Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Passport: Mexico

Many of you all know that I take my time with my kids very seriously.  I am also a Type A personality.  If I don't have things planned out, then I get aggravated and frustrated and not a whole lot gets accomplished.  Because of these lovely personality traits, I start planning my summer with my kids starting in April.  With my new position as a reading specialist, I tested either an individual or small group of students every day during SOL tests.  These are our state tests here in Virginia.  Everything is now online, so the testing window lasts a little over a month with some kind of test happening almost every day in May and June.  The rules are incredibly strict, so during testing I cannot read, write, or go on the computer, but once the testing is done in my room, we can do all of that as we wait for the rest of the school to be done testing.  So, this is where all my planning began. 

I decided that the whole summer we would spend time learing about different areas of the world.  The World Cup was about to start, so I figured this was the perfect theme to help the kids understand that all these teams came from all over the world and this World Cup was a BIG deal!  With that idea in mind, I just needed to focus on one country a week. 

The first week of summer we learned about Mexico.  We decided on this as our first country because my brother-in-law's birthday was that week and his family is from Mexico, AND Kroger was doing a Taste of Mexico event for three weeks and all Mexican food was on sale.  Score!  Here are a few things we did together:

We made banderitas, or papel picados, during Make Something Monday.  These are flags that are hung up during any kind of celebration in Mexico.  All you need are scissors, construction paper, and string.  We folded the paper four times and then cut out shapes.  It's almost like making a snowflake.  My sunshine girl made the orange, pink, and red flags, and Little Bear made the purple one, can you tell?

Tuesdays are Time to Read Tuesdays.  Little Bear is at his daycare, so Sunshine and I head to the library so I can tutor and then we head to storytime.  We also use this time to check out books and look up books about the country we are studying.

Wednesdays are What's Cooking Wednesday.  I don't have a picture of our meal, but we made an authentic Mexican meal on this night.  The kids and I made homemade salsa and served it with guacamole, tacos, and all the fixin's.

On Thursday, we call is Thinker Thursday.  We are conducting science experiments on this day that doesn't necessarily go along with our theme.  Sunshine and I were so excited to make a rainbow in a jar.  This was a pinterest fail.
See?  Pinterest fail.  Do you see a rainbow in there?  I kept thinking in my head, "Nailed it!"  Sunshine and I had a blast trying it out togther, so that is all that matters!
Fridays are Fun Fridays.  We spent our fun Friday at the pool since we were going to head to my sis and brother-in-law's later that day to celebrate his birthday.  We made pinatas for him!
We took balloons and blew them up.  Then we made a mixture of one part flour to two parts water.  We dipped newspaper strips in this mixture and laid them on the balloon as our first layer.  That dried overnight, then we started our layers of tissue paper the next day to add some color.  It took us three days to make them since you have to let them dry in between layers.  Then you pop the balloon and fill it up with candy!  My brother-in-law was surprised!  We loved hitting them at his celebration and getting all of the candy.

I am loving my time at home with these two rascals.  We even made tie dye shirts!

And yes, he got a haircut this past week!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Love is...

I hope everyone had a good Valentine's Day!  What a fun day to remind everyone you love, just how much you love and care for them!  Parenthood has made me pretty sappy and I have had a few people around me go through some extremely tough situations lately, which have had a profound effect on my day to day thinking and actions.  I have found myself stopping more often throughout the day to pray and appreciate my sweet family and think of how blessed and thankful I am for them.

Love is...

Looking in the rearview mirror, making eye contact with a sweet face in the back seat, and smiling at each other.

Love is...

Bowing our heads to pray in church and feeling my husband's hand reach out to hold mine.

Love is...

That first moment I see my babies in the morning and how all they want is a hug.

Love is...

How each of my kids fits perfectly under each arm.

Love is...

Sitting around the dinner table, listening to music, and talking about our day.

Love is...

Knowing that God is in control and guiding my family through each day.

Love is...

Having a Savior who thinks I am to die for!


I know you all have missed me.  :)  Here are some recipes we will be having for our dinners this week:  Unstuffed Chicken breasts with ham, gruyere, and roasted broccoli, mu shu pork wraps, tuna melts, slow cooker chicken stroganoff

Unstuffed Chicken Breasts with Ham, Gruyere, and Roasted Broccoli adapted from America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook (a gift from my awesome aunt for Christmas)
*If you don't have gruyere, then Swiss cheese is a cheaper and just as good alternative

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, crown cut into large wedges
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded if necessary (I took 3 breasts, and halved them horizontally, to make 6 thin cutlets)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 ounces deli ham
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (1 cup)
15 Ritz crackers, crushed

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat to 475 degrees.  Brush rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil.

Toss broccoli with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange chicken breasts, side by side on one side of prepared baking sheet.  Spread mustard over top of chicken, then top each breast with 1 slice ham and 1/4 cup cheese.  Sprinkle cracker crumbs over cheese and press on to adhere.

Lay broccoli, cut side down, on opposite side of bakingsheet from chicken.  Bake until chicken is cooked through and broccoli is well browned and tender, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfwa through baking.  Serve.  (A dish with everything cooked in the oven at the same time?!  How awesome is that?)

***My sweet sunshine girl ate all of her chicken and only bites of her broccoli.  My sweet little bear boy ate seconds of broccoli and only bites of chicken.  Sigh.  If you put the two together, then I guess you can say they liked it!

Mu Shu Pork Wraps  Also adapted from the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook
We had a pork chop dish last week for dinner and I had bought a value pack of pork chops.  I cooked up the chops I didn't use and will use the already cooked pork in this recipe.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons soy sauce
1 pork tenderloin, trimmed and sliced thin
6 scallions, white parts minced, green parts cut into 1 inch lengths
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 bag coleslaw mix
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
8 (6-inch) flour tortillas

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, cornstarch, flour, and 2 teaspoons soy sauce together in medium bowl until smooth, then stir in pork.  In separate bowl, combine scallion whites, ginger, and 1 teaspoon oil.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add half of pork, breaking up an clumps, anc ook, without stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir pork and continue to cook until lightly browined, about 1 minute; transfer to clean bowl..  Repeat with 1 teaspoon oil and remaining pork; transfer to bowl.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now empty skillet and return to high heat until just smoking.  Add coleslaw mix and mushrooms and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Clear center of skillet, add scallion mixture, and cook, mashing mixture into skillet, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir scallion mixture into vegetables.

Add cooked pork, with any accumulated juices, scallion greens, hoisin sauce, and remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened, about 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, stack tortillas on plate, cover and microwave until soft and hot, about 2 minutes.  Serve pork filling with warm tortillas and extra hoisin sauce.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff adapted from AllRecipes (awesome website and app)  I wouldn't be able to plan meals each week without my slowcooker.  I always have at least one meeting a week that goes to 5:30.  This week is no exception-Parent/Teacher Conferences on Thursday until 6:30.  Hello slow cooker meal!!!

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1/8 cup butter
1 package dry Italian dressing mix
1 package cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
(I know doesn't sound the healthiest, but come on, it's just one night!  And you can always use less cream cheese and use a healthified cream of chicken soup)

Put chicken, butter, and dressing mix in slow cooker.  Mix together and cook on low 5-6 hours.
Add cream cheese and soup, mix together and cook on high for another 1/2 hour or until heated through and warm.

Serve over egg noodles and with a side salad, and voila, you have a complete meal!

**If I don't use this recipe for conference night, my husband will just whip up a scrumptious breakfast for dinner meal. 

Tuna Melts adapted from Martha Stewart Living, but it's Emeril Lagasse's recipe
Need a cheap dinner idea???  Here you go!  I grabbed 4 cans of tuna last week, just in case we lost power with the snow last week.  We didn't need to use them, but it sure helped me plan a meal for this week!  My husband is not a fan of tuna, but when I made these he actually said they were really good!  Yeah buddy!

4 cans tuna, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
4 slices crusty bread
8 thin slices tomato (we do not use tomato)
4 slices provolone

Heat broiler with rack in highest position.  In a medium bowl, combine tuna, mayo, onion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oregano and stir until combined.

Arrange bread on a baking sheet and spread a little mayo on each slice.  Divide tuna salad evenly among slices (I have found that this makes more than just 4), then top with 2 slices of tomato and one slice of cheese.  Broil until cheese is golden brown and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes.

I would serve this with leftover salad from the night before and some chips. 

Happy Eating!