Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Best Ever Nachos and Mexican Lasagna

The tomatoes from our garden finally started turning red about a week ago. I was SO excited! I love making fresh salsa from the garden. This is also the perfect time for me to make Swiss Enchiladas since you make the enchilada sauce from scratch and it calls for 6 Roma tomatoes. I've made that recipe a couple of times.

We've also had a lot of peppers and some beets and other things. I put part of a beet in my lunch every day which is the hot pink breakfast smoothie so growing beets was important to me.

Scott made stuffed chiles one day. It was a great idea, but our chiles were too hot. I was sweating and my nose was running. We'll have to try it again sometime with a milder chile. One night Scott had the idea to make fancy nachos, like the ones Mexican restaurants serve, you know with not just cheese but jalapenos and beans etc. So we took a couple jalapenos and tomatoes off the plant, washed and chopped them and cooked the jalapenos on the nachos. Then we added the tomatoes, a little onion, black beans and sour cream. They were SO yummy! I think making these nachos will be one of my new weekly traditions for summer time when our garden is producing. We also served it with a Mexican Lasagna. Here's the recipe I came up with for that.

Mexican Lasagna
6 corn tortillas(I used 6 total in a 8x8 pan. I freeze the tortillas and then take out a stack the day before we're going to use them...or the morning before, if I forget),
1 c cooked black beans(these beans could be switched for another favorite)
1 c cooked pinto beans
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
2 c salsa
sour cream.

Place three corn tortillas in a greased 8x8 dish. Mix together beans with seasonings. Layer half on top of tortillas. Spread over with 1 c salsa and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat layers one time, but do not add more cheese at this point. Bake at 350 degrees for about 3o minutes. Take out and sprinkle with cheese. Bake another 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream.

This was yummy. Though when I made it, I baked the sour cream into the dish which I didn't like as much because it changed the follow my instructions and don't add any sour cream until it's done.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Family Photo shoot 2011

We did a photo shoot with my friend Lindsay recently. Trying to get 4 young kids to all smile and look natural at the same time is no easy endeavor! But she did fantastic! She's also a young mom of four little ones so she's had some experience with folks like us :). You can find her photo blog here. Here are a few of my favorites:
My favorite family photo (We are all smiling! And looking at the camera! I am truly amazed!)

Charlie had the hardest time staying focused(meaning we had a really hard time getting him to come be in pictures). He wanted to climb fences, run, throw rocks and look at the geese. I don't blame him. If I were a 5-year-old boy, I'd be wanting to do the same things.
Jane was the hardest one to get to smile. She scowled for the majority of the pictures.

Jane does not like to wear headbands and other pretty bows.


The girls
The boys

Here I am comforting a hurt Annabelle. Remember how Charlie was throwing rocks? This is from the one he threw at her head.

Bloopers (there were a lot more of these)

The four kids

Couple shot
A couple more family shots I liked(minus Jane's scowl)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer fun

This is what our typical weekday schedule looks like: (though for the next week and a half we won't be walking to school because the kids are still off track).
I have this weekly schedule posted on a small whiteboard(probably 9x13) in our kitchen. The kids and I like to refer to it often. I have the times we're in the kitchen eating in a different color so it's easier for them to find. This helps decrease the feeling that I live in the kitchen. At least a little. Though I do have to prepare the meals too which takes some time.

I like having a schedule. I think we all like to know what's going on and we like to have normality in our lives. But during those play/project times, we're able to change things up a little. Here are some of the things we've done recently during that time.

1. We made carrot cake cupcakes for Scott's work BBQ last week(I won't make sugar stuff if it's only for our family, but if we go to an event where we have to bring something, sometimes I'll make a dessert with sugar and I'll make one I know they particularly like so they can get their fill but hopefully there will only be enough for one serving :)). I decorated all the carrots that went on the cupcakes we brought, but Charles and Elisabeth both practiced making carrots on a practice board. They improved during that hour of practice, and then they decorated one cupcake. I wish I would've taken pictures of the one's they did. I didn't even think about pictures until the next day when we only had a couple of leftovers. But they're begging me to do this again soon so when we do, I'll make a note for myself to remember my camera.

2. One morning during play time, we loaded up the double stroller, the kids bikes, and some snacks in the van and drove out to the Jordan River Trail. Annabelle and Jane sat in the stroller and Elisabeth and Char were on bikes. Afterward, we ate snacks and played at the playground(this is a nice location for families because they have sheltered picnic benches, public bathrooms and drinking fountains.)
3. We own a few arts and crafts books for kids. I haven't done a whole lot with them but this week Elisabeth was reading through one and decided to make one of the crafts. She helped her siblings and a neighbor make it too. They made kites with a stick(the handle), some yarn, and a piece of paper they cut out in different shapes and colored and then stuck onto the yarn. They ran them around the neighborhood. It was cute. And I was impressed they did it all on their own, including taking out the supplies and putting them away.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

And we're off again

This is what we look like on a typical day: children dress themselves, sometimes an older sister helps the younger ones find hair accessories that occasionally match the outfits, and Charlie's got a duct-taped sword in his hand and his Lightning McQueen lunchbox in the other. For now, he keeps his gum in there(he bought it with his own money and is very proud of it; but also very generous..he shares it with anyone who comes along) along with a couple of toys and his hair gel, which cracks me up. It's one of Scott's older, mostly empty hair gel tubes.

We're off track for the new school year already. It was short. Kindergarteners start later than everyone else so they can have teacher interviews, which means Charlie was only in school for a week and a half before he went off track. I think it was just long enough for the kids to learn they're supposed to stand in a line in the morning and hang up their bags when they walk in their they'll have to learn it all again when they get back on track in three weeks :). Poor kindergarten teacher :). But she's so sweet, I'm sure she'll be fine.

I'm trying to come up with lots of ideas of fun, free(or very inexpensive) activities to do while they're off track. We've gone to the library a couple of times, gone swimming, watched a couple of movies, gone to the park, cleaned the bathrooms, played board games, read books, listened to books, made bread and pasta. And Elisabeth has piano lessons one day a week and soccer practice on another. The first of the three weeks isn't even over yet and I'm beginning to run low on ideas. We'll have to have a lot of repeats, I think. One day next week I'm going to teach them a couple of cake decorating techniques and let them decorate their own cake. We also want to have a picnic at a park, go to the splash park, and eat lunch with Scott. If anyone else has good ideas, I'd love to hear them. Perhaps we need some fun art projects.

Elisabeth created this Linkin Log house on her own and then took a couple of pictures of it(Totally normal to take pix of objects; I mean, her mom takes pictures of random stuff all the time...which is probably why Charlie was taking pictures of his lunch last week) . I asked her if she'd like to be in one of the pictures. She did, and so did her siblings.
I fix the girls hair most days of the week. We've been practicing french braids several times a week and I've gotten a lot better. I'm grateful the girls allow me to practice on their hair because I know that it hurts; I'm hoping over time, it'll get to be less painful. They love the way it looks though and continue to ask me to do it that way. Being off track allows us more time to practice. Elisabeth likes to watch hair tutorials online with me and then we try new things. Hopefully she'll catch on and learn to do her own hair soon. I think that'd be another good thing for her to work on while she's off track: learning to put her hair in a ponytail.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Living in the kitchen

I sometimes feel like I live in the kitchen. I definitely spend the majority of my awake time in the kitchen with cooking/preparing breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and then cleaning up after them. But I love food, I love saving money making my own healthy foods, and so I don't mind too much :).

This past week we made a few firsts. My good friend Kim came over with a box of apricots she'd picked from a family members tree. We made apricot juice and apricot jam. I didn't use sugar in my recipes but substituted with Stevia. The jam turned out well though I can't say the same for the juice. It's interesting. But I didn't make very much juice because I don't like us to drink much juice, so what I do have I'll mix in with some smoothies which tastes just fine. I am so happy about the jam because trying to buy jam without sugar and chemical sweeteners is a hard and expensive thing to do. I did have to use a box of pectin though which I didn't love doing. I'll post that recipe at the end of this post. Here's Kim getting ready to put the apricots through the juicer.We had a church activity this past week and I was asked to bring a dessert to share that would feed a lot. I rarely get to make trifle dishes because they are so big and we can't get through one fast enough, and I really don't want my little family getting through a whole one anyway. I made this Strawberry Trifle dish once before for book club and it's a great summer dish because it's light, cold and has fresh fruit inside. I have the recipe posted here from a previous post. I decided to make the pound cake this year to save money, instead of buying it from Costco like I had done before. It turned out well and made a lot: 2-9'' loaves and 2 mini loaves. And did you know the reason they call it pound cake is because it calls for a pound of butter? Wow. That's a lot. Yeah, this dish is definitely not very good for you, though my husband would probably try to argue that point reminding me it had strawberries inside :). Gotta love him! And I made the whipped cream with agave instead of sugar so that was a tad better :).

Since I'm in the kitchen so much the kids like to do projects in there. We've started having a 1 hour 'siesta time'(Annabelle's stopped napping for the most part) each day which is mostly quiet activities like writing, reading, beads on strings, puzzles, flannel boards etc; normally I wouldn't let them paint during this time because painting requires too much supervision on my part and siesta time is for me too, but I allowed it this day because I had a lot to do in the kitchen.
I moved the map from our table(it was under a plastic cover that would sometimes get liquid underneath which was no good...and Scott thought it looked too busy/messy to be on the table surface) to the wall in our kitchen. I love having the maps in the kitchen because like I said, we spend so much time in there that I'd like to create an environment that encourages learning. The kids know the USA map pretty well because it's been on our table for so long. They like us to ask them where certain places are and we'll sometimes give them hints telling them to go North, South, East or West of another place they're familiar with. Anyway, now that both maps are up they've got a lot more to learn. And it's fun to talk about what's going on in the world and where.
We made homemade pasta this week. I actually have done this once before in a class so when Scott's mom brought a pasta maker out to us this past year, I knew I wanted to try it again. But I also needed to read the manual first so the task got put on the back burner for a little while. Making pasta was really not hard at all and it turned out great! The kids loved cranking the handle on the pasta machine. We made 100% whole wheat fettucini noodles and had fettucini alfredo for dinner. Thanks Grandma Angela for the pasta maker! We promise to use it regularly now that we know what we're doing!

Another recipe I've been meaning to try for awhile is a whole-grain bread recipe that I got from my friend Heidi. I put it off because I didn't have any millet. But I finally got some and made this bread last week. It's really yummy and makes several loaves. I'll post that recipe below.

Whole Grain Bread-from Heidi

  • ~Large Mixer Method W/dough Hook~ (I don't have a dough hook bread maker appliance so I just kneaded it by hand)

  • ½ cup honey or molasses

  • ½ cup canola oil (I used 1/4 c butter and 1/4 c coconut oil melted together)

  • 5 cups warm water

  • 2 Tbsp SAF Instant yeast

  • 1 Tbsp salt

  • 10-11 cups freshly ground whole wheat (you can also mix in spelt or kamut flour to your liking)

  • 1 cup whole millet

  • 1 cup whole quinoa

  • 1¼ cups organic vital wheat Gluten

  • Proof your yeast in 1 cup of warm water (so you have 4 cups remaining) & 1 tsp of honey for 10 minutes.

  • Grind your flour and set aside in large bowl 11 cups.

  • In your large bowl that goes with your mixer add vital wheat gluten, millet, quinoa and 2 cups of the flour, set aside (while yeast proofs). Combine in a separate bowl the honey, oil, & remaining water; add proofed yeast.

  • Add this wet mixture to the 2 cups of flour, millet, gluten, quinoa mixture that is in your large mixing bowl. Mix together & sponge for 15 minutes.

  • Put your bread hook attachment onto your mixer. Mix the salt into the remaining 9 cups of flour that was set aside. Add this remaining flour to sponged ingredients in the Large Mixing Bowl 1 cup at a time. Make sure each cup is blended before adding another cup of flour. The dough will become stiff and cleans the sides of the mixing bowl. This kneading process should take approx. 6 minutes on speed #2 should be sufficient to develop the gluten if you are using fresh flour. Transfer Into very large greased bowl for rising process.

  • Cover Bowl And place in a warm area to complete first rise. Approx 30 minutes or when dough has doubled in size, punch down, placed on large greased bread board & cut into four equal sections. Place three of the pieces back into bowl & shape into loaves one at a time. Rolling into loaf shape & pinching off seam together.

  • Set into lightly greased stoneware loaf pans. Cover with towel and set in warm location for 2nd rise approx. 30-35 minutes. Should rise approx two inches above pan edge. Do not over rise.

  • *Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Take out of oven and let stand for 5 minutes;remove from loaf pans onto wire cooling racks. Cool completely before using a electric bread knife (serrated edge) to cut; enjoy.

Apricot-Pineapple Jam (I tripled this recipe)

3/4 lb. apricots

1 (16 oz.) can pineapple, crushed, packed in its own juice
2 c. pineapple juice or apple juice
1/2 c. sugar, its equivalent or 1/4 c. honey (I used 1 tsp stevia total with my tripled recipe; though next time I'll do honey)
1 pkg. low-calorie pectin
Apricots: Wash and pit firm, ripe apricots. Do not peel. Grind finely in a food grinder. Measure 1 cup of fruit.

Pineapple: Drain pineapple, saving juice. Measure 1 cup of fruit.

Place apricots, pineapple and juice in a 3 or 4 quart saucepan or kettle. If short of fruit or juice, add water or other juice to make 4 cups total mixture. If using sugar, add it to the mixture. If using artificial sweetener, add it after cooked mixture has been skimmed.

Add pectin and stir vigorously to disperse.

Place saucepan or kettle on high heat. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam and pour into glasses. If using artificial sweetener, add it to the mixture, stir and immediately pour jam into glasses. Seal according to package directions. Makes 4 cups.