Monday, April 16, 2018

3 Minute LOW FAT Asian Peanut Sauce and 3 Quick Meals

3 Minute Low Fat Asian Peanut Sauce & 3 QUICK Meals!
Nearly two years ago now, I posted my 3 Minute Asian Peanut Sauce & 3 Quick Meals. 

It was quite popular!

But, the traditional Asian Peanut Sauce wasn't something I wanted to indulge in very often myself. The fact that it was made with Peanut Butter as a primary ingredient meant that it was a higher fat recipe - and for the sake of my health, I try not to make high fat foods an every day indulgence.

Well, recently I got up the courage to try the new Low Fat Powdered Peanut Butter on the market (like PB2). It took a little tinkering, but I was able to adjust my recipe to work GREAT with the low-fat powders.

Now, you can have your cake (I mean Asian Peanut Sauce) and eat it, too! Without feeling guilty! : )

As usual, I made two batch size recipes - one for a single diner, and one family-sized batch

Low Fat 3 Minute Asian Peanut Sauce for One
 Stir together with a fork in a small bowl
3 Tablespoons Peanut Butter Powder (like PB2)
2 teaspoons Lime Juice
2 teaspoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Water (or a little less, as you like for texture)
Sriracha to taste

Low Fat Asian Peanut Sauce - Family Sized Batch
 Stir together with a fork in a small bowl
1/2 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter Powder (like PB2)

2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoons Sugar
2 to 2 1/2 Tablespoon Water (as you like for texture)
Sriracha to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon)

Now, you can use this sauce to make:
Asian Peanut Wraps, 
Asian Peanut Noodles, or 
Asian Rice & Veggies Bowl with Peanut Sauce

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Monday, April 2, 2018

The Best Family Read-Alouds

Best Family Read Alouds
 Books, for me, fall into two distinct categories.

The first category are suitable to download onto your electronic reader, read once, and  after that they're as good as good as "Kindle-ing" (pardon the pun). You've gotten the fun out of them, you've been entertained. You're done with them. A fun read, but not a life changer.

The second category are those books that change your life. You give them a special place on the shelf. You treasure them. You read them to your children. You remember them years after you've read them. And, your kids might even debate who gets them when you've passed away.

This post is about  THOSE books!

The Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor -
 This is the book that my Grandparents read to my Mother, and my Mother read to her children and grandchildren. When she passed away, it was the single item that more than one person asked for! (Thank goodness, she had multiple copies : ) It is an allegory that tells of the Spiritual Journey of young Christian in a way that children enjoy and recall many years later. There are scenes from this story that still pop to my mind when I see something that is spiritually dangerous. It helps to keep me on the right path, even now. I have read it with my daughter more than once, and pray it will be helpful to her, too. It is one of the few books in which I find the original (Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress) falls short of the copy. I guess the expression "We stand on the shoulders of giants" is true sometimes. (Bunyan's had some anti-Catholic parts, but I find no such issues with Taylor's - it seems to me to be wonderful for Catholic, Orthodox AND Protestant readers)

My Mother's Childhood Copy of Little Christian's Pilgrimage (Little Pilgrim's Progress)

From I-Ville to You-Ville by Mersine Vingopoulou 
This book is a treasure!  It was a gift to us while we were traveling a couple of summers ago, and how it has blessed us! (May God Bless the Giver : ) Like Little Pilgrim's Progress, it is an allegory of the Spiritual journey for Children. We read it aloud in the car as we drove along the highway just after receiving it (I know that sounds horrible, but I wasn't driving & reading at the same time - Daddy was driving!), and have read it more than once since then. We never tire of it. It has profound life lessons for all ages of reader, despite being written for children. It is from a distinctly Orthodox perspective, but I noticed no content that would be disturbing to Christian readers of other faith backgrounds.

Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally
Imagine a world in which we didn't let children know anything about cars before we put them behind the wheel and then shouted frantic directions to them while they nervously tried to drive a machine they'd never seen before! Sadly, that is how we treat our children with the world of dating and preparation for marriage. Oh, most modern children know too much about the physical aspects of relationships, but we tell them next to nothing about the emotional and Spiritual dimension of finding a mate until they have their first crush, or until they're "in love" - then parents desperately try to issue directions on how to proceed, when they're in no frame of mind to listen! This book is written for young girls - and it is meant to be read before the dating years start. It talks about the value of leading a Godly single life, and "what if all my friends have boyfriends" and the value of parental guidance in choosing a spouse. How to deal with friends who want to discuss boys. What qualities to look for in a spouse. Stuff like that. Like the above books, it is written as a allegory about a Princess. It is not a classic literary  work like the others in this list, but it is still of immense value for young women. It is sweet and innocent, and doesn't expose young girls to things that aren't yet appropriate for them, yet it does discuss many things they need to know. Even if you don't agree with all the points in the book (and I don't) it gives a great "jumping off point" to discuss these life issues.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This classic children's tale re-tells the story of Christ's sacrifice in a way that resonates with young children and brings the story to life for them. I treasured it when I was young, and my daughter loves it. And the movie is amazing, too!

And, I saved the Best for Last:

The Bible - this Book (or collection of Books) is history's number one best-seller. It is the book that has done more to change the world for the better than any other book ever printed. In fact, it was the FIRST book ever printed on the printing press. If you don't read this book with your children (and you're able to read) you're not being as good a parent as you can be. It doesn't matter how well-fed or well clothed your children are, or how well they're educated in math or science, if you have not obeyed Deuteronomy 6:9, you've dropped the ball. Pick it up, and run with it! Read the Bible with your kids. If you prefer that the whole family listens, while someone else reads, try this Audio Bible Free link. 

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Meals You Can Make While the Pasta Cooks

Meals You Can Make While the Pasta Cooks
Pasta is wonderful. It's quick to cook, and loaded with healthy carbs. And, if you want, you can buy whole wheat, gluten free, or low carb varieties. Kids usually love it. On those nights that you don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen, it's a great go-to option.

So here are 8 recipes - a week and a day - worth of meals you can make while the pasta cooks. For those evenings when spending hours in the kitchen isn't an option.

Orzo Pilaf

Pad Thai

Confetti Spaghetti

Copycat Skyline Black Beans & Rice

Asian Peanut Sauce & Veggies over Pasta - this makes a great "Bowl"

Classic Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce from Scratch

Asian Noodles

Skillet Mushroom Noodles


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Monday, March 12, 2018

How to Save 70% on Food!

Save 70% on Food!
There is much discussion online about how to save money on groceries. Most people realize that the food bill is a large percent of their budget, and one that is easier to influence on the short term than things like mortgages.

Often I see blogs that say "I spend only $50 a week on groceries for my family!" And then, I read their menu and realize that they eat at restaurants several times a week (a few lunches at work, and two or three dinners out), but don't count that as "groceries!"

When I was young, I worked at a restaurant, and had several chances to talk with the owner - a man who owned several successful restaurants.

He told me that a law of successful restaurant ownership was to make sure that the "Food Cost" was 30% of the food price on the menu.

Of course, for a restaurant, that makes sense - there are lots of overhead expenses for a restaurant owner. Everything from paving the parking lot, to advertising, to buying new tableware, to paying servers and cooks.

But, for the CONSUMER - that means that every time you eat out,  you're paying 70% MORE than you COULD be paying if you cooked at home.

 But, most restaurant customers don't realize the huge price difference for a couple of reasons:

1. They eat fancier food at home than at restaurants. At home they might only eat organic, or choose the fancy steak, but at the restaurant they won't spend $32. for the steak, so they buy the $7.99 Spaghetti plate - and say, "See, I would have paid about $7. to eat (steak) dinner at home - it's not that much more to eat out!"

2. They fall for the "Dollar Menu." Keep in mind - the restaurant's standard is 30% food costs across the board - so with the rare "loss leader" exception, you're getting a .30 item when you pay $1.00! But, in addition to that, most people don't order just one dollar item - they order a few. And a drink. So it's rare to get a "Dollar Menu" meal for under $5. for most folks. And the internet is FULL of $5. recipes that feed a WHOLE FAMILY - not just one person!

3. They're "just this once" or "it's a special occasion" diners. Of course "just this once" and "special occasions" can happen several times a week if we're not careful.

4. They eat out and let food spoil at home. Then, when they count the number of meals they got for $100. of grocery money - it doesn't seem like very many - because a lot of food spoils.

5. They also don't think about the fact that other things are in the grocery bill (snacks, diapers, medicines, shampoo, on the go breakfasts) and imagine that the "grocery" budget only provides 7 family dinner entrees on a week when no one dines out. This leads to logic like "Wow - $150. for 7 days - that means  our family spends more than $20. a night on meals - and the restaurant is only $25! It doesn't pay to cook!"

Mind you, restaurants often do benefit from wholesale pricing, but a careful consumer can do as well (if not better) shopping for groceries at home.

And, in addition to the financial considerations, many home made meals are more healthful than restaurant foods. Which could just save money for health care in the long run. 

Of course, there are times when eating out is a great, desirable option. I'm not at all opposed to dining out. But, when the budget is the issue, dining in is a great way to go : )

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Monday, February 26, 2018

Spinach Soup

Spinach Soup, Garnished with Tomatoes
There's an old joke that my Mother used to tell.

A tiny preschool girl was sitting on the floor playing, while two of her Mother's "friends" gossiped nearby. One of them gestured to the little girl, and loudly whispered, 
"Not very P-R-E-T-T-Y!" 

The little girl didn't look up from her playing, but replied, "No, but S-M-A-R-T!" 

That's rather like this soup. It's not very pretty, but it IS satsifying, delicious, and packed with nutrition. And compellingly easy to make : )

Here it is:

Spinach Soup
1 bag (12 oz) Frozen Chopped Spinach
1 Quart Water (4 cups)
1 Cube Vegetable Bouillon
1 teaspoon of your favorite all purpose seasoning blend (I use Mrs. Dash Table Blend)
Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 5 minutes
Stir in
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
About 1/4 Cup of NonDairy Milk  (Optional)
1 Tablespoon Tahini (Optional - Omit if avoiding fat)
Puree with Immersion Blender & Serve

Tip for dining with Omnivores (or for Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians): Grated Parmesan Cheese may be sprinkled over the top.

Spinach Soup, Garnished with Oyster Crackers
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Monday, February 19, 2018

Our Favorite Bible Memory Music

Our Favorite Bible Memory Music
As a homeschooler, I'm frugal bordering on cheap.

I seldom buy "curriculum" or textbooks. There is SO MUCH amazing, Free stuff out there!

But there is one place where I consistently, and without regret, spend money for my daughter's education.

Not a lot of money, mind you - this stuff has good prices as a rule, but still, money : )

Bible Memory Music.

This music is (and has been) our constant companion now for years - we play it at home and in the car. And little is more gratifying than reading the Bible with my daughter and having her burst into a song she knows that matches the passage we're studying. Or standing for the Gospel Reading in Liturgy and having my daughter's eyes light up when she hears a familiar verse - and mouths the words (or sometimes softly sings them) along with the Priest.

I know from my own experience in life, that having these songs set to music in her head will allow them to pop to mind unbidden just when they're needed in life.

This music is worth the money to me not only because the immeasurable value it provides for my daughter's education, but because the money spent goes to support the devout artists who produce it!

Here are our favorite sources.

Notice - these are NOT "affiliate links" - I get no benefit from your purchase, nor am I financially motivated to promote these products. I just love them!

G.T. and the Halo Express

This 7 Volume set consists of an audio drama combined with Bible songs. Each CD has several songs, and a fun audio performance to go along with. Follow the adventures of Michael & Christie as they learn about God with the help of their Guardian Angel. This series is kid friendly and Protestant in tone & Theology. We bought the whole set at once, then gave one CD for every gift-giving occasion for more than a year (Birthday, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Nicholas Day, etc). Every song is word-for-word Scripture - usually with the reference added.

Hide 'em in Your Heart by Steve Green

This is a listening gem for the car. Kid-friendly (but not annoying for adults ; ) music of Bible Verses for the car. I was thrilled when my then-three-year-old daughter sang, "Do everything without arguing or complaining" while obeying me when I asked her to do something unattractive to her : ) You won't be sorry if you buy these for your kids!

Seeds Family Worship 

We love these songs for listening in the car and at home. I love the Seeds Family's willingness to share MANY of their songs free on Youtube. So, if you're on a tight budget, you can still benefit from their work, and get your kids (and yourself) started with Bible memorization. But, if you can afford to support them, buy the whole collection! You won't regret it!

Knowing God A Sing & Remember Book

This is a CD & companion book set that has brief narrated stories from the Bible, and a song to accompany them. We like listening to this one again and again.

Handel's Messiah

This one is free on youtube in many versions. But, a lot of people don't see this for what it is - the ultimate Scripture Memory tool! : ) And, some of the most amazing Christmas or Easter music of all time.

100 Bible Verses Every Kid Can Sing and Learn

I have to admit, I had some major misgivings when I first listened to this set. It DOES have a few drawbacks. Parts of it sound like Barney the Purple Dinosaur on steroids ; ) Too many tunes borrowed from public domain songs. Less than ideal recording quality. Words or commentary added to  many - if not most -  of the Bible verses. (For instance, songs about "Turning the channel" on the TV - pretty sure that wasn't in the original text! And not real helpful since we don't have a TV!)

But . . . . my daughter loved it as a little kid. And she learned LOTS of snippets of Scripture from the various songs. Snippets that she remembers frequently. And lots of good teaching that has come in handy over the years. So yeah, I'm glad I bought it : )

Bible Fluency 

This free site isn't for memorizing Bible verses, but rather for memorizing an overview of Scripture. We love the Gospels song, which helps us remember which Gospel has which stories!

The 12 Tribes of Israel

Here's a fun song to learn their names!

 12 Disciples Song

Scroll to the bottom of the linked post for a great, easy to learn song of the names of the 12 Disciples.

Books of the Bible Song (Catholic List, including Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books)

Books of the Old Testament Song by Seeds family - Protestant List

Sometimes we find a song for a whole passage on Youtube.

Like 1 Corinthians 13

I hope you enjoy these great resources!

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Monday, February 12, 2018

10 Minute Lazy Day Lo Mein

10 Minute Lazy Day Lo Mein
Our family loves to go out for Chinese. One of our favorite dishes is Vegetable Lo Mein. We all love it, but it is my Daughter's favorite!

Of course, going out for Lo Mein isn't always the ideal option for three reasons:

1. Frugality. Even a small family, at an inexpensive restaurant is likely to spend more than $20. for Lo Mein. And for a medium sized family at sit down restaurant, it could EASILY top $50.

2. Health. Many Chinese dishes are stir fried (or prepared in a Wok) with lots of extra oil. Which isn't so healthy. And, of course, there's the temptation to order less-healthy extras, like Cream Cheese Filled Fried Wontons, or Fried Egg Rolls.

3. Time. It takes a good chunk of the day to go out for dinner. There are days when that is good - when you want to hang out with friends and relax. But, there are days when that's not so good - when you have a tight schedule or other priorities for the day.

So, for a long time, I've been thinking that it would be good to have my OWN Lo Mein recipe that I could fix at home.

But, I hadn't quite gotten around to it . . .

Then, one day at the grocery, instead of the  Frozen "Stir Fry" Mixed Veggies I wanted, I accidentally ended up with Stir Fry Veggies with NOODLES from the freezer section. The packaging is SO confusing! I kind of felt ripped off having some cheap noodles thrown in with my more expensive veggies, but still having to pay the same price.

But, as they say, when life gives you lemons . . .

I decided I'd figure out what to do with them to use them up & not waste them. And that's how 10 Minute Lazy Day Lo Mein was born.

I did some internet research, and created my own sauce - a blend of the concept of several online recipes.

I microwaved the Veggies and Noodles according to package directions (8 minutes) and added the sauce ingredients - right into the bowl. I stirred it, and tasted it.

It was amazing!

The flavor and texture profile were SO like the restaurant version - not identical - but close enough to make me really happy. And save a bunch of time and money. And cut WAYYYY back on the oil!

Well, after that little success, I tried making a BIG batch of sauce. I boiled regular noodles and veggies in a pot together, drained them, and tossed them with the sauce. Then I served my Daughter Lo Mein for her lunch break (oh, the luxuries of homeschooling!). And she loved it! :  )

Now, mind you, traditional Lo Mein must be made with the right sort of Noodles, and Fried in a fair amount of oil, with authentic Chinese veggies. I'm not claiming an authentic, perfect replica here.

But, if you'd like an easy, healthy, and quick, and frugal Lo Mein from home, this is your recipe!

Lo Mein Sauce for One
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (I use Kikkoman)
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dark Sesame Oil
Pinch Ground Ginger
Pinch Garlic Powder

To Prepare:
Microwave Stir Fry Veggies with Noodles according to package directions.
Top with Sauce ingredients (no need to pre-mix sauce unless you want to)

Lo Mein Sauce, Family Size Batch
(I like to keep this big batch in the fridge, to make meals for one several days in a row)

3/4 Cup Soy Sauce (I use Kikkoman)
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Dark Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Combine in Jar & Shake to mix.

To Prepare:
In Saucepan Bring Water to a Boil. Add Preferred Veggies & Noodles, and cook according to directions for Noodles (If you like your veggies more tender, let them boil for a few minutes before adding Noodles)

Drain, and add sauce to taste.


AND Save Time, Money and Health! : )

HUGE Batch LoMein
To make a HUGE batch for taking to a potluck, I made 2 1/2 pounds of spaghetti (I do 1 1/4 pounds at a time in the microwave cooker - a "Pasta Boat"). Then I rinsed it very well and put it in a large bowl (My 21 cup/5 Liter bowl was completely full with this recipe). I microwaved a 2# package of stir fry veggies and added it to the bowl. Then I made a double Family Sized Batch (above) of sauce and put it in a glass jar. At the potluck, I microwaved the bowl of pasta & veggies for 5-6 minutes, just to heat, and poured the sauce over & tossed. It worked out great : )

Just a side note: This sauce is also SPECTACULAR on Veggies and RICE : )

Tip for Dining with Omnivores: Add Shrimp or cubes of leftover Chicken, or Pork to Omnivore's portion.

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