Monday, May 1, 2017

Village of Us

It takes a village, it takes us all
To raise them up, to answer the call.

How can I help? What can I do?
A village of us, STARTS WITH YOU!

A mother's resolve, a child's plea
All for the sake of family.

More than a "why," so much bigger than "how"
No time for waiting, someday is now.

So much to plan, even more to discuss
It takes a village, a village of us.

A Village of Us refers to the old saying that "it takes a village to raise a child."  But not just any village, or the obscure idea of a village.  A village of US.  I don't know why my brain never stops churning, but the other day on my way to work, the idea of "a village of us" popped into my mind.  Maybe because I grew up in a village, maybe because I truly believe in the it takes a village mindset.  Or maybe because these things have a way of finding us when we need them most.

When you see my #VillageofUs on my cookbook posts, I'm referring to my village of friends, family, coworkers, and followers that are helping me raise money for adoption.  Hopefully, it will be for our own adoption, but if not, I plan to pay it forward to another adoptive family.  Village of Us means doing your part, whether it be financial, emotional, or actually becoming an adoptive parent/grandparent/sibling/friend.  Because it takes a village of us to help connect orphans with families, and families with children.  Please share and repost this message with #VillageofUs.  Thank you so much for being a part of our village.  I'm grateful to be a part of yours as well. 

Update!  We have officially started the process of international adoption.  It will be a long process, but I will try to keep everyone updated when I can.  In the meantime, please continue to share our blog, cookbook, and story to help us raise funds.  We trust that God will provide the funds needed to complete this adoption.  One way may be through the help of friends and family like you.  With that in mind, we ask that you consider being a part of our village.  Please pray that God will make it possible for us to bring our son/daughter home.  If you would like to contribute to our adoption fund or help us share our story, please visit

Monday, April 17, 2017

5 Ways to use leftover Easter ham

Anyone else have lots of delicious ham or ham bones after the weekend?  I can never decide which I like better, the freshly baked ham, or all the ways to use the leftovers!  Here's 5 of my favorite ways to use leftover ham:

1.  Creamy Ham and Wild Rice Soup - This is one of my favorite soups, and a great way to use leftover ham.  You can also cook it with the hambone in, then remove the bone and cut off any remaining ham to add back in to the soup.

2. Split Pea Soup - The classic leftover hambone recipe!  So inexpensive, feeds an army, and tastes delicious, especially with extra freshly ground pepper.

3. Ham & Bean Soup - Ok, so we really love soup around here!  Here's a comfort food classic that's always a hit!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Peanut Post: Preschool Lunches Part I

You didn't think I was going to pack Peanut's lunch several times a week and not take at least a few pictures, did you?  Psssh, of course not!  For the first time, I'm realizing "the big deal" with packing healthy, easy to eat quickly lunches that can be kept cool with an ice pack for several hours.  It's not as simple as it sounds!  But, never fear, here are a few fun ideas from this Mama's kitchen:
Also, see Part II here!

1.  Leftover pasta salad, whole grain fig bars, grapes (This is one of her favorites)

2.  Turkey/cheese/spinach wrap, whole grain fig bars, strawberries
(and extra leaves by request)

3.  Half PB&J sandwich, hummus with feta and carrots, dried cranberries with almonds
4.  Leftover pizza, spinach/cherry tomato "salad", blueberries, craisins/mixed nuts
5. Chicken/cheese/spinach wrap, cucumbers/tomatoes, grapes, whole grain cinnamon crackers

6. leftover pizza, tomatoes/olives, quinoa bar

7.  whole wheat pancakes/syrup, pecans, grapes
(be sure the syrup part is sealed well... ours was not)

8. apples/celery with peanut butter, cheese stick, almonds/raisins, whole grain fig Newtons.

9. turkey slices, spinach/tomato salad, olive/cheese toothpicks, cheddar bunny crackers

General tips:
- Pack for multiple days at a time and store in the fridge, ready to go.  Pack your own lunch while you're at it to cut down on time in the morning.
- Preschoolers don't eat much of any one thing, so split the wrap/sandwich and use it to make two lunches.  Cuts down on waste and time!
- Try a variety of foods and rotate so your child doesn't get bored or in a routine of eating the same thing.  Once they do, they may not want to try something new.
- Incorporate whole grains, protein, dairy, fruit and veggies, if possible.
- Use leftover lunch food as their after school snack - that way, you know they are getting all of those carefully balanced nutrients you worked so hard to include.  And again, less waste.
- Finger foods are always a bonus for this age.  But it never hurts to send a fork/spoon once in awhile for favorites, such as pasta salad.
- Pack realistic portions for your child's appetite and the time allotted for lunch.
- Not a must, but out of courtesy, try to limit the number of lids/wrappers/containers the poor preschool teachers have to unwrap - remember it could be whatever you send times 20! Practice with your child to see if they can open them on their own.  Sectioned containers work well - at the very least, it's only one lid. (Annalyn has no problem with these containers.)

Peanut Post: Preschool Lunches, Part II

A few more of our favorite school lunches. (See Part I here.) Annalyn is a huge fan of mixed nuts and dried berries, so you'll see a lot of those included in this round! I try to mix it up day to day, but I also only get groceries once per week, so I also try to be efficient!

1.  Turkey/spinach wraps, olive/cheese skewers, dried fruit
2. The ever-popular turkey/string cheese rollup, carrots, berries, and crackers/pea crisps

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wooden Spoon

"You can't always give your children a silver spoon at birth, but you can give them a wooden one and teach them to cook." ~Mama

If you order one of my cookbooks, you might wonder why I included a tiny wooden spoon.  Well, one of the biggest joys and challenges of the past 5 years has been figuring out how to share my kitchen with my kiddos.  From a very young age, both of my girls showed interest in helping Mama cook.  Maybe because they spent a fair amount of time in a baby carrier while I prepared dinner, or in their high chairs pulled into the kitchen to watch and snitch ingredients as I cooked.  Without really thinking about it, I started narrating what I was doing, as if performing in my own cooking show.  Once they were old enough to pull a chair over and actually help with some parts of the cooking process, I was surprised by my own words coming back to me from their little lips.  "How did you know that?"  You told me, Mama.  WOAH. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Grilled Favorites

With a awesome forecast predicated for our area this week, we have at least 2-3 of these on our weekly menu!  Love the return the grilling season!!

1.  Grilled Chicken & Steak Kabobs - If only I could decorate my kitchen in garland made of kabobs! These are always so pretty.

2.  Feta Stuffed Turkey Burgers - feeling crazy?  Add some chopped black olives along with the feta.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Making Mama's Kitchen Facebook Page

Hi everyone!  Just to be sure I don't miss anyone, I wanted to give all my followers a chance to join my Facebook business page where I will be launching my cookbook soon!  I am working out a way to put a link to buy directly on the blog as well, but if you want to follow along the excitement leading up to the big release day (before Mother's Day!), like my page below!  Thank you as always for your support!!  Love you guys!

I Thought I Was Done

I thought I was done, but then I slept
Into my dreams you slowly crept.

In different forms, in different light
Never the same, but always mine.

I'm not sure how you'll come to be
My sweet little baby, just find me.

I thought I was done, but here you are
In my thoughts and in my heart.

~written August 2016 around 3am
while snuggling/rocking my Emma

Monday, August 15, 2016

No Cook Refrigerator Dill Pickles

What do you do when you find yourself with more cucumbers than you can eat, and a couple of crazy kids?  Make pickles, of course!  I chose not to go through with canning them (did you read the part about the crazy kids?), so we went the refrigerator pickles route.  I even tossed in some yellow squash for color and variation.  And because I can only come up with so many things to do with it!  Being a science geek, I couldn't help but try slight variations in each jar until I found my favorite.  Granted, it may have backfired because Michael and I prefer two different recipes, but it's all good. Seriously, though, they are ALL good!  And super easy with no cooking required.  Here's how Mama and her crazy kiddos make it:

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

(makes 3 pint jars)
- 3 medium-large cucumbers
- 1 small-medium yellow squash
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 1/2 c. vinegar (white or cider)
- 3-6 T. sugar (more on this later)
- 3 T. kosher or canning salt
- 4 1/2 T. dried dill weed, or 6 T. chopped fresh dill
- 1 1/2 t. mustard seed
- 3 T. minced garlic, or about 6 cloves
- 3 wide mouth pint jars

Friday, August 12, 2016

Homemade Frozen Pizza

Yes, you heard me right.  Homemade FROZEN pizza.  No, it's not shaped like Olaf or one of Elsa's magical snowflakes.  It's good ole homemade pizza, with the ease of the frozen ones.  The more we add to our plate, the more I'm finding that we can't always keep up with making everything from scratch.  At least not in real time.  Enter the ever-popular make ahead freezer meal!  I see a few of these in my pregnant sister-in-laws' future ;)

Basically, I use the same recipes that I use for my weekly pizzas, but pre-cook the crust slightly so it sets up before adding the toppings then popping in the freezer.  From there, you can just pull it out and bake!  I'm thinking when I do make them in real-time, I'm going to just double it to stock up the freezer. Imagine the possibilities!!

Homemade Frozen Pizza

For our favorite pizza recipes, including crust, toppings, etc., see this post on Family Pizza Night.

1.  Make the dough.  For freezing, I split one batch of the dough into 6 smaller pizzas that would fit inside a gallon freezer bag. 
Side pony, beads, and bedhead
that's how everyone makes pizza dough, right?