Plastic Easter eggs are taking over our house…

Ideally, I would like to get better at sharing our special occasion homeschool activities BEFORE the actual holiday so the ideas can be used by others who are interested. Haha! Right now I pretty much use my pregnancy nausea as an excuse for everything (because it truly can be paralyzing at times) so that’s my excuse for not getting to our Easter egg centers earlier. On Friday, we somehow managed to do our centers, go to a playground, go out for lunch, take a hike on the local rail trail, and make it to our church’s Good Friday service. No wonder we all came home and crashed and I was tired for the rest of the weekend! But I wanted to share with you our new centers, particularly the ones that used plastic Easter eggs you might have laying around your house right now…

For Abby, I set up centers using all plastic eggs (which is a great way to use up those leftover ones from Easter). These were ideas I came up with back when I was teaching first grade. There are so many cute ideas all over pinterest, etc, that can be adapted for whatever you need. I was so excited to break out my old eggs and worksheets that I once used in my classroom and to start using them with my own child.

Here are some ideas:

COMPOUND WORDS This was particularly fun for Abby, and the whole way home from our Easter celebration, she kept trying to come up with other compound words. This led to a discussion on the difference between syllables, sounds, and actual words (that make up other words). She did a good job coming up with some on her own, though, like “sidewalk.” She’s a thinker!

RHYMING WORDS I knew this would be an easy one for her, and she loves rhyming, so she saved it for her last center since she always saves the ones she’s looking forward to doing the most for last. haha!

WORD FAMILIES It was really fun for me to see Abby read through these words with such ease. This is a great way to help reinforce onset and rime practice. I wrote the rime on the longer part of the egg (ex. “ock”) and then a bunch of different onsets on the short part of the egg (“l”, “r”, “bl”, “cl”, etc) and she would rotate the egg to say and then write the different words. Since we had limited time on Friday, I only had her write one word for each word family, but when she has more time through the week to go back to it, she can write more.

Another couple examples that I have but we didn’t do yet are SYNONYMS & ANTONYMS, and then a sight word game where the sight words are written on a slip of paper inside an egg and the student “finds” it, and writes a sentence using that word. Our curriculum also did a brief mini-lesson on homophones this past week and if I had more time, I would’ve reinforced that with a homophone egg center, too! The options are endless!

For Noah, he had some fun, creative centers including a letter egg hunt, and you can see more about his centers and the centers we did last week on my updated center page.

Oh, and I have to share with you our Saturday night “Sabbath” celebration. We just finished up going through the 7 days of creation in Abby’s Bible reader and we culminated it with our very own Sabbath dinner celebration. We did ours Saturday night instead of Friday. I made a nice big dinner (which I don’t do often these days, since I’m not feeling well, but was able to make an exception) of roasted chicken and sides, and set a nice table. We had the 2 candles, and a loaf of homemade challah bread, which I must say, came out great for a first-timer! Then we had a relaxing evening of watching Disney’s “Moana” and were ready for Sunday’s day of worship and family time!

Centers, Spring Baskets, and Beauty & the Beast

They say hindsight is 20/20, but when it comes to babies, I’m not so sure that’s true. It sure seems like once one stage is over, we tend to forget all the “bad” that went with it. We look at their cute little faces and instantly forget (or block out) the sleepless nights, sore boobs, etc etc etc. Sometimes we forget how horrible one night was by the next morning! We can easily minimize or forget the pain of labor and discomfort of pregnancy for the sake of having “one more.” Okay, maybe that’s not you, but it’s me. My husband and I always said we wanted four kids and it’s like, no matter how miserable my pregnancies are (and they’ve all been miserable) I’ve never let go of that “four kids” plan. So here I am, sitting on the couch feeling incredibly nauseous, tired, and overall miserable because I’m 13 weeks pregnant with number 4. “Fourth and final” I say! I say this to explain my near 2-month-hiatus from writing. I started feeling nauseous by week 6 and I just haven’t had it in me to think about anything other than daily survival. Ugh. When I was going through with my third pregnancy, I seriously questioned whether or not we would make it to number 4. But here we are! So much for that hindsight thing, I definitely forgot how purely awful pregnancy nausea is for me. But, I will make it through and the outcome will be worth it; this, I know. ūüėČ

Anyway, I reworked our school schedule so we could take 2 weeks off and “regroup.” Abby had been asking for a break, I definitely needed one, and I wanted to start spring cleaning which is hard to do while also homeschooling (and nauseous). So I decided while on break, I could catch the blog world up on life a little bit. Let’s start with school. During school each¬†week we’ve been incorporating “centers” every Friday which the kids can carry into the next week. If you’re not a teacher or don’t know what centers are–I pick three activities for Abby and Noah each that they can do independently. The activities usually have to do with what they’re learning currently in school and are fun. I give them anywhere from 6-8 minutes to do each activity and set the timer. They move through each center and then they can pick their favorite to do for longer at the end. Fridays are¬†our “exploration” days so we don’t have our normal school routine. Abby and Noah can do their centers and I can help if they don’t understand something. Then we have time to do other exploration activities or fun field trips. The next week, while I’m working one-on-one with one child, the other may choose a center or two to work on independently. It’s really worked well so far! If you’re looking for a way to occupy a younger sibling during homeschool, try some of these ideas! I’m a huge fan of The Mailbox, which is where I get a lot of activities and ideas. Check out their website for activity books and cut-outs! For a full view and description of all our centers so far this year, check out my NEW¬†center page! Here’s just a little photo preview:

Last week was the first week of spring (couldn’t tell from where I’m sitting!) so we did “spring baskets” at our house. I don’t have anything against Easter baskets in general, but we don’t really have time for them on Easter and I want to spend the limited time we do have focusing on Christ, church, and family. So the spring baskets are a fun way to celebrate the season of spring and makes an otherwise normal day seem fun! So what do I put in spring baskets? I fill ours with a little bit of candy, a small toy, maybe a chocolate bunny, a piece of jewelry for the girls and a keychain or something similar for Noah, and I usually like to incorporate something about the meaning of Resurrection Day. This year I bought a book for all of us and new Christian music CD for us to listen to when we’re cruising around town in our minivan. ūüėČ I also painted Abby a bag for her books a couple months ago so I stuck that in her basket as well.

Oh, and last week we saw Beauty & the Beast! It was phenomenal! Abby’s 5 and she loved it. The wolf scenes are a little intense, but she did great! I’ve seen some questionable opinions about the movie but I’ve also read some really good reviews! I can’t say anything more or better than what’s said here: ttp://ohamanda.com/2017/03/08/beauty-and-the-beast-movie-review-discussion-guide/¬†plus there’s a discussion guide! Check it out if you can!

So that’s all for me, I’ve gotta get to bed. Hopefully it won’t be another 2 months before I write more. Then again, my track record indicates long periods of nausea so I’m not too optimistic about it ending anytime soon. :/ Much love to you all!

Super Bowl on the Whole30

img_20170205_193458When most people start a “diet”, food program, or some sort of “cleanse”, we generally start on a Monday: after the weekend, right? ¬†I mean, who wants to start eating right on a Friday?! What a waste of a perfectly good food-indulging weekend! We all want one last food “hurrah” before the “transformation” begins, and then come Monday, we start getting organized/in shape/eat right/whatever. ¬†If you’re doing a longer food regimen like the Whole30, or something that you plan to carry over into¬†some lasting habits–no matter when you start–you’ll hit a weekend and that’s where the test really begins. ¬†Sure, it’s not so hard to get through the weekdays in a new routine. ¬†Maybe you go to bed early to avoid late-night snacking. You have light meals and distract yourself from more daytime snacking by occupying yourself with work. ¬†This doesn’t seem so hard! ¬†And then the weekend comes. ¬†Maybe you had plans to go out, enjoy company with friends, or just want to veg on the couch with the hubby and order take-out, eat ice cream, and have a glass of wine (or margarita)! ¬†But all of that is dampened by food restrictions. ¬†(This is one reason I’m not a fan of dieting for the sake of dieting, or long-term food-deprivation. ¬†We live in such a food-centered society, it’s hard to really enjoy ourselves in social situations without food. ¬†Good food.) ¬†For me, food I love is a huge part of my enjoyment of life. ¬†My Whole30 is not about weight-loss, or because of “issues” with any kind of food. ¬†For me, it’s been an experiment and a hopeful minor lifestyle change. ¬†I’ve wanted to see if my energy levels would change with a diet change (they have) and I hope to incorporate healthier lunches and snacks and be able to keep my everyday diet a priority in my life. ¬†(It can be too easy to snack on processed foods or to take bites of my kids’ lunches rather than make myself a salad. ¬†And don’t even get me started on my old “late-night snacking” habits!)

Anyway, I got through my first 2 weekends pain-free.  Of course, I wished I could indulge in some take-out or dessert with Randy on the couch while watching a movie or playing a game (I went with a few handfuls of almonds, instead), but all-in-all, they were good weekends.  When I planned for the Whole30, I had no plans on the weekends, but that quickly changed.  I learned to use restraint but be polite (which was hard on the first weekend when the homemade oreo ice cream came out!), and to pack my own snacks and be creative with what I could eat!  This has been a fun adventure.

img_20170205_193300Come Super Bowl Sunday, I knew I would need to be equipped with some awesome appetizer recipes so I could still enjoy the event. ¬†(Events of the actual mind-blowing game aside, this is about food.) ūüėČ ¬†Here are some of my “healthy” Whole30 compliant recipes that were enjoyed by all on game night! ¬†You can use them for your next gathering whether you’re on the Whole30 or not, because they’re delicious. ¬†Trust me! ūüėČ

Homemade Salsa & Guacamole

My recipes for homemade salsa and guacamole are naturally Whole30 compliant. ¬†That’s what made them so perfect. ¬†Actually, I do typically add a pinch of sugar to the salsa to cut through the bitterness of the tomatoes, but I just skipped that this time. ¬†My trick when I’m making these two dips together is to use the food processor for the salsa first, then without cleaning it out, I start the guacamole right away in the same processor. ¬†That way, the guacamole gets a hint of the salsa flavors in it. ¬†So yummy!

Salsa (Measurements can be to your taste, depending on how strong you want your flavors)

  • 1/2 (or whole) onion, quartered

    img_20170205_193429
    Let’s talk about the chips! ¬†No tortilla chips on the Whole30! ¬†Technically, chips of any kind go against the philosophy of eating whole foods, foods with minimal ingredients. ¬†But because these veggie chips (left) didn’t have any actual out-of-bounds ingredients, I made an exception. ¬†Because, Super Bowl. PSA: One Potato Two Potato makes an excellent sweet potato chip! ¬†I’ve only seen them at Starbucks so far.
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 (or whole) jalape√Īo, roughly chopped
  • handful of cilantro
  • 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 4.5 oz can chopped green chiles
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp hot sauce

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until desired smoothness. ¬†Test with a tortilla chip before pouring into a bowl! ¬†You never know if you’ll have to adjust something.

Guacamole

  • 4-5 avocados, ripened
  • 1/4-1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 (or whole) jalape√Īo, roughly chopped
  • handful of cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsps salt
  • juice of 1 lime

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until desired smoothness.

Stuffed Jalape√Īos

img_20170205_193354Normally when I stuff jalape√Īos, it’s with cream cheese. ¬†That’s obviously a Whole30 no-no, so I came up with this little concoction instead. ¬†To make the turkey sausage, I followed this Whole30 recipe (click the link below), which I love for breakfast sausage with my scrambled eggs. ¬†So bonus, I only used part of the sausage in my jalape√Īo stuffing, and I was able to save the rest for some breakfasts this week! ¬†

  • 10 jalape√Īos, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed (use gloves!)
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed with salt, pepper, and ghee (clarified butter, whole30 approved)
  • crumbled turkey sausage
  • 10 strips Whole30 compliant bacon, cut in half

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes and the sausage. ¬†Spread the mixture into each jalape√Īo half. ¬†Wrap in a half strip of bacon and place on a rack, on top of a baking sheet. ¬†Bake at 275* for 2 hours. ¬†Serve hot.

I found these other 2 recipes, as well, which were a huge hit with me and our guests.

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Dip  img_20170205_181916495

Chile Lime Chicken Wings

And here are the printables for my salsa, guacamole, and jalape√Īos!¬† ¬†Enjoy!

salsa-guacamole

whole30-stuffed-jalapenos

Recalculating…

There is a lot of adapting involved in parenting. ¬†Before you become a parent, you probably have an idea of what kind of parent you’ll be like and how your kids will behave. ¬†Then you start having kids and… well, it usually doesn’t look exactly how you pictured it. ¬†Things arise that you never could’ve predicted and so you adapt. ¬†You try one discipline technique and it doesn’t work, so you adapt. ¬†Methods that your oldest child responded well to don’t have nearly the same effect on your second child, so you adapt. ¬†If you’re a parent who has never had to reevaluate or change direction with something, you’re probably not doing something right. ¬†Or you’re just not receptive to what’s not working. ¬†Or you’re the perfect parent. ¬†But I’m convinced that doesn’t exist, so… ūüėČ

This same thinking is applied for teachers in the classroom. ¬†When something isn’t “clicking” for a student, the (good) teacher will try to find another method that will make the material accessible and easily understood.

As a homeschool mom, there’s a combination of both these mentalities that can sometimes be overwhelming. ¬†When we have a bad day of school, we wonder if we need to change our parenting style or our teaching style. ¬†As daunting as it can be, it’s important to keep assessing so we can meet our goals. ¬†I don’t know anyone who made the decision to homeschool on a whim. ¬†Usually it comes with lots of thought, research, discussion, and for the Christian families, prayer. ¬†With something so important at stake, of course we want to do our best.

Recently I was met with a decision that made me turn and look at the way I’m “teaching”¬†my preschooler, Noah, and if I’m really tailoring my teaching style and preschool activities to his needs right now. ¬†(He’s a little behind in his speech, so that’s something I want to work on with him. ¬†Now, when I say “teaching”, I do mean very light, fun activities. ¬†One thing that I love about homeschool is that kids can still have plenty of time to be kids.) ¬†After a lot of prayer and discussion with my husband and close homeschool mom friends, I decided I needed to remember why we decided to homeschool in the first place, stay the course, but just recalculate a bit and change what I do with him¬†right now. ¬†I’ve had to do this with Abby in the past and I strongly suspect I’ll continue to do it year after year with all my kids. ¬†When you come face to face with a time for recalculating your parenting or your teaching style with your kids, here are some important things to remember:

  1. Cover the situation in prayer.  Cover your child in prayer and ask for wisdom to know what to do.
  2. Remember WHY you’re on the path that you’re on. ¬†My husband and I have specific goals for our family and our children which is why we decided to homeschool for now. ¬†I think it’s important to have “umbrella goals” or a family mission statement that won’t change over time. ¬†But you may have smaller, more specific goals that will change as your kids grow up. ¬†For us, homeschooling may not always be tied to our umbrella goals, but right now it’s a big part of how we’re meeting those goals and it’s definitely tied to our smaller goals for our young kids. ¬†It may be helpful to have these goals written down somewhere.
  3. Realize that change takes time. ¬†So you tried something once and it didn’t work out the way you envisioned. ¬†It doesn’t mean you have to change it right away, your child may just need an adjustment period. ¬†But if you keep doing the same thing without desired results, then it might be time to reassess.
  4. Recalculating doesn’t make you a failure! ¬†It makes you a better parent/teacher for recognizing the need for change and following through!
  5. Age matters. ¬†Maturity matters. ¬†Sometimes, my best plan of action was none at all. ¬†Simply because my child was too young or immature to “get it” at that time. ¬†So, we just took a break. ¬†After a month or two of not doing a certain activity, what used to be met with tears and anxiety was suddenly met with confidence and determination upon reintroduction. ¬†And I never even had to change my teaching method! ¬†She just needed a little time to grow and mature.
  6. The best route is not always the fastest route, and it’s definitely not the same for everyone! ¬†Stop comparing every little detail of your situation to another’s. ¬†Sure, there are basic, age appropriate benchmarks to be aware of, but not every kid moves at the same pace. ¬†And the beauty of homeschooling is that you can tailor your child’s education so that it suits their needs, and they don’t always feel like they have to learn like everyone else (by “keeping up” in the classroom).

As we are about half way through the school year (depending on what kind of schedule you follow), now is a good time to reassess where you are in your homeschool year. ¬†Is your child understanding everything? ¬†Are you on target, or where you wanted to be by this time of year? ¬†If not, what needs to change? ¬†Sometimes it’s our expectations that need to change, but other times, we do need to recalculate so we can still make it to our destination even if we have to go about it a different way.

New Adventures in Food and Homeschool

It’s been a week since I started my second round of the Whole30 and to be honest, it’s been great this time around. ¬†Last time, I remember thinking, “It’s only 30 days, I can get by on mostly salad for that amount of time.” ¬†That’s part of what contributed to me having a hard time with it. ¬†Trying to get by on salad and smoothies for days on end (salads that can only be dressed with oil and vinegar, by the way, since your favorite dressing from the store actually contains sugar) is not ideal, especially for someone who’s used to eating a wide variety of flavorful foods! ¬†So this time, not only have I been researching and making more unique and delicious dinners, I’ve been getting creative with breakfasts and even finding snack foods that are Whole30 compliant. ¬†It’s a lot of work! ¬†But it’s been fun, and worth it. ¬†I’m totally in love with these mocha energy balls I made over the weekend and I already made a second batch to get me through this week! ¬†I was also struck yesterday as I did my grocery shopping (once in a while it’s nice to actually go to the store and shop rather than use the to-go services, especially if I only have one child with me–that was a treat!) at just how many aisles and sections of the store I skipped because I’m on the Whole30 and only buying whole foods (mostly–I still have 4 other people in the house to feed, and they still like their dairy and grains). ¬†It wasn’t the first time I thought about what’s in our food at the grocery store, but it definitely made me think about it more.

Here’s just some of the delicious food I’ve enjoyed this past week. ¬†Hover over the picture to see the description…

In homeschool news, I introduced new centers this week (as I plan to every Friday). ¬†This week we were in tight quarters as we’re in the process of swapping out our living room entertainment center, but we made do. ¬†So far, the kids LOVE these as a general idea. ¬†They look forward to “center day” and it really has worked at keeping them occupied during regular school hours¬†when I need one-on-one time with one of them. ¬†I’ve started keeping a log of my ideas and it helps to plan ahead. ¬†I think I have the next few weeks planned now, but I still have to do the prep work, which can be time consuming. ¬†So glad I finally¬†have a new¬†laminator¬†($20 on amazon, thank you very much)! ¬†It helps to know that the work I’m doing now can be used for siblings in the future by keeping it laminated and protected! ¬†If you’re interested in this week’s centers, take a look:

The Last Supper

So how has everyone’s 2017 started off? ¬†(Happy New Year, by the way!)

The year has been¬†off to a rocky start for me (us), but that means it can only improve from here, right? ¬†I think so. ūüėČ ¬†But the purpose of this post isn’t to talk about the bad stuff. ¬†There’s some good and fun things going on, too! ¬†So here they are, in no particular order, my random positive thoughts/things of January 2017:

  1. I think I’ve discovered a new and helpful way to homeschool Abby and Noah and to give them each individual attention. ¬†We now do “centers” and they each have a choice of 3 they can do independently when I work with the other one. ¬†They’ll get new centers every Friday and get the morning to practice all of them. ¬†Then the next week, if I’m working with Abby, Noah goes to do whichever center he wants, and vice versa. So far it’s worked wonderfully and they love them! ¬†It will be a lot of work in the beginning, for me to plan and prepare it all, but I think it’ll be worth it! ¬†Homeschool moms, what are some things you do to help your kids young kids work independently? ¬†I love new ideas!
  2. I can’t decide if I’m pro online clothing shopping or not. ¬†I got a bunch of gift cards for Christmas and was going to go shopping one Saturday, but a mini-blizzard came through. ¬†I’ve really been needing some new winter clothes to wear. ¬†After having 3 kids, it got to the point where I actually like my maternity clothes better than my regular clothes, which hardly ever seem to fit right anymore anyway! ¬†So I ordered a bunch of clothes online recently and when they came, I wasn’t as happy with them as I thought I’d be. ¬†I mean, I’m still pleased, but some items just weren’t how I pictured them in person. ¬†But I’m not ready to give up on online clothing shopping totally. ¬†I mean, you just can’t beat the convenience factor! ¬†How many people out there buy clothes online???
  3. I had a much needed trip to Michael’s today and now am feeling super crafty. ¬†I’ve had my sewing machine sitting in our living room for about a week now because I desperately need to fix 2 pairs of pants and a shirt. ¬†But when I finally sat down to do it, I was out of thread. ¬†(Of course! Can you tell I use it often?! ¬†haha!) ¬†I also needed more yarn for a blanket I want to start, and while I was there, I decided to make a winter wreath for the kitchen door. ¬†So now my living room is even more cluttered with craft items. ¬†Think I can get it cleared out by February? ¬†That’ll be the goal.
  4. Tomorrow I restart the Whole30. ¬†Ever done it/heard of it? ¬†No grains, no dairy, no sugar… yep. ¬†I tried it once before but I didn’t get through the 30 days–ahem, there were extenuating circumstances. ¬†The process intrigues me. ¬†And as a mom, particularly a homeschool mom, I am constantly thinking about my example to my children throughout the day. ¬†I don’t want my energy always lagging and I even though I’m okay with them knowing how much I love coffee and chocolate, I also want them to know that it’s important to take care of your body. ¬†I don’t like the word diet, and that’s not the example I want to set. ¬†This is more about learning how my body reacts to different foods and filling with only whole foods for 30 days. ¬†Wish me luck! ¬†As my “last supper” before it starts, tonight I made stuffed chicken, butternut squash risotto, and balsamic broccoli. ¬†I know what you’re thinking, my last meal should’ve been pizza. ¬†The thought crossed my mind… while I was already cooking. ¬†haha! ¬†Oh well. ¬†It’s probably been a week since I’ve had pizza, so at the end of this, a pizza will be even more gratifying. ūüėČ

img_1144Making stuffed chicken is pretty easy, very versatile, and really elevates a basic chicken dish! ¬†You can either use split chicken breasts (skin on) and stuff your chicken between the skin and flesh, or you can pound out a skinless breast and place your “stuffing” on top, then roll the chicken up, secure with toothpicks, and then grill/bake, whichever you choose. ¬†If you opt for this technique, you can also get a little “wild” and bread the chicken for extra flavor and crunch! ¬†I’ve done it a few times, but tonight I didn’t have time.

img_1150I pounded out my chicken, seasoned it with salt and pepper, then layered spinach, basil, roasted red peppers, and goat cheese on top.  Then I rolled the chicken up, re-seasoned the outside with salt and pepper, then seared it in a hot cast iron skillet and finished it off in a 400* oven for about 15 minutes.  Delicious!!!

I love making this broccoli, too, because my children ask for seconds and thirds!  I simply boil the broccoli in salted water, being careful not to overcook it.  I whisk together minced garlic, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil.  Then the added the cooked, drained broccoli to this mixture, season with pepper and fresh lemon juice. So yummy.

Of course, I couldn’t skip dessert on my last night before the Whole30, so I made Ree Drummond’s “Knock You Naked Brownies.” ¬†Yes. ¬†So much yes. ¬†So much love. ¬†These are amazing. ¬†I’m excited for this round of Whole30 because thanks to my awesome sister-in-law, I’m equipped some with hearty recipes and extra tools to get me through. ¬†I’ll keep you posted. ūüėČ ¬†Goodnight, all, and cheers to a better year! XOXO

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Can you even handle it? ¬†I can’t. ¬†I’m going to go eat one now. ūüėČ

Comfort Food

After my last post, I figured it might be good to follow up with something comforting. ¬†And what’s more comforting than a favorite meal or food? ¬†Every fall/winter I seem to find a different rendition of a chicken stew or something similar that becomes my obsession for the season. ¬†They’re all so similar that even if I decided to make two different recipes in a short time period, it wouldn’t really seem like I was changing things up at all. ¬†They all have your basics: poultry, onions, carrots, celery, some kind of thick, creamy broth, and a biscuit or pastry. ¬†Everything that just screams comfort!

One year my obsession was Bobby Flay’s turkey pot pie with sage crust. ¬†It’s your basic pot pie but the sage in the crust combined with the turkey breast really elevates it. ¬†I used to easily be able to make two at once and freeze the second for another night (sometimes that same week)! ¬†I’ve had years of experimentation with different chicken noodle soup recipes, and Ina Garten’s chicken stew with biscuits on top is super scrumptious.

This year I’m extremely into Ree Drummond’s chicken and dumplings. ¬†It’s only December and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve made it since October. ¬†I love how the dumplings puff up as soon as they enter the simmering broth. ¬†There’s nothing like a hot bowl of this stew to warm you right up on a cold night! ¬†Randy says it’s his favorite, but I called him out the other night on saying that almost every night at dinner, so he obviously can’t be trusted. ūüėČ

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How comforting does this bowl look?! ¬†This was a night Randy came home late from work and we took our bowls into the living room and enjoyed dinner for 2 by the light of the Christmas tree. ¬†(There are some perks to his working late…) ūüėČ

Another comforting recipe I have is my pepparkakor cookies, which essentially are Swedish gingerbread cookies. ¬†The word “pepparkakor” literally means pepper cake. ¬†There’s a Swedish “legend” that goes with the cookies, too. ¬†Think of a secret wish and hold the pepparkakor in your hand. ¬†With your opposing finger, press down in the center of the cookie. ¬†If it breaks into 3 pieces exactly, your wish will come true! ¬†I used to do this with my Morfar (Swedish for mother’s father) all the time as a little girl. ¬†Unfortunately, my cookies always come out a little too thick to break them easily with a single finger, but they taste delicious! ¬†I must say that my favorite part of these cookies is the way the house smells when I make them. ¬†It’s spicy, sweet, and warm, and reminds me of my grandparents. ¬†If you like gingerbread but don’t care for the time it takes to ice them into little people, give this recipe a try! ¬†We don’t have time to make gingerbread cookies before Christmas this year like I planned, but we may still make them after. ¬†Until then, I have a whole tin of pepparkakors that we will enjoy! ūüôā ¬†Here’s the recipe, the printable is at the bottom…

Merry Christmas!

Ingredients

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Here is a plate of my pepparkakors with a Vietnamese cardamom latte!  Yes, those are orange peels in my coffee carafe.  The latte is delicious!  Part of the Ninja recipe book.
  • ¬† ¬† 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¬† ¬† 2/3 cup molasses
  • ¬† ¬† 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¬† ¬† 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¬† ¬† 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¬† ¬† 3/4 tablespoon baking soda
  • ¬† ¬† 2/3 cup butter
  • ¬† ¬† 1 egg
  • ¬† ¬† 3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  1. Place butter in a large, heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat brown sugar, molasses and spices just to boiling point. Add baking soda and stir in. Pour this mixture over the butter and stir until it melts.
  2. Beat egg and mix in; add flour, a cup at a time, and blend thoroughly. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead 1-2 minutes. Wrap in waxed paper and chill until firm (about an hour).
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  4. Roll out to approximately 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured board and cut into desired shapes. Place on greased baking sheets and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from sheets and cool on racks.

Here’s the handy, dandy printable!¬†pepparkakor-cookies