Saturday, August 31, 2013

Newsletter Update (and September Menu Calendar)!

For those that receive my newsletter I wanted to give you a little update.. I’ve not sent out a newsletter for the last two months and won’t be sending one out this month. I’m at a point where I think it’s time for a little break. Not sure how long but after 9+ years of publishing a monthly newsletter, a little break sounds like a good plan to me!! I do desire to continue the newsletter in the future and will keep you posted!

I will continue with my blog and website.. just a little break from the monthly newsletter.

Also the September menu calendar has been posted to my site: 


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Preparing for our Homeschool Year

This has to be the most different school year ever for me. Why? Because I am really only planning for one student! And that is vastly different from the first time, 25 years ago, when I was setting out on my homeschool journey and preparing for one Kindergarten student. I had no experience and very few curriculum choices available. How quickly the years seem to have gone by!

Sierra will be graduating very soon. She is currently working on a few remaining subjects for her diploma. I will be issuing her diploma when her required courses are finished. If all goes according to plan she should be done by the end of the year (spring time at the latest). She has not taken a summer break in order to try and finish up this year. She is currently working on Civics & Economics, English writing and Literature. And her love of learning more and more about photography and art will continue to be part of her schedule.

That leaves me with my son Isaac as my only student to plan for. I don’t need to purchase any curriculum as I have shelves full of books not to mention a zillion free online resources that I’ll be taking advantage of this year as well as a lot of practical experience when it comes to teaching high school. Isaac is 15 and starting his 10th year of homeschooling.

So far this is the basics of what I’m planning for him:

Math: Saxon Algebra 2
Science: Biology 101: Biology 101: Biology According to the Days of Creation
History & World Geography: Around the World in 180 Days (Sierra used this and loved it)
English Lit: I have a large book list of American authors for him to read through and he will write a synopsis of each book for discussion with me
English Writing: some of it is covered in English lit, the rest will come from assignments I give on research papers, essay writing and so on.

Aside from this there will be electives that interest him such as computer programming, building computers (he has volunteered his time at a store in the city that takes in old computers, rebuilds them and donates them to the community and we will continue with this), and possibly studying for his first IT certificate. He also has an interest in mechanics and household fix it projects, and electricity (in a practical sense.. like knowing how to change a light switch or wall socket, circuit breakers in a house and how they work, etc..) and my hubby does and will continue to help feed those subjects. We will just see where his interests go as far as picking more electives.

I still have a bit of planning to do and organizing of the school area (an upcoming post! :) ). While many children have already headed to school or their homeschooling year has started, we are not there yet. Thanks to the freedom homeschool has given us I typically don’t start school until later in September and sometimes as late as October. We seem to get about 9 months of rain a year in our part of the world, so I’ve no intention of ending summer any sooner than I have to. We’ll wait for the rainy days to start and then, fire up the wood stove to warm the house, put on a pot of tea (or coffee ;) ) and open the books for another year of learning and adventure!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Menu Monday!

Veggie bacon deep dish pie (my own adaptation of this recipe: (  it was good and I'll share soon!), salad, watermelon

Bbq hamburger & cornbread casserole (this recipe is linked to my bbq ham & cornbread casserole.. I’ll substitute 1lb of hamburger for the ham), salad, watermelon

Roasted chicken, potato salad, garlic roasted beets (from my garden), salad


Skillet chicken w/sundried tomatoes & feta, zucchini pesto pasta, salad (Sierra’s menu choice and night to cook)

Baked potatoes topped with my home canned chili and cheese, salad


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Recipes from my Kitchen

I tried a new recipe for guacamole. It was so yummy! I’ve been using my standard recipe for years but was read to try something new. I found one online:   It was amazing! If you like guacamole.. then I recommend you give it a try!

Instead of the taco filling I was going to make I decided I needed a crockpot meal for the day. So I came up with this one..

Crockpot Mexican Soup

1 cup dried black beans
2 ½ to 3lbs beef pot roast, cut into chunks
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups corn, frozen or canned (drained if using canned)
1 medium onion, diced
1 red or green pepper, chopped
1 to 2 jalapeno chopped peppers, remove as many seeds as you like, the more seeds the hotter the soup
2t chili powder
2t cumin
Salt & pepper, to taste

Do a quick soak of the beans. To do this, put beans in a large pot and cover well with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Turn heat off and let beans sit for 1 hour. Drain.

After beans have been drained put in the bottom of a large crockpot. Place beef on top and add chicken broth. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 10 to 12 hours.

I served this soup along with the guacamole & tortilla chips and a salad. It was a delish meal!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuna Noodle Casserole Made without Cream Soup

Tuna noodle casserole is one of those comfort foods in life. My family has always enjoyed it. The one thing I have not liked about tuna noodle casserole is the typical recipe has cream of something soup in it. I stopped buying these soups years ago. I don’t like the ingredients label at all. So I had to figure out a way to make this family favorite without the soups. This is what I came up with….

No Cream Soup Tuna Noodle Casserole

8oz pasta, any type, boiled & drained
2 cans tuna, drained
3T butter
3T flour
3 cups chicken broth
8oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Put cooked pasta and drained tuna into a bowl. Heat a saucepan on medium high add butter to melt and add flour. Stir and cook briefly. Add chicken broth. Stir and bring to a boil until thickened. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese and cheddar and stir until melted. Pour sauce into bowl of tuna and cooked pasta. Pour mixture into 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve & enjoy!

In pics…

Put cooked pasta and tuna in a large bowl…

Heat a saucepan on medium high, melt butter & add flour. Stir and cook briefly. Add chicken broth and stir constantly as you bring to a boil and thicken. Stir & simmer for 1 minute. Add cream cheese & cheddar cheese....

Pour gravy mixture into bowl of pasta and tuna. Pour mixture into 9x13 pan…

Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly..

Serve & enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Menu Monday! (Formerly Know As: “This Week’s Menu”)


I’ve been posting my weekly menu for some time now. I figured it was time to give this weekly post a catchier name. I’m not always the most clever when it comes to things like this. I asked my daughter Sierra for suggestions. She had several but the one that made me laugh the most was “Chow Chow for Now” .. despite the laugh I got from that one, This Weeks Menu will now be known as Menu Monday! 


Salmon patties topped w/homemade guacamole, fried potatoes, salad

Mexican beef tacos , tortilla chips w/guacamole, salad


Chicken sausages sautéed w/onions & broccoli slaw, brown rice, watermelon

Lasagna, garlic toast, salad



Friday, August 16, 2013

Freezing Zucchini

Ever had one of those huge zucchini’s in your garden that just seemed to explode in size overnight? Then the question always is, “what to do with it?”.

The 2 on the bottom are size they are supposed to be picked at. The one on the top was my project. ~smile~

I decided to try freezing it. I’ve grated it and frozen it for making muffins, but what I found is I just don’t use it up very well that way. So I wanted to try something different. I was given this idea from a friend of mine. You cut it up, sauté it and then flash freeze it for use in stir-fry’s, soups, casseroles, etc.. I’ve not tried it before but it seemes like a great idea…

Cut the zucchini in half and scoop out the seeds. Chop the zucchini into small pieces.

Heat a frying pan and add a little oil. I used coconut oil. Add zucchini and cook until just done…

Lay cooked zucchini on a tray and put in freezer overnight. I lined the tray with parchment paper to make it easier to remove frozen pieces.

After the zucchini is frozen put frozen pieces into ziplock bags and put back in the freezer. Now you can pull out just as much as you need.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Freezing Green Beans

I had my first picking of green beans (and yellow wax beans) from my garden. Due to various issues this year (which I’ve previously shared) I decided to plant a smaller garden, and I’m thankful for it. So our first picking was not huge (in comparison to years past)….

But it was enough to have to deal with. I used some of them for dinner.. I made garlic roasted green beans.. oh yum!! They were delish and I look forward to the next picking and making this again. As for the rest of the beans… I decided there were not enough to bother canning them. So I decided to freeze them.

Freezing green beans is pretty simple. After the beans had been washed and snapped I put on a pot of water to boil. I put my little basket in the pot. This holds the veggies and makes it easy to pull them out of the boiling water. As soon as the water came to a boil I added the beans (not all of them)..

I boiled them for 3 minutes. While they were boiling I filled my sink with cold water and added ice…

When the 3 minutes was up I dumped them in the ice water.

All veggies contain enzymes that will cause them to be soft if they are not pre cooked. The 3 minutes of boiling will do this for the beans. The ice water will stop the cooking process. They can end up rubbery if the cooking process is not stopped.

After they had cooled I bagged them up in Ziploc quart size bags…

I did 3 batches like this and ended up with about 5 ½ quarts of beans ready for the freezer….


Monday, August 12, 2013

This Week’s Menu

Chicken pad thai, chinese noodles, egg rolls, salad (didn’t make this last night so it got moved to Monday night..  and it was yummy!)

Tuna pot pie w/cheesy biscuit topping (basically THIS recipe only using 2 cans tuna instead of chicken), garlic roasted green beans, coleslaw

Chili dogs (homemade chili over hot dogs on buns), coleslaw, watermelon


Sour cream enchiladas (made with hamburger instead of chicken), tortilla chips & salsa, watermelon

BBQ baked chicken legs, mac & cheese, green salad


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Homestead Moments

I’ve made a few trips to the Midwest. My hubby was raised in Chicago and we would go and visit family. One thing I vividly remember from my trips is summer thunder storms. The humidity levels would soar, the clouds would come and it was quite a display of thunder, lighting & rain. Then it would end almost as quickly as it began. This was something I did not see often here in the Northwest. We have our rain, and plenty of it, but summers are usually dry and the rain is saved for the rest of the year.

On Friday the humidity levels were higher than what is usual for the PNW and the prediction was for a thunderstorm. Early in the evening the storm began. It was quite an awesome site. As the sun was setting in the west the storm was rumbling and rolling in from the east. We could hear the thunder boom but what made this storm so beautiful was how it made the sky look. With the sun setting and casting it lights against the incoming storm the colors that appeared were breathtaking. The sky showed colors of red, pink, purple, blue, yellow.. quite a site to see.

Sierra grabbed her camera and took a few pics. There were 2 rainbows as well, unfortunately one did not show up on the picture (it was very faint in the sky). The storm did bring lightning and some rain, not a whole lot, but enough to wash away the humidity and give my garden a nice watering.. Here were the pics she snapped..



Friday, August 9, 2013

Recipes from my Kitchen

Another cloudy day in the PNW, at least it was for half the day then the sun came out. I decided to do a little cooking early in the day. I had on my menu this week roasted chicken. However, when I got to my last grocery stop, Costco, they were out of whole chickens. Instead I changed the menu plan and made some chicken in coconut basil sauce. I also made a batch of cilantro lime rice and some cheesy biscuits. I served this meal with a big green salad using some of the lettuce I picked recently from my garden.

Chicken in Coconut Basil Sauce

2lbs boneless, skinless chicken pieces cut in pieces
2T olive or coconut oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
5 to 6 mushrooms, sliced
1 small zucchini, cut in pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
2 to 3T fresh basil, chopped (or 1 to 2 teaspoons, dried)
2 cups chicken broth
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
Heat a large frying pan on medium high. Add oil and chicken pieces. Salt & pepper chicken pieces and cook until chicken is lightly browned. Remove from pan and set on serving platter. To the frying pan add mushrooms, zucchini, and garlic. Cook and stir until veggies start to soften. Add basil, chicken broth and coconut milk. Let this bubble and cook until sauce slightly thickens. Spoon sauce over chicken pieces and serve.

Cilantro Lime Rice

2 cups brown rice
2T olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
2 ¼ cups water
1T lime juice
4 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1t salt

Heat a large frying pan on medium high and add oil and rice. Stir rice until it is nicely browned. Add chicken broth, water, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Garlic Cheese Biscuits

In this recipe I used whole wheat & white flour. You can use all whole wheat if you would prefer. I wanted a little more fluff to my biscuits than what all whole wheat produces.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
½ t garlic salt
2T coconut oil
4T butter
¾ cup buttermilk (or soured milk)
1 cup cheddar cheese

In a medium mixing bowl combine flours, garlic salt. Mix in coconut oil and butter until the mix resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk & cheese. Mix the dough until it all holds together. Divide into 12 pieces and shape into round biscuit shapes. Place on a greased cookie sheet (or line cookie sheet with parchment paper). Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mexican Beef Taco Filling

Oh my, this was so good!! Over the weekend I made this. It was not on my menu plan. Have you ever looked at your menu and said.. “blahh”… that was the case for me. I wanted to make something different. I went to my freezer and found 2lbs of thinly sliced round steak. I pulled it out and let it sit in a sink of warm water for about 30 minutes. It was defrosted enough for me to cut up into small pieces.

I also cut up one onion, several small mini peppers, and sliced up 1 head of romain lettuce and pressed 8 cloves of garlic.

I was doing this recipe on just inspiration! LOL.. no formal recipe. Sooo.. here is what I did..

I heated up my large cast iron frying pan. I put 2T coconut oil in the pan. I added the onions, peppers and garlic and sautéed this until the veggies were soft…

I added the beef and cooked this until the meat was complete cooked.
I then added the romain lettuce. I know this may sound strange.. but lettuce is a green.. you could sub spinach, kale or whatever your favorite greens would be. After I added the lettuce I let this cook until the lettuce was soft.
Then I added the spices:

¼ cup salsa
1T hot chili powder
2t cumin
1t salt

I let this simmer for a couple minutes.

Then I softened up a few corn tortillas in a little coconut oil.

To serve I put a large scoop of the meat veggie mixture in each corn tortilla…

If you would like you could add cheese, sour cream, extra salsa according to your own desires.. 

This was pretty easy to make and tasted delish!!


Monday, August 5, 2013

This Week’s Menu

Spaghetti, french bread, salad

Bbq pork chops, macaroni salad, green beans


Roasted chicken, potato salad, watermelon

Sweet & sour meatballs, brown rice w/sautéed veggies, coleslaw


Chicken pad thai, chinese noodles, egg rolls, salad


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Garden Work & Foot Soak Recipe

My garden has been a bit neglected as of late. It is in desperate need of weeding. I went down there this afternoon and did some, but there is so much more to do. Tomorrow my son Jacob is going to rototill it for me and that will take care of a lot of those pesky weeds, at least for now. Then my youngest two kids and I will finish up weeding between the plants and rows.

I have a much smaller garden this year than normal. It has been a good thing for me but I do miss the abundance of fresh veggies that normally come this time of year. Perhaps I’ll hit the farmers market soon and see what I can purchase. However, today I did pick a little lettuce and my first little zucchini. I washed it up and put it in the fridge to crisp for tomorrow’s salad.

After an afternoon in the garden I really enjoy a nice foot soak. In the summer I live in my flip flops and wear them in the garden or often go barefoot in the garden. So my feet can get dry & cracked pretty quickly. I wash my feet first and then soak them in an Epsom salt and hydrogen peroxide foot soak. I love the way it makes my feet feel.

Epsom salts in a foot soak help to not only relax you (the salts calm your nervous system), but it reduces any swelling you might have and will relax the muscles. Epsom salts are a combination of magnesium and sulfate. If you soak your feet (or put it in your bath) it helps to draw out toxins. 

If you have any cracks (like dry heals) or small cuts in your feet add a little hydrogen peroxide to your foot soak. This will help kill any bacteria that may be lingering in those cuts and cracks of the feet. Hydrogen peroxide is also said to help with foot/nail fungus.

Here is my standard recipe:

Foot Soak
1 to 1 ½ gallons very warm water
½ cup hydrogen peroxide (the stuff from the drug store)
½ cup Epsom salts
a few drops of essential oil (like lavender to help relax), if desired

Combine ingredients in a bowl large enough to soak your feet. Soak feet for at least 20 minutes. Afterwards use a pumice stone to smooth away dried skin and apply lotion to your feet.. Your feet will thank you.. ;)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Recipes from my Kitchen

I spent a little time in the kitchen today. The cool weather and cloudy skies was certainly not feeling like a summer day! Instead I put on a sweater and my fuzzy slippers and decided chili was the perfect meal for the family.

This is my basic chili recipe and it can be made on the stove top or assembled and put in the crockpot on low to simmer and blend flavors. I got a later start in the kitchen so opted to make it on the stove top. I served it with a little cheese sprinkled on the top and dollop of sour cream and on the side we had a green salad, tortilla chips & homemade salsa (canned from last year’s tomatoes).

Super Yummy Chili

3 cups dried red beans
12 cups water
1T salt
1 lb hamburger
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped peppers (these can be green or red or yellow peppers or a combo of any of them)
1 cup chopped celery
2 14oz cans diced tomatoes
2T chili powder
1T hot pepper sauce (such as the brand Tabasco)
1T minced garlic
1t salt, if desired

In a large stock pot combine beans, water & salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let this simmer for about 3 hours or until beans are soft. When beans are done cooking drain a little of water out of the pan (but save it, you may want to add it later). 

In a medium sized frying pan cook the hamburger and veggies until the meat is completely cooked and the veggies are tender. Add this to pot of beans as well as the tomatoes and spices. Add enough reserved bean broth to give it your desired consistency. Simmer on the stove for 20 minutes to hour to blend flavors. If you want to you can put it all in a crockpot and let it cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa or cornbread and a green salad.

While my chili was simmering I made a batch of oatmeal smoothies for the fridge. This is a similar idea to the overnight refrigerator oatmeal I posted about here. I got the basic idea from the same website ( . I did my own version based on what I had on hand.

Here is what I used to make mine:

½ cup quick oats (you grind them up so regular oats would work too)
1 cup frozen blueberries (fresh or canned fruit would work)
1 6oz container strawberry yogurt
1 ½ cups milk (I used whole milk)
2T organic strawberry jam (to give it just a little sweetness boost)

Put the oats in the blender and blend until they are powder (or most of them are). Add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour into pint canning jars. Put a lid on and put in fridge overnight. They will thicken up due to the oats (that is the idea :) ). In the morning shake the jar (you can add a little more milk if you need to).. and drink! Breakfast in a jar.. prefect for an on the go morning.

I was going to make a batch of cookies but ran out of time.. I’ll see if I can get to it tomorrow!