Monday, February 21, 2011

Healthy Meal Ideas

I am truly blessed with a husband who will eat pretty much anything.  He is not a picky eater.  Same thing with my kids, for the most part they will eat just about anything.  There are a few items that they don't like, but that is to be expected with anyone.

We do however get extremely bored in our family eating the same thing week after week. I realized some time ago that I could easily get in a rut recycling the same meals over and over again. I would sometimes venture out and check out some stuff on Food Network, but some of that stuff can be a little bit more high brow than what I want to make for a weekly meal (with the exception of Rachel Ray...I do a lot of her meals since they are mostly quick and easy and Paula Deen is wonderful but I think every one of her recipes has a ginormous amount of butter in it...SIGH wonderful, wonderful, butter).

Another issue is that we have been trying to eat healthier/low cal/low fat meals.  This threw me for a loop at first because I'd been cooking a certain way for YEARS, and to completely change my eating habits and the way I cooked wasn't going to be easy (insert whining here). After a couple years of TRYING to eat healthy I think I've finally gotten it down, especially over the past year.

So, within the past year SparkRecipies has become my go to place for a good, healthy meal. I've tried out a TON of stuff on there and some has worked, some has not. It's a gamble, but sometimes it turns out to be totally worth it.

I also stumbled across a blog called Our Best Bites.  I have fallen in LOVE with these meals.  Not all of them are low cal/low fat, but some are.  

There are several of my friends out there who are trying to find healthy meals that actually taste good,  or some friends that just need some new ideas, so I decided to share what has worked for me recently over the past several weeks. 

Peanut and Sesame Noodles (SparkRecipies)
This was a HUGE gamble.  It was kinda a wacky out there recipe.   I added some steamed frozen broccoli to the recipe because it just needed something different.  My kids totally loved this.  It is a bit "heavy" tasting, but it's still only a little above 200 calories per serving.  This turned out to be good enough to make again!

New England Clam Chowder (SparkRecipies)I was also concerned about a "low fat" version of clam chowder.  Also when I purchased the clam juice in the store I thought it looked like the grossest thing I'd ever seen. (It was a running joke in our house that if you did something wrong, you'd have to drink the clam juice). I kept pushing this meal off until finally it was one of the last things in the cupboard.  This was YUM.  Only 153 calories per serving!  Even the kids loved it!

Alfredo Pesto Chicken (SparkRecipies)
This was pretty good.  231 calories per serving BEFORE the whole wheat pasta.  Not bad, and it was really easy.  Nothing to write home about, but still not bad.  It was easy and that's what made it so good I think.

Slow Cooker Beef and Mushrooms (Spark Recipies)
This was a HUGE hit at our house.  HUGE.  I added a bit of low fat sour creme at the end and served over whole wheat egg noodles to make it a healthy alternative to stroganoff.  My whole family LOVED it.  I don't care for mushrooms, but the chunks were big enough that I was able to pick them out.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (SparkRecipies)
I'd never made my own pizza dough before and this turned out really good, AND it's healthy to boot!  I topped it with low fat cheese and veggies (zucchini) and grilled chicken.  The kids loved it (even our friends kids who were over for the evening that I was babysitting).  They looked at it and said "we don't like that kind of pizza."  That was about ten minutes before they cleared their plates and kept coming back for more. 

Chicken Mushroom Quesadillas (Food Network)
I stumbled upon this about a year ago and fell in love with it.  I've made it a handful of times since then.  The mushrooms are really hard to pick out, so if you don't like them, omit them.  This is really good with some pico or guac on the side.  Guac is high fat, but it's a good fat.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries (Our Best Bites)
I was extremely leery of these.  I had tried them once before (a different recipe) and failed miserably at making them.  My family HATED them the first time.  I kept running into them though on different websites and everyone just raved at how yummy they were.  I thought I'd give it a try one last time.  I came across this recipe and realized that I just didn't cook mine long enough and that made them really soggy the first time.  These turned out perfect.  They were crispy on the outside and yummy on the inside.  I didn't make their dip because I had honey mustard dip in the fridge and that was easier.

Smoky Honey Mustard Pork Chops (Our Best Bites)
My husband made these last night while I made the sweet potato fries.  OMG they were delicious.  I have always had trouble with pork chops.  The ones that I usually liked were the high fat bad for you chops, and the other chops I would get (boneless) were the breakfast chops which had zero flavor.  I can't believe this is the first time I bought sirloin pork chops.  They were low fat, tender and full of flavor after cooking them on the grill.  They were great!

I have a lot of neat meal ideas on the menu for this week (Southwest stuffed bell peppers, Greek style pita sandwiches, zucchini fries with corn flake nuggets, & Manicotti)  Can't wait to try out all these new recipes!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Decrapification - The Girls Room/Closet

Every spring and fall it's the same thing. As I look forward to the changing season there is also a fear and a dread that comes over me. It's this nagging thing that I push and push off until I MUST do it.

Organize the girls seasonal clothes and clean out their closet.

Dum, dum dum dum dum!

I've gotten pretty handy at organizing other areas of my home. The medicine cabinet wasn't bad, and neither was the laundry closet, but I go into my girls room, look in the closet, shake my head and just usually end up walking out totally defeated. There is just SO much stuff I never know where to begin. I usually end up just pulling out everything and end up cramming it back in the closet in a slightly more organized mess than I began with.

I can't live like this anymore. It's driving me insane.

So, before I began this time, I decided to wrap my mind around the project and break it down into simpler steps. I went and took a look in their room and closet. I looked at what items needed to be organized, and what inventory of organizational supplies I had on hand, then I was able to compile a list of what I'd need, and where everything would go.

I made a spreadsheet so when my husband and I budgeted we could look at it and see what fits in the budget this week so we stay on track with our finances, and then I have a reference to look back upon.  I know it may be a bit overkill and nerdy, but it really helps me not to DREAD this project.  Knowing that I have a space to put everything.

So, now I had a list complied of what I needed to organize the girls closet, where I would relocate certain items to better utilize the storage I had and a list of new items I needed to buy.  I was really happy with how much relocating certain items would free up space and use the storage I have in a more efficient manner, so my buy list was pretty small.

Shoe Rack
Two 15 gal bins
One shoebox size bin
4 drawer organizers

A NICE to have would be some wood for Jamin to build a dress up bin, but we are going to try and do that out of scraps. Until then I will use the current bin that I have. It's not great, but it will work to save us on the budget. The drawer organizers and shoebox size bin I was able to find at the dollar store. The shoe rack and two 15 gallon bins I got at Target. Total I spent $27.00 on all the items I needed. I went out and got these FIRST before I even entered their room. That way I was ready to relocate items.

Here are my before photos of the room and the closet. It's a giant overwhelming mess.

Here is the room, it normally looks pretty bad, and that is expected because the girls play in it.  I can't expect it to be immaculate all the time.

Drawers just stuffed with clothes.  I guarantee you not one item of clothing in there is folded properly.

This is really just to show off our kitchen set again and to show you the CUTEST banners my husband's sister Ginger made my kids.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE them.

My nemesis.  The closet.

See all those bags and bags of clothing just stuffed on the top shelf?  That is what I eventually need to get to.  I have to get through the closet mess first though.

This bin is SUPPOSED to be for kitchen items, but it's always overflowing with miscellaneous junk too.

These bins are the worst waste of space ever.  I realized I needed to better utilize the storage that I did have.  I can never find shoes because they are just piled on top of the dresser in the closet.

I started just putting stuff in bins and rearranging.  It was easy because I'd all ready planned out where everything would go.  Well it was as easy as it can be with little ones running under your feet.  Even with an entire room full of toys to play with, whatever mommy was doing in the closet was MUCH more interesting to get into.

I finished up day ONE with getting the room clean and the closet clean.  Next was time to tackle the clothing.  I started by yanking EVERYTHING out of their drawers and going through that first.  I then move items that are no longer needed into file boxes in the attic marked as to what size and season they are for.
Here is a photo of my piles of clothes and bags to go through.  This is not even CLOSE to all of them that I need to go through.

I then started pulling out clothes in their size and put them into a pile.  Then I started separating the clothes that needed folded from dresses that would hang, and then winter from summer clothes.  (because of Oklahoma's wacky weather I need to keep warmer clothes on hand in case they are needed).  I put the summer shorts and shirts into the dresser in the bedroom, and winter and warmer clothes go into the "reserve" dresser in their closet.  This makes fall sorting easier and I have stuff on hand for chillier spring days.

Sorting the clothes was definitely almost a full days work.  It took me about six hours to do it all.  I know that sounds like a crazy amount of time, but I am REALLY blessed with neighbors and family that gives me hand me downs.  I don't have to buy one single item for my girls this summer except for some sandals for Lucy and a swimsuit for Evie.  They almost have more clothes than they can wear!

I got a little nutty and started labeling bins, which may have been overkill, but I just like the way it looks. Also if the older kids help clean the room, they know where everything goes. So, after two days of hard work, here it is for me to show off!
Bins better used to hold play food, play bake-ware and play dishes! It also gives the girls some "counter" space.

Pajama and sock drawer.  Everything folded neatly and socks in their little organizers from the dollar store!

The room is clean (for at least five minutes)
Books in a nice little basket.

Lego's and wooden blocks & Lucy's dresses.

Clean, organized, beautiful closet!

I can actually find the shoes now!  (That is our door that leads to the upstairs attic)

My nerdy labels.  

All in all I'm totally proud of how it turned out.  Room by room I'm getting this house organized a little at a time, and each time I do it I'm getting a little better at it!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Organizing my Heart and Home

Normally I title these posts "decrapification" but this week this is a MUCH more fitting title.

I've been having some incidents with my kids lately, mostly my son and my 3 year old. I'm not going to go into detail about what they did, because I don't want to embarrass or mock my children in any way, sometimes I make fun of the things they do, but when it comes to more serious behavior issues, God has put it on my heart to chill out on telling the entire world on what they did.

But, I have no problem telling you what God is putting on my heart for ME to fix. I've become a total passive parent. I will let things go, and let them go, until my anger builds and I end up exploding, and using unkind words to my children. Then as I lay in bed at night this huge wave of guilt comes rushing over me about what I did wrong that day and how I could handle it better.

Yesterday I had a massive incident with my three year old. My husband came down and quietly pulled out a dusty book on our shelf. James Dobsons "The Strong Willed Child" to possibly look for answers to our problems with the kids. I started reading this and God started to reveal so much to me that I've been doing wrong. I have been this completely passive parent. The kids know that I don't mean buisness and it's all rehearsed play on how things will go between them an mom. Nobody ever gets truly disciplined, but both parties end up completely frustrated in the end.

Dobson talks about this in his chapter "The Most Common Mistake." Talking about how most parents fall into this pattern. He used the police officer and a speeding ticket as a good example of how authority should be. The officer does not need to rely on anger to influence our behavior. Nor should I rely on anger to influence my kids to behave.

So. Goal number one this week: Organize/Decrapify my heart, by instilling two messages to my kids:

  • I love you more than you can possibly understand. You are precious to me and I thank God every day He let me raise you.
  • Because I love you, I must teach you to obey me.  That is the only way I can take care of you and protect you from the things that might hurt you.  Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (Ephesians 6:1)
Second.  Start the D A U N T I N G task of organizing my girls room and closet.  Normally this gives me a headache just thinking about it but I sat down and made of list of what I need before I start yanking stuff out of their closet, and pulling out spring clothes.

Here is my spreadsheet of action I need to take and my deadlines for it!  This is my second project of the week.  Wish me luck!

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