Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Comforting bowls of Soup!

 We are definitely a soup loving family. 
I LOVE soups of all kinds from 
Chicken Noodle, to Bean Soups, to Minestrone! 

They're ALL delicious to me! 
I know that Spring is here, but here in Southeast Idaho, it is still chilly and there are many days we still want to warm up with a bowl of soup.

 I also LOVE squash of all kinds 
 and during harvest season I always find ways to add in zucchini or summer squash into my soups and I bake a variety of muffins, breads with squash as well.   
Butternut squash makes the top five of my squash favorites and I love making Casserole with it, (here) and (here) steaming it with just a little butter and salt/pepper, OR, making soup with it.

Here is another soup favorite...
ESPECIALLY with the kids,
although not one of Tracy's favorites, he loves the flavor of it just doesn't like the consistency (although the kids and I beg to differ).
He loves soups with LOTS of broth and doesn't really enjoy smooth, creamy soups as much. 

This reminds me of a soup you would get at a nice restaurant and can be served up a variety ways as far as garnishes. 
Butternut Squash Soup
6 cups chicken broth
2 pounds butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 tsp. thyme
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
2 stalks celery chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 slices bacon 
2 cups packed spinach or kale chopped
One 15 oz. can pinto beans drained (OR 2 cups beans you have cooked)
2 carrots chopped
1 bell pepper diced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions, garlic and celery in olive oil for 10 minutes until they start to get soft.
Next add in thyme, butternut squash and broth and cook over low heat for 45 minutes to one hour until very tender.
While squash mixture is cooking, cook bacon strips until crispy.  Set aside
Take small batches and puree soup in a blender until smooth. Do this until it’s all pureed up.
Return pureed soup to pot and add in crispy bacon, pinto beans, carrots, bell pepper and corn kernels. 
Bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 minutes (or until veggies are tender)
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with croutons on top, or, a dollop of cottage cheese, or a few shakes of hot sauce. 
Especially delicious served with a slice of French Bread

Perfect meal for children of all ages
that is nourishing & absolutely delicious!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life's going too fast, but I'm learning so much!

"While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about".
~Angela Schwindt

I never imagined how much JOY I would get from having children, but they have filled my life with SO much joy, happiness and more than anything, I learn daily 
all about LIFE from my boys...like unconditional love, true friendship, how to be silly and have FUN under any circumstance!

My Sweet Ethan Kip came into our lives nine years ago and life has never been the same. I learned so much from this sweet little guy this past week.  
Tracy and I made a quick trip to Idaho Falls to do some birthday shopping for our little guy. We wanted to something meaningful for his birthday. One of the sweetest moments came after we had been gone about an hour when Ethan called us on the cell phone and said the following:

"Dad, where are you? 
I don't need any presents for my birthday. I already have all the toys I could ever want. In fact, I have too many toys. I just want to have a day creating memories. I want to have pancakes for breakfast, I want to play "multi-player" NOVA with you on the iPhone for a few hours, I want mom to read out of the Boxcar Children to me, I want some homemade spaghetti and pecan pie.
I just want to spend the whole day with you and mom and Jade!

GASP, I learned a valuable lesson from my son that day...more than anything, our children just want the  
gift of TIME!
(even for their birthdays and holidays!!)

Here are some of my favorite photos of Ethan over the years
Smile, Smile, Smile!
There's hardly ever been a moment that he hasn't had a precious smile to give us!

He never tired of being packed around on my hip and always let me help him when he got hurt.
He always wanted to be just like dad...when dad wore a hat, he wore his.
When dad grabbed his tape measure, he grabbed his!

Ethan LOVES people...especially Grandpa Smith.  Tracy's dad used to work out of town and so it meant that we only got to see him every few months. Ethan LOVED going over and playing with him. This series of photos shows Ethan throwing an absolute fit and bawling when grandpa left to go back to his job in Utah.

He LOVES to help us out, no matter what it is we're doing and no matter how hard it is. Here he is trying to help dad change the flat tire. He had to help Tracy with every turn of the jack (although, he wanted to make all of the turns himself). 
(what a lucky kid that has a dad that will take time to let his little boy help him, even though it would sometimes be easier to do it all himself...Tracy is awesome!)

One of my all-time favorite photos! 
We had just hiked over 15 miles with our 4 year old son and he was tired, hot, sunburned, dirty, but he NEVER stopped, except to have a drink and take bites of his CLIF bar!

(I miss the days of having a little boy that could ride on his dad's shoulders!)
 He is one of the most 
determined kids I have ever met! 
This backpacking trip he walked all but the last 4 miles of a 21 mile hike.  His determination is something I am always amazed at and he has been like that since he was born.
 When we were potty training him, he was so bound and determined that he was going to get the Millennium Falcon space ship (we opened our big mouths and  told him we would buy him whatever he wanted as soon as he was potty trained and that's what he chose) AND he wanted to wear big boy undies like his dad, that all it took was a week and he was completely trained. He knew he didn't want to lose the Millennium Falcon and he didn't want to resort back to pull ups. We were heading on a week long family trip just a few days after getting potty trained and we were at a camp ground and Tracy and I had walked to the bathroom and came back to our tent and Ethan had squatted on the ground to go to the bathroom because he didn't know what else to do. We laughed hard! 
It was such priceless unforgettable moment!
It was a similar circumstance when he finally weened himself from nursing. (he would nurse in the morning, in the afternoon and before going to bed...just three times a day) Tracy and Jade went on a father and son's camp-out with our ward and Ethan was SO sad that he couldn't go, that he decided that night they were gone that he was a big boy and wasn't going to nurse anymore. The next day, he didn't want any...he grew up overnight!
Whether fishing, eating dinner in the mountains (even though we're getting eaten alive by mosquitoes), having dinner in the park, or hiking in the mountains, I ALWAYS see the sweetest smile on his face!
I can here his sweet little voice saying the words 
"CHEESE" when I look at these pictures. 

He LOVES adventures of all kinds and never turns down any opportunity to get outside!  

He is the first to pitch in and help us
whenever we have work to do.
This middle photo absolutely breaks my heart as he worked SO hard this day, unloading logs that we are going to eventually assemble in our yard into a play area for the kids.   
He is wearing that cowboy hat as Tracy told him he needed to go and find a hat so he wouldn't get sunburned...that is what he chose (smile!)...he's SO cute!!

He isn't afraid to get dirty and to work all day if need be to help us with our home projects!!  LOVE that SO much about him!

Absolutely adorable kid  
who brings joy DAILY to my life with his energy, great attitude, best helper ever and make me melt smile!! 
(love how sweet the bottom right photo is...he had set out his soccer clothes/shin guards as he was so excited for his first soccer game. The excitement of kids!)

Birthday Celebration...
March 19, 2011
 We decided to give Ethan 
a wonderful experience this year. 
Since Ethan talks all of the time about how he wants to be a Doctor someday, we thought it would be fun to take him to 
BODIES...the Exhibition
which is showing right now at the Museum of Idaho. 
Tracy got out his pens and colored pencils and went to work making the most wonderful and unique "COUPON" and birthday card for Ethan.
Can I just say how much I LOVE Tracy's amazing talent with his artistic side!

He even made a little monster
on the outside of the envelope to match the monster bag that we put Ethan's birthday surprises in.

Ethan was SO excited
to open up his card and read about his birthday surprise! It was priceless!

(he was also excited about his new Comic book that he opened up and got to enjoy on our drive to Idaho Falls).
After an afternoon of FUN at the museum being fascinated by the wonderment we experienced there, we came home an enjoyed blowing out candles, Pecan Pie and opening gifts!
Birthday dinner 
of homemade Spaghetti, French Bread 
and sparkling cider was enjoyed on Sunday after church.

I sure love my "little monster"...
Ethan Kip...
Thanks for teaching me what life is all about!

Monday, March 14, 2011

3.14 equals Pie!

So, I walked into work today and there is a really nice guy named Larry and he said,
"Happy Pie Day, you know 3.14 = pi"

I had my mouth watering
for pie all day long!!

It has been a long week.
Tracy's grandma passed away last week and the funeral was this past weekend. My work has been really hectic since we recently took on a new company and so unfortunately, my hubby and sons had to go to the funeral in Hurricane, Utah without me.
I missed them SO much!
They got home at 4:15 Sunday morning and we got them unpacked and then went to bed and slept until 9:30.
We spent all afternoon talking about the funeral and all of the wonderful things that were said about Tracy's grandma. The thing that everyone commented on was her delicious bread and how she made food taste SO good. Even simple potatoes were SO good the way she cooked them.

She was so very much an inspiration to me
and I reflected on a post I did two years ago about:
"Inspiration from Grandma"
to read it click Here

I feel inspired weekly and sometimes daily by the wonderful influence of my grandmas in my life.

I came home from work today and decided it would be fun to make a PIE for dinner since it was 3.14. I was going to make a pie for dessert, but I noticed a chicken carcass in our fridge that was leftover from cooking up and shredding chicken for Tracy and the boys to use for sandwich fixins' on their drive to Utah.

I decided to make a Chicken Pot Pie and I had fond thoughts of Tracy's sweet Grandma Brown while I was hustling and bustling around my kitchen taking simple ingredients and turning them into a delicious meal for my family.
Tracy commented that we definitely needed to have pie for dessert as well and so I noticed I had some lemons and whipped up a Lemon Meringue pie as well.
SO, we enjoyed PIE tonight for dinner while Tracy drew diagrams and gave the kids a "TIL" (today I learned) moment while we talked about how
3.14 is a special constant derived from the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It is called "pi" after the Greek letter π.
Perfect evening talking, enjoying dinner and being together as a family!
Chicken Pot Pie
Pie Crust (recipe here)

Cooked chicken (however much you have)
1 small onion finely chopped
3 carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
Add in small amount of broth or water and boil for 15-20 minutes until veggies are tender

(set aside 1 cup frozen peas)

2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cups milk
1/4 tsp. seasoned salt

Melt butter in sauce pan and then add in flour and mix until combined.
Add in broth, milk and seasoned salt and whisk until thickened.
Pour broth mixture into pan with veggies.
Add in 1 cup frozen peas, stir well and put in pan with pie crust.
Put top pie crust on, pinch edges and
bake at 425 for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Let stand 10-15 minutes before cutting.

Perfect way to use the carcass from rotisserie chicken...put bones in pot and fill half full with water...boil and let simmer 30 minutes...strain off broth and use it to make this yummy dish.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend breakfast yummyness!!

I LOVE weekend breakfasts 
because it is two days out of the week that we all get to sit and enjoy breakfast together as a family!  
love, Love, LOVE these moments!

Steel Cut Oats are enjoyed Monday-Friday for breakfast and so when Saturday morning comes around it means PANCAKES!

Tracy is our weekend chef and the kids look SO forward to his yummy breakfasts he fixes which always consist of some kind of pancake made from scratch with fried eggs.

However, once in awhile, Tracy doesn't feel like pulling out all of the containers of salt, soda, sugar, flour and measuring things out and making a mess. SO, when he has mornings like this we make OVEN Pancakes. 

SO easy, 
just four staple ingredients and 
always a HIT with kiddos!!
Oven Pancakes (AKA German Pancakes)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 cube)
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
6 eggs

Put butter in 9x13 pan and turn oven to 425 degrees and put pan in oven until butter is melted. 
Put flour, milk and eggs in blender mix on high for 30 seconds
Pour mixture into buttered pan
Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cut into 8 pieces...serves 4 people perfectly!

Enjoy with REAL maple syrup, 
or my family's favorite...peanut butter and syrup.

Pancakes of ANY kind definitely 
make the perfect weekend breakfast!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Finding balance in life!

Mammoth Hot Springs, YNP 2010

February was a busy month, but a wonderful month. I have been thinking A LOT about balance and what I really want out of life. What Tracy and I keep coming back to, is more TIME!

TIME and FREEDOM are the biggest motivators that inspire us to exercise discipline and sacrifice daily, so we can stay on the fast track to getting debt free. As we look at our lives it always comes back to:
"I wish I had more time to spend with my kids".
"I wish I had more time to put towards my passions in life".
"I wish I had more time to really BE there for my family and friends".

Tracy is always bringing home uplifting and inspiring things to listen to and watch. One night, he showed us a really good "TED talk" given by Nigel Marsh, that we watched with our kids after dinner one night last month.

You can watch it Here
(It's only ten minutes long and the last two minutes are the best!)

The little boy's comment:
"Dad, this has been the best day of my life... EVER!"
really got me evaluating my own life and the things I am doing with my kids. I need to do a lot better, but the older I get, the more I am realizing how precious the "moments" with my kids are, and I want to have more days where my kids say:
"Dad, Mom, this has been the BEST day of my life... EVER!"

The amazing thing about days like this is most of the time you haven't spent much money at all, you've just done out-of-the blue things AND the most important ingredient; you have given your TIME to them!

Here are some moments in the past month where I heard these words:
"That was the best day of my life!"

Tracy's parents called us up and wanted to have the kids come and spend the night with them. These moments to the kids are priceless.
Tracy's dad is a kid himself and when we went and picked the kids up, we saw that Grandpa had given up his whole morning and built an Igloo with the kids. Ethan talked about this ALL Night long and I heard many times
"That was the best day ever... Grandpa and Grandma are awesome!"

We've had an ongoing yearly tradition of watching
"Groundhog Day" on February 2nd. This year we celebrated a day early as we had Scouts on Wednesday night.
So, at 6:30 we all got dressed in our PJ's and filled up containers with however much Salmon/Artichoke Dip, crackers and veggies/dip that we wanted and we all got cozy on the couch and chairs with our Snuggies and snacks and watched this together. We laughed SO hard and had such a great time!
The kids LOVED this and yes, "That was the best night ever" were the words we heard over and over!
Ethan and Kimmie had a night together as Tracy and Jade went on a camp out to a cabin with the Young Men's group in our ward.
Ethan was SO excited to have some one on one time with his mom. We went and cashed in his "Book it" Pizza coupon at Pizza Hut and had lunch. We then went and spent an hour at the library looking at books and even checked some books out. Ethan's favorite treat is pistachio nuts and so I bought a bag of them and we came home and made up hot chocolate, ate pistachios and Pink Cookies and lounged around reading our books.

Sad reality... Ethan is now to a point where he wanted to spend the night reading a book by himself, SO, I indulged and had some reading time myself.
"Mom, this has been the best day ever"
were the words Ethan said to me as I tucked him in bed.
(miss cuddling with my Ethan on the beanbag like I used to do here)

I didn't think that cupcakes could make Ethan say
"This is my best day ever",
but he is so used to having everything frosted in pink and so to come home and have YELLOW frosted cupcakes made him a VERY happy kid!

President's day weekend
we usually head to Utah to enjoy some warmer weather, but our Ethan Kip, had been sick with the flu and was just starting to feel better, so we decided to do a "Stay-cation" instead. We took the kids to see the movie;
"I am number four"
(at the expensive theater, something rare for us),
went and ate at Applebee's
and our FAVORITE... we went and spent the whole afternoon soaking and swimming at Lava Hot Springs!

We arrived at 1:45 and didn't leave until 7:15. We all enjoyed the hot water, getting out and making plates of crab dip and crackers, lemon bread, orange slices and BRACH's candy to eat. We all fought over the treats!! I loved laying down and having Ethan come and lay his head on my lap and having Jade come and lean against my back. I loved feeling the gravel under my feet and looking over and seeing Tracy, the love of my life, talking and socializing with others that were there. The hot water, cold air, LOTS of great talks, conversation and FAMILY FUN that we had was priceless!
(OH and we enjoyed Pizza Hut on the way home)
Definitely a weekend worthy of saying;
"That was the best weekend ever!"

I've been taking a stroll down memory lane
quite often this past little bit and I came across some adorable photos from last summer of other moments where I have heard the words,
"That was the best day ever!"

Popping popcorn over a camp stove,

trips to Yellowstone where we camp at the campgrounds in our tent, cook over a fire, go and listen to the campfire program, look at every sign, see every site there is to see, get ice cream, walk hand in hand and have the best time ever... these are the things that truly matter to kids!

You don't have to spend much money, take your kids to Disneyland, or do extravagant things to make kids happy.
These photos break my heart,
as I have never thought to make homemade Root Beer (except at Ethan's 8th birthday party). At our family reunion last year, Ethan thought that this was the coolest thing ever and BEGGED us to have an afternoon where we could make it and he could stir it.
I need to make sure I take time to do that one hot afternoon this summer!

 Kids spell love,

The small things matter.
So grateful for each moment of time Tracy and I get with our children. Hoping to keep fine tuning our lives so that we can balance our lives with work to have more TIME to be there and create many more wonderful days where our sons comment;
"That was the best day of my life...ever!"