Thursday, June 24, 2010

Money Management for Little Ones

Boo's turning four at the end of the summer and money is something he's been learning about lately. I feel it's so much more difficult to teach about money in our culture because it comes in so many forms and isn't as tangible as it was when we were growing up.

We had a couple come speak at MOPS last semester about teaching children to manage money. They offered several great tips, one of which we've already implemented and I wanted to share: money jars.

We made Boo three jars to divide up his week "allowance" into categories: save, spend, give. Now, I say "allowance" loosely. This isn't money he earns from anything. {Chores he does are because he's part of the family and that's what we do....we all help out. Basic chores are not linked to rewards or money in our house.} The sole purpose of giving him money every week is for him to learn how to manage it appropriately. We decided on three dollars per week. We figured a dollar bill to put in each jar was simple, easy to count, and significant enough to make a difference. You could certainly do more or less.

When we made the jars, we decided they would replace his piggy bank. All of the money he had in there {from past birthdays, etc.} would go into a savings account at the bank. We had fun counting up all of the money including every last penny and putting it in an envelope to take to the bank. I was hoping for a little more fanfare when we went to open is Youth Savers account. I know some banks give the kids little piggy banks or stickers. Not ours. But that didn't put a damper on his excitement. He was proud to hand over his envelope nonetheless. Now we have a place to put the money he accumulates in his "Save" jar. At the end of the month, we take the $4 from his "Save" jar and deposit it in the bank. This way he has some concept of what it means to save money in the bank. At the end of the year we'll look at the bank statement to see how much he has contributed.

As for the "Spend" jar, he hasn't thought of or mentioned anything he wants to use it for yet. I think it'll be a good lesson in what things cost and learning how to save up for something that he's interested in.

The "Give" jar is great! We've told him all of the different ways we can give money and he's excited about choosing something. I think every three months we'll let him pick where he wants to give. That way he's accumulated a big more in the jar to give towards his choice. We've used scripture to explain why we give and tithe and he really seems to get that and be excited about it.

About the jars...we just used mason jars we already had. I painted a little chalkboard paint on the front and wrote the labels in chalk. I actually recommend using paint pen or something more permanent to write the labels with as they've been handled quite a bit and I've had to rewrite the words several times. To put slots in the top, the Good Doctor used a chisel and rubber mallet.Worked like a charm and is the perfect size for slipping in folded dollar bills.

What ways do you teach money management to your little ones? I'd love more ideas!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cookbook Notes: Online Recipe Edition

I've been trying out a few new recipes lately and thought I'd share. Also, I added a link to a printable version of my Roasted Chickens recipe at the bottom of that post.

Salmon with Grapefruit Quinoa Salad from Food Network . Yum! This is a unique but delicious dish. It's perfect for summer as it's really refreshing and light. Instead of kebobs, we just grilled the salmon filets whole. I'll warn ya - go easy on the jalepeno. We LOVE spicy food and I followed the instructions to include the seeds when I chopped up the pepper. Boy was it spicy! We guzzled down milk while we ate it and I had to skip serving that portion of the meal to the kiddos. Next time, I'll definitely omit the seeds and ribs. Other than that, it's a keeper!

Watermelon Limeade from A Cozy Kitchen {Tasty Kitchen}. This is a great summer drink. It's a little work to juice the amount of limes required but the fresh taste is worth it. I think I'd double the recipe next time as it only makes enough for 4-6 servings. Something different and a great way to use up extra watermelon.

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit on the Bottom from ericalea {Tasty Kitchen}. Ooo, this is good! I've made it twice now. Once with apples, and again recently with nectarines and peaches. Both were heavenly. I made her warm vanilla sauce to accompany it the first time. Recently I just put a dollop of Brown Cow's maple yogurt on top. Both the sauce and yogurt went well with it but it'd be delicious even without. Instead of demerara sugar, I just used brown sugar.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tart by sunshinekate83 {Tasty Kitchen}. Goodness gracious! This is a new favorite of ours. It's not complicated and the flavor is perfect - not overly rich, just enough tart raspberry and sweetness. The biscotti crust is far superior to a graham cracker crust. Yum! Try this soon while the raspberries are in season and inexpensive. I served ours with fresh whipped cream.

Slow Cooker French Dip from Megan {Tasty Kitchen}. This is one of the best french dip recipes I've tried so far. Granted, cooking with a slow cooker isn't exactly summer fare but it was easy and delicious. I served ours with toasted french rolls, provolone cheese and horseradish mayo. I think carmelized onions and/or sauteed mushrooms would be great with it too.

I've also had a few of my favorite summer recipes on my mind lately. We just made my Nana's Pavlova for Father's Day. If you haven't already, try it! It's a quick dessert to prep and assemble and goes with nearly any summertime menu.

And the Fresh Berry Tart. I've yet to make it this summer, but it's on my list after our next trip to the berry farm.
Grilled pork tenderloin and crunchy chinese salad are often on our menu in the summer months. So easy and so tasty!

NOTE: Pictures of linked recipes from other sources are not mine. The credit goes to the authors of the recipes.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Perfect Roasted Chickens

Even as I write that title I think, "Wow, that's a bit much...perfect chickens?!" But really, they are that good! Roast chicken is no common thing at our house. It was a most requested meal growing up. My dad had perfected it over the years and was renown for the accompanying gravy he made with it. Chicken, rice and gravy. Mmmm. It was and is a family favorite. Dad started making roast chickens in college because it was inexpensive and would feed him for a couple days.

Now, living 1,000 miles away from Mom & Dad's kitchen and with a growing family of my own, it was time to carry on the tradition. Unfortunately for me, Dad's not exactly a recipe follower and tends to change the rules everytime he makes a chicken. So I had to develop my own method. And after several attempts, I've landed on my favorite way. The chickens come out perfectly every time and the gravy is pretty darn good too.

I tend to buy my chickens on sale {I can often get them for $.99 per pound and will cook two at a time. That way I have plenty of leftover chicken to make soup, a chicken pot pie, chicken salad, etc. with later.}

Perfect Roasted Chickens & Delicious Gravy
2 all-natural chickens, approximately 3.5 lbs. each
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. dried Herbes de Provence {I use the bulk blend found at Central Market in Texas. See link for what's included in most provencal herb blends if you can't find some near you.}
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. chicken bullion
3 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2 cups {approximately} chicken stock

Pat chickens dry. Generously salt and pepper the inside and outside of the chickens. {Be sure to remove any innards that may be inside.}
Peel and cut the onion in quarters. Peel the garlic. Divide the garlic and onions evenly between the two chickens and stuff inside each cavity.
Mix the dried herbs and oil in a small bowl. Pour half of the mixture on top of each chicken and rub all over the skin. Place chickens side-by-side in a roasting pan and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at 375 degrees, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. I live at higher altitude so I cook mine for 2 hours. If you're closer to sea level, it may take less time.

Another note about roasting, I typically roast them breast-side up but the other day did them upside down - whoops. But they still came out beautifully and the breast meat was really juicy.

Once you remove the chickens from the oven, let them rest uncovered {do not cut into them!} on a platter while you make the gravy.

You'll need: chicken broth, flour, bullion, salt, pepper and the pan juices.Skim off any excess fat in the pan - just the oily part, not the juices. Set the pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. pour about 1 cup of broth into the pan and bring to a boil, scraping loose the brown bits with a spatula or spoon.

Add another cup of broth and 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons of bullion. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix 3 Tbsp. flour with 1/2 cup chicken broth. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the pan while whisking. Continue to whisk/stir the gravy until the flour thickens it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Now, gravy is purely a to-taste recipe. The amount of salt, pepper and bullion varies depending on taste. You made need more broth if your chickens didn't render much juice. Or if it seems too thin, repeat the flour/broth step to thicken it up a bit.

I usually serve the chicken and gravy with plain rice {brown or white}, and steamed veggies.Our boys have taken to the family favorite and gobble this meal up like it's dessert! They always have seconds. The Noodle says, "Mo yum-yum" when he wants "more gravy".

Hope you enjoy it too! Here is a printable version of the recipe so you don't have to scroll through this post while you're whisking gravy. :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Embellished Onesies

Wow - two weeks has flown by since I last posted. We've been traveling and camping with the kids. It's been a great start to our summer. The weather is heating up in Colorado and we're already in our summer routine of spending hours each day at our neighborhood pool. What would we do without it? I'm especially drawn to it this summer as the temperature climbs and my belly grows. Hope you're enjoying the beginning of summer and all of the fun outdoor activities that come with it.

And speaking of my growing belly... I've been steadily working through my pile of plain onesies, making new clothes for baby girl out of white and yellow onesies I had for the boys.
These ones I made by hand embroidering patterned fabric and then sewing the embroidered applique onto the onesie. I think they're cute and they definitely doll up an otherwise plain onesie. I'm searching for some cute socks to make coordinating baby legs to go with them.
Here are a few close-ups.

The cherry onesie was yellow and white striped. It's difficult to tell from the photo. The cupcake was cut out of the same fabric as the cherry and is appliqued on a pale yellow onesie. I added the words "lil cupcake" to the edge.

I embellished the butterfly by outlining it and adding several french knots in white.There are plenty of tutorials for making appliqued onesies, but here's the quick run-down of how I did it in case you're curious.

Prewash all of your fabric.

Secure an embroidery hoop around the part of the fabric you are going to embellish.

Using embroidery floss, embroider details of design and add words too like I did on the cupcake one.

Cut out your design. It's best to cute a wide square around where your design is. You can trim it later.

Use Heat 'n Bond iron-on adhesive {it comes in paper-backed sheets and you can find it at most fabric stores} to back your square. Once you've adhered the Heat 'n Bond to your design, trim to desired shape.

Iron the trimmed design onto the onesie. Sew around the design, close to the edge.

These onesies were such a fun and simple project. I really like hand embroidery. It's relaxing and easy to do while you're watching a movie or show on tv. You can do appliques without the embroidery and that makes this project extremely quick and simple.

Now, onto the 500 other projects in queue to finish before baby girl arrives in 7 weeks!

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