Wednesday, May 30, 2012

stuffed bell peppers

I grew up with bell peppers stuffed with meatloaf. That is what I thought a stuffed pepper was. As I got older many of the stuffed pepper recipes I saw used a rice filling. I did not care for the bland rice fillings, and the greasy old meatloaf fillings that I grew up with had to go. This recipe is really yummy and is one that I think we will make often.

Stuffed bell peppers
serves 6

You will need.
3 large bell peppers
4 ounces ground sausage
3 cloves garlic
8 ounces white button mushrooms
1 bunch of green onions
1 box rice a roni (beef flavor)
salt and pepper
six slices cheese (optional)

1.cook the rice a roni according to the package directions I use 1/2 the butter called for.

2.Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds
place in the microwave covered with a damp paper towel and cook until tender about 8 minutes

while those cook start the filling

3. brown the sausage in a skillet

4. finely chop the mushrooms. I used a food processor.

5. finely chop the garlic

6. add the mushrooms and garlic to the sauage and cook over a medium heat  about 10 minutes until  the mushrooms are cooked and the mix is dried out and  browning a bit.

7. mix the cooked rice and chopped green onions with the mushroom mixture.

8. Taste,  add pepper and  more salt if desired.

9. Spoon the mixture into the precooked peppers

10. top with cheese

11. Bake in a 375  oven until hot through and bubbly about 15 minutes

12. enjoy

This post is linked up @ full plate thursdays

Family Traditions

One of the best parts of family life is the traditions that we have. My son a few weeks ago asked if we could start having pancakes on Sunday. He saw it on Curious George. George liked Sundays the best because it was pancake day. "Why can't we have pancakes on Sunday?" he asked. We decided as a family that we could do something special for Sundays.We negotiated it to be breakfast for supper on a Sunday.

We have some fun family traditions. One of our favorite is Twisty balloons for Birthdays. A couple of years ago I bought some twisty ballons at the dollar store. We looked online and found some insructions on how to make ballon animals. It was a blast. We decided that Birthday balloons it was going to be. It is fun, and the kids are so creative with it. We love to share this tradition with others. Earlier this month we were able to share with our cousin. It was her birthday and we were able to make it fun by sharing our ballons with her. 

What is your favorite family tradition?
Leave a comment below and let us know!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

getting real food into your everyday life

Some thoughs on how we as a family have advanced our health, and how we have gotten real food into our regular family life. 

1. Train yourself and family to reach for fruits and vegetables for a snack.

If the kids think they are hungry I simply ask them, Which fruit or veggie would you like? They are now getting to where they will find their own fruit or vegetable snack.  Make it easy to grab fruit and veg snacks. Keep a large fruit bowl out in plain site. Keep fruits and veg cut up and in the front of the refrigerator within easy reach.   

2. Shop smart.

I always start (and spend most of my time) in the produce section of my grocery store.  My husband thinks I am nuts when I get super excited over a produce sale.  I usually shop the outer edges of the store.  That is where the less processed foods are stored. Summer time is a great time to look into a farmers market. You can get all kinds of  farmfresh food at great prices. Another option may be a food co-op. This is where a group of people get together and buy food in bulk then divide up the bounty among the members.  I was once a part of BOUNTIFUL BASKETS. They have pick up locations across the western united   states. Usually you order online on Mondays, and pick up over the weekend. use your favorite search engine to see if there is a co-op available in your area.

3.  Eat your rainbow

I am not talking about M&M's here.  I am talking about  real food. Fruits and veggies come in a natural rainbow of colors. Orange vegetables and fruits are full of vitamin A. Red usually means high in Vitamin C. Green Leafy things have Vitamin K and Calcium. A fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack will get you on your way to great health.

4. Fresh, frozen, or canned veggies?

Any kind of vegetable is a better choice than none at all.  There are some whom with good intentions buy fresh vegetables. These vegetables go to the fridge and stay there until gone bad.  For those people frozen vegetables can be a great option. Canned veggies can be very convinient. Either one is a good option when fresh does not work. One word of advice; steer clear of sauces and flavorings added to frozen veggies. Just plain veggies. Another thing to beware is potatoes that are frozen. Many times frozen potatoes have been partially fried so they have added oils.

5. Good recipes

Many of us have a bad taste for vegetables because of bad recipes or cooking techniques. How many of us have had a pile of mushy overcooked slimy smelly vegetables?  I  myself have been turned off by some vegetables because of the way they were prepared. Finding ways to prepare vegetable dishes that your family will eat is well worth the time investment.  keep your eyes out here at life less hurried for real food recipes.

6. Portion sizes

The small token spoonful of veggies that your mother served you as a child is not enough. Fill up half your plate with fruits and veggies. Pump up a pasta plate with 1/2 pasta 1/2 veggies.  Casseroles can be filled with more vegetables. All our soups are chunky and full of vegetable nutrition. Once I made a cream soup. It was really good. I was asked how much cream I had added to the soup. The answer was none. I had used pureed vegetables to thicken and flavor the soup.

7.  Sneak nutrition.

Pureed vegetables added to a pasta sauce can work for some. Many family members will not know they are there. Smoothies are great way to use up fruits.Veggies can be snuck into smoothies also. When making a tomato based soup such as a minestrone, use V-8 instead of regular tomato juice.

 I have recently become a fan of Chef Brad and his fusion grain cooking. He cooks with whole grains and has really opened my eyes to new food options. He is about cooking foods that your family usually eats, but ups the nutrition with whole grains. Check out his show and recipes here .

Our families tend eat whatever is in the house. Make your house a place where real foods take center stage. Make them a readily available option. If good food is the only food available it will be eaten. If you reach for the fruits and veg your kids will follow suit.

Today is the day to start. Bring in good food. See what happens.

easy homemade mac and cheese

Homemade mac and cheese is so easy and much better for you than the boxed stuff.  My kids won't eat that box stuff, but love homemade.  This recipe is yummy and so easy.

Quick and easy homemade mac and cheese

1. Bring two quarts (4 cups) of salted water to a boil.  (about 2 tsp salt)
2. Add 2 cups elbow macaroni
3. Cook until soft (about 7-8 min)
4.while the noodles cook prepare the sauce fixings

1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp or less mustard powder. just a bit.This adds a nice flavor that is essential to the recipe, but to much gets strong.
3/4 -1 cup grated cheese
1 Tbsp butter

5. When the noodles are cooked, drain the noodles and add them back to the pan
6. Stir in the butter
7. Add the milk mixed with the flour and spices
8. Cook and stir about a minute to thicken the sauce
9. Stir in the cheese
10. Enjoy

At our house we always add frozen vegetables to cool food down. The kids think that every bowl of hot food should have frozen veggies added.This particular day we used frozen peas and carrots and threw in some leftover ham.                         

                                 It is seriously so easy you will wonder why you didn't do this before.
                                     You will never want to go back to that yellow stuff in a box.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Need Advice! Shampoo free or no way

                                                                      HELP ME! 

I am thinking of going shampoo free. My favorite shampoo changed the formula and I hate it.  I hate the others that I have bought also.  I have been thinking of going shampoo free.  Using baking soda wash and a vinegar rinse. Words of advice?   please leave a comment or a link to more info.

new life for old crayons

                                        KIDS AND BROKEN CRAYONS GO TOGETHER

We recyle our old crayons into new ones. 

1. Take the old broken peices of crayons

2. Peel all remaining paper off of them

3. place pieces of broken crayon into an oven proof mold. We use a muffin tin and line it with muffin papers for easy clean up.

4. place in a slow oven about 200 degrees until melted together  (about 8 minutes or so)

5. let cool

6. unmold

A word of advice. Do not stir or mix while cooling, (it makes the colors murky). Just let it be and let the colors blend in their own wonderful way.

 You can make them all multi colored, or you can make themes. Some examples would be;  fall colors, greens and blues, spring colors, red and green for Christmas. You get the idea. Have fun with it.
My kids love the multi colors. They get excited as it changes colors while they are drawing.

              These happen to be some heart shaped crayons that were made for us on Valentines day.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

range top pumpkin pie

This recipe comes from my grandma who I think makes the best pumpkin pies ever.  It is cooked on the stove top and then poured into the pie shells after it cools. It eliminates one of the big problems with pumpkin pie which is soggy crust.  It is wonderfully delicious and wonderfully easy.  I have found that I like it as a pumpkin custard on its own with no crust.

range top pumpkin pie

Mix together

3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

to this dry mix add
2 large beaten eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups cooked pumpkin (we use canned)

Cook this mixture over a medium heat until it comes to a boil.
Boil for 2 minutes.
Cool to room temperature
When cooled, spoon into prebaked pie shells.
Chill 2 hours before serving.

Grandma always served this with cool whip, but I prefer real whip cream nowdays.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Buttermilk Syrup otherwise known as "Uncle Syrup"

When I make butter I am left with buttermilk.  I make buttermilk syrup out of the fresh butter and the buttermilk.This recipe comes from my brother in law. My kids call it "Uncle Syrup".

I have made a few changes from the original recipe.  I cut the butter in half, and I cook my syrup a bit longer (5 minutes as opposed to the original 1) It gets a bit darker in color and a bit more caramel flavor to it.

you will need a large saucepan (at least 4 quart) any smaller and it will boil over.

1 cup (1/2 pound) butter
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons Karo syrup
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda

Cook over a medium heat to a boil.  Boil for about 5 minutes (watch so it does not boil over)
stir in
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make your own butter

 butter just freshly made
I went to the store yesterday and they had two quarts of cream that were close to the experation date and were marked down in price. I knew what to do with them. I snagged them up and made butter.

Making your own butter is so easy and yummy too.  All you need is cream, and a way to keep the cream moving (plus a little salt if you like salted butter).

To make your own butter

1. warm the cream at room temp for a while (15 minutes or so)

2. Aggitate.  There are many ways to do this.  The simplest is to put the cream in a jar and shake, shake, shake. The other day I let my kids put the jar in the wagon and run through the backyard, bump, bump, bump. I prefer to use my Kitchen-aid mixer with the paddle attachment. You can also use a food processer. 

3. The cream will get thick creamy and fluffy. (about 20 minutes depending on how vigorius you are with mixing) Then it will start to look curdled. All of a sudden it will separate from the buttermilk.When that happens mix a bit more until it comes together in a mass.

4. Strain out the butter from the buttermilk.

5. stir salt into the butter if you like. I use about 1/4 teaspoon per cup of cream started with.

Now it is ready to use.

As a bonus you get buttermilk to use

  I have many a good recipes using buttermilk.  I am going to make buttermilk syrup.

you can read my recipe for buttermilk syrup here

this post is linked @ carnival of home preserving

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Homemade pizza dough

Our pizza just before it went into the oven

We save alot by making our own pizza.   

Having a good dough recipe is key. 

Pizza Dough

1 1/4 cups warm water about 90 degrees F
1/2 Tablespoon yeast
1 egg Beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
about 4 cups flour
cornmeal for dusting the pans

Disolve the yeast in the water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Add the remaining ingredients to create a dough. knead until smooth. cover and let rise for 20 minutes or so while you assemble the toppings for the pizza.

Makes two 12-14 inch pizzas.  Or in our case; We use 1/3 of the dough to create breadsticks and the other 2/3 to create a sheetpan pizza.

For the pizza
1. Preheat the oven to 450

2. Prepare the pans. Sprinkle the pan with cornmeal. This is important it keeps the dough from sticking.

3. Press the dough into the prepared pans.

4. Sauce.  We keep it simple.  We use an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce spread on the dough. We then sprinkle with garlic powder and dried pizza spice blend.

5. Pick your toppings, this one had sausage, peppers, and onions.

6. Bake about 15 minutes until golden brown in a 450 oven

It is really simple and yummy.

Becoming like Mary

This morning I am reminded of Martha and Mary from the Bible.   (Luke chaper 10 verse 38-42)

Martha has been caught up in the fast lane. She is rushing about doing good things. Preparing for Jesus to visit. When he comes, she is still rushing about trying to make sure his visit is perfect. She gets upset because her sister Mary is not helping her. Mary on the other hand, knew the importance of the things that Jesus was teaching. They are taught a bit at a time. We need to come back often and learn from him. But more than that, Mary knew the importance of sharing our time with others. So often our family and freinds want real time with us. Just being present is not enough. There is a real connection when we spend quality time with others. It shows care and love.

So many of the important things in life takes place in quiet moments, and so often we are too distracted to notice. I have a family whom the main love language spoken is togetherness, and/or touch. It is vitally important for me to spend time with them and to be present with them and connect to them. But not just that, our friends and neighbors need us to say hello. We are part of a neighborhood and comminity. I want my children to know that. As a family, we were able to serve by helping to clean our church house yesterday. It was a good experience.  My little three year old needed help so she turns to me and said "Let's do teamwork." She knows that teamwork works. It made me happy that she is learning the lessons that I am trying to teach.

By Slowing down a pace I have been able to love my family in a real way.  I am able to take advantage of those teaching moments that will be so vital for my children. These things cannot be learned any other way. Do not let those moments get away from you.     


Friday, May 18, 2012

Frugal Fridays DIY glass cleaner

On Fridays I will be posting frugal ideas

                                                         Todays post:  DIY glass cleaner.

We live in a home with many windows. Three kids and lots of windows equals alot of glass cleaning.
Making your own cleaning supplies (expecially glass cleaner) is a easy as 123 

1 part vinegar 
1 part water
mix in a spray bottle
I use this for regular maintenance for my windows  it is eco friendly and cost effective
I also love that it is easy on the skin and the kids.They can help clean up their own fingerprints.

I usually dry with crumpled up newspapers.  It leaves a nice shine on the windows.

If you have a tough job, or when the windows haven't been cleaned for a while, use this recipe.

1 1/2  cups vinegar
1 1/2  cups amonia
1 Tablespoon detergent
water to make 1 gallon

This is a bit more caustic and should be kept out of the reach of children and away from other cleaners containing bleach. 

Get out and clean a window or two today! 


Thursday, May 17, 2012

What is simple living?

What does Simple living mean to you?  For each person it is different. Tara of simply made home has some great ideas. You can read some of her thoughts here.  For me simple living is fast becoming a way of life.

 Here is where it all begins

When I decided that I was not going to be the typical "Soccer Mom",  I was left with an empty spot inside. What was I going to be?  I didn't really know, but the typical housewife was not it. I spent over a year in "Survival mode"  I was just surviving. Life itself was never dull, because I have three very busy young children, but I was dull. I was weary and dreary.  I was turning into a grumpy, frumpy, mom. That is not what I wanted.  It was not a good choice.

I was watching t.v. alot. I was searching for answers through Doctor this and Doctor that. I wanted a quick fix. I was looking for that magic thing that would change my life.  I tried some things, but they were not a permanant fix.  I found myself trying to fix everyone elses problems with what I had learned on tv. If I fixed other people, I felt better. When my Dad said "Please quit Dr Philing me". I knew I had to stop.  It was not making me happy. I would feel better for a while, but I was still miserable. I was  miserable I was lost. I needed new life.

I had to get out of this rut. (Sometimes easier said than done).  I started setting goals and writing lists of things that I wanted to accomplish. I was reading money saving mom's blog you can check it out here. It inspired me to do better. I was doing more, I was getting dressed, and combing my hair (most days).  I was accomplishing more in life, but still not fullfulled.  If I  have want I want in life (a home, a husband who takes care of me, three wonderful kids) Why do I feel like crap?

I am searching the iternet looking for a good way to improve my life. I'm looking at blogs.I'm getting ideas for how to improve my life. I am finding all kinds of things. I should do this with my kids. I should make this improvement in my home.  I should-----, I could-----and the list is growing. Then you add Pintrest to the mix! It was too much.

Pintrest was the breaking point.  I was so overwhelmed. Pintrest was making it way to easy to grow my list to infinity. Now I could have an infinite list of things that I could and should do. I can share with my friends. I can add their list to mine. I am feeling really guilty because I have placed upon myself this unbelivably long list of expectations and goals that I can not accomplish  I got on my knees and prayed.  The answer was simpleThrow away the listGet rid of the things that really do not matter.

I threw away that silly list. I quit surfing the internet all day. I quit watching all those Doctor shows on tv.  I threw away all the stinking thinking that I was doing. I took a real hard look at myself.  I didn't really like what I saw, but I saw potential to be something better. I was surviving off this list of things. It was my main motivation. A daily list of things I must do, and one for things I should do. without my tv and lists. I was really lost. I am able to find new motivation and new direction for  my life. My motto and the main theme in my life has become this


By clearing away the clutter of things that really did not matter, I was able to see what is real. I thought that with this list I would somehow be able to do those things on it. I would be superwoman. Without the list I felt worthless. But now looking back I know that the list was holding me back. I am better able to do the important things without the list. I do not worry that I am doing A when I should be doing B. The details of each day do not matter so much. What does matter is that I am getting closer to the end goal,  to LOVE MY FAMILY WELL. 

To love my family well leads to a much better attitude and way of life than what I had in the past.  I am now able to take time to teach my children. I am able to do all those activities that used to be on the list.  I am happier because I do not place all the demands of that list upon myself. I am finding my strenth and my mission from within. I am no longer listening to all those outside voices that call out to me "do this, do that".  I feel what is important each day and if I have a question about it. I just have to ask myself  "Is this helping me to love my family well?"

Loving my family well is in simple living. What does loving your family well look like?  What does simple living look like to you?  I would love to hear your comments about it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

make your own playdough

I grew up with homemade playdough/Salt dough. I have found a new recipe made with kool-aide powder. It is smoother than my mom's recipe and smells good too.  It is really simple to make

Kool aide play dough
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 envelope kool-aide unsweetened drink mix
1 cup water
1 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

mix dry ingredients in a medium sauce pan.
Stir in oil and water
cook on a medium high heat for a few minutes until the dough forms a ball. 
remove to a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth and cool enough for the kids to handle. 
store in a zip top bag

here is the dough as it formed in the pan it comes together quickly

Monday, May 14, 2012

leftover rice becomes rice pudding

My husband loves homemade pudding. Whenever we cook rice he wants to be sure that we have leftovers so that we can make rice pudding.

Here is our recipe that we have developed

In a meduim saucepan

1 can (12 ounce) evaporated milk  (We like the added flavor of the evaporated milk)
1/2 to 1 cup leftover cooked  rice, (depends on how much rice you have left over)
1/2 cup water
Cook this mixture at a simmer until the rice plumps up and gets softened (about 10-15 minutes)

1 1/2 cups of milk
add to this milk add
3/4 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 whole eggs
Beat this mix well and then add it to the hot rice mix stiring quickly so the eggs do not curdle

cook and stir over a medium high heat until it comes to a boil. 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
about 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (you can add this to taste)
raisins or dried fruit if you like

It can be served warm or cold.  Although hot from the pan (with a steaming mouth) is my husband's favorite way to eat it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I have to admit that I really don't like Mother's Day.  This morning as I got up I was thinking "Oh great, here we go again......a whole hour in church hearing people blubber on about how much they love their mom."  I was very surprised by what I heard at church today. 

Speaker #1 We got a history of Mother's day. I was surprised to find out that the woman who instigated Mother's day had a turn around when she discovered that Mother's day was becoming overcomercialized.  She bacame an advocate of nulifying the holiday just a few years after it was adopted as a national holiday.

Speaker # 2  Read a  humorous thought about how we as women need  to no longer fear Mother's day and no longer need to feel guilty because we are not the perfect Mother. She said,  "Never fear you too can be perfect, and here is how to do it", then proceded to go through an exhaustive (and somewhat exagerated) list of things that the "perfect mother" would be or do. Starting at 3 am and going throught the day until  "try to be in bed by 2 am because a quarter to three comes early when it is time to start all over again". 

Speaker #3  Started her talk with "I hate Mother's day"  She went on to say that Mother's day makes her anxious. She dreads it for weeks. It is as Stressful as the "Holiday Season".  I was taken back by her honesty and her ability to tell it like it is.

It was a very surprising Mother's day indeed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Ever since I heard the word frugalista I knew that it described me.  I love a good bargin.  I love yard sales. They make me happy. 

I am becoming quite the yard sale queen. 

Some things to consider if contemplating a yard sale.


Right after payday is the most profitable.  People have just cashed thier paychecks and think that they have extra to spend.  A bad  time to have a yard sale is right before payday when everyone thinks they are broke. Some areas/places in the country this is really important.


If you live in an home that is hard to find or your home is far off the beaten path, a sale at your place may not be the best idea. Find a freind with a better location.  You could even knock on doors in a good location and see if someone would be willing to let you yard sale there.  You never know until you ask

A few well placed signs can guide people to your sale.  Make sure the signs are readable from a distance. People will not stop and take time to read a sign, but an easily readable sign with an arrow will do.  Just point me in the right direction. Do a practice drive by. Did you see the sign? Could you read it? Does it do the job?

I have driven right on by past sales even when  I had the address and was looking  for them. They were hidden from view of the street.  Have items out where people can see that you are having a yard sale.  A big sign that says "YARD SALE HERE" and a some balloons can do the trick. make sure that people can find you.


If I pass a yard sale that looks like a hurricane blew through and deposited a buch of junk, I am less likely to spend any real time looking. If it looks like you cleaned out the attic or garage and just dumped it into a pile. I am not that interested.  Clean up your items. Dust off the cobwebs and wipe off the dirt. Organize like things together. Toys in one area, tools in another etc. Get things up off the ground. Ask your neighbors if they have some tables you can use, or create some. An old door thrown over a couple of sawhorses for example. A makeshift clothes rack made from an old broom handle and two stepladders works wonders. Get stuff out so that people can see what you have for sale. People are not real intersted in digging through big boxes or totes to see what is in it.


find out things like:  Where to advertize online?  Where are the hot spots to place your signs? Where do people look for yard sales?  What is the going rate for items similar to what you will be selling?  When do yard sales in your area usally start?  Is your area prone to early birds?  Attend a few yard sales in your area. Observe what goes on there.

If you want a sucessful yard sale you have to put in at least a little bit of effort.    With a bit of effort you can have a very sucessful sale.