Service, Love & a Cold Fighting Soup: Living Like Jesus

Moms don’t have time to get sick, and Military Wives whose spouse is deployed or away, dreads the thought of falling ill.

Never in my adulthood had I ever caught the flu….until my hubby was on his last deployment. That’s how it goes, right?

Well, I got it, and got it BAD!

Woke up drenched in sweat, chills, fever, the whole nine yards, yet I still needed to care for my kiddos. A mom’s job, well, we all know it’s never done.

I’m not one to ask for help, or share my burdens on social media, but that day, I wrote a simple message about being ill and needing prayer to get better soon.

An outpouring of love and support ensued. Several ladies brought soup, movies, meals,¬†and crafts to keep my youngest occupied. They watched my youngest, made sure I didn’t have to prepare supper for a few days, called to check on me, and even helped pick up my house! Kinda makes me wanna get sick again, ha. ūüôā¬†

These wonderful women demonstrated love by taking a moment to step away from their life, their obstacles, their problems, and their to-do-lists to help a friend in need. What a blessing they were to our family!

1 Corinthians 13: 7 says, ‚ÄúLove bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.‚Ä̬†
No one lived out this verse better than Jesus. He continuously demonstrates his love for us, but in this particular instance we find Jesus not only living out love, but giving us an insight to how to handle our trials and hurts. In Matthew 14 we find Jesus in mourning after the gruesome death of His cousin and friend, John the Baptist. He takes a moment to be alone and grieve, and then we see Him get up, and go out to serve and meet the needs of others.
When we shift our eyes from¬†our¬†burdens, busy schedules, hurts,¬†and trials¬†to¬†meet the needs or serve someone else, we live out love. We live like the ladies who helped me in my time of need. We live like Jesus, and that’s the best way to live.
Think of ways to serve others. Think of ways your family can¬†join in,¬†and though it can be difficult, remember it’s okay to be the person who may need help.
And if there’s ever a need for a hearty, cold battling soup for family, friends or yourself? I¬†got ya covered! Check out the recipe below, and it’s GLUTEN FREE:
Fight a Cold Soup
5-6¬†cups of Chicken broth (I’m sure veggie broth would be okay too)
2 Whole Carrots
3 Celery Stalks
1 Half of Onion Chopped
2 Tblsps of Minced Garlic
Kale & Baby spinach
1 1/2 tsp of Sea Salt
1 1/2 olive oil
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50-60 minutes
Chop or dice carrots, celery, and onion. In a¬†pot large enough to hold the soup, heat up olive oil on medium-high heat, and saut√© the carrots, celery, and¬†onion. Add in the garlic.¬†Stir constantly. Add in 1/2 of broth, cover pan, set to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the chicken broth, and sea salt. Bring to a low boil and add the kale and spinach (use as much as you’d like; I do a handful of each).¬† Let boil for 5-7 minutes, then simmer for 30-40 minutes. Check the tenderness of the veggies and serve when they’ve reached desired firmness or softness. Feel free to add to or take away. Hot sauce and paprika goes well in this soup too.¬†ENJOY!

Click to Tweet: Service, Love & a Cold Fighting Soup: Living Like Jesus

Click to Tweet: When we shift our eyes from our burdens […] we live like Jesus, and that’s the best way to live.

Pumpkin Flavored What? 5 Ways to Add Pumpkin to Your Family Meals

I’ve noticed no matter what I’m writing about, my characters end up in the kitchen making something that sounds delicious, and I always end up trying out¬†the¬†recipe, like petit fours (miniature cakes) Whitleigh in The Wounded Warrior’s Wife rocks.

Sad to say those sweet treats turned out better in my book than in real life.

Sigh. Frown.

The character in my latest work in progress, Leanna, is a vegetarian. So, well, that’s been interesting, but I’ve surprised myself with how much fun vegetarian recipes can be.¬†Still, I love me some chicken.

In real life, I love food just as much as my characters do, and while they all have their own specialties, my love is pumpkin. Yumness! My characters can fill you in on their concoctions, but let me welcome you to my world of pumpkin foods!

As an often frazzled stay at home mom and Army wife, I had a¬†two strong¬†longings: the desire for fall flavored lattes, and an overwhelming need to sneak vitamins and veggies into my family’s food. Pumpkin rose to the challenge,¬†and long before the Pumpkin-Flavored-Craze swept the world, I was adding that orange goodness filled with vitamin A¬†to whatever my taste-buds demanded.

What’s worked so far?

Chili:¬† Trust me, it’s great! Add 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree to a pot of chili. No one will know, and the fam gets the added bonus of pumpkin vitamins!


“Fall” Pancakes

Creamy Chicken Soup: Add 1/2 cup of pumpkin to a pot of creamy chicken soup. Now. it turns the soup a light shade of orange. If your fam is any sort of picky like mine, add some cheese, and/or a pinch of hot sauce to disguise. Ugh, how manipulative do I sound right now?

Pancakes: Instead of pumpkin pancakes, I call them “fall” pancakes. Add 1/4 or 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree to your pancake batter. Add 1 tsp of Vanilla extract, cinnamon, ground ginger, and pumpkin pie spice. Delicious!

Oatmeal: Yes, this has to be my favorite way to use pumpkin. I add all ingredients to taste, but to get started, add 1/3 cup of pumpkin to a pot of oatmeal meant for a fam of 4. Add about a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup, 1 tsp of cinnamon, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice. I also like to add chopped almonds, chia seeds, raisins, and quinoa. It’s a hit!!

Smoothie: So many ways to do this, but one of my favorites…don’t judge, just try, is pumpkin, apple, spinach, and ginger with a squeeze of lemon. Add ice, 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 honey crisp apple, 1/4 pumpkin, handful of spinach leaves, 1/2 tsp of fresh ground ginger, squeeze of lemon, and blend!¬† YUM!! Plain greek yogurt, stevia packet, apple, and pumpkin with cinnamon¬†is great blended up too. ūüôā

Pumpkin Oatmeal

No matter how you decide to use pumpkin, you and your family will receive many health benefits! Long live the pumpkin craze!!

Thought up a crazy way to add pumpkin to your food? Let me know about it!

Let’s stay in touch! Sign up for the Letting Freedom Ring quarterly newsletter for more recipes, book news, sneak peaks, freebies and more!

Click to Tweet: “Two longings: fall flavored lattes & an overwhelming need to sneak vitamins & veggies into my family’s food.”

Click to Tweet: Pumpkin Flavored What? 5 Ways to Add Pumpkin Into Family Meals.

A Salute to Love: Valentine’s Day Tips & Recipes from Special Guest Author Joanne Bischof

Hate it or love it, Valentine’s Day is almost here!

I get it. It’s easy to understand how this Holiday can cause a case of the glooms. Gooey, unrealistic, mushy love movies are disgustingly addicting, and¬†create insane expectations for relationships.¬†And all those red and pink hearts. Ugh. It’s like people have never¬†seen¬†real heart, ’cause if they had, they would know that a REAL heart¬†resembles nothing like those we see posted EVERYWHERE on Valentine’s Day! And what’s with cupid? Since when is it EVER okay for a baby to wield a weapon!? And why hasn’t someone put some clothes on that kid? It’s February, and baby cupid is flying around in a diaper shooting arrows at people. Geez. Talk about some seriously bad parenting.

So yes, Valentine’s Day or Cupid’s arrows, may cause people some sore spots,¬†but you know what helps boo-boo’s? Yes, kisses help, but CHOCOLATE kisses work better. Throw in¬†a hearty meal full of your favorite comfort foods, and BAM,¬† the Valentine’s Day glooms dissipate!

I’m here today, with¬†my¬†sweet¬†friend and author, Joanne Bischof, to¬†help you make the most of this holiday! Enjoy¬†the following¬†tips, ideas and recipes to make your Valentine’s Day memorable.

1: ¬†Remember that though Valentine’s Day may be cheesy, love isn’t, and love is ALWAYS worth celebrating.
2:  Sit down with your children and make cards and candies for family, friends, neighbors (or even your deployed spouse).
3:  Create a list of all the things you love about your spouse, children, loved one, and send it to him/her or read the list aloud.
4:  Make the night/day special by creating a nice sit down meal, or special dessert (recipes below!).
5:  If you have kids, have fun creating and eating heart shaped foods (Pizza works great! Jello too!).
6: Take a Bubble Bath…that’s a must anytime of the week!
7:¬† Decorate your table or eating area. Want romantic? Turn off the lights and ad your own! Think lanterns, oil lamps, mason jars! Want fun? Think red, pink, white tissue balls hanging around, or glitter/confetti balloons. Think, a living room fort for the kids, table for two for you and your honey…or just join your kids in the living room fort.
8: Dessert is a must! Author Joanne Bischof has a couple of recipes¬†she’d like to share from her cookbooklet¬†Heartfelt Recipes: A Cookbooklet Inspired by the Cadence of Grace Series¬†that are sure to make¬†anyone’s heart pitter patter! Let’s see what Joanne has cooking for us!!

Moonshine Pecan Pie

Joanne: One of my most popular recipes, this little crowd pleaser is a fun one for family gatherings and special events. The notorious not-so-secret ingredient adds a depth of flavor and a nod to one of the most iconic products of the Appalachian region. Of course, if you don’t have moonshine, or would prefer to leave it out, the pie is just as tasty without it! The butterscotch adds an extra layer of richness that will have your friends and family asking to take that last slice home.

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons moonshine

2 cups pecans

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

You will need one piecrust, either store bought or homemade. I have a tried-and-true recipe that I like to turn to, and I bet you do too! Use whatever piecrust you like best.
For the filling, heat the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan until bubbling. Allow to bubble rapidly for about a minute, stirring gently. Turn off the heat, and set the mixture aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla, and moonshine.
It will be important to temper the egg mixture now. Add a few tablespoons of the warm sauce tothe egg mixture, and stir quickly. Repeat, adding a few tablespoons of the sauce, several times and mixing rapidly. Then pour the remaining egg mixture into the saucepan, and mix well. Gently stir in the pecans and butterscotch chips. Pour the pie filling into the prepared (uncooked) shell. If you’re feeling festive, you can use small cookie cutters to cut any leftover dough into pretty shapes to decorate the top. Gently place the pie in the oven and bake at 350 degrees F for about one hour. Allow to cool and set, and it’s ready to serve!
Sweet Pea Moonshine

Joanne: I have a firm belief that all things taste better when sipped from a Mason jar. There‚Äôs just something about it that says ‚Äúhome.‚ÄĚ My family calls this Sweet Pea ‚ÄúMoonshine,‚ÄĚand this nonalcoholic drink is a great way to beat the summer heat. It has a hint of zing, and is a bit healthier than popping open a can of soda. With its notorious name, but innocent contents, it‚Äôs a fun drink for parties and family gatherings.

1 quart Mason jar
Sparkling water
Sweetened grapefruit juice
Vanilla extract

Fill a Mason jar half full of ice, and add equal parts sparkling water and grapefruit juice. (For the juice, I use store bought which is sweetened. If you use fresh juice, you may want to add a bit of sugar to taste.) Stir in a small splash of vanilla. There are different kinds of vanilla out there, both alcohol and glycerin based. I’ve used both for this recipe but tend to reach for the glycerin base variety as it’s a bit syrupy and lends a nice taste to the drink.

 Thank you Joanne for being so kind to share recipes from Heartfelt Recipes!

Note to the Military Spouse: If your spouse¬†will miss this Valentine’s Day with you, I just want to say, hang in there. I understand.¬†¬†It’s okay to cry and feel down in the dumps, but don’t stay there. Find a way to share this holiday with friends, family, etc. Take a bubble bath after you get the kids in bed, pop popcorn, watch a movie that will make you laugh. Make this day as special as possible for your spouse too. Send those cheesy heart covered packages, because it matters to you and to your spouse.

Mealtime Moments: Dinner Conversations & FREE Meal Plan!

Most of my favorite memories revolve moments that have included good food, good conversation, and lots of laughter. 

This is what we do with our food!
Family cookouts, and get-togethers. Sunday lunches at Granny’s house. Romantic evenings with my Honey. Dinner around our table. There’s something special about gathering together with those close to you to laugh, eat, and simply be with each other. Jesus even knew there was something great about a good get-together. He’s constantly eating and talking with his Disciple peeps, and feeding thousands–how’s that for a catering job?

It’s not that mealtimes are magical, although there are times when I’m positive the food is so delicious it is better than magic. No, there’s no real magic in dining together. The special ingredient is fellowship/getting to know one another better/sharing life. ¬†It’s sitting down, slowing the pace of your life, and giving a bit of yourself in order to connect with those you love.

I’ve heard it said that the most valuable gift you can give someone is your time, and that’s what mealtimes are.¬†

Breakfasts are busy, lunches are low key as we are separated throughout the day, but dinner is where our family reconnects. Don’t get me wrong, some nights we park in the living room for a quick dinner and movie, but we work very hard to make sure we have that time around the dinner table.¬†

Take the Dinner Table Challenge with me. Meet your family around the Dinner Table at least 5 nights a week, and see what a difference it can make. Busy schedule? Not sure what to cook? Let emeals help you out with meal planning! Check out this Vacation Menu plan from emeals to free up your time, save money, and allow for more family time. 

Not sure what to talk about around the Dinner Table? Here are some ideas. ūüôā¬†

Family Meal Time Conversation Starter Tools
Bust out Scrabble, a deck of cards, Trivia, and any other game your family likes. 


100 Questions to ask your Kids

30 Family Dinner Questions (REALLY CUTE IDEA!)



Meal Planning Can Save Your Life

image from

I feel the need to apologize for falling off the grid for a couple of weeks. My family and I were viciously¬†assaulted¬†by the flu! Oh, you don’t want details. Just know that it was super ugly and I will never, EVER, ¬†roll my eyes at cheesy flu commercials again. On a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst experience ever, one being the best, I’m gonna go with a big fat twenty. I would rather be in labor again than have the flu.

Thank heavens for freezer meals, and the love of friends, or my poor kids would have starved if they could have kept anything down in the first place. God is so good to surround me with amazing friends who have helped fill in the gaps while Stephen is deployed.

SO! Let’s talk about meal planning for a moment since we left off with freezer meals last time. I’ve menu planned for a very long time, but will admit, have fallen off that bandwagon with a thud since Stephen deployed. I’ve used menu planning time to wallow around in my sorrow, but NO MORE! (I’m smashing my fist on a pillow so you know it’s serious). ¬†A great friend of mine, Army Wife, former soldier, and stay at home mother of four, Katy Burns is the go-to person for menu planning.This woman is who I want to be when I grow up. She has so graciously given me tips to share with you AND she has even supplied me with months of awesomely detailed menu plans to help organize your life and fatten your wallet! Win win!

Katy’s Menu Planning Tips:
*Know your busy days and prepare quick meals for those days, ie: which day the kids have extracurricular  church, etc.; peanut butter sandwiches, and many sandwiches can be made in advanced. Peanut butter sandwiches freeze and un-thaw well. Homemade freezer meals are great to have on hand too.
*Build in a left over day. No one ever died from eating leftovers–did they? This de-clutters your fridge, teaches the kids not to waste, and it’s a built in meal day with little prep for you.
*Have theme days ex: Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesdays; you don’t have to eat tacos and spaghetti every Monday and Tuesday but on those days you know you will be having something Mexican and something Italian.
*The key to saving money is to make your meals at home. It doesn’t take much time to plan.
*Plan how many days a month/week you will eat for lunch and dinner. This really does help you save.
*You can menu plan according to your pay check, like meals for the next 2 weeks or meals for the next month depending on when you get paid.
*Get meal ideas from Pinterest, your favorite magazines etc. and then organize them in a folder or on pinterest you can create a meal board or menu planning board. You can keep reusing the meals that work best for your family when menu planning so you’re not having to come up with new stuff all of the time.
*Keep your pantry stocked with the following:
-All purpose flour
-Granulated sugar
-Fruit Snacks: Great to grab and Go
-Elbow Macaroni: very versatile; use in goulash, soups, mac and cheese, pasta salads, marinara and noodles
-Mustard: Can be used in barbecue, rubs, pasta salads
-Chocolate Chips: Keep at least 3 bags; you never know when you have to whip up some cookies, muffins, pancakes, pies etc.

Here are a few Monthly Menu Plans from Katy’s Collection to Get You Started!
February 2012 Menu
March 2012 Menu
July 2012 Menu

Thanks Katy for sharing this helpful information!

Freeing Up Dinner Time with Freezer Meals

Picture take from

There’s a slew of info on freezer meals floating on the web. Geez-o-pete–like A TON of info! Just type in Freezer meals as a Pinterest search and your computer may or may not break down from all of the recipes cluttering the screen. Just warning you.

Though I’ve never liked the thought of freezer meals…ugh, anything frozen and not fresh upsets my pallet, I have to admit freezer meals, WHEN MADE, are rather tasty, healthy (can be), and convenient. Life is busy. I don’t have to tell you that. With Stephen being deployed, life seems to be a bit busier. It’s difficult admitting I need help, and even more difficult to ask for help, but if I don’t want to turn into a tyrannical-crazy-haired-lunatic mom, I need to just admit I cannot do it all, and do things that will lighten my load–even if that means embracing freezer meals. Hey, it works!

I’ve menu planned for years! It makes life easier, and you really do save money. CHA CHING! ¬†I’m hoping to share some great info on menu planning soon. Stay tuned! Anyway, I just add freezer meals to our family menu on the days they would be most convenient ie. if Wednesdays are hectic, or I know we a school play Monday night, etc. ¬† Most of these meals ¬†can be split into two or even three meals (we eat less when Stephen is gone). I can use those meals for another night of the month, the next month, 3 months later, ¬†or give those meals away to someone who just had a baby or another family going through a deployment. Freezer meals can bless your belly and bless others! Who knew a freezer meal could be so spiritual? lol.

Great blog on all things freezer meals, recipes included! Click here!

A great friend of mine, fellow Army Wife and Freezer Meal Guru (That’s my title for her), Lindsey Carl ¬†has some great tips on Freezer Cooking. Check out what she has to say below:

 Freezer Meal Cooking is not a one-size-fits all! There are many ways to freezer cook!

  • Double duty ‚Äď easiest and most painless way to fill your freezer is to double tonight‚Äôs dinner and freeze the extra!
  • Short by Sweet ‚Äď mini sessions are short cooking sessions focused on a certain protein or main ingredient. This is typically done once a week.¬†
  • ‚ÄúOnce a Month‚ÄĚ Cooking- with careful planning, 4-6 hours one day can result in a month‚Äôs work of meals, the key is to have a great cooking plan! The key is to at least tripling a recipe. It really doesn‚Äôt save you anytime if you make 1 of 12 different meals rather than 3 of 4 different meals!

Plan for success ‚Äď Steps for a Successful Freezer Meal Session

  • Choose the Freezer Meal cooking method that works best for you and your family! If you are brand new, start small and grow to being a ‚Äúonce a month‚ÄĚ mom. Start by doubling your recipes and gradually grow as you feel more confident.
  • Get organized! Every session begins with a plan, which includes a shopping list and a prep list.
    • Consolidate ingredients common to several recipes. ¬†Be sure you know exactly what you need and where to find everything before you go shopping.¬†
    • For example, your grocery shopping list might look something like:¬†

                        Onions llll …meaning you need to buy 4 onions
                        Cheddar Cheese Illll ll …meaning you need enough for 7 cups of shredded cheese
                        Ground Beef lll …meaning you need 3 pounds of ground beef
                        Garlic l …meaning you need 1 head of garlic (I personally like minced garlic the best)

  • Go shopping! Take you list and buy your groceries!
  • Follow your prep list to chop dice, and otherwise organize your ingredients.¬†
    • Your master prep list might look like this:

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ cook 4 cups beans
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ cook & chop 6-8 cups chicken
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ cook 1 cup rice
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ shred blocks of cheddar cheese
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ chop 3 onions
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ chop 5 cloves of garlic
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ make pizza dough
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ thaw ground beef for meatloaf
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ brown 4 lbs. ground beef
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ boil noodles for lasagna

  • Label bags, assemble recipes, and freeze.¬†
    • Your master cook list might look something like this:

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ‚ÄĒ Do all prep work
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĒ Mix up pancake batter/butterhorns
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĒ Make broccoli & double cheese calzones
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĒ Make lasagnas
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĒ Make chicken & red bean burritos & brown bag burritos
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĒ Make white bean & chicken chili
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĒ Make cheesburger meatloaf
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĒMake taco meat
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĒ Make lemon chicken

***Helpful Tips for Packing and Freezing***

  • Freezer bags are key! Make sure you remove as much air as possible from the food in order to prevent ice crystals!
  • Glad Bakeware is awesome! It can be put in the freezer and oven!
  • Heat & Eat! Thaw entrees as you need weeknight meals. Once defrosted, you can quickly prepare home-cooked meals for your family ‚Äď even on the busiest nights!

Common Questions

  • What if I have limited freezer space?
    • Choose recipes for dishes that are easily stored in plastic freezer bags tahter than making dishes. Freeze these entrees flat, and once they are frozen, line them up vertically like you would books on a bookshelf.¬†
    • Make only 1 or 2 recipes at a time
    • Pick recipes with lower yields.¬†
    • Consider trading with a friend to maximize variety while conserving freezer space
  • What can I freeze?
    • Short answer. A lot! There are countless recipes on Pinterest, cookbooks, and the web for freezer cooking, but most of your favorite meals can be frozen. Meatloaf, meatballs, hamburger patties, marinated meat & poultry, casseroles, lasagna, enchiladas, stews, soups, and chili to name a few!
  • What can‚Äôt you freeze?
    • Here are a few things better left unfrozen: uncooked potatoes, anything with mayonnaise (including dips, chicken salad, casseroles, etc.), lettuce greens, and other raw veggies, block & sliced cheese
  • Will my food taste funny?¬†
    • Often people worry that their frozen foods will have a funny taste or develop unsightly ice crystals. These problems are easily avoided if the food is cooled, packaged, and stored correctly. The cooler the food is before it goes in the freezer, the faster it will freeze and prevent the crystals, therefore putting your meal in the fridge before the freezer is always a good idea!