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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Things We Love: ZINGO!!!

I know that Christmas is still five months away, but Im always on the lookout for great ideas and really like to put some thought in way ahead of time, so I thought Id share one of our familys favorite games that my oldest son received last year as a gift. Zingo (http://www.amazon.com/Think-Fun-7700-ThinkFun-Zingo/dp/B00006408Q) is a lot of fun for the whole family. Everyone from my three year old to my 33 year old husband has fun playing this game! The premise is simple, and yet fun. The object of the game is to get all the tiles for your board and then you yell ZINGO! There is a red tower that has all the tiles in it and then you move it back and forth and two tiles appear. It might be an owl and a dog. The first one to say dog gets that tile and the first to yell owl gets that one. There are pictures as well as the word on each tile so if you have readers, early readers, or little guys who need the pictures still it works. If no one has any of the tiles, then they get placed back in the top for the next game. Each game card is double sided and up to 6 people can play. Its a really fun game to play when you have little friends over as the rules are simple and everyone gets excited when their board begins to fill up. It builds on reading skills, logical thinking, and social skills. For under 20 dollars, this game has lasting value and is a wonderful family game to add to your collection!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sour Cream English Muffins

These muffins are so yummy and extra moist thanks to the sour cream! I can get 16-20 muffins per batch and we use them to make English muffin pizzas and enjoy them for breakfast with jam or butter. Many people (including my own mother) say they just cant make bread and I always say start with English muffins-- you cant go wrong and bonus-- no baking! ************************** To begin with-- start your sponge starter. Get one cup of warm water and add 2 tsp of yeast (I don't use the instant kind-- makes things a bit flat, plus if you follow the next step, youre guaranteed a sponge) and 1 tsp-1 tbs of raw honey. Honey is hard to measure so a small dollop is what youre going for. Honey and yeast are bffs in the bread world so lightly and gently stir them together in the water. Walk away and come back in a half hour. Your yeast mixture should be bubbly and doubled in size. If its not, wait another half hour. If it still isn't then maybe your yeast expired or the water was too cold. Once you successfully make your first sponge (and trust me, the honey will help the yeast bubble like crazy) your confidence in bread making will grow and you can move on to more varities. In a large mixing bowl mix together with your dough hook 2 cups of wheat flour and 2 cups of bread flour-- trust, me-- bread flour is worth purchasing! Then add your sponge mixture and keep mixing. Then add 1 cup of sour cream. Keep letting it mix away until you have an elasticky dough ball. It shouldn't be too sticky and wet or crumbly-- if it is either then add a tbs at a time of either flour or water. I normally keep a cup of flour on hand in case I need to add more in (hence sometimes getting 16 or 20 muffins). Now, call the kids over and get out these tools: A rolling pin, a circle cutter (I have used different sizes so whatever works for you is what works), baking sheet, and corn meal. Here is what my dough looks like. Now I flour my work surface and my rolling pin and roll the dough out to about 1/4 in- 1/2 in thick. Honestly, I don't have time to measure and muffin dough can be thick so you got to put your arms into it ;) Now, my three year old is going to cut out the English muffins-- he is so seriously adorable and Im banking on him being a chef one day and saying, "my mother taught me all I knew" or "I grew up cooking at my mothers apron strings" Sprinkle some corn meal down on your baking tray (keeps 'em from sticking when they rise and cook and makes them look authentic) and place English muffins on tray. Cover them with a towel and leave them for an hour or two in a warm place (I.e. not by a drafty window or an air conditioning vent). When they have plumped up, its time to cook them up. Now butter up a skillet and stick your muffins on there. Just let them get nice and brown on one side and flip them over. Just like making a really thick pancake. Then ta-da-- your fresh batch of English muffins. I keep them out for a day and then store them in the fridge afterwards. This is fresh bread without preservatives and so it has a shorter shelf life. We go through this type of batch in 7-10 days. But, warning, one time one lonely muffin got left in the back of the fridge for maybe three weeks and had funkiness growing on it-- just a warning, but its actually a really good thing. You have to wonder about the long shelf life of store muffins and whats in them. These still have your crannies and dips and are so fresh and the every definition of clean eating and yay-- you just made bread!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

3 Months Already!!!

Before I share mr. lean mean growing machines 3 month pictures, I thought Id share where we were 3 months ago first. Im not sharing this picture because I look amazing- on the contrary, I don't think I've ever looked so bad in my life. Or felt so bad. I mean, I was feeling really, really bad. This is me when I finally got to hold my sweet little baby 12 hours almost to the minute after he was born. The first time he was allowed in my arms without any help. I cant even begin to describe what waiting that long and being in so much pain while waiting is like, but it does make holding them so much better. The night before Declan was born things were so bad it wasn't even funny. I was back in labor and delivery not in labor listening to other moms labor. When they were done it was quiet back in L&D except for the alarms. About every hour I would set off the blood pressure alarm quite a few times. I had to stay on my left side the entire time to try and keep my BP under 100 (for the bottom number) and being in that position while hooked up to probably 5 or 6 cords was no picnic. On top of all that, I blew out my IV and then it took a few nurses two tries each to finally get it back in... I don't think I ever "slept" so poorly in my life. At some point during all of this the doctor came in and talked to us about having my tubes tied. They explained that my chances of having preeclampsia a third time were pretty high and considering all my issues it just was not a good idea for us to try for a fifth baby. Matt and I had already felt like Declan would be our last and spent some time in prayer before making the decision to go ahead with the procedure. We really felt a peace that having babies naturally was not the only way God could grow our family. Long before we had kids we were told we couldn't and so even back then I think the seed for adoption was planted. And so if God wills us to have more and make it possible for us to find another baby, then we will joyfully be sharing that news someday. But for now, Declan is our sweet much awaited for baby. I was literally crying tears of joy while I had him in my arms. I was so happy, but also so sad because holding him for even those few minutes wore me out and caused intense pain. It was so hard to have to call my husband over and tell him I was no longer strong enough to hold my baby. But.... Im happy to say that these days our little "peanut" only wants mommy :) At three months he is quite the long string bean! He is def. going to be tall like his daddy and big sister! He is trying so very hard to get the hang of sucking his thumb-- it is so adorable to see him try! He also rolled over for the first time the other day which he absolutely did NOT like and I don't think he'll be trying that again for some time as he finds tummy time torturous! He loves to be swaddled but as he is growing quite long its getting a little tricky to make that possible! He also loves being talked to and sung too and carried and he is quite the coo-er. So cute to hear him add new sounds and get a little louder. Im sure it will be only a matter of time before his giggles mesh with his older siblings and fill our home with laughter. And so tonight as I glance over and see him sleeping on his daddys tummy just like he was three months ago I am so thankful we have come so far...... and that I can walk over and get some snuggles myself!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nacho Salads- Clean Eating Yumminess!

These are a family favorite and a real crowd pleaser-- seriously, we eat this at least 2-3 times a week especially in the summer when turning on the stove would be horrendous! Its very simple and these are a vegetarian version (hence the no cooking), but you could brown some organic beef or grill some chicken to put on top too. On this particular day, we had some nice organic blue chips. Then we top all 5 plates with 1 cup of organic cheese spread amongst them. Organic cheese is more pricey so this is one way to stretch the amount-- nacho salads! Then we add some diced tomatoes, diced bell pepper, avocado diced, some cilantro, organic lettuce or spinach. On top we like some black beans and then a nice dollop of organic sour cream on top. We each pick a salsa and drizzle some of that on the top too at the table. Its delicious-- we eat with our hands (what kid doesn't like that?!) so a side bonus is less dishes to wash-- no pots or pans or silverware-- just plates, a cutting board, and a knife! Its so delicious and if youd like to go vegan, we've made it with a rice cheese substitute and it was so good my husband didn't even realize we were eating vegan ;)Enjoy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Places To Play in PA: Blue Marsh Lake

For a Jersey Girl who grew up with frequent trips every summer to the beach nearby I have to say that going to the shore is one thing I miss living in PA.... but, I think that we found perhaps the next best thing thanks to a tip from my dear friend Tawnya-- Blue Marsh Lake! My parents came to church with us this past sunday and then we all drove on together up past Reading to Blue Marsh Lake. Just an fyi, the GPS took us to the fishing part of the lake, but three more lefts and then you arrive at the swimming Day Use Part of the lake. It was a gorgeous July day with just enough breeze, warm water, and clean sand to play in.
The beautiful scenery around the lake is worth the drive alone and unlike the beach, there are a dcent amount of trees for shade and I was able to hang out with the baby there while watching everyone else swim.
Everyone else enjoyed some lounging in the shade and playing in the sand too!
And when did this girl get so big? Love her so very much!
We easily spent over 5 hours there and left after one last swim just as the storm clouds rolled in! We can't wait to go back again :)

Chocolate Tortillas with Homemade Whipped Cream

These just happened and they were amazing!
Finger Licking Good apparently! I advise that you make a batch of tortillas the night or day before to save you time in the morning and to make this a fast morning treat. To reheat them I just turn the stove burner on low and place them right on top and then flip them letting them heat up per side for about 10 seconds. To make them fresh, you will need 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of bread flour. 1/2 cup of cocoa powder. Mix together. Add 3/4-1 cup of water gradually. I normally add some before oil and after to see how dry or wet a batch is. Add 1/3 cup of coconut oil. 1-2 tbs of raw honey or agave nectar-- if you have a sweet tooth I don't see why you couldn't add more or less-- just don't add too much or the tortilla batter will get very sticky. I also added in about a half a scoop of chocolate whey protein powder as I am trying to up my personal intake of protein, but that is completely optional. The cocoa powder will give you all the chocolate coloring and flavor you need. Mix all ingredients together. Then take dough ball and roll it out on a floured surface into a log. Cut into 8-12 pieces depending on how big you want your tortillas. I did 12 pieces since we have little guys and then roll all the pieces into a ball and let sit for 15 minutes at least. When done, roll out on a generously floured surface into circle-- the thinner the better. Cook on a griddle or frying pan till bubbles appear on the top side. Flip and cook on the other side as well till bubbles appear.
For the whipped cream, use 1 and a half cups of organic heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp of vanilla, and 1 tbs of powder sugar. I would like to substitute honey one time and will let you know how it turns out, but for today, I used powder and it was so good-- way better than anything from the store! Whip on high till it well, looks like whipped cream. It will be very fluffy and stay on the beater when lifted out as opposed to when it is still a liquid and drips off the beaters.
Now take your warmed tortilla add some fresh berries and then some generous dollops of whipped cream and enjoy!!