Monday, April 23, 2012

Meal Plan Monday: Week 6

Day 1: Ribs with mashed potatoes, asparagus, salad, and bread.
Day 2: Frittata: Frittata recipe maker on
Day 3: Left over ribs in a box (see day two, week one)
Day 4: Left over Frittata in a box
Day 5: Spaghetti and salad (see week two recipes for sauce recipe)
Day 6: Taco Salad
Day 7: Left over spaghetti and salad

If there is a link above it is the link to the recipe.

Mashed potatoes:

2 pounds yukon gold potatoes cut into chunks
2 shallots thinly sliced
olive oil 
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste

Place the shallots in a frying pan over medium-low heat with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Salt lightly and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until carmel colored. Remove from pan and set aside.
Place the potatoes in a pan of cool salted water so that they are fully covered. Bring to a boil and allow to cook until they are just soft enough to easily poke a fork into them. Drain the water place into a the bowl/pan you want to mash them in (maybe a stand mixer, or handheld mixer, or potato masher is what you use, I use a mixer). Add the butter allowing it to melt. Add in half the shallots and the milk go easy on the milk start with half the milk and add more if you need it later. Mix until you have the texture that you like, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the remaining shallots sprinkled on top.

A Note About the Ribs Glaze:

I love to double the amounts for this and use 1/3 for glazing the ribs and then simmer the remaining 2/3 to use as a drizzle on the ribs/mashed potatoes and as a dip for things later in the week or as a salad dressing.

A not about the spice in the glaze, if you really don't like spicy things you can try putting in half the amount of peppers but you can also try taking the seeds out of the inside of the pepper. These really are not very spicy at all but just in case you are really adverse to it you may want to try this. Also if you really like spice try the above method for all of the sauce and then use it as a glaze, that intensifies all the flavors some.

Taco Salad:

ground beef/turkey
taco seasoning
black beans
cheese (shredded)
corn chips
avocado, pit removed, diced
(I like the BBQ glaze from the ribs recipe as a "salad dressing")

Brown the meat adding the taco seasoning according the directions. I like to make sure to find an MSG free kind so I don't get a migraine. Clean and cut all the veggies, open cans, grate cheese and place all into their own bowls or on a serving platter creating a little salad bar that people can choose their own toppings for.  Some people use ranch dressing but I like to just use salsa.


soft flour tortillas (whole wheat if possible, check for trans fats and beware even "trans fat free" may not really be trans fat free!)

grated mexican blend (or medium cheddar) cheese
the left over meat, beans, corn, onions, olives
any other left overs

place one tortilla in a lightly oiled pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with cheese and add small amounts of the meat, beans, onions, olives, corn, etc over the cheese. Place a second tortilla over the top. Allow to sit with a lid on the pan for about 2 minutes, check to see if the bottom of the tortilla is browned lightly. If it is flip it. Allow to cook until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is browned on the second side.

Serve with avocado, salsa, sour cream/plain yogurt.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Music Friday: Lullabies From Around the World

During calm time/rest time we like to play music that aides as a que for calming down. Of course we are not perfect and this does not happen all the time but it is so nice when it does. While reading books having calm classical or very quite lullabies playing in the background is a great way to help with calming our bodies.

Or having the music on during the rest itself works as well. One great CD that I was given when my son was very little is the National Geographic Lullabies From Around the World. These are beautiful, calm, songs that are from all over the world.

Getting into a routine is difficult at times it seems as if something comes up that just can't wait so much of the time. It is important though for children to know what to expect of their day. It aides in understanding what will be next so transition is easier, grasping concepts of time is easier with routine, and it helps for planning activities and lends to less stress overall. I will admit that we are really good at this at times and at other times we fail completely and those are the days when I can really use lullabies. :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Scavenger Hunt

With Earth day coming up I starting thinking about what would be a good way to explore the outside and learn a little bit about the Earth. A while back my kids and I went on a scavenger hunt while on a walk at our local lake. We did this as a way to get outside and explore. I created a little book with each page containing a number (starting at one on page one) and something to search for.
Found a pine cone!

When the kids found one of these things we put a sticker on that page so that we could remember what we had found. We did not fill the entire book because we got distracted by the joy of throwing rocks into the lake but we got a good chunk of the way done and enjoyed finding the different things along our walk.
Another pine cone

Something hard

Another something hard

This is a great activity to help with identifying different aspects of our surroundings. You can use things that you are working on with your kid like colors, weight, texture, length, the possibilities are endless. This is a great aide for learning about almost anything. I made up a little scavenger hunt that would work for just about any day but has a couple of things that lend to making a good list for Earth Day like finding litter (why not take a bag to pick some up along the way, and talk about why it is important not to litter) and finding things that need water (such an important limited resource that ALL living things need to survive and one thing that makes Earth so special).

Here is an example of a scavenger hunt list. You can print this out (I hope) and use small stickers to mark off when you find one of the things on the list.

 Most of all have fun getting outside and exploring :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Meal Plan Monday: Week 5

This week we needed a couple of good dinners that can be eaten picnic style because we are planning on going to the tulip fields and my son is starting up T-ball which has practices right at our dinner time so we need to have dinner with us to eat after practice. Although I could go the box route and probably will on some nights in the future I am a bit tired of that mix so I decided to work on something a little different.

Day 1: Soy-Mirin Marinated Chicken with onions and asparagus (recipe below).
Day 2: Chinese Chicken Salad (recipe below)
Day 3: Shrimp Fajitas click for recipe
Day 4: Left overs
Day 5: Lemon Crusted Cod with steamed green beans, click link for recipe
Day 6: BBQ Turkey Burgers served with salsa and guacamole
Day 7: Earth Day, Grilled Veggie Pita Wraps with garlic tapanade


Soy-Mirin Marinated Chicken:

1/3 cup Mirin
1/3 cup soy sauce
Dash of sesame oil

Chicken in 1 inch chunks (or whole pieces)
onion cut into large bite size pieces kept in tact so you can skewer them
mushrooms cleaned

Make the marinade and put the ingredients for the skewers into this marinade for at least 30 minutes before cooking time. After marinating put the chicken, onion, and mushrooms onto skewers alternating ingredients. Cook on the barbeque until the meat is cooked through.

About a pound of asparagus washed and trimmed. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper or add to the marinade. Place in a pan made from aluminum foil and cook watching closely, you just want it to get cooked enough to still have some crunch left probably only about 3 minutes.

You can serve this with brown rice or not. We are going to pack it up and eat it picnic style.

Chinese Chicken Salad:

2 Chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 head of savoy cabbage or regular cabbage, chopped
3 green onions (scallions), sliced thinly
3/4 cup sliced almonds and 1 package ramon noodles, broken, tossed with 3 tablespoons butter, tossed with seasoned salt (1 teaspoon) and  garlic powder (1 teaspoon) (or the seasoning packet in the ramon) and baked at 250 degrees stirred often and watched closely for browning to begin.

1/2 cups salad dressing oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Add the ingredients to a bowl and just before serving toss with salad dressing to taste.

Turkey Burgers:


1 pound ground turkey
2 cloves chopped garlic
salt and pepper
Hamburger buns
cheese to melt on the burger patty
fixings to serve with the burger (use what you like, I like salsa and guacamole, lettuce, and onions but you could use ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles)

Mix the ground turkey with the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Form four patties and grill on medium heat until cooked through (Use an instant read meat thermometer to tell).  During the last minute or so add the cheese to melt on the burger and toast the buns if you wish to.

Serve with potato wedge fries and green salad.

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Mozzarella:


1 medium clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Mix together and use as a spread on the sandwich. 

Grilled Veggies (make ahead while grilling on day 6):
1 zucchini
1 egg plant
1 red bell pepper
olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt pepper

Thick slice long ways the zucchini, thick slice egg plant (1/4 inch thick), slice the red pepper into about 4 pieces the long way (from stem to the bottom of the pepper). Toss the veggies with olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side.  

Assemble the Sandwich:
Place slices of the grilled veggie onto a baguette type sandwich bread, spread a bit of the tapanade onto one side of the bread. Top with fresh mozzarella and toss into the broiler to melt the cheese. Serve with cucumber salad. 

Cucumber Salad:
1-1/2 cups seeded and finely diced English cucumber (about 1/2 medium)
1-1/4 cups seeded and finely diced Roma tomatoes (about 3 medium)
3/4 cup crumbled feta 
1/2 cup finely sliced red onion
  2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix together in a bowl.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Music Friday: David Tobocman & 8 Ideas to Deal With Anger

David Tobocman has a great song called I Count to Ten

This song is about "cooling down" when you are angry. Learning about feelings and how to deal with strong emotions can be a very challenging thing. It is very helpful to have some plans about what to do when you are feeling one of those strong emotions such as anger (usually rooted in sadness), sadness, and excitement. 

One thing that has been a great help to us is music in general. Singing and dancing can change the mood very quickly and create a lot of fun or allow to be very expressive with our bodies and the volume of our voice. One great thing about this song in particular is it gives us some training in another plan for what to do when strong emotions arise AND helps identify what we are feeling like when we are starting to get angry. 


Catching those feelings before we act of them or get overwhelmed by them is one thing that really helps in calming down from them. My son and I sat down a while ago and talked about what things might help him to feel better when he is feeling angry or sad. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Coloring: Keep a small notebook and a small container of colored pencils or markers around at all times, in your purse or where ever you can. 
  • Dancing to music: Stomp out the feelings, jump up and down if you are excited, twirl, etc. 
  • Sit and Read a book: This is especially helpful for my son if I read to him, just looking at books on his own is not really enough he wants to feel my care for him. Since I am trying to train him in how to effectively deal with anger and feel better not worse I am okay with this. 
  • Go outside and hit/kick a ball around. 
  • Do a Puzzle
  • Play with playdoh. 
  • Ask for a hug. 
  • Play with Legos. 
Music is one great way to deal with strong emotions like excitement.
Most of these things work really well and work best if he knows that I am there for him either by giving him a good long hug before he goes to do them or sitting with him while he does it. 

Here are a couple of great feelings books too. 

This last one is one that teaches about how emotions might look and feel but is covert about it. All the different dinosaurs are very different personalities that can help to show how people are different and how each person can have a variety of actions depending how they are feeling.

What do you do to help your kids deal with anger, sadness, excitement and other emotions?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Experiments in the Kitchen

A couple weeks ago my son was home sick from school and it was pouring rain outside so we took to the kitchen to do some science. I had serendipitously found a book at the library called, Kitchen Experiments the week before, and my son found it while he was home sick.

One of the experiments that we did was super simple and my two year old could do it easily. You need milk, food colors, toothpick, and liquid dish soap.  
1. Get a shallow bowl or container and place about 1/4 inch of milk in it. 
2. Put a few drops of food color spaced around on the milk. 
3. Touch the tip of the toothpick into the dish soap . 
4. Dip the tip of the toothpick into the milk in the center of one of the drops of food coloring (do not stir just touch it)
5. Watch the food coloring spread out. 
6. Try doing it in different places around and watch how the colors mix. 
7. Talk about what is happening, how the colors are moving quickly, swirling, and mixing. The soap is bipolar with one part being hydrophilic (water-loving) and the other part being hydrophobic (water-fearing). This means that one part (the hydrophilic part) dissolves in the water content of the milk, while the hydrophobic part of the soap attaches to the fat in the milk. This causes all kinds of movement in the milk. (Get a more complete explanation in the book or at this website).
8. This is a great way to see molecules in action! Of course most of this goes right over the kids heads at 2 and 5 but they really enjoyed seeing the colors moving and as they get older and we continue to do things like this they will get more adept at understanding all about what is going on to cause these reactions. 

This activity is great for learning science, colors, action and reaction, vocabulary building. Overall the book has some great simple experiments with explanations about what is going on. My son was loving it!                                                                        

Monday, April 9, 2012

Meal Plan Monday: Week 4

I hope that you had a great weekend! We sure had a busy one and I don't feel like I got enough time at home but it was sure good to see many great people throughout the weekend. We ate Easter dinner at a friends house which is a bit of a tradition for us at this point and we always really enjoy it. We came home with a bunch of left overs too which is great! However I will assume that most of you all did not have Greek food for dinner on Easter Sunday and will supply a recipe for using ham instead.

Day 1: Split Pea and Ham Soup with dinner bread (Freeze left overs or use for lunches).
Day 2: Boxes: Hummus and turkey wraps. Carrots/snap peas. A few good quality Mediterranean olives. Dates and cashews.
Day 3: Cobb Salad
Day 4: Grilled Salmon and bok choy
Day 5: Cuban Picadillo, corn bread, salad
Day 6: Left over Salmon in cream sauce with asparagus and pasta
Day 7: Left over Picadillo, corn bread, salad

(Click on the links to get recipes or look below for recipes that do not have links above).


Cobb Salad (serves about 4 people):
1/4 head of Lettuce
4 Hard Boiled eggs diced or quartered
4 slices Bacon, cooked, broken into small pieces
1 Avocado, diced
6 total slices Turkey/ Ham in small pieces (deli meat okay)
1/2 cup Cheese: Blue cheese or cheddar suggested
2 Green Onions (scallions) sliced
Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Wash and tear lettuce into bite size pieces. Top with Hard boiled eggs, bacon, avocado, turkey and or ham, cheese and onions. Serve with salad dressing. 

 Cuban Picadillo:

1 tabspn oil (olive oil)
1 medium onion chopped
1 1/2 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbspn chili powder
3/4 teaspn cinnamon
1/2 teaspn all spice
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 3/4 c Beef Broth
2/3 cup Raisins
2 tabspn Tomato paste
1/4 c red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook the meat and the onion over medium-high heat until the meat is browned about 8 minutes. Drain the excess fat. Stir in the spices and garlic and stir for 1 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients bringing the sauce to a simmer. Turn the heat to medium and cook uncovered until it has become more stew like. About 10 minutes. Serve with steamed rice and cornbread or tortillas and green salad.

If you like this recipe it was adapted from the cookbook Food Made Fast by Williams-Sonoma.

Salmon and Bak Choy:
4 servings of fresh Salmon (about a pound (1 1/2 pounds, try and make enough for left overs in the pasta later in the week)
Bok Choy: 2-3 head cut in half
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
4 cloves garlic

Make the marinade: mix the soy sauce, honey, and chopped garlic.
In a shallow dish place the salmon and cover with the marinade. Flip the fish around every few minutes allowing it to marinate for about 10 minutes or up to two days covered and refrigerated.
Warm up the grill. Create a "pan" out of tin foil. Set the fish on this "pan". Place the bok choy into the marinade and turn to coat. Cook both the fish and the bok choy on the grill about 3-4  minutes and then turn and brush them with the marinade. Cook until the fish is just cooked throughout and the bok choy is tender about 3-4 more minutes.

Reserve left overs for another meal this week (pasta).

Shopping List:

Ham Hock
1 1/2 pounds fresh Salmon
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
Deli turkey/ham (12-14 slices total)
half a dozen eggs
Either blue or cheddar cheese (1/2 cup)
Parmesan cheese
2 cups heavy cream
sweet butter (non-salted)
1 bag split peas
2 onions
1 head garlic
1 head lettuce
Fresh dill
6 carrots
2 ribs celery
1 package snap peas
4 bok choy
1/2 pound asparagus
1 avocado
1 lb spinach linguine
ground nutmeg
ground cinnamon
chili powder
all spice
1 can diced tomatoes in juice
1 can tomato paste
soy sauce
beef broth
Chicken stock (2 quarts, or water)
balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
olive oil
corn bread mix
Dinner bread (like French Bread)
Rice (3 cups)
1/4 cup Mediterranean olives

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In Celebration of my Friend

Thirty-one years ago my best-friend was born, one and a half years ago she died after battling breast cancer for a little less than a year. Her family is celebrating her birthday by playing in a park and having a little picnik snack.

To celebrate I made a French Glace Strawberry Pie but with a lot of changes due to the fact that her husband, their two kids, and his fiancee are not eating any grains or sugar. This was one of her favorite desserts if not her favorite. I made if for her for her birthday about three years ago and she was so excited and gave me the biggest hug.  This one looks great and I was amazed at how the glace part still thickened very well. 

I am going to give you two recipes here the original one and the sugar and grain free (although there is a tiny bit of corn starch) version. 

Original French Glace Strawberry Pie (Or Raspberry):
1 qt. strawberries
1 c sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
Baked Pastry shell
3 oz cream cheese, creamed

Hull berries. Spread the cheese over the bottom of the pastry. Cover with half the berries. Buzz the rest of the berries in blender (or with an immersion blender). If necessary add water to make 1 1/2 c juice. Mix sugar and cornstarch. Bring the juice to a boil in a sauce pan on the stove. Add the sugar mixture and cook, stirring, until thick (but not too thick, it will thicken a bit more as it cools) and clear. Cool and pour over the berries in pie shell. Chill well. Serve with whipped cream. 

The Sugar-Free Grain Free Version: 

The Pastry Crust Recipe: A Coconut Flour Crust

Instead of sugar in the recipe above use 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons honey. Follow all the other instructions the same as the recipe above. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Music Friday: Emeli Sande

The other day while on the way to a grocery store I was listening to the radio. There happened to be an interview going on with this musician I had never heard of, Emeli Sande. She is apparently a break out artist in the UK right now and I think that soon she will be here too. 

She has an album coming to the US soon but you can download the music now on iTunes or Amazon. 

I thought she was amazing when she sang on the radio and I listened to more of her music on YouTube and have to say that I was really enjoying it. Check her out below.

What do you think? 

I hope that you have a great weekend and if you have not yet, check out these Easter posts. 
Filling the Easter Basket: Sans Sugar
Homemade Easter Dyes

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Filling the Easter Basket: No Sugar

So we have made eggs and we are working on the baskets. The problem is candy. I am not opposed to a small treat but I really don't want an entire basket filled with candy for my kids to eat. In general we don't eat sweets very much so this occasional bump in consumption is not a big deal but since everyone else who gives them a basket is bound to put candy in it I want  to try and do the basket sans candy. 

We are also giving baskets to a few other kids/teens and I don't want to give too much candy there either. Especially considering how bad it really is for us (;videoMetaInfo). 

So I have been trying to come up with a list of other ideas that are not too expensive and that will work for a wide range of ages. Here is what I have come up with so far. 
Paper Clip Bookmarks
This cute easy craft would make such a great Easter basket gift, you could use any number of things at the top changing it according to the person you are giving it too. I was thinking a button for a teenage boy.

Homemade stress balls would be a fun easy and colorful addition to the Easter basket that most any kid enjoys. 

3. Gak in Easter plastic eggs, here is a recipe:

4. Books. 



5. Pens/Pencils/Crayons:
I love these little tiny versions of these games on a pen! They are so cute. 


6.  Small games or cards. I like the Story Cubes they are so neat for creative thinking and story telling.
7. Seeds or bulbs. Sunflower seeds are great because they are easy to grow and have huge impact.
8. Gardening gloves/tools. 
9. Make your own little egg garden to give them. 
egg garden
This is a cute little egg planter from Roy Joy.

10. Bubbles like these touchable bubbles. 

What do you like to put in Easter Baskets? 

Here are some photos of the bookmarks we made, some more eggs Tie Died, and plastic eggs with blubber/gak stuff. 

These eggs were made with old silk ties. My son was having a blast staging this "photo shoot" with him and his sister. He is the one who set everything up and decided where they should sit, etc. :) Complete tutorial for the eggs here.