue to grow you are going to have to trim it down…You want to do it in a way that you don’t damage your plant and your plant can continue to grow.”

This video made me realize that God is pruning us all the time. He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him, but that means we can’t stay the same.  In order to grow and be used for His glory, he prunes us in such a way that we may feel the change, but he doesn’t damage us.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

1 Peter 1:6-7

His ways of refining us to make us stronger spiritually may not always feel comfortable at the time, but the growth it produces will bring glory to Him in the process.

Do you garden?  

What are some of your favorite fresh garden recipes?  

What lessons have you learned in the process?

Warm Spaghetti Squash and Spinach Salad

Warm Spaghetti Squash and Spinach Salad

Lindsay W

Hi! Born in the great state of Texas and raised in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, this Daughter of the Alamo/Georgia Peach is still adjusting to life in Razorback Nation! My husband and I live just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas with our two toddlers and two crazy pups. I’m a small business owner, chocolate aficionado, and travel lover with a 2pm coffee hour no matter what time zone I’m in!
Lindsay W

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What to do with leftovers?

Do you ever feel a bit like a catfish when it comes to leftovers in your house? Not so much that you’re a bottom dweller, but that the task of consuming leftovers falls mostly on you?

Being a work from home mama, I can feel this way a lot. Especially since I’m incredibly grocery budget conscious and hate to throw leftover food into the trash.

When I plan our weekly dinners, whether or not they will portion out enough for leftovers to make lunch the following day for me or my toddler is a consideration. Especially if it’s a meal that requires me to buy an ingredient solely specific to that meal.

Spaghetti squash is a prime example.

I’m not a big pasta eater, but pasta and meat sauce is easy and fast. It can be made super healthy if you buy the right kind of pasta. And I can even sneak extra vegetables and fiber into my toddler’s diet without so much as one thrown rotini noodle. So, we have it for dinner at least every other week.

But instead of pasta, I serve a generous portion of cooked spaghetti squash onto my plate. The tummy is much happier!

Since I’m the only one who eats spaghetti squash, I’m left with a decent amount left over for the following day, even if the squash was a small one.  If there’s any leftover meat sauce and pasta, my toddler gets that for lunch.

So, what to do with all this spaghetti squash?

On my grocery budget? Without buying some extra ingredient just for one or maybe two lunches?

I feel a little bit like the contestants on Food Network’s show Chopped staring down at my basket of ingredients.

Thankfully, spaghetti squash is pretty versatile. While I’ve thrown together some leftover lunches using spaghetti squash and whatever random things I found in my fridge, what I’m about to share with you is my favorite leftover lunch combination. The basic recipe leaves a lot of room for foodies who have more time to construct a lunch than I do most days to elevate it to something really fancy. (Let’s face it–if I have to cut up more than one thing and use anything other than the microwave or toaster oven to prepare lunch, it’s a NO GO.)

I call it Warm Spaghetti Squash & Spinach Salad.

BASIC* Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash

1 can of garbanzo beans

5-6 cherry tomatoes or 1 Roma tomato

1 heaping cup of raw baby spinach (a good handful for you non-measuring people like me)

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

Parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Red pepper flakes or freshly cracked black peppercorns (to taste)

*See farther down for elevated ingredient ideas.

Directions to Cook the Spaghetti Squash:

Remember, this is a leftover, so for lunch I’m just pulling it out of the fridge already cooked and shredded. But, if you want to cook one just for this recipe, here’s how I cook mine.

Fill your stock pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.

Use your biggest, sharpest knife (a chef’s knife will do the trick) to cut your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise.

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Once your water is boiling, very carefully place each half into the stock pot.

Boil for 15-20 minutes, depending on how big your spaghetti squash is. You should be able to pierce it without resistance with a fork.

Once it’s cooked, I very carefully pour everything out of the stock pot into a colander which I’ve placed in the sink.

Once the halves have cooled down enough for you to handle them, use a fork (or two) to remove one of the halves from the colander and place it on a plate on your counter. Use a fork to scoop the seeds out of the squash.

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After boiling, but with seeds still intact.

You’ll pull some of the squash with it too, and it will feel a lot like cleaning out a pumpkin at Halloween, only hotter. Discard the seeds.

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After scooping the seeds out.

Now you’re ready to shred your spaghetti squash. Just use two forks and scrape the top of the flesh. It will scrape off like little “spaghetti noodles.”

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Transfer your “noodles” to a bowl (preferably glass or ceramic since they’re going to be hot). Repeat with the second half.

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The finished “noodles.”

Directions to prepare the salad:

If you’re building your salad straight from here, ladle out at least a cup’s worth of spaghetti squash into a microwave-safe bowl. Next, drain and rinse your garbanzo beans. Add 1/3 cup to your spaghetti squash.

Next, quarter your cherry tomatoes lengthwise, or dice up a roma tomato and add it to the squash.

Add a heaping cup of baby spinach (or a generous handful) on top of the tomatoes.

Finally, squirt your lemon juice, drizzle your EVOO, and splash your red wine vinegar on top.

Pop your bowl in the microwave for one minute on high. This will soften your spinach and tomatoes and reheat your spaghetti squash if you started with cold leftover squash.)

Carefully remove from the microwave and adorn with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes or freshly cracked black pepper.

Voila! Lunch is served!

Now, this was the basic version using things you probably already have in your pantry or fridge.

Here are some ingredients you could add to elevate this dish. (Do I sound like a Chopped judge or what?!)

Elevated Ingredients:

Toasted pine nuts

Goat cheese or feta cheese (instead of parmesan cheese)

Finely chopped red onion

Greek vinaigrette (instead of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and EVOO)

My favorite thing about this lunch is how easy yet healthy and economical it is. As work from home or stay at home mamas, we don’t have to always eat what our kids eat or adopt a catfish mindset when it comes to our lunches. With a little creativity, you can feel like you’re eating something prepared at a bistro! If you can tune out the Daniel Tiger songs that may be playing in the background, that is.

Do you have a dinner time leftover ingredient that you transform during the following day’s lunch? I’d love to know what it is and how you use it in the comments section!

<3 Lindsay

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