Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I have a problem

My kids' fav: Honey Bun
{Source}
Yesterday, my Goldfish crackers source sent me a message.

Taking orders for Goldfish BOGO free :-)

What?  You don't have a Goldfish source?

See, I used to be able to get Goldfish crackers for $1/bag.  They would go on sale for that price around here fairly regularly.  Now, the best price I can get is $1.67.  Regular price at my favorite grocery store is $2.39.  Two Thirty-Nine!!  Unacceptable.

So when Goldfish go on sale, my source always checks to see if I'm buying.  And she knows I'm always buying.  My kids love those things.  It's probably a good thing they don't go on sale around here anymore.

So in addition to the four boxes of Raisin Bran Crunch that I bought yesterday and that I have no room for (right now they're sitting on the floor in my bedroom closet), I've got 10 bags of Goldfish coming my way as well.

And I'm seriously contemplating buying more cereal this week.  That deal turned out to be even better than I thought, because the boxes of cereal I bought have free Redbox codes.

I definitely have a problem.

***********

Local friends, you might want to check this one out.

County Market:
Buy 4 boxes of Kellogg's cereal, priced 4/$10.  Look for the boxes with free Redbox codes.  I saw free codes on Raisin Bran Crunch, Raisin Bran, and Frosted Mini-Wheats
{Source}
Use 4 $1/1 Kellogg's cereal printable (when you redeem points)
If you don't have Kellogg's Family Rewards points, use 2 $1/2 printable coupons (you can print up to 2 of each of these):

Plus use $4/4 coupon from the ad or here (scroll down to the picture of a milk jug).  
Note--this coupon states: Buy Any Four (4) Kellogg's Cereals and SAVE $4.00 on any gallon milk, but the coupon will take off $4 regardless of the price of the milk.  It'll even work without the purchase of milk.  However, with all that cereal, you're going to need some milk, so why not?   :)   
Final price: as low as $0.50 each, plus four free Redbox codes (each worth $1.50) = better than free!


Monday, May 25, 2015

Menu plan for the week of...not sure on the date, but it's the second-to-last week of school

Y'all!  We have so much food in our house!  The fridge is full.  The freezer is full.  The other freezer is full.  The "pantry," which is really a closet in the hallway, but it's labeled "pantry" on the blueprints, so we'll pretend that's what it is, is full.  I know.  First world problems.  We are incredibly blessed to be able to eat whenever we want to.  But in an effort to reduce our abundant food stores, which have expanded to fit the available space and are threatening to invade unavailable space, this week I'm only buying produce, milk and orange juice.

And a few deals that are just so amazing I can't pass them up.

I know.  I have a problem.  I just can't help myself.  When I can get Raisin Bran Crunch for $0.50 a box, I'm going to do it, regardless of whether I have the space for it.

We have so much food, and yet, according to my kids, there's never anything to eat.  Hmmm. Wonder how that works.

In other news, it's the second-to-last week of school.  It snuck up on me again.  It happens every year, but somehow, every year, I'm surprised.

I am soooo not ready for summer.  And those teachers aren't doing nearly as good a job of keeping me distracted from the fact that I'm staring down 12 solid weeks of togetherness with my kiddos.  Love 'em.  But you know how they say absence makes the heart grow fonder?  Truth.

Anyway, even though I'm not buying much food this week, we will eat things, including...

Supper:
Zucchini Pasta Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing | In Johnna's Kitchen
Zucchini "pasta" salad with creamy avocado dressing from
In Johnna's Kitchen

 The Best Low-Carb Cauliflower Pizza Crust Recipe
The Best Low-Carb Cauliflower Pizza Crust from
Gimme Delicious Food

Other:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Menu plan for the week of May 18

I was going to say that it's getting to be the time of year where I start thinking about making meals that do not require heating up the oven.  But the weather has been so sporadic that it's hard to say one day to the next whether or not I'm going to want to have that extra heat in my kitchen.  Luckily, pretty much anything that cooks in the oven can be made on the grill or in a slow cooker (love mine!), so even though I'm planning some oven meals this week, they can be easily adapted to not heat up my house.

You'll notice I'm planning to make donuts this week.  That's because the 1st Friday in June is national donut day.  (OK, why does my spell-check think "donuts" is OK, but not "donut"?  Personally, I think doughnut is how it should be spelled, but popular American usage dictates that donut be used...) 

{Source}

You may have noticed that the 1st Friday in June does not occur during the week of May 18.

If you don't believe me, take a look at a calendar.  I'll wait.  Back?  OK.

So, considering that the 1st Friday in June is not this week, you may be wondering why I'm making donuts now (if you are not wondering why I am making donuts this week, you are my people).

The reason I'm making donuts this week is that the 1st Friday in June also happens to be the last day of school for my kiddos this year.  That week is going to be crazy busy, so I'm putting it on the schedule this week in the hope that I'll get to it in the next two weeks.  If you also want to make donuts for national donut day, but are feeling intimidated, try this super easy recipe.

We've got activities this week, sometimes needing to be in more than one place at once, but thankfully, they're all later in the evening, so I can cook like a normal person (if there is such a thing) this week.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:



Other:


What are you eating this week?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

This is how cheap I am: cute napkin edition

Little known fact: last year, one of my very favorite sisters in law gave me cute napkins every month.  She even matched the napkins to the month, which is actually kind of difficult to do for months like September and May.  

{Source}
This is why she's one of my favorites: she knows what makes me happy.  It's the little things.  These monthly gifts made me so happy that this year, I'm doing the same for someone else.  Only different.  I'm not sure if she's caught on yet, which also makes me happy :)

Pink-Tulips-Paper-3-Ply-Luncheon-Napkins
{Source}
Anyway, cute napkins.  Love them.  However, since there are usually 18 per package, cute napkins will last our family for less than 4 meals.  That makes me sad (it's a roller coaster of emotion when it comes to cute napkins over here).  So here's what I do.  I cut them in half.

I do!  I really do.  I unfold once, then cut along the fold, so instead of 4 squares of napkin, each person gets only 2.  I've found this is plenty for our family's needs.  Unless we have tacos, in which case this is plenty for 4/5 of our family's needs.  I'm good at many things, but eating tacos without getting them all over myself is not one of them.

{Source}
In this way, that package of cute napkins will last for at least 7 family meals.  

You might have noticed I said they will last for at least 7 family meals.  'Cause here's what else I do.

Summer Pool Party Luncheon Napkins
{Source}
If the napkins aren't used (which happens more frequently around our dinner table than it should), I put 'em back in the pile to be used for the next meal.  

I cut my paper napkins in half and I reuse them.  Yup, true confessions, here.  And just in case it makes you sad to use up the last of the cute napkins, a handy tip.  My public service for the day.
Soccer Luncheon Napkins : The Party Cupboard
{Source}

A slightly more well-known fact (because I posted it to facebook, which confused some people): that same one-of-my-favorites sister in law recently sent me rocks.  In the mail.

That's how I know she loves me.  Love her, too.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Menu plan for the week of May 11

I picked up my order from Zaycon Fresh on Saturday, which means I have almost 40 pounds of 93% lean ground beef in my freezer right now.  Accordingly, I'm going to be making big batches of spaghetti sauce and taco seasoned meat this week to put in the freezer.  Because really, if you're going to eat spaghetti 6 times (and, let me assure you, we will be eating spaghetti more than 6 times in the next several months), why make 6 messes when you can just make one?  It's not that much more work to just sextuple a recipe.

Of course, some of you would say, why make a mess at all, when you can use Ragu?  The answer?  Because homemade sauce tastes so much better.  And you're still making a mess with Ragu.  You have to heat it up.

Anyway, I've gotta tell ya, I'm super impressed with Zaycon Fresh so far.  In case you're not familiar, Zaycon Fresh offers a range of fresh foods (mostly meat) to over 1,200 locations nationwide, direct from the farmer, or as near direct as they can get it.  The "catch" is, they only sell by the case, so you're committing to 20-40 pounds of meat at a pop.  Oh, and you also have to pick up your meat from the back of a truck in a parking lot, which some people might find a little strange.  

The driver yesterday was very polite and efficient.  I didn't even have to get out of my car (I did get out, but I didn't need to)--I just drove through the cones set up near the truck, stopped, and popped the trunk.  The whole operation took less than a minute.  The ground beef seems to be good quality as well, and the price was excellent.  Oh, and the weight was accurate, which I can't always say about my grocery store meat.  Yes, I weighed my meat when I got it home.

If you want in on high quality meats for low prices, check it out.  Right now, Zaycon Fresh has 93% lean ground beef, boneless applewood smoked ham, bacon, pork sausage links, hamburger patties, and boneless skinless chicken breasts for sale.  I've already placed my chicken order for June.  Can't get much better than $1.69 a pound.

In the meantime, here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:
chicken-fajita-quesadillas-4
Chicken Fajita Quesadillas from Jo Cooks
  • Chicken fajita quesadillas, roasted broccoli
  • Hot dogs & brats with buns, green stuff, grilled broccoli
  • Spaghetti or spaghetti squash with meat sauce, salad, green beans
  • Taco seasoned meat with tortillas and taco toppings
  • Pizza and cauliflower crust pizza (I'm making individual crusts and will freeze the extras), carrots, salad
  • Cub Scout year-end celebration 
  • Grilled bone-in chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, mixed veggies

Other:
Reese's Easy Freezer Friendly Oatmeal Cookies
Reese's Oatmeal Cookies from Mom on Timeout
What's on your menu this week?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Non-menu plan for the week of May 4

Well, y'all, it's starting to get busier.  Our spring sports have started up, and we're already getting the notices for end of the school year festivities.  That, coupled with some unplanned excitement over the weekend, has derailed my schedule, and I decided to go with a non-menu plan for this week.

I pick up our ground beef (from Zaycon Fresh*--check it out.  Very reasonable prices on high quality meats, for instance, boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.69/lb and 93/7 ground beef for $4.49/lb) on Saturday, so this week, I'll be using up as much of the freezer contents as I can to make room.

Zaycon Fresh

Said freezer contents, which may or may not make their way to our table this week, include chicken casserole with mashed potato topping, hot dogs and brats, taco seasoned beef/turkey, and bone-in chicken breasts.

I'm also hoping to make some kind of cookies, mini chocolate chip muffins, and chocolate frozen yogurt this week.  Yes, I know that I'm trying to make room in the freezer, and frozen yogurt will take up space in the freezer.  I just feel the need to make frozen yogurt, regardless of the consequences in the freezer-space arena.  Since my schedule has been derailed, it might not happen anyway.

My friends, it is possible that this is the beginning of sporadic summer menu-plan posts.  I was hoping to be consistent until much closer to the end of school, but this might be it.  Consider this fair warning.

What's on your menu this week?

*Referral link.  If you sign up through this link, and then order something, I will get a small credit to use on my next order, at no extra charge to you.  Thanks for supporting this site!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The House on Moody Avenue: A Review



I recently read The House on Moody Avenue, the ebook edition.  After reading the book, I honestly couldn't tell you what it's supposed to be about, so here's what Amazon has to say on the matter:
An eclectic assortment of humanity, with all their foibles and failings, lived in the house on Moody Avenue over a period of ninety years. I tell their stories. Lisette, her unshakable faith sustaining her, is undeterred in the face of adversity; Julia, a social-climbing snob, sees her world crumble when her children marry inappropriately; Clarence, a Casper Milquetoast bank clerk, absconds with a quarter of a million dollars; Frances, a country girl, comes to the big city to marry a rich man; Sammy, a black man, passes for white. Beatnik squatters, high on LSD, burn down the condemned ninety-year-old house, leaving it naught but a precious memory in the hearts of those who once sought its shelter.
I did not care for this book.  Considering that the unifying "character" throughout was supposed to be the house, it seems like the author could have done a better job developing the house's character.  I enjoyed the first story, of Lisette and her, but as the book progressed I found myself less and less engaged in the stories--I just didn't care, and I couldn't figure out what the author was doing and what the point was.  I kept reading, because I thought for sure the author would continue themes or characters or storylines in each section of the book, but no.  This was just a bunch of unrelated characters with random things happening to them.

Bottom line: skip this one.

I received this book for free from the publisher through the Book Look Bloggers program in exchange for my honest review.

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe: A Review



If you could ask, and God would answer, one question, what would it be?  

After separating from her NFL player husband, Chelsea Chambers has come home with her 2 children to reopen her mother's coffee shop.  When her hard work, coffee and cupcakes fail to pay the bills, Chelsea finds herself in need of a miracle, which arrives on her doorstep in the form of an angel disguised as a competent, but clumsy and socially awkward employee.

Unknown to Chelsea, a battle for her soul is being waged supernaturally.  Chelsea's guardian angel has a plan to save her.  A bold plan.  A plan that's never been done before: the God blog.  Mysterious strangers show up to install free wifi in the coffee shop, but customers can only connect to one website: the God blog.  On the God blog, people can ask a question of God, one per customer.  Soon, business is booming at the coffee shop, and it seems like everyone will live happily ever after.  Until another disaster strikes.

The book started slow.  It was, to tell the truth, kind of hokey, but I kept reading, and I'm so glad I did.  After a few chapters, the story pulled me in and wouldn't let me go.  The storyline requires suspension of unbelief, but the characters are likable and real.  What really drew me in to the book was the concept of spiritual warfare constantly swirling around the characters, and the incredible lengths God's angels will go to protect God's people.

Bottom line: once you get over the hokey-ness, reading this uplifting story is like getting a hug from God.

I received this book from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers free of charge in exchange for my honest review.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Homemade Cinnamon Swirl Bagels

I made bagels yesterday.  I know, I know, they weren't on the list, but when the inspiration strikes, I just gotta bake.  Does it make you feel any better to know that I also made granola and granola bars yesterday, which were on the list?

A few days ago, MC discovered that we had cinnamon raisin bagels.  Apparently, he didn't know, and it's my fault for not telling him.  Silly me.  I thought he could tell that we had bagels by the presence of bagels in our kitchen.  Concurrent with MC's discovery of the bagels was Bubby's discovery of the bagels.  But Bubby doesn't like raisins, so he wondered why I never buy bagels that are just plain cinnamon.

First of all, I don't never buy bagels that are just plain cinnamon--it's just rare.  Second of all, Aldi does not carry bagels that are just plain cinnamon.  Third of all, the regular grocery store charges too much for rings of flour and yeast that have been boiled and then baked.

So that's why I decided to make cinnamon swirl bagels yesterday.

Bagels are actually pretty easy to make, and just a little more time consuming than regular bread.  It does make me wonder why someone decided it would be a good idea to boil this particular bread before baking it.  Was it a happy accident?  The bagels fell into a pot of boiling water, and the baker decided to go ahead and bake them anyway?  Or was it a planned occurrence?  And if it was planned, why would they think to do such a thing?

In any case, they're easy to make--don't let the extra step intimidate you--and they taste good, too (better than store-bought, according to independent taster AKD).  And, of course, there's the added benefit of no preservatives or unpronounceable ingredients, and the price can't be beat.

I used this recipe from A Kitchen Addiction, with a few modifications*.  The addition of cinnamon to the dough made it smell heavenly as I was kneading, and the cinnamon sugar adds a dash of sweetness swirled throughout.


The children have already eaten the best looking ones, but these taste just as good!

Your turn: have you ever made bagels?  How'd they turn out?

* My modifications:

  • I didn't have bread flour, so I used white whole wheat flour with vital wheat gluten mixed in--1 teaspoon gluten to 1 c. flour
  • I don't have a stand mixer, so I used a hand mixer for the initial mixing, stirred in the additional flour by hand, and kneaded by hand--it smelled so good!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bubby's going on a field trip to the zoo.

I remember when 7 year old MC went on this field trip to the zoo.  The zoo had a butterfly pavilion at the time, with hundreds of butterflies flitting about, which the kids were planning to walk through.  I wasn't able to go along on the trip, but I remember warning Mrs. W that MC was extremely likely to freak out.  I knew this, because we had been to the zoo a few weeks prior, and MC flat-out refused to go inside the butterfly pavilion.  She promised to keep him close, and I think she said he did fine, but I wonder if she was just saying that to make me feel better about not being able to be there.  She's considerate like that (love her.  I really do).

In November, I went with 11 year old MC and his 6th grade classmates to the science museum, where there was another butterfly exhibit.  Turns out my kid is not the only one who freaks out in the presence of hundreds of winged insects flitting about in an enclosed space.

This morning Bubby was telling me about the upcoming field trip, and he mentioned that they were going to see walking sticks, if they could find any.

Now, in case you're thinking to yourself, "walking sticks?  Why would they go to a zoo to see walking sticks?  Wouldn't a hiking trail be a better location for that?  And why do they want to see walking sticks, anyway?  What's educational about walking sticks?"

Let me reassure you that he was talking about the 6-legged, 3 body-parted creature that looks a little something like this:

Walking Stick Photo
{Walking Stick courtesy of 10 Degrees Above}
The field trip includes a class about insects.

I asked Bubby if he had ever seen a walking stick, and he replied that yes, he had, in books. It makes me sad that Bubby has never seen an actual walking stick, because they're really pretty cool.  When we lived in West Virginia, they were everywhere.  "Like, you were surrounded?" he asked.  Yes, that about covers it. 

Then I told him that once, I saw a praying mantis eating a walking stick.  In my flower pot.  By the way, is it praying, because they look like they're praying, or preying because they use those modified front legs to prey on their food?  It's a clever little play on words, there.  Mantises were much less common, but also very cool to see.
{Praying mantis courtesy of Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo}
From there, we went off to predator and prey relationships, and since we were in West Virginia with the walking sticks, I told Bubby about the time I saw a rattle snake eating a frog in our back yard.  Yeah.  About 20 feet from the back door.  At the time, it was traumatizing because the snake had captured one leg and the back end of the frog, so his head and 3 legs were sticking out and the poor little guy was croaking despairingly, and trying to hop away.  And yes, I did spend a few minutes trying to think of a way to rescue the frog before I realized, um, that's a poisonous snake there, and if you mess with her food, she's not going to be happy.  Also, the frog was going to die, either way.

This morning, as I was recounting the story to Bubby, it struck me just how close that poisonous snake was to our house, and how not freaked out I was by having poisonous snakes near my children.  What?  How was I able to maintain calm in an environment that contained poisonous rattle snakes and copperheads?  Like seriously.  I'm not exactly sure how I was ever able to let my children out of my sight.  Maybe I didn't.  Maybe that's why I was (and still am) so tired.

{Itty bitty AKD sitting, oh, about 5 feet from where the snake eats frog incident occurred.
Not at the same time.}
This morning, Bubby informed me that the snake should have eaten that frog head first, so the frog couldn't see what was coming.  It's, like, the first rule of predation or something.  Every predator should know that.

In conclusion, there is no conclusion, just a pleasant walk down memory lane that includes life and death and poison.  You know, the usual :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Menu plan for the week of April 27

Soccer has started up for our middlest kiddo.  As I was planning meals for this week, I realized we're going to have to start getting creative with our meal times and methods again: eating in shifts, portable meals, having meals ready when we're ready for them without a lot of prep time.  It's all good.  I'm remaining calm.  That is, until next week, when sports start up for the other two (soccer for one, mountain biking for the other).

In the meantime, here's what's on the menu this week:

chicken-fajita-quesadillas-4
{Chicken Fajita Quesadillas, courtesy of Jo Cooks}
Supper:
  • Slow Cooker Hawaiian Chicken *(yes, this is a carry-over from last week), brown rice, mixed veggies
  • Crock Pot Lasagna Soup, salad
  • Chicken fajita quesadillas ** (not sure how I'm going to hold these together for my cheese-haters, so theirs might be just plain fajitas instead of quesadillas), raw veggies
  • Wild rice/beef burgers (haven't decided yet if I want to make these separately, or mix them--I'm thinking mix, because I will only have 1 pound of ground beef to devote to this meal (more coming next week, courtesy of Zaycon Fresh).  Given the choice, everyone would choose beef over wild rice, and 1 pound of beef is not enough for 2 adults, 1 teenage boy, 1 tween boy, and 1 boy), buns or greens, caramel apple salad, corn
  • Grilled French bread pizza or chicken pizza (also a carry-over from last week.  I took Sawblock on a date, and the kids decided to have nachos instead), salad
  • Grilled marinated pork chops, grilled green veggie, grilled potato planks
  • Grilled bone-in chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, grilled green veggie
Next Monday Supper:

Snacks, breakfast, other:

{Better than store bought chewy granola bars in any flavor,
courtesy of My Humble Kitchen}
What are you eating this week?

* Easily eaten in shifts
** Portable

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The No More Excuses Diet: A Review



Uh huh.  Another diet book.  Weight loss is a huge industry in the United States.  According to the Boston Medical Center, approximately 45 million Americans diet each year and spend $33 billion on weight-loss products.  So why should you spend your money on yet another diet book?

Here's the deal.  We all know how to lose weight.  To lose weight, you need to eat reasonable amounts of real food, and move more.  That's it.  You do that, and you will lose weight and be healthier.  The trouble most of us have is in finding and keeping our motivation long enough to see results.

Maria Kang has had a life-long struggle with unhealthy habits, and is the woman behind noexcusemom.com.  Having overcome her struggles, now she's sharing her wisdom in The No More Excuses Diet, published in March.

Ms. Kang says it takes 3 days of concerted effort to bust through an excuse, 3 weeks to form new habits, and 3 months to make a lasting change in your life, so she suggests setting healthy goals in 3 week increments.

What I liked about The No More Excuses Diet is that the author admits right up front that weight loss is not a one size fits all proposition.  Ms. Kang says that what worked for her might not work for you.  She gives sample meal plans and some example workouts, but says you should do what works for you.  She emphasizes setting goals and then constantly reevaluating what's working and not working.  This is not a rigid set of rules to follow, but a method to bust through the excuses that are holding you back from reaching your goals and dreams.

I also liked that Ms. Kang acknowleges there will be setbacks, and encourages her readers to accept the mistake or failure and then learn from that mistake moving forward, rather than dwelling on it and allowing on little mistake to derail your entire journey.  It's not about perfection--it's about constantly moving forward, a little better today than yesterday.

I found this book to be incredibly inspiring, and while it's about getting healthy, the no excuses concept can work in any area of your life.

Here's what the book jacket has to say about Ms. Kang's motivation:
The No More Excuses Diet is not about making you feel guilty for how you look, or ashamed of the choices you've made; it is about getting you to a place where you feel in control of your life, love your body, and prioritize your health.
I think, in this book, Ms. Kang has accomplished her mission.

I received this book for free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

The Second Step

I have heard, many, many, many times, that the first step in recovery from addiction is to admit that you have a problem.  In other words, you need to be honest with yourself.

But I don't know that I've ever heard what the 2nd step is.  Why is that?  Why do we never hear about the second step?

Is it because the first step is too hard?  We never get to the second step because we never actually make it past the first?  Is it because we don't care?  Is it because we don't want to go there?  I don't know, but I thought it was time to correct this glaring oversight, because we can admit that we have a problem until we're blue in the face, but we still have a problem.  The first step is just that, the first step.  In order to move forward, we have to take more than one step.

The Alcoholics Anonymous second step, which many other addiction recovery groups have adopted, is this: 
We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

In other words, the second step is hope.  We must have hope that we can be delivered from the prison of our addiction.

I love this graphic (click for free printable), that shows the 12 steps of recovery, boiled down to its essence.
{Source}

The Story For Kids: A Review


I recently received a copy of The Story For Kids: Discover the Bible From Beginning to End.  This book has actual Bible text taken from the New International Reader's Version (NIrV), and arranged in chronological order, with transitions that were written to help link parts of the Bible together so it's easier to understand.  The NIrV is an easy to understand translation of the Bible, and The Story for Kids is appropriate for children aged 8-12, as well as older kids and adults who have a hard time following the narrative of the Bible and understanding its meaning.

I'm really liking this book.  It is easy to understand, and covers all of the major stories and themes of the Bible, while engaging the reader and holding the reader's interest.  The Story for Kids reads like a novel.

There are 31 chapters, beginning with "The Beginning of Life as We Know It," and concluding with "Revelation."  The longest chapter is 12 pages, and the shortest is 3, but most of the chapters are in the 7-9 page range.  At the end of each chapter are a few discussion questions.

I've been reading The Story for Kids out loud for our family's after supper devotions.  The discussion questions have been helpful for starting conversations with my children, and drawing connections between our lives and the text, and we are often finding ourselves lingering a bit longer after our meal to talk, something that did not happen with the previous devotional book we'd been using.  I like that the transitions are written in italics, so I can easily tell what is actual text from the Bible, and what is additional material.

I wish that the chapters were much shorter, more like Bible chapters, so that we could read one chapter after supper each day, instead of trying to find a good stopping point each day and taking a week or so to finish each chapter.  The Story for Kids is not intended to be a devotional book, though, so I really can't complain.

Bottom line: This is an easy to read resource that will get kids (and adults) interested and engaged in the overarching story of the Bible.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Recipes to Share

I love trying new recipes.  You must know this about me, if you've been reading for any length of time, especially since I started my weekly menu posts.  I mean, we have tried and true favorites that show up time and again, but there is usually at least one new recipe each week.  Sometimes, I try a new recipe every day in a week.

I've been thinking, the last few days, about why I like trying new recipes so much.  Is it because I get bored easily?  Is it because I enjoy change, but only "safe" change, over which I have control?  Is it because I'm worried that there's something better out there?  That I'm missing out on something incredible?  Is it because I want to expose my kids to a variety of healthy foods?  Maybe all of the above.

In the past week, I've tried a few new recipes that I have absolutely loved, so I wanted to share them with you.

First up, Pizza-Stuffed Pasta Shells from Pillsbury.  What I liked about this recipe was that it was a stuffed pasta that didn't include cheese in the filling.  I love stuffed pasta, and my very favorite, which I haven't had in, oh...10 years or so...is manicotti, stuffed with ground beef and mozarella, parmasan, and cottage cheeses.  Y'all know how my family feels about cheese.  Two of those weirdos claim to not like it.

Anyway, these shells are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, chopped pepperoni, and pizza sauce, with the cheese on top.  Perfect.  I loved it, and 3/4 of the boys liked it, too.  AKD told me he likes this better than pizza casserole, and I think I probably do, too.

To cut down on the prep time a bit, use medium or small shells instead of the jumbo shells, and just mix everything together instead of stuffing.  To make this a bit healthier, use whole wheat pasta, ground turkey, turkey pepperoni, and homemade pizza sauce (my recipe below).

Next, I tried Herbed Chicken with Wild Rice from Taste of Home.  I love chicken.  I love wild rice.  I love herbs.  Put 'em together and cook 'em in the slow cooker, and I'm there.  I loved the mixture of flavors and this dish's hearty, stick-to-the-ribs consistency.  So good, and the leftovers were great, too.

To make this dish a little less preservative-y, make your own rice mixture, perhaps using the copycat recipe here for inspiration.  I would put the long grain (or brown) and wild rice in the bottom of the cooker, then stir the spices in to the soup mixture.  You could also make your own cream of chicken soup using this recipe.

Finally, yesterday I tried this Healthy Avocado Chicken Salad, and it tasted amazing.  Ah. Maze. Zing.   Seriously, where has this deliciousness been all my life?  I am in love.  I used chicken that I had previously cooked in the slow cooker, shredded, and frozen in 2 cup portions, and I mashed the avocado instead of dicing it.  Next time, and there will be a next time, I'm planning to use all Greek yogurt instead of half mayo, half yogurt.  I don't think it'll affect the taste all that much, but it will significantly cut down on the fat content.

That's it for now.  Let me know if you try any of these!


Scarlet's Homemade Pizza Sauce

  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 t. basil
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. marjoram
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 1 t. granulated sugar
  • 1-2 shakes of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl.
  2. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, to allow the seasonings to mingle--the longer it sits, the better it tastes.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Menu plan for the week of April 20

KIND bars are on sale at Target this week.  They cost $4.99 for a package of 4.  KIND bars do taste all kinds of amazing, but that's a little steep for my budget (you can get a pack of 5 KIND Healthy Grains bars for $2.99--but those have more than nuts, fruits, and honey in them.  Grains are, in general, less expensive than nuts and fruits).  So yup, I'm making my own this week.  I'm making other stuff this week, too.  Here's what's on the menu this week:


Supper:
--Pot luck supper
--Slow cooked taco meatloaf (from this book), corn, salad
--Coconut lime chicken, rice, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Taco pasta bake, salad, green beans
--French bread pizza/ chicken-crust pizza, salad
--Slow cooker Hawaiian chicken, rice, carrots, peppers
--Baked bone-in chicken breasts, baked potatoes, mixed veggies

Next Monday:
--Hot dogs, brats, buns, raw veggies (snap peas, carrots, peppers, celery), caramel apple salad

Other:
--Best ever chocolate oatmeal no bake bars
--Mock KIND bars
--Ezekiel bread
--Healthy avocado chicken salad
--Snickerdoodles

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Individual serving no-bake quiche


Y'all know that I eat oatmeal for breakfast pretty much every day.  What y'all might not know is that I used to not like oatmeal.  It started as an experiment to see if I could replicate the flavor of my son's favorite variety of instant oatmeal.  I developed my recipe through rigorous scientific testing over a period of weeks, and by the time I was done, I had developed a taste for oatmeal.  It's easy, fast, tastes good, and is good for me--it's the perfect breakfast.

Lately, though, I've been having eggs for breakfast.  That started when I was caring for a friend's chickens for a couple of weeks.  I was having eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I still couldn't keep up with production.

Eggs have more protein than oatmeal, and they way I prepare them, less fat, too.  So I'm alternating.  If I feel like a high-quality carb breakfast, it's oatmeal.  If I feel like a high-quality protein breakfast, it's eggs.

I wanted to add even more high-quality protein to my eggs, so I started eating them with cottage cheese.  It was delicious.  Then, one fateful day, I decided to mix plain Greek yogurt into my eggs, before scrambling them, with my usual mushrooms, onions, and peppers.  It tasted just like quiche!  So creamy and delicous!  And quiche is ... so much better ... than scrambled eggs.

Here's how I make my own individual serving of no-bake "quiche."

Indivdual Serving No-Bake "Quiche"



Ingredients:
2 eggs or 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites
1/4 c. plain no-fat Greek yogurt
mix-ins, about 1/2 cup--my standards are mushrooms, bell peppers, and green onions, but I've added other veggies, like broccoli, zucchini, spinach, and tomatoes, and meats, like crumbled bacon or bulk turkey breakfast sausage.  You could also add a bit of cheese if you like.

Method:
  • Scramble the eggs.  Add Greek yogurt and whisk until well combined.
  • In a small pan, saute any veggies you'd like to be softer.  I saute my mushrooms and bell peppers, but not the green onions.
  • Mix veggies, meats, and cheese into the egg mixture.
  • In a non-stick pan, cook egg mixture as you would scrambled eggs until no longer runny.  Alternately, pour egg mixture into a greased mug.  Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until set.
I enjoy mine with a piece of whole grain toast.

Nutrition information courtesy of  www.caloriecount.com/

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