Archive for March, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

March 31, 2011

I am SOOO excited to enjoy the conference weekend with my family.  I look forward to it every year and have been trying to instill that excitement in my children. I am thankful to my parents for teaching me at a young age to attend ALL sessions of conference (Saturdays usually have the best talks, fyi)  and they always found a way to make it a special weekend for the family. That was back in the days when we all went to the church for the broadcast. On Saturday we would often go out to lunch in between, and on Sunday we sometimes had a picnic. My family now has a tradition of Conference Cinnamon rolls. I have to make them. It’s mandatory. I also provide incentives for each talk that they listen to and can prove it by the excellent notes they take. The younger kids draw a picture of the speaker complete with the color and design of the tie.

As we participate in general conference, President Eyring says we “might pray and ponder, asking the question: Did God send a message that was just for me?”

We also need to exercise faith in God in order for us to learn from the messages and receive inspiration, President Eyring teaches. “You show your trust in Him when you listen with the intent to learn and repent and then you go and do whatever He asks. If you trust God enough to listen for His message in every sermon, song, and prayer in this conference, you will find it.”

I am so thankful for our Prophet and for the joy I receive when I listen to and follow his commands.

Wednesday Words

March 30, 2011

For those of us serving in Primary or Young women callings . . . are we remembering to keep up with the weekly Relief Society lessons in our Gospel Principles Manual?

Keep them with your scriptures and one day a week read the lesson as part of your daily study. That being said it helps to have a lesson schedule too. . . which I don’t. So these “Words” for Wednesday are just an educated guess, only because last week’s words for the blog were about the Word of Wisdom and that was covered in Chapter 29. So Chapter 30?

On page 175 Concerning charity. . . .”We should not try to decide whether someone really deserves our help or not.”

I am afraid I have been far too guilty of wasting time deciding who is worthy of my time. Instead of just jumping in and giving love. . . I waste the time I could be giving . . .  judging.

In the same paragraph on page 175, it reads, “If we have taken care of our own family’s needs first, then we should help ALL who need help. In this way we will be like our Father in Heaven, who causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. ”

Mosiah 4: 19 “Are we not all beggers? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold and silver, and for all the riches we have of every kind?” And continuing in verse 20,   “And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay, he has poured out his Spirit upon you , and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy.”

Tuesday tips

March 29, 2011

My kids have told me that I am a free magnet. I have been known to be driving down the road, full speed ahead and passed a free sign and suddenly the brakes are screeching and we are making an immediate left turn.

They say it’s embarrassing. I say it’s recycling, and isn’t that totally hip right now?

So as you can imagine I was pretty happy to find out that there is a FREE store at all the town dumps here in NH. If you haven’t visited your local swap shop at your town transfer and recycling station you should check it out. My favorite thing to be on the lookout for is anything constructed out of wood. Sanding down a scratched dresser takes me about 15 minutes. Then painting it just another 15-20 minutes. It doesn’t take professional skills to refinish furniture. I have used stripper before when it has a thick varnish, and that’s a bit of a pain, and most of the time not necessary. Especially if you are just applying a thin coat and letting the natural wood color sort of show through.

The best part is that you can make all of your furniture match. I usually use indoor/outdoor GLOSS black. But lately I have been into RED and that has been super fun! After painting you can sand the edges to give it that popular antique look. And it’s not like you are faking it. It really is an antique. . . . for all you know. Refinishing wood furniture is my tip of the week. If you already have the piece, or you picked it up for free -then all you need is a quart of paint. It’s just under $10 and will be plenty of paint to cover countless swap shop finds.


Monday Menus

March 28, 2011

Who wants to follow Ginger? Not me. Not only is she an excellent writer, but apparently also a gourmet cook. Spinach dumplings? Those need a new name before I can add it to my family menu.

But then, I don’t menu plan. I just try to keep a lot of the same healthy things around and work with them. One of the staples at our house is actually an enormous bag of fresh baby spinach from Sam’s Club. Even with 7 to feed -it’s a lot of spinach.  And it turns slimy in less than two weeks. And I hate to waste anything. Especially something so good for us. So it is a daily challenge.

Sometimes I am very creative and I love it when I get away with it. Marcus wants PB and J every day for lunch. One day I only had some store-bought white bread . . . and so I sprinkled on 2 tsp. of wheat bran on the PB. Then I thought . . .Why not spinach? That should stick in there just fine too. Kind of harder to hide though. But worth a try. Marcus ate half his sandwich before he noticed it had green in it. He called out, “Hey, mom! Why is there salad in my sandwich?” Because you love salad Marcus. “Oh, thanks Mom.” Then he ate the other half. Success. So now he has PB & J and S sandwiches everyday and I feel way better about what I am serving up. Now, this wouldn’t work with ANY of my other children and I wouldn’t even eat it up myself. Gross! But here’s what does.

This may not be what we have exactly this week, but we have these dishes on a regular basis and NONE Of my children even blink an eye at all the spinach they are consuming.

Green Smoothie: Two to three mornings a week I fill the blender 1/2 way up with fresh spinach. Then throw in anything else you would normally put in your smoothie  -fruit, ice, yogurt, milk, etc. And blend it all up. No one will ever taste the spinach though they most likely will notice it looks like you are celebrating St. Patrick’s day. I can’t stand to make a smoothie now without spinach. It seems like such a waste.

Mashed Potatoes: Boil potatoes and add a generous amount of baby spinach just 1 minute  before pulling it off the stove. Then mash them up together. Don’t add spinach too early or the dish will turn all green. I like to add sour cream and parmesan cheese.

Homemade Pizza: I serve homemade pizza once a week. I always put fresh spinach right on top of the cheese. A lot of it. It looks like fresh basil. Once my kids realized that they couldn’t taste it they stopped complaining.

Marinara sauce: Always add as many veggies as you can to your can of spaghetti sauce. Diced cooked Carrots, onions, zucchini, are my favorites and of course. .  . Spinach. Gotta use that bag.

Clam Chowder: Last week I three it in with our chowder just before serving and once again, No complaints.

I never buy iceberg lettuce anymore. I buy romaine and spinach. That’s what we use for Tacos, sandwiches and all of our salads.

My favorite -Fresh Spinach salad: Throw spinach, fruit, nuts and parmesan cheese together and drizzle on this dressing.

1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp. dried mustard, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. onion flakes, 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds, 1/2 cup oil, 2 – 3 Tbsp. mayo, 1/4 cup raspberry or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup rice vinegar. Mix in blender and store in fridge.

There are tons of other ways I use spinach. Cooked or Fresh. So I challenge all of you to buy yourself a big bag and make it your quest to incorporate it into this weeks meals.  Good luck and I hope your family doesn’t hate me for it.

So don’t be afraid. Throw in a little Spinach. Or a lot.

It’s good for you.



Friday Favorites: Tisanes and Herbal Teas

March 25, 2011

I’ve recently discovered the joys of a pot of herbal tea or tisane. Tisanes are made of dried flowers, roots, seeds, leaves, spices, nuts, or fruits. It’s hot, it’s soothing, it’s yummy, it’s hydrating, and it has no caffeine. If you add a bit of sugar and cream to some of the spicier varieties, it’s like dessert in a teacup.  Some of my favorites: Almond Delight Rooibos and Coconut Rooibos Chai (both from Teasy Teas, formerly the Portsmouth Tea Company, for sale online only).  I know two of the under-8 crowd who especially like their New England blueberry muffin tea and Watermelon Splash tea. Once the weather warms up, I’m looking forward to trying Blood Orange tea (if you’re not familiar with blood oranges, they’re not oranges for vampires. They’re a variety of orange in which the flesh is deep red, almost purple, and the taste is between raspberry and orange.)

These are sold as loose teas, but there are do-it-yourself tea bags that you can purchase that are easier and neater than tea infusers.

Does anyone have any favorite herbal teas?

Thursday Thoughts: The Lord’s Law of Health, 3/20/11

March 24, 2011

Members of our church are known for our “strange” abstinences: no drugs, no tobacco, no alcohol, no coffee/tea; often, those are the things that we focus on when we speak of the Word of Wisdom.

But that’s only a small part of it. Much of the Word of Wisdom is contained in the things that we should partake of: grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs, sleep.

Our bodies are temples, and the Lord has given us guidelines that are for our benefit and for our joy, and we know that He will not lead us astray.

Each person is unique, and each person’s tolerance for certain foods and substances is different. When we follow the dietary guidelines given in the Word of Wisdom, we can be certain that we will be blessed for it–often in ways that we would not expect. Several sisters testified of changing their diets (not to lose weight, per se, but for increased health) to include more whole grains, more vegetables, and fewer refined flours and sugars, and the blessings (both physical and mental) that have come.

18And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, ashall receivebhealth in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19And shall afind bwisdom and great ctreasures of dknowledge, even hidden treasures;

20And shall arun and not be bweary, and shall walk and not faint.

21And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the adestroyingangel shall bpass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen. (D&C 89:18-21)


Wednesday: Words of our Leaders

March 23, 2011

“[T]he Church draws incomparable strength, a truly unique vitality, from the faith and devotion of every member of this Church, whoever you may be. In whatever country you live, however young or inadequate you feel, or however aged or limited you see yourself as being, I testify you are individually loved of God, you are central to the meaning of His work, and you are cherished and prayed for by the presiding officers of His Church. The personal value, the sacred splendor of every one of you, is the very reason there is a plan for salvation and exaltation.”

~Elder Jeffrey R. Holland “Because of Your Faith” October 2010 General Conference

To read the remainder of the conference address, see here.


Tuesday Tips: Carrots

March 22, 2011

If you read yesterday’s post, you saw that carrot salad was on the menu this week. We eat a lot of carrots around here, mostly because they are one of the few vegetables that are highly rated by the pickier members of the clan. They are not messy like tomatoes, they tolerate life as a member of the bagged lunch crowd, and they clean out your teeth. Consequently, I pack them in lunches almost every day–but it’s a pain to peel and cut them in the craziness of the morning rush. Yes, I could buy baby carrots, but they are more expensive, and they sometimes feel slimy. Blaugh. So I cut my own. To make the morning rush easier, I often buy a 5 lb bag of them, and peel and cut them in bulk one night a week, leaving them in a large water-filled tupperware to be eaten–or packed in lunches–at will. If they are already cut up, they get eaten more often, both by the wee ones as well as by us.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday: Menus and Meals

March 21, 2011

Well, after all the celebratory feasting last week, I was at a loss as to what to eat this week, but as it’s now spring (hurray!), it’s time to break out the spring recipes.

1. Pasta primavera, with red peppers, garlic, onions, peas, and asparagus, a touch of cream and some lemon juice. Bread.

2. Asparagus tart here (which I’m so certain will be well-received by my children that I suspect we’ll have plain chicken as well), quinoa, and a shredded carrot salad here

3. Tomato soup and grilled cheese

4. Roasted vegetables (red peppers, onions, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, olive oil and some sea salt) and baked brown rice (see recipe below)

5. Black bean and corn quesadillas and rice

6. Spinach dumplings here. While these take some effort and time to make, they are like being back in Tuscany for me. Yum. The recipe makes a lot, so I expect I’ll bake half and freeze half for a rainy day.

And now for some reality. Anyone want to take a guess to see which meal will go by the wayside, once the craziness of the week begins? 🙂

Here’s my favorite way of making brown rice, via Cook’s Illustrated:

1 1/2 c brown rice

2 1/3 c chicken broth

1/2 c grated parmesan

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 c chopped parsley (optional) or 1 tsp dried

1. Heat oven to 375. Place rice in an 8 inch square baking dish.

2. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a covered sauce pan. When it boils, immediately pour over rice, and cover with a double layer of foil. Bake until tender, about 1 hour.

3. Remove from oven, uncover, and stir in black pepper, parmesan, lemon zest and juice, and parsley if using. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes. The original recipe says to let it stand an additional 5 minutes uncovered, but I don’t think we ever do. We’re too hungry by that time.

The original recipe also has a chopped and sauteed onion in it, but if you even breathe the word “onion” in front of the younger crowd at my house, they go flying off to the hinterlands to escape. So I don’t put onion in. You can if you want to. I often double the recipe, placing the rice in a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Happy Monday!

Friday Favorites: Ice Cream

March 18, 2011

My family loves ice cream, but we never go through a whole carton of ice cream. Crazy, huh? Maybe it’s because S. likes strawberry ice cream, and W. likes cookie dough, B. likes mint chocolate-chip, and I like anything with chocolate and stuff in it (really, I’m not fussy: rocky road, moose tracks, brownie, peanut butter cup, nuts, whatever. I may not eat much meat, but I’m hip to the ice cream scene.)

So I inevitably end up buying vanilla, with the intent of having root beer floats (but S. doesn’t want a root beer float; he wants plain root beer, hold the ice cream), or even hot fudge sundaes, but that requires hot fudge, which equals effort, which means the carton of ice cream gets a few scoops out of it before it gets chucked after a short freezer-burned life. Sad, isn’t it?

Inspiration struck in the freezer aisle at Market Basket. Individual cups of ice cream. Tra la! So, it’s a bit of a splurge to spend $1 for each person on single serving cups of ice cream, but as a special treat, it’s nice to not only get what we each want, but we’re also not wasting ice cream or being gluttonous in consuming it.