Monday, March 31, 2014

Easy and Tasty Mashed Cauliflower

This is oh-so-easy, and my family LOVES it! Seriously. My kids eat this up, every time I make it.

1 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup cream cheese (or I use Philadelphia 1/3 less fat than cream cheese)
1 & 1/2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. chopped chives (optional)

Boil the cauliflower crowns, until tender (about 7-8 minutes). The smaller you cut it, the quicker it will cook.

Drain, and immediately mash with the cream cheese (or Philly) and butter. I put the butter and cream cheese (Philly) at the bottom of the bowl, and dump the drained cauliflower on top, so it melts right away.

After you've reached your desired consistency, stir in the garlic salt and pepper. Garnish with the chives.

*Now, you can puree this, if you prefer a creamier texture. However, my kids say they like it best "grainy like grits."--That's a direct quote from tonight. 

Day in the Life: Our Typical Homeschool Monday

I will try to do one of these a week, for the next five weeks, highlighting a different day each time. They may or may not be in order, as I want them to be "typical" days, and unfortunately I have no control over what life throws at us.

Our Typical Homeschool Monday:
Mondays are our back-to-the-grind days, as they are for most people. After a weekend of coming and going, staying up later than usual, and just plain over doing the fun, Mondays are for quiet regrouping. This is the one day I try not to leave the house.

This was our day, on March 31, 2014. It was a very typical Monday.

To begin, I had coffee, checked the news, and watched my 4 year old play with blocks and snack on cereal.

Next, I woke the late sleepers, and made breakfast: bacon, egg, and cheese burritos for the older 2, cheese toast for the youngest, and fruit for all.

Then, after we had all washed up and completed morning chores (basically just feeding the cats & letting them out, and emptying the trash & dishwasher), we were ready to work. My daughter started with spelling and language arts, my oldest son did his algebra (with the help of an online tutor program), and my preschooler worked on letter formation, then cutting practice.

About 45 minutes later, I taught my daughter her math lesson, while my oldest son read his civics lesson, and my 4 year old played with Unifix Cubes. Whatever works! 

Once the concepts were grasped, my daughter answered math problems from her book, my oldest son answered essay questions from his civics book, my preschooler played somewhat quietly, and I folded laundry, while attempting to catch up on the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Ha! (I remained available, to answer any questions of course.)

After the morning's assignments were completed, we headed outside for a bit of fresh air.

LUNCH!!! Today we had leftover spaghetti & meatballs and salads.

My preschooler was whiny, so after cleaning up this adorable mess, I laid him down for a nap.

Then, my oldest worked on his literature studies, and my 9 year old knocked out a little science.

Once they finished those assignments, my daughter worked on a social studies/map skills project, and my 14 year old worked on an earth science experiment.

Projects/experiments completed, they both moved on to their afternoon reading. I jumped back on the laundry for a bit, then picked up some clutter, and swept the kitchen. 

Little one's up! Quick snack...

...then back outside, for him. The big ones have "free time," and can do as they wish, within reason of course. My oldest jumped on his iPod to play games, and chat with friends. My daughter shot hoops for about 20 minutes, before jumping on her iPod to Face Time chat.  

This is where our homeschool day ends, and our family evening begins. I'll cook dinner, while the kids hang out, probably watching TV or playing....or both. Then, we'll have family dinner, do dishes, get everyone clean, spend some time together, and get everyone off to bed, with a book in hand. It was a pretty good Monday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

How To Clean and Chop Leeks

Step 1: Chop off most of the green end, leaving about 3 inches of green still attached. You can rinse the green you chopped off, and use it for a stock or a broth, or you can discard it.

Step 2: Slice length wise, down to about an inch from the root. Do not remove the root yet, it helps keep things together, while chopping.

Step 3: Rotate and slice again, dividing the leek into quarters, like this.

Step 4: Rinse, pulling back sections and getting out any trapped dirt.

Step 5: Slice as thinly as preferred for the recipe, up to about 1/2 inch from the root. Discard the root. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Easier Than Pie Cherry Poof

This is an easy, quick dessert, that tastes as good as it looks.

1/2 cup biscuit mix
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 21oz. can cherry pie filling

Beat together all ingredients, except cherry pie filling, for 2 minutes.

Pour into a pie pan, and spoon cherry pie filling over top. Do not stir.

Bake at 400, for 35-40 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes, and serve warm, either alone...

...or with a scoop of ice cream. Yum!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Balancing Homeschool and Marriage: How I Make Time For Us, Plus 6 Little Things

Don't worry. This post isn't "TMI." I'm not that kind of gal. This post also won't be filled with Bible verses, telling you to submit to your husband's every need. I'm not that kind of gal, either. Now that you know what this post isn't, let's jump into what it is. I love my husband. I do. I want him to always know this. I like hanging out with him, too. That's precisely why I married him, so I could hang out with him, whenever I want.

Homeschool changed the dynamics of our relationship, slightly. I'm busier now. I have tons of planning to do, papers to grade, cubbies to fill, etcetera. These "extras" can cut into our time, if I let it. So this post is a quick explanation of how I make time for us. Reminder: It's not about that.

My husband and I are both night owls, thankfully. After the last kid is in bed, we still have a good 2 hours left in us. When we first started homeschooling, this was the time I would grade papers, make lesson plans, and set up for the next day. Not a smart move, on my part. My husband missed me, and I missed him. So these days, I plan only on Sunday, but for the whole week. Then, as soon as we finish school each day, I set up for the next day. I also grade their papers as we go along. It makes for a full school day, and sometimes takes away from my household chores, but it's totally worth it. I really enjoy the time I have with my husband, to just be adults and watch a movie, or have an actual conversation.

Below, I've listed a few other little things I do, to keep my husband feeling like he matters:

1. I greet him, when he gets home. I know it seems outdated, perhaps it is, but I honestly am excited to see him at the end of the day, and I want him to know this. I don't take his coat and briefcase or anything, he can put his own bleep away. 

2. I cook his favorites, even though I don't necessarily like them. On the flip side, I cook my favorites too. Fair is fair.

3. I gussy up a tad (I'm talking VERY minimal. Think mascara, lip gloss, and removing my ponytail.), before he gets home. Another silly one, I know, but I just don't want to appear like the "walking dead," when he arrives.

4. I call him and/or text him several times a day, just to see how his day is going. Yet another outdated one? Maybe, but I really am curious to know how he is, and what he's up to. He calls me several times, refuses to text.

5. I gross out my kids. I don't wait for them to not be in the room, to smooch their father. I'm not talking full on make-out, but a quick kiss, a back rub, or a cuddle on the couch. This isn't just good for our marriage, but for our kids to see as well. Kids, believe it or not, want to see and know their parents love each other.

6. I force him to take me away, every anniversary. We don't live near family, and I don't leave my kids with sitters. Date nights for us consist of putting the kids to bed, and eating a special meal I've cooked, just for the two of us. So, once a year, I dump my kids at my mom's, and run away with my love. It's my favorite time of the year, ha!

The purpose of this post is just to remind you to make time for the two of you, and to share with you what works for us. Take a moment, to evaluate your days. Then, plan a little alone time where you see it's possible. Enjoy your spouse. I mean, isn't that why you got married? 

Corned Beef & Cabbage AND Leftovers Reubens

This slow cooker corned beef and cabbage is so good, and the reubens the next day are the best kind of bonus. 

Ingredients for Corned Beef and Cabbage:
1 3-4lb corned beef brisket
1 head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 cup of baby carrots
1 leek, properly cleaned and sliced
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste (a generous sprinkling of each should do)
1 cup of water

Directions for Corned Beef Cabbage:
Place the corned beef in the slow cooker, fat side up. Sprinkle with the coriander seeds, and salt & pepper. Pour the water over the corned beef, and place the bay leaves in the water. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook for 3 hours. Lift the meat, and plunge the cabbage, carrots, and leek into the liquid. Place the beef on top, still fat side up. Cook on low for 2-3 hours. Remove fat from corned beef, slice, and serve with the cabbage and carrots, discarding the bay leaves

Ingredients for Reubens:
*amount per reuben
2 slices rye bread
2 thin slices leftover corned beef
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 tbsp. sauerkraut, drained 
1 tbsp. Russian dressing* 

*For Russian dressing, mix together 2 parts mayo with 1 part chili sauce. Add as much horseradish as you can handle, and a dash of worcestershire sauce. Mix well, and refrigerate for several hours.

Directions for Reubens:
Assemble the sandwich. Ha! Enjoy.

*Some prefer this sandwich grilled or toasted. Have it your way.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Simple Applesauce Cake

This could not be any easier. The prep work is minimal, but the outcome is superb. With a slight variation in topping, this simple recipe can double as both a dessert and a breakfast cake.

1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour (I use half white, half wheat)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, butter, and sugar.

Whisk in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves.

Pour into a greased 8x8 baking dish.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. For dessert, serve with a little whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, or a scoop of ice cream.

For breakfast, serve with fried apples, yogurt, or coffee. Yummy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Keepin' It Real

I was just inspired, by one of my favorite youtubers. She posted a video titled "Welcome to Real Life" (link at end of post). It's a bold look at what real life is like for your average homeschooler. Let me tell you, honey. It ain't all lapbooks and field trips. We have kids, in our homes, all day and all night! Things get messy. We're not fembots simultaneously baking bread, washing dishes, teaching lessons, and entertaining guests. We homeschool moms are real people, just like everyone else.

If anyone wants to know how I "do it all" in one day, my answer is always the same. I DON'T. Here is a quick look at what my house looks like, right now, at the end of a normal homeschool day. Warning! Not for the squeamish or Type A personalities.

my living room couch

 my horrendous pile of dirty laundry

my stove-top, both breakfast and lunch dishes are still out...about to start dinner

 our classroom in its natural state

Brings to mind the saying, "Sorry for the mess, but we live here." It's so important to be in the here and now, with your kids. The dishes can wait, but they can't. Be present, in every sense of the word.

Link to MacKenzie Monroe's "Welcome to Real Life" video, which inspired this post:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Italian Veggie Salad

This is great to take to a neighborhood barbecue, but I love it so much I often make it just for us. It's healthy, but sooooo tasty!

1 head of cauliflower
12oz. fresh green beans
1 15.5oz. can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup green stuffed olives
1/3 cup olive oil
3 & 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. grated parmesan

Clean and boil the cauliflower and green beans, until crisp tender (about 5 minutes). Drain and cool.

In a large bowl, mix together the cauliflower, green beans, garbanzo beans, cherry tomatoes, and olives.

Stir together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, pepper, salt, garlic powder, and parmesan.

Pour the olive oil mixture over the veggies, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Toss gently before serving. Yum-yum.