Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snowball Cake

Found this recipe in the latest Kraft Food magazine.





This was my end product.

This was Kraft's. (*showoff*)

Ok, so mine didn't turn out near as perfect looking. But it was so so so good!!!

24 Weeks Preggo

Pregnancy weight gain

Found a calculator online that you can use to estimate how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy (and to see if you're below, above, or on target right now).

http://www.thebabycorner.com/tools/pregnancy/calculators/weightcalculator.php

Yea! I'm right on target! So far I've gained 14 pounds.

Also, it was interesting to find out that pregnant momma's should only be adding 100-300 more calories more a day than they were pre-pregnancy. That sort of dissolves the whole "eating for two" adage.

Make every calorie count!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fit and Active During Pregnancy

I started a fitness routine yesterday. Since I am nearly 24 weeks pregnant I'm obviously not wanting to start something strenuous. My parents had bought me the Wii Sports Active "game" a while back, and so, I dusted it off and decided to try the low-impact 30 Day Challenge. Not too bad. You can customize your workout or do preset workouts so if something doesn't feel good I don't have to do it and can replace it with another exercise. It feels great getting active! And hopefully, by being fit and active during the remainder of my pregnancy, I'll have a better/easier labor and delivery come April 22. :-)

A motto that I'm trying to keep in mind is this:
Eat Less, Move More (thanks Candy)
Moms of Many Exercise Challenge

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

21 Tips on Keeping a Simple Home With Kids

With Christmas just 2 days away, I thought this was a very timely (and wonderful) article about being a minimalist while having children under your roof. Enjoy!

  1. Identify the important. The first step in decluttering is identifying which toys and other possessions are truly important to the kids. What do they play with, what do they love? Then get rid of as much of the rest as possible, keeping only those they use and love.
  2. Massively purge. In the beginning, if you have a lot of kid clutter, you’ll want to go through a massive purge. The way to do this is to block off a day to go through their rooms. Do one area at a time: a drawer, a section of the closet, a shelf. Take everything out of that area, put it in a pile. From that pile, take only the really important stuff (See Tip 1). Get rid of the rest. Donate it to charity if it’s still good. Get some boxes and put all the stuff to donate in there, and when they’re full, load them up in your car to donate on your next trip. Then put back the important stuff, and tackle the next area. If you do this quickly, you can do a room in a couple of hours.
  3. Leave space. When you put the important stuff back, don’t try to fill up each drawer, shelf or closet area. Allow there to be some space around the objects. It’s much nicer looking, and it leaves room for a couple of extra items later if necessary.
  4. Contain. The key for us has been to contain the kid clutter. We only let them keep their stuff in their rooms. The living room, kitchen and dining room are for household stuff only. We do have a play area for the two toddlers, and their stuff gets spread throughout the house, but still, we try to contain the kid stuff to certain areas only. This leaves our living area very simple and minimal.
  5. Bins. These are the best type of containers for kids stuff, in general. Bins or baskets. The key is to make it easy for the kids (or you) to toss their stuff into the bins, making cleanup simple. Label each bin, if possible, with the type of stuff that goes there (blocks, stuffed animals, Legos, instruments of destruction). If your child can’t read, use picture labels.
  6. Cubbies. We have a small plastic 3-drawer organizer (we call them “cubbies”) for each child. They don’t take up much room in the closets, and it allows them to have a place to put their little odds and ends that would otherwise be all over the place.
  7. A home for everything. We haven’t actually completely succeeded at this, but we try to teach the kids that everything they own has a “home”. This means that if they’re going to put away a toy, they should know where its home is, and put it there. If they don’t know where the home is, they need to find a home for it, and put it there from now on. Actually, this is a useful concept for adults, too, and it’s one that I’ve mastered and found very useful. Our kids understand this idea (at least, the four older ones do), but sometimes they forget. Still, it helps keep things organized.
  8. Organize like with like. Try to keep similar things organized together. So, one bin for stuffed animals, another for sports stuff. This makes it easier to remember. Same thing with clothes: underwear and socks together, shirts, shorts, pants, etc. All video game stuff in one place.
  9. One place for school papers. Similarly, you should have one place to keep all incoming school papers. We have an inbox for all incoming papers in our house, but we also keep a folder to store school papers, so we never have to search for them. Also, when we get a school calendar or a notification of some school event, we enter it in our Google Calendar, so we never forget when stuff is.
  10. Teach them to clean. Our 1-year-old daughter, Noelle, doesn’t know how to clean up after herself. But all of the other 5 kids do, including our 3-year-old. So, instead of us continually stressing out about the messes, we just ask them to clean up now and then. Sure, things will get messy again soon. But at least the kids are doing the work cleaning up, not us. :)
  11. Allow them to mess. Kids are not perfect. They will inevitably make a mess. You have to allow them to do this. Then, when they’re done, ask them to clean it up. No harm, no foul.
  12. Purge at Christmas, birthdays. On these two occasions, new stuff comes into their lives en masse. If you just add this new stuff to their old stuff, you will have a huge mess. Instead, we ask them to put all their gifts in one place. Then, a day or two after Christmas or their birthday, we go through their closets and bins and ask them what they want to get rid of so they can make room for the new stuff.
  13. Do regular decluttering. Every month or two, you’ll need to declutter their stuff. See Tip 1. Do it at least quarterly. You could put a reminder in your calendar, or just look at their rooms every now and then, and if it looks way too cluttered, schedule some time to do some purging.
  14. Less is more. Teach the kids that they don’t need to have huge piles of stuff to be happy. They can’t possibly play with everything anyway — there aren’t enough hours in the day. With less stuff, they can find things more easily, they can see what there is to play with, and they can own better quality stuff (see next tip).
  15. Go for quality. Instead of getting them a huge pile of cheap junk, go for quality toys or possessions that will last long. Wood is better than plastic, for example. The classic toys are often the best. It’s best to spend your money on a couple of great things than a whole bunch of cheap things that will break and be relegated to the junk pile in no time.
  16. Learn to accept. You’ll never have a minimal life with kids. You have to accept that. It can be difficult for a minimalist like me, but you can learn that being a harpie parent isn’t as fun as being one that just enjoys their child’s company.
  17. Buy less. Drastically reduce the amount of stuff you buy for your kids. It’s difficult to resist them when they really want something at a store, I know, but you aren’t doing them any favors by caving in. Don’t deprive them completely, but also don’t spoil them with stuff. On Christmas, for example, just get them a few great things rather than a whole bunch of stuff.
  18. Clean as you go. I’ve learned to clean up messes as I go (or ask the kids to clean up their mess), so that the house is never a wreck.
  19. Clean before bed. I also do a quick clean-up right before I go to bed, getting any little things the little ones forgot to put away. It makes my mornings much more pleasant.
  20. 30-minute cleanups. On Saturdays, do a “30-minute cleanup”. This means that every child (over 5 years old probably) has a chore, and the whole family (including parents) pitch in to clean up the house. Set a timer, and see if you can do it all in 30 minutes. That’s much easier for our family to accomplish, as we have six people (including two adults and a teenager) pitching in to finish quickly. This gives us a clean house and the rest of the day to have fun.
  21. Prep time. This isn’t so much to do with clutter as with general simplifying your life with kids. It helps to have prep time each evening and morning to prepare the kids’ lunches, clothes, or whatever is needed for whatever we’re doing that day. This means we get the soccer gear and drinks and snacks ready on soccer days, or whatever gear is necessary for the activities of the day. It saves a rush when you are trying to get out the door, and saves you from forgetting stuff later.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fennel Breakfast

Poached the eggs.
After we removed them, we seasoned them with salt, pepper, and basil.

Sauteed the fennel in olive oil (salt & pepper to taste).

Serve on whole wheat English Muffins.

YUM!
We will definitely be making this again!!!

Liver and Onions- a first!

Tonight was an adventure for our family!

RD's dad purchased 1/4 of a beef earlier this year, but never managed to get to the organ meats (go figure). So rather than throw them out, he asked if RD and I wanted them. We're game for pretty much anything at least once, so we took him up on his offer.

It equaled to about 1.5-2 lbs. of liver.

Pretty much everything I read online said to soak it in milk for a couple hours (overnight if possible). This not only tenderizes the liver, but it also takes out some of the biting flavor it tends to have. We soaked ours for about 3 hours. After it's done soaking, the milk looks more like strawberry milk. (Ewwww. *grin*) This milk soaking process also works for taking the "game" taste out of meats like deer, elk, pheasant, etc.

Sauteed 2 large white onions, 4 cloves minced garlic, and 2 Tbl butter until onions were tender.

My sister Cyndi taught me a cool trick with bacon. Grease a large cookie sheet, place your bacon on the sheet, and bake at about 400F until done. It's SUCH an easy way to cook bacon!!! No splatters. No constantly having to monitor it. No need for flipping.

So anyways, we baked 1 lb. of bacon and used all the grease (and whatever bacon goodies were left on) in the pan for frying up the liver. Heat on medium-high.

We dripped the milk off and coated liver pieces with a flour, salt, and pepper mixture. Brown one side and flip/brown the other side. The trick is to not flip anymore than you absolutely have to. Also, do NOT overcook as the liver gets tough.

Nice and golden brown!

Dinner is served!

Verdict:
Perhaps it helps if one is raised on organ meats (which I wasn't). The taste was good but the texture bothered me at first. After the first couple of bites, though, I got used to it and was able to enjoy it. For the kids, it was perfect as it was really tender and easy to chew. RD's mom and dad ate it with us and they loved it! If given liver again I would prepare it. But it's probably not something I'd eat weekly (if you know what I mean).

Next organ meats up to bat, beef heart and tongue.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Brown Sugar Scrub


Sweet N’ Spicy Brown Sugar Scrub

1 cup - Domino® Dark or Light Brown Sugar
1 cup - Domino® Granulated Sugar
¾ cup - almond oil
2 tsp. - ground cinnamon
2 tsp. - ground ginger
2 tsp. - ground nutmeg
1 16 oz. - glass container with lid
Cinnamon sticks, optional
In a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients until thoroughly blended. Be sure to break up any lumps from the brown sugar or from the spices. Spoon into the glass container and secure with lid. Scoop a teaspoon or two of the scrub on your hands and gently massage in circular motions onto your skin. Leave on for 3 to 4 minutes before thoroughly rinsing. The scrub will tighten on your skin.

Other Sugar Scrub Ideas

Friday, December 18, 2009

Free Kids' Stocking Stuffers!

RD and I are filling the kids' stockings with puzzles and games! And we found a bunch online! Thought we'd share our favorite sites with you ladies if you're interested.

Word Search

Easier Word Search

Connect the Dots

Easier Connect the Dots

Mazes

Sudoku

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fireside Coffee Mix

Found this recipe online and just had to share it. Yummmm.
1 C powdered creamer
1 C powdered hot chocolate mix
2/3 C instant coffee
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
Mix together in large container. Mix 3-4 Tbls in a mug with hot water.
*Chocolatey Spicy Coffee Goodness...*
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This was just cute. Had to share this one, too. :-)

Up Time America!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Egg Stamper Toast

I was really wishing these would turn out better than they did, but I think the trick is to not toast them so much, just enough to cook the egg through. Had some cookie cutters and wanted to try something a little different. It's basically a buttered, cookie cuttered (is that a word?) piece a bread you toast on a griddle with scrambled egg in the hole.

Present and Stocking

Snowman and Duck

The kids loved it. Very yummy!
I'm going to tweak it and try it again later. Maybe more blunt cookie cutter shapes would help as well.

Homemade cough syrup

Cassandra and Edmund have had a persistent, unproductive cough for the past couple of days that just won't budge (worse at night). I'm really wanting to treat this herbally. Came across a recipe that we will be making this morning. Let you know how it turns out!

Cough Syrup
makes: 1 (8oz) jar full
dose: 1 Tbls as needed (chunks included or just juice- personal preference)

1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 C honey
1/4 C water
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root
2 large cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
dash of cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients into an 8 oz jar. Mix well. Put lid on and store in fridge for up to a couple of months. Can be taken daily as a preventative measure.

*Here's the batch I made this morning.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ugly Sweater Party

Hee hee!

Ugly Sweater Party

I'm so pumped! Tonight at our small group meeting, we're having a Christmas dinner/Ugly Sweater Night!!! Oh my lans!!! Found some dousies at our local Salvation Army thrift store! Can't wait to post pics!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fennel

Bought some fennel this afternoon for a recipe and had NO CLUE what to do with it or how to store it in the refrigerator. When I make my fennel recipe, I'll be sure and share a pic and cooking instructions. For anyone else interested, this is what you do with fennel.



Fennel is truly a vegetable and should not be confused with the herb, sweet anise. Even though they share a similar mild sweet licorice flavor, fennel comes from an entirely different plant. Fennel has a rounded creamy white bulb, short green stalks and feathery green leaves. Its appearance resembles an extra plump bunch of celery, and it has a unique licorice taste that becomes milder when cooked. It can also be eaten raw and is used as a bad breath neutralizer. Fennel is very popular in Europe and until recently was found primarily in Italian and specialty markets in the United States. It is now found in mainstream supermarkets, however, it is frequently sold incorrectly as sweet anise. Fennel is grown primarily in Italy, France, Greece, and the United States. In the United States, fennel is grown almost exclusively in California.

Storage & Selection
Fennel can vary significantly in size anywhere from ½ pound to 2 pounds. In my opinion size is very important, as smaller fennel bulbs are more tender and less fibrous than larger bulbs. The bulb has virtually all of the usable meat, and should be a firm, clean creamy white that doesn't show any sign of brown spots, yellowing, splitting, or withering, a sign the fennel is old. Fennel stalks should be straight and the leaves a feathery bright green. Avoid fennel if there are flowers on the stalks because this is a sign that the fennel is over mature. Store fennel in a plastic bag, in the high-humidity crisper section of the refrigerator for no more than three to four days. Fennel loses its flavor quickly so it's best to use it as soon as possible.

Preparation
Most fennel bulbs are sold with the stalk still attached, so they will need to be removed before preparation. After removing the stalks, slice off the top and bottom of the fennel bulb. The outermost layer of the bulb should also be removed if the bulb is large or if its skin is bruised or split. Next, slice the trimmed bulb in half lengthwise, and cut the halves into wedges for braising, or thin crescents for salads. The halves can also be diced as you would an onion or celery stalk. Don't throw away the stalks or leaves. Chefs use the stalks in soups and
stews to add flavor and use the feathery leaves as an herb, similar to parsley. The leaves are particularly good with fish baked in parchment. You can also wet the fronds and stalks and throw them on the grill in lieu of wood chips. In addition to fish, they add excellent flavor to poultry, pork, and lamb.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

In the mood to decorate

To add to the Christmas cheer, I decided to wrap a few of the pictures we have hanging in the living room. My pics don't do it justice, but it turned out really cute!

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This is a really simple craft project. I got this done this afternoon during the kids' Quiet Time. All you need is old picture frames, fabric, and buttons.
And because this is going on the wall and not on a pair of pants or a shirt, the buttons don't need near as much reinforcement to the fabric. Pull the fabric as tight as possible around the cardboard backing. ( If you need to, use craft glue or adhesive to get the fabric to stick.) Take glass off the picture frame.

Once again, my picture doesn't do it justice, but the "button frames" look really nice hanging in our master bedroom. I just LOVE the retro blue & brown color scheme!!!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Homemade Plain Yogurt


AllRecipes.com has a recipe for homemade plain yogurt here. It's a 5 star recipe. Sounds like quite the process, though. I guess I'm looking for something a little more simple.

I'd love to hear your recipes for homemade yogurt! Please share!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Cold and Flu Care


Elderberry Syrup
Makes: approx. 1 pint
4 oz. dried elderberries (equals 1/2 cup) or 1 cup fresh/frozen
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1 Tbl fresh grated ginger root
2 cups water
1 cup honey (preferably local)
Combine spices and water in pan. Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer until water has been reduced to 1/2 (approx. 20 min). Strain through a sieve, patting the herbs with a spoon to strain all remaining liquid. Add honey and stir thoroughly. Store in air tight container in fridge for 1-2 weeks.
*During illness, take 1 Tbls/hour
*For prevention, take 1 Tbls/daily
Safe for children.

Reminder: I am not a health care professional. Just sharing what works for our family. If you have a questions or concerns, please consult your family physician.

A Christmas present for the kids

... we ordered them Wildcraft, an Herbal Adventure Game.

As a family, we are always on the prowl for games we can play together. How fun to see a family board game that mixes with our passion for herbs!!!

LearningHerbs.com

More from our kitchen

Now that I'm into my second trimester, I've started my regime of drinking red raspberry leaf tea. It's a fantastic way to strengthen and tone uterine and pelvic muscles for a more productive and efficient labor & delivery! It's also packed with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins C and calcium. During the second trimester, I try to drink just one cup of tea a day. But as I move into the third trimester, it's recommended that 2-3 cups be taken daily. To the left is the loose leaf Red Raspberry. It's light and fluffy, kinda like peat moss. LOL To the left is spearmint from our garden this past spring. I like to add a few sprigs of that to the raspberry for added flavor.The ratio works out to approximately 1 cup of water to 2 tsp herbs; steep 10 minutes.

When my tea is done steeping, I add about 1 Tbl of liquid chlorophyll and honey to taste. The liquid chlorophyll not only adds bonus nutritive qualities to the tea, but it also has a strong minty flavor.

Then it looks a lot more like green tea!
Tastes so good! I even catch the kids trying to snatch a swig or two.

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I'm also trying my hand at making cream cheese and whey. A while back I tried this experiment with farm fresh raw cow's milk, but it didn't turn out as expected. :-/ But I recently found another recipe on a website I frequent called Keeping the Home. The kids and I started this project this afternoon. So far, things haven't separated. But, it's only been 6 hours. It's supposed to set for 24 hours. Perhaps I'm being a bit hasty. Can't wait to check it tomorrow!

You need a double layer of cheesecloth, a strainer, a bowl, and plain yogurt.

I put in about 1-1/2 cups of yogurt.

Fold the extra cheesecloth over (or use plastic wrap) to cover the yogurt. Place in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Apparently the yogurt will separate and whey will be produced in the bowl. Cream cheese will be left in the cheese cloth. I wanted to use the whey for Candy's granola recipe. And well, cream cheese just doesn't last long over here. :-) Yum!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Homemade Taco Seasoning


For another real recipe, try this one from AllRecipes.com!
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.


After reading many of the reviews on this 5 Star mix, it sounds like 2.5 Tbls equals one packet of seasoning. We'll be using this recipe this week for tacos!
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BTW- the Ranch dressing from my last post was AMAZING!!!

Boo

I didn't win a prize for NaBloPoMo. :-( Oh well, it was a lot of fun anyway. Maybe next time.

From our kitchen

Not too long ago I sat down and read through the ingredients list on my favorite dressings and:
1) I could hardly pronounce most of the ingredients listed
2) was highly disappointed to see things like MSG and many other fake/man-made/processed things
So... I am on a quest to find homemade dressings, where the ingredients are real.
Here are a few that I made this week.

Oil & Vinegar:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp Dijon honey mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
Mix & store in fridge for up to 1 month.

Ranch Dressing:
5 Tbls dried minced onion
7 tsp parsley flakes
4 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
Mix & store in air tight container.

For dressing: mix 2 Tbls dry mix with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 cup buttermilk or sour cream (I use buttermilk).

For dip: mix 2 Tbls dry mix with 2 cups sour cream.

Mix up a few hours before serving so the flavors blend.

Buttermilk:
2 cups whole milk
2 Tbls white vinegar or lemon juice (I use vinegar)
(half's and double's/triple's nicely)
*you can also substitute 1-1/2 Tbls of cream of tartar for vinegar/lemon juice*
Heat milk in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar and let stand at room temperature for 15-20 mins. Milk will curdle a bit. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Tonight, I'm going to make homemade Blue Cheese Dressing for the buffalo wings we've got planned for dinner. Mmmmm.

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More farm fresh eggs!!! I love all the different colors. My kids were enthralled with the green one.