Sunday, February 23, 2014

coupons for fresh fruit and almond milk in this week's Smart Source

If you don't get the paper, you may want to consider grabbing one this weekend. This week's Smart Source insert has coupons for mandarine oranges, Almond Breeze almond milk ($1.55 savings) and Greek yogurt. You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Steamed Artichoke

Tonight's dinner was Tilapia, Roasted Vegetables, Quinoa and (drum roll, please....) Steamed Artichoke.
I have never in my life made Artichoke, but one recent night at dinner my husband was reminiscing about meals with his grandmother. She would steam artichoke, then they would peel the leaves off, dip them in butter and eat the meat from the leaves. No doubt this was over delightful conversation and coupled with a perfectly prepared meal, and well dressed table. This woman was something else - elegant in all that she did and said, and a true delight to be around.
I wanted to try to recreate one of those special nights for my hubby, so on this particular evening at home with our children, I took a stab at my first ever steamed artichoke. Let me be clear about something - this dinner was far from a replica of dinners with my husband's sweet grandmother. I burned my hand on a pot of chocolate fondue I was planning for dessert. All my fingertips were burned, so I sat through dinner with ice on my hands. The artichoke took a lot longer than I expected, so I ended up serving the appetizer after our meal. And then there were the three children... that's all I'm going to say about that - but it was true to our family's nightly imperfections, so for us, it was just fine.

How To Prepare Artichoke
Start by cutting off the bottom stem, and all of the prickly thorny parts of the artichoke leaves. 
I pulled the leaves back slightly and put in small slivers of butter and minced garlic.

Boil water in a pot and place artichoke in a steamer basket. place the basket down inside the pot and cover with a lid. I steamed the artichoke for about 45 min.
We pulled off the leaves starting with the bottom, and dipped them in melted butter. To eat the meat of the artichoke, you scrape the leaf with your teeth while you pull it from your mouth. The kids thought that it was fun, but it definitely took some practice and getting used to.
When you have pulled all of the leaves away, you will get down to the heart, which is the tastiest part of the artichoke. You'll have to first pull aside the bristly part that protects the artichoke heart. Please don't eat that. It's not enjoyable. One of my kids said it tasted like a toothbrush. Yeah... not recommended.

And there you have, it folks. Steamed Artichoke. I loved that my kids were willing to try it, and that we shared a "first." We'll definitely make it again for a fun appetizer.
*note- this is NOT the correct way to eat artichoke leaves. :)

Great Expectations

“Lord God, I am not big or strong, but help me to do your work.”
This was a simple prayer at the dinner table from the lips of my boy that both surprised and delighted me! Earlier that day, I had been looking over his notebook he uses for morning devotions. I was surprised to find prayers that he had jotted down that were not for himself, but for his dad and me. I was shown insight into his world at school, and I was beyond proud of the person he is becoming. This devotional book was something I purchased for him several months ago, and encouraged him to begin his own journey of discovering God. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that the Lord was showing up in a very real way for my son. In that moment, I felt the Lord was confirming to me something I already knew – that he had been marked for greatness.
I remember when I was pregnant with Anthony; I had a long list of expectations of what my child was going to be like. He would be great at sports, perfectly behaved, he would be the smartest kid in school, and he would grow up to be a successful man (whatever that meant). These are things, I realize now, that are merely accomplishments, and don’t reflect what my child would actually be like. The truth is, God gave us a little boy who was made in His image (Genesis 1:27), and is the exact person he was created to be. He’s intelligent, he’s funny, he's caring and affectionate, he’s full of energy, he’s loud and obnoxious at times, he’s unorganized and he’s seven.
I feel like there is an overwhelming pressure on parents to compete with each other on who has the ‘better’ child. In conversation, we tend to conveniently sneak in little tidbits that our child is an advanced reader, or that he or she excels in a certain sport. We take over their science projects to make sure they get an A. We run ourselves ragged by carting them from this activity to that one, just to ensure that they are “well rounded,” when in reality, I think most of the time it’s for our own entertainment. We put them out on the soccer field at the age of two, and sit back waiting for them to impress us. It is no wonder when children face challenges, good parents feel like failures. We have set ourselves up for those feelings of inadequacy by trying to manipulate our children into becoming who we always hoped they’d be.
God created each of us so uniquely that He gave us each a purpose (Jeremiah 29.11). How fun it will be as our kids get older, to see God’s plan unfold in their lives! Right now, my children are interested in horses, science experiments, and kitty cats. They get into trouble at school for talking too much, for dancing in the halls and “webbing” imaginary characters during reading time. They talk about becoming teachers, and farmers and parents. In contrast to my silly expectations before becoming a mom on what my children would be like, It’s my prayer now that the Lord use the interests, talents and personalities that He gave them to shape them into adults who honor Him. I’m learning to let go of certain expectations, and switch my focus to praying “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22.42).
When Anthony was a baby, I sang a worship song, entitled Praise You, to him daily as a lullaby. I changed the words slightly to make it specific for him, but also for myself as a new mother. I know the Lord has honored that prayer, and will continue to do so throughout our lives.
Praise You, Praise You,
Left my life, praise you.

Lord, I come to you today,
With a simple prayer to pray,
In everything I do,
Let my life, O Lord, Praise You!

Lord, you formed him out of clay,
And for your glory he was made.
Use this vessel as you choose,
And let his life, O Lord,
Praise You!

I have the following scripture committed to memory, and pray it over my children often.

Philippians 1:9
“This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will do many good things with the help of Christ to bring glory and praise to God.

I always expected the “letting go” phase of parenting to happen somewhere in their adolescents or when they are ready to move out of the house for college. True, my children are still small and very much in need of their mother. However, there are certain areas that I have to let go, and let God take control over. I am trusting in the Lord that if I train up my child in the way he should go (spiritually), when he is older he will not depart from those teachings (from Proverbs 22.6). I believe “there is no greater joy than [knowing] that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1.4). 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mommy's Running Around!

This week, I would like to highlight a good friend of mine, Kristy, and her blog, Mommmy's Running Around. Kristy is a wife and mother of two preschool-aged children. She is also a nurse and has a passion for health and fitness. Kristy and I first were introduced through a common love of music and worship at our church, and both served on the worship team. We quickly found that we had a lot more in common than music, and we made it a point to get together during the warm Spring and Summer months for a few runs. Last year we ran the Shape Diva Dash Obstacle Course and The Colfax 5K. She smoked me. I mean... really smoked me, She could have rubbed it in and done a victory dance, but instead, she was so encouraging and positive, which is something I really appreciate about someone who is good at what they do... having a good attitude and humility.
I remember having a discussion with a personal trainer one time that told me if I wanted to have a "productive" run, my treadmill shouldn't be set at anything below a 6. My incline should be nothing lower than a 4, and I should never run for more than 20-25 minutes, unless I was training for a marathon. So... that's where I started. My treadmill at a 6, my incline at a 4, and I ran for exactly.... 5 minutes. 5 minutes! I felt so defeated, and I thought, "Oh my goodness. I will never be a runner. Running is awful!" It wasn't until I let go of those unrealistic goals in the beginning, that I really did begin to enjoy running. I eventually worked my way up to those goals, but it was definitely a challenge. You may be like I was in the beginning, and needing some practical advice from someone who lives it. That's why I asked Kristy to share with us some insight she has in the topic of running, health, and fitness in general.

How did you begin running, and have you always had an interest in fitness?
 "I really started running in college. My first run was 7 minutes long, with a friend who had to lie to me about the time so I would keep going! I have ALWAYS had an interest in healthy eating, but I never had considered myself an exercise junkie."

How has fitness effected your life?
"Wow, in a major way! I rarely get sick, and being a Mom to 2 small children in cold season, this is a PLUS! I get time to think, pray. I listen to sermons during my runs almost every day! I have LOTS of energy to keep up with my family. I have minimal mood swings; (I think that is one of the greatest benefits)!"

On a typical week, as a mother of your children, what does your fitness schedule look like?
"I run about 5-6 days a week averaging 30-35 miles. I get up VERY early to make it happen! Most days, I am up by 5 a.m. for coffee and Bible time. I go to our neighborhood rec center (a block from my house) and use the treadmill (free). I prefer to run outside in the Summer, but don't in the Winter months due to the dark. I try to be back to the house between 7:15-7:30."

Wow! That's dedication! What would your advice be to someone just beginning to run? How would you encourage them?
"Start slow, build a running base (like run 3 times a week for 1-3 miles each time). My first year of running was 1 mile 3 times a week. Be consistent. Don't be hard on yourself if you have to take walk breaks. Not every run feels AMAZING! You will probably feel exhausted until your body adapts. Run a race, like a 5k. Find some running buddies!"

What have been your favorite organized runs?
"The Bix7 in Davenport, Iowa (a 7 mile crazy hilly race that is a HUGE community festivity!)  I LOVE Bolder Boulder, because it kind of reminds me of the Bix!!!  I also have run the Platt River 1/2 marathon a few times and will again this April!"
Finally, do you have any favorite gear or equipment you LOVE for running that you can leave us with? 
"I really like Brooks running shoes.  I went to Road Runner shoe store this last year and learned that I over-pronate.  Brooks Ravenna have great stability and arch support!  I have one pair of compression tights that I wear on long runs (helps with circulation.)  I love having my smart phone for podcasts and Pandora.  I bought a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch on Craigslist for $100 last Summer (it is normally over $200 I think).  It is VERY accurate in terms of pace.  I used it for a 15k race and it was only off by 2 seconds!  I have used Map My Run, but have found that my pace was not as accurate as my Garmin.  That being said, for a beginner who does not want to spend a ton of money on a GPS watch, it is a great alternative!"

Kristy's insight sure left me encouraged, and I hope you feel the same. If you are new to fitness, and find yourself discouraged (as we all have), don't give up! Keep plugging away at your personal goals, and you will be sure to see positive results on the inside and out!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How I Spent $100 For One Week of Meals For My Family of Five!

On The Menu:
*(items that are underlined are things I already had on hand in my fridge or pantry. Buying in bulk allows me to shop my own kitchen when planning my week's menu. Find out more on feeding your family healthy foods on a budget in this post.

·         Dinner – Salmon, Wild Rice and Salad.

·         Breakfast: Cereal and almond milk
·         Snack – fruit
·         Lunch – whole wheat bagel pizzas. (vegetables and cheese)
·         Snack – veggies and homemade hummus
·         Dinner – we ate at the in-laws (but we also had them over the next day, and fed them lunch, so I think it evens out.) J

·         Breakfast – Oatmeal, almond milk, sliced bananas
·         Snack – homemade fruit leather, homemade granola bars (find the recipe for granola bars here)
·         Lunch – Grilled Turkey burgers, sliced raw vegetables, homemade hummus and organic tortilla chips
·         Snack – fruit and homemade granola bars
·         Dinner – I was at work, so Jason fed the kids leftover lunch from Saturday.

·         Breakfast – cereal with almond milk
·         Snack- Bananas
·         Lunch – PB&J, vegetables and hummus, yogurt, apple
·         Snack – crackers and cheese
·         Dinner – Breakfast burritos (eggs, bell pepper, onion, cheese, homemade creamy gravy)

·         Breakfast – leftover breakfast burritos
·         Snack – apples
·         Lunch – Salad wraps (chick peas, veg, ranch dressing, cheese) and a banana
·         Snack – Crackers and cheese
·         Dinner – Stuffed bell peppers (rice, quinoa, tomato, marinara, roasted carrots, broccoli)

·         Breakfast – apples, PB and granola with yogurt
·         Snack – homemade granola bars (find the recipe here)
·         Lunch – quesadillas with beans and quinoa, raw veggies
·         Snack – oranges
·         Dinner – tuna sandwiches, organic tortilla chips and vegetables
·         DESSERT! – PB cookies

·         Breakfast – Whole Wheat Pancakes with Strawberries
·         Lunch – PBJ, homemade apple chips, yogurt
·         Snack – Carrot sticks, cucumbers
·         Dinner – Potato Soup and homemade cornbread

·         Breakfast – Cereal, almond milk
·         Snack – popcorn
·         Lunch – Banana and PB tortilla wrap with a side salad
·         Snack – homemade strawberry  fruit leather
·         Dinner – Shephard’s Pie (ground turkey, homemade gravy, frozen mixed veggies, mashed potatoes)

·         Breakfast – eggs and yogurt
·         Snack – sliced vegetables and ranch dressing
·         Lunch – potato soup leftovers from Thursday
·         Snack – fruit smoothies
·         Dinner – Bean and cheese burritos


½ gallons of coconut milk
·         2 $1 off coupons
1 lb. Salmon fillet, manager’s special
½ gallons of Silk Almond milk
·         $1 off coupon
2 Cascadian Farms Organic Cereals
·         $2 in coupons (coupons double at Kings)
Thomas Whole Wheat Bagels
·         $1 off coupon
2 Post Cereals (raisin bran)
(came with a $4 off milk of any brand, including almond milk at checkout, which means I won’t have to spend money on milk next week)
1 softsoap
1 toothbrush
FREE with coupon
1 toothpaste
FREE with coupon

4 lb. cheese
10 lb. carrots
2 loaves of Oroweat bread
/0Mixed greens – salad
9 lb. bananas
44 ct. whole wheat tortillas (uncooked)
5 lb.bag of frozen organic mixed vegetables
$ 6.29

Broccoli (4 lb)
3 Cucumbers
3 lb. mandarin oranges
Organic apples (.98/lb)
2 Pink grapefruit
Roma Tomatoes (.48/lb)
3 cucumbers

WAL-MART (I lost my receipt, so this is an estimate)        
2 rolls of Lean ground turkey
Dry pinto beans
Bag of organic russet potatoes
18 ct. cage free, all natural eggs
1 pt. organic yogurt
Whole wheat crackers
Wild rice
Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing

Feeding Your Family Healthy Meals On The Cheap

Did you make a New Year's Resolution to eat healthier in the upcoming year? Has it been a shock to your grocery budget? It doesn't have to be! Here are three things to do that are a MUST if you want to feed your family healthy meals on a tight budget. Click this post, to find a weekly menu and grocery list that ended up being about $100 for a week of meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and snacks for my family of five!

1) Do your own food prep.
Forget "diet foods," and just stick with what God has given for us. Ditch whichever trendy diet book you're reading, and just focus on whole foods that come from the earth, and all natural animal proteins (if you eat meat). One easy way to do this is to almost completely avoid isles in the grocery store. With the exception of whole grains, nuts and seeds, really there isn't a whole lot within the inside isles of a typical grocery store that fits a whole foods diet. Stick with the produce section, and foods you find in the perimeter of the store (dairy, meats, frozen veggies and fruits, etc.).
When you get home, you may have quite a bit of food prep to do, and that can seem overwhelming if you're new to cooking from scratch. My suggestion is to learn to love to be in the kitchen. :) Block out a two hour window on your weekend (maybe even just twice a month) turn on some tunes or a fun podcast, put on a cute apron and go to town! Chop your own carrot sticks, shred your own cheese, make your own convenience freezer meals, and prep your own snack foods. When you prep your food in one block of time, it makes dinner for the whole week a snap. The savings may seems minimal to you at first, but believe me... they add up! For instance, on sale at the store I can purchase a 1 lb. bag of organic baby carrots for $1.50. At Costco I can buy a 10 lb. bag of Organic whole carrots for $5.50 ($.95 a lb, which for 10 lb. equates to a savings of $9.50).

2) Cut back on meats and dairy.
Meats and dairy will be some of the most expensive things on your grocery list, but a little can go a long way.
It may require that you re-think how your family does dinner. Maybe instead of serving a chicken breast and steamed veggies (a really healthy choice, by the way), try fancying up your veggies, and making them the focal point. Serve chicken on the side. A great way to do this is in casseroles, skillet meals and soups and salads. Our family only eats meat a couple of times a week, so meat is not a huge expense for our grocery budget.

3) Start a stockpile of food.
Start simple with dry goods for your pantry. Stock it with whole grains, seeds, nuts and things that are shelf-stable. In the beginning, budget a little extra for your weekly grocery spending and purchase in bulk when foods are at their lowest prices. I have had great luck with finding natural and organic foods at Costco, and buy staples there every week. Bread, Cheese, frozen fruit and some fresh produce are some of the things I can find for a great price at Costco.
Veggies and fruits are at their best price in the summer. If you stock your freezer in the summer months, it can pay off tremendously in the Fall and Winter.
Having a vegetable garden helps you easily stock your freezer with home grown, organic vegetables. It's fun for the whole family, and holds tremendous value for instilling healthy habits in your children.
When you have a nice stockpile in your own kitchen, you can shop in your own pantry before even heading to the store. Plan your weekly menu with items you already have on hand.

4) Learn to Coupon and Ad Match.
Disclaimer: Most coupons are for junk food and toiletries. There are, however, great resources that you can use weekly that make using coupons much easier. If you are in the Denver area, use This site will match up coupons with current deals for our area grocery stores, as well as give you links to printable coupons online. also has this feature, and you can have them email you weekly match up deals for stores where you frequently shop.
Check with your local grocery stores to see if they will ad match. Wal-Mart does, and I know some busy moms who would prefer to not shop at multiple stores, and this is a great option for them. I like Shopping at Sprouts on Wednesdays, because you can take advantage of the previous week's advertised deals as well as shop the current sales. It's always really busy on "Double Ad Wednesdays," but usually it's worth it to stand in line a little longer. Spouts usually has really good quality produce at a fantastic price.
King Soopers (Kroger) and Safeway both have mobile apps that allow you to download coupons to your store card. Keep in mind that these coupons usually won't double, so having the paper coupon is usually to your advantage. Currently, Post is doing a sale I have taken advantage of at both King Soopers and Safeway. The coupon is loadable from both of the store websites or mobile ap. Purchase two boxes of select Post cereal, and receive $4 towards milk of any kind. King Soopers had Raisin Bran for $2 ea. I had a $1 off coupon for Silk Almond milk which brought the price per 1/2 gallon to $2 ea. So.... For $4, I went home with two boxes of cereal and two 1/2 gallons of almond milk. NOT BAD! (I'm not going to lie - I high fived the clerk). Stores will often times have their own coupons that you can stack with manufacturer coupons (Whole Foods and Sprouts also do this pretty frequently) which really maximizes your savings.
You don't have to be an extreme couponer to save BIG!

What extraordinary deals do you know of going on right now? Please share them in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Veggie Turkey

My daughter's Kindergarten class is having a Thanksgiving Feast tomorrow. It's potluck style, and all the parents were assigned an item to bring. My mom had sent a picture of a turkey made out of vegetables to me several weeks back, and I knew I wanted to duplicate it for this school lunch. I emailed the teacher and requested to be assigned veggies, and was so excited to make our own Vegetable Turkey!
I started with lettuce leaves as the turkey feathers, and then layered a variety of colorful raw veggies on top. This one has broccoli florets, baby carrots, red bell pepper, olives and cucumber. The face was made with the end of a cucumber, olives for eyes, a carrot beak, and a slice of red pepper for the wattle (yes, that's what it's called - I googled it). The tops of celery sticks were used for the legs and feet.

Do you have any creative food art that you like to do for the holidays? Leave a comment or send me an email and picture of what you have done in the passed. MOST CREATIVE THANKSGIVING FOOD ART WILL WIN A COPY OF FAMILY FUN SUPER SNACKS, which is loaded with fun, healthy snack ideas for kids. The deadline to enter is Wednesday, November 27th at midnight. I will announce the winner on Black Friday. Good luck!