Thursday, March 31, 2011

Homemade Baby Food - Squash

Okay, I love making homemade baby food!!! I just went to the Farmer's Market and bought a huge butternut squash for $2-3. It made a ton of baby food (I'm thinking roughly $20 worth of store bought).

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash butternut squash really well.

Cut squash in half lengthwise.

Pull out all seeds and yucky stuff.

Put squash face (meat) down in baking pan.

Put 1-2 inches of water in pan.

Roast for 45-60 minutes.

Pour off excess water.

Peel squash.

Put insides in blender with some water.

Puree to desired thickness.

Scoop about 1 heaping tablespoon into ice cube tray slots.

Cover with aluminum foil.

Freeze until ice cubes.

Put in freezer bag (label with "squash" and date).

To Thaw:

Put in container in fridge overnight.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Homemade Baby Food - Carrots

Okay so I am really into this "making my own baby food" kick. Today I made carrots. I tossed a bag of baby carrots in a pot and covered it with water. I let the carrots boil for about an hour (or until softened). Then I drained and rinsed them. I mashed them with a potato masher and added some water. To make them even creamier, I put them in the blender with more water and blended until the consistency of jarred baby food. Then I used a Tbsp scoop and filled 2 ice cube trays. I froze them with some foil covering. Once they freeze, I will put the cubes in a labeled bag (food and date). Then I just pop a cube or two into a bowl and let thaw overnight. It's super easy, super healthy, and super cheap. I think the baby carrots cost about $2.00. For the equivalent amount of packaged baby food, I probably would have spent at least $5-10.

Healthy Lifestyle Plan

Most of you guys know that I've struggled with food issues and my weight for my whole adult life (well probably even longer with food issues). I have yo-yoed for the past 10 years within 100 pounds. My goal was to start healthier and thinner before my last pregnancy but I didn't. I did my best to not gain too much weight during the pregnancy and lost the babies' weight in a couple of weeks. The problem for the past 5 ½ months has been being overwhelmed with a newborn baby and grieving the loss of Alexis. I got caught up in the amazing meals people brought for 6 weeks straight (lots of hearty meals, breads, and desserts), snacking all the time, and the holidays, and unfortunately used food for comfort, so I am still quite overweight. I have roughly 60 pounds to lose to be at a healthy weight, so I am starting April 1st (this Friday). I have started a support group through Facebook and have come up with my plan to eat better. I am still hammering out the plans for exercise.

I am planning to follow the Weight Watchers Simply Filling plan. It encourages healthy eating from all food groups, 9 good health guidelines, and leaves a little wiggle room for treats. It's more about listening to your body and hunger cues and eating what you need rather than counting every little bite. I think it will be easier than having to write it all down and worry that I'll run out of POINTS by dinner.

Here is the rundown of what I can eat (of course I get 49 POINTS to play with for things not on the list and can earn more through exercise):

Lean Proteins
Meats
- Beef
- Chicken
- Pork
- Turkey
Eggs
Fish
Ham
Lunchmeat, fat-free

Non-Fat Dairy Products
Fat-free cheeses
Fat-free milk
Fat-free, plain yogurts
Fat-free sour cream

Fruits
Apples
Applesauce
Bananas
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cherries
Clementines
Cranberries
Grapes
Kiwi
Mandarin Oranges
Oranges
Peaches
Pears
Pineapple
Raspberries
Strawberries
Watermelon

Vegetables
Asparagus
Beans, Black
Beans, Garbanzo
Beans, Green
Beans, Kidney
Beans, Lima
Beans, Pinto
Beans, Refried
Beans, Soy
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Celery
Corn
Cucumber
Edamame
Eggplant
Kale
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Okra
Onions
Peas, Black-eyed
Peas, Chickpeas
Peas, Green
Peas, Snow
Peppers
Pickles
Potatoes, Red
Potatoes, Sweet
Potatoes, White
Pumpkin
Spinach
Squash
Tomatoes

Whole Grains
Cereals
- 100% bran
- Cream of rice
- Cream of wheat
- Grits
- Oatmeal
- Whole-grain, no added sugar, 4g fiber
Pastas, Whole Wheat
Popcorn, air popped or 94% fat free
Rice, Brown or Wild
Other Whole Grains
- Barley
- Cornmeal
- Whole wheat couscous
- Quinoa

Breads
Light breads
Light English muffins
Light hamburger buns
Light hot dog buns


Soups
Broths

Desserts
Sugar-free gelatin
Sugar-free pudding (make with FF milk)

Beverages
Tea, unsweetened
Diet soda
Water

Seasonings/Condiments
Baking powder
Baking soda
Cocktail sauce
Extracts
Fat-free salad dressings
Fat-free margarine
Fat-free mayonnaise
Flavorings
Herbs
Hot sauce
Ketchup
Lemon juice
Lime juice
Mustard
Nonstick cooking spray
Salsa
Soy sauce
Spices
Steak sauce
Sugar substitutes
Taco sauce
Teriyaki sauce
Vinegar
Worcestershire sauce

Healthy Oils
Olive oil
Canola oil

I don't know if any of you would be interested in this food plan, but I thought that I would share. I will be putting more healthy recipes on here and will update about my progress from time to time. My first goal is to start eating better and slowly add in some exercise. I would like to get to where I exercise 5-6 times a week like I did when I was in my best shape. I am hoping to lose 5-10 pounds a month. I would love to hear what you do for healthy eating, diet, and/or exercise. J

Meal Plan Monday – 3/28

Okay, so I am getting a smidge better on this meal planning and sticking to it thing. The weekends are still getting us into trouble a little bit. Since I am starting my healthier lifestyle on April 1st (Friday), I am really going to be working on eating at home more (even on the weekends). It will save calories and money.

Here's my proposed meal plan for the week:

Monday
Salisbury Steak
http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/salisbury-steak.html

Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Green Peas
Corn

Tuesday
Leftover SS, MP, GB, GP, Corn

Wednesday
Church – Salad Bar

Thursday
Whatever I can scrounge up (Lee has Bible study)

Friday
Ginger Chicken Stir Fry
Brown Rice

Saturday
Grilling Out
Some sort of lean meat (steak, chicken, fish)
Veggies (zucchini, peppers, onions)

Sunday
Meatloaf
http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/02/meatloaf-muffins.html
Roasted Potatoes
Green Beans
Green Peas
Corn
Baby Carrots

PLEASE SHARE YOUR MEAL PLANS J

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big Home Project

I don't know if any of you are like me, but around Spring, we do a lot of projects. Well without fail, my mind started churning on Sunday afternoon. We had had a lovely morning – went to church, went out to lunch at our usual spot, and were home unwinding a bit (or so we thought).

Ever since we moved into our house, it has been pretty chaotic. The month we moved in I got pregnant and a couple weeks after finding out (Thanksgiving Day), I miscarried. Then we had CHRISTmas, Luke's birthday, my birthday, and a couple weeks later we found out we were pregnant again (this time with twins). I couldn't do much in the way of projects since I could barely do laundry and keep the house clean from sickness and hugeness down the road. Then we had the babies and had to deal with the loss of Alexis and the overwhelming tasks of having a newborn again. It's been a crazy couple of years to say the least. Well now that we are settled into our home somewhat and things are getting more settled as far as a routine goes, I am in project mode.

How our house is currently:
We have a three story home with 5 bedrooms, a bonus room, a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen. We use the master bedroom, we have an office in the smallest room right next to our master bedroom, we have a nursery for Nathan, we have an empty room next to Nathan's bedroom (that has an adjoining bathroom) that used to be the guest bedroom, and we have Luke in the bedroom on the 3rd floor. We use the bonus room as a multipurpose room – homeschool, craft/scrapbook, exercise (well it houses the exercise stuff J), and playroom. That room has always felt cluttered to me since we have so many purposes not to mention the amount of stuff (toys, homeschool stuff, craft stuff, a TV cart, an elliptical).

Well I had the "brilliant" idea of putting Luke into the 2nd floor bedroom that used to be a guest bedroom. Nathan will eventually move in there if we have anymore children (the nursery is going to be a nursery until we are done having children – it's neutral and we have a nice setup in that room). I figured 1) they could share the room (Luke's bed can be bunk beds) or 2) Nathan just takes the room and we deal with it then. We are painting the room the same color as Luke's current bedroom and moving him and his stuff down there.

Luke's current bedroom will become the homeschool and craft room. We are going to put the big homeschool table, a desk with a computer, a keyboard, and some shelves with all the homeschool and craft stuff in there. Then the bonus room will be solely a playroom. The great thing is that Nathan and future children can be playing in a big room while Luke and I (and future children) are homeschooling semi-privately. Plus, Luke and Nathan will share the double bathroom giving me one less tub to scrub. J I also like this because Luke can have his room and some toys in there to play with while I am cleaning or doing laundry on the 2nd floor.

I really believe it will be nice. Once it is all done and everything is somewhat organized, I will take pictures and share.

Sally Clarkson Giveaway

For any of my blog readers who are interested, Sally Clarkson is doing a giveaway on her blog.

http://www.itakejoy.com/adversary-or-advocate-reaching-the-heart-of-your-child-and-a-giveaway/

For those of you who don't know, Sally Clarkson is a strong Christian woman, wife, mom, homeschooler, author, and speaker who is all about growing disciples for Jesus whether they be her own children or other people. She is amazing. She has written some great books about embracing life for Jesus. I got the pleasure of meeting her at her conference in Raleigh and she is just a beautiful woman of God. Her family is incredible, each serving the Lord with their different gifts. I am currently doing a Bible study with a group of ladies at church on Mission of Motherhood. It has enhanced my view of motherhood. It really is a calling from God.

I hope you check out her blog, her books, and if you can, her conferences. You will be truly blessed!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Homemade Baby Food – Sweet Potatoes

Okay, so after much consideration and talking with a few good friends, I have decided to make homemade baby food this time. I never even thought of it with Luke. I just bought everything, no coupons, no worries about price. I am always striving to be more financially responsible, plus homemade baby food is healthier (less processed).

I started today with sweet potatoes. I bought a couple of sweet potatoes for under $1.00.

Here's the recipe I used:

Baby Food – Sweet Potatoes
1) Wash sweet potatoes.
2) Poke with a fork.
3) Wrap in aluminum foil.
4) Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
5) Peel.
6) Puree with some water in a food processor.

After it cooled a bit, I put a heaping tablespoon into ice cube trays and am freezing it for future use.

I am pretty excited that it was that easy and was way less expensive than traditional jarred baby food.

Meal Plan Monday – March 21st

I am working on sticking to a meal plan for my family. Last week went okay. Tuesday night I couldn't make Chicken Barley because I was out of baby carrots. Instead I made Chicken Stuffing Pie. Saturday and Sunday we ended up going out to eat for various reasons. I am really trying to work on only eating out one night a week unless something big comes up. Hopefully this week we will stick to it. Please share yours as well.

Here is the meal plan for the week of March 21st - March 27th:

Monday –
Baked Ziti
http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/baked-ziti.html

Garlic Bread
Peanut Butter Cookies

Tuesday –
Leftover Baked Ziti
Garlic Bread
Leftover Peanut Butter Cookies

Wednesday –
Dinner at Church – Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Veggies

Thursday –
Out to Eat with Family

Friday –
Go out to eat

Saturday –
Maple Glazed Chicken
Rice
Veggies

Sunday -
Salisbury Steak
http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/salisbury-steak.html
Mashed Potatoes
Veggies

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Homeschooling – Our Usual Routine

I love to hear how people homeschool and what their routine is as well as their curriculum. I figured I would share what we are doing this year. Luke is in 4/5 PreK right now. As I've mentioned before, we use Sonlight's CORE P4/5 program, Horizons K math, Handwriting Without Tears K, and Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. We do school 5 days a week as that is how the CORE is set up.

Monday
Sonlight CORE P4/5*
Reading (1 lesson)**
Math (2 worksheets)***

Tuesday
Sonlight CORE P4/5
Handwriting Capital Letter****
Letter of the Week Book*****

Wednesday
Sonlight CORE P4/5
Reading (1 lesson)
Math (2 worksheets)

Thursday
Sonlight CORE P4/5
Handwriting Lowercase Letter****
Letter of the Week Magazine Project******

Friday
Sonlight CORE P4/5
Reading (1 lesson)
Math (2 worksheets)

*Sonlight CORE P4/5 – This covers history, science, geography, reading, art, and music.

**Reading – We do a lesson on MWF. I love it because it isn't too much and they review a lot in each lesson. We use flashcards, magnetic letters, and a dry erase board that I write sentences on.

***Math – We do two worksheets each MWF. I love the worksheets. They are easy to use, colorful, and actually pretty fun. We also use manipulatives like pretend money, a pretend clock, and little cubes to do addition.

****Handwriting – We do printing on a worksheet and printing paper. We also have these fun wooden pieces Luke uses to make the letters. He likes that.

*****LoW Book – We staple 4 folded sheets of paper to make a little book. On the front we write "Luke's Letter Book". On each page we put something that starts with the letter (food, animal, job, place, person, and something or someone related to the Bible). For example the letter C: carrots, cat, carpenter, country, Caillou, Cain)

******LoW Magazine Project – We cut out a big letter and then we go through magazines and cut out pictures of things that start with that letter and glue them on the letter.

We also chart the weather each day. We just look outside and Luke tells me his interpretation of the weather (cloudy, warm, etc). We just color a little picture on a calendar. He loves this!

We are working on memorizing the days of the week. Once we do that we will do the months of the year.

PLEASE SHARE WHAT YOU DO FOR YOUR SCHOOLING. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE IN DETAIL, EMAIL ME AT ASHLEY-WEBBER@HOTMAIL.COM AND I WILL SHARE IT ON A POST HERE.

Routines

As lots of you know, I love structure and routines. Schedules are really helpful to have, but I've found that sometimes trying to put every little thing in a time slot can seem overwhelming and if you don't do the dishes at 7:30pm, you start freaking out. That's why routines are so nice. You just have a set of things you try to do in a timeframe. I thought that I would share some examples of my routines. I would love to hear yours as well. Please comment. If you are willing for me to post your routines, send them to me in an email Ashley-webber@hotmail.com and they will appear in a post.

Morning Routine
Roughly 7:00-7:30am – Wake up when the kids wake me up (I know I should get up before them, but I don't)    
Start load of laundry
Feed Nathan a bottle
Make and eat breakfast (do family devotional)
Play with Nathan until he gets sleepy (give him a bath if he not already too tired)
Put Nathan down for a nap
Rotate laundry
Clean up kitchen and living room
Luke and I make our beds and he gets dressed for the day
Homeschool Luke
Take a shower real quick
Rotate laundry and fold 1st load
Straighten up and clean up a little bit
Nathan wakes up – feed Nathan a bottle
Play with Nathan until he gets sleepy

Midday Routine
Roughly 12:00-12:30pm – Put Nathan down for a nap
Make and eat lunch
Straighten up kitchen
Fold 2nd load of laundry
Clean for a little bit
Play with Luke (sometimes we do crafts or color)
Nathan wakes up – feed Nathan a bottle
Play with Nathan until he gets sleepy
Read books with Luke and Nathan
Nathan and Luke nap while I rest, read, blog, do Bible study, FB

Evening Routine
Roughly 5:00-5:30pm – Nathan wakes up – feed Nathan a bottle
Play with Nathan and Luke
Roughly 6:30pm – Make dinner
Roughly 7:00pm – Eat dinner
Clean up a bit
Roughly 7:30-8:00pm – Feed Nathan a bottle
Play with the boys until bed time
Get boys ready for bed
Put boys to bed
Do whatever needs to be done
Relax until bedtime
Roughly 11:00pm – Go to bed

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Egg Salad (Sandwiches)

I LOVE EGG SALAD!!! I know to some people it might seem really gross, but it is one of my favorite sandwiches. I think I love it because it is full of protein, some fat, and is very creamy and tasty.

Here's the "recipe" I use:

Makes 2 sandwiches (just multiply or divide to your need)

Ingredients:
4 hardboiled eggs (my blog post on hardboiled eggs - http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/05/perfect-hardboiled-eggs.html)
2 Tbsp mayo (I like real mayo)
1 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp white vinegar
Salt & pepper

Directions:
Hard boil, peel, and chop eggs and put in a bowl.
Add mayo, mustard, white vinegar, salt, and pepper and stir.
Put on bread.
ENJOY! J

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What Brings You Joy?

I know that this blog is generally about how to more efficiently run a household, but I have decided to branch out and delve more into the heart of homemaking and even the heart of homemakers. It's so easy to get bogged down with the cooking, cleaning, laundry, projects, organizing, errands, and child rearing that we sometimes forget to focus on the things that really bring us joy (aside from all of those things LOL). I thought that I would make a list of the things that bring me joy and purpose to really carve out some time during the week to do them. Life is too short to just do the to-dos if you know what I mean.

So, what brings me joy?

#1 – Writing
I really enjoy writing, whether it be blogging, journaling, poetry, or even more. I enjoy blogging and try to do it a few times a week (sometimes more). It covers a few bases – my love of writing and the joy I get from [hopefully] helping others. I also love journaling (which can be blogging or posting on Facebook) but want to work on privately journaling (believe it or not I have more thoughts than I share LOL). I enjoy writing poems about life. It has always been something that brings me comfort and peace. I also like writing songs. I have a few book ideas in my head and some even on paper. I want to spend more time writing or at least make sure I am keeping up with the ideas better (yes, I am super forgetful).

#2 – Reading
I really enjoy reading, especially Christian growth, marriage, parenting, and discipline books, how-to books about organization, cleaning, cooking, etc, and classic literature (Little Women, Jane Austen, etc). I really want to read at least 30 minutes a day. It's hit or miss right now. I have a Kindle loaded up with great books. That helps. I can carry a ton of books in a slim little reader wherever I go. It's amazing!

#3 – Scrapbooking
I really enjoy scrapbooking. It is so fun to pull out the supplies, put on a good movie or music, and just crop until I drop. I want to work on doing this more. I am hoping to setup a scrapbooking area that doesn't have to be cleaned up all the time. I also want to invite friends over to do crops to make it more fun and keep me accountable.

#4 – Working Out
In the past, after a few months of consistently working out, losing some weight, toning up, and feeling good, I actually thoroughly enjoyed working out. I enjoyed the time to myself, the sweat, the endorphins, the thrill of accomplishment, and how great it felt when I would meet a goal and set another. I am not loving the way I look or how I feel right now. I really want to start working out again. I am working on some ideas to help me get started. Starting is the hard part. Once you start feeling better and getting results, it actually gets "fun".

#5 – Playing the Piano
For those of you who don't know, I play the piano by ear (well some songs at least). I want to really learn how to play the right way and read sheet music. I am also planning to teach Luke (we'll be learning together).

So there are 5 things that bring me joy and I am hoping to really work on doing them more.

What are yours?

Angus Barn’s Chocolate Chess Pie

If any of you have ever eaten at the Angus Barn in the Raleigh/Durham area, you know that they are famous for many things and one of them is their Chocolate Chess Pie. Lee got it one time when we went there and I thought it was pretty good. Well the other night, I went to a ladies get together at our Bible study leader's house and she made it. It came hot out of the oven and was simply heavenly. I decided to try to make it for my chocolate loving husband last night. It turned out really good, so I thought I would share the recipe. I was so busy I forgot to take pictures of the process and we dug into it too fast to get a pretty picture. So here's the recipe. Maybe if I make it again, I'll post a picture and share the recipe again down the road.

Angus Barn's Chocolate Chess Pie

Ingredients:
1 unbaked pie crust
2 squares (oz) semisweet baker's chocolate squares*
1 stick butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of salt

*If you have unsweetened baker's chocolate squares, use an extra 2 Tbsp sugar to make it semisweet.

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a big bowl.**
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl.
Add the ingredients together and mix well.
Pour into the pie crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.***

**I melted the butter and chocolate in a big glass bowl in the microwave.
I just did a minute and stirred, a minute and stirred, etc until it was well melted.
Once the butter was melted the chocolate pretty much melted into the butter as I stirred.

***If your oven cooks faster as mine does, I would do 30 minutes.
Also, the pie should look a smidge uncooked when you take it out. It's a creamy pie inside.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homeschooling – Teaching Reading

My friend, Vicky, gave me the best book for teaching reading to our children. It's called Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. It is an amazing, simple book that you follow that tells you exactly how to teach them to read. I love it because it teaches the "right way". You learn the short vowel sounds, then the consonant sounds, then focus on each short vowel sound making three-letter words (think cat, jet, hit, dog, mud) as well as some sight words (think the, a, I), and then you move on to more advanced reading.

I love it because it literally says, "Say this…then this. The kid should say this." It's really good for someone who is overwhelmed with the how-to of teaching. You use note cards and magnetic letters. It's really actually fun, too.

Luke and I are doing it kind of slow (3 lessons a week) because I want him to be a really good reader. I am going for quality not quantity. So far he can knows all letter sounds and some sight words and can read short a words and short e words. I am really impressed with this book. I just wanted to share.

Meal Plan Monday – March 14th

I've decided to bring back Meal Plan Monday as I am trying to be better about planning out our meals for the week (and sticking to it). I've always struggled with this area of homemaking, not that I don't cook most nights, but just planning out the menu for the week.

Here is the meal plan for the week of March 14th-March 20th:

Monday –
Chicken Parmesan
http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/02/chicken-parmesan.html
Garlic Bread
Chocolate Chess Pie (recipe & pictures to come)

Tuesday –
Chicken Barley (recipe & pictures to come)
Veggies
Leftover Chocolate Chess Pie

Wednesday –
Dinner at Church – Chicken Salad & Fruit Salad

Thursday –
Spaghetti
http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2011/03/freezer-cooking-prepping.html (Recipe only - sorry)

Friday –
Go out to eat

Saturday –
Italian Balsamic Chicken
http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2011/03/freezer-cooking-prepping.html (Recipe only - sorry)
Rice
Veggies

Sunday -
Salisbury Steak
http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/salisbury-steak.html

Mashed Potatoes
Veggies

Friday, March 11, 2011

Setting Priorities

Priority – precedence, especially established by order of importance or urgency

I think it's really important to set our priorities. Each of us has a different life with different situations, different people, and different goals, so our priorities will look different as well. I thought I would share my priorities for each day and would love for you to comment with yours as well.

#1 – Time with God
Spending time with the Lord through prayer, Bible reading/study, devotion, and listening to worship music is my number one priority. I used to think that I had to get up at the crack of dawn before everyone in my house to have my quiet time. I never was able to do it and would at times feel guilty. I've learned that the best time for me to have quiet time is in the afternoon during naptime (for a few reasons – 1) I am awake, 2) I am not having to have a longer day, 3) I usually have a couple of hours to do it as long as I need/want to). As a family we are doing a devotional and Bible reading at one meal a day (either breakfast or dinner). I also read the Bible with Luke so I get a lot of Bible in that way as well. I pray throughout the day.

#2 – Time with Lee
Lee and I spend a couple of hours together each night after the kids are in bed. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we watch TV or a movie, and sometimes we just veg. I think it's important to spend time with our spouses. We try to do a date night once a month.

#3 – Time with Luke
I try to spend one-on-one time with Luke while Nathan is napping. We play or do art stuff.

#4 – Time with Nathan
I try to spend one-on-one time with Nathan while Luke is napping in the afternoon (he naps longer than Nathan since it takes him longer to fall asleep and he only does one nap).

#5 – Alone Time
I spend time alone doing things I enjoy – reading, watching shows/movies I like, scrapbooking, blogging, Facebooking, and emailing.

#6 – Homeschooling Luke
Teaching Luke is a major priority obviously. I do this during Nathan's morning nap to give us a nice chunk of time.

#7 – Meals
Making meals is a priority as for some reason my family likes 3 meals and a few snacks a day LOL! I try to make a hot breakfast a few times a week. I also like to eat at home 5 nights a week. Lunches are simple – we just throw them together with what we have on hand.

#8 – Laundry
Again, laundry is important since we need clothes – darn that Adam and Eve. ;)

#9 – Cleaning/Organizing
I like my home to be organized and clean, but it's not my #1 priority.

I know people are wondering about hygiene – that is obviously a priority. It just gets done everyday without thinking much about it.

Working out needs to be on that list. I hope it will be soon. J

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Freezer Cooking & Prepping

Well my 6 months (which turned out to be 9 months due to the wonderful hospitality of church friends and other friends) of freezer meals is gone. I am sad to see it all gone. It was so nice having done so much work for 3-4 days and have it pay off for that long. I decided to do a monthly plan that I shared a while back. I chose 16 of our favorite meals (4 per week plus at least 1 night of leftovers - we go out once a week and eat at church once a week) including pastas, chicken, beef, and pork recipes. Some of the recipes are better made fresh, so I just cut the fat off the meat and cut it in tenders or chunks for simplicity down the way.

I made:
Honey Baked Pork Chops (cut the fat off the pork, made the marinade, and froze)
Chicken Pot Pie (prepped the insides and froze)
Chicken Stuffing Pie (prepped the insides and froze)
Italian Balsamic Chicken (cut the fat off the chicken, made the marinade, and froze)
Baked Ziti (prepped and froze)
Spaghetti (made the sauce)
Meatballs in Sauce (made the meatballs and sauce)
Salisbury Steak (prepped and froze)
Meatloaf (prepped and froze)

Pot Roast (froze the meat)
I also cut the fat off of, cut into pieces, and froze 6 lbs of chicken for later use.
I plan to use those to make Chicken Noodle Dumpling Delight, Chicken Barley, Chicken Stirfry, Chicken Parmesan, Buffalo Chicken Tenders, and Maple Glazed Chicken.

This way I can go to the freezer 4 times a week, pull out something and do a marginal amount of work (some nights a little more), and have a yummy dinner (plus leftovers some nights). It really helps because I don't have to think about what we are going to eat, only have to go to the store for a few things each week (Lee can even go), and don't have to spend an hour every night cooking. Plus I only have to cook 4 times a week. That's pretty nice. (I wanted to take pictures but was hurrying through - SORRY)

Here are the recipes if you would like to try them:

HONEY BAKED PORK CHOPS
Ingredients:
6 boneless pork chops
½ cup honey
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix honey, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce in a blender.
Pour sauce over pork chops.
(Freeze here if desired).
Place in baking dish.
Bake for 30 minutes or until done.

SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef or turkey
Onion, chopped
Pepper, chopped
1 jar spaghetti sauce
Spaghetti noodles

Directions:
Cook spaghetti noodles.
Cook ground beef, onion, and pepper.
Heat sauce and add beef mixture.
(Freeze here if desired).
If you freeze, make the noodles fresh the day of.

SPAGHETTI WITH MEATBALLS

Ingredients:
1 lb ground turkey/beef
2 egg whites
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup water
½ onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp parsley
2 tsp basil
1 tsp black pepper
3 cups pasta sauce
12oz pasta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven broiler.
Combine turkey/beef, egg whites, breadcrumbs, water, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, & pepper.
Mix ingredients thoroughly and shape into 1 ½ inch diameter meatballs.
Arrange meatballs on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 10-12 minutes turning occasionally until browned on all sides.
In a large saucepan, combine pasta sauce and cooked meatballs.
Simmer over low heat until warmed thoroughly, about 20 minutes.
(Freeze meatballs and sauce here if desired)
While pasta sauce is simmering, cook spaghetti.
Serve sauce and meatballs over spaghetti.
If freezing, cook noodles the day of.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese.

BAKED ZITI

Ingredients:
1 lb pasta
1 jar pasta sauce
1 lb ground beef/turkey
Diced peppers and onions
1 bag mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 2 ½ qt baking dish.
Cook and drain pasta.
Cook beef, peppers, and onions until brown in large skillet on medium heat and drain.
Mix pasta, beef, and pasta sauce and put in pan.
Cover with mozzarella cheese (I also like to add some parmesan cheese).
Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

MEATLOAF

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef or turkey
Diced peppers and onions
1 package onion soup mix
1 egg
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup bread crumbs or rolled oats

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients and put into loaf pan.
(Freeze here if desired).
Thaw if frozen.
Bake for 1 hour or until done.

SALISBURY STEAK

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
½ pkg stuffing mix
½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 egg whites
A few splashes of water
1/2 Tbsp oil
Brown gravy

Directions:
Mix meat, stuffing mix, onion, and water until well blended.
Shape into 4-6 patties.
(Freeze here if desired).
If frozen, thaw first.
Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat.
Add patties.
Cook 6 minutes on each side or until cooked throughout.
Cover with brown gravy and serve.

POT ROAST

Ingredients:
2 ½ lb pot roast, well trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 package onion soup mix
Onions, diced
Potatoes, diced
Baby carrots

Directions:
Spray crockpot with nonstick spray.
Add roast.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add onion soup mix.
Cover with water.
Cook on low for 1 hour.
Add onions, potatoes, and carrots.
Cover with water.
Cook at least 5 more hours on low.
(Freeze here if desired).

MAPLE GLAZED CHICKEN

Ingredients:
1 tsp paprika and salt
½ tsp cinnamon, cumin, and pepper
4 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp butter and Dijon mustard

Directions:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients and rub on chicken. (Freeze spiced chicken if desired)
Bake in upper 3rd of oven for 15 minutes.
Combine other ingredients in saucepan and stir until melts. (Freeze glaze if desired)
Brush glaze on chicken.
Bake 5 more minutes.
Brush glaze on chicken.
Bake 5 more minutes.

ITALIAN BALSAMIC CHICKEN BREAST

Ingredients:
1 ½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Directions:
Combine everything but chicken in a large Ziploc bag.
Add chicken to bag and marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (freeze if desired).

CHICKEN PARMIGIANA

Ingredients:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 pieces)
4 egg whites
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
6 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp olive oil
8oz pasta
1 jar pasta sauce
Bag (2 cups) mozzarella cheese, shredded (or desired amount)
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Stir egg whites in a bowl.
Mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning.
Heat olive oil in skillet.
Dip chicken in egg whites and breading.
Cook until crispy on both sides.
Cook pasta while cooking chicken.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put pasta in baking dish.
Put chicken on top of pasta.
Pour pasta sauce on top of chicken.
Pour cheeses on top of pasta sauce.
Bake 30 minutes.

CHICKEN POT PIE

Ingredients:
1 cup cooked chicken
1 bag (1 lb) frozen veggies
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
½ cup milk
½ cup milk
1 cup Bisquick mix
1 egg

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix chicken, veggies, soup, and milk.
Add to baking dish.
(Freeze if desired).
If frozen, thaw first.
Mix Bisquick, milk, and egg.
Pour over chicken mix.
Bake for 30 minutes.

CHICKEN STUFFING PIE

Ingredients:
1 box stuffing mix
2 ½ lbs cooked chicken
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
2 cups boiling water
1 cup uncooked rice

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash and drain rice and line pan.
Mix soup and water and stir into rice.
Lay chicken on top and season.
(Freeze if desired).
If frozen, thaw first.
Spread stuffing over.
Bake for 30 minutes.

BUFFALO CHICKEN TENDERS

Ingredients:
6 Tbsp butter
¾ cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce
1 lb chicken tenders
Bread crumbs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt butter in microwave.
Add hot sauce and mix.
Add sauce mixture.
Coat in bread crumbs.
Bake until chicken is done.

GINGER CHICKEN STIR FRY

Ingredients:
Zucchini, sliced
Carrots, sliced
Onions, sliced
Peppers, sliced
Chicken, chopped
Stir fry sauce
Ground ginger

Directions:
Cook veggies in oil a few minutes and remove from pan.
Add chicken and cook until done.
Mix ginger into sauce and pour over chicken.
Add veggies and cook a few more minutes.
Serve over rice.

CHICKEN NOODLE DUMPLING DELIGHT

Ingredients:
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 cup carrots, sliced
¾ cup onions, chopped
½ cup water
Salt & pepper
Parsley & thyme
1 lb chicken, diced
5 oz egg noodles

Directions:
Put soup, carrots, onions, water, salt & pepper, parsley & thyme, and chicken in pot on high.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and cover.
Cook 10-20 minutes until chicken is done (stirring occasionally).
Cook pasta while the chicken mixture is cooking.
Mix pasta into chicken mixture.

CHICKEN BARLEY

Ingredients:
Olive oil
Onion, chopped
Carrots, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 large chicken breasts, chopped
2 cups barley
Salt & pepper

Directions:
Saute onions and carrots in olive oil until tender in a big pot.
Add chicken broth and chicken.
Cook until chicken is done (about 10 minutes).
Add the barley and salt & pepper.
Cook for 10 minutes on high.
Reduce to low and cover.
Cook about 45 minutes.

ENJOY! :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Comparing Ourselves to Others

I've really been thinking about comparisons lately. I think as human beings, especially as moms, we tend to look at others and compare. Comparing is a bad thing because it either makes us feel bad about ourselves or it makes us feel good about ourselves. And of course we either compare our best to someone's worst or our worst to someone's best. That makes it all the worse.

I know that I've done that a lot. I've looked at what others do well and then feel bad about myself. Or I've looked at people and what they are doing and think, "I should do that." The problem is, I am not that person. I don't have their personality, interests, husband, house, children, or life. It may not work with what I am trying to accomplish in my life and my family.

I say that to say:

* Know yourself - know who God created you to be, what your personality is, what your interests are, and what works for you (some people are morning people, some are night people; some people enjoy classical music and tea on china, some people like rock music and a soda; some people like to spend hours getting dolled up, others have a 20 minute "get ready routine").

* Know your spouse (and their needs/interests) - know who God created your spouse to be, what their personality is, what their interests are, and what works for them (some spouses need lots of attention and quality time, others are happier to be alone sometimes; some spouses like to go to nice restaurants, others are happy at a fast food joint).

* Know your family (and their needs/interests) - know how God designed your family, each person's needs and interests, and what works for your family (some families are outdoors families, some enjoy being indoors more; some families like to spend lots of time together, some not so much).

* Know your schedule and how much time you have to do things - some families have a stay-at-home parent, others have 2 working parents; some families have lots of time in the morning or night, some families have more time during the day; some families have military parents; etc).

* Know your goals for your family - spiritual, physical, mental, educational, recreational (every family is different).

* Know what really matters to you (AKA your priorities).
When you really know yourself, your spouse, your family, your home, your schedule, and your priorities, you don't have to worry about what other people are doing. You can look to them for ideas that might work for yourself or your family, but don't think, "I have to be just like them."

I hope that has helped you in some way.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Money Management

One of the biggest areas a lot of people struggle in is money management. We live in a world of "Buy it now, pay for it later." I remember going to college and being thrown credit card applications as I walked around my first day of college. Luckily I was scared to get a credit card so I never had one. Lee and I entered our marriage with no debt thanks to our family paying for college as well as good teaching about money.

Even with all of that, we've always lived on one income and have had to be careful about our spending.

Here are a few tips that we have learned:

#1 - Try really hard to have as little debt as possible. I know this is easier said than done, but we only have a mortgage, a van payment, and a couch payment. Our goal is to only have a mortgage payment, but we needed a van (Lee's car was on it's last leg and we were having more children and needed something with more space) and couch (our couch was like 20 years old and was disgusting - we did a same as cash plan and put money down on it). If you have debt, make a plan to pay it off little by little (even if it's just $20 a month extra).

#2 - Try to plan purchases. Again, I know this is easier said than done, but if you really think about what you will need, you can save the money as you can and then purchase the items with the allocated funds. This helps with #1. For instance, we figured up we spend about $1,200 on Christmas presents each year, so we are trying to put away $100 a month all year to cover that expense.

#3 - Make a liveable budget and stick to it. Again, I know this is easier said than done, but it really helps to have a plan for how you are going to spend your money and it helps to see where it goes each month. I did an entire post on the topic of creating a budget http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-to-create-household-budget.html and how to stick to it http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-to-stick-to-budget.html.

#4 - Have an organized way to pay your bills. I wrote an entire post on the topic http://organizedhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/02/organized-bill-paying.html.

I hope these tips have helped.