Tuesday, April 21, 2015

RECIPE I LOVE: Vegetable Minestrone Soup

I am not a food blogger, but I love food and feed my family regularly so I figure I can get away with a favorite recipe or two.  =)  I only post recipes that my entire family loves ... and mostly just to remind myself how I made it so it can be made again. This soup is so tasty and filling and healthy ... and reminds me of my favorite minestrone soup at The Olive Garden.

I just made this for the third time this month, y'all. It reheats beautifully and is my lunch option on most days. Here is what I used in this batch:

The fabulous folks at Little Spice Jar posted a recipe that I [almost] followed.  Changes I made include removing the Parmesan rind, onion, and celery. I used more vegetable stock and no water. I used frozen vegetables and frozen spinach, and didn't include the pasta in the soup. Rather, I allowed the kids to "layer" pasta and soup and I enjoyed the soup sans pasta. Fewer carbs for me. =)  I also cooked it in a soup pot in under an hour although having the crock pot option is great.

From Little Spice Jar's "Homemade Minestrone Soup"

  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with garlic
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomato pesto
  • 1 parmesan rind (I just sprinkled some parmesan into the soup)
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bag frozen vegetables (diced carrots, corn, peas, green beans)
  • 1 bag shredded carrots
  • 4 - 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, rosemary (I use an Italian seasoning)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 oz) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1½ cups zucchini, diced
  • 2½ cups baby spinach, chopped (frozen)
  1. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato pesto, Parmesan (rind or shredded Parmesan), vegetable stock, frozen vegetables, frozen spinach, garlic, oregano, rosemary, and bay leaves to a soup pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through, about 15 minutes.
  2.  Add diced zucchini and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add red kidney beans, great northern beans and cook for an additional 5 minutes. 
  4. Cook pasta separately as directed on package.
  5. Serve by layering pasta and vegetable soup as desired (or skip the pasta altogether; it's delicious and filling without it)
  6. Top with Parmesan cheese.I enjoy mine with a splash of Tabasco on top! YUM!
SO delicious, PACKED with vegetables, and reminiscent of the fabulous Olive Garden soups!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hershey's Chocolate World

We couldn't spend a year in Pennsylvania without visiting the famous city of Hershey and I'm so glad we spent today at Hershey's Chocolate World. One highlight of the day was creating our own Hershey bar and watching our creation being made from start to finish. Fascinating and delicious!

We also enjoyed a trolley tour of the city, focusing primarily on the life of Milton Hershey (my new favorite person!) and the amazing philanthropic contributions he made (and continues to make, long after his passing) to this amazing little city. He and his wife were faithful Christians and spent their time, energy, and money giving back to others. We were able to see the Milton Hershey School, founded in 1909 to better the lives of children in need. It has grown to an impressive array of homes, educational buildings, and various facilities to offer top-notch education. From the school website:

For more than 100 years, Milton Hershey School has helped children to realize their full potential by offering a top-notch education to students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from income-eligible families.

Milton Hershey School is a cost-free, private, coeducational school in Hershey, PA. We offer state-of-the-art facilities, advanced technology and hundreds of extracurricular activities.

Milton and Catherine Hershey established the school in 1909 to provide a positive, structured home life year-round to help children gain the skills to be successful in all aspects of life.

Today, more than 2,000 students from across the U.S. attend Milton Hershey School. They have access to unique award-winning programs, experienced teachers and caring adult mentors.

Our curriculum includes rigorous academics with opportunities for hands-on learning, after-school homework hours and tutoring assistance. Because our class sizes are small, students get individualized attention and the opportunity to explore their own interests and abilities.

We believe all children deserve the very best education regardless of their financial circumstances. A family’s income should not determine a child’s outcome.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter 2015

We had a lovely Easter Sunday; the one day of the year I can convince my boys to dress up for church. Aren't they just the handsomest!? My preteen's girlfriend joined us for the service and she is an absolute doll. Our local church, Carlisle Brethren in Christ Church, has been an absolute blessing this year. Pastor Josh Crain had a great message titled "Out of the Shadows" that you can hear right here:

We enjoyed a traditional Easter lunch at home (ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole,and rolls) complete with Paula Deen's banana pudding in a trifle. Delicious.

We are so thankful for our family, our church, and this wonderful little community to spend this year. And, more than anything, we are thankful for a Savior who is risen and loves each of us fiercely and forever.

Friday, March 27, 2015

PCC Battle Buddies

This group of ladies provided much laughter, comfort, advice, and friendship throughout our week together at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  We gathered to learn more about our upcoming volunteer roles in the Army and came away with all that and much, much more.  Thank you for a wonderful week ... and for wonderful new friendships!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Brand New Kickapoo

We spent some time driving around Fort Leavenworth today and let me just say ... this isn't the post I remember. There are familiar sights, of course, but our housing area has been completely razed, cleared, and built again. And wow, is it an improvement. I remember my sweet husband checking into our housing a week before the boys and me ... and calling him to see how it was. He is life's eternal optimist and when he said, "It's ... [long pause] ... livable," I knew we were in trouble.

It. was. terrible. The housing was tiny, old, moldy, creaky, and dirty. Totally unacceptable, totally below standard ... and we loved our year in it.  Sure, we had to pay monthly for a rent-a-fence that was likely installed in the WWII era and yes, I could hear my neighbor open her kitchen cabinets from my sofa ... and okay, there was a full pink Starburst wrapper encased in layers of yellow wax in my front foyer surrounded by dust and hair that was perfectly preserved under the tiles, but we had the very best neighbors ever created and loved every minute of our time in Kickapoo.

The absolute absence of any counter space, an ice maker, a dishwasher, a garage or a carport, or any indoor storage was challenging yet somehow didn't overshadow the weekly Bible studies, the folk art painting class, and the hours spent outside with our young children.  It was a year I will always remember fondly and driving around the post all these years later was quite nostalgic for us.

The new Kickapoo Village has replaced our sad little octo-plexes with beautiful duplex homes complete with garages, yards, and adequate square footage.  I'm happy for these Soldiers and their families. Their time at CGSC will be even more enhanced and I'm grateful that the Army has worked to make these improvements.  Plus, I still adore my friends who began as neighbors in our little dilapidated homes.

I don't have a great reference photo from 2005 but here's a glimpse at some of our Soldiers outside our homes way back then ...

Note the wiring stapled across the front of our homes ... and just out of frame are the air conditioning units right at the front door to each home.  Bless.  It was lovely.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kids at PCC

Gather a bunch of Army Colonels and their spouses in one place ... and you might be surprised at how very young and spry they are. When we first entered the Army long, long ago, COLs were really old. Wise, but really, really old. By some miracle, that is no longer the case. My husband and his colleagues are so very young yet retain the wisdom so graciously granted their predecessors. It's quite amazing. So the week we spent together at Fort Leavenworth felt a lot like high school at times. Our boyfriends were all in one class while we were in another. I was oh-so-tempted to pass him a note in the hallway, all folded up with the "Open Here" tab ... 

I did sneak by and take a photo of him on my iPhone and text it to him (which I really think is the new note-passing anyway) ... and he proceeded to return the favor the next day. So yes, we're basically a bunch of kids learning new stuff together.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Neighbors and Friends

So first of all, shame on me. Shame on me and my husband AND shame on our fun new friends. We spent this week with some new friends who have been our neighbors since last summer. We've had a few casual chats with them but have never taken the time to get to know them or schedule a dinner or date ... and shame on us for that. 

After spending time with them this week at another post far, far away, we discovered that we love them. They are funny and fun and have a lot of the same thoughts and beliefs as we do. We went to dinner one night and closed the restaurant down, not even noticing that we were alone in the building until the poor waitress began mopping by our feet.

We so enjoyed getting to know them and hope we can bridge the gap of, I don't know, about 10 yards between our house and theirs to continue building the friendship before we move in June. Such is the Army life, but I look forward to keeping up with new forever friends.