Saturday, September 7, 2013

Three Chore Sessions Each Day!

When our children got older, I moved out of colorful chore charts on poster board types of display and into typed charts created in Excel in report covers.

When it comes to chores, I am thankful that I learned the approach that we have used for the past twenty years plenty early in my homeschooling tenure:

1. Attach three different chore sessions to twenty to thirty minutes prior to each meal. 

2. Use one of your "chorers" for meal preparations for that upcoming meal. (Eventually, our kids did breakfasts and lunches completely by themselves for the family--and either did dinner with me or rotated through and took a different night each week as they got older.)

3. Put the most crucial chores in the first chore session--the things that need done every day regardless. For us, this meant one load of laundry, one load of dishes, trash throughout the house, wipe down bathrooms, get out/start something for evening meal, and fix breakfast. This way you will almost always get to the priorities ("dailies")

4. In the second chore session, put more dailies and a couple of weekly tasks. (For us, this meant another load of dishes, laundry, and trash; lunch preps; possibly baking; and another weekly or two, such as dusting and vacuuming, cleaning out fridge, etc.)

5. In the third chore session, I put the things I only dream of getting to and dinner preps. (I always had a child in the kitchen with me each evening as I prepared dinner--unless the child fixed it himself or herself!)

6. Before each chore session, I called out "Room to Room"--which meant that each person should go through the main rooms and pick up what they have out. This allowed the chorer for that room to dust, vacuum, etc., without having to pick up first.

The key to successful chores, in my opinion, include the following:

A. Do dailies daily! Do not skip dailies. Do not try to do anything else until the dailies are down pat.

B. Never miss the first two chore sessions!

C. Have everybody work the entire chore session. (If someone got done early, he came to get another task or helped someone else. This wasn't a race--it was a daily lifestyle that helped us have time for homeschooling and all of the wonderful teaching, heart training, and family times that we wanted to have.)

D. Don't make it the least bit optional. After a couple of months of this lifestyle, my kids never even questioned whether they had to fold and put away three loads of laundry that day or fix lunch every day or cut up a fridge full of veggies. It was a way of life--a way of life that made our family successful.

E. Don't eat until the work is done!

F. Have I mentioned not to skip? 

Ten Freezer Foods I Don’t Like to Be Without

Ten Freezer Foods I Don’t Like to Be Without
           +Recipe link in Comments
                 *Must haves!

11.     Soup Starter+—the beginnings of chili, vegetable soup, chicken rice soup, potato soup, and more.

22.     Any kind of breaded chicken breasts*+ to pull out and use for main entrĂ©e, sandwiches, chicken parmesan, chicken cordon bleu (sort of!), chicken and gravy, etc.

33.     Sloppy joes+—One of my favorite sandwich fillings and so much healthier than cold meat sandwiches. I really like to have quart bags of these in the freezer.

44.     Master beef cube mix*+--I started with this twenty-three years ago and still use it today! I don’t think my freezer has been without bags of this for two decades! Used for homemade beef stew, stroganoff over noodles, homemade pot pies, and  more!

55.     Cheesy potato casseroles*+--I am sure my freezer hasn’t been without these in twenty years! I have had a number of recipes for this (some with sour cream, shredded cheeses, etc.), but for some reason, this has become my favorite, despite the fact that I hate cottage cheese! You absolutely can’t taste the cottage cheese, and that with the cream and Velveeta truly make the creamiest potato casserole! I take these to every potluck I go to it seems! (It’s actually a little too rich and a little too expensive to have for daily fare at home, so we usually only have this for special occasions (and potlucks, new mom meals, etc.), but I always keep some in the freezer for those times.)

66.     Shredded meats+—I like to put shredded chicken, beef, and pork in freezer bags with broth (or even gravy) to keep them moist. They are ready for anything—soups, stews, Mexican, Oriental, sandwiches, etc.

77.     Taco meat*—Talk about versatile—taco soup, Mexican pizzas, taco salad, tacos, nachos, hot Mexican dip, even chili in a pinch—this meat is my go to freezer meat!

88.     Lasagna*—Okay, I admit it. I actually tear up when I pull the last lasagna out of my freezer!! It is such a sad day! While taco meat and potato casseroles are musts in my freezer, nothing beats a meal-in-one-pan!

99.     Meatloaves—I have used Ray’s grandmother’s recipe (“Grandma’s Meatloaf”) for our entire married life. I love to pull out two meatloaves, bake them (with a sauce on top!), precook some little red potatoes in a fourth a cup or so of broth in the micro, and arrange the potatoes around the meatloaf the last thirty minutes or so in the oven. I also like to take meatloaves to new moms with cheesy potato casserole!

110.                         Marinated chicken breast pieces+--I have one recipe that we call “Don Pablo’s Chicken” because it is sweet and tastes similar to the fajita chicken at our favorite Mexican recipe. Anyway, I freeze this chicken both ways—in the marinade (marked RAW on the bag) and already stir fried (after marinating in the fridge for a while). I love having both kinds to pull out and use in Mexican and oriental dishes (fajitas; stir fries; and various skillets I make with veggies, rice, etc.)

LINKS for recipes from our blog:

My favorite way to cook meats for shredding is the crock pot in oven bags:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Crock Pot Wednesday-- Crock Pot Lasagna

Two crocks filled with lasagna!

I recently got a new recipe off of Pinterest for crock pot lasagna. (Unfortunately, there wasn't a link--just a recipe on what looks like a cell phone face, so I can't give credit.)

Anyway, I made up two large crock pot inserts of the tasty recipe given below--and stuck them both in the refrigerator to cook (1) on Sunday while we were at church; and (2) for my "Crock Pot Wednesday" lunch that I make for my kids and teachers at our house on our "cottage class" teaching day (Wednesdays). 

First, the good news. This recipe was super easy. My teenage assistant and I whipped two crocks full in fifteen minutes (with precooked ground beef from my freezer). It feels easier than regular lasagna (even though I do not precook the noodles in either recipe). I think it was just a mental thing though--I felt like it didn't matter if it was neatly layered in the crock pot whereas when I make them in pans for the freezer, it feels more structured and time consuming. (Again, it was probably all in my head!)

I love assembling crock pot entrees, sticking the crocks in my fridge and having them ready to use in the next few days. It is similar to freezer cooking except it is in the fridge and ready to turn on the slow cooker and go. 

I have two identical crock pots--this one with three sizes of "crocks." Thus, I have six removable crocks in three sizes (two of each size) to do this multiple-crock cooking I am describing in this post.

Now the bad news: both times I cooked this dish, the lasagna noodles became very soft, almost dissolving type of soft. I like my pasta al dente, so I wasn't thrilled with the texture. Also, it is much soupier than traditional lasagna. However, my guys liked it (not as well as traditional), but enough for me to keep it in my repertoire and use it again for "Crock Pot Wednesday"! 

(I have wondered if refrigerating the crocks of lasagna and keeping them for a while before cooking them might have added to the soft noodles. I will update this after trying this recipe again with cooking it as soon as it is made as opposed to storing it and cooking it later. However, I have frozen pans of lasagna for twenty-three years now, and it has never affected the texture of the noodles.)

I did this recipe four times for two huge crock inserts. (Each crock fed eight to ten people.) As it is given below, I think the recipe would fit in a six or possibly even four quart crock pot and would likely feed four or five people. Be sure you keep it on low. (My kids turned it on high for an hour to rush it along, and it burned the sides and bottom. However, my slow cooker is extremely hot. My high is more like super high; my low is like high; and my warm is like low!) 


1 lb ground beef
Lasagna noodles
1 regular jar spaghetti sauce 
1 1/2 cup cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 to 4 eggs (I like to stick extra eggs in everything!)

1. Mix ground beef and sauce in large bowl, reserving 1/2 cup or so of sauce by itself.

2. Mix cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese and eggs in large bowl.

3. Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Pour the reserved 1/2 to one cup of sauce in bottom of crock.

4. Place two uncooked lasagna noodles (broken in half to fit in the crock) over the sauce.

5. Spread 1/3 of meat mixture over noodles.

6. Spread 1/2 of cottage cheese mixture over meat mixture.

7. Spread 1/3 of mozzarella cheese over cottage cheese.

8. Add another layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (two again, broken in half).

9. Pour the other half of the cottage cheese mixture over the lasagna noodles in this layer.

10. Add 1/3 of mozzarella cheese.

11. Add another layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (two again, broken in half).

12. Add remaining meat mixture.

13. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

14. Cook on low for four hours; do not overcook.

I get very confused about the order and amounts in lasagna recipes, so here is a quick recap of the order:

a. 1/2 cup to 1 cup sauce alone
b. Two uncooked lasagna noodles
c. 1/3 of the meat mixture
d. 1/2 of cottage cheese mixture
e. Two uncooked lasagna noodles
f. 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture
g. 1/3 of the mozzarella
h. Two uncooked lasagna noodles
i. Rest of meat mixture
j. Rest of mozzarella