Family Friends & Farm

Take Comfort | Chicken & Green Chili Soup

The ravages of winter weather have affected much of the country. Whether it’s wind, rain, snow, sleet, or hail, unless you live in a southern state, you know it’s winter!

No kind of food brings me comfort as much as a hearty bowl of soup. This recipe, which calls for chicken (try it with turkey too) and chopped green chili’s, is Mmm Mmm good, and guaranteed both nourish and to you from the inside out!

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 3 cups Anaheim or Hatch green chili peppers, chopped

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped

  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup of flour

  • 5 cups chicken broth

  • 1 can (19 oz) green enchilada sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

  • 3 cups cooked chicken (or turkey,) chopped

  • 1 cup carrot, chopped or use the whole, small, peeled kind

  • 1 can (15oz) black beans (pinto, cannelloni, or red beans work equally well) drained and rinsed.

  • 1 can (15oz) whole kernel corn

  • 1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in large stock pot over medium heat. Add chopped peppers, onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and onions are translucent.

  2. Add flour, and stir to coat the mixture well. Add chicken broth, enchilada sauce, and cayenne pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and add chicken, carrots, beans, corn, and diced tomato.

  3. Reduce temperature to Medium and continue to cook for approximately 20 minutes (until carrots are tender.)

  4. Serve hot. (Add a dollop of sour cream or guac if you like!)

This is a super delicious meal all by itself, but made even heartier with the addition of a slice of Cheesy Jalepeño Loaf (which I conveniently linked to for you!) But only if you’re not actively avoiding carbs, like I am right now…

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic-Honey Glaze

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My oldest son hosted our Thanksgiving dinner this year. Well, what I really mean to say is that my daughter-in-law hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year.

While Isaiah works hard to provide for his family, so does Riely, and let’s face it, she’s the one that does the majority of the holiday prep.

Nearly 40 guests were invited into their gorgeous new home, where we feasted on not one, but two, delicious smoked turkeys. I brought the mashed potatoes and pumpkin dump cake; all other the sides, salads, and desserts were provided by the rest of the grateful guests.

The roasted Brussel sprouts with a balsamic-honey glaze were a stand out!

Ingredients:

  • 2lbs Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved.

  • 1/4 cup Olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon each:

    • garlic powder

    • thyme

    • oregano

    • paprika

    • black pepper, and

    • sea salt

  • Glaze

    • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar

    • 1/4 cup Honey

Directions:

  1. Place prepared Brussel sprouts in a large bowl, toss with olive oil and seasonings until evenly coated (add or subtract seasonings as you desire, you know me, I use recipes as guides!)

  2. Spread seasoned sprouts on a shallow baking pan and place in preheated 425 degree oven.

  3. Meanwhile - combine vinegar and honey in saucepan and heat until mixture begins to reduce and thicken.

  4. Roast sprouts until tender and some have begun to blacken - about 25-30 minutes, turning occasionally.

  5. Remove from oven, drizzle glaze over the top, stir to coat and return to oven for approximately 5 more minutes.

  6. Serve hot.

  7. Add cooked bacon or sausage crumbles to the roasting mixture if desired.

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Even the kids gobbled these tasty little morsels up! They are super easy to prepare and a nutritious side to any family meal, but fancy enough to serve at your holiday dinner party!

(If you’re as lucky as me, after dinner you’ll get a live musical performance! Because, while my son may not be a domestic wonder, he - and our good friend Sharif - can sure play guitar and sing!)

Enjoy!

Adoption | One Way to Build a Family

My new book, One Heart At A Time, was released on October 16.

So much attention since has been placed on my unusually large number of children, and I’ve lost count on how many time I’ve answered the how and why questions.

For all the big and small details (and so much more!) pick up a copy of my book! For a quick run-down, and to know why I feel so passionately about adoption, read this blog post.

A family gathering a few years ago - not even close to a complete showing!

A family gathering a few years ago - not even close to a complete showing!

Here’s the short answer to the questions: I had three biological children from two of my marriages, and I have adopted 10 children (number 11 in process.) My husband, Paul, has 5 children of his own. So that brings my number to 14, and our combination to 19.

The longer version is this:

I’ve always wanted to be a mother. When I married at 22 I couldn’t wait to make my new family of “me and you” into “baby makes three.” My husband was a divorced father of 2 children already and not one that you wouldn’t exactly define as present or available. I knew I could change that. Ha!

Sonny and I - or Robin Hood and Maid Marion…

Sonny and I - or Robin Hood and Maid Marion…

At 24, I gave birth to Isaiah, “Sonny” as his dad called him… He is my Number 1, my first child, the miracle that made me a mama!

Fast forward 9 years later - my husband had found greener pastures around Sonny’s 2nd birthday and I had been a single mother since.

My job in radio had taken me from Seattle to Boston, and then on to Philadelphia. While in Boston I’d met a young man in a church group that was cute, charming, loved to laugh, and loved the Lord. I married him, glossing over the fact that he was 8 years younger, lived with his parents, and his fine set of wheels was - a bicycle. Soon after, I was thrilled to be pregnant with Shaylah, my baby number 2.

A few years later we were back in Seattle, Me, Sonny, Shay, and Doug. The marriage was shaky but I was determined to make it work. I was feeling that the 10 year gap between Sonny and Shaylah was too much and I thought about adoption. By thinking about it, I mean I moved forward, looking for a child to love, to embrace, to ‘fill out our family’. We were introduced to a boy, one year younger than Sonny, and learned about “twinning,” matching up children that are of similar age to one you already have in your home, which helps the bonding process. And so, enter my child #3, Emmanuell.

A single mother of 8!

A single mother of 8!

Manny, we soon learned, had two younger siblings in a foster-care situation. Of course they could come for visitations… of course you may call me Mom while you’re here… and when their foster family had a crisis and they needed to be re-homed, of course that home had to be ours. The month that Tangi and TJ (#’s 4 & 5) moved in with us? Of course I find out I’m pregnant!

When Zachariah, my third bio-babe and number 6 to join the family, was born, we’d gone from a family of four, to a family of eight in less than a two year period of time. Eight is great, but not so much for Shay and Zack’s dad.

In all fairness, I hadn’t given his push-back much consideration. I worked and provided for the family, I was willing to put in the late nights and early mornings, and anxiety isn’t a word in my personal vocabulary, so the fact that he was completely and totally overwhelmed didn’t really register. Two years later the marriage ended.

Soon after, I got a call from a friend who was an adoption facilitator. There was a toddler in need of a home, STAT. I drove to the parking lot of a local teriyaki restaurant; TK was placed into my arms and clung to me tightly. He was just a year younger than Zacky, and became child number 7.

My radio program had been syndicated for a while and my career was taking off. The older kids were transitioning out of the house and I found a farm (a life-long dream) to move myself and the three left at home to. Just three. Shaylah, now aged 12, Zacky 7, and TK 6. I renovated the farmhouse and built three bedrooms for three kids. One. Two. Three.

My Angel and my Blessing.

My Angel and my Blessing.

And oh… I dated a wonderful man briefly, a pastor with a young adult daughter who had a baby of her own. I fell in love with this earnest young woman, who had never had a mother in her life… Adult adoption? Yeah, it’s a thing. Lonika, my number 8, has never lived with me but became my daughter when she was well into her 20’s, and, I gained a granddaughter close to the boy’s age, all in one fell-swoop!

Bridget with Sammy, who is now in Heaven.

Bridget with Sammy, who is now in Heaven.

This plan was working until my attention was steered toward a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana, West Africa. Point Hope was re-born and soon I brought into my home and heart, Angel and Blessing, welcomming numbers 9 and 10! Surely this was enough!

Nooooo, because a few years later, Sammy, (#11) who had spent 15 years in an orphanage, and Bridget (#12) who had a personal horror story she shouldn’t have even survived, wandered into my life, my heart, and my home.

And then Blessings little sister, Delilah, my Lucky 13, whom I had been taking care of in Africa, became critically ill, and the birth mother, critically uncaring.

And then their little brother, Baby Paul - whom I was also caring for in Africa, and who had been dropped off with Point Hope personnel because their mother had decided he too, was not worth her time or attention.

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And here I am - a mother of 14 (or will be as soon as Bae Paul’s process is complete).

Before bringing Sammy and Bridget home, I married Paul. We’d dated for 6 years and as a father of 5 grown children, he was looking forward to a child-free retirement. Hahaha!

He loves this crazy menagerie as much as me and is so stinkin’ in love with Baby Delilah and Baby Paul, to whom he is their Papa.

Last week I found myself in Washington DC, speaking to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about the crisis facing inter-country adoptions. It was important to me to be there, and share my story, because International adoptions have slowed to a trickle - down over 80% since 2004 and may cease all together. This means there are hundred of thousands of children that need homes. Children who are the victims of civil war, disease, famine… Children that have been ostracized because of physical or mental impairments, which are looked upon as a cursed in many societies... Children born female, which don’t have the same value as males…

When I completed my first international adoption in 2006, my children were two of 26,000 adopted from foreign countries. last year there was 4,200. This is a crisis.

I was also given the great honor of being inducted into the National Council for Adoptions, Adoption Hall of Fame, for my support of, commitment to, and involvement with building my family through the process of adoption and for founding Point Hope, a voice for forgotten children.

Another alarming reality; 80% of children - boys especially - who have spent time in the foster care system will be in jail before age 25.

Here’s some statistics on the US foster care system that will shock you. There are over 486,000 in the foster care system right now. About 20,000 “aged-out” last year; that is, they reached the age of 18 (20 in some places,) were turned out of the temporary living placements they’d been given, and financial support ended. I ask people, “How many of you have an 18-25 year old child? Are they ready to be 100% self reliant? Who do they call when a tooth breaks, when their heart breaks, when they’ve been in a fender bender?” Another alarming reality; 80% of children - boys especially - who have spent time in the foster care system will be in jail before age 25.

I am passionate about this! There are so many ways to build a family. Adoption is one.

You don’t have to be rich, married, or perfect. If you are at all interested in helping a child in the foster care system and providing a forever home, please don’t hesitate to do the research and make the connections!

Here’s a link to get started:

Adopt USKids

My book, One Heart At A Time, is available for purchase everywhere books are sold, and through the website HERE.

Gobble It Up Cheeseball

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I was cruising the internet 'tother day looking for some holiday party inspiration and crashed into a rendition of this fine not-so-feathered fella.

He's so cheesy! And completely nuts! In fact, he's gone crackers! (And that is how I humor myself friends...) So if you find this appetizer funny, and clever, and aren't worried about your teenagers groaning and rolling their eyes when you present him with a proud-as-a peacock (er, turkey) flourish. Then get your nutty cheese on!

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite cheese ball recipe (I've included a recipe below if you don’t have one. Don’t be afraid to improvise and add/subtract spices and ingredients.)

  • Red, yellow, and orange bell pepper slices (the mini's do the trick!)

  • Pecan Halves

  • Almond Slices

  • Pumpkin Seeds

  • Crackers for tail feathers - oblong work best

  • Pepper Corns (or other edible "eyes".)


Directions:

  1. Make your cheese ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm.

  2. Remove from fridge, place on center of serving plate.

  3. Insert "tail feathers" in a wide fan - I placed a smaller number in front and in back of the wide row.

  4. Press Pecans in at the "shoulders" working down and toward the back.

  5. Press the sliced almonds in near the tail feathers.

  6. Press the pumpkin seeds in in front of the almonds.

  7. Cut a slice of the Orange Bell Pepper to form a "head and neck (experiment with this) an press into the front of the cheese ball.

  8. Cut a "wiggly" slice of Red Bell Pepper and "glue" to the neck with a bit of the cream cheese.

  9. Cut a tiny bit of Yellow Bell Pepper for the beak. I used the tip of a paring knife to poke a hole in the "head" and inserted the bit for the beak.

  10. Find some "eyes." I used a bit of cracker, but I thought later that pepper corns would have been perfect! Glue the eyes on with another little bit of cream cheese.

  11. Now, present that proud fine "bird" with a bowl of crackers and shake your tail feathers!!!

Cheese Ball Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature.

  • 3/4 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

  • 1 tablespoon bacon bits.

  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped.

  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt

  • Pinch cayenne pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Directions:

  1. Mix together all ingredients by hand, or using a mixer, in large bowl until well blended and an even consistency.

  2. Form into a ball inside the bowl.

  3. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap.

  4. Place in the refrigerator until firm (about 2-3 hours.) Use the freezer for 30 minutes if you rarely think ahead (like me.)

  5. Decorate your bird! OR

  6. Roll in almond slices and serve with a basket of crackers.