Pancakes and Waffles

– johanna | September 30th, 2008

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Breakfast

A friend of mine and her family has a special weekly tradition. Every Monday night, everyone (friends and family) go to the Grandparents house for crapes and stories. Set up a pancake, waffle or crepe bar with your family’s favorite fruits and nuts. You could give each member a small bowl with pancake batter and let them choose what to mix in the batter. Or, after you have poured the batter on the skillet, let them sprinkle their favorite toppings. Banana and nuts, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate chips or try a sprinkle of cheese and bacon.

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups milk, room temperature

In a medium bowl, sift in the flour, powder, and salt. Add the melted butter to the milk, stir to combine. Add the eggs and all of the milk to the flour. Whisk until combined.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Brush with oil. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cupfuls of batter onto heated griddle. Cook until tops are bubbly about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side about 1 minute until cooked through and golden brown.

Makes 10-12 4-inch pancakes

-Serve with syrup, yogurt and fruit, pumpkin butter and cream cheese, jam, fruit or nuts. Substitute all or part of the flour with white wheat flour. For a real treat add a teaspoon of juice from an orange.
-Add 1 tsp cinnamon to flour.
-Replace part of the all purpose flour with whole wheat, oat flour or coconut flour.
-Add 1 tablespoon protein powder.
-Add 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal or wheat germ.


2 cup flour
1 1/2 c buttermilk, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature, separated
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, melted

Sift flour, salt and powder. In another bowl beat egg yolks and milk. Slowly add flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in melted butter. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter. Cook.

-Serve with syrup, yogurt and fruit, cream cheese, jam and fruit.
-Make an egg sandwich.
-Substitute all or part of the flour with white wheat flour.

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Simply Italian Roasted Vegetables

– johanna | September 29th, 2008

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Sides

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables. I love simple recipes made with only a few ingredients. I used to make this with top Ramen all the time when I was in college. Today, I serve the vegetables with rice, pasta, tortillas or just meat like salmon. Leftovers make a great omelet.

Variety of bell peppers (orange, yellow, red)
Red Onion, Sliced
Pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Warm oil in a pan. Add your choice of vegetables. Season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic. Saute over medium to medium-high heat until slightly tender but still crunchy. I like mine burned a little bit.

This can also be baked in the oven. Roast at 350 degrees. Toss vegetables with oil and seasonings. Spread out on a baking sheet and back until slightly tender but still crunchy and a little blackened on the edges.
To add some heat throw in a dash of red pepper flakes.
Add a few cherry tomatoes.

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I Love Dirt: Discover the Wonders of Nature

– johanna | September 29th, 2008


This morning, a new book I have been waiting for finally arrived; I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward. It was a beautiful day today. So, I stole a moment while the kids were napping to escape and enjoy the silence and my new book. I was treated with a gentle breeze and a song from the leaves in the trees rustling merrily. What is it about being in nature that seems to wash all the negativity away and lends to the mind we can do whatever we deem possible?

“I love Dirt”, is filled with wonder and knowledge. The book’s title includes the line “52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonder of nature”. I would not call them activities, but more along the lines of science exploration. The chapters are divided by season. The “activity” will suggest a part of nature to explore such as animals, plants, weather and space. Using a scientist’s point of view you and your child discuss the elements.

Fall has begun in select areas of the world. You could talk about why leaves fall. You could discuss gravity and the seasons. You could talk about wind and the sounds it makes and how wind is used for energy. Try catching falling leaves. Play a game by collecting objects to see which ones can be moved by the wind. Another idea I liked requires a game of hide-n-seek. First, explain what camouflage is. Then, ask your child to think about how different bugs and animals in nature use markings and color to survive.

I Love Dirt is a fun book filled with adventures to explore with the whole family. It is simple to read. And the best part is, you do not need buy anything.

Take your nature journey even farther by heading to your local library. Find books based on the aspects of nature that your child would like to know more about. Better yet, grab your books, a blanket and some snacks and head outside to connect with nature.

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The Trees Are Alive With the Sound of Music

– johanna | September 28th, 2008


I have to laugh at the irony of the classic song “To Grandma’s House We Go”. Now while my mom is a grandmother, she does not live in the country. However, her parents did, as well as Stephen’s parents. Growing up, we took a Sunday drive around the lake and over the dam to Grandmother’s house. We were graciously welcomed with the aroma of a pot roast with carrots and potatoes roasting in the oven. While dinner was cooking, we would head outside to climb the tree in the front yard or take a walk down the street to a nearby park dotted with perfect trees to dangle from. The ritual was the same for every grandchild who visited my grandparents home.

Several years ago my grandfather passed away. Sadly, my grandmother was moved to a nursing home and their loving little green home was cleaned out and sold. The day of the funeral, the cousins, my siblings and I stood in the yard remembering the huge old tree and the fond memories we hold dear. That day, we all climbed the tree one last time.

Climbing trees is a child’s rite of passage. I love climbing trees even to this day. I lived in Freemont Texas many, many years ago and one re-occurring site I always saw were dangling feet and delightful squeals coming from the trees in many a friend’s yard. It was a scene right out of “The Sound of Music”. Watching the children climb trees must have unlocked my inner child, because I was often compelled to join them.

Recently we were visiting my children’s grandparents and for the first time I noticed the tree in the front yard was just the right size for the kids to climb. It was Mason’s and Adelin’s first time climbing a tree. Watching them, I saw true elation. Mason, who is four, thought he was so daring. He beamed as he climbed from limb to limb. Climbing the tree was an amazing accomplishment that was far more satisfying than the jungle gym at the park. All weekend all they wanted to do was climb the tree. Times like these when the children are experiencing true elation, is when I feel the most joy as a mother. I am also thrilled that my children get to experience the same family tradition of climbing trees at grandma’s house.

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Egg in the Middle Toast

– johanna | September 27th, 2008

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Breakfast

The first time I made this was on Valentine’s Day. I used a heart cookie cutter to cut out the center. My kids love it.

Cookie cutter in desired shape

Butter a piece of bread. Use the cookie cutter to cut out the center of the piece of bread. Place bread on a grilling pan or skillet. Crack an egg and pour into center of bread. Cook until set then flip over.  I also cook the piece I cut out and give it to the kids with some jam on it.

Place a slice of cheese on top before serving.

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Chicken Caesar Salad

– johanna | September 27th, 2008

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Ok, this is not really a meal I cook from scratch, but it is fast and it is our favorite meal. Whenever my husband and I celebrate our Anniversary or Valentines Day or just get a night out together, this is what we want to have. Paired with some apple cider and voila, you have an elegant tasty dinner.

Caesar dressing mix (use white wine vinegar) or ready made salad dressing
Iceberg or Romaine lettuce
Grilled Chicken Breasts, chopped
Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
Croutons (recipe follows)

Day old bread (1 slice per person)
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Olive oil.

Cut bread into 1-2 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder and herbs. Bake 350 until browned. About 10 minutes. Let cool. Croutons will harden as they cool so do not over cook.

-1 rotisserie chicken
-1 bag Caesar salad kit

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Family Night Jam Session

– johanna | September 25th, 2008


Once a week, we like to schedule time to be together as a family. Sometimes, we take a day trip; other times, we take a bike ride, go on a walk, watch a movie, wrestle or play sports in the backyard. This week, we pulled out Rock Band. The set comes with the game, a guitar, a drum set and a microphone.

You can play locally or create your own band, complete with your own personal style and play gigs for money to buy better equipment, a tour bus, roadies, hair cuts and clothing. You can even play online against your friends. Check it out at

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Cultivate a Love Affair with Nature

– johanna | September 22nd, 2008


Many years ago, my brother and his little family came out for a visit. While here, we took a trip to the Muir Woods, a state park north of San Francisco. The Red Woods are one of my most favorite places to explore. I love hiking through the calm, majestic trails. The tranquility always opens my mind to what it would have been like in JR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as they trekked across uninhibited lands.

During our visit to the red woods, I remember watching my brother’s kids stomping in the puddles of water. They were having so much fun getting all muddy and wet. My first reaction was, “oh no, they are getting wet”. But, my sister-in-law, Emily, was not concerned. She came prepared with extra clothes in the car. Several people passed by with looks of disdain and shock. However, one older couple stopped to congratulate Emily on allowing her children to be children. Seeing my little niece and nephew play, made their day. They were troubled by parents today who do not allow their little ones the chance to play so freely.

Growing up, my siblings and I lived outdoors. The town was our playground to explore and discover from dawn to dusk. Our backyard was a world filled with amazement. My desire is to instill the same passion for nature in my children. Ever since we moved to a city lacking forest trails and nature parks, and moved into a house nestled in a small barren yard, I have felt hard pressed to come up with ways to share the importance of being among nature.

Getting into the car everyday to drive 30 minutes to an hour seems to take the creative soul right out of me. It took a while, but I have learned there are ways to enjoy my surroundings here at home.

  • Sometimes Stephen takes the children to jump on the trampoline. Exhausted, they lie down and watch the clouds roll by or look for shooting stars.
  • Where we live, clay is not my idea of mud, but it holds water well enough to splash in and get dirty.
  • In the planters, we love to uncover earthworms and other creepy crawly critters.
  • Early morning walks are the best time to catch snails and worms making their way across the sidewalks or listen to birds busily looking for breakfast.
  • Behind our home is a canal and plenty of rocks and sticks to throw.
  • Along the canal is a path with a variety of trees to study. Next time, we will have to bring our notebooks to make sketches and then we could attach the matching leaf and/or berry/flower.

There is something about nature that has the ability to reset the mind and calm the spirit. The demands of life seem to flitter away.  We can stop and we can begin to create.

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Chicken with Rice and Peas

– johanna | September 21st, 2008

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

Last year, I went in search of kid friendly meals. I questioned my friends to find out what they were serving their little ones. This is a favorite of my friend Brooke Ward.

1 cup Rice
2 cups water, plus two bullion cubes or use chicken broth in the place of water and bullion
Chicken Breast cooked to your liking
1/2 cup Peas
Salt and pepper

Add rice, water and bullion cubes. Bring to a boil. Add the peas. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Serve with chicken.

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Southwestern Chicken Salad

– johanna | September 17th, 2008

Filed under: RECIPES - Soup / Salad

I came across this recipe in a magazine a couple of years ago. I love how simple it is to make.

1/2 tsp or more ground cumin
Salt, to taste
3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
2 limes, quartered
1 head of Romaine lettuce, shredded (you can use any type of lettuce)
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 cups grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cups chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 avocados, thinly sliced

Heat chicken in a skillet on medium to low heat. Combine the cumin with ½ tsp salt and sprinkle over chicken. Add juice from two lime wedges. Heat until cooked through, about five minutes.
In a large bowl add lettuce. Season with the remaining salt and lime wedges. Toss to combine. Add chicken, beans, tomatoes, cilantro, cheese and avocado.

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