Secrets of Mom Search Results

Sunday, December 20, 2009

How to Have a More Stressful Holiday Season

Here's what my holidays have been like and here are several things I don't recommend based on personal experience. (Especially doing them all in the span of one month.)
1. Travel (as in 4 hours each way) multiple times for various events with small children in a tiny car.
2. Cram in some big family events like a wedding for a close family member or LDS mission fairwell.
3. Move into a new house on Christmas Eve.
4. Pack and move with less than a week's notice. {But I'm happy that getting a new house is happening much faster than predicted. ;)}
5. Do some major home repairs.
6. Go without ALL major appliances for any amount of time.
7. Have your children get sick a few times, so you stay inside until you get cabin fever.
8. Go without exercise for the entire season (mostly because we don't want to share our germs with the other kids in the daycare.)
9. Throw some crazy family in the mix.
10. Volunteer to deliver a dessert as part of the 12 Days of Christmas for a family on Dec 17th and don't pay attention to the fact that that is the 5th Day of Christmas until the night before, which means that you really need to bake FIVE DESSERTS for them. (And no, a plate with 5 cookies wouldn't cut it for a family that big, or I might have tried to pull it.)
 On the plus side I had all my shopping done really early and went without 90% of my Christmas decorating to make things simpler. Otherwise things really would have been stressful. Even with all this craziness going on, we're doing ok. I have my family and am so grateful for every moment I have with them at this time of year. Sure this month is crazy, but I'm grateful to have a home and a job and generally healthy kids. Just having that is such a great blessing. And I love having the chance to celebrate the birth of our Savior. I didn't put a Christmas tree this year, but that's not what it's about. It's about the birth of Child who was filled with enough love and power to change the world. And that love can bless me even if I don't have a picture perfect Christmas. I hope that you and yours each have a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What to cook for dinner?

The age old question, what should I cook for dinner tonight? So simple, yet can cause so much stress. Especially if you have picky eaters, weird food allergies or are short on time. For the most part I like to cook, it's a service that I like to preform for my family. However, sometimes I get tired of the same ol', same ol'. Here are a few places that I look when I want to try something new. There are a lot of winners and losers here. But there is so much variety. I have adapted my  favorite soup recipes from some that I have found here on this site.
Betty Crocker Good ol' Betty Crocker. I haven't found many recipes from here that I'm in love with. But I like that you can search for a recipe by ingredients and I use that as a starting point to give me other ideas.  Another search able recipe site.
Erin's Food Files  A great cooking blog by a girl from Tennessee. Reading her blog makes me want to cook more.
I Dare You To Eat It I've mentioned this site before. There are some great recipes here for getting your family to eat their whole grains and like them.
Taste and See This is a blog that I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. It's written by a woman who loves to cook for her family. I haven't tried any of her stuff yet, but some of it looks fantastic.

And if these don't inspire you there is always Google.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Helpful Hints for Baking Cookies

This Sunday's paper (Salt Lake Tribune) had a whole section on holiday cookies plus lots of baking and party tips. Am I ever excited to try them! Here's one article that I thought looked helpful.

"Cookies are some of the simplest items to bake. But failing to use the right ingredients or baking techniques can mean the difference between an ordinary cookie and a great one.
Here are some things to ponder:
Butter vs. shortening » The best thing about butter: It adds flavor. It also adds fat, which creates tenderness. But butter can melt quickly and create a flat cookie. Shortening provides significantly less flavor, but has a higher melting point, so cookies come out puffy. Cookies made with butter will maintain their shape simply by chilling the dough before baking.
White vs. brown sugar » White granulated sugar is the most commonly used sweetener because it adds no additional flavors. It makes cookies brown and helps them stay crisp. Brown sugar, which is white sugar mixed with molasses, adds an additional layer of flavor. The acid in the molasses helps eggs to set up and cookies are more likely to hold their shape. Brown sugar also helps keep cookies moist and soft. So don't use brown sugar in crispy cookies.

Unbleached vs. bleached all-purpose flour » Unbleached all-purpose flour has a higher protein content. Protein prevents crumbly cookies and contributes to browning and chewiness. Bleached flours, with their lower protein content, create tender, puffier cookies, but they will be pale.
Creaming » Beating the sugar and butter together until creamy is the first step in making many cookies. But overbeating will add bubbles to the batter. Air bubbles will make the batter spread and will result in flat cookies.
Altitude » Cookies are not affected by altitude as much as cakes, but the batter can spread at certain elevations, creating thin, tough cookies. If this is a problem, raise the oven temperature 15 to 25 degrees. Reducing the baking time also can help. Cooks can add a little bit of flour or reduce the sugar to slow the spread. Another option is to reduce the amount of leavening (baking powder, baking soda or cream of tartar).
Source: The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet; and Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitude, by Susan Purdy"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How to Have a More Worshipful Christmas

I came across this great list today and just had to share it. It was found at Enjoy.
  • Replace some holiday decorations in your home with reminders of Christ.
  • Politely decline requests that will take you away from family.
  • Play more Christmas music.
  • Donate gently used items to a thrift store.
  • Go Christmas caroling.
  • Avoid “mad rush” shopping times.
  • Say thank you as often as possible.
  • Schedule a night to help another person or family.
  • Call someone you normally wouldn't to wish him or her a Merry Christmas.

  • Delegate some holiday preparations to children or other family members.
  • Trim the gift list.
  • Simplify a traditional activity.
  • Find quiet time to pray.
  • Write down great memories as they happen.
  • Set and stick to a holiday budget.
  • Forgive a grudge.

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Here are some of the things I enjoy most about the holiday season, many of which you can do with your children on a low budget.
1. Baking cookies!
2. Decorating. This can get expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Some of my favorite memories as a child were making our own decorations. We made paper snowflakes and festive paper chains that we hung from the ceiling around the borders of the room. And to this day my mom's favorite Christmas tree ornaments are the ceramic mice that we painted when I was three. Decorating the tree and home and creating ornaments can lend itself to dozens of holiday activities.
3. Looking at Christmas lights. It's always fun to see the displays that your neighbors have up.
4. Reading the Christmas Story Found in Luke 2:1-20, also Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 2:1-14, & Luke 1: 26-35
5. Reading Christmas Books One tradition that I have started with my kids is that every day starting December 1st we read a different Christmas book. I have collected several through the years from after Christmas sales, but the library also has a wide selection to supplement my own.
6. The Twelve Days of Christmas This is a favorite tradition from my husband's family, something that was passed down from his mother's family. Starting December 13th we put our shoes out and every morning "the Christmas elf" puts a tiny gift in our shoes. As a general rule I try to keep the items under a dollar. I find that the earlier I start on this the better, otherwise my kids just end up with a whole bunch of crap from the dollar store. (Don't get me wrong, there are a few good deals to be had at the dollar store, but you know what I mean.) Some shoe gift ideas: candy, coloring books, crayons (bought a few boxes at the back to school sales), lip gloss, small toys, socks, finger puppets, hats and mittens.
7. Visiting Family What would the holidays be without family? Even if they may drive you a little crazy. ;)
8. Serving Others This is the most of fun if it is done in secret. Growing up we were poor, but I didn't realize to what extent until I was older. You don't miss what you don't know. Frankly if my friends now knew they would be shocked and amazed, for that matter my friends from back then would be shocked and amazed. Despite this my mother made it a point each year we would pick someone in need to serve. Often we would find someone in our neighborhood who lived alone and drop gifts on their doorstep for The Twelve Days of Christmas. They were simple things, a 6-pack of ginger-ale, 5 cookies, 4 fresh oranges, etc., but there were times when we learned that it really made a difference to the person that we were serving. And it was such a thrill to try to deliver them without getting caught. There are many other ways to serve other this season and there are many in need. Toys for Tots, Sub for Santa and the Food and Care Coalition are just a few organizations that appreciate donations. Even if you don't have money to give you can still serve. Donate old coats, donate your time. Find someone out there who needs some cheering and share the Christmas spirit with them!
9. Christmas Shopping I love shopping for Christmas. Buying stuff for my kids is always fun. Finding a the perfect gift for a friend or family member fills me with excitement. Finding a good deal is even more thrilling, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to lose any sleep over it and risk being trampled. Not when there's Amazon.
10. Singing Christmas Carols Whether you do this with friends, family, neighbors or by yourself, it really makes the season.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thai Chicken Spinach Wraps

Several weeks ago I signed up to receive a free cookbook for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and totally forgot about it until I got it in the mail a few days ago. I was flipping through it and it looks like it has some great recipes, all involving cheese. I tried this one this evening and it was so great that I had to share. I just checked the website and they are no longer mailing out the little cookbooks, but you can download it for free here. And as always I modify things depending on what I have available, here's tonight's hit.

Thai Chicken Spinach Wraps
1 c drained pineapple tidbits
1/3 c diced red onion
2 T fresh cilantro chopped
1/4 c slivered almonds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 deli slices of Havarti, diced
2 c cooked chicken (It recommended rotesserie, but I used leftover grilled because I needed to use it.)
rinsed spinach leaves
4 burrito size tortillas
Thai Lime sauce (see below)

1.Mix first seven ingredients. 2. Warm tortillas in microwave for 15 seconds. 3. Put about 1 1/2 T of sauce on each tortilla. Top with a layer of spinach leaves. Make a row of the chicken mixture down the middle. 3. Roll up wrap and serve with lime sauce for dipping.
Note: The recipe actually called for 4 oz of grated swiss cheese, but I prefer Havarti, so there you go.

Thai Lime Sauce
1/3 c plain yogurt
2 T warmed honey
2 T Miracle Whip
1 T fresh lime juice
1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chicken Soup

So I'm at home with my sick kids and what makes this even more thrilling is that I have no voice. I feel like I'm screaming to barely be audible. And frankly right now I just want a nap, but I'm waiting for the munchkins to fall asleep. So while I wait I'll blog about what I made for lunch. I found this recipe on the foodnetwork, but I modified it to make it easier and a little healthier. (Does anyone out there actually make their own chicken stock? Who has that kind of time? Does it really make that much of a difference?) I feel like this recipe really hits the spot when you're sick. (And when you and your family are sick, do you really want to spend your whole day in front of the stove? I didn't think so.) The combo of chicken broth, garlic and cilantro does wonders.

Easy Chicken Soup

1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
2 medium carrots
2 celery ribs
2 T fresh cilantro
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp dry thyme
2 qts chicken stock/broth
1 1/2 cups cooked chopped chicken
8 oz dry whole wheat noodles

1. Throw first 5 ingredients in food chopper.
2. Sauté in olive oil in a soup pot for about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
3. Add remaining ingredients and cook until noodles are tender.