Monday, August 26, 2013

Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

Or how to take a perfectly healthy vegetable and make it less so!

My kids have never been fond of zucchini. Nor has my husband. I, on the other hand, could it eat it all the time! So I've struggled finding zucchini recipes that they'll like. Well, at least that they'd eat without groaning too much.

This recipe fits the bill. The sausage adds so much flavor. You can use chicken sausage or turkey sausage to cut down on the fat.

Here's what you need:

2 large zucchini (I've been having a hard time finding large ones this year)
1/2 pound sausage, browned and drained
2 TBSP sour cream
1 teas dried parsley
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/4 curry powder
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Parmesan, but cheddar is great, too!)

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise.
With a spoon or melon baller, scoop out the flesh of the zucchini.
Chop up the zucchini into small pieces. The smaller they are, the easier it is to stuff them back into the zucchini.
Combine with the remaining ingredients. Fill the hollowed-out zucchini with the sausage mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until zucchini shells are tender.
I will warn you, the zucchini has a lot of moisture, so your filling might be a little runny. This does not affect the deliciousness in any way. My kids gobble these up and ask for more!

Substitute other herbs or spices to suit your family's tastes. You could even use bacon in place of the sausage if you like. Make some stuffed zucchini today!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Menu Plan August 26 - September 1

And so the last week of August is here. It seems like I blinked and summer was gone! I'm really not complaining because fall is my favorite season. But I'd like to slow down a little. Just a bit.

But since time won't slow down, I'm going to keep up my routine of menu planning. Having a plan makes cooking so much more enjoyable. I can make an accurate store list and shop wisely. Then I know I have all the ingredients I need for the week, even if I don't cook the scheduled meal on the scheduled day. I don't have to rummage through the pantry, desperate to find something to feed my family. It's all planned out.

So here's what I've got planned for this week.

Chicken bacon subs, roasted potatoes

Steak bites, ratatouille

Beef, quinoa and potato soup

Stuffed zucchini, balsamic roasted carrots

Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread

Tilapia po'boys, veggie stir fry

Chicken and potatoes (crockpot)

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fresh Tomato Soup

Our garden went a little crazy this summer with all the rain we've had. So I needed to use up some of our bounty and this soup was perfect! It tasted so light and fresh, just like summer.
Here's what you need for the soup:

10-12 ripe tomatoes (about 3 lbs), washed and quartered
1 cup shredded carrots
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 TBSP minced garlic
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
1 1/2 teas sea salt
1 teas dried oregano
1 teas black pepper

In a large pot, simmer the tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and chicken broth for about an hour, covered. Squish the tomatoes up a little as they cook down.
Add the remaining ingredients and continue to cook for 15 more minutes or so.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, it's okay to use a regular blender. You'll need to puree in batches and don't fill the blender too full. The hot liquid will blow the lid off the blender if you're not careful. Ask me how I know.

If desired, stir a little milk or cream into each bowl.

If you don't have fresh tomatoes, I have another very easy tomato soup recipe you can try. It's delicious, too!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Not Back to School Blog Hop 2013 Student Week

Time for another round of the Not Back to School Blog Hop hosted by iHomeschool Network. The theme for this week's hop is students. After all, why would we be homeschooling if not for those sweet little darlings?

This is our seventh year homeschooling, and I've been reminiscing about how much my kids have grown and changed over the last few years.
And now here we are - 2013. They're almost teenagers, and one is already in the youth group. Wow!
So let me introduce you.
This is Mr. Lego. He's in 7th grade now. He has now surpassed me in height, though just by a little. We had to raise his desk up a couple notches to accommodate his long legs. His interests include Legos (of course), science fiction and Minecraft. His favorite school subject right now is computer programming, something we just started. He's going to be a computer geek like his dad - and I'm thrilled!

And this is the Princess. She's 11 years old and in the 6th grade. She's not quite as tall as I am (I'm 5'4" by the way) but she's gaining on me. She likes princesses, horses and American Girl dolls. Felicity is her favorite. Her most enjoyable school subject at this moment is science.

And as I have in the past, I have to include Student #3. That's what my other students call her. She's our dog, Alexandra whom we call Xandra (Zandra is how you pronounce it.) She doesn't contribute much to the class except lots of soulful expressions that beg for attention.

We've gotten off to a great start this year, and I'm looking forward to the coming weeks. The children are enjoying their studies, and I'm enjoying being their teacher. I count myself blessed to have such a sweet class!

Menu Plan August 19-25

We've had some wacky weather here in the Deep South. We've actually set records for the lowest high temps in August. That's right, low temps in August. Yesterday the Princess had a Sunday school swim party cancelled because it was too cold to go swimming. Our normal weather this time of year is hot, hot, hot. During the entire summer we've only reached 90 degrees 3 times!

So I've resorted to making soup - tomato soup and chicken chili! It's really been nice on these cool, rainy days. I did change the tomato soup recipe a bit to use up some of our fresh tomatoes. I'll post the changes later this week.

Now on to this week's menu.

Garlic chicken noodle bake, green beans

Beef, potato and quinoa soup

Chicken lasagna roll-ups, garlic bread

Chinese 5-spice beef and broccoli, rice

Crockpot Italian Parmesan herb chicken and potatoes

Ranch veggie pizza

Beef tips and gravy, noodles

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Georgia Aquarium Summer Field Trip

We live just a little over an hour from Atlanta, so the Georgia Aquarium makes a perfect field trip destination. This time we went with some friends and made some great memories, in addition to learning new things about aquatic creatures.

The Aquarium is divided into several galleries. My favorite is the Ocean Voyager section. I could sit and watch the fish, rays and whale sharks all day. They're mesmerizing.
I love this picture! All the technology represented in our group is so funny to me!
Can you see all four whale sharks in this picture?

The River Scout gallery included animals like otters and albino alligators.

The Cold Water Quest section was also very interesting. We loved watching the beluga whales dance. But the snow crabs looked mean. And creepy.

We found Nemo in the Tropical Diver gallery!

And saw a whole coral reef full of colorful fish! Is that Dory?

The Aquarium has added a dolphin show since our last visit. It is included in the price of your ticket, but shows are only a few times a day and seating is limited. We arrived at the theater about 20 minutes before show time and the place was almost packed. So definitely schedule that into your day if you want to see the dolphin show.

Photography and videography wasn't permitted in the theater, so I don't have any pictures of the show. The storyline was a little corny and didn't make sense at times. The dolphins, though, made up for the wacky story. They were absolutely amazing to watch. And the special effects were pretty cool. I'd go watch it again if I had the chance.

After the show, we hung out and watched the dolphins. They obviously enjoyed showing off for an audience!

Everyone had a fantastic time, and we plan to go back. If you're in the Atlanta area and are looking for an educational, fun way to spend the day, check out the Georgia Aquarium.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Simple Cucumber and Tomato Salad

We've had a bumper crop of tomatoes this summer, so I've been preparing this easy salad nearly every week. The Princess and I love to snack on it in the afternoons.

I don't usually measure, just slice up the tomatoes and cucumbers I have on hand and layer them in a container, sprinkling each layer with a little sea salt. Then I pour about 1/2 cup of Italian dressing over the layers. I crumble some feta cheese over the top, thencover and refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend a little.
After a few hours, I stir the mixture, then scoop some onto a plate and enjoy!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Not Back to School Blog Hop 2013 Week 2

It's the second week of the Not Back to School Blog Hop hosted by iHomeschool Network. Last week we shared our curriculum plans. Now it's time to share our school rooms!

When we started homeschooling seven years ago, we used the dining room table. Every day I had to pack things up so we'd have a place to eat dinner. I had a craft armoire that I used to store all of our books and supplies. It was cramped to be sure.

We moved to a new house in 2009 so now we have a dedicated school room. It's a small space, only 11x7. But at the end of the day, no packing up our stuff! Yay! I can just shut the door to avoid anyone seeing our daily messes accomplishments.

We start our school day here, then more often than not we drift out into other areas of the house - the den or the playroom often is where you'll find us. Those spaces have comfy furniture and TV's so we can watch DVD's or Netflix movies that go along with our studies.
My desk is the first thing you see when you enter our school room. It will only be this clean for a day or two until we start school. Then you'll be lucky to see its surface for the rest of the year! Thankfully, I have a Desk Apprentice, that big black thing in the corner, that allows me to stay organized. I keep all of my daily planning sheets and school supplies - Sharpies, stapler, paper trimmer, paper clips and more - in this thing.
The kids' desks are to my right, the Princess on the left and Mr. Lego on the right. We got the desks at a local office supply store after we moved into this house. The height is adjustable, so they will grow as the kids do. That feature came in really handy when we had to raise Mr. Lego's desk two notches so his knees would fit under it!
One of my favorite things about having a school room is being able to decorate the walls. We never could do that at our old house.
This is the other wall, our Wall of Presidents. I've left some room to add more as we go this year. The white board is really shower board from Lowe's. A sheet of it was here in the house when we moved in, so hubby just cut it to fit and screwed it into the wall. Not bad for free, huh?

This is what I use to adhere my posters to the wall. I previously used sticky tack, but it took the paint with it whenever I removed the posters from the wall. This stuff, Magic Mounts by Miller Studio, is amazing! It comes down easily (no paint peeling) and if I'm careful when I take them off the poster itself, I can reuse them on another poster! I picked these up at Office Max last year and still have plenty left.
This is the view from the kids' desk looking toward my desk. I adore having the large wall maps up and easily visible. Maps make me happy for some reason.
Looking out the school room window, you can see our driveway and front walk. We're a little below ground level, since the school room is located on the bottom floor of our tri-level home. We have a neighborhood cat that likes to sit by our window and look in, until the dog notices and barks at it. We also have chipmunks, squirrels and birds that hop around the walk. Maybe that's why the cat comes around?

So what does your school room look like? Link up to the Not Back to School Blog Hop and share!

Menu Plan August 12 - August 18

We're gearing up for a busy week here in the Deep South! Our first day of school starts on Monday! It's the beginning of our 7th year of homeschooling, and I'm still amazed at how quickly the years have flown by. It seems like we just started!

I just remembered something - I haven't shared pictures of our trip to the Georgia Aquarium on August 1. It was so much fun!  We've been there several times, but each time we go, we learn so many new things. This was a new addition since our last visit, a dolphin show! I love how this guy (or girl?) looks like he's smiling at us!

I'll post more pictures later this week.

Now on to this week's menu:

BBQ chicken pizza

Coconut curry chicken soup

Beef and bean taco casserole, corn

Baked egg rolls, sesame garlic noodles

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes

Grilled chicken, Greek lemon roasted potatoes

Philly cheesesteak sloppy joes, green beans
For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Quinoa Burrito Bowls

I've been trying to incorporate more meatless meals into my menu planning, and this is one of my family's favorites. It's simple and quick to prepare, so of course, I love it. And with quinoa as the base, I'm happy we're getting a complete protein even though there's no meat in the dish. Though I have been known to toss in some leftover grilled chicken or steak, just to use it up.

Here's what you need:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups liquid (I use chicken stock and water)

For the sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 TBSP milk
1-2 teas taco seasoning

For the seasoning (not the same as the taco seasoning in the sauce)
1 teas. each garlic powder, smoked paprika, curry powder, celery seed and sea salt

Toppings of your choice : chopped lettuce or cabbage, diced tomatoes, chopped avocado, black beans, corn, salsa, onions, shredded cheese, cilantro - anything you'd like on a taco or burrito

 Combine the quinoa and liquid in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.

While the quinoa is cooking, blend the sauce ingredients. You could do this earlier in the day if you wanted to.

In a small bowl, combine the seasoning ingredients.

When the quinoa is cooked, start building your burrito bowl. I really like that every family member can customize this to his/her own tastes.
Start with the quinoa in a large bowl or on a plate. Add several dollops of the sauce. Then layer on the toppings and sprinkle about 1/2 teas of the seasoning over all.
Using a fork, mix the burrito bowl together.
How yummy does that look?

Variations :
If you don't like quinoa, brown rice is a great substitute!

For unique flavor twists, use different flavors of salsa like peach mango or green salsa.

Mrs. Dash seasonings are great to use if you don't have the ingredients for the seasoning blend.