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Last year, my daughter Deb asked if she could interview me for a few Christmas posts at her blog, The Queen Mommys Cafe.  She asked the questions and I gave the answers. This is the first part of the interview, and I wanted to share it with you this Christmas season...

1) I’d like to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself, Queen Martha.

I wear a lot of ‘hats’ in my world, but my favorites are wearing my wife, mom & nana hats. What a privilege to be given those special places of honor. When I was a kid, my mom spent much time at the sewing machine, so I would work in the kitchen. I developed a love for making dishes then, and even more, after marrying a man who is willing to try anything, and then enjoying hosting company, who enjoyed the recipes I shared. It’s just kinda snowballed since then.

God has given me the gift of encouragement, and so I spend a few hours a day at the computer, along with several hours a week, at the dining room table, where I enjoy writing out cards to mail to help brighten days for dear ones in my life.

I had a story published in Christian MiraclesAmazing stories of God’s Helping Hand in Our Everyday Lives in 2005. I won $100 for a recipe contest in American Profile – a paper magazine distributed in newspapers nationally – for butternut squash bake in 2006. That, plus 5 other recipes of mine were included in their Holiday Cookbook in 2007. I’ve publicly shared our life’s ‘God-story’ a few times, and have spoken for Mother’s Day dinners and also shared encouragement ministry ideas.

I love to say “I’m not a professional speaker, but I AM a professional talker”.

2) What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories? What are your favorite Christmas memories as a mom?

I do think my most favorite Christmas memory as a child is the year I realized there wasn’t a Santa. My mom had made my older foster sister and me matching plaid nighties, and it dawned on me (though I hadn’t had a glimpse of her making them, that SHE made them. I was probably 10 or 11.) Holidays celebrated with the aunts and uncles on both/either sides of the families are special memories also. I’ve always been so saddened that my own children missed out on those growing up times with family that I so enjoyed…since we were military and lived far from home. We rarely had $funds$ to make it home for the holidays very often.

My favorite Christmas as a mom is tough – I loved them all. Having my children help as we ‘worked’ together doing the decorating was always so much fun. The music going, the candles burning, as we sampled goodies we’d already made….those are all my favorites.

3) What are your favorite things to do during the holiday season? How do you prepare for them? What tips & tricks can you share about making your preparations simple and time-saving?

I LOVE baking – trying new recipes, a few times a week, and sharing the goods. I begin stocking up on baking items – chocolate chips, nuts, brown and powdered sugars, etc. when they’re on sale – probably beginning in October. I usually have an extra 5# bag of flour in the freezer, so I don’t run short at the last minute. Shopping with coupons, especially with store sales, and shopping at discount stores like Aldi’s, Big Lots, or Sam’s Club can really help me get stocked up.

I keep a few lists going at once….I have a running grocery list…I taught my kids when they were younger, to add to the list when they used the last of something, and that really helped keep on top of things.

Now, that I no longer have those ready and helping hands, every day at least, I keep a list handy where I can write things down when I realize I’m almost out. I like to have the salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, out on the counter ready to be measured. After I’ve used it, I set it on a different place in the counter, so I know it’s already been used…just in case I get interrupted in the middle of what I’m doing.

Because I have many cookbooks, and love to sit and read them, I keep a running list of recipes I want to try, with cookbook name, and page number handy, so when the mood strikes, I can review my list and decide which one would work best for my time frame.

I do have a kitchen drawer full of recipe files and collected recipe cards that I use most frequently. It’s where I also keep my most recent cookbook magazines. And I normally have a pile of recipes on the countertop…sometimes I need to see the recipe to be reminded of it, and that seems to work for me, since I do have enough countertop to do that.

 

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It has nearly brought me to my knees to have to pay high dollar for my laminate floor cleaner, so you can imagine the thrill it was to find a homemade recipe recently.  I had everything on hand and have been amazed by the results!

HOMEMADE LAMINATE FLOOR CLEANER

1 cup water
1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 cup white vinegar
1 Tb. liquid dish soap

Mix together and put into a spray bottle.  Use as you would purchased cleaner – and enjoy the $$ savings!!

My daughter, Deb, is doing a lot of ‘homemaking cleansers’ recently – so I wanted to share her ideas from a recent blog post….

Happy Homemaking Gals!

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taco-large

I know some of you women are working outside the home, and it always feels good when you can get a few things done ahead for dinner. This is one of those ideas that can help you prepare some simple-to-throw-together meals.

TACO MEAT

2 – 2/1-2 # ground beef
1 – 2 pkg. taco seasoning, according to taste
1/3 cup water

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef.  Break up the larger pieces with your wooden spoon and stir occasionally until no longer pink.  Drain – place back in skillet and stir in the seasoning.  Add the water and let it simmer a few minutes until liquid has evaporated.

When meat has cooled, place it in a container and refrigerate, or divide into 2 or 3 labeled freezer bags for use later. It can be frozen up to 3 months.  When ready to use – defrost in the microwave and heat through for a quick meal.

TACOS

10-12 flour tortillas (taco size)
1 tomato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
lettuce, shredded
cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ozs. sour cream
To make the tortillas more pliable, place the stack of tortillas between damp paper towels and place in the microwave for 10 – 20 seconds on high.  Fill each tortilla with meat mixture and your favorite toppings.

(I love tacos with a crunch, and love to use the hard shell inside the soft shell, for easier eating).

TACO SALAD

1 head of lettuce, torn into pieces
5 plum tomatoes, diced
8 ozs. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 – 12 oz. bag nacho cheese or taco Doritos, crumbled
Catalina dressing
Prepare tomatoes, lettuce and cheese a day ahead. (Don’t use a knife to cut the lettuce – the edges will turn brown). Cover and store in refrigerator.  You may heat the meat a little, but not too much, because it will wilt the lettuce if added to the salad when it’s hot. Yield 8 – 10 servings

I recommend keeping everything separate – once you mix the tomatoes, lettuce, cheese & chips together, the leftover salad does not keep well.

Enjoy!

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It’s the time of year to enjoy apples!

apples

credit:Southernpixel

This recipe has been a family favorite for a long time. I love the ease of it and it tastes wonderful too. It can be cooked in the microwave as well as the oven, so that makes it even quicker than quick too. This is a recipe I have taken with me when I travel, because it’s always fun to prepare it when I’m visiting someone’s home for a time, and doesn’t require any special ingredients.

QUICK APPLE CRUNCH

4 cups peeled, sliced apples (I prefer gala, but any cooking apple works well)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350. Spread apples in bottom of 8″ X 8″ pan.  Sprinkle with water.  In medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients with pastry blender, until crumbly. Sprinkle over apples.  Bake uncovered for 40 miinutes at 350 or bake in microwave-safe dish for 12 – 15 minutes on high – testing after 10 minutes.  Serve warm with milk or ice cream.

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I always enjoyed planning meals when my kids were growing up, but I think it had to come to me more naturally than for some.

I have tried many new recipes, and still do, and my family probably wished I would have served some things more often.  I would love to share some ideas to help those who tend to have a hard time creating menus for their family.

  • Post your weekly menu on the refrigerator door. You don’t have to stick to it, but at least you’ll have some ideas to choose from when you’re hungry for a certain taste.  If you have teenagers or younger trustworthy kids, maybe they could help by preparing a dish, or even preparing an item for dinnertime, like mixing/making muffins from a mix.
  • Set your own family traditions – have pasta on Wednesdays or grill burgers every Friday.  We love having breakfast for dinner, on Sunday evenings.
  • Come up with 3 or 4 weekly menus and rotate them. Keep them simple and learn to substitute fresh veggies and fruit when they are in season.  To make things easier, plan a week’s menu using the same cookbook.
  • Cook a double portion and freeze for a quick meal on a busy night.  This website has awesome ideas to help get you going with this great plan… Freezer Cooking
  • Don’t be afraid to try new recipes. Ask a friend who you know is a good cook, to share some of their recipes and menu ideas with you. I have to admit…I try many more dishes, because I’ve been given the recipe by someone I trust. They have helped me ‘blossom’ and grow in the kitchen – literally (teehee).
  • I’ve recently become acquainted online with a new cookbook author, Jane Doiron.  I’m thrilled that she sent me a copy of her new cookbook to review. Check out her website Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms . You can subscribe to her monthly newsletter there and have a recipe sent to your inbox along with it.

If you need some help finding forms to accomplish your meal planning, be sure to check out DonnaYoung.org or Organizing Junkie!

Whether you are someone who relishes your time in the kitchen or spends as little time cooking as possible, just remember that family bonds and memories are made around the dinner table.   Your kids won’t remember the meals they were served, nearly as much as they will remember the precious times you spent together.

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With cooler weather setting in, sometimes you want to get the oven going and do some baking.  These delicious and simple recipes – with only a few ingredients – are great to whip up for kid’s lunches or an anytime snack/dessert.

CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER COOKIESchocolate cookie

1 – 16 ozs. tub chocolate fudge frosting
1 egg
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Remove 1/3 cup frosting from tub.  In a large bowl, combine egg, peanut butter and remaining frosting. Stir in flour until moist.  Drop by rounded Tablespoons 2″ apart onto greased baking sheets.

Flatten cookies with a fork dipped in sugar.  Bake for 8 – 11 minutes or until set.  Remove to wire racks.  Cool completely; spread with frosting.

Yield: 3-1/2 dozen

********

CHERRY CHIP CHEESECAKE BARS

1-18 oz. pkg. cherry chip cake mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 – 8 ozs. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 – 16 oz. tub cherry ready-to-spread frosting
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Beat cake mix (dry) and butter in large bowl on low speed until crumbly; reserve 1 cup. Press remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9″ X 13″ X 2″ baking pan. Beat cream cheese and frosting in bowl together on medium speed until smooth.  Beat in eggs and blend well.  Pour over crust – sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.  Bake about 45 minutes or until set; cool completely. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Cut into bars – refrigerate any leftovers.

(My daughter-in-love, Kym, has made this recipe using cream cheese frosting and it was wonderful too!)

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Dessert is a sweet treat after any meal.

But sometimes you may not have time to prepare anything ahead. Try these fast & easy ideas to top off any meal.

Tickle your tastebuds with some fresh fruit combinations..

 
strawberries
Twirl strawberries, sliced kiwifruit, and mandarin orange segments in microwavable dipping chocolate.  I find mine in the produce section, but yours may be in the baking aisle or near the ice cream toppings.

For a pretty parfait, layer fresh blueberries, strawberries, bananas or peach slices with instant white chocolate, cheesecake, or vanilla pudding and serve with vanilla wafers.  You may also add a layer of granola for crunch and eye appeal.

Doesn’t a caramel apple yogurt parfait sound yummy? And it’s healthy too – put some yogurt in the bottom of a parfait glass, add some chopped apple, more yogurt, then top with some fat free caramel ice cream topping and pecans. MMM!

Or…When you have time, prepare cookie dough ahead and place tablespoonsful on baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then transfer to freezer bags or containers. About 30-45 minutes before baking, place individual cookies on baking sheet and cover with waxed paper. Bake when thawed – then serve warm homemade cookies!

Yuuummm!! ME – COOKIE MONSTER!

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