Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy February!

Since this is February, I have been thinking about love. Yes, that’s right – LOVE! We have just finished a book for our devotions called “Heroic Faith: How to live a life of extreme devotion” and the last chapter was about love – heroic, self-sacrificing love.

Well, I think we home schooling moms certainly love our children (or we wouldn’t be doing this) and often make personal sacrifices for our children. Sometimes the chaos of life and home schooling, might “muck it up” as far as being able to clearly see and demonstrate our love for our children, but I have no doubt about that love. Loving our children is probably the easiest self-sacrificing kind of love we have.

I know that we all love our Lord, but do we really demonstrate that on a daily basis? Do we sacrifice personally to show Him how much we love Him? This is possibly a little harder because He often seems intangible to us. We can’t hug Him or kiss Him physically (like we can our children or spouses). So how can we demonstrate our love for Him? Spending time with Him, talking to Him, sharing about Him and sharing His love with others, just for starters.

Well, that’s another category completely – loving others. Are we willing to lay down our lives for others? To tell them the good news of Jesus? Do we love our neighbor enough to sacrifice our time and humble ourselves to share with them about Jesus? “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” John 15:13 Do we love sacrificially? Do we love others enough to bake some heart shaped cookies and stop by their house and tell them that you just wanted to share about the greatest Valentine’s gift of all? The greatest love-gift of all?

Forgiveness is also sacrificially loving. Is there anyone you are still holding something against? February is a great time to love by forgiving. Release yourself and that other person from the prison of resentment, and free yourself and them to love and walk wholly, and holy, before God.

Take a little time this month to think about love and He who is Love. Then DO some loving of others by showing them you care. Hug your kids a few extra times, kiss your hubby every day, show someone who doesn’t know Jesus the way to eternal life through your acts, AND words, of loving kindness.

Spinach Coming Out My Ears!

Well, not literally! This time of year, spinach is being harvested and we are blessed with as much of it as we can consume (and sometimes a little more:-). Spinach is very good for you (Extraordinarily high in vitamin C and rich in riboflavin, one cup of cooked spinach also contains a very high level of vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, as well as vitamins E, B6, and thiamin), so I spend time online finding new recipes and ways to use spinach. I have made Spinach Brownies (taste better than they sound), Ultimate Spinach Dip, many different kinds of Spinach Salads, Italian Wedding Soup (a favorite), added fresh spinach to pizza, eggs, and other dishes. Do you have a favorite recipe using spinach? I would love to have your input! Just leave your idea or recipe in a comment. Thanks!

Frugal and Healthy Breakfast

I was in a quandry today what to make for breakfast. Then I came up with a frugal and healthy dish! I had some potatoes, LOTS of spinach and only 3 eggs to feed 4 of us. So here is what I made:
Spinach, Potato and Egg Pitas
I took 4 small potatoes and diced them with the skins left on (for extra nutritional value). I sauteed them in a little canola oil and sprinkled some 21 Seasoning Salute (from Trader Joe's) on them. Put the lid on the skillet for a few minutes to soften them. Then I added a BIG handful of baby spinach (I just ran the knife through it to chop it a little). When the spinach seemed mostly cooked, I added the 3 eggs, scrambled. Let this cook a few minutes and when the eggs seem almost set, sprinkle a handful of Fiesta Blend shredded cheese. Put the cover on and turn the heat off. Then I spooned this mixture into some of my homemade whole wheat pita pockets, added a little Chalula (hot sauce) and we had a great breakfast!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Talk About "Walking on Eggshells"!

We have been saving eggshells for over a week now for an eggshell mosaic project coming up next week in our curriculum. I started washing and cleaning them out, but it takes a LONG time! Any hints, tips, tricks anyone would like to share? I will post pictures of the kids' mosaics when they are completed. This is for our study of Ancient Rome. We are also studying volcanoes, like Pompeii, so that should prove to be fun! Right now we have Rock Candy growing in a jar on the counter. Oh, the fun and joy of homeschooling!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Please Leave a Comment!

Thanks to my dear hubby, you can now leave a comment. I would LOVE to know what you think of my blog entries! So please leave a comment and let me know you visited.

And then maybe starting next month I will begin participating in some of these bloggy giveaways and you can win a prize for leaving a comment. How does that sound? Something handmade, of course!

Preserving Citrus

For us here in the Southwest, citrus is in season. Yes, I know this seems weird for any of you on the East coast, but that's how it is out here in the Southwest. Everything is in season at different times than I am used to, being from the Northeast.

Anyway, we receive alot of lemons and oranges that we cannot possibly eat before they begin to dry out. So I needed to find a way to preserve it. Here is what I found. You can squeeze the juice from the lemons or oranges and put it in ice cube trays to freeze. After it is frozen solid, just pop them out and put in a ziploc bag and back in the freezer. Then when you need some lemon or orange juice for a recipe or lemonade, just take them out, pop them into the microwave for a few seconds and you have wonderfully fresh juice!

You can also freeze the peels in a ziploc bag for future use as zest. No need to thaw first, just use your citrus zester or fine grater.

For more great Kitchen Tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Organizing your pencils or crayons or crochet hooks or drum sticks, etc.

This is a great idea I found over at Sew, Mama, Sew! before Christmas. I made a couple crayon rolls for gifts, and today I made one for my daughter's watercolor pencils. She was always losing them out of the box and didn't want to keep them in a ziploc bag. So I made this cute pencil roll for her. Now my son wants one for his drum sticks - but I don't have "masculine" fabric to use right now. Must visit the fabric store soon! But you can also make them to hold crochet hooks, knitting needles and other kinds of tools, pencils, etc. I even applique their names on them sometimes to personalize. I will be making these to sell for Hope House in the near future and feature them in an Etsy store (like Ebay, but for handmade items). Let me know if you might be interested in purchasing something like this to help support Hope House. I am trying to get the comments working on this blog so you can let me know what you think each day. Look for it soon!

Sewing Covers for my appliances

Over the last several months I have received a Nutrimill Flour Mill from my great aunt and a Bosch Universal Mixer from my dear hubby. Well, here where we live it is VERY dusty - we live in the desert - so I decided I needed covers for my new appliances. So I got out some old fabric I had from many years ago and set to work. It was quick and simple, so I even made a potholder and plastic bag holder to match. I love to decorate, but since we live in a rented house in Mexico, I haven't done much in this house. So this added a nice, decorative touch to my kitchen as well as being very functional. I just measured the sides and top of each appliance and figured how much fabric I would need for each. By using two different fabrics for each, I didn't need really large pieces.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Best Pancakes Ever!

These are the best pancakes I have ever had! So I thought I would share the recipe while I sit here eating them. They are also very healthy (my kids hate the "h" word:-), and very filling.

Grain and Nut Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (fresh ground is best!)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (you can make this by adding vinegar to regular milk)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup honey or Sucanat (you CAN use sugar if you want)
3 Tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional)
2 bananas, mashed (optional)

Grind the oats in a blender or food processor until fine. In a large bowl, combine ground oats, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, milk, oil, egg, and honey with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix wet ingredients into dry with a few swift strokes. Stir in nuts and bananas, if desired.

Lightly oil a skillet or griddle, and preheat it to medium heat. Ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot skillet, cook the pancakes for 2 to 4 minutes per side, or until brown. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Puppy Love

Our "puppy" LJ (he is only 9 1/2 months old) decided he wanted to crawl up on mom's lap. Uh, he didn't quite fit, but that didn't stop him! He is very loving and sweet (and mostly calm), but our first big dog and we are learning to adjust. He is an Akita, a gift to my son from some dear friends in Phoenix. Hopefully, he is almost done growing!

Library books galore!

I don't know about you, but whenever we start a new unit I visit the library (or my husband does like this time) and get LOTS of books on the topics we are studying. This month we are studying Ancient Rome and Rocks & Minerals, Earthquakes and Volcanoes. There are DVDs, videos, activity books, fiction books, and non-fiction books. Hopefully , these will last for 3-4 weeks. And that cute crate? Found that at a yard sale a few months back for $4.00!!

We are using Learning Adventures "A World of Adventure" this year and I LOVE it! It is laid out day-by-day and covers everything except math (for that I use Math-U-See). During this unit we are also studying and listening to Handel's Messiah. That has been really great, too. There are plenty of hands-on activities like cooking, science experiments, etc. It also includes Spelling, Grammar, Writing, Vocabulary, History, Science and more! I am very pleased with this curriculum.

And BTW, this doesn't include all the personal reading library books that we have out right now. Good thing our library lets you check out as many books as you want:-)!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Today I made Turkey Pepperoni from scratch!

Ok, here is what I did today - I made Turkey PEPPERONI! And boy, is it spicy! We really like it!

I used Tammy's Recipe, but I used ground turkey and instead of Morton's TenderQuick Curing Salt (which I couldn't find anywhere), I just used regular salt. This way, it doesn't have any nitrates or nitrites, either. I will keep it refrigerated or frozen so that it won't spoil anyway.

Here is the meat just before going into the oven.

It takes 4 days to make, but it is worth it! Not only is it healthier and tastier, but it is about 1/4 of the cost of Turkey Pepperoni at WalMart. Now I can't wait to make pizza and try it out! Of course, I make my own whole grain pizza crust. I will share that recipe another day, too.

Make Your Own Liquid Laundry Detergent and Save!!

I have been making my own laundry detergent for several months and really LOVE it! It gets the clothes really clean and is easy to make - and, of course, really CHEAP!

Here is the recipe I have been using, but I am also giving you this page that has 10 slightly different recipes for making laundry detergent (liquid and dry), so you can try and see what works best for you.

1 bar of soap (I like to use Fels-Naptha)
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not the same as baking soda)
1/2 cup Borax

Step One: Put about four cups of water into a pan on your stove and turn the heat up on high until it’s almost boiling. While you’re waiting, whip out a knife and start shaving strips off of the bar of soap into the water, whittling it down. Keep the heat below a boil and keep shaving the soap. Eventually, you’ll shave up the whole bar, then stir the hot water until the soap is dissolved and you have some highly soapy water.

Step Two: Put three gallons of hot water into the five gallon bucket (fill up three gallon milk jugs). Then mix the hot soapy water from step one, stir it for a while, then add a cup of the washing soda. Keep stirring it for another minute or two, then add a half cup of borax. Stir for another couple of minutes, then let the stuff sit overnight to cool.

And you’re done. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have a bucket of gelatinous slime that’s a paler shade of the soap that you used. One measuring cup full of this slime will be roughly what you need to do a load of laundry – and the ingredients are basically the same as laundry detergent.

This will NOT suds - the suds don't clean the clothes, the other ingredients do. So don't fret!

Try it out and see if you like it - it will definitely save you money!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Several Hummus Recipes

Did you know that you can substitute peanut butter for tahini in hummus recipes? I came across this somewhere and have used it many times because I NEVER have tahini (too expensive for me:-). Well, it gives a little sweeter, nuttier taste, but it is really good! So, keep in mind that I used peanut butter in all of these recipes.

This recipe is for Spiced Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and it is SO yummy! I think this is my family's favorite.

I like things spicy, so I tried this Jalapeno Hummus and loved it too!

This Black Bean and Chickpea Hummus was the first hummus I made because it is tahini-free (before I found out about using peanut butter). It is good, too!

I hope you can enjoy a little hummus with your homemade Whole Wheat Pita from yesterday - what a tasty treat for the tastebuds!

Isn't Vinegar Amazing?

Isn't Vinegar Amazing? My friend, Jaye, emailed me yesterday with her tip about using vinegar to wash fruits and vegetables. She said, "You just mix 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. It kills 99% of the bacteria and removes traces of pesticides, etc... and it’s super cheap!" Thanks, Jaye!

Here are some uses from the Vinegar Institute:

Garbage disposal cleaner:
Garbage disposals may be kept clean and odor free with vinegar cubes. Vinegar cubes are made by filling an ice tray with a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and enough water to fill the ice tray and then freezing it. Run the mixture through the disposal, and then flush it with cold water for a minute or so.

Coffee maker cleaner (automatic):
White distilled vinegar can help to dissolve mineral deposits that collect in automatic drip coffee makers from hard water. Fill the reservoir with white distilled vinegar and run it through a brewing cycle. Rinse thoroughly with water when the cycle is finished. (Be sure to check the owner’s manual for specific instructions.)

Clean the microwave:
Boil a solution of 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of water in the microwave. Will loosen splattered on food and deodorize.

Deodorize the kitchen drain:
Pour a cup of white distilled vinegar down the drain once a week. Let stand 30 minutes and then flush with cold water.

Clean the refrigerator:
Wash with a solution of equal parts water and white distilled vinegar.

Clean and disinfect wood cutting boards:
Wipe with full strength white distilled vinegar.

Brass polish:
Brass, copper and pewter will shine if cleaned with the following mixture. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of white distilled vinegar and stir in flour until it becomes a paste. Apply paste to the metals and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Rinse with clean warm water and polish until dry.

Ant deterrent:
Ant invasions can sometimes be deterred by washing counter tops, cabinets and floors with white distilled vinegar.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Appliances
Apply vinegar with a soft cloth to remove streaks from stainless steel appliances. Try in an inconspicuous place first.

Cleaner Dishes and Glasses
Pour 1 ½ cup to 2 cups white distilled vinegar in the bottom of dishwasher, along with regular dishwasher soap. Wash full cycle.

Remove Refrigerator Smells
Place 1 cup apple cider vinegar in a glass and set in refrigerator. Within 2 days, any smell is gone!

Check out Tammy's Recipes Kitchen Tip Tuesday for alot more tips that are very useful!

Monday, January 21, 2008

How to Make Delicious Whole Wheat Pita

This is in response to a request by my dear friend Terri! Over the last couple weeks I have made this pita several times and we just gobble it up! It is so good and tasty! I made "mock" gyros last week and I will share about them and how you can make them really simply another day. You can also make up some hummus to eat with them. I have a couple of yummy recipes for that, too - roasted red pepper hummus and jalapeno hummus.

Whole Wheat Pita
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp salt
4 cups fresh ground whole wheat flour
(if you don't have fresh ground, try 3 cups whole wheat to 1 cup bread flour)

Place water, honey and salt into a large mixer with dough hook. Mix well.
Add 2 cups of flour and then yeast. Mix well.
Add remaining two cups of flour and knead dough for 5 minutes.
Remove dough to lightly floured surface (I use a big bowl because I don't have any counter space) and hand knead for a few minutes.
Separate the dough into 8 portions. Set the dough aside and cover with a towel for 30 minutes.
Roll down each ball with your palm on a floured surface forming a small disc. Then, with a rolling pin, form 8 discs 7-inches diameter. They should be bout 1/4 inch thick. Set aside and cover with a damp linen or towel. Let them rest for 15 minutes.
While they rest, put a stone or baking sheet into your oven and turn the oven on the 450 degrees. After the fifteen minutes, starting with the first pita you rolled out, put a few of them onto the stone or sheet. Do not crowd! They need the circulated air.
Let them cook for about 6 minutes. They should be puffed up, but not really browned. Remove with tongs and keep under a warm, moist towel until all are done baking.
Store in airtight container or ziplock bag when cooled.

Yummy! Enjoy these wonderful - and easy - pitas! I will give you the other recipes tomorrow, I hope.

A Popcorn Secret

I can only imagine why we have never heard of this before - it is a well kept secret. Did you know that you can use regular popping corn and a brown paper bag to make popcorn in your microwave? No oil or butter?

Just throw a handful of popcorn in the little brown lunch bag, fold over the top a couple times, place in microwave and turn on for about 2 or 2 1/2 minutes. Then stand by and listen, when the popping slows down, turn it off. In just a couple minutes, you will have freshly popped popcorn with no oil or butter! Then you can season it however you like (I personally like Cajun Seasoning on mine) and enjoy! So simple, so quick, so healthy! It is my favorite snack!

Oh, and make sure you reuse the brown paper bag over and over, unless (this happens occasionally) you get a tear from a particularly violent popcorn:-).

Foam Soap Refill

Do you love that foam soap but hate the price? Well, my daughter absolutely LOVES foam soap and begged me to buy it. One day I broke down and bought ONE. When it ran out, I thought to myself, "I wonder if you can make this soap?" Well, I went out and searched on the internet (don't know where I would be without this great instant resource:-) and found it is easy AND CHEAP!! The foaming is in the pump, not the soap.

All you have to do is put 3 Tablespoons of liquid hand soap or dishwashing soap in a bowl with 2/3 cups of water. Gently mix soap with water - DO NOT SHAKE! Pour into foam soap dispenser and VOILA! More foam soap at a fraction of the cost of any other since you are only using 3 Tablespoons!!

How cool is that? And I am sure your kids will wash their hands more often and for longer with the foam soap. Mine do!

Make Your Own SAFE & CHEAP Cleaning Products!

These are my most requested recipes - homemade cleaning products. I used to make and use these when we lived in Myrtle Beach, SC, but I got away from it when we moved to Mexico. Then last summer I realized how silly it was to be struggling financially and buying all those expensive cleaning products when I like the homemade ones better. So I went out at bought three things: Borax, baking soda and white vinegar. Yep, that's it! Three ingredients for most all of these recipes. Tomorrow I will tell you about making laundry detergent, and that requires two other ingredients: Washing Soda and Fels Naptha Soap.

Here are the recipes:

Window/Glass Cleaner
1/2 white vinegar
1/2 water
Mix equal parts to fill your spray container.

All Purpose Cleaner (like 409)
1 quart warm or hot water
1 tsp. Borax
squeeze of lemon juice or splash of vinegar
Mix together and pour into spray container.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Sprinkle baking soda around the toilet bowl, wait for a few minutes, scrub with toilet bowl brush and flush.

Dishwasher Detergent
1 cup Borax
1 cup baking soda
1/4 cup salt
Mix together and store in a container (I like to use old Gatorade or powdered drink mix containers). Use 1 Tablespoon per wash load. For spot-free dishes, put white vinegar in rinse compartment. Also, if you have a problem with getting a film on your dishes, put a couple of drops of liquid dish detergent (like Dawn) in with the dishwasher detergent.

Enjoy a clean and healthy home!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Keeping My Hands Warm!

Today, I decided I needed fingerless gloves because my hands have been FREEZING when I am on the computer. So I found a pattern online (what an incredible instant resource the internet is!!) and made myself this cute pair. If you know how to crochet and would like to make your own, I have linked the website and you can follow the easy instructions. My hands are nice and warm while I type this. In case you were wondering, we don't have heat in our house, so when it is chilly like today, I am freezing! So I wear heavy sweaters, socks, etc., but gloves just don't work when you are typing. Now I am all set - nice and cozy!

A Little Change in the Burgan Family Blog

Mama's taking over the blog! Yes, I, Erica, am going to try my hand at blogging and use this blog to share about homeschooling, cooking, bread baking, sewing, crafts, being frugal, and whatever else is going on around here. Over the last 6 months or so, I have taken our cooking/eating habits to another more healthy level and have taken steps to being even MORE frugal with what we have. So I will be sharing about many of these things in the near future. Also, over the last several months, I have been sewing and crafting up a storm! Well, perhaps not a storm, but at least alot of gifts and things around the house! We are also in the process of getting Hope House really going, so life is going to get a little more complicated (but I LOVE when things are simple!!). Joe has begun working for the new WalMart that is opening up just across the border and that is quite a change for us. But it will also be a blessing so that we will have some funds to help Hope House get going and pay the bills around here, too.

So you will be hearing from me as I blog about our family, what's cooking, what new project I have completed, what we are studying in our homeschool, what is happening with Hope House and whatever else I decide to share. I hope you enjoy and benefit from this. Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Cody and Alissa at Christmas 2007

The picture includes LJ, the Akita, Cindi and the newest addition, Alissa's grey stray, Tinkerbell!

Happy New Year!