Coffee, candle, pumpkin on table

What Am I Choosing to Collect?

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday, a fun and inspirational link-up with many other bloggers who write for five minutes, unedited, on a given prompt.

(Confession time: I’m working on sticking to the five minute, unedited “rule”, imperfectly, but have grown towards these goals as a “recovering perfectionist”. That’s one of the reasons I chose to participate in this weekly challenge.)

Today’s prompt is, “collect”. I hope you are encouraged or inspired, too.

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Coffee, candle, pumpkin on table

 

What am I choosing to collect?

A life is full of collections, some of physical things, such as stones, shells, books, stamps, jewelry, coffees or mason jars.

But every day we are collecting things we cannot see.

What am I choosing to collect … emotionally, mentally, even spiritually?

I often make poor choices (or automatic, it seems), to collect regrets, discontent, complaints, stress, grief, hurt or negativity.

But I wish to collect something better, a collection of unseen gifts that I can share through my life with those around me, and pass on to my family and future generations.

With God’s help, I would rather be intentional about collecting good things.

I choose to collect thankfulness, cheerfulness, peace, happy memories, good thoughts, positive words, grace … simple treasures that I wish to keep.

I do have a choice as to what I collect.

 

” And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” 

– Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

 

 

We can make a positive impact on our own lives, and of those around us.

 

 

” The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

– 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (MSG)

 

 

What are you choosing to collect?

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five-minute clock photo

What Can I Do in Five Minutes?

five-minute clock photo

Today’s post is for the link-up of five-minute, (mostly) unedited writings at Five Minute Friday. Enjoy!

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Five minutes.

It isn’t very long. (Just ask me and other bloggers who are attempting to keep these posts to that short time limit!)

Perhaps because I’m being challenged in the area of time management, I feel inspired to write about five minutes (for the prompt of the word “five” today).

What can I do in five minutes?

I have a LOT of five-minute increments in each and every day, but how can I use them?

I can “waste” time browsing on social media (not that I consider all social media time a waste), I can mope around or wander aimlessly without a plan, I can get distracted or focus on the difficult or challenging things in my life.

I could wolf down a few handfuls of chips or unhealthy snacks.

I can chose to feel badly about myself or my situation, or just plain loose track of time.

That precious five minutes.

But I can be intentional.

I can make a choice.

I can spend five minutes reflecting on things for which I’m thankful.

I can pray and think and plan. I can write a to-do list.

I could spend five minutes doing “nothing”, but using the time to rest and rejuvenate my body, emotions, mind or spirit.

I could write that email, mail that card, make that phone-call.

Maybe I can put away five minutes of clutter or take a baby-step for that big project I’ve been procrastinating.

I could make something healthy to eat for myself or to share with my family.

Other options may include five minutes of exercise, writing a quick post on my blog, starting (or switching) the laundry, wiping down a bathroom, or watering my plants.

I can share a smile, give a compliment, or say something to encourage someone around me.

The choice is up to me.

I pray that I learn not to waste my five minutes.

When you put a whole lot of five-minutes increments together…..it becomes a life.

*****

What Can You Do in Five Minutes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

grated zucchini in square glass Pyrex dish

A Simple Method to Drain and Freeze Grated Zucchini

 

grated zucchini in square glass Pyrex dish

Do you have an abundance of zucchini from your garden, an ambitious neighbor, or a farm CSA program like we have? Once you are tiring of cooking and eating all that green squash, what are you to do with the rest?

Most of us enjoy a good loaf of zucchini bread or another baked good made with zucchini.

And if you really have a lot of zucchini (or access to it), I highly recommend freezing some for later use. How nice would it be to be able to bake up something fresh with zucchini any time of the year?

close-up shot of grated zucchini

Most recipes or kitchen tips involving shredded zucchini instruct you to squeeze out the excess moisture, usually with a paper towel, a clean tea-towel, or even cheese-cloth. While this process is usually necessary, I find it to be a bit tedious and a little messy. It becomes even more of a chore when you have a lot of zucchini to process.

Well, you’ll be happy to know that this summer, I think I found a better way!

I love it when I can learn how to do something better. Working “smarter, but not harder” is a goal for most of us as busy homemakers (and bakers). So why do a step to prepare food when you can simply rely on nature to do it for you?

grated zucchini in metal bowl top view

I entitled my blog “Simply Flourishing Home” because one of my passions is to share tips or ideas that I’ve learned with other busy homemakers, in order to make life just a little simpler.

So here’s what I’ve been trying this summer. I think you’ll agree that this method really does simplify the process of draining the excess liquid from grated zucchini.

First, wash and grate your zucchini into a big bowl or other suitable container.

grated zucchini with hand grater

If you have a food processor to make this step easier I’m jealous please enjoy using that, but right now I’m without one, so my zucchini are currently being grated by hand. That means I either beg or hire my sons to help me, or I just do it myself and call it an arm workout.

Using a fresh container (or remove the shredded zucchini from your original dish and wipe), place a couple layers of paper towel into the bottom of the dish. Next layer an inch or so of grated zucchini over the paper towel. Now continue in this fashion, repeating with layers of paper towel and zucchini until you run out of zucchini (or room in your dish). Make sure to end by topping off the chosen container with another paper tower before sealing on the lid.

bowl of grated zucchini with paper towel on top

preparing grated zucchini

Place your filled dish into the refrigerator and wait several hours or overnight.

Almost miraculously (but not really, because it’s just science), the paper towels will absorb much of the excess zucchini liquid. Remove and discard the saturated paper towel and your shredded squash is now ready to use or freeze.

If you are freezing for later use, simply remove whatever portion you’d like to freeze, and place it in a plastic freezer bag or other freezer container. I usually measure mine out with my adjustable measuring cup (similar to this one), and freeze in increments of around 2 cups in a one-quart freezer bag. If I have a particular recipe in mind, I freeze the exact amount needed for the recipe (or often for a double batch), in each bag.

freezing grated zucchini

 

shredded zucchini prepared for the freezer i

Prepared zucchini – two containers for baking soon and several bags to freeze.

One important note from my experience so far is to not allow the zucchini to stay for too long in your fridge, without either using or freezing it. I admit I may have gotten busy and left some for several days, and then regretfully had to chuck it (into the trash). Another time I left it a couple of days thinking it would be too long, but found it to be just fine. It’s just not worth the risk though, and of course it’s always best to work with fresh ingredients. So my personal recommendations for optimal results (based on my unscientific observations and slightly wild guesses), is to use or freeze it by the next day.

Also, you can experiment with the size and shape of container and how much paper towel to layer to see what works best for you. In one case, I actually found the paper towel had absorbed too much liquid. The zucchini shreds were actually a little on the dry side. Having a refrigerator full of the required vegetable, I simply grated in a little fresh zucchini and mixed it all together. Problem solved. So too much paper towel is also not advisable.

I hope this method of draining the excess liquid from your shredded zucchini works as well for you as it does for me. I’m quite happy to do a little less work with the same results. And I’m looking forward to all the future baked goods I can produce with my prepared and frozen zucchini.

Now if I could just find a natural way to get the zucchini to grate itself.

*****

Have you tried baking with zucchini? Do you freeze some for later use? What’s your favorite recipe featuring grated zucchini? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

Sun's rays shining through tree branches with blue sky and clouds

Listen.

Sun's rays shining through tree branches with blue sky and clouds

 

Today’s post is linked up with others at Five Minute Friday, where you may enjoy the five-minute, mostly unedited writings of other bloggers on the prompt, “listen.”

*****

As I think about the word, “listen”, many thoughts come to mind. That, in itself, should tell me something.

Do I really listen?

Are there too many thoughts, ideas, concerns, “to-do’s”, emotions, reactions, and distractions for me to even hear at all?

Sometimes I can’t hear myself think.

Often I don’t really listen to what others are saying to me.

At times, I feel it’s so difficult to hear God’s still, small voice.

And so, I need to stop.

I need to clear away the cobwebs from my mind and heart.

I need to “pull the log out of my own eye”, so that my ears will also be open to hear others.

I need to stop striving and trust the One who holds it all together, yet created me and knows the innermost thoughts and feelings and longings of my heart.

Let’s practice stopping…..and really listening.

May we be surprised at what we hear.

*****

 

part of watermelon house flag with sun rays

What I Learned in August 2016

I was hoping to publish this before I go to bed tonight. See, I didn’t realize what the date was until I got to church today, and where I was reminded that it’s 9/11. The thing is, at first I thought, “How can I publish a blog post today that’s not specifically honoring that first, fateful 9/11 day?” I will probably write a more specific, serious post on that theme in the future (when I’m not caught totally off guard), but today is not the day.

As I thought about it, I decided that this “looking back” post about what I learned last month is actually somewhat appropriate, even for a serious day such as this. I’m beginning to really like these posts, as it’s a lesson in stopping and considering what new things I learned in the previous month. I usually start out thinking there won’t be enough interesting things to fill a blog post, but then surprise myself by ending up with plenty. I enjoy this habit, as it causes me to reflect on my days.

So even though some of my points are less than serious, I’m thankful today for all the moments of my life, especially in light of all the sacrifice and loss that so many experienced on that unforgettable September 11th. In gratefulness to all those who came together in unity, kindness and strength on that day, I wish to stop and reflect on my own life; the troublesome and the mundane, the pleasant and the remarkable.

part of watermelon house flag with sun rays

What I Learned In August 2016:

 

1.”Unthaw” is actually a word, and means the same as “thaw”.

Recently I came across the use of the word, “unthaw” in a recipe, and proceeded to think that the author obviously did not have a clear understanding that the proper term should be, “thaw”. Logically, it makes sense, if “thaw” means for something to go from freezing to room temperature, then wouldn’t “unthaw” mean the opposite? And is it even a word? (My spell-checker doesn’t seem to think so.) I’ve seen others comment on this as well, so it’s not just me. But wishing to know the truth, I took a few minutes, and discovered to my surprise, that EITHER is acceptable, and they mean the same thing! Here is a dictionary explanation. So now we can stop judging others for their use of either term, and we can all be friends.

relaxing with feet up on kayak on lake shore

2. I really seem to “need” time in nature.

I’ve always known this, but I’ve really felt it recently, especially for the last half of this summer. Maybe it’s because we took an earlier vacation this year, or possibly because it was shorter and we jumped into “real life” again before I was fully rested. Either way, I have felt such a strong desire which can only be described as a “longing” to get away, or at least go out and spend some quality time in nature. Whenever I do so much as take a hike in the woods, or spend time near water, or even enjoy a simple campfire, I physically and emotionally give a sigh and feel relaxed. For the ultimate satisfaction for my desire or “need” to be outdoors, my preference is to spend a week or so in a cabin by a lake. (We have one favorite, in particular, but several that have been great.) I feel so refreshed when I have ample time for just “soaking it in”. The longer I wait between such lovely vacation visits, the more it seems I need my nature “tank” filled. I guess I just really enjoy and am thankful for God’s wonderful creation.

 

One bridge at Dufferin Islands

3. Raising young-adult children is more challenging than I thought.

Yes, I have two older sons, one 17 and one 19, and yes, it is physically much, much easier than when they were little. We really enjoy having older children, but have definitely noticed two things. One, our conflicts are much more complicated than when they are little, and two, it’s really hard to allow them to grow up and accept their own consequences in order to grow to maturity and not live “enabled” lives. It’s often hard to know when to require obedience because they live under our roof, and when to let them make their own decisions (as adult or almost-adult individuals), and let them fail or fall. Often, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but I now know that it all requires my trust in God and a great deal of wisdom and prayer!

 

4. When cutting ANY hot peppers, use gloves!

Why oh why, did I NOT remember this lesson from approximately this same time last year???!!! I got some little jalapeno peppers from the farm stand, and although we’re not avid “hot pepper eaters”, we occasionally enjoy recipes with a little “kick”. Knowing that jalapenos were not considered that hot (I have enjoyed them in restaurant recipes often), I proceeded to cut them up to freeze for later use……with my bare hands. After a few minutes, I started to feel the burn, and wondered if I should have worn gloves. As the minutes ticked by, I realized too late that it was starting to really hurt, but at that point there seemed to be no point of turning back. So I suffered needlessly (and stupidly, I must say!), even though I had already learned this lesson in the past. I guess that is a lesson in itself: Remember (or record?) the lessons you have learned, and don’t repeat the same dumb process that got you there!

 

5. When microwave reheating in containers with a plastic lid, if you don’t allow steam to escape, the lid will be ruined.

This is another simple lesson I should have known from past experience. If you don’t allow for built-up heat and steam to escape, the lid “sucks” down into the container and usually is bent beyond repair. (Sigh.) I did it again.

melted/warped plastic lid

glass storage with bent, melted lid 2

6. We really are not “beach people”.

My family loves nature and the outdoors, and we even really like spending time by water. When we do go swimming, we really enjoy it a lot. But the reality is we don’t get to as much as we’d like, and when we have a choice, going to the beach is usually not our first “perfect summer day” of choice. Sometimes swimming doesn’t seem to make it to the top of our list. This summer we swam a grand total of one time (unless you count “creek-walking”, in which case we’ve gone twice).

creek-walk with family

7. You can freeze tomatoes whole without blanching them.

I haven’t a lot of experience with freezing tomatoes. I’ve made some sauce and some homemade soup to freeze, but I don’t believe I’ve ever frozen plain tomatoes. This summer at my farm-stand job, a customer was looking for plum tomatoes to freeze. She said they are best for this purpose because they have less juice. I asked her about her method, and she said she just halves them and throws them in a freezer bag. Huh.

I went home and looked for more information online, and sure enough, this is a valid, and much easier method than the rather more time-consuming and complicated, “old-fashioned” process of blanching and peeling. Here‘s a nice blog post about this. (I actually just washed and halved mine, threw them a freezer bag in a single layer, and called it a day. A few of them stuck together a bit, but one little “clunk” on a counter and they’re good to go.)

frozen plum tomatoes without blanching

Frozen plum tomatoes “the lazy way” (no blanching or flash-freezing).

8. There is a better way to express the excess liquid from grated zucchini.

I like zucchini to cook and eat, but what I really like is to bake with it. This is definitely the preference of my non-zucchini-loving sons. I imagine you’ve enjoyed some nice, home-baked zucchini bread, but what you really ought to try is zucchini bread or muffins with chocolate! Adding chocolate chips to zucchini bread definitely takes it up a notch, and by adding cocoa, chocolate zucchini bread or cake is the ultimate in deliciousness!

This summer, I think I’ve discovered the best and easiest way to express the liquid from zucchini! You can read a more detailed description in this post. Happy zucchini-baking!!!

hand-grated zucchini in glass dish

 

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I hope you found today’s reflections informative or at least mildly entertaining. What did you learn this August?

 

water with rocks and foliage

Heal My Heart, Use Me to Heal Others, Please Heal Our Land

water with rocks and foliage

Today is Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is “heal”. I’ve decided that I’d like to write this post as a prayer. Won’t you join me?

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“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

-Psalm 139:23,24 (NLT)

 

Lord, my heart needs to be healed.

I cannot mend it on my own. I need your help.

Let me trust in you to do the work.

Your faithfulness has been my rock.  Your loving-kindness has been a refuge.

Let me hide myself in you, until I am abundantly sure of your undying love for me.

I ask you to heal my heart.

 

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

– James 5:16 (NLT)

 

Lord, please use my healed heart to minister to others.

I don’t want to live a self-centered, meaningless life, but one that is rich in goodness and reaches out to those around me.

Here’s my healed heart, not perfect, but being perfected by the One who made me.

I offer it to you as a gift and a tool to heal those around me.

Let me be sensitive to the needs of others so that you may flow through me.

Use me to heal others.

 

 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

-2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

 

Lord God, our land needs your touch.

Help us to humbly get on our knees and seek your face.

We ask for your forgiveness and mercy on behalf of our stubborn, rebellious land.

Only you can truly set us free.

Please heal our land.

*****

 

 

 

 

path into woods

What Path Will I Take?

20160622_102409

 

What path will I take?

There are so many choices…..or do I have a choice at all?

When I think about trying to do right, trying to find God’s will for my life, or trying to chose the path of my life, it’s sometimes overwhelming.

It can feel I have no choice, or that the options are too many and lead to confusion and lack of peace.

Will I hear God’s voice? Will I discern his direction? Will I really make something of my life?

Although we could debate on whether or not there is just one right path for our life, or whether we have many choices, I think that some things are clear.

If we have chosen to follow Jesus; if we’ve given our lives to God; if we are full of doubts and are just asking him for help…..he will not fail us.

God promises to direct our path.

He said that he would be with us.

God’s Word lets me know that he will show me the right way to go.

I just need to trust him and follow the path.

Let the words of the Psalms give you peace and courage today:

“Put your hope in the Lord.
    Travel steadily along his path.”

-Psalm 37:34a

“Lead me in the right path, O Lord,
    or my enemies will conquer me.
Make your way plain for me to follow.”

-Psalm 5:8

“You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping.”

-Psalm 18:36

He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.”

-Psalm 23:3

“Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.”

-Psalm 25:4

“The Lord is good and does what is right;
    he shows the proper path to those who go astray.”

Psalm 25:8

“Who are those who fear the Lord?
    He will show them the path they should choose.”

-Psalm 25:12

“Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path

Psalm 27:11a

 

He has a purpose for my life.

My life does have meaning.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated.

As long as I’m following him, God will show me the meaningful and fulfilling path that he laid out for me before I was even born.

 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

-Psalm 139:13-14

Lord, help me to live with intention and follow your path.

*****

This post is written for part of the Five Minute Friday link-up. Join me there to discover what other bloggers are writing about the prompt, “path”.

All scriptures above are quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

 

 

 

beef and eggplant skillet recipe

Ground Beef and Eggplant Skillet – A favorite eggplant recipe!

beef and eggplant skillet recipe

Ground Beef and Eggplant Skillet with Summer Vegatables

I have one question for you today:

How do you feel about eggplant?

I personally have mixed feelings about this common summer vegetable.

First of all, you can hardly deny that eggplant is pretty. It is a shiny, deep purple and looks plump and delicious…..until you reach the inside. That’s where eggplant, in my opinion, loses it’s appeal….and that’s the main part we usually eat.

I also find that many do not care for it’s mild, yet unique taste and somewhat spongy texture.

My family also has mixed feelings about eggplant. And I do not consider them to be fussy eaters. Whereas I pretty much like it (although to me eggplant leftovers often leave something to be desired), I can’t say I love it. My guys seem to either dislike it or tolerate it, depending on the recipe.

There are a grand total of approximately two recipes I can think of that my husband and sons really like that feature eggplant.

This recipe is one of them.

So why even bother with eggplant if it’s so low on our list of foods we like?

Well, first of all, we get plenty with our CSA farm share, and I am of the belief that whenever possible, I do not turn down “free” food, especially if it is healthy. I also like to use what I have, so if it happens be an eggplant, I am bound and determined to make something good out of it.

I originally found this recipe (with a similar name), in a lovely, family cookbook I purchased from a local farm stand many years ago. They not only published a cookbook full of practical and delicious recipes, but most of them feature many of the vegetables you would typically find on a local farm or grow in your own garden. I go to this book often when looking for tasty vegetable recipes to use up nature’s bounty.

I have since found a similar recipe online, as well (see link below).

I hope you find this, as we do, to be a useful and delicious way to use your eggplant. It makes use of tomatoes, green peppers and onions, which are also in good supply this time of year.

 

Ground Beef and Eggplant Skillet

(adapted from Cooks.com)

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 eggplant, peeled and diced (*or cubed, based on preference)

1 green pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped or sliced

2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 cup tomato sauce (or use jarred spaghetti sauce)

1/2 tsp salt

ground black pepper, to taste

1 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

Brown rice (approx. 4 servings)

Instructions:

Brown beef and garlic. Add eggplant; cook and stir 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients (except rice). Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice.

Notes:

  1. Fresh herbs may be used in place of dried; use about three times as much.
  2. Recipe may alternately be served over potatoes or noodles.
  3. Can be made ahead and reheated; tastes great!
  4. Feel free to adjust the amounts of eggplant, ground beef and vegetables, based on your preferences and what you have on hand.
  5. This recipe makes enough for the four of us (mostly tall adults), to eat with leftovers.

 

I hope that this gives you an enjoyable way to have your eggplant … and eat it too.

*****

How do you feel about eggplant? Do you have any recipe suggestions for eggplant, especially for those of us who are not in love with the vegetable?