Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole – THM S

Wow!! It has been a really long time since I have written anything to share with you.

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Our first snow of the year! November 19, 2016

I must say the last 8 months have been very full and stressful at times. In April of this year, after 2 years in Senegal, I began the process of packing, saying goodbyes and a million other things needed for a cross-continent move. It was really hard leaving friends who had become like family and saying goodbye to the boys I had worked with almost every day for those 2 years.

Before returning to Minnesota I had heard missionaries talk about reverse culture shock and about the fact that it can be hard to transition back into “normal” life. While I was aware that I might experience a time of adjustment, I didn’t really didn’t think it was something I would struggle with. Mostly because I was only out of the country for two years and I felt like I had done pretty well staying connected with all that was going on here. But in all honesty it has been a lot harder than I expected.

Thankfully it is getting easier and it is so good being with my family on a regular basis! It was such a blessing to all be together for Thanksgiving and I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas with everyone!!

Since returning home my parents and I have been following an eating plan call Trim Healthy Mama. It’s a great way to eat healthy and yummy food! If you are interested you can read more on their website…here.

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This eating healthy is so hard…

Tonight we created an awesome Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe that I just have to share! It was a hit! This recipe is a THM – S…which stands for “satisfying”. But whether or not you are eating the THM way I think you will really enjoy this casserole! Let me know if you try it.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole – THM S
Serves – 6

4 cups Chicken (cooked)
1 lb. Ham (cubed)

Swiss cheese sauce:
1 cup Chicken broth
4 oz. Cream Cheese – 1/3 fat
2 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 tsp. Onion powder
1/4 tsp. Garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Parsley
2 cups Swiss Cheese

Topping:
4 Wasa crackers (crushed)
1/2 cup Almond flour
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp. Butter (melted)

  • Layer chicken and ham in a greased 2 quart casserole dish.
  • In a saucepan bring first 6 ingredients of the Swiss Cheese sauce to a boil. Add in the Swiss cheese. Heat until melted, stirring often.
  • Pour the sauce over the meats.
  • Mix together topping ingredients and sprinkle on casserole.

Bake at 400F for 30 minutes

 

Enjoy!

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Lentil Soup – THM E

I am anxiously awaiting the cool season here in Senegal. A few weeks ago we had a break in the heat and it seemed as if cooler weather was just around the corner. Sadly the progress is slow going. Now I’m just hoping it cools off by the time my Mom arrives from Minnesota on November 23rd!

Yes, you read that right. My Mom is coming to Dakar! She will be here in 10 days from now! I can’t wait! It has been almost exactly 10 months since I saw her last. I am so excited to have her here with me for a few weeks! It will be fun to show her around and have her meet all my friends here.

In my excitement I am also trying to make sure I have food in the freezer so that we don’t need to be cooking the whole time. Although, we both do enjoy cooking and it will be nice to cook together again! So today I decided to make some Lentil Soup and freeze it.

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All of the ingredients ready to go. Except the tomato paste…I forgot to get it in the picture.

This recipe is one I threw together earlier this fall and liked it so much I have made it a few times. It’s really easy to make, so I thought I should share it! You can also make it more like stew by using less chicken broth.

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Now it’s time to bring it to a boil!

(I’ll try to add a picture of the finished soup when I pull it out of the freezer…I forgot to take one before I put it away.)

My Mom has been following the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating about 1 1/2 years and I have been trying to eat that way as much as possible since June. If you are interested in learning more you can check out the website by clicking here.  This recipe is considered an E, which stands for energizing. It would be really tasty with a slice of homemade sourdough bread! The the recipe I use is from Gwen’s Nest and is also a THM E.

So as you being to feel the chill of fall here is a great recipe to warm up with!

Lentil Soup – THM E

4 cups Chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Lentils (cooked)
or
[2 cups Lentils (uncooked) and 8 cups Chicken broth]
2 Carrots
1 med. Onion
3 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp. Tomato paste
3 Bay leaves
1/4 tsp. Thyme
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/8 tsp. Turmeric powder
Salt and Pepper

——–

  • Chop carrots and onion. Mince garlic.
  • Add everything to a pot and bring to a boil.
  • Turn heat down, cover and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.
  • If using uncooked lentil simmer for at least 1 hour.

There you have it…simple! Enjoy!

Old News

Wow! It has been way too long since I posted anything here. I got on today to look for my Homemade Soft Pretzel recipe and noticed it had been three months since I had written anything. Three months! So decided I had better get on and write something…even if I don’t feel like I have much to share right now.

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Traffic in downtown Dakar on a Tuesday afternoon. Often cars come within just a few inches of hitting each other.

After living in Senegal for over 15 months I think I have forgotten what would seem new and interesting to someone who has never been here. But I think if I try to look at life through your eyes I will find things to write about that will interest you. If you have questions about life in Senegal please leave me a comment and I will try to write a post about it! My life has been so full of new things since I moved here. Things I don’t want to forget…so even if its old news I’ll start sharing some of it with you!

Let’s go back 7 months ago today.

On December 25th, at 2 am I flew out of Dakar. I was headed home to Minnesota for my brother’s wedding! About 22 hours later, I was getting some of the best hugs of my life! What a sweet Christmas memory! I wasn’t expecting to be home at all during my two years here in Senegal, so it was extra special to be home for Christmas. God is so good! My brother’s wedding was such a special day and the time with all of my family was truly a blessing! I’m so thankful that God worked out the details for me go home for a visit and that he knows our needs even before we do.

Here are some pictures of my trip. I didn’t take all the pictures I should have…but I enjoyed each moment with family and friends! Which is sometimes more important than capturing the moments in a pictures right?

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Celebrating Christmas!

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Christmas dinner #2 – I loved getting to spend time with all of my nieces! They are getting so big!

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Coffee time with the soon-to-be bride and groom!

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Hugs from my big bro…the best!

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My beautiful Mom, dashing Dad and wonderful aunt on the day of the wedding.

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My old car all decked out as the wedding get-away vehicle.

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Fun family dinner…some of us look like we were having a little too much fun!

Birthday Blessings

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Thursday I turned 29. This past week has been filled with blessings…birthday gifts from God.

The week before my birthday I was treated to lunch by some friends as an early birthday present! Not only did they buy me lunch…they also showered my with some very thoughtful gifts!

[PICTURES TO COME…]

All week God has been showering me with beautiful sunsets! These pictures are a poor replacement for the real thing…the color and layering of clouds has been truly breathtaking!

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and this year it was my birthday too! I traveled with some friends to our teammate’s house, about an hour and a half away, to celebrate the holiday together. On the way there my friends sang “Happy Birthday” to me and I received some lovely cards from my “nieces”! We also saw a monkey running across the road…that was a first! I wish I had a picture of that to share with you.

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I am so thankful that although I am far from home God has giving me “family” to celebrate special days with! Not only did I have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and pie…I also had a yummy chocolate cake to make my day special!

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As a perfect ending to my day, I spent 1 1/2 on Skype with my family! It was so nice to talk to all of them! My 2-year-old niece sang “Happy Birthday” to me and gave me so many computer hugs and kisses!  Then the big girls joined the call and sang to me again! I can’t wait to see them all next month!

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Today I arrived home and was greeted by a surprise…I cake made with a mix and frosting my mom had sent!  I had no idea she had sent a cake for my birthday, it was such a sweet unexpected surprise! So my friends sang “Happy Birthday” to me and we had some chocolate cake together!

A Taste of Home

I have been pleasantly surprised that since moving to Africa I have missed very little when it comes to food. That’s not to say I never miss any easy-to-come-by food from home. But in general I am very content with the food I eat here. Traditional Senegalese food is very good (even if you are a somewhat picky eater) and someday soon I will write a post about some of the most common Senegalese meals…but today is about American food!

Before I even set foot in Senegal I had heard of the “American Store”…where desperate Americans go when they need Frosted Mini-Wheats, Betty Crocker cake mix, Starbucks coffee and other hard to find essentials. (Or if they just really love American brands and don’t want to buy a French brand of apple sauce from a local grocery store.)

The New “American Store”

Recently, while on a trip to the American Embassy to pick up my renewed passport we stopped in at the new “American Food Store”…which is just down the road from the embassy.

Here is what I found that couldn’t live without…

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Okay…I could have lived without all of this but it is nice to have a taste of home!

But when you live thousands of miles from “home” you pay the price to eat like you were still living there…

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The exchange rate here is around 500CFA to $1.00.

So here is what my receipt would look like in dollars…

A&W Root Beet – $1.20

Hidden Valley Ranch – $3.20

Reese’s PB Cup – $1.30

Gold Fish – $0.80 x 4

Borax – $8.20

Total – $17.10

Tea & Scrabble

Last weekend I got to experience attaya, a strong, sugary green tea.  It was very good and we had it a few more time throughout the week, it definitely has the caffeine you are looking for when you are draping.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about attaya…link.

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I also recently played a game of scrabble in Wolof, the language I am studying here.  It was very challenging, but a good exercise! At least I got to use the dictionary.

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Gardening in Dakar

 

When I decided to start a blog I told myself I would never apologize for long periods of silence.  When I was young it seemed like every letter I wrote to family or friends far away began with…”I’m sorry it’s been so long since I wrote.”  I would feel guilty because I had intended to write and just hadn’t done it.

Sometimes it’s so easy to get busy living life, that making time to connect with people who are important to us gets lost in the shuffle.

This weekend I had a phone call with a lifelong friend and I was reminded of why I began blogging…I want to share my life with you.  I want you to know a little more about me as you read my posts.  It’s important to me.

Since moving to Africa you would think I would have lots of exciting things to share, but it doesn’t always feel that way.  My mornings are filled with my ministry and the rest of the day is spent in a variety of tasks…checking/responding to emails, doing laundry, trips to the grocery store, taking  naps – I don’t know if this really can be considered a task but it is part of some of my afternoons, studying Wolof, making dinner and taking care of my garden.

But while all of these things seem very routine to me, you may still find them interesting.  So I will try to give you a  picture of what my life in Senegal is like.

 

Gardening in Dakar

 

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This picture was taken in the beginning of June. We bought 5 bags of dirt to fill empty pots that we already had and bought 3 new pots to fill.

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Here are the cucumbers growing up their trellis and their neighbors, the basil plants. The basil is really liking the hot humid weather in Senegal!

 

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The cucumbers have put out so many blossoms…but sadly no little cucumbers.

 

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Our young carrots being protected from the birds who like our roof.

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A zucchini flower! I’m anxiously awaiting eating my first zucchini.

 

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Our volunteer tomato…we are hoping for a beefsteak. We planted cherry tomatoes from seed and they are doing well too. I love how fuzzy tomato plants look!

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We have been enjoying the beautiful purples of these plants we got from a teammate. The one with the light purple flowers are Russian Sage.

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God provided me with an unfinished courtyard that I decided would make a perfect garden…I named it “The Secret Garden”.  It’s small but things are growing!

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Green bean blossoms with white fly larva. (Any hints for getting rid of white flies? I would love to hear them.)

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Look! Our first green bean…we are going to cut it into thirds and share it!

Gardening is in my blood.

It is definitely different growing plants on a rooftop garden in pots and a small sandy courtyard, then growing a 1/2 acre garden in Minnesota with my family.  But I am so thankful God has given me a way to connect with Him through growing things!

While I was writing this I took a break to go water my plants on the roof and got to enjoy a gentle rain…such a long-awaited joy!

Thanks for taking the time to connect with me.

 

Toubab Cooking – Jewish Apple Cake

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Last Saturday I decided it was time to try my hand at some baking…just to make sure my baking skills were the same in Senegal as they were in Minnesota.  As of today I have been in Dakar for three weeks.  The time seems to have simply melted away.  Although it hasn’t been too hot, but it has been windy…so maybe I should say that the time seems to have blown away!

Here in Senegal it is hard to find good sandwich bread like we are familiar with in America and if you can find some it quite expensive…like — for a loaf! So making bread was high on my to-do list.  I was really hoping it would turn out good.  I was worried that the difference in climate and possible difference in ingredients would make it flop.  I used my recipe for Honey Oatmeal Bread and it turned out great!  The only thing I did different was I left out the wheat flour, as I couldn’t find it here.

I also wanted to make something sweet that we had all the ingredients for…so I made a family favorite, Jewish Apple Cake!  My Mom has been making this moist, cinnamon apple cake for as long as I can rem
ember.  But it was my grandma who first found the recipe in a local newspaper in the 1960’s.  The original recipe called for layering the cake batter and apples, but with having a large family and trying to save some time my grandma decided to simple fold the apples in instead!  As a young girl, I always remember my Mom getting complements  when ever she would make this cake for company…so it seemed like the perfect recipe to begin my time in Senegal!

I hope you enjoy making and eating this cake as much as my family and I do!

Jewish Apple Cake

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

4 lg. eggs

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

1/3 cup Orange juice (I used mango and pineapple juice)

2 tsp. vanilla

5 apples

4 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup raisins (opt.)

1 cup nuts (opt.)

——-

1/4 cup sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon – mixed together.  Use for dusting the pan.

——-

Instructions:

– Grease a 9×13 inch pan and dust with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  This works great on a variety of sweet breads and cakes!  Save any extra to top the cake.

– Peel, core and thinly slice apples…I like to use a variety of apples if I can.  Mix cinnamon (2 tsp.) and sugar (4 Tbsp.). Toss with apples until well coated.

– In a large bowl add flour, sugar and baking powder. Mix.

– In another bowl mix together the eggs, oil, juice and vanilla.  Then add to the dry ingredients.

– Mix until thoroughly combined.

– Gently fold in apples and the nuts or raisins.

– Pour into your greased pan and top with any extra cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour

Enjoy!

Toubab – a Wolof word for white person. (Pronounced: to-bob)

Quick story…so last week I visited a local market for the first time.  There were lots of cute little kids running around many of them would come up to us singing, “Toubab, toubab! Bonjour, toubab!”  Many of them may have only seen a white person a few times in their lives.  They were so cute and polite, some of them wanted to come up and shake our hands!  It made my first time to the market a memorable experience.

 

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

I’m sorry it has been so long since I have shared anything with you.  The last few months have been so filled with preparing to move to Senegal…and now I am here!  I arrived in Dakar less then a week ago and have already begun to settle in.  Hopefully, now that I have arrived I will be more consistent with posting.

Although I haven’t been writing here about all that has happened in the last few week, I have been updating family and friends through Facebook.   So I thought that for now I would share those updates with all of you!

The last few weeks in review…

Sunday, April 6th – “Today I experienced such an outpouring of love from my church family at Faithbridge Church! This morning started out with a commissioning service – to pray for me and send me out from the church body to be God’s hands and feet in Senegal. After church, some of my dear friends had planned a pot-luck to give me a chance to say goodbye to so many special people in my life. I am still in awe of all the love and encouragement I received today!!! Thank you all so much for your love and prayers…I will miss worshiping and serving with you in Park Rapids!”

 

Wednesday, April 9th – “FSM staff (Thanks for the memories Kim – Africa is not that far away, besides now that your planted in West Africa we can rotate our students over there, summer of 2015, right)” – Phil

My last night working alongside Patti and Phil (our youth pastor).

Friday, April 11th – “Today I said the last of my goodbyes in Park Rapids…now I’m on my way to the cities for some time with my family before I fly out on Sunday! A very emotional day, but I am so excited to be on my way!”

Sunday, April 13th – “Our girl enjoying a drink from Caribou Coffee!!!” – Mom

Here’s me and my Dad…waiting for my flight!

Tuesday, April 15th – “Sunday I said goodbye to Minnesota and my dear family. Thank you all for praying for us…although it was very hard to say goodbye I definitely felt God’s peace through it all! When I was checking in I asked if it was possible to get passes for my family to come to the gate with me (explaining that I was leaving to live in Africa for two years) and they said yes. What a great blessing!!! I’ve been having a great visit with family and fly out for Dakar tomorrow night. I’ll be sure to check in with all of you sometime Thursday or Friday.”

My older brother Mark and my niece Caelyn were able to come spend some time with me before I left…I’m so glad they came!

Thursday, April 17th – “Praise the Lord we just got a call from Kimberly Johnson and she is safe in Africa after a good flight!!! We will all continue to pray for you as this new phase of your journey with God begins! Love, Dad & Mom”

“God is so good! I have arrived in Dakar safe and sound! I left the airport in Washington, DC at 6pm last night and got here around 6am (the time zone here is 5 hours ahead of MN). It is a little after 2pm here now…I have had breakfast, a tour of my new home, begun to unpack, seen much of Dakar on a trip the a grocery store and taken a nap. Thank you all so much for your prayers! I had a good flight and was able to get some sleep.”

Friday, April 18th – “I’m still working on getting a short video put together…but it’s all new to me so it’s taking longer then anticipated. Today I got to meet many of my World Venture teammates at a team meeting. It was great to meet them and begin getting to know them all! It was 84F today…just a little warm for me! But tomorrow should be a little cooler.”

Saturday, April 19th – The first picture is of my new home! The rest are from the park and zoo just a short walk from home. I loved sitting by the lake with Denise today…different birds and a much warmer temperature, but it felt a little like MN! God is so good! Happy Easter! 


Sunday, April 20th – “This morning I enjoyed an outdoor Easter Sonrise service at Dakar Academy! It wasn’t quite like home…but the students did a great job with the choir and drama! In the afternoon I went with the McCarthys to another missionary couple’s home for Easter Dinner. Which included ham and lemon meringue pie! Happy Easter!!!”

 

So there you have it.  I hope that gives you a good picture of what the last few weeks have looked like for me!

New Friends

This past week I have had the chance to make many new friends and see old ones.  I have been at World Venture in Littleton, Colorado for my last missionary training and for Renewal Conference

Missionaries who are on home assignment with World Venture come to Renewal Conference to be informed and encouraged.

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This was our first day of Pre-Departure training…the staff at headquarters helped us celebrate how far God has brought us in our journey. The sparkling cider was great and the joy expressed on our behalf brought tears to my eyes!

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This is me and my new friend Hannia…she is also from MN and is headed to the Philippines to minister through Agricultural Community Development!

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During our free weekend Hannia and I went for a hike at Red Rocks. The views were amazing, the weather was beautiful and the time for growing our friendship was priceless!

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Each of these ladies has become such a blessing in my life! Spending time with other single ladies with a similar passion for God and missions has been so encouraging. (Clockwise: Soraya – Spain, Hannia – Philippines and Karen – Uganda)

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After 44 years of ministry with World Venture Marilyn Escher, missionary to Senegal, retired! I was invited by the rest of the Senegal team to join them in a celebration dinner in her honor.

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Each of these lovely ladies has been serving in Senegal for a number of years. I am so glad I got to meet them this week and I’m looking forward to learning about missions from them and serving together!!!