Gratituesday: My One Defense

Hello from camp, again.  :)  This week, Matt and I are teaching Bible classes each day to senior high campers.  We love these kids!

My internet time is limited, so for Gratituesday today I wanted to share one of my favorite songs.  I love worshiping along with this song:

I’d love to hear what you’re thankful for this week.  Leave a comment and share!

Free $10 to Spend at iHerb, Plus Get Sierra Bees Bumpy Road Salve for Only $1.00

If you haven’t checked out iHerb, you’re missing out.  But the good news is this: If you are a brand new customer with iHerb, you will get a free $10 to spend on your first order of $40 or more!

Here’s a sample of all you can get for $30 after your $10 discount:

Free Groceries at iHerb

Here are the specifics of what I’ve purchased:

In addition, I suggest adding a container of Sierra Bees Bumpy Road Salve.  It’s only $1.00 right now – an amazing deal!

iherb salve

You’ll need to use my referral code: BID487 to get your free $10 to spend at iHerb.  Have fun!

How to Stretch a Chicken to Make Six Meals

How to Stretch a Chicken to Make 6 Meals

When I mentioned that I can stretch a chicken to last us six meals, many of you thought I was kidding.  I can’t believe you thought I was kidding.  I’m always so serious about everything I say around here.  Just kidding.  About being serious.  I’m not kidding about the chicken though.


There are six of us in our family and we all enjoy our food.  That’s my polite way of saying, “Good grief, my boys can put away a lot of groceries in a short amount of time and then come back in an hour asking for more.”  That said, if I roast a nice chicken for dinner and serve it as the main dish, there won’t be much left of said chicken at the end of the meal.  Just enough to pull a few scraps of meat together for a small casserole, then the bones are used to make broth.  So, worst case chicken scenario at my house:  One Chicken, Two and a Half Meals.

But if I cook a chicken to make broth, and then use the meat from the chicken to make several different meals…now that is the best way to get the most out of a chicken!  It’s cost effective, it saves loads of time and it’s easy.

The chickens I buy are from a farm nearby and they are big (between 4-6 pounds) and nice and meaty.  I pay good money for them (around $15), which sounds like a lot…but if I get SIX meals from one bird?  That’s only $2.50 worth of excellent protein per meal (42¢ per serving)…for my family of six!

Okay, so let’s say I cook a chicken all day to make broth and to have cooked chicken meat ready for meals.  This has got to be one of the easiest things to do ever when it comes to cooking nutrient rich and inexpensive meals for your family, by the way.  To stretch the chicken to last our family six meals, here is an example of what I might do over the course of a week or week and a half (freezing the broth and/or chicken after a few days to pull out as needed):

1.  Use one batch of broth and a little bit of chicken to make Chicken Tortilla Soup.  Because I’m using the rich broth, I don’t feel the need to use much chicken (if any) in this soup.


2.  Use the other batch of broth to make Chicken Noodle Soup.  Again, I would use very little chicken to make this as there is so much goodness in the broth.  And if you recall, sometimes I forget the chicken altogether, much like I forget to put the bananas in my banana bread.  You’ve got to love my “duh” moments.

3.  Next, I’d throw some chicken in Homemade Alfredo Sauce with pasta.  I just use about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken for this as the sauce and noodles make up the bulk of the meal.  (Add steamed veggies and a salad and you’re good to go!)

4.  For a tasty lunch later in the week I’d make Black Bean Taco Salad.  Because there are black beans and cheese in this salad, it doesn’t require a lot of chicken to complete the meal.  Yum – this salad is so good!!

5.  Not out of chicken yet, I can now make Three Cheese Garlic Chicken Pasta.  Again, the pasta and cheese and milk are so filling, not a lot of chicken is needed.  Plus, the cheese helps add protein to this meal.


6.  Last, I’d use whatever chicken is left to make Chicken Veggie Quesadillas.  With all the veggies to fill these quesadillas, the small bits of chicken add just a little bit of protein to complete the meal!


Now, I feel very strongly that our family needs good, healthy protein at each meal, so I’m not usually parked in the “skimp on meat” camp.  We eat lots of eggs and nuts and beef and other meat.  But getting a lot of goodness out of one chicken is a great way to cut down on time in the kitchen and save money too!

The moral of the chicken stretching story is:  If you don’t use the chicken as the main part of the meal, but just as a supplementary part…you too can stretch a chicken for all it’s worth.

What is your favorite way to stretch a chicken?  As in…what are your favorite meals to eat with leftover, cooked chicken?

Disclaimer:  No chickens were actually stretched during the writing of this post. 

This post was originally published on January 23, 2011.

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I Got Online and Found Some Deals For You! {Free Diapers, Free Shipping at Tropical Traditions, and More}

We are home from church camp for about 20 hours before heading back again for another week.  While we’re home, we’ll be doing tons of laundry, mowing our lawn, working in the garden, going through mail, and in general trying to catch up after being gone for a week.  In between all that, I’m excited to sit in my office at the computer catching up on some work.

First up, I found some deals I wanted to pass on to you before they expire.  Here we go:

Tropical Traditions is offering FREE SHIPPING through Monday, July 14!  This is a super time to take advantage of any sale prices they are offering.  I’d especially take a look at their Organic Palm Shortening (a gallon bucket for just $30.65) and their Organic Coconut Flour (2.2 pound bag just $9.99).  Use the code 11147 at checkout for free shipping to apply.


~  FREE DIAPERS!!  If you have never signed up for the great rebate site TopCashBack, you will love this deal as it is for newbies only.  I was really excited to see this deal in my inbox.  Even if you don’t use diapers at your house, what a great way to grab a completely free gift!  Here’s how it works:

  • Sign up for an account with TopCashBack.  You can trust them – I’ve always received promised full payment from them.
  • Read through the specifics of this deal.  Click through the orange “Get Cash Back” button on this page.
  • Purchase specified variety of Huggies Diapers for $8.97.  Do not purchase anything else – only get the exact item offered in this promotion.
  • You can pick up the package of diapers next time you go to Wal-Mart, as specified in your purchase email.
  • Watch your TopCashBack account for repayment of $9.90 – which covers the entire cost of the diapers plus tax.  Sweet!

top cash back huggies

~  Amazon is offering two 54 ounce jars of Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil for  as low as $33.92, making it just $0.31/ounce.  This price is available if you purchase 4 other subscribe and save items.  What a great stock-up price!

nutiva new

~  Want a smaller jar instead?  Get a 15.5 ounce jar of BetterBody Foods & Nutrition Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil at Amazon for just $0.40/ounce – a great price!  Click over, then clip the coupon to get 10% off the price, making the jar just $6.35.

betterbody coconut oil

~  My favorite ketchup is still a great price at Amazon!  Muir Glen Organic Ketchup for as low as $31.62 if you purchase 4 other subscribe and save items.  This makes it just $2.64 per bottle – a great price!

muir glen

I’ll sign off for now, so as to get more work done around the house.  I’m thankful to have these few hours at home to catch up! :)

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it Healthier

How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it Healthier

I’m often asked how much Sucanat to substitute for white sugar, or if whole wheat flour can be substituted one for one with white flour.  I decided to share a little bit about how I adapt “regular recipes” to make them healthier!  Please know that when I say “healthier”…I’m not talking low fat.  To me, healthier means real, whole food.  Click on the following links so read about how I feed my family and why I love real, whole foods!!  Be sure to also check out this entire series on Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating.


  • If a recipe calls for vegetable or canola oil I switch it out one for one with melted coconut oil or melted palm shortening.  It’s a little bit tough to measure out solid coconut oil to an exact needed amount.  I just kind of “eyeball it”.  If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, I make my best guess at how much 1/4 cup of coconut oil (or palm shortening) is while I’m scooping it out…then I melt it down in a small saucepan on the stove.  If you are new to cooking/baking…you may prefer to melt it, then pour it into a measuring cup to be sure you  have the correct amount.
  • If a recipe calls for margarine (I gag and then) I switch it out one for one with real butter.  This means that if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup margarine, I use 1/2 cup of butter.
  • Usually butter and coconut oil can be used interchangeably.  For instance, when I make muffins…sometimes I use coconut oil and sometimes I use butter.  It depends on what I have on hand and what sounds good at the moment (coconuty goodness, or rich buttery flavor).  If you are unable to eat dairy, you can substititute coconut oil for butter in most recipes.
  • I almost always use melted palm shortening to fry foods (like french fries, onion rings, homemade corn dogs, etc.).  Palm shortening does NOT create the same freaky effects from frying that vegetable or canola oils create.  This means that foods fried in palm shortening (or coconut oil) are NOT unhealthy!
  • I use olive oil if a recipe calls for just a few teaspoons or Tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  • You can read more about the fats I prefer and why I prefer them here!!


  • Sucanat (or Rapadura, which is the same thing…just under a different name) can be substituted one for one with white or brown sugar.  This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white sugar…you can instead use one cup of Sucanat.  However, I generally cut the Sucanat down just a hair because the flavor is stronger…and because it is more expensive…and because wow…do we really need that much sugar?  :)  Sucanat, by the way, is dehydrated cane sugar juice and the healthiest form of cane sugar I’ve found.  You can read more about it  here.
  • Honey can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I usually use 1/2 to 2/3 the amount the recipe calls for.  This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white or brown sugar, I only use 1/2 to 2/3 cup of honey.  Honey has a rich flavor and is sweeter than sugar.  I have not found that substituting honey causes much difference in the consistency of a recipe, even though honey is a liquid and sugar is not.  If anything, I find that honey makes quick breads, muffins and cookies more moist…and that’s never a bad thing if you ask me!
  • Real Grade B Maple Syrup can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I don’t often bake with it (ooh, except for Coconut Macaroons!).  I use maple syrup for liquid treats like Chocolate Milk and Smoothies and Ice Cream.  If a recipe calls for corn syrup, I use Grade B Maple Syrup instead, substituting it one for one.
  • You can read more about the sweeteners I prefer and why I prefer them here!!


To make things a little bit easier…I created a free printable “Healthy Recipe Substitutions” download.  Click the following link, print it off and keep it in your kitchen as a handy reference!

Healthy Recipe Substitutions

How do you feel about adapting recipes?  Are you good at making substitutions…or do you prefer to follow a recipe exactly?

This post was originally published March 9, 2011.

How to Finish Your Homemade Vanilla Extract

How To Finish Your Vanilla Extract

I’ve talked about making Homemade Vanilla Extract just a little tiny bit on this site.  You’ve seen:

Just in case you need MORE reasons to make your own Vanilla Extract, here’s a post about All the Nasty Stuff Found in Most Commercial Vanilla Extracts.

But for some reason, I never shared with you how to finish off and bottle your homemade vanilla extract.  Sometimes I forget important details, such as the names of my children and telling you how to finish off your homemade vanilla.  What’s his name – my youngest son – helped me bottle some vanilla last week and we took pictures.  Finally.  (Malachi…his name is Malachi.)

Once your vanilla beans  have been sitting in the vodka (or other alcohol of choice) for 4-6 months, it’s strong and ready to be bottled.  Begin by lining a colander with a coffee filter or thin tea towel.

Place lined colander in a pot to catch the vanilla.  If you don’t, you will have excellent quality homemade vanilla extract running down all over your kitchen table and floors.  Your kitchen will smell great for months, but that will only be a long, sad reminder of the wasted vanilla.  Put the colander in a pot.

Pour contents of your jar into the colander so that the coffee filter can strain all of the tiny vanilla specks out.  The vanilla specks won’t hurt anything, but it’s nice to have speck-less vanilla extract.

Use a funnel to bottle up the strained vanilla.  I have found amber bottles (recommended) Mountain Rose Herbs.

Lay your used vanilla beans on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to dry.  You can then put them into a container of sugar for 4-6 months which will turn that sugar into Vanilla Sugar!

Finally, FINALLY I have shown you how to finish up your vanilla.  And now, if I can figure out how to call my children by the correct names without running down the list of all four boys before I get to the right one, I’d be all set.

This post was originally published November 28, 2010.

Hello From Church Camp!

It’s been almost humorous how difficult it’s been to get online while I’m out at church camp with my family!  I’ve been too busy to write anyway, but shucks, I’ve missed hanging out here with you.  :)

Would you believe the one other time I finally got internet access, my laptop started acting up?  I almost cried, but that seemed silly.  So I took a nap.  I needed that more than anything.  (I’m on a borrowed laptop right now.  Internet is slow, but it’s working…at the moment.  I’m typing quickly so as to hopefully not lose my chance to touch base with you.)

Matt and I have been helping in the kitchen this week, assisting the amazing head cook as we feed around 140 people three meals a day.  It has been so much fun – and super exhausting too.  I am shocked that so many of my muscles ache from standing all day, lifting heavy pans, and in general working harder physically than I have in a long time.  I feel rather wimpy, but I hear I’m normal – at least when it comes to having achy back/legs/arms/feet/shoulders when cooking all day a camp.  Kudos to those of you who do this type of work all the time. 

It’s possible that I’m also a little bit sore from playing a game of Ultimate Soccer with all the campers a few nights ago.  I’m proud of my bruises, and I still officially stink at kicking a soccer ball - but it sure was a load of fun.  I thought you might like to know that while I completely whiffed the ball (missed it entirely. twice. while everyone was watching), and wasn’t fast enough to get to the ball many times over (but who’s counting?), I actually scored a goal for my team.  You may have heard me scream with excitement.  I think my boys were proud…and very shocked.  Heh.

Speaking of soccer, you know Matt must be dedicated to serving this week at camp since this meant he missed being able to watch the semi-final World Cup games.  We did look up the game scores on our phones.  Dude!!  What happened to Brasil? 

Well, that is the end of my scattered thoughts for the evening.  Yay for finding a working computer and an hour of online access – at the same time.  Hopefully I’ll be able to check in with you over the weekend.

Now you tell me about what you’ve been up to this week.  I may not be able to get to a computer much, but I can read your comments through the email on my phone.  I’ll welcome the fun breaks to read about what you’ve been doing!


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How to Warm Up Food Without a Microwave

Our family stopped using a microwave about six years ago when we began our healthy eating journey.  We still have a microwave, because it is a permanent fixture above my stove and would be a pain to take down.  Guests do use it occasionally, which means that I should probably actually clean it every once in a while.  But in general, I’ve pretty much forgotten that it exists.

Why do we not use a microwave?

I’d like to write an entire post about why you may want to consider avoiding the use of a microwave oven.  But I’m not a girl who uses big words or who can write informative sentences about the dangers of microwaves, imparting knowledge like, “The apparent additional energy exhibited by the luminescent bacteria was merely an extra confirmation.”  Shoot, not only can I not write a sentence like that, I can’t even read one and come away feeling like I have an actual working brain in my head.  Therefore, if you’d like to read all the big words and reasons for avoiding a microwave, I encourage you to check out all of the helpful information in this article.

Otherwise, in Laura’s simple and non-big-word language:  We don’t use a microwave because we think that it makes our food yucky.

The question I receive often then is:  How do you warm up leftovers if you don’t have a microwave?

Easy.  I warm up our food on either the stove-top, in our oven, or in our toaster oven.

Pardon the fairly ugly picture, but really, how cute can leftovers in a saucepan actually be?!  ;)

I usually add just a shot of water to the saucepan with our leftovers to keep the food from sticking.  I have also found that it is a good idea to keep the heat at a medium setting and to stir often.  If I’m rewarming Creamy Mac and Cheese or something else milk based, instead of adding a shot of water, I will add a shot of milk, which keeps the food creamy!

To warm up Pizza, Taco Corn Fritters, Popcorn Chicken, or Burritos and such, I’ll use our oven or toaster oven.  We LOVE our toaster oven!  We pop the food in, put it on “toast” or “bake” depending on what we want, walk away and do something else for a few minutes, then our food is perfect.

toaster oven

While a microwave might take one minute to warm up your food, I’d say the stovetop takes about two minutes.  A toaster oven might take five.  Those few extra minutes really don’t hurt my feelings very much.  It’s not so hard to wait.  My food tastes better rewarmed this way, plus I don’t have to worry about it losing it’s nutritional quality.  Those are a few extra minutes well spent.

What are your thoughts about using a microwave?  How do you warm up leftovers?

This post was originally published February 28, 2012.