Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Never Ending Grocery Shopping

Right now I'm in the middle of grocery shopping. No, I'm not walking the aisles of the grocery store, but I'm in the middle of trips. We go to at least 3 different stores and sometimes to farmers markets to find what we need. I wish we could have one-stop grocery shopping, but instead we are perpetual grocery shoppers. What are we looking for? Our 4 priorities are cost, bulk, organic, and convenience.

Costco.comWe go to Costco for bulk. Sunday we took a family road trip to Costco. Since it is 45 minutes away, it really is like a road trip. Hannah likes Costco for the samples. I like Costco because I like to have a lot of paper towels and toilet paper in my house at all times! In addition to my paper goods, I like to get canned black beans, canned diced tomatoes, pasta, cereal, eggs, pesto, mozzarella cheese, hummus, avocados, grape tomatoes, edamame, and fresh or frozen organic fruit at Costco.

Whole Foods MarketOn the way home from MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) on Wednesday, I took the boys to Whole Foods. I LOVE Whole Foods. If it wasn't so far away from our house and so expensive, I'd do all of my grocery shopping there. We go to Whole Foods for organic, minimally processed, and hormone-free foods. Even though it is more expensive,I think that keeping added hormones and pesticides out of my kids bodies is worth it. Even though we could do more, we consider dairy, meats and many fruits and veggies as organic essentials. We use this guide from M. D. Anderson to help us decide when to buy organic. We can buy most of the organic dairy and organic grass-fed beef at our local HEB, but we go to Whole Foods for many of the fruits and veggies. Wednesday we bought pears, sweet potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, chicken, milk and provolone (all organic). Also, I love the cilantro and lime marinated chicken at Whole Foods. It's one of our favorites!

HEB logoOur next grocery shopping outing will be to HEB. It is super close to our house, so we actually make lots of runs there. We will probably get more milk, more eggs, more cheese, more fruit, and our favorite treat - Blue Bell!

Please share any ideas or advise on how to make grocery shopping more concise!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Victory for Tato

Yesterday, Joseph Dueñas, the father and grandfather of the Dueñas family, a family we hold very close and dear, went to be with our Lord. As he and his family have always made us feel like we are part of their family, we call him "Tato."

Tato's presence and smile seemed to bring peace to a room. When he spoke of Godly things, he brought wisdom. We will miss him.

After visiting Tato in the hospital last week, Hannah asked me why people have to die. Death is so mysterious. We live in a world in which it seems we can control almost everything. We can make plans and many times carry out our plans just as we have hoped. We can live as though there is nothing supernatural, like everything happens because we make it happen. But illness and death - they happen despite our well-made plans.

The short answer I gave Hannah last week was that we die because of sin. Paul said in Romans 5:12, "...just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." That's very bad news, but I'm glad I have the good news to share with her!

Paul later says in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (I can't believe that there's not an exclamation point at the end of that sentence!) What good news! Jesus tells us how to receive this gift in John 5:24:
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
So, how is this possible? Isaiah, the prophet, told of what Jesus would do long before Jesus walked on this earth. Jesus "poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). He tells that the Christ "will swallow up death forever" (Isaiah 25:8).

So Tato has victory today - the victory that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56:
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin,and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We were blessed to know Tato and we continue to be blessed by his family. We are so thankful that God "made known to [Tato] the path of life" (Psalm 16:10) and that Tato followed it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

I don't know the meaning of "Strawberry Fields Forever," by The Beatles, but it will always have special meaning for our family, as it will remind us of the first time ever that we picked fresh strawberries. In anticipation of our trip, Hannah and Luke sang along with the song in the car and we all imagined what fun we would have.

After church on Sunday, we drove to Froberg's Farm in Alvin and had a wonderful time picking two full buckets of sweet red strawberries. Hannah wanted to fill her own bucket, but Luke allowed us to help him. We were all on the hunt for the reddest, purist, strawberry we could find! Enforcing the rule of no eating before buying was VERY challenging!

After Hannah and Luke had their fill on Sunday night, I began planning what I could make with the rest of the strawberries. See our strawberry feast below!

Strawberry smoothies

Strawberry Bread

Shrimp and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
Our salad ingredients were: spinach, shrimp, strawberries, walnuts, queso fresca, and balsalmic vinegar.

Angel Food Cake with Ice Cream and Strawberries

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup
Recipe from Ellie Krieger, of the Food Network

Super delicious strawberry pie
Crust recipe (I substituted unsalted butter for the shortening)
Pie recipe (I omitted the butter)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How do you like YOUR beans?

Our family loves beans. As funny as it sounds, when I eat beans, I almost feel like my grandparents are in the room with me. When I was growing up, I would go spend at least one week each summer with my grandparents and they would always cook beans. The smell of brown beans cooking just makes me feel like I'm in their house! Even though there was only one pot of beans, we could eat them in different ways. My grandfather could have beans for dinner every night, and never had the same meal. One night he might have beans and cornbread. The next he might have beans with onion slices on top and tomato on the side. The next he might have mostly broth (he called it bean soup) in a mug with a piece of bread to sop up every last drop. Even though I loved the beans by themselves, I usually would mix in crumbled Fritos and cheese.

Since they are such a cozy treat for me, I've tried to pass on my love of brown beans to my children. I serve them with Fritos and cheese, and even though this probably makes them a little less healthy, they still are very nutritious. Here is a link to an article I found by Dan Gill, who seems just as sentimental about beans as I am, but knows the facts about their nutritional value:

Recently, a friend told me she went to a bean seminar. Isn't that one of the funniest things you've ever heard? A seminar about beans - just my kind of thing! I hope they have another one and that I get to go! I want to learn more ways to cook my beans! And not just beans, but all legumes. I think I could really become a legume lover!

Brown beans were really the only legume I would eat until high school. That's when my friends, Coco and Miel, introduced me to lentils! We were on a vacation at the beach, staying in a condo, and they made lentil soup for our lunch. At the time, I didn't want to admit that I had never had a lentil, didn't know what it was, and thought it was a very strange food to eat on a vacation. But the soup was pretty good and an interesting memory. Then, after Ramiro and I were married, I started cooking more healthy recipes. I found several recipes for lentils that we really liked. I still make our favorite two - a creamy potato and lentil soup (with bacon on top because we still like our meat) and a lentil and brown rice casserole. However, since Hannah and Luke don't really like these, I'm on the lookout for more kid-friendly lentil recipes.

Luke's favorite legumes are definitely soybeans. I like to buy the prepackaged edamame bowls from Costco. He can eat a bowl all by himself. You'd think they were candy the way he gobbles them up! When he eats them, he's on a mission. He won't stop until every bean has been eaten!

Hannah's legumes of choice would probably be peas, but not the way you might think. She loves to eat them right out of the freezer. They're one of her favorite treats. In fact, she used to ask for them for dessert as if they were as tasty as ice cream! I really don't like peas, but I tried them frozen just to see if I could have another option to Blue Bell, as well. Unfortunately, frozen peas don't taste any better to me than cooked peas. Things may be changing for me, though. One of my sweet neighbors from India brought me some curried peas and potatoes yesterday. They were delicious! The spices completely covered up the pea flavor. I'm looking forward to getting her recipe and trying it for my family.

You may be wondering why I decided to write about beans. I saw this blog from The 99 Cent Chef: Cuban Black Beans. I'm definitely going to try out his method of fixing up canned black beans, which we always have a good stock of in the pantry.
I'd love to hear how you cook your beans (or other legumes). Please send me your recipes!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wonderfully Made

On Saturday, we celebrated Luke's 4th birthday with a Mickey Mouse party, because Luke LOVES Mickey Mouse and likes to carry his Mickey Mouse toy everywhere. At the party we served Hot-Diggity dogs, Mick-a-Roni and cheese, Mickey Mouse cake and snow cones. For fun we played Pin-the-Tail on Mickey, hit a piñata, and bounced till dark on a big inflatable moonwalk in our back yard. It was a success - Luke really enjoyed it, and I think he felt very special. He wasn't the only one who had a great time - I loved it so much that I told Ramiro I would like to get a moonwalk for my birthday!

While running last-minute errands for the party on Saturday morning, I heard the song, "What Do I Know of Holy," by Addison Road. I've heard the song so many times, but Saturday I picked up on the words, "What do I know of you, who spoke me into motion?" I started thinking about how God spoke my beautiful children into motion (and boy are they moving)! He wasn't like me when I try to do something creative. When I begin to create my own recipe, make up a song, or draw a picture, I have an idea of what I want it to be, but I never really know what its going to be like until its done. My results usually have a lot more to do with a feeling, a whim, or chance rather than design. However, God created my children with careful, thoughtful, precision. Psalm 139:14 says:
I will give thanks to You, for
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

God created Luke, and all of us, in a specific, purposeful way, knowing exactly how we would turn out!

Luke is such a joy and brings laughter and happiness to all of those who know him. He has a big personality and a big voice - I can't wait to see what God has in store for him! Thank you, God, for giving us your wonderfully-made Luke!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

PJ Party!

Last weekend Hannah had a pajama party (an almost slumber party) for her 7th birthday. As other moms said when they dropped their kids off, I was "ambitious" with this one. I had several activities planned for the girls - decorating pillowcases, fingernail painting, making homemade bubble bath, face glitter, and a movie to watch while snuggling in their sleeping bags. The party was from 4pm-8pm. You might imagine my surprise and horror (that may be too strong of a word) when all 11 girls had finished all the activities, except for the movie, by 4:30! What was I to do with the girls for the next 3 1/2 hours? We went ahead and opened presents. Thankfully, one of the girls gave Hannah the game Twister. My heart leaped with joy - another activity!

Of course, the most fun the girls had was running around the house screaming and giggling. I said over and over all the things any responsible parent would say - "settle down," "don't jump on the bed," "keep all the doors open," and "no running," but there were times when I wanted to just keep my mouth shut and let the girls just revel in all their girlish excitement!

During the party they also rehearsed their singing and dancing for their upcoming Bugz Play at school. They were so cute, but it was scary - they didn't look like 7-year-olds at all, but more like middle school cheerleaders practicing their cheers.

Even though Hannah is growing up so fast, she is just as sweet as ever. As she wrote in one of the books she made at school, she loves to take care of her family. She spreads her love to all of us by writing us sweet notes, drawing us pictures, entertaining her brothers, and giving the best hugs and kisses. How we love our Hannah!