Keeping the magic alive

It’s been a long week. Keeping up with our Advent calendar, holiday parties, packing for our trip back to New Jersey. Tonight, V, our daughter, offered to stay awake to help me finish cleaning the house and pack and do laundry. Continue reading “Keeping the magic alive”

Holiday Bookmarks

This month is booked with holiday activities, and one of our favorites has been making holiday bookmarks for use with our holiday library collection. We don’t own a laminator, but we didn’t let that stop us, and nor should you!

You’ll need:

Construction paper (green, red, or yellow)

Crayons

Hole Puncher

Holiday ribbon

A Printer

Packing Tape

Glue Stick

We broke down this activity into two fun projects: coloring and assembling. Follow this link for bookmark coloring pages, download, and print. Let the kids color them first, and afterwards cut them out and glue over larger, rectangular cuts of construction paper. Carefully apply packing tape so that it covers both top and bottom, using scissors to trim the sides where necessary. Lastly, punch a hole at the top and tie some decorative ribbon for that final, festive touch! Use these with your favorite holiday themed books so the kids can immediately appreciate their usefulness.

Tip: When it comes to wrapping paper, ribbons, and the like, we love to shop big the day after Christmas for major discounts. A year flies by, and the savings really add up! Happy Holidays!

Benefits of Homeschooling: No Judging

The most rewarding aspects of homeschooling aren’t found in high grades or academic achievements, but in unexpected moments of character. The latest occurred just last night, outside of our daughter’s dance practice. Our seven year old son, Jacob, struck up a conversation with another boy his age. That boy was a proud dancer, going so far as to wear a shirt that said dance like a boy. His demeanor suggested that while he may have accepted himself and his own tastes, he was also keenly aware that other people, namely boys his age, are much less open-minded. My delight in his interaction with Jacob was in watching this boy steadily lower his guard.

“I dance,” he told Jacob. “And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“So what?” was Jacob’s reply. “I dance too.” At home, we all dance.

Jacob then asked if this boy knew his sister, Vanessa, from class. The boy, with obvious reluctance, informed Jacob the he wouldn’t know her from school, because, “[he]’s a homeschooler.” “No, I mean from dance class,” said Jacob, unfazed. “We’re homeschoolers too.”

That surprised the boy, and almost instantly, he smiled.

There was no judgment in Jacob’s tone, no expectations about who this child should be or how he should behave. As a result, this boy got to be himself. This is exactly what we cherish about homeschooling: the opportunity for our kids to be themselves, without fear of judgement or ridicule. So happy I got to witness this 🙂

Homemade Brunch Burgers

We love burgers. And eggs. And guacamole. So for lunch yesterday we combined the three for what turned into a unanimous crowd pleaser. Even better, my nine year old made the burgers, and I finished them on the grille. Lunch and a lesson? Perfect.

Brunch Burgers

80/20 ground beef

salt

pepper

eggs

guacamole

iceberg lettuce

Burgers:

Separate ground beef into single serve portions. Flatten and shape into patties. Using a butter knife, press hashtags into the meat to prevent it from balling up when cooking. Generously sprinkle top and bottom with salt and pepper. There are countless burger patty recipes out there (and my wife has her own that I love), but a burger as delicious as the one pictured above needs little more than salt and pepper. Grille for approximately three minutes on each side, or until firm but not yet hard (you’re aiming for a medium, which should be warm and pink throughout), and set aside. Add a single fried egg (yolk should be runny, with no raw egg white anywhere to be found), guacamole, lettuce, and your favorite buns and you’re done. The guacamole adds freshness to the burger, whereas the yolk lends an irresistibly silky richness that’ll keep you, and your harshest critics, coming back for more.

Tip: For added flavor, lightly saute the bottoms of your burger buns with butter.

Recipes to follow.

Pressure Cooked Lemon Pepper Chicken

wp-1449513862755.jpgThis recipe made for a flavorful, quick, and tender dish. The ingredients are few and simple, and with some tweaks here and there the dish can easily be changed. The best part about pressure cooking isn’t necessarily how quickly it cooks (although that is a plus) so much as how little of a mess was made compared to using a conventional oven.

Pressure Cooked Lemon Pepper Chicken

Bone in Chicken (Dark meat?!)

1/2 cup white wine

coarse salt and pepper

1 whole lemon

Flour

(Optional: Brown chicken on all sidesAdd wine to pressure cooker. Evenly coat chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Add to pressure cooker with lemon halves and set cook time for 7 minutes. After cooking, remove chicken from pressure cooker and pour juices into a separate container. Allow 2 minutes to settle, and using a spoon, carefully remove the top layer of fat from the broth until only the juices remain. Return to pressure cooker (if you have a saute option, otherwise pan saute over medium heat), and slowly add flour while stirring until your gravy achieves desired thickness. Add to chicken, toss to coat, and enjoy!

Tip: Add a whole head of peeled garlic in place of the lemon and throw in some rosemary to mix things up.

Another Tip: This dish is perfect for large portions! After cooking, separate and freeze your leftovers for another day.

Pressure Cooker Top Round Beef Stew

 

We just got a pressure cooker, which means many a pressure cooker recipes are to come! This first recipe is for beef stew. The actual cook time was 25 minutes, with a 15 minute prep time for chopping veggies and preheating. The finished product tasted like it had been cooking for hours!

Pressure Cooker Beef Stew

Top Round Steak

Red Wine (Cab/Merlot/Zinfandel/Port*)

Water**

Chopped onions

Finely Chopped Celery

Skinned Whole Carrots

Salt

Pepper

Rosemary

Flour

Sear off the steak, about 2-3 minutes on each side (this locks in the flavor). Add steak to pressure cooker, just barely submerging in wine & water, at about a 3-1 ratio (3 parts wine, 1 part water). Cover with veggies. Sprinkle generously with course sea salt, pepper, and rosemary. Set pressure cooker for 25 minutes (we cook at 15psi pressure). If your cooker isn’t too full, quick release is acceptable when finished, otherwise we recommend natural release. When finished, remove steak from broth, add flour to broth is small batches, mix, and continue to due so until desired consistency is reached. Recombine with steak and enjoy!

Tip: Although delicious as is, a night in the refrigerator will add some extra depth to this already flavorful dish.

* Port will add a touch of sweetness to the soup.

**Water can be omitted entirely. I’ve made soup with nothing but port before to fantastic results!