Saturday Lunch – Lemon Broccoli and Bowties

 

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This was really good and my 7-yr old had two bowls, so it’s a winner at my house.   It’s also quick to throw together when “What’s for lunch?” becomes the question of the hour.  My version is adapted from the original by Ina Garten based on what I had on hand in my pantry.

Lemon Broccoli and Bowties

  • 16 oz frozen broccoli cuts
  • 12 oz farfalle (bow tie) pasta
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons Canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried lemon peel
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 c grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta for 10 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water adding the broccoli the last 5 minutes of cooking. Strain.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the butter and oil and cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Off the heat, add salt, garlic powder, the pepper, and lemon juice and pour this over the broccoli and pasta. Toss well. Add Parmesan cheese, toss again and serve.

 

Age Appropriate Chores for Children

Pink and Green Kitchen..chores were divided among the siblings:

The following meme below has been making the internet rounds for a few years now but I’m sharing it here just in case you haven’t come across it.  I think it’s a pretty good guide for knowing what your child should be capable of at different ages and what things you can begin to train your child to do.

For example, you may feel your just-turned 2-year-old is no where ready to set a table but you could certainly begin to teach this skill and hopefully she has mastered it by the end of her third year.  Some parents may feel stressed by a chart like this because their child is not ready for some of the chores at the ages listed, but one must keep in mind that an individual child cannot be put in a box so the human person and their particular development must trump any charts and guides.  Find the things they can master.  Once they have mastered one skill, move on to the next.

So what if your child doesn’t have a skill listed in the chart by the age of 8?  If it takes them until ten or twelve, so be it.  The important thing is that once they get it, they will have it forever and it will serve them well when they leave the nest. It may even serve the family in a pinch too when mom or dad is down and out as can happen at times.

Chores can not only give a sense of accomplishment but can also cement in your child’s mind that they are an important part of the family group.  It will help them know they are needed, valued and have something they can contribute to the well-being of those around them.

I came across this chore chart on the Maria Montessori facebook page.

Is Your Home Winterized?

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January can often seem bleak after the Christmas decorations are tucked away for next year.  Mine are still up as we celebrate Christmas in all of it’s 12 days glory.  We will take them down after the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, which will be celebrated in my Church this year on Sunday, the 8th.  We have a tradition with friends of ours in which we get our families together to share a meal and exchange some small gifts for Epiphany.  It’s a lovely end to our Christmas celebrations.

However, as the year moves on and the decorations disappear there can be a sort of left-down feeling.  I used to feel this keenly when I was younger but now that I’m older and am mainly the one who “puts on” Christmas, I often feel a sense of relief and a lightness when the trappings are stored away and things are returned to ordinary.  Even so, January days can be bleak and dreary as the month wears on.  That’s when my mind turns to winterizing my home.  It means providing the instruments for hibernation, reflection and coziness.

They include the following.

Light.  Keep extra sources of light around to bring warmth to dreary days and nights.  Have mini lights draped along the mantel and shelves.  Get out plenty of candles and put at least one in each room.  Either battery operated or the real deal, matters not.  I prefer battery operated on a timer but for my dining table, I like to have a real candle to light for our evening meal.  That living light, even if it’s just a votive on a lazy susan, makes the meal and the time together feel somehow more special.  Candle lights in the windows can also be a welcoming sight for those returning home after dark.

Blankets.  I keep a stack of throws on a small bench in my living room so there’s plenty to go around for everyone when we are gathered in there.  Each bed also gets a throw that is folded at it’s foot for when relaxing or napping is in order during the day.  January is a great time to stock up on inexpensive throws that are usually on Christmas clearance prices.

Cardigans.  Everyone should have a neutral cardigan as a part of their wardrobe that they can quickly grab when winter chill sets in.  I keep one on the desk chair in my kitchen for easy access.  These are also great January sale finds.

Slippers and socks.  A must for walking across bare floors on chilly days.

Basket of hats, gloves and scarves.  I have a basket on a bench by our door that is filled with an assortment of these for everyone in the family so they can be quickly grabbed on our way out and put away when we come in.

Books and seed catalogs on end tables and bedside tables.  Keep small piles of books and magazines that are of interest to the readers in your house on tables where they may be enticed to dive in when winter boredom takes hold.  Seed catalogs are great to pour over in anticipation of Spring if you plant flowers and/or a vegetable garden.

Teas and hot chocolate.  These are nice to display in a tray or basket on the counter by the stove or microwave.  Have an assortment.  They come in handy to offer visitors a hot drink as well as serving the family’s daily beverage needs.  You can also add some spoons, sweeteners and maybe a bottle of honey to really make getting that hot drink convenient.

Flowers and plants.  Try to have at least one in each room of the house.  Flowers, whether potted violets, leftover Poinsettias or some inexpensive carnations from the grocery store, add a spot of cheerfulness to a room.  Potted plants are good for purifying the air and keeping a little reminder of the outdoors when we are mostly stuck inside as the weeks drag on.

Humidifier.  If you can find one on sale, these are great to have in the house during the winter.  They cut down on static and help immensely with dry skin and dealing with cold symptoms as they so often occur during this time of year.

Lotions. Speaking of dry skin, put a nice bottle of hand lotion at each sink in the house and stock bedrooms and the bathroom with your favorite body lotion to keep that itchy, winter skin at bay.

I hope these suggestions are helpful in making your home cozy and restful this winter.  Please share your favorite ways to beat the winter blahs….

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“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” ― Edith Sitwell

 

Tis the Season for Baking…

My little homemaking blog here has been neglected a lot lately and I hope to do better after the new year begins.  I thought I’d take at least a moment to throw some seasonal humor your way.  We all have images in our minds of what this season should look like but it’s usually messy, chaotic, and stressful.  If you’re the one who does most of the work of pulling off Christmas and all that that entails from shopping and wrapping to decorating and cooking, then plan on having a little downtime for yourself when things get back to normal (whatever that is) after the season is over.  Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all!

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In Which I Ramble On About Home Decor….Otherwise known as Clutter

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A recent post I read, that mentioned such frivolous things as soap bottle dresses, got me thinking in general about home decor.  Here are some of my rambling and disjointed thoughts. I would love for you to share your own opinions in the comments.

I’ve always thought of things like soap bottle dresses, covers for tissue boxes, doilies, throw pillows for the couch, table cloths, place mats and even rugs in the kitchen, as just more stuff I have to fuss with and clean. I already have to sweep and mop the kitchen floor. Why would I want to move several rugs and have to launder them too? My mom always had a table cloth or place mats on her kitchen and dining room tables. We had to push them aside to lay the plates on the table because she didn’t want them to get stained. What was the point in messing with them if they aren’t something that gets used?

The home is all the better with SOME tasteful decor to create atmosphere but care must be taken that you don’t have so much that you become enslaved to it’s upkeep or that you have to tip-toe through the house so as not to knock things over. Too much clutter is oppressive. When you have tons of it, nothing special really stands out. It all just kind of blends together.

Invest most of your money into things that are both decorative AND useful. Make sure these are items that can be used year round. Try not to spend a lot of money on seasonal decorations that only see the light of day for 1-3 months a year. Shop after-season sales and yard/garage sales for holiday decor.

Don’t buy too much and load up every room. Rather, pick one or two focal points in each room to change up with seasonal decor. Maybe decorate the mantel of the fireplace in the living room, a centerpiece on the dining room table, a wall shelf in the kitchen and bath, a wreath at the entryways, and a small display on the table by the entrance. It’s simply too much to cover most surfaces for this type of fleeting decor. Stick to timeless symbols of each season as well. Owls, for example, may be a current decorating fad but you don’t need one with a santa hat and one that is decorated like an Easter egg for Spring, and yet another grinning and holding a great big Valentine. Next year, when fat cats become all the rage, your seasonal owls will seem stale.

This not-falling-for-fads includes year-round decor fads as well.  Those decorative roosters or country berry sprays come and go. If some new fad does come around that really speaks to you, then do buy a special piece or two. Don’t, however, make a heavy investment in buying everything with a rooster stamped on it. If you want to be “in” when entertaining, buy pretty disposable plates and napkins with roosters or even display kitchen towels and potholders with them. By the time the towels wear out the roosters will have worn out their welcome as well and you can replace them with the smiling raccoons that have descended on store shelves.

Because we are in the season of autumn, which includes Halloween, let me mention that aside from three pieces that are specifically Halloween, (a witch, a ghost and a skeleton), or five that are specifically Thanksgiving (a three piece pilgrim family and two turkeys), the rest of my decor is harvest/fall leaves and follows the principle of choosing only one or two focal points per room to display them. Most of my decor can stay up the whole three months of autumn and the few specific holiday items I have can be stored in a drawer and take just a minute to put up and remove. This season where there is a big holiday each month is already too busy without lugging boxes and boxes of Halloween stuff out of the attic only to turn around in a couple weeks to pack up and bring out the turkeys and cornucopia to THEN turn around and pack that up to get out the Christmas displays. It’s too much. If your neighbor wants to go all hung-ho, enjoy the visual delights of their work while you rest in the simplicity of your Fall decorative flag, pumpkin and pot of mums on your walkway and the autumn wreath on your front door.

I prefer something like this simple nod to the season for my own decorating (not my house)…..

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although I do like the visual charm of this.

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However, this second type of decorating goes from a simple recognition of the season’s change to putting forth precious time and effort to entertain and delight passersby.  Nothing at all wrong with that if you have the means, the time, and desire to entertain but in reality, most of us don’t have the money or time for this.  If you want to acknowledge a simple change of seasons, do the first one.  If you want to entertain your neighbors with the thrill of a bounteous display, do the second one.  If the second one brings you more stress and frustration instead of joy, question why you need to entertain in this way. I certainly appreciate it when others offer up such decorative eye-candy for my viewing pleasure but am not inclined myself to spend time and money on such things.

What about you?  What is your philosophy on the why/how of home and seasonal decorating?  Give us your thoughts.

Plain and Simple Weekend Cooking For an Easier Week

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I’m not a big fan of the once-a-month cooking movement.  I don’t know about anyone else, but spending a day or two in the kitchen every month while laundry piles up and the house turns to chaos is not my idea of time well spent.  If you have to spend a couple days to recover other things that have been neglected over the weekend or double-up on chores beforehand in order to make time to focus on one thing, then it’s not worth the effort.

I prefer to focus on plain and simple cooking on the weekends to make week night meals easier.  Nothing fancy and nothing that takes a whole lot of time.  I prepare food that can cook on its own with minimal prep or a simple recipe that is no more than 15 minutes from start to finish so I can focus on keeping up with laundry or even relax a little.

The following ideas are examples of plain and simple cooking.  Don’t do the whole list but pick and choose however many you want to do and that will fit into your family’s plans.

Scramble a dozen or so eggs.  They keep for up to three days in the fridge and can be microwaved quickly (about 30 seconds or so for one serving) in the morning to eat with toast.   Don’t forget they can be a decent lunch or dinner in a pinch as well.

Peel several oranges, grapefruit or clementines and keep in a plastic container for easy access at breakfast or when packing lunches.  They also encourage healthy snacking.

Cut up veggies such as cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery etc.  These are also easy to use for sides and snacking.  Don’t forget to make some dip to go along.  If they aren’t getting eaten up by mid-week, add them to your dinner in some way (salads, sauces, soups, casseroles) or freeze them for a future meal.

Make a big pot of rice (say enough for 3 or 4 meals).  Divide the cooked rice into containers and use as a side or a base for a stir fry.  You can also freeze rice if you don’t want to use it during the week.

Roast or slow cook a large portion of meat.  It can be a turkey, a couple chickens, a beef or pork roast.  Don’t do a recipe.  Keep it simple.  A little salt and pepper.  A little oil if needed and let it go.  When it’s done, divide it into containers for meals and lunches.  The idea is to not make the meat itself an entree but to have it available for soups, stir-fry’s, casseroles, sauce etc.

Cook up a big pot of oatmeal or cream of wheat for easy morning reheating or try a quick granola recipe for cold cereal or yogurt add-ins.

Prepare a large container of salad and make a homemade dressing or two.

Hard boil a dozen eggs.  Use them for an on-the-go breakfast, chopped into a salad or to throw together an egg salad for sandwiches.

Simmer some fresh or frozen broccoli, asparagus or other veggies in a few cups of broth.  Stir in a roux and blend in a blender or with a stick blender, add some milk, salt and pepper and you have a cream of veggie soup for lunches or dinner.

Throw 5-10 whole sweet potatoes or regular potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour or so.  This makes a quick reheat side for dinner as is or scoop out the potatoes to mash.

Open some cans of tuna and mix up some tuna salad or use some of that roasted chicken for chicken salad.

Cook a pound of sausage links.(chicken, turkey, pork or beef) This is great on buns or mixed with rice and sauteed veggies for a quick weeknight meal.

Brown a few pounds of ground beef.  Some for the freezer and a pound for the week.

Oven bake a pound or two of bacon.

Precook a box of pasta.

This simple, weekend cooking is about getting the base of entree’s and sides cooked and ready to go for the week.  If you menu plan, you can use your menu as a guide as far as what you choose to prepare.  If you like to wing it, then you can use what’s in your fridge and cupboards that needs used up and can be made simply.  Then during the week, let what you were able to prep on the weekend be your inspiration for a meal.  And hey, don’t forget if you have older children, teach them these simple cooking methods. They are good skills for them to have and they can help contribute to the weekly meals too.

Please add your own thoughts in the comments below.  We can all benefit from more ideas.

PS- I started another blog on topics other than homemaking if you like to read and discuss commentary on life, home, culture and family.  Go here to check it out.