Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taco Potatoes

Growing up I hated any Mexican, including tacos. I vividly remembering gagging as my mother tried to make me eat them. (Sorry about the drama, Mom!) Suddenly during my pregnancy with baby 3 I developed a taste for mild Mexican that has stuck with me. This new taste added a few new recipes to our family's meals. Taco potatoes is a fun twist on a Mexican stand by. I always brown an extra pound of hamburger to have in the freezer for last minute meals. Whether planned or last minute I think that your family will love this one too!

1 lb ground beef-browned

1 bag shredded potatoes (Or make your own!)

1 cup white cheddar or Monterey jack cheese

2-3 tablespoons Taco Seasoning (The homemade shredded potatoes might seem intense but making your own taco seasoning is super easy! Try it.)

1 can (1 3/4 cup) tomato sauce (Check the fridge or panty and use whatever is there. Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, regular tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes. Anything will work.)

1 can red or black beans-rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen corn-warmed

2 cups shredded lettuce.

Mix beef, seasoning and tomato sauce and warm on the stove. Place half the shredded potatoes in a large oiled skillet.  Pan-fry potatoes (It will take a few tablespoons of oil or butter.  Make sure they are crispy!  You may want to season with a little salt.)  Serve family style.  Build with shredded potatoes as the base then top with meat and taco toppings.  Enjoy!

This post is linked up at Pennywise Platter Thursdays @  Full Plate Thursdays @ and Fight Back Friday @

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How does your garden grow?

This year we broke ground on our first garden.  We had tried a couple 8'x2' boxed gardens.  We were hoping to have success with these "practice" beds and then move into a big garden.  We failed the two years we tried.  Tree roots are right under the surface.  They do not get enough sun, and let's not forget the rabbits.  They chewed through the fence the first year.  We purchased different fence for the second year, and they burrowed under it.  Since the beds were so small we didn't want to pump money into them,  The amount of produce wouldn't offset the cost.

We spent an entire Friday night date night at a home and garden store going around and around about if we should garden, where we would garden and what we would plant.  Finally we decided on a 12x12 garden on our side yard.  My husband is an engineer who was raised on a farm.  This means he had huge ideas about custom fencing panels-no standard fence would do in the war against the rabbits.  Since our house is on a corner he also wanted to landscape around the garden.  This was not just going to be a pile of dirt with a few veggies!

I decided to plant a little of everything this year.  Next year I may do more plants of fewer vegetables so I have enough to preserve.  This year I wanted to learn about different plants before I put all my stock into a few.  We have planted 10 strawberry plants, a tomato plant, a bell pepper plant, 6 broccoli plants, (that I am pretty sure I planted too close together!) lettuce, snap peas and green beans. 

Then I had officially caught the "garden bug." I needed more and had to plant something in those barren 8'X2' beds again.  There is pie pumpkin and zucchini in them now.  I can see which ones are getting more sun and have taken a saw so some of the tree roots.  We will see what becomes of them. 

I still wanted more!  I planted herbs amongst the plants in our landscaping-chives, oregano, mint and lemon balm.  (I have no idea what I am supposed to with them, but I am eager to learn.  Any books or website suggestions are welcome.)
I have been harvesting lettuce the past week.  I swear it tastes better, and I don't care if it is only in my head!  I am in the middle of reading Animal Vegetable Miracle so I feel like I am doing my part with my little plot of dirt.  It is beautiful don't you think? (Forgive all the pictures.  I am a little like a proud first time mother when it comes to my garden this year!)
 Cutting sod was a family affair. (When I have suggested a second 12'X12' plot next year I have been told we will rent a sod cutter!)

Penny Pinching Party @
Health 2Day Wednesdays @
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Frugal Days Sustainable Ways @

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bulk Shopping: Budget Busting or Bargan Bliss?

At the beginning of the year I took a hard look at our grocery budget and said to myself, “I think that it is time to trim things down a bit.”  I make a lot of things from scratch so I knew I was not wasting much money on packaged foods.  I decided to take seriously the idea of bulk shopping.  My plan was to incorporate Costco and Azure Standard as part of my monthly grocery shopping. 
Everyone says that bulk shopping is cheaper.  The first month I not only failed to spend less, I spent $50 MORE than I had been spending.  What?  I was so discouraged.  What did I do wrong?  I don’t like to lose, and so I buckled down more determined than ever to try to make this work.
I learned a few lessons, took notes (Yes, I am that big of a nerd.), and tweaked a few things in the last few months.  I have successfully brought our month grocery costs down by $50.  With careful planning I hope that I will be down another $25 in June, and I really want to bring our grocery budget down a total of $100 from the first of the year by the end of summer.  
I would love to share what I have learned.  (For the sake of example let’s pretend that our budgeted goal is $500 a month, and that I typically go to the grocery store once a week.)

1.       Do not use a bulk shopping trip as one of the regular weekly grocery trips.  At the onset of my quest I was trying to substitute one of my weekly trips to the store for a trip to Costco.  It didn’t work.  I would spend my $125 but still did not have what I needed for the week. I would have a lot of flour, almonds and dried fruit but no fresh vegetables.  (“Trail mix again today kids.  We have enough flour to feed The 5,000, but I don’t have anything else to cook with it!”  They were not impressed.)  I know now that I need to plan on my regular grocery trip on the top of my Costco run or Azure Order. 

2.       Use the “Snowball effect” to build up the pantry.  When I switched thinking of my bulk shopping trip as equal to a weekly shopping trip I also had to switch my budget.  Back to my $500 budget, if I skimmed $25 a week off my grocery trips I had $100 for bulk shopping.  That goes quickly especially divided between Costco and Azure Standard.  If I get bulk oats this month the next month I may still have left over oats and can buy honey or olive oil.  Next month I might also find that I am able to skim an additional $5 off each week to increase my bulk shopping amount to $120.  I am building up my pantry slowly, but at a pace that I can afford.

3.       Keep receipts with you on a shopping trip if at all possible.  I keep a 3 ring binder with my “brain” in it.  (Calendar, lists, notes, life)  In it I kept a folder for receipts.  Is the spaghetti sauce I am standing here looking at while at Costco a better deal, or is the one that I have been getting at Trader Joe’s the best price per ounce?  It isn’t a big deal if I over spend a little on one jar, but if I am buying 3 or 4 it will add up.  I only had to do this for a couple of months before I quickly knew what I needed from where.

4.       Make a meal plan before shopping.  If we are only having corn muffins once this month then it isn’t the best bang for my buck to buy 5 months worth of cornmeal while I am building my “snowball.”  Conversely, once I bought all that cornmeal I need to make sure to work muffins into the menu.  It only makes good cents sense!

The month of May is almost gone, and it is time for me to take inventory and see what I need for June.  I’ll make my meal plan and plan my trips.  This is going to be a great summer for savvy shopping!  Any tips you have to pass along?  Please be sure to leave a comment below!  Happy bulk shopping!

This post is linked to "Eating from the Pantry and Freezer Challenge" at Keeper of the Home and
Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes.

Make a Move Monday-Simply 10 (The kids' rooms)

Make a Move Monday is here as well as Memorial Day here in the U.S.  For many of us this is the official kick off to summer.  We started off with a 3 day camping trip and the goal of unplugging and enjoying time together.  I am pleased to say that for the most part we accomplished our goals.  (We still had our phones, but no TV or Internet, and we enjoyed the time together as much as we could with an 18 month old!)

I am not a natural born camper, but it is all about attitude.  I enjoy the time without the distractions of TV and Internet.  I appreciate the time that the kids get to catch butterflies, look for deer tracks and read Henry Huggins around a fire.  When packing up to go camping I tried to take only the necessities.  What do we truly need, and what are just extras? It was timely as I am not only asking this for our weekend getaway but also in our daily lives. 

This week my goal was to spend 10 minutes a day decluttering the kids’ rooms and thinking through our current routines that involve those rooms.  The first day I logged in a big, fat 6 minutes.  Day 2 went the wrong direction, and I spent no time in their rooms.  Day 3 surprised me, and I got 20 minutes in before the next thing was bidding for my attention.  Day 4 was a huge step forward, and 45 minutes later I discovered that our youngest has carpet on the floor in her room.  I knew that we would be camping days 5-7 so I gave myself the extra time that day.  The goal was 70 minutes in a week, and I logged 71-a whole extra minute!

I decided not to beat myself up about the giant pile of clothes that I took out of their rooms.  We live with four season climate so we switch clothing needs as well as sizes all the time.  The clothes shuffle is constant, and there is nothing that I can do about it.  I did organize my daughter’s closet into two sides: a “staying home” side and a “going away” side.  This made my husband laugh, but every morning we go around and around about what she can pick out to wear.  Now she can pick out anything on the appropriate side, and I don’t override her choice.  It has been wonderful.   The kids have a small checklist of things that they are supposed to be responsible for doing after breakfast.  I have been lax at enforcing this lately.  This week I gave them a reminder after breakfast, and I had them check each other each morning-so far so good.  They are often harder on each other than I am! 

Simply 10 week one-Success!  The kids’ rooms are much less overwhelming to me, and their routines seem to be running more smoothly.  What a nice way to kick off summer!  Next up on my Simply 10 list: Bathrooms.  I really don’t think that I will need 70 minutes for bathrooms, but I have a lot of camping paraphernalia to put away so I am giving myself an easy one. 

What did everyone else do for Make a Move Monday this week?  Time to link up!  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Honey Mustard Chicken

This recipe is a family favorite of ours.  I love it because it is simple.  They love it because it tastes great!  This recipe is great for summer or winter.  My only complaint is that after the 6 of us devour it for supper, there isn't any left for lunch the next day!

Photo by Flicker

Honey Mustard Chicken
1 lb potatoes cut into wedges

2 lbs chicken (if using breast cut into 4 pieces-no need to cut thighs)

6 medium carrots, sliced

2 Tbs olive oil

1 ½ Tbs honey

3 Tbs mustard

1 tsp rosemary

2 heads garlic peeled

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.  In a shallow pan, toss potatoes and carrots with oil, salt and pepper.  Nestle peeled garlic cloves amongst the vegetables and scatter the rosemary on top.  Arrange the chicken among the vegetables and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  Stir the mustard and honey together.  Remove the pan from the over.  Carefully take the chicken from the pan to another clean plate.  Spread the honey-mustard mixture over the chicken.  Stir vegetables in the pan, return coated chicken to the pan and place back into the oven. Bake 10-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender.

This post is linked up at:

Full Palte Thursday

Pennywise Platter Thursday

Fight Back Friday

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My New 3 Bag System-Organized on the Go!

This post isn't a "change your life" post.  This is just my purse/diaper bag solution after getting to the store only to discover my wallet is the the other bag. I am not normally a ditz, nor am I completely unorganized. Still unfortunately this has happened to me not just once or even twice.  No, this has become a comical recurrence in my house.   (I personally think that my babies sucked half my brains out while nursing, thus explaining my brain fog.  Anyone else?)
My sister-in-law is both highly organized and a consultant for Thirty-One.  She also has four kiddos so I went to her for help.  She showed me the 3 bags she uses, and I bought them.  I have been using them for almost two months now, and I am happy to report that I have not gotten to the store or library even once without my wallet!  I will include the Thirty-One links to the bags that I have been using. 

The Zippered Pouch-The "Diaper Bag"  The size of this bag is great.  It is is 9"x12.25"x2.5" and can easily hold a few diapers, wipes and fruit strips.  My baby is 17 months so I no longer need to carry everything but the kitchen sink with me just to buzz around town or go to church so this bag is great.

The Skirt Purse-For "Mom's Stuff"  This purse has a zipper top which is a must for me.  It has a cell phone pocket and a small zipper pocket.  I keep my keys and only my keys in the zipper pouch.  (I hate not being able to find my keys with four kids in the parking lot.  I did have to get a small little zipper pouch (my mom had a free one from the Clinique counter she let me have) for lip gloss and toiletries.  I didn't want them floating around in my purse.  The purse is big enough that even with my wallet and the extra pouch I still had room for my shopping list and the competitor's newspaper flier add.  At the same time, I don't feel that this purse is to big or clunky.

The Utility Tote-The "Key" bag.  The key to my new bag system is that both the diaper bag and my purse go into the utility tote unless I am somewhere the baby is not.  If I go to the store by myself (Can you hear the angels singing?) I just take my purse, and when I come home the whole purse goes back in the bag!  If we go to the library I take the whole Utility Tote.  I can even fit a lot of library books in it with my two bags.  (Not half the library like we tried the other day, but some books!) I carry a three ring binder with me most of the time.  (It has my meal plan, calendar, school stuff, shopping list, etc.) It fits nicely in there, and that makes me very happy.  I was worried that it would not be a good thing that the Utility Tote is open at the top, but it turned out to be a very good thing.  I can fit a lot more stuff in it if I need too.  I think that the zipper would limit how much it can hold.

I was vey sceptical at first.  How could three bags be better than two?  It seemed like I was adding another ball to juggle!  It was a little bit of money (I got the purse half off the month I was ordering SCORE!) Storing my purse in the larger bag is the key.  If I take my purse out to go somewhere, I put it directly back when I get home.  You could try using bags you have at home.  I will say I am glad I saved up for these.  They are quality and all fit together so nicely.  (Plus they are cute too!)  I would be remiss if I didn't include a link for ordering! 

Linked up at Works for Me Wednesday @

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Perfect Patties; Clean Hands

It is grilling season!  At our house this means burgers every Saturday, and a lot of patty making.  It is usually cheaper for me to make our own patties rather than buying the premade ones.  (Especially since premade patties are 1/3 pound and that is too big for most of the people in my house, and I like to get our ground beef from the farmer.) 
Some people have a strong aversion to touching raw meat. Others of us have small fires to put out amongst small children every minute and a half.  It can be tedious to make a patty, wash hands, deal with issues, and repeat 7 times.  If either applies to you, you are going to LOVE this post!  I learned this trick by watching my mother-in-law so I can't take credit for it.  I can make patties that are evenly seasoned, the same size and never get my hands dirty!  There is one catch: I do have a hamburger press.  Mine happens to be Tupperware, but a quick Google search shows them everywhere.  (I think that the rest of the kitchen tools that I used were all non-specific, common tools.)

1.  Season the meat and mix in a flat pan or container.  Rachel Ray once said not to over season hamburgers.  Let the flavor of the meat speak for itself.  I believed her so we use pressed garlic, salt and pepper.  I was making 8 patties this day from two pounds of ground beef.  If I were using 3 or 4 pounds I think that I would use a 9x13.

2.  Spread out the meat and cut into equal parts.  Make sure that the beef is evenly spread in the container.  I used a spatula to "cut" the beef.  (This day I felt creative and did fancy triangle, but rectangles work too as long as they are the same size!)

3. Scoop out and press into patties.  Pretty self explanatory.  I used the same spatula from cutting to remove from the container and then used my hamburger press to shape the patties.

4. Flip the press upside down onto plate or waxed paper.  I ended up with clean hands and 8 grilltastic quarter pounders that looked like this:

This post is linked up at
Kitchen Tip Tuesdays @
Penny Pinching Party @
Health 2Day Wednesdays @
Works for Me Wednesday @
Frugal Days Sustainable Ways @

Monday, May 21, 2012

Simply 10-Make A Move Monday

After writing my thoughts on a simple life I had the great idea of doing a set of posts as  I simplified different areas of our home. I had it all planned out-a weekend full of simplifying and a week of themed posts.  Half my tribe was at Daddy and Me camp so I was going to have a chunk of time to attack the house. Yep, that would have been super cool, but life happened. Instead of powering through the weekend getting to work, I spent it holding a 3 three year old little boy who had both ear and sinus infections. Isn't that the way life goes?
So now what?  My house isn’t in shape, and I have nothing to write.  Then I realized that is the way life goes, for me and for everyone else.  Sometimes we have a weekend to declutter and start over fresh, but more often than not we have to go with the flow.  So what can I do with 10 minutes when I need 10 hours? 
It was time for a new plan…Simply 10.  10 minutes in each room simplifying, because some days 10 minutes is all that I can carve out.  There are some rooms in my house that a day or two purposefully working for 10 minutes will be enough.  There are some rooms that I will take many days to complete, but I really want to do this. 
As I have thought through simplifying I have wondered “How is this different than decluttering?”  My goal is not to just put things away.  I want to get rid of the things that we don’t need, and my goal is to narrow our definition of need.  Often if something has a use I can find a possible need.  I want to stop myself from saying “Well, I might need that to…someday” in order to justify keeping it around.   The question I am asking myself is “Does the item have a specific place to get put away?” “Does this bless me/my family?”  “Is our current method of operation working?” “Do we need to tweak our routine?”
This is my move for Make A Move Monday.  This week I will start at my Achilles heel: kids’ bedrooms.  Are the things in their bedrooms blessing them?  Is our morning routine and bedtime routine working?  Could it be simpler, more beneficial?  I will let you know about my progress next week. 
So what are you working on this week?  It is time to link up!  Please let us know what simple move you are making toward healthy living in your home. Link up your blog post, or just leave a comment. Then take time to be inspired from other's link ups and comments.
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:

This post is linked up at
Penny Pinching Party @
Health 2Day Wednesdays @
Works for Me Wednesday @
Frugal Days Sustainable Ways @

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Menu Plan 5/21-5/27

Menu planning was rough this weekend.  Next weekend is a holiday, and our plans are always up in the air.  I did my best guess as to what we will need!

B-Pumpkin Muffins
L-Peanut Butter & Jelly and veggies and dip
D-Cheeseburger Skillet and peas

L-Noodles & Sauce and salads
D-Coq Au Vin

B-Leftover Pancakes
L-Leftover Chicken
S-Shredded Beef Sandwiches (I think that I almost have my bun recipe down.  If they turn out again I will post the recipe!) and Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli

L-Shredded Beef Sandwiches and green beans
S-BLTs and veggies & dip

L-Grilled Cheese and veggies & dip
S-Hamburgers and grilled veggies

B-French Toast Waffles
L-Hot Dogs and veggies & dip
S-Grilled Chicken and grilled veggies

B-Granola Bars
L-Shredded Pork Sandwiches and veggies & dip
S-Hobo Packs

Friday, May 18, 2012

And the Winner is...

It is Friday!  The winner of the Keeper of the Home ebook giveaway is

Please email me with your email address, and be sure to tell me which book you would like.

Don't forget the book sale that is going on at Keeper of the Home right now.  35-50% off.
  Click here to check it out! 
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

French Toast Trois

My husband loves French Toast.  I am a pancake gal myself, but on Saturdays when he is around for breakfast I will sometimes make French Toast.  I have one basic recipe that I cook three different ways.
  • The first is your classic dip the bread and cook on the griddle, nothing fancy.
  • More often I will butter a 9x13, line it with bread (a thicker crusted bread works best for this) and pour my egg mixture on top and let soak in the fridge over night.  Then I pop it in the oven for 20 minutes in the morning, and breakfast is done.  (This one saves me morning clean up.  What a way to start the weekend!)
  • Our favorite way to cook French Toast is on the waffle maker.  (We are super original with this one and call them FrenchToast Waffles; creative, I know.)  You must try them this way.  The texture is wonderful.
And now that I am sitting here typing about French Toast I am suddenly hungry!  So let's go find your favorite bread and get your French Toast on!

4 eggs
1/2 cups of milk (can be d-free if you have to!)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup butter (coconut oil if your are d-free)
1/4 maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
At least 6 slices of your favorite bread.

This recipe is linked up at

Pennywise Platter Thursdays @

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Summer School Summer Fun

"What are you doing with school this summer?” If I had a nickel…it is the current reoccurring topic of conversation so I thought that I would share our plan.  (There is something that I should explain first.  I am very type A.  I love to plan. This will not be for everyone.  I know that in mommy circles there is a fine line between gathering information and comparison.  I put this out there as an idea on the ideal.)
Summer Reading:  We will continue reading every day.  My oldest used My Father’s World 1stgrade this year.  The Bible reader continues after the workbook is finished, and he is excited to move into the New Testament. 
I would like to include my middle two in our longer read aloud time.  At the beginning of the school year I set out a list of books I wanted to read to my 1st grader, and we still have books to finish up our list.  I think that my middle two might have to be doing something physical (puzzles, play-doh, sandbox, etc.) for them to be able to sit and listen, but that works for me.  My goal is that we can do as much school together as possible, and I would like to use this time to practice that.
Math: We used Math-U-See for math this last year.  I really like it, but I don’t want my budding mathematician to lose any of his math skills, and I would like him to increase his speed.  I am not planning on spending a long time drilling, but a few times a week I hope to play a quick math game.  Here are few of the games we are looking forward to playing (and there is always shoot the fruit as a backup if we need it!)
                Trash ball-This is our current favorite.  I write math facts on the back of scratch paper.  We set out the trash can in the middle of the floor.  When he answers the math question correctly he gets to wad it up into a ball and throw it into the garbage.  Basketball+math=fun.
                Bingo-I am making up cards with a grid and numbers.  I will hold up a flash card, and he is supposed to put a button on the correct answer.  (I will give my middle kids cards to, once my oldest has figured out his answer he can say it out loud for them to put the buttons on their cards.  We can get in some number recognition practice for them at the sometime!)
                Math Twister-We will use the Twister game mat.  I will put numbers on the colored dots.  I will again hold up a flash card and he has to put a hand/foot on the correct answer.
Science: I have “Bill Nye the Science Guy” at my house so I plan on doing science experiments once or twice each week.  We planted a garden this year so I thought that it would be good to do some experiments with that in mind.   We will be using Usbone’sScience with Plants and Science Things to Make and Do for crafts.
I am sure that there will be a thousand interruptions to my plans and things will not go according to my schedule, but I am really looking forward to a time of relaxed learning. We have an extended family vacation planned and will try to go camping a couple of times.  We have a week of VBS, and the library’s summer reading program.  Swimming lessons, farmer's markets and a few field trips will round out our summer. It should be fun! 
Any great learning ideas for this summer?  I would love to swap ideas so please leave them in the comments below!

This post is linked to

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'Tis a Gift to be Simple

I used to think that "simple" meant "easy." So when people would talk about having a "simple lifestyle" and then turn the discussion to baking bread or cloth diapering I thought that they needed a dictionary. No, simple is going to Target and buying bread and diapers. Then one winter night my husband was watching a show about an Alaskan family who was working endlessly to provide food and shelter for their family and livestock. As my husband and I began to discuss this family he commented on how part of him envied their simple life.

There was that "simple" word again, but I had no problem with the way that my husband used it. It changed the way that I thought of simple. My mind wondered from the Alaskan family to Amish families. The Amish work incredibly hard, and it would seem never choose the easy way. Yet I think of their way of life as being simple, uncluttered. They focus on a few core values and priorities. They let go of everything that does not positively contribute to them. I think of their simplicity as being slow, steady and focused. The result is a reputation for quality and strong relationships.

Simple is not a short cut from work, sometimes it causes more work. Simplicity focuses on the goal and the end result. I think the clothesline is a great symbol of simplicity. My clothesline slows me down. I am limited on the amount of loads I can do in a day. I am forced to wait. As I take the clothes off the line I fold them and complete the chore. For some reason when I use the drier I pile the load into a basket to deal with later. The machine is so easy that I just keep washing, drying and making piles. The piles accumulate and start heading out the laundry room down the hall. Suddenly my shortcut has made the job messy. I love my clothesline, because even though it takes a little more time to put them on the line than in the dryer, it is simple.

Wikipedia further defines it this way: "Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want." I would love to be described that way. The truth is our stuff ends up owning us. Our schedules end up dictating our values. Life easily gets out of balance and complicated. The title of my blog has almost served as a challenge to me. Am I investing in the things most important to me? Has quality in my life been compromised because of my rush? Is my home simply made?

No, simple does not always mean easy. The steps that it takes to simplify can be hard, and short cuts at every turn seem so inviting. I have not yet accomplished a simple life. I am determined not to give up, downsizing our stuff, clearing out our schedule, working hard and living simply.

This post is linked up at :
Works for Me Wednesday @
Frugal Days Sustainable Ways @

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Friendly Giveaway!

It is time for our second Keeper of the Home book giveaway!  Stephanie is offering Simply Made Home readers one more chance to win one of her three great books. To enter in the contest follow or subscribe to Simply Made Home, then leave a comment saying that you did (or already follow.)  Want an additional entry?  Pass along the link to this giveaway to a friend who encourages you in healthy eating or simple living.  (Email, Facebook or Pinterest links all count.)  Then leave a second comment saying that you did!  When I was changing our family's diet and thoughts around food I was eager to find others who could help me. I would have been lost without them. Who is in your network? Off of whom do you like to bounce your ideas? 
Friends, mentors and companions...I have truly been blessed with some great ones.  I think that it is important (I would almost go so far as to say imperative) for women to have a network of friends that provide support and encouragement in homemaking.  My friends and I swap recipes, books and ideas.  What healthy snacks are you feeding your kids?  What kind of laundry soap are you using?  Do you like your cast iron skillet?  Why isn't my applesauce turning out? Can I see your meal plan?  How do you organize all of your important paperwork?  I have had all of these conversations in the past couple months.
I would love to pass along one of these great resouces to you or your friends.  Thanks for reading Simply Made Home!  The winner will be announced on Friday!

Plan it Don’t Panic is a great meal planning guide.Without a meal plan I would waste so much time making multiple trips to the grocery store, and multiple trips are a budget buster.Stop spending too much money and start making the most of every grocery dollar. Avoid the stress and panic of what to cook each night for dinner.Serve your family more balanced, healthful meals (rather than resorting to convenience or compromise foods)”
Real Food on a Real Budget is “a primer for families who want to learn how to save an average of 20-30% on their food budget, while at the same time serving better quality and more nutritionally dense foods. Based on 6 years of hands on experience and hundreds of hours of research, Real Food on a Real Budget will teach you how to drastically lower your food budget OR significantly increase the quality of the foods that you buy (for the same amount of money).”

Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time was so helpful to me when I knew that I wanted to make changes in our home, but didn’t know where to start. This is a “compilation of practical, relevant and varied "baby steps", designed to take you on a one-year journey. One of the major premises behind the way that [it is] written it is to keep it from being overwhelming. The intent is to focus instead on the little victories in each positive step we take forward, one step at a time. “

Note: This month Stephanie is offering a SALE on her books to challenge others to eat healthy and save money.  Click on the book links above and use the coupon code CHALLENGE25 to take 25% off any single ebook, OR use code BUNDLE50 to buy all 3 ebooks at 50% off!  What a great deal!

Make A Move Monday

There were so many great ideas from last week's Make a Move Monday.  I really want to try the oxiclean recipe from Elizabeth at Heartfelt Homemaking and Lori's thoughts at Vintage Nostalgia about slowly making changes were really great. 

I am looking forward to every one's ideas this week. Please let us know what simple move you are making toward healthy living in your home. Link up your blog post, or just leave a comment. Then take time to be inspired from other's link ups and comments.
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:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Menu Plan 5/14-5/20

We are trying Salmon Cakes for the first time at our house this week.  I am not a fish lover, but I know how healthy they are.  The rest of the family seems to like fish so I really want to encourage them to get in the habit of eating fish. 

B-Eggs and Toast
L-Noodles and Sauce and raw veggies
S-Chicken Burritos and Carrots

L-Homeschool Picnic!
S-Beef and Noodles Roasted Broccoli

B-Leftover pancakes
L-Chicken Salads
S-Taco Potatoes and green beans

B-Pumpkin Muffins
L-Grilled Cheese and raw veggies
S-Salmon Cakes and lettuce Salads

B-Eggs and Oatmeal
L-Leftovers and raw veggies
S-Popcorn Chicken and peas

B-French Toast or Cinnamon Rolls (My little birthday girl's choice!)
L-Burgers and veggies tray

B-Granola Bars
S-Eat at Church

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pizza Dough in Minutes! (No Yeast)

As promised, a no rise pizza dough recipe!  This recipe reminds me of the Robin Hood pizza crust envelopes that my mom used to make our pizza growing up.  This worked as a great fast lunch recipe.  It makes one crust on my pizza stone.  If I was going to use this for a quick supper I would have to double it for my crew. 

2 1/2 cups wheat flour (I used whole wheat white pastry flour)
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs oil
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs water

Mix dry ingredients. add the water and oil. Stir until it forms a ball. (I used the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid.  It worked like a charm.)  The dough will be soft, not sticky. Bake at 400°F for 15-25 minutes.  (No, I did not run out of cheese! Half of my kids are dairy-free.  They still love pizza though!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

2 Recipes, Endless Possibilities

Today I am sharing two sauce/marinade recipes that I love.  They are so versatile.  I use them on either pork or chicken.  I use them for grilling, baking and in the crock pot.  Need a time saving kitchen tip?  Never make up just one batch of these sauces.  Always make an extra one or two batches of these sauces and stick it the freezer.  Meal plans are wonderful, but the next time life happens and yours gets derailed, you can pull this out and still have a tasty meal! 

Hawaiian Chicken
  • 5 or 6 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup honey or molasses
  • 1 cup ketchup (or reduce the sugar and substitute with tomato sauce)
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder or salt
Preheat oven to 350 and grease 9x13 baking dish and fill with chicken. Mix ingredients and pour over chicken breasts. Bake covered for 1 hour then uncovered for 1/2 hour.  If you are going to be gone all day, stick it in the crock pot on low for 7 hours.  If it is a hot summer day, keep the kitchen cool and stick them on the grill.  This sauce is great with pork loins (baked or in the crock pot) and grilled pork chops.

Rosemary-Balsamic Pork Tenderloin Roast

  • 3 pounds pork tenderloin roast
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoon crushed rosemary
  • 2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/Tablespoons olive oil
Combine the garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for 4-10 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place in a greased baking dish. Place in the oven and bake until internal temperature of the roast reaches 160 degrees (about 20-25 minutes.)  This also works on the in the crock pot or the grill and with chicken. This weekend I used this marinade on chicken breast and shredded the chicken for sandwiches.  My husband loved it! We used the leftovers for both chicken salads and chicken noodle soup.   

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Allergy Mom

Chances are that at the last holiday or birthday party you attended, someone there had dietary restrictions due to an allergy or intolerance.  It is crazy how the number of people with food issues continues to grow.  My two youngest kids are dairy intolerant. My oldest has issues with processed foods and sugar. (Yeah, we are a fun bunch to have over for dinner!) Our fridge has three different kinds of milk it in, and I read a lot of labels. 

Because allergies and intolerances are so prevalent, people are becoming more understanding.  There are many, many sweet people in my life who are very considerate of our diet.  (We have one neighbor who keeps almond milk in her fridge in case my son comes over and another who buys him special popsicles in the summer.  We live in the best neighborhood ever!)   It is hard to understand allergies and intolerances, but as an “allergy mom” there are a few things that I wish everyone knew.  

1)                  This isn’t in my head.  Like I said above, most people are very gracious.  There are a few people who think that most parents are making this up.  The vibe a parent gets from the skeptic is that allergy parents are drama queens.  We make this up because we like having a special kid. I smile because if the skeptic knew how much work having an allergy kids was, he would know that the drama queen would give up the act in short order.  (It is harder for people to understand food intolerances.  Allergy testing can be cut and dry.  Often there is not a test with a “positive” or “negative” result for intolerances.   A very helpful resource for understanding intolerances is What’s Eating Your Child? by Kelly Dorfman.)

2)                  Please don’t be offended if I dig through your trash. I ask many strange questions.  I have asked for a list of ingredients.  I have asked to know the menu of a meal in advance.  I have asked to go through the trash to read a food label.  I don’t want to be perceived as a pain, mistrusting, nosy or rude.  I just need to know what my kid can or cannot have.

3)                  Don’t feel bad if you forget.  I personally feel that as the parent I am the one responsible for my allergy kid’s food (even if we are away from home.) I do not expect my sister-in-law to plan a dairy-free menu for her daughter’s birthday party just because we will be there.  (That is why I ask a lot of questions.)  Others are not accustomed to cooking and eating this way, and I don’t have the expectation that they ought to.  Many feel bad, and I don’t want them too!  It warms my heart when you think of my child, but I am not hurt if you forget.

4)                  Please don’t argue with me about what my child can or cannot eat (especially in front of my child.)  It is not fun to be at a Christmas party with a sad little boy who can’t have the cookies.  It makes matters worse if I have to argue with Great Aunt Matilda because “One won’t kill him” or “Cousin Barney had a dairy allergy.  He had one and was fine.”  Everyone reacts differently.  I am trying to make the best decision for my kid.  Please trust me (and encourage my kid to trust me too!)

I did not want to be in the “Allergy Mom Club,” but here I am.  I am thankful for all that I have learned about food, our bodies and nutrition because of it.   I do hope that someday my kids will outgrow their dairy issues, and I hope that for all the other allergy sufferers out there that the answers to allergies and intolerances are found soon.

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