Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

What I’m Into: November 2015

Well, I happened to blink and it’s the end of November already.

Not sure how that happened, but hey, here we are.

Here is a monthly menagerie of things I’m into as of late:

*Fair Trade shopping. I did a bit of shopping for people at a Ten Thousand Villages store that isn’t too far from us. Above is a pan flute that I bought for one of my little guys, as well as a thumb piano for his twin.

Oh yeah, I may have purchased a cute little something for myself too…including these darling bicycle earrings! They had some fabulous jewelry there, including some great clearance deals.

*Baking. It takes a couple of chillier days and I get into baking mode. Some breads, cookies, and the like. I love all the fun holiday baking recipes I see popping up this time of year!

Speaking of which, my kids really want me to try making these Snow Globe  cupcakes. Are they not the cutest thing ever? I think yes.

*Yarn. Yup, it was on my list last month and yet it remains.

Here’s a button-over cowl that I made up a couple weeks ago. I like making these with big round wood buttons, but I also discovered these wooden toggle buttons that I like. I’ve also been working on a couple of newsboy style hats and a baby gift for my best friend, who is due in just a couple of weeks.

*The Christmas story. Advent has begun and this year I’m super excited about all of my kiddos being in a Christmas pageant next week.

I have two little shepherds, one angel/townsperson, a wise man, and Joseph (played by Daniel, not Joseph. Confusing, I know, when you have all these boy Bible names rolling around in one family…)

Well, that’s all folks. Add in upcoming Christmas concerts, other kid activities, and a bunch of school happenings this week, and there’s my life this time of year. Thanks for tuning in!

Recipes

Peasant Bread

Can bread be beautiful?

Yes, it absolutely can!

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This is a gorgeous loaf that we made yesterday. Hearty and rustic with just the right amount of crust. So, so good…

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My typical “go to” bread recipe is a honey wheat that I make about once a week.

This particular recipe, however, is one I found in an international cookbook.

It is entitled “Slavic Farmer’s Bread.”

Here’s the recipe we used, with a little extra somethin’ somethin’ added in for texture:

*2 Packs active dry yeast

*2 C warm water

*1 tsp salt

*Approximately  5 1/2-6 C bread flour

*1/3 C butter, cut into little pieces

*1/4-1/2 C wheat bran (Shhh…our secret ingredient!)

Dissolve yeast in a bowl with warm water.

In a separate large bowl, mix salt with 4 C of the bread flour and the wheat bran. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until it is a crumbly mixture. Add yeast mixture in and stir by hand or in a stand mixer until flour is nice and moist. Work in 1 more cup of flour to form a stiff dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Add a little more flour to prevent sticking as you go.

Place in a greased bowl and flip to grease the top as well. Cover and allow to rise in a warm location for about an hour to an hour and a half.

Grease a baking sheet. Punch down dough and knead a little longer. Shape into a round or oval loaf and place on the baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise for about another 45 minutes. Loaf should about double in size during this time! Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cut a 1/2″ deep cross into the top of the loaf. Brush loaf with warm water. Bake for 25 minutes at 400, then reduce to 350 F and bake about 15 more minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

The nice crusty underside of the loaf.
The nice crusty underside of the loaf.

Slice and enjoy!

Note: This makes one giant loaf of bread. When I make it again I am going to try dividing it into 2 smaller round loaves and figure out the baking times. Also, what we didn’t eat I stored in a paper bag overnight and it was just as wonderfully crusty this morning.

Recipes

Peanut Butter Monster Cookies

We go through tons of peanut butter in our house. I am seriously considering buying those giant gallon-sized containers of it because it disappears so quickly. My main PB consumer is Daniel, our oldest son who just turned 13. He eats peanut butter on EVERYTHING, even really weird stuff that kind of grosses me out**. So, for his birthday I made these cookies in lieu of cake this year.

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Imagine your basic Monster cookies (which I love just a little too much) with Reeses Pieces instead of M & M’s.

Peanut butter cookie dough with chocolate and peanut butter pieces added in.

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Yup, it’s good stuff.

These got gobbled up pretty fast, so I guess they were well liked.  I may have had one actual baked cookie out of the batch, but I can testify that the cookie dough was awfully tasty.

Here’s the recipe for these guys:

2 cups flour

2 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup softened butter

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup Reese’s Pieces

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Chill dough for at least 1/2 hour. Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes.

**Moms–Do not, I repeat Do NOT watch a 12 to 13 year old boy eat pretty much anything. You will quite possibly be disgusted and nauseated. Yes, make your kids great food and love them to bits, but be ready to turn away when they are ready to actually eat/inhale it. Consider yourself warned.

Recipes

Whole Wheat Hamburger Rolls

We had a most beautiful Memorial Day here. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and we took full advantage of it.

For dinner we had a great campfire meal of burgers and cowboy beans, along with a couple of other things. Oh yeah, and some yummy s’mores to top them all off.

I had really, really missed burgers cooked right over the fire and hadn’t had any since last fall.

To take them to a whole new level, I decided to make my own rolls to accompany them.

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Oh.My.Goodness. They did not disappoint.

These are not hard or really too time-consuming to make and are really worth the extra effort.

Here’s the recipe I followed:

1 package yeast

1 C warm water

1/4 C + 1 TB sugar

2 TB melted butter

3 1/2 C wheat flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

Mix together yeast, sugar, and water. Let sit for about 10 until it gets nice and bubbly. Add in the rest of the ingredients (except for egg!) and mix and knead really well. Place dough ball in oiled bowl and let rise in a warm location for about 1 hour. Divide into at least 8-10 pieces and form into roll shapes. (I rolled out the whole dough ball so it was pretty thick and just used the top of a cup to make circles.) Place on baking sheet and let these rise for another hour. Preheat oven to 375 F and brush top of rolls with egg wash. Bake for 12-16 minutes. Let cool and then slice in half before serving.

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When I make these again, I may be tempted to do a double batch and then freeze a portion of them for future meals. I would also like to use the same recipe and make hot dog buns as well.

Summer is almost here, so enjoy!

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Once a Month Grocery Shopping: An Update

Do you hear that giant sucking sound? Perhaps your house makes a strange noise like mine does. It comes from the vicinity of the fridge and pantry area. It is especially loud first thing in the morning and in the evening. It is the sound of food being consumed at a rather alarming rate by children whose appetites are growing exponentially. Groceries are disappearing at that same rate and a cupboard that is overflowing one day can be wiped out with only a trail of crumbs to tell the tale by the next.

This is one of those articles that I really should have written awhile ago. You see, I did a short, 2-part series almost a year and a half ago on how I do once a month grocery shopping. (You can see my original posts from October 2012 here and also here) Anyone who read them may have wondered if I was able to continue doing it, or if I’ve made any tweaks or changes to how I go about it. Today I hope to answer those questions for you.

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So, have I continued to do Once a Month grocery shopping?

Yes. Sorta. I still try to buy the bulk of what we use in one big trip. Usually I have a hugely overflowing cart and multiple things stuffed in the under portion of the cart as well. By the last aisle it takes a lot of muscle and good steering abilities to get that cart around a corner and down the home stretch. I buy a lot from a local bent and dent store and then some other things on my list on the way home at another store. This trip typically covers a lot of our basic staples that we use in a month. I thought I had a really good idea of what we go through as a family and was doing pretty darn well for a long time. However, I’m not sure what happened this past school year, but now I’m not so great at predicting amounts of things. Some of it I attribute to the fact that my kids are just growing like crazy and I now have several that eat just about like adults. The other thing that has changed is now my littlest guys are in school all day and I have to pack their lunches as well. I do try to cram as much as I can into that one trip and have one (and lately more like two) in-between trips to pick up what is missing or milk and produce. With summer veggies and fruits coming into season hopefully soon, that should remedy this just a tad bit. Of course then my kids will be here all day and the dynamics will be somewhat different for a couple months again.

What have I changed or need to change?

I haven’t changed the basics of how I go about planning for a grocery trip. I still need to get a grip on what we go through now that a year and a half has passed. Soon I will have one teenage boy in the house, 2 tweens, and 2 seven year olds that seem to be going through a growth spurt. Oh yeah, and my husband and myself. The amount I buy has obviously gone up and so have grocery prices! Holy schmoly! That’s one for another day, but we are definitely spending a bit more than we once did. Perhaps I need to do a running tally again of how many staples we consume in a month (check out where I did this before here). I think that would be really practical and helpful.

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Would I still recommend the once a month shopping?

Absolutely. I really believe that overall it really does save time and money. If you haven’t tried it yet, read my past articles on it and get a game plan in place. There is a learning curve involved and as I can testify to, family needs change with the years. Maybe try out a twice a month plan and go with that for starters.

Thanks for tuning in and if you try this, let me know how it works for you!

Recipes

Banana Baked Oatmeal Muffins

This is a great recipe if you’re looking for a healthy bite.

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Though we have no food allergies in our house (thank God!) and don’t specifically avoid any certain ingredient, they are perfect for families who ARE avoiding specific things.

No white sugar. No flour. No eggs.

Less than 100 calories a piece.

As an added bonus, they are super tasty and nutritious. Perfect for a quick grab-it-and-go breakfast or a healthy little snack.

These would also be great in kids’ lunchboxes. I am always struggling to pack healthy for my gang. After packing five lunchboxes a day every weekday morning I seem to run out of fresh ideas sometimes.

I haven’t tried this yet, but these supposedly freeze well also.

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I snagged the recipe off of this website.

Here’s the lowdown on what you need to make these:

5 cups rolled oats

2 1/2 cups overly ripe bananas

1 tsp salt

5 TB sweetener (you choose which one–I used honey)

2/3 cup Chocolate chips

2 1/2 cup water

1/4 cup + 1 TB oil (coconut or vegetable)

2 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 380 degrees F and line cupcake pans with liners. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then add in to the dry ones. Mix together well, than spoon into cupcake liners. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Makes about 24.

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Parenting Tales

Snow and Ice Days

My post today is mostly pictorial. It is a basic summary of what we have done for the last few weeks.

If you live in the Northeast (and I’m sure in many other areas of the country), your days may look somewhat the same, especially if you have school-aged children.

Here in Pennsylvania we have been assaulted with what seems like one storm after another. The result is a mixed bag of snow days (plus MLK day and an Inservice day thrown in) and 2 hour delays that have completely messed with our normal schedule. At this point it seems as if my kids have been out of school more days than they’ve been in school. I can only imagine what it’s like for their poor teachers on the days that they actually have a full day. Oh, and we have another winter storm on the horizon, hooray! By the way, there’s a cute article here that totally reflects my feelings on the recent weather and lack of school. It is called “The Winter that Nearly Killed All the Moms.”

Anyhow, I’ve snapped some pictures here and there that kind of sum up what we do on those multiple days off. However, WordPress is giving me major issues whenever I try to upload a photo that I’ve taken (and I took some pretty good ones too!). Sooo…I’ll improvise and throw in some photo downloads that I’ve snagged off of Google images and such, plus a couple that I’ve already put on my blog somewhere that I was able to use. Sorry, I know it’s kinda lame but hey, work with me here. Hopefully the problem is resolved soon!

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Time outside in the snow! Lots of sledding, snowman making, and all the other outdoor fun that goes along with snow days. Hopefully nobody gets hurt–though we did have an incident involving a knocked-out tooth. Thankfully it was a baby tooth that was soon going to fall out.

(Do you know how hard it is to find a white baby tooth in the white snow? Virtually impossible.)

Photo: My "keeping it real" photo--what snow days with kids really looks like. There's another pile just like it at the front door!

Just to keep it real, this is a small sampling of what awaits me when the crew comes in from being out in the snow.

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I already make bread at least once a week, but love making it and doing other baking on these frigid days. There’s nothing like coming in the house after being outside and inhaling that freshly-baked smell. Good stuff.

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One of the few days when my nieces were here as well, we tried out this recipe using freshly fallen snow. They were so excited about our Snow Cream. I have to admit, it was pretty yummy and reminded me of Rita’s Vanilla Water Ice, which is one of my top faves.

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As a family we have dived into the Chronicles of Narnia book series. My kids sit there entranced as I read a chapter or two out loud to them at a time. Though I haven’t shown any of the movies to them, we plan to watch them at some point.

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Games, games, and more games. Candyland, checkers, Uno, Battleship, Chess….I could go on and on but you get the idea.

Lots of little craft times. Perler beads have been one of the semi-newer favorites. Oh, and we busted out some Play-Doh as well.

I will be thrilled when Spring arrives.

Happy Snow Days to all,

Rachel