Monday, January 30, 2017

What We're Eating This Week

This weekend I made some Chicken Lettuce Wraps (we ate them as a meal) and they were DEEEEElicious!  So, I feel the need to share the recipe:  For good measure though, I went heavy on the fresh ginger and garlic and I think it was just perfect that way.  One garlic clove is NEVER enough!  Also, it is very difficult to find organic or pasture raised ground chicken. You can grind your own very easily though.  I just cut up the organic chicken thighs into chunks and then froze them for a couple of hours.  Then, when I was ready to make the meal, I threw the chunks into my food processor and voila--I had ground chicken!

You can read last week's post for our typical breakfast, snacks and lunch plan.  I need to share a yummy breakfast recipe that we have been eating for the past few days.  These apple carrot breakfast cookies from "Super Healthy Kids" are just perfect.  We absolutely love them!  They are a super easy breakfast and snack and are packed full of vegetables and fruit.  And, they have no added sugar at all---the fruit sweetens the cookies nicely and the cinnamon make sugar completely unnecessary. If you wanted to make them gluten free, just grind some oats into oat flour instead of using the whole wheat flour.

Here is this week's dinner meal plan:

Monday:  We actually have plans to eat out with friends tonight.  A local farm to table restaurant has a kids eat free night on Mondays, so that is a bonus!  But, before we made these plans this weekend, I was planning on making what I am making on Tuesday night--the Chili.  That meal feeds us for several nights (or a couple of dinners and a couple lunches (for me)!

Tuesday Amazing 3 Bean Sweet Potato Chili from "My Whole Food Life".  This recipe is very simple and delicious.  Plus, it is Vegan and gluten free--so it is a great "Meatless Monday" recipe.  Serve this with some clean organic tortilla chips.  We like the Central Market Organics Blue Corn tortilla chips.


Wednesday:  Leftovers

ThursdayPakistani Kima:  This one is a regular hit at our home.  We have it at least once per month.  The seasonings make this dish delicious!  I have tried it with chicken, but it is much better with beef.  Also, I usually use 1.5-2 large sweet potatoes as the potatoes in this dish.  When making this recipe, the first thing I do is dice the sweet potatoes and stick them in the oven (coated with a bit of olive oil) for about 20 minutes while I am doing the rest of the recipe.  Then, when it is time to add them, they are cooked through.  Otherwise, it takes a while for sweet potatoes to cook in the skillet with the other ingredients in there.   I serve this one pot meal with brown rice. 

Pakistani Kima (Beef Curry)
2 – 3 Tbsp oil (I recommend coconut oil.)
1 cup chopped onion (i actually use more like 1/3 to 1/2 a cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb ground 100% grass fed beef (or other meat or even chicken.--it is better with beef though)
1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder (See Sweet Curry Powder Recipe- Do It Yourself)
2 1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp turmeric
2 1/2 – 3 cups tomatoes (about 1 1/2 14 oz cans)
3 potatoes or sweet potatoes (If using sweet potatoes, I only use 2 since they are usually so big)
2 1/2 – 3 cups peas (I actually only use 1.5-2 cups of these)

1.  Melt coconut oil or butter in a large pan.
2.  Add onion and garlic (if using minced, add a bit of water to reconstitute).
3.  Cook until onion softens and garlic begins to brown (watch it carefully – garlic burns easily!)
4.  Add meat and cook thoroughly.
5.  Add curry, salt and spices.  Stir well.
6.  Dice potatoes.
7.  Add potatoes, tomatoes and peas to the pan.
8.  Bring to a simmering boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are done.


  • Dice the potatoes small.  It’s pretty disappointing to wait the whole 25 minutes and still have crunchy taters! (also, I usually use sweet potatoes and pre-roast them in the oven until they're soft.)
  • Add the peas later in the cooking time to keep their color more vibrant.
  • Substitute ingredients and add more or less to your taste.  However, if you add more potatoes, onions, or peas, you will need to increase the seasonings.
  • For a low carb option, sub green beans for the peas and cauliflower for the potatoes — any low carb option you like. How about radishes for the potatoes :)?

Friday:  Leftover Kima

Saturday: Chicken Enchiladas This recipe is awesome because not only do you make one dish of enchiladas (with enough for leftovers the next day), but you make another dish at the same time to freeze.  I will pull the other dish out on a night when I don't have a lot of time to cook later this month!  The recipe calls for corn tortillas.  We have a very simple corn tortilla recipe that we use:  Corn tortillas are just about the easiest thing there is to make.  They take two ingredients:  masa harina and water.  You just roll the dough into balls and put them in a tortilla press.  A tortilla press was a good investment for us, because we are nuts about tacos in our house! But, you don't have to have a press to make the tortillas. Alternatively, you can take a fast route and find excellent quality tortillas at whole foods.  Just make sure to read the ingredients and they should only list corn (masa harina), water, and maybe lime or salt.  Serve the enchiladas with a side salad or yummy homemade mango corn black bean salsa (recipe below):

  • 1 large mango (or 2 small mangos) diced small
  • 1 can of black beans - washed and drained
  • 1 cup of corn (I use frozen corn--i don't worry about defrosting)
  • 1 organic red bell pepper - diced
  • about 1/4 cup red onion - diced (or more or less to your liking)
  • Bundle of Cilantro - chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt

  • Dice, chop and throw everything into a big bowl and mix together! I think the flavors come out more if you refrigerate it for a couple of hours, but it can be eaten right away.

Sunday:  Leftovers!


Monday, January 23, 2017

What We're Eating This Week...

I have had several friends ask, (knowing that I meal plan on Mondays), whether I could post our dinner meal plan for the week in the form of a blog post.  I totally get it.  There are so many weeks where I wish someone could just tell me what to make!  But, it is tricky for us, because we follow a lot of "rules", for example, no refined sugars, nothing from packages (in other words, from scratch), mostly vegetable focused, etc.  We try to stay away from flours, but when we do use flour, we stick with Spelt, Homemade oat flour or 100% Whole Wheat (organic).  For the most part, we follow the rules from the "100 Days of Real Food" blog, however, we also add some additional rules, such as "beef is only eaten on rare occasion and when it is it is 100% grass fed and finished from local farmers."  Chicken is always completely pasture raised or organic.  We limit dairy and eat it on a minimal basis and also on special occasions.  With all of these rules, planning meals really is a chore. 

So, it really does make sense to share with others our meal plan and not let it go to waste on just our family.  I will share the love.  :-)

For breakfast, we typically eat homemade granola and fruit.  For snacks, we typically eat fruit, vegetables and hummus.  For lunch, we often eat sandwiches (with homemade bread or bread purchased from Great Harvest bread bakery), or leftovers from the previous night's dinner, or tacos, or big salads, along with fruit and vegetables.  We also love the Central Market organics blue corn tortilla chips.  These go great with Hummus (either homemade or Kirkland's organic hummus).  Here is our dinner meal plan for this week. 

MondayHoney Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Lime Quinoa This quinoa is delicious and makes an excellent addition to any salad!  Make the quinoa at the beginning of the week and enjoy it all week long for lunch!

Tuesday:  Leftovers

WednesdayReal Food Sloppy Joes (from the 100 days of real food blog).  For the buns, we make our own from scratch using this recipe:    Or, if we are in a rush, I can buy some locally baked from scratch whole wheat buns from a restaurant (Hopdoddy) for $2 for 6 buns baked the previous day.   We make sure the beef is 100% grass fed and finished and purchase this from local farmers.  Here is why you want to buy 100% grass fed and finished products:

Thursday:  Leftovers

FridayOne Pan Mexican Quinoa

I don't plan on Saturday and Sunday because our schedule varies and we usually eat out once or twice on the weekend since we are often out and about on adventures.  I let Drew help me with the weekend's meal plan on Saturday morning when we make our weekend's activity plans.  :-) 


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Homeschooling Hikers

This past summer I decided to create a group for homeschoolers who enjoy hiking as much as we do.  This group is called, the "Austin Area Homeschoolin' Hikers".  Austin Area Homeschoolin' Hikers is a group dedicated to giving our homeschoolers regular exploration time outdoors with friends. Research continues to show how rich learning outdoors through play is for young kiddos! I schedule at least one big group hike per month and the hike is packed full of learning opportunities. Not only that, but the kids just get to freely be kids, wild and free kids.  That is the best kind of kid to be, right?

I love watching the kids play and explore together on these hikes.  The dynamics of these group hikes is completely different than our family hikes.  On our family hikes, we stop more to discuss different things we find, but our pace is a little faster.  On these group hikes, the kids stop for detours much more frequently--especially if there is water.  If water is nearby, we know there will be many stops to play in the water.  The kids come up with projects to do together.  These projects include building dwelling structures (such as teepees), building dams or even bridges.  They work together and it is amazing to witness how much they can accomplish in such little time.  The kids effortlessly divide up the work and work so well together.  It is a delight to watch. Many adults could learn something by watching these children.  :-)

 On Friday, we hiked the Great Hills Trail in Austin.  This is a fun little trail that is actually located within a neighborhood.  You would never know it though by the looks of it once you are on the trail.   The last time we hiked it as a family, we enjoyed finding several geocaches hidden along the trail.  But this time, the kids most enjoyed playing in the creek.  So much so, that they actually spent about 3 hours in the creek, having a blast, just being kids.  I believe most parents have to work at fighting the tendency to be concerned about their kids getting dirty or wet.  As a parent who isn't yet experienced with letting their kids just be kids, you worry about such things.  What will we do if they get drenched from head to toe?  What if they get those expensive shoes dirty?   I have learned that clothes dry, the mud can be washed off, and clothing and shoes can be easily thrown into the washing machine.  The memories these kids make without having to worry about getting wet or muddy clothes is well worth them having to travel back home with no clothing on.  :-)  If I worried about these things, then my kids would miss out on so many fun experiences.

Y'all, I had just as much fun as the kids on this hike.  I really am immensely thankful that God led me to homeschooling.  Today in church I told a couple about our fun hike on Friday.  They were asking me about homeschooling, as they are expecting their first child.  As I recapped the week, I realized how excited I sounded about the fun we had last week.  The husband said, "wow, I want to have that job!"  That's when I remembered that this really is a job and my employee satisfaction level is extremely high!  No matter what role God calls you to (whether that be homeschooling, a professional business career, a career in the ministry or whatever it may be) when you are in His will, it just feels right and is so amazing!  Here are some photos of some of the fun we had with friends on our most recent hike.   

On this hike there were about 20 kids.  here are just a few that I could fit into a photo while we waited on the rest of our group to catch up.

Luke and Abbey brought their cameras and found some fun things to take pictures of.  Luke loved this angle from atop a huge boulder.

Abbey was proud of her ability to climb onto the big boulder.

She also was proud of her ability to climb this steep area.  Her climbing abilities are improving.

We crossed the creek many times.

I love the homeschooling moms that are part of our group.  Abbey is particularly fond of this mom, Ms. Trish.

As I mentioned before, these kids love water.

This tree bridge was my favorite!  The kids loved it too.

They crossed it, they went over it, they went under it....

You can tell these kids are just having a blast.  Who cares that their clothes are wet!

love this tree!

Look at the joy in his expression as he crosses!

It was fun to balance on the tree bridge!

The kids devised a plan to build a dam to try to stop the creek water from flowing.

They took a little break from building the dam.

Then it was back to work.  Teamwork at its finest. 

Every rock was placed just so.


Abbey even jumped in and helped.  At first, I was concerned about her getting really wet.  I was only concerned because I was worried she would complain about being wet.  I didn't care if she was wet, but I don't like whining and complaining.  She didn't complain once!  I was so proud of her!!!

I love her!!!  She was the only girl out of the 20 or so kids and she hung right with those boys!

more perfect placement.

Look at all this hard work! these kids did this all by themselves!

Our friend, Jack, found a really cool twisted stick!

Our friend, Colton did some nature journaling.

Once the kids finished their dam, they moved onto try to climb this huge, steep rock wall.   It was gorgeous and there was even fresh spring water peacefully dripping from the top. 

we took one more scenic loop to a little waterfall before we ended our long hike.

And the kids did a little more climbing.

Abbey loves her camera.  I believe she may be a future photographer.  here she is taking a picture of me, taking a picture of her, taking a picture of me...
I love our homeschooling hikers!

Our Weekend Day trip to Enchanted Rock

There are numerous extremely fun places to visit near our home in Central Texas.  This year we decided we are going to try to explore way more of these areas than we have in previous years.  Abbey is now at the age where she can hang with us.  We can hike for miles and miles and she doesn't complain.  Her little legs can keep up well.  Can you believe she has hiked up to 5 miles at one time with her little legs?  The kids are now loving hiking almost as much as we do.  This was a huge goal for us.

Since we are at such a good point with the kids' loving adventure and outdoors as much as we do, we decided it was time to take a day trip to Enchanted Rock.  Enchanted Rock is a "state natural area" just outside of Fredericksburg, TX.  The massive pink granite dome rising above Central Texas has drawn people for thousands of years.  The scenery and cool rock formations make it a really fun place to explore.  Our kids absolutely love rocks.  They collect rocks, they love to climb rocks, and they love to look at others' rock collections.  So, this trip was right up their alley.  The last time that Drew and I visited Enchanted Rock was when we were dating.  It was July and it was HOT!  Probably not the best time to be hiking to the top of a massive piece of granite.  But, we still had fun.  We didn't remember it being very busy.  But, then again, it WAS July.

Our trip back in 2007 to Enchanted Rock.  We were very hot and sweaty but still smiling.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am most definitely a planner.  When it is time to plan a trip, I spend a lot of time researching---the best time to arrive, things to make sure to see, best restaurants in the area, best routes to take, etc.  This time, however, I decided to try to be more laid back and not be such a planner.  So, we awoke on Saturday morning and grabbed plenty of snacks and water, and headed to Enchanted Rock.  The kids were giddy with excitement.  It made me extremely happy to hear them in the back seat talking about how excited they were to hike!  Google told us that it would take an hour and 50 minutes to get there.  This would put us there right around 10:40.  Drew had heard before that the park often gets too full and they have to close it down for new entries.  Still, Drew had been several times before and never experienced that.  And again, we didn't remember it being busy when we went back in 2007.  But, just in case, we decided to stop at "Rolling in Thyme and Dough" in Dripping Springs (which I highly recommend) and grab some things that could serve as a picnic lunch for Enchanted Rock.  This way we could hike and not have to leave the area for lunch.  Since the kids could smell the yummy food though after we bought it, they wanted to eat it in the car before we arrive.  We arrived to Enchanted Rock before 11am, but guess what?  The park rangers told us the park was closed until 2pm!  I saw tons of parking spots inside, but they were closed?   So confusing and frustrating.  Apparently, as soon as the parking lot (which isn't very big) is full in the morning, they close the park until 2pm.  Even if folks leave, they don't open it back up until 2pm.  We decided not to give up on our visit to Enchanted Rock.  We were also planning on visiting a fun rock, gem, mineral and fossil festival that was in Fredericksburg that day.  So, we decided to head into Fredericksburg, walk around the town, grab lunch and then go to the rock festival.   After all that, then we would head back to Enchanted Rock.  (Fredericksburg is about 23 minutes away from Enchanted Rock.)   While we were eating lunch, I started reading about getting into Enchanted Rock after they re-open in the afternoon.  Apparently, it was recommended we get there at 1:30pm so we could make sure we get in.  So, we ate our lunch and headed back to our car, knowing it was going to take almost a half hour to get back to E Rock.  We didn't have time to go to the Rock Festival.:-(

We got back to E-Rock around 1:20.  When we arrived, the park ranger again told us that we could not go in until 2pm.  So, I asked what he recommended we do in the meantime.  He said go to Fredericksburg or Llano.  I told him that we had already been by before 11am and were told they didn't open until 2p, so we had already been to Fredericksburg.  We asked if there was somewhere we could park and wait.  He said that once we got beyond the cattle guards on either side of the park, they couldn't stop us from parking on the side of the street.  He said that they allow folks to start lining up 5-10 minutes before 2pm for entry into the park.  So, we decided to drive down a ways until we saw other cars waiting.  It was crazy!  There were so many vehicles parked along the side of the road.  Eventually, a Texas parks truck with flashing lights came by and asked everyone parked along the side of the road (within the cattle guards) to leave.  We decided to drive a little further just past the cattleguards and park there.  There were many cars doing the same thing.  We waited there for about a half hour and started heading back to the park to get in line at 1:50.  We were actually the first car to leave the area.  Others still were parked.  When we arrived, the line had already begun and there were about 50-60 vehicles in front of us!   The line went on for what seemed like miles.  We were nervous that we would spend another hour waiting and never be able to get into the park.  We considered heading back towards our house and just visiting Pedernales Falls on the way back instead.  But, we discussed and agreed to stick it out.  The kids were SO excited to climb E-Rock.  Finally, a park ranger came by to help direct traffic (it was crazy y'all!) and we asked him if he thought we would be able to get in based upon our place in line.  He responded, "you'll get in!"  We were elated to hear him say that.   The next 45 minutes went by pretty quickly and we were in the park.  By the time we got into the park, Drew and I had invented a much better ticketed system for entry into this popular park. Maybe we should write the Texas Parks Department.  I write all of this information in hopes that others read this and avoid some of the waiting time that we did.  In the future, we would get to the park at least before 9:30a, preferably before 9a.  That would have saved a lot of trouble and wasted time.  Also, once you get to the pay station, if you pay with cash, you can stay in your vehicle.  Those who were paying with credit card had to park and then go inside to pay.  This is why the line was taking so long to move forward once the clock turned 2pm.  Thankfully, we made sure to have exact change and that part was a quick process for us. 

Once we got in though, we really did have a blast!  Here are some pictures of our lovely and delightful visit to the park.

The Summit trail begins like this, with a gravel path.  But soon, the path is gone and you just make your way to the top of the big rock whichever way you wish.

The kids loved climbing on all the fun rocks.

Enchanted Rock is basically a HUGE piece of granite.


There are SO many fun rocks to climb!  It's a climber's dream!!!  And Luke is most definitely a climber!!
I love the textures and flora there.

The hike is extremely steep, and thus is rated as difficult.  So, we took a couple of little breaks on the way up. 

Luke thought this was a perfect spot to eat a snack. We decided to eat a snack there on the way back down.


Luke was always our leader (as usual).  He was extremely excited the entire time and I am pretty sure this was one of his favorite hikes so far.  He scoped out the area ahead and told us which way we should go.

There are gorgeous views from every angle!  You can tell the hike up is pretty steep.

We promised the kids that when we made it to the top, we would sit down in a pretty spot and have a snack.  We ended up going over the top and to the other side of E Rock for some gorgeous views.

Abbey could have stayed there forever, taking in the views and chatting with daddy.

Luke and I finished our snack quickly though and were ready to explore some more.  We found this.  Luke and I pretended this was a dinosaur footprint. 

After our snack, we found some fun caves to explore.  We crawled between some fun, huge rocks to get to the cave entry point.  Abbey held these big boulders up so we could all squeeze through.



I include this photo to show the steepness of the hike.  This photo is taken at a straight angle.  A few times, Luke was a little bit afraid he was going to fall off the mountain since it was so steep. 

We could feel the cool, damp air coming from the cave.

It was so much fun to explore all of these neat areas together.

The trees that lived on top of E Rock were really fun to look at and explore.

Abbey agreed with us that this lonely tree at the peak was awesome.  So, she pulled her camera out and snapped a photo. 


One side of E Rock had some big pools. 

The pools were extremely shallow.  While the kids explored them, the photographer in me loved the reflections and the beauty and just had to snap pictures.

We enjoyed views from every angle of E Rock.

The striations created from previous rains and dirt were absolutely gorgeous.

We found so many fun rocks to climb.

This was a comfy place to hang out.

Views for miles...

I did my part by moving some big boulders back into place. 

I found the perfect place to set the camera down to snap a family photo.  Too bad it was so windy on the top, otherwise without the hair in my face, this would be a good family photo to print.

I love climbing!

And so do the kids!

As we were waiting in the car for what seemed like hours before getting to enter the park, Drew and I had told the kids that this may be the only time we visit the park.  We just couldn't imagine going through the frustration of getting into the park again.  But, it is amazing how the experience once inside the park helped us to forget about all of that pain and frustration we experience before entry.  Now, I am certain we will be back again someday.  Perhaps we will camp there so we can spend more time.  But, I will go back to my normal ways if we do so and plan, plan, plan.  Make reservations many months ahead.  Or, if just a day trip, arrive just after the park opens, spend the morning there, and then head to the cute German town of Fredericksburg for shopping and food afterwards.