Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Homeschooling with Baby

This has been a very exciting year as the big kids are moving beyond kindergarten and primary academics. My 4th grader is in the midst of 5th grade math, starting Latin and progressing in his reading, music and sports. My 2nd grader is moving up in her reading, math, writing and enjoying learning Irish Dance. Last but not least my baby 1st grader has begun reading more independently, enjoys math but still prefers to hide out in his room creating his own version of Star Wars Lego Spaceships.

Now added to the mix is baby girl. Almost one, crawling, trying to teacher herself to walk and is into everything. How do I manage to school while chasing the baby you may ask? For the time being, baby Selah is a great napper taking two daily naps totalling about 4 hours allowing me to do the bulk of schooling. On days she is up during school, she enjoys pulling everything of the kitchen cupboards. I will enjoy this while it lasts as who knows when she'll scale down to one nap...probaby when the new baby comes.

Bread, Bread, Bread

Ok. First of all, thanks to Annie for sending me this dangerously, wonderful blog: A Year In Bread. I have fallen in love with attempting to make my own bread at home and this week marked my 4th attempt at the Oatmeal Toasting Bread in the last couple weeks. So yummy, so organic at about $1.50 a loaf...could be cheaper if I buy bulk flours on sale. This site also has a lot of other great breads I plan on trying soon.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Today's Dish-My invented Greek Chicken in the Crock Pot...

One whole chicken cut into parts, salted with sea salt
1 small can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 small jar of Kalamata Olives, drained and rinsed
1/2 white onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
olive oil
1/4 c. water-optional
2T of Greek Spice blend--I use one from Cost Plus

Place salted chicken in the crock pot, top with diced tomatoes, chick peas, Kalamata Olives, olive oil, onions, garlic and spice blend. Cook for 4-5 hours until chicken is done.

Remove extra liquid and reserve 1/3 c. to saute chard.

Served with mashed potatos.

Homemade Yogurt

This past Thursday I made my first batch of yogurt. Let's just say its so easy, you can kick yourself for not making it sooner. I prefer to use organic milk so my doubled batch I used a gallon of milk which turned into almost 5 quarts of yogurt...for about $6.00!!! The kids want to eat it daily so I have a feeling this will be a weekly thing on my to-do list.

This recipe is courtesy of Mary Osytn.


1/2 gallon milk (2% or whole is best)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live cultures


2 quart-sized canning jars (or 4 pints)
heavy pot big enough for 1/2 gallon of milk
candy thermometer


1. Heat milk over medium heat until it reaches 170 degrees F. For the first 5 minutes or so, you can basically ignore it. But as it begins to heat up, keep an eye on the temperature and stir it frequently. (This is the most complicated part of the whole recipe, but don't worry, it only takes 15 minutes or so!) You don't want the milk so hot it boils-- all you want is for it to start to simmer around the edges and be heated through.

2. Once temperature has reached 170 degrees, remove from heat and let cool to 110-120 degrees F. This part takes 20-40 minutes or so, depending on the temperature in the room.

3. When milk has cooled to the right temperature, it is time to add the yogurt. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of plain or vanilla flavored yogurt until well combined. You can use any store-bought yogurt, as long as the container says, 'contains live cultures'.

4. Turn on oven and preheat to 200 degrees for 5 minutes or so. Pour the milk into the quart jars and tighten on rings and lids. (It is perfectly fine to use other glass jars, as long as they are clean and have metal lids.)

5. Turn off oven and place jars in warm oven to sit for 6-10 hours, or until milk is set and looks like yogurt. (I like to do this at bedtime and let it sit in the oven overnight.) Once yogurt has set, place it in the refrigerator to cool and thicken a bit more.

6. It is perfectly fine to sweeten as desired and eat the yogurt at this stage. However, if you like your yogurt very thick and creamy, you may want to take one additional step.

I skipped step #7 and used whole milk this time...wanted to taste it as is before I turned it in to Greek Yogurt.

7. I discovered that this bag lets me really step my yogurt up a notch. The bag is a plain muslin bag with a draw string. Scoop the yogurt into the bag, close the bag with the drawstring, and hang it up over a bowl. (I hooked my bag over the handle of my microwave.) Let the bag hang up for half an hour or so, allowing the watery whey will drip out into the bowl. What remains is ultra-rich, ultra-thick Greek-style yogurt.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Polenta Squares with Sasuage, Mushroom and Squash Sauce

This is my first attempt making polenta from scratch. I have used premade polenta a handfull of times served with a variety of pasta sauces. I made 1 1/2 the recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill Polenta Bag also on their website:

9 cups water
2 t. sea salt
3 c. Corn Grits/Polenta
4 1/2 T. butter
1 c. grated parmesean

After doubling the recipe, I poured the polenta into a greased 9 X 13 pyrex to set.

Pasta Sauce

1 28 oz can of crused tomatos with puree
1 white onion finely diced
4 cloves of garlic
1 lb. of Italian Turkey Sausage
8 oz. package of crimini mushrooms chopped
2 grated zucchini
2 grated yellow, summer squash
2 T of Italian Seasoning
1/2 c. of grated parmasean

Saute onion, garlic and mushroom in a little olive oil. Add sasuage, add tomatos and Italian Seasoning. Simmer to reduce any liquid. Add grated squash at the end to blanch and cheese right before serving.

Serve on top of polenta squares. YUM!

Monday, August 9, 2010

School In August?

Yes my friends, its time for the beginning of the school year. Some of you may remember the good ole times when school appropriately started the day AFTER Labor Day. The charter school begins next week, but we have casually began homeschooling the last couple weeks so getting back into the swing won't be such a shock on the system. I am also hoping to "bank" some school in preparation for the new babe.

The kids are slightly dragging their feet but still excited about certain subjects like spelling. I don't know what the cool attraction is to the Spelling Workout Books we started using last year, but strangely they are pumped up about spelling tests. Whatever works right? Math is not so cool. It makes me think whether its just math itself or perhaps its time to mix it up with a new math curriculum. That's the beauty of homeschooling...one publisher gets too humdrum and you can move on to something fresher.

I am excited to start history and science later in the week. The kids have been in love with our science program, Real Science Odyssey. Lab sheets, scavenger hunts and projects really speaks to all parts of a child's sensory system. This year for history we'll be using a program called History Odyssey piggy backed with the Story of the World. I'm excited that our local homeschooling bookstore will be offering a weekly history class where they'll be creating the hands-on projects for Story of the World. Can you see I'm in classical ed mode?

Well recess is over...back to the table.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dinner From Staples

What do you do when its time to food shop and its dinner time? Make dinner from saples on hand. Tonight's dinner was a salmon pasta thrown together with my random assortment of on-hand staples from the freezer and cupboard.

1 lb. Bowtie Pasta
2 cans of wild salmon
1 bag of frozen, organic peas
1/2 a pint of baby, cherry tomatoes
olive oil
Italian Seasoning
Parmasean Cheese

Cook Pasta, drain in collendar with canned salmon and frozen peas waiting to be heated. Warm up chopped garlic in pasta pot with oil and tomatoes. Add pasta, peas and salmon. Add herbs and cheese. Dinner for the family, plus left overs for the next day.

Ode To The Whole Chicken

One of my favorite, versitile foods is the whole chicken. You can roast, bbq, cook it in the crock pot or boil for a multitude of uses. This week, one sad little chicken became 3 meals to feed a family of 6 (counting the babe). Day 1, boil the chicken in a pot of water with sea salt, pepper, celery, onion, garlic and carrots. Use half the shreaded chicken for my Mexican Chicken and Rice Soup garnished with avocado and sides of warm corn tortillas. Day 3, use the other half of the shreaded chicken to make chicken salad sandwhiches using more celery, onion and apple. Day 4, use the frozen chicken broth to make a pot of lentils with yes, carrots, celery and onion. This time I added some some Indian Spices and served with flat bread.