Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Kitchen: EASY Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

Since Dave was working through dinner last night, I went for a "not totally nutritious but easy and kids love it" kind of meal... Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole with some of my bread and some fruit. What I love about this recipe is that it only needs 3 ingredients:

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese Casserole
12 oz. elbow macaroni
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz. cheddar cheese (+ additional if you want for a cheesier topping)

You can also opt to include onions, pimento, or ritz cracker crumbles...

First, preheat your oven to 350 and boil the macaroni until almost soft (it will cook more in the oven). I used some of my homemade chicken stock to cook the pasta (I'll include a post about that later this week...) I also used Wacky Mac spirals because the girls enjoy the colors and that is what I had in the pantry.

Next drain and pour noodles into your baking pan. I split this normally 9x13in recipe into two smaller containers.

Then, add in the cream of chicken and cheddar cheese. Stir to mix well and put into your preheated oven (350 degrees) for 20 minutes. Then add additional cheese or ritz cracker crumbles and cook for 5 more minutes.

I decided to freeze the other 1/2 batch to pull out for to girls on a night when we have a babysitter. I like to go ahead and put the directions on the lid so that when I pull it out for a quick meal I don't have to hunt for the recipe to try to figure out the details for heating!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Playroom: Pretend Play Fail!

Kate pretending to sleep outside...

This afternoon my oldest daughter Kate presented herself in pretend play as a little girl named "Toy" (very creative, I know). Now after much questioning and going along with her, I determined that "Kate" was with her daddy on campus and would be eating dinner with him, but "Toy" was ready to eat macaroni and cheese with us.

At age 3, Kate's never really done much pretend play before, and I was surprised at how creative she was being. For example, she called her mom on the phone to ask if she could spend the night. Her mom was actually in Canada. Which is very far away. She also wanted to make sure there would be a bed for her to sleep in-- oh and is that bed with the baby? (Of course, Kate knows that she sleeps in the same room with baby McKenzie..)

After ten minutes of making pretend macaroni and cheese and requiring Kylie to call her "Toy"-- which she requested that I make sure Kylie only called her "Toy", she did something quite defiant. I honestly can't recall what it was that she did but I responded "Now Toy, if you can't follow our house rules, you'll have to go home." "Toy" crossed her arms and walked away. I started to think to myself, this is a great opportunity to help her learn how to operate when she's at a friend's house, so I persisted, "Toy, please look at me and say 'Yes, Mrs. B.'" Again, she "hmphed" and turned away from me, all in a spirit of fun and acting (or so I thought...) So, I responded, "Toy, we'll need to call your mommy to come and pick you up from Canada."

At this point, Kate (not "Toy", mind you) broke down in drippy, droppy tears. Through broken sobs I could barely make out what she was saying, "But this is my home, if I have to leave, where will I go? I can't go to Canada-- they don't have beds there.... just..... food!"

So, my friends, if you ever think that your child is ready for pretend play, don't play along by threatening to kick her out of the house. It won't go over well I tell you. It won't go over well.

Shout out to Motherhood

The Kitchen: Baking Homemade Bread

Have you ever made one of those "amish friendship" breads that are really yummy at the end but kind of sickening while you literally feed yeast for several weeks in a plastic bag on your counter?

Well, up until this summer, that was the extent of my experience with baking bread. But as we've attempted as a family to eat more whole grains, I've been shocked with a) how many ingredients are listed in a loaf of store-bought bread and b) how difficult it is to find whole wheat and whole grain bread that doesn't have enriched something in it somewhere!

So, this summer, I asked one of my friends to teach me how to make bread. While I still buy bread at the store, its a fun treat & activity with the girls to watch the bread rise and to knead it....

There is a great tutorial online here:

Here's my contribution: WHITE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR!
Did you know that white whole wheat flour is an albino form of whole wheat? It has all the great properties of whole wheat (nutrition and digestion), but is sweeter (naturally) and a lot easier to work with as a dough. We love it!

Baking homemade bread requires you are home for several hours because you have to let it rise several times. But, it isn't hard or time consuming... especially using my Kitchen Aid mixer with my dough hook attachment!

So far, I've made
2 loaves bread
3 pizza crusts
cinnamon sugar pretzels

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Kitchen: Get Kids to Eat Healthy Food....Party Packs!

A few months ago my husband had a brilliant solution to making a "let's just eat left-overs" dinner sound exciting to the girls. He prepared for them with much enthusiasm Party Packs. These are without a doubt their favorite meals now, and we are often begged to make them!

A Party Pack consists of small amounts of a variety of healthy foods.

Kate's current favorite food is a whole carrot "shaved, not cut!"

Kate's lunch party pack:
a ham roll
a slice of cheese
a whole carrot

Kylie always eats the hummus first, not using it as a dip :)

Kylie's party pack:
a ham roll
a slice of cheese

I generally make these with things the girls like and what we have on hand. They almost always finish every bite!!

What ideas do you have for helping your kids eat healthy?

The Kitchen: Slow-Cooker OJ Pork

I LOVE using my crock pot. It makes preparing dinner so simple and stress-free!

Dinner tonight is a new recipe for me, so I will let you know how we like it!
*Update* We really did enjoy this. The sweet potatoes were amazing and the pork was really juicy. I was surprised that you can't really taste the orange juice at all. In the future, I might have some orange marmalade on the table to put on top of the pork for a sauce.

Slow-Cooker OJ Pork
1 pork shoulder roast
1 large onion, quartered
sweet potatoes, quartered/diced
orange juice

Place the roast in the bottom of your slow cooker and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place onions and potatoes around the roast and pour enough OJ to come up at least halfway around the pork.
Cook on low 8-10 hours.

That's it! What's your favorite slow-cooker recipe??

Recipe from

The Living Room: "Can Anyone See the Heart?"

So, this morning as the girls were getting dressed and I was hanging up clean clothes, Kate asked, "Can anyone see the heart?". It was one of those parental moments that I treasure being able to stay at home with my girls so I can help shape their beautiful little minds. Casually, while continuing to hang up clothes I launched into an explanation of how God sees our hearts-- when they are sad or happy, when they are gentle or unkind, etc.

When Kate didn't reply, I looked at her to see her thoroughly tangled up in her shirt-- and if you'll notice in the picture above, her shirt has a heart on it. Turns out, her question was simply about finding the front-side of her shirt...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Kitchen: An Inexpensive Veggie/Fruit Wash

I would love to eat only organic fruits and veggies, but it isn't always feasible with budget or accessibility. So, I have found a simple, natural & inexpensive method using sea salt for ridding my produce of pesticides. I find that if I do this right when I get home from shopping, we are more likely to eat the foods (because they are all clean and ready for consumption), and we have less waste.

First, I bought an inexpensive wash tub. While I do clean my sink from time to time, it feels weird to clean it out with chemicals right before I dump in my veggies that I am trying to rid of chemicals, so buying a tub was my solution. I only use it for this purpose and I rinse it out after each use.

When I first start to unload my groceries, I fill the tub (usually halfway) with water and I add in sea salt (approximately 1 tsp sea salt for each cup of water). After two minutes (long enough for the salt to dissolve), I briefly rinse/scrub my produce to get any visible dirt off and then I drop it into the tub to soak while I finish putting groceries away.

For thin-skinned produce, I soak around 2 minutes; for thick-skinned, I give it 5. Then, I simply rinse well, drain, and store. I like to store in Hefty "Fresh Extend" produce bags. Its important to make sure produce is dry when you store it to keep it fresh longer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Bathroom: Homemade Deodorant

I grew up an antiperspirant "powder fresh scent" kind of girl, and it has always worked pretty well for me. (I guess you can ask my family what they think...) When we lived in Colorado, many friends switched to just all-natural deodorant without the antiperspirant to leave behind the aluminum. While research hasn't supported the idea that using an antiperspirant is linked with cancer or Alzheimer's, I've always been curious about the different approaches people have had to squelching the stench-- stones, essential oils, etc.

This summer, a girlfriend of mine shared how she had made her own deodorant and had been using it for 6 months with great results. I asked her to show me how, and I was so surprised with how easy it is! I think it works just as well as antiperspirant.

Homemade Deodorant Recipe:
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup baking soda
6 tbsp coconut oil
3 drops tea tree essential oil
max 7 additional drops of essential oils in scent of your choice. I did lavender.

Combine ingredients, stir well, store.

Additional thoughts:
Costs around $1 for a 6 month supply
I bought a small mason jar to store mine
No more yellow stains on your shirts (you may have thought this came from sweat, but its actually from your antiperspirant!)
Will harden or liquify based on room temperature, so you may have to blow dry it for a few seconds to get it to soften so you can put it on if your house is cold.

What do you think? Is making your own deodorant a little "too crunchy" as my husband puts it? (Meaning a little too granola...)

The Bathroom: Switching from Toothpaste to Listerine

For as long as I can remember, I have disliked toothpaste. Something about the grittiness paired with either bubblegum flavor as a kid or mint as an adult just grosses me out. So when our dentist encouraged us to begin to brush daily with Listerine instead of toothpaste, I was thrilled to give it a try. I LOVE it!

Its not a good idea for kids as they still need the fluoride in toothpaste, but for adults, Listerine is a great option for killing gingivitis and reducing the risk of gum disease. Our dentist says toothpaste is great for a mouth refresher, but Listerine is great for those morning and evening brush times. Try it out.

What do you think? Is it too weird to say goodbye to paste??

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Excited to get started!!

Hello Friends,
I'm glad you've found the blog! My hope is that this will be a practical, fun, "idea-generating" kind of blog rather than my stream-of-consciousness... which let's face it, with three girls under age four my thoughts center currently around potty-training and dressing up "fancy".
This has been a long time coming as my husband has nicknamed the blog "30 hours and still no name".
Hope you enjoy!