Thursday, February 23, 2017

General Tso's Chicken & Rice

I love finding recipes that my husband and I both really enjoy. The homemade sauce MAKES the meal - it's sweet, tangy and so delicious. There is plenty sauce to coat the chicken, but because I'm such a sauce lover, I may double it next time to soak into my rice. Definitely give this one a try! Recipe from Cooking Classy. Rating: 10/10



Ingredients (sauce):

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce 
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar 
  • 3 Tbsp  soy sauce 
  • 3 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar 
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch 
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch pieces 
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil 2 green onions, sliced, greens and whites divided 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger 
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste 
(coating)
  • 3 egg whites 
  • 1 1/2 cups cornstarch 
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • Salt and white or black pepper, as desired 
  • 4 cups vegetable oil, for frying 

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, whisk together hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, 2 Tbsp cornstarch and the chicken broth. Place chicken in a large Ziploc bag and pour 6 Tbsp of the hoisin mixture over chicken, seal bag and allow to marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add chopped whites of green onions, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and saute 1 minute. Add 2 cups of hoisin sauce mixture (reserve remaining little bit) to skillet, season with salt and white pepper to taste (you may not even need salt) and cook, stirring constantly until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, cover with lid.

In a shallow dish, vigorously whisk egg whites until foamy, set aside. In a separate shallow dish, whisk together cornstarch, flour and baking soda, then add remaining hoisin sauce mixture and stir until mixture resembles coarse meal. Heat 4 cups oil in a dutch oven over medium heat to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, remove chicken from refrigerator and remove chicken from marinade, shaking of excess marinade, and transfer to a large plate lined with several paper towels. Cover with more paper towels and pat dry. Place half of the chicken into the egg whites and toss to coat, then lift and allow excess to run off and immediately transfer to cornstarch mixture. Toss in cornstarch mixture (separating pieces as they stick together or working with just a few at a time) to evenly coat then transfer to a plate and repeat coating process with remaining chicken. Fry coated chicken in batches in hot oil (I did three batches for all of the chicken, just so it's not overcrowded and dropping the oil temperature), until chicken is golden brown and has cooked through, about 3 - 5 minutes, turning chicken once during frying. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain and repeat frying process with remaining chicken.

Warm sauce over medium-low heat until heated through. Place chicken in a large bowl and toss with warm sauce to evenly coat. Serve warm topped with sliced green onions and optional sesame seeds if desired.

Taco Soup

I've tried a few taco soup recipes, and this recipe is our family favorite! It's really easy to throw together and tastes delicious. This recipe is from The Favorites Cookbook. Rating: 10/10



Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (16 oz.) can kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (16 oz.) can whole kernel corn, undrained
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • Toppings: corn chips, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream
Directions:

In a large soup pot, brown ground beef and onion; drain. Stir in tomatoes, beans, corn, and taco seasoning. Simmer for 1/2 hour; uncovered. Serve and top with corn chips, grated cheese and sour cream.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Month #7: MORONI (Brave)

This family home evening lesson is apart of "A Year with the Book of Mormon." Click the link to learn about our other Book of Mormon Heroes.



Prayer:

Intro: Before the lesson, talk about the word "brave". To be brave means being able to do something even though it may seem scary. Give a few examples of when your child has been brave.

Song: "I Will Be Valiant" Children's Songbook page 162.

Hero Poster:  This is a picture of our Book of Mormon hero, Moroni. Captain Moroni led the Nephite army. He loved to obey Heavenly Father. He helped the Nephite soldiers defend themselves against the Lamanites. He reminded them of Heavenly Father’s blessings. He reminded them of their freedom and their families so they could be brave.


Story of Nephi: Read the illustrated scripture story, "Captain Moroni's Flag". It's a short summary of how Captain Moroni led the Nephite army and made a flag to remind the people to follow God and protect their families. Pictured is one of three pages.


Activity: Make Your Own "Title of Liberty." I ripped a 8x11 piece of paper into four pieces and reminded my boys (ages 3 & 20 months) that Moroni wrote the things that were most important to him on a flag for everyone to see. My boys colored their paper (flags) and we glued on pictures of our family. Afterward we stapled the flag to a straw. (The flags were meant to be vertical, so they'd fit better). My boys loved making these and playing with them afterward. View a detailed tutorial at A Year of FHE.



Hero Card:  Last, we talked about our Hero Card and little things we could do throughout the week (or month) to remember Moroni and be more like him. Our checklist is altered to our toddler needs. After our lesson, I posted our Hero Card and goals on the fridge.
  • Goal #1: Learn "I Will Be Valiant" from the Children's Songbook.
  • Goal #2: Watch the living scripture movie, Mormon & Moroni. If you don't own or want to purchase a movie, you can Watch chapter 32 of the Book of Mormon videos at scripturestories.lds.org. 
  • Goal #3: "Moroni's Bravery Chart". Throughout the week (or month) pay special attention to when your child is brave. Compliment them and remind them how they are being like our scripture hero. We didn't do a sticker chart this time, but you are always welcome to compliment your child's bravery and give them a sticker for it. Once they have ten stickers, go out for a special treat.

Testimony:

Letter M Activities (ages: 3 & 20 months)

Here's what our Letter M Activities looked like for a three year old and a 20 month old: 

Read, Read, Read. I love reading to my kids on a daily basis. I'll usually alternate reading during a meal time, before naps or randomly in the day. I checked out our Letter M Booklist at the library a week in advance. The picture above were our very favorite books, but you view more great Letter M books by clicking on the booklist link. Add Tickle Monster and There Was an Old Man Who Painted the Sky to the picture above (I remember loving these last year, but our local library doesn't carry them).

Read Letter M Book. We also love to read these Little Letter Books from The Measured Mom. For my three, we focus on the big and little letters at the beginning of each page. My 20 month old especially loves these books! He enjoys looking at the pictures and repeating the words after me on each page. 

Letter M Songs & Rhymes. This year, I'm putting together an interactive set of songs & rhymes for each letter of the alphabet. My three and my 20 mo. old had so much fun doing the Letter M Songs & Rhymes with us this week. If you're looking for something more simple without props, take a look at this printable set of songs and rhymes from The Measured Mom.


Writing Practice. Every child is different, but my three loves writing letters! We practiced writing the Letter M's with "Letters of All Sizes" from The Measured Mom. I printed and slipped ours into a sleeve protector, so my three could erase and write these over again if he wanted. While my three practiced writing M's, my 20 month old used a marker to draw on Letter M's. "Can you draw on this letter M?"

Craft #1: Clean out the Craft Drawer Monsters from The Measured Mom. I'm not sure what's changed in the past few weeks, but my boys have been loving crafts. Way more than usual. They were so excited to make these monsters. I brought out craft items one at a time for them to glue or stick on. I was in charge of the glue and they pointed to where they wanted the items. I also printed monster body parts (mouths, horns, legs, etc.) for them to glue on.

Craft #2: Marshmallow Paint from Child Care Land. We could have used ordinary paint, but instead we made actual marshmallow paint to dip and stamp our marshmallows. All you do is add Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme into a muffin tin and stir in warm water (until it's your desired consistency) and food coloring. This was a quick, open ended craft. You can print a block letter M from The Measured Mom. 



Craft #3: Mouse Craft from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas. This was a really fun tape-resist craft. I placed painter's tape on a piece of white card stock to make a Letter M. My boys used water colors to paint around the Letter M. Water colors were a little tricky for us, so next time I'll mix water and liquid water colors for them to dip their paintbrushes in. Once the paint dried, I removed the tape and we glued on googly eyes, a pom pom nose and triangle ears. Yes, I've been participating in the crafts lately (mine is on bottom).

Color Review - "Little Mouse, Little Mouse Are You Behind The ... House?" This was the most requested activity to do over and over again this week. I pulled this out during lunch one day and it ended up being a lunch activity every day of the week. PREP: Cut out multiple colored houses and a little mouse out of construction paper. Tape the houses onto a cookie sheet. I taped our houses by placing the tape half on roof and half on the cookie sheet, so the house could easily be lifted up and placed back down. I rolled a piece of tape for the mouse to stick on. GAME: Without your kids seeing, hide the mouse under one of the houses. Have your children take turns guessing which house the mouse is under. My three would always use the rhyme "Little mouse, little mouse are you behind the (color) house?" And my 20 month old would point to a color and repeat the color name. If they guessed the correct house, I gave them a marshmallow. 


Math - Shoot the Shape Monster. This was another activity that was so much fun this week. I printed a set of shapes and taped them onto the wall. We talked about the names of the shapes. Then, my boys helped me make these awesome marshmallow shooters. My three would load a marshmallow into his shooter and I would call out a shape for him to shoot. My 20 month old only ate the marshmallows, but loved pointing and going through the shapes throughout the week. 


Math - Numbers Book with Power Magnets. This little book reviews the numbers 1-10. My three identified the number on the page and counted aloud as he placed a power magnet on the circles. My 20-month old put the power magnets on the circles (which was really fun for him) and I counted for him. 



Sensory Play - Magnetic Chart & Sensory Bin. My boys didn't quite get the dot stamping idea with our "Is It Magnetic Chart?" (from The Measured Mom) but they had so much fun testing if the items were magnetic or not with a magnet wand. Afterward I stuck all the objects into a bin along with our Magnetic Kit (this is a GREAT kit!) and let the boys play. This was a lot of fun. They also loved going around the house with their magnet wands to see if things were magnetic. 

Letter Mm Activity #1 - I printed two set of monster cards and wrote big M's on one set and little m's on another set. My three drew a monster and placed the monsters with a "Big M" underneath the "Big M House" and the monsters with a "little m" underneath the "little m house". Afterward both boys loved playing with the monsters, which I wasn't expecting. They pretend played and matched the monsters together. I had my 20 month old point to the big Letter M was on the monsters.


Letter Mm Activity #2 - Monkey Dot Page & Mm Mouse Page from This Reading Mama. Both of the worksheets above are in the same printable pack. I placed these worksheets on a magnetic cookie sheet. Both boys used power magnets to fill in the circles. My three used green power magnets to fill in the little m's and blue power magnets to fill in the big M's. My 20 month old finally got the idea of filling in dots this week! He filled in every single dot. Yay! 



Beginning Sounds: Beginning sounds has been one of my goals I've wanted my three to work on this year. He has really picked up on them, so we started a program for very early readers called "Reading the Alphabet" from This Reading Mama. We're slowly going through it and I've been so impressed by how the program is organized. Click the link to find out more.



Letter M Science - Magic Milk. This science activity was really neat and my kids enjoyed it. I think I was the most impressed watching the food coloring shoot apart, but my kids really loved mixing the food coloring around in the container. View a tutorial and learn the science behind this experiment at Babble Dabble Do.



Alphabet as a Whole - Feed the Monster. I've been saving bottle caps for some time now and finally saved enough to use them! I wrote letters A-Z on them and both boys loved feeding our monster. My three would identify the letter and sound before feeding the monster and my 20-month old would repeat the letter names after me. Such a great fine motor activity as well. We made the monster together by gluing monster body parts together and glued it onto an empty wipes container. I used a knife to cut a hole in the mouth.


Name Review - Bottle Cap Name Review. I wrote my three's name on bottle caps and handed them to him. He put them in a row to spell his name. My 20 month old didn't participate in making his name, but he loved "feeding the monster" with bottle caps earlier in the week (shown above).


And that's it!

Letter M Songs & Rhymes


1) The Muffin Man.


  • Option One: Make up actions to use while singing the song. 
Do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man.
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane.

Yes, I know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man.
Yes, I know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane.
  • Option Two: Place toy animals in a paper bag. Have your child draw a toy animal and ask the animal, "Do you know the muffin man?" Act out the animal while singing the song. (ie: elephant - march around the room, bird - flap your arms, etc.)


2) Little Miss Muffet.
  • Option Two: Tuffets are hard cushions, but we used pillows instead. Set out pillows in a circle and jump from tuffet to tuffet as you sing this song (idea from Toddler Approved).
  • Option Three: Act out the rhyme. Have a child pretend to be Miss Muffet, sitting on a tuffet (cushion). Have child pretend to eat curds and whey. Drop a spider by the child and have the child run away. 

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
Who scared Miss Muffet away.


3) Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.
  • Option One: Print the Five Little Monkeys to use while singing this song. I laminated ours and placed magnets on the back. We use them with our magnetic cookie sheet. 

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One fell off and bumped his head.
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
No more monkeys jumping on the bed.

(repeat with four, three, two and one little monkeys)

  • Option Two: Read "The Five Little Monkeys" from our Letter M Booklist while singing this song.

4) Mulberry Bush (Pop Goes the Weasel).
  • Fill up a few large balloons. One child pretends to be the "weasel" and he/she carries the balloon around while the other children ("the monkeys") chase after her. Sing the song together and when you say POP the child with the balloon gets to pop the balloon by sitting on it or with a toothpick.
All around the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought twas all in fun,
POP! goes the weasel.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Marshmallow Shooters


My three had such a fun time playing with these marshmallow shooters. They were really easy to put together. I love activities that take little prep time, but create a long amount of play time. This is one of those activities. I found this idea on Growing a Jeweled Rose.

 1) Gather your materials.

  • Toilet paper roll (I cut a paper towel roll into three pieces)
  • Medium sized balloon
  • Marshmallows


2) Tie the bottom of the balloon and cut the top of your balloon off with scissors. Stretch the top of the balloon over your toilet paper roll. The balloons are tight enough on the paper towel roll they won't fall off easily.


3) Place a marshmallow in the shooter, pull the bottom of the balloon down and release. The marshmallows can shoot all the way across the room! I printed and taped shape cards onto our wall. I called out a shape and my three shot a marshmallow at the shape. This was apart of our Letter M Activities. 


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Letter M: Booklist


Here's a list of our favorite Letter M books:


Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh: This was the most requested book this week! It's a quick read about three mice that are hiding from a cat. They realize that they are hiding in shapes and use the shapes to make all sorts of things, including big mice that scare the cat away.  



Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Flemming: This was my favorite book on the booklist. Mr. McGrilly decides it's finally his time to build a vegetable garden. He plants all sorts of vegetables, but when he checks on them in the morning they've been nibbled on by bunnies. Mr. McGrilly is mad and decides to build a wire fence around the garden. The bunnies and Mr. McGrilly go to a lot of lengths to try to outsmart each other.


If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff: This is a book about a boy that gives a moose a muffin. The moose then asks for some blackberry jam and more muffins. You'll need to go to the store. The moose realizes it's cold outside and asks for a sweater. The buttons on the sweater remind him of sock puppets his grandmother used to make. So, you'll need to put on a puppet play. The moose asks for all sorts of things until he sees a blackberry tree. The blackberry tree reminds him of blackberry jam and chances are, the moose will want a muffin to go with it. 


It Looks Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw: This is one of my kids (ages 3, 1) and my favorites from our booklist. Each page has a white silhouette and my kids enjoyed guessing each image. "It looks like a rabbit, but it's not." At the very end of the book, we learn that each of the images was a cloud. After reading this book, we were driving in the car and my three pointed out how one of the clouds looked like a dragon. This book teaches how to use your imagination. 


Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch: A little bear's birthday is coming up and it makes him wonder when the moon's birthday is. He climbs to a tall mountain to ask the moon. As he's asking the moon a series of questions, the bear realizes he and the moon have the same birthday and want the same thing. Although it's really his echo, the bear believes the moon is talking back to him. Cute Story.



Five Little Monkeys jumping on the bed by : This was one of our Letter M Songs this week, so it was fun to read a book about the song we're learning. There are five monkeys jumping on the bed and one by one each monkey falls off and bumps his head. Mama calls the doctor and the doctor says, "No more jumping on the bed!" I love the ending.


The Mitten by Jim Aylesworth: Every winter a little boys' grandmother knits him a new hat, scarf and mittens. As he's out playing in the snow, he looses one of his mittens. One by one, different animals see the mitten and squeeze in to keep warm. As the last little mouse tries to fit in, the mitten bursts open. When the little boy and grandmother search for the mitten and found it split apart, the grandmother makes him a new one, because she loves him. 


Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman: My 20 month old especially loved this book. It's about a newly hatched bird who is looking for his mother. He drops out of his nest and goes around asking different animals if they are his mother. Eventually he finds his mother with a fresh worm and hug for him.


There Was An Old Monster! by Rebecca Adrian: This is a spin on "There Once Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." It was entertaining to read.


Monster Hug! by David Ezra Stein: The next three books are ones I marked that we really enjoyed reading last year. We have moved since then and our local library doesn't carry them. I don't remember them well enough to write a summary, but I hope to update a summary soon.


Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett:  


There Was an Old Man Who Painted the Sky by Teri Sloat: Last year, we read this book before doing mirror painting. This book has beautiful illustrations and represents the creation of the world.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Glow Paint for the Tub

If you're looking for a fun activity that will WOW kids, this one is a winner! This activity is one that takes only five minutes to put together, but produces over an hour of play. We did a similar activity last year, only we used the glow paint to paint the tub walls. You can read about it here. I always like to prepare an activity and let my kids take the lead on how to use it. This year they started painting their tummies and it turned into me hopping in the tub with them and all three of us covered in paint. This was such a blast, you have to try it!



SUPPLIES
INSTRUCTIONS

1) To make the water glow:

Fill the tub as high as you prefer with warm water. Open and sprinkle in 2-3 capsules of Vitamin B into the tub water. Mix around with your hand until dissolved. Water will immediately glow yellow with a black light. This picture is from last year...


To make the glow paint:

Fill a small plastic bowl with 1 Cup of shaving cream. Add 1/2 container of washable florescent paint (1 Tablespoon) into the shaving cream and mix around with a paint brush. The paint will look a pastel color until under the black light. Repeat for additional colors.


A few pictures:





Monday, February 6, 2017

Baked Potatoes with Broccoli Cheese Sauce

I have really enjoyed cooking for the past while, mostly because the recipes have all turned out so well! I credit this to Cooking Classy. I spent a good hour pinning her recipes and this is another one I made from her blog that was delicious. I doubled the recipe and changed a few minor things. Rating: 9/10


Ingredients

3 medium Russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed
2 tablespoons butter, diced into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (4 oz)
1 cup chopped steamed broccoli florets (they should be chopped up into very small pieces and then measured)*

Directions

Heat to 400 degrees. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Place potatoes in oven and bake until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Note: Because I doubled the recipe, meaning six potatoes, I added another half hour or so to the bake time. I knew the potatoes were done when I pierced one with a fork and the fork slid into the potato easily.)

For the broccoli cheese sauce:

In a small or medium pan melt butter over medium heat. Add onion powder, garlic powder and flour and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. While whisking pour in milk. Season with salt, pepper and add additional onion or garlic powder for taste. Allow mixture to cook, stirring constantly, until it boils and mixture has thickened. Reduce to warm heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Once the cheese has melted then stir in steamed broccoli. (Note: my sauce turned out a little thicker than I preferred, so I slowly added milk until it was my desired consistency). Serve warm over potatoes.

*You can cook the broccoli any way you prefer. I used frozen steam-in-bag broccoli florets (cut and measured as mentioned in the ingredients) and it worked well.