Friday, September 28, 2012

Homemade Hummus

Jared and I both love hummus.  Two factors came together beautifully today:  I had a major craving for hummus and we re-organized our canned goods and remembered that we had a can of chickpeas and a jar of roasted red peppers. 

A few clicks on my laptop and I had brought up this recipe I had bookmarked awhile back.  You can easily follow this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.

Here are the main ingredients I used:

I had purchased the Garbanzo Beans and the roasted red peppers at our local discount grocery store (Food Depot, for you locals) for around $0.50 each.  I've just had them on hand waiting for the right recipe.  I keep minced garlic in my fridge for times when I don't have time to get fresh garlic from the store. 

I didn't have a fresh lemon, so I used bottled lemon juice (also a fridge staple).  And I didn't have tahini, nor do I even know what it is, so I just omitted it from the recipe altogether.

I drained the chickpeas (Garbanzo beans) and kept the liquid.

Then I added all the other ingredients to the food processor, forgot to take a picture, and blended it all together for a couple minutes.  I added a little of the reserved liquid from the chickpeas until the hummus was the right consistency.  I had to blend for several minutes to get it smooth.

I put it in a plastic container and refrigerated it to let all the flavors meld together.

I always eat my hummus with pita chips, but my friend told me she likes to eat hers with fresh cucumber.  Funny that I go for the unhealthy option first.  :) 

This made a delicious, cheap, easy snack!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Little Creativity

When I was a little girl, I spent most days at my grandma's house.  Whenever it rained, she said that we should paint (she had lots of paints, paintbrushes, and paper to let my creativity run wild).

Today it was gray and rainy, and Griffin didn't have preschool (ahhhhhh).  So after we took Nolan to school, I felt the urge to get out our paints.  We had finger paints, some metallic squeeze paints, and water colors. 

Our finger paints are in individual squeeze bottles, so I just squeeze some of each color onto a paper plate for each child.  I highly recommend doing it this way because all of our tubs of finger paints end up brown from colors mixing.

Nora wanted to dive in with both hands right away.

Griffin kept his hands clean for a while.

But then he joined the fun.

They painted with the finger paints and the squeeze paints for a very long time.  Then they cleaned their hands and played with the water colors.  It was lots of fun, and the clean-up wasn't even that bad.

Here are a few of their masterpieces:

I always like seeing their paint plates when they're finished painting.

During naptime, I had some creative time of my own.  My mom just bought Nora some much-needed clothes.  One of the shirts was a long-sleeved solid light pink shirt.  It was just begging for me to add a design to it.

I used this free printable from Lil Blue Boo:

I printed it onto iron-on transfer paper (like this), cut close to the edge of the design, and ironed it onto the shirt.  If you do this project (or a similar one) yourself, don't forget that you have to print a mirror image of your design.

Here's the newly jazzed-up shirt:

As soon as Nora got up from her nap, she wanted to wear her new shirt. 

Nora was a goofy moving target.  Griffin wanted to join the fun as they tried to dodge my pictures.

Speaking of when I was a little girl, I thought you might like to see a few pictures of me then.  You might notice some resemblance between little me and the little girl in the pink outfit above. :)

Me and Grandma

My brother on the left and my sister on the right (in VERY short shorts!)


Monday, September 24, 2012

Baked Chicken and Spaghetti Squash

We had a fun new dinner tonight.  It might not seem terribly exciting, but it's at least not one of our usuals.

The kids love chicken drumsticks.  They call it "chicken on the bone" because that's what their cousins call it.

We recently purchased a package of 12 drumsticks for $5.  That comes to just $0.42 per drumstick (ok, 41.67 cents).  I knew the chicken would be great for dinner, but I just didn't know how to bake it.  So of course I consulted the internet.

We also picked up a spaghetti squash.  I had ordered spaghetti squash as a side at Ruby Tuesday, and I loved it.  So again, I had to see if anyone on the internet could help me figure out how to turn a whole squash into the tasty side I was hoping for.

For the chicken, I used this recipe from  I removed the chicken skin, dipped it in just plain skim milk, and dipped it in a crumb mixture.  The crumb mixture was made up of Italian bread crumbs, black pepper, seasoned salt, and grated Parmesan.

I baked the coated chicken on a foil-lined cookie sheet at 375 degrees for a little over an hour, flipping the chicken after 30 minutes.  I meant to take the chicken out at one hour, but I got too busy with the squash.  So our chicken got a little extra brown.

But I have to say that I'd probably do it about the same next time.  The outer coating was crunchy and delicious, and the meat inside was super moist.  As Jared gobbled down his third drumstick, he said, "Seriously, this is one for the books."

For the spaghetti squash, I used this recipe.

It had pictures, seemed simple, and required the same baking temperature and time as my chicken.

I used a wooden skewer to poke holes in the squash (I just left it whole).  I baked it on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for one hour.

I let it cool a few minutes and then cut it in half lengthwise.  Then I had to scoop out the seeds, which look very much like pumpkin seeds.  There's also a little bit of squash around the seeds that's a bit slimy, so I discarded that.  Here's what my squash looked like after I removed the seeds and slimy part:

I started scraping it with a fork, and it very easily came away from the skin.  You can see that it is shaped like skinny spaghetti noodles.

Here's one half fully scraped:

And here's all the spaghetti squash ready for flavoring:

I sprinkled salt and pepper on it, and I thought it was pretty tasty.  Jared thought it still needed something, so I added about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and tossed to distribute evenly.

Jared and I both really liked the spaghetti squash.  Nolan liked it at first but got tired of it before he ate all of his.  We just told Griffin and Nora that it was noodles, and they didn't suspect that it was squash.  Griffin tolerated it, and Nora convinced herself that she didn't like it, regardless of what her tastebuds had yet to tell her.

We rounded out the meal with some Schwan's multi-grain bread (we all love it).  I topped mine with the last bits of my jam from Tanner's Apple Orchard.  It's definitely time to make another trip out there!

So there you have it.  I made a meal that was cheap, relatively low in carbs, pretty low in fat (no chicken skin, no oil, no butter), and somewhat new and exciting for us.  I am very satisfied!  Now that might not happen again for quite some time. :)


Monday, September 17, 2012

Cake and Body Image

I'm too exhausted to write, so I thought I'd at least share a couple of links so you all know I'm still alive.

Tonight I couldn't shake a craving for chocolate cake.  I even had a little leftover chocolate frosting in my refrigerator from some goodies I made for someone else last weekend.  I shouldn't have kept the leftover frosting because I will undoubtedly eat it.  Let's be honest:  the chocolate frosting was the whole reason I wanted the cake.


I remembered reading a blog post about how you can make a single serving of cake in the microwave using cake mix.  And I'm just the kind of girl who always has cake mix on hand.

Read the full instructions at Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom.

Basically, mix 1/4 cup cake mix with 1.5 tablespoons water and microwave for 1 minute.

If you want to make a double portion (ahem), mix 1/2 cup cake mix with 3 tablespoons water and microwave for 1.5 minutes.

I just slapped some frosting on top of my "cupcake" while it was hot out of the microwave, and I ate it straight out of the mug. 

Worth it.

And on an unrelated note...

I've been wanting to share something that my sister shared with me several weeks ago. 

It's called "Dear Body" and you can find it at (in)courage.

It's not that long, so just force yourself to click the link and go read it. :)  It will give you a new perspective on just how miraculous your body is.

I hope your week is off to a great start!


Saturday, September 15, 2012


I've shared before that God uses songs to help me through tough times.  In fact, I could name a specific song that he used during each major trial. 

Right now, the song is "My Hope Is In You" by Aaron Shust.

The line that gets me every time is "I won't be shaken by drought or storm."  I'm challenged by it.  I tend to get pretty shaken by both droughts and storms, so to speak.  I sing this out in my car to remind myself that I can keep my hope rooted in God no matter what my circumstances are.

A few nights ago, my friend texted me Psalm 16:8...
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
She didn't know about the song God had been using to speak to me.  How awesome to know that in the midst of my chaos, God is so consistent.

One other song that has been popping up quite frequently lately is "Center of It" by Chris August.

I just wanted to share these with you in case any of you also need encouragement.  Life is crazy, chaotic, inconsistent, and often painful.  But God is steady, consistent, unchanging. 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Getting to Know Nolan

Nolan is in first grade.  One of his first projects was to make a paper that tells all about him.  He included pictures of his favorite Marvel heroes, a picture of our family, and he wrote all about his favorite things. 

Yesterday was Nolan's day to be his class leader.  That means he got to present his paper to the class.  Then the other children each had to draw a picture of Nolan and write something they learned about him.  This morning I finally had the chance to sit down and look at Nolan's book of papers from his classmates.  It made my heart happy.

The very first paper in the book:

This is Nolan.  He likes to go to church.
My heart soared.  So I looked through the rest of the papers.

This is Nolan.  He likes his mom's cookies and candy.  He has one sister!
This is Nolan. He likes church.  He likes cookies.
This is Nolan.  He likes baseball.
This is Nolan.  He likes cookies.
This is Nolan.  His favorite color is green and orange.
This is Nolan.  He loves his mom, dad, brother, and sister.
This is Nolan.  He is going to church with his mom and dad and sister.

And Nolan's page in his book:

I am Nolan.  I like Marvel.  I like baseball.  My favorite Bible stories are Jonah and David.

I wish I had taken a picture of his original paper that he made to tell about himself.  It was so cute.

I love that Nolan felt so special yesterday.  I'm glad his classmates were able to get to know him better.

On a day when I needed some encouragement as a mom, I received it.  Nolan's classmates know him as the kid who likes church.  Thank you, God, for small successes.  Today I got one thing right.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Food Frustration

Many of you know that I've lost a bit of weight this year.  I actually lost 45 lbs. this spring.  I would love to lose another 10 lbs, but I needed to bump weight loss down a little on my priority list to accommodate other important things in my life.

My weight loss success was due to exercise and tracking my food on my SparkPeople phone app.  I did pay special attention to keeping my carbs in check and increasing my protein intake.  My success came after two years of frustration over trying to lose weight with very little results for my efforts.

It seems that everyone I know is on a diet or trying to lose weight right now.  And every single person is doing it in a different way.  Some are working out insanely.  Some are doing high protein, low carb foods.  Some are doing only fresh "whole" foods.  Some are doing Weight Watchers.  Some are doing special shakes.  Some are even doing hormone therapies.  It's enough to make my head spin.

Food has been an issue for me for so long.  As I've been working on not being controlled by food or by my poor body image, I'm still confused about food.

I'm not quite sure what my food focus should be.

At various times, my food focus has been any of the following:
  • Buying the cheapest foods to save my family money
  • Using up every last bit of foods we have to minimize waste and save money
  • Consuming fewer calories
  • Choosing low carb foods and high protein foods
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Cutting out artificial sweeteners 
  • Avoiding foods that aggravate my Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other stomach issues
  • Making creative dinners for my family and trying new recipes
The problem is that very few of these food focuses overlap.  I can't eat lots of fruits when I'm limiting carbs.  Avoiding artificial sweeteners means I will likely be consuming more calories (by consuming real sugar instead of "diet" products).  And the most frustrating of all:  it's extremely difficult to save money on my grocery bill when I'm buying healthy foods (cheap foods tend to be not very healthy).

So I'm left paralyzed, unsure of how to approach food.

I'm currently dabbling in a little of everything.  I'm still trying to not go carb crazy, but sometimes I use what we have on hand to feed my family, no matter what it is.  We buy produce that's on sale, but I also use canned fruits and vegetables when I get them cheap (even though they are "processed").  I have a protein shake everyday to help increase my protein and keep me from eating a can of chocolate frosting for lunch.  I have several new dinner recipes I want to try, and I'd like to incorporate them soon, even if they have cheese or pasta or other foods that might be cut out otherwise.

It's hard for me to hear everyone else's view of what works for them or what they think is absolutely the way to go.  I get swayed by the current opinion.  I immediately feel ashamed that I haven't been doing it their way.  I know that I did something right to lose 45 pounds, but now that I'm not losing confidence is deflating.

I'm still learning how to be comfortable in my body and satisfied with my approach to food, regardless of how others look and what others are doing.  Apparently, I just have a really hard time feeling content.

So, I hope you have found some things that work for you.  But maybe don't tell me about it because I'll just pressure myself to do things your way.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Ranch Crackers

I was recently asked to make some snacks and desserts for a candle party.  I immediately thought of those ranch-seasoned oyster crackers that I'm sure we've all had.  Those always seem to be a hit whenever they are served.  I thought they would be great as the "salty" snack item for the party.

While I was shopping for supplies and having a very difficult time finding oyster crackers (seriously?), I stumbled upon something fun:

Mini saltine crackers!  Of course I jumped at the chance to make the classic snack new with these fun crackers. 

Just how mini are they?  Each cracker is approximately 1 inch by 1 inch.  So many possibilities...

Anywho, I'm sure you all have the recipe for these oyster crackers (or you can find it on the internet), but I thought I'd share how I made these anyway. 

Items needed:
  • Crackers--I used two 11-oz. boxes of mini saltines
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 envelope Ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. dill weed
One more sidenote:  You're supposed to buy the Ranch Dressing mix, but I apparently didn't pay close attention and bought the Ranch Dip mix.  I have to say that it didn't seem to make a difference.

Alrighty, here we go.

First, dump the crackers into a large bowl.  (I had little hands to help me with this task.)

Then measure your oil into a liquid measuring cup.  I like to use my 2-cup cup so I can mix all the seasonings in right in the measuring cup.  Use a whisk to incorporate the Ranch, garlic salt, and dill weed.

Then pour the oil mixture over the crackers, and carefully stir them until all the crackers are evenly coated.

Pour the crackers onto a cookie sheet.  I probably should have divided them between two cookie sheets.  Oh well.

Bake at 280 degrees for 40 minutes.  At least, that's how I baked mine.

My original recipe is from my grandma.  The sight of her handwriting is one of the most beautiful things to me.

Her recipe says to bake between 300 and 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I recall past times when my crackers ended up a little more brown than I would have liked, so I set my oven to 300 this time.  Then I noticed that the crackers were a little brown straight out of the package, so I lowered my oven temp to 280.  Mine took 40 minutes, but you could probably do 300 degrees for 30 minutes. 

I stirred my crackers at 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes, and 35 minutes.  

The finished tasty crackers:

These taste just as good as the oyster cracker version.  Now I'm just thinking about what else I could make with these cute little crackers!