Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Tuna Noodle Casserole

This is a tuna noodle casserole recipe that I saw in Everyday Food (a Martha Stewart magazine). It's really easy to make and the substitutions I used do not compromise the taste.

Tuna Noodle casserole
I halved the recipe and it made two large servings.

salt and pepper
10 oz green beans
1 cup macaroni (or other pasta)
Bechemel sauce
2 cans tuna
4 slices of bread, cut off crusts (or use pre-made bread crumbs, I often used crushed saltines)
2 Tbsp melted butter

1. Boil green beans for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve water.
2. Boil pasta in green bean water for 6 minutes. Drain.
3. Preheat oven to 35o degrees.
4. In bowl combine pasta, green beans and bechamel sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Gently fold in tuna.
5. Put bread in food processor or blender until crumbs form. (skip this part if using pre-made bread crumbs or crushed saltines). Mix with butter.
6. Pour tuna mixture in casserole dish and top with bread crumbs.
7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Bechamel sauce (white sauce)
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups whole milk (I used skim milk)

1. Melt butter with onions for 6 minutes in saucepan on medium-low.
2. Add flour and salt. Stir for about 5 minutes.
3. Whisk and pour in milk. Bring to boil.
4. Whisk constantly for 7 minutes
5. Reduce heat to low stirring until sauce is thickened for about 10 minutes.

**Can be stored for 5 days. **

Check out my other tuna recipes here and here!

For more great recipes check out the Grocery Cart Challenge!
Here are many fall activities that I posted last year!

Calm before the storm

I've been taking a small break from blogging this week. Not that I don't have anything it to post -- I'll get a recipe up later.

We are moving again this month and it will be the fourth time in two years. We are purging again and have already sent two fully loaded cars to Goodwill. My daughter has been sleeping much better. She's going down pretty easily (a couple reminders, but no screaming or crying), and she is sleeping through the night. The only real change to the way it was before the transitions is that she is waking up really early around 6:30 a.m. Well, that's really early for me and my sleep deprived body (not to mention this allergy season has been a doosey making me extra worn out).

So, I'm taking the opportunity for a little down time between packing and all the day-to-day stuff. I know the intense packing and unpacking will be very tiring with a 2-year-old. But knowing that I will be in my own home soon is such a great feeling.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whatever Martha

If you haven't seen this show, you have to check it out. It has Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis, and her friend Jennifer commenting on Martha Stewart segments. I try to watch Martha Stewart every now and then, but I often get bored watching. I mean if it's going to take me a week to make my own journal, I'll go buy one at the store for a couple bucks. I do subscribe to her Everyday Food magazine and make many of the recipes -- I just substitute her fancy pasta for macaroni and call it white sauce if it's white. Whatever Martha! if absolutely hilarious and they say what were all are thinking. My favorite episode so far was watching Conan O'brien vacuuming a horse. Here's link to an episode where Martha makes sticks for roasting marshmallows. So funny!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Great savings

Sometimes it can be really hard to get the products we like for a reasonable cost. We are a pretty brand-specific family. We'll compromise with some things that we bake or cook with, but for the most part we like what we like and don't change much after we find something we like. I'm not really one to rush out to the store to get 6 boxes of pop tarts beccause they are cheap or free because we won't eat them. So I usually watch for sales for food we eat. This week our grocery store had a great sale on Quaker products, so I matched the sale up with some coupons on double coupon day.

My husband loves the Oatmeal Squares cereal and eats it every morning. A 24 oz box at Walmart costs $2.98 (13 cents an ounce). I eat Chewy bars every day -- they somehow became my go-to snack. And peanut butter chocolate chip are my preferred choice. They normally go for $2.25 on average (about 23 cents a bar). My daughter eat the Quaker oatmeal packets and loves apple cinnamon as well as maple and brown sugar. On average a box of goes for $2.50 (average 25 cents a packet).

Now, I can usually get a $1/2 coupon for chewy bars every once in a while. I also can find a $1/2 for the oatmeal, too. Matched up with double coupon day and a sale I can get a pretty good deal. Oatmeal Squares cereal hardly ever goes on sale or has coupons.

The sale was buy 5 Quaker products for $10. This makes each box worth $2 before
coupons. Here's what I purchased today:
  • 2 boxes oatmeal (each had 2 extra packets -- making that 24 packets of oatmeal)
  • 4 boxes of chewy bars
  • 4 boxes of Oatmeal Squares cereal (16 oz)
  • 1 box of Life cereal

Total before coupons = $22 (with the sale)

Coupons used:
1 $1/2 for oatmeal (doubled to $2)
2 $1/2 for chewy bars (doubled to $4)
1 $3/1 for purchasing 5 Quaker products (not doubled, but used for the cereal)

With the coupons I saved another $9, making the total $13 for 11 boxes of Quaker products. That is $1.18 a box. That just slashes the average prices that I normally find. We should be stocked up for a little, too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Whatever Martha

If you haven't seen this show, you have to check it out. It has Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexix, and her friend Jennifer commenting on Martha Stewart segments. I try to watch Martha Stewart every now and then, but I often get bored watching. I mean if it's going to take me a week to make my own journal, I'll go buy one at the store for a couple bucks. I do subscribe to her Everyday Food magazine and make many of the recipes -- I just substitute her fancy pasta for macaroni and call it white sauce if it's white. Whatever Martha! if absolutely hilarious and they say what were all are thinking. My favorite episode so far was watching Conan O'brien vacuuming a horse. Here's link to an episode where Martha makes sticks for roasting marshmallows. So funny!

What's Cookin' -- Oven Fries

I have been trying to perfect this one for a long time. Either the fries burn or take forever to bake. Either way they just never really taste that great. Here's what I did that made them taste good and actually like french fries. Recipe is adapted from here. I also took the idea from my baked potatoes to microwave the potatoes first in order to cut down on time and burning. And it seemed to work pretty well!

Oven Fries
3 Baking potatoes
1/2 TbspVegetable oil
Onion powder
Garlic Powder
Spices are to taste, I probably used about 1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp of each.

1. Don't peel potatoes. Cut in 1/2 inch length-wise pieces. Try to cut them all around the same size.
2. Place fries on microwave safe plate and lay flat on plate. Microwave for 5 - 6 minutes.
3. Mix oil, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder together in baking dish (I use a white Corelle casserole dish).
4. After fries are softened in microwave, mix with oil and spices.
5. Put in 425 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They will be soft fries, not very crispy.

For more great recipes, check out the Grocery Cart Challenge!

I remember last year looking The Ramblings of a Crazy Woman's blog and couldn't wait to do some of her crafts with my little one. She has such great ideas!

Here's a link to a very simple apple craft that my daughter and I did this morning.

Parenting techniques

Every parent has their own way to parent. However, there are some techniques out there that can benefit from understanding. My background is in Early Childhood Education (fancy name for teacher from ages birth to 3rd grade). I thought I would share some real life experiences and how I deal with my toddler.

A few things you should know:

  • My daughter is 2 years old.
  • My daughter's temperament is Easy. I will add she is highly active and curious about everything.
  • I do not believe in spanking. It is a fear tactic and causes confusion.
  • I believe in choices.
  • Every situation and every child is different.

1. Not going to sleep at night. We had a big transition at the end of July -- the pacifiers were taken away. I had Elmo leave a note saying he took them for the babies. Two weeks were tough, but the third week was the hardest. We had to start all over again. She wouldn't let us leave the room and it would take up to two hours to put her sleep. Then she would wake up in the middle of the night and it took hours to get her back to sleep. During that third week we had to transition to the toddler bed for safety reasons. I used the Supper Nanny sleep technique along with what I knew would work for my daughter. It took about three weeks before we got back to almost normal (or at least normal for us). The key is consistency and patience.

2. Meltdown in the store. If she is walking with one of us and a meltdown is starting to appear (we try to catch before it starts), we will give her a choice. You can either walk and hold hand or sit in the cart. If she chooses holding hand and walking, we remind her if she can't do that she'll have to go in the cart.

The key when giving a child choices is that both choices need to be favorable for you and the child and never should be a threat. Example, saying you can walk or we are leaving is not a favorable choice because you need to finish your shopping. Often I've heard teachers use the the finish your work or you stay in for recess -- that's actually not favorable for either the teacher or the child and is a threat. Better choice would you can finish your work now or you can choose what free time activity you want to miss today. Now, if you start this technique of giving choices early on it will be easy to carry on as the child gets older. If you start when the child is 5 years old, you will need to be very consistent with it and be patient for it to work. It will be a rewire of behavior and that takes some time. You can start simple by giving two choices for breakfast -- cereal or oatmeal. This is an easy way for you to practice giving choices, too.

Oh, and if we get a full-blown meltdown I can usually calm her down with a song or asking her to show me her emotions -- happy, sad, silly, angry. I've done that since we started shopping together so she knows that it helps her.

3. Pushing away from the table and causing a dangerous situation. Our daughter sits in a booster chair and ever since she started she will push the table with her feet when she's done. She would make us so angry when she did this because her chair would tip back and she could really get hurt. I knew she was just doing it to get attention -- I could see that on her face. In the last week, it was getting worse. It took us a while to figure out how to resolve this one. We told her that when she finishes she needs to use her words all done. And then we remind her that if Mommy or Daddy are still eating she needs to wait. Didn't work. A few months ago, when she started sitting at the table I had bought some placemats ($1 at Walmart). I used those as a transition to give her something to look at and to get adjusted to sitting at the big table. So, I tried the placemats. I put one in her spot last week and after she kicked the table we told her to use her words and say all done. Then we showed her how to move her plate (or she can ask Daddy to help) and to look at the placemat after she finishes. This week I let her pick a new placemat. It's been about 4 or 5 days since she's kicked the table. This was a correcting behavior technique. Again it takes patience and time, but I believe showing a child what they can do is better than just telling them what they can't do.

4. Touching things that shouldn't be touched. If it's something breakable, we simply say that's for your eyes to look at only. We've said that since she was itty-bitty. And that works great. Tells her that her eyes can do something and she know her hands shouldn't touch. If it's something dangerous, we simply say that's dangerous and ask her to find something that is safe or that her hands can touch.

I realize these scenarios are simplified and don't give the whole picture, but I hope it can give you an idea or suggestion in helping teach your child proper behavior.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thrifty Dress-up Clothes

I love Halloween time because it's a great time to stock up on dress-up clothes. I usually scan the garage sale ads for people selling costumes and head to the thrift stores for used costumes. This year I bought two princess dresses off the used costume rack for less than $4 each. Certainly beats the price of $20 retail for each. So they might be a little used already, but I can guarantee you that within a couple months they would start to wear a little on the ends after my little one starts pulling it on and off. With all the dress-up clothes I make sure I can wash them.

A tip when buying dress-up clothes is to buy it a size or two larger than your child is now. That way they will be successful (by themselves) putting the clothes on. Plus you will probably get a good year of use before needing to replace and if you replace every September or October you will get the best deals. Be sure to check the sales racks after Halloween for deals!

Other ideas for the dramatic play box
  • hats, hats and more hats. We have everything from bonnets to a chef hat to hard hats
  • purses.
  • aprons
  • socks
  • mittens
  • gloves
  • vests
  • adult shirts
  • skirts
  • pants
  • wigs

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Chicken Wild Rice Soup

My husband really like the chicken wild rice soup at Panera. Here's what I came up with to make a similar version at home. I took this recipe from several sources.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1 to 2 cups chicken, cooked
1/2 cup wild rice, cooked

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup carrots
1/2 cup oninos
2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup flour
1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp all purpose seasoning (I used season all salt)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp thyme

1. Combine broth, chicken and cooked rice in large pot. Heat through on low.
2. Chop onion, carrot and garlic. Heat on medium to soften in separate skillet.
3. Add onion, carrot, garlic mix to broth mix.
4. Melt butter. Slowly add flour, salt, pepper parsley, all purpose seasoning, thyme in separate pan. Whisk until combined.
5. Slowly add heavy cream to flour mixture. Heat on medium-low until thickened. About 5 minutes.
6. Add all together and heat through on low for 10 minutes or so.

Independence and art

I must stand on a soap box for just a moment before I share my latest ideas.

Yes, I use coloring books, patterns and paint with water. Yes, I believe there is enjoyment in coloring sheets and painting with water. Yes, I think it teaches boundaries and can generate ideas. No, I don't think it hinders creativity. As
with anything, moderation is important. Of course, coloring books shouldn't be the only source of art. I've worked in child care centers that prohibit all coloring sheets and even cut-outs of shapes, such as an acorn. Well, how are children going to learn what art is all about if they are only able to make their own marks? As adults we need patterns to create blankets, clothes, felt boards and matching games. So, how can we expect them to excel if we can't give children any guidance in creating and enjoying art? We do lots of construction project in our house. But guess what? In creating a project with a toddler I have to find patterns and cut them out to help her create whatever constructive project there is.
That leads me to title of this blog post -- independence and art. Recently, I set up the easel in living room for my daughter. I use Crayola Color Wonder markers and blank paper. I tape a piece of fresh paper to the easel and put the markers in the tray -- all day. She is free to go a draw any time she wants. This teaches enjoyment, creativity, self-guidance, independence and responsibility
(although we are still learning to put the caps back on). I really appreciate that these markers don't mark the walls or floor or clothes or face or... This way I can give her some freedom, even at 2 years old. Sometimes I draw something in black for her (her favorite right now is hot air balloons) and she colors it.

Today, I pulled out the paint with water coloring sheets. I put the water in an old sour cream tub and cut a small hole in the top for the brush to fit through. This worked great. I know I saw this idea a while ago and I wish I could credit that person. I was able to walk away and let her "paint" without the worry of water going all over the place. It was a fabulous way to give her independence. This is the beginning -- she's two. I suspect by 3 or 4 I'll be able to give her water colors and she will be able to paint by herself because we are taking these beginning steps. I will add that this may ruin the brush sooner than normal and the tub may not last for years, but the cost of those are minimum to provide independence and enjoyment for a toddler.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Look What I won!

Every now and then I enter a blog giveaway, but I have yet to win until now. After a long weekend away, I came back to an e-mail telling me that I won a giveaway on $5 Dinners (one of my favorite blogs). She was giving away a subscription to a meal planning service from Kate at Stolen Moments Menu Planning. Oh and I just love Kate's blog -- Cooking during Stolen Moments!

I won a year subscription for the basic plan that will give me monthly plans for dinners, which comes with weekly grocery lists. Along with the recipes, I signed up for ideas for freezing meals ahead, too. I make so many of Kate's recipes already, I know I will love what is planned. I am really excited because I've been in a little rut lately because we have several projects going on and I feel I make the same thing every month.

I'll update in a couple months and tell you all about it!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What's Cookin' -- Zucchini Bread

Here's my favorite zucchini bread recipe! It is adapted from the Betty Crocker cookbook.

Zucchini Bread
3 cups shredded zucchini
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I use store brand blended oil)
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloved
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cups nuts (I omit for my toddler)
1/2 raisins (I omit because without the nuts it doesn't taste right to add raisin -- just my opinion)

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
2. Grease two loaf pans 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches or one 9 x 5 x 3 inches.
3. Mix zucchini sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs in large bowl.
4. Stir in remaining ingredients.
5. Pour into loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until done.

**I usually use small disposable tins (that I reuse) and freeze a couple loaves. Simply, cover with wax paper with aluminum foil and freeze. It's great to pull out of the freezer for snacks. **

Substitutes (that I haven't tried, but plan to)

Cranberry Bread: Add fresh or frozen cranberries for zucchini and add 1/2 cup milk with oil and add 2 tsp lemon or orange peel with vanilla. Omit cinnamon, cloves and raisins. Bake 60 to 70 minutes

Pumpkin Bread: Substitute one 16 oz can of pumpkin for zucchini.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A toddler game

I love that ever since I started working with kids again (about 7 years ago) that it allows me to think outside the box and be creative. So many jobs and carrers don't allow for "real creativity."

As I was wrapping my daughter's birthday gifts, I noticed that the Sesame Street wrapping paper had a really interesting pattern. I wanted to stop wrapping and make a game with it right away. But instead after she tore open her gifts I tried to salvage what I could when cleaning up. I did have to tape the Count piece together because I didn't have one whole piece of that. Otherwise I was able to create this really fun game. Oh, and I bought this fun wrapping paper at the Dollar Store.

1. Laminate one whole piece to be the playing board.
2. Cut individual piece to correspond with the playing board and then laminate.
**Since this wrapping paper is so thin, I put a piece of cardstock behind each playing piece and behind the playing board. I actually taped each playing piece to a large piece of cardstock and cut the piece out before laminating. Save time trying to size each individual piece up with a piece of carstock.**
Game ideas
  • Place cards upside down and have child turn over one at a time to figure out where to put them on the playing board.
  • Put cards in a bag and have the child pull one out at a time and find where they go.
  • Place cards upside down and challenge the child to find a certain character (might work with older children)
  • Hand each card to the child and have them place it on the board.
  • Tell what character you have and ask the child if she can find the character for you. Then you place it on the playing board.
  • Make clean up fun by asking for each character to be put away -- give a hug (or a kiss as my daughter likes to do) and say bye to each character.
  • You get the idea -- so many ways to promote independence, following directions, self control, recollection, etc.

Friday, September 4, 2009

This week's surprise box

This week's surprise box has been really fun, but takes a long time. My daughter is the type of kid that won't skip any part, either. She tends to want to do things in the same order, too. Despite the length, she sits through the whole thing -- I just haven't done it every day. I was able to get pictures this week, too.

I also want to add that it is important when doing activities like this that there is something for them to play with. Especially if the child is under 4 years old they like to be involved with the activity. Even putting a stick on a piece of paper or a stuffed animal that is related to the theme can be enough for them to hold during the
story. As children get older you can make the activity more interactive, such as having them hold up a number when they hear it in the story.

I also reserve (ha, ha -- do we ever have reserve time?) time for my daughter to "play" with the items of the surprise box after we conclude everything. It's a way for her to explore and enhance her language (and even works on comprehension). ILink love listening to her read the story we just read.

Theme: Bears (big and little)
  • Golden Book: The Three Bears
  • Blueberries for Sal, written by Robert McCloskey
  • The Bear Went over the Mountain and other bear songs
  • Laminated bears -- just enlarge or reduce on copier
  • File Folder game I made this larger and made two copies. One black and white that I taped to a file folder. Then I made the color version and laminated the cards. I was shocked my 2-year-old could do this!!
  • 3 stuffed bears -- Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear
Song: Three Bears (used as a transition)

To see other surprise box ideas go here!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's Cookin' --Stuffed Broccoli and Cheese Chicken

I took this recipe idea from a couple different sources. Very tasty!

Stuffed Broccoli and Cheese Chicken Breasts
4 chicken breast, flattened
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 head broccoli, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (use dairy Vegan Gourmet cheese for dairy free)

Coating Mix
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used crushed saltines)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves

2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

1. Flatten chicken breast.
2. Heat broccoli and onion on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes until softened.
3. Add cheese to broccoli and onion. MIx and mash broccoli, onion and cheese.
4. Put a spoonful of broccoli mixture in center of each chicken breast. Roll up.
5. Mix breadcrumbs, garlic powder, basil and oregano together.
6. Place each stuffed chicken in breadcrumb mixture.
7. Place in baking dish.
8. Sprinkle with butter and parmesan cheese.
9. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

For more great recipes check out the Grocery Cart Challenge!

Also, be sure to check out my new sidebar "In My Kitchen this Week." It show recipes that I've made this week for my family!

New Sidebar

I thought it would be fun to add some of the meals and other things I've been doing in my kitchen each week. Sometimes I don't know what I'm making until the day of (even though I menu plan) because events of the day change. So I decided I would link the recipes that I'm making in the sidebar each week. Check back every day to see what's been added!!


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