Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recipe of the Week - Basic White Sauce

With a basic white sauce you can make macaroni and cheese, pasta alfredo, scalloped potatoes, anything that needs a nice creamy sauce.

White Sauce
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 small onion, diced
1/4 c all purpose flour
4 c milk [not non-fat]
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy bottom large skillet. Add onion and saute until soft and opaque. Stir in flour until damp. Add a bit more olive oil if the flour doesn't all get damp. Slowly whisk in milk and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens.

For mac and cheese, remove sauce from heat and add 2 cups of shredded cheese. Stir until cheese all melts. Pour over cooked elbow pasta. Or pour over steamed broccoli and cauliflower for a delicious side-dish.

Notes - You can use whole, 2% or 1% milk, but not skim/non-fat milk because the sauce needs fat to mix with the flour and thicken up. If you want extra creamy sauce, use 2 c milk and 1 c heavy cream.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

family update 12/19/11 - complete!

hello mamas and friends ~

Delivery complete! In addition to EVERYTHING on the requested lists, we were able to add: lotion, conditioner, Kleenex, and a few holiday items (for both families); batteries, three board games, gloves, holiday gloves, used leap kid computers, and holiday books (for the girls). We raised $725 in cash and gift cards; plus whatever each mama spent who shopped on their own.

Thank you to everyone who contributed and shopped. My running friend Amanda, her son Oliver and my son Owen did the final shopping at Fred Meyer on Saturday. Where if you tell them you are helping another family are extremely helpful finding sales items, coupons, discounts and dealing with cash, gift cards, etc. The boys were very funny trying to pick out dolls and games for the girls. And had many opinions on what kind of black shoes a teenage boy would like.

In addition to the cityMama donations, other staff at PBOT, some of my mama friends and my mom contributed and shopped.

Thanks again for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

Happy Holidays.

Courtney co-chair, cityMamas

Monday, December 19, 2011

Working Mom's Recipe of the Week

Quick Turkey Noodle Soup
Servings = 4
Time = 1/2 hr

4 c chicken broth
1 lb boneless, skinless turkey breasts
1 small onion
1 large carrot
2 large kale leaves
1/2 bag egg noodles
2 t salt, divided
1/4 t pepper
1/2 t dried thyme

1. Place turkey in a pyrex dish with lid. Microwave for 3 minutes. Flip turkey over and microwave for 3-5 minutes or until done through. Remove to cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces. It's OK if it's a little bit pink because you'll boil it more in the broth.
2. While turkey is cooking, bring broth to simmer over medium heat.
3. While broth is coming to simmer, dice the onion, peel and slice the carrot into 1/4 inch rounds, de-vein the kale and cut leaves into thin 2 inch strips.
3. Add veggies and turkey to broth. Add 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and thyme. Simmer until carrots are fork tender.
4. While veggies are cooking bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the remaining 1 t salt and the egg noodles. Boil 8 minutes or until aldente.
5. Drain noodles and add to soup. Taste and adjust spices.

Notes - You can add any spices you like to this soup - sage and rosemary are good. Also, use any veggies you like - celery, canned corn, frozen peas, rutabaga, parsnip, etc.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Review - The Autobiography of Santa Claus

As told by Jeff Guinn

This book is perfect to read with older kids as they transition from a deep belief in Santa to questioning his existence and finally to understanding why Christmas is magical even if the big guy doesn't visit your house.

The story chronicals Santa's life from being a little boy in 280 AD to when the magic starts to happen to meeting his wife and fellow gift givers. In the end everyone is left to still believe in Santa but also to understand that we all have to embody Santa's spirit because he can't be everywhere and he has to focus on the kids that really need him.

It's a long read, 280 pages, and too difficult for kids to read to themselves. It will be best enjoyed read out loud, cuddled under a blanket by a fire. I read the book to Jordan last year, when she was 8, and she loved it. She still thinks Santa is a possibility but understands that she has to be Santa too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Need some homemade gift ideas?

My sister asked me recently to help her think up some great holiday gifts on a dime.  I am a fan of crafting, though lately have very little time to make stuff.  But there are lots of ideas out there!  If you are looking to save a little money, want to give a homemade gift, make gifts with your kids, or just need a little crafting time, here are some ideas!

For younger children:

Homemade Felt Board

If you’re looking for a gift that keeps giving, for Christmas last year, I made felt boards for my kiddos.  They have played with them all year, and recently have been asking me to add more cut-outs.  So this year, I’m cutting out a few more sets for them.

Glue or double-stick tape felt to a sanded piece of wood (about 8” x 10” or whatever size you want) or thick foam core.  You could also glue magnets to a sheet of felt that is cut to fit inside of an old cookie sheet and use that.  We used wood, hot-glued felt around the front, and sealed up the seams with another piece of felt on the back.  We had lots of fun making shapes!  I ‘googled’ the shapes for the stories I wanted, printed them out, and cut them.  There are also lots of resources out there.  Here’s a great post on several variations of the homemade felt board, plus links to some templates.  http://best-toys-for-toddler.blogspot.com/2011/05/homemade-toys-for-toddlers-felt-board.html

Homemade I-spy jars
I’ve also seen these i-spy jars around and want to make them some time but haven’t done it yet.  Seems simple and fun!

Homemade Crayon shapes
I haven’t done this yet, but this blog has a good tutorial and pretty pictures!

Soap Crayons
One ice cube tray
Liquid food color
2 Tablespoon hot water for each crayon
1 cup soap flakes
Small bowl

1.   For each color, put two tablespoons of hot water and one cup of soap flakes into a bowl.
2.   Add as many drops of food color to the mixture as you wish. Stir the soap mixture until it thickens. This takes time, so be patient!
3.   Press spoonfuls of the first color of soap into the sections of the ice tray.
4.   Mix enough soap in other colors to fill the ice tray, following the above directions again.
5.   Let the soap crayons dry for one or two days. Gently bang the ice tray to loosen the crayons.
6.   Pack them in a box for gift-giving.

For a teens or adults:

Bath Bombs / Bath Fizzies
2 Tablespoons citric acid (you can get this at a pharmacy)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup baking soda
3 Tablespoons coconut oil (or any other emollient oil like almond, avocado or
apricot kernel oil)
1/4 teaspoon fragrance oil
3-6 drops of food coloring (if desired)
Paper candy cups

1.  Place all of the dry ingredients (first 3) into a bowl and mix well.
2.  Place coconut oil into a small glass bowl and add fragrance and food coloring.
3.  Slowly add oil mixture into dry ingredients and mix well. Scoop up small amounts of the mixture and shape into 1" balls.
4.  Let the balls rest on a sheet of waxed paper for about 2 to 3 hours, then place each ball into a candy cup to let dry and harden for 24 to 48 hours.
5.  Store bombs in a closed, air-tight container. To use, drop 1 to 3 bombs into warm bath water.

Homemade Bath Salts
1 cup Epsom salts
Measuring cup
2 jars with lids
2 colored of liquid food color
1 pretty 8 oz. jar
A few drops of your favorite perfume
1/2 yard of ribbon, 1/2" to 1" wide

1.  To make these good smelling bath salts, first measure 1/2 cup of Epsom salt into each jar with a lid.
2.  Add 15 drops of food color to each jar, one color per jar and put on the lids. Shake the jars until the Epsom salts are dyed evenly.  If you want your colors to be darker, add more food color and shake again. Take off the lids and let the salts dry overnight.
3.  Now, make sure your pretty jar is all clean and dry. Then pour the dyed bath salts into the jar, alternating colors (you may want to get colors that go together well).
4.  Add a couple of drops of perfume to the bath salts, put on the lid and tie the jar with your pretty ribbon.

Homemade Refrigerator Magnets
Custom magnets are fun and easy to make. The local craft store (your new best friend when making gifts yourself) will have all the supplies you'll need: magnets, and clear or lightly colored flat circular glass stones. When you get the glass stones home step one is to customize them. You can do this by gluing a photo or scrap of pretty paper with fun designs on it to the flat side. With the stone customized and glue dried attach the magnet to the bottom. The persons most likely to enjoy these are grandparents (use photo of grandkids), tween or teen age girls (use photos of friends, hunky movie stars or funky designs).

Need more ideas?
If you google “homemade Christmas gifts”, there’s a lot out there.  Here are a few websites that have conveniently compiled many ideas.  There are so many to choose from – it’s fun to look through!  There’s something for everyone, but don’t get overwhelmed.  Also, some of these sites have lots of ads.  Sorry about that.

Happy crafting and happy holidays!  Share with us if you’ve found something you like.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Working Mom's Recipe of the Week

This time of year is so busy and it seems like there is alway a party or event that I'm cooking for. This week it's two work potlucks, mine and Jeremy's, and Saturday it's Jordan's piano recital and cookie party. Thankfully I like to cook. But even with my enjoyment of late night baking, it's hard to muster the energy to also make dinner. Here are my recipes for healthy meals during the holidays:

1. Never underestimate the sandwich. Whole wheat bread, deli turkey, cheese, lettuce, mustard - done, dinner. Or get fancy and use rye bread, cream cheese and sweet pickled beets with the turkey - trust me, it's delicious. Or sourdough with pesto and sundried tomatoes. Everyone can have what they want and it takes about 15 minutes.

2. Pasta, pasta, pasta. Cook penne pasta according to package, skipping the oil. Choose a really good pre-made spaghetti sauce - something thick with garlic and basil. Bring it to simmer and add pre-cut mushrooms and a small can sliced black olives. Mix sauce with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Add salad-in-a-bag and you got dinner in about 20 min.

3. Quick Mexican. Saute a diced onion in olive oil. Add a can of drained corn and a can of drained black beans. Add a can of diced tomatoes and a small can of green Chiles. Sprinkle with cumin. Take a small bag of tortilla chips and crush into a grease rectangle glass baking dish. Scoop the corn/bean mixture over the tortillas. Sprinkle with a couple handfuls of pre-shredded cheese. Bake at 350 F until the cheese melts. It takes about a half hour start to finish.

4. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. This winter standby is a go-to for us. Adult-up the grilled cheese by using gruyere instead of cheddar and adding deli-sliced ham. Have fun with the tomato soup toppers as well - we love gold fish crackers. This take about 10 minutes total.

5. Grilled Chicken Satay. Sounds way to fancy to be easy right? Wrong. Fire up the grill - yes, in the middle of winter. Cut the chicken in to 1-inch wide strips. Grill until done. While the chicken is grilling make some rice. Use a boil-in-a-bag or minute rice or other quick plain rice. Then, take 1/2 c of creamy peanut butter and add 1 T soy sauce, 1 T warm water, 1 tsp brown sugar and 2 T fresh chopped cilantro - whisk together. Taste and adjust to your desired sweet/salty preference. Adjust the saucy-ness by adding more water. Lay chicken over rice and top with a healthy dollop of peanut sauce. Total time is about 20 minutes.

When all else fails, order pizza. If you get thin crust, skip the greasy pepperoni and add a couple veggies, pizza is actually pretty good for you. Bottom line is to cut yourself some slack. All that matters is that people eat something somewhat healthy and hopefully spend a minutes together as well. If that means take-out, that's OK.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Great article on work/life balance

A few quotes from a great Huffington Post article:

Big surprise: "The study finds that being happy at work becomes less important to women's overall well-being when they have pre-school children, possibly because this changes working mothers' priorities."

"Or we could read it as evidence that women, in prioritizing child-rearing -- in other words, their personal lives -- identified that no matter how much you care about your job, work isn't the ultimate source of fulfillment, no matter how successful or powerful you are, not even for men, who were also included in Georgellis' study."

As HuffPost 50 editor Laura Rowley put it last week, "The company that can create jobs where a woman can work from 8:30 to 2:30 is going to win and win really big."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lunch this week

This week: same Monday - Wednesday : hummus (Barbur Foods), tabuli (Barbur Foods), Kashi Pita Crisps, olives, cucumbers, mandarins. Owen: snacky lunch two days, hot lunch and salad bar two days. I am volunteering at school Friday - not sure if bringing our lunches or having hot lunch, but we eat together. /courtney

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Working Mom's Recipe of the Week

Quick Weeknight Stew
Servings = 4
Time = 30 min

2 T olive oil
1 1b stew meat
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
4 c chicken broth
2 large peeled carrots, sliced into rounds
1 celery stalk, sliced
3 red potatoes, cut into cubes
Handful button mushrooms
1/2 t salt

1. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add meat, onion and garlic. Cook until meat is browned on all sides, but not done through.
2. In a shallow dish, mix the salt and pepper into the flour. Sprinkle over the meat, onions and garlic - stirring constantly until flour is all moist.
3. Slowly pour chicken broth over the meat mixture, stirring constantly.
4. Add veggies and remaining salt. Cover and simmer until potatoes and carrots are soft; about 10 minutes.

Notes - You can use any veggies you like in the stew. You can add any spices you like - rosemary, thyme, sage, etc. or you can just go with salt and pepper.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

holiday organizing

from Beth @ NW Organizing Solutions. We will have regular posts from her in 2012 - I took this from her email newsletter/courtney.

The holidays will soon be here and perhaps you are starting to feel the stress. There may be more than 12 days until Christmas, but there is also a lot to get done. How can you get ready for this wonderful celebration without arriving at the big day frazzled and exhausted?

Consider the following 12 ways to help you have a wonderful, organized, and stress-free holiday.

  1. Free up your mind by carrying a small pad of paper with you to write down the many thoughts that will be circling in your head over the next few weeks. Capture on paper your things to do, groceries to buy, and places to go, so your mind can enjoy the season.
  2. Keep your decorating simple. You don’t have to decorate as if it was a show home. Remember it’s the people that are important not the decorations. As you unpack the decorations, sort and purge those that you haven’t used in years or those that don’t look as good as they used to. Showcase your best.
  3. Be choosy about what you put on your calendar. There are so many great activities at this time of year. Think about each opportunity and evaluate it by asking yourself if you will really enjoy it, if you will still be able to celebrate the holiday and if you will be spending time with the friends and family you want to be with? Don’t be afraid to say “no” to some events.
  4. Start working on your holiday cards early. The task of writing all the cards at once may seem overwhelming, so break it down into more manageable tasks. Try addressing the envelopes one day, writing a portion of the cards on another, and finishing on yet another.
  5. Create a gift list and keep it handy. List all the people you have to buy gifts for and some ideas you think they might like. Keep this with you wherever you go, because you never know when the perfect gift might present itself. Check off when you have purchased gifts for each person, so you can avoid doubling up or having to make that last minute trip for a forgotten gift.
  6. Carve out a time to do your baking. Once you decide what you want to make and determine the necessary ingredients and the amount of time needed, schedule baking time on your calendar. If you plan to do lots of baking, consider baking some items well in advance and freezing them.
  7. Set up a wrapping area. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just by gathering paper, tape, scissors, gift tags and ribbons near a large flat surface, you will help make the process go smoothly. Remember that using gift bags and tissue paper is a quick and easy way to wrap a gift. Also consider using a few large rolls of paper with one color theme instead of many small rolls to eliminate waste and reduce the types of ribbons and cards needed.
  8. Update your Christmas card and address list. As cards arrive, record who you received them from and any address changes so you’ll be ready for next year. After the holidays are over, save only the photos or special notes and recycle the rest.
  9. Plan meals in advance. Make a list of all the food items you plan to serve and gather the needed recipes. Make a few simple meals ahead of time and freeze them. You won’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen, so you can have more time to enjoy the season and the people important to you.
  10. Keep a recycle and donate bin close by. Don’t let the catalogs, newsletters, gift wrap, and miscellaneous items take over your home. Once they have been read or used, drop them into the recycle or donate bin.
  11. Reach out to those less fortunate or those who may be hurting. It may be someone you know or someone you have never met, but you can still show them that someone cares. You don’t have to spend lots of money on a gift. A visit to someone who is lonely or a warm meal to someone who needs it is a wonderful gift.
  12. Take time to celebrate. Remember your Christmas doesn’t have to be picture perfect, but a time to celebrate the greatest gift of all and to enjoy the season with those who are important to you. Merry Christmas!