Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Today I'm Grateful For...Happy Dancing!

Even if they were supposed to be cleaning!

 Can you hold still when "Happy" by Pharrell Williams starts blasting in a room?

 We have a stereo in our kitchen which is frequently pumping out some kind of happy music. 
Cleaning or meal prep sessions frequently turn into jam sessions around here. 


Somehow it really does make the daily grind much more fun and it becomes impossible not to start moving some body part even if it's just the corners of your mouth!

Unfortunately things can get just a little on the crazy side in a small space with many bodies flailing about to the rhythm of the beat.  Bumps and bruises are part of the package when it comes to having a bit of wild fun!  Thank goodness for loving older sisters!  After that, Soph decided to take a break and just watch for a while.  Who could blame her?

And as a mom who absolutely loves to see her children smile and feel happy...how could I possibly blame my little bees for getting a little distracted from their chores?

You just don't disturb sincere happiness!

I was just happy to get a few pics of it in action!

"...Sunshine she's here, you can take a break..."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Our Budding Artist

These are a few pics our sweet Grace did in 2014!

Our master bedroom is starting to look like a colorful garden.

I get to wake up to this every morning.

It makes me breathe deeper just looking at all the loveliness!

Thank you Grace (...and Art Club)!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Family Cookbook: Whole Wheat (or White) Apple Scones

My brother Jeff first introduced me to these when we were younger.  He made the original white version, which is so good!  Since then I've used half white, half wheat flour and upped the nutritional value with great success.  The original scones are more white in color like a traditional scone and the whole wheat version is a little browner as shown below.  I've been making one version or another of these since I first left home.  Bart has loved these for the past 2 decades since we've been married.  My how time flies!  They are pretty much like an apple biscuit.  Delicious served with any soup and salad.

2 cups all-purpose flour (white or 1/2 white & 1/2 wheat
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (we like Kosher - but regular table is fine as well)
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1 apple, unpeeled and shredded (we like Golden Delicious or Gala best, just pick your favorite kind)
1/2 cup skim milk (any percent is fine though)
Extra milk for brushing top of scones
Cinnamon Sugar mixture for sprinkling

Recipe Note:  To make Cinnamon Sugar mixture add anywhere from 1/4 to 1 cup of white sugar in a bowl and then add 1/2 tsp. to 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon depending on personal preference.  Start with the lesser amounts and increase until you get the ratios you desire.  We like approximately 1/2 cup sugar with about 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, but that's me just picturing it in my mind and not measuring it exactly;).

Recipe Instructions:  Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt into a large bowl.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Add shredded apple and milk.  Stir to form a soft dough.  (You can use the dough as is at this point even though it is a little bit sticky or you can turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead gently 8-10 times.  Either way is fine.)  Pat dough two 6-inch circles.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Brush tops with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (as desired).  Score each top into 6 pie-shaped wedges.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes (until lightly brown and risen).  Cut wedges apart when cool enough to handle and serve by themselves or warm with butter.

Recipe Source:  Slightly adapted from my brother Jeff.  Thanks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Family Cookbook: Slow Cooker Favorite Basic Beef Stew

This is such an old and classic recipe, but we finally got it the way we like it!

3.5 lbs. beef stew meat (cut into bite size pieces, if the stew meat comes in larger chunks and seared if desired - see recipe notes below)
8 cups beef broth (reserve 1 cup for later to thicken stew)
1/3 cup cornstarch
10-12 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
8-10 medium yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled or peeled as desired (see recipe notes below)
1 can "Healthy Request" cream of chicken soup (or 1 recipe homemade - no chicken added)

Recipe Notes:  You can chop the potatoes and add them to the stew uncooked, but we prefer to wash, wrap, and bake until tender @ 350 degrees for about an hour.  We then dice them (you can also peel them after baking if desired) and add them to the stew part way through cooking. 

Also, you can sear beef stew meat in a large pan over high heat in a little bit of oil for a minute or two on every side to brown and add additional flavor, but not necessary.  This recipe is delicious either way.

To cook the amounts given above you will need a large slow cooker.  Ours is a 6 quart cooker.  Reduce amounts for smaller cookers.  This recipe can also easily be made in a large dutch-oven style pan.  Cooking time will be significantly decreased.  Cook for a couple of hours at 350 degrees for a couple of hours.  Check meat for tenderness and adjust baking time accordingly.  If preparing the stew this way you will also need to pre-bake the potatoes or just add them uncooked to the stew. 

Recipe Instructions:  Prepare meat and veggies (see recipe notes above).  Add beef broth and cream of chicken soup to cooker.  Whisk together until smooth.  Add all other ingredients, except cornstarch and 1 cup reserved beef broth to slow cooker.   Cook on high for about 6-8 hours or on low for 8-10 until beef is very tender and carrots are cooked through and tender.  Add potatoes about half way or more through cooking time.  About 1/2 hour before the stew is finished.  Whisk remaining 1 cup beef broth with cornstarch until cornstarch is dissolved.  Pour over and stir into stew.  Cook until stew is thickened (it won't be as thick as canned stew, but will create a nice gravy) and ready.

Recipe Source:  beehiving.blogspot.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Family System Reboot 2015: Cleaning Our Home

A little over a year ago my good friend (and also juicing sister!) Emily and I went to work to update and re-create a cleaning calendar her mother had purchased and used many years ago.  We were both so frustrated about our homes, our lack of motivation, and the time and help we felt we were lacking.  Though it only happened a few times, we took turns going to each others houses and helping each other complete the work on our calendars.  It was short-lived unfortunately, because life got in the way, of course, but fulfilling nonetheless.  Like everything you create we discovered a few things we wanted to tweak.  And so, over the past year, I've been tweaking and re-designing.  Bart graciously came up with a simple and clearer overall design which helped greatly with readability.

So here it is...our updated Family Cleaning Calendar (well January anyway - the rest are almost complete.  I thought I would post them one at a time.)! 

I'm committed to trying this out all year!

Bart and I have decided to implement our new plan on Saturday mornings or at least one night of the week, if Saturday is unavailable.  As far as I can tell it seems everyone, whether joyful about it or not, has at least accepted the idea. 

I think everything on the calendar is pretty straight forward.  Each month has a different area of focus as well as standard monthly maintenance chores.  Those 2 sections should take about 2-4 weeks to accomplish if you do it by yourself.  And...if you're lucky enough to have convinced everyone in your household to pitch in, the work will definitely be done faster, because as we can testify, many hands (as long as they are fairly competent at whatever you're trying to achieve) make light work...well lighter anyway;).

The one section of the calendar that may raise a few eyebrows is the "Monthly Pick a Chore" section.  This is my favorite section because it works (and it reminds me of my mom:))!  When the house gets out of control, which of course it does and will, the fastest way to whip it in shape that we've found is to do what my mother did each week with us as kids.  We've used it once a month and it's just what we've needed to whip things back in shape fast.  The way it works is Bart and I (sometimes the kids too) look around the house and write down the areas/ jobs that need the most TLC.  We pick 1 to how many ever jobs per person that we have time to accomplish and write each on slips of paper.  We place the folded papers in a bowl and have everyone take turns picking jobs out.  We try to make sure all jobs are about the same amount of work and take about the same amount of time to accomplish.  Last time we did this we had jobs in 2 bowls, one for the younger kids and one for the older kids.  There seems to be less complaining with this method I think, because everyone knows they picked out their own jobs and it seems more fair.  The calendar provides you with lines to write the jobs on and a place to write the name or the initials of whoever drew out that job.  It may not be the most creative method of cleaning ever, but it works for us, it worked for my mother for the most part, and our kids love (and hate a little) the randomness of it like we did as kids.

All in all cleaning our house is a lot more effective and less stressful when we have a plan and all work together!  I for one am grateful for a plan that helps to alleviate some of the overwhelming feelings I get in association with caring for our home!

To print the .pdf click here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What is YOUR elf name?

We were at a ward Christmas party for our church.

A variation of the following elf name list was found on each of the tables.

Our family loved it!

Wholesome, sincere laughter is always welcome around here any day of the week!

After tweaking the list just a bit for our own amusement,
we decided to use it at an extended family Christmas party we're hosting at our home.
It makes us smile just thinking about it. 

Bart and I already vote our nephew Zach as having the most hilarious name.
 We are dying with the anticipation of seeing the expression on his face 
when he figures out what it is!

To access the .pdf rather than the .jpeg above, click here!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Family Cookbook: Substitution for "Condensed Cream of Anything" Soup & Chicken, Broccoli, Quinoa Bake (2 Recipes)

I was going to make Cheddar Cauliflower Soup with Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits (more family favorite recipes), but after seeing these recipe ideas on my sister Amy's "Pinterest" boards I knew I had all the ingredients and both quinoa and broccoli that needed to be used up so I made a last minute menu switch.  I love finding a new twist on an old classic recipe.  My family loved it (of course I tweaked the Broccoli & Quinoa Bake recipe, because that's what I do)!  I knew I needed to get these recipes recorded before I forgot all the changes I made.  If my kids are going to eat quinoa and love it, it's definitely a recipe to record.  Bart and Olivia took the leftovers for lunch today.  That's always a good sign!  Here you are fam:

Homemade "Condensed Cream of Anything" Soup

The following recipe makes a batch equivalent to 1 - 10 oz. can condensed cream of chicken, mushroom, celery etc. soup.  I've been searching for a substitute recipe like this for some time, but all the recipes I've found have been time consuming and fairly unhealthy.  I loved this version because it was simple, great tasting, and realistic for our time commitments.  And while I'm not a wheat free individual this recipe is gluten free unlike some of the versions that call for flour as a thickener.

1 cup cold milk (you can use any percentage of milk fat for this - I used 1% and it worked great)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter (I used light butter and it worked just fine)
1 tsp. chicken boullion (I like Reduced Sodium "Organic Better Than Boullion Chicken Base" - substitute straight across)
1/2 tsp. kosher (or table) salt
Dash of pepper
Individualized mix-in ingredient for the creamed soup of your choice (see optional ingredients below)

For "Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup":  add 1/2 cup cooked chicken pieces to the ingredients listed above (since this is a chicken based recipe this is only optional and not necessary in recipes unless you like the chicken chunks found in the soup)

For "Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup":  add a 4 ounce can of mushroom pieces drained to the ingredients listed above

For "Condensed Cream of Celery Soup":  add 1/2 cup sauteed chopped celery to the ingredients listed above

In a small saucepan, whisk milk and cornstarch until well blended.  Stir in butter, bouillon, salt, and pepper.  Heat to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, constantly stirring.  Once boiling, simmer on low for one minute more to thicken.  Use in recipes to replace one can of cream of anything soup.

Recipe Source:  eatingwelllivingthin.wordpress.com
Another similar recipe to try that I am considering as well is found here:  http://www.melskitchencafe.com/homemade-condensed-cream-of-chicken-soup-and-how-to-sub-in-recipes/

Chicken, Broccoli, & Quinoa Bake

Recipe Note:  To feed my family of 7 with some leftovers remaining I make the following recipe which makes enough for a 9 x 13" pan.  To feed half that many people just half the recipe below.

24-30 oz. frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 - 1 lb. packages of frozen broccoli (or equivalent of fresh)
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
2 cans condensed healthy request cream of chicken soup (or 2 batches of "Homemade Condensed "Cream of Anything" Soup: - see recipe above)
2/3 cup low-fat milk
2/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise 
1 1/4 cups shredded reduced fat colby-jack cheese
2 tsp. + fresh lemon juice (bottled works fine - I prefer fresh)
Additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired

Prepare chicken, quinoa, broccoli (see below), and condensed soup (if using homemade - see above recipe).  To condensed soup add milk, mayonnaise, 1 cup of the cheese, and lemon juice.  Stir well to combine.  Put the cooked and prepared chicken, quinoa, and broccoli into a large pot.  Pour prepared condensed soup sauce over chicken/vegetable mixture and gently stir to coat everything.  Put creamy mixture into a 9 x 13" pan coated with non-stick cooking spray.  Cover with tinfoil and bake for 25-30 minutes until heated through to let flavors meld.  Enjoy.  Makes 10-12, 1-cup servings.

To prepare chicken:  In a stock-pot or large pan, add water to frozen chicken breasts to cover by about 1-2 inches.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling reduce heat to medium and boil 15-20 minutes until chicken is fully cooked and no longer pink inside.  Drain water and set chicken breasts on a plate to cool for about 10 minutes.

To prepare quinoa:  rinse quinoa in a fine sieve until water runs clear.  In a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid, combine quinoa and 3 cups water (you can also add a pinch of salt if desired, but not necessary).  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and cover with lid.  Cook for 18-20 minutes, or until fluffy and the white ring/tail is visible.  Fluff with a fork.  

To prepare broccoli:  Place broccoli in a large pan and add water to cover by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling reduce heat to medium and boil 2-3 minutes until broccoli is just tender (al dente).  Do not over-cook, because you don't want the broccoli to be mushy when heating the entire casserole.  Once tender, drain well.

Recipe Sources:  Adapted from eatingwelllivingthin.wordpress.com and "Lion House Recipes" cookbook
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