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Friday, February 26, 2010

You do what?

Why do we homeschool?

I remember when I was in grad school studying to be a school librarian. We discussed vouchers, charter schools, and homeschooling. At the time (pre-kids), I thought that only insane people would homeschool. Why on earth would someone want to be with their kids all day? How do they have the patience? What about time with other kids?

Ah yes. Before kids. When I was an expert on it all.

Fast forward to the birth of my first son. A few months after he turned 2, my friends started asking me where he would be going to preschool. At the time, we were broke. I couldn't have sent him to school if I had wanted to. And, I started thinking, maybe I didn't really want to. I mean, he was only 2. A baby! He didn't need to go to school yet, anyway. He seemed perfectly content to collect rocks and sit on my lap and read books.

Then, at work one day, my co-worker mentioned that she had homeschooled her kids until high school. And I knew she wasn't a denim-jumper-wearing, kids-in-a-bubble-of-crazy mom. So I started researching it.

Let me tell you, nothing is worse then a librarian on a personal research project.

I got every book that might remotely be related to the subject of homeschooling. I read articles from magazines. I looked online. I filled myself up with information. Then I took the idea to Hub.

Hub, after finding out it was legal, was delighted! Thankfully, he has always supported me in the best way that he can. He doesn't complain when there's cereal for dinner. He is okay with a project being spread all over the table. He sends me out to meet friends and drink coffee.

After that discussion with Hub, here are our reasons for homeschooling:

1. We want our kids to love learning.
If kids have a good attitude about learning new things, they will continue to learn new things as adults. Learning is fun! I think back to my own educational experiences, and the thing that I loved most was History. No offense to my teachers (I did have one excellent History teacher in 11th grade), but I loved it because my parents took me to every plantation and battlefield they could find. What? It's Sunday? Must be time to go to Williamsburg! I was largely annoyed by these trips, as I just wanted to sleep. But, once I got there, I loved it. I loved it so much that I majored in History in college.

Learning is not drudgery. The world is HUGE! I hope that my children are always curious and always want to know how things work and why things happen.

2. Time spent with family.
Family is where you can find out who you are. It is where you are always loved and accepted. We don't always get along. We are together a lot. But, we are forced to resolve problems quickly. We have to figure out how to make it work.

3. We get to be there for our children's "a-ha" moments.
It is like watching your baby take his first steps. I love to see those moments when my kids finally understand things! Nothing is better than when they start connecting the things they've learned.

4. It's flexible.
I love how flexible homeschooling is! We don't do "school at home" with desk work and workbooks. We are very hands-on. Our school work has traveled to Missouri for a visit with my sister. We've set it aside for a week at the beginning of spring in order to play outside. We snuggle and read when someone is sick. If something isn't working, we can chuck it and try another approach.

I can think of a number of other reasons. Let's call them bonuses, as they don't necessarily influence our decision to homeschool. These might include money saved on trendy clothes, less peer pressure (for now, at least), no carpooling, etc.

You may notice that I didn't list religious reasons. When we made this decision, it was not for religious reasons. Hub and I are both Christians, and 2 of our kids have become Christians as well. But I feel like whether they were in traditional school or at home, they would still have that influence. I suppose I could rant on about this topic, but I would surely alienate all 2 of my readers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Heat of the Moment

Asia is not just a lame 80s band. Here's a run-down of tonight's Asian-inspired menu.

I have made this chicken a couple of times. I vaguely remember it being based on a recipe, but it has been sufficiently tweaked to make it mine. My son, Scrappy, thinks this is the very best thing he's ever eaten.

Before we get to the chicken, let's prep the broccoli. I was supposed to make a broccoli rabe dish from Eating Well magazine. Well, my local store doesn't carry broccoli rabe. Here I was, all ready to try something new! I figure, hmmm. Broccoli. Broccoli rabe. I'll just buy broccoli and maybe the sauce will be good on that. I'm here to say--it is!!!

So, chop up your broccoli (I am a horrible person who prefers the tops, but the rest of you can peel and chop the stem too). Steam it until it is just shy of being done. Seriously, you can invest in a steamer basket. It is the best way to cook broccoli and they are like $2 at Target. Run a little cool water over them so they'll stop cooking and set them aside. Nobody wants to eat your mushy, over-cooked broccoli.

Vietnamese-Flavored Broccoli

In a small bowl, combine:
1 tbsp. fish sauce (nam pla)
1 1/2 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8-1/4 tsp. crushed pepper flakes

Stir until the sugar dissolves, and set it aside until we're ready.

As for fish sauce, I kept seeing it over and over again in recipes. I would just omit it in the past. But I have to say, I am happy I finally broke down and bought it.

Honey-Soy Chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half to make 6 pieces (you can just use 6 breasts if you want, but I'm cheap and we don't need to eat that much meat)
soy sauce
garlic powder (or some fresh minced garlic)

Place the chicken pieces in a dish or bowl. Pour soy sauce over top and about halfway up the sides. I probably used about 1/2 cup. Sprinkle your garlic and pepper over top. Let it sit there a while (on your counter is fine; it won't kill you)--at least 10 minutes (or however long it takes to prep the carrots).


Garlic Carrots

4 -6 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. oil of choice
1/4 c. water
1/4 tsp. thyme (more or less)

Heat the oil in a pot (choose one that has a lid) over medium-high. Saute the carrots and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the water, and the seasonings (season to taste). Cover with lid. Start small with your seasonings, because you can just add more at the end. Trust yourself. You can do it. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and let the carrots steam. They need to cook about 8-10 minutes.

Back to the chicken.

Heat up your skillet to medium-high with about 2-3 tbsp. of canola oil. Put the chicken in the pan, along with the marinade. Mmmmmm....

Pause to enjoy the smell of your tasty dinner. Your chicken is so happy. It's browning, so leave it alone. After a couple minutes, flip the chicken. Let it brown on the second side for a minute or two. Turn it down to medium and cover the pan for about 5-7 minutes (this depends on the thickness and quantity of your chicken). Take the lid off, and drizzle the chicken with some honey. Flip it over so the honey starts to caramelize. You weren't sure until I said, "caramelize." But now you know you have to make this, huh? Drizzle more honey and flip again. Try to control your drooling. When your chicken is done, put it on a plate. I like to pour a little bit of the sauce over top.

I'm sorry this isn't the greatest photo. But face it, I'm not a photographer.

Let's see. The chicken is done. The carrots are done. Now, the broccoli.

Heat up another skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp. canola oil. Toss in the broccoli, and cook about 1-2 minutes to heat up. Pour the sauce over top and toss. Heat about 1 more minute.

Dinner is done.

Go. Try it. And you can kiss me later. (After your brush your teeth.)


I posted on Facebook today that I was making blondies, and a lot of people had never heard of them. It turns out that blondies have a long history, and can trace their roots back to ancient times, when Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians made a dense honey cake that resembled today's blondie. Blondies are also known as butterscotch brownies.

Blondies with Chocolate Chips

2 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips

Grease a 13x9 glass dish or baking pan. In a medium pot, melt butter over medium heat with brown sugar, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly--a few minutes. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Quickly mix in chips, and spread into pan. Your mixture will look swirly and that is okay. They will be delicious. For a traditional blondie, leave out the chocolate. I think things are better with chocolate. That's just my opinion. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. You can test it with a toothpick, but I think if the toothpick comes out totally clean, it means you over-baked them. Mine baked about 27 minutes, and they were perfect.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 2/22



ravioli with homemade sauce


honey-soy chicken breast
Vietnamese broccoli rabe
garlic carrots


blueberry waffles


Lemon-Herb Chicken with veggies


Italian egg-drop soup


Hub's in charge while I'm at MOPS retreat!


big luncheon at church this day, so maybe just eggs and toast

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Make it Homemade!

We're coming to the end of crock pot week around here. I always loved my crock pot, but I learned this week how I really have little to no excuse for not making dinner! Thanks to the FlyLady plan, my kitchen is clean. This used to be the biggest hindrance to my cooking. When I would survey the sink full of dirty dishes and counters cluttered up with toys and papers, I would just think, "ugh, why bother?" Then I would order pizza. And I don't even like restaurant pizza as much as I like my own. Seriously. I don't like sacrificing taste.

Anyway, so now the kitchen is always clean, or about 2 minutes away from being clean. As a result, we are spending far less money on going out to eat mediocre food. Because let's face it, most kid-friendly restaurants aren't that good. Though all of that being said, I will still go out, and I will still enjoy it. I just want to be more selective. You have to eat to live. But you have to eat everyday, and, for me, I figure we might as well like what we eat.

Back to the crock pot. It does require planning. I've always been a bit of a meal planner. I used to do a month at a time, as Hub only gets paid once a month. I have gotten much better at budgeting, and we no longer feast weeks 1-3 and scrounge during week 4. Point is, I like planning out our meals. I only plan one week at a time now, though. I find I am much better at sticking to it.

How do I meal plan? I start by looking at the calendar for next week. Monday nights we are gone from 3:45-6:45. I almost always use the crock pot on Mondays, or make something like tacos before we leave. Then when we get home, I just heat up the meat and we just assemble them. Tuesday is errand day, which means grocery day. Tuesdays I like to cook with a lot of fresh veggies, while they are still fresh. So I plan accordingly--grilled chicken salad, stir-fry, etc. You get the picture. I look at the week, and I plan dinner from there.

I also plan breakfast and lunch as well. Again, this really goes back to the monthly paycheck, so I have to be aware of the food situation. The breakfast and lunch plans are more loose, as I don't really care which day we eat each of the meals. I just know that I have all those foods in the house. Monday might say mac & cheese, but if we want to eat Thursday's planned pb&js on Monday, we will. We can have mac & cheese another day.

I'm the wife and mom around here. In our home, this makes me not only the cook, but the nutritionist as well. I want to provide healthy meals for our family. Not everything I make is 100% healthy. But at least I know what we're eating. I know how much fat, salt, dye, corn syrup, and chemicals we're putting into our bodies. Yes, sometimes we are going to eat Oreos, and we are going to like them. But, you can't tell me that an elf makes a better chocolate chip cookie than I do.

Oh yeah, all this meal planning saves you money too!

Okay, I am stepping down off my box now. Here's today's crock pot recipe:

Cuban Black Beans and Rice (Thanks to Betty Crocker for this one. We can't all be gourmets!)

1 lb. dried black beans (2 cups), sorted (you're looking for little stones or funky shriveled beans), rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped (minced is fine)
2 bay leaves
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with liquid
5 c. water
2 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
4 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. finely chopped jalapeno (I don't have a fresh one, so I am using a few sliced pickled ones)
1 tsp. salt
3 c. hot rice for serving

Mix everything but the rice in your crock pot. Cover and cook on high 6-8 hours until beans are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Discard bay leaves. Serve over rice.

Estimated cost of this whole meal is about $4. (6 servings)

My kids eyed this with great suspicion. Hub and I thought it was tasty. I ended up freezing the rest to mash up and mix into enchiladas or taco pie. I will hide them under cheese so the kids won't complain as much. They just don't know what's good sometimes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Toffee Brownies

I'm crabby today. What solves crabby better than chocolate!? (That's rhetorical, people.)

Did I mention that I also feel lazy today? Sad, but true. Crabby and lazy often go together around here.

Toffee Brownies

1 box brownie mix, according to box directions
some chocolate-toffee chips

Viola! Nothing but the fanciest stuff around here today. I just mixed the box mix up according to the directions on the back of the box. I accidentally (or desperately?) bought a milk chocolate brownie mix last time I was at the store, since the real ones were sold out. Take my word for it, they are just wrong. I think I had 2 or 3 boxes, and this is the last one (thank goodness). Basically, this recipe is an attempt at making them edible for someone other than a 3 year old.

Where was I? Oh yes. Brownie mix. I just stirred in some Heath pieces that I had leftover from my intentions at Christmas. I didn't use the whole bag, because you never know when a toffee emergency will strike later on and I'll need to just eat them straight from the bag. Let's be honest here. We all do it.

Right. So, mix the pieces in, and bake according to the box. Mine are in a 13x9 glass dish, so they will bake maybe 25 minutes (at 350), tops. Do me, and everyone you love, a favor. Don't over bake your brownies.

Now, generally, I am opposed to frosted brownies. Not as much as I am opposed to the cake brownie, but that is another post for another time (probably never). But, since I am trying to figure out a way to make the milk chocolate brownies work, I whipped up a little powdered sugar frosting.

With thanks to Better Homes and Gardens:

Chocolate Powdered Sugar Frosting (or Icing, for those of you who care)

1 c. powdered sugar (the recipe says "sifted," I say "pfft")
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. cocoa (okay, I added more like 3 tbsp. I am having a bad day, remember?)

Mix those up. Then, with your beautiful and well-deserved KitchenAid stand mixer whirring, slowly add in

1-2 tbsp. milk (to desired consistency).

Start slowly with the milk, and add it a bit at a time. Mine is a bit runny today as I'm in a bit of a sloppy, drizzly mood.

Once your brownies come out of the oven, pour the icing over top.

Spread it around.

Okay, okay. You talked me into it. I sprinkled the top with a handful of toffee bits. So sue me.

These were SUPER good. Very rich, so only a little piece is necessary. I couldn't even tell there was a milk chocolate mix under there.

Chocolate DOES make me happy. A girl has to keep her voluptuous figure somehow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Italian Pot Roast

I don't have any photos, but know that this was super good and probably the best pot roast I have ever eaten.

I got it from a Saving Dinner mailer. I did alter it a little bit (increased the veggies, mostly).

Italian Pot Roast

1 3-4 lb. beef chuck roast, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, chopped
6-8 carrots, peeled and chopped
4-6 stalks celery, chopped (I would not put this in until the last hour next time)
1 1/2 c. red wine
1 can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (I don't buy this, so I just used a few shakes of basil, oregano, and parsley)

In a large skillet or pot, brown roast in oil on all sides. You aren't cooking it, just browning it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place roast in crock pot. In same skillet, saute garlic, onion, carrots, and celery (or skip this step for the celery and add directly to crock pot later), until onion is translucent. Place veggies in crock pot. Add red wine to skillet and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let this simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour over the roast. Add tomatoes and seasonings.

Cover and cook on low about 7-8 hours, adding celery toward the end if you choose.

Egg in a Hole

This morning I made Pioneer Woman's Egg in a Hole. It was easy, and fast. And my kids thought their breakfast was very funny! Really, you can't go wrong with this much butter.

I will say, that for me, I had to turn the heat up to med-high after I put the egg in so that the toast would toast. Other than that, an excellent recipe. Do not be afraid to sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the bread.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 2/14


I am taking a stab at making a crockpot meal each night this week. I have a lot of cleaning and schooling to do this week! I don't want to spend all my time cooking (for once).

Italian pot roast

chili with cornbread

leftover chili with crackers

Italian pork chops

shredded buffalo/BBQ chicken sandwiches
celery and carrot sticks with ranch

cuban black beans and rice

ravioli -- not technically a crock pot meal, but I am going to make a batch of homemade sauce on Sunday to go over the ravioli

Week in Review

My loving husband has mentioned that he would like me to post about what we're doing for school. He said once a week, I said once a month. We'll see how it goes.

The Olympics have been our main focus lately. And why not? There is so much potential to use them as a jumping-off point for a number of discussions. Hub spent some time showing Scrappy a bunch of videos about the science of the games. They cover such topics as why lugers and skaters wear those skin-tight suits and where you can "see" kinetic energy transfer from one curling stone to another. Here's a link to a video about the physics of the slap shot.

For math, the kids have been playing games on I'm such a math slacker this week. I better get on that. But, I have to say, this site offers really fun ways for doing drills.

I've been reading aloud from Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary. We all love Ramona, and she is one of my all-time favorite book characters. The kids already have a list of the books they'd like me to read next. That's so exciting! So many books, so little time.

I have definitely been slacking with having Scrappy and Funny do their own reading. This is something I need to be better at, and perhaps by doing these updates, I will hold myself more accountable.

As for writing, I have noticed that I hear very little complaining from Scrappy when he is writing for his Olympics lapbook, which was made by A Journey Through Learning. It's only a little bit of writing at a time, which I guess he finds manageable. Getting an 8 year old to write really is painful. There is a great article about it here.

Here's the progress on our lapbook so far:

These are some highlights of the past week or so. We normally do a nature walk as well, but there's over 2 feet of snow out there. So I have to think about how to get around that...

You can take the girl out of the south....

I've been doing FlyLady (which is probably a whole different post), and as a result of my shiny sink (and the clean kitchen that naturally follows), I have been cooking up a storm. Today I fried up some potatoes for breakfast and they were just so easy and delicious that I had to share.

Fried Potatoes with Onion

4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and baked (I used Yukon Gold)
1/2 medium onion, chopped (more or less, whatever you like)
2-3 tbsp. oil (I used canola, but olive would work)

I baked my potatoes while I was baking something else for last night's dinner. Then I just stuck them on a plate in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you just have to chop them into chunks, the same size for making mashed potatoes, about 1/2-1 inch cubes. They are already cooked, so it doesn't matter that much. You are just going to heat them and make them extra tasty.

Heat up the oil in a skillet on medium-high. When it's hot, toss in the potatoes and chopped onion. Spread them out and then leave them alone.

Sprinkle the salt, pepper, garlic powder (I know, but I was out of real garlic), and really whatever spices you like, over top. We're not making a stir-fry here; you want the potatoes and onions to brown. After a minute or two, you can flip them over with a spatula. Then let them sit again. Season them again if you feel like it. If it makes you feel better, you can stir them around a little at this point, but again, make sure you leave them alone long enough so they are browning. They won't dry out and get crunchy. Well, unless you burn them. When they are as done as you like (I tasted a potato and an onion to be sure), then they are ready to eat!

I really wished I had a bell pepper to put in these potatoes, but I didn't. I recommend one for you, but they were still great with just the onion.

Why is it onions turn into candy when you cook them?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Egg Casserole

I really didn't burn the bacon. But it photographed like that.

If you're like me, you find a number of occasions that call for a breakfast casserole. Or, maybe you have 4 kids and this is a thrifty way to feed them. Either way, I've stumbled upon something tasty here.

Egg Casserole

1 lb. bacon, chopped (I used turkey bacon)
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. shredded cheese (I used extra sharp cheddar)
about 2 cups bread, cubed (I used 5 leftover biscuits)
7-8 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. cumin (more or less or omit, whatever you like)
1 tsp. garlic powder

Fry up the bacon pieces with the onion. I did this the night before so I wouldn't have to do it in the morning. Shred your cheese, if you're shredding your own. Grease/spray a 13x9 casserole dish and put the bread cubes in the bottom. You are looking to cover the bottom. Layer cheese on top, followed by cooked bacon with onion. Whisk together eggs with milk and seasonings. You could add more eggs or milk if you want. Pour over top of your dish. You want the bread to be wet. Let sit at least 10-15 minutes so the bread soaks up some liquid, or cover and chill overnight. If you chill overnight, just pull it out while the oven preheats to come to room temperature. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so, until it's as done as you like.

You can alter this recipe in a number of ways. I know a lot of egg casserole recipes call for dry mustard, and not for cumin and garlic. But I like what I like. I already pretended this was healthy by using turkey bacon, but you could also add a can of mushrooms, or leftover veggies, like broccoli.

Scrappy enjoys his egg casserole with some hot sauce.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Just grab 'em in the biscuit

Goofy even licks the crumbs off this face. He knows good stuff when he eats it.

Nothing says comfort to me more than some homemade bread. Especially biscuits. My grandma taught me how to make them. Grandma says, "you have to be gentle." And she is right! And, the butter has to be cold. That helps them flake. Here's a time when it's good to be flaky.

This is not my grandma's recipe. I have no idea what recipe she used. But a biscuit, I daresay, is more about technique than the recipe.

Today's version is from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (2002). I doubled this recipe and it turned out nicely.

Biscuits Supreme

3 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 c. butter or 1/2 c. butter plus 1/4 c. shortening (I used 2 sticks, since I doubled it, and they were plenty buttery)
1 1/4 c. buttermilk or 1 c. milk (I used milk today)

Preheat oven to 450.

Mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. (I'm not sure why Silly looks so concerned. Who knows what goes on in her 3 year old brain.)

Cut in butter with a pastry blender, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once.

Stir gently with a fork to combine. Turn out onto floured surface (I use my countertop) and knead just a turn or two. Like grandma says, "be gentle." Gently press down and out (don't use a rolling pin, please), about 3/4 inch thick.

Cut dough with a floured biscuit cutter.

Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking pan (or closer if you want them to bake together and have softer sides. Not that I've done it.). Bake 10 minutes until golden. Remove from baking sheet while still warm and serve. With some butter. Or jam. Or ham. Anything.

Cinnamon-y Deliciousness

Okay, so I am sort of obsessed with this blog, Oven Love. I just lurk all over it and dream about making these things. I finally broke down today and baked the Snickerdoodle Blondies. Why?

1. I had everything to make them. Nothing remotely exotic in them.
2. Blondie. Only thing I like better is a brownie. And anyone who knows me understands how much I love a brownie. But this is as close as it gets.
3. Snickerdoodle. Hello??? Best Christmas cookie ever. Well, maybe it's tied with the molasses cookie. But still. Tasty.

For you nutmeg haters out there (you know who you are), you can just leave it out. But you're crazy.

Snickerdoodle Blondies

2 2/3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan. I greased mine with the butter wrappers and used a glass Pyrex. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

In another bowl, cream butter and brown sugar for 3-5 minutes. I don't know why. I guess just make sure you are really combining it well. Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Beat smooth. (Please ignore my counter behind the mixer. It happens.)

Stir in flour until well-combined. This batter gets very thick. Spread in pan. I had to use my hands to pat it down. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl and sprinkle over the batter.

Here it is ready to go in the oven.
Bake 25-30 minutes until the surface springs back when you touch it. Cool (if you can wait); cut.

These are super good. My kids begged for more. If you ask me, that makes it a winner.

See Oven Love's version here. She definitely takes better pictures than I do!

Friday, February 5, 2010

What can I do with this bacon?

It's cold and snowy. So I need soup. I am only sad that I wasn't able to make some bread to go with it. Maybe next time.

Potato Soup

5-6 potatoes, scrubbed and baked (I used Yukon gold, they are so buttery & delicious)
1 box vegetable broth (plus water as needed)
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
bunch cilantro, chopped finely
can chopped green chiles
2-3 (or if you're me, 6 or 7) slices bacon, chopped
1/2 large or 1 medium onion, chopped
some shakes of no-salt seasoning (like Mrs. Dash, but I use Costco brand)
salt and pepper to taste

Cube baked potatoes. Don't burn yourself!

Throw them into a pot with a box of vegetable broth. My broth had honey in it, which at first I thought was super weird, but after tasting, decided it was quite tasty. Add the chiles. Start heating that all up.

Meanwhile, cook your bacon and onion in a separate pan, until it is as done as you like.

Season with whatever seasonings you like (I used Costco's Organic No-Salt Seasoning, because I felt lazy. But garlic, thyme, rosemary, chili powder, cumin, well, really anything would work).

Stir the soup, and when your bacon and onions are done, throw them into the soup. Add a little water (1/2 - 1 cup) if it is getting stew-y instead of soupy. Taste it and be wowed. Add salt & pepper if you feel like it. Toss in the cilantro.

You really don't have to buy the already shredded cheese from your local Stuff-Mart. This is some Amish co-jack (I know we can't all have that, either!) that my mom picked up in Ohio. Thanks Mom! That weird metal thing is a box grater. I know, crazy.

Time elapsed, about 1 minute. Seriously. It tastes better. It isn't coated in that weird non-caking stuff that dries out the already shredded cheese.

Serve into bowls, and top each bowl with some cheese.

Your kids will look at you with suspicion. But don't be fooled. It's delicious.

HNS Outdoor Hour Challenge #2 -- Shhhh!

Tall snowy tree.

Icy crunchy grass.

It's snowing! I knew it was coming and we saved challenge #2 for a snowy day. We worked on being quiet while taking a nature walk. What a perfect day to hear crunching and dripping! The kids noticed snowy spiky trees and icy leaves.

Some questions:

Why does it seem like there is more snow on the downhill slope section of the yard than there is on the steps?

Why does it snow here, but not in Hawaii? Why does it snow so much more in the North Pole?

I guess we'll be investigating snow this week!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It's the Simple Things

Why do I ever think that a lunch from a place where they give me food through a tiny window could be better than the simply delicious goodies I can serve at home?

Flour Children spelling words with their cinnamon alphabet cookies.

That's my lunch. Mmmmm...galas with some real peanut butter.