Thursday, April 4, 2024

Family Favorite Orzo Salad

Family Favorite Orzo Salad (Vegan, Lenten)
This salad is one of my family's most requested meals; and if I take it to a potluck, it is very well-received.  It's easy to make, and economical, too.

I usually make it to taste, but in interest of making it share-able, I measured my ingredients this time. All amounts should be taken as suggestions - make this to your family's taste.

This is how I make it.

Family Favorite Orzo Salad

1 pound Orzo, cooked al dente, in salted water, according to package directions. Rinse in cool water in sieve when done. 

While Orzo is cooking, chop vegetables, and place them in a large salad bowl

2 cups fresh tomato, diced, OR 2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced diagonally

1 large cucumber, diced

1/2 jar pitted Kalamata Olives (sliced or whole), drained - about 1/2 cup of olives

When Orzo has been rinsed and drained, add it to the salad bowl on top of the veggies

To Dress, season with

1 to 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (or Vegetable Oil, if fasting from Olive Oil)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Tablespoon Garlic Salt

1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano

Several grinds of Fresh Ground Black Pepper 

Toss, taste, adjust seasonings to taste.

If you're dining during a season other than Lent, during Cheesefare week, or with those who are not fasting from cheese, Feta Cheese may be served on the side for topping, if desired. 

This can be served as soon as it's made, or it can be chilled to take to a Lenten Potluck.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Homemade Crazy Cake Mix, with Variations

Homemade Crazy Cake Mix
Crazy cake is a Vegan & Lenten cake that is super easy to mix up from ingredients most people have on hand. It can easily be put together when guests drop by. It's also great for taking to a Potluck, and there's seldom any left.

There are tons of recipes for Crazy Cake, and LOTS of variations out there. One of my favorite places to find fun variations is on the Sweet Little Bluebird Blog. Some of my variations are inspired by her site. But, I've been using this type of recipe for about 25 years now, so some variations are also from other sources.

Our Church has a Potluck every Wednesday during Lent, and I love that I can bring a different cake every week if I want to. 

But, if I'm going to make a cake every week, I like to save a few steps, which is why last year I created my own Crazy Cake mix. Now it's even faster and easier than ever!

I'll share several different sizes of mix below, with variations in flavors.  "One Cake" is an 8x8 square cake, but you can also use this to make cupcakes, or use more batter for a larger cake - just experiment with the baking times a bit.

With any of these variations you can choose to add 1/2 cup or so of optional ingredients to the batter, such as chocolate chips, raisins, or nuts. And of course, they can also all be topped with icing or your favorite topping, if you like.

Crazy Cake Mix For 1 Cake
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Crazy Cake Mix For 2 Cakes
3 Cups Flour
2 Cups Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt

Crazy Cake Mix For 4 Cakes
6 Cups Flour
4 Cups Sugar
4 teaspoons Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Salt

Crazy Cake Mix For 6 Cakes
9 Cups Flour
6 Cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon Salt 


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Crazy Cake with Cinnamon Sugar Topping


To Make One Cake from Crazy Cake Mix:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Grease or oil 8X8 baking dish - I use a glass dish, but a metal cake pan also works
Measure 2 1/2 Cups Mix
Add Optional Dry Ingredients (like spices or cocoa) to Mix, and Stir
Set Aside
In a separate bowl or glass measuring cup, measure Liquid Ingredients:
1 Cup Liquid (usually water, but for some flavors, substitute part of water with other liquids like Fruit Juices or Molasses)
1/3 Cup Oil
1 Tablespoon Vinegar (Apple Cider or White work well)
2 teaspoons Vanilla or other Flavoring Extract
Pour liquid ingredients into Dry ingredients. Stir & Pour into Cake Pan.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
If using Cinnamon Sugar, or just Sugar topping, top immediately while still hot- this helps it stick.
If using Frosting or Icing, let cake cool completely before topping
For Best Results, allow to cool completely before cutting


Chocolate: Add 2 Heaping Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder to Dry Ingredients. 1/2 Cup Optional Chocolate Chips and/or Nuts may also be added to dry Ingredients. May be topped with Sugar or Cinnamon-Sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven, or it can be cooled and frosted, if you prefer. 

Cinnamon: Add Scant Tablespoon Cinnamon to Dry Ingredients. Top with abundant Cinnamon Sugar after baking, while still hot.

Apple: Reduce water by 1/2 cup. Add Cinnamon to Dry ingredients (1 to 3 teaspoons, depending on how much you like Cinnamon) Add 1 1/2 Cups Grated Fresh Apple to wet ingredients. Depending on the moisture in your apple, you may wish to add up to a 1/4 cup more water at this point. Optional nuts can also be added. Top generously with Cinnamon-Sugar as soon as you remove it from the oven.

Vanilla Chocolate Chip: Use 1 Tablespoon of Vanilla instead of a teaspoon when mixing wet ingredients. Add Chocolate Chips to Dry Ingredients (about 1/2 cup). Top generously with granulated sugar as soon as you remove it from the oven. 

Other Variations: Once you have the mix and the pattern, you can create as many variations as your creativity allows! I've made lots of other variations on this over the years, but have not recorded them all. Lemon, Spice (using a bit of molasses in place of some water), etc. 

 I like to cut this cake in 16 pieces (4 pieces x 4 pieces) and place it in cupcake liners for easy serving.  

As you can see from the picture at the top of this post, I write the recipe on the outside of my storage canister, so that I can easily make a cake without getting out a recipe box, and I can also easily refill the canister when it gets empty.

Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Magic Method to Plan High School Homeschool AND Prepare Transcript - all FREE!

There are two tasks that strike terror in the hearts of many homeschool parents:

1) Planning High School

2) Preparing the High School Transcript

Never fear! I've got a (nearly) magic method for accomplishing both tasks - at ONCE!!

Here's How:


Start at what you think of as "the end." Find and download a free, blank high school homeschool transcript template. They can be found all over the internet, especially searching with Pinterest. There are LOTS of free ones. You do NOT need to pay someone to make a transcript for you. As the kids like to say nowadays, "You've got this!!"  This is my personal favorite.

NOTE: If you read this entire post, and still prefer a transcript to be made FOR you, Abby at My Practically Imperfect Life has just rolled out a brand new FREE transcript maker that looks great!

Keep in mind, a transcript is like a resume, it should have a ONE PAGE overview of your student's high school learning, that can be appreciated at a glance.

Found one you like? Good. Open it on your desktop.

 I made a rough draft of a template to use for this post, just for illustrative purposes. So, you now you have your open your blank document like this:


Start with a basic, blank transcript that you can find online free



  Do a little research. Find out the "big picture" of what needs to be on the transcript at the end of high school. To do this, follow these steps:



Check your state law, and see if there are specific requirements for homeschool high school graduation. (I have heard that NO states have such a requirement for homeschoolers, but I do not know if this is accurate. Check the laws in your own state to be sure.)



 Check your state department of education, and see what the requirements are for public high school graduation.

Double check with your state about their laws (usually on your state's Department of Education website), but here are a couple of handy at-a-glance guides to give you a basic idea:



Check College admission requirements. There are two ways to do this 

a) check the requirements of your child's "dream school," usually under the Admissions tab:

 For instance, if your child's dream school is Liberty University, you can find this on their website:

Suggested Course Completion

Although we do not require specific high school courses for admission, we recommend completing the following courses to prepare for college success:

  • At least 4 years of English
  • 2 years of college preparatory mathematics
  • 2 years of laboratory science
  • 2 years of social science
  • 2 years of foreign language
  • At least 4 units of elective credits in subjects such as art, music, or drama


 and b) check the requirements of the most likely schools in your area - like University of [YourState].

 For instance, if you lived in Ohio, and would consider Ohio University a possible choice, you'd find this on their admission page for Freshmen:

Ohio University strongly recommends that all applicants complete the following college-preparatory high school coursework:

  • 4 units of English
  • 4 units of mathematics (including Algebra II or above)
  • 3 units of science
  • 3 units of social studies
  • 2 units of foreign language
  • 1 unit of visual or performing arts
  • 4 additional elective units


Look at all the lists you consulted, and plan to have your student complete requirements to meet them all. So, if your state requires 3 years of Math, but a desired university requires 4, plan for 4. If your child has a gift or a goal in a particular field, be sure to include a full four years of that subject, even if no one asks for it.

If you are a Christian, you'll want to put in credit of Religion each year, for sure. 

Then fill in your transcript with a basic projection of how many years you'll do for each subject. This will be in the broadest possible terms, with no specifics. You'll also fill in the column for how many credits each course will award. Then add those numbers up, to make sure you meet or exceed your state & hoped for universities' list of required totals. If your number isn't high enough, write "elective" in  more blanks until you reach the required number. Now your document should look like this:


Fill in broad projections of your total credit goals in each subject



Specific lists vary, but they all follow the above pattern. Usually a "credit" is one year of a high school subject (though I understand that in Idaho, a credit is 1/2 a year, but I digress).

***Different people define 1 credit/1 year differently. It can be done by hours completed - most people estimate 150 to 180 hours as "1 year." Or, it can be done by completing a textbook, a course, or mastering the material of a subject. I prefer the completion/mastery model to the hours model. After all "work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion." I prefer efficiency to dragging work out to fill hours.



  Look more closely at the requirements from each source, and see if they say things like, "Math, 4 credits with at least one year of Algebra or Science, 3 credits, with at least one lab science.  

If you find these sorts of requirements, go make those alterations to your transcript. Don't worry too much what year you put them in, they can always be moved later. 

Now, your transcript should look like this:


 As each year comes, decide which versions of the required material you will teach, and what materials, texts, or curriculum you will use, then alter the lines in the transcript with the updated plans. For instance, as you approach the Sophomore year, English 2 might become "One Year Adventure Novel." Math 2 might become "Geometry," Science 2 might become "Biology" etc.

 In the middle of 10th grade, the transcript might look like this:





 As each term or year finishes, fill in your child's grade for that class.

At the end of four years, average all the grades, and fill in the remaining blanks (like your signature and date) and your transcript is DONE! : ) 


To average grades:

 Use a GPA Calculator online. Here are a couple to chose from, but there are others.

 Or, calculate by hand:

 Assign each A the number 4, each B the number 3, each C the number 2, and each D the number one. If it's a 1/2 credit course, cut that number in half - so an A in a half credit of Health here, would be a 2.

Add up all the numbers.

Divide by your total number of credits.

That's your GPA.


Enjoy your completed Transcript!

So - there you have it! An almost-magic way to prepare your student's transcript at the same time as you plan your student's high school. 

(Some colleges and universities require official transcripts to be notarized. if that is the case with your target school, take the document to a notary public, and sign it in front of them, and have them notarize it before sending it in with your application. Many banks and law offices have notaries, and the fee is usually reasonable.)