Recipes!

I haven’t shared any delicious recipes in awhile and I was just positive that you needed some, am I right? Right!

First up is a dinner recipe : Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chicken and Quinoa Soup. I have never ever been a sweet potato fan but since this winter, I have been developing a whole new appreciation for them! Especially in soups:) They are delicious and good for you! The only thing I didn’t add was the chicken, as we only eat meat one to two times a week. We didn’t miss it! The texture is so not soup but rather “stew” like. I was admittedly a little worried about if it would turn out, as my last crockpot quinoa recipe was a total gloppy disaster. No worries with this one, it was done perfectly in 4 hours and a hit! Served with homemade wheat bread.

Next is Strawberry Pie! You may have seen my delicious picture of my beautiful pie from my last post and if you missed it…well, you’d better go look! I added a thin cream cheese layer because it keeps the crust from becoming soggy, plus it’s delicious! I combined 3 different recipes to make my own combo.


Strawberry Pie with Cream Cheese Layer

Pie Shell (store bought if you must, homemade if you can!)
2 lbs strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1/3 c water
1 tsp vanilla
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
3-4 TB sugar
1 1/2 TB milk

Preparation:
1. Make your pie shell. Or take it out of the box. Bake it per directions and cool. I baked mine on 400 for 12 min with beans in the shell. Then took the beans out, pricked it with a fork and baked it another 6.

2. While pie shell is baking, wash and dry strawberries and cut off hulls. Take 1 1/2 cups of the strawberries and puree them. Slice the rest and set aside.

3.Combine puree, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 TB cornstarch and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan and whisk. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and whisk steadily while mixture cools down; approx. 5 minutes.

4. Beat cream cheese, 3-4 TB sugar (depending on preference of sweetness) and 1 1/2 TB milk in a small bowl until smooth. Spread on bottom and a tiny bit up sides of cooled pie crust. Arrange sliced strawberries over the cream cheese layer. Pour strawberry syrup over the top, covering all the berries.

5. Cool in fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!!

I was going to post another picture of it just for your enjoyment (and mine) but alas, blogger is once again not cooperating. So go look at the last post!

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We are headed to Chi-town this weekend for a quick little visit with a few friends. We can’t fit in all the visits we want because it’s a short trip but it will still be fun and it will give us an excuse to go again! My main priority was keeping our promise to the boys to go back and visit and let them see friends…especially Samuel, who left behind 2 best friends. Thankfully, both boys were available and their moms and I have been working out some fun plans for them when we arrive on Friday!

And next weekend, we go camping! Woohoo!


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Nasty Flu Shot and Recipe!

 Yesterday at their doctor’s appointment, Eliana and Zakkai received their flu shots. (Samuel got his awhile ago.) I always wonder if they are really worth it but thought, especially with Eliana being in preschool for the first year, it would be a good idea. After her reaction to it and hearing belatedly that they aren’t even working that well this year, I wish I hadn’t done it!

This was how Eliana was all afternoon yesterday. She stopped using her arm immediately after getting the shot and as soon as we got home started crying and didn’t stop. After a half and hour of not even being able to put her down, I finally laid down with her in our bed and stroked her head until she fell asleep. She was a complete wreck even after a little nap!

Right before Awana, I was able to get some Tylenol in her and she hung out with me last night instead of going to her Cubby class. Poor baby!

This is how her arm looks today! The red marks are from the band aid (sensitive skin anyone??) and the bruise from the shot. The problem is she is old enough to remember how bad this made her feel so I have a feeling we’ll have to do the nasal mist next year or nothing at all!!

She started out a little grumpy and sore this morning but improved a lot through the day. I thought she looked so cute today! This is a cute reversible pinafore top I made for her last year.

The other side is gray but she wanted to wear the pink side, of course!

I made a delicious dinner tonight for the first time so I wanted to pass it on! We were quite low on food at the beginning of this month so I took a good chunk of this month’s budget and spent it at Costco, leaving a small amount left for each remaining week in December. I was perusing the internet for low-cost, yet delicious meals and found this one from Better Homes and Gardens.

Chicken With Parmesan Noodles

Ingredients:
9 oz. angel hair pasta (or how much ever your family uses!)
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
2 TB butter
1 1/2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used chicken tenderloins.)
6 TB pesto
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (the recipe calls for finely shredded but I used grated out of the can!)
Olive oil (optional)
Fresh basil (optional)

Directions:
1. Prepare angel hair pasta according to package directions.

2. Melt 1 TB butter in large skillet and add carrot slices. Saute until just beginning to become tender, 3-5 minutes. Add chicken and cook on med-low heat until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in 4 TB pesto and cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.

3. Drain angel hair when cooked and stir in remaining TB of butter (or leave out!), 2 TB pesto and a few TB of parmesan cheese. Serve with chicken mixture and more Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired and sprinkle with fresh basil. Enjoy!

*I cut up the chicken in bite-sized pieces and served the chicken mixture over the pesto noodles for all of us except E, who suffers from the common young child “don’t let my food touch” syndrome:)

We sprinkled a little more Parmesan cheese on top and served with a side of broccoli and everyone raved about it! I didn’t use pepper (I never do!) or the extra olive oil or basil. It was still really great! I wasn’t sure about the carrots, as it seemed like an odd addition to the meal but the pesto made everything taste so delicious. Mmm! This is definitely a keeper!

Recipes!

I have a couple of great soup recipes to share that I have made in the past couple of weeks. In order to make it to the blog, it must be family-approved and these are:)

First is Red Bean Soup with Andouille Sausage

2 TB. unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
8 cups chicken broth
1 ham hock (I did not use this)
1 1/2 cups dried red kidney beans, soaked in cold water 1 hour, drained and rinsed OR 4 cans kidney beans (which I used to save on time!)
1 bay leaf
2 parsnips or 2 carrots, diced (I used carrots)
1 sweet potato, diced
1 medium regular potato, diced
1 pound Andouille smoked sausage or other smoked pork sausage, cute into 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper

Preparation: (The recipe calls for crockpot but I forgot so I had to make it on the stovetop and it worked fine!)

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic. Cook and stir 5 minutes. Place in a 5 or 6-quart crockpot. Add broth, ham hock (if using), kidney beans and bay leaf (never used one in my life!). Cover; cook on HIGH 2 hours.

2. Remove ham hock; discard. Add parsnips or carrots and potatoes. Cover; cook on HIGH 2 hours.

3. Add sausage. Cover; cook an additional 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove and discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.

To Make on Stovetop:

1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Cook and stir 5 minutes. Add parsnips or carrots and sauté another few minutes. Add broth, beans, potatoes, sausage and salt or pepper.

2. Cook on medium-low until beans are soft. If using canned beans, about 30 minutes. If using dried beans, 1 1/2-2 hours. Very tasty!

The other recipe is for Black Bean Soup. (I combined two recipes and found one that I like the best so far!)

1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery ribs/stalks, diced
Oil or butter for sautéing
2 (32 oz) containers of chicken broth (I use the low-sodium, natural kind)
1 bag of dried black beans OR 4 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup salsa (or more if you prefer)

Preparation:

1. If using dried beans (which I did), do a quick soak: Rinse beans, boil with 4 cups of water for 2 minutes, cover and remove from heat for 1 hour. Then proceed to soup!

2. Sauté onion, garlic and celery in oil or butter until tender. Add beans, salt, cumin and broth. Cook on medium-low until beans are softened. That will be 30 minutes for canned beans, 2 hours for dried beans. (Mine took the full 2 hours!). Stir in salsa and heat through for a minute and then enjoy!

Funny sidenote: I didn’t realize I had accidentally used “medium salsa” instead of the mild that I usually buy until we all started eating. Eliana said, “My ears are spicy!!” It was a tad on the spicy side but everyone still loved it!! I  have made black bean soup several times and this was the best recipe yet!

Have a great night!

Success Night and Trail Walking!

 On Thursday night, the boys had Success Night at school, where the kids get to show off their classrooms and hard work to their parents! They couple the Success Night with the Book Fair to lure families in:)

First we stopped by Mr. Z’s classroom! All of the kids had worked hard to create their “twin,” who was sitting at each of their desks. Eliana got a kick out of this and insisted on carrying Zakkai’s twin around, who was the exact same height as her. That lasted until she stepped on his leg and “broke” it. Happily, he has been surgically repaired and we even found him sleeping in Zakkai’s bed yesterday! haha.

Zakkai worked on a poster about tornadoes at school. He did a great job learning the facts and drawing very tornado-y pictures!

This is Zakkai’s “grassapillar” that he made. They do so many things at school! The walls were filled with projects and artwork from the kids! Zakkai also showed off some of his math skills on the computer. He’s a smart kid!

In Samuel’s classroom, he had a huge list of things he wanted to show us! First was a flower on the window that featured a picture of Samuel with Ben when he came to be the Mystery Reader a few months ago. Samuel adores his daddy.

Another thing Samuel wanted to show us was his passport. Each kid got to pick the country they would like to visit most and explain why!

This was Samuel’s answer:) Told you he loves his Daddy!

And this was his “wanted poster” that cracked me up! It was about Alexander, who used to be rich and was wanted for $1,000,000 for “hiding money under his bed away from his mom.” haha!

Today it was a lot cooler out (in keeping with our latest up, down, up, down weather patterns) so we put on coats/sweatshirts and found a beautiful trail nearby to hike down!

A little glimpse of my three guys through the trees:)

It was very peaceful by the creek! There was no one on the trail we picked and it was so nice to just walk together in the peace and quiet and take in the budding trees and gently flowing water.

Eliana forgot about her “tiredness” and demands to be carried once she found this huge stick that was twice her size! (half of it isn’t even pictured!) She dragged that stick as far as she could and then that got the boys finding sticks and helping with hers.

All three of them walking with her stick! They had a really fun time finding huge sticks to drag along and were disappointed that we didn’t let them bring the sticks home:) It was a really nice afternoon in the sun! Probably one of our favorite trails yet.

I’ve tried several new recipes this month since I am so carefully menu-planning and trying to cut costs. I’ve found some really good, simple ones, too! Here is one I wanted to share.

Ham and Broccoli Pasta Toss
1 lb short pasta, such as penne or rotini (I used both!)
1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup diced ham
1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
2 TB olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Italian dressing, optional

Preparation:
1. Cook noodles according to package. During last 3 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli to the boiling water. Drain well.

2. Meanwhile, add the ham pieces to a large serving bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and add the pieces with the ham.

3. Peel and mince the garlic and add it to the bowl. Add the basil and stir to mix well.

4. After pasta and broccoli are drained well, add them to the bowl and toss well. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and Parmesan cheese. Toss until well-mixed. If desired, serve drizzled with Italian dressing for added flavor!

We ALL really like this really easy dinner! It was really good the next day for leftovers, too! I will definitely be adding this to my list of meals for rotation. Easy and cheap!

Fruit Roll-ups and Prayers!

 Well, I did it! I made homemade fruit roll-ups. Or fruit strips. Or whatever you call it.

Ta-da! It was actually SO easy. I followed a recipe here. Basically, you puree 3 cups of fresh or frozen fruit, a few TB of honey and a couple tsp of lemon juice, pour it into a saran wrap covered baking pan, spread it around and baked it at 170 degrees for 6 hours. That’s it!

The kiddos each ate two, I ate some scraps (cut off the edges to make it nice and neat) and I rolled up the rest for later! I would probably add a little more honey to the mixed berry combo because it’s a teeny bit tart but other than that, delicious!

I want to please ask for your prayers for my 10 year old nephew. He is very sick and has been in the hospital since yesterday. The most recent update this afternoon is that he has a rare strain of pneumonia and that/or motrin use caused him to have a really bad reaction causing blisters and sores on his face/mouth. I am not going to say the name of the Syndrome so you won’t be tempted to look it up like I did. It’s truly awful and very serious! He is on oxygen, morphine and an IV and is having a rough day with all of this. He will not be allowed to go home until he can get off the oxygen and can start eating and drinking. Please pray that he heals quickly and that there is no lasting damage to his eyes or his lungs. And also for my sister and the rest of the family. This has been exhausting for all of them! 

The kiddos and I spent a long time this afternoon trying to find the perfect funny get-well card to send to him to brighten his day. Not as easy as it sounds! We ended up sending a silly video card, hoping to bring him a little smile. Thanks so much!


Cheap and Yummy!

 Yesterday Ben was home, as his hours at work are shorter now, and so he, Eliana and I got to spend some time together! It was strange being just the 3 of us. Eliana definitely didn’t mind the extra attention:) We had to hang around home for awhile so that our maintenance guy could do the yearly home inspection and then we made a trip to one of our favorite libraries and Goodwill. Ben scored several Shakespeare books (he is a VERY well-read individual!!) and Eliana and I found a few little treasures, too. We found a few good children’s books to add to the prize bucket, a couple canning jars and a pair of summer shorts for Samuel. I also found this adorable set of Alphabet flash cards:

I must’ve had my phone turned the wrong way because both pictures are a little off. Oops! They are brightly colored on one side…

And have cute old-fashioned pictures on the other side. They are really sturdy and cost only .99 for the set! Eliana has been having fun with them.

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So far my first month of budgeting is going SO well!! E and I did our 2nd grocery shopping trip today and once again made it just under $100! I even found a couple of really good deals! I am not a couponer, as I mentioned in my first budgeting post, but I went ahead and checked to see if anything I was buying had a coupon and found one at Target for noodles and for pasta. I was thrilled to see they were already on sale so I grabbed 7 boxes of various noodles for $.78 each and got 3 jars of spaghetti sauce for only $2.12! Stocking up on things like that will only help my subsequent shopping trips be even cheaper!

I was much better this time about sticking strictly to my list. Last week really opened my eyes to how easy it is to impulse buy. I practically put blinders on this time and forced myself to keep walking and not even be swayed a tiny bit by the sweet 3 year old voice saying, “Can we get that?” every few minutes. I am feeling really good about this so far. We were out of eggs by Sunday night and worked hard to ration our milk so we had a little left this morning. We are going through about 2 gallons a week! This is really helping us be aware of how much/how often we eat and really appreciating what we have around the house.

And get this: (READ CAREFULLY) Budgeting meals do NOT have to be boring!! Really. So far, we have all really enjoyed the meals and I have tried several new things like Broccoli Rigatoni (SO good!), Mexican White Bean Soup (It made enough to freeze some, too!), and tonight’s meal Bean Burgers on Pretzel Buns with Roasted Veggies. I will share some of the other meal recipes soon! Here is the Pretzel Bun recipe I used. They were great! Next time I would make them a little ahead of time because there was a lot of preparation going on at the same time. I would also double the recipe and freeze some. Yum!

The bean burgers were great! I started with an original recipe on allrecipes.com but changed it up a bit. It made enough for all us for dinner, a couple for leftovers for lunch tomorrow for B to take to work and 19 more to freeze…..that’s right. 19:) My freezer is getting stocked with all of these extra meal portions!!

I cook up 2 lbs of dried beans this morning (and afternoon) and froze a couple of quart jars of them and had enough for all of the bean burgers!

Bean Burgers

1 lb. dried pinto beans, soaked, cooked and drained (follow directions on bag!)
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
4 eggs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper
3/4-1 cup flour
oil for cooking
cornmeal

Preparation:
1. Saute onions in 1 TB oil until nicely browned, stirring often. Set aside.

2. Put well-drained beans in a large bowl and mash, mash, mash!!
3. When beans are well-mashed (or as mashed as you want), add in eggs, breadcrumbs, onions and seasonings and mix very well. Add in flour 1/4 cup at a time until the mixture is just stiff enough to form into patties. It will be a very soft mixture and your hands will get messy!!

4. Heat oil in skillet (we used our cast-iron skillet). Sprinkle cornmeal on a large plate or cutting board. Grab a handful of bean mixture and lightly pack into a ball. Gently press the ball into the cornmeal on the plate to form a pattie. Repeat on the other side.

5. Fry the bean burgers in the skillet on both sides until cooked through. Serve on a bun with cheese, lettuce and tomato. YUM!! They were a huge hit with everyone and I am so happy that the extra work of making them all resulted in 2 bags of frozen burgers for later meals!!

I served the burgers with a side of roasted broccoli and cauliflower, which was delicious!

Who said cheap has to be boring??

Homemade Yummies!

 Well, this week is rolling right along! Hard to believe it’s Thursday already. Eliana and I completed our first successful “budget cut” shopping trip and boy was it an eye-opener! I had NO idea that I was such an impulse buyer. I really thought that I only got 2 or 3 things extra each time and that it wouldn’t add up to much. At the very least, this experience has really gotten me to examine my habits closer and challenged me to be more careful. More on that later.

I made my first homemade snack ~ graham crackers!

They smelled SO good as they were baking! The graham crackers were a hit with everyone. It was a little hard to roll them out as thin as they should have been because of the dough (very stiff) so I can work on that to improve for next time.

And there will be a next time! Here is the recipe I used. I had to used light brown sugar since I couldn’t find any dark. I may even cut down on the sugar a bit next time because it was sweet enough with sugar and honey. Very tasty! Can you imagine how good s’more would be??

Next up, homemade fruit roll-ups!

Sweet girl:)

She scared awake super early this morning by the booming thunder. She cried and cried for awhile about the “scary funder.” Ben brought her in to snuggle with us for our last few minutes of precious sleep. But it was too late. The continuing thunder stopped her from being able to go back to sleep. Which stopped us from going back to sleep. Bummer!

Needless to say, she is slumbering peacefully for a rare nap at the moment:)

Samuel and I have been coming up with pictures for him to bring to school for next week, as he is “Star of the Week.” He specifically requested a picture of him with his Thomas trains (special memories!) and family pictures. We had fun walking down memory lane.

Man, when I look at the boys and how much they have changed, I can hardly believe it. Staring at those pictures of little Samuel with his chubby cheeks and little boy joy over trains bring a little lump into my throat. Those were precious days!

Zakkai is not in any of these pictures because he was….otherwise occupied:) Ben finally gave him a MUCH needed haircut last night. I will try to sneak a picture of him today, if I can. He has stick-straight hair and when it grows too long, he begins to resemble a scarecrow with a mullet. Poor kid. We always feel terribly guilty until we cut it!

Happily, the scarecrow is gone and Zakkai’s adorable face is back again!

And I want to wish a very happy birthday to my favorite Grandpa in the whole world! His unshakable faith is an inspiration to all who meet him, especially Ben and I. We are so thankful to have his love, his wisdom and his encouragement. We are praying this year is so much better than the last few months. Love you, Gpa!