Saturday, August 6, 2011


I LOVE my mother's meatloaf.  It is seriously one of my favorite meals of all time.  Jim, on the other hand, is not really a fan of the tasty loaf of meat.  (That doesn't sound very appetizing.  I won't use that again)  Anyway, over the years we've discussed different ways to make the meatloaf that might be more acceptable to him.  I made it in the shape of a pizza for a while and he would eat it, but he just didn't love it the way I do.  Last time I made it, he decided that maybe the reason that he didn't like it that much was that it was cooked in the grease.  So this time I made the meatloaf mixture into patties and then put them on a raised rack so that the grease would drip away.
 This was the winner!  Hooray!  Not only was Jim pleased with the result, but now the meatloaf is the perfect shape and size for a tasty meatloaf sandwich tomorrow.
Brenda's Mom's Meatloaf
2 lb hamburger
2 tblsp A1 Steak sauce
2 tsp salt
1 c. Pepridge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing (in the blue bag)
2 eggs
3/4 c. milk
1 sm. onion, minced

For sauce mix together:
1 8oz can tomato sauce
2 tblsp A1 Steak Sauce

Mix first 7 ingredients together along with 1/2 the sauce and put mixture into a loaf pan and top with remaining sauce then bake  for 1 hour at 400 degrees.  OR form the mixture into about 10 patties, place on wire rack in a roasting pan, top each patty with sauce and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gearing up for homeschool

     Well all the boxes have arrived and now I just have to find places to store all our new school books and start reading all the teacher's manuals.  We've been using My Father's World for the last several years and this year is no exception.  I love the books they choose and I think that their Teacher's manual and schedule and terrific.  This year I had to pick a different language arts program than then recomend.  They suggest Primary Language Lessons and Intermediate Language Lessons which are classic volumes with some updated language.  I really liked them, but the kids had a hard time doing them on their own, and since I work outside the home, I really needed something that could be more self-directed.  The LA curriculum I choose this year also includes spelling so we won't be using Spelling Power (also recommended by My Father's World).  I really really liked Spelling Power's method, but once again it was difficult for the kids to do on their own. 

     This year Treasure will be in the 6th grade, and for the most part doing 6th grade work.  Joy will be in the 4th grade, but since she's not really up to grade level in reading or math, she's starting out with 3rd grade language arts and math, but I'm really hoping that next year she'll be able to start with 5th grade work.  And the same goes for Asked who should be in 2nd grade, will be doing mostly 1st grade work.
    Alright, enough of the talky-talky, here's what we're doing.  This year we'll be studying Creation to the Greeks:
These will cover Bible and History:  Journey through the Bible, Usborne Ancient World, Streams of Civilization volume 1, The Children's Homer, Aesop's Fables for Children, Make it work Ancient Egypt, The Trojan Horse and Celebrating Biblical Feasts.
This is for vocabulary.  We'll use the Greek word this year and the Latin next year.
  I'm not sure how much we'll use this.  We'll see.  I'll try it and see how the kids respond.  Since they'll already have daily language arts, they MAY take issue with more work.  Like I said, we'll see.
Dinosaurs of Eden by Ken Ham, Genesis for Kids, Pyramids (this has projects and information about pyramids) and Archimedes and the Door of Science.
So that's what all came with the My Father's World package.  Now the other stuff.
Treasure will continue with Saxon math.  Joy and Asked will be starting Singapore math this year.  We've been mostly just supplementing worksheets the last few years, this will be the first year that they both have math books.  I'm looking forward to not having quite so much planning to do for them.
We're using Christian Light language arts this year.  I think that they're Menonite.  It covers grammer, spelling and penmanship.  It also has...
SENTENCE DIAGRAMMING!  Am I a total nerd that I actually enjoyed this in school?  I told Treasure that it was like a puzzle and she didn't totally reject it. 
Honestly, in my over all 'homeschool philophy' I'm not really big on workbooks and busy work.  I think my kids learn more from hands on and real word experiences.  But I must say I'm a little excited for the ease (I hope) that using workbooks will bring.  The kids will be able to know exactly what the assignment is, what I expect them to accomplish and see their progress.  Maybe I'm more of a fan then I thought.  As I said before, we'll see.
Here are some of the "extra" stuff we'll try to get in.  Art from Berry Stebbing (I'm not sure if anyone but Joy will use this but I got it at a good price so we'll give it a shot), I found this great Usborne Introduction to Music book (they don't seem to offer it anymore, how sad), Computer Keyboarding (I'm going to try and teach Treasure so proper typing skills) and then Handwriting Without Tears.  Even though our Language Arts covers handwriting, we've been using these books for several years and in all honesty, my kids can use all the handwriting practice they can get.
New sketch books for Nature Notebooks!
We're going to continue reading about missionaries and other heroes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bucket of Life

 I really love to just randomly make you look at pictures of my kids.  Soooo... TADA!
Little Life can fit in a bucket.  She sat in there forever on one of the steamy hot days we had.  We have a little pool and all the other kids were playing in there.  But not Life, she was happy in her bucket... a bucket of Life.

Food at our house today

So even though Gutsy cooks are taking a break over the summer, I'm still cooking for my family.  Most nights anyway.  This is what I made today.  I enjoyed both things and so I'll share with you... so you'll be jealous.  Of course tomorrow when I make my kids eat cereal for dinner, maybe you'll be glad you stayed home after all.
I made cheeseburgers. 
I also made a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie SO BIG that Indiana Jones, a pilot and a deep sea diver could not conquer it.  I have a feeling, though, that my family will make quick work of it.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Today I was thinking about splurging.  It came about as I was thinking about getting out my trusty box of Nice 'n Easy and coloring my hair.  There was a short time in my life when I got to have a professional color my hair.  And give it pretty blond highlights.  I miss them sometimes.  Jim is a student right now and some things, like highlights are not necessities.  Anyway, blond highlights made me think about splurging and I let my mind wonder to some things that, maybe, in the future, may go from 'splurge' to 'necessity'.  I thought about highlights and the occasional pedicure, and having someone else clean and press Jim's dress shirts,  and then I thought of coffee. 

Right now I buy my coffee in a brick at Wal Mart, it's not THE cheapest, but it's super close.  I love coffee, not just the drink but the whole experience.  Coffee can be an experience, you know.  I love measuring the beans and the sound of the grinder, the smell of the brew.  I love the sound of pouring it into my favorite mug and the click of the spoon as I mix in the sugar.  I love the color it turns when I add the cream and the feel of the warm mug in my hands.  Then that first deep whiff and hot sip on my tongue... ahhhhhh.  It's love.  I also love reading a good book and sipping in the coffee's warmth.  An experience for sure.  But what makes it even better is sharing it with friends.  The smells, the sounds and the laughter.  ahhhhhh, it's love, love of the experience.

Yes, someday, good coffee will not be a splurge but a necessity, but until then, I will make due.  The people and places I've experienced in this time far out weigh the joy of blond highlights or coffee beans.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Whopper Cake

The kids and I read a silly picture book recently called Whopper Cake.  In short, it's about a man who makes a giant cake in the bed of his old pick up truck.
It was a fun read and best of all there was a recipe in the back to make our own Whopper Cake.  No need for a pickup truck, a 9X13 pan did the job.  The kiddos were super excited to give it a try.  Joy and Life helped me mix up the batter and then all four made sure that the bowl was properly cleaned.
Asked took on the job of making sure the cake was baking.   
Joy and Life joined the cake vigil.  


The cake turned out great!  We didn't even frost it the kids added some whipped cream and m&m's to theirs.  It was moist and fluffy and not too dense.  We like that around here.  Yum!  We coppied the recipe so we can make it again.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Onion rings

My neighbor gave me 3 GINORMOUS  onions.

Treasure doing her best spokes-model impression with the onion.
I thought about just chopping them for all the regular onion uses, but that seemed a little lame for onions of such great proportions.  So I decided to try my hand at making one of my favorite foods... ONION RINGS!  YUM!  I found this recipe and gave it my best.
Look at all these rings from just the ONE onion!
My messy little work station.  First you dipped them in flour then in an egg/milk mixture.  You're supposed to let the egg/milk mixture drip off which is why I have them suspended on a spoon over the bowl.  Then dip in bread crumbs and last deep fry!
ENORMOUS pile of rings!  YUM!!
I loved the texture of this recipe but the coating didn't stay in place well.  So I think that next time I won't let all the egg/milk drip off before dipping them in the bread crumbs and see what happens.  I have 2 more onions, so I'll HAVE to try this again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gutsy cooks week 27

I am behind in posting about my cooking adventures.  I'm also behind in cooking them, if you must know.  If you haven't figured it out, I'm a tad of a procrastinator.  My mother told me that I come by it honestly, so it's nice to know she takes responsibility for that... or at some point she will.
Week 27's menu was Spanish Lentils - page 214 and Sachertorte - page 416.  I didn't make the lentils.  Last week when I said that the family hadn't yet revolted over my Gutsy Cooking, I spoke a little too soon.  So, I'm cooling my gutsy heels just a little.  But, I had a party and so I made the Sachertorte, because, well it's chocolate cake.  Who doesn't like that?
The cake recipe called to separate the eggs, mix the yolks in with the batter and then whip the whites.   

It's like a chocolate cloud!
 It turned out pretty well.  I thought the coating was going to be like ganache, but it was more like a glaze.  It was not the funnest stuff to work with, but the final product turned out well.
You're supposed to write 'sachertorte' on the top of the cake, but I totally chickened out at the last minute and just made some lovely waves.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our newest additons

Last week we added three new members to our little farmette-ette.  Three baby ducks!
     We've never had ducks before.  We have chickens and rabbits right now.  Jim would like to get something bigger - a goat or cow.  I'm pulling for a pig, mostly just because I love baccon.  Is that so wrong?  Anyway, someone gave us these ducks, and so we've got a new adventure on our hands.
     I thought a chick would be a chick, but no.  They're different then the chickens.  They have a quieter little peep, they stick together in a little flock all the time, and these ones are super scared of us.  They huddle in the corner of their cage when we come near and run evasive maneuvers when we try and pick them up.
     Random duck fact:  Ducklings don't make their own oil for waterproofing.  They rub on their mama to get it and so, if they're mother isn't around, you need to be careful with your ducklings around water, because they can get tired and drown!  Who knew!  Don't worry, we're very careful with our little flock.
   We took them outside the other day, Life got such a kick out of it!
She almost caught one!
On an unrelated note, the iris' have bloomed!

Menu 26

So here we are at week number 26 of the Gutsy Cooks Challenge.  Who knew my family would put up with it for so long?  ;-)  They haven't asked me to quit yet, so I'll keep plugging along.  This week's menu was Roasted Beet and Feta Salad (pg. 221); Cassoulet (pg. 338); and Baked Pears in Marsala (pg. 457).  Eww beets.  I didn't make that.  And I didn't attempt the Pears in Marsala.  The kids nearly swallowed their tongues when they found out there was wine in the Cassoulet they would have just fainted dead away if dessert would have had alcohol in it too!  Ha!  They're funny.  Plus, they don't like pears.  Anyway... to the Cassoulet!
I love to just say the word... "Cassoulet"  Did you say it?  Isn't it fun?  It makes me feel fancy.  This dish contains all things meat .  We like meat here.  The recipe called for Italian sausage, pancetta and duck.  Wait.  Seriously?  Duck?  Shockingly, I couldn't find duck in my local super market.  I used chicken thighs (they were on sale, as was the sausage, WINNING!)  Are you familiar with a cassoulet?  I was not.  The cookbook says it's "A hearty bean and meat dish from southwest France."  I followed the directions and made my layers of beans then the various meats and then topped with more beans and then crushed tomatoes and wine.
See that?  Lots of meat.
Then I slow roasted it and topped it with the tasty bread crumb topping
I like this picture of my bread crumbs.  I added cheese to them.  mmmm cheese.
And then I had a pot filled with meat and beans and topped with these bread crumbs.  I just didn't get it.  I made dinner and then a put it in a big pot and cooked it again and covered it with breadcrumbs.  Honestly, I didn't get it.   I brought it to the table and Jim said "Now what"  I said "I don't know.  The cookbook says how to make it, not how to eat it." 
It was like... did you ever play that game as a kid when the grownups hid a bunch of change in a big pile of sawdust... this was like that only you were hunting for sausage links and chicken thighs.

So we each just heaped our plates with meat and beans all coated with breadcrumbs.  It was not attractive at all.  It tasted good, like meat.  But.... yea... I don't get it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gutsy Cooks menu 25

The whole family loves Chinese food.  A favorite place to eat lately is the local Chinese Buffet, everyone eats their fill and there is a fortune cookie at the end.  But, Jim and I have realized that it's just too expensive to take our brood out to eat anymore.  I can sometimes talk him into some fast food when we're out shopping, but other than that, there is an embargo on restaurant eating around here.  So I was very excited to see this weeks menu.  Appetizer: Sesame Shrimp Toasts (pg. 50); Dinner: Sweet and Sour Chicken (pg. 303); and Thai Noodle Stir-Fry (pg. 200).  I knew that it would be a crowed pleaser!
When I showed the menu to Jim, he made the worst face when I showed him the Shrimp toasts, so I didn't make them.  I look forward to reading some of the other gutsy blogs to see if it was good.  It may show up on our table another time.
I don't usually have very good luck with Chinese food, so I'm always looking for new recipes. 
I usually have poor luck with batter dipped anything.  But I really liked this batter.  It used beer and I don't know if that was the key or what, but I will use this recipe again when I need to batter-dip and fry something.

Someone recently told me that the key to good Chinese is Asian fish sauce.  As is the case for most good things, my local Wal Mart doesn't carry that, so I didn't get to use it in my noodles.  But I'll keep my eyes open and pick it up next time I'm in a bigger store.
My local Wal Mart, also, did not have cellophane noodles, so I just used some angel hair pasta I had.  It worked out alright.  This recipe made quite a bit, as you can see it filled up my wok.   I did make more pasta than the recipe called for because noodles are usually a big hit around here.  These were no exception.

I thought both recipes were alright.  Not too exciting, though.  They were not at all rejected by the family.  I will for sure make the sweet and sour chicken again.  Perhaps more sauce next time.

Life finished hers and is eating off her dad's plate.

Gutsy menu 24... most of it

Our menu for week 24 was Ficelles (pg.79); Irish Stew (pg. 342); and French Apple Tart (pg. 454).  Once again, a new food for our family.  I've never had or made Irish Stew so it was a culinary adventure for us.  Mostly, the fam are not big fans of potatoes, so I didn't plan on it going over really well.  It was well received by those who like or tolerate potatoes and was not gagged on by the picky-set.  So, not a flop by any means.  I thought it was yummy and would totally eat it again.  Although I will say, that I wish that I had dipped the meat into a flour mixture before making this.  It was pretty soupy and not really stewy.  But the flavor was good.
Once again, we made the stew in the oven.  I love this method.
The Ficelles.  This bread was so easy and so awesome.  It had a salt water wash on the top which I thought might be weird, but ended up being very tasty.  It was a big hit at our house. 

Not much beats a bowl of stew and warm fresh bread!
I bought all the stuff to make the apple tart, but never got around to it.  We love apples here so one of these days, I'll bust out this new recipe and give it a try.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just wasting some time

I have 2 Gutsy Cooks meals to blog about, but I'm just not in the mood to do it.  Maybe because my belly is still full from the most recent.  Or maybe because the dishes are still on the table.  (They don't seem to be clearing themselves.  Strange.)  But, I'm trying to be better about blogging, so I thought that instead of food, I would share a cute picture of Life with you.
In my opinion, there are very few things cuter than a little girl wearing a dress and barn boots.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Our newest toy

Jim and I love second hand stores.  We love to save a dollar and we love random things.  It's really a win win.  And the best part is that it's something we like to do together.  Where we live now, there are mostly Goodwill stores.   The great part about Goodwill is that the money they make from the store goes into job training programs.  So we also like to take our gently used items and donate them.  So really, we clean out our closets, donate the items, go shopping and fill our closets.  It's a cycle that we enjoy.  Anyway, on a recient trip to the Goodwill we found this:
It's a go cart!

Asked taking it for a spin.

Joy was the speedy one. 

Asked and the neighbor's grandson.  They were actually pushing Joy right before this because the battery was almost dead.

Treasure taking a leisurely jaunt.

Life absolutely LOVES to ride on it.  The battery was just about dead and Jim helped her take it for a spin.  She was glowing she was so happy.  I'm afraid that she will be my daredevil.  Only time will tell.

Today I came home from work to find all the kids outside sweeping the road, so they could drive it.  It has such low ground clearance that it gets can get stuck pretty easily.  So they were getting rid of any debris so they would get in a good ride.   What must the neighbors think?  I will tell them that my house is SO very spotless, that I just had to get the road tidied up.  Unless they come over, they will never know the truth.

Gutsy menu 23... kind of

I was so very excited to try this weeks Gutsy Menu (English Muffins pg. 76 and Eggs Benedict pg. 138.)  I tried my hand at Holindase sauce early on in my Gutsy Cooking and was really impressed with the result.  I had never liked it before I made my own.  I was also excited to make English Muffins since I had never made them before.  
I got home from work all geared up and ready to cook.  But then... my family said "What's for dinner?"   And I excitedly responded "Eggs Benedict!"  They all groaned.  Even Jim.  Oh dear.  If he's not on board I know that I'll never get the kids to even try it.  I was so devastated.  
So I tried to make the best of the bad situation, I made the English Muffins and then browned some sausage and scrambled some eggs.  Egg McMuffins!  HUGE SUCCESS!  So, no hollandaise sauce, but happy family.  So I guess it was a good meal in the end.
I have never made English muffins before, or even thought about how they were made.  Instead of baking them you make them in a frying pan!
Balls of dough in the frying pan.

All risen and ready to flip.

Flipped and browning on the other side!  GENIUS!
These were SO yummy.  The kids all devoured them.  Definitely a new favorite in our house.  They were more dense then the store bought ones and mine weren't very porous, but I think if I did it again, I would let them rise more before cooking them.  
Not pretty, but very happy, egg and sausage muffin sammy.