Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Kefir Cornbread (Cultures for Health)

I have a fresh bottle of kefir and will try out this lovely homemade cornbread recipe to go with our beans. For most of the family, this will make the Beans & Cornbread meal a XO (crossover= mixture of fats and carbs, not as conducive to weight loss). This is the one thing I love about the Trim, Healthy Mama plan. She does not eliminate any food category. You will still eat some whole grains. You will still eat healthy fats. You can still eat fruits! I love that you can even have dessert! I read that the sisters who wrote it just learned that by eating whole grains without fats they were able to continue their weight loss. I love this balanced approach. I especially love that it means I can make ONE meal for everyone. Want to lose weight? Just skip the cornbread today or have a tiny piece to keep your fat below 5 grams. Want to feed hungry kids? Just serve them both with some honey and butter. YUM!

Back a long time ago, I had a herd of dairy goats and for a time a Jersey Cow that I milked every day. I used to make the kefir from scratch with the kefir grains that our local goat dairy gave me. It is probably the easiest fermented food you can make. However, since I don't have any cows or goats "in milk" I have been buying some unsweetened kefir at the local store. If you have used buttermilk for baking, this is very similar. Buttermilk is also SUPER easy to make. This reminds me that I still need to schedule an easy cheesy cheese making workshop. Who would like to learn to make some easy cheeses? I have a pregnant Jersey cow ambling around the pasture now, so I may be back in the dairy business this fall!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Fruit Harvests

Today I will be picking, washing, and preparing fruit for canning, juicing, and freezing.  I spent the morning picking blackberries and peaches.  The blackberry bushes have been neglected and I missed a lot of fruit with our crazy summer schedule.  I picked about a gallon baggie full of blackberries.  I plan to freeze them and then later, when I have 4 gallons, I will juice them for jelly.  Freezing blackberries is simple.  Just wash them and freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. This will keep them from sticking together and you will be able to pull out a cup or so for a recipe/smoothie/etc.  However, if you know you are just going to be making jelly or jam later, you can freeze them in freezer boxes.  I will probably do the boxes for this batch, since my freezer is so full of the beef we just got from the butcher.  Right now I have to work with what I have available.  T

The peaches are overflowing.  Two trees are fully ripe with two more full of green and unripe peaches.  I usually make jam, but I may resort to juicing and canning for jelly at at later time.  I would love to freeze them, but I do not have enough freezer space.  I will teach Miss J to can a few quarts for pies and cobblers.  I hope they turn out well so she can enter them into the fair.  Last year she got a rosette for her Caramel Apple Pie filling.  We have one quart jar left and no one wants to eat the last jar. We keep saving it for a "special day."   I guess we need to make another batch of that too!  Here are a couple of recipes that I am looking at for the peaches!  I have a nice stock of dark honey so I plan to try it on at least one batch of the jam to see if we like it.

Honey Sweetened Vanilla Peach Jam

Honey Peach Preserves

Here is a LOVELY pdf of a vintage Ball Canning Blue Book.  The ladies on the front appear to be wearing clothing from the 1920's.  There are several recipes that are appealing in this pdf.  I also love the simple directions on canning at the beginning.  What is your favorite way to preserve your harvest?  Freezing, canning, dehydrating? 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Freezer Meal Survival

Hello! Life has been busy with all of the teen kids.  I really thought I was tired and busy when everyone was toddlers, but how mistaken I was.  This new season of mom as a taxi driver is a different kind of busy...and of course I have my tag-a-long littles to round out the fun.  This week I was taking little kids to swimming lessons each day.  I finish up my VIPKID classes at 9:15, classes start at 10 and it is about a 25 minute drive to town.  So each morning, I pretty much cross my fingers that the little kids (ages 8 and 6) have gotten dressed and grabbed a quick breakfast that I laid out.  I also am using the driving time to let my 15 year old practice driving.  2 licensed drivers, 1 in training, and 2 to go. I think I might be getting too old for this driver's ed thing. ;-) Anyway, as I have had such full mornings, I am relying on my slow cooker to survive this summer. How do you beat the drive through temptation? 
      I became a Pampered Chef consultant about a year ago and the one "party" that is my favorite is the Freezer Meal Workshop.  Of course, I had to try out a menu plan before I could offer it to my friends.  It has literally been years since I did regular freezer meal preparations and I had forgotten how nice it is to have food in the freezer.  In the workshops that I hold now, we usually prep one to two weeks of freezer meals in about 2 hours.  I run around and wash dishes and Pampered Chef gadgets. I keep trash bins empty and offer help as needed.  During the next week or so they can opt to cook their meals in the slow cooker, microwave (25 minutes!!!) or even pop it into the oven.  It has been so much fun to help other people get their freezers stocks and ditch the drive through. 
   Just do a "freezer meal" search on pinterest and you will see there are MANY methods for stocking your freezer.  Back in the day, I was a huge fan of "Once a Month" cooking.  You basically shop on Friday and then spend all of Saturday and even some of Sunday getting all of your meals prepped and in the freezer.  It was a crazy-hard weekend and at the time, I did not have any kids big enough to be helpers.  However, it was sooooo worth it to have a month of dinners in the freezer.  I loved the Once-A-Month Cooking book by Mimi Wilson.  We still enjoy several of the meals from this original cookbook.  I found this used copy on Thriftbooks.  I also love, love, love the website  30 Day Gourmet  They have a membership available, but I just used the free recipes on the site.  I love that all of their recipes have been broken down into different recipe sizes.  They have the amount for 1 recipe, double, or even more in one big batch to save you time.  They also send out new recipes in their newsletter.  Some of my favorite recipes from there are the Chewy Granola Bars, Time to Spare Spuds, and Loaded Baked Potato Soup (both the original and the lite versions).  In the coming weeks, I plan to share how I freezer meal prep now.  It looks a little different from my "once a month" days.  I generally snag a few minutes here and there and do a freezer meal or two at a time instead of cooking the whole weekend.  Either way, it is nice to have a freezer full of food ready to go!  What are some of YOUR favorite freezer meal recipes? How do you stock your freezer? Do you have a tried and true recipe?  Leave a link in the comments.  I would love to see other favorite recipes.  Here is a link to my Freezer Cooking Board on Pinterest.  Do you have a favorite pinner that you follow?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tapestry of Grace for Large Families (and small)

This morning I am finishing up training to become an advisor for Tapestry of Grace.  I think maybe I should do this each year just to get so inspired listening to Marcia Somerville share the curriculum that she wrote.  If you have not heard of Tapestry of Grace, check out these links to learn more about this unique curriculum that is a fantastic classical, humanities program.  What is the best part?  The best part is that when you purchase the curriculum it includes lesson plans and teacher notes for grades K-12.  That means that every child in my house is all studying the same time period in history.  This has saved me so much time in planning since I sort of camp out in the older kid's teacher notes section, which then has me prepared for teaching all the levels at my house.  This year I will have a K4, 2nd grader, 8th grader, and 10th grader.  This is our 4th year to use Tapestry of Grace and because of this whole family approach, I will own almost all of the books and all of the curriculum and supplements after this year.  So as I have slowly purchased books to go along with the curriculum (and utilized the library as well) I have invested and now have a program for my whole family for the rest of their homeschool years.  I can't even begin to tell you how many books I purchased over the first 10 years of homeschooling, that were never reused and were consumable.  Anyway, for our family, it has been a great fit and so rich and rigorous.  Below are the 4 years of Tapestry of Grace.  Click the Explore Tapestry link to see short videos and get a great overview of how the curriculum is set up.  It includes many of your homeschool subjects and you will just add in math, science, and language.  It does include an excellent writing program that follows their method of "Read, Think, Write" approach which works so well in helping the children to interact with the history and an in-depth literature analysis program using the great books.  One last point is that the curriculum is designed so that you can begin anywhere in the history cycle and designed so that you can be flexible.  We began with Year 3 and this year will complete our first cycle of history with Year 2.  Flexibility is the heart of this program, so check it out if you want to simplify your school by having everyone on the same page.

Explore Tapestry

You can explore more here and see a sample of the curriculum to try before you buy.

Try it for free HERE

Monday, June 26, 2017

Stocking the Pantry: Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Image from

When I had my first child, we were given this delicious casserole and I searched until I found the recipe on Southern Living.  It is super easy to keep the things on hand in your pantry so that you can quickly have a hearty meal on the table in no time by using a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  I do a lot of my shopping at Aldi's and it seems that the ingredients for this recipe are somewhat seasonal.  So when I see them, I stock up as you can't beat their prices.  Here is a shopping list for 12 recipes of the Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole.

24 boxes of Long Grain and Wild Rice (fast cooking or regular both work)
12 small packages of sliced almonds (I omit the almonds)
1.5 pounds of butter (store in the freezer)
24 celery ribs, sliced and dehydrated (or use fresh that you have on hand)
24 medium onions, diced and dehydrated (or use fresh that you have on hand)
24 cans of cream of mushroom soup or 12 of the large family size cans
12 cans of water chestnuts

To Have on Hand:
sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese
soft breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or whole roasted chicken

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Where do you school? designated room? or all over?

We are in full house upheaval as I rearrange pretty much every room in order to move our homeschooling downstairs.  It will be my 14th year to homeschool this fall and I have finally given up on the idea of having my homeschool room upstairs in our loft.  Over the years, we start off well upstairs, but eventually, life happens.  You need to be able to fold laundry, watch a pot of stew, or scrub windows while children do independent work. Or you need little ones to stay with you at all times so that they don't draw pictures in sharpie decorate your walls or pour a gallon of vinegar into the volcano your middle school student made from plaster of Paris have science experimentation without supervision.  It's not that I'm oblivious to the children, it's just that there is a lot to do when you have five children eating, sleeping, schooling, and making messes all day long in the house.  In an effort to save my sanity teach the children good habits and responsible behaviors, we are reorganizing the entire house.  My oldest, who commutes to college, moved into the downstairs bedroom leaving her larger upstairs room for the two younger girls.  My boys share a room as well and I hope to make the loft a play room/craft room.  I have really, missed having a good place to sew and having all of my sewing things in one place, rather than in every nook and cranny I can find throughout the house.  So with that said, here are a few rooms that I like and are serving as inspiration.
Has anyone else ever drooled over the thought of a library/dining room combo??? How perfect are those globes on the table?

Here is another from the Pennington Point.  I just love her decorating style! I think that I would prefer a chalkboard but will likely just move the dry erase board from upstairs to downstairs since it would be FREE.  I also have cubbies almost exactly like this setup.

My Child I Love You also has a classy way of combining her homeschool into the home living spaces.  I want to find some pretty maps to hang on the wall and absolutely adore her alphabet idea.

What a fantastic way to organize the CC Memory Work as well. 

When I get the books and school things all moved downstairs, then I will embark on the sewing loft. I have many ideas for organization, storage, and decoration pinned here.  Since all children are either at work or in the barn, I will head back to my organizing fun and hope to post some photos of how my spaces turn out in the next several days.  How do you like to organize your homeschool or crafting spaces?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Stocking the Pantry #2 - Chicken Enchiladas

Stocking the Pantry: Chicken Enchiladas

I am working on gradually stocking my pantry with ingredients for dishes that make a regular rotation in our monthly meal plans.  You can use store store-bought or homemade ingredients to make any of the recipes I am stocking in my pantry.  I find that having some basics stocked up in the pantry makes it so much easier to eat at home, save money, and eat healthier.  I hope this series helps you with your own pantry organization.

This grocery trip, will find me canning chicken and stocking up so that we can enjoy chicken enchiladas.  Chicken enchiladas are really a favorite here.  I have two recipes for them, but this is the recipe that is easiest to keep on hand.  I won't stock up on the corn/flour tortillas as that is something that I buy regularly and keep on hand.  If however, I happen to be out of tortillas, they are so easy to make with grains that I keep in bulk. 

I will plan for chicken enchiladas to have them once per month. (this link is to a recipe that is very similar to mine, for those who like precise measurements.)

12 large cans of cream of chicken soup 
12 cans green chilis
12 cans sliced black olives
12 pints of canned chicken (If canning your own, buy 48 small chicken breast halves)
1 large container of dehydrated onions
**Add 12 cans of cream of mushroom soup to have ingredients for King Ranch Chicken

To Have on Hand:
fresh green onions
fresh diced tomato
shredded cheddar cheese, Monterrey Jack or a combination of the two
sour cream
fresh cilantro (grows like a weed here in Central Texas)
tortillas (Keeper of the Home has a recipe that I like to use when making them from scratch)

To make Chicken Enchiladas:

Combine equal parts of cream of chicken soup with sour cream.  I use a large can or two small cans to make a 9x13 or a sheet pan of chicken enchiladas.  I also stir in 1 small can of green chilis as well as some shredded cheese.  When this is well blended, add in the cooked chicken.  Fill tortillas with filling and roll.  Lay them seam side down on the 9x13 or sheet pan.  For an easy clean up, you can line the pan with foil.  Once all tortillas are rolled, put the remaining filling over the top of the enchiladas.  Top with shredded cheese and sliced black olives.  Bake at 350* for 25-30 minutes.  Serve with diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro,  fresh green onions and salsa.