Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review - The Hour that Matters Most

Recently I was contacted about reading and reviewing the book The Hour that Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal. Since planning weekly menus and having dinner with my family on a daily basis is very important to me, I gladly agreed to do it.

If I already was not planning and eating dinner with my family, this book would have convinced me to do it. Co-authored by the founders of Dream Dinners, a meal assembly business, The Hour that Matters Most provides several reasons why family meals are important. Statistics showed that a majority of parents and children surveyed said they were more relaxed and less stressed when they ate together as a family. And the meal didn't necessarily have to be homemade every night. It was the time spent together that mattered.

The book also provides several recipes and tips for planning meals to make the job less stressful.

How about some yummy Baked Chicken Salad?

Or maybe some Easy Sloppy Joes?

You'll find those recipes and more in this book. There is also a chapter on how to start a fix and freeze club so you and some friends can work together to assemble freezer meals to help all of you with meal planning and preparation.

And though all of that information was wonderful and dear to my heart, since I love to cook and plan meals, my favorite parts of the book were written by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot. The Parrots are co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University. They offer wonderful suggestions for building and maintaining relationships with your children, which is, after all, one of the goals of family time. They also mention the practical aspects of spending meal time together, such as teaching etiquette and gratitude to our children. Only by spending quality time with our children can we pass on our values and faith to them. I was challenged and convicted about my own relationships with my children and have several ideas now about how to solve those problems.

I whole-heartedly recommend The Hour that Matters Most. Even if you already take time to plan your meals and eat together as a family, this book is a worthy read and can give you more ideas about your own meal time traditions.

To find out more about the book and the authors, visit The Hour that Matters Most. You can purchase the book from Amazon. com or Barnes and Noble beginning Tuesday, September 6.

* All the images in this post were taken from Hour that Matters Most by Les and Leslie Parrott with Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna. Copyright © 2011 by Les and Leslie Parrott and Dream Dinners. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review except for a copy of the book to read. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.

Blessings - Do we really believe this?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pretzel Rolls

A couple of years ago, our family went to Disney World and ate at Le Cellier, a restaurant in the Canadian pavilion at Epcot. The steaks were fantastic, the dessert was amazing, but the part of the meal we couldn't stop talking about was the pretzel bread! I promised my family I'd find a recipe for it that I could make at home. This recipe is the closest one I've found. The outside is chewy and delicious, while the inside is soft and yummy!

The pretzel bread at Le Cellier was shaped like bread sticks. I tried doing that, but they turned out all lumpy and not very attractive. Shaping the bread into rolls makes them pretty! And who doesn't like to eat pretty rolls?

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 pkg (or 2 1/4 teas) yeast
2 teas sugar
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour (I used King Arthur unbleached)
2 teas coarse salt
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
Additional coarse salt for sprinkling on top

In a mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Add the flour, salt and oil or butter. I always start with 4 cups of flour and add more if the dough seems too sticky. Combine well (I use my stand mixer and dough hook for this) and then cover with a towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled.

After an hour, punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured service. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces. I start by cutting the entire lump of dough in half, then halving each piece until I end up with 16 pieces.

Now comes the fun part of shaping the dough. Take one piece of dough and pinch the sides into the center to seal.
Turn the ball of dough over, so the pinched side is down. The side facing you should look fairly smooth. Using the palm of your hand, roll the ball in small circles. Don't press down hard, just roll the ball a few times.

The bottom of the dough should look more smooth after you do this. Place the dough on agreased cookie sheets. You could also use parchment paper to line your sheets. Repeat this with all of the remaining balls of dough. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again, this time for about 30 minutes.

When the rolls are shaped, bring 2 quarts of water to a low boil on the stove. Add the baking soda, which will cause the water to bubble up. With the water simmering, add a couple of rolls at a time. They will start to puff up right away.

Using a slotted spoon, turn the rolls over after 3o seconds. The bottoms will be puffy and lumpy, as they should be.

After another 30 seconds, remove the rolls from the water and place back on the cookie sheets, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Can you tell which rolls have been boiled and which haven't?

With a pastry brush, glaze each roll with the beaten egg, making sure to coat all sides. Sprinkle each one with a little coarse salt. With a sharp, straight-edged knife, cut an X into the top of each roll.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until browned. Serve warm if you can. They're so yummy that way!

These rolls are fantastic! They're a perfect accompaniment to soup and salad. We like them with broccoli cheese soup the best! But they truly are wonderful with anything.

For more yummy recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Edited to add:

To make these into pretzel bread bowls, just divide the dough into four equal portions. Then follow the rest of of the recipe as written. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Menu Plan August 28- September 3

Yep, it's almost September! I love fall so much. I love the changing colors, the crisp mornings, the cooler weather. I adore this season more than any other, I think. And on September 1, Starbucks starts selling their pumpkin spice lattes. I'm gonna have me one of those, then I'll start making my own! It's a whole lot cheaper than $4 a latte, too.

This is going to be another busy week. I have a book review to post in a couple of days. The book is titled The Hour That Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal. It was co-authored by the founders of the Dream Dinners meal assembly stores. Go here to read more about the book.

Now, on to the menu plan:

Slow Cooked BBQ Short Ribs (from The Hour That Matters Most), mashed potatoes

Chinese chicken, egg drop soup, rice

Sausage veggie calzones, waffle fries

Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread

Korean beef, noodles

Bacon ranch chicken, roasted potatoes

West Virginia pepperoni rolls

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mommy Guilt - and why you need to get over it!

Mommy Guilt. You know what it is.

The feelings of inadequacy and failure when your behavior toward your children isn't perfect. The inability to protect your child from every hurt and danger that lies in wait. The mistaken belief that every waking minute must be spent doing something with or for your children.

Mommy guilt can be crippling. It can bring us to our knees. It can rob us of our joy and hope. It can lead us to overcompensate by letting our children get away with their own bad behavior. It can push us over the edge and make us give up trying altogether. Do you know that really our children suffer the most from our mommy guilt?

I know some moms who seem to wallow in their guilt, agonizing over every single mistake. They call themselves bad mothers, often in front of their children, when in reality they're simply human like the rest of us! Their children now seem to think that their moms aren't to be obeyed or respected. If Mom thinks she's a bad mother and says so all the time, why would the child feel differently?

Friends, it doesn't have to be this way!

First, let's think about the purpose of guilt. To me, it's two-fold. The first "job" of guilt is to bring us to repentance. If we've truly done something wrong, we need to seek forgiveness. And asking our own children to forgive is the hardest of all. It's humbling to acknowledge to your children that you're not perfect. Guess what? They already know!

The second job of guilt is to get us to change our behavior. It's not enough that we acknowledge we've done wrong. We must turn from what we're doing wrong and seek to do right. Ask for God's help and strength so you don't repeat the same mistakes over and over. If you don't want to feel badly about yelling at your kids, stop yelling. Retrain yourself how to react to stressful situations so you don't automatically start raising your voice.

Recognize that you are not going to do everything right in regards to your children. Sometimes you're going to lose your temper. There may come a time when you unknowingly punish the wrong child for breaking your vase. You might forget to write down the next dentist appointment and miss a teeth cleaning. Do you know why those things happen? Because you're human!

Correct your mistakes. Apologize for losing your temper. And then LET IT GO! If God forgives you for your imperfection, why don't you forgive yourself? Are your feelings about it more important than God's?

God gave your children to you because in His wisdom, He knew you were the best person for the job. He also knew you were going to make mistakes in your parenting and interactions with your kids. He has already provided the tools of grace and forgiveness you need to admit those mistakes and try harder the next time.

Please, let go of the past. Be the best mom you can be TODAY!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Edible DNA Models

This year in science we're using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology. We love Apologia and this year is no exception. The first chapter covers the history of the study of anatomy. And the discovery of cells is a huge part of that history.

As we look at human cells, we can see how magnificent our God is, how He planned each part of the cell to have a specific function. We also marvel at how all of our unique information is contained in our DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid.

Because my kids love hands-on projects, we made an edible DNA model for a close-up view of DNA. And this project was a hit with them, just like the jello cell model we made a couple of years ago.

We used Twizzlers, colored mini-marshmallows and toothpicks. That's it.

First, we skewered mini-marshmallows on the toothpicks. Then we attached each end of the toothpicks on to Twizzlers, like the rungs of a ladder.

The Princess kept eating the marshmallows, so it took her a little bit longer!

Then we twisted the Twizzlers and DNA was formed!

The kids want to do this again today. I think they really just want to eat more Twizzlers!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blueberry Cake

I love blueberries. Blueberry muffins. Blueberry pie. Blueberry smoothies. You name it, I like it. But one thing I'd never really tried was blueberry cake. And oh dear, I was missing out! This simple recipe is delicious! My family couldn't get enough of it. It disappeared so quickly, I thought perhaps I just dreamed that I made it and really hadn't! Ha ha!

The Princess helped me mix the cake up and wanted to know why we sprinkled the blueberries on the top instead of adding them to the batter. Well, the blueberries are heavy and will sink. If they're in the batter, they will all go straight to the bottom as they're baking. But if they're on top of the cake, they only sink a little! Great lesson on density, huh?

Now on to the cake. Here's what you'll need:

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1 teas baking powder
1 cup buttermilk * see tip below if you don't have buttermilk*
2 eggs
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles crumbs. Set aside 3/4 cup for the topping.

Now add the baking powder, buttermilk and eggs. Mix until well combined. Spread evenly into a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the blueberries over the top, then follow with the reserved crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

The children loved this cake! They even ate it for breakfast. And so did I. It's one of the easiest desserts I've made. Nothing fancy about it, it's just plain scrumptious!

* Tip - if you don't have buttermilk on hand (and I rarely do), simply add one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a measuring cup. Pour in enough milk to equal one cup and allow to sit for about five minutes. And now you have a perfect buttermilk substitute!

Menu Plan August 21-27

We're in the last full week of August! Can you believe it? We started back to school last week, and I didn't get a chance to post more about my lovely menu board. It has been so nice to have a menu posted for all to see. The kids got a kick out of reading it each day to find out what was for dinner. Now they want a menu board for lunch, too! Since we homeschool, we almost always eat our lunch at home and it usually consists of leftovers. But I thought it was funny they want to be in the know all the time! Charles is glad he can find out what we're eating without checking my blog!

Now on to this week's menu:

Pasta fagioli (didn't get to this last week, remember the menu is subject to change!)

Chicken caesar sandwiches, roasted garlic squash

Pizza buffet including BBQ chicken pizza and pesto chicken pizza - friends are coming over to share

Creamy jambalaya pasta, green beans

Taco salad, Tex-Mex corn

Sausage lentil soup, pretzel bread (recipe to come)

Grilled hot dogs, roasted potatoes

To take a look at other menu plans, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 4

Not Back to School Blog Hop

I've had a great deal of fun participating in this year's Not Back to School blog hop hosted by Heart of the Matter Online. It's an easy way to connect with other homeschoolers and find out we all face our unique challenges. But we're not in this alone! We've got each other. Awesome!

This week's theme is a Day in the Life. We're supposed to share our daily routine. Since we just started back to school last week, we haven't worked out all the kinks in our schedule, but this is what we've been doing so far.

I'm not a morning person, so I don't insist that my children get up at the crack of dawn. That would mean I would have to get up earlier than the crack of dawn, and well, that's just not going to happen. If they're not up by 8 am, I will waken them. So far, they've gotten up earlier than that, so no wake-up calls have been necessary.

When they get downstairs, I usually have milk or juice and something to eat waiting on them. I also have their chore jars and daily routine charts ready for them.

The daily routine chart just has a list of their hygiene and clean-up routine - get dressed, brush your teeth and hair, make your bed, that kind of thing. They mark off each task as they finish it.

The chore jars contains popsicle sticks that have chores written on them - unload the dishwasher, wipe down the baseboards, clean up the sink, etc. The tip of each stick is white, and when they've completed a chore, they turn the stick over so the white is showing. That way I know they've done their chores. If they finish the chores before we start school, they can play or watch TV. If they don't finish, they have to complete the chores after school. They usually get everything done before school!

We always start our school day with devotions and prayer. I think it's always a good idea to take time in God's Word before we hit the books!

Math comes next, because it's really my least favorite subject and I like to get it out of the way and go on to more fun things! We've done mostly review so far, and the kids have both remembered a great deal from last year.

Then comes language arts, which I enjoy. I taught English for several years on the junior high and high school level, so it's fun for me to teach it to my own children at the elementary level. We do grammar on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday we complete a spelling lesson. Handwriting is scattered throughout each day in the form of copywork and notebooking.

I had planned to alternate days for history and science, but the kids want to do it every day! Yay! We're covering the early church in history and it's been really cool to read the book of Acts and see how all of those events fit into history. In science, we're using Apologia's Exploring Creation through Anatomy and Physiology and we've all been loving it. The notebook journal has been an invaluable help to me in prep time and a fantastic tool for the kids to recall what they've learned.

Sometimes we're joined by our third student, our dog Alexandra (Xandra, for short). She loves to be wherever we are and makes herself at home between the kids' desks.

When we've finished all of our work, I read aloud to the kids. We've done this as long as we've been homeschooling, and I don't plan on stopping even when they get older. This year we've started Mary Poppins and the kids delight in telling me how much different the book is from the movie. Early lesson in how Hollywood can mess up literature!

Most of the time, we're completely done by lunchtime, leaving our afternoons free for field trips, library time, and playing. The children work diligently to have their work completed so they don't have to spend more time on schoolwork in the afternoon. We love the flexibility that homeschooling offers and the time we get to spend together as a family.

If you're a homeschooler, head over to Heart of the Matter Online and share your daily routine with us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuscan Tomato Basil Pasta

Last month my best friend and I had a girls' night out while our husbands took all the kids camping. We tried a new Italian restaurant in town, and it was fantastic! Not a chain restaurant, but a cozy little Mom and Pop place with loads of atmosphere. I got a pasta dish that I absolutely loved and was determined to recreate it at home.

I stumbled on a recipe that I thought might be similar. And after tweaking it a bit, I can say that this ridiculously easy pasta dish is almost identical to the one I had at the restaurant. And it's so much cheaper!

I'm not a huge fan of Alfredo dishes because I generally find the sauce to be too salty. The diced tomatoes really temper the saltiness. I loved the creamy tomato sauce result!

Here's what you need:

1 (15 oz or maybe 16 oz) jar of Alfredo sauce - I used Newman's Own
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 TBSP white cooking wine
2 teas minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 pkg cheese ravioli

Cook the ravioli according to the package directions. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the basil to a saucepan and combine well. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the basil. Add the ravioli to the pan and stir to coat.

You can substitute bowtie or rotini pasta for the ravioli if you wish. Add slice chicken for a complete meal. Sprinkle with a little bit of Parmesan cheese, too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Menu Plan August 14-20

Well, what do you think of my brand new DIY menu board? I've seen these all over the internet, so I can't really credit any one person for the idea. I was simply going to use an old 11x14 frame, but my husband stepped in and created a custom frame for me. I did use the cardboard backing from the old frame, as well as the glass. You definitely need glass so you can write your weekly menus with a dry erase marker!

I adhered scrapbook paper and ribbon to the backing, then I stamped the days of the week title with black ink. Hubby did the rest. I'll post some more detailed pics later this week, so come on back and see what he did if you want to!

Here's the plan:


Tuscan pasta with grilled chicken

Baked egg rolls

Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Crispy honey lime tilapia, broccoli

Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Chicken, rice

Pasta fagioli, artisan bread

If you're not a meal planner, let me encourage you to start this week! Head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday to take a look at dozens of meal plans.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 3

Not Back to School Blog Hop

This week's theme is student photos. I'm going to share pictures that explain how my children got their online nicknames.

From Mr. Lego's last birthday party:

Mr. Lego is my analytical builder. He can build almost anything out of Legos. He loves math and science and loves to keep a notebook of ideas for building more Legos.

Here's a pic from the Princess' party last month:

She loves princesses, of course, and anything to do with art. I've never seen a child like her. No scrap of paper is safe and free of doodling if she's around.

Our first day is tomorrow. So I'll take some first-day-of-school shots and update this post then.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rosemary Ranch Chicken

adapted from Plain Chicken

We marinate and grill chicken all of the time. I use a variety of homemade marinades to flavor the chicken, but I never considered using ranch dressing until I ran across the recipe. I left out the additional salt since the dressing and worchestershire sauce already have a high sodium content. I also used fresh rosemary because we have lots of it! The results were fabulous! The kids devoured this chicken like hungry wolves!

And though my intention was to grill the chicken outdoors, it was way too hot to stand beside a grill last week. Our temps were triple-digit with even higher heat indexes. So I used my indoor George Foreman, and the chicken was still amazing! To get an outdoor-grilled flavor anyway, I added a couple of drops of liquid smoke to the marinade. Perfect!

Here's what you will need:

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 TBSP worchestershire sauce
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP sugar
3 teas minced rosemary (or 1 TBSP dried rosemary)
1/4 teas pepper
4-6 boneless chicken breasts

In a bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Place the chicken in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Pour the marinade over the chicken and close the bag. Squish the bag around to make sure all the chicken is coated. Put the bag in the fridge for 8 hours and turn occasionally.

Grill on a George Foreman or outdoor grill until the juices run clear. Outdoors it usually takes 6-7 minutes per side. The indoor grill is about 8-10 minutes total.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Orange Pineapple Cake

I made this cake last week to serve to company and everyone loved it. The orange flavor doesn't overpower the cake but makes it so refreshing. The pineapple in the topping adds a nice tang, too. My kids have already asked that I make it again, so it's a winner with them.

Here's what you need:

1 can (11 oz) mandarin oranges, undrained
1 yellow cake mix
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple, undrained
1 box instant vanilla pudding

If you have a stand mixer, dump the oranges into the bowl. Beat on medium speed for a few minutes until the oranges are chopped into small pieces. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can still use a hand-held one with beaters to do this.

Add the cake mix, oil, and eggs. Beat for about 2 minutes until well-blended.

Spread into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

When the cake has cooled, prepare the topping. Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. To get the best results, place your bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 15 minutes prior to whipping.

Fold in the pineapple and pudding mix. Spread over cake.

Chill until ready to serve.

My family liked this cake even better the next day. The flavors blended perfectly and for some reason, we all thought it was so good when it was really cold. This cake will be at the top of my list of go-to desserts from now on.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Menu Plan August 7-13

Tonight after church we had the youth group over for a time of fellowship. I made pizza sloppy joes and put the filling in a crockpot to keep it warm. My friend Suzanne brought sweet treats to share, too. A good time was had by all!

This is my last week before we start back to school. I'm eager to get back into a routine, but will most definitely enjoy our last few days of freedom! Because of the hot weather, I'm going to try to keep turning the oven on to a minimum.

Here's the menu plan for the week:

Pizza sloppy joes

Honey glazed chicken kabobs, rice

Cheeseburger soup, yeast rolls

Pan-seared tilapia, broccoli

Pesto chicken stuffed shells, roasted garlic squash

Dixie pork chops (slow cooker), mashed potatoes

Homemade pizza

If you are looking for some meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find plenty of good ideas there.

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 2

Not Back to School Blog Hop

This week's theme for the Not Back to School Blog Hop is school rooms. We are blessed to have a separate room to use for school. In our old house, we used the dining room table and had to pack everything up every day. It was tedious, to say the least. And I couldn't put posters on the wall.

When we started looking for a new house, a school room was at the top of my wish list. Hubby wanted an office because he works from home quite a bit. Well, the Lord gave us both! Come and take a look at my school room.

When you walk into the room, you see my desk. Right now it's clean, but before long it will be covered with stacks of paper and books.

On the wall above my desk is my new wall map. It gives me something to look at. Oh, it will be useful in our studies, too. I tried to sticky tack this thing to wall, but no success. It rolled itself back up and right off the wall! I tried photo mounts. Same thing happened. Charles finally stapled it between two poles. Then he used wire and a photo hanger to hang it on the wall. It can be easily moved any time we want it to be.

Turning to my right, I can see the kids' desks and bookshelf. The desks are adjustable, so we can raise the height as the kids grow. We're hoping to use them all the way through high school!

This is what the kids see when they look at my desk. The long rectangular thingie on the wall is a built in ironing board. It was there when we bought the house and we've guessed that maybe this was a maid's room at one time. We don't use the ironing board because it's in a terrible location, far from the laundry area and bedrooms. I use it to display artwork instead.

The wall opposite my desk has the white board. I love, love, love this thing! Charles attached a cup to the wall so I always have dry erase markers available. Beyond the board you can see the door and into the playroom.

Do you want to see the playroom? I warn you, it is messy. It is used for play, after all. The good news, it has a door that I can shut to hide it from sight!

This is Mr. Lego's favorite spot. You can almost always find him here, working on his creations. See his Angry Birds here. Charles enclosed the table top with boards to keep the Lego corralled. He also built an addition that sticks out there on the right to give Mr. Lego more surface area. And still we step on Legos all the time!

This is part of the Princess' play area. She has a ton of princess stuff and crafty junk tucked into every little nook and cranny.

We also have a TV and video game area. The bookshelves are all built in and have come in handy, too.

And now we're back to the schoolroom on the right. There is a bathroom on the left. Yes, I know it is avocado green. I have accepted it. I have a schoolroom, after all.

Having a bathroom right next to the schoolroom is convenient. No long bathroom breaks for my kids!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Angry Birds, Lego Style

We recently bought Android tablets for the kids and one of the games they can play is Angry Birds. I had never seen it before, but it's become one our favorite things to do. We cheer each other on and share tips on how to get the angry birds aimed where we want them.

So today Mr. Lego made some Angry Birds. With Lego. Because that is what he does.

The Angry birds can even squawk! He made them so their beaks will open.

Are those not the cutest things ever? Seriously, I love that kid!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cucumber Salsa

Tis the season for cucumbers, so here's a great recipe to use up your excess cukes. It's crisp and refreshing with lots of veggies. The original recipe called for a jalapeno, but since my family doesn't like too much heat, I replaced it with a green bell pepper. You can do whichever you prefer.

Here's what you'll need:

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced - red onion is a great choice!
chopped cilantro, to taste - I use about 2 TBSP
1 teas minced garlic
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teas lemon juice
2 teas lime juice
1/4 teas cumin
1/4 teas seasoned salt

In a bowl, combine the veggies, cilantro, and garlic. In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream with the lemon juice, lime juice and seasonings. Pour the sour cream mixture over the cucumber mixture and stir gently to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For more yummy recipes, visit Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chicken Taco Bowl or what to do with leftovers

Last week I had some leftover grilled chicken, about half a cup of leftover black beans and some corn that needed to be used up. There wasn't enough of anything for a meal for four people, but by combining them and adding a few more ingredients I had on hand, we had a fantastic supper!

Here's what you need:

1-2 grilled chicken breasts, diced
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 TBSP taco seasoning
shredded cheese
hot cooked rice

Dump all the ingredients except the cheese and rice into a skillet and simmer for a few minutes. Place rice into bowls, then ladle the chicken mixture over the top. Sprinkle with cheese.

How easy is that? The taco seasoning spiced everything up perfectly, but if you want to add more heat, sprinkle on a few dashes of chili powder or cayenne. Have leftover peppers or onions? Throw those in, too! I just love to use leftovers in creative ways to stretch my grocery budget!

What about you? How have your stretched your leftovers to feed your family? Please share!