Monthly Archives: November 2013

Tried And True Family Favorites For Dinner


Pizza. Show me a kid who doesn’t love pizza and I’ll show you a weirdo. It’s everyones go-to party food. Problem is, take out or delivery can cost an arm and a leg, especially for a family as big as ours. And those frozen pre-made pizzas tend to taste like crap. Especially once you have had a bite of real homemade pizza.
This is the recipe our family had been using for years. my kids LOVE to help make it. It’s easy and relatively cheap. It’s not quite from-scratch. I’ve yet to begin making my own jarred tomato sauces or cheese. (frankly, I’ll never be able to make my own cheeses. Ain’t no one got time fo’ dat.)

Dough ingredients:
1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp from a jar)
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sugar &1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP oil (I prefer olive)
2 cups flour
dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sugar, salt, oil, and 1 3/4 cup flour.
Knead until dough is elastic and smooth, adding flour as needed. (this takes about 5 minutes)

Divide dough in half. Pat each half into a 10-inch circle on a pizza pan, pizza stone or cookie sheet. (pan should be lightly greased)
1 can of your choice pizza sauce.
dried oregano, basil and garlic
1-2 bags of shredded mozzarella cheese (depends hwo much cheese you prefer)
any meats, veggies, etc… you enjoy on your pizza. 🙂
With a spoon, spread a layer of sauce onto each dough half. If you prefer a crust , do not spread sauce all the way to the edges. Sprinkle a bit of your seasonings over the sauce.
Sprinkle half of your cheese over each pizza, then add your toppings, then layer the remaining cheese on top of it all.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes (until crust is golden brown and cheese in bubble.
Serve with a salad and you have a full meal. 🙂 And kids, even little ones can help with the salad too! Tossing in cucumber slices, tearing lettuce, etc…
This pizza dough can also be made into calzones. 🙂 Simply divide into smaller portions, put a couple spoon fulls of sauce onto a half of each circle, add your toppings and seasonings and cheese and fold over to form a pocket. Use a fork to seal edges. Bake until crust is golden brown. 🙂
This one requires a side dish of cornbread to make it a very filling, satisfying, cold-weather dinner. 🙂
1 bag of dried bean soup mix.
1 ham steak, cubed OR 1 lb leftover chicken shredded off the bone OR 1 lb Italian sausage, sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups shredded cabbage or fresh spinach leaves or kale
2 carrots, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1 small bell pepper (green), diced
2 cloves fresh garlic
3 potatoes, cubes

Cajun seasoning mix:
(adjust according to preference. Our family like sit a bit spicier than some)
3 tsp salt, 2 TBS oregano, 1 TBSP paprika, 2 TBSP cayenne pepper, 1 TBSP black pepper
splash of hot sauce (if preferred.)

Soak your beans overnight in a large pot.
Drain and rinse beans (rinsing them cuts way down on the gassiness factor of ingesting beans)
Simmer in a large pot or large crockpot with all ingredients. the longer you simmer, the more flavorful the soup will be and the better your house will smell. 🙂 I usually let mine simmer about 4-6 hours on the stovetop.

feel free to top this with a bit of shredded cheese and a splash of hot sauce or a dollop of sour cream. Yum!

Breakfast Spaghetti
This one is a great breakfast for dinner dish, served with some fresh fruit for dessert. 😉 I make it often for breakfast as well though.
1 box any style pasta noodles. (eventuallyI plan on making my own pasta. But right now I still use boxed.)
1 lb bacon, chopped OR 1 roll sausage, crumbles OR 1 lb diced ham OR 1 lb vegetarian meat substitute
1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/4 onion, diced
8-10 eggs, scrambled in a bit of milk
cheese. Lots and lots of shredded cheddar
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to directions on box.
Drain pasta and put in casserole dish or baking pan (greased) Sprinkle veggies and meat/meat substitute over pasta. Mix in a bit. Pour eggs over top. Top with cheese.
Bake at 350 until cheese is bubbly and eggs are set. (15-20 minutes usually)
(I sometimes will add black beans to this to add a bit more protein. Toss in a bit of salsa and its a mexican-themed meal. 🙂 )


Out Of The Darkness


It’s a word that gets thrown around with such casualty. “It’s a miracle I made it to work on time today.” “Its a miracle my kids aren’t arguing right now.”
No. You want to know what a miracle is? A miracle is who I just got off the phone with a few minutes ago. A familear voice, a little slower and softer than usual, but still cracking jokes. And I want to fall to my knees right in the middle of hearing him talk and just pour out my thanks to a God that I so often take for granted. But I wait until I say goodbye and hang up and then I just stand there smiling and crying and I cannot believe how GOOD “happy tears” feel to shed. I am overwhelmed with how beautiful life is. Because sometimes I forget.
Sometimes I forget until I am casually chatting away on FaceBook to a friend and another friend pops up on my screen and tells me one of my dearest friends is in a coma in the ICU. And before I even finish reading the sentence on my computer screen I am on my feet, poised for some action, but not sure what.All I knwo is someone I love is not ok and I need to do SOMETHING.
But all I can do is pray. And I do. All day and all night. No sleep. Just pray. And I post on FaceBook asking for prayers to go up and literally THOUSANDS of people are lighting candles and praying and asking me for updates and my heart is so flooded with love and fear that I don’t know how to even think straight. I just pray. I call the hospital. His dad is by his bedside and tells me he doesn’t know if he will make it. Doesn’t know much of anything. And for 24 hours I try to wrestle with the reality I may never see Brandon smile again or hear his voice. I wonder if the boys will be able to handle going to see funeral. (the older two anyway.) I go in his room and sit on his bed and cry and talk out loud to God.
The next day Chris and I go to the hospital. My friend Norma, on her birthday, with no sleep the night before, watches our 6 boys for us so we can go see him. Because that is what friends do. And it is not until the next day that it dawns on me that I never thanked her or told her Happy Birthday. (Happy Birthday Norma. Thank you for being there. I love you.)
And I have to go into the gas station bathroom on teh way to the hospital to throw up because my nerves are shot and I hate hospitals so much but I’m going because Brandon is there and that is what friends do too.And I cling to Chris’s hand as we make our way through teh maze of hallways. And the chaplain meets us at his door and introduces herself and we go in.
His wrists and ankles are strapped down. So he won’t thrash and hurt himself. Chris starts talking and Brandons eyes pop open but he doesnt focus on anything, he is intent on the ceiling behind him and he is moaning and trying so damn hard to talk. And I’m not going to cry in that room where he might hear me so I step out into the hallway to breathe. Chris begins reading the notes the boys have written to Brandon. And when he is almost done Brandon begins to yell, then scream. The nurses tell me he does that when he has visitors. He gets agitated. They seem unfazed by it. But to me, I hear pain. I hear physical pain, I hear a heart in torment. I walk away from the nurse in mid sentence and back into his room. The mother in me wants to climb right up in that bed and hold him and somehow soothe his pain. But I can’t. So I take his hand. And he’s thrashing. And I have nothing more to offer but to pray so I do. And slowly he calms.And he focuses on us a brief moment. And a few tears roll down his cheek and I wipe them away . And I thank the nurse who comes in to check his vitals and wet his mouth and lips with a sponge and I kiss him goodbye on his forehead and we go home.
And now I know he is going to survive. I tell Chris he is in there fighting so hard to get out and THAT is the Brandon we know so well. Tough, and a little pist at times. And I am so thankful for that. To see it. But now a new set of emotions. Now we worry and wonder if he will ever be the same old person. If there is permenant damage to his brain. But nothing is impossible with God and I keep praying. And all day long I am getting phone calls and texts and messages on FaceBook asking how he is doing and is there an update and all I can say is “Just keep praying.”
And Friday morning, two days after I kissed him goodbye, I see the missed calls on my phone form the hospital. And the voicemail. And I’m a little scared. And I listen to the message. And he says “Hi Princess Tonia, it’s Brandon. I’m not dead.” and I have to listen to it again to hear the rest because I am bawling so hard. And I listen to that damn message 4 times in a row because it is the most awesome beautiful thing I have ever had the honor of hearing. And I am so happy.
And I sit here now pondering how we as humans all hit moments of darkness.No one is immune to pain or heart ache or hopelessness. It drags us all down at some point. Some of us just get lost a little longer than others. Some dig down a little deeper than others. Some don’t get a second chance.
But some do. Some get more than that. Some have a purpose so profound that God won’t let them go no matter how hard they try to be released. Because that’s love. Real love. That’s how God works.
THAT is what a miracle is.
It’s light in the middle of pitch black. Its hope when everything is totally hopeless. Its beauty in the center of tragedy. It’s an 18 year old young man on the edge of an abyss finding his way back because he simply shines too bright for the darkness.
I believe in miracles.
I know one personally.
❤ ❤ ❤

A special thank you from the bottom of my heart to every single person who prayed, lit candles, sent well wishes, healing vibes, etc etc… There was a flood of love that flowed over Brandon through all of this. All too often we forget to show we care or say we love a person until it's too late. I always found that to be the sad tragedy of funerals. That the ones we are talking about loving so much can't even HEAR us anymore. It's a waste in that way.
But he got to come back from all of this and see for himself how truly loved he really is. THANK YOU for that.