Friday, March 27, 2015

Deep Dish Pizza

Date Night is something I look forward to every week. We have to be creative here in Cameroon. We can't go out after dark here and there is no such thing as "fine dining" in Bamenda. However, there IS fine dining at Chez Sinclair's every Wednesday night.

Each Wednesday I prepare a favorite meal for Ben and I. We have family devotions, put the kids to bed and then Ben and I enjoy a meal together and watch a movie or something to spend some time together. One of my favorite meals to make is Deep Dish Pizza. My mouth is watering as I type! :) This dish is so easy and Oh so yummy!

Here are some instructions on how to make this sure-to-please dish:

First thing you will want is a pizza dough. You can buy a pre-made dough if you prefer, you can make it by hand or you can use one of my favorite appliances...a bread machine.  Here are the steps for the bread machine method:
1. Put 2/3 c. of water in bottom of bread machine pan
2. Add 1/4 c. of olive oil
3. Add 1 tsp. each of dried oregano, basil, and marjoram
4. Add 1/2 tsp. garlic salt and onion salt
5. Add 2 c. of flour
6. On top of your flour add 1 pkg. (.25 oz) of yeast or I add 2 tsp. from a bulk package.

Once you have your ingredients in your pan and machine, set your machine to dough and start 'er up! This is the actual recipe from my recipe book. It makes the perfect amount of dough for this recipe. I have absolutely no idea where this recipe originated from, so I can't give any credit, however it might have been from Taste of Home magazine.

I'm actually a little lazy when I make this. I add the proper amount of water and olive oil. I then throw in a TB of Italian seasoning and shake in a bunch of garlic salt, add the proper amount of flour, the 2 tsp. of yeast and I'm done! You need to be specific about some things, but you learn over time what you can adjust.

While your dough is rising you can prepare the yummy filling. For the filling you will need:
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. ground sage
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fennel
peeled, diced, and seeded tomatoes
1-2 green peppers diced
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
shredded mozzarella
about 40 slices of pepperoni

As you can see some of my measurements are general. I cook everything to taste with this recipe. I don't do a lot of measuring.

The original recipe called for sausage. A friend of mine, Becky Branch, gave me a cook book that she had created a long time ago and it included a lot of substitutions. A recipe for sausage was one of them and it used 1 lb. ground beef, 1 tsp. of sage and 1 tsp. of salt. I have used this recipe for years with all sorts of sausage recipes, one of our favorites being sausage gravy and biscuits. It is a wonderful substitute and, depending on how lean your meat is, can be a lot lower in fat. So, I substituted this sausage recipe to be used in this pizza. I also added the fennel because that just gives the ground beef an extra sausage kick. If you are a big sausage lover, by all means...use the sausage instead.

Cook your ground beef, onions, garlic and green peppers in a skillet. Add your sage, salt, and fennel and combine very well. The more onions, peppers and tomatoes you use, the fuller your pie filling will be.  Add your tomatoes and cook the mixture down. This is purely preference here, but I hand peel and dice my fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes. I can't handle tomato skins sticking to the roof of my mouth. If that doesn't bother you, just skip the peeling part, OR buy some diced canned tomatoes (be sure to drain them). The seeding part is important, but if you forget, like I did the other night, no worries. Just be sure to cook your mixture longer to cook off all of the extra liquid. You don't want your filling to be runny. Again, I can't give you an exact amount because I don't measure my tomatoes, onions or peppers. I just throw a lot in there. You can use your judgement here.

Once your meat mixture is done you will roll your pizza dough into a large circle and place in the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron skillet that has been buttered or oiled well. Let the dough hang over the sides until the pie is filled. Place some shredded mozzarella on the bottom, add meat mixture, cheese and slices of pepperoni.

Repeat the layer again: Meat mixture, cheese and pepperoni. Fold the dough under to form a crust. It will want to sag worries. It will still look pretty when it goes into the oven.

And it will look even prettier coming out of the oven!

This dish is SO good it will rival any Chicago pizzeria! Give it a try - you won't be disappointed! When mine came out of the oven I made an herb butter to brush over the crust. I just melted some butter, stirred in some parmesan cheese, garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Mmmmm! So tasty!

People often ask me what are some of the things that I like to bring back to Cameroon and I always answer by saying pepperoni is at the top of my list. This dish is why! We are a pizza loving family and for me, if it doesn't have pepperoni on makes me sad. We have run out of pepperoni many times while being on the field. Pizza night isn't quite as exciting for me, but our best substitute is using the above sausage recipe to top a traditional pizza. The kids now prefer it to regular sausage.

Let me know if you give this a try and how it turned out!
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Super Room for a Super Kid

Leaving the States can be hard on missionary kids. They miss out on a lot of things. Aside from the fact that we go years without Chick-fil-a nuggets and fries, the goodbyes to family are difficult to say the least. (Family and waffle fries are in a tight run for first place, though.) My husband continually keeps before the kids and me the incredible calling that God has placed on our family. During our family devotions a short time before our return to Cameroon, he shared many of the advantages of being a missionary. One of them that was a huge blessing to me was the fact that as missionaries, we don't have many earthly ties. We don't own land or houses. We don't really even have a solid place to call our home. We bounce back and forth between two cultures and we don't fit into either of them perfectly anymore. I don't say any of this to make you feel sorry for us. In reality, we have an advantage because our eyes can be more fully on our permanent home...heaven! Our focus has an advantage of being on the eternal without all of the earthly distractions. I don't want anyone to think we are super christians...I merely said we have an upper hand. This doesn't mean we have mastered it by any stretch of the imagination.

I say all of this as a preface to this post. I don't want anyone to think that I have to promise my kids material things to get them to return to our mission field of Cameroon. They all love living here. This has become very much home to them. To keep it exciting, however, I gave them something to look forward to upon our return. I wanted to add to the anticipation of going back home to Cameroon.

A couple of months before our furlough I told the kids that when we came back from the States we could redecorate their rooms. We had all of furlough to keep our eyes open while get ideas off of the internet and choose how they wanted to style their room. The kids and I had a lot of fun browsing through pinterest boards and walking through the aisles of Hobby Lobby taking tons of pictures for ideas on what to do in their rooms. We came back bursting with ideas and we lost no time into putting those ideas into action.

Pastor Eugene is a member of Faith Baptist Church and an incredible artist. We sold many of his paintings while we traveled on furlough. He was the perfect person to reinvent Drew's boring room. Here is a before picture of Drew's room:

Ben's mom made Drew a John Deere quilt when he was small, so that was his original theme. I stenciled tractors on the border of his room and that was pretty much the extent of my decorating abilities. You can see hints of Drew's ideas in the before photos though...superheroes. He wanted a grown-up looking super hero room. Pinterest was my best friend and if any of my blog readers follow my Pinterest board, you saw my pins from the last couple of months, and you probably already have an idea of what his room is going to look like. I printed the photos that I found on pinterest, explained in detail to Pastor Eugene what we wanted and let him loose. I trusted his artistic judgement and knew he would do an amazing job piecemealing my ideas into an amazing work of art.

The idea was a faux brick wall. I brought back a mop sponge from the states, and he used this as the basis for the bricks. He brushed paint onto the sponge and then basically stenciled it on the wall. He painted the two accent walls with a gray base paint to resemble the mortar/cement for the bricks and then he got to work adding the brick. The base brick was done in an orangey color reminiscent of Georgia clay. He left open spaces for other brick colors at first. He began to fill those spots in with a red brick color. At that point I wasn't really happy with the orange. When I think of brick, I think of red. This is where culture comes in. The bricks in Cameroon are made of mud and most of the houses are the orangey color. So, when he thinks "brick" the color that comes into his mind is orange, and when I think "brick," I see red. So, after I explained this and showed him some more photos online he adjusted things, and the result was amazing and so very realistic!  He wasn't finished there, however. He told me he was going to add some black since often you will see bricks that are burned. I thought that was an amazing idea and it really added some depth and dimension to the look!

Here you can see the finished brick work. The piece de resistance, however, is the amazing mural that Pastor Eugene painted on the wall. Originally we were going to have him paint one brick wall, and then on the wall you see above, have a very cartoon looking blocked cityscape. Kind of like this:

Drew had a different idea, however. Late one night as I was walking into my bedroom and Drew should have been fast asleep, I heard a whisper out of his room, "Mom!" He proceeded to share his super cool idea of having a realistic cityscape, but he wanted it to appear like you could view it out of a broken brick wall. So, we explained the idea to Pastor Eugene and he did an amazing job of bringing Drew's idea to life!

Here is a collage of all angles of the finished product. 

The other two walls are white and we have commissioned Pastor Eugene to do some very cool Super Hero artwork on canvas. I can't wait to show you those when he is done! We are so thrilled with the finished product. Drew couldn't be happier. Each day that Eugene would come to paint, we would sneak in there and watch the progress. Here are a few more photos. In addition to the ones above, this will give you a better idea of the progression of his work.

So there you have it. A super room for a very special and super kid. Today the final coats of oil paint went on the trim in the room. Drew has to wait a couple more days for all of that to dry and then he can move back in! He is pretty excited ... and also pretty tired of sleeping on the floor! :) haha!

Here is a little sneak peek into something I'm doing to freshen up my own bedroom. I'll be sure to blog about it when I'm done with my little project as well.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Home Again...Home Again...

One of the things that just blessed my little heart (<--- it's a southern thing...) while on furlough was the many comments that I received, traveling from church to church, about my blog. So many of you expressed your appreciation for it and I was so thrilled to learn that many of you read my blog. It made me SO happy! Because of your sweet encouragement I determined to be a faithful blogger once I returned back to the Cameroon. I am. I'm back and I'm excited to keep up with this little blog and continue to give you a glimpse of life on the mission field.

There is no way I could summarize all of the amazing details of our furlough. God provided us with an amazing house to live in. It was so beautiful and in a quiet, secluded location. We saw more wildlife driving up our driveway than we ever see here in Cameroon (goats and chickens don't count, by the way!). We saw deer very frequently, bunnies, foxes, owls, woodpeckers, chipmunks and raccoons. It was like living in an enchanted forest!

We were also very privileged to make some wonderful memories with our families. My kids were so blessed to get to know their cousins better on this furlough.

We got to do a lot of fun things with them and our goodbyes were very difficult ones. Probably the most difficult, in fact. Jay and Sarah left for the mission field of Venezuela less than a week after we left for Cameroon. We are praying about how we can coordinate future furloughs, but the thought of possibly not seeing one another until little Ellie is 8 years old is just too much to think about right now. We are so thankful for modern technology that will allow us to keep in touch! Please pray for both our families as we seek to be faithful servants in the countries that God has called us to.

We were able to enjoy a special trip to Maine with Ben's parents, Pat and Jerry.  We caravanned up to Bangor, ME and stayed with Pat's family. A big family reunion was held and it was the first time that I was able to meet much of the extended family. We also stayed on the coast of Maine in Ogunquit and enjoyed the ocean. It was beautiful!

We got to take a special trip with my parents to Disney World. Two of my brother's kids, Sam and Luke, also came along and the kids had a blast sharing the trip with their cousins. My dad, who isn't a big lover of crowds or schedules, was a trooper and so very patient with us. We made so many special memories that week!

We also got to see many of our supporters. We traveled from the coast of Maine to the coast of Florida...even to the Pacific Northwest! We stayed in so many homes and enjoyed many hours of fellowship. Our heartfelt thanks to all who hosted us. We enjoyed our time with each one of you!

Most of our last couple of months were spent with friends and family. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with Ben's family and a wonderful Christmas with mine. At the beginning of January I accomplished a goal worth mentioning...I ran my first race - a 10k. It was a huge accomplishment for me and I really enjoyed doing it! Two of my dear friends, Beth and Sherry, and I went to Florida to run in the runDisney marathon weekend. I love my gigantic medal!

January was squeezing in all the final moments with our friends and family. Ben's parents came down to spend a week with us and we really enjoyed our time with them. We had several family get-togethers to celebrate holidays and birthdays. Each moment with each loved one was so special and I'm so thankful for all of the wonderful memories that the Lord allowed us to make while we were home.

We spent the first week of February celebrating my mom's 60th birthday and packing up our house to leave. I think the lack of sleep during that week of packing made me especially emotional. Saying goodbye is SO very hard. Honestly, what makes it so hard for me is watching my kids struggle with goodbyes. Their broken hearts just rip mine into shreds! is SO hard saying goodbye over and over from one side of the ocean to the other.

On Feb. 11, with our final goodbyes said to my parents at the Atlanta airport, we could finally set our sights on Cameroon. Our feelings of sadness morphed into feelings of anticipation of being back home. Our journey across the Atlantic was long and it wasn't without its struggles, but I saw the Lord work so mercifully on our behalf! Kate was so sick for the first flight. She gets airsick from flying and just vomits and vomits. Her flight was a miserable one and she arrived in Paris exhausted from hours of heaving. She caught bits of sleep on the hard airport floor during our 10 hour layover.

I asked my Facebook friends to pray for her second flight to be smoother, and it was, PTL! I also asked prayer for a smoother second flight. The turbulence was so bad on our flight from Atlanta to Paris. Almost the entire time the plane rocked and bounced. You could feel it swerving and dipping, lifting us out of our seats at times. It was really frightening. I did a lot of praying on that flight, I'll be honest! The second flight was as smooth as silk. No turbulence and some of us actually were able to doze a bit. Overall none of us had gotten any sleep to speak of since Tuesday night. It was now Friday morning in Cameroon and we arrived at the airport, collected all 30 bags (That is also a HUGE answer to prayer!) and loaded into our Land Cruiser and began the 7+ hour journey back to our home in Bambili. I was really thankful to have a collection of Air France barf bags in my backpack because Kate wasn't the only one that got sick from the traveling. The lack of sleep, among other things, finally wore Drew down and he was also purging at the beginning of our trip to Bambili. (He was walking around the baggage claim department with his head hung over one of those bags. We were asking him to be discreet about it since they were doing ebola screenings and I was sure that the white bag would draw lots of attention to us. haha!) Emma was also hanging her head over a bag, but she finally fell asleep and slept a big chunk of the drive home which was a help to her since she suffers from car sickness. Oh the things we do to our kids! Pray for missionary kids. Not just mine...but all of your church mk's! They sure get put through the ringer!

An hour out of Bambili we were playing 20 questions with Ben who could have used toothpicks to keep his eyelids open. Ezekiel was about a half hour behind us in a rented van that was carrying all of our luggage. We ended up arriving home before our luggage did and praise the Lord He kept us safe the whole way. It was now Friday evening and we still had not had any sleep to speak of since Tuesday night. Exhausted can't begin to describe how we felt. We bathed our doggie, Georgia, waited till our bags arrived and loaded them into the parlor, ate a delicious supper of Fufu and Njama Njama, provided by our dear friend, Diane, and went to bed at 9 p.m. We slept 15 hours straight through without waking up!

We have now been here a couple of weeks. We are still trying to get settled. We had to wash everything that was in our closets and drawers. Jim and Myra Wright, who lived in our house and oversaw the ministry while we were away, did an amazing job! Our house was clean when we arrived and everything taken care of. Unfortunately two+ weeks of dry season dust still had to be dealt with and clothes in storage, even while living here, have to be washed after a moldy, wet rainy season. That is just life in Cameroon. We are already jumping back into ministry. Ben is out this morning even, at a military base with the intent of sharing the gospel with some Cameroon soldiers.

To those that pray and support us...Thank you! We couldn't do it without you. I don't know what the next blog installment will be, but I thank you for walking this journey with me. I'll try to keep it interesting. :)  It would also mean a lot to me if you would share my blog and encourage others to read it!
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