Thursday, February 27, 2014

Homemade Granola Bars

Simple, tasty, and full of fiber and protein, these granola bars are the perfect afternoon snack.

1 cup whole natural almonds
2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup shredded coconut
3 tbsp. butter
1/4 brown sugar
2/3 cup honey
1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup dry oat bran
1 cup chopped dried fruit (I mostly use dates, but cranberries, raisins, and cherries have all worked well)

Coarsely chop the almonds.

Line a 9x13 with parchment paper, and fill with the oats, coconut, and almonds. Toast in oven at 350, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring the butter, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

In a large bowl, mix together the toasted oat mixture with the oat bran.

Pour in the melted butter, sugar, honey mixture, and mix well. Then, stir in the dried fruit.

Pour back into the 9x13 lined with parchment paper, and firmly pack down. Bake at 300 for 30-35 minutes.

Allow to cool for 3 hours, before cutting into bars. Store in an air tight container or plastic baggies, with bars divided by strips of parchment paper. These keep for about a week...if they're not eaten up by then!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pork and Beer Chili

This one happens to be my favorite. My kids love it with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar, and my husband likes a dollop of sour cream in his, but I love this baby as is. I joke that the idea came to me in a dream, but it really did just hit me one day. Love when that happens. This recipe serves 6-8.

1 tbsp. olive oil
4 boneless, center cut pork chops (about 1.25 lb total), cut into bite size pieces 
1 onion (I use vidalia), diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 12oz bottle of good brown ale (I use New Castle)
1 15oz can plain tomato sauce
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 15.5oz can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15.5oz can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 & 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground, dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 tbsp. lime juice

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the oil, pork, and onion. Cook until the pork is cooked through, and the onion is translucent, adding the garlic in the last couple of minutes.

Pour in the beer and let cook 1-2 minutes. Then, add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans.

Mix together the chili powder, cumin, ground mustard, and salt. Add it to the pot, stir, COVER, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Add the lime juice, stir, recover, and let simmer another 10 minutes.

Serve as is, or with sour cream or shredded cheese. Yummy!

7 Things Homeschool Moms Want Their Non-homeschool Friends To Know

Ever find yourself explaining yourself to a non-homeschooling friend, or family member? I know I do, often. Here are the seven things I most want them to know.

1. I respect you. I homeschool, you don't. Both of us have made the right choice for our families. I, in no way, think less of you for not homeschooling. I have never walked a day in your shoes, and therefore cannot have any clue as to what would be good for your family, nor do I wish to make such a judgement. You are a great parent, and I know your kids are getting the very best you have to offer.

2. I like what I do. This is the life I chose. I chose it for very specific reasons, and I enjoy the fruits of my labor. I'm not wishing my life was more exciting or interesting, because I find it fulfilling, as is.

3. It's not a mompetition. Life is not a competition, and neither is parenting. I am happy for every milestone your children reach, and every cake you bake from scratch. I actually love hearing about them. I also feel your pain when you struggle, because I struggle too. Parenting is hard, and we don't always get it right, but we're trying. Let us feel we can come to each other, and be free of judgement. 

4. I'm not perfect, and I know it. You may hear me go on about making our own cheese and using it to make lasagna, or you may hear how we spent the morning reading aloud, in the tree house, before building a diorama of the solar system. These are triumphs, and I love sharing them with you. This is NOT everyday life. My 4 year old still won't poop in the potty, I've had folded laundry on the coffee table for 2 days, and I can't make a crepe to save my life. We're all doing the best we can, but homeschool moms really are just regular people. 

5. I'm a whole person. Contrary to what this blog shows, I do more than cook, clean, and homeschool. I'm capable of holding a conversation with an adult, and some days REALLY long to! I have interests that go beyond this house, and what's inside it. I love hanging out with my girlfriends, and wish I could do it more often. I want to travel more, I'm very convicted in my political views and love discussing them, I paint a little, and I lived an entire life full of great stories, before I settled in this small town. Homeschooling is a very big part of my life, but it's still just a part.

6. Please, don't use the word "socialization" around me. My kids do have friends, lots of them, that they see often. They leave the house regularly, and partake in various activities with their peers. We "socialize" pets, not children. Please don't further the stereotype that homeschoolers are isolated. Thank you.

7. I need you. You are important to me, or I would not call you friend. I need friends, who don't homeschool. I need to talk to people about something other than homeschool! I really, really do. So tell me about your rough day at work, or about the half-marathon you're training for. I truly want to know!

Would you add anything to the list?  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Super Easy Homemade Caramel Corn

Does this one even need an intro? 

1/2 cup jumbo popping corn
2 tbsp. corn oil
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Place the popping corn and oil in a large pot. Swirl around, to be sure all the kernels are coated in oil, and in a single layer. 

Cover and heat on high. Once the kernels begin to pop, swirl about the pot occasionally, to keep it from burning. When there are 2-3 seconds between pops, turn off the heat, but do not remove the lid...a few more will pop! Meanwhile, melt together the butter, brown sugar and marshmallows.

Pour evenly over popcorn, and toss to coat.

 Serve immediately, or store in air tight container for a day or two. That is it!!! So easy, and so yummy!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ham & Cheese Baked Grits

This one is my husband's favorite. It's an easy and delicious way to start the day.

1 cup quick cook grits
3 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
2 eggs (beaten)
1/4 cup milk
1 & 1/4 cup shredded cheddar (divided)
3/4 cup diced ham
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste

Cook the grits according to package directions, substituting the broth for the water. Add the butter the last minute of cooking.

Whisk in the eggs.

Add 1 cup of cheese, and the milk. Stir until cheese is melted.

Now, add the ham, onion, garlic, and salt & pepper. Stir.

Pour into a greased 8x8, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes, before serving. Yummy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Easy Chicken Stroganoff

This is a quick weeknight meal. It can be served along side any variety of sauteed or steamed vegetables, or even a salad. I usually double this recipe for my family, but here the recipe serves 4.

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. of chicken, cut into bite size pieces (I use thighs, but breast works well too)
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 & 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (plus more for garnishing, optional)
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used sherry here, but I've used marsala & pinot grigio before)
1/2 cup sour cream
8 oz. egg noodles

First, cook the noodles according to the package's directions. Meanwhile, cook the chicken in the oil, until mostly cooked, but still a little pink.

Then, add the mushrooms, garlic, paprika, dry mustard, and salt & pepper. Sautee until chicken is cooked through.

Now, add the wine and cook for about a minute. Add the chicken stock and flour, and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the sour cream, and heat through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve over the egg noodles, and garnish with paprika, if desired. Again with my's just for show. Yummy!

Not feeding kids? Kick it up a notch with some finely chopped poblano chili pepper!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Homeschooling When Mom Is Sick

When the kids are sick, I know exactly how to handle it. Off to bed with them! Any sick child in my house is immediately ordered to bed, where they are waited on, with soup, juice, any necessary medicine, and various other comforts. When they are sick on a school day, they do what assignments they feel they can manage (which usually isn't much), they read a lot, and they rest.

But what do I do when I'm the sick one?!

It took me years to figure this one out. I've read about busy boxes, letting the older ones teach the younger ones (this one is laughable, for me), and conducting school in mom's bed. Enough! Why do we homeschooling moms find it so easy to care for our children, and so difficult to care for ourselves? This is going to be a very short post. Homeschooling while sick is nonsense. There, I said it. 

Now, I know there are still things that MUST happen, like feeding the kids. So, feed the kids. Set them up with a science video, a pile of books, a bucket of play dough, or a box of art supplies. Then, lie down (close enough to supervise, of course), drink hot tea, read a book, nap when they do, and just TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!!!! School will be there tomorrow.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fudgy One-Bowl Homemade Brownies

My kids' friends always ask for these brownies during sleepovers. They are moist, fudgy, and oh-so-easy!

1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter (melted)
2 eggs
1/4 cup of milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

First, you mix your dry ingredients, in a large bowl.

Next, you add the butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Mix well. Resist the desire to add more liquid, batter should be really thick.

Spread batter in an 8x8 baking dish. It helps to spray the back of a large metal spoon with baking spray, and use that to spread the thick, sticky batter. Then sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 25-28 minutes.

Serve warm with cold milk. Yummy!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Black Bean, Spinach, and Quinoa Burritos

Healthy and kid-friendly, this is another regular at our house. The recipe serves 6-8 depending on how stuffed you like your burrito.

1 cup quinoa
2 15oz cans black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups fresh spinach leaves (stems removed)
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
6-8 10inch tortillas
2 cups shredded mexican-blend cheese

Cook the quinoa according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together your spices.

Stir the beans, broth, and spices together in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

While the beans and quinoa are cooking, chop your spinach.

Once the beans are ready, stir in your spinach.

Assemble your burritos (don't forget the cheese).

Wrap each burrito with foil, place on a large baking sheet, and bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.

Serve with avocado, salsa, and sour cream. Yummy!