The cheapest meal I make: Black beans and tortillas

IMG_2034Ready for a recipe that’s not really a recipe? = )

I get to learn as a seminary wife to be very creative with our meal planning/grocery shopping. Meat can be expensive… but, I really love meat. My challenge is to find meals that are meatless that we I will still enjoy.

Here is an idea for one that I have come to love and even crave. My husband loves it (he’s much easier to please than me) and my girls eat it pretty well, too. I’ve included here the ingredients, long instructions, how much it costs, time sequence, and short instructions.

Ingredients:

Instant tortilla mix

Bag of black beans

Can of diced tomatoes with green chiles

Salt, to taste

Long instructions:

It all started with an amazing discovery at Walmart: instant tortilla mix.

All you have to do is add water, knead for five minutes, let it rise for fifteen minutes, and roll out your tortillas to cook on a griddle. They are delicious.

Now for the black beans. I buy a bag of store brand dry black beans. On nights that we eat them for dinner, I start cooking them around lunch time because I cannot stand anything but soft beans. I follow the instructions on the bag for the quick soak (boil 1-2 minutes, then cover, remove from heat, and let stand about 1-1 1/2 hours).

After the beans have soaked, they will need drained and rinsed.

(I just realized that I’m giving you the directions from the back of the bag and acting like I came up with it. No credit here! Just lettin’ you know how easy it is. = )

Cover the beans again with water and bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer and cover. From there, I let them cook as long as I can… at least an hour, but preferably two or three.

I wait to add the salt until the last twenty minutes or so.

Then I add a can of store brand diced tomatoes with green chiles and give it a few more minutes to heat through.

Serve with the tortillas and YUM!!

*Note: my girlies don’t care for the diced tomatoes and chiles, so I just dish theirs out before I add in the goodness. Someday they’re taste buds will grow up and then we’ll have to share. = (

Cost:

If I did the math for one meal, I would guess it’s around $2.75? And that serves six (two adults and four kids) with a bowl leftover.

If you take into account how much you have to pay up front for all the ingredients (which does make a difference sometimes) I would look at it like this: $3.38 for the tortilla mix, $2 for the black beans, and $.77 for the tomatoes. Just over six dollars. If you bought another bag of beans and three more cans of tomatoes, this would make at least four meals (for a family our size), and bring the total cost to $10.50 which divided by 4 is approximately… somebody help me because I’m over my head in arithmetic now… $2.61?? (thanks for the help) Not too bad.

We eat this meal about every two weeks, and I actually look forward to it when I see it on the menu.

Time Sequence:

Here’s how the time sequence goes, at least in my house.

1:00 Boil beans for two minutes, cover, remove from heat and let soak

2:30 Rinse beans, boil again, reduce heat, cover and let simmer

@4:30 Begin making tortillas

5:00 Add salt to beans

5:20 Dish out girlies bowls (this helps them cool as well); Add diced tomatoes with chiles

5:30 Serve!

*Plan for a good 4-5 hours for the beans total, and 45 min. for the tortillas. This might sound long, but there is a lot of dead time in there where I can play with the girls, clean up the kitchen, fold laundry, etc. I love days when I make this meal; to me, it requires very little effort.

Short instructions:

-Prepare black beans and tortillas according to package directions.

-Add salt to beans during the last twenty minutes of cooking time.

-Add the can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and allow a few more minutes for them to heat through.

Let me know if you try it! What is the cheapest meal you make? Thanks, as always, for reading… have a lovely day.

Day 14: Reunion

"I am the bread of life," was declared by Jesus here. "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." Wow. This synagogue is built on the synagogue where Jesus taught in Capernaum.
“I am the bread of life” was declared by Jesus here. “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Wow. This synagogue is built on the remains of the synagogue where Jesus taught in Capernaum.

He’s back.

Safe, sound, and scruffy.

As he held me close and my head leaned into his big, hard familiar chest I heard him whisper, “Hi, mommy.”

His eyes lit up as he saw the girls. I thought they might scream or run to him, but they waited with huge smiles for him to walk down the “Do Not Enter” corridor and then hugged him and watched him with their ever-adoring eyes.

I teared up when I first saw him coming. He’s here; he’s really here; God brought him back safely to me!

As we went to get his bags and the car, I was so, so, so, so happy to not be the only adult in charge anymore; to have another pair of eyes to watch the girls with, to have a friend to smile at, to know that he would be with me now.

He showered us with presents. If I can get good pictures of them, I’ll share them in a couple of weeks.

Even though he was exhausted, he stayed up to talk to the girls while I made lunch. We ate together and then he went to sleep… for fifteen hours.

But I didn’t care; the backpack in the middle of the living room, the maps and books and pictures everywhere, the zonked out body in the bed, the mountain of laundry waiting to be done, the smiles on the girlies faces, all said one thing: Daddy was back.

And for now, that was enough to be completely happy.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 8: An answered prayer

Day 9: Letting others be there for you

Day 10: the weakest link

Day 11: exhaustion setting in

Day 12: In other news

Day 13: Christmas shopping for Daddy, anxiety, and felt flowers

Day 13: Christmas shopping for Daddy, anxiety, and felt flowers

Bet Shan; this city is important because it illustrates the Romanization of the Jew at the time of Jesus. Seen here the "Cardo" or main street.
Beit She’an; this city is important because it illustrates the Romanization of the Jews at the time of Jesus. Seen here the “Cardo” or main street.
Remains from the earthquake at Bet Shan
Remains from the earthquake at Beit She’an
Theater at Bet Shan
Theater at Beit She’an
Viewing the old city of Beit She'an; Saul's body was hung in disgrace on this hill.
Viewing the old city of Beit She’an; Saul’s body was hung in disgrace on this hill.

It’s been awhile since I’ve really been able to buy Paul presents.

Gone are the days of being in love, single, employed, and able to buy things for the man you love. Not that I’d trade a big warm body to cuddle up to at night, no siree! But I do miss giving him special gifts.

Let’s see, last year I had this great idea to make homemade butter and other gifts to sell at our apartment office in hopes of making enough money to buy him a really great present. After covering the costs of   materials I had about sixteen dollars left which I used to buy him The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough which he really liked, but it was not the kind of present I had hoped for.

But this year would be different! I still didn’t have any money, but because he was gone I made some executive decisions about how the money given to us by family would be used. (Haha! rubbing hands together gleefully) Of course, the girls would get their presents, but they already have so much and the things they wanted weren’t going to cost that much anyways. So the girls and I discussed it, and we made a plan to go shopping for Daddy!

Bottom line: it was a blast.

I won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty details, but here’s what we came away with. A laptop table from World Market, Hebrews from the New American Commentary series, a dress shirt and coordinating tie (picked out so lovingly and adorably by Hope and Sophia), and a stud finder (we are permanently and irreversibly diy/home improvement challenged). Yay for presents!

********

After a great day of shopping for daddy, I noticed that I was really feeling anxious about him flying home. So much for my unshakable trust in the sovereignty of God that allowed me to not worry at all when he was flying over there.

Basically, I think that knowing he was so close to coming back just made me really want to know that nothing would keep us apart any longer. Everything had gone so well; it was nerve-wracking to think about what would transpire if there were any major calamities now, on our end or on his end. My solution? A night of crafting.

I am not a crafter whatsoever, but I had heard that felt flowers were really easy to make and I wanted to actually make something to give the girls for Christmas. After putting it off for two weeks, I decided that I might not get any sleep that night anyways, so I would do something to occupy my mind.

Unbelievably, they turned out in such a way that you could recognize them! It was tons of fun and I will hopefully do  more in the future. I confess one that was supposed to look like a rose ended up looking like a really bad outie belly button, but other than that, I was happy with them.

Now to go to sleep, and wake up, and hear that he’s in the states.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 8: An answered prayer

Day 9: Letting others be there for you

Day 10: the weakest link

Day 11: exhaustion setting in

Day 12: In other news

Day 11: exhaustion setting in

Caves in Arbel
Inside the caves in Arbel
Caves in Arbel
Caves in Arbel
Rock climbing up Arbel; I want to do this!
Rock climbing up Arbel; I want to do this!

A few things have surprised me during this time of taking care of the girls alone. First that it’s been… relatively easy. At least a lot easier than I thought. Second, that Gracie seems to be missing Paul the most out of all the girls. Lastly, I’m beginning to be exhausted. The thought of that possibility never occurred to me.

Apparently there’s been a physical and emotional drain that I haven’t noticed because everything seemed to be so normal. I thought I was doing well going to bed and resting all night. But it’s not good for woman to be alone; or least this woman.

Come to think of it, this is how I felt the first week Paul returned to work and seminary after the summer. I had gotten so used to him being around, to sharing the load of work, and (most importantly for me) to feeling the emotional support of not being alone, that back-to-schooltime was a shock.

Again, I cannot help but think of single moms or parents who do this every day, all year.

Our pace is definitely slowing down during the day because of me, but we’re still trying to keep up the “fun.” So far it’s working minus Gracie being a little off.

Counting the days ’til he gets home? Not yet; I don’t think I could stand it.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 8: An answered prayer

Day 9: Letting others be there for you

Day 10: the weakest link

Day 8: An answered prayer

Church of the Beatitudes
Church of the Beatitudes

I do remember praying before I went to bed the night before that God would somehow give me the strength and joy necessary to take of the girls the next day. Everything had been going so well, and then with the news of the shootings I felt all my physical and emotional stamina just caving in.

I woke up not feeling great, but determined to do my best regardless of my feelings. The girls all woke up early, except Hope, and they were pretty much ready by the time I heard my phone ring.

It was a long, weird number and I strongly suspected that Paul was on the other end.

I answered, smiling before I even heard his voice. But the smile after I heard his voice probably made the other smile look like one of Gracie’s scowls.

What he said hit me out of nowhere. After hearing the news about Connecticut, he said he needed to talk to us. He? needed? to talk to us? But you’re in Israel – the coolest place ever!

Why was I surprised? Of course I know how much he loves us. Of course I know how close he is to the girls. He would have had all the same thoughts and feelings that I had.

It was so good to talk to him. It was amazing to watch the girls excitement as they held the phone and talked to their beloved Daddy. It was so familiar to hear his excitement and love as he talked to them.

God could have answered my prayer in many ways. But He chose to give me strength and joy through my very favorite person, Paul. And once again, I was terribly excited for him that he was in Israel; and completely okay with taking care of the girlies alone.

***********

At dinner Gracie asked, “Where’s Daddy?”

“In Israel!” I replied.

“No,” she disagreed, “he’s at school.”

This was the first time that any of the girls had expressed concern over his whereabouts.

When thinking of how to best handle this time of them being away from him, I had thought about watching videos online of Israel or having some sort of countdown where we would eat candy out of a jar for every day he was gone and watch the amount dwindle. In the end, I did none of these things. The girls were handling it famously. They knew where he was and it felt best to just carry on and try to occupy ourselves with fun things.

It was interesting to me that Gracie had been the first to ask about him, sensing that it was weird that he was gone. Everything was fine, but I wondered what this second week would hold.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 5: It hit me

Day 6: The problem with “me” time

Day 7: I need you

Day 5: It hit me

Springs at Dan. This is where the Jordan begins.
Springs at Dan. This is where the Jordan begins.
Spring at Dan
Spring at Dan
IMG_1296
So lovely. No wonder the Danites asked to settle in the north.
IMG_1293
Paul took this picture just because he knew I would like it. What a sweet husband.

It’s official. I’m lonely. And I miss Paul really bad.

How hard it must be to lose a loved one. As I sat at the table after the girls were in bed, the house was so quiet. But I could remember him walking here, sitting there, making noise; they were all just shadows of memories though, because he’s not here and won’t be for a while still. How would it feel knowing he would never come back?

Good to know I miss my husband.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Day 4: Sometimes you just need…

Viewing the Jezreel Valley from the Nazareth ridge
Viewing the Jezreel Valley from the Nazareth ridge
Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth
Paul's view from the hotel in Nazareth (oh yes, I am jealous)
Paul’s view from the hotel in Nazareth (oh yes, I am jealous)

IMG_1254Today really was fabulous. The morning was great; lunch has been fine (as that was a concern seeing it is the biggest time the girls see Paul). Naps happened early and then we were off to do an errand, which led to a surprise visit to the park, which led to dinner with a friend and her little girl. Hooray for unplanned happy occasions!

Even coming home and bath time went great. By the way, the girls really climbed at the park. I was so proud; being a lover of climbing myself. It was so fun to see them try things that they had never done before.

Anyways, what I’m about to tell you is going to seem like it has nothing to do with what I’ve said previously, but just hold on:

We only have one santa hat in the house. Doesn’t sound like a problem? Oh, it has been. Especially between Hope and Sophia. Let’s just say that Hope decided she wanted to wear it first today and that gave us a great little opportunity to teach Sophia about being happy and content even when someone else has something you want.

Right before bed, Sophia grabbed the hat and put it on, planning to wear it to bed.

“No, no santa hats in bed.” I took the hat and put it out in the hallway.

At some point in the middle of the night, Sophia came into my room, crawled in the bed and asked for a drink. I’m not as tough in the middle of the night as I am during the day.

“Okay.” We got the drink and then visited the bathroom. (Did you know that’s one of the hard and fast rules of parenting? It’s okay to give a kid a drink in the middle of the night, but always take them to the bathroom as well. You’ll never regret it. = )

After walking back down the hallway and entering her room, I realized that she wasn’t with me. “Where…what…” my groggy mind thought.

All of the sudden, she came around the corner… wearing the santa hat!

I don’t care. Wait is there a way that it could be dangerous for a three-year old to wear a santa hat in bed? Because if there is, then I’m going to have to say no and that would be really sad. 

Before I had time to decide, she pulled off the hat, wadded it up, stuck it under her arm and dove in bed.

Smiling to myself (and not a little unrelieved that I didn’t have to deal with it), I tucked her in and left the room.

You know, sometimes when your dad is on the other side of the world… you just need a santa hat under your arm in bed.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Day 3: Is something wrong with me?

Harod Valley
Harod Valley
Harod Valley
Harod Valley
Harod Valley
Harod Valley
Place of the spring where God tested the men of Gideon, Judges 7:4-7
Place of the spring where God tested the men of Gideon, Judges 7:4-7

Not much to say for today, we went for a walk in the morning (my very favorite thing to do). Mckayla even walked with us most of the way instead of being carried. ***cue Halleljuah chorus***

Lunch was good. Naps were good. Playtime was good. Dinner was good. Bedtime was good. And though I still don’t enjoy going to bed by myself, it’s going fine, and by God’s grace, I’m getting rest.

So I’m starting to wonder, is something wrong with me? Should this be harder? Should I miss Paul more?

Except for the last hour or so before going to bed, everything feels normal. I guess we’ve just gotten used to the seminary schedule.

I still haven’t heard from Paul, but I know he’s fine through the social media grapevine.

As it stands tonight, I just hope he’s having so much fun and not worrying about us at all. And I’m looking forward to more fun time with my girlies tomorrow.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

Day 2: lonely in a crowd

IMG_1209
Moat built by crusaders at Caesarea Maritima
IMG_1231
Gate built by Solomon at Megiddo
IMG_1227
First century rolling stone tomb

We go to a big church. I love our church. Today, it was incumbent on me to get myself and my four small daughters to church alone.

The prospect of getting four little girls up and out the door early might sound daunting, but I wasn’t really worried about it. Deep down, I know what it takes to get places ready and on time; I just get lazy and leave things ’til the last minute and then pull out the old, “but I’ve got four little kids!” excuse.

Anyways, times like this I realize I’m going to have to be on my game and what do you know? Things normally turn out fine.

***Interpretation of everything I just said for a male: Everything went fine getting the girls and I to church.***

I dropped them all off at their respective nurseries and classes and headed upstairs to our adult Bible fellowship. Our room is at the end of a long hallway opposite of the stairs. Walking past people, it seemed that everyone had someone to talk to. Of course, people said hi and everything, but it was the first time I really felt alone.

I sat and learned and talked to people and everything like normal, but it was all so un-normal because Paul wasn’t there. I guess you don’t know what a privilege someone’s presence is until it’s gone.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Day 1: to turn out that last light

Remains from Herod the Great's palace at Caesarea Maritima
Remains from Herod the Great’s palace at Caesarea Maritima
Original floor from Herod the Great's palace at Caesarea Maritima
Original floor from Herod the Great’s palace at Caesarea Maritima

Today was a happy day. Honestly, just the prospect of having the car and being able to go out and buy Christmas decorations temporarily erased the thought that my husband was gone. I had this funny mental image of myself holding a cardboard sign that said in sloppy black marker, “Will trade husband for car.” (I’ll never understand my mind) Apparently I chose flippancy as my way of dealing with Paul’s departure on day one.

I did realize how important it would be to not lose my car key. Going to try very hard to give extra attention to putting it where it belongs.

While the little girls slept, Hope and Sophia and I cut little triangles of scrapbook paper to make Christmas banners. Then we made banana bread, which is always a hoot.

At bedtime the girls went to sleep fine. We’d been able to maintain a happy, upbeat tone all day.

I wanted to go to sleep and probably could have except that I had to prepare a craft for the next night at AWANA. When that was complete, I began trying to go to bed.

It’s hard to turn out that last light. After everything was ready and I couldn’t bring myself to do anymore, I realized…this is going to be hard. Thirteen nights like this. And this is only the first.

Thanks for reading my first series: Taking care of four little girls alone (while my husband is on an amazing study trip to Israel). Here are links to the other related posts. 

Series coming soon

It’s official: the Israel trip is on

Official introduction