Wednesday, June 26, 2013

asian chicken lettuce wraps

When I am craving a little crunch with my lunch, this is a go to meal for me. 

I love the filling of roasted chicken and crisp veggies paired with an asian flare dressing and served it up in crispy lettuce leaves.  It makes for a delicious dish and a pretty presentation. 

While it is easy to whip up anytime, it is definitely fancy enough to serve to your guests. And kiddos love picking up the lettuce leaves and eating these cute little wraps. 

{Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps}

2 cups roasted and shredded chicken breast 
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup finely chopped English cucumber
2 green onions, sliced on an angle {white and green parts}
2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup Asian vinaigrette {homemade or store bought}
lettuce leaves

Simply toss together the shredded chicken and the veggies.

Gently mix in the dressing. {I recently found Bragg Ginger & Sesame salad dressing and totally recommend it. It contains no chemicals or preservatives and is gluten free. Score!} 

Finally, toss in the fresh mint. The mint is not at all over powering but simply brightens up the mixture. Don't skip adding it!

Spoon the mixture into the lettuce leaves and serve with extra dressing. This makes enough for 8 well filled and delicious lettuce wraps. 


Monday, June 24, 2013

cucumber & tomato salad

Summer time in my mother's kitchen always included a few things. Iced tea and garden veggies to name a few. Among the veggies that came out of our garden in abundance were cucumbers. So much so that this little cucumber, tomato and red onion salad became a staple side dish during the summer months. The addition of the basil is my own but the rest is just how I always remember having this simple salad on our dinner table.  

I love how simple it is as well as the use of apple cider vinegar in the recipe.

We continue to hear about the benefits of apple cider vinegar {or ACV}.  What's the hype with apple cider vinegar? Well, benefits include a strengthened immune system, increased stamina, improved digestion, increased metabolism and even aiding in diabetes and lowering high cholesterol. Those things alone make it something I want more of in my diet. 

When choosing ACV you want one that is preferably organic and hasn't been distilled or treated as that process removes the beneficial nutrients. Look for a cloudy appearance (sediment called the "mother"). I recommend Bragg's. 

This simple summer salad is a perfect way to add a little ACV to your diet.

{Cucumber & Tomato Salad}

  • 2 large cucumbers, sliced on an angle
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tomatos, cut into wedges
  • 1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar 
  • pinch of salt
  • a few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 4 basil leaves, rolled up and finely sliced
Combine the cucumbers, onion, and tomato in a medium sized bowl. Add salt and pepper and then toss with the apple cider vinegar. Allow this to sit for 30 minutes {or while you make the rest of your dinner!} to let the flavors develop. 
Add the basil and give the salad another gentle toss before serving. 

This is a great side dish to have along side any summer meal. Let me know if you give it a try! I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

library "book" tote

So, when we had a rainy day this week and our outside plans were canceled, we decided to dig around in our craft box for inspiration.
I found a pack of canvas totes that I had picked up on sale and thought...."We should make library totes!" 
Look how cute they turned out!

 Purposing to read through the summer will entail a great deal of books and a great number of trips to our local library. 
What could be more useful than a cute tote for our library finds?

Just a few simple materials came together to make these really cute and useful totes.

First, create a few "book-spine" stamps by cutting regular cleaning sponges into various widths. 
I had some fabric paint in the craft stash from a previous project so I set out plates of paint and foam brushes for each stamp. 
Place newspaper under each child's work area and a piece of cardboard inside each canvas tote to prevent bleed-through. {Don't skip this step!}
Use the foam brushes to apply paint to the stamps and let your kiddos create their own shelf of books! 
Stamp vertically to look like books on a library shelf or horizontally like stacks. A leaning book looks super cute as well. Older children should have no problem tackling this project on their own but little ones need a little help and supervision with loading the stamps with paint and then applying them to the tote with gentle pressure to give a good print.
Let the totes dry for 30 minutes before heading out for a trip to the library to load them up with great books for summer reading!

tips for using your book totes:

  • always have them ready for a trip to the library
  • use them as a "home" for library books so you won't lose or misplace them
  • keep in a designated location for safe keeping
  • keep your date due slip inside to avoid late fees

Thursday, May 30, 2013

reflections on our homeschool year

It is hard for me to grasp that we are actually done with another year of homeschooling. I think back over the last months and really can't believe another summer is upon us. 

Our second year of homeschooling is done!

As I look over the workbooks and the teacher manuals are packed away, I am overwhelmed with emotions. Feelings of reliefgratefulness, and praise for God's grace to see us through another year.  {Grace}--that is the word that sums up our year in my heart. 

There were more hard days than I care to remember. Sometimes the days seemed impossible. Heavy. Days where I cried out for grace to see us through--and the testimony of God's grace is that He delivered abundantly. But it is the sweet moments that stand out the most as I think back over the months. Moments of tenderness among siblings, light bulb moments in the middle of a lesson, listening to my 4 year old read his first books, and experiencing the joy of learning along side one another. 

This year we were blessed to be a part of a Classical Conversations community and it was amazing! It added such richness to our homeschool journey.

I was familiar with the classical model of education long before becoming a homeschooling mom but it has been over the last year that my eyes have really been opened to the wonderful opportunity that this model provides. I am so thankful that we have come across this group and it has impacted the way that we school so completely. Both of my boys have grown tremendously and have made real friendships through this community.

So we close the books on another year. 

But the book lovers in this family just keep craving more and more so we will continue our learning through the summer months though it will be a much more relaxed format.  I will focus more attention on my younger two with rowing Fiar books and creating lapbooks. I look so forward to sitting side by side with them and hearing their quiet voices. My oldest has turned into such a bookworm so this summer will be full of leisure reading for him. And we will take advantage of lazy schedules and time together outside with creative play. Spending time with family and understanding and appreciating the educational value in all of these.

This summer will also mean some big changes in our school room. We don't have an actual "room" but an area in our family room. I am SO excited about the changes and new organization that is coming in. I'll be sharing our homeschool "room" transformation later in the summer as things come together. Let's just say new diy whiteboard, new storage cubbies and a revamped workbox system to name a few changes. I know! So exciting!

I look back over how far we have come this year and how all three of my children have grown both mentally and spiritually. I am thankful for the course we are on and I have peace that it is the right one for us. I see where God has placed us for this season of our life and I am overwhelmed.

And so the consummate planner in me closes the books on one school year while opening the book for next year. Already planning, thinking forward to activities, schedules and curriculum choices ---because that is just how I'm wired. ;)

So, did you homeschool this year? How did it go? Are you planning any big changes for next year?

Friday, April 26, 2013

simple bird feeder

The birds are beginning to sing sweetly in the trees as spring slowly approaches. 
A sweet way to welcome these little feathered friends is by making bird feeders out of a few simple items.
These feeders make great use of an otherwise hard-to-recycle item, toilet paper rolls. Some municipalities do not accept these because left over bits of paper on the roll itself can make a mess of facilities. 
This is also a great project for the kiddos! They will love making these easy feeders and then watching for the visitors who are sure to show up for the feast. 

 You will need:
  • peanut butter
  • bird seed
  • empty toilet paper rolls
  • few little helpers

Start by getting all of the tp remnants off of the rolls.
Use a spoon to spread an even layer of peanut butter all over the outside of the roll. 
In a plate, pour a shallow layer of bird seed. 
Here is the fun part!
Let your little ones get busy rolling the tube in the seed to cover the peanut butter layer. Make sure the peanut butter is completely covered with the seeds. A little even pressure as you roll will help everything adhere.

Next, find a tree with low branches and let your little helpers slide the rolls on! This is so easy!
Nothing else is needed. Just slide them on the lower branches and wait for the birds to show up.

Within a few hours, we had several cardinals and bluejays {as well as a few other species} visiting our feeders. We spent the afternoon perched at the window with a bird book in hand. 

So, make use of those empty tp rolls and make a sweet bird feeder with your kiddos!

the Real essentials

Do you ever feel that you overcomplicate things?
Taking something simple and making it so much more than what it is?
Focusing on man-made regulations, rules and expectations instead of on what God's requirements are? 

This overcomplicated focus just leads to frustration. 
An enormous, suffocating load of frustration that just seems to sit on your chest like a giant elephant that won't move. 

We can't live focused on man's rules and regulations. The requirements we put on ourselves that are outside of what God really desires for us. We will end up frustrated and burnt out. 

We must center our minds on the real essentials and seek to please God as He has clearly outlined in scripture. 

Here are the real essentials:

  • Fear God { Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."}
  • Live in a way that pleases Him {Colossians 1:10 "so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;"}
  • Love Him {Deut 6:5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."}
  • Serve Him with all your heart and soul {1 Samuel 12:24 "Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you."}
  • Obey His commands {1 John 5:3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome."}

Concentrate on His real requirements and find peace in the journey. 
Respect, follow, love, serve, and obey. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

chunky monkey mix

When I was a freshman in college {many, many moons ago!} I had a slight love affair with a certain flavor of ice cream...Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey. oh. my. It's lovely banana ice cream base, buttery walnuts and fudgy chunks were to blame for most of my freshman 15. I kid you not!
Well, needless to say, I don't indulge in pints of ice cream on a regular basis anymore. But I do still love that yummy combination!

So here is my cleaned up version of those flavor notes in the form of a quick mix.
Here is what you will need to mix up a little of your own!

  • raw walnut halves
  • dark chocolate chips {Enjoy Life is my fav}
  • organic dried banana chips {love Trader Joe's!}
Simply mix the ingredients together in roughly equal parts. It really is up to you. I buy the raw walnuts in bulk so I just get a few scoops and combine them in a pretty glass storage container with the banana chips and add chocolate to even it out. 
Whip up a quick batch and set it out on your kitchen counter {ahem...or hide it in a place where the rest of your family can't find it!}. 
Grab a quick handful of this tasty mix when you want a little something sweet. It is mm, mmm good!

Friday, January 25, 2013

flourless chocolate cake

This is a moist and decadent chocolate cake topped with a smooth ganache that is sure to satisfy any chocoholic. I am the gluten free one in my house but the other members of my family were all ga-ga over this delicious cake making this a perfect dessert for those with and without gluten sensitivities. A small sliver is the perfect sweet ending to any special meal. 

{flourless molten chocolate cake}
  • 6 oz chopped good quality semisweet chocolate (I love to use Ghirardelli premium bars for this cake.)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup good quality dutch process cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Ganache topping
  • 2 oz chopped semisweet chocolate (Same as above.)
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 Tbs coconut milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. This cake bakes really well in a 7-inch springform pan and is easily removed after baking. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and spray with coconut oil.

Simply melt the 6 oz of chocolate along with the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the sugar and the salt and cook on low while whisking until the sugar dissolves. This takes a minute or two. Whisk in the vanilla and then remove the pan from the heat.

Carefully whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk until you have a smooth and glossy batter. If you have a small sieve, sift the cocoa into the batter and whisk in to prevent any lumps. 

Add the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25-28 minutes. You do NOT want to over bake this cake. The result will be a dry disaster. The center should be just firm to the touch. This will give you that slightly molten center. Yummilicious!!

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove the springform sleeve and invert the cake onto a serving plate. 

To make the ganache, melt the remaining 2 oz of chocolate with the 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, whisk in the remaining ingredients for the ganache, stirring until smooth and glossy. Let it cool for just a moment before pouring over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides of the cake.

This cake is so moist and rich. Though it is a petit little cake, it easily serves up 8 decadent slices that will not disappoint!