Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lessons Learned in the U.P.

Since the weather has been so beautiful up here in the Midwest and our calendar was clear for over 2 weeks (which never, ever happens!!!!) we decided to take a break from the hustle and bustle of our city and head to my folks place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We brought our school work with hoping to get a few days in, especially if there was any inclement weather.  We got in about 5 days worth.  It was great to do school with no interruptions and no where to have to be at any certain time.  Our routine was beautiful.  Breakfast, do some school work, have lunch, play outside, dinner, walk to the mailbox (3.5 miles round trip!), listen to some Laura Ingalls Wilder audio books, snack, teeth, and bed.  It was lovely.  Idealistic, well almost.  But it was great!

We also got in fishing, frog hunting, hiking, canoeing, exploring, going to a waterfall, visiting a ranger station and so much more.

I guess I learned a few things...I learned that unscheduled time is productive, educational and recharging.  I also learned that some children don't learn not to hit dead trees after being stung by wasps once, they have to do it again, and as a result~ jump into the lake fully clothed to escape said wasps.  I also learned that a tea bag (after you seeped it and chilled it) really helps nasty, red, puffy, size of a small egg wasp sting not to be nasty, red, puffy, and huge.  I also experienced a little of the isolation Ma Ingalls may have felt.  I also had such a wonderful time to draw near to God.  To sit and listen to His voice, without all the loud distractions.  I got to see His majesty in the trees, loons, eagles, fish and all the nature we were surrounded by.  I enjoyed imagining what God intended our world to be before our sin.  I came home feeling blessed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More Science FUN!

So my homeschool resolution this year was to do each and every science experiment since that is my GREATEST downfall as a homeschooling mama.  Well, since I am human and have several great downfalls, so it might not be my greatest, but it was bugging me.  So we are doing each and every one.  AND~ I love it, the kids love it, and I am think it is making a huge change in retention and understanding.  (I can hear you saying "Well, duh! Of course doing the experiments help them to learn."  I know, I know....)

This week we are learning about the nervous systems.  I am so stoked!  I love it!  I took some photos of the brain models the boys made.  They can even tell you what the parts do.  I might even pat myself on the back.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Crockpot Chicken on a Hot Day

One of our standard meals is slow cooker chicken.  I usually make it once a week.  I tend to choose a day when I know getting dinner on the table will be chaotic at best.  In the winter I make it for convenience; a way to get a healthy, nutritious meal on the table without a ton of prep.  This summer with its insanely hot and humid temps; I have used it as a way to avoid turning on my oven.  I might even be known to resort to putting it outside on my deck during the day!

I have a couple ways I make slowcooker Chicken (For my post on slowcooker soup click here)

I always start with a good rinse of the bird.  Inside and out.  The dear husband of mine is a meat cutter and we do NOT skip certain steps when cooking meat.  Hamburger is always well done.  Maybe even charred... but I digress...  I then place the bird in the slow cooker.  I have a few standard seasoning mixes I do.  Remember I am a sprinkler when I cook, not a measure-it-out kinda gal.  Adjust to your tastes.

Lemon chicken
Sprinkle dill or thyme over chicken
Slice 2 lemons, place lemons on and in chicken
*cook in crockpot for 8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high

Rotisserie (all measurements are approximate)
rub butter or dairy free butter on skin of chicken
1 sliced and diced onion (in and on chicken)
4-8 cloves of garlic (in and on chicken)
1 1/2 tsp paprika
2-4 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/2 Italian seasoning
1/2  tsp chili or crushed red peppers
(optional is pepper~ we can't do it, it is high in oxalates)

You can mix seasoning together and then top the bird, or you can just sprinkle them on as you pull them out of your cupboard.  The onions and garlic can go on and in the bird.  Put in the slow cooker with the breast side down.  Do not add water (yet.)

Cook 8 hours on low, 3-4 hours on high.
When you pull your chicken out of the crock pot, DO NOT discard all the yummies in there.  Leave 'em.  Your gonna need them for soup.  Save the bones too!

Click here for the soup post!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Soup on a HOT DAY!

So, I have to share with you my easy, breezy way I make soup.  No, I don't just open a can or a box and pour the soup out.  Although, that does work.  Nope, this involves your leftover carcass from the chicken (or turkey) you just made in your slow cooker, the yummies still sitting in there, a few veggies and some water.

When your bird is done a cookin'~ (see my post on crock pot chicken here) remove the bird from the slow cooker and leave the goodness that is in the bottom sit there.  Get some clean, filtered water and fill that slow cooker up to about 3 inches from the top.  Turn your slow cooker on low.

Cut up some veggies... what ever may please your palate.  I use a couple carrots, celery, maybe an onion, some garlic. (I usually do this after dinner, during cleanup)

After I have removed all the meat from the bones that I can, I dump carefully put the carcass back into the slow cooker.  I let it sit for 12 hours.(almost always overnight)  I did not include a picture.  No one wants to see chicken bones.  Eww.

After 12 hours I get a big metal spoon and smoosh the bones.  This breaks them up and releases more of the marrow to get all the goodness into the broth.  Bone marrow cooked into the soup broth is very healing for your gut.  It contains all kinds of goodness your bodies need!  (I do this around breakfast the next morning)

I let sit about 8-12 more hours.

I then turn off the slow cooker and let cool a bit. (I do this at as I prepare dinner)

I put a stainless steel strainer over a stainless steel bowl and pour the broth into the strainer.  This catches all the big bits.  I let the strainer cool and pull out any meat I may have missed.  (I do this during dinner clean up)  Again, this is just not pretty, nothing you would want to see a picture of.  Double Ewwww!

To make the soup I follow this recipe (or shall we say~ throw it in soup)
1 diced carrot
1 diced onion
1-3 stalks diced celery
sometimes a cup of shredded zucchini
1 cup of cooked rice or some rice noodles broken up into smallish pieces
leftover chicken from the previous nights dinner
seasonings can be: powdered garlic, salt, dried oregano, powdered onion, etc.

Cook this in a large stock pot for about 30-40 minutes on medium and let is simmer, turn off and let cool. (I put is away before I go to bed)

I then will put it in glass containers to freeze, but be careful here you don't over fill or they will crack and break when the soup expands as it freezes.  Or you can put the soup in the fridge for the next day.  I love to use Pyrex glass dishes in individual serving sizes.  Then I can pull out as needed.

Maybe this does sound like a lot of work, but I find it is 1-2 minute tasks over a 24 hour period and it really just doesn't seem to take that much physical labor.  It is a habit I have formed and don't even think to much about.  We always have a quick soup I can pull out to reheat which is a huge blessing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

And more Zucchini!

Our less then a half acre lot has 28 trees.  Most of which are mature.  I have a ton of shade.  I like the trees, the privacy and shade, but I get sad about my lack of vegetable gardening space.  I have found one of my sunniest spots and each summer attempt to grow something.  Also, most of our trees are evergreen pines and that makes my soil very acidic.  The one thing that grows well is tomatoes.  This year I tried some zucchini and summer squash.  I had several beautiful zucchini and summer squash plants in my small shaded garden, but no fruit.  I had blossoms, bees, water and all the right parts.  I was bummed.  We like both and I have hoped to have some growing in our own soil.  Since I had complete failure in the growing area, I was complaining praying about how bummed I was.  God answered.  I have been given cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes by various people.  All whom know nothing about my complaining praying.

And this was just one days worth of someone sharing!
Anyways, we were give soooooo many zucchini, I was almost sorry to see more, but I decided to try some new recipes and rejoice in God's provision.  I already posted my Zucchini Fritters recipe.  I didn't post my Zucchini fries attempt.  It was a bit too much work for me for the end result, especially compared to the fritters.  But I got some great photos.


Anyways, I just had to give glory to God in His answer to my complaining praying.  It is a bit like the story in John 6 about the Jesus feeding the 5,000 people from a few loaves and fish.  And there was even 12 baskets left over.  If you don't know this story, I highly recommend it.  God provides over and above our needs. Even when it is as simple as zucchini.