Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sausage Tortellini Soup

I have been a fan of the mom blog Confessions of a Homeschooler, for a while now and have used quite a bit of her resources for homeschooling preschoolers, but I recently saw on her blog that she has shared some recipes.  All thanks goes to her for this fabulous soup recipe that we tried last night.  I had never bought Italian sausage before and had to have someone at the grocery store help me find it since it wasn't with the rest of the sausage.  FYI, it was found over in the meat section beside the ground beef in my Kroger.  They were out of sweet Italian sausage links, so I got mild Italian sausage links, but I plan to try the sweet kind next time I make this.

6 links sweet Italian sausage (I also added 1/2 lb ground sage sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cans beef broth, 2 cans water
16 oz diced tomatoes (I used 14.5 oz)
2 cups sliced zuchini (I used 2 zuchini)
6 oz can sliced black olives (I used chopped to hide them from my kids)
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 package cheese tortellini
1 can kidney beans
1 cup carrots diced (I didn't use these)
Grated Parmesan cheese

1.  In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and brown sausage links.
2.  Add garlic and onion.
3.  When onion is tender and sausage is cooked, slice sausage links.
4.  In large pot, bring beef broth, water, sausage, garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, tomatoes, zuchini, kidney beans, and carrots to boil.
5.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-20 minutes.
6.  Add tortellini and olives and cook until tortellini is tender.
7.  Serve with Parmesan cheese.

*Our favorite bread to eat with soup is this homemade recipe.

Homemade Artisan Bread

I started cutting this loaf before I remembered to take a picture. :)  

 A few years back I was reading on a blog where someone recommended saving money on groceries by baking your own bread.  I've never been a fan of kneading (because I don't really know what I'm doing) and I don't own a bread machine, so I've never really been into the whole homemade bread thing.  But as I was reading that day, the book recommended said that there was no need to knead the dough.  I was interested.  After reading a little bit more about it I ordered it on Amazon and it has proven to be a really easy way to make good, homemade bread - WITHOUT KNEADING!  The name of the book is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I have made several of the recipes in the book, but the one I have made the most is this one (called the Master Recipe) that we normally eat with soup.  I half the recipe which makes two loaves.  You can make one loaf and refrigerate the rest of the dough for up to 14 days.

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3/4 Tbsp salt (I use Kosher)
3/4 Tbsp granulated yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose, white, unbleached flour
large plastic bowl with lid (not airtight)

1.  Add salt and yeast to warm water in a large bowl. Stir.
2.  Add flour to water mixture and mix with wooden spoon.
3.  Wet hands and squeeze the mixture just until uniformly mixed - kneading is unnecessary!
4.  Put lid on bowl and let rise for 2-5 hours at room temperature until top is flattened.  It usually only takes 2 hours in my house, but the room's temp, initial water temp, and humidity will change the rise time.
5.  After this initial rise time you can refrigerate dough for later use (up to 14 days) or cut dough in half to bake.
6.  When ready to bake, cut dough in half and prepare dough by tucking edges under (shaping loaf) and placing it on a floured baking stone.
7.  Allow to rise for 40 minutes.
8.  20 minutes before baking time, begin preheating oven to 450 degrees.
9.  After 40 minutes of rising on baking stone, dust surface of dough with flour and slash top  with 1/4 in. deep tic-tac-toe pattern with serrated knife.
10.  Pour 1 cup of water into a broiler tray or baking dish and place on bottom rack of oven to create steam.
11.  Place baking stone with dough on middle rack in oven, even if 450 degress has not been reached. 
12.  Bake 30 minutes.
13.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting.

This seems like a lot of instructions, but it is really easy and quick once you get the hang of it.  I recommend getting the book if you try this recipe and like it.  There are a lot of good recipes in the book and a lot more details to this recipe that you may enjoy reading.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Our Family Is Growing!

I couldn't be more thrilled to announce that WE ARE GOING TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY!!!

This has been an eventful week for our family.  On Monday, we found out that I am pregnant and on Tuesday our oldest child turned 6.  Monday night after I bathed Camille and got her ready for bed, I asked Grant, Livi, and Weston to come upstairs to the school room to see something.  When they came up there I had written a special message with a dry erase marker on the mirror... I am pregnant with baby #4!  Grant read it first and looked at me wide-eyed with a smile on his face and said, "When did you find out?"  We waited a minute for the kids to read the message and figure out what was going on and then we all squealed and danced around the room. :)  

This is the first time I have gotten to surprise Grant with the news.  Livi and Weston are so excited!!!  Camille doesn't know what all the fuss is about, but she will soon enough.  She is the same age Alivia was when I got pregnant with Weston - 10 months.  So, Camille and Baby #4 will be 19 months apart just like Alivia and Weston.  Which means Alivia and Camille are 5 years and 1 month apart and Weston and Baby #4 will be 5 years and 1 month apart also.

Weston was 2 when I got pregnant with Camille, and although he was excited and understood what was going on, it's neat to see how much more in to it he is this time around at age 4.  He has been holding my hand a lot this week (which he never does), and he'll randomly come up to me, hug me, and look up at me and say he's so excited I'm having a baby! :)  He wants a brother, of course, but Thursday night when I was putting him to bed I asked him if he would still be happy about the new baby if it's a girl and he said, "Oh yeah, mom, that's fine."  He's the sweetest thing!

We should find out around Christmas if we're having a boy or girl and baby #4 is due in April.  That means I won't be pregnant in the heat of the summer this time and we should be wrapping up school by the time the baby comes so that we can have the summer to relax and enjoy him/her.  God has been so gracious to me!

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!"  -Psalm 127:3-5

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

I think this cake is best served fresh and warm.  It's not that hard to make - if you can get someone to grate the German chocolate for you. :)  I found out the hard way with my particular bundt pan that the best way to prepare the pan is to coat it with Crisco (I do this by using a paper towel to wipe it all around) and then dust with flour.  The first time I made this recipe in this pan all of the chocolate chips and German chocolate sunk to the bottom of the pan.  I sprayed it with non-stick cooking spray before baking, but that wasn't enough to get it to turn out after cooling.  Take the time to coat the pan well!

4 eggs
1 yellow butter cake mix
large box instant vanilla pudding 
8 oz sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
4 oz. German sweet chocolate, grated
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 340 degrees.
2.  Beat eggs well then fold in ingredients in order listed.
3.  Bake 50-60 minutes.

Chicken Bundles

I can remember, as a teenager, going to my boyfriend's house for Sunday lunch after church and his mom serving these chicken bundles.  His mom is now my mother-in-law and her mother (who is a fabulous cook!) gave me the recipe for these years ago.  They are a cream cheese and chicken mixture wrapped in a cresent roll.  The great thing is you can make them ahead of time and refrigerate them overnight until ready to bake.  Or you can even freeze them to make later.  They require a few steps to put together but they taste delicious.  We eat them served with rice and there is a recipe for yummy sauce included.

3 cups cooked, chopped chicken
1/3 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup water chestnuts, chopped
8 oz chives/onion cream cheese
1 tsp lemon pepper
pinch salt 
2 pkgs crescent rolls (8 count each)
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix (crushed real fine)
3 Tbsp butter, melted

Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
6 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
3 oz. can sliced chopped mushrooms, drained
1 cup milk

1.  Mix chicken with mushrooms, water chestnuts, cream cheese, lemon pepper, and salt.
2.  Secure wax paper to countertop with tape and dust lightly with flour.
3.  Take 2 crescents and press together on wax paper.  Roll out thinner to hold filling.
4.  Brush each roll with melted butter.
5.  Spoon chicken mixture into middle of crescent; Seal/pinch each bundle and place on cookie sheet or baking pan.
6.  Mix topping ingredients together and spoon over bundles.
7.  Refrigerate/Freeze bundles or bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Sauce Directions:
1.  Melt butter in sauce pan.
2.  Add flour and blend.
3.  Add chicken broth.
4.  Cook over medium heat until thick.
5.  Add remaining ingredients.
6.  Spoon over baked chicken bundles.

Homemade Biscuits

Ever since before we had kids, these biscuits have been a Saturday morning favorite at our house.  My husband is actually the one that makes them and he has gotten really good at it.  The recipe comes from Taste of Home magazine, Feb/March 2005.  It was an Old -Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie recipe I made and the biscuits on top were so good we decided to make them by themselves.  I have sweet memories of us in our apartment in Louisville (on-campus housing at Southern Seminary) enjoying these together on Saturday mornings.  Now we have three kids to share them with.  This is how he makes them.

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup cold butter

1.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar.
2.  Cut in the butter until mixture looks like crumbs.
3.  Stir in milk just until moistened.
4.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead 8-10 times.
5.  Roll out to 1/2 in. thickness; cut with a floured 2 1/2 in. biscuit cutter.
6.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

(You can bake these on a cookie sheet, but we now bake them in an iron skillet.)

Makes 6-8 biscuits.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Our 2014-2015 Homeschool Room

We have come to really enjoy our learning space upstairs.  In my last post I shared how I began homeschooling my oldest daughter for the second semester of her kindergarten year in January.  We started out doing our lessons in the dining room and work on the dining room table.  I soon realized this wasn't the best place because the dining room always had books and papers everywhere, whenever we had people over we had to find a place to put all of our school supplies, and a dining room table and chairs designed to seat adults is not ideal when you are teaching handwriting skills and your 3 and 5 year olds have to sit on their feet with slouched backs to reach their papers at the table.  

So, we moved upstairs.  Our school room was formerly our guest bedroom/husband's office.  When my husband graduated in December 2012 he slowly began taking all of his books to his office at work.  We hurried this process along :) and also put the guest bed (which was my husband's bed as a kid) in our oldest daughter's room (which still serves our guest when they come and our daughter sleeps with her brother in his bunkbed).  I quickly threw together what we had to make our new "school room" inviting.  This is how it looked last year...

It hasn't changed a lot, but I added some new things to keep it fresh and updated.  I found a clock at Dirt Cheap because it is much more fun to learn how to tell time on a real clock as opposed to a picture on a page.  The "months of the year" and "days of the week" printables I got for free a few years back off of a mom blog.  The American flag was $1.00 at JoAnn's Fabric. The window valance was 99 cents at TJMaxx.  Alivia was given the chalkboard/dry erase easel from Mamaw on her third Birthday.  The posters on the wall came in the Abeka Kindergarten curriculum.  The table and chairs came from Santa when Alivia was 16 months old.

I wanted our school room to also have some fun things in it so that it wasn't a bore and so our children wouldn't associate school with all work and no play.  I put Livi's Barbie house in one corner and the Smart cycle in another.  The Smart Cycle has educational games they can play on the tv and get exercise at the same time.  We have a new weather and temperature chart that came with our curriculum and a few years back I bought United States and Presidents of the US placemats for $1 each at Walmart and hung them up this year as posters since we will be memorizing these.  I use my laminator all the time and the pink lamp on the desk was actually the one from my college dorm room.  This desk was in my room as a kid.

I'm one of those parents that shops for my kid's Christmas and Birthday presents at the teacher store.  We have started a nice collection of puzzles and educational games/activities.

The other side of the room has the desk (from Grant's Nanny) that I use, and also our school books, dollar store posters, and Weston's cars and track.

Above my desk is this calendar we received with our curriculum where we change out the months and numbers.

The book shelf by my desk has the kids school books, curriculum/lesson plans, the collection of classic chapter books we have begun thanks to Goodwill, and the kid's boxes of supplies (pencils, scissors, crayons, glue, etc...) on the bottom.  Hanging on the wall beside the bookshelf is a "prayers for my children" poster and our "homeschool planning calendar" that I plan to share more about in my next post.  The picture is of Grant and I on prom day when we were 17.

Everyone has different ways of organizing their homeschool room and I like being able to get ideas from other moms like these...

It's pretty obvious from our room that I'm not following an unschooling model of learning.  Homeschooling for us means learning at home, much of the same things my kids would learn if they attended public school.  Our decision to homeschool was not a negative reaction to the school system in our area, but a desire to spend more time in our kid's lives, be their main influence, develop meaningful family relationships, be in control of their education, and teach from a Biblical worldview.

We can't wait to start this school year on August 18th!