Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chicken and Spinach Pesto Lasagna

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Chicken and Spinach Pesto Lasagna

Chicken Spinach Pesto Lasagna 2

 

A few people have asked about this recipe so here it is!  Even my 1 year old likes it, and that’s saying something.  The original recipe is from a mozzarella cheese wrapper and the first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly.  It was a bit boring- not incredibly flavorful or special.  The pesto flavor got lost in the noodles and cheese and was never found….  So I tried the recipe again recently and made a few key changes. The difference was astounding!  My changes are in red….

Chicken Spinach Pesto Lasagna 

12 uncooked lasagna noodles (I used whole wheat noodles)

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 packages (12oz each) frozen chopped spinach (I used one package spinach and a bunch of kale I had on hand)

1/2 c prepared pesto sauce plus 2 tbsp (you can find my easy pesto recipe here)

3/4 c grated parmesan cheese (I excluded this- I just didn’t have any!)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3 cups cooked diced chicken (I used canned chicken…. it’s just easier!)

1/2 tsp salt (or a bit more- I try to season at every step)

1/2 tsp pepper

(2 cups ricotta cheese I used a package of soft herbed goat cheese- this was the game changer!)

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray 13×9 in casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Partially cook lasagna noodles according to the package.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook and stir onions and garlic until transparent.  Add spinach (and kale); cook and stir about 5 min. Add chicken and stir about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, mix together ricotta cheese (goat cheese), egg, pesto, and parmesan cheese until thoroughly blended.  Add chicken and spinach mixture to bowl and stir to combine.  Spread extra 2 tbsp of pesto in bottom of pan.  Layer 4 noodles, slightly overlapping.  Top with 1/3 of spinach/ricotta mixture and 1/3 mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers twice.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

 

The goat cheese really is the star in my version- so if you don’t have pesto on hand just chop up some basil leaves or your favorite italian spices.  If you don’t have goat cheese- maybe add more pesto- and season every step! 

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Tilapia with Escarole and Lemon-Pepper Sauce

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Tilapia final

“Mmmmmm!  I love this dinner! It’s so easy and tasty.  Wait, I should post this on the blog!  Rats, I don’t have a picture!”  Those were my thoughts this evening, in the middle of dinner, after most everyone had finished.  So, yeah, that’s my excuse for the terrible picture.  You’ll notice though that my 4 year old has already finished her fish.  It’s that good!  Don’t worry, I’ll post a better photo when I make this dish again, in about a month.  In the meantime, you can visit the original recipe at Food Network and see their lovely picture.

There are so many reasons I love this dish.  It’s healthy, it’s easy, it takes only one dish, and it’s delicious!  The fish turns out so tender and flakey and the lemon-pepper oil adds just the right finishing touch.  I have made a few changes to the original recipe, mostly because I don’t like a lot of oil in my food and because I have a hungry 12 year old to feed!  Here it is with my changes.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Click below to open a printable pdf of the recipe

Tilapia with Escarole

Yarn Wrapped Letters

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Hi all! I don’t even remember the last time I posted on our blog. But I was crafty(!) and I wanted to share.

My husband and I recently found out we are expecting a baby boy and I’ve been itching to buy his bed, carseat, stroller, clothes, etc. etc., but my husband is insisting we wait a while longer mostly because we don’t have the room to store all this stuff without it being used. So I decided instead to busy myself with attempting to make things for our new baby. So this was my first try, and I think it turned out pretty good!

Yarn wrapped letters. I got the initial idea from a friend who is also expecting, and then I looked up a bunch of tutorials online (just google search it, there’s a ton). It narrowed down to there being about a million ways to do this project, so I just went for it and made up my own way.

I didn’t think about making a blog post until I was about to start the last letter of John’s name, so the N is the only one documented, and sorry about the glares and different lighting, I obviously am no photographer!

Materials:
Yarn (your choice of color and texture/thickness)
Wood letters (I got mine from Hobby Lobby, my friend is using cardboard, really anything would work, but the blockier the better. Anything with curly ends might be difficult, the J and O were already hard…)
Hot glue (or tape or regular glue or staples, to attach yarn to letter)

Here’s my letter… don’t mind the fact that I took a picture of it upside down… I thought it looked kind of funny while looking at it later…

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Through doing the other letters (and a few tips from other tutorials), I learned I needed to cover the parts that I wouldn’t be able to cover when wrapping the entire letter. I think this will make sense with the next few pictures to come. 

I cut 2(ish)inch pieces of yarn, and hot glued them on the ends of the letter in a vertical fashion.

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I then did all the other ends the same way. (Yay I finally took the picture the right way up!)

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Then I pretty much just started wrapping, using hot glue every once in a while so it wouldn’t come unraveled. I was able to do the “J” all at once, but that was the only one. The “O” I did in four sections, mostly because I couldn’t fit very much yarn through the tiny hole. I did the “H” in five sections, I think, and the “N” I did in four. This worked better for me and made it look nicer, but you might be more proficient than I am and could do it in all one wrap. Also, you’ll notice in my pictures I left little stripes without yarn. I did this just because of the way the letters bent. I think if I were to do this again, I would try and find (or cut out) letters that didn’t have serifs (the blocky parts at the ends) as I had to go back after wrapping and add pieces of yarn to fill those stripes (as shown in the picture) and I wasn’t a huge fan of the way it turned out looking. It would have been much easier if the wood letters looked just like this font “JOHN”. Just a note in case you’re actually thinking about doing this.

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Then I added hooks. I eyeballed these, and hoped they wouldn’t make the four letters hang at different heights and look silly on the wall.

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And here’s the finished project! I added the two little zebra embellishments to hide a few mistakes/parts I didn’t like how they looked. The zebras were on a stick in a cupcake at a baby shower I went to over a year ago, and I thought they was so cute I kept them, and I’m glad I did!

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My husband came up with the great idea of hanging the letters at an angle so I wouldn’t have to worry too much about my eyeballed hooks. Here’s what it looks like…

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I had a ton of fun doing this project, it was quite simple, and really cheap! 
Thanks for reading!

Dinner in a Pumpkin

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Looking for something special to serve at your Halloween Party?  This is one of my favorite festive meals.  I got this recipe from my friend Bonnie, but I’m sure there are lots of different versions out there.

Ingredients:

1 medium pumpkin (make sure it will fit in your oven)

1- 1.5 lbs sausage

1 small chopped green and/or red pepper

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 large can mushrooms

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup water

1 cup sliced olives

1/2 cup slivered almonds or water chestnuts

1 garlic clove (chopped)

2 cups cooked rice

1 tsp oregano (and/or other spices of your choice)

pepper

Directions:

cut top off of pumpkin (make sure to do it at an angle so the top can be replaced to cook)

scoop out the insides- make sure it’s nice and clean!

rub salt on the inside of the pumpkin

saute the sausage, onion, pepper, and celery until sausage is completely cooked; drain fat

add the remaining ingredients, mix, and put mixture in pumpkin

replace top; put pumpkin on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2- 2 hours
The best thing about this recipe is that it is very forgiving.  If you’re missing one or two ingredients, no problem! Just substitute something else, or leave them out altogether.  And it’s not even necessary to actually measure out all the ingredients.  Just throw them together and bake!  And season it however you want- be creative!

Happy Halloween!

Fairy Tales

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An old crone with no eyes takes in a princess who later goes on a search for said eyes and brings them back only to find the crone dead so she keeps them in a jar to watch over her.  Some parents abandon their children in the woods to let them be devoured or starve to death.  Evil Queens plot and talking animals give quests.  And scariest of all (to me) a house on chicken legs houses a child eating witch. 

Why do we read such things to our children?  I’ll tell you why!  They are simply magical.  I grew up reading fairy tales (boy do I remember the ones about Baba Yaga!) and enjoyed them.  I have read them to my children.  But I don’t think I recognized their power until recently.  Deciding to send my daughter to a Waldorf inspired school has brought them more to my attention.  In a Waldorf school fairy tales have a large part to play and I’ve wondered why.  Why just fairy tales and not other stories? 

Think back.  Waaaaay back.  Back when there was no paper or at least when the common person didn’t have paper.  Storytelling was entertainment, but also more than that.  All around the world, people would gather around a fire, inside or out, winter or summer, and tell stories.  Stories about their beginnings, stories about their experiences, stories about their dreams.  Alot of these stories had commonalities.  A Hero/Heroine, some struggle, magical qualities, a reformation.  Why did people tell stories?  Just for entertainment?

Sharifa Oppenhiemer says in her book Heaven on Earth “Through the use of story, we can give our children powerful tools necessary to make sense of their lives.  Stories offer our children examples of solutions for the difficulties they will encounter as they grow and develop.  They also image for our children various qualities of character that will aid them in these difficulties.  these images can lay a foundation of strength for a lifetime.”  Not only are fairy tales enjoyable (which they certainly are!) but through them our children can learn and experience a wealth of things in a safe place. 

In the book Simplicity Parenting  by Kim John Payne he tells a story of a mother and her 6 year old daughter who came in to see him because of a hard situation they were in.  The mother had a very ill brother who lived a ways away and she had been going to visit him often for 5 days at a time.  The daughter was terribly angry with her mother, not only for leaving but for being sad.  The mother said she had told her daughter the truth about her uncle, she didn’t want to make up some story about her being gone.  He replied “Yes, she deserves both the truth and stories.  But she needs more stories now, to help her with the truth.”  He then suggested that she tell stories about someone in a scary situation who finds a way out.  Though a little miffed at the prescription of “fairy tales” the mother tried it and said the stories soothed her daughter and they made this hard time easier for her. 

I have been worried at times that some of the stories might be too scary for my daughter.  Of course you will want to wait on some stories and tell kinder ones to your 3-4year olds, ones mostly about the world in which we live.  Having said this, you may be surprised by your children’s reactions.  My 6 year old loves the scary ones, and has never had nightmares about them.  S. Oppenheimer says “Fairy Tales characteristically state a problem in clear, unmistakable terms.  The plot is laid out simply, and the characters are drawn in bold, unambiguous strokes-the evil queen is, truly, evil incarnate, the youngest son has a pure and golden heart.  At this point, the child needs to see the various ‘qualities’ of the human soul laid out in understandable terms, personifies in the different figures in the tale.  We see opposite qualities laid side by side:  one sister is virtuous and industrious, the other lazy and cunning.” 

I love reading fairy tales with my kids and making some up with them too!  Truly, there is nothing so entertaining (and educational!) as a well told story.  I end with a quote from Albert Einstein. 

 

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” 

Reverse Lent

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I’m not Catholic, but I have ‘participated’ in Lent a few times, in a non-religious way. I’ve given up evening TV watching, chocolate, buying new, and other things. Trouble is I tend to binge on those things after Lent is over. Don’t get me wrong, I do think self-denial and fasting can be good things, they just haven’t worked for me in this instance.  And it doesn’t fit in well with my personal improvement philosophy.  For example, I don’t believe in deprivation dieting, banning certain ‘bad’ foods like fat, carbs, chocolate, etc. If I feel my diet needs improving I’d much rather add things; more whole grains, more legumes, more water. These healthy additions tend to push out the less desirable foods I might be inclined to indulge in. So I thought maybe the same approach would work for my self-refining/development.

With that in mind, this year I’m trying something a little different for Lent. Rather than giving something up, I’m resuming something I’d given up, namely the flute.

Believe me, I’m not taking the easy way out.  I haven’t played for three years now!   And some days are so packed for me it’s all I can do to do the things that need to be done that day (feeding kids, running various errands, blog posts).  I don’t expect that I’ll be able to play my flute every day of Lent, but I can fit it in most days.  It has been so long since I played, all my finger and embouchure muscles have to be rebuilt.  It will take a lot of work and effort not to get discouraged (I used to be better!)  So in addition to reclaiming a skill I once had, I’ll be developing self-discipline and perseverance.   And, in a way, I’m sacrificing some of my time for something better.  Which fits in nicely with the spirit of Lent as I understand it.  Right now I only plan on practicing like this for the duration of Lent, but who knows, maybe by the end it will become a habit I won’t want to give up.

Attachment Parenting

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Parents who practice attachment parenting often carry their babies in a sling.Parenting.  What do you think of when you read the word?  For me, it depends on the day.  Or even the minute.   One thing, however, I always seem to feel is a great responsibility.  Sometimes it still blows my mind to think that these 3 small people have been placed in MY care.  The knowledge that I (and my hubby of course :)) are the people these kids look to for a model on which to base their life is motivating, to say the least.  So I have done alot of research.  ALOT of research.  There are times when I am reading a book and getting all these great ideas and then I look up out of the book at my kids and think, ” I should probably BE parenting, not just reading about it!”  All of this research has led to alot of different ideas and I’ve had to wade my way through with alot of prayer to find out what is right for us.  What I have found is what I wanted to talk about today, although it is for sure still a work in progress.  Fine tuning is happening always, and some things work for some kids and ages and not for others.  I’ve read before that you should pick one strategy and go with it and not change so as not to confuse your kids.  I agree to some extent, but I also think if what you are doing has negative effects on your children, or you, or is not working- go ahead a try something else!  Attachment parenting has been what feels right to me.  For those who would like to know more I present…..

Attachment Parenting Internationals Eight Principles of Parenting

1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

Mostly this one deals with educating yourself on all aspects of pregnancy and birth.  They urge, and I agree with them, that you should follow your instincts and ask questions about everything.  For me this meant striving to have as few “interventions” as possible; following natural childbirth as close as I could.  One thing I didn’t do but would consider next time is having a doula as well as my midwife there. 

2. Feed with Love and Respect

Breastfeeding on demand, gentle weaning, and introducing solids slowly.  The picture for this section on their web page shows mothers feeding toddlers and babies at the same time.  While I have never done that (i weaned my kids at 14, 15, & 16 months) I fully support people who do!  I also believe in taking your cues from your baby about when to wean and doing so gently over many months.

3. Respond with Sensitivity

Crying is a way for babies to tell us what they need.  I believe in responding to that crying and not ignoring it.  I love what API says on their website:

Needs and the Benefits of Responding with Sensitivity

  • Babies’ brains are immature and significantly underdeveloped at birth, and they are unable to soothe themselves
  • Through the consistent, repeated responsiveness of a compassionate adult, children learn to soothe themselves
  • Understand your child’s natural inner rhythms, and try to schedule around them
  • It is perfectly normal for babies to want constant physical contact
  • High levels of stress, such as during prolonged crying, cause a baby to experience an unbalanced chemical state in the brain and can place him at risk for physical and emotional problems later in life
  • Symptoms of burnout or inability to cope with baby’s needs are signals that extra support and/or professional help are necessary

Responding to Tantrums and Strong Emotions

  • Tantrums represent real emotions and as such should be taken seriously
  • Some emotions are too powerful for a young child’s underdeveloped brain to manage in a more socially acceptable manner
  • A parent’s role in tantrums is to comfort the child, not to get angry or punish her

4. Use Nurturing Touch

Slings slings and more slings.  Also massage and lots of hugs and cuddles.  And being aware of how much time your baby spends in swings, jumpers, strollers, etc. so you can make sure it’s not too much.

5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

“Babies have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too cold or too hot. They need the reassurance of a loving parent to feel secure during the night.”  says API.  I feel rather strongly about this, but didn’t find it worked to get up every time baby woke up.  So, we made things work.  We co-slept with our first and bed-shared with our other two, and it’s been great.  I wouldn’t do it any other way.  If you are worried about SIDS or rolling over on your child please read here

 

6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care

This means working your schedule around baby’s schedule (when they are hungry, sleepy, etc.).  It makes sense to me to watch and notice what babies internal schedule  is and then try to work my schedule to mesh with that.  I am the adult in the relationship so I feel like I should be the one who is accommodating.   Plus, who am I to tell someone when they are hungry or not?  Would I like someone to do that to me?   This also means try not to have too many caregivers and have only short separations when possible.  I have decided to be a SAHM and rarely leave my kids for more than 3 hours.  When my oldest was 18 mo.  I left for girls camp for a week and when I came back she was really distant and angry with me.  I would not do that again.  

7. Practice Positive Discipline

This one is the hardest, especially as your children get older.  I think most of society uses punishment and control to get behaviors they want, but I firmly believe (backed up by lots of research I’ve studied) that it doesn’t work.  And when it does, it is only short term and the unintended effects of that approach are negative and far reaching.  Here is what API says.  “Positive discipline is an overarching philosophy that helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Positive discipline is rooted in a secure, trusting, connected relationship between parent and child. Discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful strengthens that the connection between parent and child, while harsh or overly punitive discipline weakens the connection. Remember that the ultimate goal of discipline is to help children develop self-control and self-discipline.”  More on this at a later post.

8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

Yea!  You stuck with it till the last one!  Balance is always something I am thinking about.  Especially balancing technology and real life.  Recently I have started taking a few moments for myself after the kids go to bed, and I’ve really been enjoying that.  My husband is also a big help with this part, taking the kids when I need some alone time or a girl’s night out. 

So that’s it.  Or at least some of what I believe about parenting.  Hopefully you found something to think about, it was great for me to remind myself of these things!

Happy Parenting!

Jessie

Winter

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I am a winter person. I LOVE sitting in a warm house snuggled up in a blanket reading a book with hot chocolate watching the snow fall. I love the beauty of snow. I would SO much rather be cold that hot. You can always put more clothes on, but there is only so much you can take off! I love to cross country ski, build snow-men, and go sledding. I love that feeling when you step outside and breath in through your nose and you can feel the inside of your nostrils freezing up. Well, ok, I don’t really love that. But overall, I have always enjoyed winter. Plus my birthday is in winter, and so is Christmas and Valentines day-both really great holidays. However, some things are just not the same after you have kids.

One thing in particular has struck me this winter that really really really makes me wish it was spring-or even worse- summer! WINTER COATS. And shoes, and socks and hats and gloves and scarfs. Trying to leave the house with three kids properly dressed for the cold is, well…indescribable. Then, once we have gone through the marathon of getting shoes, socks, coats, hats, and gloves on they play in the snow for 2 minutes and then have to use the bathroom or are just cold and want to come in.  If we are going to the library or some such place, we have to take all the layers off, and then I get to carry them around! While also carrying the baby, library books and occasionally my 3 year old as well. GOOD GRIEF!! If only it were summer! The kids can run outside in just their diapers for all I care! (I suppose there is sunscreen to worry about- but I don’t ever have to take it off and carry it!) No shoes, or if they need shoes sandals are so kid friendly I might not even have to help get them on!

That, my friends is why I am dreaming of 90 degree weather. When it does come, though, I know I will miss the winter-coats and all.

Rooting Herbs

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Rooting Herbs

 

I have a confession to make. I kill potted plants. If it is in my house and in a pot, it will die. I have no trouble growing things in the ground. In fact, I think I’m pretty good at gardening. But potted plants, watch out!  It’s frustrating, especially since I love to cook with fresh herbs and hate paying the exorbitant prices at the grocery store.  Alas, indoor herbs live in pots….. or so I thought.

Read the rest of this entry

Symbols of Christmas

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“All things bear record of me.” *

Every Christmas we have the tradition of reading a version of “Teach the Children” and setting up a small tree with ornaments to illustrate the story.  My kids love to do this and I love that it helps them remember what Christmas is all about.  I got the small tree and ornaments at my local craft store, and I sewed the bag myself.  Of course you could use almost anything to illustrate the story: a tree and ornaments made of felt, pictures or drawings of the tree and ornaments, or decorate your large tree with the ornaments.  The key is to make it interactive.  This would also make a great gift for a family with children.

Here’s my version of the story.  I found several versions on the internet but none of them fit exactly the way I wanted to tell it (and the ornaments I could find!) so I cut and pasted different parts together and added sections for the ornaments I could find.  What I’m saying is feel free to edit my version to suit your needs!

Christmas symbols with meanings:

  • Red – the blood of Christ
  • Green – eternal life
  • White – repentance and forgiveness
  • Evergreen tree – eternal life
  • Wreath – circle shows eternity
  • Bow – unity
  • Gifts – gifts of the magi, gift of Christ (John 3:16)
  • Star – Star of Bethlehem
  • Santa – anonymous charitable giving
  • Candy cane – shepherd’s crook, ‘J’ for Jesus, more!
  • Bells – proclaiming the good news, seeking lost sheep
  • Candles/Lights – individual testimony, good works *