Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who drained the oil from my vessel?

Last week I attend some wonderful classes at BYU’s Education Week with my mom. We had never been before and it was fun to go together. We both had crazy schedules since my kids started school that week and my sister-in-law Debbie was put on bed rest and needed help with her 2 year old, my nephew Avi. But we did get to attend quite a few classes. I was uplifted and inspired and wished it wouldn’t end. I learned a lot and felt the Spirit often. Some of my favorite classes were by Merrilee Boyack, Kathy Headlee and Mark Beecher, but there were so many good ones.

Friday evening I took Alexander and Elisa to the Especially for Youth Sure and Steady concert. The EFY program at BYU has now made it an annual event to have a concert with the singers who perform for EFY. A couple of weeks before, we passed by Utah Valley University and saw a sign announcing the concert with John Bytheway. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he is a funny motivational speaker who often speaks to youth. We have a few of his talks or books on CD and DVD and have checked out others from the library. Alex really enjoys them and wants to collect them all. When he saw that John Bytheway would be at the concert, he begged me to go so I bought the tickets. Sabrina didn’t want to go so she spent the time with her Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Sheri and Avi.

Although John Bytheway used the same material I’ve heard in his talks, Alex still laughed hard and enjoyed his jokes. John was the MC and talked in between groups of songs. Alex especially enjoyed when John Bytheway was playing his own rocked-out version of a primary song on his guitar with impromptu back-up from the great band that was on stage for the singers.

I had never heard the singers who were there sing before, although I had seen Jessie Clark Funk CDs at the store before. I didn't know how great she was. The singers were so talented and it is awesome that they choose to use their talents to help others think of Jesus. Daniel Beck’s voice is so amazing. He has an album scheduled to come out in October and I’ll be looking for it. They had EFY CDs there so I bought one. I love it and have listened to it several times already. I was a bit disappointed though because one of the young singers, Jocelyn, was really good, but isn’t on the CD. Hillary Weeks, who has been singing for quite some time, sings the ones on the CD that Jocelyn did in concert. She sounds great too. I can’t find any information on Jocelyn (that’s her whole stage name). I highly recommend this CD. So many great songs!

I came away from Education Week and the concert feeling so uplifted and I was thinking that I hadn’t felt the oil in my vessel so full for a while and it felt great. I was motivated to be a much better Sunday School teacher to the 12- and 13-year olds who I teach. I had been working on my stripling warrior lesson for several weeks and was excited to give it. THEN I went to class. We had a girl come visit us who had stopped going to our Spanish-speaking ward who wouldn’t stop talking to the girls and also two boys, who are cousins, came to investigate the church. It was obvious that they were dragged there by their mothers and didn’t want to be there. During the lesson they made several rude comments about the scriptures and how boring they are. I knew that all of this was new to them and they were probably very uncomfortable there so I tried to be patient, but it seemed to escalate so I asked the “gentlemen” to stop talking so others could listen. I did the same to the girls who were talking, but it didn’t really help. At the end of the lesson I felt drained. I said, “Well, I hope we can all feel the Spirit next week.” One girl said, “I felt the Spirit.” I’m not sure how she could, but I appreciated her effort.

I left to Relief Society feeling so down. Why had I bothered to put so much time into the lesson? I know they don’t participate or appreciate my efforts. I felt the oil draining from my lamp. All the excitement and desires I had to do better in my calling left me. Well, it didn’t take long for the Lord to call me to repentance. As I sat there, almost ready to cry, the teacher started the lesson, teaching about Elder Wirthlin’s General Conference Address Concern for the One. I was following along with the lesson, but felt immediately chastised and strengthened at the same time by the part of the talk subtitled Some are lost because they are weary.

“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. With all the pressures and demands on our time and the stress we face each day, it’s little wonder we get tired. Many feel discouraged because they have not measured up to their potential. Others simply feel too weak to contribute. And so, as the flock moves on, gradually, almost imperceptibly, some fall behind.
Everyone has felt tired and weary at one time or another. I seem to feel more so now than I did when I was younger. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, even Jesus Christ knew what it meant to be tired. I do not wish to underestimate the weight that members of the Church bear upon their shoulders, nor do I minimize the emotional and spiritual trials they face. These can be heavy and often difficult to bear.
I do, however, have a testimony of the renewing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that the Lord “giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” When I feel tired, I remember the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“’Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. …
“… Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; … and let all the sons of God shout for joy!’”

I’m feeling much better now and will try to plug the drain of my lamp a bit tighter. I can work on my weaknesses to be better teacher with a more optimistic attitude. Well, hopefully I can still say that after next week’s lesson. I already have some activities planned to help with my lesson so I’ll just keep praying.

(Debbie had her second baby, Itai. Congratulations, Jared and Debbie! He's a cutie just like his brother!!!)

Link to hear Daniel Beck
Link to hear Jessie Clark Funk

These aren’t the songs on the CD I have, but are by the same people. You can also buy that EFY CD here if you are interested:

Men of Valor by Robert L. Millet

Book Review-------- Men of Valor: The Powerful Impact of a Righteous Man by Robert L. Millet

Even though this book is written to men, specifically priesthood holders, I thought that the strong title was interesting and read it. This book is a call to all men to be better followers of Christ and to leave behind the world at this time when righteous men are so needed. It is inspiring and encouraging and has "Points to Ponder" at the end of each chapter, which make you consider how you are doing and what you can do to reach your potential. It seems that "men bashing" happens so often in our culture right now and this is a reminder to the priesthood how essential their part is in Heavenly Father's plan and how they can change the world around them by righteous living. So many great quotes from General Authorities are included (like the two below) as well as personal experiences from the author's life.

“What matters most is what lasts longest, and our families are for eternity.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard, Conference Report, October 2005, 46

“I am satisfied, my brethren, that there is enough of expertise, of knowledge, of strength, of concern in every priesthood quorum to assist the troubled members of that quorum if these resources are properly administered.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 489

I really enjoyed reading this marvelous book and I plan on buying it for several good men I know, but I also recommend it for women. It is a good reminder to me of what kind of man I should teach my son to be and to encourage my husband to continue to be. I think this will be one of my favorites for a long time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Recipes This Week II

Last week I made a few new recipes. We didn't like the Spanish Baked Chicken so I didn't include the recipe. These two were good though. Sorry I forgot to take photos. I'll add them next time I make them.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
This is really good and pretty simple. It takes a little time frying the dipped chicken, but it's not difficult and very worth it. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup and the vinegar to 1/3 cup and it was fine for us. I didn't need to make any additional sauce (like it suggests at the end of the recipe). It was perfect without it. Next time, I will probably add some green onions and red pepper flakes at the end for a little more flavor, but it was good without too.

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 c. cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. canola oil

¾ c. sugar
4 T. ketchup
½ c. vinegar
1 T. soy sauce
1 t. garlic salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry a small batch of chicken in oil until brown but not cooked through. This may take a few batches. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Mix sauce ingredients together and pour over chicken. Lightly toss chicken to coat in sauce.

Bake for one hour. Turn chicken every 15 minutes. If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced - about 6-8 minutes.

Triple Chocolate Banana Muffins

These are so moist, soft and taste more like a cupcake than a muffin to me. I didn't have white chocolate chips, but needed to use up some bananas so we made them into double chocolate instead of triple chocolate. The recipe said it makes 10 muffins, but it made 16 for me. Even better! It took 20 minutes in my oven.

1 1/2 c. flour
5 T. cocoa
3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/3 c. mashed bananas
1/3 c. canola oil or vegetable oil
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin pan or line with cupcake liners. In medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine mashed banana, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Divide batter between muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes until done. Do not overbake.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Don't fly away yet!

I remember so well my feelings when my first-born, Alexander, was old enough to start kindergarten. Up to the point in his life, he was with me all the time. Suddenly, he was leaving me for part of the day almost every day. I wouldn’t know all of his accomplishments through the day. I wouldn’t be there to see all the new things he was learning or to see what happened to make him sad or upset. I’m crying just thinking about it. I couldn’t believe that 5 years had passed since I took him home from the hospital. His teacher let me go once a week to help in the class. (The teachers are happy for parents to help!) I got to see him have fun with his friends, do his work well and occasionally mess up a little. He was okay without me. Then at the end of the year, they had kindergarten graduation. They had practiced a program with songs. One of the songs was something about the kids being like little eagles learning to fly out of their nests. That made me sad because I wasn’t ready for him to fly away. Of course, he didn’t really fly away, but children spend most of their day at school and then doing homework so it sometimes feels like it.

Well, back to the present. My little kindergarten eagle is starting junior high in less than 2 weeks. I can’t believe it. I remember being in 7th grade and it doesn’t seem THAT long ago. But it was. His biggest worry is that he won’t be able to open his locker. We went to registration at the school today and he was able to practice at his own locker several times and he’ll get to practice again the day before school starts at the open house. So he’s feeling better about that. He’ll be in band and thinks he’ll play the trombone. He took piano lessons for almost 2 years so I’m sure he can pick it up pretty quickly. It’s just the practicing that will be a challenge for him. So many distractions.

Elisa starts 5th grade this year in a new school since we moved. She has been very unhappy about having to change schools, but has a better attitude now that she knows one of her friends from church is in her class. I’m so glad they are together. I’ve been hoping they would have the same teacher. She is very social and I know she’ll make friends quickly and be fine. She is growing up too fast! Fashion is very important to her and she always dresses so nice.

Sabrina, my baby, is going into kindergarten. Unbelievable! It’s a crazy year since she only has school for part of the day and my other two have school all day, but with slightly different schedules since they’re in different schools. Sabrina is so ready for kindergarten and I’m sure she will stay with no problems the first day. I can’t believe all my children will be in school. Some days I wished for this to happen. You know, those days when no matter what you do, the kids fight and make huge messes and complain about everything. But it’s here and I can’t roll back the clock. Luckily, I still have some time before they really fly away. I’m glad because I still have lots to teach them and learn from them and lots of hugs and kisses to give!

Alexander in Timp Cave last week

Elisa at home

Sabrina on our hike

Friday, August 1, 2008

New Recipes This Week

I try to make at least one new recipe every week so maybe I will remember to post the recipes and reviews to share. This week I tried 3 new ones. I choose to make these 2 dinner recipes this week since both call for fresh basil, red peppers and arugula (which I replaced with spinach and romaine lettuce since I needed those in other recipes this week). On the first day, I marinated the chicken in the yogurt sauce for the sandwiches and also the chicken in Italian dressing with a little balsamic vinegar for the salad. Then I grilled them both that night. So on the second night, I just pulled out the grilled chicken and chopped it up and made the rest of the salad along with the side dishes. See? I was thinking ahead! (You won't see that too often.)

Basil Grilled Chicken Sandwiches With Red Pepper Relish
***** (5 star)

I marinated the chicken for 3 hours and it made the chicken very tender. To me, the red pepper relish made this recipe outstanding, but my kids didn't even try it. Usually at least one of the would, but no luck this time. Instead of using focaccia bread, I bought large rosette rolls, cut them in half and toasted them in the oven.
1 cup plain yogurt (low-fat or non-fat)
1 lemon, juice and zest of
1 garlic clove, minced
10 basil leaves, chopped
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1 garlic clove, minced
fresh ground black pepper
1 c. fresh red peppers, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
10 basil leaves, chopped
1 cup arugula leaves
4 small loaf focaccia bread, sliced in half

Mix the yogurt, lemon juice and zest, garlic and basil together in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken and coat it evenly with the yogurt mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Meanwhile, prepare the red pepper relish. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the red pepper, onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, cool and stir in the basil. This can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
For the chicken preheat the grill to high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken on both sides until it is cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes per side. Let the chicken cool slightly and slice it on the bias.
For the sandwiches spread 4 halves of the focaccia with some of the red pepper relish, then top with sliced chicken and arugula. Finish the sandwiches with a dollop of relish and the other half of the focaccia.
Chicken-Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese or Feta

I do LOVE salads, and this is so fresh and delicious! I served this with the Feta on the side since Elisa and I are the only ones who eat Feta. I forgot to buy grape tomatoes so I just used half a tomato that I had leftover in the refrigerator. I also didn't buy fresh oregano so I was going to add dried oregano, but I forgot. It was still good. I might add olives next time. This is my new favorite chicken salad.
1 1/4 cups uncooked orzo

3 cups chopped grilled chicken breast strips

1 1/2 cups trimmed arugula

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese or feta

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain well. Combine pasta, chicken, and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.
Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.
Yield: 6 servings (It made more than 6 of our portions.)
Chocolate Mint Brownies

Elisa was having a sleepover and was searching the internet for a mint brownie recipe we could make. She found this one and we had the ingredients, so we gave it a try. After the brownies were cooled, before we put the mint layer and the chocolate layer on top, I tried a tiny bite of the brownie. It was unimpressive and I even said that I doubted we'd be making this recipe again. There is no leavening agent in the brownie so they stay thin. BUT after we finished it, let it cool and tried it, I couldn't resist having more. It is really good and the pieces come out of the pan perfectly when I left the brownies out of the refrigerator for just a few minutes before cutting (which is not what I did for the photo). If you don't care for mint, I think it would still be good with either vanilla or almond extract added to the middle layer. For those of you who have had BYU mint brownies, these are similar. It's even pretty low-fat, although obviously not low carb. Good choice, Elisa!

Bottom layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (16-ounce) can chocolate syrup
Mint layer:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2 drops green food coloring
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray. To prepare bottom layer, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and salt; stir.
In separate bowl, combine granulated sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 tablespoons water, vanilla, eggs, and chocolate syrup in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring until blended. BATTER WILL BE VERY THIN! Pour batter into baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
To prepare mint layer, combine powdered sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, and next 3 ingredients (through food coloring) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth. Spread mint mixture over cooled cake.
To prepare the glaze, combine the chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring after 30 seconds. Let stand 2 minutes. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Blueberry Cheesecake Crumb Cake

Bursting blueberries in every bite! I made this coffee cake that I found on  Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts  (even though it's not a ...