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)

Optional:  
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

Instructions:
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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Simple Snack: Pomegranate Seeds


Don't you just love this time of year and the wonderful,
seasonal fruit that is available?

When I was a kid, our neighbors, who were produce suppliers,
used to hand pomegranates out at Halloween instead of candy.
It was such a fun and interesting thing that I looked forward to as a kid.

But as a kid, and then into my early adult years, I didn't know how to eat a pomegranate.  I remember using a toothpick to pry each seed out.  I remember liking it, but it was obviously slow and somewhat exhaustive to eat.  I think the difficulty in eating them kept me from purchasing them for years.  After leaving home I didn't have a pomegranate until my husband decided he was in the mood for them one year.  Memories of my childhood trick or treating came flooding back. 

Once Bart figured out a much easier way to de-seed this beautifully delicious fruit we've been enjoying them during the fall and winter seasons ever since.  Yesterday I had spoonfuls of chilled pomegranate seeds leftover from our previous night's dinner.  It was so yummy and refreshing I couldn't stop eating them!  Sure beats using a toothpick let me tell you!

For a great post on how to cut & de-seed a pomegranate click here.
Wow!  Definitely worth the little bit of effort and so good for you whether it's for dessert, a salad, or plain and simple as a snack!

Photography by Design by House.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Whole Month of Daily Perks and Sentimental Family Traditions!

I decided to forego making a "December Fun & Favorites" page this month for 2 reasons:

1) there are so many perks (see our list of Advent Calendar activities listed below) it would have taken me a lot longer to create something for this month (and my how life is busy right now), and 2) because I have great love for our Advent Calendar family traditions which gives fun perks to every day all month long, especially if you do it the way my mother did it for us growing up!  I even started a new type of advent activity - a "Scripture Service Chain" - this year that I read about in the December 2014 "Friend" magazine.  My family is really enjoying it along with our family scripture time.


Ever since I was a little girl I can remember my mother hanging a homemade Advent Calendar (I still obviously love the homemade vintage look!) up in our home and handwriting slips of paper with special, simple activities to do as a family each night.  I've seen calendars filled with goodies, but I've always appreciated and loved the way my mother did this special Christmas tradition for our family.  And so...for many years I have continued the tradition from the early years of our marriage as well.

Here's the list of activities I put in our Christmas Tree Advent Calendar this year (I keep the activities very simple and achievable and I incorporate all the fun holiday activities that are already on our monthly calendar):
  1. Read "The Last Straw" (We like the old original version better than the new one, although it's good too and carries the same great message.  There's also a new movie out although we haven't seen it yet.), pick your secret service family name (another family tradition we started about 5 years ago and absolutely LOVE!!!), & start the "Scripture Service Chain" tonight!
  2. Read a Christmas story from our family book (we've been collecting favorite stories in a binder for the past few years) and make paper snowflakes!
  3. Watch the "Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting" TV Special (an activity we will unfortunately NOT be continuing as a family as the show has continued to become more and more immodest and inappropriate and the musical performances aren't as enjoyable for my family as they've been in the past.  Sadly, we had to turn it off due to the scantily clad women - oops sorry children and husband, I will do better next year)!  This activity will be replaced by one of the many funny and wonderful Christmas movies available either by the LDS Church or Hollywood!  We've done this in the past and will go back to doing it again next year.
  4. Watch the "Peter Pan" TV Special!
  5. Go out to dinner for Ella's birthday - "Happy Birthday" sweet Ella darling!
  6. Olivia & Grace go sing at the care center and go see the lights at Temple Square!
  7. "Seek the Star" F.H.E. from "The New Era" magazine!
  8. Dance by the tree to Christmas music (yes - we actually do this and love it every year...it is a sight to behold!) and read a Christmas story from our book!
  9. Read a new Christmas story from "The New Era" magazine!
  10. Read a new Christmas story from the "Friend" magazine!
  11. Dance by the tree to Christmas music and read a Christmas story from our book!
  12. Watch a Christmas movie as a family!
  13. Watch a Christmas movie as a family!  (We repeat some activities because there is so much goodness to be had this time of year.)
  14. Read story from page 14 from the "Friend" magazine, sing carols, and make & eat "Chokladbollar"!
  15. Attend Liv's school choir Christmas concert!
  16. Attend Grace's school choir Christmas concert! 
  17. Read a new Christmas story from the "Friend" magazine!
  18. Dance by the tree to Christmas music and read a Christmas story from our book!
  19. Have fun at the Annual Cousin Sleepover!
  20. Have fun at Dad's Extended Family Christmas Party!
  21. Have fun at Mom's Extended Family Christmas Party!
  22. Read a new Christmas story from "The New Era" magazine!
  23. Watch a movie about Joseph Smith to celebrate his birthday today!
  24. Have fun at Grandpa & Grandma's house and read "The Nativity Story" from the scriptures and watch "A Gift to the World"!
I even have my grandmother's old advent calendar (see the middle picture above) that she put up for her children which is near and dear to my heart.  It is so sentimental and beautiful to me, especially since the ornaments on the tree are old pieces jewelry that my mother and sisters wore growing up.  I've always thought that was such a creative and great idea!

Advent calendars aren't knew, and there are so many different styles and types, and I'm sure most people love what they grew up with best for sentimental reasons.  My husband's family grew up with a Nativity Advent Calendar where they put felt pieces of the Nativity into a scene that was completed by Christmas Eve by placing the baby in the manger.  My mother-in-law made our family one as well (sorry I couldn't post a pic of the Nativity figures/pieces, because my pieces are on the fritz and falling apart, but I am going to remedy that this year - see below) and we have enjoyed it throughout the years as well.

So with that said, one of the perks that I am most looking forward to (happening just after Christmas) and that I've been preparing and planning for is to have a crafting/ sewing Christmas vacation with my older girls.  I am so excited to help them create Advent Calendars for their own families and homes someday.  It also helps them to complete value experiences and projects towards getting their Young Womanhood Recognition awards at church.   To keep the tradition going for my own children, a few weeks ago I ordered 2 new Advent Calendar patterns (one with a Christmas Tree and homemade felt ornaments similar to the one I grew up with and one with a Nativity scene similar to the one Bart grew up with).  I think I'll tweak them just a bit and change the colors around slightly (which my husband and children would say is extremely typical of me - I'm a tweaker and alter everything slightly to make it my own style see this calendar (part one & part two) I also love and am going to incorporate some of these colors and styling details.).  The thought of sitting down and creating something with my girls makes me feel so happy!  I am really excited this month to help my children have the opportunity to continue a joyful family tradition (of course, if they choose to do it with their own family some day:)). 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gratitude For the Written Word! (Free Printable)


I've been enjoying all the amazing word art lately that you can find online (there are so many talented and creative people out there - I'm not a graphic or typography artist, but I sure am thankful to the people who are).  I've also enjoyed reading the scriptures (some of the finest words ever written) this year!  It's inspiring to read good words, it's also inspiring to put them around your home where others can appreciate them as well.

I needed one more saying to go along with our Christmas decorations this year and so I whipped this up and made a small variation of something I'd read by an unknown author.  I changed the saying slightly to fit an idea we've been talking about a lot lately as a family.  Even with all the amazing works of art out there, sometimes you're left to fend for yourself in the world of design to create something that represents what's in your heart.  This was in mine today!

We are always talking to our children about how everyone has the ability to be a light to others.  It's so good how happy we feel when we are kind, loving, bold and gentle in standing up for what's good and right, and in being non-judgmental of others!  I've been in awe of my children as I've seen this inspiring ability to love others and to make others smile in each of them. 

Today I am grateful for good words
and for children who are such a light in my life! 

To print either right click on the image above or click here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Family Cookbook: Bart's Simple Marinara Sauce (No Refined Sugar...Hooray!)


Delicious with or without meat, and our kids 
love this way better than store-bought sauce from a bottle!

We kept running out of the store-bought sauce on the nights we were all craving spaghetti so Bart did a little research and found this super simple homemade marinara sauce we could whip up quickly, with ingredients we have on hand all the time, and that everyone would love. He not only found a sauce and tweaked it so it tastes amazing, but the children squeal with delight when they know we're going to have "Dad's Homemade Sauce" and that makes us as parents love it even more!  Best part about it other than that we all love the way it tastes, is that is doesn't contain any refined sugar!  That's always a big deal around here - to find a cheaper, simpler, better tasting product or recipe without refined sugars or refined grains.  So...hooray!!!

3 - 15 oz. cans crushed or diced tomatoes, undrained or partially drained, depending on how thick you like your sauce (we don't drain them, but simmer longer - see instructions below)
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
Pinch of ground black pepper, to taste - optional, but we add this
Pinch of red pepper flakes (if you like a little more heat - we don't add this, but it would be good if you want a bit more of a kick) - optional

Pour tomatoes into a large saucepan.  Using an immersion blender or a hand potato masher (or you could do this in a regular blender or a food processor) blend tomatoes until as finely diced or pureed as preferred (we prefer this fairly pureed).  Add all other ingredients to the tomato puree.  Heat over medium heat until boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes to let flavors meld or up to 1 hour for a thicker sauce.  Add cooked ground beef or cooked and shredded chicken if desired.  Use for whatever you like marinara sauce for.  We typically serve this over whole wheat spaghetti noodles or cooked spaghetti squash.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A More Positive Perspective on Life...Works!


This worked so well for my outlook on life in October that I knew I had to continue doing it!

I smile every time I see this hanging in the hallway by my bedroom.
 
Focusing on the highlights of the month somehow kept gratitude at the forefront
of my daily living and provided the extra motivation I needed to make the planned
memory making moments really count.  Thanks Bart for the great suggestion!

What a November it has been thus far!
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