September 29, 2009

How the Garden Grows: September

Things are winding down in the garden these days. We finally got tomatoes! I'm guessing the cool summer held the tomatoes back a bit. We were worried there for awhile that we weren't going to get any tomatoes at all, but they ended up doing okay. Who would have thought September would be warmer than August! The plants got so heavy with tomatoes the cages were bending. I turned several pounds of the tomatoes into a delicious marinara sauce and we have eaten them on salads and burgers and just sliced with salt as well.

The cucumbers are finally done. I still have several in the fridge that call out to me every time I open the door. I may have to find one last cucumber recipe to try.

Every time I pick what I think is the last of the jalapenos, I find a few more. They are the "Little Engine That Could" of the garden world. I don't think I'll have enough for another jar of pickled peppers (I've made 3 so far), but maybe another batch of poppers.

The celery is still growing. Not quite to what it looks like when you buy it in the grocery store though so I haven't cut any of it yet. I'll have to do a little research on harvesting, we might get our first frost soon and I don't know if it will survive that or not.

The onions are all harvested and braided together hanging in the garage. I was hoping to get some bigger ones, more like you see in the store. They are tasty though and actually a few times it's been nice to grab a small one and use the whole thing with no waste.

I have several of the herbs I planted harvested and hanging in the garage. Whether or not they are actually edible time will tell. I ended up letting the cilantro go to seed. My dreams of fresh salsa all summer long were lost when the tomatoes decided to take the slow road. Did you know that cilantro seeds are coriander? I didn't until this year! After the plant grew tall enough and had plenty of seeds, I cut it and let it dry a week or so before stripping the seeds off the stems. I got a nice little baggie of coriander for my efforts. Now I just need to find some recipes that call for coriander!This will be the last garden update for the year... unless the celery harvest gets really exciting. Overall, I have to say I am pretty happy with how the garden did. We got a good sized harvest out of a fairly small space. And except for the late tomatoes and the unknown outcome of the celery we didn't have any major vegetable deaths. What more could a beginning gardener ask for?

September 27, 2009

Recipe: BBQ Chicken and Garlic Chicken Pizza

Here are the recipes if you want to give either one a try:

2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups flour
1 T. yeast
1/4 t. salt
1 cup warm water
2 T. oil

Mix half flour, yeast, salt. Add water and oil. Mix well. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in as much remaining flour as you can. Turn out on floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Divide in half. This recipe makes two crusts. Roll out to fit pizza pan. If you want regular pizza top it right away and bake. If you want a thicker crust let it rise a bit before topping. If you want thinner and crispier crust, immediately bake crust only at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes. Then top and bake again.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
1 pre-baked crust (see above or store bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Mix chicken and BBQ sauce. Spread over crust. Top with cheese.
Bake at 400 for 8 -12 minutes. Makes 8 slices.

Gourmet Chicken Garlic Pizza
1 pre-baked crust (see above)
1 cup cooked chicken, diced
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
3-4 green onions, sliced
2 T. parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup garlic caesar dressing

Spread dressing on crust. Top with chicken, tomatoes, and onions.
Sprinkle parmesan cheese over pizza first,
followed by mozzarella. Bake at 400 for 8-12 minutes.
(Could use ranch or alfredo sauce instead of caesar dressing.)

September 24, 2009

Homeschool Organization: File Crate

We're now several weeks into our school year and I just had to share this little organizational tip. I came across this file crate idea on a blog I like to read. I modified it for our family and came up with this:

I really love it and I can't believe how much time it saves me! Even if you don't homeschool, it could help you organize various papers that are used on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. It would be good for items that can't really be put into your household notebook. (You do have one don't you?) Bills, birthday cards, and holiday recipes come to mind. If you don't need a file crate, you could use a accordion type file.

Since I plan by the week, I have a folder for each week labeled with that Monday's date. I can plan ahead, up through the whole year if I want, and file things we will be using in the future. Each week, usually on Sunday night, I empty that week's folder into the daily folders. Then each morning I just need to grab the daily folder and I have all the worksheets/copies I need for the day in one spot.

I have a folder for each child (for their finished work that we want to keep), one folder for stuff that needs to be re-filed in my binders, one folder for things I need to photocopy, and one folder for me.

I think this works so well for us because of what we do each week. We study a different character trait weekly. I hang a paper with the definition of that trait and a Bible verse to go with it up in the kitchen each week. So the character printouts for the whole year are in the folders for the week we'll need them. I don't have to go track down the character binder, flip through it to find what I'm looking for, and take out the paper. It's all ready to go for the whole year right now. Multiply that by several subjects and you'll see the time it's going to save. Letter of the week printout and all the coloring pages I have to go with them... all filed! Spelling lists... all filed! I even took all the worksheets out of Wesley's math book and filed them.

If I run across something that I want to use in the future I can just print it out and stick it in that week's file. For example, I found a cool print out of the solar system to color, but we aren't going to start studying that until January. So I just filed it away and I'll be so happy to see it again when I open up that file! I won't have to remember where I put it or waste time looking for it. I'm sure I'm even filing stuff that I probably will forget I even have... it will be a little surprise for myself when I open that folder.

I keep the crate right in the kitchen where I can get to it easily each day. It's close to the computer where I print things out and close to the table where we do most of our school work.

If this sounds complicated... it's not. It only took me one evening to put it together. I think I spent more time tracking down the file crate and choosing my folder colors than I did on anything else. As you can see I chose the colorful folders. They cost a bit more, but I always loved rainbows! And yes, they are in the correct order, long live ROY G BIV (minus the orange and indigo)!

September 22, 2009

How the Garden Grows: Photo Edition

My husband took these pictures to share. I think he did a great job working up close and getting individual veggie shots. As the garden produces and finishes certain items it is starting to look empty in spots. Right now it doesn't make for very pretty shots as a whole, but individually is another story.

Green Beans


Kohlrabi---a new favorite

Tomatoes--huge plants but no fruit yet!


Cucumber vine climbing over the garden wall
I'm so glad we planted them there...
they have plenty of room to spread



September 15, 2009

Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

Grandma stopped by for a visit this morning and we all worked together to bake cookies. A few weeks ago I got a deal on chocolate covered macadamia nuts at Walgreens. When I ran across this recipe posted on a blog by someone else that found the same deal, I knew I had to give it a try!

They are delicious! I'm sure they'd be equally good with chopped macadamia nuts and chocolate chips just in case you don't find a deal. Apparently macadamia's are a tough nut to crack! I broke my chopper trying to chunk up the nuts so I suggest putting them in a baggie and smashing them with the side of a meat tenderizing hammer instead.

Chocolate Chunk Macadamia Nut Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 oz chocolate covered macadamia nuts

Mix shortening and margarine together. Add half of the flour, all the brown sugar, sugar, eggs, vanilla and baking soda. Beat until thoroughly combined. Mix in the remaining flour. Add in chopped macadamia nuts. Drop by scoop onto cookie sheets. Bake at 375ยบ for 10 minutes or until golden.

September 7, 2009

Kid's Bedrooms and Making Beds

We have a lot of kids. Kids have a lot of stuff. Stuff can get out of hand. However, the kids rooms at our house are clutter free. Why? Bedrooms are for sleeping. We don't store toys or books in their rooms. Each child gets a stuffed animal and a book to keep on their bed. More than that and they would just make a mess. Plus toys and books are a distraction at naps and bedtime. And we are really strict about naps and bedtime here at Casa de LotsaKids. Dirty clothes go right to the laundry room. No piles. No exceptions.

The boy's room
(Please ignore the hideous blue paint...
that was a previous owners choice...
if you're not busy come help us paint sometime!)

It is my goal to train myself out of a job and since there is so little in their room the boys can clean it themselves. Our oldest son can already dust and vacuum the room fairly easily and quickly, even at age 7, with very minimal assistance.

This next tip was a hard one for me but it really did make a BIG difference. My CDO* really flares up when it comes to beds. I am a "make the bed EVERY DAY" person. When I say "make" I mean tuck in the sheets, fluff the pillows, and bounce a quarter on the spread. I hate messed up beds AND once made I like them to stay that way! I'm a joy to live with I tell you!

This bed obsession was easy to deal with when there were fewer children, but as the boys grew out of the crib I was starting to have trouble keeping my own standards. Beds were made but (Gasp!) jumped on or then napped on and not remade. Aggghhh! Nooooo!

Then I noticed something. The baby's room always looked kept up. The crib was never a mess of sheets, covers, & stuffed animals and I never once "made the crib". Hmmm...why was that? The crib mattress only had a sheet, that's why!
A "made" bed

So in a complete departure from all things normal, I decided to get rid of all bedding but the fitted sheets on the big boy beds. Each boy has a blanket that he uses as a cover. In the morning that blanket gets folded and set at the foot of the bed. Little boys can fold a blanket a lot easier than they can make a bed. Voila! Neat looking beds without the need to "make" them! As they get older and can make a bed without trouble I'll let them decide if they want the whole bed set up. If they don't...that's fine with me!

*CDO--It's like OCD but with the letters in alphabetical order, the way they should be! :