Monday, August 25, 2014

10 Ideas for Leftover Or Frozen Meatballs-Update

This post, originally written in 2012, has been one of the most popular posts on my site. So I figured it would be fun to update it with a nice, shiny, new Pin-able picture and some updated recipes!

Making a double...or triple...batch of my freezer friendly meatballs doesn't take much more prep work than a single batch, and there are so many options for leftovers. I love having these in the freezer for those "uh oh, what's for dinner?!" weekdays. I make sure to freeze them without sauce, so I'm not bound to use them for Italian food!

1. Meatball Sandwiches
-Obviously.

2. Meatball Pizza
-Slice meatballs into thin pieces. Prepare a pizza crust with sauce and cheese, and sprinkle meatball slices on top of cheese. Add other toppings or vegetables of choice (such as onions, bell peppers, olives, etc), and bake at 450* until bubbly and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

3. Chili
-Crumble up meatballs and add to your favorite chili recipe instead of the ground beef, onion, garlic mixture. This is especially easy for rushed mornings, to throw into the crock pot.

4. Meatball Soup
-My friend Kerstin gave me the recipe to this awesome and FAST soup in the crock pot.

1 lb leftover or frozen meatballs (I make mine larger, so about 4-5. I cut them into bite size pieces before serving)
1 can Beef Broth (14oz)
1 Cup Water
1 can of Diced Tomatoes w/Basil, Garlic and Oregano (14.5oz), undrained (or 1 can regular diced tomatoes with some italian seasoning sprinkled in)
1 can of Cannellini Beans or Kidney Beans (14oz), drained
1/2 onion chopped
1 C chopped carrots
1/2 C chopped celery
2 C cooked noodles (optional)
Parmesan Cheese to garnish individual servings

Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours
Garnish individual servings with Parmesan Cheese, add noodles to individual bowls if desired, and serve.

5. Meatball Gyros
-Slice heated meatballs and add to warm pita bread. Top with sliced cucumber, sliced onion, lettuce, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.


6. Meatball Calzones
-Mix 2 C ricotta cheese with 1 egg, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 C mozzarella cheese, and several sprinkles of Italian Seasoning. Fold in chopped pieces of meatball. Cut 1 lb pizza dough into 4 equal portions, and roll into squares. Place 1/4 cheese mixture on each square. Fold diagonally and seal edges with a fork. Brush tops with one egg whisked with 2 TBS water. Bake at 450* until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.


7. Sweet and Sour Meatballs
-Simmer meatballs with store bought or homemade sweet and sour sauce. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped scallions.

8. Lasagna
-Crumble or slice meatballs, use in place of ground beef, onion, garlic mixture in lasagna.

9. BBQ Meatballs
-Simmer meatballs in your favorite BBQ sauce until heated through. Serve over mashed potatoes with coleslaw on the side.

10. Sloppy Joes
-Crumble meatballs and use with your favorite sloppy joe recipe instead of the ground beef and onion mixture. Our personal favorites: This Rachael Ray recipe on Food Network, and this recipe over on Allrecipes   

What are your favorite ways to use up leftover or frozen meatballs?


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The "Ah Bahm Oo" Miracle...An Update on Junior

Junior talking to Bionic Buddy, the mascot for his cochlear implant company.

To most of you it would sound like gibberish. The meaningless jargon of a toddler, as he learns to find his voice. But to me, it's a miracle.

"Ah bahm oo"

It represents our journey. All the fears and pain. All the things I thought I was giving up when I accepted that Junior was deaf. The dreams I thought I had to abandon because our child wasn't "perfect" in the eyes of the world.

It represents the last two years of sacrifice, appointments, therapy, and tears.

It represents hope. Picking up the pieces and realizing that joy doesn't come from circumstances. That miracles happen in the mundane.

Because this time, when I picked him up and said "I love you", Junior looked at me and replied "ah bahm oo".

The dream I had once discarded--of my child hearing me say I love you--was picked up, dusted off, and  presented to me as a gift. A gift of his not only hearing me, but telling me that he loved me too.

"Ah Bahm Oo" may mean nothing to a stranger, but to me it means everything.

Have you read Junior's Story?

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Review: Fearless


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
I have a soft spot in my heart for military men--I married one. So, I was really excited to sit down with Eric Blehm's Fearless, a biography about fallen Navy SEAL Adam Brown.

Adam Brown was born in Arkansas, and after moving around as a youngster, finally settled back in Arkansas before middle school. He always gave 100% in everything he did, including football, and crazy antics, such as jumping off a local bridge with regularity in high school.

Adam was always a hard and respectful worker, but one day after high school he began to slack off in his work and ditched his job which was very out of character. His parents soon learned that he was battling a drug addiction. After he ended up in jail, Adam came to accept Christ as his Savior. However, the addiction kept calling Adam, and he relapsed a couple of times before joining the Navy, with the sole intention of becoming an elite SEAL.

He knew he was going to need to stay off drugs in order to accomplish his goal, and the book details how his wife Kelley helped keep him strong in spite of temptation. Despite several career threatening injuries, Adam eventually does become a SEAL, and not just a SEAL, the best of the best...an operator for SEAL Team Six, a Black Ops division that boasts some of the most highly trained men in the military.

Adam Brown was killed in action during a 2010 mission in Afghanistan, but Fearless does an incredible job of telling his story through interviews with his friends, family, and brothers-in-arms. From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, it is an inspiring book about hope, perseverance, and self-discipline.

Fearless made me happy, sad, patriotic, encouraged, discouraged, and hopeful. That's one of the best compliments I can give it...the story made me feel something, and I truly felt like Adam was a dear friend by the end of the book.

The only thing I'm going to knock it for is some bad language. I know that's how military guys talk. I truly, truly do. Especially Special Ops guys, whose vernacular "adjectives" wouldn't be allowed in mixed company. But, because this was a Christian book from a Christian publisher, I would have expected to have seen all the bad language bleeped out, and not just the really bad words.

On the whole, though, this was a great story and one I will recommend to my friends who are interested in the military.

Bottom Line: 8*/10*

**I was provided a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Press and Blogging For Books. I was not required to write a favorable review, and all opinions are my own.

Costco Finds--Back to School

Every once in a while Costco will put stuff on clearance, and you can find a steal! This week I went in looking at clothing since they're beginning to switch out summer clothing for fall clothing. Here are some of the good deals I found. Perfect for back to school!

*Prices and selection may vary depending on store



How adorable is this dress...it was in sizes 2T to 6X, and was only $4.97!




These dresses went all the way up to size 8, and were only $6.97. I actually picked one up for Stinker for Christmas.


These little boy super hero sweatshirts were not on clearance, but $9.99 was still a good price. They seem like good quality.



Again, these boots were not on clearance, but they are awfully cute and less than $20. They're sherpa lined and super soft.

Junior has one of these jackets, and they're perfect for fall...or deep winter in San Diego! One of the best prices I have seen on jackets anywhere.




These kid's socks are really good quality--they're Stride Rite brand and were 8 pair for $6.99. Only about $0.87 per pair.


Costco is one of my favorite places to do back to school shopping, and if you can catch them in between seasons, you can get clearance prices for even better deals!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Family Favorite Recipes: Restaurant Worthy Lentil Soup

This Lentil Soup recipe is one of my family's favorite. It's gluten and dairy free but still manages to be creamy, filling, and satisfying. The bacon adds the heartiness, but since it only calls for 3 slices, it's budget friendly. (Simply freeze the leftover bacon in increments of 3 slices.) We grow thyme in the backyard, and I've decided I absolutely love the taste of it. The soup is slightly smoky, creamy, and has a beautiful balance of flavors.

This soup is better than most soups I've gotten at restaurants and have paid $8 a bowl for. This soup is only $1.25 per serving! Serve with a loaf of crusty french bread, and you have perfection!

Restaurant Worthy Lentil Soup--serves 6
(adapted from America's Test Kitchen)

-3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-(1) 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
-1 bay leaf
-1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
-1 C green lentils, rinsed and picked over (pick out any stones)
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 C dry white wine
-4 C chicken stock
-1 1/2 C water
-1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
-4 oz. fresh baby spinach
-pepper to taste

1. Fry the bacon in a large stock pot (I use a cast iron dutch oven) over medium high heat, stirring, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. About 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften. About 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the lentils, the 1 tsp of salt, and pepper to taste. Cover, and reduce heat to medium low, and cook until vegetables are soft. About 10 minutes.

4. Uncover, increase the heat to high, add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot partially. Simmer until lentils are tender but not overcooked, about 30-35 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

5. Puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth, then return to the pot. Add the balsamic vinegar (it gives the soup a really nice balance) and stir, heating until hot.

6. Add the fresh spinach, and cook a few minutes until wilted. Serve with crusty french bread or biscuits and enjoy!

Cost Breakdown (vinegar, salt, and pepper are freebies)
Bacon-$5 for a pack of 12 slices. Freezing in increments of 3 slices, each pack of 3 is $1.25
Onion-$0.69. Saving remainder of onion, each half is $0.35
-2 Carrots-$0.50
-3 cloves Garlic- each head of garlic is $0.50. Saving remainder, three cloves amounts to about $0.10
-Can Diced Tomatoes-$0.50
-1 Bay Leaf-$0.05
-Thyme-if grown outdoors, free. If purchased, $0.50
-1 C green lentils-$0.90 (purchase in bulk section of your local health food store)
-1/2 C white wine-I purchase "2 Buck Chuck" and use it for cooking. Each 1/2 C increment equates to about $0.40
-4 C Chicken Stock-$2.00
-4 oz Baby Spinach-$1.00

Total Cost-$7.55, or $1.25 per serving.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: 52 Uncommon Dates and a Giveaway

I recently posted Date Night on a Budget, which seems to go along well with my latest book review, 52 Uncommon Dates. As you can guess, this book is filled with 52 different dates you can take with your spouse, that don't fall into the typical dinner-and-a-movie routine. The book is written by Randy Southern, with an introduction from Gary Chapman who explains the importance of reading your spouse's "love language" in order to form a more intimate bond.

I like the layout of the book. Each date starts with a Bible verse, tips to make it happen, conversation starters for the date, and how to incorporate your spouse's love language into your date followed by a bunch of Bible verses that discuss the theme of the date. There were some really interesting dates: going to a garage sale together, taking a bike ride together, building with Legos, going ice skating, a date that needs to stay entirely in the car, and watching a sunrise together. Because of the pre-date and post-date content in the book, each date had a purpose of building true intimacy instead of just going out to pass the time.

Before I can accurately share my opinion of this book, I have to explain my husband a little bit. He's very much a military man...which means he likes routine, and doesn't like to share his feelings. Ever. He has amazing strength and wisdom, and I am grateful for how much he balances me in my emotions, but I have to admit that he was not interested in most of the dates, and really wasn't a fan of the conversation starters or references to love language. I think he finds it all a bit frilly. But, that's just my husband, and I love him for who he is =)

That said, I did like the ideas in the book. I'm not sure it really works for us in this stage of life (we don't get the chance to get out without the kids much, and we'd probably prefer to go places and do things we know we're going to enjoy to take advantage of the time away.) But, I think it still offered some good advice and ideas, and I'm sure there are many couples who could benefit from reading this, and incorporating some of the dates for their next evening (or morning, or afternoon) away. I think this book is probably best suited for couples without children, or couples with older children. It would be difficult to do some of these ideas when you're parenting littles.

*Moody Press provided me a copy of this book as well as a giveaway copy in exchange for my honest review.

The Giveaway is Now Over. Congratulations Laura for being our winner!

Living Joyfully...No One Can Do It All

Although I love being a stay-at-home mom, it's not easy trying to raise a special needs child, and trying to homeschool. Both of my kids are very high energy, and what you would consider to be "spirited", which leaves me drained at the end of every day. And that doesn't even include the everyday household duties I have to accomplish just to keep my house somewhat in order. Most days, I literally have nothing left. My husband is a huge help around the house and with the kids, but it often still seems like I can't keep on top of everything. It's a constant sense of taking one step forward, two steps back.

I hit a wall recently, and decided something needed to change. I needed to figure out my priorities and stick with them. Adding too many additional commitments and placing unnecessary expectations on myself was beginning to rob the joy and the energy from my life. Here are a few things I had to do:

1. Figure Out What Means The Most To You
I'd like to say that my priorities are always in perfect order: God, my husband, my children, my health, then everything else. But, when you're overwhelmed with too much on your plate, it's easy to knock those priorities on their head.

2. For Each Priority, Make a List
In the busy seasons of life, the only commitments you should make are those that directly influence keeping your priorities in line. Everything else can wait. Here are some of the goals I have with each priority. I still struggle, but making lists always helps me.

Priority 1: God
-Devotional quiet time every day
-Regular Fellowship with other Christians
-Being a good steward of the gifts He has given me

Priority 2: My Family
-Keep everyone fed, safe, and healthy
(My Husband)
Keep the house as clean as possible. (He helps out a lot, but I don't want him to think it's always his job.)
-Minister to him in his own love language (While I would prefer to sit and talk all evening after the kids go to bed, it means more to him when we just sit together watching TV. He enjoys being able to relax and tune out.) So, 8pm-9:30pm is his time, and I try not to schedule anything during that time.
(The Kids)
-Homeschool Stinker
-Teach Junior how to speak and hear with his cochlear implants (including all the therapies he has)
-Make them feel loved and cherished every day

Priority 3: My Health
-Take time to nourish my body (aka-no more skipping meals because I "don't have time"... not eating makes me crabby!)
-Take a break when I need it (I can't do it all, and I'm a much better wife and mom if I take a break before I get too overwhelmed.)

Priority 4: Everything Else
-If I have the time and energy to focus on other things once my top priorities have been met, then I can commit to them. Otherwise, I have to say no for this season in life. 

3. Don't Feel Guilty for Saying "No" When Something Isn't On Your List
You'll be driving yourself crazy if you accept every invitation, go to every get-together, and sign up for every volunteer effort that is presented. When I feel like I'm treading water, I have to say no to literally everything except what's in my list of priorities. Sometimes I feel bad or flaky, but I also know that stretching myself too thin gives me less energy to put towards my relationship with God, my family, and my own health. Leaving me useless to be all that God has planned for me to be.

Remind yourself that many of the expectations we put on ourselves are often arbitrary, and not based in reality.
-My house needs to be a safe and healthy place, but why do I feel like I need to clean 8 hours a day?

-I need to feed my family healthy food, but instead of spending 5 hours in the kitchen cooking a gourmet meal from scratch, can I make a nutritious meal in an hour and spend the rest of the time with them?

-Why do I feel like a bad friend for not saying "yes" to every invitation I'm offered, when this stage in life may require "Hey, can you come up to my house for muffins and a conversation" instead of going to a dinner party?

-I need to give my daughter a good education, but do I really have to write all my own curriculum and spend hours on photoshop making cute little worksheets and labels, or can I find some free printables?

I can't do it all. But, I can use the time and energy that God has given me to be the best steward I can of the things He has entrusted to me. 

In this stage in life, I need to be gentle with myself, but I know that as my kids get older and less dependent on me for everything, I will have more time to devote to other things. I have to remind myself that this too shall pass

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: The Butterfly and the Violin

I would assume that a novel about Auschwitz would leave me torn...but you can't exactly knock a book for being "depressing" when you know it's going to be about the most infamous concentration camp in the Nazi regime. I love World War II era fiction, but I don' really like intense and depressing. Is there any way to have a middle ground there? While intense and somber, The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron hit that middle ground by telling two separate, yet interweaved stories from two different generations. There was some romance, both past and present, which gave hope during otherwise devastating circumstances.

Sera James is a present day art gallery owner in New York City who has been searching for a painting she once saw in Paris as a young girl. The painting is of an unknown woman, playing a violin with a shaved head. Obviously it is a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. Sera stumbles upon some new information about the painting, but has to work with William Hanover-heir to the Hanover fortune-since William's late grandfather wrote a secret clause into his will that the owner of the aforementioned painting was to be the rightful owner of the vast Hanover Estate. They both have different motives for finding the painting, so can they trust each other and find the painting? And can Sera learn to open her heart again, after her former fiance left her at the altar two years before?

Adele von Bron is a talented violin player in Austria during the Third Reich. Her father is a high ranking Nazi official. She risks everything to help hide and transport Jews out of Austria with her friend/romantic interest Vladimir. One fateful evening she is caught, and sent to Auschwitz; a horrifying place of death, starvation, and crushed spirits. She is also recruited to play violin in the camp's orchestra, which plays as people are arriving at the camp, and at the whim of the SS officers. Adele is broken, but she finds hope in friendship, and in the eternal love of God.

I liked how the book told both stories at the same time. Sera's story would flashback to Adele's, and Adele would recall something that happened in 1939, even though it was 4 years later. I was concerned it would muddle the story, but the author did a good job weaving everything together. I also liked the main point of the story--regardless of our past, God can always create a new future for us.

I wasn't really satisfied with the ending...it wasn't as articulate as the rest of the novel. The other thing that puzzled me was Adele's Austrian boyfriend named Vladimir Nicolai. That just doesn't fit in as an Austrian name. But, that's a petty offense. Overall, I liked the book.

Bottom Line: 7*/10*

*I was provided a free copy of this book from Book Look Bloggers and Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion

Chapter Book Read Alouds...Tips and Our Favorites

It's amazing how much stronger Stinker's vocabulary has gotten since I've started implementing read-alouds as part of our homeschool curriculum. Research consistently proves that reading to children is one of the most effective ways to strengthen the neural pathways in their brains, allowing them to learn quicker and retain more. Since January, I have read 10 chapter books out loud to Stinker.

Here are a few ways to find a good chapter read aloud for your student or students:

1. Start With the Classics...Adapt if Necessary
They're classics for a reason. Books from Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, and Alexandre Dumas have all stood the test of time. If your child is a little young for some of the subject matter, use an adaptation specifically for young readers. The writing of the older books is stronger than newer books, and the vocabulary is much larger. The stories are also a lot of fun.

2. Make Reading a Priority
Read a chapter while the kids are eating breakfast, read while your child is in the bath. Set aside time every day to read. Help instill a love for reading now, so your child will be a lifelong learner.

3. If a Book Isn't For You, Don't Be Afraid to Stop It 
If you've started a book that's boring or that your child isn't interested in, don't be OCD like me and refuse to start a new book until you've finished the boring one, trudging along just to get through it. In the younger grades, it's most important to associate enjoyment with reading, not duty.

Here are the books I read out loud to Stinker last year:
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
  • Imagination Station #1-4
  • Boxcar Children #1-3
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Little House in the Big Woods (Little House on the Prairie series #1)
Here is our list of books to read this year (First Grade)
  • Little House on the Prairie (plus additional in the series)
  • My Side of the Mountain
  • Swiss Family Robinson
  • Black Beauty
  • Oliver Twist
  • Chronicles of Narnia (continuing the series)
What are some of your favorite read alouds?

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