Fresh From The Garden: Bell Peppers!


The first meal we made this year with garden produce was Easy Stuffed Peppers! This is my mom's stuffed peppers recipe, and is always enjoyed by guests. I love to make stuffed peppers when there is an abundance of fresh bell peppers from the garden!

I use a lot of green peppers in my cooking, particularly when they're "free" from the garden, since they can be rather expensive to purchase. We chop lots of them to fry with taco meat or other meat for casseroles; we also chop and eat them fresh on salads and mexican dishes; Agk's Organic Chicken Fettuccine calls for a lot of bell peppers, also! Making homemade salsa uses a fair amount of bell peppers, which we sometimes substitute for the banana sweet peppers it calls for, and even add a little extras. ;)

If all else fails, we do like we did last year, and dehydrate them. Last November, after we were all finished canning pizza sauce and salsa, and had eaten lots of fresh bell peppers, we decided to dry some. It was nearing the first frost, we we picked them all and my mom came over to my house. She and I spent the entire morning (at least 4 hours!) chopping bell peppers to dehydrate. After they were dry, they all fit into a gallon-sized freezer bag! Kind of amazing that 8 hours of work was all in that little bag! ;) It sure has been handy, being able to use some here and there for soups and such, when there aren't any fresh ones handy. :)

Tomorrow: What to do with cabbage!

MSG; Veggie Tuna Casserole recipe

My friend Nicole made a new lens on Squidoo: MSG is Evil! Whether or not you like MSG, her page is a handy source of information and links!

We personally try to stay away from it as much as possible (we like to read labels!). It is amazing how frequently MSG is added to food. We're used to using our own spice combinations for various seasonings.

Just yesterday, Joshua and I were discussing how it would be nice to create substitute recipes for the expensive (and MGS-laden!) seasoning packets sold in grocery stores. We decided that our main hurdle to doing that would be the fact that we've never even tried most of them! (Besides taco meat seasoning!) If any of you readers have good substitute "seasoning packet" recipes, we'd love to hear from you! :)

A couple weeks ago, we tried a new recipe that was submitted to the website by Amy B.: Veggie Tuna Casserole! I always enjoy a new casserole recipe, so I was excited about trying it. :) I enjoyed it, and am just now getting around to posting the recipe! Be sure to check it out, especially if you have zucchini or other garden produce on hand! Veggie Tuna Casserole recipe

This week promises to be a busy one for us, with out-of-state out-of-country guests visiting for a couple days, along with the usual things of life. :D

So, I will be posting recipes and things we have been doing with the fresh fruits and vegetables we've had recently: tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, bell peppers, and apples. Stay tuned! :)

Photo of Yehoshua with our canning from Wednesday

The week is nearing an end, and I'm thankful and relieved, too!

I did a lot of baking, cooking, and canning this week, in between all the "normal" stuff of my life. We tried a recipe for Triple Chocolate Quick Bread, and it was delicious!!

Today I was able to get all my jars of tomatoes washed up and ready to be put into boxes and stored on our enclosed porch (I don't have a pantry, so I use the porch. :D) I took a picture of Yehoshua next to the jars, and thought I'd share it quick before I went to bed.

Yehoshua with our tomatoes we canned on Wednesday

Yep, that's my smiling little curious george... could hardly get him to stand still for the picture, and he kept wanting to pick up the jars! But he carried all the jar rings to the sink and washed them for me! So I won't complain. ;) And I know my tablecloth looks dorky with the picnic-table-clip on it, but it drives me crazy to have to straighten the tablecloth all day. At least the clips hold it in place! Now, to train Eliyahu not to pull them off and eat them... :P :D

Frugal Fridays: How we avoid paying for trash pick-up

Frugal Fridays at

Every city seems to have different policies on garbage pick-up. We used to live in a town that required all its residents to pay a flat trash pick-up rate every month. I have heard of other towns that don't charge at all.

Where we currently live, there are a number of different garbage disposal companies, with varying rates, and it's up to the residents to choose what they want to pay for.

However, being the frugal person I hope I am, Wink rather than simply deciding on a cheap garbage service, I decided to try to eliminate the need for grabage pick-up, period.

So, here is how we avoid paying for trash to go into the landfill!

1. Recycle. This takes care of glass, cans, and aluminum for us. If you aren't able to burn your paper waste, you can also recycle cardboard, paper, plastics, old phone books and catalogs, etc. Check locally and see what all they will be willing to take for recycling, and then enjoy dumping your trash off for free while helping conserve energy and resources!

2. Compost. We made a compost pile in a little section of our yard and in our kitchen we have a small "garbage bucket" (actually an old plastic ice cream container) where we throw all our food scraps, banana peels, etc. At least once a day, the bucket is dumped on the pile and washed out, to avoid any bad smells or fruit flies. :)

3. Cloth diapers. For most of this year so far, I had two children in diapers, and by using cloth diapers there were no dirty smelly diapers to have to get rid of. Yay! No paying for diapers, and no paying to get rid of them. And, no super-stinky trash cans of diapers, or the need to buy lots of plastic bags to trap the smell.

4. Re-use things. But even more importantly: the less disposable "trash" you buy, the less you will have to get rid of. Just stop buying the stuff that you're constantly having to throw away... paper plates, styrofoam cups, paper napkins, etc. and you won't need to throw it away anymore. The "extra work" won't be so bad once you get used to re-using things, and the best way to do that is just stop buying trash!

Baked oatmeal, a new favorite with Yehoshua

Easy Baked Oatmeal recipe

A few days ago, I made a special treat for Yehoshua: baked oatmeal. He had never eaten it before, but I gave him a big bowl full of it with milk. He quietly and quickly ate the entire bowl full and asked for more! (Usually he picks at his food and doesn't eat much, it seems.) I should have cut up some apples to go in it, but I didn't think of that... I have some apples and need to make something with them today. Maybe apple spice pancakes? Hmn... :)

Speaking of Yehoshua, I hear him waking from his nap now! We have a load of laundry ready to be hung outside, and some chores to get done, so I'll end here. :)

A full day of canning tomatoes

Today was a full day of canning tomatoes. What a lot of work! But I think I will have enough spaghetti sauce (for spaghetti sauce, we mix homemade tomato soup with pizza sauce) and pizza sauce to last us at least a year. (I'm not making salsa this year, since I still have about 15-20 pints of that from last year.)

We made a lot today... 14 pints of pizza sauce, 8 quarts of spaghetti sauce, and 21.5 pints of spaghetti sauce. The final 13 pints are cooking even as I type... I have 10 minutes to get this posted before I need to take them out of the canner. ;)  

This is just a quick photo post... not with complete canning photos, though. We were just TOO busy trying to work and watch the children, to take many pictures! My mom stayed for 7+ hours and we had everything almost made. This evening I finished, then filled jars, cleaned up, and started canning it. I use a boiling water bath and process for 30 minutes. So far every jar has sealed! Yay! Our tomato products usually have about a 98% rate of successful sealing. :)

Yehoshua helps wash the tomatoes

Here is Yehoshua, helping us get started. We first washed the tomatoes, then cut out the core and any bad spots, and cut them in half, and put them in big canners. We used my mom's two 21-quart canners, along with a 12-quart pan, and others... we had about 50 quarts of tomatoes when we cooked them. I used my hands to smash pan of tomatoes once it was full (to aid in cooking them down), and we started heating them. Once the tomatoes boiled, we timed them for at least an hour, simmering, before we started processing them. You have to stir tomatoes frequently to avoid scorching, since scorched tomatoes will basically ruin your whole batch.

Yehoshua liked helping us wash the tomatoes, but he soon grew tired of it. To keep him interested, I found a very small tomato, and said, "Oh, look, Yehoshua! A baby!" Yehoshua loved that, and held that little tomato for the longest time! He wanted us to kiss the "baby" tomato. My mom kept asking if he wanted her to cut it and put it with the rest, and he said no. :) Eventually he ran off and forgot all about it though.

My mom cored most of the tomatoes

Here you can see my mom still cutting tomatoes, with two large canners of tomatoes cooking on the stove already. 

Making tomato sauce

We had oven-roasted chickenItalian cheese bread (you can see that being made on the table), leftover potatoes, and leftover garlic green beans for lunch. It was a nice but quick meal, since we had so much left to do on the tomatoes. 

In this photo, you can also see washed canning jars on the counter, a small container for compost/garbage, the pan of cooked tomatoes, and a bowl with a strainer, holding cooked tomatoes.

Tomatoes are so watery when they're cooked, and when you're cooking 50 quarts of tomatoes, you don't want to cook it for hours on end to thicken it. We also dislike the taste of adding store-bought "tomato paste" to our sauces, so our solution is to strain/drain the tomatoes in a fine mesh strainer before running through the colander. This produces a delicious thick sauce.

Running the tomatoes through a colander to remove the skins and seeds

And a closer view: on the left, tomatoes being drained (the "juice", which is almost clear in color, will mostly be thrown away); on the right, finished tomato sauce (which will be made into pizza sauce by adding cooked onions, garlic, green peppers, and seasonings); and in the background, I am running some tomatoes through the colander, which removes the seeds and skins.

Eliyahu holds onto my mom's dress as she works :D

Eliyahu was hanging onto my mom's skirt, and I just had to take a picture of his cute little grin. :D Both boys LOVED having Grandma over for the day. This morning when I told Yehoshua that "Grandma was coming" he said, "Bonnie, Amy, coming" (my sisters). I said, "No, just Grandma is coming today." Later he told me, "No Bonnie. No Amy. Jus' Grandma." :D

And with this, I'll be heading to bed. Tomorrow will be another bright and early morning, trying to get out the door by 7:45 am to teach music lessons. I'm amazed I even got this posted! :)

Why I Am A Stay-At-Home Mom

1. I'm a stay-at-home mom because of what the Bible teaches, and the results I've seen from obedience

In Titus 2:3-5, the Bible says, "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."

Where does the Bible talk about women having careers, or supporting their families? Proverbs 31 does talk about what a virtuous woman would do, and it encompasses a variety of things. All of those things are "support" for her family, but they are home-centered: she is caring for her household. She isn't off working in a factory or waitressing at a restaurant while she pays someone else to care for her children. She isn't sitting in an office while her precious children are being educated at the local public (or even Christian) school.

Instead, she is home. She is working at home... preparing food, seeing that everyone is clothed, working in her field, making things and just generally being productive. Her husband and children call her "blessed", and she causes her husband to be respected and honored by others.

I won't take the time to go into detail about everything the Bible says about a woman's responsibilities, or everything that a good wife does for her family and household. I simply want to say that the Bible portrays a woman as a wife and mother, caring for her husband and children, and NOT as a successful career woman who is a wife and a mom in her spare time.

"Success" as our culture defines it is so different from the "success" that the Bible teaches. The world doesn't really care if your children don't love God; that's "okay" as long as you live in a nice house, wear the latest styles, and drive a nice vehicle. I've seen those families... the ones where the children go through all the "normal" stages of life, where a few of the daughters get pregnant out of wedlock, where a few of the sons use drugs, and where almost all of them grow up to enter unhappy marriages, trying to juggle  careers and maybe one or two children, if they feel they have the "time" to plan a child in there.

On the other hand, I have witnessed close families, with multiple children, where the siblings actually get along and love to be together. Families where the children have learned real skills and exceptional knowledge because they had a personal "teacher", their mom, spending time educating them, long before the "normal" children even got sent to pre-school. Families where the daughters and sons actually remained pure for their wedding day.

I'm not saying that just because a family has a stay-at-home mom, their life will be perfect, or their children will be "perfect". But I have seen how obedience to God's word produces good fruit.

2. Having the wife/mom stay home actually saves money

I was raised in a home where my mother didn't have an outside job. Oh, she had plenty of "jobs". In fact, I think her "job" list is never-ending! Gardening, caring for her children, cooking, cleaning, homeschooling... the list goes on, and what would have to happen if she had an outside job? Well, the children would be in public school. The cooking and cleaning would have to either not get done, or largely be taken over by someone else, whether it meant going out to eat or buying quick frozen dinners, and hiring a maid to clean the house.

But wait, because all of those things cost extra money.

For example, simple cooking can be learned by even grade-schoolers (so a mom has no excuse for "not knowing" how to cook*!), and can save so much money on food. A wife who has the time to pack her husband a lunch for at work, or make dinner every night for the family, will not only be feeding her family healthier things, but saving a lot of money. Eating out even just a few times a month can easily increase your food budget by 20%. If you don't believe me, just keep track of how much you pay for each meal every time you eat out, and add it up at the end of the month. ;)

If you have children, you must calculate the cost of daycare. No one will ever care for and love your children like you would yourself, even if you think you have found the most loving babysitter for your children. And here are so many women, paying money for inferior care for their children rather than staying home to be a mom.

If you're sending your little baby off to daycare, you're either going to have to express breastmilk for them, or do as most working moms do, and feed them formula. Besides the great benefits of breastfeeding that you would be missing, have you ever priced formula? Breastmilk is free, along with being better for the baby AND the mom. Most daycares wouldn't allow cloth diapers, so you can also automatically add the cost of disposable diapers, along with extra trips to the doctor because of all the germs that get passed around from child to child.

Public school is "free", but you should at least know the statistics for how many 14-year-olds in public school aren't virgins anymore, or how many 16-year-olds have smoked marijuana. Homeschooling can produce remarkable academic results**,  surpassing public schools.

With a two-income home, you usually need to have two vehicles, so add up the price of an extra vehicle, the extra insurance, and all the extra gas from running kids to daycare and going to work.

And since you will be adding to your husband's income, you'll both get to enjoy paying higher taxes. One-income homes often pay a lower percentage of the income to taxes, so your husband might bring home more when you stay at home than he does when you work outside the home!

Besides all these bigger things, there are so many things a stay-at-home wife and mom can do to be frugal. Simple mending, cooking from scratch, watching for sales at the grocery store, packing lunches, giving her children haircuts, going to thrift stores or garage sales instead of paying regular price for everything... the list goes on, but this isn't meant to be an article all about thriftiness. ;)

So, add up the costs of working outside the home, and you may find that you're working 40+ hours each week and earning just a dollar or two an hour by doing so. I know of a woman who admitted that she was actually losing money by working at her job, but she just didn't want to spend all day at home with her family.

3. Having the wife/mom stay at home is better for the family

A home where the wife/mother stays home all day can be much more peaceful and orderly. The mom spends all day with her children, teaching them how to run a household and homeschooling them. They do things, fun and educational, all day. The parents know what influences their children are around. They control what their children see and hear. When something sinful is noticed, the parent is there to say, "Do you see that? That is wicked. YHWH says not to do that. We want to obey YHWH, don't we?" :)

Parents who homeschool aren't necessarily trying to shield their children from sin, but rather to equip and prepare their children to respond to sin. A 5-year-old isn't usually ready to be thrust into a group of other 5-year-olds who already have dirty mouths and rebellious ways, and be expected to not conform, especially when they spend every weekday with these same children. Home educations allows for a broad education where the parent is learning right beside the child.***

A wife who stays at home has time to make nutritious meals. She has time to serve her family. She's there when her children need her. She knows that a healthy marriage and an orderly home are worth far more than expensive furniture, entertainment, or luxuries.

But.........    How can you afford to stay at home when your husband only makes ____??

Reduce your expenses. We all pay money for things that we don't NEED. Realise that you CAN live on less. Realise that investing in children is for eternity; investing in "things" is worthless. As a wife, be willing to go without for the sake of your family. If there is extra "spending money", let your husband enjoy it. Stop trying to make more money, and start trying to spend less.

Some people who think they must have two incomes to survive might be surprised if they learned that other families live comfortably on less than half of their budget. Start budgeting, and start figuring ways to reduce your spending.

A friend of mine told me that her husband says, "If we can't live on my income, then we're spending too much." What a great outlook, and so vastly different from what the world tells us.

As for me personally, I just couldn't afford NOT to stay home.

*I am NOT saying that everyone must LOVE to cook. I don't always LOVE to cook. :D But what I am saying is that when a woman dislikes cooking and would rather work outside the home so her family can go out to eat or buy prepared foods from the store, she is being selfish. Being a good mom often requires sacrificing our "free time" and our own desires for the good of the family.

**I am NOT saying that "all homeschoolers are smart, all public schoolers are dumb". But homeschooling cannot be dismissed on a purely academic level.

*** We love to tease my mom about having to take Algebra classes for so many years, since she has taught it to us all. (She currently has two years of Algebra II left, and one year of Algebra I). ;)

Our labor day events...

Our lawn hadn't been mowed for over a month, and with our recent rains, was getting quite high! I enjoy mowing, but it can be tricky to find a good time to do it, since it takes me about an hour, and then I need a shower before I do anything else. But it's great exercise and fun! Today I mowed for about 30 minutes and then the neighbor lady came over on her big riding mower and helped me; we both mowed for 10-15 minutes and then it was done! Yay!

I took a shower and was going to update my blog, but Eliyahu woke up! He hadn't been sleeping very long, so I went into our bedroom and nursed him and he fell back to sleep. I was pretty tired myself (I'm not sure why I'm more tired when I've gotten 8 hours of sleep than I am when I've only gotten 7... either way I never feel like getting up in the morning...) so I fell asleep with him and we both slept for almost an hour! Wow! :)

I awoke to Joshua whispering to me, "Yehoshua wet the bed... will you finish feeding Eliyahu and come down?" Eliyahu woke when I got up, so we all went downstairs and I changed Yehoshua's bed sheets. He's still in a crib, so the sheet is small and the mattress is easy to clean, thankfully.

So, I took the children outside and we hung up laundry while we admired the freshly mown lawn. Am I the only person who constantly wants to peek out the windows at the grass whenever it's just been mowed? ;)

We made Garlic Green Beans for dinner, and they were SO good!! I love garlic, and never before knew that it went well with green beans! :) They weren't Joshua's favorite, unfortunately, since he doesn't like very strong garlic. He loves garlic bread, but sometimes I make it too strong for his tastes (by accident... since I never measure... lol!).

In true Labor Day fashion, Joshua grilled our dinner...  Joshua grilled a large texas broil steak that we had in the freezer. We split the steak and there was still a little left over! It sure was tasty! It was still a reddish pink inside, just the way we like ours. I will hopefully add the recipe tomorrow!

We also had some Italian Cheese Bread, which has become one of our newest favorites, thanks to guest chef Lindsey! Yehoshua calls it "pizza". ;)

And, we had a new potato recipe, which was really tasty, but is waiting for a future guest chef article before it's announced. ;) Just had to test it first ;)

After dinner, Eliyahu had a bath, and then we all went outside. I took down laundry, and Joshua lowered Yehoshua's toy bicycle seat (which he can only ride with help).

Then we (okay, I) got the bright idea of cutting down all the little trees that were growing up along the flower beds and near the bigger trees. Joshua and I used his pocket knife to cut them off, and Yehoshua carried them to the brush pile. I can't believe how much better it looks out there now! Now, I just need to make time to weed everything... sweep the garage... clean the car... clean the basement... and all the other "big" jobs I keep putting off! :D

And now it's late, and I'm tired... I was supposed to can tomatoes all day with my mom, but we changed that to Wednesday. Tomorrow is housecleaning day. I better get some sleep so I can actually get things done tomorrow! So often I feel like I am just dragging... having to force myself to work faster or get motivated, particularly after meals, when there are leftovers and dishes and children to care for... :)

I guess in all, I do okay... but I feel tired a lot, and I'm always behind on something!

One thing I determined to start doing this past week, was flossing my teeth. I know it sounds silly, but I have been doing the minimal (just brushing) for my teeth for years, and I decided to finally make myself floss once a day, and brush and use mouthwash twice per day. My teeth have felt so clean (I love that!!)... I hope I can keep at it and not get forgetful. I want to have healthy teeth and gums! I haven't been to a dentist for about 5 years now, but I have a history of gum disease and really do need to take care of my teeth.

There are so many things I want to do, though! I will have to write another post later about this. I'm off to bed! :D

How to eat meatballs for a week, and a cabbage recipe

Italian Meatball Soup recipe

Last week, I thawed out a package of my homemade meatballs. (I bake a large amount of meatballs and then package and freeze them for quick meals later!) The package had about 25-30 meatballs in it, and here are the meals I made from it.

First, we had homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs. This is one of Joshua's favorites. :)

Then, we had Spicy Meatball Sandwiches. Joshua likes this a lot; I think it's good, but if it were just me, I'd eat leftover spaghetti rather than making a sandwich. ;)

And lastly, I made Italian Meatball Soup. Joshua created this recipe, and it's SO good! I made a fairly large batch (since it has a lot of vegetables and pasta, and doesn't call for a lot of meat) and it lasted 2 meals. I think I got just the right amount of salt in it, and that makes such a difference, too. :) All the photos I took of it didn't turn out very good, unfortunately...

I just added our recipe for fried cabbage. My mom made this every year with cabbage from our garden. Now, I make it occasionally... just whenever we have cabbage that isn't already "spoken for". :) My mom gave me a head of cabbage from the garden last week. I had a big plate of this fried cabbage a few days ago and it didn't seem to affect Eliyahu, so now I plan to make some cabbage rolls or something. :D

Quick notes

New poll: Do you grow a vegetable garden?

New recipe we tried: Three Citrus Lemonade (Thanks, Hidden Wisdom Magazine! :D)

This evening, we took our grill over to my parents' house and Joshua grilled steaks for everyone. Yum! I had my hands too full with the children to be able to take many photos. It was a dreary day outside. This whole week has been rainy. I guess it is September already!

When we got back home, I gave the children baths. Yehoshua was a royal grump, crying to no end. Nothing would satisfy (why didn't anyone tell me that 2-year-olds still cried?!) but now he's asleep. I think I'm going to go warm up some leftover baked nachos and hang out with Joshua. :D


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