Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas 2016

Since Christmas fell on Sunday this year, we had a spur-of-the-moment idea on Saturday morning to celebrate that day instead but drag it out by letting the kids open just one present every hour until all the presents were gone.  That way, the excitement would continue all day long, and we wouldn’t be rushed trying to get everybody done and out the door for church on Sunday morning.


It went so well that I think we may do Christmas the same way every year from now on!  Spreading it out throughout the day was way more fun and far more relaxing than the frenzy of opening everything at once.  Not only was it easier to control the mess, but the kids had a chance to enjoy each gift for a whole hour before coming back for the next surprise.  There was a buzz in the air every hour as they watched the clock and dutifully appeared miraculously on time!  LOL


It was really a lot of fun.  At the end of the day, Steve and I looked at each other and wondered aloud why we hadn’t thought of this before.  It was brilliant!  I think we have now established a new tradition in the Burgess household!

So then instead of taking the kids out to look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve as I’ve always done in the past, we just went out on Christmas night instead.  No one was around, so it was easy to visit even the most popular locations without a big crowd or lots of traffic.  That was nice.


Overall, we had a wonderful holiday weekend.  We enjoyed it very much.  I even made a whole spread just like at Thanksgiving for our Christmas Eve dinner with rolls baked from scratch and made plenty of extra mashed potatoes so we could have my mom’s famous “fry-up” for breakfast before church on Christmas morning.  That was a great way to start the day!  After church, I made a huge batch of fruit salad, too, and my kids loved getting to have that again (we usually only have it at Thanksgiving).  Steve got to take a bowl of it with his lunch every day early in the week, and he was happy to have that little extra treat, too.


This was the last Christmas where all of my kids are still kids.  By next Christmas, Hayden will officially be an adult, Haylee will be a teenager, and Holden will be turning double digits.  That’s so hard to believe!  I truly must be getting old.  LOL

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Favorite Recipes This Week

Breakfast Pick:  High Octane Pancakes

This was the thinnest pancake batter I’ve ever used, and I probably made it more High-Octane Pancakes Recipeso by substituting unsweetened applesauce for the small amount of oil that was supposed to be in it, but once I adjusted the temperature just right on my griddle, it became easy to work with.  Let me just say that these were some of the tastiest homemade pancakes I’ve ever made, and they are a real nutritional powerhouse!  They were not bitter at all, and they contained a fair amount of wheat germ and whole grain oats.  I added even more protein by using nonfat plain Greek yogurt.  Delicious!  They were surprisingly sweet and only required a small amount of syrup, which for me, was sugar-free by choice.  My kids really liked these.  I quadrupled this recipe to make 16 pancakes (8 servings) to feed my family of 5 and have some to put up in the freezer for easy weekday breakfasts for my hubby before he leaves for work.  Definitely give these a try!

Lunch Pick:  Turkey Vegetable Soup

On these cold winter days, I love to warm my belly with a good hot soup at lunchtime.  I really enjoyed this hearty soup!  It made so much that it fed us for Vegetable Turkey Soup Recipeseveral days, and I even had a little bit left over to put in the freezer for a quick lunch when it’s just me.  Even my kids liked this soup, because I used shredded carrots instead of slicing them so that they would disappear (my daughter dislikes cooked carrots).  I cut up all of the veggies so small that they were not very noticeable, and that passes her finicky texture test.  It was a delicious and filling soup, and I never got tired of it.  I served it with a whole wheat roll with light butter and a little bit of shredded 2% sharp cheddar cheese on top.  Yum!  I actually made this in my electric pressure cooker to make it super easy.  After I sautéed the meat in the bottom, I added all of the other ingredients at once and set it on “soup” for 10 minutes.  Done! 

Dinner Pick:  Gingered Pepper Steak

This was a downright amazing stir fry dish!  My whole family agrGingered Pepper Steak Recipeeed that the sauce was just right.  It had just the right amount of ginger and rich, Asian flavor…enough flavor to make serving it over rice a nice balance and not bland at all.  My kids really loved this, but so did the adults!  The beef was surprisingly tender, and the marinade really kicked it up a notch.  I actually didn’t marinate it ahead of time.  I really just let the meat set in the bag with the sauce while I was preparing the other parts of the dish, and the meat basically soaked up all of the sauce in a short amount of time so that there wasn’t much of anything to drain off.  I used a London Broil and sliced it into thin strips.  It was fabulous!

Dessert Pick:  Strawberry Custard Tart

This recipe is actually for a Raspberry Custard Tart, but I have one child who doesn’t like raspberries so I adjusted it to use fresh strawberries and Raspberry Custard Tart Recipestrawberry spreadable fruit instead of raspberry.  It was so yummy!  The homemade almond egg custard layer was so delicious.  My teenage son really enjoyed it.  In fact, he said it was one of the best desserts he’s ever had.  It was a light, refreshing treat.  The only thing about it is that it gets soggy from the cut fresh fruit overnight, so it’s definitely best to serve it immediately.  If you don’t think you and your guests can finish it at one meal, then you should probably reduce the recipe by half and make a smaller version of it.  Also, I used a ceramic fluted quiche/pie plate, and the crust really wanted to stick to it.  Next time, I’d probably use a non-stick true pie plate or disposable tin so it would be easy to serve up the slices without breaking the crust.  But it really was a tasty treat!  It would be so easy to change up the fruit flavor to whatever suits you best…it’s a very versatile recipe!

And while I’m on the topic of cooking, you’ve gotta love the electric pressure cooker!  It’s my favorite and most used kitchen appliance, and believe me when I say that I have a lot of small kitchen appliances.  I’m sort of a collector, you might say.  I just treated myself to a new and bigger pressure cooker for Christmas, and I love it!  If you are in the market for one, I highly recommend investing in a Go Wise for the best value.  It comes with a stainless steel inner pot, which is essential for easy cleaning and even heating.  It also comes with a stainless steel handled steam rack and a handled steamer basket.  That’s an awesome accessory I didn’t have before, and I’ve already used it so much!  I got the Go Wise 8 qt., and it was only $80.  That’s an incredible value for all it came with, and it has a ton of preset buttons for anything you’d want to make (including yogurt!), along with manual adjustments for time and pressure.  It’s awesome!  I can cook a whole 5 pound bag of potatoes for mashing in 10 minutes and still have room to spare.  I really needed the bigger size for my large family, because we like to have leftovers sometimes! 

That’s it for now!  I hope you enjoy trying some of this week’s delicious recipes from my Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet plan cookbooks.  We continue to try new things every day and enjoy delicious comfort foods that are healthy and have a reasonable amount of calories. 

I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Looking Ahead to 8th Grade

We will start our new school year in June, and it will be my daughter’s last year as a homeschooler.  She’ll be attending the local high school after that.  This year has gone pretty well so far overall, and now I’m already looking ahead to what curriculum we’ll want to use for her 8th grade year.

She’s using BookShark this year, and she’s pretty happy with the amount of reading as compared with Sonlight, so we’ll continue with that.  They just came out with BookShark 8, but the history topic is the History of Science.  That doesn’t especially interest her, so I think we’ll just use the books from the old Sonlight Core 100, but order the BookShark instructor’s guide for that core and use it for 8th grade (BookShark uses that core for 9th grade).  That covers American History in depth, and I think that will better prepare her for entry into public school the following year.  We like the 4-day schedule from BookShark, and I’ve already purchased Apologia Who Is God? curriculum for our bible study.

For math, she’s using Unlock Math Pre-Algebra this year, and she has improved so much!  It’s working wonderfully for her, and I wish we could continue it, but I just can’t afford the $250 for the Algebra program.  It’s an online curriculum, so I can’t even pass it on to the next kid.  So I’ve decided to use Teaching Textbooks Algebra for her next year.  My son has been using that program this year, and he likes it well enough.

For language arts, I’m still investigating my options.  I’m not focused on that part right now.  That’ll be next on my mind for consideration.

For science, that’s my big thought process right now.  She’s currently using BookShark Science 7, and it’s been a really success for her.  She loves the weekly experiments so much, and she enjoys the variety of books and topics.  She really wanted the same kind of program for next year, but BookShark tells me that they just won’t have Science 8 ready in time for us to use it next year.  So that leaves me with a big dilemma.  She really likes the hands-on stuff, and she also likes the 4-day scheduling.  I have hunted around for a physical science curriculum over the last week or so, and I stumbled upon something I’d never even heard of before.  It’s called Exploration Education’s Physical Science program.  It looks awesome!

There are several levels available of the curriculum.  I think I’ve settled on getting this, but I’m unsure whether to get the standard version (recommended for grades 4-6) or the advanced version (recommended for grades 7-10).  She falls in the advanced level for grade 8, but it’s a 5-day curriculum.  I don’t think I could convince her to do 5 days’ worth in 4, and I know she doesn’t want to have school on Fridays when we have gym class.  So I’m leaning towards the standard version because it is a 3-day curriculum.  The only thing about that is that there are three additional building projects in the advanced, and they look like the coolest projects of all!  It includes a large glider, a mini-house with electrical lighting, and a working steamboat.  That sounds like fun!  I love that this curriculum is computer based.  The student reads through the lesson on the computer with lots of pictures and sometimes videos, enters their answers, and if they get it wrong, it sends them back to the lesson to find the correct answer before continuing.  Once they have the correct answer, they record that information in the printed workbook so they have all the correct information in one place to use as a study guide.  They also fill out lab reports on all of their experiments.  It seems right up her alley, and I love that it’s self-grading!

If you have any experience with this curriculum, please share your thoughts on it.  It’s got a fairly hefty price tag, as everything is consumable except for the CD-ROM, and it’s either $123 or $145, depending upon which level you get.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Healthy Recipes to Share

I’m having so much success and enjoyment using healthy recipes from the Comfort Food Diet cookbooks from Taste of Home that I’ve decided I’d like to periodically share with you some of my favorite recipes from recent weeks.

I love using my electric pressure cooker to prepare meals, because it’s so easy, really requires little to no prep work, and it saves SO much time in slaving over the stove and in actual cooking time.  I often throw frozen ingredients or dry pasta or rice in there, and it cooks beautifully while everything else cooks at thePot  Roast with Vegetables Recipe same time.

Here’s my favorite pot roast recipe so far that I adapted for my pressure cooker:  Pot Roast with Vegetables
I cut the roast into slabs to ensure it cooked all the way through in the pressure cooker and used the meat setting for 40 minutes.  It was total perfection!  I think next time, I’ll substitute beef broth for the water for even more flavor.  I’ll never make pot roast any other way again!  It was so good.

Hot Berries 'n' Brownie Ice Cream Cake RecipeWe also had an *amazing* dessert:  Hot Berries 'n' Brownie Ice Cream Cake
Now this looks to have some odd ingredients in the sauce, but don’t let it throw you off from trying it.  Be sure to make it exactly as it says.  I never imagined mixing balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper with fruit, but this is “the bomb!”  My husband even agreed that this dessert was really something special, and it’s the berry sauce that really put it over the top.  You’ve gotta try it!  It makes a lot of portions, too, so it’s great for a crowd.  I made just half of the berry sauce the first night so I could make a fresh batch halfway through (since berries are delicate and don’t keep for long).

Here’s a delicious recipe for pancakes…my favorite one so far:  Blueberry Oat Blueberry Oat Pancakes RecipePancakes
I used fat-free sour cream and white whole wheat flour for extra lightness, and the fresh blueberries made these absolutely amazing!  They were so full of flavor, and partially grinding the oats into oat flour gave them a more traditional texture for all the whole grains that was in them.  I will be making these many times in the future!  My daughter isn’t a fan of blueberries, so I may try them with apples and cinnamon next time.

Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos RecipeI first made these for lunch, but later made them again for dinner…they were that good:  Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos 
I think the salsa verde is what gave these such a great flavor.  I’d never really cooked with it before.  This is amazing served with Spanish rice and refried beans on the side, along with traditional toppings like lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream.

So now I’ve shared with you a great breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipe.  If you like this kind of post, please leave me a comment, and I’ll put together some more of my favorites for next time.

Enjoy your healthy and satisfying comfort foods!