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Once A Month Cooking!

For years I have played with the concept of cooking all day one day a month rather than having to cook each and every evening.  Between work, church, and hanging out with family and friends there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day.  In a nutshell our lives are super busy as a result we find ourselves so tired after work that the idea of cooking a meal just wasn’t going to fly.  So like everyone else in America we go out to eat. With all the documentaries around telling you how bad eating out is for your health we knew we need to come up with a solution.  The once a month cooking day has worked for us and makes sense.

Today was our day to cook and I thought I would give you a picture of what we did.  It takes a little bit of planning but it is so worth it.  Yesterday  Rick and I came up with a list of what we were going to make. I then went shopping to make sure we had all the ingredients.  The last thing you want to be doing is running out in the middle of the project to get something you forgot.

We decided we were going to make Lasagna, Chicken Piccata, Sloppy Joes, Pizza, Spaghetti sauce, and Pork for Chimichungas or pulled pork sandwiches.  I always make something in the crock pot so it is cooking all day but requires very little of my time.  (Last month it was chicken cacciatore, this month we did the pork).

We got the pork in the crock pot because we knew it would take a while.  Rick started cooking the hamburger for sloppy joes in one pan and the Italian sausage/hamburger mixture in another pan. While he was doing that I was prepping the chicken for our piccata.  I finished off the sloppy joes and put it into containers while he started on the dishes.  Once that was done I finished up the spaghetti sauce for our lasagna/spaghetti.  While I was making the lasagna, Rick was cooking the Italian sausage for the pizza.

Hint for those of you who don’t make lasagna because of the sheer amount of work.  Don’t cook the noodles.  Put sauce in the bottom of your pan so that it is covered, add a layer of dry noodles, your meat sauce, cottage cheese or ricotta, and mozzarella cheese. Repeat.  For the last layer put noodles, sauce and cheese.  The trick is to let it sit for several hours in the fridge before you bake it.  After 2 hours we baked it at 350° for about an hour.  It was perfect.  I pulled it out of the oven and let it cool off so I could slice it and divide it into serving containers.

The left over sauce was put in a container for spaghetti.  Once the lasagna, spaghetti sauce and sloppy joes were done Rick started on browning the chicken while I got the dough started for the pizza.  We finished the piccata, got it in containers and started on the pizza.  We assembled the pizza, cooked it and then packaged it. It was around 1 o’clock and the only thing left to deal with was the  pork.  That still needed a few hours so we sat down ate a little lunch and watched a little TV.  :-) At 2:30 the pork was ready to be shredded and the other ingredients added. By 3:30 it was done, the chimis were rolled and the remainder put in containers. By 4:00 everything was cleaned up, labeled and safely stored in the freezer. DSCN2617

The key to once a month cooking is staying focused and working as a team.

We now have a total of 28 meals (for 2 people) for the next month:

6 Chicken Piccata
4 Sloppy Joes
2 Spaghetti Sauce
6 Lasagna
4 Pizza
4 Chimichungas
2 meals of Pulled Pork

We had a fun day hanging out, chatting, and listening to praise music.  Rick said he felt like it was a holiday.  LOL I do know what he means even though we were working hard it was very relaxing and so much fun knowing that we were doing something so good for ourselves.  If you haven’t done this before it is loads of fun.  You really should give it a try.  Your family will thank you for your effort on their behalf.


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Kill weeds without chemicals

Weeds, what can you even say about them.  They are annoying, extremely fast growing and I really hate the little buggers.  :-) They are part of God’s original curse on the earth and continue to be a curse to this day.  I am all for killing weeds in the quickest and most efficient manner possible.  For years I used Roundup or similar products.  And I must say it work quite well and I enjoyed a weed free yard (well almost).

Within the last 5 years I have begun to question all the chemicals we are putting on the ground and into our bodies.  I then started doing research on the internet and found article after article about how incredibly bad glyphosate is for the environment, for animals and for us.  In fact the research is so compelling that numerous countries around the world have banned it including: Netherlands, France, Chili, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil.  I started seeing tons stories about the bees and the phenomenon they are calling colony collapse. I watched a documentary about bees and a study done in France. They had lost most of their bee population due to colony collapse.  After banning the active ingredient in Roundup – glyphosate the bees returned. For me that was enough information to convince me to look for alternative ways to kill weeds. I’m not telling you that you should never buy Roundup or a commercial weed killer again. You should do your own research on this topic. Here is a link to one article to get you started. There are many more.  http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/roundup-quick-death-for-weeds-slow-and-painful-death-for-you/

So now I have a problem.  How do I get rid of the weeds but do it in a way that is safe to the environment?  After tons of research and different trials the solution I have come up with is White Vinegar.  Vinegar changes the soil to an acidic state and weeds can not grow.  It is not a permenant change but it will last a couple of months depending on the amount of rain. It will kill anything so be careful to only spray the weed if you are using it on your lawn.

I bought a gallon of white vinegar which cost me approx $2.50. Roundup at Home Depot will run you just over $29.00 per gallon.  I got an empty spray bottle for $1.00 at the dollar store. I can purchase conservatively 11 gallons of vinegar for the cost of one gallon of Roundup. So from a strictly economic standpoint vinegar makes sense.

Natural weed killer

An added benefit of using vinegar, no need to wear goggles or gloves because white vinegar is so safe it can be consumed. If you are curious click here for safety data on Roundup and the precautions they recommend when using it. Pour the vinegar into the spray bottle. You don’t need to add anything else, just straight vinegar. You are ready to start spraying.  I have posted pics below to show my results.

Before Vinegar


After 24 hours


After 72 Hours


2000px-Smiley.svg Happy spraying.

(One quick warning – your yard will smell like Easter eggs for a couple hours after you spray)



Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day we celebrate the people we love the most.  As I was thinking about this day and how the world has commercialized it, I started to feel very sad.  We have taken a day that was meant to be something special and turned it into a day with high expectations, loads of disappointment and one of the days during the year that gives us a “gauge” on how well our relationship is going.  Rather than focusing on what we can do to show others how much we love them the focus has shifted to us.  Did my husband, fiance, or boyfriend meet my expectations of the day?Saint_Valentines_Day_Candy_Valentine_s_Day_013165_

Have we put so much pressure on the men in our lives that we are pushing them away because they know they can’t live up to those expectations?  I am saddened that we have lost the simple wonder of this day.  Do you remember when you were little and filling out valentines for all your classmates at school and being so excited about the holiday. You were happy with each little card you received and quite honestly a small box of conversation hearts made your day. What has happened in our lives that has changed the way we look at this holiday?  Have we allowed the movie industry and media to have such an influence in our lives that we feel Valentines Day must be treated like a birthday, an anniversary or Christmas with all the presents?

I Corinthians 13 is the greatest chapter on love ever written.  It says “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance…Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” If you read these verses they are very outward focused.  They aren’t about what we get but what we give, how we respond and who we are as people. When your expectations of this holiday are so high, are you displaying love the way God intends for you to display love?

This week I made cookies for my family and cupcakes for our small group at church.  I didn’t expect anything in return I just wanted each person to know that I loved them and they were important to me.  To see the excitement on Ryan’s face when he saw the orange car cookies I made for him, and Lina’s smile when I showed her the cookies I made for her and her friends at school was all I needed to make this the best Valentine’s day ever.  At the end of the day are you going to be looking at yourself and feeling sad or even angry because someone let you down, or are you going to be reflecting on all the people you were able to bless by letting them know you love and value them?


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Sugar Cookies

I love everything about sugar cookies.  I love the taste, I love the texture and I love decorating them.   I am fascinated by people who can make a sugar cookie into an incredibly beautiful piece of art. Here is a video of one of my favorite cookies artists.

I have searched for years to find the perfect sugar cookie recipe that will hold it’s shape when baked and that tastes incredible. I have finally perfected my recipe and would love to share it with you.

My Recipe:
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups flour

With an electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light.  Add egg and vanilla.  Mix in flour and salt until blended.  Remove beater cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.  You will need to knead the dough for a few minutes to get it to come together.  Roll out on floured counter and cut into desired shapes.  Bake at 400° for 8-11 minutes.  (My oven usually takes 9 min. )

Cool, frost, decorate and enjoy.

*** For my grandson who is allergic to dairy I substitute palm oil shortening.   This is the brand I use.


Learning to let go!

This year has been a wild and crazy ride for us.  Lots of changes, lots of adjustments.  One of the biggest changes we have made was selling our bakery and moving to San Diego to be closer to children/grand babies.  This has been a great thing but incredibly difficult at the same time.

Cookies Cupcakes & More was our life and let me just say I loved my job!  For me it was a dream come true. Almost every moment of every day cake, cupcakes and Barb Nischalkeassorted desserts consumed our life.  Our home had the delightful smell of sugar and chocolate. There was almost always something baking in the oven and if you walked around our home you would find trays of sugar flowers in the middle of production, bins of assorted ingredients, stacks of bakery boxes and cupcake papers galore. Our dining room prominently displayed sample cakes and our hutch was filled with product samples for clients. The floors always seemed to be covered in flour, powdered sugar or sprinkles.  In other words the bakery took over our home and created a happy sort of chaos.  I would go to bed dreaming about cake, figuring out designs and solving decorating problems.  And now all that is gone.

I’m surprised at how hard this transaction has been. I honestly didn’t realize how much my identity was tied to the bakery. I watch Cookies Cupcakes & More change, the business evolve into something new and I grieve the loss of my dream. It feels as if I left part of me behind in Portland. This was my baby and now it belongs to someone else. I wonder who am I? Am I still a professional cake decorator? What is my purpose? What am I supposed to do now?

Wrestling with your identity is tough.  You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite movies.  (It’s kind of our love story, we met online and went to see this movie on our second date.)  In that movie Kathleen’s business is going under financially. She meets with her friend Birdie to discuss her options. Kathleen tells Birdie that she has decided to close the store.  Birdie replies “Closing the store is the brave thing to do… You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life.” I don’t know if letting go of the bakery was the brave thing to do and it’s been hard imagining another life but I am beginning to get glimpses of that life.

With every day that goes by I know it was the right decision.  I am rediscovering who I am.  I am Barbara Nischalke: daughter of the creator of the universe, wife of an amazing man, mom to incredible children, grandma to the best grand babies around (Mimi to Ryan), and I am still a professional cake decorator. I bake now to please family. friends and myself. I love baking with my grand babies and seeing their faces light up with the special treats we make.  I still dream about cakes but now they are cakes I am making for the people I love. Most of all I look forward to spending more time enjoying life in general. Letting go of something I loved has changed me for the better.

“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” Phil. 3:13

What have you had to let go? What challenges did you face? Are you daring to imagine that you could have a different life? I want to live my life with no regrets.  With regards to selling the bakery I have done that,  no regrets.

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