Saturday, September 17, 2011

Simpicity quest, recipe #1

In my quest for simplicity, I have been going through some of my SIMPLE inexpensive recipes. This one, I LOVE. It is SO easy. It is COMPLETELY healthy and you and your kids will love it. :) Plus! It doesn't have an ounce of meat in it which is heart healthy and wallet healthy! :) Wahoo!

Now, I know white potatoes have had a bad rap for it's high carbs and starches.. bla bla bla.. sometimes I feel like "they" say EVERY THING is bad for you... Check out this website and you will understand the TRUTH about potatoes:

Baked Potatoes with Warm Black Bean Salad

4 medium potatoes (sweet or regular)
1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 T olive oil
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
¾ t salt
¼- ½ c corn
Splash of lime juice
Sour cream

Prick potatoes with a fork in several places, cover in tinfoil (shiny side in) and bake at 375 for at least an hour. Meanwhile, in a medium microwaveable bowl, combine all of the rest of the ingredients, except sour cream and cilantro. Microwave until heated through. Use this “salad” as your toppings for your baked potato :). It is delicious, EASY and so good for you! :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

"'Tis a gift to be simple"

"Tis a gift to be SIMPLE tis a GIFT to be FREE......." --- Anyone else hearing a man singing opera in the back of their minds? Okay, maybe I'm wierd... but...


Living REAL (as far as "acting our wages... especially when you are tight) can be REAL complicated. It isn't easy. And sometimes it can feel like we are going against our natural desire to have fun and relax...... Here's a secret. Having fun and relaxing are SO good and SOoooOOO needed. On this blog, I post things that are helpful. Then it's important to choose what you can do and how you can implement things in your life. It isn't REAL to be perfect. None of us are as much as us perfectionists feel like it just MUST be possible. IT isn't.

Balance is the key.
If you don't think a monthly meal plan and shopping trip is doable, do it every 2 weeks, or heck, even once. Before I started this, I would go MULTIPLE times a week and decide what to make for dinner at about 4:00 ...or 5 or 6. ANY improvement is improvement. Throw yourself a bone! You are doing amazing! --- If making homemade laundry detergent isn't your cup of tea - adjust your meals, entertainment, miscellaneous shopping.. whatever to make it balance out. Remember BALANCE is the key.

Last week I had a HUGE light bulb turn on for me. This is going to sound lame... but hey! I'm new to this game. - I was feeling overwhelmed and WAY out of balance. Making fancy full breakfast lunch and dinners, homemade... well.. everything takes ALL of my time. It has never occurred to me that you can make simple meals on a regular basis... not just when you know it's going to be a crazy day! - I know. lame. My ultimate goal in REAL living is spending quality time with my family. I think it is AWESOME for our kids to see us working and working hard .. I want them to know that WORK is LIFE. Not just something I'm imposing on them. That work is what God intended life to be .... but we don't need to be picking up bricks and adding them to our back packs. That takes the joy out of work. Because, really work and be enjoyable and satisfying... Seriously.

So! In my quest to gain the gift of simplicity, I'm going to balance my life by making more simple meals... freezing them more often and CHILLING OUT. The glory of all of this is that with less ingredients you have for a recipe, the less items on your shopping list... with that, it doesn't hurt to buy a few store bought snacks here and there.

I am totally excited about this.

The only problem is that I don't know how to make very many simple, HEALTHY meals. Does anyone have any ideas? This will surely be a quest and I am totally excited about less dishes and more time building airplanes out of blocks with Sam and more time to chase Claire around and reading more stories.

If you have any SIMPLE, HEALTHY meal ideas, let me know! Email me at and I will spotlight you ---- I know, I know, I had a separate email account for this blog, but c'mon - Tis a gift to be simple right? - I only want to check ONE email account :) hehehe. and i forgot the password.... ANY WAY!

What are ways YOU are trying to find balance in your quest to be REAL?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beans, Beans What do do with Beans? HUMMUS

Have you ever had hummus? I am unsure of how prevalent it is, my mom used to make it when I was younger to put on pitas, but I had never heard of it outside of home until about 6 years ago when I worked for Challenger School. Right next to our school was a "Great Harvest" and they sold the BEST sandwiches I have ever had.. HUMMUS SANDWICH. I had their grain bread, and they would put a layer of hummus, then provolone cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, grated carrots and sprouts on the sandwich and I'm telling you... HEAVEN in between bread. It was sooo good! I found out later that the hummus they used was sold at Costco for a pretty reasonable price... but when you know what it is, it's hard to spend much money on it..

Garbanzo Beans.
Yup! That REALy is what hummus is made of. Puree'd garbanzo beans. It seriously takes less than 10 minutes to make a few jars worth and you are set. It's a GREAT replacement for expensive nitrate filled lunch meats....(... I can't help but to use that expensive nitrate filled, brown sugar ham lunch meat on egg ham and cheese sandwiches though.. you win some, you loose some, right? :) hehehe) It's also an excellent dip for chips and crackers, vegetables or you can serve it the way my mom did.. spread on pita bread with a few garnishes = SO simple and SO good! :)

My mom's Hummus
I'm starting to think this should be her blog with how many of her recipes are on here! :) See how wonderful it is to have a mother to teach you these things? I so want to be that way for my children :)

I am totally bummed about this picture - I had a really pretty one taken and i somehow deleted it... Sorry for the "blah" factor - It really is good, I swear! :)

1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans

6-8 green olives

1/4 c olive oil

2 T tahini

Italian parsley


Put it all into a food processor, pure' and ..taaa daaa!! Hummus! I alter it to my taste - this is a great recipe and you can also use it as a base then tweak it to your liking! - I like to add a little lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, and red onion instead of the parsley ... MMMMM...Sam and Claire BOTH love this. I think Mike could eat the whole jar plain. :) hehe. I don't always have all of the vegetables for the Great Harvest hummus sandwich, but we usually put peppers, tomatoes and cheddar or pepperjack cheese and it is amazing -

I hope you enjoy! This really is so much healthier then what the norm is, it tastes fabulous and is SOOOOO inexpensive! :)

PS - If you don't know what Tahini is, it looks like this and you can find it at regular grocery stores, I got this at Smiths :).

Tahini was created in the middle east and it's simply a paste made from ground sesame seeds.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Cleanliness is Close to Godliness": Homemade Body Wash

I totally wish I had some visuals for you! I am again "nap time blogging" and the naps are VERY close to being over! But I wanted to get this posted!

This is so simple. There are three general ways to go about this that I know of. The first option is not so frugal, but natural and better for your skin. People use essential oils, real shea butter, real flower petals.. etc... how awesome! :) I won't be posting the recipes that I have found for this though! This is a blog about being frugal and being REAL. I know, I know, those ingredients are SO REAL.... but where I am at in life right now, REAL to me is that I have about 5 or less minutes to devote to making body wash... So! Feel free to google them! There are a lot of really awesome recipes out there! :)
In most places I found that people go and buy inexpensive shampoo.. like Suave or inexpensive baby shampoo and mix it with water and Epsom salt. Interesting hu? But! A lot of people do this and swear by it -

1 c shampoo

1/2 c water

3 T Epsom or table salt

The 3rd way is probably the most cost effective and simple. This is what I like :) - I just get my favorite smelling bar soap... I personally like to be "Zestfully Clean" or feel like I've just bathed in an "Irish Spring." hehehe :) - The smell smells SO clean to me... maybe not so luxurious, but it does the job!:).If you like to pamper yourself every once in a while, buy a body wash you love and only use it when you are pampering yourself - the rest of the time, this does the job! :)

- I grate 1/2 to 3/4 of the bar and place in a container and fill the container with really hot water to the 18 oz mark, give it a really good shake or stir, then I let it sit over night to gel. You may need to tweak it to make it the consistency you want- then put it in a convenient bottle and Voila! Homemade body wash 20 oz for 10-20 cents! Can't beat that! There is no science to this, so just mess with the portions until you have a consistency you like :) I've known that bar soap is the least expensive way to go, but I always have the image of soap that is supposed to be white but the person who used it before you left it a bubble brown. Ew. Body wash really does go further than bar soap anyway! :) I know! SO simple right?? It's amazing how much we really can do on our own!

Now - of course I would rather use fancy body wash - but there is a time and a season for everything! - As much as I love Tide, fancy body wash, expensive clothes, CONVENIENCE - those things are out of season for me :) - In this season, I want to make sure I do all I can for my family to ensure a secure future. - It's certainly not the easy road, and I LOVE EASY, but it's worth it! I promise! :)

Happy showering!! :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chicken Fajitas - EASY, FAST, SO GOOD.

(okay, i didn't take this picture.. i totally forgot to, but here's a visual for ya any way! :) Is that a beer in the background? ha!)

So, I had a few red peppers that were starting to moan from my fridge... they were getting a little sad and were close to being thrown out - I could NOT let that happen. - I've been fortunate enough that my son LOVES peppers. He eats them like apples. Buuuttt.. you can really only have so many peppers. I was racking my brain to think of a recipe I could use the rest of them all at once when I remembered a recipe for Chicken Fajitas I came across a while back. I couldn't find the recipe, but honestly, you don't really need one :).

Have you ever made these? I haven't had too many good fajita experiences, so I was a little leery, but Mike LOVES them. I had never made them before, but I wanted to give it a try.

SO-oOOO good! And SO EASY. I feel kind of silly, you are all probably pros at Fajitas, but this was my first try, and to the rest of you, who like me had never thought to make them... here is an AWESOME recipe I put together.


1 Chicken Breast cut in 1 inch strips (remember to slice the chicken laterally, then slice into one inch strips)

About 6-7 medium sized mushrooms slicked thick

2 Red bell peppers sliced

1/2 medium sized yellow onion sliced

2 T butter

2 T oil (I used olive)

1/4 c water

1/4 c flour (wheat or regular)

1 Fajita seasoning packet ( Keepin' it real here.. I just used a walmart brand packet, and it was still AWESOME)

6 inch flour (wheat or white) tortillas

Heat oil and butter at medium high heat in large frying pan. Chop up all vegetables and chicken and place it in the frying pan. Toss too cook. Add the fajita packet and keep tossing. The goal is to have thoroughly cooked chicken and tender vegetables. Once it looks tender, add 1/4 c water, then 1/8-1/4 c flour and continue to toss until well Incorporated. Turn heat to low and serve on 6 inch flour tortillas. It is delicious with cheddar cheese and sour cream. I didn't have avocados, but sliced avocados would've been awesome as a topping as well :). This seriously was SO fast and SO easy. Sammy, Claire and Mike devoured this ... and so did I! - Serves 4-5. -- Not bad for just ONE chicken breast ay? I hope you enjoy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Let the Record Show......"

Did you guys ever watch the Cosby Show? I LOVE that show. "Mrs. Huxtable" (I'm drawing a blank to her first name) always said "Let the Record Show" when she was trying to clear something up! :) ... So... I have to say something that has been bothering me.... I am always so worried I am giving the impression that I have a handle on all of this! - I decided to start this blog to help me on my journey to being more real.... I am finding AWESOME things that have really helped my family... Buuuutt... I am SO far from perfect at it all. I am just learning. :) Real life is so unpredictable ... No matter how well you planned your menu or how hard you tried... what ever... life happens :) --- I guess the goal is making an attempt and going in the right direction and being more aware of your daily decisions. I hope that is more encouraging that discouraging. That's all! :) Have a fabulous night.....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Monthly Menu Plan.

A few of you have been wondering about my monthly menu plan. - Before I begin, I have to tell you that this month was a flop. I had my sweet Sam "take care" of the shopping list/menu list while we were at Costco, instead of poking my Claire Bear to death. - Well.. it was "death" to the month's menu because when we got back into the car and on our way to the grocery store we realized he had dropped it somewhere. - Mistakes happen - I tried my hardest to remember what was on the list, but once I wrote it down, I forgot it. Just keepin' it real.- So! We are making due with what we have to avoid MORE shopping trips.. better luck next time right? ---- I still feel able to post on the subject because I DO this and it has proven to be VERY helpful and save LOTS of time, effort, energy and money.
Monthly menu planning does a few wonderful things. - One - You only have to go major grocery shopping ONCE A MONTH!! What? How cool is that? - Not only does that save on headaches, but it saves SO much money with gas and impulse buys. Any way - I say major, because you will still need to go once every week or two to pick up the fresh produce you will need for your recipes- but these are fast ONLY get what you need for your menu stops. It's a good idea to have your husband stop at the store on his way home from work to pick up the list of produce for you. That way you save in gas, unnecessary purchases and headaches with the kiddos ;). Have you ever felt like this? :The only problem with this picture is that the lady is smiling... maybe I shouldn't put that on a REAL blog :) hehehe... just kidding. Shopping can be fun, and it was when it was just Sam and I could strap him in... but let's be honest.. now, that is a rare occasion.
Now, before I get into how I put my menu plan together, you have to know.. this is a REAL menu plan. "Plan" meaning, plan for days where you don't feel like cooking. Remember that just because you are on a tight budget does not mean that you have to throw out some of your more expensive meals. Having a plan gives you the control. For example. If you know that your husband's birthday is coming up, or you just want to go out to eat some time... just have less expensive meals prior to make up the difference. (This is where getting familiar with the millions of ways to use beans comes in handy) Same thing with more expensive recipes. Another thing, the glory of only going shopping once a month is that you have enough ingredients to make a months worth of different dishes! One of the reasons I don't make a cute, fancy menu sheet is because I know I will end up making changes as life can be pretty unpredictable.... changes are okay! For example, if it has been one of "those" days and you don't feel like making the meal you have planned, draw an arrow to switch nights with another meal and follow through. You have 30 meals you can make, just make sure to make one of them and you are still following your plan! We have to plan for REAL life. If something comes up and you don't have time to make the dinner you planned, keep burrito stuff on hand and eat that instead and save the ingredients for the meal for next month (of course I would swap things to make sure the ingredients to the recipe I don't make are non perishable.)

Do you need a potty break? Maybe get a glass of water? This is turning into a novel. I'll wait.............

My menu plan is NOTHING fancy.... I Just draw lines to make a sort of calender, put the dates in each box and make a plan. Like I said, changes happen and if I spend time making something cute, I want it to stay cute.. not be messed up with a lot of scribbled out words and arrows :) - I have heard of people making stickers or magnets with all of their recipes and organizing it that way, I just haven't had time to and this seems to work for me :) - Do what works best for you! :)
The trick that I find helpful in menu planning is making a "theme" for each night of the week, for example: Monday nights at our house is "breakfast for dinner" night. That one stays consistent, but the rest change each month. You can have an Italian Tuesday, Mexican Wednesday, Comfort Food Thursday, Vegetarian Friday, Soup Saturday and Sunday Meal Sunday. This takes the overwhelming feeling out of the process. (I learned this from "The Food Nanny" on the BYU channel. :).. not my favorite show, but I have learned a few things from it :). hehe.) Here is an example of what I mean:

You didn't know how serious I was when I said it wasn't fancy hu? :) (as I was posting the picture I noticed a few spelling errors. I was multi tasking while planning the lesson..apparently spelling wasn't a priority.. hehehe)- Do you see how useful it is to have themes? You just need to pick 4 or 5 recipes from each group .. that seems easier then thinking of 30 recipes of whatever. Waiting until the last minute to decide what to make for dinner was always a "recipe for disaster" for me, Like the Food Nanny says ... 1/2 the battle of making dinner is deciding what to make.
Now! Dinner is ONLY one meal of the day. You still have snacks, breakfasts, lunches, desserts to make, etc..... I am a lot less organized with those because they seem to be easier to do. Knowing I have a stocked pantry of hot cereals that I rotate through out the week along with toast, eggs, fruit, and other things so I don't need to plan toooo much for that meal. (cereal can be so expensive, even when it's on a super sale... a dollar a box is still much more expensive than what you can get out of hot cereals.) - Lunch can be leftovers, sandwiches, kabobs... the list goes on, still not too hard. - BUT, if you are only going shopping once a month, you need to make sure you account for these meals on your shopping list as well. Just make a quick list of things you eat and rotate them through out the month - At the begining of the week I write a 'plan' for breakfast and lunch for the week, but not for shopping, just to keep my head on straight.
Look over your budget and decide what you have to spend for groceries ... make sure to define what "groceries" mean in your budget. For some it is just food, for others it is every thing you get at the store, and for some it's everything other than gas and bills. - Just make sure you know what it is. - Then take the amount of cash for the month and don't spend a cent more. With your shopping trips, be sure to save money to be used through out the month for produce. Having the cash on hand (something I am really working on implementing, but not perfect yet) really helps. It's not a magic card connected to all of your income, it is what it is. X amount. It keeps you in the right mind when you see that 75 cent candy bar or the SUBWAY sign because you also see money disappearing. You know that if you spend 8 bucks on Subway, it's 8 dollars less you have to spend on fresh healthy produce, or meat for your family.

It does take self control (again, something I am SOOO working at.. it's all about the journey right? :) hehe) - But where and when did we turn "self control" into a bad word? Think about it..... SELF CONTROL ...... YOU have CONTROL -

That's the goal right?

GOOD LUCK TO YOU!!!! :) :) :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Butters in the Kitchen: Mango Salsa

HOLEY MOLEY.... You HAVE to check this recipe out!!

Blue Skies Ahead!

I LOVE the "good" of the internet - Through this blog, I want to share some of the "gem" websites that I have found - There is so much talent and know-how out there ...... Here is one AMAZING blog!

"ABOUT ME: Tonii
Welcome to Blue Skies Ahead! This is my place to celebrate the ups and downs of motherhood, marriage, and all the stuff in between that makes life so fun! I am passionate about enjoying my life, exactly where it is RIGHT NOW! I love to come up with ways to better organize my life, fun treats, activities to teach and motivate my children and so much more. Thank you so much for stopping by!View my complete profile "

You HAVE to visit my Sister in Law's blog!! It is truly a treasure! She is one of the most sincere and REAL people I know. Her blog is FULL .. of wonderful FHEs (did I say wonderful? Because I meant AMAZING!!! If anything, check out her FHEs! :).. and her.. well.. check it all out!), Activity, Themed weeks, ways to better organize your home with her "Cutting the Chaos" posts, Fun holiday crafts, treats and activities to do with your kids....

I've been going through it for the millionth time trying to copy and paste different links of my favorite posts of hers, but! There are tooo many!

This blog not only inspires me to go the extra mile with my own children, but makes it seem much more doable. :) I hope you ENJOY!

Friday, July 29, 2011

As per request: Freezing Milk :)

Thanks for your comments guys! :) One of you "wonderfuls" asked about

freezing milk! I am so glad you did, because


This can save you from Costco for an entire month! I love getting my

milk there because it is consistently less expensive

..... buuuutttt..

Costco.. in all of it's bulk glory can be quite a trickster! How many times have

you went in for a few things.. and left with a few things but at check out

the register screams "Gotchya again!"

when it rings up to over a 100 dollars.. you look in your cart and you are like.. WHAT? How did that happen? I tell you, once I dropped those trips from at least once a

week to only once a month, my grocery budget glowed :) Here and there I have

to sneak back in because I used more cheese than I anticipated, but with the new glowing budget, I am happy to just grab the cheese and run. :) heheehee. -----

ANY WAY, back to freezing milk! YES! You can. All you need to do is to pour a little out from the top because the milk WILL expand. (I'm going to be honest, I totally forgot this part, I got home with 3 or 4 boxes of milk and took them out of the boxes and put them directly in the freezer.... it did expand.. a lot, but NONE of them leaked.... I don't dare try it again because I've read too many leaky stories :) ) People have been doing this for decades and have been just fine. :) The milk separates as it freezes, so each time you take it out of the fridge to use, give it a good shake! - In my personal experience, the milk does loose some of it's flavor.. maybe I didn't shake it enough - So, if you rarely use milk other than in cooking or cereal, I would TOTALLY do this. And even if you love to just drink it, buy one gallon, freeze it and see how it goes! :) It's a total time saver, how many times have you ran out of milk and you make an entire trip to the store to get some and then end up with a few other items in the cart? :)


Yes, you can freeze Milk.

To be safe (not always necessary) open each gallon up and take about 1 c out. Jug will expand.

Let thaw in fridge for 2 days or on the counter for most of a day. Just make sure to shake it often to keep it all cold.

Milk will separate, just shake well before each use. (whole milk is very difficult to shake out)

It will take away from the flavor a little, but if you are mainly using it for cooking and cereal, you probably won't even notice. :)
Good for 6 weeks ... some have even said 3 months!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Did you know?

Did you know you can freeze Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches??! What?! I heard about this before I had kiddos and was like "are you serious? how long does it take to make a PB and J??" BUT.. after many lunch times staring into the abyss of my pantry seeing

plenty of possibilities for lunch and just not having the motivation to make it,

this is sounding pretty fabulous!

I know it only takes a few moments, but how many people stock up on frozen chicken nuggets or frozen corn dogs for days like this? I used to have Costco's Mickey Mouse chicken nuggets in the freezer at all times for these days, but no more! :)

If you are ever in an industrious mood, you can make a bunch of these for those crisis days - or even better! For those days when you know you will be out and won't be back in time for lunch! (That's where Wendy's had us won!) But not any more! Grab a few of these babies out of the freezer before you go and by the time lunch rolls around, wam! A homemade PB and J. Not the absolute healthiest, but SO much better for you than McDonald's dollar menu. :) One of these days I will do a freezer jam post (SO EASY) So if you have your homemade bread and homemade jam, it's a lot better for you! :)
Time is short, so I will just post the link instead of all of my pictures :) Thank you google!

Peanut butter sandwich TIP: Using fresh fruit as your "jam" makes for a much healthier meal. Store bought and even canned jellies and jams have SO much sugar in them and sliced fruit tastes so much better! I wouldn't count on freezing them, but for the smoother days, try it! :) Our favorites are bananas or strawberries but the possibilities are endless :) Any berries, peaches, apricots, plums apple, even all natural no sugar added applesauce... pears, kiwi.. endless :) You could even make ants on log sandwich's with PB, diced celery and raisins. . I know there are a lot of people that buy their produce at Costco and man, you can rarely beat their strawberry prices, so this is another way to use them up before they get sad and wilty :).

Friday, July 22, 2011


This week has been a tricky week. I am TOTALLY exhausted and you know what?

I didn't make dinner last night,

had cereal this morning, and

WENDY'S for lunch

(ew... and by EW i mean, man that was good, but EW I feel gross)

Thankfully I had an AWESOME dinner over at my amazing sister-in-law's house

in which I was going to bring DELICOUS homemade hamburger buns

and then ended up buying them on the way over.....

And you know what?

I'm not going to beat myself up over it. :) (I say that, because, I can be pretty good at doing that) But in ALL honesty -

perfection is a total illusion.

If you have weekends or weeks like this,

give yourself a break.

Soak it in, enjoy it.. don't feel guilt~! Just enjoy the kitchen without dishes and then

hop back on board!

I am saying this for a few reasons... One.. to motivate myself.. (hehehe) and two because I have a feeling that I'm not alone in the "all or nothing" syndrome. Too many times I have tried then felt like I have failed when I faltered, but the truth is that we all work so so so hard and we all deserve a few UN guilty pleasures :) So if you are sincerely trying to "LIVE FOR REAL" the way I described it in my first post and you are less than perfect (which should account for everyone as far as being imperfect at least) then relax :)

Tomorrow is a fresh, new day without an mistakes - so accept today and
be excited for tomorrow.

Remind yourself of your values and goals and feel

one step closer to living FOR REAL,

because REALity is step by step growing and

I can't think of any baby that has not fallen while learning to walk....

can you imagine if they just gave up because

they told themselves they could do it and then fell down?



- Think of the possibilities and the freedom we will have if we can take control. Think of the priceless lessons we will teach our children as we teach them sacrifice, saving, self reliance and provident living. The lessons in making mistakes but accepting them, growing from them and using them to your advantage to make you stronger rather than putting an F grade on your forehead and giving up. I have worn the F grade on my forehead many times and I am still trying to rub off the imaginary permanent ink so

I can live life as it was intended. REAL - imperfectly ..

but the VERY best I can.

Good luck!

Sincerely and Imperfectly,


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Beans? What else can you use them for other than burritos?"

I've decided to do a few posts periodically on the possibilities of beans. :) Is it weird that whenever I type "beans," in my head I hear a brother or friend from middle school making some joke about the "musical fruit?" - ha - Well! It's time we get over it! :) -- Beans are inexpensive and incredibly good for us. They have awesome amounts of fiber, protein and a bunch of other power nutrients.... in fact... you need to read this article! -

Beans are so so simple and there are a million recipes that include them. I think when people hear "beans and rice, rice and beans" they only think of drab bean burritos. ( I love bean burritos.. but I can see if you think they are your only bean meal option, they can be DRAB :) ) - The possibilities are limitless - casseroles, hummus, dips, Mexican food, soups.. soups soups! ... the lists go on!

Here is a VERY VERY SIMPLE black bean soup recipe that my mom gave me at my last recipe group with her! I was looking at it today as I was making it and laughed! The website she got it from is called "REAL Simple" How perfect is that!! Seriously. This meal takes like 10 minutes or less to prepare and it is so filling and SO So good.

REAL Simple Black Bean Soup

(I took this photo from the website that the recipe was on... this is really what it looks like, I just forgot to take a picture tonight :) )

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pint store-bought fresh salsa (so far i've just used Pace salsa.. I'm sure it'd be better with fresh, but it's what I've had on hand :))
1 16-ounce can refried black beans
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can vegetable or chicken broth (you can buy "Better than Bullion" at Costco. It's an organic broth base, I think my jar was 8 bucks but if you were to compare it to cans, you could make around 40 cans of chicken broth with on of those jars - and it's ORGANIC :) .. Can't beat that!)

Sour cream
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 ½ cups of the salsa and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.
Add the refried beans, black beans, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Divide among bowls and garnish with the sour cream, cilantro, and remaining ½ cup salsa.(extra salsa optional.. I never put more on)

By Kate Merker, September 2006


Monday, July 18, 2011

Healthy Snacks for Kids, Part One: Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries!!!

Have you ever had these at a restaraunt before? I'm pretty sure Rumbi Grill has them - anyway - They are SO good. A few years back my wonderful mother in law bought a huge bag of these from Allison's Pantry and gave me a bunch of them. You can also find them at Costco for like 7 bucks or so if you don't feel like making them. - I was so thrilled to find this recipe on "Our Best Bites". I LOVE LOVE LOVE their blog. I have NEVER made anything that I didn't like from that blog and I have a few "regulars" that I got from them .. this will make blogging very easy since they've already done all of the work for me :).

They have a Sweet Potato Fry recipe that looks fabulous. They prepare them with a lot of herbs and spices and even a dip. I'm definitely going to have to try it some day! I just make these for Sammy and Claire to munch on, so I don't put anything on them. Sweet Potatoes have enough natural flavor as it is :). If you want to add something to make it more like a treat, you can sprinkle light cinamon or even cinamon and brown sugar, but really.. they are sweet enough as it is :). I just took the basics from the blog - how much olive oil, what temp and how long to cook them for :)

What I love about these that Our Best Bites doesn't mention is that you can make large quantities and then freeze them!!

I bake mine slightly under what I would if I were going to eat them fresh then let them cool a bit then line them on a pan just like you did when you baked them and place them in the freezer. When they are frozen, you can clump 'em all up and put them in a gallon ziploc bag! (SO EASY)

When I am ready to eat them, I take the portion I want out of the freezer onto a pan (I don't need to make much each time, so I just use my 9x9 baking pan) and bake them at 400 degrees (or broil them on low) until they are golden and have that awesome crisp outside and soft inside.

You can also microwave them, it just won't be as perfect of a texture. :)

What I absolutely LOVE about these is that my kids can't get enough of them!! Last time I made them, Sammy would eat them frozen he loved them so much! - I love that they are eating a power vegetable with a power oil (olive oil) and they are thinking it's a TREAT! :) An awesome way of ensuring they get their vegetables in! :) SO REAL right??? :) ... ENJOY!!! :)


Apparently, I struggle with balance. I see that I can do EVERYTHING perfect (har har har) if I only had ONE thing to do at a time... Well.. when does that ever happen? - Living real is so important to me. It is so important to me to spend excellent focused time with my kids and doing that and blogging (for me) just doesn't work! :) ... I wish I was better at balancing - but if I'm an all or nothing kind of girl - I'd like the nothing to be the blogging world and the ALL to be my family. So yesterday I told Mike I was going to stop blogging ---- then! I had an idea - I have a few ideas that I got from other places online, I will just post the links and you can see their pictures and tutorials to know how to do it... Deal? :) Here and there with my own recipes I will do my own detailed posts, but there is so much that I have found on the Internet that I could just direct you to, and then, you will be able to start doing searches within those sites to help you with what ever you want? Good plan, right? So! "Heeeeeerreee WEeeeeee Gooooooooooo" -Peter Pan.(that's what Sammy says as we drive down the hill/mountain out of our neighborhood.. silly boy! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

HelloooooOoooOooo.... Anyone else have a million loads of laundry to do today?

I have had a few requests for the homemade laundry detergent recipe, so here it is!!

First - There are two different recipes, a liquid and a powder laundry detergent. The liquid detergent is more cost effective, but I worry about using it with my front loader washing machine... So! I haven't tried it yet... so, if you do, let me know!! The powder detergent seriously took me about 5 minutes to make and is so so easy and it works great! The powder is like paying .06 cents/load vs about .21 cents/load with store bought. The liquid detergent is like .01 cents/load (amazing hu!?) Here is a link for the recipe and how to for the liquid detergent :)

You ready for this?
1c Arm&Hammer washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda)
1c Borax
1 bar of soap grated - Most recipes call for Ivory soap. I had Fels Naptha which is a heavy duty laundry bar soap, so I just used that.
You can find all of these ingredients in the laundry isle at the store. :)

Mix all of the ingredients together until it's all well incorporated ... then... you're done!! Can you believe it?? Pour into a container with a lid and use 1 1/2 Tablespoons per load, or 2 for heavily soiled loads. -
If you have a bad stain, just scrub some of the detergent onto the stain and let it sit for a few hours, then wash.
You could also put a few scoops of Oxi-Clean in your detergent for a boost - So far I haven't needed to :)

I just used a cheese grater to grate the soap - you can also break it in chunks and put it in a food processor.

This is what it ends up looking like after mixing the borax and washing soda with the fels naptha.

Taaa Daaa.... That will be the last time you will see a store bought laundry detergent in my laundry room! :)

Make sure too keep out of reach!! :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Parmesan Chicken

Okay. This really shouldn't be called Parmesan Chicken. It's my great Aunt's recipe (slightly tweaked by me) and that's what she named it -But, it's too close to Chicken Parmesan and they are not at all alike - any one have a better name for it?

I LOVE this. I love that it is So easy. I love that it is SO good. I love that it is the epitome of comfort food.. I love that it is Easy... did I say that it was so easy? It's perfect for Sunday dinner, and much less expensive then a roast.

Parmesan Chicken

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (Tip: Chicken breasts are HUGE, slice the chicken laterally to form 2 thinner breasts.. your meal will go twice as far and you will have a much healthier portion.)
1 1/2 cubes of butter melted
1- 1 1/2 boxes of chicken stove top stuffing

Mix together and then add to stuffing:
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
½ t onion powder
½ t garlic powder

First - prepare a cake pan by greasing and lightly cover the bottom with some of the stuffing mixture. Dip chicken in butter and then roll in stuffing mixture. Place in greased bake pan. When finished, pour the rest of the stuffing, and then butter on top of chicken. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes if needed.

Okay! Let's get started! You know my post "Don't waist a single?" ... well! I was watching a show that gave me a few ideas- you can save and use your butter wrappers to grease your pans instead of using cooking spray. (Mike thinks I'm crazy.. oh well :) ) - If you are using oil for another recipe, use a cloth to rub some of the oil left in the measuring cup you used to grease your pans)

Melt Butter in one shallow container and mix the dry ingredients in another. Dip chicken breasts in butter......

Then roll in stuffing mixture......

Place in Pan

Pour remaining stuffing mixture

Pour remaining butter over that...

Cover and bake according to instructions and serve with potatoes and carrots. You will be your kids', spouses, friends- BEST friend :) Enjoy! Let me know if you think of a better name.

"Don't Waste A Single"

7 years ago, I moved to China for a few months to teach English. I lived in a building on the campus of the school I was teaching at. Around campus, there were several signs written in English and Mandarin. I seriously took a picture of almost every single one of them because they were HILARIOUS. They made No sense.

This one, however.... did!

Okay - Our food budget is really one of the easiest to adjust ... So - when I'm scrimping by trying to make EVERY THING from scratch, eating BEANS all of the time.... when food goes bad.. ooohhh.. it makes me so upset!
Well! Last Saturday, Macey's had a STEAL of a deal on strawberries - $.78 /lb! Awesome right? So I got .. well, A LOT - I figured I could make a bunch of freezer jam with it ... turned out I didn't need the million lbs that I got! hee hee! - I looked into the fridge yesterday and, well, I had sad, sad strawberries. There was NO way we could eat them fast enough.. and to be honest.. well.. I don't I could've stomached the sad strawberry texture.

Then! I had a novel idea!! .. Okay, maybe not so novel ... I just haven't thought of it before and if you are anything like me... you too have thrown way to many of the above babies in the trash can.... Well! not any more!

FREEZE them.

This is probably self explanatory, but... I'll post the "how to" any way!

Wash and behead the strawberries ... yes. I said behead... and that cool little red thing makes it really easy! :)

Line a pan with ... basically whatever.. tinfoil, wax paper, parchment paper.. or nothing.. I just didn't want ONE more dish. Slice the strawberries how ever you want.. perfection is kind of a joke right? Claire needed to be held. All. Day. Long... poor girl has a nasty these babies were cut one handed.. and it didn't matter - they all freeze the same in the end. :) - Stick that pan in the freezer, and wait!

Remember - If you don't have a deep freezer, just use a smaller pan and in a few batches :)

Mine stuck a little to the tinfoil,(this is where I justified using the tinfoil) so just lift up the sides- this makes it easy to pour into a freezer bag.

Taa Daaa - I really feel like I saved their lives today. Doesn't that feel good? hehehehe. I am sure you can do this with any fruit you can find in the frozen fruit isle. :) You can use these in your oatmeal, smoothies, shakes, snacks for your kids... anything!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Favorite Recipe #2: Cranberry Nut Bagels

This is a recipe that I ALWAYS get compliments on .. you will LOVE IT. I will never need to go to another bagel shop again! These are seriously better. You can transform these into what ever type of bagel you want - These are my ALL time favorite. :)

Cranberry Nut Bagels

3-1/3 cups warm water (Good rule of thumb: make the water temp the same as you would fill up a baby's bathtub with :))
1 ½ T yeast
1 t sugar
¼ c sugar
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon and 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
8-9 cups bread flour (Just add until dough cleans the bowl)
2 cups dried cranberries
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Combine water, yeast and 1 t sugar. Let sit until bubbly.
Mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon oats and flour.
Add cranberries and chopped pecans.
Let dough in mixer for about 4 minutes or 10 minutes by hand
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Divide into 12 balls. Push thumb through the center of each ball to form a 1-in. hole. Place on a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
In a large saucepan, bring 2-qt. water to a boil. Drop bagels, one at a time, into boiling water. Cook for 30 seconds; turn and cook 30 seconds longer. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain well on paper towels.
Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

This is me and my sweet Sam Man making the bagels :) .. Mike was like "should I take a picture of you cooking?" My first instinct was "Hide the dishes, hold on, let me get out of my jammies.. where's my makeup?" .. and then I was like "No. Yes, it is still light outside and I am in my PJs, my dishes are overflowing... but that's what's real. :) )

This is what your dough should look like. It is really sticky after you are done mixing it, so the floured surface is a must, roll it around in it so it's workable :).

This is the best way I've found to evenly cut the 12 pieces of dough to form the bagels

Punch your thumb through the center of the ball and sort of stretch the dough to make a 1-1 1/2 hole in the middle. Remember! :) They don't have to be perfect :).

This is the fun part! Boil some water and drop those bagels in!! This is what gives the chewy outside texture. :) Plop them in and let them be on each side for about 30 seconds or so. Then with a slotted spoon or spatula, place on cloth or paper towel to let the water soak in.

Then bake following the instructions...... cool on cooling racks then ... waaaLAa! :) BAGELS! :)

Butters in the Kitchen: Bountiful Bliss

Well, I don't have a picture for all of these yet, and pictures do SO much for recipes wouldn't you say? ---
SO! I HAVE to tell you about my amazing sister Heather. As I was thinking of all of my favorites, I kept realizing that a few of them come from her and she is writing a recipe book, SO, I am SWORN to secrecy :) --- HOWEVER... She does have a blog -

She is involved with a food co-op called Bountiful Baskets It is really popular around here, so each week she makes a recipe using some of the fruits and/or vegetables that she gets in her basket and calls it "Bountiful Bliss" :) - Here it is and ENJOY - She is the most "REAL" cook ever. She is beyond the "look for a recipe" stage and she makes her own - DEFINITELY check her blog out. It's still new and because she's REAL and has 3 kids, she posts once a week - but it is definitely something to be excited about each week :)


Favorite Recipe #1 Asian Orange Chicken

Watch out Chinese restaurants.... THIS is the best orange chicken I have EVER had! :) I found this recipe a long time ago and never made it until last year... WHAT was I thinking? You will LOVE this! :)

Harry Wetzle's Asian Orange Chicken


1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root (or 1/8- 1/4 t of ground ginger :))
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil


Pour 1 1/2 cups water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes.

>Place the chicken pieces into a resealable plastic bag. When contents of saucepan have cooled, pour 1 cup of sauce into bag. Reserve the remaining sauce. Seal the bag, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

In another resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into the skillet, and brown on both sides. Place chicken to drain on a plate lined with paper towels, and cover with aluminum foil.

Wipe out the skillet, and add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water (do not skip mixing this in separate dish... you will have a very very sad experience if you do... mix it first!); stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over rice with broccoli as a side and add some fortune cookiesfor fun! :) mmmmm...

Recipes! Recipes! Recipes!

Well! The vote is in! Turns out through email, facebook and my one comment on this blog (c'mon! leave your comments!) :) ---- Recipes are what you want right now! :)
Nicole asked me to post my favorite recipes! I like that idea! :) ... however... I have about a million of them! :)

Food! My mom (yes, I know .. my mom is amazing) - is an excellent cook. I'm pretty sure she can do anything she wants in the kitchen and turn anything into something gourmet. I remember when I first got married, I just felt like I was a good cook, it must've been in my blood, my sisters, mom, and grandma all had the "good cook gene"... ..
........... and then I had to ask my mother in law how to boil noodles. YES! Boil noodles! I guess it's just one of those things where I saw so many people cooking my whole life, I figured I knew how to do it too.... no no no no I didn't. I'm pretty sure I ruined just about every recipe, couldn't make mac and cheese and burnt pop tarts. .........BUT! I love good food. SO I was determined to figure it out- I started by finding recipes .. I'd think of what I wanted to eat, then look the recipes up in books and on the Internet. Then you practice.. :) - Do this enough, and then you feel like you can start tweaking things, combining different recipes, adding more or less of what you like to make them your own...I am no chef by any means, but I do have so many good recipes that I can't wait to share with you! :)
They won't be in any particular order.. because, well.. I"m just not organized like that! ha! :) Mainly I just can't make up my mind... they are all my favorite for different reasons! :)

Monday, July 4, 2011


Feel free to send tips, advice, recipes, your stories.. etc. :) I'd love to spotlight you! :)

What to do? What to do? :)

So! I have a MILLION ideas, recipes and tips that I am so excited share, but I have so little time, so I just don't know where to begin...

So, I am wondering...

What would you like to see?

Restaurant recipes?
Dessert recipes?
Money saving tips?
Healthy meals and snacks for kids?
Bread/cereal and cracker recipes?
Fun activities for kids?
Quick, easy and delicious recipes?
Not so quick, but DELICIOUS recipes
Couponing tips?
What? :) :)

Obviously a few of these can be found in each post, but I'm curious as to what you are hoping to see out of this! Hope to hear from you soon! :) Also, I would LOVE to spotlight YOU with your REAL living ideas :) .. recipes, fun activities with your family, money saving tips, your "story" ;) - I will be setting up an email address for this blog.. but alas! The 4th of July bbq is calling my name... mmm.. - SO! I will post the email address to where you can send your info on my next post! :) ... HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!!! :) :) :)

*Quick and easy idea for the 4th - maybe it's not as novel of an idea as I think, but I heard it in church on Sunday and LOVED it!! --- Make a birthday cake for America with your kids... decorate it like a flag (or like me, I used fun fetti frosting ... with a box cake... and called it good..... see, I am real! :) No one ever has time to do everything! :) You pick and choose your battles each day, right? :) ) Light some candles, turn of the lights and sing happy birthday to America!! :) .. totally memorable! You can even get pots and pans or play instruments and have a little parade around it before you sing and blow out the candles :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011


It's official.

I'm a bad guy.

Lately, Sammy calls me Dr. Evil Porkchop on a regular basis and today when I was putting him down to bed he hit me and said "NO ZURG" then pressed an imaginary button on his arm and said "Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!!"

Cara in REAL Life

Okay. So.... I know that along with a few recipe posts, this may be a bit .. well... if you have a weak stomach, don't read. (I do have some EXCELLENT recipes on the way though :) )

This is not my normal kind of post - in fact, I don't think I have ever ended a post with out a happy ending - but - so far today, ... any way.. I was thinking a few days ago on how this blog may paint the picture that I have it all together (ha) ... This blog isn't meant to be too personal. Just tips, recipes, ideas, articles, stories.. etc.... The reason behind this blog post is that I am REAL. My children are REAL, and I struggle with typing about the hard times because it just gets me more upset... But I'll try :)

Well! I just typed about 3/4ths of the story and realized my blood pressure was raising and I was getting really frustrated all over again... So - in order to make this happen I'm just going to type out in bullet form.

Screaming, Crying, begging toddler at the dollar store. (broke the can opener and needed a new one, on a bright note, it works great and I don't miss my Kitchen Aid can opener one bit - it works awesome.. totally worth more than a dollar.
Walmart -
Poopy Claire
Poopy Sam (who was wearing underwear btw)
Rush home
I almost pee my pants and leave Sammy in the bathroom and say, "don't touch anything"
Run to the bathroom
Bad idea.
Claire is screaming and tired
Sammy's bathroom door locked- make him open it.
Keeping my cool, Sammy kept saying "I try to take care of it mommy"
Plop Sam in the bath, turn on the shower
Claire is screaming and still poopy
I'm screaming inside, but still keeping my cool
I wipe down as much as I can, scrub my hands and grab Claire
"Sam, get all of the poop off and do not touch the soap or get out, I have to change Claire's diaper
bad idea
Run out, hurry and change Claire's diaper
Run back to the bathroom, tub full of poopy water
Poopy water and his entire bottle of brand new body wash
"I take care of it mommy"
Okay, he's just trying to help.
"Unplug the drain, we need clean water" calmly believe it or not.
Claire is still screaming
I am now SOPPING wet with poopy body wash water.
calm down cara calm down cara calm down cara calm down cara calm down cara
finish bathing
Claire still screaming
get Sam in towell and hurry off to Sam's room to get dressed -
Sam won't go to his room.
at this point I am mad.
Sam, get into your room RIGHT NOW
windows open
Sam pokes me and throws toys and kicks me
I leave room ... Sam throws toys at door.
windows still open, the whole neighborhood hearing our little throw down
I could go on.
Finally I somehow got him dressed and told him
You take your nap right now, and don't come out of here until AFTER you wake up.
"I love you mommy"
bad mom bad mom
"I love you so much sammy, So much."
Tonight.... I don't even know where to begin.
Sam NOT listening
Still not listening
He gets sent to bed early
........ yeah right.........
I keep going in there and trying to use every trick possible to get him to lay down and go to sleep.
I run into his room, he's next to his
TOPPLED over dresser
He starts crying
I race to him and squeeze him in a hug
Mike says I'm hugging him too tight.
Glass shattered everywhere. Sentimental objects that were on his dresser broken.
Me- In shock, A total MESS. Emotionally and physically drained. Sick of yard work and dreaming of the yard being done so poor Mike can get a break and so we can both take care of the kids. We are both SO worn out and drained.

There you have it. Cara in REAL life. I know sort of gloomy. BUT, that is REAL, today at least. And with it all, I REALly wouldn't trade it............................but it is still SO SO HARD.

I'll try and post something fun in the next few days to make up for this gloom :) .... on the bright side, I did make enough soup for 5 meals and it only took me about 15 minutes to make ... I'll post the recipe later....

Monday, June 27, 2011

"I can't believe it's not butter!" .. well, that's because It Is! :)

So... butter. I LOVE IT. I don't think I have ever bought a ... no, I know I have never bought a stick of margarine or any other butter knock off. The real thing is not so great for you, but it is SO much better. Better in cooking, better on bread, JUST BETTER. :) - And at least it's REAL right? eh eh? Get it? REAL? :) hehehe... that's more than I can say for margarine! However, butter can cost a pretty penny and it just keeps getting more and more expensive. We eat a lot of bread 'round these parts and toast is a morning usual. My whole life my parents had a covered butter dish that they left out by the toaster or in the cabinet above the toaster. I do the same thing... it totally creeps Mike out to have butter sitting out for days at a time... I never even thought about it .. is that weird? ha! - Thankfully none of us have died, or even got sick, but I just can't stand tearing up my nice fluffy bread with hard butter.. and I'm not about to spend money on spreadable ... "not butter." :) So! Here is the answer!

Homemade Spreadable Butter!

1 cube of butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup of canola oil (or any other oil of choice ... I like canola oil because it has no taste and is among the heart healthy oils as it has no trans fat)

You can either whisk this until your arm is dead or use some sort of mixer, I love my Kitchen Aid! I wasn't thinking and used the paddle instead of the whisk , but it still worked just fine :) -

It will start to look like this.... just keep mixing! :) .............................. yup, KEEP mixing!

See how smooth it looks? It actually still looked slightly lumpy as I was mixing, but when I stopped the mixer it smoothed out ... these are the mysteries :) ha I mixed the butter and oil for about 5 minutes.

Now! Pour into a Tupperware and refrigerate - NOTE - it will be really runny right after whisking it to death, but after a few hours in the fridge, it's set and perfect! :)

The glory in this is now you have twice the butter.. spreadable butter that is (I wouldn't try baking with it.. but if you do, let me know how it turns out! :) ) and you are splitting the trans fats in half by adding the canola oil! Now that I know how SIMPLE this is, it is shocking that people are spending more money for less butter! Don't you feel good that you can do it yourself now? :) I sure do! :) and I KNOW what's in it! :) Enjoy!! :)

Visiting Teaching - check!

Have you had the chance to read this month's message yet? :) It was JUST what I needed and it has totally helped my mindset through out the month - I figured this was PERFECT to share on this blog - LDS or not, this is excellent advice:

Strengthening Families through Temporal Self-Reliance

Developing self-reliance—the ability to care for ourselves and our families—is the responsibility of every sister. We become self-reliant as we learn to love work, as we seek inspiration to find the best ways to provide for ourselves, and as we work with family members to meet basic needs.
When we are self-reliant, we use our blessings and resources to prepare for and avoid problems. Self-reliance, however, is enhanced as we pray for the courage to meet with faith the challenges that will surely come. Self-reliance also enables us to keep our covenant to care for others.
In Relief Society, we are taught self-reliance principles and skills. Sisters can learn about budgeting, debt relief, employment qualifications, the scriptures and the gospel, teaching others to read and learn, technology, physical health, fitness, addiction prevention and recovery, social and emotional health, preventing illness, gardening, food production and storage, emergency preparedness, and many other things that will help us become self-reliant. (pst. it's me - read over that list! It doesn't just say "cook, build a food storage... etc....." technology, teaching others to READ and LEARN, addiction prevention and recovery ... SO cool... ehem.. sorry, you can continue :))
Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, explains that “providing for ourselves and others is evidence that we are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. … When [my mother-in-law] passed away suddenly last year, she left evidence of her self-reliant life. She had a current temple recommend and well-used scriptures and gospel study manuals. We lovingly divided up the pots, pans, and dishes with which she had prepared thousands of meals. She left us quilts she had made from old clothing. She believed in the old adage ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.’ We saw the supply of food she had grown, preserved, and stored. Particularly touching were her little account books in which she faithfully recorded her expenditures over many years. Because she lived providently, she left some money she had saved for emergencies, and she left no debts! Most importantly, she had taught and inspired many others with the skills she had acquired during her faithful life.”

Isn't that just a great message? The line "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" really stuck with me.. it's been interesting trying to implement that this month but it really is fulfilling as inconvenient as it is!
I also love that the lesson isn't geared toward "getting out of debt" or 'to those in need" - It is to us all, it's about being mindful with our resources and "blessings."
My favorite though is the line that says: Self-reliance, however, is enhanced as we pray for the courage to meet with faith the challenges that will surely come. I love that!

Although so many of the things that I am posting about seem so inconvenient and maybe slightly crazy.... it's all a matter of where we would rather be frustrated and inconvenienced. I was talking to a friend and she said something that really stood out to me. I wish I could type verbatim what she said but it was on a different topic .. so, I'll just tell you my interpretation. YES, making everything from scratch and pinching pennies is hard, but life is hard. We can choose to have the difficulty of more dishes, more time and effort in doing things on your own .. or we can choose to have the difficulty of debt. I want to take the first road :). I can handle dirty dishes and only shopping once or twice a month, that's all in MY control.... debt however is is OUT of our control and it has no mercy... my dishes are much more friendly then debt collectors :) ...... Where would you rather have your worries?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heads up! :)

Wow, I'm on a bloggin' roll! I guess I just want to get in as much as I can while Mike is taking his nephews home, the kitchen is clean, the laundry is done (well.. clean that is.. hanging up is so over rated.. just kidding.. I totally wish it was put away). Life with two little ones can be pretty crazy.. a wonderful crazy, but crazy. I don't know how often I will be able to post because they still need me so much (and I love it) - A family is as real as REAL gets. Hence, it's 12:20 am and I'm clickin' away on the computer! I just wanted to give a quick "head's up" on what to look out for :)

PICTURES... I can't promise it will be toooooo soon, but I will post pictures of the recipes I have posted, I will also post a tutorial on how to make the perfect shaped loaf of bread. .. I just made homemade graham crackers and they taste pretty good! - I'm going to put them to the test tomorrow... the S'more test that is. We've got the tent set up in the living room and everything.. you know, to get the full effect. In fact, I'm about to drag my two year old out of bed so we can have a sleepover in there... you know.. the TOTAL full effect! :)

A year or so back, I had a friend ask me for ideas on fun things to do with kids.... I typed out a massive list of fun ideas and things I used to do with my preschool students and my sister's kids... it's saved on a computer that seems to be crashing right now... so hopefully I can retrieve it and post it. There are a whole lot of fun ideas to fill in those days you will be spending at home!
I have another friend experimenting on home made yogurt~ What? How cool is that? Maybe when she figures it out she can teach us! (eh, eh, Jenny? :) )

A friend of mine who is a pro coupon-er (seriously, she left the grocery store today with a cart full of stuff and the store paid her after ringing it all up.. that's pro) - :) She will be spotlighted with her expertise when she gets the chance :) - She's a busy mama herself, but.. it is something to really look forward to! :0)

My sister-in-law is a total inspiration! I remember a year or so ago going to the Dinosaur Museum with her and she and I talked about her financial plan - After following their plan and the spirit, they are now COMPLETELY debt free- Completely! She agreed to share her story, so she will be spotlighted soon as well! :)

If any of you have any tips, advice, stories, recipes.. etc.. post a comment and then we can figure it out through email :) So exciting!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heaven in a Bread Pan.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - There are few things more wonderful then the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven! :) You know that scene on Ratatouille when "Ego" tastes the ratatouille and he's immediately brought back to his childhood.. yah. That's what bread does to me. When I was younger, my mom let me stand on a chair at the counter and watch her bake bread, after the dough had risen for the first time, she'd form the dough into loaves then give me the special paint brush! :) - I got to paint the pans and the loaves of dough and it was always something I looked forward to! I will post my mom's AMAZING white bread recipe later, but for some reason, I could never get her wheat bread to work for me, so after searching, tweaking, and drooling.. I put together the PERFECT wheat bread recipe. This recipe makes 4 loaves of bread, I use my Bosch and it is almost effortless! - However, the original recipe was put together by a woman who did it all by hand - So! It should work either way.. you could just half or quarter it to make it work in your Kitchen Aid or other mixer.

Nine Grain Whole Wheat Bread

2 T yeast ( I use Saff instant yeast.. it's the best :) )
1 t white sugar
4 c warm water
1/2 c honey
1/4 c molasses
1/2 c vegetable/canola oil
2 eggs
2 T lemon juice
10-12 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c wheat gluten
1/4 c ground flax seed
1/3 c 9 grain cereal
1/3 c sunflower seeds
1 heaping T salt

In a large bowl or mixer (I love my Bosch) , dissolve the yeast and sugar in 4c warm water. After the yeast has proofed and is bubbly, mix honey, molasses, oil, eggs and lemon juice. Mix well. (tip, I add my oil first and then use the same measuring cup for the honey and molasses.. the sticky stuff slides right out of the measuring cup when it’s already oiled :) Another tip from my excellent mama.) Gradually add 5 c whole wheat flour, mixing well after each addition. Add the flax, 9 grain cereal and sunflower seeds. Stir well. Let stand for 20 minutes. Mix in gluten, salt and the rest of flour until dough pulls away from the bowl. Knead for about 4-5 minutes in mixer or Bosch, or 10-15 minutes by hand until dough is smooth and elastic. Put into a greased bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled, about an hour.
Punch down and shape into four loaves. Place in greased bread pans and let rise until doubled again. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown! You will be so proud of yourself and you will probably never be able to go back to yucky store bought bread! :) - It's been interesting, all I can taste is the preservatives in store bought bread now.... well, you won't find that here! This is REAL bread! :) :)

I leave one loaf out and freeze the rest so it stays fresh. When you want to pull a loaf out and defrost it, you can either let it sit out to thaw or take the twisty tie thing off, and place the bread in the bag in the microwave for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes ... perfection! :)

You can get ALL of these ingredients at most whole food stores. I get all of my ingredients at Kitchen Kneads off of Redwood Road and between 7800 and 7000th South on the East side of the road here in Utah. I love that place. I get my bread bags and twist ties there as well. I've yet to see them in regular grocery stores.

ENJOY! If you have ANY questions, feel free to ask! :)