Foodie Friday: July Menu

I just finished putting together this menu. I have to admit, I was having a sort of planner’s block this time around. BUT I pushed through and let me tell you: after putting all the recipes in the July 2017 Menu Pinterest board, my mouth is watering! I am so excited to try out some of these new recipes. I found some in Southern Living Magazine, others just searching around on Pinterest, and still others were suggested by friends and co-workers. I even got my 6 year old, Amelia in on the planning process this time!

July in Oklahoma tends to be hot- maybe not as hot as August- but hot just the same. I am avoiding turning on my oven, so you’ll notice there aren’t many recipes that require the hot-box. I love my slow-cooker year round because it requires very little attention and it doesn’t heat up the house. I love my grill too. I have a gas grill, and while some say you really miss out on the charcoal flavor, it is just too convenient to complain. I don’t have to wait on the coals to get to that “just right” place in the grill. I just turn on the gas, push a button and let it heat up for a few minutes. Then I cook! You’ll notice a good number of grilled dinners this time around. Yes, it is hot outside and grilling requires you to be outside. Yes, the grill is hot. But I am not fighting my expensive air conditioner later in the evening, and I get to watch my kids play in the yard while we wait for dinner.

I hope you enjoy this menu. I seemed to be craving Mexican when I made June’s menu, but I have several classic Southern and Creole recipes this month. I guess I’m just excited about my upcoming beach vacation. Thinking about Florida always gets me in the mood for Southern/Cajun foods!July 2017 Menu

And here’s the printable. Feel free to modify this however it will best fit your tastes!

July 2017 Menu

Successful Co-Parents Pick Their Battles

boxing gloves

It can often be difficult to communicate with and relate to a co-parent after a divorce. Sometimes, your co-parent may be uncooperative, and do things to provoke you. They may be doing this to try to gain a sense of control over his or her own life and using you to get there. When you react, you are essentially “taking the bait.”

To stop doing this, you should answer questions and comments meant to provoke with short statements. A brief yes or no response is typically helpful in these situations. Any further details can easily turn into an argument or debate. OR it may be best to not respond at all. If no response is really necessary for the responsible parenting of your child/children, just don’t respond.

In the end, it is critical to be nice. I know you don’t want to, but it’s not for your co-parent, it’s for your kids!

Other times your co-parent may do things that are absent minded and inconsiderate- like sending the kids to your house with bags full of dirty laundry when you always make sure the clothes are clean. These things can be extremely irritating over time, but are they worth a fight? The answer is no. When things like this happen, it is best to take a deep breath (or three, or four) and let it go. You could even use it as an opportunity to teach your kids how to do their own laundry! Or keep up with their own belongings using a list, or basically solve the problem themselves.

Remember, every argument you have with your co-parent leads to more hurt, more anger, and more trauma for your kids. It doesn’t matter so much how you feel about your co-parent, but how you behave toward your co-parent can have a lasting impact on how your children view you, their other parent, and relationships in general.

Foodie Friday: Sand Plums

Have you ever tasted sand plum jelly? It’s delicious! My mom has made it several times and I almost always benefit from her labors. I am not sure where her sand plums have come from, but I know I had never hunted or picked them before this Related image

week. I decided I wanted to go looking for these little wild plums and make some jelly. Sand plums, also known as Chickasaw plum, Cherokee plum, or Sandhill plum (Prunus angustifolia Marshall), are native fruit-producing shrubs or small trees in Oklahoma. Use of sand plums range from cover for native bird species to making jams, jellies, and wine from the fruit.

I was not warned about the thorny nature of the bushes. I was warned about the chiggers. I used bug spray. After 3 trips out looking and picking, I managed to collect 37 chiggers.

The plums are about the size of a large cherry, so you need a lot of them to actually make jelly. Later today I am taking my collection to my mom’s house so we can make the jelly together. Making jelly is not difficult, but as with any chore, it’s more fun when done together. I owe my co-workers some jars of this plum-colored goodness because I most definitely did not collect these sand plums alone and I am definitely not the only one who can boast a spattering of 152 chiggers.

I will try to take some picture of the jelly making process and share an update with you after we’ve made the jelly. I sure hope it is worth the sweat, thorns, and 517 chiggers.

Here’s a recipe from Kraft. (*I am not endorsing Kraft brands, but it is merely an example of one of the brands available for pectin.)

You can follow the link for the Plum Jelly Recipe.

sand plum jelly recipe

Jelly Update: 

On Friday, I took my sand plums to my mom’s house and we made Sand Plum Jam. We decided we didn’t really have the proper equipment to strain out all the pulp, and that was okay. We wanted to do the jam to make it easier on ourselves by  not having to strain it more and also the processing time for jam was 10 minutes. If you process your jam/jelly for 10 minutes or longer you do not need to sterilize the jars. So, making jam eliminated that extra step.

First, we washed the plums and picked out any bad ones. Then we cooked them down in just a little bit of water. Next, we strained the juice out. Like I said before, we only had a regular colander so a little pulp got through into our juice.

After we got the juice extracted from our fruit, we brought it up to a full rolling boil and added our sugar. Then we let that boil again for a bit. That’s it for the “cooking.” It’s good to scrape off and discard the foamy stuff at that will float up as the jelly cools.  We ladled our jam into half-pint jars and processed them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

For jams and jellies, you want a quarter inch headspace. That is the space between the top of the jam and the bottom of the lid should be 1/4 inch. Canning jars are standard, and the threads at the neck of the jar for the screw bands will be the same on every brand. You can measure 1/4 inch headspace by lining up your food with the top point of the screw band thread:

plum jelly 7

Before putting the lids on, I wiped the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel. Any sugar or fruit on the rim could keep the jar from sealing.

Once out of the canner, we set the jars on a towel. Placing the hot jars on a cold surface could cause your jars to break.

plum jelly 4

We had fun making this jam. It was quick and easy. I hope you are inspired to try your hand and jelly/jam making with your fruit collection!

Foodie Friday: Freezer Meal Workshop

Image result for freezer lasagna

Do you ever find yourself with not much time to cook dinner? You are not alone. Many people struggle with finding the time to cook dinner on a regular basis. A good way to deal with this problem is freezer meals! If you’ve got one free day and basic organizational skills, you could cook up quite  a few dishes to freeze for later. Then you can thaw them and warm them up on days when you are too busy to cook!

I am hosting and teaching a freezer meal workshop on July 7th from noon to 5:00 pm. The cost of this workshop is $40 and each participant will leave with five different recipes prepared and ready to freeze AND the confidence to prepare freezer meals at home! My intern, Mary is putting together a “Freezer Meals Cookbook” for each student to take home also. The five recipes we are making in our workshop are World’s Best Lasagna, Chicken Pot Pie,  Soup (TBD), Breakfast Sandwiches, and a Fruit Crisp. I am so excited about this workshop! I need at least 5 paid registrations or I will have to cancel. If you’re in the Chandler area and interested in this fun educational opportunity, please call us at 405-258-0560. Pre-registration is required by July 5th. (we are closed on July 4th for Independence Day).


Image result for etiquette

Have you ever found yourself in a social setting where you weren’t really sure how to behave? Maybe at a fancy dinner or a professional meeting? Do you ever wish there had been a class to take as a kid, where you would have learned some skills to help you know how to behave in any situation? I had that as a teenager. An extension educator from Murray County (Oklahoma) offered etiquette workshops at our 4-H state meeting when I was a young teen and then the educator in my home county offered a more in depth version when I was an older teen. I took three different etiquette workshops and it really helped me in college and as a young adult to feel confident in new social situations.

As a member of the Rose State College President’s Leadership Class, I had regular meetings with the president of the college and holiday dinners with the Board of Regents. While I wasn’t sure I could hold an interesting conversation with them, I was confident I could share a meal and not embarrass myself! I credit every bit of that confidence to the etiquette workshop that I had the opportunities to attend as a teenager.

I am offering a similar workshop this summer in Chandler for teens! We are going to do an all-day etiquette workshop on July 14 (9-5) and teach kids the skills they will need to feel confident when they have their new social engagements. This confidence can and will spill over into other areas in their lives. And maybe, just maybe they will start behaving better at your home dinner table!

The cost of the workshop is $17 per student to cover the supplies/food. This workshop includes a 4 course dinner.

Foodie Friday: Pork Verde Tacos

Pork Verde Tacos cooked in the crock pot and served with a drizzle of amazing jalapeño sauce. You will love the flavor in these pork tacos and love how easy they are to make! AD

This week, I made the pork verde tacos that were on my menu plan. They were absolutely delicious! This is a slow-cooker recipe, so I started my morning by preparing the verde sauce in my blender, browning the pork roast, and putting everything into my slow cooker. When I popped the lid on I thought to myself “that is going to be so good, it already smells good.” Then I thought “I still cannot believe there are people out there claiming they can’t cook! This was so easy!” And boy were they delicious! If you are not a fan of spicy foods, just leave out the jalapeno pepper and you’ll love these tacos! If you like your food really spicy, change out the jalapeno for a serano or add more jalapenos.

I will admit, I also made my second third attempt at making homemade flour tortillas. Somehow, these were worse than the first two attempts! I really, really need someone to teach me how to do this. I can make a great pie dough and I make an excellent custard but I am lost when it comes to tortillas!

Seriously, try these tacos. Like yesterday. Happy eating!


A couple walking, one with the arm around the other

Chances are you have a close friend or relative who is currently caring for an aging loved one. Maybe you are doing this yourself. For these caregivers, life can be challenging. Many people caring for aging loved ones are not trained or well-equipped to handle what has been thrown at them, and this can lead to stress, injury or illness.

What does that mean for you? If someone close to you is caring for a loved one, offer them support. You may not know exactly what you can do, but you could ask. Your friend/relative may tell you exactly what they need, and that would be ideal. Then you could help fill that need. They might not want to tell you what they need. If they don’t, there are still some things you can do:

  • Offer to bring dinner a few times a month- don’t take no for an answer. Having this one task checked off a to-do list can really be a big relief to someone who is feeling overwhelmed with their caregiving responsibilities.
  • Offer to take some of the responsibility for the day so the caregiver can relax, get a haircut, or do other personal errands. This may mean offering to sit with the loved one who is receiving care, go grocery shopping, drive kids to their activities… It could be anything the caregiver “has to do” that you could do for them for the day.
  • Help the caregiver to set up a “care team.” A care team made up of friends and acquaintances will help the caregiver focus on the spiritual connection with his or her loved one without being distracted by what needs to be done. If multiple people help with small tasks, such as fixing dinner or providing transportation to religious services, no one person is left shouldering a major responsibility.
  • Just be there and listen when your friend needs to talk.

There are many ways we can help support our friends and family who are caring for loved ones. While it would be ideal if they would ask for help, it is a difficult thing to ask. You should offer specific help. Just making a blanket offer of “let me know if there’s anything I can do,” may not seem sincere or may be easily forgotten. However, saying “I am bringing you dinner tonight,” or “Make me a grocery list. I am going shopping for you this weekend,”  may be more readily accepted.

Make a committed effort to support those around you who are caring for older adults or special needs adult “children.” It could make a big difference to them! For more information on caregiving, visit AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center. 

QuickTip Tuesday: Keep a Schedule

Keep a schedule throughout the summer break. Having a routine this summer can help your kids and you fight the boredom and trouble wars. When kids know what to expect they, behave better!

If you’re at a loss for building a summer schedule for your kids, a quick search on Pinterest should have you swimming in ideas in no time!