Author Archives: 4SmartyPants

The New Star of Thanksgiving Dinner!

20121119-131819.jpg

So your menu is planned and you’re all set for Thanksgiving dinner. The family is all going to be there and everyone is going to gain 10 lbs on Thursday. Tis the season to forget about calories, and enjoy the rich, starchy, creamy and fat-filled deliciousness that will grace the table as we remember to be thankful for all we have. AND NOT ONE OF YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD ABOUT THAT!! You can’t skimp on Thanksgiving foods. Go big or go home.

Everyone raves about the turkey, and the stuffing/dressing rocks your socks off. Mashed potatoes/gravy? That dish alone accounts for over half the weight of your Chinet plate as you pile it high. Some families, like mine, go nuts over the homemade noodles. (My mom is bringing my great aunt Jeannette’s famous noodle recipe to our dinner this year, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!) And I know some of you crazies out there are excited to get your hands on a huge helping of sweet potato casserole! (Not my bag, but more power to ya.) And the battle continues over which is better: homemade cranberry sauce, or sliced up disks of the gelatinous canned variety. (My vote is for the disks!)

And one dish that will likely appear on your table, but tends to take a backseat to the other more prominent features of Thanksgiving dinner, is the lowly GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE. No one ever says that’s their favorite holiday food, they just don’t. And yet, there is an unspoken obligation to include it on the menu. Well, my friends- this is the year that changes. I’m going to give you my personal secret recipe for green bean casserole, and I guarantee it will change the way you and your family feel about the oft overlooked sad dish. This takes it to a new level and skyrockets the forgotten delicacy to a family fave. AND, if you are attending Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home and looking for the perfect dish to bring and share, I’m telling you, this is the thing to take. It’s super simple, but will make you the hero of the day.

Here’s what you need: a square pyrex dish or other casserole dish
3 cans green beans (drained)
2 cans cheddar cheese soup (I use Campbell’s)
1 packet onion soup mix
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 oz french fried onions

Here’s what you do: Preheat the oven to 350. In your casserole dish, mix green beans, cheddar cheese soup, onion soup mix, and 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese. Mix until combined. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and then top with the french fried onions. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 more minutes.

IT’S THAT EASY! And you have my personal guarantee it will be well-received. It is my humble opinion that this is hands-down the greatest green bean casserole, ever. Try it this year and tell me if you don’t agree.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your friends and family. Take time to consider all that you have with a grateful heart. What a fantastic holiday!
*Don’t forget that the last episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be on ABC next Monday night. It’s the Thanksgiving Special and it features one of my best friends from college. Grab your kleenexes and don’t miss this excellent show!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish, and are you willing to share your recipe in the comments section? Some smartypants out there are still trying to plan their menus, help a girl out!!

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yummy Chicken Curry

Bectoria here. I love eating a variety of different foods from all over the world. At the same time, unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of eating out. When I do, the quality of the food I eat is literally put in the hands of others. To remedy this conundrum, I often try to replicate flavors at home. Doing so often provides its own unique set of problems. One being that I sometimes can’t find good recipes, often making the effort to replicate a flavor very time consuming. Also, and equally as frustrating, the final product is often inconsistent. When discussing this with a dear cousin, she suggested creating my own recipes by measuring out everything I put into a dish. (Oh! You mean, like, what real cooks do? Why didn’t I think of that!) To prevent this task from becoming too tedious she offered to come over and help. Naturally I jumped at the chance and last night we took on chicken curry.

Here’s what we came up with…

Chicken Curry (yeild: 4 servings)

Ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts

8 oz. broth

1 – 13.5 oz can Coconut Milk

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Garlic Powder

½ tsp Cumin

½ tsp Saffron

½ tsp Salt

1 Tbsp Curry Powder

2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Vegetables of Choice

Method:

Brown Chicken Breasts in a large saucepan on both sides, removing while still a bit pink in the middle

Set chicken aside to rest

Add broth to the saucepan

When broth is heated through whisk in other ingredients

Add vegetables of choice

Slice chicken and add back to the sauce

The recipe is complete when the chicken is completely cooked through

Add the curry to saffron rice or couscous and enjoy!

Categories: DIY, Food | Tags: | Leave a comment

So Good For You, You Can Eat Two!

20120710-184140.jpg

We’re all watching our weight. My family and I have been eating like hippies for some time, now. We’re so granola. But have you noticed how scary it is to read labels? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the Nutrition Facts label on something healthy I’ve been eating and feeding to my family for months only to find out that it wasn’t really any better for us than a Big Mac and large fries. So disappointing. Seemingly healthy food can be very deceiving. 😦 Just when I’m patting myself on the back for having made such a healthy choice, reading the label often throws a wet blanket on my enthusiasm. Not sure what I mean? Ever read the label on the whole wheat bread you buy? How about the tortilla chips you chose over the Sour Cream and Onion Lays? I stood in the grocery aisle comparing the nutritional information between regular saltine crackers and whole wheat saltines of the same brand. One would assume the whole wheat version would be an improvement in terms of health. And one would be wrong. They had IDENTICAL nutrition info. How about Wheat Thins? Sorry, just a lot of processed carbs- you might as well eat Doritos.
But, it’s a learning process, and we are weeding our way through the confusion and are determined to make good choices.

One thing I’ve realized is that pre-packaged store-bought foods that seem like a healthy alternative rarely are. I gave up on my go-to lunch item: MorningStar Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burgers. Although the stats they tout regarding the calorie and fat difference between their burgers and the average beef burger are true, I had to sign off on eating and feeding my family ingredients that shouldn’t really be classified as “food.” Ever notice “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” on an ingredient list? Well, it’s in a lot of things, and you need to know what it is. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is soy, wheat, or corn that has been boiled in HYDROCHLORIC ACID and then neutralized using SODIUM HYDROXIDE. Yum. A similar process provides us with another ingredient in MorningStar black bean burgers: autolyzed yeast extract. And what meal wouldn’t be complete without a dose of textured vegetable protein (the main ingredient, which is actually filler, attained by another unnatural process), xanthan gum, disodium inosinate and artificial flavors?
After giving up pink slim or anything containing it for my family (mechanically separated chicken, if you’re unfamiliar, please Google it) months ago, I have determined to also give up hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which is the pink slime of the vegetarian world.

20120710-184318.jpg
You may not be as concerned about such things, and that’s ok. But regardless of your stance on chemically processed and concentrated vegetable protein, I have a recipe that will please meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. It’s super easy and you can whip it up in minutes. My Spicy Black Bean Burgers are a winner. Filling, fresh, made from whole foods, and low-cal/low-fat, to boot!
Give these a try and tell me you don’t love them. Challenge extended.

“Me, personally? I loved them! I could eat them everyday for 2 days.”
-Caleb

Rinse and drain 1 can of black beans, put in medium bowl. Dice 1/4 red onion, 2 green onions, 1/4 bell pepper, 1 fistful cilantro leaves and add to bowl. Add 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, and 1/2 tsp all seasonings shown, or according to your taste. (I make mine pretty salty, so add less than 1/2 tsp each if salty ain’t your thang.) If you don’t have one of these seasonings, pretend it isn’t on the list, it won’t hurt to omit something. Mash with a fork and form into 5 patties. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side in a non-stick skillet on med/high heat, no need for added oil. Dress a whole grain bun (I used Brownberry SELECT Wheat Sandwich Rolls)with cilantro leaves and red onion, (avocado slices or guacamole would be fantastic, too, but my avocados weren’t ripe!)

20120710-184515.jpg
I like to eat 1 (or 2!) and freeze the other 3 between layers of wax paper in a ziplock to use for a quick lunch for the next couple of days. They are DELICIOUS! Nothing hydrolyzed, autolyzed or “textured” in these. Ready in minutes, no food processor required. You’ll be hooked. Full of flavor and super-healthy. My nutrition facts include the bun, by the way!
Let me know what you think! Happy cooking….

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Independence Day!

The 4smartypants know how to celebrate with style.

Bectoria here. My family chose to  celebrate the 4th by being in a parade together and then watching a great dance show in the park courtesy of Olmsted Performing Arts (www.olmstedperformingarts.com).

Tonight we will host a huge messtravanganza (see my post “Host a Messtravanganza” for ideas) at our home. For us, it just isn’t the 4th of July without good friends, great food and ridiculous games including a shaving cream slip’n slide, a waterballoon toss and a cake fight.

The most important part of today is sharing in the celebration of our country’s independence. We are so blessed to live in such an amazing country where we can exercise such freedoms as the right to vote. We are entering another Presidential voting season during which I am sure we will all, once again, be saddened by the truths of the state of our nation. Before this happens, let us remember that we are still living in one of the greatest nations on the planet. It is still a country that is strong and just and good. On this day and always, let us say it and pray it… God Bless America.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Stupid-Easy Summer Schedule Everyone Can Live With

Time to play in the garden can be magical to a child

Okay. So now the kids have been out of school for a couple of weeks and you’re running out of ideas. You may also feel the urge to lose a few marbles wondering how you’re going to get it all done whilst surrounded by the kiddies.

Don’t fret. Rest assured that these 4smartypants are happy to help! Instead of reverting back to television, video games or spending huge amounts of time, sanity and money on camps, outings and amusement parks, why not put some savvy into your schedule? Here’s what we do…

Instead of allowing the day to be wasted, we at 4smartypants organize each day with meaning. For me, I allow for some structure, like naps, learning time and meals to be surrounded by loosely organized activities. Within this structure, I allow for opportunities to get my household tasks done without taking time away from my kids. This is what a typical day looks like in my home…

Breakfast/Getting Ready (I put in a load of laundry while kids are dressing)

Learning Time (Home schooling books are great for this! I can do dishes while I help)

Arts & Crafts or Trip to the Park or Pool

Free Play (While I switch a load of laundry and make lunch)

Lunch

Reading Time

Nap (I pick one chore item to do each day then fold & put away laundry)

Free Play (While I check emails or write)

Dance Party (Use your imagination!)

Outdoor Play (I usually study lines for my play or go over edits for my book at this time)

Game or Outing

Clean-Up (They can pick up while I vacuum and sweep)

Coloring (While I Cook)

Dinner

Family Time (Everything’s done or can wait ‘til tomorrow. Time to enjoy the family)

Bible

Bath

Story & Bedtime (I do my shopping after the kids go to bed)

Playtime with your children is a treasure that should never be wasted

I realize that the above outline looks like just a lot of common sense. When I was an activities coordinator, I learned that writing down a simple outline of structured, daily activities allowed me to get the most out of my day. I have since incorporated the same practice into my home life with great success. With this schedule, the kids are content to have some structure mixed with nonsensical free-play and I am happy to have time built in to get my daily tasks done.

If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend tugging up those smartypants and giving it a go with a schedule that works for you!

Categories: children, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.