As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting a lot lately, either here or on Social Media. I’ve been busy. Distance learning is coming to a close for the year, so we’ve been doing a lot of meetings and paperwork (I’ll be glad when the mountains of homework packets stop).
In addition to supervising all of the learning (for both kiddos), I’ve also been taking a more active role in helping my big kiddo find behavioral therapies that will work well on his journey through life. My big kid is on the Autism spectrum (ASD) and that means that we do behavioral therapy a few times a week in addition talk therapy. So lots of time helping process feelings and emotions, and that leaves this mama bear feeling tired.
I (try to) get up early about 6:30 each morning, make coffee, do emails, and work on getting stuff set up for the day before the kiddos wake up. Sometimes I’m super successful and get it done. Sometimes I’m lucky if I get a shower.
Successes for the days are measured so much differently now. Did we make it through a day without tears? Missing friends, regular routines, going to the gym, extracurricular activities- all of these weigh heavy on the kids, and grown-ups.
We’ve also been trying to get our home more organized, and we’ve been getting some help from a family friend who is a Konmari guru. We’re about halfway through the process, and it’s been super liberating to get rid of stuff that no longer serves us. We sold all of the DVD’s/video games that we no longer wanted, and raised over $200, that we’ll put towards family fun (maybe sock it away for a 2021 vacation?). Thankfully our local thrift shops are accepting donations at this time. We’ve been loading up the back of my car weekly to donate goods.
In an attempt to wear the kids out physically, I’ve been taking them out for a walk a few times a week with my parents at a local park. Social distancing and masking occur- Also a liberal application of mosquito repellant is applied- The kids and I are very tasty according to the local ‘squito population. We also picked up a small pool for the patio- We are on our second. The first was not heavy-duty enough. This is the one I recommend. We also put tarps under it to protect it from the textured decking. I also use this solar fountain to keep the water moving all day, and we cover it with a tarp at night. I usually dump the water and refill it 2-3 times per week.
Saving money has been a challenge as of late- There aren’t as many deals as supplies aren’t being delivered to stores regularly, less staff to stock shelves, etc. And really, who has been shopping lately for fun? Not many of us. I’ve been using coupons when I can find them, but what I have really found useful is Honey. Honey is a browser extension that helps you find coupon codes and sale prices on items that you are shopping for online. I used it to save over $145 when we bought the big kids new bed a few weeks back.
And I’ve been making masks for family and friends- I made some especially for the kids this week too.
I’m here y’all! I’m up to my eyeballs, but I’m here. And of course, I’m doing the Always Eat After 7pm program, so I’ll be posting about that. There are so many good recipes I am excited to try (dark chocolate dipped PB cookies, uh, yeah). and I’ll be posting some recipes this weekend- I’ve got a killer Kale Salad recipe that is so tasty and easy (and it keeps in the fridge for a few days too).
I’ll be hosting an Amazon Gift Card Giveaway soon! I want to spread the love with you!
I made this last month while it was cold and rainy. I keep forgetting to post this recipe. It’s so tasty. And easy. The leftovers (if there are any) freezes well.
It’s vegan and gluten-free as is, but you can make changes and use bone broth if you want, or even add meat of your choices I think kielbasa pieces would be really great in this soup!
I used Right Rice in this recipe in place of regular white rice. What I like about Right Rice is that it’s made from Lentil Flour, Chickpea Flour, and Rice Flour. Those ingredients mean that this “rice” is high on protein! The “rice” thickens up the soup for sure.
I found Right Rice at Grocery Outlet, but you can also order it on Amazon. You can substitute canned chopped tomatoes for fresh tomatoes- Use what you have on hand.
Hearty Veggie Soup
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup bell pepper, diced (I used green)
2 T. cooking oil (your choice)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green or yellow zucchini (whatever is in season or you have on hand)
2 quarts veggie stock
2 cups chopped tomatoes (you can also use a large can of diced tomatoes)
One of the ways that we stay on budget is to limit how many coffee shop beverages we have each week. I load $25 every two weeks onto my Starbucks card. Honestly, it’s usually used on treats for the kiddos.
I make a big pot of French Roast Coffee each morning and make our coffee shop style beverages with it as the base. Here are a few of our favorites:
Quick & Easy Misto (aka a Cafe au Lait)
20 ounces Hot Coffee (prepared however you like)
1 cup milk (whatever kind you like, I prefer whole or 2%).
Sweetener, if desired
Ground Nutmeg or Cinnamon, if desired
In a heatproof cup, heat milk for approx. 30 seconds in the microwave.
Froth milk in a Magic bullet, blender, or using a Milk Frother. This takes about 30 seconds. The more fat the milk contains, the foamer the milk gets. Fat-free milk (either dairy or non-dairy) does not get too frothy.
Pour Hot Coffee into your serving cup. Add your sweetener and stir. This is a great time to try a new sweetened syrup!
Using a spoon, Push frothed milk to the side and pour milk over the coffee.
Top with Foam if desired.
Get extra fancy and sprinkle the top of the foam with nutmeg or cinnamon!
Quick & Easy Mocha: If you love a Cafe Mocha to start your day, simply add 2 T. of your favorite Chocolate milk mix or instant hot chocolate (I like this dark chocolate hot chocolate) to the milk before your heat and froth it. Follow the same directions as above.
Caramel Macchiato: Pour 1 cup, hot frothed milk into your mug, followed by 6 ounces of very strong hot coffee. Top with a little more foam, and drizzle caramel syrup over the top of the foam.
Cinnamon Dulce Latte: Pour Coffee into mug, add steamed milk and two pumps/Tablespoons of Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Cooled/leftover coffee makes GREAT iced coffee. Simply pour over ice, add any milk and sweetener/syrup you’d like and serve. YUM!
For an Iced Mocha, mix 2 T. of your favorite Chocolate milk mix to the milk before adding it to your ice and coffee.
I love the Torani Sugar Free syrups, they come in over 40 flavors and most of them are great in coffee. We like the following flavors:
1-2 yellow crookneck squash or zucchini with skin on, cut into bite-size pieces
In a large stockpot, saute onion, carrots, bell peppers, and celery until veggies are soft and onions are clear (about 20 minutes).
Add garlic, cook 5-10 minutes until fragrant.
Add Veggie Stock, Tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, herbs, and simmer on medium/low for 30-45 minutes.
Add squash/zucchini and continue to simmer for 10-20 minutes.
Serve with bread (I like Beer Bread). Top with Nutritional Yeast or cheese of your choice.
Feel free to substitute in veggies in the amounts that you have. This recipe is just a guide! Other veggies that go great in soup: potatoes, cabbage, green beans, turnips (cook just like potatoes), kale, and spinach.
Leafy greens are added to the soup about 10-15 minutes before serving. Potatoes and turnips should be peeled, chopped and added during step 3.
To facilitate this review, the awesome folks at Dinnerly provided our family with 3 meals (4-6 servings each). I received no financial compensation to write this review- All opinions are my own.
I’ve reviewed dinner/meal kits before, and my complaint is always that they are so expensive, upwards of $10 per person, per meal. At that point, I better be going out to dinner, and I am not washing dishes! Secondly, the meals are usually not child-friendly, especially if you have a kid on the spectrum (like we do), who also happens to be a vegetarian.
Enter Dinnerly! At $4.49 per adult-sized serving, Dinnerly is so much less expensive than other meal kits. But how? digital recipe cards instead of paper, fewer ingredients per dish (which means less chopping and cleaning), simple packaging, and no fancy marketing campaigns.
The big kid and I looked at the website and he chose two meat-free recipes, and I chose one with meat.
Mediterranean Meatball Stew with Carrots & Couscous
Coconut Curry Ramen with Snow Peas & Jammy Eggs
Baked Squash & Kale Risotto with Parmesan
What I really like is that the recipe tells you what is in the kit for your recipe, and what you will need from your own kitchen (and trust me, it’s nothing special or fancy).
The directions are great for those who don’t have a lot of cooking experience. My 8-year-old was able to read the steps and follow them. He helped me cook the Risotto, and he measured, stirred, poured, and ripped up the kale into bite-sized pieces.
The 4-6 adult-sized servings are pretty generous, by the way. With every meal, there were closer to 7 servings. I always serve side dishes with the main dish. Most nights we had salad or some kind of veggie side dish. When we had ramen, I picked up a bag of pork potstickers from 99 Cents Only for the grown-ups, and also made a miso dressing coleslaw. If you want to stretch meals further, I suggest adding sides, or maybe sneaking in some extra veggies (I added 1 cup of peeled, diced crook-neck squash to the Mediterranean Meatball Stew).
Some of the recipes needed a little “kick”- especially the ramen- so we added ginger, red chili flakes, and a bay leaf to the broth. BUT, since everyone has different levels of spice tolerance, Dinnerly Kits are a great place to start if you want to explore different flavors and cultures without having the buy a bunch of new and/or different spices. For example, the ramen kit comes with two of these cute little packages of Tamari sauce. I did clean one of them out when I was done and now it’s in the kid’s toy kitchen.
Everything is pre-measured and ready to go, even the spices. This is another reason I love Dinnerly- It cuts down on food waste.
The veggies are all super fresh and ready to be cut up! The risotto came with two little cubes of parmesan cheese, that my 8-year-old grated and sprinkled like a pro!
I made the Mediterranean Meatball Stew with Carrots & Couscous and took it to a friend for a night in. It was cheaper, healthier, and tastier than stopping to grab takeout. It was so tasty and filling.
If you want to check out Dinnerly, they have been nice enough to create a promo code just for my readers! The code to use at check out is hewesfamily15, and it’s active through the first week of December and only valid for first-time users. The coupon code is worth 15% off! To get started, visit Dinnerly here.
I think Dinnerly would also make a great gift for a family that just has a baby, or someone who might need a little love.
Last month I posted a Ravioli soup recipe, but this one is a lot different, as it is mostly a veggie soup, and the cheese ravioli was added as an after thought.
This soup is easy to make, tasty, and you can add in whatever kind of pasta you like: filled pasta like ravioli, or simple pasta. This is a perfect dish for potlucks, and you can use vegan ravioli or gluten free pasta, depending on the dietary concerns of family or guests.
Copycat Strawberries Gone Bananas (from Jamba): 1 cup apple juice (or milk), 1 frozen banana, 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup ice (or more, depending on how thick you like your smoothies). Blend all ingredients- makes 1 BIG smoothie or 2 kid-sized.
The Big Orange Smoothie: This one is the big kids’ favorite and is a version of one of his Jamba Juice favorites that is no longer on the menu. 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup frozen peaches, 1/2 c. frozen mango pulp, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1/2 cup ice (or more, depending on how thick you like your smoothies). Blend all ingredients- makes 1 BIG smoothie or 2 kid-sized.
Green Berry Surprise: The surprise is the spinach. You can’t see it or taste it! 1 cup water & a scoop of protein powder (Or milk of your choice), 1 cup frozen berries, 1 frozen banana, 2 large handfuls of fresh spinach, 1/2 cup ice (or more, depending on how thick you like your smoothies). Blend all ingredients- makes 1 BIG smoothie or 2 kid-sized.
Tropical Freeze: 1 cup juice (I like to mix orange and the pineapple juice from the can if you used canned pineapples until it’s 1 cup), 1 frozen banana, 1/2 c. frozen mango pulp, 1/2 cup pineapple, 1/2 c. frozen peaches, 1/2 cup ice (or more, depending on how thick you like your smoothies). Blend all ingredients- makes 1 BIG smoothie or 2 kid-sized.
The nice thing about smoothies is that you can use fresh or frozen fruit or veggies, any kind of juice, it’s all up to you!
Milk: Dairy, Oat, Hemp, Soy, Almond, or other nut milk. Your Choice.
Juice (Apple, Orange, and Carrot are popular)
Water and a scoop of protein powder
Some of our favorite fruits include:
Bananas (I peel and slice overripe bananas and put them in ziploc bags, so they are ready to use!)
Strawberries- 99 Cents Only and Dollar Tree both stock 12 oz bags of strawberries. If you can’t find them in season, this is a great alternative.
Peaches- I usually buy them frozen.
Mangoes- 99 Cents Only sells Mango pulp, which is just the good parts of mango formed into a brick and frozen. I love mangoes, but I hate peeling and slicing them.
Mixed berries- 99 Cents Only sells mixed berries, which is usually strawberries, blueberries, blackberries.
Pineapple- Either canned in its own juice or frozen chunks. Frozen Pineapple is good straight out of the bag. Fresh pineapple is a lot of work to process just to turn into smoothies.
Tasty Veggies we enjoy in our smoothies:
Carrots- I usually chop them up small so they are easily incorporated.
Spinach- It blends in well and isn’t noticeable.
Talk Back: I’d love to hear what your favorite smoothie flavors are!
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