My mom rarely used a recipe when she cooked. That was fine by me as I daily enjoyed her delicious meals while growing up. However, when I got married and wanted to make her yummy doughnuts, it became a problem. I still remember calling her as a new bride to ask for the recipe and hearing something like this on the other end of the line: “I use about this much flour and sugar; add some milk until it’s the right consistency. I throw in a pinch of this and a little of that. I knead the dough until it feels right; let them rise. And then I fry them in the Crisco until I can tell they are done.”
I tried to make those doughnuts. The whole batch ended up in the trashcan. I even tried them a second time—and again, the trashcan was their final destination. I knew then that if I were to ever enjoy my mom’s doughnuts, I would need her to make them.
Sadly, I can’t cook like my mom. I have to follow recipes. My daughters are not endowed with my mom’s gift either. They go by recipes too. So, before the three girls got married, and embarked on their cooking careers as new wives, I decided to create a notebook of all the recipes we enjoy.
Eight years later I’m only now finishing the compilation of this notebook. Of course I haven’t been consistently working on it all this time; the project simply got shelved along the way. However, this past summer I made a concerted effort to complete it.
I have taken all of our favorite recipes—found in numerous cookbooks, torn from magazines, accrued from cooking classes, collected from friends, and even saved from my wedding showers years ago—typed them out on my computer, printed them, inserted each one into a page protector (to protect from food splatters) and then placed them behind the appropriate tab of a big spiral notebook.
Though the original intent of this project was to help my girls, it has served me too. I’ve been able to throw away all the tattered recipe cards, messy pieces of papers and folded magazine pages and compile them neatly into one notebook. I no longer have to go searching through fifteen cookbooks before I find a recipe that was a big hit with my family. It’s also made meal planning easy. I can sit down with the notebook, flip through the different sections, quickly decide on a meal, and have all the meal’s ingredients listed right in front of me for my grocery list.
Now, by no means am I sharing the details of my system to suggest that you must do the same. I simply hope to spark your creativity—in case you desire a more efficient way to store and access your recipes and then to pass them along to your daughters (or anyone else for that matter). And if you do decide to create a better system, hopefully it won’t take you eight years like it did me!
All this talk about recipes and food is making me hungry. In fact, my mouth is watering for my mom’s doughnuts. Of course, I don’t have a recipe for them in my notebook. Maybe I’ll just give her a call to see if she’s up for making a batch for me!
As a young woman still living at home, I used to grocery shop for my mom. Then grocery shopping was fun and easy. I simply drove to the store Mom directed me to, bought the items on her list (plus a few for myself—she said it was OK!), paid for the groceries with her credit card and then took them home and put them in the fridge. Mom would use them to make great meals for the fam.
Then I got married and switched from Mom’s credit card to my credit card. All of a sudden, it got much more complicated. How often do I need to go to the store? What quantities should I buy? Which stores offer the best deals, the most quality food? How do I manage this on a budget?
I still haven’t found that magic list of rules, but the following suggestions have helped me become a smarter shopper:
Go with a list.
Critical for me. When I don’t have a list I end up wandering the store buying things I already have while forgetting the things that I truly need. No good!
Don’t go when you are hungry.
Someone suggested this with me in mind. I lose my ability to think clearly when I’m in the grocery store hungry. Of course I need more Cheetos, and you can’t eat Cheetos without Cherry Coke. I don’t need cereal for breakfast—where are my favorite chocolate donut holes? Need I go on?
Establish a pattern.
Find a routine that serves you and your family’s needs most effectively. Some shop weekly and others monthly. I’m a weekly girl myself, but I have a very shopping-savvy friend who finds monthly shopping (with weekly visits for milk) works best for her.
Do Internet research.
I ran into my friend Jenni at the store last week and she told me that before she heads out to shop she does a quick Internet search of the area stores to find the best sales. This helps her to decide which store she will go to that week.
Tailor a list to your store.
One reader wrote in with a great tip. She created a grocery list on her computer that follows the traffic pattern of her local grocery store. She keeps a copy on her fridge, and when it comes time to plan her meals, a quick walk through the list is all that’s needed to ensure she purchases the necessary ingredients. This maximizes her time in both the planning and the shopping.
We here at girltalk hardly fit the category of “grocery-shopping experts.” These suggestions are just to get you started. We hope they inspire you to fine-tune your grocery shopping technique. Consider doing a google search for more grocery shopping tips. Even better, consider your network of relationships and corner a friend who seems to have this grocery shopping thing down.
Grocery shopping may require time, thought, and skill. But by learning from others we can master this crucial task in order to prepare memorable meals for our family!
Last week we reflected upon the powerful effect that consistent family meals can have over time. This week we will consider the meal itself—how to take it from merely an idea in our head (or a craving in our stomach!) to a lovely presentation on our dining room table.
I suggest that we begin with a plan. To do so, we need to figure out where we best fit on the planning continuum.
Some of you can get by with a simple “staples plan.” As long as you keep certain ingredients on hand, you can easily produce a delicious meal in a short period of time—depending on your creative urge that day.
I’m feeling a little envious even as I write this because if I tried to pull off a meal like that, it would be a disaster! Therefore, I’m part of the group who is at the other end of the planning spectrum. I need to rely on a “menu plan.”
Wednesdays are my normal day for planning a week’s worth of menus and grocery list and Thursdays are my grocery-shopping day. I always plan the meals with my calendar. That way, I can coordinate the meal with the day—plan easy meals for busy days and the more elaborate meals for the less demanding days.
Also, to simplify the menu-planning process, I plan meals from the same category of foods for certain days. For example on Sundays I make a breakfast meal since CJ and Chad like breakfast foods. On Mondays, which is my husband’s day off, I use a meal from my freezer. Then again on Saturdays, I make sandwiches for dinner (and add a dessert to make it a little more special!) because that is the night I babysit my grandsons.
I’ve found it helpful to keep a running grocery list on a tiny dry-erase board (a freebie from a seafood market that I frequent) that is on the side of my refrigerator. The moment I run out of a food item, I jot it down so I won’t forget it come grocery-shopping day. Certain family-members like to add to the list as well. This past week “cherry coke” appeared. I knew immediately—Janelle’s been here.
Then there are times when all my planning goes awry! The meals don’t get planned on Wednesday. I’m running to the store a few times a week to buy ingredients for a meal that I’m throwing together at the last minute. Or I serve cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and hot dogs and chips for three consecutive evenings. Even though weeks like this are bound to come along, my menu plan helps me get back on track.
Whether you’re the ultra-creative type who can do a lot with a simple plan or whether you need a more specific plan like me, an effective plan is key to consistently providing well-balanced, delicious, within-budget, and peaceful meals week in and week out.
So take a few moments to consider your plan—how’s it working for you? If one aspect of your plan needs tweaking or if you’ve never developed an effective plan, let me encourage you to draw from the wisdom of other women. While we are all different, by learning from each other’s strengths, we can all grow in planning meals for our family.
In keeping with our dinner theme this week, our friend Trillia from Knoxville sent us the perfect Friday Funny. A group of men in her church have a blog called “manspeak” and one of the contributers took a rather humorous look at the differences between men and women when it comes to cooking. Check it out here.
We will be back with more food talk on Monday!
on behalf of Carolyn, Nicole, and Kristin
In Chapter Two we learn that “Elizabeth professed faith in Christ…at the tender age of twelve” but that “she would look back in years to come and seriously question whether she had truly been converted at that time.”
Mrs. James goes on to record her spiritual wrestlings: “she vacillated: at some points she felt very sure of her faith, was diligent in Bible reading and prayer, and devoured Christian books; at other times she would become completely absorbed in novels, poetry, music, drawing, clothes, and friends.”
Then, in the midst of a local revival in 1838, Elizabeth began to be tormented by doubt: “while she was leading others to faith in Christ, she lost the assurance that she herself was a Christian.” So intense was her despair that it even affected her physical health!
Finally, after many months of distress and prayer, “she was assured her sins were forgiven and she was full of joy.”
Many of us can relate to Elizabeth’s struggle with a lack of assurance. Or, if we have children, we can be unsure how to help them evaluate the state of their soul. Few things are more important than discerning the legitimacy of our child’s profession of faith or coming to a place of personal assurance of salvation.
So, we called in a pastor for this one—Dad of course! He is our go-to-source for the best books and resources on any given topic.
If you are personally struggling with assurance, he recommends:
How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian? by Donald Whitney
The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
Holiness Chapter Seven: “Assurance” by JC Ryle
For parents, he would encourage you to read/listen to:
Your Child’s Profession of Faith by Dennis Gundersen
“How Children Come to Faith in Christ” by Jim Elliff (audio cds)
“Childhood Conversion” by Jim Elliff (online article)
“New Life: Conversion” and “New Life: Sacraments” by Mark Mullery (audio sermons)
We hope these resources serve you and your children and that God may grant you the same joy and fellowship with Him that Elizabeth experienced!
BOOK CLUB ASSIGNMENT: In Chapter Three, we learn about Elizabeth’s single years. So teenagers and singles—your assignment for this week is to read the chapter and email us your answer to the following question: “How did Elizabeth display biblical womanhood as a single woman and how are you inspired to follow her example?
My husband has been out-of-town since Tuesday. Chad has had a basketball game or a practice for four evenings in a row (definitely out of the ordinary!). Consequently, CJ, Chad and I have not once been able to sit down face to face and enjoy a family meal together this week. I share this, not as a recommendation, but a reality.
On occasion, there will be days or even a week when family meals do not happen. Granted, we should work hard to make this a rare experience rather than the usual. But if a family-meal-lapse should occur in your home, don’t be discouraged or give up. A brief departure from the norm won’t destroy the big picture.
And let me mention one more important point. Even when family mealtimes are consistent, they are never perfect. I appreciate one author’s perspective:
If you have an image of some ideal supper in mind, the only thing you can be certain of is that tonight’s will not measure up. Still, something will happen. The surface will look shaggy, but underneath, over time, a form begins to take shape. Some type of ritual will grow. That overarching ritual, and the dozens of tiny ones that compose it will belong to your family, and to them alone. It will give meaning, frame, boundaries, comfort.
We hope our discussion this week has helped impart worth to all the seemingly mundane aspects that go in to putting a meal on our tables. Next week we’ll chat about all the practical stuff like planning, shopping and cooking meals.
What’s wonderful about your family’s “mealtime picture” is that its one of a kind. No one else’s looks quite the same. And as Janelle said yesterday, it’s all the seemingly insignificant habits, etiquette and personalities blended together that make your family unique.
(Speaking of blending, I have to tell you what happened to me last night. My poor husband wasn’t feeling well and so I offered to make him his favorite strawberry smoothie. I was having a little trouble getting our twenty-dollar six-year-old blender to work but that’s not unusual. Then I noticed a big chunk of something grey floating in the pitcher. I fished out a section of the rubber ring that is part of the blender assembly. I’m still not sure how it became the sixth ingredient in my smoothie. I’m just grateful I didn’t give my husband an even more memorable stomach-ache!)
It’s something as small as the way you fold your napkins (rectangle or triangle?), who takes ice in their drinks and where everybody sits. Do you hold hands to pray for your meal or fold them in your lap? Do you pass the food clockwise or do you serve buffet style?
Conversation is another major ingredient. There was always a lot of laughter in the Mahaney home. Even though my dad and Janelle are the only ones graced with a sense of humor, Dad had a way of helping us all laugh—even when our jokes flopped. Other families might be more serious and serene or have lively debates.
Then there are the stories. Simply by hearing about the events of each person’s day, you can build up a storehouse of “shared” experiences. Some of the more memorable stories become part of family lore. (Just ask anyone in our family about Uncle Grant’s picnic story!) Inside jokes and serious fellowship all strengthen—often in unseen ways—that almost indescribable bond.
So here’s something you can talk about at dinnertime tonight—what are the funny, quirky, and significant things that make our family meals one of a kind? Then thank God for these small, unique expressions of His boundless creativity.
Hey girls, a small detour from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you some news. Brett and Alex Harris are in the middle of a unique look at the modesty issue over at their blog, The Rebelution. They call it a “Modesty Survey.” Young women have submitted over 140 questions about modesty which Brett and Alex have made into a survey for men to respond. Brett has told me that they currently have 125,000 answers submitted from close to 1,250 Christian guys! So take a minute and check it out.
“It helps to imagine an ornate gold frame. Pick it up (don’t worry; it’s only pretend) and place it around the image that appears when you say ‘supper at my house.’ Bet the picture you see is very specific: These are the seats we sit in, the things we discuss. Here is the person who shows up last. That is the bowl we use for the rice…. Sitting down to a meal together draws a line around us. It encloses us and, for a brief time, strengthens the bonds that connect us with the others members of [our family], shutting out the rest of the world.”
I love photography; that is why I love this quote. It tells you to stop for a minute and observe. To pull up the image of your family mealtime. Can you see it? It can seem so trivial: What’s the big deal? You rush around, trying to get everything hot and on the table at the same time. Everyone comes, eats, leaves and you clean up. However this author is challenging us to take a step backwards and take a long, slow look at this seemingly mundane activity. There is something more that happens here.
Mealtime is a gathering. The people you love the most come to the same place at the same time. Conversations happen; memories are made. There is laughter and tears. A strong family bond begins to form—a bond that grows stronger by doing it again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.
The mundane has purpose. If it weren’t for the ordinary duties of food preparation and kitchen cleanup, than this moment, this mealtime, this bond, wouldn’t exist.
So the next time you make dinner, hang that “mealtime picture” on the wall of your mind while you grate the cheese and toss the salad. You are making much more than dinner.
Yesterday Mom proposed, with the help of Edith Schaeffer that “meals should be more than just food.”
Today, I want to call upon John Calvin to take us one step further. For a proper understanding of mealtime springs from a biblical understanding of food.
On the subject of food, the esteemed Calvin writes, “If we ponder to what end God created food we shall find that he meant not only to provide for necessity but also for delight and good cheer” (qtd. in Redeeming the Time by Leland Ryken).
If God created food merely to “provide for necessity” then mealtime, although an expression of his sustaining mercy, would be rather unspectacular. However, the fact that God created such a wide variety of foods with an unending combination of flavors and textures for our “delight and good cheer” makes mealtime momentous.
For ultimately, as with all of the good gifts that He freely gives us to enjoy, food is meant to point back to the goodness of The Giver.
In his self-described “happy sermon” about food, one of our favorite teachers, Robin Boisvert elaborates on this point. We want to encourage you to listen to this message as we continue this series. Maybe even turn it on while you’re making dinner!