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Happy Valentine’s Day! {{Plus, FREE Recipe}}

Happy Valentine’s Day from Cultivate Grace! As a special treat for the holiday, I want to share a pair of recipes people request a lot from me.

Chicken Tikka Masala (Slow Cooker) + Quick-Rise Skillet Naan

Our whole family enjoys this delicious Indian dish. We’ve tried dozens of recipes to make this at home and this was my final attempt to create my own. It’s great because so much of the work is done in advance and smells heavenly after simmering in the crock pot all day. Every person who has eaten this at our house has declared it restaurant worthy. 🙂

Warning: This recipe makes a ton! It fills a 6-quart slow-cooker to the brim.

We’ll be eating it tonight. With it’s pretty pink-ish, red-ish sauce, maybe you’d like to add it to your Valentine’s Day traditions, too?!?!

Chicken Tikka Masala (Slow Cooker) {Serve over Rice}

Chicken Tikka Masala (Crock Pot)



3-4 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (cut into large pieces (2-4 pieces per breast is large enough to grill without having to use skewers))

3-4 pounds Chicken Thighs, Boneless, Skinless (cut into large pieces (2 pieces per thigh is large enough to grill without having to use skewers))

3 cups Greek Yogurt Plain

1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin

1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 Tablespoon Ginger Ground

1 teaspoon Salt



1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Large Onion (cut into large chunks)

2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic

29 ounces Tomato Sauce

29 ounces Tomato Puree

2 Tablespoons Ground Ginger

2 Tablespoons Garam Masala

1 teaspoon Ground Cumin

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or to taste)

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon


Last Minute Additions to Sauce:

1 Large Green Peppers Chopped (cut into large chunks)

1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin (optional, but adding a little at the end livens the flavors)

1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala (optional, but adding a little at the end livens the flavors)

4 cups Heavy Cream




1. Cut chicken into large pieces.

2. Mix yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, and salt.

3. Toss chicken in marinade & refrigerate for at least an hour.

4. After an hour, broil or grill meat on high heat for 8 minutes on each side (it doesn’t need to be cooked through, but should be grilled to just before edges blacken on the outside).

5. Begin sauce while grilling/broiling. (Grilling really does taste better!)


1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.

2. Sauté chunks of onion for 2 minutes.

3. Add minced garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.

4. Set onion/garlic mixture in bottom of slow cooker.

5. Place grilled/broiled chicken pieces on top of onion mixture. Do not stir.

6. Mix tomato sauce, tomato purée, ginger, garam masala, cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

7. Pour over chicken. Do not stir slow cooker ingredients. Let it cook in layers.

8. Cook 4-6 hours on high.

Last Minute Additions:

1. About 1/2 hour to 1 hour before serving, add green pepper, additional cumin & garam masala, and cream.

2. Now you can stir all the ingredients well, until the cream is well blended.

3. This is the perfect time to start cooking rice & Naan to have it all hot and ready at the same time.

(Basmati Rice is a great choice for Indian food.)

Quick-Rise Skillet Naan

Quick-Rise Skillet Naan

3-1/4 cups All-purpose flour

generous pinch Salt

3/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast

1-1/2 cup warm water

2-4 Tablespoons melted butter or olive oil


1. Add yeast to warm (not hot water).

2. Mix flour and salt until incorporated. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. (You don’t need to knead the dough – and it’s a REALLY sticky mess in the bowl.)

3. Generously flour a surface and your hands.

4. Tear off an lemon sized piece of dough. It is still VERY sticky. That’s OK.

5. Push (or use a rolling pin & roll) the dough out into a very thin oval. It should be just thick enough to pick up without tearing.

6. Heat skillet on medium-high heat.

7. Brush with olive oil or melted butter and place Naan, butter side down, in pre-heated skillet. (If desired, you may sprinkle with coarse salt or garlic powder, or some other spice before placing it in the pan.)

8. Cook for 2 minutes, or until bottom side has brown spots.

9. Brush with butter and add any seasonings to the top side during this two minutes. I also prepare the next naan while I wait.

10. Flip naan and cover pan.

11. Cook for 30 seconds more (longer if your naan is thicker) and remove from pan.

12. Cover naan with a clean towel while you cook the rest. It’s best served hot – not reheated.

1 Simple Trick to Save Space and Rescue Your Mornings

One solution to a crowded closet is to get rid of clothes. It can be a good option, and likely, we could all make use of de-cluttering techniques where our clothes are concerned.

But sometimes the problem isn’t how much stuff we keep, but where to put it. A place for everything and everything in its place is a great motto, but you have to have someplace to put everything, and that can be tricky.

I have found experimenting with different ways to store clothes can help identify a space where everything can have a home. Fashion and organization experts both recommend hanging clothes in outfits – so the scarf hangs with the pants, shirt, and jacket with which you generally pair it. This idea saves time in the mornings, since less thinking is involved in figuring out what to wear, and it can save space, since you don’t need a separate storage item for hanging clothes, accessories, etc. Another twist on this idea is to fold outfits together, if you have items you don’t hang.

For years I’ve used a similar technique for my youngest children. On laundry day we fold their clothes in outfits before putting them on the shelf. Even a toddler can get an “outfit packet” off of the shelf to bring to you at dressing time. School-aged children benefit from outfits that (1) match, (2) have all the parts available, and (3) are easily accessible. Just think about how much time you could save in the morning by not having to send kids back to the bedroom for pants that match… socks… a long-sleeved shirt (why do they always pick short sleeves when it’s 26 degrees outside?!).

My folding method works better for us than just setting the pieces of outfits in a stack together. When we stack them together they seem to be more “guidelines” than “intentional choices” and everything gets all mixed up on the shelf as they tear the shirt from one outfit to pair with a hidden pair of shorts they found under the mattress…

So here’s how I fold our “outfit packets”:

(I’m going to go through a multi-layered outfit, since it’s the most involved)

Lay the jacket or sweater out, face down on your folding surface, like so:

Lay out sweater or jacket

Lay out the shirt or other under-layer for the top face down on top of the jacket this way:

Spread second layer over first

Fold the pants (or skirt) to fit the width of the shirt between the sleeves, like this:

Put folded pants between shoulders

Add socks (or tights, or leggings and socks) on top of the pants:

Add the socks

Next, fold the bottom half of the layered shirt/jacket/sweater combo up over the pants/skirt/socks/tights combo, as shown here:

Fold bottom of shirt up over pants and socks

If there’s a hood, fold it down over the pants/skirt/socks/tights this way:

If there's a hood, fold it over the pants and socks

Then fold the sleeves across the whole packet, one at a time, to “close” it up. See?

Fold sleeves over packet, one at a time

Now flip it over and you have an outfit ready to stack.

Flip it over & get ready to stack

Single layer outfits and summer clothes are even easier. For short sleeves, I lay the shirt face down, set the folded shorts between the shoulders, and add socks (if necessary). Then I fold the sleeves over the shorts first, followed by the tail of the shirt up over the shorts (the short sleeves simply aren’t long enough to “close” the packet and end up unfolding when you flip the outfit up so you can see the shirt). You still have a neat packet of clothes, and your child can see the design on the shirt, so they know what they are getting.

Incidentally, these little clothing packets save a lot of space on the shelf or in the drawer. You don’t have to have a separate place for socks, tights, shirts, and pants. While the clothes still have the same mass, folding them together will save space on the shelf, in the drawer, and in the margins of your morning.

Going Green – Saving Green: Laundry Savings

Going Green ~ Saving Green

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1

There’s something amazing to me about God creating the earth – if you read the creation account as if you’ve never heard it before, thinking about it like it’s new information – well, it’s a little bit awe-inspiring. Especially when you then look around and see the limitless creativity and economy he used.  It seems like we are still discovering new creatures, yet sometimes they carry characteristics of others we’ve already come to know and love.

And then to think he put man over it all to protect and nurture it – to take dominion over the creatures – which also implies the need to care for the environment of those creatures.  Man, who was created in his image, is tasked with the care of his special creation.  Pretty cool, huh, when you really stop to think about it?

I probably don’t think about it often enough.

And yet, there are times when I live up to his creative and efficient image in me – when I represent him well in and to his creation.

Sometimes it has been things like cultivating our yard to be beautiful and neat.  Sometimes it’s been things like tenderly caring for a pet until it is restored to health.  And other times it manifests itself in limiting my carbon footprint – reduce, reuse, recycle.

Van de Graaff Electro-Static GeneratorOne little thing we do is minimize our use of dryer sheets/fabric softener.  I did try to give up dryer sheets altogether, but everything stayed so staticky and then my hair constantly looked like I was at the science center touching one of those giant balls at the end of a Van de Graaff generator.

I went back to dryer sheets.

Then I read an article about how dryer sheets could be used multiple times – there’s enough fabric softener on the sheets to be effective for FOUR uses.  I tried that, but it was hard to locate the dryer sheet between loads, plus I could never decide if it was as effective on the fourth load as the first.

Then I decided, if a dryer sheet could be used four times, then it’s reasonable to assume 1/4 of a dryer sheet could be used once.


It works.  🙂

I know, it’s not rocket science, but it’s one little thing that saves us a lot of money and reduces our waste.

I should add, when we moved to Tennessee eight years ago and had to purchase a washer/dryer, we bought high-capacity, high-efficiency, front-loading machines.  Since I can wash/dry up to 17 pairs of jeans in my washer, our loads may be larger than yours.  We did make the shift to using 1/2 dryer sheet when we started making use of the full capacity of our dryer.  With nine people, seven of whom are growing bigger by the minute, we have definitely grown into our washer/dryer!

Which brings me to a second way we’ve saved a lot of money and reduced our carbon footprint is in the washer/dryer combo we use.  The front loading machines utilize significantly less water, detergent, and also minimize drying time.  So, if/when you are in the market for new laundry equipment, I highly recommend HE front-loading machines at whatever capacity makes sense for your size family.

I know there are also folks who make their own laundry soap and find additional savings there.  I haven’t personally delved into homemade soap, because our bulk purchases of laundry soap cost $13-$26 per year (since I run at least 2 loads of laundry per day, six days per week, I spend about $0.02-$0.04 per load on laundry detergent, which is well within reason in my book).

Still, it seems some folks are able to save by making their own laundry detergent, and two sweet friends have shared their recipes with me.  Here are links to the recipes they’ve recommended (I cannot vouch for anything else on these sites, so please, peruse with the same care you would on any new website):

Dry Laundry Detergent

Liquid Laundry Detergent

Photo Credit:
Electro-Static Generator by Dtjrh2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Green Piggy by RLHyde – http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/ [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Going Green – Saving Green: Paper Towels

Going Green ~ Saving Green

One way we can execute grace is by preserving the earth for future generations.  If I can minimize my carbon footprint, I offer my children and your children a healthy and beautiful place to live.

Tree in Bloom

I am not a radical environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination, but there are little ways I take a stab at taking dominion over the earth in an earth-friendly way.

As an added and immediate benefit, it often saves me money.  I want to share some earth and money saving tips from time to time.  These tips are intended to be helpful – not burdensome!  Please don’t think you are doing something wrong if you choose to do it differently!  We all have different passions, values, and motivations – and that is a good thing!


The average American uses about 55 pounds of paper towels, napkins, and tissues per year.  I have nine average American’s in my home… that’s almost 500 pounds of disposable paper wiping things…  it’s kind of a lot.  I can do a little bit to limit our contribution to the land fills.

So, this year I decided to wage war on paper towels.  OK, maybe that language is a little strong – I don’t intend to eliminate our paper towel usage, but I have minimized it dramatically and it is saving us a fair amount of money.

Here’s how:

  • I bought flour sack towels – the least expensive, and largest towels you can find.  I bought two packages at Sam’s Wholesale Club, a smaller household might only need one.
  • I washed and dried my new towels on the hottest settings my washer and dryer offer.  All the shrinking was over with and I can use these washing settings whenever I want without fear of generating towels for our doll house.
  • I then cut my flour sack towels into 4 rectangles – first in half longwise, then each of the two pieces in half on the short side.
  • By cutting into quarters, my pieces were about the size of a full sized paper towel and two sides of each rectangle were already hemmed.
  • I hemmed the two cut edges.  I used a rolled hem because I have this really cool sewing machine foot that does the hard work and I like opportunities to practice the skill of using it.  You can mimic the folded edge of the purchased hems, use a rolled hem, or simply serge the edge.  It doesn’t really matter, the point is to prevent fraying on something you used to throw away, right?
  • I also purchased a toilet paper holder – it’s a cylinder intended to hold 3 rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom.  Mine is frosty white – slightly opaque.  It fits perfectly into the paper towel holder I have hanging in my kitchen.  I leave the lid off and stuff it full of my paper-towel alternative cloths (PAC).
  • I do not fold the cloths, I just jam them into the cylinder.  I have learned to wad them individually so I can pull out just one at a time.
  • We change kitchen towels every morning, so I have a pile of used PAC’s in the kitchen we take to the laundry room every morning with the kitchen towels.
  • Our laundry room has a small basket where we put kitchen towels, rags, and small items needing washing between loads.  We’ve added PAC’s to this basket.  When I am starting a load of white wash, I just throw this small basket in with the load and we have clean PAC’s.
  • imageOur laundry rotation includes a white clothes load (parent’s clothes) on Tuesday and a white bath towel load on Friday.  So at least twice per week the little basket gets emptied.  With the two packages of flour sack towels, I have plenty to make it between washing loads.
  • We still keep a roll of paper towels beneath the kitchen sink for occasions when I don’t want to use my pretty white PAC’s – busted lips, scrapes and cuts from climbing trees, an egg dropped on the floor, potty training incidents… you get the idea.

To give you an idea of how it’s working – we used to go through about 1-1/2 rolls of paper towels in our kitchen per week.  We have used less than 1/4 roll of paper towels since we switched to PAC’s about 6-weeks ago.  That’s a lot of paper towels not in the land fill.  It’s also a huge savings for us when every little bit helps.

Oh – and the cost of the flour sack towels and cylinder for storage was a total of $23.  We’ve more than recovered our initial cost.

I will admit hemming the towels was a bit tedious…  🙂

Photo Credit:
Green Piggy by RLHyde – http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/ [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Pi Day!

It’s Pi day.  March 14th.  3-14.  Pi=3.14… Get it?

I think it’s worth celebrating.  Any reason to celebrate, right?



Pi is the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet.

Pi is also the symbol assigned to represent the relationship between the circumference (distance around the outside) of a circle and its diameter (the distance across a circle if you cut it exactly in half).  For any circle – and I really do mean any circle of any size – if you divide the circumference of that circle by the diameter of that circle you will always get Pi.

Pi, as a number, is irrational.  Being irrational means you cannot write Pi as a simple fraction.  There is no way to divide two numbers and end up without a remainder.  As a decimal, it means that none of the digits after the decimal will repeat indefinitely or terminate.  {It is similar to having an argument with someone who is irrational.  They never seem to return to the same point twice, and if they do, it’s only briefly and they are off in another direction… You can never get to the end of an argument like that, can you?}

Pi is approximately 3.14159. An easy way to recall the digits is to remember the sentence, “May I have a large container of butter today.”  Each word contains the number of letters that correspond to the digits in the decimal.  Just in case you need to know.  🙂

Math lesson ended, let’s move on to baking.


Pie is a baked dish which usually has pastry dough containing (and sometimes completely encasing) sweet or savory filling.  Most people associate pie with a round pie plate filled with a sweet filling and served for dessert.  However, the American Pie Council claims fruit pie originated in the 19th century as a breakfast food to prepare for a particularly long day.

According to a 2008 survey by Crisco and the American Pie Council, pie is America’s favorite dessert. Pie is not just for dessert nowadays, either.  According to the same study, 35% of Americans have eaten pie for breakfast, 66% have pie for lunch, and 59% have pie for a midnight snack.

So what does all of this have to do with Cultivating Grace?  Probably nothing, but since my personality type is driven to find connections, I came up with one.

Here’s a little look at how my brain works:

Pi is a number which keeps going forever and does not look the same from one digit to the next.  Pie is a highly favored dessert that should be repeated often.

Pie is a great way to extend hospitality.  Hospitality doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.  And often it looks very different from one instance to the next.

So…. hospitality is like Pi!  And Pie is a great way to offer hospitality.  So hospitality is the relationship between Pi (an irrational, infinitely extending number) and Pie (a delicious pastry filled with yumminess).

Lots of times we think of hospitality as entertaining, but it doesn’t have to be.

  • Hospitality can be taking a pie to a neighbor or to a pot luck dinner as much as having someone in your home.
  • Hospitality might be meeting someone for a picnic where you both bring part of the meal.
  • Peanut butter (or in our case, Wow Butter, since we have a peanut allergy) sandwiches are just as hospitable as Shepherd’s Pie.
  • Freezer pops on the lawn with neighborhood kids counts.  So does a big batch of snow ice cream (if winter.just.won’t.end where you are).
  • Hospitality can be delivering a bag of jelly beans or a handful of daffodil bulbs you dug out of your garden.
  • Hospitality can be a cup of tea delivered to an elderly neighbor while you rake her leaves.
  • It can also be a bucket of fried chicken or a couple of pizzas you pick up on the way over.
  • Maybe hospitality is having kids over to play or going to a friend’s house to help them prepare for a garage sale.
  • It might be asking someone along for a WalMart run or a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Hospitality could be inviting your kids to help you make a pie. 🙂

Really my point is simple.  Hospitality is something we need to do.  Romans 12:13 instructs us to practice hospitality, and 1 Peter 4:9 says to do it without grumbling.  And since 1 John 4:18 reminds us perfect love casts out all fear and Philippians 4:6 tells us we are to be anxious about nothing (given that the Lord is at hand – Philippians 4:5), being afraid to have people over isn’t really an excuse either.  You don’t even have to have anyone over.

So, how about it?  Would you be willing  to celebrate Pi Day with me?  Or maybe Day-After-Pi-Day, if the weekend suits you better?

Why not make pie for your family?  Maybe you could double the recipe and take one to a neighbor, co-worker, pastor, or friend? (Not that pastors, neighbors, and co-workers aren’t friends… lol)

Is making a pie intimidating?  Here’s an easy recipe you might enjoy.

First, Pie Crust:

If the definition of pie is a pastry filled with something, it all starts with the pastry, right?  I’ve adopted Pilsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts (they are egg free, and we have an egg allergy).  Talk about easy!  I do actually roll the crusts out so that they are thinner.  A thinner crust becomes flaky.  I can get two pies from one Pilsbury crust.  Rolling out a ready-made crust is completely optional.

Apple Pie

Apple pie

    • 5-6 apples, dipped in lemon (enough to double the height of the pie plate, I like Granny Smith or Stayman Apples)
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 2 Tbs. flour
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • one pie crust, rolled so the circle is several inches wider than the pie plate

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.  Roll the pie crust until it drapes to the counter when you lay it in the pie plate.
3.  Mix the sugars, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl.
4.  Peel and core the apples.  Cut into bite sized pieces and sprinkle with a little bit of lemon juice to prevent browning.
5.  Spread half of the apples in the pie plate, on top of the crust.  Sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture.  Repeat with the rest of the apples and sugar mixture.
6.  Slice the butter into thin pats and scatter them over the top of the pie.
7.  Gently turn the edge of the pie crust up and over the pie.  The center of the pie will be uncovered.  You can fold it prettily, but it mostly just “drapes” over the top of the pie.  This eliminates the need for a top crust, lattice top, venting, etc.  I like to sprinkle the top of the crust with a little white sugar or cinnamon sugar to make it pretty.
8.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 (without removing pie) and continue baking for 35 more minutes.  Let the pie cool for at least 10 minutes (if you can stand it!) so the juices thicken before serving.

Want more?

Comment on my blog, Tweet about this post, share on your Facebook wall, or Pin it and I’ll send you recipes for Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken Pot Pie, Chocolate Pie,  and an exceptionally easy Fruit Cobbler (for when you don’t have crust!).

Send me an e-mail to let me know you’ve shared and a mini-PDF cookbook will arrive in your inbox!

Bonus:  The Shepherd’s Pie and Chicken Pot Pie have freeze-ahead versions!


First 1,000 digits of Pi by Tom Murphy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Going Green – Saving Green: Cleaning Wipes

Going Green - Saving Green

Homemade Cleaning Wipes

Cleaning Wipes

1/2 roll Bounty select-a-size paper towels (cut in half as a cross-section)  I use the name brand because it doesn’t deteriorate when left sitting in liquid.

1 cup rubbing alcohol

1 T white vinegar

water to make 4 cups liquid

A plastic storage tub large enough to hold the half-height paper towel roll.  Drill a 1/2″ hole in the center of the lid.

Put the roll of paper towels in the tub, cut end up.  Mix the liquid ingredients and pour half over the paper towels.  Flip the roll to put the cut end down and pour on the other half of the liquid.  After about 2 minutes, pull the cardboard tube out of the center of the roll.  Take the end of the paper towel from the center of the roll and poke it through the hole in the lid.  Fasten the lid and you have disinfecting wipes with a handy dispenser.

We keep a container of these in the kitchen and under the sink in every bathroom.  Since we use these every day, we don’t have any problem with drying out.  But when we come home from vacation, we often need to throw away the towel sticking out of the top.  You can always add more of the same liquid, if needed.

Photo Credit:
Green Piggy by RLHyde – http://www.flickr.com/photos/breatheindigital/ [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons