Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Trifle Tower

I made an incredible new recipe for supper tonight -- a Layered Taco Salad, which was affectionately renamed by one of my "regular customers" -- The Trifle Tower!  :)

This recipe was Awesome!  See how amazing it looks:

My family is laughing at me because I am so excited about this recipe!!  But it was so much fun to put together, and even more fun to eat

I'm talking Yummy!

Bethany said, "Mom, make this again!  I actually like it!!"   :)

Chris said (after his fourth helping), "Mom, is this cheap?  Then you should make it a lot!"

Most everyone agreed.  (You really don't expect any recipe to have unanimous approval, do you??)

This would be perfect to take to a church covered dish dinner or to serve at a Super Bowl party or to make for the NCAA basketball championship!  It is also great for a simple weeknight supper.

Here is the recipe:
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup taco seasoning
1 can refried beans (optional)
2 medium ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
2 TBSP finley chopped red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
4 cups shredded lettuce
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped
5 green onions, chopped
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup mild salsa
2 cups sour cream
tortilla chips

In a small skillet, cook ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in water and taco seasoning.  Cook and stir for two minutes.  Stir in one can of refried beans (optional) and heat thoroughly.  Let cool slightly while you assemble remaining ingredients.

In a small bowl, mash avocados with onion, garlic, and lemon juice (or use prepared guacamole).

In a 3-quart trifle dish (or glass bowl) layer in this order:

ground beef mixture
avocado mixture
shredded lettuce
sliced black olives
chopped tomatoes
chopped cucumber
chopped green onions
grated cheddar cheese
sour cream

Repeat all layers, ending with sour cream.  You may want to save out a few green onions and black olives for a garnish.

Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Doesn't that sound easy?  Please let me know if you try this!  I hope you will get Rave Reviews, as I did!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thirteen Years Ago Today

On this day 13 years ago, I gave birth to my seventh baby and third daughter -- Hannah Elizabeth.  Hannah was born at 6:46 am in the comfort of my own home!  It was my second home birth, and a very special experience!  There is nothing like being in your own bedroom, with peaceful music playing, surrounded by family and close friends of your choosing, and being attended by midwives who believe that God designed a woman's body for giving birth, and that most medical interventions are usually unnecessary and actually counter-productive to the labor and delivery process. 

This is a picture of my dear friend, Lisa, who recorded the details of Hannah's birth in a special journal, comparing notes with our midwife, Susan.

I love this picture of my midwife weighing baby Hannah.  She had been saying for months, "There is a lot of baby in there!"  And true to her prediction, Hannah was a big baby at 9 pounds 6 ounces and 22 3/4 inches long!

What a delight for the children to wake up and discover they had a new baby sister!   Tiffany was there for the action, however!  She always loved attending the births of her brothers and sisters!  I just love this picture of all of them gathered around "the latest model!"

Later that day, Alan took the shaggy-haired boys out in the yard and gave them all their first "buzz!"   Here is Josh (age 5) holding Hannah.  Isn't he a cutie??

And here is Taylor (age 7) getting his turn! 

I do miss having a house full of cute little children!!  Like I said in my last post, I just don't know how they all grew up so fast!!

I love this picture of my Dad holding baby Hannah, on the day after her birth, which happened to be Easter Sunday that year.  My mom wore herself out being there for the birth and helping with the children afterwards, and had to stay home that day, which I'm sure was hard for her, but it gave my Dad special time with his new granddaughter!

Here is my oldest daughter, Tiffany (11 1/2) with "her" babies -- Christopher (18 months) and Hannah (1 week).  Tiffany always loved mothering her younger brothers and sisters, and was a very responsible older sister!

Here is Ashlyn (9 1/2) holding Hannah.  The girls had prayed for another sister for so long -- and were given four brothers before the Lord answered their prayers for another sister! 

This is me with sweet little Hannah a week after her birth.  Hannah was all dressed up in one of her "frillies" waiting to be introduced to Mum Mum (Alan's mom) who was coming from Charlotte for a visit.

This is Hannah today -- a sweet and beautiful young lady, who loves God and her family, and is very thoughtful, generous, and kind! 

Happy Birthday Hannah!!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

March Madness

If you live at our house, you aren't really given a choice.  You are expected to fill out a "bracket" for the NCAA basketball tournaments, and like it or not, you discover that much of the conversation, scheduling decisions, and television viewing centers around basketball!  A love of basketball is just in the genes around here!! 

In addition to a plethora of exciting and unpredictable basketball games, March has brought two milestone birthdays to our family.  Josh turned 18 last week, and Hannah turns 13 tomorrow.   As of Monday morning, I will officially be the mother of five (yes - 5!!) teenagers!  I find that hard to believe!  Even more unbelievable is the fact that I only have three children left who are younger than their teens!!   At some point, I went from being a mother of mostly young children to a mother of mostly older kids.  I'm not quite sure how or when it happened -- it just suddenly feels like a totally different life!

Since Hannah's and Joshua's birthdays are so close together, and we've been so busy lately, they agreed to have a joint celebration after church today.  Josh chose the menu for the birthday meal -- grilled steak, baked sweet potatoes, and roasted asparagus.  Fortunately, Hannah liked that menu, too!  Then, Hannah chose the dessert -- dirt cake.  No complaints from Josh.  So, everyone was happy!  (Including Mama!)

The birthday meal . . . .

The birthday cake . . . .

Presents for Hannah . . . .

Presents for Josh . . . 

It was a fun day of celebrating these two special birthdays  . . . and of watching two exciting basketball games! 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad

I recently discovered a tasty sounding recipe for chicken salad when browsing the internet, and copied it on to an index card to try someday.  Honestly, I don't remember where I saw it, so I'm unable to give credit to the source.  (If it happens to be your recipe, please speak up!!)

This recipe started calling my name today, when I had a pile of chicken pieces left from cooking a couple chicken carcasses and making some nutritious chicken stock.  (For information on making stock, go here or here.) 

So, I found my index card in a pile of important pieces of paper, and mixed this recipe up in no time.  Wow, was it ever Delicious! Everyone loved it and gobbled it up.  I'm thinking this is perfect for a spring luncheon or for dinner on a sultry summer day.

Here is the recipe:

1 pound chicken breast, cooked and cubed (or use leftover pieces from cooking a carcass as I did)
1 cup diagonally sliced celery
1 cup diagonally sliced green onions
1 cup mayonnaise
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
2 TBSP honey
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 cup craisins

Whisk together mayo, dijon, and honey.  Mix in pieces of chicken, celery and onions.  Add pecans and craisins, and stir well.  Chill.

Serve on fresh spinach leaves or in whole wheat pitas.  (Serves 6)  YUM!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Eighteen Years Ago Today . . .

This is what I looked like on this day 18 years ago:

This picture was taken right before I left to meet my midwife at the hospital, where my fourth child and second son was born just a few hours later!  Yes, I know I was HUGE!  But, he was a BIG baby, weighing in at 9 pounds, 12 ounces and 21 1/2 inches long!

This is what Joshua looked like on this day 18 years ago:

And this is what Joshua looks like today as a young man:

Josh is a very hard working son, who seeks to please God and his parents.  What more could any mother ask for?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where We Went In our PJs!

Have you ever dreamed you went to church or school or work in your pajamas??  Well, we actually did it!  We went to town in our pajamas Saturday night!!  We even got out of the van and paraded around the parking lot of Brusters!!  This is not the first time either . . . we do this once a year on Pajama Day!

Joe had to work most of the day, so we waited until he got off work that night to mount our attack!  We descended upon the premises about 10 pm with two van loads of hungry ice cream lovers!  Here are Joe and Abby enjoying their FREE ice cream!


Tiffany ordered her absolute favorite flavor -- Chocolate Chip Mint!  Unfortunately for Josh, who spent five minutes telling us how he always gets Chocolate Chip Mint, she took the very last scoop of it, which explains her triumphant smile below!!   :)

He was pretty devastated, but consoled himself with Thin Mint, which is a close cousin to Chocolate Chip Mint!

I requested Coffee Toffee, which they were also out of, so I took Christopher's suggestion and ordered Vanilla Toffee Crunch, which was pretty yummy!  Bethany played it safe with Vanilla; although getting a cone was pretty risky for her.  ;-)

Amazingly, we had no mishaps with cones!  Here is Matt enjoying his!

Luke, and his friend, Jase, enjoyed playing around as much as they did eating their ice cream!  In fact, we were all quite lively and loud, because for some reason everything was Funny!   :)  (It's a good thing we were already in the parking lot, or we might have been escorted there!!)

Hannah's friend, Lanie totally stole the show!  She requested eight (yes 8!) flavor samples . . . and then ordered Vanilla!!!!    :)  We just couldn't seem to stop laughing over that!

Then, Josh and Tiffany were sparring a bit, when Jases's Mom, Sabra, looked at Tiffany very matter-of-factly and said, "It is hard to take you seriously with a chocolate chip between your teeth!"   (To see the result of this interaction, check out the following pictures!)

Yes, we had a lot of FUN and can't wait until next year's Pajama Day!!!

Note:  This is NOT a part of my Healthy Habits for 2010 series!  :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Full Count

Neither Joe nor Luke will be running the bases this spring, even though they are both naturally good at it, and have been running them every spring for the past several years.   Because they both played football and basketball this year (Luke through a church rec program and Joe at the high school level), they decided to take a break from baseball this spring.  Joe chose to give up his spot at first base, so he could take his place behind the counter at Chick-Fil-A and build up his dwindling bank balance!  Luke chose to step back from being his team's best base stealer to let his brother Matthew step up to the plate.  Matt has been dying to play baseball, and knowing that it is both expensive and time-consuming to have multiple boys playing baseball, Luke offered his spot to Matt this spring.     

Matt is thrilled to finally have a turn to play baseball!  He's pretty cute in his Dodger's uniform, too; don't you think?!  :)   Since he has never played before, and has some issues with staying focused, he is having a little trouble putting it all together, but fortunately, he has some very patient coaches, who don't mind taking time to teach the fundamentals.  He was also blessed to be put on a pretty good team.  So far, they have won two games, tied one, and lost one, with ten games to go in the regular season!

Learning to connect bat with ball has proven challenging for Matt, but he is making progress.

Saturday morning was every parent's nightmare -- the score was tied; it was the "bottom of the ninth," two outs, bases loaded, and Matt was up to bat!!!  : o   The pressure was on!  Then it was full count . . . would Matt get a hit?   strike out?  or get walked?   I wish I could say that he hit one of those game-winning hits that give a parent bragging rights for years to come, or even that he got walked and brought in the winning run, but that was not to be part of the script.  He struck out. 

However, late in the game on Monday evening, Matt was once again up to bat.  This time he sent the ball sailing into left field, and because he knocked in the last run of the game (because of mercy rules), he was awarded the game ball!!  Wow!  Never expected to see that in his glove this season!  ;-)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Healthy Habit #8 for 2010: Drink More Water

Drinking enough water has never been easy for me.  I tend not to be a big drinker.  However, my goal for this year is to drink at least eight cups of water a day. I've discovered that the key for me achieving this is to start early.  If I drink a cup first thing in the morning, then 16 ounces after exercising, another cup mid-morning and a cup with lunch, I'm over half-way there already!

Keeping a big cup of water within easy reach as I work is also helpful. Drinking it out of a "special cup" can make it more appealing, as well as can adding a squirt of fresh lemon or lime juice.  

Although eight cups a day is a good rule of thumb, a more accurate way of determining how much water you need is to take your weight and divide it in half.  That number is how many ounces of water you need each day.  So, if you weigh 150 lbs., you need to drink 75 ounces of water a day.   Of course, even more water is needed if you live in a hot climate or exercise vigorously.

Why drink more water?

As I was doing some research for this post, I discovered the following amazing hydro-facts:

  • 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
  • In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.
  • Even MILD dehydration will slow down one's metabolism as much as 3%.
  • Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.
  • Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back, and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
  • A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory,trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.
According to Jordan Rubin, in Perfect Weight America, "Regular ol' water can play a significant role in losing weight because of the way it revs up your metabolism and hydrates cells so that they can process carbohydrates and fat more efficiently.  When your body's cells are well hydrated, you accelerate the liver's ability to convert stored fat into usable energy and help your kidneys flush out toxins.  If you substitute water for soft drinks -- and and ignore everything else written in Perfect Weight America, -- you'll still lose three pounds in short order. . . "

Fortunately, I am one of the few Americans who is not fond of soft drinks, so I don't have that habit to break, but I do have a weakness for good ol' southern sweet tea!  :)  I am doing much better about that, and just drink a glass of sweet tea occasionally, like at church dinners or when I go to Chick-Fil-A!!!    :) 

For the most part, I am sticking to water and trying to make sure I consume my daily quota.  I've discovered that I'm not the only blogger who is focusing on drinking her H2O this year -- check out this post to read another perspective on the merits of drinking more water.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Healthy Habit #7 for 2010: Start Each Day with a Nutritious Breakfast

I have stalled out here, but now I am trying to get back to my Healthy Habits series and get that finished up before I drag it into 2011!!!

Many health experts agree that starting our days with a nutritious breakfast is essential to our health and well-being, and it helps in achiveing our ideal weights, too.  According to Dr. Pamela Peeke, we should eat a high quality breakfast no later than 9 am, in order to get our metabolisms humming for the day.

Lori Lipinski, a Certified Nutritional Consultant, in Replacing Refined Sugars with Natural Sugars One Step At a Time, explains the importance of breakfast this way: 

Eating a typical high carb breakfast or skipping it all together can have a major impact on the rest of your day. Here's why: Blood sugar (glucose) is the fuel for every single cell in your body. So naturally you want your fuel supply to be constant all day long. Eating balanced meals at regular intervals throughout the day is necessary to maintain this balance. Breakfast is important because it lays the foundation for the rest of the day. Typical breakfast foods--cold cereal, bagels, donuts, pancakes, waffles, or even oatmeal with sugar, fruit, toast with jam, and fruit juice--are all high in sugars and simple carbohydrates which cause the blood sugar to spike up and then crash.
 The "crash" actually has a medical word for it--hypoglycemia. It is a state of low blood sugar, not actually a disease. When your blood sugar drops too low (after eating a high sugar, high carb meal) or stays too low (after eating nothing at all) many symptoms can occur. The first symptoms to set in are usually mental difficulties, because the brain requires a lot of fuel to do its job. So you may have trouble concentrating or processing information, being forgetful, or feeling mentally dull. Other symptoms include anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, irritable (especially when hungry), depression, crying spells, addictive behavior and cravings for sweets or starches. And, of course, if your fuel supply drops too low, fatigue will obviously be a factor. Many people rely on caffeine to pick themselves up when they crash, creating a "tired-wired" feeling. Many are not aware that the caffeine creates further problems by weakening the adrenal glands which produce hormones that help your body deal with stress.

My goal is to prepare a nutritious breakfast every morning for myself and my family and to eat it around 7:00 or 7:30 am.

In recent years, I have gotten lazy when it comes to breakfast prep and allowed my family to fall into the rut of eating processed cereals most days.  I tried to purchase "healthier" cereals -- those with less sugar and more fiber and protein per serving, and reduced the cost by purchasing them on sale and with coupons.  However, this convenient breakfast habit is neither nutritious nor economical.  So, I am working to prepare more nutritious breakfasts for my family.  Yet, it has proven to be challenging, because old habits can be hard to break! 

I have been trying new recipes and working to come up with a week of wholesome and delicious breakfasts that will tantalize the taste buds of my family, while providing their bodies with a nutritious foundation for their busy days.  I am still trying new recipes and tweaking here and there, but this is my basic breakfast plan.  Each menu is served with milk, preferably fresh raw cow's milk, when I am able to get it, and eggs for anyone who wants or needs extra protein.

Monday -- Soaked Oatmeal

Tuesday -- Baked Eggs and Whole Wheat Toast

Wednesday -- Baked Oatmeal

Thursday -- Fried or Scrambled Eggs and Creamy Grits

Friday -- Granola or Soaked Granola

Saturday -- Blender Waffles or Pancakes

Sunday -- Kashi cereal

These menus are subject to change, as I learn more about optimal nutrition and as I discover new recipes.  Perhaps you have a favorite, healthy breakfast recipe that you'd like to suggest?  If so, please share it in the comments!
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