Sunday, September 30, 2012

Make A Move Monday: Back to Menu Planning

I am back to posting my weekly menu at Simply Made Home.  I had taken the summer off from posting plans .  I put together one large monthly plan that I reused each month.  I am working on my winter plan now.  It will include a lot more soups and warm comfort foods. 

Weekly meal plans have been requested again, and I aim to please.  (My husband thinks that it is quite odd when other people know what he is eating each week.)  When I stopped posting my meal plans I did get a little lazy and was not thinking ahead for lunch or side dishes.  Posting our meal plan will give me a chance to get back into that helpful habit.

This week is shaping up to be another busy week.  I don’t know about anyone else, but September was very busy for us.  There are a few more weeks of soccer and Bible study left so the craziness will continue into October! 



Breakfast: Pancakes

Lunch: Noodles and tomato sauce

Supper: BurgersOven baked fries and freezer corn



Breakfast: Leftover Pancakes

Lunch: Turkey-lettuce wraps

Supper: Parmesan Tilapia, new bread recipe and green beans



Breakfast: Eggs and Toast

Lunch: A little of this, a little of that-clean the leftovers out of the fridge!

Supper with Friends!  Honey Mustard Chicken and Biscuits



Lunch: Turkey lettuce wraps with Grandma

Supper: Sausage Soup and Bread



Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal

Lunch: PB& J and raw veggies with dip

Supper: Small Group



Lunch: Sausage Soup

Supper: Pizza



Breakfast: Granola (or cereal if the recipe I try this week is a bust!)

Lunch with new friends! Tacos

Supper: Popcorn Chicken and salad for some peas for others.

Meal planning is just one way to Make A Move toward a healthier home.  I would love to see what you are doing to Make A Move in your home!   Please read through the rules for those participating, and thanks for your participation.

1) No linking to giveaways or promotions for affiliates or sponsors. Give aways and promos are great, but they expire. I will delete giveaway links or promotional links.
2) Keep things simple and healthy. Avoid recipes with "cream of x soup," processed cheese or corn syrup. Crafts are cool, but unless they help organize or simplify please don't link them.
3) Link back to Simply Made Home.This is common blog party courtesy. It also helps build the community of encouragement. Check out other’s posts and leave a comment! It is fun to hear from others.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Case for the Potato

Potatoes.  The poor vegetable has taken a beating in the last few years.  The potato is the US's number one vegetable (Thank you, McDonalds) and the number 4 crop in the world.  During the low fat days it was hailed a wonder food.  Then it was demonized when the diet trend twisted to low carb.  Today no one knows what to think.  The other day I heard someone putting down the potato.  I had to know, are they really that bad?  I decided to look into it.  Is the potato healthy or just fluff?Here is what I learned:
  • Potatoes are high in Vitamin C, even higher than tomatoes. (I know, I was shocked too!)
  • Potatoes are high in potassium, even higher than bananas.
  • Potatoes are high in Vitamin B6, even higher than bell peppers or broccoli.
  • A Potato (with the skin) has 2.9 grams of fiber.  A slice of whole wheat bread has 1.9 grams.
After a little fact finding potatoes don't look so bad, but let's face it, the potato is cooked in a lot of unhealthy ways.  A bag of Ruffles or an order of fries does not count as a veggie.  Potatoes are good; processed potatoes are not.  No surprise there!

Personally I am relieved that potatoes are not as evil as some think.  I like potatoes. No scratch that, I love potatoes. They are not particularly expensive (even if you upgrade to organic), and they are filling. Potatoes are a comfort food and can be cooked in some very tasty ways.  When cooked correctly potatoes are part of a healthy diet.  PART.  For some kids this is the only vegetable that they eat.  That isn't healthy.  As with most things in life, balance is key! 

In honor of the potato I am leaving one of our favorite soups: Baked Potato.  I have already left the recipe for mashed potatoes with ranch and will soon add a cheesey potato and broccoli recipe.  Yum!

Baked Potato Soup
6 large baking potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped (optional)
2 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed)
3 Tbs butter
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
4 oz cream cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
cheese, for sprinkling


Combine first 9 ingredients in a large crock pot; cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours (potato should be tender).  Hand mash mixture until potatoes are coarsely chopped and soup is thickened. Stir in cream cheese and chives. Top with bacon and more cheese.

This recipe is linked at,, and

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cooking with Cast Iron

Last summer my non stick skillet started flaking.  I was disappointed.  It was a very expensive skillet.  We decided to replace it with a cast iron skillet for several reasons.  First, it was a budget friendly $35.   Score!  Second, It does not contain PFOA (PFOA is a carcinogenic which will be taken out of non stick cookware by 2015.  It was 2011 when I needed to purchase a skillet so that was no help to me.)   It also adds iron to our diet.  A pan that adds a mineral to our diet, how great is that?

Cast iron is not as complicated to work with as I feared.  The main issue is keeping food from sticking so that there is not a problem cleaning the pan off.  Cast iron is like stoneware, and soap or abrasives cannot be used to clean it.  I have learned a few extra tricks to make using cast iron a little easier.
Scrambled eggs in a cast iron skillet!

·         Oil the pan well.   To create a no stick surface I melt butter or coconut oil at the bottom of the pan.  A spay oil just does give enough coverage.   I also don’t want too much oil, that just makes the food too greasy. 

·         Preheat the oil.  I let the pan and oil get nice and hot before I add any food especially before cooking something like eggs.  The way that I think about it is that I am cooking the food on a thin layer or hot oil. 

·        Boil off stubborn, stuck on food.  If-no when food ends up sticking the easiest way to get rid of stubborn food is to boil it off.  I don’t waste a lot of my time scrubbing pans.  I would rather be cooking in them then cleaning them!  After letting the water boil for a few minutes anything that was stuck scrapes right off!  I also boil clean the pan if I am going to cooking anything like a white sauce that I don’t want to have a brown tint to it. 

·        Dry the pan completely after cleaning.  Cast iron will rust.  I felt like the Boxcar Children once taking sandpaper to my pan to remove the little orange rust ring!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Make A Move Monday and Hammock Tracks Interview!

This Monday I want to invite you to join me over at Hammock Tracks. Savannah is a wife, mother of four and blogger who writes about food, homeschooling, and the animals they raise, hunt and track!   I had the honor of being interviewed for the weekly feature "Who Home Schools?"  I was humbled to be asked! 

It is also time for Make A Move Monday!  What move are you making toward health in your home? Please read through the rules for those participating, and thanks for your participation.

1) No linking to giveaways or promotions for affiliates or sponsors. Give aways and promos are great, but they expire. I will delete giveaway links or promotional links.
2) Keep things simple and healthy. Avoid recipes with "cream of x soup," processed cheese or corn syrup. Crafts are cool, but unless they help organize or simplify please don't link them.
3) Link back to SimplyMadeHome.This is common blog party courtesy. It also helps build the community of encouragement. Check out other’s posts and leave a comment! It is fun to hear from others.
How to link up to your post? Read below.
Using the Mr. Linky, link back to your specific post, not just your blog.
Example of Format
Your Name: Tara @ SimplyMadeHome (Simple Vinegar Switches)
Your Link:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Peanut Butter Zucchini Brownies

My mom is well known for her recipe substitutions.  I think one of my favorite ingredient switches was Cream Cheese Brownies.  She called me disappointed that her brownies didn’t taste like my brownies.  As I inquired further I discovered that she had substituted the chocolate cake mix for a spice cake mix and the chocolate chips for cinnamon chips. Of course they were not going to taste anything like the brownies that I had made!  There wasn’t any chocolate in them! (I love you Mom!)
Yesterday I was my mother.  I was so excited to try this recipe for Flourless Zucchini Brownies.   I switched out so many ingredients that it is no longer the same recipe.  It is still gluten free and dairy free.  I am very pleased with the results.  My son took a bite and said, “Mom, you gotta put these on the blog!” My husband said they were good, but he would have liked them better if I would have peeled the zucchini before shredding it.  Unfortunately all the zucchini that I froze this year was shredded with the peel on. 
I tried to get a picture, but the brownies were disappearing on the kids' plates too quickly.  These brownies are much lighter than Black Bean Brownies.  If you pinned Chocolate Zucchini Bread you must try this one too!  My aunt has said if Reese’s Peanut Butter cups were vegetables, she would be very healthy.  These brownies are as close as I can get! 


  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded zucchini
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix everything together.
  3. Pour into a greased 9x9 baking pan.
  4. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Make A Move Monday & Remember when...

The other day my neighbor said "Your house looks so clean on your blog pictures."  The part she graciously left out of the conversation was, "And many times when I stop in, it does not look that way!"  :)  I readily admitted that when I take pictures I try to leave out the mess! 

I do not want to paint a picture that things are more put together here than they really are!  That would be easy to do, but not at all fair!  Let's take a look at this weekend for example:

Starting back on Thursday already we were in and out of the house. Enrichment classes, groceries, school, soccer practice, the park, a field trip, small group and then a soccer game.  By the time we got home from the game on Saturday morning the house was a wreck.  The weather had been cool in the morning but warmed up as the day progressed.  For three days kids had shed their socks and sweat shirts all around the house.  The clothes were intermingled with an array of shoes Lego's, dolls, blankets and all other paraphernalia from the toy box.  Right before lunch my youngest spilled the bowl of watermelon onto the kitchen floor, and as I was taking three crying children upstairs for nap time my husband hollered "Um, someone had a problem in the bathroom!"  Oh yes, someone got poop on the floor.  It had been stepped in and tracked down the hall.  This was certainly not a picture moment.

I worked like a crazy woman in the two hours I had before we had to leave again.  I made my husband stop and look at the house before we left.  He said, "Good job, Honey. Lunch was a complete disaster, but you got this place turned around!"  You loose some; you win some!

We all have these moments.  May the insainity humble us and may it give us a great sense of humor!  May the pictures make us laugh some day and "remember when..."

*The picture in this post was not from this weekend, but another time last winter when life and creative play got out of hand.  We do NOT have a Christmas tree up in September!

Feel free to link up now to Make A Move Monday!  Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Homeschooling: The Plan

We have talked about why we homeschool, where we homeschool, and the books we use.  Now it is time for our homeschool plan.  I have already said that I was very worried about the year and worked hard on my plan.  A huge part of that was how to keep a 3 ½ year old boy busy (constructively!) and keeping my priorities in place in the midst of an ever growing “to-do” list. 

  The first thing I did was sit the kids down for a heart to heart.  (Actually first I fed their little faces, and then we talked.  I have a better chance of getting their attention and less of a chance of getting interrupted if their mouths are full!) I told them that mommy is excited about starting school with them.  I also told them all the things that we are going to learn together, but that mommy is going to be very busy this year being a 2nd grade teacher, Kindergarten teacher, preschool teacher and mommy all at the same time.  I enlisted their help.  I explained to the older two that they would be preschool teachers too since they had completed preschool and knew everything about it already.  They were excited to help, but my daughter really wishes that I was an octopus with 8 arms and could do everything myself.  J  The older two have a designated time to play or “teach preschool” while I work with the other student.

The nex t thing I did was create 4 boxes for preschool, a box for each day of school.  Each box has different activities, puzzles and a simple activity or sticker book.  I didn’t buy new toys for him, but simply divided up what we already had so that each day looks a little different (and hopefully interesting).   I have not done a formal preschool with the older two.  All of the activities are playful.  Some have learning attached, and some are just for the imagination. A list of some of the activities we use are at the bottom of the post! 

Lastly I put together a schedule of sorts.  We have too many variables (little people) to have a rigid time schedule, but we love routine at our house.  My husband says that this is all my fault that they are such lovers of routine.  I say it is 65/35.  I will take more of the blame, just not all of it!  Our schedule does not always unfold as planned, but that is ok.  We are all pretty good at rolling with it.  There were a few things that I considered when I put together the order of our days. 

·         What subjects can be tackled independently?

·         What subjects can we do all together?

·         Who needs their cup filled with my attention first?

·         When will the older two welcome a break from school work and be happy to play preschool?

I will include a copy of our schedule for the curious!

Daily Routine
Devos and Prayer
Morning Chores
2nd Grade
Bible, Hymn and Verse
Math and Spelling
Handwriting and Game
Workbook and Game
20 minutes with Little Bro
Phonics, Reading and Math
20 minutes with Big Brother
Language and History
20 minutes with Little Bro
20 minutes with Big Sis
Science or Hands-on project
Read Aloud
2nd Grade
Quiet time
Art and Music
Reading and Puzzles


You will notice an absence of a plan for my littlest one.  I noticed that on the first day too.  I am still working on that!

Activities for Preschoolers! (Some of these activities are special because we only get them out during school time.  Others are special to my 3 year old just because big brother is willing to sit and play with him!)

·         Farm
·         Playmobile
·         Play-doh
·         Markers
·         Magnetos
·         Legos
·         Duplos
·         Rice Box (On a day that I plan to vacuum!)
·         Paints
·         Beads and yarn or pipe cleaners
·         Busy Bugs
·         Cuisenaire Rods with Alphabet book from MFW

This post is linked to We Are That Family, Raising Arrows, True Aim, Raising Homemakers

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Make A Move Monday: Beating Exhaustion

I have been SO tired the last couple of weeks.  I have had to lie down in the afternoon just to make it through the day.  (Thankfully I inherited the “Power Nap” gene that runs from my grandpa on my mom’s side.  10-20 minutes of sleep midday can really help me get by!) I don’t think that it has been any one thing that caused this exhaustion but life accumulating… stress (which usually equals insomnia for me), a small virus taking turns in the kids, and making too many excuses to eat poorly.  This week I am going to kick into gear and get back on track.  Here is the plan:

·         Drink water.  There is no new information here.  Water is best.  The great news is that it is okay to use herbal teas for a little added flavor.  My goal will be between 60-70 ounces of water a day.  (Whoa!  That is a lot!)

·         Eat protein with breakfast.  This will probably mean eggs for me.   I like them, and they are cheap and easy.  Protein in the morning is great for the metabolism.

·         Be picky with my grains.  I am not a fan of carb-free, gluten-free or grain-free without a medical reason.  The latest craze seems to be the thought that everyone should eliminate all grains from their diets to be happy and healthy.  (I could write a post on why I don’t think that is true, but not today.  I am too tired, remember?)  Grains are generally cheap, easy and tasty, and I have a tendency to get full on fluffy pancakes or killer biscuits and not get enough greens.  Setting limits for myself will be a good thing.

·         Stick with my schedule.  “Early to bed, early to rise they” is how our household operates best.  Staying up until 11:00 watching Netfilx with my husband the past few weeks has been fun, but then I am waiting until 6:30 to get up.  Then there is not enough time to work out, shower and read my Bible.  These are 3 highly stabilizing activities that I should not cut from my day.  In bed by 10 and up by 5:45.  I can do this. 

·         Cut the sugar.  This week was my birthday.  I did not just celebrate one day, I but began the weekend before and kept on celebrating until two pans of bars were consumed!  (Not all by me, but I ate more than my share!)   Sugar has given me a quick pick me up this week, but the crash afterward has not been pretty!

That is my move this Monday.   What is yours?  How do you recharge after life happens?  I would love any tips!  It is time to link up. What move are you making toward health in your home. Please read through the rules for those participating, and thanks for your participation.

1) No linking to giveaways or promotions for affiliates or sponsors. Give aways and promos are great, but they expire. I will delete giveaway links or promotional links.
2) Keep things simple and healthy. Avoid recipes with "cream of x soup," processed cheese or corn syrup. Crafts are cool, but unless they help organize or simplify please don't link them.
3) Link back to SimplyMadeHome.This is common blog party courtesy. It also helps build the community of encouragement. Check out other’s posts and leave a comment! It is fun to hear from others.
How to link up to your post? Read below.
Using the Mr. Linky, link back to your specific post, not just your blog.
Example of Format
Your Name: Tara @ SimplyMadeHome (Simple Vinegar Switches)
Your Link:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Homeschooling: The Books

While I have never timed it, I am sure that it takes less than 5 minutes before the question of curriculum comes up in a conversation between two new homeschool moms.  Is it a polite question or the constant illusion of the perfect curriculum?  We all want to know what others are using.  Maybe this curiosity surfaces because there are just so many choices out there! 

We began using My Father’s World for our oldest son for Kindergarten.   It was a perfect fit for him.  We have continued using this because it has worked so well for him, and it has followed his interests well.  This year MFW 2nd grade started the first week studying the Vikings.  That made me a very cool mom!  My Father’s World covers science, Bible, history, geography, art and music. 

We started using Math-U-See last year and are continuing on with it this year.  I have also been working with him on flash cards and math facts.  The strength of Math-U-See is giving the student an understanding of the math concepts.  That is very important, but I think my son also benefits greatly from the additional focus on memorization. 

I was shocked to learn that our district does not have requirements for spelling until 3rd grade.  I felt that my second grader could benefit from starting this year.  We are using Learning to Spell Through Copywork.  It provides a great phonics review for him, but the book had a girl with a princess dress on the front.  Clearly he had to rip that off before the book was usable. 

I started using Abeka for Language this year.  My reasoning was my own.  I was introduced to Abeka curriculum in 6th grade and even as a student knew it was great.  I was behind my peers who had been using it for years.  Abeka’s books are also very colorful which works to my sons advantage.  I learned early on that he is distracted by black and white workbooks and starts to color in the pictures with his pencil instead of working.  He works more diligently with full color workbooks.  If I can give him the advantage I will.

My Father’s World has been a great fit for my son, but it was not going to be a good starting place for my Kindergarten daughter.  She is at a much different place than my son did 2 years ago.  Since I had a high opinion of Abeka and was already ordering for my son I ordered her handwriting, phonics and math from there.  (I know it seems like there should have been a much better reason than to save on shipping, but what can I say?)  I already had Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading from a past failed attempt with my son.  Since she and he are opposites, I opted to try it with her.  (Again my logic is astounding!)  Time will tell if we stick with it.  It is not her favorite; she requests to do it first to get it over with.  I need to figure out why she doesn’t like it before I switch it on her.  We will continue unless it becomes a huge battle or I find something better. 

We are using the library to the fullest this year, and everyone is around for our read aloud time.  We all learned about the Vikings through a historical fiction book together, and we have enjoyed learning about Pocahontas and Squanto, the American Indians, through biographies.  Not everyone catches the same information, but we are all learning to together (myself included sometimes!).  I imagine that we will need a break from our main books from time to time, and I plan on doing a couple of weeks of topical unit studies.  I have pinned a few ideas from

Curriculum choices can be overwhelming.  I think that my son was almost 3 when I was first handed a large catalog called the Rainbow Resource Catalog.  The large book contained too many options, and I never really read it.  A few years later Cathy Duffy’s Top 100 Picks was recommended, and I found it much more manageable.  It was a place to start.  Homeschooling wouldn’t have seemed half so scary if it didn’t seem that I needed to learn a whole new language in this whole new world.  This book breaks down learning styles and educational philosophies so that they are simple and understandable.  I found the exercises in the book to be very helpful.  My husband filled it out as well.  It was great to guide our conversations about our goals and plans for our children’s education. 

Each year I have to remind myself that there is no perfect curriculum.  I am not sure what I will be using in a couple of years.  I am happy with the way that things are going this year.  What curriculums out there do you love?  I would love to be introduced to the pros and cons for future reference!
A few other resources we have enjoyed!
This post is linked up at Raising Arrows, Raising Homemakers, We Are That Family
 and Mamal Diane