Spicy Ginger Peanut Pasta

pasta

So my brother (who is obsessed with Asian food!) lived with us for a little while and always made this pasta dish that he created.  Now that he’s moved out, I still crave it all the time!  So I decided to give it a whirl, but I added in peanut butter because I’m obsessed with the Spicy Peanut Bowl at a noodle place nearby and was hoping to create something similar.  It turned out super yummy, was surprisingly really easy to make and as a bonus, the left-overs freeze really well!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups steamed broccoli

1 1/2 cups coleslaw mix

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

4 oz. brown rice noodles, cooked according to package

2-3 tablespoons red chili paste (depending on how spicy you like it)

3 tablespoons ginger paste

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons peanut butter

salt and pepper to taste

sunflower seeds & chow mein noodles to garnish

What to do:

  • In a skillet, saute steamed broccoli, onion, coleslaw mix and garlic in olive oil until tender.  At the same time, cook brown rice noodles according to package
  • Once vegetables are fully cooked, add red chili paste, ginger paste, soy sauce and peanut butter.  Stir until fully mixed
  • Drain pasta and add to vegetable/sauce mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste (if it’s too sticky, add more soy sauce to liking)
  • Top with sunflower seeds and chow mein noodles right before serving

Hope you enjoy! 🙂

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Easy Freezer Meals

freezer meals

If you’re like me, before you know it dinnertime has rolled around again and you’re left wondering what to make/what you have the ingredients for/what’s quick, because let’s be honest…some days we’re just not in the mood to spend a half hour or better in the kitchen cooking!  Not to mention busy days/nights where you simply just don’t have the time to make something.  That’s when I either make some sort of processed junk that’s quick or invite ourselves to my parents for dinner so that I don’t have to think about it!

In an attempt to solve my little problem of “what to make for dinner” on those nights, I decided to make up some easy freezer meals to have on hand that I can pop into the oven and have a work-free homemade meal!  This week I only made 3 meals, trying to stick with ingredients that I had in the cupboards already.  I ended up with: stuffed shells, 2 pans of lasagna and tater tot casserole.  **Note: my recipes are for 2-3 servings, or to fill an 8×8 pan**

Grocery List (for all 3 meals):

1 package of Lasagna noodles

1 box of jumbo shells

1 large jar of spaghetti sauce, optional: 1 jar of alfredo sauce

1 large container of ricotta cheese

1 package each of shredded mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar cheese

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1 package of frozen tater tots

1 can of cream of mushroom or celery soup

1 package of frozen peas and corn

Seasonings/spices: I like to use garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, onion powder

 

Stuffed Shells (I made a pan of 10 stuffed shells)

  • Brown 1/2 lb. ground beef and season to liking.  At the same time, cook shells according to packaging
  • Mix together 1 cup of ricotta cheese, 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, basil and Italian seasoning
  • Remove cooked ground beef from heat, let cool and mix with room temperature spaghetti sauce (making it as saucy or meaty as you like)
  • Drain and rinse cooked shells in cold water
  • Spread a thin layer of meat sauce mixture or alfredo sauce at the bottom of an 8×8 baking tin
  • Stuff shells with ricotta mixture, place in a single layer in the pan and cover with meat sauce
  • Sprinkle a little parmesan and mozzarella cheese over the top and cover with tin foil and/or lid
  • To cook: remove tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until heated thoroughly and cheese is bubbly.

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Lasagna (I made 2 8×8 pans, each pan half meat, half no meat)

  • Brown 1/2 lb. ground beef and season to liking. At the same time, cook lasagna noodles according to packaging
  • Mix together the rest of the container of ricotta cheese, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, basil and Italian seasoning
  • Remove cooked ground beef from heat, let cool and mix with room temperature spaghetti sauce (making it as saucy or meaty as you like)
  • Drain and rinse cooked noodles in cold water
  • Spread a thin layer of meat sauce mixture or alfredo sauce at the bottom of an 8×8 baking tin
  • Layer noodles, ricotta mixture, meat sauce/spaghetti sauce on non-meat half, and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.  Repeat
  • Top with another layer of noodles, a little bit of sauce and a good amount of mozzarella/parmesan cheese.  Cover with tin foil and/or lid
  • To cook: remove tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes or until heated thoroughly and cheese is bubbly.
  • **Note: to make the entire pan meaty, increase your ground beef by another 1/2 lb.**

lasagna

Tater Tot Casserole (I made 2 8×8 pans, each pan half meat, half no meat)

  • Brown 1/2 lb. ground beef and season to liking.  Remove from heat and let cool
  • Mix together 1/2 can cream of celery or mushroom soup, cooked meat, salt and pepper and frozen vegetables if desired.  Mix the other half of the can of soup with salt and pepper and frozen vegetables.
  • Spray the bottom of 8×8 pan with cooking spray
  • Spread 1/2 meat mixture on one side, 1/2 vegetable mixture on the other side
  • Cover with a generous amount of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Top with frozen tater tots.  Cover with tin foil and/or lid
  • To cook: remove tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until bubbly and tater tots are browned.
  • **Note: to make the entire pan meaty, increase your ground beef by 1/2 lb.**

tater tot casserole

I’m telling you, freezer meals are the way to go!  The next time you’re in the mood to cook, take advantage and stock your freezer.  A few hours of labor and a one time kitchen cleanup will result in several meals ready to pop in the oven whenever you need them!  Check back in a couple weeks… I just might have a few new recipes for you!

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Happy Fall {+ a Weekly Craft!}

Well, it’s October so that means it’s officially Fall, right?  This means pumpkin patches, bonfires, hayrack rides, apple orchards and pumpkin flavored everything.  Here in the Midwest where we’re blessed to have seasons, Fall also signifies a change.  The leaves on our trees go from green to deep shades of red, purple, yellow and orange, eventually they fall to the ground leaving bare branches, the weather is changing as well, we’re met with cool, sunny days and crisp, chilly nights.  We feel this sense of urgency to take advantage of the nice days we have spending as much time outside as we can before the weather really makes a change as winter sets in in the days ahead.  Even the smell in the air changes, a mix of burning leaves, fields being harvested and cooler air.

In this season of change, where the holidays are right around the corner, what better time to reflect on the blessings in your life.  Perhaps in doing so you’ll come up with some things you’d like to change about yourself, about your surroundings, about your life.  And during this season of change it seems appropriate, don’t you think?

 

In honor of Fall, my favorite season of the year, I thought it would be fun to post weekly Fall-related crafts!  M LOVES arts and crafts so I’m always looking for cute little projects for us to do together: this week we made handprint leaves!

It was super easy and turned out so cute!  All you do is paint your kiddos palms with craft paint, have them stamp their handprints and when the paint’s dry, draw on the veins and stems of the leaves with a brown Sharpie.  Happy crafting!! 🙂  And check back next week for another fun Fall craft!

handprint leaves

My Baby Is 2!

This past weekend we celebrated our sweet little girl’s second birthday!  I can’t believe how quickly these past two years have flown by and my baby has grown into a sassy, super smart, full of personality, sweet little girl.  These days it seems like everyday she learns something new or says something new – it’s such a fun age!

2-year-old M in a Nutshell

Favorite food: hotdogs, clementines

Favorite drink: it’s a close tie between apple juice and milk I would say (depending on her mood)

Favorite show: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

Best friend: mommy 🙂 or gamma, daddy, papa….

Favorite past time: swinging, reading books, playing with puzzles

Nicknames: Pippy, Mina, Monkey (to Aunt Sissy)

Here are some highlights from her birthday party!

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Happy birthday baby girl.  Mommy loves you more that you’ll ever know and I’m so proud of the little girl you are.  I thank God every single day for giving me you! ❤

Back to (Home) School!

preschool

The fall and “Back to School” time has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  When I was younger and in school myself I couldn’t wait to get back into the school routine and be with my friends.  I guess it’s the teacher in me but even through college I would get so excited at the prospect of getting to go school supply shopping and pack my bag the night before classes started. This excitement was multiplied by like 10 when I actually started teaching in my own classroom.  Getting to set up the room, decorate bulletin boards, print off class lists, all in anticipation for that first day!

Now that I stay home with M, last year there wasn’t really much of that back to school excitement because it wasn’t happening for me anymore.  This year however, I’m feeling it again as I get her little school corner ready in her toy room and sift through all the different types of homeschool preschool curriculum that’s out there!!  I’ve decided to teach her a basic, 2-year-old curriculum to not only develop her learning skills in terms of counting, colors, shapes, etc., but also to build that early foundation for a love of learning with her.

Who knew there were so many different homeschool preschool curriculums out there?!  As I started doing more and more research, I was bombarded with different curriculum on all ends of the spectrum, from free and very basic, to complete preschool kits that arrive in a box each month and contain everything you will possibly need for that month’s learning (and by the way cost more than it does to send your kid to actual preschool!!!)  So I decided that just in case there were any other mama’s out there in my same boat wondering where to start, I would compile a list of resources that I’ve found online!  For the most part, there are 2 types of curriculum out there: just the curriculum (teacher lessons, schedules, supply lists, etc.) and curriculum kits (boxes that contain everything you’ll need to teach your little one including lessons and schedules, posters, craft supplies/materials, books, CDs and more).

Low Cost Basic Preschool Curriculum

  • Brightly Beaming Resources – this curriculum focuses on early childhood learning for ages 0-8.  There are several curriculums to choose from depending on age and what skills you would like to focus on.  The one that I looked at was tailored for preschoolers ages 2-4 and was called Preparatory Curriculum.  The idea is that after completion of this curriculum, your child will be ready to transition into their Letter a Day program.  The Preparatory Curriculum follows a 5-day/week schedule and incorporates books, poems, songs and activities that go along with each week’s theme.  All materials are online and require you to either recreate them or print them out as needed.  There aren’t actual crafts that I could find, but if you are the slightest bit creative I think it would be really easy to come up with one each week!  Cost: FREE!  Sample lesson
  • ABC Jesus Loves Me – this is a self described “bible-based preschool curriculum through play” focused on ages 2-5.  The program is broken down into 3 different curriculum depending on age, so naturally I looked at the 2-year-old program.  What I really like about this program is that they have clear objectives for each age level and provide a detailed weekly schedule to follow.  The 2-year-old program follows a 3-day/week schedule for 36 weeks and includes a weekly bible story, verse and song, as well as a book, color, shape and self care/manners skill of the week.  There are multiple crafts and activities and although you have to provide your own materials, they do a really good job of providing you with an “Items Needed” list each week.  In addition to being able to print off all the activities and lesson plans online, you are also able to purchase the curriculum and workbooks for $30 so that all you have to do is tear them out each day if that’s the route you want to take.  Another thing that I really like about this particular curriculum is that they include both fine motor and gross motor skill activities to do each week!  Cost: FREE! (Unless you choose to purchase the workbooks/lessons so that you don’t have to print everything off)  Sample lesson
  • Preschool Palace – this is a great program if you are willing to put in a little work.  All lessons, materials, posters, etc. are sent to you electronically and you have to print it off yourself.  However, much like the other basic curriculums I’ve discussed, if you are willing to take on the printing, you’ll have a great binder full of activities and lessons!  This curriculum is designed for ages 3-5, with 20 lessons per month and 10 months of materials.  According to their website, “Daily lesson plans are easy to follow and implement. Materials needed are simple and low-cost. Most daily lesson plans include circle time activities/themes, a movement activity, sensory activity, craft ideas, and a printable worksheet.”  There are two curriculum options available: one where letters are taught in order and one based more on a Montessori approach where the letters are taught based on relevance, rather than order.  Cost: $10/10 months of materials  Sample lesson

Cost Involved Curriculum Kits

  • Funshine Express – this is a 2-month at a time, boxed curriculum that gets sent to you in the mail.  Your starter box contains an attendance chart, weather chart and color/shape chart.  Then, each curriculum box contains a curriculum guide, board books, puppets, vocabulary cards, story props and more, as well as materials for 12 crafts.  There are 2 kits available: one for ages 18-36 months and one for 3-5 years.  Daily lessons are divided into language development, cognitive development, physical development and social/emotional development.  There are also specific colors and shapes focused on in each box.  This is an all inclusive preschool curriculum complete with materials and step by step directions on how to go about instructing your child.  Cost: approximately $380/year (not including shipping)  Sample lesson
  • Mother Goose Time – “Mother Goose Time is a research-based preschool curriculum that fosters a joy for learning through sensory-based experiences.” (Mother Goose Time website)  This program is a complete preschool curriculum boxed kit delivered to your home each month.  Each box contains activities, crafts and materials for 20 days worth of lessons.  Not only are there skill building activities, but also circle time activities, a CD with corresponding music and hands-on projects for your child to explore.  Also included are a teaching guide, planning journal, skills checklist and materials list for each month.  This really is an in-depth, comprehensive program that can make teaching easy even for parents with no education background themselves!  Cost: $569/Sept-May (including shipping)  Sample lesson
  • Timberdoodle – this particular curriculum comes in a variety of different kits depending on the age range being targeted.  I looked at the Preschool kit, created for 2-3 year olds.  Something nice about this curriculum is that there are two ways to complete it based on your child and the pace you choose to take with him or her.  You can stretch the materials out to cover two full years of learning, or take the fast track and complete all the lessons in one year.  You can also choose from a basic kit, complete kit and elite kit, depending on the amount of materials and activities that you want.  Like the other curriculum kits that I’ve talked about, this kit is comprehensive and not only includes the Curriculum/Scheduling Guide, but also workbooks, puzzles, books, manipulatives/toys, science experiments and more.  This one time kit literally includes everything you will need with the exception of some paper and crayons!!  The only downfall that I can find is that I don’t see much in the way of arts and crafts.  It seems like this particular curriculum may be more science/hands-on/manipulation based rather than art based (which might be perfect depending on your child’s personality!) Cost: $189-$549/year (depending on which kit you choose)  Sample lesson (I couldn’t really find a sample lesson, but the link takes you to what’s included in the kit!)
  • Learning Box – much like many of the other curriculum kits, this program offers different types of kits depending on the age group being targeted.  For 2-4 year olds, Learning Box has what they call the Little Box Program.  Each box arrives monthly and includes supplies for activities 3 days a week.  Included are: curriculum guide, monthly displays including a calendar, weather chart, color/number/shape posters, vocabulary cards, action stories, sensory items, music CD and an “assortment of Projects, Crafts, Books, and Activities!
    (with materials included)”  Daily lessons include circle time, music/songs, stories, activities and crafts and more.  Cost: approximately $414/Sept-May (including shipping)  Sample lesson

I’m sure that there are TONS of other options out there, but these were the ones that I came across in my research.  Now, maybe you’re way more creative than this mama and if so, you might be able to come up with your own activities and write a curriculum to use.  But for the rest of us, hopefully this list will give you somewhere to start at least, like it did for me!

Have a great school year!

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Do you homeschool your preschooler and use a curriculum that you LOVE?!  I’d love to hear about it!!

 

Happiness Happens

In honor of National Happiness Happens Day last Friday, I’m joining Happy Family Organic Superfoods and bloggers all across the country to share how happiness happens in my life!

 

Happiness happens… when I’m surrounded by my family.

Happiness happens… as I lay in bed each morning cuddling miss M.

Happiness happens… during Saturday morning shopping trips with my mom and sister.

Happiness happens… on date nights with my hubby (that don’t happen often but are always special).

Happiness happens… playing games around the kitchen table with family and friends.

Happiness happens… watching my toddler learn new things everyday and her little personality take shape.

Happiness happens… each day that I get to live out my dream of being a stay-at-home mom.

Happiness happens… spending time outside soaking up the sunshine.

Happiness happens… in the quiet promise of each new morning.

Happiness happens… after a long day when the baby’s tucked into bed and hubby and I are laying on the couch watching a movie.

Happiness happens… watching the love my little girl has for her gamma, papa, aunt sissy and uncle buddy.

Happiness happens… in the hope of new life and the gift of tomorrow.

Happiness happens… in the newness of Spring.

Happiness happens… during the warm, sunshine filled days of Summer.

Happiness happens… as the leaves change colors and the scent of apples and pumpkins fill the crisp Fall air.

Happiness happens… in the quiet beauty of snowfall, during the hustle and bustle of the season as we celebrate the real reason for Christmas.

Happiness happens… every single day because of my beautiful little girl, husband and family.

Happiness happens… as a result of the immense blessings I’ve been given.

But most of all… 

Happiness happens… because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for all of our sins, the hope of my salvation through that and the assurance of my place in Heaven someday!

 

I hope this has inspired you to consider the happiness in your life!  Have a Happy day! 🙂

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Super Easy DIY Pallet Table

I’m so excited about my latest Pinterest project!  Earlier in the summer my dad brought me a couple pallets because he knew I was looking for some to do something crafty with and I finally got around to making what I had in mind last weekend: a table!

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It was super duper easy to make and the best part was it was super inexpensive, too!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 pallets (the same size)
  • exterior paint or spray paint in any color you’d like
  • patio blocks

All you do is paint all the sides of both pallets, nail them together and lay the patio bricks across the top!  That’s it!  Seriously, so easy!

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I put my table on our front deck and I can’t wait to decorate it this fall!  I’m thinking pumpkins, gourds, mums… so excited!

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