Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feb week #4 - Sliders, a better option for burgers.

Hi ladies,

A good friend of mine, Ginny, had a great idea for burgers. As Americans we always expect BIG portions. Like Big burgers. Well she had recently made what she called Sliders, which are just mini burgers really.

I tried her suggestion and made these for dinner. I made enough burgers for us to have a few if we wanted. I know how my husbands appetite is much bigger than mine. We had side dishes too like salad, & sweet potato fries. But amazingly after one slider we were both full. It was surprisingly satisfying. Martins potato rolls has a small burger bun that is whole wheat, too. Besides, the slider is perfect size for kids. Get creative with the burger toppings if you want too.

Delicious. And I didn't over eat! Thanks for the great idea Ginny.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feb week # 4 - Half Colored Coloring Books?

What do you do when all your coloring books are mostly colored in?

Do you keep them or chuck them?

Here's my solution: Tear out the blank sheets and store them in a folder or box. And throw out the used books. (Don't forget to recycle!) This saves so much room! I went from having a bin full of half colored books to having one stack of blank pictures that they could easily access.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Feb week # 4 - Recycle your changing table

When my daughter was born a year ago (wow has it really been that long already!) we put a changing table downstairs in our main living area to make things easier. Rather than running up to her bedroom every time that is.

Well now that she is almost a year, and not sitting still during diaper changes, the table is sitting there unused taking up space. So I had to decide to get rid of it or recycle it into something we could use. I am a big fan of organizing things. So what better use than as our kids craft center.

I removed the changing pad, add some accessories and wala it was done. My kids love to draw and color like most kids their age. So I had bins of paper, coloring books, crayons, markers etc. Everything was spread out in different places. Now I have them all in one place and accessible.
I used bins to store things like play dough and the accessories to go with it, painting things, extra paper etc. In the drawer I used plastic organizers to separate and store things like pencils, safety scissors, stickers, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners and erasers, tape. and on the top surface I used paper sorters to store my colored paper, white paper and other drawing tools. We also used plastic containers to store crayons & markers. This way the kids have easy access to the colors when they are using them and its easy clean up too.
I hope this tip has inspired you to find creative ways to reuse things in your home too.

Feb week #4 - Kids craft idea - Bird feeders

My daughter Morgan came home from preschool last week with a bird feeder they had made. I was wondering why she made this so early when it is still so cold out? Well of course as soon as we got home Morgan wanted to hang it up outside. So we hung it on the tree outside our sliding glass doors so she could watch it. Expecting it to be hanging there for months til the birds came back, I was so surprised when it was covered with lots of pretty birds. We all enjoyed watching them come back all day to feed. It was so nice to see this wonderful sign of spring coming.

We made more today since the other was bare. it was so easy I thought I would share.
  • Take an empty toilet paper roll, punch 2 holes in it for the string, spread peanut butter all over and roll in bird seed (you can pick up a small bag at Walmart for a little over a dollar). Attach the string and hang it up.

Enjoy watching the birds come from all around. Spring is almost here!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Feb week # 3 - A Winter Bake Recipe

Believe it or not, we’re nearing the end of the winter season. And while you may be excited to shed your parka, don’t forget about one of the best parts of cold weather — acorn squash. It’s still available in grocery stores, so take advantage.

This baked side dish offers a delicious twist on winter veggies. The brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg give it a sweet taste — almost like a low-fat, high-fiber dessert sharing a plate with your main course. Plenty of nutrients make an appearance, too: Say hello to vitamins A, C, and B6 as well as thiamine, magnesium, and potassium. Serve this alongside any meat, chicken, or fish, and I promise it’ll keep you warm until tank top season.

Sweet Potato, Squash, and Carrot Bake
total time : 30 min serves 6

½ pound sweet potatoes
2 pounds acorn squash (about 1 large)
3 medium carrots
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Non-stick cooking spray

Cooking instructions:
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Peel sweet potatoes and squash and cut into one-inch cubes. Peel carrots and cut into one-inch slices. Take a baking pan with sides and lightly coat it with cooking spray. Place the vegetables in the pan, and sprinkle with the olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well to coat evenly. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Nutrition Facts: Per serving (½ cup): 125 calories, 27 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2 g fat, 2 g protein

*this info was taken from Skinny and the City Newsletter 02/20/2009

Feb week # 3 - Metabolism 101

Summer is coming and I am sure like me, you are thinking about getting ready to bare your winter hidden body. One thing I was wondering is how many calories I should be eating each day and how do I boost my metabolism. I know that I eat more than I should and don't exercise enough. My thought is if I could just eat less and exercise more I should be OK right? So I did a little research on how to find out your personal calorie limit. I found some interesting info on They also have some yummy recipes for low calorie snacks.

Most calories are burned simply by basic body functions such as breathing, circulating blood and keeping cells functioning. Beyond that, anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of our daily caloric needs are determined by physical activity, which is why fitness is such an important component of our daily lives.

So here is how you can determine where your personal daily caloric intake should be:

  • Step #1: Take your body weight in pounds and multiply by 10 calories. Example: 150 pounds x 10 calories = 1,500 calories.
  • Step #2: Take half your body weight and add it to the number from Step #1 to obtain your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn every day to breathe, pump blood and hold your pen at work). Example: 150 pounds/2 = 75 1,500 calories = 1,575 calories.
  • Step #3: If you engage in resistance training at least 2 hours per week, add an additional 100 calories.
  • Step #4: For every 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise achieved, add an additional 100 calories. Example: A 150-pound female who weight trains twice per week for an hour and does 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise needs an additional 400 calories, for a total of 1,975 calories per day

To keep your calorie-burning engine running efficiently, you should eat every 3-4 hours for a total of 4-6 small meals per day. To figure out calories per meal, divide your total calorie goal by your goal number of meals. Example: 1,475 calories / 5 meals = 295 calories per meal or snack.

Approximately 25 percent of every main meal should consist of a starchy carbohydrate, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole grain cereals and breads, corn, peas and potatoes. A protein-rich food such as non-fat cottage cheese, round steak, skinless chicken breast and fish should make up another quarter. The remaining 50 percent should be colorful fruits and vegetables.

Follow these three guidelines and your metabolism will be humming for a healthy you! Lets do this together. I would love any weight loss or exercise tips you could share. I look forward to hearing from you at

Good Luck! Tamra

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feb week # 3 - Stroller Tip

Hi ladies,

When my oldest daughter was a baby (she's now 5), when we would go for walks with the stroller she was forever dropping her bottle or sippy cup and her snack cup too. I can't even tell you how many we lost!

Well a friend had given me a great "tip"that I had used all the time and had forgotten about til this weekend when I was at the zoo with my kids. I had my 11 month old in a stroller while my other girls ran from animal to animal. And with this new "tip" that I will share with you in a moment, we had no worries she would drop or lose her cup on the dirty floor.

OK so here it is.... you take an ordinary shoe lace (or string of any kind) and tie one end to one of those rings that connect and have one small opening. You know the ones that you can use to attach toys to a car seat. Well that end connects to the bar on the stroller and tie the other end to one of those rubber bands you get from your produce. The rubber band is perfect to slip around a bottle, sippy cup or snack cup. Make sure the string is long enough, yet short enough to not hit the floor when they throw it overboard (and you know they will ;-) ). So if they throw it over it just dangles til you are able to retrieve it. Wala! No more lost or germy cups!

I hope this tip helps you as much as it does me. Especially with spring right around the corner, we will be strollering it a lot :-).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Feb week # 2 - Organization tip

Here's a tip that has saved me a lot of time in the mornings...

When putting your kids laundry away place the clothes in the drawers by outfit. This way you can just grab it and get them dressed quickly. I was organizing their clothes by shirts in one drawer, pants in another, etc, etc... And then I would have to hunt for something to match each. By organizing them by outfit it makes life so easy, especially on school days.

Feb week # 2 - Great Quote

"Into each day put equal parts of Faith, Patience, Courage, Work, Hope, Fidelity, Liberality, Kindness, Rest, Prayer, Meditation, and one well-selected resolution, put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkle of play, and a capful of good humor"

(most recent Pottery barn catalog pg 90)

I just thought this was great! hope you enjoyed it too.... Tamra

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Feb week # 2 - This Weeks Menu

Sunday: London Broil, onions & mushrooms, baked potatoes & salad
London Broil (if cooking in oven): Let meat rest to room temp. preheat oven to 400 degrees. set rack 6-7 inches from flame. When oven reaches 400 degrees, switch to broiler. Place London Broil on a baking sheet, season meat as you prefer. I drizzle with olive oil and use Montreal Steak seasonings as a rub. Broil for 15 minutes turning once halfway. remove and let rest 5 minutes.
**Sabra Hummus is also a great accompaniment to the meat.
*left over London Broil will be used for fajitas later in week.
Onion & mushrooms meat topper: saute' onions & mushrooms with a few pats of butter and some soy sauce. yummy.
Baked Potatoes: for easy baked potatoes, poke potatoes with fork and place in microwave. Cook til soft. if you want the skin crisp, after soft, put on rack in oven. serve with your favorite toppings. (suggestions: butter, sour cream, chives, vinaigrette salad dressing or try a dollop of sour cream mixed with Savory Garlic & Herb soup mix)

Monday: Pork Chops, Fried Rice & Broiled Veggies
Pork Chops: marinate with favorite marinade. Cook under broiler til done.
Fried Rice: Get a box of Instant Brown Rice from Walmart. Cook in microwave according to directions. Takes only minutes. When rice is cooked, drizzle some olive oil in a pan & heat, pour the rice in and stir. sprinkle with onion and garlic powder. add frozen peas. add soy sauce for flavor. cook til peas are heated through.
Broiled Veggies: slice up veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower) and throw in a Ziploc. Also add green onions/scallions whole or sliced in half long ways (just cut off ends and straggly green tips). sprinkle oil & soy sauce. shake to mix. put on baking sheet and sprinkle with garlic 7 onion powder. cook under broiler for 20 minutes.

Tuesday: Creamy Black Bean Soup
(sent in by Claire M. of Hawley, PA - Source: Southern Living magazine, February 2009)
Soup recipe: Ingredients: 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup), 1 garlic clove, minced, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 cups vegetable broth, 3-15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed, 1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chile's, undrained, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon lime juice
Cooking instructions: Saute onion and garlic in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 4 to 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in broth and next 4 ingredients, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro and lime juice. Let cool 5 minutes. Process soup, in batches, in a blender or food processor (I used a handheld stick blender in the pot instead) 30 seconds or until smooth. Return to Dutch oven, and stir until blended. Serve with desired toppings. Makes 6 cups.
Toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, tortilla chips

Wednesday: Steak fajitas
use the left over London Broil from Sunday & slice thin strips. Cut up onions & peppers & saute'. Add fajita seasoning. serve with flour tortillas, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole.

Thursday: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Friday: mini meatloaf burgers
to make: chop meat, egg, onion soup mix, ketchup (this helps keep it moist and gives it a nice flavor), bread crumbs. mix and make into mini burgers. cook and eat with salad or on a roll. I like them with sauteed onions & mushrooms with melted cheese. yummy.

Saturday: Valentines Day with your kids
Heart shaped mini pizzas: Roll out the dough. Use a heart shaped cookie cutter and cut out into hearts. Place onto a pizza stone or greased cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, garlic and onion powder. Make sure they are a few inches apart as they will get bigger as they cook. Bake the heart crusts for about 5-10 minutes. keep an eye ob them so the don't get brown. take out and put sauce and cheese and favorite toppings. my favorite topping is diced canned tomatoes (Italian flavored) or brochetta, fresh basil & slices of fresh Mozzarella cheese. cook until gold and bubbly.
You will have individual heart shaped pizzas for everyone. let the kids help with their toppings.

Valentines Day with your Sweetheart - Go out to dinner! (if you can get a sitter)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Feb week #1 - Our FAV New Treat

Going back to the list of snacks I posted the other day, The Frozen Graham Cracker Sandwich has become our new favorite. They taste like little ice cream sandwiches. Actually if you would prefer ice cream, go for it. you can use yogurt, ice cream (light/regular/sugar free). Its the perfect size for mini ice cream sandwiches. Break the graham crackers into 4's. You will have little rectangle treats. We make a few batches each week and store them in Ziploc bags. This way the girls can choose there favorite flavor. And for those of us who are trying to shed those unwanted pounds (ie: baby weight) its a perfect size to curb the sweet tooth. My father in law is a diabetic with a huge sweet tooth. So we make them with sugar free ice cream and he loves it.

Apple Cinnamon: take vanilla yogurt (or ice cream) mix with some cinnamon apple sauce and spread on some Cinnamon graham crackers. Freeze. This one is so yummy. try the chunky apple sauce.

Strawberry Vanilla : take vanilla yogurt (or ice cream) and spread on both sides of a graham cracker. slice thinly some strawberries and place on top. and sandwich the 2 sides together. and freeze.

Peach Vanilla: take vanilla yogurt (or ice cream) and spread on both sides of a graham cracker. slice some canned peaches thin and lay on top. sandwich the 2 sides together and freeze. (you can use canned pears too).

Chocolate pudding: take some chocolate pudding and spread that across the graham cracker make a sandwich and freeze. (for an extra yummy treat spread some whipped cream too).

I would love to hear your versions of these snacks too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feb week # 1 - Repair Don't Replace....

Not all companies are starving for business these days. In fact, some are setting records for increased business. Repair businesses and thrift stores are doing well during these financially turbulent times. That makes sense. After all, it is usually cheaper to repair than to replace, and that gently-worn clothes can be found for a fraction of their new price tag.

Take a look in your local area...most have a Mommy and Me Consignment shop or something like it. Kids grow out of clothing so fast that sometimes it is such a waste to spend full retail on them. I have found that often the clothing still has tags on them. Never worn. Not only can you purchase gently-worn clothing for yourself and your kids, but you can sell yours to. And if you sell through a consignment shop you get a discount off of purchases there too.

I have boxes and boxes of children's clothing and maternity clothes in my attic. I know they will never get used again in this house, so it makes sense to sell them. It makes me some money as well as frees up space in my attic. If you are really ambitious you can take pictures and download your items onto Ebay. This takes more time and energy, but you will probably make a few dollars more this way.

Check out your local Craig's List. You can purchase items inexpensively, as well as sell items.

I hope this post gives you some ideas to save money and make money - Tamra

Monday, February 2, 2009

Feb week # 1 - Limit their snacks?

I don't know about your kids but mine would snack all day long if I let them. I got tired of running to the kitchen every 5 minutes and then having my girls not eat their dinner.

We came up with a snack token system. I had the girls help me make 3 tokens for each of them. I cut out large circles and wrote the word snack on them. I let them decorate their own tokens. We made 2 pockets out of paper to hold them in. Again they each were able to decorate them as they wished. One was the start pocket, and the other was the finished pocket. We taped them on the wall in the kitchen. Each time they asked me for a snack, I would let them take a token from the start pocket and place it in the finished pocket. When the start pocket was empty they could have no more snacks that day.

The first day we did this they thought it was great...until they used their tokens up before lunch. And they realized they could have no more for that day. The second day went a bit better but they still used them all up before dinner. Now they have learned to spread them out so they have 1 snack between breakfast and lunch, the second between lunch and dinner and the 3rd they save for dessert. I love this system, it saves me from running around all day and teaches them to savor what they have.

Feb week # 1 - More fun snacks for your children (and adults)

As we all know, kids love dessert and snacks. Here are a few yummy snacks that will get them (and you) excited every time. You will find it hard not to partake in the snacking with them!

1. Pudding cones: give them sugar free pudding in a small ice cream cone. (make sure you have bibs and lots of baby wipes for this yummy treat! they will enjoy this one completely, but it is a bit messy. perfect for eating outside. This is one of my kids favorites rather than ice cream cones) **Don't store extra cones in the fridge with pudding in them - the cones will get soggy
2. Painting with pudding: give them a plate with pudding and a graham cracker and let them have fun finger painting with it. you can give them a bowl of berries on the side to help with their masterpiece. They can lick their fingers and make pretty pictures too.
3. Yogurt cones: serve vanilla yogurt in an ice cream cone with some fruit mixed in. Add some honey wheat germ sprinkled on top.
4. Homemade apple rice pudding: left over rice, mixed with applesauce, sprinkle of cinnamon and vanilla yogurt. top with a little jam in a smiley face design. (Or if you have older kids try making a face out of Craisens) *fill some Dixie cups with extra and put in a Tupperware that is deep enough and you will have enough to last a few days.
5. Warm soft apple slices: cut up apple slices and wrap in foil. place in toaster oven and cook for 20 minutes. They will be soft, warm and yummy. Serve with some vanilla yogurt on top or just by themselves.
6. Sweet tortilla treat #1: take a soft tortilla shell, microwave for 10 seconds. spread with peanut butter and thin sliced bananas (or try apple sauce). roll up and its perfect for little ones to hold and eat.
7. Sweet tortilla treat #2: take a soft tortilla shell, microwave for 10 seconds and spread cream cheese and jelly. roll up.
8. Quesadilla triangles: take a soft tortilla and lay flat sprinkle with cheese, and fill with left over cooked veggies, or avocado slices. fold in half and warm in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. slice into triangles. perfect size for little fingers. You can use colorful veggie varieties of tortillas for a little fun.
9. Frozen graham cracker fruit snacks: take a graham cracker break them into the small rectangles, spread with a fruit flavored yogurt, top with another cracker and freeze. This is so yummy you will help yourself to a few too!
**Freeze in a large Tupperware without a lid. After they are frozen place them into a Ziploc bag to store in freezer. I have found that the Tupperware lids crack if you open them when they are frozen.
***We bought a few different flavors of yogurt (strawberry, peach, blueberry, mixed berries) and this gives a choice. It tastes as yummy as an ice cream sandwich. If you are really ambitious you can use vanilla yogurt with thin strawberry slices, and freeze.
10. Fruit filled ice pops: take an ice pop tray (you can pick up small ones at a Dollar Store or Target for $1) fill with some of their favorite fruit (strawberries, blue berries, raspberries, pineapple, bananas...) and then top with apple juice, orange juice (or any juice you have). freeze.
11. Frozen yogurt pops: fill an ice pop tray with a fruit flavored yogurt and freeze.
12. Fruit filled jello cups: make some jello and fill some Dixie cups with fresh fruit. fill cups with the jello and let set in fridge. serve by themselves or with a spoon of vanilla yogurt or whipped cream. *If you have a Tupperware deep enough you can store them and have enough to last the week as a special treat.

Love to hear your favorite kid friendly snack ideas. Email them to me at I hope your kids enjoy these as much as mine do! Tamra

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Feb week #1 - this weeks menu

OK ladies...we are going to make 4 easy croc pot/slow cooker meals this week. Set them up in the morning before work or after breakfast for a yummy meal you don't have to worry about much til dinnertime. Take a look at your weeks menu and anything you can prep on Sunday or the night before will help make this a quick meal week. slice up veggies needed and put them in Ziploc so you can just dump them in in the morning. I love using the slow cookers or croc pots. Makes dinners a cinch.

Superbowl Sunday - (croc pot meal #1) Sausage & Peppers with Penne Pasta or rolls
In a slow cooker/croc pot add 1 onion sliced & 1 pepper sliced and a few garlic cloves crushed on bottom. Add Italian sausage & a jar or 2 (enough to cover sausages) of your favorite tomato sauce, a cup or 2 of Marsala cooking wine (or any wine will do). let cook all day on low. set this up early in the day and let cook. Serve on rolls while watching the Superbowl or with pasta.

Monday - (croc pot meal #2) Cream of Chicken & Rice soup
cream of chicken and rice soup: saute' onions & mushrooms with a little olive oil. In a croc pot add uncooked chicken breast cut into cubes, add the sauteed onions and mushrooms. a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, 4 cups chicken stock & 1 cup Marsala wine. Let cook on low all day. cook rice according to directions on box and add to soup before serving.

Tuesday - Roast Turkey Breast, baked Sweet Potatoes & Spinach Salad
*left over turkey breast, chop 2 cups into small bits and store in Ziploc for turkey ring on Thurs.

Wednesday - (croc pot meal #3) Pulled Pork. (easiest meal all week)
pulled pork: place a pork roast into the croc pot, cover with your favorite BBQ sauce and let cook all day on low. If you like it spicy add hot sauce. It will be so tender and just pull apart. Serve this with rice and veggies or put on a roll like a pulled pork sandwich wit a salad on the side.

Thursday -Turkey Cranberry Ring, and Salad
(A Pampered Chef recipe). What you need: 2 packages (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls, 1/2 c mayo, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 2 c chopped turkey, 1/2 c chopped celery, 1/2 c dries cranberries, 4 oz shredded Swiss cheese (or 6 slices chopped up), 1/2 c walnuts. How to make: mix together in a bowl all the ingredients. On a round pizza stone lay out 1st package of crescent roll dough like a star in a circle facing out. Corners of large end of dough should touch. Then 2nd package of dough facing in. Roll or pat center ring of dough so it sticks together. Spoon mixture around the ring (some filling will be exposed), then fold dough over like a present til it meets and looks like a wreath. (If you don't have a round pan you can do the same with a rectangular) bake 25-30 min at 375 degrees. Slice and serve with a salad.

Friday - Christina's Vegetable tomato Bean Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Vegetable Bean Soup: 6 cups water, about 2 tbsp chicken stock or bouillon cubes that are enough for 6 cups. 1 can diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 bag of frozen mixed vegetables, 1 can red kidney beans and any other beans you like can be added, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, 2 bay leaves, basil or oregano if you want them. Combine first 6 ingredients into a large sauce pan. Add your seasonings to suit your taste. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally and watch often so it doesn't burn. A good alternative to the frozen vegetables and beans is the frozen Rancho vegetables.

Saturday - (croc pot meal #4) Moms Beef Stew
In croc pot add Stew meat, 1 bay leaf, 1 onion soup mix packet, potatoes peeled sliced, carrots & celery chopped, 1 onion cut up, 1 can tomato paste, water (enough to cover ingredients), beef bouillon. You can add any veggies you like to this pot. Cook on low all day. Serve with some yummy soft bread.
*If you like it with a thick gravy you may have to thicken with flour and water. Although the starch from the potatoes should thicken it.
to thicken: in a cup mix water with a few spoons of flour til no flour clumps (If you use a fork to stir it works well). Turn croc pot on high...stir in flour and water mixture slowly and it will thicken as it starts to bubble.