Friday, December 28, 2012


This year I entered Advent with one goal in mind, to give the kids an experience of Advent and not have Christmas until it got here.  For the most part, it worked. 

We were only 2 days late lighting the advent wreath the first time and managed to light it nearly every evening afterwards.  We had Mary on a donkey and Joseph heading toward Bethlehem on the kitchen wall.  Each day they advanced a little distance.  The kids were so excited on Christmas Eve when they finally got to the kitchen door.

We kept the ever-growing pile of gifts in my room, subject to only occasional glances, and moved it under the tree after the Littles went to bed on Christmas Eve. We replaced our usual bedtime reading with Christmas stories and our usual songs with advent ones.

This year, they finally got the meaning of Christmas.  They did get a few gifts earlier on but I think they finally got that it is really about Jesus bringing the light of God to earth.  It was good for all of us.

And then it was Christmas and it was all about Santa Claus and the presents.  Just being honest.  This first beautiful photo was taken by my niece Lily just before we headed out to church.  You can see the excitement in their eyes!

The lovely lady on the left is my Mother in Law, Gerry Tischler. Tinker (4) is in my arms, then Sunshine (14), The Captain (5) in front, The Blitz (3) in Sunshine's arms, Dear Hubby, and Pepper (16). 

I can't post any more pictures because I don't have a computer anymore and the set-up on the girls' machines requires me copying from one computer to the other and I can't do it.  Maybe later.

Happy fourth day of Christmas, everyone.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Frugal Eating

This week we have been conducting an experiment in social justice.  We have been eating on a food stamps budget. (They aren't called "food stamps" any more, by the way.  Many years ago the stamps were swapped out for encoded cards and the program is called SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.)  I talk about our week in detail in this post on my Bright Life blog.

So here is what we've been eating so far this week and what we have planned for our last days, as well as a bit of detail about the compromises we made to stay on budget. It's getting close to Christmas so our meals are a bit nostalgic.
Cereal and milk, fruit
Lunch - "Snack Plate":  cheese, pretzels, baby carrots, apples
Dinner roast beef spread sandwiches, salad, pickles!

We "cheated" and used a roast from the freezer.  It was "use it or lose it" time for that roast so I thought the action was justified!  It wasn't enough for a main course so we made this spread.  My mother used to make these roast beef sandwiches and we just love them.  Grind cooked roast beef in the meat grinder or food processor, adding in mayonnaise and horseradish (minimal!) until desired consistency is reached.  Mom used to put raw onion in hers.

Yogurt, bananas, dry cereal
Lunch -"Catch as catch can" - eating from the larder
Supper - Surprise Navy Beans and Ham (a gift from my MIL, Gerry Tischler), Cornbread, Salad.

Purchased a fast food breakfast
Lunch - Ramen with veggies (this was a concession; ramen is SO cheap!)
Supper - Zesty Zuchinni Soup, whole wheat crackers, canned peaches

Zesty Zucchini Soup
(With love to Sharon - adapted from South of the Fork cookbook)

6 large or 8 medium zucchini (washed and sliced)
4 large carrots (washed and sliced)
2 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
8 oz. low fat cream cheese
Optional, hot sauce (like Choluhla or Tabasco); fresh parsley

Combine first 5 ingredients in large pot.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook until the carrots are tender.  This takes about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and process small batches in the blender until creamy.  The last batch should be a bit chunky to add texture to the soup.  When all the soup is processed, reheat until just boiling.  Remove from heat, and stir in the cream cheese.  If you're feeling fancy, add some chopped parsley to the top.  Pass the hot sauce with the soup.

Eggs and toast
Lunch - PB&J, apples, baby carrots
Supper - Speedy Spaghetti

Speedy Spaghetti

1-1/4 pounds ground beef (we used  half Italian turkey sausage to cut fat and costs)
20 oz. tomato sauce
15 oz. diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste.
2-1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt

Combine all in large pot and bring to boil.  Add:

20 oz. spaghetti, broken in half.  Stir gently until completely submerged.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20-25 minutes until pasta is tender.

Cereal and Milk
Lunch - Boiled egg, homemade hummus, baked pita chips, fresh veg, fruit
Supper - baked Shrimp Chili Rellenos, Spanish rice, salad (we got some poblanos from Grandpa's garden for this one!  We compromised on the shrimp and bought the jumbo ones with peel on because they were half the price of our original choice.)

Huevos Rancheros, refried beans, baked corn tortilla strips
Lunch - leftovers
Supper - Beer can chicken (in honor of my MIL, Pam Tischler who introduced it to us), roasted sweet potatoes (because Pam's were so yummy last week), biscuits.  (The chicken was free due to a checkout error a couple of weeks ago.)

Shmorn and sausage
Lunch - Sandwiches or leftovers, fresh veggies, fruit
Supper - Pork chops (on sale!), mashed potatoes, corn (from frozen)

 So that's our week.  I think we ate pretty well.  I was worried about affording the fresh fruit and veggies but it worked out; we did eat a lot of bananas, apples and grapefruit because they were cheap and no berries, grapes or oranges because they weren't!  We could not afford fresh herbs so used the dried herbs from the pantry. You can see we ate almost no red meat and very little meat of any kind -- that saved a ton of money.  Truthfully, this is our normal eating.  The compromises were in the kinds of meat and produce we purchased rather than how much.

For our thoughts on how it is working for us and our plans for a longer experiment, refer to the Bright Life blog.  Happy eating!

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Monday, and I'm joining in her Menu Plan Monday link-up.  But I'm taking a non-traditional approach to this task just once . . . I'm only giving you my plan for Thursday so you can either decide I'm nuts, too traditional, or wrangle for an invite.  Starred* items are gluten free and vegetarian.

Lately I have had a focus on hospitality.  I hope that it comes across at our family table.  I am truly so grateful for both families I am blessed to be a part of and this year (as most) family tops my list of things I am oh, so thankful for.  Thus, this menu.  We have one more menu item than we do people eating so I think everyone will be full!

Thursday, Thanksgiving!
Carrot Cake Jam on Cream Cheese*
Regular crackers
Gluten free crackers*
Crudites* (complements of a guest)

Green Salad* (complements of a guest)
Mulligatawny Soup - Vegetarian base with Tofu*
Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Stuffing*
Stuffing (half with walnuts, half nut-free)
Turkey (cooked in our oil-free infared Big Easy cooker)
Mashed Potatoes*
Cranberry sauce* (with a touch of orange and Grand Mariner)
Sweet Potatoes* (roasted; no marshmallows)
Green beans* (complements of a guest)

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust
Pike's Peak Apple Crisp (with oat flour instead of wheat)
Sparkling Pineapple Soup (adults only!)

I hope your Thanksgiving is truly sweet and that you both wake and fall asleep counting your blessings!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I cannot believe it is almost Halloween already.  Wasn't it just a minute ago I was frantically making Wizard of Oz costumes for everyone?  Oh yes, I meant to sell those costumes this year.  Ooops.  Maybe next year!

Well that was then and this is now!  After our "second honeymoon" cruise to Alaska, life was a little too chaotic for costume making.  We have an "everyday hero" theme planned for this year and all the costumes are "boughten" ones.  The Blitz will be a fireman and he loves his new boots so much he wears them 18 hours a day.  Tinkerbelle will be a nurse; her love of the medical profession started after that trip to the hospital in May.  The Captain is an army hero; our family appreciation for members of the military seems to have rubbed off on him.  Sunshine will be a police woman and Pepper, Rosie the Riveter.  So fun.  Daddy seems to usually pull off a costume at the last minute.  He's my hero everyday so maybe he can just wear his blue jeans!

We are really enjoying the autumn.  Not the weather, of course-- it's still summer here--but we are enjoying the rhythms of school and fall ball and all both entail.  The Captain is a ball player now.  Picture a little absent minded professor in center field and you've got the picture.  It is actually totally adorable and completely entertaining and I can't believe I haven't posted a picture until now.

Sunshine is back at it too; she is not always enjoying the season but things will get better.  Her team is not gelling as well as is often the case and most of her friends were on the other two teams, but all is well.  I haven't gotten a picture of her in new uniform but maybe this week.  She plays at 8:40 in the evening and apparently, my brain has checked out by then!

School is going great!  Pepper is practically a college pro now and is taking two dual credit courses, English Comp and Art History.  Of course she is also taking all the regular fare at home, math, science, etc.  She has been practicing her driving and will get her license in December; neither of us can wait.

The big news, though, is that Mamaw and Papa are here from Idaho and we are soaking up the Huntley time. That explains the radio silence of late; we are just too busy playing Bingo and Pinochle!

Hope your fall is a beautiful fall too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday, and I'm joining in her Menu Plan Monday link-up.  Enjoy!

Scrambled eggs, raisin toast, milk
 "Snack Plate":  cheese, pretzels, broccoli florets (raw), grapes, strawberries

Pork loin (marinated in soy sauce, mustard, honey and splash of wine), noodles with bok choy, carrots and bell peppers and a "quick sauce" using pan drippings, peanut butter and a splash of soy sauce

Dr. Bircher's Museli
Egg salad on lettuce, crackers, refrigerator pickles (any kind), homemade granola
Homemade Mac-n-Cheese, brussels sprouts, homemade applesauce

Cereal and milk
Meat cubes, cheese cubes, pasta with pesto, grape tomatoes
(Family fends for itself tonight!)

Yogurt and banana
Lunch out
Too Easy Fettuccine Alfredo, green salad, cookies

Bacon and egg cups, juice
School cookout
Potato Soup with cheese and egg dumplings, 3-bean salad

Scrambled eggs, re-fried beans, corn tortillas

Sweet cereal, milk, grapes, bananas
King Ranch chicken, 3 bean salad, greens

Peg Bracken's Bean Salad 
from the I Hate to Cook Cookbook

  • 1 15-oz can green beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can wax beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 In a large bowl, mix the beans
2 In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans. Toss to coat.
3 Chill beans in the refrigerator for several hours, to allow the beans to soak up the flavor of the dressing..

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Grandparents: It's "LOVE Thursday!"

 I just sent a "shout out" to our fabulous five grandparents on one of  my blogs.  Because of copyright laws, I can't replicate it here, but I can ask you to go over there and take a look at it, please!

Dear Hubby and Grandma
Enjoying dinner on a cruise
I am also limited to one tiny picture there, but not here so before you go there, take a gander at these snapshots.
Papa and Mamaw

(To visit the blog, just click on any of the blue words.They all head to the same place!)

Grandma (Dear Hubby's mom), Papa and Mamaw (my folks)
Papa reading to the Littles
Gram and Pepper
Dear Hubby and Grandpa

At the State Fair of Texas

Gram and Tink

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sanity - err Food - Preservation Time

My team --aka the Dream Team -- is cooking for youth again on Sunday, so my week has consisted of a lot of planning, shopping, emailing, and calling.  On Thursday morning I squeezed in a stop at Sams to pick up my pre-order for the youth and then came home to read an email that I needed to cook for 25% more people than I had planned for.  Oops.  Friday morning after I got Tinker and The Captain off to school, The Blitz and I headed back to Sams.  While there, I had a moment of inspiration and decided to stage an impromptu cooking day.

Normally when I do "cooking ahead," I make an elaborate plan, clear my calendar, clean my kitchen and fridge, check my staples, shop all at once, and knock it out in a weekend of elaborate work.  Truthfully, I don't have time for that right now.  I decided to just pile a bunch of meat in my car and see what I could make from it.

Here are the results:

I made 4 batches of Bo Luc Lac, Vietnamese Shaking Beef.  I made the marinade times 5 and dived 8 pounds of sirloin into 4 bags, dumped on the marinade and froze.  This meal is a family favorite served over salad, tomatoes and brown rice.

I bought a giant pack of pork chops and simply divided it into three.

This recipe from Family Circle for Korean Short Ribs in the slow cooker sounds fantastic. I pulled the recipe a couple of months ago so when I saw boneless short ribs for sale I grabbed them to try this one.  I made the sauce, poured it on the ribs, bagged and froze it.  When we're ready for it, we'll just thaw and dump the whole bag into the crock pot.

I cooked 16# of Boston Butt into Pulled Pork.  It takes 9 hours start to finish (but the actual work is about 20 minutes) so I actually just finished it this morning.

I had fresh ingredients from my farm box for ratatouille so I made a double batch.  Yum.  Half for tonight's supper, half for the freezer. In honor of my French friend, Mikiio, I will say that ratatouille should always be served with polenta or rice, never pasta!

I made a batch of Muddy Buddies (sans the chocolate -- it is sweet enough!) for the kids for snacks.  I also made a batch of regular Chex Mix.

Today we will make a double batch of Carrot Cake Muffins because our kids are crazy for them.  We use a standard carrot cake recipe except we cut the sugar by 1/4 and substitute whole-wheat flour for half the flour.  We do not frost them.  This makes a snack that's acceptable by my standards but sweet enough to thrill the kids. Plus, they're pretty.  Once made, we'll freeze them and bag them individually.  That makes
them super simple to pop into a lunch.

I have quite a few hot peppers so I may pickle some for the freezer.  I also have beets to pickle but will roast them first.

While I worked on Sanity Preservation, Pepper made braised chicken thighs.  She has this to a science now and it takes every ounce of self control I have not to grab that crispy skin and eat it all!  Crisp outsides, moist insides.  Oh my goodness.  We served it with Creamy Polenta, ratatouille, and steamed broccoli.

Earlier in the week we got a batch of homemade Mac N Cheese in so if I can get around to some marinara sauce and maybe a chicken dish this week, we'll be in clover.  So instead of "saving dinner," I'm really saving my sanity.

What's cookin' at your house?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Wheee!  It's Monday, Mamas!  I'm joining in her Menu Plan Monday link-up again.

Cereal and milk, fruit
Lunch - "Snack Plate":  cheese, sausages, pretzels, broccoli florets (raw), grapes, strawberries, ketchup.
Gina's Baked Ziti, Green salad, dressing

Yogurt, bananas, dry cereal
PF Chang-like Chicken Lettuce Wraps (SO awesome), steamed rice, grape tomatoes, mandarin orange
Leftover Ziti, salad, dressing

Sweet & Sour Pork/Shrimp meatballs (Just Bento cookbook), brown rice onigiri, orange carrot flowers, steamed asparagus
(Family fends for itself tonight!)

Eggs and toast
Chicken curry, cuke raita, brown rice Tiffin
Baked Corn Dogs, coleslaw, Berry Fool (sweetened yogurt, layered with berries, topped with crushed cookies)

Cereal and Milk
Boiled egg, hummus, baked pita chips, fresh veg, fruit
Spaghetti Carbonara, green beans, pudding of some kind

Huevos Rancheros, baked corn tortilla strips
Roast, potatoes, fresh veg

Pot luck breakfast!
Shrimp skewers, fried rice with bok choy

Friday, August 31, 2012

School Days

Well, it's official:  I'm a "school mom."  Oh, wait, it's not all about me?

Both The Captain and Tinkerbell were so excited to start school, they could hardly sleep.  They were eventually so tired that Tinker slept through the light coming on and I had to wake her up.  Have I mentioned that I hate waking her up because she jumps a foot high and then cries?  So I touched her gently on the shoulder and she startled and then smiled -- without opening her eyes -- and said, "Today is my first day of school!"

Here are the little cuties:
His shirt has a "5" on the sleeve -- so exciting!
It didn't translate to photos but the heart is "bling" - shiny studs

Tinker's backpack is huge on her.  Even empty, it totally cramps her style.  Funny story:  We made a big deal out of buying first day of school outfits for all 5 kids and the Littles got a (rare) choice of outfits.  On the second day of school, Tink had a huge fit because she thought she got to wear the purple outfit every day!  She will be really happy to see that outfit again next week!

The Blitz gets a ride in the stroller and we walk to school although it is almost a mile because I want The Captain to really "get" it that I am close by.  We practiced a couple weeks beforehand and now they have built up some stamina.  They are so excited to go to school, they run almost the whole way!  (And yes, I cried all the way home that first day).  Daddy tried to get some pictures which were a little blurry for some reason, but here they are.

We're frowning because Daddy was trying so hard to get a picture he kept yelling at us!

The Bigs and The Blitz won't start school until September 4th since I have a philosophical objection to starting school before Labor Day.  The Blitz does not want to go to home-school Preschool; "I don't like homeschool.  I like the gray school."   He has made that very clear.   Yet I think he is really enjoying our 3 "Tink-free" hours each day and we have both relished just chilling together every morning.  Next week I"ll get out the Preschool In a Box and we'll enjoy that too.  For now, the leisure is a big gift.

I finally did get a picture of all 5 kids; they're so beautiful -- inside and out!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Menu Plan Monday!

I'm joining in her Menu Plan Monday link-up again.  I love to share!

Yogurt, bananas, dry cereal
Lunch - out!  Busy day
Pork chops, baked potatoes, green beans

Dr. Bircher's Museli
Korean Beef Skewers, (homemade Asian dressing in marinade) steamed rice, Lemon Zucchini Ribbons, apples [marinate the skewers overnight; the rest is a snap]

Scrambled eggs, bacon, milk
Soba Noodle with Spring Vegetables; Sauteed purslane, amaranth, fruit
On their own for supper!

Refried beans, egg, corn tortilla
Turkey and Egg, Carrot Soboro Bento, brown rice

Beef Rolls, Asian Pear and Cucumber Salad, brown rice
Baked fish, sweet potatoes, pasta salad

Bacon and Corn Griddle Cakes
Chicken Canzanese, Creamy Parmesan Polenta, mixed vegetable
Leftovers or snack plate

Bacon and Egg Cups
Kickin it Up Drumsticks, Rolls, Salad

We are having a big bacon week.  It was on sale so I bought 2 packages but I won't buy it again for a month.  It works for us this way!

plan my meals on Google Calendar, so they repeat on a set schedule; this saves me tons of time and it's easy enough to make a change if I want to try something new.  It also ensures that our favorites do come back because I love to try new things, but the family loves to eat the old favs.

Friday, August 24, 2012

School Time Rhythm

I notice that a morphing of this blog has occurred.  It began as a way to keep the family abreast of all the changes in our world when our 3 Littles joined the family; since, it has stretched to  become part photo album, part memoir, and part mommy-stays-sane by thinking aloud.

Right now as a first time "school mom" I am trying to figure our how to order our lives so everyone (including me!) gets what they need but we aren't over-reaching.  Public schooling two and homeschooling two is befuddling.  Add to that Peppers two classes twice a week at the community college, The Captains three therapy appointments and Sunshine and The Captain's sports, and my mind is spinning.  Some day (sooner than I think) I will long for these days!

I call it scheduling, but in actuality it's more a process of decoding the rhythms of our home and considering how to place things in a predictable order.  All 5 of our kids thrive on order.  Here is how I *think* our schedule will look most days:

5:00 - Mom rise and have quiet time
5:30 - Finish lunches, make breakfast                        
          (I make everyone's lunch, including for those of us at home and then  its' done for the day!)
6:30 -Wake The Captain and Tink, Breakfast, Dress
7:10 - Walk to school with Littles
9:00 - Bigs start school, The Bitz home-pre-school
10:20 - Walk to school to pick up Tink            
            Play at park on the way home
11:30 - Lunch for Littles            
            Game time with Mom
1:00 - Rest for Littles, Lunch for  Mom and Bigs            
           Mom's break time
2:15 - Walk to school to pick up The Captain
3:00 -  Snack            
            Puzzles, chores, indoor play or Swimming (at least 1x/week)
4:00 - Homework time (school kids)  room time for tots
5:00 - Dinner prep and tidy toys
6:00 -  Dinner, then outdoor play
7:00 - Jammies, stories songs
7:30  - Bedtime for Littles
           Relaxin' time with the Bigs and Dear Hubby
8:30 - Prep tomorrow's lunches, organize back packs, etc.            
10:00 - Hit the hay!

Monday - The Captain therapies; pick up at school at 12:30
Monday and Wednesday -- Pepper college courses 3:00 - 5:20,
Pepper sits in evening for neighbor
Wednesday a.m - Sunshine at Mother's helper job
Thursday - The Captain, therapy; pick up at school at 2:00

It looks do-able on paper.  Meal prep work in advance will be key; I'm very committed to feeding my family whole, real, home-cooked food and that requires a time investment.  On the weekends I'll be looking ahead several days and prepping vegetables, preparing sauces and dressings and cooking some main dishes.  I also double, triple or quadruple batches for things like meatballs and spaghetti sauce in order to save time later.  Pepper pitches in to cook supper a couple of times a week which frees me up to work on taming the "stuff monster" which requires constant vigilance.

I'm interested in your school time schedules.  What does your fall rhythm look like?
Ah, the good old days of summer

Monday, August 20, 2012

I've decided to join in her Menu Plan Monday link-up.  I'm always looking for inspiration so maybe I can share a little at the same time.

I'm so aware of summer just slipping away.  We are eating our "school time lunches" now to be sure that The Captain knows how to open, eat, and re-store his lunch stuff.  I should not admit this but sometimes I am very tempted by the PBJ in the plastic bag that will become landfill.  He is catching on though and will be a lunch pro by the time school starts!

Baked Oatmeal, fruit (made night before and refrigerated)
Tamagoyaki, Ham/Cheese roll up,  rice, mini veggies, sauteed spinach, fruit (roll-ups made night before)
Avocado Chicken Salad, bread or roll, carrots (chicken was roasted on Sunday)

Yogurt, banana, plain cereal
Peanut Sauce Bento Bowl (sub shrimp for tofu), grapes
King Ranch Chicken, mixed green salad (again, Sunday's roasted chicken)

Pancakes and Milk
Lemon Chicken Nuggets, carrot kinpira, spinach knots, rice
On their own for supper!

Eggs and Toast, Milk
Slow Cooker Orange Chicken, rice, greens
Beef Tips, Mashed Potatoes, fresh veg (whatever is on hand)

Zucchini cakes, Yogurt, Potato Salad, green or yellow veg
Order pizza!

Muffins or quick bread, cheese, fruit
Oven BBQ Chicken Legs, baked potatoes, corn
Leftovers or snack plate

Pancakes or Waffles, bacon
Leftovers (likely chicken and some kind of fried rice dish!)

I prep my veg the night or several days before for lunches.
Yes, I know we eat chicken almost every day.  I have no way to justify this except that we eat two small meals containing meat so one of them is often chicken.  Maybe I should have been a chicken farmer!

I plan my meals on Google Calendar, so they repeat on a set schedule; this saves me tons of time and it's easy enough to make a change if I want to try something new.  It also ensures that our favorites do come back because I love to try new things, but the family loves to eat the old favs.
Monday Lunch Menu

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Yummy Lettuce/Chicken Wraps for Back to School

Lazy summer is nearing an end.  The "bigs" have been so much help and it has made our no-schooling time so enjoyable.  Yesterday after taking her next-to-last Intro to Psych test, Pepper relaxed with her ukulele, part obsession and part constant companion.

Sunshine built the most fantastic fort ever. Let's face it, if you live in Texas, you'd better find some ways to play indoors in August.

With school starting in only 3 weeks, we are shifting focus around here.  I just moved the kids "wake up lights" to come on a half hour earlier; next week they will be adjusted again.  We are practicing a "school time" schedule to make an easy adjustment to the rhythm of our days.  By the time school starts, the rhythm will be set and we can focus on helping The Captain adjust to Kindergarten, itself.  I blogged about it for adoption. com but then re-thought it a bit and realized we needed to ease in and not just jump in with both feet (duh!).

Tinkerbelle will be headed to Pre-K 3 hours a day; her days will either begin or end at the same time as The Captains.  Both will attend Old Town Elementary, right across from our neighborhood.  Sunshine and Pepper will be homeschooled again; we are starting after Labor Day.  Pepper is taking dual-credit classes at the community college. In the fall, she'll be taking composition and art history.

It all adds up to me reorganizing myself in the kitchen.  We are "back to bento" for the fall.  Our bento lunches pack a lot of protein into an interesting and compact arrangement.  They are so perfect for lunch.  We are teaching The Captain how to take his lunch out and eat from the bento boxes; he is just a boy who needs to practice things!

For today's lunch, I found this interesting recipe on Iowa Girl Eats and then made a few changes so that I can make it any time with ingredients I always have on hand.  It was so wonderful, it'll go on a 2-week rotation.  We enjoyed it with edamame and cous-cous.

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wrap - adapted 

Serves a family, or 6  hungry adults
(approximately 185 cals., 5 grams carbs, 8 grams fat, 21 grams protein)

  1. 4  large cloves garlic, minced
  2. 3 tsp fresh ginger, peeled & minced (I buy it frozen - MUCH easier to deal with )
  3. 1-1/2  tbsp  sesame oil
  4. 1/4 cup  soy sauce
  5. 2  tbsp  peanut butter
  6. 1  tbsp  honey
  7. 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  8. 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (I use the one with the rooster)

  1. 2 tsp. olive oil
  2. 3 fresh carrots, washed and diced finely
  3. 2 lb ground chicken breast
  4. salt & pepper, a dash of each
  1. 18 or more large outer lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry (you can buy these all prepared now, in a plastic box!)

Place the first 8 ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.  Microwave 30 seconds.  Stir until smooth and set aside.
Using a large non-stick fry pan, heat the olive oil briefly and add the carrots.  Saute for 2 minutes, then add the ground chicken, salt and pepper.  Stir fry until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink -- this only takes a few minutes.  Add the sauce and cook a few minutes until desired consistency is reached.  I like to cook out a bit of the liquid.
Place the chicken mixture in a bowl.  If desired, garnish with chopped green onions and/or ground peanuts.  I used just a bit of chopped cilantro.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Advocating for The Captain

This week we had The Captain's appointment with the Developmental Psychiatrist.  Maybe Psychologist?  Anyway, since I wrote about it for, I am just going to send you that way to see the report.

In the meantime, please enjoy this picture from the beach:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Peck of Pickled Peppers

I couldn't resist.  We've had a pepper glut lately so I've taken to pickling them.

These are banana peppers with a slice or two of yellow bell for good measure;  banana peppers are yummy on sandwiches.  Not that we'd know; the kids ate the whole first jar just plain!
On the right is combined jalapenos and habaneros.  There is a lot of spice in this little jar.
Finally, on the left, pickled squash.  No seriously, it's good.  It will be the perfect accent to my fall bentos!

For the peppers, I started with a
mildly sweet pickle recipe I found.  However, I substituted a clove of minced garlic for the celery seed (not a fan).  The author does not process hers in a water bath but unless you are going to refrigerate them (as I am), you probably should.  10 minutes ought to do it. 

For the squash, I used the following brine recipe:

1 cup seasoned white vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Bring the brine to a boil; meanwhile pack  julienne squash in jars.  Squeeze a piece of long chili into each jar.  (This makes a very spicy pickle -- but it is a very     s-l-o-w    heat and I adore it).  I doubled the brine for this batch.  I had a lot of squash.
Bring your hot water bath to boil.  Brine and cap the jars; cook in hot water bath 10 minutes.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summertime is Family Time - Album 2

It was worth driving 2400 miles for what awaited us once we arrived.  We arrived at my sister's in Montana on Friday and then got to the folks' in Idaho on the Saturday before Mother's Day.  Somehow the time just flew by and I did not get out to see the Uncles and Aunts, but I was so thrilled to get to spend so much time with "my" Idaho kids.  We didn't get to see Guy and John (in London)  Royce (in Montana), Anneka (in California) or Carin and clan (in Oregon) but we are hoping to drag them out for the next Huntley camping extravaganza.

 Uncle Jason and Gabriel
 Aunt "Dark" (Darinda) and Papa

 Alli looking happy to be out of the car
 Yes folks we have it right here -- Kolby can be captured for a kiss from his beautiful mama

 Lisa with her newest niece, Zita.  These two have a special bond.
 Cousins and friends; Kolby was so patient with all the Littles
 Ted looking pretty in Maggie's hat
 TJ and Mikayla monkeying around 
Love this sweet shot of Papa and the Littles 
He has endless patience!
 Mamaw and Papa
 Guy was busy working in London but here are the rest of us "kids" with Mom and Dad
 Mom and her "baby."
 Alli and our precious Zita
 She is the best of both her parents
PHere is her proud mama, Melissa.  We love you so much, Melissa -- we're so glad you and TJ ran into each other!

Every child should get to play in the wheat.

Uncle Ted