Sunday, March 16, 2014

Children's Church: St. Patrick's Day

I started this fairly regular feature to share what I've compiled (mostly from Pinterest) with other Sunday school teachers. Find other similar posts here and see more ideas on my Sunday school Pinterest board.

I started this lesson of with a brief telling of the story of St. Patrick.  I had seen the cutest St. Patrick's story bag idea at "Rhythm of the Home." That inspired me to bust out Max's pirate ship and a peg doll so I could act out what happened to him.

Sorry for all the blurry pics. My camera has not been the same since it was hit by a basketball...

Patricus (his Latin name) was kidnapped by pirates and carried to Ireland at age 16. He remained a slave there for many years.  I wrapped a chain (a broken necklace) around the peg doll at this point. After six years, he escaped (removed chain) and went back home (I took the pirate flag off and told the kids he got on a "nice ship" to sail back home). There, he became a priest, but had a heart for the people he had lived among as a young man. So, he went back to the place that probably had a lot of bad memories for him and preached the word of God. I gave my tiny Patricus a little tiny shamrock to use as a prop to teach people about the Trinity.

To split the kids into groups, I had them all line up and grab a pretzel shamrock treat.

These were made from a combination of two ideas: this one from "That's What Che Said" and this larger one from "Visiting Teaching Pinspiration." I used three mini pretzels and three mini Rolos. I melted the Rolos on the pretzels in a 200 degree oven for about two minutes. Then, I smooshed green M&Ms onto each Rolo, popped the pan in the freezer for a few minutes and they were hardened! (Sidenote: If you give up sweets for Lent, don't make these. It's torture! Also, it seems immoral to wipe perfectly good chocolate off your fingers!) I had bought a bag of mint M&Ms, so my shamrocks were three different shades of green. I had my kiddos grab a shamrock, then told them partner up with people who shared their color. Two color groups went to the craft table, where they made shamrocks. The largest color group went with me, where we talked about Lucky Charms marshmallows.

Shamrock Craft:

Before we divided, I had showed them my shamrock craft sample. We had already discussed God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, who lives in us. I showed them how to make the craft, inspired from this one I found on Pinterest by "Bible Story Printables." I had precut a bunch of hearts out of cute green scrapbook papers and punched holes in their point.

All they had to do was write on each heart, cut a stem, and stick a brass brad through all four pieces. I explained how they were separate, but the same (a concept that I can't wrap my own brain around, but I guess that shows how incomprehensible God really is). And when you fold it all up, it makes the shape of a heart, so I quoted 1 John 4:8, "God is love."

Lucky Charms:

Isn't it funny how most "holy"days have been hijacked by cute little characters? What in the world does a leprechaun and a pot of gold have to do with a priest who taught his former slave holders about God?! Anyway, we briefly discussed the real meaning of several holidays and the cute characters that are fun, but easy to get distracted by. Then, I gave each kid a coffee filter (my favorite snack container!) full of Lucky Charms cereal. I told them they could eat the cereal pieces, but they had to leave each type of marshmallow until we'd discussed the shape. Then, they were fair game. I had them find each marshmallow one by one and tell one way that we could make these silly "charms" represent something more important. The kids came up with some things I hadn't even though of - some really deep! I told them what I had written down, including a Bible verse for each one, but applauded their own creativity. Here's what was on the hand-out I made for them to take home afterwards. Most of these came from this post on "This is Katie's Life."

I didn't know about horseshoes and "gold" when I made the hand-out.

rainbow - a symbol that God keeps his promises - Genesis 9:12-13
balloon - God LIFTS our burdens! - Psalm 55:22
heart - God is abounding in love! - Exodus 34:6
star - He is SO big, not only can he count the stars, but he names them, too! - Psalm 147:4-5
moon - Our sorrow only lasts for the night, but joy comes in the morning! - Psalm 30:5
clover - a reminder of the Trinity - Matthew 28:19
horseshoe - We should shod our feet with the gospel of peace. - Ephesians 6:15
gold - God's wisdom is more valuable than gold. - Proverbs 8:10

I learned from the back of the box that the gold is actually an hourglass. Oops. The kids came up with all sorts of great connections. God is bigger than time. God has always been. God invented time. God wants to spend time with us. I'm sure you could find a great verse to go with one of those concepts, too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

H2C: Supper 911

Fine'. This is the end of a series about "How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat." 

Even the best laid plans go wrong. I can't count the number of times I've forgotten to thaw hamburger or take out a lasagna or start the Crock-pot. But here are some emergency supper ideas that take just minutes:

- Frozen pizza, taquitos, burritos, nuggets etc.
- Voila! bag meals
- Frozen tilapia or other individually-packed filets - thaw in warm water for a few minutes; sprinkle with seasonings and it only takes 10-15 mn to bake!
- Buy hamburgers or tacos at a fast food joint and provide your own sides from the pantry
- PBJ (the boys love these nights)
- Snack food (you'll be deemed a master chef if your munchkins are like mine!)
- Big 'ol can of soup
- Tuna salad sandwiches
- Grilled cheese with tomato soup
- Hot dogs (keep them in the freezer and nuke)
- Pizza Quesadillas (cheese, lunch meat or pepperoni, and spaghetti sauce in a tortilla - grill in skillet until cheese melts)

That's it. That's all I got. And even with all these strategies, it can still be a jungle around here at suppertime. But at least the monkeys are usually well-fed.

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

H2C: Leftovers

One more tip in a series about "How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat." 

There's no sense in throwing out leftovers. Especially if they can save you a night of cooking. On my menu, I usually work one "leftover" night into the schedule. I dig out all the containers, let everyone fight over what they want and get my fridge cleaned out! Lately it's been a night when Ryan isn't home or we don't need to eat as much (church night, party, etc.). As these boys grow there is less and less left over. I don't know what I'm gonna do when they're teenagers! 

Besides potluck-stylin' it, there are other ways to use leftovers to save you time. Here are my favorites:

Day 1: Pot roast
Day 2 Copacabana Tacos (courtesy of mi mama)
Day 3: BBQ Pizza (biscuit crust, BBQ meat, cheese - just a flat version of Barbie cups) 

Pot Roast

Copacabana Tacos

- 1 c milk
- 1/4 c (or less) flour
- salt/pepper
- salsa
- cheese
- shredded meat
- tortillas

1) After supper on Day 1, strain out any leftover vegetables and set aside. Drain some of the juices off of the roast and whisk with milk, flour, and seasonings. 
2) Boil until a gravy forms.
3) Mix all ingredients in tortilla shells. 
4) Bake in oven for 350 degrees about 10 mn.


Day 1: Pulled pork or chicken (slow cook in crock pot, drain juices, shred, add BBQ sauce)
Day 2: Random casserole that calls for shredded chicken (just pull some meat out before you add BBQ sauce on day 1)
Day 3: Barbie cups (another Mama Raney special - really just a muffin version of BBQ pizza)

Barbie Cups

- Biscuits
- shredded meat
- BBQ sauce
- cheese

1) Squish 1/2 to 1 biscuit in each muffin tin.
2) Stir meat and sauce together.
3) Stuff muffins with meat and cheese. 
4) Cook according to biscuit directions. 


Day 1: Burritos
Day 2: Chili 


- 1 lb ground beef
- 3 cans chili beans
- splash of V8 juice
- 1 T chili powder
- 1 t cumin
- 1/2 t onion salt
- 1/4 t garlic salt
- pepper
- tortilla shells
- cheese
- salsa

1) Brown hamburger. Drain fat.
2) Simmer all ingredients 20 mn. 
3) Spoon into tortilla shells with salsa and cheese. 
4) Bake in oven 350 degrees for 10 mn.


- V8 leftover from a large can after making burritos
- seasonings

1) Add V8 to remaining meat mixture after making burritos.
2) Season to taste
3) Simmer an hour or leave in Crock-pot on low to bring out the flavors. 

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

Monday, March 10, 2014

H2C: Delegate - or distract

Here's another tip for "How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat!"

I won't lie - making supper seemed impossible when the boys were littler. They were less patient, so it had to be ready sooner, and there were constant interruptions: first diaper changes, dropped binkies, and nursing sessions and then temper tantrums and "final wipes." Now that no one is suction cupped to my leg (or boob), its a whole lot easier - not that I don't have my share of distractions, now in the form of out-of-hand fights. But now, the boys are pretty easy to distract. A few ideas:

- I let them sit down with a tiny snack when they get home. They're content and contained and I can get supper started uninterrupted. I've trained them to take care of their own snacks. We have snack-sized bowls (though they try to sneak larger containers all the time) and food within easy reach.
- If it's nice outside and they're old enough, shoo fly! We're fortunate to live in the country on a nearly traffic-free road. I can see the porch and most of the yard, including the trampoline from my kitchen windows. And Reed and Calvin are pretty good about keeping an eye on Squiggie.
- During the winter and on rainy days, the boys fly through their snack to get to their highly-awaited daily allotment of screen time. Their current obsession is Wii Mario. They scream like banshees and you'd think the couch was a butt trampoline, but remember our goal is contained and content, so it's all good.
- If Reed has homework, he's supposed to do it first thing. This isn't very often, but I figure that will change as they get older.

Distraction isn't my only trick. It's well documented on this site that I want our boys to be independent. My goal is for my future daughter-in-laws to thank me for raising such helpful, neat-freak husbands. Not sure if we'll get all they way there, but I'd settle for helpful. So, I put those turkeys to work. For several months now, they've started "kitchen duty" after the meal. They take care of almost all the clean up but the dishes and leftover storage. It frees me up to do a little cooking ahead for the next nights. Here are kitchen-related things the boys do at least some of the time:

- Set table and get out condiments.
- Pour their own milk if the jug isn't too full. 
- Dish up plates.
- Clear table.
- Wipe table and counters.
- Help me with dishes.
- Sweep and mop (the mopping is usually mostly fake - Max always wants to sweep and he sucks at it, so we give him the mop instead. Strips of my floor are super spotless. The rest? Not so much.) 
- Help cook the meal (This one isn't always very "helpful" so much as "a pain in my butt," but I'm banking on all the spilled flour paying off some day... )

I have a friend who started scheduling her middle school son to cook one night a week. She taught him some basic meals first and by the time he graduated, he had quite a repertoire for a bachelor living on his own. I am SO employing this idea! In a few years, that'll be THREE nights a week I won't have to cook! And, future daughters-in-law, you. are. welcome! Is eight too young to start this?

The other "boy" in my house pitches in, too. In fact, he's a way better cook than I am. He goes in spurts--cooking several nights in a row when we have fresh deer tenderloins. He grills about one night a week in the summer. And this winter, he's invented several awesome soups! He's really creative, and kind of enjoys it, but I don't think I'll ever get him to take over the duty every night. Schedules and the desire to keep our marriage intact don't allow that. I did get him to agree to being "penciled in" as chef one night a week.  It doesn't always work out that way, but it's still nice to have someone to share the load. 

Hmmm, if I play this right, I could get off pretty easy. Here's my "There's hope for the future" plan:

M - Reed's night
T - Calvin's night
W - Max's night
Th - Ryan's night
F - leftover night
Sa - eat out (or adopt another teenager with stellar cooking skills)
Su - It's the Sabbath. I can't cook. We'll figure out something...

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ponytails it is...

We've been celebrating snow days #21-25 this week. So, it goes without saying that we've been living in our jammies. But Saturday I got fancy and did my hair AND my make-up AND got dressed in something other than a hoodie. I was feeling pretty good about myself....until Max crawled on my lap and said, "I think you don't look good." I questioned him a bit and determined that he did, in fact, think I looked ugly at the moment. He saw the runner's magazine I was reading (because I'm such an avid runner, of course) and pointed to this blonde and said, "I wished you looked like dis girl."

Me too, Buddy, me too. Probably not gonna happen in this lifetime, but thanks for utterly destroying my self-esteem.

I was feeling pretty crappy, when I considered what I've looked like all week and a ray of hope shined down on me. I went for it. I pulled my hair into a pony tail with my fingers and asked him if he thought I looked good now. His face lit up, like "THERE'S my mommy!" and he told me that I did look good now. Men!

Barf Etiquette

My dear, sweet children,

While it pains me that all three of you have been under the weather in the last week, it has also come to my attention that I've failed to teach you the ins and outs of being sick. Here are a few tips on how to barf without making mom and dad have to go to the (mental) hospital.


It would be good if you could get together with your brothers and work out a suitable schedule. Thank you for spacing Reed out a week before Calvin and Max this go-around. And sandwiching your ralphs around five snow days was a good move too. However, barfing events on the eve of a bonfire party and a child's birthday party is not great -- especially when you are running around like it never happened the day of the events and the healthy siblings and I have to sneak out of the house without you.

Don't tell your dad I said this, Max, but way to go blowing your chunks while mommy was running errands. Calvin, you could learn something from your brother. For example, don't wait until Dad goes outside to feed the animals and mom is about to get home. If you do, please act sick and lay down near your puke or go ahead and start cleaning up instead of going back to watching your movie with puke on your sleeve, m-kay?


Here is a list of acceptable barf targets:

- toilet
- standard-issue barf bucket
- outside

Please refrain from using these spots again:

- All over 2 pillows and the 7 million blankets you insist on being covered up with at night.
- Your almost-asleep baby brother
- The couch cushions, blanket, pillows and all other semi-permeable surfaces in the living room
- Corny Cornopolis, our beloved (so much so that we named him and wrote a song about him) corn pillow, whom we heated up to soothe your belly
- The carpet right outside the room where you left your barf bucket, particularly if that location is within easy shooting distance of the toilet
- The carpet right inside the room where you think Dad is, even though he most assuredly told you (while you were in a movie-induced stupor) that he was going outside to do chores

You all seem fine today, what with your bouncing around on the butt trampoline barf catcher couch playing Mario, but I never would have guessed that the last spew would occur mere hours after you were chasing each other around the house with battle axes. So, if there are more chunks in our future, know that I love you and feel for you, but PLEASE, PLEASE hit the toilet!


H2C: Don't Forget the Sides

Still putting out ideas for my series: How to Cook Supper When it's Already Time to Eat.

Side items are the bane of my existence. I think the reason I love casseroles and all-in-one pot dishes is so that I don’t have to come up with companion foods. When I’m on my game (it’s a rare occurance) I have sides pre-made and stored in the fridge. We might eat on one for a few meals. Here are my easy go-to sides:

- Be lazy paleo/clean eating/(insert trendy diet name here) and call fresh fruits and raw veggies a side item. I serve fruit washed in a small colander - fruit doesn’t last long in this household, so I just store the colander in the fridge. I also have a colander of fruit on the table for decoration and handy eating. We take our veggies washed and cut up, served with Ranch dressing for dipping (We just started using sour cream and ranch powder since we just figured out that it has way less fat and calories than ranch dressing - and it's WAAAAY better)

- Salad - I chop up a head of iceberg and a package of leaf lettuce, shred a carrot or two with my big box shredder, and maybe cut up a cucumber or some green onions and store it in a large, lidded bowl. I also try to keep salad toppings and/or homemade croutons on hand. One head of lettuce will usually get us through 2-3 meals. If we want tomatoes or cheese, I store it separate and we just put it on at the table so the salad doesn’t get soggy. A pasta salad would work well, too.
- Seasoned butter for toast - I stir garlic salt, oregano, basil, and other herbs and spices into a stick of butter and store for a quick swipe onto toast
- Canned fruit salad
- Warm up canned goods - Baked beans, green beans, corn, and other canned goods don’t take long to season and heat up.
- Boxed pasta or rice sides

In the summer, when we’re overwhelmed with garden produce, this is a “salad” I try to keep on hand.

Cucumber and Tomato salad

- cucumber
- tomatoes
- onion
- dressing (I use sweet vinegar and oil. My mother-in-law uses seasoned rice vinegar. I’ve had a delicious concoction of vinegar, olive oil, sugar, and spices. They're all good--play around with it)

1) Thinly slice all vegetables and toss with dressing
2) Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

H2C: Cook Tomorrow's Supper After Tonight's

Here's the fourth tip from the series How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

If I get home around 5:00 and we want to eat at 6:00, I probably don’t have time to cook and dice chicken, cut up vegetables, and assemble it all into a casserole that takes 45 minutes in the oven. But if the casserole is already put together and I just throw it in the oven when I get home, I have 45 minutes to get ahead for the next night. This is how I do a lot of my cooking--either while tonight’s supper is cooking or after the meal is eaten and I’m cleaning up. Either way, tomorrow’s supper gets at least partially prepped tonight.

This method works great for casseroles and Crock Pot meals. We eat Meal #1 tonight, but I prep two lasagnas. One I’ll keep in the fridge, then chuck in the oven when I get home tomorrow evening. The other goes in the freezer for another time.

If you can’t prep a whole meal, you can at least get ahead. If I need chopped onions tonight, but I know I’ll also need them for two other meals I have planned this week, I just chop of extra and store it in the fridge. I do the same for shredded cheese and seasoned olive oil or butter for breads or toast.

One of my family’s favorite recipes is my mom's fried rice. Although it is good leftover, it’s best served hot and crispy. Even though we love it, I often don’t put it on the menu, because it requires a lot of chopping and dicing. But if I pre-chop all the veggies and have the meat already cooked, it really doesn’t take that long. I just have to throw it all together and fry it.

Fried Rice

- 4 servings rice
- 1/3 c olive oil
- matchstick or shredded carrots
- diced onion
- diced peppers
- water chestnuts
- 1/2 c frozen peas and/or frozen stir fry veggies
- 3-6 eggs
- Cooked, chopped meat (chicken, fish, deer steak, etc.)
- 1/8 c Asian ginger dressing
- 1/3 c soy sauce

1) Cook rice and meat (or use thawed meat from your freezer stash).
2) Saute' fresh veggies in oil.
3) Push veggies to side, add eggs and scramble in oil.
4) Add dressings and frozen vegetables until thawed.
5) Add rice and meat. Cook until rice starts to get crispy.

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

Friday, March 7, 2014

H2C: Whatta Crock!

This is the next installment in a series about cooking when you really don't have time to cook. For the rest of the series, start here.

There’s something about coming home to the smell of a meal that’s cooked all day in a slow cooker that makes you feel like a rock star. Also, slow cooked meals are often healthy and have several food groups all rolled into one meal. My favorite use for the Crock-pot is cooking chicken from frozen to shreddable. I have a lot of recipes that call for cooked, cut-up chicken. My sister-in-law taught me that you can throw frozen chicken in the pot with a cup or two of chicken broth and some seasoning and come home to perfect, shreddable chicken. I just dump off the broth and stir the chicken with a fork and it’s ready to throw in my chicken dish. You changed my life, Jenica! You can also just add BBQ sauce to the shredded chicken (or a beef or pork roast cooked all day in juice) and have excellent BBQ sandwiches with no effort.

Almost any soup recipe can be made in a slow cooker. I dump all the ingredients in the pot the night before, cram the pot in the fridge, and set it in the cooker the next morning.

There are a wealth of Crock-pot freezer recipes. I think I have four sites pinned on Pinterest (on my cooking board or my "did it" board) each linking to four or five recipes. The beauty of these recipes is that you make them ahead (on a weekend or some other free time), throwing all the ingredients together in a gallon freezer bag. The day you want the meal, you just peel the bag off of the ice chunk, throw it in the Crock-Pot, and come home to a hot veggie and meat entree. Our two favorite freezer bag recipes:

Teriyaki Pork Chops and Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches (and several others) from Saving You Dinero

And another favorite, though I've never tried to bag and freeze this one:

Cashew Crock-pot Chicken from Sally Cooks

Note: If you Crock-pot the broccoli like the recipe says, it overpowers the dish (and your house, with the smell. I mean, BAAAAD!!!). The second time around, I steamed the broccoli in the microwave and added it at the table. I also added cashews just for the last few minutes to warm them up so they'd stay crunchy.

Finally, our favorite crock pot recipe of all time, courtesy of my mom.

Not quite sure how I got the lid on this beast...

Easy Roast and Veggies

- large roast (I'm not skilled enough in the world of meat to tell you what kind. I'm sure I've tried rumps, pork butts, beef, and other words that I'm not recalling right now, and it's always good. Just look for a big hunk of meat surrounded by fat and you should be good...)
- Worcestershire sauce
- carrots, cut into large slices (or baby carrots)
- potatoes, cut into large chunks
- salt, pepper

1) Place roast in slow cooker, fatty side up. Surround with veggies.
2) Glub almost a whole bottle of Worcestershire sauce over the bad boy.
3) Salt and pepper to your liking.
4) Slow cook on low for 8-10 hours. 
5) Skim off fat, shred, and enjoy!

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

H2C: Mrs. Freeze

This post is part of a series called: How to Cook Supper When it's Already Time to Eat, cheesily referred to as H2C.

In addition to the wealth of freezer cooking recipes you can find online, there are a lot of ways to use your freezer to make meal time a breeze. Consider these ideas:
When you make a casserole, double the recipe, cook one now and freeze one for later. Smaller families could split a single recipe into two smaller pans and save themselves from having to eat lasagna six nights in a row.

Search "Crock-pot freezer meals" on Pinterest and prepare to be amazed! I don't cook a months worth like so many bloggers do, but I will put together two or three similar recipes in gallon bags when I'm already chopping onions and I have a little extra time. If you take the blade out of your blender, it makes a perfect container to prop open the gallon bags while you pour in liquids.

Brown two or three pounds of burger with onions, peppers, and shredded carrots. Bag it and freeze it. Now when a recipe calls for browned hamburger, you just have to grab a bag and you’ve already got veggies added in. I’ve started doing this to cut down on the amount of meat we eat, too. I brown 2 lb of deer burger with veggies, use 1/3 for that night’s meal and split the remaining meat into two freezer bags. Now I’m reducing the meat in recipes by 1/3 pound and prepping ahead. I also cook up a bunch of chicken at one time, shred it, and freeze it in small containers.

When you make waffles, french toast or pancakes, make extra and freeze. All you have to do is pop them in the toaster the next morning!
Make burritos and freeze individually wrapped in foil. Bag the bunch in the tortilla bag and get out only what you need.

Cut up peppers or onions, shred zucchini, or puree’ sweet potatoes and freeze in small containers, like baby food jars. You’ve just saved yourself some prep work for a future meal. This works great when you have an abundance of produce or need to use something up before it spoils.
Do you have more leftovers than you can handle? Freeze em’ and you have a bonus meal - or at least a side. If you freeze a little bit of soup, just add sandwiches another night for a beefier meal.

Reed’s favorite meal (from a friend, neighbor, and former coworker - thanks, Tina!) is one you can make and freeze partially. We eat it for supper, but it also works great for breakfast when you have company and want to look like a super hostess, but don’t want to get up at the butt crack of dawn to do it.

Breakfast Casserole

- cooked, crumbled bacon and/or sausage
- can of biscuits or crescent rolls
- shredded cheese (about 2 c)
- 4-8 eggs
- 3/4 c milk
- salt/pepper
- butter

1) Butter a 9x13 pan. Mush biscuits into a crust.
2) Sprinkle meat and cheese on top of biscuits.
3) Freeze at this point (or not). Put in fridge to thaw the night before you want to use.
4) Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl and pour over biscuits.
5) Cook 15 mn (or until eggs are done) at 425 degrees.

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

H2C: Meal Planning

This post is part of a series called: How to Cook Supper When it's Already Time to Eat  (H2C - cheesy, I know, but it was better than H2CWIAT2E). 

I hate, hate, hate driving home knowing I have no plan for supper. I don't even drive past a gas station, much less a restaurant, so fast food isn't an option. And we're tightwads, so there's not usually a pizza in the freezer, though that would be smart...

So, once a week, I sit down with a grocery ad flier, shopping list, recipes, our calendar and a notecard. First, I flip through the grocery ads and put items that are on sale on my shopping list. I try to keep ingredients stocked by buying multiples of things we use often while they’re on sale. If the sale ads inspire a meal for the week, even better. 

The next thing I look at are my recipes. In addition to Pinterest ideas, I have cookbooks and a binder full of ideas I’ve torn from magazines. Anything I try and we like gets written on a recipe card and added to the recipe box. The boys have invented an elaborate scoring method for new meals. It's called "thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs sideways, one thumb up/one thumb slightly up, both thumbs up with an exaggerated happy face, etc." Their assessment of spaghetti squash replacing noodles in our normal spaghetti recipe? Let's just say it didn't rank up there with sopapilla ice cream...

Most of our meals are planned from the tried-and-true box, but I try to sneak a new idea in about once a week to keep things interesting. I also try to keep in mind if we have anything about to spoil that needs to be used up quickly. 

After I’ve found five or six meals I’d like to make that week, I pull out the recipe cards (or  magazine page) and stash them in the front of the recipe box so they’re easy to find. Then, I look at our calendar and see what nights I need quick-and-easy and what nights I can spend a little more time chopping and dicing. I plan a slow cooker meal or leftovers on nights when I know there will be no time to cook. 

Then, I write up a menu on an index card. If the recipe came from Pinterest or a cookbook, I write the page number or location on the card so it’s easy to find. If I need to prep something a day ahead of time (like Crock-pot meals), I make a note on the card so I don’t forget. I clip this menu to a cute mini clipboard in my pantry. 

I actually stole this post idea from my sister. She has had two of the cutest menu boards ever! See her first menu board and read about how she plans meals for two here. Since that post, her glass menu board broke, and she's replaced it with this one from Ikea:
My sister-in-law does her meal planning the high-tech way. She posts her weekly meal plan on her blog, linking each recipe to its source. Then, she makes notes about certain recipes that go over well or flop. Check out her latest "Meal Deal" here.

With a plan in place, half the suppertime battle is over. Now I just have to execute...

For 7 more tips, follow the links at How to Cook When it's Already Time to Eat.

Sharing Momma's Addiction

If you follow me on Pinterest, I'd like to apologize for the recent action on my account. No, I haven't been pinning huge stallion tattoos on my Sunday school board (true story with a lesson learned - don't forget to log off of public computers). But you may think I have a secret Batman obsession. Nope. That would be my boys. You see, I turned the boys loose on Pinterest. They wanted to pin the Lego results that wowed them, and I just couldn't let their annoying pins interfere with the cute parenting ideas I've curated in my "kiddo board." So I gave them their own board: titled Stupid Boy Stuff. They were offended by the title, but it didn't stop them from using it. Fortunately for me, and anyone who follows me, they weren't really listening when I gave pinning instructions. So, only the last eight dumb things they admired actually made it to the board, after I stupidly repeated the directions. So, if you love Legos and superheroes, feel free to follow the board, otherwise, do what I do to people's cleaning hints and paleo diet boards and click "unfollow."


Children's Church: Lent

I've been posting Sunday school ideas each week in case there are other teachers out there in need of ideas. Check out others here.

I won't be teaching this lesson on Ash Wednesday, but on the Sunday afterward, but I thought I'd post it early in case anyone was scrounging for Wednesday night ideas. Not all of my kids will have even heard of Lent, but I think getting them thinking about Easter and its importance can only be a good thing. 

First, I'll give the kids four different colored papers with Easter verses on them. While I teach the lesson, they'll be cutting the papers into strips and taping them in order to make a scripture chain. Each link of the chain has a verse about Jesus' last days on earth, death, or resurrection. They'll remove and read one a day. There are 43 links, which will get them from the Sunday after Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. The links are numbered, but I split them among four pages and printed them on different colored paper, so the chain will have a cute pattern.  I've attached the pdf version of the scripture chain.  


While they cut and tape their little hearts out, I'll introduce the kids to Lent with a quick Prezi I made. Embedded in it are three short video clips about Jesus in the desert. I've posted two of them here in case the Prezi doesn't work. The third one was a Lego stop-motion animation narrated by a kid, but I couldn't get it to embed here for some reason. 

Then, I'll tell them the story of the pretzel. Basically, some monks had given up milk and eggs for the Lenten season. They made a special bread with water, flour, and salt. Then, one monk took the dough and shaped it into the traditional pretzel shape to represent arms folded in prayer, the way people prayed in those days (hands crossed over chest) After learning the history of pretzels, we eat them!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Cook Supper When It's Already Time to Eat

My least favorite hour of the day is the time between walking in the door and sitting down to supper. We're tired. We're cranky. And a thousand demands descend upon me before the key is outta the front door. I once made a "No asking for anything until mom's shoes are put away" rule. It worked for awhile, but they didn't fall for the trick where I never put my shoes away....

So, I pretty much hate getting supper ready. It's not that I mind cooking, it's just that time, budget, and tastes coupled with a million other after-school demands makes meal preparing a stressful time. But I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that have helped me serve mostly home-cooked meals with semi-regularity (ignore all the qualifiers - I’m not pretending to be Martha!) I've decided to compile these ideas on this blog as a series. Below are six ideas I use that help tame the supper stress. For each one, I’ll elaborate in a future post.

1) Plan 

Given the time and ingredients, I would rather cook a seven-course meal for my family then to come up with a quick and easy idea on the fly. There’s nothing I hate more than coming home with no idea what we’re going to have for supper. That’s where we’re blessed to live far away from fast food, or I’m sure we'd be eating Big Macs every night. I don’t particularly enjoy coming up with supper ideas, but I’d sure rather do it with a little time to think and prepare than an hour before we’re supposed to be eating it. I’ve found if I sit down and plan out a week’s meals, I’m already that much ahead of the game. I have the groceries on hand, I never have to worry about what meat is thawed, and I’m able to work around our schedule.

 2) Use your freezer 

There are tons of freeze-ahead recipes to be found online. There are even entire cookbooks devoted to the topic. I get excited about the idea of spending one afternoon and having 44 meals, but realistically, it probably ain’t gonna happen around here. Instead, I do a little at a time.

3) Crock-pot it 

While I don’t want to eat every meal from a Crock-pot, I do love me some hot, savory-smelling dinner ready when I walk through the door. I probably cook one night a week this way. I just have to remember to start it in the morning...

4) Make ahead 

If we could eat supper at 9:00 every night, we’d have gourmet cooking (and by gourmet, I mean not Hamburger Helper). But every single one of us gets cranky when not fed, and I really enjoy our early bed time, so a late supper is not an option. But I can take advantage of the time after supper to make life easier for tomorrow’s meal.

5) Have side items on hand 

This is my weakest area. I’m pretty good about planning main dishes and getting them ready on time, but I totally forget about sides until the food is about to hit the table. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that make me look like I prepared sides, when really, they were just in my fridge already and I grabbed them at the last minute. Whatevs.

6) Delegate and distract 
Put your family members to work. Or if they can’t stand the heat, get em’ outta the kitchen!

7) Plan for leftovers 
"Leftovers" doesn’t have to be a dirty word. In addition to one meal a week being a clean-out-the-fridge potluck affair, I also work leftovers into the menu plan by using them in new ways the next night.

8) Prepare for the (inevitable) worst

It's gonna happen. I'm going to be running late or feeling crappy or forget to thaw the meat. It's good to have some back up plans.