This Month's Featured Resources...

Revolutionary WarScrap Crafting Lego History Latin Calendar

Thursday, April 30

Freezer Cooking 101 : April

The days are getting longer, and that means that we're ready to spend more time outside and less time in the kitchen!  Our freezer cooking tip this month is : Start Slow.  We've been encouraging this all along, by only bringing you one or two recipes each month.  Pick meals that you know your family enjoys, and cook twice as much.  Serve one for dinner, and freeze the other!  Most items freeze well, but avoid the following : fried foods, anything with a lot of dairy, and potatoes / rice.

Cheesy Chicken & Black Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1/3 cup prepared salsa, mild, medium or hot
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1/2-1 cup red enchilada sauce
  • 4-6 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded Monterey Jack and or Cheddar cheese
Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 9x9 casserole dish with cooking spray.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute 2 minutes. Add chicken and saute 5 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Add taco seasonings to the meat mixture.
  • Stir in black beans, green chiles, and salsa and simmer 5 minutes, until sauce thickens and reduces.
  • Put half of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9x9 casserole dish. Arrange 4-6 tortillas on a flat surface. Top each tortilla with an equal amount of chicken/bean mixture and 1-2 tablespoons cheese. Roll up tortillas and place side by side in a shallow baking dish. Add remaining enchilada sauce to the top. Then, top tortillas with remaining shredded cheese.
  • Bake enchiladas 15 minutes, until cheese is golden.

Sugar Cookie Logs

Ingredients
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 10 Tbsp unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Directions
  • Mix flour, baking powder, and salt - set aside.
  • Mix butter and sugar about three minutes with electric mixer.  Add egg and vanilla and continue beating until well mixed.
  • Combine flour and sugar mixtures.
  • On floured surface, divide dough into half.  Roll each half into a log about the size of a paper towel tube.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least two hours - up to three days).
  • To freeze : Cover plastic wrap with tin foil and freeze.  Thaw in refrigerator overnight before slicing and baking.  
  • To bake : Slice log into quarter-inch cookies.  Bake 7-10 minutes at 350.  

Tuesday, April 28

Nan, You're a Window Shopper (Lily Allen)

Tiny Steps Tuesday : Plan to Shop Smartly


Before shopping:


  • Plan your menu - plan to eat healthy, and you'll have a better shot!  Use a menu planning service such as Build-A-Menu to help with budgeting and planning around dietary needs.
  • Make a list - compile a list of ingredients that you don't already have for the week's needs.  Build-A-Menu will compile all of the ingredients for your entire week into one list.  (eg, if you need one egg for this recipe and four for that, it will spit you out a list that just says 'five eggs.')
  • Shop alone - easier said than done, but it's difficult to stay on track when your kids are asking for 'junk' that isn't on the menu!

At the store:


  • Shop the perimeter - the cold areas are most likely to have your healthy, perishable ingredients.  If it doesn't spoil, it's probably chock full of preservatives and additives.
  • Shop the farmer's market - for the freshest, local ingredients...those that haven't been sitting on a truck for a week or three.
  • Use your knowledge - when shopping the interior of the store, use what you have learned about nutrition labels to make the best choices.

Take it the Next Level

Check out the pantry and cupboards in your home.  Find the unhealthy products and remove them from your home - throw them away or donate to a food pantry.  Don't go overboard, or you'll rebound...make sure to leave one or two items for the occasional treat.



Down (Lords of Acid)




Speed up metabolism / improve weight loss


  • 1 c. green tea
  • 2 tbsp. ACV (apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. ground cayenne

Mix together well and drink tonic 30 minutes before each meal.
The combination of caffeine, temperature rise, and multiple vitamins promotes proper metabolic functioning and increases energy levels.

Detoxify naturally


  • 2 c. water
  • 1 tbsp. ACV

Mix and drink three times each day, thirty minutes prior to meals.
It helps to cleanse your body of toxins and assists the organs in ridding the body of waste.  Then, it helps to replenish vitamins and minerals needed for optimal functioning.


Minimize allergies


  • 1 tbsp. ACV
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix and drink up to three time daily during allergy season to reduce symptoms.
Try to use local honey if possible, as it has been proven to help reduce allergy suffering in your area.  The cinnamon is anti-inflammatory and the apple cider vinegar is both antiviral and antibacterial.  Combined, they help to reduce histamines in the body.

Tone skin


  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/3 c. ACV

Soak a washcloth in the solution and apply to skin.  Store extra in an airtight container.
The acidity helps to remove dead skin cells and oil, refreshing the face.  It also helps to balance the pH of the skin, reducing further outbreaks.  The vitamin C provides antioxidants to help restore skin.

Prevent insect bites


  • 1 c. ACV
  • 1/4 c. water

Use a washcloth to apply solution to skin to deter bugs from stinging or biting.
The acidity discourages bugs from your skin.  This can also be used after bites, by applying directly to skin - helping to prevent inflammation.


Thick hair


  • 2 tbsp. ACV
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne

Apply mixture directly to scalp and rub in for five minutes.  Allow to sit for one hour before shampooing as usual.  Should see results within 2-4 weeks.  (note - you should probably try this with a patch of hair first, just to be sure that you have the mixture right for your body chemistry.)
Capsaicin and quercetin in cayenne help to stimulate hair growth, while the acidity helps to improve circulation and provide minerals needed for strong hair.

Homemade shampoo


  • 1/2 c. ACV
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. water

Use mixture in place of shampoo, then condition as usual.  It is recommended to alternate with your regular shampoo at first.
The acidity will help to cleanse your hair of buildup and add minerals for strength and shine.


Minimize iron deficiency
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 tbsp. ACV
  • 1/2 c. spinach
  • 1/2 green apple (cored)
Combine ingredients in blender until smooth.  Drink daily.

One final note....it is important to get a raw apple cider vinegar, one that still has the mother floating around in it (that's the murky stuff).  I recommend Bragg's Organic - it works well and has a good shelf life.






Information from Apple Cider Vinegar for Health, by Britt Brandon.

Monday, April 27

Sweet Talk (Killers)

Pear & Blueberry Butter

We were blessed with 40 lbs of pears (FORTY POUNDS!) through our food co-op.  For reference, they filled up an entire sack - the kind you would use for a sack race.  After making pear chips, and eating pears, and trading pears, we were still left with about ten pounds that were quickly going soft.  We had to use them up, and quickly!


Ingredients :
  • 7 cups blueberries (we changed up the ratio and only use 1 1/2 cups, hence our's is less blue)
  • 3 pears, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar


Directions :
  • Put pears, blueberries, adn water into a saucepan and bring to boil.  REduce heat and simmer for an hour.
  • Remove from heat and strain the pulp.  Add 2 1/2 cups sugar for every 2 cups of strained puree.
  • Set mixture on low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  • Bring to boil for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  • Remove from heat, spoon into sterilized jars, let cool, then put lids on and label.  Store in refrigerator.  Use within a month.
Find this recipe, and many more good ones, in Pickles & Preserves.

Friday, April 24

Let It Grow (Eric Clapton)


During our Medieval studies, we began a science unit on botany - specifically on growing herbs.  Since we already had a big herb garden planned for spring, we decided to purchase an AeroGarden light system to start the seeds.  
..........unfortunately, there was a communication breakdown, and we ended up with two of them!  They had different lights, though, and we decided to make it a science experiment.  Just like in our Egypt study, it's time to work smarter, not harder!
The boys got the seeds planted and the water and nutrients started.  It became one of their chores to keep the gardens tended, and to note how well each of them was growing, so that we could compare.
In the meantime, we started bringing home old pallets from our food co-op.  We plan to use these for various projects around the house (which we promise to show off later!), but two of them were designated as herb planters.


Herb Planter Tutorial

Start with your basic wooden pallet.  Using a crowbar, rip out all of the vertical slats except the two outsides and the center slat.  Paint your color of choice, if desired.
I'm sure there are cheaper ways to make the planters, but this was MUCH easier.  We found a bag of reusable shopping bags at a garage sale for a dollar.  There were fifteen bags in there, and they were perfect for our "pots."  Cut the handles off the bags.  I think the time saved on making all of those little planters was entirely worth a dollar!

If you're going to go this route, make sure that water runs through them (they're not coated with a water-resistant layer), or your plants will mold and rot.  
Fold the bags on themselves until you have a baggie that fits so that it just hangs below the wooden horizontal slat.  Using a staple gun, secure the bag to the pallet.  Just staple, staple, staple away!
If desired, paint the name of which herbs will be in those planters.  Since we are using this as a teaching tool, and we want the children to be confident about which herbs they are using in the kitchen, we opted to label our planters.
Fill the bag planters with a combination of soil and peat moss, since that makes a good base.  Plant your seeds or (in our case) transplant them from your seed starters. 
We used another one of those pallets and a leftover plastic bin to create another raised bed...this one with onions and radishes.  Remember when using raised beds that they need to be watered more frequently, since the roots won't reach into the ground water!
                                  
....in case you're curious, both versions of the system grew the plants at essentially the same rate.

Thursday, April 23

China (Tori Amos)


Archaeologists believe the Xia Dynasty began around the year 2,000 BCE, about 4,000 years ago. Legend says this dynasty was founded by the best engineer from the Lungshan people, who settled along the Huang He River a thousand years earlier.
From what scientists can tell, these early people were very advanced for their time. They worked together and used a system of irrigation to water the fields. They baked bricks in ovens for strong building materials. The floors of their huts were plaster instead of earth. They used a potters wheel to make vases and pots. And they made beautiful, colorfully dyed and designed woven fabrics, made from silk!
The people were deeply religious. They believed in the gods of nature, like the river god, the rain god, and the earth god. They believed in a great many gods, but the most powerful god was the sky god, T'ien, the king of all the gods, a god more powerful than any earthbound king.

The Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors 

The Three Sovereigns were powerful demigods who lived to be very old and brought peace and prosperity to the land during their rule.
  • Fu Xi was said to have invented fishing, trapping, and writing. His sister was Nuwa. It was Fu Xi and Nuwa who crafted the first humans out of clay.
  • Nuwa was the sister of Fu Xi. She helped him to create humans and also repaired the wall of heaven.
  • Shennong means "Divine Farmer." He brought the knowledge of agriculture to the Chinese people. He invented the plow, axe, hoe, irrigation, and the Chinese calendar.
 The Five Emperors were perfect kings who ruled wisely and with honor. The most famous of the Five Emperors was the Yellow Emperor. He ruled for 100 years and brought about the start of the Chinese civilization. In addition to the Yellow Emperor were Zhuanzu, Emperor Ku, Emperor Yao, and Shun. 
The greatest creature in Chinese mythology is the legendary dragon. The dragon is a long, winged, snake-like creature with four legs each with long and dangerous claws. Dragons were thought to have power over water and the weather.  The dragon was the symbol of the emperor. His throne was even called the Dragon Throne. It is said that the Yellow Emperor turned into a dragon and flew to heaven when he died. 

Interesting Facts about Chinese Mythology

  • Only the emperor could wear clothes that had pictures of the dragon.
  • Nian was said to have the body of a bull and the head of a lion.
  • Sometimes the Yellow Emperor was considered one of the Three Sovereigns.
  • The Three Sovereigns are also known as the Three August Ones.
  • Some records show that the Three Sovereigns each ruled for over 10,000 years.
  • It was the Yellow Emperor's wife, Leizu, who taught the Chinese how to make silk from silkworms.
  • Emperor Yao was said to have been morally perfect and served as the example of how all future Chinese emperors should behave.

Craft & Resources

Tuesday, April 21

Too Close for Comfort (Diane Reeves)

Tiny Steps Tuesday : Clean Up Your Act

In the US, most people are exposed to hundreds of toxic chemicals during their morning beauty routine.  The government does not require testing and regulation for a majority of the chemicals used in these products, and the labeling can be very misleading.  Therefore, you may think that you're making a wise choice, but still be slathering on a toxic cocktail...
Just because it's labeled natural, organic, or hypoallergenic doesn't mean that it has 100% safe ingredients.  Familiarize yourself with the worst offenders and be on the lookout for them when you're at the drugstore.

Take it to the Next Level

Use some of the recipes found at Little House Living to create your own personal care products.  You'll find that it's easier than you think, and your body will thank you for it!

Thursday, April 16

Tapestry (Carole King)

As we wrapped up a unit on the Middle Ages, before heading into the Renaissance, we wanted to do something special with the kids.  Going to Medieval Times was our first choice, but the closest one is several hours away and the timing was just not right.  After searching, we found this cute little English pub in Tulsa, called The White Lion, and decided to take the kids there for some authentic British food and a little bit of culture...  At the bottom of this post, you'll find a Medieval Unit study that is purely for fun.
That's my little ham up there, pretending to be a lion!  What a fabulous meal we had!  If you're ever in the Tulsa area, this one is a must visit.  It's low-key and seems to be one of those places known only to the locals and by word of mouth.  We had hot tea, brie & apples, bangers & mash, cottage pie, and fish & chips.  Since this was an educational experience, we just ordered the different dishes and ate family style...with everyone sharing everything.  After dinner, the boys chatted up Queen Elizabeth...
The pub's decor is really fascinating.  While waiting for the food to arrive, we went around to each of the rooms (it's a re-purposed house) and investigated the decor.  There aren't many good pictures, because we didn't want to disturb the other diners.

Middle Ages Fun Unit Study



Tour Skipton Castle!

Medieval Times Knights' Performance