Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Great Lenten Meal: Angel Hair With Lemon and Creamy Spinach

Are you looking for a easy but different meatless meal for Lent? I wanted to share this delicious and light dinner that we had this week. Our whole house loved it!

Angel Hair with Lemon and Creamy Spinach

1 package angel hair pasta
2 1/4 cups plain yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 tsp. minced garlic
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
4 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach
6 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk yogurt and flour until smooth.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium low. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add yogurt mixture and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Add spinach by the handful, stirring; continue to add more as the spinach in the pan becomes wilted. When all of the spinach has been added, add lemon juice and lemon zest to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Add sauce to angel hair and gently toss to coat. Serve pasta generously sprinkled with Parmesan.


This recipe was part of my subscription to Relish! Relish! is a weekly menu planning service that allows you to choose the dinners you would like to make and print out the grocery list and recipes. Monthly freezer meals and special menus are also included in your subscription. A Relish! subscription is $7 per month. I have subscribed to this service off and on for the last few years. The recipes are great and I love the flexibility that the menus provide.

Have you ever used an online menu planning service? Has it helped you better plan your family's meals?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lenten Links and Resources

With Lent in full swing, I wanted to share some links and resources that I use to make Lent more meaningful for myself and my family:

I have a number of things I will be doing during Lent to practice fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. I saw this great idea at Faith and Family Live. I will be using the 40 days of Lent to donate 40 bags of items from our home. I am not getting caught up with the type or size of bag that I am donating - my goal is to de-clutter my home, donate the things we no longer need or use, and bless someone else who does need it! I created a chart to help me keep track of how many bags I have donated. If you would like a copy, email me at, and I would be happy to forward one to you.

The season of Lent obviously changes that way we eat and cook. Here are some resources to help you create simple Lenten meals:
Free Lenten cookbook by Rita Hanna
Catholic Cuisine

I have pulled a few cookbooks from my shelf that will help me plan menus filled with simple, nutritious, and sometimes meatless meals:
More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre
Whole Foods for the Whole Family by La Leche League International
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

For my quiet time, I will be using The Magnificat Lenten Companion and a two beautiful books that I won from The Happy Little Homemaker. Thank you so much Jen! The Little Black Book and The Little White Book present six minute daily readings during Lent and Easter. You can find these at

I have chosen a few additional books that I will read during this season:
Grace and Gifted: Biblical Wisdom for the Homemakers Heart by Kimberly Hahn
Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison
(Re-reading) A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot

I also recommend Ministry Of Moms Sharing (MOMS). MOMS is a ministry that helps mothers of all ages to gather and work on their spiritual and personal growth. I have been involved with a MOMS group for the last several years at a local parish. The following are a few articles you might enjoy from MOMS:

Fasting and Feasting

Family Spiritual Check-Up

Family Lenten Candle

Resources for Children:
Just as with Advent, we have chosen a theme for our girls to focus on. This year, they will be reading and learning about the lives of the Saints. My older girls will be reading from the Book of Saints by Amy Welborn. They also want to read a beautiful book called Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children by Frank X. Jelenek. I will be reading An Alphabet of Catholic Saints with our little girls.

Another great free resource is the Lenten Adventure for children found at www. Once you have signed up, you will receive a series of emails with videos, activities and links appropriate for school-aged children. We participated in the Summer Faith Adventure and the Advent Adventure. My kids really enjoy these programs!

I also highly recommend Catholic Icing, a wonderful blog filled with free activities, crafts, ideas, lesson plans, coloring pages, etc. for Catholic families. We have printed out the Children's Stations of the Cross and a Lenten calender for the kids to color and follow the 40 days of Lent. They also saw an idea that they wanted to do - they selected some of their favorite toys and placed them in a bin for storage. By "giving up" some toys, they have a better understanding of what fasting and sacrifice means. Our 7 year old feels sad when she cannot sleep with her favorite stuffed animal but she is determined to follow through on her fast. I am very proud of how my girls were anxious to participate in this!

I hope these suggestions and resources are helpful to you in making your Lent a blessed and peaceful time for you and your family. If any of these ideas strike your interest, just jump in and try them!

Do you have any Lenten ideas that you would like to share?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Making Your Home A Haven: Planning and Errands

As I try to catch up with the Make Your Home A Haven series at The Homespun Heart, I will talk a little bit about planning and errands.

I am a planner at heart. From the time I was in high school, I loved to plan meetings, dances, events, etc. This has served me well as a mother! I am always thinking ahead to the next day, week, and year. I think about and start to plan birthdays, holidays, parties, and projects often months in advance. Of course, all of my day to day work as a mom needs a lot of planning as well.

For years, I have used a desk top planner. I would fall apart without my calender/planner! It is important for me to hand write things on my schedule rather than type them into a computer . . . dates and events seem to stick better in my brain when I have written them down. In my planner you will find activities, appointments, to do lists, grocery and shopping lists, menu plans, homework assignments, birthdays, holidays, milestones, phone numbers, ideas . . . pretty much EVERYTHING we do as a family. The key to my success of my planner is that I look at it SEVERAL times a day and it sits in a prominent place in my home. I keep my planner on my hutch in my dining room. This area has become my "Command Station." I keep my calender, a magnetic message board, a project basket filled with the books and activities we are working on, a notepad, and pens and pencils:

This year, I selected a hot pink Mom Agenda. While this is not my favorite planner I have ever purchased, it is very pretty! The best planners I have used in the past are week at a glance planners with large spaces to record activities and appointments with additional space for notes, lists and menus.

I always keep my planners in a special place when I am done with them for the year. They have become my diary and journal. Every so often I flip through them and look at what we were doing at that time. From the day I met my husband, to the day we found out we were pregnant, to the day one of our babies first said mama, I have a record of all our memories!

Running errands has been increasingly difficult with every child we have added to our growing family. I often wish every store had a drive-thru! I am sure at one time or another every mother with little ones has cringed at the thought of strapping her babies into a car seat and dragging them through the grocery store, the post office, the bank, Target, Wal Mart . . . (fill in the blank here with all the places it is hard to take your little kids!) After baby #3, I finally smartened up and decided to hire a babysitter once a week. She watches my 2 younger girls while I volunteer at the school for an hour and then run almost all of my errands.

The key to running my errands is good planning. I always keep four separate running lists: one for the grocery store, one for Costco, one for Trader Joe's/Whole Foods, and one for Target or Wal Mart. I try to combine my errands as best I can. I often jot down a "road map" of where I need to go and what I need to do so I can save on time and gas!

How do you plan your days and run your errands?

Don't forget to visit The Homespun Heart for more ideas on how to make your home a haven!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 2/21/10

This week will busy in our home. We have doctor's appointments, a school meeting, a friend's birthday party, a Daisy Scout event, ice skating and dance . . . not to mention that our baby is turning 7 this weekend! With all the fun that lies ahead, I will be making several crock pot meals this week.

Here is what you will find on our dinner table this week:

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Crock pot chicken tetrazzini, salad

Tuesday: Angel hair with lemon and creamy spinach, crock pot rice pudding

Wednesday: Meatless Wednesday
Panko encrusted tilapia with lemon aioli, steamed broccoli

Thursday: Crock pot pepper steak, steamed carrots, jasmine rice

Friday: Meatless Friday
Grace's favorite stuffed shells, salad, and an enchanted garden birthday cake!

Saturday: Crock pot brown sugar chicken, salad

**If you want the recipes to anything on my weekly menu, please leave me a comment :)

Join the Organizing Junkie at every Monday for Menu Plan Monday and lots of great ideas for your weekly menu plan!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Beating Afternoon Hunger: Homemade Granola Bars

When my older girls get home from school at 2:45 p.m., they are ravenous! I feed them a filling and nutritious breakfast at 7:15 a.m.. However, their lunch starts at 10:40 a.m. which it way too early. They eat a snack in the early afternoon. I include things like yogurt and granola, cottage cheese, cheese and crackers, a piece of fruit, or homemade bread or rolls with jam. As soon as they walk through the door after school, they are ready to eat! If I plan well, I have a snack prepared and on the table before they get home. Recently, I made homemade granola bars and they were a big hit!
Coupled with a tall glass of cold milk served in an old milk bottle, the granola bars filled their bellies and I had (mostly) happy children as I prepared dinner.

Granola Bars

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup flaked coconut (I use an organic unsweetened flaked coconut that is delicious)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup unsalted peanuts

*You can add also an additional 1 cup of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit of your liking.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Warm condensed milk. Mix ingredients together and add to warmed condensed milk.
Press into a greased 9 x 13 pan.
Bake for 1 hour. Cool and refrigerate.


Do you have any healthy snacks that your kids love?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Family Game Night

One of my goals this winter was to plan weekly family fun nights. Each Saturday evening, we plan something special like movie nights, craft nights, reading nights, etc. On family fun nights, I always make a special dinner, snack, or dessert. A few weeks ago, we pulled out some of the board games that the kids received as Christmas presents and we had a great time!

On Saturday afternoon, the girls began to "decorate":

We played:
Operation . . . The little girls played dominoes with Dad:The winner of the night was Aunt JoJo and she took the game night trophy for the week:
I made lots of yummy snacks including Monkey Munch:

Kettle corn in the Whirly Pop:
Buffalo Chicken Dip:
I also made a delicious Cherry Pretzel Salad:

Cherry Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cups butter, melted
3 tbsp. sugar

Center filling:
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 (8 oz. ) container Cool Whip

2 (3 oz.) packages cherry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Stir together crushed pretzels, melted butter and sugar (3 tbsp.). Mix well and press into a 9x13 baking dish.
Bake 10 minutes until set. Cool.
Cream together cream cheese and 1 cup sugar. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread on top of cooled crust.
Mix Jell-O into boiling water. Allow to set until Jell-O has firmed up a bit. Pour and spread over center filling. Refrigerate until set.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 2/14/10

The massive amounts of snow we received caused my menu plan to change a few times last week. Empty grocery store shelves, canceled activities, re-scheduled activities, and cabin fever threw me into a tailspin. Fortunately, things are just starting to get back to normal . . . except the 4-8 inches we are expecting tonight into tomorrow! I am moving some items from last week's menu to this week.

Here is what you will find on our dinner table this week:

Sunday: Father Daughter Girl Scout Dinner Dance (Leftovers)

Monday: Pasta with turkey meatballs and fresh mozzarella, salad

Tuesday: Chicken fiesta, black beans, Spanish rice, steamed broccoli, King Cake

Wednesday: Ash Wednesday
Spinach minestrone soup, homemade dinner rolls

Thursday: Taco bar, refried beans, steamed carrots

Friday: Meatless Friday, Family Fun Night: Olympic crafts
Homemade pizza, salad, homemade funnel cake

Saturday: Popcorn chicken, baked sweet potato chips, mixed vegetables

Batch Cooking:

Granola bars
Whole wheat graham crackers
Refried beans
Chocolate whole wheat zucchini muffins

**If you want the recipes to anything on my weekly menu, please leave me a comment :)

Join the Organizing Junkie at every Monday for Menu Plan Monday and lots of great ideas for your weekly menu plan!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Make Your Home A Haven: Chores

Chores . . . I really do not like that word. We often use the word chore to mean something we must do or something we are forced to do. I chose my vocation as as stay at home mom. My husband and I did not spend much time talking about it. We just knew that was what we wanted for our family. The work I do around my house is something I enjoy (most of the time). I complain, grumble, and sometimes whine about it, but homekeeping is my job and I love it. Housework is not a chore but a true labor of love.

I have mentioned before that I use the Fly Lady system. It has worked especially well for me. With 4 kids ages 6 and under, I do the best I can! When I am pregnant or have a baby under the age of one, I just do the minimum for survival. At the moment, I am not pregnant and my youngest baby is 19 months old so I seem to be getting a little more done these days. Here is a peek at my chore schedule:

The following are my morning, afternoon, and evening routines. These are the things I feel I must do DAILY in order to keep to keep our home tidy and running smoothly:

Morning Routine

1. Wake up at 6:30, pray, and read
2. Shower and dress to shoes
3. Swish and swipe bathroom
4. Make bed
5. Put apron on
6. Start load of laundry
7. Check calendar for day's activities
8. Start dinner preparation
9. Empty and reload dishwasher
10. Eat breakfast and take vitamins


1. Tidy living room
2. Vacuum
3. Continue dinner preparation
4. 15 minute declutter
5. Hot Spots
- Dining room hutch
- Stairs
6. Fold and put laundry away
7. Take 20-30 minutes to myself

Evening Routine

1. Lay out clothes for tomorrow
2. Check calendar for next day and review dinner plans
3. Spend 15 minutes clearing off Hot Spots
-Clear toys from living room
-Clear everything from steps
-Clear living room hutch
4. Shine the sink
5. Put breakfast items and vitamins out
6. Pack backpacks and lunchboxes
7. Wash face, moisturize, remove contacts, and brush teeth.
8. Read.
9. Go to bed no later than 11:00 p.m.

The following are my weekly chores. I do not do every item on the list for that day. I like to have a master list so I can chose jobs that need to be done at that particular time.


**Food shopping

**Clean Kitchen
- Empty frig/freezer
- Clean stainless steel
- Wipe down garbage can and lid
- Wipe down countertops/hutch
- Clean hutch glass
- Organize cabinets
- Sweep and mop floors
- Clean sink
- Clean stovetop
- Wipe down walls


**Clean Bedrooms

- Change and wash sheets
- Dust
- Clean mirrors
- Sweep and mop floors
- Empty garbage
- Organize/declutter drawers and closet
- Organize hall closet
- Water plants


**Clean Living Room
- Dust
- Clean TV/mirrors/pictures
- Organize toys/books
- Organize hall closet
- Clean carpets
-Clean couch covers
- Vacuum

**Clean Dining Room
- Clean mirror
- Organize cabinets
- Sweep & mop floors
- Wipe down table and chairs

**Front Entrance
-Clean front door
- Mop entrance

**Sweep & mop stairs

Errand Day

**Run errands and volunteer at school

Financial Friday

**Work on bills

**Balance checkbook and review budget

**Look for ways to reduce bills

Family Fun Night and Date Night

**Clean bathroom

**Prepare and plan for Family Fun Night and Date Night


**Plan menus for week

**Clip/organize coupons

**Plan grocery list

**Clean out refrigerator

** Review pantry and freezer

So tell me . . . what does your chore list look like?

Don't forget to visit The Homespun Heart for more ideas on how to make your home a haven!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day Decorating

Even though all we can see are mountains of snow outside our windows, we feel very cozy inside our home. We were very lucky that we did not lose electricity this week! Our house is all decked out for Valentine's Day. While we have a busy weekend of activities planned, we will enjoy a family Valentine party on Saturday. Here is a peek at our decorations:

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 1/7/10

We are SNOWED IN! 21 + inches of snow over the weekend and 6-10 more coming between tonight and Thursday. I am ready for Spring!! The grocery store was a madhouse this week so I grabbed what I could find! Here is what you will find on our dinner table this week (I also included some pictures at the end of this post to show what fun 21 inches of snow can be! :)

Sunday: Superbowl beer brat sandwiches, vegetable tray, taco dip, crescent dogs, brownies

Monday: Linguine and clam sauce, salad

Tuesday: Chicken fiesta, black beans, yellow rice

Wednesday: Mushroom roast beef in the crock pot, steamed broccoli, chocolate marshmallow pie

Thursday: Taco bar, brown rice, refried beans

Friday: Homemade pizza, salad

Saturday: Valentine Party (still not sure what we are eating . . . I will figure it out after the roads are clear again!)

**If you want the recipes to anything on my weekly menu, please leave me a comment :)

Join the Organizing Junkie at every Monday for Menu Plan Monday and lots of great ideas for your weekly menu plan!

I had difficulty getting the front door open on Saturday morning. . . .

Who wouldn't want to be snowed in with a face like that?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Our favorite Super Bowl Snack: Buffalo Chicken Dip

Even though the Steelers are not in the big game this year, I will still be preparing some yummy appetizers and snacks on Sunday. If you are looking for something quick and delicious for your crock, check out my post on Italian Sausage Sandwiches.

One of our favorite appetizers is Buffalo Chicken Dip. I am a huge fan of hot sauce so I usually go a little heavier on it than the recipe calls for. Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch salad dressing

1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 cans (12.5 oz. each) chicken breast in water, drained

Heat oven to 350°F. Place cream cheese into baking dish and stir until smooth.

Mix in salad dressing, buffalo sauce, cheese, and chicken.

Bake 20 min. or until mixture is heated through; stir. Garnish as desired. Serve with tortilla chips.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Make Your Home a Haven: Morning Routine

What do you do in your home to create a haven for your family? I am looking forward to sharing what I do to make our home more peaceful and beautiful as I participate in the Make Your Home a Haven weekly series from The Homespun Heart. I encourage you to leave me a comment and let me know what you are doing in your homes to make it place of peace and serenity!

Last week the focus was on a morning routine. (I am a little behind on the series and plan to catch up!) I have always had a morning routine but once I put it down in writing, it seemed to work much better for me . I use a FlyLady Control Journal (CJ), and I place my routines and goals in the very front. There are definitely times I put my CJ aside but I always seem to come back to it when life seems a little unbalanced.

Here is my morning routine and/or what I strive to accomplish:

6:30 a.m. Wake, quiet time: read and Rosary, make bed.

7:00 a.m. Girls wake, get dressed

7:15 a.m. Make breakfast and smoothies, vitamins

7:30 a.m. Make school lunches and snack

7:45 a.m. Empty and reload dishwasher, start laundry
Girls brush teeth, hair

8:15 a.m. Drop girls off at school

8:30a.m. Tidy living room, dining room, and kitchen,
Start dinner and plan after school snack.

10:00 a.m. Start schooling: reading and activities

This schedule changes often but it has been working well for me lately. I am not an early riser so it is something I constantly struggle with. When I do wake early and start my day with some quiet time and prayer, my day is so much better and I am a much better mom. Because I am nursing my toddler and co-sleeping (often with both my toddler and preschooler), it is difficult to keep the little ones asleep when I get up. I often just stay in bed and read and pray the Rosary with a small book light.

If you are struggling with your morning routine, I recommend looking at and the book, Sink Reflections by Fly Lady, Marla Cilley. I also recently found a free e-book called Maximize Your Mornings at It is a great blog and resource to help you start intentionally using your mornings to jump start your day.

So what type of morning routine do you have?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week of 1/31/10

I did not plan my menus last week so I was a bit more stressed than usual! This week is a very busy week for us. I am volunteering to help with activities for Catholic Schools Week, 100th day of school, and Daisy Scouts. I am planning some easy dinners and using my crock pot as much as possible. I spent much of last week cleaning and decluttering, so I plan to do some batch cooking this week to stock up my freezer.

Here is what you find on our dinner table this week:

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Crockpot chicken, steamed broccoli, Italian bread, sweet potato pie

Tuesday: Stuffed shells, salad

Wednesday: Crockpot chicken, rice and vegetable soup, homemade dinner rolls

Thursday: Crockpot sundried tomato and feta tri-tip, salad, brown rice

Friday: Homemade pizza, vegetable tray with dip

Saturday: Family Fun Night: Bingo
Hot dogs, baked beans, sweet potato baked chips
Homemade funnel cakes and popcorn

Batch Cooking:
2 whole chickens in crock
chicken broth
whole wheat waffles
whole wheat banana pancakes
granola bars
sour cream muffins
apple sauce
chocolate chip cookies

Join the Organizing Junkie at every Monday for Menu Plan Monday and lots of great ideas for your weekly menu plan!